“Just remember, if you ever want to chop the head off a chicken, first check you’ve sharpened the axe blade,” my husband tells me, his face ashen and his hands shaking. He’d been forced to do “the deed” after our first chicken disposal was deemed too cruel. He’d never killed anything before and he was clearly in shock, but after our previous method was such as a failure, he really had no choice. He couldn’t let this latest chicken suffer anymore.
We were learning the ways of the land at our own pace.
You see, our other chicken “Schnitzel” had been very unwell and we knew it would die a slow death at the beaks of its coopmates. We had to “get rid” of it. We had a discussion and decided if we let it out of the coop overnight, the foxes would come and get it. Its death would be quick and fast. The plan seemed foolproof, until our neighbours alerted us to the fact our chicken was out and we had to “with heads bowed” explain the chicken was spending its last few hours “free”, before it was to meet its chicken maker. Oh, they said quietly and shuffled away to their home to probably do exactly what we were doing – agonise over the cruelty of it all.
But being keepers of the land can be cruel at times.
Needless to say, I did not sleep much that night. Every sound I heard I convinced myself was Schnitzel being stalked and hunted by a big, scary fox. I could feel the chicken’s fear. I could hear its internal dialogue: “Boork, boork. Wow, I’m free from the coop. This. Is. So. Much. Fun. Sucked in Parmi and Roast, I’m free. Boork, boork. Oh, it’s getting dark now. I’m cold. I want to sit on my perch. Brrrr. It’s dark. Boork, it’s freezing, boork. What’s that sound? Oh, shit is that a fox? I’m scared. Boork, boork, booooorrkk!” Silence. Oh man, I still hear that in my head whenever I look at our now empty chicken coop. I still think about that poor chicken every time I see a chicken feather. You see, if you leave a chicken out for the foxes be prepared for the feathers. Thousands of feathers. Everywhere.
What happens on the land, stays on the land.
We don’t discuss that night, nor do we discuss the “blunt axe blade incident”. Let’s just say that after the first ill-fated attempt, the chop was carried out quickly and humanely. And the blade was always sharp.
It’s the lay of the land.
We’ve had lots of chickens. They have all been named after chicken dishes we like to eat. Cacciatore was my favourite. As I type now, our chicken coop is bare. Cleaned out and empty. There are no fresh eggs in the boxes and last week I found myself buying eggs from the supermarket for the first time in years.
It’s now land divided.
For the past three years, we have been trapped in Bureaucracy World, at the mercy of the Council, planners, surveyors, CFS, lawyers and Government Agencies. After many agonising emails, paperwork shuffling, letters and phone calls we have finally broken free from the red tape. We have finally been given the green light and today a For Sale sign was erected on our land. The land we vowed we’d never subdivide. The land we vowed we’d never sell. The land our children have picked plums, apples and collected eggs from. The land my husband and I thought we’d try our hand at being second rate hobby farmers on. First rule of a real farmer – don’t name your chickens. We learnt that one. Second rule, don’t plant more than you can eat unless you plan to sell the fruits of your labour. It’s taken us a few seasons of over enthusiastic zucchini planting to work out that rule. Third rule, blackberries will take over the entire universe if not destroyed.
Ah, but there’s nothing like the fruits of the land.
Soon a For Sale sign will also sit out the front of our House on the Hill. Our idyllic life in the Adelaide Hills are about to come to an end. We are having an inner-city change. The opposite to a tree change. We are taking our kids down the hill in search of the suburban dream. Those who know us, think us a little crazy. Why would we shift to fenced-in yards and swap the sounds of koalas grunting in the night to the sounds of traffic? With three small children we don’t have the time to clear and maintain the land. We don’t have the desire to be hobby farmers anymore. We just want to open the back door, let the kids run around within the confines of the backyard and sit comfortably on our back step, drinking wine and spending time together as a family. Our focus has shifted.
You could call it a shift in the landscape.
Someone will love our House on the Hill, we sure did. Someone will love to walk the paths through the valley and pick blackberries. They’ll lay in the hammock under the gum trees. Someone will put on their warmest coat and huddle in the mist, watching the flames dart in their piled high bombfire. They’ll drink stout and toast marshmallows. They’ll create their own memories.
It’s been a land of plenty.
We’ve been standing on the land looking out at the view and we sit in every room of our house and absorb our past. We have started to wrap our memories in newspaper and store them away in compartments in our brain. One day soon we’ll pack our car and buckle the kids into their car seats and we’ll drive away together. My husband and I will probably cry a little as we cruise along the winding roads for the last time. And then, when we hit the freeway, we’ll high five each other. And we will smile in anticipation of the next stage of our journey together. Wherever we are, that’s home.
We’ll land on our feet. We always do.
It’s always a little sad when one dream is replaced with another, but I’m sure your city life will be just as happy as your hobby farm life was. And you won’t have to worry about sharpening the axe…
Life’s a journey. Sometimes it’s a little sad to leave a place behind, but the excitement of the new is always thrilling!
Happy packing. x
Wonderful post B. I feel sorry for the chook though…. I would not be able to sleep either. Love new adventures in life though – so enjoy! xx
I hope you are moving to my neighbourhood Bianca, I could do with another wine buddy, and I’ll gladly sit on, then fall down, your back step with you.
Good luck with the sale, I’m sure some overwrought yuppie with a shitload of cash will be looking for a treechange, god knows there’s plenty around town.
I’m with you B! I’m ready to leave our own House on the Hill and return to the ‘burbs. Its my ‘natural’ environment. Although where we live is beautiful it just isn’t convenient. I want to walk to school and the shops, play in the local playground at sunset, have friends and neighbours close by. I don’t want to make 1 hour round trips to and from school twice a day.
I wish you all well and hope that you are overwhelmed with generous offers that do justice to the beauty and history of your block.
Enjoy the change!
A new stage, a new adventure – good luck with the selling! (And I’m still in stitches over your chicken names!!)
That was an amazing post B. I feel a little sad for you moving but excited too. Any change after a while is good. And you’re description of the poor chook wondering what the fuck was going on, had me in stitches. Looking forward to following your journey as they say in the reality tv shows. xx
Gorgeous. All of it. Especially the chicken. Kx
Is it wrong that I laughed at the chicken monologue? It is, isn’t it? My inlaws just had to kill their chooks, they’re weren’t very healthy by the end of it so we couldn’t eat them. I can’t wait to hear more about your city-change, Bianca; the goodbyes, the high fives, the lot.
Not at all!! I laughed while I wrote that bit too!! x
Oh crap. Does that mean you will stay and see it through or have you had enough? xx
OMG could you imagine if we lived nearby. We would be drunk all the time!!! Ok, so I do a pretty good job of that by myself – it would be funnier with you there too x
Is it possible to pack happily? You’d know!! It’s so tedious I reckon x
Exciting times! Good luck with it all xx
Ah… so bitter sweet but change comes whether we will it or no. I hope the move will not only be a successful one but also a very happy one.
No, No it is not possible to pack happily. I was hoping if I typed it we might both believe it.
Good lord. Blunt blade incident. I have never lopped the head of a chook. However one of the girls at work recently told me that she has a rooster (she lives in the Darwin rural area). She hated the rooster, but tolerated it. It wasn’t until the rooster attacked her little girl that she realised how easy it was to bring herself to kill an animal… urgghh
I can picture you roaming your hill house and packing it in newspaper memories. Loved this post.
What a lovely piece of memory you have written for your kids to remember where they began their little lives…chopped chooks and all. When you land just make sure you don’t spill any of the wine/beer/stout. Wishing you well Ms Bianca xx
Gorgeous blog! Good luck with the next step in your big adventure. xxx
As my grandmother would say “You certainly have a way with words”
Am in the middle of the big SALE/PACK/RELOCATE myself …. and if I could just get past the bit where it’s doing my head in, I might just get a little excited too!
Goodluck – looking forward to seeing where the story goes……
Mt H wants your place I am sure, but form the same reasons you mention, we need to hang in suburbia. Those fences allow us both restrictions and freedom. A hard choice for everyone.
what a brilliant post… who knew tales of a chicken’s demise could be so damn funny.
I love your family’s approach to this… whever you are all together is home. I have a similar attitude with my little brood. Well done on the sale… bring on inner city Adelaide x
OK finally read this in full! I hope you enjoy your reverse tree change. I’m sure that city living will be a lot easier with the small kids, especially because as they get older apparently you have to get them to more and more things courtesy of school being dead keen on extracurricular activities, dammit! There’ll be another House on a Hill if you want one, I’m sure.
I hear you on this one. 3 under 5 is hard work, doesn’t leave much time for anything else. While we aren’t on a farm, we have a 2/3 acre block of landscaped gardens with a pool. Everyone says how lucky we are – they don’t have to weed, mow, and prune their weekends away. Don’t even get me started on how much of a pain in the ass the pool is.
Having it all is sometimes a bit much – with a young family, it’s far more important to have time to spend with each other just being, rather than doing.
You can always have your tree change when your kids are older. The country is not going anywhere. Good luck with the sale!
What a beautiful post, hon. I started feeling anxious when you were talking about leaving your home for the last time, so I can only imagine how you feel!
But it will be a good thing.
I’m looking forward to reading about the packing, the moving, the new home. 😉 xxx
love ready your blog when i get the time! hope all goes well with your move to the burb’s.
Great post. I’d never have the guts to kill my own chicken. I do like the idea of fresh eggs though, and having been babysitter to laying hens, did enjoy the experience of collecting & eating eggs fresh from the hen, and not out of a box.
You know we had a similiar experience in that we moved from Sydney to Brisbane and acerage in certainly a tree change. WE NEEDED earth under our feet after years of apartment city living. All was great, and we started our little family, but two children later, and many hours driving to get anywhere, and the commute for my husband, the work/life balance was out of whack badly! We moved to suburbia, and we love the train being close by, cafes, restaurants, a 20 minute drive to the museum, walking to the library, art/sewing classes also walking or close driving distance… it’s been a very successful move! We love these urban delights. Work/life balance is much easier with travel commutes, and garden maintenance. So good luck with your sale, and I’ve no doubt you’ll get a kick out of the close proximity of a paper and latte. We did!
(That said always having beaches I’m missing those in Brissie quite badly!). Yay for me – longest comment award!
Oh my I cried, I think i love your farm on the hill too, I hope you have made a good choice, Its not like moving into the sydney suburbs i’d imagine, down in Adelaide, You never move to the suburbs in sydney if you had the choice, what a rat race .We are moving further out all the time… Poor chicken. Good Luck.
So vivid! I could see it all in technicolor. Could this become a children’s book – Schnitzel’s Last Squawk perhaps?
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