Apple Island Wife is Fiona Stocker’s simply delightful memoir of trading city life in Brisbane for rural life in north-western Tasmania. Her descriptions of the cooler climate, slower lifestyle and simple living with young children made me want to pack up my own city life immediately.
It all sounded so wonderful.
Well, except for the scorpions, the spiders, the snakes, the maniacal rooster and the vicious alpaca. Oh, and also the bushfires and flooding, septic tanks and shotguns. Apart from all that…
When deciding where to move from Brisbane, heavily pregnant Fiona and her husband ruled out Melbourne on the basis that it was ‘just another vast and sprawling city.’
(On a complete side note, she also describes my home town of Melbourne as ‘badly signposted’, an accusation that my husband also levelled at the city when he moved here more than a decade ago. Having grown up here, I’d taken it for granted but yes, they’re both absolutely right – Melbourne is, in general, very badly signposted.)
Her arguments for moving to Tasmania are quite convincing. My biggest concern after reading this book is that everyone from the mainland will move there and ruin it!
For those who think it’s ‘too cold’ – Tasmania’s equatorial equivalent in the northern hemisphere is apparently the French Riviera. Although southern Tassie does get a wee bit chilly. As Fiona notes:
In various locales around the southern state capital of Hobart, the first convicts sent from England had perished in the cold and occasionally eaten each other to survive. It seemed sensible to stick to the north.
Very funny, really enjoyable story-telling
I really loved the way Apple Island Wife meanders between anecdotes. One moment I was laughing at comic alpacas, the next at narrowly avoiding stepping in septic tank overflows and then on to protecting small children from violently manic cockerels. Fun times at the farm, indeed.
Fiona’s story of traipsing into Devonport to have decent bras fitted post-birth very much reminded me of the similarly gentle but firm ladies at my local speciality bra store who did the same for me. There is something about having a properly fitted bra that you simply cannot convey to a person who has never known the dubious joys of having a ‘larger size’ cup.
Settling into rural life in Tasmania
Fiona and her husband settled into their new rural roles over time, adjusting as their children grew. Responsibilities ended up being split along traditional gender roles – he looked after splitting wood, tilling the soil and caring for livestock; she cooked, cleaned and cared for the children.
It wasn’t deliberate, it was just what each of them preferred to do.
On occasion, Fiona attempted to display interest in ‘manly’ occupations such as livestock purchasing. But her heart just wasn’t in it:
‘I need you to come and help me choose the alpacas,’ Oliver announced over lunch one day.
‘Get a brown one and a black one,’ I offered.
I found this part of the story quite refreshing. This is what gender equality bring – the freedom to choose. To do the cooking not because that’s your gender role, but because you’ve consciously chosen it.
If my husband declared tomorrow that he was taking over all the cooking I’d be thrilled. He cooks because he enjoys it. I cook because we need to eat.
Of course, the problem with the way our economy is structured is that the traditional ‘male’ roles tend to be the ones that bring in the cash flow. Nobody is going to pay you to stay at home to cook, clean and look after your own family even though it’s a full time job that is tremendously valuable to society.
Cow Pat Bingo and other rural traditions
I’m going to leave you with Stocker’s wonderful description of Cow Pat Bingo, for anyone out there looking for a refreshingly original idea to take to their school’s fundraising committee this year:
A chequerboard was drawn on the oval in spray paint and a cow walked around it until it answered the call of nature. Whoever had put money on that particular square won a tray of meat from the local butcher.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants something light and enjoyable to read, a bit of a laugh and a vicarious meander through life in the Australian bush.
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Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.