AS the weather warms, Gordon and Cheryl Moody are drawn onto their impressive timber deck, where they can take in the fruits of their labour over a meal or cuppa.
The couple moved from Redhead to Wingham in 2019 and have been kept busy in retirement planting a sloping, two-acre plot on the edge of town with food gardens.
They have also renovated the property's brick and Colorbond "1970s project home", and landscaped its surrounds. Once cold and colourless, the house is now comfortable and eclectic.
Cheryl and Gordon started the renovation grunt work on weekends while they were still working, bunking down in the empty house in sleeping bags and cooking on their camp stove.
However, they know what to leave to the professionals.
"We did all the demolition, patching and painting, but anything that you could see, and was important, we got trades to do," Gordon explains.
It is a priority of the couple to source products and skills locally. The crew from Distinctive Building Co, of Taree, have become "like family".
The crew's biggest job has been the timber deck, which hugs the length of the house and provides access to the various herb, fruit and vegetable gardens. The deck took six weeks to build, with Cheryl and Gordon staining every board.
As well as the gardens, the deck overlooks a raised pond that contains native fish and aquatic plants. Gordon is also building a fire pit, seating and landscaped paths in this zone close to the house.
Inside, the Moodys opened up the home's kitchen, dining and living areas, flipping the floor plan to take advantage of natural light and the view beyond the deck. Not fans of the vaulted ceiling's beams, they opted for lining boards to cover new insulation.
Vinyl planks, laid throughout the house, were chosen with spaniels Saffy and Daisy in mind. The dogs also have about an acre of fenced yard in which to roam.
Taree's Concept Design Kitchens and Joinery built the hub of the home. The red stools at the island bench match the living area's leather lounge. Artwork and mementos are displayed in this space. Pieces include a pair of oars affixed to a wall, found in a second-hand shop in Sydney's Newport; striking fibre art by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, bought in Alice Springs; and opium pipes from Laos.
The home's sleeping quarters have also been reconfigured. Four bedrooms have become two and a study, with the master now including a walk-in wardrobe, bigger en suite and deck access.
A new concrete driveway and double garage are adjacent to the house. For the front garden, Cheryl collected rocks of various shapes and sizes from around the property to build a dry creek bed, featuring native ornamental plants. Other infrastructure improvements include tanks that hold a combined 55,000 litres of water and a five-kilowatt solar system.
The top orchard features citrus and stone fruit, while a second orchard tends towards tropical species, including the less common sapote and jaboticaba. Trellises support raspberries, blackberries, grapes, kiwifruit and passionfruit.
The creek flats contain a 30-metre strawberry bed and large vegetable gardens. An area dedicated to vines, including potatoes, pumpkins, watermelons and rockmelons, is under development.
Intent on restoring life to the soil, the couple have five home-made compost bins and two worm farms, one made from an old wheelie bin.
The food gardens have been very productive. Cheryl proudly points to last season's nine-kilogram blackberry bounty but admits there is still work to be done to produce the perfect avocado.
Cheryl can often be found on the scrubby banks of the winding creek at the bottom of the property, where she is fighting invasive privet.
"I am about a third of the way through [removing the privet] but it is a constant battle to give the native vegetation a start," she says.
"I dig up little gum trees and melaleucas that pop up near the house, put them in down the back, talk to them and tell them to grow."
To see more of the Moodys' property and projects, visit their Instagram page, @halcyonfields_wingham.
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