I don’t know what I really expected when I moved to the country – apart from breathing in the fresh air and looking out over the vibrant greenery of The Shoalhaven, having a few chooks for fresh eggs and a dog to sprawl on the veranda. I didn’t really think about the other animals around us and what impact they may have on our lives. Needless to say living in the middle of a dairy farm we have become privvy to the day to day hiccups of having 350 animals with a 24/7 routine of care. It’s so easy for us to sit in our lounge and look out at the cows wandering past to the milking shed and see one that’s hobbling or very thin and think they should be better looked after. We judge with our city aesthetic what animals should have/look like/be treated like and the reality is a whole lot different. It doesn’t mean the farmers don’t care but they don’t look at them quite the same way as us city pet owning folk do. It is upsetting when you see a dead calf, or cow and it takes a couple of days for them to be removed and I’m getting increasingly upset for poor old Neddy the horse that lives in the paddock adjacent to us.
He is in a completely treeless field – rain, hail and shine. No protection from the near 40 degree days and from the relentless westerly wind. He gets no visitors and no exercise. He twitches constantly with the hundreds of flies that buzz around him and when I get up close his hooves are all tattered and frayed. The people next door are lovely people (and apparently are doing her sister a favour by keeping the horse for her) but with a new baby and 10 acres of their own to look after Neddy is the last thing on their mind. So every week now I add a bag of carrots and a bag of apples to my shopping list to give Neddy boy a bit of a treat and the sound of a friendly voice when I feed them to him. I’m also seriously considering spraying him (as some of the girls I talk to do with their horses) to help with his fly problem. Am I just being a silly city girl who can’t cope with the reality of country living???
Our trees give him some shade early in the morning at least….
On the other hand the respect I have for food producers is increasing on a daily basis as I discover first hand the problems of growing your own fruit and veg. Especially fruit. So many things can and do go wrong. The strong westerly and southerly winds both blow off any less than secure fruit, leaving it scattered all around for the rabbits and one apricot loving Chocolate Labrador. She walks past the fallen plums and goes straight for the furry little apricots and there is a trail of stones left to let me know exactly how many she has consumed. Then, if the fruit manages to stay attached to the tree, it makes it easy pickings for all the birds to fly in and have a few pecks (to check the ripeness) and for any rogue fruit flies in the area to take up residence. If it escapes those hurdles we still have to get enough of the right kind of sunshine to ripen the fruit and make it eat worthy. At this rate I will be lucky if I get enough apricots to make one pot of jam and you can buy one of those from the supermarket for a few dollars – CRAZY! I still hold on to my dream of picking sun ripened fruit straight from the tree and biting into it’s voluptuous sweet perfumed flesh and thinking – WOW – that was worth all the hard work. If I ever get there I will let you know……
In the meantime I am harvesting some lovely zucchini, green beans and yellow teardrop tomatoes and I was very excited to part the leaves on my capsicum plants the other day to see beautiful shiny peppers staring back at me. The eggplants are flowering and the red tomatoes are ripening so I will soon have enough ingredients for a ratatouille!!!
At least our garden is providing us with some interesting veggies!! My home grown J-Lo tomato!!
I had my last trip to Sydney before Xmas this week. A flurry of hair appointments, the last few bits of gift shopping and dinner with my lovely bookclub girls to celebrate Christmas and to give our Kris Kringle prezzies. I discovered when I attempted to decorate the house this week that all my decorations which had filled my previous little house so well were completely lost in this new one. I barely had enough decorations to cover the two fireplace mantels and the hall table so I stopped off at a Xmas warehouse for a few more bags of goodies.
All my beautiful Book Club girls………….
We will wait until next week to buy our tree to keep it looking as fresh and happy as possible for the big day. We want to place it in our bay window which is the perfect visual location for it but unfortunately it gets the sun all day long and the pine needles will be struggling after 10 days. I am sure it will look lovely and Christmassy once it is installed and I even splashed out on a new angel/fairy to look over us all from the top of the tree!! A visit to the new Harris Farm at Drummoyne sent me into a rhapsody before heading home with the boot full of bags of beautiful produce that I can’t get down here – in fact it was the first time I’ve had a twinge that I don’t live in Sydney since I moved! We have a Harris Farm in Bowral and I think I will be going there to get my Xmas food as the choice is vast – with huge wheels of cheese and fabulous cold meats as well as all the fresh stuff….sigh………
Well, Christmas is just a little over a week away and despite all the many, many lists, the meal planning, the gift buying, the decorating, the never ending shopping and spending, the wrapping and the cooking, it is still something I love and look forward to. For our entire family to be together is the best gift I could have and I just wish I was a bit closer to England so I could share some of the chaos and fun with my Mum, Sister and family. This year we have 10 of us here for the big day and as we are so far away we will have all 10 staying with us so I have been madly buying bed linen, pillows and duvets so everyone can be comfortable. Throw into the mix the fact that my Father-in-law has his birthday on Xmas Eve and Lauren’s boyfriend has his on Xmas day and we have a very special few days in store! Cammo is going to mow a cricket pitch on the front lawn, the drinks fridge will be bulging at the seams, the table tennis and darts are available if the weather is gloomy and many a story will be relayed on the front veranda just as it has for the past 119 years! We are off to the Christmas tree farm this Friday to cut down our very own tree (very Clark Griswold of us don’t you think??) and as we have 12 foot ceilings we can get a lovely big tree to decorate. The turkey, ham and pork are ordered and we have a lovely home made pudding from our friend Smutzer. A game of golf is planned for Xmas Eve while the girls cook up a storm and Bing Crosby has been downloaded onto Spotify to keep the tradition going albeit in a new way! The Meadow will be echoing to the beat of a different drum this year but we are just the most recent keepers of the keys and the latest chapter in the story of the White House down the Lane in The Meadow………..
Have a great Christmas everyone !!