Thursday, March 28, 2013

making time

Life can sometimes see you pulled in a million different directions. But this is not always unpleasant if these many different directions are what make us tick and indeed thrive. With the coming long weekend there are lots of things to think about. Food to cook for hungry hordes. Remembering where that hot cross bun recipe has gone to. The wrap up of this school week. Sports carnivals to attend, Easter hats to make (thank you Daniel) and a parade to attend. Yes, it feels as if there is so much to do. But it is all good for the main part. Even if a little exhausting at times. Then there are what you could call the lesser or negotiable essentials. Saurkraut to make, family cow keeping reading (quite fascinating!), kefir making and rows of knitting to squeeze in. Life is certainly busy. The house needs a good thorough clean. The garden needs constant watering during this mini heat wave. Sometimes I struggle with priorities, but priorities can be a subjective thing. It is the tricky balance of not only attending to the needs of the family and those in surrounding circles, but also the needs of yourself.

So I will make that extra batch of saurkraut today. I will sit down for a little while and read about the advantages of night time locking up of calves. I might finish knitting that sleeve. I will try not to feel guilty. Because sometimes we need to do the activities that make us tick. That somehow make us more capable of getting the bigger stuff done. After that extra cup of coffee.

I hope that you too can make a little time for the "lesser" activities today.

Wishing everyone a happy and joyful Easter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

the home haircut

I cut Daniel's hair last night. I'm not sure how many people cut hair at home anymore, but I am increasingly feeling like a bit of an oddity for choosing the home haircut route. Home haircuts can easily conjure up visions of bowl cuts and too short fringes. The occasional mishappen fringes of my past, though, did not put me off learning to cut hair. When I was newly married I always did the hair cuts. But as life got busier we began to pay to get it done. Occasionally we still do, but only for the adults in the family.

Back when I was a kid my mum always cut our hair. Dad's hair also. Though I do remember that she always went to the hairdressers (and would come home with the trendy 80's blow wave). I don't believe money would have stretched enough for us all to get a haircut.

But it's something I've started doing again since living out here. It kind of appeals to that inner diy-er attitude. Rather than outsourcing and paying someone else for haircuts, it's another skill that can be learned and practiced in the home. With practice, nobody will be able to tell. I've had one hairdresser's visit in two years and somehow managed to cut my own hair a few times.

While young girls with standard cuts are fairly easy, male cuts are a little trickier. You could head down the route of the clippers, but I find them unreliable and sometimes a little too harsh. Plus there was one incident many years ago when my brother accidentally shaved a huge chunk out of Daniel's hair. He had to wear a beanie for weeks. So I use scissors and a comb for a boys longer look or a short back and sides (last night's haircut was very similar to this method).

For those wondering you can pick up inexpensive hair cutting scissors from the supermarket. Though of course these are not of a professional standard, they will still do the job.
Dressmaking scissors that are not too heavy are also good. It is what my mum always used. You will also need a plain comb. You can wet the hair with a spray bottle, but I often don't do this.

Take your time. I take quite a bit of time to make sure there is no chunks or unevenness. Of course this does not make one very popular.

My mum always used an old shower curtain draped around the person to catch the hairs. You can occasionally pick these up in new condition from op shops. Fasten with a peg around the neck. Very glamorous! Once the cut hair is swept up it can be added to the compost pile.

There's plenty of you tube videos out there, and I've seen several books on the subject at the library. I learnt by watching hairdressers closely whenever I was waiting at the hairdressers, and through practice (fortunately with no disasters along the way!).

Have you / do you cut hair at home?
Any tips, disasters or successes to share?

Monday, March 25, 2013

the autumn vegie garden

If things in my little corner of blogging land seemed a little quiet last week, it's because I've been out in the garden at every opportunity.  Sewing seeds, lots of watering, a little (rough) drawing and checking for those first emerging little green shoots. I'm happy to report that there are some.

I feel like it is the first year that I've been able to give the vegie garden the time it deserves (though there could always be more). Its very beginnings, put together with old railway sleepers and concrete bricks from an old barn, were put together by Daniel the winter after we moved here. I remember sewing that first lot of seeds in late spring with great difficulty. I was heavily pregnant at the time with Violet, but I was determined that we would have some Summer vegetables. Fortunately that following month was filled with rain, which is just as well because I was occupied with other things. I have to say that first harvest has been our best harvest to date.

Every other season since has been a rushed affair, as the mother of a toddler or baby always seems to be needed elsewhere. But it's been the best I've been able to manage. This year, there was a little more planning going on, there is more opportunity to be outside, and a little more freedom to get out there to do the watering.

 So for those wondering here is a list of the seeds I put in this year. All are heirloom varieties from The Lost Seed, which is our nearest heirloom seed supplier.

Garlic Sicilian
Garlic Southern Glen
Garlic locally produced
Italian parsley
Cauliflower Green Macerata
Onion Belvedere
Onion Red Brunswick
Carrot Little Finger
Carrot Amsterdam Forcing
Broad Beans
Chicory Witlof
Parsnip Hollow Crown
Radish Golden Helois
Baby Bok Choy
Broccoli Romanesco
Kale Lositano
Lettuce Australian Yellow
Radicchio Palla Rossa
Leek Lungo Della Riviera
Mustard Salad White

There were more seeds, but I sadly ran out of room, so a little garden extension may be in order. Being in a colder climate, things grow slower here in Winter, and many things not at all. It's been an uphill struggle here, but I think I'm learning just a little more with each season.

Already in the garden are a few varieties of cabbage, one year old Tuscan and Russian kale, French sorrel, silverbeet, spinach and chicory. I'm hoping this new selection of cold friendly vegies will be successful.  But this gardening business can be a fickle thing sometimes.

Last night we ate the last mouthfuls of our potato harvest, accompanied by our carrots and squash, all coated well in melted butter. Salad was a mix of shredded beetroot and leaves. Which is what gardening is all about really. Home grown food that tastes like nothing you can get in a supermarket. Those potatoes were something else!

Although this year so far has not been particularly successful, though it has been a case of quality over quantity, there is always hope for bigger and better things in the world of gardening.  Let's hope so.

Have you been in the garden lately?
Do you have gardening plans?
What varieties are you putting in this year?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

knitted : family hats

Of course one of the best things about holidays is that bit of extra time you have to get stuck into a new knitting project. Well, for me it is anyway. All that driving, all that sitting around campfires and in tents, well, it is quite conducive to a little knitting. Nothing too hard of course, as it is a case of the easier the better when you are constantly moving a project around.

Literally minutes before leaving I put a little knitting bag together. A little zippered case full of essential knitting bits and pieces, yarn, needles and a book I'd had for quite some time, More Last Minute Knitted Gifts.

Knitting in Daniel's hat to cover up that "camping hair"

I chose the Family Ribbed Hats pattern because we seemed to be quite short on beanies for the coming Winter. I find it is far easier to justify knitting time spent on a need rather than a want. And I had quite a bit of fun knitting up this first beanie for Violet. The pattern was straightforward despite the fact that it was my first hat "in the round". Most of the pattern involved a circular needle, and then changing at the very end to double pointed needles.

I like to think that there is a whiff of campfires, dusty roads and the scent of fresh alpine air, as well as the wild brumbies we saw, all wrapped up into this little hat.

The yarn was a beautiful cashmere blend I had won in a giveaway from Flowerpress, and originally from the ZigoZago store. It was wonderful to work with, and I love the way the rich colours knitted up.

I was so happy with this little project that I started another as soon as I got home. This time I used some alpaca yarn leftover from this project. Julia claimed this one for herself, and who am I to argue when someone actually wants my knitting?  Knitting can be a thankless craft at times, but not always.


So two family hats down, and I suspect there just might be a few more to come.

Ravelry details here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

busy season

 I had almost forgotten just how very busy this season of Autumn can be. Although it is only beginning, the slightly frosty mornings and fresh winds off the mountains are a hint of what is to come. The Summer vegetable garden, although not an especially good one this year, has been harvested, compost added and seeds all ready to go in today. There is a little window of time to get seeds in for the Winter, and this is just as the hot days seem to be behind us, but the heavy frosts are yet to start. We've had a light one already, and I'm afraid this window of time will be a pretty small one this year.

Oregano is hung out to dry, blanched silverbeet packed in the freezer, seeds ready to go and a kindly neighbour's basil and parsley have been turned into pesto. (I think I have greenhouse envy!)

This cooler weather has really made me feel like knitting again. A few little needed projects using wool from the stash has to be a good thing for the conscience. Especially after a holiday.

Yesterday I made Tarragon vinegar (so simple, it is just Tarragon leaves with vinegar added; I used apple cider vinegar, with time it will have a stronger flavour and apparently it is very good for the liver among other things). At the same time I lightly stewed a batch of rhubarb, preserved in honey (recipe here). I have a big pot of more rhubarb ready to go on the stove right now. I quite like the tang of rhubarb, and I think you either love it or you hate it. Unfortunately I am the only one who loves it in this house. But it will be a nice addition to cream for dessert or a dollop on porridge.

Have you found yourself just that little bit busier in the kitchen lately?
Busier in the garden?
Enjoying the change in season wherever you are?

Monday, March 18, 2013


Going away and coming home again can give you a new perspective on things. The trees seem bigger, apparently having gone through a growth spurt while we were away. The grass long and the weeds prolific. Greener than when we left. The house seems larger and more airy somehow.

But most importantly, is the feeling that is with you when you come home. Being away and seeing new places tends to bring a fresh perspective on things. We saw beautiful places, but although different to home, not any more beautiful.

Sometimes we see places along the way, places that might have cheaper farms or land and we toss these ideas around for awhile. But we have yet to decide if it is really the desire for more land or just the thrill of change that we are seeking. It is an idea we play around with from time to time. The grass is always greener isn't it? But we always come to the same conclusion.

Each time we come home and realise that we do have it pretty good here. It's a home we want to come home to, even though it is a small one. Do we really want to start all over again? We've put in so many trees, a large vegie garden and I do love my big kitchen. A lot of sweat (and sometimes tears) has gone into this place. The kids are very happy here, which really tips the scales for staying. 

It's been over three years now, and with each year there have been new projects ticked off the list. Each year we are getting to know our place just that little bit more, both the good and the bad. Through the bad growing seasons, through bushfires and droughts. The people out here are a tough breed, having endured these things many times over. They know that better times will come eventually. They stick it out, year in and year out. We're learning to.

Coming home makes me realise just how fortunate we are to live in this place. In this house, in this valley, in this tiny town. The sun is streaming through the window as I'm about to put on my second coffee for the day. The first frost of the season has already thawed (thank goodness we harvested and turned over the entire garden yesterday). A beautiful Autumn day has emerged. I must say, life is pretty good here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

our day in Melbourne

Did you know that you can actually camp in Melbourne? Neither did I. But it seems you can, in a relatively pleasant caravan park just 9km from the city. Overshadowed by one of those giant electricity poles merely metres away, I joked that it was our Eiffel Tower view.

We had promised Luca a visit to the Eureka Tower, and it turned out to be the highlight of his trip. I was the only one who had been to Melbourne before, and that was many years ago, so it was an entirely new experience for everyone else.

We nervously caught the tram in (where I spied a young woman knitting, and wondered if she had a blog), got lost many times (and we must have really looked lost as a kind lady approached us and offered directions), stumbled upon interesting buildings and laneways, strolled along the river and Luca got to see his tower. A little weary at the end of the day (especially considering I carried Violet and Daniel had the nappy bag full of everyone's drink bottles), we happily stumbled upon an unassuming little Italian restaurant where we ate the most delicious handmade ravioli ever.

It was quite an experience. For those of us that live in the country, it is so far removed from our everyday reality, but an exciting and interesting place nonetheless. With great coffee.

We quite like Melbourne.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the little town of Walhalla, nestled in a steep valley, and rich in gold mining history, it was almost like stepping back in time. Daniel fell in love with the place, and I suspect he would move there tomorrow if he could!

We arrived quite late in the evening. Rain was just about to set in for the night, and we were tired from driving. After an enquiry at the hotel we managed to get ourselves a little cottage for the night. It was our big splurge for the holiday, and in the midst of all that camping it felt like quite a luxury. Perched on the edge of a steep mountain, with the view of the valley covered in gentle rain, it was beautifully cozy. Of course the next two nights spent there we went back to roughing it at the campsite.

There were many (steep) walks to do, which we somehow managed, old mines to see and a historic train ride. The steep cemetery and the cricket oval at the very top of the mountain were also highlights.

This is what we love about our trips. Discovering little gems of places, that are not on the regular tourist routes, places with a soul, steeped in history (literally) and one where you get a sense of community.

It is most definitely one of those places we would love to visit again.

Do you have a favourite little town that you love to visit?

Monday, March 11, 2013

nice to be home


Well, it is nice to be back. Nice to be home. Nice to be sleeping in my (soft) bed, settling back into home life and using my coffee machine once again. It is also nice to be back in this little space again.

On Friday we arrived home from a two and a half week camping holiday in Victoria. In our camper trailer, as in our last big trip. There was a lot of driving to do, a lot of set ups and pack ups, but so much to see that we hadn't seen before. We thoroughly enjoy our trips to Victoria  with so many fascinating and beautiful places to visit.

From the Mornington Peninsula we (including car and camper) caught the ferry to Queenscliff. It was the kids first ferry ride and so was pretty exciting for them. I think I was just a little excited too. After a few days in Queenscliff, we headed off to do the Great Ocean Road, something none of us had seen before. Many parts were breathtaking and almost surreal, though there were certainly some crowds.

From beautiful Port Fairy to Melbourne, to the quaint little old mining town of Walhalla. Back home via the Great Alpine Road, with some days spent in Omeo and Bright.

Some of the camping was free, but most of it was in caravan parks, this proving to be the most convenient way to find accommodation late in the afternoon with three tired children, and also quite handy for the inevitable laundry visits. We would stay a few nights in each destination, although there was a lot of moving around this trip which is not always the best way to travel with a two year old. I think next time we may be better seeing a little less, but seeing more of each place.

Holidays, while being wonderfully refreshing and giving you chance to see new places, and meet interesting people along the way, truly do make you appreciate coming home.