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Spring is on the menu in Castlemaine

Shake off winter and celebrate the abundance of the season at some of Castlemaine’s best (and newest) eateries.

Theatre Royal Castlemaine

The longest operating theatre on the mainland, the Theatre Royal recently opened their new restaurant, Bistro Lola, to complement their existing Espresso Bar.

Head chef Sarah Curwen-Walker describes Spring food as fresh and colourful. “Everything is lighter, brighter and more fragrant.”

A Spring menu must is the pan fried gnocchi with fresh spring vegetables like broad beans, peas, asparagus and the spectacular romanesco cauliflower and served with fresh horseradish, mint, mascarpone and garnished with beautiful pink and purple pea blossoms.

Freshness is key at this time of year so Sarah suggests making the most of our wonderful farmers markets and buying ingredients straight from the source.

Visit this Spring for pizza and wine specials, new films and exciting live music. Follow them on Instagram @bistrolola @theatreroyalcastlemaine on Facebook @theatreroyalcastlemaine or call 03 5472 1196.

Bress Wine, Cider & Produce

Crafting fine wines, ciders and produce using biodynamic practices, Bress welcome Spring each year with the re-opening of the Bress Kitchen.

Founder and Head Wine and Cider Maker, Adam Marks, describes Spring food as fresh and life affirming.

Broad beans are a favourite ingredient. Delicious raw, lightly blanched or cooked in the pod and a perfect match for another Spring staple, the Bress Kitchen overnight wood fire roasted 2 tooth lamb shoulder, which is served on a bed of broad beans sautéed in the lamb jus.

“I love lamb and with all the fresh grass about Spring lamb, and particularly 2-tooth lamb, has great flavour,” says Adam.

Join Adam for lunch on the last weekend of each month from October, starting with their fabulous spit roasted pork.

Follow them on Instagram @bresswinecider on Facebook @bresswinecider or call 03 5474 2262.

Fig Cafe

Each day the enticing display cabinet at Fig is filled with mouth watering, freshly baked cakes and pastries, platters laden with salads of seasonal vegetables and grains, and savoury delights.

Fresh is everything and the influences are broad, reflective of modern eating. Julia Bandelli, who co-owns the business with her mother Victoria Falconer, says as the season changes their menu moves away from roasted dishes to lighter foods like salads and raw foods.

The edame tartine, a charred sourdough base topped with vibrant green Japanese peas and drizzled with fresh olive oil screams Spring and raw or lightly pickled vegetable like zucchini and cauliflower deliver great flavour and texture.

“With the start of Spring comes the promise of delicious things like tomatoes, basil and stone fruit,” says Julia. “That’s the great thing about seasonal eating.”

Follow them on Instagram @figcastlemaine on Facebook @figcastlemaine or call 03 5472 5311.

 

Togs Place & Mulberrys Delicatessen

Known for great coffee and homemade food Togs Place is a family-friendly café with a roof top deck that’s one of the best spots in town on a sunny Spring morning.

The menu changes daily and in Spring it’s out with casseroles and in with dishes like pasta prima vera, light Spring minestrone soup and zingy Vietnamese chicken salad.

Next door is Mulberrys Delicatessen, stocking Australian and European cheeses, meats, house made products like chutneys and biscuits and eclectic gifts.

Manager Cas Davey’s pick for Spring is local soft goat cheese from small producers like Holy Goat in Sutton Grange.

“The goats have just kidded so the milk is abundant, sweet and light and this makes for a really delicious cheese,” she says. “Try pairing it with our smoked Harris Gravlax and New Zealand Oat Crackers for your next Spring party.”

Follow them on Instagram @mulberrysdeli on Facebook @togsplacecafe call Togs Place on 5470 5490 or Mulberrys on 5472 1652.

Cadillac Shack

Spring has brought a new American-inspired family-friendly eatery to Castlemaine. Cadillac Shack is the vision of Castlemaine locals, Graeme and Gilda Ayerst, who have transformed the Mostyn Street premises into a 100-seat diner.

Featuring burgers, ribs, fries, salads, sundaes, shakes and a range of freak-shakes (extreme milk shakes) as well as a more extensive international menu. The range of burgers on the menu was voted the best in Melbourne by The Age Good Food Guide 2014/15.

“One of our business partners runs a very successful restaurant in outer Melbourne and their award-winning burger range has been included on our menu,” says Graeme.

We can’t wait to try.

Follow them on Instagram @cadillac_shack on Facebook @cadillacshack or call 03 5416 1486.

 

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Working together to find the right property

The vendor at 7 Haydn Court Castlemaine was looking to downsize when she enquired about a property listed with Waller Realty. The property didn’t turn out to be suitable, but she met Liz Bell who set about finding her one that was and helping her sell her own.

She describes Liz as very easy to work with. Liz always had lots of suggestions and would call the vendor often with properties to look at. Whether it was her list of requirements for a new home or the specifics of listing her own, she says Liz listened and the two developed a very easy relationship.

It didn’t take long before a property in Montgomery Street in Castlemaine came up that fit the bill so the vendor made an offer and put her home on the market. The sale of both properties has since been finalised and the vendor is extremely happy with the result.

If you would like to speak with Liz about your property contact our Castlemaine office on 03 5470 5811, call Liz on 0417 311 733, or email her at liz@wallerrealty.com.au

Innovative small farming model developed in Harcourt

Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards meets with members of the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance at the Finlay family farm in Harcourt.

Small-scale organic farming in the region received a boost last month with news that the Victorian Government would back development of a unique, collaborative farming model.

Hugh and Katie Finlay of Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens have a plan. They want to establish an alliance of small organic farmers on their Harcourt property, all running different, but complementary, enterprises.

Katie describes it as the “perfect collision of a range of problems”.

“Small-scale organic farming is risky,” she says. “With all the risk and the expenses usually carried by a single family.”

“We’ve often wondered whether there’s a better way we could farm that would share the risks, but also make better use of the resources. There are lots of dedicated, passionate people out there who want to run their own farming business, but the barriers, especially buying land, are prohibitive.”

The Finlays also have a succession issue to solve. They want to keep their orchard in production but take a much less active role. Their children don’t want to come home and run the farm but they don’t want to sell.

The Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance would give small organic farmers the opportunity to lease acreage on the Finlay’s Harcourt property. The Finlays hope that will include someone to lease their orchard so they can step back, oversee the alliance and give more of their energy to their online teaching business, Grow Great Fruit.

Hugh and Katie already have a successful lease arrangement in place with a market garden (where the idea of the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance first began), and have now been joined by a micro-dairy and vermouth producer as they begin work on a Business Development Plan with backing from a $10,000 Regional Development Victoria grant.

They’ll use the funding and this development phase to lay the groundwork and establish the structure of the alliance. Investigating co-marketing opportunities, new products and how they can share resources to keep the cost of farming as low as possible.

“While there are lots of people share farming we don’t know of any arrangements with that extra layer of partnership agreement over the top,” says Katie.

“I’m a big believer in people owning their own business. I think you get much better buy in and people take it more seriously.”

Depending on the outcome of the development phase they hope to opt in to more funding for implementation and gain more partners.

“The environment is really changing,” says Katie. “The shift to alliances, collaborations and cooperatives is happening everywhere and both the State and Federal Governments have an appetite for funding these projects,” she says.

The business development plan will be completed by the end of the year and we look forward to seeing where it takes them.

 

Retro revival

Injecting older homes with a whole lot of style Part 3

Updating a home from the 70s, 80s or 90s might not sound as romantic as stripping back a little post-war weatherboard charmer, but there are lots of advantages, not the least of which is cost.

These homes offer excellent value for money. They’re less likely to need the big jobs like re-wiring or re-stumping and with their more modern open floor plans, simple, cosmetic upgrades can achieve big results.

For this story we’re lucky enough to be able to show you more of the transformation of a 1970s Castlemaine home purchased from Waller Realty in 2015. The house was in pretty bad shape when the owners bought it but as you can see, what they’ve been able to achieve is pretty spectacular.

Ask the experts

In the first two parts of this story we looked at using landscaping to modernise and soften exteriors, opening up the floor plan and using simple materials like paint to bring in more light and things to consider when it comes to the electrics. This time, Lynne Mewett, Interior Designer and Principal at Creative Ambience shares her ideas.

“Homes from these eras don’t generally have any task lighting,” says Lynne. “This is a real focus in modern homes so it’s a great place to start, especially in the kitchen.”

Ambient or general lighting provides overall illumination while task lighting, as the name suggests, helps you perform specific tasks like cooking and food preparation, reading, working, etc.

“Adding recessed, pendant or under cabinet lighting over work surfaces can provide an instant lift,” says Lynne

Task lighting has been used to great effect in the Castlemaine home. Work surfaces are suddenly brighter and more inviting to use, even with the addition of extra overhead cupboards.

Speaking of cupboards, Lynne suggests keeping a kitchen intact, if the carcass is good, and updating by painting or replacing door and drawer fronts, changing splashbacks from tile to glass and adding new bench tops.

“Updating a dark, laminate bench top to a light stone will not only provide a beautiful work surface it will also bring in more light, especially if you add glass splash back and task lighting,” she says.

The owners at Castlemaine have gone for a combination of approaches, replacing door fronts, adding some new cabinetry, changing tiles and giving everything a fresh coat of paint. What a difference!

Changing window furnishings is another trick Lynne relies on to make a big difference without a big price tag.

“The tendency in these eras was to have drapes, which, while fabulous insulators, add volume and can make a room appear smaller,” she says. “These days most people prefer blinds or shutters.”

What’s needed depends on the room. You want as much light as possible in living areas, while for bedrooms and bathrooms privacy is the top priority. Thankfully, there are blinds to suit pretty much any specification.

Holland or Roller blinds are both space and cost effective. The images below show the difference replacing drapes with these blinds can make.

“The great thing about these houses is that most of them have good bones,” says Lynne. “They’re open plan, they have things like alfresco areas and ensuites and these are exactly what people want in a modern home today.”

We agree Lynne! So, don’t be daunted by first appearances. See beyond the dated fittings and daggy finishes and visualise these homes as they could be. With a little ingenuity and some hard work you might just uncover the home of your dreams.

Take a look at our current listings and see if you can find one for yourself.

Follow up with Part 1 and Part 2 of this story here.

Maldon Primary: balancing academics and wellbeing

Maldon Primary grade prep/one students working on some fun maths games in class. Image supplied by Maldon Primary School.

Deciding where to send your kids to school can be agonising, especially if you’re moving to a new town. In the Mount Alexander Shire we offer everything from state to Steiner education and from tiny one class schools to large contemporary colleges.

We thought we’d drop in and ask the schools to share what makes them unique. First up, Maldon Primary.

“Maldon Primary is a warm and friendly place to send your child,” says Principal, Jodie Mengler.

Jodie has been at Maldon for 19 years, five as principal, and says the school, which currently has enrolments of 94 students, is strong in both academics and student wellbeing.

In 2016 Maldon was named in the top five most improved primary schools in Australia based on data shared on the Federal Government’s, My Schools website.

“We’ve been on a huge improvement journey over the last three years implementing programs to ensure every child is able to reach their full potential and thrive,” she says.

The Kids as Catalyst Program, an innovative, child-led social change program for grades 4 – 6 children, is one she’s particularly proud of.

“The kids work like mini philanthropists, developing partnerships with community groups, working out what they need and implementing a project,” she says.

“Children often find it hard to step into the shoes of others,” Jodie adds. “With Catalyst they identify and solve real problems and learn how rewarding giving back can be.”

The school has recently worked with the Maldon Men’s Shed, Maldon Pre-School and the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). A group this year is working with Maldon Hospital to introduce animals for therapy.

Maldon Primary School main building

When you visit the school you can’t help but be wowed by the grounds. Whether it’s AFL, soccer, playing in sand, in the music garden, feeding the chooks or the fish, working in the vegie garden (where the children regularly harvest and cook meals to share), using the fitness equipment or just dragging branches to build cubbies, the opportunities for play are vast.

The school buildings reflect the heritage and history of the town (Australia’s first Notable Town) but look inside and you’ll discover thoroughly contemporary learning spaces thanks to over half a million dollars of building upgrades which have just been completed.

“It’s all about creating an environment where the children love coming to school and where parents know their children will be happy and safe,” says Jodie.

“The partnerships we have with parents and the wider community are so important to us. We want families to be part of the school community and know that we value their input into their child’s education.”

Like to know more? Visit Maldon Primary School, call 03 5475 1484 or email maldon.ps@edumail.vic.gov.au

 

 

Census 2016: our region is growing and the way we live is changing

The 2016 Census has been released, providing the latest data on Australia’s population – who we are, where we live, how we live and much, much more. So what does this snapshot of the nation reveal about those of us who live in the Mount Alexander Shire and how have we changed since the last census in 2011?

There are more of us

More people still live in our capital cities, which are growing twice as fast as the rest of the country, but regional areas are also experiencing rapid growth.

The number of people in the Mount Alexander Shire has grown by nearly 7 per cent since 2011, from 17,591 to 18,761.

That’s a similar rate to our neighbours in the popular Hepburn Shire, but outstrips the growth in places like the LaTrobe, Yarra Ranges and Colac Shires, all comparable distances from Melbourne, by several per cent.

Affordability is still high

Housing affordability is a hot topic across the country. High buyer demand and limited supply continues to drive prices upward and most people are feeling the pinch, particularly if they’re living in a capital city.

In 2016 people in our region spent an average of $1,300 a month on their mortgage.

That’s more than $400 less than the state average of $1,728 and significantly lower than the average monthly mortgage in popular Melbourne suburbs such as Northcote, Coburg, Prahran and Essendon, which range from $2,000 – $2,167.

 If you’re looking to buy property in one of the towns in our region such as Castlemaine or Maldon this is good news.

 The way we live is changing

While the majority of homes in the shire are still separate houses the 2016 Census shows an increase in other types of dwellings such as semi-detached homes and townhouses.

The number of semi-detached, terrace or townhouses in the shire has more than doubled in the last five years.

“The trend towards more concentrated, medium density living in towns like Castlemaine and Maldon reflects changes we are seeing all over the country,” says Waller Realty Agent, Tom Robertson.

“More people in our region are choosing to build and live in smaller homes for reasons of convenience, for cost and, in many cases, to reduce their environmental impact. We expect to see this shift in thinking continue to grow in the next few years.”

Additional details from the Census are due to be released in October 2017. This includes information on employment and income.

Maldon goes plastic bag free

It’s estimated one trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide. The Maldon community is taking a stand against waste, joining 30 other towns in the Loddon Mallee region to become a Plastic Bag Free Town.

Australians use over 10 million new plastic bags every day. Each bag can take up to 1,000 years to break down, meaning that every plastic bag ever produced is still in a landfill. Those that are blown away, dumped or littered end up in water systems and, ultimately, in the ocean where they are thought to be responsible for killing more than one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals every year.

The Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group (LMWRRG) and Maldon Inc have been working with stores throughout Maldon to help them become plastic bag free. The group says owners, managers and the general public have been hugely supportive throughout the transition process.

“We strongly encourage all Maldon residents to support the town traders and remember to take their reusable bags,” says Karen Fazzani, Executive Officer LMWRRG.

“Every effort in this regard helps protect the environment from damage plastic bags can cause especially when they take such a long time to break down.”

Stores that previously supplied plastic bags have been provided with a recycled paper alternative and re-usable calico bags will be available throughout the town. Boomerang Bags have also recently become available.

It’s hoped that as time goes on people will start to bring their own re-usable bags when they shop, removing the need for retailers to supply a bag altogether. To get everyone in the swing of things, throughout July people can enter the draw to win a hamper worth $250 every time they shop in Maldon with their re-usable bags.

“One of the actions in our Council Plan is to support Maldon and other communities to be plastic bag free, says Sharon Telford, Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire. “As a Maldon local, it’s fantastic for us to be the first plastic bag free town in Mount Alexander Shire.”

“Reusable bags are a simple and effective way that we can all reduce our impact on the environment. It’s small decisions that have a lasting impact and I’m very proud of our community for taking this step.”

The team at the Waller Realty office in Maldon are extremely supportive of the initiative and praised local traders for their commitment to protecting the environment.

“Becoming a Plastic Bag Free Town will make Maldon an even more appealing place to live and we congratulate everyone involved,” says Waller Realty’s Leah Panos.

From 70s relic to contemporary stunner

Injecting older homes with a whole lot of style Part 2

Do you dream of turning a rambling farmhouse into the quintessential country retreat or dragging a creaking Victorian into the present day with a sleek, modern makeover?

When we think of renovating it’s often these homes that come to mind. Highly sought after (with a price tag to match), with ageing wiring, stumps and dated layouts, costs for these fixer-uppers can skyrocket before anyone’s even started swinging a hammer.

So what about tackling a home from a less popular era like the 70s, 80s or 90s? Could there be one tucked just around the corner from that dreamy California Bungalow crying out to be updated?

While they might not have the initial street appeal these homes can really shine with a little love and offer excellent value for money.

Ask the experts

In Part 1 of this story we heard from Wayne Zantuck of Wayne Zantuck Design and Landscape Construction. Now, Dugald Campbell from Edifice Construction and Adrian Kowal from Kowelec share their ideas.

We’re also lucky enough to be able to show you the transformation of a 1970s Castlemaine home purchased from Waller Realty in 2015. From 70s relic to sleek, contemporary home.

“I think the best place to start with homes of these eras is by opening up the floor plan,” says Dugald. “This will bring in more light and create living spaces more in line with current trends.”

“One of the great thing about these homes is that the trusses usually extend to the external walls so removing internal walls isn’t an issue, ” he adds.

Dugald also suggests using skylights and solar tubes to bring in more light and one of the simplest renovation options of all – paint!

For our 70s transformation everything from the walls and lintels to door jambs has been given a coat of bright white and the change is striking.

Princess st Dining

Electrics can be a significant cost when renovating. Adrian says cabling in these homes is generally in good condition and won’t require re-wiring.

“We tend to find most fittings are compliant and safe and if switchboards do need to be upgraded it’s a pretty easy job,” he says.

Both Adrian and Dugald recommend checking how much power is at the property as mains may need to be upgraded if renovations include adding swimming pools or large air conditioning units.

Bathrooms are often a sticking point in houses of this era. Dated and dingy, gutting them is often seen as the only option. But with some simple changes like new tiles and taps, a bit of re-grouting and paint they can be brought back to life.

See the transformation above. New vanity, taps and toilet and suddenly this dated relic is looking right on trend.

When it comes to bathrooms no one likes to share. Homes of this era are more likely to have an ensuite than your ageing Edwardian and, while it might not be the one of your dreams, Dugald says this can be a real advantage.

“Cosmetic changes like replacing old style shower bases and screens with modern walk-in showers and updating tired tiles and vanities can all be done for a lot less than the cost of adding a new bathroom,” he says. “When it comes to managing a budget this can be a real advantage.”

Next time, local interior decorator, Lynne Mewett from Creative Ambience shares some ideas for simple upgrades in the kitchen and living areas.

Renovation images by @lynchmobmedia

Bought and sold in less than three weeks

The owners of this contemporary property in Penhallurick Street, Campbells Creek always planned to downsize and move closer to the centre of Castlemaine. What they weren’t expecting was for that to happen in less than three weeks!

When a property in Templeton Street, Castlemaine came on the market through Waller Realty they knew it ticked all the boxes, but with their home not even listed they weren’t in any position to buy.

Tom Robertson from Waller Realty encouraged them to put the house in Campbells Creek on the market immediately. Having just sold a similar property he had a list of prospective buyers looking for this style of home so he felt sure interest would be high.

He was right. After just one open for inspection they had an offer well above their expectations. They were also the successful purchasers of the property in Templeton Street. A wonderful result for everyone involved!

If you would like to speak with Tom about your property contact our Castlemaine office on 03 5470 5811, call Tom on 0408 596 871, or email him at tom@wallerrealty.com.au

 

Thinking of Selling in Winter

Regardless of the time of year you decide to sell, there are some absolute must-dos:

  • Thoroughly clean your property from top to bottom – inside and out
  • Trim overgrown gardens; remove weeds and dead growth and refresh garden beds with mulch
  • Address any off-putting maintenance issues, such as peeling paint, worn or marked carpets, cracked tiles, dirty grout and loose or rusted gutters (if you’re selling a knockdown or “renovator’s delight”, this step often isn’t necessary)
  • Banish any pet smells
  • Furnish the home in an attractive but not overly cluttered or personal way, to give potential buyers a perspective on room sizes and to present the home in its best light
  • Pay for professional photographs and good marketing
  • Choose an inspection time that will maximise daylight.
  • For chilly spaces, ensure you pre-heat the property to a comfortable temperature. This is the time to take advantage of that lovely open fire if you have one!
  • Consider baking to circulate a pleasant smell and to use the oven to warm up the place. This is the only time when baking is advised.

The only time when it’s a bad idea to sell in winter is if the garden is the only highlight of the property.

Perfectly Pitched

 

Brown Street Castlemaine

The owners of this property in Brown Street, who had not sold a property before, are very grateful that they chose to go with Waller Realty, a real estate agency which they perceive to have the capacity to provide comprehensive team support during the sale process.

From the outset they felt that the marketing was spot on and that the material was perfectly pitched. They were delighted that Tom Robertson not only understood their property but that he was able to tap into expansive networks and extend the marketing reach.

Tom Robertson

Tom Robertson

In this case the owners also felt that the extensive team support and back up at Wallers meant that Tom Robertson had the capacity to devote the time required to meet their individual needs. They felt that many real estate agents would not only have not been able to do this but would have taken the first offer. They were very  impressed that Tom followed up every lead, never missed any enquiries, had outstanding negotiating skills and achieved the best possible result for them.

Keep Fire Safe

wood-burning-fireplace1Use these safety tips for cleaning out your fireplace to reduce the risk of fires:

  • Have your chimney swept. You should be doing this each year before winter in order to get rid of soot and creosote buildup. Hire a certified chimney sweep to perform this job.
  • Have your chimney inspected. A chimney sweep can check for signs of deterioration or damage, such as loose bricks or cracks. If you use a chimney liner, the chimney sweep will also inspect it to make sure it’s still in good condition.
  • Install a chimney cap. This serves as a cover for your chimney, which prevents birds and other wildlife from getting in and building nests or getting into your home’s interior. A chimney cap also keeps rain from coming down your chimney. If you have one already, make sure it doesn’t show signs of damage.
  • Skip softer woods. Burn hardwoods that have been kept dry for about six months, such as oak. Softer woods, especially those that contain resin, create higher levels of creosote, which is a flammable substance.
  • Keep fires small. Stick to smaller fires, rather than piling on a bunch of logs. Bigger fires produce more smoke, which results in more creosote inside your chimney. The excess heat from these larger fires can also damage your chimney.

These safety tips for cleaning out your fireplace will help make your home more appealing to buyers and provide them with peace of mind.