Thursday, November 19, 2015
I should be doing so many things right now that my head hurts. I could list them but I suspect that wouldn't help.
I thought spending 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer might help. So I got changed and hopped on and loaded a podcast, but then something happened and it didn't work so I had to get back down and turn it off at the wall. And now I'm sitting here in my exercise gear thinking it might have been a blessing after all, because wearing exercise gear makes me feel good and sporty, but exercising makes me sweaty and tired, and if I have any hopes of doing any of the things I have to do before the night is through, then tired is not going to help.
So while I'm here and procrastiblogging I want to talk a little bit about handmade. The giving and the receiving of handmade to be precise.
If you have ever read this blog before you'll know that I'm a bit of an obsessive hand maker. Despite the cost of the materials and the time it takes to make something, I'd rather make it a million times more than I'd like to buy it. And because I make stuff myself, I know how much time, energy, effort, money and love goes into handmade.
And because it does take all that, I love to make and give things to other people. I like to choose the project carefully, gather the materials together and then make the object with the giftee in mind.
Recently I knitted the socks in the top photo for a friend who I haven't seen in years and years. Good quality sock yarn isn't cheap and the socks took me a couple of weeks to knit but I loved every second. And while I made them I thought about my friend and how she's going through such a difficult time, and I felt happy that I could knit a bit of my heart into them and send them off in the post to her.
But then as I was knitting the last few stitches I started wondering about giving a handmade gift to someone who may or may not make things by hand herself. Would she understand what my socks and I were saying? Would she think a gift of socks out of the blue is a pretty weird thing? Would she even know that they are hand knitted?
Would she feel loved every time she put her toes in them and pulled them up over her heels? Would she be happy that although life might be a bit crappy at times, someone somewhere down south cares about her? Would she save them for special occasions, or would she wear them everyday?
And does any of that really matter because I loved making them and I loved making them for her and making them made me feel a tiny bit less helpless?
In other news, today the sock knitter, me, got a pair of socks in the post from another sock knitter, Donna from New Zealand. Up until the time that I opened the parcel I'd been having a pretty overemotional day, mainly due to the crazy list of things I have to do that I mentioned before. But that all changed when I pulled out those socks. Those beautiful socks.
And I noticed how they are made up of so many scraps of wool which means Donna would have had to darn in all the ends. And I saw that they are crazily beautiful and happy. And I felt giddy about all those stitches and all those hours and all those kind hearted feelings. I was, and still am, overwhelmed.
I guess I'm just interested in what you think.
Are you a hand maker and giver?
Does handmade have more, or less, value to you?
Can you personally feel the love in a handmade present?
Do you think I should write a note explaining that I knitted them?
Do you think I should stop this and get on with what I really should be doing?
I know you're right.
Oh and the socks at the top are raveled here.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
It's funny how time changes us. How the years help us to rearrange our priorities and see cracks in what we once held as truth. Seasons pass, and we experience, and we learn, and hopefully we grow. And sometimes the things we once thought to be law are not the only way any more.
Sometimes it's hard to let go, but often we have no choice.
Three years ago after planning and preparing and throwing 25 birthday parties for my girls, I wrote a blog post stating my 10 ingredients for a top birthday party. Since that post we have celebrated seven more birthdays in much the same way; themes, invitations, crafts, activities, games, food, cake, presents.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are from my own childhood birthday parties and some of my best parenting moments are from parties we've thrown for our girls.
But this year something felt different. Something had changed.
I'm not sure if it was the fact that we had just spent three months away from the farm and were feeling completely overwhelmed with all that we had to do upon our return. If maybe after 32 birthday parties we felt burnt out and in need of a change. If the fact that four of our birthdays fall in a five week period would mean that planning and throwing parties would be all that I would have time for upon our return. If the thought of 10 or 20 kids running wild for three hours with their inevitable sugar highs and lows didn't feel all that appealing. If we needed a break from planning and playing the same old games...I don't know.
But once I had allowed myself to acknowledge the doubt, there was no turning back.
And then a couple of months ago in Greece, after overhearing the intricate and in-depth plans for a Harry Potter themed eighth birthday party, I made my decision for certain. This year would be birthday extravaganza free.
I have to admit there were some tears and a MASSIVE tantrum to begin with. Birthdays and friends and treats and presents have become a package deal.
And there was a huge chunk of guilt on my part too. I knew that our decision was right, but it hurt my heart to deny my loved ones what they so desperately wanted.
But what I wanted and what I looked forward to, was a complete change of plan. I wanted to reinvent our way of celebrating, even if only for this year.
I wanted to really focus on the handmade; for presents, for activities and for snacks. I wanted to keep it as small and as intimate as could be. I wanted to put an emphasis on this beautiful environment that we are lucky enough to call home and gorgeous springtime that makes our special days sunny and bright. And mostly, I wanted to look at the birthday person and plan a celebration that suited them.
On the weekend we celebrated Miss Indi's birthday, with a pancake breakfast, a hand knitted crown (raveled here), a pile of hand made cards, a tiny spoon necklace carved from apple-wood and lots of freshly cut bunches of flowers.
In the afternoon we five and her grandparents took a table into the forest and had a picnic made up of some of her favourite foods. We made gods eye's, we listened to her favourite music (which is also her grandparents' fave music), we started stringing up our forest weaving loom and farmer Bren carved the beginnings of a sycamore spoon.
It really felt like we were all gathered to celebrate our freshly turned 15 year old. It felt like we had time, that we were really ourselves and it made me happy.
And even though I have no idea how we'll celebrate next year, I have loved this year and hope that some of our new found ways of celebrating each other become family traditions. The week's lead up making cards and presents, the bush walk, the chocolate chip cookies, the picnic, the hand knitted crown, the pancakes, the birthday person as DJ, the forest craft.
The simple yet perfect celebration of someone we adore.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
A week or so ago, we were all five of us sitting in our car driving to Melbourne for a party when a Tracy Chapman song came on Indi's playlist.
Sorry, is all that you can't say
Years gone by and still
Words don't come easily
Like sorry, like sorry...
All of a sudden I was right back there in high school, fifteen or sixteen maybe. A bunch of us were sitting outside somewhere and one of my friends was singing this song to me. Performing it loudly with words that suited our situation and with hand gestures. She'd kissed my on-again-off-again boyfriend and was apologising. In song.
Forgive me, forgive me...
My memory all these years later is a happy one. She'd kissed him, and even though I had a hunch that he actually cared for her more than for me, she was apologising, and singing and we were laughing.
I can't even remember what happened after that. I can't remember if they got together or if I ever kissed him again. All I do know is that it turned out OK in the end. She's happily married, I saw him last year for the first time in twenty years and he looked good too. And there I was driving to Melbourne with a car filled with my happily-ever-after. Well mostly.
I know that back then I must have written dozens of entries in my teen diary about my feelings for him, I must have cried cup-fulls of tears, I must have dissected the relationship with anyone who would listen and as all great teen romances go, we definitely shared some great ups and deep downs, but they were then.
And as Tracy sang I visited them for a little bit and came back and told the girls about it. It's funny because they are almost the same age that I was when I was listening to her way back then. And it's funny because they are way back there now.
After I told them, they were immediately and fiercely loyal to me. They were shocked and wanted to know details. They threw around terms like 'cheating' and 'unfaithful' and were maybe even a little bit surprised that it isn't a big deal to me, that I think it's cute and hold no bad feelings at all.
For me, this is one of the trickier bits of parenting teenagers. My knowing and trusting that so many of the details that overwhelm and threaten to swallow them whole right now, will end up as cute little stories in 20 years time. All the heart aches and angst and yearning and desire and drama and passion and dreams and despair, they are all awesome, and they are all healthy, and they are all part of being a whole teenager.
I just wish that I could assure them that it'll all be OK. To feel the sadness but to feel supported also. To really dive right into the deepest lows and the floaty highs because they are part of being alive. And to trust that the wrong boy who does all the right things but is still wrong, the right boy who keeps choosing the other girls, the friends who seem to have everything you want and that feeling you get sometimes that nobody else understands, they're all part of the story.
They're all words in your song.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
A few days ago I bumped into a dear friend at pick up time at school. It was a bit windy and I blurted out how frustrated I was that I had all this writing to do and couldn't seem to do it. Physically I was having a very difficult time sitting still long enough to write more than a couple of sentences and then when I finally did, the words just wouldn't flow. I told her I was worried I couldn't do it anymore, that I'd left it too long and now it was gone.
She laughed and saw right through me as only a good friend can. She told me that from what she could see, I am just deep in farmer Kate mode at the moment. That I am wearing my overalls as a uniform. That I am slashing and planting and weeding and watching and irrigating and mulching and planning. That maybe being so intensely engaged in one means that there's not quite so much room for the other.
And she's right too of course. After three months away from this place we've returned just in time for the spring explosion. I'm seeing everything as if for the first time. I'm making lists a mile long of all the veggies I want to plant. And slowly I'm planting them, labelling them and watering them.
I'm celebrating all the little leaves that have poked their heads up through the soil since we've been home. Hello!! Welcome!!
And even though we are behind this year, I feel like I'm loving it more than I have for a while. And I'm seeing it with fresh eyes and I'm noticing all the details. Grow little babies grow.
Before we left I would sit in the orchard waiting for the kettle to boil and notice all the work that needed to be done. Now we're home I am more interested in the feel of the warm breeze on my cheeks, the tiny bird with a yellow mask across its face, the path the bees take from one blossom to the next, the way the fruit is setting on varieties that aren't always so bountiful, the scratchiness of the bits of straw stuck inside my bra, the way my farmer boy runs his fingers along a piece of wood imagining the spoon that could be, that my new kettle is slowly being charred black from use...
And when we're not working out on the farm, it's a pleasure to be using our own freshly picked produce in the kitchen. That was the thing I found most difficult while we were away and now we are home eating what we've grown makes me happier than any European meal ever could.
And we've started a new starter, Steve. Baking bread feels like such a good measure of a kitchen's health I think. At the moment we're still feeding, smelling and admiring Steve's bubbles, but soon we'll be back to kneading and shaping and baking fresh loaves each day and I can't wait.
In the end, after giving it a bit of thought and realising that my friend's words were true, I decided I needed to find a way to trick my system. Farmer Kate is great but writer Kate still has deadlines and responsibilities. So yesterday morning, for the first time in the three weeks since we've been home, I got dressed in town clothes. I wore a dress, tights and clogs and wore my hair out, very unfarmy. Then after I got home from school I sat up at the computer. I brainstormed a page full of sentences and then fitted them into a story. Then I did it again. And then I submitted my stories, changed into my overalls and went out to water my seedlings. Ahhhhhhhh...
I love my life as a farmer and I love that I get to write about it too. I feel relieved that I can still do both. But I think I might need to carve out a bit of regular time for my writing though so it's not quite so hard next time. Maybe a morning a week? Maybe two?
In the meantime I'm going to go and hang out the laundry and then sit outside in the sun and cast on another pair of socks.
Then we're going to Melbourne for a party!
Have you got something fun planned for this weekend?
Do you make time for all the different parts of your world?
Yellow socks ravelled here.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
It's late Saturday morning, my farmer boy is off taking the smalls to their friends' houses and I'm in bed with my big girl. She's doing homework, analysing a song abut mental illness, and I'm looking at photos, doing rows of my knitting and now I'm writing this. I feel a bit guilty that I'm not hanging out the laundry, I'm not heading down the the orchard to do some more mowing and I'm not planting more seeds in the garden, but it's Saturday and it feels good to be taking it slowly and besides, I like keeping Miss Indi company while she does what she has to do.
We've been home for two weeks, life has clicked into its usual crazy spring gear and the days are spinning by while we madly try to fit as much into them as we possibly can.
This week we celebrated our apple blossom princess with pancakes, a picnic in the orchard, a family dinner and a hand knitted circlet (details here). Twelve!! I just can't believe it. And then again I totally can.
This week we started filling every pot we could find with compost and seeds.
This week we spring cleaned the hot house and the kitchen garden to house those precious pots of seeds and celebrated when they started popping their little green heads up to salute the sun.
This week we made pretzels for the first time ever. I think we were more excited about the cute pretzel shape than anything else, but they were delicious.
This week we remembered what it's like to suffer from freezing feet on concrete floors, so I whipped up a pair of simple house slippers for my farmer boy. Simple, easy, quick, warm. I think I need a pair too. (details here).
This week the Daphne started fading, dropping her flowers and farewelling us with the last of her intoxicating fragrance. I feel ever so grateful that she was in full bloom to greet us on our homecoming two weeks ago, filling our noses with sweetness and reminding us of just how much there is to love about home and spring.
This week we watched hungrily as other blossoms opened up and showed off their incredible beauty. Coming home from walks around the farm with arm loads of peonies and camellias and Waratahs and plum blossom, and pear blossom, and apple blossom, oh my!!
And this week we've spent hours and hours in the blossoming orchards slashing and mowing. Now all that's left is a spray of 500, a generous arm full of mulch around each trunk, and a couple of rugs and a picnic I think.
I feel like over the past week I really settled back home. My jet lag sorted itself out, I stopped coughing and I worked really hard on the farm and loved it.
People ask me all the time what I plan to do now that we are home. One day last week I ran out of petrol on the whipper-snipper in the orchard and looked up and felt this overwhelming sense of being exactly where I needed to be. I felt full to bursting. I love what we are doing here, I love that I work alongside farmer Bren and the girls, and I love that spring is leading our way, making our to-do lists and rewarding us with sunshine and bees and blossom. I love that we are growing food with love and integrity and girls with the same. I love that we are questioning, making decisions, enjoying and loving. And I love that I have grass stains on my knees, dirt under my fingernails and scratches on my arms.
This is what I am doing now that we are home. Exactly this.
I hope your weekend is filled with the sweet songs of birds out your windows.
So much love,
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Hey you guys, happy new month!!
Today, amongst a million other things, I cast off a pair of socks. The last pair of socks from our trip. Which made me think about those four pairs of socks that I knitted and the where's and the when's and the how's.
Back in July, just before we left home, I agonised over craft projects; What would I make? How much yarn could I fit in? What would happen if I ran out of yarn? And what would I do with the finished projects?
After a while I decided that socks were the solution. A pair of socks usually uses less than 100 grams of yarn so they are a small project and therefore very portable. Socks can be simple pimple or all kinds of intricate. And the finished product can be worn straight away. Yay!
So I wound a few balls and the night before we left Melbourne I cast on the pair above. I like to have the socks actually started before I go through the security check ins at the airport just in case they hassle me for having sharp pointy things in my carry on. They never have though.
I knitted that top pair in Israel and took the photo in the first Airbnb we stayed in in London. I wore them all the time in England after that. Summer hey?!
I Raveled them here.
The next pair I cast on in England and knitted most of them at Spoonfest. At Spoonfest I discovered that I am more of a soft, woolly type of person, than a knife and axe type of person.
A few people came up to me and said they wished they had brought their own knitting or crochet but they didn't, so I knitted while they all chopped and carved.
I finished the second pair in Tuscany.
I've Raveled them here.
I cast the next pair on on the train trip from Florence to Roma, knit them in Roma and then cast them off in Crete.
These socks were so very simple and quick to make and I think they'd be a great project for someone wanting to try colour-work. I really love them. In fact I love them so much that I think I have to keep them and not give them away to a friend as I had planned.
I've raveled them here.
I'm most excited about the next pair because I bought the yarn to knit them from Loop London. I have a whole blog post planned about our pilgrimage to Loop, hopefully I'll get to it soon. Just know that it is as cosy and gorgeous and inspiring as you've imagined.
Virtually as soon as we walked in the door Miss Indi spotted the yellow Socks That Rock yarn and begged me to knit her a pair. I love how cheery it makes that pile of gorgeousness look.
It took ages for me to get going once she'd picked the pattern. I think that was partly due to the fact that the pattern I was following was written for socks that are knitted from the cuff down to the toe, whereas I knit from the toe up to the cuff. And also I find that there is a point in cable knitting when the pattern just clicks and makes sense, for some reason this one took a few repeats to get there.
But after that beginning bit where I had to concentrate like crazy - I knit them everywhere. I knit them on a boat, by the beach, in a cave house, by the pool, I could even knit them after a few shots of raki!!
Ahhhhh how I loved living in a cave house. (Except for the bit where we had to throw the toilet paper in the bin after use, ew!)
I cast those sunshiny Greek Island socks off today. My farmer boy was in Ballarat with Indi at the orthodontist and I should have been planting seeds but instead I was squooshed up to a sickly Miss Pepper on the couch while she watched a movie. Good Mothering + the last few rows of my knitting = win-win!
I've Raveled them here.
Tomorrow I'll darn in the ends and hand them over. I'm excited to move on to a new project, but at the same time a little sad to see another part of our adventure ended.
I think I need a quick and chunky project next.
So how about you?
what are you making/baking/creating/growing?
I hope your October is oh so awesome!!
ps I saw my first snake of the season today in the rhubarb patch. Not happy.
ps It's 11pm and one of Indi's friends just came in to thank us for our hospitality. So sweet!
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
so they know we are home
we missed this
shakshuka with our eggs and tomatoes
practising her spoonfest skills
making a magic wand
And it's the strangest thing but most of the time I feel like we've always been here.
Even though we've been away for three whole months, even though we've walked the streets of London and Rome and Paris and Tel Aviv, even though we've seen the Mona Lisa, we've shopped in Oxford Street, we've stayed in an Airbnb right next to a blue domed church in Santorini, and even though we got lost in a down pour in Sienna, now that we're home - we're home.
Everything is so easy, so comfortable and so familiar. I know exactly where the toilet is even when it's dark, I don't have to search for the cutlery drawer, the washing machine automatically uses the setting I like and I get to sleep in the comfiest bed in the whole world.
Our home smells like the forest that surrounds it, like the fires in the cooker and in the lounge-room and like the laundry that I've just hung out. (I can't tell you how relieved I feel that our home does not smell like a dead mouse in the wall or like mouse wee in the pantry like I'd feared, phew!) Our home is ridiculously quiet. Quieter than any other place we've been. If you close your eyes and listen carefully you might just hear the sound of the bore water pouring into the house dam, the song of a bird calling to its mate or the hum of the fridge. Home tastes like the shakshuka Miss Jazzy made over the fire last night, like a long waited for farmer Bren coffee and like juice made from everything we can find in our overgrown garden. Home is familiar, it's part of me.
Home feels like we've never left her.
But every now and then, usually when I'm doing the most usual thing, our adventure comes rushing back to remind me. I'll be knitting the last few rows of a pair of socks when I suddenly remember the kitchen of the Tuscan villa where I first wound the wool and cast on. I'll be walking to the door to let the dog in when I'll trip over a bag of damp bathers from the swim we had in Hong Kong just hours before we left for the airport. I'll catch sight of Miss Indi's I love Italy pyjama top and remember the cute little shop we bought it from in Rome. And I'll look at my instagram feed and see that someone has liked a photo of an impossibly beautiful beach we swam in on the Greek island of Crete.
For those split seconds I am back there, I am hurrying to wind the wool to get out of the cook's way, I am floating on my back in the warm pool in Hong Kong looking at the sky and wondering how long it'll be before I swim again, I am hurrying the girls up in the souvenir shop so we can go and eat yet another spaghetti pomodoro and I am running over the burning hot sand and jumping into the deliciously cool water of the Mediterranean sea.
And then I'm back home getting another log for the fire.
Does that make sense? I apologise if it's a bit mooshy. I have a horrible cold and I feel like my head is filled with marshmallow.
But I do look forward to blogging a bit more regularly now that we're back. I'd love to fill in some of the blanks from the last three months and if that fails then I'll be happy to record this time of landing and finding our feet and moving forward. I'm a tiny bit considering a photo and a paragraph post a day in October, but with going back to school and two birthdays and all the planting and weeding, I'm not sure that would be so wise.
Nevertheless, I will be seeing you soon.
I hope you are happy and well and loved.