Like most small scale, family farms, taking a holiday can be a real challenge. While our chooks consume loads of greens, grubs and grits from our pastures and forest, they still need to be fed, watered and wrangled many times each day, every day of the year. So, slipping away for a couple of weeks in the hope the chooks will look after themselves just can’t happen. Our Maremmas are great, but they have limits!
Finding someone capable to step in and relieve us (and our farm hand Mark) for a few weeks is not as easy as it sounds. When we book in time for a holiday, I immediately develop pre-holiday anxiety, knowing we have to find farm sitters, who can undertake a demanding 24/7 role.
Enter Penny Kothe and Paul McKinnon or @Loads_of_Rs as they are known on social media. They have worn many hats - among them, teacher, consultant, police officer, firefighter and organic farmers. But it’s their most recent title that grabbed us the most - farm sitters - with years of experience growing their very own Sommerlad chickens!
At Caroola Farm, just outside Canberra, they ran an extensive organically certified multi-species farm supplying bountiful produce to the locals until the Sydney Water Authority stepped in. You see, the Authority had found an ancient by-law that forbade open range chicken farming within the Sydney water catchment area. It was ok to run intensive chicken and pig farms or cattle feedlots in the same area but ironically, not truly free range chickens. After a gallant but unsuccessful fight with the Authority, they closed the chicken operation, and sadly the entire farming enterprise - which relied heavily on the income and benefits from the chickens.
But, it was what they did next, that’s quite extraordinary.
Rather than compromise on what or how they were farming or move back to the city, they sold the entire operation, and went ‘on the road’, becoming (nearly) grey nomads. Their home now, is a 40 year old, Land Rover Defender Ambulance, called ‘Amber’. She has six, yes, six wheels, a throaty roar and weighs 4.5 tonnes.
With Amber as their ‘home on wheels’ they traverse Australia lending a hand to busy farmers - without any expectation of financial gain.
Penny and Paul live simply, travel lightly, and are experiencing so many of the rich gems that Australia and her people have to offer. They are not shackled by a mortgage, electricity bills or by having to mow the lawns on a Saturday afternoon. But they get to experience the rare pleasure of giving to others without expecting rewards.
From our side, it was extraordinary to see the generosity and enthusiasm they showered on us by picking up the reins for three weeks. Thank you Penny and Paul - you are an inspiration! Come back soon.