Firey Women

Our second-to-last weekend at the property was a busy one. The regional fire council was hosting a “Firey Women” conference which was a two-day workshop for local women to learn bushfire safety. The ladies in charge were pleasant and charming. Yollana had been working with them for several months on all of the planning. I hadn't heard much about the event until the week before when Yollana forwarded an email and told me to make it happen. I spent several days organizing the menu, ordering food and planning out our work schedules for the weekend. We had only three volunteers (Maggie, Matthew and myself) and would be hosting an all day seminar for fifteen ladies who needed to be fed three times per day. We also needed to keep the cafe occupied and the cabins cleaned. It wasn't impossible, but it was a lot of work for one weekend crew.


The three of us were up early Friday morning. We spent all day cleaning the barn. The Barn is a huge closed in area built on to the cafe. It is where we host tour groups and large events. It is a beautiful space but because it is only used for special occasions, we don't clean it until we need to. The place is closed-in but we are in and out of it a lot, using it as a pass-through. Because of that there are sometimes birds and other residence who make the barn their own during the off-season.


Matthew spent all day alone just sweeping the floor and starting the fireplace. Maggie and I cleaned the tables and then moved inside where we filled water bins, counted plates, buttered bread and rolled silverware. The three of us stayed busy until six thirty, when the ladies in charge of the event arrived. We normally close the kitchen at four but they had made arrangements to eat dinner while setting up for the workshop.


The first thing the ladies said after introducing themselves, was that they would be using the cafe and not the barn. Apparently this had been discussed with Yollana but the information hadn't been passed along to me. Matthew, Maggie and I were only slightly dissapointed, as we realized we'd now be using the barn for cafe customers anyways.


After moving everything over to the cafe and making sure the ladies were content, we fed them dinner and closed up the shop. The next morning started at 7am. I opened the cafe and turned on the machines while Matthew lit a fire for the Firey Women. (haha)


Around 7:30 the leaders came and had their breakfast. From then on we were busy. We served tea and coffee for the group at 8 o'clock, followed by fresh-baked scones, muffins and fruit at 10am and for lunch we had chicken, cheese and ham sandwiches. At two in the afternoon the ladies had their afternoon tea which consisted of tea, of course, and also brownies with fresh whipped-cream.


In between serving we were constantly picking up dirty dishes and preparing the next meal. We also had customers in and out and an unending supply of washing to get done. This pace was kept for the entire two days that the ladies were here and when they were finished we were both relieved and proud of our hard work. We each received a fire-safety mug for being so efficient.


The hard work didn't stop just because the event was over. Sunday afternoon was spent picking up the mess and putting the cafe back together and just when we thought Monday would be relaxing, I received a phone call from Yollana saying she would be arriving on Wednesday. That spurred us into a tizzy of cleaning and organizing and finishing up any last minute projects we'd been avoiding. On top of everything else, we were anxious about having to share the hostel again, probably with more little kids and extra volunteers.


You can imagine the hyperactivity of our senses on Wednesday morning. We made sure everything was spic and span and ready for the general's inspection. It felt like I held my breath all morning until finally, a few hours after her arrival time, I called Yollana to see if she was going to make it. Her response to me, in a text, was: “Haley, I'm arriving on the 27th at 11am.”


I felt like an idiot.


I had complained multiple times about how hard it was for me to understand Aussies on the phone. This time it had really bit me in the behind. I was really afraid Maggie and Matthew were going to kick me in the behind as well. Fortunately they were understanding and let me off the hook. I think we were all mostly relieved that we didn't have to be on pins and needles for another week and even then it would only be for a 24-hour period.


Exhalation at its finest.


The rest of the week was spent keeping everything in order and preparing our things for our mass exodus to Adelaide. Tuesday morning we would set sail on a new adventure.