Noreen Reeves Shares Challenging Life in Isolation
Author Noreen Reeves' husband John, having taught Agriculture and Science in technical schools for three years, had resigned from the Victorian Education Department and was desperate to teach outside the state school system. However, little did they know, John's new posting would be 700 nautical miles away from mainland Papua New Guinea on Bougainville Island, a small, isolated strip of mountainous land surrounded by a massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean. To an immature 23 year-old mother of a two-year-old toddler with another baby on the way, Noreen wasn't happy about living in such a remote and isolated place.
John departed Melbourne in January 1971 for Port Moresby, and it was there he learnt his posting would be to Tinputz Vocational Centre on the north-eastern tip of Bougainville Island. John was quite pleased with the posting but all Noreen can remember feeling was pure dismay, and being four months pregnant only made the tears flow for longer and very much louder.
"Two Shakes of a Dead Lamb's Tail" shares the story of the author as a young woman whose ultimate sense of adventure outweighed the frustrations and disappointments of living in isolation and took the dose of what was sometimes a hard reality with courage and a sense of humour, which would stand her in very good stead in later years living on a semi-arid sheep station in Western Australia.
After spending three years on Bougainville, the pair returned to Australia with their three young children and took up residence in the vicinity of Bairnsdale near the Gippsland Lakes, in eastern Victoria. Here, they began their farming dream on small holdings with sheep and cattle, and with John still teaching, their lives were filled with the hard and sometimes challenging situations of caring for their stock, operating a native tree nursery and raising their family. While assisting John, Noreen learnt to birth lambs when ewes were having difficulty, whereby some hilarious situations arose where her ingenuity and practicality rose to the fore.
Undaunted by life on the land and wanting to test their limits, John resigned from teaching after twelve years to become a full time farmer. They "bit the bullet" and purchased a 1000 km2 dust covered, sparsely vegetated rain inhibited sheep station at Paynes Find in Western Australia. The trials and tribulations of this type of farming kept them challenged, with learning a whole new way of managing pastoral grazing and windmills and the perils and risks of serious accidents, when they occurred.