Friday, June 30, 2017

the tiny wood workshop

Remember last week when I wrote that I couldn't wait for the day when I looked out of the lounge-room window and saw smoke billowing from the little chimney in the side of the little wood workshop? Well on Wednesday it happened.

At first I squealed with delight. And then I couldn't just stand there watching now could I? Nope, I pulled on my boots, grabbed my basket and blanket and made my way out there to join him.

And with the fire burning golden in the pot-belly, sunlight streaming in through windows that framed the Wombat State Forest, his tools hanging from hooks and perched on ledges, it felt like the most magical little workshop on earth.

After he spent some time moving in we got to work. Him with his axes and knives carving and me with some yarn and a hook crocheting his blanket. 

99% of the time crochet and knitting is such clean and portable work. When it's warm I love nothing more than to perch on a log or laze on a blanket outside and do a couple of rows, and when the cold comes I quickly take it inside. But wood work is different. It's a fair weather friend. It's messy and it's for outside only. And that doesn't seem quite fair. 

This solution, the little workshop, keeps him warm, creating and happy.

It doesn't hurt that he's shifted in a comfy chair just for me. 

In any case plans are afoot for my very own cubby-studio. A four by four room made from old windows and wood. Fully insulated, and heated complete with day-bed. Watch out I may just forget to go home.

So this past week has been a much happier one than the last. I felt like I'd been driving through the forest on a cold foggy morning when finally I came out into a clearing and the fog disappeared, the view was far and clear, and the light felt just right.

In reality nothing's changed, it's still winter, it's still ridiculously cold if not colder, the girls are limping towards their last day of school for the term, and sometimes my face aches just from walking outside. But I guess my dark cloud time was up. I'd done the days.

It always interests me how much more attention my sadder posts get. I wonder if it's because happy posts just skim the surface? If the online world is so full of people''s beautiful moments that the ugly one's stand out? If reading about other people's real and imperfect lives feels more relateable than the pretty ones and makes us feel less alone? Or if there's nothing much to say to someone who's traveling along well, while someone who is struggling can use advice, empathy and kindness.

Whatever the reason, just know that I always love your feedback on the good and the bad, and as always am grateful that you visit and read and comment. Thank you. xx

Which brings me to today and to now and to a quick rundown of all the other stuff that's happening.

I'm still crocheting that blanket. It's thick and it's soft and it's going to be so warm when I'm done. 

I'm listening to my fabulous friend Lainie Chait AKA Electro Girl speaking about living with epilepsy on Life Matters. What a cool human you are Lainie xx

I'm feeling excited about the winter school holidays. A break from the driving and crazy long school hours. Some sleep in's, some bonfires, some bush walks and of course some basketball.

I'm thinking a lot about what a difference positivity makes. 

I'm hearing the birds having a party in the garden and worrying about them eating all of the green manure seed.

I'm watching Miss Pepper make her theatrical debut in Hollow, a story of the events that surrounded the disappearance of three young boys in the forest of Daylesford 150 years ago.

After reading so many of your comments urging me to read some lighthearted books for my state of mind, I'm reading 'Anything Is Possible'. It's completely lovely even though at times it's sad and raw and honest. Each chapter tells the story of a person in a small town in America coping with life and love and loss. It's such a sweet book. At first it feels like the chapters are separate stories, but as you read more it becomes apparent that the places and stories and characters mentioned are often intertwined, which makes them feel familiar, and ties them all together, in effect making it one big story made up of lots of little bits - just like a small town I guess.

I'm loving sitting in farmer Bren's new workshop next to the fire, sipping tea, writing my blog while he works on his lathe turning a bowl right next to me.

I'm worried about the cat's new hobby playing in the toilet. Yuk!

Now that I think of it, I'm busting to go to the toilet but I can't be bothered going back inside.

I'm wishing that my onion seedlings will come up even though I think it's been far too long since I planted them to expect anything.

I'm thrilled by the fact that in the time it's taken me to write this blog, farmer Bren has fixed his pole lathe into place and carved a bowl from a chunk of wood. That's the bowl in the first photo on this blog. So cool right! In the photo above he's cleaning up the nib where the mandrel was attached. This afternoon he'll give it to his Mum as a present.

Until two days ago that wood was part of a Blackwood tree growing in one of the rows of one of our apple orchards. I've been asking Bren to cut it down for the past five years. Only now can I see that maybe he was just waiting for it to thicken up and become useful.

And finally I'm wishing you my sweet friends a peaceful weekend. May you be warm enough, feel strong enough and have something to look forward to.

Lots of love,

Kate  xx

Friday, June 23, 2017

in the darkness

I probably shouldn't be writing my blog this week. I woke up first thing this morning and declared that I wouldn't. It was icy cold, just past dark, and we were all huddled around the fire nursing hot drinks, and everyone agreed. Even though the world about me seems to be spinning around merrily, even though I can't seem to pin point a single action or happening that's made me feel like this, I feel like I've been living inside a dark cloud for the past few days. I feel grumpy and irritable and sensitive and sad. And I feel cold and tired and uninspired. And before you ask, it's not that time in my cycle, but I am suspicious of the solstice and the moon.

But regular writing becomes a habit and now here I am even though I decided not to be.

Although it just occurred to me that maybe I am here writing my blog because the alternative is house-work, and I just can't.

It's funny this feeling bad thing while everything around me is so good. Bren is building and creating, the big girls have had some great results at school and are happily social and Miss Pepper is officially on school holidays and the play she's in starts next week. We've been taking advantage of the mild winter and checking off so many more jobs than we thought we ever would, and we have a little mini break coming up to look forward to. But still I feel blue. I ache with it.

It makes me constantly question and doubt myself, it makes me feel incapable and uncreative, it makes me feel dull and boring, and it feels unending.

So I'll keep it very short and try to be sweet. I'll fill you in on the goings on here and if by chance I feel sunnier during the next week I'll write an extra post on some of the things I've been thinking about: Things like the danger of expectations, like keeping honest relationships, and the power of positivity. Nothing ground breaking, just stuff that I've observed lately and am learning about.

I said short and sweet so I'd better get on with it eh?

Back in May of 2013 I wrote a story on this blog about the building of our patch-work cubby. Many years in the dreaming, an afternoon in the planning, a few Thursdays in the building. And that was, I declared at the end of that post, The End of our cubby house story and hopefully the beginning of years of make believe, tea parties, games and secret kid stuff.

But as it happened, none of that was meant to be. Not long after it was built, the girls found a poisonous red back spider inside the cubby and forever after they needed more than a little encouragement to play inside. Which meant that fake cakes went mouldy in the fake fridge, spiders spun thick webs across the ceiling, autumn leaves collected and began to rot in the corners and it felt scary and dark in there, rather than the secret and exciting we had hoped for.

While the cubby has been so very loved for its patch-work look and so often used as a backdrop for my photos, including the cover of Slow Living magazine May 2015, it has been sadly neglected as a play space.

So the other day when my farmer boy suggested that he renovate it a bit and use it as a woodworking studio over winter, we all thought it was a great idea.

First Jobbo and Bren pulled the tin off the back wall and replaced it with old school windows.

Then I came out just in time to see farmer Bren making a big design decision regarding the door and stopped him  just in time for a discussion.

He thought the slats should go horizontally like the tin, I thought the opposite.

In the end we compromised.

I'm hoping it will age nicely and blend in with the rest of it.

Next is filling in all the gaps, putting glass in the windows and then plumbing in the pot-belly stove.

I can hardly wait for that dark, foggy, winter's day in the near future when I look out at the garden from the lounge room windows and see smoke coming from the cubby chimney and know that something beautiful is being crafted inside.

I wonder if this now, second time around, is actually The End of the cubby house story.

Other than that, I'm reading my sister Abby's advance copy of Once In Lourdes which is exquisitely written and haunting me day and night. A suicide pact between four teenagers and then their stories as they live out the two weeks between when the pact was taken and when they plan to enact it.

During the week Bren reminded me to step back from an issue with one of our girls and not to get too attached and involved in it. Instead of moving away somehow that made me travel back into the intensity of my own life and mind as a teenager. The angst, the anguish, the love and the dreams. I was flooded with memories and feelings of 30 years ago. I was overcome by thoughts of times I hadn't visited in years. And I felt overwhelmed with the fact that now I am parenting my own girls through that. What a responsibility.

Reading this book at this time is only serving to heighten these feelings. I am desperate to read more and I'm frightened to at the same time.

I'm listening to the Invisibilia podcast, which I LOVE!

I'm crocheting a ripple blanket with 12 stitches in-between zigs and zags and a chunky 6.5mm hook. After all this time crochet feels like home.

I'm spending time in the green-house planting and watering and admiring.

I'm loving my little spotty pot that my friend Tania made me and gave me (first photo) as a green-house warming present.

I'm looking forward to next Friday when the big girls finish school for the term - sososososososo tired and Miss Pepper has her opening night.

And I'm hoping and wishing that you sweet friend, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, are feeling as calm and as happy and as inspired and driven as I hope to be when I open my eyes tomorrow.

Thank you for sticking with me through the dark as well as the light.

Big love,

Kate  xx

Friday, June 16, 2017

some green for the green-house

Hello honey bunches!

How's your week been?

Mine's been one of those weeks where there was often so much going on that it felt like we were juggling our hours. Like a lot of the time I was looking beyond the present and trying to figure out how the next bit was going to work. And then the bit after that. Who was going to go where? Who was going to pick up what? How we were going to remember? And even then we almost ran out of toilet paper on Wednesday night.

But the in-between moments, when we caught them, were lovely; A quiet coffee before school pick up, a sit on the wood pile to listen to the birds, a few chapters of my book before bed, hide and seek with a four year old, a favourite record playing while I chopped the onions for the soup....nice.

This past week the doors went on the green-house, the walls were lined, the gaps were filled and it was declared open for business! That is finished until I've had a chance to spend some good planting hours in there and I can see if any changes need to be made. In this cold climate winter's pretty limiting as far as growing things is concerned, but I couldn't resist planting some trays of onions just to see, and so far the spaces, and heights, and light, feel just right.

It's such a beautiful space to spend time in and look out over the garden at the leaves flittering in the cool breeze, and feel safe and protected and warm inside. We've drunk our coffees in there, farmer Bren has carved a spoon in there, I've read chapters of my book out loud to whoever's listening in there, and of course I've knitted more than a couple of rows in there. Our aim for the future is to always keep a corner cleanish so we can still use the space even when it's in high production and covered in soil and seeds.

Meanwhile, we visited the local nursery yesterday and bought a bunch of potted colour and herbs to put some green into the green-house. Hopefully I'll get a chance to properly pot them in tomorrow, but I love the difference they make already. An espaliered lemon tree is next. The winter frosts have killed every single one we've tried to grow here over the years, but we're optimistic that this feels like a pretty safe, protected space. I'll keep you posted, hopefully with photos of lemons dripping from branches trained up to the roof.

This week Ms Pepper dressed up as Ray from Star Wars for a birthday party. She took it so seriously researching on-line, making shopping lists, taking her dad on an after school op-shopping adventure to hunt for belts and sheets and pants, putting it all together and then showing me a YouTube clip so I knew exactly how her hair was meant to go.

I have never been any good at dress ups. Book days and themed birthday parties have always been a bit of a challenge for me, so it makes me happy when my girls get to the age when they can pull something together themselves. 

After last week's pictures of our nine year old spending hours up a tree, I thought it was important to be transparent about the fact that this week she spent a few hours on her iPad researching ways to put together her costume. Everything in balance I say.

Then there's the olives we picked with Bren's folks. Well actually they picked most of them I just came in at the end for the last row. The frost damaged some of them, the birds ate their share of them and the remainder are stacked neatly in crates on our lounge room floor.

So here's the thing; most years our olives get pressed into oil but this year that's not going to happen and instead I want to turn them into eating olives. I put the call out on instagram but I'm wondering if any of you might have a favourite olive recipe? Do you cut them or squish them? Do you leave them in jars of dry salt, or fill them up with salty brine? DO you rinse them daily? Shake them weekly? Keep them in the dark? The fridge? On the shelf? Ahhhhh I'm me please.

I happily continued knitting beanies to send to the ASRC using this pattern until my friend Tania told me of how she'd auctioned off a tea-pot she'd made with proceeds to be sent to the ASRC and I wondered if my efforts could be better used by holding an auction myself. A couple of beanies will warm a few heads but I wonder if I could raise a bigger chunk of money and make more of a difference if I auctioned off something of my own. 

I've started thinking about knitting a pair of socks which usually take me about three or four weeks. I could start the auction as I cast on with a photo on instagram and take bids in the comments on that photo, and then over the weeks post updates, accept bids on them and then close it on the final cast-off photo. There are a few issues with that method that I'd have to work my way around, but it's worth thinking about I think.

Meanwhile we're having our first crochet lesson here this weekend with my dad, Indi and Pepper as my students. I haven't crocheted for the longest time and really miss it. Watch this space, I'm dreaming about a ripple blanket for the end of our bed...

I'm reading my sister Abby's copy of Colm Toibin's latest book House of Names which I couldn't quite work out until my Mum filled me in that it's a retelling of a Greek tragedy. With the very first words 'I have been acquainted with the smell of death', the story continues with so much violence, seduction, revenge and lust, that it almost feels like an episode of Game Of Thrones. (I mean that as a compliment.) I look forward to getting lost in its pages over the weekend.

I'm afraid I have to end this here as Miss Pepper is on her way to a costumed disco tonight with the theme of 'my hero'. She's chosen to dress up as her big sister Indi and needs my help. (I might need to wipe away a few tears in the process).

I do hope you have yourself a lovely, peaceful weekend wherever you are.

Do you have anything fun lined up?
Do you have a good book on the go?
Are you good at putting together costumes or baking fancy cakes?
Do you have some olive advice for me?

See ya later alligator.

Love ya's!


Friday, June 9, 2017

through a new lens

Hello honey bunches!

How are things?

The last week eh'. Luckily I snapped some photos or I wouldn't have a clue where the time's gone.

Pepper spent much of last Sunday up a tree. The cat joined her for a while but then lost interest and left Pepper up there to sing, make up stories, make herself more comfortable and dream.

I remember feeling like nine years old was particularly difficult with my other two. Aged nine and year nine we'd grumble under our breaths. Those fiercely independent, filled with attitude, eye rolling experts we'd made. It's funny how different this nine year old seems. I'm sure it's not her, it's me and my last chance for a littley. I can feel that she's stretching her wings out wanting more from us and her world, I can sense that she's wanting to keep up with her big sisters and also carve out new path-ways of her own. She's changing there's no doubt about it. But gosh I'm holding onto the unselfconscious dreamer, the silly dancer, the tree climber and the bunny rabbit pyjama wearer, whenever she allows herself to be seen.

While she was up her tree we started pulling down the poly-tunnels. As soon as we took the white plastic off the hoops the whole area looked and felt different. The colours looked brighter, the space felt less cluttered and more open and the view across the garden and into the forest, or across the garden and onto the new hot-house, made us wonder why we hadn't taken them down ages ago.

Then we got to work picking the last of the tomatoes that had been hiding away inside and clearing the space.

We found this red-back mother spider guarding her babies on one of the star stakes we pulled out and moved her into the forest to find new habitat well away from us and our babies. Funny, I'm nowhere near as scared of spiders as snakes.

Farmer Bren carved a tiny bowl.

And a rather large one.

The hot-house build continued with a potting table built inside the space to account for the different levels of the floor.

And a shelf to hold our coffee.

I'm convinced it's the most beautiful room in the house and am only half joking when I talk about moving my bed and a little pot-belly stove in. I guess I should probably wait for the doors to be hung, the gaps to be filled and the roof to be sorted out first though.

Some other things that happened over the past week -

I finished reading our book club book The People Smuggler which I found easy to read, incredibly gut wrenching and an important story to know. It's unimaginable that one person's life could be filled with such terror and torture and risk and horror, and yet he remains a caring, humanitarian. It breaks my heart that after all he's been through that even now Ali Al Jenabi's future is so uncertain.

I finished knitting one beanie and cast on another for the ASRC.

We started watching season two of Billions.

I got a horrible cold and have lost my voice. Funny how many things I desperately want to say all of a sudden now that I can't.

I got a new phone and I don't know how to connect my phone to my car so I haven't listened to any podcasts this week but lots of radio instead.

Miss Indi had a week of year 11 exams, Miss Jazzy did a first aid course at school and Miss Pepper wrote a book about a cheese monster.

We moved our chooks and dogs, planted more garlic and started a new compost pile.

We farewelled Rod May yesterday and feel very shaken up by his legacy and loss.

I clicked on my new lens and used it to take all of the pictures in this post except the one below.

And lastly, but most importantly, it's my Dad Ross's birthday today and I'd love to wish him a happy and wonderful 70th birthday.

Two years ago I wrote this about him on my blog - 'My dad, Ross Ulman, when he isn't driving his electric car as discussed in the latest issue of Renew magazine, he's walking 14,000+ steps per day, volunteering at my girls' school, working at a Ballarat hospital, baking and delivering challah to each of his Daylesford daughters each Friday, selling tickets at the local cinema, helping out in the local kitchen garden program, doing maths homework with my girls, pole-walking around Daylesford in the early morning with a bunch of people not scared off by the cold, and supporting and loving his five Ulman girls. What a man (or an honorary woman as we used to call him when were growing up)!'

Two years later and now he's also; teaching learner driving, writing study timetables and coaching exam technique, driving our girls to school and back a few times a week, smashing his PB at the gym, planning and recording a couple of radio programs a week on Hepburn community radio, and being on call 24/7 for advice and opinion and support for his girls, their partners and his grandchildren.

I feel so lucky to have my dad at the bottom of our hill, so interested and involved and part of our lives. Since we celebrated his last big birthday he's had heart surgery, built a house, moved states and formed a new life and community. This afternoon he told us that he's happier now than he's ever been and that makes me very happy indeed. 

Happy birthday Dad, I love you!

And that's me for this wintry week.
How about you?
What have you been reading, celebrating, making and cooking?
What have you got planned for the weekend?

Have a great one!
Keep warm (or cool).

Love Kate xx

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