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For one former city slicker, the wide open spaces and close-knit communities in the country – or outback – are where it’s at.
Text: Erin Walton
Photos: Jilaroo Jess
Country: Australia

or those of us who identify as city lovers at heart or who’ve lived for many years in a bustling metropolis, the idea of living in a country town – or “worse” yet, in the outback – can seem socially stifling. Imagine not being able to duck down the corner to a hip coffee shop or go out bar hopping. What if no international musicals or famous singers came anywhere near your town? In a small rural town or in the bush, these entertainment options simply don’t exist. So, what do people who live in these places do for fun?

Jessica, otherwise known as Jillaroo Jess, blogs about life in the country (jillaroojess.com) and helped shine a light on the secret lives of country girls. Originally raised on a property before moving to the city for school, Jess was well on the way to becoming a city kid. But her life took a huge turn when as a teenager she was yanked out of her concrete jungle existence and relocatedkicking and screaming” to the country with her family. As could be expected, the move to a tiny town (and even tinier school!) wasn’t popular with adolescent Jess.

“I had mixed feelings,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave my friends or comfort zone. Being a teenager, having to move and make new friends was quite daunting — especially since I was to be attending a school with only 12 people in my grade!”

For city folk who spend their weekdays working in an office and weekends exploring shopping centres, Megaplexes, bars and coffee shops,  the daily lives of ‘country bumpkins’ (as country folk are often referred to in Australia) is a complete mystery. But don’t confuse ‘different’ with ‘boring’. As Jess explains, life in the country is rewarding and there are always social events to colour the weekend – so much so that now, she couldn’t be dragged back to the city at all!

But what’s a typical week actually like in the country? Interestingly, far from being continually atop a horse or hay bale, Jess’s 9-5 life isn’t that different from our own, as she, like a lot of women living on properties, works in administration in town each day. But for this “Jill of all trades,” that’s where the similarities to city life end. Apart from her office gig, several times a year she heads out to the bush to dirty her hands working on remote cattle stations in Central Queensland’s mustering season, a time which she “lives for.” Her routine is dizzyingly busy.

“My weeks are generally filled with two things,” she told me, “Farm work and my day job. Generally by 6 a.m., I’m already walking around checking on horses, feeding animals and running the working dogs (who are penned during the day). I leave for work by 7:30 a.m., get home at around 6 p.m. and then — yep, you guessed it — chores again! By the time I finish, I eat and collapse into bed.”

As a hands-on-deck contributor to her property, the care and upkeep of her animals and land are paramount, and before Friday night rolls around, they’re dozens of things to fix and check on the property. “There was so much that I hadn’t bargained for,” Jess admits, when remembering her expectations of country life. “I knew that managing properties was hard work, but I never realised how hard it can be. Then again, I never realised how rewarding it would be either.”

But while she has to work hard to have a day off, Jess definitely knows how to enjoy those free moments. In her neck of the woods, the biggest events on the community social calendar are the grand rural show, followed by country music festivals, campdrafting (an Australian horse sport), rodeos and musters. And let’s not forget the more unusual side to country social life, in Jess’s community, the quirky Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, where people race their pumpkins by rolling them down the hill in the centre of town.

Apart from large-scale community events, Jess’s time off is spent swimming with her dogs in the river and hanging out with friends (“With beers of course, that part of the country stereotype is right!” she laughs). And as can be expected, the pub and its array of characters play a starring social role. “Being a small country town, the local pub is the happening place. I am often down there playing in the Friday night pool competition, which I never win, or listening to old farmers telling wild stories of their young cowboy days,” she says.

As could be imagined, life in the country is less anonymous than for those in a metropolis and everyone knows everyone else’s business. Although, with less privacy comes increased community spirit. As Jess says, “I love how involved I can be in the country. I have been given so many opportunities that people in the city wouldn’t be given, and have met so many amazing people. In the city you often don’t know your neighbours, whereas in the country you know everyone in the town.” This connectedness isn’t only heart-warming, admits Jess, but entirely necessary. “Locals are never too busy to lend a hand,” she told me. “Life on the land can be tough, so it’s great to have such an amazing community.”

With so much fresh produce, lively events, friends, beautiful landscapes and a menagerie of glossy horses and dogs vying for her love and attention, is there anything she misses about city life? “Possibly just the variety of food!” she admits, signalling her love of international food. “I love Indian and Chinese food, which you definitely don’t get in my little town. Takeaway in my town is either something from the pub, or a choice between a pie or sausage roll from the convenience store. Then again, we do grow some pretty amazing steak in our paddocks!”

In the end, for this city slicker turned country gal, life is fine, and as far as she’s concerned, the city can continue on without her. And what’s the best part of living in the country? “As William Wallace of Braveheart would say: freedom! I cannot stay in the city for long without going stir crazy. Being able to put my boots on and walk for as far as I want, or drive in any direction just in the company of my dogs is such a great feeling. I love nothing better than tying the dogs in the back, winding my window down singing along with my country music at the top of my lungs. Nobody can hear me out here!”

And we’ve just got to admit that (even for die-hard city folk) that sounds … well, just perfect.



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The secret lives of country girls

Jessica, also known as Jillaroo Jess, shares her thoughts about life in the country on her blog jillaroojess.com. As a teenager she was forced to leave the city and taken to live in the countryside. At first she was not very excited about this move, leaving her comfort zone and having to make new friends. But over time she has found country life quite rewarding and can’t imagine ever going back to live in the city.

But what’s a typical week actually like in the country? During the day, her life is very similar to one in the city. She works in an office in town from 9-5 life. But before going to the office, she has her morning chores to do. These include checking the horses, feeding the animals, and running the dogs. By 7:30 am she leaves for work, she comes back home around 6 pm and then has to do chores again. And several times a year she heads out to work on remote cattle stations.

But life in the country is not all work. She enjoys going to rural shows, music festivals, campdrafting, rodeos and musters. And she often goes down to the local pub to play in pool competitions or listen to the old cowboys tell wild stories about their past.

 

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