Harvest Festival

As I sit bundled up under sweaters and knitted throws, looking out on a cold, grey sky, I’m calling up a warmer day last month when we journeyed out with our mates to experience the Autumn Harvest Festival at Rouse Hill House and Farm. The house and farm are part of Sydney Living Museums, a group of historic structures and gardens, such as Vaucluse House that I wrote about last year.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (2 of 27)I’m afraid I went with notions of the familiar American harvest festival, expecting big orange pumpkins, some hot apple cider, and maybe a hayride.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (1 of 27)We did get to eat scones with jam and fresh cream while sitting on hay bales! These were proper scones, not the fry bread that Utahns try to pass off as scones.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (6 of 27)And there was some beautiful harvest bounty.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (7 of 27)I sought out orange where I could find it. (over in the corner. the carrots)

Rouse Hill House and Farm (1 of 4)This looks more like spring! But I still have a lot to learn about planting and growing here.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (9 of 27)There were stalls with lots of yummy things to eat. Eat Me Chutneys rescues “unsold, wonky and bruised produce and convert it into epic chutneys.” We got some of the tamarind and fig. It was indeed epic!

Rouse Hill House and Farm (3 of 4)I found myself enchanted by the lovely displays. I’m a sucker for things in jars. So is my husband. Several jars followed us home.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (4 of 27)Things in beakers also win me over!

Rouse Hill House and Farm (11 of 27)I didn’t try Loli’s Organic Nut Butters, but they looked delicious.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (4 of 4)I can not tell you how badly I wanted to ring this bell in front of the old schoolhouse. If they hadn’t put that sign there, I wouldn’t have even considered it.

Rouse Hill House old photo (1 of 1)Rouse Hill House was constructed in the early 1800s. Six generations of the family lived there up until the late 1990s when it was opened as a museum.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (18 of 27)Today, the house on the hill is abuzz with visitors.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (21 of 27)The house and farm is built on the site of the Battle of Vinegar Hill, a convict uprising in 1804, led by Irish political prisoners and named for the battle that took place in Ireland in 1798 between the British Redcoats and Irish rebels. It was sobering to look out on the quiet open space and think of the strife that unraveled there so long ago.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (22 of 27)I find it quite thrilling to travel down these old roads to find the history there. There are many more Sydney Living Museum sites I hope to visit, including homes, a barracks, the mint, and more. I’ve learned that in some they have candle-lit tours available! Now that sounds fun!

 

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A Historical Walk Through Balmain

On a crisp, sunny day way last June, I set off on foot with the lovely Merrolee to do a walking tour of Balmain’s historical architecture. Balmain is full of old homes and buildings dating from the 1840s. On previous jaunts around town, I’d admired and wondered about the history of them, so was thrilled when Merrolee told me about the self-guided tours.

Balmain Historical Walk (2 of 27)Our journey began down by the wharf, with Bell’s Store which was built in 1888. It was originally a warehouse. That beautiful stepped gable was demolished by Fenwick’s tugboat company in order to provide a better view of the boating operations. It was restored in 2012 using old photographs as guides.

Balmain Historical Walk (1 of 27)The sandstone was likely quarried nearby. The arrangement of the blocks and the surface carving are examples of the style of the time. Mortar was made from burnt oyster shells from the harbour. I get a little thrill to see the marks made by hands from long ago, it makes the connection to that person a little more real.

Balmain Historical Walk (1 of 1)Just up the road a bit, is Waterman’s Cottage built in 1841 by stonemason John Cavill for McKenzie the Waterman who provided ferry service in and out of Balmain. Overland travel was still muddy and treacherous, so the ferry was an important service. Many of the older buildings in Balmain have these corner facing doors.

Balmain Historical Walk (3 of 27)Apparently, McKenzie meant to add a terrace here, but it was never finished.

Balmain Historical Walk (5 of 27)The Cahermore was one of the many original pubs built in Balmain.

Balmain Historical Walk (8 of 27)The Unity Hall was a hotel and a meeting place for a Friendly Society, Balmain Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, an early form of insurance. It was also a drinking establishment.

Hotels in Australia are actually public houses, or pubs; places to eat and drink rather than bed down for the night, although in the early days, hotels were required to have at least two sleeping rooms suitable for accommodation.

This nomenclature was quite confusing to us in our early days in ‘Straya. And not just us apparently; one day we were having dinner at the East Village Hotel in Balmain, when a woman came strolling in pulling her suitcase behind her. She looked confused as well.

Balmain Historical Walk (12 of 27)
There was much more to see on the walk than just what was officially on the tour. We aren’t sure, but think this was what remains of the original dunny. Dunnies were similar to outhouses and provided sanitation until 1913 in Balmain. The dunny man would come along in the early hours or at night and collect the waste through the dunny door. This service could be had for 1 pound per annum.

Balmain Historical Walk (14 of 27)I had been fascinated with this house since our arrival in Balmain, and would pay to see the insides. I wish they did public open houses. It’s a private residence. Named Ewenton Mansion after one of its owners, it represents three separate phases of construction. First in 1854 Robert Blake, a former quartermaster turned civilian sheriff, built a single story house which he named Blake Vale. In 1856, Major Ewen Wallace Cameron bought it, named it after himself, and hired architect James MacDonald to add an entrance portico and the stone upper story. In 1872 the three story wing on the left was added to accommodate the growing family.

This is just a smattering of the interesting sights along the tour. One of my favorite things about living in Australia is the history that is close at hand in every direction. There are heaps of these types of self-guided walking tours as well as plenty of historical houses and gardens to visit like Vaucluse House , one of the Sydney Living Museums sites. I hope to visit more of these in the upcoming months!

 

 

 

Visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney

RoyalBotanicGardens (3 of 23)September 1st is considered the first day of spring down here in Australia. In celebration, I wandered over to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where the new season was certainly putting on a show.  I’m making an effort to take myself on a field trip each week and write about it here. One of my biggest fears is that our time here will come to a close and we’ll not have really experienced the place.

RoyalBotanicGardens (18 of 23)I chose the gardens this week as I’m trying to connect physically with Australia, and understand the cycle of nature here. I’ve found in the past that I do form a better connection with a locality once I am familiar with the natural environment. I didn’t grow to love Utah until I read Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, and made that journey out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge myself.

RoyalBotanicGardens (9 of 23)The seasons are still really confusing to me. I keep thinking it’s April.

RoyalBotanicGardens (5 of 23)I’m curious to learn about the native Australian plants, and what blooms when. At the Gardens, there is a mixture of native and imported plants, and not all of the plants have identifying markers. I did find it curious that I’m so focused on knowing which ones are natives, because most of the plants I’ve always associated with spring, were not native to the U.S., but rather Europe and Asia. I guess it’s part of wanting to understand the natural environment, the real Australia before Europeans showed up.

RoyalBotanicGardens (4 of 23)Prior to 1788 when the First Fleet arrived in Australia, the land where the Royal Botanic Gardens are now, was used as a ceremonial ground by the Cadigal people. They held initiation ceremonies to mark the coming of age of their young men. When the British arrived they cleared the land to make way for their social experiment, killed kangaroos, and by August had almost depleted fish from the harbor. Farm Cove was planted and houses built up around the area.

RoyalBotanicGardens (20 of 23)In 1807, Governor Bligh had the houses removed, and then when Governor Macquarie and his wife came along, they began building walls and making a private English parkland type area, only available to what he referred to as the respectable class of inhabitants of the area. The Botanic Garden was established by 1816,

RoyalBotanicGardens (16 of 23)The botanist Charles Fraser was appointed Government Colonial Botanist in 1821. After Fraser’s death in 1831, it seems that there was a string of short lived Colonial Botanist assignments. Richard Cunningham was clubbed to death in 1835 after serving for two years. Allen Cunningham lasted less than a year, being appointed Colonial Botanist and Superintendent in February and resigning in December, and died soon after. Then came James Anderson as Superintendent in 1838, until he died in 1842. Nasmith Robertson was superintendent from 1842-1844 when he…wait for it!… died. Is it just me, or does this position seem cursed?

RoyalBotanicGardens (22 of 23)Charles Moore came on as director in 1848. He lasted several years. He also introduced regulations prohibiting, according to the RBG website, “all persons of reputed bad character…persons who are not cleanly and decently dressed…. and all young persons not accompanied by some respectable adult.” It sounds an awful lot like Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

RoyalBotanicGardens (23 of 23)Over the years, many varieties of plants were imported from Europe. The gardens saw an herbarium, an aviary, a zoo, and an insectarium all added to the grounds. The zoo and aviary are long gone. Many of these Moreton Bay Figs remain, which are over 100 years old.

RoyalBotanicGardens (2 of 5)When I saw this statue out of the corner of my eye, I had to laugh when I realized that the first thought that registered was that he was checking his phone.

RoyalBotanicGardens (7 of 23)I only touched on a portion of the gardens, completely missing the Cadi Jam Ora, or First Encounters garden walk, where I would have learned about those native species I was looking for. I also didn’t have time to view the herb garden. The Royal Botanic Gardens are free to visit and are open year-round. A variety of events take place in the gardens, and there are free and for-a-fee tours that you can join. There is a lovely gift shop where you can buy Australian native seeds. The park boasts a cafe and a restaurant, and the Growing Friends propagate plants for sale. I’ll be going back for sure!