Sunday, October 9, 2011

Our farm-near-the-coast holiday

We got back late yesterday afternoon after a week away at a farmstay holiday in South Gippsland, at a place called Boggabri, located near Walkerville.

As the person who makes the running in planning, organising, booking, and paying for our family holidays (I always put aside any contracting income I get specifically for holidays - it doesn't go into general revenue, ususally), I had decided on a farmstay near the beach a while ago. Beach holidays have a proven track record of success for us, and all of the kids would, I felt, enjoy being on a working farm and seeing animals more closely.

I picked Boggabri based on its website, just because it had a pretty garden, it was on the beautiful South Gippsland coast and reasonably close to Inverloch, a town I've always wanted to explore but have never visited until this week. These were thin enough reasons, but in this instance, my intuition did not let me down.

Our week at Boggabri was very special family time for us.

We walked the paddocks every day, strolling past mildly interested cows, skittish sheep and calm black bulls. (The bulls were behind wire, but the other animals just wandered freely with us, kept in only by cattle grates at roadways).

We visited Walkerville South beach, the beautiful, secluded little inlet that inspired one of our favourite childrens' picture books of all time - Alison Lester's Magic Beach. The kids were so thrilled to actually *be* at the place in the story. We were even lucky enough to get a warm spring day where we could paddle, build sandcastles, and in the case of the cold-impervious 8-year-old, swim.

We spent time in Inverloch, walking the Dinosaur Cove and letting the 2 year old go to town on splashing in rockpools.

We helped muster some sheep from one paddock to the next over rolling green hills, riding in (or, in the case of the fearless 6 year old), on, a farm ute.

We watched a flock get shorn and crutched, and each of the kids came away with a fistful of soft creamy wool courtesy of the friendly shearers.

We stroked and hand-fed little lambs.

We went for a beautiful drive towards Wilsons Prom and ate an astoundingly good meal in a little town called Fish Creek. (I'll be doing a post on that later this week, as it was one of the nicest gluten-free meals I've ever eaten in a restaurant, anywhere).

We did lots of holidayish, relaxing things too - reading (the big kids and I chewed through three novels apiece), drinking tea in the afternoon sun, playing Uno and Pictionary, listening to music, napping (me as well as the younger two kids). The husband and I traded sleep-ins a couple of days, and the girls got to watch a Barbie movie that I'd brought specifically for the holiday. We even got to watched a film one night, a rarity for us these days as I am usually working and / or sleeping once the kids are in bed.

The nicest part was how quiet and out-of-our-world the farm was. Things happen on farms, and people come and go, but the farm is big and wide and often you see no-one at all for hours. 3G reception was patchy, which led to an entire series of photos that we've dubbed The Things Husband Will Do to Get Internet (balancing the lappy on top of the taps in the cottage kitchen was probably the funniest). This meant there were large chunks of every day when we were happily offline and uncontactable, and it was good for all of us.

Oh, we didn't leave everyday life behind completely - people had tantrums, people melted down, people squabbled and got tired and got fed up. (And the kids did too, on occasion ;-) But the space out of life was a great boon to us and the sometimes fractious dynamics that can emerge in our little cluster of personalities.

The big kids, who can be competitive and provoking with each other, had time to play together and reconnect. I was able to go for a walk every day with just my 8 year old, who craves that one-on-one time and isn't always able to get it. The toddler got to spend much more time than usual with her daddy, which was very good for their relationship. And the 6 year old was able to run free, burning her boundless energy on hills and beaches rather than getting bored and mischievous.

One of the greatest things of all about being on the farm was the real breakthrough that we had with the 8 year old, who'd become, rather dismayingly and inexplicably, nervous of animals. (Not hysterical, just very, very cautious and a bit skittish).
Being around friendly, affectionate and well-trained kelpies, curious, calm cows, frolicking sheep, and well-trained horses, she relaxed visibly, even deciding off her own bat to trot out one morning to help groom the riding horses before a trail ride left. It was so wonderful to see her enjoying this contact rather than fearing it.

I think I've concluded a few things from this holiday, some of which I knew already, and some of which are new understandings.

- You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a good family holiday. All up, including food and petrol, this holiday cost us a long way south of $1,000. It's a truism, but the shared experience is the pearl, not the costliness of it.

Holidays with a single base
(preferably one where you can prepare meals) are easier by far with small children and a Coeliac parent. I shudder to think of the waste and expense if we'd had to eat every meal out.

- Being near a beach = FTW. Every time. No matter what the weather.

- Family holidays are a vital part of reconnecting and rebuilding relationships in a busy, often stressful world. It's easy to plan to stop and smell the roses, to say that quality time together is a priority, to think about family things to do, but the pace of life often swallows up good intentions.

Being a stay-at-home, occasionally-contracting parent this year, I do spend a lot of *time* with my children, but the relaxing of normal expectations that a holiday can offer opens the door to a different kind of time, a different kind on conversation. For my husband, who works fulltime out of the home, this was even more true, and even more important.

We won't go away anywhere in the summer break - we never do, as my husband can't usually get leave at that time, and another kind of enjoyment is always found in 6 luxurious summer weeks of kicking back at home. (We're also lucky enough to live opposite friends with a pool, and near a lovely swimming beach).

I think, though, we're all minded to have another break away next year; perhaps not twice as we've done this year with March's Anglesea trip and this farm break, but at least once, somewhere peaceful and expansive and welcoming. I cannot think of a better reason to do the little bits and pieces of contracting that come my way, time-pressuring as they can sometimes be, than to allow us these opportunities to grow and regenerate and build shared memories.

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