is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.


A little vignette from last week in the valley.

There I was on Thursday night, in a top that only juuust covered my bottom, dancing around our kitchen as I chopped up – and sang to – the veggies: “Ooooh, ooh ooh, I wanna cook you UP!” (to the tune of Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up).

With that, I turn around to see Al, one of our “neighbours” who also works at the farm, standing at our wide open back door just five metres away. I say neighbour in inverted commas because he actually lives a ten-minute drive away – but in the Hunter Valley that qualifies.

Anyway, it was pretty embarrassing. Especially when I realized that Patch and Shelly, our “neighbours” on the other side, were also standing right behind him.

But that’s the thing I’m learning about country life. People just rock up at your house unannounced. The old school pop in is still a thing, just like it was everywhere about 30 years ago. And in our little house at the end of the tractor sheds at Krinklewood, where we have glass doors covering the entire back wall and no front gate to speak of, there’s absolutely no way of pretending you’re not home if they do.

So it didn’t matter that I was in the middle of cooking dinner, or that I didn’t have any pants on. There were friends at the door and in these parts, “we weren’t expecting you” or “this isn’t a good time, I’m busy rapping to my veggies,” just don’t fly. I needed to put dinner and my control freak tendencies on the backburner and pour everyone a glass of champagne.

Over the next hour, I chatted to Shelly about how to make soap using olive oil (she makes beautiful soaps, body scrubs, balms and more through her natural Hunter Valley skincare line BARE). She gave me tips on how to improve the kombucha I’d rather unsuccessfully been brewing that week (more on that later), and she invited me to the next animal slaughter at her place.

Not the usual kind of invitation I’m used to, mind you. But Shelly and her boyfriend Patch are real deal farm folk, who know how to live sustainably off the land 100 percent, slaughtering their own meat, building their own abodes, making their own products, harvesting all their own herbs and veggies… An inspiration.

Their surprise visit left us feeling energized and filled up. We didn’t feel imposed upon, in fact we kind of felt as though we’d been given an unexpected gift – as twee as that might sound.

It’s something I’d imagine might wear pretty thin if it was happening every second night, but every once in a while when we’re here in the country all on our lonesome? We’ve decided we like the spontaneity and the warmth of it. And we’ve vowed that one day soon we’ll try the pop in ourselves.

Watch this space.