Laura and Boz Shield have set up an idyllic home in Tasmania’s Huon Valley, while taking part in the family salmon farming business.
SOUTH OF HOBART, in the shadow of a mountain range called Sleeping Beauty, the Huon Valley enfolds the Huon River on its course from the wilderness to the D’entrecasteaux Channel. This fertile and picturesque valley crisscrossed by streams and backed by ancient forests has long been the home of the apple and pear growing industry, cherries and stone fruit. And now aquaculture. It’s been home for Laura Shield for as long as she can remember. “I grew up in the valley and I’ve never lived out of the Huon, except when I was away overseas,” says Laura, who now lives with her husband Boz, and a menagerie that includes their dogs, a West Highland Terrier, Ted, and a Chesapeake Bay retriever, Betty, a bunch of Huon Blue and Barnevelder chickens and a small mob of Highland cattle, on four hectares of an old dairy in the foothills of the valley at Crabtree. “Our family had a cattle farm at a place called Surveyors Bay, near the southern town of Port Huon, and I lived there until I was four or five. Then we moved to Huonville while my two brothers were away at high school in Hobart. We had >
“We love the lifestyle here, we love the fresh air, fresh food and nice-tasting water — all of our water comes from the rivulet.”
a shack at Hideaway Bay — I have great memories of picking apricots and riding motorbikes around the cattle farm, of swimming and getting sunburnt in the summer holidays.” Today Laura, 26, is a teacher in a local primary school, and is also involved in the family salmon farming business, Huon Aquaculture, now the second largest in Tasmania, that her parents Peter and Frances Bender established as they diversified from cattle in 1987 “with one boat, and one employee and a lot of hard work”. “I can’t help but be part of it,” Laura says. “I used to run the community grants program Huon Aquaculture’s Helping Hand, which was Mum’s idea to give extra help to support sustainable community development, and my job was to get that up and running and now I sit on the decision-making panel for the grant.” Boz also works at Huon Aquaculture as a marine farm manager. “He worked at Huon before we got together, and then he got a lot of ribbing for going out with the boss’s daughter,” she says with a smile. Boz, 29, is also Huon born and bred. “Boz’s family had one of the biggest apple orchards, and I knew his stepsisters really well, but I didn’t meet him until I was about 13. We were always in the same group, so we kept in contact, and we would see each other when we were out and about,” she says. “We got together nine years ago, and we’ve been married for two.” When Laura finished school, she headed overseas before studying at the University of Tasmania, Australia. “I spent six months overseas, then came home to study and started working in the family business. I then did a Master of Teaching, and I’m now teaching at Franklin Primary — and it’s so nice to be back living and working in the Huon.” Needless to say, when Laura and Boz started looking for a home they didn’t look further than the valley — somewhere with space for animals, and a vegie garden. “We don’t like cities, we like space and being around family and community, and really, we had never thought about living anywhere else.” The couple had seen a number of places when they found their property with its 100-year-old weatherboard home at Crabtree. It had been in the same dairying and orcharding family for generations.“it is a long bit of land that runs from road to river, and from bridge to bridge,” she says. “The property has a lovely garden and the rivulet is beautiful.” She and Boz moved into Crabtree Heights, as they call the home, in 2014 and since then have renovated inside and out, painting, rebuilding the verandah and adding to the garden. “We’ve been chipping away, and I am really happy with the house, it’s what I always had in mind. We love the lifestyle here, we love the fresh air, fresh food and nice-tasting water — all of our water comes from the rivulet.” Their favourite time is when they’re in the garden, pottering about with their animals. “I like to sit on the deck and talk to the chickens,” says Laura. “We’ll be here forever — even though, perhaps, I should never say never.” Read Laura’s blog at crabtreeheightsblog.wordpress.com and follow @crabtreeheights on Instagram. For details on Huon Aquaculture, visit huonaqua.com.au
A weathered timber bench was found by Laura at Verde in West Hobart and serves as the perfect spot for her and Boz to get ready for a wander through the garden.
Camels for the farm are caught in the wild and they will stop eating when they are stressed, so it’s important to provide a stress-free environment and gentle handling.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT The quiet road leading out of Crabtree Heights at the base of the mountains; Laura preparing a platter of family-farmed salmon; Laura and Boz going for a wander through the property’s rambling wild garden. FACING PAGE The couple now have six beloved Highland cows, Wendy, Peter, Alice, Matilda, Tom and Dorothy.