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


  1. Beautiful as always Kate.
    Thank you.
    Cheers Kate

  2. Yep you make instagram work for you :-) Use less hashtags, delete away (I add and delete all the time ;-) and um yeah maybe check less ;-)
    My kids kept making comments how I always checked as we drove (I was passenger) I realised it was irritating them (trying to model here) so I changed my habits and actually I now go days without looking and it's okay the world keeps spinning ;-)
    Hope dear friend you take this in the spirit it is meant, just my experience, not really telling you what to do xx

    1. Oh no, I love hearing about your experiences of the same things I'm dealing with - what works and what doesn't. It's one of the best parts of writing this blog. And I totally agree with trying to model our best behaviour (mostly) for our kids and love that the world keeps spinning regardless of whether we check into social media or not. Something to think about. Thank you xx

  3. May they be more ups than downs! You're putting your garden to bed and we're waking ours up. Hope it's a great season whichever that may be for us all.x

    1. I love watching the topsy turvey seasons on social media. Our tomatoes are really getting going when you're buying seed, we're pulling ours out while you're watching yours germinate. It's a beautiful thing. Enjoy xx

  4. Kate,
    The ups and downs of your life describe perfectly the ones in my own, it's good to see I'm not the only one who gets so tangled up in the brambles on the path she forgets to look up at the sunshine peeking through the trees! When I'm not sleeping at night I'm trying to practise a bit of mindfulness and identifying the things in the day I feel grateful for, they might only be small sometimes but it's surprising how much lighter my heart feels for it and I can sleep a bit more easily 😊 Wishing you a happy, bramble free week xx

    1. A bramble free week is the best thing to wish someone. Thank you!!! And the same to you. xx

  5. dont worry the menopause will come!
    I'm loving it

  6. So happy to hear that you're feeling brighter. Oh how boring life would be if we were all the same. Steadily all climbing that same hill. Life and people are so diverse and hold different views which is what makes us all human. If we don't experience the lows how can we appreciate the highs.

  7. Good to hear you are feeling brighter Kate. Life can be crazy, it doesn't matter how fortunate we are or how hard we try. I love Insta but I am also aware that I put off joining for years because I knew how distracting it would be. And it is. I have taken to putting my phone away for chunks of time...out of sight out of mind or something like that. Gorgeous photos and wise thoughts as always in this post. I love that wood pile paragraph. Very true isn't it? x

  8. Thank you Kate, I enjoyed that, it's nice to hear how your week has been. So many things happen really all at one and I agree it's nice to be able to meander up the slope a little and not feel pressurized to keep on going all gung ho style! Great that you brought the light in too. Environment makes such a difference. X

  9. Beautiful images in that golden sun

  10. I love coming to your blog and reading about the bits of everyday that make up your family. It helps to remind of all that goes into a close family group, and makes me appreciate how our family revolves around each other, too, even as my kids have started spreading out of the house. And the book recommendation is going on my list of 'to reads.'

  11. the more you get closer to colder days the more we discover little signs of spring which is so so nice. and ife is colorful and always ready for unexpected moments. i like your photographs...veronica

  12. Dear Kate ... It has been a little while since reading your blog for no other reason than I've been busy and haven't made time for it. But, what a breath of fresh air I find you to be! Thank you for writing so beautifully and sharing your whole self. Sometimes I feel alone in my snow globe too. Or lately I've just been feeling a bit 'busy-bored' - busy but at the same time frustrated with what seems like monotony of day to day life (if that's possible). And yes, even in our extremely hot summer temperatures up here the days can still seem grey at times. I'm glad your last week has been a better one for you and I hope this coming week sees you exactly where you need to be. Go well lovely one:)

  13. So glad to hear the light is trickling in, Kate. It's those small moments of sunshine and hope that can fills our cups when it seems as though the rest of the world is in a steady drain. Glad to hear also that you're finding a balance with social media. I've had to search out my own balance as of late and am grateful to feel healthier about it all. I only recently found your blog via Instagram and am so very grateful for your gorgeous photos (there and here) and your brilliant and courageous honesty here <3 Keep your head up, life is so good, even when it's hard.

  14. I think it is important to trim away at the blogs/ instagram accounts/ etc. that don't speak to you anymore. My rule has become that if I'm not excited to see that someone has posted again, then I should stop following them. I want to be excited when I see a post, not just have it fill space and time.

  15. I am going to track down The Good People on that recommendation. It will make a nice salve to the hours and hours and hours and hours (it's no exaggeration) of uni reading I am doing. Have your read Joanne Harris' Blackberry Wine. It was a book that made me feel like that, and reminded me a lot of my pop.

  16. I like instagram to share a little snapshot of something that has happened or I have seen or made, I don't expect a huge reaction from anyone although a nice comment is appreciated. I don't like the way it is now almost becoming the new facebook, or all the pop up ads I keep getting... As another commenter said, make instagram work for you, as I do enjoy your little snapshots too, please.

  17. So glad to hear you had a good week. If you enjoyed The Good People, you might like The Wonder by Emma Donoghue which is set in a similar time. You might also like to look at Geraldine Brooks' book March, which tells the story of the father from Little Women

  18. I am loving your blog. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and gentle world.


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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