The first 7 years of our lives are said to be the foundation upon which our entire being is built. We absorb & develop more in those years than ever again in our lifetime. My grandparent’s farm “Oakleigh” is where I spent most of my first 7 years and where I assimilated family, love, loss, identity and home. Part of my spirit will always be there. When I return it’s waiting and we become whole for a time.
Oakleigh came about when it was detached from the original property “Ripley”, still held by our cousins. The property came to our immediate family when my Pa was a toddler. Dad, who has a way of turning a phrase, says he remembers the “old people”, who would be his grandparents, living there when he was a boy.
Since 1974 when Pa died and Oakleigh left our hands, the property had a succession of owners & a few instances of neglect but when I visited on a couple of occasions over the years, the owners were invariably welcoming. Each made changes but much remains the same.
Last year my family were fortunate to attend the centenary celebrations for the property renamed “Oakleigh Park” by the current owner.
In my grandparents’ time Oakleigh was a dairy/beef farm. We had an orchard, chooks, working dogs, outside cats, cows, briefly a blue budgie, and as did many properties in the district, a tennis court for recreation.
Oakleigh Park’s current incarnation is agistment-animal refuge-menagerie lodging a multitude & variety of horses, cats and dogs (inside & out), donkeys, pigs, sheep, cows, chooks, rabbits, birds, sheds around a shambolic house & garden – the entire package a little frivolous for my practical farming grandparents, I’d say.
For me it’s wonderful for Oakleigh Park after years of farming graft to indulge unconventional but caring owners and vibrant life. During the centenary celebrations I had free range to wander & pat, so I turned back the clock and allowed EllaDee’s 6 year old self do her thing. She also had free run at the dessert table but showed her true years by only managing a single plate, and sharing with Portia.
“In belonging to a landscape, one feels a rightness, an at-homeness, a knitting of self and world…”, Scott Russell Sanders