Olivia

It was about twelve years ago that I made the decision that I wanted to donate my eggs.
Maya, our youngest, was about six months old. I remember her in the pram when we had our first visit to the IVF clinic. Eden was four, Kobi was two and then little Maya. When Maya came along I knew our family was complete. I was so blessed with my pregnancies. Each time we decided to try for another baby I would fall within that first month. It's not something that I took for granted. Some very close friends were trying to start a family around the same time. They had spent years and years trying. To watch their heartache month after month. To try and understand what they were going through. It was heartbreaking. Finally after 5 years, and the support of IVF, my friends had a baby boy who was born six weeks before Maya. Being so close to these friends and realising how lucky we were I wanted to help someone in similar circumstances to what my friends had gone through.
It's completely bizarre, or maybe not, how the universe works sometimes. I remember driving to my GP to talk to her about donating my eggs and getting a referral to the local IVF clinic and on the radio there was a program that was talking about egg and sperm donations and the impact anonymous donations have on families and children. I remember a young lady who was conceived through an anonymous sperm donation speaking about the wish to know where she genetically came from. She said she would sit on the train and look at all these men and wonder if they were her Dad. I decided at that moment that if I was going to donate my eggs that the child or children needed to have the right to know who I was. Where they genetically came from. I believe it is everyone's right. 
A couple of months later we visited the local IVF clinic and began the first step of the process which is counselling. At this time we were living on the Gold Coast and the counsellor at the clinic was filling in from the Melbourne clinic. The counsellor suggested that we might like to consider to donate our eggs to a couple in Melbourne. Although I wanted complete transparency, I also felt it was important that we had our own lives and weren't continually bumping into each other. So that's what happened. The counsellor went back to Melbourne and looked at her list...her list.
Breaks my heart.
We were introduced to a couple Wayne and Cynthia, who had a devastating story. They are a open, warm, honest, down to earth, loving couple. We connected immediately. Fortunately they were completely comfortable with my request for transparency, so I started hormone therapy. We made several trips to Melbourne over the next few months and Cynthia and Wayne's baby girl was born the following year. Olivia. 
Not only did I want openness and honesty for Olivia but I also made sure that my children knew everything from the beginning, or as soon as they were old enough to understand.
Over the years we have had family gatherings at each other homes, (Wayne cooks a mean pork roast) exchanged photos and Christmas cards. We have stayed in each others lives but still had our own. 
Last Sunday I went to visit Olivia and Cynthia (Wayne is overseas at the moment).
Olivia is ten now. A beautiful, warm, confident, funny, affectionate, polite young lady. She gave me a tour of their new house, I watched her play tennis against the wall and chat to her Dad on Skype, she told me all about school and her favourite subjects, showed me photos of their recent family holiday, and watched as she performed a dance show for Cynthia and I after dinner. 
At the end of the evening I asked Cynthia if it was ok with her if I wrote our story here.
"Of course!", she said. She then went on to tell me that they regularly talked with Olivia about me and how I helped them by "giving them an egg and then with Daddy's help she grew in Mummy's tummy". Up until this point I hadn't been sure if they had told Olivia.
It means everything to me.
I could not have asked for more regarding this chapter of my life. Olivia knowing me and my family and knowing that we are always here. Seeing this beautiful, beautiful girl loving life and seeing the deep love and connection she has with her family. 
I am so proud. I am so happy. 

Tash xxxx
 

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Auntie Tosh

Quite a lot has happened since I last wrote. The first thing I want to tell you about is that I have a new niece AND nephew. Mabelle and Harvey. They are two weeks a part and they are devine. My two little sisters timed it just perfectly... 


I am now the proud Aunt to five nephews and three nieces.  When one of my nephews, Archie, was starting to talk he used to call me, 'Auntie Tosh'. The name has stuck and I love it. So these last couple of months I have taken a couple of trips up north to love and squeeze my little family and do whatever is required as 'Auntie Tosh'.  

My Benji, Eden, Kobi and Maya are all wonderful. Family life does feel ridiculously crazier as this year Eden is in grade 10, Kobi in grade 8 and Maya in grade 7 (my baby is in high school which is nuts!!!) so with the school workload, after school activities, Eden has her first weekend job (can't believe that either!!) and keeping up with their social lives, it is quite a whirlwind most days. But it is just such a privilege to watch my babies grow up and to be apart of their lives as they start to peek out into the world and feel their way.
Benji is busy with work but fortunately loves what he does and has spent the last couple of months sitting in front of the fire drinking lots of coffee and tapping away on his computer.
Since moving to the area he has started doing some consulting work with a few of the local town's councils. The towns were originally established during the gold rush and have now, many many years later, become thriving towns once again. Benji is assisting in the urban design as these towns start to grow and change whilst respecting the beautiful history.  It has been tricky, but as I said, he is really loving it.      
For many years now we have both trained together at the gym. A couple of years ago we challenged ourselves with a Tough Mudder event. It was fun, although Benji's bald head on the electric shock cords wasn't all that fun... We recently decided that we needed another physical goal to work towards so have decided we are going to go in a Spartan race next year. This event is a little more serious and will require a lot more training (especially for me) and no electric shock obstacles! So we have started increasing our training and focusing on different types of training which we are both thoroughly enjoying. 

My focus has shifted the last few months. It started with a coffee in town with Benji. As we were walking back to the car I saw the local hall was holding a free community lunch. At the time I had a surplus of produce in my garden and popped in to ask the co-ordinator if I could donate some of my produce. As I started to learn more about the lunch, the people who were relying on the free lunch and the food bank across the street, I started thinking.. Before moving to Victoria, I spent many years working with intellectually impaired adults and children. I loved my job.
I had been thinking about doing something off the farm but I wasn't sure what. Discovering this community lunch was meant to be. I spent a week letting my thoughts flow, thinking about the things I had done and the things that made me truly happy.  And then it came to me.. I want to become a Youth Worker. I want to support and (hopefully) help our youth. It made perfect sense to me. It was one of those 'Yes! That's it!' moments. I am into my second semester of a Diploma of Youth Work and I am loving it. It's all online so I can study here on the farm and still give my family the time that they need. It doesn't mean that I have forgotten about A Plot in Common, not at all. A Plot in Common happened organically and will keep on growing and moving as it is meant to. I believe everything happens for a reason.
A bunch of local girls and I have started a book club which I love! We meet once a month, drink wine, chat and briefly discuss the chosen book. One of the girls arranged a book club library card and when the librarian asked her the name of the book club, my friend paused and then said, 'A Plot in Common'. The librarian said, ' Oh, that is such a wonderful name for a book club! '. As another friend said in the book club, 'the Plot thickens'. 

The farm is huddled in for winter.  The bare trees, the green paddocks, the morning frosts. There is a real stillness to winter here. My veggie patch is looking rather still and bare too. In Autumn I gave each plot a thick layer of horse poo, not putting any thought into the fact that I was creating the perfect environment for lots and lots of slugs. I planted out the gardens twice with winter seedlings, I tried containers of beer, putting on a head torch and picking them off the seedlings in the night. They won.  I am not defeated though! With Spring just around the corner I have started planning what I will plant and will get a little head start in the green house this weekend. 

Well, I think you are all up to date now! 
I hope you are wonderful. 

Love Tash xxx

There's no place like home.

It has been an incredible couple of months. 

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We flew into Paris and spent a few days recovering from jet lag before meeting up with Eden. 
She was full to the brim with excitement, stories and 3000 photos. My darling girl just loved her six week school adventure. I could not be prouder of her. She is the most incredible woman. 
We spent a few more days wandering around Paris. Eden and I spent an afternoon at the Louvre where we searched for empty rooms and just sat looking at pieces of art and talking more about her time away. I will remember that afternoon for a very long time. 
Our next stop was Eze on the French Riviera. We took the train from Paris down to Nice and then picked up a car and drove to Eze. To be honest we didn't think much of this area. It wasn't the greatest weather, but I don't think I would like to be there in the height of Summer with all the locals and tourists. Those roads are nuts! Lucky Ben doesn't have any hair.. The enormous boats and the $8.00 coffees just didn't really do it for me. From Eze we drove to St Remy de Provence. A very pretty little town in the South. Our ten days consisted of picnics, reading, finding markets on hilltop villages and walking. It was bliss. There was limited wi-fi and no t.v. at this Air BnB which made it even better. Kobi played on the piano, the girls played endless card games, wrote in their diaries and just talked. While we were there I suggested we remove the tv from our lounge room when we got home...I hate the stupid thing... I'm still trying to convince them all.
We returned the car and took a train to Barcelona. We had never been to Barcelona and just loved it. The atmosphere of 'every night feeling like a Friday night' is fantastic. I love the tapas bars, the beaches, the friendly, casual atmosphere. After having just spent time in Paris I said to Ben it was like spending time with a beautiful, creative, educated, elegant private school girl and then visting her volumptuous, creative, sincere, grungy, party girl friend.
I love both cities. 
After Barcelona we caught the train back up to Paris and then a flight back to Melbourne.
The kids are amazing travellers. Absolute troupers. They spent hours on planes, trains and in cars and always found ways to amuse themselves. They would chat happily about everything and anything. That actually reminds me of a day in Barcelona when we decided to catch the train to a beach that had been recommended to us about 30 minutes out of the city. Ben was reluctant to go but the kids and I persuaded him that it would be a good idea. We worked out the train we needed to get and bought the tickets and got to the platform just as the train was pulling in. I was quietly pleased with myself because I wanted this to be quick and easy trip so Ben didn't change his mind. We jumped on the train and settle in for the half an hour trip. Eden and I started to knit, the boys read and Maya chatted to whoever was listening. After about 20 minutes I asked Maya if she would like to start watching the station name's and seeing how many more stations until we reached the beach...she couldn't find the names on our map.
We were on the wrong train and going in the completely wrong direction!  By the time we realised the train was express to a little village in the mountains. So much for a quick and easy trip.... When we finally arrived in "the middle of no where!!!" we sat on the platform and waited for the RIGHT train to take us to the beach. So all up the trip to the beach took nearly three hours. The kids thought it was the funniest thing ever. Ben pretty quickly saw the funny side and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days (the beach was beautiful too). 
The kids love telling that story. 
We spent a couple of nights back on our little farm before packing up the car and driving up to Northern New South Wales to spend time with family and friends. We are getting used to the 20 hour trip and it seemed like a piece of cake after the trip back from Europe.
Both of my sisters are pregnant. Four weeks apart. So it was extra special to spend Christmas with them and their families. We spent most of our time in the creeks at Pottsville or Kingscliff or under a tree in the park. Even when we were living on the Gold Coast we would holiday in Northern New South Wales. It is such a beautiful part of the world and has become our home away from home. 
We have been back on our little farm for a few days now and it is so good to be here.
I love my little farm, my animals, my garden, my friends, my community. 
 

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There's no place like home. 

Tash xx

 

INSTAGRAM - aplotincommon

The Perfect Day

I wanted to share with you a few more moments from our first gathering in The Old Girl.
 As I have already mentioned, this project brought me so much joy and satisfaction.
I am very proud of what we have achieved and how we have now created a beautiful space to share with others.

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I invited a bunch of gorgeous friends over to help us celebrate such a meaningful event.
It was a perfect day.
Lots of food, laughter and friendship.
It is everything I wanted this space to be. 

I am now in the process of refining details with local artists and makers for upcoming workshops and arranging more gatherings for our local community. 

The Old Girl is standing proud and ready to share her history and beauty! 

Tash xxx

(Flowers arrangements were created by Miranda White @thefloralforager http://www.thefloralforager.com/v7thzqwqiff0sag0u38lhz0gog7xde
Plates made by Tania Verdez @imaginelovely
Photos by Marnie Hawson @marniehawson
http://www.marniehawson.com.au/contact/)

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From the Heart

There has been another break since I have been here. Sorry. Can I use the excuse that I have been busy gardening? (with maybe a little trip to Japan and family time).

 

 I feel like I have really progressed in regard to expanding the garden and edging towards making a contribution to our Fair Food System. Not that I have been able to grow enough yet, but the raised garden beds are all planted out now and we have four market gardens that we have just built and are now planting out. With the amount of garden space we have now established we will definitely be able to grow a large amount of food to share with family, friends and the community. That is really exciting to me.
My limited experience and knowledge in gardening makes me feel a little overwhelmed at times. That's ok. What has always motivated me since moving to this farm and starting these different projects is that as long as they come from the heart and really mean something to me. That's all that matters. 

From the heart.
Tash xx

An idea was born.

It has been a while since I have been here. I have to admit it takes me a long time to put into words the ideas, feelings or events that I want to share. I am more a talker than a writer! 
Anyway, here goes. 

We have just returned from our summer holiday up north, visiting family and friends. It was so wonderful on so many levels and the perfect place to recharge. Like a friend just said to me, holidays are a wonderful time for clarity and inspiration. That is exactly what happened. 

I read what has now become one of my most favourite books, Fair Food. It's interesting the timing of things sometimes isn't it? I had been pondering for awhile about A Plot in Common and its future.  A Plot in Common was created as a way to give people the opportunity to grow their own food and feel a connection to our farm. It didn't quite work out as I hoped. The people were incredible but what I hadn't considered was the time that would be required and that the location of the farm made it difficult for busy people living out of the area to visit frequently and tend to their garden. I don't regret trying this and haven't completely wiped the model for the future, it will just need to run slightly differently.
So, with this stirring away in the back of my mind and having just finished reading Fair Food, an idea was born!
I want to grow food. I have the land and the ability to grow food. I think I have the market. I started to research CSA models. I started to think really hard about how, what and where. I started to think about my local community and about how to connect and support them. 

This is what I came up with!

This gorgeous thing! 
She is going to be a mobile farm produce van. I am thinking about using her as our farm gate stall and once or twice a week taking her into our local town, Kyneton, and sell my produce. Ben wants  to call her, The Common Goods.
(He comes up with all the cool names.)
I want The Common Goods to be a way to share my produce and also a place for people to come and connect. Possibly swap produce, share ideas, or just sit around and drink coffee! (Ben is keen to bring the coffee.)
The old corner store but mobile.
I am not sure on all the details yet. I have some places in mind for The Common Goods to visit and ways to connect people with each other and really good food. I have also been thinking about a community compost system...

So with all these newborn ideas, I will now be spending a lot of my time out in the garden (Yay!), cleaning out The Common Goods and making the few adjustments to convert her from a chicken van to a mobile farm produce van. I will also be hosting some workshops in our barn over the next few months and then again in spring. 

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I decided not to plant out the garden before we went away. The only thing alive are two zucchini plants and some strawberries.


I have a huge job ahead.
I thought out of interest for myself, and for others, that I will closely document this project.
I am hoping this project will be a wonderful success and something that others may want to replicate in their own community. I will attempt to update each step along the way here and on my Instagram feed (aplotincommon). I am looking forward to sharing this with you all and hope to be sharing our farm produce and Ben's coffee with you all very soon! 

Tash x