My cousin Stan loves his Big Green Farm Toys. His tractor, his quad bike, all those farm machines that he has. Most of them come from a manufacturer that makes them green – the colour, I have no idea if they’re kind to the environment or not. Stan thought it was pretty neat that I drove past the factory that makes Big Green Farm Toys on my way to work each day.
I didn’t quite understand Stan’s love affair with his farm machines. He’s on 35 acres and at that point in time I was on a quarter acre block in the suburbs. I figured it probably had something to do with upbringing – Stan grew up on the farming branch of the family and I grew up on the other branch that stayed determinedly town. Stan’s brothers all took off and did various things – helicopter piloting, agriculture school and farming like their father, my uncle, or accounting and business like our grandfather. Somehow Stan managed to get a bit of everything – go into business without the university degree that one of his brothers sweated for, go farming without the ag school education another brother slaved over, and still fly planes and helicopters like his dad and brothers – he just did it for fun, rather than a living.
So when Stan talked about his Big Green Farm Machines I just figured that it was another of those things that I didn’t understand but that’s okay. I don’t get duck shooting, or hunting, or giving each other high powered sights for their hunting rifles as Christmas presents either – but that’s Stan and his brothers and that’s their thing. They thought my excitement at visiting the marvellous bookshops in Cambridge when I was in Boston was a bit odd too but that’s my thing. It’s family.
If I thought about Stan and his farm machines at all, I thought that he probably loved them so much because they were so practical. How on earth would you look after 35 acres and all the assorted critters that Stan and Bridgette have without some mechanical help?
And then I met Tallulah and everything changed.
Our former quarter acre suffered the drought for well over 10 years. There wasn’t a front lawn anymore – there was a front yard that was covered in daisies that could fend for themselves and didn’t need much - if any – water. The rest of it was covered in mulch and bark that dropped from the gum trees. Over the years, the back yard had become mostly paved and taken up with the swimming pool and the little bit of lawn that remained right up near the back fence didn’t grow much. When it did, Amy would call the lawn mowing guy and he’d come and take care of it. Maybe once a month, maybe longer. I can’t recall the last time that I got the mower out at the old house and used it. When we moved, we sold it on ebay.
When we bought the farm, we knew that we’d need a mower. Not some walking behind electric mower like the one that we’d just sold, but a ride on mower to take care of the yard and the paddocks.
I scoured ebay. I looked at the new ones. I read reviews. I talked to the blokes at work. And then I looked some more. On ebay there were a few that looked promising. The brand that all the blokes at work recommended. There was one in particular that looked promising. It wasn’t the cheapest and it wasn’t the most expensive, but it had a good write up, and the seller answered all our questions promptly and - it seemed – honestly. Amy did the bidding, and we won our ride on. When I showed the ebay photo to Rose at work - she did the whole tree change thing too and understood – she asked me what the mowers name was. ‘I don’t know’ I said ‘I hadn’t really thought about it’. ‘She looks like Tallulah’ said Rose.
The first time I took Tallulah out into the paddocks, I fell in love. Maybe it’s that she started first time with a solid dependable thud and puff of exhaust. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing our paddocks neatly tended and cared for. Maybe it’s the pleasure of up and down and up and down and humming to myself. Maybe it’s a latent genetic thing and it’s all to do with New Zealand farming genes. Whatever it is, I know that I’ll be having a very different conversation with Stan next time I see him.