THE ADELAIDE HILLS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
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
DAWESLEY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
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.
PADTHAWAY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
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
MT BULLER, VICTORIA
Being on the road competing as a Ski Cross athlete in Europe for 6 months every year makes me not only appreciate the place where I grew up and call home, Mt Buller, but how fortunate I am to be able to return to such a place I am so fond of every year.
My name is Anton Grimus and I am a part of the Australian Ski Cross team. I travel the world extensively. In the past 8 months alone I have skied in places all over the globe, from Alaska, to South Korea and even all the way up to the northern parts of Sweden. I have seen a lot of what the world has got to offer. I have been doing back-to-back winters now since 2009 and do not regret one part of it.
However the southern hemisphere winter always draws me home to Mt Buller. I often get asked the question, where is the one place in the world you enjoy skiing the most? My response is usually followed by a comment such as “You’re kidding right?” or “You’re just saying that because you are biased?” The latter is probably correct, as my answer is Mt Buller. My reasoning behind this answer is that there is no other place like home. Be it the community feel within the resort, my knowledge of where to ski on any given day with differing snow conditions, being able to ski with great friends or know where I can get a good meal on the slopes, it always is on the top of my list and doesn’t compare with anywhere else.
Yes, you don’t get the steep lines and deep powder runs of Alaska or the long endless runs you may find in Europe, but I confidently know every tree line on the mountain and get a wave from a worker driving pass on snow mobile. Comparing Mt Buller to anywhere else is like apples and oranges, you just can’t.
However most people only know of Mt Buller for its skiing in the winter, but as of late I have come to appreciate what home has got to offer me when there is no snow. The mountain biking is endless and the fly-fishing in the small mountain streams is great. Being in the snow for a majority of the year it is great for me to take some time out and be able to wear a pair of thongs and shorts. It is also a lot less busy in summer, being able to take the time of day to appreciate the mountains and get away from the rush of life. For me it resets the clock from all the hustle and bustle of the city and travelling, and I guess this is what home should feel like.
But my favourite part of coming back home every year is unwinding all four windows in my car as I drive up the Mt Buller road and breathing in the eucalyptus smell of the mountain gum trees. This will never get old. Will I stop calling Mt Buller home? Never.
Article by Anton Grimus
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?
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
I had never desired a country life. I was a born and bred, inner suburban or city girl having lived in South Yarra, Fitzroy and Port Melbourne after a childhood in the western suburb of picturesque Williamstown.
I loved city life and everything it gave us. My husband David and I had been living in the bay-hugging city of Port Melbourne for some ten years. Just a 15-minute tram ride from Collins Street and close to all of the cosmopolitan delights of Melbourne, I thought I was happy here, with the beach and the city combined into a lifestyle that seemed to suit our kids and us.
Friends who lived out in the greenbelt often suggested we might like to move out that way one day as it was such a beautiful place to live. I smiled but secretly thought, ‘you have to be joking’ – that was something that would never happen. I continued to live my city life, which revolved around work and social life, and the increasingly, long traffic jams, as I attempted to get from one side of town to the other to run my business as a freelance PR consultant. It was the traffic that got to me first, day after day of sitting in a long, line of humming traffic. So much time wasted, just sitting. Restlessness began to seep through my veins. I was unhappy, I lost my vision, slowly something changed in me. The people, the traffic, the noise, the time it seemed to take to do simple things. I noticed that although we lived in one of the world’s most liveable cities, we rarely ventured out to look at anything much. I felt that after a lifetime of living in one city I had seen it all anyway – it was pretty much more of the same.
We had often talked off and on about moving to the Mornington Peninsula when we retired. We started looking at homes there and I suddenly began to get very interested in a different, quieter lifestyle. But the fact that we had our teenage girls at a fabulous school in Melbourne prevented us from ever making a move like this until they had left home and who knew when that might be. I started to feel stuck,– something needed to change. But the change we needed wasn’t immediately apparent until one day David said ‘Let’s go and look over the other side of town, just to challenge our thinking’. I thought that it was just going to be a pleasant drive as I had stated many times, “no way would I ever contemplate living out that way”. The bush fires for a start would scare me and the country lifestyle seemed kind of... slow.
Within two weeks of the first fateful day we ventured into the lush greenbelt that is the Nillumbik shire of Melbourne we had fallen in love with and bought, an amazing Spanish style home on an acre in Research, with sweeping valley views on a bush road, complete with kangaroos and kookaburras. The purchase came after we viewed the house once and I stood in the bedroom and whispered to my husband ‘we get this house or we get divorced’ – a story which he loves to tell people to this day! Having a happy marriage, divorce was the farthest thing from my mind, but I fell so passionately in love with what the house, with its beautiful features and amazing gardens that I had to let him know I was serious!
We left Port Melbourne without an ounce of regret – it was time and we embraced our country life and all that comes with it. Although we are not too far from the city, once you drive down our road you would think you were a million miles away. It’s quiet and peaceful and green. One of the things that appealed so much to us was that the house was really something out of the ordinary. Definitely not your regular style country home, it is all white stucco arches, imported Spanish tiles, soaring palm trees and dark timber beams. The weekends are now full of gardening activities that our daughters are even enjoying – days spent digging, and mulching, and planting and pruning and we even have a veggie patch we love. We visit the local farmers markets and enjoy the quietness of the evenings – and in fact, the quietness of the entire day. We bought all the family Blundstone boots which are lined up in a row at the back door and I eagerly look forward to weekends when we jump up early and head out to country markets like the eclectic St Andrew’s market. As we both work from home running our own businesses, working from an office with a stunning country landscape view is another beautiful bonus. Our kids think its fantastic that we are doing other things apart from working constantly and our old dogs are loving the freedom to wander around the huge garden and sniff at the grass at their leisure. I really couldn’t imagine living anywhere else ever!
Article by Janita Friend
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Until I moved to the regional Victorian town of Ballarat six years ago, I was very much a gypsy and moved around a lot. I grew up inner city Melbourne except for a few years spent in the now famous spa town of Daylesford back when it was a poor potato growing community and two years living in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India.
As an adult, I moved around a fair bit. I lived in Canberra when I was studying at university. I spent two years working as an aid worker in Thailand. I was transferred to Sydney from Melbourne with a consulting firm I worked with. And I spent two years living on the mid-north coast of NSW.
Then I moved to Ballarat in 2008. Back then, I was a single parent with a two year old daughter. The real estate prices in Melbourne had sky-rocketed and I wanted a more affordable lifestyle and I enjoyed living in a country setting. So I looked within a 200 km radius of Melbourne.
There was Bendigo, Geelong and Ballarat. I wanted a town that had a cinema, shops and university. That was my criteria. I also wanted to be able to visit my mother in inner western Melbourne easily.
I ended up choosing Ballarat. It is so close to Melbourne. I can visit my mother easily and go to Melbourne for any special events as well as shows and exhibitions. In fact, it takes many of my friends that live in the far northern edge of Melbourne longer to get to the city that it does me.
When I first moved to Ballarat in the middle of winter, I did wonder if I had made a huge mistake. If you know Ballarat, you may have noticed that there is often a big black cloud that hovers over the town and the winters can sometimes feel like they go on forever with the grey skies, bitter wind, and freezing temperatures. But I haven’t let the winter blues beat me yet (good heating helps).
Shortly after moving to Ballarat, I met and fell in love with my now husband, Nick Shady. We’ve been married four years and have a three year old son. Nick and I met on RSVP (where else was a single parent that doesn’t go out meet a man).
Nick grew up in Skipton and we have a grain farm about 75kms west of Ballarat. Nick and I decided to create our family home in Ballarat as we enjoyed the amenities that it offers. My daughter goes to the Ballarat Steiner School, which she wouldn’t do if we lived out at the farm. My father lives with us in a unit we build attached to our house and doesn’t drive so we needed access to public transport. And Nick and I love eating out and going to the movies, so once a week when we aren’t sowing or harvesting crops, we go out for a lovely meal and a film.
Ballarat is one of those places that has lots of choice for those with a culinary bent like us. There’s a dumpling house, multiple Thai restaurants, our favourite Indian restaurant that serves one of the best Butter Chicken dishes according to Nick, along with a favourite restaurant of ours called Chat for Tea which is run by our friend Steve and his family that serves amazing vegetarian food that even committed carnivores love.
One of the worst things about Ballarat is that there’s always something going on and it can be hard to choose what to do! One of the highlights of the year is the annual Begonia Festival that is held over the long weekend in March. If you don’t know what a Begonia is, don’t worry, neither did I until I went to the Begonia Festival.
Begonias are beautiful perennial plants with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of colours (there’s about 1,400 different species). I’ve got more of a brown thumb than a green one (that’s why I don’t live at the farm near our crops), but I do love Begonias. Aside from celebrating the beauty of the begonia species, the Festival offers a range of activities for the whole family. My children get so excited by the Begonia Festival because there’s a parade that my daughter’s school marches in and there are lots of free kids’ activities.
The festival is held across the road from Lake Wendouree. The Lake is a real focal point for Ballarat and where many of the events are held. We go to the Lake all the time. It’s so beautiful now that it has water in it again. When I first moved to Ballarat it was a weedy dust bowl. Now it is full of birdlife. We often see Swans and their signets, along with mother ducks and their cute ducklings, wandering around the foreshore and even crossing the road on occasions. We often ride our bikes around the lake, though I recommend on a windy day that you have the wind behind you as it’s a tough ride with the wind pushing you backwards (though it is a better workout with the wind resistance).
One of the things we enjoy most as a family is visiting Sovereign Hill. My daughter and I used to volunteer at Sovereign Hill when we first moved to Ballarat. We learnt a lot about the gold rush history of Ballarat and got to dress up in period clothing form the 1800s and talk to visitors using old fashioned words.
We have an annual family pass so we go frequently to Sovereign Hill. We have a good supply of candles at home that the children dipped in coloured wax at the Candle Shop. We’ve seen how lollies are made in the old fashioned way and tasted more than a few. And of course, we love panning for gold, though we haven’t made our fortune yet. We especially like the pantomimes in the old Victoria Theatre. We laugh ourselves silly watching the antics on stage and calling out as you do in a pantomime. Nick and I have taken visitors to the sound and light show, Blood on the Sovereign Cross, and I learnt a lot about the Eureka Stockade.
I could probably wax lyrical until the cows come home about how great it is to live in Ballarat, but I won’t. What I will say is that moving to Ballarat changed my life. Aside from meeting my husband and having another child, I also found my place in the world. Ballarat was the first place in my whole life that has really felt like home.
Ayesha Hilton is an author, speaker and business strategist. She helps people grow their business and their profile by becoming a published author. She is the co-author, with her husband Nick Shady, of the book Who Gets the Farm: a practical guide to farm succession planning. She is also the author of FAST Book Writing: write your book in 30 days or less and founder of the FAST Book Writing Bootcamp. Ayesha is a co-author in a number of anthology books. Ayesha lives in Ballarat with her husband Nick Shady, two children, and her father (known as Grandpa).
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.
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
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
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
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)
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
KATANDRA WEST, VICTORIA
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!
PAMBULA, NEW SOUTH WALES
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.
GUNDAROO, NEW SOUTH WALES
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!
NARRANDERA, NEW SOUTH WALES
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.
BERRIMA, NEW SOUTH WALES
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
ORANGE, NEW SOUTH WALES
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.
MOLONG, NEW SOUTH WALES
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
LAGUNA, NEW SOUTH WALES
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.
DUBBO, NEW SOUTH WALES
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.
TAMWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES
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.
COFFS HARBOUR, NEW SOUTH WALES
I’m a part-time midwife and writer on the Mid North Coast of NSW. I grew up in outer Sydney when everyone had 5 acres and learnt to drive cars around the paddock when they were eight. We moved to southern Sydney and my brother and I went to school on a ferry from Maianbar and the Royal National Park for a couple of years, and then I moved to Brighton-Le-Sands when I first married.
Now it’s 200 acres of on-again off-again wetlands, a small herd of friendly cattle, and a family of Jabirus nesting down the paddock in a moated tree, between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. Both airports are an hour’s drive away and at the rate the Pacific Highway is improving it will be much less very soon.
We’re twenty minutes’ drive along the river from South West Rocks and they call the Macleay Valley, Nature’s Wonderland, for good reason. I can’t actually see another house from my veranda and every single sunset that paints the distant hills is a new gift.
I understand the roaring winter fires in your lounge room in Adelaide, or Melbourne, or out west everywhere, but our average maximum temperature ranges between 18 and 28 degrees at Smoky Cape and the lowest between 11 and 19 degrees. Sound idyllic? We have a few cold days – and a few hot ones, but you can bathe off the gold-sandy beaches pretty well all year round and paddle your canoe in the river. Rainfall is healthy and we’ve lived off rainwater tanks for the last ten years and only had to buy water twice. Mostly when the hordes come back to stay.
Speaking of the hordes, I met my husband nurse training in Sydney when I was 17. He was tall, dark and handsome of course, and after he joined the ambulance, we moved to Kempsey to be nearer to my parents, (such a good man) and raise ‘the boys.’ We used to live in town before Ian retired as a paramedic because he needed to be available for the constant after-hours emergencies, but the farm is much more fun when the time for ambulance work and dashing to sports for kids is past.
I started writing when we only had four boys, initially to fund our dream of affording holidays, and after ten years of learning curves and rejections, and another cute little boy, I finally sold my first book. Ian was more excited than I was and he’s stayed my greatest fan. That’s what best friends are all about, isn’t it. When he read it he said to me, ‘Imagine if I’d died and never read your book. I would never have known you.’ Sigh. He’s still TD and H.
Since then I’ve published thirty-five books, last year’s Red Sand Sunrise was my first fiction for Penguin Australia, and I’m super excited about my second, The Homestead Girls. I especially love the space to write about relationships between women, sisters, friends, work colleagues, and that other character – the great Australian landscape. How lucky are we to live in such an incredible place, with such extremes and beauty and majesty - then to write about it and be able to share it with others. I’m feeling blessed.
So if you are driving north, drop into beautiful South West Rocks, visit Smokey Cape Lighthouse because the B&B there is divine. For more rural views, head up the valley to historic Bellbrook Pub past Slim Dusty’s childhood home along the majestic Macleay River – the fastest flowing river in the Southern Hemisphere when it’s in flood. And enjoy the beautiful weather.
Tenterfield, New South Wales
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.
BYRON BAY, NEW SOUTH WALES
On 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
My Country town is Dayboro, a little town about an hour north of Brisbane CBD.
Dayboro, known as “The town of Yesteryear”, is nestled in a valley surrounded by trees, green fields and mountains as far as the eye can see.
Dayboro dwellers benefit from our small and very welcoming community. As a group we include lots of tree changers who commute into Brisbane to work as well as also lots of people who have lived here all their lives.
We have a pub, IGA, bakery, a few cafes, restaurants, an art gallery, vintage shops and a servo. Weekends see lots of visitors around, meandering along the main street, or stopping in for bite to eat on a country drive.
When we first moved here we were surprised how much there is to do in such a small community. On the first Sunday of every month there is a market which offers local artworks, plants, honey, clothing, antiques and collectables as well as the usual jumble and produce. There are monthly movies in Dayboro Hall, Friday night dinners at the bowls or footy clubs plus our annual huge events of Dayboro Day and the Dayboro Show.
We have plenty to keep us occupied during the week too. With a swimming complex, playgroup, three parks, showgrounds and sports fields, Dayboro is a town where it is impossible not to bump into at least three people you know every time you hit the IGA.
It is the perfect place for kids to grow up and learn about the world outside ipads, TV and shopping malls. We’re 20 minutes from the nearest chain store but only five minutes from a gorgeous creek. On hot days we go swimming and exploring and on cold days we hunker down by the firepit and look up at the stars. Our kids can play outside from dawn till dusk and we can grow our own fruit and veggies.
We are fortunate to live on acreage with two cows (strictly lawn mowers), two dogs, a fish and a soon to arrive kitten. Our neighbours have ducks and chickens, some have horses and all you can hear most days are the noises of birds and children playing. All in all we’ve found an idyllic place to raise our family and grow old together.
More about Dayboro:
Dayboro Information: www.dayborodistrict.com.au
The Dayboro Grapevine (local magazine):www.dayborograpevine.com.au
Dayboro Show: www.dayboroshowsociety.com
Dayboro Day: www.dayborodistrict.com.au/index.php
www.mckennamarketing.com.au – coming soon!
Michelle is an ex-journalist who moved to Brisbane from London in 2002. Now living in Dayboro with her husband and two children she has moved into PR and marketing, working freelance for a range of small businesses. Working from home suits her lifestyle as she is available to be a full-time Mum, take care of the animals and volunteer with Equine Action Queensland. EAQ is becoming a passion as she works together with them to educate and promote horse welfare and husbandry. www.eaq.org.au.
My time in the country began at the age of 14; a huge transition for a girl who went to private school and lived in the city. My grandparents would live with us and my family began a small farm. My grandfather had spent my early years doing wildlife rescue and having regular spots on a television show about Australian wildlife. Naturally, once we moved to our farm, my whole world was opened up to other things. Possums in my pockets, raising my own animals, sneaking animals into my bedroom, a basket on the front of my red postie bike so my animals could ride. My life was changed forever.
Almost 17, I left home for the big smoke for huge career to be a hairdresser. Within 2 years I was sick from chemicals and had to move home to be taken care of. Respite in the country and tlc from my family and I was ready to finish my hairdressing.
As the years went on I fell in love and had children. I found myself married to a farmer in a country town I only ever knew about because it was the coldest town in Queensland. I raised my then small children there and they had the freedom of farm life most could only dream of. On school holidays they would go to their Nanny in the beautiful Mary Valley, Queensland.
As life goes, you don’t always get what you expect and time changes circumstances. I moved to where my mum lived, the Mary Valley, just a little further north-west of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. On 200 acres of pristine land with rolling hills that looked like bowling greens, the sunsets looked more beautiful than ever and the air was clear.
With children comes tuckshop duty and our little school didn’t have one. Of course, I rallied parents to help and make it happen. Small communities are challenged by the simplest of things. I wanted things to be turned around and they were.
Again, being a gypsy, we moved back to the city and spent time there until recently.
12 years on, my town, the pristine place where I have so many wonderful memories, is rebuilding. It is rebuilding from a government decision to buy 13,000 hectares of properties proposing to build a dam and flood the whole area.
A decision that would take out many other little towns.
A decision that would decimate endangered species of flora and fauna.
A decision that would destroy the livelihood of so many local farmers and families.
A decision that people power helped block.
The determination and authenticity of country folk should never be overlooked or underestimated. The community spirit I see every day is incredible. The friendships I have formed since being back at home is wonderful. There are numerous projects that are in place to try and rebuild cottage industry and revitalise sustainable farming in the area once again.
There has been a huge injection of tree changers to the area. Organics, gourmet produce, farmer’s markets and adventure getaways are all thriving and utilise the incredible river system, streams that run throughout the ever green district as a drawcard to invite a healthy tourist trade back to the locale. It is a holiday town for campers, people who love B&B’s, people who fish and water-ski, motor-cross, farm-stay and horse riding. There is no end to what this pristine paradise of a town can achieve.
With some large investors keen to preserve the future of this area and no plans to destroy the beauty, I am proud to live and have a business here. There will come a day where I am proud to say we helped make a difference on the tourist trail. My family didn’t sell out to the government. And I will be so proud making my relish for the annual Tomato Festival.
Sometimes the nicest things in life is getting right back to basics; my life and my business is about that. About ethics, no exploitation, sustainability and living a chemical-free, organic life where possible. Something else about me, I have pet cows, dogs, birds, cats and a donkey. It is true, you can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl. I am happiest in my boots, even if I am wearing a hat and floral frock.
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?
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.
In 1889 Banjo Paterson wrote Clancy Of The Overflow. Two lines in the poem stuck with me after reading them in primary school.
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
I saw the sunlit plains extended as a teenager travelling by bus to my first job in Mount Isa. The vision splendid was just like Banjo described. From 1980 I wrote and photographed western Queensland, the country that inspired Banjo to write Clancy Of The Overflow and his earlier classic, Waltzing Matilda.
Over the years I totally fell in love with the vastness and emptiness of this special place and got to know the people and places of the Queensland bush. I loved them all but Winton was the one place I really felt connected to.
Winton is easy to find, it is about 1500 kilometers northwest of Brisbane. Let me put that into perspective, if you are driving, hop in your car in Brisbane and head directly west for a day, find somewhere to sleep, when you get up the next day turn right and head directly north for another day and you have arrived.980 people live in this real bush town which is the centre of the Winton Shire. About 600 people are spread thinly over the remaining 53,935 square kilometers of the shire.
During my many visits to Winton over the years I noticed that no matter where I was in the town I could look left or right and see the bush. Nowhere in Winton was too far from the edge of town. This was a very attractive quality for me because just like Banjo I knew the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
One of my long-term jobs as a freelance photographer was doing most of Slim Dusty's photography for the last 20 years of Slim's life. Slim and his wife Joy knew where you could get a good coffee in very town in Australia and while traveling with Slim I discovered the good coffee (and food) at the Coolibah cafe at the Waltzing Matilda Centre. As far as I know the Waltzing Matilda Centre is the only museum anywhere dedicated to honouring a song. The museum is a mixture of the new, high tech and lots of good old stuff that together tell the story of Waltzing Matilda and the communities rich history.
Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda at Dagworth Station. First public performance of the song took place at Winton's north Gregory Hotel on 6th April 1895. The town now celebrates the day with the Vision Splendid Dinner. QANTAS was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach. It was registered as a company in Winton in 1920 and the first QANTAS board meeting was held here in 1921.
Winton's fame was built on the back of the legend of Matilda but in 1962 a local grazier discovered a fossilized footprint on Cork Station about an hour west of Winton. Before long they had uncovered 3,300 footprints that make up the biggest dinosaur stampede in the world. Legend has it that Steven Spielberg sent researchers to view Winton's dinosaur stampede before he filmed Jurassic Park in the early 1990s. Winton cattleman David Elliott discovered a 20 to 30 ton sauropod near Winton in 1999. This inspired David to build Australian Age of Dinosaurs on a jump up near town. This museum has quickly earned the reputation as a national centre for dinosaur research.
I've worked in the Winton area many times over the years. Mostly visiting on photography assignments; either photographing the people or the landscape or conducting photography workshops. At one of my workshops I got to meet Winton local and photo legend Peter Knowles. He was one of the first people to photograph the channel country in colour and published several books from the late 1960s onwards. One of his early books, Whirlwind Country, inspired me to photograph this country. I became friends with Peter in Winton and have kept in touch with since he moved to southeast Queensland. Peter is in his late 80s and has embraced digital technology and still travels extensively and photographs the Australian landscape. Peter inspired many local photographers and I am constantly amazed at how many gifted photographers live in such a small town.
Eventually I got frustrated coming to Winton, working hard for a couple of days and then leaving. Mid 2014 I was in Winton for the Vision Splendid Film Festival and it crossed my mind to come and stay in Winton for a couple of months, do some photography and concentrate on writing a novel. I arranged a bed with a local friend and had planned to spend the winter of 2015 in my favourite bush town.
They say it's never too late to change. In late 2014 I decided to apply for a proper job. The Winton Shire Council advertised for a Tourism and Events Manager. I was 63 and had worked for myself since 1980 but a couple of days before applications closed I decided to give it a go. Thankfully one of children gave me a hand to cobble together the application and to my surprise I got the job. I packed my library and stuff into two shipping containers in Toowoomba and headed west.
Driving into Winton I felt as though I had arrived home. I've been here six months now and still can't put my finger on exactly what I love about this place. I love the people, love the spirit of the people; they are rough and tumble lot, educated and artistic types too, all of them remarkably optimistic and resilient. Takes more than a four-year drought to cause a long face in this town. I heard Mayor Butch Lenton being interviewed by the ABC recently. They asked Butch about the drought and he said, "It's not as if we haven't been in this situation before".
My plans to write that novel have morphed into plans to compile a substantial photo journal; a collection of words and pictures about this remarkable Australian bush town.
Winton has carved itself a solid place in the Australian film industry. The Nick Cave movie The Proposition was filmed here. Ivan Senn produced Mystery Road here and is currently filming Goldstone west of Winton. Producer Bill Leimbach plans to shot much of his film Banjo in the area.
Winton has inspired generations of locals and visitors and continues to do so. It got me to give up my comfortable life in Toowoomba and shift here. I have no doubts I made the right decision. The landscape delights me every time I look at it. Every nook and cranny is a constant surprise and every night I step outside and enjoy the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
John Elliott is a writer/photographer who has spent his life documenting the Australian bush and Australian music. He has published 14 books and his show 1000 Mile Stare was shown at the National Portrait Gallery. After 35 years as a freelance producer he has recently taken up a full-time job with the Winton Shire Council.
PINGARING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
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.