Friday, January 26, 2018

these summer days

Mostly these days I'm in the garden. I'm hammering in stakes and tying up the straggly plants. I'm weeding out the fat hen, the milkweed, the dandelion and something else that looks like it could be potted up as a succulent. Sometimes I'm listening to podcasts but most often I'm just sitting with my thoughts, listening to the bees and the birds and trying not to get stung by the march flies. I'm marvelling at the fully blossoming flower heads, admiring the different shapes and colours, encouraging the opening buds and wondering at those yet to come out, what will they become?

I am in love.

Even when I discover thrip, or bird, or slug, or Japanese beetle damage. Even when I find my fingers stained with squished cabbage moth caterpillar insides. Even when I lose my third tray of planted straw flower seeds to something unknown and unwanted.

Over the blossoming weeks we've given bunches of blooms tied up with bailing twine to all those who've visited. The feeling of watching people's faces light up as they turn their handfuls around, admiring each flower, is indescribable. The precious gift is mine.

One day I got up early and picked a bucketful. When the girls woke up I told them to make posies in jars for their bedrooms. Their delight kept me smiling for the rest of the day.

One evening we stayed up very late to drink champagne and do our flower farming course homework and make a vision board. As I started pulling out all the magazines that we have it occurred to me that the last time I bought magazines was way back in 2011 and they were all filled with craft. As we started flipping through them it became obvious that as the years have passed, so have our interests and inspirations. I found a few pictures of earthy toned knitting, a couple of botanical paintings and then had to wait for the next chance to visit the op shop for some gardening mags. Thank you to the dear gardener who donated my pile. Although I initially resisted the vision board concept, I now find myself stopping in front of it often to admire the garden cut-outs, the beauty and the bounty.

One afternoon we went to a local botanical gardens to watch and listen to my sister Emily play. On the way out I stopped to look at the plant stall and my family laughed at my flowering plant addiction while encouraging me to buy more and more. Later on when I discovered the girls reading the labels and asking me about perennials and annuals and biannuals, I wondered if the love affair might be catchy.

One morning as we were sitting in the shade in the garden and farmer Bren was making a vegetable seed order on his phone, he turned to me and asked if we wanted some flowering sweet pea seeds. I love that he's on this flower farming adventure with me. That our mixed family farm just got a bit more diverse.

Another day as the skies rumbled and threatened a summer storm, we all got out into the garden together and picked big bunches for tables, desks, mantels and bedsides. They asked me how to cut them, they exclaimed at each new discovery, they watched their father show them how to arrange them, then they thanked us for growing them and I swelled with pride.

We've planted a range of flowering plants through out our garden but so far the zinnias are the most prolific. In one of the flower farming course videos we watched during the week she called them the beginner flower. They're simple to grow, their blooms are bright and cheery and the more you pick the more they grow. I keep thinking how grateful I am that we stumbled on the page with their picture in a seed catalogue last winter. It was luck and I feel lucky and I know that they'll always have a place in my garden each season.

In other news, the poppy seeds our dear friends Mika and Jobbo gave us early last year have finally popped in the middle of the kitchen garden. Unfortunately their flowering days are definitely shortened because they are overhead watered each morning with the rest of that garden. But still, I love them and they make me smile.

I also love taking photos in the house direction these days. How pretty the green house and the sun room look as a backdrop.

We picked our first apple for the season. A Jersey Mac still warm from the sun and a bit too sweet for my taste, but still, apple season has begun and I'm excited.

We're still waiting for the tomatoes to ripen. Each lunch time someone remarks on how much better their salad or sandwich would be with a tom. Come on babies!

We are picking cucumbers, plums, potatoes, leafy greens, spring onions, cabbages, lots of herbs, and the last of the broad beans.

I'm reading March, which one of you suggested to me when I read Little Women last year. I found this copy in an op shop the other day and bought it without even opening it up to look at what it was. Thank you if that was you.

I knitted farmer Bren a new beanie (in a heatwave). I needed something mindless to knit while I watched the flower farm course videos and this pattern was perfect.

Ravelry details here.

We started harvesting our onions.

I swatched and then cast on the sweater I'm going to knit with the yarn my family bought me for my birthday last year. That there is the rib that goes at the bottom of the front piece. The yarn is delicious and I'm so excited to knit this and watch it grow.

And we cleaned out the green house ready for the autumn and winter seed raising. It hurts me a bit to think about the cold weather eating and gardening, but I imagine this year's cold months will be different than those that came before because of the new greenhouse and sun room. Hopefully.

Which brings us to now. The last Friday blog post of these summer holidays. While I've been writing this we've discussed the end of Indi's book, we've dealt with a friendship issue, we've admired Jazzy's new hairdo and her diary, Bren's sent me countless texts from town about visual diaries, I had to stop altogether to snuggle an overheated Pepper (she's sitting on the arm of my chair reading as I type now), I've okayed the girls' social arrangements and Bren raised his eyebrows when I told him I'd barely written anything after he came in after leaving me alone.

It's impossible to get in the zone and write words I'm proud of with all of these interruptions. And yet next week I know without a doubt that I'll miss them. The house will be quiet and there'll be no one coming in to play me a quick song, or show me a photo or ask me what I think. Oh my girlies.

I hope you've had a lovely week.
Are you more of a sweet or sour apple lover?
What's your favourite flower?
Are you watching/reading/cooking/growing/knitting anything wonderful lately?

I must hurry up and finish this, Miss Pepper is desperately wanting to go and have a swim in the windmill dam.

Until next week!

Love, Kate x

ps. Thank you Bren for the pics of me! xx
pps. Surely it's good luck to find a double headed zinnia in your patch (first photo)?!

Friday, January 19, 2018

making a golden flower crown

There was this little magical moment not so long ago. I was wandering through the forest with the big girls, taking photos for my blog and their Instagrams, when Miss Pepper rode her bike down to see what we were up to. The light through the trees was golden, the air was still and sparkly, and we laughed, told stories and joked around with each other as the sun slowly set on the day.

And after a while, when we were finished taking photos, we looked over to see Pepper picking a small posy of little yellow flowers from the forest floor.

I've been thinking a lot about growing flowers lately. While I start the first module of my flower farming course, while I wander through the rows of flowers we planted in the garden, while I spend time each day investigating the progress of every variety, while I cut big bunches for the house and for friends and family, while I water, and deadhead, and stake, and tie, and watch.

Why do I want to grow flowers? What sort of flowers do I want to grow? How big an area do I want to devote to flowers? What will I do with all the flowers?

So far I haven't been able to quantify or clarify my answers. Growing flowers doesn't seem to make sense in my head. But my heart is another story entirely.

Growing flowers and slowly becoming a flower farmer is about a feeling. It's about beauty and luxury and treats and colours. It's about slowing our world down for a little while and getting caught up in the moment. It's about each emerging stem and leaf and petal. It's about falling in love with growing all over again.

I have a residual fear left over from our big farming days of putting a price tag on something I love, and turning it into a business. The spreadsheets and the invoicing and the price tags and the competition, still fill me with dread. And while I do want to take responsibility for my seed buying obsession and for all the time it takes us to grow them, I need to find a way to stay pure and true to the love of it, while slowly working out a way to help them pay for themselves and for us.

So I'm allowing myself to take baby steps, to take several weeks to complete the first week's module. Because I want this part of my farming journey to stay simple and filled with heart.

I want to lose myself in the moment of watching my smallest picking stalky green stems from the forest floor. I want to hear her talk about the ooze that comes from those stalks and sticks tacky to her fingers. I want to take hold of each blossom she passes me and braid them into a crown. I want to sit there for a moment longer. Just because. Just because I don't want this precious time to end.

And as I braid the little yellow flowers, I want to admire my hands that have their own strength and memory from years of hair and garlic braiding. I want to immerse myself in the joy and chatter going on around me as my girls wait. I want to feel totally unselfconscious as they take my camera and turn it on me. I want to watch the late afternoon sunlight stream in from behind them as they take turns trying the crown on after I've finished it. Posing and laughing, feeling the glow of the warm summer's night.

I truly believe that flowers must be filled with magic, and I love the dream of growing many and spreading that magic around, I just have to find a way to hold onto it while letting a little bit of real life in. I hope it's possible. I really hope I can balance it.

Do you have any thoughts about merging dreams with reality?
Do you think it's possible to hold onto the love and magic of a thing while also getting it to pay its own way?
Would you buy flowers from a farm gate stall? A market stall? A supermarket? A florist?

Wishing you all a magical weekend.

Love Kate x

Friday, January 12, 2018

under the fairy lights

Last Saturday night we had a party to celebrate our boy.

Being a January baby he didn't have many parties growing up because he was at summer camp, his friends were mostly away for the summer holidays, and more recently being a farmer boy with an insane summer to-do list meant that we just never had the time.

Over the years we've suggested birthday trips into the city, nights in fancy hotels and elaborate dinner parties, but we've ended up with family picnics in the paddocks, swims in the dams and other low key celebrations instead. It's mostly HOT, we're usually on fire alert, and there are still animals to check on and feed, pumps to turn on and off, filters to clean and irrigation to worry about.

But late last year he made the decision to have a birthday party this year and nothing was going to get in his way.

I'm not sure if it was his pride in the house renovations and wanting to share them with his friends. If it was a result of all the discussions we've been having lately about what a great stage we're at in our lives and how blessed we've been feeling. If it was the fact that all the main players in our lives are happy and well right now. If after all the parties we've been throwing the girls forever, it was just his turn. Or if there really wasn't a great reason, he just wanted to celebrate and be celebrated.

And he sure was!

In the lead up we did all those jobs that we've been putting off for months. We scrubbed, we put away, we screwed cupboard doors back on, we tidied, we mowed, we got rid of cobwebs, we vacuumed and we swept. And then we strung up meters and meters of fairy lights, we arranged little nests of seating, we scattered pot plants and he put the finishing touches on the long tables and benches.

In the end January sixth was one of those HOT and windy days that Australian summers are made of, but as luck had it, at about six when the guests started to arrive, a cool change gently swept through and brought with it sweet relief and a festive feeling in the air.

We had the Trolley'd team serving up the most delicious cocktails from native Australian and local ingredients.

And we asked everyone to bring a plate of food which together made an incredible feast.

I guess it took me a while to come around to having a party in our home. Although I do absolutely love the thought of celebrating our boy and our life, the thought of people discovering what a terrible house keeper I am, the thought of people going though my things, the thought of being responsible for people's food and drink needs and their happiness, and the thought that the party is here in my house so I can't run away if I need to, always held me back.

But a little while into the party when I was sure that things were running smoothly, I left to have a shower and put on my party dress. As I walked through the house I saw with fresh eyes all the work we'd put in over the last week and I felt proud and relieved. And then when I came out and was greeted by so many smiling faces I forgot all about my nerves for the rest of the night.

And as night fell and the fairy lights twinkled we were treated to some fabulous performances. For some it was all about the music and for others it was the banter in-between. The birthday boy made a 25 minute speech (!!!!), there was lots of dancing including Israeli and Greek, and at one stage I felt my face hurting from smiling so much which reminded me of our wedding.

Bren's sister Danielle sent me this photo. There's a video somewhere of us dancing on the table too but I can't work out how to save it and share it here. Probably just as well.

I can tell you that the last guests left at 4.30am and we didn't get into bed until 5am. Thankfully I had a bit of a burst of cleaning energy before I went to bed so the sight I was greeted with in the morning wasn't too terrible. I can also tell you that it did take me most of the week to fully recover and that I aint no spring chicken anymore.

But I'd rather be no spring chicken celebrating life with my 47 year old farmer boy in our untidy house on the hill of our farm than at any other time in our life. 

All night long people asked him if it was a special birthday. I think he's onto something with his decision not to wait for the big ones to celebrate. Not to wait for the milestones and the monumental occasions. I love the idea of making parties for the middle bits. Recognising that they make up most of our lives and are just as important. Maybe more so.

Now that I've seen how well our place scrubs up and will even more so once we've grown grass over that bald patch where the table sat, I'm thinking of more reasons to celebrate and parties to throw; apple harvest, tomato bottling, autumn's garden bounty, back to school, friends, family, love, the seasons...

And as for our birthday boy, I feel like the luckiest duck in the world to be living and sharing my life with him. What an incredible human. How worthy of celebrating. Happy birthday my love. xxxxxxx

I hope your 2018 has gotten off to a great start my friends.
I hope it's filled with wonderful surprises and so many reasons to celebrate.

Do you love to throw a good party, or are you a bit afraid like I was?
What's your go-to dish when you're asked to bring a plate?
Have you got something fun planned for this weekend?

Happy January 12th!
Happy Abby's birthday!
happy second blog post of the new year!


ps. extra photo credits to Emily, Ollie and Danielle, thank you!!! xxx

Friday, January 5, 2018

becoming a #flowerfarmer

A few days ago I was sitting eating my breakfast, minding my own business, scrolling through my facebook feed, when I came across a link to this post I wrote back at the end of December in 2014. Three years ago.

The post is called Finding Balance and it's very obviously coming from a place that's not.

Back then I felt completely overwhelmed by the needs of the girls on holidays, by the ridiculous amount of farm work, by the never ending house work and by the fact that there were so many demands on my time that I felt stifled and uncreative and uninspired. Gosh I remember that feeling so well.

Three years and 10 days later, at the start of this sparkling new year, the picture looks quite a bit prettier. 

This year so far, although busier than ever, I feel like I'm living a life that truly expresses who I am. 

While I did love parenting little kids, I feel like I'm much better with older. Parenting now mostly feels intuitive. It must help that I remember being their ages. And that they almost always sleep through the night.

Because they are gradually becoming more independent I feel like I've got a bit more head space and therefore more patience and time. I'm so interested in their issues, and watching them grow, and explore and become. And while there are definitely times when I would love to ship them all off to boarding school, at the moment the good times far outweigh the tough, and for that I am very grateful.

Yesterday I sent two of the three stories I'm writing for a publication off and got such lovely comments in return, with exclamation marks. Although I really badly wanted to write more this year, it's been such a long time since I've written anything other than this blog and I had lost a little bit of my confidence. To get such a lovely response back has really motivated me to write more. It's such a great feeling.

The next thing is that while this time of the year is still not conducive to getting big chunks of knitting or sewing done, somehow I feel like my creativity is woven into my whole life now and I do feel like I'm expressing that part of myself.

On Wednesday our friend Lou at the local nursery threw that purple leaved plant at us when we were leaving her shop. It's not going to survive here she called. Give it a big, long drink and it should come good.

Yesterday in the heat of the day I grabbed some cord my farmer boy had picked up at the hardware a few weeks before, some sticks from the forest, and macraméd up a plant hanger for it.

It's not quite the same as a pair of intricate colour-work socks or a lacy cardigan, but it feels a bit more practical and earthy and it fits right into my life and makes me happy every time I walk by it.

The changes we've made to our home over the past few months have also changed my life. Having a beautiful, sunny spot to sit in, walk through, and work in, is so good for my peace of mind and sense of self and how I want to live that I can't believe we didn't do it years ago.

Right now we're making some long tables and benches for a small gathering we're having here to celebrate my farmer boy's birthday. All the wood was milled on our farm from trees in our forest late last year. And where that table now stands used to be our carport and will soon be more garden, but until then...feast.

Which brings me to this morning.

This morning I picked my first ever order for a local wedding florist!! (And my farmer boy captured the moment!)

A few months ago I had a mad craving to start growing flowers. Me, who had only ever grown edibles in the 17 years I've been farming, became madly obsessed with pretty, colourful blooms.

So I bought a bunch of seeds online. I had no idea what would work in our climate, what would work as a cut flower, what would grow from seed, or where I really wanted to go with this flower farming thing. But slowly those seeds germinated and I planted them out. I still didn't really know how flowers like to be watered or what sort of soil they need to flourish, I just treated them like vegetables and hoped for the best.

And as each of those blooms started to form buds and then open their petals, I fell more and more in love. The colours and the shapes and the flowers and their leaves obsessed me. I want to know more and grow more.

Imagine my delight when I got that text yesterday asking for a bucket of zinnias for a weekend wedding!! I'm so excited I may have skipped up and down the rows.

I picked them this morning before the day warmed up and popped them in buckets of cold water in the shade; that's what flower farmers do I've read.

This Monday morning I'm starting a six week online flower farming course.

The work life balance thing is starting to feel like it could just be balanced.

And there's me again. Feeling fine and inspired on the fifth day of the new year. Wishing that I could hug that overwrought and overwhelmed Kate from 2014 tell her the stories I just told you. I wonder if she'd listen or if that place she was in was just too crowded to take on anything else. I'd offer to do her dishes and hang up her laundry but I'm ignoring my own so that doesn't make sense. Maybe a bunch of flowers would be better.

And one for you too!
Wishing you all a wonderful 2018!
May it be our most healthy and creative and peaceful one yet.

How are you feeling five days in to 2018?
Can you imagine giving up some of your veggie garden for blooms?
Is it HOT or COLD where you are?
Do you know what it is that really makes you happy?

Lots of love,

Kate x

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