When I first walked into Nan’s simple, yet stylish Oatlands home in Tasmania’s southern Midlands, she was unpacking groceries delivered from an organic produce supplier in Hobart. As she spoke of her home, milk formula made from scratch was gently simmering on her stove top for her poddy lamb. This woman had me at hello.
Jumping into her electric ATV, she drove me to meet her poddy, her seven dogs and we headed up the hillsides into Nan’s world, ‘White Gum Wool’.
Nan has always longed for a life on the land, she has an affinity with the animals surrounding her. Pursuing a career as an oceanographer for the majority of her working life, it was in her later 40’s that she packed up her life in the States and moved to Tasmania to work for the CSIRO. A few years later, she left the oceans behind and bought her first farm in Tasmania.
‘Living on the land is always something I wanted to do, since before I can remember. I just didn’t have the confidence that I could support myself doing it.’’
Her flock today are unmuelsed, aren’t tail docked and graze freely in mostly native pastures. They are run together in family groups and lambs are never weaned from their mothers. Nan ensures that ewes are able to teach their lambs the ways of their world, passing down their nutritional wisdom and foraging practices throughout the generations.
‘I’m trying to ensure no sheep are sold—that they all live out their natural lifetimes on the property, in the company of their friends and relations.’ Nan can count herself as one of their friends too. She is their shepherdess.
Watching Nan walk through her flock is absolutely mesmerizing. She walks towards her flock with this sense of calm surrounding her. The sheep trust her as if she is one of their own. There is no friction or unsteadiness between human and animal here. There is a connection, a mutual respect. A stillness.
’I learned from them how to be still and accepting. I became more sheep-like in order to be able to enter into their experience and use that affinity to make better decisions. It also makes me a nicer sheep to be around.’
The White Gum Wool flock live a low stress lifestyle and the benefits of it are shown in their wool production every year. The saxon beauties are growing incredibly soft, 17 micron wool and it is used exclusively in her line of yarns.
Ethically grown, soft wool with incredible handling qualities is just what the yarn community is demanding right now and Nan is delivering. Each ball of yarn has it’s own story and was grown with respect, compassion and care. (Nan kindly gifted a ball of her yarn to my mum back in Qld and she boasts of it being the best wool she has ever worked with)
A visit to this merino haven can find you easily catching yourself feeling like White Gum Wool was home, or at least adding it to one of your ‘happy places’.
Visit Nan at her website – www.whitegumwool.com.au
(On a personal note: While watching Nan shepherding she invited me to join her. As I walked through the mob a sense of calm fell over me. I sat with her flock and it was easy to just let go and be present. It was as if they had accepted me as one of their own. One of the most profound moments of my tour, in fact, my life. For that, I must thank Nan.)