Sunday, December 26, 2010

End of year angst

I find the end of the year a hard slog. The weather heats up to a point where it is unpleasant to be outside between 10am and 6pm, and I can only brace myself for the next 3 months of the same. Then there's the fun of being single again, and floundering in a deluge of happy couple festive advertising. And then the forced interaction with family members who have little sense of personal boundaries, no idea of hygiene, and an instinct for saying the worst possible thing at the worst possible time.
Every year I make the same New Years resolution - a quote from Pride and Prejudice.
"I am only resolved to act in a manner which will constitute my own happiness, without reference to you, or any person so wholly unconnected with me"
And every year it falls down. I take the words and actions of others at a higher value than my own experience and instinct. Why? When my sister speaks condescendingly to me, making me feel like an ignorant failure, why do I take that to heart? When she rummages through my cupboards, why don't I speak up for myself, and tell her to back off?
Seems like as much as I try to grow and change, they don't want to have to change the mental box that I live in in their minds. So they treat me the way they always have, and I allow myself to slip back into the groove of how I used to behave - uncertain, colourless, and weak.
But that's not who I want to be - I want to be someone who laughs loud, and doesn't care if she sounds silly. Someone who is strong, and sexy, and confident in her own ability. Someone who values herself.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Summer good morning

In summer when the sun rises, it sneaks round the corner of the house and taps me on the shoulder, waking me with a warm breath and a kiss on the back of my neck.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bah, humbug

My New Years Resolution: To start my Christmas shopping and gift making in July next year, so I can actually enjoy the festive season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Things I learnt today...

  • It is worth spending two minutes to find your gardening gloves before embarking on a weed-hoeing binge.
  • Soap and open blisters do not mix, kids. Much pain ensues.
  • It is really hard to dress injuries on your right hand when you are right-handed.
  • Typing with one hand is frustratingly slow.
  • A large glass with gin and tonic and lots of ice makes a fine cold compress.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What I did (and didn't) today

So many times I find myself at the end of the day thinking 'Didn't get that done today...' and 'Should have done that today'. What good does it do? Is it going to magically make things finish themselves? I don't think so.
Maybe I should count all the things I did today, instead of the things I didn't.
So what if I didn't get all the dishes washed - I got most of them done, and I helped Dad with the bees instead.
So what if I didn't get some seedlings planted - I slept in instead (sleep ins are vital for continued mental health lol).
So what if I didn't do any washing today - I worked on a pair of socks for someone I love instead.

So on this beautiful full moon night I'm going to sleep away all the 'shoulds' and 'didn'ts', and start tomorrow with a little less self-flagellation in my life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I don't like feeling tired - all the thoughts in my head collapse into a lumpy stream of blah blah blah, occasionally interspersed with comments of astonishing cruelty from the little man that sits in the back of my head and tells me what I do wrong.
He seems to be the custodian of all my mistakes. He keeps them neatly indexed and cross-referenced. He's been getting creative lately though. He has taken to pulling out things that are not mistakes, and trying to make me feel like they are.
Note to self, and to you too, little man: Just because the road is hard, doesn't mean it is wrong.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

*Almost* there

This is the view of my vegie garden and the hill beyond from my bead room. Until Friday, the room was an absolute mess. It was dusty, cobwebby, the table was covered in beads, the floor with various bags full of Stuff. Cleaning up what had once been my favourite room in the house, seemed far too overwhelming a job to tackle. But friend Charlotte happened to come to lunch on Friday, and with a lot of her encouragement and help, it is once again a room with purpose.

In my renovation plans mentioned here, the bead room will be joined with the one behind to make a long, narrow workspace, where all my crafty possessions can be stored in one area, and I can have a light, airy, sunny space for spinning, knitting, beading or just sitting.
I've had a building feeling of frustration lately, a feeling of being *almost* there,. I *almost* have my new car. I *almost* have my new spinning wheel. I've *almost* got the work situation sorted. My shower *almost* works properly. I guess it's a matter of time - sometimes events flow smoothly from one to another, one segueing neatly into the next, and sometimes they jam up and get stuck like the three stooges in a doorway and you just have to let them sort themselves out.
The garden has settled into the growing groove now, and I'm starting to think I may have planted a little too much. However, it will be a good opportunity to learn about preserving. I've planted 10 Roma tomatoes on my first tomato trellis for drying, bottling and cooking.

The peas and beans are going very well and up around knee height now. I've planted 3 golden nugget pumpkins in that bed as well. In the same bed as the Romas are eggplant and California Wonder capsicums. In the next bed I have the root crops. The carrots were mostly snail snacks this time, but the beetroot and the red onions are doing very well. The War on Snails continues. I am determined to have homegrown carrots.
I've also planted my sweetcorn on Friday, in the same bed as my green and yellow zucchinis, button squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins. So far I have some Jap pumpkins in, and some Crown Prince, Baby blue, and Rouge de'Etampes seedlings in the hot house. I had some Turk's Turban pumpkin seeds that I planted but they haven't come up - I think they were too old.
The potatoes have been planted under the straw. This year I am growing Kipfler, Otway Red, Lustre, and some purple ones that I don't know the name of.
Still to be planted in the garden are some lettuces, the gherkin cucumbers, basil, brown onions, the 5 colour tomato mix on the second tomato trellis, and the pumpkins, rockmelon and watermelon.
Tomorrow is an exciting day - I get to go and pick up my new spinning wheel! It will be a 4 hour road trip across to Tongala to meet Mandie of Ewe Give Me The Knits and pick up my new baby. We'll also be getting a tour of Mandie's new shopfront (or den of temptation as I think of it). So, that will be one *almost* to cross off the list. ;)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honey days

Some days are like swimming in a clear stream - things just flow. Other days are like trying to wade through thigh-high honey. And the honey days lately are getting me down.
So, to combat that, I've decided to count my blessings:
  • I have only two more payments on my Rose and then I can pick it up and bring it home.
  • My dad mowed all my grass and even mowed the chook yards for me so the snakes don't get my girls.
  • All my animals are healthy.
  • I have my computer back.
  • It is raining and not too cold so the vegies are growing.
  • Soon I will have a new car to replace the shitheap I am driving now.
  • I don't have to work in an office and be polite to small-minded people with not enough to do.
  • I have a rare weekend off that I can use however I want.
  • For the first time I have a vague and amorphous idea of what I want to do in the future.
And a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that has been in the front of my mind lately:
'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams'

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More new neighbours

More new neighbours at Chez Hillside arrived on Monday:

Three Isa Browns from a friend who didn't need them any more, and as you can see they are already hard at work - head down, bum up. They've already been proving their worth in the laying department too:

(4 eggs from 5 hens!) The chook on the left has spurs on her legs, like a rooster, which is something I've never seen before. I'm thinking of calling her Boadicea or Hippolyte, or something similarly martial. The others don't have names yet.

I've finally got my camera to play nice, and I've added photos to some of my earlier posts. I haven't planted anything new in the past couple of days, but there has been a lot of activity in the hothouse. The vegetable spaghetti seeds have exploded into life, and the heirloom tomatoes have started to shoot. The grey crown prince pumpkins are up as well, but none of the other pumpkins or the melons have shown themselves yet.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When night falls

It's so much easier to be positive in the daytime. When the sun is up, you can distract yourself with Things To Do, and potter around, getting a sense of achievement from little things like putting clean clothes away, pulling up a few weeds, or washing the dishes. At night, you are trapped, the empty half of the bed beside you snickering derisively as you try to slow your brain down enough to get hold of the reins and think clearly again.
Last night the past couple of days of food poisoning, exhaustion and pain caught up with me. The probing of all the half-healed mental scars, and then the tears, began. I tried to avoid it by turning the light back on and reading until I finished the book, then I stared out the window at the stars until they started to flicker and dive and then I must have fallen asleep.
The moon last night was the faintest little sliver of white, like a fingernail cutting. It hung just above the hills on twilight, and it looked about as worn out as I felt.
I slept through my alarm this morning, so I was late for work, but I got an extra 2 1/2 hours sleep, which I can feel the difference in my mind today. I've tackled the Mt Kosciusko of dishes in my kitchen, as well as making up some white oil and spraying my newly pruned citrus. I've given them some citrus food and a good soaking, so hopefully they will go ahead now. I'm not sure how old the lemon (Meyer) and grapefruit trees are - the lemon is between 50 and 60 years old, and I assume the grapefruit is a similar vintage. The orange tree I planted 2 years ago - it is a valencia, but hasn't had many fruit yet - fingers crossed that with a bit of TLC this year may be the year. The lemon tree has been a martyr to sooty mould for as long as I can remember, but this year I hope to see healthy green leaves instead of black dusty ones.
In the last week I've planted some carrot (Manchester Table) and beetroot (Boltardy) seed, and red odourless onion seedlings in the root crop bed, and in the hothouse, planted some gherkin cucumber and some more chive seed. The basil, and red and white strawberry seed has come up in the hothouse, and the peas and beans are coming up in the garden.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spring has sprung

Well, spring has certainly arrived in the valley. The days have been sunny, the earth is warming up, and Mavis has gone clucky.
There has been more planting this week in the garden. After 4 weeks, the plants that I ordered from Garden Express arrived. I was not happy. We shall see whether the plants grow or not. The rhubarb (Giant Victoria) was slimy and looked like it had been in the plastic bag for some time. The asparagus crowns (Mary Washington) were in a net bag and looked very dry. The lavender (Hidcote) was leggy, and the growing tips were yellow. After a few days in the sun they are starting to look better, but yeah. I don't think I'll be spending any more of my money with that company.
On a happier note, my fantastic sister gave me membership of the Digger's club for my birthday, which I'm very excited about, and I've spent a lot of time poring over the catalogues. I got 2 free packets of seeds with my bundle of goodies - some sunflowers, which will get added to the collection, and a five colour heirloom tomato mix. It includes these varieties; 'Burnley sure crop' (Red), 'Black prince' (Black, obviously), 'Banana legs' (Yellow), Aunt Ruby's German (Green) and 'Tigerella' (Orange). The tomato seeds got planted the day they arrived, so they should be poking their leafy heads above the surface in about a week hopefully. The red and white strawberry seeds are coming up, and the calendulas continue to power along.
Yesterday I hit the road with friend Sue to go to the Bogie Spinners open day and spin-in at Euroa. I haven't done any spinning in a long time. There was even dust on my spinning wheel when I came to pack it in the car on Saturday night! I gave myself a stern talking to before I left on the subject of fibre impulse purchasing, and I even went through all the fibre I have that I haven't spun yet. At this rate, I will be spinning till I'm 106. So, by my standards at least, I was very good. I spent $20 and got 200g of 21 micron merino roving and 50g of tussah silk in a beautiful colourway called 'Seagreens'. I'm planning to make something for my mum with the yarn I spin from this - I don't know what yet though :)

I was mightily taken with some 60/40 merino silk blended top from First Edition fibres. It was an exquisite blend of green, yellow, orange and white - it looked like a bowl of citrus sorbet. But I had already spent over my budget, so I left it on the stall. 'What would I make with it?' I said to myself. 'I don't wear yellow and orange'.
But salvation came in the form of Sue, who insisted on buying it for me. What a friend, hey? So now I have 200g of this gorgeous fluff, and I've been wracking my brains trying to think of something to make with it. My best idea so far is a throw for my bed. I might save it for when I get my Rose, and it can be my summer spinning. My camera has thrown a hissy fit and it is well past my bedtime, so photos will have to wait till tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010


In the garden yesterday, I put up the pea and bean fences and planted the peas. The seeds are three years past their 'plant by' date, but hopefully I will get a few come up. Today I planted yellow and green bush beans. I remembered myself in this garden as a small child, picking the heavy green pods off the vines, and the explosion of flavour in my mouth, and the juicy snap of the pod on my tongue. This morning I imagined children in this garden, playing hide and seek between the rows of beans with their bellies on the cool earth. Looking up at the sunflowers' heavy heads and the clouds beyond. Little fingers stained with strawberry juice.
One of the hardest things to let go of in the loss of my relationship with M is the dream I had of having a family. It is my birthday today, and much as I am a complete kid about birthdays and love them to bits, a part of me now realises that with every year that passes that dream becomes a little harder to attain. I haven't given up hope yet, not by a long shot, but that dream has become almost like a sore tooth - fine if you leave it alone and let it be, but the minute you start probing at it, it causes you pain.
So for now, it is my god-daughters and my friends' kids that will have to join me in this garden and I hope they can enjoy it as much as I do. This afternoon, after a lovely lunch with friend Charlotte, I started planting my summer vegies. These go into seed trays or jiffy pots so they can be transplanted once the danger of frost is past. My nan always planted out her summer vegies on Melbourne Cup Day, but I think I might chance it a little earlier, and keep a close eye on the weather.
I've planted 4 types of pumpkin (Rouge d'Etampes, Turk's Turban, Baby Blue and Grey Crown Imperial), Watermelon (Candy Red), Rockmelon (Hales Best) and 2 types of basil (Dark Opal and Large Sweet Italian). They are in the plastic hothouse with my red and white strawberries (no sign of life yet), chives (no sign of life as well, but to be fair, the seed was 3 years past its plant by date) and Calendulas (Going like a house on fire).
I'm going to make a cup of coffee and take a wander round the garden before what looks like the first thunderstorm of the spring arrives.

The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing better than they have ever done before.
Vita Sackville-West

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cars, liars and fools

Lessons Learnt:
  • Never buy a second hand car without getting a qualified mechanic to look at it first.
  • Never believe anything the former owner says, eg. "it won't take much to get to roadworthy" (It took $900, including reconnecting the thermostat which had been disconnected so I couldn't see how hot it was running), "it's very reliable" (no, it's not. It blows blue smoke and won't start when it's hot), "You'll have it for a long time" (no, I won't. I've had it less than 6 months, and it needs a new motor - I am going to set it on fire and push it over a cliff)
Ugh, I'm so angry right now. I'm going to go chop some wood so I can imagine the lying SOB's head rolling off the chopping block.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tired after milking

The day drips down behind the hills
And the dark settles over me

Sandy eyes
Niggling headache
Twitching feet

Sleep calls
Like chocolate
Like warm water on my skin

Roll me up
In the stars
And cover me till morning

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I want...

There is a wind blowing today that feels like it is coming straight off the snow, so I've retreated inside and as a reward for clearing my desk of all my filing, I've been playing my favourite game, 'I want...', where I trawl the internet looking for things to buy with all the spare cash I don't have.
Today two things have come to the top of the list; firstly a new tattoo, something a lot like this gorgeous one:

I love the tree of life motif, especially how the roots are usually equal to the tree - I've always felt very connected to my family, who have lived here for so long, and inspired by their stories. This also represents my love of trees, leaves and the turning of the seasons. I'm visualising it as covering most of my upper back like this one. Long term goal maybe.
The second thing is to renovate my house, starting with combining three small rooms into one. I had a brainstorm with my sister and mum yesterday and I'm very excited about it. At the moment the rooms are the Junk room (can't get into that one), Bead room, and Yarn/fibre room. The yarn room has the only north facing window in the whole house, and in the winter it is the best room in the whole house - lovely and warm and bright.
Next to this room is the bead room, but you can't get to it from the yarn room unless you climb through the window. My best guess is that the bead room and the junk room behind it were originally a verandah on the west side of the house and were turned into rooms. The bead room has a door to the outside on the north side, and the junk room has a door on the south side of the house, and they both have west facing windows.
Confused yet? :)
Anyway, my plan is to join the junk room and the bead room into one, making a long, narrow studio space. Then, have this space join with the (now) yarn room by eliminating the connecting wall/window and replacing it with bi-fold doors, so it can be closed off. So when the doors are open it would be an L-shaped room, and when they are closed the (now) yarn room would be a sitting room.
And I want... it to look like this wonderful craft room I found on flickr. I love the green walls and white cabinetry.
At the moment, the bead room has a bare wooden floor where I ripped up the rapidly disintegrating bile yellow carpet, the yarn room has 70's variegated brown carpet, and the junk room has lino of uncertain colour (could be green, could be grey - hard to tell). BUT, all of the rooms have wooden floorboards underneath which would come up very nicely with a sand and polish.
It's very exciting to plan and imagine like this. My uncle is a builder, so next time he comes to visit I'm going to quiz him on whether my plan is possible structurally (load bearing walls and such) and how much I need to save before it can become a reality.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Come, all you who are not satisfied
as ruler in a lone, wallpapered room
full of mute birds, and flowers that falsely bloom,
and closets choked with dreams that long ago died!

Come, let us sweep the old streets--like a bride;
sweep out dead leaves with a relentless broom;
prepare for Spring, as though he were our groom
for whose light footstep eagerly we bide.

We'll sweep out shadows, where the rats long fed;
sweep out our shame--and in its place we'll make
a bower for love, a splendid marriage-bed
fragrant with flowers aquiver for the Spring.
And when he comes, our murdered dreams shall wake;
and when he comes, all the mute birds shall sing.

Aaron Kramer

Woman vs. snail

There is a war for the possession of the vegie garden. At stake are dozens of small defenseless seedlings. Every night, I venture forth with torch in hand and kill all that I find of these vicious slimy creatures. I laugh an evil laugh at every squishy crunch under my boot.
As they would say in The Lord of the Rings, there will be no dawn for snails...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gin and tonic cures everything

Today was my first day back at work after my 'holiday', and I only just stopped myself from throwing the alarm clock at the wall when it went off at 4.30 this morning. I argued with myself for a quarter of an hour, then got out of bed, and tried out some energising balm that I got from The Body Shop while I was away. I think it helped, but at least I smelt nice anyway. (For a little while!)
In among the general household faffing about between milkings, I laid one of the paths in the vegie garden. It may not be the most even or professional looking piece of paving, but it is done, and that's the main thing. I wore knee pads, but even so, I don't think I'll be doing the other path for a few days. My body feels like an old tractor that's being held together with baling twine and tie wire at the moment. The first thing I did when I got home from work tonight was wash down two ibuprofen with a gin and tonic. I feel much better now.
While I was away, I found myself thinking about the vegie garden almost like it was a living breathing being. I would think about the cats, wonder if they'd got into any fights with roaming ferals, wonder how Mavis and Madge were laying and whether the bower birds were eating their food, and then I'd think of the garden - had the spinach got any new leaves, was the first asparagus up yet, were the new roses okay, was the peach tree flowering yet.
My life seems to have shifted slightly. I feel somehow more myself than I have in a long time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wild weather

Well, it was a wild night last night. Along with all the rain (over 4 inches at last count) the wind kicked in. Before I went to bed, I went to feed the outside cats and I could hear the wind roaring in the trees at the top of the hill, and along the river. The garage roof developed an alarming banging noise, which I'll have to check on when the weather isn't so feral.
It's stopped raining for the most part, and this morning I went for a drive around the valley to see what the damage was. The river must have reached its peak during the night, because you could see where the high water mark had been. There are a lot of trees and rock slides on the road, but the road is open and driveable.The picture above is Big Snowy Creek (as opposed to Little Snowy Creek), and somewhere under all that water is a quiet little swimming hole. Yeah, somehow I think all that rain might have melted some of the snow off the mountains.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gumboots day

It is definitely a gumboots day today. It has been raining solidly since the early hours of this morning, and everywhere I look there is water. My chook feedhouse has an ankle deep moat around it and poor Mavis and Madge are looking decidedly bedraggled.
I started ten days off work on Wednesday, and got stuck into the vegie garden in a big way. I now have my leafy vegetable bed mulched, and some seedlings planted. I am dividing one of the larger beds up into three with recycled brick paths to make it easier to work, and for crop rotation. I have dug out where the paths are to go so they are level with the existing paths, and now I just have to wait till it dries out enough so I can put them in.
Here's a photo of the garden in progress - forgive the wobbly pic please :)

Not that long ago, the whole garden looked like those two far beds (the ones behind the cat) - full of weeds - so I am pretty chuffed with myself. It's really brought me a huge sense of accomplishment even to get this far, and to grow things is something that makes me smile.
Yesterday I went into town and went to Bunnings to get some weed mat to put under the paths. Yes, of course that is all I got! Jeez, no trust....
Ok, maybe I got a few more things than that...
Here's what I got at Bunnings:
- Weed mat
- Large bag of seed raising mix
- Large bag of pet and bird friendly snail bait
- 3 standard roses (on sale for $10 each)
- 9 bare rooted strawberry plants
- 2 kg of seed potatoes
- A butane stove for cheese making
- A seedling tray
- Three packets of seeds (Chives, bronze shades sunflowers, and red and white strawberries)
I'm very excited about the strawberries - I think they might be alpine strawberries, but I'm not sure. The sunflowers will be planted on the west end of my root crop bed to shade the vegies from the worst of the afternoon sun. And the chives are going under the roses.
I went for a walk in my gumboots and rain gear earlier, and it is crazy the amount of water that is everywhere. Back in the days before the dams, the river would have covered the floor of the valley by now, and everyone would be bracing themselves for the worst to come when the snow melted off the mountains. Even now, the water sits in every hollow, ghosts of the billabongs that would have dominated the landscape at this time of year.
One of the bulls stands in solitary splendor on his own little island in the bull paddock. He has some trees to stand under, some cows to talk to over the fence, and the corner of a shed to scratch on, so he is happy.
In spinning news, I have put a Majacraft Rose spinning wheel on layby from Ewe Give Me The Knits at Tongala, and after Monday, I will be almost a third of the way to paying it off! I have been wanting one of these wheels since I tried it at Bendigo '09, and I decided to treat myself to one as a birthday/Christmas/getting-through-the-breakup-without-knifing-anyone present. I have a picture of the Rose stuck up next to my computer so I can look at it often.
My friend Sue suggested I post some pictures of where I work, so I'll finish off this post with a picture from each of my two 'offices'.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

But not funny ha ha...

Isn't it funny, the things that you miss about a person when they're gone.

With M, I miss how his hair used to feel at the base of his neck. There was a little whorl of hair there that felt like it was just made for my fingers to rest there.
I miss how he used to make a soft little sigh, like a cat, when I snuggled up to him at night.
I miss resting my head on his chest and feeling the beat of his heart.
I miss how he used to say 'You could do that', like there was no obstacle to anything I wanted to try, like all I had to do was give it a go, and it would be mine.
I miss feeling like I was part of a team working towards a future together.

But I miss all these things so much because I know they are never coming back.

How far are you supposed to let another person in?

I threw all the doors open with him, and I allowed him to populate my dreams, my hopes, my plans. When he left, they all suddenly seemed as insubstantial as flimsy facades, swaying in the wind.

I don't know if I can ever do that again. When you let someone in, it's like you hand them all the tools to hurt you, and then all you can do is trust that they won't use them. It's like handing a lolly to a three year old and saying 'Don't eat it.'

So. I miss him, and I miss all that he gave me, and I miss all that we could have been. But it is all gone now, and all I can do is try to get through it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sniffle, cough...

I've been to the doctor today, a very forthright woman called Ivana, who I am sure has a previous life as a member of the Czar's bodyguard. She had the high heel boots and the authority - all she needed was some furs, and she would have been a shoe-in.

I have been feeling completely crap the past couple of days. The flu hit me Thursday night, and I dragged myself to work Friday morning, but every time I coughed it felt like my brain was going to explode out my forehead. Ivana tells me this is because I have an infection in my upper sinus cavity as well as the flu.

I was starting to feel better yesterday so I went to work, (how stupid was that decision?) at a different farm to where I normally work. I got rained on while getting the cows in, stood in a cold draft milking for two hours, got rained on again putting the cows away, and then drove home with blue lips in my non-heated car. So now I am off work for most of the rest of the week.

So I hope you'll forgive my excursion into self pity for a moment. My house is a mess of juiced lemon halves, dirty washing, clean washing, dishes and paperwork. My back hurts from coughing, I'm going to have no income this week because I can't work, and it hurts to move my eyes.

Whatever planets are dancing a little voodoo tango up there at the moment can just stop right now, because I've had enough!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rainy day planning

The rain has rolled in again, so today I sat on the couch in front of the heater with the cats, watching True Blood on DVD and started planning my vegie garden.

The area of the vegie garden is a large rectangle shape, roughly divided into quarters, and at present it is covered in weeds of one sort or another. Between showers, I started clearing the weeds and rubbish out of the long rose bed that runs diagonally across the quarter closest to the house. At the moment it has six standard roses in it, and space for a seventh one, some very smothered looking strawberry plants, a gypsophlia plant and some bulbs.
My plan is to remove one of the roses which suckers continually, and then relocate the gypsophlia, strawberries and bulbs, and underplant the roses with chives. This will keep the black spot and aphids under control in the roses and mean I never run out of chives again! The purple flowers should look pretty too.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunny days

The chooks have definite names now - Mavis and Madge. They are very confident and (dare I say it) cocky. Yesterday I saw (and heard - she was quite vocal about it!) Mavis scolding an enormous Currawong for stealing some of their scraps. They are laying an egg each every day, so I'm looking at quiches and spinach and fetta pie with new eyes - I can't eat egg on toast forever!

A few sunny days in a row have lifted the spirits enormously here on the hillside. Being stuck inside when it's cold and rainy makes me feel like I'm stuck inside a computer game, where all my thoughts become projectiles that ricochet off the walls and hit me again.

On Friday I went to a cheese making class and learnt how to make Brie. Yesterday I completed the second stage, soaking the wheels in brine and culture, and now they are sitting in the pantry quietly growing, at least I hope so. Fingers crossed they turn out well.

I sat outside in the sun yesterday afternoon for a few hours and spun some yarn - an angora/merino blend from Ixchel Fibres. I haven't done any spinning in quite a while, so it wasn't the best yarn in the world, but it was nice to sit in the sun, hear the magpies warbling away and feel the fibre sliding through my hands. I find spinning very calming - whether it is the repetitive motion of the drafting or the tactile pleasure of the soft fibre, I don't know. It definitely puts a more tranquil glow on the world though.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New neighbours

I'd like to introduce two new additions to Chez Hillside - two Light Sussex chooks. I haven't decided what to name them yet. I'm leaning towards a retro kind of theme with 'Lil' and 'Phyllis' but I'm open to suggestions.

The way they bustle around, I half expect to see a CWA pin fastened to their breast, and I wouldn't be surprised if I came out one morning and they had started making doilies.

I'm hoping in among their good works they will find time to eat the kitchen scraps and keep the grasshoppers to a modest level this summer so I can enjoy some of my roses.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The second coming of the stove

Today my kitchen got its smile back.

I live in my grandmother's old house. It was built in the 40's by my grandmother's brother, before he took off for Queensland chasing racehorses and wild women. The slow combustion stove in the kitchen has always been the centre of the room, the centre of the house. When people come inside, out of the rain and cold on a day like today, the first thing they do is go to the fire, and stand warming their backs.

For five years, the stove has been boarded up, cold and silent, and the kitchen seemed lost without it. There was another, electric, stove for cooking, but it was in the room next door, which was irritating, to say the least.

The combination of encouragement from my friend Charlotte, and the arrival of an extraordinarily high electricity bill led me to the rebirth of the stove. Yesterday I pulled down the cardboard covering the fireplace, and Dad and I worked with wire brushes and elbow grease to bring the stove back to useable condition.

This morning we lit the first fire in the stove, and I watched the kitchen seem to join into a circle again. It seemed again a room with a purpose. I baked a cake to mark the 'second coming' of the stove. It was a packet cake, which my grandmother would have disapproved of, believing that they were inherantly inferior to proper home made cakes, but it was a cake nonetheless.

My grandmother, who most people called Nan, was a big part of my life. From her I learned the stories of my family. How my great grandfather and his brother turned the river back into its bed after a flood with horses and scoops. How my great great uncle learned his wife was having an affair when he returned from droving and found another man's shirts in his cupboard. How when she was a child, they had to cross the river 13 times in the journey to the nearest large town.

I spent hours in this kitchen as a child. Always there was the kettle on the side of the stove, simmering ready to make a pot of tea. Sometimes, there was a pot of soup, made with beef bones, carrot, celery and barley. At Christmas, there would be the stubbornly traditional turkey roasting, heating up the kitchen to a point where tempers would fray and homemade orange and grapefruit cordial with ice would be dispensed to all present like medicine in an epidemic.

In the last couple of days, I have discovered that the best way for me to conquer heartache is with hard work. Chopping wood, scrubbing, shovelling: all the aching of the long unused muscles of my arms and back has distracted me from the hole in my chest.

Perhaps all I can do at this point is move in the direction of my dreams, and use the callouses on my hands as mile markers along that road.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To watch the corn grow...

I have been introduced to the wonderful thing that is wikiquote today, and it has improved my day immeasurably. I'll share with you one of my favourites from English author, poet and artist John Ruskin

To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade; to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray - these are the things that make men happy.

And how true that is. Whether your 'ploushshare' is a backhoe, or a desk, or a stove, to be happy you need to feel that you have expended your energy in a way that brings you satisfaction. My ideal has always been a more literal version of this quote - to make my life by the work of my hands, to see the hand of the goddess in the turning of the seasons, and feel the warmth of the sun soaked up by the soil, and at the end of the day, to relax in warmth, and read, laugh, make and sleep.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Winter sunshine

Days like these fill me with the urge to clean, to nest. Bright bright sunshine, bare branches, clean eucalyptus smelling sheets on the line, and a cool breeze with the breath of snow off the mountains.
The cats sit with squinty eyes basking in the warmth.

It has been a hard week. My boyfriend of 11 months broke up with me, and all I could feel was the rain of broken dreams pelting down on me. But my friends came to my rescue - kept me alive with tea, honey on toast, and sweet champagne. They reminded me that my dreams were my own, and always would be, and all I have to do is have faith in them.

And I am stronger than I think.