Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A proverb of Coneysthorpe

Because we have focussed on settling the cats, unpacking and finishing the renovations, the garden has had to wait for tender ministrations. Today we are forecast heavy rain, so I thought I'd attempt to tame the very overgrown and neglected strawberry bed before the deluge arrived. This is what it looked like at 7.30am New Year's Day.
Two hours later, and significant digging behind the frame to remove long grass, it looked like this (ahem, not much different)
I didn't find any strawberries, but in the process of digging out long grass behind the frame, I found these
So, the first wise saying of Coneysthorpe in 2014 is "When you look for strawberries, sometimes life gives you potatoes"

Saturday, 28 December 2013

"I've brought you a present", she said, she said

There was rather a lot of activity and interest around the cat flap a few minutes ago. Even the old lad got interested (the cat, not my beloved!) It would seem that Cumin has really settled in - her quarry of choice is now the mouse. This exquisite catch was less than 3cm long and hiding between the lenses of my grandpa's field glasses (that would have made him smile). I have always found colendar to be great catchers of mice. We let her sniff and play for a while, following Ms Tittlemouse around the inside of the colendar. Then we evicted one ginger huntress and I managed to get the field glasses away from the field mouse and capture her again under the white dome. Insert a large piece of cardboard, and hey presto, evicted into the garden and under the verandah she ran. One happy mouse, one disgruntled ginger and a black and white with a speech bubble above his head "What happened? Whereditgo?" Post Script two hours later. Poor mouse has been retrieved and brought into the house twice - how on earth she found it in 2 acres, I don't know!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Of Tuis and coconut ice cake

Today we had 14 visitors, eight for lunch and 6 for drop in morning tea and afternoon "hi and bye". It was lovely. Here is a cake I made last night and iced and transferred precariously to a cake stand. The tuis have been extra boisterous and noisy and putting on a performance for the guests. The photo was taken between cooking beef for lunch and making a trifle. I had to take it through a window, hence the strange blur (its the dirt!)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A new dessert tradition

Breton Prune tart / flan. So delicious it will be made every December from now on. Thanks to a friend who loaned me a French cookery book a few days ago. I have eaten this before but never made it and it really is heavenly. With very warm greetings for a very Happy Christmas from Coneysthorpe

Monday, 23 December 2013


Our area is famous for growing vegetables, but there are also growers who supply the NZ and international market with flowers. We have lilies, roses and sunflowers close by. My beloved tried to cheer me up today with a bunch of these happy fellows. Why cheer me up? Well one of our cats has gone walkabout and we are really concerned about him. The weather has deteriorated (not that it worries him, he is out in ALL weathers), but the neighbourhood is unfamiliar and we think he may be lost.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Clean windows - showing off

Our two year old "kitten" who is still hiding inside the bed sofa, spent a few minutes on the kitchen window ledge trying to get out. His paw marks on the windows were evidence when the sun shone. Today's sky is sooo bright, I had to get rid of those panic streaks. Here is the shiny proof, and my favourite reindeer (who is an all year round ornament) showing them off.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Relaxing Saturday

By 10am I had bagged up 3 large black bin liners of dried out grass. Hubby did another quickly when it threatened to rain. The birds are delighted that we have turned over the grass and exposed more bugs and worms. I then squeezed some of the ugliest lemons "this side of the black stump" - as my friend Janet would say. One litre of lemon juice, for the use thereof. That, as they say, is a thing of great beauty!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Train mystery

This morning on the train, I watched, somewhat bemused as a passenger started to hang photographs from the roof of the carriage. I recognised one of them as the guard from the previous morning. I asked her what she was doing and she explained that on the last week before Christmas, the train passengers decorated the train with Christmas decorations. The train has regular commuters and the train company gives permission for the passengers to decorate their regular seat. The commuters also collect gifts to put under the Christmas tree in carriage no 4, to be distributed to a children's charity on the route. At the end of Christmas week, the train company gives a prize to the best decorated seat. One executive transformed his seat into a sleigh, two ladies had a snowman scene, others started with tinsel and baubles and hung snowflakes and streamers from the deck head. This Thursday, all the passengers enjoy a glass of wine on the way home. I can't wait to see what else transpires in carriage 4 for the next two days. Given that this is a farming area, I will be genuinely looking for tame alpaca, deer and sheep boarding with their owners.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The view from the office / sewing room

It is soooo easy to get distracted, especially when there is work to be done. I am gazing at trees and dreaming.......

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Kitty Pile

Two out of three cats preferred to hide from the new house under the sofa cover in 22 degrees! Otto "I am a brave boy and don't mind the new place" kept watch on top of the sofa cover. We have to "pat down" all covers just in case the lump has whiskers.
Cumin discovered how to look out of the office window by perching on my sewing table

Verandah life

Living Al Fresco

I had regrets at leaving behind a wisteria plant at our previous home and a few fragrant "something or others" which had twisted themselves between the balcony struts. At Coneysthorpe, to my olfactory delight, we have two huge bushes of orange blossom amongst the hydrangea. So when we perch on the veranda after dinner and take in the view, I find my nose twitching "a la Cumin" at the heady fragrance in the breeze.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The best laid plans

....of cats and men. Due to very legitimate circumstances, our renovations have taken longer than originally planned. This has meant the cats will have to stay in one part of the house longer than we intended, so that the work can be completed and the builders gone before we let them explore. They are impatient to get out and about. Next week we will be back to work, which involves a lengthy commute. Hopefully by Christmas they will be roaming the gardens and paddock, swinging from branches and generally causing mayhem. One of the reasons I am not posting photos is that my computer is not yet unpacked. The area it will operate from is still a building site so I'm using my iPad instead. But the blog will be photo bombed later, so keep in touch.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The dulcet sound of thundering paws

One of the many charms of Coneysthorpe are the old doors. We have been keeping the cats confined to three rooms whilst builders complete one end of the house renovations. Early this morning, I didn't quite pull the living room door closed properly. The next thing I heard was three cats thundering down the very long wooden floored hallway. Honestly, it sounded like the Australian Light Horse taking Beersheva! All three escapees are now in the living room again, plotting the next foray.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Practising "being"

This morning I woke early, and was certainly not prepared to have my breath stolen from me. Sitting about three feet under the bedroom window was a very large hare. It seemed to know the place well as it then ran at breakneck speed down our driveway. Since we arrived on Saturday we have had no tV connection, no fridge and only half an hour ago an Internet connection. But in the first 24 hours we unpacked our new home. This morning I cut down a lot of trailing bushes, picked some early plums and hand fed one of the neighbours coos. I'm grinning a lot. This is good news. I haven't smiled much since before Dad died.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Nesting and the leaving

A few weeks ago, we were just about to sit down in the gazebo at our "local" when we spotted this charming lady.

Whilst we quietly drank our coffee she was demurely hatching the next generation of song thrush. We alerted one of the cafe staff, who happened to be a bird lover, so she hung a sign on the gazebo which said "bird nesting, please be considerate". Today I returned and heard that all four of her eggs had hatched successfully, although Henry, number four chick, was a bit of a wimp and by that stage mum was weary and needed feeding herself. So the cafe staff had been feeding an exhausted mother until Henry fledged.

This is what her nest looked like today, all cleaned out, nice and tidy, probably ready for next spring's occupation.

I shared time in the gazebo today with my friend and fellow cat lover Kathy. She came with me to deliver our furry family to a cat motel (the rooms really look like a motel), just around the corner from our new home. One cat developed a mezzo soprano howl for the 50 minute car journey and on arrival disappeared into one of the cubby holes in the room not to be seen again. My nerves were shredded enough to want to join her.

When I returned "home", this was the sight that greeted me. It is all rather strange. We have had 8 and a half years in our beautiful nest, "raised" four cats and now we are flying away. As I took out the vacuum cleaner this evening, I also took a leaf out of the song thrush's book. Leave the place tidy and clean for the next occupant.

Now is the hour

Today we start the move - two days of packing one day shipping and unpacking.

We have had the cats in lock-down for 36 hours. Poor things don't know what is going on. Little half wild cat is hiding under the sofa, big grandpa puss is wailing and flopping on the floor every half an hour looking maudlin. Ms Ginger is taking all the extra fuss and attention in her stride, after all "I'm worth it".

A sympathetic friend is coming with me for the 50 minute drive to the cattery. She is there to calm my nerves, not the cats!

So the adventure begins. Here are the family

Monday, 2 December 2013

A feathered promise

Over the years I've seen that confirmations of life decisions come in all sorts of guises. On Saturday I had the best indication ever that we had made the right decision buying Coneysthorpe.

It was a pheasant. It was sat in the middle of the road close to the house, and only took off when we were very close. I was so surprised as I didn't know that this country HAD pheasants.

There is a backstory. Some of my earliest memories of childhood involve pheasants, and they were all linked to Coneysthorpe. My great aunt was housekeeper at a stately home which had regular pheasant shoots. She was rather partial to the birds, but alive, not dead. So she would encourage them to hide out in her cottage garden, bribed there with lots of maize and other delicacies. It wasn't unusual to open her back door and find a live brace of pheasant sitting, waiting patiently for breakfast, as tame as the cats who were glaring at them jealously from the roof of her garden shed.

Then there were the pheasants we received from my great uncle who worked in the Estate office of the stately home. Dad used to pluck them for Christmas dinner and the cat was allowed to play with the feathered wing.

So, my heart skipped a beat when Mr Strut My Stuff Pheasant appeared, a wonderful promise of new memories made at a different Coneysthorpe.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Suddenly right handed

I am what the Americans call a "south paw" - morbidly left handed. With the exception of ironing and cleaning my teeth, I do everything with my left hand.

Not for the next 6 weeks! I now have a brace immobilising my thumb. I hurt myself in April clipping our VERY long hedge. I didn't do anything about it at the time, thinking I'd just overdone it. Then it got worse. By September, when my dad became ill, I was a one armed bandit. This was devastating when I needed strength the most, to nurse my dad, I was helpless. Then I had to drive a manual car for 3 weeks. It got worse. Then we started to pack up and I couldn't sleep at night because every time I rolled on my arm, I woke up with the discomfort.

I finally got to the doctors yesterday and now I'm strapped up like a Thanksgiving Turkey.

It is going to make moving next week INTERESTING.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Shaking a tail feather

A vineyard local to our property has two self appointed watch dogs; well cockerels to be more accurate. They arrived one night, took up residence and now patrol the cellar door. It would appear there is the inverse of a rooster rustler in the vicinity - a nocturnal menace who gifts these noisy hoodlums to his neighbours.

And this pair know they have landed in clover. They are admired, cooed over and chased by children, and a certain amount of good natured dodging goes on when customers park or carry Sauvignon Blanc back to the car. They would make such a natty wine label. "Roving Rooster Pinot Gris" anyone?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Two kitchens, one brain, and Random Access Memory

I am in danger of losing my Christmas cake.

I haven't made it yet, but the ingredients are currently 65km apart when they should be sitting cosily together on my work bench.

The problem is I am living in two different kitchens. The new house needs cupboards and drawers cleaned to receive stuff, the old kitchen is being de-cluttered, cleaned and ingredients packed up to take north.

Somewhere in all of this, I've lost some of my Christmas cake ingredients. They've gone on holiday, sultanas with their suitcase, prunes passepartout, and currants back to Corinth!

Sigh. I wonder if James Martin has this problem?

Friday, 22 November 2013

The "local"

New Zealand is a nation of coffee drinkers, and they know what is good and what isn't. You will most likely have heard of the All Blacks, but our Long Blacks and Short Blacks are just as much a part of the Kiwi psyche.
This establishment on State Highway 1 serves GREAT COFFEE and amazing food. The owner, Neil Cohen is from Brooklyn (the NYC one, not the Wellington one). He travelled the world, married a local lass and opened up this amazing hostelry. Even on weekdays the car park is packed by 10am. Hubby reckons when he retires he'll have a seat at one of the corner tables with a brass plaque on it stating it is HIS table.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

You don't know, until you try

Little bull preferred the blades of grass on the lawn on the house side of the fence. He also figured out how to move his head sideways to free himself. Pretty smart for a kid with such hairy ears!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Wood stoves, and dreams of autumn

In the basement of our current home I have been collecting kindling.......for 8 years! We don't have a wood burner here, but I have been dreaming of one. So I couldn't bear to throw away good branches when clearing the garden. The result is we have taken a number of boxes of well dried kindling to our new house. Not that there is any shortage of any wood at Coneysthorpe; there are MANY trees to trim.

But the boxes of twigs are like the fulfilment of a promise, that one day I would own a wood burning stove. I was very attached to the small stove in my Austrian apartment and also the funny old iron stove in Grandpa Hoad's house by the lake. So the smell of wood burning on a long walk through country lanes has my brain spinning like an autumn kaleidoscope.

The previous owners at the house have very considerately left us a good stack of wood to start our winter. I suspect it will be a place of entertainment for our mice loving cats too.

The view from the garden gate

It's a pity there isn't sound with this picture, because the noise of birdsong and bees was more than just background static, it was really quite noisy. The white patches are hundreds of large daisies. Gee, it's tough being overlooked by daisies....

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Parsley, sage, rosemary and wow, what's that?

This is our local vegetable shop on State Highway 1. It is one of probably a dozen such stalls between the capital and our Rural Delivery road. Mr Brownacres also sells herby bedding plants too......be still my heart.....a herb patch cometh.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Paddock diary

I just happened to have my camera in hand when this chap landed on a paddock post. It was taken on a very long zoom setting, so I'm grateful he didn't decide to sneeze as I pressed the button.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The neighbours are friendly

The girls in the paddock are inquisitive and quite communicative in their own way. I spent at least ten minutes chatting to them this afternoon. I got a few melodic moos and twitches. However, I'm not sure they are correctly raised, because they STARE! I was raised it was not polite for a lady to stare. They also pee with gay abandon, and that should NEVER be done in public.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Unlikely guardians

My husband was born in the centre of one of the largest and most cosmopolitan capitals in Europe. He claims he didn't see the sky until his late 20s when he moved to a less congested part of the city!
I have lived and worked in Africa, E. Europe, India and the Middle East.

He and I don't use screwdrivers, if we can help it, and need counselling after trying to decorate, especially if we do it together. We employ people to do our DIY. DIY - Destroy, Implode, Yell a lot!

But we still bought a 100 year old house, with all its quirks and requirements for TLC. It was a moment of inspired insanity.

The day we took ownership, my husband stood at the end of the driveway and breathed a big sigh of contentment. "Look at all that sky!" was all he could say. He waved around his mobile phone at the garden gate and the reception was as advertised, ZERO.

I investigated the overgrown and untended veggie patch and wished I could consult dad. I managed to identify strawberry plants and some random herbs, but that was it. The lemon tree was easier to work out, due to it having lemons hanging from it.

This was going to be a steep learning curve. The highland cow in our back paddock (the cow belongs to our neighbour) had a knowing smile. Great entertainment for her.....a reality show featuring two bumbling late middle aged professionals with big hearts who went slightly soft in the head when they found Coneysthorpe.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A home that heals

We bought our new home between bereavements. My husband lost his mother early this year, recently I lost my dad. Both suffered greatly before they died. We think having our new home will be part of a healing process for us.
We have named the house after a village where my great grandparents lived and worked. It wears the name well. It will contain many memories and keepsakes of previous generations. I hope they will be a balm to us and to the house as it journeys with us.

Friday, 8 November 2013

This will be the story of a house

.......of those who lived there
.......of those who stayed there and fell in love with the trees, the hills, the native birds
.......of the cats who caught mice and all the creations in the workroom, the kitchen and garden.

Welcome to a house with a verandah, daisy strewn lawns and bobbing plum trees.

Welcome to Coneysthorpe.