At home with Annabelle Hickson
Annabelle Hickson is a writer and an accidental florist. Currently living on a pecan farm in the NSW-Queensland border. She has worked for The Australian and Country Style, written a book A Tree in the House, created a podcast with a friend called Dispatch to a Friend and now she's starting a quarterly printed publication called Galah that is all about creative lives in regional Australia.
"I knew nothing about country life before I married a farmer. But moving out here has been the best thing to happen to me. Space, freedom, having to work things out for yourself. It’s been the greatest gift. And the people out here. My god, everywhere you look there are fascinating stories. I feel absolutely compelled to document what I see out here, and that’s why I’m starting Galah.
I hope Galah will be a modern voice from the bush. I hope I can make it work too. The magazine world is imploding around us, but I think there is still a place for thoughtful, niche publications with no or very little advertising."
In your book, A Tree in the House, you talk about how playing with flowers can make us better observers of the natural world and help us focus on what's interesting in our daily life, can you tell us a bit more about that?
You are a sum of what you do and what you think. And your brain is capable of thinking about all sorts of things. Some helpful, others not so much. I find the act of picking flowers, putting them in jugs, noticing things on the side of the road helps steer my brain into focusing on the natural world.
And as a result, instead of worrying about what she said or what you should have done, you pay attention to what nature is doing around you, and even to bits and pieces beyond the natural world. Old, rusty buckets morph from junk destined for the tip into the perfect vessel for the mass of jasmine hanging over Mr Smith’s fence, which you will pinch in the dead of night.
There are writers who say that one of the greatest unexpected consequences of writing is that you become a better reader. Just as, I would say, playing and working with flowers can help you become a better observer of the natural world. Anything that helps you focus on what is beautiful and interesting in your daily life, when so much can feel repetitive and mundane and ordinary, is worthy of celebration. Reverence, even.
Anything that helps you focus on what is beautiful and interesting in your daily life, when so much can feel repetitive and mundane and ordinary, is worthy of celebration.
What is a simple pleasure or daily ritual that brings you joy?
Coffee. The last thing I think before falling asleep every night is ‘yes, I can have a coffee when I wake up’.
Have there been any silver linings for you during the COVID-19 restrictions?
Not having to run around like a maniac driving and driving and driving and taking children to what have now turned out to be entirely non-essential classes like Hip Hop for seven year olds. Other than that, life in unchanged. We’ve been very lucky up here on the farm. Life and work continues almost as usual.
What does your perfect Sunday look like?
BBQ by the creek with my family and the neighbours.
What’s your favourite season and why?
Autumn, because summer is over.
What is the meal you love making the most right now?
I have become the master of meals using two ingredients or less. Normally I love spending time cooking. I love thinking about what to eat, I love cooking big meals with lots of sides, but I’m using every single spare second to get Galah up and running, so cooking has become things like roast lamb with wilted spinach. Full stop. The children look around hopefully for other bits and pieces, but we are all still alive.
What does home mean to you?
Home is everything to me. It is my family, the farm, my work, my peace. I am becoming so attached to this particular place and its birds and creeks and massive river gums and the wild fennel on the side of the road. It is becoming part of me and I am becoming part of it.
What does slow living mean to you?
Slow living is something I like the idea of, but in reality, I go crazy when I have time on my hands. I start rearranging the furniture obsessively. I’ve learned it’s much better to channel my attentions into something that I think is valuable and important. But I have accepted that life is much better if I take the time to go for a walk for at least half an hour a day. No phone, no podcasts. Just me and the birds and the trees.