Debbie Kruger
Little House on the Prairie
More cows
Happy House
School House
Soul Place
Nobody in Sydney could believe it when I moved to Byron Bay and declared my love for all things country. The farms, the paddocks, the cows... It all hit me in January 1993, when I spent the month staying on Diver Jeff's farm in Lismore, the rural hub of the Northern Rivers area on the far north coast of NSW. I was supposedly a city slicker, having lived my life between Sydney and London, and I never imagined that the pastures could be so much greener out on the land.

Now, granted, Lismore and the Byron hinterland are hardly what you would call the Outback. But there are a lot of cows and horses and flies and brown snakes and trucks and tractors — like Grey Fergies with six foot slashers. And I got a good education in all of these things during that month on Jeff's farm and in the years that followed.

Deb at Jeff's farm
In case you've come here to my Rural Byron page before checking out Coastal Byron, you'd better read the background on this big life change.
Deb with Jeff's cows At first I was somewhat stand-offish with Jeff's cows, but gradually I came to respect them and grow very fond of them. I even hung out with them at feeding time. As did young Morgan, at that stage Jeff's dog, who was always scavenging for scraps, as country dogs are wont to do.
I enjoyed exploring the region during those early days as Country Deb, and the mandatory visit to The Channon, a quaint village en route to Nimbim, included the legendary Channon Market. During my years in Byron I only went to the Channon Market when I had to take visitors out there; it was always such a schlep and the Byron and Bangalow markets were much better. Deb at The Channon Market
Deb at Bangalow Market Here I am in the winter of 1993 at the Bangalow Market, sampling the best satay on the east coast of Australia. Bangalow is only 10 minutes from Byron Bay, and when I first moved to the region it was a very quiet and inauspicious town. Now it's been "discovered" and real estate prices have rocketed and it's a busy thriving tourist town. The markets are still great, though. They are held on the 4th Sunday of every month.
You can find out about when the markets are on in the Byron area at the Northern Rivers Markets website. It's also worth finding out about Bangalow at the Bangalow website.
My first home in Byron was in the then quiet rural-residential Ewingsdale. McGettigan's Lane was still free of sub-divisions and the only guest house in the area was Taylor's. My "little house on the prairie" sat on an acre and although it tended to shake in strong winds, it was a cosy little place to spend my first 20 months in the Byron Shire. This was also the house where I started my PR business, Kruger PRofiles. House at Valley Court
Beef Week My developing bovine appreciation led to a stint out at Casino during Beef Week in 1993. My old school chum Debra came up to take photos of the animals and people there, and I joined her. For a while after I dreamed of being crowned Beef Week Queen, but I got over that. I enjoyed learning more about the different breeds of cows, though.
This little one was just too cute. I think Jeff and I had a name for it, but I can't recall what it was. Alas, this cutie and all its friends ended up where cattle usually end up... on the dinner table. You would think that this would be enough to turn me vegetarian. But a girl needs her iron. Please, no angry emails from animal protectionists. I really did love this little baby cow.

Jeff ended up getting out of the diving industry and bought himself a shiny red tipper truck, and then another. Although I haven't seen him for many years, I always think of him when I see cows or shiny red trucks.

Deb and bovine friend

I, meanwhile, got myself a serious education in vintage tractors, courtesy local tractor and engine collector and restorer, Jeff Wadworth.
Deb rides the tractor Local photographer Stuart Owen Fox discovered Jeff Wadsworth and decided he and his tractors would make an excellent photo story for Australian Country Style magazine. Stuart suggested I write the story to accompany his photos. So I trekked up to the Wadsworth homestead at Coorabell and as you can see I took a very hands-on approach to my assignment.
Apart from teaching me a thing or two about tractors, the story was the first of a series of features I did for the magazine, and apparently is among the most popular stories Australian Country Style has ever run. Most of the credit must lie with Stuart Owen Fox, a world class photograher, who of course took these two pictures of me. To see the full story, click here. Deb on another tractor
Deb with a James Guppy painting Lismore was a central hub for me during my first couple of years in Byron; apart from hanging at Jeff's farm, there was also my work. As The Northern Star's Arts reporter, I covered the music, theatre and visual art scene in the whole region. This is a photo of me with a painting by my favourite artist in the region, James Guppy. James was living in the Mullumbimby area in those days, then he moved to New York. He mainly painted botanicals in those days, but the dog definitely took my fancy.
When I started Kruger PRofiles in 1994, my first clients were all in Lismore, and my busiest gig was doing the publicity for NORPA, which — if you haven't already discovered in the PR Whiz section, you can read all about here.

To find out all about Lismore and its people (known as Lismorons), Lismore City Council has an extensive site.

Through a contract I had with a regional tourism organisation, I spent a few months visiting the different attractions and accommodations in the Byron, Lismore, Grafton and Tweed Shires, and experienced the natural beauty of the area. You can read stories I wrote about cool places to stay, the region's tasty produce, and enjoying the rainforests and national parks.

One of the places I had discovered early on and continually returned to with visitors was Minyon Falls. My old school friend Andrea came to visit from London and she was entranced and soothed by the lush oasis like everyone else who goes there.

A good website about the hinterland areas around Byron can be seen here.

Andrea at Minyon Falls
The plantation house My second home in Byron was again out at Ewingsdale, in what I have always referred to as my "happy house". It was nestled on a palm tree plantation and had a fantastic feel to it. Morgan and I were blissfully comfy there, but unfortunately the owners decided they wanted to be blissfully comfy there, too, so they turfed me out after 14 months so that they could move back in themselves.
So I moved around the corner to my third Ewingsdale abode, a house owned by some people I knew who had decided to move back to Melbourne. They were having trouble selling (would that they had waited until now!!) and so rented it to me until it sold. The house was moved to Ewingsdale from the village of Rosebank, where it had been the original school house. Parkway Drive house
By now it was mid-1996 and Ewingsdale was changing. Although it was only 8km from the town of Byron Bay, it had always had a peaceful, rural feel to it. But McGettigan's Lane was being subdivided, another guest house was built in the neighbourhood, more homes were being built. Yikes! I was in suburbia!
Deb's dream house It was time to take the plunge and buy my own piece of paradise. And I did it at a perfect time, snapping up my house on 2.5 acres in Tyagarah, a few kilometers further out from Ewingsdale, at what is now considered a bargain price, property values having skyrocketed in the ensuing six years.
With rolling pastures, avocado, paw paw and banana trees, a view to Mt Chincogan, and all the space and privacy I could wish for, I had found my soul place. When I would spend the week up in Brisbane working on the Biennial or BIFF, I would return home on Friday night, take in the air and the silence, wake up on Saturday morning and walk around my land feeling like I was in heaven. The view from my dream house
Cows And for the first six months or so, I even had cows! My lovely neighbours across the lane put two mama and two baby cows in my paddock and I loved them. I named the babies Donny and Bobby, after my two favourite musicians. Sadly, Donny and Bobby ended up going to the unspeakable place where they became veal chops, and after that my neighbours decided it might be less traumatic to put horses on my land instead.
Cindy the horse So Rusty and Cindy came to live with me and were very happy there for the years that followed. Who wouldn't be happy grazing on lush green pastures with a beautiful view and nobody hassling you all day? Heaven.

Oh, that's Cindy on the left and Rusty is the one below whose colouring is... well, rusty.

Rusty the horse

It was quite difficult to pack up the house in 1998 and let someone else make it their home while I went off to spend a year in Los Angeles. When I returned to my soul place in May 1999, I spent a lot of time hugging the walls.
It was the perfect setting for my Debstock party in August 1999, to celebrate my birthday and the 30th anniversary of Woodstock. It was my last birthday in Byron... for a while...

This is me at Debstock with Lisa and Barbi. And at left is the precious Morgan, who moved with me from each home and definitely loves Tyagarah best. You can see much more of Morgan and her life in Byron in Dog Days.

Alas, in 2000 I was packing up my beautiful home again, this time for the big move back to Sydney. So I had other people living in my house for a while, which was hard to bear. But I returned in late 2006 and am soaking up the magnificent rural environment again. But I do love the beach. Have you checked out Coastal Byron yet?

- Top of page -

About - PR Whiz - Writer - Broadcaster - Jetsetter - Homebody
Links - Contact - Site Map - Home