Early Friday morning, we sat on the porch, third coffees on the table between us, me with my crochet, Julian with his moleskin, and we brainstormed all the things we’d love to achieve around the farm over the weekend. Then we marked off the most important seven for Friday and set to work. It was mostly a day of orchard planting. The raspberry patch was finished off – 5 metres long by 2 metres wide, thoroughly dug over with old duck bedding, liberally seasoned with the neighbour’s horse poo, edged with timber and secured with a nice deep row of poultry netting, steel hoops and black netting. Nothing can be left to chance around here. If the ducks don’t get in with their destructive flat feet and jack hammering bills, or the rats and rabbits eat it down to a 1 inch stick, then the rosellas and king parrots annihilate every last bud. We’ve learnt the hard way.
Then we planted plums, pomegranates, peaches, blackcurrants and gooseberries. At the moment the whole thing looks like a graveyard of sticks with a half dug pond piled with dirt around the edges. Nothing to show off for sure. But oh, when I look down from the kitchen window, I dream of what it will look like in a few years time. The pond will be deep and full, edged by water plants with a lovely rock wall at one end, and ducks and geese cheerfully swimming round and round the water lilies. Those fruit trees – including the already planted apples, pears, hawthorn and almond will be tall and blooming. That raspberry patch will be glistening with fat juicy berries. And off to one side will be the lovely wooden rotunda that Julian and I plot every time we stand amongst the fruit trees – a handmade octagon with no railings but wide steps leading into the orchard from each side and tall roof thickly covered in wisteria. Mmmmmm …..
Anyways – that was Friday’s list. Yesterday’s was filled with niggledy little tasks that needed finishing off as well the building of a proper, functioning compost system, and the relocating of the sheep. A big and busy list, that one, but oh so satisfying to tick each thing off. And last night – when I looked out and could see our five dear sheep on the other side of the house fence – it felt just right.
This morning, we sat at the table with our third coffees and ambitiously checked off the next seven items. We may even have said “And once we’ve done all that. we’ll start digging the next 10 metre long raspberry patch.” Yes, I ordered 20 more canes (on top of the 10 we planted Friday) and they’re arriving this week – eek!
First on the list … weed whack around the new sheep fence. But by the time we got down there, we were already discussing number 2 – move the goat tethers over to the field next to the sheep so that they’d have plenty of shade from the nearby small gum grove. We wandered down amongst the gums to pace out where we needed to start. The grove was delightfully cool but sun speckled and the kangaroos have been doing a sterling job keeping down the grass. It was almost the grove of our dreams.
Our talk turned away from weed whacking and goat tethering to … if we cleared this bit here, got rid of that clump of bracken, dragged these logs up to edge the herb garden. Next thing, Julian was weed whacking in an ever increasing circle around the huge central apple gum whilst I raked and made bush turkey styled piles ready to be carted off to the bonfire. We plotted where we would put a rustic wooden table and benches. We ooohed and ahhhed about how lovely it would be to sit down here on a hot summer’s day with jugs of iced lemon and mint water. I dreamed of slipping away to wile away the hours with needles, wool and books.
Then, pushing all thoughts of lists and chores away, Julian weed whacked us the perfect path back to the house where we made icy cold banana milkshakes, dug out the picnic quilt, coaxed Noah away from his laptop, and returned to the applegum.
Julian shook out the quilt and we all plonked down. Through the trees, green fields dotted with cows, rolled away to the north, and mountains loomed to the west. A spider scuttled across the quilt and Noah caught it in his gumboot – he says it was the first thing that came to hand. A pair of kookaburras sat above us in the tree, cackling away. Pakkun tried her hardest to share our milkshakes whilst Fu snuffled about in the grass, and the nearby sheep mooed. I stitched away at my granny bolster cover, and Julian stripped the bark away from a narrow log he plans to turn into a tamper handle (pond digging stuff)
It was blissful and as I looked up I realised we were really sitting under the Faraway tree! I pointed out the little doors and porches to Noah and stared up into the sun kissed, twisty turning branches wondering what Silky and Moonface were up to. I don’t know that Noah was quite as bewitched as I :-)
I adored the Magic Faraway Tree books when I was little. I read them over and over and over and wished, for the umpteenth time, that I could live a life as wonderful, mysterious and magical as the children in Enid Blyton’s books. You know, I daresay this was the start of my passion for the English countryside. It was patently obvious to me that the grand adventures of the Famous Five, the Adventurous Four and of course Jo, Bessie and Fanny could never happen in Australia. You clearly had to be in the English countryside to camp out in abandoned castles, capture smugglers, rescue kidnapped European princes, and spend lovely days up a tree with the Faraway Tree folk. Sigh.
And as I sat under our beautiful Faraway Tree, I realised that it was never the promise of that magical land at the top of the tree that really drew me into these books. I even remember skipping over those bits. What I truly loved were the homes the funny little people of Faraway Tree – and later, Roald Dahl’s Minpins and Mary Norton’s The Borrowers – created. The cosiness, the warmth and welcome (mostly), the nooks and crannies, the corners filled with fascinating items, and especially the fabulous make do philosophy they all embraced as they built their wee homes, turning other people’s cast offs into the loveliest of belongings.
I didn’t care about running around in Candy Land or whatever had zoomed in that week. I longed to peek into little sitting rooms, and take tea by the fireside with people whose lives revolved around the dear little homes they had built all by themselves. I wanted to live there with them. I wanted to build my own home just as lovely and creative as theirs. And I wanted them to come visit me.
Forty years later, and I don’t believe I’ve changed one bit :-) Here we are, Julian and I, building our little home bit by bit. Weekend by weekend. Making use of what we find, what other people cast away. Building it by hand. Making it so utterly descriptive of just who we are, what we love, and what’s important to us.
Making it cosy. Making it welcoming. Making it creative. Making it ours.