And so we have reached the last month of the year, the last blog post for 2017. When I think back to starting this blog in January, it feels like an age ago, yet just yesterday at the same time.
But what is a year really?
We get ourselves so worked up about the change from December to January, yet February to March is not a big deal?! Sure, it is good to recognise what we have done and what we want to achieve, to realign, but it is still part of the story of our lives. Much of this year feels like a continual state of “New Year’s Eve” for us – analysing what we have done, what we haven’t done and what we will do to move to the next step. The continual planning, weighing up options, decisions, trial and error has left us feeling nothing short of shattered… but the lessons learnt are rejuvenating at the same time. Different sides of the same coin.
December is always a special time of family gatherings and, for us, it was an exceptionally special year with family from Germany and local, all being together on Christmas. Sharing stories of the many months that have passed since our last face-to-face chats brought some real home truths for us. The reality of this day and age is that we tend to focus only the positive – the Facebook pages filled with unending smiles, love and joy. Sharing our lives on a public forum causes us to only share the “sunshine and rainbows” view of our lives. Yet, the reality is often much harder, darker, lonely, frustrating, tear-filled… the daily grind, the arguments, the difficulties but also the joys that characterise life. And this blog is no different. We don’t like to share the deep dark nitty-gritty stuff! But time with family, who love you no matter what, showed us the power of sharing those stories and the power of working as a family. We may be the ones slogging away here on a daily basis, yet we also are the ones who have the opportunity to experience the life here – should we choose to take it, and not just focus on the to-do list. Different sides of the same coin.
A common theme throughout this blog has been about the importance of natural rhythms, of cycles, of rest and appreciation. Life is, and always will be, made up of daily struggles and beautiful moments. Those close enough will always see both. But we have a choice of what we focus on. I read an encouraging thought the other day that we all write “to-do” lists, maybe weekly or daily even, but we don’t write an “I did” list. It is helpful to reflect back on the year with this in mind. Too often we tend to focus on all the things we didn’t achieve in the year and plan for how we will achieve those and more in the following year. So in light of this… our “we did” list for 2017…..
We started the year building up Bramleigh as a home and a business. 2016 was a tumultuous year for us personally, as well as for Bramleigh, so in some respects we started tired. The guest house business moved from a sideline income source to a business that could almost wash its own face slowly over the course of the year. Basically every room (but two) of the seven rooms received a face-lift to some extent; from painted floors and furniture, to bathroom make-overs. We put our stamp on the house with new signs, new decor, new uses, new ideas. We served full breakfasts and three course dinners, we stopped serving all meals, and the pendulum has settled in the middle with our picnic breakfast and light meal offerings. We cut down trees and milled planks, we dried firewood, we fixed countless leaks in the plumbing and minor to major repairs and fixes in the guestrooms. We checked guests in, and checked guests out. Loads of new people, hundreds of emails and phone calls. There were tears after rude encounters, disappointment at trashed rooms, and happy memories made with like-minded, encouraging people. We connected with wedding venues, with hiking tour operators, listed our home on various sites, with various types of enthusiasts. Sleepless nights spent waiting for guests, or missed opportunities with friends. We learnt a lot about people!
Homemade sourdough bread and pizza bases, homemade yoghurt and cheese kicked off our homesteading adventure
We hung out at home because we could, we read, we gardened, we walked, we swam. We hosted two courses here – sourdough bread baking with Hope Rising and Soil Fertility, working with Nature, Planned Grazing and Mob Grazing with Ian Mitchell-Innes. We learnt where there is and isn’t support in community. We learnt the power of the sun, the wind, rain, hail and snow.
Our biggest achievement this year has been the establishment of the market farm. We cleared grass and dug beds, planted seeds and prayed. We built irrigation systems and washing stations, harvest systems and packing stations. We tried and failed with many types of plants. We scrubbed out the water tanks, extended the weir, and prayed so often for rain!
Market farm and orchard harvests
And boy, did we learn! We learnt how to raise chicks, goslings, geese and chickens, we learnt about the predators and poisonous plants for chickens and geese, how to make our compost, how to make animals mobile. We learnt about new plants, trees and birds residing here, or that would be of benefit to have here. We learnt the value of soil, how to protect and encourage fruit and vegetable growth, how to grow and harvest on a small scale and larger scale. We learnt when to harvest, how to harvest, days to maturity and crop values. We learnt about soil fertility, about the fungi to bacteria ratio. We learnt how to prune trees and roses, to identify species of plants and grasses, to cultivate, transplant, and provide ideal growing conditions. We learnt about seasons and season extension, about the importance of seasonal predictability and the vulnerability crops to climate. We learnt that baboons don’t eat leafy greens! We learnt the importance of diversity and variety in enterprises. We learnt that some people get it and others just don’t. We learnt how some people love the outdoors, feeding chickens, caring for the environment… and others really don’t! We learnt to be disappointed and to dream at the same time. We learnt to grieve and to love. We learnt about our values and our shortcomings, about efficiency and energy.
We learnt how to manage staff, leave, resignations, interviews, meetings. We learnt about our own strengths and weaknesses, the strengths and weaknesses of each other as individuals and as a couple, the strengths and weaknesses of our team.
We have learnt in body, mind and soul. I can honestly say I have not done anything so far in my life as challenging, as relentless and as hopeful!
Different sides of the same coin, in every aspect.
Here’s to 2018…