Bless­ing in dis­guise


Michelle Craw­ford takes a leap into the Tas­ma­nian coun­try­side and benefits from the chal­lenges.


A pep­per tree (left) and black wat­tles tower above the house. FAC­ING PAGE This old cel­ery-top pine ta­ble, softly lit by the south-fac­ing win­dow and bear­ing vin­tage kitchen­ware, is a favourite lo­ca­tion for food stylist Michelle Craw­ford’s pho­to­graphic shoots.

It takes enor­mous faith for a young fam­ily to walk out on their life “with no job, no house and no idea”. But this 1910 farm­house in Tas­ma­nia’s Huon­va­l­ley has re­sponded to Michelle and Leo Craw­ford’s touch in buck­et­loads as fresh and abun­dant as the fruit now ripen­ing in their or­chard. “We thought we’d just see what hap­pened,” ex­plains food stylist Michelle, whose book A Ta­ble In The Or­chard: My De­li­cious Life, has just been pub­lished. “But I was pretty spe­cific about want­ing an old weath­er­board farm­house that hadn’t been ‘wreck­o­vated’.” And then, in 2006, af­ter spend­ing nearly two years rent­ing while they searched, she and Leo, a for­mer live mu­sic booker, ended up with a house they didn’t fall in love with. Nev­er­the­less, Michelle now be­lieves that was a bless­ing in dis­guise. “We were so ex­hausted, we sim­ply de­cided the house was okay — at least it didn’t have alu­minium win­dows! But it was very dark, with lots of tim­ber and peach-coloured flo­ral trim, and no gar­den. where we’d hoped for gnarly old apri­cot trees, there was just one dy­ing lemon tree.the rest was drought-tol­er­ant na­tives and there was no veg­etable gar­den at all.” Nor yet an ap­ple tree, de­spite be­ing in the heart of one of Tas­ma­nia’s fa­mous ap­ple-grow­ing ar­eas. You get the sense Michelle is adept at see­ing the flip side, for she soon re­alised this meant they could plant what­ever they wanted. Hav­ing found her­itage trees at a nurs­ery in nearby Wood­bridge, they now have an or­chard re­plete with 20 va­ri­eties of ap­ples, plus crabap­ples, quinces, plums, sloes, damsons, med­lars, sour cher­ries, mul­ber­ries and lemons. >

House rules, aka The Aard­vark Man­i­festo from a UK store, hang in the kitchen, which has a wood-fu­elled Ray­burn oven and a Smeg cooker. FAC­ING PAGE, CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP LEFT A copy of Michelle’s new book; Michelle with her chil­dren Elsa and Hugo, and Patch, the Jack Rus­sell-stafford­shire cross; in the dining room, a por­trait of an early Tas­ma­nian set­tler be­side a felt cross pen­nant made by friend Fiona White­way.

A shelf holds vin­tage let­ter­press blocks and a red price sign from a petrol sta­tion, above old car­ry­ing boxes for first aid and elec­tri­cal equip­ment — a baby pho­to­graph of Hugo is at the end. FAC­ING PAGE Michelle’s quince and wal­nut cake is a win­ter favourite.

Pre­heat oven to 180°C. Place caster sugar and 5 cups wa­ter in a flame­proof casse­role pan. Stir over a medium heat un­til sugar dis­solves and mix­ture boils. Add vanilla bean, cin­na­mon sticks and quince, adding more wa­ter, if nec­es­sary, to en­sure fruit is cov­ered.

Cover with a lid and bake for 3 hours or un­til quince is ten­der. Cool. Drain quince and cut into 1.5cm pieces. (You will need 500g diced quince.) Pre­heat oven to 180°C. Grease a deep 22cm spring­form pan and line with bak­ing pa­per. Us­ing a bal­loon whisk, whisk eggs, milk, golden caster sugar, oil and vanilla ex­tract in a large bowl for 2 min­utes or un­til light and creamy. Com­bine flour, bi­car­bon­ate of soda, bak­ing pow­der, salt, cin­na­mon and cloves in a sep­a­rate bowl. Add flour mix­ture to egg mix­ture and stir un­til com­bined. Stir in chopped quince and wal­nuts. Pour mix­ture into pre­pared pan and smooth sur­face. Bake for 1¼ hours or un­til a skewer in­serted into cen­tre comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack and set aside to cool. Mean­while, to make salty sug­ared wal­nuts, com­bine wal­nuts and ic­ing sugar in a non-stick fry­ing pan. Stir over a low heat un­til ic­ing sugar melts and wal­nuts are coated. Spoon wal­nuts, in a sin­gle layer, onto a tray lined with bak­ing pa­per. Sprin­kle with salt. Cool. To make frost­ing, us­ing an elec­tric mixer, beat cream cheese, but­ter and vanilla un­til smooth. Add ic­ing sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beat­ing well af­ter each ad­di­tion un­til well com­bined. Re­move cake from pan. Spread frost­ing over top of cake and dec­o­rate with salty sug­ared wal­nuts.

Vin­tage kitchen­ware has come from New Nor­folk an­tique shops The Drill Hall Em­po­rium, (03) 6261 3651, drill­, and Wil­low Court An­tique Cen­tre, (03) 6261 5050. Other lo­cal sources in­clude The Re­cov­ery Shop at the Glenorchy Tip, 0400 898 673; and Vil­lage An­tiques of Franklin, (03) 6266 3224. Friends’ busi­nesses have sup­plied dec­o­ra­tive touches, such as the felt cross made by Fiona White­way, who runs on­line store Hung Up On Agnes.­gupon­agnes The Red Shed & Restora­tion Barn in Huonville is where Michelle finds many sec­ond-hand and re­stored pieces. 47 Wilmot Road, Huonville. (03) 6264 1144. Michelle rec­om­mends us­ing one lo­cal builder who can evolve with your bud­get. James Males from Huonville in­stalled a new win­dow, re­moved a wall and in­stalled the Ray­burn oven, which is con­nected to the home’s hot wa­ter sys­tem. 0439 418 425.

The prop­erty is less than half a hectare and Michelle de­lights in be­ing sur­rounded by “other peo­ple’s pad­docks, in a dead-end street on a wind­ing dirt road”. It’s here that she and Leo, now a trainer with Tel­stra in Ho­bart, can give Elsa, 12, and nine-year-old Hugo a child­hood quite dif­fer­ent from that avail­able in Syd­ney. Life re­volves around the re-mod­elled kitchen. this is Michelle’s favourite room, whose look she de­scribes as “mod­ern coun­try industrial” and in­spired by the kitchen in Down­ton Abbey. Fit­ted cup­boards, fake gran­ite lam­i­nate and vinyl floors were all stripped out, and de­tails pared back, en­abling the struc­ture of the house to be seen, in­clud­ing ar­chi­traves, win­dow frames and skirt­ing boards. Michelle then filled the space with rustic work­benches, open shelv­ing, stain­less steel benches, and a Ray­burn oven. Bowls of fresh pro­duce are placed on old nat­u­ral work­ing sur­faces.the cel­ery-top pine kitchen ta­ble, from the Red Shed & Restora­tion Barn in Huonville, dou­bles as Michelle’s workspace. “It’s a work­ing kitchen, it’s not posh,” Michelle says. “A good thing about not hav­ing a big bud­get was that we had a lot of time to think about what we wanted. If we’d had ex­tra cash, it would be off the shelf, like any other kitchen. In­stead, we got to live in the house and see how we wanted to func­tion in the morn­ing with two chil­dren, and what we wanted our kitchen to be.” A kitchen “pulled to­gether over a four-year pe­riod” is now a lo­ca­tion for pho­to­graphic shoots. (Michelle works as a stylist for cook­books, in­clud­ing those by Matthew Evans from the SBS se­ries Gourmet Farmer, and she has ex­panded by turn­ing an out­side shed into a sep­a­rate stu­dio space.) Pro­duce from the gar­den goes into many things Michelle cooks — at this time of year, per­haps a quince and wal­nut cake, “a favourite in late au­tumn and early win­ter, made from our quinces and lo­cal wal­nuts”. Money has been the big­gest chal­lenge, but Michelle rea­sons there have al­ways been good lessons in not be­ing able to do things as quickly as she would have liked. “I used to get frus­trated that the gar­den didn’t look like a pic­ture straight away. Now I re­alise it’s the do­ing that’s the thing — if you’re just do­ing it for the end re­sult, you’re never go­ing to get there. If we came in here with truck­loads of money, and splashed it around and had ev­ery­thing done in six months, the house wouldn’t re­flect our per­son­al­ity and ev­ery­thing wouldn’t have had a story. It builds a bet­ter con­nec­tion with the house… I can see that in ev­ery kitchen tile Leo has laid.” There will be no ta­ble in the or­chard to­day — it’s rain­ing cats and dogs — but in­side the house is light and homely, and there’s the wel­come smell of quinces bak­ing. It’s clear that mov­ing to Tas­ma­nia has brought this fam­ily into a good space for learn­ing and living. A Ta­ble In The Or­chard: My De­li­cious Life by Michelle Craw­ford (Ran­dom House, $34.99) is avail­able now. visit Michelle’s blog at hugoan­


1 cup caster sugar 1 vanilla bean, split length­ways 2 cin­na­mon sticks 1kg quinces, peeled, cored, quar­tered 3 eggs

1 / cup milk 3

1 cup golden caster sugar or raw caster sugar

11/ cups veg­etable oil 3

21/ cups plain flour 3 SALTY SUG­ARED WAL­NUTS

1 / cup ic­ing sugar mix­ture, sifted 3

2 tea­spoons vanilla ex­tract

1 tea­spoon bi­car­bon­ate of soda 1 tea­spoon bak­ing pow­der 1 tea­spoon salt 1 tea­spoon ground cin­na­mon pinch of ground cloves ¾ cup wal­nuts, chopped 1¼ cups wal­nuts

1 tea­spoon sea salt flakes CREAM CHEESE FROST­ING 250g packet cream cheese, at room tem­per­a­ture, chopped 60g but­ter, at room tem­per­a­ture, chopped 1 tea­spoon vanilla ex­tract 1½ cups ic­ing sugar mix­ture, sifted

A gar­den sieve and a map of Tas­ma­nia on the sit­ting room walls, with an old metal case filled with CDS. FAC­ING PAGE, FROM LEFT A paint­ing from Hong Kong be­hind tan­sies from the gar­den; in Hugo’s room a piece of an old cricket score­board, above be­spoke cush­ions and a vin­tage blan­ket.

See more kids’ coun­try bed­rooms at kids-coun­try-bed­rooms

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