August 03, 2007

17 January 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur



Our Farm near Parramatta

Whatever happens we have a strong family, firmly bound by our shared experience here in this new land, and we are wedded to our soil. The great lack in NS Wales is manure for the soil and plough animals, but John's foresight has overcome that lack and we comfortably farm our land and feed many people from them - feed them, cloathe them and give them shelter. Apart from the sheep - which I agree are smelly and troublesome, and hard to love, although I do very much - we all love the gardens John has built around the house. I love telling my friends back Home such as Mrs. Kingdon, of the variety of plants that we grow. We have tobacco, a long-leaf Virginian variety, and many herbs in a small field of rue, hyssop, wormwood, bergamot, lavender and rosemary, as well as as much mint as we need for sauces and cologne. Mr. Macarthur planted orange and lemon trees years ago and these are trained into a cone shape - he has built a peculiar frame that straddles the trees for picking - and we make a lovely conserve of bergamot and lemon. We have figs both black and white, and our grapes are tended by a man from the Peloponnese who knows all about these fruits - I have read Pliny on the grape, and if I could speak comfortably with Michael I'm certain I'd find he was following that old sage. Mostly we keep the grapes as table fruit and conserves, but I find the leaves make an excellent vehicle for stuffing with mint and diced lamb. We make some wine, but John's stomach cannot take too much wine or brandy. There are copious peach and nectarine trees, that are eaten fresh, and the older fruits were made into a type of schnapps last year, under Mr. Schaffer's instructions. I will attempt them again this year, rather than feeding the fruit to the hogs. Yesterday I picked some rather too green apples that Elizabeth and I enjoyed, if only for the novelty of eating the first apple of the year.

2 comments:

Mousie/Paisible said...

the influence of greek cooking, that man fom Peloponese...is it a true detail?

Parramatta 1807 - A Fiction said...

yes - people travelled so often and so far in the golden age of sail. Two French soldiers - officers - who were captured in the war between England and France around 1800, travelled to Parramatta as specialists in grape growing. They assisted Mr. Macarthur with his grapes, but when peace was declared, left immediately. The man from the Peloponnese was a sailor that Macarthur met and convinced to come to look after the grapes. He stayed at Parramatta until at least 1820. Mrs Macarthur had a Chinese cook in the 1820's.