A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY

JULY 2017

Winter in Adelaide has been quite dry so far which is in contrast to last year’s high rainfall. Our winter dam is dry and the paddocks are struggling to sprout new green growth before the hungry sheep and alpacas nibble it away. The autumn leaves have dropped, leaving thick colourful circles beneath the bare tree trunks. Our lambs are growing, but they are still small enough to sometimes sneak through the fence to other paddocks. Then they realise they are not near their Mothers, but can’t work out how to get back, bleating like they are pleading for assistance. Summer seems out of reach and distant.

Our 10th annual bonfire was a success. I counted 87 guests in all, most donning ‘country western’ accessories for the theme. The lamb spit was delicious and a huge hit. Everyone brought a plate of nibbles, a salad or desert for the shared dinner which was laid on an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ style long table made of recycled timber in different colours which was this year’s new addition to the bonfire shelter/bar area. At one stage coming back from the house, I stopped for a second and admired the vision of the huge amber fire, with all of our friends and family huddled around in with an orange glow on their faces. They were all talking and having fun. Marshmallows were being toasted and shared. Some were drinking warm mulled wine which I hadn’t tried until then. There was music playing in the background, fairy lights and kids playing nearby. Everyone seems to have a great time and are already talking about next year, so I guess the tradition will continue. Our Aunty gave me a large bouquet of herbs she had trimmed from her garden as a thank you, wrapped like a professional flower bouquet. Just lovely.

Last weekend we planned a gardening day, so Dylan and I started pruning and trimming. We noticed Tom was missing in action, so went to see what he was doing. My carpenter husband got a bit side tracked it seems, found some old wood and was half way through making a fire pit area near the shed. It is really special. He’s made a corner bench seat with high back and screening which has created a cosy area to sit by the fire. We use an old washing machine drum as our fire pit. The embers glow through the holes in the sides. I’m not a big fan of winter, but love a nice fire so this helps make winter more appealing. The dogs didn’t take long to gravitate to the cosy fire, and we all sat at the end of the day listening to old songs with a drink, keeping warm. When the kids have friend’s over, they tend to hang out in the shed as they have their own space, a table tennis table, an old lounge - and now a nice fire pit to sit around.

The month has also been busy with dinners, family birthdays and get-togethers. One was a 50th ‘Best of British’ themed party for a good friend of ours. He has created an amazing ‘man cave’ out of his shed with an English theme. It is just like stepping into a quaint English Pub. It even has an old fashioned bowling alley inside! Another friend from work very generously puts on a special dinner each year for his friends. He calls us his family as he doesn’t have family in Australia. He cooks delicious curry and shashliks and it is a nice chance to catch up with work friends out of work. 

Something I’ve seen a couple of times in nearby towns is a ‘shared produce stall’. People place home grown goods like fruit, vegetables, herbs, eggs, jams, etc that they have plenty of, and the idea is you can take something else that may be of use to you – no money involved. I love the concept which is honesty based and think it’s another thing that makes the Hills a special place to live.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


June 2017

Earlier this month, Bambalamb our friendly sheep had twins – both girls. I had a phone call from Tom and Dylan on the driveway to say they just saw the first lamb being born – she was black and white so she was immediately named ‘Black Betty’. After ten years on our property we had never actually witnessed an animal be born. I hurried down the driveway to see and realised Bambalamb was still in labour. Between contractions, the first lamb was trying to figure out how to feed. Poor bambalamb was patiently walking around in circles, trying to find a comfortable spot while tending to her needy newborn lamb. Within half an hour a snow white lamb was born. It seemed appropriate to name her ‘Whoa’ so that the song line was complete. It was amazing to see the little bundle stand so quickly, although very wobbly at first. Bambalamb was instantly a wonderful Mum and after licking her babies clean, made sure they fed. Although we were careful not to interfere too much, one at a time we went over to congratulate the new Mum and sneak a pat of the new lambs. It’s amazing that she trusts us so much with her young.

A week later another sheep had a black faced lamb we called Kai which is my son Dylan’s middle name – because he was born on his birthday morning. The lambs are funny how they play together, the twins leap around each other and snuggle under a particular tree, close to Mum. They already mimic her eating the grass. Another lamb was born a week later but was very frail and unfortunately died within a few hours. Bryce was home and rugged it up in a towel, but it died in his arms.

The weather is still quite fine most days, but crisp in the evenings and mornings. We have had a dry start compared with last year’s very wet winter. I picked the last of our apples on the weekend and we have started cleaning up summer’s pool gear and last reminders of long lazy days. We have firewood from last year’s fallen boughs stacked ready for the fire which has been on sporadically. The deciduous trees have almost completely shed their showcase of leaves. Bonfires spot the paddocks on clear evenings and the friendly smell of wood smoke tinges the air.

This month we celebrated Mother’s Day and Dylan’s birthday together with our family of 29 between afternoon tea at my Nana’s retirement village, dinner out in Adelaide, brunch in McLaren Vale and delicious curry night at our place – complete with three birthday cakes for each celebration. Our entire family ranges from age eight weeks young to ninety seven years old and we managed to see everyone in one weekend. On Dylan’s birthday on the Monday, he was acting in a drama production at school so we went to ‘the theatre’ with his grandparents for his birthday.

We are busily getting ready for our tenth anniversary of our annual bonfire next weekend, and the weather forecast is looking perfect. This weekend is a highlight for us, to catch up with our different groups of friends and family, see the young kids enjoy the excitement of a bonfire, and the teenagers catch up and have fun together. For Tom and I it’s also marks an annual clean up of the shed and yards which is hard work but extremely satisfying. Setting the date each year makes this happen and the preparation on the day is really not difficult, as everyone brings something to help out. This year we are having a country and western theme and a lamb spit (not ours!).

Last weekend I met friends at a hotel in a nearby town for a drink and meal before heading out to her local football club for a ladies night, which is a big fundraiser for the club. I have been there for a meal before with my family and remember it was delicious. I couldn’t help but smile at this typical country pub with its roaring open fireplace in the front bar. The publicans are young and know my friend and everyone else, it seemed that entered the pub. My friend grew up in the same town, lives in the same house that was her husband’s parent’s years ago, and now her daughter and her friends go to this same hotel sometimes with her friends. Some of them work there part time. The atmosphere was something I can’t properly describe but I wanted to be there and listen to the banter between the locals and the publican stirring the ladies in our group who came through the door “oh here’s trouble, don’t tell me you’re going to ladies night too!” which was met with a grin and “just get me a glass of champers”. The football game was on the big screen and there was a real family atmosphere. This is something you only see in the country, and I’m glad I can experience it.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


May 2017

Beautiful April is almost complete for another year. The fire has been lit a few times, but there have also been some quite warm days in the Adelaide Hills. Our ‘Mediterranean climate’ is one of the things I love about living here. I met my newest niece, Matilda yesterday and she’s very cute. We celebrated my sister in law’s 40th, and attended a few nice dinners with family and friends.

The boys have been on holidays, and even though I don’t have to do much to help them get ready for school now and even though I was still working, it feels like a relief to have this break from the study and routine. I also don’t feel as bad that I have to work through some holidays now that Bryce has his ‘P’s’ and can drive them to friend’s houses or out for the day which started as nerve wrecking, but is now amazing. I do still worry when I know Bryce is out driving and always farewell them with ‘Drive carefully’ – somehow believing that this will make a difference.

Dylan seems quite happy when he is home, often tidying up for me which is a real treat to come home to. Last week I came home at twilight to the smell of wood fire smoke wafting through the air. I entered to the smell of something delicious cooking on the stove and the warmth of a beautiful fire. He was making pumpkin soup and it was such a treat to come home to this. He had been staying with his Grandparents for a few days of the holidays and liked Nana’s pumpkin soup so decided to try it out on us.

Our Easter was spent camping at Southend again, which is about 4-5 hours drive south. This was our sixth year there. We took our new caravan out for the first time and it was great. We sold our camper trailer and bought this vintage caravan which was still in pretty good condition. We have been painting it and I upholstered the lounge. We’ve even made quirky cushions to match. We have put a wall sticker up with a tree and birds flying from an open cage. A transfer also adorns the wall near the door with the words ‘As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen – Winnie the Pooh’ which I thought was very apt. The best part was setting up and packing up – it was so easy. We had fun packing it for the first time too, finding the right cupboards for our camping items. The caravan will serve as a spare room when people stay also.

Our trip was fun. We went with Tom’s parents and our friend’s and their 5 year old son again. We had a bonfire on the beach and went kayaking in the sea, which was interesting. Kayaking in the sea here involved getting out past the surf and the sea was quite cold (even though this Easter the days were still warm). I had several attempts which ended in me capsizing or not being able to get in the kayak in time before another wave crashed. My friend’s and the kids were screaming their support out to me “paddle hard and straight into the wave!” On my final attempt, I got past a few breaks and then saw the sea rise up one final time. Most of me wanted to turn around and forget it, but I feebly paddled into the large wave, capsizing once again. Exhausted I admitted defeat. Meanwhile my seventeen year old son breezes past the breaking waves! I dragged my waterlogged body to the fire on the beach to warm up. Even though my kayaking experience was short this time, it was quite invigorating being in the water. We also enjoyed a day out in Beachport at the Easter market followed by lunch at the Hotel. Games were played, stories were told, we ate, sipped our drinks and had a ball.

Last weekend was spent at a friend’s working bee to complete their front garden. We dug, shovelled stones, planted plants and built retaining walls (this was Tom’s domain). I was so sore the next day! It was so fun, to do this with our friends, chatting while working and we were well fed and watered.

Our neighbour across the road has a larger property with cows and sheep. While they were away, one of the cows escaped. He had our phone number, and asked if we could please help to get the cow back in and explained which gate to use. When we got down to the road, a few other neighbours were already helping. The cow was returned and we checked the fence line but couldn’t find an obvious escape route. This happened a couple of other times, once when we were away ourselves. Someone phoned to say they had put the cow in our driveway as it was fenced. I had images of a cow eating my plants, but when we returned the cow was removed and everything was in order. Apart from a few tell-tale cow patties and one of the fences was open so our separated alpacas were all in together. We are awaiting the birth of Bambalamb’s lamb, and even wondering if she’s having twins!

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


April 2017

Adelaide is called the Festival State and it lives up to this name in March. March sees the ‘Clipsal 5000’ car race, ‘Fringe Festival’, ‘Adelaide Festival of Arts’, ‘Womad’ and this year, singer Adele hosted our biggest concert our city has hosted to date - all in the heart of Adelaide. The good news is, there is plenty to see and do and the city is buzzing with excitement.

We went to a ‘Fringe Comedy Gala’ as a family which was very funny. It was a reasonably intimate gathering and a couple of comedians were very interactive with the audience which always terrifies me. Luckily we didn’t get picked on. Dylan and I went to Adele at Adelaide oval which was Dylan’s first big concert. It was a great concert – were in the stand looking over the entire oval which was magical. During one song she asked everyone to turn on their phone torches and it looked truly spectacular with hundreds of tiny lights twinkling in the audience to her haunting voice and music.

I was also excited to attend a 90’s concert with a few dance acts with some friend’s which was a lot of fun. It took me right back to my late teens/early 20’s and thought how funny it was to see a bunch of 40 ish year olds enjoy the music as if we were young again.

This month we bought a 1970’s caravan and have just sold our camper trailer. While it was sad to see our camper trailer go (it holds many fond memories of holidays for us), the people who bought it had four kids and we knew it would be perfect for them. The caravan was something we have been looking at for a couple of months. We wanted nothing too dear, but something sound and plan touse it as an extra room when people stay as well as to take away. Particularly as we are planning another trip to the Northern Territory next year – this time with Tom’s parents. It will be easier to set up at the last minute and felt it was time to upgrade from the camper trailer which we have outgrown really. Last Easter the boys chose to sleep in another tent and swags. The caravan has an annexe and the boys can sleep in there or inside if they like. We have already been renovating the caravan which had lots of 70’s woodgrain panels and green. We’ve bought a new bed, fixed the bunks, have painted and are re upholstering the seats this weekend. I bought a transfer which is now on the wall saying “as soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen – by Winnie the Pooh” which I thought suited the van. We will take it away for the first time for our annual Easter trip to Southend.

We have an eccentric second cousin called Dee who is my husband Tom’s Mum’s cousin. She was coming to Mt Barker for the local show last weekend and asked if she could stay at our place a couple of nights. We have only met her a few times, but thought this would be fine. It made sense for her to stay. She assured us she would be no trouble, sleep in our caravan and bring her own food (she has some very specific dietary requirements). Dee arrived as arranged on the Friday in her old dented van, with a couple of propagated plants for me which was lovely. The first thing I liked about Dee was that she made herself right at home. There was no awkwardness and she started chatting to us all about everything and anything. She listens very well and was lovely to Dylan in particular (Bryce was out a bit that weekend). She offered Dylan a ticket to the show where she was demonstrating ‘paper making’ (she was asked to come from the South East to attend the show). ‘The Sound of Music’ came on TV and Dylan was telling me he’d never seen the whole movie. Next minute Dee squealed with delight “Are we watching The Sound of Music?!!” and ran to find a place right next to me on the couch. So we did (and it was fun). After getting to know Dee over the weekend I realised she is the only person I know who can cover: world politics, health issues, different moth species and more of her general life history at 9am on a Sunday morning in one breath!  I felt glad to have met this extremely social, enthusiastic, fit 69 year old lady who seems so grateful to have reunited with extended family after living without family for many years. It truly made our weekend quite special because we talked a lot – some topics quite deep and sentimental. We all agreed after she left that we had quality time which may not have happened if she hadn’t visited.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


March 2017

The last day of summer is always bittersweet for me. I know after today the days will grow shorter and the nights will become cooler. The sky won’t be as bright. I almost mourn the lazy summer days I already long to return, and regret not eating outdoors more or visiting the beach every free weekend. When I think of summer it is the small, seemingly insignificant things that I love the most. Opening the sash windows to my bedroom at night and sleeping with the curtains open to let the fresh breeze in, waking to the distant sound of chickens and birds and the dim band of light rising on of the horizon. It’s summer fruit and lush leafy trees, agapanthus and roses, fairy lights and wine on the deck.

Just the smell of rain or the hose sprinkling the warm earth invokes fond memories of childhood summers, and contentment. I am taken back to summers spent at my Grandma’s place, which had a cement patio with low rock walls, a wood fire BBQ and a cement path to a large lawned area with fruit and nut trees, assorted vegetables and a willow. We used to follow ant trails and at night there was a large tree that twinkled in the moonlight. We were told it was a fairy tree which we believed with earnest. My sister and I used to run under the sprinkler on a hot day and somehow the smell of the water splashing the cement and lawn in the heat of the suburban acre block is exactly the same smell I sense now.

Having said this, the weather is still forecast to be very summery this week so I will enjoy it as much as possible while it lasts. The prospect of fires being lit, hearty casseroles and being cosy help with the transition!

This month I finally completed a family photo collage I started a couple of years ago. I’m so proud of the frames hanging on the passage wall, all labelled and dated. My favourite photos are the candid ones of rare moments captured in history. I initially asked our families for photos of our families and needed to edit a lot of the black and white ones that had creases showing or were poor quality. It was fun editing them but very difficult to narrow down to fit in the different slots in the frames which is what has taken the most time. There is a picture of my Pa winning a famous Adelaide running race as a young man, one of Tom’s Grandparents after a game of tennis, post war photos, beach shots and wedding parties. Our Grandparents were young and handsome – a reminder of how quickly the years go by. The oldest photo is of my Grandad as an infant in the 1910’s. What I love most is that these photos probably would have been forgotten in a box in my parent’s cupboards, but now they are proudly on display and talked about.

The Adelaide Fringe Festival is on again and this year it coincided with an evening a friend had organised for us on the ‘Adelaide Handlebar’ – a bar on wheels that you peddle around the streets of Adelaide for a couple of hours stopping at some pubs along the way. We peddled the busy streets to music sipping on our drinks and had a ball. After this a few of us walked to one of the Fringe venues, the ‘Royal Croquet Club’ to enjoy the atmosphere. This is based on the edge of the River Torrens that flows through Adelaide City and looked beautiful at night with the festival theatre and bridge lit up. We are hoping to see a show during the festival next month.

Tom has been working on the laundry slowly and we have water plumbed and electrics done now. New cabinets are in and walls painted. Now we need to tile, put the bench top in and this room will be complete.

We have just enjoyed a last summer’s Eve BBQ on the deck with two of Bryce’s friends who came over for a swim in our pool. It was so nice to have them over and listen to their talk of future plans. I took the opportunity to catch up on the gossip with one of the girls. I feel blessed that the boys feel happy to invite their friends over - something I have hoped would happen.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


February 2017

Yesterday I had to remember how to set my alarm – which ironically didn’t go off for my first day back at work! Fortunately I was well rested from three restful weeks at home and I managed to get to work at a decent time. Being back at work is both exciting and scary rolled into one. I need to miraculously morph into a responsible professional and pick up on what I have missed during my absence. The new shoes I bought to start the year fresh didn’t fit as well as they did in my last minute flurry to the shops, so I have to wear my old faithfuls for now. The boys are both back at school ready for a fresh new year. Bryce started a day earlier than Dylan with a year twelve ‘retreat’ including meals for the day and inspirational speakers to start to their big year. Dylan is in year ten. When did I suddenly become mother of kids in year twelve and ten?!

I had a really nice holiday at home. Sleeping as long as I wanted, long leisurely cups of tea in the morning in my PJ’s, a tidy house and even having time to clean out the cupboards. Appointments made and attended, lunches with friends, beach trips, swimming in our pool and basking on the lounge on the deck. Our laundry is ready for tiling and the back verandah is sealed again. The kids and I spent some nice time together, and I definitely fulfilled my role of ‘Mum’s taxi’! Bryce turned 17 and to celebrate we hosted a party with his friends this month as well as a family dinner out. It was nice to have his friends over and see them have fun using the pool and outdoor area. Most of them stayed, sleeping in swags and we had a cooked breakfast in the morning. It brings back memories of my teenage years and we hope that the boys feel comfortable to bring their friends here for years to come. It’s nice to have a holiday but not go away every now and then, to do what you like, catch up, relax and recharge.

We unexpectedly lost one of our female alpacas a couple of weeks ago – she was black with a white headband and socks called Olivia (after Olivia Newton John). She was the alpaca that sadly lost her newborn crea two years ago. We are not sure why she died, but I had a soft spot for her and feel sad about the loss. The rest of the property is going well. We have some new budgies in our avery which will hopefully breed again soon.

This summer has been quite mild so far, with some hotter days but not many ‘heat waves’. There have still been storms and rain forecast which is not usual. The agapanthus in our front garden have grown quite tall and are in bloom with blue and white flowers at the moment. When our nieces visited last weekend I laughed at their faces as they looked up at the plants towering above them, and climbed up the stairs to the front deck saying “this place is sooo cool!” They were desperate for a swim in our pool and a few went in for a dip even though it wasn’t the warmest of evenings. It was nice to watch the cousins having fun together and swimming under the stars is pretty amazing.

Looking forward to the rest of summer and making the most of each day.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


January 2017

A fresh new year is upon us! A clean slate of hopes, dreams and experiences. I feel slightly anxious with the idea of a whole new year ahead of me, but not knowing what will unfold. Mostly I feel glad and look forward to making plans. This year was our first New Year’s Eve without our boys, who had their own invitations with friends.

Tomorrow is the last of our Christmas celebrations – my Dad’s family picnic in the park with his wife Sue, my three sisters, their partners, four nieces and two nephews. Another niece is on the way, due in March. After tomorrow the Christmas decorations will be lovingly packed away until next time and I will be glad to have the house return to normal.

Most people I know seem glad to see 2016 end. There seemed to be a lot of losses – celebrity and personal and a lot of people seemed to do it tough for different reasons. Personally I had a great year. We had some great holidays: The beach house at Pt Elliott last summer, Easter camping with friends at Southend, our road trip to Darwin, and our anniversary get away to Bali. There were also weekends away for Day on the Green concerts, our friend’s wedding by the beach at Brighton and a couple of stays in Padthaway visiting Tom’s family. Tom’s business is doing really well and he has had a steady flow of work and has built up a great reputation. He works hard though. My work has been rewarding and I feel that I am really comfortable in my position now. Dylan did well at school and Bryce got great results for year eleven after working quite hard which was well deserved.

In December we bought some new farm animals – four sheep. One is hand raised like Bambalamb and quite friendly. We also borrowed a ram called ‘Kevin’, affectionately known as ‘Big Kev’ because it is quite rotund. He is a strange sheep because he doesn’t act like one. When I go down the driveway, sometimes he is sitting like a dog on his haunches. Just today, he was lying flopped out on his side and we had to check he was OK. He rolled over into a more normal sheep position when he realised he was attracting some attention. He has big brown patches over his eyes like a panda. We are hoping he can help bring us some lambs again soon.

Our Christmas celebrations started not long after the boys had their closing celebrations from school, with my work Christmas dinner which I helped organise at a restaurant in Hahndorf that does a buffet and a show. The show was a ‘Countdown’ tribute and was a lot of fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves which was the best thing, and it was well attended by all hospital staff. We had a Christmas BBQ for Tom’s workers and their families at our place which was nice too. The weather was perfect for sitting outdoors on the deck. We also hosted Christmas drinks on our deck for our friends. This group of friends we met originally when the kids started primary school. Every year we have a Christmas cocktail party, that has taken the form of dress up parties, a beach picnic, and twilight races. Some friends we met through our second kids and some are friends of these friends. We had such a great night. The weather was balmy and the kids went swimming in the pool. We bought a new outdoor lounge which suits the outdoor area perfectly. My Mum’s Christmas celebrations were held on Christmas Eve at my sister’s place and on Christmas day we had a special breakfast and lunch at home with my little family. In the afternoon we headed to Padthaway to stay for two nights with Tom’s family. Tom’s brother and sister in law and our nieces were there, as well as Tom’s aunty. We had a nice stay. There were family badminton, cricket and volleyball matches, a huge water fight, board games on the porch and meals which seemed to run continuously.

We have decided not to go away this summer. My holidays start in a week, but we are hoping to do more work on the house. While we haven’t done a lot on the renovation front lately, we are working on completing the laundry at the moment. Tom has been busily working on this during his time off this past week.

My New Year’s resolution is to read more books, something I have hardly done in recent years. I would also love to get fit. Something I would really love to do is go on a long hike along part of the Heysen Trail, hopefully with the family, camping along the way for a week or so. I’ll see how I go! Our eldest son Bryce is in his final year of high school this year, so our plans will need to work around this until he finishes in November.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May it be everything you dream of.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


December 2016

Today is my Nana’s 97th Birthday. She is amazing. She is very sharp, independent and lives in a retirement village near the beach in Adelaide. I just had a two hour phone conversation with her and we talk about anything and everything. She speaks of how she misses my Pa so much – he passed away suddenly in hospital eight years ago. We talk about our memories and she told me about her friends who have coffee together each week. They walk with their frames to the coffee shop next door. She chuckled cheekily when she divulged that the once a week had actually increased to three times a week mostly. She has always been very social and struggled when she moved there after Pa died at first because no one liked to play cards or other games. There was one lady who was older than Nana –she described her as a bit of a grump. She agreed to play cards with Nana, but after a few rounds decided Nana was quite good at it so ended it swiftly. I love the way she tells me these things out of the corner of her mouth to muffle her voice as if people can hear her. She seems content in the retirement home with its routine. She doesn’t like to put anyone out or feel they have to take her out which is typical of her kind nature. It wasn’t that long ago she was taking the ‘oldies’ out on errands in her car – in fact some of the ‘oldies’ from memory were younger than her! I love her to bits.

This month was Tom’s and my 20th wedding anniversary. I can’t believe we have been married this long! To celebrate we went on a four day getaway to Bali which we loved. We have never been to Bali before, but I saw a deal in a villa with our own private pool, with massages, meals and lots of other bonuses which was too good not to do. We loved the experience – the weather, the people, the food and the culture. Wemet a nice local called ‘Made’ who worked in a jewellery store linked to the resort who offered to drive us around Ubud, where we stayed for a day. We went to the monkey forest and temple, a working rice paddy farm, a coffee plantation, a large Hindu temple, a restaurant overlooking Mt Batur volcano and visited a traditional village. Tom and I enjoyed exploring the shops one day also, soaking in the different culture. ‘Made’ drove us to the airport via the scenic route also. We visited an art gallery, different jewellery stores and other shops along the way. We were so grateful to have met him and that he shared his love of Bali with us. Most of the people we met were so proud of their country. They were interested to hear about our life in Australia too and so hospitable. We’d love to return one day with the boys.

At home the garden is continuing to thrive after the huge rainfall and sunny spring days. The grass in the paddocks has grown too tall and we are buying some sheep again to help maintain the paddocks. Unfortunately the weeds are growing before our eyes also and need attention. Roses and flowers are abundant – hay fever is the only side effect of the glorious scent that wafts through the garden.

We went to another Day on the Green in the Barossa Valley with our friends this month to see five bands from our youth which was fun. We camped in our swag at the caravan park – I just love the swag. We haven’t used it since our Darwin trip and it felt quite familiar and cosy to sleep in it again. It is so easy to pack up also.

The Christmas tree has been decorated again, with the essential Christmas carols playing in the background. My Nana and Grandma’s vintage ornaments adorn the tree among our own that have been collected and made over the years. Dylan sewed a gorgeous advent calendar with pockets for each day of December and he’s done a great job. Maybe it will be an heirloom for his own family one day.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


November 2016

While driving home through my local town the other day my eyes were drawn to the vivid amber foliage of the ‘honey locust’ trees that line the main street, against the clearest blue sky I have seen in a while. I’ve been reading of plans to improve the town appeal and adding new shops which has been on the cards for a while, as the area I live in continues to boom. The town doesn’t have a postal delivery service, so everyone comes to the main street to visit the post office. There is a reputable Indian restaurant, a chicken shop, a small deli, a petrol station and a few other specialty stores dotted along the main road. Most don’t seem to last unfortunately. Tom was contracted to build an alfresco dining area at the restaurant which has a café in the day. People can sit on the deck under umbrellas in the sun now and it is nice to see people enjoying it. There has been a lot of community consultation around the plans for development and it seems the council is mindful of keeping to the character of the historic township which is pleasing. It will be great to have more shops a few minutes away but I hope when I drive through in a few years time, I can still admire the green hills on either side of the valley, the trees that change each season and the quaint properties along the way.

We have had some warmer days but today is rainy and windy yet again. I was hopeful that the weather would clear up so that we could light a mini bonfire tonight as this is the last day before fire season begins. On a fine day, the garden looks just beautiful. Everything is so lush and green from the rain and the flowers are blooming. My favourite elm tree grew tiny green leaf buds in what seemed like a day and before long each bough was adorned with majestic lush green foliage. After one stormy day, we went for a walk and discovered a huge gum tree on the edge of the road across from our property had fallen over – fortunately not on the road. The soil was just too damp to support it any longer. It’s trunk was huge – the width almost as tall as us. People soon started cutting it up for firewood before the council came and took most of it. I felt a twinge of sadness that this majestic tree was no longer there.

Earlier this month was our annual alpaca shearing day at our neighbour’s house. We met two new families this year and enjoyed a BBQ tea together sipping wine or beer, discussing our street’s characters, stories and animals. This neighbour’s house is the original farmhouse which has been renovated over the years. The farm was sub divided into 6 acre blocks and houses - including ours soon appeared. We are located towards the back of our property which is elevated and has different views to the other properties, far in the distance towards the lower lakes. On a clear day you can see the blue tinged water through the valley and large gum trees dotted on other farms, tiny animals on the horizon and the Mount Barker Summit. I might have mentioned before, but once when we were digging a hole in the front paddock to bury an old sheep, we came across some old pieces of china and bottles in what must have been the homestead’s rubbish pile. It was so exciting, and felt like an archaeological dig. The kids wanted to keep digging. Tom keeps old farm items we have found at our place in the bonfire shelter area which has turned into his ‘man cave’. 

This month saw one of my oldest and dearest friends get married by the sea. We stayed in a house on the esplanade for the weekend with the boys, which was lovely. We have also had some nice catch ups over dinner, with friends.

A couple of days ago, Tom brought a baby galah that he had found at the bottom of our driveway up to the house. He wasn’t sure if it was injured as it was running and couldn’t fly. He put it in a big cage we had and we decided to see if it improved in a couple of days. Meanwhile it’s Mum and Dad somehow must have found him sitting on our deck and after inspecting the cage thoroughly started squawking at the baby. We decided to let him go, as we thought he would be better off with his parents. When we opened the cage, he flew off the deck but landed top heavy before running across the garden to his parents. They flew off and the baby was left still unable to fly. We decided to put him back in the cage, but before long there they were again squawking at the cage. For the second time, we decided to let him go. We left them for a while, and when I checked on him he was tired, closing his eyes in the sunshine, and had managed to get over the fence somehow. His parents had gone again. Tom and I decided that come dusk if they still hadn’t returned we would keep him safe in the cage overnight for fear of a cat or fox coming along. After another check, Tom said it brought a tear to his eye, as the parents had the baby on a branch slightly elevated off the ground and were protectively sitting one each side of him. It was amazing to see what good parents these galahs were. We didn’t see them again after this, so I hope they stayed safely together.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


October 2016

South Australia is known as the driest state in the driest continent on earth… not this year! While September has had some lovely fine spring days, there has been a LOT of rain. Not just drizzle either. A big ‘once in fifty year storm’ has just passed, causing the whole state to have power blackouts and flooding as the already soaked soil could take no more and full dams and rivers overflowed. This is a stark contrast to last winter, one of the driest I’ve seen for years.

Emergency service crews have been tirelessly working around the clock to assist with flooding, trees down and stopping potential damage to property in forceful winds and heavy rain. Traffic lights failed in the city, causing mayhem on the already dangerous roads and people were advised to travel only if necessary. I saw a photo of a jetty destroyed also. Our house is quite safe on top of a hill, but our winter dam has been overflowing regularly across the driveway. I had to do a few small ‘river crossings’ on our way to school and work yesterday. My work at the local hospital has included preparing staff and planning for people in the community who might seek assistance due to the power outage or weather. We have back up power, thanks to generators. Phone coverage has been down in areas which poses a problem contacting staff so alternative plans had been made in anticipation. One afternoon, most shops, businesses and petrol stations in the town were forced to close due to the power blackout. Something so unfamiliar, in our life that is so reliant on power and phone coverage. It was nice to see people looking out for each other, and community spirit was strong.

After losing power at work that evening, I returned home to find the boys busily finding candles and setting up for the night while there was some day light left. We weren’t sure how long we would be without power, so needed to prepare. The house soon flickered with a warm glow. The fire was also lit and started to warm the house. I had planned on picking up something for tea on my way home, but the shops were closed early due to the blackouts. We have a gas hot plate, so we fossicked around to find some food to cook. This was feeling very much like camping! It was mashed potato, gravy mixed with left overs that night. Friends on social media were sharing photos of their candle lit houses and one shared news that a local hotel was open, serving hot meals in front of an open fire. For me it was kind of exciting to hear the wind howling and rain pelting outside, being safe and warm inside. Tom was threatening to go to bed at 7pm as he was bored. It does seem later than it actually is during a black out. We decided to play monopoly after the boys got over the fact we couldn’t watch TV, play the play station or use phones (for long anyway, as we didn’t want to drain the batteries too much). The dogs and cats joined in. When the power finally came back on in a flood of light, the fun and romance of the candlelight came to an abrupt halt and life was back to normal. There is more rain forecast this weekend unfortunately, and I hope there is no further damage.

Earlier this month we hosted our annual bonfire which was a fun night again. It was combined with my birthday celebrations and our AFL team’s semi-final this year, so we put the big TV in the shed for people to watch the game. The bonfire was planned later this year as we hadn’t had time to clean up the area until now, and the weather had been so bad. (We were hoping the ground would have dried out a bit by now). Our bathroom is still mid-renovation too, so we decided to hire a toilet which helped. This meant the event could be an entirely outdoors. There was rain forecast, but we decided to go ahead and while it was muddy and it did rain intermittently, it didn’t dampen spirits. Tom had built an extension to the rustic bonfire shelter this year and with the shed close by, there was plenty of cover. It was a huge fire thanks to the wild winter we had experienced – lots of branches to burn. Friends had dropped off their unwanted braches through the year also. It is so satisfying to be able to burn the pile of unneeded waste and is such a good chance for us to clean up the property each year. While the kids always have family friends there, this was the first year they wanted to invite their own friends. We had about twelve teenagers sleep over in the shed in swags which I was a bit nervous about, but they were very well behaved. Family stayed in caravans also. Everyone enjoyed a big cooked breakfast the next morning and were already talking about next year. I have always wanted the boys to feel they could have friends over at our place, something I couldn’t do much as a kid and we have plenty of room which is great.

September is a very busy birthday month in our family. We have had lovely catch ups and dinners. I worked on my own birthday this year which I don’t think I’ve done before due to it falling on a weekend the past few years and me working part time prior, which enabled me to have it off. It was actually really nice to work on my birthday as I was completely spoilt with cakes, flowers and gifts – very unexpected but lovely.

Despite the wild weather, the garden is thriving with the high rainfall. We put nets on the fruit trees early this year, in the hope the birds wouldn’t steal the fruit and nuts like last year. Everything is lush and green. I can’t wait to see the garden in full bloom once the weather finally warms up. 

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


September 2016

Our Road trip from the Adelaide Hills to Darwin Part 2

My column last month ended with our family road trip about to enter Kakadu National Park, but firstly life back home has been great. Spring is on the horizon, bees are humming again and blossoms and buds are blooming. The days are getting longer and warmer. We had so much rain in July that the winter dam is still full. Two families of ducks have moved in. The sight of the ducks waddling to the safety of the water with their litter of tiny ducklings in tow literally makes me smile as I drive down the driveway on my way to work.

We entered Kakadu not sure what to expect. Kakadu is the wild faraway place all Australians and most tourists to Australia have heard of and I had often dreamt of visiting. Images of crocodiles, birdlife and nature in its rawest form come to mind – the jewel of the Northern Territory. Something we initially noticed were constant burn-offs along the road. Although the weather was quite warm, this was obviously the time to control the undergrowth. Eagles are abundant in the Northern Territory, but we were delighted to see two large wedge tail eagles take flight from the road along the route.

Our camp this night was Gungural – a bush camp close to some places we wanted to visit. We claimed a flat spot near another caravan which had a communal fire pit. The camp site filled quickly, but the comradery among campers, to fit everyone in is to be commended and everyone who wanted to stay found a space. We introduced ourselves to our neighbours, an elderly retired couple from rural NSW who were on a trip around Australia and a young family with two young boys from Suburban Victoria on a three month trip around Australia. That night was a highlight for us, sharing travel tips, stories and marshmallows with those families around the campfire. Our journeys united us and hearing their recommendations about some of the places we had planned on visiting made it even more exciting.

We headed to Gunlom the next day which involved a difficult hike to the top of a waterfall with beautiful infinity pools linking each other. We had taken our new friend’s advice and worn bathers underneath our clothes as you could swim in the pools at the top – and what a welcome surprise that was after working up a sweat on the hike! This is a place you might see in tourist brochures. A rock pool with tepid clean water, on the edge of a waterfall, with a view of the Australian Outback to die for in the distance. Amazing. The waterfall at the base was like nothing I’ve ever seen. A true oasis, but the crocodile warning signs stopped us swimming there. This didn’t stop a couple of tourists though.

Our camp night six and seven was at Jabiru Tourist Park – a resort style caravan park where we would stay for two nights. By now we were getting pretty good at setting up camp. (Even though I recall I really couldn’t be bothered the night we arrived). The boys even set up a tent here and we were spoilt with hot showers and a camp kitchen. The boys even watched the AFL game on Tom’s phone. One night when we were just about to fall asleep a dingo stole our rubbish bag. We heard it being dragged off and Tom drew the short straw and got up to clean it up and shoo the dog away. While here we visited Jim Jim Falls which was one of our favourite spots. After a 4WD track in, it was a moderate walk along a creek with large boulders to get past eventually arriving at a pristine waterfall with towering cliffs all around. The water there was cold and deep and curious fish came to the surface when we approached. This place seemed untouched still. Around the corner there was a little beach and some emerald green pools which we were able to swim in. Some kids were jumping off the cliffs into the deeper pools. It was so exhilarating to be able to swim in this pristine place with its prehistoric cliffs towering around you.

We also went to Twin Falls which was recently opened as the water levels had reduced. This involved a 90cm deep river crossing which we deliberated about with another family from South Australia. The river had a crocodile warning sign, but a marked crossing if in a suitable vehicle. Our 4WD doesn’t have a snorkel, but Tom was confident the water level would be fine. Like the guy we met at the crossing said – “we didn’t come all this way not to give it a go”…so we did. On entry to the river, our car stalled. After a quick change of gear and restarting the car, among images in my head of crocodiles entering the vehicle and my new life living in the river, thankfully the car restarted and we ploughed through the murky water that was lapping over the bonnet and up to the side windows. Talk about an Adrenaline rush! On return we had a whole welcome party of fellow South Australian travellers cheering each car back to safety. Thankfully we made it!

On leaving Kakadu we admired swamps with abundant birdlife and went on an amazing jumping crocodile cruise which featured wild crocodiles (some huge) approaching the boat and jumping out of the water for food. We were fortunate to see hawks and baby crocodiles in the wild also. Great value for money, to see the beauty of the Adelaide River at the same time. When we arrived in Darwin day eight as planned, it felt amazing. We had arrived at our farthest destination! I felt like an explorer might, discovering a place for the first time. We loved Darwin – its climate, vibrancy and uniquity. We stayed in a 4 star hotel there which was such a welcome retreat. The shower and beds were so luxurious after sleeping on patches of dirt across Australia, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast the next morning. I was glad our visit coincided with the Mindel Market – a huge outdoor Sunset Market on the foreshore. We joined the crowds on the beach to see the sun set which was symbolic for me to think we had travelled thousands of km’s from the familiar Southern coast to see the huge red sun go down on the Northern most part of Australia. The ‘Beer Can Regatta’ was on which probably added to the crowds, and everyone cheered in celebration as the sun set on that beach. It felt like summer in winter. We would love to return and spend more time in beautiful Darwin – so rich in history. Tom and Dylan were already making plans! I was surprised to come across my Great Great Grandfather ‘Edward Napoleon Bonaparte Catchlove’s’ name on a plaque on the Darwin foreshore recalling the joining of the overland telegraph.

Heading to Litchfield National Park, we knew campsites were in high demand. We decided to head straight to our preferred campsite – Wangi Falls, where we secured one of the last campsites day nine. These falls were just beautiful. A short walk and you enter a beautiful oasis like pool which was surprisingly warm in parts. There were two falls here – one which we all swam underneath which we have never done and likened to swimming into a storm. The other hid a warm bottomless rock pool. As the night cooled, bats glided through the night air and nestled in nearby trees. We saw our Victorian friends again here on the day we left, trying for a site that night after missing out. We also stopped at a place called Buley Rockhole a series of pools joined together down a waterfall – some quite deep. We had grown used to seeing people of all ages in their swimming gear walking to and from swimming holes and while we didn’t swim at this beautiful place, didn’t realise we would spend so much of our trip in bathers ourselves.

We detoured to a historic homestead called Blyth Homestead which involved more river crossings and a 4WD track. The stories of the young siblings who lived here were truly fascinating. A huge family album recalling stories of hardship and the way of life these early outback settlers had to endure sat on the old table inside. I could have stayed there all day reading it. Remnants were on display – just out in the open like I had noticed about a lot of historic sites in the Northern Territory.  

Next was Edith Falls or Leliyn, a very popular camp site which again we were fortunate to squeeze into. Another sunset swim in the huge waterhole which the sun gave a copper tinge was a highlight. We played our usual card game of Uno and enjoyed the best hot showers yet. This campsite had a quaint café and we enjoyed a coffee and ice blocks the next day. A hot, but picturesque hike along beautiful Katherine Gorge that morning would be our last for the trip.

As we continued our long journey south, we stopped at historic Elsey cemetery which was a memorial for a lot of characters from the story ‘We of the never never’, outback pioneers. From here, for the first time our itinerary for day eleven was dependant on how far we wanted to drive. There were lots of small kangaroos along this route. I marvelled that the boys – being older now – hardly bickered and the long drives listening to music, playing games and chatting were a big part of the trip. Bryce on his learner’s licence, Tom and I all shared the driving. We heard the end of the eighth disk of our borrowed audiobook ‘The harp in the south’ (which I was teased for borrowing but everyone loved). We decided to camp at Dunmarra Roadhouse which was a place we had the best pies I’ve ever tasted at lunch one day on our way up North. As we approached, there were massive buffalo sitting on the side of the highway in the shade of the service station – only in the outback! We were invited to happy hour. We had a nice meal here, played pool and met some characters. One lonely elderly man who was camped next to us used to be a truck driver and knew the Adelaide Hills. He mentioned his wife had died several years ago. He eventually decided to sell his house and buy a caravan and travel around Australia.

We reached Alice Springs day twelve and stayed in a caravan park on the Southern side. This would be our last camp in the swags which I had grown quite fond of and while everyone was keen to get home and see our pets, there was an element of sadness for me as we sat around the camp fire that night. Some French travellers had their Macbook stolen while charging in the amenities. I was proud of the boys, Bryce in particular didn’t seem to want to stop helping them and together they asked around, putting signs up and tried locating it using a search device on his phone which they were grateful for. It had their six months of travel itinerary and photos taken while in Australia. We don’t know if they found it, but they had written a thank you note on a travel app I had commented on.

After spending our last night in a motel in Cooper Pedy we got up early and set off on the final leg of our journey. The weather gradually turned to winter again and the scenery transformed into the familiar green landscape of home. This day’s drive seemed much longer than the first day we had set out on the same route. I recalled the places we’d seen, the meals we’d enjoyed, the adventures we’d had and the people we met. No more setting up camp and quickly packing up the next day. Our only casualties were a small crack on the windscreen, a new battery to run the fridge, a new part for the awning which had broken in the wind at Tennant Creek and some mozzie bites. We had survived the two weeks, quite comfortably really and made some great family memories. As we approached the coast a feeling of pride welled up inside for my home town of Adelaide. So beautiful and familiar, and returning from our adventure reinforced my love for this place.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


August 2016

Our Road trip from the Adelaide Hills to Darwin – Part 1

In the early hours of the morning, on a crisp drizzly Sunday in July, our little family rose, checked the last few items off the list and left on an adventure.

The night before we were celebrating one of my best friend’s 40th birthday with dinner and dancing at the country pub only twodoors down from her house. Even though I dislike public speaking, I had written a speech which I felt was important to deliver to show how special she is not only to me, but everyone who knows her. It was a great night – but we didn’t leave too late, with the excitement of our trip looming. Everyone asking about our plans and wishing us well added to the anticipation.

Two weeks isn’t a large amount of time to do this trip in, but we were keen to see as much as possible. This meant our itinerary would be mostly one night stays in different destinations, taking three full days to get right up to the North of Northern Territory, the same to get home and about a week exploring the national parks and Darwin. Our accommodation was mostly our swags. I’ve never slept in a swag before. We bought a double one for Tom and I which I became really fond of. It was like a safe, cosy, familiar place which was really comfortable and quite easy to set up and pack up.

Our first night we were heading to Coober Pedy, an Opal mining town. It was to be our longest day of driving – about 10hrs, but we were well set up with music playlists, snacks and our eagerness for the adventure. We had a few stops because the tarps that were temporarily protecting our swags – our bedding for the trip - were coming loose at times due to the Adelaide winter weather which was very windy and wet. While we have returned home from Alice Springs this route previously, this was our first time leaving Adelaide this way. As we left the main coastal towns, the first thing I noticed was the vast sky. It seemed so much wider than home. The landscape changed quickly from a patchwork of green fields and windmills with the majestic shadow of the Flinders Ranges in the distance, to ochre coloured earth dotted with salt bush. As we drove further north, the rain eased. The Stuart Highway (the long 3000km road between Adelaide and Darwin) was straight and determined. The large ‘stock on road’ signs that feature along this route were a reminder to be alert. The large stations don’t have fencing, so there is a risk anytime that a cow or sheep might cross the road – we only saw a cow crossing and fortunately cars ahead had slowed down in advance. Several times we saw stock close to the road. More commonly it’s the roadkill you see, that evidence the possibility. Stock grates divide the properties along the highway. When we approached Coober Pedy we noticed what looked like big anthills. These are the mine holes, which multiply as you get closer to town. We had booked a self-contained apartment in an underground motel that night as we knew we would be tired after driving all day. The owners were very welcoming - a young family. While we were waiting to check in, I couldn’t help but wonder what made them move to this town which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed sunset views overlooking the town – hard to believe we were only a day away from home in this stark contrast to the Adelaide Hills. As far as the eye could see was flat, and desolate with the occasional mining hill. No water or trees in sight, but beautiful.

Day two we woke early again aiming for Rainbow Valley, a bush camp near Alice Springs. Strangely, the travelling already felt familiar, as if we had been travelling for days. We passed a group of cyclists on a fundraising ride from SA to Darwin. The thought of riding the distance made me extremely thankful for our car. Looking across the desert, it seemed surprisingly green with scrub which is due to recent rain Central Australia has experienced. I picked a beautiful blue wild flower which was abundant along the way, during an impromptu toilet stop. It shrivelled up so quickly once picked as if to teach me a lesson. We saw two dingoes cross the road too which was wonderful. The long days driving play tricks on the eyes. Mirages of water on the road’s horizon happen every day and on this day the clouds appeared to me as waves crashing, as though we were driving towards the coast. The never ending bitumen road alternated from grey to red throughout the journey. We crossed the border to the Northern Territory, which confirmed our holiday was going to schedule. We ate pies at a true outback roadhouse which doubled as a pub – to be followed by many more. The speed limit increased from 110km to 130km as we crossed the border. Often there was no limit, but most people seem to stick to around 120km and we soon learned the fuel economy is better at this speed. The landscape changed again to small trees and ranges. It was exciting to find our campsite – the first of many times we were to arrive at a planned site hoping to get some space to roll out our swags. It was better than expected. While busy with other friendly travellers, we found a private clearing with a fire pit and views we had dreamed of. The sunset was spectacular and we enjoyed a walk around the ancient rock formation. This night was special because I felt we could survive. We made our shelter early, cooked a BBQ tea with salad, made a fire and sat together under the stars chatting about our trip so far. Home already seemed distant.

Day three we were headed to a camp spot near Tennant Creek. . Past Alice Springs, we had never been this far by car. It was officially unchartered territory. A monument identifying the ‘Tropic of Capricorn’, and a monument at ‘Central Mt Stuart’, marking the Dead Centre of Australia. We stopped for lunch at Wycliffe Well which is the ‘UFO capital of Australia’. It’s places like this that make the Outback unique. There were not only models of aliens, but also the Incredible Hulk and Elvis. You could take a photo of your head on an alien cut out. The railway runs along most of the route we were taking and occasionally we would see a train. This is also the historic Overland Telegraph route. There are still a couple of stations well preserved along the route. My great-great grandfather was a trooper and involved in the overland telegraph. It was strange to think he possibly stayed at some of the places I was seeing. There are thousands of termite mounds along the way, hundreds dressed up with traveller’s clothing and accessories. Disappointingly, the bush camp we had planned at ‘The Pebbles’ was full and not suitable for tents/swags so we headed back into Tennant Creek to the Caravan Park. Here we had the luxury of a camp kitchen and showers (even though they were only tepid). We had phone reception here and heard the weather home had been extremely wild. Our pool had nearly broken in the wind, but thankfully Tom’s brother had come up to fix the edges. There were branches down, power blackouts & nearby snow! The brief disappointment because I’ve never seen snow disappeared with the looming warm weather we were nearing. Some of that cold weather met us in the NT that morning. We packed up in unseasonal rain and wind, hoping the drive further north would dry the swags out.

Day four we headed to Bitter Springs – Mataranka. We had a beer at Daly Waters, NT’s oldest pub. The pub is unique. It has years of mementos in the form of business/student cards, bras, knickers, photos lining every inch of wall. We added our business card for a gold coin donation. The landscape was becoming more tropical, with more trees and shrubs. We stopped at an old WW2 airforce base – the first of a few WW2 airstrips we would see, a camp hospital ruins and memorabilia the Territory still has preserved, mostly intact despite being left in the open, not in a museum. At Bitter Springs, the two men at the caravan park were like something out of an Australiana movie. Very laid back, and our first experience of ‘Darwin time’ aka very slow pace. The place was amazing. Our first taste of warmth – we swiftly dried out the damp bedding. It was like a tropical oasis. We found a private site with a fire pit, but we didn’t need to light it due to the warm weather. We were surrounded by palm trees and ferns. A wallaby hopped by our camp too. The creek had lily pads complete with pink lilies. We all walked to the thermal springs which were turquoise and inviting after following the ‘grey nomads’ returning in bathers with their floating noodles. The water was as anticipated, like a bath. So therapeutic after our days of long drives. The current gently takes you downstream to a ladder where you can get out or swim back against the current. We did both options in the two days we were there. We learned that further downstream (out of this area) there is a risk of crocodiles which we were still nervous about – and being our first time in water in the NT we were definitely looking at every log below us hoping it wasn’t a crocodile, still quite nervous.

Day five, the kids and I were sad to leave Bitter Springs, but the knowledge we would enter Kakadu National Park after only a ‘short’ three hour drive was enticing.

(To be continued next month)

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


July 2016

I was thinking about it the other day – and decided I am actually enjoying winter so far. The cool cosy nights at home in front of the fire, early sunsets, rugging up in layers to go outdoors, the smell of peeled oranges, snuggly throw rugs, warm boots. This is a milestone for me as I am usually a summer girl through and through.

Unfortunately, while I would love to say I enjoy lying in bed listening to the raindrops on the colorbond roof, at the moment I don’t. All I do is worry when it rains heavily. Our partially renovated laundry is still a bit exposed and has plastic sealing the unfinished joins. A little water tends to leak from time to time. We are working on it this weekend as the weather is quite clear today.

We spent the June long weekend in Padthaway – a rural town in the South East staying with Tom’s parents on their small property, which was nice. Tom’s brother, his wife and two daughters also stayed and it was great to spend that precious time with them all. One of the days we ate lunch out at the local winery which had an inviting roaring open fireplace. I ordered a delicious spiced cauliflower soup which came with a tasting platter of breads, cheese, pickles and chutneys. Funnily some friends of ours were also staying in Padthaway on their friend’s property, camping and we saw them there that day. Funny how no matter where we go, we seem to bump into someone we know from home. Another highlight was a bonfire night – just us. It’s times like these that memories are made and I hope the kids will all talk about the fun they had in years to come. We took our dogs along which made five all together! They had a ball running around, digging up long lost bones and following us all around.

I babysat a friend’s little girls for an afternoon/evening a few weeks ago. Elsie is four and Clare is eighteen months. It’s actually been a while since I’ve looked after kids this young without the parents around. I was quite excited about it and it turned out to be a special day. It reminded me how lucky we are to have our little property. We fed the chickens, and got their eggs. I could see Elsie was intrigued that there were some eggs in an old, but clean porcelain toilet that has found its way in the coop lined with hay. She then wanted to look for eggs everywhere and it became a treasure hunt. We found some mushrooms in the paddock and I taught her not to touch them in case they were toadstools (I’m still not very clear on this matter). We called next door’s pony ‘Cookie’ over for a pat and saw the alpacas and sheep. We baked muffins and they played games with my son Dylan. We went on the swings and I supervised them jumping on the trampoline until they decided they wanted me to jump on the trampoline with them! It was fun just playing. I’m usually busy doing chores if we’re home on the weekend, but it made me just enjoy playing for an afternoon like I used to when my kids were young. My boys enjoyed it too.

The local hotel has played host to a couple of celebrations this month – a friend’s 40th and a farewell for a work friend.

Plans for our Darwin trip are full steam ahead. I am still planning and have started buying camp food and essentials. I have researched Crocodiles as I didn’t know much about them, being from South Australia. I wanted to find out what the chances of one turning up in my swag would be! Seems I’m pretty safe. Darwin is still having temperatures in the mid 30 degrees (summer temperatures), while in the Adelaide Hills, we are averaging mid-teens in the day, down to freezing temperatures overnight. I can’t wait. Next month I hope to write a bit about our adventures on the open road.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
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June 2016

This month, the weather changed. The temperature is consistently lower and we have experienced a couple of decent storms one which blew a bough from a gum tree near the house down on the roof. Fortunately, the only damage was to the house gutter, a few dents in the colorbond roof and it damaged the side wire fence. This was actually a bonus as Tom has been meaning to build a wooden screen there. It was timed well as we had just started the new laundry and the old decking from the floor was swiftly recycled into part of a new fence. It was just fortunate there was no other damage. If it had fallen the other way, our cars and all of Toms equipment would have been damaged. We have lost a smaller bough from the same tree once before and it is tall and top heavy. We have often talked about getting it removed, but it is a beautiful tree, full of birdlife. I guess this was a timely reminder.

We had rain! In fact some of the suburbs in Adelaide have been flooding. We generally get more rain in the hills and this has been enough to turn the paddocks green, create puddles and line the bottom of our winter dam.

Today we planned a firewood day as we are low on wood. We rotate wood that was chopped up from dead trees or branches on the property last year and chop a box of kindling. The bough that fell has been chopped ready for next year. We will need to buy some red gum also, to get us through the winter months. Some of the branches go to the bonfire pile which expands throughout the year. Friends sometimes ask if they can bring their trailer loads of debris to add to the pile, and we dont mind as it is away from the house and makes for a bigger bonfire when its time.

On the renovation front, like I mentioned, we have a basic laundry/utility room off the kitchen now. It is framed with windows and weather proof enough to set up the washing machine and clothes dryer. The side of the house is weatherproof now. The main bathroom is slowly taking shape and almost ready for tiling. We will probably do this ourselves again to save valuable funds, even though Tom swore he wouldnt do it again after slaving away on the ensuite.

We have decided the destination of our next trip will be 4WDing to Darwin in July. Our last trip like this was to the red centre about five years ago and we have the itch to go further. Weve never been to Darwin. I just love planning, so have been in my element planning stop-overs and sights to see.

May has seen our youngest, Dylan turn fourteen. We had a family celebration at a local Italian restaurant which was wonderful. All eight of my nieces and nephews were there. They always have so much fun at get-togethers and my two boys being the eldest are usually the centre of their attention. Dylan and I made a delicious triple chocolate layered cheesecake for his cake.

We hosted a curry/games nightlast Saturday with five other families. Everyone brought along a curry or desert and it was a fun night. Two families stayed over as they live in Adelaide and we had a delicious cooked breakfast the next morning. One couple we have known since our school days. They met the same way as Tom and I, through mutual friends of the same group. Kate was my bridesmaid and Ruben was Toms best man. Another couple we met through this group too, but they didnt go to school with either of us. The others are all families we met through the boy's primary school. The kids of all ages all had a ball too. I wasnt really sure what they would do, if they would separate into age groups or play together. They all go to different schools, but know each other though get-togethers. I had given some suggestions to my boys like watching a movie or playing a game on the wii to include everyone (but mainly so that they wouldnt constantly bother us!) I love that instead, they all went outside with torches and played hide and seek and spotlight. The youngest who is four told me they also played a game with the old tyre pile where they got into teams and tried to steal each others tyres. He was so excited that the big kidswere playing. As he was telling me all about it, his eyes were wide and full of emotion.

Its times like this, I feel so grateful to be able to give my kids and my friends kids the childhood and youth I dreamed for them.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
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May 2016

April has remained lovely and mild with some cooler evenings. We even lit the fireplace a few times. It felt a bit indulgent, seeing as we normally wait for that first really cold burst of weather Autumn normally brings. Like we were reminding the weather it was time to change.

We are in desperate need of a good soaking of rain and having to water some plants still. Our biggest gumtree has died which I’m quite sad about. It stands in the paddock with leaves stripped bare and the rickety tree house that was there when we bought the property is falling apart. We’re not sure if this is due to the dry winter, but we have also noticed a lot of younger native gumtrees not only on our property but along our road look forlorn and brown. One of my friends noticed this on a visit to our place recently and commented that it is normally so nice and green driving to our place, and what was happening to all the trees! We are hopeful that these trees will turn green after some good rain. It looks quite baron, like a bushfire has passed through.

In contrast, our deciduous trees are flourishing. The colours in our front garden have been vibrant. Our Manchurian Pear is the prettiest, with shades of fiery red through to amber. The other trees contrast with shades of copper, burgundy and gold adding to the spectacle. Some strong winds in the past few days have cleaned most of the display away now.

I’m on the last day of two weeks leave during the kid’s school holidays. It’s been a wonderful break mostly catching up and getting organised, but also having nice lunches and catch-ups with friends and family. I realised that lately when I take my precious leave, it is because we are going away so it has been really great to not have to go anywhere. The boys seemed quite happy just relaxing too. It’s nice for them to have a break from the school routine, homework and early mornings.

One day we had a picnic and long walk in Mt Lofty Botanical Garden. This has been a special place for us. It was the place we took our first son Bryce on his first ‘outing’ as a baby in his pram, and we have gone back over the years. I love that the boys still wanted to go there together even though they are growing up fast. Bryce even drove us there and back. The gardens are beautiful any time of the year, but I was keen to see the deciduous trees on show. It’s uncanny, but I sometimes crave a nature walk. It seems to uplift, refresh and recharges the batteries. Each time we seem to find a new path, like an adventure. The Autumn scene across the lake resembled a real life panorama from a puzzle, or a tapestry - the vibrant colours all interacting with each other. Just beautiful. Reading a plaque about the history of the garden, while the vision for a cooler temperate garden in the Adelaide Hills was conceived earlier, the land wasn’t purchased until the 1950’s and planning/planting of the 97 hectare garden commenced then. It was opened to the public in 1977. The 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfire tore through part of the garden at the time, which must have been devastating. Amazing to think of all the planning that went in to this treasure to make it the place it is today.

Tom is building the new laundry as I write. This room is attached to the new back entry through the kitchen. We want it to also be a Utility room to hang jackets and leave muddy shoes in winter, out of the rain and we are using some of the old kitchen cupboards for storage. There will be a space for the dogs to sleep in here on cold nights and a fire wood box also. Tom calls me out occasionally for advice on window placement etc., which we have recycled. It’s fun planning it, but I find it difficult to imagine what it will be like on completion when making these important decisions! Next we need to clad the rest of this external wall and then we can work on the main bathroom again which is ready for tiling. Tom’s business has been very busy which is great, but we haven’t had as much time for the renovations, having to leave it for free weekends.

Well, all good things must come to an end so back to work, school and the regular routine we go until I plan our next break.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


April 2016

Autumn is sneaking in with it’s crisp evenings and dark, chilly mornings making getting up in the mornings that little bit harder. The thought of soups, casseroles, cosy blankets and fires again is enticing.

We had a dip in the pool earlier this month, but sadly while the days are still warm, I have a feeling summer has gone again for another year.

Early in March we had a long weekend for Adelaide Cup Day which for us was spent tidying up around the house and some much needed gardening. We planted some new plants in our front cottage garden and bought a new bird bath which we placed on the garden path in the centre where two paths meet. Some of the plants included ornamental chillies and a blueberry bush which I’m pretty excited about.

Our new lounge arrived and compliments the new kitchen/family room area nicely. Otherwise the renovations (and we) have had a rest this month. I have holidays in April so will hope to do some more work on the new bathroom then. I’m longing for a nice bath again, especially as the cooler weather approaches. The old lounge has found a temporary new home on the back deck which is a perfect spot with a little afternoon sun, to sit with a glass of wine on the weekend relaxing. The dogs think it’s a nice addition too.

The month has been a fun, one with another ‘Day on the Green’ concert at McLaren Vale. Bryan Adams was playing, along with two other Australian bands I grew up with. We camped in tents for the weekend with a large group of friends – some old and some new and had a ball. McLaren Vale is a lovely wine region in Adelaide’s South. My son Dylan stayed with me the first night and we treated ourselves with a cooked breakfast at a quirky Vintage style café.

In the week leading up to Easter, I'm not sure how we actually managed to get packed and go away. After camping the week before, we knew we would be pushed for time. In a few chaotic days we managed to pick up my new car (which I am loving), celebrate Tom's birthday, do the shopping, packing, kids sport and work and manage my own hectic week at work. We also needed to leave the house in some kind of order, as Tom’s parents were staying a night on their return from a month’s holiday in England. On the Thursday, I got away from work at lunch, put the dogs in the car, and we all headed down to the South East on a four hour drive to our usual Easter camp site at Southend.

The Easter weekend was wonderful. We went away with two old friends who we have known since we were teenagers. They got married and have been living overseas in Dubai for the past eleven years with their four year old son. During the weekend, we spent a day at the nearby town Beachport exploring the Easter market and enjoyed lunch at the pub in the afternoon. One of the days was warm enough to spend on the beach and the kids explored the cove in kayaks. Another highlight was a beach bonfire after an afternoon four wheel driving the sand dunes with some other friends who were staying nearby. We cooked tea on the fire while sipping sparkling red, beer and toasted marshmallows for dessert. The best part was spending time together, long conversations and lots of laughing. I love camping and getting back to nature. We all do. It was a lovely relaxing weekend and even worth the effort packing up and doing multiple loads of washing.

When we arrived home, the best part was seeing all of our animals, including the neighbours cows, horses and alpacas, showering in my deluxe new ensuite and sleeping in my comfortable, warm bed.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
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March 2016

Do you ever get that feeling, pausing during the busyness of the day that suddenly takes you back to a moment in your past? It happens to me occasionally and I’m so thankful for that blissful reminder of a moment in time – a smell that takes me back to my Grandma’s house, or taking a moment to look up at the clouds and being transported to a time that I remember doing this as a child – the warmth of the sun on my upturned face, just as it felt back then. Sometimes it’s a scene such as the hue of the morning sun light shining through the trees as I drive to work, or an old song I remember singing with my Mum as a child. Just a glimpse and it’s gone again. Maybe something is reminding me to slow down.

Meanwhile it feels like there are not enough hours in the day! I started some family photo collages to hang on the wall of Tom’s and my ancestors last year…or maybe it was the year before. They are all ready to be printed and arranged. A project for this weekend perhaps? I think I need to write a list.

I am thankful for the tranquil setting of our home, which is my sanctuary and a place to unwind. I still love coming home up our long, winding driveway to the image of our home with its return verandah, sash windows and welcoming door. The house proudly overlooks the large garden to the valley and views beyond.

Tom has started working on the main bathroom of the house now, which is great because at the moment I have three lads sharing my ensuite. They leave hair, grooming implements, toothpaste marks and screwed up towels on a daily basis. The main bathroom is lined again now, and this is good because it would have been chilly down the end of the house when the cold weather comes around again.

My favourite bird is the blue wren, and I may have mentioned in spring how excited I was to see that they seemed to be making homes in our garden again after many years of absence. They fossick around in the shrubs in the part of the garden where our cats don’t venture because the dogs are around. I noticed recently that one of the males seemed to always come out when I was hanging out the washing on the clothes line. Thinking it was a co incidence (and feeling a bit crazy for chatting to a bird), I dismissed the thought. There he was again, so I leant down with my hand outstretched and he came right up to it. I excitedly called for my husband who brought some seed and the little wren ate some. Meanwhile, I could hear some little cheeps coming from a nearby tree and when I checked, there were two puffed up little baby wrens. They were old enough to fly, but still being fed by the parents, who were both nearby. I couldn’t believe that the blue wrens trusted us enough to come so close with their young nearby. I started leaving a bowl of water out as the weather had been hot and I occasionally caught a glimpse of one having a bath. A week ago, I was thinking I hadn’t seen the wren family for a while, when a little juvenile wren with a tinge of blue flitted along the garden bed near me. I think it was one of my blue wren’s babies, already growing up.

It’s funny, but in spring, the magpies around our property don’t ever swoop when we go for walks either. It’s like they know we don’t pose a threat. They eat scraps with the chickens and visit our deck for the same reason, particularly when we are dining alfresco. It’s the little things like this that make living here unique.

Adelaide is a hive of activity at the moment with the annual Fringe Festival in full swing. I have never been to ‘The Garden of Unearthly Delights’ before (one of the locations for this vibrant summer time outdoor festival), but was really impressed. As you enter, it is a buzzing, bohemian feast for the senses. You can wine and dine in various quaint outdoor settings, there are dozens of shows to see in different venues throughout town - here they are in big tops and antique portable theatres. There are side shows, rides, and entertainers spruiking their shows. At night glowing coloured lights adorn the trees, making it even more magical and music wafts through the air. The stalls all have the same ‘old style’ theme which adds class. Despite the crowds, it is highly organised and the lines move fairly smoothly. After soaking up the atmosphere, we saw a comedy show, finishing up the night with ride on the Ferris wheel. The historic buildings along one of Adelaide’s roads have been lit up with colourful collages for the festival also.

Easter falls in March this year, so we are starting to plan our annual camping trip to the Southeast Coast. This year we are holidaying there with old friends as Tom’s parents are overseas. So looking forward to unwinding in this special spot by the sea again.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


February 2016

I love January – the beginning of a fresh new year, after celebrating the past year. It’s school holidays, the beach, the pool, the smell of sunscreen, summer fruit, and that smell of rain or sprinklers on the warmed earth that I wish I could bottle. It’s relaxing, re-evaluating and planning the year ahead.

We have just celebrated my first baby’s 16th birthday milestone. It made me sentimental as I looked back on his journey so far and how much he has grown up. I had an idea to make a digital photo collage to music of him growing up which was a lot of fun and he seemed to like even though I know I have watched it more times than him. We made the move to the country when he was three. I didn’t realise so much of his life has been in the beautiful Australian countryside, that we can’t imagine leaving.

He got his learner plates on his birthday which was a proud moment, and we have been taking turns to feel anxious while chaperoning him on drives. It’s so difficult to teach your child everything you have learnt on the roads and you realise how important it is to share all of this knowledge!

We holidayed in Port Elliot this month for a week in a holiday house. We had different friends and family visit and stay, which was lovely. Port Elliot is a nearby seaside town and has a safe, sheltered beach with aqua water and a pontoon to swim out to. We took our kayaks which was fun, but a challenge to get out past the breaking waves to begin with. Tom and I both capsized attempting this! The town is quaint and the main street is laced with antique stores, charming book shops and delicious restaurants. There is a seafood café right on the foreshore which is a tempting lunch option for the long, lazy days on the beach. There are breathtaking walks as well. Our house was on the edge of the town and only a block from a ‘surf beach’ which was long and not so busy – a great place to take the dogs for long walks. Staying there was new for us as a family, as we often tend to camp at a seaside location in summer. A holiday is so refreshing. The kids seem to love staying somewhere different and the anticipation of a planned trip is part of the excitement. It’s nice to create new memories and even though they probably don’t think about it, I know it won’t be long until the kids might not want to come on our holidays, so I try to savour these trips while they last.

Home, the renovations continue – with the kitchen complete, the next job was finishing the surfaces, adding cornices, skirtings, painting and new wooden floorboards through this section of the house. It’s been encouraging hearing the family’s positive encouragement of the project so far. Next will be building on the laundry and main bathroom, before the autumn rain.

Easter lilies have sprouted in different places on our property. I’m not sure why they’re called Easter lilies, but they seem to appear after a big rain in summer. They are large pink blooms which brighten the tired, brown paddocks and garden beds.

Chirpy the chick is one of the big chickens now and has full run of the yard. She is scared of the other chickens that are a different breed (even though she has grown bigger than them) and tends to wait for them to pick at the best scraps before getting some herself.

The Crush festival is an annual Adelaide Hills event which we love to attend if able. Different wineries partake in the weekend which is a chance to show off their wines and food. This year we went a winery in a country town nearby with old friends we met through the boy’s primary school. The theme there was ‘Ciao Bella’, serving delicious Italian wood oven pizzas, antipasto platters, and more. There was a free jumping castle for the little kids. We discovered an extended family member of our’s partner was singing/playing in the band they had hired. The atmosphere is great – beautiful setting with vineyards in the background. The winery was so busy we ended up grabbing a picnic rug and settling for the afternoon, wine glasses full, under the shade of a leafy tree. Bellissimo.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


January 2016

The Christmas of 2015 arrived at my place so suddenly and passed in much the same way. For me, the one who loves Christmas - the decorating, the preparation, the organising to make sure everything is perfect - it was a miracle that a month’s worth of work happened the way it did in a week.

As I’ve mentioned before, our renovations are well under way and the main bathroom was the next project. The walls and floor have been removed. But Tom decided that he could do the kitchen fairly quickly and promised it would be functional by Christmas, so the kitchen took priority. It is my dream kitchen. It’s modern, but still has a country charm to it. My sister calls it rustic. It makes me want to cook up a storm (and I don’t regularly say that!) I even have a dishwasher for the first time in eight years. The old back door entrance and passage has become a glorious walk in pantry. It’s functional, opens the galley style kitchen up and has proven to be an entertainer’s kitchen after it’s initiation with the Christmas festivities. My parents-in-law arrived Christmas Eve, for the weekend, and Tom set my Father-in-law to work completing the remaining tile grouting while he constructed the pantry shelves. There is still painting and finishing to do, but it is great to have it near completion.

I mentioned that we were still grouting and working on the kitchen Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, I was waiting to get into that kitchen and pantry to unload my Christmas groceries and start baking/preparing for the eleven people on my Mum’s side coming for lunch the following day as well as the twenty plus people arriving boxing day for a feed from Tom’s extended family. Both families bring food to help out, which lightens the load. My Dad’s side had our annual picnic in a park yesterday. It’s great to have that day with my little nieces and nephews who still enjoy playing on the playground. The kids range from my Bryce at almost sixteen to my youngest nephew who is nearly one, but all get along so well. My boys help look after the younger ones, who love their big cousins.

Even though I was limited with preparation time due to my work and renovations, it was still a beautiful Christmas. The tree was finally decorated, the presents were all individually wrapped with bows, we had Christmas carols in the background and the treats were made. Family were here everyday. To relieve some of the pressure, for the first time since I was able to write, I decided not to post Christmas cards this year. I know a lot of people don’t do them anymore, but I still enjoy the tradition and for some friends, it’s the only way we keep in touch. The house cleaned up a treat with the kids help and the only sign of improvements were the floorboards stacked in the dining room, waiting to be laid. Oh, and the washing machine and laundry cupboards still out on the deck.

On the gardening front, the weather has been hot early in the summer, and we lost a lemon tree we had planted. We didn’t put our nets on the fruit trees early enough and I’m still cross thinking about it. The almonds, apples and peacharines were all silently stolen by rude cockies and parrots. We haven’t planted summer vegetables which I am also a bit disappointed about, but still have a few sparse winter vegetables. Unfortunately the garden has taken a back-seat at the moment.

I go on holidays on New Year’s Eve which I am looking forward to and we have booked a summer holiday house for the first time in the seaside town of Port Elliott mid-January. Some friends will be staying with us and Dylan’s best friend is staying in a neighbouring town, so the boys can ride there to catch up. It will be nice to relax and enjoy the beach.

I wish you a very happy, safe and prosperous 2016!

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


December 2015

November has been full of surprises, meaning life is never dull. It saw the completion of my ensuite, a flash flood, and our cat Chloe survive a snakebite.

Something else that occurred was the sale of all five of our Black Suffolk sheep – excluding Bambalamb who is part of the family and not for sale. I am surprised that I felt a bit sad about this. They were sold to our shearer, Ruth, who sheared them at home and then sold them to a farmer who added them to his larger flock. We are getting meadow hay in return which will feed our stock through summer. We have sold sheep before, and I always hope they go to a good home. I think that my feelings in this case stem from the fact that we have always had sheep the eight years we have owned our little property. We are thinking that we might let Bambalamb have her own lamb next year. We are not sure exactly what breed she is, but she is a self-shedding sheep which means we don’t need to shear her which is a plus (although last year she got a haircut anyway). 

As I mentioned, my long anticipated ensuite is complete and functional. It has turned out perfectly. I feel like a queen in my beautiful bathroom. There are two casement windows which when ajar, let the fragrant breeze and sounds of the country in. Our bedroom has some new furniture to complete the rooms which finishes it nicely. I love that on a hot summers night, we can leave our windows wide open to let the summer night breeze drift through.

The renovations are in full swing now, with the main bathroom gutted by a demolition crew through the week. They removed the walls and floor as it was likely they contained Asbestos. There is only timber framing and pipes left behind and our exterior wall and eaves are missing – resembling a worksite at the moment. My kitchen has arrived and has taken over my lounge room. Today we have been removing items from the kitchen cupboards and my husband Tom and youngest son Dylan are about to take the cupboards out. My laundry is currently set up on the back deck. Mayhem! And I’m having family over for Christmas!

A fortnight ago, our cat Chloe was found under my eldest son, Bryce’s bed paralysed. Tom phoned me to let me know, as I was driving home up our driveway. She was taking some fluid from a syringe, but was not very well at all. It was obvious she had been bitten by a snake. In hindsight, we hadn’t seen her that morning, so it must have happened the day before. We took her to the vet who gave her the anti-venom that would cover all the snakes common to our area. Her recovery was slow and we visited her every day we could, at the vet for four days. On the fifth day we were told she was finally moving more and eating and drinking so we could actually take her home. She was so happy to be home, and her sister Bella was happy to see her. Our give away ‘farm cat’, who Tom brought home to catch mice cost us a small fortune in vet bills. The cats have become beloved pets, though and we are glad we could cure poor Chloe. I wondered what she must be thinking while she was paralysed as I knew she could see me, but was unable to move or even purr. We were reluctant to let her outside as she is a bit of an explorer and we never saw the snake. We kept her in for a week and now she is allowed outside again. She seems to keep closer to the house which is comforting.

Our other bit of excitement was the freak flood that happened when our area had a huge downpour, raining 60mm in less than an hour. As I drove home that day, I noticed some lightning in the distance. As we got closer to home, there was debris all over the roads and rivers running along side of them. I slid at one stage, despite travelling at half the speed limit. Dylan suggested I put the car in 4WD which I did. As we anxiously approached our home, our road resembled a river. Our winter dam that had been empty all year was full to the brim (about six feet) and flowing across the driveway. When we reached the house, the gutters were overflowing, but fortunately we live on top of a hill so the only water, was that splashing from the gutters. I described the amount of water in the dam to Tom and he was surprised as when he had returned home about 20 minutes earlier, the dam was only about 30cm full. We drove down again and there was a rapid river flowing across the paddocks! The poor animals were drenched. Bambalamb had been grazing in the flooded paddock only days before. Neighbours were driving to offer help to others on the down side of the road. The water was amazing, we have never seen anything like that. The hospital I work at had an area flood too. The staff had to evacuate two patients. Water is still in the dam and a lone duck enjoys swimming in it daily.

I have noticed a family of Blue Wrens in our back garden again. These are my favourite birds and I just love seeing them flit busily around the garden. The much needed November rain has been rejuvenating for the plants and wildlife in preparation for the summer months to come.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


November 2015

Today is shearing day for our alpacas and sheep. Our road has a lot of small acreages each with different varieties of animals. Once a year the shearers, who have become friends of ours, make a date and a few owners bring their alpacas to their house to all be shorn together. It’s like a play date for the farm animals. Our sheep have been smuggled into the mix this year, along with ‘Bambalamb’ our hand raised sheep, who doesn’t really need to be shorn as she is a breed that is partially self-shedding. She goes along to socialise. 

In the afternoon the owners share a few drinks over a BBQ. I have missed this day in the past due to work, but this year I have the day off. I will wander down in the afternoon with a nibbles platter and join in after I’ve completed some tasks that have been awaiting me around the house. My fortnightly Friday off is very precious to me and usually full of things I hope to achieve. It didn’t happen last fortnight, due to my busy hospital needing me, so there is a bit of a list awaiting me!

This month has been extremely busy for us. My work has been very busy, with the hospital at capacity for four months now. Tom’s business is busy, which is great for us and he has taken on a school based apprentice now. As the main town is growing so quickly, it means work for Tom and I is also growing. Our weeks have been busy with birthdays, events, catch ups, school meetings, sports and appointments. Juggling everything becomes overwhelming at times and lately I have had to learn to say ‘no’ sometimes to invitations, which is difficult for me. In doing this, though, I have discovered how much easier my life can be which in turn makes me feel better.

Chirpy the chick is seven weeks old now, and has graduated to the chicken coop (partly because she was so noisy) but resides in her own pen. The other chooks bully her when I try to introduce her and peck her to show her who’s boss. She is growing very quickly into a beautiful hen. Once she is the same size as the others, she should be able to join them safely. Her breed is actually bigger than the others, so she might become the boss yet.

My eldest son is about to travel to central Australia for an indigenous experience for his year 10 school trip. He will be staying in a remote Aboriginal community for a few days, as a small group, helping teach children at the school. They will also see the landmarks around central Australia and experience some things that tourists generally don’t get to do: swimming in waterholes, eating traditional food, seeing landmarks and hearing traditional stories. I’m excited for him that he is able to have this amazing opportunity. The teacher leading the expedition jokes that he takes no responsibility for the students wanting to work in remote communities in the future, after this experience as it usually has an impact. 

It was nice to have my father in law came to stay for almost a week to help Tom with work and the finishing touches to our ensuite. It has been a long time in the making, but I am pleased to announce it looks great and is almost ready to use. Our next project is the main bathroom. 

The beautiful warm weather wouldn’t be complete without a snake sighting. My husband found our first brown snake near one of our sheds, which disappeared somewhere – hopefully far away! This is one of the only things I dislike about the warm weather is having to always be aware that something might be lurking around the yard. I can confidently say the good outweighs the bad by far.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


October 2015

When the first burst of warm weather hits Adelaide in Spring-time, it arrives suddenly. The maximum temperature can alter six or seven degrees from one day to the next and we go from scarves one day to shorts and T-shirts the next. My youngest son is asking to go in the pool already!

Spring adds a new dimension to the garden. Bulbs seem to appear overnight – varieties of Scilla and Irises lace the garden beds. The bare trees which have been dormant come alive and sprout fresh green leaves and most plants are in bloom. We deliberately chose a palette of pinks, mauves and whites when planning the front cottage garden and we are reaping the rewards now. Everything is fresh, new and beautiful. Birdlife is abundant, but we didn’t get our annual visitors, the native duck family on our property this year as the winter dam is bare. Bees are actually swarming to the flowers and we already have almonds budding in delicate pods.

We have one chick that is two weeks old now. She is named ‘Chirpy’ for obvious reasons and is very cute with speckled wings. I’m surprised at how quickly she is growing. We are hoping she is in fact a ‘she’ and not a rooster, and that by calling her a female it will become more likely!

Just over two weeks ago we noticed one of the eggs under our broody hen had a little head hatching out one morning, just after the due date. That afternoon, the chick was still not hatched, and we commented that the broody hen’s comb looked pale. I offered her some food and water in her nest which she took. We wondered if she was getting off the nest at all as we had only seen her off a couple of times, but assumed she was. The next morning my husband Tom came in with the news the broody hen had died in the night, off the nest. At first he thought the hatched chicks had died also. He had to dash off to take my eldest son to work, so I went out to see what had happened. 

There were three hatched chicks, but two were actually still alive – just. They were cold, frail and lifeless, but shallow breathing. Chirpy was near the edge of the nest and I almost didn’t even see her. I took the two inside along with the unhatched eggs. I think the hen must have got off the nest in the night and died for some reason. Reading about it, it seems this can happen if the broody isn’t getting off the nest enough. My son Dylan had an idea to use his lava lamp base as it was warm to shine over the eggs and chicks. They got a heat bag under their bedding at night. The chicks had their eyes closed and weren’t moving much. I did some quick research on the internet and it became obvious the chicks weren’t behaving as they should. I decided I would need to teach them how to drink as they didn’t have their Mum to show them and carefully picked them up to try. 

I was so excited when they opened their eyes and starting cheeping. They soon fluffed up and starting standing, then waddling around on their own. We bought some chick raiser food from the fodder store and they started pecking at it. The other chick was a lot smaller than Chirpy, and unfortunately became frail again during the night. Despite regular checks of my newborns through the night, in their cardboard box in my new ensuite, unfortunately the other chick died the next morning which was very sad after all of our efforts. The other eggs didn’t hatch either, despite regular turning for a few days. We decided it must have been after getting cold the night the broody hen had died. 

But for our efforts we do have one chick thriving. She is sitting by my feet on the front deck now, as I write. She thinks we are all her mother. When we try and introduce her to the garden and other hens, she comes cheeping back to the safety of our hands. She is our little miracle.

While the animals and farm sometimes take a bit of effort and emotion, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The kids learn so much here and it is very rewarding when you have a good outcome. My eldest son Bryce had commented the first afternoon, he didn’t think the smaller chick would survive - to prepare myself and Dylan who were a little blinded with our progress. I thought this was very mature. 

We have been in this house for eight years next month. Recently a couple of friends from the Hills have asked advice on various ‘farm issues’ and this has made me realise how much we have actually learned here and that we may even know what we are doing now. Life is good.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


September 2015

Spring is about to officially begin, although the weather isn’t in agreeance. The nights are still cold and the days often foggy or drizzly. The sun is trying to shed some warmth when it is out. The fire place has lost it’s charm and the tedious chore of chopping kindling and replenishing the wood pile outweighs the ambiance it brings, and we are opting for the convenient push of the reverse cycle heater buttons. I have decided this is my least favourite time of year as I am yearning to thaw out, but it’s not quite time yet. 

Blossoms in our house garden are abundant, their pink hues enticing the bees. For the first time in a few years, I’ve noticed one of my favourite birds - the blue wren flitting around. We have also heard the familiar warble of another bird visitor who returns every spring to our backyard. I have admittedly tried to name this beautiful bird from a reference book I bought when we first moved to the hills, but can’t decide what it is. It could be a cuckoo, a shrike thrush or a whistler. I do know that we saw and heard this same species of bird when we camped in the Flinders Ranges in June/July. It returned to our site every day. One of my kids noticed it’s song the other day and we know it is a sign of the warmer weather at home, to come.

This month one of our chickens became ‘broody’ which we haven’t experienced with our chooks before. No rooster in sight, but she somehow thinks the eggs are hers and wants to sit on them all day. Funnily, I think initially a different chook was the broody one, but I shooed her off the eggs and another one took the liberty of being the doting mother. One of my friends at work suggested we get some fertile eggs for her to sit on. I discussed it with Tom and the boys who thought it was a great idea. We found someone in a nearby town who breeds chickens and purchased a dozen mixed fertile eggs for our obsessed chicken to nurture. We marked the new eggs and she has grown used to us lifting her up to collect the unfertile eggs. All going well, we should have some baby chicks in a few weeks. I love the chooks. They were out in the garden fossicking for bugs and things today, flapping their wings and fluffing their feathers in the fresh air. I would say warm sunshine, but the sun is struggling to emit any warmth!

August has been a busy month for us, with a few different functions to attend. We have had a few fancy dress themed parties which have been fun. One was a friend’s anniversary party held at the local bowls club. She is American and misses the ‘thanksgiving dinner’ celebration with friends and family so treated a dozen of us to a beautiful sit down dinner. It was a 50’s theme and we were asked to come as different couples. Tom and I were Fonzie and Pinky Tuscadero. There was even a life sized monopoly board to play. It was a fun evening. Tom’s brother had a 40th and the theme was favourite TV or movie character which was also fun. We also attended a couple of quiz nights. One of these was a Rock-Quiz held at a local boutique brewery which was very well done. They served platters of homemade food and had a local band for entertainment. It was a great atmosphere and people dressed up for this as well. This is the second time we have had a meal there and the owners come and welcome their patrons throughout the night which is a nice touch. 

Our renovations are going slowly but surely and our ensuite’s tiles are laid now. It looks even better than I had imagined, although my husband insists he is getting a tiler to do the main bathroom. Next is the grouting and fitting the sink, shower and toilet and the long awaited ensuite will be complete. We are doing this work on weekends when possible, as we are both busy at work. We wanted a classic look and have gone for polished beige tiles with flecks and a wooden-look feature wall, which adds warmth. This room completes the work we have done on our extension, and am looking forward to starting the older part of the house which is long overdue. 

Here’s to spring, warmer weather and new challenges.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


August 2015

My last column was written from the lovely Flinders Ranges on my first week of long service leave. I am now in my final few days of leave and while I am sorry to have to return to my usual routine, am glad to be return feeling refreshed and ready again. 

Our week in the Flinders continued to be a refreshing break from our regular life and a nice way to wind down, getting back to nature. I was sad to say goodbye to our little patch of earth after the week. I was thinking how funny it is that people of all ages and walks of life decide to pack their things and stay in the wilderness for a few days, setting up a temporary home as comfortably as possible. I’m guessing we do it for similar reasons. It’s nice to soak in the country air and spend time together away from routine. The Flinders’ ancient landscape is so majestic and is a nice place to think and explore. On one of our hikes at Wilpena Pound, we bumped into a family we know from the Adelaide Hills which was such a coincidence. Funnily this has happened to us on several holidays, bumping into people we know from home, even when miles away!

After surviving several loads of washing on our return and managing to get them dry in the middle of winter, I have been able to get into the next stage of my break – our renovations. It’s been great to have time to select tiles and bathroom items with my husband. After preparing the first room - our long awaited ensuite which has been a shell for about 5 years since we completed our extension – we are finally ready to lay the tiles. My handy hubby is doing this himself (with a little help from me!) While most of my leave has been choosing and purchasing items, rather than completing rooms, it’s been so nice to be able to focus on this and not have to squeeze it into my precious and usually full days off. 

The winter vegies we planted are slowly growing – not my most successful crop! Some things are doing well. We’ve had a cold snap with some snow even falling on Mount Lofty nearby which is reasonably unusual for Adelaide, but I can feel the sun is warming when it’s out which will help my little crop.

Meanwhile, it’s been so nice to finish reading my book which I enjoyed so much. I have found since I had kids, I don’t read as often as I would like to. I just don’t seem to have the time between work and home life and when I do try at bed time I usually fall asleep after a few pages. I’ve completed a puzzle and baked muffins and meals. I have my favourite vegetable soup simmering on the stove as I write, the homely smell is winter wrapped up and reminds me of my Grandma’s place every time, although it’s not her recipe. 

The other great thing is getting organised around the house – getting the business bookwork up to date and tidying up in general. (Not very exciting, but extremely satisfying for me all the same). I had the kid’s school holidays off too, so it’s been great to spend time with them for three of my four weeks off. When relaxing, my favourite place to have a cup of tea is right in front of the fire, or to chase the winter sun, when it’s out on the deck. It’s warmth, like a blanket to me. 

I remember when we first got the keys to this house. It was Spring and while the garden was overgrown and lacking attention, the roses were in bloom and fragrant. We had been given the keys early and I would find any reason to bring a few items to the house when I should have been packing and cleaning our old house. I would sit on the old deck out the back in a patch of sun even back then, soaking in the views and warmth, feeling completely at ease. I remember the real estate agent asking “can you imagine yourselves here” and us both saying “yes” without discussing it first as we both sensed we had the same feeling. I recall him light heartedly reminding me of my near new house we would be leaving for this older house in need of TLC and I reassured him that we could see the potential and it “just felt right”. Whenever there is a lot to do on the property, like in Spring when the grass goes wild and weeds thrive and my husband looks ready to throw it in, I remind him of what the place was like when we moved in and how much we have done, by looking at old photos and it inspires us all over again. 

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


July 2015

This month I am writing from the picturesque Flinders Ranges which is a must see region North West of Adelaide. We are ‘bush camping’ as a family for a week here, which is the longest we have camped for a while. So far the days have been glorious and sunny during the day (even warm) and clear starry skies at night which brings freezing cold nights and frost in the morning. Thankfully, with our quilts, sleeping bags and hot water bottles, we haven’t felt the cold in bed. We are about five hours away from home here, and it’s so beautiful this time of year. It’s amazing how the country side can be so different in the one state. We passed numerous bright green velvet fields and the contrasting blue sky seems to stretch further than at home.

There is a full moon at the moment, which lights the sky at night. We have lots of space between neighbouring camps and have a camp fire which we have been enjoying cooking on. It is extremely quiet and peaceful out here and there are vast views of blue mountain ranges and trees as far as the eye can see. Our camp is on the bank of a creek which isn’t running at the moment as it has been quite dry this winter so far. We have seen a few wallabies and several species of birds. Bees hum and dip among the wildflowers – tiny white and mauve blooms. I love waking to the sound of the birds in the morning. The shadows on the canvas roof of the camper trailer become more defined as the sun rises. Spider webs lace the rocks and dance in the sun. I have been enjoying taking photos of the scenery which is a hobby of mine.

We love camping and thought it would be a good time to get away as a family, to refresh the soul and have fun with the boys. The kids have finished the school term and Bryce completed his first exams and managed to get a week off work. We thought this would be a nice way to celebrate the start of holidays.  I have a glorious month of long service leave which has just begun. When we get back home, we will be starting our renovations which we are very excited about. 

After setting up camp on the first day, arriving late in the afternoon, we have spent a couple of days exploring the area on bikes and by foot. Unfortunately Tom has been fighting a cold which worsened the day we left but we decided to continue with the trip, so we have been relaxing to let him recuperate – nice to not have to go or be anywhere. Our plans are to go on hikes, go horse riding, sight-seeing and 4 wheel driving. Last night we watched a movie on the lap top by the fire – our own moonlight cinema. Dinner was a curry cooked in the camp oven on coals with toasted marshmallows, a glass of wine, and hot chocolate for the kids. We have also had homemade soup with damper. Funny how food made while camping tastes even nicer than the same dish at home. There is no phone reception so it is a great chance for us all to play games, read and tell stories around the fire. 

Last weekend we had our annual bonfire which went well. We had a good turn out and about six families stayed over in tents, camper trailers and caravans, as well as inside which made our paddock look like a camp ground! It is a good chance to have a tidy up and we love entertaining. The clean-up post event isn’t difficult either and we tend to use the fire the next day to roast potatoes for lunch after a cooked breakfast.

Earlier in the month we planted some winter vegies – onion, pumpkin, leek, brussels sprouts, carrots, and spinach. I haven’t planted vegetables this time of year before so am looking forward to seeing them grow. Our winter dam at home is dry and while I am glad for the fine days, hope July brings some needed rain. 

Last week we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a winery nearby with a group of friends we met through the kid’s school. They put on a lovely spread and we spent the afternoon sipping wine by an outdoor fire in the sunshine, catching up together while the kids played outside. We are fortunate to have so many places like this nearby, and I would love to make time to explore more places like this that the region we live has to offer.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


June 2015

We are heading towards Winter and the rain is pattering on our colorbond roof as I write. Soups, casseroles, pies and curries are now a regular feature on the weekly menu. The fire is lit and warms and comforts us most nights now. I just love coming home from work to the smell of woodfire smoke and its familiar glow to greet me. 

Driving through the township before ours on my way home after work, the scenery has changed. The trees stand thin and bare and I can see green rolling hills in the distance. Homes are lit up as dusk comes quickly and smoke wafts from chimneys on peaked roofs. 

My youngest son Dylan has turned thirteen this month and we celebrated with family at a restaurant and his friend stayed over. We took them to a place near the beach which has waterslides, arcade games, mini golf and that sort of thing which they enjoyed. So I am the mother of two teenagers now!

We have been collecting firewood today from our property which is a good chance to clean up. We add it to a big bonfire pile we have started in preparation for our annual bonfire which is attended by about 50-80 people every year. This is our eighth bonfire and we look forward to it every year without fail. We invite a mixture of friends from different circles: our family, ‘Adelaide friends’, ‘Hills friends’, old friends, work friends, friends we have met through the kids schooling, and lots of kids of all ages. Tom has built a little shelter near it which has become quite the centre piece. It has transformed from a little last minute lean-to made the first year with a tarp in case it rained to quite the piece of architecture which various friends/family have helped with over the years. It even has a bar. Tom said today he wants to extend it again, to which I laughed. There is a whiteboard which he put up for my 40th two bonfires ago and have left there with messages from everyone. I saw it today and smiled as it made me remember the fun we’ve had. People bring momentos to hang there, such as number plates. We even have a skull of a sheep we found, which gives it an outback feel. We cook a BBQ tea and people toast marshmallows and chestnuts on the big fire. Some people roast potatoes and chocolate bananas too. The kids all play together and grab torches as it gets dark. I just love that they have this opportunity to share with their friends and cousins and they really look forward to it. Every year is a bit different and we have been extremely fortunate with the weather, considering we book it in advance not knowing how it will be on the day. Last year was definitely the chilliest. Some people stay in tents or caravans while others stay in our house and it makes it easier for those who have to travel a bit further. We have a delicious cooked breakfast the next morning and everyone helps clean up. It is planned for June so we have a few weeks to prepare.

We decided to have the bonfire as soon as possible because we are excitedly preparing to do some much anticipated renovations at our house this winter. This involves the kitchen, bathroom and ensuite, which was never finished when we built our extension. We also need to redo the kid’s rooms and create a new laundry. If funds permit we would love to give the flooring, ceiling  and windows a makeover as well as deck around the pool. We have been looking at designs and tile choices for a while now, but now that it’s really happening, it is great to actually be able to choose! Tom and I will do a lot of the work ourselves and I’ve booked a month of long service leave to help out which I’m looking forward to. 

Some work friends and I went to a quiz night at the local Hotel which was fun. It is held every Thursday and you can win prizes. We even ventured out for a second week with Tom and my boys. Nice to do something a bit different on these cold nights, and we didn’t do too badly in the quiz either.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


May 2015

I have so much to write about this month and know I’m going to find it hard to condense! 

The first thing to tell you about is our annual Easter camping trip to Southend in the Southeast of SA, near Beachport. This is the fourth time we’ve gone there at Easter and each trip is slightly different because we explore different places. This year we went with Tom’s parents, his brother and his wife and two girls and some friends came with their two boys. 

The campsite is simply several large clearings in the scrub and this year we had 2 between us. There is a flushing toilet and rainwater close by. You may use the caravan park’s showers for a small fee, but this year we used our camp shower which is a heavenly luxury, but time consuming because you need to boil a bucket of water prior to indulging. My two lads love it here – we all do. It makes me smile that Tom’s Mum has claimed it as her family camping trip even though we were the ones who shared it after our first year. We bring our dogs – this year there were five! The camp ground is nestled right behind a big sand dune, and the soothing sound of waves falling on the sand is our lullaby at night. The beach is a long cove which goes as far as the eye can see and fishing boats dot the stunning aqua ocean. The beach is quiet and the kids spend hours sliding on sand boards down the dunes and here, I feel free while walking along the pristine sand with the dogs. The sea is different here, wild and untouched. We go fishing (didn’t catch any this year), 4WDing on the many tracks (we nearly got stuck on a deserted beach when a few of us couldn’t climb the steep hill out!), go for walks along the rugged coast and beach, go to the local markets, eat, drink, read, ride bikes and play games. Despite all of the packing and unpacking, it is so satisfying setting up ‘house’ for a few days and attempting to make it as comfortable as possible with the items we have chosen.

After our long drive home, we arrived to a very cold and wet Adelaide Hills. Our female alpacas, Ruby and Olivia were due to give birth around Easter (although the true dates were unknown) and we noticed some extra white ears in the fields! Ruby had a crea. Then we noticed Olivia looked thinner but couldn’t see her crea. It was then we spotted it, frail and wet lying lifeless in the grass, but alive! It was dusk and we knew we had to do something as it wasn’t able to stand up which they usually do within a few minutes of birth. We raced up to the house and grabbed some towels. We dried the crea and set her up in the stable in some hay with hot water bottles and heat packs knowing warming her was vital.  After borrowing a halter from our neighbour, Tom lured Olivia up to the stable. She was distressed because she had been separated, unintentionally from her crea. When she spotted it, she let out a cry of relief. The crea seemed to respond to her Mother. I haven’t been very close to the alpacas but it was as if she knew we were trying to help her baby and we left them alone for a while. I knew the crea may not have fed yet, so we went back out to see if we could help it. Amazingly Olivia who was lying down next to the crea let us roll her and assist the crea to feed. It was still very frail and unable to stand, which was concerning. I warned the kids that I didn’t think it would live. We learned that the crea was probably born frail. It survived the night, but died that morning. I cried because of the look in Olivia’s eyes, trusting me completely as if she was hoping for a miracle. She was crying like a human mother would. Part of me wished we had been home when they were born, but I am reminded that we did everything we could. 

I’ve decided they are amazing animals, and while very sad, won’t forget the experience. Ruby’s little white crea is a girl we think, and doing well, racing around. We named her ‘Elsa’ after a naming competition on our business page. Olivia is fine and helps pull Elsa into line, as does Nelson. Bambalamb the sheep broke through into their paddock where she prefers to be so there herd is complete.

April has also seen our first wood fire lit. There is something so mesmerising about a fire and I love the cosy warmth it radiates through the house. My favourite spot is standing right in front of it! Daylight savings has ended, so the night comes along quicker now. This weather inspires comfort food like casseroles, pies and soups.  We are still stewing and preserving the bounty of apples from our trees.

This month I am also very proud of our work achievements. My eldest son got a casual job at a new KFC opening in our town. I am proud of the way he applied and conducted himself in his interview. It seems it is more difficult to secure an after school job now, compared to when I got my first job, so I was relieved with his news as I know he put in a lot of effort which is great.

I’ve never been busier at work as we are heading into accreditation this week. This involves external people coming and interviewing key staff to ensure we are performing to standard. We have all been busily working to ensure we shine. We also launched my husband’s business website this month which we created ourselves so am very proud of this.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


April 2015

The milder evenings and crisp mornings of Autumn have arrived in the Hills. It is cool enough for an extra blanket at night, and I sometimes snuggle up with a throw rug in the evenings, but it’s not quite cool enough to light the fire. We went for a country drive yesterday and the Hills are so beautiful this time of year. The deciduous trees are adorned with bright reds, oranges and yellows. The trees affected by the recent bushfires are sprouting new bright green growth. We are still waiting for a good soaking of rain. The mornings are darker, the light is different and the shadows are longer. The days are still quite warm though. I just love the change in seasons.

To be honest, I’m not sure how March has managed to come and go already. In Adelaide, we call it ‘Mad March’ because of the multitude of festivals and events on in our city, some of which we attended. In my family, a few birthdays also add to the ‘madness’.  I wonder if the months in my life will always continue to pass so quickly? I have so much more I want to do, but so little time which saddens me in a way. I’m sure others share this feeling, as we are all doing the same thing, however this reminds me that I must slow down occasionally. A magnet that was my Grandma’s, attached to my fridge reads “slow down. There’s no telling what you might miss”, which I kept because of the truth in its words. I think the older generation have mastered this. I notice it talking to them every day at the hospital where I work. Their pace is slower. I spoke to my Nana - who is the ripe old age of 95 - a couple of weeks ago on the phone. I’ve always felt she is one of my kindred spirits and enjoy any time we spend together. We managed to talk on the phone for about two hours with ease. Towards the end of our conversation I had said “I better go, I suppose” and she replied “Yes, I better let you go! I could talk to you all day, but you’re busy…I’ve got all the time in the world”. This is what has recently reminded me to really savour every moment in life.

March has been a nice month of catch up’s with friends. We saw our some of our best friends we had met through antenatal classes with our first son’s who are now 15. I cherish that friendship as we helped each other through the early years of our children’s lives and still have a wonderful friendship even though we don’t see each other as much as we used to. We also had a curry night at our place to celebrate my husband’s birthday with 4 other families who we have met throughout our lives including school, University and work. It was a wonderful evening. And we have just enjoyed a pizza night with another group of friends we met in the Hills, which was lovely too.

My eldest son attended his first ‘teenage party’ for a friend’s 16th last night with his girlfriend. It is really great to see him grow up and enjoy being young. They have a great group of friends through their school. We also went to his local Basketball team’s grand final today which was a nail biting finish. They lost in the end, but it was a great game and team effort.

We have five new chickens. Their yard has been re-secured. They have already laid two eggs! Our collie ‘Asha’ is most happy about this as whenever she is let out of the house yard, her favourite thing to do is guard those chooks. 

With Easter fast approaching, we have been busily preparing for our annual ‘bush camping’ trip to ‘Southend’ , a Port in the South East. I will be very glad for a break from my working week. We take our dogs along and it has become an Easter tradition with Tom’s family. We have some friends joining us this year as well. My family looks forward to this trip all year and the anticipation is part of the fun. 

I wish you and yours a very Happy Easter!

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


March 2015

Summer is nearing it’s end. The earth is tired, waiting for a big soaking of rain from Mother Nature to refresh and renew it’s soul. Our sheep and alpacas have hardly any feed left in the paddocks and we need to feed them hay and feed at the moment.

We have an impressive crop of ‘Fuji’ and ‘Golden Delicious’ apples ready to pick. I sampled one on the weekend and think they are our best yet. We planted our fruit trees a couple of years after moving to our property, so the trees are still young. The best surprise was two shooters of some root stock damaged by rabbits which we planted in a barren part of the garden, to fill in some space a few years ago, which have miraculously produced peaches and apricots (we think) for the first time. Not sure if it is because of the large soaking of rain we had in early January, but thankful for whatever reason this happened! 

Most impressive is our front garden which has taken a while to get established. When we bought the house, it was basically an overgrown paddock and some drab shrubs.  We planned a ‘cottage garden’ to suit our style of house with borders, paths, and a bird bath. There is a wooden arbour my husband built with a bench seat and ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ roses now weave up the walls. There is a wind chime which one of my kids made which sounds peaceful in the breeze. We weren’t sure if the trees we planted would survive, as some neighbours hadn’t had much luck with ornamentals, but fortunately they have thrived. The magnolia’s scent is heavenly and crab apples hang from dainty boughs. Agapanthus stands tall along the borders. This summer, with everything established it’s just a pleasure to sit on the front deck and finally enjoy it.

The past couple of weekends have been hot for the first time in a while and we enjoyed spending them in the pool with friends. It’s been a great investment in that it gets used a lot by our family and is quality family time for us all. It also makes us popular on hot days and we love entertaining! 

We spent four days in Melbourne last week – the first time I’ve stayed there since I was a kid. My husband and I were asked by my closest friend to join her and partner as well as another couple – friends we have met through them - to ‘Day on the Green’ an outdoor concert in the Yarra Valley Wine region. This was a very spontaneous trip for me (who normally plans everything out to the finest detail in advance) and we only found out about two weeks prior. It is bitter sweet for other friends who couldn’t make it anymore, but wanted someone else to enjoy the tickets. We stayed in Melbourne one night, where we enjoyed wining and dining in this unique city. We caught one of the famous Melbourne trams to tea after sampling drinks and food at different bars/cafés in town and along the Yarra River. I tried to breathe in every sense and smell to remember our amazing experience there.

The following day after breakfast we hired a car and headed to the Yarra Valley where we stayed in a gorgeous turn of the century homestead for two days. The house reminded me a little of our own with its decks surrounding the house. These overlooked lush gardens and vineyards. Our room was decorated with federation style furniture and an old fireplace. The bathroom had fragrant toiletries and there was a claw foot bath. It was truly a treat to stay there and I would love to take my kids back there someday. It was a bed and breakfast so there were ample supplies of eggs, cereals, breads, teas, coffee and chocolate. We enjoyed travelling to breweries and wineries in the region, as well as a dairy where we enjoyed homemade cheeses and bought some delicacies to take home. We were treated to a wine tasting tutorial as part of our package at the estate and tea that evening was lovely. 

We have been to other ‘Day on the Green’ concerts in South Australia and they are a lot of fun. When it was being planned last year, we had originally decided not to go as we had just returned from a holiday, but when the opportunity came up, decided it was too good not to go! The concert was held on a hot, balmy day and was excellent. It was great to spend time with our friends on this amazing weekend escape. My Mother in law came from the South East to look after the boys and all of our animals which we are grateful for.

My sister had her baby – a gorgeous boy! I have two nephews and six nieces now. He was born two days after my eldest son’s birthday which is nice.

Summer is my favourite season, so am sorry to say farewell, but am sure there will be more warm weather to come. While it has been rather mild, I will welcome the cool that autumn brings, to see the leaves change colour and long to light our fire once more.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


February 2015

This summer in Adelaide and the hills has been unseasonally mild. I don’t even think we’ve even had a heat wave. I know some will think I’m mad, but I quite like the hot weather. Trying to stay cool, watching tennis or cricket on TV and swimming in the pool. Icy drinks and late nights - sitting outside on balmy nights, star-gazing while the cricket’s chirps echo. Although, I shouldn’t complain as there is still plenty of time for potential heat waves and the milder days have been lovely to spend outside.

We returned from our holiday in Pt Neill earlier in January to a terrible bushfire in the Northern Adelaide Hills.  We had packed our things in case we needed to evacuate on the day after we returned as, while distant was unpredictable and warnings had gone out to nearby towns. Friends of ours evacuated. The community has been amazing, supporting the CFS with food and supplies. They set up a camp at an oval near us and fire fighters and equipment came from interstate to help. Horses and animals were evacuated to our football oval and the community pitched in with food and drinks for the owners and the horses. While there were properties lost, it’s been heart-warming to know that in times of need, the community really does rally to help out in any way they can. We have only evacuated on one occasion a few years ago when there was a grassfire on the hill across from us. While the prospect of fires is unsettling, we have a plan and prepare as best we can. The landscape in that region is left eerie, desolate and black – trees naked, although on the last day of the fire, there were days of joyous, heavy rainfall and only today someone told me the blackened landscape now has an bed of lush green growth sprouting through the soot.

Some new alpacas have joined our family. We bought them from the lady who does all the alpaca shearing for our street. She has a farm with several alpacas and it was fun being able to choose. She is a real ‘salt of the earth’ character. We have chosen three – two females who are pregnant (due in April we think) and one male. We named one ‘Olivia’ as she is chocolate brown with a white ‘headband’ and white ‘leg warmers’ just like Olivia Newton John in ‘Physical’. The other chestnut coloured one we named ‘Ruby’ who has the biggest brown eyes and long eyelashes. Our third alpaca is the most gorgeous little eight month old we named ‘Wookie’ as he has the cutest little fluffy face, like an ewok from ‘Star Wars’. He is being halter trained and will arrive in two weeks. Nelson, our white alpaca’s ears pricked up when he saw his new guests arrive and they are all enjoying mowing the paddock. The ladies seem to have settled in.

My eldest son Bryce just turned 15 and we held his family celebration here on the Australia Day long weekend which has become a tradition over the years. We have a BBQ on the deck and my young nieces and nephew all love exploring the ‘farm’ and playing on the swings and trampoline. There was a cricket match and tattoos of the Australian flag adorned the kids. My youngest son Dylan baked Bryce a birthday cake and decorated it to look like a basketball which was pretty impressive. He loves Basketball and seemed to be the theme, as we bought him a new basketball ring and his Uncle managed to get a basketball specially signed by the Adelaide 36ers. My youngest sister is 38 weeks pregnant and we were watching the poor girl’s every move for signs of labour which thankfully didn’t happen at my house!

My holiday is over and school is back, but I feel a sense of achievement and went back to work feeling refreshed. After our time away, it was nice to get things in order around the house and spend time relaxing with the boys. 

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


January 2015

My summer holidays started on Christmas Eve. While we haven’t stopped, I’ve had a great break so far. I often take my holidays in January, after the Christmas/New Year celebrations are over, to maximise relaxation, but this year took them a bit earlier for a planned trip with friends.

I’m writing from my in-laws place on the outskirts of a country town in the South East region of South Australia. They made a ‘tree change’ about two years ago to an old school house on a small acreage here and have been looking after our two dogs, who they took home after Christmas for us while we went on holiday. We have come to collect them but also spend a couple of days relaxing in our ‘home away from home’ here with them. We have just preserved some beetroot in jars, fresh from our garden.

My youngest son is at a Southern seaside town with his best friend and his family for a few days. They have a family holiday house down there and head there every summer. We have visited for the day, but this is the first time Dylan has been invited to stay there with them.

We have just returned from a family holiday to Port Neill on Eyre Peninsula which is quite a rural region with beautiful seaside towns, rugged, relatively untouched land and excellent fishing. We holidayed with our close friends, their daughter and another of their friends and her son and spent the New Year there. We stayed in the caravan park in our camper trailer, while the others stayed in tents. There is something so satisfying about setting up a temporary home and making it as comfortable as possible. The great thing about camping with friends is if one of you forgets something, someone else is bound to have it! 

The park wasn’t fancy, but we had everything we needed. Nice grassy sites, a BBQ right next to us and a gate which lead to the beautiful bay with a jetty and pontoon. On New Year’s Eve there were an abundance of ‘private’ firework displays and in the distance you could hear a man playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

Unfortunately on the trip there, we were carrying the two new kayaks we had given the boys for Christmas when they must have come loose and fallen off the trailer. We managed to find one thanks to a gallant motorist who saw it land in the scrub 5km before and followed us to alert us, but must have lost the other somewhere along the road. I recall the sinking feeling I felt when I looked in the side mirror and realised the large bright red and green vessels I’d been eyeing intermittently for five hours were gone! After checking with police, all we could do was report it and hope someone would hand it in, knowing deep down it was lost. Despite the disappointment, we were grateful that no one was hurt and enjoyed the one we recovered. 

After this incident, backtracking to find the kayaks and being detoured 100km out of our way after the next town because of a terrible car accident twelve hours prior, we added about two hours to our seven hour trip and were delirious with joy when we finally reached our destination. Our friends welcomed us with a cold glass of wine, beer and the aroma of a roast and vegetables crackling in the weber. 

A highlight during our stay was when some nice neighbours we met had ‘bagged out’ with King George Whiting and gave us about a dozen fillets which was a real treat. Our friend had caught a couple of squid, so we sampled a huge fresh seafood platter for tea which was delicious. 

We also enjoyed kayaking the bay, going for walks, eating leftover Christmas treats, and relaxing the days away on the warm sand or in deck chairs at the campsite. We were able to talk about anything and everything that we may have missed filling each other in on over the Christmas period. We all had a lot of fun swimming to the pontoon (over the scary dark seaweed) and jumping or diving off. I’ve had a fear of sharks since I was young, but it’s not enough to stop me enjoying the ocean…I always keep a keen eye out for them though! We girls even plucked up the courage to jump off the jetty which was thrilling and invigorating at the same time and we talked the men into doing the same. For a little while we were like the kids and the kids were the ones worrying about us from the safety of the jetty, taking photos as memories. 

I love everything about the beach. I feel so at peace there. It is the place I liked to go growing up if I needed to think about something important, or make a decision. I love the feeling of the sand between my toes and the remnants of sea salt in my hair and on my skin. I love wearing thebreezy summer clothes. My skin is tanned and smooth and I feel refreshed.

When we return home from the South East, I will enjoy the rest of my precious holiday time with my family, while catching up on things around the house. Bliss.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


December 2014

I love the smell of summer rain on the warm earth this time of year. We have just had a rare but welcome thunderstorm which has freshened up the garden and soaked the paddocks. The crickets and frogs are harmonising as the evening nears. 

Christmas is coming. The shops are displaying their Christmas wares and the Christmas advertising is in full swing. We put up our Christmas tree today. My 12 year old son Dylan and I decorated the tree after buying new Christmas lights. Christmas carols are always played in the background on decorating day in our house. Even though the family affectionately groan, I smile at the fact that they always end up singing along. I usually insist the whole family help, but this year was happy knowing my eldest son Bryce and husband Tom were just in the other room. Tom was making tea so I could hardly pull him away from that! Our tree is beautiful. It is adorned with ornaments which we have gained over the years, some we bought before the kids were born. Some are antiques from my grandparents which I hold on to, even though some are looking a bit tired, because they are so different to the ornaments of today and they make me nostalgic. There are precious handmade ornaments from the boys, made when they were little, some from their teachers too. There are two special balls which I had made with the boys names when they were very young and they still take pride of place on the tree and they hang them themselves. To me, they are all precious and tell a story. We then proudly hang the country style wreath we handmade a few years ago on the front door. It is an artificial garland with holly berries, white rose buds, and red and golden sparkly bells, stars and ornaments. The kids also decorate our front property sign with tinsel and lights.

We are participating in the local town’s Christmas pageant again this year. We enter our business and the kids, family and friends walk or ride in the pageant and help hand out lollies and brochures to the community and high-five the children. They have often participated in the pageant which I think is wonderful. They have been on my hospital’s float when they were young, and their school and sporting groups often enter a float aswell. That evening there are carols in the park followed by fireworks. This is a tradition now and we go most years and meet friends with their kids and some of our family and share the festive atmosphere with nibbles and a glass of wine by candlelight.

Christmas becomes so busy with everyone wanting to catch up for Christmas drinks and the end of year celebrations. It’s one of my favourite times of year though. I love that we have Christmas in summer and everything about the relaxed Australian lifestyle. Breezy summer clothes, alfresco dining, the bunch of roses in a vase on the table, and fresh summer fruits.

This Christmas day, for the first time in 20 years I know I will have the day off thanks to my new manager position. I have done the staff Christmas roster which was the most difficult roster I’ve done and I will go on holidays for a few weeks after Christmas Eve. Christmas in our family traditionally consists of breakfast at home after presents are opened. It is busy, but spread out over a few days. Lunch is hosted by my side, usually quite traditional and my mum, sister and I take turns having it. This year is at Mum’s. Tom’s family will come to our place for tea. This is more casual and this year if warm, will be around our pool. Tom’s brother & he take turns having tea. Tom’s Mum’s family traditionally have a bigger Proclamation Day tea with the extended family and the Uncles and Auntys take turns hosting this. My Dad’s Christmas celebration is scheduled for a few days after Christmas and is often in a picnic in a park. 

We will be going on holiday after this with friends to Eyre Penninsula, camping in a caravan park which I am looking forward to. Our New Years Eve celebrations will also be there. We haven’t holidayed there as a family before and plan to have lots of laughter, relaxation, swimming, fishing while eating and drinking Christmas leftovers!

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


November 2014

The middle of spring on our property is delicious. The deciduous trees have grown green leaves almost overnight. My favourite is a huge elm tree whose masses of leaves provide dappled shade to my front garden.  Flowers are in full bloom and the first rose buds are releasing their beautiful fragrance. Everything is still lush and green from winter and a heavenly scent wafts through the garden, particularly in the evening.

We have planted our summer vegetables in our square edged garden beds again.  My husband Tom made them last year to keep the rabbits out. The strawberries look fabulous in the kid’s old red wheelbarrows. Seems like yesterday they used to follow Tom around with them and help tend to the garden as small boys. Watermelons have found their home in old tyres we inherited with the property, filled with soil and pea straw. 

A new selection of budgies, finches and quails fill our avery now that ‘Jessie’ the pet galah has been returned to Tom’s parents. We already have some cute baby budgies and eggs in one of the breeding boxes. It’s lovely to hear the birds chattering along with the many other native birds, who’s familiar songs fill the air each morning. Baby magpies screech impatiently at their Mums for food while shadowing them around with greedy beaks. I’ve noticed our magpies don’t swoop. I wonder if it’s because they know they are safe here - apart from the cats who they keep a watchful eye out for.

Unfortunately along with this warmth come the reptiles, more importantly snakes, who have woken up for the summer. They are my least favourite part of living in the country. I am used to the fact that they are always around though and we all take extra care this time of year. We have had our first sighting of a brown snake near the chicken coop already. We usually see one or two each year. When we first moved the place was quite overgrown and the previous owner worked away, so we saw a few more at first. I cope by telling myself that they are always around, and don’t usually disturb anyone, so we just need to be cautious and keep the yard as tidy as we can to discourage them. 

We have been lucky with our pets so far. I remember our old dog Misha was whining and rustling near a bush when we had first moved here. I thought she had a lizard, so knocked on the window, beckoning her to drop it, then realised she had a snake as she flipped it up in the air! After talking with the vet about symptoms, and watching her closely, she was lucky not to be bitten. Our cat Chloe chased a big snake into our neighbour’s property last year too and we were sure she would have been bitten, but she too was lucky.

I had my first encounter with one a couple of years ago. (I apologise in advance to those with snake phobias!) Tom and the boys had left early one morning to help my in laws move house. I waved them goodbye, then decided to check the chickens and collect the eggs. I am always lecturing the boys to wear boots for this task, but with them gone, in I ventured in wearing shorts and thongs. I recall justifying my laziness with the thought that it was early and the sun was not hot yet, so I should be safe. I automatically scan the chook’s day yard for critters and take care entering the shed where the chickens laying boxes are. Happy that all was clear as usual, I collected my eggs and proceeded to exit the chicken yard through the gate, eggs in hand. As I raised my foot to step over the doorway, to my utter terror, in slithered a horrible big brown snake! I know you are not supposed to move in this situation, but I instinctively jumped backwards immediately. The snake stopped, raised its head and for a few seconds we stared at each other. It flicked it’s sharp navy tongue at me. I’m sure I heard it whisper a hiss. My pulse was galloping and I glanced down at my vulnerable bare legs praying for it to spare me. Then it flipped over in a figure of eight and disappeared back out of the cage. I stood frozen for a good few seconds in shock, comprehending what had just happened. Petrified I realised I should move in case it came through the shed for another visit! I forced myself to step out with my jelly legs and ran to the house with my eggs. I got into more appropriate clothing and tentatively ventured back as I was worried about the chickens. I carried a spade in case, but not sure what I would have done with it. Thankfully the snake was long gone. What a moment that was – my stand- off with the snake. I’ll never forget it and hope it never happens again! I tell this story as it impacted on me, but the positives here definitely outweigh the occasional bad.

Being a nurse, I thought afterwards about what I would have done if I had been bitten. Makes you think. This year I secured a position as manager of my area and as much as I love it, and the fact that I have a nice balance of patient contact, it’s more demanding than I’ve been used to. Now more than ever I appreciate our special home. It’s my sanctuary at the end of a busy day and the slower pace is a nice way to wind down and relax. It’s that feeling you get on holidays, the knowledge there’s more to life than work and school. It’s my perfect balance. 

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


October 2014

For me, once Spring arrives the year just seems to go into express mode towards Christmas! I’ve even heard reports of some Christmas decorations miraculously appearing on the shelves in shops as soon as August. But Spring is one of my favourite times of year. My family are familiar with my annual display of delight when the first blossom tree is spotted on a drive into town late winter. This year my husband left a sweet note on the bench for me on the morning our first blossom crowned on our almond tree which is evidence that those dear to me know just how pleasure I get from these signs of Spring’s pending arrival. It’s something you feel in the air in August. The delicious smell wafts through the windows that are unlatched and finally opened. I admit I find it hard to get anything done on my days off as all I want to do is chase the sun from the front deck to the side deck to sit and let it soak into my bones. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a load of washing flap around in the breeze AND dry in the same day! A sudden motivation to complete tasks around the house keeps us busy.

On our 5 1/2 acre property our annual resident wild ducks are proudly leading their eleven ducklings around the front paddock near the winter dam and teaching them to swim. Parrots and native birds are chattering while busily nesting, and the bees are humming a song around the lavender. 

We didn’t have any lambs this year. Our six sheep are having a ‘rest’.  Last year we adopted a lamb who we named ‘Bambalamb’. We hand raised her which kept us very busy. She is the funniest little sheep who comes running up when you call her and plays a version of chasey. As she dashes away, she does a little leap in the air. She genuinely enjoys being patted and prefers to hang out with the alpaca and the dogs than the other sheep. We sold our rams last year– one was an accidental ram who escaped on shearing/de-sexing day. This little guy was special from the day he was born. He wasn’t feeding from his mum and she was getting frustrated, so I played midwife and helped him get the knack of feeding from his mother (to be honest, I was determined not to hand feed any more sheep as it’s like having a big, demanding, woolly baby!) I’m secretly glad he went to a friend’s farm to sew his wild oats. We also sold our oldest ram ‘Wizard’. Legend from his first owner had it that Wizard was born not breathing and someone slapped him and he took a breath like magic, which is why he got his name. Wizard’s personality was temperamental. He would be friendly one day and the next he would try and ram you which is quite intimidating. He used to keep my two boys and their friends entertained as they would dare each other to run across his paddock. 

There was one terrifying morning I laugh about now, that I wanted to share. When we first got sheep about seven years ago we were all fairly new to the ‘farmer’ gig. Our sheep had been escaping as sheep do, usually to a neighbours’ paddock (whose grass was the same as ours) through the fences that needed fixing. I received a wake up phone call from a lovely neighbour two properties away notifying me that my sheep had made it to her property and she was letting me know. She offered her deepest sympathies and offered to help. I swiftly dressed in some old clothes and work boots looking a fright, without my compulsory cup of tea, cursing the sheep and the fact that my husband had already left for work. Off I went in the car and it wasn’t long before the culprits were spotted on the verge of the road. Anyone who has attempted rounding up sheep knows how frustrating they can be. One goes the wrong way and the others all scatter and follow. I hopped out of my car, bed hair and all, and tried to move them towards home. Most of them ran off, leaving Wizard staring at me with a glint in his eye. I feebly picked up the first weapon I could see-a pathetic twig lying on the ground. He swiftly got a run up ready to ram me. I fled squealing into the bushes and through the electric fence. I emerged looking even more glamorous, pride hurt, wet from the grass with tears in my eyes and weeds in my hair, wishing I had worn trackies that had decent elastic.  I raced to the safety of my car and miraculously, as if he knew I was close to the edge, Wizard obediently trotted down the road, leading the others back into our driveway, defeated. 

I look back at this as my initiation, the one time I managed to solve a ‘farm issue’ by myself and it felt good. More than ever, living in the country I embrace the coming of a new season and the delights that come with it. Happy Spring!

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills


Introducing Lily Magazine's new monthly columnist, Charise Middleton-Frew. Charise will be writing all about her experiences in the country with husband Tom and sons Bryce and Dylan and sharing them with us, each month. 

You can read about Charise and Tom's move to the country here and catch up on what has been happening in her life in the country during the beautiful season of spring in her first column above.

MOVING TO THE COUNTRY

I wasn’t always a country girl. I grew up in the suburbs of Adelaide, always near the beach, in a neighbourhood where people lived relatively private lives – with colorbond fences & brick homes that looked similar apart from the chosen brick or roof colour. 

When I blew my candles out each year, I would wish with all my heart for a horse, knowing deep down it wasn’t practical. I had a favourite place, which my mother later painted for me as a gift, near where I lived. A green field, where a lighthouse stood proudly on a rolling hill. It had uninterrupted views to the sea. My sister & I used to sneak onto the farmer’s land through the barbed wire fence and lay in the warm grass amongst the sheep & sour sobs, dreaming it was ours. It was a rare acreage – one last undeveloped parcel of prime land. 

I loved the stories my husband had shared of growing up in the country with his family and the adventures his brother and he used to get up to. Of the animals they lived with, the friends down the lane and their quality life, despite there not being much money.

I think this planted the seed along with my own dreams and love of nature. We had our own two children, three and one year old boys and decided to take a risk and sell our home and build on 2/3 acre in the Adelaide Hills. We could keep our jobs as it wasn’t far away. We knew that interstate, some people drove hours home each night to live a similar lifestyle. For the first time, we moved away from our family and friends to the relatively unknown town which we fell in love with.

That was 11 years ago and we have never looked back. We rented while our home was built as we were keen to settle in, and get used to the community. I remember feeling quite isolated initially. Two young children at home, husband at work and only very part time nursing shifts back in Adelaide to connect with other adults. But the ‘drop in’s’ I missed from friends and family were replaced with planned visits instead and I soon started to connect with the friendly community. Those early years with my kids are some of my most treasured memories…walking to the end of the street to see the cows, riding to the local park which had a lake with ducks, gnarly old gum trees and bike paths and watching the kids explore the yard in rubber boots, which was much larger than they had been used to. 

An opportunity to purchase a small acreage came along three years later – this was our lifelong dream - so we sold the beautiful home we had designed and built and moved to a basic weatherboard house on 5 ½ acres nearby. 

The house is still a ‘work-in-progress’ for my Carpenter husband and I and we have spent many a weekend over the past seven years on the place we fell in love with at first sight. You know that feeling you get when something is just right? (Though I’m sure a few of our friends and family probably wondered what we were thinking)! 

Country life suited us to a tea. It was like living all the things I loved about ‘Little House on the Prairie’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Far and Away’. We have a long driveway with a property sign out the front and views to die for. The kids still get excited when the winter rain turns our front paddock into a winter creek and we have a dam with a rope swing hanging from a gum tree. Our neighbour mowed a path so that my kids could run to their friends’ property on the other side when they were young. While I still don’t have my own horse, I am treated to visits by my neighbours’ horses. We have experienced the joy of watching our sheep have lambs and my kids understand the circle of life from experience. Our hand-raised sheep ‘Bambalamb’ doesn’t know she is a sheep and has become firm friends with ‘Nelson’ the alpaca, who lost his brother last year. I sell our chickens eggs at work for the kids. We have two dogs, two cats, an avery of birds and a turtle. Our resident wild ducks have returned for the spring with eleven ducklings close by. We still get excited when we spot kangaroos in neighbouring paddocks. There is space to ride motorbikes and a pool for hot summers days. Memories of backyard cricket, morning cups of tea on the verandah, wine on the deck on balmy summer’s eves and our annual bonfires on crisp starry nights will always be dear. I don’t worry that the music is too loud, or that the neighbours will see me run out to the line in my PJ’s. I love that we grow our own vegies and have space for fruit trees, and that the kids get as excited as I do when something new happens in the garden. Last summer I made my first batch of tomato sauce which actually turned out! There is always something to do…festivals, wineries, markets and fairs. 

Country life is a lifestyle choice and people live here for the same reason. Here I see everyone I know during the weekly shop, people give way when they don’t need to and strangers talk to you in the street. We are valued members of the community, our life and work is here now. I’m so glad we took a chance because there’s no place I’d rather be.

 

Article by Charise Middleton-Frew
Deck The Hills Carpentry
www.deckthehillscarpentry.com
www.facebook.com/deckthehills