The joys of a farmstay delight adults and children alike. Most people never have the chance to enjoy a hands-on experience on a real working farm, but a visit to Quirindi can bring it all to life.
Quirindi is on the Liverpool Plains, nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in north-western New South Wales. It's a charming destination for a holiday and to really get the feel of life on the plains, a farmstay is the way to go.
An unusual start for Natalie's day. She was up early feeding the chooks and pigs and milking the cows on the 800-hectare property, Castle Mountain.
Owners Peter and Lynda Hatfield hit upon the idea to welcome visitors to their property during the drought years. They had WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) working on their farm and they were so taken by the silence and beautiful starry sky, the Hatfields decided to open up to paying travellers.
The 16-year-old homestead's architecture is well-known. It's a pole-framed structure of stone and cypress pine sourced from the property. It is solar and wind-powered and was built by Peter!
City slickers can participate or just observe farming activities which include milking, shearing, feeding, stock handling and fencing. Children just love it. They revel in the fresh air, freedom and chasing the animals. There are more than a hundred, and the pigs are the greediest critters on the farm. Keep an eye out for Lightning, the farm emu. You don't see too many of those in the city!
After a hard day's work, you choose your accommodation. Either in the main homestead or one of the on-site cabins but before hitting the hay you really have to experience a Hatfield family camp barbecue, cooked in a pit under the stars.
All meals are provided. They're cooked by Lynda and shared around a big table in the homestead or around a campfire in the paddock. Lunch is usually a salad with home-baked bread.
Other things to do include billiards, table-tennis, 100km of bushwalking trails to wander and native animals to observe. Bird watching is becoming more popular, with 100 different species recorded on the property.
Artist camps are held at Castle Mountain each year, in March or April. The artists, mostly from Sydney, spend the week painting and socialising.