A RETREAT SWEET AS HONEY

Linda Mira-Bateman’s passion for animals is evident as soon as you enter Eastern Hill Organic Farm and Moorakyle Retreat B&B. Visitors are met by a variety of animals, horses, donkeys, sheep and goats, with some cattle and a couple of lazy alpacas to round out the menagerie. Linda and her family have lived at their home near Kooroocheang, just a short drive from Daylesford, for almost twenty years. The property is a 60-acre organic farm, which is also home to Honey’s Pledge animal rescue project. The sprawling house is over 100 years old having been relocated from Learmonth. Placing it on the property was only the start. Linda and husband Brett slept in their 4 wheel drive when they began the renovations, soon graduating to a shed. However, before finishing the house they built a stylish cottage, where they lived until the house was fully habitable. The cottage now serves as a B&B they named Moorakyle Retreat.

Eastern Hill Organic Farm is run as an organic farm and animal rescue. Linda said “our primary focus is on animals who for one reason or another haven’t got a home, or their carer really finds themselves in circumstances where they can’t care for the animals.” Honey’s Pledge is part of a network of animal rescues, sanctuaries and vets, with a shared goal of helping people to provide lifetime care for their animals. Linda said, “As much as possible, we’ll work to try and keep an animal with their human. Sometimes people just don’t know how to keep an animal, or how to solve the problems that arise. This is when we can step in and suggest ways to overcome the issues. It may be about desexing, proper fencing, better shelters, or simply diet.” If animals do end up in her care, the best thing is for them to be rehomed in the local district. Linda only takes on new animals if they are without a home and remain unclaimed. They can only house what they can afford and with 150 animals already in their care, funding is an issue. Linda said, “I always say to people, God doesn’t shower me with gold coins from the sky.” Linda’s sheep are a variety of breeds – she calls them her liquorice allsorts. All the animals have names and they all come running when she calls them.

Taking on rescues is a huge commitment. Horses can live over 40 years, cattle around 30 years, sheep up to 15 years. Linda has a system where people can sponsor an animal in her care, whether with a one-off donation or a smaller amount each month. Every bit helps, and she’s very happy to discuss options with those who are interested. There is a submission form on the website honeyspledge.org for those who’d like to help out. Donors are sent a photo of their chosen animal and they can follow their progress. Linda said, “As far as the future goes, our focus really is mainly on the sheep, rehoming and just continuing to help people understand their animal needs.”

Mica Grange