Last week Jay took the staff up into the high country for some hike training, having Elliot, I stayed on the flat and Mum and Dad came to visit. Mum and Dad always do a huge amount of incredibly helpful jobs around Wollangarra but particularly our cottage Tussocky. We had a lovely couple of slow but satisfyingly full days.
This blog post has been written in dribs and drabs over March and April.
Doing: Working, a lot. Our hours are long, days full, sun up until sun down we are busy on the flat, working with young people or farm work or admin. I do a lot of admin, email answering, phone call returning, planning for 2019 already.
Recently I had a quick but beautiful visit home. I had a few appointments in Geelong but other than that I enjoyed time with my mum, dad and sister. It was a lovely slow few days.
Hearing: the morning call of the kookaburra, our rooster and quiet farm noises.
Drinking: a few glasses of cask wine, it’s a day off today and to get everything in and out of our little cottage is quite the adventure. We first purchase things in our closest town, approximately 30 mins drive from our front gate. Once we return to the gate we must unload from our car and load into a Wollangarra vehicle, since the front paddock isn’t ours. We drive the very bumpy 1 km drive to the ‘landing’ where we park our cars. Next the Wollangarra vehicle is unloaded into a rickshaw, which is then pushed or pulled to the bottom of the hill to the flying fox. The rickshaw is the unloaded as we carrying bags, packages, groceries etc up this hill in arm fulls. Finally, we pile our purchases, and ourselves onto the fox platform and fly across the river. Once we reach the Wollangarra side of the river the fox is then unloaded, often we send it back for subsequent trips over the river, but if it’s just one, it’s unloaded into another rickshaw, then pulled up to the homestead. If the groceries are for us at our cottage, Tussocky, they are then loaded into a backpack. Slung onto our backs and we keep on adventuring. Walk through the homestead paddock, past our wonderfully large veggie garden, jump the fence and scramble down to the river. We wade the river during summer and when the river is up we use the canoe. Once we reach the other side of the river, we stroll along the well worn path until we reach our little bush cottage. Last year we were particular with our wine choices, but we’ve realised its easier to get wine into our house in a cask, and much easier to dispose of, so I’m currently drinking a well deserved glass of cask wine.
Eating/Cooking: Recently for breakfast I’ve been enjoying fried eggs, with sautéed greens from the garden, topped with homemade plain yoghurt, with sunflower seeds and pepitas. Last week I also added some homemade pumpkin dip that had been excess from what went out on hike.
One of our staff members/housemates has been making the most incredible rye sourdough. One day I’ll learn how to bake it too, but right now I’m just really enjoying eating the bread she bakes. Some days I’ll add a slice of that or a leftover flatbread to breakfast.
Sourdough hot cross buns have been a regular around here. I’ve always used this recipe, but Celia says I should try this new recipe of hers.
I’m so thankful to say that we’ve been eating a lot from the garden. I cannot claim to have done any of the work growing the produce, but I very much appreciate all the time that has gone into it.
Wanting: A little more family time. Jay, Elliot and I live where we work, from the minute we wake until the minute we fall into our beds at the end of the day, we’re working and we actually don’t spend that much time together. We have one day off a week most days and often I spend that hidden behind a book or a computer screen watching something, zoning out from the world. We really need to make more time to spend as a family, I’m just not sure how.
Looking: forward to some holidays we’ve got planned, a few days here a week there. How exciting.
Deciding: to write more blog posts. They will just be tales of our life, and they still may be few and far between but I enjoy writing and I like sharing tidbits of our adventure out here.
Enjoying: a slow morning. It doesn’t happen often but Elliot woke when it was almost light this morning and it makes a huge difference to my sanity.
Savouring: solo time. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, boy is it a treat!
Reading: I recently re-read all of the Harry Potter books, I love to read but with our big work days I need some light reading. So I’ve taken to reading teen books that I’ve read before. I’m currently in the middle of The Hunger Games series.
I’m also obsessed with the library, I always have been. I’ve been enjoying perusing Eat Dirt, The Cornersmith cookbook, and Headspace I borrowed Pete Evan’s cookbook Lunchbox, and I liked it so much Jay bought it for me from Kmart.
I’ve also just been loaned The Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peep Pie Society. I’m looking forward to watching the movie.
Watching: All the old things. I watched the Harry Potter movies after reading the books, then of course moved on to the Hunger Games Movies. I’ve been watching Sex and the City episodes when I get some down time and when Jay and I get a change to watch something together we’ve been loving Suits and we’ve just started watching The Walking Dead.
For the last few years I taught how to bake a basic loaf of sourdough. There were plenty of others around with more skill, expertise and prowess than I but I loved teaching the simple skill and getting to meet people that I often chatted with over Instagram.
These days I rarely bake a sourdough loaf, but do get to enjoy the lovingly baked rye sourdough loaves that one of our wonderful staff puts into our wood fired oven at least once a week. I’ve been enjoyed baking the occasional loaf, following the beautiful recipe by The Clever Carrot.
While I no longer bake excessive sourdough loaves I am finding myself teaching and baking a whole lot of yeasted breads.
Each Monday afternoon we teach a different group of young people how to bake bread. We use a very simple recipe and I have since found out that it makes wonderful flat breads too.
Learning how to bake bread is such a wonderfully simple step in the direction of being more self sufficient, using less single use plastic and living more frugally. If the young people who come to visit take one thing from their time here I do hope that bread baking is it, or at least the philosophies behind it.
So today I wanted to share my recipe with you, a wonderfully simple recipe that everyone should know.
3 cups strong bakers flour (sometimes I use 2 white and 1 whole meal)
1 dessert spoon yeast
½ dessert spoon salt
Luke warm water
Add all dry ingredients
Slowly add warm water until dough comes together.
Kneed in bowl or on bench buy folding one ‘corner’ on to the dough ball and pushing firmly with heal of your hand.
Let rise until about double in size.
At this point you can either cut into about 16 small balls and roll flat, dry fry in a hot fry pan. Or shape and place into bread tin. Allow to rise until just below rim of the tin. Bake until dark and hollow sounding.
This week we have been recovering from our Open Day. It’s a wonderfully big day filled with supporters new and old, and it’s our biggest fundraiser for the year (Wollangarra is a not-for-profit, so fundraise we must). This day takes a huge amount of organisation and preparation, and a massive on site week of build up and set up and then about that of pack up too. I didn’t take too many photos but I did make a little video that I shared on Wollangarra’s Instagram account.
Last week I was reminded on my love of spinning wool when I took 15 minutes on Open Day to sit with our amazing demonstrator, Marion and have a refresher.
This week we all jumped in the mini van, Alby and headed up and over the mountain to visit Ian and Liv Stapelton who built Wollangarra. There’s something special about Wollangarra, the way it was built, with the help of the community is quite remarkable and Ian and Liv still hold a special place in all of our hearts (I have to say when I first met them it was definitely a fan girl moment). So we put Elliot’s car seat into the van, we packed up food and bedding for 8 and jumped in the van for three big days of driving.
We stopped in opshops along the way, we ate ice cream and stopped for dinner at the Omeo Hotel, where we played pool while waiting for our meals. We camped at a road side stop and Jay looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, “we are at work” he said. We woke to the most spectacular sky, and then drove on for some snow play.
Our visit with Ian and Liv was wonderful, great for our staff to meet the man behind their all consuming place of work and hear the stories about the original ‘why’, to hear that life moves on afterwards is also super valuable.
Last week my sister came to visit. It was the craziest week on the flat we’d had all year, with a program out in the field, another on the flat and Open Day preparation in full swing, she took it all in her stride. Hannah had been through the Wollangarra program as a young person but hadn’t been back in lot 11 years. I think it was great for her to see the place really doesn’t change that much and so wonderful for the young people to see what it’s like to move on from Wollangarra. I loved having Hannah up so so much, she headed up baking about 30 trays of cake for Open Day, and that’s no easy feat when we only have 9 trays and 7 oven spaces. We were baking from breakfast until dinner!
I’ve been reflecting on some things I’m loving in life these days and I wanted to share some of them with you. Life is good, great in fact, the days are long and full, and I go to bed with a full heart and wake with a smile. I hope you are doing the same.
The app Pocket – we don’t have internet where we live or work, or even for about a 30 minute journey from our front door. This app can save webpages to your phone offline. I’m finding it particularly excellent for recipes from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial because Celia’s recipes are so perfect for this place.
Two day old pony tales – there’s no mirrors here, there doesn’t need to be. It something we’ve talked about a fair bit, having young people, particularly young women, come up on camps here, the need to conform, or to confirm to feminist ideals. What we’re trying to share is the idea that we have the option to wear whatever we want; skirts hiking, dresses on a small farm, jeans etc, and have the choice to not shave or shave our arm pits and legs. I generally put my hair up in a pony tale to keep it out of my way and it stays in the same pony tale for a few days, until it gets too unruly. And do you know what, it doesn’t bother anyone.
Yeast over sourdough – you never thought you’d hear me say it but I’m enjoying baking with commercial yeast. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in love with sourdough and the process but it’s tricky here, trying to find the timings between long work days and young people in the kitchen, the wood fired oven never gets quite hot enough. I’ve been baking yeast loaves of bread, pizza scrolls for Elliot to take to occasional care, even stuffed focaccia.
Wild by Sarah Glover – It arrived in the mail last Friday and I had the whole weekend to devour it. The book is stunning and perfect for what we’re doing at the moment, I can see us baking quite a few of the over the campfire recipes out here. But more than that it is an inspiration, I would love to road trip around Australia after our time here and cook just like Sarah does.
Weekends – novel I know, but we work 6 days a week, Sunday through Friday. But 9 times a year we get a full 2 day (and sometimes even a 3 day) weekend. We bundle up some food and cross the river once again to escape to our cottage, Tussocky. We have two (or three) whole days of family time, pottering and watching the odd sneaky movie, relying on the computer battery to hold out until the end.
Our local Library – I’ve always loved a library. I love requesting any and every book that I see someone devouring on Instagram to have a peruse.
Furoshiki – Celia posted me a couple of cotton wraps and I am loving using them. Our town missions end up with piles of bits and pieces and it wonderful to be able to contain them to carry across the flying fox.
Cooking: stew with root veggies and a deer shank. I cooked it on our tiny gas hob for 7 hours. It was delicious and even better the next day.
Drinking: All the tea and weekend red wine
Reading: I Am Pilgrim – it’s oh so long and I’m sort of done with it but I just want to find out what happens.
Wanting: to bake some sourdough. I miss the process!
Looking: Out the window at the snow. We’re just driving over Mount Hotham on the way home from some lovely visiting.
Deciding: To make more of an effort to reduce my single use plastic. I’ve just bought bamboo toothbrushes for the next couple of years.
Wishing: I was sitting by our fire snuggled up with a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. Not long now though.
Enjoying: Being in the car with my boys. Car time has always been Jay and my real catch up time.
Waiting: For my mum and dad to visit next week!
Loving: Our new life!
Pondering: Only very occasionally, what we’ll do after Wollangarra.
Listening: To Elliot tell me he’s hungry every couple of minutes.
Considering: Birthday celebrations for my love.
Buying: Bamboo tooth brushes, op shop home wears and letter writing kits.
Watching: movies on our computer on the weekend evenings if we can get our computer charged enough.
Marvelling: At Elliot’s ability to adapt to our new life, and his language!
Needing: to figure out how to fit me time into this new life.
Questioning: how we got to be where we are
Smelling: smoke in my clothes, everything we do revolves around fire, cooking, warming and hot water.
Wearing: thermals, Red Back elastic sided boots and beanies
Following: fewer and fewer. My time with mobile service is so limited that I can’t scroll through all the things, so I’m reducing those I follow.
Noticing: how sugar effects Elliot and trying to be very mindful of that.
Knowing: that we are exactly where we need to be
Thinking: ALL. THE. TIME. My brain feels so full of all the things. I’m doing a lot of list writing.
Admiring: Ian Stapelton. He’s the man behind Wollangarra. He came up with this idea, devoted his whole life to it, then left it for others to run. If you want to know more about how Wollangarra was set up you should find the book Secondhand And Solid.
Getting: excited about checking the mailbox when we get home. Snail mail is my favourite.
Coveting: solo time.
Giggling: with Elliot. He’s such a character.
Feeling: so happy and a little tired
Helping: Jay learn about stay at home/work at home parenting
Mixing: work and pleasure.
Celebrating: life. It really is wonderful.
Forgetting: birthdays! And I feel awful about it.
Pretending: that I know what I’m doing.
Embracing: no internet, no electricity, and the occasional gas hot water shower!
We’ve spent the last three weeks packing. Madly packing. Because just over three weeks ago we found out that we were successful in our application for our dream job. Directing Wollangarra. You might have seen the news on Instagram or Facebook, but if you haven’t here it is.
For the next three years, Jay and I will be co-directing Wollangarra, working in conjunction with the staff, who we will live on site with and the council, the governing body. Essentially the job is an admin job, chatting with schools, paying bills etc and making sure the staff are having the best time and are able to be their best for the school groups.
As you know, I think the place is amazing and it’s always had a piece of my heart. Now we get to be amongst it for the next few years. There is a landline on site, no internet reception, no electricity, no mobile service, it has an amazing community and a divine place to grow up. When we leave there Elliot will be 6! It also creates the best letter writing vibes!
You might be wondering how I might fare with no internet, as you would mostly know me via the internet. Well, I can’t wait to switch off. Every time we go there, I relish in switching my phone off and often feel anxious when coming back into reception. Of late, I have felt myself taking a fairly large step back from social media, you might have noticed too?
I will still be posting on Instagram and Facebook, but instead of posts every few days, you’re likely to get bombarded with posts once a week. The subject matter may be slightly different, although I suspect there’ll still be food, nature and essential oil photos, as these are my passions. I’ll still be working with the essential oils, so if you’re keen reach out and I have an amazing team who will support you when I can’t answer immediately.
I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us, how I go being back in full time work, and how things change for us as a family. And I hope you won’t mind me sharing it here.