Lately we’ve had a very busy time spring cleaning the house and garden.
Paul suggested painting the cabin, which was long overdue. The good news was we had recently bought (at great expense) a very solid and reliable ladder.
However, I had recently read about the many household and garden accidents as a result of home usage of ladders.
Despite our new ladder, I was concerned about “the father of the bride”.
So, it was agreed, I would come out and hold the ladder where there were uneven surfaces.
Everything went smoothly, and while I held the ladder occasionally , I had time to look around the garden, on that lovely warm spring day..
While I stood holding the ladder, I saw some of the flowers in the garden that I hadn’t noticed recently. When there was a chance, I went inside to get my camera.
After a while I sat in a garden seat, but still kept an eye on Paul’s progress, especially when he changed the position of the ladder.
From my new position, it seems the garden is changing daily. The last of the sweet peas have almost doubled in size, competing with the hedge to reach the sun. They still have their wonderful scent, which always reminds me of my mother.
The Wormwood shrub was shining in the sun, whereas the Chinese lanterns in the photo below are closing up….. enough sun!
The Lupin above has been featured in a previous post of mine, and I’m proud of this showy shrub because we have tried to grow them in previous years, with no luck.
However from my observation garden seat, I noticed for the first time that the Lupin had several saplings self seeded in the pathway! I’m now hoping we can grow more Lupins for the garden.
Years ago, I read and kept a great quote from a fellow gardening blogger, Rhonda, whose blog is called Down to Earth.
“A garden will give you much more than vegetables, herbs, and fruit…..if you let it. It gives a sense of peace and connecting with the natural world, a place to think and a quiet haven from a noisy world…When you create your garden make sure you have a few seats to remind you to linger……”
It is lovely to turn into our street and see the beautiful Brindabella Mountains, everything is looking green and we are all hoping for a peaceful summer without bushfires.
Best wishes, and where ever you are in this noisy world, may you find a quiet haven.
Despite the changeable weather, and perhaps because we have had so much rain, all the spring flowers and bulbs were smiling this year..
The wind blows relentlessly across this part of the garden, but the tulips stand firm… I love them!
The Aquilegias are thriving in the garden, which is quite remarkable because the possum (and family, we think) pay a nightly visit to this part of the garden…. they jump into and over the flowers to get onto the plum tree. Very very annoying!
The garden looks a colourful yellow in early spring, the daffodils defy all odds and come up looking stronger every year. The yellow flowering plant on the left is Bulbinella Nutans, which we bought at Lambley Nursery in Victoria.
Australian native plants have their own colour and beauty especially in the early morning light.
This part of the garden has become very shady, with maturing Manchurian Pear trees, Japanese Maples and big and small birdbaths. All birds have their favourites!
This delicate Japanese Maple attracts the tiny Silver-eye birds and the Honey-eaters. These birds come to the tree even when we are sitting under the branches. Our granddaughter says this is because it is a magic tree.
Paul has grown some lovely vegetables this year. He has just cut some Silverbeet and he gave some to our neighbours, Lois and Sandi.
Sandi made four Spanakopita pies and gave one to us. It was delicious and we took a photo of our empty plates, and sent them to him. Spanakopitas is a Savoury Greek spinach pie.
In early spring we noticed this little Sulphur Crested Cockatoo while we were walking up Heartbreak Hill. It was soon joined by a large (noisy) group of Cockatoos. Phew!
We are frequent visitors to Open Gardens, and quite often we see varied chicken coops.
This chicken coop is in the wonderful estate of Retford Park in Bowral. What lucky chickens, it may even be temperature controlled.
I hope you are enjoying spring, or autumn in your part of the world. During this time of turbulence across the world, I am acutely aware of the peace, tranquillity, and friendship we find in our garden, our home and our neighbourhood.
September has been a very busy month, as we had a wedding in the family!
Our daughter Jess and her lovely husband Mike got married in the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion, a beautiful venue built up high on the hills around the National Arboretum.
My apologies for using the above photo in my last post, however, it shows the height of the building and the views. This photo was taken a while ago and the trees around it have grown.
September is the beginning of our spring, and a festive time in Canberra. The biggest event is Floriade, a month long event in the Commonwealth Park, with huge garden beds exploding with colourful spring flowers. (the planning and planting for this festival goes on all year.) Tulip Tops is a smaller, but equally pretty display for spring, and the photo below shows some tulips called The American Dream.
Canberra is well known for its very cold winters (by Australian standards) and so we tend to celebrate spring as if we were in the Northern Hemisphere! We all long for warmth and sunshine by September, and even more so with a wedding coming up. Fortunately the stars were aligned and delivered a warm day with continual sunshine. The winds were blowing, but that was better than rain!
It was a lovely happy wedding with everyone in a festive mood. The gods were smiling on us. I hope to have some photos soon.
All good things must come to an end, and we enjoyed our time with family and friends. Our older daughter Rebecca lives in Melbourne and she and her family came to stay for a few extra days, which was an added bonus.
Needless to say, when everyone left, we missed the patter of little feet, and the early morning chatter of our grandchildren….not to mention our children and close relatives!
However, the weather was still warm and sunny and we decided to take a walk around Lake Burley Griffin. As Floriade was in full in swing we had to park near “Old Parliament House”.
Once we parked the car, we went to the gardens of Old Parliament House to see the lovely wisteria decorating some of the elegant buildings outside Old Parliament House (now known as the Museum of Australian Democracy.)
We were too late to see the white wisteria on the right hand side, and now looks as if it needs a trim.
Paul worked in Old Parliament House for a while and enjoyed the quiet elegance of the building and the gardens.
Beyond the gardens we found new statues of two important women in our history, both looking very elegant wearing their hats and holding their handbags. There was a plaque for both which told how much they had achieved…
Dame Dorothy Tangney (1907 – 1985) was elected to the Senate and was the first female member of the Labor Party to be elected to the Federal Parliament.
Dame Enid Lyons (1897-1981) was the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and the first female member to be appointed to Federal Cabinet. She married Joseph Lyons who became Prime Minister. She supported him greatly, and they had eleven children and the 12th child died in infancy. What tough lives they had!
We walked down to the lake, but unfortunately we had missed the white blossoms of the Manchurian Pear trees. Fortunately I had a photo from 2019 which showed the lovely blossoms and life before Covid!
We walked along the pathway and all the trees were looking very green and fresh. On the right there are Manchurian Pear trees and on the left there are Claret Ashes. Needless to say this avenue of trees looks glorious in the autumn.
Many thanks for spending some time to read my blog post, and may your gardens be flourishing regardless of the weather!
Wattle day is the beginning of spring in Australia, and Canberra is just exploding with lovely soft yellow wattle flowers and colourful birds
This was one of the first photos I took when I began my blog in 2014, and I chose the National Arboretum in Canberra at dawn.
The proposal for the site was to have 100 Forests 100 gardens…and this began to be implemented in 2005.
The building in the distance is the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion and when I took this photo, I never dreamt that one day the younger of our two daughters would be getting married in this Pavilion, and in this beautiful setting.
The wedding is planned for spring time, and we are hoping for a sunny day, but we will enjoy the day regardless of weather.
The grassy rolling hills next to the Pavilion always seem to be a big attraction for children.
There will be children at the wedding and I’m sure they will enjoy a run and play after the wedding.
The Village Centre is not far from the Pavilion, and has an Information Centre, a café, a restaurant and a gift shop.
The photos in this post were taken between 2014 to 2020, and since that time we have had some good years of rain, and the trees are flourishing. The National Arboretum has become a wonderful place of recreation for Canberrans and visitors alike.
Needless to say, for our family, this will be an extra special place in our hearts.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope your gardens are flourishing regardless of rain, hail or snow!
Canberra is the capital of Australia, a planned city, with many parks, bush trails, green spaces and lakes. However as with many capital cities, Canberra is often seen as short hand for federal government rather than a landscape where people live. One quote I’ve read is “”Canberra has too many politicians, too many roundabouts and too much cold weather!”
When I retired from teaching in 2013, I decided to write a blog about Canberra, the beauty of the mountains and the lakes, and also the every day life of people living in Canberra.
Many of the photos of Canberra in this post were taken between 2014 and 2017, when I began blogging, and regular readers may recognise some of the photos…
Canberra in autumn is usually sunny, warm and pleasant, the best season of the year for planning gardens, going for walks, runs and rides, and taking photos!
Spring in Canberra can be windy and chilly, but the beautiful Manchurian Pears are out in bloom, which lifts the spirits. The National Library of Australia is one of my favourite buildings, often seen in my blog, I know! The small rather quaint tourist boat has, for many years, taken tourists who prefer a gentle slow tour of the lake.
In our early days of retirement, I was so keen to take photos that I dragged Paul out before dawn to walk around Lake Burley Griffin…. always worth it.
Canberra is full of early morning rowers, riders and walkers.
We often walk around the Parliamentary Triangle, and I love this Federal Government building…amongst others.
All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.
During summer and autumn we eat breakfast on our deck, overlooking our garden.
At the risk of getting indigestion we often have an interrupted breakfast to chase big and little birds out of the veggie patch..
Thank you for taking the time to read my post today, and may your autumn or spring gardens be full of colour and joy.
Christmas is such a busy time that I’m going to keep this post, short and sweet.
The first sweet item is a book that I ordered online, through Booktopia. It has arrived in time for Christmas! This book is part of a series, written by Laurie Graves. Laurie lives in Maine, USA and I live in Canberra, Australia, so we couldn’t be further apart, but the wonderful part of blogging is getting to know and enjoy fellow bloggers. I have been reading Laurie’s blog posts for a few years now, and I know just how much time and effort she has put into this series.
We are a family who love stories and reading and we’ll enjoy this book. Many thanks Laurie!
My granddaughter pointed out these Rainbow Lorikeets in the playground, completely oblivious of children playing around them.
This Crimson Rosella has spent some time in our garden this year, without a partner….very unusual, hopefully the new year brings a partner.
Another Crimson Rosella, this time at the coast. He or she is navigating the spiky bush very well considering she has a beak full of food!
We recently bought a Hibiscus shrub to put on our deck, and this is the reward, a regular supply of beautiful flowers.
Another Rainbow Lorikeet swaying in the breeze…
A flashback to winter. Every year we get a visit from a pair of Kookaburras, and this year they had two juvenile Kookaburras with them.
There is something endearing about Kookaburras, and perhaps it is their early morning call, one of the unique sounds of the bush in Australia.
We walk past this plant in a neighbour’s garden almost every day in spring. I don’t know the name of this wonderful plant but it lights up the garden in the early morning.
It looks like Waratah flower with the leaves of a Woolly bush.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today, and may you all have a peaceful Christmas where ever you are in the world.
PS the header photo is a red flowering Eucalyptus …it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Spring has arrived in Australia, and for the first time in almost three long Covid years, we are able to visit open gardens all over the southern states.
Last weekend, the country town of Bathurst, New South Wales, held its Spring Festival.
We don’t live far from Bathurst and Paul and I met at College in Bathurst many years ago, so we have great affection and memories of this town.
There were many open gardens to visit, both in Bathurst, and around the district. We spent so long looking at some of the country properties and gardens that we will have to come back next year for the rest!
The owners of the gardens often provide ”a story” about their garden, and this is the beginning of the story of Mill Cottage, in O’Connell near Bathurst.
“We bought Mill Cottage, also known as the Garden House, attracted by the historic house, the old garden, and orchard and the lovely setting beside the Fish River. “
“The original 100 acre farm was taken up by Daniel Roberts in about 1829. Daniel Roberts was born in Wales in 1800 and arrived in the colony in 1826. The 1828 census lists Daniel as being a free settler, a carpenter, aged 28.“
“Daniel met Catherine Spinks about 1828. She had arrived in the colony in 1820 when she was only 13 years old, with her convict mother, Anne. Daniel and Catherine were married in Parramatta in 1828. They left on horseback after their wedding and arrived in O’Connell, where they settled.”
A very long way to travel by horseback…they were tough in those days!
‘The present owners know there was the stone and brick house here by 1837, called the Garden House. This assumes there was a notable garden from the beginning, maybe tended by the two convicts allocated to the Roberts family.‘
‘Daniel built a water mill, located about 200 metres upstream from the house in 1833. He saw the need for a place to mill the wheat that the early settlers were busy growing. Local farmers brought their wheat, it was ground into flour, and a sack cost them one penny!‘
‘Daniel became a prosperous local businessman and over time the property was sold, and the land around was subdivided.‘
The present owners have extended and expanded the garden over the previous ten years .
The garden has mainly cool climate plants,bulbs, roses, salvias, helleboresand many other perennials, with a wonderful shady Box elder (maple) tree in the centre of the garden near the house.
We were lucky to have a lovely sunny day to visit Bathurst and surrounds, however, like much of the Eastern states of Australia, Bathurst has experienced heavy rains this year, and the Fish river, (seen in the photo below) was rising.
All parts of the garden have attractive borders of plants, and this gave us a chance to wander through the garden and take time to look at all the flowering spring shrubs.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owners of the property, but I did wonder if kangaroos hopped over the fence/gate to eat the abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers.
We had a wonderful time wandering through this garden and it was a delight to be out and about amongst fellow gardeners. Many thanks to the owners of the property, as it must take an enormous effort to get ready for an Open Garden weekend.
For those who are interested in learning more about the house, Lee Steele’s Volume Two of “Heritage Homes of Bathurst and District” describes this house in more detail.
I have photos for at least one or two more gardens, so I hope you can look out for them.
Canberra has been in Lockdown for over two months now and there are just one or two highlights every day that keep us afloat. We are allowed a daily walk, and fortunately there are many paths and bush trails near us…
and lots of gardens to look at along the way.
Even in the middle of winter, it is lovely to get outside and walk around. Another daily highlight is buying a take-away coffee at our local café. It’s the small pleasures that count.
The Brindabella Mountains around us are a deep blue hue in winter and early spring. Even with our mandatory masks on, the clear mountain air is a tonic.
Almost everyone I know has become a bit more reflective in Lockdown, we all appreciate family, friends and neighbours now that we cannot spend time with them. People need people!
During this time I have been putting together some of my family history. ..and not for the first time I’m reminded of my family’s good fortune in emigrating to Australia.
It has taken three generations for my family to find a place to call home, and how lucky we are to live in Australia.
My father was born in Scotland of Irish parents…amongst his many stories he talked about hiking in the mountains of Scotland ….
I’m sure he would have loved to spend his life in the wide open spaces, which he always loved, but earning a living was the most important thing to do and he applied for and got an apprenticeship on the Clyde River in Glasgow.
My father and his brother decided to emigrate to Africa, for work, and in my father’s case, for adventure. As they boarded the ship, my grandmother stood on the dock, and said
“I wish you were all wee again”.
It was only when I was a mother myself that I realised the poignancy of that remark, he thought he was off for an adventure, but she knew the truth. Both her sons left for a better life and she never saw them again.
My mother was born in Ireland, and brought up in South Africa.
Her father and mother left Belfast and ”the troubles” only to find life in their new continent just as difficult.
My mother became a nurse, and she and my father moved to what was then Northern Rhodesia, and is now Zambia.
Although my parents had excellent skills to survive in a new country, my father had always wanted to be a farmer, and so they accepted a job of farming and care-taking a farm in a remote part of Zambia called Abercorn. In the way of new migrants, my aunt and uncle came to stay on the farm as well, and all their skills together, kept them afloat.
My older brothers and my parents loved this time of their lives, despite the trials and tribulations. The stories they told were wonderful, and I feel I missed out on something special.
However, the remote farm was a precarious long term prospect, and my father and my uncle were able to get work in one of a cluster of copper mines in Zambia.
I was born in the small mining town of Mufulira. My brothers and I had a happy childhood in this town, but, over time, there were tensions as Zambia struggled for independence. It was our temporary home.
Eventually, at the difficult age of 55, my parents made the decision and we left Africa for Australia. I was eighteen and my brothers were in their early twenties. We had a clean slate and a future full of possibilities in Australia.
It was more difficult for my parents. They left behind relatives and friends, people who had the same experiences and interests as themselves. Just as many migrant children have done, we became the bridge between our parents and the new country. At an age when we were leaving the family home, we were helping them make a home. We worried about them, often without realising how resilient they were.
When I married, it was to a 5th generation Australian. (although Paul’s ancestors are Irish too!) I was glad to know that my children had ancestors, not only from all over the world, but also in the country of their birth. Our daughters have a natural sense of belonging in Australia, they wear their nationality with ease.
The initial struggle to live in a new country was successful for my parents. They came to love Australia, and over the years they appreciated the landscape, the Australian humour, and the uncomplicated way of life.
They loved their big garden, and filled it with mango, avocado and many failed attempts at pawpaw trees. Many years later, although the house and garden have long been sold, the avocado trees survive…. which just goes to show, you can’t keep a good avocado tree down!
Lockdown is almost over in Canberra, and we will, very tentatively, begin moving around, and seeing family and friends again.
Best wishes to everyone and stay safe and sensible!
My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.
Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.
One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.
Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!
This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..
and the almond tree..
The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.
We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…
In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.
Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.
We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.
This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.
We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.
During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)
Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)
She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.
At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.
We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!
Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.
However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)
Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.
Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.
What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.
Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.
We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.
The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.
There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.
This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.
Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!
The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.
My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.
Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)
I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.
The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.
‘‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”
Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.
It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.
No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.