Fresh eggs and pad­dock hop­scotch

Meet Es­cape’s fam­ily as Donna Kramer dis­cov­ers while the farm­ing re­al­ity doesn’t quite match the dream, it’s still a load of fun

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FARM STAY BYRON BAY -

TO­GETHER, Chris and I co-man­age our mod­ern fam­ily: I am­mother to our 18-month-old daugh­ter Jaala and step-mum to Meghan, 13, Will, 11, and Ella, 8.

Usu­ally our week­end get­aways in­volve pitch­ing a tent some­where be­side a beach, so when the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence a work­ing farm first-hand on a week­end farm stay came along we were all ex­cited.

Dur­ing the drive south to By­ron Bay, I had vi­sions of us don­ning high­vis life jack­ets and ef­fort­lessly row­ing around the farm’s lake, catch­ing an im­pres­sive amount of fish that we’d bar­be­cue for din­ner on the log fire out­side our cabin.

Sadly, in re­al­ity things never end up hap­pen­ing quite like I’ve men­tally mapped them out.

It started well – within two hours of ar­riv­ing we’d col­lected fresh eggs from the chook pen, com­pleted a how-to­catch-a-chicken course (not that we’d need to catch our own for any meal, thank­fully), spent sev­eral silent min­utes star­ing at the ocean and fed the goats.

Ella was thrilled that her eggs (col­lected from the hen mo­ments af­ter they were laid) were still warm.

Fresh eggs in hand, we pretty much felt like authen­tic farm­ers.

Mo­ments af­ter stak­ing claim to their beds (kids are al­ways thrilled when they get their bed of choice, which was easy in our one-bed­room self­con­tained cabin with dou­ble bed, sin­gle bed with match­ing trun­dle and fu­ton couch), we made a bee­line for the lake.

Things started to go down­hill once we spot­ted the boats. Ex­cited by ear­lier vi­sions of hours of lakeside fun, I col­lected life jack­ets and to­gether Ella and I made for the cen­tre of the lake in the row­boat. There we stayed. No, I lie – we went around and around in cir­cles for a long time.

I’ve put in count­less kilo­me­tres on the row­ing ma­chine at the gym and watched the row­ing dur­ing the Olympics and thought I had the goods. I was wrong. But I was not alone.

‘‘ You’re sit­ting the wrong way,’’ said Will, who had be­come an in­stant 11-year-old row­ing mas­ter.

‘‘ Put your back into it! Se­ri­ously, it’s not that hard.’’

Af­ter swal­low­ing my pride and lis­ten­ing to his ad­vice, I even­tu­ally found my row­ing groove and we made it back to the jetty, drenched and sport­ing blis­ters across the soles of my feet.

Still cling­ing to my ear­lier vi­sion of lakeside fun we jumped in the kayaks and man­aged a few laps of the lake while Chris baited a fish­ing rod and tried lur­ing the lo­cal bass. It ap­pears they were not hun­gry.

‘‘ Fish of­ten lie dor­mant in lakes like this dur­ing win­ter,’’ he rea­soned.

I was se­cretly re­lieved we’d vis­ited the Ban­ga­low Butcher for sup­plies on the way in.

With six of us it’s hard to travel light, so we were re­ly­ing on the farm stay’s neigh­bour­ing towns of Ban­ga­low and Suf­folk Park to dish up some de­li­cious lo­cal pro­duce and we weren’t dis­ap­pointed.

We loaded up on pork and lamb sausages, locally brewed bou­tique beer, dips, cheeses and marsh­mal­lows that the kids roasted on the campfire at night. The next day, we brunched on mouth-wa­ter­ing brekky rolls from the Suf­folk Park bak­ery on the sand at the neigh­bour­ing beach.

The lo­ca­tion im­pressed Will greatly: ‘‘ It’s pretty amaz­ing that within 10 min­utes we can go from a full-on farm to the beach.’’

Back at the farm, the kids spent ev­ery avail­able minute ex­plor­ing the pad­docks, the 100-year-old bam­boo stacks and the moun­tain bike track that was un­der con­struc­tion.

Thank­fully we wore well-loved shoes dur­ing our stay. The farm’s 120 cows and their calves, some of which were only 24 hours old, en­sured plenty of presents were left dot­ted around the fields. The chil­dren had a ball play­ing pad­dock hop­scotch. The writer was a guest of North­ern Rivers Tourism and the By­ron Bay Farm­stay.

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