At Last … A Veggie Garden!

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It’s taken thirty years, but we now have a veggie garden. Today we planted it out, and Hubby and I are both patting ourselves on the back. We’ve been so busy over the years running businesses and travelling that we never had the time. But it’s finally here, and it’s a cracker.

We did it for two reasons. We live in a small country town and you’d think the vegetables would be locally sourced and fabulous. Sadly, they are not! And secondly, I’ve always wanted a veggie garden. It’s an above ground garden as you can see from the pictures. We made it above ground because we didn’t want to be bending and I really liked the ‘No-Dig’ garden concept which requires the building up of layers. There is a cost of course to this type of garden which would be above that of one which is using ground soil as first you have to build the structure, then fill it. For those interested in the cost our total was $A450, a figure which we can easily rack up at the supermarket counter! Half of that was the cost of the filling. We already had most of the materials bar some extra wood to hold it all together. That, surprisingly, was more than half of the balance ~ wood is not cheap! But of course, building it yourself, allows you to make it what size you want. Ours is 4 metres long, 1.2 metres wide and 1 metre deep, which is a lot of space to fill.

Making Veggie Garden - cropped

Veggie Garden Structure - croppedIf you don’t know how a No-Dig above-ground garden works here are the layers.

No Dig Garden courtesy sgaonline.org.au

Image courtesy of Sustainable Gardening Australia in Victoria ~ sgaonline.org.au

Veggie Garden Layers - Sunday MusingsThe straw bales at the bottom are basically to save money. You wouldn’t need them for a lower garden. Also, as our bed was not on hard ground or concrete, we didn’t need to add drainage. Once it’s filled the bed needs to rest for a couple of weeks before planting. I think we left ours a little too long as the soil compacted and we had to aerate it with a fork and add potting mix. That was really the only bit of hard yakka that was involved.

Planted Veggie Garden - Sunday MusingsThen we planted. Some were my own propagated seeds and some were seedlings (my lettuce didn’t strike, nor did my cucumber ~ two of my favourite foods so we needed to buy those plus a few other impulse purchases!). It is, of course, a whole lot easier to buy seedlings. They all look so lovely too! When everything was in the ground we covered it with a nice pea-straw mulch and watered it all in well with Seasol (liquid seaweed), and as we’re not compost people, we’ll be perking it all up regularly with castings and juice from our very happy worms.

Worm Farm - Sunday MusingsWe’ve been doing worm farms on and off for years. It’s magic stuff and so easy too! As we don’t have a compost heap all our veggie scraps (bar onions and citrus) go to the worms. We chop it all up and feed them once to twice a week, then water them once a week and collect what drains through, and bottle it. Yes, we bottle it because that’s the ‘magic stuff’ ~ a phrase coined by my late father who reckoned it made his garden grow like magic overnight! His garden loved it, our garden loves it and so will our veggies.

And this is how the final garden looks a few weeks later ~ it’s what I see every time I look out of my kitchen window. Hubby built the netting cover structure with pliable piping ~ easy enough to find out how to do it on google. When it was finished we stood back and admired it all for at least half an hour! We are so proud of it. And the veggies are going great guns ~ nothing like fresh salad every day to put a smile on your face!

Veggie Garden - Sunday Musings

I am feeling very satisfied with our efforts. Not ever having created a vegetable garden before, it’s turned out extremely well. As I write I gaze out of my study window and I can see our sheep roaming about quietly, and I can’t help thinking that we not only have productivity going on in our paddocks (our sheep are wool producing), it’s also now going on in our garden as well. It makes me very happy and I feel very blessed.

Cheers and happy gardening!

Inara Hawley © 2015

Meeting the Neighbours

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We have lived in our little country town for just over three years now, and apart from our misadventure when we ended up with sheep, we had not met our immediate neighbours.

Over the years I’ve become a bit of a hermit, albeit a happy one. I’ve led a very busy life, and now I love my peace and quiet. That being said, it’s important to meet the neighbours, especially when one lives on acres. It can be very isolating. And if you ever need to contact your neighbour, it’s good to pick up the phone and know whom you’re talking to.

So with that in mind, I was hoping for an opportunity to connect with our new neighbours, and as with all intentions, it wasn’t long before it arrived. A couple of weeks later, while making soup for my monthly cook-up, I looked up from my chopping board and noticed them across the paddock standing at the boundary fence. I thought, great ~ now’s the time to introduce ourselves, so hubby bounded up to say hello.

Sunday Musings - Meeting the NeighboursWith the ice broken, a date was set and over they came for an afternoon drink. They brought the wine ~ I’m not a drinker, but by golly they were good drops. And I did the food, which wasn’t bad either considering it was just an afternoon snack! Sunday Musings - Meeting the Neighbours

Sunday Musings - Meeting the Neighbours
Now it may be that we’re very personable, and it may be that they’re very personable, but we could not have picked a nicer couple to live next door to. With the same background of escaping the city, it turns out we have a lot in common ~ we talked real estate, business, travel, family, and even religion, and had lots of laughs.

And it also turns out, that the two of us girls are of similar minds. I’ve wanted a veggie patch for many years, but as hubby hasn’t warmed to the idea it has never eventuated. My new neighbour however, is a mad keen vegetable-grower. And she not only offered to share her ready-made patch of earth with me, in a moment of what I consider utter madness, said she’d come over and actually dig up our veggie patch! Apparently in her walks around the boundary, she has worked out exactly the right spot for it! Golly! It really is all about ‘ask and ye shall receive’ ~ if you put it out to the Universe with a big enough wish, eventually the opportunity presents itself.

Sunday Musings - Meeting the NeighboursSo we had the very best afternoon ~ a really fun meet and greet. We ate, we drank, we chatted, we laughed, and we made a right mess of the kitchen. Fortunately, we both love our privacy ~ that’s why we live on acres though I doubt it will be the last time we meet. Given the gardening enthusiasm, it may not be too long before I’m digging up the paddocks with the lovely energetic lady next door. Also, after finding out that our two cats visit them every night, if we ever need anyone to look after them for a few days, I think we’ve found the perfect couple to do it.

It’s a true statement indeed that one can pick ones friends, but not ones neighbours. Living where we do, we rarely see anyone unless we go into town, but knowing we have a super-friendly neighbourly vibe just on over the hill is a real blessing. Yes, meeting the neighbours is a good thing to do, and finding out they are kind, helpful people who know how to have a laugh, is even better.

Oh, and Universe ~ thank you for the nudge! I did after all ask for a veggie patch.

Caring Matters

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The sense of community in a small town can be delightful. Our town in particular is one full of happy vibes and kindness. But while kindness is a wonderful thing and should never be underrated, caring matters even more.

Caring Matters Recently there was a competition in our small town, which involved a bit of creative thought and expertise. Hubby and I were given entry forms, but as I popped them under my arm I thought no more of it. However, after a few days I realised we had to make the effort. After all, we live in a small town, and if we want to be part of the community, we can’t ignore it.

So we put our thinking caps on and surprisingly, hubby came up with a very creative idea, and being the good wife that I am, I executed it just as creatively on his behalf. When it was finished I was pleased. It was a pretty good effort, and I thought it had a good chance of winning.

On the day, however, a lady with a very average entry won it. A little later when everyone was having their tea and cake, one of the staff members quietly sidled over to hubby and said, “Yours was the best you know, but we all thought she needed a lift”. And so she did, as hubby watched her leave with a basket of goodies and a great big smile.

Yes, kindness matters, but caring matters even more, especially in a small town, for without it there would be no sense of community. I love living in a small town. 

Inara Hawley © 2014

A Trip into Town

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These days I am a real home body. The years of tearing around constantly doing and travelling, and being the boss person are over. I love being at home ~ it’s my paradise!

I also have no desire to change the world anymore either. Mind you, there was a time when I was close to being a placard-carrying activist! I think the only thing that stopped me was that I was so very busy, but I was very vocal. Hubby reckons I’m still vocal … but thank goodness, he also reckons I’m fair, bless his cotton socks!

The days of seeing the world through black and white eyes has long gone ~ it’s now a glorious range of colours. And today I know that any change I want to see in the world starts with me. I don’t fight against anything anymore. Resistance is my teacher, not my way of life. There is much that doesn’t matter nowadays ~ what does matter however, is goodwill, wellbeing and joy, which is exactly what I experienced today. I light up my little corner of the world with all the good-feeling joy I can muster, and so it is in our little town … today I experienced a dose of good-feeling small town joy.

Drive into TownWith our list of bits and pieces, hubby and I ventured up the road to our little township. It was a beautiful day ~ a blessing of course, but really that’s not the point. And before I go on, may I say that heading out with hubby is a favourite thing to do … but I digress ~ our first stop was the library, which is why I was out and about (you will never catch me going out just to do the shopping!). Anyway, our library is a fabulous place. We walked into a bubbling hive of activity. Children were bursting with smiles, mothers with prams were rocking their babies, and hellos and goodbyes were bouncing around the room as folk came and went. The place radiated easygoing pleasure.

Armed with our books ~ deep and meaningful sagas for me and a handful of who-done-its for hubby, our next stop was the nursery. Again, we were met with an easygoing vibe. Eager and helpful staff carried our purchases to the car as they chatted and smiled. Next stop was a look at the new Health and Wellbeing Centre ~ it seems that even in our small ‘give the man meat’ timber town folk want to see alternative therapists, which is great!

Walk Down MainstreetThen it was off down the main street to the supermarket. It was a bit of a walk, but it was such a pleasure as every single person we passed smiled and said G’day (yes, we all say ‘G’day’ in the country!). The supermarket door seemed to magically open when we needed to step through, and later at the checkout, I stopped for a second to look around ~ youngsters were being helpful with bags, I was telling the checkout girl how to get rid of her hiccups, folk were chatting across the aisles and the other checkout girl was punching the air and joyfully announcing to everyone she was off to lunch!

Notice BoardAs we packed the car I looked over at the local Notice Board, and as I have done before, I was amazed at the activities available for such a small town ~ various reading groups, a mothers group, pottery and craft, line dancing, a family history group, and many more … obviously a town that refuses to be bored! And as I have discovered, everything is done enthusiastically for whenever I enquire about anything, I am always met with an excited ‘come join us’ vibe.

Now today all of this goodwill could have been because of the glorious weather, but I don’t think so. Even on a cold winter’s day in town, the eyes I meet under beanies are friendly, and the faces I see are always smiling. Why? Because I’m always smiling! You see, when you smile for the pure joy of it, the whole world smiles with you. And even though my home is my paradise, today, it was a pleasure and a joy to be out amongst it. After all, paradise is everywhere if you have the joy in your heart to create it and the eyes to see it!

Inara Hawley © 2013

Building a Deck

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I married a builder. Now this doesn’t mean that I’ve lived with Mr. Handy for the last 36 years ~ far from it! He put his tool bag away long before he met me and went into corporate work, where he rose to dizzy heights. Then he married me, and in addition to being life partners, we also became business partners.

This made for a very busy lifestyle, and as most Australians do, we moved around quite a bit. Over the years we’ve lived in six houses ~ built one from scratch and improved the others with either big or small renovations, all done by hired builders. But now that Hubby has retired, he’s a man possessed ~ renovating has become his passion! From early morning to mid afternoon he’s out there hammering away at something, creating his version of a great place to live. And it’s a good thing too, as this house is badly in need of repair. I’ve never lived in such a run down place. It was a sad old house indeed when we moved in ~ very unloved, and it took me a bit of time to get used to the fact that it was falling apart inside, but as Hubby said, it had good bones and he fell in love with it at first glance so here we are, and here he is doing what he set out to do when he first saw the place ~ fix it up!

Our Country HomeWe had a general idea of the renovations we wanted to do, but apart from what tradespeople like electricians and plumbers did, there was a long list of bits that needed doing first, like repairing verandah boards, lining cupboards, replacing doors, fixing steps, making rails and pump covers, repairing fences, planting trees, and the biggie ~ painting the outside of the house. Only then could we think about what we’d do with the mess outside the kitchen door. The back porch was small and downright dangerous, and the ground area was wet, sloppy and awful (that’s girl talk for it being a ‘rainwater sump with rotting deck timber’) so hubby decided to build a decent covered deck. My thoughts were, given that he was doing it all by himself and there was lots of heavy lifting and tall ladders involved, it was probably a bit beyond him, but he was resolute … he was building the deck. My idea of a decent covered outside area was a large roof, a bit of a porch, and some pavers and gravel for sitting around the barbeque, but no, no, no! He had a plan and he would not be swayed, and in case I didn’t hear him the first time, he was BUILDING THE DECK!

Hubby Building DeckRoof Nearly DoneDeck StepsDeck Boards DoneAnd so it began. With measurements in hand Hubby took himself off to the local hardware store and connected with his new best friends … yes, there were days when he needed to pop up there three times in the space of 6 hours! And of course the locals (hubby does all the shopping so he knows everyone) have all been kept up to date as well. The owners of the post office, who nearly bought the place when it was for sale, expect a blow-by-blow of everything we do plus photographs! And anyone who’s ever made a delivery of materials has also taken a moment to check in on the building progress. All I can say is, you’ve got to love the people in small country towns!

So bit by bit and board by board, our deck grew into something rather fabulous. But of course building it without fixing the surrounding garden simply wouldn’t do. So there was also a lot of moving of dirt, retaining of garden walls, filling and planting, and covering the very grotty broken pathways with pavers and gravel. And in doing all of it Hubby only fell off the ladder from a great height once! It was a big ‘ouch’ and under instructions from wife and four daughters he took a week off! Fast forward five months and everything is now finished … it’s been a huge job, and it looks fantastic ~ even the cats love it! Compared to what was there before Hubby has created something very special. He has a flair for designing just the right thing for the right space. And Sheep Man, who owns the little flock on our land, is coming over in the next few days with his strong-man brother-in-law to carry out the barbecue.

The Finished Deck!So that’s the deck done! And now we sit out there with swelled chests admiring it and loving that we can soak up the beauty of our surroundings in such a luxurious space. It’s a pleasure and a joy, and my man is a miracle worker. He is so special and I am truly blessed.

Inara Hawley © 2013

We Have Sheep!

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If you’ve been reading my blog you may remember that around the end of May I wrote ‘Thank God for the Firies’ about the rather dramatic grass fire we had in our paddock.

Well the outcome was that a neighbour from up the road, let’s call him Sheep Man, knocked on our door the next morning ~ yes, the very next morning because the grapevine in the country is lightning fast ~ and offered his sheep to keep the grass down. And we now have sheep!

It’s taken longer than expected to get them here as Sheep Man had to erect an inner wire fence around our four-acre paddock boundary to protect the 200 trees, and as we’ve had a lot of rain, he hasn’t been able to do it as quickly as he hoped. However today, was the day! The weather was magnificent and they are in!

So we have 26 African Merinos, and very good looking sheep they are too! Apparently they are very docile and we won’t even notice them. That’s probably true because the paddock has lots of little hills and valleys and it won’t be that easy to see them. Sheep Man says it will take them a couple of days to find their camp, which will be either near the water troughs under the trees or on the very top of the paddock, but the very first thing they will do is check the boundaries to get to know the area.

We Have Sheep!When they arrived it took them some time to sort themselves out. They huddled together for about 30 minutes, until suddenly there was a leader and they took off! And as Sheep Man said, they went straight to the boundary and started walking around it. Merinos are excellent foragers and very adaptable. Because they love clover they’ll find that first, usually where tyre tracks have pushed down the long grass, and only then will they start eating out the rest of the paddock. By the picture above you can see they have a big job ahead of them!

Our little flock are about 2 years old, and as most of you would know, Merinos are bred predominantly for their wool, which is very fine and soft. Sheep Man has about 800 head spread around the area, and he and his father do all the shearing themselves every year about late November, which in Australia, is coming into summer. He will be checking on them every few days, and as there won’t be any lambs ~ he keeps those on his property to protect them from dogs ~ it will be an easy job. And it will be nice for us as well to not only learn more about sheep, but to have someone drop in a couple of times a week.

Sheep - Close the GateSo now it’s all done! I’ve painted a ‘sheep’ sign for the gate, and hubby and I are both very happy to have a ‘living’ paddock on our property again. Apart from kangaroos, the last time we had animals on a property was twenty ago when we lived on acres in Sydney and our paddock was used by the local riding school to rest their horses.

When Sheep Man was finally satisfied that the herd was happy, he hopped into his truck and with a thumbs up and a wink, left us with these parting words, “It’ll look like a park in here next year!” … and I believe it will!

A Next Morning P.S. ~ I think I’m turning into a sheep watcher! 🙂

Inara Hawley © 2013