Chickens have been running through my daydreams for the past few years. So my beautiful friend A and I decided to do a little ‘dream testing’ this weekend. We booked a few nights at a vegan farm stay in Berry and, last Friday, hit the road.
First stop was the Scarborough Hotel. It’s a gem that sits atop a cliff, overlooking the breath-taking, scenic Princes Highway. The road wraps along the coast and swings out over the water. It’s a driver’s delight and for two girls escaping corporate life, the views of the ocean lifted our spirits.
We had a seafood platter and a glass of wine each. The service was lovely, the food ok, but the view is the superstar of the lunch hour.
A had left her sunglasses at home, so we popped in to Thirroul on the way through. The op shop looked like it might have some cheap sunnies, judging by the bargain bins out the front.
She quickly found a pair of Twiggy-style 60’s black shades. As we looked around the store, singing along to old-style tunes like ‘But we have no bananas’ we realised how well the displays were put together. Here was a dedication to nautical red, white and blue:
There was an ode to orange and yellow:
And an ensemble that would make a vintage stylist or fashion blogger gasp with joy:
We had to know who was behind this mastery! Turns out it’s the work of Ryan Xuereb, who currently works at the Mission Australia store, styling and pulling ensembles and themed corners together. He goes to the warehouse and hand-selects what he likes.
Xuereb studied interior design at the Design Centre in Enmore, Sydney and worked at Cotton On and General Pants. He had some creative freedoms with great teams and managers at both places, but it’s in the Mission Australia Thirroul op-shop that his ‘unstructured chaos’ style can flourish. He says he just keeps putting things together and they work. We talked about the soundtrack playing in the store (Hits from the Great Gatsby era) which led to talk of his Gatsby-themed 25th birthday two years ago, and then he showed us photos of the converted garage he now lives in – which he has dressed with fake walls, linoleoum floors, velvet couches and glass chandeliers, all sourced second-hand and vintage. A and I got super-excited about what an amazing stylist, set-dresser, wedding-stylist he could be, but he said he just wants to keep doing what he likes and not feeling ‘boxed in’. We felt a sense of joy when we left, from having shared a few minutes with someone who is so creative and happy with where he is at.
Berry was just a short drive away and we made to the Back 2 Earth farm stay just in time for the animals to be fed.
First we joined Marc in rounding up the ducks and geese into their fox-proof hutch.
The goats could hear what was happening and were keen to be sure they weren’t forgotten. Pegasus, the two-year old billy goat, rammed the gate a few times and sent the whole fence shaking.
Even though they looked a bit scary with those big horns, they were very sweet and were only interested in their dinner. It’s clear that Marc has a genuine love for his animals, in the gentle way he treats them and knows what makes them happy.
In the far paddock the mini horses shook the gate impatiently. The wind was starting up, ruffling their manes and annoying their sensitive ears. ‘Don’t call them ponies’ said Marc, ‘they really don’t like it and they’re already out of sorts because of the wind.’
As we approached the enclosure one of the horses pushed the gate. Another pair galloped around the enclosure. ‘They are mini-horses, but they’re still as strong as horses’ said Marc. He reminded us not to stand behind them.
After the horses we went to see the chickens. Marc and Jenny have 10 chickens who represent five breeds between them. They’re not really ‘laying’ chickens, although each day one or two eggs can be found in the roost. My favourite was the ‘frizzle’ chook, but the black-and-white one was lovely too. When the black chook stood in the sun its feathers glowed emerald. A family were staying on the farm as well, and it was fun to share in their 18 month old boy’s delight at everything.
We stopped by the rabbits too. Marc and Jenny had put the three females into the enclosure, but realised too late that the rabbits were in fact two females and one very frisky male. Fifteen rabbit kittens later, Marc had just caught the last of them at the right time to be de-sexed. The Big Daddy rabbit was the innocuous-looking, fluffy caramel-and-white blob in the middle of the feeding frenzy in the picture below.
Three guinea pigs lived with the rabbits. Marc told us that they’re called guinea pigs because they squeal like pigs and used to be sold for a guinea. And that they don’t mind being called hamsters (unlike the sensitive mini-horses down the lane).
After the animal feeding we had some aperitifs ourselves – some cheese and wine, on the deck over-looking Back 2 Earth, before the rain set in. Jenny stopped by with our ‘welcome basket’ full of organic fruit and veg, and Marc’s home-made cashew cheese, which was beautiful with the merlot we were drinking.
We had arranged to have dinner at Back 2 Earth so we wouldn’t have to think about cooking, and also because were were interested in trying more vegan food. By the time we made our way to the cushion room for our vegan feast, the rain was falling in sheets and the wind was whipping the tree silhouettes in the dark. We sat, cross-legged, and enjoyed a three course vegan meal made by Marc and Jenny. It was lovely to have dinner brought to us. We had a cashew-and-ginger soup, raw noodles and salad, and then a meringue made with chick-pea water and dressed with fresh passionfruit pulp, kiwi, strawberries and a cashew yoghurt.
The animals are fed at 7:30am rain or shine, so I got up early and joined the feeding crew.
It was the day that the mini-horses were to be groomed, but as the wild wind in the night had annoyed them Marc thought it better to leave it for a day. So we fed them, but left them short and wind-swept.
A and I had read that the Kiama markets were on, so took the short drive to Kiama. We didn’t find the markets, and forgot about the famous Kiama blow-hole, but did see a crazy cow and we got a coffee before heading back to Berry.
We wandered along the main street of Berry, poking around the shops, before stopping at the Berry Sourdough Cafe for lunch. We both had the same – mushrooms with spelt and oat crumble, a poached egg and, on the side, a glass of pinot noir. The mushrooms were so good, the service so friendly, and the atmosphere so lovely that we raved about it all afternoon.
I was drawn to the Famous Berry Donut Van and, despite the crowd, didn’t have to wait long for a hot, crunchy donut.
We spent the afternoon shopping. There are a lot of homewares stores in Berry! And a lot of wedding supplies. If someone wanted a country wedding, they could definitely get some great ideas. We just enjoyed how beautiful everything was, and spent the afternoon running in and out of shops, buying scented candles and admiring the displays.
We went back to Back 2 Earth and curled up on the lounge eating marshmallows and drinking wine and watching an Adam Sandler movie. Perfect for when it’s really pretty cold outside!
Earlier in the day we had made a booking at the Hungry Duck for 6pm that night. I think we’re lucky to have been able to get in on the day, but would recommend booking in advance. The style is modern asian and it really does showcase local ingredients. No pictures from me though, over dinner we had so much fun talking and writing and drawing that we forgot to take any photos. It had been such a great weekend for food, and we were still talking about the Berry Sourdough Cafe late into the night.
Of course, as soon as we had woken and showered, we were on the road back to the Berry Sourdough Cafe for breakfast. Is it really worth two visits in one weekend? Definitely! I had a bowl of coffee big enough to swim in . . .
. . . and the special for the day, wood-fired pancakes with fruit and house-made jam . . . . . . and A had a more healthy, hearty breakfast of kale, lentils, pumpkin and avocado.
After breakfast, we headed back to Sydney, stopping about half-way at the Bulli Foragers market. It’s well worth the stop, and breaks the journey neatly in half. There were more small, cute animals to look at:
And a lot of foodie stalls showing off the local wares and craftsmanship:
We stocked up on a few treats and headed back to Sydney.
In terms of dream-testing . . . Berry and the South Coast are very beautiful, and easy to get to from Sydney. I liked the chickens, but are they enough to want to live there? I’m not sure. But if day dreams of chickens mean weekends like that one, then that’s ok with me.
The places we went
Address: 383 Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Scarborough NSW 2515
Address: Thirroul Plaza, Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul, NSW 2515
Address: 23 Prince Alfred Street, Berry NSW 2535
Address: 60 Borrowdale Close, BERRY, 2535
Address: 85 Queen Street, Berry NSW 2320
Address: Bulli Showground, Sundays 9-2