Robert Holden, quoting Freddie Frankl in the book ‘Shift Happens’ (Hodder & Stoughton) says that, “The meaning of life is made not found”, while Freddie’s internationally acclaimed uncle, Viktor Frankl (a psychiatrist) believed that “Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in life”.
Many of the ‘tree-changers’ who have found a new way of life in Balingup would probably relate to the concept that the meaning of life is not a search but a choice and their everyday living reflects the choices they’ve made.
We set off for historic Balingup on a warm, still day ripe with autumnal colours. A day to kick back and enjoy the fruits of country life, at the Small Farm Field Day which is held during April each year. I was looking forward to having a glimpse of how the other half lives and learning usefull stuff, because I’m useless when it comes to any kind of ‘growing one’s own’..
Balingup is a pretty town at any time of the year, surrounded by gentle hills, native and plantation forests, winding rivers, vineyards and fruit growing orchards. Some things, like the scarecrows are irresistably comic, and maybe reflect on a communal sense of humour.
Where is Balingup? Well, it’s situated about 240kms south of Perth in the heart of the Blackwood River Valley and has become known as a boutique sort of village, populated by many ‘tree-changers’ making a living from lifestyle businesses, as well as resident farmers whose collective memory goes back generations.
We visited Brian and Deb Vanallen, who last year sold up in Perth and bought Balingup Heights, an accommodation venue with hilltop cottages and a scenic, to-die for, view – “Anyone scared of heights” asked the driver as we wound our way up a dirt track at an angle which seemed like 45%, and I closed my eyes as he shifted with a crunch into first. I was immediately ashamed of my pathetic tremor of fear, after all these people had given up everything they’d once held as important to start a new life in a little stone cottage on top of a very scenic hill.
Food for Thought was the theme of this year’s Small Farm Field, celebrating the lifestyle opportunities available in a rural community. And there was plenty of food, the fresh, vitamin-full oraganic variety that you only have to look at to feel healthier.
There were over 300 trade and market stalls, agricultural and nursery supplies, animals on display, camels to ride and quirky arts and crafts. My warped sense of humour was particularly amused by the front door signs pictured below. How many times, after a morning spent doing housework have you longed to yell at someone with muddy shoes, “Wipe your bloody feet!” Well, now you don’t have to.
Entertainment was varied – from Deb ‘Spoons’ Perry who played the spoons better than any Cockney King (she was a runner-up on Australia’s Got Talent) to the Manjimup District Jazz Ensemble, above.
What Australian farm day would be complete without billy tea (pictured above) or a sheep shearing display, bush poetry recitations and giant pumpkins.
I caught up with talented local artists (from Bridgetown), Gabriel and Jacob Evans, busy at their stall, where they were selling their delightful cards, illustrated books and various art work.
If you’re passing through Balingup and have a couple of hours to spare you could visit the Old Cheese Factory and Craft Centre on the Nannup Tourist Drive, perhaps have a bite to eat at one of the gourmet cafes on the main street, or just meander and enjoy the country ambience of this quaint town, where life does seem irresistably ‘good’.