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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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pinning it on

whilst the cake baked

original label

batter

fabric choices

cutting

hemming

ironing the pockets

pinning it on

skirt

from corner

closeup

pansy

1 slice left

chickens pottering

moon rising

on the way home

sun setting

 

I love skirts.  Long, full, gathered, brightly coloured and richly patterned skirts have been my favourite thing to wear for many years.  I love the traditional skirts of many parts of Europe with their richly embroidered details and cheerful sprigged florals.  I love the full skirts of 19th century dresses.  I love the batik wrap around skirts of the 1970s. I love tiered skirts with their crazy mixing of colour and pattern.

Since I realised all I had to do was buy twice the length I wanted, chop it in half, whip up two side seams (if you leave the selvedge attached you don’t even need to zigzag anything) add an elasticised waist and hem and voila!  I was ready to step out, I have filled my wardrobe with skirts in whatever fabric took my fancy.

Then, of course, there’s the amazing potential for extra detail – contrasting hems, rickrack edges, chicken scratch embroidery, rows and rows of ribbon, mix and match panels – so good!  The more time on my hands, the more loveliness I can add (remember, I’ve never embraced the less is more philosophy!)

For the last 18 years I have teamed my skirts with reasonably fitted tshirts that neatly covered my quick to sew elasticised waist – I confess, I have been victim to the notion that I couldn’t add a full blouse that needed tucking in to an elasticised waistband because I would look like a trussed up bag of potatoes.  But now, with the wonderful liberation that comes with age and ever growing confidence, as well as lovely inspiration from around the webby world (the styles of the gorgeous and creative Phoebe Wahl and Ms. Partshade-Fullsun have been very encouraging!) I now know I can add whatever I like to my gathered skirts!  And this winter I have been doing so with gusto.

I’ve added big colourful patch pockets – absolutely awesome for gathering eggs and seashells and carrying whatever tools around the place I might need – and wide fabric belts to my repertoire and many mornings lately, my routine includes, let out and feed the poultry, gather the eggs, feed and chat with the sheep, then plunder my fabric boxes in the shed and come back with armfuls of potential.  Then, I sit here in my jammies and whip up a new skirt and possibly belt, and by 10am I’m newly dressed – shirts tucked in! – and ready for another good day.

Of course, I do like to squish in as many things as possible, so I often put on supper, or mix up a cake to bake, or put on the washing whilst I’m sewing and this here skirt and cake are the products of just that.  There were Plymouth Rock chickens to collect from Wyndham and quilting for mum on the agenda so I was up early, my fabrics already picked out, sewing and baking – a Jamie Oliver recipe – Sweet Potato and Apricot loaf – and on the road by 10:30.  And it was indeed a good day.  There was great company along each step of the way, quilting was finished, cake enjoyed, four beautiful chickens brought home, a gorgeous sunset to stop and admire … and a beautiful skirt stitched up from vintage opshop fabric teamed with an opshop shirt and velvet belt that fulfils the Kate Bush in me!    Pretty much everything one could hope for in a day :-)

And this practice of skirt making connects with so many of the ideas I hold as not only important but essential to a life well lived. I refuse to be told by merciless, environment and community exploitative, greedy big businesses what the current “must-haves” are.  I refuse to conform to what our mainstream society declares is attractive or beautiful at this one point in time.  I refuse to treat my clothes as disposable items that are only good for a year or two before being discarded.  I refuse to play that game where an item of clothing that was adored one year is expected to be laughed at and scorned a couple of years later.  And I utterly refuse to walk around looking clone-like.

Every day when I wake up I want to be a creative participant in life – not a passive consumer. I want to make what I can, using what I have or what I find.  I want my clothes – let alone my home and activities – to be symbols of who I am and what I love.  I want to tread gently on this earth but also embrace and celebrate the joy and satisfaction humans have gained for thousands of years from adorning themselves with loveliness.

I read in a recent memoir, by a woman who survived the Holocaust, that being able to dress herself in proper clothes and put on lipstick made her and her fellow survivors feel like real people again. Being stripped of her clothes, having her head shaved and being forced to dress in filthy rags by the Nazis stripped her of any sense of being a human and part of this world.  Being able to choose how to dress herself again helped her feel like a valuable human being with inherent dignity once more.

Now I’m not comparing my incredibly privileged skirt making to this woman’s experience.  But reading her words strengthened my belief that to dress up – to gather what we love, hold is pretty, and adorn ourselves with it is such a natural and positive thing to do.  And as such, I know it’s time to reclaim our clothes and the pleasure we receive from dressing ourselves from the ugly, exploitative, disposable industry that has become the world of fashion.

Make and wear what you love!  Make and wear what makes you feel good and comfortable!  Make and wear what says “This is me!!!!!”  Step away from the dreary blacks and greys that the clone producing businesses tell us we should wear – let me tell you how many birds flaunt their stuff with black and grey – NONE! – and embrace the energising and cheerful beauty of colour and pattern! And look after it and wear it for as many years or decades as you like and when you no longer want to wear it, add it back into your fabric pile and smile when it pops up in a quilt, or a curtain trimming, or a sweet pair of shorts or dress for little ones.  Or wash it, neatly fold it, and send it off to the oppie where someone like me – or the fabulously stylish and creative folk of Freetown – will pounce upon it with delight and give it another whole new life.

You’ll love it … and our earth will thank you!

 

whole room

the painted sheep

with ram

meeting

newly born

bare door

bare branches

mama sheep

peach tree

wee dusky lamb

grassy

with base

whole door

 

looking towards fireplace

opening

whole room

mama and baby

 

Oh there has been so much excitement here at Wombat Hill over the last couple of weeks.  We have added 5 sheep to our little farmlet!  Two mamas – they are Suffolk crossed with Hampshire Downs – and their three babies.   There’s Caroline-Louisa and her twins Satske and Little Kikashi, and Anne-Shirley and her baby Mae.  We bought them from a lovely lovely farming family who live nearby on a beautiful farm that was once part of the historic Kameruka Estate.  Oh you should have seen their old outbuildings – they even had the Kameruka Butter Factory in their back garden.  Swoon!

We will raise these five as the basis of our flock – well, Little Kikashi won’t really be as he’s a boy and won’t be of much use, but Noah adores him and said from the get go that he would be his pet.  Okay then :-)  So next year when it’s time for Caroline-Louisa and Anne- Shirley to make more babies, we’ll have to find ourselves a ram.  I’d like to get a Suffolk as I adore their black faces and legs. Both breeds are historically considered dual purpose – i.e. fleece and meat – and this is what we will raise them for.

So excited was I that out came the paints and I decorated our tv room door with my dream sheep :-)  As you do.  And half way through the painting, Noah and I were invited out to the farm to meet our potential sheep.  It was the best fun morning.  We arrived just as one sheep mama birthed twins right there in the field.  It was breathtaking.  And we roamed around the upper fields with Sue and her funny dogs – a huge young Maremma, a crazy little Kelpie pup, and the most manic poodle I’ve ever met.  It was one of those moments in life when I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do.  Such a blessing.

We discussed our dreams with Sue and she promised to pick out just the right two mamas and their lambs – including twins – and then it was off to the ag store to buy all the sheep necessities.  Not much really – just another electric fence and a couple bales of lucerne.  We wanted to keep the mamas and their babies close in the early days because of the fox risk.  Yep.  Everything on our farm comes down to intestinal worms and foxes – I had no idea just how much these two topics would consume me.

Once home, I finished my painting – in a dancing state of delight, driving Noah crazy with constant chatter about how fabulous Sue was, and how beautiful the sheep are, and how living in the country is the bees’ knees, and how utterly utterly fantastic it all is!  He just smiled and nodded and agreed – he’s awfully good value like that.

Then, the next day, Noah and I did the big fence re-arrange.  We took the lovely sturdy mesh electric fence off the chickens – ’cause they do have a fox proof house and spend all their days free ranging – Julian calls them the Plucky Cluckies –  so don’t really need the full on fence – then retrieved the dreadful loosely woven goat fence from a lower field which required over an hour’s untangling.  What the goats hadn’t torn apart, the kangaroos crocheted up for us.  We popped that around the chicken house – don’t know why really – it is completely useless at keeping chickens in and foxes out – I think it just made me feel good.  Then we took the chicken’s old fence and the new fence – both very sturdy mesh electric fences – if you’re in the market for an electric fence, don’t even bother with the loose ones – spend the extra hundred and get the close mesh ones – works really well – the other just falls apart – and used them to completely enclose the field right in front of our cottage – including the big grevillea which we thought the sheep and lambs could shelter under if it rained.  Finally, we chucked in a wading pool for their water trough.  It was such good work ;-)

And only one more sleep until the real things arrived ….

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!