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Skills Bring Freedom: My Wellness Retreat on a Storybook Farm

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

When I came and stayed at Gardenfarm a few years ago, it was my dream to fill the farm with people I enjoyed, and have them live and taste this magnificence every day.

This post is a show-and-tell of a one-week experience that we created on Gardenfarm, in South Gippsland. Even if you live in a city, as I do now, there are things from this week you can start having right this minute, without the downside of being a hard-working farmer. I'm now testing the theory that if we start refusing disharmony, and get ourselves strong and brave to do unfamiliar things, we can turn wherever we are into a wellness retreat for ourselves and the people around us.

Good Food, Good Love

Our chefs Bill and Dianne made sure we blissed out at least 3 times a day, with home-cooked, locally-grown food. It was like going to three different gourmet restaurants in one night, every night. The butterscotch figs with flaky-crisp baklava were one of my favourite desserts. I loved the tangy Moroccan fish, caught by Bill's mate the night before at Port Albert. There was always a jug of Bob's blackberry juice, this being a Permaculture farm. Even blackberries have virtues to be savoured.

We had breakfast in the cosy farmhouse and dined by the lake in the long evenings. As we ate, our view was of forest and farm, wending up the hills. We could hear the quack and moo of creatures living happy lives, looking after us as we look after them.


We all had our own luxury tent with all the trimmings, provided by the wonderful Karina, of Prom tent hire.

What a pro, her work is impeccable, and she thinks of everything. Then she parties with us, big happy smile. Working with people you enjoy and admire is living the dream

Forest immersion

The legendary Anna Feely was our insightful, intrepid guide. She took us to deep secret places in the bush, and in our spirits.

Some of us walked the natural paths barefoot. This 'Earthing' activity gives us a surprising experience of mindfulness and connection to its enlivening, calming effects on our nervous system. We were a team as we crossed rivers, climbed hills, and marvelled at it all. Nature can heal us, just by being in its presence, and this is palpable.

​Guided Yoga & Meditation

We awoke to the playful voice of our yoga guide Anny, stretching us gently, making us more capacious. Each evening she calmed us back down, as we traversed new universes with a yoga Nidra relaxation story. Yoga is creative if you have Anny on your side.

Massage is what humans do for each other.

Massage is one of the easiest, low-cost ways to make our friends and family feel listened to and cared for. All you need is a body, hands, and a bit of mindfulness. Yet we go for weeks without looking after each other in that way. Silly us. Gardenfarm had bodywork professionals on hand, for massage, reflexology, and more. I'd see guests and staff wandering back from treatments looking like they had seen angels. I did see some spontaneous gifts of garden massage afterwards, as the message started sinking in: this is what humans do.

Sacred Solitude

Blissing out alone with nature might be the highest-value thing to do, in a place as beautiful as this. My Permaculture Designer friend Marie was at the retreat before it started, helping us with set up, and chilling out in all the right ways.

Friday Night Country Dance party

Gardenfarm's friend and beekeeper David got the cooking fire going in his legendary way. The wine made warm new friendships even cosier. The band were off-the-charts talented and spirited, we couldn't resist the dance floor. The highlight of the night for me was seeing Dianne and Bill our chefs swirling each other around, their dancing as fluent and beautiful as their cooking. It felt like their victory lap, after all that work they put in to make us happy. It all worked out.

If you have a community, Bob will look after you.

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