Where are you from? I’m Australian. I grew up on a quarter-acre block at Camden, a dairy farming area which is now on the edge of Sydney due to the sprawl. I went west as soon as I could. When you spend time in rural communities you quickly realise their richness – from the people you know at the swimming pool, to the butcher who puts your order on a tab. Before moving to Aotearoa, I lived in outback Australia – on the edge of the desert – for three years, on a 2.2 million-acre cattle station in the Channel Country.
Where do you live now? I live with my partner and kids on my partner’s family dairy and beef farm, near Waikawa Beach, in the Horowhenua. My partner is the fifth generation to farm here. We have two gorgeous little ones, Hartley, who is four, and Tully, who is two later this month. They make life very busy, and are a constant source of laughs.
What is your favourite meal? My favourite restaurant is in the most unexpected of places – a Japanese izakaya restaurant in a suburban street of Palmerston North. Yatai is run by the gorgeous Barbara and her husband Atsushi, who greets you warmly. The food is incredible – I don’t know where to start with my favourite dish. The squid okonomiyaki; the ika age; the mushroom kushiage; and of course, sashimi and sushi. I love cooking – when not with the pressure of whinging kids and needing to get something on the table in a rush on a weeknight. When I can potter in the kitchen, then I love making curry, or using fresh seafood.
What do you do for ‘me time’? I’m not very good at making time for it. It’s a bit hard with two little ones and working more than full time, and a partner that is a farmer. But if I could get to decide when I wake up on a weekend, and read the paper leisurely at the kitchen table or on the verandah on a nice day – over a cup of tea – then that’s what I’d do. Or watch a documentary or film of an evening … it happens once every few months.
How would your friends or family describe you? I asked my partner for three words and he said ‘very very messy’. I asked my younger brother and he said ‘driven, resourceful, independent and creative’.
What is your favourite section of Shepherdess, and what do you love about it? Side by Side. I love reading about the relationship between two people, how they met, and their takes on their story together. There’s a section in the Good Weekend magazine in the Sydney Morning Herald that inspired it: each week they talk with two people about how they met, what they do, their relationship. There’s a real richness in it, and I wanted to bring that to Shepherdess.
What makes you excited or proud to work for Shepherdess? I still can’t quite believe that I get to work on Shepherdess every day of the week! I feel so lucky I get to do such meaningful, purpose-driven mahi. Like any project or start-up, it’s taken a few years – and a lot of late nights – to go from concept stage to being able to give up the day job and spend all week working on it. When readers write in saying how much they love what we are doing, or when the pages of the next edition start beautifully coming together, words and images and design … that’s very fulfilling.
What is something readers would be surprised to know about you? I don’t eat meat or dairy, even though I live on a dairy and beef farm. I haven’t eaten meat since I was eleven; the dairy is much more recent (and for health reasons).
The Shepherdess team all work remotely. Tell us a bit about your ‘work from home’ set-up. My office is in the spare bedroom. My wooden desk is from my grandmother’s house, and above my computer there is a pastel painting of the Windorah to Birdsville road, in the Channel Country where I used to work, painted by incredible artist Lyn Barnes. There’s also piles of paper, newspaper cut-outs, and inspiration for the magazine in whatever shape and form it comes in. Sometimes I work from the couch, other times the kitchen table, and other times the front verandah. It really depends on what the weather’s doing and where I can find the sun, or how long I’ve been cooped up in the office.