Farmers and bus-lifers Chloe Wilder and Alex Scott spoke with me about creating a tiny, wonderous space for their family, and growing everything they need on their sustainable farm.
We are a family of bus dwelling hippy punk farmers. There’s me, Chloe, the busy handed, empathetic, hungry Capri-quarian mama. Alex, the loyal, caring, dedicated cook/papa. Five-year old Iggy, the clever, funny, biggest small guy, and three-month-old Herbie, the talkative, hungry, smallest big guy. We are consistently busy, creative and trying our best to ethically steward the land we have found ourselves resting on.
We’ve been living in our converted bus for three months, but we’ve owned it for three years. We got it so we could have more freedom in our lives – so we could pick up and leave whenever we wanted. Maybe head around Australia. Three months ago Alex’s parents decided to head to the Kimberley, so they asked if we wanted to take over the farm. That’s how we ended up here.
The Magic Bus
Our magic bus is a Hino RK60, and in its previous life it was a school bus in Rockingham. Me and Iggy did all of the renovations mostly, and Alex helped out on the bench tops and roof. We got about 85% of the stuff for the bus off the side of the road. I wanted a safe and non-toxic environment for my family, and up-cycling and re-purposing materials is super important tome.
We went to our local Mitre 10 heaps, and there was this lovely guy that worked in the timber yard who was really excited about us building the bus. Every time I was there I’d ask if there might be some broken stuff in the skip bin we could have or get a discount on. He was so excited about giving us ideas on what we could the use the stuff for.
There was actually heaps of people like that. I didn’t want to buy anything new for the bus, so I went to the furniture store and asked the guys there if I could have their slabs of Styrofoam from packaging. The whole bus is lined with Styrofoam that would have otherwise been thrown out. We bought very little for it.
Our Tiny Environment
We learnt so much during the build about how much poisonous shit comes out of building supplies. Everything that’s plywood I’ve had to paint over with eco paint. Even paint itself, wow, it’s really bad.
I’ve worked with paint for so many years in my art and never thought about it, but now I’m like, ‘oh my god, I’m never going to touch a normal paint again.’ That was my main concern during the build, that nothing was going to be off-gassing into our tiny environment.
We spend most of our time out in nature so having a small amount of space feels nice and comforting to come back to at the end of the day.
The hardest part about both farming and bus life is the weather, but the most glorious part is also the weather. I’m sure a lot of farmers and bus-lifers will agree with this. We’ve got a little cow Ebony, who’s also pregnant right now. It’s difficult at the moment to milk her, trying to fit underneath her big belly with my big belly. Ebony is like, ‘girl, I know.’
As well as making cute as heck babies, we also farm grass-fed beef and make wine, while growing our food forest. We make our wine the way that we would drink it – with minimal sulphates. First and foremost, everything we create we’d expect to be able to eat ourselves, and if we can’t do that we don’t want to make it. If you wouldn’t feed it your family, then why would you produce it?
We’re trying to build as much biodiversity as we possibly can into the farm, so we’re planting lots of different types of trees. We bought a milking cow, chickens and we’re getting dwarf sheep to mow through the vineyard (so they can’t reach the grapes).
There’ll be different phases of fertilisation, and different animals that will go through and do different things at different times. Cows will take the majority of the feed, then the sheep will come through and get what the cows can’t get. Then chickens or ducks or both will come through to take all the bugs. Everything works together and every animal has a special job.
Many of our plans are in their infancy, but with Alex’s life-long inter-generational farming knowledge and my ‘can-do’ naivety and positive attitude, we’ve been able to establish many things within our short time here.Even while creating a second child. Our hope for the future is to be 100% self-sustainable and create high quality, natural, single farmed and locally foraged products.