The blog has been quiet of late which reflects that I’ve also been taking things at a slower pace. Dad’s recent passing has been sad for the family and he has left a big hole. I wish he had been able to spend more time at the Convent and enjoy the garden.
When I returned home, there were some fairly drastic changes to the garden. Before leaving, the plants were slowing down but everything was still lush and the roses still (just) flowering. Upon coming home, the cruel Winter frosts had hit and the garden had turned to yellow and brown. My natural instincts are to prune and tidy, but the dead growth actually protects other plants and I don’t want to encourage new growth yet when we still have much of Winter to come. So for now I’ll just focus on building up garden beds and compost and leave the plants alone.
One of the brighter moments was my first egg. The girls have done me proud and now most days I seem to find an egg or two – quite unexpected given I was told they were young and not to anticipate eggs in Winter.
For now, pace has slowed down a bit with long cold days, which suits me at present.
Since owning the Convent, I’ve built many a garden bed. Whilst the nuns had beautiful formal gardens, between the time of them leaving in the ’70s and me purchasing the Convent, all beds had long since been removed. However, one of the great challenges is always access to good soil.
This has meant a great deal of mulching, composting and buying soil. Most of my beds have a basis of fill from leaves, lawn clippings, prunings, kitchen scraps and anything else I can get my hands on. In many areas, I’ve simply just dumped leaves and clippings and let them break down. I’ve also been using two tumbler bins for composting but they’ve been of limited use. They seem dry and the resulting compost is often not well broken down no matter how long I leave it, and the design is poor for getting the compost out.
One win with the recent Cementa Art Festival was a visitor who advised me to use mobile compost bins directly on the ground instead and with a little tweaking, my tumbler bins have been converted to just that and seem to be ideal. This way I can place them in different spots that need composting and move on when time and compost permits. Also physically much easier for me!
I now have four mobile bins and a new composting resolve. Mind you, when the maples drop their leaves, nothing is big enough to handle the abundance. I think the new bed in front of the sunroom will be the main beneficiary.
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”.
What with the shop and hot, dry weather, the garden has been a little ignored since the Centenary weekend.
So now it’s time to put a bit of effort back, particularly in reinvigorating the veggie garden with Christmas imminent. The grass has been shabby and crisp with dry weather but recent rains meant it became a rampant lush mess – taking a solid and exhausting hot day to mow.
The massacred privet also had taken off, which is good – I just didn’t factor it coming back so fast. It’s now had it’s first haircut and I’m sure will look great in future – just will now always require frequent hard pruning.
The tired annuals are already coming out to be replaced with new plants that are seeding themselves. In the meantime, seeds are being collected from the old plants for next year. The colorbond fence bed is benefitting from the build up of old foliage.
That’s pretty much clean-up. Then it’s on to reforestation – with refreshing and replanting the veg beds. Next on the agenda.
Particularly exciting this Spring is watching the roses bloom. I know I can’t take the credit as roses do very well in Kandos. When first buying my property the agent told me that the only roses that won’t grow here are ones that aren’t in the ground. That being said, I’ve been responsible for a few rose tragedies. However I’ve also added over 100 roses to the garden, mainly heritage varieties.
Anyway, all of my roses other than ‘The Original Seven’, are very new – less than two years old – and it’s exciting to see them begin to establish and flourish. Also to see what type of flowers they have rather than just being a picture on a label (or not!). The old roses appear to enjoy the attention, with a hard pruning and good feeding. The new roses are just beginning to show their growth patterns. It’s such a luxury to be able to select roses to pick each day for indoors, but I also just love seeing them on their bushes.
The original plan was to have climbers and ramblers tumbling themselves over the ash brick wall to what is quite a plain footpath. This is now just starting to succeed and should look a picture in years to come.
It’s that magical time of year for gardeners where everything is growing and flowers burst forth. It’s particularly exciting in such a new garden where many of the plants haven’t flowered before and any growth seems so dramatic. You also start to see how the plants blend in with each other and their individual growth patterns.
I’m thrilled to see so many plants responding, not just in terms of growth and flowering, but also the abundance of self sewn plants from letting the plants go to seed.
It’s a treat now to go outside and pick bunches of flowers and enjoy them inside as well. One of changes I need to adjust to is that when I let the dogs out in the morning, it’s often over an hour before I make my way back inside for breakfast as I wander through the garden inspecting changes and doing some never-ending weeding!