Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tea with Joan


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 :-)

60 comments :

  1. Hello Mel,

    What a delightful post this is. It is so intriguing to be able to find out the history of your house and its land from a living person. How the connections over the years seem to be ever stronger when one has personal contact.

    Joan sounds to be a thoroughly amazing person. It is so lovely that you can enjoy her company and bring her flowers which she planted with her own hands many decades earlier. That must bring her great joy!

    In our younger lives we always had elderly friends which we found to be of so much more interest than our peers. One learns so much and one's mind is opened to new and exciting possibilities that one may never have dreamed of.

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    1. The connections do seem stronger when you get them first-hand don't they? She really is a wonderful lady, so sharp and witty. It was slim pickings in the garden today but I scrounged around and found enough for a little posy :-) I, too, love the company of elderly people, they really are so wonderful! x

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  2. That sounds delightful and as she probably wouldn't get many visitors the fact that you have something in common ie the house and land she must be just as thrilled getting a loveing caring visitor as you are to visit her. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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    1. She always seems happy to see me but she especially enjoys seeing the Kids x

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  3. I think I would like to meet Joan.

    And I am sorry you miss your Nanny so much.

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    1. I do miss her and it's funny the things that set you off x

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  4. Oh Mel, you've made me all teary. I visited my own 93 year old Nanna yesterday at her nursing home and only wish her mind was as sharp as it used to be back when I would similarly pepper her with questions about our family, her life and the past. How wonderful to have not only uncovered some of the history of your property, but to also have made contact with dear old Joan. I am positive your visits and positive energy with tales of the farm and your gorgeous family would brighten her simple life so very much. Did you find out why she named your house what she did? xx

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    1. She is very religious and happened to be reading about the place "Meryemana" in a magazine at the time she was looking for a name and due to "Meryemana" being located on a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey and their intention to build on the hill here as well as the religious significance of "Meryemana" she thought it would make a nice name for the Farm. I didn't even find this out until the third visit because we got sidetracked, a bit like I did on this Post! x

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  5. Okay. I'm sitting here with tears running down my cheeks. Such a beautiful post. It speaks of kindness and caring and love and so many other things that our world needs more of.

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    1. Thanks Kristie, I didn't know this would be a happy/sad Post, it was meant to be about changing the name of the Farm but I took a detour halfway through...x

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  6. Fantastic story, your visits must bring Joan enormous pleasure. I have to say I thought the first photo was a painting - I can see why both you and Joan fell in love with Coal River Valley - its stunning. Thank you for sharing
    Caz xx

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  7. Isn't it wonderful to have continuity and to know who planted the flowers that you pick but how gratifying to learn that she had a gardener. Are you a little worried about her prophesy regarding the possums?

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    1. Item number one on the list is a wallaby/possum/rodent/"bombproof" fence around the entire perimeter so hopefully that won't be a major issue x

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  8. Hey Mel,
    Your valley is so beautiful. The light and colours are breathtaking. No wonder you jumped at the chance to move there.
    And how wonderful to re-connect with Joan. I am now on friendly terms with several older gentlemen at plot number 10. Getting to know them has been an absolute pleasure. They have all their gardening knowledge for a start. It's the best way to learn - hands on and passed down. They are funny and mischievous. They are very patient with Olly, and have given him some plants of his own. They have enriched my time at the allotment ten fold.
    I shed a little tear for you, too Mel. I'm sorry that you miss your Mum. I miss my mother in law very much. It is nearly three years since she passed away, and not a day goes by without me thinking of her in some way. She would have loved plot number 10.
    Have a great week,
    Leanne xx

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    1. I can just picture you and those gentlemen at Plot number 10 Leanne and it is a very lovely sight indeed! x

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  9. It looks a beautiful place to live, and how lovely to have contact with Joan. My Nan died aged 99 a couple of years ago. I miss her terribly - her humour and wisdom will never be forgotten. I often find myself asking "What would Nan have done ...." Its the best way to get my brain to go with the sensible answer! x

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    1. 99, wow! So great that you can still draw on her for advice like that. I love that I can know what my Nanny would think about something without her physically being here x

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  10. Aw, Mel, what a beautiful post. Joan sounds like good company and I can see why you like spending time with her. Your view...it's like a painting. The colours are stunning. I can understand how that sold you the house before you'd even set foot inside. x

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    1. Aw, thanks Gillian, you'll have to come and visit one day! x

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  11. I am just holding back the tears now Mel. I am so glad that you and Joan have met and shared these times and memories and flowers together. It must give you a real foundation to your feelings about the farm and all that you want to achieve for and with it. I hope that you can achieve all of your goals and have a wonderful time and that you will be able to continue to share that with Joan for as long as possible and perhaps get her out to visit again one day. xx

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    1. I spoke to her Son on the phone while I was there and he said he would try and make it happen soon so hopefully they'll be able to come out sooner rather than later x

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  12. It's so lovely that you have connected with Joan and take her flowers from the garden she helped plant. I'm sure she must love that you visit! x

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    1. I fear she will be very disappointed with the state of the garden when she sees it. It was once a beautiful English garden but very high maintenance so many things haven't survived but there always seems to be something to pick for her x

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  13. The colours in your first picture are wonderful and it is such a heart warming story of reconnecting with Joan and sharing together experiences of the land you both love. I'm so glad you found her. Sarah x

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  14. Mel
    Just tearing up here, you are such a special person. You are bringing so much joy and colour to Joan's world, and yes in turn she is blessing you too. What a beautiful, beautiful story, {{{}}} Of course being Catholic myself I do love the significance of your home's name, but will be interested to hear what you change it to. Does the nursing home have access to a special car to bring her out? Miss my own Nana alot, we only lost her under 3 years ago.

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    1. We will probably keep the original name on our home entrance but I think we've settled on "Coal River Farm" for the name of the development side of things which will have a separate entrance.

      I don't know about access to a special car from the nursing home but I will check!

      It is just under 3 years ago that we lost our beloved Nanny too, that almost sounds like a long time ago but it still feels very recent

      xxx

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  15. Mel, this is so beautiful. You are such a good sort for taking the time and interest in Joan. Such a special connection for you take make and both benefit from.

    rachel xo

    ps do you have some sort of amazing 'oil painting' filter you run over your photos? that first shot is stunning.

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    1. Daniel took the photo on the iPhone and I put it on Instagram with the Mayfair filter. It was taken late afternoon though and the colours are pretty special that time of day x

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  16. When I first opened your blog I thought the view from your hill was an oil painting! Until I scrolled down to the bottom of the photo, that is! Your post reminded me of two things, one that my mother-in-law made a similar connection with the younger lady who bought their house, and still receives bouquets from the garden she planted from time to time, and two, thinking about my grandmothers, both of whose houses have been demolished since they have gone. Joan must be thrilled to hear about your family's life on her farm. Lovely story.

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    1. Isn't it sad that their homes have been demolished, that is something I'd find very hard to see.

      But how lovely that your Mother-in-law still received flowers from her old home x

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  17. How lovely that you find time to just sit and enjoy her company, I expect she very much enjoys hearing about your family life on the farm. My Gran is now 94 and in a home, after a very active 93 years she now needs a little help.
    The fist photo of your view is stunning, as always.

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    1. Your Gran sounds amazing Jay. Honestly, I can't fathom being in my 90's, I'm already waking up with stiff and sore joints! :-) x

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  18. I am a bit emotional after reading this post Mel. The older generation has so much to share and yet, there is so little time to sit and listen. I am happy for you that you are able to have this special friendship with Joan, it is really wonderful. After we moved to Scotland, I visited my granny in Switzerland on my own for a weekend. I so miss my visits and I miss her. I have still not been able to delete her phone number from my phone. When I was a teenager, I used to visit an old couple every week for an hour or so, just to chat. I can't remember why I did this but I do remember how much I enjoyed the stories of their life. You live in the most beautiful spot on earth! Cx

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    1. Your Granny sounds so special. It's so nice being in the company of someone who has time. No dashing off here or feeling like you are on a time limit before you or the other person has to be somewhere else. That is the thing I really like :-) x

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  19. Oh Mel - that is so beautiful and wonderful and 'yep' I think I may have a tear (or two) in the corners of my eyes.

    What a lovely, lovely thing to do and a history passed on...following through.

    Nina x

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  20. What a wonderful post. The elderly have so much wisdom and farsightedness to offer if only we would listen. Mel, we bought a little seaside cottage from an elderly woman in 1988. She said she knew we would love it as much as she did and in fact we call it our healing place. She gifted me a substantial collection of blue and white cornishware when she moved into eldercare and we honoured her when we renovated by undressing the house to its studs but rebuilding in exactly the same way but with new materials. Sadly she died three years after selling us the house but we like to think she would walk through the gate and say, 'Yes, this IS my home.'
    PS: But I do wish she had told US about the possums and their predilection for the 28 pear and apple trees!!!!

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    1. I love your story Prue! And how special that she passed on her Cornishware for you all to enjoy.

      We were wondering how on earth she had so many fruit trees around the house when we have struggled for 8 years to get any decent fruit from them due to the Possums. It was such a relief when she casually said "oh we tried fruit trees and not a single bit of fruit made it inside. Not one! Good Luck!" We're getting new fencing as a priority so I hope that solves that problem :-)

      Mel x

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  21. Brought a tear to my eye too Mel. What a lovely story. I've been spending more time lately with the some of the more mature residents of our village. It's time spent well. I'm making a batch of pikelets soon as I'm expecting a lovely lady over for a coffee and catch up today. Age is no barrier to friendship.
    Hope your holidays are treating you well xo.

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  22. Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while, I love reading your posts and especially enjoy looking at your view, what a stunning place to live! I'm in awe of your plans for your farm, you are so very bold and brave and you inspire me to look around at our 10 acres and wonder what it could become. I love your connection with Joan and imagine it is a real pleasure for her too. Thanks for sharing your journey, Julie

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  23. Oh Mel, you make me want to start blogging again. I have been sitting here tonight for the first time in months with a idea of a post turning over in my mind but an episode of Breaking Bad waiting to be watched (I know you will understand the turmoil)! I am so pleased you have reconnected with Joan, I did the same with the lady who was born in my house 84 years ago last year when I was stuck in bed after my melanoma surgery. I haven't written that post or much else since then as life has been challenging this year with our boy and that mother worry that gnaws down into your bones has not left me much space for anything else. You are an inspiration, you and your view actually. Thankyou,thank you, thank you. mel x

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  24. We learn, and get so much from those around us who've been here much longer don't you think? We've had very, very special elderly neighbours. We've got close to them, helped them when they've need us too but we've got far more in return. Their life experiences, their advice and support, it's a privilege to know them. I'm glad you've found this very special lady and you can visit her and take her the flowers she planted but that you picked :) x

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  25. And I have tears in my eyes too now, Mel.

    Thank you for taking the time to set this story down in words.

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  26. I love this Mel - you've reminded me I really need to visit my Nan again soon! xx

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  27. Mel, what a beautiful post. My Mum has a strong devotion to Our Lady and 5 years ago my parents went to Europe and happened to visit 'Meryemana' in Turkey, the house where it is believed that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. A Muslim lady took them around, quite surreal.
    That photo of you looking over the valley is spectacular, I would never leave….it's magical x

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  28. The stories, the history are what make our connection to place even stronger
    Beautiful post Mel
    x

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  29. what a stunning story! History is so important and we should write it down for future generations. Possums are a pest in NZ and we can shoot them... I am currently knitting a sock using possum wool.

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  30. Dear Mel,

    How wonderful that you've developed a relationship with Joan! I think I understand this feeling of connection to the past you describe, our old neighbours were well into their eighties and they just adored our kids and would entice them over with rewards of cookies and ice-cream (of course we would follow...). The relationship we developed with them was a unique and very rewarding experience and I am convinced that they we got more from them than they did from us (not that anyone was keeping score). I loved hearing their stories about times past, when couples went out dancing for fun and you could still see traces of their slower times in their daily life, free from all the hectic stress that we call our own days. And yes, they often reminded me of how much I miss my grandparents too. Thank you for such a lovely post! I think you and Joan are both lucky to know each other! xo

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  31. Stunning picture.
    Glad you got to meet and become friends with Joan, she sounds like a lovely lady.

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  32. I'm with Joan on the possum front. They are into everything we grow edible wise. We're hoping the dog makes a difference over the next summer.
    I've been in touch with the daughter of our original owner and had a long chat over breakfast one day. I always meant to write about it. It's lovely to learn about the DNA that's in your home.

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  33. How special a lady and your relationship blossoming. It was delightful to read and so full of kindness.

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  34. It is so special in the first place that your property had been owned by someone worthy of emulating,and that you had a relationship with her from the beginning - but to reconnect after you have begun to make it your home is just splendid. It is very encouraging, makes me happy to read about the generations having this love and good-will and joy together. That first photo is stunning!!

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  35. How special that you were able to visit Joan Mel. Love that. It's so nice being able to know the history behind a property like your own x

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  36. Tears.
    And a little laugh at the possum comment!
    xoxo

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  37. Mel, you made me cry. Beautiful. x

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