mostly doug

the madeline cardie

cast off

After two weeks of knitting with this glorious dark blue wool – I think of it as black watch tartan wool – I finally found a decent background for it last night as I sat casting off my Madeline Cardigan (original name “Practically” by the very talented Kelly Herdrich) – named after Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmanns of course – can’t you just see all those little girls in two straight lines wearing this very cardigan as they march the streets of Paris! –  wrapped in this lovely vintage Laconia blanket.  Oooooh but our little cottage is sooooo cold at night – being metal and all – and when Julian’s not here to light the fire, I must confess, we are very lazy and pile on the woollens instead.  As for this cardie – I adore it!  And so pleased with the additions I made :-)

starting early

Alas, I am easily distracted, and so this morning, instead of sewing on Madeline’s buttons – or doing the dishes or hanging out the washing – truth be told, I even made the animals wait a bit longer – I grabbed my lovely new fabrics, my gorgeous Dottie Angel patterns, and began chopping instead!

prep

And how did I get these here buttons sewn on?  Why I paid Noah of course ;-)

my button sewist

He is a very talented and accomplished sewist – with amazingly fine motor skills and a superb eye for detail.  So off he set, carefully measuring and stitching …

embroidered sheep

whilst I worked on my sheep applique and regularly queried “Are you almost done? Have you put that one in the right spot? How much longer will you be?”  Yes it would often seem that Noah is more like the parent, and I the impatient, impulsive teenager.  Sigh!
selfie lesson

Then, when all was finished – in an effort NOT to have to take photographs as well as sew on buttons for his mad mother – Noah attempted to teach me how to take selfies in the mirror.  Hopeless waste of time.  I can never work our where to hold the camera or where to look or how to compose the background.  So he had to take them anyway :-)

wearing it

And did a sterling job at that too!
mostly doug

Doug made an excellent and obliging prop – adding his black dachshund hair to the thousands of strands of cream puggle hair that have been knitted into this dear cardie.  As well as my long treacle and grey coloured hairs – I always have to spend the first couple of weeks of a new knit carefully pulling out the long hairs that have been tightly knitted in!

pretty buttons

fu and noah

Fu decided she wanted in on the action as well.  She really is the most delightful dog – best farm dog here at Wombat Hill to be sure!  She can round up chickens, cheerfully hang out with ponies, lay snoozing in the sun with sheep.  All our animals are completely relaxed around Fu – they can tell she’s a good one.  Not like the other two horrors.  All flee from their frantic, yapping paths!

flowers and fabric

Because I misread the pattern and didn’t buy enough fabric yesterday, then it was off to our local fabric legend – Freddie’s Fabrics in Cobargo – where not only did I find the perfect fabrics for more Dottie Angel goodness, but had a lovely leisurely tour of Freddie’s beautiful garden (her shop is in her garden studio) and she packed up several cuttings and a lovely bunch of heavenly scented Daphne for me.  Now that’s my kind of fabric shopping.
afternoon tea

Home again, home again, jiggety jig – toasted cheese and coffee on the porch with a splendid new catalogue.  I shall have to forego buying any more fabric for the next few months so I can dedicate that money to spring flowers from Tesselaar!  Oh you should see the Clematis!  The Aquilegia!  The Dahlias!  The BEGONIAs!  I didn’t know Begonias could look like that.  Methinks Julian will have to plough up half the front house yard to fit in everything I love! (He’ll love that suggestion ;-)

newly cast on

Then there was some casting on.  Well of course there was.  I cast off last night!  I know I could have finished other knitty projects instead – four instantly spring to mind – but since I’m in my Dottie Angel mood, and it’s been on my Ravelry list since I joined Ravelry – and the wool arrived last week – I just HAD to.  So here’s the beginning of my February Lady’s Sweater.  Mmmmmmm ….

in threes

And a couple more photos of the Madeline cardie.  I do find it is easier to photograph in the shade – that way the incredibly intense darkness of the black watch doesn’t make the light blow out. So here you can see the lovely “in threes” of Kelly’s pattern.  As well as the scalloped crocheted collar I added.  I added four stitches to each side when I cast on so that my cardie would not only meet but button up.

side panel detail

 

I also added a simple side panel of ever increasing garter stitch – it’s made a pretty stepped pyramid going from the underarm to the deep garter band around the hem – I added a few extra inches to the hem so that it would sit a little longer.  My round tummy is not a fan of the cropped look!

beautiful colour

And of course, I added full length knitted sleeves with deep garter stitch cuffs – I started with the stitches on waste wool for Kelly’s capped sleeves, picked the stitches cast on for the side, and added two extra stitches on either side of them.  Then I decreased by 2 every seventh round until the sleeve measured 40 cm, then knitted eleven ridges (as Elizabeth Zimmerman calls them – so very sensible and instantly identifiable) for the garter cuffs.  Our winters are moderately cold – mornings are often frosty and hovering around the zero mark, and the afternoons are cool – I’ve discovered that 3/4 length sleeves may be great for not getting your cuffs wet when you’re filling up the pigs’ water trough but they are freezing cold when you are standing outside the bakery at Nimmitabel in the snow!  In fact, I think I may soon be undoing the cuffs on my green cardigan and knitting them all the way down too!  Knitting is so generous and flexible like that, isn’t it.

wooden buttons

Oh see the button – so pretty!  I bought them on Noah’s and my recent little holiday in Melbourne at the truly gorgeous shop Epoche in Callista – incredibly well worth a visit – we were there for almost two hours, so delightful was every nook and shelf.

And finally – the selfie.  In the kitchen garden, with my purple podded peas.  Looking very proper and all – after taking umpteen photos, it became obvious that the absurd was far more entertaining than the normal ;-)
my selfie effort

So now, here I sit, cosy cosy in my lovely Madeline Cardigan.  I could finish cutting out my Dottie Angel tabard.  I could start piecing my sheep cushion cover.  I could even sneak into the television room and curl up with that lovely Laconia blanket, my snoozing dachshund, and my new knitting and watch Restoration Man (OMG – we got tellie finally!  Only two years after settlement!  Our friend Pete sent the television man over on Monday and he just whipped up onto the roof, shoved up an antenna, ran a cord, drilled a hole, popped it into the television, tuned the television and within an hour of Nick’s arrival, we had tellie!  Who’d have thunk!!!)

Instead, I should be the grown up and put on supper – roast chook and veg – and wash some of those bloody dishes.  After I’ve boiled the water of course because we are revelling in week 6 of no hotwater system.  But it’s okay, the plumber is coming tomorrow … then we will be super sophisticated.  Hot water and tellie all in the one week.  And my Madeline Cardigan.  I am one blessed woman.

 

stained glass

messy sewing

baby alpaca

This weekend we welcomed a new babe to Wombat Hill Farm – our first wee cria!  That’s a baby Alpaca for those of you who have not yet met one :-)  I was at work when this miracle unfolded – such a bummer – but Julian and Noah were there to watch the birth in all its calm beauty and ease.  Goodness me, don’t these animal mamas just get on with the job.  I’m sure there will come the time when things don’t progress as smoothly as this, but for our first two large mammal births here, the mamas – Mabel the Ryeland-Merino cross (who we were given for free as we were told she was past it! Must have been pregnant when we first brought her home!) and Juno the Alpaca have coped beautifully and their little offspring have leapt to their wobbly feet within moments of birthing and frantically sought out their mums’ milky teats.  Breathtaking truly!

So to the left of Judy’s large rear (our recently acquired Jersey) that tiny little dark thing behind her mum is Juno’s cria.  I’m still not sure if it’s a boy or girl – but I think it might be a girl  If it’s a girl we will call her Aurelia (Julius Caesar’s mother known for her intelligence, independence and beauty) and if it’s a boy he shall be known as Marcus (after my favourite Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) – keeping up the Roman theme for our Alpacas.  This naming stuff is such fun :-)

And below – let me introduce Judy.  She’s our Jersey – also came free when we recently bought three dear little Dexter cows.  She is approximately 14 years old and has been producing regular healthy calves.  Her previous owners loved her dearly but didn’t have the resources to keep her so were glad to find her a new home.  Julian is worried we will become known as the folks you can offload your unwanted animals to.  There are worse things we could be known for :-)

Judy’s very affectionate – loves a good rub and smooshes her face into us while we talk with her.  She’s also very fond of bread – and bringing her a couple of slices each morning is a sure fire way to stay in Judy’s heart!  It would be wonderful if we could get her in calf again – imagine all that creamy Jersey milk – we will have to wait and see :-)

judy

But on to messy sewing!  You see, Julian’s away yet again, so yesterday, after all the animals were cared for, it was time to rip out the fabric and get stuck into some good finishing.  Within moments there was fabric everywhere as I dug around for the bits I would need to complete the radiating star quilt I started last year – the morning after Pakkun ate HunnyBunny (Noah’s rabbit).  THAT was a bleak day and we were all feeling a bit glum – and there’s nothing like playing with cheery scraps of fabric to distract one from the small disasters that befall us now and then, hey?

Now, after a little bedroom rearrange, I have the perfect spot for this pretty quilt – hanging on the wall above the gentleman’s wardrobe – hiding the bizarre hole – as round as the bottom of a large glass – in the wall we found when we removed the hideous frosted glass wardrobe the previous owner left behind.  Weird.

tin

sewing in cake tin

And so many other things popped up along the way.  As they do when you are indulging in messy sewing.  I found all the cut out bits and pieces for Luna Lapin (a rabbit doll) and the beginnings of the Alpaca Quilt I am making – so they were stored neatly in a cake tin on the desk.  Also gathered up all the Peptamen tins I bring home from work – we use at least 1 a day and they are so sturdy with firm fitting lids – I can’t bear to throw them away – I’m sure I’ll find something to do with them.  At the moment I’m plotting a little Moomin village of round houses with appliqued and quilted “houses” wrapped round the tins? Hmmm …

basket

ironing

scraps and apple core ruler

Then there was the apple core ruler I bought the other day – picturing a scrappy quilt of just apple cores – I could even not repeat a single fabric!

piles of churn dash

And the Bee quilt of wee Churn Dashes I started last year after finding this gorgeous bee fabric at one of my local fabric stores – Pins and Needles in Merimbula owned by Tara – such a lovely shop, you should definitely call in if you are ever passing through. piles of leftovrs

marking

chain piecing

lovely fabrics

puggle

fu

Of course, whilst hunting for a good blanket to quilt my Radiating Star onto, I found this incredibly bright American Jane quilt I made years and years ago – still sitting here thick with safety pins waiting for it’s moment.  Well Fu and Pakkun put it to good use.

leftovers

And then I got sidetracked by the cut off corners of the Radiating Star blocks – as you do.  I’m thinking they will look lovely sewn up like this.  There are 32 of them – which makes 8 blocks.  I could then add a striking contrast fabric and sew them up into a 3 by 5 block quilt – 15 blocks altogether.  You get the picture?  Yeah!

one block to go
stained glass

theback

finished

So all this dithering and plotting and tidying and fiddling and stitching finally resulted in a finished quilt top.  Behold!  I bring you The Radiating Star!  And now I have fabric scattered from one end of the living room to the other.  Good thing Julian’s away.

under the applegum

finding our faraway tree

milkshake and crochet

julian

noah

Fu

Noah and Julian

Julian and fu

upside down

looking up

crochet hook

pakkun

bark stripping

tasty

peaceful pooches

on the quilt

sunlight

under the applegum

front door

sunbeam

so twisty

down to the faraway tree

Early Friday morning, we sat on the porch, third coffees on the table between us, me with my crochet, Julian with his moleskin, and we brainstormed all the things we’d love to achieve around the farm over the weekend.  Then we marked off the most important seven for Friday and set to work.  It was mostly a day of orchard planting.  The raspberry patch was finished off – 5 metres long by 2 metres wide, thoroughly dug over with old duck bedding, liberally seasoned with the neighbour’s horse poo, edged with timber and secured with a nice deep row of poultry netting, steel hoops and black netting.  Nothing can be left to chance around here.  If the ducks don’t get in with their destructive flat feet and jack hammering bills, or the rats and rabbits eat it down to a 1 inch stick, then the rosellas and king parrots annihilate every last bud. We’ve learnt the hard way.

Then we planted plums, pomegranates, peaches, blackcurrants and gooseberries.  At the moment the whole thing looks like a graveyard of sticks with a half dug pond piled with dirt around the edges.  Nothing to show off for sure.  But oh, when I look down from the kitchen window, I dream of what it will look like in a few years time.  The pond will be deep and full, edged by water plants with a lovely rock wall at one end, and ducks and geese cheerfully swimming round and round the water lilies.  Those fruit trees – including the already planted apples, pears, hawthorn and almond will be tall and blooming.  That raspberry patch will be glistening with fat juicy berries.  And off to one side will be the lovely wooden rotunda that Julian and I plot every time we stand amongst the fruit trees – a handmade octagon with no railings but wide steps leading into the orchard from each side and tall roof thickly covered in wisteria. Mmmmmm …..

Anyways – that was Friday’s list.  Yesterday’s was filled with niggledy little tasks that needed finishing off as well the building of a proper, functioning compost system, and the relocating of the sheep.  A big and busy list, that one, but oh so satisfying to tick each thing off.  And last night – when I looked out and could see our five dear sheep on the other side of the house fence – it felt just right.

This morning, we sat at the table with our third coffees and ambitiously checked off the next seven items.  We may even have said “And once we’ve done all that. we’ll start digging the next 10 metre long raspberry patch.” Yes, I ordered 20 more canes (on top of the 10 we planted Friday) and they’re arriving this week – eek!

First on the list … weed whack around the new sheep fence.  But by the time we got down there, we were already discussing number 2 – move the goat tethers over to the field next to the sheep so that they’d have plenty of shade from the nearby small gum grove.  We wandered down amongst the gums to pace out where we needed to start.  The grove was delightfully cool but sun speckled and the kangaroos have been doing a sterling job keeping down the grass.  It was almost the grove of our dreams.

Our talk turned away from weed whacking and goat tethering to … if we cleared this bit here, got rid of that clump of bracken, dragged these logs up to edge the herb garden.  Next thing, Julian was weed whacking in an ever increasing circle around the huge central apple gum whilst I raked and made bush turkey styled piles ready to be carted off to the bonfire.  We plotted where we would put a rustic wooden table and benches.  We ooohed and ahhhed about how lovely it would be to sit down here on a hot summer’s day with jugs of iced lemon and mint water.  I dreamed of slipping away to wile away the hours with needles, wool and books.

Then, pushing all thoughts of lists and chores away, Julian weed whacked us the perfect path back to the house where we made icy cold banana milkshakes, dug out the picnic quilt, coaxed Noah away from his laptop, and returned to the applegum.

Julian shook out the quilt and we all plonked down.  Through the trees, green fields dotted with cows, rolled away to the north, and mountains loomed to the west.  A spider scuttled across the quilt and Noah caught it in his gumboot – he says it was the first thing that came to hand.  A pair of kookaburras sat above us in the tree, cackling away.  Pakkun tried her hardest to share our milkshakes whilst Fu snuffled about in the grass, and the nearby sheep mooed.  I stitched away at my granny bolster cover, and Julian stripped the bark away from a narrow log he plans to turn into a tamper handle (pond digging stuff)

It was blissful and as I looked up I realised we were really sitting under the Faraway tree!  I pointed out the little doors and porches to Noah and stared up into the sun kissed, twisty turning branches wondering what Silky and Moonface were up to.  I don’t know that Noah was quite as bewitched as I :-)

I adored the Magic Faraway Tree books when I was little.  I read them over and over and over and wished, for the umpteenth time, that I could live a life as wonderful, mysterious and magical as the children in Enid Blyton’s books.  You know, I daresay this was the start of my passion for the English countryside.  It was patently obvious to me that the grand adventures of the Famous Five, the Adventurous Four and of course Jo, Bessie and Fanny could never happen in Australia.  You clearly had to be in the English countryside to camp out in abandoned castles, capture smugglers, rescue kidnapped European princes, and spend lovely days up a tree with the Faraway Tree folk.  Sigh.

And as I sat under our beautiful Faraway Tree, I realised that it was never the promise of that magical land at the top of the tree that really drew me into these books.  I even remember skipping over those bits.  What I truly loved were the homes the funny little people of Faraway Tree – and later, Roald Dahl’s Minpins and Mary Norton’s The Borrowers – created.  The cosiness, the warmth and welcome (mostly), the nooks and crannies, the corners filled with fascinating items, and especially the fabulous make do philosophy they all embraced as they built their wee homes, turning other people’s cast offs into the loveliest of belongings.

I didn’t care about running around in Candy Land or whatever had zoomed in that week.  I longed to peek into little sitting rooms, and take tea by the fireside with people whose lives revolved around the dear little homes they had built all by themselves.  I wanted to live there with them.  I wanted to build my own home just as lovely and creative as theirs. And I wanted them to come visit me.

Forty years later, and I don’t believe I’ve changed one bit :-)  Here we are, Julian and I, building our little home bit by bit.  Weekend by weekend.  Making use of what we find, what other people cast away.  Building it by hand.  Making it so utterly descriptive of just who we are, what we love, and what’s important to us.

Making it cosy.  Making it welcoming.  Making it creative.  Making it ours.

 

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.