LIVING THE COUNTRY DREAM
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE FICTION
I confess... I am a fiction fanatic. I read Australian rural fiction and I write fiction about Australian country towns. But what’s a writer to do when she runs out of friends and family to fictionalise? She sells up, downsizes to a 24ft caravan, and goes in search of more small country towns and quirky characters—and this magnificent country has plenty of both.
Ten years ago, I escaped Sydney’s corporate chaos to buy a small cafe in the seaside town of Sawtell where I later established a uniquely dog-friendly bed and breakfast on my property. But there was another dream to fulfill before I turned fifty. Like so many people, I dreamed of walking into a bookshop and finding one of my novels on the shelf. Two short years after selling the café in 2008 (I still drink way too much coffee) and a day before my 50th birthday, I signed with a literary agent and soon had a contract with Simon and Schuster publishers for four novels.
A city girl by birth, I first discovered an affinity with the country in my early twenties while working my way across the heart of Australia, living out of a converted Ford F100 van. For three years I worked anywhere I could, doing anything I could; an approach that kick-started a diverse range of work experiences, including a stint in a five-star hotel providing security for international celebrities and dignitaries . . . and collecting stories I can never tell!
With the first two of a four-book contract now on the shelves, I have run out of friends and family to fictionalise so I’m discovering some country style, in style (thanks to my shiny new Southern Cross fifth wheeler.)
Years ago, after hearing author Di Morrissey say in an interview that she packs up the motorhome and goes in search of a town to inspire new stories and characters, I announced to the family that one day I wanted to be like Di Morrissey and write on the road. So, I have taken to the road to follow my dream of telling heart-warming tales of Australian country life that weave intricate tapestries of friendship, family, love and contemporary issues. My stories are about small towns with big hearts and all the quirky, lovable Aussie characters readers enjoy. They are contemporary country stories that embrace life, love and second chances as characters reconnect with (or sometimes discover) the country roots that run deep.
Stories about small towns and secrets are like wine and crackers—they go down so well! ‘Small town’ doesn’t necessarily mean remote and dusty. I draw inspiration from small communities on the coast and sleepy out of the way towns that sit quietly on a lazy river. In fact, book four is set in a fictional seaside town and features rock art, like a certain breakwall known well to Nambucca locals! My first two novels feature a fictional town called Calingarry Crossing, which is a fusion of the NSW towns of Sawtell, Bellingen and Ulmarra.
My first novel was well received by both readers and reviewers, placing ‘House for all Seasons’ at number 5 on the 2013 Nielsen’s Best Selling Debut Novel list. ‘Simmering Season’ is book two in my Seasons Collection, followed by my soon-to-be-released third novel, ‘Season of Shadow and Light’, due out May 2015. The fourth novel in my Seasons Collection is due 2016.
So, you see, it doesn’t have to be fiction. Dreams can come true.
If you’ve dreamed of writing a book, if you’ve dreamed of getting away from it all I have one piece of advice . . . Just do it. The hardest thing is making that decision. Once it’s made, you can only move forward. I remember the day I was supposed to settle on the café purchase. I was so scared I was crying and asking my partner, “How much do we lose if we walk away?” I was THAT terrified of doing something I’d never done before. But here I am today. Not only did I survive (and—bonus—I found time to pursue my writing dream) I am stronger for the experience and more prepared for the next challenge.
Jenn loves to connect with readers, writers and dreamers. You’ll find this Linkedin, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking fifty-four year old online, and find her novels in both print and eBook.
DECK THE HILLS CARPENTRY
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 wanted to build again but the blocks of land in Adelaide were getting smaller. One day we went for a drive to see a town advertising large country blocks and my husband and I got a really good feeling straight away. This was where we wanted to be. So we 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 became part of this friendly community - steeped with history. 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. At the end of summer I make tomato sauce from my 95 year old Nana’s recipe using mostly our own produce and it actually turns 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.
My husband had never had trouble getting a job and was a hard worker, but had longed to gain a qualification. He had worked a selection of jobs since leaving school, a few ending due to companies closing including his own gardening business. Water restrictions had changed people’s gardening habits and unfortunately work dropped off. His latest position was as a labourer for a building company in the Adelaide Hills which he really enjoyed and was offered a mature age apprenticeship. We laughed at the idea of minimal pay and starting an apprenticeship in his mid-thirties at first, but it made sense. This is what Tom enjoyed and he would get a small wage while achieving his qualification. I am a Registered Nurse, and picked up some more shifts at the local hospital where I work to help financially.
After a long four years, Tom was a qualified Carpenter! We needed to register a business name and tried to think of something ‘catchy’ and mentioning the country or Hills. We came up with the name ‘Deck The Hills’. Our ideal would be for him to specialise in building decks/pergolas/verandahs and home improvements as this was the work he enjoyed the most. We didn’t market the business to start with as it was just an idea at that stage and knew subcontracting would be his main income.
Tom does all general carpentry work, in all areas, but mainly in the Adelaide Hills. His work is his own now and rarely needs to subcontract. The business took off, mostly through word of mouth and our Facebook page. Happy customers and tradesmen got Tom back to do more work and spread the word. We find a lot of customers like to use local companies. Our only advertising was initially pamphlets on notice boards, and handing them out to businesses with budget business cards, and car magnets. Later we developed a professional logo and got sign writing on his Ute. We run an ad on a screen at the local Doctor’s surgery. Our next project will be a website. I believe our low overheads help keep prices affordable. Our slogan is ‘every lifestyle – every budget’ and we encourage people to make the most of the beautiful Australian countryside and help them design exciting outdoor areas to suit their needs and take in the stunning views. After 2 ½ years, we are looking at employing our own apprentice and have casual labourers. Tom has developed good working relationships with other carpenters, tradesmen and businesses in the area.
We like the flexibility of having our own business for our family as Tom can often help be the kid’s taxi service and can take the occasional day off if needed. Our sons (15 and 12) occasionally help with general labour in the holidays. I do the bookwork, as well as working office hours most weekdays and while life is busy we are pleased with the growth of our business. It is a privilege to provide this service in our community. In the future, we hope to employ another team, while continuing to run as a small local business.
An entrepreneur, fashion designer, farmer, mum and hopeless romantic…
Comfortably ensconced in inner Melbourne, this city chic was travelling to Paris bi-annually to develop fabrics with European mills, when my husband and I started house hunting. House after house after house and my horse riding (Man From Snowy River style) husband began to hunker after the open space and rolling hills of his country heritage in NSW.
I had grown up in the Adelaide hills and had moved to Melbourne to study Fashion Design, so neither of us were native to Victoria. We decided to spend our Sundays packing picnics and driving into the surrounding countryside, when we stumbled upon the little known rural nook of Toolern Vale at the base of the Macedon Ranges.
Terrified by the prospect of rural living with no understanding of farming, I emerged myself in the study of Ecological Agriculture. Armed with this newfound knowledge of permaculture, organic farming techniques, property planning and development, together with a pioneering spirit, we found a hundred acres of bare rolling hills.
My romantic view was quickly shattered by the hard yakka of building fences, cattle yards, planting trees and building our rammed earth studio home with our own two hands (Grand Designs style). All whilst both working full time and living in Melbourne. So we purchased a little caravan and moved on site until we finished building.
With a young family underfoot, and friends and family tying the knot, I succumbed to requests to make their wedding dresses and discovered a passion for working one-on-one to create something truly individual.
Sixteen years on, we have planted 7,500 native trees and shrubs, our cows are currently calving, our eldest child is finishing school, we’re living in our rambling rammed earth home alongside the studio where my gorgeous team at Mussared design have created over 150 stunning handmade silk and lace wedding gowns so brides can take his breath away.
I love country life, and although I’ve lived in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle, Toolern Vale is the home where my heart is.
Rural life is certainly made up of the little things…
The Chinese proverb “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now” rings true. I’ve a much greater respect for those who enjoy a mature garden. This was brought home when I measured our driveway turning circle and discovered I required 150 plants! Seedlings take a long time to grow.
I now pay careful attention to the weather forecast - it can have a huge impact on life, and boy oh boy the wind can blow! Planning needs to be flexible.
Our involvement in the local landcare group has lead to life long friendships that are rewarding, uplifting and grounding. These country folk really do care for each other, and pull together whenever one of their own is struggling.
A good reliable car is vital for those of us not connected to public transport, especially with the number of kilometres we churn up ferrying the kiddies to and fro. Incidentally, children are happier when their tummies are full, but this creates a rather messy car interior. (I’m yet to work out how to reconcile the two.)
Clients are happy to soak in the serenity and relaxing environment when they know they are cherished and they are getting an exquisite gown that is flattering, beautiful and unique to them. Nor do they mind travelling the 45 minute drive from the city when their gown is even more amazing than they imagined it would be.
My love of working one-on-one (and dislike of crowds) has arisen to some inventiveness for marketing opportunities to grow the business. I now love interviewing Melbourne’s top wedding professionals to deliver inside wedding tips for brides in our podcast and youtube series ‘Hopelessly Devoted’.
With the growth of the web and social media, a rural locale is no longer isolating. We’ve been fortunate have so many happy clients who have shared their wedding photos with us to develop an amazing website highlighting real brides in their real Mussared gowns looking adorable on their wedding day.
This hopeless romantic is taking things one step further relishing interviewing past clients gathering together their love stories, which are so gorgeous they may yet become a book.
Flexible work hours make for happy staff and our large windows basking us in natural light provides a bright and vibrant workplace.
Taking a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet and watch the sun set across a Victoria’s volcanic plains is good for the soul.
Juggling the endless drives to and from school, the farming and the growing business is a daily grind, rewarding, frantic and fulfilling all at once. Happy children, fulfilled staff, delighted brides, content livestock; these are the elements of my joy-filled life.
When I was child I moved back and forth between small country towns in New Zealand and Holland, before our family finally settled in Brisbane. After finishing school, I worked as a flight attendant and in retail and marketing with Australia Post – I was a city girl. In 1994 I met my husband who was serving in the Australian Army. Shane grew up on a farm in the Wimmera and is very much a country boy who became a soldier.
After several Army postings to Sydney and Melbourne, we moved to the United Kingdom and lived in a small town an hour south east of London. It was in Europe that I fell in love with all things vintage and old painted furniture, especially the Scandinavian and French style pieces.
After 10 years in the UK, we wanted to continue living in the country, as we believe it is the best place to raise our three children. We decided on a farmhouse, near a small town for daily items that is not too far from a larger town for the big shop, and within striking distance of a city for shopping, sport and airports. As luck would have it, we discovered Daylesford and the Hepburn Shire, which has all of the above plus a vibrant art and music scene that we both enjoy. We have been here for over three years now and love it.
Daylesford and Hepburn Shire is arguably as close to a small European town as you can find in rural Australia, which was perfect for us, as we had the best of both – Europe in Australia! We love the way the trees change from season to season and the architecture and landscape of the area. We see pockets of Switzerland, England and Scotland, but when you see kangaroos in the paddocks and dry summer bush, you can be in only one place.
The serenity of the country is something that took getting used to again. The nights are dark and very quiet. The sound of local birds and livestock were initially strange, but are now wonderfully comforting. We have our own chickens who regularly provide us with fresh eggs, provided we can find them! The volcanic soil, bore mineral water and sheep poo from under the shearing shed makes fresh corn, carrots, cucumber, leek and rocket from our vegetable patch very special indeed.
I love the freedom and independence we get living here. A big part of that is having no neighbours to concern ourselves with.
We don’t have the prying neighbour looking over our fence, or the noisy parties, or the disagreeables.
Our children sometimes gripe that they miss out on the things in town, but they have the freedom to play and imagine in safety, and with each other.
We only live 10 minutes from town, but we do need to plan our trips in, as we don’t have a corner shop to walk to. We make good use of the deep freeze for bread and other essentials, but sometimes we just have to make do with what’s in the cupboard. We bake a lot more and the children love it, and they can all cook.
If things get stressful all I need to do is step outside, take some deep breaths and take in the views. Alternatively we can take in all the that the area has to offer such as mineral springs, massage & spa retreats, State Forest walks, art galleries, trash and treasure stalls, gardens, lakes, boutiques, quirky shops, restaurants, foodie places and live bands. What’s not to love!
Last but not least this place inspires you. We are also surrounded by like minded people who have made the tree change to this area and inspire us to achieve – what’s best is that we help each other grow.
My dream was to open an antique or vintage style shop and paint furniture, just like all the quirky shops we loved in the UK. I started off by renting a small space within the Daylesford Mill Markets and called myself ‘Dandelion Wood’, as this area is often covered in dandelions. The Mill Market is a huge warehouse with over a 140 dealers who sell collectables, antiques, books, clothing, records, and so much more. It is a community in itself and I have met some wonderful people who share the same passion as I do for all things vintage & a slight obsession with finding that next treasure or bargain. I am sure we are all closet hoarders!
Dandelion Wood is where I can be creative and share my love of upcycling and give new pieces a second chance, which I now share with a wonderful English lady Denise - I have a fondness for the British. She also paints furniture, runs workshops and manufactures gorgeous furniture stencils ‘Barleycorn Vintage Finds’, so we are a perfect fit for one another.
I also wanted to stock a product that would make furniture painting easy, was eco-friendly and fun to use and found Webster’s Chalk Paint Powder, which was the first product I stocked in the Mill. I never planned to distribute - it just happened.
You can add Webster’s to any brand - any colour of water based acrylic paint to make your own designer quality chalk paint, so you have an endless colour palette to choose from. The beauty of this product is that it requires little to no preparation or sanding and it pretty much sticks to anything! You can paint materials such as wood, metal, fabric and laminate.
Here are some Youtube clips showing you just how versatile 'Webster’s chalk paint powder is:www.youtube.com/user/WebstersChalkPowder
Thanks to social media and Webster’s good name in the USA, my business has grown from just me, to 22 creative, passionate retailers across Australia who now stock the 'chalk paint additive' which I import from the US. There are over 300 Webster’s’ stockists in the USA and Europe.
I love that my stockists are running fun workshops Australia wide and helping save 100’s of pieces of unloved furniture from being discarded or ending up in landfills. These pieces get to continue their story.
We run regular furniture painting workshops showing people how easy it is to re-vamp their old furniture and we love seeing how excited they get when they realise how easy it is to use.
I use and sell Miss Mustard seeds Milk Paint, Webster’s chalk paint powder, L’essentiel waxes (beautiful eco-friendly Australian handmade products) & Fusion mineral paint in my shop space. All three paints achieve different looks and finishes, so we have something to suit everyone.
Now that we are all settled in the area, my husband and I are now looking for that dream block of land to relocate an old home to and give it new life. Life is busy, but we would not change a thing. I feel very blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world and having the opportunity to run two businesses I love. We earn less but our lifestyle is worth so much more!
Article by Monique Ten Hove
Webster's Down Under
Monique is a Mother of 3 who juggles home life & 2 businesses. Dandelion wood is her creative space inside the Mill Markets in the picturesque town of Daylesford. The other is as the distributor of Webster's chalk paint powder, which she introduced to her business in 2013. Dandelion wood is all about up cycling furniture using different paint techniques & inspiring others to do the same, this is why 'Websters chalk paint powder' was such a perfect fit.
You will find a link to all Monique's creative Australian retailers as well as her own shop Dandelion wood in Daylesford here, a new website & exciting new products will be coming very soon.
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 farm house 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 farm house. 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
VUE AT JINDIVICK
How we ended up living in Jindivick came purely by accident. We answered an ad in The Sun newspaper for a 'converted railway carriage' on 8 acres of cleared land in Powelltown with Latrobe River frontage. You might think us foolish on this day but we left our machete at home and coincidently never viewed the mighty Latrobe... it was there, somewhere... maybe they just forgot to mow... for about 10 years. As for the railway carriage, if you like the feel of wind in your hair... always... then this folly was for you. Doors, windows and flooring, just minor details in a renovation project... maybe we were just a little fussy. So we left Powelltown with heavy hearts and multiple mosquito bites. I’m going to use that phrase 'as fate would have it' and it did. We stumbled across the glorious village of Jindivick on the drive back to Melbourne and the rest, as they say... is history.
That was 20 short years ago.
Grateful is a wonderful word as to how living in the country makes us feel. So grateful for the birds and animals that visit every day. Always grateful for fresh air, star filled skies and tall trees. Forever grateful for kind neighbours. That’s what we love about living in Jindivick.
We named our bed and breakfast Vue at Jindivick. This comes from a great love of France as our view reminds us of the spectacular ones you see in the Loire region. Vue is a recently new build and was completed 3 years ago. The house was designed so that two of the bedrooms are ensuited with private deck, entrance and yes... your own special view. Guests in the morning are treated to a delicious local/organic English breakfast in our dining room. We’ve gone to great lengths to source the best produce in West Gippsland for the table and when in season we use as much as possible from our own garden. So far we’ve had some lovely reviews... I guess we’ve been blessed with some lovely guests.
So 20 years on, sure it’s not the original dream of that converted railway carriage, it’s something so much better and for that... we’re grateful.
Article by Anita Day
Vue at Jindivick
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)
Sam Plunkett's Butterfly Effect Shiraz 2013 is the best selling wine on the Naked Wines Australia website. This wine offers the complete package. It is under $9 a bottle, the smell is enticing and abundant, the flavours are big and linger in your mouth long after it has been swallowed.
To try Sam’s wine, visit www.nakedwines.com.au
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
I was Born in Broken Hill, moved to Albury when I was 10 when my parents divorced, stayed there for University and eventually left the country in the search for something, I just wasn’t sure exactly what that something was! I spent a short stint in Adelaide taking a new graduate physiotherapist position however after falling in love with a young gentlemen from Glen Waverley in Melbourne it wasn’t long before I made the move to the even bigger smoke.
Scotty is an avid cyclist and has spent a lot of time travelling around country Australia to race in particularly his mountain bikes. This is where he discovered his love for the Victorian Alpine Region.
Having grown up in Albury, we were in close proximity to the Victorian snow mountains and after several school trips and weekend trips with friends up to Mt Hotham it wasn’t long until I was completely addicted to the sport (although my wallet wasn’t overly impressed!)
Scott and I had discussed the idea of having a ‘Tree Change” perhaps in a couple of years many times over a few red wines, however over the Christmas break after spending another beautiful week in Bright riding and hanging out with cycling friends- we thought, lets just do it now! So I put the word out for work and was lucky enough to be offered multiple options and in April this year- we made the move.
The fact that you can pull up right out the front of a shop that you want to go into! Seriously! I would always dread having to go the shops in the city, having to find a park, manoeuvre around the traffic etc. Being a physiotherapist it is often intimidating to start at a new place, without an existing client list and the clients you work with significantly impact your work satisfaction. People often say “country people are nicer” and to be perfectly honest after working in the higher end suburbs of Melbourne (Prahran and Elwood) I have to agree. The Bright and Myrtleford communities have embraced both Scott and I and we have already made many friends around the area simply through work and cycling.
Scott is a graphic designer with his own business “Scott Liston Design” and together during our time in Melbourne we started a side business venture together known as articfit.
My mother and her goal to be fit and healthy inspired our first product; articfit pro-active tights. Mum attributed her 24kg weight loss success not only to good nutrition but also to exercise. Like most people mum finds exercise makes you feel good, reduces stress and helps support weight loss and long term weight management.
Mum had been active in her ‘BC’ (before children) life, but like a lot of busy mothers she had spent many years in a more sedentary role (putting everyone else’s needs first). Returning to exercise as she lost weight Mum was plagued by annoying aches and pains that prevented her enjoying being active. She was always complaining about her sore knees and lower back (and probably thought I wasn’t listening!).
Not wanting mum to lose motivation and her newly found love of step and boxing classes, Scott and I decided to combine our areas of expertise. We set out to develop a product that would not only help my motivated mother continue to exercise, but also empower other women to be pro-active with their own health and well-being.
After a great deal of research and discussions with industry professionals we designed articfit pro-active tights; targeted compression for pro-active women. The seamless technology, along with our unique stitch patterns, create specific and identifiable compression zones which support the commonly injured joints of the female lower body; including lower back, hips and knees.
This was another major reason for our move to the country. We needed more space for stock and to work effectively, less overheads, more time to work on our business and less spent commuting in traffic. So far it has been everything we have dreamed of and more- I am due to commence working up at Mt Hotham part time over the winter (which has always been my dream job!) and spend the rest of my days working on our new business, which so far is proving to be quite the success! From what we have been told Bright has traditionally had a population of mainly retirees however more recently there has been a trend for the younger generations and we can definitely see the appeal, as can many of our friends who have come to visit!
Phebe is 25 and in her 3rd year of working as a physiotherapist in private practice. She is currently employed by Ovens Valley Physiotherapy working in their Bright/Myrtleford and Mt Hotham practices and is works with the Australian Cross Country Ski teams. She also travels regularly to work with elite cyclists at mountain bike and road cycling events throughout Australia and Asia. Phebe has a strong interest in sports physiotherapy however also enjoys the variety physiotherapy can provide including working with the elderly. Phebe takes a holistic approach to address all aspects of patient care, using a variety of treatment techniques tailored to suit the individuals clinical need. On the articfit website she has also started a 'body awearness' blog (the articfit slogan is 'wear empowered') with the aim of educating women about common conditions seen by physio's with the vision that knowledge is power and if you can understand the contributing factors- you can be pro-active in preventing pain.
Check it out: www.articfit.com/blogs/body-awearness
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!
I grew up in suburban Melbourne but always had an affinity with nature and felt strongly connected to the untamed parklands along the banks of The Yarra. Once I left home I always made sure I lived in walking distance to natural beauty, usually along The Yarra or by the bay.
I always imagined once I had kids I would leave the city and move to the country. When I got together with my partner Alex I was living in Abbotsford in inner city Melbourne, as we started having children, we slowly moved further and further out. Firstly we moved out to Eltham in the outer bushy suburbs, and from there moved to Pambula, far south coast NSW.
Alex and I both shared the same vision of a home in the country where we could grow our own food, raise our kids and live in a beautiful place. We came to visit some friends that lived here and decided we would give it a go. We thought if we didn’t like it we could keep on going up the coast, but we loved it and immediately felt part of the community and happy here.
I just love the easy-going pace of living in the country. I still have a busy life but if you want to go and do something, you just pop into town and do it. You don’t have to think about traffic and peak hour and try to time your life around that.
I also love the fact we are surrounded by beauty and amazing places to visit. Some days after school we go down to the beach, and I look around at the amazing landscape around us; the bush land, the empty stretches of beach and the amazing coastline and I appreciate how lucky we are. If we were back in the city, we would be in a park by a road somewhere, or a café.
I also love the lifestyle it gives the kids. We have so much space for them to run around in and build cubby houses and fairy gardens and pick flowers and make believe. They can feed cows and horses over the fence and grow up being really in touch with nature and the cycles of life.
They are growing up knowing where their food comes from. They help plant it, watch it grow in the garden, then help pick it and enjoy the satisfaction of eating food they have helped grow. They are also surrounded by beauty. I already see their appreciation of the beauty and peace in nature and how it affects them.
I also love the sense of community. You go to town and you know everyone in the shops and in the street.
When I first moved up to Pambula I became involved in a locally produced and distributed magazine called Sustain and soon became the editor. When that came to an end, I was looking for something else to get my teeth into so I decided to start up my own magazine.
It was while I was doing my PDC (permaculture design certificate) I was encouraged to bring my passion for permaculture and love of magazines together. It had been ten years since Australia had its own permaculture magazine, so I saw there was a need for one, so I created it.
I was seven months pregnant when I decided to do it, so it took a little while until it eventuated. I had to put my plans on hold while my baby was little and it was something I would think about as I sat up in the middle of the night breastfeeding. Then slowly as I had more time I started to plan the magazine.
I used crowdfunding to help raise the funds for the first issue and found there was a lot of support for the magazine. I connect with people from all over the country who write stories and contribute to the magazine and it is sold around Australia and I have subscribers from around the world.
The beautiful thing about working from my country home is, I don’t have to drive to get to work and I can look out the window while I’m working and see the chooks scratching around outside my window and the fruit trees in bloom and when the kids come home on the bus from school I’m here to meet them.
Article by Robyn Rosenfeldt
Robyn is the founding publisher and editor of Pip Magazine, Australia’s own permaculture magazine. She lives in Pambula, NSW with her partner and three children. She divides her time between creating the magazine, spending time with her family, working in the garden, cooking fresh healthy food and keeping fit with yoga and swimming.
THE LITTLE FRENCH PROVINCIAL SHOP
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
CBG INTERIOR DESIGN
Born in Sydney as a first generation Australian, I arrived in the country town of Orange in 1991 at the tender age of 3 with my mother and baby brother (1). The Orange I remember back then was a tiny country town, full of friendly country people who would say hello as you walked past them in the street.
Over the years Orange has grown rapidly with the Cadia gold mine being developed in the 1990s, but that friendly nature that I grew up around has remained, just in larger numbers.
What I love about living in the country is being on the doorstep of some of the country’s best local food and wine, we are literally surrounded by wineries and orchards that can be accessed just as quickly as the local supermarkets. Orange and nearby towns such as Millthorpe also hold various markets multiple times a year where fresh local produce can be accessed, and it’s great because when you attend you get a real sense of community.
I also love the fact that it is such a calm and relaxing place to be, our streets are lined with beautiful large trees and at night you can see every star in the sky.
My first recollection of wanting to be an interior designer was when I was 12 years old, but it wasn’t until I was 15 when I had the opportunity to do some work experience with an interior designer that I got my first real taste of the industry. After completing 2 weeks of work experience that was it, the fire was lit, and I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life, and so I finished my HSC and enrolled to study a Diploma of Interior Design.
Fast forward 7 years to 2013 and CBG Interior Design was born having been put on hold on numerous occasions because of various life events such as buying a house and having babies.
The first year was definitely the hardest as I juggled mummy duties, my 9-5 job, and working on the business during any free time I had (lots of late nights and early mornings), but all that hard work paid off as during my second year I was able to quit my “day job” and focus all that extra attention on my family and business.
Working in my business today is still hard work (always will be), but I love what I do and I love creating beautiful spaces for people to enjoy, and the most rewarding part is now my daughter is old enough to understand what mummy does for work, she wants to be a designer too.
Life’s too short, follow your dreams and love what you do.
Christine Ghrayche owns and operates CBG Interior Design a small interior design boutique servicing Orange, Bathurst, Sydney and surrounds. Christine is based in Orange NSW and lives there with her partner and 4 year old daughter.
I grew up on the northern beaches of Sydney NSW, started a family there with my husband. My husband’s family are all from country NSW, mainly Orange NSW. We visited Orange many times a year, and on a trip in early 2014, I said why don’t we live here. So we made the decision to move our family and businesses (my husband has his own construction company) to Orange in April 2014, and have not regretted it. We have always dreamed of having a farm, and searched for a few places on the outskirts of Sydney, but they seems to be getting more unreachable for our budget. We now feel Orange is the place where we can pursue that dream. We have already got a dog, chickens and veggie garden, so next step is more land! It has not affected the businesses at all, but only helped to grow them with more variety of inspiration and lifestyle.
There are so many things that I love about country life, but the main thing I love is no traffic. And I just love looking at kilometres of paddocks while driving instead of buildings.
We can hear cows from our backyard at neighbouring properties and pass properties with horses, alpacas and goats every day on the school run. The kids LOVE this.
I had always dreamed a career in fashion when I was in high school, I made my own clothes all time, but after I left school, I studied Graphic Design and then Interior Design. But after 15 years working for other companies, I felt the needed to pursue my dream, and started designing a clothing range in 2007 after work. It was when my husband and I found out I was pregnant in 2009 that I wanted to create a business from home, so I started researching manufacturers for my range, and launched the first collection in 2010. I now run my business full time, but work around my 2 kids. My company, Witjuti specialises in bamboo clothing for men and women, selling online and in selected stores in Australia and Europe.
11 years ago we lived just outside London in the UK right in the middle of the commuter zone. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a plan to live in Australia. I think it’s always been based on a desire to live somewhere a lot less crowded lead with a lot more space for outdoor life which we love. So my husband and I emigrated and settled in Sydney. 5 years later we suddenly realised our dream had always really been to live on acreage as we really wanted the space and the outdoor life – and we whilst we had made it to Australia, we hadn’t quite realised that part of the dream yet!
So we sold up in Sydney to look for a little 5 acre block with a house somewhere in the Lower Hunter Valley, NSW. It needed to be close enough to travel back to Sydney for my husband but otherwise our specifications were wide open. Perhaps we should have been more specific - we ended up buying 100 acres which didn’t even have a boundary fence, let alone a house!
The thing I love best about living here is we now live where we would go on holiday. And we holiday in the city or by the beach! The community is a huge bonus and we are exceptionally lucky here with ours. Neighbours and locals have become friends for life and we’re busier here than we ever were in Sydney!
The other fabulous thing is that just by living you are constantly learning new things living in the country. We learn mostly by trial and error – taking locals advice wherever we can and then giving it a go ourselves (with varying success)! We run purely on solar power and tank water and love the self-sufficiency. So far we have only blown the solar system up once, and ran out of water once (to the last drop)! I’d definitely say the lessons we learn stick with us fast, most mistakes on a property you don’t want to make twice! We’ve been flooded in about 6 times already, though we have now perfected the technique of a car on each side of the crossing and wading over with the shopping/kids to do the school run.
Sitting looking at our 100 acres we had a conversation that went “well we’re not mowing all of that – we’d better get something that eats grass”!
The options were narrowed down by:
We didn’t have the fencing (or any fencing for that matter!) for sheep, goats or pigs.
I can kill a cactus from neglect so crops were out!
We knew nothing about cows.
I did know about horses.
And so StoneyBridge Gypsy Cob Stud was born. We choose the Gypsy Cob breed for several reasons. They have the best temperament a horse can have, and being around our little kids we needed something as safe as we could get. They are truly a family horse and can be ridden by all. We had grown up around them in the UK (my husband learnt to ride on one there) and they are a newer breed rising in popularity here in Australia. At the time we started there were so few Gypsies available in Australia that we had to import our first mare and foal from the UK.
Whilst I have always ridden and worked with horses – breeding them was something we’d never done either. There are many many learning moments in that – from watching the Stallion commando crawl under our normally perfectly good fence to get to the mares – to having to sleep in the paddock in the car to help a newborn foal who couldn’t get up on their own to feed (before we had built a stable to put them in!).
Once the Gypsy Cob stud was established and the children started at the local school I started to think on the next stage of our country living. Rather than go back to a corporate job, I realised I could actually mix the horses and the corporate world together in a different way. Having spent years with both (my passions are growing business and horses), the similarities between skills for successful interactions with horses and in the work place have always clearly stood out. Taking this a step further, we started Unbridled Results, a company that offers Team Building and Leadership Development training with a difference. That difference being that we use horses as well as humans as the trainers. Horse assisted learning lets you discover how interacting with horses (on the ground – there is no ridden work) gives you instant, honest feedback on the way in which your energy and non-verbal communication impacts on others at work. This often unseen communication can have powerful effects in the workplace without you even realising its happening.
Horses provide accurate feedback to behaviour in the moment. We see Teams resolve their core issues quickly and effectively. Leaders strive to be authentic, and horses only work on that level. The Gypsy Cobs have excelled in their new roles as trainers as they love to spend time with “their” humans as well as being part of the breeding herd and doing their most important job – eating that grass so we don’t have to mow it!
Louisa lives with her husband Colin on their farm in Laguna, Lower Hunter Valley with their 2 children, herd of 12 horses and 2 dogs.
Louisa doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t working with or looking after horses and has worked with corporate groups for 20 years. She loves training and presenting, has experience in start-up business and also runs a “Think Tank” Mastermind group for local entrepreneurs in the Lower Hunter Valley. She’s passionate about being able to pass on knowledge and help others grow themselves and their business.
LIVING BALANCE CENTRE
Just after my 50th birthday, my husband (Russell) and I went for a road-trip holiday to the sapphire Gemfields in central Queensland. We’d talked about visiting for years, ever since Russell bought me a pair of sapphire earrings from the area.
After spending 5 nights in the Gemfields area, we were on the 12-hour drive back 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 “the big smoke” – to make sure I really wanted to do this and wouldn’t regret it – on any level. While it felt risky to me, there is a quote by Angeles Arrien that summed it up for me:
“That which we witness, we are forever changed by, and once witnessed we can never go back.”
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. We moved into a large house on an acre block with 2 separate entrances – an ideal house for us to live in and allow me to also run my business from home.
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! And waking up every morning to several different bird noises is such a pleasure.
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.”
I was born in the “big smoke” – in Sydney. At 5 years of age, I became sick and developed bronchial asthma and several food allergies. And in my early 30’s, I had chronic fatigue and serious digestive problems. Looking back, I realised that each time I’ve been seriously unwell, my ill-health was a result of both physical and emotional factors.
After spending several years working as an environmental engineer in the oil/gas industry (managing and minimising toxins), I became a qualified Bioresonance Practitioner and in January 2008, I started my small business, Living Balance Centre.
What has helped me on the road to good health?
A combination of three therapies that I now offer my clients at Living Balance Centre – bioresonance therapy, intuitive awareness and emotional balancing. My sessions identify and begin the process of clearing each client’s individual and unique set of barriers or obstructions that are generally a combination of physical (pain, disease and ill-health – from within the body and external “toxic” sources), mental (thought patterns and belief systems), and emotional (repeated unresolved feelings and emotions). The health problems I’ve had over the years have been a blessing in disguise – they’ve helped me to connect with my clients.
The peace and quiet of the central Queensland countryside is an ideal location for me, my family, my dogs – and Living Balance Centre! While I see clients at my Rubyvale clinic, I also provide remote treatment sessions for my distance clients throughout Australia, the United States and Canada.
So I am able to fully experience the benefits of country life and continue to help others on their journey to holistic wellness at the same time.
What more could I ask for?!
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.