Help Exchange – Organic Farm in the Central Coast, Australia

helpxHousesitting has been the main form of accommodation for us while we both worked in Sydney. Having a whole home to yourself and some furry friends — rent-free, may I add — is peachy. But it does get boring when you’re in a new town and don’t know anybody; we missed the connections, conversations, and growth we experienced via CouchSurfing and HelpX.

housesitting sydney

Housesitting – free rent and free cat cuddles!

Help Exchange in Newtown

In the middle of December, we had about a week between housesits, so we were lucky enough to have been able to secure a help exchange with a woman, Kate, and her spunky five-year-old son. Kate has a warm presence – I immediately felt welcomed into her cozy 19th century home in the heart of Newtown, a hip neighborhood brimming with character.

Newtown graffiti

Lots of character in this neighborhood

We were on the same wavelength about many topics. I expressed an interest in the cohousing book lying on Kate’s shelf and she told me about her experience living in a share house. Kate also brought Adam to a tiny house workshop, something we have been interested in for a few years. I had been feeling disconnected from the money-driven culture in Sydney, but that’s perhaps because I spend most of my time in the business district, where I worked. Engaging with someone above small-talk was something my brain and soul desperately needed.

It seemed that Kate wanted to host to meet us and hear our story in addition to exposing her son to people who are living alternative lifestyles, i.e., people don’t just grow up to work all day in a traditional job. The five-year-old dreams of world travel. Although his dream destination is India, he is still looking forward to embarking on the Camino de Santiago (~800km pilgrimage in Spain) when he’s eight.

Help Exchange with her Parents!

Fast forward a few months, Kate referred us to her parents. Rob (a retired doctor, lifelong agriculturist) and Sue (a retired lawyer, current wordsmith, and expert sweetheart). They had just moved from their suburban Sydney home of 36 years to a spacious home on the Central Coast. For over a decade, they have been renovating the home and preparing to relocate to enjoy retirement. Bouddi National Park can be seen from one balcony while Maitland Bay and waves crashing upon cliffs can be viewed from around the corner. We woke up to stunning sunrises and ocean sounds instead of construction noise as we did in the city. Not a bad place to live, I think.

Rob is a man of many talents and seems to be an encyclopedia of knowledge. While maintaining a job as a doctor, fathering four children, and a commercial flower farm at one point, he cultivated crops from his backyard as well as the farm in Killcare. He is clearly an industrious person and maintains humility about it. Oh, and the pair are quite the world travelers. Rob recently hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro at the spry age of 68. Him and Sue plan to take a boat to Antartica next month. Just when I thought they couldn’t get cooler!

Schlepping back and forth over the past few weeks to relocate has proven to be arduous, so they needed some extra hands at the farm. Some odds and ends had been neglected and a few extra hands could get them done speedily. Rob and Sue never hosted strangers as volunteers before, so it was a new adventure for them. They were mighty good hosts, that’s for sure! They went above and beyond to ensure that we were comfortable, that we didn’t work too hard in the heat, and that our bellies were always full of good food! 

The Organic Farm

The farm is less than an acre, but is thriving with wholesome and organic nutrition from mother Earth. Perhaps my favorite sight was the sturdy tree with avocados drooping down left and right. Heaven. Other produce include figs, lemons, pumpkins, zucchinis, eggplant (aubergine here), root vegetables, persimmons, watermelon, tomatoes, snake beans, and the list goes on. Nourishing yourself with food that you cultivated must be one of the most rewarding feelings I have yet to experience. Although I was highly satisfied with the basil I grew. Baby steps.

We worked for about four hours a day — sometimes in the extreme Australian heat, sometimes in the rain — and learned along the way. Rob is an enthusiastic teacher! I now can check off my list that I have smelt worm pee as I poured it over soil as fertilizer. I also learned about plants — I would usually walk past some plants without a second glance, but Rob could deliver a story about each one, particularly if it was native or from the age of dinosaurs!  In about eight months, the crops that we planted (potatoes and crocus to make saffron) will be ready for harvesting. We may make a detour to come back to try them!

While we obviously didn’t get to eat the crops that we helped plant ourselves, we did get to pick and eat a few fruits of their labor over the years.

Read about my cooking adventures with banana blossom!

On a rainy day, one of our tasks was to clean out the tool shed. Adam took on the heroic duty of removing spider webs. This is what happens when two short people need to put a curtain rod back up but there aren’t any chairs nearby.

Every couple has its quirks and we are of no exception. So we decided to record a few clips of “the day in the life of Adam and Lianne” kind of thing.

Feeling at Home while Abroad

Rob and Sue are not only similarly aged as my parents, but their personalities resemble each other as well. It is no surprise that I felt a sense of comfort. Since I only saw my parents twice in the past four years, I miss them. But spending time with these parental figures felt cozy and familiar. They would tell us stories and offer nuggets of life advice. Even the antique tables and chairs — from where we consumed Sue’s culinary endeavors — had stories embedded within.

Throughout our travels, there have been uncomfortable moments in a small and sticky guesthouse room lacking character. Even with HelpX hosts, sometimes we don’t feel like we jive 100% with the hosts and therefore don’t feel totally comfortable. So, feeling at home in this new place and people who were once strangers is much appreciated while on the road. They were grateful for our help and presence, especially since they are recently retired and all of their children have moved out. Adam and I LOVE spending time with people around our parents’ age and I think they can also benefit from having new energy in the home. It is a win-win! Thank you for everything, Rob, Sue, and Kate!


Thanks for everything!!

What’s Next?

Adam and I are currently housesitting in the majestic Blue Mountains, one of my favorite areas of Australia thus far. We’ve already seen impressive views and waterfalls on our first day here! Look forward to a post highlighting my favorite spots in the Blue Mountains.

In the meantime, enjoy a short clip of us being us.

2 thoughts on “Help Exchange – Organic Farm in the Central Coast, Australia

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