Andrew & Amanda, Billinudgel

Words by Elisha Kennedy
Images by Lauren Phillips

Amanda Callan and Andrew Morris live with their two curly haired boys in Billinudgel in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. The pair put in years of work to convert an old timber church to their home, adding in rooms and planting the grounds with fruitful orchards and abundant vegetable plots. From home they hand make small-batch herbal soaps (including our IN BED cedar wood soaps) and cook the most delicious sauces from the garden. We chatted to Amanda on a warm day in full sun, beneath the passionfruit vine.

Can you tell us about the history of your home?

The church was built in the 1930s and was functioning as a Catholic Church up until about 2007, so it has seen many Sunday services, weddings and funerals.

The Catholic Church needed some funds to purchase a unit in Mullumbimby for a local nun, so they decided to sell and we were lucky enough to buy the church and land. When we moved in it was a hall with no walls, but after living in the one room for a few years we decided to divide the space up, put in a mezzanine level and add an ensuite and some rooms for the boys. We also built a cabin and a little shed to make soap in, and added the garden beds and area for the chooks. There wasn’t one plant or tree on the property so we had a housewarming and tree raising party and planted a whole bunch of Australian natives and fruit trees, so now we have some shady spots, and the occasional piece of fruit if we can eat it before the wildlife does.

There are many things that you grow, make and produce – can you tell us a bit about the ins and outs of Church Farm?

We grow fresh produce for the farmers markets that are held weekly here in our area, we also make herbal soaps and two sauces (the billinudgel smoked hot sauce and the billinudgel brown sauce) that we sell locally and wholesale around the country. With the produce we grow at our farm we also make curry pastes, pickles and turmeric products.

What are five things in your home that bring you joy?

Our beautiful In Bed sheets, the kitchen, the record player, baths in the afternoon and the sound of the boys laughing while they make cubbies with the pillows on the couch.

Do you have any morning rituals?

Numerous cups of tea, eggs from the chooks for breakfast and if we’re really lucky a morning surf or a yoga class.

Any bedtime rituals?

Andrew reads Banjo a million books while I pace around the house trying to put Percy to sleep, and then when we finally succeed we will have some chill time and do some Vedic meditation, which we are new to but loving and reaping all of the benefits. Thanks to Jasson our wonderful friend and teacher.

You work with a variety of essential oils and home-grown herbs, what do you love to use personally?

I love calendula, it’s in our unscented calendula soap bar which isn’t usually people’s first favourite as it doesn’t smell like anything, but the benefits to the skin are amazing and it’s especially great for the little ones. also Lemon Myrtle, there is no fresher scent than the smell of the crushed leaves.

What do you wish you had more of?

Time to explore.

What do you wish you had less of?

Fruit flies and/or cabbage moths.

What are you hoping for this year?

We are taking over a local warehouse space and turning it into a factory, and Andrew is away from home quite a bit with music, so we hope everything runs smoothly. And after quite a full on 2016 with the loss of a very special loved one, we are hoping for lots of health and happiness this year.

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