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


  1. The world can feel crazy and upside down at times I agree. Particularly after hearing the news from Melbourne this arvo. Your photos are stunning as always but that tiny frog is amazing. Tonight I am unsettled and uptight after cancelling a road trip this morning due to wet, muddy and dangerous roads. Bittersweet because we need the rain. Tomorrow is a new day x

  2. So many thoughts and I really want to comment here and connect with you but I'm not sure how to put them into words right now.
    I really enjoyed this post.
    Cheers Kate

  3. I'm sure it's the week of it, feeling all 6's & 7's and just not settled - I'm blaming the wind! .... and boy doesn't gardening/farming test you and your faith in your abilities...I love the seperation of disappointment and failure... we've had really crappy luck with spuds despite massive mounds and some serious back breaking mounding up sessions, including on some of those disgustingly hot windy days just because that was the only opportunity to do it - I'm hoping they are still coming but am not sure really... and all my romantic dreams of preserving bucket loads of fruit came to a crashing slightly fermented end the other day when I had my very first go at it and failed miserably. Thank god for the good old reliable easy to grow silverbeet :-) ... Do hope the apple season provides enough for you, some things really are out of our hands and despite the very best of intentions things can still turn sh!t on a dime. I can really feel the love for your grandparents when you write about them, how lovely to have all those beautiful memories to cherish. Loving your Friday posts x

    ps. I'm wearing pj's and dressing gown and the fire is roaring, I'm wondering what to do with the next batch of apricots but leaning heavily towards more jam, and I'm working on getting healthier and manifesting more energy to get through more of those things on the to do list that can overwhelm me into a state of inertia! :-)

  4. Dear Kate, I read As I Lay Dying for English Lit when I was in Year 12, in 1985. More than 30 years ago! Besides Pride and Prejudice it is one of the only books that I have kept from that time. I sympathize with Indi, it is a hard book, but it is one that I have never forgotten and the insights have remained. Faulkner in his analysis of dying shows what it means to live in all its complicated beauty. I'm sure as farmers you understand this very well. I wish her luck. Thanks for your posts which I enjoy immensely. Sian

  5. Noone else I know has been watching This Is Us, so I have latched onto that part of your great post. I am loving it, the whole sibling rivalry/jealousy is so real to me, it is me and my sister to a T, and we weren't twins or adopted... I am hoping they commission a second series...

  6. Just discovered your blog a couple weeks ago and love your posts! I'm here in the US feeling unsettled about Inauguration Day but trying to stay positive and enjoy extra rainy day cuddles with my toddler. I have a dress pattern traced and laid out on my cutting table with the fabric washed and in the dryer ready to cut at nap time today. I've been wanting to start a garden forever and finally started small with cilantro seeds yesterday and I've been reading lots about natural dye and plan to gather avocados from my yard to make something pink. Thanks for the inspiration and happy weekend to you too!

  7. Even in NZ, the vegetables are doing funny things. I have had lots of cucumbers, but this year the tendrils on them won't attach themselves to their usual climbing frame, I have had to tie my plants up, I have heard people say their beans are having the same problem. My courgettes are deformed, we are getting so much wind it's drying things out. Lots of scrub fires in NZ this year so far. Wishing you all a fabulous weekend.

  8. As always I just love your writing, so pondering, so raw.
    Despite my best intentions to become a gardener this year I haven't because the spot I want to use my husband has declared unsafe. I wanted to use where our recycled sewage used to pump on, he says no. But the grass is so lush there and brown everywhere else, so lost my inspiration.
    What I am working on is plans for a new homeschool year. Our 17year old will 'graduate' sometime this year, our 12yr old is officially 'highschool' and our nearly 6 year old will officially join us. Year of transitions, where are the years rushing!

  9. Thank you for the beautiful cornflowers, Queen Ann's Lace and luscious fruit and vegetables, green lettuce and seedlings. I am deep in my usual January depression cycle and these photos help keep me hanging on.

  10. As always I loved reading your blog and am so impressed with your photographs. Magic! The Sunshine Coast is sweltering in a heat wave. Temperatures may not be that high but the humidity is awful. So what am I doing in the heat, knitting of course! I sit in front of a fan and have just started a swatch for a jumper in Katia Arte. My first experience of this type of yarn, and I like it a lot. Pure mercerised cotton, which is probably a better fit for Queensland conditions. And I am into Hygge, perhaps not a fit for Queensland, but I love the feel of it anyway. The lifestyle is one I think you would already be enjoying, even if you are not consciously doing so.

  11. Hi Kate, here in Tasmania we are fortunate to have Peter Cundall on ABC talkback every Saturday, and although I don't grow scarlet runner beans I remember a tip he gave out a few weeks ago to a person with exactly the same problem. He suggested dousing them in icy cold water, just as dusk arrives, because apparently they need cold temperatures at night to set fruit! A few nights in a row should do the trick. I remember it because he and the caller were having a good laugh at the silliness of it, but apparently it works a treat. 😊 I have never commented before but really enjoy reading your blog stories, thanks!

  12. Hello, Kate. I do hope you enjoy your last school holiday week before all that is "school" begins again. Tomorrow will be our last holiday day and I so wish it wasn't, it seems to have gone by so fast! We are ready but we are not ready I guess. Over the holidays, inside during such hot days, I sewed up a dress and a top, one in a cotton called Midnight Flora covered with tiny little fungi and flowers and twigs and things, and the other a very light fabric printed with scattered dandelion clocks. It felt lovely to be sewing. Meg

  13. Kate what a lovely blog. I really enjoyed reading all about your hard work. Mother Nature us a law unto herself I would therefore say disappointment rather than failure. You all seem too experienced in the growing cycle to be failures.

  14. Lovely Post glad your sister is safe, very scary experience. The garden looks amazing.

  15. Thanks for your post-- I'm so glad your sister is safe-- I'm putting 2+2 together and it equals perpetrator of that carnage in Melbourne on Friday. You keep safe-- all of you -- terribly traumatic for you-- foundations rocked. Keep grounded in that rich soil, say your grandad's prayer and hug your girls & husband often. Bless you.


Thanks so much for stopping by...

I do read every single comment you leave and appreciate it very much, but I should let you know that I can be a wee bit on the useless side when replying to comments, that's just me, everyday life sometimes gets in the I'll apologise now, just in case.

Kate XX

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