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Ballan in Autumn is Festival Time

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This is the big week for our little Central Highlands town 78km north-west of Melbourne, when the power poles in the main street magically sprout loudspeakers and spring to life on Sunday. We hadn’t moved in this time last year so Sunday will be our first one … luckily filmmaker Patrick Bonello captured the action and posted it: looks wild!

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In the Garden in the Outback

Our lifelong friend Dallas Scott has gone into retail in the Outback town of Longreach, Queensland. and opened “The Garden Shed”, a spot for specialty botanical-theme gifts. Always the practical one, Dallas says she has stocked her shop with practical wares, “to be put to good use immediately … no dust & bug collecting!”

So practical that her shop provides free Wi-Fi for customers, lovely!

Dallas describes “The Garden Shed” (in Crane Street … every street in Longreach is named after a bird) as “a taste of South Melbourne in Longreach” and for once a sloganny-sounding promotion is rooted in truth … daughter Patience lives in South Melbourne and has added her tasteful stocking advice and big-city brands to the line-up. Let’s see: Helen Kaminski hats, Portmerion Botanical china, Mor Marshmallow products, French Hansi lemonade and mustards as well as what Dallas says are “the most expensive tea towels offered in Australia”.

As well as practical, Dallas is also generous: she says: “Every month a selected charity will be showcased in the Garden Shed to raise awareness and collect gold coin donations for the charity.”

Longreach is a day’s drive (1200km) north-west of Brisbane and site of the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the QANTAS Founders’ Museum. We’ve been to both and they’re outstanding.

Our deer friend: from North Pole to Aussie Outback

NorHide

Bizarre shop story: our good friend Sue Smith, founder and owner of Spinifex Collections gift shop in Longreach, Outback Queensland, tells me she answered the phone one day at work and discovered it was a Skype call from Norway.

“It was someone who’d been told that mine was the sort of shop that would stock reindeer hides!” Sue said.

“Well yes, I like all things unusual and especially if they’re natural 🙂

“The long and the short of it was that this person had married a Norwegian, was living in Norway and had visited a tannery there.

“She thought she should share some of the hides with her home country!

“She said they retailed between $300 and $400.

“I had them shipped to my door after paying for them sight unseen (plus duty and GST before Customs released them) but found I could still make some money at a RRP of $285!”

Sue admits she suffered a minor buyer’s remorse: “I thought I’d bought many more than I’d ever sell but decided I would sew excess into vests and jackets.

“However, at the rate they’ve sold in the short time since I’ve had them, I’m starting to think I’ll have to get more to keep up with demand! I hope things continue in this vein!”

On her website Sue describes them as: “All the way from Norway … beautifully tanned, thick and softly luxurious … perfect sofa throws, to snuggle up to on those chilly winter nights, to place in front of the fire or hang on the wall just to look at. The colours are varied from all white to nearly all brown, with splotches and splashes and the size is large calf.”

Sue sent us one to try out and she’s right …  beautifully tanned, thick and softly luxurious is a perfect description. We’ve got it on our bathroom floor and in our chilly Ballan mornings (sometimes freezing outside) it’s perfect on the toes. Thanks Sue!

Do you have a Bizarre Shop Story to share with us? cokleymedia@yahoo.com.au or just write a comment here …

Sleeping in the country

BEECHWORTH: we chose to stay two nights at the highly awarded 5-star Freeman on Ford B&B,  winner of the 2013 Travellers’ Choice Awards Top B&B in Australia awarded by the Trip Advisor website.

Owners Heidi and Jim made us feel welcome even before we arrived, with welcoming emails and by booking a table at the nearby Provenance restaurant in our name (review here).

These are attentive but discrete hosts, with advice on where to go during our stay without being effusive. The gallery pictures of our stay at the restored historic building tell the story, but really, this is probably the high point of our B&B experiences over the past hectic 12 months.

From the Ford Street entrance this appears to be a nice B&B … which it is. But from the rear, where a heated lap pool and paved gardens provide guests with room to relax, it seems like a resort where we hadn’t expected one, complete with meticulously trimmed topiary hedges.

Fit out in our room was extravagant and hit the 5-star mark squarely, with king-sized bed, high ceilings, roomy marble bathroom and French doors onto a balcony with table and chairs overlooking the pool.

In the rest of the building: the front parlour was home to a miniature version of the famous Chloe nude portrait which hangs in the Young & Jackson’s pub in Flinders Street, Melbourne; the breakfast room was wide and appealing at this most delicate time of day; a rear lounge room included a fireplace, coffee machine and a small library, also opening on to the pool and garden area.

Our breakfasts helped the days start happily … Filling and tasty, and not too many carbs.

Yes, try this one.

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