One of my favorite things about living in Mudgee is that everyone seems to know everyone. It has that Steel Magnolias small town charm where you can’t go to the supermarket without having a thousand conversations about your kids, the weather and the new playground that still needs a sunshade. This tight-knit community has been so accepting of this little American transplant who still says things like “Fall” and “Trash Can,” which is why I wasn’t surprised when a born and bred Mudgee gal sent me an email from the Northern Territory to say hello and congratulate me on my new Summer in Mudgee column in the Mudgee Guardian. (That’s just the way Mudgee people are and I love it.)
Miss Chardy is a fellow blogger and newspaper columnist living on a massive cattle station in The Outback and is so kind, talented and wonderful that I just knew I wanted to interview her for my blog for International Women’s Day! (Which is every day in my world.)
Hi Miss Chardy! You’re fast becoming a famous Real Housewife of the Northern Territory but in our early emails you mentioned that you’re a born and bred Mudgee girl – Did you grow up on a large property?
Yes, born and raised in Mudgee. I grew up in town, Market Street actually and my parents still live in the same orange brick house they built back in the 70’s, god love them!
Where did you meet your husband? Did he already own the station?
I met my husband 3 months after I arrived up in the NT to work as a Governess. He was the Assistant Manager on the station next door – Alexandria (owned by The North Australian Pastoral Company) – and I met him at my very first Campdraft in Camooweal, but please don’t be deceived, I was only there for the party, not for the horses. I am more of an indoor cat.
Did it take some convincing to get you to move out to a station?
I had planned on coming up to the NT for one year back in 2001, after than my plan was to move back to country NSW and “get a real job” as my Mum kept saying.
You have three boys. Were they all born in the NT? Any fast exists for births? (I love birth stories!)
I had all three of my boys in Dubbo, NSW. It just made sense to head home and wait for them to arrive. I headed down about 4 weeks before they were due, which meant I also got to have a good catch up with family and friends. It also made sense for baby number 2 and 3 because Mum and Dad were able to help me with the little boys while I was big and fat waiting to give birth. When we had our third boy my oldest boy, Tom was in year 1, so we put him into school at St Matthews in Mudgee for a couple of weeks. My boys do their schooling via Mt Isa School of the Air so it was a fabulous experience for Tom to be able to go to an actual school. My oldest by is now in year 7 and has just started Boarding School down in Brisbane.
You seem like you have so many skills when it comes to Station Life. I love how you’ve organised medications, food, tutoring, holidays and communicating with the outside world…. Where did you get these skills? Did you have someone show you the way, or did you have to go by trial and error?
I love people, they are my passion and I love communicating and bringing people together. As for station life, I guess you just have to do it and you need to be organised otherwise no one will get fed. Town is a 5 hour drive away so we do a bulk store order about once every 2 months. I place the order via email with a Wholesaler in Mt Isa. Once it arrives in town my husband will send one of our trucks in to collect the order – usually a couple of pallets worth. As for communicating with the outside world, well I started my blog back in 2014 because I was going a little batty here on the station. I was the only girl here for about 2 months and I just needed outside contact. My blog has connected me with like minded women from all over Australia and the world. I have made some amazing friends through my blog and I love nothing more than meeting up with them in real life and bringing people together. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I just googled “how do I start a blog” and went from there. I just kept You Tubing how to do everything related to starting a website. I now have around 10,000 views a month on my blog. It is very exciting and such a wonderful community.
Also curious if you’ve ever had a snake bite issue out on the property….
No thank goodness, touch wood. But we do see plenty of snakes. Thankfully our little Jack Russell – Rosie – usually warns us. We have snake bite kits in every vehicle. Lets hope we never have to deal with that one because it usually takes the RFDS plane over an hour to get to us, can be a couple of hours from the first phone call to when they arrive then you have to fly back into Mt Isa. A snake bite certainly wouldn’t be ideal and it does worry me. We have an all weather gravel airstrip for this very reason.
If you had asked me in my early twenties where I’d be living, “Country NSW” was probably not in my top 10 places I thought I’d be. Is the Northern Territory the same for you?
Oh absolutely. After finishing school I moved to Sydney and attended June Dally Watkins Business Finishing School for a year and then worked as a legal secretary in the City. So the NT was certainly not something I ever thought about. I didn’t even know what a Governess was until one of my friends moved up north to work as a Govie. The stories she used to tell me when she came home fascinated me and I couldn’t get out of Sydney fast enough. I threw caution to the wind and just went. First I moved to Bourke NSW, which Mum thought was the end of the earth. It was only 5 hours from home so when I applied for the job in the NT I didn’t tell her until after I had accepted the job. It was a 3 day drive away, she wasn’t all that impressed.
Congrataulations on your Rural Weekly column! That’s so exciting. Has writing always been in your blood?
Thanks, it is so exciting. I never thought I would have a column and something I never thought about. I don’t consider myself to be a “writer”. I can just type faster than I can talk and love sharing my story with people who have no idea about outback life. So no, I don’t really think writing is in my blood, I just ramble on, basically I wing it. Since blogging I have realised that everyone has a story to share and people want to hear it. To me, life up here is pretty mundane and boring but it turns out people want to know all about it.
You say you’re a wine enthusiast. What’s it like to stay well stocked in the outback? Do your favourite Mudgee Wineries deliver?!
Yes, I love my Chardonnay. Perhaps it is because I grew up in the Land of Wine and Honey! I love a Robert Oatley Chardy and a Gooree Park Chardonnay – Mum used to work at Gooree so I used to be very well stocked with this. As for staying well stocked, sometimes I am pretty hopeless at this. There have been many times that I have run out of wine. My best mate next door – which is a 2 hour drive away through our paddocks & 5 gates – sent me over some wine once on their chopper. Their chopper was coming over to do some mustering but the first stop was to drop wine to me, the pilot was under strict instructions – now that is a good friend!!! I also have another friend who lives about 6 hours to the north of me, but she is the stop before us on the mail plane run and she often sends down little packages for me, especially wine if she knows I am all out. Such great friends!
Any Mudgee trips in your future?
I haven’t been to Mudgee in over a year. I am dying to get back. Would love to do a good wine tour. Perhaps I need to collaborate with one of the fabulous wineries down there – now there’s a thought. I haven’t seen my Mum and Dad or Sister (who lives near Gilgandra with her husband and 2 boys) since around July last year. This is the one hard thing about living so far away from family. We are basically “Outback Expats.”
ALSO – What are you currently reading? I just finished The Light Between the Oceans which was brilliant, don’t bother with the movie though, that is 2 hours of my life I will never get back. I also have Summerlandish sitting on my bedside table ready to read – funny that!!!