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HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: It's been 3 months since we moved our family to the country. Here's what we've learned.

The timing was a complete fluke. 

The day we drove away from Sydney - the city I have lived in for a little over half my life - was the day Sydney closed down. And she still isn't quite open. 

But then, nor is where we've moved to, a couple of hours south of the city, a town that's near the country and near the beach, the kind of place that smells of cows and coffee. The kind that has silos and sourdough. The kind of place, in short, that basic city-dwellers like me dream of moving to, to fulfill our tree-changing fantasies. 

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The timing was a fluke, but that day had been coming for years. And years. And years. 

My 'shall we move to the country?' ponderings had become so tedious, so predictable, and so circular over almost a decade that it had become a banned topic of conversation at most social occasions. 

Nobody ever thought it would happen. 

And then, all of a sudden, it did.

The looming deadline of Year Seven applied the necessary 'now or never' pressure, we got lucky on a rental app, and we... jumped.  

And now it's been three months. The strangest three months we could have chosen. 

Our city clanged its ring of steel closed behind us on June 26th and every plan - to commute to the office a couple of times a week, to still see friends, to keep the kids connected - was cut off with it. 

Like absolutely everyone else, we set fire to our 'the way it was meant to be' plan for 2021, and just went with the way it was. 

Three months is nothing. 

This is not a story that's going to declare any absolutes about how our new life is going. It will take far longer than a quarter - and a slightly more 'normal' world - to answer that question. But, here's what we know so far. 

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1. So much togetherness is good... and bad.

Every lockdown veteran knows that our family units were not designed to sustain this much together-time. 

But at some points over this three months, it has felt like the five of us (I include our dog, Elvi, whose status in the house as social glue and chief morale-lifter has never been higher) have been cast adrift on a desert island, just us. 

It's a version of happy families that includes a lot of shouting and too much screen-time. But also laughter, and board games, and cakes. 

I have a strong sense that for the rest of our lives we'll talk about this time: 'Remember when we moved, and we went into lockdown, and we only really saw each other for months'. Yeah, let's not do that again. 

2. You can relearn how to make friends.

We miss our Sydney people like crazy. 

We share roots with them that go deep and long, criss-crossing jobs and childbirth and marriages and illness. We're pining now they've been granted the gift of picnics, seeing them gathering in groups of five, on blankets with cheese plates while kids loop around them like stir-crazy cattle dogs. 

But we've been quietly forming a new picnic crew, too. 

The kids got to actually "go" to their new school for a few weeks, and they kicked it off. 

On one of our first walks home, 11-year-old M told me that if I wanted to make new friends, I just had to "be myself", which seemed optimistic. 

But in our first weeks here, before local lockdown, I was invited for a tea and some cake by the long-local mum of one of M's new friends. 

It was a small act of kindness that changed everything for us, offering a generous welcome into this special community we've moved to. 

A writer I only knew by name before has become a regular walking buddy. Another, also recently arrived from Sydney, has become an indispensable Friday evening picnic wine companion.

Image: Supplied. 

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I have a small rotation of women to walk with, and walking, in a pandemic, in a new place, encourages conversations that take on depth at speed. 

3. Lockdown is easier here.

It just is. 

For us, of course, in our particular circumstance. 

In the last Sydney lockdown, trying to work and homeschool in a two-bedroom flat with no garden in one of the most densely populated pockets of the city with a neuro-atypical kid and a moody tween sent me close to my edge. 

It's no walk in the paddock here, either - home-learning is still hell - but space has changed everything. Both the space inside our home (three bedrooms, some modest outside space), and all around us - parks, empty beaches, quiet bushwalking trails - it's been literally sanity saving.  

4. But there's no Uber Eats. Yes, you read that right. 

I don't want to alarm you, but my phone doesn't conjure up food in the country. 

There's only really one place that does delivery and that's (bloody good) pizza. 

There's lockdown takeaway but you have to actually go and get it, which is an extra barrier for lazy people. 

So... we cook. We eat at home. We eat better, no doubt. 

Listen to Holly on Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.


We're insufferably religious about the farmers' market once a week and we fill two big bags with grubby veggies and then we eat them all week. 

There's also a man there with the most unbelievable beef I've ever eaten that you can order ahead (presumably so he knows how many cows to kill, but I don't like to think about that) and some guys with a lot of fresh fish in big blue plastic tubs. 

We eat more veggies than we ever have, except for my son, who won't eat anything green or red or yellow or any colour other than beige. 

Needless to say, he finds the farmers' market quite triggering. 

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4. There's a lot of... walking.

See, friendship bonding, above. But also, every morning, Brent and I go for a walk together with the dog at 7am. 

It's become important time together, which is counter-intuitive, because we're also spending all bloody day together. But that's working, schooling, parenting time. This is just us, talking or not talking, passing the same faces every morning. 

We walk to get coffee, and then we walk it back home. 

It starts the day. I've become obsessive about taking the dog out every evening to mark logging off from work calls. And we tempt the kids off screens with bushwalks that end in spectacular views. 

When we get there we pull out our screens and take pictures of them.  

Image: Supplied. 

5. I have become (somewhat) more domesticated.

See more cooking, above. We also bought a barbecue. And a food processor. I baked a cake. It didn't end well, but I tried.  

Image: Supplied.

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6. Adjacent to the above, I can now keep house plants.

Apparently, 'country' me can nurture things. 

Moving into a bare new home forced me to the nursery (apparently, there are plants there, not kids). 

After seeking out advice from the plant people I know (thank you, Outlouders, and Keryn), I bought up big, assuming these plants would be with me for a good time, not a long time. But, no. 

"Country" me finds some kind of pleasure from watering and rotating them and taking them out of the garden for a bit of rain and sun and now I am this boring stranger who comments on their growth and wellbeing. 

The dog doesn't know who I am anymore. 

7. You can't just call this cute thing a "baby cow" - it's a calf.

There are cows across the road from us. Some of them, lately, appear to be babies. 

I took a picture of the dog pining for them. I posted it. I called them baby cows. I was schooled. Apparently, these are calves

This is not a 'baby cow'. Image: Supplied. 

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8. Eggs are good. Which is lucky, because there are a lot of them. 

Apparently, country people give each other eggs.

 As a 'thank you', as a 'welcome', as a 'hello'.

 And the eggs are dirty, and different sizes and colours. And they are DELICIOUS. 

Who knew? Image: Supplied. 

Orange-coloured brekkie omelettes with chilli sauce, where have you been all my life? 

9. And there are so many... oranges. 

We moved here in Winter, and people have been practically throwing citrus fruits at our heads. 

Buckets of lemons with signs that say "take me" litter the high-street.

Image: Supplied. 

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Our friends have made a citrus stall as a lockdown project, it sits on the main road and offers free grapefruit, and oranges, and lemons. And... lillies.

I am used to paying top-dollar for all these things and every time I see a lemon bucket I do a silent calculation of how much my local Sydney grocer would have charged for those. 

I won't tell her, she might cry.

10. Horse poo is $3.

Almost everywhere, it's the going rate. 

Image: Supplied.


11. It's actually impossible to escape people talking about schools and house prices.

Small talk at the dog park and the skate ramp is eerily familiar. COVID, of course, but also my two least-favourite topics: Why this or that or the other school is not as good as it used to be, and who got what, where, for how much. 

12. Blank space is GOOD.

Our family has a giant, old-school whiteboard calendar that hangs in our kitchen. 

The rule has always been that if it's not on the calendar - sports practice, birthday party, work event, school excursion, weekend away, drinks with mates - it's not happening. It's always crammed with spidery black scrawl. 

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This year, it was business as usual from January to June 26. Then... blank. Lockdown does this to you. Not having much of a social circle does this to you. It's scary. It's freeing. 

There's nothing on the calendar, and it's not happening. 

13. Rituals are important.

On Thursday, Brent asked me if I wanted a Gin and Tonic. 

"Brent," I said. "It's not Friday. Friday is Cocktail Friday. Don't mess with the routine." 

And while I am awaiting his departure since I have clearly become crushingly dull, it speaks to the need I've felt since everything changed to plan small rituals to mark time and honour it passing. 

Morning walks. Sunday dog beach. Saturday movies. They're all little pockets of light. 

Elvi, living her best life. Image: Supplied. 

14. City kids don't magically become "outdoorsy".

"I don't want to go outsiiiiiiiiide!" is what my son says, a lot. 

Which is unfortunate, because we've moved somewhere where outside, really, is the whole point. 

I can bribe the tween up a mountain with the promise of some killer selfies at the peak, but B still hates sunlight, cold, heat, flies, spiders, sand, wind, views, heights, noise, and fresh air.

And yet, he's made me promise we will never, ever leave.

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Spot which kid hates the sun. Image: Supplied. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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