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.

painting the farm

whitewash

little guineas

helping

blue flowers

strange flowers

good company

with rabbit

hunny bunny

tree

on angle

finished

 

I’ve fallen into that habit where I think “I won’t invite people over until I’ve finished this and this and this and this and this …”  Both in person and here at block-a-day!

However, given my other habit of having a million things on the go at once, that can make for very sporadic posting … and telling Julian that we cannot invite that nice couple over until I’ve painted the dining room walls orange.

That’s changing.  Those lovely people can come anytime regardless of what colour the walls are and I’m just going to share what I’m up to here – not wait for the “ta-da! It’s all done!” moment.

I might have said this before? Well I’m going to do much better this time ;-)

So lately – I’m decorating the animal shelters and it’s such blissful fun!  I’ve started with the smallest – the guinea pig hutch which moves round and round the vegetable garden whilst the little pigs greedily tear up all the grass.

First up I whitewashed everything with an all purpose prep coat.  Well I started it, but when I had to dash off to an appointment, Noah cheerfully finished it off so as it would be all ready for painting when I got home.  He’s a darling – always happy to indulge any of my creative impulses.

We decided on a Moomin theme for the guinea pigs – these wonderful books and comics by Tove Jansson being one of Noah’s and my absolute favourite books and illustrations.  And whilst he wasn’t keen on any actual painting – he’s much more into water colours, copic markers and digital art making – he was happy to bring his drawing and Hunny Bunny the Rabbit down to the veggie garden to spend a truly lovely afternoon with me.

I started with Tove’s cover for Finn Family Moomintroll as my starting inspiration … and then just made it up as I went along.  One of the most delightful things about making it up is that I can have whatever loopy flowers and trees I want.  Good stuff!  And my beloved sun – I always want to add that no matter what my medium – embroidery, mosaic, paint, fabric – that combination of red, rosy pink, orange, and egg yolk yellow is my all time favourite.

But Moominpapa and those Hattifattners – they are just pure Tove.  Well, except that I had to add a bit of blue to Moominpapa so he’d show up – and a bit of green to those crazy Hattifattners.

We all love it!  Eventually, I will add pictures to the ends and front of the hutch, then trim the whole lot with red gloss and a protective coat of varnish for the artwork.

Until then – it makes us all smile every time we look down into the veggie garden, and I swear I’ve even noticed the ducks standing at the fence, looking in with curious appreciation!

book, book, book

I’ve been living and breathing this book for the last few days.  Well, the story’s been written for a while now, but following a rather major disaster (anyone here enjoy the ups and downs of group work?! Not I, said the fly!) I’ve had to churn out over 30 drawings since Saturday.  And beg an extension from a lecturer.  And start laying out the book again from scratch.

Nevertheless, it has been strangely – stressfully – enormously – fun!  It’s inspired me to seek out some lessons in pastel drawing and think about transforming some of those stories that have been hiding in the corners of my imagination for ever into print and paper.  Truly, it’s a lovely creative process, this mixing together of story and picture.

We’ll see :-)  For now, I thought you might like to take a gander at my attempt at a storybook with farm safety for children as it’s theme.  It’s for a Child and Family Health class I’m taking.  Themes compiled from the most pertinent safety issues for children on farms in Australia.  Influenced by the stories of those dear country girls I taught and looked after at boarding school.

~ occupying Abby’s crafting table ~

~ introducing Sally and Olivia ~

~ Abby the master scanner,
patiently turning my pictures into lovely, neat jpegs ~

~ poor light, excruciatingly stiff neck, time for bed ~

~ a new day, lots of white ~
( matchbox, covered and needlefelted
– marvellous idea for christmas stockings!)

~ all flat surfaces are filling up ~

~ day 3 – home from classes, extension granted
colour, Lily, colour! ~

~ more flat surfaces and still the daughter’s scanning ~

~ almost done ~

~ I don’t think I shall ever find work as a wild pig portraitist ~

~ the cover ~
Julian and Abby hate extraordinaire – yeah, they’re right
they want “a cautionary tale” ??

Here I sit, my aching neck firmly swathed in one of Julian’s long knitted scarves.  I’ve taken more panadol for this bloody neck in the last two days than I’ve taken all year!  And I was thinking, with Friday’s last shift at the hospital finished, that I’d be able to take a nice long breath.  Settle back into our usual routine.  Potter about.  Ha!

But I do rather like my page numbering – minus the blue lines – they’re just there from the grab.

 

the joy of finding the long lost

One of the lovely things about tidying and organising our games and art supplies for our “new” games cupboard was the finding of things we’d “lost”.  Oh the hours of fun and laughter we’ve had with Trouble since putting everything in its place.

Another discovery that sent me up to the local art store for some fresh paper, was my bundle of soft pastels.  I cannot even remember the last time I had these out.  I am a complete amateur (my only study of them comes from admiring those that are found in the children’s picture books!) but I do so love the smooshiness that I can create with these.  Smudging them into the paper, into each other … my fingers.  They are my favourite medium – and oh so forgiving :-)

So this morning, after packing Abby off to school and clearing the kitchen table, I settled down with that fresh art block … oh there truly is a shiver of anticipation when I open a new blank book of paper – such possibilities! … and my pastels.  This morning, we had been reading Mary Oliver before school (I am tragically earnest and love reading poetry to Abby before she leaves for a hectic day – I live in hope that it will create beautiful and sturdy images in her mind – reminding her of the loveliness that surrounds her – it certainly works for me) and one of my favourite is her celebration of that life giving orb (I just had to use that word – always makes me think of that early on scene in Cold Comfort Farm when Flora is on the train, trying to write her masterpiece!) I have found myself constantly writing about of late … “The Sun”.

As someone who loves to meddle with words, my favourite part is Oliver’s questioning of whether any words can possibly capture the magic that is the sun …. so I composed a simple picture to accompany these hope-filling words.  A pastel of one of my favourite sunsets … looking towards the southern tips of the Great Dividing Range as it heads west from the beach at Merimbula, with one of the local dairy farms, nestled into the bush.

An hour or so passed – it was so good.  There’s something very nourishing about sitting quietly and making a picture.  I highly recommend it :-)  And now, it is pinned up on the window in the kitchen nook.  Next to a wee declaration of the trials of winter – a reminder perhaps that whilst we are indeed having our noses nipped by the cold and struggle to climb out of bed on these dark mornings, the year will surely continue to turn and the radiant sun outside this window will grow stronger and warmer.