The McAuley United Club of ACU’s Brisbane campus arranges a couple of day trips every semester and this time it was inland, to the Jondaryan Woolshed up in Toowoomba.
I had never been to inland Australia before, so naturally I was very excited about going to Toowoomba to visit a famous woolshed-turned-museum . The road from Brisbane to Toowoomba is dotted with beautiful farmland (we even saw a thunderbox on the way – Aussie slang for an old style toilet!).
A little bit of Aussie history….
The Jondaryan woolshed was built between 1859 and 1861 to cater to the growing wool industry. With sheep being the pillar of the local and national economy back then, the woolshed was the most important feature of the sheep station, which held over 300,000 acres of property at its highest point. It also had a school, a chapel, a meeting hall, a blacksmith’s and so on for the community of workers that lived on the estate. So basically, it was like an entire village in itself.
Today, the estate is also a museum that showcases the lifestyle of the early settlers and presents over 150 years of history. (Photo 6 – The blacksmith’s workshop)
The guided tour
We were given a lot of information of how the wool industry was run way back then. It would take up to 5 years before the station owners were paid for the wool they sent to England! A wool press that compresses the fleece into bales. The important part of shearing sheep is to make sure that the fleece is sheared off in one piece. The fastest shearer? Legendary Queenslander Jackie Howe whose record of shearing 321 sheep in 7.4 hours using hand held shears still stands, after a 120 years!
For me, the highlight of the day, was making our own dampers, cooking it in a billy can over hot coals, and then having it with butter, syrup and tea. Damper is an Australian bush bread which was a staple of the early settlers. It requires few ingredients, tastes great and is ridiculously easy to make!
You will need:
a bowl and a butterknife
1 cup self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
1 cup water
Pour half the water into the flour and use a butter-knife to mix the flour and water together. Once the dough has achieved a nice soft consistency, shape it into a ball, taking care not to release the air in the dough. Place the dough in a billy can, or a preheated oven and cook for 20 minutes or until nicely browned. We had name tags stuck into our individual balls of dough so that everyone knew whose was whose.
Sitting in the shade, surrounding by the quiet of the woolshed property, I really felt as if I had stepped back in time, to a lost world, a real Australia. I almost felt that a jolly swagman would come waltzing along to join us for tea! Fair dinkum.
NOTES: If you are interested, you too can book a guided tour of the Jondaryan Woolshed for you and your friends. Do you know of other places like this? Let us know in the comments.