Wendyl’s country diary
Wendyl Nissen relishes being able to greet each day with a stroll around favourite parts of her property.
It has finally happened. I have a country morning routine to replace my previous city one of alarm clocks, selecting and ironing clothes, applying make-up, doing hair, breakfast, kiss the family and dogs, then out the door to the office. For the past three months I have woken early, had a cup of tea in bed then charged outside to do what I rather ostentatiously call my “morning walk around the property!”
What I’m actually doing is checking in with several favourite things. So in my nightie (no neighbours in sight are a blessing) I head off with the two dogs up the driveway to visit the frog pond. One day before Christmas I was serenaded on my walk around the property by not one but three male frogs croaking away, hoping to attract a mate. They are Golden Bell frogs, which, unusually, are active during the day. The mating call sounds a lot like a motorbike, which is what I thought it was until I realised the noise was coming from the edge of the pond. The dogs listened with me, their heads cocked to one side, then the other, trying to make sense of the new sound. Knowing the frogs had serious mating to do I left them to it.
The pond is a blessing in the summer, but in the winter underground water rushes beneath it and pushes the lining up, efficiently emptying it. My friend Richie, who is my go-to lawnmower guy and handyman, has shown me how to drain it with a length of hose which I suck on to get the water moving and then leave to drain down a stream.
In the summer the pond can lose water in the heat so I top it up from a tank I have by the shed. Recently my dog Flo has taken to floating in it three or four times a day to cool off. She simply lowers herself in like an old lady at the baths, floats there serenely for a few minutes, then hops out. I am waiting for the day when she rips a big hole in the lining with her claws, but until then I like watching her moment of pleasure.
So that is why I check my pond every morning.
After the pond, I visit the berry house. When we inherited the house it was full of weeds with a few berry vines struggling away underneath. This is the first summer we have managed to keep it weeded because we’ve actually been around to do it. I mended all the holes in the wire netting with an upholstery needle and some string and sprayed with neem oil when I realised that insects were eating all the leaves.
There are still a few morsels to be gathered to add to our cereal for breakfast, so that is why I visit the berry house every morning.
Then it is into the orchard, where things have never looked better. After three years of pruning (Richie does that), mulching, feeding, and the past few months of refilling codling moth traps, spraying with neem and having a little chat to my trees, we have a bumper crop of figs, plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, quince and, most astonishingly, avocados. A year ago I rescued the avocado tree from a cage that had been built around it and gave it a good feed. Over the next few months it spread its branches and seemed to double in size. It rewarded me last year with five beautiful avocados; this year there are at least 30.
The dogs and I then go over to the wildflower meadow, which was a bit of a pain this season. Due to my negligence last year, it was colonised by all sorts of weeds, which clog any chance of a pretty wildflower sprouting. So I weeded, and weeded and weeded. Then I sowed and sowed and sowed and finally I have a smattering of flowers, but it’s nowhere near the picture-perfect meadow I had envisaged, so my morning inspection serves as a mental note to try harder next year.
Finally, we finish at the vege patch. I’ve realised that my old attitude of whatever survives amidst the weeds is okay just doesn’t cut it. A daily weed is what it is all about. So as the dogs lie about on the lawn, I spend 10 or so minutes in a sort of meditative state pulling weeds and thinking about the day ahead, wondering when the tide will be high and I can have a swim, and what work will keep me inside and for how long.
Then, with the early-morning routine done, I’m ready to start my day.
There are still a few morsels to be gathered to add to our cereal.