September 22, 2018
I’m normally a lot more comfortable hiding behind my words but this week I thought it was time I peeped out from behind the curtain to say hello.
So here I am, gracefully hoeing my kale in the dappled sunlight sporting a perfectly creased linen smock hanging just clear of shiny designer gumboots while my denim clad children do wholesome outdoor things without a speck of mud on their freshly laundered white t-shirts. Just like in the glossy country magazines I used to thumb through while waiting for my double shot flat white in the Sydney morning rush…
OK, so reality doesn’t quite match the dream, but life on The Wine Farm suits me from my hand-knitted beanie (thanks Mum) to my steel capped work boots (a 40th birthday present from Neil with which I was and still am thrilled).
I loved my old life – challenging office job with a great team and lots of travel; low-maintenance apartment-living a short walk from whatever style of café, bar or restaurant I was in the mood for, or yoga classes, pools and walking trails when I wasn’t; a few stops on the train to catch a gig, a play or whatever exhibition had caught my attention that week.
But I don’t miss it for a second.
Running for the hills was the best thing I ever did. While Neil had spent most of his adult years living and working in rural areas, making a parcel of land our own with the crazy notion of making a living off it was a huge leap for this born and bred city slicker.
The Wine Farm is a beautiful place to live, and having space to run amok with the kids – feeding lambs, exploring wombat holes, gorging on figs, raspberries or whatever the garden has on offer, visiting Daddy in the vineyard during pruning season to toast marshmallows on his DIY cane burner – is sometimes as amazing as it sounds. But there are other times when I feel like the next person to sigh dreamily and tell me what an amazing lifestyle I have is going to get a punch on the nose.
Without getting the violins out, living off the land is hard. At the whim of the seasons, our busiest times of the year coincide with other families’ summer holidays. We’re working every hour of sunlight to get the vineyard ready for harvest while friends are spending long days at the beach. Or that’s how it seems. There’s no such thing as a weekend when your work is dictated by the next rain or predicted wind. ‘Family time’ is finding a range of activities to keep a one, three and five-year-old occupied while Mummy and Daddy do some labelling, disgorge some sparkling wine (way better than a sprinkler!) or pack the car for a delivery run.
But it’s not as though we didn’t know what we were in for. When we first bought the property and all its beautifully manicured flowerbeds we knew we wouldn’t have time to stop and smell the roses… so we pulled them all out. Then politely dismissed the gardener. Everything we do here is practical. It has to be. At this stage of our lives – nurturing both a new business and a young family – there’s no space on our property for whimsy. Or linen. We do the gardening ourselves when the vineyard lets us and it’s all about putting nutritious food on the table.
I sort of miss the guy in the apartment block nextdoor who serenaded us every night in his own peculiar pitch (if you’re reading this it was Neil who sent you that letter full of suggestions for what to do with your guitar, not me.) But we’ve traded the karaoke king for a curious koala who lumbers over our bedroom ceiling at a much more respectable hour each night.
And the more seasons we tick off in our new home, the less we are overwhelmed by it. We’ve filled the guest rooms with kids, replaced the mower with a small flock of sheep, switched flowerbeds for veggie gardens and make the sort of wine I used only to drink on special occasions. I’m learning new skills as Neil’s occasional cellarhand (when kiddies permit) and have finally found the perfect outlet for the words that have been swirling around my head all my life. Words first conjured up when childhood conversations at the family dinner table sparked an interest in language (thanks Dad), pulled into various forms for a random selection of industries that paid me to put them to work, and only now finding their feet as I corral them once again but finally to talk about something I love. Boots and all.
The more I learn about living on The Wine Farm, the more I want to tell you. I want to share all the interesting things Neil has to tell me after a long day working in the vines with only his thoughts for company. For me these letters are about finding our people; having a conversation with those who not only care about where their food comes from, but think about what they drink, too. Kindred spirits who get what we do and why we do it… The hard way but the only way we know how.