Thursday, February 28, 2013

Moving to the country

Recently I wondered when the seed of country living was planted in my brain. When did I decide that I wanted to live in a rural area, with plenty of space, fresh air, wildlife and silence?

I can trace much of it to going to college in Bathurst, a country town about three hours drive west of Sydney. Most students rented old Federation houses that are probably worth a fortune now. We spent weekends playing pool at the Perthville pub. Oh and in the library of course! I loved the space and the relaxed pace and the friendly, interesting people I met. The whole experience as a student in a country town was brilliant and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Before going to uni I also lived in a country town of around 5,000 people in Germany for just over a year, but I don't think that was the source of it. Back then I was still a dressed-in-black city chick through and through. I liked seeing bands and drinking beer in dingy pubs. Going out dancing. Cafes. Just walking along city pavements and window shopping. I still like all those things. But if it means crowds, queues and traffic I'm not keen on doing them often. Once or twice a year will do. By my early thirties I was a tragic Country Style magazine subscriber and David and I went on many driving holidays in country NSW and Victoria with one eye on potential new places to live.

I blame the rest of it on Enid Blyton. I loved many of her books as a child but The Children of Cherry Tree Farm series and Shadow the Sheepdog were among my favourites. Possibly just beaten by the Faraway Tree books, but well ahead of the Famous Five and Malory Towers. Recently my mum confessed that she read Shadow the Sheepdog before giving it to me for Christmas and shed a tear or two, and I don't blame her at all, on both fronts. It's a lovely book. Johnny and his pup adore each other and have all sorts of adventures and misadventures.

The Children of Cherry Tree Farm escaped dreary London (where they were all pale and sickly) to stay with their aunt and uncle in the country for the holidays. They fed lambs, got chased by a bull, drank fresh creamy milk and went to market in the pony-trap. A strange old woodsman called Tammylan befriended them and taught them about the plants and animals.They saw squirrels, weasels, badgers, hedgehogs, deer, moles and foxes in the woods. Then, their dream came true: their parents decided to move to a farm of their own, and they became The Children of Willow Tree Farm. They churned butter, fed buttermilk to the piglets, gathered sheaves of corn, fed the hens and collected the eggs. I dreamed of doing the same.

Instead of those quaint-sounding British animals, here we have pademelons, possums, bettongs, wombats, quolls and echindas. There are screeching black cockatoos, tiny fairy wrens and soaring wedge-tailed eagles. We are definitely not farmers, but we're having little adventures of our own and love our new life. Just like those kids on Willow Tree Farm.

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