Friday, October 13, 2017

all the spring things

Well hello there, it's so nice to see you. How's your week been? Can you believe it's Friday again already?

This week I officially ran out of space in my green house. Every shelf and every spare bit of table and even parts of the floor are covered with pots and tubs of growing things. Bren keeps telling me that I'm early this year, that I can slow down and take a break, but the reality is that I love it in there; I love the floral smell that greets you as you walk in, the pots of colour on the window sills, the plants in their various stages of growth and the view outside of the kitchen garden nestled in the forest. Apart from a few more shelves which will hopefully be added next week, I think we've built the perfect green-house for me. And so every spare second finds me up to my elbows in soil, playing with seeds, examining roots, getting excited about leaves and chatting excitedly with my plant babies about how gorgeous they're going to grow up to be.

This week I noticed that the self seeded tomatoes in the garden are starting to come up, so my green-house seeded tomatoes are right on schedule.

The first of my cucumbers are up which got me very excited about pickle season but also a tiny bit nervous about growing without a poly tunnel this year. Fingers crossed for a frost free summer.

And the beans started raising their alien-like heads out of the soil. I know most people plant big seeds like beans straight into the garden, and I probably will too later in the season, but I do love watching them closely as they germinate in their trays, potting them into bigger pots and then out into the garden.

This week the green-house extension began. Or rather the green-rooms. Building on to the sunny side of the house, we're planning a beautiful, bright area with lots of greenery and a big old kitchen table and chairs, a mud room, and a wood shed/room. I've already bought some rope to start macrame-ing up some hanging baskets to dangle down from the roof.

When our friend Annabel the architect came over the other day to pick me up for gym she said she feels like our house is transitioning from the house you see and think - oh wow do Kate and Bren really live here? To the house that looks like our dream home. That makes me happy.

The farm we bought 16 years ago had a house on it that we never loved. We always planned to build another but the children and the business sort of got in the way. Now that we finally do have the time and the head space to do something about it, we're freshening her up to our taste, fixing her up instead of starting again, I think she's going to love it as much as we are.

This week I finally started planting out into the garden. For weeks I was hassling my farmer boy to spade the green manure in and to prepare the beds and then when the weather cooperated and he finally could, I got stage fright. I couldn't work out what to plant where, and how. 

Eventually I just took the biggest of the the plants in the green-house, strung up a string line and popped them in. So far, under the black crates for protection from the kangaroos until we put a fence up, are cabbage and silver beet, and in the next row we've got onions and peas. Hopefully by the end of the weekend there'll be a whole lot more.

In other farming news, this week farmer Bren spread fertiliser in the orchards and then sprayed them with seaweed, fish emulsion and potassium bicarbonate for prevention of powdery mildew and black spot. Just as he was finishing up Mother Nature completely cooperated and dumped 30mm of rain over the top. If everything goes to plan and we have some beautiful, still, sunny days for the bees to fly and fertilise the blossom as it comes out over the next couple of weeks, we'll be right on track for a bountiful crop. Fingers crossed.

Earlier in the week we started watering the garden again. It's funny how seasons change almost inperceptively and all of a sudden you find yourself doing things that felt impossible and unnecessary only weeks before. Later in the week it rained heavily for hours so we won't need to water again for a while.

After deciding last weekend that it was time to cut my losses and pull apart the cardigan I was knitting because it looked like it was never going to fit Miss Pepper properly, I changed my mind and thought I'd do the i-cord bind off up the button band and around the neck and see what it looked like then. After I knitted the i-cord bind off I still couldn't decide (and my model was at school camp and couldn't try it on for size) so I started to knit the sleeves, both at the same time, until she comes home. I'm assuming she'll be too tired tonight to try it, so tomorrow is the day. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it worked!

Ravelry details here.

This week we've been picking Peonies, Camellias, Proteas and Waratahs from the garden and planting so many flower seeds in the garden and in pots.

I particularly love how the Waratahs start out looking so faded until it rains on them and they turn up the colour to bright.

I've loved listening to this podcast about the sports bra,  and this podcast about periods and menstrual taboos.

And I'm half way through and loving Brigid Delaney's book Wellmania.

See that asparagus and spring garlic, just picked by those hands? Well as we speak it's being cooked in some butter with some herbs and tossed over a piece of toast and is the reason I have to love you and leave you now.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Do you have something fun planned?
What are you planting in your garden at the moment?
What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?
Can you imagine life without a sports bra!! Ouch!

Bye bye!

Love Kate xx

Friday, October 6, 2017

a few days ago

A few days ago we walked down the path at the back of our farm to collect armfuls of daffodils from the forest floor. Every year we visit this patch to admire the golden flowers and yet we have no idea who originally planted them. They're just outside our back gate and across a forest track with no other house or property in sight. Just miles and miles of Wombat State Forest. Sometimes it feels a bit eerie being in the middle of the forest, just on dusk, with the wind whispering through the trees, but then it also feels quite comforting to know that someone once lived there or passed through there in an autumn gone by and planted fat bulbs to flower for ever more.

We picked three bunches and left the rest for the forest. The girls laugh about how they'll one day tell their kids how they were always being photographed for my blog, but I know they love it. Moments like these feel like a gift to our future busy selves; laughing, dawdling, exploring, wondering, bickering, dreaming, singing.

A few days ago I filled up the tank of the brush cutter, pulled the cord at the top of the driveway and started making my way down. Usually I listen to my headphones while I do this type of work but this time I didn't want to waste the time it would take to find them. As I swept down the hill and around the bend I started remembering the story of a family of a boy on the autism spectrum who spent his days running around his backyard dragging a belt. It was strange but I could almost hear the father's voice telling his story and I could feel all the emotions I had connected to the story, vividly. 

It took me a while but eventually I realised that the story was a podcast interview I had listened to the last time I had cleared the gorse and blackberry and bracken from the same spot. My brain had connected the podcast to the position without me even knowing it. As I continued further down the driveway I remembered another story about a family of girls whose father had died. Without thinking I could feel their love for him and their great loss. Another podcast, another place.

I often worry about my brain. Coming from a line of Alzheimer's disease sufferers I guess it's inevitable. Sometimes I give myself little memory tests, sometimes I panic when I forget words or even how I've arrived at places, and then mysteriously my brain does something quite remarkable like connect entire stories I've heard to the places I heard them. What a mysterious organ.

A few days ago Miss Pepper got on a bike and taught herself to ride. I do know that ten is pretty old to be learning that particular skill, but somehow living on an unmade road in the middle of the forest way out of town, it just never happened. It did amaze me how quickly she took off though. It was like she decided, she wobbled a bit, fell off and grazed her knee and elbow, and then that was it, she was off. And has been riding around tractors and cars and mowers, up and down the driveway, ever since.

A few days ago Facebook told me that this time last year Indi was in Montenegro, this time last year I was swearing about all the rain and desperate for some sun, this time four years ago we caught a bee swarm, and this time four years ago I was on ABC radio's Life Matters promoting my book Vantastic and talking about life on the road.

A few days ago I had my hair cut into a long bob that just touches my shoulders and I love it. It feels fresh and easy and while it doesn't quite all fit into a pony tail anymore - I was so sick of wearing a pony tail every day anyway.

A few days ago we finished watching series four of Transparent and while I definitely didn't love it as much as I loved the first series, I really enjoyed it. 

A few days ago we started planning the celebrations for our Jazzy's fourteenth birthday. The year I started this blog she turned six and had a cupcake party and my dad wrote this comment that included an email Bren wrote just after Jazzy was born, under my post;

Here is an email I received on 13.10.03:

Hi all,
I'm sitting here with my beautiful baby girl on my lap, listening to her tiny hiccups and watching her wonderful facial expressions.
She is just divine, an angel, a fairy.
She is 5 days old now.
She was born at 2.40 on Thursday 9-10-03 and was 7 pound and perfect.
Mum and baby are doing really well. They got back home last night and we are getting on with life with 2 kids.. WOW..
Indi is coping really well and will make a very good bossy sister..
If you didn't realize from the subject of this email we have named her
Jarrah is the Aboriginal name for the majestic Eucalyptus marginata, native to western Australia.
Hoping you are well and as happy us we are..
All our love
Bren Kate Indi & Jarrah.

If Jarrah brought joy back then, now she brings a million times more. To every one who knows her. Happy birthday to you, darling Jarrah. xxxxx

Gosh the other comments on those 2009 birthday posts bring back so many memories of sweet blog years gone by.

A few days ago on a long drive somewhere we stopped at a petrol station to use the toilet. As I passed through the fast food restaurant and saw the huge, plastic playground to the side it occurred to me that unusually, I'm okay with the approaching birthday season this year. I'm okay with everyone growing that little bit older and I'm okay with not having babies and toddlers anymore. I spent years and years in those toilets with my little girls, trying to distract them on the way back through from the sugary treats and then waiting for tedious hours while they yelled at me to watch them as they climbed up the plastic structures and slid back down again. Although I adored those chubby little toddlers, and although the teenage years are anything but straight forward and simple, I do feel better equipped to deal with them. I feel like a better mum for them. I really enjoy parenting them. And most of all I love closing the door of my own service station toilet cubicle on them.

A few days ago Bren and Jobbo pulled down the ugly carport that's been shading our house. They then took all the wooden beams from it, put them through the thicknesser and then bolted them to the kitchen wall. Since then we've been pulling things out of the pantry and filling up those shelves. Our clever architect friend Annabel has been trying to convince us forever to pull down our pantry next to let even more light in, but I'm just not sure if we're neat or minimalist enough.

A few days ago we spent the entire day clearing up around and inside one of our old sheds so we can use it again for storage and shelter. All day long we pulled the long vines of blackberry from the rafters and burnt them in the fire, dragged old treasures out, sorted through them, neatly stacked some of it back in again, gave some of it away and took the rest to the tip. Some seasons it feels like we're so crazy busy that we're only ever running trying to catch up, for some reason this year feels different. The orchards are looking good, we have lots of seeds planted, a new renovation under way and still time left over to catch up on long forgotten bits of the to-do list and maybe even tick some off.

I love how during the cleanout we all found own roles. I was in charge of blackberry removal and burning &%$#, Bren took charge of all the old farm bits and pieces inside, Indi was away, Jazzy came out occasionally and sang to us, and Miss Pepper made musical instruments out of old bits of pipe and built the cart above.

A few days ago I looked at four skeins of wool that Hannah from Circus Tonic Handmade sent me about a year ago and cast on a cardigan. My thoughts were that 400 grams probably wouldn't be enough yarn, but I could always make it a bit mixy matchy with something else once I ran out. So I downloaded a pattern that only went up to an eight year old size, cast on, added a few extra stitches here and there to try and make it a 10 year old size and off I went.

Looking at it now I think the front could fit well once the button band is knitted, but the back seems all kinds of boxy and baggy. Now I can't decide if I should continue and hope for the best or pull it apart and knit something more risk free that is graded to her correct size. Ahhhhh what would you do?

And that's me from a few days ago all the way through to now. About to post this and then take the girls to get haircuts, about to grab a couple of rice crackers for lunch on the way out, about to swap my gym clothes for town clothes - not in that particular order.

How about you? How have your last few days been?
Could you get rid of your pantry and live with open shelves?
Would you continue knitting something that possibly may not ever fit?
Would you feel sad if your long haired girls wanted to be medium haired girls?
Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?

See you next week.

Love Kate x

Friday, September 29, 2017

under the blackwood tree

There I was for weeks counting down the days until the school holidays arrived. Imagining slow mornings when our body clocks woke us rather than our alarms, when we ate when we were hungry and all pitched in to clean up afterwards, and when we hung out together in the days on the farm getting things done and at nights playing games or watching movies. It would be the perfect mix of restful and productive. Everyone would get what they needed.

This morning, on the very first day of the holidays, I woke up to the sound of Bren on the chainsaw getting an early start and the girls only looking up from the film they were watching to ask about food, their own arrangements, or about the weather.

And all of a sudden the bubble of my idyllic holiday popped and it hit me that for the next two weeks I wouldn't be able to just grab some secateurs and gloves and go down to the plum orchard to finish the job I started yesterday, I wouldn't be able to grab a snack on the run, and there wouldn't be a time when someone wasn't talking to me or asking me to do something.

As I sat at the kitchen trying to drink my coffee I decided it was probably easiest to give in to them and give up my personal expectations of work for the day. I listened to a discussion of someone's camping arrangements, someone's birthday party plans, and to someone else's cough. I answered questions about boots, bus timetables and movies. And in my mind I saw all the spring planting and pruning and weeding that I needed to do over the next two weeks as a butterfly, slowly fluttering its wings and heading for the skies.

While the school holidays would be a lovely rest from all the driving, the homework, the exhaustion and the alarms, it looked like it was going to be rather unproductive on the farm front.

But just as I was contemplating the new plan and trying to come to terms with putting my own needs on hold, my farmer boy came in and reframed the whole scene. The girls would come down to the plum orchard and spend the morning helping us pull blackberry out of the rows, and in return we could look after them this afternoon.

It took me a few minutes to get rid of my earlier disappointment and fall in love with the new plan but when I did, I saw that it was golden.

With the smallest suggestion everyone got dressed in farm clothes, grabbed their gloves and secateurs and headed down the hill. We mowed, we raked, we yanked all those prickly blackberry vines out of the rows of plum trees and currant bushes and then we fed them to the fire.

After a few hours the girls took themselves off to find the swing Bren had made and hung for them when they were little under an enormous Blackwood tree. When they discovered that since their last visit a couple of years ago it had grown a thick thorny jungle, they started cutting a path in. Vine by vine they cut and then carried to a pile outside the tree. Vine by vine their path lengthened. Until they reached their dad-made swing.

After we had finished what we were doing we helped with their path for a while. It was gorgeous working for them and listening to them reminisce about playing under there when they were tiny and make plans for lots of swings under there in the future. I still can't decide if I should take the brush cutter to the blackberry jungle and clean it all up for them, or if the path between the prickles makes it a bit more fun and magical.

I am feeling a bit more optimistic about these holidays now too. With four extra hands (two are away camping), we should be able to get things done a bit quicker than usual and have extra time for their plans. I like it.

I hope you're finding some sort of balance in your world too.

Are you good at remembering what you need when life gets a bit crazy?
And how do you manage to fit school holidays into your routine??

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Lots of love,

Kate xx

Friday, September 22, 2017

a story of socks, spring and other sunshiny things

Hello honey bunches!

It's so lovely having you here again this week. Sunlight is streaming in through the (smudgy) windows, I can hear farmer Bren on the walk behind tractor spading into the green manure in the garden and I have that excited spring feeling in my tummy that anything is possible, probable even.

Having said that, I'm going to attempt to squeeze this in to a tiny little time slot today as I have meringues to bake for a family lunch tomorrow, I have washing to hang OUTSIDE on the line, I have pasta bake to cook for my big girls coming home from camp tonight, I have Miss Pepper's end of term school concert to attend and if there's any time left over after all of that then I'd love to spend it pulling winter vegetables out of the garden to make more room for spring flowers.

So let's do a bit of a 10 things about now blog.

Let's go!

The colour-work socks I just had to knit as a personal challenge and because I am slightly obsessed with colour-work knitting and am slowly working towards some bigger pieces.

After I cast these socks off my farmer boy promptly nailed them to the lounge room wall. True story! For me the beauty of knitting socks is that they are so utilitarian. They can be beautiful and creative but their main purpose is to be worn. But he thinks they are works of art and should be exhibited for all to see. Bless him.

The Ravelry details are here.

Is about how panicked I get at this stage in spring every single year. The sun comes out, I plant 1,000's of seeds in the greenhouse, I fill every empty garden bed I can find and then I freak out that I've run out of space and what will happen to all the rest of my plant babies? Where will they go? How will they grow?

So I'm slowly pulling the rows of over-wintered carrots, beets, spring onions, garlic and kale out of the garden and preserving them, so we can prepare the space for replanting.

Over the past two weeks and going ahead into the future, our builder friend Jobbo is spending three days a week working with farmer/builder Bren renovating our house. So far we've put some gorgeous shelves in the kitchen, replaced our ugly mantelpiece with a beautiful slab of wood, pulled the car-port down, rendered half the front of our house and pulled out all the bushes that were growing along it. We have big plans to extend the green-house, build a new space for our cars, include a wood-shed and then get going on my studio. Oh what fun! I'll get some photos and show you soon.

I'm reading my sister Abby's review copy of Peter Carey's new book A Long Way From Home.

I almost always finish the books I start. But generally I feel that you know if you should continue by page 60. I'm on page 56 of this book and am still undecided. I'm not all that interested in cars and the characters don't grab me yet, but I know there's some sort of race around Australia coming up and I do love that the bit I've read so far is set in Bacchus Marsh which is right up the road from us and feels local. One character even caught the train to Ballarat via Ballan, which is our train line, and hung out at Craig's hotel where my friend works, I do love that.

I think I'll give it a bit more of a chance.

We're watching episodes of UnREAL. I've never watched even one episode of The Bachelor, but I must say I am tempted now.

My elbows are sore and I don't know why. It could be from gym, it could be from gardening, it could be something that happens to me every year at this time because I vaguely remember it from last year, I don't know. I do know that I'm determined to not push too hard so that hopefully it'll disappear quickly and not linger.

My latest favourite thing to eat is scrambled eggs with spring garlic and spring onion, spinach, kale, parsley and herbs, delicious!

A few days ago I woke up filled with a sense of well being. I searched my life for the cause of this wonderful feeling. Was is the weather? Did I have something exciting going on? Eventually I realised that it was because all my girls were tucked up in their beds, in their rooms, in our house. So often these days they're out with friends or at school things, and it just felt warm and wonderful to have them here safe with me.

Another night I woke up and thought about the fact that all of our girls sleep through the night now and it would take something pretty big for one of them to wake us up. We're fully and completely in another stage of parenting now, wow. It's only a shame that after all those years of wishing they'd sleep through the night, when they finally do - I don't.

I've recently discovered and listened to a couple of episodes of Wardrobe Crisis the podcast and I really like it. Clare Press the presenter covers issues on her podcast like slow fashion, mending, responsible buying, waste, and they're just the episodes I've looked at or listened to so far. Living in a house where conscious, sustainable shopping and dressing is such an issue, I'm loving what this podcast is teaching me and how it is making me feel like we're on the right track.

We walked through the apple orchards this morning and I'm thrilled to report that things are looking good. The bees are flying, the trees look strong and healthy, some of the varieties are even at green tip and one had started blossoming! We're crossing our fingers tight and sending a little prayer up to Mother Nature for a still, sunshine filled October, so the blossom can come out, the bees can fly and pollinate and the fruit can set. That would make this farmer very happy indeed.

And that's me.

How about you?
Do you have somewhere to rush off to soon, or can you stay where you are for a while?
Do you finish every book you start?
Do you mend your clothes when they wear out?
Do you have something fun planned for the weekend?
I hope so.

Lots a love,


Friday, September 15, 2017

forest dancing

Hello honey bunches,

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

It's so gorgeous to have you here. I'm imagining you sitting in a comfy chair with your shoes kicked off. I'm imagining you've made yourself a hot drink and grabbed your lap top and have claimed these next few minutes for yourself. It's quiet, you're warm enough, nobody needs anything from you, there's nothing to do, you're here with me.

I've been sitting here scrolling back and forth through these photos wondering what I'm going to write about today. I feel good. I feel like my week's flowed from one thing to the next and I've kept up with it.   No major breakthroughs, and no major breakdowns (on my part anyway).

Maybe I should take you through the highlights...

I had my car serviced in Ballarat, we took the girls to Melbourne to buy overalls for Jazzy, we watched and fell in love with Given the movie, I drove the girls to school a bunch of times, I baked bread twice, and I went to gym three times.

I almost finished and have LOVED reading a book called Lab Girl: A story of Trees, Science and Love, I was emailed by lots of businesses wanting me to create content for them for free, I collected kindling from the forest, split lots of wood and kept the home fires burning and I started knitting another Guernsey Wrap for my Mum.

I planted peas, lettuces and leeks in the green house and broad beans and onions in the garden, I watched Bren and Jobbo build the most beautiful open shelves for the kitchen wall and I started to fill them up with jars and plates and bunches of flowers and I spent the most magical time in the top orchard picking daffodils with Miss Pepper.

I comforted all three of my girls who were upset at different times. I also woke them up in the morning, cooked them food, listened to them, laughed with them and kissed their sweet cheeks as they went to bed at night. I tried my hardest not to let the incessant rain bother me too much, I froze my toes off and I listened to and loved the Reply All podcast - The Case of the Phantom Caller.

I had an accidental coffee with my Mum, we had a pizza dinner reunion of the cast of Pepper's play and we remembered that this time last year we were flooded in and so even though it feels wet, it can't be that wet.

I watched the garden finally start to show some growth again, I saw so many joeys in kangaroo pouches and I felt optimistic in my heart for this growing season. I lay awake a lot in the night, I listened carefully to the sounds of the night, I tried again to meditate and I hoped that none of my girls inherit the bad sleeping gene.

We waved Miss Jazzy off on a five day hike, we waved Miss Indi off on an overnight trip to Melbourne and we picked Miss Pepper up from school a bit early because she had a tummy ache.

I counted five days for Pepper and nine days for the big girls until the end of third term, I dreamt of a break in the routine and of all the extra things we'll be able to fit into our days. I found chewing gum all through a load of washing, I hid in my bedroom in a grump and I felt grateful when Bren and Indi helped me scrape it all off.

I voted YES for marriage equality, I bought the sweetest Love is Love pins from My Bearded Pigeon, and I wished for a world where everyone feels equal to be who they want to be, love who they want to love and marry the person they love. It's that simple.

How about you? What have you been up to?
Have you listened to any good podcasts?
Have you had any great ideas?
Have you needed to hide in your bedroom in a grump?
Or dance to loud music in the street?

And with that I bid you farewell so I can go and look after my sick baby girl on the couch.
I hope your weekend is wonderful.

Love Kate


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