Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cutting the red ribbon

Hello friends. I am so excited to finally be able to say that our farm is open for business! The 3 year process from conception to construction has largely come to an end and two weeks ago we celebrated the milestone at our launch party with the Premier of Tasmania officially announcing the opening of Coal River Farm to the public. To say this process has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done is an understatement. Starting a new business is hard at the best of times but to build something from scratch adds a whole new layer of challenges. There were so many times that I doubted what we were doing and many more times I thought the whole thing would fall over completely but we got there in the end. Mostly I fantasised about how much easier it would have been to buy an already existing business but then again the rewards of watching our weed ridden paddock transform into something special and now to see people enjoy the food at the restaurant whilst admiring the view is the best reward you could ask for. I'm feeling pretty proud of what we have achieved and yes, I do think it was all worth the blood, sweat and tears.

And now the hard work really begins. So much for opening in the middle of winter and allowing ourselves time to find our feet before the busy Summer period begins. We have literally hit the ground running and our little restaurant has been running at capacity almost every single day over the lunch time period. I don't think I've worked harder in my life. I almost had my first day off today after 14 days straight until Daniel called me down to help out over lunch. We never expected it to start so strong and obviously couldn't be happier. The main shock to the system is for little old me who is having to get back into the swing of things after almost a decade off. I am coping, just :-)

Before I go reacquaint myself with my long lost blogging buddies, I just wanted to say a big thank you to my friend Natalie who captured our opening night so beautifully with her gorgeous images above.

Mel xxx

Monday, June 1, 2015


Hello friends. Long time, no blog.

I think the general consensus is that one announces a blog break in advance of their absence rather than upon their return but since I didn't exactly plan to have a blog break for quite so long I couldn't follow correct bloggy etiquette. And 6 weeks away? Yikes, I didn't even realise it had been that long or that I would need that long. Sorry about that. Rest assured all is well here and thank you for the e-mails of concern. I am neither at the bottom of a mineshaft nor am I sun-baking in the Bahamas, although right now I'd give my right arm to be doing the latter. I'm simply here at home, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy amongst the total utter chaos that comes with project managing our farm development and raising 5 children.

What that means is that instead of having the evenings while the kids are in bed to engage in my usual activities of reading, writing, blogging, knitting or staying abreast of important affairs of the world binge-watching House of Cards, Homeland, Outlander, Game of Thrones and Eurovision, I've been spending that time thinking. Just sitting on the sofa thinking. Thinking about how to organise the home life when the business opens, planning how best to go about it and talking about all the daily issues that need to be resolved with this project as it's being built. It has taken a long time, all this thinking, planning and talking. I simply haven't had the headspace for anything else. We've also made the decision to have an au pair join our family and are super excited to welcome Vanessa from Germany here in just a few weeks time. This process has involved lots of late night skype interviews with potential candidates not to mention some mammoth cleaning frenzies to particular areas of the home. If only she was here already to help me organise the house for her arrival.

So, in a nutshell, I've had an interlude of sorts to deal with the backlog and prepare for the next phase and I'm planning on keeping up with this space more regularly now. I thought I'd share some photos of the build process so far (although I needed a more serene image to start the post off and get those first words on the page). Of course it has been very exciting watching it all unfold day by day but it has also been an all-encompassing roller-coaster ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns and hairy moments. It has been a huge challenge for me personally, to keep it all together and not lose the plot entirely. I could have blogged through all the ups and downs but that's not really my style. I prefer to stay super focussed and just get the job done and then debrief afterwards. Unfortunately the debrief on this one will be a 4000 page novel which I predict I'll only have time to write in about 20 years time when the children have flown the nest. Or not. Consider yourselves spared :-)


So, here's how things are shaping up for Coal River Farm with the next phase of the project - the cheese and chocolate making facility along with farm kitchen/restaurant.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Everyone loves Marcus

I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student when I was 15 and lived with a host family who had 2 little boys aged 5 and 2. That was 22 years ago. My youngest host brother, Marcus, is now 24 and currently studying in Queensland for a Semester. He decided to visit us during his University break after first hiking his way around Tasmania. We had such a fun time with him. The Kids warmed to him instantly, a total stranger to them, other than the stories I had told them about he and his lovely family. I used to play Cowboys and Indians with him and push him around in the stroller and now he was doing the exact same with our 5 Kids. It made me feel very old indeed. Everyone thought Marcus was the Bees-knees. He played games with the Kids, swung them around by the ankles  and enjoyed being indoctrinated into the world of Minecraft. He offered to help around the farm, demolished all of my lame meals and let me practice my German on him. He was always happy, never got cross and was excellent company whilst I carried on with the mundane chores around the house. If anyone resisted brushing their teeth before bed Marcus just had to make the suggestion and they were straight in the bathroom. Everyone loved Marcus. The Kids wanted Marcus to stay forever and ever and cried when he left. Disneyland is now off the bucket list. They are all saving their pennies to visit Marcus in Munich.

Marcus had a pretty strenuous time hiking around Tasmania, sometimes doing 9 hr hikes each day and sleeping in a $20 tent in freezing cold conditions and eating tuna out of a can so he was quite happy to relax and hang out at home by the time he got to us. However, we managed to tick off the 2 things we do with interstate or international visitors - a trip to Zoodoo down the road and a day trip to Port Arthur Historic Site. Everyone loves to see the real Tasmania Devils at Zoodoo and the new additions there are the beautiful Zebras. Apparently it is the only place in Australia where you can actually pat a Zebra. It seriously made my day. And did you know that Zebras are black with white stripes rather than white with black stripes? Incredible.

We've been pondering for some time the prospect of having an au pair live with us as an extra pair of hands when the business opens up in June. It seems to be the only option that allows the flexibility that we'll need - a couple of hours in the morning to watch Flynn while I'm down at the Cafe and a few hours on the weekends whilst we are doing the markets. Have any of you had experience with a longer term house guest, au pair or exchange student? Daniel has already been receiving all manner of e-mails of potential candidates, "here's a girl from Sweden who sounds perfect" or "Amelie from France looks nice and has just been with a family with 6 Kids!". I've been a bit hesitant at the idea for many reasons but mostly because I am worried it would be more work having an extra person in the home when we are already such a big family and things are crazy enough. However, after having Marcus here I can see how great this option could be. Sitting on the Sofa last night midway through a row of knitting, I paused and pushed my reading glasses up the bridge of my nose and said "Darling, about this au pair business, I think I'm warming to the idea. Yes, I think a 24 year old energetic male with a European accent would be perfect don't you? Someone just like Marcus". I'm not sure we are on the same page yet.

Germany 1992 - Me and Marcus and Thomas