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On this sun sparkly, windy winter’s morn

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My new name badge has arrived for work… I have just last week started a new position on the paediatrics ward. I love looking after children and their families and can foresee much study and the gaining of new skills in the next couple of years.

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There’s a new cushion cover waiting for me to stitch today.  I have grand notions of making a series of cushions with animals from our farm. Maybe …

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Every time I visit the kitchen garden – usually several times a day – there are more sweet pea to bring upstairs – heaven! And Julian has promised to build me a permanent sweet pea bed next year with a sturdy metal trellis.  Oh imagine how many sweetpeas there will be then!

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I’ve finally taken paint to my rough sketch on the pantry wall.  My little farmher is definitely channelling her inner Strega Nona.  That’s okay – I’m very fond of Strega.

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Jammy toast and creamy coffee before venturing out to tend to all our animals. I so love my coffee, I look forward to it from the moment I go to bed the night before!

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My auriculas are loving this sunny sunny corner of the porch  … everyday I carefully look for signs of their long flowering stems.  Not yet.  Surely soon.  Just have to get the Auricula theatre my talented friend Terry so beautifully made for me up on the porch.  Alas it is sooooo heavy and we never seem to get around to it when Julian is home.

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Spring is so close! Always the first to bloom is my sweet almond tree .  This year we are DEFINITELY NETTING so as to enjoy not just her pretty popcorn flowers but her actual nuts as well.

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First out, the honking geese  … they will surely start laying soon and hopefully this year,  their eggs will be fertile and we will have dear little goslings marching around the garden.  Apparently their first year of laying is a dummy run so fingers crossed.

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The ducks do nothing by half.  Life is thrilling and there to be seized in full quacking voice, so each morning, out they burst and off they run.

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Book wisdom says to discard your dirty eggs.  Ducks always look pristine but are right dirty little buggers.  If I heeded this rule, we would never eat a duck egg! So instead I was them quickly in skin temperature water with a wee bit of environmentally sensitive dishwashing liquid and dry them on a tea towel on the kitchen bench.  All good.

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My first delphinium is blooming.  Do I cut it and bring it inside to stick in with sweetpeas or leave it to admire in the garden.  What would Gertrude or Vita do? I shall have to check.

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Where’s my carrot!?  Honestly, ponies are worse than dogs when it comes to eating.  Everything is fair game including my pockets and fingers.

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Noah and I finally collected our bunches of Privet berries for dyeing wool.  Alas today there is no power or water so they will have to wait.  Of course I know to be super careful with these berries as privet is both toxic and very invasive … but I have great hopes for the blues and greens that we will cook up!

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This girl is sitting on a large clutch of eggs.  Common sense – or fear, Julian and Noah – says we should move her off and put them in the incubator ’cause last year which ever hen it was – all the Plymouths are called Helen because I can’t tell them apart – killed each chick she had.  Eek! Their dear little heads were all pecked in.  But I’m hoping that was youthful immaturity and this year – if I move this girl into her into her own little house on ground level in the chook run with easy access to food and water – this girl will live up to her breed’s reputation and that won’t happen …

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The bottom scrapings of the pea and ham soup pot will grow good eggs. The chickens and turkeys agree.

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These little piggies are the noisiest of my four legged children.  And the funniest.

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Good morning to you too Bridget! She doesn’t really like me that much … just wants her Lucerne NOW.

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These here sheep reckon they need Lucerne too. Every morning they tell me how starving they are … yet the fellows at the stock feed tell me no sheep ever starved in the Bega Valley.  I just don’t know who to believe …
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Our newly planted cypress hedge saluting the sun.  I hope they grow as fast as their labels promise.

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There’s definitely A Tale of Two Bad Ponies to be written.  Tooticky is frantically stuffing herself with the sheep and cow Lucerne as I wheel it down to them. Lucerne is to ponies what red cordial is to hyperactive children … Do you know what I caught the ponies doing yesterday? Squatting under the quail house and bumping it up and down with their shoulders so as to spill the quail food all over the ground so they could then gobble it up! No wonder we go through so much quail food.
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Dear Babette … she doesn’t think she should have to eat off the ground with the rest of them. Hand fed please.
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And all of this was luckily completed – with water troughs filled – literally seconds before bang! The power was turned off for the day … again.  Insert big deep sighs. So no painting or sewing or gardening or cleaning or listening to music etc etc etc.

But I shall not rant on about how much this annoys me … instead I shall write this blog post on my phone – a tad challenging so please overlook any strange errors – and look back at yet another morning spent having a marvellous time on our little farm here in the gorgeous Bega Valley where we get to live all that we dream of.  With or without power … and water!

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pumpkin

my late summer kitchen garden

cot pieces

goose corner

corner

sprung

digging for poos

fancy lock

pumpkin

the prettiest pregnant belly

watermelon

zucchini

garden bench

corn

blueberry hedge

chickpeas

guinea pig grass

hard at work

pumpkin bed

sweet peas

salsify

shadows

cow poo

cowpoo tea

waddling ducks

You may have noticed that, for years, I have described myself as a passionate sewist and knitter and quilter etc. etc. but have always added “… and pretty hopeless in the garden”.  Well folks … that remains true!

Sometimes this mystifies me.  Both sets of grandparents and my mum are brilliant gardeners – with the grandparents producing most of their vegetables.  I surely did not inherit their green thumbs or innate knowledge of what to do with that soil and seed.  And we had wonderful soil here at Wombathill Farm – dark and rich and hummusy with plenty of earth worms – I was sure that all I would need to do is hurl the seeds in and voila!  A kitchen garden would appear.

Alas this has not happened.  My first efforts, this time last year, were regularly trampled by the doggles and ducks.  What was left was gobbled up by a nightly invasion of bush rats and rabbits.  So we tried little fences around each bed – not helpful.  Then we netted the beds over metal hoops.  Stopped the marauders but also made it very tricky for us to access.  The veggies grew up through the netting thus trapping it into position and efforts to harvest the tomatoes, brocoli and beans resulted in the tearing of plants.  Hopeless!  So then we ditched the hoops and mesh and Julian built a fence around all the beds with a sweet old door.  This has created a lovely space – very secret gardenish and I do love closing that door behind me and spending hours pottering over my beds – however, still no veggie success.

I have planted bed after bed after bed of seeds.  Carefully reading up on the likes and dislikes of each plant.  Digging and composting and mulching.  And watching in dismay as my lovely hummusy soil has turned into powdery cinnamon and very few of those seedlings have sprouted.  I have 3 corn plants.  Five zucchini.  Two cucumbers.  Seven chickpeas.  Three surviving salsify – after I mistook their very successful germination for an invasion of grass and ripped them all out!!!!!  I think a couple of beetroot have appeared.  I’ve yet to see any silverbeet.  Oh there’s 3 watermelon.  And a fabulous pumpkin vine for which I can claim no credit – the guinea pigs planted it and I don’t even know what kind of pumpkins they are!  None of my raspberries produced anything.  My blueberry hedge has survived – so that’s a win.  As have my sentinel olive trees and cornering crepe myrtles.  And I think every one of my sweetpeas have sprouted – too which Julian responds “but can we eat them!” But it will be a miracle if the coffee plants survive.  And there’s no sign of the radishes or carrots.  Sigh.

Why such failure!?  Well, I’m hoping it’s not complete idiocy on my part but probably a dire lack of water.  All those aforementioned kinfolk – apart from Nanny and Grandad’s few years on Mt. Tamborine – have grown their lovely gardens with the on-tap assistance of TOWN WATER.  Us?  We are currently limited to two rainwater tanks.  And when there is no rain there is no water.  There’s been no careful sprinkling of seeds to keep them moist and encourage their feisty germination.  There’s been no early morning water to help everyone make it through the very hot days we’ve had.  Nup.  My poor, carefully chosen seeds are clearly laying in their beds of dry cinnamon thinking to themselves “well we ain’t putting any effort into popping up out of the ground if there’s nary a drop to drink!”

Sigh.

I called into a Canberra Bunning’s recently and made a quick dash to the plant area to ooh and aah over the loveliness – you should have seen it, it was huge and thriving and awash with water! Everything was dripping and glistening.  There were puddles on the ground.  I could feel the water in the air.  I didn’t know whether to cry or gasp in delight.  Yep, it’s fair to say that this summer I have developed an overwhelming appreciation for the life giving properties of water.  I stood there, absorbing all the damp loveliness, green with envy!

However, there’s no point sitting back with a pout and deciding it’s all too hard.  We WANT to grow our own food.  Surely, just as I learnt to knit and quilt and sew etc., I can learn to garden.  And the water?  Well, we just have to put in the infrastructure to catch and use more.  Next week, a local dam builder will hopefully drop by, survey our two small dams and come up with a plan for making them bigger and maybe even adding another up closer to our house.  Then Julian will set up a pump to carry that precious water up the hill to a third newly order tank and we can then use that to water the garden and orchard with the most water conserving sprinkler system we can find.  And Julian has wonderful plans for creating swales to catch and guide the rainwater as it runs down our hill, directing it into the dams and future orchards.

Until then?  Well, I shall keep slipping down into my garden, closing the door behind me, brewing my cowpoo tea.  Pulling out the weeds.  Ooohhing and aahhing over each wee seedling that finally uncurls its head.  Sweet talking the pumpkins and blueberries.  And you never know, I may even eventually prove equal to those guinea pig gardeners of mine!

 

polished

when the rain came

fire

digging

surveying

with shovel

african

polished

with cows

testing it

rearranged

A few weeks back we were treated to a torrential weekend of rain.  It began on the Friday afternoon and thundered down, non-stop, until Monday afternoon.  Oh my goodness, there was so much water.

Now, as a Brisbane girl – who also lived in Malaysia as a child – I thought I knew rain.  I love a good storm that stealthily appears on the horizon, turning the sky an eerie gold-green, before launching massive rolls of thunder and cracks of lightning, then torrential rain that turns your street into a creek within moments.  Yeah, yeah, I know and love that rain well.  But it’s over and done with within an hour usually.  Sometimes, if it’s arrived early enough in the afternoon, you can even enjoy a freshly washed blue sky and dazzling sunset before the moon rises for the evening.

But this rain – almost 72 hours of constant, drenching rain.  No.  That, I have never experienced.  It was delightful on Friday evening as we built the fire to roaring, tucked all the animals up safe and dry in their houses, and settled in for a cosy night of knitting and good television.  It was even adventurous on Saturday morning when Noah and I layered up and ventured over to Quaama for petrol, veggies and milk.

Saturday evening was beginning to feel a bit like we should have prepared the ark and as Sunday morning dawned – with a solid grey and plummeting sky – the novelty was definitely wearing thin. It was especially thin when we realised the pantry roof was leaking … onto our kitchen appliances.  The goats were pissed off.  The chickens were glum.  The guinea fowl had given up trying to make the best of it and were so hunched up they appeared to have lost their necks.  But the ducks and geese?  Rain is like crack to them.  They go truly insane.  They spend every outside moment running, splashing, darting their beaks into the sodden earth.  They ADORE it.

We humans were OVER it.  All the roads around us were flooding.  The ground was like walking on a sodden dish sponge.  Doing the animal chores was a drenching and depressing affair – by Monday morning I just did them in my underwear and gumboots.  No point soaking another set of clothes – and yes, I had been wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella!  Water was pouring out of the tanks’ overflows.  And we were having to replace the  buckets and towels in the pantry every couple of hours.  And what did the weather forecast say – oh you haven’t had the worst of it – that’s still coming!

Yep, Sunday night that rain was so loud on our tin roof it was hard to stay asleep.  And I hated thinking of all our animals – just as damp and soggy as their bedding.  All night I dreamt of big dry cosy barns – like in Charlotte’s Web – with solid wooden walls, high impenetrable slate roofs, dry dusty floors, separate little cosy stalls for all the animals, each with a lovely pile of warm, dry, sweet smelling fresh straw. Argh!

But as I staggered out of bed on Monday morning, my spirits as low as the sky, I reminded myself that this too would pass.  The skies were predicted to clear by mid afternoon.  The animals were all still healthy and whole.  Everything would dry out.  So, instead of frittering away another day, I decided to embrace my inner Rhonda and give the house a huge deep clean – and even throw in a little re-arrange.  Alas, the re-arrange potential here is as small as our house, but I still give it my best shot :-)

Julian went out to dig at his pond – with his ever faithful assistant and most unlikely farm dog ever – Fu!  I scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom.  Washed and polished all the wooden surfaces.  Polished the silver trays and art deco coffee pots on top of the kitchen dresser.  Refreshed all the little Ostheimer corners and filled vases with feathers and gum.  Each candleholder was filled with new candles.  I scrubbed the stove.  Vacuumed and mopped the floor.  And then with my ever faithful rearranging assistant – the fabulous Noah – moved my sewing and computer desk into the far corner of the dining room and the crystal cabinet into the prime spot opposite the dining table.  We even dusted all the crystal!  And as we moved – and created ever more dust – Noah attacked with the vacuum.

It was brilliant.  We totally reclaimed the day.  We embraced our little home and made the most of it, rain or not.  Julian gave the ducks and geese their best day on earth ever – and because the ground was so sodden, was able to really get into building up the walls of the pond which had become very hard over our long hot summer.

By the end of the day we were all tired and sore.  But the rain had stopped.  The animals were indeed drying out.  The last applied towels and buckets in the pantry were still dry.  And our house shone like a new pin, no longer feeling like a damp and untidy hovel.  The homemade furniture polish I’d used – coconut oil, vinegar and a dash of rose geranium essential oil – added a lovely soft scent to every room.  The firelight and candlelight made all the wooden surfaces and silver gently gleam.  We all felt a sense of productive satisfaction.

All was good and peaceful.

And next time such rain is predicted, I know just what to stock up on, just how to prepare – and just how to enjoy it.

let’s be still

 

bench ends

close up

under the oak

snacks

julian

olives

dubious

crackers

alway so connected

hopeful

on her perch

every vantage point

hungry

funny little chooks with their feathers not yet in

so patient

After 3 lovely days of rest, today was back to work.  There are only 15 days until the removalists arrive and sooooooo much to be done.

Today, Mum and I headed off on quite the cross country trip collecting cast iron bench ends. Yup.  Cast iron bench ends.  Julian has a thing for antique cast iron and Mum and I have a thing for these bench ends – they remind us of the girls’ boarding school we both worked at – there were many scattered about the main old building for the students, both as benches and single seats.  So Julian’s collecting the ends to make Mum and I single seats which we will plonk at the loveliest spots around the farm.

After hours of driving and bench end collecting, we came home to car packing.  Another favourite occupation.  Each time it’s a cheerful challenge to see just how much we can squeeze into the back of our station wagon.

This time was pretty epic – after a few hours work, Mum and I (with a little help from Julian) managed to shove in an antique cedar meat safe, an Art Deco bookcase, a farmhouse style set of shelves for the wall, 3 sewing machines, umpteen quilts and cushions, a desk lamp, a vase, a huge glass bottle, all the glass bottled dry goods from the kitchen mantelpiece, the vintage electric jug collection, a suitcase of lace, a bosu balance ball, a vintage bird cage, a medicine ball, the canning pot, 2 deep fryers (one for candlemaking), a set of bamboo steamers, a wine rack, a huge kettle that used to belong to St. Mary’s that I have romantic dreams about boiling up on an open fire after our friends and family have gathered to make apple cider on a crisp autumn afternoon, a 4 kg medicine ball, 2 boxes of lego (that fitted into the birdcage), several paintings, 8 little Ikea boxes of patchwork projects, 4 little boxes of American girl clothes …

I’ve almost certainly missed things but it was an impressive effort.  And cross fingers it will all arrive safely.

So tomorrow morning, Mum and Julian head off – they are taking Julian’s motorbike up.  Well he is.  Mum’s following so that they can drive back to Melbourne together on Tuesday.  Isn’t she such an amazing Mum.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enduring another week of night duty with almost certainly packing and errands during those brief wakeful hours in the late afternoon.  And Noah will be packing and meeting up for fun times with friends just as all young people should when they’ve just finished school.

But right now,  I think we just need to gather under our beautiful oak, in summer’s setting sun, with good food before us, doggles waiting hopefully at our sides, dear little Orpingtons bustling about behind us, and plenty of giggles and silly conversation.

Yes, let’s be still.