It surprises a lot of people that my husband does not come from farming parents, somewhat unusual for a farmer himself. He is not an ag graduate with a family farm to return to, but we have forged our own path anyway. But he is definitely of farming stock – his grandparents farmed the green hills of Kardella in South Gippsland. This is where Matt’s agricultural roots originate, despite his Nan and Pop selling ‘Westlands’ 22 years ago. Recently though, the property which holds so many special memories for the Western’s came on the market…and Matt’s cousin and her husband bought it! Huh…
Talk about full circle. A serendipitous turn of events has meant that a new generation of Western’s will now play and explore and farm on those Kardella hills. Yesterday was my first visit to ‘Westlands’ – a place I’d heard so much about, with almost a hushed reverence from Matt. On Black Saturday when we evacuated from our little cottage on the beef property we were managing in Murrindindi, the first thing Matt grabbed was an aerial photo of ‘Westlands’, as well as his Pop’s stock cane and weathered old Akubra. Matt’s tangible links to ‘Westlands’ and his farming Pop. Walking through the now empty house and across those hills with our own little Western’s, I felt the specialness of the place. Land has such a hold over those who farm, it can be so much more than just earth and pasture.
The house is a similar era to ours, so felt like ‘home’ to me already. But the thought of Matt’s Nan busily baking her famous sponge kisses in the kitchen gave me some goosebumps (if only she’d etched Matt’s beloved sausage casserole recipe into the pantry walls!) The garden is pretty much my dream scenario for here at Brindabella – established trees surrounded my beds of perennials, swathes of salvias and hellebores, bulbs of irises, hyacinths and jonquils now peeping out of the soil, fading camellias and rambling roses. Seeing Eleanor and Avani explore the garden together and giggling down the hallway, with Harriet and Esperanza – who both share Matt and Jyoti’s Nan’s name, Gwen, as their middle moniker – happily playing on the floor where Gwen made a home for her family…it was almost comically surreal!
Now Matt is trying to guide Jyoti and Josh in their adventures as farmers – a new title for two Melbourne doctors! Somewhere between Matt’s pragmatism (read: realism, experience and common sense) and Josh’s green enthusiasm and paddock to plate dreams I think there will be a happy middle ground. Whatever the case, we can now foresee weekends and special times spent once again at ‘Westlands’, with cousins and cousins-cousins and those who grew up at ‘Westlands’ as their family home and those of us who have adopted it as ‘home’. There have been excited whispers about a return to ‘Westlands’ for Christmas, in the dining room where all the family used to squash around for a hot roast lunch. Thirty years on, with an extra generation in toe, those Gippsland farming roots certainly run deep and true.