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.

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

let’s be still

 

bench ends

close up

under the oak

snacks

julian

olives

dubious

crackers

alway so connected

hopeful

on her perch

every vantage point

hungry

funny little chooks with their feathers not yet in

so patient

After 3 lovely days of rest, today was back to work.  There are only 15 days until the removalists arrive and sooooooo much to be done.

Today, Mum and I headed off on quite the cross country trip collecting cast iron bench ends. Yup.  Cast iron bench ends.  Julian has a thing for antique cast iron and Mum and I have a thing for these bench ends – they remind us of the girls’ boarding school we both worked at – there were many scattered about the main old building for the students, both as benches and single seats.  So Julian’s collecting the ends to make Mum and I single seats which we will plonk at the loveliest spots around the farm.

After hours of driving and bench end collecting, we came home to car packing.  Another favourite occupation.  Each time it’s a cheerful challenge to see just how much we can squeeze into the back of our station wagon.

This time was pretty epic – after a few hours work, Mum and I (with a little help from Julian) managed to shove in an antique cedar meat safe, an Art Deco bookcase, a farmhouse style set of shelves for the wall, 3 sewing machines, umpteen quilts and cushions, a desk lamp, a vase, a huge glass bottle, all the glass bottled dry goods from the kitchen mantelpiece, the vintage electric jug collection, a suitcase of lace, a bosu balance ball, a vintage bird cage, a medicine ball, the canning pot, 2 deep fryers (one for candlemaking), a set of bamboo steamers, a wine rack, a huge kettle that used to belong to St. Mary’s that I have romantic dreams about boiling up on an open fire after our friends and family have gathered to make apple cider on a crisp autumn afternoon, a 4 kg medicine ball, 2 boxes of lego (that fitted into the birdcage), several paintings, 8 little Ikea boxes of patchwork projects, 4 little boxes of American girl clothes …

I’ve almost certainly missed things but it was an impressive effort.  And cross fingers it will all arrive safely.

So tomorrow morning, Mum and Julian head off – they are taking Julian’s motorbike up.  Well he is.  Mum’s following so that they can drive back to Melbourne together on Tuesday.  Isn’t she such an amazing Mum.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enduring another week of night duty with almost certainly packing and errands during those brief wakeful hours in the late afternoon.  And Noah will be packing and meeting up for fun times with friends just as all young people should when they’ve just finished school.

But right now,  I think we just need to gather under our beautiful oak, in summer’s setting sun, with good food before us, doggles waiting hopefully at our sides, dear little Orpingtons bustling about behind us, and plenty of giggles and silly conversation.

Yes, let’s be still.

 

the 1st XI on Boxing Day

Ha! Ha! Ha!  Without doubt, only the locals will have a chuckle over the title of this post :-)  But when we realised – well, it was just a sign that it was meant to be!  (The Boxing Day Cricket Test is played at the MCG each Boxing Day with each team fielding 11 players.)

geoffrey the proud father

Julian and I were lying in bed, Boxing Day morning, exhausted from the appalling heat of Christmas Day – the temperature did not drop below 30 until after 2am! – and I’d managed to pull a muscle in my neck/shoulder (I think it was from letting a very sweet patient with broken ribs repeatedly pull on my hand to help him up into sitting position on Christmas Eve) – looking on Gumtree at the livestock available.  It’s one of our favourite pasttimes :-)

And I said “Hey!  There’s 8 Orpington pullets for sale at Cockatoo – with $5 roosters! They sound good.  It’s so hard to buy good chooks – we really need to snap ’em up when we see them!”

Much to my amazement, Julian replied “Absolutely!  Let’s send them a text and see if they’re still available.”

Oh my goodness!  I was gleeful with excitement.  No Boxing Day let down here – if we could go pick up a lovely flock of pullets and a few cockerels it would be just as fun as Christmas morning!

Julian sent the text and I kept looking – goats in Orbost, peacock eggs in NSW, no sheep anywhere, but gorgeous Alpacas here, there and everywhere.   Within minutes, Mrs. Orpington replied.  “Eight pullets available and as many roosters as you like!  Come by around lunch!”

Oh yes please!

guineas in the garden

very friendly sophie

lemon verbena

baby guinea pig

their birth home

turkey egg compost

Well – it was so much more magical than we could possibly have imagined!  The best Boxing Day EVER!

Mr and Mrs Orpington were the loveliest couple.  They have a lovely permaculture establishment – chickens and turkeys roaming around the property.  2o odd guinea pigs tearing around the fabulous large hoop netted gardens – 3 metres high, with about a 9 by 20 metre perimetre – they were hysterically cute – used for cultivating the raised garden beds and keeping down the weeds.  One hoop garden is for vegetables – the other larger one is full of fruit trees.  And their lovely deck was covered in pots of vegies all ready for transplanting into the guinea pig tilled beds.

We stayed over 2 hours.  They shared so much of their knowledge and experience – and we invited them up to Wombat Hill Farm.

We packed 7 pullets, 3 cockerels and 1 little unknown into a very large plastic dog kennel (I picked it up from hard rubbish – washed it out, dried it well and filled it with fresh straw) in the back of the car and brought them back to Bootville where they’ll spend just 2 weeks in the rabbit/guinea pig aviary before moving on up to the farm. Their initial job there will be to till the vegetable beds – Julian’s making them movable A-frames.

But before too long, he will hopefully have their permanent home ready.  A nice little house on stilts with a deep litter grilled floor and ramp, in a fenced field about 30 x 40 metres, with plenty of shady Apple gums – just in front of the house garden.  We’ve even planned where we will put some nice outdoor chairs so that we can sit in the shade and watch these lovely chickens grow and roam.
temporary house

huddled

teenage feathers

dust bath

ginger and black

under the water bowl

so many pretty feathers

amongst the butts

fus intrigued

And Fu’s going to have to learn how to be as respectful and obedient around the livestock as Mr. and Mrs. Orpington’s lovely Sophie dog is.  It’s going to be a steep learning curve, that one.

 

on christmas day in the morning …

stockings

:: it seems the presents have become wider than the stockings ::

under the tree

:: we’ve all decided we’re quite fond of this funny little tree ::

his apron

mum
lucy

Fu

:: it was all too exhausting for the doggles ::

for lily

:: Julian gave me a new lens for our camera!
It will be sooo good on the farm ::

reading the instructions

:: more complicated then lego instructions ::

practice radical self love

:: my favourite Phoebe Wahl print – I can’t wait to hang it ::
tina

:: Noah needle felted me a Tina doll – it’s so gorgeous I cried ::
noH

:: there’s a new photographer in Bootville ::

ron

:: Yep – Noah needle felted Julian a Ron doll! ::

mum's stocking

:: and the stockings were finished and greeted with delight ::

julian's stocking

Oh it was such a marvellous Christmas – so much excitement, happiness and gratitude.

Isn’t it a lovely time of the year :-)

a pair of christmas stockings

supplies

julian

mum

floss

grass

stitching

hibiscus

mum and her squares

fu

noah

curry plant

beautiful yellow

lucy

noah and the floss

ready for stitching upI must say, it’s much easier to sleep during the day (after night duty) when it’s a wintery one – cold, grey and drizzling is just perfect.  Even better when the whole family are out and our home remains silent and still.

On a beautiful sunny day, just 2 sleeps until Christmas with the family bustling (quietly!) about making presents, tidying boxes, preparing lovely food … not so easy.  By half past two, I just could not keep my eyes (tightly clad in Julian’s airplane sleeping mask) closed any longer.

Instead, out to the back garden we went.  Banana lounges spread out under the oak.  Cool drinks by our sides.  Doggies bumbling about with bones and sticks.  Mum with her crochet squares.  Noah with his laptop.  Julian with his wine.  Me with my cross stitch.

I first started these a few years back.  It was a Christmas when, inexplicably, I just couldn’t seem to remember where I’d stashed the Christmas necessities the year before.  “Lost in the diaspora!’ declared one Jewish friend when I admitted I couldn’t even lay my hands on the nativity set!

With a week to go I set to cross stitching.  I have no idea where I found the patterns.  I think I must have used some of Mum’s old embroidery floss because do you think I could match a single colour to the hundreds in my floss boxes?!

So today they just got done.  I made the best colour choices I could and lay back out there in the beautiful dappled sunlight, needle slipping in and out of the linen, until the wee patterns were finished.  Bliss.

Now – Julian and Noah are watching The Empire strikes back whilst Noah fixes up my floss boxes (Fu sent them flying across the grass!).  Mum’s tucked up in bed with a magazine.  And me?

I’m off to shift 2/3 of night duty for the week.  I’d be lying if I said I was excited or even pleased to be going.  But, as I remind myself, this is what I do.  And it needs to be done.  So I am :-) And if I listen to the Muppets singing Silent Night on route, by the time I arrive I shall be feeling positively loving towards all those poor folk who are having a bummer of an evening.

The stitching up will wait til tomorrow.

 

a very small Christmas

the mantlepiece

shepherd

good king wncelas

cookie cutters

waiting for their turn in the oven

baked

threading the critters

putting up the tree

oranges

angel

in the nappy bucket

julian

trkey brine

books and presents

To be sure, it’s a very small Christmas here in Bootville this year.

Our lovely big tree and the decorations we have been making and collecting for 23 years are at the farm.  So’s the nativity set and the Christmas candles.   As are the Christmas quilts, pillowcases, bunting, banners, gift bags, table linen …

All that’s left here is the funny little tree I picked up from hard rubbish a couple of years back.  Noah and I spruced her up with slices of oven dried oranges and salt dough cookies (which I’ve caught the naughty dog licking).  And in a moment of weakness, I even called into HoneyBees and bought a sweet wooden angel to hang.

We’ve prettied up the mantlepiece with fairy lights and angels and some dear little wooden friends – St. Nicholas herding a few cows, a cheerful shepherd watching the singing angels with his sheep, and Good King Wencelas and his stoic little page.

Presents are gathering under the tree – we’ve no time or room for making lovely wrappings so it’s scraps of packing paper and wool (unless there’s shop wrapping to take advantage of!).

And now, just before I head off to night duty, Julian and I have brined the turkey (we use Nigella’s fabulous medieval brining found in her Feast cookbook – one of my favourites that’s also at the farm – or here!) and since we can’t find the lidded bucket we’ve brining the turkey in for 9 years, we’re using the old nappy bucket – well washed I promise.

Yes, we are swamped with boxes and tumbling over piles of things that were about to be put in boxes and then got left out til next time.  And mess.  There’s so much mess.

Never mind.  I think there may be a bit of stocking-sewing action tomorrow, there’ll be a bit of Christingle action on Christmas Eve (if you’d like to make some, there’s a sweet little history and description of them here), there’ll definitely be Midnight Mass and probably Christmas morning mass too (I get so carried away with the carols!), and at any moment, my Mum will be here.

Yes, it will be a much smaller Christmas than that which we’ve become used to – but one with plenty of good cheer and love.

the hugeness of it all

sunrise

morning sea of mist

Whether I’m standing on the front verandah of our little cottage at Wombat Hill, or looking back at these photos, I am simultaneously thrilled that this is about to become our permanent home, amazed that we’ve managed to land us something so beautiful, and full of gratitude that we’re in a position to take advantage of all the loveliness that lays before us.

In just 3 weeks I will have finished my grad year.  In 4 weeks the removalists will have collected all of our belongings here in Melbourne and we will all be living on our little farm.  In 5 weeks the removalists will have delivered all of our belongings (and we’ll probably still be trying to squeeze it all into the shed) and we will be truly at home.

But oh my, this has been a huge year.  Huge.

the chairs

the bookcase

We spent the first half of the year in the throes of finding and buying this lovely property.  There were literally thousands of kilometres driven, many hours spent traipsing up and down hills, false starts involving ridiculous planning legislation, hours juggling finances, and weeks wondering whether we could ever pull this off – when they say buying a home is one of life’s great stressors, man they were right!

Of course, things have only hotted up since the contract was signed, sealed and delivered and for the last five months we’ve been living amidst the chaos of moving, with boxes stacked everywhere, mess that I could never usually tolerate, and no sense of routine or down time.  We are so done with it and just want to be there!

During this upheaval, Julian and I have nurtured and encouraged our child through the end of his formal schooling, all the while supporting and loving him through the first stages of his transition. Our steepest parenting experience yet.

Then, halfway through the year, my beloved Grandad died amidst horrible and ongoing extended family unpleasantness.  And at the end of his funeral (a dreadful affair) I literally had a young motorcyclist (who was racing a mate through a red light) hit by a 4WD and land on the road in front of me – his femur snapped in half and sticking out through his horrifically injured leg.  There I crouched, on the phone to the paramedics, terrified this young man’s femoral artery would begin to bleed, and crazily thinking, “oh my god! I’ve only got a dress on! (the postmaster’s granddaughter’s dress)  I’m going to have to pull it off and use it to staunch the blood flow and I’ll be standing here on Lutwyche Road in my knickers and bra!” – thankfully that didn’t happen, the ambulance arrived very quickly and the young man survived.

layers of green

across the fields

And then, of course, there is the whole “Grad Year” experience, where I’ve spent the vast majority of my time pushed totally out of my comfort zone (and the habits of a 17 year veteran of stay at home mummying), expected to behave with confidence, compassion and competence, whilst balancing on the lip of a very steep learning curve.

I’ve had a patient die whilst cradled against my body.  I’ve had several others come very close – let me tell you how long that adrenaline takes to leave your body!  I’ve had shifts where it is so confronting I’ve literally wanted to lay on the floor and wail “I can’t do this!!!!!” And others where I have had to say to the nurse in charge “This patient is just beyond my skills and experience.” And there have been many crazy, chaotic shifts in Emergency where I get by by practising my best Dory impression “Just keep swimming/smiling/nursing/writing/observing/comforting/caring … “

skull and grapes

refreshing

Then, yesterday morning, as I was preparing for a long shift in RITZ (that’s where the patients come after they’ve been triaged), I was very aware that my chest felt funny.  Not asthma funny (44 years experience with that one).  Not anxiety funny (something I thankfully seem to have had under control for the last few years).  A different funny – like every few moments there was a pigeon fluttering in my chest trying to get out, followed by a heavy-feeling thump.

Now I had noticed this, on and off, the day before when I was at work and thought I was just tired. But yesterday morning, it started the moment I got up and just kept happening.  So, at my mum’s demand, I got ready for work quickly and headed in early, thinking I would just mention it to one of the senior staff to see if they thought it needed looking at.

See, when you work in Emergency you see a lot of people who aren’t dreadfully sick – they’re a little bit off, worried, unsure of what to do, and need to know that it’s all okay and they’ll be fine.  I’m cool with that but I didn’t want to be one of those people.

However, when I arrived at work, it was chaos.  So I just popped my stethoscope around my neck and got working whilst that pigeon fluttered away.

Eventually my nursing educator arrived and innocently asked how I was.  I almost cried and whispered “Actually, I’ve got a really weird feeling in my chest.”

The next thing, I was triaged, in the white patient gown, on the trolley, cardiac monitor hooked up, with bloods being taken.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so awkward in my life as junior doctors waved and smiled to me from the desk, orderlies made kind jokes about me being today’s “mystery shopper”, and my nursing colleagues popped in and out of my cubicle to give me a hug, see how I was doing, and watch the monitor.

Turns out I was having premature atrial contractions – little “ectopics” that were randomly firing off every now and then. They were the flutter.  Then because they are pretty useless, the next proper contraction had more blood behind it which created the “thump”.  My colleagues watched the monitor and would say “Oh did you feel that one!  I saw it!”  “Yep,” I’d answer.  Surreal.

My bloods were perfect.  My blood pressure remained a rock solid 117/60 (thereabouts) for 3 hours.  The consultant checked me out, gave me the thumbs up, and deemed it best if I went home and rested for the rest of this day and the next.  I’m not at any risk of anything awful happening.  It may never happen again or it may be something I experience on and off  for the rest of my life.  Premature atrial contractions are the most common cardiac arrythmias and they don’t need treatment unless they become symptomatic (i.e. shortness of breath, dizzyness, or coming in a regular pattern)

These things just happen sometimes – more common in women then men, and common for women experiencing menopause.

Wow!  Isn’t menopause the gift that just keeps on giving.  I can add trapped pigeons fluttering to the floods of blood I have during my really frequent periods!

roses

the moon

So here I am at home.  Amidst the appalling mess.  I haven’t vacuumed for a fortnight so there’s Fu fluff everywhere (she’s having her summer moult).  Do you know, I haven’t even cleaned the shower floor for over a month.  I no longer have ANY domestic aspirations for this house.  I just want to get out.

Oh and it’s tipped to hit 42 degrees today.  Yay Climate Change! Nothing like a mess to make me feel ten times hotter.

There is still so much to pack.  There are Christmas presents to finish, buy and wrap.  Remember – there’s only 3 weeks and 2 days until those removalists arrive.  And I still have two blocks of night shift, one block of days, and a quality project to get through at work.  And Christmas to celebrate.

But I also have this beauty above to look forward to.  Is it any wonder my heart is all a flutter :-)

bob’s stars

bottom corner

The last six years have had their overwhelming moments for our little family.  There was the huge move from Brisbane – away from our family and friends.  Noah began highschool not knowing a single soul in any of his classes.  I went back to university and studied nursing so as to provide our family with a more stable income.  Julian worked long and often stressful hours at his job, and has had many many work trips, leaving Noah and I to fend for ourselves weeks on end.

To be sure there were many times when I just sat and cried, at a loss as to know what to do next.

But one constant source of support, compassion and love, has been Noah’s highschool.  An all girls, Catholic highschool, they took Noah under their wing from the very beginning and dedicated themselves to helping him navigate the stressful maze of teenagehood, social anxiety, and gender dysphoria – not to mention unending school work and exams – and providing Julian and I with endless support and encouragement!

One of Noah’s teachers even rang me one afternoon recently, after school had finished for the day, to say how proud and excited she was that Noah managed to get through his Japanese oral without tears (oral presentations are excruciating for someone with social anxiety) – Noah and I were both in the car and it was really heartwarming to share this teacher’s love and enthusiasm over the bluetooth!

Honestly, I’m sitting here now with tears on my cheeks I am so grateful and humbled by this school’s dedication.  I don’t know how we would have made it without them.  The beautiful painting below – which is in the senior building’s stairwell – sums up exactly what this school did for Noah – gathered him into their arms, protecting him with their strength and love.

inspiration for bobs quilt

star of the sea

One of the school’s standout Stars is Bob – the volunteer lollypop man.  He has manned the crossing in front of the school, morning and night, for more than a decade.  Watching him in action each day always brought a smile to my face – and to the many many girls he greeted by name, chatted with, admired their artwork, listened to their plans, commiserated with when they were having a bad day.  He has a wonderful capacity to communicate with young people and has endless, genuine enthusiasm for what they are doing.

For our Noah – completely bereft of a grandfather – he was an absolute gift.  An absolute gift.  Every single afternoon I collected Noah from school – and I often intentionally came a bit late – he would be standing with Bob, chattering away, big smiles on both their faces, sharing his drawings, his dolls, listening to Bob’s stories of dance classes and competitions.  They had a lovely rapport.  And on the mornings I dropped Noah off, Bob was there to welcome him – with a beaming smile and wave for me too.

I can’t tell you how many times I cried from sheer relief and gratitude that Bob was there for Noah, through the good times and the hard ones.
nan

lucy

Now we’ve given Bob a Christmas present each year, but in this our final year, we wanted him to know just how much we loved and appreciated him so we made him a quilt of stars – inspired by the school’s name and his love for the school, it’s layout inspired by one of the lovely gates .

It was a family effort.  I designed the layout and cut out all the pieces.  Mum stitched up the vast majority of blocks.  I pinned and quilted it.  Noah sewed down the binding.

a little help

love from all of us

It really is a beauty, even if I say so myself :-) The fabrics – sourced from Darn Cheap up the road – were perfect and there was just the right red pure wool blanket waiting in the sewing shed.  Most of all, it was an absolute joy to make and even better to give.

squiggly wiggly

the back

full quilt

Bob was utterly delighted.  He was effusive in his thanks but declared he had already received the greatest gift – six years of lovely friendship with Noah.  He insisted he was grateful for us!

Naturally, I cried.  He gave Noah a poem he had written especially for his graduation.  I cried more.  There were many hugs and promises to keep in touch.   I cried even more.

noah and bob

This picture says it all.  I know I will look back on this story and the photos and cry more!  And I will always always always think of Noah’s school and darling Bob with such love and gratitude.

Yep, I said it yesterday and I’ll sing it again today from the rooftops.  It’s love folks, love.

And that’s what matters.

 

 

a very special birthday

We celebrated a very special birthday on our recent visit to Wombat Hill … our dear child’s 18th!

noah and lucy

lucy
presents

D72_2008

with cake

drawing with the lightbox
mum and noah

My goodness, the years since we became parents seem both so far away – and filled with so much – and to have passed by so quickly.  One minute we were holding a dear little baby.  The next, we had a delightful school aged child as our constant companion.  And now … we share our lives with a young adult who has their own ideas and dreams.

Very importantly, it’s time to let you in on something we’ve been holding close to our hearts for the last few years …

Eighteen years ago Julian and I were beside ourselves with joy and love when this dear little babe arrived.  And now – with even greater love and admiration we acknowledge here at block-a-day – a little corner of this vast world wide web that has become a wonderful and valuable family record for us – our child’s transition from Abigail to Noah.

He is now a marvellous young man and we are so looking forward to sharing his adulthood!  We know it will be fabulous :-)

I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but you know, the one thing I have learned over the last 18 years as a parent, then a nurse, is that every person you meet is a complex, fascinating, almost-always-splendid individual.  They have their own way of looking at the world, their own story, their own hopes.

Sometimes, as parents there are things we have to let go of.  I’ve been utterly unsuccessful in convincing Noah that folk music is fabulous.  Other things, we can look at and think yes! That’s just what I hoped for –  Noah and I spend hours together stitching and making – we have grown a shared passion for creativity that I hope will last us all of our lives.

And yet other times, what takes us by surprise – and Noah’s transition certainly did – turns out to be just fine and full of its own wonder and joy.

But at the end of the day, I have yet to know a person who didn’t seek to love and be loved.  And really, that’s all that matters.

You are such a gem Noah and we love you dearly!

Wombat Hill Farm

view with dam

:: north to Tilba ::

Well folks, after many many years of dreaming, planning, studying, working, saving …. and lots and lots of looking …. we have finally bought our first home.  It’s a 42 acre farm in Brogo – a lush farming community in the Bega Valley, Far South New South Wales.  A small farm by Australian standards but to us beginners, an enormous amount of land!

view with mountain

To our north are rolling hills and pastures looking up towards Cobargo, then Tilba.  To our west, I suppose it’s the Great Dividing Range – the mountains that lead up to the plains of the Monaro and Canberra.  To the east (above) is Mumbulla Mountain, a sacred place of the local Yuin people, and just over that, the beautiful Pacific ocean.  Behind us, to the south, is Bega – a really sweet little country town where I hope to work in the newly built Bega Hospital.

lavender

We first looked at this property last Christmas.  Oh it’s a funny story :-)  All our nights were spent looking at properties on line, in the morning we’d check in with the real estate agent, then plot our list of places to visit and spend the day driving round and round and round the Bega Valley.  It wasn’t long before we were running out of suitable places to look  … and the more we looked, the longer grew our list of requirements!

We wanted to be no more than 30 minutes from Bega – no point seeking a more environmentally friendly life if I was going to spend my working days guzzling petrol.  We wanted to be off the highway, but not miles along a dodgy dirt road that would be a pain to navigate in bad weather or after a late shift at the hospital.

We wanted more than 15 acres of land, but not more than 50.  We wanted established trees, but not ones individually covered by council protection orders.  We wanted good access to water, but not on a creek or river because that would seriously restrict any future dam building.

We didn’t want to have to cross an easement to get to our land, and after meeting one potential neighbour, we weren’t that keen on others crossing our land!  We didn’t want to be in a gully that would be soggy or flood.  But we didn’t want to be perched on a rocky ridge.  And we wanted good soil.

Oh and we wanted to be north facing with a lovely eastern aspect as well.

Demanding huh!

rosemary

daisies

We first looked at this lovely property over the summer holidays – I even wrote about it at the time :-)  The real estate agent had sent us off to look at 100 or so acres on a short stretch of road off the Princes Highway.  He gave us the lot number and directions and off we went – hopeful that it might be a good one.  We found the road easily enough and just off the highway was the usual gathering of letterboxes and sure enough there was a letterbox for Lot 3 – with the street number listed as well.  Excellent!

The road wasn’t too bad – dirt, but reasonably graded.  There were neighbours all along – not close together by any means, but several other small farms with lovely trees, dams and plenty of horses and ponies – there was even an echidna toddling along the verge.  It was looking good.  When we arrived at Lot 3 – well, it took our breath away.  There were 2 huge sheds, a cottage with a beautiful garden and fencing, two huge water tanks, a cattle race, fruit trees – and lovely undulating land stretching north before us.  I was hopping from one foot to the other with excitement.

Now the fact that the for sale sign belonged to a different agent didn’t seem to matter – we just expected our agent had only recently picked it up.  And there was a local couple there who had come to check on their horse – which was on agistment – the owner of the property, their friend, was in Melbourne for Christmas.  They were friendly and perfectly happy for us to look over the land.  Julian and I bounded off.  Abby and Sacha were a bit more hesitant and reported to us later they heard the couple say to each other “Do you think these people are on the right block?” “Nah!”

fu

It was amazing.  And even more extraordinary – it was within our small budget.

We spent a good hour walking around.  There was work to be done for sure – lots of fencing and the pastures needed a lot of work, but there were plenty of trees – some of them truly majestic – and two dams, one of which was fed by a natural spring.  The cottage was a bit funky but perfectly neat and serviceable with a fabulous porch draped with a lush and fruiting grape vine, looking straight up the valley to Tilba.  I was practically hyperventilating by the time we gathered the kids and got back to the car.

I wanted to go straight back to the agent and say “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!  We’ll take it!” and slap down the deposit.  But we’d promised the kids lunch at Bermagui first.  And Julian didn’t want to appear eager.

What ?!?!?  It was perfect!!!!  Of course we were eager!!!!

cleaning out my gumboots

:: de-redbacking my gumboots ::

lots of firewood

By the time we got back to Bega we’d decided there was no point trying to bargain the price down – it was a huge bargain already!  We plonked down at the agent’s desk, me oblivious to Julian’s instructions to be calm.

“What did you think?” he asked.  “Yeah, it’s got potential,” Julian replied cautiously.

“It’s fabulous!” I squealed “You didn’t tell us about the sheds, or water tanks, or cottage!”

The agent look puzzled.  “What cottage?”

“The little green cottage with the porch and grapes and fence and lovely garden!” I was so enthusiastic.

The agent stared at us for a moment – then began to laugh.  “No, no, no!  That’s not the property I sent you to – that’s the other side of the road, belongs to a different agent and is half the land and twice the price!”

It was a deflating moment.  But kind of funny too.  Honestly – we laughed about it for the rest of the holiday.

lots of bracken

:: lots of bracken – we need weed munchers – a.k.a goats! ::

dragging his spoils

But the property he’d sent us to – it was pretty grim and ticked no boxes.  So back to searching.  We finally found one that was not quite what we were after, but very beautiful and put in an offer that we pursued until Easter.  However, after extensive consultation, it was obvious we were never going to be allowed to build on it thanks to the Bega Valley’s very restrictive new shire plan.  So on Good Friday we had to admit defeat and go back to the list we’d gathered at Christmas.

There was nothing new to look at and we revisited all the old ones.  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Then Julian suggested, why didn’t we go back and check out the lovely one we’d gone to by mistake.  Nah, I said, too much money.  But he pointed out our options were exceptionally limited now, thanks to the new Shire plan, and we were eligible for a lower deposit on this one because it had a dwelling and power.

We contacted the RIGHT agent and back we went.  It was as fabulous as we remembered.

pastures

the deam

:: the spring fed dam ::

The views were beautiful.  It was north facing.  The soil was rich, black, wormy and friable.  There were excellent water resources.  The owner had planted a lovely grove of hardwood.  It was less then a kilometre off the highway.  Only 20 minutes to the Bega hospital.  Under 50 acres.  And plenty of wildlife – frogs in the natural spring, wombat burrows everywhere, exquisite bird life and kangaroos bursting out of every grove of trees.

crappy fencing

:: part of our hardwood grove ::

our tree

:: my favourite tree ::

We put in an offer.  Two hours later, the deal was sealed and our deposit was down.

This little farm was just meant to be :-)

wombat burrow

:: one of many wombat burrows ::

boulder

:: our land is covered in these rocks – very typical in the Bega Valley
– Julian wants to build stone walls with them ::

mum describing her hard work

:: whilst we went walking – to gather star pickets
– mum gave us our housewarming present –
she gleefully chopped down some really unatttractive plants
that had gone bonkers beside the house ::

first meal

:: our first meal – potato and leek soup, Honour bread with Bega butter, and chocolate guinness cake :: 

So after so many years of dreaming and planning, on Thursday at 3:30, Julian, Abby and Fu picked me up outside the hospital, car and trailer tightly packed, and we made the long drive east to Mum’s.  The next morning, bright and early on a glorious day, Julian and I met with the owner.  We had a lovely long chat about his plans and ours.  He filled us in on our neighbours, gave us tips on the equipment he was leaving.  Keys were exchanged.  Off he drove.

There we stood.  On this beautiful piece of land.  We’d done it.

Oh there is so much to look forward to, so much to create, so much work, so much love.

After 24 years together, we’ve finally bought our first home … Wombat Hill Farm …

winter whimsy :: the gardening raccoons

paper cranes

by a wintry window

You tricksy Melbourne weather, you!  Both this morning and yesterday morning, I awoke to blue skies and sunshine – it was lovely!  So appreciated!

But before the hour was even out, you’d sent in the heavy clouds, gusty wind and rain.  Sigh! And to think, I’d coveted the delicious hope that by the end of this weekend, the top half of our newly acquired ($20 on eBay) Estey pump organ (circa 1880) would be scrubbed, all its lovely golden wood grain revealed.  No chance.

snoozy fu

needle felting

So after a morning shuttling the Year 12 child back and forth from a Japanese examination workshop – not the examination, just a 3 hour workshop on how to prepare for the examination – there was little else to do but embrace the indoorsiness of it all.

Julian settled in for an afternoon with his guru – Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – we will know all of Hugh’s puns and witticisms off by heart by the end of the year.  Fu snuggled up beside him.  Abby scorned homework and spent hours needlepointing little dolls of her favourite characters from her latest anime passion – a series about volleyball players ?!

And I jumped into the marvellous paper lover’s edition of Flow that came out a couple of months back.  Now, I’m really dreadful with this kind of thing.  I gleefully buy it.  Reverently look through it – often over and over.  Sigh over all its loveliness … and then do NOTHING with it because it’s too special to use.

Which means it never gets used.

cutting

extra bunting

modgepodge

Well, not today!  A gloomy wet day was the perfect day to pull out the saved prettiness and put it to good use.

Now we are a paper doll family – I indulged something shocking when Abby was little.  We have a vintage suitcase full – Little House dolls, Narnia dolls, American Girl dolls, Russian Royal Family dolls, Curious George dolls … including more that were saved from my childhood.  But frankly, our paper doll playing days are over.

Yes I know, we should all be embracing more play, but it’s not happening.  So I took Flow’s dear little paper Raccoon doll and her outfits, had Abby scan them in to the computer, copy and flip one (and it’s costume) around, make another copy child size, popped them all on a USB and in between that workshop shuttling, printed them off at Officeworks for the grand total of $3.75.

laid out

I laid them out on a recently bought Muji wooden tray – like a little stage set, complete with a little string of Flow bunting …

bunting

fresh flowers

… then chose the lightest spot in the house to sit – at the old singer in the dining room window – and set to glueing and sealing it all with ModgePodge.  Julian was obligatorily horrified – why would I DO this to a perfectly nice wooden tray.  You’d think he’d understand by now, hmmm :-) Anything plain is just waiting to be Lilified.

In fact, I’m thinking of buying another wooden tray and the Phoebe Wahl paper dolls from Taproot and make Julian a FARM version.  He’ll love it.

looking for the bare bits

And so flew past a couple of sweet hours.  Hugh took his first pigs to the abattoir (yet again), made Parma ham (yet again), went diving for scallops (yet again), made lamb mince pies to sell so he could afford a goose for Christmas (yet again), had his Christmas eve gatecrashed by his apple cider / skittle mates (yet again) – whilst Julian ooohed and ahhhed with ever-growing excitement and regular detailing of next years plans to Abby who jabbed her needle up and down whilst answering “Mmhmm!  Mmhmm! Mmmhmmm!”  She’s very excited by the prospect of farming ;-)

done

closer look

flat

And now we have a dear little wooden tray decorated with gardening raccoons that we can use come spring and summer when all we want to do is sit in a sunny warm garden with good food and a drink or two by our side.

Ah winter – you delivered a topsy turvy one today, but it simply didn’t matter.  There was too much goodness to be found inside to notice.