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.

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


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!