Spring Has Sprung

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The two standard wisterias under the front windows seem to have settled in well.

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The front circular bed changes with seasons. For now it’s dominated by Ranunculus. Later the new roses will shine and then the white Cosmos will fill it out.

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.

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Every Convent should have a Judas Tree and this lovely plant has always been reliable.

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.

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

 

 

The Latest Convent Residents

The chook tractor is quite large, has wheels so I can move it around the property and plenty of ground room as well as a large protected upstairs nesting area.

The chook tractor is quite large, has wheels so I can move it around the property and plenty of ground room as well as a large protected upstairs nesting area.

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.

This lovely girl is so friendly and follows you as you walk around the coop. If you put your finger in you can pat her or she'll give you a friendly nudge.

This lovely girl is so friendly and follows you as you walk around the coop. If you put your finger in you can pat her or she’ll give you a friendly nudge.

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.

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The girls exploring their new home.

2015 Plans

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”.

 

The Convent Opens Her Doors

One of the pleasures of owning the Convent has been making the building more accessible to the public. After all, the local community put so much into building and maintaining the property for many years, however whilst being a home for the nuns and priests it was always so private.

Last weekend, as part of the Kandos Centenary Celebrations, the Convent was open for visitors for two days. This time not just the garden but also the whole Convent, and it was such a highly rewarding experience. It’s beautifully built and deserves to be seen and seems to be highly enjoying a more public profile. Sunday in particular was a little overwhelming with the crowds but I’d estimate we had between 400 and 600 people through the doors, this time more to see the interior than the gardens.

It was a sentimental time as ex-students of the nuns returned with such vibrant memories given the piano lessons and confirmations held at the Convent, which served as a backdrop for photos of generations of townsfolk. Visitors included a nun who was first taught at the school by the nuns and then joined the order and lived at the Convent, a local who had been the resident gardener for so many years, one of the resident priests and a wonderful gentleman who had learnt piano at the hands of the nuns to later become an international pianist.

The stories were fascinating and added so much more to our understanding of the nuns and their relationship with the community. One woman’s great grandmother had learnt that the nun’s were in dire straights during the depression and organised locals to provide a food roster for the nuns, we heard that the nuns ran a lolly shop and sold treats to the children, Melbourne Cup Day was popular with the children as they ran sweeps and sat out the front of the Convent on the grass with the nuns to listen to the race on the radio. Oh, and the priest with the poker machine who gave children coins so they could play it.

Two days of memories, with a few tears and hugs along the way. Many thanks to my friends G and R who manned so many tours through the Convent and also to everyone who turned up. It was a great few days and I hope the visitors enjoyed the opportunity to explore – I know how much I loved having everyone here and hearing stories first hand and I tend to think the Convent was also a little pleased to be able to show another side to the community.

Coming Home – The Return of the Statues

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IMG_2319At one point early in the purchase of the Convent, the local priest offered me the return of the cross as a housewarming present. Today, not only the cross, but also Mary and St Joseph made a welcome return to the Convent.

Mary and Joseph have been rehoused in their niches and Jesus needs brackets installed to place him back in the Chapel. A great day for the Convent and I hope the statues are happy to be back.

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Settling In

Popcorn has made the adjustment well and is a happy resident

Popcorn has made the adjustment well and is a happy resident

A couple of months down the track post the permanent Sydney move and the place is beginning to seem more like home. Rooms have been established, including plenty of guest rooms, furniture is all in place, boxes (mostly) unpacked.

I have always wanted plenty of animals (or creatures) around and it gives the place such a greater sense of permanence. Popcorn, the border collie, was an unplanned but very welcome addition and has made himself very much at home. He is a lovely boy and fits in well with everyone, even Roxy and Tango who very much ruled the roost.

IMG_1962Speaking of roosts, I have just added five pretty little canaries in an aviary. I owned canaries when I was little and loved them, so the chance to take some in when offered was too good to pass up. They only arrived a few days ago but appear happy, chirpy and are already using their nests. They will also be a good interim step before the chooks arrive. I wasn’t sure how the dogs would react, particularly Roxy who is fascinated by birds and loves to chase them. She is equally fascinated by these new residents but given the threat of being sprayed with cold water by me, just sits and watches them by the hour. Hopefully they will take the edge off the excitement of chooks when they arrive in the next month or two.

I’m also spending some time propagating plants. Whilst it’s exciting to get new plants, I also want to have more of what grows well here. It will also be a more economical approach to gardening. Anyway, this means I’ve been collecting seeds and cuttings. I’m also now growing more plants from seeds rather than seedlings. I have a feeling there will be a few failures along the way, but lots of learning will be involved and the results will be rewarding.

One of the next activities for me is to start joining some of the local groups. I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of the spinners and knitters in the not-too-distant future. Kandos is fast becoming home.

One More Sleep

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It’s getting late at the Convent, the night before Christmas. The fairy lights are twinkling and the fridges are laden. Christmas cake is cooked and pudding is hanging. A pavlova and raspberry ripple semifreddo are finished (along with earlier mixed berry sorbet and strawberry icecream courtesy of the berry bed).

The ham is glazed, a turkey breast is stuffed with cranberries and pistachios and a rolled and seasoned pork loin awaits. Grossly over catered for one day but I’m hoping it will feed us for the few days after so the cook can put her feet up. My first Convent Christmas.

Settling In

Popcorn and Tango just chillin' together

Popcorn and Tango just chillin’ together

Whilst I had thought I’d have a few quiet weeks settling in once selling Sydney and moving all my worldly goods into the Convent, life has a way of taking its own course.

My daughter’s arrival the day after the removalists, along with the rambunctious Popcorn, meant a different but very welcome change of pace. My two small dogs have settled in to Convent life easily and now they are both around six years old, they are pretty relaxed. However they didn’t anticipate Popcorn arriving and unsettling the status quo.

Popcorn loves his shoes - stilettos being his favourite. He also likes the odd leather boot and Reebok

Popcorn loves his shoes – stilettos being his favourite. He also likes the odd leather boot and Reebok

Whilst still young at eight months old, he is also very big and active. However he is smart and anxious to please. Quickly he has learnt not to invade little dog space or try to make them play with him. They are getting to know each other and becoming more comfortable together. Little Roxy isn’t up to joining in games but loves to watch and encourage Popcorn from the sidelines. Tango has managed to work out a bitey type game with Popcorn that they both love. Whilst they may not interact directly together much, they are often exploring and chilling together. I now seem to have a “pack” of dogs on the property.

Despite Popcorn’s gardening efforts and that he will chew anything he can get hold of, he’s a good boy and is responding well to training. He is already enrolled and attending a local training class and may get to do agility at some point.

I have a feeing the Convent animal family may grow some more as I start to explore chickens as a next stage.

You clown! That's the bathroom bin lid on your head!

You clown! That’s the bathroom bin lid on your head!

Nature Strikes Again!

The tomatoes were thriving and beginning to fruit. Most of the new growth has been broken off and fruit is on the ground

The tomatoes were thriving and beginning to fruit. Most of the new growth has been broken off and fruit is on the ground

I was relieved that the winds saved themselves until the day after the Garden Fair, given they made their mark on the last of the sweet peas, broadbeans and stopped the cornflowers from feeling so cocky. But I wasn’t expecting a huge hailstorm to hit after I went back to Sydney.

Fortunately one of the last things I did was net off the berry bed to stop the birds who have discovered the ripening gems, and they have been spared. However anything with leafy growth has been massacred. It looks like a plague of green caterpillars has eaten their way through my beds, but it’s all the damage from hail. This time the damage is more widespread than the frosts.

Zucchini - after a number of unsuccessful attempts. I  had baby zucchinis on this a few days ago

Zucchini – after a number of unsuccessful attempts. I had baby zucchinis on this a few days ago

I’ll be replanting all the leafy greens like lettuces, spinach, rocket and can hope that the tomatoes just kick on and grow. But it’s disappointing to see the veg that were just beginning to establish themselves and fruit looking so stripped and bare. Moreso after so many attempts to get the cucumber and zucchini started and sourcing so many mini tomatoes. Fortunately most of the other plants in the garden seem to have been spared. Just the food crops took most of the force.

Another gardening experience. I now have a bit of hospital work to do in the garden.

Eggplant - this was a picture of purple flowers last Saturday

Eggplant – this was a picture of purple flowers last Saturday