Now we're a couple of hours north of where we were before and the towns are smaller and the roads are narrower and at last there's a turn-off and we're on an unsealed road, just dust and gravel, and that means we're nearly there.
Exactly 17.5 kilometres from the turnoff (as per the very precise instructions), we turn in at a gate on the right and the car trundles over a cattle grid and crunches up a long winding gravel drive, past fenced-off paddocks and outbuildings and a machinery shed and some old stables. Then, through a blur of winter-bare, gnarled fruit trees we see the house and the car sweeps around a last bend and pulls to a stop outside a small gate which leads to an inner cottage garden beyond which is the farmhouse, a low, white affair with shady verandahs all around. The cottage garden is wild and rambling and a pathway through it leads to the front door. It's a sweet little place and it's just half an hour to the nearest very small town and if you want coffee in an actual cafe or to shop in a supermarket it's a further hour.
The front door bursts open and Mary and the children run down the pathway to greet us. There's a flurry of kisses and hugs and ‘My, how you’ve grown!'s and then we troop inside. Mary is T.’s best friend and they talk on the phone all the time but actual visits are few and far between.
Mary’s husband, David, makes us perfect nutty orange-brown caffe lattes and we sit at the table looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the farm stretching away into the distance. The farm runs sheep and rotates grain crops and is way beyond the irrigation areas and depends on rainfall which sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.
Later, we went out and played with the toys. David’s current machinery includes GPS-equipped tractors. These amazing monsters don’t even need to be steered. You simply map your farm topography and seeding or harvesting information on your laptop, feed the information into the tractor’s computer and global positioning satellite does the rest, piloting the tractor according to the instructions; while the software ensures correct delivery of the right proportions of grain, starter fertiliser and water to the right terrain. Amazing. No wonder David knows how to make coffee. Or has time to. It seems GPS sometimes goes off the air and farmers all over the country are stranded in their fields with nothing to do for an hour or so but listen to their iPods. Or go back to the farmhouse for a latte or two. If they’re within walking distance. Heh. And advertising agencies still portray farmers wearing check shirts and chewing straw. Stupid advertising agencies.
David is the chef of the family and conjures up roast lamb with rosemary and studded with garlic for dinner. There's roasted potatoes and pumpkin, green beans and zucchini, rich gravy and mashed potatoes as well. Afterwards there's a chocolate fudge cake that Mary has made, served with thick cream and coffee and then we start on bottle of red number three, or is it four? It’s OK, no-one’s driving anywhere tonight although I wouldn’t mind a spin on the GPS tractor in the moonlight. You don't have to steer it.