Saturday 31 January 2009

Marley And Me

I've said it before - I'm really starting to love mattinees. Especially in the heat of the day, when you can sit in an air-conditioned cinema and relax, and try your best not to fall asleep, even if you are depending on a muffled nasal grunt to keep you awake.

Marley and Me is a beautifully light comedy / drama about a family and their beloved dog. My thoughts wondered to our two beloved mutts, Jock and Elibelle who one day decided to go a bit too far in their tug o' war game with a poisonous snake, resulting in their death. During the movie, I sneeked a peek at the Machinist, and observed his face, taught with emotion. Just the sight of him made me want to sob ...

Mutt love....

Anyway, here's the info for Marley and Me. Enjoy!

Friday 30 January 2009

All in a (Random Day's) Work

Wake at 6.30am and torment myself with thoughts of sleeping a little longer. Refuse to listen to myself, get up.

Load the hungry washing machine, switch on the tumble dryer - full of the previous laundry user's clothing. In this case, Sam's clothing (and bed sheets and riding gear, including gloves). Make an Isowhey shake with 1/4 banana and skim soy milk (not my first choice, but I've adapted). Sip on shake - slowly. Take meat out of freezer for lunch.

Head to the shop for more painting with second daughter. Become a mosquito's banquet while standing on a ladder; tray of paint in one hand, brush in the other. (They know when you are vulnerable, the mosquitos do). Keep on enquiring of the time. Grandpa points to a huge clock on top of his kitchen pantry. I can just see it if I bend my knees and peer, squintingly through the kitchen window.

Almost time for morning tea.

Feel very chuffed after completing western and southern gutters and eaves FOR THE THIRD TIME. Even before morning tea ...

Go home for morning tea.

Actually, morning espresso coffee. With almond nuts and a pear.

Dragged by the Machinist into the Machine Shop office to send a quote, record an invoice and relieve business creditors by performing internet banking direct deposits. (IBDD's), as well as writing cheques.

Lunch; meatballs with oregano and five spices, cinnamon, onion and tomato sauce with garden salad.

Check emails after lunch and fall asleep at the computer. Several times. Wake up with a massive whiplash. Go for a nap under the mosquito net in bedroom. Doze off. Woken by second daughter, Sarah, after ten minutes of deep sleep, as she opens the bedroom door to drop off her dad's boots.

Return to the office to finish bookwork and print off reports from MYOB.

Head to the Shop to complete painting the gutters and eaves on the Eastern wall. West, South, East?


Go back home. Peg out (more) washing. Jump into the pool - fully dressed. Frolick in the pool with the Machinist (even learn a new trick; - how to conquer the 'Big Daddy' floating bed).

Coffee with the Machinist.

Head off to mow the lawns at the Shop and Grand's Cottage garden with the Machinist. Take over the Machinist's new toy; a ride on mower. Create many dust storms on said ride on mower (due to making 'doughnuts' and tracks on dry, loose soil with mower). Feel very chuffed and rebellious about making dust storms.

Due to the darkness of the sky (8.45pm), load the push mower and whipper snipper onto the ute. Ride in convoy home. The Machinist on the mower, me in the ute behind him.

Thursday 29 January 2009


Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realise the heights to which he has climbed.

P G Woodhouse

Alan Marshall

After an early morning painting session, the girls and I got ready to spend the day in town. Lots of errands and grocery shopping had to be done. It was one of those days that we were able to squeeze in a few simple pleasures, like a visit to "Memory Lane", one of our favourite haunts. We all found treasures! My delight was in the discovery of a book on Quotations, compiled by Fred Metcalf. And furthermore - "The Complete Stories of Alan Marshall" by - you guessed it - Alan Marshall - 1902 to 1984:

Alan Marshall was born in 1902 at Noorat in the Western District of Victoria. He died in 1984 at the age of 82. When he was six he constracted infantile polio and walked on crutches from that time onwards. He is best known for his autobiographical novel, 'I Can Jump Puddles', which was made into a film and has been published in 28 countries. In 1972 Alan Marshall was awarded the OBE for his services to handicapped people. He received the Order of Australia for his services to literature in 1981.
A Scene from I Can Jump Puddles, by Alan Marshall
Memory Lane sure is a treasure trove of the odd and curious finds...

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Endless Projects

On arriving home this evening with the Machinist, I lingered a little in the utility truck. Tall conifers on either side of me - the driveway completely hidden from the street. I looked around at the amount of projects on the go, that have to be completed within the next two months:

A ladies bicycle that we picked up at the tip, needing a new wheel and two new tyres. I can't wait to ride it!

A metal trunk which will be cleaned up and used as a prop for Metalsmithery

An old galvanised weed sprayer, with the name "Hudson" imprinted on the front. This will also be cleaned up and used as a prop for Metalsmithery.

Two wrought iron single bed headboards to be stripped and painted.

Four tressles used to support outdoor work benches when spray painting various items.

Gothic looking hinges and door supports for Metalsmithery's main door, made by the Machinist, awaiting spray painting.

An enormous hydraulic ram, which the Machinist intends to use on a piece of equipment he is going to make.

Long lengths of galvanised steel, awaiting manufacture.

A large trailer, quarter filled with garden refuse from the Shop grounds, awaiting weeds and home-garden refuse from the Head Gardener (me!)

A wheelbarrow loaded with bags of chicken poop, to be scattered and dug into the vegetable beds.

A large bag of pig poop, also to be scattered and dug into the vegetable beds.

Old wooden crates, to be chopped up into smaller pieces and used as firestarters for the Autumn months.

Various vintage metal implements, used as garden decor.

I'm sure there's more, but it will probably only come to mind as I trip over it, carrying coffee to the Machine Shop.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Comforting Early Morning Sounds

When we first purchased the old Roadhouse, the cottage (the Grand's Cottage) connected to the Shop was constructed from various materials and had many colours. The whole building looked derelict and dilapidated. Over the past few months, we've endeavoured to make the whole building look connected, as one, instead of two separate entities, with the use of the same building materials and paint colour. Over the past two days, we've been painting the gutters and eaves of these two entities to 'link' them. The circumference is HUGE! We start very early in the morning and work on the western wall, in the shade. By 1pm, we've finished the southern wall as well and go home for lunch. We return at around 3.15pm and work on the eastern wall which is, by then, in the shade.

Prime coat. Top coat. Top coat.

"Round and round the circumference, like a teddy bear ...." tra la la

On both early morning starts, I've been comforted by the sounds of early morning rising. We are there before the Grands wake and get out of bed, but they're up shortly after. As they rise and shine, there is the sound of the toilet flushing; it's waste running to the septic tank. Then the bathroom taps are used, and the plumbing groans. If the hot tap is run, the Rinnai Instant Hot Water heater clicks into action, and a faint whiff of liquid petroleum gas seeps into the crisp dewy air.

In the kitchen, a gush of cold water runs down the drain and gurgles its way to the grease trap. The kettle is switched on and works itself into a panic as it reaches boiling point. More whiffs of gas, as the tea and coffee cups are rinsed under hot water. Muffled communication. Plates and bowls clatter - cereals are being poured. A frying pan clangs on the stove top. More muffled conversation...

The click of the front sliding door indicates 'wee wee' time for the beloved Pekingnese, Blossom. It's not long before Blossom has made her way around to the west to greet us.


A new day.

What will this day be like? I wonder...

What will my future be?

Monday 26 January 2009

Australia Day 2009

Today was momentus. For the first time, in over 20 years, we raised the Australian flag at the Shop (the old Roadhouse) - to be known as Metalsmithery & The Daily Pie. Grandpa had painted the flagpole, and the Machinist was really grateful that he did. The three men in my life raised the pole to their shoulders and carried it to where it would be erected. They marched proudly! Later, Sam brought the forklift around the building, and the Machinist and I climbed onto the platform, so that we could be lifted to the height of the flagpole bracket.

We had lunch at the Bushranger Hotel (formerly the Kimberley's Hotel) and later did the commemorative walk for Constable Samuel Nelson, one of our village's own:

"Shortly before 6pm on 26 January, 1865 bushrangers Hall, Dunn and Gilbert attacked kimberley's Inn at Collector. The local Police at the time were out searching the area for the bushrangers, and the only man on duty in town was the Lockup keeper, Constable Nelson. When news of the attack reached the Constable he remarked to his wife that he would simply "have to do his best" against the bushrangers. Approaching the hotel armed only with a Police carbine with bayonet attached, the Constable was shot by Dunn who had hidden behind a fence post. Nelson was initially hit in the chest by a shotgun blast, and as he staggered, Dunn fired again, hitting him in the face. He died almost instantly. The bushrangers then robbed the Constable's body of his personal belongings and the carbine, and escaped into the bush. The entire incident had been witnessed by one of the Constable's nine children, young Frederick Nelson, who was also fired upon by Dunn.

The Constable was born in 1823 and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 5 August, 1857. At the time of his death, he was stationed at Collector".

Here are the Ten Tenors singing "I Still Call Australia Home". Makes me cry every single time!

Sunday 25 January 2009

The Rooster & The Horse

About a week ago I wrote about a sick rooster on a friend's farm. The rooster had been bitten by a snake and while at the farm, we had helped to give him a big wallop of vitamin C. On enquiring about the rooster the next day, we learned that although his organs were working ok, the rooster's nervous system had broken down. Mr Rooster was perky and alert, but he was paralysed.

Our friend, Robert decided to put the rooster out of his misery, and considerate of his wife's affection for all animals, he put the rooster in the basket of his four-wheeler, and took him for the (last) ride of his life to their 'pet cemetary' (other beloved pets had also been laid to rest due to snake bites). Robert begain digging a hole, deep enough to house Mr Rooster. He wanted to undertake the task as quickly as possible - the sun was rising high in the sky and beating down on both of them. Mr Rooster was placed in the hole and Robert began the rhythm of scooping dirt over him: shovel, twist, drop, shovel, twist, drop. The hole was filling quickly. Shovel, twist, drop. Shovel, twist, ... what the?

Out of the soil emerged a seizing chicken foot.

And with that, Robert put the largest boulder he could find (and move) over the grave site and fled on his four wheeler for the homestead ....

* * * * * * * * * *
Our Sam loves to ride his dirt bike. It has been said that there's not a patch or mound of dirt that he hasn't covered in our small village (and surrounding Travelling Stock Reserves). He was delighted, then, when his friend, Ben introduced him to a mound, in the middle of one of their farm's paddocks. The lads spent a good half hour in a bubble of dust, sweat, petrol fumes and roaring, overheated engines - competing for the highest jump, oblivous of their surroundings. Then, out of their zone -

"Ben! Ben! BEN! What the .... What are you DOOOO..ING?" It was Ben's dad, shouting from the car.

"C'mon, Sam, let's scarper ..."
"What's the matter?"
"Don't worry about it.. let's go ..."

A few hours later, when the dust had settled (in more ways than one), the lads returned to their new and recently compacted jump in the paddock. But not with the intention to - well - jump. Sam slid off his bike to take a closer look... there was a horse's hoof sticking out of the dirt, like a conquering flag on a mountain top.

Sam turned to Ben "did you know?"


Saturday 24 January 2009


I love that name ~ Housewife. It evokes such a sense of belonging. I am the Machinist's Housewife. Although, having said that, I dabble a lot in various other things, too, like bookkeeping, advertising, design, and project managing.

I have always referred to any woman working at home, married, with or without children as a housewife. The world doesn't use the term 'housewife' anymore. It's not politically correct to do so, and some find it derogatory. The names 'home executives', 'housepersons', 'homekeepers' or 'domestic executives' are the preferred titles for women who stay at home and work.

The vacuum cleaner is my talisman. Cloths, brooms, pans, mops, buckets and DETTOL are my friends and when I have these items in my hands, my family know that I'm not merely taking the bus and going on the Summer Holiday that Cliff Richards sings about.

I am Mrs Moppit Mama.

I am ready to perform the White Lightening lickover.

I am the Retro Housewife.

Retro Housewife; A married woman who embraces the role of wife, mother and homemaker, rather than adhering to the current paradigm of women assuming roles that are traditionally male

Friday 23 January 2009

Fruit of Labours

I've always wondered how other small business owners who work from home organise their lives. The private life from the business life. Is there a distinction, or does one simply flow into the other? Does the whole family work in the business as ours do?

For years, we've had a home & productive food garden, a home-school and an engineering workshop with an office enclosed - all on the same piece of land in the country. Three separate entities to manage and coordinate. Nowadays, we still have the home and semi-productive food garden, (Homelife / Garden) the home-school room has been turned into an office / studio, and the engineering workshop (Machine Shop) has expanded. We have also purchased an old petrol station / roadhouse (the Shop) - just up the road from our home - which will one day become a retail outlet for metal creations (Metalsmithery) and have it's own coffee shop (The Daily Pie) enclosed. Later, there will also be a pie bakery (The Daily Pie) in the same building. At the rear of the old petrol station / roadhouse (Shop) we have practically rebuilt a three bedroom cottage (Grands Cottage), where my parents now live.

Big plans and dedication. Lots of work. Enormous amounts of motivation. Many sacrifices.

You know how you go through life sometimes and wonder what you've actually done - especially on non productive days? As I write all this out and think about the enormity of it all, I can only wonder how we've done what we have, and know - truly know - whence cometh our blessings and am truly grateful and thankful.

May God give us the strength, patience, tenacity and all the rest we need to continue with these graciously granted dreams - now reality.


Thursday 22 January 2009

The Wealth of Home

You don't have to be wealthy to be rich. A certain mindset, particularly one of gratitude helps you realise just how rich you are. I love this poem by Sarah Hale 1788 to 1879

Sarah Hale
We need not power or splendour,
Wide hall or lofty dome;
The good, the true, the tender,
These form the wealth of home.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Maximilian the First

I bought this second hand, wood-framed print today:

I knew nothing of this chap at the time of purchasing his portrait, but it seems that he is Maximilian I, Roman Emperor-elect; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Burgundy - born March 22, 1459 – January 12, 1519. He is often referred to as 'the lask Knight', and has a generally excellent rap, despite having had three marriages! According to the inscription on the print, translated from Latin:

"The most powerful, the greatest, and most invincible Emperor Maximilian, who surpassed all the kings and princes of his time in justice, wisdom, magnanimity, [and] generosity, but especially in martial glory and strength of courage. He was born in the year of human salvation 1459, on the day of March 9. He lived 59 years and 9 months, 25 days. He died, however, in the year 1519, in the month of January, on the 12th day. Whom God the Best and Greatest may wish to restore to the number of the living".

In the portrait, Maximilian is holding a broken and bursting open pomegranite, which, in his day, was a symbol of the fullness of Christ's suffering and resurrection.

This is a self portrait of the guy who painted Max - Albrecht Durer, generally regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist

All this history. And to think that I only bought the print because I liked the way it looked...

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Coping With Laundry

Each week, we wash around ten loads of laundry. I'm so grateful that the washing machine is in working condition, as it didn't want to spin properly the other day, but the Machinist took it outside and whooped it into a good behaviour bond

I've tried several methods to prevent drowning in a sea of 'yesterday's heroes', as well as baskets of clean and folded piles all over the house

Currently, I'm in the throes of executing a new plan of action. Each family member already has an allocated dirty laundry bin, fitted in the laundry room, RATHER THAN a laundry basket in their bedrooms. Instead of attempting to do everyone's clothes washing on different days of the week, the Young Adults are now responsible to do their own, including their coloured towel(s) and bed linen on a specified day of the week.

Here's the deal: they are to get their laundry completely finished from dirty clothes to clean clothes, folded and in the drawers and cupboards that day. My job is to make sure this happens. Naturally, I have my own laundry day, and I do the Machinist's clothes, overalls, tea-towels, bathroom towels and any other miscellaneous items lying around (not the cats and dogs!).

I have a large yellow wheelie bin, situated just out of the laundryroom on the back deck. If I find anything that doesn't belong in the laundry on any specific day, it goes in the wheelie bin. This includes wet, dry, clean or dirty clothes that don't belong to the person who is using the laundry on that day.

Clear as mud?

At least we don't have to use this (for which I am truly grateful)

Monday 19 January 2009

Third Daughter

I have this print by John Brack on my wall at home:

John Brack was a Melbourne artist who in his work engaged with an urban reality, one which the great majority of Australians experience in their daily life.

In 1954, he began to explore the techniques of printmaking and created a series of four small, intimate images in drypoint, one of each of his daughters. Third daughter is a little gem in characterisation, where the stark frontality, the clenched fists and the scowling expression denote defiance.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Gladys on Food

For anyone known as a "born cook", reducing approaches anguish. It is no laughing matter to skip lightly into the kitchen and fix barbecued spareribs, juicy and rich and spicy and abounding in calories, and watch the family smack their lips over the platter while you eat a lonely lamb chop - broiled, fat cut off, fat being the best part - and a dish of shredded cabbage garnished sweetly with a slice of lemon.

But I like the fresh green vegetables, too. The first thinning of beets and onions steamed in butter is also a dish that might go on any heavenly menu.

Gladys Taber - April 12, 1899 to March 11, 1980

Saturday 17 January 2009

Old McDonald... The Aussie Version

I love the country life.

"I'm gettin' some chooks, Andre. Would ya like our old ones? If so, could ya come over and help us trim the wings and dust 'em all?"

After trimming the wings and dusting the chooks, we noticed that the gentle, majestic rooster wasn't looking too well. He had been lying far too long in the sun - too long for a dirt bath. He couldn't walk far, either. He'd amble along, then fall, head over spurs, into the dust. After a phone call to the vet, we learned that the magnanimous King Pin rooster had been bitten by a snake. He was promptly put into a cage and carried to the cool of the verandah.

Good farmers will always have medical supplies, for both humans, pets and livestock in their pantries or fridges. The Machinist helped to administer 5ml of Vitamin C and gently rubbed the rooster's throat. Chooks can't take injections; any medication has to enter their poultry bodies via their beaks. Fortunately, all the Vitamin C went down the gullet, followed by several shots of water, so that dehydration wouldn't set in.

Farm dogs are like their owners; friendly and welcoming. The 'outside' dogs and the 'inside' dogs fall into this same category. While the Machinist and I were having the refreshments offered to us, Russell - the Jack Russell - simply couldn't help himself. We had our backs to him, ignoring him, but this didn't douse his enthusiasm for fuss. He jumped up our backs, squeaking as he did so. I know dogs, in general, don't squeak, but Russell does. He backanswers you, too. In comparison, Jake, a leggy wolf hound, likes to walk right next to you, with his wirey-fur clad body which touches you constantly, as if he would be "out" if he wasn't actually touching you.

Ducks and ducklings (teenage ducklings) were making their way around the house, travelling in covoy.

Eva and Onslo, the miniature pigs we will be adopting paced the length of their pen as we passed by.

Their neighbours, the black pigs weren't as energetic, though. They sat like a couple of elderly villagers, at the doorstep of their sty. The farmer noted that one of Mr Black Pig's tusks were missing.

Four young sassy saddlebacks scoffed down their meal as we watched. The male saddleback kept on snouting the others out of the food bowl, but he was kept in line with a branch of eucalypt, distracting him from his 'hoggy' ways, leaving opportunity for the girls to tuck in.

The two hand raised lambs were freed from their pens. I'm sure they love weekends when their mistress is home!

We left the farm with a cage of hens and five bags of chicken poop! Waste not, want not.

The Machinist will undoubtedly call and see how his patient, King Pin Rooster is tomorrow...

Friday 16 January 2009

I Am Otter

I am in love with Sam's art, as are my family! It is too cute for words. Sam loves to create Otter art, but his talents are varied. Sam lives in London, and although I don't know much about Sam (yet), I am sure we'll soon get to know more about him. He has graciously allowed me to feature his art on my blog. You can view more of Sam's art by clicking here. His otter diary reminds me of the modern-day-male-form of Beatrix Potter stories. What do you think? Perhaps you could let Otter know what you think... She loves mail and both she and the Otter Keeper get so very excited when it arrives. Don't worry, they'll pass the message on to Sam...

This is Otter Keeper on his motorbike with sidecar. Next to him is Otter. Otter really loves Otter Keeper. She misses him when he isn't at home, and if she ventures out herself, via the Otter door in their flat, she misses being home with Otter Keeper.

This is Otter Keeper at home, listening (or pretending to listen) to Otter. She loves to chat to him, but isn't sure if he's 'all ears', all of the time

After all, it is all about her. It's all about Otter...

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Floating with the Puppy

The Machinist loves the pool more than any other family member. The pool takes a lot of attention to keep clean and to maintain the right chemical balance, but the Machinist is prepared to put the time in to keep it "just so". If he is extremely busy in the workshop, he'll be sure to delegate somebody else to get the leaves / pine needles and other fly-by-night-end-up-in-the-pool critters out of the pool. In turn, we've bought him pool accessories like a hammock, as well as various floaties, pool games and toys.

I was lounging on one of the Machinist's floaties the other day - his "Big Daddy" floatie. It's not often that I go in the pool, but a girl has to keep cool, especially one with English blood flowing through her veins. The Puppies, and the Kitties, took their turn in climbing up the steps onto the pool deck to see what was going on, as it wasn't a common occurence for their mistress to be in the pool. They did their checking, saw that all was well, and retired to the cool of the shade.

Absorbing the heat from the pentrating rays on my arms and legs, it wasn't long before my eyes began to droop. Lying flat on my back, all I could see was blue sky with cirrus clouds, framed by an assortment of trees: the willow, the pine tree, the apple trees, the plum... My lids were closing fast now. I couldn't lift them! I could hear the sound of buzzing insects. Probably Christmas-beetle laggers. As long as they weren't close-by buzzing insects, I wasn't worried. Now and again, the bang of a hammer on steel, echoing from the workshop.


Then, the familiar sound of a Puppy snorting. Polly was on the pool deck, crooning to get to me. I swear, if my body had a hatch door and could open, that particular puppy would jump straight in. I grabbed her collar and pulled her on to my belly. For a few minutes, she was unsettled, as the floatie was swaying. Then she started to relax and I dipped my hand into the water, and stroked her head and face.

It was tempting to drift some more, with the Puppy on my belly, but you know - duty is always calling...

Mr Green of the Midlands

Mr Green, an elderly neighbour of ours in England, had a wonderful greenhouse. I always thought his name was "Mr Green" because he had a greenhouse with green plants in it, and his house was painted with a green trim, too. Mr Green wasn't over protective over his greenhouse, as some are; on the contrary, every time his grand-daughter, Kathleen from London, came to stay, he would allow us to play in his greenhouse, especially when it was raining or cold, as it was always the same, warm temperature inside.

Mr Green was so kind and generous in many ways. He would serve us treats and arrange them so prettily on a blue and white plate. Naturally, we shared our feasts with our dollies. They, too, appreciated Mr Green's thoughtfulness.

When the weather was fine, or the greenhouse became too hot, we would play in the garden, which was like an adventure playground, without the apparatus. Our form of entertainment was hiding in all the little nooks that Mr Green had created with his gardening knowledge and skills. Our favourite outdoor area was the goldfish pond. We would lie flat on our bellies, heads dangling over the edge, looking at our (often distorted reflections) and watch the life in the pond. As long as we didn't 'touch' anything in the pond, we were allowed to lie there as long as we would like...

Mr Green's house was furnished with cobblestones, leather seating, lots of pictues in gilt frames and oakwood furniture. His kitchen was clean and scrubbed and had the fragrance of Sunlight soap. Although a widower, his clothes were always clean and well pressed, the little hair he had left was well groomed. His shoes were highly polished.

And... who knows why my thoughts are of Mr Green? Perhaps its because of my gardening marathon. Perhaps it's because I've been watching my reflection in the pool. Perhaps it's because I've had a recent hankering to inhale the summery fragrance of Sunlight soap of late.

Perhaps it's because I'm getting older and you know how they say that your memories revert a lot to your childhood?

Er... no.... I think I'll settle for the former list of possibilities....

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Botanical Eviction and Eradication

The sun dictates where I will work each day in the garden. Early, (very early) in the morning, Sarah's garden is in the shade. If I play my cards right and get to bed early the night before, I can beat Mr Sun. Invariably, though, Mr Sun cheats and rises earlier than predicted.

And so - as the song goes "... Mad dogs and English (wo)men go out in the midday sun..." I love to keep to tradition.... thanks to Noel Coward ...

Lambsears were totally evicted. MILLIONS of earwigs began crawling up my legs and scurrying across my feet as I air-lifted these clumps out of Sarah's fenced garden. The recollection of seeing the earwigs simply daunts me. (Later, I squashed one on it's way to my knickers!). Valerian, a gift from Sarah's piano teacher was hacked beyond recognition. The once bushy, evasive plant was reduced to cluster of stumpy green alien-like fingers. Although left unharmed - just merely grazed by the shears, the scent of catmint filled the air (I've never seen any of our cats roll around in the multitudes of catmint we have planted for them).

Granny's bonnets breathed a sigh of relief, as did claustrophobic English lavender. Even a thorny rose appeared; the tallest of the (formerly hidden) botanical population. And at the base of the rose - a clump of variegated violas - courageously anchored firmly amongst giants.

A terracotta pot, half buried in moisture retentive soil hosted a family of carbuncle-like snails. Other slug family creatures preferred to live in the dark, under a home-made stepping stone.

Later in the day, when a dense plum tree and hardy conifer offered shade, I decided to end the reign of common mint and tentacles of periwinkle from the washing line garden, watched closely by the Machinist who desperately tried to persuade me to accompany him in the pool. Sarah was already in there, floating on her back.

"C'mon, Babe, I've got the pool leaf free for you..."

But, Machinist, don't you know - Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade!
Rudyard Kipling - 30 December 1865 to 18 January 1936

Monday 12 January 2009

You Can't Rush These Things

Patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet - Aristotle

When I first started creating our garden, I had one idea in mind - that I would never be able to fill it. It's not a large garden, but experience has taught me that even cultivating and planting a square metre of garden is laborious and time consuming.
To Garden is akin to Diet; you expect to see results very quickly.
My patience has been sorely tested, but looking around our garden plot now, soaking in the greenery I never expected to grow, I am in awe of the abundance.
Yes, patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet ...

Sunday 11 January 2009

One of Those "Moments"

I'd almost finished weeding and pruning one particular area of the vegetable garden. The perennial wallflowers were trimmed and the bog sage slashed. Their excesses were loaded onto the wheelbarrow. Cumulonimbus clouds were approaching fast from the west and now and again, with distant muffled rumbling. The puppies circled me constantly, stopping frequently between the rake and I, causing me to pause and reassure them "'s allright, puppies, we'll go indoors before the rain comes..."

Excitedly, and in anticipation, they rushed off to the back verandah, waiting for an invitation inside. I was left alone in a secluded area of the garden near one of the arbours, surrounded by greenery. Looking over to the orchard, I watched lacy-brown apple leaves rise and fall, rise and fall and twirl to the ground. The willow tendrils were swaying. Noisy parrots and cockatoos argued overhead. There was the steady, burring, methodical sound of the ride-on lawnmower, operated by the Machinist in the paddock beyond; a comforting sound, almost rhythmic. A strong fragrance of roses and mint flirted in the cool air - together... Soft, gentle raindrops fell on my chin, and as I tilted my head heavenward, more fell on my eyelids...

My Gardening Inspiration: Foxglove Spires, Tilba Tilba

Each year, the Machinist takes us down the coast and usually, we end up at Tilba Tilba, but more importantly, I get my annual fix at Foxglove Spires open garden.

Last year, (sounds long ago) we were too busy with renovating the shop to go to the coast and the little time we had off over Christmas and New Year was spent idling on the couch and getting the Young Adults to bring us food and drinks....

I've been working in the garden, and when I do, I always think of the magical Foxglove Spires. I wrote about the garden experience some time ago, and thought I would enclose it again in this post, as follows:

Snuggled between green hills, and almost as if one has been 'telepod-ed' to the English countryside, 'Tilba Tilba' oozes her beauty and charm to all those who happen upon this quaint Australian coastal village. Each year she calls; a calling to which we gratefully submit. Each year there are changes. New businesses spring up; their owners excited and challenged at the prospect of operating in this rural locality. Old world lolly shops, a cobbler, a cheese factory, gift shops, a tanner, a bakery, a toy shop, coffee shops, a woodturner and gallery, a general store and a couple of hotels and bed and breakfast establishments line the main street. A street that could splutter out much gossip, if ever asked.

There is one business, however, that has been there for some years now. An open garden. A garden that began life as a bare paddock, with horses and a few trees. A garden that became a young mother's obsession. A garden that has now, in more ways than one, bared fruit. Fruit on the trees and the fruit of success from labours borne. The garden, Foxglove Spires, consists of three and a half acres of feasting for the eyes. From the moment one 'floats' beneath the 100 metre stretch of Espalier pear arbour, ~ the entrance to the garden ~ there is much striving to absorb the abundance of beauty. Striving and wrestling in the anticipated frustration of knowing that not all will be seen in one visit.

Two gigantic Norfolk Island pines guard the homestead, like wise men of old. Wise and wary and forever watching. Soldiers perhaps. Guards. They tower over the rest of the garden. They watch as one roams through the many garden rooms and walks......

Lining 'Crabapple Walk' are the purple and pink shades of foxgloves, the garden's namesake, which seem to stand so strong and upright for their height. Proud almost. Forget-me-nots and lambsears sit faithfully at the base of their stalks. Suddenly, a pond - lined with water irises and Lombardy poplars. A Redwood stands nearby. Wild ducks on the pond, their necks turned and tucked, floating dreamily - in their own perfect haven. This is surely a place to sit and ponder - even reminisce, soaking in the tranquillity. A mock church ruin, grown between the weeping willows adds to the setting. A 'live' set. A set which any and all visitors play a part, should they perchance to dream.....

Further along is the camelia and azalea walk, which seems to 'serve' the line of liquidamber and prunus trees, growing behind. An explosion of colour, and so perfectly matched. Purple-burgundy/ lemon-lime. Gently sloping now to Cedar Hill. Canopies touching, creating tunnels. Shade. Muddy and sometimes slippery paths underneath. It is here that the smell of the earth provokes a sense of wonderment. Earth; the substance. Earth; the base for the growth which spreads in all directions. Breath-catching. Emotionally choking. Delightful!

From Cedar Hill, and walking into the sun, there is a quandry of which path to take; the one to Bluebell and Oak wood? Pear Circle and Daffodil ring? Citrus Walk? Wild Rose Garden? The Shadehouse? A bench, perched in the centre of the garden, surrounded by Iceberg roses, provides a place to decide. To wrestle further. From here, Mount Dromederry can be seen peeking above the tree tops. Wherever one finds oneself in this bounty, there is continual fragrance, as well as plant life grown in wild abandonment. Every room with it's own atmosphere, calling on each visitor to use their senses.

Which path again?

Pear and Daffodil Circle, ~ pear trees, encircling a patch of a variety of daffodils. Bluebell and Oak Wood, ~ a path running between the trees, with an old gate at the top end of the wood, standing alone with no fence. Citrus Grove, ~ a grove of lemon and orange trees, planted in an arc, with a bench in the 'belly' of the arc. Wild Rose Garden ~ old world roses grown in a formal diamond design, with pebble paths dividing each patch. The Shadehouse ~ a cool, dark place. A room covered in rambling honeysuckle.....

Nut Walk, which flows into Apple Tree Lane often claims the victory of previous indecision. 'Latticed' apple trees grow on one side of the lane, while on the other side, berry bushes mixed with honeysuckle spill over. Structured disorder.

The vegetable patch indicates that the old homestead is nearby. The house and then the garden exit through Foxglove Spires' Nursery. Medicinal and culinary herbs are mixed with a variety of vegetables in the pottager. They are planted using the companion plant method. A few pansies, violets, marigolds and nasturtiums are grown for colour as well as protection to other plants. Doctor plants. Moments are spent noting what thrives. Alas, time has slipped away yet again......

But......before leaving, a peek at the coop! Greenery planted around the coop, bales of hay within. Feathered friends of multicultural backgrounds peck, hop, run, cackle, perch and doze. They live in a 'Rolls-Royce' hen-house. Happy chickens. Complacent ducks and geese. Peace. Harmony. Not only here, but throughout.....

Walking through the nursery exit, there is always a sense of exhale. Unsurpassed beauty has been experienced, lived. Could Foxglove Spires be remotely akin to the beauty of Eden? If not, then what is to come is uncomprehensible ....

Saturday 10 January 2009

A Profound Comment

"Mom, I've been thinking about new year's resolutions. I don't want to make resolutions of what I want to do. I want to make resolutions of how I want to be".

~ My daughter, Emma ~

Thursday 8 January 2009

A Feathered Visitor

A couple of days ago, my son came bounding into the house, anchored by his cumbersome motorcycle boots. "Mam, mam, you've got to come and see what we've got..."

In the rather large animal-transport-to-the-vet cage, was a brawny cockatoo, completely unruffled by the fact that there were many humans surrounding him. His main objective, it seemed, was to perform as many party tricks for his audience as possible by flapping, and clawing, as well as using his beak to climb up, then down, then across the cage. Momentarily, he would stop his antics, as if waiting for applause.

Was it fate, chance, that this healthy cockatoo should cross our family's path after the passing of our beloved Bucko, who was unfortunate to contract beak and feather disease at birth?

The temptation to keep the bird was great. The desire to keep the healthy bird in a cage for most of his long life expectancy years was not.

Last night, before any of us could take the slightly injured friend to WIRES, the Machinist let him out of the cage, and watched as he fluttered across the garden, climbed up the fence and sat contentedly, plucking at the leaves of a photinia robusta bush, in true cockatoo fashion. Later, he made his way across the road from our house, and was joined by a flock of locally bred cockatoos, squawking loudly, as if cheering him on. An avian 'support' group.

We're all hoping that our feathered visitor will have a long and fruitful life of destruction and - flight.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

It's ON!

The Machinist, eldest daughter, Emma and I are on a diet together. We are on the same plan. This is a first in our family, and there is a sense of relief on my part, because in past times, whenever we've dieted, I've had to think of different plans for different people and always feel that I am chasing my tail, letting somebody down if I haven't prepared or bought a special foodstuff. It's always been hard enough thinking about my own efforts towards weight loss, never mind being responsible for others. The difference now is that each of us know what and when and how, can simply get on with the business of losing and we can share about bodily function and actually relate!

Oh, and seeing as we are all so darn competitive, well, let me just say, it won't be me, buddies. You may think it will be, but it won't. I'm persevering on this while my body rearranges itself!

Bring it on!

Tuesday 6 January 2009

30 Things About Me

1 I was born in England on October 22nd
2 We left England when I was 12
3 I lived my whole 12 years in England in the house I was born in
4 I grew up in South Africa
5 We moved house 11 times in South Africa
6 I met the Machinist in South Africa when we were both 14
7 I married the Machinist on 1st May 1981
8 We married in a registry office in a small country town in South Africa
9 I gave birth to our first daughter in South Africa
10 We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary on 2008
11 I now live in Australia
12 I gave birth to our second daughter and only son in Australia
13 I have lived in Australia for 23 years
14 We have moved house 12 times in Australia
15 I have lived in the country for 15 years
16 I love living in the country and dislike the city
17 I have four brothers
18 I am the youngest of five siblings
19 I have 1 brother in England, 2 brothers in South Africa and 1 brother in Australia
20 The Machinist has no siblings, one aunt, one cousin. He is an only child. Unlike me.
21 I have no nieces or nephews
22 My parents live less than 500m away from me
23 I have 5 living aunts and uncles out of 14 on my mam’s side of the family
24 I have 0 living aunts and uncles out of 2 on my dad’s side of the family
25 I have 9 living cousins out of 11 on my mam’s side of the family
26 I have 3 living cousins out of 3 on my dad’s side of the family
27 Genealogy is one of my hobbies
28 I have 2 pet dogs, 2 pet cats, 2 pet hens and a horse
29 I would probably have more pets if the opportunity arose – including miniature pigs
30 I still have a British accent

Monday 5 January 2009

Eating Her Curds and Whey

I knew it would come. I knew the psyched state of mind would eventually thick-set, readying me for embarking on a new eating plan.

On Christmas morning, I had wanted to tell my friend, Margaret, of the intentions I had and what product I had chosen to assist me in losing weight. "Oh Margaret, I must tell you about this product I've been researching, which I'll be ordering early in the new year.."

"I have one, too, Helen - it's called Isowhey. I only had to use it for three days and already, I feel so much better".


Snap. That's all I can say, Margaret. Thanks for bursting my bubble.

Yeah. Thanks a lot.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Farewell, Christmas Tree

Taking down the tree .... Until next year - farewell, my friend

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

After our Chinese meal and ten pin bowling stint (I wooped the Machinist), a wonderful two-hour-forty-five-minute-movie, where our friend, Mary Ann cried so much, she had to use her top to wipe her tears...


In all my years, today was the first time I have eaten at a gen-u-ine Chinese restaurant. I hesitate to call it a restaurant, though, as it was more of a family and extended family eating house. For simply ages, the appearance of red bodied ducks (and other unidentified meat), hanging in the window on butchers hooks had put me off even trying Chinese food. Our Aussie Chinese friend put all those fears-of-the-unknown-allegedly-edible creatures to rest.

So impressed was the Machinist and I that after our meal (which left us amply satisfied, but not stodgy-full) we went shopping at the Asian supermarket next door.

On advice and full recipe details from my friend, Mr Doon, my purchases included:

Jasmine loose leaf tea
Sweet Chilli Sauce For Chicken
Won Ton Soup Base Mix
Chicken Bouillon Powder
Hoisin Sauce
Plum Sauce
Mixed Ginger Pickles
Sweet and Sour Sauce
Char Siu Sauce

Oh, and as a fragrant addition - Sandalwood Soap - Bee & Flower Brand!

Friday 2 January 2009


Still loved and missed: Woopie Chookie Lucky Puppy Miss Piggy Wiggy
October 1996 to November 2004

I hate cruelty of any kind to animals of any kind.

I have no problem with killing animals humanely for food, or because they can become a menace to farmers, or threaten the well-being of mankind (there has been many a debate in our Capital city, as the kangaroos are using up and contaminating our dwindling water supplies, as the drought continues).

I can raise chickens for eggs, but I cannot kill them myself. If I were tohave to raise them for meat, I would eat them, but I'd still have to get somebody else to kill them. Having said that, I KNOW I would be able to slaughter them if I HAD to, but I don't have to right now, so I choose not to.

A friend of mine raises joeys that are orphaned. She carries them around, as she does her housework, or hangs them in hand made 'sacks' on the door handles around her home. I couldn't or wouldn't go that far.

I love my dogs and cats, but they sleep outside. I couldn't or wouldn't be cruel to them. I can't bear the thought of cage-raised chickens. I prefer free range. But.... in times of need, I would eat them. I don'thave to right now, so I don't.
As for tube raised chickens ~ I don't think I would eat them. I don't like mankind messing around with conception or test tubes. It perterbs me. You wouldn't know what you'd get in that 'chicken'. Maybe even some human DNA!

We often talk about the birds in our garden. Sam used his catapult to scare them away. I followed suit - until I developed a tennis elbow. Cockatoos are a menace to farmers as they eat their crops. (They eat our fruit crops, as well!) Too many of them, and the whole season's crop is gone!
Wombats dig huge holes in the land, and destroy good pasture. Foxes kill chickens, ducks and new born lambs. The farmers in our area plant bait to kill the foxes.
I've taught the children that it is ok to kill for food, or if they are ever bothered by animals that threaten their livlihood, but woe betide any of them if they kill for fun or sport!


 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....