Boarding School

Sport at boarding school

It has been a week since we have had our youngest son home from boarding school. He was home for school holidays. We get to hang out with him for two whole weeks. It is always nice to have him home as he likes everything I cook him and he enjoys doing things with us. I am sure this would be different for any other normal 15 year old boy who doesn’t go away to boarding school.

As they all did, while away at boarding school, when they come home they appreciated their family, their home cooked meals and their freedom on the farm. And from my experience over the years I am certain that when they get back to school they are happy to be there with their mates, doing things with them 24/7. Some holidays we go away and they love that but they also appreciate just being at home in their own bed.

We are lucky we are only three hours drive away from the city where they are schooled. We are also lucky to have the technology of mobile phones so we can keep in contact with our kids at any time we like. Unlike the old days when ‘handsome farmer husband,’ was away at school. Once a week, they had to line up to ring their parents from a big old black phone that was stuck on the wall and letters were the regular way of communication. If they were lucky they would see their parents through the school term, but more often than not it would be the end of term when their parents came to collect them that they finally saw them.

All of our children went to boarding school. It was something I thought was important, even though I never attended one myself. I had to argue my case strongly and would bring it up regularly when the kids were young. It was a much discussed subject while driving to the big city with my ‘handsome farmer husband’. Even though he went away for schooling himself, he wasnt sure about it being possible. Obviously cost was a big factor and we had to send four of them. We did have to make some sacrifices in the early days.

I know he knew well the benefits, because during his 4 years at boarding school he made long lasting friends from far and wide, his education improved along with his confidence and and back in those days he had lots of fun experiences. There are many stories he tells about his time there. Many will stay untold until all the children are actually finished school, just in case they want to follow his example.

With hindsight, my children are not exactly the same personalities as their father and so I should not have presumed they would all be fine like he was. I was so confident that it would be good for them all to learn some independence away from their mother, who by the way is a pushover and does way too much for them still.

It was a learning experience for all of us. Our eldest probably had it tougher, being the first cab off the rank, but the youngest was like a duck to water. Every child gained something important from their time away. They are all confident, independant people. We now have three who have finished their Year 12 successfully and since finishing boarding school none of them have looked back.

For two years we only had our youngest child at home. Three at boarding school and one at home. It was very peaceful and there were no arguments over who was doing what jobs around the house. We also had plenty of hot water and the grocery bill was very low.

Now we are back to three at home and one away and it is a very different story. With three big (sort of adult) children home it is interesting. We have a big house, but sometimes its not big enough. We have a big hot water service but sometimes, not big enough. We have a reasonable size fridge but not big enough and the list goes on.

Recently there have been many discussions about the length of peoples showers, why they are always in their rooms and who unpacked the dishwasher last, who cooked last, who fed the cats and the chooks, brought the wood over, who did or didn’t put the rubbish out, who didn’t flush the toilet or put the toilet seat down and the list goes on.

We are teaching them to cook so they can at least feed themselves once they leave the nest. It has been challenging but fun. Everyone cooks once a week. The meal gets a rating out of 10. It is rated on taste and appearance and we try some new recipes along the way. Cooking dinner also entails the clean up and tidy the kitchen and pack and put on the dishwasher as well. ‘Number one son’ is very clever as he tries to pick a Friday night to cook, this is very often the night he is out with his mates. Generally everyone has a go, without too much complaining.

I am grateful to have them home for as long as I can. It is lovely to see my boys walking back from the shed chatting to each other after a day at work or hearing my daughter laughing with her big brother while they are cleaning their teeth at night. Sometimes they even help each other cook. I will make the most of those little things, store them in my memory bank. Soon they will be out of our house, back out into the world, independant young adults. Then before we know it ‘number four’ will be home from boarding school. The countdown is on.

A trip to the shops

Shopping for groceries, some people love it, some people hate it.

When the kids were young, a trip to the supermarket was not an enjoyable outing for me and something I definitely didnt look forward to.

Living out on the farm meant loading the kids into the car and driving into town.  The timing had to be right and all the loading and unloading was exhausting.   I had to load two babies and one toddler into the car and buckle them in. Make sure I had the pram, the nappy bag, a spare change of clothes (you really just never know) three favourite toys, a drink bottle or two, my list and my purse.

When I got to the supermarket I then had to unload.  It was a bonus to get a park out the front.  I got the pram out, two into the pram, then the eldest beautiful child out last, so he didnt run off.  The nappy bag, drinks, favourite toys, my list and my purse.   This took around 20 minutes and I hadn’t even got into the supermarket.

In my supermarket they had a twin trolley.  It was very helpful when my twins were babies.  They sat up top and their older brother sat in the trolley, until we ran out of room for food, then he had to walk.  This mostly worked well.   I remember saying a lot of “no put that back” “Don’t touch that” “stop poking your brother”. “No you can’t sit in the front”. “No you can’t push the trolley” “You can have some fruit, you do not need lollies”.

Even on the good days when no one was crying, or there were no tantrums, I rushed through the list as quickly as I could.  There was a small window of calm with ‘three under three’, some days I made it, others I didnt.

Being able to shop in our little country town supermarket was both a blessing and a curse.  It was embarrassing when the two year old toddler had a tantrum,  because everyone knew who you were. It didnt matter which one it was,  at some stage they all had a turn (yes, all four of them).  My only, ‘favourite’ daughter, may dispute this.

I can clearly remember my eldest son howling on the floor in the fruit and vegie section because I wouldn’t buy him some cherries at $16 a kilo, he didnt like cherries.  He wouldn’t move and screamed louder when I tried to touch him.  Because I was a local in this little country town the blessing was they all knew I hadn’t kidnapped him or anything like that.  No police were called, instead a couple of lovely girls tried to help.  They just watched him lay on the floor crying while I rushed through two isles getting the essentials. The whole shop could hear him screaming.  I was mortified.  No one else took any notice. Finally I went back and got him, I paid for our groceries and got out. ‘Number one son’ didn’t calm down until I got him in the car.   Then as every normal two year old does after a tantrum, he promptly fell asleep.

On the good days, shopping in the supermarket where I knew everyone was also a blessing. Locals shopping and staff, always said hello to the kids.  They would stop and ‘goo and gaa’ at the twins and give chocolate frogs to my ‘number one son’.  This was lovely, but also, in turn made the whole experience an hour longer because not just one person stopped to chat but every person you came across wanted to say hello to us.

I think the experiences of taking four children shopping have scarred me. Even now that my children are grown up, stay home and look after themselves, grocery shopping is still something I do not look forward to. I have a list. I get in and get out. Head down, don’t make any eye contact with anyone, get my food and go home. Its not because I am in a rush or because I don’t like to chat. I think it is an old habit from when the kids were little. I do not ‘dilly dally’ in supermarkets.

The other day in the supermarket I stopped to chat to another ‘beautiful farmers wife’ who was shopping with her young boy, he is a cute little rascal. She was very calm about the many things that he kept bringing her to put in the shopping trolley.  She kept chatting to me as she told him to put each item back, every time he came up to her with something clutched in his hands and a big smile on his face. She was so calm and had all the time in the world for me. I admired her relaxed attitude.  That day my ‘farmers wife friend’ was an inspiration. She could have taught me a thing or two in my early years.

It seems like a hundred years ago that I was in the middle of the time warp of having four young children.  Every little outing took a long time and lots of organisation.  Shopping with small, busy children was always interesting, to say the least.  Some days were easy, some days were hard. The harder ones seem to stay stuck in my memories.

Lately I have tried to change my anti-social shopping habits. I try not to rush, I take my time and try and walk each isle. I make eye contact and chat with the staff and other people who I know.  I am starting to see shopping as a nicer job and to be grateful that I have time to slow down a little. It is certainly still not my favourite outing, but these days I am trying not to hate it as much.

Investing in you

A cuppa and a good book or three…
*Photo credit to Sarah Shanahan*

Why is it as women; wifes, mothers and daughters, we find it hard to take the time to invest in ourselves. Our needs, whether it be; exercise, having a massage or a facial, quiet time (away from the family), lunch with our girlfriends or reading a book. Taking time for ourselves seems to be the last thing on the list.

Recently I have been having slightly annoying back pain. So during the ensuing treatments, physiotherapy etc, I have been chatting. It is a re-occurring theme. Before we do anything for ourselves and our physical or mental health we will; go to our paid job, clean the house, fold the washing, buy the groceries, cook dinner, do jobs for the kids, our husbands or partners and even our parents (if we are fortunate enough to still have them around). For some reason we are last and if you are anything like me there is always something else that has to be done around the house before I let myself go for a walk.

I love the idea of getting up early so I can have some time to myself. As my ‘handsome farmer husband’ is an early riser that means I need to be getting up at 5.30am. In winter it is cold and dark and did I say cold. Honestly, I am quite happy to lay in my nice, warm bed and watch the sun come up. Being up and dressed and doing Yoga and meditation at 5.30am rarely happens. Sorry, that is a complete lie, it never happens. The intention is there. So is my intention to walk 30 minutes every day, eat raw foods, drink more hot water and less coffee and not indulge in alcohol. All very good intentions I must say.

Currently my spare room in the house where I can do some yoga or exercise is full of clothes drying on a rack. (See previous blog). Therefore, no space to stretch. Unfortunately the washing needs to be folded and put away before I can get to my stretching and or yoga. Is that just an excuse? Yes, probably. Is it just my self-discipline or is it because it feels self indulgent to look after myself?

It seems that I am not alone. The women I have been talking to find the same thing. I wonder, is it because we have had children who have been reliant on us for 20 years, for some mums and grand-mums actually more. Is it generational, did we see our mothers doing everything for their husbands and family and nothing for themselves? Is it maternal instinct from thousands of years ago for the woman to support the hunter and food provider and to protect our offspring so that the human race can continue to survive.

I am sure all women are not the same but I have been seeing it everywhere, in all age groups. Only when all the ducks are in a row, then do we have time to do ‘our thing’. Why can’t we just leave the house to go for a walk before dinner is cooked? Why do we feel the need to get everyone off to work and school before we do our Yoga stretches. Why do we have to get up earlier than all the family to do Yoga? Why do we feel responsible for so much? What does it take for us to invest in ourselves without feeling guilty? It is very obvious to me that if I am not healthy and happy then the whole family unit is affected but I still tend to put myself last.

So my new intention is to do at least 10 minutes a day of something for my physical and mental health and well-being and if that is sitting down to have a cup of tea and a block of chocolate, then so be it. I will work my way up to 20 minutes of yoga, meditation and even a walk.

Have a lovely day and do something for yourself. I am now going to boil the kettle and hunt down some chocolate.

The beginning. I met my cute farmer boy

Back to the beginning. A long summer holiday, I met a farmer and fell in love.

I was 16 years old when I completed year 12.  I finished the school year with no intention of studying in the future. I was looking forward to the summer.   My parents and my younger sister and brother had just moved from our family owned pear orchard in the Adelaide Hills to a little coastal town on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.  My family and I had been holidaying at this spot for 6 years, so I knew the place well. It was an isolated little place, with farming families who had lived there for generations. The population was less than 100 people.  It had a town hall, a primary school, a cricket oval, a croquet court and 2 little shops.  It was surrounded by farming land and kilometres of untouched, stunning  beaches.  I loved it.

I planned on staying with mum and dad for the whole of summer, about eight weeks, so I could hang out with my friends and family and decide what my future held.  The summer stretched out luxuriously in front of me.   I was excited.

Looking back, that summer was the best time of my life.  It was hot and sunny every day.  (That is what I remember).   I had no responsibilities as my dad and mum were looking after me, with mum cooking and washing my clothes.  I didn’t have to go to work, school was done.  I had a car to drive.  There were plenty of friends to hang out with and adventures to be had.   My hardest decision each day was which beach had the best surf.

I had adopted my dad’s beat up old blue 1970 XY Ford station wagon.  It was solid, never missed a beat with three on the tree and a good sound system. I would drive the dirt roads with my windows down and music up loud. Sometimes my little sister was riding shotgun. I was loving life. When I look back now I like to think I knew how lucky I was and that I appreciated the sheer freedom, but I probably didn’t.

It was on one of my many trips from the beach to the shop to get food that I saw this cute guy.  He was standing by a gate in a paddock.  I clearly remember what he was wearing.  He had a blue and white striped jumper, very short shorts and work boots.  Very interesting.   I thought I knew all the locals but hadn’t seen this guy around.  For a few days afterwards I drove past that paddock more times than I needed hoping to catch another glimpse of him but it was not to be. I really wanted to know who he was.  I knew a few people in the area but I was embarrassed to ask anyone. There are no secrets in a small country town and I didn’t want everyone knowing I was interested in a boy. I did eventually ask.  After that it wasn’t long before I had everyone of my friends telling me stories about the “cute farmer boy” who was home to live and work the farm with his dad and brother.  For the last four years he had been at boarding school in the city.  He was cute and I was curious.

So, yes, eventually the ‘cute farmer boy’ and I did get together.  His neighbour and best friend from primary school told him I liked him and then he helped organise us to meet each other.  Yep, the good old days.   It was hard work trying to find out if you liked each other in the days of no mobile phones.  You couldn’t message to meet up or chat on snapchat.   You had to sit in your living room or kitchen to use the phone, which was firmly attached to the wall. You got to talk to your boy friend in front of all the family.  The ‘cute farmer boy’ had to come to my house and meet my parents so that he could drive me to the next town to see a movie in the town hall.

We dated, yes very old fashioned. We talked on the phone for hours, yes very old fashioned and yes the ‘cute farmer boy’ was eventually, officially, my boyfriend.   I clearly remember being at a party at his house when his parents were away. He gave me a ‘beer bottle top’ ring.  We were in his kitchen when he put it on my finger.  It was kind of awkward but cute.  We were only 17, both too young to be thinking of anything serious, but looking back I think we both knew.   The intention was there.   I still have that bottle top.  My ‘gorgeous farmer husband’ probably doesn’t even remember it, but I do.

Thinking about that summer I know I was very fortunate to have my “summer holiday”.  My parents weren’t rich enough to support me long term, but seemed happy enough to look after me for a while. I made my bed and helped mum out around the house but I wasn’t pressured to get a job, to play any sport, to volunteer or to study. I felt no judgement. I felt like I was allowed to have the last 8 weeks of my childhood without any expectations. It was a summer of freedom and joy.

Unlike the children of today and very much unlike our eldest 21 year old son and our 19 year old twins. They didn’t have the choice of a “summer holiday”. They had been away in the city at school and once they finished Year 12 they came home to the farm for harvest. All of them had jobs, either off the farm or with us. All of them worked every day for most of the summer. They did not have the freedom to go to the beach when it was a perfect surf day. So that makes me wonder, do our teenagers and children have too many responsibilities at an early age? Do they get to have a childhood? Do they even know the freedom that I had? Probably not and I think that is a bit sad. Do we expect too much from them, or not enough?

It worked for me. I will always be very grateful for my “summer holiday” because I met my gorgeous farmer husband.

Farm Gates

A Rusty old farm gate, doing its job

I have always loved old rusty gates, small or large. We have a few around the house which I have bought (or very rarely found tucked in an old shed). But there are no decorative, rusty pipe gates hanging around on any of our fences or going into our paddocks anywhere. I know as I have looked, many times.

Unlike me most farmers I know intensely dislike rusty, old, quirky, gorgeous gates. They really like plain, ugly gates, probably because rusty, quirky gates dont keep the sheep in and are not practical.
Why shouldn’t we have gorgeous gates? I just want to look at them, not open them.

Back in the early days before our four kids came along my ‘gorgeous farmer husband’ and I would regularly take drives around the property, checking the sheep and the crops. It was a lovely outing but there was one downfall. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, which made me the designated ‘gate opener’ and as every farmers wife knows most of the time that is not a fun job. (Once the kids come along and get old enough and strong enough the job can be delegated). Most gates on our farm are tricky, to say the least and they are not even beautiful, rusty old quirky ones.

Most gates into the paddocks are either heavy and large and not hanging right so once you convince the weird awkward chain with the bit of extra wire to open, you then have to let the gate swing, (hopefully in the right direction), it hits the ground as you chase it and then you have lift it up and walk it out of the way of the ute. I am puffed even writing about this.

Then there are the all wire gates, strung up tight, sometimes with barbed wire across the top and always with a very tricky handle. Once you release the pipe handle from its little wire ring holder you need the muscles of ‘Thor’ to hold it or it feels like it is going to fling back and break your wrist.

That is just opening the gates. I haven’t even got around to how hard it is getting them shut!

So “gate opener” is not a prestige job and it is often thankless. You get out in the cold wind or rain and struggle with the gate. Nothing happening. Great. Throwing a glance of “help me I am stuck” to the the ‘handsome farmer husband’ who is warm and dry in the ‘commanding boss’ drivers’ seat of his ute. He then looks at you with a questioning glance, “really?” You can see him thinking. “You need help with that?” “It is only a gate”. So he puts the handbrake on in his ute and waltzes over opening the awkward gate with ease. “This old thing is easy, you just have to do this….” he says. The ‘handsome farmer husband’ has had 20 years of experience opening this gate. He has ridden with his dad as shotgun and the “gate opener” for many years before he moved up into the ‘boss’ driver of the ute. So now he is in a position to be able to delegate to the next in line. Which is ‘little old farm wife’ me. So I am eternally grateful for the muscles and knowledge of my ‘handsome farmer husband’. So then eventually when you do get a couple of gates open all by yourself, you feel like Wonder Woman. Look at me! Way to go girl! I can open these gates! And I have only just started my apprenticeship as “gate opener”.

Now I am not suggesting by any means that we are weak and insipid women who should wait in the ute for our strong husbands to do all the physical work. No! What I believe is that men obviously designed these gates, because if it was designed by a woman any four year old child could open it and close it with ease. That being said I am not designing gates, unless they are rusty, beautiful quirky ones that I can see from our house that don’t need opening at all.

The joy of being gate opener is that there is time together in the ute, it is a ritual of learning and also working together. Learning how to open a gate, learning the best place to access the paddock, learning the names of every paddock or block and learning about the love of the land.

Fortunately we have another generation to pass that onto and I am now happy to pass on the mantle. I get to sit in the back and just chill, observing my ‘handsome farmer husband’ and his kids communicating, engaging and learning. We have four “gate openers” now and it is a joy for me to see the knowledge of the farm being passed on from their Dad. And just for the record they are all better “gate openers” than me.

Anne x