by Bec C
We first met many of our neighbours soon after we had moved here, when ‘Dougall’s dad and uncle decided to rekindle some dormant childhood memories and engage in a bit of burning off around the farm. Needless to say, the memories were from a long time ago, things got a little… er… overheated and the old wooden road bridge was soon at risk of burning down. This brought the neighbours out running. My first memory is of them looking on as we, the city slickers, ran up the bank from fire to creek, fire to creek, gathering and emptying bucket loads of water to prevent the only source of travel into town from disappearing. In terms of ways of introducing yourself to your neighbours, I wouldn’t really recommend it.
Ah, the memories. How things can change. 10 years on from that day, I am sitting in the post-glow aura of an Easter Sunday spent with good friends on our back porch, reflecting on our good fortune. Not unfortunately, in wealth (hmmm… must get around to buying that lottery ticket), but with our home, family, friends, and neighbours.
Neighbours. Well, what would we do without them? Over the years, various of them have been: looking after our horse, because, well, quite simply, we don’t really know how to; picking up our cars for servicing at their garage (no endless waiting around at the mechanic’s for us); chasing wandering cattle, forging streams in the pouring rain; organising our farm plan, digging trenches, installing irrigation pipes, mulching paddocks; fixing fencing; organising field days to plant trees (but that’s a whole other blog, yet to be written)…
And then there are Garbo Glen and Fi, who recently added ‘milkman’ to their list of neighbourly philanthropy. Only the other evening I opened the fridge door to find we were almost out of milk. Thinking ahead I realised, for my 3 year old, this would only mean one thing – potential bedtime tantrum, possible Disaster. 15mins drive away from the closest open shop, it was the first time in 10 years that I had run out, Dougall was away, so succumbing to the cliché I ventured out with the kids in the car to borrow some milk from Glen and Fi, a 2km drive away.
As we bumped our way down our potted, gutted, rutted and jutted driveway, I said – “Hmmm, I wonder what that clanging noise is?” Thomas, the 3yr old, concurred “What is it Mummy?” I, replied, “I’ll have a look , down at the gate”, which is of course too late as by then we are at the point of no return, being 1km from the house (Blog Lesson #1).
So we reached the gate, and there it was – a completely flat tire. What a conundrum. That car maintenance course I did 20 years ago had long since left my conscious thought, I had no phone, nobody looking for our return, it was getting dark, baby James was tired and started to cry, Thomas was also tired and started to cry, then cough, and all I could say, as I balanced one on each hip, was – ‘Come on – we (ie. YOU) need to rally. Think of it as an adventure!” Did Thomas detect the note of hysteria in my voice? Yes. His cry picked up a notch, and his cough assumed pneumonia-like qualities. Needless to say, things weren’t looking good. Suddenly, I heard a car approaching on the road and before I knew it I had flagged it down. It was someone I didn’t know… but I’d heard of. Back up the driveway we go, squished into their front cabin, to the warm glow of our house. I thanked them profusely, called Glen and Fi to let them know we weren’t coming to get any milk after all, ‘no, no, really, don’t worry about it, we’ll be fine till tomorrow’, and we all got ready for bed. I heard a car. It was them, with fresh milk and some emergency long life for my pantry (the first lesson of pantry stocking on a farm. Blog Lesson #2).
The following morning, they were back to change the tyre, drive my car back up to the house, and hold a cranky teething James while I got Thomas ready for preschool (I can only assume that that note of hysteria had returned to my voice).
So that’s our neighbours. And what of ‘home, friends, and family’? My parents are up, having arrived a couple of days ago for a short stay. I gave them the obligatory welcoming quick cup of tea before thrusting the children into my mother’s arms and giving my father his list of things to fix around the house.
The week before I had also welcomed my in-laws with – again – the obligatory quick cup of tea, this time accompanied by home made scones (I was out to impress). They didn’t get a list – it’s much easier to give your own parents a list, than your in-laws – but they too just throw themselves into general family maintenance tasks, so I’m still very grateful.
That’s all very well, I hear you asking, but what have they got to do with ‘neighbours’, the title of my blog? Well, nothing really, but there’s no song to my knowledge which mentions family and neighbours, so I’m making a tenuous link as they were all at our Easter lunch. I am increasingly aware that without family, without friends, and without neighbours, life would be much more difficult and lonely. And when they are gathered together, like they were today (see, here you are: thank you Bec H, for the cheeses; for picking up Thomas once a week from pre-school; for feeding us all every second Thursday. Thank you to my mum and dad, for entertaining the kids while I cooked; for helping cook while I entertained the kids; for cleaning the house and the chairs so no one left our house dirty), the farm assumes those magical qualities that remind me why we moved here in the first place.
So again, I say thank goodness for Friends, Family, and “Neighbours, Everybody Needs Good Neeeeeiiiighbours!” (homage to iconic theme song in Australian TV).