Soil Sisters


A gate at Dunblane

There is nothing quite as special as having a sibling to share one’s passion with. I am presently visiting one of my sisters in southern New South Wales. It’s beautiful country, one of my favourite places in Australia in fact. She lives in Burragate, a tiny rural hamlet nestled between the Sapphire Coast and the Snowy Mountains. My sister, Donna, and I share what I like to call ‘dirt DNA’, coming from a long line of avid gardeners. Not only soul sisters, but also soil siblings.

Our time together is always too short and very busy; there are people to visit, gardens to admire, galleries to view, and projects to tackle, like cleaning and plaiting the recent garlic crop. But garden time is the most precious.

cleaned garlic

During this visit, our biggest project was to tame (but not too much) the wilderness that is my sister’s vegetable garden. We both like the wildness that comes with an eclectic approach and subscribe to companion planting with edible plants ‘leaf by stalk’ alongside a riot of flowers.

The reconfiguration was necessary to make crop rotation easier, increase accessibility, and to create a utility area for compost bins, pot storage, and a potting bench. So we set about planning an oval wood-chip pathway with timber border edging. Now, I do concede my nephew would have achieved in a day what took us several, but then he is young. We achieved the same end, albeit a little bit later.


The utility area under construction

Donna tending the garden

Donna tending the garden

Well I won’t go on about all we did: the digging, weeding, carting, leveling – and did I say digging? Suffice to say we fell into bed and instant slumber every night, dreaming of the finished result and the joy of accomplishing something together. Each evening we acknowledged our good fortune for the roof over our heads, the bounty the earth provides for our table, and … for each other. This made especially poignant when we awoke to the news of terrorist attacks in Paris.

As I mentioned, we took time to visit friends, Liz and Paddy, whose garden is truly worthy of ‘botanical garden’ status. They came to their beautiful 620 acre property, Dunblane in 2010 and in the short time since, have transformed the farm into a holistically managed venture, restoring not just the pastures but also the old garden created generations before, to it former magnificence, with its abundance of roses, orchard and woodlands. Wandering with my sister and Liz in the rose garden, the heady fragrance and diverse varieties are close to heaven for me. Heavy rain had damaged some of the blooms but rendered the paddocks emerald lush and verdant. There’s always an ‘upside’.


Sister Donna, Millie the poodle, me and Liz. Photo taken by Paddy

Climbing rose on an arch

Climbing rose on an arch at Dunblane

As I reflect, I am especially grateful to all my siblings – I have three – for their input in shaping me into the person I have become. Like my garden I have benefited from the occasional rude pruning and tender encouragement delivered by my sisters and brother. If I am blooming, it is them I have to thank.


The vegie garden

Cecil Brunner rose

Donna’s Cecil Brunner rose

13 responses to “Soil Sisters

  1. I think this is a wonderful way for sisters to spend time. Working to complete something worthwhile together must be very rewarding, even if it does involve a bit… actually, rather a lot… of digging.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.