Friday, November 24, 2017

the sun room


I think I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves this week...well mostly.

I've been sitting here for the past little while scrolling up and down waiting for a first sentence to jump into my head and get me going, but I've got nothing.

This week we laid the last red brick in this section of the build, we grouted them and then washed them down. Since then I've been standing and sitting all over the room, all through the different times of the day, trying to watch the light and the shadows and the views. I am obsessively in love with this space and I still can't believe it's real and it's ours. Every time I walk out the front door I get a happy surprise and then again when I walk back in.

Every single ingredient is recycled, every bit of the build was done by Jobbo, Bren, Francis and me (if you could see the state of my grout ruined hands you'd believe it) and every single brick is perfect, except for the last one which they let me lay and by accident I banged it too hard and it's a bit lower than the rest. Oh well.

It is everything I dreamed it would be and I can hardly wait to fill it up with plants, to make more dangley macrame plant hangers and to build a chunky farm-house table and surround it with old mismatched wooden chairs.

Bring on the early morning coffees looking out over the garden, bring on reading pages of books underneath the shady table in the middle of the day, bring on homework spread out over the table, cocktails at the window bar, big dinners with family and friends filling the space, winter warmth as the low sun hits the windows and it becomes a sun-room...the list goes on.






Thanks heaps for joining us on this build so far. Next week we're continuing down the front of our house with some covered decking and who knows what else. We're pretty good at making this stuff up as we go along.

And just to keep things on track and not veer to far from my usual bog post...

I'm reading my Mum's library copy of Manhattan Beach and loving it. It's beautifully written historical fiction that keeps me up way too late at night.

I'm one and a half episodes into Jon Ronson's The Butterfly effect podcast and so far so good. Gosh I love listening to Jon's voice, and what a great story teller.

And in the tiny bit of knitting time I have during these crazy busy late spring days, I'm turning the second heel of the tree socks, I'm eating lots of strawberries as they ripen, missing our big girl who's been hiking since last Saturday, enjoying our middle girl's obsession with botanical painting and loving our youngest's garden potions and fairy rings. I'm eating lots of salads with feta and lemon juice, trying to drink enough water, contemplating buying a pair of shorts to wear to the gym, smashing the laundry basket, watching Ozark, remembering to stop and smell (and dead-head) the roses, worrying about snakes and weeding, weeding, mowing, weeding.

I'd best be going, I'd love to mow a few rows of the orchard before it gets too hot.

Are you watching/listening/reading/growing/making anything exciting lately?
Do you have a favourite place to sit and watch the world go by?
Do you think it's crazy that we still don't have our tomatoes in?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with whatever it is that makes you most happy.

See ya next week.

Love Kate x





Friday, November 17, 2017

when it rains

Some weeks trickle along. Little moments propel us forward: packing lunch-boxes, weeding the garden, listening to podcasts, mowing the orchard, going to gym, driving the girls around...until all those little meetings and moments and musings gather together to form the week that was.

And then other weeks feel like a gush. If you're not careful they'll knock your legs out from under you and carry you down the flooded stream, feet first.

This past week feels like the latter. Each day felt full of change and development and motion and emotion. Some days I found myself grinning like a clown and on others hiding in an overgrown patch of the garden pulling up fistfuls of weeds trying to remember to breathe.

On Wednesday our Indigo turned 17. SEVENTEEN!!! That little baby who turned us into parents all those years ago. What a gift it is to be her mother. To watch her, to listen to her, to guide her and to be guided by her. We celebrated her with chocolate bullets, with cards and presents, with mangos and chocolate covered strawberries. What a gift you are to us Indigo Apple, our wishes for you are filled with music and passion, with love and learning and indoor plants. It's so exciting to watch the world open up to you and your sparkly eyes. xxxx

This week I was offered a great new writing job. Funny how these things happen. Ever since Slow Living magazine closed earlier this year, I've been wanting to write something more than just my blog. Not being quite ready to close myself off to the world and start work on a book, I thought that some articles and stories would be perfect. And then one day last week I got a message, had a meeting, and now I have a new job. Yay! I'll fill you in on the details when it's all official.

And then, not long after the first job was offered, I got a phone call about a one off speaking/teaching job. Again I'll fill you in on the details when I'm allowed to, but let's just say I'm very excited about this one.

I wrote a blog a few months ago about being okay with my simple life and not wanting to always be looking for and hunting something bigger and newer and more exciting. A few days ago I was driving home from school and had to pull over several times to talk to different people about the details of my new jobs when it occurred to me that I hadn't hunted it but here I was moving forward and although it is scary and new, I think I'm ready for this new stage. I think my self confidence needed it. I'm excited.

Also this week we had to pull out the first of our garlic, even though the cloves haven't separated yet. On Wednesday an earth mover came to do some work at the front of our house and the garden beds they were in were in the way. It's been wonderful to have the garlic flavour back in our meals this week. And it'll be amazing to landscape what's now a mud pit, with grass and garden and a deck.


The next thing was the rain. On Thursday morning on my drive out to school it rained so hard and there was so much water that I hurt my wrist gripping the steering wheel so tight. I had to drive so slowly but still it was scary. And it was LOUD! When I finally got home I was completely rattled and it took me ages to calm down enough to focus on the jobs I had to do. But ever since then I've noticed that the garden has exploded; colourful flowers have popped, plants have germinated, thickened up, grown tall, started climbing. And the roses!! Wow!! What a show they're giving us this year.





And then of course the green-house build continued. It took a while to convince my farmer boy that we should pull up the perfectly good (but oh so ugly) concrete that was there already and use old red bricks to pave it instead, but gosh it's going to be worth it. Even though we're not allowed to walk on them yet and have to play hop-scotch every time we leave the house, I'm head over heels in love already.

And I'm ever so grateful to Frobden, (Francis, Jobbo, Bren), for making my dreams come true and not whinging too much about your sore hands and backs. xxxx


After a long discussion recently about the fact that craft in our family and on our farm is a seasonal thing, I feel okay with the fact that I've only knitted a couple of inches this past week. When you're working outside from morning to last light, when your hands are so dirty you can't wash them clean anymore, and when your arms and legs ache from the weight of the day, knitting often gets left by the way-side. But when I do have a crazy week like the one that's just been, all action and full of decisions and brick dust, then a few rows of sock knitting feels just like home and is exactly what I need.

For those who have asked about sock knitting recently, please forgive my lack of personal response.

I swear by Wendy D Johnson's book - Socks From The Toe Up. I use her basic sock pattern for every single pair of socks I knit. I use everything in it from the cast on, to the slip stitch heel, to the cast off. I love it and highly recommend it to everyone from beginner to advanced.

Ravelry details here.




And lastly is the cat. She's not particularly great at snuggling on the couch but whenever I'm in the garden she's always with me. Creeping up and then jumping out on me making me scream, rubbing against my legs or back, making me laugh with her antics and then plopping herself down for a bath and a nap exactly where I need to be working. Love that funny kitten.

Love that first red strawberry of the season picked and eaten this morning before school, love the way the big seeds pop out of the soil with their seed hats on, love finishing great books (Bella and Chaim) that stay in my thoughts for days afterwards, love picking armfuls of flowers from the garden, love flexing my biceps and seeing actual muscles for the first time in my life, love binge listening a great podcast series, love thinking about the approaching summer school holidays, love getting a text message from a friend asking me for a beer, love hearing the sound of the tractor coming up the hill and knowing that my farmer boy is coming in for lunch, love you guys and the beautiful and insightful messages you send me, love that Australia voted YES for same sex marriage and that love is love is love is love.

Hope the view outside your window is a pretty one this afternoon.
Did you have a good week? Did anything exciting happen?
Are you reading a good book? Planning a feast? Stopping to smell the roses?
I hope something unexpected and quite wonderful is right around the corner.

Lots of love,

Kate xx


Friday, November 10, 2017

the antidote

The other day I was walking Miss Pepper down the hill into her school. I think we were just on time with not a moment to spare. We were both wearing overalls, we were holding hands and she was skipping along beside me, pulling me forward, chattering away about something or other. Along the way we greeted other people, asked them questions and answered theirs.

At one point when we passed two teachers from her school, one of them remarked on how easy I make parenting look. We took a few more steps until I realised what she'd said and turned back to thank her. She elaborated a bit, I told her briefly about my experience with the woman at the festival the week before, and we all agreed that I would use her kind words to cancel out the other's nasty ones. Like an antidote. Or anti-venom. 

Then I skipped Miss Pepper out into the school garden to play, and went about my day.

Hours later when I met my farmer boy in the kitchen for coffee we filled each other in on the stories of our mornings. He'd driven the big girls to school and I'd bumped into a friend in the fruit shop. As we were finishing off and about to leave I remembered the kind words the teacher had spoken to me. 

A week before when a complete stranger criticised my parenting I took it straight to heart. I agonised, I cried, I couldn't get it out of my head, I felt terrible and I couldn't let it go. Yet when someone I know and trust, someone who sees so many parents with children, someone who is in my day to day life, compliments me on the same things, I feel happy and then promptly forget about it.

When you look at it with a bit of distance, there's something about that story that isn't quite right.

I should have nodded politely at that woman at the festival, been upset for a few minutes and then dismissed her as a cuckoo and gotten on with my day. And then a week later I should have felt thrilled with the teacher's comments. I should have taken them into my heart, replayed them over and over, told them to everyone I met and used them to feel good about myself and my parenting.

Why am I so quick to believe a nasty stranger and so quick to dismiss a kind friend?

I keep asking myself if deep down in my heart I felt like the stranger saw my truth and was exposing me for the terrible person I am, but I know that's definitely not true. Not at all. In retrospect I think her tirade was possibly more about her and less about me anyway.

Bren thinks it might be in the delivery. If the stranger had made a rude comment and then left me to walk away and the teacher had shouted compliments at me for two whole minutes, then my response might have been different. Makes sense.

I don't know the answer but I am happy to sit with it for a while. Happy to try harder to take compliments deep into my heart and deal with criticism appropriately. Happy to report that two weeks after the verbal abuse at the festival I feel over it and that although I'll probably tell the story when it comes up for weeks to come, it doesn't hurt me anymore. 

This is the only photo I took on my big camera on our four day trip to Sydney for my birthday. Miss Jazzy in a vintage shop in Newtown trying on Converse runners.

We also went to markets, watched Beautiful the Carol King musical, ate out, drank lots of coffee, visited my cousin and his sweet family, visited the Opera House and the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art, watched a movie, caught buses and trains and taxis, looked at the Bondi - Sculptures by the Sea, listened to all the noises of the people in the apartments above and beside us, squirmed with embarrassment and horror at some late night loud activity above, tried to laugh (and debrief) about it the next morning, thought longingly of the acres of space surrounding our house back home, op shopped, wool shopped, book shopped, and came home feeling happy and celebrated.




We were only away for four days but gosh it was wonderful to wake up on Wednesday morning and see our place with fresh eyes. All the colour and growth and beauty. All the mowing and weeding that needs to be done too.


Over the past week these two toes are all that I've crafted. The other night I knitted a few rows of a pattern into the next bit but then I undid them because they didn't feel right. I'm not sure where to go from here. Part of me wants to decide quickly and get on with the knitting part and the security of knowing that I've got a project on the go and another part of me is enjoying the design insecurity. 

I always feel happiest when I have a good book and a good knitting pattern to turn to at the end of the day, it's strange to think that I've been working such long hours lately that I haven't had much time for either.


And this is the birthday present I bought myself in Sydney last week. It's going to become a sweater before too long. It was hard for me to move away from the blue and grey section, but Miss Jazzy really loved this brown and the photo that goes with the pattern I plan to knit is this brown, so I chose it and so far, I'm pleased I did. Watch this space for updates.

Oh and farmer Bren chose that black on the right for a new beanie. Black is also something new for him, I'm interested to see how we go with it.


And now I'd really like to thank you guys - for your kindness, for your birthday wishes, for your sweetness, and for your sunshine. You guys fill my life with so much wonderful and I'm ever so grateful.

I hope your weekend is great, I hope the people you meet up with are kind and I hope that someone surprises you with a compliment and that you take it into your heart and use it to make yourself feel strong and awesome. 

Love Love

Kate
xx



Friday, November 3, 2017

growing


Last weekend while we were visiting our Jazzy at a festival she was performing at, an older woman I didn't know verbally abused me. She began with sarcasm, which I mistook as kindness, so I thanked her and turned to walk away. But when she realised that I had misread her she let loose with a barrage of insults: I made my daughter push in the queue in front of her, I was a disgusting person, I encouraged my girls to be rude and disrespectful, I was entitled and I ruined the world for people like her. Someone needed to put me in my place. And of course I was a terrible, terrible mother.

By the time I realised what was going on I was so surprised that I didn't know how to act. I wasn't aware that I had even committed any of the crimes she was accusing me of. I looked around me but the crowds of people seemed all of a sudden to be engaged elsewhere. Indi had pulled my girls right out of the way, and the only other person there was the woman's male companion who looked on with interest and what could have been a slight smirk. But he didn't step in and neither did anyone else.

So I asked her why, instead of getting so angry and waiting until it was too late, she hadn't spoken directly to my supposedly pushing-in child and used it as a positive lesson instead of one filled with hate.

And she let loose on me again. All the same and more. On and on and on.

She didn't leave me much room to say anything myself, which is probably a good thing because I was so stunned I don't know what I would have said anyway. Right until the end I expected her to stop and apologise and say that she confused me with someone else. Right until the end I expected her to become self aware and feel a bit embarrassed. But she didn't.

And then she and that male with her stormed off. And as they did I called after them that she must have had a very sad and disappointing life to feel the need to behave like that, and that I forgave her.

I didn't though.

She yelled at me six whole days ago and I'm still finding myself shaking as I write this.

After it was over I found Bren and the girls and burst out crying and I don't think I stopped for the next two days. I felt like I'd been punched in the guts.

And then after the crying wore off I felt like she'd scratched a scab off and underneath felt raw and ugly.  I felt sad and anxious and distressed. The world felt scary and nasty.

As the days have worn on and I've spent time in my normal life, with my hands in the dirt, with the people that I love, doing the things that I love, I've slowly gathered strength and been able to get some perspective. But I still feel a bit vulnerable and protective.

And in truth, although this story has consumed my past week I really didn't want to write about it here. I don't want that woman on my blog. I want to leave her in the past and move on. And I have a feeling that she is mentally unwell and although she behaved terribly, I want to get to a place where I have compassion for her.

But as I loaded the photos this morning and started typing words, I realised the story wants to be told. As a blogger that's how I process my world, that's what I do.

So although it's a less detailed version than the story I told to anyone who I saw this week, here it is.

And the photos are my way of showing myself that I'm okay. Better than okay really. My best revenge on that situation is the beautiful world we're making here.

first
The apples are doing well. Each of the lumps under the flowers in that top photo is a possible apple. The fruit set looks good, the black spot looks minimal, and the mildew is only visible in a few spots.

second
I bought that cute sexy legs pot off my clever ceramicist friend Tania the other day and now I'm auditioning plants to sit in it. The girls think it should be a plant with long straggly hair that we could almost plait, but I'm kinda liking the pretty purple flowered fluffy do.

third
The other day we planted beans in the tee-pee again. This cyclic seasonal way we live our lives never ceases to comfort, reassure and ground me.

fourth
The purple broad bean flowers are exciting me no end. It feels so fancy to grow another version of the same thing we've been growing for years.


fifth
I'm growing lentils!! How cute are they!!

sixth
I visited a gorgeous local flower farmer the other day to buy some dahlia tubers and on the way out  she picked me a bunch of ranunculus. It's difficult to explain the joy that one bunch of colourful flowers bring, but they do, trust me. I hope I can grow my own next year.


seventh
I'm reading Sara Vidals' Bella and Chaim. A story of the holocaust in so many time frames. It's such an important story and it's breaking my heart.


eighth
I've only got the sleeves of Miss Pepper's cardigan to go, the buttons to sew on, and then it's done.


ninth
I think I might knit something with these skeins next.

tenth
I finished my first macrame and I love it!! It's exactly what I hoped it would be. Of course I want to make hundreds now and fill the space with dangly plants. 


And that's me. It's my birthday tomorrow and this afternoon we're going to pick the girls up from school and head away for a couple of days. A couple of days in a new-to-us place with only one thing planned and the rest of the time to explore and adventure and relax.

I'm so excited to get there but I'm actually the world's worst packer and it's going to take me most of today to get sorted, which is never fun. So I'm going to love you and leave you and hope that everyone you meet is kind and considerate of you.

See you next week when I'll be older and wiser.

Love Kate x

Friday, October 27, 2017

when the orchard blossoms



Hello blossoms, how's your week been?

I'm sitting here fresh from a morning of digging trenches and planting potatoes. My finger nails are full of dirt and the knees of my overalls are filthy, but it's certainly nice to have an excuse to sit down quietly for a bit.

It's funny, all winter long I felt like I was blogging about the same thing over and over again. The weather had closed in and it was dark and wet and nothing was really happening here except for the knitting and the reading. I yearned for spring when the sun would come out and things would start growing again. And I couldn't wait for a time when I would be spoilt for choice of subjects to photograph and stories to write about.

And all of a sudden here we are. Two months into spring and my world is filled with action and activity. Celebrations, flowers, seeds and seedlings, farm activities and renovations. There's been so much going on here in the past seven days that I don't actually know how to narrow it down. Where do I start? How do I choose?

I guess I'll start at the main event. The day that had been circled on the calendar and counted down to for the last few months, Miss Pepper's Slime birthday party! And then write a list of other week happenings from there.


Led by these two, the girls decorated tee-shirts, played party games, ate, drank, giggled, sang and made slime. 



I have to tell you that after all these years of hosting little kid's parties, having two 14-year-olds to run things was a game changer. I don't think I've ever been so relaxed with a house full of girls.

And even though the day was wet, so the party had to be held inside, and the slime had to be made inside, which I was dreading, they all loved making and playing with it so much that I forgot to care.

And the mess was pretty contained...until they had to make slime blindfolded...that was a whole different story.

Our birthday girl had a ball and kept making and playing with the slime long after her guests had left.




Unfortunately though the birthday joy was short lived as on Tuesday, her actual birthday, she woke up with a temperature and spent most of the day lying floppy on the couch. It broke my heart when we put her to bed that night shivering and crying over a wasted birthday.

Three days later and she's still not 100% but we've promised her a picnic in the apple orchard to make up for it as soon as she feels well enough again.


One late afternoon we were wandering through the old orchard checking for fruit set when we noticed our first bee swarm of the season hanging on a thin, low branch. I love how calm and full of energy a bundle of bees is when they're swarming. I put my bare, flat hand out so close to them and could practically feel their humming vibrations.

Quietly we placed a bee box full of frames underneath them. Because this swarm was in such an easy place to get to without disrupting them much we didn't even put our suits and gloves on. I held the branch they were hanging onto and Farmer Bren carefully cut through it. Holding the whole weight of the swarm in my hand I slowly lowered it into the box and as they rested on the bottom of the box the swarm collapsed and almost rippled like water. (I made the most amazed looking face which Bren caught on camera but I'm too shy to show you.)

We've successfully caught two swarms so far this season. We've been there at the exact moment a swarm has left their hive, flown up in the air and landed on a branch which was terribly exciting. And we've made the mistake of opening the lid to check on a swarm we'd just caught in their box only to have them leave again.

It's such exciting and interesting work, I only hope our eight hives are up to the job of pollinating our orchards to ensure a good fruit set this season.



When Bren's parents came and stayed for a few days this week him and his Dad spent a few hours making frames for the bee boxes in case they swarm again and for when they need an extra box on top. I love watching the two of them working together. 





Also this week we've mowed and mowed and mowed some more. Sometimes it feels like the grass and the weeds are growing so fast I can almost see it. It does frustrate me when I have a whole bunch of things planned to do but I have to put them off to mow or this place will end up looking like a jungle. But I do love that feeling of looking behind me at an area I've just mown and seeing how beautiful it looks in the mower's wake.

I used to write on my blog about my wish for a fairy to darn in the ends of my knitting after I'd finished something, these spring days I'd LOVE nothing more than a mowing fairy to take care of things. Imagine how great that would be! If you see her please send her my way won't you.


This week the green-house extension has continued along the front of our house. Little by little more windows and doors and walls are being built and I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to love the look of where we live after all these years. And how beautiful it is to look out on our old familiar garden and see it framed in a whole new way. Having that sun filled indoor/outdoor room is going to change the way we live. I just love it.


It's been another busy week in the garden as I've pulled out the last of last summer's carrots, beets and leeks to make room for potatoes, lentils, leeks, peas and flowers.


This past week we've done everything we possibly can to immerse ourselves in the fleeting blossom season. We've walked amongst it, we've breathed in its perfume, we've danced in it as it's rained down upon us, we've photographed it, and we've watched as the bees fly about in it gathering its pollen. And then we've stressed as the days weren't kind and the wind lashed at it and the rains fell down on it. But then the sun came out again and everything felt alright. It's difficult to think that it'll be another whole year before our orchards turn white again.

Apart from an hour of beginner macrame the other morning when it was too wild to go outside, there has not been one speck of craft action in this house over the past week. On one hand that makes me sad, but on the other hand I do know that it's a seasonal thing. The days out on the farm are long in springtime and the hours sitting on the couch are but a few.


A few days ago after listening to the Fat Talk episode of the Ladies We Need To Talk podcast, our family made a promise to stop talking about other people's physical appearances. It's just not necessary. There's so much more to a person than their looks which are mostly the luck of their genetics anyway.

Last night in the middle of the night I finished reading my Mum's library copy of Delancey:A man, A Woman, a Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg also author of the blog Orangette. I loved Molly's book, in its essence it's a bunch of stories about the time in her life when she and her then husband opened up a pizza restaurant. It is chatty and easy to read, it has loads of beautiful recipes (I must remember to copy out a few before I return it), it has beautiful descriptions of pizza, and it's an interesting portrait of a woman who chooses and then chooses again. I think if I ever get around to writing a book about our life on our farm, Delancey is just the type of book I'd like to write.


And lastly, but still very importantly, I had a realisation early in the week that I can sometimes take things personally when they have nothing to do with me. When I finally sat down and had a conversation with a friend of mine who I felt had been prickly, cold and dark toward me over the past few weeks, she told me it was something she was going through and had nothing to do with me at all. And that instead of keeping my distance if I feel that from her in the future, perhaps I could give her a hug. Of course I apologised and promised to, but I've felt awful ever since. I believe so strongly in practicing empathetic behaviour, I've seen and read all the quotes about being kind to people because we're all going through our own private battles, and I want so badly to be a good human, I guess I just need a bit more practise.

And with that I'm outta here!

Are you making/growing/reading/loving/dreaming/learning about anything exciting at the moment?
Are spring petals or autumn leaves falling from the trees where you live?

My parents have just walked up the hill with a freshly baked challah for us, I must go now and cut myself a slice.

See you next week!

Love Kate

x




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