down to the edge

on the way home we stopped

off with the sneakers

crystal water

down to the edge

surveying his kingdom

pearls

grass

ancient shipwreck

lichen

lily

more grass

through the gap

so blue

shattered plates

rich gold

and orange

balmy

lunch

Our to do list is so long.  There’s decades worth of work on it.  Sometimes Julian feels a bit frustrated by not having the time (he still works full time from home) or a bottomless pit of money to simply throw at all the essential bits.  Need thousands of metres of fencing? Poof!  Here it is!  Need a lovely big dam?  Poof!  Here it is!  Need the perfect timber framed barn with hay loft and milking stands? Poof!  Here it is.  And how ’bout we just click our fingers to make that beautiful boundary of deciduous trees appear.  Then we’ll click our heels and there’ll be both an orchard of fruit trees, and one of oaks and hazelnuts.  Ah … it’s the stuff fairy tales are made of, huh :-)

So Friday evenings are usually spent pondering the list of what we should tackle over the weekend.  And come sunup on Saturday it’s game on.  Everything has to be done on a strict budget so we are always scouring the dump shops for supplies and coming up with new ways of building things.  We’ve almost finished our Duck and Geese Mansion – built at the bottom of the garden out of hardwood pallets a lovely local nursery gave us.  Now all it needs is the door – which Julian is building out of old hardwood fence palings we found at the dumpshop.  It’s definitely our cheapest build yet – and looks fab!  Julian’s been tempting the ducks and geese into it this week – Hansel and Gretel style – trails of scratchmix down the garden to the pallet built ramp, onto the pallet built landing and into the pallet built house.  They are totally up with it :-)

This Saturday we needed a fresh trailer load of supplies so headed north to Narooma.  On the way we stopped in our local village – Cobargo – for travelling supplies. They have little street stalls on a Saturday morning – our favourite’s the Cobargo Baking Buddies!  Their stall is stacked high with wonderful cakes and slices and biscuits and buns and chutneys and jams – reminds me so much of the stall my Nanny used to run for the local church at the saleyards in her small town.  We picked up a date and walnut roll, cinnamon scrolls and a jar of mustard pickles.  Yum!  This weekend there was even a banjo and piano player busking – I could have cheerfully plonked down on the footpath and listened for the rest of the morning!

Then it was onto the hardware store – an absolute rabbit warren of a place that’s tucked away down near the beach and cemetery.  It has everything we can think of – sleepers, besser blocks, marine ply, garden hose fittings, bathroom fittings, paint, nails … all our favourite stuff – and really helpful nice staff.  We filled the trailer – even bought a new set of basin taps and mixer for our bathroom – ours is precariously held together with globs of silicon (the previous owner’s answer to everything) and if we turn on the tap too hard, the mixer flies off and we get a torrent of water to the face – yay!  We headed back to the highway and Julian asked me what the next stop was.

And I said …. “The beach.”  Yup.  It was a glorious day – ridiculously warm for the 3rd week in May, with a rich blue sky and lashings of sun – the perfect day for the beach.  That to do list will always be there.  In fact, it will only grow.  And we will always be able to think up a myriad of ways to toil away the hours on our little farm.  But we live in such a gorgeous corner of the world  – gosh, we moved here just because it is so beautiful and we wanted to call this coastline, these valleys home.  Thus, it is practically our duty to soak it up as often as we can ;-)

So, heading home, we turned off at Mystery Bay.  Oh it was exquisite.  We strolled from one end to the other.  Sloshing through the almost balmy, crystal clear water, our trousers rolled up to our knees, quiet and dreamy.  We watched the sea birds, mused about just which rocky nook would be the loveliest for swimming, and looked carefully along the tidemark to see what treasures the ocean was washing up today.  I ooohed and ahhhed over the rich lichens – Julian admired the dramatic rock formations – some look like ancient rusted shipwrecks, others like shards of roof slate a tip truck let slide out onto the sand – and declared he had to read up on his geology.

It was bliss.  Utter bliss.  And so absolutely essential to making the most of Wombat Hill Farm – yes?!?

Finally we were back to where we started.  So, trousers wet, legs bare and sticky with salt, and feet caked with sand, we turned back to the highway.  Shortly after, we turned off again to Tilba Tilba – we needed a serious stock up on Erica’s fabulous South Coast cheese and milk – our favourites are the 3 Year Vintage and the Vintage Blue.  But we still had that laden trailer so we had to park up the top of Tilba in the caravan section and then trot on down to the cheese factory – our trousers still wet, our legs still bare, our feet still sandy – we felt like such locals :-)

By the time we were home, you know, there weren’t too many hours left to work.  Julian cut some grass.  I planted some veggie seedlings (to replace the ones the rats ate – and now the rabbits are eating these ones – ARGH!) and a row of echinacea in a bed that’s turning into a bit of a medieval herbal selection – so far I have elder, echinacea, calendula and verbena – the chickens are very fond of this lot so I’ve had to fence it off – using little panels of mesh we found … at the dump shop of course!

So not much was ticked off the to do list at all.  But that’s okay.  Because when we are old and grey and wobbly of memory, I don’t want to only be able to list all the chores we completed, year in year out. I want to be able to laugh with happiness and tell stories about all the lovely adventures we took, all the times we stopped on the way home, and all the hours we spent just soaking it up.

That’s what will make living here at Wombat Hill truly special.

tiny cave

lemon drizzle cake for mothers’ day :: a recipe

 

IMG_8161

path

tall grass

washed up

gannet

weed

big and littl

cliff

green

draped

little headlands

salted

sharp

orange

loose teeth

tiny cave

red

cows

cake

 

A Lemon Drizzle Loaf

Ingredients for the loaf

  • 225g butter (room temperature)
  • 225g white sugar
  • 4 large eggs (I use duck eggs for extra lift and wonderful colour)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 125g unbleached plain flour
  • 100g almond meal
  • 1 tspn baking powder

Ingredients for the drizzle

  • 85g white sugar
  • juice of 1 large lemon

Method for the loaf

  1. Preheat oven to 180 celsius and generously butter a standard loaf tin (My loaf tin is (l)27cm x (w)15cm x (d)7cm).
  2. Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy (I use a kitchenaid standing mixer)
  3. Crack eggs one at a time into a glass – check for freshness before adding to a small bowl – nothing worse than 1 yucky egg spoiling the rest.
  4. Place all 4 eggs into butter and sugar mix and beat well.
  5. Add vanilla and lemon zest to above wet ingredients and continue to beat.
  6. Measure flour, almond meal and baking powder into a medium bowl – combine well with a hand whisk.
  7. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and keep mixing until well combined.
  8. Pour batter into prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean.
  9. Rest in tin on bench.

Method for drizzle

  1. While the loaf is baking, mix sugar with lemon juice (and any lemon pith you are able to extract) in a small jug.
  2. Once the loaf is resting on the bench and still warm, pierce all over with the skewer creating lots of small holes.
  3. Gently pour the lemon drizzle over the loaf being sure to cover all surface area.
  4. Leave in tin until the loaf has cooled.

Serve by itself or with a plain greek yoghurt.

Enjoy!

And remember that mothers always need to secure their own oxygen mask before helping others ;-)

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.