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Published Feature Stories

GRASS, GOATS AND A GRAND-DAD.
by Leigh Dome.

A candid look at living in the country by Leigh Dome.

Little did we know when we bought our twelve acre property in the Turitea Valley seven years ago that grass, goats and a grand-dad would play such pivotal roles in our new lifestyle.

Let me go back to the beginning.

My husband and I had decided inner city living was getting a little claustrophobic and began looking for an existing house on a ‘bit of land’.

It hadn’t occurred to us to build a home but once we had seen the north facing property in the Valley, we were hooked.

The eleven acres of baby pine trees and a building platform that overlooked the city lights was perfect. It took six months to build our home aptly named Dome on the Range but at least five years to do something serious with the landscaping.

Living on a lifestyle block is idyllic. The rumble of traffic and sounds of suburbia are replaced by birdsong and tranquillity. Unwelcome visitors don’t just stop by for a cuppa (the locked gate sees to that!) and you are not at the mercy of your neighbour’s lawnmower or musical tastes.

For all its advantages, living in the country does however have some drawbacks. Establishing and maintaining a garden are two of them.

Don’t get me wrong I love wandering around gardens and I even get to do so for the benefit of this column on occasion. However, I have never been enthusiastic enough to spend a serious amount of time in mine.

Nothing about a country garden is on a small scale. Unlike city gardens you can’t just decide to spend a Sunday afternoon pottering about the back yard.

When it comes to landscaping you are using words like bobcat, mini digger and grader in the same sentence. When it comes to buying plants to fill the garden you have created you are ordering dozens not pairs. Then there are the hungry rabbits, hares and possums to deal with.

It was about two years ago that everything changed - no I’m not talking about the goats - they came later. I’m talking about my Dad.

For the first five years as lifestyle blockers, Dad had silently watched our half hearted gardening efforts at Dome on the Range. When he couldn’t bear it any longer he offered to take on the onerous task of taming our acre of haphazard wilderness garden. We were delighted and promptly agreed on suitable recompense and so the work began.

In his early seventies, my Dad is no spring chicken but he would put the rest of us ‘forty-somethings’ to shame with his energy, enthusiasm and stamina.

Retaining walls, planter boxes and garden steps appeared before our eyes, made with the dead-eyed accuracy of a tradesman.

The gardens began taking shape and flourished when they were finally relieved of the weeds we had been so carefully propagating.

The lawn and surrounding green space was also flourishing – a little too well.

That’s when we decided to invest in a goat. A ready-made, low maintenance, grass eating machine seemed the perfect solution.

Dad’s duties had expanded from being a gardener cum jack of all trades to include those of a ‘gamekeeper’.

Harriet (the goat) seemed happy enough with her vocation and accommodation – an A frame corrugated iron design, artfully painted forest green, no less.

Sadly, as can happen in the country Harriet met with an unfortunate end. A similar fate befell her successor Molly – I won’t go into details but will say I have developed a healthy respect for the efficient digestive system of those gentle creatures. The amount of grass they can consume in a short period of time is nothing short of miraculous.

We haven’t yet replaced Molly. We think word might have gotten around the goat community of how dangerous (if not lethal) it is to be a goat at Dome on the Range.

In the meantime the grass still grows and with spring on the horizon there is nothing else for it - my dear, reliable Dad will be spending a few extra hours on the ‘weed-eater’. Thanks Dad!

End.

© leighdome

Published: Tribune Aug04.