Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM's southern NSW managing editor Kim Treasure.
Four months ago, I joined the thousands of Australians each year who opt to make a tree-change. We left our suburban seaside home at Malua Bay for 10 hectares of rural bliss on the still affordable NSW South Coast.
It felt like something of a home-coming for this country girl, who grew up on a sheep/wheat property near Cowra.
At 84 and 79, Dad and Mum still run a farm out there - with Dad creating some incredible sculptures in his "spare" time. My eldest brother Brett is also a farmer, my youngest brother - Clayton - operates a small business, my sister Cathy helps put Parkes on the map for the annual Elvis Festival, while my niece, Joanna Treasure, is doing great things providing a voice for young woman on the land.
For the past 30 years or so, I've been working as a journalist and sunning myself on the beach so it was probably time to torture myself on the weekends with all the "fun" of rural living.
The first thing they don't tell you is that a lot of your neighbours have scales and they kinda like getting up close and personal. I've seen plenty of snakes in the Central West, and I know what to do if I'm bitten, but these friendly characters like to drape themselves off your drainpipe or sun themselves on your roof. They're no boa constrictor on the run but still.
We spent a couple of weeks trying to relocate our friendly neighbourhood pythons before realising that was a pointless exercise - their homing instincts put pigeons to shame. We decided to change tack, name them and accept that Sam and associates were here to stay.
The second thing they don't tell you is that that freshly graded driveway you cruised up to purchase said rural bliss was freshly graded for a reason. A couple of weeks of wear and tear and you ain't driving anywhere.
Choices are to embrace a new fitness craze and hike, cough up $30,000 for a you-beaut concrete drive, or try and flag down one of those bitumen bandits that are never around when you need them. We are going with option A.
Thirdly, fences cost a bomb. I understand that good fences make good neighbours, and when our goats were happily munching on next door's pristine garden I REALLY understood why. But unless you are handy with a post-hole digger and a roll of wire, you need another mortgage for new fences.
I never thought I would be one to succumb to fence envy, but I now find myself driving around my southern NSW patch looking longingly at the beautiful fences.
Despite all this, we wouldn't swap seeing a kangaroo peering through the bedroom window, or an echidna at the back door, for anything.
Still, the dream has not quite gone to plan - I looked at a dam and imagined my duck, Rory, freed from his baby bath and swimming blissfully across the surface. Reality? He and his chook posse are too scared of all the space and stay huddled in the corner of their coop, Rory terrified of getting wet.
In fact, none of our resident animals have made the tree-change easy. The old cat is freaked out by the great outdoors, our one-eyed dog would rather sleep in the bedroom than roam the acreage and our beautiful house bun continually tried to make a break for it before carking it on the vet's operating table and leaving me with yet another big bill.
But that brings me to Larry. Larry the lamb loved life here. A very small victim of the drought, he was abandoned by his mother as a newborn and made the long trip over the mountain to live in our piece of paradise.
While other lambs were out in the winter cold, Larry slept by the fire. While other lambs looked for food in dry, dusty paddocks, Larry dined on whatever he chose - including my garden.
Larry went to parties, shopped at Bunnings, went for bushwalks, chased the chooks, snuggled up on his dog pillow and generally loved life.
He loved sitting around the firepit, staring into the flames, he leapt into the air with joy when we went to let out the chooks and he followed me everywhere.
In eight short weeks, he touched a lot of lives - and everyone who met Larry loved him.
Sadly, Larry passed away. We don't know why, but the vet couldn't save him. Maybe he was always destined for a short life - Larry the sheep just doesn't have the same ring as Larry the lamb - but we will never forget him.
You have stock, you have losses my farm-hardened Dad says, but even he felt the loss of Larry.
So what was Larry's purpose in life?
He was saved from the terrible rigours of drought, assured of a long life of ease while his peers were destined for the market, he survived those early days that so often claim the life of a little lamb and then he died at the vet? It was heart-breaking.
But I reckon Larry was a reminder to live every day as it comes; to take joy wherever you can find it, to love and be loved - and to never underestimate the power of a small, woolly creature to carve a massive place in your heart.
Southern NSW managing editor, ACM
Sign up below to receive the Voice of Real Australia newsletter direct to your inbox each weekday.
More stuff from around Australia
- Airport fees 'pushing up cost of flying'
- The former federal transport minister who oversaw the privatisation of many of the nation's airports says the policy has been a failure that has pushed up the cost of airfares.
- Monopoly airports drive up costs for regional Australians
- It was never envisaged that regional airports would be left to behave and charge as they like after privatisation, writes Rex deputy chairman John Sharp.
- Married gay priests will not leave Anglican church
- John Davis and Rob Whalley will not be leaving the Anglican church because they are gay - no matter what the Archbishop of Sydney says.
- Hanson surprised dairy farmers struggling
- One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was surprised to hear dairy farmers in Victoria's south-west were struggling just like those in other states.
- Pill testing will prevent mums like mine getting a midnight call from the cops
- I know, your children don't do drugs. Neither did my mum's, until we did.