Posts Tagged ‘Rivendell’

Fires and Drought

January 3, 2020


The  driveway to Rivendell 2003 with our grandson Max on his bike ( all green with thriving poplars.)



IMG_0370 bushfire at rivendell

The same driveway of Rivendell, a few days ago. 1-1-2020

The whole world now knows how Australia is in the grip of dreadful fires and a seemingly never ending and heartbreaking drought. But, more importantly, the world now also knows that Australia is lagging in doing something to avoid those catastrophes in the future by tackling the reasons for those disasters, and that is climate change.

Australia emits more than twice as much pollution per person as do similar countries elsewhere.

I thought of showing you in pictures how the drought and fires have effected our environment.


Here our two grandsons riding their bikes through the causeway of the Wollondilly river that our farm had a 1km frontage to. Things were lush and green. (Dec.2004) Plenty of water!

untitledpizza oven

Our Pizza oven at Rivendell.

Here a picture of some of the garden next to the our farm. (2003)



The Wollondilly river running alongside our farm (2010)


the old convict cottage

Old Australian cottage.

Here the old convict build cottage that was also part of Rivendell property and made into a B&B


w800-h533-2008019426_7_pi_150224_081333 The rivendell lounge room with fireplace

The living room at Rivendell.



Fire and smoke. That little yellow spot is the sun during mid-day.

And yet, our Government is loath to tackle climate-change. Our prime mister is an ardent believer in burning coal and even took a lump of it into parliament.



Peace and quiet for overwrought Seniors.

July 31, 2016
Our Pizza oven at Riven dell.

Our Pizza oven at Rivendell.

With all the shenanigans on the political and abusive side of life in Australia last week, I am really ready for garlic prawns or a good solid potato bake, perhaps even both. The prawns as an entrée and the potato bake with just some tuna in between the thinly sliced potato layers with leeks, and some sun-dried tomatoes might just do the trick. Well, not strictly sun-dried. This our last jar of home bottled ‘pizza oven’ dried, not strictly ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes. It just sounds better. Let me explain.

While finally now on our last jar of those sun-dried tomatoes, it brought back memories. We left our farm in 2010. I should now heave, perhaps with a sigh, and question where all the years have gone? That’s what many people over seventy do. Don’t they? Agile readers might well remember the large pizza oven I built while living on the farm. It was huge, and one could at a pinch, even have slept in it, as well as making pizzas, although not at the same time. I would not be the first one to sleep in a pizza oven. In Russia, many a husband after coming home drunk would be refused the share of the matrimonial bed by his stout and possibly very formidable wife, and told to sleep off his stupor on top of the stove instead.

The first attempt at building the pizza oven was disastrous. I underpinned the arched brickwork with plastic tubing while laying the bricks. The mud-mortar was nice, with the cement, lime and bush-sand mixture of the right sloppy consistency. It sat nicely on the trowel. A joy to work with. As the arched brickwork reached towards the middle from both sides I noticed a slight but ominous wobble. I should have stopped then. Helvi and our daughter were sipping tea watching me at work. I felt justified in being proud. It could well have been the reason why I continued on, despite the structure with its wobble clearly telling me to stop and let it dry out till the next day.

We all know that arches are very strong. Look at Venice, nothing but arches where-ever one looks, from bridges to buildings. Even some people when ageing, form an arched back, allowing them to go on, despite life’s tragedies or because of it. It might have been my foolish pride in front of Helvi and our daughter (sipping tea in the Northern sun) that made me go on. It might also have been the challenge that, if I could reach the middle and close the gap between both arches coming together, there would not have been a chance in the world it could ever collapse. An arch in brickwork is almost indestructible

Alas, hundreds of bricks went a flying. The plastic tubes buckled. My immediate reaction was that of total dismay. I worked for days, cleaning the old bricks I had scavenged elsewhere. I had poured the concrete floor base on which were built the walls that would carry another concrete base that had to carry the actual pizza arched oven totally enclosed on four sides but allowing a small door for fire-wood to enter and the pizzas to be cooked. The secret of a good oven is the total insulation of all the walls including the floor. My pizza oven had two layers with generous insulation between each layer. Even the chimney consisted of inner and outer stainless steel pipes. Helvi thought it was a work of art. And it was.

After the collapse, the initial moments of dismay turned into unstoppable laughter. I knew Helvi was genuinely and lovingly concerned, but our combined love for the ridiculous always takes over. What was one to do? Call an ambulance or the cops? Just ride with it, was the only answer. I got stuck in building proper formwork the next day, and re-built the arches again.

It was a great pizza oven. It would be used for pizzas, roasts,  sour-dough breads and drying those delicious small tomatoes that just about grew anywhere.

A lovely memory.

On the Farm

April 23, 2015

I remember it well, our life on the farm. It has been five years since we sold and moved where we are now. Our present house is just perfect with all the conveniences that we require. It includes a level entrance, both at the front and to the back garden with the Salvias, the Cyclamen numerous bay trees and hidden barbeque. But…it isn’t the farm! That fatal looking back came flooding in when I found the string of photos that the Estate agent took when he was engaged to try and sell our farm.

Here are some glimpses.

Rivendell on 117 acres

Rivendell on 117 acres

When remembering past we might tend to dwell on those that gave us the most joy, the best of experiences of laughter and joy,  splashing in the pool with grandkids and friends. Picking wild flowers and the smell of lemon scented eucalypt with swimming in the dams and river. We also remember growing grasses with autumnal colourings of the poplars. We planted over two hundred of them. I remember ordering the poplars and arrived with a trailer thinking It might even take a couple of trips. I was surprised to be given two bundles of sticks of a hundred each. They were two metres tall and all did have some roots and subsequently all took after we planted them along the four hundred meter driveway to the gate.

The Farm

The Farm

Bedroom with home made bed from Holland and my paintings.

Bedroom with home made bed from Holland and my paintings.

We might have forgotten the years of droughts, looking at the sky, watch the rain fall a mere seventy kilometres away, might well have been a thousand. We could not understand how that small distance could make or break a farm.  And yet, when rain broke the drought we would be dancing in the rain, it was all over and magic  made spell, spun its voodoo.

Lounge room with my biggest painting yet.

Lounge room with my biggest painting yet.

Dining room

Dining room

The plant on the left of the picture is now growing on our stairs having survived a frost during a stay outside bringing it back to a stump at soil level. It is now reaching for the top of the ceiling again. The pine table and chairs came with us from Holland 1976. Wall hanging from Sumba (Indonesia)

Convict built cottage as a holiday B&B

Convict built cottage as a holiday b&B

Kitchen of 'give and take'.

Kitchen of ‘give and take’.

The house never looked as tidy as shown. It was done for the Real estate photo shoot. With two stoves, cooking and heating was a delight. It has seen mountains of pancakes.

View from our bedroom

View from our bedroom

The cattle crush

The cattle crush

Spare bedroom

Spare bedroom

My lovely pizza oven

My lovely pizza oven

My 1996 RMW boots.

October 20, 2014


These boots were made for walking. They were bought at the same time we bought ‘Rivendell’ back in 1996. Rivendell was a property of over 110 acres. It held a large house and an old convict built slab timber hut. It was the slab timber hut that made us get the property. You could feel the history of it. Hard labour, no running water and no electricity. A family with 9 kids lived in it till the seventies when it was bought by a couple of artists who then also build the house and the farm infrastructure with holding pens, horse stables, a diary ( dairy 😉 ) and lots of dams. The property had a 2km frontage to a river. This river used to roar after rain but became a trickle during droughts. We were told that a grave on our property held the remains of a baby that had drowned in the river during the 1920s while her mother was doing her washing. Each spring a few snow-bells used to pop up above this grave which was surrounded by an old rickety picket fence.

That’s how farming is in Australia, a fairly ruthless game not for the faint hearted or the get rich quick merchants. Wild dogs including dingoes used to go for the kill during lambing times and our neighbours used to put out baits to keep on top of those killers. It also got our Border Collie ‘Bella’, who during a walk along the fence line must have taken a baited chook head. She had enough time to bolt home, crawl underneath the veranda floor and died within minutes.


We never set out to do any farming. It was a semi-retirement move but with it came the restoration of the old hut into a holiday letting with a handy income. Of course, no move into the country could be undertaken without also getting sturdy boots and Drizabone coats.

Our Farm "Rivendell"

Our Farm “Rivendell”

We still have the drizabone coats and wear them during cold and windy weather. They are a cotton soaked in boiled linseed oil fashion item and an obligatory features in many films including The Man from the Snowy river. My RMW shoes are now over 18 years old. They are still wearable but only just. I wear them knowing they came before our three grandkids were born, before the 9/11, the Iraq war or other catastrophes I might have overlooked. The RMW boots cost a fortune but they do last!

Here they are.

photoRMW Boots (1996)

The Farmer in the Riven- Dell

November 3, 2013


The above picture is the old 1880’s settlers cottage that decided for us to buy the property without even looking at the rest of the farm. It had over 110 acres including over 40 acres of native forest from which to harvest our firewood. The winters in The Southern Tablelands can be very cold, windy and -8c frosty in the mornings. We burnt at least 9 tonnes of hardwood a year and that was with the help of two gas heaters as well. The gas was supplied from large bottles and water from tanks connected to our gutters that would catch the rain, if and this was a big ‘if’ if it rained. Most times the rain would creep over from the south but stopped short of our mountain range.

It was agony watching the rain develop on the web-site of the Bureau of Meteorology and the blue rain map would stop short by about ten kilometres from our farm. When it would reach our area the whole atmosphere changed. The local farmers would go out and shop, start spending a bit of money, ate out with wives having had their hair done.
We fought the endless drought tooth and nail by connecting water tanks to any bit of roof that would catch rain, even heavy dew would be collected from the galvanized roofs. All grey water from doing washing and dishes would be directed to large plastic drums and with buckets we watered the garden with a priority given to our immediate gardens surrounding our farm house.

The golden rule on showers was, short 2 minutes at the max and no lingering. Preferably just a wipe ‘here and there’ and wait for rain. The other rule in place; if it is yellow let it mellow, if brown, flush it down. Our pheromones were working overtime and many a romantic night would follow from our ablution (lack off) rigours. 😉 Hardships brings together and it was never that bad that we did not find comfort in each other and friendships from the locals.


This was one of the locals. He was in charge of the local rubbish dump. The amazing things was that he transformed the perimeter of the dump into a lovely garden. Each year it became better. I wrote a piece about him for the Australian Broadcasting Commission,’The Drum’. It was published.
Here it is;