Friday, August 18, 2017

blogging on an empty stomach



Late last Sunday evening I was happily sitting up on the day bed in our studio listening to a podcast and knitting rows of my colour work socks. It was the end of a busy weekend and the relief I felt at being able to sit in one spot uninterrupted, taking sips of a hot cup of tea in my favourite mug and knitting a bit, felt immense.

But then as I started to increase the stitches for the gusset it occurred to me that when I'd altered the pattern to knit from the toes up, rather than as the pattern was written - from the cuff down, I'd started the chart in the wrong place.

At first I thought I'd continue on and try not to think about the fact that I'd started knitting half way through a flower. No-one would know except me. Then I looked through the Ravelry gallery at all the other photos of these particular socks and realised that the whole reason I'd decided to knit these socks was because of how beautifully the design lay on the socks and to do it differently would ruin the entire effect. And then I decided that there was no way I could continue because I'd know, and I wouldn't enjoy the knitting as much and I definitely wouldn't be as proud of the final result.

So I started analysing the chart to try and work out if there was a possibility of rescuing any of it at all. And then as I was contemplating pulling out hours and days worth of stitches, I noticed that instead of feeling defeated something crazy was going on inside me. My heart was beating loudly and my breathing was speeding up and I felt a bit crazy.

First I slid one sock off the needles and started ripping at the stitches. Long strings of wiggly white wool and then blue wiggly wool started to make a nest in my lap. It always seems strange that yarn that has not long been knitted becomes wiggly so quickly.

It was almost fun pulling all those stitches apart until I realised that I'd better wind them onto their balls or they were bound to become one big knot. Which they did at a few points of course, and that nearly made me cry, but luckily I had nice pointy 2mm needles to stick through the knots and undo them.

Thankfully my farmer boy came into the room just in time to help me wind the balls of the second sock and to reassure me that it was indeed a very upsetting thing to happen and that it was okay if I wanted to cry. I thought I would but I didn't.

I had hoped to keep a couple of inches of knitting above the toes but in the end wasn't able to catch all of the stitches and ended up saving nothing but the two blue toes.

That night I couldn't sleep and lay in bed dreaming up the words for a book about life lessons, told from the perspective of the knitted and unknitted socks. All night I worked on the chapters in my head. Patience, focus, concentration, the ability to adapt, strength, the importance of appearance, turning things upside down, learning from mistakes, dealing with our failures... the list of things the socks could teach lengthened.

And as I tossed and turned I became more and more convinced that this was a brilliant idea. Knitters, crafters, hand-makers, hand made appreciators, Steiner folk, the audience for this book would be niche but strong.

As daylight dawned I must have fallen asleep because the next day the future of that book didn't look as bright....and the sight of those little blue toes looked a little depressing.

It took from Monday til Thursday to knit back to the spot where I'd pulled them off. This time I knitted the chart backwards and I'm thrilled with how they're working out. And although those four days are already just a blip in my knitting life, although the book idea seems ludicrous now, I still am interested in how my knitting humbles me and makes me a better person.


In other news, I had hoped to show you the slabs of wood we cut from our trees earlier in the week. Beautiful slabs that will hopefully become shelves for my studio before the year is out. I also thought you might like to see the hyacinths and almost flowering daffodils, the germinated broad beans and the budding almond blossom. But it's blowing a gale out there and is POURING with rain and it's just not going to happen.

Here are the only two outside photos I was brave enough to take today, just outside our front door, as we were coming in from moving the chickens to higher ground this morning (wet down to my undies). 

But crappy outside weather is the absolute best for sitting by the fire and reading and also for getting into the kitchen and making delicious and hearty food for the fam. And just my luck that Julia Busuttil Nishimura's  new cook book Ostro arrived at the post office this morning. 

In the inside flap of Julia's book it says 'My approach to food favours intuition over strict rules and is about using your hands, rushing a little less and savouring the details. It is food that slowly weaves its way into the fabric of your daily life - food for living and sharing.' Sounds pretty perfect right!




Ostro is also one of the most beautiful books I have seen in ages, each photo is more delicious than the last. I can't decide what to make first. In fact it kind of makes me wish we were in the future and I could press a button on a page, reach in and grab that gnocchi for my lunch, or that Greens Pie, or....

Note to self - never blog on an empty stomach or you'll spend far too long ogling the beautiful pictures and reading the scrumptious recipes, delighting over Julia's gorgeous wardrobe, her perfect props, her effortless style, not to mention her sweet son Haruki.


Congratulations Julia, Ostro is sublimely delicious from front to back!

Congratulations on Ostro to you too Michelle Mackintosh, designer of all the most beautiful books in the world (including mine) and maker of some of the most gorgeous too.

And that's me and my Friday blog for this week.
I hope it wasn't too sock heavy for you.
I hope you've got a lovely, cozy weekend lined up.
For the first time in months we don't have any plans at all.
It looks like it might snow though which would be fun.

So how about you?
Would you read a life book if the narrator was a pair of hand knit socks? HA!
If you could press a button and reach out and grab any dish to eat in the whole world right now what would it be?
Do you prefer sweet or savoury?
Do you cook from books or do you make it all up?

I think it's time for lunch, you can probably hear my stomach growling from there.

Big toasted sandwich love,

Kate

xx

Friday, August 11, 2017

short cut blogging

Hello lovely ones,

How's your week been?

Most Fridays by the time I finally sit down with my laptop I generally know what I'm going to write my blog about. Most Fridays I've been thinking about something, or feeling something, or making something and as soon as I've loaded the photos the words come. Not always the words I expect, not always in one go, not always in order and definitely not always in any sort of readable state. But over time the sentences and themes emerge, I type them, I rearrange them, I delete some and then, mostly, by the time I press publish, I'm happy I have.

But not today. It's been a bit of a messy old week and somehow it's gotten to an hour before I have to go and pick up Pepper from school and I feel rushed, and I haven't had lunch and I'm hungry, and what I really feel like is a cup of tea in Bren's workshop and a few rows of my socks.

So if it's all the same to you I think I'll load the bunch of photos I took this morning which will give you a little glimpse into my right now, I'll write a tiny bit about each one and then we can all go along our merry ways and hopefully have a wonderful weekend.

Here goes:

This is Miss Pepper's cat who until recently was called Popcorn but then somehow during a particularly intense Orange Is The New Black binging session, had a name change to Poussey Washington. It's such a good cat name and it just rolls off the tongue, don't ya think. She doesn't look like she minds anyway.

This is farmer Bren axing a bowl blank out of a piece of apple wood. He has plans to make us all breakfast bowls. I can't wait to see them.


This is of a pile of blankets that I've made on a shelf in our studio. The pile grows and shrinks as girls take blankets to put on their beds and snuggle on the couch and then put them back, but these three seem to remain the constants.

These are my baby cabbages. I tell you what, growing plants from seeds never fails to excite me. Each one of those stems and little leaves feels like a lucky blessing. I love germinating seeds, it seems to make sense even when the rest of the world doesn't.

We have a metal filing cabinet where we store our seeds. Packets and jars of saved and bought seeds all filed by the first letter of their name. These are the seeds I've pulled out over the past few weeks optimistically hoping to get a head start on spring. It's a bit of a mess. We are hoping to get organised and keep really good records this year so when next season rolls around it'll be less of a guessing game and more of a knowing game. Although working under Mother Nature you can never really be sure.

This is the book I'm reading. I love the cover. It's about Trevor Noah, who was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time in apartheid South Africa where such a union was punishable by five years imprisonment. It's an easy read but I'm finding it hard to really get stuck into it. I think that's because the last book I read, Idaho painted a picture that was so vivid that I felt like I'd watched a whole movie by the time I'd finished. I could not put it down and then I could not stop thinking about it once I had. What a magnificent book. I hope that this one grabs me soon and takes me on a journey with it like Idaho did.


This is a cup/bowl that Bren carved during the week out of Native Cherry. It's such a beautiful piece and when you hold it up to the light, parts of it glow bright pink. Right now it's drying out slowly in that pile of wood shavings but I cannot wait to see how it dries and how it looks when it's oiled. we're not sure how it'll hold hot coffee, but gosh wouldn't that be a perfect way to honour one of my favourite rituals.


This is an arm warmer I knitted for someone I've never met who asked for one via a local Facebook page. Apparently it fits and is exactly what they were after. Yay!

This is a slipper I knitted for a giant. Oops. Just a gentle reminder to knit a gauge square when you are knitting an old fave pattern but in new to you yarn.

These are the first socks I ever knitted, three years ago almost to the the day. Look at how much they've faded. I still love them and wear them often despite the hole in the sole of one of them.

These are the socks I am currently knitting. Colour work is addictive! I can't wait to grab a chunk of time tonight to knit some more. I've gone up a needle size to 2.5 because the last pair of patterned socks I knitted were too tight. Fingers crossed these ones turn out just right.

This week is musical week for our big girls. This is the puzzle we've been doing with Pepper while they've been busy rehearsing and performing. It's of Santorini in Greece. It's hard to imagine that it's been almost two years since we were there ourselves.


It's raining as I type this and with all the mucking around it's almost three hours since I started.

And by mucking around I mean pestering my youngest sister by text, watering the greenhouse, picking Pep up from school, putting some washing away, making myself a snack, pulling out some weeds, crying to Bren about the state of the world and our country, reading and looking at everything on Facebook and Instagram, feeding the fire and scrolling through Ravelry. But I guess some days are just more straight forward that others.

So that's me and my meant to be quick blog that ended up taking hours.

How about you, what do you like to do to procrastinate?
Are you a good seed organiser? Garden record keeper?
Do you get obsessed and stay up way too late at night looking for just one more puzzle piece?
What are you making/baking/reading/planning?
I'd love to know.

I hope your weekend is exactly what you need it to be.

Love is love,

Kate

xx



Friday, August 4, 2017

once upon a winter's day



For the first few days after I published my blog last week I felt like I was free-falling.  Going through my days without a small voice in my head telling me what else I could be doing felt disconcerting, like I was off balance, like something was missing.

As your comments started coming in and it became apparent how many of us are feeling the same way it occurred to me that we're conditioned to move forward and gather skills, possessions, degrees, jobs, stories, partners, friends, wealth, almost since the moment we draw our first breath. Standing still, being happy with what we have and not wanting more, feels almost unnatural.




Then after a while, as I reconciled your comments with the way I'd been feeling, the bossy voices in my head quietened down and I began to feel present and still. For as long as I can remember that voice has been nagging at me to hurry up and finish with the laundry so I can paint that mural on the studio wall, finish writing my blog so I can get going on that book idea, put down my sock knitting so I can design something fabulous, stop what I'm doing and learn something, teach something, work at something, get out there, make a difference...



Being free of this voice for the past few days has been wonderful. A few days ago I went into the forest for an armful of kindling and found myself on my hands and knees examining the moss and wild animal poo. Yesterday I sat in the chair next to the fire in Bren's workshop in the middle of the day and cast off my socks. And this morning I went for a walk with the sole purpose of looking for bulbs and signs of spring. I've listened to my girls' stories, I've watered and observed the progress of every single pot in the greenhouse, I stole 20 minutes to read my book in the middle of the day, and I sat by the campfire eating dinner and watched each of my people in turn, listened to their stories and felt lucky to know them.





And I've noticed that the lack of the need for progress hasn't meant that I haven't been productive. Not at all. As well as all the usual daily bits, I've started baking bread again after years of buying it from an organic bakery in town, I've planted hundreds of seeds in the greenhouse, I've prepared a garden bed for planting, I've taken on a knitting project for someone I've never met and I've felt calmer and more grounded than I have in ages.

I'm not saying that I'm all zen or anything, just a bit more at peace. And I have been sleeping better which might be a coincidence, but is definitely awesome.



I'm not convinced yet that this peace will last.

As much as that statement upset my farmer boy when I said it to him yesterday, I am aware that I am pushing up against 45 years of habit as well as bitter winter winds that threaten to throw me off balance and demand movement and new and change.

But from where I'm sitting right now (up against the heating panel in my bedroom), being content with my simple life, taking my cues from Mother Nature and enjoying and engaging with this stage and this phase and the right now, feels just right.

I hope you're feeling it too, I really do.


In other news I am in the middle of reading my sister Abby's copy of Idaho. It took me ages to settle into a book after finishing Eleanor Oliphant but this one, despite the fact that it's pretty bleak, grabbed me after the first page.

I am listening to and loving the second series of Homecoming, a psychological thriller in a podcast. It's so beautifully produced and scripted, I can't wait for the next instalment.


I am darning in the ends of the Bavarian cable socks. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn half way through the cast off and had to choose the closest I had, but hopefully you won't notice unless you put your nose on my ankle. Which truth be told would be a bit weird of you.


I am casting on a plain blue sleeve for someone and these soon to be very patterned socks for someone else. I might also knit some quick, chunky slippers because concrete floors and bitter winters do not go very well together.

And I am picking and cooking loads of brussel sprouts, planting broad beans and cabbages, sipping the most beautiful tea that gorgeous Tara from Nourish and Nest sent me as a present, aching from last night's body combat and pump classes, trying to drink more water, watching episode two of The Handmaid's Tale, feeling frustrated by how limiting dark winter days are for photography, splitting wood for the fire, hurting my foot with the wood splitter (so silly), contemplating a steaming hot bubble bath, thinking about how my dad is taking each of his daughters out for coffee separately and wondering if I should do the same, and hoping that the blizzardy weather on the weekend is not as bad as they're predicting, although by the way the wind is howling out there it feels like they might be right.

Oh and I'm trying to get back to each of you who has left me a comment, but sometimes I'm better at it than others. If you leave me a message on my blog, I'm trying to reply in the comments of that blog. Facebook and Instagram and Bloglovin', I'll reply there. And email for some reason is my hardest to get to, but I am getting there, mostly. And if for some reason I haven't, please know that I have read what you've written and have thought about it, it's just hard to get onto the computer sometimes. Blog comments are so important to me. It's so heartening to know that there are people out there reading and interacting. So THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for taking the time, I truly love and appreciate every single word. You guys are the greatest!!

And that's where I'm at.

How about you?
Are you slowing down and enjoying your simple life? Or are you not quite there yet?
If you shut your eyes right now what can you hear?
If you had a choice between meat or lentil Bolognese, which one would you choose?

I hope your weekend is kind to you.

Love, Kate

xx


Friday, July 28, 2017

simple



A couple of years ago we were sitting drinking coffee at a cafe in town next to another couple and their real estate agent. As we sat and drank our coffee it was impossible to ignore the conversation to our side as it was both loud and near. The couple had a plan. A huge project. And they were excitedly filling the agent in on the details while asking for his help. He was nodding, asking the occasional question and scribbling notes in a book.

And as they filled him in on the where's and how's and whats, we kept looking at each other over the tops of our coffee cups. It was impossible not to be swept up in the excitement, to get carried away with their dreams, to feel certain that big things were on their way, that the sky was the limit, that anything was possible, or indeed probable.

Later as we walked off down the street I told my farmer boy that I was a bit jealous of their grand plan. Not of the actual plan itself, but of that feeling of having a big idea that changes everything: it takes up time in your thoughts, in your actions, in your feelings and changes the way you see your future. The potential is exciting, the risks are worth considering, your dream is a trickle that becomes a stream and then a gushing, overflowing river and you are swept along for the ride.

Yeah I don't think so he replied.






I guess we already have our very own grand plan story.

We moved to the country all those years ago for the lifestyle. We wanted a simple life of growing and eating our own food, making things with our hands and having time for our family and for things that made us feel happy.

But then our little plan grew greater and bigger and took on a life of its own and became Daylesford Organics.

At its height we kept 2,500 chooks, we grew hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruit, we had full time staff and wages and insurance, we had trucks carting our produce to fancy restaurants in Melbourne, we had cool-rooms and trailers and a logo made, we were in all the magazines, we sold at farmer's markets most weekends, we won awards, we wrote invoices and BAS statements and we kept records and made so many phone calls. We worked crazy long hours in the heat and in the icy cold. We put our girls in child care or left them in the house with a walkie talkie. We sent all the best produce out for other people to enjoy and then too exhausted for anything else, we fed our kids fish fingers for dinner. We planted, we collected, we irrigated, we weeded, we harvested, we hired, we worried, we felt like inadequate business people, we became managers with clean hands, we stressed, we realised that this life wasn't making us happy, and eventually we closed it all down. It was a grand plan but all we ever wanted was a simple life.

A simple life where we can prioritise growing healthy girls and each other above all else.







In the last few days since we've been home from holidays that conversation has been running through my mind. At first I thought that maybe it was because I wasn't satisfied and wanted something bigger in my life. But as the days have gone on I've realised that it's exactly the opposite. I am right where I want to be, but for some reason I'm questioning that. Is it okay to be content living in the moment without plans to move forward? Is it okay to spend my days looking after my family, doing house hold chores, working in the garden, working on the farm, making things and reading and writing? Is it okay to plod along or do we have to be going somewhere?

Farmer Bren likes to tell the story of a woman he heard interviewed on the radio a while back. She was a migrant who worked at a chocolate factory watching the Freddo Frogs come down a conveyor belt on the look-out for the imperfect ones. She spoke about how content she was. She had a job that earned her money that she could leave at the end of the day without any stress, and go home to spend the rest of her time with her family who she adored. It was a simple story and it moved him.

At times I do have thoughts about adding to the mix. About maybe studying or volunteering or working off the farm, but any shift will unbalance and complicate what is working so well here at the moment, so I have to make sure that it's something important to me. Having said that I know that if I do have a burning desire I will follow it and we will make it work. That's what we do.

After all where and how we live isn't a lucky coincidence, we've made choices all along the way.

So after much thought and wonder I'm choosing to appreciate and enjoy what I've got and where I am. It's the best place for me.



In my simple life this week we've been picking and eating carrots, beetroot, lettuce, spinach, rocket, leeks and brussel sprouts from the garden. Most of these we planted late last summer and they grew while there was still warmth in the soil and now they sit waiting to be picked.

We've been admiring a patch of fully grown cabbages that grew from the plants we harvested in autumn but never pulled out. I actually had no idea you could grow a second cabbage off the same plant. Hopefully these will become a batch of sauerkraut before too long.


I'm knitting up the ankles of my socks. It's interesting to note that I knitted six of those shapes in the five days we were away and only one in the six days we've been home. I'd love to have them cast off and being worn by this time next week. We'll see.


I'm reading this book and loving every page. It is surprising and interesting and quirky and clever and witty and dark and lovely. There's a quote on the back of the book that says A story about the very worst and very best that humans are capable of...Funny, brave and utterly devastating. I agree completely. This is a story that has the potential to be as depressing as a book can be, but is instead something quite wonderful.

I am grateful to the kind people at Harper Collins Australia for sending me a copy.




I am spending lots of time in the green house watering, watching and planting. To be honest it's still so cold here that planting seeds out now isn't really going to give me any sort of head start over those I plant in a month or so, but I can't help it, I love it in there and simply cannot wait.


I'm feeling very lucky to have received this beautiful parcel in the mail from my instagram friend Ainslee. It's such a wonderful thing to chat with someone online for months and months and then to hold a little piece of them in your real life. Thank you Ainslee, I love every little bit.

Check out Ainslee's store here and her gorgeous instagram here.

I'm also listening fascinated to Richard Fidler's interview with David Gillespie on How to spot a psychopath. Trying to drink more water. Aching from last night's Body Combat class. Wondering how we can be in so many places at once this Sunday. Splitting wood for the Esse. Watching nothing much really which is a bit of a relief after last week's indulgence. Deciding if I can get away without doing a load of washing today. Hoping that we can keep getting up a bit early and running on the treadmill and doing exercises next week like we did this week.


I'm reading through the Words In Winter website (try saying that six times quickly), book marking bits that sound interesting.

And I'm realising that Bren was absolutely right back then, I don't want to be anyone else with a grand plan, I want to be us. I want to work really hard in season and to take it a bit easy in winter. I want the freedom to be spontaneous with the jobs we take on each day. And above all else I want to be available for the girls. I want them to feel heard and appreciated and pushed and helped.
It's the simple life for me.

For now anyway.

How about you?
Do you have big plans for change or are you content to let things be?
Are you a cafe eavesdropper?
An everyday launderer?
Do you have time to sit and read a book under a tree?

I hope your weekend is both fun and restful.

See you next Friday.

Love Kate

xx



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