My Biography

Welcome to my biography page. The icons to the left show the state that I was living in for the corresponding section. This first section is about growing up in Sydney which is the capital city of New South Wales (NSW).

Growing up in Sydney

The first thing people notice about me is that I have an accent. I was actually born in England but I spent most of my childhood in Australia. My father, Philip visited Sydney in 1949 on a submarine that came to Garden Island dockyard for a refit after hitting a reef off the coast of Queensland. He loved his time there and after leaving the navy, he married my mother Rosalie in 1961 and decided to move the whole family to Australia in 1969. We landed in Sydney on Christmas eve,  after a 36 hour flight on a Boeing 707 from England.  I was lucky enough to grow up in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world.

Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House


We first lived in Rose Bay across from the Royal Sydney Golf Club. I went into first grade at Double Bay Public school. In 1971 we moved to the suburb of Paddington. Our home was a 2 story terrace house on Cambridge Street. The street itself was quite steep, a 30 degree incline. I would walk to school in Double Bay (about a mile, up and down hills). In 1976, I was accepted into  Sydney High, a selective high school in the inner suburb of Moore Park.I would either catch a bus or train to school or sometimes walked it was only a mile and a half. 

Here I am about 13 years old.

My favorite times were school holidays,when my family would head out into "the bush" and spend time on farming properties owned by friends of the family. We often visited the Armitage family at Yarrawonga near Coolah (about 6 hours from Sydney) These visits were the highlight of my childhood and they helped me decide to pursue a career in agriculture.
 

Sydney High was an all boys school, we had the unique position of being a GPS school (Greater Public School) which put us in with famous schools such as "Scots College", "Sydney Grammar", "St Joseph's College" and "The Kings School" all of which were upper class expensive private schools. We played Rugby, Cricket and basketball against these schools on Saturdays. We were also considered a regular "High School" and got to play against the local high schools like Randwick, Maroubra and Dover Heights on Wednesdays.

I also played Rugby for "The Bays" starting in the under 7s and going on up to under 12's where I began playing for Sydney Boys High School. I played  Rugby for all 6 years I was at High but since everybody in my grade played rugby we had 5 or 6 teams in each grade. I mostly found myself in the "15e" or the "16f" team as I was not the most athletic of my peers.

27 Cambridge Street, Paddington

I also was for a time a rower in the school rowing team which involved traveling to the boatshed at Abbotsford which was always an adventure. I rowed mostly in "tubs" but did some time in a "four" as well. Rowing on the Parramatta river was a wonderful experience, but not usually the smoothest of places.

In the spring I played cricket, which was probably my favorite sport. I would play after school across the road at Glenmore Road primary with my friends Scott and Rob. We would replay the big test matches between England and Australia with an old cricket bat and a tennis ball.

I was a member of the First Grade Rifle Team in my senior year (1981) and we would travel to Malabar to the rifle range and shoot 7.62mm target rifles. Some of us worked at the range marking targets which was exciting. You wait till a bullet hits your target, pull it down mark where the bullet hit, push the target back up and signal what the score was.

CUO John Mansel-Pleydell

Perhaps my fondest memories at High are of my time in the Sydney High School Cadet unit. I joined in 1977. Tuesdays I would wear my cadet uniform to school and after school. We had cadet parade for a couple of hours. We learned to march, use a compass, read maps and  it was here, I first developed a love of teaching.  As a corporal and later as a Cadet Under Officer (Lieutenant) we were taught how to teach. This is a skill that I use every day in my vocation as a teacher and technologist.

Each year we would go off for a 3 day bivouac and a 5 day annual camp. It was a great experience. We traveled by bus to Singleton in the Hunter valley and camped near the army base and firing range. I got to ride in an Iroquois Helicopter and to shoot SLRs and M16s. We did an overnight orienteering exercise and camp up in the BrokenBack Mountain range which was a test of stamina for all.

Jackarooing

A Jackaroo is a young man working on a sheep or cattle station, to gain practical experience in the skills needed to become an owner, overseer, manager, etc -- Wikipedia --

After graduating from Sydney High, I took a position as a jackaroo on a 33,000 acre cropping property in Northern New South Wales (NSW).Windy station was owned by the Australian Agricultural Company which operated a dozen properties all over Australia at the time and employed many jackaroos at the time.

 

I found myself driving a big 330 hp "Versatile" 4WD articulated tractors in 8 hour shifts as we prepared the ground for the wheat planting. The crops were planted in strips that ran in an arc for about 3 miles and were designed to prevent soil erosion.

We worked 24/7 for 12 weeks to prepare and plant over 12,000 acres of wheat that year (1982). It was a drought year and when harvest time came we took our fleet of 6 John Deere Headers (Combines) on the road starting up around Moree and working our way south to finish at Windy in late December. It was quite a sight in our largest field (570 acres) to have 6 combines all running in line as we took off the very poor (3 bu/ac) wheat crop. At the end of 12 months at Windy I was offered a position in the Northern Territory on another AAC property called Brunette Downs.

I left for Brunette in convoy with two other jackaroos who were also headed for the NT. The trip was almost 2000km. We drove our Holden Utes and camped in our swags by the side of the road. The trip took 3 days.

The 3.6 million acre Brunette Downs cattle ranch sits on the Barkley tableland and is 180km from the nearest big town (Mt Isa, QLD). It was in the NT that I learned to ride and take care of a string of 6 horses. I learned to trim and shoe horses as well as ride up to 50 miles a day  mustering cattle. Later in the year I learned to drive a "Road Train",and got my Class C drivers licence.


The jackaroos all lived in a large barracks, there were two stockcamps each with a head stockman. We spent a lot of time out in the stockcamp. Mustering on horseback with helicopters assisting. Brunette ran over 50,000 head of mainly Santa Gertrudis and Brahmin cattle. It was a hard life, sleeping under the stars in our "Swags". Up before the dawn and out to muster the cattle. I was very fit, weighed in at under 200lbs.

shoeing a horse
Cattle mustering on horseback

I remember standing listening to the radio as Australia won the Americas cup in 1983. We had just finished rounding up some horses at the homestead yards. Never in a million years could I imagine that less than 20 years later I would call the USA home!


In 1984, I transferred to another AAC property, Maneroo in Longreach, QLD which is the home of the Australian Stockmen's Hall of Fame 

Maneroo was about 60,000 acres and ran mainly Merino sheep for wool production. Longreach is in Central Queensland, the open plains stretch on for miles.

With 4 other Jackaroos, we were responsible for mustering and managing a large flock of 17,000 sheep. At shearing time we had to muster, draft, and dip the sheep, as well as help with the wool pressing. We rode many miles on Motorbike each day mustering the sheep.

Maneroo had a reasonably sized shearing shed with room for about 8 shearers.

The roustabout (blue shirt) picks up a fleece from the floor and takes it to the wool skirting table where he throws it out for the skirters to remove soiled and stained wool. It is rolled and presented to the wool classer. It is examined by the classer and put in a bin with other fleeces of the same quality. The fleeces are baled into large bales (700 lbs) and stored ready to ship to wool auctions.

 

 

 

AAAM is AAA merino and LKS are Locks (non stained skirtings)

 


I left AAC In 1985, and worked for a short time back in NSW near Coolah, for Rob and Fiona Hoddle. Fiona is the daughter of a family friend and they owned a property called Kerrawah. They ran some cattle and some sheep on a property that straddled the great divide. They were avid equestrians and encouraged me to continue to ride horses. I joined the local Polocrosse club and played in a few matches which was great fun.

Polocrosse

At the end of 1985 I left the employ of the Hoddles and went with my father on a 3 month trip to Europe. My dad was moving back to Dorset, UK where he was going to retire and live in a little cottage about a mile from where we lived from 1962 - 1969.

Orange Agricultural College

In early 1986 I was accepted into Orange Agricultural College located in the central tablelands of New South Wales. I went through their Associate Diploma in Farm Management program (Associates Degree). My time at OAC was a lot of fun, we played rubgy union (of course) I had not played much since leaving Sydney and it was of course more about the drinking and less about the football!

My HZ Ute

 

Orange is a beautiful place and living and studying there are some of my most cherished memories. Among other things, I learned to type and even put together my first spreadsheet on an Apple 2e running Visicalc. The experience was perhaps a little different for me as I was over 21 when I started college. Many of my fellow students were straight out of school and a lot were still "wet behind the ears". Funny how you find your niche, I found myself with more in common with the "horsies" aka Horse Management students, Manu of them were a bit older like myself and we had some good times together.

While at college, I also joined the Young National party (Young Nats) this is a political group associated with the National Party of Australia, an agrarian conservative party. The Orange branch was an active branch which met monthly and attended state conferences and council meetings. This time was the heyday of the Young Nats. I made many friends, some of whom I still am in touch with.

I graduated from Orange in 1986 and was Awarded the College Medal for academic excellence.

1986 - 1992

After graduation I went down to Cooma in the Snowy Mountains, where I worked for the Bright family for the winter, it was close to the snowfields and they gave me board and lodging in return for work.

I left and moved back to Sydney for about a year and worked as a furniture removalist, taxi driver and general laborer.

I was in Sydney for the Bicentennial in January 1988, it was a huge party atmosphere and was a great time to be an Australian. In the fall of 1988 I moved out to Euabalong in Central NSW where I took at job as a farmhand for Steve and Sue Doyle working on several of their farms and living in this huge house on the banks of the Lachlan river. I got myself a Kelpie dog called Ellie who I trained to round up the sheep and who was the most intelligent dog I ever owned.

 

In the fall of 1989 I was offered a job as a farm manager down at Narrandera. I took the job on the 12,000 acre Gillenbah Downs. I lived in another huge house this time on the Murrumbidgee river. We had a big flood that winter and was stranded for a couple of days with the roads closed to town. While in Narrandera, I took a course at the local TAFE and received my wool classers certificate in the spring of 1989.

I moved to Cootamundra for a while, working in several woolsheds as a wool classer, before moving back to Orange in early 1990. I worked for 2 years as a farm hand for Bruce and Sally Gordon on their farm near Millthorpe. They owned several properties in and around Orange. I worked with stud cattle, crossbred sheep and grew a few crops. I lived in Orange.

In 1991 I took a job with the Nestle company in their new Friskies Dog Food processing plant that had been built near Blayney.  I started in the wet plant which produced canned petfood, l worked on the line, adding ingredients and working in the autoclave section. I then moved to the dry plant and for a time operated their computer controlled grain milling operation. In 1992 I commenced an undergraduate degree by distance education at Charles Sturt University based in Wagga Wagga in southern NSW.
I completed the first year of my degree by distance education. Still with Nestle, I was transferred to Brisbane, Queensland to train as a quality assurance technician.

Baccalaureate Degree and Teaching Degree

In 1993 I resigned my position with Friskies and spent a year traveling overseas to England, France, Belgium, Italy and the US. My father had moved back to England and I had not seen him for a few years. As most Aussies will tell you it is a long way to go anywhere from Australia so you may as well go for a year...

It was a working holiday, I was fortunate enough to hold a british passport at the time and this allowed me to work in England. I stayed with my dad in Dorset and worked for a few weeks as lambing assistant and nightwatchman on a sheep farm not far from my father's place.

I left and went to Italy to see my mother for the early part of the spring, and did some odd jobs for her friends and had a wonderful time swimming and taking in the sights of Venice. I was offered a job at a summer camp in Maine, USA and left in June 1993 to head for New York City.

I met my wife Rebecca at the camp. We were both employed as camp counsellors at Hidden Valley Camp, Freedom, Maine. A beautiful setting for a summer romance! We parted ways in August, she returned to Miami university of Ohio to finish her degree and I returned to Europe for a couple more months of my working holiday.

 

I worked the fall at a hops farm in Kent in southern England. Hops is grown on long vines that hang from a trellis suspended on wires. The vines come into the processing area on a long trailer and are picked up and passed through a picker that separates the hops from their vines.

Next I took a job working for a friend in Scotland, taking care of their farm holiday business while they themselves took a holiday! The Scottish highlands have some of the most gorgeous scenery in Europe and I had a wonderful time.

 

I went back to Australia in January of 1994 moving from Orange in the central tablelands to Wagga Wagga in the Riverina. I commenced full time studies at CSU in Wagga in February 1994. Charles Sturt University offers 3 year Baccalaureate Degrees with the opportunity to add a fourth year at teachers college. I decided to continue with a major in Agriculture and planned to seek a job as an Ag Teacher in the NSW secondary teaching system. My first semester I lived in various places, ending up in a dorm with a whole lot of other (mostly younger) students. Living in a dorm is a unique experience but not one I would recommend for mature age students!



Rebecca came over in October of 1994, we had been corresponding by mail for 9 months and had become quite close.  We became engaged, She joined me in Wagga in March of 1995. She living with some college students in a house and I was living with a couple of college students in a big house by the lagoon in Wagga. We were married in Defiance, Ohio in July of 1995 we traveled over there during the winter break and spent our honeymoon in Belgium with my dad and sister then had a week in Venice with my mother. We returned to Australia in August and I continued my studies. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Agriculture in 1996 and continued on with a postgraduate diploma in secondary education. In 1997 I received my license as a secondary teacher in the State of New South Wales.

My final job in Australia was as a computer teacher at Wagga Wagga Technology High School. I was in charge of the Macintosh lab and taught 7-12 computer studies for a couple of months. Our daughter Rose was born in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia in May of 1996.

Immigration to the United States

The decision to move back to the US was a joint one, after a lot of prayer and discussion we agreed that it would be easier for me to find work here in the US as a teacher than it would be for Rebecca to find one in Australia as a therapist. It also was difficult for her to be away from her family. Little things like driving on the other side of the road made life difficult for her as well.


After applying and being granted resident alien status we immigrated to the USA in March 1997. We left behind many friends and many fond memories. On arrival we stayed with Rebecca's parents for a couple of months while we searched for somewhere to live. Fortunately we were able to find somewhere close by and eventually bought the property, where we are still living today.

We call the farm Daintree Farm after the Daintree Forest which is a world heritage rainforest and wilderness area in Northern Queensland. The property was owned by Charles Ball (Chuck) who had lived here on and off for a couple of years. The home was in bad repair and we had to do a lot of renovations to make it livable again. We were incredibly blessed to find this house, considering its location (half a mile from Bec's parents) and the fact that houses just do not come available for sale in this area that often.

I got a job almost straight away as a crop scout working for Monsanto in their precision farming pilot program on 6 farms in northwest Ohio. I spent that first summer scouting corn fields and gathering data on a Apple Newton handheld. The job lasted until well into the new year since it was a wet fall and the last corn did not come off till early January.

I took a job as an Agronomist with the local farm Co-op, working at the Defiance Landmark in Standley, Ohio. I was responsible for scouting fields, making fertilizer recommendations, selling seed corn and helping take in the crop and working with the local farmers. I was at Landmark for 12 months and during this time got my Commercial Drivers License.

Educational Technology

My big opportunity came in January 1999, I heard about a job opening with the local agency that handles the internet and computer services for schools in NW Ohio. The organization is called the North West Ohio Computer Association. I joined NWOCA as an Educational Technologist, they were opening a new office in Toledo. I commuted each day some 60 miles each to work in our Perrysburg Office, my journeys took me up and down the (at the time) one of the most dangerous stretches of US Highway 24, which follows the Maumee river up from Defiance to Toledo. The new 24 opened in 2012 and provides a much safer and faster route to Toledo.

The new office was set up to service the Schools in the Toledo area. We started with 6 staff in the main office on the second floor of the Penta Skill center and 2 hardware staff in the cave, located down by the library. This office has since moved to the Wynn building in Oregon.
I was required to get an Ohio teaching license. To do so, involved taking an extra class at the University of Toledo, which I completed in 2000. I now hold an Ohio Teachers 5 Year License and have endorsements to teach General Science (7-12).

In 2001 a position in our Archold office became available  and I  transferred to the West Office  which at the time was located inside the Four County Career center, about 6 miles south of Archbold, OH.

I now work with the schools in Defiance, Williams, Henry and Fulton counties. I still work with some schools in the Toledo area, with ongoing projects involving FileMaker Pro databases and content management systems.

In 2014 I will celebrate 15 years at NWOCA. Each day brings something new. We offer training sessions in our 2 locations as well as custom training sessions held by appointment out in the districts. I also spend quite a lot of time working on FileMaker Pro databases for NWOCA and for our member districts as well as installing and maintaining about 25 websites using the Exponent Content Management system.

Life on the Farm

Our family is now 6 children, Rose (1996), Josh (1998), Dominic (2001), Michael (2004), Kateri (2008) and Gemma (2013)

In 2003 we made major renovations to our 100 year old farmhouse, including a new basement and remodeled the rest of the house with a new Kitchen and dining area.

The farm has an old (1900) gambrel roof barn that house our two horses (Cody and Sahara) various outbuildings that house other animals including our laying hens, homing pigeons and several outdoor cats. We also have two westies (West highland white terriers) called JoJo and Phin who spend their time roaming the farmland around our home.

 

Contact Me

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my biography. Many old friends have found me by searching the web and ending up at this bio page. Please drop me a line via email and let me know what you are up to. My work email address can be found on the contact info page.

You can also drop me a line via my home email address.

theohiobloke_at_gmail_dot_com

US Citizenship

On September 21st , 2007 I became a US Citizen. In a ceremony at Notre Dame Academy in Toledo, OH. My naturalization was attended by family and friends. 86 others also became citizens that day. It was a proud thing to be able to finally say "I am an American".

I still have my Australian accent and still think of my time there with fond memories. At least now you know the story of how I came to be here and I hope to see you in one of my training sessions in the future.

John Mansel-Pleydell