Christmas Chicks

Sorry if the title misleads you, but after ten years of having chickens here on the Mount, we have never had success in raising chicks. Even now that we have Long John Silver, our Plymouth Rock Rooster, so aptly named by Colin for his long legs and silver plumage, we have had no success. Maybe it’s the cold, or the fact that our hens don’t get broody for some reason. I don’t know why, really. Long John Silver seems to be doing his best, but the girls are not clucky.

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On the other hand, my mother-in-law, Esther and sister-in-law, Maree have always inspired me to tackle the impossible. They do just this – not once in a while, but every day. From sewing, upholstering, inventing and solving intricate problems, they have taught me to give it a go. My mother-in-law has raised many chicks, chickens, peacocks, parrots, ducks and pheasants and nursed and nurtured them in the cold and in the heat. So when she gave four hens to Maree a couple of months ago, little did we know that new life would hatch so quickly. Just today, her broody chicken, Naomi, patiently sitting on four “borrowed” eggs and hand fed by Maree during the incubation delivered her brood. They are the Christmas Chicks – the miracle of new life; the wonderful parallel to the waiting and watching which we commemorate at His birth.

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The Christmas story is one of simplicity and reverence – for life, for the wonder of discovery, the hope of the new and the love shown to God’s creatures, great and small.

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May we not dismiss the fragility of life, the deep care we show for each other, echoed in the most basic of all stories – that of a simple birth witnessed by those simple creatures long, long ago. Merry Christmas – let’s take a moment to appreciate what we all have.

Go to the back of the block, sit down and stop

As any one with a large (or even not so large) garden knows, there are always jobs to do: extensive seasonal tasks like pruning and planting as well as weekend jobs such as raking and weeding. With so many tasks we are often left with little time and energy to simply sit and contemplate our efforts let alone the stillness and solace a garden can bring. So today, after we finished the mowing (well, Colin actually did that), the raking and the wheelbarrowing I have decided to spend some time at the back of the block, simply sitting and contemplating.

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Though quite rugged and unruly, the back of our block extends to the next street via a series of steps. Flanked by rhododendrons, emerging, acanthus it winds its way down and up the hillside.

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It can be a wild old place, this bush land but the newly mowed pathways help.

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These little moments of quiet in our frantic world seem few and far between. The habits of keeping busy, keeping time and keeping track suffuse those little moments when we allow ourselves to stop, sit and listen to the rustling of the leaves in the breeze, chirping of the birds and the buzz of the insects. That’s what I’m doing now sitting on these old chairs. Join me for the outlook.

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Here on the Mount it can be up to seven degrees cooler than in the city. The cool weather and the altitude can also impede our time outside. In my first few years here I used to garden in mid July wearing two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks – on my feet, that is! By the time Spring came along I could sit back and enjoy my hard work. Some of those rewards are still evident in this cold climate garden.

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The first iris of the season

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The clematis searching for sun
Sitting here in the sun, I am reminded that the garden offers us such peace if we allow it to show us how to slow down and discover what it wants to tell us. How does the garden speak to you?

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Share your gardening comments with me, I’d like to read your thoughts and suggestions for utilising both tasks and down time in the garden.

Garden Gratitude Theme: Pink

No, not the popular female singer but the crimson colours of the camelias! On this unusually sunny morning and the walkways strewn with pink petals, it never ceases to amaze me how these trees push forth their abundance.

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In our decade here on the Mount, we have experienced drought conditions, heat waves, strong, hot northern winds and torrential rains. As a consequence, we have lost our fair share of important trees – a weeping cherry, the year we went to Italy; an established magnolia, the year of the drought and along with it, a magnificent pale pink rhododendron, odorata. With these significant losses we have tried to keep our mainstay trees alive during summer. Perhaps our lovely neighbours’ example of abundant watering makes sense! Our rewards are many.

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If you look carefully you can make out our rooster’s tail feathers in the background!

My gratitude really must go to the previous own of this property. She was a remarkable woman. Raising her four children alone and working as a nurse by night, she had a grand vision of the colours in a garden. Painstakingly planting camelias, rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs and magnolias she created an English garden beneath a canopy of gum trees. In this season, however, it is the camelia which takes pride of place.

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Some of them only briefly make their appearance.

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Others linger to create carpets of petals.

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At least one of our weeping cherries survived!

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With this vision of abundance we marvel at nature itself: its glory, its veritable magnificence which reaffirms our own existence.

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Are you “pinked” out yet?

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The English poets knew their landscapes. William Wordsworth wrote of paths and country meanderings. John Milton wrote about “those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world”. For me these are all found in a garden.

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One last flourish before I go (pardon the pun) – happy gardening, contemplating and appreciating!