I’ve wanted to live in the country for as long as I can remember but my parents were city dwellers so I had to make do with toy animals and mounds of dirt. Then sometime in the 60s I became a horse.
Whilst others screamed for the Beatles and placed flowers in their hair I cantered my way through the days, tossing my head and pawing the ground. It is possible that my parents were bemused, even anxious for my future!
It would be thirty-seven years before my dream came true and finally Peter, our four kids and I have moved into a ramshackle old villa with twenty-five acres of blackberry and thistle. At last I can open my bedroom window and see my horses. I don’t care about the scrim-covered walls, the peeling paint, the threadbare carpet or the dated kitchen. This is heaven. Our own piece of paradise, Te Rangi Farm.
The years have passed, the children grew, flew the nest, multiplied and now have all come home, twenty in total!
As I sit here typing I am distracted by the sounds of happy laughter and I am compelled outside. I open my arms and in bounce Emily (5) and Alice (3). Emily has news. Emily is our storyteller and news is imparted with wide eyes and gesturing hands. The current story is that Zuri, the little white fluffy dog that can’t believe she got a farm gig, has a caught a rat. Zuri smiles proudly, which is a clever thing to do when you have a rat in your mouth, but I know this is the work of a cat and Zuri is claiming credit where credit is not due. She wants to show me the rat, I suggest she go away.
Alice and Emily follow their father home and I lean on the fence and watch them wander across the paddock to their cottage. Alice skips and then stops to pick up Lacey the blind chook. Emily holds her dad’s hand. As I lean I can hear Hayden (5) and Danielle (8) running up and down the hallway in the big house. Even if I’m in my office three buildings away I can still hear those footsteps, the same hallway that their aunty and uncle ran up and down when they were five and eight.
I shake myself out of my day dreams and turn towards the house but I hear the thud, thud as someone crosses the culvert…it’s Sarah, our eldest, coming to gather eggs. Hamish (8) is out of the car first and flies in for a hug, Rebecca (5) yells “Grandy!” and takes the second hug, closely followed by James (9). Growing up with your mokopuna, bliss.
Finally the last of the whanau retire to their allocated corners of the farm, I flag anymore writing for the moment. Firewood needs collecting, the horses need their covers on and the chooks their evening meal. I make a mental note to re-grass the riverbank in the morning. We have had so much rain that the bridge flooded for the first time this year. The riverbank has been laid bare.
I’m glad to say that we can read the river now but when we first came here in 1988 that wasn’t the case. In our first winter I was heading out for essential Saturday night chocolate. It had been raining all week and the river was high, just a few centimetres under the bridge. No warning bells rang. They should have rung. Chocolate fetching took fifteen minutes and fifteen minutes was all the river needed to angrily devour the bridge. It raged a metre over the culvert, impossible to cross.
Sensible people would have enjoyed a night in a motel but I wanted to be home. Peter came down with a long rope. He threw one end to me and I tied it around my waist (a smaller version of the one I have today!). I grabbed a long stick and using it as a guide I made my way down the edges of the floodwater. A hundred metres on Peter tied his end to a willow tree and told me to jump. So I did.
I flung myself into the murky, churning torrent and was swept as far as the rope would allow. With a twang I was recoiled backwards and began to thrash and flail. My mouth opened and closed like a marooned fish. I could hear a voice, Peter’s voice. I couldn’t make out what he was saying so I thrashed some more, arms crashing wildly, head going from side to side, legs doing whatever they wanted. Finally I made out what he was saying, “YOU CAN STAND UP!” And so I could. I was well and truly on the other side, in six inches of water and looking good!
Ah well, enough reminiscing, that won’t get the chores done. Oh by the way, in case you’re wondering, I got the chocolate through.