Friday, January 27, 2017

full of great and grateful

Hello my beautiful friends!

Well here we are again.

It's funny how these Friday blog posts book-end my week. Here I sit now - here I sat last week. Same time, same space, and then everything in between.

Last week just before I sat down to write, at the end of my gym session, my trainer told me she felt like my spark had gone out. I knew it too. Last week I felt like the world was sitting on my shoulders, like my skin was too thin to keep out the hurt, and like my body was tender and I was coming down with something.

Today, seven days after that, my gym trainer told me how strong I was getting and how much of a difference she had noticed in me in one week. Today I'm sitting here feeling calm and even, and even a bit excited, about what though I'm not exactly sure.

It's been a crazy week and I think that what got me through it to a place where I'm finishing it in a stronger state than when I started, is looking on the bright side. Very consciously choosing to see the good. Bringing myself back to the positive each time something threatened to knock me over. I know it sounds cliched, but it worked.

So although I feel like the whole grateful thing has been overused and is often a bit icky, for want of a better word, I've decided to make a list of all that I've been grateful for over my past week.

Here goes;

I'm grateful for wide open spaces, for a wet summer that has kept our farm looking lush, and for those apples, no matter how spotty, that have survived this difficult season and are growing and haven't yet been eaten by the birds.

I'm grateful for shady trees that give us cozy places to hang out and rest.

I'm grateful for family.

I'm grateful for the little vases of flowers I've been finding around the house.

I'm grateful that we've got plenty of water this year to irrigate.

I'm grateful that all the veggies we've been planting look healthy and strong.

I'm grateful for the wonderful medical care our Jarrah was given when she suddenly became very unwell last Sunday. I'm grateful to my dad, Farmdoc, for advising us, for the doctors, the nurses, the hospital, the tests and the medicine for keeping watch over her and making sure she recovered completely.

I'm grateful for our families for their support during this worrying time.

I'm grateful for knitting for keeping my hands busy while my heart was fluttering and my mind was panicking.

I'm grateful for the shower, because there is no better place to lose it.

I'm grateful to my mum for lending me her library book Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill which was such a perfect book to read next to a hospital bed.

I'm grateful for podcasts and my iPhone's battery that got me through a VERY long night of one-hourly observation checks and four-hourly meds.

And I'm unbelievably, ridiculously grateful that our Jarrah has recovered so well and that we have been allowed to consider it as something that happened, rather than something that happens.

I'm grateful to wonderful Sarah who left a comment on my last post advising me to spray icy cold water on my scarlet runner beans each evening because they need cold nights to set fruit. THANK YOU Sarah!! It worked. I've lost count of all the baby beans currently climbing the tee-pee. I'm so happy and relieved. I'm also grateful to you Peter Cundall for advising Sarah on the radio. And you, farmer Bren, I know you knew it.

I'm grateful for sun dried laundry.

I'm grateful for the train to Melbourne.

I'm grateful for the company of our dog and our cat.

I'm grateful for twilight, my favourite time of the day to wander and gather and water and weed.

I'm grateful for lemon juice and feta on everything.

I'm grateful for those first blackberries of the season that are hard and sour and the only ones I like to eat.

I'm grateful for sunshine and warmth.

I'm grateful for where I was born and how I can live.

I'm grateful for the physical and emotional closeness I share with my parents.

I'm grateful for health and strength.

I'm grateful for a family that values hand made.

I'm grateful that I cut and sewed a dress from an old bed sheet and could throw it in the rubbish when it failed, with no guilt at all.

I'm grateful for girls and their craft projects covering the floor of my studio.

I'm grateful for overalls and work boots.

I'm grateful for barbecues with new friends.

And you guys of course, I'm so grateful that you're here and for all that you add to my life.

I'm wishing you a wonderful weekend and if you'd like to tell me - I'd love to read your grateful list too.


Kate x

Friday, January 20, 2017

when the wind blows

I'm sitting on the daybed in our studio looking out the window at the wind blowing through the enormous eucalypts and blackwoods and the leaves flying off them and fluttering to the ground. It's summer but it's cold. I'm warm inside but I'm unsettled.

A lot has happened over the past week. We cleaned out my grandparents' apartment and I was shocked to discover that without their presence their possessions and their spaces weren't special anymore. Glass jugs that had been filled with the most incredibly delicious mixtures of ginger-ale, pineapple juice and soda water every Friday night of my childhood, were now the same sort of glass jugs that line the walls of so many op shops. Their king sized bed which had always seemed so grand and luxurious, looked cold and uninviting. Their cupboards that were once filled with items my grandmother would reach inside for to look after us and make us feel special, were now filled with things we didn't want or need.  It made me feel so sad. 

I do have a few objects from their home that now sit and hang in my home and carry memories and feelings of their lives and the people they were and my enormous love for them, but without them the sparkle has rubbed off.

Last Sunday we drove to the beach for a few days. As farmers and as forest dwellers, we never feel comfortable leaving our farm in summer when everything is growing quickly and there is a risk of bushfire. This year, however, with the cooler than average temperatures and the higher than average rainfall, we felt safe to take a little break.

And it was lovely to get away from the chores and the endless lists, it was gorgeous to spend some time with Bren's parents, it was fun to stroll along the sand and swim at the beach and it was idyllic to have big chunks of time to play board games with the girls, read books, look in shops and just talk.

The first night we were at the beach we watched Grand Designs and I knitted. The second night we were there we went to the movies to see La la Land which Jazzy and I loved but Bren and Pepper didn't think much of. And the third night they went to see the new Star Wars and I read an entire book in bed. Uninterrupted. Such a luxury.

While we were away I finished reading William Faulkner's As I lay Dying which is one of Indi's VCE English books for this year. To be honest I found it quite difficult and often found myself reading bits over and over to work out what was going on. It did get easier and more understandable as it went on and I got used to the language and found some of the narrators more articulate than others, but still it wasn't what I would call an enjoyable read.

In the few days since I read it I have found myself thinking about it and wondering about what it would be like to study it.

Then the night they were all out I read Elspeth Muir's Wasted. I feel like this was a really raw, brave and beautifully written book. Bren says that whenever I read non fiction I become obsessed with the topic for ages afterwards. I guess I'll never look at bunches of smashed twenty-something-year olds standing outside pubs, or supermarket-sized bottle shops along the highways, or any alcohol fuelled violence in quite the same way again.

Elspeth's insight is heart-breaking and way too close to home. In the early hours of the morning, as I was lying awake reading the last few pages of her book, my sister Emily was scrambling under furniture, fearing for her and her friends' lives, as two men who were denied entry to the pub they were in for being too drunk, proceeded to get violent and aggressive, and ended up waving a gun around threatening staff and patrons before fleeing in a taxi.

I felt sick as I read most of the book, and then distraught about how easily my sister, who witnessed an act of drunk violence, could have been killed or injured. Terrible.

An article about the incident from The Age.

And then I started A Long Way From Verona. My mum gave it to me because she thought I'd like it. So far it's slow and old fashioned and sweet. Perfect.

When we arrived home from the beach we were so excited to find that our cucumbers have finally started fruiting. So far it's only one a day but I do remember from last year that a trickle very quickly becomes a stream. A trickle means cucumbers in sandwiches and salads, and a stream means jars of pickled cucumbers bubbling away on the bench, and then sealed in the fridge. I cannot wait.

We've also been enjoying the last of the strawberries and all sorts of other currants and berries in our cereal and as snacks.

We've also been having a lot of conversations about separating the feeling of failure from that of disappointment. It's been a strange growing season. We didn't really have dry, still spring days for the orchards to blossom and the bees to fly and so the fruit set wasn't great. And then when there was a continuous cycle of warm and then wet days, the mould took over and black spot set in. As 16 year apple growers we've experienced more than our fair share of set backs and crappy crops, but this year felt like it was shaping up to be a great one and now that it's not we're finding the balance between blaming the season and Mother Nature and taking it personally, very challenging.

And while we have grown and are still growing beautiful veggies this season, there are others that still shatter our confidence as farmers. That tee-pee covered in scarlet runner beans in the photos above, so far has just eight beans on it. (Actually only seven since lunch this afternoon). The vine has grown and woven its way up healthily, it has flowered beautifully, we've seen masses of bees visiting,  it's been irrigated and weeded, and yet for some reason the blossoms are breaking off before they set fruit.

Like I said, we're trying to remain disappointed without allowing ourselves to feel like we've failed.

Fingers crossed that those red flowers that are still there, will produce so many beans we'll have more than enough to eat and store. Or at least eight more.

And in amongst all of that there's been a lot of talk about what we really believe in and what we really want to do with our lives. There's been listening to the Start Up podcast, and watching all of the This is Us episodes. I bought jeans finally, I'm still knitting Bren's birthday socks, I'm trying to work out how to use Lightroom and I have plans to sew up a dress. And starting next week we'll be working through a very long back to school list, while at the same time trying to enjoy the last week of the summer holidays, please wish us luck.

And I guess that's me, a bit unsettled, asking all the hard questions, over emotional and trying to finish this off quickly so I can cut into some fabric and get my sewing machine out. It's been far too long.

So how about you? What are you wearing, or wondering about, or working on?

I hope you have a gorgeous weekend.

Love Kate xx

ps my heart is with you Melbourne

Friday, January 13, 2017

birthday blog

Hello lovelies,

Happy Friday! How's your week been? How's your weekend looking?

Thank you so much for your care for the girl in the forest post. As the days have gone by her place in our story and in our lives has settled somewhat. The other day though out of nowhere I grew desperate for some details and quizzed Bren about what shoes she was wearing - lace up black boots, what colour and how long her hair was - black long bob, and what she had screamed for the most - her boyfriend. 

It's strange to be so connected to someone else in their time of complete distress, for such a short but intense time, and then to have nothing to do with them ever again. But I guess her story is now part of our story and we'll think of her at different times and hope for the best for her. I daresay we'll look at the forest a bit differently now when we drive through it. We'll probably look for lost girls and imagine how it would feel to be out there lost and alone.

What I really want to talk about today is farmer Bren's birthday last Saturday.

When I first started blogging, birthdays were blog gold. There was the planning stage, the invitations, the food, the presents and the party. So many creative opportunities. So much to photograph and say. So much fun! My girls love looking back at those posts and remembering their childhood celebrations. 

My farmer boy was born at the start of January which is right in the middle of the summer school holidays. Growing up he never had birthday parties because all his friends would be away. Since I've known him every year I've come up with a long list of fancy ways we could celebrate him but every year he chooses the simple. And every year we all agree that his way of celebrating is the best.

We started the day off with a huge stack of crepes, and plates full of all the summer fruit, and cups of strong coffee.

We sang, he read out his cards, he opened his presents and we all made a big fuss over him.

Then we went outside and sang for him while he played To Her Door over and over and over until he nailed it. 

Then he carved a birthday spoon out of apple wood. 

What fun to spend an entire day doing the things that make you happy.

While he was axing and carving and cutting, I wound the yarn for his birthday socks and knitted the toes.

After a little lunch, we wandered down to the windmill dam for a swim.

During the week while we had watched the weather forecast for his birthday get hotter and hotter it had occurred to our boy that he'd love to spend the day at the beach. When that wasn't going to work out he decided to bring the beach to him.

The day before his birthday he mowed and cleared a section of bank of the dam. He put some old tarps down and lay some fine gravel over the top. Very early on the morning of his birthday he had a truck of sand delivered. He smoothed it out and voila! Bren's birthday beach!

We found some old air mattresses and a yabby net in the caravan and in between swims and floats, the girls used a bit of sausage to catch the nippy critters.

They discussed the anatomy of each one, they gave them names and then they raced them.

The highlight of the afternoon was when Bob junior beat Bob senior in the grand final race. The worst part was watching in horror as Sheila ate Pepper's prize frog!

All the yabbies were let go at the end of the races and no animals were hurt at all apart from that poor little frog.

As evening fell we came back inside and watched Pete's Dragon together. We ate pasta with pesto, ice cream cake and toasted our boy with mugs full of ginger beer.

He's pretty awesome our boy and it's such a treat to celebrate him.

Happy birthday Farmer Bren!

We love you to bits.


So I was just wondering, if you could spend a whole day doing the things that bring you the most joy, what would they be?

I think mine would involve coffee and a few chapters of a good book in bed, lots of knitting, time together in the garden, a family movie that would make me cry, a salad with crunchy noodles, fruit salad and yogurt and a fancy cocktail or two.

Hope your weekend is ace!

Love! Love!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

the girl in the forest

Late last Sunday afternoon Indi was away camping, Jazzy was up at the house, and Pepper, Bren and I were hanging out by the windmill dam. It was the end of a stinking hot, dry day and just sitting by the water's edge, listening to it gently lapping at the sandy shore, was soothing my frazzled brain and cooling me right down.

Pepper was floating out in the middle of the dam and Bren and I were chatting about something or other, or nothing, when one of us noticed that our dogs at the top of the hill were barking more than usual. At first we dismissed it and kept talking. But when it didn't stop and we listened closer, we heard another sound in amongst the barking. Bren thought it might have been the peacock that has recently made our garage roof its residence, I thought it might have been someone walking past on a forest track, or perhaps it might have even been a car coming up from our back gate.

But the barking continued and we still couldn't identify the other noise.

So Bren got in his car and drove up to the top of the hill to check it all out. By the time he got there the dogs had calmed down a bit but he could still hear shouting coming from somewhere in the forest and although he couldn't work out what it was about, something didn't feel right. So he went inside the house, put boots and socks on, grabbed his phone, some water and the first aid kit and drove out into the forest to look around.

Meanwhile Pepper and I were still down by the dam when the noise we'd heard amid the barking, suddenly became a very distinct scream. High pitched and terrified and LOUD! It was a girl's voice and she was screaming for help and the immediate phrase that jumped into my mind was blood curdling.

Every single hair on my body was sticking up and my heart was about to jump out of my chest but somehow I had to remain calm for Pepper. And as she screamed I imagined she was a girl who had been kidnapped years ago and held in a dark room somewhere but had now escaped and was terrified and running for her freedom. (Bren thinks I read too many scary books).

Even though the screaming continued, Bren meanwhile was much calmer and more rational than I. Thank goodness for Bren. His first thought was that someone had been bitten by a snake.

He drove out the back gate and slowly along a forest track when he saw the girl wandering through the trees looking quite distressed. He approached her carefully and cautiously. The sun was burning down, she was wearing a sun dress and had scratches all over her arms and legs.

As soon as she saw him with her big terrified eyes she started screaming. She was screaming for help, for her boyfriend, and for all sorts of other stuff too. That's what we must have heard down by the dam.

He told her that she was safe. He told her that he lived close by and had water for her to drink. And he asked her if she was hurt, or if she had taken any drugs, and what her name was. She screamed and screamed. And in between screams she told him that she had lost her friends and her boyfriend, SCREAM! She was 18 and from Melbourne, SCREAM! She wasn't on drugs but had borderline personality disorder, SCREAM!

In the middle of all this I called Bren, he'd been away for far too long and we were scared and stranded and worried about him. I never expected him to answer his phone, but thankfully he did. He briefly told me the story of the girl in the forest. He'd given her some water but she refused to get in his car. I told him I was going to call an ambulance.

In all my life I have never called 000 for emergency before but I'm pleased to report that I stayed calm and even though I couldn't answer a lot of the questions they asked me, I told them what I knew and they told me that they'd call Bren to fill in the blanks.

Meanwhile Bren had been surprised to watch as the distraught girl accepted his phone and using her two thumbs pressed in her boy friend's number. He was sure that her shaking fingers wouldn't have been able to hit their targets, but they did. He called the number twice and no one answered but then tried a third time and the boyfriend did.

The distressed girl was sitting on the ground crying. Bren was on the phone trying to make sense of what her boyfriend was saying, and then the ambulance called him, and then the police, and then just to add another call to all those he was juggling, me.

After he told us that he had spoken to her people and that the police and ambulance were on their way, I got Pepper out of the water and we walked barefoot back up to the house. She was intrigued and wanted to know every question the emergency services had asked me, and what my answers had been. She was fascinated by all the details and didn't seem frightened at all despite the thumping heart next to her, the hand gripping hers tightly, and the tears that streamed down my face as I told her about the poor, frightened girl in the forest.

When we'd been in the house for long enough for me to shower her off and make us both a cool drink, Bren came back home. We threw questions at him fast and wanted so many answers, but it took him quite some time to be able to respond. Poor thing.

The ambulance people had asked him a lot of questions on the phone and then told him what to do. He wasn't to give her any food or more to drink just in case, but he was to keep her safe if he could. When he worked out that the local police woman didn't know the forest tracks as well as he did, he'd made a plan to meet her on the main road. Luckily by this time he'd calmed the girl down enough to get her into his car, but she was very distressed when she learnt that the police were involved. She was worried she'd get into trouble.

When they arrived at the road they were met by three police cars, which is unheard of in this area, and the boyfriend and his family. The police interviewed Bren on one side of the car and the girl on the other. The boyfriend and his family were kept completely separate. She was still pretty upset and had her head in her hands, but they wouldn't let Bren answer for her, even the details he knew.

After a while they helped the girl out of the car and they let him go. Just like that. No one thanked him, or told him what had happened, or even what was going to happen. He just drove away.

Not long after he'd arrived home and finally started telling us his story, the ambulance arrived. Ours was the original address they'd been given but we'd assumed they'd be redirected when the girl had met up with the police. They'd even driven past all the police cars on their way to our place. We gave them all the information we knew and sent them on their way.

Half an hour later when we drove past on our way into town for dinner, all signs of the story were gone.

Had they taken her to hospital? Had this happened before? Where had she come from? Had she run away from them, or them from her?

Later that night as we got into bed my farmer boy couldn't close his eyes without seeing her. The next day when we went back down to the windmill dam to swim we listened for her.

I just hope that wherever she is, she feels safe.


Friday, January 6, 2017

knitting socks - past, present + future

Hello lovely friends and welcome to the first Friday Foxs Lane of the new year. Have you had a nice week? I hope so.

Things here have been pretty quiet. Outside, we've been mowing and planting and eating out of the garden and irrigating and trying to get the lines out of the overgrown orchards. Inside we've been reading, and knitting, and cleaning up our house, and watching lots of movies at night. Our days are long and mostly we don't come in for dinner until well after eight, but still often I'll lie in bed in the middle of the night and wonder where the time went.

I adore summer: The fruit, the garden, the salads, the clothes, the holidays, the heat and the way the washing dries so fast on the line that I can actually see the bottom of the laundry basket.

Not very summery though are socks. Especially woolly, thick, hand knit socks. But just because they're not suitable to the current season, doesn't mean I can stop myself from knitting them.

So here it is, my early January 2017 version of socks - past, present and future;

Socks past are a pair I knitted for Bren back in April of last year. The blue was yarn that I bought at Loop London on our Europe trip and I can't remember what the grey for the heels, toes and cuffs was.

I called them Farmer Boy socks and true to their name my boy wore them under his boots, on the farm and often.

After many washes and many, many wears the farmer boy socks tore at the heels and ended up in the mending basket. (I suspect the grey yarn was pure wool and didn't have any nylon for toughness.) Now I don't know what it's like at your house, but here the mending basket is a bit of a black hole. Once something finds its way in, it may never be seen again. After all, how dull is mending when you can start something shiny and new?!

And so it was with the farmer boy socks until yesterday. With his birthday coming up tomorrow and talk of a new pair of socks, we started discussing the old. I got up on the chair and had a bit of a rummage through the mending department and pulled them out.

My friend Bria had once emailed me the instructions for how to repair a hand-knit sock with a knit-in-place patch, which I'd filed under 'one day', and what do you know, for some unknown reason today is that day. So in between loading photos and thinking of words, I'm knit-mending those socks.

The wooden darning mushroom was my grandmother's and looks like it had quite a busy life.

And so it seems socks past may become socks present once more. Hopefully.

Socks present, after much sewing in of the millions of ends, are the colourful fair isle socks. How cool do they look inside out.

I'm sure I've blogged the story of Anna, my sock knitting clarinet teacher from my teen-age years, as my inspiration for learning to knit socks all these years later. But the truth is that Anna used to knit these intricate fair isle socks filled with colourful patterns and pictures and words. The ones that stick in my mind had houses and trees and flowers and birds and butterflies. While I am still a long way away from crafting anything so technically brilliant, these socks make me feel like I am heading in the right direction.

And socks future, will be my farmer boy's birthday socks. Yep, I know the colours are incredibly similar to the last pair but he chose them and I'm going with them. They will be pretty plain, but there will be a bit of colour-work at the top, so I'm happy.

And with that I'll wish you a wonderful weekend and a fabulous second week of the new year.

But just before you go please tell me what you've been making, or mending, or meaning to.
I'd love to know.

Love Kate xx

PS. It's been suggested that I change my blog name to Soxs Lane, what do you think? Haha!

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