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!