Jade & Charlie
Take a look inside the Instagrammable kitchen and homestead of Jade and Charlie, their three children Harry, Bertie and Clementine, and their restored 1970’s Rayburn Supreme wood-fire cooker.
The Black Barn Farm is one Instagram I constantly find myself scrolling through for hours; the lifestyle, the house, the orchard, the home grown produce and freshly baked goods, the beautiful family, plus the Rayburn wood-fire cooker slowly burning in the background during the winter. It’s a picture-perfect set up and one I lust after but also love seeing from afar. I drive to a small-town Stanley, 10km out of Beechworth in Victoria, to the homestead of Jade and Charlie, twins Harry and Bertie, and daughter Clementine.
“We always dreamed of putting a small-scale commercial orchard in…the Black Barn will be a large post and beam barn that will be the central cog to all our gatherings.”
Jade, Charlie and the kids moved into this homestead 3 and a half years ago. The house itself was built by a cabinet maker in 1880 during the gold rush. The house was originally situated on the main street in Beechworth, which the owner lived in for 10 years, before it was transported by bullock wagon to this property in the 1940’s. “A lady who spent a lot of her childhood at this home actually came over and gave us a rundown on what used to be where, and what the house used to look like. She told us her family would only light the fireplace on Sunday afternoons, because they were hardier in those days and too busy working the rest of the week. So, they would be freezing in winter except for Sunday nights.”
Jade and Charlie have renovated the house quite extensively; they looked for a house in Stanley for over 9 years and finally found the perfect one: this one. “We always dreamed of putting a small-scale commercial orchard in. The black barn will be built in the next 12 months and that will be the building that has the ‘pick your own’ orchard, the kitchen garden, communal meeting spaces, our event space, plus our retail shop where we sell our fruit and vegetables and the equipment we use. The Black Barn will be a large post and beam barn that will be the central cog to all our gatherings.”
“The biggest energy consumption our house goes through is heating the hot water and heating the house and if we can do that using an energy resource we’ve got right here, and the Rayburn allows us to do that, then why not.”
Jade and Charlie are both heavily involved in the local food system in the region. On top of their Black Barn Farm business, Jade also runs Black Barn Consult, a helping hand for farmers and communities to bring their farms, businesses and communities to life. Jade partakes in public speaking and presenting on how to start food co-ops and how to start and consider small scale regenerative farming enterprises. Charlie works part-time for DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) and the rest of the time at the farm.
Jade and Charlie take me on a tour of the home, it’s an eclectic space that feels so well lived in. It’s warming as soon as I enter, which is part due to the Rayburn and part due to the welcoming nature of the family. The kitchen is where I find myself, huddled next to the roaring Rayburn cooker, already boiling a pot of tea. Their Rayburn is a refurbished late 1970’s/early 1980’s Rayburn Supreme in Matte Black. Charlie grew up with a gas AGA, so he was used to having a big warm machine in the kitchen that heated the whole house and the hot water. So, he was used to the idea. The reason we wanted a wood fire cooker was we liked the idea of having some level of energy independence. The fact that the heating system isn’t relying on electric grid is great as the power goes out here in Stanley quite often, so it’s lovely not relying on electricity. The biggest energy consumption our house goes through is heating the hot water and heating the house and if we can do that using an energy resource we’ve got right here, and the Rayburn allows us to do that, then why not.”
“Coming home to a beautiful warmth throughout the whole house and a delicious smell coming from the oven and filling the air; there’s nothing better!”
Talking to Jade and Charlie, their passion for their Rayburn wood-fire cooker, eco-friendly appliances and their love of cooking shines through. It is so inspiring to listen to and I find myself learning things about Rayburn cookers that I didn’t even know prior. “The Rayburn has totally revolutionised our life. My favourite dish to cook in our Rayburn must be an apple dish. Or a slow cooked meat. We’ll put meat in the oven at the start of the day and go out to the paddock and just leave it in there all day. Coming home to it at night for dinner is so delicious and easy. Clementine loves baking cakes, she will take it upon herself to find a recipe and bake it herself. One thing I didn’t realise was how functional cooking on the stove top was. I thought the heat would be more subdued, but it’s not. We do stir fries and stew all the apples; I’m surprised at how quickly the stove top heats up. We have the Rayburn always running, it gets to minus 8 degrees here, so coming home to a beautiful warmth throughout the whole house and a delicious smell coming from the oven and filling the air; there’s nothing better!”
“It feels like it’s the heart of the house because so many things run off it and rely on it…it wouldn’t feel like the house is running properly if we didn’t have the Rayburn.”
Jade and Charlie mention frequently throughout our chat that their all-time favourite thing about their Rayburn is the consistent heat. Before the Rayburn, they only had a fireplace in their living room and only warmed up the small vicinity; and they would be freezing all through winter all huddled together. “It feels like it’s the heart of the house because so many things run off it and rely on it when it’s firing away. You can’t see it doing anything, it just very quietly radiates heat. It wouldn’t feel like the house is running properly if we didn’t have the Rayburn. It has encouraged us to do a lot more cooking because it’s always on and running. Especially slow cooking, if we were to slow cook in an electric conventional oven, it would cost a lot to run it all day. Whereas with the Rayburn, it’s so cost efficient. I probably put the kettle on 100 times a day, it’s handy that the stove top is always hot and ready to go.”
The Rayburn seems like it’s been with the family for years, it just fits so effortlessly into their home, their kitchen, and their lifestyle. Very rarely do you see someone fully encapsulate the cooker, with no training on how to use it. They’ve just dived right in, experimenting as they go. That’s the best thing about the cooker, it’s quite difficult to burn food and it always produces beautiful food. “The Rayburn sat in our shed waiting to be installed for two years while the renovations were getting done, and I would just stare at it longingly. I just couldn’t wait to use it – we waited so long. And it’s totally revolutionised our way of life, and our home and how we cook. Now that its in, it feels like the house is complete.”
“The Rayburn sat in our shed waiting to be installed for two years…now that its in, it feels like the house is complete.”
Images and words by Paula Vinci.