Friday, February 17, 2017

late summer blues

 first day of school

end of summer garden jungle

the cucumber hunt

little fuzzy quince

tiny apples

pretty spotty pears

apple eater

Hello my lovely ones,

I'm writing to you this week from inside my snow globe. I was going to say from inside my shower screen, but the imagery isn't as good. And actually it's kind of like a reverse snow globe anyway. I'm sitting inside and the rest of the beautiful world is outside. Shake it up and a flurry of pretty leaves and flower petals fall from the trees.

I've been sitting inside my snow globe for close to a week now. Sitting here alone hoping for the lid to lift and for things to feel different. And just now I've started to feel anxious that I'm ending the week feeling the same way that I started. Nothing seems to have changed.

From in here the world looks grimy and a bit hopeless and sad. Even though we still have a few weeks left of summer, the days are getting noticeably shorter and cooler and I fear the long winter to come. I fear that the sunshine is already growing weaker and as we slowly pull the decaying summer veg from the garden and replace it with winter crops, I worry about those icy months when the garden is only green and does not boast with bright colour and bounty dripping from its vines. I'm not ready to go back to those months of frost, wet and cold.

I agonise over the stories my children bring home, not able to understand the way kids treat each other and that teachers can be so impatient and unseeing. I wonder how in this day and age with all that we know, that more of an emphasis isn't given to teaching about sustainability and care for our planet and putting plans into action.

I feel panicked at the never ending sameness of my life. The ebbs and flows are practically predictable and feel impossibly tedious from where I sit right now.

I feel disappointed about the growing season and am already tired of the excuses I'll have to repeat to myself and others as the harvest we had been so looking forward to doesn't eventuate.

And I worry about the world. About the people and the creatures who should treat others and be treated themselves with kindness and care, and that the way things are now, is not how they always will be.

Yet despite all this, I've labelled this place where I sit my snow globe because I'm well aware of the beauty that sits outside its rounded walls. I am also all too aware that if I were a better housekeeper and brushed the cobwebs away and scrubbed the grime from the glass, that the sunshine would stream in and bleach the dirty carpet from my sight and the ache from my heart.

It's a funny place to spend time, this grey world of mine, because I don't feel overcome by despair; I just feel full of melancholy. I am aware of all the gifts I have been given, I just feel too tired to play with them right now. And this is not depression, I don't want to stay in bed and I can make a list for you a mile long of all the reasons I have to be grateful. And I believe them. Every single one. Everything just feels tainted somewhat. Bland.

At the start of my week I was kind to myself and felt that the greyness must be the result of last week's virus leaving my body. All those days spent shivering and burning up had had a physical effect on my body and now this was the emotional effect. After a few days I decided it was seasonal. I could feel summer melting into autumn, and so in turn the moon and the tides and the stars were having their effect on me. Then I got a bit cross with myself. How dare someone with so much privilege take it for granted for one moment. What was the point of wasting even one second. But the more I questioned how I felt, the more uncomfortable things felt, the more I understood that I had to lean into this mood. To push at it and poke at it and try to find its origins, its meaning and look at it from all perspectives. The worse it made me feel, the better, because hopefully somewhere hidden inside I would discover some answers.

I don't know if any of this will make sense to you, or be of any interest. I contemplated just posting a couple of photos for today's post with a promise of a proper blog when things shift, hopefully over the next few days. There is no craft, no garden, no farm, or family in these words and that makes me feel a bit odd.

When I spoke to my farmer boy about having no story other than this greyness for my blog this week, he suggested I write it down anyway, let him read it and then delete it. I knew I wouldn't delete it though. That's not my style.

He also suggested that I take a 24-hour break from social media, which so often is his solution with the girls, and I think he was surprised when I agreed. I love social media, but noticing how often I open an app and scroll mindlessly without thinking has been interesting. And having a break from what has lately felt like all the people shouting at me to look at them, do things their way, or compare myself to impossible perfection has been a bit of a relief. Life feels a lot less noisy without all the chatter. I think I'm ready to join my girls in their limited social media access during the week, possibly. As a trial.

Which brings me to the feeling that maybe this week is the discomfort before a change. I've been saying for months that I'm stuck and ready for something new, something more. But late yesterday afternoon as I ran through my list of possible new projects to take on this year and then neatly followed each with a reason why I don't actually want to, it occurred to me that maybe I am scared of losing what I have in the process. Life on the other side of the snow globe looks pretty good.

So I'm right back where I started. But glad that I have the weekend and a break from routine to try to get out of my head and stuck right into life with those I love. Hopefully the grey will become mauve...

And just for the record, here's some other stuff that I've been getting up to this snow globe week.

Reading - After watching the Little Women film last week and noticing how much more of the story it covered, I checked back in with another copy of the book we have on our shelves only to discover that Louisa M Alcott wrote two books that were eventually published as one. Good Wives being the second part. So much to my delight, I have spent some bonus hours with the March family this week reading the rest of the book.

Listening - I'm still making my way through the StartUp podcast although I think I've almost reached the current episodes. The most recent series examines Dov Charney and the demise of his company American Apparel, and the start up of his new tee-shirt company. I'm loving it and it makes the long school commutes and the hanging out of the laundry and the weeding of the garden chores I actually look forward to.

Knitting - I'm happy to report that I've turned the heels of the spotty socks and am on my way up the ankles. I love them and am hoping that the recipient feels the same when she sees them this afternoon when she returns from canoe camp.

Cooking - Beetroot for salads, blackberries in fruit leather, beans in stir fries, cucumbers in pickles (not really cooking but you know...). Hopefully by this time next week we'll be eating sweet corn.

Watching - This Is Us. Oh my goodness, Kevin and Randall!!!!

Planting - Lettuce, cabbage, beetroot, rocket, carrots, spring onions, parsley, broccoli and chives.

Contemplating - What to do with the list of ethical businesses wanting to work with me on my instagram and blog. Would be so good to be able to look out for the good guys, but how can I do it and keep my integrity.

Running - Off to gym right now.

Hurting - On the knee that I landed on when I was stupidly picking blackberries on the dam wall earlier in the week and feel in.

Hoping - To be out of my snow globe and back to my silly, interpretive dance, optimistic, self ASAP.

Sending - All my love and wishes for some warm sunshine on your skin, a gentle breeze to dry your washing, a book you can't put down and a great big cuddle.

Love Kate xx

Friday, February 10, 2017

spots on socks

Hello honey bunches,

I hope you've had a gorgeous week.

Me? Not so much. Well actually it started off quite promisingly. We had a lovely weekend last weekend. Saturday was busy and we spent Sunday celebrating Bren's wonderful parents and their 50 years of love and marriage with dinner and a show.

But then it nose dived pretty quickly from there. On Sunday night I went to bed and didn't get up again until Thursday. My bones ached, my muscles cramped, I was HOT and then FREEZING, my chest hurt and I don't know how to describe the pain in my head except to say that I've never experienced a head ache quite like it. It was scary.

It's so dumb, but sometimes when I'm running around in my normal, healthy life, the thought of being sick and stuck in bed sounds dreamy. I imagine myself propped up on big poofy pillows, with my hair in a messy bun and my lap top perched on my knees, watching movies, knitting and taking sips of fizzy mineral water guilt-free. In my dreams, being sick was almost luxury.

Of course the reality didn't even vaguely resemble the fantasy: grubby, sweaty hair, eyes that were too sore to watch or read anything, head that hurt too much to listen to anything, scary pain and nausea and as for knitting, forget it. What a waste of time.

But I'm pleased to report that today, on day five of the awful sickness, I am just about well again. I'm still not at that stage where the whole world looks brand new and fresh and exciting and I feel like skipping through the daisies singing, but I'm close. Unfortunately Bren, Jazzy and Indi are still a few days behind me.

In other news, during the week my niece Sascha turned 20. Twenty years ago my farmer boy, who back then was probably more of a dread-locked gypsy boy, took a break from trekking the world and returned home to Melbourne to meet his newborn niece.

Not long after he'd returned, we met at a wedding, we fell in love and have been more or less inseparable ever since. Thanks to Sascha being born. I can't believe that was 20 years ago. I can't believe that that beautiful, tiny red-headed baby who wouldn't ever go to sleep is now practically grown. Sometimes I can't even believe that we have kids and cars and land and apple trees....

Twenty years hey!

What I can believe in though is socks knitting. I still love it. It still fills me up creatively and at the same time feels useful.

I knitted this pair for my farmer boy for his birthday, but due to some issues with the tension of the fair isle pattern around the top, he couldn't get them on. Miss Indi could get them on and modelled them for me, in exchange for a new Facebook profile pic. Remember the days when the going rate for bribery was a cookie? How things have changed. Anyway, as you can see from the photos, the socks are actually too big for Indi so will probably end up on Miss Jazzy's feet. Even though she was the last in the family to receive a pair from me. Better keep knitting.

The next thing that happened in my knitting land is that Indi requested a pair of socks with spots. Cool, I thought and proceeded to search the internet for patterns. Not so cool, I thought, when weirdly I didn't come up with any.

So I tried to convince her that what she really needed was a beautiful, snuggly shawl instead.

She disagreed.

So I got out some textas and paper and tried to work out what spots on socks might look like. Then I tried to work out how many stitches across and up and down they should be, how many stitches between them they should have, and how on earth I could evenly fit them across a 66 stitch sock. Is your brain hurting yet?

Once I had more or less worked out the stitches I tested them out by knitting a square. A square of spots.

That worked quite well but Miss Indi thought the spots were too big.

So I knitted a smaller swatch on 2mm needles with sock yarn.


Which leads us to now. For although I'm not 100% better I am better enough to take my spotty sock knitting into the other room to watch one of the Little Women movies. I have just finished reading the book and am dying to see the characters brought to life.

Gosh I adored that book. It broke my heart and brought me to tears of sadness and joy more times than I could count. I love those March girls, I love their relationships and adventures and of course I loved every single mention of knitting socks for the soldiers. What I wouldn't give for a chance to sit at that table for a night counting stitches with the sisters, turning heels, making lace and giggling at each other.

I can't believe I have never read it til now. Have you?

And with that I bid you farewell for another week.

May we all be healthy, may our tomatoes finally ripen, may our pickles have just enough pucker, and may the movie not disappoint the book.


zig zag toe socks details here
lotsa spots socks details here

Friday, February 3, 2017

capturing + creating

Hello honey bunches - here we are again.

The whole of January I wondered if I was doing the right thing by sticking to the Friday Foxs Lane, rather than blogging every day the way I had for the previous two years. Every now and then I'd pop back into my archives to remind me of what we were doing on the same date a year ago and I'd love the connection to the seasons, the summer rhythm, and our past.

Our summers look so dreamy in blog posts. They're filled with fruit picking, girls in floral dresses with messy braids, vegetable pickling and long sunny days spent together as a family.

But on the last day of this January, just a few days ago when it was waaaay too late to change my mind, I decided that I'd made the right decision after all. It was a warm early evening on the day before the summer holidays ended. We'd eaten dinner, the girls had laid out their clothes for the next day and packed their school bags but we still had a few hours before bed time. Indi announced that she wanted to head down to the front of the farm and pick some flowers for her friend and Pepper and I decided to join her. We pulled our boots on, grabbed some secateurs and a bucket for blackberries and headed out the door. Only once we had well and truly left did it occur to me to bring my camera along too. Just in case the light was just right and I felt like snapping some pictures. So I went back and picked it up.

On the way down, I asked the girls if they remembered the previous January and what it had been like when I was blogging every day. Mostly they remembered my 7pm panic and inevitable hustle of everyone out the door to go and check on the quinces, or go and pick the plums, or get the eggs, or do any other family activity that I could photograph and then blog about that night. 

They both agreed that this year was so much better and thinking back over the last thirty one days I tended to agree. Without the constant blogging at the back of my mind and my camera slung over my shoulder, life felt smoother. We probably ended up doing all those same activities, but they happened when the time was right, and I got to be part of them rather than shooting them from the outside. And while the phone camera in my pocket still gets quite the workout, it doesn't feel like it leads me along, it's just there for the pretty bits.

We all agreed that last year it felt like I was making the moment, whereas this year with only the Friday blogs it felt like I was capturing it.

So while in January 2015 I posted 31 blogs, in January 2016 I posted 28 blogs, this past January 2017 I only posted six blogs, and I'm happy about it.

At the end of the conversation Indi suggested me that I should write about the capturing versus the creating thing for this Friday blog and because I'm such a good and obedient mum (haha), I am.

But just incase you were wondering about the rest of our January, here's a bit more of the picture.

We ate cucumbers, lettuce, beans, peas, plums, strawberries, blackberries, beetroot, rocket, broccoli, cabbage, currants, eggs and gooseberries from our farm.

I read Music And Freedom by Zoe Morrison which I liked, The Healing Party by Micheline Lee which I found interesting, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner which I read because Indi is studying it in class but which I struggled with, Wasted: A Story of Alcohol, Grief and a Death in Brisbane which I could not put down and ended up reading in one night and feeling quite distressed by, A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam which I loved, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offil which I LOVED!!! and most of Wedding Bush Road by David Francis, which took me a while to commit to but then I did.

I listened to hours and hours and hours of the StartUp podcast by Gimlet Media. I'm not sure why I stuck to the one, instead of listening to all the other podcasts I usually subscribe to, but I've really enjoyed every episode, so why not.

I went to the movies once and saw La La Land which I enjoyed.

We watched This is Us and LOVED it, Code Black, and Nashville.

I knitted two pairs of socks, one blogged here and one to be blogged soon, and I sewed a top.

We hung out with the girls, with family and with friends, we did farm work and a lot of work in the garden, we went to the beach, we spent a night in hospital, we cleaned out my grandparents' apartment, we celebrated our farmer boy's birthday and swam at his beach and caught and raced yabbies, and celebrated my Mum's birthday too and we had a girl in our forest.

We discussed: leaving our farm (we're not), leaving the description 'farmers' (we feel stuck) and finding ways to make it easier on ourselves around here (fencing, sheep, help). We discussed separating the feelings of failure from that of disappointment, ways to lead a more creative life, and changes we can put in place and projects we can take on to make sure we are always feeding our souls. We spoke a lot about getting the kid/farm/us balance right too. It's a work in progress, I guess it always will be.

And while we're talking about January, I do have to make note of the fact that so many people wrote to me and pulled me up in the street to let me know that they've switched over to natural deodorant too after reading my January First post, yay team! I love that we're in this together.

So thanks you guys for hanging out with us here in January, it's been up and down and everything in between.

And just like that we're into the school year. Years, 11, eight and four. Fingers crossed for a year filled with inspiration, interest, celebration, light bulb moments, friends, work, passion and fun - for us and for you too.

As much as I'd never want to go back to school myself,  I do love the thought of sitting with a group of people analyzing books. Maybe I should have done literature when I was at school.

That's it for me this week.

Please feel free to share any books, podcasts, movies, series that you're loving.
Oh and we're trying to cut down on processed sugar this term so please share any family favourite unsweetened recipes too.

See ya's next Friday!

Love Kate x

Friday, January 27, 2017

full of great and grateful

Hello my beautiful friends!

Well here we are again.

It's funny how these Friday blog posts book-end my week. Here I sit now - here I sat last week. Same time, same space, and then everything in between.

Last week just before I sat down to write, at the end of my gym session, my trainer told me she felt like my spark had gone out. I knew it too. Last week I felt like the world was sitting on my shoulders, like my skin was too thin to keep out the hurt, and like my body was tender and I was coming down with something.

Today, seven days after that, my gym trainer told me how strong I was getting and how much of a difference she had noticed in me in one week. Today I'm sitting here feeling calm and even, and even a bit excited, about what though I'm not exactly sure.

It's been a crazy week and I think that what got me through it to a place where I'm finishing it in a stronger state than when I started, is looking on the bright side. Very consciously choosing to see the good. Bringing myself back to the positive each time something threatened to knock me over. I know it sounds cliched, but it worked.

So although I feel like the whole grateful thing has been overused and is often a bit icky, for want of a better word, I've decided to make a list of all that I've been grateful for over my past week.

Here goes;

I'm grateful for wide open spaces, for a wet summer that has kept our farm looking lush, and for those apples, no matter how spotty, that have survived this difficult season and are growing and haven't yet been eaten by the birds.

I'm grateful for shady trees that give us cozy places to hang out and rest.

I'm grateful for family.

I'm grateful for the little vases of flowers I've been finding around the house.

I'm grateful that we've got plenty of water this year to irrigate.

I'm grateful that all the veggies we've been planting look healthy and strong.

I'm grateful for the wonderful medical care our Jarrah was given when she suddenly became very unwell last Sunday. I'm grateful to my dad, Farmdoc, for advising us, for the doctors, the nurses, the hospital, the tests and the medicine for keeping watch over her and making sure she recovered completely.

I'm grateful for our families for their support during this worrying time.

I'm grateful for knitting for keeping my hands busy while my heart was fluttering and my mind was panicking.

I'm grateful for the shower, because there is no better place to lose it.

I'm grateful to my mum for lending me her library book Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill which was such a perfect book to read next to a hospital bed.

I'm grateful for podcasts and my iPhone's battery that got me through a VERY long night of one-hourly observation checks and four-hourly meds.

And I'm unbelievably, ridiculously grateful that our Jarrah has recovered so well and that we have been allowed to consider it as something that happened, rather than something that happens.

I'm grateful to wonderful Sarah who left a comment on my last post advising me to spray icy cold water on my scarlet runner beans each evening because they need cold nights to set fruit. THANK YOU Sarah!! It worked. I've lost count of all the baby beans currently climbing the tee-pee. I'm so happy and relieved. I'm also grateful to you Peter Cundall for advising Sarah on the radio. And you, farmer Bren, I know you knew it.

I'm grateful for sun dried laundry.

I'm grateful for the train to Melbourne.

I'm grateful for the company of our dog and our cat.

I'm grateful for twilight, my favourite time of the day to wander and gather and water and weed.

I'm grateful for lemon juice and feta on everything.

I'm grateful for those first blackberries of the season that are hard and sour and the only ones I like to eat.

I'm grateful for sunshine and warmth.

I'm grateful for where I was born and how I can live.

I'm grateful for the physical and emotional closeness I share with my parents.

I'm grateful for health and strength.

I'm grateful for a family that values hand made.

I'm grateful that I cut and sewed a dress from an old bed sheet and could throw it in the rubbish when it failed, with no guilt at all.

I'm grateful for girls and their craft projects covering the floor of my studio.

I'm grateful for overalls and work boots.

I'm grateful for barbecues with new friends.

And you guys of course, I'm so grateful that you're here and for all that you add to my life.

I'm wishing you a wonderful weekend and if you'd like to tell me - I'd love to read your grateful list too.


Kate x

Friday, January 20, 2017

when the wind blows

I'm sitting on the daybed in our studio looking out the window at the wind blowing through the enormous eucalypts and blackwoods and the leaves flying off them and fluttering to the ground. It's summer but it's cold. I'm warm inside but I'm unsettled.

A lot has happened over the past week. We cleaned out my grandparents' apartment and I was shocked to discover that without their presence their possessions and their spaces weren't special anymore. Glass jugs that had been filled with the most incredibly delicious mixtures of ginger-ale, pineapple juice and soda water every Friday night of my childhood, were now the same sort of glass jugs that line the walls of so many op shops. Their king sized bed which had always seemed so grand and luxurious, looked cold and uninviting. Their cupboards that were once filled with items my grandmother would reach inside for to look after us and make us feel special, were now filled with things we didn't want or need.  It made me feel so sad. 

I do have a few objects from their home that now sit and hang in my home and carry memories and feelings of their lives and the people they were and my enormous love for them, but without them the sparkle has rubbed off.

Last Sunday we drove to the beach for a few days. As farmers and as forest dwellers, we never feel comfortable leaving our farm in summer when everything is growing quickly and there is a risk of bushfire. This year, however, with the cooler than average temperatures and the higher than average rainfall, we felt safe to take a little break.

And it was lovely to get away from the chores and the endless lists, it was gorgeous to spend some time with Bren's parents, it was fun to stroll along the sand and swim at the beach and it was idyllic to have big chunks of time to play board games with the girls, read books, look in shops and just talk.

The first night we were at the beach we watched Grand Designs and I knitted. The second night we were there we went to the movies to see La la Land which Jazzy and I loved but Bren and Pepper didn't think much of. And the third night they went to see the new Star Wars and I read an entire book in bed. Uninterrupted. Such a luxury.

While we were away I finished reading William Faulkner's As I lay Dying which is one of Indi's VCE English books for this year. To be honest I found it quite difficult and often found myself reading bits over and over to work out what was going on. It did get easier and more understandable as it went on and I got used to the language and found some of the narrators more articulate than others, but still it wasn't what I would call an enjoyable read.

In the few days since I read it I have found myself thinking about it and wondering about what it would be like to study it.

Then the night they were all out I read Elspeth Muir's Wasted. I feel like this was a really raw, brave and beautifully written book. Bren says that whenever I read non fiction I become obsessed with the topic for ages afterwards. I guess I'll never look at bunches of smashed twenty-something-year olds standing outside pubs, or supermarket-sized bottle shops along the highways, or any alcohol fuelled violence in quite the same way again.

Elspeth's insight is heart-breaking and way too close to home. In the early hours of the morning, as I was lying awake reading the last few pages of her book, my sister Emily was scrambling under furniture, fearing for her and her friends' lives, as two men who were denied entry to the pub they were in for being too drunk, proceeded to get violent and aggressive, and ended up waving a gun around threatening staff and patrons before fleeing in a taxi.

I felt sick as I read most of the book, and then distraught about how easily my sister, who witnessed an act of drunk violence, could have been killed or injured. Terrible.

An article about the incident from The Age.

And then I started A Long Way From Verona. My mum gave it to me because she thought I'd like it. So far it's slow and old fashioned and sweet. Perfect.

When we arrived home from the beach we were so excited to find that our cucumbers have finally started fruiting. So far it's only one a day but I do remember from last year that a trickle very quickly becomes a stream. A trickle means cucumbers in sandwiches and salads, and a stream means jars of pickled cucumbers bubbling away on the bench, and then sealed in the fridge. I cannot wait.

We've also been enjoying the last of the strawberries and all sorts of other currants and berries in our cereal and as snacks.

We've also been having a lot of conversations about separating the feeling of failure from that of disappointment. It's been a strange growing season. We didn't really have dry, still spring days for the orchards to blossom and the bees to fly and so the fruit set wasn't great. And then when there was a continuous cycle of warm and then wet days, the mould took over and black spot set in. As 16 year apple growers we've experienced more than our fair share of set backs and crappy crops, but this year felt like it was shaping up to be a great one and now that it's not we're finding the balance between blaming the season and Mother Nature and taking it personally, very challenging.

And while we have grown and are still growing beautiful veggies this season, there are others that still shatter our confidence as farmers. That tee-pee covered in scarlet runner beans in the photos above, so far has just eight beans on it. (Actually only seven since lunch this afternoon). The vine has grown and woven its way up healthily, it has flowered beautifully, we've seen masses of bees visiting,  it's been irrigated and weeded, and yet for some reason the blossoms are breaking off before they set fruit.

Like I said, we're trying to remain disappointed without allowing ourselves to feel like we've failed.

Fingers crossed that those red flowers that are still there, will produce so many beans we'll have more than enough to eat and store. Or at least eight more.

And in amongst all of that there's been a lot of talk about what we really believe in and what we really want to do with our lives. There's been listening to the Start Up podcast, and watching all of the This is Us episodes. I bought jeans finally, I'm still knitting Bren's birthday socks, I'm trying to work out how to use Lightroom and I have plans to sew up a dress. And starting next week we'll be working through a very long back to school list, while at the same time trying to enjoy the last week of the summer holidays, please wish us luck.

And I guess that's me, a bit unsettled, asking all the hard questions, over emotional and trying to finish this off quickly so I can cut into some fabric and get my sewing machine out. It's been far too long.

So how about you? What are you wearing, or wondering about, or working on?

I hope you have a gorgeous weekend.

Love Kate xx

ps my heart is with you Melbourne

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