Well can you believe it folks, today marks the two-year anniversary of our relocation to what, of course, is now known as Block Eight. I still recall that first night we arrived with a truck load of possessions from our very different inner city life and we set up camp in the empty living room, cooked a steak over a coal barbecue on the deck and cracked our first ever bottle of Brokenwood’s Block 8 Semillon. Two years seems simultaneously like an entire lifetime, and a bare intake of breath.
Much as you love my countdowns of the most memorable moments, I have way too much news to share with you all so rather than be one of those sitcom episodes full of replays (or vinaigrettes as someone I know once wrongly called them) I will update you instead on all the latest happenings.
Let’s start with new directions. I took redundancy from eBay after almost thirteen years with the company. Needless to say the last three weeks were both surreal and momentous. They flew by very quickly and before I knew it I was at the farewell drinks bidding all those memories goodbye. A handful (of hand selected) people made it very special for me, bless them one and all. My first non-eBay week was a revelation, freed from the everyday goings on that had more or less consumed me for more than one quarter of my life, I was left to concentrate on Block Eight without interruption. That meant about five straight days on the tractor mowing all the lawns and my how she does gleam when she’s had a good polish.
My dad has a saying (well he has more than a million but one of them in particular is) “what’s meant for you won’t go past you.” After my third last day at eBay I walked down to the Opera Bar in front of the Harbour Bridge and treated myself to a beer in the sun before heading off to see a Woody Allen film. It was while I was there that I received an email from the Head of Publishing at Simon & Schuster. Yes, while I was sitting there pondering what life after eBay would bring, I received an offer to have my novel, Tom Houghton, published. After many many years of writing non-fiction I am so happy to be back in the genre I love most, and especially thrilled to be published by Simon & Schuster, a team I respect immensely. The book will be published in the second half of next year so you will just have to stay tuned until then.
Spring has well and truly sprung at Block Eight. This means the usual – figs and other fruit trees budding and green, the grape vines waking up after a long sleep, our grass green and lush. But as I walked down to feed the ducks the other day I could only count three of them. My heart sank. I assumed the fox was back and had claimed yet another. Three ducks on the dam, I called out to them but still only three heads came bobbing. But there soon emerged a fourth head, from beneath the swaying body of the third head. I can now confirm that we have at least one boy, and one girl duck. I doubt very much that their fertilised eggs will survive a spring under the watchful eyes of the crows and goannas but it was lovely to see them in copulation.
Our bird expansion does continue in the chook house. Three steps forward, one back. We bought three Japanese quails the other week and named them Anne, Nicole & Smith. We built them a new little area within the chook house, having read that chooks can kill them so best not to experiment. They all settled in nicely and the chooks weren’t overly curious, but Smith moreso and made an escape through a small hole in the wire. We retrieved her and returned her to safety before any damage was done but alas lesson not learnt. A few days later Jeff (always Jeff!) went to feed them and Smith had again escaped though this time not so lucky. A murder of crows was pecking away at what was left of her body – two little legs was all, I’m afraid. Hopefully Anna & Nicole have learnt what Smith could not. They are lovely little birds and we hope to sample their eggs before too long.
Laverne & Shirley settled in very nicely among the chooks and quickly rose to the top of the pecking order. Shirley forced her way onto the “top dog” wrung in the hen house fairly quickly (reserved only for black hens) and Laverne with her lovely grey chest feathers amid her auburn is now the boss, and often flies the coop and can be seen free ranging though we know not how she escapes. Barry, our beloved Barry, is no longer the bottom of the pecking order. Barry, believe it or not, could usually stand being hen pecked – she just got on with it. The same cannot be said for the new pariah, our Lizzie Birdsworth. I suppose her limp made her a natural target. Unlike Barry, she is paralysed with fear whenever any of the other girls come her way, and lays prostate against the ground. Seeing her thus, any number of hens will then charge at her and peck at the back of her head. She can regularly be heard producing a pathetic little squeak. We try to beef her up with special meals, often set her free on her own (her favourite place is to hide out in the dark shed with Leroy – yes, bird hating Leroy). One way or another surely her days are numbered.
Thank you to all our wonderful supporters who purchased our wines. We were so happy with the response of everyone, and enjoyed hearing that you like the taste so much. Now it’s full steam ahead with getting the wine noticed via marketing and reviews and this is one of my first jobs in my new non-eBay world. Hopefully we will have some news to share on that by the next time I write a blog. Next up we will be bottling the Chardonnay over the next couple of weeks – oh it promises to be a very special and rare drop – we might get around 500 bottles.
The building of the cabins now continues full steam ahead. We should have another one open by the end of the year / perhaps early next. I spent a bit of time talking to some of our houseguests on the weekend and it was so encouraging to hear them speak so fondly of the experience we offer. The bookings keep ticking over and we enjoy making sure the house and villa are set up to provide a memorable stay.
We took some rare time out from the property a few weekends ago to visit the kids in Brisbane for their birthdays. If you want a reality check you might be as surprised as me to appreciate that already, Lucy is 9 and Charlie is 8. We had a great time and for their present we got together with Jane & Vicky and redecorated the kids’ bedrooms. Lucy requested a Paris theme, Charlie Marvel. Jeff once again truly outdid himself.
Though it’s a wasted emotion, I feel guilty sitting here typing away when there is so much work to do on the property and as I hit the keys I can hear the tractor as Jeff is up in the vines spraying the first of the season. Give me a break though dear readers, Jeff did insist I write the blog to celebrate our two years. We are investing in the olives this season so we might – just might – get a small harvest out of them too. Spraying, mowing, trimming, tying, grass cutting, watering, fertilising… and now I am investing more time in the orchard too with hopes of a modest harvest. Already there are enough mulberries to make dad a much yearned-for jar of purple jam.
An abundance of passionfruit has resulted in a few small batches of curd, a tart and tonight’s task my first passionfruit jam. The lime tree just will not stop producing and while I was too busy to do anything with the winter crop (most went to waste, frustratingly) it is laden with flowers again and promises more fruit than ever now that I have fertilised it for the first time and am keeping its water up. I’m also expecting a fig bounty. Might be time for me to sell some of this produce on the website so stay tuned.
The veggie patch has also boomed after some tender loving care. Carrots the size of elephant’s trunks, beetroot as sweet as treacle, parsley as bushy as the bushiest bush in Bushville (and that’s bushy), tomatoes in flower, broad beans (I’ll share this season MJ), silverbeet that will not stop, fresh crisp lettuce, a veritable forest of peppery rocket and I’m barely scratching the surface. Sometimes I wonder how I ever did fit in all of this with a part time corporate job!
And where better to end my two-year anniversary blog than almost where we began. After many hard hours doing the lawns the other afternoon we sat on our deck enjoying a beer. “What’s that floating in the dam?” I said to Jeff. “Oh no,” he sighed, “we’d better go check.” We walked down there with beers in hand, fearing the worst. “It’s just reeds,” I said. “You almost wish it was something more, don’t you?” Jeff asked. And we laughed. I wrote a short story about our kangaroo experience from year one and it will be published in October in an online magazine called Cuttings, which is available for download for iPad. Search “Cuttings” at the Apple Store.
We had a few technical issues when we first launched the website so please sign up again to be a Mate of Block Eight and we will make sure you are only registered once. Do so by 30th September for your chance to win a case of our delicious wine.