Todd Alexander is back with another book about adventures on his property in Hunter Valley wine country, which he shares with partner Jeff and a bunch of animals.
The new book, titled You've Got To Be Kidding: a shedload of wine & a farm full of goats, begins with Todd and Jeff saying they've had enough of the farming life.
"I wanted to capture what living on the land was really like, particularly in light of the recent surge in city people who are eyeing a move to the country," Todd said.
"Dreaming of a life in the country, are you? Well, be careful what you wish for. Some might see it as a cautionary tale, others as a good chance to laugh at two 'citiots' who have no idea what they're doing."
The book seeks to remind people that "amid all this doom and gloom, we still have things to laugh about".
Plus, he likes to stay sane and "making jokes at my partner's expense seems to do the trick".
From the opening pages, he makes sure readers get lots of laughs. Amid the laughter, though, is the cold hard reality of country life.
Todd and Jeff have lived at the Block Eight property in Belford for more than eight years. Todd had been a high-flying corporate executive with eBay in Sydney.
"I've never worked harder in my life. In the city, it was typing PowerPoint presentations. In the country it's literally blood, sweat, tears and a fair few tantrums (well, if you're me)," he said.
"Mother Nature also has a cruel sense of humour and she plays these little games with you, throwing hurdle after hurdle in your way. I'm not the most graceful of characters, but I jump them as best I can.
"At the end of the day, despite all of these challenges, there is a sense of calm, achievement and contentment living in the country that you can never replicate in the city."
Despite the struggles of country life, Todd said their tree change was "hands down the best decision we ever made".
"Sure, we made some pretty stupid rookie mistakes and must have looked like great galoots some of the time, but absolutely no regrets. We're still here, we're still making it work and we still take the time to laugh - even if it is at each other," he said.
Todd quipped that he usually puts Jeff in "all the dangerous situations on the property because I've got to stay alive to tell the story if something goes wrong".
"So Jeff handles all the lethal chemicals dressed in his white Oompa Loompa HazMat suit. It was Jeff I sent into battle with the Godzilla of goannas attacking our rescue ducks, the Von Quacks.
"He won with nothing more than a broom handle. But I then reward him by letting him add to his obsessive collection of decorative cushions.
"The homewares stores in Rutherford roll out the red carpet from the ute to their front door, which is understandable because they wouldn't see designer gays around there all too often."
The book delightfully displays how Todd's love of animals tends to make him over-sensitive to their needs.
"I thought a kangaroo was drowning in one of our dams, so I raced to the shed to don a pair of ultra-tight khaki waders intending to dive in and save him like David Hasselhoff minus the tight red speedos, tan and muscles," he said.
"I swear I could hear Chariots of Fire playing on speakers all around me, but just as I was about to dive into the water - I have a very strong manly stroke too it must be noted - I saw he was gone. He was now on the shore of the dam licking himself off - he'd just been taking a morning dip."
Todd admits he's not fond of checking the property's tanks for water.
"When we first moved here we assumed we were on the mains, not reliant on the rains. When we ran out, I sent Jeff down to the street to turn the mains back on."
He wondered whether the local kids had "played a prank on the gays".
"The tanks are high and I need to climb up a shaky ladder to check their levels. I'm so bad at it, Sports Bet currently have it at 3-2 odds that I'll break my neck. But somehow I've managed never to run out of water again."
Helga and the Goats
Todd's previous book, titled Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Called Helga, was also set at Block Eight.
It documented life with three goats, chickens, ducks and Helga the pig.
We asked Todd what will happen to the animals when he and Jeff leave the property.
"Pigs and goats live for up to 30 years so whatever we do, they'll always be with us.
"In fact, their comfort often takes precedence over ours. Jeff built them a three-bedroom rustic cottage with water views. Wherever we go next, I have a feeling they'll be expecting an upgrade.
"I reckon the day we bring home each rescue animal they must think 'ahhh, now this is living'."
Todd and Jeff never intended to stay at Block Eight forever.
"So we still have no idea what's next for us. We love the Hunter and would like to live here for the foreseeable future, but would we farm 12,000 grapevines and 1000 olive trees again? Not on your life."
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