25 Feb 2014
It took reviewer Jennie a little time to come around to Angela Goode’s Through the Farm Gate (Allen and Unwin) but by the end of this tale, this city-girl reader came to understand why the telling of this famer’s wife was so worth telling. Here’s more on Angela’s story…
The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” really hit home for me when reading this book, although it wasn’t so much the cover – showing the lovely, smiling face of the author and cows happily grazing in the foreground of a lush countryside, it was the title. Mainly the tagline; “A Life on the Land.”
With this attitude foremost in my mind, I straggled my way unenthusiastically through the first 100 pages. This book is Angela Goode’s story. A story of a city girl marrying a country man and uprooting her life to the farm.
Angela, in the 1970’s, is working as a journalist at Adelaide’s The Advertiser. Aged 30, she has lived a career and experience-driven life. This has included 3 months mustering buffalo in the Northern Territory, as a State administrator of Youth Centres around South Australia, and a variety of of jobs in journalism. Freelance writing, working as a researcher for This Day Tonight on the ABC and freelancing for ABC radio’s South Australian Country Hour.
I started to get a little interested. Angela’s life seems anchored to the city, despite the occasionally rural adventure. Maybe I could find common ground with this storyteller. I became curious as to how Angela could go from her life in her 30s, to a life on the land.
Interestingly, Angela has both farming experience and family heritage, perhaps going someone to explaining her transition. Her country genes hail from a mottled collection of rural ancestors from Germany, Wiltshire and Ireland. Her mother took Angela and her three siblings to the country every school holiday. Always to a working farm where she rode her horse, learnt to drive tractors, experienced the slaughtering of sheep and basically learning about life on the land.
This love of the land stays with Angela, and when she meets Charlie, the manager of a 10,000 acre sheep & cattle property, at a friend’s dinner party in 1979, her life changes forever.
After a rough start – a few successful dates followed by Angela being “stood up” at a New Years Eve party, then a year of ignoring his calls and throwing herself into work – Angela and Charlie are engaged and married within a short period. Charlie is a widower and has two young daughters, so city girl Angela becomes a mother and a farmer’s wife all at once.
To Angela’s credit she throws herself fully into every aspect of her new husband’s life cooking for the farm hands, joining the community life, asking questions and learning farming tasks daily and mothering Charlie’s two girls. There are adventures and misadventures. Angela’s city dog and horse love their new life and adapt quickly. Angela’s garrulous nature & natural curiosity and tendency to question is capable of rubbing some of her country neighbours up the wrong way.
In many ways the farm world is very much a man’s world with the wife a silent, yet very active partner. Even in the 1980’s, her role is expected to be a domestic one. Cooking, cleaning, some farm chores, but basically looking after the man of the house & raising the family. It can also be a very isolating life with social functions occasional only and nearest neighbours often many kilometres away.
Angela continues to contribute a regular article to The Adelaide Advertiser, regaling the readers with stories of her new country life, and it is this engaging storytelling that had me captivated by about two-thirds of the way through the book. I was really going along for the ride.
As situations change, such as Nyroca, the property Charlie manages being sold by the owner, Charlie and Angela take on new farming opportunities. Their family grows, they experience major highs and lows as Charlie dreams big with innovative breeding and farming ideas and the country fights droughts, the plummeting of land prices, livestock prices and increased rates on country properties, higher than those in the city. Angela attempts to bring the city and country closer by platforming these topics in her newspaper articles.
Through The Farm Gate is a beautifully written book. Angela’s writing skills paint the reader clear pictures of sprawling fields, trees on the brink of extinction, the stress and strain felt by not only the farmers but also their wives, who often have little opportunity to share their fears and are frequently unaware of the true financial pressures on their farms. We learn about conservation, government policies, tragedies and celebrations and at times Angela focuses heavily on political displacements between city and country funding. I found some of these sections less inviting to read, but it certainly informed and educated me.
Angela’s story would strongly appeal to people who have experienced farm life or are living on the land. Having lived in the country myself for seven years and seen droughts, its effect on people and country towns, I could relate to parts of Angela’s passion. Her compassion, sense of humour and dedication to her beliefs are endearing and inspiring and bring a shine to her stories.
Through The Farm Gate is a story of joy and sorrow – the reality of life on the land.
If you’d like to find out more about Angela Goode’s Through the Farm Gate visit the Allen and Unwin website here…