We took a day train from Melbourne to Adelaide, traveling along the southern coast through the barren “Overland.” We passed through the suburbs of Melbourne, entering flat country of fields, north to the Murray River, crossing along the Murray River Bridge, entering the Adelaide Hills, passing by Mt. Barker, slowly coming down mountains into Adelaide around 6:00 p.m.
Our friends, Bev and Steve Paech, met us. We hadn’t met them before, but Marilyn’s parents knew Steve’s parents (Gordon and Stephanie Paech), from an Alaskan cruise in the early 1980’s. Her family kept in touch with the Paech family for years and they visited her parents in Pittsburgh in the early ’90’s. When we were planning our trip to Australia, we called Bev and she invited us to stay with them.
The Paech’s raise cattle on the family farm near Wistow / Mt. Barker in the Adelaide Hills. Steve’s grandfather purchased the property in 1908. For years, it was a dairy farm, but times have changed and now the best use of the farm is for breeding cattle.
They own a wonderful home with several outbuildings which Bev & Steve have turned into a museum, “Paech’s Farm”.
Steve collects farm machinery, machines, implements, vintage magazines, machines used on the railroad, and other tools and gadgets used by workers in the Adelaide region.
Bev has turned her home into a museum displaying costumes (wedding dresses, other dresses, lingerie, riding clothes), jewelry, furniture, musical instruments, china, cookware, baby clothes, and other items to remind us what life was like through the years in the Mt. Barker region.
The home itself is 2 homes – the first was built for Fred Paech and his wife, and when their son, Gordon, got married, they built another 3 bedroom home attached to the original home. After the grandparents died and Gordon’s son, Steve, married, Steve and Bev moved into the older part of the house and raised 3 children there.
Bev is a fabulous cook, and served great meals for us, and for neighbors and family. especially the roast lamb dinner when joined by her children and their families. It was great to meet everyone and share stories.
The first day we spent on the farm taking walks and enjoying ranch life. We were fascinated by the gum trees — both large leafy gum trees and the dead ones (beautiful in their own way). Bev raises roses, Agapanthus, irises, lilies and Steve grows corn, beans, carrots, rhubarb, and spinach.
Australian native birds
And then there were the birds! We saw so many beautiful birds on the Paech farm, Willy Wagtails, black and white magpies (Maggies), galahs, doves, carellas, parrots, and cockatoos.
Galahs are pretty with dusty pink breasts and under their wings. They behave a bit erratically, hoping around, cawing in a humorous way. Aussies call a person who’s a bit daft, ‘galahs.‘ We heard the expression a couple of times, and I used it once or twice. I got a smile and a nod — “Right about that, mate,” one bloke told me.
Corellas are small parrots, but white. Rosellas are like small parrots with bright green feathers and blue , yellow, and red feathers around their neck and head.
Cockatoos are larger and white with a tuft of yellow feathers above their head.
Galahs, parrots, carellas, rosellas, lorikeets, and cockatoos zip around in the air, flying between trees, over the ground, feeding in the grass, all the time chattering like crazy.
A favorite bird were the Willie Wagtails, small as a sparrow, but with black feathers and fan tail they open when strutting on the ground. They’re friendly and follow you around, almost so close you could reach down and pet them.
We loved the birds, particularly hearing them all during the day and especially at dusk when they’re busiest.
Poisonous Black Snake
(This section describes killing a poisonous snake. If this is too squeamish for you, I’d recommend you read no further. This is the last section in this blog.)
Australia has 8 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. The two deadliest are the brown snake and the red belly black snake. We learned about Australian poisonous snakes at the Australian Museum in Sydney, but didn’t realize we’d have an up close encounter with one of them.
One night before dinner at the Paech’s, we were relaxing in the kitchen while Bev made dinner. Their son Robert came in and said a black snake had fallen into a well near Steve’s vegetable garden. He wanted to kill it and take it out of the well since it would foul the water.
I followed Robert out to the well with a torch (flashlight) to shine down into the dark well to see the snake. The surface of the water was about two feet from ground level. The snake was hidden in narrow shelf between boards but Robert got him out poking in the shelf. Soon, the small black snake was swimming on the surface, trying to climb the wall to escape. It was a baby, probably from a nest in a nearby pasture. Farmers don’t like black snakes because they are a danger to their farm animals as well as humans.
Robert tried to hook him and pull him out, but the snake was too small and slippery. He finally shot him with a .410 shotgun and fished out the upper half of the body. He used a stick to show me the poisonous fangs.
He handed me the snake and I held it behind the head and lifted the tongue with a stick to see the fangs. One of the more eerie experience in my life.
Another Australian adventure! But not what you read about in guidebooks.
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Next: Kangaroos, emus, wombats, koalas, and wallabies at Cleland Wildlife Park
As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting along the way from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.