Thursday, March 27, 2014

Autumn break

IMG_8727 IMG_8747 Last night Autumn broke and now winter is on her way.

It's funny but although Autumn always makes me feel a bit melancholy about the loss of sunshine and the cold to come, Autumn also seems like the time of year that I am most sure of who I am. In Autumn I feel the most me.

In Autumn there are heads and hands to keep warm. Knitting becomes less of a hobby and more of a necessity. Patterns are chosen, baskets of wool are brought out and considered and a queue is made. As soon as I cast off something it is grabbed and worn and I cast on the next.

Ravelry details here.
I love how in Autumn we can go from - there's nothing for dinner - to a table full of freshly picked tomatoes - to a saucepan full of passata - to the most delicious tomato and noodle soup ever. And all in the space of an hour.

IMG_8396 In Autumn we try to spend as much time outside while we still can. We walk to do the farm chores and sometimes we find little friends in the egg trailer.

In Autumn we pick up sticks for the wood stove wherever we go. We stockpile them in the kitchen basket and in the wood shed. It wont be long before dry sticks will be hard to find.

IMG_8616 IMG_8609 In Autumn there are always crates of fruit everywhere I look, the floor is sticky, the stove top is full and the sink is full of jam pots. In Autumn there are always rubber bands soaking, jars warming and the Fowlers machine gurgling.

IMG_8620 IMG_8674 In Autumn the shelves start groaning under the weight of filled bottles and jars and containers. We come to the end of what we preserved last year and put away what we have for next.

In Autumn every year I think of this fruit and veg grown with love, with no nasties, by us or by people we know and know love what they do and I know that we couldn't do this any other way. It makes a difference to the flavour and how good it is for us - I'm sure of it.

IMG_8624 IMG_8658 In Autumn the garden changes again, everything looks lush and green and stands up tall. Out with the old, in with the new.

This year I've been making wreaths on wisteria hoops to dry the seeds and roots for later. The world looks pretty good through coriander glasses don't you think?

IMG_8348 IMG_8578 In Autumn I feel confident that I'm where I need to be. I am busier than at any other time of the year, but as each job gets ticked off my mental list; as each tree in the orchard is stripped, as each crate of fruit gets emptied, as each pile of fire wood is covered, I feel that we are getting closer to being ready for winter. Autumn brings with it a sense of achievement. It is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.

Ours is a slow way of living but it sure is beautiful and it tastes delicious too.

Go gently friends.


ps this one's for you Heike - thanks for being so patient. x

Friday, March 21, 2014

grape stomping

IMG_8435IMG_8430 OK, let's hop off this self-rediscovery train for a bit and come and visit our place on a sunny Sunday afternoon in March. The grapes on the back deck are swollen and juicy and if we don't pick them today, the birds will beat us to it.

IMG_8440 IMG_8443 Let's pick bunch after bunch after bunch. We can use scissors or just snap the vines off with our hands. You go up the ladder and pass them down to me and I'll fill the bucket and after a while we can swap. Let's sing and laugh as the grapes explode in our hands and the juice runs down our arms. The grapes are warm, the day is filled with sunshine, life is gorgeous.
IMG_8478 IMG_8480 When we've filled our buckets it's  time for the fun part! Let's tip all those gorgeous grapes into a cut off drum, stalks and all. Let's hose off our feet and jump right in. Let's stomp on all those grapes and make juice baby! IMG_8519 IMG_8501 IMG_8515
After we've all taken turns stomping and the grapes are feeling squooshed, it's time to strain the juice out. If you reach down into the barrel and get a cup full, I'll pour it through the strainer and into the saucepan.
IMG_8507 Yep, it's thirsty work this grape juice making. We're almost there now, have a drink, hose off your legs, feed the scraps to the chooks and let's go inside and bottle it up. IMG_8543 IMG_8552 IMG_8539 We're not really wine drinkers in our house, so we'll pop these bottles up on the shelf for now and bring them down as we need them for icy poles, fruit leathers, vodka cocktails and cordial.

It's delicious don't you think? the perfect mix of sweet with a little hint of sour. Yum!

Thanks so much for your help, it's been such great autumn fun.

See you next week for tomato squooshing?

Big autumn love!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

I choose kind

IMG_8597 IMG_8589 IMG_8575 IMG_8600 IMG_8578 IMG_8554 IMG_8562

I think at the end of the day it's all about kindness. That's the message I'm choosing to take away from the events of the past month.

I think it's pretty interesting that I got so sick at a time when I was possibly the fittest and healthiest physically I have been for years. Now, in retrospect, I can see that while I was eating and exercising well, I wasn't doing so well emotionally.

My plan from here on is to surround myself with kind. To be kinder to myself and those around me. And to properly accept kind in return.

At the end of last year our Jazzy started at a new school. A week or so in I asked her to describe the school in one word. She chose kind. I was elated. A school that feels kind is where I wanted my girls to be. But now I want something bigger. I want to live a kind life.

I have this thing I do where I take on the weight of the world. I read and listen to all the horror and tragedy that goes on and I imagine what it would be like to live through something like that, or to love someone living through it, and my stomach aches and I cry. It's almost addictive this need to follow the news. But then after the crying I feel terrible that I'm not actually doing anything practical. I'm not helping Syrian refugees into Jordan, I'm not sifting through satellite images to find a missing plane, and I'm not looking after sick or injured or displaced children. My heartache isn't really of any use and I think if anything it just makes me sick and drains me. So with a lot of encouragement from my farmer boy, I've decided to be kind to myself and switch it all off for a while. It feels harsh but necessary.

Next is to surround myself with kind. Make more of an effort to spend time with people who make me feel good and make me feel like they care about me. I think that's important. Positive people spread positivity and that's what I need right now.

And I want to be kinder. I don't know if I should admit this, but I was really aware of how people were behaving to me and my family while I was sick just now. It meant the world when people showed they cared by calling and texting and doing cute little things. It made us all feel loved and thought of. I want to be the person who sends cards and bakes cookies and remembers the big and little things. I want to be kind in good times as well as bad.

I think that the fact that the infection was in my left breast, so close to my heart, says a lot. I've been spending too much time with heart aching for the world and not enough time allowing my heart to be filled with all the love that I have right here. My farmer boy, our girls, my parents at the bottom of the hill, our farm, the rest of our family, our community. This is where my energy needs to go.

I want to be an example of kind to my girls. I want to teach kind and thoughtful and lovely by example. I want them to see me being understanding and friendly and generous and sympathetic and forgiving and accepting.

And I really, really, really need to be kinder to myself. I really do. I need to learn to listen to and accept compliments. I need to learn to not be so critical of my own work. I need to push myself to places that challenge me and believe that I will not only make it, but also grow.

I feel like this period of near-death thoughts is an opportunity for change. My friend Melissa reminded me the other day that on New Year's Eve I said I felt sure that something big was about to happen in my life. Something that would answer the questions I had been asking about what my story is. Maybe this is all it? The more I think about it, the more I can see that I certainly needed to be shaken up a bit.

But I'm not being unrealistic. I know I will feel bitchy or PMSy at times but I guess part of being kind to myself is working out a way to deal with things in a way that doesn't take over my life. I'm learning that it's better to take the easy way out sometimes rather than stay up all night stressing. Let it go.

So today, on the 16th of March, I'm starting again. I'm making a fresh start. From now on, it's all about kind. I'll let you know how I go.

Big kind love to you guys.
I'm off to preserve the crates of plums all over the kitchen floor.


ps. I'd still love your postal address Kathy A from Brisbane.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ordinary wonderful

IMG_8206 IMG_8199On the way into school this morning amidst the chatter about what we should have for dinner tonight and what the plans are for this weekend, I told my family that I'd woken up this morning with butterflies in my tummy. Excited butterflies. The type of butterflies you get when you know something wonderful is about to happen.

At seven, after the alarm had gone off, I had lain there for a few minutes listening to the birds singing, watching the early sunlight come through the trees and wondered about those butterflies. All morning as I got girls dressed, brushed and braided hair, signed school notices and searched for missing sunhats, I thought about what those butterflies were trying to tell me. As far as I could remember there was nothing exciting going on today, nothing out of the ordinary at all.

But those butterflies stayed with me and they danced. They made my steps feel lighter and they made the mundane feel brighter.

And so later on, in the car, I didn't really expect an answer or an explanation, I just wanted to share my story and possibly spread a bit of the flittery butterfly feeling.

But it was my farmer boy in the passenger seat who turned to me driving with the explanation. He told us that this is it. This, our everyday normal, is a blessing and totally butterfly worthy.

And it took me a second but I knew he was right. I didn't need to wait for a phone call, or an email, or a new dress to make my day. This car ride into school with our darlings, having to stop hard to let a family of ducks waddle across the road, a conversation about the beanie queue, brilliant glittery sunshine, a quick conversation with some lovely Mums in the car park, our first coffee out in ages, shopping for organic veg by the lake and then home to clean up the breakfast mess, to hang the washing on the line, to pull all the hair out of the girls shower drain, to pick and process a batch of tomatoes, to do the farm chores and to plant out the short creek paddock, this is what the butterflies were dancing about.

I'm so great at taking on all the sadness in the world, I think it's time to acknowledge what I have right here.

After all we have just been through, this everyday-day might be one of the best of my life. We are incredibly lucky for our normal. We are blessed with what we have. This is it! This normal everyday-day is going to be pretty wonderful. The butterflies were right. I'm happy and in love and alive.

Big love to you my friends in your days, doing what you do.


PS Kathy A from Brisbane, can you email me, I have something I'd like to send you. x

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

all clear!

IMG_8363 IMG_8354 IMG_8352 IMG_8357 IMG_8361 It's interesting to watch in retrospect how my 'the end of the world' changed as time went on.

At the start 'the end of the world' was literally, the end of my world. A few Saturday nights ago I believed I had advanced breast cancer and that I would die. I would fail at what my mum always says is the Mother's most important job - to stay alive. I would leave three motherless girls just as the big wide world was opening up to them, and my farmer boy, the love of my life. There were no words, just gut wrenching pain.

As the next few days passed my 'the end of the world' goal posts shifted as I read and heard more cancer survival stories. In my mind I started planning for a year, or years, of treatment. I would spend hours and days and weeks in hospital, I would be sick, I would be labelled, I would lose my hair, I would struggle and my family would struggle. I thought about it often, I listened to stories and watched others go through it and wondered how we would deal with it when and if our time had come.

As the week passed and we realised the lump was responding to the antibiotics and slowly shrinking, I allowed myself to hope for the best but kept myself in check. A few hours of normal life would go by and then I would remember that I might be standing there with a cancer inside me.

One evening I was in the shower washing myself when I ran my fingers across my breast and felt the lump and for a split second I panicked. I had forgotten everything and all those initial terrors pulsed through me. It was a strange relief to remember a second later that I had been there already and didn't have to go through it all from the beginning again.

Yesterday morning I woke up to the most brilliant sunshiny morning. The skies were clear blue, the girls were happy and chirpy on their ways to school and I felt strangely optimistic before what was going to be a long day of hospital sitting and testing.

On the drive to Ballarat I realised that in my heart I didn't believe I had cancer. I believed that by the end of the day I would be clear to go home and live the rest of my life. But then as we drove closer to the hospital it occurred to me that the goal posts had shifted yet again. They weren't really 'the end of the world' goal posts any more, but they were giving me a stomach ache and making me have no appetite and run to the toilet often.

I was no longer afraid of dying, now I was afraid of big needles being plunged into my breast to remove bits of the lump to analyse. Or I was afraid of being hooked up to another drip in my hand and being put under anesthetic and cut so the surgeon could remove the lump all together. I was worried about being admitted to the surgical ward, about being stuck in bed, about not being home when my girls got home from school, about not baking them muffins for their lunchboxes and about the stress on my beautiful boy. Or, I realised, I was worried about the results being inconclusive. About having to go home and continue on with this fear constantly at the back of all of our minds.

As I was sitting there waiting to be mammogramed and ultrasounded and poked and prodded I couldn't read or knit or focus on the facebook convo I was trying to have with my sister. I was completely and utterly aware that things were looking good and I knew that whatever the results were that we would deal with them, but I still felt nauseous.

First I saw the surgeon who was pleased with my progress.

Then I had a mammogram.

Then I had another mammogram to be certain they had covered every single angle.

Then I had an ultrasound.

Then the doctor came in and did the ultra sound himself to be certain they had covered every single angle.

Then I was told the words that I had been too scared to hope for, but was hoping for none-the-less, I was clear. I don't have cancer!! The lump was due to a mastitis and will gradually disappear over time.

My first thought was disbelief, then guilt, then happiness and then I raced to wipe that gooey stuff off my boobs and get my clothes on and find my farmer boy who had been moving the car. He cried.

I don't know why I am allowed to walk away from this so neatly and easily but I can promise you that I am not taking it lightly. Life can be upended in a second on a Saturday evening and I feel beyond lucky to be standing here, in the middle of my world with the luxury of hindsight and foresight. I feel like this is my 'get out of jail free' card. I feel like this experience is a responsibility.

And I feel for every single person out there who has had to deal with their own personal 'end of the world' scenario.

Big love to you all.
Now go and check your boobs.


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