Gregory is the middle child of 7, who all grew up in a tiny two-horse town in upstate New York about an hour and a half out of NYC. With 7 hungry mouths to feed several times a day, Gregory’s parents had to diminish their food costs somehow. So they hit upon the genius idea of a veggie patch.
Every Saturday morning before they could watch cartoons, the 7 Llewellyns had to do an hour of weeding in the garden. They grew enough tomatoes to make enough homemade pasta sauce to see them through the winter, corn was shucked and whatever wasn’t eaten fresh straight off the cob was turned into luscious creamed corn, enough asparagus to make their wee smell for months, beans, peas (Gregory used his time wisely by shoving them up his nose), grapes were plucked from the vine and either preserved or turned into grape juice and pumpkins were quickly turned into pumpkin pie for sale at the school Thanksgiving Fete.
It was quite an operation. And it didn’t end there.
Under the house they had a root cellar in their basement, – yes, I realise that to every Australian that sounds very, very rude – but to Americans it just means a place to grow potatoes and other root vegetables. (Gregory quickly stopped using that term shortly after moving here).
Of course My mother-in-law Frannie, remembers Gregory’s loud and passionate protestations about the weekend gardening requirements, so finds it rather ironic that one of the first things Gregory did when he moved here was start a garden of his own.
Originally, the plan was to grow as much of our own produce for the restaurant as possible, but that quickly became an impossibility and for much of last year, the garden languished in a state of neglect, weekly harvesting still possible, but it was really more like a scene from Day of the Triffods.
And then, sometime in the madness of last year one of my brothers came home, at loose ends after returning from his latest overseas adventure, so we quickly threw him behind the bar a few nights a week and then tossed a shovel and a bag of manure at him and told him to get busy.
This week, he’s off again on his next great adventure, and his farewell party was a working bee in the Hartsyard garden. I know, we really know how to show our staff a good time.
My brother, the head gardener. Delegating all day long…
What’s even more remarkable than our amazing staff giving up one of their two days off to pick and ho and shovel and dig, was that (unless they’re telling porky pies) they all said they had a really good time.
Events such as these should be chronicled, so it’s lucky our PA Amy came along for the day, making it very clear by dressing entirely inappropriately for a day in a veggie garden, that she was here for photographic purposes only.
‘I do not,’ she said quite firmly, ‘like worms.’
The newest Hartsyard recruit, joining us in perfect timing for my brother’s departure is the delightful Gabby. As is the Hartsyard way, there was a little bit of nepotism involved in her hiring, as Gregory, Cass and I all already knew her, but when someone is as fab as Gab, hiring her is just clever business.
Fresh from her overseas adventures (we really should get a Hartsyard business discount at Flight Centre I reckon), she was shadowed by a thoroughly besotted little Q all day long…
Mark, our jack of all trades, who is shortly jetting off on his holiday to the greatest city in the world (NYC of course) got involved early, throwing pumpkins at Amy, swingin’ a pick and wearing my brother’s old jackaroo hat like he didn’t grow up in suburban Brisbane!
The box-hut thing you can see to Mark’s right is in fact a smoker built by my brother and Gregory. We’ve had many a delicious treat from there, but the most recent discovery was a female funnel web which we explained to American Gregory was not to be trifled with. She lived in a jar for a day or two, fascinating Q with her frustration at her curtailed freedom until my brother dropped her into an anti-venom clinic for milking.
Doesn’t he fit the part? You’d never guess he works full time at an inner-west restaurant.
Maddy, our bartender, turned up fashionably late and fashionably gloved. But I would expect nothing less from our Mads.
She too, was somewhat inappropriately dressed for the occasion, but decided the manure might be a good pedicure for her feet…
Still smiling after a hard day’s yakka.
But it wasn’t just staff that got their hand’s dirty.
Here’s my husband with one of his roots…
Does anybody else support me in a beard trim? It is like making out with a woolly mammoth. An aging woolly mammoth. Look at that grey in his beard people!
My belly button and I got amongst the action…
I also managed to wear the biggest hat in the world. It was like walking around with a UFO on my head.
At some point, pants became an unnecessary item…at least for some.
And don’t worry, it wasn’t just all work, work, work, we gave ’em a few minutes off for R&R.
In addition to a two-year old, we also had to garden with our other brother’s young pup, Ruben. Wildly enthusiastic, but not entirely helpful some might say.
We dug, we mended, we picked, plucked, potted and planted. Autumn delights are now in the ground, the back beds are ready for our winter selections and the herb beds are filled with different and interesting varietals ready for cocktails, Andy’s desserts and as seasonings in Gregory’s dishes.
In one short day, we accomplished what would ordinarily have taken us weeks. A few of us suffered aches and pains in the days to come (I tell ya, you know you’re 6 months pregnant after a day spent in the garden folks), but any immediate discomfort was treated that evening at Arcardia Liquors in Redfern, a favourite hang out for the staff.
Gregory and I know it and we tell them too, but it doesn’t go astray to make it public every now and again, that we’ve got a pretty excellent staff at Hartsyard.
Thanks gang, your worker bee efforts were truly, greatly appreciated.