If you hashtag it, it will come. For over a year on Twitter (aka the twitterz), I had been using #Immabeafarmer as we scoured the area around food-friendly Daylesford for a farm. In fact, the story really starts in 1995, as I wrote on Tammi Tasting Terroir...
But the reason you're reading this now is because our dream has finally been realised and this beautiful 69 acres is ours!
But who are we? Why, we're the Jonai.
I'm Tammi, aka @tammois on the twitterz, committed and happy cook, cultural theorist still mid-PhD, proud mama to a brood of clever, kind and ethically-minded awesome kids, and partner in all ways to...
Stuart, aka @solarvox, the brewer, the baker & the preserve-maker, seller of solar thermal systems, tinkerer and project man, no longer a wannabe farmer, and much-beloved Dada to...
Oscar, Antigone & Atticus, budding engineers, artists, and vets, not to mention damned fine cooks.
And then there's Daphne kitteh, who's still not at all sure she's cut out for country living.
And the newest member of the Jonai, Danny Boy, our 5-month-old Red Heeler, who seems determined to train his humans.
We've been here just over three weeks now, and already we know more than we ever dreamed we might about rural life, though we have a loooong way to go on farming knowledge.
What we do know is that being on the land is good for us, and we intend to be good for it. And we look forward to sharing it with you all virtually, but also right here on the soil for those able to visit.
And so here are a few short vignettes from early days:
We pre-ordered internet from iiNet while we were still overseas, and had been assured we'd get ADSL1. Upon arrival, we were told we'd have it by Friday. On Friday, we learned it might be up to three weeks as they needed another port at the exchange. What did that mean, I wondered, was it like waiting at a restaurant for a table? Did we have to wait for someone to finish before we could eat? No, we were assured a new port would be installed, but actually it might be up to three months.
The next week, we learned that actually that was impossible, and that Telstra (as the wholesaler) had no intention of upgrading the exchange, especially as they're now waiting for the rollout of the NBN. Soooo, in fact, iiNet could not offer us ADSL1 at all. And the final guy we spoke with sheepishly offered us mobile broadband, but when we pointed out how poor our reception is on our phones here, he just sort of grimaced and offered us our money back. Seriously.
Finally, we rang Telstra, and a week later we had mobile broadband, which actually comes with an antenna to improve reception, and which is mostly reliable, though it does seem to have mysterious little breaks from the job. The speed isn't great, but we've been on 3G for months now anyway, so what do we know?
Stuart finds a Snake
You'd think, given we arrived three days before the end of winter, that snakes would not be a great concern just yet. And you'd be right if you weren't Stuart, and didn't go sticking your hand up a stormwater pipe to work out what's blocking it down by the home dam. As he tugged on what he initially took to be strong, thick grass, his primal brain started to kick in just as he got the brown snake to the mouth of the pipe – SNAKE!
He let go before the snake's head made it out of the pipe, thankfully, and it slithered back up to what was probably its quiet winter hibernation spot, until the Jonai moved in, that is. An hour later he popped down to see whether it had cleared out, only to find it in striking position just in front of him. He used the shovel to whack it and that was it for the poor old snake, though I'm pretty happy it didn't turn out to be a child or the dog who found it as springtime warms things up.
The story is vastly improved by its epilogue, whereby Atticus takes the snake to school in vinegar in a glass jar, only to drop it as he shows it to his new teacher and classmates (on his third day at the new school, no less). With snake, vinegar and glass all over her classroom floor, Ms G rather graciously suggested that 'next time, perhaps not in a glass jar?'
What does power have to do with water?
We've lost power twice in big storms since we arrived. That in itself is not such a big thing, surely, except that when the power goes, so does the water. We're exclusively on rainwater, and the tank closest to the house has to be pumped in. The second time it happened we went without power for about 17 hours, which led Stuart to work out that if he switched us over to the tank up by the shed it will gravity feed, albeit with low pressure. Phew! No more hauling water in by hand!
Some other farmers on the twitterz commented 'just be glad it didn't happen while you were in the shower!' and recommended keeping the kettle full and a sizeable vessel of water by the back door. Thank you for this excellent advice. :-)
We've been blessed with really lovely neighbours, which has reinforced every stereotype we hold of 'people being friendlier in the country'. But stereotype or not, we really are lucky here. They've already popped 'round for a cup of tea, or to drop off a cake, offer local knowledge and advice about where to get our firewood – in fact one neighbour, half an hour after we met him, left us a note offering us his ute to collect wood if we needed it, saying the 'keys are in it'.
One also told us they already knew all about us, as the woman at the grocery is her good friend and I'd said hello and that we'd have three kids at the school... so she was expecting us at the bus stop that first morning. :-) We don't expect to keep any secrets here...
I know this first post is rather homely and not so farmy, but you can expect much more about the workings of Jonai Farms as we bring in more stock. Our dozen Lowlines have settled in well and Danny Boy is learning not to bark excitedly when they wander over towards the nearest fence. I'll write about the fencing we've done soon to prepare for the pigs, and the many things we've learned from others and from simply doing the work along the way. Our first fertile eggs arrived today – Plymouth Rocks and Auracanas, and we're waiting on Speckled Sussex to arrive shortly.
However, rural life, with all its domestic concerns and delights, will also feature on The Hedonist Life, as we strive to give you some insight into what it's like outside of metropolitan Australia.
I already wrote about the rhythms of our cooking, eating & heating at Jonai Farms over on my food cultures blog, which I'll continue to do.
A note on The Hedonist Life
As we prepared to make this move to Jonai Farms, many people commented on how it reminded them of The Good Life, The Simple Life, or, perhaps more pointedly, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. And indeed I suspect there will be scripts from all such shows just waiting to play themselves out here in Eganstown.
I've written elsewhere about hedonism – about following a pleasure principle whereby one's driving motivation should be to seek pleasure, both for yourself and for others – and your pleasure should not be at the expense of another's. Vegetarians may quibble that because we eat the animals we raise happily, we are contradicting the principle, and I won't deny that the truest form of the principle could really only be vegan.
But for reasons I suspect I will need to write about in the future, we don't believe a vegan diet is necessary, nor naturally the best diet for humans, though reduced meat consumption is. So while we want you to eat our pork, we'd recommend you don't eat it too often, nor any other meat product. Kind of a weird sales pitch, right? We're not in this business to get rich by making the world sick, we're here to make it better. And we are having the loveliest time doing so, hence we reckon we're living The Hedonist Life. Stick around if you're into pleasure.