Spring is a magical time on Markdale as the property emerges from the cold months and the ewes prepare to give birth to our lambs.
The two most important periods on the farm are shearing and lambing, and much of Markdale’s activity revolves around these two times. The ewes have now been moved into the paddocks with the best pasture in order to keep them strong as they give birth, recover and feed. A daily inspection is made of the ewes and lambs during this time and our team works hard to ensure the health of the entire flock. The cheeky foxes, pigs and the odd cold snap keeps everyone on their toes.
With so much happening it is a wonderful time to visit Markdale – there are literally thousands of lambs running around, our donkeys Nancy and Nelly are settled in and love being hand fed and the garden is emerging from its winter hibernation.
We also take the opportunity to remind our readers about the ongoing impact of the drought on many Australians especially those who are doing it tough in our rural communities. We would encourage everyone to get out and visit a country town or farm – not only is it beneficial for those towns and farmers, it is a great opportunity to understand where Australia’s produce and some of our country’s great characters comes from.
We are expecting 3,000 lambs on the ground from late August – early September.
Weed control and eradication of invasive introduced plant species. This includes ground spraying for serrated tussock and blackberry bushes, spraying by helicopter of harder to reach areas and burning of dead blackberry bushes
Maintenance work continues on the farm as we consolidate much of the work done through the winter months.
On the October long weekend we have a family wedding on Markdale with the ceremony being held in the garden and reception in a marquee on the Polo Field.
On Saturday, 19 October Markdale is holding an Open Garden between 10am – 4pm. Entry is $5 and visitors can explore the Edna Walling garden and pack a picnic.
A beehive will be introduced to the garden in late October. We are looking forward to trying how the beautiful flowers in our garden flavour our honey.
Spring veggies including tomatoes, chillis, pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, silverbeet and strawberries have been planted.
One of the joys to come out of the Winter veggie patch were our fresh baby peas. Sweet and crunchy they were good enough to simply shell and eat raw. We wanted however to share an ‘unusual’ side of dish of peas and lettuce that is popular in France and our table, and goes fantastically with roast chicken or fish accompanied by something white and sharp.
2 – 3 handfuls of freshly shelled peas
1 brown onion (diced finely)
100gms of pancetta (cut into strips) *note that bacon or lardons will also work
1 iceberg lettuce (washed, cored and shredded)
2 cups of good quality chicken stock
Handful of mint
Good knob of butter
Step 1 Melt butter with a little olive oil in a heavy based fry pan over a medium heat.
Step 2 Add onions and pancetta and cook until onions are soft.
Step 3 Adds peas, mix and then add stock and bring to the simmer. Reduce by a third. Season with some white pepper *note pancetta and the stock are salty so there may be no need to add additional salt.
Step 4 Add lettuce and mint. Mix through the warm stock. Cook for 1 min until lettuce begins to welt.
Step 5 Ladle into a serving bowl (including broth) to be eaten immediately.
At Easter this year we travelled to Berrima to visit Eagle Rock Farm with the hope of buying some donkeys for our Farm Stay guests. After careful consideration and much hee-hawing, two young female donkeys were chosen – Nancy and Nelly.
The pair are named after people dear to the family and they will be joining us in a few short weeks.
The loveable pair don’t talk back as much as “Donkey” from Shrek but love to be fed and patted. Our Farm Stay guests are more than welcome to introduce themselves and take them over a vegetarian treat, carrots preferred!
In celebration of the new additions we headed to Bertha’s in Bowral for a meal – a new spot by the Biota restaurant. We highly recommend popping in if you are in the area or better yet on your way to Markdale. The smoked meat burgers and mac and cheese were an inter-generational hit!
As autumn approached the last of the summer veggies were removed – including our fabulous and abundant tomatoes. Left with a few kilos of green tomatoes we decided to try our hand at a chutney in anticipation of ploughman’s lunches.
Outlined below is our very simple recipe – brought together from various sources and best attempted with a glass of wine in hand. Lots of old jars are required.
2kg of green tomatoes (chopped – cut the small ones in half and the bigger ones into quarters)
*note we used a mix of varieties including cherry, yellow pear, black Russian and mortgage lifter
2 brown onions (chopped)
3 green apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
1½ cups brown sugar
2½ cups of malt vinegar
½ cup of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons of mixed spice
2 tablespoons of mustard seeds (yellow)
2 red chilli (finely sliced)
Step 1 Mix together all ingredients in a heavy based pot.
Step 2 Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer to between 1 – 1½ hours. The chutney should be thick with very little excess liquid.
Step 3 Spoon the hot chutney into the sterilised jars. Seal. Cool. Refrigerate.
The chutney should keep for 3+ months and will last for up to a month after opening if refrigerated.
The jars can be sterilised a number of ways (google will help) – we found heating them in a 120 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes the easiest.
The garden surrounding the main homestead is acknowledged as one of the great country gardens of Australia. First planted in the 1920’s, the garden was re-designed in 1949 by the pioneer of Australian landscape gardening Edna Walling. The pergola of blue and white wisteria, the stunning golden and weeping elms, the profusion of roses, the stone-walled garden and the sweeping lawn down to a small lake are all part of the Walling signature.
Walling was determined to exemplify and take advantage of the glorious natural scenery of paddocks and hills and today silver birch, aspens, pinoaks, hawthorns, golden elms, golden ash and claret ash, spireas, viburnums and native eucalypts shelter and frame the garden without obscuring the view.
Overall the garden remains substantially as Edna Walling originally planned. A characteristic of her work, are the dry stone walls constructed by E. R. Hammond, the sweeping lawns merging with mown paddock; informal curving paths leading the eye onward to the enchanting hidden depths of the garden and to the hills beyond.
Today garden enthusiasts or those who simply like a stroll or picnic can enjoy the garden in its full glory, when staying at the farm stay or on open garden days.
Phil, our Head Gardener, is constantly look to improve the beauty in sympathy with Walling’s vision and at the moment as the trees begin to shed their leaves in shades it is a truly magical place.
Markdale has a rich history, much of which is associated with the introduction and development of polo in Australia as well as the breeding of fine merino sheep.
The first known owner of Markdale, Mr William Marks (1858), bought 640 acres of present Markdale land (then known as Slete’s Gully) in 1858. Upon it he built a tiny slab cottage which survives to this day beside the Farm Stay.
In fact some historians note that this slab hut was built to house the Horse and Jockey Inn.
Markdale grew in size from this time onwards and in 1920 was bought by James Ashton, parliamentary member for Goulburn 1901-1908 (Minister for Lands), father of the world famous Ashton Polo Team and grandfather of the former owners, Mr and Mrs Geoffrey Ashton.
Mr and Mrs James Ashton chose a site on a slope to build their new Homestead, a single storey traditional family home enclosed by deep verandahs, using concrete blocks made from a single mould on site with timber cut and milled on the property.
Markdale was the pastoral home of the Ashton family for three generations.
Markdale provided a perfect venue for James Ashton’s four enthusiastic polo-playing sons (Jim, Robert, Geoff and Phil). A polo field and a hitting pit still remain to this day on the property.
In 2017 the Ashton family sold Markdale to the Edwards family who have four sons of their own.
For those who have yet to visit Markdale, we are a fully-operational merino sheep farm based outside Binda. We are about 3 hours from Sydney, 1.5 hours from Canberra and an hour from Goulburn. Fast Facts How many sheep are on Markdale now? Over 8,000. How many acres does Markdale cover? 6,300 acres Bloodlines? Our […]
Autumn was a busy time on the farm.
The rams and ewes were joined in March in preparation for lambing in late August and early September.
The shearing of the Markdale flock took place over the first two weeks in May.
In early June the entire flock was dipped for lice (a common problem in sheep that can eventuate if a pesky goat or two vaults a fence).
Fence work continues on the property – with close to 100km of fence on the property and it is a big (and constant) job to maintain.
Wood (plenty of it) has been chopped in anticipation of fires in winter (with plenty of marshmallows and red wine).
School holiday bookings are starting to come through for our comfortable accommodation at the Farm Stay.
We are taking bookings for Christmas in July with a special catered menu available.
Winter veggies have been planted into the family garden beds – broccoli, leek, cauliflower, onions, garlic, peas, beans and radishes