Friday, February 24, 2017

late summer sunshine

Hello sweet friends,

How's your week been?

I've actually had a lovely few days. Where last week I felt like I was writing to you from inside a snow globe, this week feels completely different. This week I feel like I'm writing from Snow White's castle. You know the one where Snow White lay asleep for 100 years while the vines grow up and covered the stones and the windows and the roof until it was all dark and gloomy inside? Except in my case we've spent time cutting at the vines, and now the light is slowly starting to stream on in.

I mean that literally and figuratively.

This week we actually have spent time on the brush cutters and on the chain saw, mowing and chopping and clearing the way. I love this sort of work. It is dirty and loud and physical and the results are immediate. Where there was once a forest of bracken and gorse and blackberry and thistles, now there is a path and a view through the forest. It's clearing the way, it's letting the light in, it's making things prettier and it's tackling something that has been upsetting me but that I've learnt to live with. It's crazy what a difference this has made to the way I see our farm. And the way I feel psychologically in general. It's completely encouraged me to veer off the path of the urgent to-do list, and make time to tackle the less immediately important jobs.

I hope we get a chance to continue. I'd love to put the farm to bed for winter all fresh and cleaned up and airy.

The only down side of the whole experience so far was being bitten on the bum by a bull ant. There I was minding my own business, completely focused on the job at hand when all of a sudden I felt excruciating burning pain on my bum. I somehow got Bren's attention on the other side of the way and together we broke the world record getting me out of my helmet, headphones, glasses, vest-harness, overalls and undies. The pain!! Luckily Bren saw the angry creature as it was escaping so at least we knew what we were dealing with. But oh my goodness OUCH!! Followed by that insatiable itch all night and two big red lumps today. Poor me.

We've also been restocking some of the wood piles that have fallen over and I read this great paragraph in the book Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting. Thanks for the recommendation OurHouseInQuercy.

You know exactly where you are with a woodpile. Its share price doesn't fall on the stock market. It won't rust. It won't sue for divorce. It just stands there and does one thing:It waits for winter. An investment account reminding you of all the hard work you've put into it. On bitterly cold January mornings will bring back memories of those spring days when you sawed, split, and stacked as you worked to insure yourself against the cold. There's that twisted knot that just wouldn't surrender to your ax. And isn't that the log you pushed in at the wrong angle, making the whole pile collapse? Yes, that's the one alright. Well winter's here, and now it's your turn to feed the flames.

As well as the literal clearing of the vines to let the light come through, I've also spent time looking for other small changes I can make to bring in the sunshine.

On Wednesday I spent the entire day away from the farm. I took a train with my mum to the city where we lunched, we shopped, we coffeed, we sat on my sister's couch for hours, we talked, we planned and even though the guilt tried to creep in a few times, I saw it and I banished it away.

It was such a wonderful day that I hardly slept that night I was so buzzing with sweet thoughts and ideas. I think I need to take a break from my own life on occasion when I can in order to appreciate what I have and to see it with fresh eyes.

I spent time preserving the summer harvest which always makes me happy. I filled a heap of jars with blackberry jam, I fermented cucumbers and carrots, we made lots of fruit leather and basil pesto. Still to come over the weekend is cabbage sauerkraut and maybe some dried apples and peaches.

I questioned my social media use and what it was doing to my state of mind, my attention span and to my relationships with those I love and live with. I did overuse it at times to follow a certain story in the news and felt guilty when Miss Indi pointed out how distracted I'd been.

I did consider deleting Instagram after consistent questioning of the commercialisation, the slickly styled, the ridiculous amount of hash-tags people use and the way they think they can tell me how to live my life. It just feels like it's lost a lot of the natural sharing of moments of our lives that it used to be.

But then I worried about losing the connections and the community that I've made.

So I made the decision to only check in occasionally, a couple of times a day maximum, rather than any time I'm sitting still. I think I'll probably have to make myself some proper timing rules to enforce that.

And although it feels rude, I'm going to delete some accounts that don't speak to me any longer and I'm going to post my moments without worry of outside judgment. The kinds of beautifully real moments I always love to see.

I read The Good People by Hannah Kent and oh my goodness I loved it. I just can't get enough of stories of early 1800's Europe. I love the tales of fairies and changelings, the herbal medicines, the references to the knitting and spinning and dyeing and the way their superstitions and beliefs ruled the ways they lived.

One time last year I heard Hannah speak at an event. She spoke of her love life which had nothing at all to do with her books, and to be honest I was surprised. Her writing is so intense and dark and other worldly, that I almost couldn't imagine her being a young woman living a normal 2016 life. But I was relieved to find that from the first page of The Good People I forgot all about the jeans she was wearing and the iPhone she carried and was immediately swept away. What a talent she has for writing atmospheres so thick you can almost smell the wood smoke and the damp of the earth, and introduce us to characters who are so beautifully described that we can almost see them and we miss them once the final page is turned. I only hope Hannah is well and truly into the writing of her next book, because I for one can hardly wait to read it.

Last Friday, just after I'd published my blog, we ran off to our gym session. When we got there Sam, our trainer, had written  on her white board a circuit of exercises she wanted us to complete. A few squats with weights into it, I realised that I wasn't going to make it that session. I felt weak and tired and emotional and she set me up with some light weights instead.

This morning, exactly a week later, we turned up and she pulled out the same circuit. She hadn't rubbed it off and wanted us to complete three rounds of the exercises we had failed the week before. I laughed and told her she was messing with my head. How was I to this thing that only days before I had dismally failed at?

But seven days in a snow globe compared to seven days in a castle where the sunlight is starting to stream in, make an enormous difference to one's physical strength, because this week I could and did. I lifted and pushed up and ran and squatted and threw and lifted myself up and I walked out of there feeling on top of the world.

I'll need to remind myself not to be so disappointed in myself when I have setbacks in the future and that it doesn't take much to get back up there again.

Chances are that at our next session I'll be feeling premenstrual and then the one after that I'll be periody and will have to wait a whole week to feel strong again. Wouldn't it be lovely to be a bit more reliably stable sometimes? To feel like you were climbing that hill at a steady pace rather than tripping over all the time and then having to run to catch up?

But I guess that's not the way that I work.

Gosh what an all over the place blog this has been. Thanks for coming along for the ride. And thanks also for your sweet words of encouragement and understanding on my last blog. They means the world to me. I read them all and talk about them with Bren and always intend to reply, but sometimes I'm better at that than others.

Anyway, I hope you've got something fun to look forward to coming up. And I hope you're sleeping well at night, it's such a pain being a bad sleeper. I hope you have a lovely project you can't wait to get back to and a book you don't want to put down.

Happy weekend my friends.

Love, love, love Kate xx

Friday, February 17, 2017

late summer blues

 first day of school

end of summer garden jungle

the cucumber hunt

little fuzzy quince

tiny apples

pretty spotty pears

apple eater

Hello my lovely ones,

I'm writing to you this week from inside my snow globe. I was going to say from inside my shower screen, but the imagery isn't as good. And actually it's kind of like a reverse snow globe anyway. I'm sitting inside and the rest of the beautiful world is outside. Shake it up and a flurry of pretty leaves and flower petals fall from the trees.

I've been sitting inside my snow globe for close to a week now. Sitting here alone hoping for the lid to lift and for things to feel different. And just now I've started to feel anxious that I'm ending the week feeling the same way that I started. Nothing seems to have changed.

From in here the world looks grimy and a bit hopeless and sad. Even though we still have a few weeks left of summer, the days are getting noticeably shorter and cooler and I fear the long winter to come. I fear that the sunshine is already growing weaker and as we slowly pull the decaying summer veg from the garden and replace it with winter crops, I worry about those icy months when the garden is only green and does not boast with bright colour and bounty dripping from its vines. I'm not ready to go back to those months of frost, wet and cold.

I agonise over the stories my children bring home, not able to understand the way kids treat each other and that teachers can be so impatient and unseeing. I wonder how in this day and age with all that we know, that more of an emphasis isn't given to teaching about sustainability and care for our planet and putting plans into action.

I feel panicked at the never ending sameness of my life. The ebbs and flows are practically predictable and feel impossibly tedious from where I sit right now.

I feel disappointed about the growing season and am already tired of the excuses I'll have to repeat to myself and others as the harvest we had been so looking forward to doesn't eventuate.

And I worry about the world. About the people and the creatures who should treat others and be treated themselves with kindness and care, and that the way things are now, is not how they always will be.

Yet despite all this, I've labelled this place where I sit my snow globe because I'm well aware of the beauty that sits outside its rounded walls. I am also all too aware that if I were a better housekeeper and brushed the cobwebs away and scrubbed the grime from the glass, that the sunshine would stream in and bleach the dirty carpet from my sight and the ache from my heart.

It's a funny place to spend time, this grey world of mine, because I don't feel overcome by despair; I just feel full of melancholy. I am aware of all the gifts I have been given, I just feel too tired to play with them right now. And this is not depression, I don't want to stay in bed and I can make a list for you a mile long of all the reasons I have to be grateful. And I believe them. Every single one. Everything just feels tainted somewhat. Bland.

At the start of my week I was kind to myself and felt that the greyness must be the result of last week's virus leaving my body. All those days spent shivering and burning up had had a physical effect on my body and now this was the emotional effect. After a few days I decided it was seasonal. I could feel summer melting into autumn, and so in turn the moon and the tides and the stars were having their effect on me. Then I got a bit cross with myself. How dare someone with so much privilege take it for granted for one moment. What was the point of wasting even one second. But the more I questioned how I felt, the more uncomfortable things felt, the more I understood that I had to lean into this mood. To push at it and poke at it and try to find its origins, its meaning and look at it from all perspectives. The worse it made me feel, the better, because hopefully somewhere hidden inside I would discover some answers.

I don't know if any of this will make sense to you, or be of any interest. I contemplated just posting a couple of photos for today's post with a promise of a proper blog when things shift, hopefully over the next few days. There is no craft, no garden, no farm, or family in these words and that makes me feel a bit odd.

When I spoke to my farmer boy about having no story other than this greyness for my blog this week, he suggested I write it down anyway, let him read it and then delete it. I knew I wouldn't delete it though. That's not my style.

He also suggested that I take a 24-hour break from social media, which so often is his solution with the girls, and I think he was surprised when I agreed. I love social media, but noticing how often I open an app and scroll mindlessly without thinking has been interesting. And having a break from what has lately felt like all the people shouting at me to look at them, do things their way, or compare myself to impossible perfection has been a bit of a relief. Life feels a lot less noisy without all the chatter. I think I'm ready to join my girls in their limited social media access during the week, possibly. As a trial.

Which brings me to the feeling that maybe this week is the discomfort before a change. I've been saying for months that I'm stuck and ready for something new, something more. But late yesterday afternoon as I ran through my list of possible new projects to take on this year and then neatly followed each with a reason why I don't actually want to, it occurred to me that maybe I am scared of losing what I have in the process. Life on the other side of the snow globe looks pretty good.

So I'm right back where I started. But glad that I have the weekend and a break from routine to try to get out of my head and stuck right into life with those I love. Hopefully the grey will become mauve...

And just for the record, here's some other stuff that I've been getting up to this snow globe week.

Reading - After watching the Little Women film last week and noticing how much more of the story it covered, I checked back in with another copy of the book we have on our shelves only to discover that Louisa M Alcott wrote two books that were eventually published as one. Good Wives being the second part. So much to my delight, I have spent some bonus hours with the March family this week reading the rest of the book.

Listening - I'm still making my way through the StartUp podcast although I think I've almost reached the current episodes. The most recent series examines Dov Charney and the demise of his company American Apparel, and the start up of his new tee-shirt company. I'm loving it and it makes the long school commutes and the hanging out of the laundry and the weeding of the garden chores I actually look forward to.

Knitting - I'm happy to report that I've turned the heels of the spotty socks and am on my way up the ankles. I love them and am hoping that the recipient feels the same when she sees them this afternoon when she returns from canoe camp.

Cooking - Beetroot for salads, blackberries in fruit leather, beans in stir fries, cucumbers in pickles (not really cooking but you know...). Hopefully by this time next week we'll be eating sweet corn.

Watching - This Is Us. Oh my goodness, Kevin and Randall!!!!

Planting - Lettuce, cabbage, beetroot, rocket, carrots, spring onions, parsley, broccoli and chives.

Contemplating - What to do with the list of ethical businesses wanting to work with me on my instagram and blog. Would be so good to be able to look out for the good guys, but how can I do it and keep my integrity.

Running - Off to gym right now.

Hurting - On the knee that I landed on when I was stupidly picking blackberries on the dam wall earlier in the week and feel in.

Hoping - To be out of my snow globe and back to my silly, interpretive dance, optimistic, self ASAP.

Sending - All my love and wishes for some warm sunshine on your skin, a gentle breeze to dry your washing, a book you can't put down and a great big cuddle.

Love Kate xx

Friday, February 10, 2017

spots on socks

Hello honey bunches,

I hope you've had a gorgeous week.

Me? Not so much. Well actually it started off quite promisingly. We had a lovely weekend last weekend. Saturday was busy and we spent Sunday celebrating Bren's wonderful parents and their 50 years of love and marriage with dinner and a show.

But then it nose dived pretty quickly from there. On Sunday night I went to bed and didn't get up again until Thursday. My bones ached, my muscles cramped, I was HOT and then FREEZING, my chest hurt and I don't know how to describe the pain in my head except to say that I've never experienced a head ache quite like it. It was scary.

It's so dumb, but sometimes when I'm running around in my normal, healthy life, the thought of being sick and stuck in bed sounds dreamy. I imagine myself propped up on big poofy pillows, with my hair in a messy bun and my lap top perched on my knees, watching movies, knitting and taking sips of fizzy mineral water guilt-free. In my dreams, being sick was almost luxury.

Of course the reality didn't even vaguely resemble the fantasy: grubby, sweaty hair, eyes that were too sore to watch or read anything, head that hurt too much to listen to anything, scary pain and nausea and as for knitting, forget it. What a waste of time.

But I'm pleased to report that today, on day five of the awful sickness, I am just about well again. I'm still not at that stage where the whole world looks brand new and fresh and exciting and I feel like skipping through the daisies singing, but I'm close. Unfortunately Bren, Jazzy and Indi are still a few days behind me.

In other news, during the week my niece Sascha turned 20. Twenty years ago my farmer boy, who back then was probably more of a dread-locked gypsy boy, took a break from trekking the world and returned home to Melbourne to meet his newborn niece.

Not long after he'd returned, we met at a wedding, we fell in love and have been more or less inseparable ever since. Thanks to Sascha being born. I can't believe that was 20 years ago. I can't believe that that beautiful, tiny red-headed baby who wouldn't ever go to sleep is now practically grown. Sometimes I can't even believe that we have kids and cars and land and apple trees....

Twenty years hey!

What I can believe in though is socks knitting. I still love it. It still fills me up creatively and at the same time feels useful.

I knitted this pair for my farmer boy for his birthday, but due to some issues with the tension of the fair isle pattern around the top, he couldn't get them on. Miss Indi could get them on and modelled them for me, in exchange for a new Facebook profile pic. Remember the days when the going rate for bribery was a cookie? How things have changed. Anyway, as you can see from the photos, the socks are actually too big for Indi so will probably end up on Miss Jazzy's feet. Even though she was the last in the family to receive a pair from me. Better keep knitting.

The next thing that happened in my knitting land is that Indi requested a pair of socks with spots. Cool, I thought and proceeded to search the internet for patterns. Not so cool, I thought, when weirdly I didn't come up with any.

So I tried to convince her that what she really needed was a beautiful, snuggly shawl instead.

She disagreed.

So I got out some textas and paper and tried to work out what spots on socks might look like. Then I tried to work out how many stitches across and up and down they should be, how many stitches between them they should have, and how on earth I could evenly fit them across a 66 stitch sock. Is your brain hurting yet?

Once I had more or less worked out the stitches I tested them out by knitting a square. A square of spots.

That worked quite well but Miss Indi thought the spots were too big.

So I knitted a smaller swatch on 2mm needles with sock yarn.


Which leads us to now. For although I'm not 100% better I am better enough to take my spotty sock knitting into the other room to watch one of the Little Women movies. I have just finished reading the book and am dying to see the characters brought to life.

Gosh I adored that book. It broke my heart and brought me to tears of sadness and joy more times than I could count. I love those March girls, I love their relationships and adventures and of course I loved every single mention of knitting socks for the soldiers. What I wouldn't give for a chance to sit at that table for a night counting stitches with the sisters, turning heels, making lace and giggling at each other.

I can't believe I have never read it til now. Have you?

And with that I bid you farewell for another week.

May we all be healthy, may our tomatoes finally ripen, may our pickles have just enough pucker, and may the movie not disappoint the book.


zig zag toe socks details here
lotsa spots socks details here

Friday, February 3, 2017

capturing + creating

Hello honey bunches - here we are again.

The whole of January I wondered if I was doing the right thing by sticking to the Friday Foxs Lane, rather than blogging every day the way I had for the previous two years. Every now and then I'd pop back into my archives to remind me of what we were doing on the same date a year ago and I'd love the connection to the seasons, the summer rhythm, and our past.

Our summers look so dreamy in blog posts. They're filled with fruit picking, girls in floral dresses with messy braids, vegetable pickling and long sunny days spent together as a family.

But on the last day of this January, just a few days ago when it was waaaay too late to change my mind, I decided that I'd made the right decision after all. It was a warm early evening on the day before the summer holidays ended. We'd eaten dinner, the girls had laid out their clothes for the next day and packed their school bags but we still had a few hours before bed time. Indi announced that she wanted to head down to the front of the farm and pick some flowers for her friend and Pepper and I decided to join her. We pulled our boots on, grabbed some secateurs and a bucket for blackberries and headed out the door. Only once we had well and truly left did it occur to me to bring my camera along too. Just in case the light was just right and I felt like snapping some pictures. So I went back and picked it up.

On the way down, I asked the girls if they remembered the previous January and what it had been like when I was blogging every day. Mostly they remembered my 7pm panic and inevitable hustle of everyone out the door to go and check on the quinces, or go and pick the plums, or get the eggs, or do any other family activity that I could photograph and then blog about that night. 

They both agreed that this year was so much better and thinking back over the last thirty one days I tended to agree. Without the constant blogging at the back of my mind and my camera slung over my shoulder, life felt smoother. We probably ended up doing all those same activities, but they happened when the time was right, and I got to be part of them rather than shooting them from the outside. And while the phone camera in my pocket still gets quite the workout, it doesn't feel like it leads me along, it's just there for the pretty bits.

We all agreed that last year it felt like I was making the moment, whereas this year with only the Friday blogs it felt like I was capturing it.

So while in January 2015 I posted 31 blogs, in January 2016 I posted 28 blogs, this past January 2017 I only posted six blogs, and I'm happy about it.

At the end of the conversation Indi suggested me that I should write about the capturing versus the creating thing for this Friday blog and because I'm such a good and obedient mum (haha), I am.

But just incase you were wondering about the rest of our January, here's a bit more of the picture.

We ate cucumbers, lettuce, beans, peas, plums, strawberries, blackberries, beetroot, rocket, broccoli, cabbage, currants, eggs and gooseberries from our farm.

I read Music And Freedom by Zoe Morrison which I liked, The Healing Party by Micheline Lee which I found interesting, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner which I read because Indi is studying it in class but which I struggled with, Wasted: A Story of Alcohol, Grief and a Death in Brisbane which I could not put down and ended up reading in one night and feeling quite distressed by, A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam which I loved, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offil which I LOVED!!! and most of Wedding Bush Road by David Francis, which took me a while to commit to but then I did.

I listened to hours and hours and hours of the StartUp podcast by Gimlet Media. I'm not sure why I stuck to the one, instead of listening to all the other podcasts I usually subscribe to, but I've really enjoyed every episode, so why not.

I went to the movies once and saw La La Land which I enjoyed.

We watched This is Us and LOVED it, Code Black, and Nashville.

I knitted two pairs of socks, one blogged here and one to be blogged soon, and I sewed a top.

We hung out with the girls, with family and with friends, we did farm work and a lot of work in the garden, we went to the beach, we spent a night in hospital, we cleaned out my grandparents' apartment, we celebrated our farmer boy's birthday and swam at his beach and caught and raced yabbies, and celebrated my Mum's birthday too and we had a girl in our forest.

We discussed: leaving our farm (we're not), leaving the description 'farmers' (we feel stuck) and finding ways to make it easier on ourselves around here (fencing, sheep, help). We discussed separating the feelings of failure from that of disappointment, ways to lead a more creative life, and changes we can put in place and projects we can take on to make sure we are always feeding our souls. We spoke a lot about getting the kid/farm/us balance right too. It's a work in progress, I guess it always will be.

And while we're talking about January, I do have to make note of the fact that so many people wrote to me and pulled me up in the street to let me know that they've switched over to natural deodorant too after reading my January First post, yay team! I love that we're in this together.

So thanks you guys for hanging out with us here in January, it's been up and down and everything in between.

And just like that we're into the school year. Years, 11, eight and four. Fingers crossed for a year filled with inspiration, interest, celebration, light bulb moments, friends, work, passion and fun - for us and for you too.

As much as I'd never want to go back to school myself,  I do love the thought of sitting with a group of people analyzing books. Maybe I should have done literature when I was at school.

That's it for me this week.

Please feel free to share any books, podcasts, movies, series that you're loving.
Oh and we're trying to cut down on processed sugar this term so please share any family favourite unsweetened recipes too.

See ya's next Friday!

Love Kate x

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