Rebecca Stewart: Living with the seasons

Rebecca reflects on the changes that come each day on the farm during a new season’s approach

Words: Rebecca Stewart  Images: Summer Stewart

The greening of the landscape is uplifting to the mind, body and soul. It calls you out to its fresh spaces of emerging life and renewed energy. The cold and colourless winter begins to lift away with the first blossoms of the peach and plums, the nodding heads of the daffodils and spanish bluebells. Delicate young growth runs the gauntlet of late frosts, and we watch the soil and the weather to see when the summer crops can be started. Life on the land is living with the seasons and respecting the fact that we are at the mercy of nature. A warm spring week could descend into winter again with the currents of the sky and earth.

But living so close to the land connects you with these rhythms. The gardener notices the subtle changes as life bursts from buds and forces itself up from the earth. The bush dwellers see the change in the birds – their movement and song rejoicing in the growing warmth – the increase in insect life and a time to nest and breed. Farmers watch as the livestock bellies swell, the birthing starts and the pastures green.

We are emerging from a time of feeding out in the gloom and wet into a fresh cycle. Sure, there have been beautiful days, but they lack the brightness of the warm months. The deciduous tree stark and bare against the sky, it is more like a washed-out watercolour painting. New jobs appear, staying on top of the quickly growing weeds, planting the new season’s crops, and watching the stock for any issues on the lush fresh pastures. Babies on the land increase this need for observation while walking the paddocks on a regular basis. We see the thistles and foxgloves send up their heads and add that to the list of must be dealt with before the next generation of seed is set.

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It is this constantly changing environment that adds variety to our lives. Gone are the days of working the same old job with the same old issues, the owning of a seven-day-a-week business where each day is so similar to the next. I don’t miss those days, yet, we still have chores which must be done, responsibilities which do not change, still feel the frustrations of too much to do and the days when the rain puts a stop to outside work. But then I walk outside under the peach tree and marvel at the fat little fruits forming. I see the swallows return from wherever they have been all winter and find the gem-coloured hatched eggshells lying on the ground, thrown from a thrush’s nest somewhere high above.

The Hicks early mulberries in the tunnel house give us our first fresh taste of this season’s berries as the strawberries start to produce underneath it. Tender shoots of asparagus push up from the mulch and I sow more plants as they still can’t keep up with our hunger for them. But the stink bugs and slugs are back in force too, and our garden battles begin again. The harvests will change, and the jobs will too as we move through the year, as we respond to the weather and whatever nature chooses to throw at us this year. But I know that this is how I want to exist, surrounded by life, observing it with the wonder of a child, the appreciation of an adult and living with the seasons.

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Read more about the Stewarts’ life on the land and living with the seasons in their book ‘Life on Fodder Farm – A Journey to Self-Sufficiency’ available at all good bookstores.

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