Famous author Jackie French reveals one of Australia’s most unique country homes
Jackie French is one of Australia’s most beloved and accomplished authors, and it’s easy to see how her particular slice of bushland, perched atop a gorge in the idyllic Araluen Valley, inspires the creativity that saturates her days. The source of much of her inspiration, French’s home is a road map of the passions, curiosities and experiences that have shaped the writer’s life.
A magical first encounter
French’s journey to this slice of paradise began on a “grey, misty day” when she stumbled upon a valley with a rainbow that “ended in the very spot I’m speaking to you from right now.” As she recounts, “I don’t need to be hit around the head with a cricket bat to realise that this is obviously the place where I belong. And it turns out, this is where I belong. My life, my writing – everything comes from here.”
A garden that looks after itself
French’s garden, home to more than 100 different types of fruits, vegetables and herbs supplies the avid cook’s constant rotation of delicious homemade fare. A wilderness garden, it is created to plant things in the right place, and they will grow there by themselves with very little intervention. French adds, “if you plant the right understorey there will be predators that will control the pests, and if you plant it all properly, there won’t really be room for weeds to grow.”
A personal ethos of self-sufficiency
French’s personal ethos of self-sufficiency is inextricably tied to her surroundings. For 15 years, she lived below the poverty line. Her life was dependent on what she could grow and forage from the bush. French explains, “I used old books for instruction on how to make everything from perfumes to soap and nail polish to the mortar for the bricks. I used a very old technique for stonework, because I can’t even drive a nail straight, but I can build a stone wall using this method.”
A haunting image and a story to remember
French’s encounters with wombats have played an integral role in her life, inspiring some of her acclaimed books. While it might seem like a harmless and peaceful association, her connection to wombats took an eerie turn when she recalls a story that haunted her for years. French explains, “I’ve had this image of the last of those giant wombats that used to live in the Araluen Valley to die here. I’ve imagined this animal, stranded in the valley, slowly dehydrating so that all that was left was just the skin and the bones.”
However, it wasn’t just her imagination that conjured up this haunting and vivid image as she encountered a terrifying experience alone in the bush. While walking back home through the bush one night, she started hearing footsteps in the bush behind her. “I’m very familiar with wombat noises, and this sounded like a very, very large one. There was a scream behind me, and I just ran,” she recalls. The next day, she learned that a mass murderer had escaped from a nearby prison and was feared at large in the area.
- Jackie French has published over 125 books in her lifetime.
- She has won numerous prestigious awards for her books, including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award four times.
- French is also an advocate for wilderness conservation and an honorary wombat.
Jackie French’s idyllic home offers visitors a glimpse into a life that’s deeply intertwined with nature. Her personal philosophy and approach to living self-sufficiently offers a unique perspective on the human relationship with the environment and the benefits of being in sync with nature.
Jackie French’s home is a testament to the power of nature and the human spirit’s ability to thrive in its midst. It offers a unique insight into a life lived in sync with the environment, where self-sufficiency, creativity and a love for nature all combine to create a blissful existence.