A lifestyle built around balance


For Brett Cooper and his family, lifestyle means so much more than the latest trending interior design.

The father of two and his wife Nici moved from their urban permaculture property in Mayfield to a location on The Bucketts Way in the Karuah Valley near Stroud they call Limestone Permaculture. In Stroud, he and his family have worked relentlessly to create a life that is self-sufficient and sustainable.   

“My interests have changed over the years and have now evolved to encompass research and experimenting in all things permaculture, regenerative farming/gardening and new technology that assists urban, suburban and rural residents becoming more resilient and sustainable,” Cooper says.

Cooper doesn’t just have an interest in permaculture, he’s grown vegetables for the last 20 years and he has over 15 years’ experience practicing permaculture principles.

He’s also a certified carpentry and joinery tradesman. He commutes to Newcastle work as a building trades coordinator for Newcastle City Council, so he’s a busy bee.  

Also busy is his wife, who he describes as the “resident nutritionist, an amazing seasonal wholefood cook and a recipe conjurer specialising in catering for those of us with allergies and intolerances.”

“She is usually found in the farm kitchen getting her homesteading on with fermenting, pickling, preserving, bottling and baking,” Cooper says.

“She undertakes the farm’s animal well-being and husbandry, caring for and breeding a variety of ducks, chickens, quail and Boer goats.”

Their 10-year-old daughter Bronte also has a hand in all of it.

The house they live in was built in the 1940s. It’s a three-bedroom/one-bathroom weatherboard and iron roof cottage – the interior is original veneer plywood panelling with timber joint strips.

They have done minor refurbishments to the interior and undertaken a few modifications of the exterior. 

“It is a solid dwelling and sits nicely within the farm,” Cooper says. ”My favourite feature is the cosiness of the cottage, especially in winter with the fireplace heating the whole house and the back verandah looking onto the Myall State Forest ranges, which changes with every season!”

The property was originally part of a much larger farm and they have purchased only the original acre. The current cottage is the second dwelling, with the first being built in the late 1800s. They’ve been advised this property used to be a stop-over for horse and cart on the route to Gloucester. At some stage it provided the local area with milk.

Since then Cooper and his family have changed the land into a small acre permaculture farm set up for natural food production.

“We are exampling what is possible whilst holding down full-time jobs and leading modern day lives,” Cooper says. “We are proving that an average family from the burbs can make change for the betterment of themselves, their families and of course ol’ mother nature!”

Along with the farm animals, they have European bees for general purpose honey and native bees for medicinal honey. They have over 300 fruit and nut trees on their property including 21 varieties of apples, six varieties of pear and four varieties of hazelnuts. He’s able to grow subtropicals like white sapote and ice cream beans. He said growing bananas can be difficult in this region, but they’re able to grow Cavendish and Red Dacca.

They grow food for the markets and for themselves. Some crops are just for selling, like ginger, turmeric and all their seasonal annual vegetables. Nici does fermentations for catering a variety of events.

A big part of their life and their home is teaching others what is possible from what was originally a small suburban backyard in Mayfield. Their vision is to grow their homestead into a leading demonstrator of sustainability, permaculture and natural healthy living.

“Permaculture provides the scientific principles and ethics to set yourself up with designing a property for running a garden or a farm. Those principles work at any scale,” Cooper says. “Our family has been living with permaculture long enough now to know it is the natural solution for a healthy and happy life, sustainable environment, resilient farm and garden.”

Before his work in permaculture, Cooper was a builder in Newcastle specialising in heritage restorations.

“We would concentrate on having the best-looking house. We used to think the house had to be the masterpiece, but what we’ve realised now is that it’s the nature and the greenery that brings things on,” Cooper says.

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