on the chair

the little farmer’s quilt

thread and scissors

joined by the gulls

trio

on the table

little boa

noah and the moon

walking along the grass

on the chair

catching the sun

over the rock

dusty with sun

bronzed

the blanket

squiggly crosses

quilted rock

blanket warming in the sun

the whole quilt

corner on the sand

around the sun

close up of centre

sitting on the quilt

corner folded back

shaking it out

quilt and waves

heading back

maddie the dog

blowing off the chair

Really, every post I write about quilts could start like this “Oh my goodness, it’s finally finished!”  I’m so predictable ;-)

This Little Farmer’s Quilt was one of those spur of the moment quilts I pieced last year.  On a rare Saturday morning off work, I drove out to Gail B’s Patchwork with Noah because I really wanted some of their old Heather Ross fabrics – hopefully the little farmer with her horses.  And yes, they had it!  So I then spent a lovely hour or so gathering soft sunset colours to put with it.  I pictured a sort of round the world quilt but in rectangles not squares, with the Heather Ross fabric as the centrepiece.

It was the last quilt in progress that I shared with my dear old Grandad before he died.  Mum was by his side almost every day during his last few months, and every day family from all over the world would send him photos, little videos, and skype messages that Mum would help him look at at.  Oh he so loved it, and would look at his favourites over and over again.  Especially videos of his greatgrandchildren saying “Love you grandad!  Love you grandad!” He would wave back to them, kiss them on the iPad and say “Love you too sweetie!”

Truly, I cannot agree with anyone who says the internet and all its accompanying technology is destroying our families and societies.  Despite so many of us being so far away, we were all able to be there with Grandad during his last days, sharing funny stories of old, describing what we’d been up to, reminding him of how much he was loved.  It was an incredible blessing.

And he and Nanny always wanted to know what I was making so I would send Mum photos and she would share them.  One of Grandad’s gifts was that he never offered shallow praise.  If I played the piano for him, gave him an essay to read, showed him my patchwork or embroidery, I knew I could rely on him to tell me what he loved but also what needed improving.  “Well, you need to work on that passage, don’t you!” he would say when I finished playing a wonky piece “But I loved listening to the opening – you played that well.” And “Well, that’s a nice looking lighthouse, but let’s face it sweetheart, that’s not what our lighthouses look like.  I think you should make it authentic to us.” And “The colours look lovely Doogie, but I think you’ve rushed those points a bit.  I know you could do better.”

I always valued Grandad’s opinion and his encouragement always made me want to go further, stretch myself, work harder.

I’ll always remember the Christmas I was accepted into the University of Queensland to study for my Bachelor of Arts when I was 17.  Father Christmas had given me the University Handbook – a huge telephone directory sized volume that included every discipline within the university and a description of every subject they taught.  The depth of offerings was amazing – I could even study Icelandic Language and Myth!  After our big family Christmas dinner was eaten and washed up, Grandad and I sat at the dining table with the handbook, paper and pencil and pored over almost every chapter.  We discussed what would be interesting, what would be useful, what would be difficult, the value of education and how fabulous it was that Gough Whitlam had introduced free tertiary for everyone – Grandad and I loved talking politics!  He looked through disciplines that he would love to have studied as a young man and we talked about them too – he was especially interested in Australian history and politics.  It was the beginning of my university life shared with one of the people I love more dearly than anything else. The perfect Christmas.

This here quilt … Grandad loved the colours – he thought they were the best choice I’d ever made – I’d created a beautiful sunset.  And he liked how they radiated out from the centre.  Me too Grandad.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

So, the other afternoon, when Noah had an appointment at the hairdresser at Bermagui, it was the perfect opportunity to take along the almost finished quilt, sit on the cliff by the glittering sea and sew down the last of the binding, then take it down to one of our magic beaches with Noah and photograph it.

The late autumn afternoon sun was low in the sky, setting all the honeycomb rocks and quilt ablaze with rich light, and casting a magical dusty glow across the wetlands behind us.  The wind whipped about us, sprinkling us and the quilt with a fine dusting of cool sand.  The sea was choppy with white galloping horses out in the bay and thickly tumbling waves close to shore.  There were a couple of fishermen further up the beach, a young woman running through the water and diving under the waves her long dreadlocked hair trailing behind her like a mermaid’s tail, and a sweet friendly dog called Maddie.  That was definitely a sign – one of Grandad’s dearest grandchildren is named Maddie – oh how they adored each other :-)

Whenever we do something like this, I feel so close to Grandad because I know it’s exactly the kind of thing he would want to do too.  He would have played with Maddie the dog, chatted with the fishermen about their catches, and asked the young woman about her exercise regime.  He would have insisted on carrying the deck chair, and taken part in just how to best lay the quilt out and where to stand to catch the best light – Grandad loved his camera.

He would have loved every moment.

And then, as we were driving back along the beautiful winding road home – up the little hills and back down into the little valleys, all filled with picturesque dairy farms – there on the side of a small glade of trees was a little black wallaby.

It was dear old Grandad!  Letting us know he’d had a lovely afternoon too and that he would always be here.

down to the edge

on the way home we stopped

off with the sneakers

crystal water

down to the edge

surveying his kingdom

pearls

grass

ancient shipwreck

lichen

lily

more grass

through the gap

so blue

shattered plates

rich gold

and orange

balmy

lunch

Our to do list is so long.  There’s decades worth of work on it.  Sometimes Julian feels a bit frustrated by not having the time (he still works full time from home) or a bottomless pit of money to simply throw at all the essential bits.  Need thousands of metres of fencing? Poof!  Here it is!  Need a lovely big dam?  Poof!  Here it is!  Need the perfect timber framed barn with hay loft and milking stands? Poof!  Here it is.  And how ’bout we just click our fingers to make that beautiful boundary of deciduous trees appear.  Then we’ll click our heels and there’ll be both an orchard of fruit trees, and one of oaks and hazelnuts.  Ah … it’s the stuff fairy tales are made of, huh :-)

So Friday evenings are usually spent pondering the list of what we should tackle over the weekend.  And come sunup on Saturday it’s game on.  Everything has to be done on a strict budget so we are always scouring the dump shops for supplies and coming up with new ways of building things.  We’ve almost finished our Duck and Geese Mansion – built at the bottom of the garden out of hardwood pallets a lovely local nursery gave us.  Now all it needs is the door – which Julian is building out of old hardwood fence palings we found at the dumpshop.  It’s definitely our cheapest build yet – and looks fab!  Julian’s been tempting the ducks and geese into it this week – Hansel and Gretel style – trails of scratchmix down the garden to the pallet built ramp, onto the pallet built landing and into the pallet built house.  They are totally up with it :-)

This Saturday we needed a fresh trailer load of supplies so headed north to Narooma.  On the way we stopped in our local village – Cobargo – for travelling supplies. They have little street stalls on a Saturday morning – our favourite’s the Cobargo Baking Buddies!  Their stall is stacked high with wonderful cakes and slices and biscuits and buns and chutneys and jams – reminds me so much of the stall my Nanny used to run for the local church at the saleyards in her small town.  We picked up a date and walnut roll, cinnamon scrolls and a jar of mustard pickles.  Yum!  This weekend there was even a banjo and piano player busking – I could have cheerfully plonked down on the footpath and listened for the rest of the morning!

Then it was onto the hardware store – an absolute rabbit warren of a place that’s tucked away down near the beach and cemetery.  It has everything we can think of – sleepers, besser blocks, marine ply, garden hose fittings, bathroom fittings, paint, nails … all our favourite stuff – and really helpful nice staff.  We filled the trailer – even bought a new set of basin taps and mixer for our bathroom – ours is precariously held together with globs of silicon (the previous owner’s answer to everything) and if we turn on the tap too hard, the mixer flies off and we get a torrent of water to the face – yay!  We headed back to the highway and Julian asked me what the next stop was.

And I said …. “The beach.”  Yup.  It was a glorious day – ridiculously warm for the 3rd week in May, with a rich blue sky and lashings of sun – the perfect day for the beach.  That to do list will always be there.  In fact, it will only grow.  And we will always be able to think up a myriad of ways to toil away the hours on our little farm.  But we live in such a gorgeous corner of the world  – gosh, we moved here just because it is so beautiful and we wanted to call this coastline, these valleys home.  Thus, it is practically our duty to soak it up as often as we can ;-)

So, heading home, we turned off at Mystery Bay.  Oh it was exquisite.  We strolled from one end to the other.  Sloshing through the almost balmy, crystal clear water, our trousers rolled up to our knees, quiet and dreamy.  We watched the sea birds, mused about just which rocky nook would be the loveliest for swimming, and looked carefully along the tidemark to see what treasures the ocean was washing up today.  I ooohed and ahhhed over the rich lichens – Julian admired the dramatic rock formations – some look like ancient rusted shipwrecks, others like shards of roof slate a tip truck let slide out onto the sand – and declared he had to read up on his geology.

It was bliss.  Utter bliss.  And so absolutely essential to making the most of Wombat Hill Farm – yes?!?

Finally we were back to where we started.  So, trousers wet, legs bare and sticky with salt, and feet caked with sand, we turned back to the highway.  Shortly after, we turned off again to Tilba Tilba – we needed a serious stock up on Erica’s fabulous South Coast cheese and milk – our favourites are the 3 Year Vintage and the Vintage Blue.  But we still had that laden trailer so we had to park up the top of Tilba in the caravan section and then trot on down to the cheese factory – our trousers still wet, our legs still bare, our feet still sandy – we felt like such locals :-)

By the time we were home, you know, there weren’t too many hours left to work.  Julian cut some grass.  I planted some veggie seedlings (to replace the ones the rats ate – and now the rabbits are eating these ones – ARGH!) and a row of echinacea in a bed that’s turning into a bit of a medieval herbal selection – so far I have elder, echinacea, calendula and verbena – the chickens are very fond of this lot so I’ve had to fence it off – using little panels of mesh we found … at the dump shop of course!

So not much was ticked off the to do list at all.  But that’s okay.  Because when we are old and grey and wobbly of memory, I don’t want to only be able to list all the chores we completed, year in year out. I want to be able to laugh with happiness and tell stories about all the lovely adventures we took, all the times we stopped on the way home, and all the hours we spent just soaking it up.

That’s what will make living here at Wombat Hill truly special.

bounders

a goat walk

off we go

past the trees

abel on the fallen tree

fence up the hill

our little forest

through the long grass

towards the mountains

view north

view to northeast

looking east

following the leader

up the tree

bark

with mouths full

bounders

wombat den

sap running

checking out the bonfire

at the gate post

 

Oh our goats are such cheeky boys! They’re in escape mode again :-0 But I do think I understood what’s going on behind those limpid eyes.  You see, their field behind the shed had become boring – they’ve been moving about it in their electric fence over the last 6 weeks or so.  They’ve eaten all their favourite bits.  Played king of the castle on all the rocks.  Explored every nook and cranny.  They’re over it.  Abel tells us this by jumping over the electric fence and standing in the corner of the house garden bleating and munching roses, whilst Basil and Clyde scream their frustration that Abel has gone and they are still in purgatory.

Yesterday, Noah and I spent ages in the hot sun (hot sun!? in may!?) carting the electric fence way down the other end of the property.  We set up a field where the goats had fallen trees to climb, bracken and blackberry to munch, long grass, shade to lounge in, and new rocks to stand on.  Alas, we forgot to take into account that whilst our goats are cheeky boys, they are also terrible sooks.  They couldn’t stand being that far away from us and within an hour of being in their new field, they were back eating the roses and standing on the Jeep’s bonnet (Julian LOVES it when they stand on the Jeep bonnet!)

Much to their disappointment, this led to a long afternoon sulking in their sleeping quarters.  The goat life is a hard one.

This morning – Julian had errands to run and I just didn’t have the heart to say to Noah, “We need to go and undo all of yesterday’s work and redo it somewhere else, on the off chance that will please our neurotic goats.” So the goats were once more left languishing in their sleeping quarters.  Now this is not dreadful – they have plenty of room, water, food, shade, cosy straw beds under shelter, and their play gym.  But you know, they’re goats.  It pissed them off.  Specially every time the chickens strutted past clucking “Don’t mind us – we’re just off to explore the neighbours fields!”

So, once Julian was home, we set off for a goat walk.  It is such a good way to spend a couple of hours – never fails to energise, inspire and relax – and Julian and I enjoy it as well!  We set off in one direction, clambering down through the fields of long grass to our small forest.  There’s always lots to explore down there.  Julian and I talk non stop about which trees need to come out (the fallen and spindly ones) and what we’ll use them for, delight in how many wombat dens there are, shake our heads in dismay over how many rabbit warrens there are, check out the kangaroo beds (the nooks of flattened grass), and just which gully will make the perfect lake that we can build a little jetty one, fill with trout that we can fish from a little row boat and of course, water the livestock.

Then we meander further north to check out the new fencing.  We are agisting part of our land to the lovely neighbours who farm Italian water buffaloes – they are dairy buffalo and we are so looking forward to their milk!  Julian is determined to make blissful mozzarella.  This awesome fencing also means we can safely keep a small flock of sheep and cows on our side – black suffolks and Irish dexters here we come!

All the way, the goats play and climb and munch.  We go slowly so as to let them enjoy every moment – and oh they do.

At last, it’s time to head south, back up the big hill towards our cottage.  The goats bellies are round and fat with weeds, grass and small trees.  They frolic along, long fronds of greenery hanging out of their mouths, in the best of spirits.  As are ours.  Our hearts are full of excitement and love for this beautiful land that we are custodians of.  Our minds are full of plans for what the next 40 years will bring.  Our imaginations are full of so much whimsy and adventure.

Once home, the goats amble good naturedly back into their sleeping quarters where we fill their bowl with goat nuts.  We promise them that tomorrow we will move their electric fence back to the field behind the shed, but further down – where the grass is lush, the bracken is tender, there are plenty of trees to ruminate under, and so many new rocks to play king of the castle on!  They bump their thanks against our legs and let us rub our cheeks into their soft cosy winter coats.

And we promise each other that we will take this lovely goat walk more often.

at the chook house

as i wait

plain doily

sewing the basket

high tech sewing tool

starting the stitches

finished and filled

knotted and looped handles

D72_5598

wolfgangs feather

aamzing sky

moon

watching her reflection

still stitching

the wrap

constant companions

full length

walking with basket

with basket

at the chook house

1 egg

January tumbled about with chaos and excitement as we moved and set up our new home.  The days began early, ended late, and every night when we fell into bed, our little esky-cottage looked more and more like “our place”.

February sizzled with unrelenting heat, and new routines and responsibilities that were both fabulous and baffling – you will truly laugh at this, but I honestly thought “drenching” must have involved showering goats from head to hoof :-0 Frankly, that would be easier than trying to squirt worming medication down their frantically jerking throats!

March dipped up and down with moments of such pleasure and more of overwhelming angst. Ah March you seemed such hard work at the time.  And yet, just last night, I watched the film “Defiance” and thought about the atrociously awful things people not only endure but survive then go on to create new lives of meaning and love (this is not to diminish the terrible long term effects such trauma can imprint on people).  It was a very humbling reminder of the privilege we live with in this time and place.  And how perhaps, when life is physically so very easy, I spend far too much time wandering about in my mind.  I don’t have any answers or conclusions.  I’m just very thankful to be here right now and the recipient of much love and good care.

April brought  much needed calm.  Our home was comfortable.  Our animals were settled.  Our routines were both simple and delightful.

Throughout all of this, the mere thought of working outside of our home as a nurse was way too much!  At first, I scanned the job advertisements every week, hopeful I would find the perfect fit.  By March I no longer looked because I didn’t want to find a job I’d feel obliged to apply for.

When I was finally ready to call the person responsible for bank nursing – a casual position where I can pick up the shifts which suit me seems like the ideal compromise at the moment – in April, it just so happened they were interviewing that week!  Noah and I headed straight for town.  Noah printed out my resume and application at the local copy store whilst I tried on interview outfits, with Noah arriving just in time to give the final thumbs up.  The interview went well.

One question asked how I would care for an elderly patient with end stage lung cancer, who had been transferred from a nursing home to hospital with a chest infection and decreasing mobility.  It was incredibly satisfying to think about how best to meet this character’s needs.  I thought of all the very similar patients I met and assessed in the cubicles of the Emergency Department, and the big and little questions I had to find answers too, all the while making the patients feel as safe and comfortable as possible.  Then of all the patients I nursed upstairs in the wards, their failing bodies, their spirits almost always endearing (sometimes bitter), and their hourly needs.  If the interview panel had demanded, I would have cheerfully written them a paper on the topic.  It felt so good thinking like a nurse again.

Since then, there has been an enormous amount of slow moving paperwork to complete and submit.  Along with blood tests for immunisation levels, immunisations themselves (I think my immune system is incapable of generating antibodies to HepB), police checks, working with children checks … Hopefully it is all done now and I’ll hear next week what the next step is.

And now it is May.  Almost half way through the year.  In just over a month, we will be celebrating the Winter Solstice and feeling all excited as the days begin once more to lengthen.  Oh my.

While the time speeds by and the job application plods along, I’m finding plenty of opportunity for all sorts of little crafty projects.  I’m painting, and knitting, and crocheting, and embroidering, and sewing .. frankly it’s beginning to feel a bit frivolous at times! But I’m making the most of the opportunity to trawl through all the fabric boxes that are sitting in the shed, finding just started projects along with those that only need an hours or so work before they are done and ready!

This week, I pulled out a lovely linen/cotton blend wrap around skirt I started almost 2 years back.  I remember really loving working on it – especially the pockets – they were so satisfying.  But then, just before adding the waistband, I tried it on and it was too big.  Sigh.  So it was shoved to the back of the pile.  Now – being a bit larger then I was then – it only needed the seams widened before it fitted just fine ;-) Then – on with the waistband – which was a bit tricky because I couldn’t find the directions – only the pieces – so had to bumble along best as I could.  After a couple of false starts it worked.

Then – well you know me – more is always more.  So I whacked on a lovely big hand crocheted doily that I recently bought from the oppie for just $1 and sat down for a day’s embroidery.  It was one of those projects that was a delight to start and then hours and hours of increasingly tedious repetition.  However, I was determined this skirt was NOT going back into the never never pile, so on I plodded.  Oh I’m so glad I did!  It’s exactly me :-)

And I whipped up another basket – one for egg collecting.  Tried the coloured stitching again – I definitely like it with just one colour but this one has a few too many stops and starts for my finicky eyes.  I added some rickrack – which I will never do again – it is soooooooo difficult – a looped handle which I adore – and a little appliqued and cross stitched egg.  Because why not?!  I have plenty of time at the moment!

Julian had asked for the egg basket – and he requested some kind of lining that the eggs would nestle into and reduce the chance of breaking.  I thought about it for a while before realising that STRAW was the perfect solution.  That’s what the chickens and ducks use – and when it gets a bit manky, I can tip it into the compost and add a fresh layer.

I have to confess, when I looked at these photos, it did remind me somewhat of Marie Antoinette dressing up to play shepherdess in the beautiful little “farm” her servants built for her to play in.  Hmmmm …. then I remembered all the time I have up my sleeve and reasoned why shouldn’t the egg basket be lovely!  As long as it is functional, it can be as sweet as I like – and Julian thinks it’s highly useful so there!

Now – well the day is cool and grey, the chores are done, the last of the paperwork has been emailed … there’s plenty of knitting to finish and what’s that? I think I hear some patchwork calling!