Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oh, The Weather!

Here in our town, for most of the year, we complain about the weather. It's a local pastime. A not entirely unwarranted one, however, if this year's transition to Spring is anything to go by. Until two weeks ago, we were pretty consistently still getting very cold nights, and rainy, grey days. We got back from sunny Queensland in the school holidays and were disappointed to be considering the need to light the fire! Two weeks on, however, and yesterday we reached 40 degrees celsius, with hot days forecast for the next week, at least. The air has changed, the cicadas are out (as are the blowflies and mozzies, with a vengeance!) and Summer is definitely here. We really only have two seasons here - bloody cold and bloody hot.

However, the mornings are beautiful. Nath and I have been getting up at six most mornings, and it's such a lovely way to start the day - before the kids get up, soaking up some early morning sun on the front deck with the birds singing in the garden (and Bella bellowing at us for her morning milk!).

The arrival of what is promising to be a long, hot summer means we have to get a few things in order. We have been working on getting the retic set up in the backyard for all the vegie beds to minimise need for hand watering. We received a decent amount of dripline retic from someone on Freecycle a while ago so Nath has been engineering that into a workable system. The front yard is on an automated retic system but as it is sprinkler based we would like to get someone out to talk us through converting it into something a little more waterwise.

We are also buying a self filling cement water trough for the goat pen. At the moment they just have buckets of water but two rambunctious kids means lots of tipped buckets and on these hotter days their water requirements are quite substantial. It means buying 'new', and I feel like we've done a bit of that lately, with fencing equipment and feed tubs and beekeeping equipment and so forth, but I think it is the best decision for the health of the goats.

Also, in not very eco-friendly news, we have decided to get our backyard pool up and running. As we don't use air conditioners, the pool would be a lovely way to spend the hottest days, and a local pool pass for the family costs $250. We can get our pool functional for far less than that. We have recently learned from a friend that we can run the pool for far fewer hours than we thought so we will trial it for the Summer and see what difference it makes to our energy usage.

I really do love Summer. I love the lead up to Christmas, and all the plans for crafting and gifting, and driving around looking for Christmas lights, and taking the kids into the city to see the Christmas displays, and soaking up their wide-eyed wonderment at being allowed up so late and being in the city and going on a train! I love Christmas carols and getting geared up for Christmas camping, and choosing the Christmas menu, and cooking a roast in the Weber in forty degree heat, then not feeling like eating it because it's too hot and eating prawns instead. I love Pimms, and trips to the wineries and breweries and cideries and distilleries. I love TV cricket and backyard cricket and BBQs at the beach and lazy days swimming at the local lake with friends. I love seafood, and mangoes and berries, and salads. So many salads. And shorts and singlets and summer dresses, and bare feet, and beer at the pub on sunny Sundays. I love thinking that I love fishing, and then complaining when Nath wants to take his fishing gear everywhere we go, then, once all the hard work of setting rods up and those first few awkward casts into the water (and around jetty legs and into each others' lines) are over and done with, realising that I actually do love fishing after all. Until I get bored. I love the noise of the cicadas and frogs, the cry of young magpies, and running away from swooping, cranky, mama magpies while waving my arms around my head like a lunatic. I love longer days, with the house all opened up overnight to try and cool it down before another hot day, and evening drinks on the deck, while a bare-chested pack of kids runs hollering around the garden but doesn't come too close to the house in case they get sent to bed. I love Vacswim, and spending days sitting by the pool, or floating in the pool, counting kids' heads and meeting half the town around the splash pool. I love hanging the 'swimming bag' near the back door, where it is needed on a daily basis, and wriggling into wet bathers that we forgot to hang to dry the day before, and frantically searching for thongs, kickboards and towels when a spontaneous swim is announced. I love the constant slightly panicked neighbourhood talk of snakes, of learning again to walk with our eyes to the ground, and keeping a tally of all the snakes that have been sighted so far, and how far they are from our house, and what kind, as if to determine how close we were to actual danger. I love Christmas beetles, and Christmas spiders. I love watching my skin turn from milky white, to cream, to the colour of sand, and finally, to the golden bronze it settles on after a couple of weeks in the sun. I love the smell of suncream and salt and chlorine. I love that my hair colour wavers between the whitest sunbleached white to slightly green, pool tinged blonde, and that the kids all end up looking like little surfie dudes, all long legs and bleached, windswept hair and brown skin.

How are your plans for the festive season shaping up? Do you love Summer, too, or does it make you want to hibernate with iceblocks on your belly and an airconditioner pointed straight at you?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Self Love

pic from here
 I'm not often easy in my own skin. I worry, too much, about what other people think, about measuring up, about being 'enough'. I see challenges and spurs where there are none. I live out of feelings of unworthiness, inferiority. I do things for the wrong reasons - to change myself, to become better, thinner, more acceptable - but always for others, for some imagined expectation that I take on and feed until it becomes my own, very unreasonable expectation of who I should be, what I should be, what I should be doing.

I get prickly. Defensive. I imagine that I am found wanting by others and even though this is only a reflection of the fact that I find myself wanting, I rage against it. Even though I am unable to accept myself, I rail and cry when I think others do not accept me. I confront it, but in the way that one may attack an intruder - hit out now, ask questions later. My wall of injustice and anger and paranoia.

The things I love become weapons that I use against myself. I love to run, and then, one day, I find that my inner voice has been whispering, you're not fast enough, you don't go far enough, you don't push hard enough, and running is no longer what I love, but becomes another form of self flagellation. I try to make peace with my body, this vessel of life that has carried me along, borne my children, my able body that is a gift and a beautiful thing, and there's that voice again, that seductive serpent voice telling me you're too fat, you're too soft, you will never be beautiful, so what's the use in trying? It whispers you are too loud, too needy, too emotional. Things I would never whisper to my children as I tuck them into bed at night, become the unrelenting words I speak to myself instead.

I am climbing out of this hole. It's getting a bit dark in here, a bit hard to breathe. I've climbed out of holes before and I know I will have to again - these holes, they just keep coming, but every one is a road map and I remember the landmarks. I know the way out, it's a hard path speckled with reflection, space and time, with a bit of self love thrown in - repeated over and over, until it begins to feel natural.

I'm running again. I don't particularly care how far or for how long. I run until the mantra I am repeating over and over in my head, there's no room for others here. It's the earth, the wind and me stops being a phrase and starts just being. I'm also going to yoga. Not let's do yoga then do latte yoga, but honest, trackpants and kaftans and old Pink Floyd tshirts yoga, where we sit in a circle and feel welcome and even snore quietly during meditation, if that's our thing. I like it. I can't touch my toes, but if I try really hard, I can touch the cobwebby parts of my soul, and that feels nice.

I box, too, and do karate, and enjoy the power in these sports, the sweat and the sore muscles and the moment where my fist hits something, hard. But it's not all about exercise, and it's definitely not about not being enough. I'm learning to do what I enjoy, and enjoy what I do. Just because. I'm learning that if I eat some chocolate today, I don't have to hate myself tomorrow. If I can't face cleaning the bathroom today, it will still be there tomorrow. And the day after. And that's quite okay.

I say nice things to myself, like I am tucking myself into bed. Sometimes, it's hard, it's clumsy and I don't entirely believe myself. But I can feel my prickly edges softening. I can feel myself unfurling, my fists unclenching, my scowl fading. I'm learning to breathe, six counts in six counts out, slowly, mindfully, calmly. I start to feel loved, by myself first and foremost, and it's good.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


I used to be scared of bees. If one flew near me, I would freeze and stop breathing until it had gone. Nowadays I see bees as friends, useful little insect friends with a very important job to do, and I love their presence in our garden. We have a lot of bees here, but the next step for us was installing our own hive, so that we could collect honey from it, another thing that we will no longer have to buy. As we use honey instead of sugar in our family, it seemed like a sensible thing to do.

We've been on the wait list for bees for a few months now, and yesterday, we got the call. So Nath and Brannen drove down the hill to collect our very own bees, a buzzing, humming closed hive of activity. The entrance to the hive was obviously blocked so they wouldn't escape during transit, but you could see their busy little legs and wings in the tiny holes in the hive 'gate', desperately trying to get out.

 Nath placed the hive in our chosen spot, under the grevillea bush in the otherwise unused pool area. It's a great spot - morning sun, afternoon shade, and locked so the kids can't get in. Once we demolish the pool, down the track we'll be able to get a couple more hives and the old pool area will become the bee area! Nath carefully opened the little gate to let the bees out to explore, and in a week or so he will open the hive to make sure the queen is healthy and laying, then we will leave them for a few months to do their thing. We have to get a couple more hive boxes ('supers') so that they can expand and have room to produce lots of honey - for them and us!

I may not be scared of bees anymore (well, not much, anyway!), but the actual beekeeping part is definitely Nath's job!

The beautiful grevillea.
 We are feeling pretty happy with how our garden and home plans are going, as we are well underway to producing a lot of what we eat here at home. It is such a fantastic feeling to be so connected to the food we eat.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Garden Post

Our little garden pixie, Eden.
It has been a while since I posted on our garden, but as we in in the full swing of Spring, and loving spending these tentatively sunny days ticking things off The Great Gardening To-Do List (which is less like a list than a carousel on full speed) I thought it might be time to share some pics.

We were late planting our winter seeds, and equally as late getting our spring seeds planted, so we are a little behind schedule. That hasn't mattered this year, though, as the temperatures are still quite low and we have had fairly steady rain for all of spring so far. The onions, garlics, leeks, beetroots, silverbeets and beans are all going strong.

We have planted all the citrus trees (a Lemonade, a Meyer lemon, a Kaffir lime, a Tahitian lime, a grapefruit, an orange and a Feijoa - yes, I know, not a citrus!) with an understorey of nasturtiums, chillis and artichokes.

The little kaffir lime tree with an understorey of nasturtium and artichoke.

Beautiful citrus-y blossoms.
The greenhouse is full - little tubes and toilet rolls containing (many, many) tomatoes, chilli, rosella, rockmelon and sunflower seeds.

We have been harvesting our green manure crop of oaten grass before it went to seed and drying it on the fence to become mulch for summer. We have also been trimming down the wattle trees to use their foliage as mulch (as well as feeding some to the goats).

Wattle foliage as garden mulch.
Oat grass drying on the fence.
The apricot trees have flowered and are now in full foliage and beginning to set fruit, so the next task is to net them to avoid losing nearly our whole apricot harvest to the local 28s (like last year).

Chickens fertilising the apricot trees. Behind, you can see the large goat pen.

We are putting in a grape vine near the kitchen window to stop the summer late afternoon sun streaming in. It won't help this year but next year it should be established enough to make a difference. The beauty of a living screen is that, as it is deciduous, it loses its leaves in winter to let all the available sun in.

I counted the other day and we now have 20 fruit trees! That's not bad at all for a half acre block! We should be getting our bees within the next month to help with all that pollinating.

It's three assignments on the agenda for me this week so I daresay I won't be seeing much of the garden until next weekend!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The New Kids On Our Block

We have some new family members. After we brought Elsie home, we had no idea how pregnant she was or when she would kid, and it seemed like she was pining the company of other goats. She was very timid with us, too, so clearly we were inadequate company! I stumbled upon a young Saanen x British Alpine doe kid who had been hand reared and bottle fed. She was only five weeks old when we bought her and it really was the best thing we could have done. Elsie perked up immediately and relished being the 'herd queen', and it wasn't long before she was much more comfortable with us handling her, even coming up to demand cuddles and scratches first as is her right as the herd leader! The young doe kid, Bella, will be an excellent milker when she is older, as well.

This is Bella. She is awfully hard to photograph, as she keeps trying to eat the camera!

Then, on Tuesday night, after Miya's 6th birthday party, I noticed that Elsie was showing some early signs of labour. I kept an eye on her during the dinner/bath/bed routine and as soon as the (human) kids were in bed it was evident that this baby goat was arriving - and soon! I called a couple of friends of mine who have goats and have had experience with goats birthing and we settled in with a torch and waited. This was Elsie's first birth and she wasn't sure what was going on, and it was obvious that the kid was a large one. We let her push for half an hour or so then once the front hooves and nose were out, my friend held then and on the next contraction gave a gentle pull and helped the kid out. Elsie's instincts took over completely and she set about cleaning the kid's face, then her body, and it wasn't long before the kid was trying to stand and looking for her first drink. We woke the girls up to come and meet the baby and moved mama and baby into the shed, stopping to check the kid's gender (a girl!) and watched to make sure the kid would suckle. We had nothing to worry about, Elsie is a wonderful first time mother, doing everything completely right. Miya named the kid Rosie.

Rosie is a three quarter Boer goat, and already shows signs of being a lovely stocky goat. Nath is salivating already, as it is likely that Rosie will end up in our pot! We can't keep three goats, and as Elsie is a proven mother, we will use her to breed, hopefully with a milking breed buck. Bella will also be a milker. The (human) kids aren't too happy about eating Rosie, but we are breeding goats for our own dairy and meat requirements, to avoid the awful meat and dairy industry and guarantee that the animals we eat have led a healthy and humane life. It's a hard lesson, but a necessary one, I feel.

For now, Rosie will remain suckling on Elsie for a few weeks, then we will separate them at night so that we can milk Elsie in the morning. We have been needing to milk Elsie in the afternoons a bit anyway, as she is producing ore milk than Rosie can drink and was looking like she may have been developing mastitis. Her milk is incredibly creamy, and raw, cold, fresh goats milk is beautiful!

We are all absolutely loving being goat owners! It has long been a dream of mine and I can't begin to explain how lovely it is to watch my three children playing with the goats, learning about animal husbandry and developing an understanding of what it means to be a mindful consumer of meat in this age where animals are merely commodities, bred for the greed of humans without much concern for their welfare.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I feel the temptation to apologise for my absence here on my little blog. I won't, though, as this blog was always intended to be merely a creative outlet for me, regardless of who may be reading along (although I love that you do, dear reader!), and lately my creativity has been on the wane. Not for any reason in particular, although spending portions of my days in front of the computer for uni diminishes any desire to spend my downtime in this way! Two holidays in the space of a month (Bali and Stradbroke Island) has kept me busy as well, and of course there is just the normal hum of busy days at home.

However, general busyness is not the only factor that has kept me away from this space. Increasingly, I have been feeling uncomfortable with my engagement with technology (particularly technology with screens) and have been examining the reasons for this.

I have a screen addiction. If I'm not sitting with my laptop on my knee, mindlessly surfing the internet, I am playing with my smartphone. If it's not email, it's Instagram, or reading blogs, or 'researching' god knows what. Sometimes, you'll find me attached to both the laptop AND my smartphone at the same time. Over time I have disentangled myself from a mind numbing attachment to Facebook (I no longer have an account as that is the only way I can control my use - Nath won't even tell me his password anymore as I kept hijacking his account!) and we no longer watch TV (footy finals aside). I can't get rid of my computer as I need it for uni but something had to change. My creative energy was hidden somewhere under the numbness of disengaging with screens. I checked my phone compulsively, from first thing in the morning until last thing at night. I used to love photography, but that passion had been reduced to snapping photos to upload immediately to Instagram, so that I could then obsessively and repeatedly check to see if anyone had 'lied' or commented. I've heard people refer to this as FOMO - the fear of missing out - but I believe that, for me at least, it's more than that. I think that it all comes from my need to be validated and approved of.

Our trip to Stradbroke Island was a wonderful, cathartic time of reflection. We left the kids with some very generous friends for the week which gave us plenty of time for thinking, talking and doing nothing. I realised I had been craving more slowness in my life, not numbness. Always flicking from one screen to another was not giving me this. I decided to 'downsize' from a smartphone, to a basic, talk and text only phone. No more Instagram, no more social media, no more distracted parenting. My laptop stays switched off and put away until I have a purpose for using it.

It has been only four days so far, but already I feel freer. I have purchased a secondhand digital SLR camera and have really enjoyed taking creative time out to take mindful pictures. It helps me slow down and appreciate the beauty around me. I am loving rekindling this old hobby of mine.

I feel more present with the children, less rushed, less distracted, less frustrated at their intrusion into my busyness. I feel like I have more time in the day, but really I am just using it more intentionally.

I'm not writing this to pass judgement on anybody else' use of screens - I'm actually jealous of people who have more restraint than I! But although I am not apologising for my absence, I thought a little explanation wouldn't go astray!

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