Friday, July 21, 2017

a postcard from the beach

Dear (insert your name here),

How are you?

We've been having a lovely time at the beach. Even though we're only here for five full days, the break from the cold and from our everyday routine has been worth every travel mile.

Every other year we've come here we've spent big chunks of time away from the house; exploring, shopping and wandering, but this year we've hardly left. The girls have spent hours sitting up at the kitchen table doing homework and painting in their journals, farmer Bren has been playing guitar and I've just turned the heel of a pair of socks I cast on four days ago, I'm sure that's a personal record.

Before we came here I thought I might be done with knitting socks. The last few pairs I knitted didn't fit their intended recipient properly and I lost confidence. There's nothing worse than a few weeks' worth of 4ply knitting on 2mm needles sagging at the ankles.

But the night before we left home I packed three skeins of sock yarn and didn't look back. Socks are the best traveling project and I just had to give them another go. Initially I thought I'd knit grey and blue stripes, but once I'd wound the yarn into balls I changed my mind. I'm always looking for plain grey socks to wear with clogs and these purled cabled ones will be perfect.

And knitting those toes felt just like coming home. I am still well and truly a sock knitter. 

I've also fallen in love with watching tv in bed. I know!!!! Lying back against a mountain of pillows, flicking through the stations and getting sucked into the lives of tattoo artists, brides, airline stewardesses and cooks feels so indulgent and like nothing I'd ever do in my real life. It's probably lucky that we don't have a tv at home so I won't be tempted.

We've walked all the way to the end of the beach and back a few times. We've swum and enjoyed the sunshine on our skin. We've read books and listened to music. We've tried to convince the girls to stay another week and miss some school. But they won't. Bum!

And I've thought a lot about what it was like when we were here at the same time last year and how far we've come since then. 

Last year on one of the first days of our holiday I closed myself in my bedroom and wrote down the story of my daughter's bullying from my perspective. After months of watching the story unfold, of witnessing my daughter crumple, of finally taking matters into our own hands and exposing it to everyone who was involved and everyone who would listen, and completely losing myself in distress, I wrote down my feelings and reactions and fears. And then I posted them to my blog. It was a terrible time.

A year on and things couldn't be much more different. Our girl is blossoming. She's strong and independent, she has a bunch of great friends and she can make me laugh like no one else can.

I think we all see the world a bit differently in the after, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think we're all more aware and careful, I think we're more compassionate and I think that after hearing so many other people's stories, we're always ready to listen and support and defend.

I'm astounded by how widespread bullying is and has been for a very long time. It kills me. I can only hope that all the cliches about time passing and difficult situations making better and stronger people are true. 

I'm so terribly sad and sorry for those of us who have been treated badly and especially for those of us who have had to watch it happen to someone we adore. It's the worst. I'm sending love and strength and courage out to all.

And sunshine.

We're heading home tomorrow to the depths of the dark Daylesford winter and I'll be holding onto the memory of this bright, sunshiney week for as long as I can.

I hope you've had a wonderful week wherever you are.
Are you reading a good book? Traveling somewhere interesting? Planning something exciting?
I'd love to know all about it.

See you in a week.

Love Kate


Friday, July 14, 2017

from yesterday with love x

So here's something a bit weird. I'm actually writing this on Thursday and not Friday, even though I'm posting it on Friday and not Thursday, and you're probably reading it on Friday and definitely not on Thursday. But if I didn't tell you that you wouldn't know any different. The internet is funny like that isn't it? All this information and all these assumptions and in the end we just have to sort through it all and decide for ourselves what we believe in.

But you can trust me I promise. The reason I'm writing it a day early is because we're going to The Australian Sheep and Wool Show tomorrow (Friday) and on the way home we're going to pop in on our old friends in their new house, and I don't want to feel all rushed or like I've got something at the back of my mind that I feel like I should be doing instead.

So here I am. It's Thursday evening and it's dark and rainy and cold outside. I'm sitting about as close to the heater as I can get, Bren's in the other room practising guitar, the smalls are next to me programming a robot that Pepper and Bren just finished building, and Indi is on a bus home from Woodend. When she gets home we'll have spaghetti with lentils for dinner.

The top photo is of the kitty cat hot water bottle cover I knitted for Miss Pepper for her birthday last year. I was just looking through my Ravelry page before and noticed that I had never taken a photo of it, so now I have. The details are here.

This is the tractor hot water bottle cover that I'm just finishing off now. Did I mention it's cold? 

I feel like overalls are the only clothing option that makes any sense these wintry days. I pretend that I wear them for work, but really it's the handy hot water bottle sized pouch up front. So cozy.

Speaking of sheep and wool and knitting and stuff, here's a little shearing shed drawing my farmer boy found in a box of his primary school exercise books. This one's from grade three. There are more pages of sheep drawings but I forgot to photograph them and now it's dark. Oops, hopefully I'll remember and add them in tomorrow. So cute!!

I'm reading my daughter's copy of Once & Then by Morris Gleitzman, trying to stay ahead of her so we can discuss it as she goes. Once & Then are fictional books that follow the life of a 10 year old Jewish boy called Felix living in 1945 Nazi Poland. I've only read 50 pages so far but I'm already completely engaged in the story. I'm so interested to see how the book progresses and how Morris deals with the horrors of the Holocaust through the eyes of a child and for an audience of children.

I'm also interested to see how the conversation with my daughter evolves. She says that most of the kids in her class have already read the books and she's grown up in a house where many discussions about the Holocaust have taken place in front of her over the years. But still it's pretty tricky subject matter for a kid. I'm hoping that I can trust Morris Gleizman to be sensitive to his young audience and their naivety, but like I said, I'm reading ahead just to be sure.

I'm thrilled to report that my onion seedlings have finally decided to show their sweet green faces a month after I planted them. These were the first seeds that I planted in our new green house so it means so much to me that they have. We also eat a lot of onions so it'll be great to have a big stash.

When we were first talking about and designing the green house I just assumed we'd use old windows for the roof as well as the walls. But then I was quickly talked out of that because their weight and fragility would make the structure unsafe. If we wanted to use old glass, we'd have to build a proper roof structure to support them. 

So after much research and discussion we ordered some poly tunnel plastic and popped it on up. We thought it would be reasonably priced, easy to fit and that it would be UV sensitive come summer.

What ended up happening is that it looked flat and ugly, and when it rained huge pools of water collected in the low points. We tried shoving bits of wood and tubes of cardboard up to stop it, but nothing stopped the pools and we were worried that one day the weight of the water would burst through the plastic and flood the space. 

So this week the plastic came down and some good old, practical Laserlite went up in its place. It's strong and sturdy and safe and now that it's up there I don't mind that corrugated look as much as I thought I might. It does the trick in the rain anyway.

And look at that. Remember in my last post when I told you that we'd been having issues with our Esse stove since it was installed in 2012? Well, on Monday Bren's Dad's plumber came back and after another big day they lit it and ever since then it's been running like a dream. Our house is warm, tonight's dinner was cooked on the hot plate, and if you sit with your back to that radiator in the photo above to write your blog you'll feel as toasty as a marshmallow. So my farmer boy is happy and so say all of warm us!

And that's me all blogged up and no place to go. That is until the sheep and wool show tomorrow. Can't wait!

And just for fun, if you could have anything at all knitted into a hot water bottle cover what would it be? I think I'd like three little girls on mine, or maybe a sheep.

I hope you have a great Friday, honey bunches. I have no idea how to schedule a blog post so I think I'll just publish this early before we leave. And I haven't decided if I'll take my big camera along, but I'm certain I'll be posting to my instagram stories if you want to follow along over there.

Big love!


Saturday, July 8, 2017

the afternoon after

Last night when we were in Melbourne picking up Pepper I bumped into an old friend. He asked how I was and then I asked him. We both answered really good without even really thinking. But then I took a breath all the way in and noticed all the parts of my body that had been stuck sitting inside the car for the past two hours. I'm on a bit of a mission to get out of my head and into my body more often these days. And I noticed my aching shoulder and I added that I am actually feeling great because just this past week I smashed a goal that I'd set myself close to a year ago.

Working with our trainer at gym twice a week, she'd often talk about a particular fitness class she runs. The group who turn up a few times a week to take this class are at peak fitness. They pick up the choreography quickly, they move to the beat, they are strong and they work together to achieve this amazing feeling of strength and joy that has them sweaty and cheering by the end of the class. 

For months every time I bumped into a friend of mine who goes she'd encourage me to come and list all the benefits, and I'd tell her that one day I would. One day.

Then on Tuesday our trainer told me I was ready and she thought I should come to that night's class. As she ran through some of the trickier moves with me we discussed the importance of learning new things as an adult, about the fact that being bad at something is not a waste of time, about the importance of goals and challenges and about doing something for myself.

That night I left my warm house and went out into the cold and the dark. After working with our trainer for a year and a half I trust that she knows me well enough to know what I'm capable of so I wasn't nervous, I didn't expect much of myself though.

And like she'd said, the people were lovely and very serious about it. I stood at the back and watched in awe as they punched and jumped and kicked and lunged, in time, and again and again and again.

And you know what? I did too! Of course I found it tricky and stumbled and tripped often, I sweated my head off and there were many times when I wondered if the end of the song would ever come. But I kept up. And apart from the knee push ups that killed my knees, I managed every single exercise. They might have even clapped me at the end.

The few days since have been an anatomy lesson in muscle groups of pain, but gosh I feel great. And proud. And strong.

The friend I told this to last night made all the right noises and told me about his own goal that he'd smashed recently. I don't want to betray his confidence so I'm not going to write about his part of the conversation, but just know that I asked and listened as well as spoke.

He then asked me about the girls, how are they are and what they're up to? It's funny, I told him. So often there's something going on with one of them being extra needy or demanding. But right now they all three seem to be doing things they love and they're happy. School holidays are tricky with the big two now that their friends live an hour away, but we're managing.

And Bren? He's really great too. The farm is slowly going to sleep for the winter which gives him the time to express himself creatively. He's got a few projects going on and he's learning and loving working on them.

He had a difficult time during the week when we had yet another plumber out to try and fix the hydronics on the wood stove that have never worked properly in the five years we've had it. He questioned himself and his decisions and whether it was worth persevering at all. But after a good night's sleep and a discussion with the plumber who is confident that he can come back and fix it and get it running properly, he's feeling cautiously optimistic again.

It's horrible watching the person you love really struggling. My first impulse is always to try and fix it and take the hurt away. But over the years I've learnt that it's more important to support them. To listen carefully, to offer my thoughts if needed and to sit with them through the process without getting impatient or suggesting certain solutions.

Fingers crossed this week will see the cooker fixed and the end to a very long five years of problems.

Then he asked about the apples. It's funny that no matter the time or season, people always do. And the chooks and the dogs? All good.

We then spoke of country living versus city living and how I could never go back. We spoke of all the changes we've made to our house since they last visited and when they can come back.

He didn't ask me about my crochet or knitting, surprise-surprise. But incase you were wondering I'm darning in the ends of my crochet blanket and knitting squares onto my scrappy sock blanket. My farmer boy needs a new beanie next.

And I'm reading Abby's advance copy of The Lucky Ones. I started reading it a couple of weeks ago when I was feeling crappy but put it down after I realised it was pretty heavy in places. Now that I'm reading it in a better frame of mind I'm loving it.

Set during the peak of Columbia's drug fuelled conflict, The Lucky Ones is one of those books where each chapter stands alone as a short story and also fits in as a part of the intertwining bigger picture. Set over a 20 year period, the interconnecting bits between the stories are sometimes so surprising that they feel like bits of a jigsaw puzzle clicking in together. Told from the perspective of high school students, teachers, guerrilla fighters, parents and prisoners, The Lucky Ones capture a period of time so vividly but so far seem anything but what the name of the book suggests.

I thought you'd like to see this picture of our Pepper and her friend Drew taken by local photographer Juanita Broderick for the Tripwire Theatre production of Hollow recently. Pepper played Thomas Graham, one of three young boys who left their Daylesford homes 150 years ago to play in the forest and never returned home. The play told the story of the events that surrounded their disappearance.  

And that's me in my point in time. It's funny but when I sat down to write my blog this afternoon my brain didn't want to. It was like because I'd kind of done it yesterday, it didn't want to do it again today. So I got distracted and found a heap of other things to do instead. In the end, looking for a way to trick myself into it I remembered how often you guys leave comments telling me that my blog is just like catching up with a good friend. So I started there. And my brain cooperated. Thank goodness.

Which makes me wonder about your side of the story.
How are you going?
How's your family?
Your animals?
Have you made or smashed any goals lately?
Are you making anything cool?
I'd love to know.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Love Kate


Friday, July 7, 2017

see you tomorrow

Hello sweet friends, I can't believe how fast this week's flown by and that here I am on Friday again sitting here tapping out yet another blog post. I probably say that every Friday but it always feels true.

Usually Friday is the one day of the school week that we don't have to spend hours in the car driving the big girls over the hills and back, to and from their school. I love Fridays, apart from our one hour at gym, the rest of the day is for blog writing and bowl turning and other creative adventures. But today being the first Friday of the first week of the school holidays means that all routine is out the window and rather than a slow and easy day, today I am being pulled in all sorts of other directions.

So instead of giving myself a hard time and trying to rush this and fit it into all the small gaps, I'm going to have a quick shower, put on my Melbourne clothes, and drive into town to pick up Miss Pepper and bring her home. I'll post a proper blog tomorrow when I can give it a decent chunk of time.

In the meantime why don't you pour yourself a cup of tea from the kettle farmer Bren has boiling on the stove in his workshop and make yourself a toastie on the fire. I'll be back here before you know it.

See you tomorrow!

Love Kate x

PS What're your favourite toastie fillings?
I'm pretty boring with my cheese, olives and semi dried tomatoes.
PPS I like the old peppermint tea the best too.

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

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