(Myself and our dog Jedda, on my family’s property in 1993.)
Most of my childhood was spent on a big dusty farm, in drought-stricken Queensland. We had horses, cows, sheep, ducks and chickens. I bottle fed poddy lambs and calves, saw countless foals being born and had a whole menagerie of dogs, cats and guinea pigs as pets. I went on long rambling walks with my dad, collected stones in our dry creek bed and set up a cubby house in an old chook shed. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood adventures in the bush.
Despite all of the amazing things that come with growing up on a farm, throughout my entire childhood I longed for the city. Life on the land is tough. Our farm faced mouse plagues, financial hardships and extreme drought (up until I was a teenager I could have counted the number of times I had seen real rain on my fingers). Our family could never take holidays because my parents couldn’t leave the animals unattended, the bus ride to school was long and our toilet always had frogs in it. Obviously droughts and mouse plagues are much more serious issues, but when you’re six you’re oblivious to the bigger picture. As a little kid, not getting trips to the beach, spending an hour on the bus and having to share the toilet with frogs are big deals. I imaged how wonderful it would be to be able to walk to school, to have yearly vacations and to have a lovely frog-free bathroom. I thought it would be amazing to have other kids live in the house next door and to be able to ride our bikes together to the corner store, like they did on TV. I always hated wearing pants or jeans but dresses weren’t really farm appropriate, so I fantasised that if I lived in the city I would never have to wear jeans again.
After school I moved to a large coastal town to go to uni, but it still wasn’t enough. I craved the hussle and bussle. I was lucky enough to get a job in Sydney as soon as I finished uni, so Reubs and I made the move to the big smoke. I was so excited. A real city! Shops and people and cafes and art galleries and stuff happening 24/7! This was it. This was what I had been dreaming of my whole life.
Unfortunately the excitement was short lived. Inspite of the cafes and galleries, the frog-free bathrooms and the freedom to wear dresses every day of the year (which I did!) about a year in I realised Sydney wasn’t for me. Soon after I realised life in an office cubicle wasn’t either. Reuben and I visited my mum in rural Victoria and unexpectedly found ourselves longing for the coziness of a country town. Suddenly the more affordable cost of living, the lack of ridiculous traffic and the gentler pace of the country seemed so very appealing. The country was calling me back and the idea of a simpler life was beginning to unfurl. Not long after we moved to Bendigo.
Moving here was one of the best decisions we ever made, but now sometimes even Bendigo seems a little too much. We love Bendigo and we plan to stay close, but I think eventually we will move out to one of the smaller surrounding towns or out of town altogether. I seem to have come full circle. As a child I couldn’t wait to experience the busyness and excitement of the city, but now as an adult I find myself craving the peace and the simplicity of the country. These days I long for long walks in the bush, home grown veggies and bonfires under the stars. I relish my time out of town and daydream about a more rural life. Though I am more aware now of the hardships my family faced on the farm than I ever was as a child, I look back on my time on the farm so fondly. Despite the lack of holidays, the long bus trips and the toilet frogs (and the more serious problems my family faced) I believe now that growing up in the country was a real privilege. I am so grateful that my childhood was spent in a place where I was free to roam and explore. I am eternally thankful that I grew up surrounded by trees and animals and fresh air, playing in the dirt, collecting fresh eggs and learning to ride a bike on our long, dusty driveway. If Reuben and I ever have children, I hope that we can give them that gift too.
Isn’t it interesting how our perspectives change?
Are you a town mouse or a country mouse? I have lived in town for years now, and I may be here a while yet, but I think at heart I’ll always be that little farm girl, with her jumper around her waist, a dog at her side and the sun in her eyes. The country just calls me.