belonging place

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“In belonging to a landscape, one feels a rightness, an at-homeness, a knitting of self and world…”, Scott Russell Sanders

24 thoughts on “belonging place

  1. That looks beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. Love the homestead.

    What’s agistment? I love the idea of it being a refuge. Sad to lose such a beautiful family home – but so nice to see it getting a new lease of life in a different way.


    1. The whole refuge-menagerie thing appeals to me too. The owner is “horsey” and agists (keeps) other peoples’ horses in her paddocks in return for $$$.


      1. One of the things we wanted to do when we moved to Spain but it never happened. well, apart from rescuing Pippa off the street of course 😀 Better one rescued animal than none I guess.


  2. Earlier this week a gentleman from New York City and myself were discussing our youth and what we did with it. Strangely we agreed that in the farming area that i grew up in you could go a long way with a bicyle and a summer day and in the big city where he grew up it was a summer day and two subway tokens… one to go and one to come back. During the discussion we discovered that although the base experiences, rural vs city, were totally different our drive and motivation was almost exactly the same. frequently driven by a mother whose first words in the morning were, “get out of the house.” As you look at things from your past you see a different world and perhaps the most interesting things you see are those that you can no longer see because they have disappeared.. I can remember material things perfectly up to age 12 and then there is this seemingly large blank space until around age 30 where with few exceptions the only things I remember are social and emotional. No the material/place memories comfort me and the emotional ones tend to haunt me. Such is life I guess


    1. Thank you – excellent point. The past is a different place, and has many aspects to it. The world also was a different place even a few decades ago & I too remember being told there were better places for me to be than inside the house! I love the idea of being able to go along way with a bicycle & summer day, but being a country kid also was fascinated by ability of city people to access so much so near.


  3. I too grew up in the country, although we didn’t really have a farm per sey. We did have horses, ponies, and a few cows that roamed the mountain pastures. Of course there were dogs and cats, too. My father planted a huge family garden every year, and my mother canned food for the winter. I remember my childhood days fondly. Unlike your childhood homestead, where thankfully, your house still remains, my childhood home burned in 1980. I remember the date, because John Lennon was murdered the following week, and I was pregnant with my youngest child. The new owners rebuilt a new house on the foundation of the old home, but it was no where near the same. It is so wonderful of you to share your youth with us. Your photos are stunning, as is Australia. Thank your for tour of your childhood farm. It’s been a delight traveling back in time with you. 🙂


    1. Thank you – I’m glad you have those lovely memories. When I roam through the rooms & garden in my mind’s eye & heart Oakleigh is as it was in my childhood. What I love is when I drive out there and look around I get an indesribable sense of peace & connection with the landscape.


  4. What beautiful terrain. I am one who tends to stick close to home, and likes to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city-life, but this is a place I would retreat to as needed. That flat, open land simply beckons to be padded across barefoot and carefree.


    ~ Cara


    1. It indeed would be a lovely retreat, and I did a lot of carefree walking across the paddocks, not barefoot though & in summer with an eye out for snakes!


    1. That would be lovely. We are very fortunate the owners of Oakleigh have always understood & kindly entertained my family’s connection with the property and made us welcome. They went to quite an effort o research the history & dig up old photos. At one time I would have loved to buy it myself but rural property is quite expensive, plus all the costs & work that comes with it, and it’s not near the beach… I’m happy every time I go there & see what they do & how much they love it. I think these people will be there for a long time 🙂


  5. Thank you for sharing a “growing-up part” of your life. I was always a small town girl but now wish I had a place like Oakleigh to retire to. And I cannot stop myself from saying this: Your pig looks like she eats more than her portian of desserts (sorry!)…


    1. Thank you – funny. Portia would have eaten every dessert on the table. I love it when I get an opportunity to visit her 🙂 I’d like somewhere like Oakleigh to retire to also (but near the beach). However, even small farms are a lot of work & expensive to buy & run. The owner of Oakleigh works a full time job in town & does heaps of community work – she’s a busy woman.


  6. Being able to maintain an ‘indesribable sense of peace & connection with the landscape’ is amazing, especially as it no longer belongs directly to your family.Not all of us are able to deal with loss of place in such a mature way and still feel or remain connected. I guess having welcoming new owners who appreciate the history helps. Life and generations move on. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks.


    1. Thank you for you insightful comment- you are right. I guess I was too young to have a sense of ownership, only belonging. I can tell you though my 9 year old self was not happy that our farm was sold, not to strangers but to a neighbour not well liked who bought it cheap because he could and then neglected it 😦 Subsequent owners who have loved and cared for the farm are the saving grace 🙂


      1. A helpful way to view the world….makes one feel land-wealthy….although there are some places I would rather not be associated with – but then ownership comes with responsibility….


  7. Although you think the homestead might be a little frivolous for your grandparents – I bet they would be pleased that the current owners cherish the land and are good stewards. Not the working farm of the past, but home to happy animals and people – and you get to visit. It’s just beautiful there.


  8. Thank you. We’re very fortunate the farm passed from the neighbour who bought it from us to a succession of owners who truly valued it, and especially the current owner who made so much effort to investigate & celebrate its heritage. The centenary was a truly wonderful country occasion and had an atmosphere that took me back to my childhood, plus although it was a very cold July day many were dressed in costume, and the welcoming “committee” was a dapper man resplendant in a smoking gown & cravat bearing trays with glasses of sparkling!


  9. I absolutely love the idea that a part of you can always be in a place, and vice versa. And as someone that works with young children, I truly believe that our life-long personalities and perspectives are shaped by our experiences in those first five or so years. What a wonderful place to be “knitted to the world” in …



    1. Thank you, I like “knitted to the world”. It’s an analogy you could take along way. From my brief (so far) visit to your blog you do have a marvellous opportunity to shape lives, old & young.


Comments welcome

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.