Canberra to Jindera Pioneer Museum: off the beaten track

Spring is on its way in Australia, and the rolling fields around Canberra are full of bright yellow Canola (rapeseed) crops and soft green grass …..wonderful to see.

On our recent trip from Canberra to Melbourne, we decided to go off the beaten track and enjoy the scenery. As good luck would have it, we also found a fascinating pioneer museum in a small town called Jindera. (not far from Albury)

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area around Jindera was inhabited by the Wiradjuri people.

The explorer Hamilton Hume came to the Jindera area in 1824, but it was another 40 years before the first German settlers arrived, having trekked from Adelaide to Jindera in horse drawn wagons.

These settlers were fleeing religious persecution in Germany, and the land around Jindera offered fertile soil and a regular water supply.

We regularly drive from Canberra to Melbourne, and the journey takes about 8 hours, with a break for coffee, and another break for a tasty country lunch.

Just imagine those poor German settlers trekking from Adelaide (in the state of South Australia) to Jindera (on the New South Wales border with Victoria) in horse drawn wagons!

In 1874 Johann Rosler and Peter Wagner built a store and a three-roomed residence known far and wide as the Wagner’s Store. Nearly a century later, with the strength of the local community, the Wagner store and residences were restored and made into a museum.

The volunteers in the community range in ages from 65 to 93, and over one-third of them have been here since the early days. The museum recreates the culture of the early German settlers, and is much loved by all historic groups and school children and tourists. Not to mention their famous Tea Room, which I believe is open every Sunday for Devonshire tea with a variety of sweet and savouries. (I bet all is homemade!)

The rooms of the museum are full of photos, clothing, furniture, needlework and much loved personal artefacts donated by the families of early settlers.

It is astonishing to think that women sewed such elegant clothes, despite the rough living conditions, and the heat, dust and rain!

The museum has a pretty garden and is surrounded by museum sheds. A very popular part of the museum is the Machine Working Shed, largely donated by the well-known former Member of Parliament Tim Fischer.

The Working Machine Shed is the far building painted red.
The historic post office would be an eye opener for children!

We spent some time in the the Cottage Gallery, which features an extensive collection of paintings with direct connection with the district. One of the volunteers told us that the well-known Australian artist, Russell Drysdale, lived in this area for some time, and had donated a number of paintings and sketches to the Cottage Gallery, and was a patron of the gallery.

Unfortunately the strong sunlight in the room prevented me from taking many photos so I settled for one sketch by Russell Drysdale and one painting by a local artist.

A country Squire by Russell Drysdale.
Jindera Gap by Beth Kilings

In bygone days, the town had many churches, and this pretty Anglican church is the closest to the museum. Further along the avenue is a thriving Lutheran school and church.

We visited the museum twice, and each time my eye caught the photo of this wonderful woman, Margary Clara Wehner….doesn’t she just seem to have character and style?

Margary Clara Wehner, dedicated to the village of Jindera.

I know blog readers are generally very busy people, but if you have time to read her story it is a very interesting account of her life, and that of her husband, Ernest, known as Frosty, who was the local Blacksmith.

The Blacksmith’s shed is still standing!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post this week, and three cheers for those volunteers and people in small communities who come together to help and share their stories and their time.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Anzac Day, the 7th Light Horse Harden Brigade, and Anzac biscuits in Jugiong

Australia and New Zealand have a national day of remembrance for the first landing of the Anzacs at Gallipoli and it is also a day to remember all those who served and died in all wars.

Traditionally Anzac Day begins with a dawn service and then a commemorative march through cities, country towns and villages, in both Australia and New Zealand.

In Canberra people gather for the dawn service along Anzac Parade, looking up towards the War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial looks across Anzac Parade to Parliament House

This year, there were record numbers of crowds at the dawn services and marches all over the country, perhaps as there have been no services in the last two years as a result of Covid.

However, more likely, the graphic and desperate war inflicted on the Ukraine has been a salutary reminder of the horrors of war, the effect on ordinary people, and the fragility of democracy.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canberra

Paul and I often walk past the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and see the many tributes and flowers offered to the Ukraine people. Some of the posters and art work from the local schools are extremely moving.

For many people Anzac Day is a once in year event when they can enjoy time with colleagues, friends and families. Not far from Canberra in the country town called Harden, the first Light Horse Brigade was formed over a century ago. (This Brigade was one of the founding units which made up the Australian Light Horse when all mounted troops were amalgamated in 1903 as a result of Federation)

The 7th Light Horse Harden Brigade Photo: Aussie Towns.

Although we have not yet seen the Harden-Murrumburah march, Paul and I know this area well because we often travel along the Hume highway on our way to Melbourne to visit our daughter and family.

The village of Jugiong is nestled in amongst the Poplar trees. Photo: Aussie Towns.

We always break our journey at one of the nearby villages called Jugiong. This is farming area, with plenty of history, a stopping place for farmers, and families who are camping along the Murrumbidgee River.

cattle being herded through Jugiong Photo: visit nsw.com

We have never seen cattle being herded through the town, but you never know what you are going to find in a country town..

However, we stop off in Jugiong, like many others, to visit the unassuming looking Long Track Pantry.

Long Track Pantry in Jugiong Photo: visitnsw.com

Juliet and Huw Robb, owners of Long Track Pantry combine their interest and knowledge of food, recipes, and cooking with local produce to make delicious light meals, homemade cakes, biscuits and scones, lovely frozen meals…the list goes on.

Juliet Robbs, owner of Long Track Pantry

They also have Jules Leneham, a Cordon Bleu trained private caterer who runs cooking classes every Tuesday. Needless to say, we always organise our travelling to avoid Tuesday as the café is closed for the classes.

However, we always choose some of their lovely frozen meals to take with us to Melbourne (and on the return trip home…their soups are delicious in winter after a long drive) Occasionally we have their well known, simple, but tasty Anzac biscuits, with our coffee. This year I noticed they are doing a very special recipe, and calling it, Golden Syrup Anzac Cheesecake….it looks good!

Autumn is upon us here in Canberra, and we are having some lovely mild sunny days, almost time to visit Long Track Pantry again!

Best wishes, enjoy your spring or autumn plans, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

An anniversary weekend, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Piet Oudolf, the famous Dutch garden designer says you should have a little of what you like in your garden, and I think this is a very good, simple philosophy for life generally, and especially on an anniversary weekend. We often go to the Snowy Mountains in January, for our anniversary. However, this year, most of the accommodation was booked out, so we decided to visit the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

The Southern Highlands is a two hour drive from Canberra, and has a milder and wetter climate. The rolling hills and farms look lush and prosperous, the fields are green and the dams always full of water. There many small towns and historic villages, many open gardens and vineyards, good food and wine, and bookshops. Perfect for us.

Our first stop was to Red Cow Farm open garden. It is a cool climate garden in the rural village of Sutton Forest.

Close by the roadside into Sutton Forest is the Cottage, surrounded by a white picket fence, and brimming with flowers and shrubs, colours and smells, bees and butterflies, and not far away, a black bird singing.

The farm has been designed into about twenty garden rooms, and has been a labour of love for the gardeners, since 1990.

We were lucky enough to see some of the garden before it rained, and these photos are, mostly, of the cottage and walled garden.

The cottage garden is surrounded by mature rare trees and maples, and throughout the garden there is an extensive collection of 800 roses.

Beautiful liliums, dahlias, in the background Eryngium (sea holly)

The gardens are flourishing in these rainy conditions, and the garden beds were full of dahlias, foxgloves, hydrangeas, liliums, clematis and eryngium.

This deep red Canna lily reminded me of our garden in Africa
Echinacea (coneflower)
I think the pretty red flowers in the above photo are Monarda
Astilbe
This gorgeous Stipa Gigantea looked wonderful, waving in the breeze, and well placed on the corner of the garden bed.
This variety of hydrangea was new to me
Californian wild rose
The yellow liliums in this garden were weighed down by rain, but none the less, stunning!

The monastery garden features art work, and statues, including the patron saint of gardens, Saint Francis of Assisi.

Peruvian Lilies

We had to cut short our walk around this wonderfully diverse garden as the rain started.

We had a booked a lovely AirBnB, and the thoughtful owner had shelves of interesting books and a coffee table with glossy gardening and country magazines….so a quiet afternoon of reading and watching cricket was in order.

Our weekend ended with an delicious evening meal at Harry’s on the Green. This photo was taken before the pandemic, we had the table tucked away in the corner, with no tables around us. It was a very pleasant evening in every way.

Photo from Harry’s on the Green website

When we were first married, we had a small but thriving garden, and, on weekends we often spent money on books when we were really trying to save for a house….after all these years, we have a bigger garden and a pleasant home, and far too many books!

Best wishes for the New Year, and I hope you find the time to have a little of what you like today!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

The Koala has its own tartan, a long way from the Glasgow UN Climate Summit

The tartan named Koala

Although Scotland is a long way from Australia, and a very long way from our unique animals, yet, we now have a lovely tartan material named Koala.

Fred and his sister Marie Lawson come from Spring Ridge near in Gunnedah in the New England region. They live on a property with Clydesdale horses, Scottish Highland cattle, and Irish donkeys, which Marie is breeding to re-establish the blood line in Australia. They are also keen weavers and interested in conservation of all kinds. Living close to the bush they came up with the idea of making a tartan to draw attention to the plight of koalas in Australia.

Koalas at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

When asked, why a tartan for koalas, Fred said “Tartan is a language without words, it crosses all boundaries.” (this would bring a stirring to my Scottish father’s heart)

Koalas are completely dependent on Eucalyptus trees both for food and for a place to live. In recent times, the koala’s habitat has been severely reduced with increased urbanization. In addition the 2020 bush fires were devastating for koalas, and for their habitat.

Marie weaving..boots off! ABC New England North West: Photo by Kemii Maguire

Fred and Marie took several pattern trials before deciding on one, and that has now been approved by the World Tartan Register in Scotland. The colours include green for the Eucalyptus trees, dark and light grey for the koala’s coat colour, and black for the nose, with some pink and white for some parts of the koala’s face and coat.

Fred and Marie have officially registered and woven the tartan, and it is called simply The Koala.

The main fibres used in Fred and Marie’s new koala tartan are sheep’s wool, alpaca, and silk

Fred and Marie have always been interested in cloth and once they had done a weaving course in Gunnedah, they began weaving on a regular basis. They have a huge shed on the farm called ”Crofter’s Mill”. At the moment, Fred is experimenting with organic grown cotton which he sources from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Melbourne.

Fred Lawson in the Crofter’s Mill

Meanwhile, far away from the Crofter’s Mill in Gunnedah, during the next two weeks, all eyes are on Scotland, and Glasgow, as national leaders will gather for the latest round of talks on preventing global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.

I read this small news story about the Koala tartan, in the same week that the Australian government was quarrelling and bargaining (within itself) about our commitment to climate change at the Glasgow summit.

I couldn’t help thinking there is something poignant, and hopeful about individuals who are making a difference, and remain steadfast in their belief in change…despite dissention in government ranks here in Australia. May some practical and positive decisions be made at the summit.

Meanwhile I hope the Koala tartan finds many admirers, and one day I may be able to visit my Scottish cousins wearing a Koala kilt. Now there’s a plan!

Best wishes for a happy November….no more Lockdowns in Australia and the sun is shining!

PS: If the koala photos seems familar, I used these same photos for an earlier post on Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. During Lockdown I was unable to go to Tidbinbilla, but I’m sure the koalas are thriving in their protected environment after the trauma of the fires.

Hartvale: a country garden in the Blue Mountains

stunning views of Mt Clarence.

This is a trip down memory lane for Paul and I, we often drove through the Blue Mountains on our way to Bathurst, the town where we met while at university (now known Charles Sturt University)

That was a long time ago, but the views of the mountains are just as beautiful and the people as friendly and hospitable as ever.

Hartvale is a country house and garden, nestled on five gently undulating acres at the base of Mount York, with wonderful valley and escarpment views to Mount Clarence.

The beautiful Hartley Valley is sometimes shrouded in mist in the mornings, has winter frosts, occasional snow, and warm to hot summers. In other words a bit of everything!

The owners of the property are Pete Kube, a builder, and his partner, Jennifer Edwards, an artist. They were inspired by the views to build this lovely house and garden, and their energy and artistic talents are obvious in a garden that is only three and a half years old!

The wide driveway leading up through the garden is edged with colourful cottage garden flowers. All the building materials used are recycled, giving the garden a sense of history.

The soil is clay based and needs plenty of compost, organic matter and regular bales of straw to protect against the heat and frosts.

The greenhouse has a big crop of tomatoes, and the surrounds are full of vegetables, and salvias, marigolds, Californian poppies..

Nasturtiums, salvias, marigolds, roses, daisies, dahlias….colour and greenery for our heart’s delight. The lush greens and colours are especially pleasant to see, this has been a year of abundant rain and a mild summer, and plants are not worn out from the heat!

Pete Kube said during the 2020 COVID year, he built a poly-tunnel, and installed a water tank…a very impressive and productive way to spend a COVID year!

The poly-tunnel will be used for all the winter vegetables..

I think, both the poly-tunnel and the tank are amongst the biggest I have seen in a country garden. They are well prepared for severe cold and most importantly, drought.

It is a universal truth that with gardens come opportunists! I did hear a conversation amongst locals about the problems of keeping the cockatoos away from the apple and pear crops….(can’t you just imagine?) Not to mention kangaroos eating the lush sweet grass and rabbits eating vegetables, possums competing with the bird life for fruit!

Along the winding driveway is another small shed in the potager garden.

Here is a place to sit and look at the garden, watch the birds…. or just to rest from the heat of the day during summer…

Looking down from the house, the upper and lower parts of the garden are divided by Eucalyptus trees, shrubs and Royal Gala apple trees espaliered along the fence.

We admired the apples on the fence, but neither of us took a photo of it, perhaps too busy with our coffee, which was offered on the front veranda of the house.

Another inspiring part of the garden is Jennifer’s artist’s studio. She takes inspiration from her surroundings….

Her studio is full of oil paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes.

While we were in the artist’s studio Paul took a photo of the view through a large window… no wonder Jennifer is inspired to paint…

It reminds me of a lovely quote by Monet ;

my wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature”

It was a pleasure to wander through this country garden, with so much colour, space, and the gentle feeling to time slowing down, far away from the worried Covid world.

Thank you for reading my blog today, and where ever you are in the world, may you enjoy your autumn or spring weather, and be inspired by gardens such as this.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Sydney harbour and Barangaroo Reserve

Has anyone told Sydney it is the middle of winter in Australia?

Paul and I have come to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Sydney. It is mid-winter in Australia, and we left our home in Canberra very early in the morning, frost melting on the grass. Four hours later, here we are sitting in Barangaroo Reserve, peeling off jackets and coats, and reaching for hats and sun cream, and looking at Sydney harbour.

Paul and I sat on a bench eating our lunch looking at this view…..

It is always a miracle when a prime piece of real estate is partly given over to parkland and public use, and this beautiful, relatively new piece of green space in Sydney, is one such miracle.

The former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, a long term resident of Sydney, was an early advocate for a public reserve. His vision was to return the area, known as Miller’s Point, to a ”naturalistic park”.

One of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites on the Harbour has now been transformed into a six hectare headland of open spaces. The planting and landscape is designed to replicate the vegetation before European settlement, making it as natural as possible.

Views of the harbour, on this glorious winter’s day.

Huge blocks of sandstone re-create the original harbour foreshore, and the sandstone is weathering and changing with time.

Over 76,000 plants and native trees, palms and tree ferns, native shrubs, small trees, native ground covers, grasses and ferns, have been planted in the last few years. Needless to say the native birds love this natural habitat.

The Barangaroo Reserve stands on the land of the Gadigal clan. Barangaroo is named after an indigenous woman who was married to Bennelong. She was a spokesperson between indigenous Australians and the new British penal colony… and was, from all accounts, proud of her culture, and a feisty character at a time when she needed to be so!

The Rainbow Lorikeets feeding from the Banksia bushes

Many years ago I lived in Sydney, near Balls Head Reserve, and Paul has taken a photo of me with a view of my old ”stomping ground” in the background.

Happy memories!

As you can see around this area, there is plenty of construction work going on with apartments, hotels, restaurants, being built on the right hand side of the harbour.

Buildings around the harbour with the distinctive Crown Sydney Casino looking very like The Shard in London.

The walking and cycling pathways take us to the edge of the city, not far from The Rocks (where you can see some of the original houses of early Sydney.) It is possible to walk to well known parts of the city, from here, for example, Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.

We chose to take the steps to the top of the Reserve, and have one last view of Sydney Harbour.

Salute to Paul Keating and many others who persisted in this vision, we now have a wonderful reserve for everyone to share.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your day be as bright as a winter Sydney day!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..

Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..

In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history.  In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.

This eerie smoke filled photo was taken at 3.00 pm in the afternoon in our street, as we all filled cars and prepared to leave our homes.(soon afterwards we were saved by a change in wind direction)

This month there have many  protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.

It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.

newcastleherald.com.au

Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie Maps

My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.

Port Macquarie ..Lighthouse Beach photo by portmacquarieinfo.com.au

We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.

My parents owned a small house and a very big garden  (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.

My Father at the bottom of the garden!

As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.

….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.

(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)

One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees  (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)

The water slide at Peppermint Park

The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!

My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and  we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.

Today, with fires raging,  this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.

Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

The hospital has been overwhelmed with  donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.

Northern Star

This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters  are affectionately known as ”the firies”.

The town of Port Macquarie, thanking ”the firies”  on a smoke filled day.

When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.

Daily Telegraph> Northern Beaches

So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?

However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.

I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:

It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. 

It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.

PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.

I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might be Oxley Twinkles!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.