Friday, March 10, 2017

spots on the apples

Hello honey bunches, or as Miss Pepper would call you if she were here - totally terrifically tempting toasted in the toaster twice pieces of toast. That's how she described my warm skin against her icy cold toes this morning as she climbed into bed with me for a cuddle. After that she stuck a feather in the back of her shorts and with one in each hand proceeded to spend the rest of the hour before school running around the house shrieking like the peacock whose feathers she carried. Goodness what a lot of fun and craziness a nine year old adds to a household. Not to mention the noise!

So here we are again on a Friday morning. The big girls are on their long drive to school with my mum, the peacock is already sitting in class in Daylesford, farmer Bren is either on his tractor or on his pole lathe and I'm sitting up in bed with my computer on my lap thinking of all of the places I've been over the past seven days, in my body and in my head. Where do I start? What do I include? Where do I go?

I guess the most obvious place to start is at the top. Late yesterday afternoon I clambered through the nets of an apple tree and dragged my basket in behind me. And there I sat for a while, still. Lately my gym teacher has been trying to encourage me and Bren to meditate together but we always forget. And the one time we did remember he said he floated away, but he left me behind panicking about my breathing and unable to stop itching and rearranging myself and my thoughts. I know meditation would help me immensely but so far, not so good. 

But yesterday once my basket and I were safely enclosed in the folds of the bird netting, I decided to try it again on my own terms. I leaned up against the tree's trunk and closed my eyes. I listened and tried to identify all the different sounds I could hear. Over and over I had to shift my mind away from the wetness of a smooshed apple I was sitting on, and away from thoughts of the march flies buzzing around my head trying to bite me, but I got there in the end. I heard the wind through the trees, I heard bird song, dogs barking, roosters crowing and I heard our pump far across the paddock. 

And then my mind wandered to the apples on the ground around me, dangling from the branches of the tree and smooshed under my bum. In most seasons, once the harvest starts it's go, go, go for a few months; checking and protecting and picking and selling. Not to mention the eating and preserving. The fact that this year's crop is small and spotty means that each apple feels a bit more precious. It gives me the time to sit under a tree for a few minutes to admire them and consider them. And it allows me to appreciate each bite, savouring the juicy flavours, remembering how lucky we are to have the opportunity to eat warm fruit straight off the tree, and to think and wonder and hope for next season.

These past few weeks have been hot and dry, the grass has browned off, the tomatoes are finally ripening and loads of washing have been drying on the line in the time it takes for the next armful to start and finish in the machine. Although the mornings are definitely darker, the days still feel long and golden and glorious.

We wear overalls and men's shirts and hats to protect us from the sun as we go about our farm jobs all day, we come in when the girls get home and go out again after dinner in tee-shirts without the layers, until the sun goes down and it's too dark to see. Autumn is when farming makes the most sense in my mind. There is fruit on the trees in the orchards, vegetables in the rows of the gardens, and wherever there is room new stuff is being planted for winter. The best feeling in the whole world is sending a hungry child outside to pick whatever she feels like eating.

During the week one of the girls was telling us about her friend who was grounded for misbehaving. When Miss Pepper asked for the definition of grounded she was told it's when you're not allowed to go out at all and have to spend all your time at home. "So you can't even go out to pick stuff from the garden!?' she cried incredulous, 'that sounds like the worst punishment ever'. Totally.

The next thing is going away. Anyone who's been reading my Friday blogs this year has probably noticed an undercurrent of me anxiously trying to separate a little from the girls and find a bit of space in the world that is my own. There has definitely been a bit of fear about leaving this comfortable place where I've been sitting for the past 17 years. Added to that is the knowledge that in just under two years Miss Indi will leave school and possibly home forever. Should I really be trying to find my own adventure when my time with her, as a family of five, is so limited?

The result is my recent baby steps. First I took a train to the city and spent an entire day doing exactly as I pleased. I skipped the school's Chinese New Year celebration in the morning, even though Pepper was at the head of the dragon, and came home after dinner, but just in time for bed. Then we left the girls at home and went to a party. I know it doesn't sound like much, but living on a farm in the middle of the forest, well mostly it's just easier if one of us stays home with the girls. And then I went away from home for three days and two nights.

Last Sunday one of my sisters, my mum and I, flew out of the mainland and down to Hobart for a few days. We stayed somewhere incredibly beautiful, we did so many of the things that three girls away from home do, and it was amazing.

On each of the three days we visited Mona. On the first day we walked all the way to the bottom level of the cave and I felt so giddy about my freedom and about the fact that I was finally at the gallery I had wanted to visit for the last couple of years, that I moved from exhibit to exhibit with a huge smile on my face sucking up all that I could and loving everything. I loved being in the ground surrounded by the sandstone walls, I loved the labyrinth feeling of it all and I loved the juxtaposition of the old next to the new, the religious art next to the art made from rubbish, and the themes of humanity and death and sex that seemed to come at you from all angles. I felt like I was being filled to the brim.

The second day was more difficult for me. For some reason on my second trip to the museum I took it all personally. I looked at exhibits and wondered about what specifically made them worthy of hanging and being called art. I thought a lot about the processes the artists would have gone through on their way to creating their works. Did they suffer self doubt? How did they justify their costs, and their time and their focus? Did they get stuck in their process? Were they worried about their reception? Were they so deeply involved they couldn't see out? How did they know? How did they get to the stage where they could identify as artists? And most importantly, how on earth did they balance their art with all the demands of the real world?

As I wondered and wandered, I watched and considered my process. I studied and made art all through my childhood and my schooling, I made and studied art at university, and I honestly believed I would create art for the rest of my life. And yet here I am an artless adult.

When this realisation hit me hard I was staring at an enormous wall covered in small artworks. I was moving from piece to piece studying it and thinking about its process, when all of a sudden I had to stop and sit and think about mine. I felt overwhelmed by emotion. The combination of being surrounded by art yet unable to create art made me feel claustrophobic and like I wanted to cry and hide and get out of there immediately. The feelings were immense, intense and I feared I'd never get out from under them.

We spent that afternoon swimming, eating last night's pizza for lunch and drinking champagne in the spa and I felt better. Like things shifted back to almost normal. But I felt like the realisation was an important one that should sit uncomfortably inside me until I really examined it properly.

On the last day we toured the gallery with its director. I was slightly hesitant to begin with but he moved and spoke fast and covered ground quickly. He filled in the gaps we'd missed and we were back up out in the sunshine before we knew it.

It occurred to me lying in my own bed that night that part of my fear of separating from the girls is what I'm bound to discover underneath that I've neglected all these years. It's scary and confronting and uneasy. I wondered how I could balance being a present mother of emotional girls with my own personal archaeological dig.

And honestly I'm not sure I can. In the three days I've been back I've worked so hard on the farm and I've been so present and involved in the girls and Bren and this is the first time I've allowed myself the time to bring this up again.

I do feel the need to express myself creatively, I do need to ask myself some hard questions and yet I also need to stay present and focused on life on our farm in our family. I'm scared to write this down because it feels a bit like a commitment to honesty and forward movement, but I guess the truth of it is I'll either do something with it or I'll read about it in my archives sometime in the future and feel a twinge. Time will tell.

And with that, the start of Emily's Bulldogs' socks, and a tiny seed of a thought of a drawing-a-day project, I'm out of here.

Oh and do let me know how you're travelling, I do love to read your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Are you enjoying the weather where you are? Are you up to date with your laundry? Do you have a burning desire to write a book? Record an album? Make an ice sculpture? Study Egyptian burial techniques? Brew your own beer? Start a flower farm? Go to Mona? Are you scared to discover who you really are? Do you meditate? Have you got anything fun planned for the weekend?

See you later alligator!

Love Kate xx


  1. wow Kate, it sounds like that trip to my little state has opened up a treasure chest of things for you to look through, digest, mull over and then toss, repack or put out on display.
    I too, am on the journey of letting go of the children and I am also discovering that my reluctance is more about fear of what I will learn or not about myself than letting the kids go. It's scary I don't even know what I like anymore, so much to learn, so hard to put myself at the forefront of my thoughts and actions and yet I can see it's so, so important if I am to move into the next stage of my life.
    Are you scared to discover who you really are? Yes terrified.
    Yes I meditate, every morning for 20 minutes, sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's really hard. I do think it has been good for me but I can only see that now when I look back to before meditation.
    I'm enjoying our little last rush of summer, but at heart I'm an autumn girl so looking forward to those crisp mornings.
    I don't have any plans for this long weekend, but I feel I need to spend some time in nature, so think I shall take myself off to a national park for some walk and exploring. I'm overwhelmed with my addiction to instagram and my phone at the moment, so I think I need to get away from it and work out what is best for me? I'm tempted to just leave but at the same time afraid to go, fomo I guess.
    anyhoo enough waffling from me.
    hope your weekend is ace
    cheers Kate

    1. Oh Kate it sounds like we're in such a similar space. Scared to walk forward but also scared to stand still. I hope we both find our peace with ourselves and our places in the world. Big love to you. xx

  2. Lately the conversations in my head are starting to shift.Slowly a door is opening where I can see myself being more than a mum. For a long time I've wanted to be a home ec teacher or social worker but have never thought that the time it would take to study & then entering a workplace that will effectively take me away from my home & children was doable.Suddenly I feel like maybe I can do that. Maybe I can put my little kids in after school care? Maybe I can do less at home & ask everyone else to step up to help? Maybe I can push all that mama guilt away? Maybe. Am I scared to discover who I am? No. But maybe I'm scared to admit that I want to be anything other than a homemaker because it's all I've known, loved & wanted for so long. I love being at home but there seems to be a tiny little shard of me that wants something else too. Maybe.
    It's funny whats happening to my thought process away from any social media. Nobody else life skews the view I have of my own. I'm not comparing or wondering or sharing anymore & its making me think more about what I want without outside influence. I like it.
    As for the weekend, we might head to the beach if it's warm enough ( we are still having days over 30 here )& I need to pull the summer veg from the beds & I want to make some cheese. I also need to find a new tv series so I can get back to crocheting a long overdue blanket.

    1. Oh my goodness Reannon I just read this with the biggest smile on my face. I don't want you to move faster than you're ready to, but I am so interested that there is a glimmer of wonder about who the Reannon away from her children might be. I guess it reflects where I'm at right back at me and I can see that it's important stuff to be thinking about.
      And I'm SO INTERESTED on your life since social media. Are you thinking about it less and less? Do you miss it? Have you cheated? xx

    2. So it's been 2, nearly 3 weeks since I've left instagram & this week I've not thought about it all unless someone mentions it to me. Life is the same but I dont have 22000 photos & I dont feel like I'm wasting time mindlessly scrolling. And no, no cheating because I unfollowed everyone before I deactivated my account for that exact reason. If you search me up, I don't exist there anymore so there's nothing to look at!
      It's funny, you think that stuff means something & that those connections you make are real but most of them are not. I had over 50 people contact me saying they'd like to keep in touch so this week I sent out a huge email just rambling & telling them what I had been cooking/reading/watching/listening to & you know how many replied? 3 & one of those was a super close real life friend so she doesn't count. If i'm not popping up on peoples feeds every day I dont exist. There's are a few people I've been emailing or texting but that was going on before I left instgram. Once you are away from that place ( Instagram ) life continues as it always does & for me I've found a clarity I haven't had for years. I feel like I have space for my thoughts, which has lead to a lot of deep thinking & awareness & I have time for the things I really want to do. I feel like social media has an expiry date for people like me that were there from the start. I joined Faceboook in 2007 & was out of there in 2015. I joined Instagram in 2011 & I know I wont be back. I'm happier within myself without all the "noise " social media creates for a person like me who is an over thinker, spends a lot of time alone ( or with little kids ) & has some anxiety. It's not good for me & I know that for certain now. xxx

  3. Oh my goodness, Kate – I absolutely get it. Writing was my salvation when I was a kid, and it kept me afloat through high school. Now I'm a book editor, and between working on other people's books and taking care of my kid, I don't feel like I have any words of my own anymore. It feels easier to channel a creative life into knitting and spinning and baking, except in some ways it's as if the person I always thought I'd be has died. (Or maybe I'm just having a midlife crisis …)

    Isn't it funny how MoNA provokes such strong emotions? I think the underground chambers make it feel so much more intense.

    Our apples are full of codling moth this year, but if you're careful it's still pretty special to eat them warm from the tree. I was going to make applesauce this weekend, but the installation of our new stove didn't happen today as planned because it turns out our chimney has some asbestos in it, so now we are stoveless and ovenless until we can find someone to take it out. Thank god it's a good time of year for raw vegies!

    Have a lovely long weekend. We're popping by the Maldon Applefest at some point, and I'd love to get to the Lost Trades Fair (but I suspect that's less likely). I was going to work tonight but reckon I'll probably end up watching Berlin 83 and knitting soon instead. x

    1. (Sorry, that should be Harcourt Applefest. Clearly my subconscious brain wants to go to the wool shop in Maldon!)

    2. Oh wow, I grew up in a house full of writers. And I totally am having a midlife crisis too. I'm actually hopeful that the me from before isn't dead just percolating. I'm hopeful that whatever i create when I finally get the confidence to shove everyone and everything out of the way, is richer and deeper than before. It may never happen but I have to believe it will.
      Crap about your apples. Ours had a bit of coddling moth for the first time since we've been here. Such a weird season.
      I hope you got the stove sitch sorted. Last year I spend a while in a stoves house and I couldn't believe how limiting it was. You get so used to something. Maybe you could borrow a camping gas cooker?

  4. In a lot of ways, I feel like you wrote the post I've been too scared / busy / lazy / unsure of writing, except that I am at the start of my journey as mom/person. In fact, being at the start makes it all seem more overwhelming to me, because how can I possibly even think of carving out more time for me to try some kind of creative journey when there are already so few hours in the day for work and dinner and laundry and snuggles? (I went ahead and outsourced the cleaning apart from the usual tidying sessions because life is too short to spend scrubbing toilets.) I thought to myself at the beginning of the year that I'd like to do a drawing project. I even bought some supplies and a drawing prompt book, plus some for the kids so we could all sit together and do it, and it hasn't happened. I tell myself it will, when the baby is more interested in scribbling than eating the crayons. For now we collapse on the floor (or on the couch in front of TV, let's be real here) at the end of the day. At least I get some knitting done after the littlest is in bed. At least there's that. As for the rest. I don't know. Someday maybe, I'll get my head above water.
    (re-posted to link to my current profile!)

    1. It's so interesting isn't it. I don't think there's a time limit to any of it, just more that we were something and then we weren't and where did it go and will it ever come back?
      I actually think I was more creative when my girls were tiny than I am now. Not when they were babies but as little kids there seemed to be more time to water colour and make their clothes and paint murals. Now somehow I have less time even though they are all at school. Or maybe I have more expectations and demands of my time now. But you'll get to that drawing project, I'm sure of it. x

  5. Hey Kate, I don't want to add to your woes, but, when did Jazzy grow up? She has become a very attractive, elegant and tall young woman. That smile and those dimples are to die for. i haven't noticed many photos of Jazzy perhaps that's why it hit me so hard this time. You and Bren have produced some lovely girls. I'll just bet they are just as lovely on the inside too. Glad to see that all is well on the farm, you all look very busy and seem to be enjoying your work. Your life seems idyllic but I'm aware of all the hard work you all put in.

    1. You have no idea how much your comment meant to Jazzy. As the middle child she is so aware of her place in the world and in our family and just knowing that someone noticed her was everything. She went back through my blog searching for herself and was unimpressed by how little she could find. In my defence she's only just emerged from her bedroom after months of teenagehood. xx

  6. You are creative. Your blog writing and stunning photography and knitting brightens my day every time I visit your page or see something on your Instagram. Please don't underestimate your creativity, embrace were you are in life, growing healthy food, bringing up gorgeous children and winning at the marriage and relationships game.
    Since I can remember I have been utterly unimpressed with myself, full of depression, self loathing and lost. I really talk about just how bad it is. But i have a husband and a dog and when I'm feeling ok, I know I'm winning.
    Proceed with the meditation (I find yoga as a moving meditation much easier) and embrace the unknown...

    1. Oh Carrie that breaks my heart. I really, really hope you have more good days than bad going forward. You're so kind and generous, you have a husband and a dog and you can do yoga which I never was flexible enough for. Sending lots of love. xx

  7. As a mama a few parenting years ahead (mine are 19, 16 and 13), your reflections this week resounded with truth. Learning about ourselves again is as much of a process as learning to be a mother was. It requires time and reflection, because we are not the same people we were nearly two decades ago. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and words here-- it feels like an outpouring of generosity, and a privilege to get to share in it.

    1. Oh my goodness, thank you!! I've screen shotted your comment and will be returning to it often. Such wisdom and truth. xx

  8. You are ever so good at helping me think through my own thoughts! Thank you :)

    1. Ahhh it is ever so good to see your name pop up here again. Hope you're travelling well my friend xx

  9. I'm at the other end of the mom journey, with a 4yo, 3yo, and a newborn. I wrote poetry and journaled all through high school and college, got my MFA in poetry, and worked as a writer/editor until my first was born. I stopped cold turkey: working, writing, a lot of the reading that inspired me. And I didn't miss it. That was a wake up for me that writing was something I did, and well, but this new thing was something that I WAS. There are certainly people who are artists and poets, and get sidetracked for a while by their other roles. I was never that. I was waiting for this, and didn't know it. I am creatively fulfilled in the knitting and cooking, intellectually challenged in the podcasts I listen to and talks with my husband. All those spaces once filled with poems are now filled by people, and it feels really good. That said, when I miscarried my son last year, I wrote poems. When I'm stressed, I compose in my head, and things get sorted. So maybe, for me, wrhat was jettisoned wasn't the craft but the need to display it. To pull out a knitting metaphor, I used to knit lace for the oohs and ahs they drew from others. Now I knit socks to keep my feet warm. It's all knitting, and my lace technique might get rutsty, but it's still there in my pocket when I'm ready to try again.

    I hope, when you're comfortable doing so, that you'll share our artistic journey here, as well, since you are one of the people filling my cup. 😊

    1. Oh wow I'm so interested that your words come when you need to make sense or gather calm. I really love the sound of your happy, busy, fulfilling life. And I wonder if one day you'll start to knit lacey socks when the new you feels a bit nostalgic for the old. xx

  10. What a week Kate. I'm intrigued by your meditation, I must look into it, I know it would do me good. I think I'm too scared to wonder about who I am without being mum to four x

    1. So I've failed at home meditation and we've decided to increase our gym sessions to an hour to see if we can meditate with our trainer there. How amazing would it be to be able to quieten your mind a bit. xx

  11. Hi Kate,
    Your trip away sounds fabulous. We all need time away with women folk. It's as important as air!
    Maybe you need to set one day or half a day a week aside for some sort of art. Time to enjoy and explore that side of your creativity. Oh and don't forget, your knitting and sewing are works of art in their own way.
    Last night I pressed buy on my virtual cart of bare yarn because I have a burning desire to dye and sell yarn. The Noble Fox Fabrics and Hand Dyed yarn is coming soon!!
    Much love to you and the fam xx

  12. I'm 12 weeks pregnant with my first, and so far I'm lacking the motivation to do anything besides watch netflix and feed myself frequently enough so that I'm not sick. I'm a photographer, but haven't created anything meaningful in a long time. I'm looking forward to feeling better soon. We have had a very wet winter in California, and I am hopeful that the sunny days on the horizon will help. My husband and I are starting seeds this weekend (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, tomatillos) and I look forward to nurturing my garden as my belly grows.


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Kate XX

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