The Good Life (in The Otways) – A regular column by Ami Hillege

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The Good Life

A regular column by Ami Hillege


As the days get shorter and colder, we are relieved that our obsession with collecting firewood over the summer months is paying off. Weeks have been spent sawing fallen trees, chopping the heavy branches and then splitting the logs. Trailer loads have been carted around the farm and carefully stacked woodpiles have been allowed to dry in the sun and wind. We drive around the district admiring wood stacks, sometimes engaging in a serious case of ‘firewood envy’.




We have been gathering firewood to keep us warm and to light the Rayburn wood stove that will cook our hearty winter meals. The first lighting of the stove is a celebration of the beginning of winter. Slow food never tasted this good. Keeping the fire going all winter in the stove is a lot like caring for a child. Before the family retires every evening, the fire is loaded up and damped down. Sometime during the night, Frans gets up and checks the fire, adding another log if necessary. On waking up, the fire is stoked and a pot of porridge is put on to cook. We keep a kettle simmering gently on the edge of the stove during the day. A quick splash of hot water into the sink and a handful of dishes are taken care of without needing to run the icy tank water through frigid water pipes, thereby wasting water and using electricity unnecessarily. Isn’t this what ‘homesteading’ is all about? We practice being frugal, develop rituals that connect us with the essence of living on the land. We aim to keep the stove lit all winter as the regular electric wall oven gets a rest.


Not only are we focused on fires inside the house, the wood stacks around the farm that have been piling up during summer, are finally lit and debris and garden rubbish is burned. All summer we add to the burn pile. As with most farmers around the district, we’re also waiting for the end of the fire season. As if on queue, the day after the fire season ends, the air is thick with the smoke of burning woodpiles scattered for miles around. These farm fires are more than just a housekeeping chore. They become an event, one where friends and families gather with glasses of red wine and fold up chairs whilst the flames warm chilled faces. A little opera piped through the speakers of the 4X4 in the paddock is all that is needed to complete the spectacular winter burn. Cheers!



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