Friday, May 19, 2017

autumnal


Our days have been brilliantly autumnal. Sharp, icy cold mornings that quickly lead into brilliantly bright blue skied days. We run from job to job trying to get through as many as we can before the coming winter closes in on us. As we dig, stack, shovel, plow, seed, rake, fill and fork we feel the sun's warmth spread through our clothes and we slowly strip off our layers. There are little nests of hats and jumpers and shirts all over the place. These golden hours are short and we often find ourselves stopping mid shovel to breathe them in and to have yet another discussion about how lucky we are that all of our paths and decisions have led us here, to this work and this life and these days.  

thirteenth

From when we built our studio/second bedroom last spring, all the way through summer and into the beginning of autumn, I had this little Friday ritual. As soon as the girls were all at school I'd make myself a peppermint tea, look past the breakfast dishes and the piles of laundry and make my way to the green armchair in the corner of our room. And there I'd sit  with my laptop on my lap for the next few hours making my blog until it was done. 

Where I sat felt like it was such a big part of how I blogged that it never occurred to me that it would ever need to change. But then one Friday it just got too cold to sit in there. About a month ago, or maybe before, I walked in there, picked up my computer and my card-reader and came back into the lounge room. And ever since then I've done the same. 

Now I sit on one of the brown leather couches that I grew up sitting on, the fire roars beside me, the animals asleep nearby and although I'm comfy I feel much more available to the world, not as shut off, more distracted.

And the green armchair sits there draped in knitting as I dash past, sometimes covered in piles of clothes, sometimes a book, sometimes the pillows off the bed. Always inviting me to slow down and read a couple of pages, knit a few rows, find a way to heat the room and make it more comfortable to sit in.


fourteenth

Last week Indi spent the week camping and rock climbing with her class. She told me that on the last day, while they were packing up, one of their guides asked her what she would be doing for Mother's Day. Indi told her a bit about me and how my favourite things to do are knitting and burning shit. She guessed that we'd light a huge fire somewhere on our farm and then spend the day pulling branches onto it, knitting, eating and hanging out with family. Apparently her teacher gave her a strange look and said I sounded 'hilarious', but that's exactly what we did. And it was wonderful.

We ate babka, Kate shaped cookies, and chocolate covered pretzels and we drank Baileys, Turkish coffee and fizzy water. The girls drew pictures, Bren carved, I knitted and my parents spent the afternoon with us too. 

What more could this mother ask for?

A hand carved yarn bowl as a Mother's Day present, that's what! 

So beautiful. Made from a tree on our farm that started growing in an inconvenient place, carved on his foot powered pole lathe, with his hands, for me. What a gift. 


fifteenth

On Monday construction began on our new hot-house. Three massive wooden posts from an old bridge concreted into the ground, and lots of other marking and cutting and organising done. Since then some old windows have gone in but I'm afraid you'll have to wait until next week for a photo of them.



sixteenth

On Tuesday we spent time on our 'put the farm to sleep for winter' plan. Using the walk behind tractor, we mulched and then spaded in some of the summer vegetables. It's amazing to watch the corn stalks, the tomato vines, the capsicums, cabbages and broccoli, all mown down to the ground and then put back into the soil to break down. Just a few weeks ago we were visiting this patch a few times a day to harvest different things and now it'll be planted with a green manure crop and then left until spring. 

Thank you for feeding us garden, rest well.


seventeenth

A different view of the garden and the cubby house and the pole lathe.

On the drive into town a few days ago we were discussing the fact that this year we've been having a true autumn. Most seasons it feels like summer drifts on for a lot longer than it's meant to and then all of a sudden there's a cold snap and it's winter. Just like that. But this year we've had weeks of crisp sunny days, the colours of the trees have been spectacular and it's given us time to really finish one season and prepare for the next. To tick off a lot of our jobs. And to prepare to hibernate.


eighteenth

Yesterday was one of those days where I considered turning this into a photo an hour project instead. All day long as we fed the dogs and chooks, filled up a new garden bed with rocks and then soil and then planted it with garlic, as we planted green manure in the sock garden and then covered it, weeded the carrots, picked the beetroot, filled the trailer with wood and then stacked some more wood, I couldn't help but feel like this was a life that was filled with love and meaning and beauty. It was difficult to choose just one moment to photograph.


nineteenth

Which brings us to today.

The Guernsey wrap that slowly grows.

The book, Between A Wolf And A Dog, I am reading and LOVING! A beautifully written, insightful story about family, grief, relationships, betrayal, expectations and the fragility of life. I'm hoping for a little forgiveness by the end, but I'll have to wait and see.

This is one of those moody books that haunts me like a dream. It's there in the background as I go about my days and I'm sure the rain that is forecast to fall here on the weekend will only compound that fact. This is the type of book that I can't put down. Greedily snatching extra moments with it as I brush my teeth, eat my porridge and stay up way too late at night. I dread reaching the end of it because I'm enjoying it so much and then it'll be over, and also because of the knowledge that Georgia Blain, the author, died so young late last year making the book tragically final.


And that's my week, in pictures and words. It's been such a lovely week. I've felt clear and articulate, I've spent time with three precious friends, I've felt organised, I've loved and looked after and I've felt loved and looked after. It's been good.

I hope you my beautiful friend are traveling along well.
I hope you've got a good book to read, a great project to work on and something fun to look forward to.

I hope you have a happy weekend.

Lots of love,

Kate
xx



Friday, May 12, 2017

the second week



sixth

When I decided to do a photo a day in May project last week one of the rules I imposed on myself was to not always capture the prettiest moments, but to challenge myself to look for the interesting and the gritty too. The two photos I took last Saturday are heading in that direction.

It was a freezing cold, wet, windy day and we'd called off all of the girls' activities and were bunkering down inside instead. There was one point in the late afternoon where I looked around at the cozy scene wondering what to capture. If I didn't get my shot then, I'd lose the light and miss my day. The fire was roaring, the house was a mess of papers and computers and musical instruments and girls, but nothing called to me. Then I looked outside, onto the back deck and decided.

I slipped on my clogs, quickly slid open the back door, snapped two photos and dashed inside again.

Leaves from the grape-vine that cover our back deck and give us shade in summer, grapes at the height of autumn, and then a sludgy mess as they decompose into winter.



seventh

Miss Pepper helping me out by searching for scarlet runner bean pods inside the tee-pee.


eighth

Knitted with love for my kitty cat obsessed, youngest. She loves them but did not love me dragging her outside into the cold and pulling up her leggings, as proven by her goose bumps.  

It's a free pattern I found on ravelry, you can find the details here.

ninth

Last year we grew a paddock of pumpkins. This year we didn't get them in til so late that they didn't get a chance to really get going before the days started to cool off, so we gave up on them and eventually pulled them out. The compost it seems had ideas, and seeds, of its own and grew this load. It's probably more than enough for us for the season anyway.



tenth

One of the first things we built when we moved to our farm back in 2001 was this hot house onto the side of our house. Using bits of poly pipe and greenhouse plastic, but without the help of YouTube, farmer Bren and my dad constructed a place for me to raise seeds and shelter some sensitive plants.

It's hard for us to remember where the idea for the plans came from. It's hard to imagine if we thought it would be a temporary fix or a long term solution. It's crazy to think about who we were back then: a couple with one baby girl and no farming experience.

And here we are all these years later pulling it down. Cutting the pipe, slicing at the plastic and digging out all of the soil. It's served us well over the years. I'd guess it's grown hundreds of thousands of plants.

And now it's time for an upgrade. We've drawn up the plans, we've gathered some old windows, we're starting on Monday. Watch this space.


eleventh

Rushing outside last night to catch a photo of the flame tree glowing in the afternoon sun, it occurred to me that I could take the shot from what until the day before was inside the hot-house. Four steps to the right gave me another perspective. Makes me pleased to know that the new hot house will have opening windows. And how about that tree hey!



twelfth

My current knitting project is a Guernsey wrap for Miss Indi. Remember when I told you a few weeks ago that Pepper had a list up on the door where family members could place their knitting orders? Indi ordered a scarf.

The thought of that scarf and the meters of knit stitch or purl stitch that would be involved in the making made me shudder. A more tedious project I couldn't imagine. That is until we sat on Ravelry for a while and looked at the endless possibilities of stitch combinations.

We chose this pattern because it was a mixture of textured patterns found on traditional fisherman's sweaters which would keep it interesting for me and yet was a simple long, rectangular scarf for her. I know I've barely even started, but so far I'm loving knitting it, long may it continue and grow.

The ravelry details are here.


And there they are, my seven (plus a couple) photos of the week.

It's been a bit of a topsy-turvey week for me. One afternoon I cried three separate times on the drive home from school at the sheer magnificence of the show that mother nature was putting on for us, the next day I heard a friend's difficult news and felt so weighed down by the weight of the world. Nasty, short sighted comments on a friend's Facebook shocked me and hurt my heart, but then a brother and sister raised over two million dollars in five cent pieces to kick cancer where it hurts and smash a world record. One of our girls got a role in a local production of The Three Lost Children and we were all thrilled, but then she has this bit of eczema that makes her so uncomfortable it hurts. Some of the olives were hit by frost, but the carrots are sweeter than ever. Up, down, up down. I'm blaming PMS and the full moon. And I'm hoping for clear skies and calm waters ahead. And sunshine of course.


I hope you've had a gorgeous week.
I wonder if the leaves are growing or falling off where you are?
If the days are getting longer or shorter?
If you use circulars or DPN's to knit your socks and sleeves?

Happy Mother's day!

Love Kate xx




Friday, May 5, 2017

every day in may


Hello honey bunches,

How's your week been?

I'm happy to report that after our bumpy homecoming, things here have been really good. It helps that the sun finally came out. And although it's still much too cold for my liking, we've had some bright, still, autumn days that have made my heart sing and my body happy to be outside and moving.

Last Monday morning I drove through the forest on the way home from taking Indi and Jarrah to school. The girls had been gorgeous in the car, I knew that Bren and Jobbo were meeting at home to plan the rebuild of the hot-house, the sunlight was streaming through the trees and I felt overcome with the feeling that my week ahead was rich with time and possibilities. It's the best feeling. I wanted to grab onto it and really feel it and take it home and make stuff happen.

At the same time I was listening to Sara Tasker's podcast interview with Xanthe Berkeley about the power of creative projects when it occurred to me that a creative project is just what I need. And with the start of May, the month that sort of rhymes with 'every day', the timing felt perfect. So I started auditioning projects in my head: a crocheted granny square a day, a water colour painting a day, one of those blankets people knit where each row is a reflection of the weather or the mood of the day, a blog post a day, a short film clip a day, a hundred words in a diary every day, a hexagon quilt project, an embroidery stitch a day, a hand written letter, a new recipe, an instagram post a day, a charcoal drawing...the possibilities felt endless and endlessly exciting.

In 2012 and 2014 I crocheted a different motif every day in May and loved it.

Then I arrived home, listened to the plans the boys had made, drank coffee, cleaned up the breakfast dishes, took some laundry off the line put it away and hung out some more, went to gym for an hour, came home and pulled the last of the irrigation lines out of a bottom paddock, checked on the olives, picked some flowers, brought in a load of wood, got Pepper from school and took her to her singing lesson, picked her up from her singing lesson and brought her home, took Jazzy to her dancing class and then came home to find Bren and Pepper making pasta for dinner.

The entire time I'd been wondering about my personal creative project: what form it would take, what skills I could hone or learn, and what materials I would need. Late in the day it occurred to me that the real question was when would I fit it in?

My project had to add creativity but not stress to my life.

As I watched them break the eggs and mix them into flour I decided on a capture project rather than a create project. As I watched them stir the two ingredients into a dough I chose my big camera over my phone. And as they rolled the dough out into long sheets and then skinny noodles I decided that I would document one moment of every day. One moment with a few photos.

Not the most special moments, not the most photogenic moments, not even the moments that have stories that I would usually blog, just the small moments that make up our days this May.

Ideally I'd like to push myself out of my comfort zone and take more photos indoors, I'd like to capture some tiny unposed moments, I'd like to be brave and play around with composition and settings, and I'd really love to trust myself more and not have to take 20 photos just in case the first 19 don't work.

I plan to publish them here on my blog with a short explanation or story. I thought about posting them every day but I don't want to break with this Friday thing that is working so well. And even though this might not feel any different to you than my usual style of blogging, it does for me - in its everydayness, it's making me see my world a bit differently, and its encouragement of risk.

I hope you like it - here goes.

On - May first - Bren and Pepper made made spaghetti for our dinner. Most afternoons I drive out to pick the big girls up from school and those two spend the time playing and making dinner for us. It works really well for them to make and bake and hang out, and then it works really well for us as a family to come together at the end of the day, to share a meal and catch up with each other's news.

On - May second  - we picked the last of the outside tomatoes and cabbages and basil before the predicted frosts arrived the next morning. This year we harvested, cooked, preserved and ate so many fewer tomatoes than in any other year I can remember, but still I'm happy to see the end of them. The last ones of the season always smell too strong and are too floury for my liking. This crate we picked on Tuesday is still sitting by the front door; there's a chance I'll cook them all up over the weekend, but it's more than likely they'll get fed to the chooks.





On - May third - we finally lit a great big fire and burnt all the heads of the trees that we cut down for firewood late last year. I know that my farmer boy mourns the carbon and would much rather mulch them and feed the land, but burning sh#@ is one of my favourite parts of autumn farming and happy wife - happy life, hey.



On - May fourth - we suited up and visited our bees. All of our hives seemed madly busy stockpiling for winter as the season is so obviously changing. And because our bees had a rough winter last year we were really careful and only took a few honey frames here and there and only where it looked like they had plenty. Taking honey from the bees always seems like such a gamble at this time of the year, but then the thought of that spoonful of honey in our porridge and in our tea makes it too hard to resist.



On - May fifth - literally five minutes ago, we picked some beetroot to go with our veggie burgers for dinner tonight. As I type this they're cooking on the stove. I think we'll make a rocket, feta and beetroot salad with lemon juice with some of it and slice the rest.

And that's my May so far.
How about yours? How's it going?
Do you have a creative project on the go?
Are you looking for one? Do you want to join me?
Do you do something everyday already?
Do you have something fun planned for the weekend? I hope so.

Oh and thank you so much for your feedback on my coping with winter post. I guess my every day project and the way it'll hopefully help me look for the photographable moments is part of the way I hope to deal with it a little better this year. That and a bunch of other things I've written down from all of your suggestions.

See you in a week my friends.

Love Kate xx


Friday, April 28, 2017

from peak to past




It was weird the way we left our farm for ten days and by the time we got back everything felt different. In the scheme of things ten days doesn't sound like such a long time. We felt confident before we left that not much would change while we were away, that things would feel the same when we returned.

I remember other times away when we've sent requests home for photos of the gardens and orchards, looking forward to noticing new growth and old patterns, but not this time. In ten days we didn't expect any changes at all.

But quite the opposite happened. We left crisp, sunshiney, tee-shirt wearing days. We left apples, pears and quinces on the trees and tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers on the vines. We left trees covered in green leaves. We left days that dried laundry on the line and nights that were crisp enough to light the fire. We left blue skies and light and the promise of time to get everything done.


And then we returned last Monday into another season. The five days we've been home have been grey, freezing cold and the sort of wet that sinks in without definite beginnings and ends to the rain storms.

While we were away the wild animals cleared all the fruit off the trees and off the ground. They were so thorough that I felt like we'd been robbed until my farmer boy pointed out that no human would take all the rotten fruit from under the trees as well. Pears, apples, nashis and even the medlars have been eaten up without a scrap left behind.

The day after we got back I picked a crate of tomatoes and I could probably go through them again today and get another. But for every firm, ripe tomato, there are three split, squooshy soft ones. Hunting through the vines feels like an unlucky dip when you put your hands in and are confronted by the overripe, the decay, the damp, the slugs, the tar and that old tomato smell. Last Monday I lost my lens cap in a row of tomatoes and it still feels too icky in there to go back and look.

I'm gradually picking the beans as their pods brown off. There are carrots, beetroots, lots of leafy greens and leeks by the row. And for some reason the birds have left us some quinces for jelly. But the peak of the season has most definitely past and it feels like we're almost at that time now where some things will keep in the ground but nothing much will grow.

How did we go from peak to past so quickly? How are we not meant to take it personally when six months ago we were optimistically planting seeds and yet here we are now pulling out the debris by the armful and chucking it on the compost pile?


But the leaves have put on quite the show for us over the past few days. Everywhere you look there are reds and oranges and yellows and purples. We're constantly elbowing each other, pointing things out and ooooing and ahhhhing.

And as for the laundry and the fire? Inside and all the time.



I'm really worried about late autumn and winter. I'm anxious about the gloomy, grey days that are so cold they make my bones ache. I'm worried about driving the girls to school and back in the dark, over the mountains, on icy roads. I'm worried about the months where nothing grows in the garden. I'm worried about the inevitable questioning of whether I'm even a farmer if I'm not growing anything. I'm worried about feeling stuck and slow and uninspired and uninteresting. I'm worried about all the jobs on the farm I want to do before it's too cold to go out and do them. I'm worried about mould and damp and the slushy mud. I'm worried about how long it'll be before the warmth of the sun touches my face again. In a way I feel like I'm half a person in winter and I'm worried about that too.

A little while ago someone wrote to me on my blog about how often I express fear and that maybe I should confront it. In this case it's certainly true, I do have a fear of winter and I am totally willing and ready to accept it and face it this year. I'd love to work out where it comes from and what it's all about and how to conquer it. Or a least experience a milder version of it. I hope it's possible



But in the meantime here are some of the ways that I'm going to try and warm up my last month of autumn and my winter a bit:

I'm going to try and raise my level of fitness by going to gym for another session a week or by committing to some home exercise time on a regular basis. Actually maybe I need to a goal to work towards.

I'm going to expand my soup repertoire past the leek and potato and vegetable basics.

I'm going to learn something new. I think it's time for me to leave my comfort zone and experiment.

I'm going to try again to try and meditate.

I'm going to research and buy some quality, not itchy thermal underwear.

I'm going to take a break from knitting socks after I finish this pair and knit a bunch of beanies, mittens, scarves and shawls. Pepper has a list up on the door where family members can place their orders.

I'm going to make myself rug up and get outside whenever it's not windy and raining.

I'm going to plan some trips to Melbourne.

I am going to make up a mantra about decay and rotting being part of the cycle of life and I'm going to write it out and repeat it to myself.

I'm going to (try my hardest to) keep our house clean and tidy.

I'm going to make some nice smelling bath things.

When we're stuck inside for days at a time, I'm going to remind myself that I dream of the slow, quiet days in summer and autumn and try to re-frame the whole situation.


And then I walk out the front door and there are mushrooms growing on the grass. Seriously. I am not a fan of the fungus.

How about you?
Has the season changed where you are?
Do you have any sure fire ways to beat the cold weather blues?
Do you have any super soup recipes, yoga for beginners You-tubes, meditation for dummies apps?
Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?
I hope so.

See you next week.

Love Kate
xx





Friday, April 21, 2017

island time










It's our last afternoon on the island. I'm hoping that these photos will tell their own stories of our week away so I can go and spend the last precious moments outside rather than in the air-conditioning tapping away on my computer.

It's been magical.


See you next week with stories from back on the farm.

LoveLove

xx

PS. If you have any tips for easy reentry I'd love to hear them. I hear it's cold and wintry back home.


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