5 Great things about Country Life

Here I am back in Sydney and waiting for my second baby to come along. When I last wrote it was about Dead Dog Tree. I feel obliged to round up the country experience on a more positive note.

So here are my favourite things about living in a small country town.

1. No one is in too much of a hurry. When I was shopping at the local IGA, one old guy actually let me go in front of him in the queue. “I’m in no rush mate”, he told me. Can you imagine that happening in Sydney?!

When you order a coffee, and they ask you how you’re going, people genuinely want to have a chat. In fact, country people always seem to have time for a chat. It took a while to stop myself from rushing into ordering my food like you do in a Sydney cafe.

2. Local Swimming Pool. As temperatures reached mid forties I was very grateful for a swimming pool in walking distance.

3. Fresh local fruit and wonderfully priced meat.

4. On our last night, a friend of ours introduced us to a couple who look after baby wombats and kangaroos. The animals’ parents have usually been hit by a car. It was amazing to walk into this couples living room and see a joey hopping around. There was a little wombat snuffling near the couch and an even tinier wombat being cuddled to sleep, just like a newborn baby. Out in the backyard we met a very cheeky teenage kangaroo who started boxing my skirt. The couple also had a cockatoo, chickens, a goat, a pig, a horse and plenty of cattle. I wish I’d taken some photos but my hands were full holding the baby wombat. It was incredible.

5. No traffic.

I know the traffic point is a bit overdone. I mean surely people don’t move to the country simply to escape traffic. I used to think this was absurd. However I do think in Sydney we can become very trapped in our houses. It can become such a battle to get anywhere that it’s hardly worth leaving at all. Our friends are spread all over the city, and we might need to travel a good hour to visit them. Once we arrive we’ll probably have parking hassles. So we build beautiful, large home to live in. And there we stay, giving our kids nothing to do but watch TV.

Some city folk often complain that the country seems to dull and boring. But do these same whiners really have such an exciting life? They battle traffic to work, sit in front of the TV all night and mooch around home on the weekend. Thrilling stuff!

I’ll never be true country girl, but my short stint living there has given me a new appreciation for country life.

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Dog Tree

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Just on the edge of town there is a sign directing you to Dog Tree Road. And if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll come across a very unusual tree.

You might easily drive past as it blends in so well with the surroundings. This ordinary looking tree, just inside the State Forest, is hung with dead, wild dogs.

These dogs have been hunted, killed and strung up. It’s a gruesome and strange display.

In 2013 the ABC reported that “wild dogs are on the verge of wiping out sheep grazing in many parts of Australia, threatening the future of small communities that rely on wool production for their survival.

For years, the feral dogs have been costing farmers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It’s become the most critical animal welfare issue facing Australian agriculture.”

I’m still not sure why the dogs carcasses have been left to rot on the tree. Perhaps as some sort of statement about the wild dog problem?

It looks like the opening of a horror movie…

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A call from Pope Francis to make chutney

pope francis laughingLast week I made some pear and apple chutney. It turned out ok. I found some basic internet recipes and then just bunged whatever I had into the pot. Sultanas were a good addition but overall I think I used too much vinegar. It was Pope Francis who set me off on this chutney session. I didn’t get a personal phone call but I did feel he was nagging me none the less.

This Pope really seems to get into our lives. From encouraging parents to bring their children to Church, to reminding us not to waste our food, he really gets down to the basics of how to live a good life.

I do try to use all my food wisely by planning meals and using left overs. But I know there are always vegetables I never get around to eating, cheese that I don’t store properly so it goes to waste and left overs in the freezer that I toss out because I’ve forgotten what they were in the first place. So when I saw that bowl of saggy looking pears and apples, which no one was bothering to eat, I knew something had to be done.

Over summer I’ve been reading Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel (thanks to the kind friend who gave it to me.) It’s a beautiful and practical book that encourages everyone to live simply. It talks about the value of home and the value of the home skills.

Simple living is “living a life that’s not complicated by wanting or having too much. It’s being satisfied with enough, whatever that may be. It allows you to discover the significance of home life and how your home can nurture you. It’s a lifestyle that allows you live well on little money, thereby enabling you to build a family and a home that is based on authenticity and love.”

Now isn’t that exciting! But also daunting… the book has some high ideals like making your own soap and knitting your own winter jumpers! Still, as it’s the start of the year I’m inspired to make some small steps.

Living a life of poverty or simplicity isn’t a new idea in the Catholic Church. Saints, Popes and everyday Catholics have been trying to live simple lives for centuries. However Pope Francis’ message really seems to be hitting home at the moment. It’s as though we are hearing an old message again for the first time.

Why does living a simple life seem so inspiring? Why would we be crazy enough to welcome a little poverty into our lives?

I suppose it has to do with our heart. Living simply, not creating unnecessary needs for ourselves, de-clutters our hearts so we can love. Our hearts are free to love people rather than things.

So perhaps it’s part of some plan that for now I don’t have a working oven, our plumbing is a bit hap hazard, we are fighting a battle against an ant invasion and I’m sitting here pregnant during a heat wave. Can’t say I’ve always born it graciously.

It’s a crash course in living simply and de-cluttering my heart. I bet if I told Pope Francis about it all he’d have a good chuckle.

Country Living

Moving for three months to the country seemed a perfect opportunity to blog. However this country experience seemed determined to challenge me at every turn.

My main problem was we had no electricity for quite a while.  The electricity company decided they couldn’t turn on the electricity, they just didn’t seem to be bothered. So we were living with candles and cold water. At night, while my husband was at work, I would sit reading my e-reader by candlelight.

Eventually a friendly electrician took pity on us and we had light.  It was blissful turning on every light in the house and making myself a cup of tea.

This town has a population of 1500.  When I first arrived I looked around in a slight panic. Where were all the people? Was there some event on for the day that had drawn them away? Why were the shops so quiet? Surely 10am should be  a busy time, but even then it seemed like a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I’m finally understanding what it’s like to live in a quiet town. There are no traffic lights, no traffic and no rush. One local shop has a sale on for horse saddles!

It isn’t the quiet or the slow pace that I find difficult. To be honest I love pottering around my little home. Also this town is surrounded by beauty; towering pine trees, creeks, lakes and rolling mountains.

I’ve loved picking fresh blueberries and raspberries and eating them on porridge. I love hanging the washing on the line and finding it dry and smelling sun kissed in half an hour. I love finding mint and rhubarb growing in the garden.

Most of all I love watching my toddler play in a garden. Why did I think I so desperately needed ABCKids to keep her entertained? Here she chases our adopted Labrador, picks the heads off flowers and sits outside to poke at her feet with a blade of grass. All this keeps her blissfully happy. She especially loves the dog, and  sometimes will just laugh for pure joy when she sees her.

I still miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss going out for coffee and rushing here and there. I miss the rush, the traffic and the excitement of Sydney over summer. All this is true. But all that is waiting for me when I come home. For now I’m living in the country.

Definition of a Gentleman

I love definitions of good manners as it makes the world seem less chaotic. What makes a true gentlemen or lady?  The best definition isn’t about snobbery or wealth. They behave in a way that makes others feel comfortable.

“A gentleman has his eyes on all those present; he is tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absent. He guards against introducing any topics that may irritate or wound; he is seldom wearisome. He makes light of favours that he confers. He never speaks of himself, except when compelled to do so, never defends himself by heated retort, has no liking for slander or gossip, is careful not to impute wrong motives to those who interfere with him, interprets everything for the best, if he can, and, if her cannot, is silent”

The Hidden Power of Kindness, L. Lovasik

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Laughing at Yourself

jamie_dAfter writing my last post on being a special Mum, concerned family and friends pointed out that some readers might not realise I’m joking. So please let me assure you I was joking. Of course there were elements of truth in what I wrote. I do sometimes drink smoothies and I even have a secret desire to make my own yoghurt. And perhaps I even fall into the trap of thinking I’m so very, very, very, special. I suppose in part my post was laughing at myself.

However coming from a family with four bothers, I’ve learnt from a young age to snap out of such nonsense. It’s not that healthy self-esteem wasn’t encouraged, but anything pretentious, or inflated was definitely to be laughed at. After all, this motherhood caper has been going on for centuries. You don’t become a special Mum because you start blogging about it.

My sister picked up  that my post was in part inspired by the character of Irene in the Scotland Street series, written by our favourite Alexander McCall Smith.  Irene’s character is a satire on helicopter parenting. She forces her six year old son to learn saxophone, take yoga and learn Italian. In fact he does so many extra curricular actives he has no time to play. She paints his room a lovely pink, as she wants to raise him gender neutral. For his birthday he wants a Swiss Army knife and instead she gives him a gender neutral doll. Irene is very educated and very irritating.

I remember when I heard the author speak at the Opera House I spotted one of my university lecturers in the audience. I was surprised because this particular lecturer had told us that she puts her little boy in a dress to allow him to pick his own gender. Not unlike Irene I would have thought.  Obviously she didn’t mind someone having a laugh at her lifestyle. We all like to laugh at ourselves to a certain extent.

As another example take Ja’mie, the absolutely obnoxious private school girl.  I’ll bet it’s the private school girls who are laughing the loudest. They get the joke even better than the rest of us.

Oscar Wilde was wonderful at getting society to laugh at itself. His plays were written for the English upper class and made fun of the upper class. They laughed wildly at themselves being ridiculous on-stage.

I truly hope satire can in some way be a force for good. Perhaps there was an English upper class twit, who after seeing The Importance of Being Ernest, decided that true love shouldn’t be superficial – you should love someone for more than their name. Perhaps their are private school girls who after watching Ja’mie have decided to be less of of a bully. I truly hope they at least realise that Ja’mie is a pretty poor example of humanity.

We can but hope…

Am I the most special Mum in all the world?

” Why don’t you make your blog more  about us – more personal?”

I stared at my husband in shock.

“Really? You want me to write about our life like a diary?”

“Well you don’t have to be exactly truthful,” he replied. “You’d have to describe me always popping off to the gym.”

Interesting. So Tom wouldn’t mind if my blog was a diary if it made him look buff. He does actually go the gym quite regularly, but he also spends time lounging on the couch watching fishing shows. Perhaps I should only write about the edited version of my life… Edited and a little embellished.

So here it is!

Dear gorgeous, lovely ladies who read my blog,

Today was a typically hectic day for our little family. Last night was a little crazy as Eloise went to sleep at 10 past 7. I know! She’s all over the place that girl. I think it all comes down to Tom putting the wrong toys in her bath. She usually only has blue and white. That yellow duck in the bath did nothing to help her wind down routine. Tom’s twice daily gym visits and bulging muscles must be muddling his mind. 

Anyway, after having such a late night, she slept through to 7.30 am. It wasn’t until 8 o’clock that we were both up and sipping our morning smoothies. It took me that long to pick the fresh berries grown on our balcony. Tom was busy in the kitchen checking on our home made yoghurt and the little Princess was practising her baby yoga. Such a cherub!

 I had arranged to meet one of my Mummy friends for coffee at 10. But sadly her baby’s nap was a little early and my darlings nap was a little late so we were both stuck at home. Of course I perfectly understand. You just can’t mess with naps! Who knows what awful things could happen?!

Luckily nothing went wrong for our afternoon plans. You may have heard me talk about my darlings musical ability in the past? I try to tell myself its normal child play – that she isn’t unique, special and talented. But I also know I’m truly blessed to be given this opportunity – this gift that I can cherish.

 A good friend, who appears regularly in productions at Opera Australia, has agreed to come over once a week to tutor her for about an hour. Today he was so captivated he stayed a full two hours.  I sipped a green smoothie on the couch and watched them together. I can’t explain my joy to see my little darling watch him as he sang in Italian  When he had finished she wobbled over and gave his hand a squeeze. Her way of showing she perfectly understood. We snap chatted and instagramed  the moment so its always in my memory.

The little darling went off easily tonight. At 7.10 I was sipping a glass of wine and thinking back to that precious moment. I’m such a special person being a mother to this special, special little girl. I know there are lot’s of other mothers in this world but somehow I feel like I’m the first mother. The only mother. I’m THE mother. I’m special too. I’m just so very special.  xxxxxxxxxxx

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