Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rivendell Farm

When we arrived in Australia in 1968 we had $100.00 in our pocket, three children and a lot of hope. Marc had a job to go to, the weather was glorious and this was the land of opportunity. Australia has never disappointed us. My two other children and a new son-in-law came from Britain and once more we were a complete family.

Marc and I were enjoying a rare quiet breakfast with toast and newspapers when he said 'Hey; listen to this ad. ‘For Sale. 16 acres of land and a weatherboard house. $12,000.00'.

Ferguson Valley 18 miles from Bunbury is the local area of scenic beauty where people would take the children for a Sunday afternoon drive to picnic in the forest and we loved and lusted after this area on sight. We organised an estate agent and were standing on the land an hour after reading the ad.

We knew immediately that this place was ours. The house, uninhabited for 18 months had been condemned as it had no running water, no bathroom or toilet, the roof cavity was infested with rats and possums and the ceilings were falling in. The orchard was filled with fruit trees past their prime, untended, sadly in need of pruning and water.

Looking beyond these (to us) superficial disadvantages we saw a sturdy house built of mature, solid, seasoned jarrah standing on an east facing slope where the morning sun warmed the old timber; rich chocolate loam where my herbs would flourish and most importantly we saw a home. We were so wild with enthusiasm and excitement that the calm and steady estate agent actually tried to bring us down to earth by pointing out the disadvantages. His words of caution fell on deaf ears and I went hightailing to the bank to ask for money. That was how we came to Rivendell.

We worked from first light until dark and often later, renovating the house and creating terraced gardens on the sloping land. Gone were the leisurely days of a glass of wine with dinner and a liqueur afterwards; dinner frequently happened as late as 10.00 pm and was eaten in a semi-conscious state. Dead trees were ripped out and new fruit and nut trees planted. A small new flock of sheep, three calves, 24 chickens and a flock of geese were to be our meat larder and barter system. Herb gardens grew at an astonishi
ng rate in the good soil, pure air and clean water and after some time we were selling potted herbs, dried herbs, herbal tinctures and ointments.

We opened a restaurant called ‘The Prancing Pony’ and herbs were a major feature of the meals. Customers were encouraged to eat the garnishes and were enchanted by flower salads glowing like dishes of jewels, sauces redolent with basil, thyme and oregano, delicate dishes that hinted at French tarragon, mouth-watering desserts sweet with angelica and lemon balm, ice-cream with the delicate flavour of lavender. Glass jugs of iced water with slices of lemon and sprigs of peppermint stood invitingly on each table, and little bowls of fennel seeds were there to solace and comfort those who had eaten well but not wisely!

Making your food a herbal event doesn't take any more preparation time than to create an ordinary meal and will change 'dull' to 'delicious'. Herbs add distinction and more: oregano and thyme are digestives, peppermint and spearmint help to dispel wind, the seeds and feathery fronds of fennel help to digest fat. By adding herbs to your cooking you are using them in a preventive way. For instance, caraway added to cabbage, or coriander to be
ans during cooking helps to prevent flatulence, as well as giving the dish a delicious flavour. This seems to make more sense than drinking a cup of caraway tea after the meal to cure the discomfort.

Herbs can also be used to replace salt as a flavouring agent. This is good for everyone but particularly those on salt-restricted diets.

We will soon be adding a new book ‘Cooking with Herbs’ to the growing collection of e-books. If you’d like to be on our mailing list to receive details of our latest books just drop a line to
gypsiestravel@bigpond.com and we’ll add your name to the list.


  1. Wow Nerys! That's an amazing story! I know it's your story, but it was so much fun to read!

  2. Lovely to read about your start here in Oz, the restaurant sounds lovely , the food yummy, the atmosphere exceptional !

  3. Wow! What a long article! Love the picture, u shud have said who everyone is!
    Sounds like a great life out there!

  4. Such a lovely story.
    What an interesting life! Beautiful home and fab sounding restaurant.
    I'm green with envy!

  5. Great story Nerys, sounds like a 'meant to be'
    So you live in Ferguson Valley (not far from me)I live in Donnybrook and we, like you, 'just knew' Camelot was for us when we first saw it too and things seemed to 'just' workout for us to purchase it. I like you have always loved, grown and used Herbs and like to make my own products etc. I've just purchased 3 ebooks from you to get back into making products again. I was looking through a hardcover book I have of yours and decided I would see if I could locate you on the net, so here I am. This is a great blog and I can't wait to get my ebooks and begin creating again. Terry Seed.


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