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On this sun sparkly, windy winter’s morn

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My new name badge has arrived for work… I have just last week started a new position on the paediatrics ward. I love looking after children and their families and can foresee much study and the gaining of new skills in the next couple of years.

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There’s a new cushion cover waiting for me to stitch today.  I have grand notions of making a series of cushions with animals from our farm. Maybe …

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Every time I visit the kitchen garden – usually several times a day – there are more sweet pea to bring upstairs – heaven! And Julian has promised to build me a permanent sweet pea bed next year with a sturdy metal trellis.  Oh imagine how many sweetpeas there will be then!

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I’ve finally taken paint to my rough sketch on the pantry wall.  My little farmher is definitely channelling her inner Strega Nona.  That’s okay – I’m very fond of Strega.

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Jammy toast and creamy coffee before venturing out to tend to all our animals. I so love my coffee, I look forward to it from the moment I go to bed the night before!

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My auriculas are loving this sunny sunny corner of the porch  … everyday I carefully look for signs of their long flowering stems.  Not yet.  Surely soon.  Just have to get the Auricula theatre my talented friend Terry so beautifully made for me up on the porch.  Alas it is sooooo heavy and we never seem to get around to it when Julian is home.

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Spring is so close! Always the first to bloom is my sweet almond tree .  This year we are DEFINITELY NETTING so as to enjoy not just her pretty popcorn flowers but her actual nuts as well.

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First out, the honking geese  … they will surely start laying soon and hopefully this year,  their eggs will be fertile and we will have dear little goslings marching around the garden.  Apparently their first year of laying is a dummy run so fingers crossed.

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The ducks do nothing by half.  Life is thrilling and there to be seized in full quacking voice, so each morning, out they burst and off they run.

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Book wisdom says to discard your dirty eggs.  Ducks always look pristine but are right dirty little buggers.  If I heeded this rule, we would never eat a duck egg! So instead I was them quickly in skin temperature water with a wee bit of environmentally sensitive dishwashing liquid and dry them on a tea towel on the kitchen bench.  All good.

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My first delphinium is blooming.  Do I cut it and bring it inside to stick in with sweetpeas or leave it to admire in the garden.  What would Gertrude or Vita do? I shall have to check.

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Where’s my carrot!?  Honestly, ponies are worse than dogs when it comes to eating.  Everything is fair game including my pockets and fingers.

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Noah and I finally collected our bunches of Privet berries for dyeing wool.  Alas today there is no power or water so they will have to wait.  Of course I know to be super careful with these berries as privet is both toxic and very invasive … but I have great hopes for the blues and greens that we will cook up!

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This girl is sitting on a large clutch of eggs.  Common sense – or fear, Julian and Noah – says we should move her off and put them in the incubator ’cause last year which ever hen it was – all the Plymouths are called Helen because I can’t tell them apart – killed each chick she had.  Eek! Their dear little heads were all pecked in.  But I’m hoping that was youthful immaturity and this year – if I move this girl into her into her own little house on ground level in the chook run with easy access to food and water – this girl will live up to her breed’s reputation and that won’t happen …

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The bottom scrapings of the pea and ham soup pot will grow good eggs. The chickens and turkeys agree.

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These little piggies are the noisiest of my four legged children.  And the funniest.

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Good morning to you too Bridget! She doesn’t really like me that much … just wants her Lucerne NOW.

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These here sheep reckon they need Lucerne too. Every morning they tell me how starving they are … yet the fellows at the stock feed tell me no sheep ever starved in the Bega Valley.  I just don’t know who to believe …
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Our newly planted cypress hedge saluting the sun.  I hope they grow as fast as their labels promise.

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There’s definitely A Tale of Two Bad Ponies to be written.  Tooticky is frantically stuffing herself with the sheep and cow Lucerne as I wheel it down to them. Lucerne is to ponies what red cordial is to hyperactive children … Do you know what I caught the ponies doing yesterday? Squatting under the quail house and bumping it up and down with their shoulders so as to spill the quail food all over the ground so they could then gobble it up! No wonder we go through so much quail food.
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Dear Babette … she doesn’t think she should have to eat off the ground with the rest of them. Hand fed please.
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And all of this was luckily completed – with water troughs filled – literally seconds before bang! The power was turned off for the day … again.  Insert big deep sighs. So no painting or sewing or gardening or cleaning or listening to music etc etc etc.

But I shall not rant on about how much this annoys me … instead I shall write this blog post on my phone – a tad challenging so please overlook any strange errors – and look back at yet another morning spent having a marvellous time on our little farm here in the gorgeous Bega Valley where we get to live all that we dream of.  With or without power … and water!

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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.

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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 …

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

patchwork

let’s start again!

swimming

on the rocks

in the shade

tea

noah

yellow door

lamb

house skirt

rabbit skirt

bridget

patchwork

juno

checked shirt

plums

pantry rearrange

at the beach

making baskets

little door

baby doll

rocky beach

rochet

luna lapin

crepe myrtle

quail eggs

fennel

Heeeelllloooo!

I am sitting here this morning, flicking about the internet – reading the news on several different sites, checking the rain forecast, looking at my favourite few blogs to see what they’re up to, checking to see what animals are for sale this morning (I’m addicted) – and it occured to me that I really really loved the old blogging days when I could spend a good hour reading wonderful stories from women around the world.  Reading about the projects that were occupying their hands, their dreams, sometimes their sadness, what their families were up to, the lifestyles they were patiently, passionately, creating … it was so incredibly inspiring, meaningful and just plain lovely.

These days, now here I am truly wasting time, flicking between news that is depressing and infuriating at the same time.  Fretting for rain – and investing an awful lot of emotional energy and time – instead of just accepting what will happen today, will happy.  Truly frittering away hours looking at animals that are lovely but that are hundreds of kilometres away and thus completely inaccessible.  And then feeling a little bit deflated when I check in on those old favourite blogs and there’s nothing new posted.

Hmmmm.  And what exactly am I doing here at  :: a Handmade Life :: ?  No chatting about the projects that are filling me with pleasure.  No sharing of my dreams and occasional calamities.  No stories of what we’ve been up to as a family – no recording of those lovely, simple, funny days that make me smile years later.  No excited retelling of the crazy, wonderful adventures we are having as we stumble along, building up our little farm and shape this new life of ours.

Yes.  That’s right.  I’m contributing to that deflating sense of “Oh I wish there was something else lovely to read.  I wish these people I have loved for so many years, were continuing to share the sparkles in their days.

So you know what?  I shall put my best foot forward today and once again, regularly share the things that make me smile (or grit my teeth) here at Wombat Hill farm.  Crafty stories where projects are not regularly finished, but hey there’s plenty of loveliness along the way.  Ponderings from the kitchen where sometimes I’m able to produce something yummy and healthy!  Tales from the fields around us as we work so hard fencing, building animal houses, planting trees, proving I am indeed useless in the garden, and spending wonderful hours with the amazing critters that share our land.  And sometimes, little laments as things don’t work out, things overwhelm, or things are plain annoying.  All of life in it’s glorious ordinary mess.

And just in case you’re rolling your eyes … I don’t think my life is anything spectacular.  My home is often messy, regularly dusty and not much matches anything else.  But to us, it’s cosy, comforting, and colourful, with every corner filled with that which illuminates what’s important to us and how we love to spend our time.  That to me, is what a home should be.  I’m rounder than ever so there won’t be any floaty, dreamy clothing on display.  Just lots of colour and pattern, things that are easy to make and comfy to wear, things that say “yep, that’s lily!”  My quilts won’t be any show stoppers.  They will be pieced with an eye to pleasure – rather than perfection, what’s rocking my boat this week – rather than what technique everybody is obsessed with at the moment, and they will all be quilted onto those gorgeous vintage pure wool blankets I can’t stop buying ’cause I know one day they will run out.  My knitting will be cheerful but probably a bit wonky.  My embroidery probably never finished but delightedly started.  My animals are adored and cared for to the best of our ability but sometimes we will make mistakes and things will resemble more Mr. Bean’s adventures than River Cottage.  And my garden – I wonder whether it will ever get going or I’ll ever know what I’m doing, and I shall probably buy my veg from the shops for the rest of my days!

But.  If that kind of ordinariness appeals to you and you would like to read something chatty and silly but from the heart that makes you hopefully smile during your day, or be inspired to run over to the sewing machine and get stuck into some wonderful creativity, or just something to flick over to because that news is so bloody awful … well then, let’s try again!

Welcome back to  :: a Handmade Life ::

under the applegum

finding our faraway tree

milkshake and crochet

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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.