IT'S been a life-long dream for Dawn Hinchliffe to have a house on a hill with big trees and farm animals.
She had a great life in the corporate world of Sydney with her husband Michael of 27 years, and her children who eventually fled the nest.
That's when she sensed a piece of the puzzle was missing, which turned out to be 'Raising Baby Moos' in Little Hartley.
"Our children were getting married and Michael was in remission from cancer, so we bought what was possibly the most run down house and land in the perfect location," Dawn said.
She had started two months of work into the property located on Carrol Drive just off the Great Western Highway, but the project was put to a halt when Michael's cancer returned.
"Our dream came to a pause and 10 months later the cancer had won, I was alone and devastated," she said.
Despite feeling "a little wobbly and with a few rough edges" Dawn knew she could pull through a tough time.
"I knew I could succeed. That's what my husband would've wanted and that's what I wanted," she said.
So that's what she did.
Dawn juggled working in Sydney as well as the farm and managed to construct paddocks, renovate old sheds and clear the land to make a place for small livestock.
"Our first calves Flora and Felix came in. We bonded and I felt connected again," she said.
"I often found myself on icy nights curled up next to these two beautiful souls in the chicken shed where they were being raised.
"I learnt quickly that you don't feel the cold when your love for an animal is so strong. It wraps you both up like a warm blanket, holding you together so tight. I felt united again."
As the years progressed a few more animals came along, predominately calves and Dawn made the tree change and has been living full-time in Hartley for the past eight years.
She has developed relationships with dairy farmers in the region who get in contact to give calves a new lease on life.
"I discovered that calves don't need bulls because they're unable to produce milk. Male calves are instantly put to death or farmed out to bulk raisers," she said.
"I wanted desperately to save as many of these calves as possible and give them a chance.
"Baby cows have no voice when they're born it's not their fault they're no use, but they're entitled to a life, I'm not vegan or vegetarian and I'm not against it, but the baby is there, someone's gotta' love it and I can do that."
Dawn has made it her mission to care for and raise 'baby moos' in the hopes that one day when they're grown they may be re-homed as house cows.
"They always have and always will hold a special place in my heart," she said.
"The hard work was intense but I felt a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement with each calf re-homed, even when it came at a personal financial loss to me after all the bills for their care are covered.
"I didn't mind, even though I was working seven days a week to cover the cost."
To help cover the costs of her farm animals Dawn eventually renovated and opened up one of the buildings as a small and cozy Bed And Breakfast.
"Guests came and fell in love with the calves and after several requests I agreed to keep in touch to show people how they were growing, and their journey to being re-homed," she said.
And that's how 'Raising Baby Moos' was born.
Dawn created a Facebook page giving a glimpse of her "crazy" life to others and to her surprise it took off.
"People wanted to come visit, to feed cows, lambs and chooks, to get dirty and smile," she said.
In return she asked for a small payment to cover the cost of feed for the animals and help her save more lives.
"I didn't feel comfortable with it at first but realised that a small contribution from visitors can help me continue to save the lives of more animals which I do from a place of pure love.
"Now people come at the cost of covering a bale of hay and hands on feeding of livestock," she said.
The experience at Raising Baby Moos allows people of any age or ability to learn about raising calves from bottle feeding to the introduction of grains.
There is a chance to take a calf or a lamb for a walk, have a cuddle, feed the geese and chickens and enjoy the serenity.
Currently Dawn has35 chickens, eight geese, eight calves, four lambs, three steers, two goats, one heifer and one horse.
"I treat my animals like my babies," she said.
When asked why she loves what she does she responded with the only appropriate answer - "What's not to love about it?"
"I love doing what I do and seeing the smiles on faces of visitors is amazing but I am truly at loss for words at how people seem to be interested in my world of feeding calves," she said.
Dawn said even if people didn't come to visit her small slice of heaven she would continue to carry on her work.
"It's part of who I am now, it's in my soul and I won't stop until maybe 10 minutes before I'm buried," she laughed.
"It's all I think about, all I dream about, and it's all me.
"Maybe in losing my husband I found myself or maybe the love I had for him has been reignited by these beautiful creatures, I'm not entirely sure but I know that love lost has to go somewhere."
Dawn wanted to thank her partner Garry who works hard at building structures and lends a helping hand.
"He fixes things we break and can feed the babies when I work late into the night," she said.
She also wanted to thank Coles Lithgow who provide a Ute load of fresh produce that can't be resold for human consumption and is enjoyed by her animals.
Want to visit Raising Baby Moos?
You can book feeding times via the Raising Baby Moos website.
All funds go to animal feed and supplies. The farm is closed on Tuesdays and its busiest days are from Friday to Sunday.
The animal feeding and bonding sessions run between 8.30am and 10.30am and 1.30pm and 3.30pm.
Suitable old clothing and fully covered footwear is advised. If under the age of 15 you must bring an adult.
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