Quilpie farmstay mobilises fresh drought perspective

Rutledge family strikes gold in drought with farmstay plan

Life & Style
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The Rutledge family's decision to offer a farmstay adjunct to Moble, their grazing property near Quilpie in Queensland's south west, has brought lots of positivity into their lives.

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Kylie Rutledge was selling the delights of the Moble Homestead farmstay at last year's Channel Country Ladies Day. Picture - Sally Cripps.

Kylie Rutledge was selling the delights of the Moble Homestead farmstay at last year's Channel Country Ladies Day. Picture - Sally Cripps.

The Rutledge family's decision to offer a farmstay adjunct to Moble, their grazing property near Quilpie in Queensland's south west, has brought lots of positivity into their lives.

Kylie Rutledge, pictured, said they had found people were interested in their lifestyle, and conversations had been healthy for them.

The Rutledges have been on the "uncomfortable side of dry" since 2012.

Brian Rutledge's family has been on the property since 1914 and so the family is not just familiar with drought but manages for it, but Mrs Rutledge said records showed that since 2002, they have lived through a rain deficit not seen before on the property.

"It's been challenging," she admitted, explaining one of the drivers for the new venture.

The other was one of their daughters, Meg returning from a couple of years in the UK with fresh eyes and fresh ideas.

"She pretty much looked around and thought there was a lot of infrastructure at home that wasn't being utilised that we have to look after," Mrs Rutledge explained, joking that that probably included a couple of parents.

"When she did her allocation of job tasks we suddenly found that we had new ones."

Despite being thrust into an unexpected direction to earn a living, Mrs Rutledge said it had all - from cleaning children's school pennants out of bedrooms and repurposing them, to seeing how people reacted to their lifestyle - been really exciting.

"It gave us something else to think about and talk about, and a new spring in our step to give something else a go - it's been fantastic."

The working sheep and cattle property is situated 64km south of Quilpie and offers catered rooms and huts in the homestead garden, as well as birdwatching, hiking, swimming in one of the creeks that Mary Durack wrote about in Kings in Grass Castles, plus scenic sundown experiences, a tennis court and campfire dinners.

Mrs Rutledge said their first season, in 2019, had been beyond any expectations they had, both in numbers visiting and the people they had shared their lifestyle with.

"It's been really easy to open our home up to them, much easier than I thought it would be," she said.

"Our conversations have been different to the conversations we would have had this year, had we not had this extra stimulation in our lives.

"Interesting people are interested, that's what we've found."

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While crediting Meg, who has a business degree and spent time with a friend who runs a B&B in the Spanish mountains behind Seville, with being the driver, Mrs Rutledge said Moble had always been a great gathering place for lots of people.

"We always have, especially through winter, an endless queue of people through, so we knew we could do that.

"We just got in behind Meg and said, anything you want to do, we'll run with it."

Guests are offered breakfast and dinner, because the property is too far away for anyone to go anywhere else for dinner, and what mouth-watering meals they are.

Mrs Rutledge said Meg had returned from Europe with fabulous cooking skills after working with a cordon bleu cook, and combined her knowledge with the homestead vegetable garden to focus on fresh seasonal home meals.

Put that with an intimate and knowledgeable glimpse of bush life and it's no wonder 70 or so paying guests flocked to the venue last year.

"People are genuinely interested in the way we live our lives, which has been a bit of a surprise in a way, because I think we live a particularly ordinary life," Mrs Rutledge said.

"It's lovely to take people out and explain your landscape to them, rather than just thinking they're driving through endless mulga trees or endless gibber, you see the change in them when they start to read the country and where they are.

"Also, to show them things we have probably always taken for granted, you don't always realise how interesting that might be to somebody else - that makes it interesting for us."

In return, the Rutledges get to hear about the lives of their visitors, and what they do.

"That's what I mean about different conversations. It's been really healthy for all of us."

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Mrs Rutledge stressed that the experience didn't include opportunities to participate in day-to-day grazing operations - "you're not going to feed a poddy lamb, or I'm not going to take you for a ride on a horse or anything like that," she said.

The initiative has been a perfect way of incorporating the talents of the next generation in the family business, something else the family is pleased to have achieved despite being in drought.

Plans for 2020 include corporate packages and international marketing.

Mrs Rutledge said it had given them more work to do but it wasn't tough like pulling a sheep out of a bogged dam.

"It's certainly kept cash flow going and I think it has potential to be a pretty substantial addition to our income at the moment," she said, "especially when we haven't been fully stocked at Moble since 2002.

"The stock are always what will come first but we can manage this around our timetable on Moble.

"I think it will become part and parcel of the rhythm of our year."

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