once upon a time in texas

by elizestrydom


I spent a week on a rambling farm in south east Texas with a family of nine, the Schnakenbergs, plus their 500 chickens, 22 pigs, 16 cows, seven goats, six dogs, four sheep, four cats, a horse and a donkey. Each day the temperature hovered around 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity hung heavy. I shared a room up in the roof of the house with Hannah, Lydia, Sarah, Rachel and Johanna – the littlest girls slept in one single bed so I could have my own – and the two boys slept in a bunk bed in the lounge room. The days were filled with chores and farm work and meal times were a big deal. The three older girls and mama Schnakenberg had a knack for creating delicious meals using little more than farm eggs, goat’s milk, produce from the garden and some quinoa. When the bell tolled everyone stopped what they were doing and took their place at the table. After breakfast papa Schnakenberg would read from the Bible and ask one of the kids to pray for the day ahead. Had it not been summer holidays the children would then have then spread out their books and started their schooling. But it was early August so they still had a few weeks of freedom. With all of the cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening and tending to the animals, Johanna and her siblings didn’t have a whole lot of time for much else. During my stay they did manage to fit in a dip in a nearby lake (and part time alligator playground), guitar lessons, a trip to ‘town’ to go thrift shopping, a mid-week church service and a two day conference for home school families in the big smoke (Houston). Their lives were simple but not necessarily sheltered. The three older girls were very well read and up on all of the latest pop culture references. They had political opinions and a desire to see the world. Johanna had spent the first nine years of her life in Romania. She was a talented photographer and keen blogger. And I’m embarrassed to say that I was a little surprised. It’s easy to buy into the stereotype of country kids as slow, ignorant or lacking in some way but it just isn’t true. Elements of the experience reminded me of my own childhood but the fact that I felt out of my comfort zone made it clear how different my inner city Sydney life is now.