a family farm and woodland wanders

Sunday, 1 June 2014

"Why get families outdoors? Quite simply, nature is good for us... Family ties are strengthened, a sense of community is nourished, and a sense of place is cultivated. All in all, nature is good for children and their friends and family, too!"
Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit, Children and Nature Network

Like many Aussies, I made the most of a spate of mid-autumn public holidays by taking three days annual leave and getting a block of ten days off in return - high fives all round! The break coincided with school holidays and some extended leave for my husband so we took up a couple of opportunities for low-cost family adventures in regional South Oz. First up was our trip to the river, closely followed by a visit to a family farm in the state's South East.

The SE's Limestone Coast is one of my favourite parts of the state to visit in cooler months with its crisp air, rugged coastlines, pockets of diverse scrubland, expansive agricultural lands and world-class wineries. This affection for the region is also steeped in nostalgia: my father's side of the family descends from the SE town of Naracoorte and there's been plenty of [infamous] road trips over the years to the coastal village of Robe and surrounds with uni, friends and work.  

We can now add another layer to the SE bond with my expecting sister-in-law and her husband recently moving to Penola to take over the running of his family's expansive farm. With this move to the country, our little family of four, plus Nana and Pa, made our inaugural trip to check out the farm and spend a few quiet days away together as an extended family.

We spent our first afternoon getting settled and then donned our boots and warms to explore the property. We strolled through paddocks with cattle and their newborn calves, past fenced-off expanses of scrub and a paddock of bulls. We spied roos regarding us from a distance, checked out the farming operations and marveled at the powerfully quiet expanse of open country before us. 

As late afternoon turned to early evening we continued on, making our way to the farm dam and an ancient red gum woodland. We entered a wonderland of giant trees and fallen limbs; a landscape characterised by silvery greys and greens punctuated by ochre and pale gold. Skimming contests and rock throwing by the dam ensued, a flock of ducks landed on the bank, and the kids tested their climbing skills on the fallen tree limbs. As the evening darkness descended we made our way back to the farm house where we were spoiled with some serious country hospitality including an outdoor fire under a clear night sky, damper on the camp stove, and a big communal dinner.

The following morning the eight of us piled in the cars and headed down the main road to Penola Conservation Park, a 225-hectare park protecting remnant river red gum-lined swamps that were once widespread across the region. We made our way along the Park's nature trail, meandering through stunning and distinctive habitats including woodlands, wetlands and heath.

Whilst walking the kids searched for the best sticks, found intricate patterns in tree trunks, and collected Hakea, Acacia, Tea-tree and Banksia seed pods. Miss five ventured into the soon-to-be-submerged swamp, tracking a number of roos resting in flattened patches of vegetation before they bounded off to watch her from a distance. Further along at a number of points along the trail, we realised we were being quietly observed by wallabies camouflaged in the bushland only metres away. And all the while we enjoyed the opportunity to catch up properly in a fresh and enlivening environment [a stark contrast to the hustle of the mid-week childcare handover with the grandparents].

Our final day was a super special occasion with Miss Five waking up as Miss Six; and what a beautiful frosty sunrise we awoke to. Aunty J made celebratory pancakes, both kids headed out in the ute to count the cows and spot any calves born overnight, and then Uncle J totally delivered the goods with a birthday tractor ride. Needless to say Miss Six has already put in an order for another Penola birthday next year.  

With both of my husband's sisters expecting their first children in the next month or so, the farm trip promises to be one of many to come and will be a fantatsic place for the cousins and extended family to spend quality time together. The farmland and nearby conservation park present a truly special opportunity to strengthen family ties, explore and connect to this great southern land and for that we are truly grateful. Thanks so much  J & J - let the good times roll!   

No comments:

Post a Comment