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.

gentle making

another one started

One of the lovely things about only visiting Wombat Hill for the last few months (as opposed to BEING there), is that once we arrive and unpack, there really are very few pressing chores for me to do.

Not much point gardening because we’re not there to take care of it.  Same for our animals – we can’t buy our chickens or goats or cows, until we are there to care for them.  Nor are we really sure where best to put them when we do get them, so whilst there has been lots of research on how to build their shelters, we’ve not got down to the nuts and bolts.

And of course, there’s no nursing shifts to be done.

Which leaves a whole lot of time for just pottering.  Something I do awfully well :-) Especially when there’s a beautiful verandah to sit, with my favourite people around me, and boxes of lovely supplies that magically managed to get squeezed into the car.

Just small and simple things.  Easy to make, quick to finish.  So very lovely.
dishcloth knitted

So on our last trip, new kitchen dishcloths were knitted …

pinned out

binding to be sewn down

blanket stitching the edge

edge scalloped

I not only covered a lovely big milo tin with some of Heather Ross’s fabulous new Tiger Lily fabric, but I crocheted a scalloped edge on it, and then served chickpeas for the next 2 night’s supper so I could cover those tins too! (Strangely enough there are no photos of them – I’m sure they’ll pop up in future posts)

birthday fabrics

quilting the copic wrap

Noah asked for something handmade for his birthday – and as he also requested more copic markers, I sewed up an epic quilted copic marker wrap.  It has space for 2 notebooks and 40 copic markers – that could be easily squeezed up to 80 if he puts 2 in each slot.  (Again, no finished photos – slack I know!)

new curtain for dresser

A new yellow curtain (made from a divine Lecien print of which I bought every last centimetre Darn Cheap had! And I bought its mates in red and green!) was whipped up for the kitchen dresser – now that the walls are painted a glorious egg yolk yellow, the dresser really needed something a little brighter than civil war blue.  Which means it needs new wee prairie point bunting for the shelves – sigh! fancy being obliged to make more prairie point bunting :-)

I do adore Lecien’s little floral prints – they remind me of the lovely dresses my Mum made for us in the 1970s – and are exactly the kind of fabric I always imagined Ma making Laura and Mary’s dresses from. Delicious!
D72_2018

I started a beautiful project with Misti Alpaca from the knitting baskets that were secretly stuffed into Tuppance’s corners – an Advent shawl – a new clue each morning.  Oh and I was so good whilst at Wombat Hill – every evening I was all excited about what would be published the next morning, and then I was up just after 5am, coffee pot and cup before me, out on the verandah in the “good morning sun”, cheerfully knitting up my next several rows.  Alas, since I’ve returned to Melbourne, there has been only the tiniest amount of knitting accomplished and I am weeks behind.  Hmph!

echidna cushion

echidna

I even stitched up one of Elizabeth Hartman’s wonderful Hazel Hedgehogs!  It became a cushion for the front verandah – only it’s not Hazel – it’s clearly her Australian cousin Evie Echidna.  They are everywhere in our neck of the woods – wombling across the grass and shyly sticking their noses into the dirt in the hope that if they can’t see us, we surely won’t see them!

Oh we do love them so – one day, on a utterly failed trip to buy donkey poo for the garden, Noah and I came across one toddling along the side of our little secret road (I’ll tell you about that another time) – we pulled over on the other side, hopped out and spent so long quietly watching her that Julian was quite sure we’d decided to ride the donkeys home!  Noah wants a tamish one that will come visit each day.  High hopes there methinks.

I clearly need to get back to Wombat Hill – there’s more gentle making a-calling – especially the kind that requires sitting on that verandah for long and lovely hours, a nice drink by my side and my favourite folks nearby.

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 :-)

settling in a little more

flowers

Whilst Julian worked his butt – and hands and fingers – off rebuilding a fence that divides the cottage, its gardens and surrounding fields from the paddocks –

I pottered about the cottage, unpacking china and cookbooks, cooking meals on kitchen benches that were clearly built for miniature gymnasts (our cottage was one of those used to house the athletes at the Sydney Olympics and moved to our land soon after in two pieces), gathering flowers, and sneaking in a bit of knitting on the porch.
the trailer

We’d brought up the kitchen dresser, a large bookcase and Auntie Barbara’s old pine table in the trailer, so after a little help getting them across the field, through the garden gate and up the cottage steps, I pushed the furniture (with a sliding flattened cardboard box underneath) across the verandah, over the doorway and into the cottage.  So satisfying!

tied down

helping

Our kitchen is pretty rudimentary.  We will leave the cabinets on the stove side intact – but probably replace the stove – an inefficient electric number that no matter how high we turned up the oven, couldn’t manage more than a gentle braising. But the sink side needs redoing.

No exaggeration, the benchtops on the this side only come up to my thigh – and they bow in the middle – and when you spill coffee on them, it leaks down the inside back of the cupboards below.  Nice!
unpacking

We don’t want to spend a lot of money that could be much more wisely invested in farm infrastructure and animals because in a few years time, we want to build our own strawbale home.

Nevertheless, we do want to enjoy living in our little esky cottage and as we both love cooking, a few Ikea cabinets with lovely drawers and a huge china sink (a former display model that we bought for a great discount in the bargain section!) will certainly boost our kitchen’s aesthetics and functionality.

funny assortment

But cupboard space will still be at a premium, so we removed the hideous white melamine, falling apart cupboard that filled up a third of the wall next to the kitchen, and will use the lovely old wooden dresser Mum and I wheeled 2 kilometres home for our china and glassware.  ‘Cause even more then spanky new, sophisticated Ikea cabinets, I adore lovely old wooden furniture that comes with an awesome story :-)

straighten

cutlery

breakfast

on the stpve

I also took up a beautiful new whistling kettle – a complete extravagance, but hey, I reckon all those dreadful night duties and weekend shifts spent in a highly stressful environment are owed a little luxury, don’t you!

Of course, the kettle was meant to sit atop our new Nectre Baker’s Oven that was to be installed whilst we were there.  Oh how many daydreams I’d had, picturing my steaming kettle glistening next to a simmering dutch oven whilst the fire below crackled and glowed and a loaf of bread baked below that.  They were such good dreams!

Alas, the fellow installing our stove FORGOT.  Hmmm … I have to confess, it was all I could do to remain civil whilst he cheerfully apologised for his oversight.  All I could think was how I have NEVER had a job where I could just FORGET to do something I alone was responsible for.

It did take several minutes of hurling ugly succulents into the compost heap, and cranky texts to my mum before I could graciously let go of my disappointment and return to enjoying the loveliness we still had before us.

quilts

with needles

knitting

Good thing we had plenty of quilts and knitting to add some warmth.  And that the cottage and garden were bathed in sunshine from 6am onwards.  Yep, it was all good.

bookshelf in the garden

bookshelf

dappled corners

So very, very good – and I am counting the days until we return … and that wood stove is installed.

lilly pilly jelly

with the basket

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

too high up

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

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

D72_0547

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

liquour

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

lemons

Added the juice from one of Mum’s lemons …

jam pot

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

set

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

on bread

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

the solitary jar

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

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

 

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 …

whale watching – mosaic style

with basket

glass prisms

work bench

After an intense week of learning on the new job, I awoke this morning with utter joy.  I have three whole days off AND today coincided with one of Merryl’s weekday morning workshops which meant I got to play mosaics in her beautiful studio for almost 3 hours.  Ah the bliss of it all!

shelves of glass

new cutters

I’m working on my second piece and it’s rather large.  The board is 1.2 metres by 90 centimetres.  That’s a lot of wee tiles and pieces of glass to cut, shape and glue.  Good thing I’m utterly bewitched and Merryl’s studio is filled with warmth, colour, creativity and lovely, lovely women who sit about the long work benches and chatter whilst they work.  Did I mention it’s bliss?  Oh it is.

cutting green triangles

This scene is one from my head.  I made it up as a cross stitch a few years back – “The Whale and her Girl” – but this version is slightly different.  Instead of the girl standing on the hilltop with her telescope, she’s inside her home looking out a large picture window.  Before her is my dream view.  A sun rising all goldy pink and orange against the sparkly sapphire sea.  A hilltop to her left, covered in Norfolk pines and crowned with a sturdy white lighthouse, resplendent in its royal blue trim.  An old fashioned ship, festooned with billowing white sails, bobs amongst the roll of the waves.  A glistening seal lolls about on a rock.

laying out the base

But even whilst it’s an imagined view, each of the elements speaks to my sentimental heart.

The sapphire sea?  It’s the east coast of Australia – the waters of the glorious Pacific Ocean which I’ve lived on for most of my life – stretching from Rainbow Bay on the southern tip of the Gold Coast, Queensland all the way to Eden at far end of New South Wales, the southern boundary of the lovely Bega Valley which we will soon be calling home.

And the sun?  Well it’s no surprise to you folks that I’m a huge fan of the sun, its light and warmth.  I didn’t have a clue about the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder until I came to Melbourne.  Now, I cannot wait to get back to east coast, where the sun will rise over the sea each morning – and at the same time as me.

glueing the grass

The Norfolk pines?  I haven’t a clue who decided that the beaches of east coast Australia all needed to be edged in Norfolk Pines, but by golly, what a fabulous decision that was!  All the beaches of my childhood are trimmed with these lovely giants – Coolangatta, Rainbow Bay, Harrington, Crowdy, Clarkes Beach at Byron … I only have to see a stand of Norfolk Pines and I am instantly at home.  I shall plant a row of them on our farm and when I’m old and wobbly of memory, they shall be my good friends.

harrington norfolk pines

:: Harrington ::

norfolk pines

The lighthouse?  Well it’s my simple version of James Barnett’s favourite design.  He was the Colonial Architect for colonial New South wales in the late 1800s and was responsible for the 3 lighthouses that are so very dear to me – Byron Bay, Crowdy Head and Green Cape.  His lighthouses all have the same look – strikingly white against the blue of their ocean backdrops with royal blue trim.

Every summer as a child and then teenager, we holidayed at Byron and the fortnight was not complete until we’d trekked all the way round the beaches – Clarkes, The Pass, Wategos, Kings and finally up to the lighthouse which in those days had no safety fences, but did have goats grazing on the hillsides, and we’d take flattened cardboard boxes with us, so as to slide down the grassy front cliff face into the legs of our fathers who stood on the edge, stopping us from hurtling off and onto the jagged rocks below.  It was thrilling!

from the back

Crowdy Head was down the road from my grandparents’ cottage at Harrington.  You couldn’t swim at Harrington – the Manning River enters the ocean there creating wicked rips and enticing ferocious sharks. Instead, we would pile into Nanny’s hot station wagon and drive along the sandy track through the bush scrub to Crowdy.  It was so humid and sticky along that road.  There was never a breeze to be felt and the cicadas positively screamed through our open windows.

crowdy lighthouse

Then, just when we thought we would never get there, we’d pop out of the bush and there was the magical Crowdy Bay curving round in front of us, the lighthouse perched up on the cliff to our right.  We’d have a lovely long swim, ride the waves in on our boogie boards, dig in the sand, poke around the rocks.  Sometimes we’d call into the Fishing Co-op.  Often we’d drive up to check out the lighthouse and I’d recount my Famous Five induced fantasy which involved living in this lighthouse and defeating smugglers, and then back we’d go to Nanny’s.  By the time we got there, we were just as hot and frazzled as before we started.

grandad

Green Cape Lighthouse is a much more recent addition to my family story – I only visited it for the first time a few years back.  It was such a long drive in from the highway – a terribly remote spot south of Eden – but when we finally saw it standing proud on the edge of the fiercest of coasts, I recognised it straight away as one of James Barnett’s children.  The wonderful white. The smooth dome of the attached cottage – just like Crowdy.  The splendid blue trim.  Oh yes, this was one of my lighthouses.

But even better, I had my dear old Grandad by my side as we explored this beautiful lighthouse and its surrounds.  He was a little bit frail – we just didn’t realise how frail an old body could become! – but he was so determined to soak up every moment of that day.  He read all the signs describing the history of the lighthouse and its keepers.  He walked along every perfectly maintained path, slowly round each building taking in every detail, all the way down to the cliff’s edge so he could truly appreciate just what that light was protecting the ships from.

And he chatted to me non-stop.  Grandad was such a great talker.  We marvelled at the remoteness and how much effort must have been required to bring in all the supplies.  We chuckled over the tennis court, built by the government so that the lighthouse keepers and their familes could be the social beacons of the south.  We harrumphed over the ugliness of the modern light and its ghastly skeletal structure that has replaced the grand original.  We were saddened by the memorial to those who lost their lives aboard the Ly-ee-moon steamer.

round-401x600

When we finally arrived home Grandad settled by the window, looking out across the sea, with my laptop, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading the stories collected by the lighthouse keepers and their families who served at Green Cape, and filled us in on every detail.  

Oh I loved my Grandad so much.  We had such a special bond, he and I.  Maybe it had its roots in the very fact of being the eldest granddaughter (thereby sharing the most time with him of any of the other grandchildren) and living so close to him for most of my life.  But we shared so much more as well.  We both loved adventuring, exploring, history, and the stories of people and their places.  Best of all, we loved sharing each others company.

So Green Cape lighthouse – it will always tug at my heart.  I will look at this mosaic and smile, remembering all the fun, adventure and romantic notions James Barnett’s lighthouses have given me.  But most of all, I will think of Grandad and imagine him there beside me.

smiling whale

The billowing sailing ship – Master and Commander to be sure.  I adore those books – and really liked the film too.  In fact, you know that last scene, when Jack and Steven are in the captain’s cabin playing a duet, whilst the sailors, marines and officers beat to quarters – that’s from the String Quartet in C Major by Boccherini – “La Musica Notturne della strade de Madrid”.  And it’s the joyful music that my dear Grandad walked me down the aisle to when Julian and I were married.  I can’t decide which was luckier – to have married Julian, or be presented at my wedding by the finest gentleman I’ve ever known ;-)

My romantic heart does love a dashing naval commander and his intriguing nature-loving sidekick – such a fabulous addition to the high seas. Mind you, you’d never catch me out there aboard ANY boat. I can appreciate their loveliness just fine from the solid shore right here.

upside down lighthouse

As for the seal – well she’s a regular feature of the Fishpond (that’s what the little harbour is called) in Merimbula.  Every day when Mum goes walking with her friend Jo and Lucy, the little seal pops up onto the rocks near the bridge, lolling about all sleek and glistening.  Lucy stops and pushes her head under the railings for a better look and Mum and Jo chat to the seal.  She’s apparently an attentive listener but has dreadful teeth and is a bit smelly :-)  I look forward to meeting her and just love that Merimbula has resident seals!  It truly is such a magical place and very soon will be part of my backyard too.  Oh my goodness!

hands

I do find that every time I turn my hand to making, what I’m really doing is telling part of my story, expressing part of who I am, in yet another way.  Sentimental but true.

When we are in our farm cottage – it’s settlement next Friday, can you believe that! – I hope to hang this mosaic on the east facing kitchen wall that is without a window.  This will be my window – looking east across the Mumbulla mountains to the ocean, with a view that will warm my heart and set off a flurry of story telling every time I catch a glimpse of it.

Ah I can’t wait to get back to Merryl’s for more cutting, shaping and glueing!  With the whale, the hill, the Norfolk Pines and the lighthouse finished, I think I shall get stuck into the ocean itself with that rising sun.  Oooooh I’ve gone tingly all over just thinking about all the lovely colour.

 

everyday eden :: a quilt

finished

So, as expected, this nursing gig is taking up vast amounts of my time and energy.  Even when I’m not at the hospital, I find myself thinking about it regularly – especially how I could be doing better and hoping I survive the year!

a start

I’ve definitely landed in an incredibly high acuity facility which can sometimes make for very demanding shifts – when I fret about these Julian says “Just remember, next year when a patient like that arrives you’ll be saying – you’re THAT unwell – off to Canberra or Sydney with you!”

on the ironing board

But there is certainly still a lot of creating going on here in Bootville – more than ever, it’s what keeps me sane – allows my mind to unravel and soon after I sit down to needles and thread, fabric and wool, I am once more in a state of cheerful, imaginative peace.

pinned and ready

This little quilt – a single bed size – which I finished a couple of weeks back – makes me especially happy.

soaking up some afternoon sun

Not only are the delicious warm colours my favourite – but the gorgeous centrepiece of each block is a fabric called “Everyday Eden”!  How apt is that!

tousled in the sun

Eden is the little fishing village perched at the southern end of the Bega Valley.  When we drive east from Melbourne, we trundle across hundreds of kilometres of Victoria and then, soon after finally crossing the NSW / Victoria border, we hit Eden – the southern most village on Australia’s East Coast – and we know we’re back to our beloved Pacific Ocean and almost home to Mum’s.

quilting

It was such fun hunting through the stash, looking for just the right fabrics for the strips of this almost log cabin.

on with the binding

Of course there’s Kaffe – I firmly believe EVERY quilt looks good with some Kaffe – and lots from a lovely bundle I so generously received over Christmas from the Aussie Christmas Quilt swap!

on the line

Then onto a lovely cosy thrifted wool blanket.  No squiggly wiggly for this one – instead, in the centre of each block I quilted one large concentric, wobbly flower.

backing blanket

The borders were so narrow – such a 70s fabric – organic cotton with yellow and orange guitars – they didn’t need any quilting.

sunny house

joyful girl

headless but in love

flower girl

cheerful friends

groovy guy

Mmmm … look at these groovy folk – don’t they look as though living in Eden is pure bliss!  It’s a sign!

border and binding

hanging up

At the moment, this sweet quilt is laying on the spare ‘oom bed.  But – if all goes to plan, and our fingers are STILL crossed – we will need many quilts to line the walls of our next abode – a temporary one whilst we build our strawbale home – so I reckon the more the merrier!

blanket magic

We will also need plenty on the beds – yes, there will definitely be a time in the next couple of years when all my quilts may even become Julian’s best friends :-)

speckled with shadeAh colourful quilts – you do make me so happy.

 

jeeping

photo

We’re one step closer to our wee farm in the beautiful Bega Valley – we have the means to drive down our driveway and up to our front door! Our own little Jeep!

filled with boats

I must confess, I have always been critical of people who drive huge four wheel drives in the city – the kind of people that have a massive Land Cruiser with street tyres that are only driven to school drop off and the supermarket because it makes the owner feel safer.  I just don’t see the point.

sunlit greens

But all the land we looked at over Christmas needed four wheel drive access once you left the road – in fact, some of the roads were even beyond our station wagon.  And so we had to reconsider our transport options.

chip buttie

Julian would definitely need a farm truck – the Toyota Hilux seems to be the truck of choice in the Bega Valley and from all reports they are very reliable and sturdy.  I would need something to drive to work – a little Jeep would not only be good for this but without the roof would be awesome fun to drive around the lovely beaches of the Sapphire Coast in summer.

But not on the beaches!  I’m absolutely opposed to driving on beaches – we’ve sucked up enough of our land for compressed highways and roads on which thousands of animals die every year – I think it’s environmental vandalism to drive along our beautiful sandy beaches. Get out and walk for goodness sake!

knitting

So, after much looking, we found a nice little second hand number that will hopefully give us many years service.  It also has a tow bar so we are buying a trailer and will be able to cart things up to Bega each time we visit throughout this year – hopefully making the end of year move a little less of a mammoth undertaking.

bare feet

We picked her up yesterday – I’ve named her Sylvia – and as soon as we brought her home, packed the picnic hamper and headed for the beach.  At first the day was very grey and cool – so roof on for our trip down the bay – but whilst we sat by the shore, munching our fish and chips, the clouds finally broke up and it turned into a glorious afternoon of sun, sparkle and warmth.  Off with the shoes and roof!

little boats coming home

by the waters edge

such coarse sand

paddling

treasures

green

However, Abby quickly found that the back seat is rather exposed without the roof – so she hopped into the front with me and Julian luxuriated in the windswept wildness of the back all the way home.

He adored it! Reminded him of his teenage years by the beach in Darwin.

in the back

So much fun!  And so exciting to be moving closer and closer to the next part of our journey :-)

in our garden

(And little Sylvia will mostly be a homebody this year – spending most of her time sitting on the driveway with the camellias and cotoneasters – I still think four wheel drives in the city are an indulgence!)

 

pitch :: a cardigan

front on

It was just meant to be.  If you follow along on Instagram, you might have seen a cardigan I knitted up whilst on Christmas holidays.  It was one of those serendipitous knits.  There I was, with almost four weeks of lovely peace and pleasure stretching out before me, and I’d forgotten my knitting basket.  Which, I might add, meant I forgot dear Sacha’s Christmas present – a rich plum coloured version of Kate Davies’ iconic “Owls”.  And it was almost finished – oy!

right corner detail

However, Mum now has a sizeable stash of wool, courtesy of dear old Nanny.  No need to visit the local yarn store.  There were kilos and kilos of wool, in all imaginable colours, neatly stacked in Mum’s/Nanny’s downstairs dresser. And there amongst them, was a bundle of navy Cleckheaton Country Naturals that I had foisted upon Nanny, a couple of decades back, when I was completely bamboozled by a herringbone vest pattern.  All frogged and meticulously wound back up into balls.

back detail

I could just picture Grandad winding the little Toyota wool winder whilst Nanny unravelled my knitted pieces.  Nanny would probably have been sitting on one of the gold velvet armchairs.  Grandad would have been at the nearby dining table.  Nanny would have a fresh cup of tea in front of her.  Grandad would have the paper opened beside the wool winder, weighted down with his glasses case.  They were probably watching an obscure old movie that Nanny recorded in the wee hours of the morning.  That wool would have wound up so quickly – winding wool was a dance the two of them had long ago memorised the steps to and they never missed a beat. It made me smile, and I took the balls upstairs to find just the right pattern for 10 balls of 8ply wool.

front corner detail

That wasn’t hard – I’ve had Pitch at the top of my list for a few months now!  A truly lovely pattern – such a pleasure to knit and so simple to follow – by Susan Mills, for Classic Elite.  It knitted up nice and quick.  A few rows in bed as I watched the sun rise over the sea.  Another few on the front porch with my coffee.  Several in the car each day as we drove round and round the Bega Valley looking for land.  More at the beach.  Back to the porch.  In bed at night as I listened to the thundering waves of Tura Beach.  I do so love knitting.  And this had the extra special sweetness of being wool with family history.

front yoke close up

I cast it off just in time to wear home – a cold and drizzly journey that turned into!

cobargo button

Then today, I popped it on and asked Abby to take some photos so I could share it with you here.  Now, I must confess, I can be a tad difficult when I get Abby to take photos of me in my handcrafts – I remind myself of Dawn in our all time favourite film “Hope and Glory” when she smacks her little brother Billy on the head when he draws the stocking seam up the back of her leg crooked.

No! No! No! I grizzle.  The light’s all wrong, take it again.  Oh no – the composition’s all wrong – you’re supposed to be taking a photo of the cardigan not the rabbit hutch with a scrap of cardigan.  And on it went – with a few giggles but a fair dose of exasperation on both of our parts.

Until finally, Mum appeared and demanded “Give me the bloody cardigan to wear and YOU take the photos just how YOU want them and let poor Abby get back to what she was doing!”

shoulder detail

Awesome solution.  Abby was delighted and quickly disappeared.  Mum buttoned up the cardigan.  I fiddled with the camera.  And what do you know?  The cardigan looked so lovely on Mum that by the end of our little backyard photo shoot, I said “You simply have to keep it – it can be another Christmas present – it looks so good on you!”  Mum was very pleased.

It will be perfect for her in Merimbula, especially through the often chilly Autumn and Spring months when she’s out and about – gardening, walking on the beach, reading on the porch, sewing downstairs – and doesn’t need long, heavy sleeves getting in the way.  Something that snuggles her back and shoulders will be just right.

reading from side

So there you have it – the wool that travelled from me to Nanny, from Nanny to Mum, from Mum back to me, then from me back to Mum.  From an unfinishable vest to a lovely cardigan.  And a sweet side effect of all this wool swapping – I can now buy some more wool, guilt free, to knit another Pitch for me!  I’m thinking a nice grey.

Actually, I can just picture one of my gardening Aunties wearing one too – what do you think Auntie Jacqui?  Do you too need a Pitch for those cool Dunedin summer days?  What colour would you like?  We could all be matching!reading

We will be the family of Pitches :-)

p.s. the lovely buttons are repurposed cedar from a Cobargo artisan who sells at their local co-op.  The perfect buttons for a Bega Valley Cardie!

 

looking for land

bega in the distance

As a regular reader here at block-a-day, you would know by now that almost from the time we arrived in Melbourne five years ago, we’ve been making plans to leave.  Whilst the past five years have granted us some blessings – a wonderful school for Abby, a chance to gain my nursing degree and train in one of the country’s most highly esteemed hospitals, and the opportunity for Julian to really push his career a long way – Melbourne just isn’t our cup of tea – and so we’ve been …

Looking for land … getting ready for the big move … turning dreams for our future into reality …. oh yes!

We’ve just returned from a wonderful summer holiday, full of trips to the beach, snorkelling for our breakfast, visiting our favourite lakes, national parks, and local features, gathering of bountiful local food and cooking up a storm, and hours of wonderful chilling out on the front porch just revelling in the beauty and freshness of the Bega Valley and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.  I can truly say that in 22 years of being with Julian, the last 4 weeks is the closest and loveliest we have ever shared.

And much of this time was spent driving up and down, and back and forth across the Valley.    Each adventure would start with a gathering of addresses, plotting them in Julian’s map app, collecting hats, water bottles, camera, occasionally children (they were much keener on lounging about at home!) and off we’d go.

At first, there was great enthusiasm and excitement.  We were quite sure there would be lots of land out there and we’d find that piece with our name on it in the first week of looking.  Ha! HA! As all you experienced land/house lookers out there know, it was bloody hard work!  And we quickly became the Goldilocks of land lookers.

Some were too small.  Some were too big.  Some had no trees.  Some had too many.  Some had no water.  Some had so much we would have spent our lives in gumboots.  Some were too close to the main road.  Some were so far off it, we gave up and did 30 point turns on narrow, windy, rocky dirt roads and quickly scampered back to something a bit easier to traverse.

walking down to the lake

gentle slopes

cows

We quickly befriended a real estate agent, learnt about subdivision law, water rights, tree protection, the beauty of a well built dam, the obvious signs of a dodgily built one, the magic of spring fed gullies – Bega is blessed with an abundance of these – and easements.  By the end of the second week, we could recite for you the list of available land in the Bega Valley – and point out all the positives and negatives.  We visited land where the only positive was catching a glimpse of the local wildlife.

echidna

We visited land where you stood looking back and forth from the photos on the iPad which really looked inspiring – to the heavy tangle of bush in front of you – that was perched on a sheer cliff with absolutely no sign of the supposed dam, shed, fencing, and gentle cleared slopes.

But the funniest expedition of all – one that I know we will be retelling for many years to come and laughing until tears run down our face – was the “too good to be true land”.  The agent gave us the address and off we went.  Dirt road – but pretty good condition – with a lovely looking collection of neighbours along the way.  Exquisite northerly aspect.  A big dam.  A grove of trees.  Heaps of cleared pasture.  A wee cottage.  Two sheds.  Established fruit trees and a grape vine.  Solar.  Water tank.  Holy moly – we were beside ourselves with excitement – and it was all within our price range.

We raced back to Bega – debating all the way what to offer – should we just give them the asking price – let’s face it, there were no negatives on which to quibble.  We were planning our first morning there … and the next 30 years worth.  We plonked down with the agent and expressed our delight.  He looked a bit cautious.  I added – “There was even an Atomic coffee maker on the stove!”  “What stove?” he asked.  “In the little cottage!”  I answered, amazed he hadn’t noticed it.  “What cottage?”  he asked, looking more perplexed.  “Where were you?”

Turns out there are two properties on this road with the same lot number and both for sale.  The dream property – at double the upper end of our budget.  And another – a rather inhospitable, south facing, steep, heavily forested one. Yeeeeeees.

 

west view

old school

small dam

view north


under the ree

looking out from the grove

grapes

letterbox huddle

magnificent gum

After that debacle, we re-grouped.  Revisited our lists.  Reprioritised the list of essentials.  By week 4 we were planning on making do.  But still we ventured.

We visited more duds – and mused over the tendency of some land holders to subdivide the useless corner of their property that they were never able to do anything with, clearly in the hope that some city folk who only needed a house with a view would snap it up.

And cursed and praised the NSW state government for changing the legislation a few years back that blocked the further subdivision of valuable rural land, post a report that declared the regular chopping up of food producing land into hobby farm/house blocks would eventually put the state’s ability to sustain itself at risk.  Totally support this.  But it does make finding a smallish property just that bit trickier.

We walked across fields in hot sun and pouring rain.  Our car was befriended by 4 young steers who licked all our windows and used our side mirrors to scratch their heads.  We counted wedgetail eagles on the prowl and redesigned the chicken run.  We fed a horse that then traipsed along behind us for the rest of our exploration, nudging us with her head every now and then.  Shared supper with a farmer as we watched the clouds catch amongst the tree tops and rain settle in for the evening.  Ate blackberries and collected weather worn animal skulls.  Watched kangaroos casually lope across the garden.  Sat quietly by a creek as a wombat trundled out of his den and down to the water’s edge.

Our budget grew as did our plans.  We visited beautiful blocks of land and met some truly lovely people.  I have to say – it certainly left us with the knowledge that we will moving to a strong, friendly and forward thinking community when we finally close the door on Melbourne life in January 2016, and head north to the Bega Valley.  All three of us are so excited.

I don’t usually like saying “I can’t wait!”  I always feel as if it sounds impatient – totally failing to live in the moment and make the most of what we have now.  But folks we can’t wait.


more valleys

fence with lichen

trees and clouds

purple flowers

through the shed

walking with the farmer

bunnies and blackberries

apple gum

a glade on a hill

wombat den

hoppy visitors

So, without wanting to jinx ourselves – because this land buying is tricky stuff – we hope to have very exciting news soon.

For now – we have so many lists – opshop trips, dump trips, shopping lists (well, for the imediate future, this really only has two things on it – a Hilux and a trailer), to-do lists, and planting lists.  Julian is filling notebooks with plans and ideas for our strawbale home.  We are both reading and re-reading our books on planting and growing and raising.  We’re regular visitors to the NSW Department of Primary Industries online Fact Sheets.

And of course, I’m working hard at my nursing – hoping to learn heaps and develop my skills so that the Bega Hospital will snap me up!

This weekend just past – we started!  One trip to the opshop.  We’ve dismantled our raised garden beds.  And investigated stove options.  Such good stuff!

Only 50 weeks to go :-)

sharing the crochet

molly makes pattern basket of colour

Each time we visit the Bega Valley it feels like we are yet another step closer to our dream of moving back to the east coast.  We always spend some time checking out the realestate – driving around houses by the sea, bumping down dirt roads looking at land. Some of the houses are instantly checked off the list.  But the land – oh I can always imagine great things for the land :-)

One piece we looked at these holidays was the perfect distance from the town and hospital – many huge and beautiful gum trees, hills worthy of the Sound of Music, lush grassy fields with big boulders tumbled here and there, a sparkly dam.  By the time we’d pulled up, I’d chosen just the right spot for our straw bale house, planted the flowering plums along the drive, and built a little wooden jetty on one edge of the dam with places to sit and a row boat so that Julian can take for me for romantic little rows across the water whilst I hold a parasol :-)

Abby, however, was more fixated on one of those boulders under a distant tree.  “It’s a dead cow,” she declared. “Rubbish!” I said, “It’s just one of those boulders.  “Yeah, a black and white one with legs,” she replied, sharpening her focus on the binoculars.  “It is not!” I insisted, “How could there be a dead cow!” “Well, there is,” she winced, and passed the binoculars.  She was right.  It was definitely a dead cow.  We couldn’t decide whether that was a bad sign or just one of those things.  This is the country after all.  We crossed our fingers that the nearby farmer was about to discover his dead cow and moved on to the next address.

The other lovely aspect of visiting is our growing friendships with some of the locals, especially one of Mum’s neighbouring families.  An IT dad, a craft-loving mum (Shauna), three little boys, and all great beach lovers – such fun!  And this holiday, after a lovely long rainy-day lunch with them, Shauna and I hit the local yarn store for supplies for an impromptu crochet lesson.  Even more fun!

Mum had just the right pattern – a granny square blanket in the Molly Makes Book of Crochet and we spent a lovely couple of hours mastering the crochet hook, chains, and eventually a granny square.

recording the first chain shauna

Shauna is a natural – very persistent, heaps of enthusiasm, and a keen eye!  We practiced and practiced – I would slowly do a round, pointing out each step whilst she watched – maybe do it again. Then I pulled it out, passed it over, and Shauna would try.  It worked really well and by the time she headed home, she had one complete Granny Square and another started.  We were all on a crochet high!

And she hasn’t stopped!  Each night, a new granny square pops up on the Instagram :-) and should she run into any complications, she can always pop across the road to Mum who will be able to set her back on the right path.  Even nicer, she can pop back across the road and sit on Mum’s front porch, with the beautiful Sapphire coast before them, and they can work on their projects together.  Sigh – such envy!

getting the hang of it very nice edge Just as the dead cow boulder was probably a sign that that wasn’t the perfect block of land for us – I can see signs in everything – I do declare that this lovely afternoon of sharing and making with the neighbour was DEFINITELY a sign that there are great things to look forward to we too become happy residents of the beautiful Bega Valley.  Shauna, Mum and I are especially looking forward to woodwork classes with these great women – Two Sheds Workshop :: Woodwork for Women – with a view to making our own Adirondack chairs.

Just imagine the fun we’ll have – not just meeting more great people, learning all those skills, and making our own beautiful furniture – but then all the hours we will have sitting in them with our stitching.  On a jetty, overlooking a dam, with no dead cows in sight.