patchwork

let’s start again!

swimming

on the rocks

in the shade

tea

noah

yellow door

lamb

house skirt

rabbit skirt

bridget

patchwork

juno

checked shirt

plums

pantry rearrange

at the beach

making baskets

little door

baby doll

rocky beach

rochet

luna lapin

crepe myrtle

quail eggs

fennel

Heeeelllloooo!

I am sitting here this morning, flicking about the internet – reading the news on several different sites, checking the rain forecast, looking at my favourite few blogs to see what they’re up to, checking to see what animals are for sale this morning (I’m addicted) – and it occured to me that I really really loved the old blogging days when I could spend a good hour reading wonderful stories from women around the world.  Reading about the projects that were occupying their hands, their dreams, sometimes their sadness, what their families were up to, the lifestyles they were patiently, passionately, creating … it was so incredibly inspiring, meaningful and just plain lovely.

These days, now here I am truly wasting time, flicking between news that is depressing and infuriating at the same time.  Fretting for rain – and investing an awful lot of emotional energy and time – instead of just accepting what will happen today, will happy.  Truly frittering away hours looking at animals that are lovely but that are hundreds of kilometres away and thus completely inaccessible.  And then feeling a little bit deflated when I check in on those old favourite blogs and there’s nothing new posted.

Hmmmm.  And what exactly am I doing here at  :: a Handmade Life :: ?  No chatting about the projects that are filling me with pleasure.  No sharing of my dreams and occasional calamities.  No stories of what we’ve been up to as a family – no recording of those lovely, simple, funny days that make me smile years later.  No excited retelling of the crazy, wonderful adventures we are having as we stumble along, building up our little farm and shape this new life of ours.

Yes.  That’s right.  I’m contributing to that deflating sense of “Oh I wish there was something else lovely to read.  I wish these people I have loved for so many years, were continuing to share the sparkles in their days.

So you know what?  I shall put my best foot forward today and once again, regularly share the things that make me smile (or grit my teeth) here at Wombat Hill farm.  Crafty stories where projects are not regularly finished, but hey there’s plenty of loveliness along the way.  Ponderings from the kitchen where sometimes I’m able to produce something yummy and healthy!  Tales from the fields around us as we work so hard fencing, building animal houses, planting trees, proving I am indeed useless in the garden, and spending wonderful hours with the amazing critters that share our land.  And sometimes, little laments as things don’t work out, things overwhelm, or things are plain annoying.  All of life in it’s glorious ordinary mess.

And just in case you’re rolling your eyes … I don’t think my life is anything spectacular.  My home is often messy, regularly dusty and not much matches anything else.  But to us, it’s cosy, comforting, and colourful, with every corner filled with that which illuminates what’s important to us and how we love to spend our time.  That to me, is what a home should be.  I’m rounder than ever so there won’t be any floaty, dreamy clothing on display.  Just lots of colour and pattern, things that are easy to make and comfy to wear, things that say “yep, that’s lily!”  My quilts won’t be any show stoppers.  They will be pieced with an eye to pleasure – rather than perfection, what’s rocking my boat this week – rather than what technique everybody is obsessed with at the moment, and they will all be quilted onto those gorgeous vintage pure wool blankets I can’t stop buying ’cause I know one day they will run out.  My knitting will be cheerful but probably a bit wonky.  My embroidery probably never finished but delightedly started.  My animals are adored and cared for to the best of our ability but sometimes we will make mistakes and things will resemble more Mr. Bean’s adventures than River Cottage.  And my garden – I wonder whether it will ever get going or I’ll ever know what I’m doing, and I shall probably buy my veg from the shops for the rest of my days!

But.  If that kind of ordinariness appeals to you and you would like to read something chatty and silly but from the heart that makes you hopefully smile during your day, or be inspired to run over to the sewing machine and get stuck into some wonderful creativity, or just something to flick over to because that news is so bloody awful … well then, let’s try again!

Welcome back to  :: a Handmade Life ::

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 ;-)