Sunday 30 November 2008

Happy Birthday to Sarah

Today was my middle daughter, Sarah's Birthday. We have a family tradition of waking the birthday person and singing happy birthday to them, while bearing gifts. (I've told of this before).

I had a number of photos and more to say about Sarah's birthday, but I've forgotten, because our internet has been down, and if I don't do it the same day, facts escape me! Besides, the little scamp has beaten me to it, as she has written about her birthday here:

One thing I wanted to show you, though - not that this has anything to do with birthdays and presents, but it is something about my homegirl that always makes me smile:

Her workboots!

She is feminine and classy, has great taste in many things, is friendly and fun, motivated and encouraging. She is of slight build with the hugest biceps I've seen on such a tiny young woman. She works hard in whatever she does, with good conscience. In the workshop, alongside the men, she likes to retain her feminine look; - wearing foxy earings and pillar box red nailpolish. It is her workboots, though, that make me smile each time I see her in them. They are such a far cry from the beautiful shoes she owns, and the personality she possesses.

But I guess that's one of the umpteenth reasons I love her - for she has such flexibility. So it's not "put on your dancing shoes, birthday girl", but rather "put on your steel-toed, hob-nailed boots, Esmerelda"

As Sarah explains to me: "Mam, if you want to get some, Redbacks are the best. They are so comfortable and conform to your foot shape. You'll have to buy some thick socks, though. You can wear thinner socks, but the thicker socks are even more comfortable".

Yeah. Whatever.

I love you, Beaver Marple!


Australia - the movie - go see it!

Thursday 27 November 2008

Happy Birthday to my Dad (Grandpa)

Grandpa celebrated his 83rd birthday today. I wrote on his card: " We love you, let's set a regular date.."

Two days ago, he was hacking into the most awkward, prickly, twisted bush, determined to spit on it's grave by the end of the afternoon. And - he did. I love to see that tenacity at his age.

I am so grateful that my dad promised my mam the 'holiday of a lifetime' and took her to Africa. Thirteen years later, he took her to the 'land of milk and honey' and we are still reaping. There are times, when my dad's eyes gloss over and he regrets things he has done and things he hasn't done. When this happens, I remind him of all the good that came from his decisions.

Grandpa, I love you! Let's make regular dinner dates on this day each year?


Tuesday 25 November 2008

Battlefield History 101. F.Y.I.

I spent all of my teenage years living in South Africa, and one thing I have come to terms with is the fact that although not my original homeland, Africa, as a whole has a hold on a person. I will never forget it. I will never forget my life there, how we lived, where we lived. It will always have a piece of my heart.

We lived in a small country town in the province of Natal (now known as Kwa Zulu Natal). Dundee was and still is, famous for it's history and particularly it's proximity to the site of the Battle of Isandlwana, which occured in 1879. (see . One thousand, six hundred Red Coats (British) were killed at the foot of Isandlwana by around twenty thousand Zulus. Wherever a British soldier fell, a cairn was erected over him.
Each year that we lived in Dundee, a commemorative walk was held and promoted by the local MOTHs (Men of the Tin Hats) - an organisation akin to the RSL (Returned Soldier's League). If you completed the walk from Isandlwana to Blood River, via Fugitive's Drift, you were rewarded with a braai (BBQ), cool drinks and later - a certificate to prove you ventured through the rugged terrain in the footsteps of the unfortunate men who fell there.

One year, a local historian was giving a lecture on what had happened at the site all those years ago. My mam was standing next to a cairn and while listening to the lecture, began to 'doodle' with her foot in the red dirt. Imagine her horror, if you will, as she uncovered a humerus bone whilst mid-doodle. The bone was taken by the organisers and I have no idea what happened to it.

A documentary on the Battle of Isandlwana was featured on the History channel this evening. Sarah was sitting next to me. She's heard my stories of life in S Africa many times, and was gracious enough to say nothing when I continued to utter "Amazing" and "Can you believe it?" and "I actually walked there. Each year, I walked there" and "Did I tell you Granny uncovered a human bone near one of those cairns?..."

Like I said.... South Africa has a hold on me. I'm constantly aware of this fact 'cos after all - the Machinist is a Serf Efrican through and through, and in his Ouma's words "Hy is 'n Boer en hy bly 'n Boer"

Monday 24 November 2008

Mi Lad

December 2005 to 22 November 2008

Help At Hand

I felt woeful today. I can't say why. It's just one of those things, and to try and analyse it would drive me bonkers. When I feel this way, I remember my mam's words: "Helen, keep busy". My days are always busy. For the most part, they are productive, too. Which helps. Oh, productivity helps a lot! The sense of accomplishment after productivity is the cream of the task.

And so, with mam's words chorusing in my ears, I drove my woeful self up to the shop in the Machinist's ute, with garden tools on the back. (There were still branches of privet and blackberry canes, not to mention grassy clumps to be loaded onto the trailer). I just had to do something physical. Some hard yakka.

As I pulled in, Grandpa was searchin for one of his garden tools. He came over to me and asked what he could do. I showed him one of the bushes which had to be cut out, and for a moment, there was that pesky-boy look - just a miniscule second of a glint in his eye. (Grandpa loves to cut down trees. We have the totum poles to prove it). He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with his arsenal of saws and clippers, distributed evenly over both of his hands. "Can you believe I picked these up for five dollars?" . He was set for an enjoyable afternoon.

The Grand's cottage gate creaked and Granny appeared. "Would you like me to clip some bushes, Helen?", she asked. After my mam's torturing experience with cellulitis, there was no way I wanted her caught on brambles, thorns and bacteria piercing her skin, so I suggested she might want to sweep parts of the driveway if that suited. "Oh sure!" And with that, she promptly took the broom and started sweeping tiny leaves, branches and loose pebbles into piles.

For quite a while we were silent as we laboured, and as I lent on the spade handle to wipe my brow (ha!), I caught sight of a female form walking towards me. The sun was behind her and rays emanated from each side of her body. An angel. It was our Emma!

Just when I was lowly, lacking inspiration, motivation and gumption, I was humbly reminded that help was, indeed, - at hand.

Some of the weeds and grasses we have been digging and clearing from the driveway at the shop.

Sunday 23 November 2008

The Path Often Travelled

At the end of the day, this is the path the Machinist takes, as he follows his nose to the kitchen...Firstly, though, he washes his hands under a tap at the side of the grapevine, getting rid of workshop grease and nonsense. On the right is the tiny pumphouse and hens, surrounded by roses and a fig tree. On the left - damsens, quince and ballerina apples leading under the arbour to the 'pool garden'

Standing in the pool garden, looking to his left at the vegetable garden (and probably sighing at the way the Head gardener - me - has let said vegetables go to seed)

Looking to his right, the old apple tree, surrounded by 'fans'. (I can never remember the name of these groundcovers. A kindly lady from an even smaller country village sent cuttings to me, via her husband, knowing that I had a huge back yard to fill. She told him to tell me "this should do the trick..")
Then, passing 'Sarah's Garden' with one more arbour to go through to the cemented courtyard at the bottom of the deck, the Machinist is greeted by his dog, Bob, who seems to be saying "Had a hard day at the workshop, dad? No matter, come inside... Let's go and eat and be merry..."

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go...

Once upon a time, our back yard consisted of grass, a willow tree and an old apple tree. I always wondered how I would ever 'fill' it up. As we made 'garden rooms' the only thought was to fill each room with desired plants and hope they would grow quickly, before the weeds came. Now those rooms seem to collectively say "Sorry, no more room at the Inn".

This is what we pass when we are on our way to work, just off the back deck:

Saturday 22 November 2008

Wind, Rain & Hail

Despite the wind, rain and hail, the Machinist didn't let me off the hook when it was time to go and work on the grounds at the shop. At one point, the hail came down so hard, it felt like tiny pebbles catapulted at my face. He was relentless and forced me to continue on with spade in hand, like a garden gnome; a fixture of the outdoors.

Just kidding....

About the Machinist forcing me, that is. Truth be known, I love to be out in the wind and rain. I love the way my cheeks go from icy to hot. Even my earlobes resemble embers after working outdoors.

We were pulling down rampant blackberry bushes, which had entwined themselves in the vegetation - planted at the front of the property years ago and extremely overgrown. At one point, a thorn ripped at my ear, and it was only later, when chatting with a neighbourly couple, that I rubbed my ear, and actually pulled the thorn out. They looked at me enquiringly. "Don't worry about me, I'm just doing an Amazon woman thing..." I remarked.

Over the years, a lot of silt has run off the hill behind the shop each time we've had rain, and that, coupled with fallen leaves, tiny twigs, berries and pods has resulted in the most amazing black soil. We separated the 'good' soil from the matted couch grass, which has acted like a spider's web, entangling faded drink cans and broken bottles, as well as oddities such as reflectors, rusty petrol caps and even an odd window wiper. Motoring stuff. The trashy soil and branches were loaded on the trailer, and later in the week, I hope to transfer the good soil to the Grand's garden. It will become the marrow of their future cottage garden.

I am pleasantly tired and somewhat achy, but feel satisfied and accomplished which is a great thing. The rain is still falling gently. I'm grateful for that. After all, it would be really horrid to have to run out to the Machine shop this time of the night and start moving tools and equipment as well as sweeping out generous puddles from insufficient country storm water drains.

Still, I know where my bread is buttered. I love my home. I'm not a nabob, but I sure do live like one....

Thursday 20 November 2008

Happy Birthday to the Machinist!

It was raining fast and hard last night and there is nothing more comforting than the sound of rain on a tin roof.

Not so comforting for the Machinist today, though. Especially on his birthday. This is what he walked into as he entered the workshop:

And so... the Machinist sprang into a plan of action. Here he is talking logistics (ha!) with his son, Sam, our second year apprentice:

I have to confess; it's not all fun all day every day. We were determined, though, to make the Machinist's day a special one, so later, bundling up in the car, we headed to the driving range. Now the Machinist is not a golfer, nor are any of the rest of the family. We have one thought in mind when we go to the driving range; hit the ball as hard and as far as possible. I was the delegated camer(wo)man and before I could post some shots here, Middlepaw, nickname for our middle child, posted them here: .

A later dinner in town and the movies cheered up the Machinist no end.

We love you Machinist!

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Waxing Domestic

What happens to all the domestic jobs at home when Metalsmithery and the Daily Pie open?

They still hang about. They wait to be done. They are patient. Well, some are, others not. Sometimes, they dance before us, tauntingly. Sometimes, they scare us when we happen upon them. And some scare us very badly. They're nasty.
I've learned how to be domesticated over the years, and I must confess - I enjoy housework. (Not ironing). But I just cannot live in a frowzy house. I like order. I don't always get what I want, but I like organising and having places for things. I also like to read about how to be better organised and even more domesticated;
Freaky, isn't it?
I've recently redone the chore schedule. It's simple. I get to do it all. Apart from doing the dishes and kitchen after dinner.
Hopefully, this will free up the Young Adults to do physical hard labour at the shop, 'cos there's always something to do. (the lists prove it!).
And at the end of the day, we join Bar-Ram-Ewe and schnuggle on the couch:

Monday 17 November 2008

Daily Grind

The workshop phone rang.

"It's for you, Doll. It's Danny, the accountant"

Oh drat! My 'bookkeeping' brain wasn't around anywhere. I think I left it under the desk a couple of weeks ago, when I finished the last Business Activity Statement. If the relevent 'brain' isn't on, it's really hard to focus. Still, the Machinist had the telephone in one hand and a heavy grinder in the other. I had to take the call.

The word "accountant" puts fear right to the cockles of the heart. I don't know why. It's like "policeman". There's good and bad in both professions, but they still seem to have this effect on me. I've never been in trouble with either, so I'm still flabbergasted why I should feel this way. Ok, so I have issues and will have to ponder this phenomenon in my spare time.

By the time I went back into the kitchen, the loaves of bread were overflowing their tins, and the oven roaring with anticipation. No sooner were the loaves slid inside, there was a "click" coming from the laundry, which indicates the completion of the washing cycle. Time to peg out the overalls. With four domestic pets in tow (competing for attention, and zig-zagging between my feet, almost legging me over), a heavy wash basket and flies buzzing around my face, I let go with one hand to brush them away, and the load came toppling out. The kitties scarpered for a second; but only a second. Soon they were back, seeking the shade, cast by the washing in the basket.

Note to self: buy more pegs - the coloured ones seem stronger, last longer, as well as set up some type of peg bag, instead of picking the pegs up off the ground, covered in dirt.

Another note to self: Weed! Especially the dandelions. They have massive seed heads, ready for wind distribution. The lillium beds are chock full of dandelions. That bed alone looks like a mini-amazon.

And talking of Amazon...

The Acai berries arrived! Full of goodness. They will be added as a supplement to our menu.

Afternoon administration consisted of writing huge lists for Metalsmithery and the Daily Pie, as well as odd jobs to be carried out on the Grand's Cottage. A general floorplan and coffee counter diagram were added to the rather large jotter - reserved for brainstorming and - well - lists. When the Machinist arrived home from taking a job to the powder coaters, he ventured out into the garden, towards the Workshop. I buzzed him on the intercom:

"Can I show you my list"

"Yeah", he sighed "I'm just locking up"

The Machinist is always willing to see what has to be done, even though he and I don't always want to do what's on the list. Usually, though, his first question is:

"How many pages?"

Saturday 15 November 2008

Mam and Daughter's Day Out

"It's just mam and her only daughter today", mam declared as she wrapped her arm around my shoulders. We were on the main street of Bowral, walking behind a crowd of teenage girls, who were loudly discussing how bored they were and that there was absolutely nothing to do in Bowral. Ever.

I squeezed mam's hand tight as we continued walking. It's always harder to commit to a time and day, than it is to take that time and day and actually do as you intended. I was truly glad that our plan had 'come to pass'. Mam loves the boutique shops as it reminds her of 'ome; England the Brave.

"You don't always have to buy anything, do you Helen? You can still get ideas for many things, just by looking around".

We saw thin, white crockery, vintage soup ladels, basketware, wrought iron, tinware, candles and candle wreaths, baking pans, cookie cutters, French wine glasses, chunky jewellery, silk scarves, foxy handbags and lots of bling. Antiques, old school benches, British porcelain, photos of HRH the Queen in gilt frames, photos of happy couples snogging and hugging in some dreamy European village, bunches of large flowers with long thick stems....

We lunched at a European bakery, then later, had half strength flat whites, apple and rhubarb cake and honey cake - both with clotted cream - served on huge, white plates at the most unusual coffee shop - "The Elephant Boy Cafe" - Dim lighting, cushioned seats, dark wooden bookcases laden with hard covered, sepia paged books ("... and I've nowhere near read them all..." ) added the proprietor as she delivered our afternoon treats to the table.

We discussed family - both here, in England and South Africa and marvelled at its dynamics.

On the way home, we stopped in Berrima and bought locally produced fragrances...

"Would it be ok if we looked for a shop that sells pies before we go, as your dad and I can have them for dinner tonight with the leftover vegetables I cooked last night..."

On the counter of the old General Store, and while the Storekeeper was packing the pies (chicken and asparagus / chicken and mushroom), we spied old fashioned bread and butter pudding, cut equally into large, single chunks sitting temptingly under an ample glass dome.

"You say these bread and butter pudding slices are single serves? That one piece could feed a family of five, I'm sure. Who makes them?"

"I do", said the Storekeeper, smiling.

Mam said nothing, until we were outside, sitting on the courtesy iron and wood tables and chairs, in front of the store and scoffing Heaven ice creams...

"If that man really can cook like that, he'll be really useful at my house."

Friday 14 November 2008

Metal in the Country

In the 15 years we've lived in the village, this was the second time I'd actually had a coffee at the General Store. Not because I haven't wanted to. On the contrary, I love the idea of morning or afternoon coffee at the local Store. It's just that the Machinist keeps me busy. Really busy.

The Storekeeper took the opportunity to sit outside with me so she could light up a cigarette. The day was warm and bright (not like the weather depicted in this photo of the General Store). Birdsong drowned out any potential audible distractions. Suddenly, the roar of an engine approaching. Customers wanting fuel.

A young Indian chap left the car to pay. The Storekeeper went inside to take his money. I was left alone. Time to think. Great. There's never enough time to think.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man approaching my table. The very same man I presumed to be the Indian chap's father. I was right. In a broad, Sri-Lankan accent:

"Tell me - do you ever get bored in this place?"

"No, never."

"You don't? I have to confess, I don't think I could live here. It's so quiet. And you don't mind that it is so quiet?"

"We came from South Africa. We've seen many horrible things. We love that it is so peaceful and quiet here"

"But what is there to do?"

I nearly choked on my bubbly cappucino. What is there to do? What is there to do? If only he knew how busy we usually are.....

"Well, I'm usually so very busy with our family business". I didn't sound convincing, because the sun had made me lazy, and I'm sure he could tell by my slow-blinking eyelids, as well as the angle I was sitting on the bench. A relaxed angle.

"You have a business? What, here? In this town?"

"Actually, we have two"

"What do you do?"

For the next ten minutes, I filled the stranger in on what we do and what we propose to do in the future.

"That's very interesting. Do you have a card?"

"Sorry, I don't seem to have one on me" Now who, pray, takes their business cards with them when they go up to the local store for coffee with the Storekeeper?

"No matter. I will look up your company name on the internet. Do I just put in the search engine 'Metal in the country'?"

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Developing Garden

I love these photos portraying the early development of our back garden, and thought I would share them with you:

This is a view of the garden from the back deck. The whole garden was weedy grass when we first moved in. Every time it rained, the creek would overflow, flood into our garden and the chickens had to spend weeks on their perches, never to come down for food and eventually pass out - weak - due to hunger.

Not really. The chickens passing out that is.

We carted tons of soil to form a levy bank and also added some soil to the flat area of the garden. To level the surface, the Machinist tied a piece of metal mesh to the bumper of our old Renault car. The children sat on the mesh to add weight, and the Machinist would 'doughnut' around and around, dragging the three siblings. They squealed with glee! "More, dad. More!"

The path leading to the (new) chicken coop, through the arbour. The gate on the right leads to the vegetable garden. It is fenced so that the puppies don't tramp or poo over the vegetation.

The orchard in its early stages. We were still busy building a perrenial border around the base of the orchard floor to create separate garden rooms and to contain the straw.

Part of Fruit Tree Walk (and the base of a Ballerina apple tree) which surrounds the vegetable garden. Beds and paths in the making.

The old vegetable garden. Raised beds were built and framed with old sleepers. This garden became very full very quickly - hence the need for a larger vegetable growing area.

Our first corn bed. I planted far too many seedlings!

Capsicum interplanted with shallots. Corn is getting taller and taller.

I'll have to really contain myself next time....

The Walk to the Workshop

"Mam, will you be trimming the plants anytime soon?" (I'm Head Gardener)

"Why, son?"

"Cos each time I walk to the workshop, I have to screw up my face like this.." he demonstrates; - eyes and lips squeezed together tightly, as if with a smearing of super glue. Shoulders hunched and leaning more to the right - like an off-balance Quasimodo double.. "so that the overgrowth doesn't touch me. Otherwise, the sneezing fits start."

The end in sight - the Workshop side door:

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Morning Walkies Around the Village

The Playing Oval

The Recreation Centre entrance - aka the Oval

The Anglican Church

A typical street.

The Catholic Church

The Uniting Church (was the Wesleyan Church)

The Uniting Church Cemetary

Happy puppies Bobby (black dog) and Polly (hiding behind the Machinist)

The General Store

Our Street

The view from our garden.


 Table talk amongst our children is and always has been, -  a rabbit warren . We start off in one hole and end up in another -  quick smart....