The hawk, the tiger snake, a swarm of bees and a shadow show?
Posted by Trevor Flinn
Farm One: NED'S CORNER
Hosts: Michelle and Kieran Barratt:
I packed up and left the luxurious Island View apartments in Esperance at exactly 9.30 am. I headed out towards Ned’s Corner after first collecting a couple of bags of ‘Dog Nuts’ from Landmark (as requested by Michelle Barrett) and fueling up at the Caltex across the road. The drive out to Ned’s Corner took the best part of an hour in my trusty 1986 Toyota Hiace (aka Cole).
As we drove past the distinctive black and white sign 'NEDS CORNER' (in bold bank gothic typeface, with no apostrophe) and turned down the long driveway we were greeted by some kind of raptor, a hawk I think, which took off from a nearby fence post and began wheeling above us in a series of ascending anti-clockwise circles, which I interpreted as a warm and friendly greeting.
I watched and filmed it with my phone for a minute or two and then drove on, eventually passing a series of sheds (including a shearing shed) bearing right as instructed by a barrel marked with reflective tape, and on, up and over a rise, down through what looked like a recently excavated waterway, and on beyond a large new machinery shed, until I came to the ‘homestead’.
Two black dogs (who I soon discovered were called Wally and Jacko) enthusiastically greeted me – no doubt due in part to the fact I was carrying a bag of Pedigree under each arm.
I tapped the doorbell beside the ornate doorway and moments later Michelle me and showed me into her home. After a large mug of Earl Grey she found me a laminated map of their property and while she put on a roast of pork I unpacked my belongings and made myself at home in the scottish wing of their home.
We then took off for a bit of a drive around and look-see. The large machinery/ grain storage shed was our first stop. Avoiding the swarm of bees that had gathered in part of the smaller pieces of harvesting equipment, we made our way towards the massive, new tractor and header. Clearly these matching burgundy machines were made for each other. The enticing, spaceship-like cockpit of the header and bright red leather, upholstery of the tractor seat obviously helps make the long hours of harvesting slightly more enjoyable.
As we continued our tour on foot, Michelle spied a snake moving quickly across the ground just beside the shed. I immediately felt compelled to film it with my phone, and moved in for a closer shot. The snake, which was quite clearly a tiger, sensed my interest and moved into a semi-defensive position – slowing down and flattening its head. I moved no closer, but wished I had my zoom lense attachment, which I had left in my van.
Back in the relative safety of Michelle’s 4WD we got a closer look and saw that the snake seemed to be happily playing in a pile of ash. The ash served as almost perfect camouflage. The occasional flash of her bright orange underbelly was her only giveaway.
We drove on out past the recently disturbed waterway (that Michelle explained was dugout and deepened in order to tackle the rising salinity issue) and down to the shearing shed. The 12 stand shed was quiet and almost completely empty. Apart from a few stored bits it was now just an airy, light-filled space that Michelle thought would make a great venue for a function. I agreed.
Out the back grass had grown amongst the holding pens, which were now home to what Michelle referred to as 'our killers', a handful of young sheep who were destined for the freezer.
We drove out, down past more recent drainage works which led to a large salt lagoon across in their neighbors’ property, which was surrounded by dead and dying trees. It had a strange beauty.
We turned left, out the front gate and headed down the road to where The Young River crossed Neds Corner Rd. A lovely spot. Flowering native shrubs including masses of flowering wattles covered the banks of the river. I was mesmerised by the foaming, swirling water which I carefully filmed for some minutes.
We eventually returned to the homestead and just as we were nearing the house we met Kieran who had just had lunch and was heading out to do some more jobs having just collected some new spray to deal with a recent outbreak of mildew in one of his crops, brought about by the resent bit of rain.
We returned to the house and Michelle made a lovely lunch of colourful salad, cold meat, cheese and pastry based pizza. Delicious. We sat and admired the incredible view looking out across a lap pool surrounded by astro-turf, out towards a distinctive granite outcrop (that demanded a closer inspection) and the flowering canola beyond. Apparently the outcrop of granite is difficult to access by vehicle due to the soft ground. Perhaps a good excuse to tackle the area on foot.
In no time at all it was 3pm and time to pick up the girls from the local Primary School. We drove down the road and into the tiny township of Munglinup and parked outside the school, where we met the principle and had a quick tour ahead of a planned visit on Wednesday during their weekly art class. A great little school, well maintained and colourfully decorated with murals, something the principle was keen to continue throughout the school.
The school backs onto, and incorporates a parcel of native scrub land and has a sizable footy ground and play area. The art room contained plenty of materials including a large cache of of recycled cardboard which Michelle and I agreed would be perfect for undertaking a shadow animal construction project (an idea I’d mentioned to Michelle in an email after seeing pictures of a indonesian Mahabarata/Ramayana performance while flicking through an old national geographic in the Denmark Tip shop).
The principle enthusiastically supported the idea and even suggested that their Friday science class could be utilised, for completing the project – linking it to important lessons in shadow, light, magnification and bees!
I met Emma and Eadie (Michelle’s daughters) and we continued on our tour of Munglinup. First stop was the Munglinup roadhouse for an ice cream, followed by a quick visit to the local church (St Paul’s) which seemed to have been visited by a swarm of bees in recent times, because their dead bodies covered the floor of the altar. I documented the strange phenomenon before sweeping up the bees for possible later use and as a community service to the church elders who gather infrequently.
Out the front Eadie found a caterpillar which was very much alive, so after patting it briefly we left it alone and drove on to the community centre complex where we inspected the various rooms, including the impressive kitchen, which was recently revamped. Emma returned the key to the roadhouse and then we all went home.
As we turned towards the shearing shed, with the idea of collecting a ute for me to use during my stay, we found Kieran who was in the process of collecting water in a truck. He needed his ute moved back to the machinery shed. I was only too happy to assist.
The trip back to the machinery shed coincided with the late afternoon sunset. A spectacular event which turned everything golden, transforming mundane puddles into pools of rippling gold. I managed to capture some of this magic light with my phone.
As I filmed the setting sun swallows began to swoop and dive across the surface of the puddle as they collected insects, adding to the beauty of the moment and totally enthralling me. Emma and Eadie also seemed to be attracted by the water, because in no time at all Emma had her shoes off and was piggy-backing her sister from one side of the puddle to the other.
Instead of returning to the house for dinner I opted to join Kieran on a mission to fix a light at the Munglinup tennis courts, that had moved during a recent bit of windy weather. The team of blokes who had assembled back at the Munglinup community centre to fix the light was impressive. However it quickly became apparent that the mechanism holding the light in place needed more than its nut tightened so after close and careful inspection (and supervision) it was decided that Kieran would return in the morning with a mig welder and generator.
We got back to Ned’s Corner by about 8pm, passing a lone bunny rabbit just before turning down the driveway.
Michelle had prepared some pulled pork sliders with coleslaw and caramelised onion. I had three and they were delicious. The roaring log fire was a welcome relief from the chilly tennis court.
Pretty soon I was ready for bed, so retreated to the scottish wing with a glass of water and the wifi password.
I was too tired to write anything intelligible so slept soundly until 3am, when I awoke from a strange dream.
Immediately the previous days events came flooding back to me and I felt compelled to write them in my journal ... I simultaneously began having thoughts about how Ned's Corner might be transformed – or ‘Twigged’ – and how an audience might be transported on a magical journey ... how the shearing shed might reinvent itself as a performance space ... how kids could help create and perform a shadow show, and how Michelle might work her culinary magic to assist in the creation of an edible map of Ned's Corner.
So many possibilities. Will it all magically fall into place before ‘show-time’ on Sunday evening? The hawk at the front gate was clearly a good sign. In fact the warmth, hospitality and support of all my new acquaintances is a great sign. It’s all coming together. I can feel it.
For images related to this project check out my instagram account @inlikeme