Watching Grass Grow

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Yes, I am. You put rain, a sandy soil and a sunny day together and the grass grows an inch.  Five centimetres.  I am confused with the old measurements and the new. I’m not sure wether it is wishful thinking, the sheep need more grass, and I am willing the grass to grow but I don’t think so. It’s exploding all around us.

Our beautiful radio man, an ex shearer, talks in points for the rain and waking up to the sound of fabulous country music in the morning is another new experience. He gathers and reports all the rainfall in the district off farms but the language is in points not mils.

When we arrived it was dust, sandy dust, hard clay and not a blade of grass to be seen.  Not withstanding, the sheep were all as fit as buckrats and motored along at speed in all directions – but it prompted the question “What are they eating?”

Burr was the answer. ‘Good.’  I said, even though I saw nothing.  Another new language I am learning is herbage, grass isn’t the only thing that grows and different grasses grow in different soils along with various weeds at different times.  No wonder Ag degrees are four years long.  And there are differing viewpoints on what to feed them and when to spray them and what to spray them with. And you can plant a weed that once it takes hold will feed your sheep at the dry end of summer.  As you can see I have a good hold on all this stuff.

And along with the grass come the lambs.  Lots of lambs.  I haven’t got a picture of this but I wish I did.  Ric was tagging a set of twins yesterday, which you do by holding the two lambs between your legs while you tag their ears, mum was one foot away trying to protect them but so proud of her offspring when along bounded our new puppy, who’d escaped and was thrilled to have found Ric in the paddock. He landed in between Ric’s legs as well. Puppy, lambs and mother gazing in astonishment at each other. Once released, Schulz, fascinated by this discovery of a new animal life force, went to look at another lamb nearby when the mum, lined him up and chased him totally out of the paddock.  I wonder what kind of sheep dog he’s going to be – is he already scarred for life?

I feel I should explain a little – we don’t use dogs with our stud sheep. So that was the first dog the mum had ever seen and the first close  up view of sheep for our pup. The expressions on their faces were priceless.

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My favourite picture from the Dubbo Show

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Shaggy and King, two rams exhibited by the Lithgow High School, chilling out at the Dubbo Show. We enjoy the students at the Show, they put in a lot of effort and enthusiasm both with their own sheep and helping us oldies with ours.  They and  St Gregory’s Campbelltown  compete in the school sheep section and then Trinity College Goulburn, besides holding sheep in the classes, join in the  handlers and paraders and the Junior judging competition.                                                                                 


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                                                            Here are Gonzalez, Frisco and Ellsworth competing for Grand Champion Woolly Ram!

The Dubbo Sheep Show was last weekend and nothing to do with books. Our sheep were amazing.  We took four, Gringo and Gonzalez, in the lamb class, Frisco a year older, and Ellsworth in the two years and older class.

Honestly, I’m sure they love it, the show. And I can’t help myself. They did brilliantly.  Gonzalez won his class, Frisco won his class and Ellsworth won his and got to be the Supreme Corriedale of the Show for 2015.


photo (1)  Frisco                  photo (7)  Ellsworth                photo (10) Young Gonzalez

You would have to agree they deserved it.


Then there was light………

There is a totally new scene when I look out the  window, a different tree,an unfamiliar horizon. Two Rosellas straight off the Arnotts biscuit tin lid – not my usual bright blue and red parrots – sitting on the fence busily discussing the new inhabitants. Sunsets take on a totally different aura exploding in the sky with spectacular masses of orange.

There are new grasses to learn about, new species of trees that grow here, I have discovered what a Kurrajong is. Our sheep treat it like Mars bars and can’t pass by without reaching up for the leaves.  Plants behave differently and we only moved four hundred kilometres.  We are in the West now and the ground has changed from brown to green in a couple of weeks.  What are the sheep eating? I have no idea.  Rain is a god we now pay homage to.

Inside is fun, too. Our plates look different and I can clean the house in a matter of minutes. Bonus. And the clothes dry in half an hour! That is the truth. Moving has its up side.

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No one can prepare you for the actual act. It’s no act though, it’s real and believe me it’s tough. No one can describe how the uncertainty of not knowing where you are going can fry your insides.  There are lots of suggestions on how to kick start a new life. But when you come to doing it it’s a bit like jumping off a cliff or to use a more modern euphanism,  launching yourself into space.

I had plenty of time. We’d done it before-  twenty five years ago.  Memories weren’t of babies and toddlers, more of the teenage years, weddings and grandchildren.  A full on time.  Running a livestock transport business and starting my writing career.  There, that was all. Lots of paper trail for those two.

But there was more.  There is a lot of history you uncover.  So many things you’ve forgotten. My parents story, Ric’s parents, our grandparents.  Last night I watched the film about  the Whaler with my heart in my mouth.  My grandfather was there in Egypt, in the Light horse.  Did you know they wore emu plumes on their hats? That broke me up, I can tell you.

So you run through times that were important to you, you pick up a book or a picture and just think about it, hold the memory close.

I ran out of time.

‘What will I do with this?’ turned into ‘Quick another box and I’ll decide later’.  The result – an awful lot of boxes.

An author who can relate to a lot of this is Jenn McLeod, whose new book,  ‘Season of Shadow & Light’ was released in April.  Jenn has experienced the angst of moving out recently.  She has answered my few questions on gardening and writing.  Thank you Jenn. 


  Jenn J McLeod Portrait_1


Hi Jane, nice to be here talking gardens. I am kind of missing mine. A while ago I sold up and hit the road in a caravan. Now I’m looking forward to discovering the magnificent flora across this very beautiful land of ours and working things like boabs (fantastic trees) and wildflowers into my stories.

1 What do you like starting with – a seed, a seedling or an advanced mature tree?

Definitely a seed. My stories start out as seeds—ideas that start small and grow, often surprising me. To watch something take shape—a plant or a story—is very rewarding.

2. When you create a path is it a mystery tour, or a definite plan to get from A to B?

I once tried to create a magical, mystical garden with little treasures hidden among the plants and trees. I failed! Weeds took over and the place looked very unloved. It is very difficult to keep a garden AND write! When I plot a story, however, I love not knowing where I’m headed, so no planned path for me.

3. When it’s time to prune do you get out the secateurs or the chain saw?

Ha! Another book analogy, I’m afraid. As with edits, some greenery requires delicate snips here and there, while others require the chain saw approach.


tree heart 2

Jenn sent me this picture. Only you Jenn could attack with a chain saw and end up with a love heart…………..


4. How easy is it for you to let people loose in your garden to weed and plant – even to dig holes where you tell them?

Go crazy, I say! No permission required. If you want me, I’ll be at my desk!

5. Can you layer?


6 Would you rather put a plant in a pot, or in the garden, or out in the paddock?

Depends on the plant. I Love letting pumpkin run rampant and tiptoeing through the vine to discover new pumpkins. Never had much luck growing anything in a pot. Too constrained. We all benefit from space and that’s why I love the country.

7. What stage would you say your newest work is at – in gardening terms?

Oh, well, Book three (Season of Shadow and Light) is out April 1, so it has been at the delicate secateurs stage of edits. Book four is a seedling. The idea has sprouted and the plot is starting to take shape.

8. Do you have a favourite, flower, leaf or tree?

Too many to mention. I love autumn leaves (as long as I don’t have to rake them) but I have a soft spot for dandelion. Some call it a weed! It’s not. To me it’s childhood. I even called my old house in House for all Seasons The Dandelion House in honour of the fragile gossamer ball I used to make wishes on as a child.

For more information about my stories

Thank you so much Jenn, for joining us today.

Thank you, Jane. Always lovely to catch up with you and hubby at conference.

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St Valentine



St Valentine is a mystery man. No one knows quite who he was, indeed there are quite a few around that claim to be St Valentine. There are some boring ones but I love the one , a priest in the days of Claudius 11 who married couples secretly and quickly so the man could avoid being drafted into Claudius’ army.

As you could imagine, Claudius didn’t take to kindly to this subversive attack on his already depleted armed forces and had him beheaded or stoned to death or brutally killed in some fashion.

It seems St Valentine’s Day became very popular in the late nineteenth century. Was this when Romance was born? Mills and Boon first published in 1908, and guess what their first book was? It was a romance. But it wasn’t until the nineteen thirties that they decided to specialise in romance as a genre.

And so we drift to the education of women. When were women taught to read? It seems to be only after 1790 that girls were encouraged to go to school. The Governesses Benevolent Institution was started in 1843, for the temporary care of governesses in distress and caring for the old retirees. Then there was a burst of colleges and schools opened, devoting themselves to women’s education. The Queens College opened its doors in 1848. But it wasn’t until 1865 and 1866 that Cambridge and Durham universities allowed women to sit for entrance exams and Oxford didn’t do it until four years later.

Our first woman doctor was Sophia Jex Blake.

But I digress. I am trying to pull St Valentines Day and reading of Romance together. The Romance novel was big in the late 1800’s, I’m guessing because there were more women reading. At the same time St Valentines Day was going from strength to strength. The first cards were written in the fifteenth century, and by the seventeenth century the exchange of letters and cards was going strong but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that it exploded.  I think it was related to women’s education, they were reading, taking advantage of opportunities and realising that if there was something out there they wanted they simply had to make it happen.

Have a lovely St Valentines Day.

Momentum are putting up a special promotion for St Valentines Day and ‘A Dream of Something More’, where Robbie, while deciding that if she wants her world to change, she has to make it happen, falls in love and everything is turned upside down.

‘A Dream of Something More’ is being given away. For free. Enjoy.

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Possess, Possession, Possessive

Funny how a word grabs you. I think the need to possess is a gene. It’s such a strong character trait. ‘Own, have, hold’, I have to tell my Thesaurus that these words do not describe the desire for control and power that goes hand in hand with possession. Wanting possession, and once you’ve got it, never letting go. How you will fight and behave in ways you would never have imagined to ‘ keep’ possession.

Take, seize and control do not fully describe the deep seated need, way down inside of you, or indicate the lengths you will go to retain what you own. To care for it, keep it safe.

We have this need to possess in relation to cars, homes , animals and jewellery. Big things , little things and sentimental things. And people. I have it for a wardrobe. The wardrobe sits in the spare room with no clothes in it anymore. Actually when I just looked there are a few dresses there I’d forgotten all about. It belonged to my grandfather. I always had it in my room growing up. It is my wardrobe. Despite the fact I do not use it anymore I cannot give it away.

Why? I am asked.

“I do not know.”

I knew a child once whose first word was ‘mine’. And you should have seen me that day a woman sidled up to my husband with stars in her eyes. She would have been instantly aware my eyes were flashing ‘mine’, also.

Sheep can be possessive. Frisco pushes the others away to stand and let me scratch his nose the way he likes. He will block the exit for as long as he likes, but he doesn’t put up with anyone else getting the scratch, not at all.

I know people who give away everything. They have no need at all to possess. I do not understand them.

“Why? ”I ask.

“I do not know” is their answer.

So it must be a gene. Something we are born with, something beyond our control. Some of us get a double dose. This makes for a wonderful character arc in a story. A real motivation for why they did what they did. It’s been used a lot, obviously.

Today I can shout out ‘my turn’. Aus Rom Today, a wonderful website promoting Aussie Romance authors is mine today. When they decided to promote Aussie authors in January 2015 they got three times the number of authors clamouring to be included than they expected, so they’ve been putting up three a day all this month. And it’s my turn today.

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Rural Romance in 2015


I guess you’re wondering about the ad I posted yesterday for anAustralian Rural Romance.

Rural romance is a total phenomenon.

Writers want to write it, publishers want to publish it and readers want to read it.

A win-win situation. Why?

The Western s have been huge in America, for many years. So we ask the question are Rural romance our version of the American Western? I don’t think so. They were dedicated to showing the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier and the American Westerns were restricted to the time frame of 1860 to 1900. Remember those wonderful humourous movies like Bob Hope’s Son of Paleface, and Robert Redford and Paul Newman in the fabulous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sadly, since the 1960s they have dropped off in popularity, in both fiction and at the movies.

Australian Rural Romances embody the same spirit, independent and strong characters, but they are set mostly in a present time frame, with some of them including references to our history. So our ‘Baddies’ are not the crooks of the last century but more the frustrations and problems of the modern world. Not that we are setting up Australian country life as the antidote to problems of modern day city living, but I think more as a setting in which we can identify these problems more easily.

We are among the most urban countries on earth. The percentage of our population that lives in our cities is now more than 82%. So I suppose we now attract a curiosity, as less and less people relate to life in the country or have an uncle or a grandmother or a cousin living here, like they used to.

Rules, god love them, are running all our lives but in Australia, particularly in the country, we are still making the impossible possible. Our laconic, strong countrymen and women can pit their strength and use their wits and imagination to win. Like they used to, in the beginning, when a few convicts and men and women wanting to own and farm land, set about building a nation. They achieved the impossible. It is not too difficult to imagine the passion that drove them, still exists.

An Australian Rural Romance is a website devoted to promoting Australian Rural Romance. I recommend you have a look at it. This month, in ausRomToday they are promoting Aussie author month, three Aussie authors a day are being interviewed and I will be on it soon. I will let you know when.

Have a great year in 2015.



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Happy New Year


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Great News

Last December Momentum Books asked me if they could publish my book ‘High Country Secrets’ as an e book

and I said Yes

They asked if they could whisk it away for an edit and I said Yes

They showed me this brilliant cover and asked me if I liked it and I said Yes

One month ago they asked if they could do a print version – and I said YES

So today ‘High Country Secrets’ is being released as a hard copy available through and Book Depository for $24.99.

So you all can say YES, too.

(Don’t you love that ad)

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Write a historical

All you history buffs….all you people who thought you’d like to write something historical.

Have you ever considered Goulburn? It is a city with a wonderful history and some beautiful buildings. The Old Police Station sits close by the Goulburn Court House. The court house was built in 1887 and inside I bet you, all is the same as it was one hundred and thirty years ago. Opposite the Judge’s chambers is the room for Associates and Tipstaffs, although I doubt our legal system has changed all that much in those intervening years either. But I can promise you more…

There’s a tunnel that runs underground from the old police station to the middle of the court room, in fact it comes up right in the dock where the accused sits.

And the tunnel has a very creepy feel to it.

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Actually, the court House has it’s own ghost, or so I’m told. The judge’s chambers’ has an exit into a walled garden. A quick get away or a peaceful smoke, take your choice.

Across town is the old Kenmore Hospital. A once state of the art mental asylum built in 1890, it is riddled with stories of despair and abuse. There’s a bear pit at the back of the head doctor’s living quarters. Yes, a bear pit. At the same time there is a peaceful calm surrounding it. Because it embodied the philosophy that mentally ill people were to be cared for, while given the job of supporting themselves, growing food, washing and making clothes, at a time when life was pretty hard for most people. They also gave back to the community of Goulburn. The patients built and tendered a beautiful cricket ground and sporting fields and a hall that entertained citizens with many musical comedies over the years.

I find the two court buildings down by the river, one for men and one for women, the most tragic. This was where the patient came to be judged wether to be freed and returned to society, or not. The family would attend and the decision made.


Then there are two amazing cathedrals. The history attached to these buildings is incredible. Count Rossi locking himself in St. Saviour’s Cathedral – and the Bishop out. You’ll have to research yourself to find out why. Let me just say that church politics have always been intense.

Bushrangers abound and we have the pioneers and the wonderful women who went before us. Caroline Chisolm brought her wagon loads of girls through Goulburn and on to the farms and jobs she’d organised for them and the stories of our wonderful nuns will make you very proud.

And abuse, you’ll find it too. But it’s not the whole story.

So come to Goulburn and research your next historical novel. Sit down at Roses Café and enjoy a good coffee and drink in the atmosphere. It’s all here.

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‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’




Today I welcome Kate Belle , author of ‘Being Jade’ and ‘The Yearning’ to my website to talk writing and gardening with me.  All I ask of a book is that it takes me between it’s covers and makes me cry a little, laugh a little and think a little, but mostly it whisks me away to someplace else. I think you’ll find both Kate’s books will do this for you. I loved them.  Kate is a Melbourne author whom I met at the RWA conference this year.

                                                being_jade_COVER_HI_res small                                                                                                       The Yearning On Sale

Hi Kate,

Hi Jane, wasn’t the conference a blast this year! I came home on a huge high. And as one of the co-conveners of next year’s conference in Melbourne, really inspired to create an event that equals it. Thanks for having me over today!

1 What do you like starting with a seed, a seedling or an advanced mature tree?

I have great admiration for gardeners who start with seeds. That’s true dedication to the art of gardening I think. Sadly I don’t have the patience– unless they’re big easily planted seeds like corn, beans or zucchini.

I tend to leave things in the ground for awhile, to see if they have what it takes to survive, before I give them the nurturing they need to thrive. It’s the same with writing, I prefer to put my energy into something already viable. I don’t have enough time in my day for weak plants or ideas that need lots of time and effort and may not survive in the long term.

And I find it so satisfying at the end, to stand back with a beer in hand admiring a flourishing vegetable garden rich with produce. Or a manuscript layered with deeply real characters and complex plot lines.

                                                                                    Garden 4                           


2. When you create a path is it a mystery tour, or a definite plan to get from A to B?

A satisfying path incorporates a little of both, don’t you think? Like a book, a garden path needs to be entertaining, beautiful, take a few unexpected turns, but in the end it has to take you somewhere and not end nowhere. A garden path (or a book) that ends suddenly, that gives you nothing for the journey you’ve just taken, is just plain disappointing.

3. When it’s time to prune do you get out the secateurs or the chain saw?

I don’t think my over protective partner would let me near his chainsaw, mores the pity!

There is a dangerous lure to chainsaws I find appealing. I put them in the same category as motorbikes – big, noisy, slightly risky but exciting. As with my writing, my garden pruning is usually of the secateurs variety, although when necessary, I’ll break out the big machine and chop chunks off things to let more light in.

In Being Jade I had the unenviable task of chain-sawing out an entire point of view – all 30,000 words of it. It takes a special kind of bravado to do that. But the book is vastly better for it.

4. How easy is it for you to let people loose in your garden to weed and plant – even to dig holes where you tell them?

Like writing a new book, maintaining a garden alone is a big job. It’s easy to become fond of a plant that has outlived its place and as its creator of the garden you can be reluctant to remove it. It’s important to share the load both in the garden and in writing. It’s important to find other gardeners you trust, who can help you identify the parts of the garden that need renovation and even give you some ideas for improvement you might not have otherwise thought of. Gardens and books are always better for the contributions of other like minded souls.

5. Can you layer?

Is there any other way? A one or two dimensional garden, like those neat square patches of lawn bordered by daisies, might be practical and functional but they are so very dull. They don’t inspire anyone to dream. They don’t provide sustenance or pleasure (unless you are a neat freak). Gardens like those barely warrant a second glance. Layered gardens (and books) are truly enriching and we can discover something new every time we enter them

6 Would you rather put a plant in a pot, or in the garden, or out in the paddock?

Plants in pots are lovely to look at but they are high maintenance. They need help to live because they exist outside of their natural environment.

I’m all for plants in paddocks, but given I live an urban environment (albeit a leafy one) they are too far away for me to look at and enjoy.

A plant in the garden, however, has the freedom to grow into itself. It doesn’t require constant attention to survive, but can be enjoyed from a window or decking or a chair set under the shade of a tree. It doesn’t require constant attention, is close enough to be enjoyed, and is able to be what it is meant to be.

7. What stage would you say your newest work is at – in gardening terms?

Seedlings everywhere. I have about four of them at the moment, in various stages of health and growth. I’m having trouble deciding which one to put my energies into.

Most of my time is being spent on writing the first book in my erotic romance series, Master of Love, featuring the charismatic and masterful lover, Ramon Mendez. Ramon hit the digital platforms last year in the form of two novellas, but I got the rights to him back this year and now I’m redeveloping his story from beginning to his happy ever after ending. With some intensive fertilising and watering over the next few months I hope he will be a strong, fully grown, flowering tree by the end of this year.

8. Do you have a favourite, flower, leaf or tree?

I don’t consider myself a romantic, but I do love roses. The must be scented though. And big. And dramatic. No ordinary little bush rose for me, oh no! I want an eye catching rose with a mouth watering scent. The kind of rose you can’t walk past without sticking your nose in the centre and breathing its essence deep into your lungs. The kind of rose that leaves you feeling wistful and sad when its petals shrivel and fall away.


                                                                                                             Garden 3

Thank you so much Kate for joining us today. That rose reminds me of the Peace rose that my mother loved so much.

Thanks, Jane, it’s been great fun. And reminded me I must get out and clear the winter weeds from my poor vegie patch and get planting for a summer crop!

                                                                         Garden 6……!

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