Friday, March 17, 2017

baskets filled with hazelnuts + other miscellaneous chatter

Hello loves,

How are you?

It's Friday morning here, the girls are all off at school, Bren is somewhere outside (I think I can hear some kind of power-tool), and I'm sitting up on the green armchair in the corner of our studio, wrapped in a colourful crocheted blanket. The house is quiet except for the howl of the wind outside and I should feel calm and be able to concentrate, but instead I feel scattered and in a hurry.

Most weeks by the time it gets to Friday I pretty much know what I'm going to write about. Most weeks I have a bit of a theme of thoughts, so the writing is just a matter of getting them into some sort of order. I read in Rachael Treasure's book Down The Dirt Roads the other day that 'according to neuroscience expert Dr Joe Dispenza...of the thousands of thoughts we have per day - around 50,000 to 70,000 of them - 90 per cent are the same thoughts from the day before.'

Unusually, this week hasn't felt like that for me. This week I can't really pin point a point of view or a perspective that has dominated, but instead have found myself stuck in the practical world of picking and preserving and putting on a smiley face despite the sudden turn of the season, the house full of emotional girls and the fact that I feel a bit scattered and unsure at the moment.

So this morning over our porridge with honey I asked the family what they thought I should write about.

Bren said he'd like me to write about spurtles
Over the past few days he's gotten his pole lathe up and running and has a new found fascination with all the possible forms that he can now create. He said he'd like me to find out how they came to be, why they are round and why people use them instead of their spoons.

Indi asked me to ask you guys about your stress management techniques.
There has to be a better way to deal with life in her second last year of school than feeling constantly overwhelmed, teary and not sleeping. Unlike Bren and I at school, she has made a personal commitment to complete everything thrown at her and give it her 100%. It's tricky because she's starting to get a glimpse of the big wide world beyond school, and that excites her and makes her question what it's all about and for, but it doesn't free her from the stress.

Gosh I could write a whole blog post about how much I dislike the way the current senior school system robs our kids of the love of learning, with all the emphasis being placed on assessments and assignments and essays and exams. At 16 and 17 our kids are wide awake and open to the world, shouldn't we be encouraging them to fall in love with subjects, to follow pathways of their own interest, to ask all the hard questions and to challenge what they're taught? Shouldn't learning be about more than preparing for tests?

But in the end it's not about what I think. Indi has five school assessed courseworks (SACs) over the next few weeks and if you have a fave meditation app, herbal tea blend or breathing technique, she'd be ever so grateful.

Jazzy wants me to write about her.
When she saw that Jackie wrote this on my last blog post - 'When did Jazzy grow up? She has become a very attractive, elegant and tall young woman. That smile and those dimples are to die for. I haven't noticed many photos of Jazzy perhaps that's why it hit me so hard this time.' she was thrilled!! And then she proceeded to trawl my blog for mentions and photos and stories that she featured in. She wasn't impressed at the outcome over the past year.

Funnily enough, way back when I wrote my book, Vantastic, in 2013, my designer Michelle Mackintosh, herself a middle child, counted every single photo and made sure there were equal numbers for each of the girls.  

But in the present day, in my defence, our early teenage Jazzy has spent most of her home time in her bedroom rather than with us outside on the farm. And if you're not out in the orchard picking apples, then you're not in the photos of picking apple, then you're not on my blog.

Having said all that, since this is her bit of my blog I want to acknowledge how happy we are when she joins us around the farm, how she makes us all laugh like crazy, how much we love her stories, her ukulele playing, her outfits and hairdos and how lucky we feel to have her in our gang.

Pepper suggested I write about the first apples.
She wouldn't elaborate on what specifically she wanted me to write about the first apples, but I guess that living on an apple farm in apple season with fruit hanging from the branches, sitting in crates and baskets and bowls and stewing on the stove, it makes sense.

My mum thought I should write one of those blogs where I tell you what I'm reading, listening to, watching etc.
But honestly I'm really not a fan of the book I'm reading, I don't have any particular podcast I'm loving and I can't think of the last time I sat down to watch anything. Better fix that.

And me? 
I guess I'd like to mention the fact that even though we're having a pretty crappy fruit season, there's still so much fruit to be picked and preserved. I guess that's the great thing about biodiversity. Apples, pears, hazelnuts, nashis, tomatoes, they're all ready and ripe and filling up space around the place. Not to mention the vegetables.

Next, I'd love to thank you for your messages on my last blog post that came from everyone from mothers who felt like they had found themselves in motherhood and didn't feel the need to search for anything else, through to mothers who had a glimpse of their past selves and made a dash to grab hold of her and continue her journey before they changed their minds, and everyone else in between. I've had women suggest art projects that I might like to take on, books that explore this theme, and many expressions of feeling the same. I've also listened when people have told me that they felt like I do live an artistic life - 'The way you live, the way you raise your children, the way you write and photograph your experiences...' I'm taking this on, thank you!! I love this community in all of our various stages and phases.

And I suppose that over the past week, during the busiest time of the year on our farm, I've had to make do with finding art in the everyday: making small films on my phone of the dancing shadows on my bedroom door in the afternoon light, arranging cucumbers and herbs in the pickle jars and then spending time shaking them up and watching the herbs and spices fly around in the brine and then slowly settle like snow globes, gathering groups of colours of yarn for someday projects, dreaming of botanical themed water colours...

And then I feel like I should talk about the photos above. Last Monday I spent hours alone in the hazelnut orchard, stripping the trees of their fruit. Even though the sun often glared into my eyes as I looked up searching for the treasure, it was still a pretty idyllic way to spend the time. Just me and my basket and my pockets and my shirt to fill, podcasts to listen to and dreams of all the ways we could use hazelnuts in the kitchen in the months to come.

Later on, once I'd finished picking the three rows, the girls and Bren came down to help me carry them home. I snapped some shots of them and lucky I did, because they turned out to be the only photos I took all week.

So the hazelnuts are drying out, the photos are sitting here, and I've found myself going back to 2014 and another series of photos I took in that same orchard but that time under some quite difficult circumstances after I'd just found a lump in my left breast. Coincidentally, or maybe not, I'm booked in for an ultrasound and mammogram this coming Tuesday. Look how much my girls have grown since then. Oh and look Jazzy, there are lots of photos of you in that post too.

Oh gosh, and there I was thinking I had nothing to say this week.

I'd better sign off before I write another few hundred words.
And how about you? Has your week had a recurring theme? A problem to be solved? An idea to be built on?

Lots of love to you, honey bunches!
May you trust the process, and the people, and yourself.

Love Kate xx

PS To save you the work, Jazzy, I counted for you: Indi is in four photos in this post, you are in five, Pepper is in three and Bren in in two. x

Friday, March 10, 2017

spots on the apples

Hello honey bunches, or as Miss Pepper would call you if she were here - totally terrifically tempting toasted in the toaster twice pieces of toast. That's how she described my warm skin against her icy cold toes this morning as she climbed into bed with me for a cuddle. After that she stuck a feather in the back of her shorts and with one in each hand proceeded to spend the rest of the hour before school running around the house shrieking like the peacock whose feathers she carried. Goodness what a lot of fun and craziness a nine year old adds to a household. Not to mention the noise!

So here we are again on a Friday morning. The big girls are on their long drive to school with my mum, the peacock is already sitting in class in Daylesford, farmer Bren is either on his tractor or on his pole lathe and I'm sitting up in bed with my computer on my lap thinking of all of the places I've been over the past seven days, in my body and in my head. Where do I start? What do I include? Where do I go?

I guess the most obvious place to start is at the top. Late yesterday afternoon I clambered through the nets of an apple tree and dragged my basket in behind me. And there I sat for a while, still. Lately my gym teacher has been trying to encourage me and Bren to meditate together but we always forget. And the one time we did remember he said he floated away, but he left me behind panicking about my breathing and unable to stop itching and rearranging myself and my thoughts. I know meditation would help me immensely but so far, not so good. 

But yesterday once my basket and I were safely enclosed in the folds of the bird netting, I decided to try it again on my own terms. I leaned up against the tree's trunk and closed my eyes. I listened and tried to identify all the different sounds I could hear. Over and over I had to shift my mind away from the wetness of a smooshed apple I was sitting on, and away from thoughts of the march flies buzzing around my head trying to bite me, but I got there in the end. I heard the wind through the trees, I heard bird song, dogs barking, roosters crowing and I heard our pump far across the paddock. 

And then my mind wandered to the apples on the ground around me, dangling from the branches of the tree and smooshed under my bum. In most seasons, once the harvest starts it's go, go, go for a few months; checking and protecting and picking and selling. Not to mention the eating and preserving. The fact that this year's crop is small and spotty means that each apple feels a bit more precious. It gives me the time to sit under a tree for a few minutes to admire them and consider them. And it allows me to appreciate each bite, savouring the juicy flavours, remembering how lucky we are to have the opportunity to eat warm fruit straight off the tree, and to think and wonder and hope for next season.

These past few weeks have been hot and dry, the grass has browned off, the tomatoes are finally ripening and loads of washing have been drying on the line in the time it takes for the next armful to start and finish in the machine. Although the mornings are definitely darker, the days still feel long and golden and glorious.

We wear overalls and men's shirts and hats to protect us from the sun as we go about our farm jobs all day, we come in when the girls get home and go out again after dinner in tee-shirts without the layers, until the sun goes down and it's too dark to see. Autumn is when farming makes the most sense in my mind. There is fruit on the trees in the orchards, vegetables in the rows of the gardens, and wherever there is room new stuff is being planted for winter. The best feeling in the whole world is sending a hungry child outside to pick whatever she feels like eating.

During the week one of the girls was telling us about her friend who was grounded for misbehaving. When Miss Pepper asked for the definition of grounded she was told it's when you're not allowed to go out at all and have to spend all your time at home. "So you can't even go out to pick stuff from the garden!?' she cried incredulous, 'that sounds like the worst punishment ever'. Totally.

The next thing is going away. Anyone who's been reading my Friday blogs this year has probably noticed an undercurrent of me anxiously trying to separate a little from the girls and find a bit of space in the world that is my own. There has definitely been a bit of fear about leaving this comfortable place where I've been sitting for the past 17 years. Added to that is the knowledge that in just under two years Miss Indi will leave school and possibly home forever. Should I really be trying to find my own adventure when my time with her, as a family of five, is so limited?

The result is my recent baby steps. First I took a train to the city and spent an entire day doing exactly as I pleased. I skipped the school's Chinese New Year celebration in the morning, even though Pepper was at the head of the dragon, and came home after dinner, but just in time for bed. Then we left the girls at home and went to a party. I know it doesn't sound like much, but living on a farm in the middle of the forest, well mostly it's just easier if one of us stays home with the girls. And then I went away from home for three days and two nights.

Last Sunday one of my sisters, my mum and I, flew out of the mainland and down to Hobart for a few days. We stayed somewhere incredibly beautiful, we did so many of the things that three girls away from home do, and it was amazing.

On each of the three days we visited Mona. On the first day we walked all the way to the bottom level of the cave and I felt so giddy about my freedom and about the fact that I was finally at the gallery I had wanted to visit for the last couple of years, that I moved from exhibit to exhibit with a huge smile on my face sucking up all that I could and loving everything. I loved being in the ground surrounded by the sandstone walls, I loved the labyrinth feeling of it all and I loved the juxtaposition of the old next to the new, the religious art next to the art made from rubbish, and the themes of humanity and death and sex that seemed to come at you from all angles. I felt like I was being filled to the brim.

The second day was more difficult for me. For some reason on my second trip to the museum I took it all personally. I looked at exhibits and wondered about what specifically made them worthy of hanging and being called art. I thought a lot about the processes the artists would have gone through on their way to creating their works. Did they suffer self doubt? How did they justify their costs, and their time and their focus? Did they get stuck in their process? Were they worried about their reception? Were they so deeply involved they couldn't see out? How did they know? How did they get to the stage where they could identify as artists? And most importantly, how on earth did they balance their art with all the demands of the real world?

As I wondered and wandered, I watched and considered my process. I studied and made art all through my childhood and my schooling, I made and studied art at university, and I honestly believed I would create art for the rest of my life. And yet here I am an artless adult.

When this realisation hit me hard I was staring at an enormous wall covered in small artworks. I was moving from piece to piece studying it and thinking about its process, when all of a sudden I had to stop and sit and think about mine. I felt overwhelmed by emotion. The combination of being surrounded by art yet unable to create art made me feel claustrophobic and like I wanted to cry and hide and get out of there immediately. The feelings were immense, intense and I feared I'd never get out from under them.

We spent that afternoon swimming, eating last night's pizza for lunch and drinking champagne in the spa and I felt better. Like things shifted back to almost normal. But I felt like the realisation was an important one that should sit uncomfortably inside me until I really examined it properly.

On the last day we toured the gallery with its director. I was slightly hesitant to begin with but he moved and spoke fast and covered ground quickly. He filled in the gaps we'd missed and we were back up out in the sunshine before we knew it.

It occurred to me lying in my own bed that night that part of my fear of separating from the girls is what I'm bound to discover underneath that I've neglected all these years. It's scary and confronting and uneasy. I wondered how I could balance being a present mother of emotional girls with my own personal archaeological dig.

And honestly I'm not sure I can. In the three days I've been back I've worked so hard on the farm and I've been so present and involved in the girls and Bren and this is the first time I've allowed myself the time to bring this up again.

I do feel the need to express myself creatively, I do need to ask myself some hard questions and yet I also need to stay present and focused on life on our farm in our family. I'm scared to write this down because it feels a bit like a commitment to honesty and forward movement, but I guess the truth of it is I'll either do something with it or I'll read about it in my archives sometime in the future and feel a twinge. Time will tell.

And with that, the start of Emily's Bulldogs' socks, and a tiny seed of a thought of a drawing-a-day project, I'm out of here.

Oh and do let me know how you're travelling, I do love to read your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Are you enjoying the weather where you are? Are you up to date with your laundry? Do you have a burning desire to write a book? Record an album? Make an ice sculpture? Study Egyptian burial techniques? Brew your own beer? Start a flower farm? Go to Mona? Are you scared to discover who you really are? Do you meditate? Have you got anything fun planned for the weekend?

See you later alligator!

Love Kate xx

Friday, March 3, 2017

spots on socks + other fancy stuff

Hello dear friends and welcome to today's episode of the Friday Foxs Lane.

I hope you've had a lovely week and that you're gearing up for a wonderful weekend.

My week has passed by in a haze of hot days, sleepless nights, garden and girls. Actually I can't work out whether the word I want to use is haze or daze, but you know that blurry feeling you get when your body gets out of the habit of sleeping at night for no apparent reason, your nights are never ending and your days are filled with fog? Yep, that.

So in honour of my loosening grasp of the English language and the hazey-daze, I have decided to take a blogging short cut today and make a list of ten things I am doing right now. Or more precisely doing or done, past tense, so I can include the spotty socks above.

Are you ready? Here we go...

one - sewing in the ends
Everything about sock knitting fascinates me but especially the way it makes me into someone I'm not. On the top shelf of our studio there is a basket that is filled with clothes that need mending. Shirts that buttons have fallen off, skirts with hems that have come down, socks with holes in the heels...the list goes on. This basket has in fact recently overflowed onto the back of my desk chair and on top of my sewing machine. Optimistically, I imagine that one of these days I'll pull that basket down and methodically work my way through it, buttoning and hemming and darning. But the truth is, I probably never will. But for some reason every single time I cast off a pair of socks I finish them off all the way to the end. I find a needle and I thread each of the loose bits of yarn on in turn and I darn them in until they're all done. It's like the little shoe-maker's elves have visited. And only then can I consider them finished.

two - admiring the insides
There's something so unexpected and surprising about the wrong side of a fair isle knitting project that I only really discovered a few months ago when I started knitting colour-work. Since then I've started a little ritual where I save the inside-looking until I've cast them off. Once I'm done I turn them inside out and sit with the wrong side for a while, looking at all the strands and the negative colour pattern. Each time it's so interesting to see how things have knit up on the back, sometimes I even prefer the wrong side.

three - finishing up
Once the knitting, the darning and the admiring are done, the next step is to hunt down a daughter for the photographing part. Sometimes it's as easy as stand, snap, done! But other times the foot looks funny, the part of the sock that I'm not thrilled with is too obvious, the light's not right, the foot model is in a hurry and won't stand get the picture.

Luckily last night all the sock moons and planets aligned and we got the shot and the sock model was back to singing scales within ten minutes.

The details are on Ravelry if you're interested in such things.

four - casting on
I'm going to call the next project to hit my needles - when you love someone who loves the Bulldogs. Not exactly my usual type of colours or colour combination, but I do love her and she does love them. 

I guess it's not really cheating on the Bulldogs socks if I'm sitting here daydreaming about a beautiful skein of CircusTonicHandmade sock yarn that fell into my shopping cart this morning. Australian merino wool...indi dyer...soft variegated yarn...ochre, greys, charcoal and the slightest hint of lemon...mmmmmmm.....

five - preserving the sunshine
Over the past few weeks I've mentioned a few times that this season's harvest isn't looking to be quite as bountiful as we'd hoped and expected. There are definitely some things that have positively surprised us, like the cucumbers, the berries and the beetroots. There are some things that have flat out disappointed us like the apples and the plums. And then there are some that could still go either way.

Over the past five or eight years we've grown most of and made all of our own tomato passata. Enough to last the whole year through. Over January our tomatoes get going slowly allowing us to finally break our tomato fast and to eat them on everything and in everything we can. By March we're not keeping up with the harvest and we start with the cooking and bottling.

This year has been the strangest tomato season ever. The vines are heavily laden with fruit but it's just not ripening. Or rather it's just starting to now, but only enough to eat, definitely not enough to preserve for later.

So yesterday we made the call and went and picked up a 10kg box off our mate Florian at Mount Franklin Organics down the road. Tomorrow we'll squish them, cook them into a sauce with some onion, garlic and basil, and then we'll pop them into jars for later. Hopefully our green tomatoes saw the boxful of red beauties make its way in and will hurry on up. And if not, we've arranged to pick up another box next week, just to be on the safe side.

six - listening
During the week Jo, another knitting mum of three, contacted me about her daughters Mabel and Ivy and their folk duo Charm of Finches. She was hoping we could work together to put on a house concert and as we've been talking a lot lately about doing something like this, we loved the idea and were hoping the same. Unfortunately, at this stage the dates didn't work, but in the meantime Jo sent me the girls' CD and I fell in love.

We've spent the past few days with Staring at the Starry Ceiling as the soundtrack to our drives to school and back, our dinner prep and our lying on the couch with closed eyes, feeling completely transported by their angelic voices, their beautiful harmonies, their original lyrics and all of the instruments in-between. 

With Mabel and Ivy being only one year older than our Indi and Jazzy, I can't help but dream of the places their shared love of music and song and flowy dresses might one day take them.

In the meantime I highly recommend you to click on over to the Charm of Finches site and support the girls and their dreams and melodies by buying their CD. 

Hopefully we'll get another chance to work with them in the future.

seven - listening to the scrape of Bren's knife against his spoon 
One of the best things to come out of this year so far is the dedicated Friday craft day. Just last night my Mum sent me a text asking if we needed help with stacking some wood today. The fact that I didn't have to think twice, or justify myself, or agonise over the decision was awesome. Friday is craft day. A whole guilt-free day for carving, knitting, sewing, drawing, playing guitar and writing my blog. If we decide to do a bit of farm work in amongst all of that then cool, but otherwise even cooler I say.

seven point five - listening to podcasts
Yesterday I listened to Richard Fidler interviewing Kate Summerscale about the life of Robert Coombes who in 1895 when he was 13 killed his mother and went on a spree with his little brother across London. I always love Richard's interviews but this particular story gripped me so tight that I hardly noticed the physical work I was doing in the garden until the whole hour was up.

It is a tragic story of Victorian-era matricide that also includes a boy's own adventure, a court case, an examination of family life with a father at sea and travels all the way over to Australia for the ending.

Kate has written a book about Robert's life called The Wicked Boy which I'm sure is a fantastic read, but I don't feel the need to read it now I've followed the whole story so closely in the author's words. Perhaps I'll look up some of her other books.

eight - splitting
The wood splitter is back for another week and the splinters in my hands and the ache in my muscles are there to prove it. Gosh I love watching that blade slice through those enormous rounds of wood as if they were butter. Not to mention that growing pile of firewood that will be stacked along the driveway and look pretty for a while and then keep us warm when the weather turns horrid.

nine - fermenting
If you were to ask me what I grow well on this farm, after little girls I think my next answer would be cucumbers. I seriously love growing cucumbers. I love how big their first leaves are when they poke their green tips out of the soil, I love how quickly they grow, I love their prolific yellow flowers and I love those green, crunchy, water filled fruit (?) and how much joy they add to my kitchen.

We mostly eat them as they come, in sandwiches and on salads, but when the season really gets going and we're bringing them in by the bagful, we ferment them by the jarful.

The recipe we use is from this book. We pretty much follow it, but often add and subtract ingredients. Lately we've been adding lemon slices (thanks Meg), and bay leaves, and as much garlic as we can be bothered peeling. 

Have I told you that my girls have started calling me Pickle? Tis true.

ten - reading
I just finished reading The Seven Good Years. Bren read it in a few days but I think I took a whole week. Even though I often struggle with short stories, and these are extremely short, I really enjoyed it. I laughed and cried at times but mostly I just admired Etgar's ability to take a simple thing that happened to him and make it into a great story.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I heard Wendy James interviewed on the radio a few days ago, maybe I'll start her new book The Golden Child. It sounds very interesting and topical.

And with that my lovely friends, I'll bid you farewell. Pepper is sleeping over at her friend's house, the big girls will be home in an hour, which gives me just enough time to pop some washing on the line and get started on those tomatoes.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
I'm going away for three days with my Mum and one of my sisters and I can't wait!

As always please feel free to leave me any suggestions you might have for podcasts, books, music, shows and patterns you're enjoying.


Kate xx

Friday, February 24, 2017

late summer sunshine

Hello sweet friends,

How's your week been?

I've actually had a lovely few days. Where last week I felt like I was writing to you from inside a snow globe, this week feels completely different. This week I feel like I'm writing from Snow White's castle. You know the one where Snow White lay asleep for 100 years while the vines grow up and covered the stones and the windows and the roof until it was all dark and gloomy inside? Except in my case we've spent time cutting at the vines, and now the light is slowly starting to stream on in.

I mean that literally and figuratively.

This week we actually have spent time on the brush cutters and on the chain saw, mowing and chopping and clearing the way. I love this sort of work. It is dirty and loud and physical and the results are immediate. Where there was once a forest of bracken and gorse and blackberry and thistles, now there is a path and a view through the forest. It's clearing the way, it's letting the light in, it's making things prettier and it's tackling something that has been upsetting me but that I've learnt to live with. It's crazy what a difference this has made to the way I see our farm. And the way I feel psychologically in general. It's completely encouraged me to veer off the path of the urgent to-do list, and make time to tackle the less immediately important jobs.

I hope we get a chance to continue. I'd love to put the farm to bed for winter all fresh and cleaned up and airy.

The only down side of the whole experience so far was being bitten on the bum by a bull ant. There I was minding my own business, completely focused on the job at hand when all of a sudden I felt excruciating burning pain on my bum. I somehow got Bren's attention on the other side of the way and together we broke the world record getting me out of my helmet, headphones, glasses, vest-harness, overalls and undies. The pain!! Luckily Bren saw the angry creature as it was escaping so at least we knew what we were dealing with. But oh my goodness OUCH!! Followed by that insatiable itch all night and two big red lumps today. Poor me.

We've also been restocking some of the wood piles that have fallen over and I read this great paragraph in the book Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting. Thanks for the recommendation OurHouseInQuercy.

You know exactly where you are with a woodpile. Its share price doesn't fall on the stock market. It won't rust. It won't sue for divorce. It just stands there and does one thing:It waits for winter. An investment account reminding you of all the hard work you've put into it. On bitterly cold January mornings will bring back memories of those spring days when you sawed, split, and stacked as you worked to insure yourself against the cold. There's that twisted knot that just wouldn't surrender to your ax. And isn't that the log you pushed in at the wrong angle, making the whole pile collapse? Yes, that's the one alright. Well winter's here, and now it's your turn to feed the flames.

As well as the literal clearing of the vines to let the light come through, I've also spent time looking for other small changes I can make to bring in the sunshine.

On Wednesday I spent the entire day away from the farm. I took a train with my mum to the city where we lunched, we shopped, we coffeed, we sat on my sister's couch for hours, we talked, we planned and even though the guilt tried to creep in a few times, I saw it and I banished it away.

It was such a wonderful day that I hardly slept that night I was so buzzing with sweet thoughts and ideas. I think I need to take a break from my own life on occasion when I can in order to appreciate what I have and to see it with fresh eyes.

I spent time preserving the summer harvest which always makes me happy. I filled a heap of jars with blackberry jam, I fermented cucumbers and carrots, we made lots of fruit leather and basil pesto. Still to come over the weekend is cabbage sauerkraut and maybe some dried apples and peaches.

I questioned my social media use and what it was doing to my state of mind, my attention span and to my relationships with those I love and live with. I did overuse it at times to follow a certain story in the news and felt guilty when Miss Indi pointed out how distracted I'd been.

I did consider deleting Instagram after consistent questioning of the commercialisation, the slickly styled, the ridiculous amount of hash-tags people use and the way they think they can tell me how to live my life. It just feels like it's lost a lot of the natural sharing of moments of our lives that it used to be.

But then I worried about losing the connections and the community that I've made.

So I made the decision to only check in occasionally, a couple of times a day maximum, rather than any time I'm sitting still. I think I'll probably have to make myself some proper timing rules to enforce that.

And although it feels rude, I'm going to delete some accounts that don't speak to me any longer and I'm going to post my moments without worry of outside judgment. The kinds of beautifully real moments I always love to see.

I read The Good People by Hannah Kent and oh my goodness I loved it. I just can't get enough of stories of early 1800's Europe. I love the tales of fairies and changelings, the herbal medicines, the references to the knitting and spinning and dyeing and the way their superstitions and beliefs ruled the ways they lived.

One time last year I heard Hannah speak at an event. She spoke of her love life which had nothing at all to do with her books, and to be honest I was surprised. Her writing is so intense and dark and other worldly, that I almost couldn't imagine her being a young woman living a normal 2016 life. But I was relieved to find that from the first page of The Good People I forgot all about the jeans she was wearing and the iPhone she carried and was immediately swept away. What a talent she has for writing atmospheres so thick you can almost smell the wood smoke and the damp of the earth, and introduce us to characters who are so beautifully described that we can almost see them and we miss them once the final page is turned. I only hope Hannah is well and truly into the writing of her next book, because I for one can hardly wait to read it.

Last Friday, just after I'd published my blog, we ran off to our gym session. When we got there Sam, our trainer, had written  on her white board a circuit of exercises she wanted us to complete. A few squats with weights into it, I realised that I wasn't going to make it that session. I felt weak and tired and emotional and she set me up with some light weights instead.

This morning, exactly a week later, we turned up and she pulled out the same circuit. She hadn't rubbed it off and wanted us to complete three rounds of the exercises we had failed the week before. I laughed and told her she was messing with my head. How was I to this thing that only days before I had dismally failed at?

But seven days in a snow globe compared to seven days in a castle where the sunlight is starting to stream in, make an enormous difference to one's physical strength, because this week I could and did. I lifted and pushed up and ran and squatted and threw and lifted myself up and I walked out of there feeling on top of the world.

I'll need to remind myself not to be so disappointed in myself when I have setbacks in the future and that it doesn't take much to get back up there again.

Chances are that at our next session I'll be feeling premenstrual and then the one after that I'll be periody and will have to wait a whole week to feel strong again. Wouldn't it be lovely to be a bit more reliably stable sometimes? To feel like you were climbing that hill at a steady pace rather than tripping over all the time and then having to run to catch up?

But I guess that's not the way that I work.

Gosh what an all over the place blog this has been. Thanks for coming along for the ride. And thanks also for your sweet words of encouragement and understanding on my last blog. They means the world to me. I read them all and talk about them with Bren and always intend to reply, but sometimes I'm better at that than others.

Anyway, I hope you've got something fun to look forward to coming up. And I hope you're sleeping well at night, it's such a pain being a bad sleeper. I hope you have a lovely project you can't wait to get back to and a book you don't want to put down.

Happy weekend my friends.

Love, love, love Kate xx

Friday, February 17, 2017

late summer blues

 first day of school

end of summer garden jungle

the cucumber hunt

little fuzzy quince

tiny apples

pretty spotty pears

apple eater

Hello my lovely ones,

I'm writing to you this week from inside my snow globe. I was going to say from inside my shower screen, but the imagery isn't as good. And actually it's kind of like a reverse snow globe anyway. I'm sitting inside and the rest of the beautiful world is outside. Shake it up and a flurry of pretty leaves and flower petals fall from the trees.

I've been sitting inside my snow globe for close to a week now. Sitting here alone hoping for the lid to lift and for things to feel different. And just now I've started to feel anxious that I'm ending the week feeling the same way that I started. Nothing seems to have changed.

From in here the world looks grimy and a bit hopeless and sad. Even though we still have a few weeks left of summer, the days are getting noticeably shorter and cooler and I fear the long winter to come. I fear that the sunshine is already growing weaker and as we slowly pull the decaying summer veg from the garden and replace it with winter crops, I worry about those icy months when the garden is only green and does not boast with bright colour and bounty dripping from its vines. I'm not ready to go back to those months of frost, wet and cold.

I agonise over the stories my children bring home, not able to understand the way kids treat each other and that teachers can be so impatient and unseeing. I wonder how in this day and age with all that we know, that more of an emphasis isn't given to teaching about sustainability and care for our planet and putting plans into action.

I feel panicked at the never ending sameness of my life. The ebbs and flows are practically predictable and feel impossibly tedious from where I sit right now.

I feel disappointed about the growing season and am already tired of the excuses I'll have to repeat to myself and others as the harvest we had been so looking forward to doesn't eventuate.

And I worry about the world. About the people and the creatures who should treat others and be treated themselves with kindness and care, and that the way things are now, is not how they always will be.

Yet despite all this, I've labelled this place where I sit my snow globe because I'm well aware of the beauty that sits outside its rounded walls. I am also all too aware that if I were a better housekeeper and brushed the cobwebs away and scrubbed the grime from the glass, that the sunshine would stream in and bleach the dirty carpet from my sight and the ache from my heart.

It's a funny place to spend time, this grey world of mine, because I don't feel overcome by despair; I just feel full of melancholy. I am aware of all the gifts I have been given, I just feel too tired to play with them right now. And this is not depression, I don't want to stay in bed and I can make a list for you a mile long of all the reasons I have to be grateful. And I believe them. Every single one. Everything just feels tainted somewhat. Bland.

At the start of my week I was kind to myself and felt that the greyness must be the result of last week's virus leaving my body. All those days spent shivering and burning up had had a physical effect on my body and now this was the emotional effect. After a few days I decided it was seasonal. I could feel summer melting into autumn, and so in turn the moon and the tides and the stars were having their effect on me. Then I got a bit cross with myself. How dare someone with so much privilege take it for granted for one moment. What was the point of wasting even one second. But the more I questioned how I felt, the more uncomfortable things felt, the more I understood that I had to lean into this mood. To push at it and poke at it and try to find its origins, its meaning and look at it from all perspectives. The worse it made me feel, the better, because hopefully somewhere hidden inside I would discover some answers.

I don't know if any of this will make sense to you, or be of any interest. I contemplated just posting a couple of photos for today's post with a promise of a proper blog when things shift, hopefully over the next few days. There is no craft, no garden, no farm, or family in these words and that makes me feel a bit odd.

When I spoke to my farmer boy about having no story other than this greyness for my blog this week, he suggested I write it down anyway, let him read it and then delete it. I knew I wouldn't delete it though. That's not my style.

He also suggested that I take a 24-hour break from social media, which so often is his solution with the girls, and I think he was surprised when I agreed. I love social media, but noticing how often I open an app and scroll mindlessly without thinking has been interesting. And having a break from what has lately felt like all the people shouting at me to look at them, do things their way, or compare myself to impossible perfection has been a bit of a relief. Life feels a lot less noisy without all the chatter. I think I'm ready to join my girls in their limited social media access during the week, possibly. As a trial.

Which brings me to the feeling that maybe this week is the discomfort before a change. I've been saying for months that I'm stuck and ready for something new, something more. But late yesterday afternoon as I ran through my list of possible new projects to take on this year and then neatly followed each with a reason why I don't actually want to, it occurred to me that maybe I am scared of losing what I have in the process. Life on the other side of the snow globe looks pretty good.

So I'm right back where I started. But glad that I have the weekend and a break from routine to try to get out of my head and stuck right into life with those I love. Hopefully the grey will become mauve...

And just for the record, here's some other stuff that I've been getting up to this snow globe week.

Reading - After watching the Little Women film last week and noticing how much more of the story it covered, I checked back in with another copy of the book we have on our shelves only to discover that Louisa M Alcott wrote two books that were eventually published as one. Good Wives being the second part. So much to my delight, I have spent some bonus hours with the March family this week reading the rest of the book.

Listening - I'm still making my way through the StartUp podcast although I think I've almost reached the current episodes. The most recent series examines Dov Charney and the demise of his company American Apparel, and the start up of his new tee-shirt company. I'm loving it and it makes the long school commutes and the hanging out of the laundry and the weeding of the garden chores I actually look forward to.

Knitting - I'm happy to report that I've turned the heels of the spotty socks and am on my way up the ankles. I love them and am hoping that the recipient feels the same when she sees them this afternoon when she returns from canoe camp.

Cooking - Beetroot for salads, blackberries in fruit leather, beans in stir fries, cucumbers in pickles (not really cooking but you know...). Hopefully by this time next week we'll be eating sweet corn.

Watching - This Is Us. Oh my goodness, Kevin and Randall!!!!

Planting - Lettuce, cabbage, beetroot, rocket, carrots, spring onions, parsley, broccoli and chives.

Contemplating - What to do with the list of ethical businesses wanting to work with me on my instagram and blog. Would be so good to be able to look out for the good guys, but how can I do it and keep my integrity.

Running - Off to gym right now.

Hurting - On the knee that I landed on when I was stupidly picking blackberries on the dam wall earlier in the week and feel in.

Hoping - To be out of my snow globe and back to my silly, interpretive dance, optimistic, self ASAP.

Sending - All my love and wishes for some warm sunshine on your skin, a gentle breeze to dry your washing, a book you can't put down and a great big cuddle.

Love Kate xx

Friday, February 10, 2017

spots on socks

Hello honey bunches,

I hope you've had a gorgeous week.

Me? Not so much. Well actually it started off quite promisingly. We had a lovely weekend last weekend. Saturday was busy and we spent Sunday celebrating Bren's wonderful parents and their 50 years of love and marriage with dinner and a show.

But then it nose dived pretty quickly from there. On Sunday night I went to bed and didn't get up again until Thursday. My bones ached, my muscles cramped, I was HOT and then FREEZING, my chest hurt and I don't know how to describe the pain in my head except to say that I've never experienced a head ache quite like it. It was scary.

It's so dumb, but sometimes when I'm running around in my normal, healthy life, the thought of being sick and stuck in bed sounds dreamy. I imagine myself propped up on big poofy pillows, with my hair in a messy bun and my lap top perched on my knees, watching movies, knitting and taking sips of fizzy mineral water guilt-free. In my dreams, being sick was almost luxury.

Of course the reality didn't even vaguely resemble the fantasy: grubby, sweaty hair, eyes that were too sore to watch or read anything, head that hurt too much to listen to anything, scary pain and nausea and as for knitting, forget it. What a waste of time.

But I'm pleased to report that today, on day five of the awful sickness, I am just about well again. I'm still not at that stage where the whole world looks brand new and fresh and exciting and I feel like skipping through the daisies singing, but I'm close. Unfortunately Bren, Jazzy and Indi are still a few days behind me.

In other news, during the week my niece Sascha turned 20. Twenty years ago my farmer boy, who back then was probably more of a dread-locked gypsy boy, took a break from trekking the world and returned home to Melbourne to meet his newborn niece.

Not long after he'd returned, we met at a wedding, we fell in love and have been more or less inseparable ever since. Thanks to Sascha being born. I can't believe that was 20 years ago. I can't believe that that beautiful, tiny red-headed baby who wouldn't ever go to sleep is now practically grown. Sometimes I can't even believe that we have kids and cars and land and apple trees....

Twenty years hey!

What I can believe in though is socks knitting. I still love it. It still fills me up creatively and at the same time feels useful.

I knitted this pair for my farmer boy for his birthday, but due to some issues with the tension of the fair isle pattern around the top, he couldn't get them on. Miss Indi could get them on and modelled them for me, in exchange for a new Facebook profile pic. Remember the days when the going rate for bribery was a cookie? How things have changed. Anyway, as you can see from the photos, the socks are actually too big for Indi so will probably end up on Miss Jazzy's feet. Even though she was the last in the family to receive a pair from me. Better keep knitting.

The next thing that happened in my knitting land is that Indi requested a pair of socks with spots. Cool, I thought and proceeded to search the internet for patterns. Not so cool, I thought, when weirdly I didn't come up with any.

So I tried to convince her that what she really needed was a beautiful, snuggly shawl instead.

She disagreed.

So I got out some textas and paper and tried to work out what spots on socks might look like. Then I tried to work out how many stitches across and up and down they should be, how many stitches between them they should have, and how on earth I could evenly fit them across a 66 stitch sock. Is your brain hurting yet?

Once I had more or less worked out the stitches I tested them out by knitting a square. A square of spots.

That worked quite well but Miss Indi thought the spots were too big.

So I knitted a smaller swatch on 2mm needles with sock yarn.


Which leads us to now. For although I'm not 100% better I am better enough to take my spotty sock knitting into the other room to watch one of the Little Women movies. I have just finished reading the book and am dying to see the characters brought to life.

Gosh I adored that book. It broke my heart and brought me to tears of sadness and joy more times than I could count. I love those March girls, I love their relationships and adventures and of course I loved every single mention of knitting socks for the soldiers. What I wouldn't give for a chance to sit at that table for a night counting stitches with the sisters, turning heels, making lace and giggling at each other.

I can't believe I have never read it til now. Have you?

And with that I bid you farewell for another week.

May we all be healthy, may our tomatoes finally ripen, may our pickles have just enough pucker, and may the movie not disappoint the book.


zig zag toe socks details here
lotsa spots socks details here

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