A little farm in the foothills

Award-winning columnist, author and social commentator Jane Caro writes about the unexpected rewards of buying a farm.

Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I came into a little money. It was an unexpected windfall and gave us an opportunity to get off the raising-kids, working-hard, paying-the-mortgage treadmill we’d been on. We could have sold our perfectly adequate but ordinary house in Sydney and bought something flashier in a posh location. Looking back now, there is no doubt that would have been a better financial decision. Fatefully, however, my husband had a different idea.

“Why don’t we buy a farm?” he asked. I gave him a long look. “A what?” “A farm. I have always wanted to breed cattle and it would be great for the kids.”

“You don’t mean move to the country permanently, do you?” My children had just reached the age where I could return to my career part-time. I could not do my job in the country. Not back in 1997.
“No. I mean as a weekender.” I gave him another long look.

“You do realise my family has been urban since the 12th century?” He laughed, a little nervously, because I was only half joking.

But I turned 40 in 1997. It felt like the right time to get out of my comfort zone. My aunt and uncle had renovated a woodcutter’s cottage in the Upper Allyn, a remote part of NSW in the foothills of the beautiful Barrington Tops. We’d stayed there often and loved the pristine Allyn River and the walks and wildlife in the rainforest. We sent out a letterbox drop via a local real estate agent to every Riverian. We got one response. When we saw who it was from, we started to feel it was meant to be.

Whenever we’d stay in the Allyn we’d walk to what was then called ‘The Deer Farm’ where – as well as breeding venison – the family ran a shop. As we passed the neighbouring farms there was one dilapidated old place right on a bluff above the river. It was a crumbling old shack but with views to die for.

“If we were ever going to buy a place round here,” we’d remark to each other, never dreaming it would come true, “that’d be the place to get.”

Read more in the Autumn issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Photography courtesy of Jane Caro