Jeremy Valentine + Grant Francis - Collectors

swiss_farm_outer_towners

WHERE DO YOU CALL HOME?  We definitely call our country house home now. We have lived in the city for many years and still do stay above our Chapel Street store when we are in town but it really is like camping at work. All of our homely pursuits and projects are well and truly at the farm now and we love it. It's like our own little world.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?  When asked this in an official way the answer is that we are retailers but really we are treasure hunters and collectors. We spend most of our time finding exciting clothes accessories and things for the home in Australia as well as in Korea and Hong Kong. We have three stores in Melbourne called Shag which is home to literally thousands of treasures that we encounter!

swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BECOME AN OUTER TOWNER ( OR WERE YOU BORN AND BRED)?  I was born in England and most of my childhood memories are of the English countryside and Grant is from Hobart which has strong connections with the landscape around it. We have worked very hard in the noisiest and busiest parts of the city for years and years and started to feel that there was more to life than being lost in concrete and buildings. We were travelling back and forth between our Sydney store (which is now closed) and Seoul and Hong Kong and never really set foot on dirt or grass for years and we were really terrible at taking breaks or holidays unless it was to some other city where we could find more things for the stores. Then we became obsessed with the TV show Escape to the Country, so daggy I know but it really sparked something inside the both of us and I think it grew from there. Hilarious to think a TV show could have been so instrumental in our lifestyle change!

swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners

WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING HERE?  The space, the history of the house and the property and of course the fact that we can have all the garden we want and the animals.I think there is definitely a special energy to this little valley, whether I have just manifested that in my own head I'm not sure but there is definitely a kind of spiritual atmosphere here and the countryside is rugged and elegant all in one, I think it's still resonating the history of the gold diggings and it's Swiss Italian heritage and then of course it's poignant aboriginal importance. There's many layers here and I'm all about layers.

TOOL OF CHOICE?  Very fantastic question that you ask here! I would have to say the maddock is my most essential tool. I have more than one gardening project on the go at any one time.

WHERE SHOULD I EXPLORE?  There are fantastic places to explore in this little landscape.... Our house is on the very end of the lava flow from Mount Franklin and the hills around are lovely and intricate with deep gullies and creeks and there is a mix of gracious gums and pasture and then scrappy tortured bush on old gold diggings.  It's a real contrast. My favourite is the old stone ruins and houses around here and up to the Yandoit Hills.

swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners

WHAT CAN YOU DO HERE THAT YOU CAN'T DO IN THE BIG CITY?  Breath! Having space around you is very therapeutic and I'm always in touch with the elements and the weather. My head is calmer here. You find a different version of who you are here.

SLEEP IN OR GET UP EARLY?  Always early. I'm dreadfully good at waking up at crazy hours of the morning.

WHERE IS YOUR HAPPY PLACE? There is a hill right next to the house which is actually an old gold hummock made up of all the unwanted rocks from the mining in the 1850s. It is covered with century old peppercorn trees and there is a little path up to the top where there are a couple of hammocks strung up between two trees. It's not very high but from up there you catch the breeze in summer and it's very shady. It's our secret little spot.

swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners

WHERE CAN I FIND THE BEST COFFEE?  This part of the world has coffee as good as in town. We are exactly half way between Daylesford and Castlemaine, two great towns with some great cafés. We usually have coffee at Saffs in Castlemaine. I love sitting outside under the verandah. I haven't been yet but I want to go to Buffalo Girls which has just opened in Hepburn Springs apparently the coffee there is terrific.

I'M HUNGRY, WHAT SHOULD I EAT?  There are many but the most impressive to me are the dumplings in Castlemaine on Barker Street.  A family from Hong Kong who wanted their kids to go to the Steiner School, (reputedly one of the best in the world) moved to Castlemaine and  opened a dumpling restaurant.. The dumplings are as good as the best dumplings I have eaten in Hong Kong and China and they use locally sourced ingredients. Highly recommended. 

swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners

IT'S THE WEEKEND, WHAT SHOULD I DO? There are many markets in this part of the country on the weekends which I sadly miss because I am usually in Melbourne. The Wesley Hill markets are particularly good for food and plants, which is all you need for a perfect weekend of cooking and gardening. The Mill Markets in Daylesford are great for finding treasure and perfect for a bit of weekend retail therapy.

swiss_farm_outer_towners
swiss_farm_outer_towners

WHERE CAN I FIND YOU?  You can always find us at Shag.  We are always in the stores when we are in town but the rest of the time you might spy us under a giant aloe or amidst a flock of sheep in a paddock.