Monday, April 25, 2016

broken hearted + blindish

It's funny how some weeks go by and when you look back on them after wards it feels like nothing much has changed; we made food, we drove the girls around, we dug in the garden and we wrote some things on lists and ticked other things off. Then there are the other weeks where something happens that make us feel like we will never be the same again. Although we might look similar on the outside, it feels like every atom inside us has been altered. Although we still do the same driving and digging and feeding, somehow even those actions feel different.

Since I last wrote my blog one thing happened that has changed me forever on the inside, one thing happened that has changed me on the outside, and lots of other littler stuff has happened, not as significant but still part of the picture. Truthfully my mind and my heart are a bit messy. I find myself tearing up at the drop of a hat, I'm finding it difficult to focus on anything for a prolonged period of time (that might be the end of a month of school holidays) and I'm feeling a bit unmotivated despite the incredibly glorious autumn days.

I think perhaps the best way to explain myself and to obtain some sort of order is to channel my farmer boy and write a list. I'm hoping that as well as giving me some clarity and recording this moment in time, it'll also help me feel better. It's worth a try anyway.

one - Not last Wednesday but the Wednesday before, our beautiful grandfather died. As well as being an amazing man, he was the most wonderful grandfather. I feel that at some stage I should honour him with a whole post of his own, but for now it feels too soon, too raw.

My Zeida Saul Same lived a life filled to the brim with all the most important ingredients - love, family, friends, success, love, travel, recognition and then more love. Even though he lived whole-heartedly for 97 and a half years and slipped away peacefully when his time came, I still feel devastated by his loss. And losing him has brought back the best memories of my grandmother which Alzheimer's had stolen until now, which is in part a blessing and in part just adding to my sadness.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have loved and been loved by him. I have zillions of amazing memories to cherish and I'm pretty sure our girls do too. But I no longer have my Zeida, I no longer have any grandparents and that is incredibly sad.

This article ran in the Australian newspaper that week.

two - (ugh it's hard to move on to two, my eyes are filled with tears and everything else feels little, but I'll try). About a week ago I had my eyes tested and now I wear glasses. All my life I have felt proud of my perfect vision. I could read far away signs, thread the finest needles and spot the tiniest louse in the thickest jungle of hair. But a little while ago things started to change and I found that I could no longer see which emoji was making what expression on my phone, it became difficult for me to focus on the tiny sock stitches I was knitting and I found myself with a head ache on some days for no reason at all.

So now I wear glasses. It's early days and I'm still getting used to them and feeling a bit self conscious but I'm hoping they'll be good.

Glasses wearers I'd love to know your tricks for cleaning them, it's driving me a bit crazy actually.

three - a few days after my beloved grandfather died, our girls went to stay with their cousins in Melbourne for two days. Even though we had organised their stay a few weeks before, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Our country girls spent a couple of days having the best city adventures and we had uninterrupted time for mourning, for looking after each other, and for just being.

Thank you D, M, S, D, R and R we love you xxxxx

four  - After I finished the seven Tomorrow When the War Began books which I loved, I reread my Mum's book Alzheimer's A Love Story.

Although it was quite painful at times, reading my grandparents' histories, reading about my grandmother's gradual decline into that horrible disease and remembering their great love story was a such a precious gift to me. A treasure.

I have no doubt that I'm biased when I say that my Mum tells a story so beautifully, that it will have the reader laughing and in turn weeping as she turns its pages, but I'm not the only one - this book was chosen to be published before it was even completed. I'm so proud of my Mum all over again and I highly recommend this book for others caring for friends and family struggling with Alzheimer's and those just interested in stories of family and love and Australian history.

five - I cast off a pair of socks for my farmer boy. Nothing new or ground breaking here, just a reminder of that deep feeling of satisfaction and joy that comes from making something for someone I love.

The Ravelry details are here.

six - Tomatoes. We're still picking them by the crate full, preserving them by the jar full and drying them by the tray full. It's getting to that time in the season where the birds and other critters are making a bit of a mess of them and that deep tomato smell is making me hold my breath as I reach under the sticky vines, but I'll keep gathering them until the first frost does.

seven - We've been listening and loving my dad's radio program - Track of the day! -  each week day morning on the breakfast show at 8.05am on Hepburn Community's radio station. One song each day relating to the date is educational, fun and often unexpected. Yay Dad!

eight - It's funny that even though we have been growing stuff here for fifteen years, until now we've only ever really been interested in growing plants that will feed people or animals. For some reason I can't remember, this year we decided to grow a few beds and rows of flowers and although they are feeding the bees, the main reason for their planting was their prettiness.

There is no underestimating the happiness that a row of swaying blossoms brings as you spy it through the forest. There is nothing quite like watching Miss Pepper pick herself a bedroom posy every few days. We've pressed them, we've given them, we've drawn them, we've photographed them, we've made fairy houses from them and we've absolutely felt that they've fed our souls if not our hearts. We're hooked! Flowers forever!

nine - We closed our farm stall. It really has been a wonderful season. People have come from near and far to visit our pretty little stall and stock up on delicious apples. I feel grateful for how well supported and loved our stall has been, but also a little sad that it'll be so many more months until we throw open those cute doors again and fill her up with goodness. But next year is our biennial on year and it's bound to be huge - so watch this space!

ten - After it was damaged in a storm and lay in a pile of wood for many, many months, my farmer boy rebuilt his pole lathe. Often as I drove past the pile I did wonder if he'd ever have the time or the memory to rebuild it again, but then one day he decided to and then he did.

So far he's made me three chop sticks to wear in my hair and a single spoon but I can see by the way he takes every opportunity to run outside and play with it that he's hooked. I'm excited about all those little wood curls, I'm excited about the possibilities of spoons, bowls, chair legs and even knitting needles. And of course I'm thrilled that he's fallen in crafty love. That he has that addictive feeling of wanting to make all the things. And that he has an escape, a way to run away from the have to's and get into the zone.

And that dear reader is that. Perhaps a little more than you bargained for but still...a little slice of my life.

I hope you are travelling well my friends.
I hope you are reading a great book and have yummy things to eat.

Sending love, love, love

Kate xoxo

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

pumpkin patch

Hello dear reader, how are you?

I'm afraid that it's been so long since my last blog ramble that I don't know where to start.

In the past month since I've popped in here we've harvested hundreds of crates of fruit and vegetables, we've preserved jars and shelves and cupboards full for winter, we've pulled crops out and put more crops in, we've weeded and irrigated and forked and fenced. We've felt elated with our successes and grieved our failures. We've felt proud of our beautiful produce and I've cried when I've lost the fight with the birds over the spinach and cabbage.

We've put a lot of stuff off but we're getting there.

We've thought and talked a lot about what being certified organic means to us, the future directions of Daylesford Organics, farming and living an even more sustainable life, an environmental building project, passing on our passions, more ways to be generous, our eating habits and ways we can grow as a family, as a couple, and as individuals.

In the past month since I've been here we've driven hundreds of kilometres back and forth to the girls' new school. Although the school days are much too long for my liking, our girls are thriving and growing and being inspired and challenged and I feel so happy with that decision.

Although at times it felt exhausting learning the culture of a new school, dealing with difficult personalities, too much homework and not enough time with Pepper, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I often tell people that I feel like our girls have been switched on. That their minds have been opened and that they are looking at and engaging with the world in a whole new way.

Over the summer when we were making what felt like an enormous decision to rip our girls out of their community and send them to school almost an hour away I kept saying that I'd make my mind up for sure after one term. Sitting here now 10 weeks in I am relieved to discover that there is no question.

In the past month (and a half) since I've blogged I've read and loved Ilka Tampke's Skin. I got so swept up in the story and Ailia's journey that I didn't really think about how complicated it must be to write historical fiction until I'd finished it. Researching and then keeping the languages, the culture, the religions, the traditions, the stories and the costumes accurate for the time in history makes my brain hurt.

After that I started Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies but got interrupted when my Mum leant me her library copy of Tegan Bennett Daylight's Six Bedrooms that had to be returned by the Friday.

Next I read Olga Lorenzo's The Light on The Water which I read quickly and liked a lot. I mostly gobble up those stories that offer me a what if version of my own life. What if I lost one of my own precious girls? What sort of mother would I be to a child with autism? How would I deal with living alone? Divorce? Parenting a uni student? Gaol?

After that I started the John Marsden's Tomorrow When The War Began series and this morning I opened the sixth book. I seriously cannot stop reading them. Many times I've made excuses to go into my bedroom to get a jumper or put something away, only to return 50 pages later with no jumper and no memory of what I'd gone in there for. I'm not a great lover of short stories because I love getting to know characters intensely and follow them through their stories slowly, it makes me happy to know that I've still got another book after this in the series and then two more in The Ellie Chronicles.

Deep inside these books I am looking at the world a bit differently at the moment too. Last week I saw a story about a petrol tanker spill in the news and couldn't help but think it might be the work of Ellie and Homer and the gang, and I must admit that I do have a tiny freak out for a second every time a chopper goes overhead. I also feel like our girls need to learn to drive lots of different vehicles, and survival techniques, because you never know....

And most of all I really, really hope that my girls get to learn story writing from John in the years to come, what a genius story teller.

I'm afraid that even after all your brilliant, generous and thoughtful messages on my spinning post, I haven't had another go. Crazy Autumn just doesn't feel like the right time for me to learn this new skill. So I've given my borrowed wheel back and I hope to have another go when the days turn cold and wet and windy and sitting by the fire turning a handful of fleece into yarn is the only place in the world I have to be.

I haven't really knitted much either. I finished my Bracken sweater but haven't had a chance to photograph it properly yet. And I'm up to the cuff ribbing on a looooooooooong pair of socks for my farmer boy.

And other than that I've been waiting patiently for this very moment that is now. The big girls are on holidays and doing their own thing, Farmer Bren is outside carving a spoon, Miss Pepper is at school and I'm sitting here on the couch for a bit, typing these words to stop the little voice in my head that's been telling me that the longer I neglect my blog the harder it will be to get back to it. And it's right of course.

The days are getting shorter but I can feel that the season is slowing down and it's time for me to get going on some of the things that I've been putting off for so long.

I've missed you my friends and it's so very gorgeous to be back.
I hope you've had a great month, what have you been up to?

Hopefully I'll see you SOON!

Love Kate x

PS I just realised this was my 1,000th post!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

beginner spinner

So what happens when you're really not very good at something that feels important to you?

It's late on a beautiful, warm Saturday afternoon in the middle of March and we've made the decision to stop with the farm work and spend some time together as a family crafting outside.

It's a crazy time of the year and often I'll find myself getting ready for bed at night not able to remember a single time when I sat down all day. Everything is ripe and needs picking, everything is dry and needs irrigating, everything is going soft and needs preserving, everything is becoming a jungle and needs weeding, and mowing and feeding and fencing and fixing and moving and stacking and and and stopping early just to sit together and chat and make feels indulgent, and precious, and also necessary.

My farmer boy is carving a spoon. It's been months since he's made one but he's committed to demonstrating and selling at a market soon and has lots of cutting ahead of him. His hands feel out of practise, his fingers are sore and blistered, but he's in the zone and not long after he starts chipping away he remembers and he becomes excited at the possibilities and the feelings.

Nearby Indi is weaving wool around sticks and inside the house Jarrah is creating with paper and washi tape.

Miss Pepper is taking staples from our sheep's shorn fleece, combing them, using some for her fairy house and making neat piles of the rest for me. I can't help but joke about how she owes me. How I've been brushing and braiding her bottom-lengthed hair for eight years now and it's time for her to pay up. She is strong and likes to discuss the feeling of the lanolin on her hands, the sheepy, woolly smell and the bits of dirt she finds as she cards.

And I am sitting to the side, shoes off, straight backed, deep breathed, trying my hardest to find some sort of rhythm on this spinning wheel I borrowed from my spinning group.

And it's hard for me.

And I am a little disappointed because I think I had hoped that it would click for me sooner. That wool and fibre and textiles are such a big important part of who I am and what I love that spinning would just be an extension of what I can do and would be easy for me.

To be honest and fair I haven't given the wheel that much time. When time is precious it feels better spent on projects that will produce a sure thing. I have a sleeve to knit on a jumper, I have squares to knit into a blanket, I have Indi's cardigan to cast on, winter is coming and there are socks and mittens and beanies in the queue.

But still the spinning calls to me.

I visit the sheep that grew this fleece every day. At the moment I know that they are in our south orchard eating the grass that grows between the trees. I love that they feel so comfortable amongst the chickens and that they sleep with the dogs. I watch them carefully to see how they behave on the warm days and when it is cooler. I love how they stick together as a pack, how they panic when they are separated from one another by accident and look relieved and chummy when they are reunited. I don't mind that they are eating the lower leaves on the branches of the apple trees and I am sure that their little pellet poo is doing great things for the orchard's fertility.

Now that we have sheep, I find myself less interested in buying commercial wool.

I want to knit with wool that tells our farm's story. Wool that holds our seasons, and bits of our land and the love and respect we have for them as part of our farm.

And yet I find myself with lots of tangley twisty bits.

And a bobbin filled with yarn so bobbley and uneven that it almost looks like that novelty pom-pom yarn you find in op shops and wonder why it was made in the first place.

I will persevere of course. I will hold the fleece in my left hand, draft with my right, while treadeling with both feet and trying to get the wheel to spin in a clockwise direction. Phew! And I'll hold my breath when my farmer boy hops on; part of me wanting him to get it and explain it simply to me, and part of me wanting it to be too hard for him too so it's not just me spinning my way into lumpy-town.

I wonder how far away from my dreams of a hand spun, hand knitted jumper my reality is.

In the meantime, we've opened our farm gate stall for the season, Yay!

You can find us at  - Daylesford Organics - 19 Foxs Lane Muskvale.

The stall is open between about 8am and 8pm every day.

Apples are all certified organic, grown here, picked within the last 24 hours, DELICIOUS and cost $6kg.

Please bring your own bags, exact change and honesty.

And tell me, if you please, when was the last time you tried to learn something new?
When was the last time you didn't at first succeed?
And how long did you try and try again for?
Oh and I'm on the hunt for my own wheel if you have any suggestions.
And youtube spinning videos, can you suggest any?

I'm off to pick today's tomatoes and plant some cabbage.

Big spinny love to you,



Monday, March 7, 2016

baskets full

I loaded these photos into my blog exactly a week ago.

I took these photos in the two weeks before that.

According to the calendar now it's autumn but then it was still summer, although with the extreme heat wave we've been having one could beg to differ.

Last week when I loaded the photos of the pumpkins and the sprouting seed and wondered about the birds who make nests in impossibly high places, I was sitting with my Mum at a cafe nearby. She was  handwriting a chapter in her novel and I was loading photos, trying not to talk to her, feeling a bit guilty for sitting down when there's SO MUCH to do right now on the farm, and in the end instead of writing the words that go with the photos, I wrote a looooooooong to-do list instead. No all that creative but sometimes quite necessary.

Monday morning one week later and the photos are older and the stories that go with them more out of date. But still these are the things that are filling our autumn days.

Apple picking, pumpkin gazing, cucumber collecting and fermenting, tomato harvesting and preserving, spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, cabbage, lettuce and carrot weeding and eating, watering, watering and more watering, planting the winter veg, mowing, netting and fencing.

It's a fabulous time of the year. It's the time that makes all the rest of the farming months make sense. It's crates of fruit in the doorway so you have to walk sideways into the house, it's bowls of tomatoes and boxes of cucumbers and baskets of apples, it's pots of bubbling produce on the stove waiting to be poured into jars, it's colourful bottles filling every available bit of bench space there is, it's books lying open all over the table with new recipes to try, it's rings and clips and lids and crocks, it's a washing machine load of aprons, it's a sticky mess on the floor next to the stove, it's a sink FULL of dishes, it's this crazy time when we are living in one season but trying to provide for the next, it's the part of the year that I feel most tired, most alive and the happiest.

Happy new season my friends!

What's it looking like where you are?

I hope yours is bountiful and delicious.

So much love,

Kate x

Friday, February 19, 2016

What I've been up to - the late summer edition


How are you lovely blog buddy?

What have I been up to? I thought you'd never ask. Here goes;

I've been picking celery, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers and herbs from the garden.

Somewhere along the line I ditched the cider vinegar method of preserving and fell in love with fermenting. These fermented pickles are super easy to make, barely cost a thing in terms of ingredients and dollars, they are DELICIOUS and are full of beneficial nutrients for your gut. WinwinwinwinwinYUM!

I'm using Amanda Feifer's book - Ferment Your Vegetables as a bit of a bible, but I'm certain there are loads of great recipes online and in other books too.

I think my poly tunnel cucumber vines are nearing the end of their season but my market garden vines are just taking off. Looks like I'll be shoving cucumbers into jars, filling them with herbs and brine and vine leaves and burping their air bubbles for many weeks still to come.

We're picking apples! So far we've picked the the Jersey Macs, the Abbas and the Galas. Gosh it's good to be an apple farmer in apple season.

After a few years break from pumpkin growing due to lack of interest, we finally planted the seeds and had another grow(!). I'd forgotten how much fun it is to watch those big leafy vines take over the space, to watch those yellow flowers form bulbs behind them that seem to grow and grow and grow every time you look, and even though I am not a pumpkin eater, none of us are, this autumn I resolve to try a whole lot of recipes until we become so.

We've been sharing our grapes with the birds.

I read, and fell in a deep hole, and wept over, and despaired over, and then finally finished Hanya Yangihara's A Little Life. Reading it affected my entire life for two weeks like a bad dream that haunted my days. But as traumatic and heart breaking as I found it, I also thought it was brilliant. I couldn't put it down. I made excuses to run inside to my bedroom to change clothes just so I could sneak a few pages, I stayed up waaaaay too late at night to devour big chunks and I read on the treadmill - which is something I've never done before but which I have always done since. I loved this book and still feel myself sobbing a little when I think back to it.

And even though I made jokes that I needed to read a fluffy romance novel after I finished A Little Life - I started reading Room by Emma Donoghue, a much less traumatic but still very disturbing and claustrophobic novel.

I've almost finished my Flower King beanie from Anna Maltz's gorgeous book Penguin. The pattern calls for a big pom-pom on top, but I'm thinking an i-cord finish might be better for my little penguins to wear to school.

I've started a Bracken jumper for Miss Pepper which is knitted inside out with two different sized needles which is fun and fast. It's been ages since I've knitted jumpers and cardigans for my girls but this year I'm hoping to have them all rugged up in time for winter.

I felt like the luckiest Mum on earth when I discovered that an entire ball of HOT PINK yarn had gone through the washing machine cycle and not coloured anything else pink. I have no idea who the yarn belonged to, I have no idea how it even happened but I do know that I am grateful beyond words that there wasn't even a streak, or a tinge, or a speck of pink on anything to be found.

I am loving the little posies of garden cut flowers that have been appearing in jars around the place.

We watched and loved both seasons of The Leftovers and have no idea what to watch next.

And I'm thrilled to report that we have finally joined the rest of Australia by having bowls of tomatoes on the kitchen table. Finally. For a while there I thought that the girls would eat every single one that I brought into the house as I brought it in, but eventually supply overcame even their demand. We still are nowhere near a saucepan of passata or a tray of semi-drieds, but as I keep chanting to myself - tomatoes are an autumn fruit and we are still 10 days away from autumn.

And as usual I've been watering and weeding and feeding and planting and digging and fencing and cooking and baking and jamming and dehydrating, and driving, and listening and solving and writing and photographing.

I haven't yet used the spinning wheel I borrowed from my spinning group, maybe this weekend.

And that's me, us, we.

Tell me about you. How are you travelling? What are you reading, growing, dreaming about?

Wishing you the most wonderful weekend.

Love Kate

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