W￼atching our daughter Tori, then two, with her newborn sister, Sienna, my husband Justin and I were delighted Like all parents of small children, life could be busy. But for us, it was busier than most. We were about to pack our lives into an empty trailer and hit the road.
Growing up on a cattle farm, I used to love helping my parents, Louise, 58, and Keith, 59. Leaving school, I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else. Riding horses in the fresh air, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to be behind a desk all day.
When I met Justin, now 35, he felt exactly the same. ‘I’d love for us to have our own farm one day,’ he said, sharing my dream. So we took jobs working for farm owners and did stints droving cattle, too.
Justin already had a daughter, Madison, now 13, so when I gave birth to another girl, Tori, now seven, we were thrilled to add to the family. And 18 months later, we were expecting again. But as we got ready to welcome another girl, we were offered a job droving.
Hot showers and mattresses were a thing of the past
A hard day’s work, it involved moving hundreds of cattle away from a property to stock routes so they could find more food. The hitch was, we’d have to set off when our bub was just 10 weeks old. It didn't make financial sense to hire someone else to help, plus it’d be tough splitting up our family.
‘It’ll be hard work but let’s do it together!’ I said. Justin agreed. So we kitted a trailer out with essentials. We’ll have to make do without a lot of home comforts, I thought, knowing hot showers and mattresses were a thing of the past. But it would be amazing for the kids to grow up outdoors.
So in March 2012, we waved goodbye to our families and set off on our big adventure. The first few months were tough. Doing feeds in the night and shifts on a motorbike by day was tiring. We had to be meticulously organised, too. Around 90 minutes from the nearest town, we couldn’t just pop to the shop for nappies.
Every week or so we’d roll into town with 10 loads of washing and stock up on food supplies. It was hard, but being together made it worth it.
As the girls grew, they enjoyed the outdoors as much as we did. With a three-year-old and a bub just finding her feet, we needed eyes in the back of our heads. Although we were under the sun, the heat never fazed them. Most of all, they loved the horses.
They must be Australia’s littlest cowgirls, I smiled. After almost two years, the job ended.We moved to a farm for work, but last year we hit the road again.
This time, it’s just me and the girls – and 600 cattle – as Justin is working four hours away in Coonamble. Living in a purpose-built mobile home, we spend every day letting out the mob to find grass and rounding them up again Tori has been on horseback since she was two, while Sienna started being interested at four.
Some people are shocked that I’m a mum droving alone
They’re best friends and are both little sponges – soaking up everything I do. When Justin’s parents, Sue, 55, and Keith, 56, came to visit they told them what they’d learned.
‘Pop, you should always drive further than you think,’ Sienna informed him earnestly. ‘So you don’t leave any behind.’ I sit down with them to teach their school lessons, but they’re always itching to get back to the animals.
When we packed for this trip, I told them there was only space for a few toys. ‘We’ll bring the cattle,’ my pint-sized drovers said, packing their little toy cows. Mostly though, they’re happy to play with sticks. ‘It’s great they’re using their imagination,’ I say to Justin, who makes the drive every weekend to see us. And we love it when Madison joins us, and my parents both visit and support us, too.
Some people are shocked that I’m a mum droving alone, but thankfully, most have realised I’m more than up to the job. We still dream of owning a farm of our own, but I wouldn’t swap our life outdoors for anything.