Sunday, December 28, 2014

finding balance



Where to start?

I feel like I need to preface this post with to be honest, because although I like to think that I am always honest here, I am also aware that I like to have an undercurrent of gratefulness on my blog, because when all is said and done I do know how lucky I am to be living this life.

Ten minutes ago my farmer boy left with the girls to visit some friends. I am alone in my house for what feels like the first time in months. There is a possibility that I may have the next one to two hours to myself. Thank goodness. Big exhale.


To be honest I am struggling a bit at the moment. Although I am certainly and ridiculously grateful for my way of life, right now I feel overwhelmed by it. Right now my whole instagram feed is full of people on summer or winter vacations relaxing by the beach, reading in bed, knitting a few lazy rows over lunch, while our house, garden and farm to-do lists are so long that we had to slot bits of them into calendar days to try to even make sense of them all. Right now to combat the guilt of sitting here writing this blog, I'm interspersing each paragraph with a trip to the washing machine and washing line, or from the washing line to the girls' wardrobes. I feel less guilty and more productive this way.

Right now instead of doing this I could whipper snipper another few rows of the orchard in preparation for netting them this evening when it cools down, I could wheel hoe the market garden, plant some carrots, leeks, lettuce and parsley in the home garden, I could mow around the house, I could think about dinner, I could do some fire prevention, I could start trellising the beans and that's just the start and that's not even thinking about the housework or computer work. And that's when the girls aren't even here to tell me every detail of their dreams, ask me to braid their hair, watch their show, remind me that I still haven't taught them to sew, ask me to find their sandals, drop them at the pool, cut them another mango, help them with this, watch them do that and then that.

We had our three week holiday in winter, this is our busy season I hear us repeating to each other and the girls like a mantra.

And it's true. Winter is the slow season on our farm and now we are go, go, go. And that would probably be OK except that I feel like I'm not doing anything at all creative. Instead I'm being yanked through my days doing task after task after task. I feel completely out of balance. I often call our farm The Hungry Beast because of it's capacity to gobble money but it is also hungry for my time. Gobble, gobble, gobble.

It's possible that I always feel like this at the start of the summer holidays until I find my rhythm, but this year it's making me feel cranky and tired and unaccomplished and unmotivated. And I don't like feeling like this at all.

IMG_2340 I know The only way to fix this is to do something for me, regularly. I need to make time for something creative so I can get back to feeling the love in the other, more demanding parts of my life.

So I've decided that in order to get through and on top of this I need to make some resolutions, change things up a bit for myself without putting more pressure on. So far I've come up with two things I'm going to put into place as soon as possible.

The first one is to blog. I really, really love this blog yet for some reason I never prioritise it. I find the photography and the writing so fulfilling yet it's always the first thing to go when I'm busy. Pretty silly hey! So my first resolution is to try to blog every, or almost every, day in January. Even if it's just a photo and a paragraph. I just know that I'll feel so much more creatively fulfilled if I stick to this plan.

IMG_2522 I also feel like it would be really great for me to stretch myself and learn something new. To take something I love and push it further. So my second resolution is to do an online Lightroom course. So far I've been able to teach myself how to take photos for my blog and have been lucky over the years to have been published in some cool publications, but there's always been this point where I've hit a wall and haven't been able to progress with my skills any further. Hopefully this course will teach me about post production, about sorting and filing my photos and give me a bit more confidence with my photography. Maybe it'll even inspire me. It's online and I can do it in my own time, I'm really excited about it.

And you know what? I feel better already.

So anyway how are you going these last few December days?
Are you slowing down or speeding up?
Are you feeling creative, are you coping, are you feeling overwhelmed or calm as a cucumber?
What do you do when the world feels a little off balance?
Do tell.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

a week in our kitchen garden


Remember when I posted my blog last week and I said I had lots to show and tell you and so I'd post again soon? Well here I am eight days later and not only has time flown - but my garden has grown, making me all out of date. But rather than ditch that garden blog idea and move on, I thought I'd quickly snap a few pics of what it looks like tonight and bring you right up to speed.

Make sense? I hope so.

So just over a week ago we removed the protective covers off the peas because they had grown as tall as their roof. We'd finally made those covers after losing the previous three pea plantings to mice or birds or possums. It was so great to finally see those leaves emerging out of the soil instead of the soggy seed shells. We weren't so successful with the pea plantings in the beds behind that we'd covered with black crates.

And now a week later we've made trellises for the pea plants to climb up. My farmer boy made them out of the old bit of fence that closed my parents' block opposite ours.

Oh how I love to see those little pea tendrils reaching out and climbing up and wrapping around as the vines grow taller.


A week ago we were cutting and eating big rocket leaves.

One week later the succession planting has popped its head up between the rocket rows and we are madly picking and eating the overhanging leaves to give the little baby leaves light and space to grow.

A week ago the hot house was full of little baby seedling ready to plant out into the kitchen and market gardens, this week it is emptying out and the spinach is going to seed.


Last week there were so many more roses in bloom than this week.

But this week Pepper's birthday flowers seem to be blossoming more brightly than ever.

Last week we were still picking and eating from those kale plants. This week those kale leaves are on the top of the compost pile and the beds are full of soil and ready to plant.

Last week the garlic was still looking tall and green. This week, maybe even tomorrow, I'm planning to pull it out.

Last week we noticed that the cos lettuces on the left hand side of that bed were not really thriving so we pulled out the silver beet triffid that was overshadowing them and now this week they are slowly on the move.


This week the onions are fatter and taller.


I love these three beds but I always forget they are there because they are that much further away from the house. Onions, garlic getting ready to be pulled and mega leek.


And future pesto growing new leaves every day.

Not pictured are the tomatoes in the poly tunnels, the veggies and flowers in the market gardens and the fruit in the orchards.

I had a little panic the other day that we aren't really harvesting all that much from the kitchen garden at the moment, that we are behind where we usually are in other years and that we might not catch up. And then after a few long minutes of hyperventilating and comparing and pulling out seeds, it occurred to me that panicking defeats half of the purpose of the kitchen garden.

One half of the purpose of our house garden is to feed our family, for sure. But the other half purpose is love and enjoyment and passion and therapy. Stressing about the garden is just wrong.

So in between the craziness of the end of the year I am squeezing in moments to plant and weed and thin and fork and dig and harvest and enjoy and breathe deeply and love. It's so much nicer this way.

Wishing you growth wherever you are.

And tell me, how does your garden grow at the mo, I'd love to know.

Biggest love!


Monday, December 1, 2014

a bit a this and a bit a that


Happy new week, month and season you guys!!

There's a crazy amount of stuff going on here at Foxs Lane at the moment, so I think that instead of inundating you with photos and stories right now, I'll try and get a few blog posts up and out there this week. Try being the operative word of course, but my intentions are definitely good and that's what really matters right? I hope so anyway.



So let's get to it.

Lately, I've been;

HARVESTING - and double podding and smashing on toast, frying into felafel and making fritters, out of broad beans. There are still heaps left on the plants but we probably should get to freezing some to eat later and drying some to plant later, soon.


READING - and adoring The Poisonwood Bible. I always thought I had read it before, but now that I am reading it I don't think I ever have. I'm not really reading a lot these days, eight or ten pages at night in bed before I can't keep my eyes open, but part of me feels happy because that will make it last longer. What an incredible piece of writing.

And I do have to mention that although I was excited to go back to a real paper book after my first on the Kindle, I do miss the back-light and the lack of weight. But I can read in the bath and that is a total winner in my book. Ha!


LOVING - our kitchen garden. The smells and sights and flavours of late spring/early summer are just delicious. Some evenings after dinner I pop out into the garden with no other purpose but to walk from bed to bed admiring the new growth. I have been known to compliment certain plants on their daily developments too. Such a luscious joy is the garden at this time of the year when the days are warm and long and there is enough water to keep things green.


KNITTING - the same pair of socks. There's not much sitting on my bum knitting time these busy days.


PLANTING - so many seeds in trays, seedlings in the garden and also this new market garden up near the house.


BUYING - other people's yarn on buy/swap/sell sites. How gorgeous will these guys be as socks and then in my sock left-over blanket.



STICKING - and swapping and chatting about stickers.

Maureen from Pipsticks runs a sticker subscription club and sent us a couple of packets to play with and we're having so much fun with them.

As soon as they got over the excitement of getting envelopes filled with stickers in the post, my girls spent ages examining each sheet, picking favourites, swapping them, sticking them on their own drawings and then organising them into collections.

There's something so simple and easy and fun about stickers. Stickers encourage kids and their parents to be creative. Stickers are great things to collect. An envelope of stickers enables a Mum to make dinner in peace. AND stickers totally take me back to my childhood and my carefully curated boxed collection of scratch and sniff, puffy, sparkly, Hello Kitty and hologram stickers.


WATCHING things grow. Grass, the fruit on the trees, the baby birds, the veggies in the garden and our own children. Pepper's tee-shirts barely cover her tummy these days, Jazzy is growing out of her shoes once a month and Indi started year nine today. Year NINE!!!!! It's all happening so quickly at the moment I sometimes struggle to keep up.


RELISHING - togetherness. I don't know how long this happy to hang out together stage will last, so I'm noticing and appreciating every second while it still does. Sisters are the best!

LISTENING - to our Indi's new song she recorded with her music teacher Geoffrey Williams.

So that's me mostly caught up, how about you?
What're you harvesting, reading, loving, knitting, planting, buying, sticking, watching, relishing and listening to?

I hope you find exactly what you've been looking for.

Lots a love,

Kate xx

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Making time


Hello lovely friends. How are things with you? I'm good. Really good. Really busy and really good.

You see along with all the spring craziness in the gardens and orchards and at home, we are also getting ready to hold our first ever clearing sale this weekend. We've been on this farm for almost 15 years and oh my goodness we've collected a lot of stuff. Sheds full of stuff, cupboards full of stuff and a cellar full of stuff.

So this week, along with all the planting and weeding and watering and parenting, we've been pulling out and sorting through our history. It's been fun and emotional and exhausting.

Farmer Bren has a bit more info on his blog if you are interested.

In the meantime I thought I might do a bit of a show and tell about my knitting.


First up we have the green love heart socks.

I knitted these for my Mum.

I don't know about all mums, but I like to think that most mums deserve a pair of socks hand made especially for them. My Mum calls these her magic socks and wears them when the going gets a bit tough. It makes me happy to think that in times when things are a bit hard for her, she can put on her magic socks and know how much she is loved.

Heart toe up sock details here.


I made this little cardigan for our friend Steph's new baby Holly. Like I wrote on instagram - not much makes me clucky for babies these days BUT knitting teeny tiny cardigans, now that's another story entirely.

Holly's card details here.


Then I started contemplating the growing pile of little sock balls leftover after I finished each pair of socks. I couldn't just let them sit there now could I?! I decided it was either knit one pair of socks with all the bits and pieces, or I could start a patchy memory blanket. Each square, or each few squares, a memory of a time and a place a person I knitted the socks for. The blanket won.

This is a looooooooong term project. Each square is knitted with 4ply yarn on 2mm needles which means they are small and slow. But I'm loving the though of it. And if I get sick of it at any stage I can turn it into a cushion.

Scrappy sock blanket details here.


And then I decided I needed some more colour in my sock blanket so I cast on a new pair of socks. You can't see it yet but these ones will have a cute diagonal stripy pattern thing on them.

And that green ball up there on the right was wound with the ball winder and swift my family bought me for my birthday. How ace does it look!! I love it. I just want to wind all the wool into balls now.

And that's me. All knitted and caught up.

So how about you? What have you been making in your spare, or stolen, time? Care to share?

Loads a love to you friends.
I hope someone you love makes something lovely for you sometime soon.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spinning honey


There are some days where me and my farmer boy frantically rush through the farm jobs all day long hoping to have them done before school pick-up so we can slow down then and enjoy the afternoons with our girls. Then there are other times when we save jobs for when the girls get home. When we plan their after school activities carefully looking forward to sharing these special tasks with them.

Last week we had a few frames of honey to spin, it would have been quicker and easier to get the job done then and there, but there was no way we could resist the thought of the girls' excitement at watching the sticky frames become jars of delicious gold.



The first step we took to extract the honey from the frames was to uncap the honeycomb.  Using a heated uncapping knife we carefully scraped the surface of the comb to remove the wax lid of each cell of honey.


Then we placed the frames of uncapped honey in the extractor,



and we cranked the handle which using centrifugal force spins the honey right out of the comb and onto the sides of the extractor.


We took turns turning and spinning, and spinning and turning, until the frames were empty and the bottom of the extractor was full of honey which had dripped down the sides.



Then we opened the valve at the bottom of the extractor, let the honey pour out into a honey strainer and then into a big bowl at the the bottom.



After that all there was to do was wash all the sticky fingers and bits of equipment, pour all the honey into jars, eat spoonfuls straight from the jars and then some on toast.


And then later on I baked this cake.

I know I'm writing this blog as if we did all the cool stuff but really we all know that we just took the baton on the last little leg of the honey journey. It's really the bees that live here at Daylesford Organics with us who do the real work pollinating our fruit and veggies, providing our spring soundtrack and not being too cranky when we take a tiny share of their honey now and then.

I feel so very fortunate to have cool activities like honey spinning to share with our girls, to watch their excited faces as they play their parts and to see how proud they are of themselves and how much more connected they are to their food source as they spoon big spoonfuls of golden honey into their porridge each morning.

What a fascinating, exciting, sticky, delicious, buzzy world.

Bee good my friends.

Big sweet love to you from me.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adventurous girls, mapmakers and a giveaway

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The girls who live in my house wear shorts under their dresses so they can climb trees, they ask for bows and arrows for birthday presents and they experiment with starting fires without matches. The girls who live in my house explore the forest out the back of our farm on weekends, they carry sticks for fighting the enemy and have lengthy discussions about what they would eat if their home disappeared. The girls who live in my house have scratched up knees, they wear their hair in long plaits to keep it out of their way and they play games about escaping from jail, about fighting dragons and about ninjas. The girls who live in my house are brave, and a bit wild, and a lot noisy.

So I guess it makes sense that the girls who live in my house are interested in reading books with adventurous female characters in them. Books about girls who aren't afraid to find their own way, to break the rules and who definitely are not afraid of boys.

Recently my friend Bron, Maxabella Loves, sent me a book that her clever sister A.L. wrote. Even though it is a book aimed at upper primary school aged kids, I read it in one night. Even though I knew at the time I was risking exhaustion the next day, I could not put it down.

The Mapmaker Chronicles is filled with adventure. It is full of interesting characters, mythical sea creatures, drama, and emotion. From the website:

The King is determined to discover what lies beyond the known world, and has promised a handsome prize to the ship's captain who can bring him a map of the whole globe. To do that, they'll need mapmakers - and 14-year-old Quinn is shocked to be one of the chosen. 
While his older brothers long for adventure, Quinn is content with a quiet life on the farm, but when word of his special talent gets out, he has no choice but to pack his bags and join the mismatched crew of slaves and stowaways on board the Libertas. The other competitors will do anything to win, but the greatest danger may come from the strange sea monster hot on their tail or the mysterious unchartered lands for which they are bound.
I really loved this book and highly recommend it to other nine+ year olds (and their Mum's too).

But I really do have to tell you that my favourite part of this whole thing was when I read on Bron's Facebook page that she'd spent the past month reading a chapter a night to her kids. And her kids LOVED the book and were sad when they came to the end. But only once they did come to the end did their Mum tell them that their auntie Al was the author. Imagine that! Your very own auntie the author of your very favourite book. So cool!!

I have am thrilled to announce that Hachette, publishers of The Mapmaker Chronicles, would like to give away one copy of the book to one of you guys. Yay! Please leave a comment below telling me something about the adventurous girls in your life or your favourite adventurous girls in fiction and I'll choose a winner early next week.

Until then I hope your dreams are sweet tonight.

Big love,

Kate xx

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