For many years I was convinced that living rurally would be fun, that moving to a lifestyle/hobby farm and getting back to basics would suit me to a T. I’d have the space to do my own thing, perhaps set up a proper art studio, get involved in the Country Women’s Association, start a co-op. The children could have horses and help in the veggie garden and we might even get a small cow… the possibilities seemed endless.
But by the time we moved to Australia (20+ years ago), I’d come to realise that I’m better suited to being a backyard farmer. I enjoy growing things on a small scale, so we planted lots of fruit trees and set up a vegetable garden. Since all of that keeps me on my toes, it’s pretty clear that the sheer scope of the day-to-day work entailed in establishing and maintaining an acerage would leave little time for anything else.
So why do people choose to move to the country? Is it because land is more affordable further from the city, living costs can be relatively low and that living on an acreage promotes a task-focused approach? Perhaps it’s because of reduction in distractions allows one to live the dream… but is that enough? It’s such a huge step, often impacting work, family and social networks. Then there are issues such as whether the property is part of the integrated water supply scheme – and whether a dam or borehole is feasible if it isn’t (and even if it is). What about public transport, access to the nbn and availability of emergency medical and/or veterinary help?
I thought about all this quite a lot whilst house-and-animal sitting at Gallifrey Forest Farm for DaughterDearest over Easter. Relaxing on the verandah, gazing out across their small farm in the Perth hills, I could finally absorb just how much she and K have achieved – and understand their move more clearly.
From the first they devoted large chunks of time to laying the foundations on which to create their future food forest. Whilst this may sound straightforward, it was anything but as they were still living in the city. This meant that for a few years most weekends involved very early starts, filling water barrels, loading up gear and heading out for yet another day of improving the soil, digging swales, planting, watering, maintenance work on the firebreaks, fencing, chasing the kangaroos and whatever else needed doing that particular week.
They put in beehives and planted more seeds, trees and shrubs, erected sheds to store their equipment – thereby limiting the amount of loading and unloading required each week, and put in their first water tank to reduce the need for weekly water deliveries for the plants. They made friends with their neighbours, erected chicken runs and, in due course, designed, built and moved into their house. This was the last step in the transition from being city-dwellers to living an hour outside the city in a semi-rural environment. They’ve solved so many of what I thought might be overwhelming problems with sheer determination, inventiveness and networking – and they’re having fun doing it.
A couple of weeks ago was testament to this. They held a permablitz event, inviting like-minded people to come round to help out on the property and to enjoy morning tea, lunch and camaraderie. And people came… even some complete strangers (who are no longer strangers) came. They (we) planted trees & seedlings, pulled out weeds, moved piles of sand and gathered fallen timber from the wooded areas. We got rained on from time to time. We met new people, laughed, ate delicious cake and generally had fun.
And I guess this is what makes it all worthwhile. It’s seeing a dream come to life, enjoying the magical sunsets and the quiet, kicking back in a hammock after a days work and sharing a meal at least part-made from what their land has produced. They’ve dared to dream big, they’re working hard to achieve their goals – and they remember to take time out, make new friends, connect with old friends, get help when they need it (permablitz days), hold dinner parties – and to pat their kittens.