I live on the Great Dividing Range in the central tablelands of New South Wales, near the small town of Coolah. My hubby and three children live on a beef cattle property called 'Peridot', about 25km [16 Miles] South-East of 'town'. Welcome to 'Peridot' our homestead which hubby designed using passive solar principles.
It's definitely not the kind of home that anyone expects when they come to visit us in the 'country'.
This is the view from my front verandah.
There's a little bit of fog this morning which means that it's going to be a lovely day!
I know you've just arrived but let's go into town. Twice a week I make this trip and for the last couple of years I've gone 'to town' twice a week to visit the post office (although they do deliver and pick up from our mailbox three times a week), pay local accounts, pick up parts & farm supplies, get fresh fruit & vegetables, do school things etc. I think sometimes I might be a closet hermit however, as I'd be happier with less trips!
The sight of Coolah Valley spread out before us as we crest the hill is always worth looking at.
Early morning trips often reveal a town hidden by fog, but today we've arrived late in the morning and the sun's hot and look, there's the town nestled in its valley by the Coolaburragundy River.
We descend the last few kilometers into town and arrive in Binnia Street, the main main street of my town.
It's pretty but definitely lacking in people, they must be in there somewhere as there are plenty of cars about! The population of the district (the town and nearby farms) is around about 800 people in total.
One of Coolah's main claims to fame is that the famous photographer Max Dupain photographed Coolah for a book about the town called "Valley of the Winds". The photographs are evocative of his later work and we celebrate our connection with this famous artist with prints mounted on the walls of the town library.
The library is attached to the Pandora Gallery which features quite an array of work from local artists and artisans in addition to visiting exhibitions.
Overall though, it's a sleepy little town where everyone says "hello" and the pace is far from fast.
On an historical note, Coolah was once the limit of settlement in Australia.
In 1829 it had a stock run nearby called 'The Black Stump Run' and it's from there that the common Australian term "beyond the black stump" originated.
Mind you, there are lots of other claimants for this title but we have the historical name to back ours up!
HEARBack to the farm now.
Cows. Calves. Bulls. Heifers. Steers. We've got the lot here at 'Peridot'.
We breed our own commercial herd that's predominately a mixture of Angus (all black) and Gelbveih (all light brown) with a few Santa Gertrudis (red-brown with a hump on their shoulders).
We also have Hereford (brown & white) and Black Baldys (Herefords crossed with Angus resulting in mostly black with white faces). Of course there's the odd indiscrimate type too!
The property where we live is approximately 2000 acres (809 hectares).
There is some vertical development (i.e hills!) and usually the cattle are in paddocks far enough away from my back fence that they're not heard. Not today however.
Can you see them? They're hanging over my back fence mooing and surely thinking that the grass is greener in the house yard. They don't try too hard though and they usually thunder away as soon as I go for my camera. Eventually they will settle under a tree to escape the heat of the day.
Although autumn has arrived, it's still hot in the middle of the day.
So how would you like a long glass of cool, fresh rainwater?
We collect all of our water for our household needs and even during the huge drought earlier this decade we managed not to run out of water. The tanks did get awfully low though!
We have four tanks, two that collect water from the machinery sheds and two off the house.
There's not taste of chlorine or that stale flavour that town water has.
Peridot water is sweet, cool and refreshing.
In our little orchard, most of our fruit has either finished or not begun yet.
The Nashi pear tree however is still providing the most succulent, luscious little fruits.
Crisp, fresh and bursting with juice - they're scrumptious!
Tasting much like a pear, but much juicier and crisp like an apple.
I have to go down and pick up hubby from one of our other properties.
He's been scarifying (which is the next step after ploughing, breaking up the soil even further) in preparation for sowing. After a 40min drive we arrive at 'Fairfield' and wait for him to finish.
While we're waiting let's step out of the car and pick up a handful of soil.
Dry on top, it's moist underneath from recent rain and full of decomposing plant matter.
After such a good season there's actually too much dry grass and hubby complains because it's not breaking up as it should. But to me it smells rich and feels warm from the sunshine, moist and surprisingly smooth.
Ah, can you smell that?
Rain. That distinct smell of cool water hitting hot, dry ground in the distance is wonderful!
It's fresh and clean and brings with it the promise of green grass poking through the soil in a few days time.
Oh, and it's far preferable to some of the other scents that you may encounter living on a farm!
At the moment we've been experiencing late afternoon storms which is typical weather for us in late summer, early autumn. Sometimes they yield only a few drops and then disappear. Other times we receive a nice heavy shower (these smell the best!) with the water going straight into the soil and topping up our tanks.
A COOLAH SECRET
Whilst the town of Coolah is rather small, its reach spreads into the surrounding hills where extra treasures lay hidden. North of the town, via a small tar road, we pass through farmland of green and brown blocks nestled on the river flats. Those are grazing paddocks on the hills and now we start to climb a steep rise.
If we were to keep going straight ahead along the (now) dirt road we would go through Pandora Pass. This was found by the explorer Alan Cunningham as a possible route through to the rich Liverpool Plains in 1823. Today however, let's take a turn off just before the tar runs out.
We venture onto a steep, rocky, road that leads to the top of the hills and into the Coolah Tops National Park.
The Tops used to be logged but that closed down some years ago and the bush is now a wonderful blend of silence, the call of birds, the background hum of insects and the breeze high up in the treetops.
Everywhere we look is green and grey. Tall, straight snow gums (some of the largest in the world) and an under canopy of bush shrubs and small trees. The statuesque grass trees catch our eye with their spiky fronds.
The bush has a certain memorable smell too. Fresh growth, decaying leaf mulch and rich soil.
The park isn't huge compared to some but it definitely has variety.
How about the breathtaking views or Pandora Falls?
Well I think that this as good a place as any to end our tour today.
I hope you've enjoyed your visit and that I might see you around the district someday.
What a treat to visit a working farm with such a warm and wonderful hostess.
Thank you Annette for sharing your home and town with us, I feel quite revived after inhaling the clean fresh air and drinking in all of the glorious sights that surround your farm.
Annette is an accomplished jewellery artisan and some of you may remember her gorgeous jewels which I featured here. She also has a blog "Under The Loupe" and a gorgeous online store which I highly recommend you visit to see more treasures like these...
Well dear Gifter, please be a good friend and let Annette know that you enjoyed her tour and be sure to get your tickets early for next week's sensory adventure, it's a mystery tour!