I wouldn't describe Oliver or myself as impatient. We understand good things take time. And yet, it sometimes feels like we've achieved more in the four years since we found each other than we have in our entire lives. There's an energy between us that demands things get done. We want the life we've always dreamt of and aren't afraid to work hard for it. We thrive on each other's passion and approach all things as a team. My success is his and vice versa.
The farm is no different. Never in my wildest dreams did I picture myself as a farmer - watering carrot seedlings, weeding garlic, feeding chickens, spreading compost, who knew! We made the decision together to move away from the city. We wanted more space, less neighbours, more time in the backyard and less time in the local cafes, but a farm wasn't really on the cards. In fact, we placed an offer on a one acre property and fortunately the owner declined it. I imagined us having a large veggie patch purely for our own enjoyment but now I wonder what we would do with ourselves if our offer had been accepted. Judging by the rate we've gone we would have had the entire garden landscaped and productive by now.
When we first inspected our property I barely bothered looking at the house, so convinced was I that we weren't going to buy it. There was nothing wrong with the house. It needed modernising but it was structurally sound and certainly livable, it even had potential. What made me so dismissive was the land. There was plenty of it. Five acres cleared and another four of bushland at the rear of the property descending steeply to a narrow but fast flowing creek. The size didn't bother me. I grew up on acreage but was too young to remember the early stages before my parents wrangled their property into a place of order and beauty. This property we were inspecting felt wild, neglected and it completely overwhelmed me. There were weeds in what is now the orchard that grew waist high. I'll never forget Oliver mowing for the first time and almost disappearing amongst the grass and yellow flowering turnip-weeds grown to jurassic proportions. And the junk! Lordy, it was everywhere. Bits of rusting metal and terracotta pots, piles of ply wood, old tractor attachments, wooden palettes, broken glass and plastic, plastic, plastic. The property was once a flower farm and the previous owners had the herculean task of dismantling and removing hooped greenhouses that once covered the entire cleared area. Sadly, this left them little energy for anything else.
As I said, I wasn't sold on the place. Luckily, the estate agent agreed to let us wander through the now unoccupied property on our own while he went off to another appointment. We sat quietly for a while on the hood of Oliver's car. Gradually we noticed kookaburras dive for worms and rosellas flock to the naked cherry tree. We listened to magpies warble and watched blue wrens flit from camellia to azalea, from maple to dogwood. We discovered that beneath the layers of overgrown neglect was a rather beautiful formal garden at the front of the house and at the back, of course, was all that space. Oliver explained how rich the volcanic soil was. How pretty much anything would grow in it. And in the end, that was the reason we bought the property - the soil.
So, a few months later we became farmers by accident, purely because we had the space. My God, we worked hard in those first few months. The first weekend Oliver and his father sowed tomato seedlings while his mother and I began tidying up and the week after that we planted the citrus orchard. Week by week, through pure grit and determination, we pruned and weeded and moved and tidied, pealing back the layers. We worked so hard our muscles seized and we could barely move at the end of the day. This was bad enough for us in our thirties but I felt especially bad and grateful when hearing our parents groan from the stiffness of overworked limbs.
Last week we celebrated two years on the farm and we haven't looked back. What began as the result of Oliver's overzealous planting of tomato seedlings has turned into a business. We now supply many of Melbourne's best restaurants with a whole range of produce year-round. We have three areas dedicated to vegetable production, a mixed cropping orchard stands in the field that once housed waist-high weeds. The trees are young but one day we will delight in apples, cherries, peaches, pears, figs, plums and persimmon straight from the tree. We've installed posts and strung wire for a small vineyard and berry trellis. Oliver built a chook-shed of palatial proportions. We've even begun exposing the pretty, formal garden from its layers of wild blackberries and ivy so that now we have a view of the blue Dandenongs.
There's always work to be done and always will be, but somehow we don't see it as work anymore. It's a challenge that provides deep satisfaction, a quieting of the mind and a sense of pride when we look back on all that we've achieved in such a short time. Now, as the late afternoon sun falls on our lemon trees, turning the leaves golden, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. Except maybe Italy, but that's another story.
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