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‘Your life is so idyllic!’
I get this a lot. People contacting me on social media, commenting on the ‘dream life’ we appear to be living out here on the land. In most cases, it truly is, but I find the hardships of this life are often missed in those twelve perfectly colour-coordinated squares and fifteen-second story snippets. So, in response, I thought I’d use this opportunity to shine a light on the not-so-romantic realities of life on the land, in a shed, with a toddler and a whole lot of big plans to get done on one (and a bit) income.
‘I’ve always dreamed of living the “slow life”.’
Yep, me too, until I realised that ‘slow’ is sometimes snail’s pace.
When we moved home to our land, I had this image of us wandering down to the orchard and vegie garden to collect basket-loads of our own sustainably grown produce, to cook in our beautiful custom-made kitchen, in our self-built, solar-powered house. Naively I expected to be living this glorious kinfolk-esque life within the space of a year. It’s been over three now and we’re still in the shed, waiting on council approval and for finances to fall into place, with fruit trees in buckets and vegies growing out of an old boat. It’s fine, if a little frustrating at times, and we’re comfortable, but the reality of living on one (and a bit) income, while both working and raising a small human, means things move a lot slower than what’s often portrayed. It makes me wonder how many people start out with a similar dream, only to throw a few kids in the mix and end up still living in a shed/caravan/bus ten years later.
‘It must be so rewarding growing your own food.’
Watching Dusty play in our boat garden, shoving fistfuls of tomatoes and figs into his tiny mouth and toddling out each morning, basket in hand, to collect the daily lay, is pretty special. To know he’s learning the valuable lessons of growing and reaping your own at such a young age certainly is rewarding. Unfortunately, when it comes to our livestock, these rewards come at a price. I’ve come to learn that with life comes death, an inevitable part of farming.
We got our calves when they were about one month old. It took weeks for them to stop calling out for their mummas, lowing all night long. It was heartbreaking. But Jono did a pretty good job of playing mum, waking up at 5am each morning, mixing up milk powder and slowly teaching each of them how to suckle from a bottle. Seeing him in the frosty grass softly coo, cooing and telling them they’d be okay was beautiful. Sadly, one little bull just wouldn’t take the teat. I’ll not forget watching Jono walk down the hill, rifle over shoulder, and soon after hearing a CRACK, knowing tiny Eric was gone. Jono didn’t cry; he never does. I guess I do enough of it for us both.
‘How wonderful to live in the bush with all that space.’
Dusty loves to watch the birds waking up the world: warbling Maggies, squabbling Galas and the screek of our very own, very rare and endangered flock of Black Cockies. I used to take Dusty down to the neighbour’s paddock, to watch the sunrise as the mist rolled in from the lake. There were usually a few roos and their joeys bouncing around on wobbling legs, rocketing off in unintended directions. We’d take our dog Keith and he’d try his very best not to chase the wallabies as they thumped through the undergrowth. Lately, however, we’ve had to stop because of the tiny, itchy, scratchy, swollen lumpy ticks that leave welts that irritate for weeks.
Another reality of farm life is the culling of kangaroos. Roos eat grass. Lots of grass. And when your livelihood depends on having enough to feed your cattle, most of the time — and irrespective of who was here first— the roos lose the battle. Our neighbour has recently begun to use his shotgun at this time of morning; feeling the giant BOOM resonate through our tiny shed house walls has seriously turned me off going anywhere near his property.
‘Your shed house looks like a dream. I’d love to simplify our life like that.’
There’s a reason why most people don’t live in sheds. Irrespective of how beautiful your floors are and how much sunlight pours in through the skylights, they’re hot, airless and — when you live, work and sleep in two rooms — a little claustrophobic at times.
In saying all this, I’d hate for anyone to think I don’t appreciate all I have because, let’s be honest, we’re safe and warm, and are giving our boy the best possible start at life we could ever imagine. I guess I’m just wary of a world in which we’re all constructing some version of ourselves we wish to share, hiding the bits that aren’t so romantic. I’m not sure it’s what I want to be part of anymore. And I have a sneaking suspicion that all that pretentiousness I thought I’d escaped in moving home has slowly made its way back into my life through the endless scroll and double-tap of everyday life.
Lily Nicholson lives with her little family on a seaside farm on the far south coast of NSW. Working from her home studio nestled amongst the trees, she explores colour palettes and mark-making processes while using a range of media including watercolour, gouache, acrylic, collage, crayon, pen and pencil. For more about Lily, visit her website or follow her on Instagram (@lilyjohannah).
Top image by Sam Riles (samrilesphotography.com and on Instagram at @samrilephotography and @weddingsbysam)
Center and bottom images by Michael French (frenchy.com.au and on Instagram at @frenchyphoto)