Wombat Hill Farm

view with dam

:: north to Tilba ::

Well folks, after many many years of dreaming, planning, studying, working, saving …. and lots and lots of looking …. we have finally bought our first home.  It’s a 42 acre farm in Brogo – a lush farming community in the Bega Valley, Far South New South Wales.  A small farm by Australian standards but to us beginners, an enormous amount of land!

view with mountain

To our north are rolling hills and pastures looking up towards Cobargo, then Tilba.  To our west, I suppose it’s the Great Dividing Range – the mountains that lead up to the plains of the Monaro and Canberra.  To the east (above) is Mumbulla Mountain, a sacred place of the local Yuin people, and just over that, the beautiful Pacific ocean.  Behind us, to the south, is Bega – a really sweet little country town where I hope to work in the newly built Bega Hospital.

lavender

We first looked at this property last Christmas.  Oh it’s a funny story :-)  All our nights were spent looking at properties on line, in the morning we’d check in with the real estate agent, then plot our list of places to visit and spend the day driving round and round and round the Bega Valley.  It wasn’t long before we were running out of suitable places to look  … and the more we looked, the longer grew our list of requirements!

We wanted to be no more than 30 minutes from Bega – no point seeking a more environmentally friendly life if I was going to spend my working days guzzling petrol.  We wanted to be off the highway, but not miles along a dodgy dirt road that would be a pain to navigate in bad weather or after a late shift at the hospital.

We wanted more than 15 acres of land, but not more than 50.  We wanted established trees, but not ones individually covered by council protection orders.  We wanted good access to water, but not on a creek or river because that would seriously restrict any future dam building.

We didn’t want to have to cross an easement to get to our land, and after meeting one potential neighbour, we weren’t that keen on others crossing our land!  We didn’t want to be in a gully that would be soggy or flood.  But we didn’t want to be perched on a rocky ridge.  And we wanted good soil.

Oh and we wanted to be north facing with a lovely eastern aspect as well.

Demanding huh!

rosemary

daisies

We first looked at this lovely property over the summer holidays – I even wrote about it at the time :-)  The real estate agent had sent us off to look at 100 or so acres on a short stretch of road off the Princes Highway.  He gave us the lot number and directions and off we went – hopeful that it might be a good one.  We found the road easily enough and just off the highway was the usual gathering of letterboxes and sure enough there was a letterbox for Lot 3 – with the street number listed as well.  Excellent!

The road wasn’t too bad – dirt, but reasonably graded.  There were neighbours all along – not close together by any means, but several other small farms with lovely trees, dams and plenty of horses and ponies – there was even an echidna toddling along the verge.  It was looking good.  When we arrived at Lot 3 – well, it took our breath away.  There were 2 huge sheds, a cottage with a beautiful garden and fencing, two huge water tanks, a cattle race, fruit trees – and lovely undulating land stretching north before us.  I was hopping from one foot to the other with excitement.

Now the fact that the for sale sign belonged to a different agent didn’t seem to matter – we just expected our agent had only recently picked it up.  And there was a local couple there who had come to check on their horse – which was on agistment – the owner of the property, their friend, was in Melbourne for Christmas.  They were friendly and perfectly happy for us to look over the land.  Julian and I bounded off.  Abby and Sacha were a bit more hesitant and reported to us later they heard the couple say to each other “Do you think these people are on the right block?” “Nah!”

fu

It was amazing.  And even more extraordinary – it was within our small budget.

We spent a good hour walking around.  There was work to be done for sure – lots of fencing and the pastures needed a lot of work, but there were plenty of trees – some of them truly majestic – and two dams, one of which was fed by a natural spring.  The cottage was a bit funky but perfectly neat and serviceable with a fabulous porch draped with a lush and fruiting grape vine, looking straight up the valley to Tilba.  I was practically hyperventilating by the time we gathered the kids and got back to the car.

I wanted to go straight back to the agent and say “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!  We’ll take it!” and slap down the deposit.  But we’d promised the kids lunch at Bermagui first.  And Julian didn’t want to appear eager.

What ?!?!?  It was perfect!!!!  Of course we were eager!!!!

cleaning out my gumboots

:: de-redbacking my gumboots ::

lots of firewood

By the time we got back to Bega we’d decided there was no point trying to bargain the price down – it was a huge bargain already!  We plonked down at the agent’s desk, me oblivious to Julian’s instructions to be calm.

“What did you think?” he asked.  “Yeah, it’s got potential,” Julian replied cautiously.

“It’s fabulous!” I squealed “You didn’t tell us about the sheds, or water tanks, or cottage!”

The agent look puzzled.  “What cottage?”

“The little green cottage with the porch and grapes and fence and lovely garden!” I was so enthusiastic.

The agent stared at us for a moment – then began to laugh.  “No, no, no!  That’s not the property I sent you to – that’s the other side of the road, belongs to a different agent and is half the land and twice the price!”

It was a deflating moment.  But kind of funny too.  Honestly – we laughed about it for the rest of the holiday.

lots of bracken

:: lots of bracken – we need weed munchers – a.k.a goats! ::

dragging his spoils

But the property he’d sent us to – it was pretty grim and ticked no boxes.  So back to searching.  We finally found one that was not quite what we were after, but very beautiful and put in an offer that we pursued until Easter.  However, after extensive consultation, it was obvious we were never going to be allowed to build on it thanks to the Bega Valley’s very restrictive new shire plan.  So on Good Friday we had to admit defeat and go back to the list we’d gathered at Christmas.

There was nothing new to look at and we revisited all the old ones.  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Then Julian suggested, why didn’t we go back and check out the lovely one we’d gone to by mistake.  Nah, I said, too much money.  But he pointed out our options were exceptionally limited now, thanks to the new Shire plan, and we were eligible for a lower deposit on this one because it had a dwelling and power.

We contacted the RIGHT agent and back we went.  It was as fabulous as we remembered.

pastures

the deam

:: the spring fed dam ::

The views were beautiful.  It was north facing.  The soil was rich, black, wormy and friable.  There were excellent water resources.  The owner had planted a lovely grove of hardwood.  It was less then a kilometre off the highway.  Only 20 minutes to the Bega hospital.  Under 50 acres.  And plenty of wildlife – frogs in the natural spring, wombat burrows everywhere, exquisite bird life and kangaroos bursting out of every grove of trees.

crappy fencing

:: part of our hardwood grove ::

our tree

:: my favourite tree ::

We put in an offer.  Two hours later, the deal was sealed and our deposit was down.

This little farm was just meant to be :-)

wombat burrow

:: one of many wombat burrows ::

boulder

:: our land is covered in these rocks – very typical in the Bega Valley
– Julian wants to build stone walls with them ::

mum describing her hard work

:: whilst we went walking – to gather star pickets
– mum gave us our housewarming present –
she gleefully chopped down some really unatttractive plants
that had gone bonkers beside the house ::

first meal

:: our first meal – potato and leek soup, Honour bread with Bega butter, and chocolate guinness cake :: 

So after so many years of dreaming and planning, on Thursday at 3:30, Julian, Abby and Fu picked me up outside the hospital, car and trailer tightly packed, and we made the long drive east to Mum’s.  The next morning, bright and early on a glorious day, Julian and I met with the owner.  We had a lovely long chat about his plans and ours.  He filled us in on our neighbours, gave us tips on the equipment he was leaving.  Keys were exchanged.  Off he drove.

There we stood.  On this beautiful piece of land.  We’d done it.

Oh there is so much to look forward to, so much to create, so much work, so much love.

After 24 years together, we’ve finally bought our first home … Wombat Hill Farm …

winter whimsy :: the gardening raccoons

paper cranes

by a wintry window

You tricksy Melbourne weather, you!  Both this morning and yesterday morning, I awoke to blue skies and sunshine – it was lovely!  So appreciated!

But before the hour was even out, you’d sent in the heavy clouds, gusty wind and rain.  Sigh! And to think, I’d coveted the delicious hope that by the end of this weekend, the top half of our newly acquired ($20 on eBay) Estey pump organ (circa 1880) would be scrubbed, all its lovely golden wood grain revealed.  No chance.

snoozy fu

needle felting

So after a morning shuttling the Year 12 child back and forth from a Japanese examination workshop – not the examination, just a 3 hour workshop on how to prepare for the examination – there was little else to do but embrace the indoorsiness of it all.

Julian settled in for an afternoon with his guru – Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – we will know all of Hugh’s puns and witticisms off by heart by the end of the year.  Fu snuggled up beside him.  Abby scorned homework and spent hours needlepointing little dolls of her favourite characters from her latest anime passion – a series about volleyball players ?!

And I jumped into the marvellous paper lover’s edition of Flow that came out a couple of months back.  Now, I’m really dreadful with this kind of thing.  I gleefully buy it.  Reverently look through it – often over and over.  Sigh over all its loveliness … and then do NOTHING with it because it’s too special to use.

Which means it never gets used.

cutting

extra bunting

modgepodge

Well, not today!  A gloomy wet day was the perfect day to pull out the saved prettiness and put it to good use.

Now we are a paper doll family – I indulged something shocking when Abby was little.  We have a vintage suitcase full – Little House dolls, Narnia dolls, American Girl dolls, Russian Royal Family dolls, Curious George dolls … including more that were saved from my childhood.  But frankly, our paper doll playing days are over.

Yes I know, we should all be embracing more play, but it’s not happening.  So I took Flow’s dear little paper Raccoon doll and her outfits, had Abby scan them in to the computer, copy and flip one (and it’s costume) around, make another copy child size, popped them all on a USB and in between that workshop shuttling, printed them off at Officeworks for the grand total of $3.75.

laid out

I laid them out on a recently bought Muji wooden tray – like a little stage set, complete with a little string of Flow bunting …

bunting

fresh flowers

… then chose the lightest spot in the house to sit – at the old singer in the dining room window – and set to glueing and sealing it all with ModgePodge.  Julian was obligatorily horrified – why would I DO this to a perfectly nice wooden tray.  You’d think he’d understand by now, hmmm :-) Anything plain is just waiting to be Lilified.

In fact, I’m thinking of buying another wooden tray and the Phoebe Wahl paper dolls from Taproot and make Julian a FARM version.  He’ll love it.

looking for the bare bits

And so flew past a couple of sweet hours.  Hugh took his first pigs to the abattoir (yet again), made Parma ham (yet again), went diving for scallops (yet again), made lamb mince pies to sell so he could afford a goose for Christmas (yet again), had his Christmas eve gatecrashed by his apple cider / skittle mates (yet again) – whilst Julian ooohed and ahhhed with ever-growing excitement and regular detailing of next years plans to Abby who jabbed her needle up and down whilst answering “Mmhmm!  Mmhmm! Mmmhmmm!”  She’s very excited by the prospect of farming ;-)

done

closer look

flat

And now we have a dear little wooden tray decorated with gardening raccoons that we can use come spring and summer when all we want to do is sit in a sunny warm garden with good food and a drink or two by our side.

Ah winter – you delivered a topsy turvy one today, but it simply didn’t matter.  There was too much goodness to be found inside to notice.

 

whale watching – mosaic style

with basket

glass prisms

work bench

After an intense week of learning on the new job, I awoke this morning with utter joy.  I have three whole days off AND today coincided with one of Merryl’s weekday morning workshops which meant I got to play mosaics in her beautiful studio for almost 3 hours.  Ah the bliss of it all!

shelves of glass

new cutters

I’m working on my second piece and it’s rather large.  The board is 1.2 metres by 90 centimetres.  That’s a lot of wee tiles and pieces of glass to cut, shape and glue.  Good thing I’m utterly bewitched and Merryl’s studio is filled with warmth, colour, creativity and lovely, lovely women who sit about the long work benches and chatter whilst they work.  Did I mention it’s bliss?  Oh it is.

cutting green triangles

This scene is one from my head.  I made it up as a cross stitch a few years back – “The Whale and her Girl” – but this version is slightly different.  Instead of the girl standing on the hilltop with her telescope, she’s inside her home looking out a large picture window.  Before her is my dream view.  A sun rising all goldy pink and orange against the sparkly sapphire sea.  A hilltop to her left, covered in Norfolk pines and crowned with a sturdy white lighthouse, resplendent in its royal blue trim.  An old fashioned ship, festooned with billowing white sails, bobs amongst the roll of the waves.  A glistening seal lolls about on a rock.

laying out the base

But even whilst it’s an imagined view, each of the elements speaks to my sentimental heart.

The sapphire sea?  It’s the east coast of Australia – the waters of the glorious Pacific Ocean which I’ve lived on for most of my life – stretching from Rainbow Bay on the southern tip of the Gold Coast, Queensland all the way to Eden at far end of New South Wales, the southern boundary of the lovely Bega Valley which we will soon be calling home.

And the sun?  Well it’s no surprise to you folks that I’m a huge fan of the sun, its light and warmth.  I didn’t have a clue about the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder until I came to Melbourne.  Now, I cannot wait to get back to east coast, where the sun will rise over the sea each morning – and at the same time as me.

glueing the grass

The Norfolk pines?  I haven’t a clue who decided that the beaches of east coast Australia all needed to be edged in Norfolk Pines, but by golly, what a fabulous decision that was!  All the beaches of my childhood are trimmed with these lovely giants – Coolangatta, Rainbow Bay, Harrington, Crowdy, Clarkes Beach at Byron … I only have to see a stand of Norfolk Pines and I am instantly at home.  I shall plant a row of them on our farm and when I’m old and wobbly of memory, they shall be my good friends.

harrington norfolk pines

:: Harrington ::

norfolk pines

The lighthouse?  Well it’s my simple version of James Barnett’s favourite design.  He was the Colonial Architect for colonial New South wales in the late 1800s and was responsible for the 3 lighthouses that are so very dear to me – Byron Bay, Crowdy Head and Green Cape.  His lighthouses all have the same look – strikingly white against the blue of their ocean backdrops with royal blue trim.

Every summer as a child and then teenager, we holidayed at Byron and the fortnight was not complete until we’d trekked all the way round the beaches – Clarkes, The Pass, Wategos, Kings and finally up to the lighthouse which in those days had no safety fences, but did have goats grazing on the hillsides, and we’d take flattened cardboard boxes with us, so as to slide down the grassy front cliff face into the legs of our fathers who stood on the edge, stopping us from hurtling off and onto the jagged rocks below.  It was thrilling!

from the back

Crowdy Head was down the road from my grandparents’ cottage at Harrington.  You couldn’t swim at Harrington – the Manning River enters the ocean there creating wicked rips and enticing ferocious sharks. Instead, we would pile into Nanny’s hot station wagon and drive along the sandy track through the bush scrub to Crowdy.  It was so humid and sticky along that road.  There was never a breeze to be felt and the cicadas positively screamed through our open windows.

crowdy lighthouse

Then, just when we thought we would never get there, we’d pop out of the bush and there was the magical Crowdy Bay curving round in front of us, the lighthouse perched up on the cliff to our right.  We’d have a lovely long swim, ride the waves in on our boogie boards, dig in the sand, poke around the rocks.  Sometimes we’d call into the Fishing Co-op.  Often we’d drive up to check out the lighthouse and I’d recount my Famous Five induced fantasy which involved living in this lighthouse and defeating smugglers, and then back we’d go to Nanny’s.  By the time we got there, we were just as hot and frazzled as before we started.

grandad

Green Cape Lighthouse is a much more recent addition to my family story – I only visited it for the first time a few years back.  It was such a long drive in from the highway – a terribly remote spot south of Eden – but when we finally saw it standing proud on the edge of the fiercest of coasts, I recognised it straight away as one of James Barnett’s children.  The wonderful white. The smooth dome of the attached cottage – just like Crowdy.  The splendid blue trim.  Oh yes, this was one of my lighthouses.

But even better, I had my dear old Grandad by my side as we explored this beautiful lighthouse and its surrounds.  He was a little bit frail – we just didn’t realise how frail an old body could become! – but he was so determined to soak up every moment of that day.  He read all the signs describing the history of the lighthouse and its keepers.  He walked along every perfectly maintained path, slowly round each building taking in every detail, all the way down to the cliff’s edge so he could truly appreciate just what that light was protecting the ships from.

And he chatted to me non-stop.  Grandad was such a great talker.  We marvelled at the remoteness and how much effort must have been required to bring in all the supplies.  We chuckled over the tennis court, built by the government so that the lighthouse keepers and their familes could be the social beacons of the south.  We harrumphed over the ugliness of the modern light and its ghastly skeletal structure that has replaced the grand original.  We were saddened by the memorial to those who lost their lives aboard the Ly-ee-moon steamer.

round-401x600

When we finally arrived home Grandad settled by the window, looking out across the sea, with my laptop, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading the stories collected by the lighthouse keepers and their families who served at Green Cape, and filled us in on every detail.  

Oh I loved my Grandad so much.  We had such a special bond, he and I.  Maybe it had its roots in the very fact of being the eldest granddaughter (thereby sharing the most time with him of any of the other grandchildren) and living so close to him for most of my life.  But we shared so much more as well.  We both loved adventuring, exploring, history, and the stories of people and their places.  Best of all, we loved sharing each others company.

So Green Cape lighthouse – it will always tug at my heart.  I will look at this mosaic and smile, remembering all the fun, adventure and romantic notions James Barnett’s lighthouses have given me.  But most of all, I will think of Grandad and imagine him there beside me.

smiling whale

The billowing sailing ship – Master and Commander to be sure.  I adore those books – and really liked the film too.  In fact, you know that last scene, when Jack and Steven are in the captain’s cabin playing a duet, whilst the sailors, marines and officers beat to quarters – that’s from the String Quartet in C Major by Boccherini – “La Musica Notturne della strade de Madrid”.  And it’s the joyful music that my dear Grandad walked me down the aisle to when Julian and I were married.  I can’t decide which was luckier – to have married Julian, or be presented at my wedding by the finest gentleman I’ve ever known ;-)

My romantic heart does love a dashing naval commander and his intriguing nature-loving sidekick – such a fabulous addition to the high seas. Mind you, you’d never catch me out there aboard ANY boat. I can appreciate their loveliness just fine from the solid shore right here.

upside down lighthouse

As for the seal – well she’s a regular feature of the Fishpond (that’s what the little harbour is called) in Merimbula.  Every day when Mum goes walking with her friend Jo and Lucy, the little seal pops up onto the rocks near the bridge, lolling about all sleek and glistening.  Lucy stops and pushes her head under the railings for a better look and Mum and Jo chat to the seal.  She’s apparently an attentive listener but has dreadful teeth and is a bit smelly :-)  I look forward to meeting her and just love that Merimbula has resident seals!  It truly is such a magical place and very soon will be part of my backyard too.  Oh my goodness!

hands

I do find that every time I turn my hand to making, what I’m really doing is telling part of my story, expressing part of who I am, in yet another way.  Sentimental but true.

When we are in our farm cottage – it’s settlement next Friday, can you believe that! – I hope to hang this mosaic on the east facing kitchen wall that is without a window.  This will be my window – looking east across the Mumbulla mountains to the ocean, with a view that will warm my heart and set off a flurry of story telling every time I catch a glimpse of it.

Ah I can’t wait to get back to Merryl’s for more cutting, shaping and glueing!  With the whale, the hill, the Norfolk Pines and the lighthouse finished, I think I shall get stuck into the ocean itself with that rising sun.  Oooooh I’ve gone tingly all over just thinking about all the lovely colour.

 

oh these lengthening days!

folded

I was late leaving work today.  Always happens.  As I hurried through the garden to the carpark, my new boss called out “See you later Lils (Lils?), go home and make the most of this sunshine!”

Oh I didn’t need a second telling.  After a positively frosty fortnight with very dark and often wet and windy days, this afternoon’s sun had been calling to me for hours!

coffee and thread

I made a coffee, gathered up some thread, scissors, needle and a needing-to-be-bound quilt and hot footed it outside.  Glorious!  The sky was blue.  The clouds were as fluffy and sweet as new spring blossoms.  There was SUN glinting on the oak’s bare branches.  And with that quilt tucked over my lap, I was delightfully warm.

blue sky and sunlight

little girl

blossoms and thread

But the best bit?  Oh folks … I could see to stitch until 5:45pm.  That’s right.  5:45pm.  You know what that means, don’t you.  We are tilting back towards the sun.  The days are stretching longer.  Spring is round the corner.

Which means summer is round the corner!  Which means it’s almost the end of the year!! Which means it’s almost the end of living in Melbourne!!!!! Which means we will be packing up and moving to the beautiful Bega Valley in the blink of an eye.  Well … almost :-)

sunlit clouds

tucks

Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!  Words cannot adequately describe how happy this makes me :-)  See this here photo of scissors – it was taken at 5:45pm.

Tonight I won’t even need to look at my bookmarked sunrise and sunset webpage, because I sat outside – dry and warm – and stitched until 5:45pm.

scissorsMy heart is singing.