This month our home is a small vineyard outside Hobart, Tasmania. Though the property itself is only a few hectares, it is surrounded by hills of grazing land and it feels like we are in the center of a huge farm. Our house is the only dwelling, the owners live elsewhere. The owner and her two workers come and go, and a couple of repurposed shipping containers are the farm outbuildings. It is a small operation.
For me, this is the best of farm life, the beauty and the comfort of country routines like opening and closing the gate, watching the ducks, geese, sheep, cattle, horses, yet without any of the chores. Across the fence is the water for the geese and ducks. They drift over to the water, then out among the vines to nibble, then back again, all day long. Ten short “baby doll” sheep spend some days browsing among the vines. They are intended to keep the grass down between the rows, though we do see them chewing the vines. I don’t have to feed or water any of the animals, and when the geese all escaped and began browsing along the road, I didn’t have to round them up, put them back in their pen and fix the gap in the fence.
I lean on the gate while Jonathan chats with our host and one of her workmen. The breeze is cool and comfortable and I soak up the sun and the gentle swish of the wind. When we return from our trip to the beach, I hang the laundry out to dry on a rotating clothesline like we used when I was a kid. The scene takes me back to those days, helping my mom hang clothes on the line, and the delicious smell of sheets dried outdoors. Firewood sits in a heap on one side of the yard. I don’t need to think about starting a fire because it is the middle of summer; the pile shelters a family of bunnies that run in and out.
I walked to the top of the hill beyond us one afternoon, following the fenceline past the cattle. Looking over the hill, then back on our house, I see other small farms with their flocks of sheep, horses, and a pasture holding a single ostrich. The stillness and permanence of the landscape in the fading sunlight impresses me with the vastness of the land next to one person. That unchanging presence of the land compared to my tiny being makes me want to see what is just beyond the horizon. There I am in a nutshell. I’ve always wanted to see what’s just around the corner, the next bend in the shoreline, over the next hill, and I always will. The illusion that I am alone meditating on life in a great still silence lasts until the next car passes, and the train pulling its daily load of timber chugs by. I head for home.