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.

tiny cave

lemon drizzle cake for mothers’ day :: a recipe

 

IMG_8161

path

tall grass

washed up

gannet

weed

big and littl

cliff

green

draped

little headlands

salted

sharp

orange

loose teeth

tiny cave

red

cows

cake

 

A Lemon Drizzle Loaf

Ingredients for the loaf

  • 225g butter (room temperature)
  • 225g white sugar
  • 4 large eggs (I use duck eggs for extra lift and wonderful colour)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 125g unbleached plain flour
  • 100g almond meal
  • 1 tspn baking powder

Ingredients for the drizzle

  • 85g white sugar
  • juice of 1 large lemon

Method for the loaf

  1. Preheat oven to 180 celsius and generously butter a standard loaf tin (My loaf tin is (l)27cm x (w)15cm x (d)7cm).
  2. Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy (I use a kitchenaid standing mixer)
  3. Crack eggs one at a time into a glass – check for freshness before adding to a small bowl – nothing worse than 1 yucky egg spoiling the rest.
  4. Place all 4 eggs into butter and sugar mix and beat well.
  5. Add vanilla and lemon zest to above wet ingredients and continue to beat.
  6. Measure flour, almond meal and baking powder into a medium bowl – combine well with a hand whisk.
  7. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and keep mixing until well combined.
  8. Pour batter into prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean.
  9. Rest in tin on bench.

Method for drizzle

  1. While the loaf is baking, mix sugar with lemon juice (and any lemon pith you are able to extract) in a small jug.
  2. Once the loaf is resting on the bench and still warm, pierce all over with the skewer creating lots of small holes.
  3. Gently pour the lemon drizzle over the loaf being sure to cover all surface area.
  4. Leave in tin until the loaf has cooled.

Serve by itself or with a plain greek yoghurt.

Enjoy!

And remember that mothers always need to secure their own oxygen mask before helping others ;-)

we live here!

stairs

After a steamy, hot morning of gardening, animal wrangling and painting, I flopped onto the verandah sofa more than a bit buggered.  I had suggested to Noah that a trip to our local beach – Bermagui – might be nice, especially since the perfect summer’s day lay before us.

Now, oh I was happy just to lie in the shade and read.  The thought of wriggling into bathers, hopping into a hot car, and driving 20 minutes was utterly unappealing, no matter what lay at the other end.

But, being the sort of person who has a constant stream of self generated, back and forth conversation in her head, it wasn’t long before I reasoned it was now more than a week into February.  Before we knew it, Autumn would be marching on in and these glorious hot days would once again be something we could only dream of.

And here we are living on one of the loveliest stretches of coastline, my beautiful Pacific Ocean almost at my doorstep.  How could we not just take advantage of this at every opportunity?

So before I could effortlessly talk myself OUT of it, I marched inside, wriggled into those bathers and called out “Noah, do you want to go for a swim? I’m ready now!”  He needed no further prompting and we were winding down the pretty road between Cobargo and Bermagui before Julian even noticed.
north end

to the south

with a crash

Now one thing about Bermagui – if you happen to mention to a local that there’s a bit of a breeze blowing, they’ll reply “It’s always blowy in Bermi!”

So it’s often the way that we leave home hot and sticky and just hanging out for a swim, only to arrive in Bermagui and it’s at least 5 degrees cooler and the minute you plop your hat onto your head, it blows off.

But today that wind was only a gentle breeze and the water was utterly glorious.  Cold at first, but so fresh and beautiful that within moments it was pure bliss to be gliding through the water.

There were delightful wee fish darting amongst the rocks with their pretty pink and green plants.  Fierce little crabs scuttled back and forth along ridges of honeycomb like rock.  Magnificent waves, crashed onto the rocks just metres away from where we swam in calm safety.

And looking further down the coast, there were majestic views of steep, untouched cliffs, and gentle rich green pastures rolling right down to the rocky edges of the ocean.

As I floated on my back, the warmth of the sun pouring through me, feeling deliriously happy, all that chatter in my head was reduced to simply repeating …

“We live here now!  This is finally our home!  Oh my goodness we are so blessed.  Can you believe it – we LIVE here!”

Every time I said it out loud to Noah, he laughed and replied “We do!  It’s pretty cool, huh!”

towel and swim shirt

hat and sandals

lichen

honeycomb rock

noah

After our swim, we drifted back through the little town – bought gelati at the deservedly famous Bermagui Gelati Clinic – if you look intently at the lower of the three signs, you can see that they simply painted “Gelati” over the previous “Veterinary” – too funny! For a bitingly zesty and fresh treat I heartily recommend the grapefruit gelati.  And Noah swears watermelon has never tasted as watermelony as the watermelon gelati.

We were also very pleased to discover that to the left of the Gelati Clinic is HonorBread and to the right, Mister Jones Expresso.  Woohoo!  We’ll have to return in the morning next time to get our fill of these two delights. gelati clinic

grapefruit gelati

Then we swung on over to the Fishing Co-Op for prawns and flathead for tonight’s supper – a Stephanie Alexander favourite – Coconut Pumpkin Soup with Seafood.

coop

By the time we turned westward for home, misty clouds had settled over our mountains and we arrived home just in time to gather the animals and washing in, light the lamps, and draw into our cosy little home before a light rain fell.  It was the perfect end to a lovely afternoon.

prawns and recipe

pumpkin

Now, my life isn’t all roses by any stretch of the imagination.  I get tired and grumpy.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and at other times as flat as a pancake.  Sometimes Julian and I bicker, with lots of eye rolling, pointed glares and exasperated sighs – usually on my part – he’s a lot more mature :-)  Sometimes things don’t work out at all like I thought – hoped – they would.

Sad things happen – as they do throughout every human’s life – and some days the best I can do is remind myself – and whoever else is nearby – that “this too will pass”.  There’s never enough hours in the day – or money in our pockets – to do everything we’d like.

And it’s taken us 20 years of hard work (mostly Julian’s), a second degree and more hard work (mine), and making do (all three of us!) to finally buy our first home.

But I have to confess that since we arrived here at Wombat Hill, things are pretty marvellous actually.  I’m sure there’ll be plenty more times when having a good cry will be my preferred option – something it’s taken me 45 years to understand is perfectly normal and not a sign that the sky is about to fall – but for now …

We live here!  And there’s so much to love about it.