This is a blog about land. Dirty, thrilling land.
When I was ten I remember walking my grandfather’s 1300 acres near Taupo in New Zealand feeling unsettled in the vastness and quiet. Despite 38 years of cities, the liquid must have got into the chalk somehow because a month or so ago I settled on a purchase of 53 empty acres in Yandoit Hills, 130 km northwest of Melbourne, Australia. There’s nothing there except a couple of sheds, a seasonal creek and eucalypts (and blackberry and St John’s wort and snakes and spiders and kangaroos and foxes and hares and bloody rabbits and innumerable birds and, soon, me).
I want to live there and create something. But before the next 40 years can start, some things must end.
I spent the last three and a half years working on large private yachts and that’s all over now. I went to 30 countries and saw oodles, had some eye-popping experiences and saved a bundle. With enough money to fund a land purchase, I decided to come home.
So the travelling must end. I did go out with a bang though, with a month-long trip to the Italian alps, during which time I learnt that certain Italians indeed need to eat daily home-cooked pasta:
The afternoon naps were inevitable. In between the pasta I ate an array of unphotogenic brown meats with polenta – chinghiale, duck smothered in its own liver, sausages.
I ate it all. Head-sized pizzas for one, slices of lard (I forget the more appealing Italian word for it) with an aperol spritzer pre-dinner, bbqs during snow. And washed everything down with a hell-load of cool climate wine from Piemonte, Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige. I came to understand just what regional eating really means and why Italians feel they’ve eaten exotically by travelling 50 km to the next town for lunch.
When I am eating fish out of a tin on a day of total fire ban I will mentally make love to the memory of this food.
Other things are ending. The buying of new clothes, Melbourne coffee, a close relationship with running water and electricity. Namby-pamby soft hands. My beloved hound Aya, after 11 elegant years. She visited the land just once and must have decided it wasn’t for her. I miss her. And now I guess I will have to get a grubbier, less regal, more useful dog for the upcoming hard country living.
So, this is not a food blog despite the photos. It’s about what I’m going to do with a large piece of land, starting from zero with precious few practical skills or knowledge. I have some ideas though. I’m going to start.