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.

A Flower By Any Other Name 2015 – Aquilegia, Granny’s Bonnet, Columbine

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The Blues are probably my favourite.
The Blues are probably my favourite.

I realise that in the short time I’ve been here, this is my third post in as many years on these flowers. Obviously a favourite and one of the first perennials I planted at the Convent. I love these flowers. I’ve had the odd one in different gardens, but now this is “my garden”, they are one of my favourites. I add a few each year (and I’m sure I lose one or two) but also hope as the garden establishes that they self-seed and continue to flourish. The early signs are positive with some new plants emerging.

Unusually pale,but so delicate and a strong bush. I find myself now looking forward to seeing these flowers each year.
Unusually pale,but so delicate and a strong bush. I find myself now looking forward to seeing these flowers each year.

They are such beautiful flowers – elegant but also with a country cottage casualness about them. Once you understand Aquilegias, you can also appreciate the difference in flower structures. The plants die back to almost nothing during the Winter, then you start to see a cloverish growth which thickens and then long fronds emerge turning into these wonderful “bonnets”. With colours that can be from fragile pastels to strong blues, what’s not to love?

As the garden establishes itself, some plants are flourishing and others moving into the shadows. I hope my Aquilegias become “stayers”.

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Blossom Time at the Convent

The Quince - this is the fruiting variety although I think I still need to wait a bit longer before I can expect a crop.
The Quince – this is the fruiting variety although I think I still need to wait a bit longer before I can expect a crop.
A pretty little Daphne Genkwa. A shot of mauve easily visible from a distance and flowers for weeks.
A pretty little Daphne Genkwa. A shot of mauve easily visible from a distance and flowers for weeks.

Spring is such an exciting time for gardeners, with the dormancy of Winter passing and watching plants spring to life almost overnight. It’s even more fascinating for me, given so much of the garden is new. For some plants, I worry that I’ve killed them. Others have been planted whilst dormant and I’ve never seen them have any sign of life. There are a few plants that didn’t seem to survive the first year after planting and have skipped a year to be resurrected this Spring

Known as a Pearl Bush, this should be a proud little upright tree, however a border collie who prefers to remain anonymous broke it. It has continued to regrow and flower prolifically from its broken horizontal position.
Known as a Pearl Bush, this should be a proud little upright tree, however a border collie who prefers to remain anonymous broke it. It has continued to regrow and flower prolifically from its broken horizontal position.

Right now, trees and shrubs are blossoming – albeit briefly for trees like the Manchurian Pears. The apple trees seem to take a bit longer but every day the trees are quickly changing. The Maples seem to leaf up in one or two days.

The one I’m ridiculously proud of is the self-seeded peach tree which has sprung out of my compost. Not sure how long it will take to fruit, but it is growing well and looks an attractively structured tree. The house rule is that unless something is an unseemly weed, it’s allowed to stay where it is and grow, which is making for some interesting plants in interesting places.

My self-sewn peach in delicate bloom.
My self-sewn peach in delicate bloom.

I’ve just finished my first grass mowing exercise post Winter – hopefully mows after this will be easier. I lost count of how many catchers of clippings I removed. But the garden now looks so much better. I’m finishing most of the major chunks of work around the garden in terms of more plantings, pruning, feeding and mulching then will move on to some of the finer details and maintenance. We’re still getting a bit of frost so new tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers have taken a bit of a hiding. Otherwise, the garden continues to develop well with the roses looking as though they’re pretty settled and kicking along with their growth. I’ll post photos when they’re in flower, which shouldn’t be too far away!

Fuchsias adding a splash of colour under the Cotoneaster.
Fuchsias adding a splash of colour under the Cotoneaster.

Old Masters on Show in Rylstone

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IMG_3581One of our favourite haunts is Gallery 47 in Louee Street, Rylstone which also is home to Coffee Concrete – the place to go if you want some of the best food and coffee in the area. It’s also run by the wonderful Georgie and Alex who are such great locals. Being across the road from our Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, makes it a regular drop-in spot for us.

Every month the Gallery hosts a new exhibition which we always visit – we usually try to get along to the openings if possible. This month’s exhibition has a twist. Called ‘Fabulous Fakes’, it’s a display of wonderful old masters recreated by the talented David Wallace, another local.

IMG_3582I’ve seen David’s work a few times and was disappointed to miss purchasing ‘Lady with an Ermine’ in the past and this time missed out on Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring”, however managed to pick up my first Renoir, ‘Two Sisters on the Terrace’. Gemma, on the other hand, stuck with the Australian art and scored her first Tom Roberts, ‘Bailed Up’.

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It’s a fun display and sure to amuse cafe-goers for the month. Definitely worth a look, and incredibly good value for a wonderful piece to hang on your wall – and certainly a talking point. I may take another peek later in the month, just in case the Mona Lisa is still there…

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My very first Renoir (and possibly my last)…

Historical Stitching

The locals were hardly surprised to see us sitting and knitting at the opening.
The locals were hardly surprised to see us knitting at the opening.

One of our local historical groups, Rylstone & District Historical Society (who, by the way are also our landlords as they own the Bridge View Inn which houses our shop, Convent and Chapel Wool Shop), are holding a significant display at the Rylstone Memorial Hall this week.

Some of our vintage knitting collectibles on display.
Some of our vintage knitting collectibles on display.

‘Stitches in Time’ focuses on the World War I quilt that was made by local residents as part of the war effort and is now housed in the Canberra War Memorial. Gemma and I were asked to participate by holding sock knitting demonstrations throughout the exhibition which lasts for a week.

Tonight was the opening night and attracted a great crowd which seemed well-engaged. We’ll see how the week goes but look forward to meeting and chatting with visitors. Our little area has been set up using our period cane chairs and some vintage crafting tools including my Edwardian swift, tortoise shell needles and vintage military war period knitting books that were offered to us, not to mention Gemma’s lovely crochet accessories. We have lots of sitting and knitting over the next week. I wonder how many socks we’ll get through!?!

Our little corner display, sans the knitters doing the sock knitting demonstrations.
Our little corner display, sans the knitters doing the sock knitting demonstrations.

Creating a “Convent” Garden

The newest residents - two Madonnas on plinths welcoming visitors to the Cloisters.
The newest residents – two Madonnas on plinths welcoming visitors to the Cloisters.

The Convent once had beautifully maintained gardens, helped greatly by having a gardener, volunteer parishioners and schoolboy workers. I’ve seen photos and been told many stories of the glory days of the Convent with her lavish rose beds and trellises and formal garden beds.

Those days are long past and the Convent was made low key with the removal of all garden beds and shrubs, and a remaining legacy of only half a dozen of the old roses remaining in the overgrown lawns.

My beautiful angel, sitting reading near the frog pond with the Grotto in the background.
My beautiful angel, sitting reading near the frog pond with the Grotto in the background.

In the last two and a half years, I’ve been working to restore the garden. Beds are going back in and over 120 roses have made their way into the Convent garden. It’s slow work but beginning to reap rewards. Having a Convent garden I feel means being a little more than a garden surrounding a Convent. I’m fortunate that the Convent comes with a chapel and, of course, the Grotto, which means I have some inbuilt advantages, but it’s important to add a few more atmospheric touches.

One of these has been adding to the statuary and I’ve recently introduced a few more members to the Convent family, including 2 Madonnas on plinths, welcoming people through the back garden gate which is the main entrance, a lovely angel reading in the garden and an additional cherub to keep the lone one company.

I already have a few sculptures in the garden, mainly created by local artists, but some ecclesiastical ones add another dimension and seem to fit in well. I’ve discovered St Fiacre, the patron saint of gardens, but am yet to find a suitable version. I’m sure he’ll make it into the garden one day, complete with shovel.

I don’t do “twee” and avoid cluttering the garden with “stuff” but I think the latest additions work well and help the set the scene for the garden even more, without me resting on my laurels.

Original inhabitants - Mary and Bernadette in the Grotto which was built by locals in the 1950's.
Original inhabitants – Mary and Bernadette in the Grotto which was built by locals in the 1950’s.

And So It Begins Again … Spring is on its way!

The Desolation of St Dominic's - the bare old rose bushes that need solid pruning. I've just structured this into a more formal garden bed with sleepers which should also help with maintenance of the roses and display them to full effect.
The Desolation of St Dominic’s – the bare old rose bushes that need solid pruning. I’ve just structured this into a more formal garden bed with sleepers which should also help with maintenance of the roses and display them to full effect.

We’ve had an unusually cold Winter – not that I’m complaining. After opening a wool shop in Summer, it was Serendipity to have a really cold Winter, including uncharacteristic snow and lots of frosts.

First section to tackle - on the verandah side. The lavenders and snowflakes brighten up this corner.
First section to tackle – on the verandah side. The lavenders and snowflakes brighten up this otherwise bleak corner.

In Kandos, Winter frosts mean that you can’t prune back in Winter – you leave all old growth so that new growth isn’t encouraged that will be burnt off by the savage frosts. All extra coverage also helps protect other plants and as my garden is mostly all under two years old, the plants need all the protection they can get.

However this also means that come end of Winter/the dawn of Spring, there is a mega flurry of activity to cut back, prune, feed, plant and mulch – not forgetting lots of watering for new growth during a very dry period.

The last few months have been tough with family, so it’s therapeutic to get back into the garden with gusto (or more) and  put some effort into activities that will richly reward in months to come. The roses have already started to burst through and are sprouting, so pruning is a priority. There are seven old established roses that need lots of pruning, but the other roses (well over 100) are all new and need much less effort. I’m not sure why I ordered another 22 from Treloars or where they will go – yet another job on the list.

First cab off the rank - my replanted Strawberry bed. I have great hopes (well, at least, better) for my berries this year.
First cab off the rank – my replanted Strawberry bed. I have great hopes (well, at least, better) for my berries this year.

What I am recognising is that I’m making lots of work for myself. The Convent garden for decades was a formal showplace – but the nuns had a gardener and lots of locals and schoolboys who all helped with gardening duties. I have just me, and my plan to turn this back into a beautiful traditional established garden is now dawning on me. Two years in and it’s a lot of work with well over half an acre (nearly an acre if you include the block next door, but that’s not on the agenda this year), although in fairness, this is the few weeks that most effort is required and should give the most returns if done properly.

I don’t have a real style yet in attending the garden – there is sort of a priority list – prune roses, fix a single area – but I find myself pruning a few areas, feeding a section, trimming a few lavenders, weeding another and then wandering off to another section. I guess it all contributes in the end. I’ve never had a garden I felt was mine, let alone such a substantial one (and one that is in “Creation” mode) so much of this is new to me and there are plenty of mistakes along the way. I use the internet and books all the time to check simple things like when to cut lavender, when to plant beans, when I can start cuttings of certain plants, but it is so exciting when it actually works!

Pretty typical of my front fence bed at the moment. It will "Spring" into life as the weather warms up - and as I weed, feed, prune, water, mulch ...
Pretty typical of my front fence bed at the moment. It will “Spring” into life as the weather warms up – and as I weed, feed, prune, water, mulch …

Anyway, anything I do does make a visible difference post the ravages of Winter. Given roses are starting to spring forth with life, pruning is priority No. 1, particularly for the old original roses. I don’t think the locals would forgive me if I killed these as the Convent was well known for it’s wonderful rose display and I’ve only been left with a small sample of the original bounty. Priority No.2 is to get some veg into garden beds as I want to be able to harvest plants to eat! Other than that, it’s good housekeeping, with the key driver being Kandos Gardens Fair on 2 and 3 April 2016, given the Convent will again open her doors to the public and put herself up for display. The last time the Convent was open was for Cementa_15 in April this year and with the numbers of people through the gate, I like them to see changes to the newly established garden each time. I’m hoping by Autumn we will be in pretty good shape and the roses in particular look just a little more established. The 20 kilos of rose food bought today might just encourage them a little!

The weather at the moment is glorious (although very dry) so I’m hoping today is a mammoth garden day and I get to make an impression on a few areas.

This is the worst the circular front bed has looked for ages and needs a makeover. I'll keep the bulbs and annuals but am adding some rose bushes for height and mid level flowering.
This is the worst the circular front bed has looked for ages and needs a makeover. I’ll keep the bulbs and annuals but am adding some rose bushes for height and mid level flowering.

Cute as a Button Baby Jumpers

IMG_3473It’s not a hard life having to knit for a living. At Convent & Chapel Wool Shop we like to knit up our yarn as much as time and our fingers will let us. We find shop samples help people decide on projects and makes the yarn buying process easier and more enjoyable – it certainly helps to sell the yarn as well!

A cutie in Zauberball Crazy.
A cutie in Zauberball Crazy.

One of our favourites has been our little raglan sleeve baby jumper with a buttoning raglan opening for the neck. A few of these have made their way off the needles so far and are a crowd favourite.

An Opal Sock version.
An Opal Sock version.

Yarns used so far have been Zauberball (of course), Opal, Hedgehog Fibres, and Noro Silk Garden Sock. So far the pattern is for 6 – 9 months old and knitted in 4ply/sock weight yarn, although we are now working on larger sizes and upping the yarn weight, due to popular demand.

We love the Noro Sock for this jumper.
We love the Noro Sock for this jumper.
Another Opal version.
Another Opal version.

 

 

Next off the block is one in hot Indian Pink Zauberball Starke 6 and I’m also thinking of playing with JaggerSpun Heather Sport for another colour work version.

This one was in Claudia's Handpainted Yarn.
This one was in Claudia’s Handpainted Yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a cute, simple and effective pattern. With warmer weather approaching, we’ll ease off creating our beanies, mitts and scarves and move to lacy lighter weight yarn and some baby outfits. It’s a hard life!

And yet another in Zauberball crazy. The Olive version has been very popular.
And yet another in Zauberball crazy. The Olive version has been very popular.

Zauberball Love

Our display in an old pigeon hole cabinet.
Our display in an old pigeon hole cabinet.
The Ten Stitch Blanket - a favourite.
The Ten Stitch Blanket – a favourite.

I’ve used Zauberballs for some years now – well before I ever envisaged having a yarn store. One of my first forays was an ambitious Ten Stitch Blanket. Not so much as it was ambitious hard – it’s actually an easy and rewarding project. Just that it took ten 100 gram balls of sock yarn.

Anyway, now we have Convent and Chapel Wool Shop, we are now well versed in the wonders of Schoppel Wolle Zauberballs and their allure. Most balls can do a really good project – whether it’s a fine lace shawl, a scarf, beanie or mitts or something way more ambitious if you want more than a ball! The yarn base itself is wonderfully soft and drapes well and the colours change in long waves.

Zig Zag Scarf representing us at the Show
Zig Zag Scarf representing us at the Show
This little fella takes one ball of sock yarn.
This little fella takes one ball of sock yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far we’ve used lace, sock weight and Starke 6 in a number of projects including the Kandos Classic Beanie, the Rylstone Ridge Scarf, a Fluidity, our own baby raglan jumper (which is much admired) and of course, the Zig Zag Scarf. We’ve also had reasonable success in Shows with our Zaubers (although I think the judges may have been a little taken aback with Fluidity knitted in Tropical Fish coloured lace!)

I think the judges prefer cream or white for lace shawls.
I think the judges prefer cream or white for lace shawls.

Anyway, as I speak, we both have Zauberball on the needles making more shop samples and with more patterns in mind. So much yarn, so little time…

A collection of our Zauber projects.
A collection of our Zauber projects.