Telling a country tale with humorous flair
IN THE past few years, Jessica Edwards has obtained her road-train licence, broken in horses and relocated a three-metre python.
All this from a girl who was born in Brisbane and grew up in suburbia.
Since 2013 Jessica has written about her experiences on her blog and Facebook page, running under the alias of Jillaroo Jess.
Her posts are honest and often very funny - she is not afraid to poke fun at herself and the situations she finds herself in while working in the bush.
The Rural Weekly caught up with 25-year-old Jillaroo Jess to talk about blogging, driving trucks and, of course, handling snakes.
Where are you working at the moment?
Currently my boyfriend, Ben, and I are managing a 101,100ha cattle station in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. In the off-season we generally have one or two station hands on the property but, come mustering, there can be up to 15 people here.
What is it about the country life you enjoy?
The best thing about living in the country is the neighbours. They're 50km away.
Tell me about the Pilbara? Would you describe it as a great place to live?
The Pilbara can be an acquired taste but it has such a rugged beauty. We have the best winters in the world here but the summers can be unbearable, reaching 50°C+. The history over this side of the country is incredible. Being a south-east Queenslander, I have never seen such amazing Indigenous art or waterfalls flowing through 30m gorges in the middle of what would seem an infertile desert.
Do you remember what motivated you to start your blog?
I have always loved telling wild arm-waving tales to my friends and family. Strangely enough, people found my adventures interesting - so I decided to start a blog. At the time I was 22, working for local government, contract mustering, managing an Australian Stock Horse stud and doing volunteer work too. I always had a story to tell.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
I always had a flair for writing but I didn't enjoy it like I do now. Apart from writing songs with my guitar, I really only got into writing when I started my blog. I think my style has matured over time: When I read my first blog post, I cringe at the teenage fan-girl style of writing.
Who are your followers of the blog?
Half of my followers on jillaroojess.com are Australian and the other half are from overseas. From Europe to the US, Asia and other tiny countries I'd never even heard of. The world is fascinated by the Australian way of life. I've been interviewed for a Mongolian magazine as well as asked to be on a German dating TV show.
Your blogs are often very funny, have you always had a strong sense of humour? Or has your humour started to emerge with your writing?
I was so uncool at school but have always been the class clown - even though I'm often the only one laughing at my jokes. It's not a sign of immaturity. I call it a youthful exuberance. I really do end up in some strange situations, sometimes I wonder if I'm on a reality TV show and I just don't know it.
Do you feel as though you are educating people about what life on the land is really like?
I try my best to be open with people through my blog and Facebook page however I do have a pretty hectic job to do so I often am too busy to take photos. When I do get a chance it's at the end of a job where I'm checking for calves that have been left behind or sitting under a tree holding cattle at water. Sometimes I worry people think I don't do anything but cuddle calves and take selfies. With all the negative propaganda being passed around regarding rural industries at the moment though I think that having a light-hearted page isn't necessarily a bad thing.
So far, from your blog, I can see you have broken in horses, obtained a road-train license and re-located a 3m python. When you started working in agriculture, did you ever think you would end up doing all of these things?
If you had told me 10 years ago if I would be living this life, I would have been dubious - but excited. I'm still relocating snakes though. We have resident olive pythons who like to scare Ben when he opens the cutlery drawer.
I relocate snakes for him and he relocates moths for me.
Sounds fair, right?
What has your personal highlight been since starting your career in agriculture?
So far, I think my personal highlight is proving to other people (and myself) that I am a capable person. Having spent my childhood in the city and choosing to work in male-orientated fields such as truck driving, I felt I had something to prove. I'm a first generation farmer, and first female truckie in the family. I'm living proof that you don't have to be born into a certain area to be successful.
I hope that my blog inspires people to get out of their comfort zones and give it a go.
What do you enjoy about driving trucks? Has anyone ever been surprised to see a young woman jump out from the driver's seat of a prime mover when you pull up at service station?
I love driving trucks. Like any job, there's times driving get monotonous but I sure got to see some awesome countryside.
My dream was always to drive cattle road-trains which I get an opportunity to now. I used to get a kick out of surprising old truckies when I got out of a truck or (hear their shock) when the "bloke" they were calling for on the two-way radio was actually a young woman.
Do you think you faced any extra challenges being a woman working in agriculture, as opposed to being a young man?
I don't think I faced too many challenges as a woman working in agriculture. Sure, I had to prove myself, but everyone has to do that. I think age can more be more of a challenge in rural industries than gender, especially when you're working with people who have decades and maybe even generations of knowledge.
I probably experienced more challenges being a woman in trucking.
I once got told that "you can't be a lady and a trucker". I replied with "just watch me".