Our farm was originally part of historic Craigow Estate, the parcel of land granted to Scottish Doctor James Murdoch in 1822. In the 1980's part of the Estate was subdivided into 50 Acre lots and one of those lots was bought by the owners before us, Joan and her Husband, a couple in their 60's looking for a place of healing to live out their retirement as Joan's Husband was in poor health. They fell in love with this parcel of land for the very same reason we did 8 years ago when we were taken for our first walk to the top of the hill by the real estate agent and were captivated by the breathtaking view of the Coal River Valley. In that very moment, and before we had even seen inside the house, we knew we had found our home.
Joan and her Husband built this house in 1984 and named the property "Meryemana", the Turkish word for "The Virgin Mary's House", which is a Catholic shrine in Turkey believed to have been where Mary, Mother of Jesus, lived for a period of time. This much had been disclosed by Joan when we bought the place from her in 2006. She had by then lost her Husband and was 86 years old and finding it difficult to manage the farm on her own (I hear you Joan!). She was insistent that the farm go to a family with children who would enjoy it and I'm so pleased that we have been able to fulfil this wish for her.
Last year when we put the wheels in motion to develop the Farm I felt a burning desire to find Joan and let her know how much we love living here. I wanted her to know how much I love the garden she planted even though I haven't been able to keep up with it. Every single flower I pick for the home was planted by Joan*. I also wanted to let her know our future plans and how we were trying to turn the property into a working farm again and replace the bare paddocks with Orchard fruits just like it had once been in the 1800's.** Not only were we thinking about how we can honour and encompass some of the history of our Farm into our new development, we also had to consider changing the name of our Farm. The Virgin Mary's House just didn't quite capture what we were trying to achieve and I wanted to find out from Joan the significance of the name she had chosen before we made any drastic changes.
I nervously rang a few nursing homes, knowing that Joan would be about 94 years old by now. Success! She was only a 10 minute drive away and would love to meet up. I said I would be right over but she insisted it was "too dreary" and that she would love to come here instead but would have to wait for her Son to find a suitable time to bring her as she was in a wheelchair and needed the use of a special car. A couple of weeks went past and I hadn't heard anything so one day I just turned up to her door with Roses from my garden that she had planted 20-30 years before. She was delighted and so begun our friendship. She still hasn't been here but whenever I'm walking along the river with Flynn I pop in to see her and always bring her flowers from her original garden. I pepper her with questions about the Farm, the garden and surrounding area and she just wants to know all about the children. She has no grandchildren of her own and thinks its just wonderful that I have 5 Children. She is the most astute and sharp 94 year old lady I have ever met and her company is delightful.
I had morning tea with Joan today and she was in a tizz because her daughter was due to fly into New York and she hadn't heard from her yet. Her daughter would have to be in her 50's or 60's. "Try not to worry Joan", I say, "I'm sure she'll call as soon as she can and with the time difference she may not even have landed yet". "You never stop worrying about your children", says the 94 year Mother. And just like that I was transported straight back to the home of my Grandparents in Sydney where I heard those exact same words come out of my Grandmother's mouth many a time, "you never stop worrying about your children". I was thinking about this again as I was cooking dinner tonight and didn't notice the tears streaming down my face until Eleanor said "What's wrong Mum?".
"I just really really miss Nanny" I say. I really really do.
Joan mentioned again today that I must have so many other things to do than visit an old lady in a nursing home but actually she has given me so much more than she can imagine. Spending time in her delightful company and learning about her and her past as well as providing that link to our older generation that I have been missing since my Nanny passed away almost 3 years ago is an absolute privilege.
* I was relieved to learn today that she had a gardener.
** She said that if we could grow a fruit tree that bears just one fruit that hasn't been touched by the wretched Possums then good luck to us :-)