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 ::

under the applegum

finding our faraway tree

milkshake and crochet

julian

noah

Fu

Noah and Julian

Julian and fu

upside down

looking up

crochet hook

pakkun

bark stripping

tasty

peaceful pooches

on the quilt

sunlight

under the applegum

front door

sunbeam

so twisty

down to the faraway tree

Early Friday morning, we sat on the porch, third coffees on the table between us, me with my crochet, Julian with his moleskin, and we brainstormed all the things we’d love to achieve around the farm over the weekend.  Then we marked off the most important seven for Friday and set to work.  It was mostly a day of orchard planting.  The raspberry patch was finished off – 5 metres long by 2 metres wide, thoroughly dug over with old duck bedding, liberally seasoned with the neighbour’s horse poo, edged with timber and secured with a nice deep row of poultry netting, steel hoops and black netting.  Nothing can be left to chance around here.  If the ducks don’t get in with their destructive flat feet and jack hammering bills, or the rats and rabbits eat it down to a 1 inch stick, then the rosellas and king parrots annihilate every last bud. We’ve learnt the hard way.

Then we planted plums, pomegranates, peaches, blackcurrants and gooseberries.  At the moment the whole thing looks like a graveyard of sticks with a half dug pond piled with dirt around the edges.  Nothing to show off for sure.  But oh, when I look down from the kitchen window, I dream of what it will look like in a few years time.  The pond will be deep and full, edged by water plants with a lovely rock wall at one end, and ducks and geese cheerfully swimming round and round the water lilies.  Those fruit trees – including the already planted apples, pears, hawthorn and almond will be tall and blooming.  That raspberry patch will be glistening with fat juicy berries.  And off to one side will be the lovely wooden rotunda that Julian and I plot every time we stand amongst the fruit trees – a handmade octagon with no railings but wide steps leading into the orchard from each side and tall roof thickly covered in wisteria. Mmmmmm …..

Anyways – that was Friday’s list.  Yesterday’s was filled with niggledy little tasks that needed finishing off as well the building of a proper, functioning compost system, and the relocating of the sheep.  A big and busy list, that one, but oh so satisfying to tick each thing off.  And last night – when I looked out and could see our five dear sheep on the other side of the house fence – it felt just right.

This morning, we sat at the table with our third coffees and ambitiously checked off the next seven items.  We may even have said “And once we’ve done all that. we’ll start digging the next 10 metre long raspberry patch.” Yes, I ordered 20 more canes (on top of the 10 we planted Friday) and they’re arriving this week – eek!

First on the list … weed whack around the new sheep fence.  But by the time we got down there, we were already discussing number 2 – move the goat tethers over to the field next to the sheep so that they’d have plenty of shade from the nearby small gum grove.  We wandered down amongst the gums to pace out where we needed to start.  The grove was delightfully cool but sun speckled and the kangaroos have been doing a sterling job keeping down the grass.  It was almost the grove of our dreams.

Our talk turned away from weed whacking and goat tethering to … if we cleared this bit here, got rid of that clump of bracken, dragged these logs up to edge the herb garden.  Next thing, Julian was weed whacking in an ever increasing circle around the huge central apple gum whilst I raked and made bush turkey styled piles ready to be carted off to the bonfire.  We plotted where we would put a rustic wooden table and benches.  We ooohed and ahhhed about how lovely it would be to sit down here on a hot summer’s day with jugs of iced lemon and mint water.  I dreamed of slipping away to wile away the hours with needles, wool and books.

Then, pushing all thoughts of lists and chores away, Julian weed whacked us the perfect path back to the house where we made icy cold banana milkshakes, dug out the picnic quilt, coaxed Noah away from his laptop, and returned to the applegum.

Julian shook out the quilt and we all plonked down.  Through the trees, green fields dotted with cows, rolled away to the north, and mountains loomed to the west.  A spider scuttled across the quilt and Noah caught it in his gumboot – he says it was the first thing that came to hand.  A pair of kookaburras sat above us in the tree, cackling away.  Pakkun tried her hardest to share our milkshakes whilst Fu snuffled about in the grass, and the nearby sheep mooed.  I stitched away at my granny bolster cover, and Julian stripped the bark away from a narrow log he plans to turn into a tamper handle (pond digging stuff)

It was blissful and as I looked up I realised we were really sitting under the Faraway tree!  I pointed out the little doors and porches to Noah and stared up into the sun kissed, twisty turning branches wondering what Silky and Moonface were up to.  I don’t know that Noah was quite as bewitched as I :-)

I adored the Magic Faraway Tree books when I was little.  I read them over and over and over and wished, for the umpteenth time, that I could live a life as wonderful, mysterious and magical as the children in Enid Blyton’s books.  You know, I daresay this was the start of my passion for the English countryside.  It was patently obvious to me that the grand adventures of the Famous Five, the Adventurous Four and of course Jo, Bessie and Fanny could never happen in Australia.  You clearly had to be in the English countryside to camp out in abandoned castles, capture smugglers, rescue kidnapped European princes, and spend lovely days up a tree with the Faraway Tree folk.  Sigh.

And as I sat under our beautiful Faraway Tree, I realised that it was never the promise of that magical land at the top of the tree that really drew me into these books.  I even remember skipping over those bits.  What I truly loved were the homes the funny little people of Faraway Tree – and later, Roald Dahl’s Minpins and Mary Norton’s The Borrowers – created.  The cosiness, the warmth and welcome (mostly), the nooks and crannies, the corners filled with fascinating items, and especially the fabulous make do philosophy they all embraced as they built their wee homes, turning other people’s cast offs into the loveliest of belongings.

I didn’t care about running around in Candy Land or whatever had zoomed in that week.  I longed to peek into little sitting rooms, and take tea by the fireside with people whose lives revolved around the dear little homes they had built all by themselves.  I wanted to live there with them.  I wanted to build my own home just as lovely and creative as theirs. And I wanted them to come visit me.

Forty years later, and I don’t believe I’ve changed one bit :-)  Here we are, Julian and I, building our little home bit by bit.  Weekend by weekend.  Making use of what we find, what other people cast away.  Building it by hand.  Making it so utterly descriptive of just who we are, what we love, and what’s important to us.

Making it cosy.  Making it welcoming.  Making it creative.  Making it ours.

 

rose

the making of a teacosy

ingredients

keep the puppy amused

round and round

crochet while its on

round the spout

all covered

crown and flower for the top

all done

pouring the tea

autumn backdrop

rose

With the arrival of cooler weather comes many more cups of tea! Noah and I are great tea drinkers – it’s a lovely thing to share.  Over the years, either one of us has come home, or stopped work, or needed a pick me up, and said to the other, “Would you like a cup of tea?” And the two of us gather in the kitchen, brew up our tea and sit down together over a lovely steamy cup.

Being responsible for introducing Noah to tea as a young child, we take it the same way – weak with lots of milk.  I say to people when they offer to make me a cup – add what you think is too much milk and then some more :-)

I do think our love for a nice cup of tea has been well fostered by our shared love for English literature and films, English children’s fiction, and a very strong dose of Agatha Christie.  We’re both huge fans of David Suchet and Geraldine McEwan and have watched the films literally hundreds of times.

Had a tough day at school/work?  Have a cup of tea and watch “A Murder is Announced!”  Cold and rainy afternoon?  Have a cup of tea and watch “Murder in Mesopotamia (What ho Sheila!)”.  Julian’s away and we don’t feel like cooking?  Have tea and toast for supper watching “The 4:50 from Paddington!”.

Our other three hot favourites are “Hope and Glory”, “My Family and Other Animals”, and “Cold Comfort Farm” – add a cup of tea, some hand stitching and we are in heaven.

Just lately, we’ve taken to listening to the audio books of our favourite Agatha’s – read by either David Suchet or Hugh Fraser (who played the marvellous Colonel Hastings in the Poirot series).  They are excellent – some of Agatha’s character descriptions are almost equal to Charles Dickens – they are often so droll and witty and just perfectly illustrate who is standing before Poirot!  And both David and Hugh can do a huge variety of excellent accents – truly gifted.

However, as he’s grown up, Noah has developed a taste for more exotic teas and is a regular customer at T2.  He has all his tins and jars lined up in the pantry and has teas for all occasions.  Alas – I’m pretty boring and when we are sharing a pot I almost always only want a nice cup of Yorkshire Gold.  I may branch out to English breakfast or Traditional Afternoon.  And just the other day I tried Devonshire Breakfast from the Quamma General Store and Post Office.  It was nice too!  And if I’m really feeling outrageous I’ll share a pot of Madagascar Vanilla.

But really, my favourite is a plain black tea.  Weak.  With lots of milk.

However, as I may have mentioned, the weather has finally turned cooler and this weekend past saw plenty of tea drinking but we couldn’t get to the bottom of the pot before it turned stone cold!  There was a definite need for a teacosy.

I made one several years back – but in the move goodness knows which box it’s in – and it was specifically made for a vintage corning ware teapot which had a rather unusual shape.  These days we are into a dear little red floral pot from T2 that Noah gave me for Christmas last year, or a delightfully old solid Bendigo Pottery one – definitely the kind that Flora would have found lurking on the dresser at Cold Comfort Farm.  They needed their own cosy.

So, I gathered some wool from the caravan – the pale is an old Cleckheaton’s from the early 1980s that I found in Mum’s stash.  The green and red are also Cleckheaton’s that I used in my crocheted shawls last year.  And the dark purple is the beautiful Cleckheaton wool / silk blend that I used in my hippie cardigan the year before.

And I gave the puppy a paper bag to tear apart beside me.  That kept her quiet and compliant ;-)

I crocheted it on the teapot so as to get the size right – it worked up lickety-split.  Then added a “crown” (which led to the plotting of a teacosy for another straight sided teapot) and a lovely flower.  Good stuff!

It’s a bit of a squeeze getting it on – I think next time I shall crochet my starting chain with a larger hook – but once it’s over the spout and handle it fits beautifully.

Now our tea stays lovely and warm through to the second cup.  And even better – our teapots look ever so sweet and cosy.

Pleased all round are we!

 

the little farmer

where it starts

chickpeas

starting to look like a farmer

embroidered face

handsewing

layering her shawls

penny

noah

simple arms

a little hand knit

on with her arms

blanket stitched and scalloped

all rugged up and ready for work

side portrait

side landscape

aprong and log

closeup of face

collected the goats

fed the chickens

herded the ducks

fed the guineas

picked a flower

checked the hamburgs

on the porch

Julian’s away again this week – workshops in Melbourne.  He misses home so much when he has to work away – and we miss him! He rings throughout the day wanting to know how we’re doing, what the animals are up to, to tell us of cool things he’s thought of trying …

But when he leaves, and I give him a hug and kiss and wish him safe travels, he always says “Oh you’ll be glad I’m away!  You won’t do any “farming” – you’ll just spend the week making stuff and having a lovely time!”  Ha!

See, Julian’s version of “farming” is creating new things, breaking new soil, surveying new corners of the property, and planning what to do with them  … I’m more into the maintenance of what we have.  On his days off he says “What are we doing today?” And if I answer “Oh you know, feeding the animals, weeding the silverbeet, painting the pumpkin theatre (simply a posh Victorian – as in the era – name for outdoor display shelves – usually of auriculas – I reckon I could have pumpkins!), picking up some more straw and feed.  With a bit of knitting, bit of cooking, bit of housework.  The usual stuff.”, he retorts “That’s not real “farming”!  What are we MAKING!?  What are we ADDING!?”

This man has a dream and he relishes every moment he gets to bring it to reality.  Lovely really.  But I’m a bit useless with a shovel, chainsaw, or angle grinder.  And I sure can’t carry hardwood pallets, or lift the chicken house to adjust the door catches.

So yes.  When he’s away, Noah and I busy about each morning, caring for all the feathered and furry critters, getting all the chores done, tidying up our little home and porch … and then :-) Why there’s definitely time for making.  And we LOVE making. Truly adore it.  Especially together, for long afternoons at a table covered in lovely supplies, sharing ideas, tips and techniques, uhming and ahhing over each other’s work, and the inspiration or patterns we find.  It’s our idea of bliss.

Noah’s creativity usually centres around the stories he writes or reads.  He is the king of doll making and loves to design and make the most detailed little dolls of his original characters or favourite story characters.  But at the moment, he’s on a bit of a crochet kick and is currently crocheting lalylala’s exquisite Mermaid Doll for me for Mother’s Day!

Me – often I’m making homely things or clothes, or working on furniture.  But I am also perfectly happy to devote a day to something completely frivolous :-)  It’s lovely just to play – to add fabric and embroidery to knitting and crochet and just make something that has no other purpose other than to be incredibly satisfying to do and pretty to look at.

I find Pinterest to be an amazing source of inspiration .  And I’m equally amazed to say that if you check my Pinterest site, you’ll discover I have 79 boards and over 4 and a half thousand pins.  Oh dear – that suggests I’ve probably spent too many delightful hours poring over the beauty and imagination to be found there.

Recently, I’ve discovered the exquisite work of Yana Volkova.  She’s an incredibly talented Russian artist and doll maker – this is the first of her dolls I found – and now I’m besotted with these beautifully simple, layered, traditional Russian rag dolls.  If you check out my Doll board on my Pinterest site you’ll see a heap more.

The little farmer I stitched today has not captured their simplicity.  I only have patchwork fabric on hand (everything else is packed away in boxes still).  And I embroidered her a face.  Noah read that traditionally they don’t have faces so that evil spirits may not possess them.  But I quite like naively embroidered faces – and I especially love this doll! – so I added one – I’m incapable of the less is more philosopy.

And when I look at pictures of Russian women in traditional dress their attire is fabulously intricate, colourful and almost stiff with gorgeous, rich embroidery.  So my little farmer is like a cross between the two.  She has a lovely stout shapelessness (I can relate to that!) with the simple gathered fabric arms and layered clothes of her traditional rag cousins.  But with a whole heap of exotic colour and pattern.  I knitted her a wee shawl for her shoulders and added a scalloped crochet border to her huge head scarf.  I like her – a lot!

But I want to try again – next time I want to crochet the body – I find it really hard to get the shape I want in a doll with fabric – much easier with crochet.  But I’ll still wrap a layer of hessian over her head – that homeliness is essential.  I want to make her body longer and her head a bit smaller, and layer the apron bits more rather than the western styled gathered apron my little farmer has.  And I need to find some simpler fabrics that I can embellish rather than go for the patchwork look.

However, I think the little farmer is a sweetie.  And she certainly knows her way around a farm.  She collected wood for the stove, brought in the goats, settled the chickens, herded the ducks, fed the guinea pigs – she even gathered flowers.  And she made us smile.

Tomorrow – I want to make her a baby – in a sling on her back.  I think she’ll enjoy that.  Check out this mama and her bubbies – divine!

Yes, I confess, I’m much more comfortable creating with fabric and yarn than I am with excruciatingly heavy pallets and uncooperative chicken wire.  And I’m very grateful for the gift of an afternoon with nothing else to do but make.

Maybe I’ll make Julian a boy farmer doll.  They can be our farming guardians :-)