what’s going on up there!

peaches on the big tree

:: an abundance of peaches on the old tree ::

our first fig

:: two tiny figs on a very new tree that is struggling a bit to get going ::

so many oranges

:: such a plethora of tiny oranges that if they all grow up
they’ll pull over their slender mother ::

spotty apricots

:: hidden apricots, close to the verandah, all slightly spotty ::

peaches

:: peaches on the tiny dwarf I planted on a wintery afternoon ::
grapes

:: an absolutely glut of grapes – both here and smothering our verandah ::

apple tree

:: thriving apples – we planted them the weekend we “settled” ::

julian digging

:: through the kitchen window, past the rose, Julian’s marking out his pond::

growing pond

: oh and it just grew and grew and grew –
he’s determined to have ducks swimming there by fall ::

pruning

:: the queen of pruning
– there are so many roses, she will never be bored ::

building a little drystone wall

:: Julian dreams of dry stone walls
– good thing we have an abundance of Bega Valley stones ::
saving lizards

:: a rescued local ::

passionfruit and blueberries

:: a mixup of a bed –
roses, blueberries and a passionfruit ::
strawberries

:: 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!

Only three more weeks.

gentle making

another one started

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.
dishcloth knitted

So on our last trip, new kitchen dishcloths were knitted …

pinned out

binding to be sewn down

blanket stitching the edge

edge scalloped

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)

birthday fabrics

quilting the copic wrap

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!)

new curtain for dresser

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!
D72_2018

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!

echidna cushion

echidna

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.

the hugeness of it all

sunrise

morning sea of mist

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.

the chairs

the bookcase

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.

layers of green

across the fields

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 … “

skull and grapes

refreshing

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!

roses

the moon

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 :-)

bob’s stars

bottom corner

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.

inspiration for bobs quilt

star of the sea

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.
nan

lucy

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.

a little help

love from all of us

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.

squiggly wiggly

the back

full quilt

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.

noah and bob

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.

And that’s what matters.