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
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.