Monday, 30 March 2015

Feathered friends

We have two new little chickens scratching around our backyard, and making sneaky visits into the house under the arm of our resident chook whisperer. I promised Darcy a little Pekin pullet for his birthday back in January, to replace his old pet Lemony, who was killed by a fox.

Lemony was a special chook. We bought her as a young bird and Darcy raised her so that she really seemed to think he was his mother. She would sit on his lap and watch cartoons with him, tucking her head under her wing for a snooze. She helped him to settle into school life when she visited kindy with him for the morning. She would jog to meet him whenever he wandered into the yard. I cried when I found her lifeless body lying in the chook run, and expected the same from Darcy, who was much more pragmatic.

"Can I get a new one?"
"Why don't we wait a little while, until we stop feeling sad about Lemony?"
"Can I get a new one tomorrow?"

There were no golden Pekin pullets to be found in the Great Southern when Darcy turned seven, but his birthday card promised him a visit to the first poultry auction of the year to select his bird. And waiting for him in a cage was the golden feathered bird of his dreams. She is called Lemony (of course) and she promises to be just as sweet as her namesake.

I picked up a little Araucana for myself while we were there. I have missed having blue eggs and am looking forward to her reaching the point of lay, and perhaps inspiring the rest of our flock to lay the odd egg or two. We have had nothing but duck eggs for weeks.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Our lonely beach

The booming surf had resonated through the river valley all night, so I knew the breakers would be crashing on to the shore. But the sun was shining and we had nowhere else to be, so we jumped into the car and headed west. It is a bit of drive, but the reward is usually an empty expanse of sand and waves rolling in from eternity. Except the carpark was strangely crowded. We followed the boardwalk through the dunes and around the fresh water spring which spills across the sand, pulling off our sandals to wade through the cold, clear water. And there was not a soul to be seen on the beach. Black suited surfers bobbed in the waves in the bay's eastern corner and grey nomads clustered at the lookout high above the sand. Thea pulled off her clothes, grabbed her bucket and spade and ran into the water while I eyed off the surf, trying to decide whether getting wet was going to be a possibility.

The surfers made their way back around the bay in pairs, stopping to wash their boards and take a drink from the spring. One greying board rider wandered down to say hello.
"Is she about two?" he asked.
"In a few weeks."
"There used to be a little girl who played in the water there. She would be three now - her family moved back to the Czech Republic a year ago today. I got the hugest sense of deju vu seeing your little girl on the beach. She is even wearing the same pink hat."

I tried to picture that little girl and what her life must look like in Central Europe. Perhaps she has a stream to play in; cold water rushing over the pebbles as she steps over the slippery rocks. Her mother would read her fairy tales from old Europe when she tucked her in to bed each night. I wonder if she remembers the smell of the sea, the crash of the waves and the cry of the gulls on her lonely beach on the other side of the world. I wonder if her mama is homesick for the sand and the sun and the empty horizons.

I hoisted Thea onto my hip and we walked around the shoreline, stopping to dig in the sand and let the waves wash over our feet. She snuggled in to my chest while sea lice crawled around in the coarse sand, tickling my bare legs as the waves dug hollows around them. We wandered back to the stream and I left Thea with her bucket and a clear line of sight to the waves and walked backwards into the breakers, ducking my head and body under the whitewash. One day, perhaps, I will be able to walk around to the headland and take my place on the waves with a board beneath me. But for now I am mama first and foremost to that little girl in the pink hat, playing on the shore.

She slept in the car on the way home, beach sand clinging to her bare brown legs. I wonder how long they will have grown by next summer?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

the end of summer

Warm days and cool nights. Crisp mornings with mist in the valleys as I head down the hill to the gym before the kids wake up. An orange sun hanging low in the sky. Smoke and rainbows and thunderstorms and dry, dry earth. A desiccated vegetable garden. The smell of the water hitting the dry straw as I hand water each bed with a kinky length of green garden hose. Stolen hours at the beach each weekend, a surfboard and a novel tucked into the car as I wave goodbye to the kids. Tired children roaming around the garden, finding themselves again after long days at school. Knitting on the front verandah after a long summer hiatus. Full nights of sleep soaking into my soul after a decade of broken dreams rousing for the baby. The end of summer.

Friday, 20 February 2015


He turned 38 yesterday. We met when we were 18. Twenty years have slipped by so quickly, but we have used them well, to make the life we always dreamed of living together. If someone had come and whispered in my ear that I would have four beautiful children with this boy, as we stood shyly talking in that university carpark, I would have laughed at the absurdity of the idea.

Sometimes I dream myself back into the body of that shy, bookish girl and panic that I will not find my way through the labyrinth of choices I made to become the woman I now am and the family which is my world. But I always wake to find him by my side, a baby snuggled in beside me and three more slumbering in their rooms down the hallway.

Together we are growing older and wrinkled, our hair touched with grey (although I have to hunt hard through his beard to find the errant white hair that sprouts with abandon across my own scalp). Our children already think us old, as all children should think their parents. But my love for him just seems to keep growing. Each year strips away another layer of onion skin, and the soul I find beneath is shiny and new and smiling back at me with excitement at the thought of all the years ahead of us we have yet to fill with love and adventure.

Camping 'round the corner

When you are camping just around the corner from home you can strip it back to the basics. A tent, some sleeping mats and bags, a few folding chairs and an esky full of food. We were able to leave the trailer at home for once and still strap a couple of surfboards to the roof. With the Statewide fire ban in place we even left our camping stove behind, planning to cook a few sausages on the barbecues at Cosy Corner. We were a little over zealous in our precautions, but fortunately our friends didn't mind sharing their pan. And we were all queuing like bleary eyed addicts for our morning coffee in the carpark of the local cafe when it opened after the inevitable broken night's sleep in the tent.

But the memories we took home were little snippets of pure adventure. Hours spent playing in the stream as it cut an icy track through the sand to the sea. Walking on the beach while the grey sea surged beside us at sunrise. Surfing in the breakers with my boy, and digging a trench while the summer sea breeze blustered around us and whipped our hair into our eyes. Then those few moments of silence once the kids had all climbed into their sleeping bags, listening to the waves crashing behind the dunes beneath the gently shivering blanket of peppermint trees, before we followed them into our green cocoon of a tent. All this a twenty minute drive from our front door. This is why we live here.