To know why we would agree (offer, even) to be custodians of a high maintenance organic and biodynamic dairy and egg farm for a week, where obviously the cows have to be milked twice daily, the eggs collected (often over 900 every day), the chooks fed, the pastures irrigated, the guardian dogs chased after they escape, the bursting veggie garden tended to, a home to maintain...well, to know why we would offer to do this, you must know our friends...
They are salt of the earth, incredibly genuine, work so hard, so incredibly bloody hard, without complaint or issue, with grace and humility, all whilst raising four small children in a beautiful manner. They are driven, they are true, they are brave in their decisions, sure of their convictions. They saw a vision for their family which ticked boxes of ethics and sustainability and they went out and grabbed it with both hands - created it for themselves. Ruby Hills Organics produces beautiful yummy milk and glorious eggs from their generous livestock, all thanks to Nic and Amy who have such vision and determination.
It's hard work, being farmers, we know that. We, however, don't have children. We also don't live on the far across the seas from our family. That's right, Amy is an American, Nic a Kiwi. So you can see that with a farming enterprise such as theirs plus four little people to nurture, trips 'home' are pretty non-existent let alone a holiday of any sorts really. Amy and I, being the geniuses that we are, put two and two together pretty quickly - we had a few weeks up our sleeves before we move to South Australia, they were in desperate need of a break, some breathing space, a trip to New Zealand to see Nic's family. It had been four years and two babies since they'd been, it was time. When friends like Nic and Amy ask you to step up, you step up, no questions asked...only 'how do we make this happen?'
And so, we took the reigns of Ruby Hills on a Monday afternoon, waving the Paul's off to the airport and pushing Nic onto a plane. Cows were milked, calves were born, others were fed, eggs were collected and delivered, silage was distributed to hungry cows, irrigators were kept moving, chickens were fed, maremmas escaped and were re-captured. At first everything seemed to be taking us five times longer than anticipated: milking, egg collection, the first day was a scorcher and the cool room for the eggs died, maremmas left their posts, no huge dramas but all time consuming. Eventually though we got in the rhythm of this dairy/egg business. Matt grew up milking on a family friends farm (used to walk there after school as a wee one, is that child labour?!) but I've not had much to do with dairy farms despite growing up in Gippsland - it was spuds and sheep for me! I tried to help where I could: feeding calves, hosing down the yard after milking, driving the tractor to feed out silage, collecting and stacking the never-ending supply of eggs from the hens whilst Matt fed them. One thing was for sure, we had missed farming together like we used to in Yea a few years ago, it had been too long between drinks. Farming is hard work - but it is rewarding, so rewarding, especially if you do it with your spouse. Seeing the tanker fill up with milk you helped produce, eating delicious eggs you collected that morning from hens you know are happy, free range little things, well it's all pretty satisfying. That's why we're in this game (it sure as heck isn't for the money!)
While Matt tended to all things farm (well I helped feed silage and collect eggs), I set to work getting Amy's abode in tip-top shape. It wasn't in my job description but I just knew there was not enough hours in the day for her to get on top of everything. So I collected every stray piece of clothing, towel, sheet off every bed and set to washing, folding, sorting. I pulled her laundry apart, I scrubbed cupboards, I sorted winter coats, I swept, I mopped, I organised all the kids books and toys in their big shared room, I made beds, fluffed pillows, lined up little slippers, I pulled Amy's big walk-in pantry apart, cleaned every surface, sorted, organised, arranged it all back together again, all because I wanted our dear friends to come home to a house in a gleaming state. No washing to be done, no toys to trip over. A holiday after their holiday if you will.
I truly hope any of our little deeds were helpful, I also hope Amy can find things in her house now! It's all in the little things you do for people, this friendship business, and doing them because I really wanted to. This family deserves absolutely nothing less.
Thank-you for letting us be custodians of your precious farm for a brief while, now how will you come visit us in South Australia? Let's put our thinking caps on...