Kristy and Neil gave a weary country home a second chance as a dream property surrounded by fifty acres of pristine bushland.
The following is an English translation of Ali Heath's article for German lifestyle magazine 'Living at Home'. We kindly thank Ali for her permission to share this version with you.
For city dwellers, with careers in marketing and management consultancy, a move to the country, was not something that Kristy and Neil Plumridge had originally envisaged. Yet with their children nearing the end of their school days, the time felt ripe for the couple to start planning the next phase of their married life. ‘When our children were younger we holidayed a lot on remote cattle ranches in the Northern Territories. Over the years, Neil became increasingly drawn to the idea of starting a cattle farm of our own, and loved the idea of exploring a new mindful pursuit, that could eventually become a business for us both. I passed the idea off as a pipe dream, but three years ago we began to discuss it seriously and set a 90-minute search radius, from our home in central Melbourne,’ says Kristy.
In 2015 the family stopped off in Yarragon, West Gippsland and spotted a hill farm for sale. ‘We had always been mesmerised by the lush, steep ranges on our way through Yarragon to my mum’s home, in East Gippsland. Green Hills Farm, set high up on the ridge, instantly charmed us all: with 52 acres of undisturbed bushland, alive with kangaroos, wallabies, koala, kookaburra and all manner of indigenous birds, the pristine and private bushland was a magical find.’
The only downside was that the farm did not come with a property, and the land itself was in desperate need of attention. For the first two years efforts focused on clearing capeweed (poisonous for cattle), regenerating the land, re-fencing boundaries, securing water provision, creating a 60 tree fruit orchard and veggie market garden, and building chicken coops and tool sheds,’ says Kristy. With no home the family travelled back and forth to Melbourne until adjacent farmland became available, complete with a 1970s farmhouse. ‘Built into the ridge, the house is surrounded by breath-taking 180-degree views across to the Baw Baw ranges,’ says Kristy. ‘It gave us the opportunity to establish firm roots, whilst reinventing Green Hills Farm.’
The family set about transforming the property into a home: blending practicality with luxury. ‘We spent weekends camping out in sleeping bags, enjoying fire-cooked suppers, and building new family memories,’ says Kristy. ‘The children worked with us, pulling out rundown fixtures and fittings, helping us to fill every hole and weather-proof the house. The bones of the house were structurally sound, but it was in need of modernisation: we refurbished the floors, designed a new kitchen, bathrooms and laundry, and optimised the light - adding sliding doors and windows, to external walls on both sides of the kitchen.’ Whilst outside the veranda was re-levelled, a cosy firepit area built, and a stunning viewing platform, ‘Loggers Lookout’, was cut into the hillside and named in recognition of the lands past logging and sawmill history. Now the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset, take in the view, or relax after walking the historical logging tramway trails. ‘Surrounded by ancient Strzelecki gum trees, Mountain Ash and abundant ferns, the verdant landscape is alive with birds and wildlife. There is a deep and calming energy here,’ says Kristy.
Throughout whitewashed spaces are offset with natural wooden furniture and a beautiful mix of thoughtfully curated finds: family heirloom pieces, along with charity and antique shop finds: ‘I am a bowerbird at heart – and pieces have made their way back here, from all over the world. Although locally, ‘Utter Clutter’ and the ‘Yarragon Vintage Market’, remain firm local favourites,’ says Kristy.
Textures abound: natural linen bedding from Aura Linens, Adairs and Pottery Barn; mixed with cosy woollen throws from The Grampian Goods Co, and dried botanicals from local floral designer, Brightwood Blooms. Whilst collections of high street art are hung creatively with artworks, from covetable artists such as Kimmy Hogan.
In tandem with the transformation of The Ridge House, work started on the family’s new farmhouse at Green Hill Farm - now a thriving eco-friendly venture producing grass-fed cattle and organic garlic. ‘By 2020 the build was completed, our herd had grown from 25 to 700 Angus cows, and we moved out of The Ridge House into Green Hill Farm,’ says Kristy. This also marked the start of Kristy’s new business: turning The Ridge House into special boutique accommodation for guests.
Guest stays are an immersive home-from-home experience: think welcome breakfast baskets, with locally sourced sourdough from ‘Real Bread By George’, milk and butter from Gippsland Jersey, and fresh eggs and honey from Green Hill Farm. Kristy, a keen cook, even offers guests a pre-prepared farm cooked meal, on arrival: think slow cooked hot-pot, with home-grown tomato and basil sauce, and orchard nurtured apple and rhubarb crumble.
‘The farm has given us an opportunity to create a new path, and we are now working collaboratively with our partner farmer, Rob, and local artisanal suppliers. This supportive, mutually beneficial spirit is very enriching.’ Even the couple’s daughter, Lily, 18, has been drawn into the rural scene – having just completed her first year at Melbourne University, studying a BA degree in Agricultural Sciences. ‘We like to think we are creating a legacy, for Lily and our son, Riley, 16, to follow, if they choose. This move has restored our connection with nature, instilled a sense of calm and renewed purpose, and sparked a close connection with a new community. We feel very lucky to be the temporary custodians of something so special.’
One can’t help but feel that this journey has only just begun – two independently clever souls, who have moved out of their comfort zone, to create a life less ordinary.