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.

 

 

in the light

oh the things you can quilt!

old towel

block for centre

adding the strips

reusing the binding

watching with interest

done

corner

in the light

doorside

perfect

in the shadow

So Penny Pakkun hasn’t really grasped the concept of closing her mouth after having a big slurpy drink of water.  She looks up at us – a delighted underbitey grin on her funny little face – and water trickles all over the floor.  Sigh.

Obviously, the water bowl needed it’s own little quilted bath mat.  Easy peasy and sooo much lovely colourful fun to make.

I dug an old towel out of the caravan that had mysteriously grown holes.  Trimmed off the holey bits.  Centred a little orphaned block I found in a fabric box.  Hunted out some strips and ironed them.  Then off I went.

I had a brain freeze at the very end and not only trimmed off the final strip of blue atrociously crookedly – I followed the towel’s line instead of the fabric – guess which was straighter! Then to make it worse – I bound it.  Lay it on the floor to admire and realised “Bugger!”

Oh well.  I don’t mind.  Maybe one day when there is utterly nothing else to do I will unpick the binding, trim it off and redo it.  Hmmm … methinks there will always be something better to do.

The mat is ever so pretty – looks like the water bowl now sits amidst a bed of colourful flowers! And a good strip of the lorax – the best of all garden lovers.

And surprise, surprise, Penny Pakkun was perfectly happy to stand on it whilst having a drink.  Job done!

a patchwork cottage … in the Austen sense

penny wants to bind

burrowing under

her own quilt

penny left

penny middle penny right

crooked blanket on the back

rosy bricks

gorgeous grass

reproduction curtains

pink and orange curtains

the display technician

border binding and background

attic window

abel

choosing climbing over rose prunings

noah with fu and penny

noah and penny

on the bed

I finally finished my patchwork cottage quilt today. Yipee!

I absolutely adored making this quilt – and instantly wanted to make it again and again in different colourways/seasons.  This is the Autumn Cottage.  I did start Spring but it was such an epic quilt to make with all those 1 inch bricks that making it again so soon was just too much.  I should hunt out the fabrics and get back into it.

And after stitching up the Autumn Cottage, I decided all those windows needed curtains – in reproduction fabrics – that’s what happens when I’m making up my own design as I’m going along.  Well – it was so tedious unpicking around each window and adding the half square triangles that I bundled it all up for over a year before I forced myself to finish them off and quilt the darn thing before we left Melbourne.

And look at that blanket – I washed it before using it and it warped weirdly and is now so crooked.  Ah well.  At least I washed it BEFORE quilting it so now it won’t do weird things to my dear little cottage.  And it is super toasty warm and cosy so that’s all good.

All it needed today was the binding.  Sort of.  I had put a binding on 3 sides before we left Melbourne … but it was hideous!  It was a baby blue with pink dots – a fabric I happen to really like but COMPLETELY inappropriate for this quilt – I don’t know WHAT I was thinking.  And I’d even hand sewn it down!  Geez!  So I had to rip off all that binding and replace it with something much lovelier – and I found the perfect toasty cinnamon brown at the very lovely Steph’s Patchwork Fabrics and Stitching Supplies in Moruya.

I’ve always thought that shop looks gorgeous and have wanted to stop many times – and since it was just Noah (equally enthusiastic about gorgeous fabric stores) and me on Monday, driving to a small farm just north of Moruya to collect some little girl guinea pigs, we stopped.  Julian never wants to stop.  And had a marvellous time oooohing and ahhhing over the loveliness.  If you’re ever driving through Moruya – stop at Steph’s – you’ll love it too!

Of course, you’re now looking at my quilt and thinking that can’t possibly be a cottage – it’s 3 stories with an attic!  Ah – but it’s a Jane Austen cottage :-)  You know – like in Sense and Sensibility when the Dashwoods had to move into their cousin’s cottage – the sort of cottage that would now sell in England for hundreds of thousands of pounds!  The sort of cottage that Willoughby declared he loved more than any other sort of home and that he would pull down Coombe Magna just to build it!

Yes – it’s definitely a cottage :-)  And a style that I have adored for many, many years.  In a former life, I’m sure I lived in a cottage just like this.  Probably a rector’s cottage deep in the English countryside – as one of the rector’s many daughters.  Where I practiced all the fine arts a lady should have if she wants to make a good marriage ;-) But probably wound up as a spinster living with another sister and looking after her ratty children and trying in vain to keep the unruly servants in line.

If I could convince Julian of the perfection of the “cottage” this is what we would build here at Wombat Hill.  Built from beautifully rosy warm stone with deep sills and heavy leadlight sash windows, fireplaces in every room, oak floors that have planks 10 inches wide, and of course that magnificent attic which would be my studio – sigh!  Oh wouldn’t that be bliss – and think of the fabulous light and views!  I have clearly spent way too much of my life disappearing into English novels set deep in the countryside :-)

Chances of this being our future home – zero.  Likelihood I will make 3 more versions – the haunting and soft greys and purples of winter, the pretty liberty style florals of spring, and the jaunty red, white and blue of summer – strong!

But you never know :-)

Meanwhile, on the puppy front … I haven’t properly introduced our latest furry critter – this is Penny Pakkun – she is a 1 year old Puggle (cross Pug and Beagle) that we – well Noah really – brought home 10 days ago.  She’d been living with a family up the coast but it wasn’t a good match – they had 3 littlies under 5, a lovely mum who was rushed off her feet, and a dad who wasn’t puppy inclined –  and Penny is a very sturdy, affectionate and energetic little dog.  She was given a very good start with puppy school, and desexing, and all the right worming and immunisations etc. – but she was living outside and very lonely.  So the mum made the heartbreaking-for-her decision to find a new family for Penny.  That’s us!

She’s such a darling – very much still a puppy, with lots of learning to do.  Like – not biting our hands at night when she’s all psyched up!  And not chasing the ducks!  And going to the toilet outside!  But she’s getting there.  Just today she came down with Noah and I to let out the ducks and chickens – and she stayed right by our side and didn’t put a paw out of line.  Noah’s doing a superb parenting job – endless patience and enthusiasm.

Penny Pakkun has the warmest, most velvety tummy, a darling little underbite grin, an enthusiasm for mischief that reminds us so much of our dear little Toph, and she makes the funniest noises – she’s really talkative :-)  Fu’s still warming to her – they both explode out the gate now to race around the grevillea to razz the little birds that live there – and Fu quite enjoys having a little sidekick.  And we love her.  So glad she’s here.

And we know Penny Pakkun’s meant to be here because she loooooooooves quilts.  Always trying to tug them off the sofa and beds to turn into her own nest.  Today, when I was stitching the binding on to the Autumn Cottage, every time I settled it into one position to stitch, Penny Pakkun would nestle in.

So we went out to the caravan, found an older quilt that isn’t a hot favourite, and gave it to her.  Oh she knew straight away it was hers.  She turned round, and round, and round, and round on it, then settled down into the folds with a big happy sigh and went to sleep.

See – she belongs at the very quilty Wombat Hill!