human behavior

A Tasmanian Farm Escape

Posted in Australian Culture & Politics, Foreign Impressions, Travel by humanb on July 8, 2012

After a four-day hike at Cradle Mountain (my husband’s idea), during which I tore cartilage in both knees and strained my Achilles Tendon, I was desperate for some peace and relaxation.

Thank the gods that I had chosen our next stop: Curringa Farm, a 750 acre sheep and crop farm in tiny Hamilton, Tasmania.

The farm is owned and run by Tim Parsons and his wife, Jane. Tim is a third generation farmer of the property.

Even the drive to Hamilton was serene, boasting gorgeous fields of yellows and greens. We pulled over more than once to capture the grasses in the late afternoon light.

On our arrival to the farm, Jane greeted us at the Welcome Center, a charming wood and stone building happily situated by a lake, often frequented by the sheep.

Jane had fresh coffee and baked goodies on offer while we waited for Tim to take us on a private tour of the property. The tour began with an introduction to Tim’s most loyal and hardworking farmhands: his dogs.

The dogs play an important role in shepherding the sheep from one paddock to the next. The black and white one is mother to the white one, and was sporting an impressive set of teats after the birth of a new litter.

While her litter were back at the house crying for milk, their mother was far more keen to get back to work, herding the thousands of sheep that live at Curringa.

After an initial demonstration of sheep behaviour, involving my entering a gated paddock full of sheep that instinctively began circling me as if possessed, Tim demonstrated how he and his dogs direct the flock.

Note the dog on the right, above, deliriously happy to be free of the burden of pregnancy, and completely indifferent to the needs of her litter when there was shepherding to be done! Tim and the other dog get in on the fun below.

It’s amazing how little work they have to do to make the sheep fall in line. Their natural inclination is to cluster and follow. Tim even managed to shepherd them to the shearing shed from the comfort of his truck.

At the shearing shed, he ushered only a few into the building for a demonstration.

One of the dogs helping to hurry them along.

The inside of the shed looked like a scene from The Thorn Birds (1983).

As we explored the machinery and handled the wool, Tim educated us on the various types and qualities of wool, the technicalities of its processing, and the economics of its sale.

After our talk, came the shearing!

This is back-breaking work, which is why Tim is hanging on a leather strap suspended from the wall.

When you’ve got thousands of sheep to shear, you (and your contracted, travelling shearers) need to be quick. The task is mighty: to completely remove the wool in a single piece, as quickly and as gently as possible. If you don’t, your wool fetches a lower price.

Tim had it covered.

And so concluded the first part of our farm tour – an awesome beginning, if you ask me.

Next Up: A Cottage to Call Home at Curringa


2 Responses

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  1. Terri said, on July 8, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Really interesting, Loved this. The shearers work so jaw-droppingly fast, don’t they? Neat stuff.

    • humanb said, on July 8, 2012 at 9:07 am

      I know. What surprised me most was that the shearer has to remove the entire coat in one piece. I can’t remember how many sheep they’re expected to shear in an hour, but it was a crazy number.

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