Little Farm House Stanley
Before I begin my lengthy post full of adoration and jubilant adjectives, I must confess -- this place happens to belong to my parents. More than that, I spent a large portion of my childhood here. The nostalgia is thick. Some of my happiest memories happened in this place. Now you are fully conscious of any possible (inevitable) bias and should be completely dubious of anything I have to say but, please, allow me to try to redeem myself. I can tell you with complete honesty that no person I have ever met has not fallen in love with this place. It's a little piece of pure tranquility.
That's the truth.
Our Little Farm House has always been a special place for me and my family -- it was something we had that no one else had. How many people live in the suburbs of south-east Melbourne and also have a chestnut farm in country Victoria? Not only that, how many suburban children must disappear for several months of the year for harvest? I haven't completed the survey but I've always assumed not all that many. We may not have had all that much growing up but we had our farm -- hills and valleys covered in chestnut trees (planted by my father in his sprightly youth) and all the grasshoppers and ladybugs a kid could hope for.
As autumn approached, so began the annual panicked packing of the car and, after much frustration, five little kids would squeeze themselves in the back seats of the family van. And so this family of seven would make their way to their country home for the next three months. Terms like country school (another world entirely...), gum boots, hessian bags, chestnut picking and 'off to market' would become part of our vernacular once more as we would forsake the comforts of the city for the rawness of the country.
The air was always fresher and the night sky was filled with more stars than you had ever seen in your life. The world felt bigger and brighter and more adventurous. We didn't have electricity back then, but we did have a generator. Sometimes, for reasons unknown to me (it never occurred to me to ask), the power would cut out. Kids would squeal. Mum would run to get candles to brighten the darkness. It was genuinely the most exciting experience -- every, single, time.
During the day, my siblings and I would reluctantly attend country school. We would help out on the farm once school had finished but on the weekends we would really work. We would head out among the trees with our buckets, gloves and hessian bags and start picking chestnuts. I loved picking chestnuts. I also loved eating chestnuts, which sometimes conflicted with my objective of picking the chestnuts. It's a thing not a lot of people know: chestnuts don't need to be cooked to be eaten -- especially when you're six. We would fill up our buckets and once the buckets were filled, we would fill up our hessian bags and once our bags were filled... we would holler for our parents to come get us because those hills were fun to run down but impossible to walk up.
We would ensure that we were back at the house when the sun started to fall -- that's when the kangaroos would come out. From my experience, there's nothing more distressing to a child than being in a field, far from your parents, when an animal twice your size starts hopping around in your general vicinity. In the mornings (and from the safety of the inside of the house with mum and dad) we would watch the kangaroos eating among the trees while we chowed down our own breakfasts.
The farm is big but of course it felt even bigger as a child. It was the biggest, most exciting playground a child could ever have the privilege of playing in and it was all ours. All of it. We could play to our hearts’ content in the place that was all ours and then when we wanted a treat, we would head into town. Nearby Beechworth was equally filled with all the joys a small child (or a big child or, you know, any adult) could ever want: a lolly shop, an ice creamery and a bakery -- what else could you need?
These days, a lot has changed. Then again, a lot hasn't. The town now has a wonderful selection of reputable restaurants, bars and cafes and the town's Easter Festival is bigger than ever. But the Stanley apples are just as juicy, the Beechworth bakery's Beestings are just as creamy, the perennial Chinese Restaurant and Fish & Chip shop still stand proud, the air is still fresh and there are still more stars in the night sky than any suburban kid had ever seen before.
And now, our little farm house on our beautiful chestnut orchid is not just ours. For the first time in 35 years, we've made our precious piece of heaven available to friends and family. Anyone can now visit our beautiful orchard and stay in our cosy farm house. Bursting with life, stunning views and the most magnificent soundtrack of native animal calls, you can stay in the Little Farm House and experience it all for yourself. If you're interested you can head to Airbnb and book your stay. I know you won't be disappointed.
Despite my best efforts to allay any concerns about bias for this trip down memory lane, I can't say with absolute certainty this is a piece of airtight journalism. Clearly, I love this place dearly but I truly believe that you all will too.