Say Gah! to our latest muses, Anastasia and Julia Vanderbyl: the sisters behind an Australian regenerative fruit farm and one of our favorite Instagram accounts @motherthemountain. You probably know them from their posts of ducks and sheep in silly flower hats and baskets. Keep reading for a Q+A with the sisters to learn more about the importance of their work, growing up on the farm, how loss led them to return after being away for school for art and design, why they started their Instagram account, and some of their most special moments with their animals.
LSG: Hi both! Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your farm.
MTM: Hi! We are sisters, Julia is an artist and Anastasia is a fashion designer. We live on a regenerative fruit farm where we are restoring the natural balance in the land, while growing tropical fruits like mango, jackfruit, guava, lychees and avocados! For company we ducks, sheep and goats and spend a lot of our time cuddling animals in the field. The animals help us to regenerate the land by munching on invasive plants and eating bugs and pests!
LSG: Where are you from in Australia and what’s it like where you live?
MTM: We live on Bundjalung Country on the East Coast of Australia, close to Byron Bay. The farm is in a valley of subtropical rainforest so it’s rainy and warm most of the year and surrounded by flowing creeks and waterfalls!
LSG: How long have you been working on your farm?
MTM: We grew up on the farm so have been helping with fruit picking, gardening and animal care since we were kids but we both moved away to cities to study or pursue our creative practices. We always knew we’d return as soon as we could, but losing our dad, the threat of the pandemic and Julia’s health problems meant this came much sooner than we thought. For this, we are so grateful and have found so much meaning from this simple life in nature.
Dana is the true definition of a multi-hyphenate, constantly creating, no matter the medium. Dana is proudly of middle eastern descent, and is always looking to use her photography/film work to breakdown stereotypes, and depict a positive representation of middle-eastern/Muslim communities. Boulos Is also a fierce advocate for women's rights—she currently supports Free The Work, a non-profit initiative advocating on behalf of female directors for equal job opportunities.
“In the time of the climate crisis, it feels meaningful to be able to express the importance and beauty of nature. We’re so excited that we’ve been able to reach so many people and create awareness of regenerative farming and living.”
LSG: What led you to start an Instagram for your farm?
MTM: We started sharing a little farm diary at the beginning of the pandemic; somewhere to express our trials and joys as we work towards living and farming regeneratively. It’s so meaningful that we’ve been able to create a big online community and meet so many friends during this period of isolation. This new space taught us not only the habit of documenting the beauty around us but also appreciating it, and sharing the joy and meaning that comes with caring for the animals and land.
LSG: Anastasia, you also make clothing—tell us a little bit about that, the materials you use, and what you do there!
MTM: I make clothing from found pieces, like discarded doilies and tablecloths and remnants—turning them into timeless garments! I follow the similar practices used in regenerative farming; working with the fabric or land and considering its previous history while shaping its future. I consider the meaning and narrative of each piece of old fabric, appreciating and retelling its story.
I've recently begun working with brands using their discarded scraps to create new pieces, patchworking and creating sustainable and regenerative fashion from remnants!
LSG: What's your favorite part about being able to do all of this?
MTM: There are so many incredible parts about living and creating here on the farm! We love making connections and friendships with people worldwide. In the time of the climate crisis, it feels meaningful to be able to express the importance and beauty of nature. We’re so excited that we’ve been able to reach so many people and create awareness of regenerative farming and living.
LSG: Lastly, is there a special moment in the last year that's happened on the farm you might share with us?
MTM: Two of our sheep are twins and also best friends, they do everything together and are the sweetest, naughtiest, cuddliest sheep. One of the twins, Aphrodite, had her first lamb this year and we watched the whole birth. After she birthed her beautiful daughter, her twin brother, Lanky Boy, walked over to her and gave his sister a big kiss to show his support, after he gave the newborn lamb a kiss also!
Mother The Mountain
Text: Madeline Sensible
Photos: Dana Boulos