HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
FOLLOWING THE DREAM
Tears rolling down my cheeks I read the beautiful farewell letter from my Mum and Dad to my family. Driving away from Canberra was something we were used to after 5 years of travelling Australia, but this was the last time we would say goodbye.
Sadness made way to excitement as we drove into Mt Field National Park in Tasmania for our second time, the first where we would call it home. Arriving in the Visitor Centre carpark, ready to have our first lunch at the Cafe we were about to own, really seemed like a dream. I was dragged out of my dream by the realisation that I just caught my daughter’s fingers in the car door – great start!
It wasn’t our first Russell Falls walk, but it took on new meaning. The reality this was now our backyard hit home when the platypus popped out of the creek to say hello. The majestic falls still took our breath away almost a year after we last saw them.
October 18th is always celebrated as our birthday as owners of Waterfalls Cafe & Gallery in Mt Field National Park. Since that day life seems to have moved at a pace that scares me, but I wouldn’t change a moment... well maybe just a couple.
Never running a cafe before, the task seemed daunting at first but a challenge we eagerly accepted. We knew the potential of this amazing National Park was largely unknown and ready to explode. We want to be a part of this exciting time.
From a staff of one we have grown to a staff of 20+, all amazing, loyal and local people who I am lucky enough to call friends.
Life in the country has its own challenges though. We have faced down bushfires, flooding and had our shop broken into. In four years I think we have had everything thrown at us, but we still love our country life.
The love of sharing my Park and encouraging visitors to explore further is infectious. I often worry I might talk it up a little too much at times. When I have visitors who have follow us through social media arrive “just because we had to see what you are always raving about,” I worry. It’s never long before they return to the cafe excited with photos of the falls, animals they have seen, the snow or the fungi with the comment “we are so glad we put Mt Field National Park on our must see list.” I’m so glad that visitors to the Park love it just as much as I do.
In four years I have seen my three children blossom. Moving to Tasmania was difficult for my oldest, Jasmine, who had a well established group of friends and comfort zone. Now 13, Jasmine changed her mind on living here the day that we caught a big chocolate brown eastern quoll living in our roof. She has aspirations of being a Ranger, she absolutely loves every day of school but most of all loves to take guided tours of Russell Falls. Knowing every plant and animal (and how to best spot the platypus) Jasmine is a walking encyclopaedia of Park knowledge. Jas boards at school through the week and is home to enjoy the Park on weekends – when her social life permits.
For 11 year old Jemma, the move to Tasmania found a group of people just like her. Diagnosed at age 5 with Coeliac Disease, Jemma has always taken it in her stride. Shortly after arriving we had a BBQ with 3 other local families, all of whom have a family member with Coeliac Disease. Starting school she found teachers and other kids the same as her – she was no longer on her own and the difference it has made is amazing. She is sure fairies live in the Park and is constantly drawing them and their fairy homes.
Perhaps the biggest change is our youngest though, Teddy. Now 7 years old Teddy didn’t talk much when we first moved. Within the first few months his vocabulary included words like “Masked Plover” (thanks to Jasmine’s influence) and I would find him pulling up a chair to have a chat with cafe visitors. Starting school he always has stories to share and loves spotlighting at every opportunity (day or night). He is a bushwalker extraordinaire!
My photographer husband, Greg, had grand plans to be the househusband from heaven and photograph the park at every moment. After 17 years working full time, he had earned the break, and the time to enjoy our young family, as I had over the previous 9 years. His images run through our tv and adorn the walls of our Gallery and I never get tired of seeing them. Through Greg’s images everyone can see the variety and the beauty of Mt Field and his passion for our new home is evident.
Four years on we love it more every day. The cafe continues to get busier and every day we find a new experience in our own backyard. Every morning I greet the wallabies good morning as I walk 100m to my shop through the tallest plants on earth, serenaded by dozens of different bird calls. Every evening in summer we turn out the lights and wait eagerly to watch our resident eastern quolls play in our yard, spotlight for bandicoots and see the glow worms like fairy lights under the ferns.
I live in paradise, doing something I love every day. I love to share my experiences to inspire others to follow the dream, make the move and love what you do!
Article by Rachel Power
OUR COUNTRY LIFE
After a busy morning and having just finished cleaning out and refilling the duck pond, I was sitting on a chair with the Jack Russell on my lap, drinking a cup of tea (of course!) feeling the stress of the morning and the past week slip away. One of the lovely aspects of living in a rural area is being able to spend time with nature even in our garden. You instantly feel more grounded, peaceful and less stressed and of course many studies are proving this to be correct.
My husband and I have always lived in rural or semi-rural areas and were so pleased to be able to buy the cottage we have in the Adelaide Hills. It was built in the 1870's and there are several buildings in the village like the post office, the Uniting Church, the Village Hall, the School and many other cottages established about the same time. We have a friend who has lived in the village his whole life he is a 4th generation Australian and recalls many stories about his parents and grandparents life here. He remembers his father telling him how they would move logs to Adelaide by cart pulled by bullocks! He was a woodcutter and our friend not only farms but still supplies wood as well. There are several roads with his surname and that of his cousins as well in the village and surrounding areas.
We have some beautiful walks around us here and it is of course very hilly, but because of that there are some wonderful views. I love to walk around the village up the lane and over the hills and of course just letting the scenery seep into me, It is so uplifting and you can feel your stress levels lowering. I think it is so important to let yourself be mindful of your surroundings in a positive way, to look at the sky and the clouds, to listen to the birds to see how the seasons change and enjoy each one.
Having cut flowers in the house is also so beneficial, to smell their fragrance and admire the colours and beauty particularly if they are from your own garden. At the moment I have some yellow carnations on the window sill in the kitchen and they just light up the room.
Pottering outside is such a delight and every day is different, watching the chicks grow they are like little round balls at the moment, their bodies are growing but no tail yet and that just accentuates their shape. The mum is leaving them more now and they are growing in confidence but always sticking together.
Having animals around really makes you feel happier and calmer, seeing their sweet faces either of the ducks, chooks or the dogs. Who can look at a bulldog and not smile, especially one who weighs 39kg and loves to lie on his back with his legs in the air! They are always happy and busy, pleased to see you and even if they are not so well they always try to carry on.
Another advantage of living in the country has been the ability to have a large shed in the garden for my husband who has more hobbies than anyone I know! There he has his wood turning equipment, making exquisite hand turned pens and other similar projects, he has glass firing equipment to make bowls, pendants etc.. and makes the most intricate leadlight panels! Somehow he has also managed to fit in several cages for more parrots!
Living in the country is a real privilege with many advantages I believe. Looking after birds and animals helps you to focus on other things. Having to feed and care for them and make sure they are happy and healthy. This has been proven to be good for children caring for animals; the boys always ask about the animals and look after them as well. Having animals also makes our immune systems stronger, one is less likely to suffer from allergies etc. and it has been proven that children brought up with animals are also more confident and social.
Living in smaller rural communities makes it easier to become involved in local life as well. My younger son is a member of the local C.F.S , he really enjoys it only I did not realise it would involve 1am drives to the station in emergencies with “Mum hurry up, I have to go” so off I go with a jacket over my nightie and then several hours later hearing all about it. The other members are all ages and walks of life so you can imagine he comes home with some funny stories as well as serious ones.
So the next time you are driving to work or the shops have a look at the clouds or the scenery going by and see if you do not feel better.
Article by Kate Caldecourt
MOVING TO THE COUNTRY
I wasn’t always a country girl. I grew up in the suburbs of Adelaide, always near the beach, in a neighbourhood where people lived relatively private lives – with colorbond fences & brick homes that looked similar apart from the chosen brick or roof colour.
When I blew my candles out each year, I would wish with all my heart for a horse, knowing deep down it wasn’t practical. I had a favourite place, which my mother later painted for me as a gift, near where I lived. A green field, where a lighthouse stood proudly on a rolling hill. It had uninterrupted views to the sea. My sister & I used to sneak onto the farmer’s land through the barbed wire fence and lay in the warm grass amongst the sheep & sour sobs, dreaming it was ours. It was a rare acreage – one last undeveloped parcel of prime land.
I loved the stories my husband had shared of growing up in the country with his family and the adventures his brother and he used to get up to. Of the animals they lived with, the friends down the lane and their quality life, despite there not being much money.
I think this planted the seed along with my own dreams and love of nature. We had our own two children, three and one year old boys and decided to take a risk and sell our home and build on 2/3 acre in the Adelaide Hills. We could keep our jobs as it wasn’t far away. We knew that interstate, some people drove hours home each night to live a similar lifestyle. For the first time, we moved away from our family and friends to the relatively unknown town which we fell in love with.
That was 11 years ago and we have never looked back. We rented while our home was built as we were keen to settle in, and get used to the community. I remember feeling quite isolated initially. Two young children at home, husband at work and only very part time nursing shifts back in Adelaide to connect with other adults. But the ‘drop in’s’ I missed from friends and family were replaced with planned visits instead and I soon started to connect with the friendly community. Those early years with my kids are some of my most treasured memories…walking to the end of the street to see the cows, riding to the local park which had a lake with ducks, gnarly old gum trees and bike paths and watching the kids explore the yard in rubber boots, which was much larger than they had been used to.
An opportunity to purchase a small acreage came along three years later – this was our lifelong dream - so we sold the beautiful home we had designed and built and moved to a basic weatherboard house on 5 ½ acres nearby.
The house is still a ‘work-in-progress’ for my Carpenter husband and I and we have spent many a weekend over the past seven years on the place we fell in love with at first sight. You know that feeling you get when something is just right? (Though I’m sure a few of our friends and family probably wondered what we were thinking)!
Country life suited us to a tea. It was like living all the things I loved about ‘Little House on the Prairie’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Far and Away’. We have a long driveway with a property sign out the front and views to die for. The kids still get excited when the winter rain turns our front paddock into a winter creek and we have a dam with a rope swing hanging from a gum tree. Our neighbour mowed a path so that my kids could run to their friends’ property on the other side when they were young. While I still don’t have my own horse, I am treated to visits by my neighbours’ horses. We have experienced the joy of watching our sheep have lambs and my kids understand the circle of life from experience. Our hand-raised sheep ‘Bambalamb’ doesn’t know she is a sheep and has become firm friends with ‘Nelson’ the alpaca, who lost his brother last year. I sell our chickens eggs at work for the kids. We have two dogs, two cats, an avery of birds and a turtle. Our resident wild ducks have returned for the spring with eleven ducklings close by. We still get excited when we spot kangaroos in neighbouring paddocks. There is space to ride motorbikes and a pool for hot summers days. Memories of backyard cricket, morning cups of tea on the verandah, wine on the deck on balmy summer’s eves and our annual bonfires on crisp starry nights will always be dear. I don’t worry that the music is too loud, or that the neighbours will see me run out to the line in my PJ’s. I love that we grow our own vegies and have space for fruit trees, and that the kids get as excited as I do when something new happens in the garden. Last summer I made my first batch of tomato sauce which actually turned out! There is always something to do…festivals, wineries, markets and fairs.
Country life is a lifestyle choice and people live here for the same reason. Here I see everyone I know during the weekly shop, people give way when they don’t need to and strangers talk to you in the street. We are valued members of the community, our life and work is here now. I’m so glad we took a chance because there’s no place I’d rather be.
A TREE CHANGE
What on earth possessed us to leave the city for the country life at our age!
It all started with a dream (mostly Libby’s initially). For as long as I can remember she has wanted to have an acre or two, some sheep, chooks and a donkey! Our eldest son, his lovely wife and their boys made the move to five acres at Dawesley about seven years ago which only heightened the desire for a shift to the country.
Libby’s enthusiasm for country was infectious and I too caught the bug (albeit it somewhat secretly; knowing we could not afford a move to acreage in the Adelaide hills). Libby would connive and scheme ways in which we could extend the mortgage to claim the dream, only for sensible me (mostly scared out of my mind at the prospect of increasing debt at sixty plus years) to put a kybosh on the idea. I had huge doubts that I could continue working to age one hundred plus to pay off the farm!
Here’s me working as a rehabilitation consultant for SA Health, long hours, hectic pace and headaches with all the dynamics associated with injury management coming home to Hi darling, I’ve found a couple of places for us! The conversation would develop into how we could perhaps buy an old house and do it up, and how we could keep the current mortgage, or extend it a little. It might mean a move to a house block in Meadows and extra commuting for me to get to work, but we’ll be ok. What do you think?! The real dream was for a patch of dirt, not another house block with close neighbors! Deep down Libby knew that, but pined for a tree change. So, no go; would it ever happen for us? Looks like I continue to work to the grave; Libby being convinced that I would not make retirement age if I continued to work the long hours I did; something’s got to give!
In October 2012 I came home from work to find Libby on the computer, very excited (yet again) about a 3.75 acre property at Padthaway in the South East; an old schoolhouse which had been built on over the years. Padthaway! That’s miles away, get real!
Oh boy; then the mind started racing, the asking price was possible for us; we could sell our house, use some superannuation, have the property freehold, invest some and semi-retire!
Call the agent and let’s have a look! Yes, no………….. YES!
The rest is, as they say, history; on October 13th 2012 we drove to Padthaway looked at the property, saw the potential, stayed at Bordertown overnight and drove past the property again on the way home to have another look. We wondered about the close proximity of a canola crop, would it affect Libby since she is an asthmatic? So taking the bull by the horns I picked some and rubbed it in her face to see if she had a reaction! Luckily, no, sounds cruel, but we made sure she had her EpiPen with her. Then we looked at each other and said let’s do it! Equally both the bravest and possibly the most stupid (according to some) thing we’ve ever done!
From there things went into warp speed. Put in an offer on the property, about $45,000 less than the asking, accepted! Flexible settlement planned for 16th March 2013. Mammoth (I mean mammoth) amounts of work to get ours up to speed to sell; had heaps of help from our wonderful children; needed a ten cubic metre skip to clear thirteen years of junk!
Our house in the city sold on the first open inspection late November 2012; the buyer had sold her house, had cash and wanted to move in on the 20th December 2012! Our agent advised her we would not be able to do that! We said say YES, we can live with the kids for a while if we need to! Called the Padthaway agent advised of the sale, negotiated a new settlement date for us to move to Padthaway 20th December 2012. Bloody hell! Had four weeks to resign, pack up the city house and move! Impossible! Despite a speedy resignation my boss at work was tickled pink for us, knowing that we had wanted to move into the country for some time. Some years before she had spotted a property at Dawesley on the net for us and bought it to my attention, suggesting we buy it, knowing our dream! I said, can’t do, my son has just purchased it!
Again, wonderful kids and family all pitched in; trucks hired, boxes packed, final tandem trailer load of those last bits and pieces you just can’t leave in the old place loaded; reminiscent of the Beverley Hillbillies! We did it. On the 20th of December 2012 we were in our new place; two years ago December 2014, where did that time go!
What on earth possessed us to leave the city for the country life at our age?
The fulfillment of a dream; we love the lifestyle; we have the chooks, veggies and sheep (no donkey too noisy); the community has accepted us, lovely folk. We do miss the close proximity of our children and grandchildren, but they’re a few short hours away and the contact we have is great; we stay or they stay for a couple of days; quality time.
Stress levels? Much reduced. Blood pressure? Back to normal.
Would we do it again, you bet!
You can do it too, go on we dare you!
Article by Trevor & Libby Middleton-Frew
My husband Mark and I were discussing the lifestyle of a friend that lived in Kinglake. We came to visit them often over a few years. Every time we drove up the mountain, we took a deep breath as we relaxed into our car seats and both felt that same feeling of ‘coming home’.
When leaving their house and started that drive home, it was almost like anxiety had worked its way back into our hearts. With the thoughts of work, traffic, hustle and bustle, helicopters, planes, narrow streets, speed humps and hoons. That disappointment of coming home to a house in the suburbs. Don’t get me wrong, we liked the house we lived in. It had some great factors; close to schools, parks, shops, its history and our family was there. But it didn’t feel permanent.
We spoke several times about perhaps one day making that tree change and moving to a house with some land. But it was just that, talk. Nothing eventuated. There were too many doubts, too much debt, it was too much of a hassle. We said one day, when we can afford it, one day when the kids were older, one day when we’re ready.
As a family we would often go for country drives. We would always have those ‘one day’ conversations of moving. We pointed at houses, looked at their position on the property, looked at the trees surrounding the houses, guessing the amount of land with the properties.
From here, we started getting curious about cost ..what would the cost be to purchase our forever home? A place for us to grow, the kids to play, learn and explore. We looked at different locations; Bulla, Beveridge, Wallan, Gisborne, and Kinglake. To be honest the prices scared us!
Were we being realistic? Our heart were saying go for it, our heads were saying Whoa! Can we really afford this? Should we uproot the family? Should we leave an established good school? What about work?
We dropped into an open inspection on a weekend drive one day. Then we actually started booking inspections through agents. We kept booking most of them around Kinglake. Kinglake kept drawing us back.
We had booked an inspection one day, when that day came I was unwell. Mark and the kids went and inspected the property. He came home boasting about the land, the space, the privacy and what he could do with it. I asked, what about the house? He said, yeah it was ok. And suggested I visit.
So the next day I made an appointment to visit the house. A few days later I came up. The house was a little dated, would need some changes, nothing structural but a little TLC required. I walked around the land and in and out of the house about 3 or 4 times. I liked the layout, the kitchen, the potential, the spaciousness, privacy, the thought of the lifestyle change and fell in love with the whole package!
I came home and said let’s do it! Let’s make that change, let’s not put it off, let’s make our dream a reality and make it work!
That was two and a half years ago and since then we haven’t looked back! The kids have settled extremely well in their new school, joined local sports clubs and made so many friends. Mark isn’t too far from work still, leaving a little earlier but adores the scenic and welcoming drive home every night. Me, well I’m involved in our local school, market, a couple of community groups, enjoying the country living and have my own home business working out of the kitchen I fell in love with. I am so very glad we took that plunge and would ask anyone – why wait?
OUR COUNTRY MOVE TO HEALESVILLE
Having lived in the Eastern suburbs all of my life my partner and I thought it was the perfect place to buy a house. We did just that and bought a modest home close to schools and shops in Heathmont and renovated to our hearts content, with the dream of one day buying land and building.
That dream came earlier than we had anticipated when late one Thursday night after both working a long day, chatting outside on our deck we heard the next door neighbour’s toilet flush. We looked at one another and headed to our computer and began looking for land online. What we found was a house on six acres that we knew needed work but we loved instantly. So in the car we went at 9.30pm at night and drove to Healesville. As we passed Coldstream and then proceeded to a 100km zone we feared that it was just too far away but we went anyway. Driving through the main street of Healesville we instantly fell in love with the Paris lights that lit up the street ever so beautifully.
The property appeared to be on a quiet street just behind the RACV Country Club and Golf Course, so we booked in to see the house the Saturday morning. The house was ten years old and needed some renovating but we loved it even though it was very different to what either of us were used to. A timber and brick house, tank water and wood heating quietly freaked me out!
We looked, loved it and we bought it! We made an offer on the Sunday, they accepted it on the Monday and we sold our Heathmont house on the following Monday. And away we were.
There was everything we could want in our beautiful town. From specialty shops, some of the best cafés with the best coffee! Many restaurants and good old pub meals, Health Services, a short drive to Eildon, play groups, day care centres, family day care, kindergartens, primary schools, a high school and so much more.
That year of 2002 we moved to Healesville, I finished my Graduate Diploma in Perioperative Nursing, we got married and held our wedding reception at our new house! Crazy was what everyone thought but we didn’t care, we were happy and just loved it. Commuting to work was our biggest adjustment but we quickly grew to love driving past mountains, cows, sheep and hot air balloons. The next four years were a bit of a blur working hard and long hours as we realised that we had bitten off more that we could chew financially. A big mortgage, six acres of land and wanting to renovate all at once meant we had to work hard and not give up.
In 2006 after a few years of frustration we were finally blessed with our first child, a little girl whom we named Megan Christina. Her arrival changed our world immediately and we knew that our hard work and move to the country was the best decision we had ever made. Megan’s arrival also connected me and my husband Peter with other Healesville families through a local Mother’s group whom we remain close friends with today.
Healesville offered so many other opportunities to us. Our local friendship base continued to grow through play group, child care, kinder and school. As we welcomed our second child in 2007, a boy, Blake Donald, we stepped in to the world of playgroup. With four play groups to choose from in the area, we found the one that suited us and were welcomed with open arms.
When our last child, Logan Peter was born in 2009, we began the world of 3/4year old kinder for Megan. With three kinder centres to choose from in the area run by KinderLink Inc, my children have all had the most wonderful early childhood learning experience, developing so many skills whilst also preparing them for school.
With Megan and Blake now at St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School in Healesville and Logan to start next year, we are one happy family that are all so very grateful for what we have. We have guinea pigs, sheep, dogs and chickens and cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world. We love it and so do the kids. Waking up to mountain views every morning is just wonderful.
Healesville is a town that I am so proud to be a part of. The people I have met over the years and the friendships I have made have ensured we have never looked back. There are so many hard working volunteers here too, who selflessly contribute in so many ways, making sure our town becomes an even better place to live. It is comforting to know as a community we look out for each other and our children and understand that, like anywhere, there are always issues but we are all working together to ensure the best future for us all.
Article by Sue Schelfhout
FROM SIRENS TO SILENCE
On any given day in our small London house with the windows flung open you would hear an orchestra of sounds. The sirens from the police station, the trains and announcements to Charing Cross, the buses and bustle of people rushing to get to and from work, the neighbours talking from one room to another, Jamaican to my left and Swedish to my right. The city never stopped and the arrangement of music that life created was rarely quiet, never still, but always dynamic.
I sit here today in country Victoria with a cup of tea, outside my back door watching the theatre of life before me. The sirens are now exchanged for silence, albeit the background chorus of Kookaburras and Currawong birds. The rabbits dance in front of me and the trees sway. The paddocks are scattered with happy sheep and cows and the ground sparkles as the sun hits the dewy grass.
It is a far cry from London, and with an open heart I still love the city sounds but cannot take more than a week away from my country life that we have now called home and adopted heart and soul.
Our life in Kyneton began three years ago when we arrived with a 20ft container, a baby, a toddler and a dream to create a life of self-sufficiency. Our canvas was a beautiful farm pre-loved and nurtured by an old Italian couple who built a sensible house (our Terracotta dream) and planted an array of fruit trees, nut trees, a vineyard and olive trees. We were beginners with oodles of passion but less than a postage stamp of experience. Our journey started as our feet hit the ground and with many lessons learned along the way we have ventured face first into territories unknown. A lot has been scary (Robbie the Rooster), some painful (shelling Chestnuts) but most of them rewarding. Every day I look outside and know that I haven’t even scratched the surface. I toil sometimes with a grumpy face and wish that I could just fast forward the tough bits so that we can sit back and enjoy the farm with the kids, but then I look at their muddy faces and complete fearlessness of tackling the unknown and I don’t want to miss a second of this. They pick fruit and feed the chickens, they plant vegetables and smell the herbs. They yell at the cockatoos when the almond and hazelnuts are ripe and know that life has a cycle that needs to be respected and food is something that is grown not thrown. We know about seasons and look forward to the buds and flowers in Spring, Autumn when the Olives and Medlars are picked and the mushrooms are found, Summer when the stone fruits are ripe and Winter when the fire is on and the days are longer. Each season now brings anticipation and some planning too. On the weekends we bake our own bread and the days are usually full of jobs that can easily be translated by a 5 year boy as an adventure! We know that for all of us, these lessons are life changing and create foundations for today and for their future.
We don’t always get it right and laugh at ourselves a lot! The move to Kyneton has given us so many choices, and a platform to provide food security, and a healthy life for our family. It occurs to me when I write our story down how much we have changed since leaving South East London. I laugh to myself and somewhere close by a Kookaburra does too.
Article by Jennifer Beachey
From Sirens to Silence
OUR TREE CHANGE
Eleven years ago my husband and I decided to make a tree change. My husband ran a commercial construction company which was very stressful and he spent a lot of time interstate. I owned Bloomsbury Flowers on Burke Road, Camberwell. It was a very busy time and something had to give.
I saw an advertisement in the paper for a rundown farmhouse in Tynong. I wasn't sure where it was but the house was cheap and would be a great project for my husband. I took the afternoon off work and took my parents out to see the farmhouse. My mum held her face in her hands and said to me ‘Why would you leave a perfectly good house for this?’ as it needed a lot of work.
I went home and said to my husband Gordon ‘We have to have it!’ so he went and had a look and agreed. We both could see the potential but a few of our friends did wonder ‘Why Tynong?’ and possibly thought we'd hit hard times.
Gordon quit his job and started work fixing and extending the old house. I was still commuting to Camberwell however after a couple of years, I just wanted to be at the farm, so I sold the shop.
With most of the renovating done I wondered to myself ‘Hmmm what will I do?’ I tried working for a girlfriend who has a beautiful florist shop but I really didn't feel right. Gordon made the suggestion of fixing up the old dairy building and me teaching Floristry. I've been a florist for thirty years with ten of those years working under a German master florist Gerda Hartmann, hence my reaction was ‘Who is going to come out here?’ My husband said ‘Let’s fix it up and see’.
I put a small advertisement in our local paper and that one ad just about filled the three classes a week I had planned. There must have been a real need in local area at the time for the ladies. I then did a wedding for my husband's cousin at the Euroa Butter Factory and the owner of the butter factory loved what I did and asked if I would consider doing any more, to which I replied ‘Certainly!’ which led to a few more, including Giaan Rooney’s wedding. Her dress designer Helen Manuell then started sending work my way.
Five years on and I couldn't be busier and so grateful to the likes of Rebecca Gannon at the butter factory and Helen Manuell. The tree change has been so good for us. We just love the space, the animals, including our dogs, horses and chickens. We are so lucky.
Article by Georgie Campbell
WINE BY SAM
We are a farming family and I grew up in the country. The Plunketts first came to Australia in 1842 and settled as dairy farmers in Elizabeth, near Adelaide. The 1850’s gold rush saw some of my forebearers on the road chasing their fortune. On their travels desirable farming country was identified near Albury. The plan was to first make a fortune, and then return to the region able to buy land and resettle.
I don’t think the fortune was ultimately found, but the family to did return to Albury and ‘select’ country. Selecting was a conditional purchase lease which allowed people of limited means to acquire farm land. The deal was that you had to live on the land and improve it to win the discounted purchase price. This is the part of the story I love… apparently my Great Great Grandfather and his three sons built a hut across the intersecting boundary of 4 selector titles, with a bed in each corner of the hut. This way they could live in the same hut and still comply with the requirement of each living on their block of land! The land became known as Willow Park and is the farm Dad jackarooed on as a lad. Willow Park is now under the Hume Weir.
I love the space of living in the country and I love having my working day and yearly work program determined by nature. The vines tell us when they need pruning, or watering, or whatever. When vintage comes around all the administration and small business things that drive me crazy are put to the side and all energy goes to bringing in the crop and making the best wine we can from what nature gifts us. There is a culture of support and working together that I suspect is stronger in the country than a city. There are formal manifestations of this – the volunteer fire brigade acknowledges that a bushfire is bigger than any individual. That nature insists we work together on big issues sets up a culture of working together on smaller things as well.
Also, and it might sound like I’m contradicting myself here, there is also a satisfying independence that comes with country life. A mechanic is a 30km drive away so you get used to fixing things yourself. We are a bit ‘off the grid’ collecting water and running pumps to supply the house for example, which adds to the self of self-reliance, and there is an element of pride in that.
After studying economics at university, and enjoying the buzz of the big city, I came home in 1991 to look after the emerging family wine business. I captained Plunkett Wines, for 14 years before becoming Chief Winemaker at Plunkett Fowles in 2005. During my 6 years at Plunkett Fowles some thousands of tonnes were crushed, and the resulting wine was sent around the world. As with many successful things, Plunkett Fowles came to an end abruptly, following an aggressive buy out by the Fowles side of the team.
Naked Wines is a crowd funded online wine company that supports independent winemakers across Australia. They approached me soon after the Fowles buyout, and have shown such confidence and support, which made starting over so much easier. Being backed by Naked Wines has helped pave the way for me to continue making the good wine that I love to make.
I now take great pleasure in working with my wife, Bronwyn Dunwoodie, in our business, Wine by Sam, making wine from all around our home state (Victoria). Our ambition is to make a red wine that can live for 30 years from fruit grown on the family vineyard in the Strathbogie Ranges of Central Victoria.
There is a special satisfaction for me in working with wine - it is alive. A lot of winemaking is unromantic: sheer hard work. But there is a creative element. I used to play a lot of music, and there were moments when the band hit a groove and everything went up a level. In music or art, those moments of creativity can come out of nowhere. With wine, the creativity is more of a long, slow build. It can be quite an intellectual pursuit imagining a wine, and then working with nature to gently nudge the wine in the direction you want to take it. But (like when the band finds a harmony) when it all comes together there can be that same sense of elevation and wonder, as your senses drink it in.
Wine is my hobby as well as my job. It's often part of the dinner table conversation, and it's my bedside reading as I am currently a ‘Master of Wine’ student. Wine is simply a part of our everyday family life, the vineyards are our backyard, the winery is our workplace and at the end of the day there is a glass with dinner.
If I was only allowed two words to describe myself ‘Winemaker’ and ‘Dad’ would probably be the two. In truth I think I’m a lesser Dad for being so engaged with making wine. Fortunately, Bron is an outstanding parent, so overall she makes us look good as a parenting team. Growing up, it was normal for us kids to work with my Dad. I didn’t ever wonder what Dad did, we knew first hand, from working with him.
These days, occupational health and safety laws make involving the children a little more complicated, however, both our boys, Edward (10) and Felix (13), know how to make wine. Most years they make a wine for themselves, and also for Grandma. Last year Felix made a Shiraz Viognier blend – a nine-litre bottle which he talks about drinking at his 21st. In 2013, Ed made an ‘ice wine’ Gewurtraminer (he likes sweet things). It was great fun figuring out how we were going to make this wine and get the machines to deal with the tiny volumes the kids make (Ed’s ice wine ended up as just one bottle!).
Because I love being a Dad, and love making wine, my happiest days are when the two get mashed together, the boys enjoy helping out around the winery and during school holidays they have time to get involved. Our youngest boy (Ed) reports that I top the list that his school buddies run of ‘Most Embarrassing Dad’! It’s become a challenge to stay on top of this leadership board. My game plan includes to make sure I always wear a hat when picking up Ed. Ideally I’m driving the winery van (a second hand Hyundai). And, most importantly, I ALWAYS request a cuddle in front of his mates!
Some information on Sam’s wines -
Sam makes wine for Naked Wines, under the Wine x Sam label and priced from $8.99 to $14.99 (Angel prices);
The Butterfly Effect (available in Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc)
The Victorian (available in Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier)
THE EUROA BUTTER FACTORY
We were living in Melbourne, working long hours and had just had our first child William, when we saw an advertisement for the pending sale of the old ‘Euroa Butter Factory’. Having grown up in South Australia, we hadn’t visited that part of Victoria, so decided to go for the weekend to look at this intriguing old building.
We fell in love with the place. This grand old building that once had been a large employer in the area, was now home to birds and wildlife. The upper floors had been renovated, but the old factory floors on the lower levels were the prized residence of local pigeons. The gardens were non-existent, except for the three grand old plane trees and a lovely Cecil Brunner hedge.
We had started looking for a property in the country as a weekender, but when we found the butter factory, we started to think about how we could give our children the experience of actually living in the country.
When the auction failed to get a bid, we commenced our research and eventually purchased the property on Christmas Eve 2004. In the first few years, we travelled from Melbourne each weekend to work on the property and meet with the local tradesmen. Family and friends would come up to help with a multitude of tasks, from washing away years of grime, to lifting the old flagstones and re-paving. There was never a free lunch for anyone!
We wanted to create the kind of property we liked to stay at, with room for a group of friends to get together and enjoy good food and wine.
Slowly, the garden was established and the property was renovated to create a bed and breakfast with ample function spaces. The local community was very supportive and people would drop off all kinds of plants and a local garden designer helped plan the formal gardens.
The garden was just awful when we arrived and full of the ‘bindi eye’ weed. We spent months collecting manure and our dear friend Joy arranged for us to clear under a local shearing shed. Joy (in her 60’s at the time) whipped out a pair of evening gloves and started shovelling sheep dung! I can’t even remember how many loads we did, but slowly the garden became established.
The butter factory has now become a popular destination for guests and is in demand for weddings throughout the year. More recently, we have added ‘The Store’, a cafe located in the old butter store room which focuses on regional produce, wines and craft beer.
Last Christmas, it was ten years since we bought the butter factory. It has been heartbreaking and like having a fourth child at times, but the most wonderful thing has been the journey and the fantastic people we have met along the way.
Article by Rebecca & Russell Gannon
Euroa Butter Factory
BED & BROCCOLI
As a child I was fortunate enough to grow up in the country though at times I really felt I was missing out on the excitement of city living. That said I don’t remember thinking that as I spent summers swimming in dams, having boat races in small flooded creeks in winter, building cubby huts and climbing trees. Looking back the world was so enormous to me. We had no boundaries. The occasional wire fence? *Pft*
When I left home I went to find that excitement of the city and for a few years it was just that. Having no family in the city I found the congestion of it comforting and it wasn’t until I met my future husband (Scott) that we moved to the suburbs to build our first home. We built in a new estate that was once paddocks and some still had resident horses occupying them. We loved the idea of being able to commute to the city for work yet come home to see expanses of grass and animals. But as everyone would know, the suburban sprawl soon took that small piece of aesthetic beauty from us so we moved further out into the hills. Here we found the security on a few acres and the solace of nature to come home to knowing the hills were somewhere protected and filled with like-minded people.
But our real move to the country came about when Scott’s father retired in Shepparton, Victoria. It was decided that we would throw caution to the wind, quit our jobs, sell our home and move so that Scott could spend more time with his father.
Everything fell into place once the decision was made. We found this beautiful 5 acre property with nothing but countryside for as far as the eye can see. Right in the heart of dairy country!
We had employment before even moving here so we knew the decision was the right one.
There is so much to love about this lifestyle! Whilst we are busier than ever before we are more relaxed. It’s like your inner self operates at a slower pace. I feel more connected to something bigger living in the country. My senses have heightened but to the sounds of the trees, the birds and the calls of animals. We’ve learnt to read the weather and the see how animals live on a more intimate level.
A few years ago the CEO of a company I used to work for invited me to a dinner in the heart of Melbourne city. As I walked down the laneway of little China Town I had floor managers jump out from doorways to show me menus, there were lights everywhere, noise and people not making eye contact. Just rushing around. The next thing I felt was the hand of the CEO grabbing mine and asking if I was ok. I wasn’t. I was as pale as a ghost, shaking and generally feeling ill from overstimulation. Sudden movement in the country means something. An animal being startled, a rustling of leaves as a snake moves through it. I was sensitive to what was needed and with so much unnecessary bombardment I just wanted to return home where a noisy dinner party consisted of after dinner drinks under the stars, where I know all the people in my community, where people wave as you drive past, smile with their eyes and still enjoy engaging in conversation.
Here I can ask my local independent supermarket manager to get in items I need and receive a phone call when it’s in.
For us it is about spending more time with each other. We don’t feel the need to leave home to seek stimulation, as we are happy working around the property or sitting by the dam with a wine on a warm summers day. Whilst we are only 30 minutes from a major regional town where we could source entertainment we find flying a kite more enjoyable than paying to see a movie. Oh! And that’s another thing. We barely watch any TV. We’d rather sit and talk or look at the stars around a bonfire.
This lifestyle might not be for everyone but it certainly is for us. The fresh air, the pace and the expanse gives us a sense of freedom.
When we lived in the hills we toyed with the idea of opening a B&B but the hills were dotted with them and decided we didn’t want to add to the saturation so shelved the idea.
It was upon buying this property at Katandra West, Victoria that the idea surfaced once again when we started to fully renovate a dis-used dairy on the land. Initially we thought it would make a nice little guest house for family and friends but it soon started to take on such a beautiful transformation that we decided to start a business and open Australia’s first all vegan B&B. What we had here we just had to share. The beautiful countryside, combined with our family of rescued or unwanted farm animal plus some tasty home cooked vegan meals we considered it the perfect getaway!
So for the first year we worked full-time to fund it’s creation and worked on it during weekends and late into the evenings.
I contacted a small business centre in town for advice and guidance and with one step at a time we entered into our first business and into the unknown.
Whilst the accommodation is unique, spacious and comfortable we find all of our guests come here and stay for all the reasons we do. The peace and tranquilly of the countryside combined with the gentle interaction with animals that live fear free. Here humans are their friends and are of no threat to them so they go about their lives as they should allowing people to witness life as it should be for our animal friends.
We have been successfully operating now for nearly four years and have produced a book (Bed & Broccoli, the food, the lifestyle) on this lifestyle and how as vegans, we can flourish in the midst of dairy country. Life is no different here to the city when it comes to everyone struggling to make a living. We have just managed to make ours without the use of animals in any way. Now that is something we are very proud of!
COMING HOME AND FINDING SO MUCH MORE
I grew up in suburban Canberra and was the typical horse crazy girl. I was lucky enough to have my own horse that I showed successfully for many years before educating a thoroughbred which I also showed winning many Supreme Champions and competing at Royal shows. Although I was a city kid, most of my “horsey” friends lived on small acreage in the Canberra region and I just loved spending time with them.
After finishing a science degree and working in hospitals I moved to Sydney where I spent 6 years as a surgical equipment specialist. What a great career move- it involved many trips to France attending surgical conferences, where I gained a love of all things French, in particular French architecture and interior design.
While in Sydney I met and married my husband and we bought and renovated our first home in Sydney’s inner west. We had our eldest son, and I was a stay at home Mum loving life in the inner west with cafes and restaurants at our doorstep. I lost my Dad suddenly and started yearning for my home town of Canberra. As our son grew out of toddlerhood we investigated lifestyle changes to provide the type of childhood reminiscent of a bygone era- one that wasn’t so fast and provided children the space and time to just “be”. We looked at rural areas around Canberra and settled on an area to the north of Canberra, close to family, that I knew well from my horse riding days. While we live on a farm, it is an easy 30 minute commute to Canberra for my husband’s work, and Gundaroo village is 10 minutes away, where there is a lovely village atmosphere, complete with a wood fired pizza café, an award winning restaurant, a renowned cellar door, sweet village shop and local school. Initially we were just looking for a few acres, and maybe we should have been more concise in our brief to the real estate agent as we ended up purchasing a lovely home overlooking the local wineries that just happened to be attached to 200 acres!
After moving from Leichhardt where our block was 200 square meters and there was only a metre between houses, the space is glorious! We are lucky enough to have gorgeous neighbours, and the closest is about a kilometre away. The first 12 months were a challenge, with my husband commuting to Sydney for work. There was so much for a city slicker to learn, like how to operate water pumps, repair fences, and manage stock. It seemed that every weekend when my husband came home there was another “rescue” animal residing on the farm! His boss kept asking for updates on the growing menagerie. From ponies, to the odd cow, dogs rescued from the pound, a rescue cat, and even a rescue rooster at one stage!
After having a very small garden, it is a joy having the room to grow wisterias, camellias and roses and to have outside “rooms” in the garden. I love having a large vegie patch that gives an abundance of fresh produce year round. We try to live as organically as possible with home grown vegies, fruit from the orchard and berries grown along the orchard fence. We keep Silver Laced Wyandotte and Light Sussex bantam hens which provide fresh eggs all year in return for the kitchen scraps, garden clippings and grain that we give them. I also love that in spring we have an abundance of chicks hatching that grow up to be much loved pets and backyard layers in the area. In past years we have even carted our incubator into the boys’ school to allow the little ones to watch the eggs hatch. It never fails to make me smile hearing the chicks “cheeping” and chipping away at the shell, before they hatch and seeing the look of wonderment in kids’eyes as they watch the miracle of life!
The space on the farm gives our boys the freedom to ride bikes, build forts, and have boat races when the creek at the back of the property is flowing after rains. I love that at night the sky is lit by stars, not street lights and the boys can identify constellations that we just couldn’t see in the city. I love that in winter, weekends end up with a Sunday night bonfire and roasted marshmallows where story telling skills are honed. I love having friends out to stay and enjoying a glass of red or champagne around the fire after a home cooked meal.
It is amazing to watch our two boys grow up to be “country kids”- self-reliant and capable, mastering practical skills as a matter course - even though they live 30 minutes from the nation’s capital. I think that just having the space and time to try new things gives the boys confidence in their abilities and the attitude to give something a go, be it chopping fire wood, changing the oil in their bikes, learning how to manoeuvre the dinghy on the front dam, or how to nurse a sick or injured animal back to health. There is a peace and solitude that encourages creativity and getting in touch with your inner self that somehow I lost when living in Sydney.
I love also that the sense of community in the country is amazing. I think that because there is space, and you are not living in your neighbours shadow there is room to become better neighbours, whether it is welcoming new neighbours with a home baked cake, or helping out in times of need.
While I was travelling through France for work I fell in love with French style. I adored the way French women dressed, the architecture, and French interior design. Once we had our own home to renovate I was aghast at the price of French furniture and bespoke French kitchens. After moving to Gundaroo I took a course in French furniture painting and started painting pieces in our home with the aim of eventually modifying and painting our plain Tassie Oak kitchen to resemble some of the kitchens I had seen in magazines. While I had trepidation about making over the kitchen and wondered if my carpentry skills were up to the task, my husband was very supportive and now we love the result! (www.thelittlefrenchprovincialshop.com.au/blog/kitchen-reveal-aka-diy-french-provincial-kitchen-139183.aspx) Soon I had friends wanting to buy pieces I had painted or asking me to paint pieces for them. I started selling upstyled pieces on ebay and then set up a facebook page and a website www.thelittlefrenchprovincialshop.com to display and sell pieces. I had found it difficult to source some of the artisan paints and supplies that were so readily available overseas, so I decided to stock some specialty products such as Websters Chalk Paint, Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint, L’Essential Waxes and Efex Furniture appliques. These products are amazing and allow you to obtain that lovely authentic patina of timeworn furniture. I have recently expanded my business to include a workshop studio and now run regular workshops showing similar minded people how to easily upstyle their own pieces of furniture to obtain the upmarket interior designer look for a fraction of the cost. I love empowering people and helping them tap into their creative side! I do however warn that furniture painting is a highly addictive past time! Ultimately I want to be a source of unique French furniture, antiques homewares and decorator items, as well as providing a creative outlet … the place that you pop into because you can always find that fabulous item, or get the courage to be creative!
MORE SPACE TO KEEP PACE
In 2014, my wife Lauren and I moved our family from Melbourne to Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. At the time we were renting in Hadfield, a suburb around 40 minutes away from the CBD of Melbourne with a vision to enter the property market as our family started to grow. However, we quickly realised we were never going to afford to buy a place, even on the outskirts of Melbourne!
We were also both strapped for time as we juggled work commitments and long commutes with raising our one year old daughter. Since Lauren’s parents lived in Wagga Wagga we decided to escape the city and head north.
In our new adopted city, we quick found employment – I found work at the Council as an economist and Lauren has a position with a Local Non-Government Organisation – and now we have a better work/life balance. I am able to spend more time my daughter India in the morning and evening as it only takes fifteen minutes to travel to work by bus while India goes to a really professional and well run child-care facility only ten minutes from home. When she gets a bit older we also have the same close-knit set up as we will likely enrol her in the local primary school just down the road.
When it comes to the property market, there were a huge range of options for us when it came to choosing a place to live – well established family-oriented suburbs like Kooringal or lots of new estates like Tatton and Estella. Given the affordably of property and land, we even considered buying a nice block of land and contracting an architect to build our first home. In the end were able to find a beautiful existing family house in Kooringal with a big backyard while paying less than we did renting in Melbourne.
Wagga Wagga is a very community orientated place with lots of opportunities for employment. It has a diverse economy with a number of Universities, a local airport, a local industry including manufacturing and automotive repairers and the biggest regional hospital in Australia.
It is clean, quiet and friendly with lots of outdoor activities and events. We usually visit the botanical gardens on the weekend as India loves the miniature train rides, pony rides and visiting the local zoo that we can enter for free. India also loves to attend and participate in local gymnastics, music and swimming classes.
Apart from the new hospital development there is also a growing retail sector and work going into beautifying areas along the Murrumbidgee River to encourage swimming, walking and eating close to the city’s greatest natural asset.
Wagga Wagga is halfway between Sydney and Melbourne which makes it perfect for me to be able to visit my family and friends on either side of the boarder. While it is not that close to the ocean it takes one hour to get to the snow and we can also explore local towns like Junee and Tumbarumba.
We feel a lot calmer in Wagga Wagga and are better able to manage our work and family life so that we can enjoy both.
LAVANDE AROMATIQUES LAVENDER FARM
It was during one of our usual Easter holiday trips to the small NSW town of Narrandera for their annual Hot Rod Rally that we spied a small, neglected, farm house property for sale in the Real Estate window. Just a few kilometres out of town, we made arrangement s that weekend to visit what was hesitantly called a “Renovators Dream” on 2.2 hectares, with more than enough room for a growing family.
With school age children in tow, we could afford a small mortgage on one wage and by my calculations could pay it off without stress within 7 years. Luckily our Bank manager thought so too and within a couple of months we had signed the contracts and were packing up the kids and our belongings and heading along the Hume to the Riverina District of NSW.
A work and love affair in progress, we have gradually renovated the 100 year old farmhouse, just one room at a time, whilst planning the vegetable gardens, building the sheds for the chickens and planting our beautiful trees. As self proclaimed Eco Warriors, the once barren property is now full of beautiful native birds, kangaroos and energetic blue tongue lizards.
I had always loved to cook and the children were excited to be able to harvest our own organic fruit and vegetables from the house gardens. When the children were little, I baked bread and cakes and made jams and pickles from both our Summer and Autumn harvests. In the winter, with the original wood stove heating the kitchen, the house became a gentle and cosy retreat from the outside world.
With Steve away at work during the day and children off at school, pottering away in the cottage gardens filled with fragrant herbs and medicinal flowering plants was a rewarding activity.
We had planted some large areas of lavender which were thriving in the climate so we expanded the plantings and bought ourselves an Essential Oil Still and began our pocket sized lavender farm in earnest. The lavender farm is still going after 15 years, albeit at a slower place these days, and we are still making Essential Oil and harvesting dried flowers for sale.
Occasionally we get a yearning to return to the city and will trek down the Newell Hwy to Melbourne but after a few days of experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life it is always a welcome relief to return to the calm serenity our beautiful country home.
Article by Joanne Rolfe
Lavande Aromatiques Lavender Farm
'Open by Appointment' only
'Clydebank' Bells Rd, Narrandera, NSW
Telephone; (02) 6959 3920
Joanne Rolfe lives in Narrandera, NSW, together with her husband and their 3 rescue cats.
She whiles away the hours in her beautiful cottage gardens, distils boutique Essential Oil in the summer season and is now devoting her time to studying millinery for her other venture, Vintage Designs.
As a child I grew up on a farm, we always had an acre of veggies to go to market and we had sheep and cattle. Later from the age of 10 I had my first paid job picking raspberries on a nearby raspberry farm I bought my first bike with that money then later I worked on the kiwi fruit farm over the back fence. We didn’t have much money to spare at home. By the time I was a teenager I became supervisor and regularly had raspberries thrown at me. From those early days I knew I would have my own property one day. My love of fresh produce and food took me to learn the culinary arts and I became a chef. I studied at Cordon Bleu in London and La Varenne, Paris. I owned and ran a catering business in London then became a personal chef to the rich and famous as they cruised the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Feeling the pull of being closer to family, I headed to Sydney where I started my business Simmer café, which then grew to setting up Simmer Catering and Events and then my own venue on the harbour of Simmer on the Bay at Walsh Bay.
Dad and I bought a farm in the Southern Highlands, which we had for 10 years in Joadja 10 minutes to where we are now. The joy of paddock to plate grew then. I really got to enjoy growing my own fruit and vegetables to supply my café and catering business in Sydney.
My partner Kevin and I drove many a times along the beautiful country road just out of Berrima where the old run down stables stood nestled on the hill side. Its equestrian heritage had captured our attention and drawn us in. Finally after much excitement we bought the 100-acre property and had found our own little slice of Heaven in the misty Hills of the Beautiful Southern Highlands.
I spend my time through the week going between ‘The Loch’ and my catering business ‘Simmer on the bay’, in Sydney. I feel so refreshed when I wake up each morning on the property away from the hussle and bustle of the city. I have a nice hot cup of Earl Grey with Kevin and our dog Raffles on the veranda soaking up the beauty of the gardens and surrounding land and then make my way to the veggie garden and spend time getting my fingers in the rich Earth, picking veggies that are ready or pulling weeds. This is the place where I feel most relaxed, there is something about an abundance of fresh vegetables growing that really makes me feel good. Just being in the garden inspires my cooking I love what the different seasons create. And I love how the earth teaches you how to work it through trial and error.
The people we meet each Sunday, many who are locals, is the secondary gain of opening our farm stall. Country people are genuine and very supportive. They really believe in what we are doing.
It took us 2 years to renovate the old stables and add the accommodation storey, with many locals in awe of the changes and saying that they didn’t think it would happen. In our renovations we included accommodation with industrial design/ barn conversion influences and enriched with layers of Victorian opulence placed above the original stables, each room with it’s own modern ensuite. We also included a spacious kitchen with dining and comfortable lounge area for our guests to relax in.
After the renovations were completed and the gardens were setup, from the natural asking for our produce we decided that we would like to extend our love of the country and our passion for growing our own flowers, fruit and vegetables and thus ‘paddock to plate’. My love of cooking comes though the veggies growing and cooking and Kevin’s love of old things lead to his expertise in restoring antiques so we opened our gates to the Public on Sunday’s.
Being a chef I have naturally loved to cook, so each week I cook take home meals, dips, sauces and a range of jams using produce from the garden. I have also recently introduced an array of homemade ice cream. Visitors can try a little taste before they buy from the display table. It has been set up so our customers can get inspired and learn new ways to cook with the fruit and vegetables they buy. Our gorgeous flowers are picked fresh each week from the 200 tea roses that we planted or from other plants and flowers that are in bloom that week. At the moment we have many delightful Dahlia’s and roses. These are bunched each Sunday morning and bring colour and beauty to our stall.
Our customers really love being able to wander through the vegetable garden and see where their produce has been grown and are transfixed by the beauty of the flowers and grounds of the property.
Kevin having spent a lot of time in his father’s antique shop early in his working life brought his love and skill for restorations, Kevin offers his expert knowledge on the antiques knowing the special signs and quirks that show the age and era of the pieces to our customers.
We are so happy to have this property and opportunity to grow our own food and to share it with others. We love the people we meet and our staff that we share it all with.
Brigid is the Director of Simmer on the Bay, an award winning waterfront venue located on Walsh Bay. Originally from New Zealand, Brigid has lived in Australia for 25 years and has worked hard to establish herself as a well-respected chef and caterer, who focuses on using local, seasonal produce.
Brigid also runs ‘The Loch’ in the beautiful Southern Highlands, NSW.
Brigid juggles her time as a chef, caterer, gardener, mum and author. Despite a hectic daily schedule which includes shopping for ingredients, helping in the restaurant kitchen and meeting with clients about upcoming events, and a mid week and weekend schedule that sees her travel to her farm in Berrima to harvest fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs she grows for her restaurant and for Sundays at ‘The Loch’, Brigid also maintains a work/life balance, taking time out regularly to spend with her partner, son and friends.
Brigid is the Author of 2 successful books, Small Food and All Fired Up and is currently working on a third. She teaches regularly at a number of cooking schools.
To book accommodation or to find out more about what we have on offer on Sunday’s call Brigid on 0411 511 244 or email email@example.com
40 BANK STREET
It took us twenty five years to finally leave Sydney behind. Pa had grown up there waterside, but his lifelong aim was to settle his family in the Central West. There were many stops along the way, Galston, Cranebrook, and the lower Blue Mountains, but by the late 1980s we had arrived. Our destination? Molong, a town of 1,200, nestled in the once prosperous gold fields of the Cabonne Shire, a town with wide streets, gentle hills, surrounded by some of the finest agricultural land in Australia, land which would soon become famous for its winemaking.
We considered Orange. I had grown up there, but as a friend of ours from the town said, "Anyone can live here in Orange, but Molong's a real country town."
At first we settled in a Edwardian homestead on the outskirts. We loved it. It needed work and love in equal measure, and we provided it. We grew lucerne, and had sheep, all the while becoming more and more aware of what a jewel the town and its people were. Main Street, lined with buildings dating back to the gold rush, worked on us like a magnet. In the 1870s, Molong had a population twenty times bigger than today. Over thirty thousand people, mostly immigrants from Europe and China, teemed the streets and surrounding hills then, all of them hoping to strike it rich. Main Street's majestic buildings, which include three banks and is named Bank Street in honour of this fact, are a legacy of that time, and redolent in history. We found ourselves enjoying the time we spent on main street, and thinking "if only" more and more often.
"If only one of these buildings were for sale," I remember Pa saying.
"If only the old Express building was for sale," I added. "We could open the restaurant that everyone is always telling us we should."
The old express building was a marvellous constellation of possibilities. As its name suggested, it had been the home or the town's newspaper, The Molong Express, for fifty years. But it's history stretched long before that 40 Bank Street had been built by Molong's first mayor, William Tanner, and served as a general store from the 1870s until just after World War I when it briefly headquartered a stock and station agent. The 1920s were a blur of enterprising types making a go of everything from ironmongery to hospitality to journalism. Misses Finch and Packham ran their Glasgow Refreshment Rooms there for a time followed by a boarding house upstairs until the Molong Express arrived with its printing presses. But when the Molong Express packed up and moved on, Bank Street remained off the market for close to a decade --in plain sight, but out of reach.
Then one happy day, 40 Bank Street became ours. All of it. From the balcony with its balustrade and hipped skillion roof, its views of the rise In the middle distance where you can watch the trains run from Sydney to Broken Hill, to the stone cellar that spans the length and width of the building where we held an engagement party for our daughter, to the store front space that became our restaurant "Upstairs Downstairs" (opened on the birthday of Pa's mother), to the high-ceilinged second floor that we converted into a loft-style apartment when we gave up the homestead. All told it's been ours for twenty five years, making us the second longest occupiers, and we couldn't imagine another life.
It was here that Pa and the local milkman, Don Turrise, planted a vineyard, turning the long backyard into an enclosed oasis, and pressing a vintage of nearly undrinkable red they dubbed the Don Pedro Estate. We never sold a drop, but we drank it all. After years of wonderful times and countless meals, we finally turned the page on the restaurant, but we still live upstairs. Pa does his woodworking on the ground floor in a space much too big for it, happily keeping his eye on the characters passing by.
We might be leaving 40 Bank Street for smaller quarters soon, but we won't be leaving Molong. When you've found your place in the country, there's no going back.
Article by Janine Thomas
Janine "Neenee" Thomas lives with her husband Peter "Pa" in Molong, where they have been for 28 years. Recently, they decided to put their much-loved 40 Bank Street on the market. Photos of the country and house can be seen on Neenee's Instagram page here: www.instagram.com/neencountry. If you want to learn more about Molong and Cabonne Shire generally, Janine is always happy to help and can reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Country life has a way of slipping into your psyche and holding you close so you never want to leave.
I’ve always lived far from the city fringe. I feel the safest when a night sky is lit by stars not streetlamps. I feel the most serene when silence is interrupted by cicadas and not sirens. I feel the most at home when surrounded by isolation instead of neighbours.
The eldest of seven children, I grew up chasing sheep on a family farm outside Tamworth. Summer days were spent catching yabbies in dams and wet winter afternoons riding through temporary creeks. There were also life lessons to learn. Droughts parch more than the earth. Bushfires burn more than windmill grass. And small communities are the heart of the bush.
Post-school, I lived in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado as an exchange student. Here my attachment to rural areas and small towns grew. Elk grazed in my front yard instead of kangaroos. Golden aspens shivered in the autumn air instead of evergreen gum trees. And while the accents might be different, everyone still knew each other’s names.
I returned home and went to a country university. Here I met my country boy. After time overseas experiencing English country life, I was married in a tiny, Virginia-creeper covered country church, near Uralla, NSW. Married life saw us head out west to Nyngan where my husband was the rural financial counsellor and I taught in tiny, one-teacher schools. On the edge of the outback there were no hills (only the levee bank around town) but there were endless sunsets, long river walks and strong community spirit.
When the first of our four children arrived, our needs changed, and we headed two hours east to the regional centre of Dubbo. We bought a small farm with a large country garden and here we have stayed. Our feather and fur kids include dogs, cows, horses, ponies, chickens and Pekin ducks. The mechanical horse power in the sheds only gets faster and noisier as motorbikes are outgrown and ute and tractor driving skills acquired.
My little farmers are now teenage farmers. Resilient, compassionate and hard working they represent the best of what growing up in the bush can offer. They will soon leave to spread their wings and I have no doubt they will return to the country life that is part of who they are and that we all love.
Article by Alissa Callen
Rural Fiction Author
When Alissa Callen isn't writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. Alissa writes rural and small town fiction. Her novels, Beneath Outback Skies and Down Outback Roads, are set in the red earth countryside of central western NSW where she lives.
Living in a capital city close to family, modern conveniences and two beautiful children, we were quite comfortable with how life was going. However, my husband’s job satisfaction was pretty low and after a bit of soul searching, he was able to change careers and now is very happy working as a Paramedic with the NSW Ambulance service.
For his first placement we were asked if we wanted to go to the city or regional centre. It was only for a year, so we thought we'd give a regional city a go, and then be back in a capital city forevermore. So off to regional NSW we went, with Wagga Wagga, one of the seven Evocities, destined to be our home – it ended up being the most wonderful year.
The lifestyle was ideal, the kids spent lots of time with their dad, on their bikes, browsing markets and exploring parks. We lived near the lake and exercised every day. We met lovely people and made friends for life. We felt healthy, relaxed and happy. The year flew by and soon we were transferred back to the city.
It was great to be near family again and we took advantage of the fun events and services offered in the city, but these fun activities were also pricey and our savings seemed to be growing only slightly. We were still saving for our own home though and the costs of rent was high. Our family was growing and we were starting to feel quite stressed and overwhelmed with traffic congestion, high property prices, various commitments pulling us in all sorts of directions and a lack of access to safe and spacious areas for the kids to play. We often talked about our great time in Wagga Wagga and wondered if we could somehow get that quality of life back again.
City living got all too much one day and we had a talk about how we'd ever get a home and the lifestyle we desired. My husband suggested we put in for a transfer to a regional city. I said "Yes!" immediately and it all happened very quickly from there.
In a few months we were moving seven hours inland to another one of the Evocities, Tamworth. Located on the outskirts of the regional hub, we've been here for eight months now and we're loving it. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming. We are a part of a community here who looks out for each other. We grow vegetables and get fresh eggs from the chooks. The kids ride their bikes safely around town and play for hours at the park. The pool and tennis courts are clean, cheap and not very crowded! The schools have excellent quality teachers and great programs and excursions. The educational facilities are very important to me and none of that is lost here in Tamworth.
In fact, the personal factor of knowing the teachers well helps us give our children a better education. They are still in infants school but have already had the chance to participate in science fairs, public speaking competitions, swimming and athletics carnivals. These things were only offered to older students at their school in the city.
The best thing about regional living is the time we get to spend together as a family. We eat breakfast and dinner together every day. The children and I also have the time to go for walks to “daddy's work” and visit him on the job some days, and both my husband and I are able to regularly attend their school events such as special assemblies or sports carnivals.
We have found our savings are growing so much faster than when we were in the city because of the lower cost of living and affordable housing. It's also amazing how much "stuff" you really don't need to buy or do in order to be happy. Family, a few good friends and a bit of faith is how we've managed to feel real peace and joy. It was a big decision and we had to take a shot in the dark not knowing how it was all going to work out, but we are grateful we did it and look forward to our children growing up in regional NSW!
In 2010, seven of NSW’s leading regional cities - Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga - united to form the Evocities campaign.
The campaign aims to encourage city dwellers to live, work and invest in an Evocity by promoting the abundance of opportunities these regional hubs have to offer such a lower cost of living, affordable housing and a better lifestyle.
For more information on the Evocities campaign please visit www.evocities.com.au
FALLING IN LOVE WITH TENTERFIELD
I never planned to move to the country. I was a city girl born and bred. I had grown up enjoying the bright lights of the Gold Coast as a teenager and in my twenties lived in London for five years. Perhaps I had dreams of living by the seaside but never would I have imagined that I would find my home in a very small country town. I had just turned 40, my marriage was over and I was the single mother of 4-year-old twins. I was working as a pastry chef in a busy Gold Coast café and the kids and I lived in a tiny pocket sized 2-bedroom apartment in Paradise Point. My rent was exorbitant but I was in walking distance to the Broadwater where the kids were content to play every day. I felt like I was lost in a rut, in a life that I was not meant to be living, but I could never articulate what I was feeling. I just knew that there had to be more something, of some description for me somewhere. Though I could never quite put my finger on it.
Two uncles had purchased an old historic home in Tenterfield and my aunt was managing it. A chance phone call revealed that they desperately needed help for a 30-person dinner as they did not seem to have a chef. As I was not doing anything else that weekend and the kids were with their dad, the obvious thing to do was to offer my help and go for a drive to a town I had never even heard of. Little did I know that that decision was to change the course of my life. From the moment I arrived in Tenterfield it was as if I had arrived somewhere that appeared to be enchanted. I had been driving for four hours from the Gold Coast, had crossed Cunningham’s Gap and the closer I got to Tenterfield the greener the landscape appeared. As I approached Tenterfield on the New England Highway a mist rolled in and as I drove down that road with its canopy of magnificent trees and saw the lights twinkling in the distance through the mist I felt like I was coming home.
On the Saturday night after a long day and night of working in the kitchen and dining room I can remember falling asleep, listening to a sound of silence that I had not heard in a very long time, thinking to myself, ‘I think the kids and I could live here.’ Six weeks later I had packed up my little pocket sized 2-bedroom apartment, broken my lease, enrolled the kids in day care in Tenterfield and packed the three of us in my little car ready to move to the country. Part of me thought that perhaps we would stay only three months. However, 8 months after moving to Tenterfield I bought my very own little country cottage.
We had initially lived in the Historic home which was fantastic for us but after 6 months or so I had realised that my hours were not very realistic for a single mum with two active 4 year olds. So, the job may have not worked out, but Tenterfield had captured my heart and at that moment I could not imagine leaving. My little cottage had a huge garden complete with an incredibly beautiful rose tree out the front and a lemon tree that never stopped giving out the back. We had fruit trees including a fig tree and a great bit old shed that become our chook house. Before long Kevin - the mad koolie dog had joined our home and it did not long for him to father Rosie the koolie / collie cross who become the fifth addition to our little family.
There is a beauty to life in the country that appears so simple but it is endlessly layered with colour, sound and an appreciation of life that I adore. I live in a land of four seasons, where winter is marked by shorter days, frosts that can take your breath away and a roaring kitchen fire that becomes the heart of my home. Spring is time to open the curtains, to be surrounded by pink, white and yellow and to lie in the grass soaking up the sun and listening to the bees that herald the arrival of the warmer weather. Summer is the time of green, of long days, of sitting outside on the deck and being lost in a star filled sky that would appear to stretch on forever. Autumn colours the land in golds, burnished copper, reds and oranges. Leaves crackle underfoot and it is time to check the woodpile.
I possibly had given up on love but in Tenterfield I found it again. It was a love of four seasons, of starry nights and roads that wound their way to beautiful places under endless green canopies. It was not the love I had imagined but in Tenterfield I fell in love with a place I called home.
HOME BY THE SEA
In the main road into Byron Bay there’s a sign that says: “Cheer up, Slow Down, Chill Out”. And every time I drive past, my heart skips a beat. I feel like I’ve loved this place for so long, it’s part of my DNA.
I wasn’t born here and I wasn’t raised here, but this was, in some respects, my back yard when I was growing up. I come from the Gold Coast, in South East Queensland. During my early childhood years, we had family holidays at our great Aunty Ruby’s beach shack in Brunswick Heads – the home of some of my fondest memories... Christmases and Easters spent in a noisy overcrowded house full of friends and cousins. I loved buying chocolate milk (sold in glass bottles) and fresh bread from the bakery on the corner. I learned to ride my bike at Bruns. I learned to swim and fish there too.
As we grew into teenagers, earned our driver’s licenses and became old enough to stray from home without adult supervision, we migrated from Brunswick Heads over to neighbouring Byron Bay and spent the weekends, camping, surfing, lazing around in the sun and foraging around the weekend markets. We were totally in awe of the hippies with their waist-long dreadlocks who’d walk the streets barefoot, carrying babies in slings, playing ukuleles, and singing songs.
In those years the Main Street of Byron Bay consisted of little more than a caravan park, a Kebab takeaway, a few pubs, a fondue restaurant and a couple of shops. I was completely captivated. In all the years I’ve been away, and despite all the great places I’ve lived – Brisbane, Auckland, Wellington, Belgium, Sydney – Byron has never strayed far from my thoughts.
Now, coming back to make it my family home, the place I’m raising my children, it’s certainly different. Sadly, there are fewer hippies and more mobile phones. There are hotels and motels and B&Bs on every corner too. Flat whites and chai lattes are served alongside whatever-you-want organic, vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, and you’ll enjoy quite possibly the best Pad Thai you’ll ever eat. But a lot of it is quite expensive. Especially the houses. The good thing is that despite all of this commercial maturity Byron Bay is still a small country town with a big heart.
Byron’s reputation for great surfing beaches and a laid back lifestyle have long made it a sought after destination. And, in all honesty, it is this steady stream of tourists each year that has afforded Byron Bay the kind of infrastructure you’d find in big cities. You can do anything here. That said, there are very few chain store retailers, hotels or restaurants. Instead, Byron is home to a cluster of clever, creative, independent entrepreneurs and this adds to its charm. It can be 5-star, world class, sometimes pretentious. But it’s got street cred and a solid ethical undercurrent too, as well as a ‘peace, love and happiness’ culture that’s become world famous.
People talk about the ‘soul’ of Byron Bay, and there is something special here... Long stretches of sandy coastline, clear water populated with whales and dolphins, nestled against a back drop of lush green rolling hills and rainforest make this not only a beautiful place to live, but a tranquil place to live.
The Arakwal people, the traditional custodians of the land, called Byron Bay the place of plenty. For them it was a meeting place and a place of celebration and this original spirit of connectedness and festivity is evident today: People come from all over the globe to experience Byron Bay, and the place is alive with buskers who play music and dance and perform all day long. A steady stream of festivals mark off the months of the calendar. But rather than suffer under the strain of its transient population, Byron seems to thrive – guests and locals alike share a strong collective desire to protect and enhance the natural beauty of this area.
The visitors bring a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Byron is a melting pot of status, culture, race, creed and colour. And, to be honest, it is one of the reasons I’m raising my children here. Every day we meet people from all walks of life. And if you have the time to listen, they each have a story to tell.
Life moves at slower pace and as a consequence we’re living life differently – enjoying simpler pleasures and spending more time together.
We can ride our bicycles everywhere.
We can go to the beach and see beautiful sand art drawn by a man who is on a mission to infuse the world with love through his drawings. And what’s not to love about that?
We visit The Farm – a place created solely to teach children where food comes from. And this is the perfect setting for such a venture. The produce around here is fresh and bountiful. The avocados are unbelievably delicious.
We can drive for 10 minutes and be in the middle of the countryside... in a small one-pub town or just in the middle of nowhere on a twisty pot-holed road with a spectacular view of the coastline. Or we can find a secluded spot by the river for a picnic and an afternoon nap.
There’s a lot of inventive people around here too, and this feels like a hub – a hive – of innovative activity in areas like food preparation, design, clothing, art, music, entertainment. Things that are ‘hand made’ and ‘locally grown’ are held in high regard, and regular markets provide avenues for cottage industries to meet and make new customers.
On the whole, people here are passionate about what they do. And this personal drive is evident in all areas of their lives. Individuality is encouraged and so is standing up for what you believe in. Tolerance is paramount. The community rallies in support of the sick, the poor, and the disadvantaged, and to combat anything undesirable. This is a place where people want to get to know you... not what you do, but who you are. And perhaps this is why I love Byron Bay the most – because these are the standards and the values that I want to infuse in my children.
Is there anything that could make life better? Yeah, maybe. This is Kombi country and we’re forever in awe of these funky vans that dot the horizon and promise fun and freedom on the open road. Right now we’ve got our eye on a nice light blue one and we hope to make her part of the family... But that’s another adventure.
Article by Sonia Hickey
Sonia started her working life as a cadet in a radio newsroom. In her mid-20s when she travelled overseas and her thick Aussie accent made on-air radio jobs hard to come by, she trained in magazine journalism. Her work history also includes senior roles in Marketing, Public Relations and Communications both here and overseas. Sonia gave up the ‘Monday to Friday 9-5’ regime to raise her children and has since returned to her journalism roots. These days she freelances for a wide range of clients, including small businesses as well as ASX listed companies. Sonia confesses to being a ‘word nerd‘ who’s happiest when she’s at the keyboard. Her skills include writing, editing and proofreading material such as web copy, blogs, brochures, articles, profile pieces, business reports, annual reports, internal communications, media statements, speeches, and just about anything else that requires words on paper. And she’ll never miss a deadline! If you need a writer, say ‘hello’ to Sonia on 0410 017 622
RIGHT BACK WHERE I STARTED FROM
Life is funny. It takes you on lots of turns – and sometimes even on a full circle. 18 years ago, I found myself right back where I grew up – in the Central Highlands of Queensland.
Like most ‘property’ kids in the district, I went off to Boarding School in Grade 8 and effectively ‘left town’. From boarding school, I went to Uni, then worked in ‘city’ jobs until I hooked up (again) with an ex-boyfriend from Uni who was working in the Solomon Islands. As you do, I resigned from my job, packed up my worldly belongings and shipped out to a tropical life living near the beach. His work subsequently took us around the world for several years, to a multitude of fabulous experiences and wonderful new friends. We finished up in Africa, where our daughter was born, and some political unrest was stirring in the area where we lived. The unrest escalated, to the point where I decided that we were ‘going home’ with our precious little girl.
So it was that we arrived back in Emerald in December 1996, with no jobs, and, having lived in company houses for years, no household items either. Family came to the rescue, and we moved onto a cotton farm owned by the family that was in need of a manager. Christmas presents that year were eminently practical – tea towels, pegs, an ironing board…..
From there, we set up our environmental consultancy firm, 4T Consultants.
The best thing about coming back ‘home’ is that the kids have grown up knowing grandma, grandad, aunts, uncles and cousins. Having lived overseas for so many years, we saw many ‘expat kids’ who seemed to be dislocated – without a ‘place’ to ground themselves in. It was important to us that our kids have such a ‘place’. We also wanted our kids to have the calm, non-eventful childhood that we had both experienced. They were not going to get that whilst ever we shifted from country to country every few years.
Living in Emerald has also allowed us to both use our business skills – me as the business person and Ian as the operations person. We’ve been able to work together and build our business together. We see so many people who have to live apart because of their work and we feel so fortunate that we’ve been able to be together. We didn’t get married to live apart.
Our kids are now getting closer to being independent of us, and there will be a time for us to consider whether we move somewhere that allows us to be close (but not too close!) to them. Will it be back to the city? Can’t see it – we were both born and raised as country kids, and are comfortable with country life.
We both also feel that we still have a lot to give back to our community. I am currently working on some projects that will help build business resilience across our communities, which are constantly subject to the ups and downs of commodity prices. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our regions, and they’ll still be here serving the community when the mining companies are gone.
With so much still to do - why would I leave?
FOLLOWING OUR SAPPHIRE DREAM
In October 2013, we went for a road-trip holiday to the sapphire Gemfields in central Queensland. We’d talked about visiting for years, ever since my husband Russell bought me a pair of sapphire earrings from the area. I’ve always found sapphires to be the most beautiful gemstones of all. And I loved the idea of doing the fossicking and finding the sparkly gemstones in the dirt ourselves.
After spending 5 nights in the Gemfields area, we were on the 12-hour drive back home to Southeast Queensland. I was unusually quiet and thoughtful. Typically after a holiday, I was keen to get home to our dogs, to go back to work refreshed, and to get back in the swing of day-to-day life. But not this time! I didn’t want to leave the peace and quiet, the earthiness, the raw simplicity of the country. I felt that I was already home! The peace and quiet of country life was appealing and I felt that I’d be happy to stay there – far away from the frenzied suburban life I had lived for 50+ years.
So there and then, I told my husband that I could live in central Queensland. Being a country boy himself, he smiled back at me and said “Let’s do it!”
We made several trips back to the area before we moved from Southeast Queensland – to make sure I really wanted to do this and wouldn’t regret it – on any level.
Being the over-thinker that I am, I realised that (in our early 50’s) we were about to step outside of my relatively safe comfort zone to either embark on the adventure of a lifetime or make a very big mistake! While friends our age were mellowing, consolidating their superannuation and buying cots for their spare bedrooms so their grandchildren could stay overnight, we were considering moving to central Queensland because we like sapphires?!
But once I had experienced being in the country and could picture it being a reality for me, I just couldn’t go back to living a suburban lifestyle.
In July 2014, we packed all our belongings into a big truck and made the great trek 920 kilometres northwest to our new home. Our two 7-year-old dogs we had raised from pups had known for months that something was changing in their world and were happy to be with us wherever we were going!
We moved into a large house on an acre block with 2 separate entrances – an ideal house for me to run my business from home.
Once we knew for sure that we were moving to the country, we visited the local Rubyvale Post Office. The lady who worked there had already heard of us and what we’d been doing during our many visits – easy to understand in a small town of 1,500 – 2,000 people! She set aside a PO Box for us – so we could have relevant mail forwarded to us at our new address – since mail out here isn’t delivered to street addresses. And for most of the locals, street addresses have no significance anyway. Out here, to tell a local where you live, you do that by telling them who your neighbours are!
Both Russell and I have joined the local Gemfields Lapidary Club where we’ve both started learning from the local craftspeople how to enhance gemstones – including faceting, stone-polishing and cabachoning, wire-wrapping and chain maille. It’s been such a pleasure to learn these skills – and to see the natural beauty of the stones being unveiled as we learn our new skills.
There are SO many things I love about living in the country!
One of the first things we noticed was how dark it is at night – even though you can see SO many stars in the sky, there are no street-lights shining through the bedroom window! How delightful that is! Waking up every morning to several different bird noises is such a pleasure. And watering our own vegetable garden – in the country we are able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
From our back verandah, we often see kangaroos and wallabies hop by. And a traffic jam for us now is when you have to stop for a few minutes to allow the cows to cross the road. That’s my kind of traffic jam!
Perhaps the most satisfying thing about country life is having neighbours who are ready and willing to help with basic things that country people deal with – like a power outage after a thunderstorm. After thanking one of my new local friends for helping me one night, I got tears in my eyes after receiving a text saying “we’ll make a bushie out of you yet.”
The peace and quiet of the central Queensland countryside is a perfect home for me, my family, my dogs – and my business, Living Balance Centre (promoting holistic wellness). So I am able to fully experience the benefits of country life and continue to help others at the same time.
And would I go back to living in the city? Not in a million years!
Jo-Anne Brown runs her holistic wellness business, Living Balance Centre from her Rubyvale clinic in central Queensland. She uses a combination of energetic therapies (including bioresonance therapy), intuitive awareness and emotional balancing – to assist her clients in achieving holistic wellness.
With her energetic therapies, Jo-Anne identifies the major culprits affecting her client’s health (viruses, bacteria, parasites, hormonal imbalances, heavy metals, chemicals, etc.) and assists in reducing the toxic load on their bodies, with great results. Jo-Anne draws on her past engineering experience in the oil/gas industry to help clients with toxic exposure from heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals. She has helped hundreds of people in Australia, the United States and Canada through both in-house and distance therapy sessions.
In 2014, Jo-Anne also became a Best-Selling Co-Author of the Nurtured Woman Series Books, Believe and Gratitude.
BORN & RAISED
Screaming out Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’ at the top of our lungs while riding in the back of the ute as we went to shift sheep is as vivid today as it was all those years ago. Not that anyone could hear my cousins and I as the wind rushing past us swept away our voices. The pink and grey galahs could always out-screech us. My childhood was seriously the best ever. I spent nearly every weekend on my uncle’s farm with my cousins, riding motorbikes, catching yabbies, watching movies, building cubbies in the bush, eating raw cake and being farm kids. When I wasn’t at the farm I was at home, in our five-house town of Pingaring, driving around in cars and a buggy that my dad had built practising revers spins and donuts.
I was born and raised in Pingaring, my grandfather brought a farm here years ago and my dad moved into town with his parents who took over the General Store and mechanic’s shop. My dad’s parents moved on but he stayed for mum and started his own business as a contractor for farmers. As a girl I can remember playing in old rail wagons filled with super while mum and dad emptied them before dad went and spread it out on paddocks for farmers. We had the freedom to roam around the bush, creating games and cubbies and it was a safe, secure childhood. We knew everyone in our town, like a big family, we all looked out for each other.
I never had a desire to leave my tiny town, even after being away at boarding school for four years. Why should I have to leave the place I love? So I stayed. I was racing speedway at that time with my dad and life was still fabulous. I had plenty of work, I was happy doing anything from driving tractors, rousabouting, crutching cradle, secretary work, teachers aid….you name it, I feel like I did it all. I never had the desire to leave home. Pingaring had everything I loved about country living.
It’s what inspired me to start writing in the first place. The overwhelming passion I have for this lifestyle and the amazing surrounding. But it’s not just the tall gumtree’s that fill the summer air with eucalyptus, nor how the Albany Doctor (ocean winds) blow in on a hot afternoon making you smile with relief, nor is it the sunset and sunrises that hold you captivated with awe with such displays of colour from golds to pinks, or the massive sky that has so many shades of blue and clouds that take so many forms, it’s not only the smells like that first opening rain for seeding or the freshly ripped earth because all these are special, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also the characters of my town. It’s the people that make this place home. Some quirky, some a little strange, some bossy, some loud, some with a laugh you can pick from a mile away, these folks have big hearts and we all love our community. It’s a great big support network.
Some of the best moments are when the town gets together for a few drinks and a chat by a bonfire on a cold winter’s night, or sitting under the gumtree during a summer heatwave after a long day of harvest. It’s a combination of the people, the land and my childhood that has made Pingaring ‘it’ for me. Considering it inspired me enough to write a book and now I have my seventh book out this year, I almost feel like I have my town, Mother Nature, the people and my family to thank for it. If you’re ever in WA, and in the Wheatbelt, feel free to stop by for a chat under the gumtree.
My tree change story begins long before weddings, babies and home ownership. Of a time when the school emblem we proudly wore on our uniform was of a banksia and the nearby radio tower! Growing up in the most suburbans of suburbia north of Perth, there was still plenty of bushland to forge a wild childhood rich in exploration and grubbiness. The park across the road was the extent of my country experience. It housed many a gumtree fort where honey suckles and sour grass were always on the menu and supervising adults a rare species. As the years went by scrub was cleared and questionable swing sets added then eventually replaced by plastic marvels. Sadly being a lucrative sixteen kilometres from the city the presence of progress eventually seeped in.Forty years on that generation of children grew up to fight and keep that small but significant park from being turned into housing. They won. This time.
As a young adult I longed to escape to a rural existence which unfortunately was pushed back as the distractions of being young, wild and a car owner took hold for a decade and a bit.
When it was finally time for settling down with my significant other, I proposed some home ownership thoughts. WA was in its toddler years of the housing boom and was just about to have an almighty tantrum. It was the final hours to invest smartly, be location wise, adapt forward thinking and envision hot spots of the future. I suggested suburbs north, houses that were fixer uppers, ridiculously cheap and close to the ocean. A big win all round for first home owners without a clue. But mates, familiarity and safe choices were the shade of the day and a risk taking, blind faith approach were the nonsensical ravings of a girl who indulged in a little too much Passion Pop.
So I tried a different tactic, agreeing to be open to new suburbs on the proviso there would be no Lego land estates and presented the “dodgy area list” that were non-negotiable no-goers.
Unfortunately my requests were met with much eyeball rolling as we spent the next six months trudging through every new estate. At work I dominated the kids Duplo corner and began obsessively building identical houses with useless front rooms and tiny alfrescos. Life became a monotonous four by two, limestone bricked, yellow sanded, treeless blur. The landscape was barren and I became bitter, while my partner struggled to wrap his head around the dirty word of debt. We ended up in a house from the dreaded “dodgy area list” that was worth half of the dream investments we let slip away. C'est la vie. It was a great house and thankfully had a very large front wall and a panic button in the bedroom.
We had a happy, quiet and private life there as we got on with living. Renovations, celebrations, engagements, weddings and finally news of a baby bundle. Though thrilling, as the bump grew, so did my paranoia. I started to notice the grey tones and general shiftiness beyond our little fortress. I began to pay attention to kids walking to school, the busy roads they had to cross, the unkempt parks and the school our son would eventually be attending. I could have gotten over all of it had I not been heavily pregnant, highly emotional and perpetually “hangry” when I saw barbed wire being fitted to the school fences. Like a prison. Some serious security measures. Suffice to say it wasn’t too long after my poor husband calmed my hormone induced hysteria that we arrived once again at reassessment road. Move to the southern tip of WA, move to the hills, move interstate or stay where we were. The hills won. This time.
The road travelled was a rocky cliché that seemed like a never ending tornado atop a faulty pogo stick. Life just doing life and we came out the other end, some might say a little more bonkers, I say flamboyantly resilient!
Now I sit here on our deck overlooking a beautiful valley illuminated with flecks of burgundy and golds with a new found appreciation of Autumn. Of the forest. Of clean air. Of the stars in an actual black sky, untainted by light pollution. Even though piles of unpacked boxes are ceiling high and a tsunami of unfolded washing threatens a take-over, the tardy yet welcoming calm masks the madness. I find myself staring for long periods at sheep, kangaroos and birds and even find joy in piles of twigs and leaves. My Instagram has been overthrown with pictures of orchards, bird houses, fire pits and bush sunsets. My husband has discovered functional focus and purpose in the forest. My children are ecstatically wild and are learning the ways of the forest force. Life is good and the tumultuous journey to get here dissipates when I sit back with a glass of white and relish in a hillbilly existence.
We live in a tree house and unless there is a zombie apocalypse any time soon I can truthfully say I will never leave.
Article by Stephanie Rae