Dadinating the Country Side

The Trials and Tribulations of Living the Dream

Time has passed

The day before last our rooster, named Nero, started to crow.Yes his name is Nero, our flock has an interesting assortment of names. Nero is the rooster, the hens are: Raspberry, Octavia, Livia, Peppa and the other one. Can’t remember her name, but she looks a lot like Peppa, and I think The Lass wanted to call her, ummm…. it’s on the tip of my tongue… Nup it’s gone. Let’s just call her the other one that looks like Peppa (and probably is Peppa half the time).

But Nero is crowing. He’s crossed the threshold. He is a cock (tee hee hee).  I don’t know if this marks some kind of magical transition in his growth. Has he completed a rite of passage? Is he ready to be accepted into roosterhood (was soooo tempted to say cockhood then….)?

In some ways yes, he’s passed a point of no return. He can crow, 4 days ago he could not. But, really, what has changed? He’s not grown particularly. He’s still got the same character. He was still very much the rooster before he started doing this. Months of growth from egg to rooster has gone into it, why does crowing seem so significant? Is it actually?

There’s been other things happening suddenly at home too, it’s not all cock-a-doodle-doo. Over the past 2 days we’ve ploughed furrows and I’ve put down some irrigation pipe to put in a drip system to water both 3 long vegetable beds and our fruit trees. I remember when we put our trees in, it was a few days of frenetic activity after months and months – in fact over a year – of waiting to get the project going. Then suddenly it all happened very very fast. 18 trees planted out. We’ve lost 3 of them so far – 2 citrus  which we knew weren’t going to work, but tried anyway, and one cherry tree which we think we just got unlucky with.


Ploughing fields like a boss.

Just add water!

Just add water!

The same thing is happening with the vegetable beds. Suddenly they exist. In addition the wicking beds that have sat empty for almost a year are suddenly full, ready to take seeds and start to grow food. I’ve also hoed out what we’re going to use as a pumpkin patch. We have seeds which we are germinating, we are hopeful we might be able to plant things without killing them this time (although we lost a batch of newly sprouted tomato plants to frost one night because we left them out, whoops….)

It’s taken 3 years. It hasn’t been 3 years of waiting around, twiddling thumbs and faffing. It’s been 3 years of clearing out some trees, raising 2 children and learning how to do things we haven’t done before. It’s been 3 years of raising chickens, building a run and a house, digging out a sandpit, putting in swings and a trampoline and organising ourselves.  3 years trying to live simply and sustainably.

But it feels like things are coming to a head, I might be wrong about that, but it’s a feeling I’ve got.

It takes time to set up something like this. It takes time to do things, to make the mistakes you need to make so you can learn the lessons you need to learn. It takes time to repair the damage kids can do to a garden. It takes time to wait for the big things to happen.

And then they happen at once. The rooster crows. The first teeth emerge. The peach tree blossoms. The baby walks. The first eggs. The first words. The first leaves of parsley from your own bush. The first cuddles.

All of these things take time to happen, but then they all seem to happen at once.

I’ve done so many things in the past 3 years I had never done before. I’ve felled (small) trees, split wood, built a (not very strong) fence. I’ve put timber posts in the ground, I’ve used a rotary hoe, I’ve ridden a ride-on mower. I’ve put together watering pipe, I’ve brewed beer, I’ve made (and killed) a sourdough starter. I’ve built a chicken house out of forklift pallets, I’ve dug out a sandpit, I’ve set up a trampoline, a swing set and slides. I’ve helped my son up a tree. I’ve taught my daughter how to hold a chicken.


He looks calm. In reality he was trying to stomp on bees….

Everything takes longer than it used too. Sure it’s partly the kids, but we’re enjoying the processes of life more. Cooking, gardening, brewing beer, feeding Maramduke the sour dough starter (Gregory met an untimely end…)

Maybe it’s just because spring is in the air, but it’s worth thinking about what we’ve done, about what work has gone into getting that rooster to crow. Understanding that, while we have these moments where things seem to change, it takes time and work to get there.


“Schowi schowi schowi” she said with a look in her eyes that would get her off war crimes charges. I sigh and forgive her instantly because her big brown eyes melt me instantly.

“That’s okay baby girl, remember dad has a sore knee right now?”. She kisses it better, and I wince. It’s a bit tender.

It is not her fault, she’s 2 (just) and it isn’t easy to get her to remember things like this. It’s not my fault either, too much keenness in a staff student footy match on the second last day of term, coupled with too much age in my knees, and ouch. Dad’s hobbling.

” grsssthhhfffttt ow!” I exclaim suddenly, and remove her from the same knee.

“Schowi schowi schowi!” Comes the earnest and completely genuine reply.  After another 3 rounds I begin to understand just how long a morning  it is going to be.

I haven’t explained myself.

It was the second last day of term and a colleague of mine had set up a staff/student football match. I was in the left-wing, charging towards an open ball but it didn’t stay open for long. . I dived (fallen) hard at the ball (over on the slippery grass) and suddenly the game had changed to stacks on. I’m sure it looked fantastic. In amongst that I gave my left knee a hard knock, and I thought I might have heard a “pop” or I might have made that up… I can’t remember. But it hurt a bit.

I played on, and it hurt a bit more. I sat down, and it hurt a bit more. I went to sleep, and it…

Well, by the time I woke up I was having trouble moving it at all. In the process of cooling down my knee had swollen -not hideously, but visibly – and had stiffened up considerably. I had trouble sleeping, trouble moving out of the bed and a lot of trouble walking around. But my dear angelic children didn’t quite understand that.

Which left me where I was in the morning.

“Schowi, Schowi, Schowi”


When injuries strike you as a parent, expect no sympathy. No empathy. No understanding. No common sense. No ability to remember the details of your injury. Expect no ability to remember or regard your limitations while injured. You may as well say “Daddy has a sore knee, so you have to be careful with him at the moment” to the vacuum cleaner, as to a 2 year old.

Expect no let up in the demands they place on you. They’ll still want to be dangled upside down, to jump on you like a trampoline, they expect you to carry them in one arm while the other arm makes breakfast, they expect you to catch them, run after them and bounce on the trampoline with them.

And you have to explain again and again and again that you can’t do it all right now.

Of course it could be worse… The Mamanator broke her little toe the other week. I’m not even kidding, stubbed it on the leg of a bench at an indoor play centre. Sure those places are kid safe, but adult safe? Anyway her injury was several times more severe, and was similarly disregarded by the kids. They were not able to process the thought that mum might not be invulnerable.

That’s the crux of it. When they’re small children expect their parents to be all-powerful, all-knowing, strong, and basically invincible. They can be the most unforgiving little things.

And yet. My boy is almost 4, he wanted to go on the trampoline with me today, it’s about 10 days later and the knee is much better, but still not 100%.

“Dad, is your knee better?” he asked before asking me to join him on the trampoline. I answered him honestly “It’s still not completely better”.

“Can you come on the trampoline with me still?”

“Yes, but I can’t bounce too high”.

It had sunk in, and I was grateful. There is some hope that my girl, at 2, will develop a sense of consideration for others, and an understanding that mum and dad are not always 100%.

Of course should one of my children suffer the horrible injustice of, say, a stone in their shoe. Well. They just cannot go on facing such a painful impediment. The world around them has to stop and they need to be given time to have first aid (a kiss better), recover from the injuries (a second kiss better, or a kiss in the right spot), debrief about the trauma (being told over and over again that there was a stone in their shoe) and celebrate the recovery (All better! times 100).. And All that can take a serious amount of time.

The scales are never evenly weighted, but that’s just the way it is. Suffice to say recovery from any injury can take a little longer when the kids are around. For you because you don’t get a chance to rest. For them because what’s the good of an injury if you don’t milk it for a while?

Dad, What is a Strong Man?


My grandfather knew what it was to be strong. To be strong was to fight Hitler, to win a war that threatened the survival of his nation. To be strong he had to work hard, to get on with his life and to persevere through rationing, through poverty and through all the trials life threw at him. To be strong he had to be a man. To be strong he had to push the nightmares down. Dismiss the flashbacks. Ignore the screams that he heard in his sleep, the sweats, the panic and the anger. To be strong he had to be firm with his children, teach them right from wrong and discipline them.

My father knew what it was to be strong. To be strong was to come from nothing, to work hard and make your own way. To be strong was to travel to a new country while still a teenager, to travel across it working and building the Australia we knew today. To be strong was to give your children more than you ever could have dreamed of having. To be strong was to forget the blows you received, to forget the connection you missed and forge on. To get on with it and to work on improving your lot. To be strong was to be successful, to be the best at your job, to work hard. You had to give your children every opportunity, to make sure they didn’t waste it and make sure they never had to suffer as you once did.

I have not had to struggle the way my forebears had and I lived off the spoils they reaped from their hard work. I still work hard and make sacrifices for my children. I still try to give them the best of everything, and the best of myself. I still try to guide them to teach right from wrong. I stand side by side with my wife, as a partnership in our family. I hold my children, cuddle them, talk to then, nurture them. I change nappies, I sing songs, I read stories, I run baths, I play, I jump, I bounce. I say “I love you” every day, sometimes every minute.

But I don’t know what it is to be strong. I have struggled. I have cried. I have lost my cool at my children, and vowed to do better. I have asked for help, I have sought strength from others around me. I have admitted my mistakes, tried to make up for them and have done my utmost to spend every second I can with my children.

Men want to be strong, we try to be strong, we are told to be strong.

But I don’t know what it is to be strong. I look back on the strength of my father, the strength of my grandfather and I wonder, did they know themselves what it was to be strong? Did they really know?

Can you cry to your wife, admit your failure, admit your struggles and still be strong? Can you turn to other men, fathers and friends and say “I’m not okay right now, can I talk to you?” and still be strong? Can you talk to a psychiatrist in a room about yourself, about your anxieties, stresses and worries because you need help – and still be strong?

I think you can.

I want my son to have strength. I want him to try his hardest, to overcome adversity and to forge through life pursuing his dreams. I want him to have resilience and perseverance. I want him to be himself.

I want him to have other kinds of strength also. I want him to admit his mistakes and learn from them. I want him to reach out for help when he needs it. I want him to tell me if he is hurt, angry or sad. I want him to lend his strength to others when they need him.

Strength doesn’t mean invulnerability. Strength doesn’t mean dominance. Strength doesn’t mean control. These ideals of strength have harmed countless men, women and children through the years.

Strength doesn’t mean trying to be strong all the time, and I want my son to be strong enough to realise that, most of all.

This article written for – a resource challenging attitudes and behaviours that support violence.


I was up last night working on a post. It was a life-defining post about growing up, maturity and a coming of age. I thought about writing to my 20-year-old self. I thought about writing about how fatherhood makes you grow up and regress at the same time. I thought about writing about the best laid plans….

Then The Lad came in to our bed, he’d seen another monster, and wanted cuddles.

Then I thought bugger it I’ll just write about my day toda.y

I turned 35 today. I am now closer to 40 than 30. And I don’t care, because had a lovely day.

It started with my daughter giving me cuddles in bed while my son clung to me. Both kids were in bed with  us, as usual. My son was snuggled, safe next to me, my daughter between The Mamanator and I. She was awake, and cuddling me – or should I say “cuggling” me. Plus I got lots of kisses. It culminated in this exchange:

The Lass: “Daddy I love you.”
Me: “Can I have a cuddle?”
The Lass: “Yeah! Mmmmmmwha!”
Me: “You’re a sweet girl”
The Lass: “Now… GET OUT!”

And that was that, time to get up I suppose.

We relaxed, ground coffee, read books and left The Lad and The Mamanator to sleep in.

Coffee Grinding

Doing a “good job”. Not grinding anything, but having fun.

Grinding coffee with her is an interesting game of taking turns where the objective is for me to take the longest turns possible, while limiting The Lass to tiny turns, because she turns the grinder handle the wrong way and grinds nothing when it is her go. So I took a lot of turns.

After a while The Lad and The Mamanator arose and we discussed options while the children watched their Saturday Morning dose of the idiot box, it’s a weekend thing. Meanwhile I mentally prepared myself to make pancakes, without doing any real work. Saturday pancakes is a thing in our house, I’ve done plain ones, buckwheat ones, buttermilk ones, sour dough ones, blueberry ones, apple ones, coconut ones and probably a bunch of others I can’t remember. This morning, however, we made alternative plans.

I also unveiled my birthday present:


I have stood in the kitchen and read this out loud too many times already…

Which was amazing. Star trek, craft and tea mixed into one! I love it, and I love that she made it for me.

We had some work to do first. There was washing to hang, and an attack of the “hangries” (Hungry-angries) to stave off with an application of rice cakes and yeast extract spread.

Dirty face


I tried to clean that face, she ran off, fell over and caught the corner of the peg basket on her top lip… Here is the offending container.

The Evil Peg Basket



But once that was done and fixed up, and after we’d engaged in the standard 5 minute argument with the kids over wearing shoes, we were off to “Dss Kaffeehause” in Castlemaine. And it was glorious, although the kids were distracted, and The Lad did try to climb a wall, pat a lot of random dogs and go up and introduce himself to a few random strangers. We also used the parentism “inside voice” with him a lot, but his behaviour was actually pretty good. There was no grumpiness, no rudeness and no unreasonable demands. And the food was pretty good too….

I did eat more than cake, but I didn’t take the chance to foodstagram it. I just ate it…..

Afterwards the kids went with The Mamanator to play in the Botanic Gardens while I went shopping for my own birthday picnic! PICNIC! (At home).

We got home, kids rested (I did too), and we got organised.

awake and ready for action

Awake and ready for action.

Picnic was cheese, bread, dip, salad, olives, meats and all that. I discovered that along with olives, taramasalata and anchovies my dear daughter is also a fan of brie. She has good taste….



mmmmm brie....

mmmmm brie….

Then it was cake time. There was “happy birthday” and candles. I must point out that The Mamanator was over apologetic to me for not baking me a cake this year (we usually do eachothers), but she had the lurgy, and thought that lurgy cake would not be the best cake. The kids demolished it, with a fair bit of help from me….


The Lad. Destroyer of cake.


I’m sure she can make that fit in her mouth….

And then it was play time. Play play play. We bounced on the trampoline, debated the merits of shoes and tried to ask The Lad to go to a tree if he had to do a wee. We played games with bouncy balls, fell over a lot and played a form of stacks on. We sung ring-a-ring-a-rosie 20 times, and then we did some gardening. Shovelling dirt (my daughter loves her dirt), filling wicking beds and talking about future plans for gardens, food and self-reliance.

Dinner was pizza toasties because we’d all eaten enough, followed by supper of baklava (because it’s my birthday dammit!) once the kids were in bed.

And now I am tired, happy and feeling blessed.

Happy frickin birthday to me.

PS: I took a series of photos in which The Lass looks, well, less than sober for some reason…. 21st photos all:

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I am already looking back on photos and pining over your smaller days. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand where 2 years went. I don’t understand where the baby stopped and this little personality, this walking talking reasoning girl who is fiercely sweet and who loves with the fury of a hurricane began.

When did you become so self-assured, so confident and so big. I don’t just mean your size, although that’s part of it, I mean your personality. You ability to suck the gaze of a room towards yourself, smile in a coy way and start dancing.

Do you remember being shy? I’ve almost forgotten it myself. Do you remember a time before you insisted that you do everything yourself, for yourself and by yourself? Okay, that last one doesn’t always apply…

Do you remember the time before we tied your hair back? Or before it was so long you could chew on it? Do you remember before your obsession with hair ties, head bands and plaits?

Do you remember the tears. The times dad let you down, the times I looked away and you’d jammed your hand in the drawer in the kitchen, again. Do you remember the times the chicken’s expressed their displeasure with you and beat you with wings, or even pecked at you with pointy beaks. Do you remember falling. Do you remember when your teeth came through and you were grizzly, grumpy and inconsolable?

And now. Now you smile, you sing, you dance. You insist that you are Thomas, I am “Sir” (which you pronounce “Shir” as though slightly drink), your brother is Gordon and your mum us “The Queen”. You dance at the end of every bath. You sing to yourself during every car trip. You speak to us, you teach us and you love us.

Today you are two. It seems so young, but I remember you when you were younger. And when this whole phase of your life moulds and fuses into a single pile of molten slag in my head, I hope I can still remember the odd specific, because they are all so beautiful.

Happy Birthday darling girl. Keep making me work for it.


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