Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's true - cows do moo

Farmers Farm…and Cows Do Moo. It sounds like a children’s picture book title, but is, in fact, the name of a handbook put out by Byron Bay council to introduce Seachangers to the realities of life in the North Coast NSW town.

Byron is a beautiful place, with perfect beaches, a chic-bohemian vibe, and a serious ‘culture shock’ problem thanks to its popularity with refugees from the Big Smoke. According to an article by Carolyn Boyd in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald (Domain), Seachangers complain to council that farmers are starting their tractors at 5am and their cows moo too loudly.


People move there thinking it will be just like the city, only smaller and with more opportunities to wear a bikini to dinner. They build enormous houses next to the neighbours’ simple fibros and wonder why they don’t get invited around for barbies. And, according to the article they don’t volunteer.

Small towns run on volunteers. Simple economics show that the fewer people you have paying rates, the fewer services you have. Leaving gaps that need to be filled. The streets of Fibrotown, for instance, are full of cars marked ‘volunteer driver’, ferrying members of the ageing population to their various appointments around town – and making up for the fact that there is little public transport in the area.

Currently filling page after page of the Fibrotown local paper is the ongoing debate about whether or not we should have two bins (waste, recycling) or three (waste, recycling, green waste). When I say ongoing, I mean about three months ongoing. Never in the history of the world has so much been said about litter. The trouble is that much of our area is given over to holiday houses, which sit empty most days of the year. Garbage trucks are still required to visit them weekly, however, covering a huge area. It’s a big expense. Do they really need to go three times a week? (Feel free to express your thoughts in the comments sections and I’ll pass them on to Council – or write a letter to the paper, to make it even more fun.)

Moving out of a big city is a big change. You can’t underestimate how much you will miss fresh Lebanese bread, or prosciutto from Norton Street Deli, or lamb souvlaki from Victoria Yeeros, or … must stop or I’ll be here all night. But there are other pleasures.

Last night The Builder and I frocked up (he looked ravishing) and attended a black tie event at the local Literary Institute Hall. Which sounds much posher than it is. To set the scene, one of my friends arrived in wellie boots so as not to sink knee deep in mud. It’s a little old hall, chock full of history (and, last night, inexplicably, pumpkins) and the event was a fundraiser to help with its upkeep. It was a rollicking good night, put on by a bunch of – wait for it – volunteers. Like a genteel B&S.

We moved here knowing that we were leaving our comfort zone and would need to actively search out new friends, new groups, new experiences. It’s not always easy – cleaning the house for every new person who visits, for instance, is tedious – but it keeps things interesting.

Fortunately, we’re just far enough away from the fields that those pesky cows don’t bother us.


  1. Oh my gosh that is too funny! I can just picture shocked city-people in their fresh new McMansions, bewildered by the nerve of those cows to actually Moo! Tee Hee Hee!

  2. A black-tie event where one could wear rain boots sounds so very lovely. Were there Fibrotown cows in attendance?? =>

  3. My in-laws moved to Byron from the big smoke and couldn't deal with all the back packers. They then moved to a place that only really have cows as neighbours, and they couldn't love it more.

    Living in an area that has a major concern based around garbage bins sounds like bliss {can you tell I'm jealous?}. x

  4. Brilliant!

    And to those seachangers who NEED a common sense pamphlet...Duh! I mean, they don't call that tiny town in NSW Mooball for nothing! ;)

  5. Ahhh your posts always make me want to return to a small country town and go back to life in a (insert colour of choice) Fibro. Ah the serenity to be in a place where people complain about cows mooing too early.

  6. I wonder, Mrs Fibro, have you made it to the school P&C yet? Canteen committee?? That's when the debates really start to fire up in a small town. I'd strongly suggest anyone contemplating a future in politics start with P&C or primary school council. It's where great men and women are made.

  7. In our bushy yet metropolitan suburb, we have neighbours having parties and arguing loudly at all hours. But at least we don't have cows mooing - that would be so much worse... ;)

  8. Tee hee, I can just imagine them stropping out "Where's my serenity?" Your black tie night sounded utterly delightful - although I don't think even gumboots could cope with our downpour - I'm thinking of investing in a pair of those waist-high fisherman's waders...

  9. Those bloody city folk and their pesky holiday homes!

    Great blog, Al. Forget the cows, what about those whip birds squawking at first light?

  10. Have you seen that film with Diane Keaton where she moves to the country, has a baby and sets up her own business selling baby food? That's how I imagine Fibrotown.

  11. Cows mooing and farmers driving tractors to early? At least they aren't being woken by turkey's gobbling. Now that would really be inconsiderate. :-)

    Your ex-city sea-changers remind me of some US backpackers I met in Germany whose entire conversation consisted of sentences starting with "In the US, (annoying local habit) would never happen". If life was so much better where they were from, why bother travelling somewhere else?

    Love the comments about the newspaper debate about bins. We lived in a country town for 6 years where there was a 15 year public debate about whether to construct a bypass road so that trucks carrying stock didn't have to travel down the main street. Things move S-L-O-W-L-Y in the country, which is part of why it is such a wonderful place to be. :-) (except for those pesky turkeys, of course).

  12. As an almost city girl who's about to up sticks and move to Tasmania with her family, I really appreciated this post. One of the reasons we're moving is because the area we currently live in, NSW Central Coast, is becoming too much like the city and we wanted to feel more like part of a community.

    I'll make sure I have my best wellies ready for any black-tie events for our new life.

    Johanna (@JohannaBD)

  13. Ahhh! You're in Australia! Finally figured it out. I had some friends recently move there to work for Caterpillar (yes as in those pesky I love this post!


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