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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Goats, wine and humour: Hunter Valley farmer pens second book

His resume includes roles ranging from bus driver, negotiator, cookbook collector, and sperm donor to author and farmer, so what is next for Hunter Valley resident Todd Alexander?

In his latest book entitled ‘You’ve Got to be Kidding: A Shedload of Wine and a Farm Full of Goats’, the former city-slicker takes on the new role of animal rescuer, a role he says he is, like most previous jobs, willing, but drastically unprepared for. 

Alexander’s partner Jeff is likely to agree. Having said farewell to their corporate careers in inner-Sydney, the pair threw themselves headfirst into country life in 2012, buying a property in the Hunter Valley they nicknamed ‘Block Eight’.

“Two city idiots – one with a vision of becoming the Hunter’s version of Maggie Beer, the other with a desire to use his hands to build stuff”, Alexander says.

The 100-acre property, including 12,500 grapevines and 1,000 olive trees, soon tested their resilience.

“For the record you can fit almost 25 Sydney Opera Houses or 13 Federation Squares on it,” Alexander said of his new address.

But a property’s size is not its only challenge, the pair learned.

Debt, snakes, sick pets, bushfires, wet pants and drought were just a few of the obstacles they faced while they tried desperately to create a successful luxury accommodation business.

Their struggles also proved to be the catalyst needed to kick-start Alexander’s literary career.

Filled with laughs and comical reflections, his second book is an honest account of what life is like for a pair of gays raising six goats, two sheep and one diva pig.

“Typing was the hardest thing I ever did in the city,” Alexander said.

“I’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into the farm, quite literally.

“In fact I can tell you what times are best to go to Maitland, Cessnock and Singleton hospitals in an emergency. I’ve been to all of them.”

And whether their hard work pays off remains to be seen.

“It’s the dilemma of moving to the country isn’t it,” Alexander says.

“You have so much sky but you rarely have the time to sit down and appreciate it.

“Maybe one day. Who knows?”

The tree change has been inspired by “curtains, cookbooks, cardiac arrest, and cushions”, Alexander says, which are all ingredients within the 290-page book that will have you in fits of giggles.

In the footsteps of his first successful book ‘Thirty thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig called Helga‘, Alexander continues the hilarious struggle to survive and thrive, which is no easy feat for a character whose children say is more like Kel Knight from TV series Kath & Kim with his ever-changing ideas for sausages. 

“The whole point of writing the book was to give people a laugh,” he said.

“You can laugh at me. It’s been a crazy time and we all need a few giggles.” So what next? “vegan cheese-maker”, Alexander said.

“We bought a sour-dough bread maker during COVID, we called her Sheena Yeaston. I don’t think I made any bread or I’m pretty sure if I did [then] we had to throw most of it away, and poor Sheena has been banished. But I have this new cookbook….”

Whatever the challenge, Alexander says he’s happy to take it on.

“I still think I’m so lucky,” he said. “I wouldn’t live in the city again or be a part of the corporate world – not in a million years.

“I firmly believe humans are meant to be working on the land, not trapped in grey office towers.

“It’s hard work but it’s all worth it…so far.”

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