One of the strongest memories from my early childhood is visiting my grandparents’ dairy farm. I remember everything was so big…of course, I was pretty small. Outside the back door of the farmhouse was a huge clump of blue Hydrangeas, which to this day I just love. In the front was the orchard, with rows and rows of fruit trees.
I remember there was the fairies’ house too. My Nanna would take my younger brother and me to tiptoe out and see if the fairies had visited during the night. And while we could often find where the fairies had been playing during the night, we never did get to see them.
I remember hay baling and then the hay stacking in the barn. An enormous job, vital to keeping the farm viable.
I remember driving the tractor, well really I just steered in a straight line to the other end of the paddock, while my Grandpa tossed the hay off the trailer for the cows’ feed. Such strong memories.
I remember seeing the cows come trotting across the fields towards the dairy every morning and every afternoon. Seeing them lined up in the dairy as Grandpa quickly readied them for milking. He would call them by name … Doris, Queenie, Mabel, Iris, Gladys, Alice…. It was his way.
It is only now that I appreciate how constant running a dairy farm is. The cows are milked twice a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are no days off.
And of course, there is far more to it. Feeding the cows, raising crops, looking after the other animals. The chickens, the pigs and more. The vegetable garden, the orchard. Helping neighbours out, contributing to the community. I will never know the whole of it.
It is only now that I can appreciate how incredibly hard it must be to farm. How you can do your best, be consistent, persistent, show up every day, and still be at the mercy of things outside your control. Weather, markets, animal illness. And yet my grandparents showed up every day, were pillars of their community and people who could be relied upon to help others out.
One of the strongest and most persisting ideas that comes from my Grandpa is:
I remember long, hot days in the summertime. With endless afternoons. And I remember afternoon tea.
It was a ritual.
It was something that happened every day of the week. My Nanna would make a big pot of tea. There was milk and sugar for those who wanted it. There was at least one good thing to eat. Homemade biscuits, fruit cake, or scones. Everyone would join afternoon tea, at the kitchen table or out on the verandah. Grandpa would come in and have a break from his chores.
And what I realise now is this was such an important part of the day. As I said, running a dairy farm, the cows never take a day off. You have to be up early every single day and be out milking first thing, and then you do it all again in the late afternoon. There is never a respite. There is no end to it. And my Nanna worked hard too, running the family and the household.
What I have realised is that that ritual of afternoon tea was about creating a space, a calm, a re-energising on many fronts. Not just the tea and the scones or fruit cake. It was a calming of the mind and a calming of the body. It was a change of pace from doing and action and onto the next thing, ticking off the long list of things to be done.
It was a space to regroup. It was a space to refocus. It was a space to reflect. It was important for my grandfather to be able to gather his thoughts, to consider what had happened during the day so far, plan out what was going to happen next, and whether he needed to make any adjustments to his plan for the day and the week.
Having afternoon tea also created an opportunity to reconnect with people. His wife and family, any of the workers on the farm. It was an opportunity for them to just stop and ‘be’ together because they didn’t necessarily get that at any other time during the day.
I want you to consider how you can create your own change of pace.
It has been a tough 18 months. No matter which way you look at it, things have changed. The world has had to adapt and the people in it have had to adapt. You have had to respond often, and sometimes it has felt incessant. And sometimes it has felt like things are outside your control, like you have been moving at pace with no respite. It can feel like you just need to keep going and keep going and keep stepping up and keep leading and keep making sure that everyone else is okay, and you give your time and energy generously.
Give yourself permission to regroup, the opportunity to think, to re-energise, to refocus, to reflect, to reconnect, to check in with yourself and the people around you …. to change the pace. I believe you will be the better for it.
What will you do to change the pace?
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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