Denise: I’m Denise Haynes from R and R property. Today I have invited a special guest into the R and R office to chat with us. You know at R and R Property we specialise in assisting our clients in making the move from city areas to the country, what we like to call a tree change. Our guest today is Karen Hutchinson, one of the busiest ladies I know. Firstly I’d like to welcome you Karen, and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.
Karen: Thank you Denise. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Denise: Karen is our local council representative from Mid-Coast Council. She also runs her own businesses and a thousand acre farm, is that correct?
Denise: She’s a very busy lady. The reason I wanted to speak with you is because you have actually done the tree change yourself. As everyone knows I’m always advising our clients to chat with others that have already made the move just to get an experienced account of things. I know you packed up your family and moved to the country and we’d love to hear your story, Karen. Firstly, how long has it been since you made the move and where were you living before?
Karen: It’s 19 years since we left the Northern Beaches in Sydney, which I thought was God’s country. We’ve re-established God’s country’s up here.
Denise: Very good and I agree with that. What were you worried about with moving to the country area?
Karen: I had my own business in Sydney and I’m a bit of a people person and I was only momentarily concerned about the move and I just thought, “Well, let’s run with this.” I suppose I had plan B in my mind that I could always run back to Sydney but never, never, never.
Denise: I’m very pleased to hear that, I must say. Karen is a very big advocate for Stroud, she’s Stroud proud and we love her. People are often concerned about finding work in a country area. That’s one of the major things that I hear all the time. Have you had trouble finding work? I know that’s not true because as I said you are one of the busiest people I know, but maybe just let everyone know what it is that you do do and how you’ve come about that.
Karen: Okay. Eight years ago I broke my leg on our farm and while I was recuperating I designed a label to go on a jar. I didn’t know what I was going to put in that jar but I thought I wasn’t going to waste this nine months of being incapacitated and not come out with something positive out of it. We now run a very successful family-owned and run jam and condiment business and you’ll find our products scattered between Sydney, Newcastle, America. We’re very, very delighted about that.
I think as far as employment is concerned, there’s a lot of casual work up here if you’re willing to have a go and I have seen so many home-based businesses evolve in this valley, is unbelievable. You would be surprised what’s in a lot of people’s homes with creative arts, men with mechanic businesses at home. It’s just amazing.
Denise: That’s true. There really is plenty of work there depending on what you want to do. The work is there to find if you want it. Just so everyone knows, too, Karen’s business is called Stroud Valley Harvest and it’s absolutely beautiful. We stock our settlement gift packs with Stroud Valley Harvest goodies and everyone always raves about them. She’s a very busy lady and am I correct in saying you do all that out of your home kitchen?
Karen: Yes. We do. We run it, we cook it, we package it and we have fun. It’s a family involvement because when you’ve got a few hundred jars of jam to label you call in the troops for help.
Denise: Even the grandkids get a helping hand, do they, or actually help you out, sorry?
Karen: Absolutely. Absolutely, and they help on the farm. We have an egg farm with birds that are free to range. We’re now with Woolworths with our farm fresh eggs. The five grandchildren help on the farm, too.
Denise: Yeah. That’s great. I’ve seen them on Facebook digging veggie gardens and having a great time riding their motorbikes around. What are your eggs called?
Karen: Stroud Valley Harvest Eggs.
Denise: Excellent. I can recommend those, too.
Another thing that people worry about is their friends and family. “Will they ever, ever come and visit us?” Maybe have a chat about friends and family. Do you still see them? Do you still go back to Sydney? Have you made friends here? Let us know what that’s about.
Karen: I’ve got a huge friend base in this valley. I go back to Sydney for business only and I go down and I run straight back. Friends and family, we had a very big influx of visitors when we first moved up here and they were amazed that we actually had running water and electricity. The visits that have now, are sort of spread far apart because they thought my husband was taking me away from the city into the boondocks but they were flabbergasted when they saw the way we live up here.
Denise: That’s good, and they come and visit you. Have any of the made the move themselves?
Karen: Yes, actually. We have some friends at Bulahdelah that were friends on the Northern Beaches and they’ve embraced the community in Bulahdelah, too. It’s wonderful and you can be as busy or as relaxed as you like. It’s all about choice.
Denise: Yeah, that’s it. It’s all about quality of life isn’t it? How do you find our local community?
Karen: Our local community are just absolutely amazing. They’ve got the biggest hearts. If anybody’s in strife there’s always somebody that you can call on and it’s an amazing community.
Denise: Yes, that’s true. Everyone pulls together when the time is needed, don’t they? If there’s any sort of drama or disaster or someone’s struggling everyone pulls together and that’s when you really find out what the community’s like.
Another thing that we do hear quite often is about the commuting and I quite often say to people, “Look, yes you commute to work but you are travelling along lovely country roads taking in the landscape, not stuck in gridlock.” Have you actually found that to be the case as well, because I know you do a lot of travelling? You work from home but with the council you’re also travelling a lot.
Karen: It’s amazing. You don’t realise until you look at your speedometer and go, “Wow, have I done that many kilometres?” It doesn’t feel like you’re doing that many. We actually live on the Bucketts Way and there is a peak hour from Stroud and it starts about 5:00 a.m. in the morning and there is a stream of people that go down the Bucketts Way to commute to Newcastle. I know for a fact that there’s even a few people that commute to Gosford for work. It’s an easy drive.
Denise: Yes, I love to listen to podcasts just like this while I’m travelling around. It’s a great time to think and reflect and to learn as well, isn’t it? Okay, so how has your family adjusted to the move?
Karen: Our family, we brought our two girls up, well we brought one daughter up from Sydney and her daughter and one daughter went to uni at Bathurst the same year that we moved up here. She’s finished uni and she’s moved back home and we are all on the farm. We all have our own separate homes of course. Then I’ve had more grandchildren born into the area and they just love it. They go to the local schools and they play netball down in Raymond Terrace which is not far to go. All their sporting requirements are all fulfilled.
Denise: Yes, that’s it, they can do whatever they want really, can’t they? Can be, again like us, as busy as they want to be.
Karen: Exactly. Exactly.
Denise: Okay. Do you have any tips for those considering moving to the country?
Karen: My biggest tip would be think positive, embrace it, and enjoy it.
Denise: Good advice. Karen, Dayanna your daughter is now studying again isn’t she?
Karen: She’s studying at Newcastle University and she’s actually doing her master’s now in work health and safety. Our granddaughter who is now 21, she’s studying by distant education with UNE at Armidale. She’s doing ag-business. Our oldest daughter who is actually running our farm now, she picks up every little biosecurity course, any course that’s going through the Tocal College which is only 45-50 minutes away from here.
Everything, as far as education is concerned, everything is at your fingertips.
Denise: Yeah. It’s great. They certainly don’t miss out on anything here, do they?
Karen: No, no. They don’t and if your child’s keen well then they will find these courses just like my children do.
Denise: Yeah, exactly. Just thinking about that we’ve also got an Olympian in our area as well, haven’t we?
Karen: We do.
Denise: Certainly the children can do whatever they choose to do.
Karen: Yes, yeah, look, and they can. Our oldest granddaughter is a State Age champion in rowing, in doubles. She used to train at Morpeth. She would leave the farm at 4:30 in the morning but that was her choice and she enjoyed that before going to school.
Denise: Yeah. Yeah. Just the dedication’s there so they just take that opportunity.
Denise: Yeah. No, that’s wonderful. I just wanted to check with you before we finish up. Do you have any regrets about moving to the country?
Karen: I have no regrets whatsoever. It’s just been fantastic and when I see the news of the night I just think, “How lucky we are that our grandchildren are growing up in this area.” They have everything at their fingertips and they just love being outside, they just love the atmosphere. They have their friends. Yeah, you’ve got to travel sometimes to drop little friends off and pick your grandchildren up but that’s all part of country living.
Denise: Exactly. Like we said before, the commuting’s very enjoyable as well isn’t it? It’s not a chore.
Karen: No, not at all. Not at all. Because I, just like yourself Denise, I do a lot of thinking, a lot of planning, in the car and I am fulfilling a lot of dreams I’ve always dreamt and that was to own my own patchwork shop which we’ve done. We’ve run retreats and patchwork lessons on the farm and hopefully in early 2017 we start the building of our café and farm gate shop on the farm.
Denise: I can’t wait for that, I must say. That’s going to be amazing and just another wonderful thing for our community. Thank you so much Karen for coming and chatting to us today. It’s been a pleasure.
Karen: Thank you for having me, Denise. It’s a pleasure to share our experience.
Denise: Thank you.
Thank you everyone. I hope you’ve got great value out of that and once again I’d like to thank Karen for coming in and joining us. It’s been wonderful.
Announcer: If you would like to find out more about R and R Property and the Stroud, Gloucester, and Bulahdelah areas, whether buying or selling, contact us on (02) 4994 5766 or via our website at www.randrproperty.com.au. On behalf of Denise Haynes and the team, thank you for joining us and please remember to subscribe to our podcasts.
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