Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stories yet to be written...

I feel certain that this year, like the last, will be full of new stories. Some to be blogged, some to be kept private, some to share with family and to be celebrated, some to be forgotten with shame.

Alas, I don't know in what form these stories will present themselves; nor in what measures there will be joy or pain. The only hope I have is that my part in them will be good: I don't mean I wish to be the protagonist or hero, I mean that I hope when I reflect upon the stories in years to come my character was at least kind, or noble; was able to make the best of any situation.

HM The Queen in this year's Christmas message encouraged the practice of reflection upon One's life and One's circumstances. Indeed it is important to analyse what One did right and would do again, and what One did wrong; and thus how One would do it differently next time.

For me each year, between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, it is time to reflect upon and write anew my new year's resolutions. I have been keeping new year's resolutions every year since I was sixteen. Much like my usual 'to do' lists (I'm a big fan of lists), nothing ever leaves the new year's resolution list unless it has been achieved. This is not to say that I achieve everything I set out to every year, but if not it gets rolled-over onto the next year's list. And it stays that way until I can cross it off one way or another. Looking back at last year's has proved satisfactory, but there are still quite a few things being rolled over this year and likely to be rolled over the year after next as well (for instance, there are no fencing classes in Dubbo for me to learn the ancient art of swordsmanship!).

There is also, however, the Edna Mode philosophy: not to spend so much time worrying about what One could have done after the event that you fail to pay enough attention to the opportunities around you in the here and now.

Better, I think, at this time to be like the Roman god Janus, to have the wisdom to reflect on the past, learn from mistakes and ensure that no matter what life deals you you don't make the same bad decision more than once; whilst at the same time looking forward, seeking opportunities and squeezing the most out of every one that comes along - because every opportunity has an expiry date.

Poised at the brink of a new year I know for some tomorrow is just another day. But for me it's another opportunity to shape the course of my life, to bring myself one step closure to achieving my resolutions.
 faber est suæ quisque fortunae
- every man is the architect of his own fortune. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Summer Camp for Sir Rawdon...

Sir Rawdon is going off to Summer camp to help children learn how to ride. It will be fun for him to socialise with other horses and get some more exercise, but also will be great for the children. The summer camp is run by friends of ours, and is called Hikumutu.

"Hikumutu camps (originally Happy Valley) were founded in 1974, when teenager Val Murray had the dream of growing her own Christian horse-riding camps, giving youth nationwide an opportunity to enjoy real country riding and a loving Christian community. In 2001 Revs Val and Lance Riches moved the camps to their family farm to enjoy the bush, hills, rivers and mountain views of the King Country. The Hikumutu Lodge was established and the dream had become a legacy through the hard work and prayers of many…"

Photos and history from the Hikumutu website.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas one and all, near and far. Well, It's almost another year of blogging over again at WBP. Thank you to everyone who has followed, commented, supported us, or just dropped in from time to time to catch up. As followers will know, it has been a year of tremendous change, with immigrating to Australia for work, and finally after many years of planning, beginning construction on WBP. Looking back I still can't believe it has all come together as well as it has.

But it will also be a very different Christmas this year. This year I won't be surrounded by my family and friends on Christmas day; I won't be attending Midnight Mass at St Peter's for the first time in 10 years; I won't be sharing 1am mince tarts and sherry with my friends afterwards; and I won't be playing my traditional "Driving home for Christmas"on my way back from work...

Instead I will be working the late shift in ED right through the festive period, and coming home to listen to "I miss you most at Christmas time"...

But all this will be worth while when we can celebrate next year, once again surrounded by all my loved ones, and at WBP for the first time. So here's wishing you all a truly happy and love-filled Christmas, [especially Peter and Willoughby!]


Friday, December 20, 2013

Willowbrook Christmas Update...

Well, last week I had a quick trip back to NZ, just for four days, to see how everything was going, and to catch up with friends and my Dad who was back in the country for Christmas. Everything was doing pretty well out at WBP...

Above and below: The entrance to the Bluebell Walk. It has come on quite quickly since it was planted 2.5 years ago.

Below: The grass knoll behind the lake where the Temple Folly is going.
Below: The plans for the Temple Folly

Below: The view down the south avenue of The Lime Walk from the upper balcony.
Below: Same view from the start of the avenue. Note where the statue of Bacchus is currently shall be the position for the Roman Rotunda.
Below: The plans for the Roman Rotunda
Below: The view from the Rotunda back to the Manor
Below: The view down the east avenue of the Lime Walk from the Rotunda to the Urn en Flambeau
Below: The view from the Rotunda down the north avenue towards the farm...
Below: A panorama from the farm gate at the end of the north avenue, with the new barn on the left and the large piles of mulch ready for use.
Below: View of The Nymphaeum from the upper balcony.
Below: The Vineyard, which has come on in at a great rate since it was created just over 12 month ago.
Below: My friend Gaynor at the entrance to The Vineyard from The Potager.
Below: Some of the berry beds in The Potager. The one in the centre is full of black currants.
Below: Blackberry Blossoms...
Below: Raspberries
Below: The Dovecote with the entrance to The Orchard from The Potager behind it.
Below: Willoughby decided he was too tired to shift when Daddy was trimming the hedge.
Below: The Orchard, with a view of The Manor rising in the distance.
Below: One of the Horse Chestnuts. They are the slowest growing of all the trees that we have planted, but they have still grown about 3 feet over 2 years.
A view over to Spencer's corner and The Nymphaeum...

Manor House Progress...
This week the block work was finished for the second floor, ready for the trusses to go on hopefully by Friday. Then the builders will be having two weeks off for Christmas, before getting back into it (which is really neat, as most builders would take a month off over this period). We are tracking on time and on budget so far. At this rate the roof should be on early February, with lock up not too far behind that. They are also planning on starting construction of the Carriage House and Chapel in the new year, then the huge job of the interior fit out will start.
Above: A view of the Manor from the West.
Below: A view of the Manor from the South.
Above: A view of the front portico forming, with the balcony above.
Below: A view inside The Manor from the front door.
Above: A view inside The Ballroom. It looks small inside until you have something to give it scale, such as in the photo below, where Peter is standing in one of the arched doorways...
Below: A view of Badger's Wood and The Serpentine Walk from the upper balcony.
And finally, a view of the sunset from the Master Bedroom...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mystic Mistletoe...

Mistletoe is an interesting parasitic plant. It grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and steal nutrients. 

There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are poisonous. 

It commonly seen on apple trees, and only rarely on oak trees despite it's association with Oaks. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and to be an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor.

The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Roman festival of the Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They probably originates from the belief that it has power to bestow fertility. In the eighteenth-century the English created the tradition of the kissing ball. At Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance, or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she could not expect not to marry in the coming year.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. In Norse mythology it is associated with the Goddess Frigga. Frigga was goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that whoever should stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love.

Above: Mistletoe strangling an apple tree.

However, the mistletoe is under threat, as The Guardian reports...

The future supply of traditional English mistletoe is under threat, conservationists have warned. Mistletoe thrives in established apple orchards but such habitats have seen a big decline over the past 60 years. The National Trust is urging people to buy home-grown mistletoe in the run-up to Christmas in a bid to ensure revelers can go on kissing under it. Trust ecologist Peter Brash said it would be a "sad loss" if mistletoe disappeared from its traditional areas.

At least 60% of old orchards in the "cider country" of Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire have disappeared since the 1950s. The decline has been even more dramatic in Devon and Kent, where the figure is as much as 90%. Mr Brash said: "Mistletoe is part of our Christmas heritage and has a special place in a wonderful winter landscape. "It would be a sad loss if mistletoe disappeared altogether from its heartland. We could end up relying on imports of mistletoe from mainland Europe for those festive kisses." The trust also wants people to ask where the mistletoe they are buying is sourced from. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that favours the domestic apple tree, but can also be  found on lime, poplar and hawthorn trees across the UK.

The market town of Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire holds an annual mistletoe festival with a procession led by druids. One of the druids, Suzanne Thomas, said of the plant: "It's magic. It's just amazing stuff. It's got this lovely energy about it." Mistletoe expert Jonathan Briggs said the plant benefited from a managed environment. "Unchecked, it will swamp its host tree and ultimately cause it to die," he said. "Regular, managed cropping will ensure that the host tree remains productive while ensuring that a healthy population of mistletoe will persist." Agriculture minister Jim Paice said there was more to mistletoe than its "traditional amorous role". "Buying mistletoe helps traditional British cider apple orchards thrive by removing mistletoe from apple trees," he said. "By buying mistletoe at Christmas, you're continuing a tradition that helps apple trees to flourish."

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