I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from my new life in the country. Was I going to miraculously turn into an amazing baker, pulling fresh scones out of the oven to accompany my homemade jams? Was I going to go ‘au naturelle’ and wear homespun clothes and very little makeup? Was I going to take up knitting, weaving or spinning? All these things somehow seemed ‘countryish’ before I got here, but then I realised I could pretty much have the exact same life I had in the city just with prettier views and less pressure to conform to a type. I’m free to either slob around in my gardening clothes all day ‘sans make up’ or get snazzed up and look as if I’m visiting from Moss Vale (my son’s words….), it really is completely up to me and somehow I don’t seem to be judged or treated differently either way. My Mum, who looks amazing at 82 and thanks to her life in England has better skin than me, will always make an effort to go the extra mile, even if she’s only popping up the road for a pint of milk. She has a ‘be the best you can be at all times’ type philosophy and one that I admire whilst simultaneously not wanting to HAVE to feel I have to get made up to leave the house. This inevitably leads to me NOT “putting my face on” 60% of the time and makes “going out” special once again. When our city friends come to stay I must admit I enjoy having a reason to get dressed up, making the effort is enjoyable and the rest of the time I’m learning not to freak out when I catch a glimpse of my everyday self in the mirror when I pass by!!! Ageing graciously isn’t always easy…..!!
So life in the country is different every day. No scones or weaving here but plenty of little surprises to keep this little city girl happy. This week I was delighted to come across a big ring of field mushrooms in the middle of our lawn and eagerly picked a large bowl full, anticipating them fried up in butter, garlic and parsley on local sourdough toast for breakfast but they ended up being used in a tasty chicken and mushy braise courtesy of Neil Perry, (recipe has been added to the kitchen section.)
Country life sometimes throws you a curve ball too and I was more than slightly concerned when I sighted a pile of white feathers in the garden one morning. “Nothing good will come of this” I thought as I wandered over to investigate , and despite the fact that there was nothing there other than feathers it’s pretty obvious that Mr Fox had an early morning snack of some sort on our property, merely leaving the fluffy evidence and nothing more. Maybe it was one of the many white corellas that fly over us every day at this time of year. They fly in huge groups of several hundred birds which we can hear coming for ages before we see the white cloud on the horizon, a cacophony that makes you look skyward….
The country I am now starting to become more aware of is the plight of the local farmers. We have had hardly any rain and any that we HAVE had has been at the wrong time for sowing/planting and as a result there has been very little extra feed available for the cows. The corn that was planted only had one cob of corn per stalk as opposed to the usual 3-4 making it much less nutritious for the cattle and everywhere I look people are hand feeding their stock. Horses, cows and goats are all straining over the fences of their paddocks that butt up to residential property to get to that little bit of grass that is always greener on the other side and the cows are eating well past sunset and into the darkness to try and get enough energy to keep warm in these cold winter months. One thing I hadn’t considered before was the drinking water for the cows. Our farmer neighbour was mentioning the huge water bills that they get when it doesn’t rain as cattle drink a lot and they then have to hand water as well as hand feed them ending up with water bills up to $10,000 per year just for a smallish farm. All these things should contribute to the end price of meat and milk products but mostly it is the farmer that has to cop it on the chin as the middle man refuses to pay more than XXX per litre of milk or kilo of meat. No wonder people are leaving the land in droves or selling out to big corporations. Who else could afford the vagaries of today’s weather patterns and the ever increasing requirements from government and their food rules.
What IS lovely about country living is having visitors and we have had quite a few in the past few weeks. It’s always so lovely to get a call asking if we will be around and then spending time with people we rarely get to see. Such was the case when our son in laws parents phoned from Tassie to say they would be passing by on their way up north in their caravan and would we be home? A great couple of days spent golfing, eating and chatting about our merged families ensued before we waved them off on their way to warmer climes..!!
Then a weekend with our youngest followed with lots of animated chats about his imminent move to London and all that was involved with that. As it was a beautiful sunny and warm weekend day we decided to give the Choccy Drop a bath which she tolerated with a decidedly unimpressed expression! I’m certainly going to miss our funny, lovable and life-be-in-it son but I encourage him wholeheartedly on his adventure.
Then, in what is becoming a bit of a tradition, we hosted a Xmas In July weekend with some friends who we always have fun with and who love good food. The star of the show – the porchetta – came from one of Phil and Karen’s pigs at Claydon Park in Milton and was cooked to perfection by the MOTH in the pizza oven. It is so wonderful to be able to eat locally grown (and loved) meat that you know hasn’t had anything dodgy added to it and that tastes divine. We managed to add in a pumpkin from our neighbour, our own carrots and a homemade custard made with our own eggs to accompany the Xmas pud. That’s fairly country I reckon! An excuse to eat in our dining room for a change with a log fire burning and some lovely wines to bring out the conversation! One of the real beauties of country living is that people stay over and you have so much more time together than on a city dinner date. Thank you to our lovely friends and all their many contributions to a great day, there’s nothing like chatting until late at night and talking about things that have been important or changed your life over the past 50 years or so, we are lucky to have such special people to share our lives with.
True friends are very important, people you can enjoy time with and that support each other but the bottom line is you have to be happy in your own skin and with your own life. Maybe that means you finally do that course that teaches you to paint, speak French or play the guitar. Maybe it means you finally lose those extra pounds, get fit or have your teeth straightened. Maybe you search out those old friends or family you have fallen out of communication with. If you hate your job get brave and change it. If you are in a bad relationship, get the courage to leave it. We only get one go at this big thing called life and although it’s scary to change things, if you just take a leap out of your comfort zone for a while you can often achieve things that you only ever dreamed about. So many people thought we were mad when we said we were moving to the country, especially at our “stage” of life but it has made us very happy and if you never give things a go how will you ever know?