The moment I knew: he popped open a bottle of champagne and filled his mother’s glass first

Growing up in Sydney, my parents and I would often holiday with other families. One couple, Moz and Darvall, lived on a farm in Boomi, a town in north-west New South Wales.

Every now and then, they would talk about their youngest son, Ed, already out of high school and on his own adventures around the world, busking with his bagpipes in South America and the like. I was more interested in their funny stories about life in Boomi and never paid much attention to their stories about Ed.

Years later, in my 20s, I was a journalist for a major newspaper and had moved to the Brisbane bureau. By then Moz and Darvall had retired from the farm and were living in Moree and invited my sister and I to stay during the town’s food and wine festival. We’d never been to Moree, so we jumped in the car and drove across the border to meet them.

I was sitting on a grassy slope at the Moree showgrounds, eating strawberries and cream off a paper plate when I first saw him, standing next to his parents. “This is your son?” I thought – and possibly said out loud. He looked like his parents, but younger (naturally), and strong and handsome. I dropped the strawberries.

All I remember about that weekend was Ed. How he flew us out to his sister’s farm at Mungindi in his small plane. How lovely he was with his four nieces and nephews who worshipped him like a rock star. How he bounced around while he talked. How he popped open a bottle of champagne and filled up his mother’s glass first. I’d never met anyone like him.

At the end of the weekend, when I got in the car with my sister to drive back to Brisbane, I shut the doors and screamed my head off. She asked me why I was making such a racket. “Him,” I said. “Wasn’t he amazing?” Katie looked at me blankly. “Who are you talking about?”

A few weeks later, we had arranged our first date.

At work, just before the date (he was picking me up from Archerfield airport), I turned to one of the older journalists for advice. “I think I really like this guy but I am not sure how he feels about me,” I said. My colleague looked at me and said, deadpan: “He’s picking you up in a goddamn plane. He is keen.”

We flew into Byron Bay to a little landing strip which the skydivers use. We hitchhiked into town, jumping out at the pub. When we asked if there were any rooms available that evening, the receptionist asked us how many we needed. There was an awkward pause. I think modesty made me say two, but within about six months I had quit my job and moved out to Moree.

Annabelle and Ed with their three children in Moree in 2013, just before the family moved to a pecan farm about 2.5 hours east

That was 16 years ago. Now we live on a pecan farm a couple of hours east of Moree with our three children. When we first moved here I sometimes felt I was on a boat, way out at sea. Just us and the paddocks and little towns off in the distance. But Ed was so at ease. His confidence was reassuring, and slowly I felt more confident too.

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I’m still getting used to being surrounded by so much space. He says things like, “Follow the creek up the hill, through the boulders and you’ll eventually get there.” I look at him in disbelief. What? On my own? With no signage? Just huge rocks and trickling streams and gum trees and nature everywhere and I’m somehow meant to find the waterfall myself?

One of the most striking differences about life in the country versus in the city, at least in my experience, is a sense of personal responsibility. And with it, comes a sense of agency. Out here, alongside Ed, I feel like I am the producer of my life, not the product of it. But when I try to imagine anything more precious than this wild life with him, I can’t.

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