* Farewell * A NEW LEAF * Thank You *

Who / The Countryphiles

What / A New Leaf

Where / Pipers Creek

Why / The Time Has Come

Web / www.croftersfold.com.au

Instagram / @croftersfold

Dear Fellow Countryphiles, I have news.

This is the last blog post you will receive from The Countryphiles. After devoting the past 3 and-a-half years to traveling the countryside, camera-in-hand, celebrating country life and style and the beautiful people who make it their home, the time has come to turn a new leaf.

I am turning my attention to writing a local history (or two) and will look forward to sharing more with you as those projects develop.

Plus, my husband, AJW Esq. and I have so much wonderful Farmhouse Goodness to attend to at our own farm, Crofters Fold Estate, that I am unable to get out and about to discover all the wonderful happenings as much as I would like to.

Thank you to all the generous, warm-hearted, creative folk who took the time to share their stories with me and The Countryphiles’ followers. To each and every one of you, I wish you all the joyous happiness and health that living a mindful country life can bring. I hope our lives cross paths one day soon.

So, it’s time to live the country life I love. The life I was born and raised to live. The life my husband and I have carved for ourselves from seven years hard work. You are welcome to follow our Crofters Fold Estate journey and learn news of the release of our Sparkling Wine, Roses, Peonies, Luxury Estate Lodgings, Workshops, Events and more via Instagram and Facebook and our website www.croftersfold.com.au.

Warmest wishes to all, Danielle X

Just Acorn

Interview * Chops For Tea Kitchen * Gav + Jen

Who / Gavin + Jen

What / Chops For Tea Kitchen

Where / Castlemaine

Why / Local handcrafted kitchenwares

Instagram / @cft_kitchen

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Gavin Krasner + Jen Toogood, the creative duo behind Castlemaine’s very own handcrafted kitchenwares brand Chops For Tea Kitchen, embody everything there is to celebrate and enjoy about modern country life and style; from the collaborative creativity they foster among local designers and artisans to the great food they cook and share with family, friends and fans.

Gav and Jen design and make all their kitchenwares, which range from chopping + serving boards to signature tea towels, using local artisans and Australian materials wherever possible. Possessing a cheeky sense of humour and a love of puns, Gav and Jen have affectionately named each of their timber products after their favourite cuts of meat: ‘The Shank’ (a serving paddle with a handle that comes in six stylish shades), ‘The Forequarter’ (an all-rounder), ‘The Cutlet’ (a small all-rounder), ‘The Hind Leg’ (a bench-top butcher’s block), and the ‘Crown Roast’ (a server with a juice sluice). And, if you’re an avid foodie, you’ll love the delicious recipes they share via their weekly blog ‘What’s for Tea?‘. What a great addition to a region renowned for great food and wine!

The moment you meet Gav and Jen you can tell that Chops For Tea Kitchen is not just about the end product, it’s very much about the journey it takes to get there: caring about provenance, sourcing local, collaborating with other makers, and hanging out with a community of inspired, like-minded folks. All the things that so many of us love about life in the country.

Gav and Jen are about to launch a Pozible campaign to help them along their creative journey, so visit their Facebook page to keep posted and offer your support to these wonderful, big-hearted, local creative folk.

Enjoy! x

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You are the creative duo behind Chops For Tea Kitchenware – a beautiful range of kitchenware handcrafted in Castlemaine. Tell us a little bit about the path/s that led you to where you are now?

GAVIN: I have been a graphic designer for nearly 25 years and over that time I have worked with and helped to establish many brands. I felt the time was right to put energy and effort into a brand and product that I have (co) developed and have the potential to shape and share with the world — in other words to simply practice what I preach! I have a passion for food and spend lots of time cooking, so it seemed like a natural fit for me.

JEN: I have worked as a marketing professional for over 20 years, taking 4 years off during that period to be a stay-at-home mum for my son. I now work part-time with my partner Josh Durham managing a graphic design business Design By Committee, and I’m a freelance marketing consultant. I love cooking, discovering and customising recipes to call my own. I also covet quality designed kitchenware and homewares, I care about how and where products are made and I’m all about buying local where I can. I also love music, sewing, shoes and bags — who doesn’t love shoes and bags? Gav approached me mid last year with the business idea, I thought it could work, and we launched in December.

What inspired you to pursue Chops For Tea Kitchenware?

Chops For Tea Kitchenware was born from a desire to create beautifully-designed, handcrafted kitchenware with a strong brand personality. We want the business to express our passion for exceptional design and to project a sense of fun & humour through our products, prints & communications.

It’s a great business name! Tell us the story behind it?

GAVIN: I’m the co-founder of a brand design consultancy called Chops For Tea. The business name was actually conceived by my partner Liz Geddes and was adopted to reflect our move from Melbourne to Castlemaine 4 years ago. I always thought Chops For Tea would make a great name for a kitchenware brand.

What products do you make?

Our launch range features a selection of beautiful handcrafted wooden serving platters, a butcher’s block (chopping block) hand screen-printed tea towels and limited edition art prints.

Sourcing local and collaboration matter to you. Who makes up your team of designers/makers?

Part of our brand ethos includes the process of creative collaboration with local artisans and makers. We are currently collaborating with two exceptional makers. Doug Alderson is our master board maker; what Doug doesn’t know about milling timber isn’t worth knowing. Dale Stevens from Studio Antic lovingly hand screen-prints our tea-towels and limited art prints.

Where do you source your raw materials/design inspiration?

Raw Materials: We source our raw materials from local suppliers in Central Victoria.

Design Inspiration: Anything and everything really— nature, music, colour, food, books, architecture, humour, community, our kids,  — that’s a difficult question to answer.

Where/how can we purchase your lovely covetable kitchenware?

At the moment our products are available to purchase online via our website www.chopsfortea.com/kitchen. We have been also just been selected to have a debut stall at the Finders Keepers Market at The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton 22-24th July, and in negotiations to distribute through a few select retail outlets in Victoria.

What helps make Chops For Tea stand apart from the crowd?

Firstly, we feel we’ve made some unique and beautiful products in a very saturated market place. Then, of course, there’s the name which is very memorable — and this leads nicely into our brand story and values. On a simple level having chops for tea, makes us smile – who doesn’t love a chop? — vegetarians excepted 🙂

So, this story drives our design ethos and sensibilities (we like to think we have a bit of attitude and a sense of humour). This in turn informs the choices we make on materials and in choosing who we collaborate with. All of these elements help to create a real point of difference.

It has to be authentic, our products, our brand and all involved have a real understanding of the qualities that we literally want to bring to the (kitchen) table 😉

What philosophies/ethics guide you in the running of and vision for Chops for Tea Kitchenware?

We want to be mindful of others at all times, our makers, our customers, our families. We need to be true to ourselves and believe in our product.

You are running a Pozible crowd-funding campaign. Tell us about it.

The campaign will help us on a number of levels. To develop our exciting new pizza plate and other items such as our Choppa Shoppa (tote bag) apron and ceramics. We also need to develop our point of sale and display stands for The Finder Keepers market. The campaign will also increase awareness of our brand!

How can we help?

We’d love you to support our campaign and also share it far and wide via social media, we are launching the campaign in early June. Please like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/Chopsforteakitchen/ and we’ll keep you updated with the campaign. And there’s going to be some new exclusive designs, so please check it out.

Many of us dream of living in the country and finding work-life balance. Are you living the dream?

GAVIN: I live in a great country town, full of surprises, work for myself, enjoy family life, love my garden and pretty much get to do what I like — I’d say that’s pretty dreamy.

JEN: Yes, I believe I am!

If so, what have you learnt from pursuing your dream?

Not to dream, give it a go!

What advice might you give other small businesses?

Build and foster mutually beneficial relationships to grow your business and spread the word.

What have you learnt/discovered so far on your foray into handcrafted kitchenware?

It’s a bloody hard slog!! In all seriousness, it’s been highly rewarding to get the business off the ground in such a relatively short space of time. If you believe in your product and your abilities then you have an opportunity to achieve almost anything — well that’s what we keep saying to ourselves! Our advice, throw caution to the wind and go for it!

What does a typical day of Gav & Jen of ‘Chops For Tea Kitchenware’ look like; from when you wake to when you go to sleep?

GAVIN: I’m not a morning person so my day generally starts after 9am and a second cup of coffee – it’s only then that I’m a fully-functioning human 😉 That said, the cat often wakes me before 6am, breakfast banter of 2 school children ensure mornings are busy and in the summer I like to get out early and run.

Working for the design consultancy business is generally my day job but as the kitchenware business has evolved, more time is spent on this. I love listening to music, discovering new tunes or listening to podcasts while I design.

Of course having a studio at home means procrastination is also integral to my lifestyle and I’ll often pop out to the garden and pull a few weeds. And of course the kitchen has to be tidy (most of the time). I do most of the cooking in the house and obsess about what’s for tea – which has actually become part of the kitchenware’s social media strategy.

After school pick-ups, dinner and family time – if I’m not on the sofa with my beloved, or at the pub with friends I’m at my desk working on the kitchenware brand.

JEN: I’m up around 7:30am, I take turns doing the school run with my partner and, like Gavin, coffee is an important part of my morning regime.

I rock up at Gavin’s (where our studio is) around 9:30am and do all things marketing to build our brand awareness. I research and meet up with potential makers that are a good fit with Chops For Tea Kitchenware, collaborate with Gavin on product development and design, and manage the administrative side of our business.

After school pick-up I generally turn back into a mum, organise dinner and really boring household stuff. After dinner and my son is in bed I’m either on the computer (Ebay addict), listening to music or watching TV (Stan addict)

Do you consider yourselves to be ‘Countryphiles’?

Yes we do, we both did the tree change thing to Castlemaine (Jen 7 years ago & Gavin 4 years ago) and haven’t looked back since. Living in country Victoria is wonderful — it has so much to offer.

Do you love country life?

Absolutely, why wouldn’t you! Why? The landscape and native bush land are truly inspiring, we are lucky to live in such a great part of the world. Castlemaine is also a close knit community with diverse mix of people which makes life that little bit more interesting.

Just Acorn

Storyboard * Spudfest * Trentham

Who / Great Trentham Spudfest
What / Village Celebration + Showcase
Where / Trentham Village
Why / Authentic Local Joyful Autumn Activity
When / Saturday 7 May 2016
Program / www.trenthamspudfest.org.au

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When Autumn’s light fades and Jack Frost comes a-creeping, it’s time to harvest the humble spud. Each year, the Great Trentham Spudfest pays tribute to the thriving hamlet’s potato-farming heritage and celebrates all that the buoyant town and surrounds have to offer. Fresh autumn air sees a happy throng rug up and enjoy great music, food, fun, and festivities. We highly recommend the Trentham Historical Society and Lion’s Club Spud Hut Tour, which provides an enjoyable insight into the life of early potato-farmers. From waxy Dutch Creams and Pink Fir Apples to floury Colibans and King Edwards, there’s so much more to the humble spud than first meets the eye and Trentham is where you’ll discover it all!

With ‘spudtacular’ activities for everyone, potatoes for sale from the farmers themselves, townsfolk ready to greet you with a warm country smile, quality coffee, cafes, restaurants, shopping, accommodation, forest walks and relaxation options put it in your calendar and make an annual weekend of it!

Enjoy! {d} x

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Interview * Anne + Peter * Beth Shan Preserves

Who / Anne + Peter

What / Beth Shan Preserves

Where / Macedon Ranges

Why / Artisanal Seasonal Preserves

Instagram / @bethshanpreserves

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If ever there was a tree-change couple whose story bottles all that’s wonderful about living in the country, then the lovely folks featured today are IT! When I popped in on Anne and Peter, owners of Beth Shan artisanal preserves, Anne was busily making her Strawberry + Rhubarb Jam. Oh my! The house smelt divine! Once city-dwellers with corporate careers, this wonderful couple owe much of Beth Shan’s success to a single bountiful quince tree that flourishes in their back yard.

Each season after their tree-change move to their historic weatherboard house in Woodend, Mother Nature generously gifted Anne and Peter with baskets of quinces. She was hard to ignore. Enter a vintage French jam pan and wooden spoon and the rest is sweet history.

Anne and Peter proudly source their produce locally and seasonally; if there are no apricots there is no apricot jam. It’s that simple and it’s how it should be. And we at The Countryphiles love them for it.

Oh, and it’s not just us humans who benefit from the sweet creations of these two artisans, it’s also the animals. Scraps are fed to their chickens and a friendly neighbouring pony is only too happy to oblige! You know all’s good in the country when marvelous folks like Anne and Peter open their doors and embrace the seasons, the surrounds, the community and the culture and in return they must know they’re doing something right when they wake to find the locals have left gifts of excess garden produce on their doorstep.

Enjoy! x

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You own Beth Shan – a gorgeous historic house after which you’ve named your artisanal preserve-making business. Tell us a little bit about that history and the path that led you to where you are now?

The cottage was built in 1860 and had ‘Indentured Servants’ listed on the title. It served as a shop to supply the Gold Diggers with necessities as they travelled from Melbourne to the goldfields of Castlemaine, Maldon and Bendigo. Next door is Islay House, which was a Coaching Inn, and next to that was the blacksmith. In 1920, an Irish Catholic Nurse, Nurse Hicks, leased the cottage and opened it as a ‘Laying In’ Hospital; the maternity hospital of the day. It was she who named it ‘Beth Shan’, which has a Biblical Hebrew meaning – House of Rest – and put up the name plate that still exists at the front door to this day.

We purchased the property in 2005, seeking a ‘tree change’ after a number of years in the corporate world (Anne in commercial lighting design and sales, Peter in architecture and facility management). Our motivator was a Victorian country town, a lovely property, proximity to our families (we both grew up in Shepparton) and Melbourne airport for business travel.

Anne, you are the ‘Queen Confiturière’ behind the Beth Shan brand. Tell us about your passion and what inspired you to enter the sweet world of preserves.

It was the quince tree in the backyard of Beth Shan that did it, actually. I had grown up with a mother who made jam and chutney and bottled (Fowlers Vacola) fruit and vegetables, and a father who gardened. I helped as a child, doing what seemed endless, boring, hours of cutting up apricots, watering, tying up plants and picking. I did not realise that it had seeped into my psyche until … the quince tree … many years later. Despite my heritage, I had never seen quinces. We wondered what to do with them and found out that we could make Quince Paste and Quince Jelly. I did it and it worked! That must have been the start of it, I think.

We gave some to friends and family and the feedback was positive. The next year the tree had a bumper crop of 50kg, so I repeated, and we had a stall at the Lancefield Farmers Market. People wanted more and started giving us their excess fruit – and a passion was born. I am a researcher, by nature, so spent many hours poring over books, recipes and different methods, becoming most interested in French methods. I get excited trying new flavours of jam, usually dictated by what produce I have available. I have even made up some of my own recipes.

You make a great team. Who does what when it comes preserve-making time?

Peter often sources the produce, does a portion of the extensive prep work (all by hand), creates and prints the labels and assists in the kitchen on cooking days. He is the ideas man and problem-solver. I am the preserves-maker and admin person. We both do deliveries to our stockists and work market stalls together. Our roles cross-over, as in any relationship and business, but all cooking is done by me.

What preserves do you make? Does seasonality play a big part?

We make jams, jellies, fruit pastes, marmalades, pickles, relish, chutney and sauces. Seasonality is the main factor. For example, we only make Cherry Jam around Christmas when Cherries are in season; Quince Paste during Autumn when Quinces are on the trees; Citrus Marmalades in Winter, etc. Local Produce in Season and Small Batches is the way we work.

Where/how do you source your ingredients/produce?

Either through swapping and bartering via locals with backyard gardens and orchards, or directly from growers/orchardists/farmgates. The majority of the produce we use is grown right here in the Macedon Ranges and we know how it was grown and by whom. We both grew up in Shepparton, so we still have contacts there with orchardists and growers. Part of our philosophy is to use excess and ‘ugly’ produce – we are big on reducing food waste.

Who/what inspires your style of preserve-making?

I use a French style of jam-making, having been inspired by two trips there. I prefer this method as it is all about maximum flavour from the fruit and requires less sugar than many other jam recipes.

What are your ‘must-have’ tools of the confiture trade?

My most important tool for jam-making is my antique French copper jam pan. I just adore it. I also use the stainless steel preserving pans from Mauviel for pickles, chutney, relishes and sauce. Jam funnels in a variety of sizes are essential, too. I also love my French wooden spoons and stirrers with long handles for stirring the big pans with out burning my arms. Most other ‘tools of the trade’ are common utensils in most kitchens, such as scales, knives, chopping boards, jugs, spoons, spatulas. A candy/sugar thermometer can be useful.

Any top-tips for aspiring preserve makers?

Reliable equipment, sterilising, taking time, enjoying the aromas and beauty of a bubbling pan of jam.

What have you learnt/discovered, so far, in your successful foray into the world of artisanal preserve-making?

That customers want a handmade, traditional, sustainably-sourced product, made with love and time, so that it is full of flavour. Many say the jam tastes like their grandmother’s and brings back fond memories, which for me is the greatest compliment.

When it comes to food preservation/jams/conserves, do you employ a blend of old wisdoms and new?

Yes, absolutely! I use traditional methods and equipment. New wisdoms, such as food safety are vital, too.

Many of us dream of living in the country and finding work-life balance. Are you ‘living your dream’?

Totally.

If so, what have you learnt from pursuing your dream? What advice might you give?

Actually, the dream was Peter’s to start with. After we moved here, I was won-over by the people and the place. Overall, we have a happier, more fulfilling lifestyle and more real friends, than we had when city-living. We can walk out our front door into a beautiful, peaceful, country environment, say hello to someone we know, and just be happy.

What does a typical day in the life of the ‘Anne and Peter owners of Beth Shan artisanal preserves’ look like; from when you wake to when you go to sleep?

Peter works Facility Management contracts in Melbourne from time-to-time, so if he is not, this is a typical day:

The early morning is household chores and getting our daughter to school. Then we might take a walk into Woodend for a coffee and some errands. Then it is into the kitchen for prep, jar sterilising, cooking and jarring/bottling. That is basically the whole day, so after dinner, we often do labelling and some prep work for the next day. We also fit in deliveries to stockists, collecting produce and preparing for markets, depending on the day.

Do you consider yourselves to be ‘Countryphiles’? Do you love country life? Why?

Yes. We love our community and the physical beauty of where we live. We have everything we need, and can choose to be country-slow when we want, and busier when we want to be. There are many passionate people in this area doing all kinds of inspiring and interesting things and the networking is wonderful.

What is the most CHALLENGING aspect of country life?

There is not really anything as Woodend is a country community close enough to (and far away enough from) Melbourne for anything we need.

Do you prefer Coffee or Tea? Your favourite country café and why?

Coffee for Peter, both for me. There are a number – The Trentham Collective, Mr Café Macedon, Glenlyon General Store, The Milko Woodend, Colenso Woodend. All are different, all are welcoming, all have great coffee and food. We know the owners of them all and they always have time for a chat, which is why we love our community.

What and where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?

We went to Colenso recently for dinner on a Saturday night, and thoroughly enjoyed a seasonal Autumn menu with wines selected by the knowledgeable and welcoming Kathryn and her team.

What ADVICE would you give those dreaming of making a TREE CHANGE?

Plan for it, work towards it and do it.

What can we expect NEXT from you/Beth Shan in the future?

We have worked with Joel Pringle to develop a logo and website and will be introducing our new labeling in coming months.

Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when/if you need of a ‘dose’ of city life?

  1. CBD laneways
  2. Queen Victoria and South Melbourne Markets
  3. Visiting new cafes (there are so many, and so diverse)
  4. Haighs Chocolates and La Belle Miette (macarons) have beautiful stores
  5. A wander through Myer and David Jones in the Bourke St Mall

Just Acorn

Interview * Sandy + Rob * An Acre of Roses

Who / Sandy + Rob

What / Acre of Roses

Where / Trentham

Why / Roses + Botanic Styling + B&B

Instagram / @acreofroses

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Some folks, like Sandy + Rob, restore our faith in people. Anyone lucky enough to have met today’s lovely feature story couple will have experienced their infectious generosity of spirit, passion and good will. Not to mention have delighted in their talents and admired their work ethic!

It was a scorching hot, windy day when I dropped by to share a cuppa with Sandy and Rob, owners of Acre of Roses in Trentham. Never the less, I was greeted with two welcoming smiles and invited to wander through their youthful aromatic rose garden.

Acre of Roses is a young business that is blooming into a great success. Sandy and Rob, keen proponents of the slow flower farming movement, supply roses, foliage and herbs to the floristry market as well as offering exceptional wedding planning and botanic styling for all manner of occasions including weddings and events. The duo also has plans afoot to offer boutique self-contained accommodation that will provide a “slow-stay” and “wellness”” experience where guests and brides can “come and smell the roses!” We can’t wait!

Sandy and Rob are proof of what can be achieved with a small parcel of land, two big hearts, loads of experience and skill, and an abundance of authentic loveliness.

Enjoy! x

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Tell us a little bit about your background/s prior to where you are now?

Well, as they say, “a rose by any other name”; I was christened Sandra Rose, so I think my fate and path were sealed very early on in relation to my passion and ultimately my work with roses. Add to that, childhood holidays spent in New Zealand’s garden city Christchurch where, at my grandmother’s property, I picked summer roses and hydrangeas and practiced flower arranging. My greatest influence and mentor was my Dad (David McKinley nicknamed  “Boeing”) who was chief designer for NAC, then Air Zealand, and as a result would divide his time between our home and Boeing’s then headquarters in Seattle, working on the livery and interior design of the respective airline’s fleet.

When he was home, I loved sitting with him at his drawing desk, learning the basics of design, perspective and corporate identity and ultimately his passion for aviation. His influence on me was that he made me believe that anything is possible as long as you are prepared to put in the hard yards and do it with passion and persistence. If you didn’t know something, then find out and do it. He was also very practical and ensured my first job out of school was in an industry that would provide a good grounding and that happened to be the legal fraternity, which kept me busy for near on 25 years.

Passion too abounds in my fiancé Rob’s background. He knew, as a small boy, that he would be a builder and with his love of wood and making beautiful things, he strove to achieve his dream. Like my Dad, Rob loves to create and has a skinful  eye for detail. They both share a believe that salvaging, recycling and reclaiming wood adds soul to building and furniture-making projects. It was truly delightful that they got a chance to meet, exchange ideas and develop a friendship prior to my Dad’s passing.

You are the wonderful talent behind An Acre of Roses. Tell us about your roses and botanic styling business. How did you move from the corporate legal fraternity to flower farming/styling?

The tipping point for the transition was in the early 90’s, when I was working with Andrew Brown, a partner in NZ’s largest law firm. It was at a time when law firms were allowed to start formally marketing their professional services.  I was invited by the CEO to be one of the founding members of the new marketing team.  Andrew was most encouraging of the move.  It enabled me to spread my wings and tapped into my passion for design, colour, perception and structure, that had started at my father’s drawing desk.

From there, I had a varied career in marketing, with numerous diverse clients and eventually decided to make a tree-change to the beautiful village of Trentham, in North-West Victoria. The property that we settled on had lots of space and it just seemed to be the right spot to start experimenting with growing some “old bloom” roses. What started as a hobby has grown faster than the plants and now the gorgeous flowers are in high demand. As I said to a friend recently, “this is suddenly a real business!”

Acre of Roses puts ethics, sustainability and efficacy at its forefront; our tag line, “embracing the perfect imperfections of nature” embodies this ethos. The roses are pesticide free, fragrant and blowsy blooms that contain perfect imperfections and grow within a natural ecology of weed and soil management. The rose colour-ways run the gambit of the colour wheel and the fragrances span from fruity hues to exquisite musk and myrrh notes with true old rose and tea rose aromatics. Wandering through the rows mid-morning is quite literally a truly sensory experience.

Our style is free-spirited and romantic using local foraged foliage, grasses, berries and herbs. Our consultation process focuses on the style and vision of our clients.

Rob, your fiancé and registered builder, plays a very important role in An Acre of Roses. Do you make a good team?

Rob and I have been friends first and foremost and are able to talk for hours. Our skill-sets and personalities are complementary and we have what the Irish call “fey” – an ability to identify what each other is thinking before we say it. That level of synchronicity means that our communication is usually spot on and we live pretty much in harmony. He’s a good problem-solver and as a craftsman he has an eye for design and detail. He’s the structure and installation part of the team and he quietly gets the job done. He’s always learning and provides a constructive eye when viewing flowers.

Many of the flowers and foliage that go into your botanic arrangements are locally grown, sourced and hand-harvested. Tell us about the sense of community you’ve created/found in country Victoria?

Trentham is all about community and collaboration – to say we are living the dream is an understatement! The friends and network we have here are our family, which for me is fabulous as all my family are in New Zealand.  Acre of Roses would not have come to fruition without the community, not just the local town, but the whole area is connected. The opportunity to interact with a bunch of like-minded people is incredible – so many people here are passionate about home-grown, locally produced food, wine, produce, craft, etc. It’s an exciting area to operate in – and it’s growing all the time!

What does An Acre of Roses offer? How can we contact you?

We provide roses and foliage to florists, stylists, brides and directly to the public, as well as a full floral design and styling service through our collaboration with Belle Hemming of The Belle Bright Project.  We are on Facebook and Instagram or call us on 0405 032 566 . The phone is always on!

What makes you so passionate about what you do?

I’m passionate about most things in life – you only get one chance at it, so you may as well give it a damn good go.  I love working with flowers, meeting people and creating abundance – my mantra for 2016. Weddings and most events are buzzing with celebration and happiness. The flowers are the icing on the cake – you can’t beat a bride’s smile and delight in receiving her flowers. You can’t help but get pulled into that! The charm and wonder of nature, too, provides a beautiful basis to do something you really love.

What are your top floral picks to say: 1. Thank you 2. Sorry and 3. I love you?

When emotion is involved, it’s all about knowing what the receiver of the flower likes. . .  My personal favourites are seasonal; in summer, it’s blowsy roses; in spring, peonies and sweet peas; autumn, dahlias and hydrangeas and winter is hellebores. If you are a traditionalist, then the Victorian era “language of flowers” decrees that “Sorry” is  – Purple Hyacinth, White Poppy or Scarlet Geranium;  “Thank You” is Hydrangeas or Pink Roses and “I Love You” is Red Roses, Red Chrysantheum or even Forget-Me-Nots. The key is that the flowers should feel right to the giver, then the recipient will “get” the message!

Where or who or what do you draw your inspiration from?

Both near and far. There is an abundance of local talent in our area with whom I am currently collaborating – I have to occasionally catch myself with the caliber of talent we have. I was extremely fortunate to have begun my introduction to floral arranging under the local tutorage of Helen Lindsay (Frost) who imparted wisdom that balance both the structural, creative and business side of floristry.  Afar, is LA-based Kate Holt with whom I was very lucky to attend an initial floral workshop in Santa Barbara and work with the incredible Joel Serrato, Jose Villa and Rebecca Stone.

Do you consider yourself to be a ‘Countryphile’? Do you love country life? Why?

Living in the country has been a childhood dream, so yes I’m a country-phile. I grew up in a small village on the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington in NZ, so whilst the crashing of the waves was my childhood meditation, the songs of birds now provide my background harmonies and the pureness of the country air is unbeatable.  It is very calming and to be able to “live the dream” is something I never take for granted. I read a wonderful quote on a farm gate the other day by ancient philosopher Epicurus: “Here you will do well to tarry.” Basically, Epicurus believed the closer you live to nature the more you understand and enjoy life.

What challenges / opportunities have come from setting up a small business in country Victoria?

The biggest challenges for most small businesses in the area are distance or logistics. We’re only an hour and a bit from Melbourne and Bendigo and Ballarat, but road transport is expensive and there are limits to what you can easily and cheaply access in a small rural town. Delivering product is also tricky and time/money consuming.

Tea or coffee? Do you have a favourite country café? Where and why?

I am a coffeeaholic! We are spoiled for choice in our region – each village has a number of fantastic cafes serving locally sourced and roasted coffee beans.  For me, Trentham is the place, of course, and we are spoiled for choices even in our small village as each one has its own unique points. It’s also about the quality of the baristas, so Rhys and the team at The Trentham Collective and Mel and her team at Chaplins are my favourites. I finally worked out the other day that with my corporate background congregating around the water cooler is ingrained into my daily habits. When you work alone, it’s sometimes hard to find a way to have a coffee and a catch up. So, the café becomes like a community water cooler. And there is no such thing in Trentham as a quick coffee!

Where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?

Again, too many choices, though the last two were at Belvedere Social in Daylesford for Valentines Day, complete with a specially designed rose-based cocktail– that was pretty special – and New Years Eve at one of our “locals” – the fabulous Du Fermier, owned by Annie Smithers – the quality of her food is beyond belief and her staff do an amazing job of making you feel right at home.

What are the Top 5 Tips you’d give those dreaming of making a TREE CHANGE?

1.      Get to know some locals living in the area first – a good support system makes the change a lot easier.

2.      Be aware of what living in a Bushfire Zone means and being bushfire ready for the summer season.

3.      Rent first before committing to moving.

4.      Be prepared, if you still work in the city, to discover the Calder outbound shrug – that feeling of bliss knowing that the stresses and strains of city life are falling behind you 🙂

5.      There is no such thing as a quick trip to the village – getting a carton of milk can take hours (as you catch up with the locals).

What can we expect NEXT from you/An Acre of Roses in the future?

This winter is about more planting. We’ve tested the crop and demand is currently outstripping supply, so another 800-1000 bushes will be planted and a moveable floral studio built (more on that later).  2017 will see the building renovations finished and our boutique self-contained accommodation open providing a similar “slow-stay” and “wellness”” experience for guests and brides to “come and smell the roses”!

What would be your DREAM project or collaboration?

A number of years ago, when learning the craft of floristry, I stumbled upon an inspiring and informative book by investigative journalist Amy Stewart called Flower Confidential. It described the global floral industry today and the perils to both humanity and the land of the commercial flower industry.  It was a little like what the film “Food Inc”  was to the food industry. I discovered how far the flower industry had gone to manipulate nature and the extreme carbon footprint to transport the flowers around the globe.  This was reinforced by discussions with many florists about the toxic nature of the flowers, the declining ranges and types available and the increasing use of chemicals used to preserve the blooms. So, the seed was sown; a vision to establish “slow” flowers – local, seasonal, heritage varieties, grown collaboratively by local land-owners with a similar philosophy using sustainable practices. A flower farm consortium – that would be the ultimate dream!

Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when you need of a ‘dose’ of city life?

1.      Window shopping at the Paris end of Collins St – I do love to DREAM!

2.      A boho café stop for coffee in Brunswick

3.      Shopping at South Melbourne or Victoria Markets

4.      An evening at the theatre

5.      A night in a lovely hotel, where someone else does all the housework & even the flower-arranging! 😉

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Storyboard * One Fine Day * CLOVERDEL

Who / CLOVERDEL

What / Regional Longest Lunch

Where / Woodend

Why / Events + Accommodation

Instagram / @cloverdel_

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I’ve often marveled at, and been thankful for, just how amazing our region is; let’s face it, we are down right spoilt to live among so many creative, clever, collaborative folks. And, for those who don’t live among us, we welcome visitors with open arms.

Annabel Buxton, owner of CLOVERDEL, did just that when she opened the farm gates to her home, cutting and kitchen gardens, orchard, manicured lawns and magnificent hedges for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s Regional Longest Lunch.

Under dappled light and sat alongside the heady scent of freshly foraged botanics, we shared a sumptuous meal of locally sourced delights from the amuse bouche of sweet leek fritter, beetroot butter and crème fraîche to the dessert of Italian trifle of green rhubarb poached in moscato, olive oil cake, burnt Malmsbury Honey mascarpone, blueberry jelly and Cloverdel rhubarb gelato. You get the picture!

CLOVERDEL is a taste of country life and style that leaves you yearning for more. Luckily, Annabel has plans for just that. If you’d like to be kept posted, you can subscribe here.

Enjoy! x

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Just Acorn

Interview * Narelle + Andy * The French House

Who / Narelle + Andy

What / The French House

Where / Trentham

Why / Stay + Relax + Foodies + Events

Instagram / @the_french_house

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Melbourne. Bordeaux. Seattle. Trentham. It’s a pleasant and surprising variation on the usual ‘London. Paris. New York.’ and we’ve been bursting to share today’s story with you because it kinda sums up what The Countryphiles is all about.

Wanting to recreate a little bit of provincial France back in Australia, aeronautical engineer Andy and accountant Narelle found their way to Trentham via Bordeaux. Melbourne-born high-school sweethearts, this lovely couple exudes such delightful, youthful, passionate energy that it’s no surprise The French House is the result of their hard work, attention to detail, creativity and joie de vivre. Oh, and they’ve built it for others to enjoy! Quel bonheur!

Creating a sanctuary where visitors to The French House can relax and rejuvenate was paramount for Narelle and Andy along with collaborating, celebrating and indulging in all the region has to offer. Newly opened to guests, The French House is already booking out and little wonder: the custom-built, luxurious French-style self-contained retreat accommodates 8 guests and includes a fireplace, a 100-year-old French oak dining table, a vineyard, parterre garden, al fresco dining area and, for ‘Le Coq Sportif’, there’s a pool table, tennis court and petanque piste. Oh, and groups of 8 can book local celebrity chef Annie Smithers of du Fermier for a private in-house farmhouse dining experience! Vie luxueuse!

Who’d have thought such an amazing story would lie behind the brick house with the duck-egg blue shutters that sits on the edge of the woods in the little hamlet of Trentham.

Au revoir + enjoy! x

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Tell us a little bit about your background/s – what path led you to where you are now?

We are high-school sweethearts who grew up within a mile of each other in Melbourne’s east. Andy got a graduate job with Boeing and me with EY (Ernst & Young) and we have stayed working with them ever since; both of us having time working abroad in the US and France respectively. We both have an entrepreneurial spirit and we drive each other nuts with crazy business ideas. It was only a matter of time before we found one that clicked for us both. Enter, The French House!

You are the amazing creatives behind The French House – a GORGEOUS French-style accommodation and event space in Trentham. Wow! Tell us a little about this project.

Thank you – so glad you like it! In a nutshell, The French House represents our little dream to bring traditional French farmhouse design to country Victoria.

How did two corporate-world by-day (Aeronautical Engineer + Accountant) and parents of two young children come to build a French house in a small country hamlet?

You mean how did two geeks build something so gorgeous?! Haha! We have always loved France, and were lucky enough to live in Toulouse for over a year in our late-twenties. There, we loved nothing more than to drive to country towns and stay in chambre d’hôtes, exploring their local markets and wineries. Fast forward to 2014, and a wedding, two renovations and two kids later we braved the long-haul flights to holiday for a month in Europe. We spent the first week at the most gorgeous 300-year-old stone gîte just outside Bordeaux, hosting some dear friends from Toulouse. It was just indescribably relaxing. All the built-up tension from our hectic lives evaporated the moment our feet hit the crunchy gravel driveway. Over the course of the week, we discussed at length how we could get over to France more often. Every two years seemed feasible. But we soon came to the conclusion it wouldn’t be the lifestyle change that we needed. So, then the idea came to us: why not replicate this farmhouse feel that we so loved in country Victoria? And we never looked back!

So, how come we chose Trentham? Well a year before, we had spent a rare midweek day off work together. Turning out of our street we opted to head to Daylesford over Red Hill to avoid traffic. We must have been so distracted by our uninterrupted adult conversation that we missed the Daylesford turnoff and stumbled upon Trentham. A beautiful lunch at du Fermier and a browse through the lovely township made for a perfect day and we fell in love with the relaxed vibe of the place. The fact that Trentham is only one hour drive from our Melbourne home was the clincher. Coming back to us being nerdy number crunchers….having this skill set means that we apply a very critical financial eye to our projects – if the numbers don’t stack up then it’s a no-go. Many a spreadsheet is behind The French House you see today!

Tell us about the build process? Did you enjoy the task of design and project management?

Absolutely loved it! Having renovated twice before, we were familiar enough with the building process itself. What we hadn’t anticipated was just how unrestricted we were now that we were starting from scratch! When you renovate, particularly on smaller, inner-city blocks, you are very constrained by existing structures and planning regulations. With The French House, we had a full acre to play with, so anything was up for grabs! Our favourite part of building is the selection of all the materials, fixtures and fittings. It’s crazy how many hundreds of decisions need to be made with a project like this! When you have a particular design aesthetic in mind like we did, those decisions were surprisingly easy to make: they either complemented or detracted from the look we wanted. One decision we took our time over was the timber selection for the ceiling beams in the living area. Finding 7-metre lengths was proving near impossible. We looked through countless piles of reclaimed timber until we finally found, hiding in an overgrown corner of the timber yard, the six perfect lengths with the level of ageing and ruggedness that we wanted. The very next week we flew out to Seattle, so it was a pretty close call! Probably the most tedious and time-consuming part of the build was understanding, interpreting and working within the bushfire building regulations. We wanted to retain the native bushland in the front third of the block and so we did spend a lot of time thinking about the house position on the block and the building materials we used so that we could both keep the bushland and comply with the regulations.

Moss-infused terracotta roof tiles! Wow! Would you like to ‘call out’ to any particular tradies that helped bring your vision to life?

How cool are the tiles?! They are from a collection called La Escandella by Bristile Roofing. During our final negotiations of our building contract, Andy got the offer to move to Seattle for 2 years on a work assignment. We were torn as to whether to postpone the build after all the work we’d put in or push ahead and trust in our builder and architect to run the project in our absence. The fact that we chose to go ahead is testament to the awesome professionals that they are. We are so grateful to our builder Dean Cummings and his team at Bespoke Homes & Renovations and our architect Aimee Goodwin from Project12architecture, who delivered in spades. Without Dean’s passion for reclaimed materials, commitment to our budget and his flawless execution in our absence, The French House would not be what it is today. Also, and in no particular order, we would like to call out the following trades: Bryce from Sonnenschutz who worked tirelessly to find a fire safe material for our shutters, that was within our budget; Bernard from The Good House for our beautiful casement windows and French doors; Brad at evolve Interiors for the cabinetry throughout, including the stunning tallowwood window-seats and sills; and Russell at TimberSearch for being mad about reclaimed timbers and stocking , arguably, the most amazing wood-yard in Australia.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Large-scale architectural features combined with unique, vintage and unexpected furnishings and decor.

What/who/where do you draw your inspiration from?

Each other! We egg each other on to critically assess our personal, family and professional goals and then get creative about how we’ll work towards them. Others! We are encouraged and inspired by people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Places! When we walk into a space and fell the need to look closer at the detail or run our fingers over a finish.

What does The French House offer its lucky guests? How do we book?

Guests will feel transported to rural France the moment they emerge through the gum trees and glimpse the French windows bordered by their pale blue shutters. And it just gets better from there! We have custom designed the space to be a place where 8 people can relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect in beautiful surrounds. The relaxed design and furnishings make you want to curl up in front of the fire the moment you walk in. Our bathrooms are stocked with luscious Grown Alchemist products and we provide a beautiful hamper of treats to nibble and sip during your stay. It is a rare guest that will be bored at The French House – there’s a well-stocked library, board games, Netflix, SONOS, tennis, billiards and pétanque. Not to mention cooking up a feast in the farmhouse kitchen! Our bookings are managed by Dayget.

Do you have a Top 5 list of design tips dos and don’ts to offer our readers?

Source from far and wide, and never, ever furnish from the one store or you’ll get an off-the-shelf, ho-hum result. Add dimension and interest with layers of depth, height, texture. Make every dollar you spend work hard. Research to find the best price, and don’t spend silly amounts on insignificant items or you’ll blow your budget too early. Invest in fixtures and furnishing that you touch such as tapware, hardware and work surfaces, save on items you only see from a distance and don’t come in contact with. Listen to people’s advice, then do what you like! It’s your space after all.

What does a typical day in the life of Narelle + Andy of The French House look like; from when you wake to when you go to sleep?

Coffee, start! Pancakes for breakfast. Trip to a local farmers or flea market; food truck lunch. A play at a local park or indoor play-center (weather-dependent). Prepare food for a dinner party. Madly stuff toys into cupboards and hide the laundry before guests arrive. Feed and bath kids. Welcome friends. Kids to bed (hurrah!). (Tell kids to get back to bed.). Eat and drink a ridiculous amount, laugh lots. Tell kids to get back in bed. Retire to lounge moaning we all ate too much. Threaten kids with TV ban if they don’t get back in bed. Dessert and sticky wine. Farewell friends. Watch an episode of House of Cards/ True Detective/Game of Thrones/Vikings/Homeland in bed. Conk out.

When not in Seattle, you reside in Melbourne. Do you consider yourself to be ‘Countryphiles’ at all? Do you love country life?

We love the feeling of decompression once you reach the highway and set the cruise control! The wide open spaces, the rolling hills and the dense native forests are all elements that we’ve enjoyed since childhood. To now have planted our roots in the country and integrate into the community is a lovely, lovely feeling. One of our contractors asked me if I was sure I wasn’t a country girl, because I give country hospitality. So maybe I was a city girl, destined for a country life all along!

What are the ups and downs of running small creative businesses like The French House in the country?

Ask us in 12mths!!! This has all been such a whirlwind and we are still catching our breaths! I guess the biggest risk we faced, like any accommodation business, was not getting bodies in beds. We couldn’t afford to get off to a slow start with our bookings, so we enlisted expert luxury holiday rental agents Dayget to market The French House. They have done an amazing job and we are really pleased with the response to our offering.

Coffee or Tea? Do you have a favourite country café?

Coffee. Trentham Collective is our go-to place for the best coffee in town.

Where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?

Hands down, it was lunch at du Fermier where chef Annie Smithers delighted our party with tomato and goats cheese tart, zucchini spaghetti and a roast pork loin with mustard cabbage and baby root veggies. It was perfection.

It’s the weekend and I’m staying at The French house. How could I best spend my days?

Stroll into town for coffee and breakfast at Trentham Collective. Pick up fresh produce at a local farmers market. Find a treasure at a local trash and treasure market. Lunch at du Fermier (book ahead!). Browse the shops in Trentham, Kyneton (Piper St) or Daylesford. Soak in the pools or get a treatment at the Hepburn Springs complex. Take a picnic blanket and lounge on the sunny lawn at the Daylesford Cidery. See a matinee movie at the Daylesford cinema. Devour a charcuterie plate at Belvedere Social in Daylesford. Attend a local workshop (try Natasha Morgan, Annie Smithers and Red Beard Bakery, to start). Have a punt on the horses at a Country Racing Victoria meet. Go to a music gig at Hanging Rock. Go bushwalking/mountain-biking/horse-riding. Visit the Trentham waterfalls. Play a round at the Trentham Golf Club. Have a hit of tennis. Take a soak in the Jacuzzi. Play a game of pool. Play a game of petanque. Fire up the BBQ or put on a slow cooked roast for dinner. Watch a Netflix movie. Whatever our guests end up planning, we hope that, above all else, they find time to Relax. Rejuvenate. Reconnect.

What ADVICE would you give those dreaming of setting up a small business in a small town?

Go for it! Do lots of research, including meeting some locals to hear what they say about the region and its needs. After we visited the vacant block The French House was built on, we lunched at the pub afterwards to mull over the purchase. We called over both the waiter and the manager who affirmed there was a huge need for more accommodation in town. Be prepared to befriend the town. The locals are much more likely to support and recommend your business if you are friendly and speak well of their town and townsfolk. Finally, don’t just jump on the bandwagon. Instead, offer something different that allows you to play to your strengths and will differentiate you from other businesses.

What can we expect NEXT from you/The French House in the future?

From The French House, we are thrilled to announce that our guests can now reserve a night of private dining with Annie Smithers! Groups of eight will interact with Annie as she presides over The French House kitchen to deliver a sumptuous three-course menu, attended to by an exceptional du Fermier waiter. You can also expect more collaborating with local artisans to combine our accommodation with events or workshops. Guests can already receive a 10% discount when they attend a Natasha Morgan workshop and stay at The French House. In a couple of years, our 200 Pinot noir vines will have reached their full height and complete the perfect surrounds for special outdoor events such as weddings or special functions (our tennis court will comfortably accommodate a large marquee). From team Narelle + Andy, watch this space! We haven’t quite got the building bug out of our system yet. Think Moroccan architecture with a French twist!

What would be your DREAM project or collaboration?

A not-for-profit organisation that puts our skill sets and assets to work for the benefit of families struggling through serious illness.

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