Weekly photo challenge: Beloved

Reflecting upon the meaning of beloved as part of this week’s photo challenge I find that there is no one thing or person that is beloved to me, there are many and they contribute to many of the special moments and experiences during my life. For this particular challenge, the focus is on cherished childhood memories, just thinking about the fun we had makes me smile and start reminiscing about ‘the good old days’.

Living on acreage in the country meant that we could have pets beyond your typical cats, dogs, and budgies. With Mum’s help, we hand-reared calves from a local dairy farm and as children, it was our job to mix their formula and feed them morning and night. I can remember the formula we used, especially when Mum changed over to a more nutritious formula which smelled revolting. The calves would love it and once they finished slurping up the milk they would suck on our fingers and follow us around the yard. Our first pet cow was Caramel, she loved to wander all over the countryside and we would have to go and pick her up and lead her home, on foot which usually entailed carrying a bucket of food in front of her to entice her to follow. Sweetie was our second calf and she was soon followed by Horrie, all of whom you can see in the following picture. I would often head out into the paddock to pat them and talk to them, it was so easy talking to cows, they just munched on grass and tolerated my company.

Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie
Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie

Our school trips often involved camping. Our school principal had a large property up in the hills and each year he and his wife or a couple of keen parents would take a class of students camping for a week. Camping involved bushwalking, swimming in creeks, learning about dingoes and other native animals and sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories or singing songs. They were magical times and although I’m not much of a camper these days I still love bushwalks and our natural environment.

Kids in front of a tent
My Christmas tent

My Mum is a horse person, she brought us up to love them as well. A good friend owned several horses on a property not far from ours and it was always a joy to visit them and help with feeding. On one particular occasion, we were present during the birth of a foal, keeping our distance of course and it was so exciting. When the foal was old enough we were allowed to interact with it, that is me in the brown riding helmet in the picture below. I saved and saved to buy that helmet so that I could go horse riding with my Mum.

A foal and children
A new foal

Our first dog was a beautiful black Irish Setter mix called Lady who used to run all over the hills with us, there weren’t fences in those days and being on the main road in the country meant that nobody drove slowly. Lady had no road sense and sadly she was hit by a car and did not survive, although she was not with us long I can still remember her sweet face and happy nature. Scooter was our first puppy, a playful boy who would follow us everywhere, down the road to visit friends and through the hills as we explored neighbouring farms. Scooter had a dog house at the bottom of the yard, it was a time when dogs lived outdoors and at night he was secured by a chain to his house. As much as I loved Scooter I don’t recall the bond being anything like what I have with my boy Bundy, perhaps it was because we were so young and the dog really was Mum’s dog. Taking Scooter for walks was how I earned some pocket money, sometimes I rode my bike while he ran alongside, on a leash of course.

Scooter the puppy
Scooter the puppy

Holidays in New Zealand were not frequent growing up however we were lucky enough to travel to the North Island a few times and they were some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Fun times were had on the farm, feeding Nanna’s ducks, horse riding and tripping around in the back of the ute with cousins and my Grandfather’s dogs. My Nanna and my Aunty would cook up a storm and we must have consumed litres of Raro (cordial) and flavoured soft drink from the Soda Stream machine. We even helped in the shearing sheds one year, sweeping dags off the floor and camping overnight with all of our other cousins and family. There was no accommodation on the farm so we slept in the shearing shed. The smell of sheep and pine trees always brings back memories of those holidays. Beloved.

Tripping around the farm in the back of a ute with cousins
Tripping around the farm with cousins

Out on the farm

The farm road
The farm road

My brother recently bought 100 acres of bushland in the Hunter Valley, he and his partner want to build a house there and raise their beautiful daughter in the country. He refers to the land as ‘the farm’ although it is far from it at this point in time. Much of land cannot be cleared for environmental reasons however this isn’t a huge deal because my brother doesn’t have any plans to raise cattle, sheep or grow crops. Obviously the previous owners have done some work on the property, farm equipment has been left to rust and there is a gate growing out of a tree. The land is in the middle of wine country in the Hunter Valley which aligns nicely with our desire for a winter retreat where we can alternate between visiting vineyards and enjoying local produce while sitting by an open fire.

I had the pleasure of seeing the property a couple of weeks ago and there is plenty of work to be done in order to make the land habitable for a family. Patches of land have been cleared previously providing nice open spaces and views of neighbouring properties, my brother and a mate of his have also spent time tidying up the area where they plan to build their house. Walking through the bush takes me back to my childhood when we used to explore the countryside looking for the perfect swimming hole. On one occasion we made fishing rods out of bamboo and tried our luck in the creek, the fish were much smarter than us. As kids we never really worried about snakes or eels or getting seriously hurt, but I was very wary of coming across a snake whilst walking through the bush on my brother’s property.

Camera in hand I was fascinated by tiny purple flowers, and funny looking nuts on a native tree. My fingers were crossed in the hope that I would come across wildlife of the furry and feathered kind. With a creek running through one end of the property and a dried creek bed at the other we were guaranteed to see something and sure enough we saw a few kangaroos from the car, as well as a goanna and a couple of rabbits. One kangaroo scared the bejeezus out of my when it leapt out of the bush to the left of me and bounded away, madly scrambling to get my camera ready I thankfully secured one shot which made my day. Even as an Australian I still get excited by seeing our native wildlife.

Without rain the bush is looking dry and the grass feels crunchy underfoot. Closer to the creek there is more colour, the water providing sustenance for plants as well as a variety of creatures that we hear but not see as they scamper away and hide. I envy the life that my brother and his family will have, living away from the maddening traffic and being able to look at the window and see sights that we grew up with. I don’t envy the work or the size of the mortgage that it takes to own such a property but I admire my brother for the commitment he has made in following a dream. I hope that one day I have the courage to do the same.