I am not quite sure how it all began it is just basically who I am.
And when my family shifted to the city I felt like a fish out of water, my nickname at my new high school was Farmer, because, well, basically that was who they thought I was. A farmer. That is who I thought I was. But growing up in a small farming community I thought I was just like most kids who would end up living and working on a farm.
Let me take you back a little.
I grew up in a small country town on the border of Victoria & New South Wales in Australia. My parents didn’t own a farm but before shifting to the city when I was a teenager they bought a house on about 10 acres of land. I felt like I had shifted home, I finally lived where I belonged. For the first time I felt settled, no neighbours close by, to get to school my younger brother and I had to cut through a paddock usually full of cows, if those cows chased us up onto the muddy irrigation channel embankment my younger brother and I would grab hold of each other to stop from falling into the water. Part scaring the life out of us, part feeling like we were living our own real life adventures like characters in Enid Blyton’s stories.
I could look out my bedroom window across to the other neighbours horses. The sky was high, the night time chorus of crickets and frogs and cicada’s in summer was loud and glorious, I still find their sounds comforting. I spent more time out side with my animals then I did inside.
Learnt to drive the tractor when the corn crop was planted and work the irrigation gate to release water into the irrigation channels that threaded through the acreage.
Looked after poddy calves that I let join me in the laundry each morning when I mixed up their milk formula and my mother was at work. My father kind of sort of turned a blind eye until Sebastian the calf forgot his house manners. My father cleaned up the mess but he said I wasn’t allowed to let the calves inside again. It didn’t take my mother long to determine what had happened the moment she got home from work, that really sealed the deal. After school the calves would wait at the gate for me and I would sit in the paddock next to them until they got just that bit too big. My father would bring me home skinny little neglected calves from the sale yard saying he felt sorry for them and knew I would be able to feed them up and give them a good home. It wasn’t until years later that I understood what happened to them when they got sold. They didn’t actually go to live with a lovely farmer who had more land then us.
I visited school friend’s family farms and liked standing up on the fence watching the cows go in to be milked or listen to the grown ups talk about pasture or stock, milk production or the rainfall for that matter. While during the visit it was nice to sit inside and eat lovely home made baked treats for afternoon tea like jelly slice and all, I much preferred seeing the new born piglets, playing in the hay shed or seeing the feed bins in the diary be refilled in anticipation for the cows to come in and be milked. There was so much going on that I didn’t want to miss.
I stared out the window thinking a lot about the farm I would own one day, the livestock I would care for, a big old family homestead with a big shallow dam on the northern side of the house, the hot summer winds would catch on the pond cooling the house, the water source could be used to protect the homestead if there were bush fires. Home paddocks, internal lane ways, post and rail fencing, a creek or river, an orchard. I wasn’t going to be like farmers who don’t wear a helmet on a motor bike around the farm, I was going to be sensible and wear one. I had it all worked out. Layers of details.
It is in my DNA, generations of folk who came before me worked the land, cared for livestock, sold butter and milk and cheese for a living. Shearing, mixed crop farming, crofters, labourers, a farm manager who was sponsored and family’s passage was paid for to immigrate to Australia all for the reason to oversee a large farm, ancestors who had a reputation for owning well cared for farms and quality breeding stock, their obituaries tell me so. The list goes on.
My internal compass went off course. Like being caught in a storm without any direction my family relocated. I found myself in the city. There is nothing wrong with living in the city, to me it just felt like wearing a scratchy wet woollen jumper, sometimes it felt like the jumper was drying out and becoming more comfortable to wear, more often than not it just didn’t. I spent a lot of years dreaming about how to make my way back to the country. Study, jobs, finances, previous relationships delayed it.
While we don’t have a farm we have three quarters of an acre on the side of a hill with views out to the surrounding hills and mountains and valley. A friends three little children who visit when our hens have chicks call our property The Chook Farm. That endearing name makes me smile.
I catch myself as I am leaning against the fence watching the poultry, checking their health, watching as they interact, plan Spring hatchings or the crop of winter greens to grow for them. I am a farmer but just not on the scale I thought I would be. Not the horses or cows or pigs I planned to care for but my small flocks are manageable for the life we have and that is at least enough. I am grateful.
Together with Michael and Lil us three have created our own little teeny tiny farm. Small orchards and food hedges, two flocks of ducks, two flocks of chickens, guinea pigs, a big kitchen garden, a 117 year old cottage nestled into the rambling country garden we planted when we first shifted to Fairy Wren Cottage .
I fall asleep listening to the crickets and frogs.
I look to the night time sky comforted that I can see the stars. I hear the pademelons grazing under my window, their tales thump on the ground as they hop around the garden.
It is not the life I dreamt of all those years ago, it is better than that.
It is richer because I share it with Michael and Lil, because I live back in the country, my internal compass has reset itself.
I am home. I am simply where I am meant to be.
Sending Light & Love,
August 25, 2019