‘I’m the talk of the vil­lage back home’

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS - By Kim­ber­ley Price

THE smell of new­born calves fills the air at Mer­ri­dale farm and for Ir­ish-na­tive Aish­ling O’Hara, the sunny days and dry pad­docks are now home.

A world away from Erin’s cold shores, Peter and Miria Collins have wel­comed the back­packer into their home.

Hav­ing dreamt of Aus­tralia since she was a young girl and mak­ing the trip in Jan­uary, Aish­ling be­gan work at a re­tire­ment vil­lage in Syd­ney. But to ex­tend a work­inghol­i­day visa for an­other year, it is a govern­ment re­quire­ment to com­plete a ru­ral ex­pe­ri­ence.

Af­ter hear­ing from friends about a dairy farm in Ten­nyson look­ing for work­ers, Aish­ling called.

‘‘I’m from a sheep farm­ing back­ground in Ire­land. I was very open about the fact I had no ex­pe­ri­ence with cows be­fore, but Peter hired me any­way,’’ Aish­ling said.

‘‘I def­i­nitely had my doubts, and I asked the lads what they thought I’d be do­ing,

‘‘I’d heard some hor­ror sto­ries about the ru­ral ex­pe­ri­ence with peo­ple hav­ing poor ac­com­mo­da­tion, long hours and no days off so I was a bit un­sure. But I’ve been re­ally lucky.’’

Work­ing from the early hours of the morn­ing to tea time five days a week, Aish­ling has only won­der­ful things to say about her ex­pe­ri­ence, her hosts and the com­mu­nity.

‘‘I love it, I think it’s re­ally good,’’

‘‘I al­ways do some­thing on my days off. I’m only here for a short time so I’d like to see ev­ery­thing’’.

Hav­ing vis­ited a lo­cal win­ery, the Gun­bower races and sur­round­ing towns, Aish­ling has def­i­nitely kept her­self busy when she’s not on the job. How­ever, when duty calls, she’s al­ways up for the chal­lenge.

‘‘Peter’s re­ally good. No mat­ter how many ques­tions I ask, he’ll an­swer them.’’

From milk­ing cows twice a day, run­ning the An­gus, feed­ing the bulls and driv­ing the trac­tor and/or truck, there’s noth­ing Aish­ling can’t or won’t do.

Re­cently, Aish­ling pulled her first calf, an achieve­ment which Peter and the Ir­ish-na­tive were both proud of.

‘‘I’m the talk of the vil­lage back home,’’ she laughed.

Aish­ling is not the only one who has en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence. This is also the first time Peter Collins has hired a back­packer to work on his farm - and she won’t be the last.

‘‘I wasn’t sure at first,’’ Peter said.

‘‘And maybe I’ve just been very lucky with Aish­ling. But it’s been re­ally good.’’

‘‘It’s been hard to find good work­ers who are will­ing to con­tinue. But Aish­ling has a great work ethic, a lovely car­ing na­ture and is a quick learner, so it’s been noth­ing but plea­sur­able.’’

Without Aish­ling, Peter ad­mits he’d be do­ing it tough. But with the help of a back­packer, he’s had more time to fo­cus on other as­pects of his busi­ness and things that he en­joys.

‘‘I don’t think she’s re­alised she’s learnt things as it’s be­come sec­ond knowl­edge,’’ Peter said.

‘‘She’s prob­a­bly learnt more in the past six weeks than in the past six years.’’ And Aish­ling agrees. ‘‘I’ve learnt to not doubt my­self, that I can ac­tu­ally do it. And if I can’t do it, it’s ok, but you have to give it a go.’’ river­ine­herald.com.au

The ex­pe­ri­ence has changed her in many ways.

‘‘I’ve over­come so many fears, and I’m so grate­ful. We raise bulls here, and when I was lit­tle, I would go out of my way to avoid the bull next door, and now I feed them.

‘‘As a young girl I was pet­ri­fied of cows from a bad ex­pe­ri­ence. But once I got over the fact cows can’t kick when you’re milk­ing them - and I lis­tened to Peter’s ad­vice to keep my el­bows in - I was fine.’’

Aish­ling will com­plete her re­quired three-month place­ment in De­cem­ber.

As for the fu­ture, Aish­ling will head back to Syd­ney for work. But she plans on re­turn­ing to Mer­ri­dale - even hint­ing she’ll be up for more work on the farm.

‘‘I’m liv­ing dream.’’ the Aus­tralian

Home: Ir­ish back­packer Aish­ling O’Hara at her new home on Mer­ri­dale farm.

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