under the applegum

finding our faraway tree

milkshake and crochet




Noah and Julian

Julian and fu

upside down

looking up

crochet hook


bark stripping


peaceful pooches

on the quilt


under the applegum

front door


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


all in a row

off we qui;t

like ocean washed sand



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.

on the chair

the little farmer’s quilt

thread and scissors

joined by the gulls


on the table

little boa

noah and the moon

walking along the grass

on the chair

catching the sun

over the rock

dusty with sun


the blanket

squiggly crosses

quilted rock

blanket warming in the sun

the whole quilt

corner on the sand

around the sun

close up of centre

sitting on the quilt

corner folded back

shaking it out

quilt and waves

heading back

maddie the dog

blowing off the chair

Really, every post I write about quilts could start like this “Oh my goodness, it’s finally finished!”  I’m so predictable ;-)

This Little Farmer’s Quilt was one of those spur of the moment quilts I pieced last year.  On a rare Saturday morning off work, I drove out to Gail B’s Patchwork with Noah because I really wanted some of their old Heather Ross fabrics – hopefully the little farmer with her horses.  And yes, they had it!  So I then spent a lovely hour or so gathering soft sunset colours to put with it.  I pictured a sort of round the world quilt but in rectangles not squares, with the Heather Ross fabric as the centrepiece.

It was the last quilt in progress that I shared with my dear old Grandad before he died.  Mum was by his side almost every day during his last few months, and every day family from all over the world would send him photos, little videos, and skype messages that Mum would help him look at at.  Oh he so loved it, and would look at his favourites over and over again.  Especially videos of his greatgrandchildren saying “Love you grandad!  Love you grandad!” He would wave back to them, kiss them on the iPad and say “Love you too sweetie!”

Truly, I cannot agree with anyone who says the internet and all its accompanying technology is destroying our families and societies.  Despite so many of us being so far away, we were all able to be there with Grandad during his last days, sharing funny stories of old, describing what we’d been up to, reminding him of how much he was loved.  It was an incredible blessing.

And he and Nanny always wanted to know what I was making so I would send Mum photos and she would share them.  One of Grandad’s gifts was that he never offered shallow praise.  If I played the piano for him, gave him an essay to read, showed him my patchwork or embroidery, I knew I could rely on him to tell me what he loved but also what needed improving.  “Well, you need to work on that passage, don’t you!” he would say when I finished playing a wonky piece “But I loved listening to the opening – you played that well.” And “Well, that’s a nice looking lighthouse, but let’s face it sweetheart, that’s not what our lighthouses look like.  I think you should make it authentic to us.” And “The colours look lovely Doogie, but I think you’ve rushed those points a bit.  I know you could do better.”

I always valued Grandad’s opinion and his encouragement always made me want to go further, stretch myself, work harder.

I’ll always remember the Christmas I was accepted into the University of Queensland to study for my Bachelor of Arts when I was 17.  Father Christmas had given me the University Handbook – a huge telephone directory sized volume that included every discipline within the university and a description of every subject they taught.  The depth of offerings was amazing – I could even study Icelandic Language and Myth!  After our big family Christmas dinner was eaten and washed up, Grandad and I sat at the dining table with the handbook, paper and pencil and pored over almost every chapter.  We discussed what would be interesting, what would be useful, what would be difficult, the value of education and how fabulous it was that Gough Whitlam had introduced free tertiary for everyone – Grandad and I loved talking politics!  He looked through disciplines that he would love to have studied as a young man and we talked about them too – he was especially interested in Australian history and politics.  It was the beginning of my university life shared with one of the people I love more dearly than anything else. The perfect Christmas.

This here quilt … Grandad loved the colours – he thought they were the best choice I’d ever made – I’d created a beautiful sunset.  And he liked how they radiated out from the centre.  Me too Grandad.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

So, the other afternoon, when Noah had an appointment at the hairdresser at Bermagui, it was the perfect opportunity to take along the almost finished quilt, sit on the cliff by the glittering sea and sew down the last of the binding, then take it down to one of our magic beaches with Noah and photograph it.

The late autumn afternoon sun was low in the sky, setting all the honeycomb rocks and quilt ablaze with rich light, and casting a magical dusty glow across the wetlands behind us.  The wind whipped about us, sprinkling us and the quilt with a fine dusting of cool sand.  The sea was choppy with white galloping horses out in the bay and thickly tumbling waves close to shore.  There were a couple of fishermen further up the beach, a young woman running through the water and diving under the waves her long dreadlocked hair trailing behind her like a mermaid’s tail, and a sweet friendly dog called Maddie.  That was definitely a sign – one of Grandad’s dearest grandchildren is named Maddie – oh how they adored each other :-)

Whenever we do something like this, I feel so close to Grandad because I know it’s exactly the kind of thing he would want to do too.  He would have played with Maddie the dog, chatted with the fishermen about their catches, and asked the young woman about her exercise regime.  He would have insisted on carrying the deck chair, and taken part in just how to best lay the quilt out and where to stand to catch the best light – Grandad loved his camera.

He would have loved every moment.

And then, as we were driving back along the beautiful winding road home – up the little hills and back down into the little valleys, all filled with picturesque dairy farms – there on the side of a small glade of trees was a little black wallaby.

It was dear old Grandad!  Letting us know he’d had a lovely afternoon too and that he would always be here.

binding on



very drab


on the mat

duck head

over chair


chopping pumpkin

pumpkin and butter

ready for baking


binding on



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.