I’ve finally made time to write what’s been happening over the last year and a bit, and I guess you could say that 2019 was mostly the year of plantings. We planted out the Autumn Grove, Bee Hive Corner and a scattering of pretty trees along the boundary of our property, plus a stunning feature tree in the back yard.
The Autumn Grove is down the bottom of one of our paddocks, it’s the lowest point on our property and probably the size of an average house block of land. Eventually, from our house we will be able to see a riot of autumn colour tree tops, in oh you know, a decade or two. Some of my favourite trees went in, Sugar Maple, Golden Maple, Coral Barked Maple, Tulip Tree, Scarlet Oak, Black Tupelo, Claret Ash, Golden Amber, Himalayan Birch, a Macadamia tree, and half a dozen Red Maples. Just above the grove, in the sheep paddock but sectioned off for protection, a Forrest Pansy, Chinese Pistachio and Golden Ash. In another paddock on the other boundary side, a Persian Ironwood, and in the backyard our feature tree, a Golden Elm. We purchased this one quite advanced so we hope to enjoy its shade and magnificence in just a few years.
Growing, enjoying and selling flowers has always been part of the plan but this year the need to be surrounded by flowers was overwhelming. I began a planting of Roses, around 20 odd, mostly David Austins, many long time favourites, a couple of must have roses I had in my last garden, and a few other heavenly scented, delicately coloured beauties. Inhaling the incredible perfume of a David Austin Rose has no match on those modern varieties for me. I know the new varieties are better cut flowers, last longer, have longer stems etc, but for me half the beauty of a rose is the scent. I’ve had a nice time experimenting with the petals and made my first rosewater recently. I keep it in the fridge in a spray bottle and I can’t tell you how refreshing and addictive it is to spritz my face after getting all hot and sweaty in the garden. A pure delight! A white waratah and a couple of Grevilleas also went in along with some native flowering shrubs I can’t recall the name of right now. I’m new to natives as have always leaned on classic cottage styles but I am enjoying getting to know some natives that are better suited to our wild extremes of weather. Selections are based firstly on beauty, but flowering for bees and cut flower viability are carefully considered also. And anything in the ‘can take gale force relentless winds’ group are immediately promoted to the top of the list.
Our one large sheep paddock has been split into four, and Charlie built another shed for the sheep. We designed the split of paddocks so each shed can be accessed by two paddocks, therefore ensuring our sheep have shelter no matter which paddock they are in. And boy do they love those sheds, in the wind, rain or beating hot sun, they seek shelter in them regularly. Just recently we completed our own little ‘cattle race’ although it’s likely not well suited to cattle, possibly not strong enough. Instead it’s suited to our needs, for sheep and hopefully one day, a couple of alpacas. We harvested two of our own lambs for the freezer last spring. It’s quite an intense process raising our own meat, confronting and questioning, reassuring yet heartbreaking. We’re doing our very best to ensure these animals live their very best life here even it means that life is shorter for some of them. We had only one lamb born last year and we just returned a loaned ram from down the road. He’s been here making friends with our girls in the hopes we’ll have more lambs born this year. After the heartache and tough times we endured the previously in regards to the sheep, this last year was smoother. Apart from the odd escapes resulting in severely pruned trees and roses, it’s mostly been a lot easier being shepherds this year. Either that or I’m just getting used to it?
The orchard has provided us with some fruit this year, albeit modest harvests, though I suspect this will change next year as the trees mature that little bit more, after all they were only 3.5 years old this summer. The older fruit trees around the house gifted us many baskets of fruit. Not as many nectarines as last year but still plenty, along with blood plums, apricots and cherries. Jam making was in full force over summer and the jam cupboard is once again bursting at the seams. Just how I like it! And alongside the jam cupboard, and above it, and beside it, is our garlic harvest. This was a bumper garlic year even though I didn’t plant as much as I had hoped. There’s hundreds and hundreds of bulbs and I couldn’t be happier! The patch has struggled mostly due to the weather still, the tree belt around it is growing but it’s a way off before it can protect the beds from the winds. Despite this we’re still having great success growing herbs, and things like garlic, rhubarb and strawberries don’t seem to mind it either. This year our tomato plants are super healthy and coping ok although we’ve not really had enough warm weather to ripen the big ones yet so hopefully autumn will shine her warmth on us for a little longer. A few other bits and pieces like zucchinis, cucumbers, silverbeet and swiss chard have been good this year. One self sown pumpkin has been an absolute star growing in the compost bed, completely neglected, and it’s produced 17 decent sized pumpkins! I planted around a dozen pumpkin plants, Queensland Blue, Butternut and Kent, and so far will probably only harvest 3 pumpkins from the lot! Mother Nature really does know best and next year I think I’ll take heed and plant my pumpkins directly into the compost bed.
Over in the orchard, we have a section of land that will one day be home to beehives, but first we have to build them some shelter. So we planted a couple of blue gums along the boundary, 3 crabapples, a Bay tree and half a dozen red maples. I hope to add a couple of Avocados soon, all of which should provide enough year round shade, sunlight and food, for us and the bees. Of course the bees will have the orchard and veggie/flower patch and we were quite selective in the trees we planted around the patch as a windbreak, ensuring many of them will also provide food for them. And then there’s my plan to wildflower everything. For the beauty and the bees! Well not quite everything, as that would get a little too snakey for my liking, but the Autumn Grove, and the tree belts that surround our property. One day, in many years, this little hill will become a biodiverse haven full of flowers and trees and fruit and veggies. And apart from my two beautiful children, I feel like that’s the next best legacy I can leave behind me, hopefully after I’ve enjoyed it for many years of course!
Speaking of my very best work, an update on the kids. If you know me you would already know about the new business Kiandra & Ross launched. If you don’t know about this, and you like coffee, then it really is your lucky day! Check out Hills Coffee Co and order a bag stat. The beans are carefully selected and roasted to perfection and it’ll be very hard, near impossible, to drink any other coffee after you’ve tried it. Not only is the product amazing, there has been a great deal of care to ensure the coffee is ethical, meaning farmers get a fair price, and it’s grown with care for the land, plus the packaging your coffee will arrive in is either biodegradable or compostable. And you’ll be supporting a small business. What’s not to love? Last year Brian returned from his big trek after almost two and half years on the road. He covered so much of Asia during this time but a significant amount of time was spent travelling India on an old Enfield motorbike. He jammed so many dreams into this adventure and unsurprisingly came back with a head full of new ones and the determination to achieve them. Another trip is on the horizon, and this one is going to be longer than the last with a motorbike that’s more suited to the travel, so he’s busy working and saving to make that happen. I believe it’s going to start in Africa, and at last conversation will pretty much go around the world, give or take a few countries!
Finally I can’t complete a yearly update without mentioning craft. I completed my huge Confetti Blankie around mid year and am still thrilled with the final product. It’s beautiful and warm and cosy and we sleep under every night. After I finished it I kinda lost my craft mojo though. I think I burnt out on such a big project. I’ve dabbled in a few things since, sashiko, sewing, crocheted bookmarks, and have spent a bit of time working on perfume blends and skin care serums too. I’ve just not got consistently back into it where I’m crafting something every night again. I’m sure it will return, in fact I feel it will soon and I can sense that creative urge stirring, I’m just not sure what form it will take.
Well that better do for now. There are a few other things I was going to mention but I might actually pop back and do another blog post on them. Or not. We’ll see.
I do hope life is treating you kindly, that you are treating you kindly, and that your loved ones are safe and healthy x