Friday, April 27, 2018

a slice of my life

Hello lovely ones,

How are you feeling? How's your week been?

I'm sitting on the couch in our new sun room. It's quiet except for the sound of the birds and of Jo-Jo snoring next to me. Bren is away, the girls are at school and although I looked forward to this time all week and felt excited at the thought of having the house to myself, now that I'm here I'm finding it hard to sit still and focus.

It's funny, even though everyone who knows me understands that I struggle with the cold, wet and grey, I'm finding this crazy long growing season that we're having exhausting. We still haven't had the Autumn break, the first frost, or any decent rainfall, so we're frantically busy with all of the late summer/early autumn jobs. We're still picking tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, apples, beetroots and carrots, we're still picking and dead-heading the flowers, we're still planting and weeding and preserving and collecting seeds. And in between all of that we're making the most of the sunshine and stacking firewood, watering the garden and wondering if the seeds we plant out now will have any chance of growing.

And that's all great, especially the fact that the days are brilliantly sunshiney and warm BUT usually by now things are starting to slow down, the summer crops are beginning the next part of their cycle as they rot into compost and there's time for catching up on the indoors jobs, for crafting on the couch, and for introspection. Instead we're still working outside from first thing in the morning until dark, our list of things to do feels like endless, and I'm feeling overwhelmed and stretched, and tired.

Our garden is full of frantic looking bees at the moment, buzzing between the flowers, desperately trying to  collect all the nectar to make honey stores for winter and I can relate to them. I also feel a bit buzzy and frantic going from job to job trying to be everywhere at once. I don't wish for the season to be over, not at all, but I would love a little break. A little slow down. A little knitting time on the couch.

Oh gosh, when winter does come closing in I'm going to regret those words, aren't I.

So what else have we been doing?

I listened to and loved The Habitat podcast

I've been eating cut up granny smith apple, with muesli, and nuts, and seeds for at least one but mostly two meals a day.

We sold apples, garlic, flowers and tomatoes at the farmer's market and loads of apples from the farm gate stall.

When Bren went away for a few days we were asked to present him with one gift, and we gave him three. Pepper knotted him a bracelet using his favourite colours. I knitted him a love heart to represent the place he holds in our hearts, how much we adore him and all that squishy stuff. And we gave him a rusty nail that I found in the garden while I was digging up the potatoes. The nail represented our land and the food we grow, those who passed through here generations ago on their hunt for gold, and his new skills as a builder.

That bag of sunflower seeds that we found at the back of a drawer and took a gamble on and planted waaaaay too late in the season, grew taller than me and started to open up their beautiful faces and stare at the sun. The birds have started nibbling at them so I'm going to have to be quick if I want to pick some bunches, but what a way to end the flower season.

I filled up my last pot and started the hunt for some more.

My farmer boy ploughed me up a long strip of ground to plant my bulbs in, but now I can't decide if I should mix all the colours and varieties up like a field of wild flowers, or if I should grow type with type and colour with colour.

We picked the four pumpkins we grew this year. I don't eat pumpkins but I love growing them so it was a struggle to hold myself back to one plant but hopefully this lot will be eaten by our two pumpkin eaters in the next few months and there'll be no mouldy puddles of orange disgustingness for us to deal with as there have been in other years when I didn't hold back.

We bought this framed print at our friend Leah's garage sale and hung it on the wall of the sunroom.

I thought a lot about trying to grow potted colour in the sunroom through winter and whether or not that's even possible.

I started thinking about the best way to teach sock knitting to my class at Soul Craft Festival, (which is only six weeks away YIKES!!)

We picked so many tomatoes.

One of us suffered a broken heart and felt it so deeply that it made the rest of us weep.

One of us learnt how to use a tricky maths formula that had been elusive for quite some time and then just stuck.

One of us read a book about playing chess from cover to cover in one afternoon.

I finished Eliza Henry Jones' new YA novel P is for Pearl. I am such a big fan of everything Eliza writes and have been so curious to read this book that she actually wrote as a teenager and put away in a drawer thinking it wasn't good enough. It most certainly is good enough and I'm so happy that she was convinced to pull it out and publish it.

It's a beautiful and also terribly sad story of a teenage girl coming to terms with her family's history while trying to find her place in the present and plan for her future. Eliza writes characters and relationships so well that even though there are no big events in her book, I still couldn't put it down.

I feel like the themes of mental illness, blended families, teenagers planning for their futures, small towns and friendships are so relevant in the world we live in and this story deals with them all so well. I  really look forward to discussing it with my girls after they've read it. I'd also love to ask Eliza at some stage about the changes she had to make to bring it up to date after it languished in her drawer for 10 years; was there outdated language, gadgets, trends? So interesting.

Bren and Jobbo dug the holes and laid the foundations for my studio. I know it doesn't look like much now, but if all goes to plan, there'll be a floor on those stumps by this time next week.

I learnt that at the very end of their season, dahlias pop their centres as they open to encourage the bees to pollinate them, and their stems become weak and bendy. I keep holding myself back from dead heading them so I can collect some seed to grow some different ones next year

There was this one day, maybe it was yesterday, when I felt ridiculously emotional and unable to focus so I took myself into the garden and dug up the last row of potatoes. It was so great to work hard, to get out of my head and into my body and to let the dirt drugs do their thing.

And that's my blog for this week. I don't know why it was such a hard one to write but it was. I feel like I've used every single procrastination tool in my tool box and still I'm sitting here at 5.30, my girls are about to get home and I haven't even thought about dinner.

Have you?

Have you had a nice day? Have you got something to look forward to on the weekend? Are you reading a good book? Growing something new to you? Feeling grumpy, or overwhelmed, or inspired?
Do you have a link for something cool on the internet? I've been trying to work out how to post that video of Princess Charlotte waving at the the media just before going in to meet her new baby brother but I can't work out how. In any case, it's pretty sweet.

See you next week.

Love, Kate xx

Friday, April 20, 2018

endings + beginnings

There's a change in the air, can you feel it? The days are growing shorter, the shadows are lower, the mornings smell smokey and damp, my workboots are always wet and muddy no matter what I've been doing, the granny smith apples are edible even if they're not yet quite ripe and our hot water bottles have been pulled off the shelf and lined up on the bench for filling. I'm trying so hard not to get caught up in the day to day minutiae, but to live in the moment and notice all the endings and beginnings.

This week Bren and Jobbo put the finishing touches on the sun-room extension just in time for us to catch the autumn rays. It's hard to believe that a few months ago this part of the house was my least favourite; all ugly brown bricks, overgrown lavender and blackberry, in the shadow of the carport. Over the past few days we've started filling the end bit with fire wood, we've brought in some furniture and I've potted up some plants. Now it's my favourite spot to eat breakfast, to drink coffee and read, and to sit with my farmer boy in the late afternoon and admire the view while we discuss the dreaded 'what's for dinner'.

My studio build is next, watch this space.

Last weekend a rain and wind storm threatened so we tied up the flowers with star stakes and bailing twine. Overnight an inch of rain fell and the heavy, water-swollen flower heads drooped to the ground and broke their stems. The next morning while I wandered from bush to bush cutting them off I wondered if perhaps our dry season had been a blessing. Being our first flower growing year I have no idea if December and January stems are stronger and hold weight better than these tail-end bendy ones, or if it's always a problem. But I filled a wheelbarrow and hoped that all the buds that I left on the bushes would get a chance for another show before the frosts start and finish off our season.

While I know the time for colour in the garden is slowly fading, I'm desperately filling up the green-house and sun-rooms with pots of colour, hoping we can keep some things flowering in these protected spaces all the way through.

We've been picking Jonathans, Red Delicious and Braeburn apples for us, for the farm gate stall and for the new Daylesford Sunday Farmer's Market.

We've been loving all the very late season blooms that have decided to burst into flower just before the season ends. Hello Breannon!

I'm still amazed by this view and by the fact that this time last year this space was still occupied by two long, very ugly, poly tunnels. All too soon I know that the flowers will die down, the potatoes and pumpkins will come out and it won't look nearly as gorgeous, but until then there's still this picture that stops me in my tracks every single time.

And looking in the opposite direction (shame about the blue bailing twine).

And the zinnias! The gift that kept on giving all season long. I spent a few hours with them the other day; snipping off the dead-heads, cutting out the powdery mildew and tying them up, and look how they're rewarding me. New buds and fresh blooms every day. The beginner flower farmer's dream.

Although we're still picking crates and crates of tomatoes out of the field, their smell and texture has changed. They're still great for eating raw, but the smell of the sauce they make when cooked makes me gag. In order to overcome this problem we've started separating the varieties as we pick them so we can experiment, but still I feel like the season is ending. I think we'll sell the round tomatoes at market this week and sit happily with the 112 bottles of sauce on the shelf.

Chrysanthemums are another type of flower we've never grown before and I'm completely smitten with them. Every time I go out to the garden I find myself standing above them checking on each unfurling petal. I'd love to pick a bunch for the house but I don't want to interrupt their natural growth. Such beauties.

And as this growing season draws to a close we're thinking of the next. Collecting seed, ordering seed, starting to germinate seed and thinking about what worked and what didn't, making plans for next year's garden and being amazed by how much more interest and patience I have for the flowers than I ever had for the vegetables. I look forward to watching what happens to each plant as winter draws near and then to start all over again next year. Imagine how exciting it'll be when all the bulbs start popping their heads out of the ground in spring. 

I'd better get off my bum and go and plant them.

I don't have a photo of my knitting but it's interesting to note that as the seasons change so have my interests. For a while I've been skipping past all the knitting and yarn pictures on instagram and focusing on the gardens and farms. It even occurred to me once not long ago that I might not be a knitter anymore and may need to sell off all my wool. But all of a sudden this week I had a burning itch to cast off my Mirehouse sweater and cast on something new. I logged into Ravelry account for the first time in ages and I started dreaming of all the snuggly knits I could get onto my needles. I guess knitting for me is seasonal too. Hopefully I'll get some pictures of my Mirehouse to show you this weekend. It's pretty cozy.

And that my friends is where I'm at. Finishing one season and starting the next. Although I just had a look at the weather forecast and it seems that these bright, sunny days are set to continue for at least another week.

Tell me what it's like where you are. Are you busy planting your garden or pulling it out? Are you piling on the clothing layers or pulling them off? Are you eating salads or stews? Picking the last of the tomatoes or planting them out?

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

See you next week.

Love, Kate x

Saturday, April 14, 2018

message in a bottle

Indi told me she liked last week's lessons learnt post a lot more than she likes the ones where I talk about what I've read, watched, listened to etc. I can't remember if she told me why she liked it. We were in the kitchen at the time and there were all these other things going on around us. But I remember being pretty happy that she did.

A little while ago when I sat down to write this post I remembered her words and wondered what she liked about it and thought about being onto a winner and possibly just repeating the same. But for some reason it didn't feel right or like enough time's passed. Like it would just be taking the easy way out, cheating.

And then I thought of the tiny glass bottle with the cork lid that she has sitting on her bedside table. Her environmental studies teacher handed them out to her students at the end of last term and asked them to fill them with whatever their holidays were full of. We threw a lot of ideas around when she showed it to us after the first week had gone by; apple pips, pencil shavings, crushed up matza, tomato seeds... By the time we saw the bottle again a few days later it was full of tiny little zinnia and dahlia petals. All the colours making patterns against the glass as she'd pushed them in.

I don't know if the cork sealing out the air will protect the petals from fading and shrivelling up over time. I'm not sure if her tiny collection will keep the memories of these flower saturated months vivid in her memory as the long winter steals the warmth and sunshine from the sky. But I do love this bottle project and I look forward to hearing what the others were filled with.

You know what's coming don't you? I know it's a bit cliche but I can't help it. And because it's my blog I'm making the rules and giving myself 18 little tiny bottles to fill with the things that filled our last week. I like the thought of them all lined up on the kitchen window sill, so I can watch them and think of these beautiful Autumn school holidays days while I do the dishes.

Just like Indi's, my first bottle would be filled with flower petals from our visit out to Country Dahlias on Tuesday. Jenny's two acre garden has Australia's largest collection of dahlias with 2,250 different types and over 20,000 bushes. At one stage I looked over a row of pom poms swaying in the breeze and found Miss pepper crawling on her knees under some low hanging stems that had given up under the weight of their dinner plate sized blossoms in the next row. 'My heart is so full of love and happiness and beauty and magic that it almost hurts' I told her. 'That's exactly how I feel about a room filled with cats' she replied. Exactly. I think the photos  in this post tell the story of our visit far more eloquently than I ever could with words, it was just magic.

The next one would be filled with the seeds of all the autumn produce we're bringing in from the orchards and garden; apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and strawberries. Tiny shavings of potato, beans, cabbage, basil and lettuce too.

Tears from the nights I spent reading The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland's beautiful, devastating and heart filled first novel. Although the theme of domestic abuse running through it is devastating and painful, somehow Holly's book still manages to feel like a magical fairy tale. From the magnificent floral cover artwork, to the drawings and descriptions of Australian native flowers and the language they speak, the story of Alice Hart that spans two decades, to the writing that is so descriptive that at times made me feel like I was right there with Alice on the windsurfer, or running through the sugar cane fields, or swimming in the river, I couldn't put it down. It's been a few days since I read the last page but still I've found myself thinking of Alice from time to time and hoping that where ever she is, she's doing well.

Little bits of bark that stuck to our work clothes as we brought in piles of fire-wood and stacked them in the new wood shed. We're so far away from being prepared for fire burning season, but I do feel relieved that we've made a start.

Leaves from the brassicas I've been planting in the garden.

Sweat from the gym work outs I did with my old crew.

Scraps of yarn that I'm using to stitch up my Mirehouse sweater. I've got one sleeve to sew in and then I'm done. Then comes the nerve wracking time to try it on and hope that it not only fits but actually suits me too.

A little scrap of Pepper's water colour painting of a fairy that I found on the kitchen table one morning.

A splatter of the white paint I'm using on the old doors in the new bit of the green-house extension.

photo that Indi took of Jazzy for her art folio that captures her personality exactly.

A lock of Jazzy's hair just before it was cut so much shorter

Screen shots of different cute text message conversations between my sisters and parents and Bren.

A couple of tiny coins from the apple stall at the front of our farm.

Metal filings from farmer Bren's new love of knife sharpening.

A teaspoon of the coffee that my farmer boy has brought me in bed most holiday mornings.

Rain that is showering on the roof as I type. It feels like such sweet relief for the garden, the orchards, the forest and for our water tanks, thank goodness.

A golden autumn leaf off the grape vine on the deck.

I guess the last bottle looks empty to the eye but it represents my blog writing time. The indulgence of sitting alone, mostly uninterrupted, on the daybed in our studio tapping out words and thoughts. Some days putting aside this time in an otherwise hectic life doesn't feel right, but today it means everything to me. This bottle makes me remember myself and my own needs in amongst those of my family and farm. This bottle reminds me of my love of photos and words. I hope this bottle sets a good example to my three girls about the value of personal space and creativity, this bottle makes me happy.

And there are my 18 bottles all lined up in a row. There's no beach sand, or aeroplane ticket, or road trip dust like holidays of years gone by, but I've really loved these two weeks. I've found them creative and productive, I've loved having the girls around, and I've really enjoyed the break from the school routines and stresses.

I'd best be off now, those tomatoes aren't going to preserve themselves.

So how would you fill your tiny glass bottles?
What would you put in each that would represent this time for you?

See you next week.


Kate x

Friday, April 13, 2018


Hello lovely ones, 

I'm just popping in quickly to let you know that I'll be posting this week's Friday Foxs Lane on Saturday. Tomorrow. While today has been sunny and warm, tomorrow is forecast to be windy and rainy. So while today was meant to be my writing day, it has ended up being my running around picking all the fruit and veg up, tying all the branches and flowers down, and bring lots of firewood in day. And now all of a sudden it's 6.04pm, it's almost dark and I'm too tired to start blogging. 

So I'll wish you a lovely evening or morning, depending on where you are, and I'll see you back here tomorrow. Hopefully the winds won't be as fierce as predicted and the rain will be slow and steady and a lovely background soundtrack for my blog day.

See you tomorrow then!

Love, Kate x

Friday, April 6, 2018

lessons learnt

Hello honey bunches, how gorgeous to see you again. I hope you've had a lovely week since last we met. Ours has been filled with school holidays, family, friends and autumn fruits. Not necessarily in that order. In fact never in order. Well not orderly, anyway.

So here are some things I learnt, or relearnt this week. Just for fun. Still disorderly;

That farmer Bren was right when he told me that we'd have a great tomato season even though it was our first year growing without poly tunnels.

That all the colour can drain out of someone's face. It's not just something that happens in books, I've seen it.

That sewing up the seams of my Mirehouse sweater is taking me almost as long as knitting it in the first place.

That there is no apple that compares to a home grown granny smith picked straight off the tree.

That there is no coffee better than the coffee brought to me in bed on the first slow morning in months.

That it feels strange these days to post a blog without any photos of flowers.

That getting dressed in the morning when you have a pair of jeans that fits you well is super simple and quick.

That 10 and 14 year old girls can still spend HOURS in the garden making pretend food from mud, flowers and petals.

That eventually bras just stop working.

That in order to cut really long stemmed flowers, sometimes you have to sacrifice some buds.

All about life in prison in America after reading The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins.

That there are still people living among us that don't own smart phones. A man sitting opposite me on the train to Melbourne the other day, asked me to look up the address for the CFMEU building in Melbourne and spoke of how despite the fact that he'd had a hand in building half of Melbourne and also built his own family's mud-brick house in the forest, he didn't think his spelling was good enough to be able to use a phone. Of course I filled him in on the joys of auto-correct, but he still looked skeptical.

That after reading a book describing intimate details of life inside prison, I will find myself staring at the man sitting opposite me on the train's faded black tattoos of birds and bees and wonder if they were drawn using a guitar string, a Bic pen and the mechanics of an old Walkman.

That there are brands and styles of jeans that suit me and my eldest two daughters.

That there are people around who think it's okay to give unasked for advice about parenting even though my kids are not babies anymore but in fact practically grown ups.

That boxing into pads held above my head is so much harder than I thought it would be.

That even though I don't like eating pumpkins, I love growing them. The bigger the better.

That despite the fact that I'm only five jars away from my 100 jars of tomato sauce target, I still want to make more.

That happy 14 year old = happy life.

That I should have gotten up and written down the hundreds of lessons I've learnt this week when they woke me up at 4am, because the 5.12pm lessons aren't as free flowing or clever.

That the biggest kangaroo I have seen, jumping as fast as it can to outrun our dog and coming straight at me and my children is one of the most frightening things I have even experienced. Thank goodness it saw us at the last minute, tried to change directions, fell over and jumped away before any damage was done. The youngest of us was still upset hours later.

That a Clydesdale horse eating a carrot sounds like a washing machine.

That a kangaroo can hold an apple in two paws and eat it standing up.

That year 12 seems like a cruel and unusual punishment.

That when the dentist gave each of the five of us a toothbrush after our appointment this week, I was disappointed to discover that mine was orange, my least favourite colour. I'm still childish like that.

That even though every week I feel confident that I will make time to reply to all of your comments and emails, most often life gets in the way and it doesn't happen. I do read and appreciate and answer every single one in my head though. And I love you for taking the time to write them.

I think that's all. Well that's everything I can think of right now anyway.

Tell me some things you learnt this week.

See ya next week!

Love, Kate x

Visit my other blog.