January 20: Today is our first anniversary on the farm. Exactly one year ago Mark and I drove 700km from our home in Melbourne to my family's fig orchard in the Riverland in rural South Australia.
I bawled my eyes out as we crossed the Upfield train line; I couldn't look back for fear of seeing one of our neighbours get off the train — another farewell would have broken me. It took two days, two cars and one massive truck, in 40-degree heat. Mark my love, Frankie our three year old daughter, Mollie our dog and two chooks - Shirley and Laverne in tow. It was full-on, actually heartbreaking leaving our home, our hood, our friends.
Lots of people ask me, was it worth it? My answer: DEFINITELY.
So, in no particular order, here are the top things that helped me through the upheaval of our lives – leaving the most liveable city in the world and returning home to Monash, 28 years after I left.
- NO MORE CITYLINK. Immediately I felt 10 years younger. Its takes 10 minutes to walk down to the fig orchard, or 'block' as it’s known here in the Riverland. I feel like I can breathe again, smell the Mallee trees after every rain, see the light.
Emus on our road, a vast contrast to Citylink
- MY MUM AND DAD ARE SAINTS. Along with my siblings and the rest of the family, they are the reason we made it through, made it home. Now Frankie gets to grow up with her cousins. Phew.
Hanging out with Mum, Dad and my siblings at Christmas
- COOKING. I took my obsession to another level this year, completing a cert IV in commercial cookery. I never imagined retraining would actually open up a subconscious dream for a new career. It seemed obvious to everyone, well possibly except me. Sue the Singing Magpie Caterer. Watch this space!
- GROWING OUR GARDEN. I've always done this. Wherever I've lived I’ve always had a backyard garden feeding my cooking obsession. The garden is my lifeblood — tending it gives me peace, we eat the food, the chooks scratch around and eat the bugs, they get the scraps and their poo (juice) feeds the next season's soil.
Zucchini's taking off in the garden
- GETTING CREATIVE. I take a lot of photographs, of everything small and big, just on my phone, not always good ones but it's like keeping a bookmark in my life. And let’s face it, the Riverland is a photographer's dream.
A storm brewing over the fig orchard
A view from Headings Cliff
- NBN. Our little town of Monash is connected. We have a lot of data and speed. Phew again.
- NEW FRIENDS (& OLD). The people I’ve cooked with daily; family members who’ve shared a wine or three with me; those mates that have helped me be a tourist in my childhood town or kept me going on social media. They push me, nourish me, make me laugh, hug me when I cry.
My cooking mates (Photo credit: Mim Harris)
Catching up on Melbourne Gossip
- NOT SO ROSIE. Now, I've gotta be straight, it's not been all plain sailing. Pneumonia crept up on me last year, probably a result of the sustained stressed of living in Melbourne and making massive changes all at once. I'm used to an office job, working hard but getting a pay packet every month. This doesn't just happen as a small business owner, its tight especially with a new start-up. Working from home is tops but I'm still working out the routine to fit it all in, to make space for life and bringing up a pre-schooler.
- DREAMS COME TRUE. My Poppa started our Heward Orchard almost 100 years ago. Mum and Dad run it now, I'm just a sidekick but I love it. Singing Magpie Produce is the start of a long-held dream. The Riverland, quite apart from the blessed lifestyle we have here, offers us a total food bowl. It’s completely underappreciated, but as a cook I'm in heaven. The produce, the diversity here is out of this world.
Dad and I (Photo credit: Kerrie Robertson)
Lunchbox of Riverland delights
Have you actually ever eaten AUSTRALIAN dried figs?
Unless you have a fig tree in the backyard the answer is mostly likely ‘no’. Worlds apart from the tough, grey imports, our semi-dried figs add a touch of decadence to your cheese platter, baking, breakfast or lunchbox.
Singing Magpie Produce aims to connect my family of farmers and other producers, their amazing, nutritious, seasonal, unique products with people. You can find our products here.
Riverland delights for everyone.
So would I do it again— pull up roots, leave the city and move to the country? Well not quickly, it took a lot of planning. Guts actually when I think about it now. But I was stuck on a treadmill, it was exhausting and I’d lost sight of my goals. I was out of breath, vision, passion. My life is immeasurably better since my little family made this big move. I haven’t regretted it for a moment — life is too short.
I did a little interview on our move if you want to hear more, please click here and go through to about 39min 30 secs.
What do you think, would you do it, and all for a Singing Magpie and a fig - a dried one at that?