”It was a cold, blustery day when we arrived, only to be warmed through to the cockles by the Metcalf family’s boundless hospitality. Deb and Simon Metcalf are long time farmers in Wongan Hills. Wongan means whispering, and atop the beautiful Mt O’Brien, the wind did blow. Wongan, wind, wheat fields, waiting for rain. Beneath the Wongan Hills Nature Reserve, there were few trees, and vast, flat expanses of land that had no end. It was time to seed, and time for rain. Even the wind seemed to be asking, When?
I was invited to speak at the annual Liebe Group Women’s Field Day in Dalwallinu, after a chance meeting with Deb Metcalf a couple of years ago at the Agri-Future’s Rural Women’s Award (formerly RIRDC Rural Women’s Awards) night. The only thing we have is our own story, and I always speak to that. On the awards night my dear effervescent friend, Catherine Marriott, invited me to share the handover speech. I spoke about the hardship and uncertainty in farming, and how important it is to recognise and apply our creative gifts. Deb Metcalf introduced herself afterward, and the idea of coming to Dalwallinu set seed.
Come June, I packed my bags with pieces of Stellar Violets I’ve pulled together over the past three years; soul gardening practices, laughing yoga, sustainable waste management, and stories of charismatic wheat farmers in Italy and France. As the first rains in a month fell outside, I spoke about Bringing Our Creative Gifts Home, and it was my hope to inspire the ladies to explore beyond the back gate, remember their authentic selves whilst wearing so many hats, and bring their own creative gifts home. Home within their own hearts, and home to their Wheatbelt communities.
There’s so much energy in the cities, which pull most of the people, money, and resources in this country. In rural areas, it’s harder to pull together what’s needed to fully realise the projects we dream of. I don’t know the story behind the Pianwaning Trading Agency, but my photos paint a picture. An enormous grain silo hums across the road, and the trucks bore out of there like… veritable bats out of hell. I’m sorry if you aren’t a Meatloaf fan, I have at least one friend who will appreciate the reference.
The question of rain hangs from year to year, yes, and haunts, like the whispering wind. But there is such raw beauty in these places. Not just in the landscape, but in the courageous faces of the people who live there, who keep on keeping on. I went away thoughtful. I admired the women of the Liebe group conference, the ones I met with the warmest of hearts. The ones whose lives I could only imagine, from what I learnt briefly in my time there.
I would have done well to sit in the audience, and listen to the stories from Wheatbelt women. I know they would be filled with resilience, ingenuity, innovation, and courage. Thank you to the Liebe Group for inviting me, and Stellar Violets to visit. I know your group is named after Mr Wilhelm Friedrich Gustave Liebe, but ‘liebe’ also means love in German. I certainly felt that with the encounters I had.
To fnd out about the next event, see Liebe Women’s Field Day.