prettiness on the table

improvised pottering with a cordless drill, silk, and wool

and drying

As spring approaches our second time round the sun here at Wombat Hill, I’ve rearranged the front porch (again), popped table cloths on, plumped cushions, added a rocking chair, set up a desk for whatever takes my fancy … And  just like this time last year, as the sun grows stronger, and the warmth and day both last longer, we exclaim “Oh it’s so lovely out here on the porch!  Why have we been sitting inside!”, forgetting that we moved inside as autumn deepened because it was cold.

washed

Little Doug the dachshund has a real love for my handmade cushions that neither Fu or Pakkun have ever shown.  He spends so long puttering around on the top edge of them – I guess he can do this because he is so very little – until he has smooshed them into just the right shaped nest for his long thin sausage body.  Which means that even though Doug never looks dirty – the bonus of having a dark coat – he makes the tops of all the cushions so very dirty!  So they all need far more regular washing.  Good thing for gentle handwash cycles on our washing machine because I NEVER properly handwash anything.

kitchen

After the porch sitting was done for the morning, and the cushion covers set to dry on the rocking chair’s arms, I pondered the to do list.  It is soooo long.  There are softly coloured 6 inch squares of silk to sew up for our comforter – I’m making one out of a down fillled doona – the sort that sits on the top of the bed and is buttoned through.  There’s new curtains to make for the long living room window – one of the dear little doggles ate a hole in the existing one when they were shut in one rainy day – what a strange choice to make – ever so lovely of them.  There’s a Dottie Angel tabard cut out and waiting to be sewn up.  And, of course, the never ending pile of quilts and quilt tops to work through.  And knitting.  And embroidery.  There’s always knitting and embroidery.

But I was muchly agitated after absorbing the morning’s news peppered with hate and bigotry regarding Australia’s upcoming postal vote (yes, our prime minister Malcolm Turnball is a hypocritical, gutless wonder and will make dreadfully unpopular executive decisions about all manner of life changing issues – e.g. dismantling environmental protections – Coal is our Future!!! – and attacking the incomes of our most vulnerable citizens – but won’t take a simple vote in Parliament concerning a fundamental human right) – so instead found myself pacing the floor, unable to concentrate.

bedroom quilt hung

And so, I grabbed my new drill bits and drill and set to hanging all the things that had been lurking around for days, weeks, months, waiting to be hung.  There was something quite cathartic about it all.

bedroom hooks hung

The old Dutch coffee grinder and French chicken print were hung in the kitchen.  The Exploding Star quilt rehung in the bedroom (had to be moved after a recent bedroom rearrange), a lovely set of hooks from Ikea were hung on the back of our bedroom for our coats and hats, and a new quilt was hung in the dining room.

dining room quilt

I had hung a large blue and green star quilt there – a quilt top that was pieced 7 years ago and only just finished and quilted this year – but it was really too big for the spot so looked a bit awkward.  This one’s a much nicer fit but now I’m thinking the white wall behind it is pretty dull.  When I suggested to Noah that a rich creamy orange would be lovely, he grinned and said “Yes, you’ve said that every second month for two years now! Maybe you just do it!”  Well at least I’m consistent ;-)

embroidery done

By then, the temper was well enough soothed that a bit of sewing was next on the list … the assembling of a new quilted cushion cover – with a little sheep applique for the centre.

prettiness on the table

quilting

I do so love sewing with old woollen blankets and this style of quilt as you go log cabin piecing is my favourite!

ready to turn into a cushion cover

I don’t know how that wound up so very crooked – never mind – when’s it trimmed and sewn up it will be a perfect square again!

but first some knitting

Whilst all of this was happening, the lovely plumber was downstairs installing our new solar hot water system – such a long and cold six weeks we’ve had! And then it struck me, that I am so terribly grateful for him fitting us in with two days notice, that a little piece of handmade gratitude was in order and since he had told me about his wee baby, a quick Milo vest was just the thing.  I knit up the yoke that night – took one episode of Hinterland and three of Offspring.
knitting as fast as i can

By the next morning, I worried it might be a wee bit weird to be knitting a vest for a baby I didn’t know and a plumber I’d only met the day before.  But then, a lovely instagram friend shared how much she and her family are touched by the thoughtful gestures of some customers (her partner’s an electrician) and so, after running multiple errands on Friday morning, I quickly set down after lunch to knit my fingers to the bone and GET. IT. FINISHED before the the plumber finished for the day.

finished

And I did.  With literally 20cm of wool left – that Cleckheaton California is so generous in both colour, smooshiness, and length!
for the plumbers baby

The plumber seemed very pleased and thus it was all very worthwhile. I do find that the best laid crafty plans almost always go astray – something more pressing always pops up in the loveliest of ways.

hot water

And we now have beautiful steamy hot water!  Oh the luxury of washing up without having to boil pot after pot of water on the stove.  Oh the BLISS of having a shower, instead of a bath at the kitchen sink which required even more of those pots of water to be boiled!

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.

 

on the sofa

grey with a splash of colour

fabric choices

first stripe on

pins

all in a row

off we qui;t

like ocean washed sand

chair

binding

with pug

one corner

one fold

the pocket

with sun

one valley

on the porch

in the garden

with wind

still blowing

the whole quilt

on the sofa

If you’d told me last year – or any of the last six – that I would love making quilts with swathes of grey I would have hooted out loud.  Why on earth would I do that when I was so often drenched in the grey of Melbourne’s mercurial weather and inner city living.  Honestly, when there would finally be a splash of sun after a week of heavy grey, especially in winter, I would almost cry with relief.

But here, on the glorious south coast of NSW – glittering sea to our east, smudgy purple mountains to our west, and rolling green hills and huge old gums round every bend – why, I’ve come to really like the soft smooshiness of grey.  So much so that first I started making an exploding star quilt with 5 different pieces of grey and was so excited by that, I bought I few more pieces and started making a very simple quilt to hang behind the newly restored antique organ.  In my head, four simple squares of four simple grey stripes, each turned a different way, with a riotous ribbon of all the favourite fabrics that were going into the exploding star and had already been stitched into the little houses quilt (still to quilt and share that one), finished with more simple grey then a turquoise binding.  Hung behind the organ (hiding a redundant door).  Looking just tickety-boo!

Within a handful of days the quilt was pieced, pinned out onto a lovely cream blanket (didn’t want any checks or stripes showing through those soft smooshy greys), quilted with the best squiggly wiggly I’ve ever managed, bound, a hanging pocket sewn on and boom!  Ready to hang.  With Noah at the dining table drawing – patiently jumping to help everytime I shrieked – and the fabulous Juliet Stevenson reading Elizabeth Goudge’s sweet tale of the Little White Horse in the background, I armed myself with ladder, hand drill, screwdriver and ruler to hang my first quilt at Wombat hill.  Such bliss!

Except it looked ridiculously awful!  I think it’s a beautiful quilt – I love it!  And would cheerfully make it again and again and again with different colour combinations etc.  It was a very satisfying make and looks serene and fresh at the same time – but with this lovely splash of colour that draws your eye, begging you to say “Oh look!  There’s birds and unicorns and little girls playing hopscotch and foxes hiding amongst the foliage, and dachshunds that make me think of Toph, and pheasants strutting across the fields, and Kaffe (there’s always Kaffe) and wow! look at that glorious , favourite ever Anna Maria Horner mustard floral!”

Even better, it is related to the little houses quilt and the exploding star quilt.  I adore when I gather together a melee of prints – fat quarters, half metres, specially bought, dug out of boxes, trimmed off skirts – that I so love putting together and using over and over.  They bloom into my “cousin quilts” and make me smile when I look at them.

Nevertheless – despite almost an hour’s awkward effort with that ladder, hand drill, screw driver and ruler – my grey with a splash of colour looked stupid behind the organ.  Wrong dimensions, wrong colour (the greys blended too much into the off white wall) – and just way too crisp for an extravagantly turned and carved Victorian bellows organ with mirrors and candle holders.  Sigh. One of those moments.

Thankfully, after I’d climbed back up the ladder, and Noah and I slid the quilt off its hanging rod and dropped it onto the sofa in a huff … we realised that was exactly where grey with a splash of colour was meant to be.  On the plain white sofa, against the glowing yolky yellow walls of the living room.  Reflecting the wonderful, riotous colours of fields and trees, animals and flowers, sky and sunshine just outside the glass doors.  With the richly coloured Persian rug at it’s feet, and the needlepoint cushions resting in its corners.

And two dogs.  Of course.