prettiness on the table

improvised pottering with a cordless drill, silk, and wool

and drying

As spring approaches our second time round the sun here at Wombat Hill, I’ve rearranged the front porch (again), popped table cloths on, plumped cushions, added a rocking chair, set up a desk for whatever takes my fancy … And  just like this time last year, as the sun grows stronger, and the warmth and day both last longer, we exclaim “Oh it’s so lovely out here on the porch!  Why have we been sitting inside!”, forgetting that we moved inside as autumn deepened because it was cold.

washed

Little Doug the dachshund has a real love for my handmade cushions that neither Fu or Pakkun have ever shown.  He spends so long puttering around on the top edge of them – I guess he can do this because he is so very little – until he has smooshed them into just the right shaped nest for his long thin sausage body.  Which means that even though Doug never looks dirty – the bonus of having a dark coat – he makes the tops of all the cushions so very dirty!  So they all need far more regular washing.  Good thing for gentle handwash cycles on our washing machine because I NEVER properly handwash anything.

kitchen

After the porch sitting was done for the morning, and the cushion covers set to dry on the rocking chair’s arms, I pondered the to do list.  It is soooo long.  There are softly coloured 6 inch squares of silk to sew up for our comforter – I’m making one out of a down fillled doona – the sort that sits on the top of the bed and is buttoned through.  There’s new curtains to make for the long living room window – one of the dear little doggles ate a hole in the existing one when they were shut in one rainy day – what a strange choice to make – ever so lovely of them.  There’s a Dottie Angel tabard cut out and waiting to be sewn up.  And, of course, the never ending pile of quilts and quilt tops to work through.  And knitting.  And embroidery.  There’s always knitting and embroidery.

But I was muchly agitated after absorbing the morning’s news peppered with hate and bigotry regarding Australia’s upcoming postal vote (yes, our prime minister Malcolm Turnball is a hypocritical, gutless wonder and will make dreadfully unpopular executive decisions about all manner of life changing issues – e.g. dismantling environmental protections – Coal is our Future!!! – and attacking the incomes of our most vulnerable citizens – but won’t take a simple vote in Parliament concerning a fundamental human right) – so instead found myself pacing the floor, unable to concentrate.

bedroom quilt hung

And so, I grabbed my new drill bits and drill and set to hanging all the things that had been lurking around for days, weeks, months, waiting to be hung.  There was something quite cathartic about it all.

bedroom hooks hung

The old Dutch coffee grinder and French chicken print were hung in the kitchen.  The Exploding Star quilt rehung in the bedroom (had to be moved after a recent bedroom rearrange), a lovely set of hooks from Ikea were hung on the back of our bedroom for our coats and hats, and a new quilt was hung in the dining room.

dining room quilt

I had hung a large blue and green star quilt there – a quilt top that was pieced 7 years ago and only just finished and quilted this year – but it was really too big for the spot so looked a bit awkward.  This one’s a much nicer fit but now I’m thinking the white wall behind it is pretty dull.  When I suggested to Noah that a rich creamy orange would be lovely, he grinned and said “Yes, you’ve said that every second month for two years now! Maybe you just do it!”  Well at least I’m consistent ;-)

embroidery done

By then, the temper was well enough soothed that a bit of sewing was next on the list … the assembling of a new quilted cushion cover – with a little sheep applique for the centre.

prettiness on the table

quilting

I do so love sewing with old woollen blankets and this style of quilt as you go log cabin piecing is my favourite!

ready to turn into a cushion cover

I don’t know how that wound up so very crooked – never mind – when’s it trimmed and sewn up it will be a perfect square again!

but first some knitting

Whilst all of this was happening, the lovely plumber was downstairs installing our new solar hot water system – such a long and cold six weeks we’ve had! And then it struck me, that I am so terribly grateful for him fitting us in with two days notice, that a little piece of handmade gratitude was in order and since he had told me about his wee baby, a quick Milo vest was just the thing.  I knit up the yoke that night – took one episode of Hinterland and three of Offspring.
knitting as fast as i can

By the next morning, I worried it might be a wee bit weird to be knitting a vest for a baby I didn’t know and a plumber I’d only met the day before.  But then, a lovely instagram friend shared how much she and her family are touched by the thoughtful gestures of some customers (her partner’s an electrician) and so, after running multiple errands on Friday morning, I quickly set down after lunch to knit my fingers to the bone and GET. IT. FINISHED before the the plumber finished for the day.

finished

And I did.  With literally 20cm of wool left – that Cleckheaton California is so generous in both colour, smooshiness, and length!
for the plumbers baby

The plumber seemed very pleased and thus it was all very worthwhile. I do find that the best laid crafty plans almost always go astray – something more pressing always pops up in the loveliest of ways.

hot water

And we now have beautiful steamy hot water!  Oh the luxury of washing up without having to boil pot after pot of water on the stove.  Oh the BLISS of having a shower, instead of a bath at the kitchen sink which required even more of those pots of water to be boiled!

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On this sun sparkly, windy winter’s morn

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My new name badge has arrived for work… I have just last week started a new position on the paediatrics ward. I love looking after children and their families and can foresee much study and the gaining of new skills in the next couple of years.

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There’s a new cushion cover waiting for me to stitch today.  I have grand notions of making a series of cushions with animals from our farm. Maybe …

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Every time I visit the kitchen garden – usually several times a day – there are more sweet pea to bring upstairs – heaven! And Julian has promised to build me a permanent sweet pea bed next year with a sturdy metal trellis.  Oh imagine how many sweetpeas there will be then!

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I’ve finally taken paint to my rough sketch on the pantry wall.  My little farmher is definitely channelling her inner Strega Nona.  That’s okay – I’m very fond of Strega.

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Jammy toast and creamy coffee before venturing out to tend to all our animals. I so love my coffee, I look forward to it from the moment I go to bed the night before!

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My auriculas are loving this sunny sunny corner of the porch  … everyday I carefully look for signs of their long flowering stems.  Not yet.  Surely soon.  Just have to get the Auricula theatre my talented friend Terry so beautifully made for me up on the porch.  Alas it is sooooo heavy and we never seem to get around to it when Julian is home.

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Spring is so close! Always the first to bloom is my sweet almond tree .  This year we are DEFINITELY NETTING so as to enjoy not just her pretty popcorn flowers but her actual nuts as well.

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First out, the honking geese  … they will surely start laying soon and hopefully this year,  their eggs will be fertile and we will have dear little goslings marching around the garden.  Apparently their first year of laying is a dummy run so fingers crossed.

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The ducks do nothing by half.  Life is thrilling and there to be seized in full quacking voice, so each morning, out they burst and off they run.

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Book wisdom says to discard your dirty eggs.  Ducks always look pristine but are right dirty little buggers.  If I heeded this rule, we would never eat a duck egg! So instead I was them quickly in skin temperature water with a wee bit of environmentally sensitive dishwashing liquid and dry them on a tea towel on the kitchen bench.  All good.

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My first delphinium is blooming.  Do I cut it and bring it inside to stick in with sweetpeas or leave it to admire in the garden.  What would Gertrude or Vita do? I shall have to check.

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Where’s my carrot!?  Honestly, ponies are worse than dogs when it comes to eating.  Everything is fair game including my pockets and fingers.

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Noah and I finally collected our bunches of Privet berries for dyeing wool.  Alas today there is no power or water so they will have to wait.  Of course I know to be super careful with these berries as privet is both toxic and very invasive … but I have great hopes for the blues and greens that we will cook up!

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This girl is sitting on a large clutch of eggs.  Common sense – or fear, Julian and Noah – says we should move her off and put them in the incubator ’cause last year which ever hen it was – all the Plymouths are called Helen because I can’t tell them apart – killed each chick she had.  Eek! Their dear little heads were all pecked in.  But I’m hoping that was youthful immaturity and this year – if I move this girl into her into her own little house on ground level in the chook run with easy access to food and water – this girl will live up to her breed’s reputation and that won’t happen …

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The bottom scrapings of the pea and ham soup pot will grow good eggs. The chickens and turkeys agree.

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These little piggies are the noisiest of my four legged children.  And the funniest.

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Good morning to you too Bridget! She doesn’t really like me that much … just wants her Lucerne NOW.

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These here sheep reckon they need Lucerne too. Every morning they tell me how starving they are … yet the fellows at the stock feed tell me no sheep ever starved in the Bega Valley.  I just don’t know who to believe …
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Our newly planted cypress hedge saluting the sun.  I hope they grow as fast as their labels promise.

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There’s definitely A Tale of Two Bad Ponies to be written.  Tooticky is frantically stuffing herself with the sheep and cow Lucerne as I wheel it down to them. Lucerne is to ponies what red cordial is to hyperactive children … Do you know what I caught the ponies doing yesterday? Squatting under the quail house and bumping it up and down with their shoulders so as to spill the quail food all over the ground so they could then gobble it up! No wonder we go through so much quail food.
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Dear Babette … she doesn’t think she should have to eat off the ground with the rest of them. Hand fed please.
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And all of this was luckily completed – with water troughs filled – literally seconds before bang! The power was turned off for the day … again.  Insert big deep sighs. So no painting or sewing or gardening or cleaning or listening to music etc etc etc.

But I shall not rant on about how much this annoys me … instead I shall write this blog post on my phone – a tad challenging so please overlook any strange errors – and look back at yet another morning spent having a marvellous time on our little farm here in the gorgeous Bega Valley where we get to live all that we dream of.  With or without power … and water!

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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

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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!

 

red :: white :: blue

the view

Here’s a simple quilt.  Red, white and blue.  One single motif in the middle.  Inspired by the individual bolts of fabric, found at Darn Cheap.

Sewn up super quick.  Then stuck on my quilting sewing machine for many many many weeks.  Progress was so slow.  Not helped by a whole bobbin’s worth of quilting that had to be unpicked because of dodgy bobbin tension.

Not helped by starting my new nursing rotation.

Overshadowed by all the fun I am having with my mosaic.

Finally finished whilst staggering through the worst flu-thing I’ve had in 8 years.  As I sat sneezing on the first day of sickness, I wodged a tissue up my nostrils and sat down to just FINISH the bloody thing.  Then lay on the sofa, whining and coughing and sneezing, quilt draped over me, to sew down the binding.  Then read and slept under it for the rest of the week, intermittently panicking over the five shifts of work I missed, and melodramatically wondering whether I would ever feel normal again.
from the side

Good to know, though, that this bit of sewing works well as a warm and comforting quilt.  Can’t have too many quilts, right?

pattern

safety pins

starting

It’s the first quilt I’ve started since Grandad’s death.  The first quilt I’ve ever made that I haven’t sent him a photo of so that he could see what I was up to.  Grandad loved that I quilted, but still offered objective criticism.  He’d tell me which colours he thought worked really well and which were not pulling their weight.  Which techniques he thought showed I’d really put some time into the quilt, and which he thought were obviously a quick fabric fix.  And if I suggested any doubt, he’d always remind me of the value of pulling things apart to start again if the end result truly wasn’t right.  But also of not seeking perfection – a vanity he thought stymied both the creative process and the joy to be found in making.

Grandad also loved that I quilted onto vintage, thrifted blankets.  Like many of his generation, he was disappointed in the loss of Australian manufacturing, especially the wool industry and its accompanying small rural mills.  And he could never understand how someone could prefer a doona over a well made, nicely checked Australian pure wool blanket.

He also loved a good display of thrift – there’s not much that’s thrifty about our modern day patchwork and quilting – we flock to designer fabric labels and gobble up glorious, high quality cotttons that we carefully cut and piece to make something beautiful.  And yes, it’s undoubtedly useful, but Grandad loved to ponder that earlier purpose of patchwork – the gathering of small scraps from clothing which were saved, then carefully curated to make warm bed coverings for families.  He loved that I eschewed expensive battings and backing fabrics and just whacked my quilt tops on blankets rescued from the opshops.
from the back

finished quilt

lovely smooth texture

squiggly

binding

But whilst he may not have seen this quilt, I was able to include some fabric I know he loved – the binding.  It’s from the fabric I used to sew his little black wallaby – the one he is buried with.  And as we were driving up to Wombat Hill on Friday afternoon, the car packed to the roof with bits and bobs for the cottage – quilts, crockery, lamps, the Lotte sideboard – we were almost at Mum’s, there was only a skerrick of light left, and there, standing on the side of the road on one of the last sharp bends between Eden and Pambula, was a beautiful little black wallaby.

You often see kangaroos by the road – in the late afternoon there are often dozens gathered on grassy verges and in parks – but not wallabies.  They are shy little, solitary things, and much prefer to stay nestled back in the bush.  This little wallaby stood alone on the bend, just watching us speed on by.

loop

It was a sign :-)on tree

Dear old Grandad mightn’t be sitting up in his armchair in Queensland, on the other end of the phone, listening to all of our exploits, but oh, he is with us every step of the way.

Every plan we make, fence we strain, trailer load of supplies we buy and unload, fruit tree we plant, vegetable garden we till, compost pile we nurture, chook run we build, animal we feed, Grandad has already laboured over the same, and is loving that we are now continuing on with a way of life he thought was marvellous.

It’s a good feeling.