Back home at Chestnut Brae after the journey to study chestnut product production in Europe we were delighted to find that our shed extension is almost finished. So now we can move our office into the upstairs room and finally get ourselves sorted out and begin to find things again. We have now been in Carlotta for one year and we love our “farm change” . The people of Nannup are amazing. So friendly. I had no expectations about Nannup one year ago, as it was the chestnut farm we were buying. I wanted to get back to producing something again. And the chestnut farm as an opportunity to create niche added value products. The plan was to spend the first year learning about chestnuts and learning about farming and then in the second year begin adding value to the crop. The biggest surprise was Nannup and its community. We have never been made to feel so welcome and included anywhere ever before! The Nannup community is exceptional! So friendly! So caring! So...wonderful! The Nannup community is so diverse and totally fascinating. There are several sectors in the community that make it unique. There are the 1970's hippies who moved here to set up organic farms and get away from mainstream society, many of whom are still here and still living "Off the grid", there are university academics who have weekend cottages or weekend farms, and most of those are also living "Off the grid", there are the mainstream farmers who are the heart and soul of the country and are the most genuine and down to earth people you could ever hope to meet, there are the city folk who sold up in the city to follow their ideals of living sustainably and creating niche / boutique farms and niche products (I include us in that sector), there are "weekenders" people who just want to escape the city for a weekend and have their cottages here tucked away in piece of pristine forest, and there are those who just like country living rather than city living. That mix of people in the community make Nannup fascinating, interesting and unique. There is always something happening here and the community gets involved in a whole range of diverse activities and events.
Our farm for me is like a spiritual sanctuary, it recharges my soul and I have difficulty dragging myself away from the farm. But the retailers in town are enthusiastic and caring and interested in their customers. It is not easy to make a quick trip into town, as the journey becomes a social event and everyone I meet stops to chat. People actually care here and that is like a breath of fresh air too.
When we arrived home after having been away for several weeks, someone had been the day before and mowed our lawn for us. We don’t know who. Nobody has said anything. One of the wonderful Nannup fairies just came and did it. Where else could that happen?? I just love Nannup and this totally amazing community, a community like no other. Sabrina Hahn was heard to say that if Nannup could bottle the community spirit here it would be worth a fortune. She's right. The community spirit here is like a genie in a bottle - magical. Thank you Nannup for making our first year here such a joy-filled year and for making us feel so welcome. The first job home is to mow the orchards. I take the tractor with the slasher and slash between the rows and John takes the ride on mower and does around and between the trees. I don’t like doing the round the trees mowing as it makes me dizzy – I much prefer to drive the tractor up and down the rows. Then it’s time to start increasing our poultry. We bought some turkey chicks, heritage chickens, quail and ducklings. But unfortunately the chickens began to die from a virus, so we had to separate out the sick ones and treat them. In hindsight we probably should have just put them out of their misery straight away, but us soft city folk couldn’t do that. May be next time, although I hope there is no next time. We also traded in the pea hen on some other poultry. She was such a pooper!!! And always at the back door, plus she ate all our green veg in the veg garden. So as gorgeous as she was, she had to go. The turkeys and ducklings and chickens are much less messy and just as cute. Now the task is to start experimenting with some chestnut products. Yesterday I made some trial jars of Sweet Chestnut Puree, Chestnut Jam, Chestnutello and today some Cherry Chestnut Sauce. I will keep on making small batches of different things until I find a small range of products that I am happy with. The biggest challenge for me is that I have been sugar free for over 20 years and am also gluten free. I have developed my own range of recipes for our family that is Low GI, sugar free, gluten free and chemical free. But if I am going to sell products to the mainstream market then I feel I will have to use sugar because it is a preservative. That means I cannot even do taste tests to see what it tastes like – plus I probably would think it too sweet every time anyway – so it is a challenge at the moment, that I have not yet overcome.