Friday, October 19, 2018

expect the unexpected

I think I'm going to call this blog post - expect the unexpected. Not the surprise it's your party!!  kind of unexpected, more of the if you don't have expectations then you won't be disappointed, in fact you may just end up being pleasantly surprised.

This morning over coffee I was having the same conversation with my farmer boy that we've had at least a million times before. I was comparing our crazy, mixed-up, wild farm with those that you see in the magazines and on the design sites. How come after all these seasons, after all those hours, after all the experience and sweat and planning and money and tears...our farm is as wild as ever?

There were times in the past where this sort of statement first thing in the morning might have been the cause for an argument. I would think that I was stating a fact, yet he would take it personally. These days though, after 17 and half years on this land, we're getting better at seeing things differently. Or perhaps he's just getting better at reminding me.

'I think the neat aesthetic picture we have as humans isn't necessarily good for nature' he told me.
'The pretty picture of a farm made of perfectly neat rows isn't how the natural world works. Nothing grows neatly on its own. Nothing grows in isolation. Nothing grows in monoculture. Nature is inherently messy. An old growth forest in all its beauty is still messy.'

I looked out the window and thought of all the times we'd come to this point in the past. When he'd talked to me about what herbicides do to the earth and how as certified organic farmers we've chosen to have less control but more biodiversity, less neatness and more jungle, less magazine perfect and more us perfect.

And so this morning it was a quick turn around from expected frustration to unexpected pride and satisfaction.

This entire past week wasn't what I had expected it to be at all. There was no weeding, no mowing, no planting rows of seedlings in the garden, no mulching, no burning off, no workouts at the gym, and worst of all there was no bee pollination of the apple blossom in the orchards.

At the start of this week while visiting our bees a few things happened that were unexpected: first I hurt my neck so badly, and then not long after the temperatures dropped, the wind picked up and it rained for days.

It wasn't great. I felt sorry for myself and I worried about the apples. It felt hard not to take the terrible pollination weather personally, it felt so dreadfully timed. I felt more concerned every time someone tried to cheer me up by telling me the rain was needed and that Mother Nature would look after us, and I remembered those few years when we hardly got a crop at all. 

But life went on. I drove Indi to school for her practise exams, we planned Pepper's birthday party, I stayed up late into the night and finished two books and I watched the rest of the garden soaking up the rain and loving it.

And unexpectedly because my neck was too sore to do much outside, I planted and planted and planted up the greenhouse.

We planted and tidied up the garden near the house.

I had another spinning lesson with my teacher Rebecca and have fallen in love.

I used to worry that learning to spin would be just another craft that would take time away from knitting, where now I can see that it's only going to add to the experience. Especially when I'm spinning the fleece of our own sheep hopefully within the next year.

I also had a fair bit of couch time and was able to cast off my Lanes cardigan, pictures to follow hopefully next week.

This morning, scared to have any expectations after the week of wild weather, we took our second coffees of the day down to the orchard to see what was going on.

And we were pleasantly surprised.

Most of the blossom had survived the lashing, the bees were flying around in a drunk frenzy and the smell was intoxicating. Thank goodness, thank Mother Nature, phew.

There are even a few teeny tiny apples! That swollen bit on the stem to the right of my finger will hopefully, if all goes to plan weather wise, be a delicious Mutzu apple come next April. That's our Jazzy's favourite apple in the world, if she were here she'd be very excited.

So while some crappy things did happen this week ruling the expected impossible, the unexpected was actually surprisingly okay. Possibly even perfectly okay

And that's me for the week. If I could put in an order for next week I'd ask for injury free and sunny, but I know better than that.

I hope your week has been unexpectedly, perfectly okay friends.
Are the apples blossoming or ripe for the picking where you are?
Are the seeds for sowing or for saving?
Was your week what you expected?

When I write this next week my baby will be 11!! She was one when I started this blog.
I'd best be off and go and bake her birthday cake.

Love to you!

Kate x

Friday, October 12, 2018

Dear Jarrah

Dear Jazzy,

Although I don't think you've ever read my blog before, as our middle child I know you'd point out the injustice if I didn't write to you like I did to Indi when she was off on her school adventure two years ago, and so I will.

Dear Jazzy,

Last Sunday night we took you to the airport for your six week class trip to France and Spain.

After weeks of preparation, after days of goodbyes, after breakfast pancakes and last minute adjustments, we five jumped in the car and drove away. In the car on the way there, despite your initial protests, I played the latest Heavyweight podcast - Rob, and you laughed the loudest. Of course you did. In our family you are 'the broken arm guy' and as our middle child, there's no way we'd be ever be allowed to forget it.

Sandwiched in between your sisters, our role as your parents is to make you feel and trust that your experiences are no less important and are valued and acknowledged equally. So we discussed your trip and tried our hardest not to compare it to Indi's. But secretly, inside my heart, I felt pleased with my own mum-experience. I knew what I was in for this time and felt a little more prepared to let you go.

At the airport you ran off excitedly with your friends, you posed for photos, danced and then we watched you as you handed over your passport and checked yourself in. It was impossible to feel overemotional when you appeared so calm, capable and ready.

We four drove home from the airport flicking through so many podcasts, but nothing fit. I think we were all a bit lost in the silence, thinking of what the Jarrah-sized hole would feel like in our lives.

On Monday, while you were still in the air, Pepper went back to school, Indi studied at home we worked on the farm and continued our attempts to use up the winter produce in the garden to make room for spring. Late in the afternoon we got a message letting us know you'd arrived in Paris with a photo of your first meal.

I wondered if you slept on the plane. I wondered if you watched movies or ate your meals. I wondered who you sat next to and what you did on your two hour stop-over in an airport far, far away.

On Tuesday we woke up with 15 year old you in our hearts. It was raining hard and I knew that if you were here you'd be bargaining for a deep bath. We put together the frames for three more bee boxes, we made Pepper's birthday party invitations, we weeded and planted and watered and cooked, and then late in the afternoon we called you and sang 'happy birthday!' Even though it had only been a few days, it made us so happy to hear your voice. To hear that you'd just been woken up with songs and cards. I love that you felt celebrated. I love that you are the 15 year old girl who wants an electric guitar for her birthday. And I hope you found all of our cards in your backpack.

On Wednesday the wind was blowing hard and unsettled everyone and everything. All of my plans to start planting out the market garden were pushed over and I felt on edge and annoyed.

On Thursday we woke up and the wind had stopped and everything felt still, thank goodness. I noticed that the first of the peonies that always flower on your birthday is out. I thought I might pick it and put it in a jar next to my bed but then I changed my mind and left it there to admire each time I walk past it to my studio.

On Thursday I also started spinning wheel lessons and dad finished his first bowl on his new lathe. He carved it out of a eucalyptus burl - a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds.

With all that tricky grain going in every direction it was quite a challenge for him to turn but the results are totally worth the effort. Such a beautiful piece.

Which brings me to today. It's the most magnificent spring day. I'm sitting on the couch in my studio watching the birds visiting the banksia tree outside, I can just hear the sound of John on his mulcher cleaning up the gorse behind the tractor shed and I'm contemplating trying to type and treadle the spinning wheel at the same time.

And of course I'm thinking of you. I love that your school cares about rites of passage and the transition through adolescence. I love how perfectly timed this trip is for you. And I love you!

It's 6.30am in Paris, I wonder what adventures your today holds for you.

So this is it, the first of my stories from while you're away. I can't wait to hear yours.

All my love


Friday, October 5, 2018

hand-knit socks and clogs

At the start of this week my farmer boy suggested we try something different. Instead of writing out a grand, all encompassing farm-to-do list, instead we only write down two tasks per day. It was a way of keeping things achievable rather than overwhelming, interesting rather than annoying, and hopefully the bite sized chunks would keep the momentum going and would stop us from getting distracted and keep us on the task at hand.

On Monday we weeded and mulched in the morning and stacked wood in the afternoon. On Tuesday we mowed the orchard in the morning and visited the bees in the afternoon. On Wednesday I planted seeds in the greenhouse and Bren was supposed to mow but instead had a day of organising and managing with a little bit of mowing and watering in-between. Yesterday was a write-off as far as the farm was concerned but quite productive elsewhere - I had my hair cut, I spent some time fixing the sleeve on the cardigan I'm knitting, we started getting Jazzy's things packed and in the afternoon we trained to Melbourne to buy some things and go to a book launch.

Looking back on it now I can see that this way of organising things suits us. More than waking up and discussing it, more than the mega, never-ending list on the fridge, and more than writing the jobs down after we've done them at the end of the day. Each day we woke up ready to go, we worked hard, we even found time to do some extras - we built a Holtz Hausen woodstack, our friend's Bob and John of @treestotimber started milling some of our trees into the timber that we will use someday soon to build a barn, we kept a bonfire going for four days clearing up an area where a few trees came down, we hung out with the girls and friends and did school holiday things, and we picked up a new wood turning lathe for him and he set it up.

We also looked after Indi and reassured her that every kid doing year 12 in Australia is feeling the same way she is, we did everything we could to get Jazzy ready to go overseas THIS SUNDAY for six weeks and we picked Pepper up from the airport after her trip up north to hang out with her grandparents and cousins.

And in between all of that and the housework, I knitted. And I finally sewed in the ends of the last two pairs of socks that I made. Thick ribbed mohair socks, may they be worn in good health for many years to come. Click here if you are interested in the details.

And just quietly how good do the stripey socks look with the new clogs I bought myself to celebrate being a tulip grower. I feel so rich every time I bring an arm-full up to the house, I don't know why I've never grown them before. I love them!

And with that I'm out of here and off to pick some more! 

But before you go why don't you tell me how you've been?
What's your best trick for staying on task and productive?
What's your favourite thing to make when you have too many leeks?

See you later alligator!

Love, Kate x

Friday, September 28, 2018

spring equinox

One day last April I woke up and realised that I wasn't a knitter any more. It had been ages since I'd had that obsessive excited feeling over knitting, it felt like forever since I'd sat down to knit a few rows and when I finally had a look at my Ravelry project page I saw that I'd only knitted two things all year - a beanie and a sweater. I looked up from my computer and around at all my wool and decided that I'd better give it away to someone who would love it as I had. It made complete sense. It was in my past, I didn't even question it.

But then I never got around to sending it away because I had another love back then that was taking up all my thoughts and love and daylight hours.

Last season from about October to May I was OBSESSED with growing flowers. I learnt about them, I thought about them, I grew them, picked them and I sold them. Flowers were my one true love and there was no room for another. The colours, the textures, the shapes and the scents filled me right up.

We had a pretty incredible first season as flower growers, we made mistakes, we made a lot of it up as we want along and we created something so incredibly beautiful. The flower garden got me up each morning and the work kept me going all day long until it got dark.

And late at night when we finally came inside my poor hands were tired and sore and I hardly even thought about knitting. So I didn't.

We farmed like that until late May when the frosts came and wiped our flowers out and we left the flower patch and didn't really go back. I occasionally visited to tidy things up but in general it was too cold and I used the short daylight hours over winter to tend to the veggie patch and that was about it.

So after the long hours of the growing season grew short, I went inside and started knitting again. In my memory it was pretty sudden but I can't be sure that it's true. I made slippers, a shawl and some hats, I made a cardigan, some squares and lots of socks. And over the months as the knitting on my needles grew so did my obsession with it. I trawled Ravelry for the perfect pattern, I followed hash-tags and joined knitting groups and instead of giving all my yarn away I bought more. The knitting filled me up and kept my mind ticking at night. I fell in love with cables and colour-work and the hunt for the perfect cardigan.

A couple of weeks ago, deep into knitting time,  a friend asked me about the dahlia tuber order that I placed last April. I told her that I couldn't imagine thinking I'd need so many. I told her I thought I might just buy half or a quarter of what I'd ordered and just pop them in the veggie garden instead. Would I really even grow flowers on such a large scale again? Did I really once identify as a flower farmer?

Last Sunday was the spring equinox, one of the two days a year when the hours of darkness and light are exactly equal, all around the world.

And then over the past week since I have felt that things are changing again. Like I'm being pulled in a different direction. The days have been warmer and the light has been brighter.

Last Monday I spent the day mowing, on Tuesday I planted seeds in the greenhouse, on Wednesday we picked huge bunches of daffodils and tulips and anemones, and on Friday I weeded and mulched and started cleaning up the flower patch. Each night this past week when we came inside and I sat on the couch, despite my sore hands, I felt like I was speeding through my rows of knitting, like I was in a hurry.

And judging by the past few seasons I think that I probably am in a knitting hurry. I need to finish the cardigan I'm knitting for me and knit another whole promised cardigan for Indi before the balance tips the other way again and I am no longer a knitter for another flower season. It's still so hard to imagine but I feel it will soon be true.

So tell me about your seasons friends, have you noticed that change is a coming?
Do you find yourself giving up one love to make room for another?
Do you find yourself forgetting the past you only to meet it again several months later?
Why oh why is there never enough time for everything?

It's six o'clock here and it's getting dark, it's time to head inside now from my studio to light the house fire. After a few warm days, it's going to get chilly over the weekend.

See you next week lovely ones.
Be kind to each other and yourselves.

Lots of love, Kate x

Friday, September 21, 2018

when the wattle is golden

This morning on the drive home over the mountains and through the forest, I thought about the last two weeks, and my blog, and the sort of things I could write about today. The light was streaming in through the trees, Indi was playing music, we stopped once to watch a pair of orange billed white ducks fossicking on the roadside, and then we pointed out baby lambs in paddocks, brightly coloured camellia and rhododendron bushes, and she told me random details as she remembered them from her past few days. Some of her last as a school girl.

For the best part of the past two weeks I have been living in someone else's house, at the base of another mountain, feeling like my own life is on hold.

As a family we decided that for our Indi's last two weeks of proper school, two weeks that were filled with early morning and late night classes, assessments every day and a never ending to-do list, we would stay in a house away from our home. A house ten minutes away from her school which is usually an hour away. To cut out the long commute, to give her more time for study, more time for sleep and easier access to teachers and odd hours.

And over the past two weeks Pepper came and went back home for school and activities, Bren came and went for work and to look after Pepper, and Jazzy and Indi lived there. They ate and slept and worked and played guitar and sang and had friends over and went to school and came home.

As for me, for two weeks I feel like I have driven girls back and forth so many times that I felt dizzy. I have smiled at crazy cackling laughter and comforted through many tears. I have cooked, I have listened, I have edited, I have pep-talked, I have worried and I have celebrated, I have been so in tune with other people's emotions that I put my own on hold.

And while I had some wonderful times: a whole day off alone with Bren away from the farm, a night of knitting with my wonderful friend Elizabeth, a two day visit from my mum...for the most part I felt like I was living some sort of alternate life. Like the life I was living wasn't really my own. Cooking meals from shop bought ingredients that I have in my pantry and garden at home, spending all of my time inside with no farm to tend or forest to walk, watching the television at night for company, no wifi and terrible phone reception, being on standby at all hours of the day, not knowing a soul in the supermarket or cafe, and missing my home and my people.

It didn't feel like my usual life and yet it wasn't a holiday either; so weird.

But it was a blessing to be able to do it for my girl and we all agreed that it was hugely successful. Exactly what we'd hoped for happened. We might even do it again in her exam week.

And as I drove home up the driveway this morning through a blaze of golden wattle, it occurred to me that I don't really have a lot to blog about this week. I haven't had any major revelations, I haven't finished a book or a knitting pattern or harvested anything from the garden. But our big girl was sitting in the car across from me smiling. She's got two months until her final year of high school exams are over. And when she's smiling my whole world is filled with sunshine, so I'm smiling too.

I'm so happy to be home.

I hope you're happy to be wherever you are my friends.
Have you finished anything this past week? A book, a project, a crop?
Have you felt like you've given your life over to someone else recently?
Are you thanking goodness for the weekend?

Big love to you wherever you are.

Love, Kate x

Friday, September 14, 2018

filling my cup

Yesterday in the morning I was sitting with Indi in a very busy cafe in a town near her school. She was sipping juice and typing on her computer, I was drinking coffee and knitting socks, while all around us sat clusters of women and their small children.

After a while a couple came in and sat at the table next to us. They ordered breakfast and drinks and while they were waiting he read the newspaper and she pulled some orange speckled thread and a long circular knitting needle out of a bag and started to count and cast on stitches.

Straight away I knew that we would be friends. Without a doubt in mind I knew that by the time we parted we'd have swapped all kinds of practical and intimate details. I didn't try to hide my stare but I did wait to question her about her pattern until she'd finished casting on.

And that's exactly what happened. She was knitting triangles to sew into a blanket, the yarn was from her grandmother's stash, some of the old wool is hard now but she hoped it will soften with a wash, her mother has dementia and one day woke up and forgot how to sew but still loves to knit, her mother and her friends are knitting squares to sew into blankets, she spends a lot of time sitting by her mother's bedside knitting, she'd love to learn to knit two socks at a time...She also told me some personal stories that I don't feel comfortable publishing here. And I answered her questions and told her a bit about me and mine.

And then they left the cafe and left me with such a warm glowing feeling of understanding and being understood, of community, and appreciation that spending time with someone with a shared love brings.

Later that afternoon when I was thinking about that feeling it occurred to me that I'd just experienced a miniature version of what I'd felt at The Craft Sessions last weekend.

From the minute I realised I was packing more yarn and needles into my bags than clothes and shoes, to  the crafty conversations in the car on the way there with my friend Elizabeth, to the familiar crafty faces that greeted us on our arrival, to the rainbow of hand knitted sweaters that were worn proudly every day and exclaimed over continuously, to the couches and tables and chairs and beds filled with knitters and crocheters wherever you looked, to the conversations, to the teachers, to the classes, to my new was obvious that I was in the right place. I was among my people, my community.

On Friday I did a darning class which I don't have any pictures of unfortunately.

On Saturday I learnt all about two colour knitting with Mary Jane Mucklestone and swooned over her book swatches that I have been looking at on the page for so many years.

It's amazing to think that I knitted that class-hat in one day. There's so much knitting time in a day when you take away all the cooking and driving and farming and washing and stuff.

And on Sunday I did a fresh Fair Isle class with Mary Jane.

Before I taught at Soul Craft in June and was panicking about every detail of my class, I had a conversation with Bren about different teachers we'd had in our lives and how now there are some masters of their fields that we would pay to sit in their classes just to hang out with them even if it worked out that somehow we didn't learn anything at all. He named a Japanese bowl turner and I named Mary Jane.

As it happened not only is Mary Jane one of the most beautiful people I've ever met, not only is she a master knitter and a great story teller, but she's also a fabulous teacher. I learnt so much from her over the course of the weekend. I learnt about stitches and colour and history and technique. In my classes there were beginner knitters all the way through to advanced and professional and I'm positive we all did. 

And I guess the same way that lady at the start lived a completely different life than I do and is in a different chapter of living it, we Craft Sessions attendees immediately found our common craft ground and bridged all the gaps. There were women there that I didn't have anything except craft in common with either, but those who knit together - can sit together, and chat together, and soon that's all that matters.

And despite my initial hesitation that I would be overwhelmed and feel lost, I feel richer and inspired and full of ideas and thoughts, and part of a community.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was looking for some charcoal speckled yarn to knit a cardigan? Well I found it at the mini market at The Craft Sessions. Yay!

I just need to hurry up and finish the second pair of these socks first. They're Bren's Father's Day socks so I'm either very late or very early. I'm not a great lover of knitting the same thing twice, but when he saw the first pair and said they are his favourite of all the socks I've ever knitted, well I didn't have choice, did I?!

And after filling my own cup I returned home a more patient, happy and present mother.

When I walked in the door last Sunday night after The Craft Sessions to a clean, flower filled house, we sat down to dinner and Indi handed me a leaf and asked me to tell them what I would leave there? A stick and asked me what would stick with me from the experience? And a rock, what rocked?

I think I'd leaf/leave the sharing a room thing there. Actually I know I would. Although I love, love, loved my roomie Mary Jane, and every second I spent with her, I think worrying about snoring, farting, insomnia and going to the toilet in the middle of the night are worries I can do without. I think my love of Fair Isle and the techniques I learned will stick with me forever. And that feeling of being in a like-minded, craft-loving, knitting-obsessed, community totally rocked!

Well that was quite the marathon blog post wasn't it.

Tell me about your week. Pretend I'm handing you a leaf, a stick and a rock and tell me what you would leave behind, what stuck and what rocked.

Until we meet again next week my friends, be kind to yourselves and each other.

Love, Kate xx

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