• Grace Cobb

The Grimstead Poppets

When country boy Cameron Mulcahy headed to Brisbane to experience life away from the farm, he got more than he bargained for meeting city girl Renee. After being introduced through mutual friends, one of the first things Cameron told Renee was that he wanted to raise a family on the land, and she was smitten. While Cameron’s move to Brisbane was meant to broaden his horizons, it was Renee that had her eyes opened to country life (beyond the teachings of McLeod’s Daughters).

In the early days of their relationship Renee would travel back to Urbanville with Cameron. He would spend all weekend doing cattle work, fencing, and ploughing, while Renee tagged along and did her best not to get dirty. On the occasion that Renee was feeling confident enough to climb aboard a horse, the pair would ride up to their favourite spot that overlooked the mountains and sit and talk about their dreams of having babies and growing their farm. Fast forward 15 years, and the Mulcahy’s have been married for 11 of those and have three beautiful daughters as passionate about the farm as their father. In the last 15 years Renee has grown confident not only with horses but with farm life in general, as her children take to life on the land with gusto.

Based at “Grimstead” in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, the family breed stud Angus cattle and grow soya beans when the season allows. “Sadly this year we had the rain from cyclone Debby destroy our crop, it was pretty heartbreaking, I was in tears, but my hubby is so tough. With a cuddle and a few words of encouragement, ‘that's life on the land’, we just keep going and there is always next year,” Renee says with a smile. “I love his attitude, he never lets these things get him down, it's a beautiful asset to have, and teaching the girls and myself that life has to go on.”

Growing up in the city Renee spent her childhood afternoons rollerblading around town, jumping on trains into the city and shopping. Her daughters spend their afternoons with daddy; chasing cows, fencing, driving in the tractor or, for a change of pace, at dance class. At the moment the sisters are preparing bulls and cows to take to the local shows, so their afternoons include washing, brushing and blow drying the cattle. Renee jokes that the cattle get more special treatment than she does. While the three girls are learning to lead the animals, it is still quite a struggle for their 20 kilo bodies to lead around an easy 600 kilograms of bull.

Confident horse riders, the girls each have a horse, and every spare moment is spent riding Zero, Rudy and Bess. “Their little faces just light up when they are riding, and they are so confident it scares me,” Renee says.

The eldest, Georgia, is motherly; forever helping, will complete any task assigned to her, and is a spelling nut. Looking up to her Dad in every way (his number one fan) she even wants to play footy like him. Natalie is their gentle soul, not liking to attempt something unless she can master it, and Bethany, Betty, Betty Boo is the youngest. The 100-mile-an-hour little girl who can be found taking her beloved puppy ‘Ash’ for walks in the pram; probably endangering his work dog status amongst the other pups.

When they aren't riding, washing bulls, or playing dolls, the girls can be found outside with one of the family’s seven dogs. Three Kelpie/Collie working dogs, three Kelpie/Collie puppies and Buddy, the helpful “housedog”. A Maremma whose thick, white coat and beaming canine smile can often be found in Renee’s Instagram feed ‘Grimstead Poppets’. A sneak peek into their world, Grimstead Poppets is an idyllic collection of Renee’s images in warm and welcoming tones. ‘Poppets’, an affectionate name for the girls, was coined after planting Poppies for Remembrance Day one year at Grimstead. One blonde, one brunette, and one red head - Georgia, Natalie and Bethany. The Mulcahy girls are striking and adventurous, and the photos their mum takes of them - peeking out from beneath Akubras, riding horses, and mustering puppies, are much loved by country and city folk alike.

Renee is a professional photographer, capturing weddings across northern New South Wales, the Darling Downs and the coast, and it all started with the girls. “My photography passion started with my Poppets, I stalked their baby years and slowly, every few years, my awesome hubby would by me a new camera,” Renee says.

“I really didn't want to miss these years; I know how fast they grow, so I wanted to make sure that when they are gone I have all the memories I could possibly need. Then it turned into friends wanting me to take pictures of their families and so on.”

Initially Renee said no to weddings (not wanting to give up her weekends) but the persistence of clients was key. After completing a course to gain confidence, Renee said yes to her first wedding and hasn’t looked back. With country weddings her absolute favourite, wedding photography has become a perfect fit. One day of the week Renee gets dressed up and then can edit the whole next week in her pajamas. For weddings Renee will drive up to two hours or more - anywhere from Casino, Kyogle, Lismore, Warwick, Toowoomba, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast. Renee concedes that while the drive is always breathtaking, surrounded by incredible mountains, the roos are problematic.

When I ask Renee what it is she loves most about rural life, it’s the special bond she shares with her husband, 95 percent of the time (when they aren’t in the cattle yards). “He works long hours but always comes home for lunch with me. On school holidays the girls get to go to work with dad, and it's just the most beautiful view to wake up to,” she says. Having moved to the farm almost a decade ago, Renee admits that while there are hard times on the land, their wonderful family adventures will always outshine the tough times.

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