Winter is Coming – and the needles go into overdrive

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Adagio Alpaca provided by Tuxedo. A buttery soft yarn in the deepest of blacks. Part of a set for Costa and his Dad

Post the CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, it’s time to put those needles hard to work. Over the last few weeks the temperatures have started to drop (although not by much most of the time as it remains usually sunny and very dry). But it’s been enough to cause a run on our hand knits and see yarn sales start to pick up.

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Second set in Jo Sharp Silk Road Tweed. The scarf is our very own Rylstone Ridge pattern.

I’ve had a few “projects” on the go that won’t see their way into the shop. I’ve knitted thank you warmers for Costa (and his Dad) for being such a great sport during our Gardens Fair. It would be hard to think what more he could have done whilst he was here – he covered so much territory with great enthusiasm with good spirits. So scarves, mitts and beanies are heading his way. All in Aussie wool – one set uses Alpaca from the very black ‘Tuxedo’ from Adagio Mills. There are very few mills left for processing wool in Australia, however Adagio have bucked the trend and opened a new mill in Orange last year. This yarn is my reward for participating in their highly successful Kickstarter campaign.

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Jacob’s Ladder Scarf in Hedgehog Fibres DK Merino in ‘Swamp’

We always try to add to our house patterns at Convent and Chapel Wool Shop – these are patterns that highlight the yarn, stitch techniques or textures. Simple patterns that maximise effect and are great for a small project or gift – perfect holiday knitting. I’ve just finished a few trial ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ scarves in a simple ribbed lace of just four stitches repeat. It seems to work well with different blends of yarn and weights and will be a good addition to the shop.

It’s so tempting to want to knit everything- different brands, fibres and colours – I’m constantly dismayed by what I can’t fit into my days, although I can’t complain about a life filled with knitting, gardening, living in the country and working in a yarn store. The problem is there’s little I’d want to stop doing and everyone needs some sleep!

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Our Lady draped in Jacob’s Ladder knitted in Rowan Kidsilk Haze

Next on the list are some baby clothes that Mum  requested as a gift. Whilst I won’t get to keep these in the shop, at least it will be good to try out some yarns and have a go at a few new baby patterns for the shop. We’re loving White Gum Wool for baby clothes and any of our sock yarns are so much more interesting that the old baby wool.

In the meantime, we’ve taken the desperate steps of removing some price tags from knits in the shop just so we have plenty of samples available for the knitters who prefer to make their own!

For now – back to the needles!

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Destined for display in the shop – at least for now!

 

Cobwebs in the Garden

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Cream lace dominated the Chapel veranda

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Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish glowed in the privet hedge.

Last weekend we had our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, with the Convent gardens being open to the public. Of course, we couldn’t let the weekend go by without including some of our knitting. We used the occasion to display some of our lacework around the garden to catch the eye of visiting garden enthusiasts.

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Birds on Bikes made a great display with this shawl

Some of our most recent work is still on its way back from the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show but we had enough to decorate the grounds. Our cream lace shawls, which are our best Show pieces hung outside the Chapel verandah, Kerry Blue was inside the Grotto, a vibrant Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish peeped through a gap in the privet hedge, our Doodlers hang proudly from the side verandah, the sculpture birds held up a glorious maroon lace triangular shawl and the angel looked suitably draped.

A great week for the Convent garden and we think our shawls added a little to the colour and texture of the garden.

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Doodlers displaying themselves on a verandah

 

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Looking demure and snug

 

 

Costa at the Convent

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Costa chowing down on some Zucchini Slice

One of the special moments at the CWA Kandos Gardens Fair was a visit from Costa Georgiadis, in fact, two) from ABC’s Gardening Australia. We knew the Gardens Fair would be a very special event with him as a guest but his impact on visitors far surpassed expectations. As did the man himself. What a gracious, enthusiastic, engaging and energetic person!

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Costa having a chat with Gemma in The Cloisters

Costa had asked to visit the local schools as part of his visit which was a wonderful experience for the school children and hopefully will leave a permanent mark on the area. For the weekend, he tirelessly visited gardens, engaged with visitors and made himself available constantly.

We were fortunate to have Costa visit us for lunch on Saturday where we gave him a short break from the many people who had built up both for a feed and to see Costa at the Convent. He made sure he spoke to all the volunteers and has a great skill for remembering names. He seemed to love the Convent and it’s surrounds (although I think he was equally gracious with all garden owners and guests) and on Sunday unexpectedly brought his Dad back for lunch and a quieter sit in The Cloisters on a day that was a little slower paced.

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Costa and his Dad tackling the terrain

Watching him with his Dad was a little bittersweet given my own Dad passed away last year and I had such hopes of he and Mum spending time with me at the Convent. It was great that he took his Dad on a guided tour of the garden but I had moments of concern with the wheelchair in the spongy grass!

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Instagramming in the Chapel

 

 

 

 

During their visit, a wonderful ukulele group sang and played in the Chapel – Costa raced in and took a video which he later placed on Instagram which was a thrill.

All in all, a great weekend and we’re still buzzing from it. Costa certainly made a difference and we’d have him back any day.

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Costa photographing the Convent!

 

CWA Kandos Gardens Fair 2016

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Marquees out the back gave a festive feel

Last weekend we held our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair. A big event for our small town as it attracts many visitors, books out accommodation and showcases the area. This is the second time the Convent has participated, the first being just before I moved here permanently and in the early days of making over the garden. And what a weekend it was!

The Convent Cafe was well attended throughout both days

The Convent Cafe was well attended throughout both days

This time I was reasonably well prepared – the gardens were a little more established and in pretty good shape and we decided to offer morning/afternoon teas and lunches in the Convent Cafe, complete with a blackboard menu (which also meant heaps of food preparation).

I have no idea yet of final numbers but the Convent seemed to be on everyone’s list as a “must see” venue, including a tour through the Chapel. We also attracted a few stall holders who set up their marquees, and local musicians and even belly dancers, the Kandos Belles! So there was no shortage of distractions.

Food was in endless demand and we must have served 150 – 200 meals plus tea, coffee, slices and scones. Many thanks to my wonderful and competent neighbours who chipped in to serve so many people. Sausages rolls all disappeared within an hour, the zucchini slice didn’t last much longer and Saturday night I was up til all hours making more sandwiches and adapting to a change of plans preparing ingredients for Ploughman’s Lunches.

The Mexican Sages were amongst the stars of the Garden Fair

The Mexican Sages were amongst the stars of the Garden Fair

We had a free cold drinks station with iced water, iced Mint and Lemon Verbena tea and Elderflower Champagne tastings. The Lemon Verbena tea and Elderflower Champagne were huge hits with visitors.

The backyard beds were chockfull of produce to explore

The backyard beds were chockfull of produce to explore

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day had a great feel of festivities and fun but the Convent also provided a venue for relaxation and respite in The Cloisters out back where we held the Cafe. We were fortunate to have some special guest speakers come along including Fiona Ogilvie, the gardening journalist from The Land who has a wonderful property in Bathurst, Diego Bonetto, a wild food forager and, of course, the wonderful Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia, who was incredibly engaging and generous with his time.

More posts will follow with photos of the garden and our Cobwebs in the Garden knitting display (of course we’d get knitting in there somewhere!). Such a wonderful weekend and I’m sure all the effort from so many volunteers to put this together has been worth it.

The Convent came up well on the day

The Convent came up well on the day

Great Local Dining- The Zin House

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Mudgee is well known for it’s great wine and local produce which also means it has some great cafes and restaurants. One I’ve been wanting to try for a while is The Zin House. I’ve sampled some of the Kim Curry (the chef)’s food before at Lowe’s Cellar Door horizontal tasting this year as part of the Mudgee Food and Wine Festival, but haven’t eaten in the restaurant.

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A tiny wedge of a generous vegetable and herb garden that provides produce for the menu. Blue Borage flowers are starring here.

Before Aimee went home, Gemma, Aimee and I made our way to The Zin House for their five course menu with matching wines. The Zin House restaurant is situated within the Lowe’s Family wines estate – an ideal setting with rolling Mudgee hills and a wonderful vegetable garden providing supplements for the restaurant.

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My favourite for the evening – Saffron Rag Pasta. Wonder if I’ll ever get my Saffron Crocuses to produce?

 

 

 

 

 

We weren’t disappointed with the meal which delivered on every course. It was hard to choose a favourite but the Saffron Rag Pasta with garlic, chilli, mushroom and zucchini was mine and has tempted me to drag out the infrequently used pasta machine. My fellow diners praised the Limoncello Cured Trout Gravlax and the Slow Cooked Five Spice Pork Shoulder.

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The Limoncello Cured Trout Gravlax was hard to beat. That’s the Sorrel, Fennel Flower and Cucumber Salad alongside.

I was inspired by the use of many of the herbs I grow but don’t use. I always have a mound of Sorrel which usually goes to the chooks or  compost, but the Cucumber, Fennel Flower and Sorrel Salad will most likely put a stop to that. We had Borage flowers on the house-made herb butter, Mint in the Salsa Verde and Lemon Verbena (which I also grow) in the Honey and Lemon Verbena Ice-cream. Even the Peppermint Tea was a lovely glass teapot housing fresh mint leaves.

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And the Slow Cooked Five Spice Pork Shoulder.

The wine was predominantly and unsurprisingly Lowes Wines and well chosen as companions to the dishes. Service was excellent, including the offer of a break between courses with a recommended walk around the vegetable gardens and property in the dusk.

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Apricot Crostada with Honey and Lemon Verbena Ice-cream. I think the Verbena will be put to work in an ice-cream or sorbet in future.

 

 

 

It was one of the better dinners for some time and a great finish to a wonderful Christmas break.

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Puts my little Strawberry patch to shame! A lovely shot of part of the vegetable garden and orchard with the rolling landscape of Mudgee in the background.

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Farewell 2015

 

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An Aussie Christmas spread

A good year to be gone, but it ended well.

IMG_1870My girls were here for another Convent Christmas -this time a pretty lazy one. No big roast dinners and hours in a hot kitchen on Christmas Day. This year it was seafood and salads – grilled lobster tails, blue swimmer crabs and prawns and the inevitable glazed ham – with salads to let us have lots of easy meals afterwards.

Dessert of course was pavlova and a raspberry ripple ice-cream made with ricotta – just yum and has lasted well.

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Smoked salmon carpaccio served with homegrown micro herbs. Looked much more vibrant in real life.

Hayley left before New Year taking bags of veg garden bounty back with her whilst Aimee and I had an extended break, sampling the local cafes and a few more low key meals at home, including what is becoming one of my favourite pantry/fridge meals – salmon carpaccio. Another low maintenance meal of finely chopped smoked salmon mixed with other finely chopped goodies such as cornichons, caper berries, spanish onion, capsicum, tomato and coriander and served with toasted triangles. A light refreshing dinner or entree anytime.

To start off the year, I made something I haven’t done for ages – a cake! A lovely butter cake with apples in the middle and on top. The apples are lightly stewed in a sugary syrup which is reduced and poured over the warm cake and also used as a sauce. Just yum – I must remember to bake more often.

Anyway, the Christmas break is coming to and end with the family all returning to Sydney and I’ll be back at work shortly. It’s been a quiet time but great to recharge the batteries and here’s hoping for a more positive 2016.

Getting My Mojo Back

It’s been a difficult year. Losing Dad, Mum going into care, selling the old family home … Such life changing experiences have taken their toll.

At some point you need to just get back into the swing of life.  I moved to the country just over two years ago full of plans and enthusiasm and I owe it to myself and my parents to try and fulfil these. It’s sad that they can’t be here to see it themselves, but fortunately they did have a few visits,  including a Kandos Christmas at the Convent. Mum will be following me by snail mail and I hope she gets to see me make great progress.

So… I’m getting back into the groove of things I love and want to do with plenty of ambitions and hopes for 2016.

For now, it’s back to nurturing and expanding the garden, particularly with Kandos Gardens Fair around the corner in April 2016. My plants are all a little more established and garden beds continue to expand. I have plenty of plants yet to go in, but it’s so hot and dry right now that I think there best to sit in their nursery. The foodie plants are doing well – I seem to have mastered the art of the cucumber after a few failures, and hope this will stand me in good stead with pumpkins and zucchinis. So many pots and containers are now being put to use, but my favourite is the old cement laundry trough. I’m tempted to get more. They look great and are really practical planters.

I haven’t been doing so much cooking or preserving of late, either, but onion jam has now been made and fresh spiced vegetable pickling vinegar is a winner and about to go into production. The ice-cream maker will also make a welcome return and I’ve just found a recipe for Elderberry Champagne – tempting.

And, of course, there’s the knitting – there’s always the knitting. I’ve completed my Doodler from the Ravelry Westknits Mystery Knit Along and am really pleased with it. It’s the first major piece I’ve completed in ages, rather than basic shop knitting, and I’m promising myself I’ll get back to the Show knitting.

Big plans ahead for 2016 – it’s been a wakeup call that time passes quickly and there’s no time for regrets.

 

And So the Roses Begin Again – 2015

A selection of some of the original roses outside the Chapel verandah.

A selection of some of the original roses outside the Chapel verandah.

Jenz Munk, a heritage wild rose.

Jenz Munk, a heritage wild rose.

The Convent was always known for its roses. I’ve never had a property before with a suitable environment for roses, although I have always loved the sense of history and romance that comes with them, so this is a perfect setting for me to let loose.

This rose, outside the sunroom, is always the first to flower. By the time it comes to prune her, she will have rambled across the timber work and window above.

This rose, outside the sunroom, is always the first to flower. By the time it comes to prune her, she will have rambled across the timber work and window above.

To be honest, I can’t remember how many I’ve now planted. I suspect well over 120 but there have been (and will continue to be) some failures along the way. Some of the roses are now hitting the two year mark whilst others are still in their infancy. However, I’m beginning to get a better sense of how they will grow and, of course, starting to have favourites.

The Chicago Peace is spectacular. I have another young bush as well (planted when I was worried that I may kill the original with harsh pruning!)

The Chicago Peace is spectacular. I have another young bush as well (planted when I was worried that I may kill the original with harsh pruning!)

I have a couple of Lamarques but this one is more established. It should grow tall and provide and arching bower on this corner.

I have a couple of Lamarques but this one is more established. It should grow tall and provide and arching bower on this corner.

Whilst I have made some endeavours to select colours in spaces, the ‘Original Seven’ that were here were pretty random, with yellows, apricots, pinks and reds mixed, so I’m going with the flow. For other beds, I’ve been more selective – pinks, reds and whites along the front ash fence, soft pinks and whites on the Grotto and whites, yellows and apricots in the back gate bed. A few of the learnings – never get bare rooted stock. However much I promise myself I’ll plant them immediately, I don’t and I lose some. Another learning is the difference between climbers and ramblers. I have a few climbers, such as Mr Lincoln, that really need some sort of climbing frame – their strong arching branches don’t ramble softly over the wall like the other roses.

One of two old Papa Meillards - just strong colours and a great cut flower.

One of two old Papa Meillards – just strong colours and a great cut flower.

Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with my choices and locations and think, given time, the Convent garden will have a wonderful rose display. At present, I’m just enjoying wandering through the garden to look at them and, of course, have lots of roses in vases inside to enjoy as well.

My favourite - Crepuscule. This plant seems to be in the perfect position and is doing all the right things.

My favourite – Crepuscule. This plant seems to be in the perfect position and is doing all the right things.

Cecile Brunner is vying for the best performer and is clearly winning.

Cecile Brunner is vying for the best performer and is clearly winning.

Convent Babies

Two of three babies - there are two of the little grey Rosecombs.

Two of three babies – there are two of the little grey Rosecombs.

Earlier in the year, I added to the Convent menagerie with four little Rosecomb bantam hens housed in my new chook tractor. The girls settled in well, however unfortunately I lost one, which was heartbreaking.

Although young, the girls have been good layers up until recently when one became broody (and fiercely guarded all the chook eggs). A second one followed this nesting habit and I felt a little guilty given the effort that was being put in with no hope of success, as there’s no rooster around.

My friend Gemma has both hens and roosters, yet none of her chooks were showing any signs of mothering instincts, so we popped a few of Gemma’s eggs under my girls and let them be. To be honest, I had no expectations and would’ve preferred to see the girls pecking happily rather than slaving over a hot nest.

Yesterday the coop was in a tizzy – it appeared a number of chicks had hatched, the girls were berating the dogs badly (who can’t get to them, anyway), and all I could hear was a clamour of mixed bird noises. Apparently the curious babies had wandered straight out the nest and, as the tractor is built more for egg laying than breeding, had slipped through wide wire from their higher level protected box nesting area, down to the ground grass level. Mum’s were trying to round them up, keep them warm and scare the dogs off.

A few quick repairs later and after lots of pecks from cranky hens, the chicks were back safe with their Mums in the nesting box and protected from future mishaps.

Anyway, it appears I have three chicks – two are tiny grey Rosecombs and one a larger ranga – obviously from Gemma’s other big chooks. Not bad from four eggs. Gemma and I both did some quick reading and the cage has been modified and saucers of chick feeding mix and water saucers installed upstairs.

I’ve checked on them today and the Mums seem to be working well with the chicks in the adapted environment. When I say “Mum’s”, two of the hens have been sitting on the eggs and seem to have joint motherhood of the babies which is handy in keeping an eye on all three of them. The third non-motherly hen, however, is also highly protective.

Fingers crossed that this all works out. It’s been an exciting and unanticipated delight over the past few days.

The Mums upstairs guarding their new brood.

The Mums upstairs guarding their new brood.

Emerging Stars

One of two standard Wisterias under the arched windows, just over a year old.

One of two standard Wisterias under the arched windows, just over a year old.

I have two Lilacs - a pale pink and a mauve. They were small when I bought them two years ago but look healthy and have flowered this year.

I have two Lilacs – a pale pink and a mauve. They were small when I bought them two years ago but look healthy and have flowered this year.

It’s been three years since I discovered the Convent and nearly two years since moving here. For the garden, this means that some of the plants are now hitting two years of planting and beginning to show themselves as future garden champions. Some have surprised me in how they have taken off and others have been, quite frankly, a tad disappointing. I’ve also had my share of losses and learnings with my first large garden, establishing plants from scratch and adapting to what is often a harsh environment.

A Kerria Japonica with lovely deep buttercup blooms.

A Kerria Japonica with lovely deep buttercup blooms.

I’m finding that it’s taking at least two years to get the garden beds in a healthy condition, given none of them were here and I’ve had to clear and build the beds from scratch. The plants are much better in matured garden beds that have been well fed and mulched and left to settle over a period. This means that in some of my garden beds, plants are really just starting to kick off.

I have two Snowball Viburnums which are great visually and also make great cut flowers.

I have two Snowball Viburnums which are great visually and also make great cut flowers.

The roses (which will have their own posts) are now feeling at home and many are showing signs of strong growth, thickening and are more bountiful with their buds (which I hope will give me a great display). I should know by now that bare rooted roses aren’t my strength and no matter what I promise myself, they won’t be getting planted within days of delivery! Anyway, the old ash fence at the front is now not so exposed as plants begin to show over the top and a few of the rambling roses are working their way over it.

This post displays some of the plants that are showing great promise early in the garden’s development.

The lavenders are all spectacular and must love this area.

The lavenders are all spectacular and must love this area.

The old Ivy Geranium is giving the Climbing Pierre de Ronsards more than a run for their money. This should look great covering the old garage once established.

The old Ivy Geranium is giving the Climbing Pierre de Ronsards more than a run for their money. This should look great covering the old garage once established.

 

Can you feel sorry for a tree? I did with this one - firstly it's name is 'Tortured Filbert' and it looks so twisted. It's actually a very pretty unusual little tree and I hope it grows to an interesting height.

Can you feel sorry for a tree? I did with this one – firstly it’s name is ‘Tortured Filbert’ and it looks so twisted. It’s actually a very pretty unusual little tree and I hope it grows to an interesting height.