under the white cedar

knitting and coffee

cedar

dump chairs

wool

galloping chickens

unknitting

fluffy butts

goaty antics

floss and pincushion

noahs doll

pattern and scissors

embroidery

book

chickens

inspiration

Most mornings round here start with a bang – the ducks burst out of their house with indignant quacks and flap, waddle and dart off across the garden.  The geese lurk about the apple trees, honking impatiently, waiting for me to fill the feeder, then set to sweeping it all up into their greedy beaks before the ducks even get a look in (Note to self:  buy another feeder for the geese!).  I fill their water trough, then tip out the muddy sludge left in the bottom of their wading pool and refill it with fresh sparkling rainwater whilst they gather about, waiting for that glorious moment when they leap in and make it all muddy again in seconds.

Then it’s over to the chickens who are standing patiently against the door of their house, bumping into each other with little mutters and clucks.  They flutter much more gracefully down their stairs and head straight for the hedge of grevilleas and bottle brush where they have scratched out individually shaped scoops for dust bathing and snoozing.  I top up their seed, give them a good dose of apple cider vinegar and garlic in their water, then vainly check the nest for eggs.  Not yet.

The goats – they just yell.  “Come and get us! Come and get us! Come and get us!  Where’s the goat nuts! We said GOAT NUTS! And WHEN ARE WE going over to the weedy kingdom? ”  There’s little point making them wait, so I fill the bucket with nuts, open the gate, and we bump and bustle over to the weedy field – them stopping along the way for some lillypilly, then some box hedge, then a few gum leaves, check out the woodpile, stand up on the trailer’s edge and peer in, check that yes, the grass is indeed greener on the other side, then finally into their electric fence which they are completely compliant with these days, thank you very much.

Then it’s back in to the guinea fowl who bustle about their A-frame waiting for their seed and water and wondering whether today will be the day they get to roam like those lucky ducks. (No, sorry dear guineas.  Not today, I need to finish the new duck – goose pavillion first, then you can have the ducks’ old house and their electric fence – we call this “Ernie and Bert Farming”)  I make sure the crazy Hamburgs are around – yep! – open the gate and let them back into their yard, and check for eggs – nope.

Finally I check in with the guinea pigs – move them onto fresh grass and roll some treats down their ramp – they’re currently loving raw pumpkin halves, sweet corn husks and small slices of watermelon from the local farm gate stalls.

As I fill their water I hear Julian making coffee.  Mmmmm … And then it’s time to sit down together on the porch.  Me with my museli and knitting.  Him with his morning news and ponderings on what we should plant next, would pigs stay in the electric fence, how much he really wants cows, and where do I want the next hole dug for yet another tree I’ve bought home from the lovely nursery in Cobargo.

We have grown and shaped this lovely routine over the last few months and it never fails to fill me with gratitude and delight that we are here.

But now, we have another spot to sit and soak up the magic – under the white cedar.  We have the old cast iron table I bought from the Sacred Heart Op Shop last year in Melbourne – unfortunately one leg had snapped off halfway down – so Julian trimmed off the other 3 and now it’s the perfect garden height.  And last week I found two chairs at the Merimbula dump – a fabulous source of thrifty treasures – they are in perfect nick – I’ve not seen anything like them before – kind of like a canvas deck chair, kind of like a simple squatter’s chair, kind of like a rocking chair.  And wonderfully comfortable.  I’ve bought some garden furniture oil and will give them a sand and polish to help keep them lovely for longer.

The goats play and munch and ruminate behind us.  The chickens cavort and scamper after bugs in front of us.  And after Julian heads back inside to work, Noah comes out, and we get to move on to the second round of coffee and breakfast and more crafting.

Ah yes, the morning might start early and busy … but then it slows down in the nicest way, easing us all into whatever it is the day holds next for us.

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.

7 edwardian chairs :: a mother daughter tradition

beautiful detail

Late last year, just after I’d had one of my huge and infamous rearranges – where the front room was dismantled, its furniture redistributed about the house, the living room shoved into the front room, the dining room recreated in the middle room, and the kitchen transformed into a working kitchen divided by a sideboard with a lovely cosy study / armchair area set up in the nook – I decided what I “really needed” was a lovely armchair to sit in the corner of the dining room, in front of the bookcases.

I scoured the opshops, the footpaths … and a long time favourite, good old eBay.

At first, my imagination was filled with those extravagant French styled armchairs with their ornately carved backs, rolled arms, Queen Anne legs, and outrageous floral velvet upholstery.  I found a lovely pair in Sydney – green and cream velvet floral – awesome price – but they were in Sydney.  I even considered driving up and fetching them – what an adventure that would be!

Hmmmm … I would have had to have a towbar installed on the car and bought a trailer.  More then possibly a wee bit extravagant.  But Julian was away for the month and anything seems possible when Julian’s away :-)  However, when I ran my grand plan past Abby, she merely raised her eyebrows and went back to her books.  I took that as a no.

In fact, there were heaps of lovely armchairs in Sydney and all at good prices.  Here in Melbourne – no, no, no.  I rarely saw any, and when I did, they were way out of my price range.  So I loosened up my expectations and quickly found a gathering of seven Edwardian chairs – two armchairs and five dining chairs – in various stageses of reupholstering – that were an incredibly reasonable price, right here in Melbourne.  No one else bid on them and a few days later, I was the gleeful “winner”!

the chair

Now, there were six more chairs than I had originally anticipated buying but I figured a pair of armchairs was always better than just one lonely one.  And five gorgeous dining chairs would always come in handy.  Most extraordinarily, I bought the whole lot for just $120.  Can you believe that?!?!?  Seven beautiful Edwardian chairs for less than $20 each.  Oh my goodness.  I felt like I was robbing the previous owner, but that’s the spin of the eBay wheel, isn’t it.

However, it did mean two trips to bring them home which turned into an all day adventure whereupon I also got to meet a sweet family and hear a lovely, lovely story about my new chairs.  And as I’ve mentioned before, I always love furniture that comes with a good story, and this one is especially touching because it describes just the kind of relationship and adventures I have with my lovely mum.

tricky bits

In the late 1960s, a young woman – recently married and hoping to start a family – hunted through the antique stores with her mum for Edwardian dining and arm chairs they could restore.  Her mum had been taught upholstery by an elderly aunt – the young woman vividly remembered going to visit her great aunt in the countryside where she would play whilst her mother and great aunt would work away at their antiques and upholstery.

Eventually she too learnt the skills and when she was setting up her own home, she and her mum knew just the chairs they wanted.  They found these seven, brought them home, and set to work.

Their work was slow, meticulous and employed traditional techniques.  The chairs were carefully webbed.  Their springs were handstitched with jute twine.  The backs of the armchairs were buttoned through hessian that covered carefully layered and stitched coconut fibre and upholstery wadding.  Calico lining and upholstery fabrics were perfectly stretched and tacked into place with blued tacks.
beautifully webbed

But then the young woman fell pregnant with twins and it was hard to find the hours needed to keep working on the chairs.  Nevertheless, they kept at it, bit by bit, and her little girl (one of the twins) was now making her own memories of playing in the garden on weekends whilst her mum and grandmother upholstered chairs.  She thought it was just what mums and grandmothers did!

This bit made me laugh – that’s exactly what Abby thought when she was little.  When asked what she got up to on the weekend, she would answer “Oh stripping with Mum and Nan as usual!”  People were always a little bemused by just what “stripping” was.

However, life became busier and busier.  Eventually the great aunt – bestower of all upholstery knowledge – passed away and then so did the young woman’s mother.  The chairs moved further and further into the dark corners of the garage and were almost forgotten.

Then, decades later, the time came when the young woman was now becoming older and more frail herself and needed to sort through a lifetime’s belongings and move into a smaller, more easily managed home.  And there – in the garage – were the seven chairs.

gathering of tools

The chairs brought back so many lovely memories and she was in a quandary about what to do with them.  She felt sad that she and her mum had not managed to finish them.  But she no longer possessed the skills required to finish them off, and even if they were finished, had nowhere to put them in her new home.  Nor did her children need or want them.

No antique dealers were interested.  She couldn’t imagine giving them to an opshop – even less putting them out for hard rubbish.  So her son-in-law offered to put them on eBay where hopefully someone would see that same beauty and promise spied by her and her mother all those years ago.

tapemeasure

Well, I think the perfect person did ;-) Together, the older lady and I examined the chairs – ooohed and ahhed over the lovely woodwork, and delighted in the still excellent upholstery.  I described my experience with upholstery – I spent two years attending weekend classes at the Holmesglen TAFE here in Melbourne – and we discussed fabric and braid options.

We talked embroidery, knitting, patchwork and antiques.  And I shared funny stories about the furniture adventures Mum and I have had, our methods for restoring furniture, and the lovely treasures we have found over the years, and filled our homes with.

It was a lovely day, and the woman, her daughter and son-in-law were all delighted that the chairs had not just found a very suitable home, but a much valued tradition of mother and daughter, working together, would be continued.

positioning the roses

measuring

So this weekend, with my Mum newly returned from her Christmas adventures in Canada, we tackled the loveliest of the chairs.  Look at that carving on the back – it is so beautiful!  I wonder whether it was intended as a dining chair or whether it sat on an altar in a lovely old church.  You know how in Catholic and Anglican churches you often see beautiful chairs lined up for the different attendants to sit on during mass, yes?  Now, this one sits at my desk in the kitchen.  It’s just perfect.

fiddling with corners

tacked corner

And I found the perfect toile in the sewing shed – bought for something else of course, that never eventuated, but that’s the way things go sometimes.  It’s a linen/cotton blend with a lovely firm hand.  Just right for upholstery and such an appropriate pattern for chairs that have elegant, swirly flowers and leaves carved into their wood.

tucking in the edges

flattening the tacks

I daresay, Mum and I too will take our time with these chairs :-)  Let’s face it – we’re no professionals and every step taken is checked against my notes and books, then ummmmed and ahhhhhed over and carefully tested before we settle on the best way to move along.

And who knows, maybe one day soon, Abby and I will be finishing off a couple for her future home.

pondering the back

adding some blanket

And of course, there are funny mistakes that need to be ripped out and redone.  After doing such a careful and satisfying job on the seat and front of back, we completely lost the plot on the back of the back.

We were so engrossed with getting the rose perfectly centred and balanced along the edge, we failed to notice we had moved the fabric 3 inches up and after tacking it down, it had no HOPE of reaching the bottom!  What silly billies!

Another moment that had us in fits of laughter was when we finally realised – after a whole afternoon of wondering why the staple gun was not working properly – all the staples were loose, no matter how hard we pushed, and had to be banged in the last few millimetres with the hammer – that the setting had been bumped from 6 (nice and tight) to 2 (hopeless).

loose staples tight staples

However, that’s just the way mother-daughter restoration rolls.  Don’t you think?  Full of experiments and victories, flops and giggles, hours of pleasure, the creating of wonderful memories, and a life-long, shared appreciation of the old and lovely.

Yes, these seven Edwardian chairs have settled into our home beautifully.  It was meant to be.

better than malted milk :: a cross stitched chair

before

I had a wee bit of the glums today.  It happens.  Usually a week or so before my period.  Must be a huge hormonal swing of some sort.  I feel it creeping up, find myself feeling very sad, wonder why life is so hard, then remember to tell myself … ah, you feel glum because it’s just that time of the month.  So I stood in the pantry doorway and ate malted milk powder from the jar.  It didn’t really help.  And it made my mouth gummy and I choked a bit and had to dash down a glass of water.

Much better to text Julian in Las Vegas so he knows you feel glum and will call (which he did, straight away, he’s lovely like that).  Then find something simple to do that will let you just be with the feeling but also allow you to find some sweetness. Tried and true recipe for beating the glums.

So today, I vacuumed.  It wasn’t especially sweet, but it did make me feel virtuous – I loathe vacuuming – actually, I loathe all housework.  This allowed me to look at the bathroom with a critical eye – the bath tub had the blue bentwood chair and the clothes hamper sitting in it.  Not exactly conducive to bathing.  So I pulled it all out and cleaned the bath.  Again – big ticks on the virtuous scale – I loathe cleaning the bathroom.

Then I had the blue chair to do something with.  And as I looked at that lovely blue rattan … I thought of something I’d seen on Pinterest!  Check it out … cute as! Simple.  And something that would definitely provide a bit of sweetness :-)
book and fabric

So I got out some red gingham … I bought this gingham at the Vinnies in Bega on our spring break.  It was 5 metres for $3.  Only it was half price day.  So I got 5 metres for $1.50!  I made a skirt with a floral reprodepot trim, now I’ve cross stitched a chair, and I still have heaps left!  That’s a sweet bargain.

And I flipped through one of my all time favourite cross stitch books for a pretty pattern that had just the right number of stitches – couldn’t be more than 24 squares.

the pattern

Perfect!  And making this snowflake on that beautiful blue with the red and white gingham would look very Nordic.  Sweet and perfect!

the strips

I cut (hacked) my strips (just with the scissors) 3 squares wide.  Man do I love fabric that comes with self cutting lines.

fu

Settled onto the hallway floor with my sweet companion.  The only thing she won’t do with me is vacuum.  She’s a sensible dog.

stitching

And set to work.  As more and more of the pattern appeared, I felt those glums subsiding.  I felt stronger, more cheerful … content.  Especially when Abby came home.  There’s nothing like the lovely company of my Abby, Julian, or Mum to shove those glums away.

done

And in less than 2 hours … voila!  I must add … this is a hard rubbish chair.  Picked up from the footpath on the Nepean Highway on our way to Southlands one day.  It has a pair – the pair doesn’t have a seat.  I’m now inspired to finally buy that rattan and fix it just so’s I can cross stitch it!

Can you imagine a farm house kitchen with these lovely bentwood chairs in all different colours pushed in around a scrubbed table, all with red gingham cross stitch?  Oh I can.  It will be an immensely popular photo on Pinterest (hee! hee! hee!) And the best bit is – I see these chairs on the side of the road regularly – yes!

seat

closeup back

texture

Sigh …. look at that nubbly texture … so pretty.  And I love how, with a wee bit of distance, the gingham makes it look like wonderfully thread variegated yarn.

sideon back

And the  colours …. swoon!

side on

Yes, a quick bit of gingham cross stitch was a lovely balm on what was shaping up to be a pretty flat day.  And for that I am very grateful.