Tuesday, April 30, 2013

These autumn days I am...

❤ Popping and planting garlic. See you in six months little purple bulbs.
❤ Knitting beanies. One almost done, four to go.
❤ LOVING having my folks at the bottom of the hill. xx
❤ Making and stamping bunting to go in shop windows when my book comes out. Eeeeep!!
❤ Thinking a lot about business and pleasure. And dollars and sense.
❤ Picking about 20kgs of tomatoes a day. Preserving most days. 
❤ Keeping one girl a day home with us for private time. Part time farm school.
❤ Loving the look of the water droplets on the nasturtium leaves.
❤ So over the 300+ spam comments I am getting each day on my blog. 
❤ Loving Dawn Tan's new blog.
❤ Behind on my running/walking routine because of the time-hogging tomatoes.
❤ Loving splitting two year old, very dry wood.
❤ Wishing it were 15 degrees warmer. At least.
❤ Listening to the Maremmas barking like crazy in the back paddock. 
❤ Needing to dehydrate another load of apples.
❤ Watching Nashville. Liking not loving.
❤ Looking forward to visiting a dairy goat farm later this week for some ideas and info.
❤ So glad I decided not to drive to Melbourne and back tonight.
❤ Supervising the building of the recycled cubby house. There it is in the pic above top left.
❤ Loving the expanding kitchen garden.
❤ So sorry that I haven't replied to your emails. I'll get there soon.
❤ Still struggling with autumn dressing.
❤ Enjoying snacking on carrots straight from the ground.
❤ Embarrassed that we still have one suit case left to unpack. The odds and ends one. Ugh!
❤ A bit dehydrated. I never remember to drink water when it's cold. 
❤ Really enjoying writing my blog at the moment.
❤ Loving the comments you are leaving on my blog. Thank you! Thank you! x
❤ Tired and ready for bed.

What's going on with you?
What are you thinking/making/baking/growing/feeling/wearing?
Do tell.

Later potata. xx

Monday, April 29, 2013


This weekend's tomatoes;

All the San Marzano's were cooked, moulied and poured into Fowlers jars (132 for the year so far).

All the cherries were eaten in salads and sandwiches.

And all the baby pears were laid out on baking trays with big glugs of olive oil, plenty of fresh basil and oregano, wedges of onion and garlic, and salt and pepper.

Tray after tray sat for hours and hours in the wood cooker over the weekend. Our house smelled delicious.

A few trays of the tomatoes were put in jars and filled with olive oil (recipe here), some were eaten straight off the tray and the rest were moulied, poured into a big, heavy saucepan and cooked down for sauce and paste.

Me and my farmer boy are talking a lot about passion at the moment.
Red, fiery, excited, energising, smiley, happy, butterflies in your tummy passion.

Where does it come from and what is it exactly?

I keep coming back to the same answer. Growing food, preparing food and preserving food for our family is my passion. Living in the season and preparing for the next. Having a minimal impact on the earth. Living a creative life. Family. Home.

It's been a few years since we came to the realisation that it's a bit silly to grow gorgeous organic fruit and veg only to sell it all off at market and not have any left over for ourselves. It's been a few years since we used that realisation to set up a big kitchen garden right outside our house. And it's been a few years of feeding ourselves before the business.

But now that I have three at school, my book has gone to print and we are back from overseas, I feel like there's room in my life to go further. To do more.

There's not a lot of time. The slow life is a pretty busy life. But while I'm gathering tomatoes, or kindling, or eggs, I'm also gathering ideas. Maybe a couple of milking goats and some cheese making, maybe some sheep for shearing and wool spinning, maybe a bit of work on a way to grow citrus, maybe a paddock of wheat for bread and chook food? So many maybes.

It's a work in progress and a constant reassessment.

I feel like this is an important time for us and I'm excited. (Although I do sometimes wish that cleaning my house gave me more of a buzz.)

So tell me peeps, what is your passion?
What keeps you up at night and gets you out of bed in the morning?
What makes you happy and feeds your soul?

I hope you have such a happy week my friends.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Toffee apples.

This autumnal afternoon in April, after weeks of picking, drying, bottling, stewing and baking apples, when Miss Jazzy suggested we make toffee apples, I jumped at the idea. And then I sent her and her sisters down to the orchard to pick some.

They came back with a box of Splendors and a fistful of sticks and we got to work.

We followed this recipe.

Delicious heritage apples picked fresh from the tree, toffee cooked from the very best certified organic ingredients, excitement in the anticipation, delight in the crunch, pure childhood joy!!

Years ago I made toffee apples and sold them at farmer's markets, today I enjoyed not worrying about the bubbles and just enjoyed the process.

And they were declared the best toffee apples EVER!!

Toffee apples in Autumn are going to be a family tradition at ours now I think.

When was the last time you enjoyed the sweet childhood fave?
If you close your eyes can you remember that mix of sweet and tart?
The crack of the toffee and the crunch of the apple?


Oh and my book is going to the printers tomorrow. OH MY GOODNESS!!!
I'll show you the cover in a few days time. Eeeeeeeeep!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This post is out of date.

Almost all of these photos were taken last Friday and Saturday when the warmth of summer was still in the air and my world was filled with tomatoes. 

Little smiley cheeks filled with fat tomatoes, colanders in the poly tunnels and vegie gardens and market gardens over-flowing with tomatoes, crates full of tomatoes on the kitchen floor and plates ripening on the kitchen window sill, hours and hours spent picking and sorting and eating and cooking tomatoes.

So. Many. Tomatoes.

Last week my kitchen was a tomato preserving factory. Pots filled with tomatoes simmering on the Esse, piles of clips and rings and lids and bottles being washed and sterilised and waiting to be put to use.

Bottles filled with the delicious flavours and aromas of summery sunshine; onion, garlic, basil and tomato.

And the Fowlers machine was bubbling away, an hour and a half at a time, preserving these bottles full of rosy goodness for the leaner, colder months ahead.

We grew an enormous amount of tomatoes this year. In years gone by we would have picked them and package them all up and sold them. But this year I decided to keep them on farm. To feed our family first.

This year I made a commitment to grow enough tomatoes to eat them fresh while they are in season and to preserve enough for our family to eat for an entire year. We eat a lot of tomatoey things so that is a lot. So far I have frozen nine 900gram tubs and filled 118 Fowlers jars, I think I'm close.

But due to our three weeks away, I had counted on a few more weeks of picking and preserving. A few more weeks of reaching under green vines searching out rosy redness and filling up colanders and crates and bowls.

But the last Saturday night the temperature dropped to zero and we had our first frost of the season. The vines were burnt black and the gazillions of green tomatoes waiting to ripen were damaged.

I cried.

And then I picked myself up and picked 10 crates of the best looking green tomatoes to bring inside. I'd love to hang the vines but we have too many hungry mice and possums around.

The chooks will have the time of their lives with the remainders.

I'm grateful we still have the poly tunnels full of healthy happy vines to extend the season a bit longer.

As a farmer I fully understand and acknowledge the importance of the changing of the seasons. I know that so many of the fruits and vegetables we grow here need the iciness of winter just as much as the warmth of summer. I know that frosts and rain and cold are an integral part of the cycle.

But I still find that first frost of the season sad. That first frost signals the end to Summer and the onset of the many long, cold, wet months ahead. The end of red foods and the start of a mostly green diet instead.

So even though I only took these tomato filled photos a couple of days ago, they are already out of date. The time has passed. The season changed.

I'm doing my best to embrace the autumn, the Esse is burning hot, the soup is warming on the hot plates, I'm wearing tights and I'm knitting a scarf. I'm not sure I can bring myself to photgraph the frost burnt vines though, they're still a bit to raw and reminding.

How about you?
How are you with the change of seasons?
Are you heading towards the warmth or the cold?
Have you ever preserved enough to last all winter long?

Keep cozy.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Israel - the cardi

Last week my gorgeous friend Tania bought a hand knit jumper for five dollars from a girl at a trash and treasure market.

The jumper was all intricately knitted with reindeer and colour-work and patterns. The jumper was knitted from super soft, cuddly wool. And the jumper was knitted for the girl who sold it to Tania by her Mum. For FIVE DOLLARS!!

My Jazzy chose the pink Australian merino wool for this cardigan a few days before we left for Israel.

I cast on and knitted the first few rows at about two o'clock in the morning the night before we left in the hope of convincing airline security that I was indeed a knitter and not just the carrier of two pointy sticks and a ridiculous amount of yarn.

I held my breath each time we passed through the x-ray machines in airports and then happily knitted rows of the lace detail all the way through to the sleeve separation before we landed in Israel.

Jazzy's Israel cardi was the perfect traveling knitting project. Long rows of knit and purl that I could pick up on the bus, or after meals, or in the hotel at night and then shove down deep in my bag under cameras and phones and chargers and bits of paper.

I knitted that cardigan while we were acclimatising on our first few days in Tel Aviv. I knitted it in Jerusalem in between visits to the Old City and the markets. I knitted a big chunk on our trip to the desert down south, if you look carefully I'm sure you'll find bits of Negev sand and dust from the dust storm we got caught up in. I got a lot of knitting done the day we drove from all the way south, all the way up north, lucky I don't get car sick. I knitted the last of the length on our way back to Tel Aviv and decided to save the sleeves for the plane home.

I did worry a bit that I would finish the sleeves to quickly and be left on the plane home with empty, idle hands, but I needn't have.

Again I held my breath each time we passed through airport security. I imagined myself in tears if they took my needles away and how my precious stitches would unravel. But again, the sticks must have looked safe enough and I knitted all the way home.

Short round rows of 53 stitches, all the way home.

There are so many miles in this cardigan. So many stories and adventures and details. From the wool carefully chosen at last year's Bendigo Sheep and Wool show, to the selection of the beautiful Tikki pattern and all that travel in between. I hope My Jazzy wears it often and it reminds her of how loved she is.

But if you happen to see her at a trash and treasure market in about ten years time selling this jumper for $5, would you do me a favour and remind her. Thanks.

Ravelery details here, I'll finalise the yarn totals when I can get it off her.

Big love peeps.
I hope your weekend is delicious.
I'm off to deal with the carnage left by the first frost of the season. Ouch!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

creative space

I only saw one female artist/crafter the whole time we were in Israel. She was in Tel Aviv at a craft market and she was crocheting the finest cotton thread into necklaces and earrings and brooches. Her work was beautiful and I stood there for a while watching her hands perform those familiar stitches over and over again.

Male artists/crafters we saw aplenty.

They were old and they were young, and they were making in shops, in the street and in market stalls. We saw shoe makers and carpet weavers and jewelers and painters and wood workers and tailors. 

We saw a guy sitting just outside his shop in one the busiest streets of Tel Aviv carefully mending a Persian carpet. Strand by colourful strand he wove the colours back into the worn patch oblivious to our watching eyes.

We saw men hunched over parchment painting intricate landscapes and scenes using calligraphy quotations from the Bible.

We saw a man in a busy market place on an ancient treadle sewing machine mending clothes and chatting to passers by.

And we saw this man. He hesitated when I asked him through a translator what word he'd use to describe his art and eventually settled on silver smith. We thought artist or artisan was more apt.

This man was tucked up in the side of his tiny shop in the ancient cobble-stone lined city of Tsfat in the North of Israel. As we walked around admiring his gallery, he continued the intricate work he was doing on a Hanukkiyah undistracted. 

Despite the fact that our family virtually filled his space to overflowing and I was moving around taking photos of everything I could, he seemed happy and relaxed and comfortable.

I think I love to watch artists/crafters work almost as much as I love to create myself.

I love watching their hands making the work, sometimes careful and concentrated and sometimes fluent and fluid and flying. I love examining their tools and how they are organised, particularly if they show signs of being homemade and well loved. I love imagining the story of how they began; was it a family trade passed down through the generations, was there a mentor/apprentice type of exchange, or was it self taught?

I wonder how long they have been sitting in that spot, doing that thing.

I wonder if the carpet repairer ever wishes he made the whole carpet, if the tailor swears when he breaks a needle and if the calligraphers have to start again if they make a mistake.

I couldn't get this guy out of my head for ages after we left his little shop. I thought of him hunched over his beautiful work day in-day out, creating the most incredible artworks that now grace the mantlepieces and walls of homes all across the globe. I wish I got a wider shot of his shop so you could see his little work area set into the wall amidst his treasures, just beautiful.

My own makings have been far from successful since we've been home. I seem to be unravelling and unpicking everthing I start. I'm blaming the jet lag.

I hope you are feeling inspired and creative.
What are you making/baking/growing?
More creative spaces here.

Wow, is that the time?
I'm off to pick up my girlies.

Bye. xx

Sunday, April 14, 2013

my girlies.

Portraits of my three.

I know I'm late to Jodi's portrait party, but better week 15 than never hey.

So here goes;

Miss Pepper sitting on the slippery (she had a bruised elbow to prove it) steps of Rosh Pina, one of the oldest Jewish agricultural settlements of Israel.

Miss Jazzy on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Miss Indi sitting on a bench in the back alleys of Jerusalem while we were wandering around looking for a cafe/bookshop. There was a homeless man hovering over us and as soon as we left he lay himself down for a rest.

Ohmygoodness, were we really there just a few days ago? Wow!!

So there's my set.
Are you playing along with Jodi's portrait a week too?
Have you been keeping up?
Have you portraited this week? Maybe I'll come and visit at four in the morning when jet-lag is kicking my bum.

Big portrait love and have a rad week you guys.


Saturday, April 13, 2013


We're home and I don't know what the words are, the feelings are all jumbled up inside me. I'm hoping it's the jet lag. We've travelled far over the past few weeks and our eyes and hearts and minds have been wide open. We've covered some serious ground and been inspired like never before.

And now after 30 hours of travel door to door, we're home. After delayed flights, four crappy movies, a vomiting child, awful plane food and losing seven hours of time, here we are.

After breaking all the jet lag recovery rules and sleeping through most of the day I woke up this afternoon and felt ghastly. Sort of shaky and unbalanced. Like I'm not over there anymore, but I'm not really here yet either.

I wandered around the house. I tried to sit down and knit the last eight rows of my cardi, I tried to focus on the movie the girls were watching and I tried to think about considering unpacking. But I just felt lost. 

Until someone asked for some rocket and tomatoes for their feta toast. And that forced me into my boots and jacket and out of the house.

And lucky for me my farmer boy came too.

And as we wandered and weeded and picked and washed, we remembered.

Vegie gardening is ace!

The thrill of seeing how big the seeds we planted three weeks ago have grown, the smell of freshly picked coriander and rocket, the excitement of discovering red tomatoes amidst the jungle of green, pulling up bunches of colourful carrots, admiring the flowers - both the planted ones and those of vegies gone to seed and the feel of the last minutes of sunlight on our skin. With our hands in the soil, for the first time in days our feet were on the ground.

This coming home bit feels a bit icky, but we'll be ok.

Our home is where the five of us are...and where our kitchen garden grows.


Friday, April 5, 2013


I'm so behind on the blogging of this trip that I don't even know where to start. In the last few days since I posted we left Jerusalem, we visited Beit Guvrin and did an archaeological dig and found 2,500 year old ceramics. We stayed and played at Kibbutz Ein Gedi, we watched the sunrise at Masada after waking up at 4.20am and climbing two km and 350m in altitude in the dark. We experienced a hamsin/dust storm in the Negev desert, we floated in the lowest and saltiest sea on earth, the Dead Sea. We walked Nachal David and swam in its desert waterfalls. We stopped by the side of the road and collected multi coloured sand to layer in our bottles and then we drove down to Mitzpe Ramon and checked into the most magnificent hotel on earth right on the edge of the crater. Since we've been here we've visited a soap factory, swam in the pool, eaten waaaaaay too much, and been on a jeep tour of Makhtesh Ramon.

So how on earth do I catch up? I guess I take my own advice and tell one story. Well that's what I told my girls who are behind in their journals too.

So this story is about a meal. Aren't most stories about meals when you're traveling?!

This story starts just after we left the archaeological dig last Sunday. We were hot and dusty and hungry and we were preparing for a big, long drive down south. Our tour guide and driver had a few suggestions for lunch stops along the way, but Bren's sister and family had other ideas. They wanted to go back to a small place they had eaten at once before and loved.

Somehow we wound our way through the narrow streets to Abu Gosh, an Arab town 10km outside Jerusalem. Somehow Bren's sister and family looked at all the other restaurants and cafes we passed by and found their way back to the right one. And somehow they convinced our tour guide and driver that it was OK for us all to eat there even though they were wary as they had never eaten there before.

And as we walked in the owner recognised them from their last visit. He recalled what they had eaten and where they had sat. And then he took our order and brought us back so many plates that they didn't all fit on the table at once.

So this is a story of big plates of hummus. Of pita and tahini and labena and felafel's and schug. This is a story of salads and pickles and olives and chips. This is a story of schnitzel and kebabs. And this is a story of limonana, the most delicious icy lemon, mint drink I have ever drunk.

This is the story of one of those meals that etches itself in your mind. This is a story that will become a memory that has smells and sounds and tastes attached. This is a story of meal shared with family. Of laughter and chatter and full bellies. This very meal may have been the conception of farmer Bren's humus baby.

This is a story of a place filled with hookahs/water pipes. Where the waiters bring sweet smelling tobacco to your table and light you up.

This is a story where the soundtrack is loud Arabic music and conversations in Hebrew and Arabic.

This was a wonderful story. A Middle Eastern Feast story. A story of stepping off the tourist trail for a while and finding a gem. This was a story where we were too full to even contemplate desert but the owner sent us off with a packet of baklava for later.

All journeys are filled with stories, but particularly these stories of life and culture on the other side of the planet feel important. Important for us to experience and to record. What a gift to be able to see these things for ourselves. The architecture, the language, the customs, the music, the clothing, the currency, the politics, the way of life and of course the food.

We're going on a camel ride this afternoon and then we're heading North for our last few days in the morning. It's all flying by so fast. I've been trying to convince my farmer boy to stay on here for another month. I'm so not ready to go home to the cold and the routine.

If you want to fill in some of the unblogged gaps in our trip you could check me out on instagram at foxslane. Otherwise hopefully I'll get to them here at some stage. Hopefully.

I think I might go for a walk now and take some photos of this amazing place in the middle of the desert. Or maybe I'll find my boy and get him to make me a Turkish coffee. Decisions, decisions...

I hope you guys are making happy memories and wonderful stories too.

Big love.

And shalom x

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