My experience in articulating the meaning of rural connections to place slowly evolves.
As a farmer, I am passionate about the land and our connection to it. In 2002 I developed a concept known as the ‘Rural Property Journal’. The inspiration for this illustrated journal began while undertaking Honours in Design (Visual Communications) (Wildlife Illustration) at Newcastle University in 2002 and 2003. This process entails visually recording and documenting rural properties employing a combination of mediums such as drawings, field sketches, watercolours, photography and digital imaging. I also insert informative written descriptions to provide information to better articulate the story. The story is then entered into a 50-page A3 leather-bound journal, which in turn may become a legacy for future generations.
I chose a journal as a publication format following a life changing trip to Botswana in Africa in 2000, where I gained admiration for the well-loved leather bound field guides, which had to handle the rough travelling they were subjected to. So far, I have completed three Rural Property Journals, each taking up to a year in the making. One for Ellerston the Packer family’s property, one for Kia-ora Thoroughbred Stud, and one for our previous farm at Gundy, all 3 properties in the Scone area of NSW.
In my Rural Biographies, the ability to capture the essence of the story lies in an unstated request to me - “Can you show me why I love this place?” This question indicates a lack of orientation caused by the job being so absorbing and challenging that they haven’t had the time to pause and ascertain this for themselves!
When recording the story of individual properties, I have seen the capacity of the human spirit to lovingly create a territory, a habitat, a truly beautiful place, often times under extremely difficult conditions, when driven by their yearning for “home”. When I point out this courageous human feat to them through the journal, the result is often an outpouring of tears, a huge relief, a worthwhile achievement after all!
Obvious physical accomplishments such as a robust set of cattle yards, a beautiful dry stone wall, and extensive established gardens represent milestones recalling both the effort and joy of creating “home”.
I am beginning to realise as my research progresses that my rural ‘Land Biographies’ will become more effective if I can not only help to context our place in the landscape, but also add a richness to our lives that reinforces our self-worth.