Wouldn’t it be awesome to be living the dream? Some days, do you wish your holiday destination could become your permanent place of residence? My friend Lisa is a mum to three teenagers and she’s doing exactly that, she’s living the dream!
Lisa was a vet and city dweller and now she’s an organic hobby farmer, which was her dream for a long time. Her daily companions are cows, sheep, goats, llamas, ducks, chickens, and kangaroos.
She and her family live in a solar sustainable house that she designed, close to one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations, Margaret River in country Western Australia – famous for its beaches, wine, food, art, and culture.
Every time I visit her I always get super inspired. Her farm is called Lilli Pilli Lane, which evokes all kinds of loveliness, and I promise you, this property is lovelier still. Though truth be told, she has yet to plant the Lilli Pillis – it’s on her to-do list.
A lot of us have a dream in mind but find it hard to make it happen. We may doubt ourselves or let other people’s doubts influence us. Our dream then becomes a fantasy rather than a possibility. But what if we were to act on our dream as Lisa has?
I was intrigued to sit down and talk with Lisa about what inspired her tree change. What finally made moving to the country possible. Has it been all she hoped for? What soulful insights can she share with us? In Lisa’s words…
Our property, Lilli Pilli Lane is about 100 acres and it has a creek that runs through it – a third of it, and a hill. We have dairy cows for milking and calves. I hand-raised them, so they’re really friendly. Then they become breeding cows or chops. We have beef cows that provide meat for us for the year and I sell the rest off to friends.
I run the farm organically. Everything I buy is certified organic. I don’t use any harmful fertilisers or pesticides on the land. The only fertilisers I use are natural, like seaweed, fish, Epsom salts, and dolomite but it’s all naturally sourced and sustainable. I grow hay which I sell and it covers some of the cost that goes into caring for the animals.
I’ve done enough research to know that if we just pour on things like superphosphate it’s just like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, it doesn’t fix it. You get a good result from the land for that year but you’re not doing anything good for it underneath.
And that’s the reason why I got out of my veterinary career because a lot of what you do is just putting band-aids over things. You’re not addressing the real problem as to why the animal is ill in the first place; like they may have been exposed to chemicals or they’re not being fed right. So, if you get everything right from the ground up it makes a big difference.
I want to nurture the land that we have. We’ve put in about 5,000 trees and shrubs, with help, and there’s more to come. We got grants and volunteers in. My next plan is to fence off all the paddocks with hedges of trees; natural natives like gum trees. They act as tree belts. Not only does this offer protection for the animals but it also puts back trees.
We’ve been at Lilli Pilli Lane for four years now. The real benefits of living here are knowing that from the beginning the animal has been treated in a really nice way and it’s not getting any chemicals. Unfortunately, in this day and age, a lot of animals are simply there for human consumption and they don’t have a good life.
I’ve always loved being outdoors and did lots of farm practise on the land when I was younger, and from these experiences, thought it would be great to have my own farm. But I couldn’t do it for a long time because my husband Stewart was tied to his job in the city. He loved his job and there was no way he was going to leave it.
So, we continued to live in the city and bought a holiday house in Margaret River instead. Each time we visited there, I’d say, “I could move down here.” Then my mum died and we came into a bit of money, and Stewart was also made redundant.
We’d been looking at land in the country for a couple of years before this, for the future, and never found anything. When mum was sick, Stewart saw this place, and we came down to have a look at it. We drove up the long driveway and knew this was our place. I loved it straight away.
We’d looked at other places but they were challenging; not the land itself but the actual location. We wanted the location to be close enough to facilities for our kids.
But mostly, it was the internet becoming available in the country that made our move here possible. We thought Stewart could now work on his own yet still be connected to his clients. I knew I’d find work because I’d been working for schools, and I easily found part-time work as a teacher’s aid.
I love the country community. You go into a shop and people know you and you know them. I go places and I always bump into somebody I know. The community is really strong in that it does a lot for other people and that’s nice.
The schools have been great. I love that everything is central in town. There are no traffic lights. There are no roundabouts. Unless a tree has fallen across the road or there’s a tractor in front of you, you can get into town easily.
Most people who come down here, want to be here. Everyone who comes down from the city, within a year or two, changes. They’re more casual. They care less about appearances. They don’t worry about wearing the latest fashion or owning the latest gimmick.
At first, you miss the shops but now I don’t at all. I just buy my clothes in town. And you certainly don’t miss the crowds, queues, or hustle-bustle.
My life experiences inspire me. One of the turning points in my life was when, as part of my vet studies, I had to do time on a farm. I went to a farm outside of Canberra and stayed with a family for five weeks. It was one of the things that said to me: You’ve got to get out on the land.
They owned a sheep station and we went out on horseback every day. They had a traditional homestead and heated their water with wood. This was in the 1990s. The father was a third or fourth-generation farmer but was really progressive. He wanted to do the best for his animals. I loved being out there.
Your upbringing also influences you a lot. My mum and I were really close and then the worst enemies. Mum did it pretty tough. She was into recycling and saving water. She loved animals and collecting firewood, and she loved being outdoors, so we did lots of things like that.
She went out with a guy who was a fantastic carpenter and he was into nature and bushwalking. We had some amazing holidays when he was around. Then, my dad, when I finally got to know him, he was really into orienteering and sailing, so it was all outdoors. And he grew all his own vegetables.
Both my parents have passed and I talk to them a lot, still. I don’t know whether they’re there. I have those moments when I understand why my mum said some of the things she did, to me, and I think: Yeh, you were right. I was so horrible to her as a teenager. If she was alive now I’d have the guts to tell her that she’d been right.
Now I look back and think: If I knew then what I know now, things could have been so much better between us. But sometimes it takes getting to your forties, to realise it.
For me, being spiritual is being at one with the land. When I get out and walk around the paddocks, I have this amazing feeling like I’m in touch with everything. I never have that in the city. I get it when I go out for an early morning walk. Or I get it when I’m in the dusk.
Here, we get some amazing storms and lightning, and I get the feeling then. It’s that getting in touch with nature’s force, like when it’s calm and beautiful and you see flocks of birds. You see beauty. That’s what I see as spirituality. You get an amazing feeling and you think: Wow! I’m pretty lucky to live here!
Last year, we had this amazing lightning storm here that was so powerful, that it affected me for days. The lightning started and we turned all the lights off in the house. And it went on for an hour.
Two of my kids and I sat by the window watching it. Stewart and our other kid were in the city at the football. It was 8 o’clock at night in winter, and we got all the candles ready because we thought for sure we’d lose the power. There must have been lightning coming down every couple of minutes.
It was like someone had the most powerful floodlight on across the paddocks. I’d never seen the whole property lit up like that. Just this amazing light, and then it would go dark, and then it would come on again. And because we’re on top of a hill, we could see it all. It was nothing short of phenomenal. It was wow!
I have a sacred place but it’s not here. It’s in Canberra, where I grew up. It’s on top of a hill – called a mount but it’s really just a hill. I used to go up there a lot when I was a kid. I actually scattered some of my mum’s ashes there. She loved this spot too. The rest of her is in Ireland.
From about twelve years old, when I was upset or needed to let go of my frustrations, I would run to the top of this hill and stand there and I could see all of Canberra. I used to sit there. And I still do this, every time I go back.
It’s within ten minutes of my childhood home, but it’s isolated, and because of the steep incline very few people ever go up there. From this vantage, you can see everything below you; watch the traffic; watch people go about their daily lives.
It’s like a meditation for me. I can get angry. I can cry. I can talk to myself up there. It’s my most special spot in the whole world, and I’ve never found another place like it, anywhere.
I believe happiness is doing something you like, even if it means making less money. I never feel like I don’t want to go to work. Whereas I used to feel like that all the time. My work is on the land and with the animals, every day, and also I do some hours at a local school, in a science lab.
I could be making more money by working as a vet, but I wouldn’t be happy. If you end up working in a job just for the money you end up being stressed and unhealthy. You just need to change your ways and learn to live with less. I could live in a tent if I had to and actually, I would be quite happy.
Thanks, Lisa for your soulful sharing. It takes courage to believe in dreams, and effort to make them come true. I admire anyone who in pursuit of their own happiness betters the circumstances of others, as Lisa does with her animals and the land she cares for.
Have you ever dreamt about leaving the city for life in the country? Become self-sufficient. Perhaps, you live like this already. Please share, we’d love to know more about it!