15 October 2021

Children's book that goes to the heart of life on the farm

| Sally Hopman
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Angela Taylor holding son Joshua

Author of The Machinery Shed, Angela Taylor, from Binalong, near Yass, with son Joshua, the inspiration for her work. Photo: Supplied.

The machinery shed is a sacred place for many people on the farm. It’s the place where you might hear some swearing, but more than likely it’s the place where knowledge is passed down from father and mother to son and daughter.

It’s usually the heartbeat of a farm, where all the parts that make things happen live, and mostly break down. But it’s also where they’re fixed up again, and go on to plough yet another paddock.

For farmer, health worker, soon-to-be-mother-of-three, partner and writer Angela Taylor, from Binalong, near Yass, it’s also the most inspiring of places. So much so that she has just written a children’s book about it, The Machinery Shed.

“The characters are based on our farming family here in Binalong, NSW,” she says. “We celebrate the part that we play in bringing food from the paddocks to many plates around Australia, and the machines that assist with this work.”

Angela describes the shed as a sacred place because it is the home for important lessons, moments and experiences, and “endless hours fixing, tinkering, designing and creating, make it a space of therapy” for everyone who enters.

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Originally from Cobar, in far west NSW, Angela moved to Bathurst, where she was a boarder during her high school years. She stayed on to study exercise science at Charles Sturt University.

After moving around the state, Angela landed permanently in the Yass region, settling at Binalong in 2010.

The idea for The Machinery Shed came to her one night when she was trying to find something to read to her son, Cooper. With his mild form of autism, Angela knew he would only be interested in something he could relate to – not American farm books that talked about barns, but Aussie books about sheds.

Angela had given his teachers copies of The Land newspaper for him to look at because, as a country kid, that was his life and what he identified with.

“I just started telling a story one day, saying, ‘That’s dad with his tractor, that’s his chopper’ – I ended up writing it [the book] in a morning,” she says.

Cover of 'The Machinery Shed' book

Angela Taylor says she was inspired to write her book, The Machinery Shed, because of the importance of the machinery shed as the heartbeat of a farm. Photo: Supplied.

“I didn’t really think about it again and then one night after a few wines I pulled it out again and showed it to [her partner] Graham and he said it was really good.”

Angela ended up self-publishing the book with The Illustrators company. She initially ordered a box of them, with 150 copies in each. She has since ordered nine more boxes, such has been the demand.

She has sold them all over Australia, mostly via her Instagram account, taking the time to write a message in every one she sends off.

“I just thought I’d send them to a few friends and family,” says Angela. “But it went bust on Instagram.”

However, she learned very early on that you need a thick skin to be a writer, with her greatest critics often barely coming up to her knees.

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“The kids will tell you if you’ve got something wrong in the book,” she says. “I remember going to Harden to read it to some kids. One of them came up to me later and said he really loved the book, but on page four I didn’t have the sides right on the sileage bin.”

Angela is now working on her second book, about a shearing shed – her father was a shearing contractor and she worked as a rouseabout for many years – and she says she checks with her children and other children first when writing about farm life.

“I find it easier if I run it past them first,” she laughs. “They pull me up on all sorts of things. Like a tractor that was drawn, they told me it couldn’t possibly pull a chaser bin that big. Sometimes they know too much and they certainly don’t hold back in telling you.”

The Machinery Shed is a beautifully written book, which deserves special mention if only for Angela’s rhyming skills: “I am a truck and my name is Lola, at harvest time I cart wheat, barley and canola.”

The Machinery Shed can be purchased from The Illustrators and Instagram.

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