Friday, August 25, 2017

the hungry gap

Hello dear reader and welcome to my last blog post of this year's August, this calendar's winter. I actually can't believe we've only got a week to go. And although I am realistic about the fact that winter here can last at least another month, there's something psychologically exciting about the official season change. It feels optimistic and full of opportunities and sunshine.

At this time every year on our farm, in our garden, and in our kitchen, we talk about the hungry gap. That time in late winter when the last of late summer's plantings have been picked and consumed, the last of autumn's preserved harvest has been eaten, and the first vegetables of the new growing year are still weeks away.

The low soil temperatures and the extreme crunchy frosts that we're still getting make it pointless to plant anything in the ground yet, and apart from a few rows of carrots and beets, some straggly leeks, spring onions, kale and brussels, and some lettuces and herbs, the garden is sitting still. There's nothing new out there to get inspired by; winter still has a firm hold on things.

I feel like we're in the middle of a hungry gap for blog content too.

While there are most certainly signs of spring out there, the almond blossom is budding, the daffodils are about to burst open, the wattle is about to explode any minute, the days are still icy cold and grey, the girls are all tired and fighting off colds and I'm at this point that I get to every late winter when I question what it is we do and why we do it.

I mean obviously I know that we look after the land and animals, we grow things and we prepare for other seasons but at the heart of the slowest season, it gets hard to sit still and wait.

Every year in late summer and early autumn as we are rushing about like crazy people madly hoping to fit all our jobs into our days, I remind myself that we have the winter months to slow down and rest and replenish, and although we most certainly are, I'm starting to feel impatient for what's to come.

I can't wait to blog about picnics and bonfires, baskets of produce, rows of colourful blossoms, bees, fruit laden trees and other sunny day adventures. I can't wait until buzzing activity fills the blog again. Until the hungry gap is over.

But in the meantime I am taking advantage of the rainy days by sitting by the fire and knitting rows of my colour-work socks. I'm on the home stretch now, four more rows of pattern before I start the navy rib at the cuff. I tried them on just before and they fit me perfectly, but I still haven't decided if I'll keep them.

I bought some yarn grown and spun locally to make my farmer boy a bunch of new beanies. I used to make him some new ones every season but somehow this year he's done without. So far.

I'm reading this sweet children's book that a friend recommended. His friend wrote it and he spoke so proudly of her that I had to get my mum to order it from the library that afternoon.

This week I've fallen in love with the 99% Invisible podcast. So far I've listened to the Person in Lotus Position, and The Stethoscope  and I've downloaded a bunch of others for when time permits.

We finished watching season 5 of House of Cards.

Farmer Bren made some bowls out of apple wood and sycamore and experimented with drying methods. He also got excited when he spotted a pole lathe in the latest episode of Game of Thrones; did you spot it too?

And I'm still loving the four classes a week I'm going to at the gym, waiting for the cabbage sauerkraut we made to be ready, feeling irritated by the cold in my head, dreaming of a day when we don't have to light the fire, thinking about baking a cake for the weekend, wearing hand knitted socks that don't fit anyone, (they're baggy but they do the trick), yearning for the return of hanging washing outside days, wilting at the sight of another indoor plant that hasn't made it through the dark depths of winter, wondering what we should make for dinner tonight, watching the white smoke billowing out of the cubby house chimney, listening for the kettle so I can refill my hot water bottle, sniffling...

and hoping that your weekend is filled equally with cozy restful times and productive fun times.

Do you have anything fun planned?
Have you watched anything good lately? (My mum and dad LOVED Mr Gaga.)
Have you snacked on anything yum lately? (I just made myself four corn crackers with cheese and saurkraut.)
Have you ordered anything fun online lately? (It seems I have a flower seed addiction; bring on springtime).

And that's that, I'm outta here.

Lots of love,



Friday, August 18, 2017

blogging on an empty stomach

Late last Sunday evening I was happily sitting up on the day bed in our studio listening to a podcast and knitting rows of my colour work socks. It was the end of a busy weekend and the relief I felt at being able to sit in one spot uninterrupted, taking sips of a hot cup of tea in my favourite mug and knitting a bit, felt immense.

But then as I started to increase the stitches for the gusset it occurred to me that when I'd altered the pattern to knit from the toes up, rather than as the pattern was written - from the cuff down, I'd started the chart in the wrong place.

At first I thought I'd continue on and try not to think about the fact that I'd started knitting half way through a flower. No-one would know except me. Then I looked through the Ravelry gallery at all the other photos of these particular socks and realised that the whole reason I'd decided to knit these socks was because of how beautifully the design lay on the socks and to do it differently would ruin the entire effect. And then I decided that there was no way I could continue because I'd know, and I wouldn't enjoy the knitting as much and I definitely wouldn't be as proud of the final result.

So I started analysing the chart to try and work out if there was a possibility of rescuing any of it at all. And then as I was contemplating pulling out hours and days worth of stitches, I noticed that instead of feeling defeated something crazy was going on inside me. My heart was beating loudly and my breathing was speeding up and I felt a bit crazy.

First I slid one sock off the needles and started ripping at the stitches. Long strings of wiggly white wool and then blue wiggly wool started to make a nest in my lap. It always seems strange that yarn that has not long been knitted becomes wiggly so quickly.

It was almost fun pulling all those stitches apart until I realised that I'd better wind them onto their balls or they were bound to become one big knot. Which they did at a few points of course, and that nearly made me cry, but luckily I had nice pointy 2mm needles to stick through the knots and undo them.

Thankfully my farmer boy came into the room just in time to help me wind the balls of the second sock and to reassure me that it was indeed a very upsetting thing to happen and that it was okay if I wanted to cry. I thought I would but I didn't.

I had hoped to keep a couple of inches of knitting above the toes but in the end wasn't able to catch all of the stitches and ended up saving nothing but the two blue toes.

That night I couldn't sleep and lay in bed dreaming up the words for a book about life lessons, told from the perspective of the knitted and unknitted socks. All night I worked on the chapters in my head. Patience, focus, concentration, the ability to adapt, strength, the importance of appearance, turning things upside down, learning from mistakes, dealing with our failures... the list of things the socks could teach lengthened.

And as I tossed and turned I became more and more convinced that this was a brilliant idea. Knitters, crafters, hand-makers, hand made appreciators, Steiner folk, the audience for this book would be niche but strong.

As daylight dawned I must have fallen asleep because the next day the future of that book didn't look as bright....and the sight of those little blue toes looked a little depressing.

It took from Monday til Thursday to knit back to the spot where I'd pulled them off. This time I knitted the chart backwards and I'm thrilled with how they're working out. And although those four days are already just a blip in my knitting life, although the book idea seems ludicrous now, I still am interested in how my knitting humbles me and makes me a better person.

In other news, I had hoped to show you the slabs of wood we cut from our trees earlier in the week. Beautiful slabs that will hopefully become shelves for my studio before the year is out. I also thought you might like to see the hyacinths and almost flowering daffodils, the germinated broad beans and the budding almond blossom. But it's blowing a gale out there and is POURING with rain and it's just not going to happen.

Here are the only two outside photos I was brave enough to take today, just outside our front door, as we were coming in from moving the chickens to higher ground this morning (wet down to my undies). 

But crappy outside weather is the absolute best for sitting by the fire and reading and also for getting into the kitchen and making delicious and hearty food for the fam. And just my luck that Julia Busuttil Nishimura's  new cook book Ostro arrived at the post office this morning. 

In the inside flap of Julia's book it says 'My approach to food favours intuition over strict rules and is about using your hands, rushing a little less and savouring the details. It is food that slowly weaves its way into the fabric of your daily life - food for living and sharing.' Sounds pretty perfect right!

Ostro is also one of the most beautiful books I have seen in ages, each photo is more delicious than the last. I can't decide what to make first. In fact it kind of makes me wish we were in the future and I could press a button on a page, reach in and grab that gnocchi for my lunch, or that Greens Pie, or....

Note to self - never blog on an empty stomach or you'll spend far too long ogling the beautiful pictures and reading the scrumptious recipes, delighting over Julia's gorgeous wardrobe, her perfect props, her effortless style, not to mention her sweet son Haruki.

Congratulations Julia, Ostro is sublimely delicious from front to back!

Congratulations on Ostro to you too Michelle Mackintosh, designer of all the most beautiful books in the world (including mine) and maker of some of the most gorgeous too.

And that's me and my Friday blog for this week.
I hope it wasn't too sock heavy for you.
I hope you've got a lovely, cozy weekend lined up.
For the first time in months we don't have any plans at all.
It looks like it might snow though which would be fun.

So how about you?
Would you read a life book if the narrator was a pair of hand knit socks? HA!
If you could press a button and reach out and grab any dish to eat in the whole world right now what would it be?
Do you prefer sweet or savoury?
Do you cook from books or do you make it all up?

I think it's time for lunch, you can probably hear my stomach growling from there.

Big toasted sandwich love,



Friday, August 11, 2017

short cut blogging

Hello lovely ones,

How's your week been?

Most Fridays by the time I finally sit down with my laptop I generally know what I'm going to write my blog about. Most Fridays I've been thinking about something, or feeling something, or making something and as soon as I've loaded the photos the words come. Not always the words I expect, not always in one go, not always in order and definitely not always in any sort of readable state. But over time the sentences and themes emerge, I type them, I rearrange them, I delete some and then, mostly, by the time I press publish, I'm happy I have.

But not today. It's been a bit of a messy old week and somehow it's gotten to an hour before I have to go and pick up Pepper from school and I feel rushed, and I haven't had lunch and I'm hungry, and what I really feel like is a cup of tea in Bren's workshop and a few rows of my socks.

So if it's all the same to you I think I'll load the bunch of photos I took this morning which will give you a little glimpse into my right now, I'll write a tiny bit about each one and then we can all go along our merry ways and hopefully have a wonderful weekend.

Here goes:

This is Miss Pepper's cat who until recently was called Popcorn but then somehow during a particularly intense Orange Is The New Black binging session, had a name change to Poussey Washington. It's such a good cat name and it just rolls off the tongue, don't ya think. She doesn't look like she minds anyway.

This is farmer Bren axing a bowl blank out of a piece of apple wood. He has plans to make us all breakfast bowls. I can't wait to see them.

This is of a pile of blankets that I've made on a shelf in our studio. The pile grows and shrinks as girls take blankets to put on their beds and snuggle on the couch and then put them back, but these three seem to remain the constants.

These are my baby cabbages. I tell you what, growing plants from seeds never fails to excite me. Each one of those stems and little leaves feels like a lucky blessing. I love germinating seeds, it seems to make sense even when the rest of the world doesn't.

We have a metal filing cabinet where we store our seeds. Packets and jars of saved and bought seeds all filed by the first letter of their name. These are the seeds I've pulled out over the past few weeks optimistically hoping to get a head start on spring. It's a bit of a mess. We are hoping to get organised and keep really good records this year so when next season rolls around it'll be less of a guessing game and more of a knowing game. Although working under Mother Nature you can never really be sure.

This is the book I'm reading. I love the cover. It's about Trevor Noah, who was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time in apartheid South Africa where such a union was punishable by five years imprisonment. It's an easy read but I'm finding it hard to really get stuck into it. I think that's because the last book I read, Idaho painted a picture that was so vivid that I felt like I'd watched a whole movie by the time I'd finished. I could not put it down and then I could not stop thinking about it once I had. What a magnificent book. I hope that this one grabs me soon and takes me on a journey with it like Idaho did.

This is a cup/bowl that Bren carved during the week out of Native Cherry. It's such a beautiful piece and when you hold it up to the light, parts of it glow bright pink. Right now it's drying out slowly in that pile of wood shavings but I cannot wait to see how it dries and how it looks when it's oiled. we're not sure how it'll hold hot coffee, but gosh wouldn't that be a perfect way to honour one of my favourite rituals.

This is an arm warmer I knitted for someone I've never met who asked for one via a local Facebook page. Apparently it fits and is exactly what they were after. Yay!

This is a slipper I knitted for a giant. Oops. Just a gentle reminder to knit a gauge square when you are knitting an old fave pattern but in new to you yarn.

These are the first socks I ever knitted, three years ago almost to the the day. Look at how much they've faded. I still love them and wear them often despite the hole in the sole of one of them.

These are the socks I am currently knitting. Colour work is addictive! I can't wait to grab a chunk of time tonight to knit some more. I've gone up a needle size to 2.5 because the last pair of patterned socks I knitted were too tight. Fingers crossed these ones turn out just right.

This week is musical week for our big girls. This is the puzzle we've been doing with Pepper while they've been busy rehearsing and performing. It's of Santorini in Greece. It's hard to imagine that it's been almost two years since we were there ourselves.

It's raining as I type this and with all the mucking around it's almost three hours since I started.

And by mucking around I mean pestering my youngest sister by text, watering the greenhouse, picking Pep up from school, putting some washing away, making myself a snack, pulling out some weeds, crying to Bren about the state of the world and our country, reading and looking at everything on Facebook and Instagram, feeding the fire and scrolling through Ravelry. But I guess some days are just more straight forward that others.

So that's me and my meant to be quick blog that ended up taking hours.

How about you, what do you like to do to procrastinate?
Are you a good seed organiser? Garden record keeper?
Do you get obsessed and stay up way too late at night looking for just one more puzzle piece?
What are you making/baking/reading/planning?
I'd love to know.

I hope your weekend is exactly what you need it to be.

Love is love,



Friday, August 4, 2017

once upon a winter's day

For the first few days after I published my blog last week I felt like I was free-falling.  Going through my days without a small voice in my head telling me what else I could be doing felt disconcerting, like I was off balance, like something was missing.

As your comments started coming in and it became apparent how many of us are feeling the same way it occurred to me that we're conditioned to move forward and gather skills, possessions, degrees, jobs, stories, partners, friends, wealth, almost since the moment we draw our first breath. Standing still, being happy with what we have and not wanting more, feels almost unnatural.

Then after a while, as I reconciled your comments with the way I'd been feeling, the bossy voices in my head quietened down and I began to feel present and still. For as long as I can remember that voice has been nagging at me to hurry up and finish with the laundry so I can paint that mural on the studio wall, finish writing my blog so I can get going on that book idea, put down my sock knitting so I can design something fabulous, stop what I'm doing and learn something, teach something, work at something, get out there, make a difference...

Being free of this voice for the past few days has been wonderful. A few days ago I went into the forest for an armful of kindling and found myself on my hands and knees examining the moss and wild animal poo. Yesterday I sat in the chair next to the fire in Bren's workshop in the middle of the day and cast off my socks. And this morning I went for a walk with the sole purpose of looking for bulbs and signs of spring. I've listened to my girls' stories, I've watered and observed the progress of every single pot in the greenhouse, I stole 20 minutes to read my book in the middle of the day, and I sat by the campfire eating dinner and watched each of my people in turn, listened to their stories and felt lucky to know them.

And I've noticed that the lack of the need for progress hasn't meant that I haven't been productive. Not at all. As well as all the usual daily bits, I've started baking bread again after years of buying it from an organic bakery in town, I've planted hundreds of seeds in the greenhouse, I've prepared a garden bed for planting, I've taken on a knitting project for someone I've never met and I've felt calmer and more grounded than I have in ages.

I'm not saying that I'm all zen or anything, just a bit more at peace. And I have been sleeping better which might be a coincidence, but is definitely awesome.

I'm not convinced yet that this peace will last.

As much as that statement upset my farmer boy when I said it to him yesterday, I am aware that I am pushing up against 45 years of habit as well as bitter winter winds that threaten to throw me off balance and demand movement and new and change.

But from where I'm sitting right now (up against the heating panel in my bedroom), being content with my simple life, taking my cues from Mother Nature and enjoying and engaging with this stage and this phase and the right now, feels just right.

I hope you're feeling it too, I really do.

In other news I am in the middle of reading my sister Abby's copy of Idaho. It took me ages to settle into a book after finishing Eleanor Oliphant but this one, despite the fact that it's pretty bleak, grabbed me after the first page.

I am listening to and loving the second series of Homecoming, a psychological thriller in a podcast. It's so beautifully produced and scripted, I can't wait for the next instalment.

I am darning in the ends of the Bavarian cable socks. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn half way through the cast off and had to choose the closest I had, but hopefully you won't notice unless you put your nose on my ankle. Which truth be told would be a bit weird of you.

I am casting on a plain blue sleeve for someone and these soon to be very patterned socks for someone else. I might also knit some quick, chunky slippers because concrete floors and bitter winters do not go very well together.

And I am picking and cooking loads of brussel sprouts, planting broad beans and cabbages, sipping the most beautiful tea that gorgeous Tara from Nourish and Nest sent me as a present, aching from last night's body combat and pump classes, trying to drink more water, watching episode two of The Handmaid's Tale, feeling frustrated by how limiting dark winter days are for photography, splitting wood for the fire, hurting my foot with the wood splitter (so silly), contemplating a steaming hot bubble bath, thinking about how my dad is taking each of his daughters out for coffee separately and wondering if I should do the same, and hoping that the blizzardy weather on the weekend is not as bad as they're predicting, although by the way the wind is howling out there it feels like they might be right.

Oh and I'm trying to get back to each of you who has left me a comment, but sometimes I'm better at it than others. If you leave me a message on my blog, I'm trying to reply in the comments of that blog. Facebook and Instagram and Bloglovin', I'll reply there. And email for some reason is my hardest to get to, but I am getting there, mostly. And if for some reason I haven't, please know that I have read what you've written and have thought about it, it's just hard to get onto the computer sometimes. Blog comments are so important to me. It's so heartening to know that there are people out there reading and interacting. So THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for taking the time, I truly love and appreciate every single word. You guys are the greatest!!

And that's where I'm at.

How about you?
Are you slowing down and enjoying your simple life? Or are you not quite there yet?
If you shut your eyes right now what can you hear?
If you had a choice between meat or lentil Bolognese, which one would you choose?

I hope your weekend is kind to you.

Love, Kate


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