After driving to Brisbane in one day and spending 2 days wearing ourselves and the kids out at the Abbey festival we weren’t too keen to drive straight back to Sydney. So it’s a good thing we’d arranged to stop off for a 3 night farm stay holiday near Armidale on the way home.
We arrived at the Cottage at Cruickshanks at dusk on Monday (Adam and were very glad to find our hosts Anne and Mike had the wood burning combustion heater going and the cottage nice and warm for us. Anne left us to get settled in with the promise to return shortly with our dinner. The kids squabbled over who was to have the top bunk, Adam stoked up the fire and I laid down the law on sleeping arrangements.
A delicious roast chicken – Caitlin asked for seconds! – dinner duly arrived; crispy baked potatoes and sweet potato, buttered peas, gravy and, for dessert, individual dishes of apple and sultana crumble and a jug of custard to go with them. It was wonderful to have such a scrumptious veggie-ful meal provided at the end of a long drive and I think this may have been the point at which I decided we’d definitely be coming back in the future!
The middle of winter in New England may not have been the best choice of time and place for a farmstay holiday. Despite my packing instructions certain people had managed to come away on holidays without adequate clothing (and 3 of them forgot to pack their pjs, but we won’t talk about that will we boys?) but luckily we had all our viking gear with us so it was furry hats all round and lots of layers to keep the cold out. Nights were cold outside but we were kept cosy with the fire burning all night and electric blankets on all the beds. Anne brought us yummy cooked breakfasts at 8am thus ensuring we got our butts out of bed nice and early each day.
On Tuesday morning we headed off for a walk through the paddocks in search of the various farm inhabitants, first up were the horses.
After the horses had checked all our pockets for the treats we didn’t have we continued up over the hill to see some cattle and alpacas.
Unlike the horses, the rest of the inhabitants regarded us with suspicion,
Scottish Highland calf hides behind a tree as the kids sneak up
Calling and running for mum.
Scottish Highland cow – that’ll be mum we presume
During our stay the kids learned such exciting things as: on farms you must close any gate you open,
sheepdogs may be working dogs but they still like a cuddle,
and feeding horses is hazardous to your fingers.
Tom tried to feed a piece of apple to this fellow and ended up with his fingers getting chomped. He may be good at following weaving instructions but when mum is explaining feeding horses safely…not so much.
We had planned to visit Dangars Falls on Tuesday and have a picnic lunch there, but after we’d done the short walk to the falls and were thoroughly frozen we decided to head into Armidale and ended up at a Chinese restaurant for lunch.
On Wednesday we were lucky enough to be invited to see some shearing, so off we went for another hike through the paddocks to the shearing shed on the top of the hill. We were greeted by the dogs and then watched Anne and Mike working the sheep and getting them into the right pens outside the shed. Then it was inside to see the shearing.
Shearing is so undignified. Actually the kids were a bit distressed by the process, especially when they saw the occasional cut dripping blood. It’s good that they’re learning the realities of farming and how we treat the animals we use for food and clothing.
Anne took pity on our frozen family and gave us a lift back to the cottage in the ute – I took the inside seat.
And here’s the cottage.
We also booked ourselves in for another visit at Easter next year, I’m looking forward to it already.