Ex-Coastie’s tree change memoir

Todd Alexander (left) with partner Jeff

After growing up near the waterways of Saratoga and the beaches of the Central Coast, Todd Alexander shares the story of his “tree change” to the country in his latest memoir, You’ve Got to Be Kidding: A Shedload of Wine and a Farm Full of Goats.

Over eight years ago, Alexander left his 20-year career in the corporate world working for eBay and moved inland to a Hunter Valley farm with his partner, Jeff.

They bought a run-down vineyard set on 100 acres off the Sweetwater Rd just north of Pokolbin after witnessing the peaceful life of the country whilst on a holiday in the Barossa Valley.

“Basically, a tree change is where someone’s life is based in the city for a long time, and they decide to throw it all away and move to the country,” Alexander said.

“We had no intention of being farmers, but when we tried a Brokenwood wine made from our grapes, we thought it would be a shame to bulldoze the whole vineyard,” he said.

“My partner Jeff turned to me, and I just knew we were about to become farmers.

“He said how hard can it be? and together we jumped from a very high cliff into the great unknown.”

The memoir documents their time living on the farm and all of the ups and downs that came along with it.

It covers dealing with bushfires, drought, snakes, rapidly changing business demands, sick rescued animals, the unstoppable breeding of peafowl and the odd unreasonable customer.

“It’s a bit soul-destroying working in an office every day of the week,” Alexander said.

“But it’s not only now about being my own boss … but being surrounded by animals, fresh open-air and growing your own veggies; that’s what really made me feel like I stumbled across the secret for life if you like.

“A lot of city people – particularly during COVID lockdowns – have looked at life in the country as an idyll.

“And while we have lots of fresh air and open spaces, I also wanted to let people know life on the land comes with a unique set of challenges.”

His passion for writing stems from when he was at school.

“I remember we did a creative writing assessment, and I topped the year with 13½ out of 15,” he said.

“My piece was read aloud to other students as an example of great writing, and even the jocks came up to tell me how good it was, complaining that I hadn’t been given a perfect 15.

“I knew then that I wanted to impact peoples’ lives through the power of words – and surely the Nobel prize was mere months away.”

The book is currently available in stores on the Central Coast and online.

“Fortunately, I drank a lot of wine when I was younger,” Alexander said.

“So yes, I love wine, but learning to make it and market it yourself is a whole different challenge for us, but we’ve managed to do that fairly well over the years.”

Jacinta Counihan