verandah tales

wool

cups of tea
view

pegs and grapes

grapes

skull

gloves

for planting

squares thus far

reading about snakes
crochet tools

crochet

quilt
maple and sky

how to make hash browns

stack

popcorn

:: Noah and I shopped for soft mushy shades at Morris and Sons yesterday – he was in Melbourne, I was here at Wombat Hill – it was a lovely collaboration

:: today’s the first Saturday we’ve all been at home with nothing else to do for so many months – so Noah and I made tea, gathered our supplies and settled onto the verandah

:: oh the green!  in this the last month of summer, every corner of our home is still enveloped in lush richness – fields of long grass, swathes of grape vine, the evergrowing japanese maple

:: these grapes!  piquant with thick skins, finger licking juice and a nice plump seed in the midst of each one – just as a grape should be

:: so much planting to do – more herbs and some greens for quick picking

:: completely inspired by this – colours I have never put together before – but sing to me not of snowy Swedish landscapes, but of faded summer days, bleached by the strong Australian sun

:: he is the loveliest of companions – his interests are so varied and interesting – first it’s snakes (we have plenty of these) and then onto the perfect hash brown

:: and then the breeze picks up and brings with it an icy edge, a reminder that the days are shortening and we are reaching for quilts

:: meanwhile, when I cannot bear to crochet another stitch, the country living sends me straight into the kitchen for maple and cinnamon popcorn

Oh it was indeed a lovely verandah afternoon and such a pleasure to be here, all together, in our new home

the delight of working with the young one

counting out the tiles

also master tile cutter

julian looking so cute

All of my time at Merryl’s mosaic studio is squeezed into the mornings before I go to work, the evenings after I’ve finished work, and occasionally on my days off.  These hours and the fact that it’s a studio mean it’s time away from the family and home.

But on the recent school holidays, a couple of my days off coincided with Merryl’s opening hours and time when Abby and Sacha were at home.  Sacha was keen to try her hand at mosaics – and proved to be speedy and talented, making a lovely photo frame and cat teapot – and Abby was very happy to play mosaic assistant to me – my ultimate Kaffe Fassett dream :-)  I presented her with the tiles required, the cutter and the glue and she cut and filled in the already created spaces whilst I worked on the new design bits.

Utterly lovely way to spend several hours!
sacha working on photoframe

sachas teapot

And this child of mine, she has clearly inherited – and improved upon! – my attention to detail.  All those orange border tiles were meticulously spaced out and their red and turquoise mates carefully tested before being glued into place.  She cut the orange rays of sun with precision and created lovely streams of light.

Then, she sat there by my side for hours, cutting the little blue and white sky tiles into four, stacking them into neat piles of colour so I could just pluck as I created my swirly background, chatting away about school, her upcoming exams, her hopes for life after school, how she will paint and set up her bedroom at Wombat Hill, what she would like to do on the farm, what drawings she is currently working on, the anime she is watching, the books she is reading, the dolls she is stitching …

love the wheels

Now I’ve met truly lovely kindred spirits down at Merryl’s studio – let alone Merryl herself who is such a delightful, passionate and creative woman – and we have spent many hours, cutters and tiles in hand whilst we talk about our families, our work, what we love, what drives us nuts … They are good times indeed and I regularly wish I’d signed up for Merryl’s mosaic workshops years ago.  However, we have made plans to visit regularly and I have offers of places to stay when we do which I am so looking forward to.

But there is something extra special about having your child by your side and these holiday hours were some of the loveliest I’ve spent at mosaics.

Makes me think we need to set up a wee mosaic studio at Wombat Hill Farm – our own little space, shelves filled with tiles, huge work bench, some tile and glass cutters … Yes Abby and I could have good times together there indeed.  Mum would definitely be up for it.

Hmmmmm …. I think we will need to wrestle away a corner of Julian’s workshop :-)

tractoring :: a mosaic

 

pambula tractor

For as long as I’ve wanted a vintage caravan, Julian has wanted a vintage tractor.  This probably says something about the differences between us :-) To me, the vintage caravan is this gorgeous little cubby house that I can decorate and play in – or have visitors stay!  To Julian, the vintage tractor is a marvellous and sturdy piece of engineering that is eminently practical.

This dear little one above, was not eminently practical.  Definitely more of a collector’s piece than a working tractor.  But once we are settled on Wombat Hill Farm, finding just the right old tractor is at the top of Julian’s list of things to do.

So to celebrate his love of all things tractor, I decided to make him a tractor mosaic – as a table top on a sturdy old pedestal table I found in hard rubbish.  We can put it on our porch at Wombat Hill Farm, sit by it in the afternoons, with a beer and some cheese on it, and look out at our beautiful land and marvel at all the hard work that lays before us.
favourite tiles

sketched it out

Now the table top was separated from its base by a lovely builder who happened to be building a fence in the street in which we found it.  When it didn’t fit in the car, I was busy thinking how I’d have to go home and grab a screwdriver.  Not Mum – she trotted up the street to the builder and asked to borrow one.  He didn’t have a manual screwdriver but cheerfully came down with his electric drill thing and had that table apart in seconds.  He even carried it all across to the car and put it in the boot.  What a lovely fellow!

I gave it a coat of sealer – just to make a clean surface that I could draw on and see where I am going with the tiles.

I started off with the border – very practical of me – but before I got too far around, those delicious fat tractor tyres were calling!
get sticking

love the fills

And then the rolling green hills.  This is my favourite kind of mosaic – repeating, colourful geometric patterns.  In fact, Merryl and I are both so taken with the tyres, we think a whole mosaic of circles would be wonderful …. oh yes!

big wheel

the start

building the engine

Then it was onto the tractor body … nice and simple.

julian

Then Farmer Boot himself.  He was a wee bit amazed at the colour tile I chose for his hair … grey!  With flecks of gold.  Yep, Farmer Boot, that’s where you’re at :-)  And it’s very becoming!

tractor light

A headlight … though I can’t imagine Julian will want to navigate the hills of our wee farm at night …

ready for tractoring

And a simple steering wheel and gear stick.
love the curves

It’s simply too much fun … Despite counting down the days until we finally leave Melbourne, I do so love visiting Merryl’s studio.  It’s one thing I will miss – shall have to tile faster!

 

lilly pilly jelly

with the basket

The previous owner of our wee farm was a big tree planter!  He and his dad (an arborist) planted a grove of walnut trees (which were burnt down shortly after by a neighbour’s out of control grass fire!), a grove of native hardwoods which cover the hillside in front of the cottage, and a superb windbreak that encircles the cottage and its garden.

too high up

They planted the windbreak with natives so as to encourage the local birdlife – immensely successful! – and in one of the top corners is a cluster of lilly pillies.  This tree belongs to the myrtle family, grows very tall, has vibrant, waxy green leaves, and produces thousands of little pinky red berries which the local wildlife love.

Like most Australians, I have grown up with lilly pillies and yet have been woefully ignorant about the edibility of their berries!  It wasn’t until this year, whilst watching Tilba River Cottage, that I realised how delightfully useful they could be!  Cordials!  Champagne! Ice cream!  Jams!  And such a pretty pink :-)

D72_0547

So my first harvest at Wombat Hill Farm – lilly pilly berries.  Collected with dear little friends that came over to help celebrate our first weekend at the farm.  In a rope basket of course!  Unfortunately most of the berries were so high up we had no hope of gathering them.  But enough were picked for one little jar of home grown goodness …

liquour

I followed the recipe and instructions from the Forster State School in New South Wales – which just so happens to be around the corner from where my grandparents lived by the sea in the Manning Valley – meant to be I say :-)

lemons

Added the juice from one of Mum’s lemons …

jam pot

Honestly, I’ve never had jam set like it!  I don’t know whether Mum’s lemons are especially high in pectin – or perhaps lilly pillies are?

set

But it was obvious this lilly pilly jam – jelly! – was not going to be dolloped.  By the time it had cooled in the jar, it could be sliced like quince paste and possessed such an intense flavour that it was best served in small amounts.

on bread

In fact, our lilly pilly jelly tastes brilliant with Erica’s divine 3 year vintage cheddar cheese from South Coast Cheese at Tilba – they were made for each other.  Perfect!

the solitary jar

So now, I reckon we need to plant more lilly pillies – luckily, they are very fast growing – and work out how to gather all those up high berries so as not to waste them.  Unlike Paul from Tilba River Cottage, I will NOT be climbing our lilly pillies with ropes and safety gear and shaking the berries down into waiting sheets.

But I do want many many more jars of this lovely stuff, that’s for sure!