3 November, 2020
Graziers open gates of historic property for guests
This farming family has turned their passion for food and entertaining into a profitable side income.
A PROUD western Queensland pastoral family have found a unique way to diversify their 120,000-acre sheep property, with the introduction of a homestay.
The Rutledge family have been in the Quilpie district since 1914 and have lived on Moble for five generations.
They are proud wool producers, keen environmentalists and passionate about their country and its sustainability.
During the drought in 2018 the family property was 75 per cent destocked.
“At the time we had the capacity to start a new project and diversify the business,” Meg Rutledge said.
“The homestay did help support the farm during the dry in 2018. (The homestay) business tripled its income in 2019, and it should have tripled again this year, but has been hindered due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s something that doesn’t take away any resources from our business, isn’t reliant on the season or commodity prices and has really made me feel like I am making a contribution to the family business.”
Following a stint overseas, Meg moved back to the family property, near Quilpie, in 2017, to help her parents build an exclusion fence.
Once completed, Meg decided she wanted to stay and make her own contributions to the business.
Having worked in a bed and breakfast in Spain, Meg drew on her passion for wining and dining guests and saw enormous potential for a homestay on the family’s historic sheep property.
“When we were growing up, our place was always jam-packed full of friends and friends of friends,” Meg said.
“We’re very social people, so a homestay was just a natural fit for us.
“I could see it would be something quite simple to set up and I love food and entertaining.”
While Meg’s mum, Kylie, was keen to show off her beautiful gardens, Meg thought her dad, Brian, might have a different reaction.
“When we started talking about all the plans and how we would do it, like cooking and setting tables on the lawn, we joked Dad would be getting home from being out in the paddock and hiding on his iPad in the bathroom away from everyone,” she laughed.
“But he probably gets the most enjoyment out if it, out of all of us.
“He’s so proud of Moble and he has a captive audience he can tell all about it, Mum and I are often left rolling our eyes in the pantry.”
Meg said while COVID-19 had reduced numbers early in the year, it had opened up a unique opportunity to reach a market of travellers who would normally be overseas.
“We’ve had a heap of Queenslanders come to our little corner, which is not usually where people would go on an outback trip of Queensland - it is probably more common for them to do a big loop up to Longreach and Winton,” she said.
“There’s not many other homestays like ours, so it’s really nice if people want something different and to have a connection to the land on a one on one basis.”
Moble has the capacity to run 12,000 merino sheep and 400 Santa Gertrudis Shorthorn cross cattle but their numbers are currently only sitting at about 25 per cent.
“We’ve had a really good season this year and the country is looking beautiful, but we are looking forward to hopefully having a really wet summer,” Meg said.
There is a range of options for guests, including staying in the family home, Moble Homestead, as well as garden huts and a straw bale hut, plus the shearer’s quarters for bigger groups.
“This year we really changed our focus and realised people wanted to stay a little longer because they had a bigger budget and couldn’t go overseas,” she said.
“While we don’t take our guests to work with us on the property, there’s a range of activities, including fully guided walking trails with Mum - they can walk anywhere between seven to 25km a day.
“We also offer fully catered camping trips – we have built a really beautiful camping site with flushing loos and showers!
“If they camp, we do all the cooking with wine and food, there is a nice waterhole at the bottom of Moble, so the guests get that sense of isolation and disconnect, there’s no phone service.
“We also do photography workshops and dad runs ironwork skills. In 2021 we are planning another cookery masterclass, flower arranging with our amazing local florist as well as private tutorials for smaller groups.
“But people are also welcome to just stay at the homestead, we will do dinner and breakfast and they can go and explore the local tourist attractions.”
All of the meat and produce for Moble Homestead is sourced locally from stores in Quilpie.
“We always get comments on how good the sausages are or how fresh the produce is,” Meg said.
“I try to buy only Australian wines from smaller wineries, sourcing directly from the cellar door or via a wine dealer in Melbourne.
“All our other alcohol and drinks are purchased from the local pub. It’s incredibly important to us that our business supports the local community.”
For those working in the hot, dry and dusty heat of the Queensland outback, neck scarves are essential.
After seeing a particularly “rotten rag” around the neck of her niece, Katie, in 2017, Kylie decided to create something “a bit nicer” for the team to wear.
She now makes beautiful scarves out of Liberty of London fabric, with stunning floral patterns, that are 100 per cent cotton, meaning they are cool to wear.
“I started the Instagram page, Moble Liberty, and Mum also has an Etsy store,” Meg said.
“She’s moved into also making pillowcases and tea towels.”
Moble Liberty will also be featured in The Bush Christmas exhibition in Toowoomba this year.
“It’s quite a handy business. Mum sews a lot over summer when it is too hot to do anything else.”
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For more information about Moble Homestead visit their website www.moblehomestead.com.au.
Search Moble Liberty on Instagram or Facebook to see more of Kylie’s beautiful creations.