Wednesday, June 1, 2016

catching sheep in 25 steps

1.  One stormy Sunday night when a fence came down, four of our sheep were frightened and escaped down the valley while the dogs and the chickens stayed behind.

2.  When they are stressed, sheep can run FAST and jump over and under and through many types of fencing in a single bound.

3.  Just because we are good and knowledgeable in dealing with one type of livestock does not mean we have a clue about dealing with any other.

4.  If sheep already have a good feed source, they will not be interested in the bucket of wheat or the handfuls of lucerne we are trying to tempt them with.  

5.  When chasing sheep through paddocks and forest we twisted an ankle in a ditch, scratched up our arms and legs on fences and gorse bushes, tore our clothing, lost a phone, cried. 

6. Just because everyone in the country appears to keep sheep quietly and happily in their paddocks or front yards, does not mean we can too.

    7.  Running through the paddocks and bits of forest we came face to face with some of the biggest and scariest looking kangaroos we have ever seen and teams of miniature horses that we never even knew existed.

    8.  Chasing sheep can be a full time occupation complete with phone calls, text messages, emails, appointments and many, and varied attempts.

    9.  After a few days we came to the conclusion that sheep are unpredictable and irresponsible.

      10.  Sometimes we found ourselves wondering about what the size of a flock actually is.

      11.  We worried night and day about the stress to the sheep, about car accidents involving sheep, about fox and dog attacks on sheep, and about other worse case sheep scenarios.

      12.  We had moments where we doubted ourselves as farmers, as animal caretakers, as wool lovers or as shepherds.

        13.  We stressed like crazy at the fact that all we did all day everyday was chase sheep instead of the zillions of other jobs that were urgently crying out for our attention.

        14.  During the days we were chasing sheep we spent more time with our neighbours down the valley than we have in the last 16 years combined.

        15.  During that time spent with our neighbours we were shown such generosity and kindness that we were humbled.

        16.  On one occasion we were threatened and frightened.

        17.  On the Friday I skipped my spinning group session because I was chasing sheep and because I was having a crisis of confidence about keeping sheep and spinning their wool and whether I should just stick to knitting anyway.

        18.  Each night we lay in bed at night catching NOT counting sheep.

        19.  No-one; not Dave in the fruit shop, not Sam our gym trainer, not the guy who made our coffee, not our kids, nor the other parents at school really cared about our lost sheep even though that's all we spoke about for a week.

        20.  It appears on the other hand that EVERYONE knows that sheep get lost even Game Of Throne's Lord of the Twins, Walder Frey who in last Sunday's episode was furious at the news his troops had lost control over Riverrun and shouted "It's a castle, not bloody sheep!"

        21.  Little Bo Peep was a fairy tale. 

        22.  In the end, one week and one day after they escaped, it was a beautiful sheep dog called Jess and Real Eggs farmer Paul who saved the day, thank you, thank you!!!! Thank you also to my Mum and Dad, Rob, Susie, Craig and Kimmy, Tracey, Lisa and Ally. xx 

        23.  The sheep have now gone home to Nats and Jono at Brooklands free range farm where they originally came from. N and J have shown us such kindness and patience throughout this adventure and we both feel very lucky and grateful. 

        24.  And as for us, well let's just say a book about keeping sheep found its way into our Amazon shopping cart yesterday. While we do feel a bit heart broken at the set-back, we are already making plans for sheep proof fencing a few paddocks, we are chatting about a  proper stock trailer and some yards, and we've decided that if we are lucky enough to try this all again, then next time we'll start with a few lambs. Maybe we'll even bottle feed them and warm them in the Esse.

        25.  Fingers crossed.

        Tuesday, May 24, 2016

        Little Bo Peep

        from last weekend's glamping trip to the beach

        from that rare second when i looked up and saw beauty rather than work to-do

        from a family potato digging day

        from a beautiful parcel of yarn sent to me by jackie @intambo_yarn

        This afternoon just after we finished lunch and were putting our boots back on to go outside, I started making a list of all the things that are going wrong for us at the moment. None of it life threatening (for us), none of it life altering (for us), but still somehow we've found ourselves with quite the load and I thought that saying it out loud might make it stop. Or at least justify the weight I'm feeling on my shoulders and the sick feeling in my stomach.

        The sheep got out in a storm and we've spent the best part of two days trying to get them back. One of the girls' close friends has had a terrifying health scare. Another one of our girls is having an awful time with some school yard stuff. We've had a minor health scare of our own. We haven't slept through the night in weeks. We're at that stage where we should be starting to wind down for the winter but our to-do list feels HUGE and OVERWHELMING. The days are starting to close in on us as they become shorter and icier and darker. And the thought of our precious girls being driven to and from school through the dark windy forest in the wet and the gloom doesn't make me feel good at all.

        Me and my farmer boy talk A LOT and OFTEN about details and plans and the best way to tackle situations so none of the above list was a surprise to him, but still he stopped me at this stage and told me that he thinks what's going on is life's way of reminding us to enjoy the good stuff. To not be complacent and live without thought, but to live with choices and meaning.

        He's right you know. I know.

        We need the occasional crappy times so we can really fly high when things get good again.

        So instead of adding to my list I stopped and I reversed it. I took a big deliberate breath into my stomach and I closed my eyes. I felt the warm almost winter sun on my face. And as I opened my eyes I saw the last of the liquid amber tree's leaves flutter softly to the ground. And then I noticed the bulbous Brussel sprouts and started dreaming up ways to cook them for dinner. It was just a moment but it felt like an important one.

        The sheep are still out, I'm still stressing about the girls but we'll deal with it all. That's what we do.

        And just before I go there's this photo. Kim Daly took it for Alphabet Journal a few years ago and I think it may be the only photo I have of me knitting. And I love it. But the reason I've put it here is because Karen Templer of Fringe Association, one of my all time knitting gurus and sources of inspiration, wrote a blog about me and called me her 'maker crush'!! Me! I actually cannot believe it. I have to put it in my blog so I can find it in the future when I question my knitting abilities.

        In return I can only dream of and drool over Karen's incredible projects, her vision and her community. Karen has created something truly wonderful and I urge you wool lovers and lovers of beautiful things to check out her spaces - BLOG - INSTA.

        And while we're out covering our wood piles before the rain and you are out picking your kids up from school, sitting at your desk at work, pushing a little person on the swing or just waking up - please, please cross your fingers that our sheep do what Little Bo Beep's did.

        Love ya's!


        Wednesday, May 11, 2016

        Pepper's patchy pocket

        It's funny, when I first started writing this blog, almost nine years ago, I had kids at home and spent hours and days and weeks crafting up a storm with them. My sewing machine was always out, my over-locker was threaded, there were scraps of fabric and bits of cotton all over the place, and piles of half made projects wherever you looked. Now, seven years later here I am again.

        With Indi and Jazzy off on long days at high school, I've found myself alone with Miss Pepper for three hours of every day.

        In the warmer months she hung out outside. Sometimes in the gardens or the orchards with us, sometimes she'd make up her own little games or projects with the animals or the fairies, and then other times she'd take a few apples and spend hours on the trampoline singing songs, choreographing dances and enjoying her own space and time.

        But now the days have grown wet and wild and have mostly forced us to shelter inside.

        To begin with I tried to get her involved in the projects I wanted to complete myself. She stirred the jam, she wound the handle of the tomato smoosher, she took the clean laundry to whoever's bedroom it belonged to, or she drew pictures at the table while I made dinner. But then one day about a week ago she took herself off for a while and when she came back to me she'd gathered some scraps of fabric and cut herself out a pocket.

        A pocket!! How cool.

        So I threaded her up a needle and she sewed it all together.

        And while she was at it I stitched her a skirt.

        (I know that sounded rather casual but the truth is that I haven't sewn anything for about four years. There was dust in everything, it took me a while to remember what was what, and let's just say thank goodness I got my glasses BEFORE I tried to thread up the over locker.)

        But I used one of her skirts as a template, I found some old cord in my stash, and then I drew, then cut, then sewed, then hemmed and when I was finished it even fit her.

        I made the skirt mixy-matchy and she decided to stitch the pocket on half way to make it reversible.

        I did reinforce her stitches on the sewing machine to make sure that it survives its rough life on the farm and at school, but the hard work was all hers.

         She's pretty proud of herself.

        The next project was a skirt for the kitten (it was only a matter of time), which unfortunately was too small but looked cute as a kerchief.

        And now we're working on this. She chose the fabrics, traced the petals and cut them out and I've ironed on a bit of adhesive webbing to stick it all in place. I'm hoping she'll sew it all together when she gets home from school.

        Although initially I was worried about my time and everything I was used to achieving with school aged kids who mostly entertain themselves and each other, now I'm so excited to be working on these cute projects with her. I'm also amazed and crazy happy that my love for sewing seems to be returning. I'm starting small with elastic waisted skirts but I'm dreaming up ideas for dresses, cute zippered skirts for the big girls, pyjama pants and maybe even a quilt.

        The more you craft - the more you want to craft - I always say. Lucky we're heading into winter and we'll have more indoors time, hey.

        Before I go I just wanted to say an enormous THANK YOU for all of your beautiful messages about my grandfather. I miss him like crazy and sometimes I get such a fright when I remember that he's not here anymore. But I feel lucky to miss him and to remember him and to have your comments to read through too.

        You guys are wonderful!

        And I'd love to know one thing about you at the moment.
        What are you reading, or planting, or sewing, or thinking, or cooking, or knitting?

        Woah is that the time!
        I'd better be off to pick up my smallest from school.




        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,



        Visit my other blog.