Bit like how I feel about my knitting – moving from the corporate life to running a credible retail business. Sometimes it feels like a crafty indulgence, but we take our work seriously as artisans and now as a commercial business.
On the eve of one of the most significant events in my year, I’m sitting in my motel room in Kandos contemplating the self-indulgence of being here – missing half the school holidays with my family, taking a week or two away from paid work and spending more money and time on my art, for which there is no monetary return.
I’ve spent the past 24 hours plus installing my new installation, documenting it and helping a few others around town install their works. I’ve spent two nights now sharing a wine or two with other artists at low-key events leading up to the first day of Cementa15 – four days of celebrating the diversity of contemporary art in a regional context. A rare event indeed.
So, why do I have this feeling that what I’m doing isn’t part of the ‘real world’?
Cementa_15 is a contemporary biannual arts festival held in Kandos. The first event was in 2013, in my very early Convent days. This year the Convent will participate again and host a number of artists and welcome the public through the gates.
Approximately 60 artists will be exhibiting at over 20 venues around town for four days from Thursday 9 – Sunday 12 April. The Convent will be hosting Beata Geyer & James Culkin’s: Geometries: Kandos, which has already been installed at the front of the property, Dan Kojta’s: Infinityscope in the Grotto, Kim V. Goldsmith’s: Indicatus, 2104 which looks like it will be a standout display in the Chapel and Alexander Jackson-Wyatt & Paulina Semkowicz’s Standard Boxing Tent No 1 in my paddock next door.
Looks like a great few days and it will be exciting to see so many people wandering around Kandos. I’m sure there will be more photos to come.
It’s been a while coming but now it’s all happened at once. A kindly local put together my amazing but very big and heavy chook tractor that has been sitting in the carport since before Christmas. The next day I arrived home to find four lovely girls settling themselves in.
I have Rosecomb Bantams and they are pretty, friendly little birds. They came running over to me and let me pat them immediately through the wire. The dogs, however, are another story and went totally crazy. Popcorn settled quickly and only spikes interest if the little dogs get the birds to flap. But the little dogs are besotted and going through conditioning of gradual introduction to their new housemates. I was assured that the girls are used to annoying dogs and will cope, but I’d prefer them to have a settled start to their new home. At present, if the dogs annoy them, they go up into their enclosed nesting area for some privacy but one chook, in particular seems quite unperturbed by canines.
For now, I’m just enjoying their company and giving them a few treats to make them feel welcome. Once settled, they can have a dog free run around the yard for an hour or two each day and, of course, the tractor will regularly be moved to other sections of the yard for happy grazing.
It will be an exciting day when I find my first egg.
When I purchased the Convent, I also bought the vacant paddock next door with the hopes of turning it into an orchard/parkland. Well, the best laid plans… There’s been so much else to do that my attentions haven’t quite made it that far, although I can now mow it and have started mulching it in parts.
In the meantime, I’ve done a quick inventory and was surprised by how many fruit trees have found their way into the Convent garden. I had originally planted a small grove of about half a dozen olive trees, which for the most part are happily and healthily growing. The side colorbond fence bed was mainly established out of compost, much of which was kitchen peelings directly thrown on the bed, so a few interesting things have emerged, including a self sown Peach which is looking just peachy.
The citrus are well represented with the back garden path to the church being flanked by 4 limes and 4 lemons and there are a couple of Finger Limes, a Chinotto and a Kaffir Lime spread around the property. Some old fashioned plants have made themselves at home including a fruiting Quince, two Elderberries, a Damson Plum and a very old fashioned but absolutely lovely tree called a Medlar.
I love the leaves on the Medlar as well as the shape, and the blossoms are also quite lovely, however I’ve read that the fruit are somewhat unflatteringly called dog’s arse fruit. I leave that up to you to guess why. The fruit can be used in jams and jellies, however is treated quite differently to other fruits. It is picked but left to go ripe in cool shaded spaces.
In fact it’s called “bletting” which is similar to letting it rot. I’ll be interested in trying this when I get a bit bigger crop. I also have a couple of crab apples which appear to like the area and seem pretty healthy. There’s a small fig that hasn’t really taken off and some Tea Camellias. Vines such as Passionfruit and Kiwi Fruit will add interest in seasons to come.
These plants just need a bit of TLC to get them to the point where they will provide a harvest. In the meantime, I just enjoy watching them grow and become part of the garden.
What with the new shop and show knitting (and other commitments), the garden has not been receiving the attention it needs. Now things are a little more under control and with great weather, including some much wanted rain, energies have been redirected to green things. The Convent will also be one of the venues for the Cementa_15 artists and with lots of people wandering through the property over 4 days in April, I’d like the Convent to be shown at her best.
Fortunately with some watering, mowing and a bit of weeding, the garden is now coming along well. I’m now trimming, feeding and mulching which will also prepare the garden for Winter. As I see the garden every day, I tend not to notice how far it’s come and appreciate the changes as much as I should but taking new photos has been a good reminder.
One of my focusses has been on the veg beds. I think I neglected these a little over Summer and they weren’t as productive as they should have been and I wasted a bit of produce too, but opening the shop was a pretty big commitment and I’m promising myself that this time around the beds will be well loved and the produce appreciated more. That being said, the colorbond fence bed which has made the bare side fence much more interesting, is now a wealth of produce and between the raised veggie beds and the fence bed, I’ve harvested masses of zucchinis and now reaping eggplants. The carrots continue to be abundant and I’m also now getting pumpkins. The original intention of the fence bed was to be a rambling pumpkin patch, so I’m delighted with these results.
Beds have now been replenished, fed and mulched and are now planted with sugar snap peas, brocollini, rocket, beetroot, bok choi, chop suey veg and lettuce. I’m hoping there will be established plants and new growth emerging for Cementa to give visitors a taste of a country garden.
This is more of a random post on doings over the last week, given they have been so varied.
The shop has seen a constant raid on hand knits since we opened, so I’ve been updating the spiral beanie stock (which also means working through patterns and sizings for the different yarns we have in the shop). Over half a dozen new beanies briefly went on display. Unfortunately this meant interrupting the Show knitting which is a Shetland lace sampler shawl.
Last Monday saw me on ABC Central West radio doing a shop interview on their Craft Corner. This was an unanticipated bonus and lots of fun.
Over the weekend we added to our collectibles in the shop culminating with a trip to Sydney to collect our bounty from participating in online auctions from some of the major Sydney auction houses. We now have quite a selection of antiques and collectibles, including silver ornaments and lovely vintage jewellery.
We know we need to market the shop fairly broadly – including via traditional means to attract tourists. Our brochures and bookmarks (which make great pattern and chart trackers) arrived this week and we think they look great. Next step is to distribute them through central areas such as the local Tourist Information Centres, motels and B&Bs. Our first ad should also appear in the Discover Central NSW magazine next month.
The garden is growing rampantly – with warm, humid weather and plenty of rain, it’s moving faster than I can keep up with. I try to do and hour or two on shop days and much more on other days, but sometimes I barely make an impact and I’m not sure why I bother to mow the grass. It seems just as long three days later! Anyway, things are also growing in the veg garden, although looking at local Facebook posts, everyone seems inundated with veg. I made a slight dent with a zucchini slice and salad of lettuce, mixed cherry tomatoes and cucumber – all home grown.
But for now it’s a battle between garden, Show knitting and topping up the shop knitted items which are disappearing at an alarming rate.
So now it’s time to set some targets for the next year. Given 2014 was nothing like planned – hadn’t planned on selling up and living here permanently, getting involved in the Museum, CWA not on the radar – let alone President, what shop? … Plans now just seem incongruous after years of managing Strategic and Operating Plans.
So why have some personal goals? OK, just a concept and let’s see how close we get.
Shop – I actually have a Business Plan and hope to pull this off. It’s important on a number of levels and I think achievable.
Convent – well, I should update the old toilets – and original kitchen and put in new kitchen, and update lighting, but they’re not high on priorities at present – although was a originally – how things change!
Garden – finish side colourbond fence bed, build bed in front of the sunroom.
Side block – well, good intentions here for the orchard/parkland block but at best may just clear it and manage a few plantings.
Knitting – at least winning something at one of the Shows I’m planning on entering.
Convent Chapel – fix lighting for workshops
Umm – do a psychic reading – not really my style but as I’m feeling so settled, it’s really tempting
Chopper ride – yes! Kids have bought tickets – so excited to go on a helicopter tour of the area
Go Fishing! Have had a licence for a wasted year. I love fishing and have rods. Can’t believe I’m not doing this regularly given I’m so close to Dunn’s Swamp. I don’t need to catch anything. It’s about dropping a line in the water and just chilling.
Keeping in touch with old friends and making some new ones – I now appreciate just how important this is. It’s easy to be isolated or isolate yourself, but friends – either local, old but visit, or even those you keep up with mainly online – are all so important and add a greater dimension and connection to your life.
I’m sure there’s lots more I’ll think of but these are fine for now. After all, life’s supposed to be enjoyed. John Lennon was so right when he said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”.
It’s been just over a year since I moved to Kandos permanently. And over two years since I discovered the Convent and Kandos. What was a fortuitous realestate.com search certainly changed my life dramatically. I had never intended to make such a substantial permanent move, well, at least not straight away. The plan had been to live the “balanced lifestyle” and maintain my Sydney property and corporate life in the CBD for a few days a week and then chill at the Convent for the other days.
The dogs were the first to decide that there was only one life for them and within the first six months of purchasing the Convent, it was pretty clear that Kandos was going to be my permanent home. The first year saw a lengthy settlement before the property was mine, but thanks to the generosity of the Church (who still owned the Convent), I camped on an air bed until all the legals were finalised. Then came, painting, floors, curtains and furnishings and I moved in permanently last November – on my 55th birthday to be precise.
Of course there are many more plans for the Convent – one day …. bathrooms, kitchen, but I’m just enjoying it as it is. The garden has had a major makeover and has been a joy to put such effort into. I’m now waiting to see if I manage to get some cucumbers this year. There are lots of zucchinis, my berry bed is going crazy and I could live off the lettuces and carrots at present. Oh, of course cherry tomatoes are also kicking in. My family and friends are making the Convent a regular getaway, which fortunately lessens the wrench of leaving them. And I was so lucky that one of my best friends decided to join me here and has also moved to the town and lives around the corner.
Re Kandos itself and its community, I’ve been made so welcome. We spent New Year’s Eve at the local club and I was pleased to recognise so many familiar faces and be included as one of the crowd. I’m endeavouring to help with community activities (which also helps in meeting people) and have really enjoyed being part of the Kandos Museum through its renaissance as well as the local CWA.
Other highlights through the year have been including the wonderful Popcorn in the Convent family – he is a joy, holding the Best Knitting at Show for the second year at the Kandos Rylstone Show (which is adding to the excitement of this year’s Show), being part of the Kandos Centenary celebrations and opening the Convent doors to somewhere between 400 – 600 people and learning the ins and outs of online auctions which have furnished my home and now finding their way into the shop collectibles.
Whilst I had thought I had retired, it hasn’t taken long to find myself running my own wool shop which combines a longtime passion with the skills I’ve acquired through many years of corporate life.
It’s been a good – no great – year. And 2015 looks as though it will also bring its share of surprises and pleasures, with no doubt also some sobering moments. However life is good, It takes work, decisions and actions to make it happen, with also some risks. But it’s worth it. If you’re thinking of making a change, don’t just think about it, also plan and do it, but be prepared for lots of surprises along the way.
I love entering the local Agricultural Shows – I’ve only attempted the last few years and mainly with knitting. Whilst it’s a thrill to win a prize at one of the bigger shows like the Royal Easter Show, it’s more of a buzz to participate in the local ones.
I’ve had some reasonable successes with my knitting but have been an abject failure in other categories such as tomatoes, dahlias and roses, but am determined to persist with my efforts. And I’m way past the Showgirl section!
The knitting categories however are now the core focus for G and me, particularly now we have Convent & Chapel Wool Shop up and running. Somehow the stakes seem much higher this year. Anyway, we have our projects underway – using shop yarn, of course. To date I’ve focussed on lace shawls but will be spreading myself a little more this year, planning on also entering accessories – I’m thinking mitts, scarf and maybe a beanie – as well as possibly a baby garment.
The Shows start with a flurry in mid February, kicking off with Gulgong, followed by our own Kandos Rylstone Show, then Mudgee, Lithgow and Bathurst all jammed in closely. Other shows are a little more spaced with Sydney Royal Easter Show in late March. Not sure how many we will manage, but we will definitely be supporting our local shows.
At this stage the projects are under wraps – we’re keen that they will be surprises. no doubt you’ll hear about our results – good or otherwise.
It’s been a great Christmas at the Convent – my second in residence. The first Christmas here, I had my parents and eldest daughter and we did the whole traditional thing – roast pork, turkey, glazed ham, roast veg, stuffing, gravy, followed by pudding, custard, brandy butter, cake … lots of work but also rewarding.
This year I had both daughters and a friend staying and we were much more casual with seafood and salads – still work but mostly done in advance and a chilled day rather than being in the kitchen. We had grilled lobster tails for lunch, followed up in the evening with prawns and crabs – with a nod to tradition with the glazed ham. With heaps of salads, we have feasted for a few days, along with extra guests arriving. A ricotta, nougat and berry ice-cream along with pavolva and fruit has taken care of dessert as well. Add to this a barbecue last night and pancakes for brunch this morning (courtesy of Daughter #1) has meant a great deal of food has been consumed this week.
Now that most house guests have departed, it’s clearing up left overs and doing some Show knitting whilst catching up on a few new TV series – chilling out before the shop reopens next week (not that the shop ever seems like work!)