Friday, October 27, 2017

when the orchard blossoms

Hello blossoms, how's your week been?

I'm sitting here fresh from a morning of digging trenches and planting potatoes. My finger nails are full of dirt and the knees of my overalls are filthy, but it's certainly nice to have an excuse to sit down quietly for a bit.

It's funny, all winter long I felt like I was blogging about the same thing over and over again. The weather had closed in and it was dark and wet and nothing was really happening here except for the knitting and the reading. I yearned for spring when the sun would come out and things would start growing again. And I couldn't wait for a time when I would be spoilt for choice of subjects to photograph and stories to write about.

And all of a sudden here we are. Two months into spring and my world is filled with action and activity. Celebrations, flowers, seeds and seedlings, farm activities and renovations. There's been so much going on here in the past seven days that I don't actually know how to narrow it down. Where do I start? How do I choose?

I guess I'll start at the main event. The day that had been circled on the calendar and counted down to for the last few months, Miss Pepper's Slime birthday party! And then write a list of other week happenings from there.

Led by these two, the girls decorated tee-shirts, played party games, ate, drank, giggled, sang and made slime. 

I have to tell you that after all these years of hosting little kid's parties, having two 14-year-olds to run things was a game changer. I don't think I've ever been so relaxed with a house full of girls.

And even though the day was wet, so the party had to be held inside, and the slime had to be made inside, which I was dreading, they all loved making and playing with it so much that I forgot to care.

And the mess was pretty contained...until they had to make slime blindfolded...that was a whole different story.

Our birthday girl had a ball and kept making and playing with the slime long after her guests had left.

Unfortunately though the birthday joy was short lived as on Tuesday, her actual birthday, she woke up with a temperature and spent most of the day lying floppy on the couch. It broke my heart when we put her to bed that night shivering and crying over a wasted birthday.

Three days later and she's still not 100% but we've promised her a picnic in the apple orchard to make up for it as soon as she feels well enough again.

One late afternoon we were wandering through the old orchard checking for fruit set when we noticed our first bee swarm of the season hanging on a thin, low branch. I love how calm and full of energy a bundle of bees is when they're swarming. I put my bare, flat hand out so close to them and could practically feel their humming vibrations.

Quietly we placed a bee box full of frames underneath them. Because this swarm was in such an easy place to get to without disrupting them much we didn't even put our suits and gloves on. I held the branch they were hanging onto and Farmer Bren carefully cut through it. Holding the whole weight of the swarm in my hand I slowly lowered it into the box and as they rested on the bottom of the box the swarm collapsed and almost rippled like water. (I made the most amazed looking face which Bren caught on camera but I'm too shy to show you.)

We've successfully caught two swarms so far this season. We've been there at the exact moment a swarm has left their hive, flown up in the air and landed on a branch which was terribly exciting. And we've made the mistake of opening the lid to check on a swarm we'd just caught in their box only to have them leave again.

It's such exciting and interesting work, I only hope our eight hives are up to the job of pollinating our orchards to ensure a good fruit set this season.

When Bren's parents came and stayed for a few days this week him and his Dad spent a few hours making frames for the bee boxes in case they swarm again and for when they need an extra box on top. I love watching the two of them working together. 

Also this week we've mowed and mowed and mowed some more. Sometimes it feels like the grass and the weeds are growing so fast I can almost see it. It does frustrate me when I have a whole bunch of things planned to do but I have to put them off to mow or this place will end up looking like a jungle. But I do love that feeling of looking behind me at an area I've just mown and seeing how beautiful it looks in the mower's wake.

I used to write on my blog about my wish for a fairy to darn in the ends of my knitting after I'd finished something, these spring days I'd LOVE nothing more than a mowing fairy to take care of things. Imagine how great that would be! If you see her please send her my way won't you.

This week the green-house extension has continued along the front of our house. Little by little more windows and doors and walls are being built and I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to love the look of where we live after all these years. And how beautiful it is to look out on our old familiar garden and see it framed in a whole new way. Having that sun filled indoor/outdoor room is going to change the way we live. I just love it.

It's been another busy week in the garden as I've pulled out the last of last summer's carrots, beets and leeks to make room for potatoes, lentils, leeks, peas and flowers.

This past week we've done everything we possibly can to immerse ourselves in the fleeting blossom season. We've walked amongst it, we've breathed in its perfume, we've danced in it as it's rained down upon us, we've photographed it, and we've watched as the bees fly about in it gathering its pollen. And then we've stressed as the days weren't kind and the wind lashed at it and the rains fell down on it. But then the sun came out again and everything felt alright. It's difficult to think that it'll be another whole year before our orchards turn white again.

Apart from an hour of beginner macrame the other morning when it was too wild to go outside, there has not been one speck of craft action in this house over the past week. On one hand that makes me sad, but on the other hand I do know that it's a seasonal thing. The days out on the farm are long in springtime and the hours sitting on the couch are but a few.

A few days ago after listening to the Fat Talk episode of the Ladies We Need To Talk podcast, our family made a promise to stop talking about other people's physical appearances. It's just not necessary. There's so much more to a person than their looks which are mostly the luck of their genetics anyway.

Last night in the middle of the night I finished reading my Mum's library copy of Delancey:A man, A Woman, a Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg also author of the blog Orangette. I loved Molly's book, in its essence it's a bunch of stories about the time in her life when she and her then husband opened up a pizza restaurant. It is chatty and easy to read, it has loads of beautiful recipes (I must remember to copy out a few before I return it), it has beautiful descriptions of pizza, and it's an interesting portrait of a woman who chooses and then chooses again. I think if I ever get around to writing a book about our life on our farm, Delancey is just the type of book I'd like to write.

And lastly, but still very importantly, I had a realisation early in the week that I can sometimes take things personally when they have nothing to do with me. When I finally sat down and had a conversation with a friend of mine who I felt had been prickly, cold and dark toward me over the past few weeks, she told me it was something she was going through and had nothing to do with me at all. And that instead of keeping my distance if I feel that from her in the future, perhaps I could give her a hug. Of course I apologised and promised to, but I've felt awful ever since. I believe so strongly in practicing empathetic behaviour, I've seen and read all the quotes about being kind to people because we're all going through our own private battles, and I want so badly to be a good human, I guess I just need a bit more practise.

And with that I'm outta here!

Are you making/growing/reading/loving/dreaming/learning about anything exciting at the moment?
Are spring petals or autumn leaves falling from the trees where you live?

My parents have just walked up the hill with a freshly baked challah for us, I must go now and cut myself a slice.

See you next week!

Love Kate


Friday, October 20, 2017

apple blossom

Hello honey bunches,

It's so lovely to see you again here this week.

It's Thursday night here and I just realised that tomorrow we'll be away all day so I'd better get onto this now, tonight. 

Right now Bren's out spraying the orchards against the mildew and black spot that the humid weather we've been having over the past few days tends to bring with it. Jazzy and my dad are sitting opposite me doing revision for a maths test, Indi and my mum are in the other room going over Indi's Philosophy essay and Miss Pepper is sitting at the coffee table eating her dinner. I'm sitting here, just home from the gym, alternating eating spoonfuls of soup and writing words and sentences here. The Banjo frogs are singing ridiculously loudly on the house dam on my left, my arms are aching from lifting weights and I still have to go and check the leaves in the garden for slugs, so I'm going to make it a quick one this week.

We've had such a lovely week here. We spent a day cleaning and preparing all the bee hive frames and boxes and then caught two swarms of bees in the orchard the very next day. 

With daylight savings the girls have been getting home from school in the light with just enough time for a walk through the blossoming trees to smell the flowers, check the fruit buds and watch the pollen heavy bees flying back to their hives.

One day Indi got stung by a bee on her ankle and her foot swelled up so large that she couldn't put her shoe on. The next day I got stung on my face and dreaded it swelling up like her foot but thankfully it didn't.

On another day Indi went for her driver's learner's permit and passed with flying colours. Even though she's a year late, I still can't believe I have a child whose old enough to legally drive on the road.

Miss Pepper starts every day with the announcement that today is her very last Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday.... in single figures as a nine year old, because next Tuesday she'll be 10!! My baby. When I first started writing this blog in 2009 she turned two.

Miss Jazzy is obsessed with drawing and specifically calligraphy. This part of her reminds me so much of me as a teenager. We gave her a big box of colourful art pens for her birthday and watching her carefully decide on and then place them in colour order, I could almost feel my own hands doing the same thing all those years ago.

Jazzy and her friend have written me a long shopping list of things to buy for the slime party they are organising for Pepper this weekend, I can't wait!

Bren and Jobbo have been building onto the the green-house extension on the side of our house and it's looking so good. I've been sharing little snippets in my instagram stories but hopefully I'll get some proper photos soon. The other day I got home from the school drop off and almost wept when I saw what they had done while I'd been gone, I can't believe our old home is becoming so beautiful.

And me? I've been LOVING  the past few days and nights that have been warm enough to not light a fire and dry enough to hang the washing outside.

A few nights ago, while I was in bed in the middle of the night, I felt someone scratch down the length of my foot. I jumped up in fright and couldn't see anyone. The door was closed so it wasn't one of the girls and Bren was fast asleep. To this day it still haunts me when I think of it.

I've just finished reading Wellmania which I really liked a lot, and I then I started reading Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage in the middle of the night last night when I couldn't sleep. I think it'll be great but I'm only on page 29 so it's probably too soon to tell.

I've just listened to the six Dirty John podcast episodes and loved them. After I had finished my Mum sent me this article with photos of all the major players from the podcast and I was surprised at how much they all look like Hollywood actors.

I've been planting so many vegetable and flower seeds and am watching them with much excitement as they stick their little green leaves up out of the soil and reach for the sun.

I still haven't started on my macrame hanging baskets.

I'm still knitting down the sleeves of the blue cardigan.

So I guess it's time for me to swap my gym gear for my work overalls, pop my head torch on, grab a bottle from the recycling and a podcast for my ears and go outside, into the dark garden, and pluck every slug from the leaves. Sometimes I see my life from the outside and I laugh. What must I even look like!

I hope you have a beautiful Friday my friends and then a wonderful weekend.

So how about you?
What have you been up to?
Do you sometimes get a glimpse of your life and laugh?
Tell me a little story from your week just been, I'd love to hear it.

See you next Friday.

Love Kate x

Friday, October 13, 2017

all the spring things

Well hello there, it's so nice to see you. How's your week been? Can you believe it's Friday again already?

This week I officially ran out of space in my green house. Every shelf and every spare bit of table and even parts of the floor are covered with pots and tubs of growing things. Bren keeps telling me that I'm early this year, that I can slow down and take a break, but the reality is that I love it in there; I love the floral smell that greets you as you walk in, the pots of colour on the window sills, the plants in their various stages of growth and the view outside of the kitchen garden nestled in the forest. Apart from a few more shelves which will hopefully be added next week, I think we've built the perfect green-house for me. And so every spare second finds me up to my elbows in soil, playing with seeds, examining roots, getting excited about leaves and chatting excitedly with my plant babies about how gorgeous they're going to grow up to be.

This week I noticed that the self seeded tomatoes in the garden are starting to come up, so my green-house seeded tomatoes are right on schedule.

The first of my cucumbers are up which got me very excited about pickle season but also a tiny bit nervous about growing without a poly tunnel this year. Fingers crossed for a frost free summer.

And the beans started raising their alien-like heads out of the soil. I know most people plant big seeds like beans straight into the garden, and I probably will too later in the season, but I do love watching them closely as they germinate in their trays, potting them into bigger pots and then out into the garden.

This week the green-house extension began. Or rather the green-rooms. Building on to the sunny side of the house, we're planning a beautiful, bright area with lots of greenery and a big old kitchen table and chairs, a mud room, and a wood shed/room. I've already bought some rope to start macrame-ing up some hanging baskets to dangle down from the roof.

When our friend Annabel the architect came over the other day to pick me up for gym she said she feels like our house is transitioning from the house you see and think - oh wow do Kate and Bren really live here? To the house that looks like our dream home. That makes me happy.

The farm we bought 16 years ago had a house on it that we never loved. We always planned to build another but the children and the business sort of got in the way. Now that we finally do have the time and the head space to do something about it, we're freshening her up to our taste, fixing her up instead of starting again, I think she's going to love it as much as we are.

This week I finally started planting out into the garden. For weeks I was hassling my farmer boy to spade the green manure in and to prepare the beds and then when the weather cooperated and he finally could, I got stage fright. I couldn't work out what to plant where, and how. 

Eventually I just took the biggest of the the plants in the green-house, strung up a string line and popped them in. So far, under the black crates for protection from the kangaroos until we put a fence up, are cabbage and silver beet, and in the next row we've got onions and peas. Hopefully by the end of the weekend there'll be a whole lot more.

In other farming news, this week farmer Bren spread fertiliser in the orchards and then sprayed them with seaweed, fish emulsion and potassium bicarbonate for prevention of powdery mildew and black spot. Just as he was finishing up Mother Nature completely cooperated and dumped 30mm of rain over the top. If everything goes to plan and we have some beautiful, still, sunny days for the bees to fly and fertilise the blossom as it comes out over the next couple of weeks, we'll be right on track for a bountiful crop. Fingers crossed.

Earlier in the week we started watering the garden again. It's funny how seasons change almost inperceptively and all of a sudden you find yourself doing things that felt impossible and unnecessary only weeks before. Later in the week it rained heavily for hours so we won't need to water again for a while.

After deciding last weekend that it was time to cut my losses and pull apart the cardigan I was knitting because it looked like it was never going to fit Miss Pepper properly, I changed my mind and thought I'd do the i-cord bind off up the button band and around the neck and see what it looked like then. After I knitted the i-cord bind off I still couldn't decide (and my model was at school camp and couldn't try it on for size) so I started to knit the sleeves, both at the same time, until she comes home. I'm assuming she'll be too tired tonight to try it, so tomorrow is the day. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it worked!

Ravelry details here.

This week we've been picking Peonies, Camellias, Proteas and Waratahs from the garden and planting so many flower seeds in the garden and in pots.

I particularly love how the Waratahs start out looking so faded until it rains on them and they turn up the colour to bright.

I've loved listening to this podcast about the sports bra,  and this podcast about periods and menstrual taboos.

And I'm half way through and loving Brigid Delaney's book Wellmania.

See that asparagus and spring garlic, just picked by those hands? Well as we speak it's being cooked in some butter with some herbs and tossed over a piece of toast and is the reason I have to love you and leave you now.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Do you have something fun planned?
What are you planting in your garden at the moment?
What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?
Can you imagine life without a sports bra!! Ouch!

Bye bye!

Love Kate xx

Friday, October 6, 2017

a few days ago

A few days ago we walked down the path at the back of our farm to collect armfuls of daffodils from the forest floor. Every year we visit this patch to admire the golden flowers and yet we have no idea who originally planted them. They're just outside our back gate and across a forest track with no other house or property in sight. Just miles and miles of Wombat State Forest. Sometimes it feels a bit eerie being in the middle of the forest, just on dusk, with the wind whispering through the trees, but then it also feels quite comforting to know that someone once lived there or passed through there in an autumn gone by and planted fat bulbs to flower for ever more.

We picked three bunches and left the rest for the forest. The girls laugh about how they'll one day tell their kids how they were always being photographed for my blog, but I know they love it. Moments like these feel like a gift to our future busy selves; laughing, dawdling, exploring, wondering, bickering, dreaming, singing.

A few days ago I filled up the tank of the brush cutter, pulled the cord at the top of the driveway and started making my way down. Usually I listen to my headphones while I do this type of work but this time I didn't want to waste the time it would take to find them. As I swept down the hill and around the bend I started remembering the story of a family of a boy on the autism spectrum who spent his days running around his backyard dragging a belt. It was strange but I could almost hear the father's voice telling his story and I could feel all the emotions I had connected to the story, vividly. 

It took me a while but eventually I realised that the story was a podcast interview I had listened to the last time I had cleared the gorse and blackberry and bracken from the same spot. My brain had connected the podcast to the position without me even knowing it. As I continued further down the driveway I remembered another story about a family of girls whose father had died. Without thinking I could feel their love for him and their great loss. Another podcast, another place.

I often worry about my brain. Coming from a line of Alzheimer's disease sufferers I guess it's inevitable. Sometimes I give myself little memory tests, sometimes I panic when I forget words or even how I've arrived at places, and then mysteriously my brain does something quite remarkable like connect entire stories I've heard to the places I heard them. What a mysterious organ.

A few days ago Miss Pepper got on a bike and taught herself to ride. I do know that ten is pretty old to be learning that particular skill, but somehow living on an unmade road in the middle of the forest way out of town, it just never happened. It did amaze me how quickly she took off though. It was like she decided, she wobbled a bit, fell off and grazed her knee and elbow, and then that was it, she was off. And has been riding around tractors and cars and mowers, up and down the driveway, ever since.

A few days ago Facebook told me that this time last year Indi was in Montenegro, this time last year I was swearing about all the rain and desperate for some sun, this time four years ago we caught a bee swarm, and this time four years ago I was on ABC radio's Life Matters promoting my book Vantastic and talking about life on the road.

A few days ago I had my hair cut into a long bob that just touches my shoulders and I love it. It feels fresh and easy and while it doesn't quite all fit into a pony tail anymore - I was so sick of wearing a pony tail every day anyway.

A few days ago we finished watching series four of Transparent and while I definitely didn't love it as much as I loved the first series, I really enjoyed it. 

A few days ago we started planning the celebrations for our Jazzy's fourteenth birthday. The year I started this blog she turned six and had a cupcake party and my dad wrote this comment that included an email Bren wrote just after Jazzy was born, under my post;

Here is an email I received on 13.10.03:

Hi all,
I'm sitting here with my beautiful baby girl on my lap, listening to her tiny hiccups and watching her wonderful facial expressions.
She is just divine, an angel, a fairy.
She is 5 days old now.
She was born at 2.40 on Thursday 9-10-03 and was 7 pound and perfect.
Mum and baby are doing really well. They got back home last night and we are getting on with life with 2 kids.. WOW..
Indi is coping really well and will make a very good bossy sister..
If you didn't realize from the subject of this email we have named her
Jarrah is the Aboriginal name for the majestic Eucalyptus marginata, native to western Australia.
Hoping you are well and as happy us we are..
All our love
Bren Kate Indi & Jarrah.

If Jarrah brought joy back then, now she brings a million times more. To every one who knows her. Happy birthday to you, darling Jarrah. xxxxx

Gosh the other comments on those 2009 birthday posts bring back so many memories of sweet blog years gone by.

A few days ago on a long drive somewhere we stopped at a petrol station to use the toilet. As I passed through the fast food restaurant and saw the huge, plastic playground to the side it occurred to me that unusually, I'm okay with the approaching birthday season this year. I'm okay with everyone growing that little bit older and I'm okay with not having babies and toddlers anymore. I spent years and years in those toilets with my little girls, trying to distract them on the way back through from the sugary treats and then waiting for tedious hours while they yelled at me to watch them as they climbed up the plastic structures and slid back down again. Although I adored those chubby little toddlers, and although the teenage years are anything but straight forward and simple, I do feel better equipped to deal with them. I feel like a better mum for them. I really enjoy parenting them. And most of all I love closing the door of my own service station toilet cubicle on them.

A few days ago Bren and Jobbo pulled down the ugly carport that's been shading our house. They then took all the wooden beams from it, put them through the thicknesser and then bolted them to the kitchen wall. Since then we've been pulling things out of the pantry and filling up those shelves. Our clever architect friend Annabel has been trying to convince us forever to pull down our pantry next to let even more light in, but I'm just not sure if we're neat or minimalist enough.

A few days ago we spent the entire day clearing up around and inside one of our old sheds so we can use it again for storage and shelter. All day long we pulled the long vines of blackberry from the rafters and burnt them in the fire, dragged old treasures out, sorted through them, neatly stacked some of it back in again, gave some of it away and took the rest to the tip. Some seasons it feels like we're so crazy busy that we're only ever running trying to catch up, for some reason this year feels different. The orchards are looking good, we have lots of seeds planted, a new renovation under way and still time left over to catch up on long forgotten bits of the to-do list and maybe even tick some off.

I love how during the cleanout we all found own roles. I was in charge of blackberry removal and burning &%$#, Bren took charge of all the old farm bits and pieces inside, Indi was away, Jazzy came out occasionally and sang to us, and Miss Pepper made musical instruments out of old bits of pipe and built the cart above.

A few days ago I looked at four skeins of wool that Hannah from Circus Tonic Handmade sent me about a year ago and cast on a cardigan. My thoughts were that 400 grams probably wouldn't be enough yarn, but I could always make it a bit mixy matchy with something else once I ran out. So I downloaded a pattern that only went up to an eight year old size, cast on, added a few extra stitches here and there to try and make it a 10 year old size and off I went.

Looking at it now I think the front could fit well once the button band is knitted, but the back seems all kinds of boxy and baggy. Now I can't decide if I should continue and hope for the best or pull it apart and knit something more risk free that is graded to her correct size. Ahhhhh what would you do?

And that's me from a few days ago all the way through to now. About to post this and then take the girls to get haircuts, about to grab a couple of rice crackers for lunch on the way out, about to swap my gym clothes for town clothes - not in that particular order.

How about you? How have your last few days been?
Could you get rid of your pantry and live with open shelves?
Would you continue knitting something that possibly may not ever fit?
Would you feel sad if your long haired girls wanted to be medium haired girls?
Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?

See you next week.

Love Kate x

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