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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

Sowing serenity

Updated: Feb 7

I just blinked – and twelve months went by. It’s been just over a year since we started on this unconventional adventure.


TL;DR

We’ve done all kinds of crazy fish-out-of-water things:

  • the farm buildings got turned into a smash room for a few months

  • we’ve salvaged tonnes and tones of rusted metal – and still finding aircraft parts

  • marvelled at all things broad-acre farming

  • learned firsthand there’s mice and it gets crazy hot sometimes

  • planted a lot of native food and flowers, and then decided we liked it, so we’re scaling it

  • hosted lots of long table dinners with our friends and family who are now as obsessed with Wheatbelt sunsets as we are

  • and there’s no way we’d be able to pull this off without the amazing local community


It’s all about the seasons

Here’s the highlights as we celebrate Mather Farm being ready for online bookings.


Before starting our Mather Farm adventure, I’d always thought I had a connection to country through regular hiking and camping adventures. I learned it’s not until you stay in a single place, and mark the passing of the seasons, that you truly appreciate the Noongar people’s six seasons and its cycles.


What we’ve learned along the way:


Kambarang (October - November)

This is where our smash room came out in force. Family and friends came from everywhere to remove the many “temporary structures” that we’d inherited. Some of these are now upcycled in various garden projects to retain the farm’s heritage. At times, it felt never-ending and I think I have rust-related trauma (pro tip: don't get it in your eye).



Birak (December - January)

It was super cool to see the wheat fields around us being harvested – although, watching a giant harvester come straight towards the kitchen window was surreal. However, there’s some kind of analogy in there about when the wheat is harvested, the mice move in. So, we’ve learned a lot about how to ‘mouse proof’ accommodation (sadly, it means no open shelving and a lot fewer soft furnishings. We’re now the perfect place for people who dislike cushions!). We’ve won the battle, and hoping we’ve won the war.




Bunuru (February - March)

The second summer. This is the ‘surprise’ summer we’ll be warning our visitors about. Birak was actually quite pleasant – paddling at Bandee Lakes, lots of long dinners and sunsets. Bunuru really was brutal, and turns out not a good time to be doing your paving 😉 But, somehow we got there in the end, and with an intact section of lawn, and friends and family who hopefully still love us.


Djeran (April - May).

And just like that, the seasons turned, and the oppressive heat disappeared. We had our first “test” guests, so there was a flurry of activity directed inside the farmhouse. Holes were plugged, things were painted, and so much linen. Take how much storage space you’ll need for your linen, and double-it! It was then that we knew we’d done something pretty special, but needed to wait for a few tradies to finish things off.


Makuru (June - July)

Watching the lambs graze in the green paddocks in the stillness of sunrise, with a cacophony of galahs as a soundtrack, has been some of the most humbling experiences.

With the farmhouse delighting guests, our attention turned to creating green spaces for guests. Knowing nothing about gardening, we’ve been making it up as we go along thanks to the locals, Gardening Australia and Pinterest.

Surprise, did you know that the Wheatbelt gets frosts?!? I didn’t, and many of our new plants didn’t like that. And spoilers, It gets PROPER COLD at night. But, this makes the perfect reason to make a roaring fire and do some star gazing.



Djilba (August - September)

Blink, and suddenly it had been a year since we’d started on this crazy adventure. Wildflowers are blooming, and so were all of our weeds. I now think of Djilba as “quick, plant all of the things in the garden before it gets too hot”, with memories of Bunuru now burned into our souls.

We did take a whole day off to adventure further afield with picnic set in hand. Shout out to the lovely team at Quairading Hotel. My other favourite pubs are Kellerberrin (obvs!), Bruce Rock and the Commercial in Merredin. Jimmy’s Chinese in Merredin also gets an honourable mention.


Working on “wheatbelt time”, the new oven was finally installed; and all of the locks re-keyed. The new oven only took six months from idea to installation, and after calling in the pros to fix a few DIY fails, we’re ready for online bookings.


What have we learned?

Watching the farm’s ebbs and flows over the seasons has changed things for me at an elemental level. The ever-changing landscape has left an indelible mark that has changed my perspective about so many things. There’s so many adages we throw around. In this adventure, I now understand them in a way I’ve never done before.


Timing really is everything.

Everything has a season. Sometimes you’ve just got to be patient and let things happen as they will.


Progress over perfection.

In the innovation community, we often talk about progress and minimum viable product. With this being such a passion project, I’ve noticed that it’s been much harder to literally ‘walk past the weeds’. This has become my mantra, and whenever I feel disheartened, I just look at the OG photos!


Community.

Holy crap. There’s absolutely no way that we’d be where we are without the wonderful people of the Wheatbelt. Braden & Ian from Hobbs Engineering have done so much for us. In short, I’d still be pulling up rusty airplane parts from the yard without them.

So many tradies have squeezed us into their impossible schedules – Gary from O'Neill Electrics, Joel and team from Wheatbelt Plumbing and Steve from Central Wheatbelt Maintenance.


What’s changed?

The best part about plans is that they change.

Starting (more) stuff

There’s a delicious irony that me, who hates cleaning, now owns a property management business. Rosie, our robot vacuum, won’t be taking over the world anytime soon, and the farm won’t clean itself. Being the Wheatbelt, it’s not like you can just google “cleaners near me”. I can say starting new businesses does get substantially easier over time.

Growing stuff

I’ll admit that I didn’t really have a picture in my mind of the finished product would be outdoors. We operated our own ‘smash room’ for several months for family and friends, demolishing most of the outbuildings that were beyond saving. My brain was hyper focused on HULK, SMASH. But, then we realised YAY POOP. So, we’ve put

I’ve gone from – I’ll just jam this pretty looking bush thing in here to “let’s start a small scale cut flower farm”. Again, locals to the rescue. This time Richard from Wheatbelt Native Gardens for all things hyperlocal. JZ & Jenny from the Block are now on board to see what we can keep alive during the hot parts of the year.


Starting (even more) stuff

If the bush tucker and flowers survive El Nino, I’ve got my eye on “let’s start a cut flower driving cooperative and drive trail inspired by Daylesford’s one”, linking in with like-minded souls in the region.


It can’t all happen at once

The art side of this project has been parked indefinitely on the realisation that I can do it all, just not all at once. I’d pictured having the walls full of local artists where guests could scan a QR code to engage with them, and hopefully buy their works. I’ve since realised this, and an accompanying regional art trail, is a huge undertaking from a stakeholder engagement standpoint.


Showcasing the best that the region has to offer

Our Wheatbelt driving tour concept slowly grows and changes as we learn more about the region. It now exists as my own test bed, a place to play with the over 500kms I typically drive in a week along the Great Eastern Highway. Again, I’m learning it's not the right time for a market launch just yet.


But you promised humour?

We’ve laughed at ourselves so many times.

Our farming fashion should have its own gallery. Damien has leaned hard into his farming fedora (pictures available on request). I’ve since switched my farming doc martins for proper safety boots following an incident involving some rusty metal and my toes. I now rock a wardrobe of linen shirts featuring a significant number of rips, tears and stains. The convict onesies did make us look like we were operating a chain gang at one point.

The story I tell most is the time that I went to the Kellerberrin Pharmacy for antidepressants for my chiweenie. There was much confusion, and a long queue of people banking up behind me on a busy Saturday morning, while I explained that yes, they were for a dog, and I’d forgotten to bring her stash with me. The pharmacist was an absolute champ once he worked out who Zena was, and found me what we needed in Merredin (a town 30 mins away). The best part is she loves farm life so much she no longer needs them :D

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