Friday, September 12, 2014

Grow you good things!

Tis done! All 2000 trees, 10,000 cane berries and 13,500 strawberries are in the ground. It was a massive job but of the most satisfying kind with new buds swelling and the first leaves appearing already. We expect the strawberries to be ready by Summer and even though we have a long way to go before we are ready to be open to the public it has been an absolute thrill to get to this point and see the transformation from bare paddock to future orchard brimming with so many varieties of delicious fruit. It is a dream come true really. To get this far in such a tight time frame we had lots of help, so along with Jamie we had a team of 6 people help with the planting, with the final 7 trees saved for the Kids to plant out on Sunday to celebrate the beginnings of our new family venture.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

End of Season Recap

Recent events have led me to sift through old photographs more often than I normally do and I've been feeling very nostalgic as a result. In fact, I've never felt the pinch of time marching on so quickly as I have these past couple of weeks. 

For starters, our first-born Child turned 10. Double-Digits! How on earth could a decade of parenthood fly by so fast?  It would be an understatement to say it feels like yesterday that Eleanor used to prance around the living room pretending to be a Ballerina in all her uncoordinated 3 year old gorgeousness. Yet on Friday night she performed in the The Nutcracker donning a Tutu for the first time and looked every bit the mature 10 year old that she is. It was a beautiful evening of Ballet with Costumes on loan from The Australian Ballet in Sydney being an added bonus. The following day her dance school put on an equally spectacular show for their annual concert. I didn't manage to get any photos of her with all the chaos going on backstage, but I did snap this one of her leaping through the air down at the wharf while we were having a quick bite to eat between the Matinee and Evening Performances. 

The boys also turned 6, an age which always feels like a giant step up from age 5. They have grown up a lot this year and have settled into their first year of full-time school beautifully. We kept them in the same class this year as there was no reason to separate them but we'll reassess next year. The main reason to separate them next year is the fact that they are identical and I think it would be nice for them to be seen more as individuals instead of their classmates and Teacher having to look at the colour of their shoes before addressing them as George or Noah to their faces, poor lads. 

The same weekend saw the end of the 2014 Soccer season. All 3 boys love their sports and had a great season of Soccer - winning games, losing games and above all exhibiting excellent sportsmanship. Have you noticed the growing trend in children's sports to not keep score during their games? I saw a photo on Instagram recently showing a sign that had to be placed at their Children's netball game reminding parents and players that "it is just a game". How sad that this needs to be spelled out these days. 

I'm finding this "everyone is a winner" mentality as it relates to games both disappointing and annoying in the same way I find "everyone gets a chocolate frog" in Pass-The-Parcel at birthday parties annoying. I feel like it takes the joy out of the experience for the team that does win a match as well as denying the losing team the opportunity to congratulate the winner which fosters humility, good sportsmanship and resilience. Whilst there are no formal score-keeping during the games our Children play, the players on the field know exactly how many goals each side has scored. They seem to love the competition and understand that it's just a game. I feel like this preoccupation on NOT keeping score only serves to over-emphasis the importance of winning rather than it simply being the fun game that it is. 

As far as I'm aware neither myself or my friends have been mentally scarred from losing a game as a child. Are there really some parts of the country where the parents are so heavily invested in the outcome of their child's game or extreme pressure is put on a child to win that the child is then unable to cope if they don't win? I'm digressing but I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Finally, some sad news and the main reason I've been sifting through 12 years of photographs....deep breath in...we sadly had to bid farewell to our beloved Whippet Remy after almost 12 years together.

Losing our 4 legged family member has been very very hard on everyone. Harder than I thought. He was our first 'baby', joining Daniel and I as an 8 week old Pup who then witnessed the arrival of each of the 5 Children. He literally came with us on all of our adventures - the camp trips, boat trips, aeroplanes, and we squished him into that tiny caravan on our trip around Australia. He was there for all the big moments, the good times and the sad times, our constant companion who will be greatly missed.  Although they didn't get to spend as much time together as we had hoped, it seems Remy was still able to pass a few tricks onto our new pup "Rocket" and we like to think his legacy lives on a little bit through him too.

Monday, August 18, 2014


It's all happening! Exactly 3 weeks ago today we secured funding for Stage 1 of our Farm Project to go ahead. Stage 1 is all of the Orchard and Berry plantings along with the Vineyard and a smaller Farm-Gate building at the bottom of the site near the road. I think elsewhere in the world it would be referred to as a Farm Shop of sorts but it will essentially encompass the Chocolatier, the retail/fresh produce outlet as well as a gorgeous Cafe. 

It has been the cause of much celebration to finally see our little dream turn into a reality. It has also been 3 weeks of enormous activity and pressure as we are racing against the clock to get everything prepared and in the ground before Spring, less than 2 weeks away!

We immediately welcomed Jamie to the team, a Farmer who has worked in the area for a long time and has been an absolute legend and has embraced the concept of a family business with open arms. He arrives at 7am into our chaotic kitchen and we try and have a coffee and a morning chat about work as Flynn climbs up his legs for a cuddle whilst we deal with the everyday interruptions of spilt milk at the breakfast table, school lunches and the search for missing socks, books and whatever the new puppy has found to chew up that morning.

Things are moving so fast that I'm running the risk of not having any "before' shots, so this is just a little update of what's been going on.

Old fences have been removed, new fences put in and all the of dreaded Box Thorn has been removed from the top of the paddocks.

We have a new road at the top of the Project site (below) which will provide a safe turning circle for the tractor as it reaches the top of each row as well as being a nice flat viewing platform for visitors picking their own fruit from the Orchard to look out over the Coal River Valley. The road will have another pass over with the bulldozer and smoothed off at the edges and grass planted over the top.

All of the trees and berries have been ordered and delivered. There are over 2000 trees with numerous varieties of each type of fruit, 15 000 Strawberries, 10,000 other Berry canes, 10,000 grape vines and a large flower bed. We have a portable fridge on the driveway to house the plants and we cleared out the shed for the ones that didn't fit.

Aside from the grapes which will be planted in Summer, all of the above will need to be planted over the next couple of weeks. That's a lot of plants! It is going to be a busy couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, there is no time for luxuriating under the stars in the outside bath but it is still being put to good use bathing the roots of the trees in a special solution before planting.

The paddocks have been worked over, fertilised and deep ripped. 

The first 300 Apricot trees were planted on the weekend. The cherries will go in tomorrow.

Looking north, the Strawberry bed is ready to be planted out on the left and the other berries on the right.

Looking south, the bed to the left will be more Strawberries and the one on the right that I'm most excited about is the Flower bed.

These upper grassy slopes will be where the Vineyard will go and tomorrow it will all be ploughed over and sown with Oats until ready to be planted out in Summer.

And because I am a glutton for punishment and fell head over heels for his little Whippet puppy eyes, here is our new addition to the circus, "Rocket".

As an aside, apologies for falling off the blog without notice. I didn't anticipate it.  The start of this Project has brought about two rather conflicting revelations. The first is that there doesn't seem to be  much time available in the evenings to dedicate to blogging anymore - the older children are now staying up a bit later and Daniel and I are needing the evenings to chat about work things now too. An obvious solution seemed to be what I hear other people doing and that is to squeeze some time out of the mornings before the children wake up. However, the second revelation I've had, as highlighted by the arrival of Jamie at the crack of dawn, is that I'm not at my conversational best in the mornings or at least in the first hour before the 2 coffees have worked their magic. This will no doubt translate to my blog writing so please bear with me as I embark on this new phase of life I'm going to call "Mel gets cheerful in the mornings". I wrote this Post this morning and it was hard and did feel very strange. I'm hoping it won't take too long to find my morning groove.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Snow Chasers

Holy Mackerel! I don't know why it has taken 3 weeks to get back into this space but I suspect it has something to do with the School Holidays, a Dance Eisteddfod, and the military precision that has been required to coordinate the social calendars of millions of children. It's all been a whole lot of fun.


When we woke up yesterday with just our own 7 members of the family sitting at the breakfast table with no extras coming and no one going, I said I needed a day off. A day off from decision-making, a day off from ferrying kids here, there and everywhere, and a day off from the home and all the things that call me to action. Top of my list was a hike in the mountains.

It was a picture perfect day with blue skies and winter sun. As we crossed the bridge we noticed Mt Wellington had received a dumping of snow overnight. "Snow! Let's go up there!", they all screamed. "We can make Olaf snowmen!" Every man and his dog was going to be up there and I just really needed a day away from people. I needed a day for the 7 of us to reconnect again.

We headed to the Hartz Mountains where we were met with a little piece of World Heritage Area and not a soul in sight. The fog rolled in so we saved the 4 hr Hartz Peak hike for another time but enjoyed a rather magical alpine walk to Lake Osbourne. The look on Flynn's face when he walked in snow for the first time was priceless, a smile plastered on his face the entire time.

Back down at sea level, it was all blue skies and sunshine again. We had a late BBQ lunch and a game of soccer and as the saying goes "it's all fun and games until the soccer ball gets kicked into the river!". We headed home with tired legs, full bellies and a Mum who nodded off in the car, her tired mind finally having the space to relax now that it had been cleared.  It was just what the Doctor had ordered.