Digger is like a child star. I’m just lucky he lets me pat him and feed him
“I HAD no idea what to expect when I came here to set up River Cottage at Central Tilba. It was such a dramatic life change that I couldn’t comprehend what was in store.
I expected it to be hard. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to be this amazing.
Living here – it’s just fairytale country. The community and the people surprise me at every turn.
Part of the appeal of the show is that it doesn’t gloss over the hardships. I’ve definitely learnt more from the failures. The first major fail was what I was expecting to get of the tomato crop I put in this season. Nature just had other plans. I was more chef than farmer when I came here – 90 per cent chef, 10 per cent farmer. Right now I’d say it’s pretty much 50-50.
And it’s not really ‘chef’ anymore, because I’m not in charge of a crew or a kitchen. I’m not serving it to the public in a restaurant. I sit down and eat with the people that I cook for. For me that was always lacking in being a chef – you could cook 130 meals in a night and not look one of the people you cooked for in the eye.
Season two is more serious than the first – not in terms of tone but in terms of what’s at stake. Finances intrude more now. The first series was a hobbyist kind of set-up. Now we have to make it pay, extend it beyond a hobby and turn some stuff over.
Season two is also all about Digger (the River Cottage dog). He’s like a child star – he arrived at eight weeks and was surrounded by cameras and puppy-lovers. I’m just lucky he lets me pat him once a day, and feed him.
He’s a naughty teenager, so he’s been to sheepdog school. He’d never seen sheep, let alone worked with them. But as long as he does pretty much what he needs to do, I’m happy. Since season one aired we have had visitors coming up the driveway quite often, unannounced. They usually just want a photo with Digger, which I have to take for them.
My favourite times of day here are the photographers’ hours – that first light and sunset. And photographers’ hours are farmers’ hours – so I see a lot of them.
Life’s pretty good. This feels like home.”
RIVER COTTAGE AUSTRALIA
THURSDAY, 8.30PM, LIFESTYLE
With Debbie Schipp