Is there anything more comforting and entrancing than an open fire? Surely there is something primaeval in us all that draws us to its warmth? It is so satisfying in all respects: the patterns and colours of the flames burning at different temperatures; the company of a crackling fire, even when you are alone. I love the smell of different fires when you travel away, and how wonderful it is to come home and smell again, our own Gidyea fire.
We are so fortunate my father-in-law built us a fireplace many years ago; we quite literally built a room around his fireplace. He and Brian carted sandstone from west of the Thompson River, where he knew there was rock suitable for the task. I remember our jackaroo Frank querying if it would ever be cold enough to need a fireplace, as he wiped his brow yet again and kept loading in mid forty- degree heat. Hewn from this load of rock, with his little tomahawk axe, Barney created the heart of our home. Our children grew up in front of it, filling their hot water bottles from the old cast iron kettle on the hearth. So many Moble parties have finished with the stragglers struggling around the fireplace: too tired or too partied to move. Poddy lambs, chickens, ducklings and joeys have been revived in its glow. The Moble Hospital.
I love the rituals the fireplace demands, the Keeper of the Flames. The daily gathering of kindling always reminds me of Brian’s mother and her tin bucket. She cleans her hearth every morning, then picks up her bucket and sets forth into the paddocks beyond to gather her kindling and observe her realm. Miss Boodles loved accompanying her, following on her little pushbike. Together, they would discuss what was growing where, check out the bird nests, see what was flowering, note if there had been a cat around. All the while chatting and gathering. Surely the wisdom of the world has been passed on in rituals such as this. Life’s treasure.
Mr. Moble’s fire rituals include trying to lever the largest, most impossible stump he can into our fireplace. Apparently, this saves weeks of his life he would otherwise have to spend cutting wood. Imagine. Thus, a heavily loaded trolley will roll through the kitchen and sitting room, shedding bark and dirt and the occasional startled lizard. He then must gauge the fit, which may mean a rotation of the stump, allowing for more bark and dirt and wildlife to be released and often involving assistance from the somewhat startled (first time) guests. Repeat guests tend not to be so readily startled by Mr. Moble. Then, with a few subtle chops to the edges, made with the axe he stores beside the hearth (doesn’t everyone?) he will lever the stump into place. I then calculate that it will have burnt down enough by 1.00am before it can be left. Another late night by the Moble fire.
My own fire rhythm starts early, as I throw a log on the fire on my way past to cook breakfast. I gather my kindling after lunch, with dogs in tow. We often see a rabbit or two on our well- trodden path and of late, a pair of Brolgas. I have been known to arrive home from mustering with my bike stacked high with great kindling I have found. So exciting when you find a good patch, it is hard to leave it behind, even in summer. Kindling and good paving rocks and sometimes cattle manure or an interesting log are all carted home with me. There are days when I even see sheep.
Of course, our fires are not limited to the sitting room. Miss Moble and I built a fabulous fire pit beside the gazebo on the creek, perfect for a winter lunch. Friends have pulled down an old house and left the fireplace intact as part of their garden, a superb outdoor sitting room. Wherever we gather, even for a short time, we build a fire. In winter, we stand around a fire in the paddock while waiting for the plane to issue our first mustering directions. Running noses and eyes, numb faces and frozen fingers held to the flames, hoping for just five minutes more before heading off on our bikes again.
To tend a fire is to nurture as well, for it needs feeding and poking and stoking. There is always something you can do around a fire if you wish. Or you can simply sit and gaze. When I threaten my children with writing my life’s work: There is Pleasure Sure in being Mad, the first point I will mention is: Never go out to lunch without setting the fire before you go. Then, when you all arrive home on dark, in the cold, with little children needing eggs and bed, you simply need to put a match to your well-set hearth and your fire is lit. This must be read with a Wonderful Housewife circa 1952 voice. The reality, more likely, was Mummy being too tired to make the eggs… she falls asleep in front of her well-set fire and Daddy makes the eggs and puts the children into bed.
My garden even has hints of fire flowering to warm us this week with the Aloe a blaze of red and the last Claret Ash leaves cascading down to and underplanting of red tinged succulents. This picture is so beautiful for a few short weeks, but worth it all the same. I wish I could tell you it was planned. Probably it is all the better because it wasn’t.
In the orchard, the Peach and Nectarine tress are flowering, and I am trying to resist picking their pink branches and popping them into vases. The bees are busy amongst the blossom so there is the promise of delicious fruit. I must prune the grape vines this week as well or the fruit will be disappointing. My Hollyhocks are up and racing, I shall prepare some spots for them and plant them out soon – I do hope you planted yours? The Artichokes are all up and romping as well, I plan a great swathe of them, a brush of silver and purple. I confess we have never eaten our Artichokes as I love the flower heads so much, almost as much as their foliage. Some far back Scottish heritage must hanker for those thistle-like flowers, I love Cardoons as well. I have just looked them up and they are not the same family as the Scotch Thistle, however they grow at Moble so in they go.
Lastly, Happy Birthday to all the races horses for the 1st August and don’t forget to pop the screen in front of the fire before you go to bed!
The Moble Gardener.