Our Little Shed in the Bush
I owe a lot to my Dad. He taught me that you don’t need much to be happy in life. Whether it was his dedication to low-impact living in order to leave the planet in better shape for his kids, or his lack of disposable income (or a combination of both), we often lived without the bells and whistles that most other privileged western kids were used to.
When we moved to our block near Pemberton in South Western Australia it was just a swampy paddock with a creek down the back, but Dad soon set up a tank to harvest water and we lived in a couple of caravans while he foraged the local tip for recycled materials to use for building a shed.
After the shed was built, we moved up in the world and Dad purchased a single solar panel, which was enough to power a couple of lights and the radio (we never had a TV – kids at school used to ask me “But what do you do all day?” to which I’d reply “umm… play outside, draw pictures, hang out with the chickens. Lots of stuff!”)
The chickens were definitely my main source of entertainment. I’d named all 36 of them and got to know each of their idiosyncratic personalities well. I’d sit in the yard for hours feeding them, collecting their eggs to sell at school, or just observing them and their chickenly ways. They were all nuts. It was way better than TV!
We also had the most gentle-hearted golden labrador called Banjo for whom I’d throw sticks for hours on end. I’d take him on bush walks along the old railway line up the back while he’d bark and chase kangaroos.
Between the Banjo, the chooks, ‘Goatus’ (our genuinely-stoked goat) and a crazy sister to play with or annoy, depending on the time of day, I had all the entertainment a kid could ever need!
When I was a daggy teenager, my friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be ‘cool’, so my mate Pickle and I thought it would be a fun idea to film a documentary about my odd life in the bush to try and explain to the world why I was such a weirdo. We chose the unique subject of my Dad’s homemade long-drop worm-compost toilet and entered it in a video competition run by the ABC called Race Around the Corner.
To both of our amazement, they loved it and a couple of the show’s producers flew from Sydney to see for themselves just how a kid in the late 90’s could possibly be living like this. It all seemed pretty normal to me and more importantly, made sense even to my foggy teenage brain. Of course, I enjoyed the mod cons all my friends had when I was around them, but after making the doco with Pickle, I started to value the ‘alternative’ life a bit more and appreciate where my Dad was coming from.
Helping to empty a 20 litre bucket of poo into a worm farm isn’t the most appealing job when you’re 15, but it was a small price to pay for the healthy and inspiring upbringing that set the direction for the rest of my life.
Thanks Pa. You done raised me good!