Outside the village of Bredbo in New South Wales Barbara and Richard Hill together with their two truffle dogs spend the winter months surrounded by truffles.
One way or another for most of my life I have been involved with dogs which are an. were a big part of my life and I enjoy training them. If a fortune teller told me that my dogs and I would be entertaining large numbers of tourists from all over the globe I would not have believed them.
It all started in 1996 when my husband and I purchased the property now known as Macenmist Black Truffles and Wines. We had just moved from Sydney and knew very little about rural living but we had decided that we wanted to give farming a go. We bought a rural block that had a few gum trees, lots of weeds and plenty of rocks. In 1997 we purchased a house due for demolition and transported it in two halves from Canberra.
The rural life was now just beginning. One major problem was that both my husband and I had full time jobs in Canberra and for the next 14 years we commuted daily. This left us with the weekends and holidays to improve the property. Richard wanted to make wines so we erected a vineyard planted grapevines and were very pleased with our efforts. However grapevines require watering and the drought was upon us, we needed the water for livestock and ourselves so our early venture into wines saw the loss of nearly 80% of the plants. Where we live we get some very severe frosts and grapes do not like frosts either.
In 2008 after two years of research we decided to plant inoculated truffle trees. Then just under 3 years with the help of a truffle dog handler we harvested our first truffle. We needed our own truffle dogs so my love of dogs led me into buying and training truffle dogs of which I have two. Without these dogs I would not be able to harvest the black gold known as the Perigord Black Truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) nor would we be able to entertain the numerous guests that now visit the farm.
Since 2008 more and more trees are producing. In 2012 I retired or so I thought. My new life was really just beginning I am now a licensee of wines, and truffle dog handler just to mention a few of my traits. During the weekend my dogs entertain tourists from all over the world. Then on weekdays my dogs and I, on request travel all over New South Wales looking for truffle. The frosts may not help the grapes but truffles really like them and had we known what we do today we would not have planted grapes.