Look at that dear little face. What a sweetie! That’s Little Clyde – the smallest of our 3 new wethers (for those unfamiliar – a wether is a boy goat who’s had his bits removed).
Yep – at the end of our first full time week here at Wombat Hill Farm we went and bought us some goats. Classic rookie move.
You might ask – whatever possessed you!? Only bite off as much as you can chew! You’ve got years ahead of you!
Sigh. I know. It’s just – well – our 11 Orpingtons have been a great success, in their lovely big electric-fenced off enclosure, lurching about cheerfully each day, hunting bugs amongst the grass, growing ever bigger and fluffier. And hopefully, in the not too distance future the hens amongst them will lay us lovely eggs, and by the years end we might even get some little chicks! And meanwhile Julian’s building them their permanent house and portable tractors for helping prepare our veggie beds. All going nicely according to plan.
But that’s chickens. There’s a reason chickens are considered easy to keep. They ARE easy to keep.
Goats on the other hand …
You see, we have 42 acres of land. A lot of it is old beef grazing pasture that is now covered in weeds. Lots of bracken, blackberry, thistle – and even fireweed. Ugh. So we figured we’d get stuck into fixing it up as soon as possible and do what lots of folks around these parts do – we’d get us some goat weeders. We read up on looking after goats (oh the worms goats can get!!!) and talked to the lovely breeder about our plans to pop these little fellows into moveable electric fence enclosures.
Oh yes, she was very enthusiastic, assuring us that her 4 month old goats had been raised with electric fencing. And so Abel (Toggenburg crossed with Nubian), Basil and Little Clyde (brothers and Boers crossed with Nubian) became ours.
Alas – she revealed the day we collected our boys that her fencing hadn’t been turned on for the last month or so. Oh, we commented, without a clue what the implications of this were. Yeah – you just need to reacquaint them with it by offering them food through the turned on fence, she assured us. They’ll zap their noses and remember they don’t want to go anywhere near it.
We were suitably assured. Popped our lovely goats into our prepared trailer – a thick bed of straw for a comfier ride, wooden panelling on the sides to keep off the wind, and a rope latticed top to stop them trying to jump out – and took off. Their goaty mums trotted along behind us, bleating out their sadness at seeing their little boys disappear, and the boys – well they cried loud and long. Turns out goats are famous for their separation anxiety.
By the time we arrived back at Wombat Hill, the boys were more than ready and willing to jump out of the trailer and trot on down to their new pasture. They really are sweet – they just bump along beside us whenever we move them, wagging their little goaty tails and smiling up at us.
We reminded them about the bitey electric fence. They hated it and settled down to tearing at their grass. That night, they snuggled up next to each other on their bed of straw and we didn’t hear a whisper from them all night.
But the next morning …
Just as the first light peeped over the hill, Fu woke us up with hysterical barking. There was Abel, in the chicken enclosure, standing on the roof of the chicken house – whilst they stood back and looked on in amazement. Basil and Little Clyde were still on their side of the fence, screaming out “Look where Abel is! Look where Abel is!” Boy, can Nubians scream! They sound like a fully grown man who’s just chopped off his leg with a chainsaw!!
Abel, meanwhile, felt like King of the Castle. He just stood there proudly – and even peed on the roof – while we looked on in dismay.
Right. Julian lifted him off and dumped him back on his side of the fence, and gave them all another lesson in how the fence bites. But, before we could even return to the verandah, Abel showed us just how it was done and Little Clyde quickly followed suit. You don’t have to worry about zapping your nose on that silly old electric fence. You just put your nice resistant hooves on the top wire and pull it down! Easy peasy!
Ahem. I quickly pulled out my goat books and sure enough – once the goats work out how to beat the electric fence, it is useless forever more. The month they spent with it turned off gave them ample time to conquer it. Or maybe they’re just really tenacious. Who knows.
Our moveable weed munching plans were done and dusted. We’d only owned goats for just over 12 hours and already we needed a Plan B.
Now in the country, nothing much is open on the weekend. So – this being a Sunday, Julian had to come up with a solution that could be serviced by the local hardware store. And so was born the weedy pasture chain gang.
He built 30 metre runners that are hammered all the way into the ground so that they lay flush with the grass – goats are infamous for hanging themselves when tethered. He then equipped these with connections that swivel (I don’t know the hardware terms!) so that the goats can’t get twisted up. He spaced each runner out so that even on a 2 metre chain in both directions the goats cannot reach each other and so can’t tangle themselves that way. And we positioned them so they can reach the shade with their own bucket of water but not the trees or fence – more hanging potentials.
Man were those little goat boys pissed off! They stood in the shade and screamed their little hearts out most of the day. But if I went down to check on them – they would cheerfully wag their tails and settle down to eat the weeds. You should see them – they kneel on their front legs – so have permanently grass stained knees – to eat. So lazy!
They just love attention and after the security of their previous mamas and cousins filled home, almost certainly felt quite anxious in this big, unknown environment.
Come Monday morning, Noah and I were down at the ag store buying goat wire and hard wood u-nails to turn the old cattle race into a goat safe home.
It took all three of us the whole afternoon to attach the goat mesh to the hardwood. Oh my goodness. They don’t call it hardwood for nothing! But eventually we were cautiously satisfied our boys were going nowhere and they had a nice little shelter for sleeping and getting out of the rain.
So I can now say, 2 weeks down, that our goats are safe and happy. But we sure have learnt to expect that there’s every likelihood when you’re dealing with feisty little animals with insatiable stamina, enthusiasm and curiosity that nothing will go according to plan, so we need to have multiple backups and plenty of ingenuity, time and resources to fix what isn’t working.
And Abel, Basil and Little Clyde? They are absolutely wonderful! Abel still plays King of the Castle with anything we leave near them. They’re very friendly, love a good scratch under the chin, and are always thrilled to see us. It’s a great way to spend an hour, sitting on an upturned bucket in the cattle race with them – they cosy up next to us, taking turns to smooch and chat.
They spend their nights in the cattle race where I feed them a breakfast of pruned lilypily, rose and camellia branches (good thing we have heaps of it! And mum’s even brought over bootfuls of hers :-). Then they trot along beside me to the weedy pasture where they spend the day browsing amongst the bracken and thistles and chewing their cud in the shade.
And soon, their permanent goat proof fence – the saying “A fence that will hold goats will hold water” doesn’t seem too far off! – will be ready, along with a little 3 sided barn, and they will have a rotational pasture system and a bit more independence.
With the house almost all packed up, yesterday was time for me to tackle the sewing shed – with Noah and Mum’s help – far too big a job to dare on my own! Oh my. For many years now, the sewing shed has not functioned as a PLACE to sew. Instead it’s become the Tardis of all things stitchy. I confess there’s been many a day I have simply stood at it’s door and THROWN the stuff in. You can tell.
Hours were spent pulling stuff out of drawers and cabinets and half filled boxes, sorting it all into some semblance of order – there are now wool boxes, fabric boxes, trim boxes, vintage linen boxes, must-open-straight-away boxes (there’s a silly number of them!), boxes for the opshop, and a small wheelie bin full of “for goodness sake! why on earth did I keep this!”
There were many ooooohs and ahhhhhhs as we rediscovered things that hadn’t been seen for years, and sighed over treasures we completely forgot we even had. But the loveliest moment came when we found a pile of colourful quilt tops and unfinished quilts. Some quilts that hadn’t seen the light of day since leaving Brisbane 6 years ago!
It was so lovely remembering when and where I’d bought the fabric, where and with whom I’d sat and made it, what we’d been doing as a family at that time … Quilts are especially marvellous how they hold all these memories aren’t they.
This huge lovely was inspired by an antique quilt. I started off sewing each block by hand but quickly became impatient with that! I have had a go at hand quilting it, but once we get to the farm, I shall be whipping those clumsy stitches out and getting stuck into it on my big sewing machine. I think it will look so tranquil and pretty on our bed in our pale blue-grey room.
I bought the fabric for this quilt with Julian – one quiet Saturday afternoon at the Quilters’ and Embroiderers’ store when they were still in the little old cottage in Auchenflower. Then went straight home and sewed and sewed and sewed and sewed! It’s crazy bright – Mum would like it for one of her spare beds – perfect!
I was especially excited to find this vintage tumbler quilt. I whipped it up one winter’s day – and long into the night – when we were living at Mum’s before we moved to Melbourne – and then it vanished into the box of never-never and I had absolutely no idea what had become of it. Look at that border! Look at all those wonderful reproduction fabrics! So rich and pretty. It too is in the pile to finish lickety-split. It will be just lovely folded on the end of our bed for cosy naps :-)
I remember starting these crazy star blocks in our little tumbledown house in Norman Park and finally putting them all together with the offset sashing at Mum’s. Now I’ll have to track down some white with green spot fabric to finish the borders and then it needs a lovely border like the tumbler quilt I think – maybe instead of “bowls” I’ll do “balls”. They will be stars and planets.
Now this pretty four patch was the first quilt I made in Melbourne. Most of the fabric came from the stash but I think I ordered the large squares of bird fabric from the FatQuarterShop. Very gentle and sweet, this one is. However the crooked lines of machine quilting are rubbish! So I’m paying Noah to unpick it and then I shall start again. It will be lovely for our caravanning guests.
Oh the Sunhat Quilt! This was stitched up in a couple of days, using fabric all from the stash, on Mum’s back deck in Kangaroo Point. The frangipani was in full bloom, the air was sultry, the sky brilliant blue, Noah was on school holidays so there were lovely days of friends coming to play and lots of laughter, and every afternoon we were oh so glad when the seabreeze came tickling down the hallway. It just needs pinning out and it’s ready to quilt!
And this sweet little number – truly, I have no recollection of ever starting this. But hey, I love the fabric and colours. So into the must-open-straight-away box it goes.
There’s nowhere at Wombat Hill for a dedicated sewing room – Julian says he will one day build me a little studio, nestled into the trees with lots of light, and waist high built in shelves all the way around. In my dreams it also has one of my lovely hard-rubbished vintage sofas upholstered with woollen blankets, the perfect sewing table with space for several people to sit around making, and a little wood burning stove to keep us cosy over the long cool months.
Julian says this dream is a few years down the track but I don’t know about that! There is just so much fabric, a little studio may become a necessity!
(Did you hear that, it was Julian roaring with laughter ;-)
After 3 lovely days of rest, today was back to work. There are only 15 days until the removalists arrive and sooooooo much to be done.
Today, Mum and I headed off on quite the cross country trip collecting cast iron bench ends. Yup. Cast iron bench ends. Julian has a thing for antique cast iron and Mum and I have a thing for these bench ends – they remind us of the girls’ boarding school we both worked at – there were many scattered about the main old building for the students, both as benches and single seats. So Julian’s collecting the ends to make Mum and I single seats which we will plonk at the loveliest spots around the farm.
After hours of driving and bench end collecting, we came home to car packing. Another favourite occupation. Each time it’s a cheerful challenge to see just how much we can squeeze into the back of our station wagon.
This time was pretty epic – after a few hours work, Mum and I (with a little help from Julian) managed to shove in an antique cedar meat safe, an Art Deco bookcase, a farmhouse style set of shelves for the wall, 3 sewing machines, umpteen quilts and cushions, a desk lamp, a vase, a huge glass bottle, all the glass bottled dry goods from the kitchen mantelpiece, the vintage electric jug collection, a suitcase of lace, a bosu balance ball, a vintage bird cage, a medicine ball, the canning pot, 2 deep fryers (one for candlemaking), a set of bamboo steamers, a wine rack, a huge kettle that used to belong to St. Mary’s that I have romantic dreams about boiling up on an open fire after our friends and family have gathered to make apple cider on a crisp autumn afternoon, a 4 kg medicine ball, 2 boxes of lego (that fitted into the birdcage), several paintings, 8 little Ikea boxes of patchwork projects, 4 little boxes of American girl clothes …
I’ve almost certainly missed things but it was an impressive effort. And cross fingers it will all arrive safely.
So tomorrow morning, Mum and Julian head off – they are taking Julian’s motorbike up. Well he is. Mum’s following so that they can drive back to Melbourne together on Tuesday. Isn’t she such an amazing Mum.
Meanwhile, I’ll be enduring another week of night duty with almost certainly packing and errands during those brief wakeful hours in the late afternoon. And Noah will be packing and meeting up for fun times with friends just as all young people should when they’ve just finished school.
But right now, I think we just need to gather under our beautiful oak, in summer’s setting sun, with good food before us, doggles waiting hopefully at our sides, dear little Orpingtons bustling about behind us, and plenty of giggles and silly conversation.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Without doubt, only the locals will have a chuckle over the title of this post :-) But when we realised – well, it was just a sign that it was meant to be! (The Boxing Day Cricket Test is played at the MCG each Boxing Day with each team fielding 11 players.)
Julian and I were lying in bed, Boxing Day morning, exhausted from the appalling heat of Christmas Day – the temperature did not drop below 30 until after 2am! – and I’d managed to pull a muscle in my neck/shoulder (I think it was from letting a very sweet patient with broken ribs repeatedly pull on my hand to help him up into sitting position on Christmas Eve) – looking on Gumtree at the livestock available. It’s one of our favourite pasttimes :-)
And I said “Hey! There’s 8 Orpington pullets for sale at Cockatoo – with $5 roosters! They sound good. It’s so hard to buy good chooks – we really need to snap ’em up when we see them!”
Much to my amazement, Julian replied “Absolutely! Let’s send them a text and see if they’re still available.”
Oh my goodness! I was gleeful with excitement. No Boxing Day let down here – if we could go pick up a lovely flock of pullets and a few cockerels it would be just as fun as Christmas morning!
Julian sent the text and I kept looking – goats in Orbost, peacock eggs in NSW, no sheep anywhere, but gorgeous Alpacas here, there and everywhere. Within minutes, Mrs. Orpington replied. “Eight pullets available and as many roosters as you like! Come by around lunch!”
Oh yes please!
Well – it was so much more magical than we could possibly have imagined! The best Boxing Day EVER!
Mr and Mrs Orpington were the loveliest couple. They have a lovely permaculture establishment – chickens and turkeys roaming around the property. 2o odd guinea pigs tearing around the fabulous large hoop netted gardens – 3 metres high, with about a 9 by 20 metre perimetre – they were hysterically cute – used for cultivating the raised garden beds and keeping down the weeds. One hoop garden is for vegetables – the other larger one is full of fruit trees. And their lovely deck was covered in pots of vegies all ready for transplanting into the guinea pig tilled beds.
We stayed over 2 hours. They shared so much of their knowledge and experience – and we invited them up to Wombat Hill Farm.
We packed 7 pullets, 3 cockerels and 1 little unknown into a very large plastic dog kennel (I picked it up from hard rubbish – washed it out, dried it well and filled it with fresh straw) in the back of the car and brought them back to Bootville where they’ll spend just 2 weeks in the rabbit/guinea pig aviary before moving on up to the farm. Their initial job there will be to till the vegetable beds – Julian’s making them movable A-frames.
But before too long, he will hopefully have their permanent home ready. A nice little house on stilts with a deep litter grilled floor and ramp, in a fenced field about 30 x 40 metres, with plenty of shady Apple gums – just in front of the house garden. We’ve even planned where we will put some nice outdoor chairs so that we can sit in the shade and watch these lovely chickens grow and roam.
And Fu’s going to have to learn how to be as respectful and obedient around the livestock as Mr. and Mrs. Orpington’s lovely Sophie dog is. It’s going to be a steep learning curve, that one.
I must say, it’s much easier to sleep during the day (after night duty) when it’s a wintery one – cold, grey and drizzling is just perfect. Even better when the whole family are out and our home remains silent and still.
On a beautiful sunny day, just 2 sleeps until Christmas with the family bustling (quietly!) about making presents, tidying boxes, preparing lovely food … not so easy. By half past two, I just could not keep my eyes (tightly clad in Julian’s airplane sleeping mask) closed any longer.
Instead, out to the back garden we went. Banana lounges spread out under the oak. Cool drinks by our sides. Doggies bumbling about with bones and sticks. Mum with her crochet squares. Noah with his laptop. Julian with his wine. Me with my cross stitch.
I first started these a few years back. It was a Christmas when, inexplicably, I just couldn’t seem to remember where I’d stashed the Christmas necessities the year before. “Lost in the diaspora!’ declared one Jewish friend when I admitted I couldn’t even lay my hands on the nativity set!
With a week to go I set to cross stitching. I have no idea where I found the patterns. I think I must have used some of Mum’s old embroidery floss because do you think I could match a single colour to the hundreds in my floss boxes?!
So today they just got done. I made the best colour choices I could and lay back out there in the beautiful dappled sunlight, needle slipping in and out of the linen, until the wee patterns were finished. Bliss.
Now – Julian and Noah are watching The Empire strikes back whilst Noah fixes up my floss boxes (Fu sent them flying across the grass!). Mum’s tucked up in bed with a magazine. And me?
I’m off to shift 2/3 of night duty for the week. I’d be lying if I said I was excited or even pleased to be going. But, as I remind myself, this is what I do. And it needs to be done. So I am :-) And if I listen to the Muppets singing Silent Night on route, by the time I arrive I shall be feeling positively loving towards all those poor folk who are having a bummer of an evening.
To be sure, it’s a very small Christmas here in Bootville this year.
Our lovely big tree and the decorations we have been making and collecting for 23 years are at the farm. So’s the nativity set and the Christmas candles. As are the Christmas quilts, pillowcases, bunting, banners, gift bags, table linen …
All that’s left here is the funny little tree I picked up from hard rubbish a couple of years back. Noah and I spruced her up with slices of oven dried oranges and salt dough cookies (which I’ve caught the naughty dog licking). And in a moment of weakness, I even called into HoneyBees and bought a sweet wooden angel to hang.
We’ve prettied up the mantlepiece with fairy lights and angels and some dear little wooden friends – St. Nicholas herding a few cows, a cheerful shepherd watching the singing angels with his sheep, and Good King Wencelas and his stoic little page.
Presents are gathering under the tree – we’ve no time or room for making lovely wrappings so it’s scraps of packing paper and wool (unless there’s shop wrapping to take advantage of!).
And now, just before I head off to night duty, Julian and I have brined the turkey (we use Nigella’s fabulous medieval brining found in her Feast cookbook – one of my favourites that’s also at the farm – or here!) and since we can’t find the lidded bucket we’ve brining the turkey in for 9 years, we’re using the old nappy bucket – well washed I promise.
Yes, we are swamped with boxes and tumbling over piles of things that were about to be put in boxes and then got left out til next time. And mess. There’s so much mess.
Never mind. I think there may be a bit of stocking-sewing action tomorrow, there’ll be a bit of Christingle action on Christmas Eve (if you’d like to make some, there’s a sweet little history and description of them here), there’ll definitely be Midnight Mass and probably Christmas morning mass too (I get so carried away with the carols!), and at any moment, my Mum will be here.
Yes, it will be a much smaller Christmas than that which we’ve become used to – but one with plenty of good cheer and love.
:: two tiny figs on a very new tree that is struggling a bit to get going ::
:: such a plethora of tiny oranges that if they all grow up
they’ll pull over their slender mother ::
:: hidden apricots, close to the verandah, all slightly spotty ::
:: peaches on the tiny dwarf I planted on a wintery afternoon ::
:: an absolutely glut of grapes – both here and smothering our verandah ::
:: thriving apples – we planted them the weekend we “settled” ::
:: through the kitchen window, past the rose, Julian’s marking out his pond::
: oh and it just grew and grew and grew –
he’s determined to have ducks swimming there by fall ::
:: the queen of pruning
– there are so many roses, she will never be bored ::
:: Julian dreams of dry stone walls
– good thing we have an abundance of Bega Valley stones ::
:: a rescued local ::
:: a mixup of a bed –
roses, blueberries and a passionfruit ::
:: our “first” bed of hopefuls –
strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, fennel, basil and marigolds –
oh, with a blackcurrant shoved in on the side ::
Julian’s company writes software to measure things. They measure air and water temperature, humidity, movement, energy consumption – all sorts of things. And they make wee devices that gather the data. These live in hospitals and hotels, apartment buildings and airports, shopping centres and schools.
Now they live at Wombat Hill Farm as well. All three of us have our phones set up (thanks to Julian) to receive live data – “as it happens!” – regarding what’s going on at Wombat Hill. We can tell you the temperature of the bedrooms, the humidity in the pantry, movement at the front door, whether or not someone is walking through the living room … We can even track it on graphs :-)
But despite being the occasional prompt for comments like “Well that’s it, someone’s broken in and is relaxing in the living room!” (we’re not sure what the movement really is – house moving when there are sudden shifts in temperature? A bird bumping in to the sliding glass door?”) Or “Oh I wish we were sitting on the verandah up at the farm!” Or “Blimey! It’s bloody hot/cold in the bedroom!”, we have very little idea of what is going on up there.
Without doubt there will be animals pottering about – kangaroos come every evening to feast on the grass in the top paddock, wombats snuffle along their trails late at night, rabbits boing about all over the place. Birds of prey circle majestically over head, keenly watching for potential meals and then diving like a flash to snatch their unfortunate victim.
As for the pretty birds that make their nests in our trees! Well, they’ve eaten all the cherries and are probably cracking the rock hard nuts on a native tree in the cottage hedge as I write.
Our neighbour’s cows and their calves will be mooing about the fence line. A far off bull will give the occasional bellow. Another neighbhour’s horses will occasionally be heard down in the gully.
We know there’s lots of grass growing – oh my! Last time we visited the cottage garden grass was literally up to our knees.
But what we really wonder about are our little first efforts at growing our own food. Now this has mostly taken the form of fruit trees. Since that first weekend, we’ve planted apples, mulberries, peaches, almonds, oranges, blackcurrants, figs, blueberries, and a passionfruit.
We’ve even popped in a gingko tree – I have wanted one ever since reading The Witch Family to Noah when he was little, and the two friends could see a witch perched in the gingko tree outside the mother’s bedroom window, peering in at them whilst they drew.
We lament this year’s cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches that we’re not gobbling up, juicy and fresh from the trees, and bottling for the coming winter, and wonder if there’ll be a single piece left for us by mid January.
Julian dreams about the pond he has started digging. It is an epic undertaking – he intends doing it all by hand – sees it as a meditative form of exercise and intends putting in a couple of hours each morning before the sun really warms things up.
See he watched this Youtube video about water channeling on small farms … you should watch it – it really is fab! …
… and now wants to divert the tank overflow into this pond – which we will use for ducks and for watering the vegetable beds – and then channel it on further to other future enterprises. In fact, he wants to dig several!
But this first one, well it probably has to be by hand because there are only human sized gates into the cottage garden – every other inch of the perimeter is hedged with tall, thriving bushes and trees.
In a few weeks time, he’ll be digging again, but now, down here in Melbourne we are wondering what it looks like – has the rain softened the edges and made a mess? have the clods of turf he’s turned hardened in the sun? have the rabbits discovered it and dug some new burrows through it?
And now – after weeks that have alternated between lovely drenching rain and scorching heat, we wonder how our first wee garden bed has fared. We know it was silly to put things in, but it was just irresistible. Walking from the front steps down the path to the garden, there had been an overgrown patch of succulents – they were horrid, smelly things. Mum dug them all up but that left a rather unsightly patch of nothing much.
So we dug around a little – and discovered it was full of big rocks. Well – Julian became obsessed and simply every rock he met, had to be dug up. One of them became his Moby Dick – it was HUGE and HEAVY and took HOURS of work with the crowbar. Many a time I felt sure he’d give up but oh no. By George, that rock was going to move and eventually it did.
However, that left an even less appealing spot, so we dug and dug some more, and reshaped it all, and Julian made his first attempt at a drystone wall to terrace the bed into the upstairs and downstairs, and then … well, we couldn’t help ourselves.
When Julian visited the weekend before last, it was looking good and growing. Hopefully it will still be going okay when we return and we may even enjoy a few tomato and basil salads!
One of the lovely things about only visiting Wombat Hill for the last few months (as opposed to BEING there), is that once we arrive and unpack, there really are very few pressing chores for me to do.
Not much point gardening because we’re not there to take care of it. Same for our animals – we can’t buy our chickens or goats or cows, until we are there to care for them. Nor are we really sure where best to put them when we do get them, so whilst there has been lots of research on how to build their shelters, we’ve not got down to the nuts and bolts.
And of course, there’s no nursing shifts to be done.
Which leaves a whole lot of time for just pottering. Something I do awfully well :-) Especially when there’s a beautiful verandah to sit, with my favourite people around me, and boxes of lovely supplies that magically managed to get squeezed into the car.
Just small and simple things. Easy to make, quick to finish. So very lovely.
So on our last trip, new kitchen dishcloths were knitted …
I not only covered a lovely big milo tin with some of Heather Ross’s fabulous new Tiger Lily fabric, but I crocheted a scalloped edge on it, and then served chickpeas for the next 2 night’s supper so I could cover those tins too! (Strangely enough there are no photos of them – I’m sure they’ll pop up in future posts)
Noah asked for something handmade for his birthday – and as he also requested more copic markers, I sewed up an epic quilted copic marker wrap. It has space for 2 notebooks and 40 copic markers – that could be easily squeezed up to 80 if he puts 2 in each slot. (Again, no finished photos – slack I know!)
A new yellow curtain (made from a divine Lecien print of which I bought every last centimetre Darn Cheap had! And I bought its mates in red and green!) was whipped up for the kitchen dresser – now that the walls are painted a glorious egg yolk yellow, the dresser really needed something a little brighter than civil war blue. Which means it needs new wee prairie point bunting for the shelves – sigh! fancy being obliged to make more prairie point bunting :-)
I do adore Lecien’s little floral prints – they remind me of the lovely dresses my Mum made for us in the 1970s – and are exactly the kind of fabric I always imagined Ma making Laura and Mary’s dresses from. Delicious!
I started a beautiful project with Misti Alpaca from the knitting baskets that were secretly stuffed into Tuppance’s corners – an Advent shawl – a new clue each morning. Oh and I was so good whilst at Wombat Hill – every evening I was all excited about what would be published the next morning, and then I was up just after 5am, coffee pot and cup before me, out on the verandah in the “good morning sun”, cheerfully knitting up my next several rows. Alas, since I’ve returned to Melbourne, there has been only the tiniest amount of knitting accomplished and I am weeks behind. Hmph!
I even stitched up one of Elizabeth Hartman’s wonderful Hazel Hedgehogs! It became a cushion for the front verandah – only it’s not Hazel – it’s clearly her Australian cousin Evie Echidna. They are everywhere in our neck of the woods – wombling across the grass and shyly sticking their noses into the dirt in the hope that if they can’t see us, we surely won’t see them!
Oh we do love them so – one day, on a utterly failed trip to buy donkey poo for the garden, Noah and I came across one toddling along the side of our little secret road (I’ll tell you about that another time) – we pulled over on the other side, hopped out and spent so long quietly watching her that Julian was quite sure we’d decided to ride the donkeys home! Noah wants a tamish one that will come visit each day. High hopes there methinks.
I clearly need to get back to Wombat Hill – there’s more gentle making a-calling – especially the kind that requires sitting on that verandah for long and lovely hours, a nice drink by my side and my favourite folks nearby.
Whether I’m standing on the front verandah of our little cottage at Wombat Hill, or looking back at these photos, I am simultaneously thrilled that this is about to become our permanent home, amazed that we’ve managed to land us something so beautiful, and full of gratitude that we’re in a position to take advantage of all the loveliness that lays before us.
In just 3 weeks I will have finished my grad year. In 4 weeks the removalists will have collected all of our belongings here in Melbourne and we will all be living on our little farm. In 5 weeks the removalists will have delivered all of our belongings (and we’ll probably still be trying to squeeze it all into the shed) and we will be truly at home.
But oh my, this has been a huge year. Huge.
We spent the first half of the year in the throes of finding and buying this lovely property. There were literally thousands of kilometres driven, many hours spent traipsing up and down hills, false starts involving ridiculous planning legislation, hours juggling finances, and weeks wondering whether we could ever pull this off – when they say buying a home is one of life’s great stressors, man they were right!
Of course, things have only hotted up since the contract was signed, sealed and delivered and for the last five months we’ve been living amidst the chaos of moving, with boxes stacked everywhere, mess that I could never usually tolerate, and no sense of routine or down time. We are so done with it and just want to be there!
During this upheaval, Julian and I have nurtured and encouraged our child through the end of his formal schooling, all the while supporting and loving him through the first stages of his transition. Our steepest parenting experience yet.
Then, halfway through the year, my beloved Grandad died amidst horrible and ongoing extended family unpleasantness. And at the end of his funeral (a dreadful affair) I literally had a young motorcyclist (who was racing a mate through a red light) hit by a 4WD and land on the road in front of me – his femur snapped in half and sticking out through his horrifically injured leg. There I crouched, on the phone to the paramedics, terrified this young man’s femoral artery would begin to bleed, and crazily thinking, “oh my god! I’ve only got a dress on! (the postmaster’s granddaughter’s dress) I’m going to have to pull it off and use it to staunch the blood flow and I’ll be standing here on Lutwyche Road in my knickers and bra!” – thankfully that didn’t happen, the ambulance arrived very quickly and the young man survived.
And then, of course, there is the whole “Grad Year” experience, where I’ve spent the vast majority of my time pushed totally out of my comfort zone (and the habits of a 17 year veteran of stay at home mummying), expected to behave with confidence, compassion and competence, whilst balancing on the lip of a very steep learning curve.
I’ve had a patient die whilst cradled against my body. I’ve had several others come very close – let me tell you how long that adrenaline takes to leave your body! I’ve had shifts where it is so confronting I’ve literally wanted to lay on the floor and wail “I can’t do this!!!!!” And others where I have had to say to the nurse in charge “This patient is just beyond my skills and experience.” And there have been many crazy, chaotic shifts in Emergency where I get by by practising my best Dory impression “Just keep swimming/smiling/nursing/writing/observing/comforting/caring … “
Then, yesterday morning, as I was preparing for a long shift in RITZ (that’s where the patients come after they’ve been triaged), I was very aware that my chest felt funny. Not asthma funny (44 years experience with that one). Not anxiety funny (something I thankfully seem to have had under control for the last few years). A different funny – like every few moments there was a pigeon fluttering in my chest trying to get out, followed by a heavy-feeling thump.
Now I had noticed this, on and off, the day before when I was at work and thought I was just tired. But yesterday morning, it started the moment I got up and just kept happening. So, at my mum’s demand, I got ready for work quickly and headed in early, thinking I would just mention it to one of the senior staff to see if they thought it needed looking at.
See, when you work in Emergency you see a lot of people who aren’t dreadfully sick – they’re a little bit off, worried, unsure of what to do, and need to know that it’s all okay and they’ll be fine. I’m cool with that but I didn’t want to be one of those people.
However, when I arrived at work, it was chaos. So I just popped my stethoscope around my neck and got working whilst that pigeon fluttered away.
Eventually my nursing educator arrived and innocently asked how I was. I almost cried and whispered “Actually, I’ve got a really weird feeling in my chest.”
The next thing, I was triaged, in the white patient gown, on the trolley, cardiac monitor hooked up, with bloods being taken. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so awkward in my life as junior doctors waved and smiled to me from the desk, orderlies made kind jokes about me being today’s “mystery shopper”, and my nursing colleagues popped in and out of my cubicle to give me a hug, see how I was doing, and watch the monitor.
Turns out I was having premature atrial contractions – little “ectopics” that were randomly firing off every now and then. They were the flutter. Then because they are pretty useless, the next proper contraction had more blood behind it which created the “thump”. My colleagues watched the monitor and would say “Oh did you feel that one! I saw it!” “Yep,” I’d answer. Surreal.
My bloods were perfect. My blood pressure remained a rock solid 117/60 (thereabouts) for 3 hours. The consultant checked me out, gave me the thumbs up, and deemed it best if I went home and rested for the rest of this day and the next. I’m not at any risk of anything awful happening. It may never happen again or it may be something I experience on and off for the rest of my life. Premature atrial contractions are the most common cardiac arrythmias and they don’t need treatment unless they become symptomatic (i.e. shortness of breath, dizzyness, or coming in a regular pattern)
These things just happen sometimes – more common in women then men, and common for women experiencing menopause.
Wow! Isn’t menopause the gift that just keeps on giving. I can add trapped pigeons fluttering to the floods of blood I have during my really frequent periods!
So here I am at home. Amidst the appalling mess. I haven’t vacuumed for a fortnight so there’s Fu fluff everywhere (she’s having her summer moult). Do you know, I haven’t even cleaned the shower floor for over a month. I no longer have ANY domestic aspirations for this house. I just want to get out.
Oh and it’s tipped to hit 42 degrees today. Yay Climate Change! Nothing like a mess to make me feel ten times hotter.
There is still so much to pack. There are Christmas presents to finish, buy and wrap. Remember – there’s only 3 weeks and 2 days until those removalists arrive. And I still have two blocks of night shift, one block of days, and a quality project to get through at work. And Christmas to celebrate.
But I also have this beauty above to look forward to. Is it any wonder my heart is all a flutter :-)
The last six years have had their overwhelming moments for our little family. There was the huge move from Brisbane – away from our family and friends. Noah began highschool not knowing a single soul in any of his classes. I went back to university and studied nursing so as to provide our family with a more stable income. Julian worked long and often stressful hours at his job, and has had many many work trips, leaving Noah and I to fend for ourselves weeks on end.
To be sure there were many times when I just sat and cried, at a loss as to know what to do next.
But one constant source of support, compassion and love, has been Noah’s highschool. An all girls, Catholic highschool, they took Noah under their wing from the very beginning and dedicated themselves to helping him navigate the stressful maze of teenagehood, social anxiety, and gender dysphoria – not to mention unending school work and exams – and providing Julian and I with endless support and encouragement!
One of Noah’s teachers even rang me one afternoon recently, after school had finished for the day, to say how proud and excited she was that Noah managed to get through his Japanese oral without tears (oral presentations are excruciating for someone with social anxiety) – Noah and I were both in the car and it was really heartwarming to share this teacher’s love and enthusiasm over the bluetooth!
Honestly, I’m sitting here now with tears on my cheeks I am so grateful and humbled by this school’s dedication. I don’t know how we would have made it without them. The beautiful painting below – which is in the senior building’s stairwell – sums up exactly what this school did for Noah – gathered him into their arms, protecting him with their strength and love.
One of the school’s standout Stars is Bob – the volunteer lollypop man. He has manned the crossing in front of the school, morning and night, for more than a decade. Watching him in action each day always brought a smile to my face – and to the many many girls he greeted by name, chatted with, admired their artwork, listened to their plans, commiserated with when they were having a bad day. He has a wonderful capacity to communicate with young people and has endless, genuine enthusiasm for what they are doing.
For our Noah – completely bereft of a grandfather – he was an absolute gift. An absolute gift. Every single afternoon I collected Noah from school – and I often intentionally came a bit late – he would be standing with Bob, chattering away, big smiles on both their faces, sharing his drawings, his dolls, listening to Bob’s stories of dance classes and competitions. They had a lovely rapport. And on the mornings I dropped Noah off, Bob was there to welcome him – with a beaming smile and wave for me too.
I can’t tell you how many times I cried from sheer relief and gratitude that Bob was there for Noah, through the good times and the hard ones.
Now we’ve given Bob a Christmas present each year, but in this our final year, we wanted him to know just how much we loved and appreciated him so we made him a quilt of stars – inspired by the school’s name and his love for the school, it’s layout inspired by one of the lovely gates .
It was a family effort. I designed the layout and cut out all the pieces. Mum stitched up the vast majority of blocks. I pinned and quilted it. Noah sewed down the binding.
It really is a beauty, even if I say so myself :-) The fabrics – sourced from Darn Cheap up the road – were perfect and there was just the right red pure wool blanket waiting in the sewing shed. Most of all, it was an absolute joy to make and even better to give.
Bob was utterly delighted. He was effusive in his thanks but declared he had already received the greatest gift – six years of lovely friendship with Noah. He insisted he was grateful for us!
Naturally, I cried. He gave Noah a poem he had written especially for his graduation. I cried more. There were many hugs and promises to keep in touch. I cried even more.
This picture says it all. I know I will look back on this story and the photos and cry more! And I will always always always think of Noah’s school and darling Bob with such love and gratitude.
Yep, I said it yesterday and I’ll sing it again today from the rooftops. It’s love folks, love.