Winter has been a good time to let the garden rest and get on with lots of knitting for the shop. However it’s starting to warm up and Spring isn’t far away. Priorities are about to change!
Over the past year I’ve been cleaning up the block next door, or “the paddock” as it’s more commonly referred to. I have just over half an acre of land that the Convent sits on and also own the quarter acre next door which has just been a rough block up until now. I’ve had it cleared of the old scrub and last week fencing and gates went up, so now it’s time to start doing some work.
The land is pretty rough – shale and clay, so I’ll be taking my time building up the soil and planting gradually. So far I’ve started at one end – lots of cardboard getting put down and mulch going on top. Given it’s pruning time, lots of light pruning and leaves are making their way to the other side of the galvanised fence. First cab off the rank is potatoes. Last year I had huge success with some substantial “no dig” beds of potatoes layered with straw mulch and a sprinkling of Dynamic Lifter. This year I have the advantage of horse poo courtesy of Poppy the horse down the road.
Either end of the block will be some pretties – I have roses on order that should be OK. Some of the block has some rockery work in place that should work well for the rose and perennial beds but the balance of the paddock will mainly be produce. Some bordering for veggie beds will take place shortly.
The photos look pretty bleak and colourless – it’s been a very dry Winter with harsh frosts – this will green up in no time with better weather and a little TLC. Anyway, this will keep me going for quite some time.
As much as we love our shop, we often worry about a lack of space – it’s just two rooms in an old hotel. But every time we take a good look around, we always find a few more areas we can fit some shelving space. I think we’ve added over 24 more bays since we first thought we’d run out of space, including 12 more this week. And we still think we can fit more in! Of course we also make use of our front verandah, the hallway and back courtyard – it’s all put to work.
Our shop is perfectly situated in the gorgeous old town of Rylstone, about 40 minutes from Mudgee, about 75 minutes from Bathurst and Lithgow and about 3 hours from Sydney. Housed in the historic, Bridge View Inn, it’s hard to imagine a much better setting.
Our landlords are the Rylstone & District Historical Society. They purchased the lovely old sandstone building in the 1960’s and have since done a great job in restoring it to it’s former glory. Built as an Inn in the 1870’s, it’s been home to many businesses including a popular restaurant as well as the local bank – you can still see the cement slabs that were laid to hold the safes. It’s now home to 29Nine99, run by the lovely NaLan. This has become a super popular and famous Yum Cha House, featured on Better Homes & Gardens, Sydney Weekender and Andy and Ben Eat Australia. If you’re visiting us, you must have some yum cha! We also share with a barber, upstairs is a well appointed character 2 bedroom apartment (complete with open fire) for holiday rentals, and the Cottage Museum out the back run by the Historic Society. This link gives more history about the building – just ignore the reference at the end to the Thai massage being a tenant – that’s now us! A bit of a change!
The building has so much character, including the restored mural in the dining room (that Gemma and I both think looks a bit demonic for our tastes). Our shop has it’s own charm – our “back” room is also fondly called ‘The Snug’ and was originally the Ladies Bar. It seems to be happy in it’s current role displaying wool and also houses our lovely green leather Chesterfield lounge – if we have any spare time during the day, you can find Gemma and me sitting and knitting here. The Bridge View Inn was also one of the locations used in filming ‘The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’. Local lore has it that the film crew brought in the overmantle mirror behind our countertop as a prop and left it there. You can see our countertop and the mirror in bar scenes in the movie.
Our shop counter has it’s own history having originally been part of the Cudgegong Post Office. Windermere Dam was built in the 70’s to provide a water supply for the area. In the making, the small town of Cudgegong was flooded and the lovely old counter was moved to our Inn.
Anyway, we’re very happy in our shop and in our town. We’d love you to drop by and spend the day (or weekend, or week) exploring our region. I’m sure neither our shop or area will disappoint. We may even have the fire on if it’s really cold!
It’s been so long since I’ve written a post. That doesn’t mean I’ve been quiet – just the opposite. What with the shop, the garden, local activities and managing the shop website and personal and commercial Facebook pages (oh, and Instagram), unfortunately the blog seems to fall behind, which is a pity given I can provide more detail and photos here than quick grabs on the other mediums.
Anyway, the last few months have been dominated BY the garden, particularly getting it in good condition for Cementa17, our biannual contemporary arts festival that uses the Convent as a venue, the shop which takes up lots of time, and Show knitting.
Last weekend was Cementa17 with over 40 contemporary artists displaying their works all around our small town. Thousands of people are attracted to the town over 4 days and nights of exhibitions and entertainment.
The Convent is one of the venues used for artists and this year we made the most of having so many visitors by also hosting lunch and Devonshire teas in the garden to raise funds for Kandos CWA.
Two artists exhibited – a performance of the Bush Mary’s by Teena McCarthy and a ceramics display by Paris Norton.
The garden comes up well in Autumn, which is also the time we have our local Garden Fair, the year between Cementa’s, and made a great location for those wishing to have a quiet moment sitting in the garden treating themselves to tea and scones with jam and cream.
Many thanks to all those who volunteered so willingly and gave their time to help out. It was a great weekend.
I have two beautiful Elderflower bushes – both very different in appearance but both vigorous and prolific. The plainer green one that suckers all over the place is about three years old and flowers madly a little later in Summer. At the moment there are no signs of flowers developing but lots of green bushy growth cropping up all over the place. The second is less than two years old, has stunning variegated leaves and a far more architectural growth habit. It’s flowering like crazy right now and last year, unlike it’s older relative, also developed elderberries.
The previous Summer, the flowers were put to use in Elderflower Champagne, which was a huge success. I recently timidly opened one of the many bottles stashed in my cellar to see if they were still bubbly and was delighted to find it even better than before! Maturing with age like some of us.
This time around I’m trying Elderflower Syrup (same as Elderflower Cordial). I’ve used this Jamie Oliver recipe that sounded interesting with the addition of honey – but it’s so simple with just Elderflowers (lots), sugar, honey, lemons and water. The first batch was doubled so I have plenty and am looking forward to using it as a cordial, fruit syrup and maybe even in some elderflower sorbet, not to mention as a cocktail with some Prosecco!
Next up some more Elderflower champagne – it’s such a treat to sit in the evening next to my new fishpond with an icy glass of this drink and just chill with the dogs.
Well at least I hope it has. Winter has taken its time departing (not that I’m complaining as a wool shop owner!) but it would be nice for the rain to ease off, winds die down and sun to show its face.
The last week has shown some promise and the garden is starting to respond, although it seems the grass always responds first and is badly in need of mowing. This is the third year here permanently and about four years since I first set my eyes on the Convent and discovered Kandos. It’s also the first year where I can see the plants doing what I had hoped they would. Roses are bursting with growth, some of the plants that had struggled seem to have found their feet, vacant spaces are beginning to fill, trees are beginning to fill out and climbers are, well, starting their climbing journey.
These are just the first touches of colour coming into the garden and I’m anticipating some great displays through Spring, Summer and Autumn. With expanded veg patches, I’m also hoping to be well fed by my garden – the chooks are certainly enjoying spinach at the moment and rewarding me with lots of eggs.
I have some more plants to put in and I’m eager to play with my water plants with my new fishpond, which is yet to have fish introduced to it.
Let’s hope the weather is now on the improve (not that I mind regular rain) and the garden continues to flourish.
Just for something different, I knitted beanies for a month.
We do lots of knitting for the shop, Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, often simple beautiful items to sell such as beanies, mitts and scarves, but we’re trying to build up shop samples to give people inspiration for projects and see how the yarn knits up. We’re also planning an exhibition next year and would like some interesting displays. These beanies are planned to be on show in the shop and not for sale (which we know will frustrate the non knitters – but maybe it will spur them to pick up the needles for themselves).
I’m not an experienced fairisle knitter but the beanies are great training ground – not too big, knitted in the round… and I was happy with the results.
Anyway, October is likely to be taken up by another Stephen West Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL 2016 and lots of gardening as the weather hopefully takes a turn for the better.
It’s coming on 3 years (in November) since I moved here permanently. Prior to taking up residence, the Convent had a refresh with new paint and the flooring updated with either polished boards or carpet. Other than furnishings, I haven’t done much else (other than a total garden overhaul), so I thought it time to move onto the next phase of home improvements.
I’ve been grappling with the kitchen since I first came here given it was a small galley at the front of the house and I wanted to accommodate a good sized stove. Another challenge was that although the Convent is large, it was never built for entertaining, so I don’t have a larger room when I have more than a few people over. With a few tweaks reorganising rooms, the result has worked well and I now have a large open modern kitchen and a great extra entertaining/living room which is also now my dining room.
I’d always known that I’d have to tackle the electricals at some point, given some parts dated back to 1930. The Convent lights mainly consisted of bulbs in bayonets in the ceiling or fluoro tubes, so updating the lighting has also been on my list. August ended up being kitchen, electrical and lighting month so there’s been a heap of activity. Not all has gone smoothly (or is finished) and I still need to get some plastering and touch up painting done but otherwise I’m really happy with the results and the Convent has improved significantly in appearance (and safety).
Still lots more on the list including the dreaded bathroom makeover, however after managing the last set of renovations, I’m more confident in tackling the next phase.