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