Friday, August 31, 2018

on wednesday

On Wednesday we woke up a little bit earlier than usual to drive the girls to school for an early class. The morning was the coldest and frostiest of the year so far and driving across the mountains and through the forest the views were spectacular. Paddocks covered in blankets of shimmering white crystals, lazy plumes of smoke traveling up from chimneys and then across the road for us to drive under, baby animals cuddled up close to their mothers, and trees full of golden yellow wattle positively glowing in the brilliant winter sunshine.

On the way there Indi played us 40 minutes of Taylor Swift songs taking us all the way back to when our girls were little through to her latest stuff now. We sang along to almost every word.

When I got home my farmer boy was busy fixing a series of taps that had cracked in the frost. We walked together to the top of our hill to check our header tank and to collect some kindling for the fire. Small pockets of sunshine were just reaching through the trees and I lay down on the ground in one. It felt so good to feel the forest floor below me and the sunshine and warmth on my skin from above. After a little while Bren came over and lay down beside me. We held hands as the sunshine bathed our faces and filled our hearts with a little tingly taste of springtime.

We came back down the hill to Pepper and her two friends, full of plans for ways to spend their day off from school. Lately they've been learning about the Australian gold rush era and they were pretty keen to explore some of the sites near our farm.

They began by making a picnic lunch and packing it into their backpacks. Toasted cheese roll ups, carrots from the garden, crackers with feta, a thermos of chai tea and some sweet biscuits.

While they waited for us to get ready Pepper showed them an old campsite complete with bits of old glass and china and a site covered with daffodils that we think might once have housed a dwelling.

We met them outside and headed up over the hill to visit and admire Indi's latest paste up on the water tank and then we stepped over the fence and were on our way. And as we walked they told stories, sang snippets of songs, made footprints in mud, wondered about other tracks and swapped backpacks often. We tried to walk behind them to let them have their own adventures but they were often slow or stopping to investigate something, and we always caught up.

It amazed me that Pepper recognised the place where you have to leave the track and shimmy down a steep hill on your bum even though she hadn't been there for years and it was completely overgrown. We made our way down, grabbing hold of vines and roots for security and eventually made it to the bottom.

Even though we've been visiting this culvert for years, it never ceases to amaze us that it was built in the 1880's just at the back of our farm. The three of them went through squealing with delight and in fright and then Bren and then me. I sang my little heart out and made a mental note to bring the big girls back to try out the great acoustics.

By the time we got to the other side the picnic was well underway. We joined them for a while and then left them to their panning for gold and exploring and went and sat in a sunnier spot on a log nearby. I knitted and Bren carved a stick as we listened to the laughter from up the creek, the birds, Jo-jo the dog frolicking in the long grass and the other sounds of the forest.

Later, on our way home, we discovered some mine shafts that were so deep we had to hold onto the backs of their clothes while they lay on their stomachs to look down. Thrown stones took seconds to hit the bottom. In other areas we founds old bits of cars and discussed why and when they would have been abandoned.

It was probably at about this stage that we decided it was time to head back up the steep hill for home. We wanted to end on a high while this was still an adventure and before they got tired. But they had other plans that took us in the opposite direction following the train line that opened in 1887 and drove from Daylesford to North Creswick and then joined the Ballarat line. Apparently that part of the line cost 97,000 pounds to build and the first train that traveled it came off the tracks. (Thanks researcher Bren x).

When we first moved here there was a bridge that crossed the railway line which we drove over a few times just for fun. That bridge was burnt in the Muskvale bushfire in February 2009, just before I started writing this blog.

To get back to our farm from where we were we had to walk all the way back around or we could shimmy down the steep bank of the train cutting and somehow get ourselves back up the other side. Of course the vote was the steep down and up so we each found a spot where we thought the vegetation was thinnest and the least prickly and slid down. Pepper tore a big hole in her leggings but other than that we reached the bottom safely and happily. For a while we walked along the overgrown cutting looking for a place to climb the other side but were eventually caught up in the moment and the beauty of what felt like fairy land. Eventually we found the remains of the burnt out bridge but still no cleared bank. So we had to make do and each scrambled to the top whichever way we could.

Once we were on the other side we could hear Tom our Maremma dog barking so we knew we had to be close to home. After a quick visit to the back paddock to feed him and the chooks and to collect the eggs, we headed for home. 'I just love living on a farm in the forest' we heard Pepper telling her friends and we had to agree and put all those winter doubts we've been sharing to the backs of our minds.

As we got closer to home their steps became slower, they started telling us how tired they were and discussing their newly discovered injuries - a blister, a bite, a scratch. Inside they collapsed to watch a movie while Bren drove off to pick up the big girls and I lit the fire, hung out the laundry and left for the gym in the golden rosy sunset.

I've been struggling with so much in my head lately, so much negativity and doubt, Wednesday felt like a balm for my soul. It was so good to feel immersed in the forest, to escape the chores and be swept along in the moment. It was great to be led by the children, their pace, their decisions, their direction. It was amazing to be bathed in winter sunshine, to be warm enough and bright enough. It was great to spend the day holding hands with my love without distraction or direction. And it felt wonderful to be a completely present parent with nowhere else to be but on their adventure with them.

The other day my mum told me she wondered if I was having such a challenging time lately because I'm on the cusp of change. It reminded me of when our girls were babies and we grew to learn that most growth spurts, physical and developmental, were preceded by some sort of difficult time. Mostly by crying and sickness and tantrums. Often they'd suddenly sit up, or grow a tooth, or say a few words, and we'd reflect on the past few hard days and understand.

These past few weeks have been really difficult for me physically and emotionally. I've often wondered if it was caused by the state of the world, by middle age, by my sleeping issues, by our very emotional three girls, by a still empty studio, by a terribly sore elbow or by a long, cold winter. It never occurred to me that I might just be growing into something new.

Fingers crossed that mum knows best because I'm more than ready to leave this stage behind and fly on to the next. With the first day of spring tomorrow the timing feels perfect.

Enough about me, how have you been anyway?
What did you get up to last Wednesday?
What do you have planned for the weekend?
I hope it's lovely!

See you this time, next week.

Be kind to yourselves and each other.

Love, Kate x

Friday, August 24, 2018


And wouldn't you know it, while last week I felt sick in my heart and couldn't stop crying, this week I was struck down and felt sick in my body and sick in my head. A winter cold snuck in just when I was feeling my most vulnerable, I was an easy target. So instead of following my days of tears and heartache with walks through the forest, gardening, and other activities that are good for my soul, I went to bed and barely got out for a few days. 

This morning though the sun is bright and shiny and the skies are brilliant and blue. I sat in the sunroom before to drink my morning coffee and had to go and find my sunglasses and strip off some woolly layers. This little glimpse of spring feels precious and has somehow reminded me of some of the good bits of who I am and what I love to do. My head and heart feel better than they have for weeks. 

But I'm still not there yet so I'm going to make this another short one. My head feels so full of muck that it's making it hard to think clearly. It's taken me so long to write these few short paragraphs and I'm not even sure they make any sense.

So a few catch up photos, a few words to explain and then hopefully I'll be back to regular programming next week. Fingers crossed anyway.

Bren has been turning out the most beautiful wooden bowls on his lathe. I love how he incorporates and makes a feature of the wood's natural patterns and markings. Such a gift.

There was one day this week, I can't remember if it was yesterday or the day before, where I had a few hours of feeling slightly better so I rushed out to the greenhouse and started planting seeds into soil. It almost didn't matter what I was planting or if it was even too early in the season, I just had to get my hands dirty and I needed to feel like I was moving forward.

Next autumn I hope I remember to plant more bulbs in pots in the sun room. Just having these little bursts of colour popping up has made such a difference to our late winter states of mind. Call it colour plant therapy if you like.

I could barely do anything while I was so sick this past week but thankfully I could read this 480 page book. May We Be Forgiven is one of the best books I think I've ever read. I absolutely loved this crazy roller coaster ride, it starts with a bang and I was fully engrossed until it came full circle at the end.

I'm so grateful that my speed-reader mum passes her favourite library books over to me.

This week I received a copy of Japanese Knitting - patterns for sweaters, scarves and more from the kind people at Tuttle Publishing and New South Books.

Japanese Knitting includes 23 of the sweetest knitting and crochet patterns you ever did see. Colour work sweaters, cute cardigans that can be worn front-to-back and back-to-front, shawls, hats, slippers, gloves...flicking through its pages makes me hungry to cast on in the same way a cook book makes your tummy rumble. The design and styling is beautiful, the photos make the patterns look fun and easy to wear, hopefully I'll cast one on soon and let you know what they're like to knit...I just can't decide where to start.

In the meantime I'm comfort-knitting socks.

And I'm thrilled to report that we found our first blossom this morning on the ornamental almond outside my studio. One week until calendar spring. Thank goodness. I might just make it after all.

Thank you all for the incredible messages of kindness and empathy and support and love you left on my last post. I'm never sure about posting the difficult stuff. Especially last week when I felt so distraught and defeated. But you guys never fail to say the stuff I need to hear. You are my community and reading through your messages was so heart warming and soul nourishing. I'm so very grateful.

And with that I'm going to sign off for another week. I'm going to have lunch with my boy in the sun, I'm going to hang some washing out to dry and then I'm going to sort through our seeds. I've seen people online pricking out their tomatoes and I haven't even planted mine yet.

Be kind to yourselves and each other my friends.

Lots of love,

Kate x

Friday, August 17, 2018


This week has defeated me.

I've got nothing left.

I went there. I cried all the tears. I scraped the bottom. It terrified me.

I hope to be back next week, one week before spring, with more hopeful tales of life on our farm. But until then you'll find me here, gathering my strength, reading chapters, sipping tea, knitting rows, and looking out the windows at the wind dancing through the tops of the trees in the forest.

Be kind to yourselves friends, and look after each other.


Friday, August 10, 2018

piece of the pie

Hello friends,

It's so lovely to see you. How's your week been?

My week has been good mostly. And a bit of bad now that I think about it. And then some in the middle too.

Actually let's do this: if my past week were a pie - one piece would be dealing with matters of creativity, one piece would be the bleak never-endingness of winter, one would be the absolute joy of my studio, one piece would be worrying about the state of the world - droughts, bush fires, violence, poverty and cancer, one would be the routine, one would be the joys and stresses of parenting, one would be Bren and his bowl turning, one would be the garden and farm and one would be family and friends. After you lift those nine pieces from the pan, the bits that get stuck to the bottom, the crumbs, and the bits that fell off the spoon are all the other stuff that makes up a week in my life, the ups and the downs, the exciting and the mundane, and the other details.

So let's get to the photo a day, hey.

august four

Last weekend we stayed in the most beautiful house, with the most gorgeous views, on the side of a mountain. It was Jazzy's musical weekend and there were many, many drives to and from school, so we decided to stay somewhere near by. It's amazing what a difference a change of scene can do for the state of mind. As forest dwellers usually surrounded by trees, none of us could stop looking out of the windows and admiring the views and the ever changing weather conditions. 

We discussed changing our fireplace and heating set-up, incorporating a grey wall somewhere, the difference double glazing makes and how much easier it would be for the girls to live closer to their friends.

It was such a lovely break from the rhythm.

That mountain in the middle of the picture window is Hanging Rock.

august five

On Sunday afternoon we returned home, and even though we'd only been gone for three days I searched every plant and tree for movement and signs of spring. 

Look at that peony go!

august six

On Monday I spotted this little vignette on the kitchen table and it looked so wintry I just had to take a picture. From the middle in a clockwise direction; the first seven eggs of the new season in one of my farmer boy's turned wooden bowls, my scrappy sock blanket, Kath's salt pig, a bowl of native limes, two overripe avocados, another of Bren's bowls and a branch of Hebe from that morning's flower arranging class.

august seven

Late last week before we went away, I started to worry about the wintry mess the farm is in, how the rush of spring will soon be upon us, and how we know from past experience that the best way to greet it is with neatness and organisation. So we made a list and slotted jobs into days in the family diary.

I must admit that due to the most unpleasant weather over the past week, many of the jobs did not get done, however the cleaning of the greenhouse most certainly did.

On Tuesday we pulled everything out, we washed everything down, we oiled the table, we cleaned the windows, and then we neatly put a lot of things back.

It's almost time to start the spring planting.

august eight

Sometime early this week in-between splitting wood, hanging out the laundry and driving the girls to school, I had a bit of a crisis of creativity. It occurred to me that my only creative expression these days is knitting, and aside from the original choice of pattern and yarn, that sometimes feels a bit mechanical.

Watching Bren turning a round of wood into a bowl feels like something different. Each cut is a decision, each shape a design. It's like he's working with the wood, sometimes he is the in-charge and sometimes the wood makes it known that there is no choice. It's beautiful to watch him work, the shavings flying through the air and piling up like carpet under foot, the lines and markings becoming exposed, the knots taking charge, the final shapes always different.

As I type this I can hear the sound of the lathe from his studio. I look forward to watching him walk past my window when he's finished to come and show me what he's made. I love watching the bowls in his hands as he shows them to me and discovers them for himself, turning, noticing, acknowledging, learning.

And so it came to pass that I needed to push myself in a new creative direction.

And so one day, after I had driven the girls to school, I clipped a branch of eucalyptus leaves on the way into my studio and then sat down and drew it. And then painted it in for good measure.

It's been years since I drew and painted and the connections between my eyes, hands and brain are rusty to say the least but I pushed on regardless. Focusing on the shapes, on the negative and positive space, on the light and shadow, and trying my hardest to draw what I saw rather than what I knew. All those art school lessons came right back to me.

I drew the stem standing in a vase, lying on the bench and upside down. I shaded in pen, coloured in water-colours, and painted in acrylics.

I gave myself permission to be bad at something and not see that as a waste of time.

I challenged myself to try to return to the process once a day.

And after a few pages in my sketchbook something amazing happened. It felt like the creativity door in my brain opened up. I started noticing and looking at my life in a different way, I started dreaming up other unrelated creative projects, I started itching for time to knot and sew and design, I felt itchy with all the opportunities and options. 

That page of branch painting is from yesterday's session. It killed me a bit when my family told me it was great. They love me and want to encourage me, but it's not great. Not by a long shot. But it is great that I'm pushing through. Painting and smudging and trying to capture something. I'm a bit happy with that. 

august nine

I started reading People of the Book. I read March earlier this year and felt lucky to find this book in an op shop a few weeks ago. I'm about 100 pages in and so far I love the way the story is being told. It feels like a treasure hunt and I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads me to next. I'm not sure how I feel about the main character though, I hope she strengthens and develops.

august ten

Today. I always thought I'd sit in the window seat in my studio to write and read and knit, but so far I haven't, not even once. Mostly I find myself sitting in a chair in front of the big window with my knitting or computer on my lap. I do hope to find a little table to sit up at soon.

But in the meantime the window seat has become a display. Glass bottles of flowers and leaves, Bren's newest wooden bowls, my just cast off and just cast on socks, and up the other end books, and wool and paints and brushes.

I've still hardly moved anything into my studio in terms of furniture or art supplies. My usual pattern is crazy messy chaos and I'm desperate to keep things simple and clean in here. But I do love the look of a bit of crafty mess too: inspiring photos torn from magazines, bits of yarn in colour palettes I like, a tiny sweet posy picked from the garden, a reminder note in beautiful handwriting...I guess the key is to find a way to keep these items in a neatish way without drowning under the weight of their clutter. It might be time to pin things to the wall.

In any case there is just enough time to collect a load of wood before school so I must go.

But how about you?
How are you feeling creatively at the moment?
What's your favourite creative way to express yourself?
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be bad at something? Isn't it freeing?!
And just for fun, how would you divide your last week in terms of pieces in a pie?

I hope you have a gorgeous weekend friends. I hope it is filled with the perfect balance of productive and restful. 

See you next week!


Kate x

Friday, August 3, 2018

flat battery

Late last Saturday afternoon Bren and Pepper had lit a fire in the garden to burn some of the wooden off-cuts from the studio build, when I came out of the house and was struck by how beautiful the little scene looked in the last of the glowing winter's light. We had friends coming over any minute so I rushed inside to get my camera to capture the fire, and the smoke, and the light, and the two of them, before they arrived.

The first time I rushed outside ready to click I was dismayed to see that I'd forgotten my SD card. So I ran back inside, grabbed it, popped it in, and ran out to try again. Only to remember that my battery was in the charger. So I raced inside again, put the battery in the camera, and ran outside. Only this time I found that my camera wouldn't turn on. No digital readings or lights at all. I took the battery out and put it back in several times but no change. So with some concern I took it back inside and went outside to greet our friends.

On Sunday I put the battery back in the charger, saw that it was fully charged, tried to put it in my camera again a few times, but nothing happened.

By Monday when I was still putting the battery in and getting the same result, I started wondering if I would be able to blog this week and if in fact this might be a sign that I need to take a deep-winter break and come back when the mud has dried up and the sun has come out.

My camera was already old when I bought it second hand from a photographer five or six years ago but I am completely reliant on it and have never given any thought to replacing or updating.

On Tuesday I asked Bren about it and we spoke about the life-length of batteries and how I should really have a spare and that if I ordered one online it might just arrive before blog Friday. But I had a million things to do and couldn't be bothered researching models and shops, so I didn't.

On Wednesday he held my camera in his hands, popped the battery in and out a few times with no change, and then just as I was starting to think that all hope was lost, he looked logically and practically (his words not mine) at the camera and noticed that the SD card door wasn't closed properly. So he clicked it in and it all turned back on. Just like that. I still can't believe that I didn't notice that myself. But obviously I didn't.

There is no great message or moral to this story. I'm actually a bit unsure as to why I just spent so much time telling it, other than to explain why there aren't photos of my every-day this week. And because it's made me think about how much of a creature of habit I am, how much I distrust technology, how I'd be lost without a camera, how even though I ended up being completely present in that bonfire moment - I'm still disappointed that I didn't get any photos of it to post here, and how I guess I probably should look at getting some spare bits and pieces for future just-in-cases. Or a little point and shoot to keep in my bag.

So rather than the photo-a-day post I've been sharing lately, I thought I'd do a quick round up instead.

This past week I've been -

Photographing - my Merricks shawl, finally. Pattern by Kylie @WhiskyBayWoollens, yarn by Abbe @TheNobleFoxYarnCo

Cleaning the green-house getting ready for spring planting.

Listening - to the podcast The Teacher's Pet which is a terribly distressing and sad piece of investigative journalism, I'm almost up to date and completely hooked.

Knitting - these socks for the sixth or seventh time. I actually cast them off earlier in the week with bobbles at the top, but the bobbles stretched the cast off and they became baggy and so I had to pull them apart yet again and start something new. I'm pretty certain that these love hearts are it this time though. They kind of remind me of a sugar bowl we had growing up.

Learning - how to make tussie-mussies in our floral design class last Monday.

Reading - Susi Fox's book Mine.

Loving - every single second spent in my new studio. It's quiet and uninterrupted and heavenly.

Watching - season 2 of Glow.

Needing - to get something nice for all five of us to wear to a special birthday party soon and not knowing where to start.

Dreaming - of sunshine and warmth and blossom.

Looking forward - to Jazzy's school musical tonight.

Feeling - a bit like I've got a flat battery myself.

Wondering - if it'll snow tomorrow.

Apologising  - for this blog post and wondering if I should really take a winter blog break after all.

Hoping - that you'll leave me a little note and tell me a bit about what you're growing/knitting/watching/hoping/cooking/feeling/wearing...

Signing off until next week.

Love, Kate x

Visit my other blog.