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.

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