Thursday, May 21, 2015

The last of the apples

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On Sunday we picked the last of the apples and pulled the nets off the trees.

It's been an incredible season, possibly our best ever and although I do feel sad at the thought that it will be so many months before I pick another juicy ripe apple from a tree, I feel happy and grateful for the season that was.

Our orchards are made up of 40 varieties of heritage apples to spread out the blossom and the harvest -  so we picked and we picked this year all the way from January through to late May. From the sweetest all the way through to the ones that make you wince with sour. From the ones that hold their shape when cooked through to the ones that completely disintegrate into mush. From the old faves like Granny Smiths and Jonathans all the way through to the interesting Mutzus and the Peasgood's Nonesuch and the Esopus Spitzenbergs.

It's been such fun!

And although we do wonder if the bio-dynamics and the nets made the season so great, we're most thankful of Mother Nature and the rain and the sunshine and the bees.

And the farm stall. How we love that stall. Opening her up in the morning, picking apples and filling the crates, writing cute notes on the blackboards for our customers, our gorgeous customers, and the thought that our apples are being munched and crunched in homes and lunch boxes all around the area.

So to finish on a high and to thank you for your love and support, we have dropped the price to $2.50 a kilo from now until we run out. Which will be pretty soon I think.

So if you are in the area - please come and buy some and take them home and eat them, bake them, juice them, dehydrate them, pop them in Fowlers jars, make stamps with them, stew them, brew cider with them, bob for them..........

And tell me - what's your fave variety of apple and what's your fave way to eat them?

Big love!

xoxo

Oh PS Alli you won the little Tea Mouse kit. Yay!! x

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Craft report

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And now for the crafty bits.

In the middle of all the apple picking, apple cooking, apple preserving and apple eating, I screen printed a whole bunch of bunting flags

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to decorate our stall at The Lake House produce day last month.

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I actually finished the farmer boy socks about two months ago but then apple season exploded and I never got a chance to blog them. The top four things about knitting these socks are;

  1. The skein of yarn is split into two 50 gram bits so you know when to stop winding one and start winding the next and then you can't help but knit two identical twin socks.
  2. The colours and patterns change so often which made them interesting and fun.
  3. Somehow, I have no idea how, the yarn is dyed into those colours and patterns which means you get the cool designs without all the ends to darn in.
  4. Farmer Bren LOVES them!!

Ravelled here.

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Apart from the giving or wearing, the best part of finishing a pair of socks is adding a new colour into my scrappy sock blanket. It's still not very big, but I'm really loving it.

Raveled here.

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And then there's Amanda.

As far as I can work out I have one button band, the neckband and the seaming to do and then I'm done. I still have no idea if it will fit me but it's getting to that stage where I'll soon find out.

I'm knitting Amanda in Tonofwool which I am LOVING!! It had beautiful stitch definition, it is super soft, it's Australian and I have a few samples that I'll be giving away soon - so watch this space.

Ravelled here.

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Then there's the weaving kit that farmer Bren and the girls bought me a week before mother's day. I am busting to have a go but trying my hardest to wait til I am wearing my new cardigan.

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Which brings us to the sweet Tea Mouse.

Tea Mouse is the cutest softie pattern designed and written by lovely Sarah from Chantille Fleur.

In Sarah's own words - The Chantille Fleur Tea Mouse has darling little ears with fabric lining, a matching love heart on the front and even a little knitted tail. She's a sweet little character with a lovely black nose which she just loves to point in the air. The Tea Mouse is a delight to look at and to create.

Sarah posted me the kit which meant all I had to do was find the right sized needles and get to work. The pattern was easy to follow and came together quite quickly. I had thought it might make a sweet gift for a new baby but it keeps disappearing into Miss Pepper's bedroom. Looks like I'll just have to knit up another one. Or two.

Sarah has very kindly offered to send a Tea Mouse kit to one of you guys, (Australian addresses only, sorry).

Tell me in the comments who you would give your little Tea Mouse to and I'll pick a winner on the weekend.

Until then check out the knitting kits here.
The Tea Mouse Ravelry page here.
Chantille Fleur facebook here.
Chantille Fleur on instagram here.



OK, that's me all craft caught up, how about you?
What're you making at the moment?


Big warm woolly love.

xoxoxoxo



Monday, May 11, 2015

Book report!

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I guess the main problem with blogging so infrequently is that I'm always catching up. And when I'm catching up I often forget some of the details, I sometimes don't have the relevant material with me anymore and I always feel like there's so much to get through that I don't know where to start. So I guess this is a kind of warning that the weather forecast for this week is grim so I might finally find myself with a bit more inside/computer time and a couple of catch up posts might be on the cards.

The first is a book report. Or bookS as the case may be.

Season of Salt and Honey was written by fellow blogger and mother of two cute girls Hannah Tunnicliffe.

In Hannah's own words - Seasons of Salt and Honey is the story of a young Italian-American woman escaping the tragic loss of her fiancé by retreating into the Washington coastal rain forest.

I read it in a couple of nights, devouring all the relationships, the descriptions of grief and Hannah's gradual physical and emotional journey from a life that was safe and expected all the way through to one that she chose and fought for.

The thing that makes this book so different for me was the traditional Sicilian recipes included within the chapters. Nine recipes that had me reading each word of their ingredients lists and methods as if they told an important part of the story. While I've seen loads of cooking scenes in movies, I'm not sure I ever have read them in a novel before and I loved the extra flavour it gave to the story.

When Hannah wrote to me explaining that she was a friend of Beth's and had written this book and would love to send me a copy, she suggested I might like to cook a couple of the recipes in my review. While I haven't yet had the chance, I can certainly see her Nzuddi - Vinnies - roasted almond cookies, Spring risotto and Rosolio alle Erbe - sweet herb cordial/liqueur in my future.

Season of Salt and Honey can be purchased online here.

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My sister Abby lent me Rebecca Starford's Bad Behaviour last week and I read it in about two days. I could not put it down.

Bad Behaviour is the story of one woman's experience of life at the country campus of an exclusive Melbourne school. The book examines boarding school life and bullying and gives the author an opportunity to tell her own story of life before that year away and since.

This book touched me on so many levels.

Firstly, when I was about halfway through BB I clicked onto Facebook one night and found a gorgeous picture of a group of current students of that very same school, all heavily laden down with enormous matching blue backpacks on the top of a mountain somewhere in the Victorian high country. I sat searching those 15 or so faces for ages, looking for the characters in the book (even though it's been years since they hiked that trail), trying to work out who would be the leaders and the followers and imagining all sorts of other scenarios from the book. I guess that snapshot gave a reality to the book that could otherwise have been just another story.

Secondly, BB took me all the way back to camps that I went on at school. The things we got up to, the popular girls, the cruel taunting that went on and the general day to day life.

And lastly, a book about a 14 year old girl of course made me think of my 14 year old girl and some of the stuff that goes on with her friends and classmates.

I'm sure BB ruffled a lot of feathers and upset a lot of people and I do feel awful about that. I'm not sure how I would feel if someone were to publish a book detailing the goings on of my year ten camp. However it is an interesting story and for all the reasons above - I couldn't put it down.

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When Marika from Scribe publishing emailed me asking if we would like her to send us a copy of The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade, a new children's book, I originally thought I'd say no. My girls are all now well out of the picture book department and it didn't seem like it would be relevant. But then I read Marika's review and changed my mind.

Marika wrote - It's a very sweet story of childhood shyness and fitting in - the message being that it's OK to be shy, and that it's not a character flaw to be fixed.

While stories of elves and fairies and horses are great, I've found that books aimed at young readers don't necessarily tackle the big life stuff and sometimes a picture book is just what you need to get the conversation started. This book certainly does just that.

And did I mention that it's GORGEOUS!!! Allison Colpoys illustrated this book and Davina Bell wrote it.

We've read it several times in our home, both together and alone. We've used it to discuss and understand situations we've found ourselves in and also some of our friends. I think we might donate our copy to our school library this afternoon so more kids can read it and discuss it.

Here's a cute story of how the book came to be.

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My sister Emily lent me the Ferrente novels a few weeks ago and told me I'd love them but before that I'd never even heard of them. My Mum said they are huge but I guess that shows how out of the literary circle I am.

But nevertheless I loved them!! Loved them!!

Three big, fat books that carry the story of two girl friends from childhood all the way into their womanhood. Their story is filled with descriptions of a neighbourhood, a community, of places, of times and politics, of family and of friendship.

For me, the worst part of reading these books was coming to the end of the third book and feeling like I had to say goodbye to the main characters Elena and Lila. You can imagine my happiness when Emily told me there's a fourth and final book in the series coming out this October. Yay!


Which brings me to Tracks by Robyn Davidson, which my sister Meg recommended to me and I am reading right now. And loving. No picture of the cover because I am reading it on my kindle.


Hopefully I'll post soon about Pip's new book - Craft For The Soul - which Miss Indi has claimed and is adoring and Michelle's book - A Table In The Orchard - which farmer Bren is devouring hungrily.


Phew, that's books all caught up, I'll try and do craft next I think. Or maybe an outside farm post if the weather cooperates.


In the meantime - what are you reading?

Happy page turning!!

xoxo

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Ulman Files

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Happy Friday you guys!!

Firstly, thank you all enormously for your kindness and your care in the comments and texts and emails you sent me after my last post. I have read every single one and they meant the world to me, your support and your community is the best medicine of all. And I'm happy to report that I feel like I'm on the mend. Finally. Thank goodness.

OK, now on to much more fun stuff. This is a post about my family, my Mum and Dad and us four girls and what we are doing right now. Just for fun and because I am so very proud and I think you might be interested in our goings on too.

Firstly is sister number three Emily Ulman, that's her at the top.

Since the middle of last year Emily has been recording her third CD, Wear It Well, and to help her get it over the finish line and pay for things like mastering, artwork, a publicist, the tour, a film-clip and pressing the actual music to vinyl and CD, she needs our help.

Emily has launched a pozible and it would mean the world to her, and to me, if you could chip in a few dollars. The rewards are many and awesome including having coffee and cake with me and my three sisters - which could be fun!!??

Being a creative person although highly soul enriching is not always enriching in the dollar department and it makes me happy that there are things like pozible campaigns that make it easier for us to support each other and get our dreams into action. It makes me doubly happy to know that people are supporting Emily who always, alway supports everyone else. And it makes me tripley happy to think that hopefully soon, we will have a new Emily Ulman soundtrack to our lives. Yippeeee!!

Click on the possible site here - http://www.pozible.com/project/193712 And thank you!!

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My youngest sister Abigail Ulman has recently published a brilliant book called - Hot Little Hands!!

There are some beautiful reviews of Abby's book on the Penguin site here.

I loved every word on every page of Hot Little Hands, Abby is an exceptional writer and I feel as proud as proud can be. But I do have to mention that for me, being eight years older than Abby, in a way she'll always be about twelve to me, and reading about some of the things that some of her female characters get up to made my eyes almost pop out of my head. My little sister shouldn't know about all that sexy stuff, should she?

You can buy your own copy of Hot Little Hands here - http://www.readings.com.au/products/18856456/hot-little-hands.

I've got another post with a HLH giveaway coming up soon too.

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While Meg Ulman, sister number two, and her family are busy putting the finishing touches on their book - The Art Of Free Travel due out this October - they are holding workshops each Saturday.

The workshops Learn To Forage Like A True Locavore are held in Daylesford and include a two-hour walk, instructions on how to identify and safely harvest edible weeds and conclude with a foraged and homegrown meal. Just look at that beautiful feast, how inspiring and gorgeous and delicious does that all look!!

To book for the workshop call - 0418523308.

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Our mum, Vivienne Ulman, in between looking after all of us and writing her own novel is caring for her own father, our grandfather, and trying to make sure that he leads the best, most dignified, love-filled life that he possibly can.  Our society doesn't seem to be all that well set up to honour our elders in a time when they need more and more care and my mum is making it her job to find ways to keep him comfortable and happy and safe.

You can read my mum's blog The Writing Hive here and read about her first book Alzheimer's: A Love Story here.

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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)!


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Which brings us to me, the oldest and bossiest Ulman sister.

Right now I'm madly picking apples, I'm printing and stitching apple bunting for our stall at The Lake House Daylesford producers day this weekend, I am mothering and lovering, I am taking photos and writing my article for the next issue of Slow magazine,  I'm knitting the second sleeve of my Amanda cardigan, and I am trying to play catch up with everything else.

I'm feeling proud and happy and inspired.

Are your friends and family doing ace things too? Care to share?


I hope you guys have a gorgeous weekend.


Big love!

xxxxxx



Oh and Carol @ Perennial and Mara Macs, please send me your postal addresses, you've won Michelle Mackintosh's Snail Mail book. Hooray!! x

Monday, April 20, 2015

under the weather

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I think this is one of those posts that I'm writing more for me than for you. I'm writing it for future reference, as a record and to try and get it out of my head and into my computer. So please, feel free to skip this one, it's not going to be very exciting or uplifting. Hopefully I'll be back here later in the week with something a bit more fun.

So basically I've been feeling crappy for quite some time now. Crappy physically but not emotionally. About six or eight weeks ago, almost exactly a year to the date of my left breast saga, I got the same infection on the other side. This time it was quickly diagnosed and treated and within a few days of starting an antibiotic course it was history.

But I mustn't have started taking acidophilous in time because next thing I knew I had a rather itchy situation. Too much information? Sorry.

All of the above knocked me around a bit but after a few days I was back to running around like usual. Until one Saturday evening I discovered that everything I ate or drank tasted like poo. This went on for a few days resulting in a complete loss of appetite, many conversations about what poo actually tastes like, me having to convince the girls that I am definitely not pregnant, and of course lots of googling.

I think the poo-taste thing lasted for about two weeks and then gradually disappeared. Only to appear in the mouths of a couple of school parents who must have asked google much better questions, I know they used the words battery acid rather than poo, and discovered a little thing called pine-mouth. Pine mouth!!!!! After all that pesto I'd been making and all those pine nuts I'd been sneaking, of course it was.

The diagnosis brought relief but also the feeling that we have to stay truer to our only buy organic and Australian grown or don't buy it at all rule. Pesto filled with dodgy Chinese pine nuts? No thanks. From now on I think we'll use almonds.

After that was cleared up for some reason I stopped sleeping. For what felt like three years but was possibly only a week or two, I just stopped sleeping. At the start I didn't mind so much. The nights are so quiet and I got lots of reading and thinking and looking at Facebook done, but unfortunately the days after the nights spent awake were a disaster. I was fragile and impatient and shivery and felt like my brain was full of a ton of wool.

Are you sick of me yet? I am.

Then of course I got a shocking head cold that two weeks later I still haven't completely shaken. Blah!

Then not last Saturday but the Saturday before as we were doing the rounds visiting our bee hives, I was stung four times. This in itself is not such a big deal, we keep bees and occasionally we get stung. But the fact that I got stung in my suit is weird and has never happened before and also I had some sort of reaction to the bites that I've never had before. In the past they've stung for a few seconds, maybe a minute and then nothing for a few days until they've itched like crazy and then disappeared. This time my bites swelled up until they were enormous. The ones on my ankle were so big I couldn't put my shoe on and the one on my thigh was the size of a small plate. And they burned. The only thing that calmed them down was a bicarb paste. Gosh they were nasty. A week later and you can still see the shadow of them like they are bruises.

And lastly, gosh how I hope it's the last of it anyway, my old shoulder injury has flared up and is travelling right up my neck, into my teeth and all the way up to my head. What even??!! I'm having a treatment with my pilates teacher in the morning and I have a whole range of exercises to do, so I'm hopeful that this will be short lived.

I know they're all just little things and I'm trying to see the bigger picture and not let them get the better of me, but sometimes it's just trying. I accept that I'm run down and my immune is low but I can't work out the reason why. I live on an organic farm, my work is pretty active, I eat a fresh and organic diet, most of which we've grown here, and I love what I do, who I do it with and how we're doing it.

I hate to complain partly because I know there are so many who are doing it so much tougher and I hate to complain because I HATE BEING THE SICK ONE!!! It's driving me cuckoo. Like I said at the start, it's just boring.

Lucky I have the apple picking, the preserving, the farm stall, the girls, farmer Bren, my knitting, stripey tights, a big pot of lentil bolognaise on the stove, linen sheets on my bed, a great book, big travel plans and the kitchen garden to take my mind off it all.

I hope you are well and happy and have lots of nice things going on.

Big love xx





Thursday, April 16, 2015

Snail Mail - the book, our day & a giveaway!

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The other day my Mum told us that she thinks Michelle Mackintosh's new book Snail Mail is the most beautiful book she's ever seen. Except for books written by Ulmans, my Dad added! Only Michelle was the designer of my book Vantastic too, so I think she's clearly the winner.

A couple of years ago when I was deep in the exciting phase of signing publishing contracts and working out exactly what my book would be, I remember looking at my phone and noticing that Michelle Mackintosh had just followed me on instagram. Guessing what that might hopefully mean, I promptly burst into tears and called my publisher. She confirmed that she had just signed Michelle as my designer. I hung up the phone and did a mixture of every single silly dance move I could think of all around the house.

Michelle Mackintosh has designed so many of my favourite books; like Beci Orpin's and Pip Lincolne's and Louise and Margaret Fulton's and The Little Veggie Patch Co's.

And indeed Michelle did design my book and I adored working with her and we became firm friends. And I can honestly tell you that seeing Michelle's name proudly stamped on the front of the cover of a book instead of inside the front cover, makes me as happy as can be.

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Last Friday we invited Michelle and our friend Chanie and her three girls, Ponie, Nancy and Honey, to come and Snail Mail it up with us at my Mum and Dad's house across the Lane.

First we ooooohed and ahhhhhhed over every page of the beautiful book and ate cake.

And then Michelle led us step by step through a few projects from her book.

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First we learnt how to make envelopes and then we spent ages decorating and writing to our loved ones.

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And then we folded Snail Males.

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Since last Friday my girls have been snatching every spare moment to rummage around in the recycling and in the craft cupboard for old stamps and pretty papers and stickers that they then use to create and decorate Snail Mail for their friends.

From the back of the book -

Snail Mail is here to bring back hand written communication - and more - in one beautifully illustrated and perfectly proper little package.

Learn how to improve your handwriting (and your manners) make your own paper, envelopes, wax seals and pressed flowers; put together care packages for loved ones who need a bit of TLC; romance someone the old-school way; and craft beautiful mail art for any occasion.
I love Snail Mail big time!!

And I'd love to pass on that love to you guys - I have two copies to giveaway thanks to the cool people at Hardie Grant. Leave a comment on this post telling me who you would most love to find Snail Mail in your post box from? 

Australian residents only - sorry.
The two winners will be chosen by me and my girls on the weekend and notified in a blog post and by email.

Yay!! You gotta be in it to win it - so get commenting lovelies.

Until then - you can buy Michelle's book from Readings, and follow Michelle on instagram - @michellemackintosh.


Laters xx


Monday, April 13, 2015

What makes your heart sing??

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And then this amazing thing happened.

One beautiful February evening, I interrupted our family dinner and asked everyone to grab something from the house that they LOVED doing, something that made them happy, and then we filed out the door. One by one I checked to make sure no-one had food in their teeth, everyone was dressed appropriately and then we headed to the steps of our cubby-house.

It was a gorgeous evening and we were happy just to hang out together doing what we love to do.

And then I made some comment about a ridiculously enormous fart, everyone cracked up laughing, I snapped my shot, I started laughing and fell back into the herb garden and got a wet bum, the girls laughed some more, I kept snapping, and then we hung out until it slowly got dark and cold and we went inside to clear away dinner.


A few weeks later I was standing in our local newsagent first thing on a Monday morning hassling them to undo the piles and piles of new magazines that had just been delivered - because one of the photos that I took that evening was on the cover of the Autumn issue of Slow Living Magazine!!!!! My family are on the cover of a magazine!!!


I've had a copy of that magazine sitting on my desk for about a month now and I still get a happy surprise every single time I walk past it. I still can't really believe it.

There are certain things that I have gotten used to over the five or so years that I have been a blogger - a lot of people know a lot about my life, some people respect my opinion, I can take good blog photos and write good blog text, I've taken photos and written articles for some other publications, I've even written a book!!!! But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would take a cover photo.

I'm thrilled.

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I also wrote an article and took some pictures for the inside of the magazine. All about farmer Bren's spoon carving and how it's changed his life.

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You can get all the information you need about Slow Living magazine here - http://www.slowmagazine.com.au.

And if you do have your very own copy and would like to win a subscription - take a photo of the cover in your home/in your garden/with some of your favourite creative things, upload it to instagram, hashtag it #slowlivingmag and Slow Magazine will choose their five favourite images and reward them with a subscription each. Cool huh!! Better get snapping.

And until next time - why don't we all do a bit more of what makes our hearts sing!!

Love ya's!!

xx

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