After three days staying with the Peppercorns we move to the Hazelcombe Farm near Mudgee, central NSW Australia. Nikki and Dan are living on a 100 acre property together with their animals (three cattle, one horse, twenty three goats, several sheep, lots of chicken, pigeons and five dogs). Dan is taking us on a tour around the farm and soon we feel welcome and home. We get a private room to stay and after a lovely evening with interesting stories and nice chats we spend the night surrounded by the sounds of Australian wildlife.
The next morning starts with milking the goats and soon after breakfast Caleb, one of the Peppercorns, has to leave. After saying goodbye it’s Dan, Nikki and the two of us and we talk about the ongoing projects and tasks around the property. Dan is thinking about setting up a wicking bed close to the kitchen and there a several daily tasks to do. Sven wants to take responsibility for the wicking bed and I give him a hand. It’s a lot of work including collecting stones from the creek and in the Australian heat quite sweaty, but it’s so much fun and we are just happy to have some useful work to do.
To get some more proper working clothes I visit Peter and Lynn, neighbours at the end of the valley. They have a daughter almost my age and size and there are some leftover clothes that can be used. They also live on a nice property in a beautiful cozy house. Over the years Lynn has been caring for wombat and wallaroo babies and is happy to show me some pictures.
Two days after we arrived another couple joins the “community”. Marga and Vince have already been staying with Nikki and Dan. They are a lovely couple from Netherland and France and we share a lot of ideas and opinions.
Over Christmas Nikki and Dan are visiting relatives in Sydney, so Marga, Vince and the two of us are on the farm caring for the animals and taking an eye on everything. It’s a lovely Christmas eve. But on a farm daily business doesn’t make a difference if it’s Christmas or not. The goats need to be milked, the animals to be feeded and some other things need to be done. We love that structured, meaningful every day routine. In the morning after Christmas eve I go on a tour around the sheep paddock to check if they are alright. Unfortunately some of the young male sheep got an infection after being castrated and died afterwards. This morning two more of them are laying in the grass jerking and almost dead. It’s hard to see them suffering so much. I go for Sven and as Dan told us in that kind of state they have to be shooted because there is no chance for survival. Sven decides to do it. He saw Dan doing it the other day and knows the “proper” way. It’s hard and we are really depressed afterwards. Marga and Vince are there to give us emotional support and we are happy to have their community around.
After just a few days Dan and Nikki are back, grateful and happy that everything worked out but also sorry that we had to kill the sheep. They assure again, that it has been the right thing to do.
Soon afterwards Marga and Vince are heading on to meet with friends spend New Years Eve in Sydney. We have been thinking about that, too, but we are not looking forward to get stuck in crowds of tourist and wait for hours just to see the fireworks. So we decide to stay on the farm.
In the meantime another volunteer has been arriving. Adon is Australian, a lovely guy well experienced in farming and permaculture and a huge source of knowledge and inspiration. Soon after he arrives we start new gardening projects with setting up aerobic thermal compost. To get more carbon for it we scythe straw in the early morning just from the side of the roads leading to Mudgee.
Sometimes we call the farm the Hazelcombe University and experimental learning center. Dan and Nikki make us feel free to do whatever we want to and together we make cheese, Kombucha, mango chutney and so many other things. Dan shows me how to drive with the bike and even with the big tractor and they have a huge library with almost every book about permaculture, farming, gardening and animal care you can imagine, but also about natural health and sustainable living. It seems the perfect place for us and just within a short time Dan, Nikki, Adon and the two of us grow together like a family.
While Sven and I went on a two days trip to explore the area around, Adon had an accident with his new machete. A deep cut under his left knee had to be stitched and now the strings have to be removed. Why going to the hospital when there is family around? We decide to do it ourself. Sven starts with the first one and I pull out the other five. The wound looks okay and Adon is doing fine, so nothing to worry about. Another useful skill to get some experience with.
During our stay different people visit the farm and we get in touch with locals from several parts of Australia. There is Jess and Scott, a lovely couple from western Australia, who are interested in sustainability and permaculture. Ed and Markus living close to Melbourne stay for two days. They are setting up a distillery at the moment and give us a try of their self brewed liquors and spirits. On there way to Tasmania Adon’s parents together with his grandpa stop for one night and we spend a lovely time sharing stories and experiences.
Beside the daily routine every day comes with unexpected surprises. When we arrived in Australia a woman told us we’ll hardly see any of the poisons snakes, but staying on a farm makes a difference. There is lots of black snakes around. They not gonna kill you but getting bitten means having a very painful time. The more serious thing is the couple of brown snakes living around and crossing our way from time to time. These little fellows can kill you within ten minutes. Dan is really concerned about this. It’s Adon, who experiences the most serious situation. He was doing some computer stuff when the dogs got nervous suddenly. As he turned around he saw a brown snake hiding under the cupboard in the living room. He went outside to put on proper shoes and lock the dogs before he started hunting the snake. Really dangerous situation. He had to kill it to ensure everybody’s safety.
One day Dan takes us on a night tour through the valley. One of the Wombats living close to the farm is around and there are bunches of kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies. So exciting!
It’s almost the end of our stay and the flight to Kuala Lumpur just within the next days. Dan and Nikki have a special surprise for us. Bruce, a close friend, is a light plane pilot and is going to take us on a flight around Mudgee. Sven goes first and after he landed safely I’m next. Wow! what an amazing experience and the closest feeling of real flying I ever had. Bruce even hands the control over to me for a few minutes, really exciting but also a bit scary.
And then it’s time to leave the farm, one of the saddest moments within the last 16 months. Dan and Nikki are admirable people. Open minded, tolerant and indescribable lovely. They have been sharing everything with us and made us become a part of their family. Together with Adon they are two of the most impressive and inspiring people we met and we can not tell how lucky and grateful we feel to get to know them. There will always be a second home for Sven and me in Australia. We love you guys!… and we miss you…..Kisses and Hugs!
Beside the photos here a really nice video of the farm and Niki and Dan: