Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weekend in Clare

October 8th

It's over a week since I have written anything - so much for the enthusiastic start. My only excuse is that I am on holidays and have been very busy gardening and spring cleaning.

Don and I have just come back from a wonderful weekend away. We spent it at a town in the mid-north of our state - Clare - a town which is the centre of a thriving wine area. Old friends of ours have a property there and we stayed with them. There were eight of us in all - all old friends from Teachers' College days and although we haven't seen much of each other for years, it was a relaxed and comfortable time - almost like we had been seeing each other regularly for the last 40 years. We laughed, reminisced, ate great food, drank good wine and generally had a wonderful time.

The house we stayed in is amazing. It is about 100 years old and the property has been in the same family for well over 100 years. There are about 300 acres of it now, but originally it was somewhat larger. It was a farm property and the family consisted of 8 children - 2 boys and 6 girls and their parents. Five of the girls were unmarried and stayed on the property helping to run the farm. They spent the mornings working on the farm and the afternoons doing ladylike things like painting, embroidery, crocheting, tatting and reading. Never an idle minute.

One of my friends is the great grand daughter of the founder of the family and she and her brother and sister and their partners now own the property and run a small vineyard in their spare time.

The amazing thing about all this is that the family have kept every thing they ever owned, from farm receipts, to invoices, to letters, postcards, photos, books, handwork, tools, utensils, furniture, cushions, paintings, knickknacks - everything! Nothing was ever disposed of - not even receipts for furniture that was purchased when the house was built.. Now the current generation have carefully and lovingly restored and catalogued every item, have researched the family history, compiled photo albums, letter collections etc. The whole house looks as if the 5 daughters have simply stepped out for a moment. It is a time warp of farm life for the last 100 years. It isn't museum, do not touch stuff. The family visits every weekend and lives there in the holidays. It is all very functional and comfortable and the most fascinating place I have ever stayed in.

I would just love the chance to get my hands on the garden and create a setting for the house - but then I guess that would be unrealistic as farmers in those times did not usually have much time for the garden. But there are wonderful old outbuildings and fruit trees and shrubs that are part of the history of the property.

Unfortunately this time I did not take photos - I was too busy exploring and examining everything, but next time I will take some snaps of this amazing old property.

Liz Needle

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