Modern Day Swagman

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
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Trip End May 30, 2013


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Back in the day, Swagmen used to roam the rural countryside stopping in at farms offering to do a bit of work in exchange for a meal or some food supplies. Carrying his 'swag' on his back he would most often find a sheltered place to lay out at night and build a little fire with his billy pot over the stove brewing some tea and baking his damper.

Nowadays, swagmen aren't as prevalent as they once were, but there is a modern-type version. We're wanderers in Australia without home or work, so we've joined something called HelpX (or Help Exchange) where we're doing a few hours of work on farms each day in exchange for full bellies and a place to lay our heads.

We set out by early train from Sydney to YASS to meet our hosts.  Four hours by train! We felt like we were going way back to Melbourne (and we kinda were).

Looks like it will be a pretty cool place to stay. We have our own caravan which is very cozy. A typical Aussie farm with piles of stuff everywhere! You could find anything on this property! But nestled amongst this are many different animals, veggie gardens and greenhouse. The house is in the process of being finished, but Patricia's kitchen and pantry are super clean and organized! She has done so much! There's a lot I would like to learn from her. She's been canning and processing meat from their own bull, as well as soap from the rendered fat. She's knowledgeable about soap making and plant propagation. She was completely self-sufficient for a number of years living in a house she built herself...WOW! Mike is super intelligent and he and Brian get on great with tons to talk about (sometimes too much :) ).

We've been starting our days with rounds of the animals while I do some cleaning and tidying. Then we usually all band together to tackle the weeds in the garden or some other outside chore. There's a few cows (Dexters), 5 horses, dozen self shedding sheep, several pigs and 4 new piglets, a variety of poultry, some geese, and dogs.  Oh, and Floyd. Floyd is a Galah (type of cockatoo) which was hit by a car and who's wing broke. Since he could no longer fly, Mike took him in. We made good friends with Floyd. I couldn't believe the colour pink he is! But why should I be surprised, most of the birds have stunning colours here. But poor Floyd, every evening when his friends come in to sleep in the trees, he gets very anxious and starts to call out to them, but they only taunt him in reply...

We've been very busy helping with some maintenance around the property as well as tackling the weeds in the vegetable garden.  They've spent so long building up the nutrients in the soil, EVERYTHING wants to grow there! Weeds go to the cows and horses for feed and unearthed grubs go to the chickens.

It's also been a great exposure to rural life in Australia. Every evening there are at least 2 wallabys feeding in the yard near our caravan, there's giant spiders that make their appearances every once in awhile in our caravan (although it's the ones I DON'T see that worry me), and we chase after echidna's in the bush. In the evenings we invite a very cuddly cat named Chloe in to snuggle with us.

And like the true swagman of old we even made damper one evening to have with our stew (a type of simple bread cooked in the coals of the fire).






Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"


Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."


Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong.
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag:
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."


Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me",
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag:
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."


Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred.
Down came the troopers, one, two, and three.
"Whoseis that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."


Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me",
"Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."


Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong.
"You'll never take me alive!" said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong:
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"


Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me",
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong:
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"


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