Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Funny Little House

I must have driven past the funny little house a dozen times, which did nothing to improve its appearance. It had been on the market for a long time. The photos online gave nothing away. I kept thinking I should call the agent and book an inspection, but I didn't ever get around to it. A friend who had seen it described it as 'awful', so I let myself let it go. And then one day I felt compelled to look online again, and there was a date and a time. So I went.

It was dirty, dull, uninspiring. It smelled dusty, and of stale cigarettes. Every wall was a different shade of grotty beige, but for the glossy pink in the main bedroom. The shower screen was cracked, the grout in the tiles black.

And then I stepped outside, avoiding the monstrosity of the falling-down garage, averting my eyes from the cobwebs on the eaves, the lichen on the deck, the curious angle of the rickety fence. And my eyes fell on a tree in the middle of the yard. Surrounded by unkempt lawn, a few other straggly shrubs, there it was - a beautiful healthy lemon tree, bursting with ripe fruit.

I wandered some more, trying to see past the grime and imagine it all with fresh paint, furniture, laughter and good cooking smells. I imagined chickens poking about between the raised vegetable beds, an apple tree, rambling roses and creeping jasmine. I saw friends sharing delicious food on the back deck, enjoying the rare warm evenings of late summer. I saw my girls deep in the throes of another tightly choreographed musical performance, fighting over who's turn it was to sing. Could it even be possible?

I pocketed a lemon and went home to my rental.

The next day was Sunday. I cut the lemon in half and, with a handful of garlic cloves, shoved it into the cavity of a free-range chook. Before I whacked the pan in the oven, I just might have said a little prayer over the bird, or as much a prayer as a non-Christian girl can accomplish with raw poultry on the kitchen bench before her.

I closed the oven door, stood up and I wrote a single word and a question mark in the dusty grease on the rangehood above the stove. "Yes?" 

Over the following several weeks, I went looking for why it should be yes, when so much about it cried, "No!" It was tiny. It was ugly. The timing was all wrong. Other property wasn't yet sold. It was ugly. Things were entirely up in the air financially. Oh, the work it would require. A wombat lived under it. It was...ugly.

But there was the lemon tree.

I thought of the lemon tree in the backyard of my childhood home. Lemons remind me of my mum, who didn't mind a gin and tonic with a fresh slice. I thought about the funny little house, talked about it with family and friends. I made lists of pros and cons. I listened out for the signs. I did the research into money and legalities and potential termite invasions. I even pondered the street number and tried to determine if it was auspicious.

And every time I walked past the dusty rangehood, which I couldn't bring myself to wipe clean, I saw that question - "Yes?" And the universe, or whatever it was, kept throwing me positives. Without a huge amount of effort - as though it was meant to be - it became possible, and then it became real.

The day I paid the deposit, I finally cleaned the greasy rangehood in my rental. The question had been answered. 

I'd found us a home.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pick Your Own

This is the sort of thing I had in mind when we moved to the country. The overflowing backyard veggie patch has always been in the picture (yet to be realised) but I wanted to be near places we could visit to pick our own food. There's something about an orchard that gets me all nostalgic. I spent a few years in my childhood living in a house in the middle of an apple orchard, and while the glasses have definitely taken on a rosy hue, I'm sure I'm not exaggerating when I say we spent our weekends running up and down the rows eating fruit straight from the tree. 

Even though apples aren't uncommon in this area, and plenty of people seem to have a tree or two in their backyard, I hadn't been able to locate a proper pick-your-own farm.

Then a friend told me last week about a place not far from here that was once run as an organic farm, and is now a meditation retreat. It's set on a beautiful patch of land alongside an enormous, neglected orchard with rows of apple trees of all different varieties. The fruit is falling from the trees and rotting on the ground - the birds are having a field day. 

So armed with our inside knowledge, my littlest pair and some dear friends put on our gumboots, grabbed some baskets and set out. We were warned about wombat holes and rabbit warrens, then invited to help ourselves. The kids ran wild while my friend and I sampled the wares, grabbing a handful of the sweetest, a selection of the crispest, as we came across them. Every tree held a different fruit, none of them labelled. The prettiest often seemed the most lacking in flavour. Ironically, after traipsing the length of several rows, I decided that my favourite had been the first one we'd tasted. Luckily we were able to find that tree again, and the basket was topped up.

Now I have to turn my attention to what to do with all that fruit. Apple pie, anyone?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A is for Apple


For a brief time as a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. Noble as that career path would have been, I know it was less about a desire to educate and more about being able to write on the blackboard*. My short stint as a teenager giving piano lessons to a handful of neighbourhood kids drove the final nail into the coffin. As highly as I value education, and as much as I love to learn, I am not a teacher.

But back when I entered Year 2, back when 'teacher' was the answer I gave to every well-meaning adult who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I took to school a set of handmade flashcards that I'd stayed up most of the previous night making. I had thought it through, you see, and I was going to teach my little sister and her kindergarten colleagues how to read. I think it lasted one lunchtime before they gave up on me and headed off to play chasies.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. One evening last week, this was the scene taking place in our lounge room - a very grown-up six-year-old taking it upon herself to teach her little sisters the alphabet. And perhaps she has more of the teacher's spirit than me, because she turned it into a game, sending them off for an apple from the fruit bowl, a xylophone from the music basket, a plastic horse from a bedroom, to illustrate her lesson.

They fight and argue with the best of them, these three, but it's these shiny bright moments of cooperation and care, the encouragement shown by a big sister, and the adoration of two little girls for one big girl, that lets me know we're doing OK.

* Showing my age, I know.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


++ Visits with dear friends
++ The re-arrangement of the stuff
++ A very important birthday celebration. Four! My babies!
++ The brightening up of corners in our new home
++ Handmade gifts from lovely little people (whose mother allows glitter! Brave woman.)

We're settling into the same old rhythm within these new walls. The work/school routine is keeping us busy. So much is so good right now. There's uncertainty, yes, but such possibility. 

{Thank you for your beautiful comments on this post, and for welcoming me back with open arms. I don't know where I'll fit this blogging lark into my already overflowing days, but it means too much to me to let it go.}


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