Wednesday, August 10, 2016

five hours

I'm all alone in a tiny cabin on the edge of a forest in a town an hour away from home. From the last school drop off to the next school pick up I've counted five hours. I have no wifi, no washing machine, no farm work, no house chores.

Somehow, due to some crazy planning, compromising and trialling, that little seed of a dream that has been at the back of my mind through all the crazy chaos of the last 15 years of parenthood has come to fruition. I have complete silence (except for the wind and the birds), I have no one to look after or talk to, there are no shoulds, only a heap of coulds.

To be honest, part of me is slightly terrified. I'm worried that my precious time will go too fast and be over before I've done anything with it, and I'm also fearful that it'll drag on forever. I feel bad that my farmer boy is braving the winds and the rain pruning the apple orchard back home. I feel sad thinking about Miss Pepper sick on the couch. And I'm a bit nervous that my mind will travel to dark places and I'll have nothing to distract me from exploring them.

And I think I fear the fact that this thing that I have wanted for so long, this precious me time, is not in fact what I want at all.

And of course another part of me is beside myself with excitement at all the possibilities. I feel rich with time. I don't know what to do first. 

I could knit some squares onto my memory blanket, I could play spider solitaire on my phone, I could have a long shower and wash my hair and then dry it, I could fill in our census forms,

I could hop into bed, put the electric blanket on and read the last hundred pages of my book, I could rug up and go for a walk, I could make some notes for myself for when I go home,  I could tackle my inbox on my phone,

I could fill in an interview for a magazine that I've been putting off for ages, I could cast on another hot water bottle, I could lie on the daybed and listen to a podcast, I could call farmer Bren again, I could try and attempt to graph out the knitting pattern that is stuck in my head,

 I could visit the local town and walk up and down the main street, I could pop the kettle on and make another cup of tea, I could knit the other heel of my ugly socks, I could scroll through instragram and Facebook, I could borrow Indi's water-colour paints and paint in my journal, I could even have a Nana nap.

Or I guess I could sit on the couch by the fire, sip my hot peppermint tea, watch the crazy wind in the trees and the sheep out the window and write my blog. Acknowledging just how precious these moments are and how lucky I am to have them. Trying not to be swept away by the unsettling wind and to enjoy my moments.

I miss my people. But I just had a little thought that I might be a better person for them because I have had a chance to.

Three and a half hours still to go. I'll publish this and still have more time.

Sending you all the love.

Do you know this place I'm in?
Have you been dreaming about it too?
Or have you been here?
How did it make you feel?



Friday, July 22, 2016

fierce love + pretty cocktails

Gosh being a blogger is a funny old thing. You stumble around in your pyjamas at the kitchen table loading photos and trying to find the right words to tell your stories in a way that makes them relateable and understandable. You share your heartaches, and your successes, and your hopes and dreams while the dishes lie soaking in the sink and the laundry waits to be hung out. It's all stolen moments and wondering if other people will find interest in the tales you're telling. It's all bursting to express yourself completely, while desperately trying to honour the pacts of privacy you've sworn to uphold.

And then occasionally a blog bursts forth from you and everything makes sense. It heals, it connects and it empowers.

I agonised for weeks over whether to write the words of my last post. I worried about breaking my daughter's trust, I thought about exposing myself to the world, I feared judgment, and in some strange way I didn't want to cause pain to the other party. But the sentences were screaming to be written. They'd go round and around in my head until I felt like I was going crazy.

So on one of the first days of our holiday I closed myself in my bedroom and wrote them down. My part of the story. My feelings and reactions and fears.

I contemplated leaving it in my drafts and hoped that the writing was enough, but it wasn't. That post wanted to be published.

Mostly in the minutes after I publish a blog nothing happens. I feel relieved and happy to have sent my story out into the world. I press the button, I close my computer and then I move onto something else.

This time it was like a volcano erupting. In the minutes after I posted, my daughter came and lay with me on my bed and I read it to her to make sure she felt like I'd been sensitive enough and that she felt safe. Then, before I'd even finished, my computer started binging with messages and comments and texts. Messages of support, messages filled with stories and messages of empathy. And a week later they still haven't stopped flowing in, spreading a thick layer of compassion and understanding and community.

I am gobsmacked (I've never used that term before but the visual feels so fitting) by how wide spread this issue is, and has been for a very long time. It kills me. I can only hope that all the cliches about time passing and difficult situations making better and stronger people are true.

I'm holding this passage from Alice Miller's - The Drama of the Gifted Child close to my heart;
It is not only the 'beautiful', 'good' and pleasant feelings that make us really alive, deepen our existence, and give us crucial insight, but often precisely the unacceptable and unadapted ones from which we would prefer to escape: helplessness, shame, envy, jealousy, confusion, rage and grief. 
I'm so terribly sad and sorry for those of us who have been been treated badly and especially for those of us who have had to watch it happen to someone we adore. It's the worst. Worst! Worst! I'm sending love and strength and courage out to all.

In the meantime I'm happy to report that our holiday in the sun has done us wonders. We've talked a lot, we've made some big decisions, we've left it behind for a bit, and we've watched our girl become her sparkly self again, which has been amazing. The best!

I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for letting me share my pain with you and for the love you've sent back. I adore this community! I'm trying my best to reply to everyone while still maintaining my holiday distance from my computer. 

Fingers crossed for a smooth term three. Writing this from the other end of the country with the benefit of time and geographical distance I'm feeling slightly optimistic but ready to be vigilant. Ready to be fierce.

Sending you the biggest love + tropical sunshine + a pretty cocktail



ps sorry about the phone photos
pps hope you've got something fun planned for the weekend 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

stressing out!

Hello dear readers of my blog, I hope you've been well.

Generally I'm not a fan of blogs that begin with apologies and explanations for time passed but in this case something is making me do just that. Probably because the reason for my absence here is a story in itself, but the delay is because the story is not mine and that makes the telling difficult.

So often over the past seven years of my life I've found the best way to deal with the words that swirl around my head and keep my eyes open and my mind ticking every night is to type them into my blog. Once they are out of my head and published with some pretty pictures, something in me changes and I can see clearer and move on, or at least move.

But this story feels different because it belongs to one of my daughters. All that is mine is my response. How can I write the painful details of this period of time without betraying the trust of another? And is it possible to write the story from my point of view when the story isn't mine to tell?

I think I have no choice but to try.

You see the story itself has been playing out in the school yard but on such a level that I have never experienced in my almost 16 years of parenting, and even in my 44 years of life.

Generally, in difficult times my pattern of behaviour is to experience things like this in the fullest way. To immerse myself in the situation, to dissect every detail, to feel every sharp angle, to analyse and question and discuss and shout and cry. And then after a while I find that I can see things a bit clearer without all the added emotion, and I can move on to the solution.

For some reason though, this time I haven't been able to move through and beyond the emotional, beside-myself stage, and instead have been stuck here for months. We've tried facing the problem head on, we've tried dealing with all the side issues, we've tried building resilience and also taking the easy way out, but nothing changes.

It has been interesting to watch myself from the outside going through this difficult time. Because it has dragged on for so long I've been able to watch how the stress affects my coping mechanisms and my life. A few weeks ago I found myself at gym on a particularly difficult day. I had always assumed that physical exertion would be a great way to help me cope, and even get rid of all the nervous energy building up. In fact that's probably the main reason I go at all. But this time I found myself moving as if under water. I had no energy and was clumsy and powerless. My trainer described the damage that cortisol, stress hormones, can do to your system, and gave me a series of stretches to do instead. Sitting cross legged on the mat, twisted all the way around to one side, I just felt angry that this nasty situation had invaded yet another part of my life.

I've studied my own childhood, focusing on a time when I was excluded and had to make another group of friends, but I can't find any anger or betrayal in that situation to make me feel like I'm playing it out now.

I worry about the damage it's doing to our family when so many of our conversations seem to end up there, going round in another circle.

I find myself not trusting my responses.

I notice that whenever my thoughts go to this situation my tummy fills with ants that start crawling up to my lungs and then my throat.

I'm embarrassed that my reactions to this nastiness are inappropriate and filled with swear words and things I don't really mean.

I realised that even geographical distance doesn't give me emotional distance. A few days holiday with my mum in a cottage on the edge of a nearby forest made the worry bigger rather than smaller.

And the worst part is that I can't work out if my behaviour is supportive any more. As a parent I want my child to feel like I have her back, to feel safe with me and that I am here for her and adore her. But I don't want to live this out for her. So how do I do that? Somehow I'm missing the ability to separate. This situation is nasty, possibly even dangerous, but still my losing it doesn't do anything at all to fix it.

So far the things I've found that really work for me are farm work, taking a big slow breath before reacting and reading in bed at night until I am so tired I cannot keep my eyes open.

A few days ago I was telling my farmer boy the story a friend had told me about how stressed she'd been lately and how she'd almost had a nervous breakdown. That's how I've been, I told him, but he said he disagreed completely. He thought I'd been dealing with it. Interesting.

In any case, this isn't a story that is over yet unfortunately, but this is an intermission thankfully, as the girls are on school holidays and we've taken them far away from home to escape the cold and the mud. I am hoping that by typing bits of it out I'll be able to have space from it for the next little while and that I'll be able to break the blog drought and get back to blogging about knitting and books and food and family.

Fingers crossed.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

catching sheep in 25 steps

1.  One stormy Sunday night when a fence came down, four of our sheep were frightened and escaped down the valley while the dogs and the chickens stayed behind.

2.  When they are stressed, sheep can run FAST and jump over and under and through many types of fencing in a single bound.

3.  Just because we are good and knowledgeable in dealing with one type of livestock does not mean we have a clue about dealing with any other.

4.  If sheep already have a good feed source, they will not be interested in the bucket of wheat or the handfuls of lucerne we are trying to tempt them with.  

5.  When chasing sheep through paddocks and forest we twisted an ankle in a ditch, scratched up our arms and legs on fences and gorse bushes, tore our clothing, lost a phone, cried. 

6. Just because everyone in the country appears to keep sheep quietly and happily in their paddocks or front yards, does not mean we can too.

    7.  Running through the paddocks and bits of forest we came face to face with some of the biggest and scariest looking kangaroos we have ever seen and teams of miniature horses that we never even knew existed.

    8.  Chasing sheep can be a full time occupation complete with phone calls, text messages, emails, appointments and many, and varied attempts.

    9.  After a few days we came to the conclusion that sheep are unpredictable and irresponsible.

      10.  Sometimes we found ourselves wondering about what the size of a flock actually is.

      11.  We worried night and day about the stress to the sheep, about car accidents involving sheep, about fox and dog attacks on sheep, and about other worse case sheep scenarios.

      12.  We had moments where we doubted ourselves as farmers, as animal caretakers, as wool lovers or as shepherds.

        13.  We stressed like crazy at the fact that all we did all day everyday was chase sheep instead of the zillions of other jobs that were urgently crying out for our attention.

        14.  During the days we were chasing sheep we spent more time with our neighbours down the valley than we have in the last 16 years combined.

        15.  During that time spent with our neighbours we were shown such generosity and kindness that we were humbled.

        16.  On one occasion we were threatened and frightened.

        17.  On the Friday I skipped my spinning group session because I was chasing sheep and because I was having a crisis of confidence about keeping sheep and spinning their wool and whether I should just stick to knitting anyway.

        18.  Each night we lay in bed at night catching NOT counting sheep.

        19.  No-one; not Dave in the fruit shop, not Sam our gym trainer, not the guy who made our coffee, not our kids, nor the other parents at school really cared about our lost sheep even though that's all we spoke about for a week.

        20.  It appears on the other hand that EVERYONE knows that sheep get lost even Game Of Throne's Lord of the Twins, Walder Frey who in last Sunday's episode was furious at the news his troops had lost control over Riverrun and shouted "It's a castle, not bloody sheep!"

        21.  Little Bo Peep was a fairy tale. 

        22.  In the end, one week and one day after they escaped, it was a beautiful sheep dog called Jess and Real Eggs farmer Paul who saved the day, thank you, thank you!!!! Thank you also to my Mum and Dad, Rob, Susie, Craig and Kimmy, Tracey, Lisa and Ally. xx 

        23.  The sheep have now gone home to Nats and Jono at Brooklands free range farm where they originally came from. N and J have shown us such kindness and patience throughout this adventure and we both feel very lucky and grateful. 

        24.  And as for us, well let's just say a book about keeping sheep found its way into our Amazon shopping cart yesterday. While we do feel a bit heart broken at the set-back, we are already making plans for sheep proof fencing a few paddocks, we are chatting about a  proper stock trailer and some yards, and we've decided that if we are lucky enough to try this all again, then next time we'll start with a few lambs. Maybe we'll even bottle feed them and warm them in the Esse.

        25.  Fingers crossed.

        Tuesday, May 24, 2016

        Little Bo Peep

        from last weekend's glamping trip to the beach

        from that rare second when i looked up and saw beauty rather than work to-do

        from a family potato digging day

        from a beautiful parcel of yarn sent to me by jackie @intambo_yarn

        This afternoon just after we finished lunch and were putting our boots back on to go outside, I started making a list of all the things that are going wrong for us at the moment. None of it life threatening (for us), none of it life altering (for us), but still somehow we've found ourselves with quite the load and I thought that saying it out loud might make it stop. Or at least justify the weight I'm feeling on my shoulders and the sick feeling in my stomach.

        The sheep got out in a storm and we've spent the best part of two days trying to get them back. One of the girls' close friends has had a terrifying health scare. Another one of our girls is having an awful time with some school yard stuff. We've had a minor health scare of our own. We haven't slept through the night in weeks. We're at that stage where we should be starting to wind down for the winter but our to-do list feels HUGE and OVERWHELMING. The days are starting to close in on us as they become shorter and icier and darker. And the thought of our precious girls being driven to and from school through the dark windy forest in the wet and the gloom doesn't make me feel good at all.

        Me and my farmer boy talk A LOT and OFTEN about details and plans and the best way to tackle situations so none of the above list was a surprise to him, but still he stopped me at this stage and told me that he thinks what's going on is life's way of reminding us to enjoy the good stuff. To not be complacent and live without thought, but to live with choices and meaning.

        He's right you know. I know.

        We need the occasional crappy times so we can really fly high when things get good again.

        So instead of adding to my list I stopped and I reversed it. I took a big deliberate breath into my stomach and I closed my eyes. I felt the warm almost winter sun on my face. And as I opened my eyes I saw the last of the liquid amber tree's leaves flutter softly to the ground. And then I noticed the bulbous Brussel sprouts and started dreaming up ways to cook them for dinner. It was just a moment but it felt like an important one.

        The sheep are still out, I'm still stressing about the girls but we'll deal with it all. That's what we do.

        And just before I go there's this photo. Kim Daly took it for Alphabet Journal a few years ago and I think it may be the only photo I have of me knitting. And I love it. But the reason I've put it here is because Karen Templer of Fringe Association, one of my all time knitting gurus and sources of inspiration, wrote a blog about me and called me her 'maker crush'!! Me! I actually cannot believe it. I have to put it in my blog so I can find it in the future when I question my knitting abilities.

        In return I can only dream of and drool over Karen's incredible projects, her vision and her community. Karen has created something truly wonderful and I urge you wool lovers and lovers of beautiful things to check out her spaces - BLOG - INSTA.

        And while we're out covering our wood piles before the rain and you are out picking your kids up from school, sitting at your desk at work, pushing a little person on the swing or just waking up - please, please cross your fingers that our sheep do what Little Bo Beep's did.

        Love ya's!


        Wednesday, May 11, 2016

        Pepper's patchy pocket

        It's funny, when I first started writing this blog, almost nine years ago, I had kids at home and spent hours and days and weeks crafting up a storm with them. My sewing machine was always out, my over-locker was threaded, there were scraps of fabric and bits of cotton all over the place, and piles of half made projects wherever you looked. Now, seven years later here I am again.

        With Indi and Jazzy off on long days at high school, I've found myself alone with Miss Pepper for three hours of every day.

        In the warmer months she hung out outside. Sometimes in the gardens or the orchards with us, sometimes she'd make up her own little games or projects with the animals or the fairies, and then other times she'd take a few apples and spend hours on the trampoline singing songs, choreographing dances and enjoying her own space and time.

        But now the days have grown wet and wild and have mostly forced us to shelter inside.

        To begin with I tried to get her involved in the projects I wanted to complete myself. She stirred the jam, she wound the handle of the tomato smoosher, she took the clean laundry to whoever's bedroom it belonged to, or she drew pictures at the table while I made dinner. But then one day about a week ago she took herself off for a while and when she came back to me she'd gathered some scraps of fabric and cut herself out a pocket.

        A pocket!! How cool.

        So I threaded her up a needle and she sewed it all together.

        And while she was at it I stitched her a skirt.

        (I know that sounded rather casual but the truth is that I haven't sewn anything for about four years. There was dust in everything, it took me a while to remember what was what, and let's just say thank goodness I got my glasses BEFORE I tried to thread up the over locker.)

        But I used one of her skirts as a template, I found some old cord in my stash, and then I drew, then cut, then sewed, then hemmed and when I was finished it even fit her.

        I made the skirt mixy-matchy and she decided to stitch the pocket on half way to make it reversible.

        I did reinforce her stitches on the sewing machine to make sure that it survives its rough life on the farm and at school, but the hard work was all hers.

         She's pretty proud of herself.

        The next project was a skirt for the kitten (it was only a matter of time), which unfortunately was too small but looked cute as a kerchief.

        And now we're working on this. She chose the fabrics, traced the petals and cut them out and I've ironed on a bit of adhesive webbing to stick it all in place. I'm hoping she'll sew it all together when she gets home from school.

        Although initially I was worried about my time and everything I was used to achieving with school aged kids who mostly entertain themselves and each other, now I'm so excited to be working on these cute projects with her. I'm also amazed and crazy happy that my love for sewing seems to be returning. I'm starting small with elastic waisted skirts but I'm dreaming up ideas for dresses, cute zippered skirts for the big girls, pyjama pants and maybe even a quilt.

        The more you craft - the more you want to craft - I always say. Lucky we're heading into winter and we'll have more indoors time, hey.

        Before I go I just wanted to say an enormous THANK YOU for all of your beautiful messages about my grandfather. I miss him like crazy and sometimes I get such a fright when I remember that he's not here anymore. But I feel lucky to miss him and to remember him and to have your comments to read through too.

        You guys are wonderful!

        And I'd love to know one thing about you at the moment.
        What are you reading, or planting, or sewing, or thinking, or cooking, or knitting?

        Woah is that the time!
        I'd better be off to pick up my smallest from school.




        Monday, April 25, 2016

        broken hearted + blindish

        It's funny how some weeks go by and when you look back on them after wards it feels like nothing much has changed; we made food, we drove the girls around, we dug in the garden and we wrote some things on lists and ticked other things off. Then there are the other weeks where something happens that make us feel like we will never be the same again. Although we might look similar on the outside, it feels like every atom inside us has been altered. Although we still do the same driving and digging and feeding, somehow even those actions feel different.

        Since I last wrote my blog one thing happened that has changed me forever on the inside, one thing happened that has changed me on the outside, and lots of other littler stuff has happened, not as significant but still part of the picture. Truthfully my mind and my heart are a bit messy. I find myself tearing up at the drop of a hat, I'm finding it difficult to focus on anything for a prolonged period of time (that might be the end of a month of school holidays) and I'm feeling a bit unmotivated despite the incredibly glorious autumn days.

        I think perhaps the best way to explain myself and to obtain some sort of order is to channel my farmer boy and write a list. I'm hoping that as well as giving me some clarity and recording this moment in time, it'll also help me feel better. It's worth a try anyway.

        one - Not last Wednesday but the Wednesday before, our beautiful grandfather died. As well as being an amazing man, he was the most wonderful grandfather. I feel that at some stage I should honour him with a whole post of his own, but for now it feels too soon, too raw.

        My Zeida Saul Same lived a life filled to the brim with all the most important ingredients - love, family, friends, success, love, travel, recognition and then more love. Even though he lived whole-heartedly for 97 and a half years and slipped away peacefully when his time came, I still feel devastated by his loss. And losing him has brought back the best memories of my grandmother which Alzheimer's had stolen until now, which is in part a blessing and in part just adding to my sadness.

        I feel so incredibly lucky to have loved and been loved by him. I have zillions of amazing memories to cherish and I'm pretty sure our girls do too. But I no longer have my Zeida, I no longer have any grandparents and that is incredibly sad.

        This article ran in the Australian newspaper that week.

        two - (ugh it's hard to move on to two, my eyes are filled with tears and everything else feels little, but I'll try). About a week ago I had my eyes tested and now I wear glasses. All my life I have felt proud of my perfect vision. I could read far away signs, thread the finest needles and spot the tiniest louse in the thickest jungle of hair. But a little while ago things started to change and I found that I could no longer see which emoji was making what expression on my phone, it became difficult for me to focus on the tiny sock stitches I was knitting and I found myself with a head ache on some days for no reason at all.

        So now I wear glasses. It's early days and I'm still getting used to them and feeling a bit self conscious but I'm hoping they'll be good.

        Glasses wearers I'd love to know your tricks for cleaning them, it's driving me a bit crazy actually.

        three - a few days after my beloved grandfather died, our girls went to stay with their cousins in Melbourne for two days. Even though we had organised their stay a few weeks before, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Our country girls spent a couple of days having the best city adventures and we had uninterrupted time for mourning, for looking after each other, and for just being.

        Thank you D, M, S, D, R and R we love you xxxxx

        four  - After I finished the seven Tomorrow When the War Began books which I loved, I reread my Mum's book Alzheimer's A Love Story.

        Although it was quite painful at times, reading my grandparents' histories, reading about my grandmother's gradual decline into that horrible disease and remembering their great love story was a such a precious gift to me. A treasure.

        I have no doubt that I'm biased when I say that my Mum tells a story so beautifully, that it will have the reader laughing and in turn weeping as she turns its pages, but I'm not the only one - this book was chosen to be published before it was even completed. I'm so proud of my Mum all over again and I highly recommend this book for others caring for friends and family struggling with Alzheimer's and those just interested in stories of family and love and Australian history.

        five - I cast off a pair of socks for my farmer boy. Nothing new or ground breaking here, just a reminder of that deep feeling of satisfaction and joy that comes from making something for someone I love.

        The Ravelry details are here.

        six - Tomatoes. We're still picking them by the crate full, preserving them by the jar full and drying them by the tray full. It's getting to that time in the season where the birds and other critters are making a bit of a mess of them and that deep tomato smell is making me hold my breath as I reach under the sticky vines, but I'll keep gathering them until the first frost does.

        seven - We've been listening and loving my dad's radio program - Track of the day! -  each week day morning on the breakfast show at 8.05am on Hepburn Community's radio station. One song each day relating to the date is educational, fun and often unexpected. Yay Dad!

        eight - It's funny that even though we have been growing stuff here for fifteen years, until now we've only ever really been interested in growing plants that will feed people or animals. For some reason I can't remember, this year we decided to grow a few beds and rows of flowers and although they are feeding the bees, the main reason for their planting was their prettiness.

        There is no underestimating the happiness that a row of swaying blossoms brings as you spy it through the forest. There is nothing quite like watching Miss Pepper pick herself a bedroom posy every few days. We've pressed them, we've given them, we've drawn them, we've photographed them, we've made fairy houses from them and we've absolutely felt that they've fed our souls if not our hearts. We're hooked! Flowers forever!

        nine - We closed our farm stall. It really has been a wonderful season. People have come from near and far to visit our pretty little stall and stock up on delicious apples. I feel grateful for how well supported and loved our stall has been, but also a little sad that it'll be so many more months until we throw open those cute doors again and fill her up with goodness. But next year is our biennial on year and it's bound to be huge - so watch this space!

        ten - After it was damaged in a storm and lay in a pile of wood for many, many months, my farmer boy rebuilt his pole lathe. Often as I drove past the pile I did wonder if he'd ever have the time or the memory to rebuild it again, but then one day he decided to and then he did.

        So far he's made me three chop sticks to wear in my hair and a single spoon but I can see by the way he takes every opportunity to run outside and play with it that he's hooked. I'm excited about all those little wood curls, I'm excited about the possibilities of spoons, bowls, chair legs and even knitting needles. And of course I'm thrilled that he's fallen in crafty love. That he has that addictive feeling of wanting to make all the things. And that he has an escape, a way to run away from the have to's and get into the zone.

        And that dear reader is that. Perhaps a little more than you bargained for but still...a little slice of my life.

        I hope you are travelling well my friends.
        I hope you are reading a great book and have yummy things to eat.

        Sending love, love, love

        Kate xoxo

        Visit my other blog.