Walking in the forest on an autumn afternoon. The gentle sun filters through every crack and bug-eaten leaf. It is a lesson in shadow and light, in life and decay. Underfoot the crunch of leaves, the snap of sticks, the remains of a dead fox or two, the slow gurgle of the river. The forest is a hidden world, sheltered from the wind, and creaking with willow limbs, oak, elm, holly, hawthorn. Foreign and familiar. Stooping down we see the tiny cyclamens blooming in lilac magnificence, mossy stumps and spider threads. Three boys and a man sit perched in a high up branch. I hear them laughing as I pack my camera away and feel the dappled light on my face //
Twelve years growing a marriage and most of those spent learning how to farm regeneratively and raise little men, rising at dawn and retiring long after the sun has set. Not a day passes without a hearty conversation between us, and that's the privilege of living with your best friend; of sharing the best and worst of your selves and still feeling safe enough, loved enough to keep at it. We have gathered twelve years in our hands; seasons of comfort and difficulty, of joy and anticipation, of drought and abundance, of adventure and mundane life, gritty and awful, faithful, golden loveliness. We have worked hard to understand each other better, to listen, to hold carefully a thing that sometimes feels overwhelming fragile, or momentarily obscured. We are still leaning how to rest, to nurture what's separate, to invigorate the mingling. Marriage is play too, ridiculous and sweet. To grow a life together is not always to agree or know the way forward but to know you belong beside each other and that's enough. The path ahead is glittering faintly, and we're bound to fall short, to disappoint and delight, but there's promise too. So much goodness yet to come //
"To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before--
The miniature gaiety of seasides."
-Philip Larkin, To the Sea
We returned last week from our holiday by the seaside. Our first time off the farm as a family for more than four years. We sunk our feet and hands into the warm sand. We felt the cold rush of salt water over our bodies. We caught waves and watched tides come in and out. We explored rock pools and gathered seaweed. We found shells of many colours and sizes and sometimes ones with little whelk residents still inside. We watched the clouds roll and the water froth. We listened to the birds chattering in the gum trees. We walked under coastal teatree and huge banksia trees and flowering bottlebrush. We read books in bed and in the park and on the beach. We caught a ferry and saw a giant petrel take flight. We squished moon snail egg sacks in our hands and bought fresh squid from the market. A seal swam under our feet on the pier. We made a sand octopus and many a sand castle. We ate fish and chips too. We delighted again and agin in the gifts from the sea //
November has arrived with all her flowers and sunshine and birthday celebration! It's still sinking in that my youngest baby is now a five year old. He is such a jolly, passionate, theatrical and tender fellow. He requested a white chocolate cake with whipped cream and French-style coffee buttercream icing and a sloth on the top.
Meanwhile the garden is bursting with colour, leaf and bloom - white foxgloves with little speckles of deep purple, yellow irises, red valerian, white daisies, roses and lavender beckoning all the bees. I recently acquired some beautiful Liberty of London fabric - cotton lawn sprigged liberally with flowers - it will be like wearing my November garden around on my chest //
I want to remember the afternoon in the spring holidays we went out for a walk, my three boys and I. We walked, rode and scootered to the cattle yards. They humoured me as they played, holding still long enough for me to take their portraits. And it's in seeing their faces captured that I realise how beautifully grown they are, these three boys of mine. I want to remember the blue September sky, the growth of new leaves on the trees, the grass soft and green, the fine spider webs in the gorse bush. I want to remember the sounds of birds and the the cattle grazing the river flats, the sight of children rambling back home, this beautiful place, our home of more than two years.
This week we celebrated Beren's sixth birthday. A fellow April, autumn baby, he is full of wonder for creatures big and small, adventure stories, board games, jumping on the trampoline, space and lego. He is learning to read and do sums in his head, scrub the dishes and write words, not to mention loosing those baby teeth left, right and centre! He is passionate and tender, quick to make friends wherever we go, giver of big cuddles and asker of curious questions // It was extra special to celebrate his birthday dinner with two sets of grandparents present as last year we couldn't see them! He requested "a chocolate six cake with raspberries and eggs".
God bless all your days Bear xx
So many things made Christmas feel special this year: waking up with my sister and a dear friend to celebrate with us // Filling the house with flowers from the garden: feverfew, smoke bush, hydrangeas, valerian, lavender, dahlias and nasturtiums // Feasting on so many delicious things like ricotta pancakes for breakfast, trout gravlax Alex prepared, creamy potato salad with homegrown dill, rosemary crackers the boys helped me make with the best local pate, pavlova adorned with fresh fruit, cherries and roasted peanuts in their shells // Spending the afternoon outside in the mild summer air napping, playing games and reading books // Watching the house grow dark and quiet after all the excitement and intensity of the day // Lighting all the advent candles and saying a payer of thanksgiving for the Christchild and all the gifts He brings...
"His eyes can read the animal atmosphere;
And see through their silence to sense their minds.
His skilled hands can guide calves and lambs to birth.
Out among his animals, in rain, cold and snow,
Talking to them in affectionate callings,
Something in him turned to their rhythm.
In these times when geography becomes virtual
And developers urbanise the earth
May the farmer continue to hold true ground,
Keeping the intimate knowing of the clay alive,
Nourishing us with the fruits of the earth,
Serving as custodian of that precious threshold where
The rhythm of nature with its serene pulse
And sublime patience restores our minds."
From John O'Donohue's blessing "For the farmer"
We've been farming for seven years this month. Alex and I have known each other longer in the world of dirt, chickens, bees, cows, eggs, poo, grasses, farmers markets and small children longer than anything else. We wear the lines and strain of seven years fumbling, experimenting, learning how to grow food: care for creature, root and worm.
Seven years studded with wonder and provision, fatigue and injury. Seven years of benefiting from the wisdom - the loving - of others: local farmers young and old, educators, writers, activists, friends, family, customers, neighbours, strangers.
Overwhelmed for seven years with the state of our world; our earth; our tables, our hearts. Remembering good things are worth fighting for: worth the time and sacrifice; that there's more than just ourselves; that we must remain curious; that we are made to know place; we are made for regeneration.
Farming is a profession of hope. But then, isn't all seed planting? Growing a garden, yes, but also teaching, learning, making with your hands, parenting, healing, understanding differences, finding common ground, forgiving, beginning again.
down by the river
three boys fishing
long sticks make rods
a jetty of fallen logs
it's a hiding place they tell me
a mossy, lichen-licked place
a spongey, prone to crumbling maze
of willow stripped bare
and soon I feel stripped of cares
rinsed of the day,
in this golden, shimmering space
awake suddenly to a slower pace:
three boys, now bouncing
on a fallen tree,
frog calls, and the soft ripple of grass
magpies overhead "we need to find the secrets"
I hear them say,
"the secrets of the world"
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...