Renmark South Australia
……. “Never let up, never say no!”
Joan was born in Renmark South Australia, the fifth child of 10 siblings however sadly one of her sisters passed away. Joan went to school until the sixth grade, left school at 13 and by 14 was working on nearby properties taking care of children whilst their parents were unwell. When she was just 17 Joan’s father died, following his death the family moved into town and the family farm in Renmark was returned to the bank.
Sipping our cups of tea Joan started reflecting on her life as a farmer’s wife, her inspiration had always been to be a ‘good’ farmers wife and to do her pickles. Joan was married to John “Jack” Collis when she was 24, they went on to have 3 children, 2 sons and a daughter, all of whom still live close to Joan and she now proudly has 32 great grandchildren.
Joan directed me to an aerial photo of the property, “Tara” in Rankin Springs NSW, that she has lived on for some 54 years. The property has been Joan’s home since she was 40 and she was adamant she has no plans of ever leaving. When Jack and Joan first moved to the property there were no improvements, they built a shed in which they lived with their children for 2 years. Joan remembers a time when she would have to bucket in water for the family to bath in and then when they were all done she had to bucket it all back out as there was no drainage, in Joan’s words “I used to bucket so much damn water”. Needless to say, one thing that Joan is incredibly grateful for now, and couldn’t do without, is running water from a tap. For Joan these were still some of the best years in Australia, back in the 50’s when the children were young and her and Jack settled on the farm. She credits her secret to living life to the fullest is to grow your own fresh food, never eat processed food and she never buys food in town. Having milked a cow up until she was 70 Joan is a huge fan of fresh milk, cream and butter & said “ah-you have to love a bit of bread with fresh butter”.
A devoted chook lover at heart Joan took me out to meet her girls and relished in telling me “they all talk to me when I leave the chook pen, when I leave the gate they shut up”. Her chooks are great company for Joan, she loves spending time with them and finds them to be therapeutic.
Although now on her own, after the passing of her beloved Jack 4 years ago, Joan believes in spirit and told me of the regular visits she has from both Jack and her granddaughter who had also passed away.
Joan has truly lived a full life and has a few trusty quotes that have held true for her over the years, “Never let up, never say no”, “be honest, tell the truth” & one she learnt from her mother “if you half do a job, the job is always half done”. Joan was such a character she went on to tell me that she never swore but over the years she has picked up the word ‘bloody’ “it’s the best-it’s a good word-you can say bloody awful or bloody brilliant, what a great Aussie word”.
Seems to me that Joan has lived her dream of being a ‘good farmer’s wife’ & when asked what she would change if she had her life over again she confirmed this in saying “No, I wouldn’t change a thing”.
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