finding autumn

feather of red

sewing

guinea house

Fu

tea tray

kniyyinh

mumbulla

rooster

with tree

small stick

cobargo

maple
chicken tree

caravan

cloud

bucket

apricot

quilt

Since settling into Wombat Hill, our weekends have almost all been spent outside.  Long summery weekends full of sweaty work, hats and sunscreen.  Mostly building. There is a never ending list of building requirements.  Especially as more animals find their way here.  I could really enjoy some quiet, rainy indoor weekends but I think we’ve had less than 3 of those in 3 months.

Julian says he’s sick of building poultry housing (he wants to move onto fencing so he can get his weaners and suffolks) – and yet there always seems to be a need for more :-)  Last weekend we built a new house for the ducks and geese to share “The Pallet Palais”!  Made from all blue hardwood pallets – given to us for free – it was quick but heavy to put together.  Julian added beams to create a skillion roof and today I’ve been stapling heavy gauge chicken mesh to the inside walls and floor to make it fox proof.  The we shall nail some reclaimed palings to the front – cut an arched doorway out of them (Julian says that will be easy!) and add a door.  Oh they shall be nice and safe then.  It’s been terribly gusty today, but in that blue palace tucked into the hedge at the bottom of the garden, it’s protected and peaceful.  Not that the ducks and geese will care – the more inclement the weather, the happier they are.

We devoted yesterday to building the first of 2 “treehouses” for the guinea keets who are rapidly turning into blue helmeted guinea fowl.  They will hold 6 to 8 fowl each and will sit atop posts in the opposite corner of the garden.  Apparently guinea fowl love flying up to their house for the night.  But at first they’ll be on the ground, surrounded by electric mesh, until we convince the guinea fowl that their houses are the bees knees.

Yesterday, as the day drew to a close, we had all tired of tools and planks, we stood up and noticed that it did look and feel a bit like autumn.  The Japanese maples have all of a sudden started glowing.  The apricot is fast dropping yellowed leaves everywhere.  The grape vine leaves are toasting up and falling off.  The tree near the goat yard is looking ever so pretty – like a powdery rhubarb.  And no matter which direction we turned, the light was a rich syrupy golden, whilst the gathering breeze was positively nippy.

Yes.  Autumn looks like it finally might be making an appearance.  Come on! Come one!  Bring your blustery winds, your day long showers of rain, your slow mornings and quick dusks.  We’re ready!

seals, ghost towns, cows, kangaroos & trolls

first sight

noah

I celebrated my 46th birthday last week.  Oh my goodness – 46 seems to be a lot of years and as I made our bed that morning, I felt a little worried that I was probably half way through my life and there is still so much I need to do and share.

Made me think of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development … I remember laughing when I studied the Generativity vs. Stagnation stage, thinking “oh I’ll never feel fretful that I’m running out of my precious time and that I might not have used it as wisely as I could!” Ah the confidence of youth! And yet here I am, fretting away.

Perhaps it is important to feel a little worried – it will provide me with that extra push to make the most of what I have, find plenty to enjoy, seek opportunities to share and give to my community … and realise that even if I may not be here to stand in the shade of a beautiful avenue of strong tall oaks, someone else will be utterly delighted that I used my time and energy so well.

But back to the birthday … it was celebrated with adventure!  As you know, I do love turning down the road less travelled and there was an old gold mining village I was especially excited to explore, so off we set.

First north to Narooma – we wanted to show Julian the bar and rock wall – such wonderful views of the striking rocky coastline and exquisitely coloured ocean.  And there were seals!  We were all excited about seeing one gliding through the water … then, as we rounded a corner, there were so many more lazing about on the sunwarmed rocks.

Such wonderful animals – so utterly unconcerned with us – even with Julian who continued to clamber further and further down the rocks to get the best photo.  So sleek.  So shiny.  So totally absorbed in their own comfort.  Must be a good life.

posing seal

furry

showoff

D72_3701

beautiful rocks

Then, after a quick lunch, we headed into the mountains to find Nerrigundah – a 19th century gold mining village that different sources claim had a population from 1200 to 7000 – named after the local Aboriginal word for “where edible berries grow”.

History says there were hotels and boarding houses, a post office and police station, a foundry, churches, even a Joss House for the many Chinese workers, and by the 1920s the little town was well known for its tennis team and marvellous dance hall – apparently the condition of its wooden floor was unparalleled.  I was sure it was going to be a marvellous adventure.

It’s most remembered now for it’s association with a marauding gang of bushrangers who attacked the town one afternoon in April 1866, knowing that the police commander was away and the remaining trooper unwell in bed with cholera.

However, that trooper – Miles O’Grady – was a brave soul and he leapt from his sickbed and took on those bushrangers.  Trooper O’Grady was shot and killed – as were some bushrangers – the ringleaders later captured and hanged in Sydney. But the people of Nerrigundah and the government of NSW were so grateful for his service they erected a memorial to him in the village centre which still stands today.

road to not much

Alas, this memorial is pretty much all that still stands in what was once a busy and well populated valley.  We drove through the rural hinterland of Bodalla,  up a steep and windy mountain range, then onto a rough and rocky track and back down through a heavily forested and even more diabolical series of sharp corners and steep drops.  The first route we took was closed because of a washed out bridge.  So back up and back down we went until we finally found Nerrigundah.

According to the GPS, the whole area was a neat grid of named roads – in reality most of these roads have long been eroded away by long grass and trees and we only spotted one street sign.  There were a couple of much more recently built private homes – including a fabulous permaculture establishment – a small wooden house which photos suggest was once the post office and a church that I daresay will have fallen off its stumps and rotted away to nothing before the decade is out … and of course the memorial.  But everything else was gone.

It was quite eerie.  We were so close to the serene coast with its numerous small towns and thriving farming communities, but down in this valley – completely still and hot, with smothering humidity and the whirring of insects, it was as if we had stumbled into a different world.  One where we were lost and cut off from all that we knew.

Reminded me of that book a few years back – about a young couple that married, then set off west to find the promised land and build their homestead and they walked for weeks, suffered terrible hardships for many years, and after all that the woman discovers her husband had walked her in circles and they were only over the mountain from her family.  Did you read that book?  It infuriated me!

Well that’s what Nerrigundah felt like  :-) and for the historian in me, it was so disappointing to find there was so little left of what once was.

Julian reckons it’s the termites.  We have FEROCIOUS termites here in Australia and he could see holes in the ground where building stumps and fence posts had been and guesses that as the gold dried up and people moved on, the termites just munched their way through everything.

drove all the way

mum and noag

abandoned church

derelict

rock sculpture

We headed back east – back through the loveliest farm I have ever seen.  Oh how I dream that our little farm will one day look like this.

Their fences were immaculate (I am obsessed with fencing), they had a proper old style Australian windmill (they are SOOOOO expensive), rows and rows of beautifully aligned deciduous trees – and not just one species but prettily arranged so that smaller trees with different coloured and shaped leaves made patterns amongst the tall stately ones.

I mean, check out that rose twined wooden gate.  That kind of prettiness is just unheard of on a working Australian farm!  I was swooning :-)
we can only drem

beautiful trees

rosy fence

shady cows

nice fences

Their cows were pretty nice too – I’d like some of them as well!  It refired our imaginations and made us plan even more for our little Wombat Hill!

oh the trees

Then, because Nerrigundah had been a bit of a fizzer, we decided to check out another village whose name tickled Noah’s and my fancy – Potato Point.

kangaroo

wild sea

mum

Truly gorgeous coastline but not much else at Potato Point.  Oh except for the kangaroos – there were wonderful kangaroos that were so tame they just sat there and watched us.
troll bridge

Oh and there was a troll bridge!  So funny – made us all laugh – first time we’ve ever seen a troll bridge in real life.  Noah had a wonderful book when he was little “The Toll Bridge Troll” that we loved reading – the artwork is so lovely and the ending such a delight.

I feel sorry for the troll.  She’s lived under the bridge for so long that she’s angry, bitter and judgemental.  There’s so much beauty and joy to be found in the world that lies above her – a world filled with good and generosity and so many opportunities to seek happiness and share in delight.

Even better, it’s filled with a huge rainbow of people who make a point of looking for this goodness and celebrating the adventures that lay before all of them.

But all the troll can see is the ugliness that in fact oozes out of her own pores.   She is blinded by her own spiteful choices and her shrill, vicious voice tries so hard to drown out the happiness of those who cross her path.   But it never will.  It never ever has and it never ever will.  We folks who choose life and love will keep dancing across that bridge for ever more.

Good will always win out over ugliness and hate. The troll is doomed to squat there in the stinky mud, missing out on the sun and the fresh breeze and the laughter of those who are making the most of life – and more importantly, making sure that they contribute to the lives of those around them in a generous and positive way.

And secretly she knows, this troll  – in the wee small hours of the morning – that she is the one who behaves so badly, and it is her life that is lacking, not those that she screams at.

Yep, the troll is the one that has it tough.  Poor troll.  And this bridge was very low and noisy – the troll must have a permanent and painful crick in her neck, her ears ringing from all that cheerful noise above her.
and another

Finally it was home to birthday cake – mum made my favourite Nigella Lawson cake – Chocolate Gingerbread with Lemon Icing.  And I had found these dear little candle holders when we were packing – which I had bought at an opshop so many years ago and never ever used because I could never ever find them.  Well now they live in a little Bonne Maman jar on the pantry shelf waiting for our celebrations.

sweet little holders

birthday cake

It was a lovely, adventurous birthday indeed.  With my lovely Julian, delightful Noah and dear Mum by my side.

Oh 46 – you’re not so bad after all.

 

a bit of floral in quaama

into the washing machine

Do you remember this quilt?  I said it then, and I say it now, I’ve probably taken more photos of these 4 inch squares of floral than any other quilt I’ve made!

glowing on the porch

Whilst I’m sure the old fashioned prettiness of the florals has something to do with it, I think I’m especially drawn to the lovely warm, rich, busy smooshiness that was created by just stitching them randomly together.

I can spend hours on Pinterest sighing over exquisitely pieced, complicated quilts of great beauty – and quickly add them to my board and dream about the day I’ll actually make one! – but often, in films or magazines or books, the quilts that catch my eye, that look so perfectly at home and cosy and nourishing, that have me exclaim “Oh isn’t that lovely!” are quilts of simple squares.

Such is this simple quilt of flowers.

Mum and I bought the fabric together, several years ago now, at Spotlight during their post Christmas sale.  We bought 25cm of each fabric – I can’t remember how many fabrics – 30 or 40 – and then we cut it all up into 4 inch squares (with a seam allowance).  It was the perfect way to do it because we only needed this minimum cut to give us each enough squares for a wonderfully chaotic quilt.  I stitched mine up as soon as the summer holidays were over.  I think Mum’s squares are still sitting in a pile somewhere!

At that time I was having a real period of doubt when it came to quilting.  Totally convinced my machine quilting was crap.  Which it was a bit.  So that year I tied all my quilts and was happy :-)

But now, oh I know I’m a bit boring and repetitive, but I really love my squiggly-wiggly quilting, following the principle of never crossing the line.  Sometimes I do – and stop and unpick.  Sometimes I make a jagged sharp corner – and stop and unpick.  But mostly I just cheerfully go round and round and round, loving some parts more than others.

And so, this favourite quilt was on the top of the re-quilt pile with squiggly-wiggly here in Wombat Hill and today I finished it!

Into the washing machine it went.  Onto the line for a few quick hours of drying in our breezy sun.  And then off to Quaama for a little tour and some pictures.

See I figured that since you’ve already seen this quilt, I would add a bit of extra interest and show you our closest village – Quaama – the name of which is from the local Aboriginal language meaning “shallow water”.  Quaama is on the banks of a sandy river called “Dry River” and this was the European name for this village until the early 1900s.  It’s nestled into a small hillside between the river and the highway, surrounded by Bega Valley’s ubiquitous rolling hills of dairy farms. And it’s pronunciation … like the curry “korma”.
school of arts

It’s a sweet little place.  Very small – apparently less than 150 residents.  But it has a very resourceful General Store with a petrol pump and wee post office run by a lovely couple with a dear little baby.  Anything bigger than a regular envelope is left for us at this post office – and they stock the fabulous Tilba Dairy milk, cheeses and yoghurt and the divine Bermagui sourdough “Honor Bread” – so we drop in regularly.

There’s also a “Small School” (that’s the official NSW term), established in the 1870s, which all of the children on our road attend and the parents love.  There’s a wonderfully maintained and regularly used School of Arts – which apparently doubled as a cinema throughout the 1920s and 30s! – a sweet little Anglican Church, St. Saviours – the local Rural Fire Brigade – and lots of lovely old wooden houses with netted gardens bursting with fruit trees and vegetables.

through the trees

our corner store

stand of gums

cemetery

Oh and there’s a snake infested cemetery.  Yep, that’s right.  Snake infested.  All the cemeteries in the Bega Valley carry this unique warning and each spring they write it up in the newspaper just to remind people.  Apparently the local red belly black snakes – which are highly poisonous but quite timid – love to lay about on the gravestones in the sun.  And I suppose there’d be highly poisonous and quite aggressive Eastern Browns lurking under the stones and fallen branches.  Ugh!  Not my cup of tea at all.  So there are no photos of the old lichen speckled graves of the pioneers set amongst the tall gums.  You’ll just have to imagine that bit.

st saviours

side with view

whole quilt

quilt2

quilt1

noah and the quilt

from side

on rail

blue binding

tank

shed

One of the many things I love about living here is that so many of the scenes – like this old shed and garden and the next door water tank – remind me so much of my grandparent’s home and garden when I was little.  They too lived in a small country town on the eastern coast of NSW.  Every time I see such a sight I am transported straight back to days of lining snails up into “schools”, collecting the heavenly scented gardenia flowers, exploring under the cool dark house, and rolling down their thickly grassed steep hill.  Fabulous!
feather
the back blanket

already in use

And, as is always the case, these floral squares have been quilted onto a beautiful checked vintage wool, Australian-made blanket.  Oh it will be a sad day when I can no longer find these treasures at the opshop.

And, as is always the case, I know this simple quilt will be put to very good use.  This afternoon, after all our groceries and farm supplies were unpacked, Noah and I headed straight out onto the verandah for a quiet sit down and cup of tea.  It was deep in shade, the mobiles spun loud and crazy in the wind, the pattern pieces I was endeavouring to draw blew every which way.

Good thing there was a quilt at hand.

 

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.