Monday, June 1, 2015


Hello friends. Long time, no blog.

I think the general consensus is that one announces a blog break in advance of their absence rather than upon their return but since I didn't exactly plan to have a blog break for quite so long I couldn't follow correct bloggy etiquette. And 6 weeks away? Yikes, I didn't even realise it had been that long or that I would need that long. Sorry about that. Rest assured all is well here and thank you for the e-mails of concern. I am neither at the bottom of a mineshaft nor am I sun-baking in the Bahamas, although right now I'd give my right arm to be doing the latter. I'm simply here at home, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy amongst the total utter chaos that comes with project managing our farm development and raising 5 children.

What that means is that instead of having the evenings while the kids are in bed to engage in my usual activities of reading, writing, blogging, knitting or staying abreast of important affairs of the world binge-watching House of Cards, Homeland, Outlander, Game of Thrones and Eurovision, I've been spending that time thinking. Just sitting on the sofa thinking. Thinking about how to organise the home life when the business opens, planning how best to go about it and talking about all the daily issues that need to be resolved with this project as it's being built. It has taken a long time, all this thinking, planning and talking. I simply haven't had the headspace for anything else. We've also made the decision to have an au pair join our family and are super excited to welcome Vanessa from Germany here in just a few weeks time. This process has involved lots of late night skype interviews with potential candidates not to mention some mammoth cleaning frenzies to particular areas of the home. If only she was here already to help me organise the house for her arrival.

So, in a nutshell, I've had an interlude of sorts to deal with the backlog and prepare for the next phase and I'm planning on keeping up with this space more regularly now. I thought I'd share some photos of the build process so far (although I needed a more serene image to start the post off and get those first words on the page). Of course it has been very exciting watching it all unfold day by day but it has also been an all-encompassing roller-coaster ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns and hairy moments. It has been a huge challenge for me personally, to keep it all together and not lose the plot entirely. I could have blogged through all the ups and downs but that's not really my style. I prefer to stay super focussed and just get the job done and then debrief afterwards. Unfortunately the debrief on this one will be a 4000 page novel which I predict I'll only have time to write in about 20 years time when the children have flown the nest. Or not. Consider yourselves spared :-)


So, here's how things are shaping up for Coal River Farm with the next phase of the project - the cheese and chocolate making facility along with farm kitchen/restaurant.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Everyone loves Marcus

I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student when I was 15 and lived with a host family who had 2 little boys aged 5 and 2. That was 22 years ago. My youngest host brother, Marcus, is now 24 and currently studying in Queensland for a Semester. He decided to visit us during his University break after first hiking his way around Tasmania. We had such a fun time with him. The Kids warmed to him instantly, a total stranger to them, other than the stories I had told them about he and his lovely family. I used to play Cowboys and Indians with him and push him around in the stroller and now he was doing the exact same with our 5 Kids. It made me feel very old indeed. Everyone thought Marcus was the Bees-knees. He played games with the Kids, swung them around by the ankles  and enjoyed being indoctrinated into the world of Minecraft. He offered to help around the farm, demolished all of my lame meals and let me practice my German on him. He was always happy, never got cross and was excellent company whilst I carried on with the mundane chores around the house. If anyone resisted brushing their teeth before bed Marcus just had to make the suggestion and they were straight in the bathroom. Everyone loved Marcus. The Kids wanted Marcus to stay forever and ever and cried when he left. Disneyland is now off the bucket list. They are all saving their pennies to visit Marcus in Munich.

Marcus had a pretty strenuous time hiking around Tasmania, sometimes doing 9 hr hikes each day and sleeping in a $20 tent in freezing cold conditions and eating tuna out of a can so he was quite happy to relax and hang out at home by the time he got to us. However, we managed to tick off the 2 things we do with interstate or international visitors - a trip to Zoodoo down the road and a day trip to Port Arthur Historic Site. Everyone loves to see the real Tasmania Devils at Zoodoo and the new additions there are the beautiful Zebras. Apparently it is the only place in Australia where you can actually pat a Zebra. It seriously made my day. And did you know that Zebras are black with white stripes rather than white with black stripes? Incredible.

We've been pondering for some time the prospect of having an au pair live with us as an extra pair of hands when the business opens up in June. It seems to be the only option that allows the flexibility that we'll need - a couple of hours in the morning to watch Flynn while I'm down at the Cafe and a few hours on the weekends whilst we are doing the markets. Have any of you had experience with a longer term house guest, au pair or exchange student? Daniel has already been receiving all manner of e-mails of potential candidates, "here's a girl from Sweden who sounds perfect" or "Amelie from France looks nice and has just been with a family with 6 Kids!". I've been a bit hesitant at the idea for many reasons but mostly because I am worried it would be more work having an extra person in the home when we are already such a big family and things are crazy enough. However, after having Marcus here I can see how great this option could be. Sitting on the Sofa last night midway through a row of knitting, I paused and pushed my reading glasses up the bridge of my nose and said "Darling, about this au pair business, I think I'm warming to the idea. Yes, I think a 24 year old energetic male with a European accent would be perfect don't you? Someone just like Marcus". I'm not sure we are on the same page yet.

Germany 1992 - Me and Marcus and Thomas

Saturday, April 11, 2015

In defense of the land of "Dregs, Bogans and 3rd generation morons"

We took advantage of having our first Sunday off from the Market all year and drove 2 and a half hours away to the end of a road which brings you to Strathgordon in the remote South West Wilderness Area. There's absolutely nothing there, only one place to stay and it's nothing salubrious but perfect for our purpose which was to be able to relax without having to keep the kids on a tight leash. There's no shops, no people, no internet connection or mobile reception and it was exactly what we needed for 3 nights to feel human again. Disconnecting to feel connected. We brought everything with us - the kayak, the bikes, the fishing rods and the built-in entertainment system that comes from having 5 kids. We all had an excellent time. We saw 4 other people one night and no one could believe we could have such a place all to ourselves to which we replied "shh, don't tell anyone!'. The accommodation managers hadn't seen any kids for weeks so our kids happily played with theirs and they even opened up the indoor swimming pool that belongs to the town for us to use and offered to drive half an hour to their house to get some swimming costumes for the kids but with no one around they weren't necessary in the end!

We returned home to learn that high profile creative arts icon Mr Schofield had left our shores but not before unleashing a tirade against our beautiful State and people calling Tasmania a land of "dregs, bogans and third generation morons". After our few days away and the last 15 years of living here I couldn't think of a less apt way to describe our experience of Tasmania. Most of us laughed off the petty remarks, taking the derogatory comments for what they were, a frustrated man who left in a huff because the government only offered him $300,000 to run his 3rd consecutive Baroque Festival, the exact same amount they gave him the year before. He finally apologised yesterday for his offensive comments and I guess allowances can be made for him not being in "a good place" mentally. But still, those 3 little words publicly shaming an entire State hit a nerve and left a lot of people rightly miffed. The brain is wired to be more sensitive to negative comments and since it apparently takes 9 positive comments to dilute one little negative I offer the following points just off the top of my head in defense of the State I proudly call home:

1. Best boutique Hotel in the world - Saffire, Freycinet
2. Winner of the Man Booker Prize this year - Richard Flanagan for "The Narrow Road to the Deep North"
3. Cleanest air in the world with the most friendly, down to earth people I've ever met.
4. Named by Lonely Planet as the 4th best destinations in the world to visit in 2015.
5. Best Single Malt Whisky in the world this year - Sullivans Cove Single Malt.
6. Over 40% of our State is either National Park or World Heritage Area, not a bad playground.
7. Oldest everything in the country - oldest Pub, Bridge, Church, Gaol.
8. Tasmania is close to being 100% powered by renewable energy, with the largest renewable energy business in the country.
9. Last night at the Australian Tourism Awards, Tasmania won 10 out of the 29 categories, and more than any other state in Australia, awesome Tasmanians doing awesome things.

As you were, Tasmania.