So I can come back and watch this over and over and over …
Our to do list is so long. There’s decades worth of work on it. Sometimes Julian feels a bit frustrated by not having the time (he still works full time from home) or a bottomless pit of money to simply throw at all the essential bits. Need thousands of metres of fencing? Poof! Here it is! Need a lovely big dam? Poof! Here it is! Need the perfect timber framed barn with hay loft and milking stands? Poof! Here it is. And how ’bout we just click our fingers to make that beautiful boundary of deciduous trees appear. Then we’ll click our heels and there’ll be both an orchard of fruit trees, and one of oaks and hazelnuts. Ah … it’s the stuff fairy tales are made of, huh :-)
So Friday evenings are usually spent pondering the list of what we should tackle over the weekend. And come sunup on Saturday it’s game on. Everything has to be done on a strict budget so we are always scouring the dump shops for supplies and coming up with new ways of building things. We’ve almost finished our Duck and Geese Mansion – built at the bottom of the garden out of hardwood pallets a lovely local nursery gave us. Now all it needs is the door – which Julian is building out of old hardwood fence palings we found at the dumpshop. It’s definitely our cheapest build yet – and looks fab! Julian’s been tempting the ducks and geese into it this week – Hansel and Gretel style – trails of scratchmix down the garden to the pallet built ramp, onto the pallet built landing and into the pallet built house. They are totally up with it :-)
This Saturday we needed a fresh trailer load of supplies so headed north to Narooma. On the way we stopped in our local village – Cobargo – for travelling supplies. They have little street stalls on a Saturday morning – our favourite’s the Cobargo Baking Buddies! Their stall is stacked high with wonderful cakes and slices and biscuits and buns and chutneys and jams – reminds me so much of the stall my Nanny used to run for the local church at the saleyards in her small town. We picked up a date and walnut roll, cinnamon scrolls and a jar of mustard pickles. Yum! This weekend there was even a banjo and piano player busking – I could have cheerfully plonked down on the footpath and listened for the rest of the morning!
Then it was onto the hardware store – an absolute rabbit warren of a place that’s tucked away down near the beach and cemetery. It has everything we can think of – sleepers, besser blocks, marine ply, garden hose fittings, bathroom fittings, paint, nails … all our favourite stuff – and really helpful nice staff. We filled the trailer – even bought a new set of basin taps and mixer for our bathroom – ours is precariously held together with globs of silicon (the previous owner’s answer to everything) and if we turn on the tap too hard, the mixer flies off and we get a torrent of water to the face – yay! We headed back to the highway and Julian asked me what the next stop was.
And I said …. “The beach.” Yup. It was a glorious day – ridiculously warm for the 3rd week in May, with a rich blue sky and lashings of sun – the perfect day for the beach. That to do list will always be there. In fact, it will only grow. And we will always be able to think up a myriad of ways to toil away the hours on our little farm. But we live in such a gorgeous corner of the world – gosh, we moved here just because it is so beautiful and we wanted to call this coastline, these valleys home. Thus, it is practically our duty to soak it up as often as we can ;-)
So, heading home, we turned off at Mystery Bay. Oh it was exquisite. We strolled from one end to the other. Sloshing through the almost balmy, crystal clear water, our trousers rolled up to our knees, quiet and dreamy. We watched the sea birds, mused about just which rocky nook would be the loveliest for swimming, and looked carefully along the tidemark to see what treasures the ocean was washing up today. I ooohed and ahhhed over the rich lichens – Julian admired the dramatic rock formations – some look like ancient rusted shipwrecks, others like shards of roof slate a tip truck let slide out onto the sand – and declared he had to read up on his geology.
It was bliss. Utter bliss. And so absolutely essential to making the most of Wombat Hill Farm – yes?!?
Finally we were back to where we started. So, trousers wet, legs bare and sticky with salt, and feet caked with sand, we turned back to the highway. Shortly after, we turned off again to Tilba Tilba – we needed a serious stock up on Erica’s fabulous South Coast cheese and milk – our favourites are the 3 Year Vintage and the Vintage Blue. But we still had that laden trailer so we had to park up the top of Tilba in the caravan section and then trot on down to the cheese factory – our trousers still wet, our legs still bare, our feet still sandy – we felt like such locals :-)
By the time we were home, you know, there weren’t too many hours left to work. Julian cut some grass. I planted some veggie seedlings (to replace the ones the rats ate – and now the rabbits are eating these ones – ARGH!) and a row of echinacea in a bed that’s turning into a bit of a medieval herbal selection – so far I have elder, echinacea, calendula and verbena – the chickens are very fond of this lot so I’ve had to fence it off – using little panels of mesh we found … at the dump shop of course!
So not much was ticked off the to do list at all. But that’s okay. Because when we are old and grey and wobbly of memory, I don’t want to only be able to list all the chores we completed, year in year out. I want to be able to laugh with happiness and tell stories about all the lovely adventures we took, all the times we stopped on the way home, and all the hours we spent just soaking it up.
That’s what will make living here at Wombat Hill truly special.
The last few months have been so many things. Bewildering, magical, overwhelming, everything I’ve ever daydreamed about, exhausting, bliss and such a privilege. I have not started back at nursing yet, Julian is working from home, and Noah’s having a gap year. So almost everyday, here we are together. Each pottering about in this small cottage, sharing our daily lives in a way we’ve never been able to do before. There are so many times when I stand here and think – wow! This is amazing! Even better than when Noah was little, because Julian’s here too and we are somewhere exquisitely beautiful. What a gift for us.
But it has been stressful at times. I don’t like change. Never have. Which must seem insane to read because I have longed for this change for soooooooo many years. But change is change. 2015 was a stressful year with so much change and challenge. Moving was exhausting and stressful. Oh my goodness – those last few days in Melbourne were hideous – it felt as if they COULD never end. By the time I arrived here at Wombat Hill, I was utterly wrung out.
So pleased and relieved to be here – but completely spent. And what did we do – threw open our arms and welcomed even more change! Julian no longer left the home for work each day. Noah was no longer at school – 13 years of routine disappeared in a blink and a whole new era of parenting a young adult began. We had animals that needed to be housed and cared for. A normal sized family home’s worth of contents and furniture was divided between our little esky cottage and one side of the workshop. Then there were all the niggly details of moving – changing licences, registrations, service providers, insurance …
It was “Yes! There’s no more tram out the front!” to “Oh my god, there’s no more tram out the front!” Every where we needed to go required so much driving. But the road is beautiful and there’s no traffic. Everything is so much slower and more peaceful. But we can no longer call into all those shops that had become our favourites and where we knew everybody. I no longer had to carefully check my roster every night before falling asleep. And I no longer had that wonderful sense of purpose, privilege and camaraderie that comes with working as a nurse in a really good hospital with wonderful people I looked forward to seeing every day. And oh how I miss Meryl, her beautiful mosaic studio, the wonderful women I met there and the joy that was hours spent creating with like minded women.
I sound ungrateful. Truly I’m not. I do love living here. It is everything I’d ever hoped for.
But it’s a huge change. And I don’t like change.
Change flusters me. Leaves me nervous, heart beating a little faster, unsure of what to do next, what to expect, how to cope. Makes me teary sometimes. Short tempered other times.
Let me tell you how well I coped when Julian and Noah were in Melbourne and one of the chickens died overnight and something ate its brains out. Well. I didn’t. I called my mum sobbing and SHE came over and coped.
My Mum did what every sensible, loving mum does, and after she picked up the dead chicken and popped it into a box, she sat with me whilst I made an appointment to see our GP – who I’d only had an introductory visit with the week before and had been perfectly grown up and coherent. Not like when I saw her the day after the chicken died. Oh I cried and cried and cried. And she was incredibly compassionate and lovely.
We had a really really good talk – about change, and sadness, and relationships, and what makes us feel worthwhile, and menopause (oh that is so much fun!). She also prescribed a low dose of some good old antidepressants to help smooth things out, and I’ve been back to see her every week since. She is a real gem.
Five weeks on and I truly feel like I’ve been pulled out of a rather scary whirlpool and gently set back down on my feet. I haven’t cried in weeks – except those hiccuping tears of laughter when the new puppy or goats do something funny or Julian is silly. It is a joy to get up everyday and I’m steadfast in only thinking about what needs to be done in the next hour – not all of what we should do or what might go wrong in the next decade. Everyday tasks are so much more enjoyable that way – who’d have thunk! I’m so grateful for the love and patience shared with me by Julian, Noah and Mum. Gratitude and patience go a long way to making days peaceful and rewarding.
And instead of flapping about like a squawking hen, my newly peaceful mind and I have decided to use this change as an opportunity to reestablish good habits that I’d let slip over our years in Melbourne – especially with all that studying and nursing and a year’s worth of moving and feeling so unsettled. Simple things that make me feel relaxed and competent – making our bed first thing in the morning, watering my little porch garden, folding all the washing when we bring it in so our little home stays neat, washing up before we go to bed, putting time and effort into planning and cooking our meals.
That might sound a little 1950s housewife-ish. But I find that when all those little things run smoothly, I have so much more energy and passion for the much bigger and more exciting, creative things. A calm house makes for a calm mind. A reliable routine makes me feel capable of doing so much more.
So here I am. I have settled back into the regular reading of some inspiring books like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth and her new book The Simple Home. They help me think through what is important for my family and I, and encourage me to put these values into practice everyday. I’m pulling out the old favourite cookbooks and making well loved suppers and baking treats.
My patchwork boxes are still in the shed, but open and I’m slowly working through them, delighting in the treasures they hold and bringing in projects to finish off. I may not be able to work on my mosaics at the moment, but I’m loving painting – all the animal houses are being colourfully decorated and I’ve started a big canvas of what I love looking at when I stand on the porch. I’ve pulled out pieces of fabric and patterns I’ve bought over the last few years, and have started making clothes again.
And I’ve knitted. Oh my goodness – knitting is as good as meditation I reckon. In those first couple of weeks after seeing my doctor, every time I felt overwhelmed, I just sat in a lovely spot and knitted. And that feeling slowly subsided.
Now, I’m aware of speaking more kindly and thoughtfully. I’m considering my reactions when the unexpected happens and applying a good dose of self talk as required. My levels of impatience and frustration are so low, I feel positively Zen.
Chickens will still die and have their brains eaten out. Just this last fortnight we’ve had a big upsurge in rat activity and they ate all my carefully nurtured broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, parsley, silverbeet and lettuce. All the leaves fell off my new mulberry tree. And my right elbow is so sore (I’ve had “tennis elbow”) that I doubt it will ever feel the same again.
Julian will annoy me. Noah will have me throwing my hands up in despair. The dog will vomit on the rug. The kitchen will be a disaster and I will rather eat toast than cook supper.
But I am optimistic. I have so much. Every day I have many moments of such happiness and love. What was once this huge change is now becoming part of who I am. That is such a relief.
And I’m so glad I’m here, with my wonderful, much-loved people at my side, creating this new life. It is everything I’ve dreamed of and so much more.
Since settling into Wombat Hill, our weekends have almost all been spent outside. Long summery weekends full of sweaty work, hats and sunscreen. Mostly building. There is a never ending list of building requirements. Especially as more animals find their way here. I could really enjoy some quiet, rainy indoor weekends but I think we’ve had less than 3 of those in 3 months.
Julian says he’s sick of building poultry housing (he wants to move onto fencing so he can get his weaners and suffolks) – and yet there always seems to be a need for more :-) Last weekend we built a new house for the ducks and geese to share “The Pallet Palais”! Made from all blue hardwood pallets – given to us for free – it was quick but heavy to put together. Julian added beams to create a skillion roof and today I’ve been stapling heavy gauge chicken mesh to the inside walls and floor to make it fox proof. The we shall nail some reclaimed palings to the front – cut an arched doorway out of them (Julian says that will be easy!) and add a door. Oh they shall be nice and safe then. It’s been terribly gusty today, but in that blue palace tucked into the hedge at the bottom of the garden, it’s protected and peaceful. Not that the ducks and geese will care – the more inclement the weather, the happier they are.
We devoted yesterday to building the first of 2 “treehouses” for the guinea keets who are rapidly turning into blue helmeted guinea fowl. They will hold 6 to 8 fowl each and will sit atop posts in the opposite corner of the garden. Apparently guinea fowl love flying up to their house for the night. But at first they’ll be on the ground, surrounded by electric mesh, until we convince the guinea fowl that their houses are the bees knees.
Yesterday, as the day drew to a close, we had all tired of tools and planks, we stood up and noticed that it did look and feel a bit like autumn. The Japanese maples have all of a sudden started glowing. The apricot is fast dropping yellowed leaves everywhere. The grape vine leaves are toasting up and falling off. The tree near the goat yard is looking ever so pretty – like a powdery rhubarb. And no matter which direction we turned, the light was a rich syrupy golden, whilst the gathering breeze was positively nippy.
Yes. Autumn looks like it finally might be making an appearance. Come on! Come one! Bring your blustery winds, your day long showers of rain, your slow mornings and quick dusks. We’re ready!