The Importance Of Losing When Pounced By Hyenas

Family picnic group selfie, raggletaggle of people some of whom are looking the right way

Work continues on preparing the flat areas for seeding with grass and clover. We have a new routine of stopping at County Tyres to fill the van with their cast-offs, before getting to the land, unrolling one bay’s worth of weed suppressant membrane, weighing it down with one line of stinky rubber and one line of soil dug from the stony ground. By then we are overheated, feel like we’ve been dunked in vaseline, decide that will do for the day, and snort at ourselves for thinking all of this would be done in a few hours.

Usually, we head home for a nap, but sometimes we have company. On this particular day, we are hosting a family picnic- the gazebo is up, some rudimentary furniture is brought from the stable, the cold box is unpacked, salad is chopped. Grandchildren 6 & 7 are here with their Mum, they are ‘helping’ which they are surprised to discover does not include rolling the tyres down the hill. Being made to attempt to recover the tyres does dampen their enthusiasm- G7 informed me as we were pushing uphill ‘I can’t fit in this one,’ so he had considered climbing inside as an extension to the game, which could have been worse, or funnier.
The cut grass is bleachy pale, dry as tinder. We are all sticky with sunscreen, pinky with heat.

My brother and his family arrived for their first visit to Paddock Garden. He parked his car in the shade, we walked up the track. Bonkers Niece and the two grandchildren took all of three seconds to begin a game- weary-hot grown-ups launched into feasting, into admiring the view. The children swooped through, scooping down fruit.
G6 ate so much I had to dig her an emergency latrine- this is part of the experience here, the adapt-and-overcome spirit.

My brother and sister-in-law followed me for a mini tour before they continued their homeward journey. I pointed out the little things - funnel web, mugwort - spoke a little of the big picture, the vague future we stumble and tiptoe towards.
Bonkers Niece joined us just in time to sit on her Dad’s lap and drive back up to the picnic spot.

After we waved them goodbye, we packed up food and chairs and tools, tidied up, put things in the stable or in the van, topped up water bottles, and waited with my daughter while her Mr was on his way.
The little ones continued their play, they said:
We are koalas.. we are tigers… what eats tigers?
Mum replied: maybe hyenas?
We are hyenas!
Where the grass is cut there are clumps of straw and I don’t recall how it started but feasibly with me- me and the little hyenas became embroiled in a fierce straw war.
I was many battles ahead; they were retreating, shaking stalks from their clothes, when G7 stopped to pull straw out from her underwear, a sight so hilarious that I became helpless with laughter… whereupon the little ones ganged up on me in true group predator fashion, and stuffed so much straw down my shorts and t-shirt they made me into a scarecrow.
While I was walking and talking with my brother I said we don’t so much have a business plan, we have abandoned the stress of deadlines: this is an adventure.
Every day we are here, having fun is important. Hearing the owl hoot is important. Peering into webs, identifying scat, counting flowers, and losing the straw wars because you couldn’t stop laughing: this is doing it right.

Granma pinned down by two small and determined children, everyone laughing


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