Back to nature

Carter Were has traded the city for a farm in Byron Bay’s hinterland, and on that farm she has some chickens.

In 2017 — much to the disappointment of her loyal fans — Carter Were, maker of some of the best toast and toppings in town, closed her shop in Auckland’s Grey Lynn. She’d been selling her wares and handmade gifts alongside florist Sophie Wolanski of Muck Floral and they’d simply outgrown the space. Not wanting to take on anything bigger, Carter decided to go travelling, and wound up in Byron Bay.

TOP & ABOVE Carter spends many happy hours in the kitchen of her and Jack’s country cottage, recipe testing for her upcoming cookbook and whipping up down-to-earth yet enviable meals using their homegrown produce and eggs collected from their chooks.

So, Carter, where are you living these days? My partner Jack [Crowther, a musician in the band Babe Rainbow] and I live on a 60-acre block owned by his parents in a town called Federal, in the hills a 25-minute drive from Byron Bay. We have 85 chooks, five cows, a goanna, an owl and a few snakes hanging around at the moment.

What’s the main thing you did to make this house your home? I brought my things over from New Zealand, and every time I visit I bring back a little bit more — mainly kitchen stuff.

ABOVE As well as their vege patch, the pair are cultivating a market garden in which Carter says they plan to grow “everything we can. Jack’s into permaculture, and everything we grow here is organic.” To get the most out of each season’s harvest and avoid waste, as well as eating fresh, they also preserve and ferment.

What do you guys get up to on a regular day on the farm? Practically too much to say! But the chickens are fed each morning, the cows are checked, the gardens are tended and there’s always something going wrong, so that gets fixed… I mostly stay inside and cook, though, and look after our four-month-old daughter, Patience.

Has the pace of life changed much since she came into the picture? Definitely. What used to take me an hour now takes me all day. I’m getting used to the slower pace and not being able to do so much yet having to do so much more. Washing, cleaning, cooking, feeding — my days and weeks go by so fast.

ABOVE The house is filled with an amazing array of handmade and pre-loved finds that come together to form an inimitable treasure trove.

What everyday rituals do you enjoy as a family? We go to the beach when the sun’s out and there are good waves for Jack to go surfing, preferably early in the morning or in the late arvo when there’s less traffic and the sun isn’t so intense. We also like going for walks on our property together to check out the cows, the fruit trees and the garden.

Before you left Auckland, you had a great little store selling organic sprouted bread, preserves and whatnot — are you still baking? I’ve just started baking again since having Patience, but only for myself and some special orders. I’d like to have a market stall serving what I used to at my shop, but getting into the markets here is proving to be tricky. Jack and I were selling larder boxes before Patience was born [through their website], so we might start them up again, and I’d also like to do postpartum meal deliveries for mamas in the area.

TOP In the study is an impressive record collection befitting the home of a musician. ABOVE Baby Patience sleeps beside the couple’s bed in a vintage bassinet.

What was included in the larder boxes? They changed each time depending
on what was seasonally available, but bread, butter, pickles, labneh, lemon curd, fruit, veges, avos and cookies.

What seasonal produce are you looking forward to harvesting in the next few months? Guavas, pecans, dragon fruit and star fruit. My favourite thing to cook in autumn is star fruit cake.

ABOVE The property is accessed via a long driveway lined with tall trees that cast beautiful shadows.

What other projects do you have on the go? My twin sister Harry and I are busy writing a cookbook. It’ll be so good to have something printed that I’ve worked on with her because we never get to work together!

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Ophelia Mikkelson

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