CITY HOUSE, COUNTRY MOUSE

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By Ali Webb

It’s been 17 years since I last lived in the country. I left my small country town of Yackandandah in North East Victoria at the age of 17 to move to the big smoke. It was the year 2000, I had a mini-disc player and I wore tops that showed my midriff paired with bootleg jeans.

Fast track to 2017, where I decide to leave the inner-city suburb of Yarraville – with my four-year-old son in tow – to rent a house in Kyneton. A full cycle you could say.

Why? Well the opportunity for a backyard was a big one, but seeing the stars at night is definitely another and that clean, fresh crispy air in the morning that thrills my city lungs is certainly an award winner.

The real reason? Fresh from divorce, I needed a change. Something that would offer more inspiration, excitement. A challenge. Something good for me and my kid.

The romantic ideas attached to country living swallowed any fears attached to the wide-open bush landscape.

But has it all been romantic? Follow me on Instagram and you might see all the yumminess of waterholes, waterfalls, veggie patches, big backyards, sprinklers, bike rides, bush walks. However, as this is being published in an inner-city newspaper and my pals from the inner-western suburbs will be reading, I need to let you in on a little secret: Country living is tough and dirty.

The day I moved into my rented house was the first time I had ever been inside the property. Between my two lovely removalists, my landlord, my fella, my folks and my son, we collaboratively decided the layout of the house.

The garden was hip high with weeds and the bins were bursting full. My family and friends quickly got into action stations and together we sorted out the house into a liveable state. When everyone left, I sat on a flattened box in my new lounge room and cried with exhaustion and fear. Within minutes of the tears appearing something bit my leg and made me itch immediately. I recognised the fleas straight away.

I went up to the shed – something I never had living in the city – and rummaged around the old shelves looking through the sprays, in hope of a flea removal kit. I reached in to grab a can and saw a mammoth red back spider staring back at me. I pooed my pants and ran back to the house for a quick change.

The next morning, I went to grab my mail from the letterbox and inside was a huge huntsman spider with a sack of eggs on her back. Vomit quickly formed in the back of my throat. I shut the letterbox and went back inside.

The excitement of growing my own veggies was a draw-card for the country and almost immediately I organised a compost bin, but after a few extremely hot days and possibly some wrong composting ingredients, I was threatened with an overload of maggots crawling through my bin rummaging on my scraps.

I’ve seen a snake swim towards me at full speed in the water, I’ve had mice run confidently around my house like it’s a game, I’ve discovered dead birds in my backyard, I inherited a cat for four days which left me abruptly, I’ve had a spider in my Blundstone (there are so many spiders), I’ve seen blowies as big as a small bird smack hard into my light fittings and walls, and I’ve had rats party in my bin, shredding the rubbish apart like a Facebook party in my backyard.

It’s been a challenge, but I’m totally up for it. I’ve lived in the country for six weeks and I’ve become resourceful. I collect my mail with a pair of tongs – the huntsman (or huntswoman) and I respect each other. We are both mothers and she needs a house for her babies.

My bins are almost fully reset. Having such an anxiety-laden bin situation, it’s made me really understand just how much rubbish we go through. It was quite disgusting but a true eye-opener. My compost is now under control and is ready for a turnover this weekend. I’ve planted a veggie patch which will be ready for some composting next week and in six weeks my tomatoes have almost doubled in size. Speaking of tomatoes, my son and I made bottled pasta sauce last weekend. We used recycled jars and made sweet labels. There was something so satisfying about watching him peel tomatoes instead of watching a screen.

The fleas keep reappearing, I don’t want to use a flea bomb – I have way too many records, so I’m just vacuuming and using tea tree oil daily like a clean freak.

The bush has become our backyard – a challenging one! The fear of being alone or challenged by difficult situations is outweighed by the excitement of fresh adventures and new discoveries.

Do you have some top tips for the garden, removal of fleas, city-to-country living or perhaps you know of a sweet swimming hole in this neck of the woods? While it may seem like the bush, Kyneton is only an hour from Footscray on a quiet train. Why not pop out for a wander, and discover some sweet adventures along the way. I’ll put the kettle on.

Follow my new country adventures on Facebook and Instagram at @houseofwebb

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