Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The best surprises

Last night after dinner (an amazing congee made with the chicken bones salvaged from our Taranaki Farm feast and some roadside-stall-peas from down the road) Oski and I went down to the dam for our regular water-gathering exercise. We wandered along the dam wall, inspected the blossoms and listened to the frogs. It was a beautiful evening, and we were both feeling happy. And then I looked up the hill, and saw our little house, and our growing garden, and I thought "wow".
Olive at Nelson's on Christmas day 2011

This time last year we were also spending quite a bit of time down at our dam. We had been in Bega for less than 2 weeks, and were picnicking on our dam wall several nights a week. I, for one, couldn't get enough of "the land" and wanted to be there every waking moment. But of course there was work and family and a rental-house-garden to attend to. I think it's safe to say that in those moments of picnicking, we had no idea of what was in store for us. We were pretty naive about the massive journey we'd embarked upon and it's only now, looking back, that we can go "man, that was BIG".
Down at the dam, inspecting next-door's horses - October 2011

We'd bought our 7 acres in March 2011, with vague ideas about building a home with some strawbales and growing some food, sometime in the next 3-5 years. But then a perfect job came up, I got it, and our 3-5 year plan turned into a 2 month plan. Just like that. So we up and moved this little family of ours to a new town where we knew not a soul, in a quest to build ourselves a meaningful life centred upon the growing and preparing of sustainable and ethical food, and doing as much as we could for ourselves with our own hands.
'our' plum tree - December 2011

We left our extended family and many beloved friends several hours up the highway.  We upheaved our family arrangement from both of us working part time and spending more or less equal amounts of time caring for the kids, to me being the 'breadwinner', working full-time, and Pearl being the 'stay at home' (personally, this has been the biggest and least welcome of our transitions). We left behind our ever-reliable and available babysitting, meaning that time alone together has become outrageously precious and rare. And in the middle of all this we started building a house.
breaking ground - March 2012

Yes, we've had help - lots of it - but there have also been many many hours spent, just the 4 of us, working and working and building and digging and rendering and then rendering some more. Our little house went up in April, amidst rain and tears and a whole lotta love. And then our landlord sold our rental house, so we embarked upon several months of moving between friends and house-sits (forging glorious bonds with new friends in the process). A week before my 34th and Olive's 6th birthdays, and 9 months after we had arrived in the valley, we moved into our very own unfinished handmade house and immediately started tending the plants and trees that will, in time, feed us.
Olive tending chickens at our Angledale house-sit - June 2012

Concurrent with the aforementioned (highly abridged) journey, we were revelling in the discovery of an astouding and surprising community of people. We had high expectations of the community we would find in Bega, which was, I suppose, potentially dangerous. But now, a year later, knowing many many beautiful and inspiring and generous and kind and quirky friends, we can safely say that our expectations have actually been surpassed. We had no idea that strangers in this new town would volunteer many hours of their lives to help us build our house, offer advice and sketched diagrams of various construction techniques, give us plants and seeds and cuttings, hug us when we cried because it was all a bit too much, look after our kids for us so we could move house, help us lift the too-heavy stuff into our storage container, give us building materials and lend us tools and trucks, and come and help when we got bogged or drained the battery in our car. We had no idea that we would be actively embraced by a community of people who were interested in what we wanted to do, many of whom had done it before and could gently show us the way. And we, in turn, have thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into the community that has embraced us so warmly. We've taken jobs and volunteer positions, helped friends with kids and blown-sideways gers, we've attended workshops and field days and courses and seminars, Olive started kindy at our beautiful local public school, where we are currently working on starting a veggie garden, and we have made beautiful and surprising friends.
Per and Olive on our first day at Bega Valley Public School - February 2012

It has been nothing short of incredible to be swept along by all of this and I know that the whole shebang would have been a heck of a lot harder had it not been for the support we have received from all corners - family, strangers, and friends new and old.
Oski in the main street of our town - May 2012
We know now that this is most definitely where we want to be. We feel it when we leave, and we feel it when we return. This place - our land, and our community, and our funny little dam wall - is our home. And this feeling has probably been the biggest and best surprise of all.


  1. Hey! Guess what we had for dinner on Wednesday night???? Congee!!! Our lovely congee-making friends came over and shared. It was out of this world YUMMO!!!!! xxx

  2. Inspiring Annie!

    I hope we find a similar community at our new property. But just in case we don't we're encouraging our 'city friends' to treat our property as their Hunter Valley get-away.

    Our move will coincide with our daughters first year at school which should help us connect.