a patchwork cottage … in the Austen sense

penny wants to bind

burrowing under

her own quilt

penny left

penny middle penny right

crooked blanket on the back

rosy bricks

gorgeous grass

reproduction curtains

pink and orange curtains

the display technician

border binding and background

attic window

abel

choosing climbing over rose prunings

noah with fu and penny

noah and penny

on the bed

I finally finished my patchwork cottage quilt today. Yipee!

I absolutely adored making this quilt – and instantly wanted to make it again and again in different colourways/seasons.  This is the Autumn Cottage.  I did start Spring but it was such an epic quilt to make with all those 1 inch bricks that making it again so soon was just too much.  I should hunt out the fabrics and get back into it.

And after stitching up the Autumn Cottage, I decided all those windows needed curtains – in reproduction fabrics – that’s what happens when I’m making up my own design as I’m going along.  Well – it was so tedious unpicking around each window and adding the half square triangles that I bundled it all up for over a year before I forced myself to finish them off and quilt the darn thing before we left Melbourne.

And look at that blanket – I washed it before using it and it warped weirdly and is now so crooked.  Ah well.  At least I washed it BEFORE quilting it so now it won’t do weird things to my dear little cottage.  And it is super toasty warm and cosy so that’s all good.

All it needed today was the binding.  Sort of.  I had put a binding on 3 sides before we left Melbourne … but it was hideous!  It was a baby blue with pink dots – a fabric I happen to really like but COMPLETELY inappropriate for this quilt – I don’t know WHAT I was thinking.  And I’d even hand sewn it down!  Geez!  So I had to rip off all that binding and replace it with something much lovelier – and I found the perfect toasty cinnamon brown at the very lovely Steph’s Patchwork Fabrics and Stitching Supplies in Moruya.

I’ve always thought that shop looks gorgeous and have wanted to stop many times – and since it was just Noah (equally enthusiastic about gorgeous fabric stores) and me on Monday, driving to a small farm just north of Moruya to collect some little girl guinea pigs, we stopped.  Julian never wants to stop.  And had a marvellous time oooohing and ahhhing over the loveliness.  If you’re ever driving through Moruya – stop at Steph’s – you’ll love it too!

Of course, you’re now looking at my quilt and thinking that can’t possibly be a cottage – it’s 3 stories with an attic!  Ah – but it’s a Jane Austen cottage :-)  You know – like in Sense and Sensibility when the Dashwoods had to move into their cousin’s cottage – the sort of cottage that would now sell in England for hundreds of thousands of pounds!  The sort of cottage that Willoughby declared he loved more than any other sort of home and that he would pull down Coombe Magna just to build it!

Yes – it’s definitely a cottage :-)  And a style that I have adored for many, many years.  In a former life, I’m sure I lived in a cottage just like this.  Probably a rector’s cottage deep in the English countryside – as one of the rector’s many daughters.  Where I practiced all the fine arts a lady should have if she wants to make a good marriage ;-) But probably wound up as a spinster living with another sister and looking after her ratty children and trying in vain to keep the unruly servants in line.

If I could convince Julian of the perfection of the “cottage” this is what we would build here at Wombat Hill.  Built from beautifully rosy warm stone with deep sills and heavy leadlight sash windows, fireplaces in every room, oak floors that have planks 10 inches wide, and of course that magnificent attic which would be my studio – sigh!  Oh wouldn’t that be bliss – and think of the fabulous light and views!  I have clearly spent way too much of my life disappearing into English novels set deep in the countryside :-)

Chances of this being our future home – zero.  Likelihood I will make 3 more versions – the haunting and soft greys and purples of winter, the pretty liberty style florals of spring, and the jaunty red, white and blue of summer – strong!

But you never know :-)

Meanwhile, on the puppy front … I haven’t properly introduced our latest furry critter – this is Penny Pakkun – she is a 1 year old Puggle (cross Pug and Beagle) that we – well Noah really – brought home 10 days ago.  She’d been living with a family up the coast but it wasn’t a good match – they had 3 littlies under 5, a lovely mum who was rushed off her feet, and a dad who wasn’t puppy inclined –  and Penny is a very sturdy, affectionate and energetic little dog.  She was given a very good start with puppy school, and desexing, and all the right worming and immunisations etc. – but she was living outside and very lonely.  So the mum made the heartbreaking-for-her decision to find a new family for Penny.  That’s us!

She’s such a darling – very much still a puppy, with lots of learning to do.  Like – not biting our hands at night when she’s all psyched up!  And not chasing the ducks!  And going to the toilet outside!  But she’s getting there.  Just today she came down with Noah and I to let out the ducks and chickens – and she stayed right by our side and didn’t put a paw out of line.  Noah’s doing a superb parenting job – endless patience and enthusiasm.

Penny Pakkun has the warmest, most velvety tummy, a darling little underbite grin, an enthusiasm for mischief that reminds us so much of our dear little Toph, and she makes the funniest noises – she’s really talkative :-)  Fu’s still warming to her – they both explode out the gate now to race around the grevillea to razz the little birds that live there – and Fu quite enjoys having a little sidekick.  And we love her.  So glad she’s here.

And we know Penny Pakkun’s meant to be here because she loooooooooves quilts.  Always trying to tug them off the sofa and beds to turn into her own nest.  Today, when I was stitching the binding on to the Autumn Cottage, every time I settled it into one position to stitch, Penny Pakkun would nestle in.

So we went out to the caravan, found an older quilt that isn’t a hot favourite, and gave it to her.  Oh she knew straight away it was hers.  She turned round, and round, and round, and round on it, then settled down into the folds with a big happy sigh and went to sleep.

See – she belongs at the very quilty Wombat Hill!

 

the little farmer

where it starts

chickpeas

starting to look like a farmer

embroidered face

handsewing

layering her shawls

penny

noah

simple arms

a little hand knit

on with her arms

blanket stitched and scalloped

all rugged up and ready for work

side portrait

side landscape

aprong and log

closeup of face

collected the goats

fed the chickens

herded the ducks

fed the guineas

picked a flower

checked the hamburgs

on the porch

Julian’s away again this week – workshops in Melbourne.  He misses home so much when he has to work away – and we miss him! He rings throughout the day wanting to know how we’re doing, what the animals are up to, to tell us of cool things he’s thought of trying …

But when he leaves, and I give him a hug and kiss and wish him safe travels, he always says “Oh you’ll be glad I’m away!  You won’t do any “farming” – you’ll just spend the week making stuff and having a lovely time!”  Ha!

See, Julian’s version of “farming” is creating new things, breaking new soil, surveying new corners of the property, and planning what to do with them  … I’m more into the maintenance of what we have.  On his days off he says “What are we doing today?” And if I answer “Oh you know, feeding the animals, weeding the silverbeet, painting the pumpkin theatre (simply a posh Victorian – as in the era – name for outdoor display shelves – usually of auriculas – I reckon I could have pumpkins!), picking up some more straw and feed.  With a bit of knitting, bit of cooking, bit of housework.  The usual stuff.”, he retorts “That’s not real “farming”!  What are we MAKING!?  What are we ADDING!?”

This man has a dream and he relishes every moment he gets to bring it to reality.  Lovely really.  But I’m a bit useless with a shovel, chainsaw, or angle grinder.  And I sure can’t carry hardwood pallets, or lift the chicken house to adjust the door catches.

So yes.  When he’s away, Noah and I busy about each morning, caring for all the feathered and furry critters, getting all the chores done, tidying up our little home and porch … and then :-) Why there’s definitely time for making.  And we LOVE making. Truly adore it.  Especially together, for long afternoons at a table covered in lovely supplies, sharing ideas, tips and techniques, uhming and ahhing over each other’s work, and the inspiration or patterns we find.  It’s our idea of bliss.

Noah’s creativity usually centres around the stories he writes or reads.  He is the king of doll making and loves to design and make the most detailed little dolls of his original characters or favourite story characters.  But at the moment, he’s on a bit of a crochet kick and is currently crocheting lalylala’s exquisite Mermaid Doll for me for Mother’s Day!

Me – often I’m making homely things or clothes, or working on furniture.  But I am also perfectly happy to devote a day to something completely frivolous :-)  It’s lovely just to play – to add fabric and embroidery to knitting and crochet and just make something that has no other purpose other than to be incredibly satisfying to do and pretty to look at.

I find Pinterest to be an amazing source of inspiration .  And I’m equally amazed to say that if you check my Pinterest site, you’ll discover I have 79 boards and over 4 and a half thousand pins.  Oh dear – that suggests I’ve probably spent too many delightful hours poring over the beauty and imagination to be found there.

Recently, I’ve discovered the exquisite work of Yana Volkova.  She’s an incredibly talented Russian artist and doll maker – this is the first of her dolls I found – and now I’m besotted with these beautifully simple, layered, traditional Russian rag dolls.  If you check out my Doll board on my Pinterest site you’ll see a heap more.

The little farmer I stitched today has not captured their simplicity.  I only have patchwork fabric on hand (everything else is packed away in boxes still).  And I embroidered her a face.  Noah read that traditionally they don’t have faces so that evil spirits may not possess them.  But I quite like naively embroidered faces – and I especially love this doll! – so I added one – I’m incapable of the less is more philosopy.

And when I look at pictures of Russian women in traditional dress their attire is fabulously intricate, colourful and almost stiff with gorgeous, rich embroidery.  So my little farmer is like a cross between the two.  She has a lovely stout shapelessness (I can relate to that!) with the simple gathered fabric arms and layered clothes of her traditional rag cousins.  But with a whole heap of exotic colour and pattern.  I knitted her a wee shawl for her shoulders and added a scalloped crochet border to her huge head scarf.  I like her – a lot!

But I want to try again – next time I want to crochet the body – I find it really hard to get the shape I want in a doll with fabric – much easier with crochet.  But I’ll still wrap a layer of hessian over her head – that homeliness is essential.  I want to make her body longer and her head a bit smaller, and layer the apron bits more rather than the western styled gathered apron my little farmer has.  And I need to find some simpler fabrics that I can embellish rather than go for the patchwork look.

However, I think the little farmer is a sweetie.  And she certainly knows her way around a farm.  She collected wood for the stove, brought in the goats, settled the chickens, herded the ducks, fed the guinea pigs – she even gathered flowers.  And she made us smile.

Tomorrow – I want to make her a baby – in a sling on her back.  I think she’ll enjoy that.  Check out this mama and her bubbies – divine!

Yes, I confess, I’m much more comfortable creating with fabric and yarn than I am with excruciatingly heavy pallets and uncooperative chicken wire.  And I’m very grateful for the gift of an afternoon with nothing else to do but make.

Maybe I’ll make Julian a boy farmer doll.  They can be our farming guardians :-)

 

finding autumn

feather of red

sewing

guinea house

Fu

tea tray

kniyyinh

mumbulla

rooster

with tree

small stick

cobargo

maple
chicken tree

caravan

cloud

bucket

apricot

quilt

Since settling into Wombat Hill, our weekends have almost all been spent outside.  Long summery weekends full of sweaty work, hats and sunscreen.  Mostly building. There is a never ending list of building requirements.  Especially as more animals find their way here.  I could really enjoy some quiet, rainy indoor weekends but I think we’ve had less than 3 of those in 3 months.

Julian says he’s sick of building poultry housing (he wants to move onto fencing so he can get his weaners and suffolks) – and yet there always seems to be a need for more :-)  Last weekend we built a new house for the ducks and geese to share “The Pallet Palais”!  Made from all blue hardwood pallets – given to us for free – it was quick but heavy to put together.  Julian added beams to create a skillion roof and today I’ve been stapling heavy gauge chicken mesh to the inside walls and floor to make it fox proof.  The we shall nail some reclaimed palings to the front – cut an arched doorway out of them (Julian says that will be easy!) and add a door.  Oh they shall be nice and safe then.  It’s been terribly gusty today, but in that blue palace tucked into the hedge at the bottom of the garden, it’s protected and peaceful.  Not that the ducks and geese will care – the more inclement the weather, the happier they are.

We devoted yesterday to building the first of 2 “treehouses” for the guinea keets who are rapidly turning into blue helmeted guinea fowl.  They will hold 6 to 8 fowl each and will sit atop posts in the opposite corner of the garden.  Apparently guinea fowl love flying up to their house for the night.  But at first they’ll be on the ground, surrounded by electric mesh, until we convince the guinea fowl that their houses are the bees knees.

Yesterday, as the day drew to a close, we had all tired of tools and planks, we stood up and noticed that it did look and feel a bit like autumn.  The Japanese maples have all of a sudden started glowing.  The apricot is fast dropping yellowed leaves everywhere.  The grape vine leaves are toasting up and falling off.  The tree near the goat yard is looking ever so pretty – like a powdery rhubarb.  And no matter which direction we turned, the light was a rich syrupy golden, whilst the gathering breeze was positively nippy.

Yes.  Autumn looks like it finally might be making an appearance.  Come on! Come one!  Bring your blustery winds, your day long showers of rain, your slow mornings and quick dusks.  We’re ready!

golden autumn days

daisys in sun

rose and grevillea

quinces

seal

rose

coming along

spinach

fu

flora and ruben

geese

finished

half done

scones for lunch

Each morning this week, we have awoken to heavy dews and windows opaque with condensation.  When we first venture out onto the porch, the air is crisp and cool, but this autumn sun  … the higher it rises, the more golden and warm it becomes.  By the time the chores are done, we have shed our jumpers and reached for our hats.  The calendar may declare it to be autumn but by golly, it seems the whole continent is holding tight to the warmth of summer and just does not want to let go.

The maples that frame our porch still have ALL their leaves with only a few turning red.  Yes, the daisies are abloom but the roses are still putting out fat luscious buds.  There may be quinces at the farmgates, but the bulbs and African Flame Trees have decided it’s time to flower!  And today, that sun was so strong, the veggies that haven’t been eaten by rats (yay to the worst rats our corner of the valley has seen in years!) were wilting.

Sigh … there’s not much we can do to hustle along proper autumn weather and so we make the most of these glorious golden days and keep our fingers crossed.

Today, Julian set off early for the airport – he has workshops to run in Sydney – and I set up my paints in the veggie garden to keep decorating the guinea pig house.  Today – the Moominvalley Horse.  According to Noah – who’s read all the novels and big hard covered volumes of cartoons – this wonderfully silly horse has no name.  It’s just the horse.  But it has a fabulous mane, tail and flowers scattered across it’s body.  And almost always, a slightly manic and disdainful look.  I love it!

I adore Tove Jansson’s art.  So much imagination and whimsy.  I wish I could grow her weird and wonderful trees and flowers.  I wish there were Moomins and their friends in our forest, complete with gushing streams and little bridges. Her stories and art are full of such a heartwarming eccentricity and so many of her characters seem beset by anxiety!  Makes me feel right at home :-)

Next up will be the Mymble’s Daughter lying amongst the flowers with her book – that will go across the front (and one of the images that I would love to have tattooed on my arm – should I ever get a tattoo).  And on the last side – well it just has to be Noah’s favourite – Snufkin.  With his pipe standing on a wee bridge almost hidden by trees.

However, today there were visitors to prepare for and so the minute the last strokes of navy were added to the horse’s ears, Noah and I quickly set to work.  The porch was tidied, swept and washed.  Fresh straw was laid in the chicken house and nest – and two of this morning’s eggs returned so the littlest visitor could collect them (unnecessary – turned out those chickens are taking their newly acquired egg laying duties very seriously and had laid a couple more!).  The banana lounges were set up under the white cedar for the grown ups and the dear little cane chair that was mine when I was small was pulled out of storage, dusted off and given pride of place.  Bathrooms were cleaned.  Scones were baked (the recipe I’ve used for the last 15 years – Nigella’s Lily’s Scones from “How to Be a Domestic Goddess”).  And all just in time.

We gave our visitors a tour of our wee farm – fed the rabbit and guinea pigs, laughed at the ducks and geese, picked carrots, collected the eggs, chatted with the goats who are always happy to talk, and spent a lot of time keeping track of Fu.  “The Fluffy one” was the littlest one’s hottest favourite.  Then we had our picnic under the tree.

By the time they left, Noah and I were so tired all we wanted to do was flop on the sofa – but there were parcels waiting for us at the Post Office – Rhonda Hetzel’s new book “The Simple Home”, Tone Finnanger’s new book “Tilda’s Toy Box” (it is utterly divine and I want to make everything), a new honey pot for the kitchen, and a tshirt for Noah.  Mail order is definitely one of the perks of living in the country :-)

We are so far from the shops that there’s no regular dropping in as we pass.  Instead, even though we shop locally for as much as we can, every couple of months we pop in small orders to some of our favourite online stores – books (I like Booktopia – Australian owned and operated, excellent delivery times), eco homewares (I adore Spiral Garden (they have Taproot at a great price with Australian shipping and a lovely homewares section), Greenharvest (their egg brush is my favourite kitchen tool), Eden Seeds (I will happily just read the catalogue in bed everynight), and Bee Eco Wraps (just amazing!  transformed our food storage) Noah’s into tshirts, Julian has a passion for vintage tools, and I confess, special bits of fabric and wool find there way here too (Little Woollie Makes is my favourite for wool – she has everything I love, and I’m addicted to Clair’s Fabrics – really nicely curated collection).  Then –  as we don’t have a mailman that comes to our gate, our parcels are left at the local postoffice in the nearby village and when we drop in for milk, the lovely owners always know whether something is waiting for us.  We love it! It’s just so quaint and old fashioned compared to living on a tram line in a huge city.  I’m so glad we’re here.

So a lovely day was perfectly ended with cups of tea and reading.  Noah cooked supper.  The animals were tucked into bed.  The cool night has drawn in.

Maybe tomorrow it will feel like autumn.  Whether or not, there will be loveliness for sure.