polished

when the rain came

fire

digging

surveying

with shovel

african

polished

with cows

testing it

rearranged

A few weeks back we were treated to a torrential weekend of rain.  It began on the Friday afternoon and thundered down, non-stop, until Monday afternoon.  Oh my goodness, there was so much water.

Now, as a Brisbane girl – who also lived in Malaysia as a child – I thought I knew rain.  I love a good storm that stealthily appears on the horizon, turning the sky an eerie gold-green, before launching massive rolls of thunder and cracks of lightning, then torrential rain that turns your street into a creek within moments.  Yeah, yeah, I know and love that rain well.  But it’s over and done with within an hour usually.  Sometimes, if it’s arrived early enough in the afternoon, you can even enjoy a freshly washed blue sky and dazzling sunset before the moon rises for the evening.

But this rain – almost 72 hours of constant, drenching rain.  No.  That, I have never experienced.  It was delightful on Friday evening as we built the fire to roaring, tucked all the animals up safe and dry in their houses, and settled in for a cosy night of knitting and good television.  It was even adventurous on Saturday morning when Noah and I layered up and ventured over to Quaama for petrol, veggies and milk.

Saturday evening was beginning to feel a bit like we should have prepared the ark and as Sunday morning dawned – with a solid grey and plummeting sky – the novelty was definitely wearing thin. It was especially thin when we realised the pantry roof was leaking … onto our kitchen appliances.  The goats were pissed off.  The chickens were glum.  The guinea fowl had given up trying to make the best of it and were so hunched up they appeared to have lost their necks.  But the ducks and geese?  Rain is like crack to them.  They go truly insane.  They spend every outside moment running, splashing, darting their beaks into the sodden earth.  They ADORE it.

We humans were OVER it.  All the roads around us were flooding.  The ground was like walking on a sodden dish sponge.  Doing the animal chores was a drenching and depressing affair – by Monday morning I just did them in my underwear and gumboots.  No point soaking another set of clothes – and yes, I had been wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella!  Water was pouring out of the tanks’ overflows.  And we were having to replace the  buckets and towels in the pantry every couple of hours.  And what did the weather forecast say – oh you haven’t had the worst of it – that’s still coming!

Yep, Sunday night that rain was so loud on our tin roof it was hard to stay asleep.  And I hated thinking of all our animals – just as damp and soggy as their bedding.  All night I dreamt of big dry cosy barns – like in Charlotte’s Web – with solid wooden walls, high impenetrable slate roofs, dry dusty floors, separate little cosy stalls for all the animals, each with a lovely pile of warm, dry, sweet smelling fresh straw. Argh!

But as I staggered out of bed on Monday morning, my spirits as low as the sky, I reminded myself that this too would pass.  The skies were predicted to clear by mid afternoon.  The animals were all still healthy and whole.  Everything would dry out.  So, instead of frittering away another day, I decided to embrace my inner Rhonda and give the house a huge deep clean – and even throw in a little re-arrange.  Alas, the re-arrange potential here is as small as our house, but I still give it my best shot :-)

Julian went out to dig at his pond – with his ever faithful assistant and most unlikely farm dog ever – Fu!  I scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom.  Washed and polished all the wooden surfaces.  Polished the silver trays and art deco coffee pots on top of the kitchen dresser.  Refreshed all the little Ostheimer corners and filled vases with feathers and gum.  Each candleholder was filled with new candles.  I scrubbed the stove.  Vacuumed and mopped the floor.  And then with my ever faithful rearranging assistant – the fabulous Noah – moved my sewing and computer desk into the far corner of the dining room and the crystal cabinet into the prime spot opposite the dining table.  We even dusted all the crystal!  And as we moved – and created ever more dust – Noah attacked with the vacuum.

It was brilliant.  We totally reclaimed the day.  We embraced our little home and made the most of it, rain or not.  Julian gave the ducks and geese their best day on earth ever – and because the ground was so sodden, was able to really get into building up the walls of the pond which had become very hard over our long hot summer.

By the end of the day we were all tired and sore.  But the rain had stopped.  The animals were indeed drying out.  The last applied towels and buckets in the pantry were still dry.  And our house shone like a new pin, no longer feeling like a damp and untidy hovel.  The homemade furniture polish I’d used – coconut oil, vinegar and a dash of rose geranium essential oil – added a lovely soft scent to every room.  The firelight and candlelight made all the wooden surfaces and silver gently gleam.  We all felt a sense of productive satisfaction.

All was good and peaceful.

And next time such rain is predicted, I know just what to stock up on, just how to prepare – and just how to enjoy it.

binding on

change

fabric

very drab

seams

on the mat

duck head

over chair

quilting

chopping pumpkin

pumpkin and butter

ready for baking

lines

binding on

inspected

approved

The last few months have been so many things.  Bewildering, magical, overwhelming, everything I’ve ever daydreamed about, exhausting, bliss and such a privilege.  I have not started back at nursing yet, Julian is working from home, and Noah’s having a gap year.  So almost everyday, here we are together.  Each pottering about in this small cottage, sharing our daily lives in a way we’ve never been able to do before.  There are so many times when I stand here and think – wow!  This is amazing!  Even better than when Noah was little, because Julian’s here too and we are somewhere exquisitely beautiful.  What a gift for us.

But it has been stressful at times.  I don’t like change.  Never have.  Which must seem insane to read because I have longed for this change for soooooooo many years.  But change is change.  2015 was a stressful year with so much change and challenge.  Moving was exhausting and stressful.  Oh my goodness – those last few days in Melbourne were hideous – it felt as if they COULD never end.  By the time I arrived here at Wombat Hill, I was utterly wrung out.

So pleased and relieved to be here – but completely spent.  And what did we do – threw open our arms and welcomed even more change!  Julian no longer left the home for work each day.  Noah was no longer at school – 13 years of routine disappeared in a blink and a whole new era of parenting a young adult began.  We had animals that needed to be housed and cared for.  A normal sized family home’s worth of contents and furniture was divided between our little esky cottage and one side of the workshop.  Then there were all the niggly details of moving – changing licences, registrations, service providers, insurance …

It was “Yes!  There’s no more tram out the front!” to “Oh my god, there’s no more tram out the front!”  Every where we needed to go required so much driving.  But the road is beautiful and there’s no traffic.  Everything is so much slower and more peaceful.  But we can no longer call into all those shops that had become our favourites and where we knew everybody.  I no longer had to carefully check my roster every night before falling asleep.  And I no longer had that wonderful sense of purpose, privilege and camaraderie that comes with working as a nurse in a really good hospital with wonderful people I looked forward to seeing every day.  And oh how I miss Meryl, her beautiful mosaic studio, the wonderful women I met there and the joy that was hours spent creating with like minded women.

I sound ungrateful.  Truly I’m not.  I do love living here.  It is everything I’d ever hoped for.

But it’s a huge change.  And I don’t like change.

Change flusters me.  Leaves me nervous, heart beating a little faster, unsure of what to do next, what to expect, how to cope.  Makes me teary sometimes.  Short tempered other times.

Let me tell you how well I coped when Julian and Noah were in Melbourne and one of the chickens died overnight and something ate its brains out.  Well.  I didn’t.  I called my mum sobbing and SHE came over and coped.

My Mum did what every sensible, loving mum does, and after she picked up the dead chicken and popped it into a box, she sat with me whilst I made an appointment to see our GP – who I’d only had an introductory visit with the week before and had been perfectly grown up and coherent.  Not like when I saw her the day after the chicken died.  Oh I cried and cried and cried.  And she was incredibly compassionate and lovely.

We had a really really good talk – about change, and sadness, and relationships, and what makes us feel worthwhile, and menopause (oh that is so much fun!).  She also prescribed a low dose of some good old antidepressants to help smooth things out, and I’ve been back to see her every week since.  She is a real gem.

Five weeks on and I truly feel like I’ve been pulled out of a rather scary whirlpool and gently set back down on my feet.  I haven’t cried in weeks – except those hiccuping tears of laughter when the new puppy or goats do something funny or Julian is silly.  It is a joy to get up everyday and I’m steadfast in only thinking about what needs to be done in the next hour – not all of what we should do or what might go wrong in the next decade.  Everyday tasks are so much more enjoyable that way – who’d have thunk!  I’m so grateful for the love and patience shared with me by Julian, Noah and Mum.  Gratitude and patience go a long way to making days peaceful and rewarding.

And instead of flapping about like a squawking hen, my newly peaceful mind and I have decided to use this change as an opportunity to reestablish good habits that I’d let slip over our years in Melbourne – especially with all that studying and nursing and a year’s worth of moving and feeling so unsettled.  Simple things that make me feel relaxed and competent – making our bed first thing in the morning, watering my little porch garden, folding all the washing when we bring it in so our little home stays neat, washing up before we go to bed, putting time and effort into planning and cooking our meals.

That might sound a little 1950s housewife-ish.  But I find that when all those little things run smoothly, I have so much more energy and passion for the much bigger and more exciting, creative things.  A calm house makes for a calm mind.  A reliable routine makes me feel capable of doing so much more.

So here I am.  I have settled back into the regular reading of some inspiring books like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth and her new book The Simple Home.  They help me think through what is important for my family and I, and encourage me to put these values into practice everyday.  I’m pulling out the old favourite cookbooks and making well loved suppers and baking treats.

My patchwork boxes are still in the shed, but open and I’m slowly working through them, delighting in the treasures they hold and bringing in projects to finish off.  I may not be able to work on my mosaics at the moment, but I’m loving painting – all the animal houses are being colourfully decorated and I’ve started a big canvas of what I love looking at when I stand on the porch.  I’ve pulled out pieces of fabric and patterns I’ve bought over the last few years, and have started making clothes again.

And I’ve knitted.  Oh my goodness – knitting is as good as meditation I reckon.  In those first couple of weeks after seeing my doctor, every time I felt overwhelmed, I just sat in a lovely spot and knitted.  And that feeling slowly subsided.

Now, I’m aware of speaking more kindly and thoughtfully.  I’m considering my reactions when the unexpected happens and applying a good dose of self talk as required.  My levels of impatience and frustration are so low, I feel positively Zen.

Chickens will still die and have their brains eaten out.  Just this last fortnight we’ve had a big upsurge in rat activity and they ate all my carefully nurtured broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, parsley, silverbeet and lettuce.  All the leaves fell off my new mulberry tree.  And my right elbow is so sore (I’ve had “tennis elbow”) that I doubt it will ever feel the same again.

Julian will annoy me.  Noah will have me throwing my hands up in despair.  The dog will vomit on the rug.  The kitchen will be a disaster and I will rather eat toast than cook supper.

But I am optimistic.  I have so much.  Every day I have many moments of such happiness and love.  What was once this huge change is now becoming part of who I am. That is such a relief.

And I’m so glad I’m here, with my wonderful, much-loved people at my side, creating this new life.  It is everything I’ve dreamed of and so much more.

 

 

an unexpected love of rope & baskets

crochet basket

D72_4180

julians basket

ostheimer basket

stripey

knot

scrap basket

next to tv

close up rickrack

adding colour

the loopy mat

beeswax wraps basket

fork hook

detail in yellow

basket with flowers

kitchenaid basket

noahs basket

drawstring top

paint basket

I’ve always loved baskets – from the hard bottomed baskets of my childhood with their colourful pieces of narrow plastic piping intertwined, to the soft seagrass baskets of the mid 1980s with their long leather straps, and now the bolga baskets with their stripes and malleable sides.

I still have the sewing basket my Nanny Dougall gave me when I was little – and have since collected a few more of these sweet work baskets – and we have the heavy, salt encrusted fisherman’s basket my Poppy hung about his waist when he was surf fishing.

We have baskets full of wool, fabric, toys, musical instruments, jumpers, baby clothes, computer parts, board games, Sylvanian critters, dolls house furniture.  I take baskets shopping, to the beach, to work, when we go visiting, on picnics – I even used them when we were moving, filling them up with last minute things I thought would be useful to have on hand and squashing them into the corners of the car each time we drove up to the farm.  Yep, we love baskets.  They fulfil that wonderful criteria of being both beautiful and so very useful.

But when I first saw the rope baskets people were making early in 2015, I have to say I wasn’t tempted.  I couldn’t quite see how it would work.  I thought any I made would wind up looking wonky with uneven stitching.  And even more, I didn’t want to end up with a home filled with cream rope coloured baskets that looked exactly like those being made by everyone else.  Baskets that in a few years, we would say “Oh my goodness, remember when these bloody rope baskets were “the thing” – what on earth possessed me!”

Then, there I was at Bunnings one Saturday afternoon with Julian – he was probably looking at tools and screws and things – and I found myself in the rope aisle contemplating the choices.  I wanted to crochet a large cotton doily styled wall hanging out of narrow rope – and there was a lovely natural coloured cotton rope available in big balls – perfect.  And there were also bundles of sash window cord in different widths.  Now all the rope baskets I’d seen made in the US were made from clothesline cord but we didn’t seem to have anything like that.  Maybe it’s Australia’s passion for the Hills Hoist – or our wicked climate – but most people here have clotheslines made from fine metal cord or plastic coated metal.  But sash window cord – it was cotton, sturdy and a lovely natural colour.  Could be good.

Home I went with my packet and after several false starts, I finally got the hang of it … and it was deliciously satisfying :-)  I wanted more!  Everybody at home liked them and wanted one for this, that and the other, so Julian went out and bought me a whole SPOOL of cord – it has several hundred metres on it – and oh what fun I’ve had with this!

Every time I think “we need to keep this in something so it’s easy to find and grab”, I drag out the spool of sash cord and off I go.  And the most satisfying bit about it – I have endeavoured to never make the same basket twice.

I’ve woven fabric scraps around my cord as I sew making gentle bursts of colour.  I’ve folded wider scraps in and out and in and out as I sew round and round – creating colourful columns.  I’ve painstakingly sewed in rickrack to the top edge – my goodness, that took forever. I’ve added fabric yoyos, felt embellishments, vintage buttons, and even a cut down pair of wooden knitting needles .

After many months, I finally plucked up the courage to use coloured thread – and whilst I’m not a 100% sold on the look of the multicoloured thread on the basket I whipped up last week for my paints, I adore the soft variegated lemons on the basket I made for our beeswax wraps.

I’ve left gaps for yarn to be pulled through. I’ve wound lots of ends into snails and secured them with perle thread. I’ve added loopy crowns to the top, long handles, short handles, and knotted handles.  I’ve even made a large flat table mat with strips of coloured fabric – and then a round of loopy gaps before returning to solid rounds – it is divine and probably my favourite one so far – but it went to Queensland as a birthday present.

I’ve sewed small ones, big ones, straight sides, sides that grow, big bottoms, small bottoms, shallow sides and deep sides.

A couple of weeks back, I laboured over the most detailed one.  A craft basket for Noah to take with him on his journeys – a nice big one with a flat bottom, deep sides and … a fabric top that is gathered up with a proper drawstring so that everything inside can be kept nice and safe but efficiently accessed whilst en route, and a knotted handle for carrying.  He adores it – filled it instantly and has been using it constantly ever since.  All his wonderful felt and embroidery supplies are neatly stored away for his exquisite dolls and embroidered artwork.  Just the kind of thing a crafty mama loves to make :-)

Truly, these rope baskets that are finding their way into all the corners of our home and daily life are wonderful.  Sometimes I think they are even better than all the rest – because they are made by my hands, with my imagination and love, for my family and our home.

And there’s almost nothing better than that.

starting

round

bigger

measuring

basket sewing

adding rickrac

round and pretty

blanket stitch

After dedicating ourselves to building shelters, digging garden beds, planting our Autumn seeds, preserving our small fruit harvest – and fitting in some trips to the beach! – I declared today was the day I would finish the round cushion.

I started it a few weeks back – can’t even imagine now why I wasn’t doing something more important – but after spying a Liberty version on Pinterest, I spent an afternoon hunting through the fabric boxes to find scraps of red to make my own.  I’ve wanted to make such a cushion for years – lovely wedges of colour gathered tightly in the middle with a sturdy gusset, something pretty for the middle and a crocheted edging.

You know, I think it was because I had been crocheting squares, and then I had the urge to use the scraps to crochet a mandala, and then the colours of the mandala were so soft and pretty I thought they would look nice with red, and then I saw the cushion on Pinterest.  Yeah.  That must have been how it went ;-)
doily with fabric

trying it out

so much red

I would truly love one in Liberty but everyday here at Wombat Hill I’m reminded that a) we are now soooooooo far away from the shops – especially those that sell Liberty – that there’s a whole lot more of making do that needs to become the norm, and b) there are now sooooooo many more important things to spend our money on then ordering yet more fabric.  Like – chicken feed, and wood for building, and fencing supplies, and guinea keets – oh!  they weren’t perhaps essential but after seeing the older version running around a neighbour’s property we were smitten!

So … to the fabric boxes.  Then, when it came time to stuff.  Well not only are there no shops nearby selling cushion inserts, frankly, I’ve never seen a nice plump round cushion insert for sale anywhere.  But I do have several Alpaca fleeces I have done nothing with for a few years :-)  Deliciously soft and squishy and warm (and dirty) – it made for the loveliest stuffing.

I do declare we will be fighting over who gets to hold the round cushion on our laps come winter, because it is seriously cosier than a hot water bottle.  And infinitely lighter.  Yep – I mightn’t have spun it and knitted it up but I can surely verify that everything they say about Alpaca fleece is true.  Beautifully light and fabulously warm it is.

fleece

stuffing

And dirty.  Did I mention it was dirty?  You should have seen the state of the grey gingham when I’d finished.  I’ve given it a good scrub with some warm soapy water.  I’m just hoping it will dry looking a lot crisper.  But the most curious thing was – there was not a speck of oil.  I’m so used to sheep’s fleece sliding through my fingers and leaving them glowing with lanolin.  I kept checking my hands, sure something similar would begin to build up … but no.  Nothing.  Dry as a bone.  Interesting huh!

Then it was onto the crochet.  First a round of blanket stitch.  Then a round of single crochet.  Then a round of trebles.  Then a round of double with a chain in between each one.  Then finally a shell – with a wee picot in between each one.  I learnt the shell stitch a couple of years ago and it was truly a revelation.  Yes!!  This is the look I have been after for 20 years and it’s so easy!  Who’d have thought.
slow going

But it did take muuuuuuuuuuuch longer then the sewing up of the red slices.  And so … the long finish.  And after today’s hours of effort … so very very worth it.

on left

crocheted centre

I had to wait until late this afternoon to take it out to the fields to photograph.  See, we’re trying to convince our goats that staying inside the movable electric fence is such good fun.  (I can hear everybody who has ever had anything to do with goats roaring with laughter at this point – get a goat to do what WE want!!!) Which means we have to carefully avoid walking about the top fields and getting spotted by the three naughties who – if they see us – instantly begin screaming … and escaping.

noah and goats

Ah yes.  Here’s Clyde on the wrong side of the fence.  Abel and Basil are actually growing up into good goats and cheerfully stay in their little field all day munching weeds.  Clyde – he’s smaller so wriggles out the bottom.  Then stands on the other side of the fence and yells to tell us he’s done it again …

all on the right side

… until we reward Abel and Basil for being inside the fence, so Clyde quickly wriggles back in hoping to get in on some of that action.  He’s always baffled and terribly hurt when we don’t oblige.

two rounds of crochet

noahs christmas quilt and rias quilt

One of the things I love about this cushion are all the memories tucked into each piece of fabric.  That red floral there on the left – one of my favourite ever students used this in the quilt she and I made together when she was in Year 12.  I so loved it – and Ria and her quilt – that I went back to the shop and bought some more to make a skirt that would always remind me of that lovely shared experience.  Then the red and pink in the middle – that’s in Noah’s Christmas Quilt I made when he was little.  The lovely rose on the right – that’s from the house and girl quilt I made many years back – that I still haven’t finished – and then I used the leftovers of it in Noah’s English teacher’s quilt in Year 9.  Such good stuff.

dancing for box

abel

checking out the cushion

So after all this talk of naughty goats and alpaca fleece and quilty memories, where’s this squishy, pretty round cushion going to live?

Well I think it looks just right on our bed.  I’ve painted our walls a soft grey blue.  The grey gingham is actually trimmed off the fabric I am supposed to be sewing up into curtains for our window.  And not only is there a lovely red, white and blue quilt on the bed already, but I found another lovely, even bigger red, white and blue quilt when we were packing up in Melbourne which is folded up in the laundry, waiting for me to quilt it.  So it all fits together quite sweetly I think.

pretty

on the bed

Mmmmmm …. pretty and peaceful.  Just what I love.