Plum blossoms

We have some plum blossoms!

This is the Greengage Plum that struggled through last year after being relocated.

The thought of some greengage plums makes me want to swing like a monkey from a tree!

That reminds me of trip we made from Sydney to Mullaway Beach when we were little to visit our Nan.

I would have been about 5 years old. We’d been in Sydney since I was two when our parents separated. But now we had a new member of the family, our step father, and the decision had been made that we would move back to the mountain.

In preparation, a new purchase, a short wheel base ex Army, khaki, soft top Landrover.

A visit to Nan was planned (6hrs drive north from Sydney), an opportunity for mum and us kids to take the new truck for a joy ride!

Those of you who are familiar with soft top Landrovers will know that the canvas canopy fastens to the front cab and fits over two metal frames. At the back there is a canvas flap that you can roll up, like a tent door. That day it was a beautiful sunny warm (hot) day, we had it rolled up and we had the perfect view of the road left behind, massive majestic eucalyptus trees one minute huge in our peripheral and the next minute tiny in the distance and blink, gone.

We were on top of the world. And what do you want to do when you’re on top of the world?  Swing like a monkey!

Which is exactly what my little three year old sister did. She started to swing on the middle metal frame, we all thought it was very funny, totally oblivious to the danger.

Mum must have looked back to see what was making us laugh. Can you imagine the horror she must have felt? Her little baby swinging with nothing between her and the open road disappearing behind us at about 60 miles an hour! If her little fingers were to slip and let go?? The horror was felt by all of us when we realised the danger.

On the side of the road mum unrolled the canvas flap and fastened it tightly closed. Locked in (safe and sound) a hot canvas canopy. What was that smell? Army? Dirt & sweat? Or just the old musty smell of aged canvas? Gone was our view, gone was the swirling fresh air. We were pleased to arrive at Nan’s.

I’m not sure whose idea it was but Nan had some shark netting in the shed, Mum secured it to the back of the Landrover. We got our fresh air and (slightly hindered) view back!

That aqua green thick nylon shark netting remained on that Landrover for all the years she drove us around, keeping us safe. She eventually got replaced by another ex army Landrover, this one long wheel base and hard top. No metal bars to swing from, but even if there was, we’d learnt our lesson.

Here in Tiny Garden we don’t have any trees big enough for an adult (or child) to swing from, but we have some plum blossoms! Now we just need the bees to do their magic 🌱

Have a wonderful day!

 

Bare boughs

Our trees are bare.

End of Autumn.

Winter is here.

Chilly.

There was snow on the Orongorongos yesterday!

Short days.

The time of year when it’s a bit more of a struggle?

There was a time on the mountain when it became a little bit more of a struggle. I was fifteen, my little sister two years younger.

Just three of us left on the mountain, Mum and us two girls.

At this time we didn’t have a vehicle, a working washing machine or mower or generator.

The little creek had washed out, now a crevasse, too wide to jump, the walls too steep and too deep to step down into to cross.

With no car to drive across it anyway, we lay down planks, a makeshift foot bridge.

Everything we needed, we’d carry up the mountain.

Gas for the stove, petrol for the generator, food.

We’d bring groceries home with us on the school bus.

At the bottom of the mountain the bus would deposit us at the side of the road surrounded by our bags of groceries.

We would fill our back packs and distribute the remaining groceries to evenly weight our arms and, with our shoes switched out for gum boots, we’d head toward home.

Down through the pine forest out into the open, sharp eyes peeled for the killer cows, across the big creek, through the gate into Billy’s property, safe now from the killer cows with their knarly Brahman horns that could, in one swoop, impale you, expelling your final breath. Yes, we had active imaginations, but they were truly terrifying. They would come toward us with their big eyes and scary humps and horns…and the bull! We could never shut the gate with them on the other side quick enough, though we would never run, they would run after us and they could run faster…those horns at speed?! It was a flat peaceful forest walk through Billy’s property, only having to contend with the wildlife, snakes and goannas that would dart away at the mere crackle of our footstep. Up the first big hill, down through the bush, a gentle slope at first with a steep drop into a valley. A flat walk along the base of the valley to the little creek, across our makeshift foot bridge and then up the final long steep hill. Home at the top.

It was during this time that a very kind uncle of ours, who had once owned a bicycle shop, designed a person powered cart for us. Two mountain bike wheels on either side of a large square basket (about a metre square), with a sturdy extended padded trolley handle. You could push or pull it. Or, as we did, on the steep hills, with heavy loads, one would pull and the other push. Or if the three of us, two pull and one push, or vice versa.

It was with this trolley that we carted a washing machine up the mountain, a lawn mower, (a new second hand generator?) and once, with the help of our visiting brothers, a gas bottle, one of those ones almost as tall as you and unbelievably heavy, if you tried to budge a full one, you couldn’t (well, I couldn’t). I’ve just looked up the weight of a full one, about 160kg, I would have been about 50kg at the time. If I remember correctly we had both our brothers helping us, mum and us two girls. We had to take the basket off, lay the gas bottle down, strap it securely and then up long steep climb to the house, two pulling and three pushing? Regular rests, all hands and legs holding it tight, careful to not let it go shooting off down into the valley to explode spectacularly.

Those were the odd occasions, our regular week was just carrying school books, life’s essentials, groceries and petrol.

We’d carry half filled (full was too heavy for us) five gallon plastic containers of petrol on our fronts in our arms, was it because we failed to bring the empty trolley down the mountain on those days?

We were fit and strong.

Every day when I come home to our little cottage and there is electricity, light at the flick of a switch, a gas fire to warm us, a short walk (to carry groceries) from the garage to the house, I am grateful.

Though I still wash the dishes by hand 🦎

Fridays harvest 🌱

Have a wonderful day!

Peas flowering

I’m not sure if we are going to get any peas before it gets too cold.

They don’t look as happy as our summer peas.

But we have some flowers.

Maybe.

It’s dark when we get home now. The winter months are hot (cold) on our tail.

There is a chill in the air.

Snowing somewhere?

I first took my daughter skiing when she was four.

Flying into Queenstown we were greeted by The Remarkables, snow covered, towering behind the airport and crisp snowy air.

We jumped into our hire car, put on Justin Berber, made a beeline to the supermarket, filled the car with food and headed off to find the cabin. A wee bit terrified.

Before we headed out toward Cardrona we drove into town to say hello to Queenstown. Beautiful lake, bustling street mall, bare trees, warm shop lights, cold, exciting.

With brave hearts and Justin Beeber, our backing track, we headed off to find our cabin. Up the Crown Range, down into Cardrona.

Up on a little ridge, snuggled into a private corner of rugged high country beneath the beautiful Cardrona snow covered mountain we found the cottage. Complete with a little creek and forest!

Our little hearts relaxed. Safe.

The house. Perfect. Cosy.

We filled the fridge.

Lit the fire.

Unpacked our clothes. Set everything ready for an early morning skiing adventure.

Cooked a yummy dinner. Could it be that the food tasted better down there?

Snuggled watched a DVD. Dare I tell you that I pulled out my knitting? Okay, now in heaven!

He he, I’ve knitted since I was a little girl, I recall at primary school someone calling me Grandma! In fact I quite like crocheting too 😃.

Precious memories, when I was pregnant, the evenings after work, comfy on the couch with my feet up, knitting my daughters baby blankets, but I diverge, today I’m wanting to take you skiing with us.

The next day, beautiful blue sky, perfect!

Not sure how it would work, but with the knowledge they had a childcare centre on the mountain, off we went.

It took us a little while to figure it all out but finally I got my little girl, with all the ski gear she needed, checked in and safe and sound in the hands of her instructor, Lorna. My brave daughter, so cute decked out and ready to hit the slope.

Me, I was now free to ski my heart out! Quick, to the snow!

The icy cold on the chair lift, alive. The cold air whipping my face and filling my lungs on the way down, happiness.

Tired, I love to find a quiet spot in the sun on a pristine patch of snow, nibble on almonds and sultanas (or vegemite crackers or chocolate), surrounded by sparkling snow, mountain fresh air and a sea of snow covered mountains. Easier to remember to breath up there?

I headed back to the resort to have lunch with my little girl.

We filled our tummies with warm food and then out we went to find the sleds.

He he, now that is fun, sledding with your four year old! Sore stomach!

Then it was time to return her to the daycare, more learning how to ski on the little slopes.

Back to the mountain for me.

Since then we’ve found a snow covered mountain every year, jumped into our snow gear and kicked on our ski’s.

My little girl came up with me on the mountain on our second trip, on the chairlift at the end of the day, I have a video of her zooming down in front of me, no poles, like an expert!

The last three years she’s spent whole days with me, no lessons. Just us and the mountain (and chairlifts of new friends).

We have named the little monster that sometimes appears, the abominable snowman. She usually appears if the slope looks too steep or hunger or fatigue sets in. But before long the little abominable snowman is laughing again after she’s been fed or fired snowballs in my direction.

We’ve built snowmen and given them sultana and almond features.

We’ve enjoyed hot chips and meat pies in the warmth of the mountain cafes.

The days finished snuggled warm in the cottage in front of the fire.

Always sad to say goodbye to the mountain and the cottage.

’til next time.

Have a wonderful day!

Ripening Tomatoes

Our tomatoes are ripening.

On our window ledge.

Waiting for the red that means sweet and delicious.

When I was growing up on the mountain, we went to a tiny country school in the next valley.

We would clomp down the mountain in our gumboots and, careful not to slosh water into our boots, wade across the creeks. All the while watching for any little passengers, leeches, “quick can you get it off!”.

The dusty gravel road to school took us across several old wooden bridges. They were made up of hefty sleeper like planks butted up against each other, bolted into place. As I write this I can hear the sound of the bus hitting the bridges at speed and feel the vibrations.

Our teacher loved music and sport. When he first started, we’d play sport every afternoon after lunch. Every day! Outside. Heaven. Playing rob the nest, Aussie Rules (football), soccer, softball, cricket…

And music? He played the guitar and taught us songs, “Horse with No Name”, “Sandman”, “California Girls” (though we changed it to “Collins Creek Girls”), “Muscrat Love”, “Christopher Robin”, “Di Di Di Di”…I loved the singing. I’ve always loved to sing.

Our school, little and country, maybe 25 children?, kindergarten to year 6, large grounds, surrounded by huge luscious camphor laurel trees, with an ‘out of bounds’ forest down the back (that we’d play in anyway). The front gate, in those early years, I remember an arbor with a ratty climbing rose that hadn’t climbed very far and the cement footpath that lead to the front entrance of the little weatherboard school, first opened in 1918.

There was a little fish pond on the left as you walked toward the school (covered with chicken wire) and a large tree, its canopy had a weep, a beautiful pink/purple flower and big fat rounded love heart shaped leaves that started their life folded perfectly against each other down the spine and would open with age. I remember a goanna up that tree one day and our teacher going off to get his gun.

At that time the school had a verandah and inside, a wood burner, “don’t stand too close or you’ll get chilblains”. A pile of shoes & gumboots at the entrance.

There was a school house, where the teacher lived, up the ridge a little, across one of the playing fields.

One lunch, I think I was about 9 years old, I walked out of the class room to the front steps, and there at the bottom of the steps, on the cold hard cement, was one of the boys with blood pouring out of his mouth.

Red.

Not a sweet and delicious red. A scary red.

I didn’t take a breath, I just ran (to get the teacher from the school house). Or was it flew? I didn’t know I could move so fast.

Watching that little girl running in my memory, my heart tenses, I choke up and tears sting my eyes.

Words tumbled out on top of each other when the teacher came to the back door. And we quickly headed back to the school.

There was no one at the bottom of the steps.

We went around the back of the school to where the water fountains were, he was leaning over a bubbler, some other children were hanging around but they quickly made themselves scarce. The boy looked up from the trough. He smiled.

I felt confused.

He’s okay now?

I know words were spoken but they all jumbled up in my brain.

It was a trick?

Fake blood. What was that? There was such a thing?! Where did it come from?

I know all was being answered with the words coming out of his mouth, one minute loud, the next quiet, and then no sound at all but his lips still moving, the world didn’t feel steady.

But it did slowly sink in.

Fear turned to mortified embarrassment.

Enough adrenalin pumping through my little body to last a lifetime. Maybe that’s why I have never felt the need to jump out of an aeroplane?

The saddest part of this story is that we lost this friend, at just sixteen, a terrible motorcycle accident on their property. I wasn’t there, but if I was, I would have done the same thing, run with all my heart and soul to get help, my legs would have found that same mysterious power to move at a speed not usually possible.

He was a trickster and cheeky. He made people laugh. And scared the jebezzies out of them!

He told me once he didn’t need to learn to sew, “when I grow up I’ll fix my clothes with a stapler”.

It was a sad day when we lost him.

Favourite moment at our house this morning. My daughter put on “Eye of the Tiger”. We turned it up loud (and even louder). I followed her moves. Her smile and laughter filled me up (he he, to bursting!).

Wishing you a wonderful day!

 

Our cottage

We inherited these flowers.

They came with the little cottage.

Ours since 2004.

I remember when I first saw this little house.

I knew immediately I wanted it to buy it.

I called the agent that very afternoon and she popped over for a cup of tea to do the paperwork.

I had stepped off the plane just three weeks before.

When it became mine, I picked up the keys, drove over after work, it was dark, it was empty, it was cold, I was alone in NZ, I sat on the carpet in the living room and cried.

Big tears.

Just a couple of days ago a dear friend was telling me about her mothers idea about our book, the idea is that our past is written on the pages already turned, and what has been written can’t be changed, but every fresh page turned is blank, it’s yours to write on, yours to write anything.

Anything.

But that night, the first night in my new little cottage, in a brand new country, I was too busy re-reading pages that had long been written and couldn’t be changed.

I couldn’t see the blank page in front of me. A page that, even as I was sobbing my heart out, was being written. All those heartaches from the past were articulating themselves as hopes and dreams for the future. And those hopes and dreams filling this little cottage with every tear.

And over the years, one by one those hopes and dreams have come true.

Love. My greatest love, my beautiful daughter, joined me in 2008.

Strength. It took me three long months in 2005 to paint the exterior of this little house, one wall at a time, I scraped off ancient flaking paint (probably lead), filled holes, sanded, coated rusty nails, puttied windows, washed and painted. Mr Miyagi (The Karate Kid, 1984), was right, the focus, the repetition, the meditation, the challenge, the achievement of painting a house made me strong, both physically and mentally.

He he, I remember one day I was up the scaffolding with the sander and a courier appeared, delivering a parcel to my neighbour. Being on my own, there was no one to take photos of me working, blushing to my toes I asked the courier if he would be kind enough to take a photo of me. He happily took my camera and I went back to work with the sander. He took some great photos.

As he headed off he said something about hoping more parcels needed delivering around here.

That put a smile on my face and I swear the sander took the layers of ancient paint off with less effort that afternoon.

Calm & peace. Our beloved garden, a perpetual work in progress.

Giggles and laughter. Tripled since my daughters arrival, January 6, 2008. Best day ever!

He he, I like to think of every giggle as a little shiny wriggling transparent string of energy (like a happy wriggly worm, but see through and glittering and in constant motion) filling nooks and crannies of our little cottage. Finding their way into and filling the wall cavities, the best insulation a house could ever have!

Our little cottage is old, built 1910. Only 60 years after the first settlers arrived in Wellington. I think it was built for the nearby military camp (which has now disappeared and been replaced by a school), for a soldier and his family. It was a simple square four roomed house, no fancy features, just standard sash windows and two fireplaces. Built strong with beautiful native hard wood timber. Still standing firm through all the years of gale force winds and earthquakes.

The years have bought additions and modifications.

It’s still petite, perfect for us.

Friends. The love we have been graced with from friends found here in Wellington defies words. It fills our hearts and is the sparkle that lives in our eyes.

Our little cottage.

Have a wonderful day!

 

Another rainy day

A rainy Sunday.

Today I want to tell you about another birth.

Mine.

Two mountains featured in my childhood. The mountain on which I was born and the mountain on which I was bought up.

Today I want to take you to the mountain where I was born.

But first let me set the scene.

Australia, 1973.

The Vietnam War still raging, more than 17 years after it started.

The Age of Aquarius in full swing, large exoduses of people from cities to the country, looking for peace and a self sufficient existence.

Afraid of a nuclear world war?

My parents, no exception, on their exodus they found a mountain and made a home.

The mountain they found was scrubby and dry, west of Sydney, near the Hawkesbury River. The forest eucalypt, the ground, leaf covered and tinder dry, clumps of dry brown grass. The earth, solid sandstone with patches of sandy soil. The only water to be found, if it had rained recently, collected in little pools in the sandstone outcrops, a bit like rock pools at the beach.

They called this mountain Magic Mountain. There is probably a story behind the name but I’ve searched my memory banks, it’s nowhere to be found.

Not another soul on this mountain. Just wilderness and wildlife.

My father worked on the Wisemans Ferry down on the river, we lived at the top of the mountain.

No car, no radio, no clock.

I was born sometime in the middle of the night, between January 5th and January 6th, 1973.

Dad lit the fire to heat some water.

I was born by candle and fire light.

Dad tied my umbilical cord.

Years later we visited Magic Mountain with our father. I remember a small cave in a sandstone wall and scant evidence of people once living there, a fork, a broken bowl?

What did the house look like? Built in my imagination from snippets of what Dad told us and knowledge of the house they built on the next mountain, I picture a small rustic house constructed out from the cave. Handmade, a panel front door with a love heart cut into it, a stone chimney that attempted to guide the smoke from the house. Windows? In my mind I see two little four pane windows on either side of the door, a bit uneven, giving the house a friendly lopsidedness, winking, welcoming. Made even more so by colourful handmade curtains.

Outside, chickens and a goat roaming free?

I imagine some rocky flower gardens and a little vegetable patch but I’m not sure how they survived the chickens and goat? Or how they grew in the sandy dry soil?

An old forty gallon drum collecting rainwater.

One week old, no one knew I had arrived.

Mum, keen to show me off, her newborn daughter, strapped me to her front and walked me and my brothers down to the ferry.

At the ferry I was introduced to the ferry master and the passengers.

My beginning.

Have a wonderful day!

Shells

We have shells scattered around our garden.

And drift wood and sea glass.

Treasures from the beach.

Some from distant beaches.

Physical memories carried home.

The beach? To me, an Aussie girl, golden sand, more crab balls than you could ever count, wet sandy toes, sand castles & forts, boogie boards, rock pools, shells galore, smooth pebbles, piles of seaweed, sometimes smelly, sunscreen, burning sun, Nan’s cheeky smile, family.

My Nan lived in a coastal town on the north coast of NSW, Australia.

She was an incredible lady, beautiful like a movie star and so loved. A constant stream of visitors, friends and family from near and far.

All my memories of Nan are stored safe, not deep or under lock and key, but close to the surface, neatly filed, in view, for easy access.

I remember her house, Market Street, when I was little, the street a small strip of bitumen with wide sandy verges and a lovely green front garden. I remember the grape vine that climbed from the fence, over the car port and above the ramp toward the back door of the house. I remember the orange vinyl chairs around the table in the small dining room, but mostly I remember Nan and her smile. Also Great Uncle Horrie and his clever dog, Dog. On request Dog would fetch Uncle Horrie’s cigarettes! Their cheeky smiles and laughter sparkled eyes.

In the later years of her life, every time I left her, driving down the highway back to Sydney I’d cry, cheeks soaked with tears of sadness and fear, afraid of the day I’d lose her.

It was a sad sad day when we did.

But we haven’t lost her, she’s in our hearts, forever.

From here I’m going to skip ahead a couple of years, to a family reunion. Nan’s house hadn’t sold, it had been rented out and was now sitting empty. Legend has it that Nan came to my brother in a dream and suggested he buy her house and turn it into a holiday house for the family.

He did.

Since then, most Easters from when my little girl was a toddler, we’ve gathered at her house.

Just like we did when we had Nan and Uncle Horrie, we sit on the porch in the morning sun, with our cups of tea and local newspapers. They are with us in the warmth of the sun, the smell of the salt air and the sound of the waves, calling us to the beach, from just a few short blocks away.

And we see them in the faces, gait and smiles of our aunts, uncles and cousins as they walk toward us down the path to the house.

Family. Home.

The beach.

Have a wonderful day!