Have you looked for a place to belong? Not just something to do part time, but something you could be a part of and know that you belonged there, even with all your own hurtful ways. Have you ever wondered if there could be a place, a completely different life, where you could learn to love others and be set free from your own selfishness? We were looking for this place, although if you met us in our old lives, you wouldn't have thought it of us. We looked just like anyone else: we were worked 9-5, in shops, in offices, or driving cars, or we worked with our backs and our hands as builders, plumbers, farmers; a few of us owned lands and houses, but we all made money and spent it. Some of us were students of the arts, of trades, or of commerce. We had high hopes and lots of opportunities. We travelled here and there all over the world. Most of us came from good families, with parents who cared for us, brothers and sisters who stayed in touch, and grandparents who talked to us, but those of us who had children saw them growing up in this fast-paced world and wondered what would their future hold.
Overall, though, the one thing you could say we had in common is that whatever we did didn't satisfy us. We were still looking, even though we didn't really know what we were looking for. Most of us weren't looking for a community, but here we are. By saying we are a "community" we do not mean a neighbourhood association, a land co-op or a multiple-occupancy. But, rather we are an extended family of married couples, children and single people who have become a part of each other's lives. This oneness of heart creates a life of care and growth.
We live in two households, one in Picton an hour southwest of Sydney and the other in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney. We also have a small beginning in Coledale, north of Wollongong.
Living in Australia, where many people are polarized about religion, it's hard to know whether we cause offense when we speak of God. But, as with any culture, especially a tribal people, it is our spiritual life that holds us together, and enables us to forbear with one another. We believe in the Son of God and follow His teachings in the Bible, but without the church building or the two thousand years of church history. We're getting back to the actual words and life of Christ Himself, a humble Man with no possessions, who loved His friends. He lived a radical life outside the mainstream and called His followers to do the same.
We love working together to make this life increase and have gladly embraced the hard work it often entails. Our greatest work is to build up and encourage one another. We work hard to maintain our love and loyalty towards one another out of gratitude for the One who created us. When we live open, honest lives, we ensure that peace is in our midst, and in this setting, genuine love abounds. The pattern for our life is described in the Bible, in the stories of the first church, before the clergy system came in.
We gather twice a day, early in the morning and in the evening, to offer our Father songs of praise and folk dances, and speak what is within our hearts and to offer a community prayer to the One who makes this life possible. Afterward, we share our meals together and enjoy the fellowship we have been given as we do the dishes and participate in the daily tasks of cleaning and caring for each other's needs. We have many children, so there is much to do with caring for them and bringing them alongside us in what we are doing. We home-school them and teach them not only academics, but also old-fashioned, practical skills. They love being involved and being a part of building up our life.
As you read through the rest of this site, we hope your heart is stirred to come. We are very glad to share our life with you for a brief visit or a longer stay. Our home is always open to anyone who desires to the see the life we live. It's the reason we are here!
Visiting us is as simple as dropping in. Whether you come to the Peppercorn Creek Farm or to our home in Katoomba (called Balmoral House), you will find us together. During the week, most of us will be with the children, or busy in the kitchen producing wholesome food, washing dishes, taking care of our home and property. You're very welcome to take us as you find us and to pitch in and help.
Every Friday night, beginning at 7:00 p.m. we host a festive celebration for the Sabbath, which includes a gathering of song, dance and thanksgiving, followed by dinner and more dancing. (Sometimes, the farm community will gather at the Woolshed behind the bakery - just call ahead to confirm where we'll be.)
We like to invite people especially on this night as we are all at home and the evening is very relaxed. It's a wonderful evening for our neighbours, old friends we've known for years, new friends we're just getting to know and people we're meeting for the first time.
Our cafes are closed on Saturday, but our homes are open to you. We gather at 8:00 a.m. to sit down and share the things we have been learning in our heart, followed by breakfast in the garden sunshine. The rest of the day is a family day, enjoying each other's company as we rest, take walks, play volleyball or play music together, write letters or read to each other. In the evening, we gather at 6:00 p.m. for a lively celebration of simple dances (that includes even the youngest child), a story, and a special meal. You are welcome to stay for the night.
Another way to visit is to meet us at one of our cafes. Even though we are busy with the many customers, we are only too happy to find the time to talk to you and get to know you. Please, don't hesitate to ask us for a conversation.
The Yellow Deli on the corner of Waratah and Katoomba Streets with its unique wooden decor is now a Katoomba landmark. The Common Ground Cafe at the Razorback Inn is part of the Bakery and the Woolshed Function Rooms and well able to accommodate groups of many sizes and needs.
We are very glad to have our cafes and Delis where the local people and visitors from afar can meet us on common ground. We love to take care of people, and serving our customers is a very real way to do that. Both cafes feature the organic sourdough and organic gluten free breads made in our bakery and all our food is made from scratch: steaming hot sandwiches, the soup of the day, wholesome desserts, and fresh salads.
The Common Ground Cafe at the Razorback Inn features wood-fired oven Pizza on Sunday nights, dinner specials and a good Australian meat pie.
PLEASE NOTE: Both Cafes are closed on Saturday.
You may also meet us at one of the many music festivals and one-day events held in Sydney, the countryside and the Woodford Folk Festival. We bring a mobile Common Ground Cafe to these events, offering a range of hot foods and cold drinks, a place to rest or to talk, to listen to music or even to learn a dance.
Our Common Ground Bakery Bread and Peppercorn Creek Farm Green Drink and Green Bar are sold at nine farmers' markets every week: (For more details - see our Bakery website)
We have many visitors come to us through the International World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF); Workaway or HelpX. People of many nationalities live in our community so you may find your language spoken here. More than simply looking for helpers to do some work in exchange for food and accommodation, our guests are alongside us and learning with us the deeper things of life. We look forward to hosting anyone wishing to enjoy the reward of "growing" spiritually as well as the experience of living in a large community.
A visit to our farm is a unique cultural experience, rather like visiting a tribal people with its customs and traditions. The centre of our life is our morning and evening gatherings and all those who stay with us attend all of our gatherings, including the celebrations on the weekend. We are outspoken about our beliefs, but we do respect that our guests may have their own. In some things, you will find us old-fashioned and, by the standards in the world today, out of date. We teach our children about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to keep themselves until they get married. So, we have accommodation for single men, single women and married couples.
We also ask that you wouldn't use your iPod and other electronic gadgets while you are here. There is Wi-Fi Internet in our cafes and, if you don't have a computer, we can make arrangements for you to use one for email purposes. We do not use drugs, alcohol or tobacco or allow them on our properties, with the possible exception of tobacco, which we ask that people would use with discretion and safety outside. In Australia, bush fire is an ever present risk, often year 'round. In the many ways we endeavour to establish a truly sustainable life and culture. Sustainable agriculture is one facet of that, and we are only just beginning in many areas. For example, we want to set up a dairy facility for our small herd of goats and a soon-to-be-purchased cow, and we hope to plant several hundred fruit trees in the near future. Meanwhile, our vegetable garden is well-established and in the spring and autumn, there is plenty to do: planting, weeding, watering, laying drip line, staking, pruning, harvesting, drying, pickling, mulching, digging in and on and on. Over winter, there is not much work in the field, and wwoofers and other volunteers usually help to keep up with the grounds, prepare meals at home, or you could find yourself participating in cheese-making or kneading bread at the bakery. There is always the pressure of meeting the pressing need, but we try to be sensitive to the desires of each person and what you may be interested in learning.
Usually, we arrange short stays of 4 or 5 days, but, if you are really enjoying the rhythm of our life, an extended stay can be discussed after this initial period. We hope you will come and spend time with us. We have had dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of very warm visits from wonderful volunteers who have touched our hearts, and whose lives have been touched by us in a deep way. Please come and stay with us. We would love to host you.
As with any culture, especially a tribal people, our spiritual life is what holds us together. Living in Australia, where many people are polarized about religion, it's hard to know whether we cause offense when we speak of God. We believe in the Son of God and follow His teachings in the Bible, but without the church building or the two thousand years of church history. We're getting back to the actual words and life of Christ Himself, a humble Man with no possessions, who loved His friends. He lived a radical life outside the mainstream and called His followers to do the same.
Once we lived in New Zealand, in beautiful Auckland. We were started with just five adults and three children, just a little flock, but by the time we moved to Sydney our number had grown to 22 adults, and 7 children. For a time we lived in Sydney, in a big house in Strathfield, but it wasn't a place we could call our own. We longed to have a little farm for our little flock of friends and we prayed with all our heart. Meanwhile, a lonely broken man was longing to find a people he could call his own, a people who wanted to love God with all their heart. He prayed with all his heart and, as they say, "the rest is history".
We moved out to Peppercorn Creek Farm in July 1996 - what a sorry state the farm was in. It has taken us many long years to bring it to where it is at now. (And we still have to finish our big house so that we can, finally, again be living under the one roof.) We weren't content to live happily ever after, but longed to see our life established elsewhere. It was like we heard a voice in the Blue Mountains calling us to come there. We found the perfect place: something rundown, neglected and needing restoration (just like us!) and set about making it a special treasure.
But we still needed a big house for the community in Katoomba to live in and what better place than Balmoral House? Lots of rooms for us and for guests, a big rooms and big gardens to gather in. Like us, the house still needs lots of work, but we are patient and we are thankful.
So, now we are many more people than when we started. Only a few of those original ones have remained, but those who have have stood the test of loyalty. It's a great work to learn to be a friend who loves at all times, but we are glad of that, too. These are a few of the testimonies of those who have been with us since the beginning, and from those who have only recently joined us.
Please call, send us an email or just drop in!
Balmoral House: Katoomba Household
Email us at: justin [at] yellowdeli [dot] com
Katoomba Yellow Deli: http://yellowdeli.com.au
Peppercorn Creek Farm: http://peppercorncreekfarm.org.au
Email us at: scott [at] peppercorncreekfarm [dot] org [dot] au
Common Ground at the Razorback Inn: Common Ground
Their website is at: http://commongroundbakery.com.au/