AUGUST 14 2019 - 1:34PM
A former Yass Valley Information Centre employee has set up her own store in Binalong to promote local products and tourism.
Cathy Kerslake opened the doors to The Old Produce Store Binalong on July 25.
She believes in tourism without borders and will support producers and artisans within a two-hour radius of the village, from winemakers in Murrumbateman to artists in Crookwell and beekeepers in Young.
At 25 Fitzroy Street, Binalong, shoppers will currently find 3D wooden kangaroos, echidnas and wombats by the Gundaroo Puzzler; merino wool beanies by Samantha Longmore from Binalong; honey and beeswax by Queen of Hearts Honey Co. in Yass; and olive oil from Cootamundra.
There are also belts, tea towels, ceramics, prints, jewelry and paintings, all made locally.
Ms Kerslake and her partner Nadja Zoffmann love to cook and have even gone as far as to make a range of products that showcase Binalong's heritage.
The Binalong Bushranger Blend of products include relishes, pickles, billy tea, liquorice bullets and mandles (man candles), among others.
The store is also home to two of local artist Roger Buckman's iconic sheep, the Binalong mural and a chalk painted wall to feature local experiences on, such as the 'top five things to do in Binalong'.
"People want to discover new areas and we're hoping that our store will be similar to a permanent Saturday market," she said.
Ms Kerslake said she will always be on the look out for new products.
How it came to be
This farm house may look like a dilapidated old dump to most, but I’ve been in love with it for over 50 years.
Born in the city, not long after I could walk mum took me to her home town of Tumut. Tumut had been a happy word I’d heard many times around the Sunday lunch table when we visited mum’s sisters, but I had no idea where it was, what it was. All I knew was mum's grandparents drove by bullocks to live there a long time ago, strong young relatives and friends were lost in world war 1 and that the depression coupled with the death of her husband meant my young Nan had to move Mum and her three sisters all under 10 up to Newtown to live and find work.
Luckily we were travelling by train which commenced near the all too familiar grey city smells of the Clyde refinery mixed with the oddly sweet baking smells of the adjoining Arnotts biscuit factory.
The trip involved a few trains over many hours before we arrived in a country sounding place called Cootamundra to board ‘the old rattler’ to Tumut. The September morning was crisp but the air was strangely very different to what we’d left behind. We were picked up by Mum’s cousin in her an old zephyr ute and headed out to Aunty Fanny’s farm.
We drove down poplar lined lanes, over rickety wooden bridges and into the Tumut Plains where the green paddocks ran up to the foot of the bushy snowy mountains.
The ute stopped outside the largest gate I’d ever seen, with a rattle and gig it was unhooked swung open and closed again after we entered. My heart skipped a few beats, before me was Aunty Fanny’s farm house.
Mum’s Aunty Fanny and Aunty Jane greeted us with big warm hugs and much love in their aprons that I never ever saw them out of, ever!
The large solid wooden farm house had fabulous verandahs, inviting creaking wooden fly screen doors, squeaky beds, big rooms all warmed by crackling wood smelling fires. Yet the heart of the home and most comforting room was the loving kitchen with its wood stove cooker that would later provide the best roasted lamb and vegetables dinners I’ve ever had in my life. Without comparison!
Outside the back door was the ginormous oak tree popping thousands of oak galls and to the right of that a just as ginormous wooden barn stacked to the rafters with climbable bales - a child’s adventure wonderland. Nearby was Aunty Fanny’s milking cow - excitement plus! But again it was all those inaugural new smells we didn’t have in the city - fresh hay and cow dung! Fantastic!
The biggest discovery was further afield trudging through Aunty Fanny’s back paddocks to find the sparkling crystal clear waters of the Tumut river that came down from the snowy’s. We’d later fish for trout and this river would become poor old Uncle Sid’s nemesis as no matter the expert fisherman that he was, the illusive Tumut trout where cleverer.
After days of exploring and discovering Aunty Fanny’s farm, at night, after a soak in the old bathtub on the verandah I’d sit by the cracklings fire and doze off to sleep while listening to Mum and the Aunty’s catching up on all things Tumut and stories of the folk up the snowy.
Much later I realised that visit I not only fell in love with Aunty Fanny’s farm house, I fell in love with all things country. The smells that I can still remember from jumping off the train to the comforting warmth of crackling fires and wood cooker roasts to fresh hay in the barn with the hint of spring in the clean mountain air. Warm memories of shelling (and pinching) peas in the kitchen and my first cooking lesson (my other passion).
Of course the key factor was Aunty Jane and Aunty Fanny’s love. They were wonderfully kind spirited, calm, generous, clever and selfless women - fabulous country ambassadors. But I was still hook line and sinkered with all things country!
I’m not alone with the special love spell this property wove, all my cousins and their children feel exactly the same.
Tumut would remain a topic of much discussion throughout my life and in later years I’d roll my eyes when Mum, in her nineties, would start reminiscing about her relatives and repeating stories - although I did always find the one about the man who planted cows tails odd......
The last of the ‘Tumut originals’, Mum died two years ago at 95. All the girls lived into their nineties. I miss those stories and wish I’d listened more.
Last week I laid Mum’s plaque next to her beloved sisters in Tumut Cemetery and across from her mother. Down a few rows are Aunty Jane and Aunty Fanny and many more relatives and people that were in those stories.
I then drove down through the corridors of poplars, over the rickety wooden bridges and into the Tumut Plains where the still green paddocks ran up to the foot of the bushy snowy mountains.
I pulled up at a farm gate.
We don’t know what happened to the farm, Aunty Fanny’s son sold it and whoever bought it obviously didn’t feel the love nor know Aunty Fanny and Aunty Jane. Each one of us wishes one of us had bought it. But....
I’m now lucky enough to live in Binalong most of the week. We passed through here on the way to Tumut over 50 years ago. Mum said she once knew someone from Binalong and later when I met a friend at work from Binalong she said they would be very nice as only good salt of the earth people came from Binalong.
Mum was right!
Not dissimilar to Tumut, I’ve found that Binalong weaves an encapsulated special spell also. It’s surrounded by magnificent scenic grazing lands that helped create our rich nation. But it’s the people, generations of families and new comers, most with a proud sense of community that make its so special. And unless you witness that, it’s just a point on a map or a dilapidated farm house with its true history undiscovered.
Similar to the Tumut Plains, here too the smells, crisp clean country air, animals, night skies and truly wondrous landscapes do cast a spell on you. Like Aunty Fanny’s farm house, the love, comforting warmth, experiences and stories that I fell in love with actually had a lot to do with Aunty Jane and Aunty Fanny and my wondrous induction to country. Here too it is all about the people.
Five years ago after a lifetime of trying to flee Sydney for country, a small hole appeared in the rat wheel and I quickly escaped through it!
Not only is living in country a long held dream, but so too is the Old Produce Store. It’s also a legacy to Mum, my Aunties and Uncles, who believed in Australia, went through the depression, fought in the wars, lost children, worked hard in retail to create loving homes filled with loving food from cooking every new ‘international’ recipe in the 60’s womens weekly magazines to incredible home made biscuits, exploding ginger beers, bountiful butter cakes and the best jams, pickles and chutneys.
I’m passionate about doing my bit in sharing the love of country and promoting the wonders of our talented regional producers and creators in nearby Cootamundra, Tumut, Wagga, Batlow, Yass, Boorowa, Gundagai, Bookham, Young, Cowra, Jugiong, Murrumbateman, Gunning and Gundaroo to name a few. I don’t believe in council or tourism authority borders, the strange and confusing segmental names that most visitors don’t understand - ‘Hilltops’, ‘Upper Lachlan’, ‘Snowy Monaro’, let alone where the borders are??? we should all be collaborating!
But I digress.
If you’re in the city and you or your children haven’t experienced country - please get in the car and explore! It may influence a lifetime. But don’t wince at an old dilapidated farmhouse, as it may have many stories to tell.