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Monday, January 29, 2018

An Australian Weekend

I think when most people look back on this Australia Day weekend they'll remember
stinkin' hot really. The sort when you get about 2 or 3 hours sleep and toss and turn the rest of the night moving around the mattress trying to find a bit of cold sheet.

Naturally, in this heat, we invited half the town round for roast lamb!
I exaggerate of course...we were 11 at table and sat in air conditioned comfort. 

As ever, I forgot the camera in the rush of food prep so you won't see the beautiful green and gold water jugs filled with tinkling ice or the beautiful contributions that made it a truly shared feast.

The Shearer dug some lovely fresh potatoes to roast and join with fresh garden salad and herb filled tangy, tabbouleh.

The next day, we headed to the river and sat in the gentle flow on pebbly shallows in dappled shade of an ancient pine with only a few curious sheep coming down to the waters edge. Even the birds were laying low in the glaring sun.

I'm a tad concerned that the harvested garlic will in fact dehydrate to a dried garlic in this shed heat. The girls have gone a bit off the lay and I don't blame them a bit!

We've got in 40 bales of pea straw and we are mulching madly.

The pasture has declined in the paddock also so Neil is munching on a large round bale of straw.
Tonight we are expecting 1-1.5 inches of rain and I can't wait.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Brambly Hedge Quilt

I've had a project in mind for decades and I am so thrilled to be finally seeing it come into being, and even better, it's coming together exactly how I imagined. I've been collecting fabric for the past 30 years!
I am calling it the Brambly Hedge quilt.
(Please be kind, it's my first ever quilt in fact)

Brambly Hedge is a series of stories about hedgerow mice by Jill Barklem. Royal Doulton acquired the rights to produce a china series based on the same. I've been fascinated by their tiny world and perfect snug interiors of the hollow log and long desired to have a quilt just like Wilfred's. I've studied their little clothes for an idea of what scraps they would have used in the quilt.

I only have an ordinary machine so I have decided to go with a quilt as you go method. I've sourced fabrics that I believe mice would own in a quaint hedgerow world with lots of country florals and checks and polka dots for the background fabric. I'm making the top squares 6.5" and the bottom squares I've cut at 8.5"

I've made a cardboard template for the pinning of the layers together so I don't have to measure the borders for every single one and so far it's been pretty accurate. I'm using a pure cotton batting and an embroidery foot to freestyle the quilting in what I call a "lazy bumblebee" stitch.

I then join the squares using a zipper foot and then fold over the backing fabric twice and stitch down with a walking foot. This You Tube tutorial explains closest to which technique I'm employing.

I've been able to source a couple of small pieces of actual Brambly Hedge fabric which I have made into random applique pieces for some of the squares. I plan to add lace and buttons randomly to perhaps on other squares.

So here is the work so far. It's random and cottagey and the collected mis-matched colours are coming together just fine. Thanks to Charlotte Scott from "The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady" blog who quite some years ago created a whole blog post about colour, hue and tonal values in answer to one of questions on colour choice. Bet you never thought I would finally do it hey Miss Lottie!

And here it is from the back.

So when it gets too hot to garden, this is my indoor retreat. I've wanted to decorate a bedroom Brambly Hedge style since my girls were little but unfortunately they wanted "something funky in strong citrus colours" Sigh.....
So finally, I have an attic bedroom that I used to dream about when I was 10 and I can do just what I want up there. So keep a watch out, in a couple of months there could be a cosy reveal upstairs.

Monday, January 22, 2018

High Summer and "Noon"

Rural voices all are mute,
Tuneless lie the pipe and flute:

Shepherds, with their panting sheep,
In the swaliest corner creep;
And from the tormenting heat
All are wishing to retreat,

Huddled up in grass and flowers,
Mowers wait for cooler hours;

And the cow-boy seeks the sedge,
Ramping in the woodland hedge,
While his cattle o're the vales
Scamper with uplifted tales

Therefore leave the shadeless goss,
Seek the springhead lined with moss...
Twill hot noon the more revive;
While I wander to contrive

For myself a place as good,
In the middle of a wood:

From "NOON" by John Clare 1793-1864.

Front gate

A scorching week in the 30C plus temps.
Dinnerset "Audun" by Villeroy & Boch

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Wash Out (Or a Wash Up)

Christmas was a bit of a washout in December. Normally I post a coordinated decorating plan right down to the bon-bons...didn't happen!
For weeks I plan my hand made gifts....didn't happen!

Actually I did make a huge batch of candied peel in late winter for the gift bags but every time I went to the cupboard the shearer had been eating his way through it like a locust plague.

Work finished a few days before Christmas so at the last gasp I made batches of 
and a couple of batches of 

Unfortunately our old dog Bella woke a couple of days before Christmas, completely blind. I was aware her eye sight was failing in the few weeks before but this was so sudden and complete. She was left helpless disorientated and anxious. Being mostly deaf as well it was hard to comfort , console or instruct her. I had to carry my big dog up and down the steps just to toilet. She couldn't even navigate the house and was going to need 24hr supervision. She had plunged into a silent world of darkness. No wonder she was anxious. The only comfort she could find was to use her nose to seek out my towel in the bathroom. It was clear what we had to do.

I woke up Christmas day with the most incredible nausea and headache. I had to leave Craig cater for the 12 visitors and go to bed. Mum's theory is that I had a migraine. I am a person given to emotion and great passion but I wouldn't have thought histrionic. But there you have it, three days later I emerged and Christmas was over! Not a rum ball or shortbread biscuit in sight!

There was some leftovers though and with the  roast lamb bones I made stock. We ate our way through the ham another week or 10 days and I used the hock to make a beautiful stew with lentils chickpeas and new potatoes and zucchini from the garden and of course the stock. A leftover double whammy? 
Did I tell you we are growing chickpeas....but that's a story for another day.

I was overwhelmed by all your messages and love upon resuming. Sometimes blogging feels like a bit of a silent journal that gets flung out into the quiet space of the internet between the chattery lines of social media where there is so much noise. I've observed over the years how blogging has grown from  ordinary people sharing to a tool used by huge money making companies with a fleet of staff writers and stylists for every photo. Sometimes it is hard not to compare, to feel inadequate and wonder if perhaps one is not a bit irrelevant?

For now, I just listen to the voice in my head that says: I am a mother, a grandmother, a sister and a friend and I note reference points on these pages within as a guide to frugal/economical domesticity, a documentation of a dying art.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Hello, long time no see. I've been having a bit of a crisis with my whole identity after the move to the country and feeling like "suburban" doesn't fit anymore. We're still doing all the same things, just more of it I guess and more livestockey. I originally started the blog as a teaching and reference tool for my family; recipes, tips tricks and it turned out to be a great way to hold memories too and compare past photos with changing times. 

It's been a great resource for recipes and the family (especially distant members) have been missing the intimate updates of our lives'll just plough on in our suburban way, country style I guess. So here's a bit of a catch up over the past few months.....

July followed June in spectacular winter fashion bursting water pipes and draping the landscape in finery of hoar frosts. I made a stunning video of our garden during one of these -7C mornings. You may have seen it on my facebook page but here is the link if you missed it.

Spring came but winter wasn't done. Three killing frosts in the middle of November killed all the set fruit on the trees and any early rising sap in the vulnerable plants. So no peaches or plums this year. Moving the Tahitian lime here was pure folly and not even permanent frost cloth could provide protection; it lives but it will never bear fruit, I'm starting to despair that we will never see fruit again on the fig or the pomegranate either.

It even wiped out the majority of my bearded iris in bud, this one only survived being under a tree and coming out a little later. 

 Our grandsons visit regularly and we have very special times. Being a grandparent means we can give them so much more one on one time than their busy parents can. They learn cooking from scratch and gardening and animal husbandry. Dan digs for buried treasure, which is buried ALL over our yard and is convinced he is digging up dinosaur bones! They help with the sheep and visit the shearing. At night, there is plenty of card and board games; TV rarely gets a look in. Just the joy of being kids.
 The bull calf in the top right hand corner arrived as a day old instead of being taken to the abattoir from a dairy farm. We have called him Neil-Not-Veal or Neil for short.

He has been hand raised drinking milk from a bucket and is now nearly four months and weaned. We pick him bouquets of broccoli flower heads, kale, and fennel seed heads. We aim to keep him a bit treat motivated and thus more manageable for moving. He is rotated on segmented blocks but unfortunately we haven't had the rain to boost the pasture this month so he will be on-sold shortly to someone with bigger paddocks.   

Summer came and we planned for Christmas.  Our old dogs have aged considerably this year and neared their 14th year. Sadly Bella had to be euthanized a couple of days before Christmas. 

 Over the past few months my work had increased dramatically and I have been working eleven hour days with a two hours of travel added to that! There definitely has been no time for blogging! Circumstances have improved and I am looking forward to scaling back in the near future and getting back to my dream life work balance that I am fortunate to enjoy most of the time.

If you are still following, thanks for being with us and I look forward to sharing some projects and recipes soon. 
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