two years

I couldn’t let our two year mark at harvest moon hill pass by without recognition here. And I’ve been meaning to pop in, for oh you know, six months or so! I know the posts are few and far between these days but here we are again… a new year… a new season… and change in the wild windy air…

As I type this I am watching our sheep mow the grass in our back yard with the three musketeers darting about around them. Despite the foxes and wedge tail eagles these three guinea fowl have thrived all by themselves with no human intervention of care or feed – if you don’t count all the nectarines and plums they ate from our trees! These moments of bliss are hard to describe, yet even harder is to articulate just how much I feel they impact on my wellbeing. Vast open spaces and prolonged periods of silence bring such deep calm and peace, I can only imagine how much more keyed up I would be not living here! I absolutely love it and feel so incredibly lucky we found this place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all peace love and mung beans baby, there’s plenty of hard work and head scratching. Just like the three musketeers receive the odd bunting from Ziggy or a stalking from an eagle, there are unwanted nudges, death, sickness and loss on the farm too. We sadly and mysteriously lost our first little lamb born last year, Eileen. Burying her was heartbreaking yet also, in many ways, an inevitable part of farming, I understand that. We also had a sick sheep and had to intervene with medication, but first there was the matter of catching her for the vet. A missed footing and consequent stumble produced two broken ribs for Charlie and a greater appreciation for just how big these girls are. A week later and I am proud to say we managed to round up the whole flock (all six of them – real sheep farmers don’t laugh!) by ourselves and secure them in next doors cattle race where I injected them with their vitamin B12 & selenium shot. Another feather in our farming cap that definitely left us more traumatised than the sheep!

We’ve had more loss than bounty in the veggie garden but have slowly worked toward rectifying that, and now have a rather ugly but cost efficient immediate windbreak to protect the beds from the relentless elements of being high up on an exposed hill. We have to watch out for snakes and the seasonal battle of uninvited critter visitors in the roof. There are days of relentless mooing when our neighbours move their cattle or separate them into different paddocks and the flies in summer are horrendous – thick and sticky! But I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Well, maybe the flies. And roof critters. And ok maybe the snakes too. I love quintessential country things like driving down our road and stopping to chat to the neighbour passing by in his car, windows down and waving off flies and saying ‘why yes, I’d love some of your excess apples and tomatoes thank you’ . The crystal clear nights when the milky way illuminates the sky and the stars glisten and the moon lights up the fields… The family of magpies who visit most mornings with their wake up songs… The odd wave to someone you know in town and no longer feeling like the stranger… but mostly I guess it’s the peace and watching the hills turn golden, then pink, then disappear into the night sky with only the sounds of the sheep munching nearby, the cows mooing, the birds all settling into bed for the night… it’s profoundly healing and as magic as it sounds.

We’ve enjoyed many apricots, plums and nectarines this summer from the trees the previous owners planted. Jam making days are a favourite and we have apricot jam, peach & apricot jam, nectarine jam, and blood plum jam bursting out of the pantry. The nectarines were so prolific we froze kilos of them (great for smoothies and homemade ice creams) and discovered that the sheep, particularly Lenny and Ziggy love nectarines! Our 18 month old orchard is growing well and we’ve managed to keep all 50 odd trees alive through two summers on very lean water rations, both to encourage deep roots and also because we didn’t want to run out of water. We didn’t, and although we are very low on water now, I’m hoping some decent rain is not far away. I know, even sounding like a farmer!

In other non farmy news my daughter and son in law moved into a beautiful new home in the Dandenong Ranges, and their cute dogs Sai & Kenzo recently provided the modelling for the new Stockman Leathercraft dog lead and collar set. My son made a trip back home at Christmas after travelling through Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. He’s just been through Cambodia on a motorbike and is now riding through Vietnam, soon to start making his way towards India. We’ve been working on Stockman Leathercraft over the summer. We ventured into local markets which were lots of fun and I have just finished setting up a new website. Craft has always been a form of sanity for both of us and we’ve enjoyed focusing heavily on this aspect of our lives over the last few months. I’m even adding plaiting to my list of crafty dabbles after becoming the new apprentice to help keep up with orders. I received a spinning wheel last year and learnt to spin… kind of…. I think it takes many years before you can say you can spin properly, but I can turn fibre into yarn now, even if it is a little wonky and uneven.

Break in transmission. I heard something bashing outside and looked up to see two rogue cows! They broke down the fence and ran through our paddock, then broke through another section of fence to get out! Luckily our sheep were in the backyard enclosure so I just had to race out there and close the gate to the paddock – or I’d have a crazy rogue cow or two at the back door and by the looks of the way they just pushed down the fences I’m thinking that could get ugly!

Ok back again… it’s a couple of days later but I’m determined to publish. There’s been a few times I’ve sat down and starting writing to you but then if I don’t finish in one go, time passes, I feel it becomes outdated, then I start thinking about my writing, what I’m writing, why I’m writing, and I can’t find a good enough reason to share it. I start second guessing all the words and the stories and think you probably don’t need my ramblings in your life. But you know what, who am I to say what you need or want in your life? Besides I love the process of writing my thoughts down, and I do love to look back and see when we planted the orchard, when I made that sheep beanie, when the lambs were born… etc… I use this blog as a reference for dates as they seem to mush together the older I get! So here goes on another long waffle session from me, and if you made it this far then you are a legend!

May you add some surprising feathers to your cap and be as full of sunshine as our jam cupboard x

PS – Did you wish upon a super blue blood moon too?


all chill, no guilt… sort of…

Can you believe it’s been a year since our little tree change? A year of ‘life on the farm’ with all the big and little changes that come when you move to the country. Although my ‘to do’ list overwhelms me I feel the need to write you… I really want to share some moments as I know time fades the details and my memories.

The fog blankets that roll up and down these mountains are some of the thickest fogs I’ve seen in my life… at times you can watch it roll in, gently yet persistently moving across the land, hugging the ground tight and gobbling up trees and hills until the landscape completely disappears into the white… I’ve seen midnight look so bright outside when the moon is full and the fog is thick… the moonlight bounces through the fog illuminating the dense white blanket … it’s eerily beautifully… and treacherous to drive in.

As I sit right now we are due for rain and thunderstorm… so far the rain has been minimal, a few heavy spits that last for a brief minute or two… but the thunder is rolling up the valley below which creates an echo, making the thunder so loud and deep you feel it in your bones. It’s a sound so big and the energy it brings is electrifying… all the sheep are taking cover under the trees, they seem to know the weather is about to turn… they hunker down together in groups and as soon as it passes they will come out and do their ‘furious munch’ as I call it, where they eat frantically like they’ve been starved for days… as they do every evening before dark falls.

Summer has bleached the green out of the mountains and left a golden shine during the day… at sunset or sunrise the mountains come into their own… it seems the light golden hue of the grass reflects the colours in a sunrise or sunset beautifully… I can look out and see dusky pink mountain tops against a dusky pink sky, or peachy hill tops against a peachy sunrise… It’s exquisite and I hope to capture the delicateness in a photo one day.

I have a basket of quince, a basket of juicy sweet pears, some delicious quince jelly, quince paste and zucchini butter from our lovely neighbours and I can’t help but feel so lucky we landed in such a friendly country road… Our veggie garden has produced more juicy sweet rockmelon that I can eat and share, so I’ve taken to freezing it chopped up and will use it for smoothies. I probably should be picking my cucumbers right now and learning how to pickle them… I’ve bookmarked so many different types of pickle recipes but none that feel just right – call me Goldilocks. We’re not quite sick of zucchinis just yet, but thanks to my neighbour I can step away from the zoodles and fritters and have a go at making zucchini butter. I’d never heard of it until I was gifted a jar. And onions, we’ve had heaps, can’t remember the last time I bought some actually. But the potatoes, well they’ve been the biggest disappointment so far, not just for the measly harvest they produced, but the effort vs harvest ratio… we don’t know what happened to them, but there were hardly any to dig up and when we did there were plenty of rotten ones unearthed too. The beans were ok, plenty of delicious ones to start with but they turned woody and tough quite quickly… pretty sure we either left some too long or didn’t water them enough… or both. The tomatoes are starting to ripen and we’re getting a reasonable amount but not as much as I had expected for the amount of plants we put in. There is much to learn – that I know… and I suspect the very exposed nature of our veggie garden is playing her part too… the fierce winds we get up here on our hill are the strongest winds I’ve experienced… I think this is stunting the plants a little and hindering their efforts to excel… I have added ‘develop some sort of screening’ to our ever growing overwhelming threatening to swallow us whole ‘to do’ list.

Of course the ‘to do’ list is taking a little longer to get through too as I’m now working. Locally. Part time. Another piece of the puzzle that fits exactly how we dreamed it would. Ridiculously lucky I know. And feeling so happy and grateful that’s it all worked out, pretty much just how we wanted it to (short of wining tattslotto!). It’s just going to take a bit of time to balance what needs to be done around the farm and making sure we squeeze in some chill out time to rest our weary bones as the ‘to do’ list seems to go a bit like the one step forward, two steps backwards thing. I’m ticking off the chill out time today though, writing to you… and next I’m going to make another batch of ‘Grandma’s Butterscotch’ (so good!), then I’m going to nibble on that whilst I have a go at some knitting or crochet … I’ve decided the rest of today will be all chill and no guilt… I may not succeed in either of those but I’m sure going to have a good go at it.

Wishing you guilt free chill out time with your favourite candy x

life on the farm january 2017

Well hello there! It’s a new year full of hope and plans and dreams as we ricochet into our first year anniversary on the farm. Summer has been pretty full and Christmas and New Year’s feels like an age ago already. Really to be honest, I’m quite relieved that we only have 1 month and 1 week of summer left. I’m still a little nervous that we’ll run out of water, either for us or for the garden. So far so good as we’ve had a decent amount of rain but I’m still wary and am pretty conservative with my use of it. The water isn’t the only reason I’m ok about summer nearing autumn. Flies. Hundreds of trillions of billions of very friendly sticky flies. I know that comes with living in the country surrounded by cattle farms, and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying ‘bloody flies’ about 68 times a day and feeling like I’m going to battle every time I walk out the door. Long sleeves, buttoned up high collar, sunhat with mozzie netting, not for the mozzies but for the flies, and ready to wave arms furiously. Everyone requires a thorough pat down before coming in the house for fear they’ll bring in freeloaders riding on their back. It’s been quite a shock to get used to the sheer volume and friendliness of them I’ll admit. I did just purchase some ‘fantastic stuff’ according to the farmer down the road, who was recommended it by the pea grower down the road. It’s a natural product with rosemary and cedarwood oils and is pretty pongy so the flies approach you then supposedly just stop once they hit your awesome new waft and move along to their next unsuspecting victim. I’ll believe it when I see it. Here’s hoping. I was feeling optimistic and bought the big jar. Will keep you posted.

Apart from fighting the fly army there’s been lots of other stuff happening too. Sadly my 6 month sabbatical has come to an end and I’m actively job hunting everyday. I can’t believe how fast that went, yet at the same time it seems like ages ago I was doing that daily 3-4 hour commute to work. We’ve got stacks done to the farm during that time including planting the orchard and establishing our veggie garden. There’s still a couple of garden beds we’ve yet to plant into, but boy have we managed to eat some produce out of it already. It’s really incredible how much food you can produce from a patch of land in 6 months. Apart from seedling gifts from family and friends, everything was planted from seed so it seemed to take forever to get started, but now we are surely reaping what we sowed. The first cucumber yesterday, I have a baby rockmelon and hopefully more to come. Plenty of carrots and some Parsnips. Spring onions, onions and golden shallots. Peas, snow peas and now the beans have started. Lots of different lettuce, spinach, and silver beet. Radishes, radishes and more radishes. Some raspberries, blueberries (about 9 actually!) and stacks of the tastiest strawberries you’ve ever eaten. Thanks Dot! Sweet and ripe through to the centre with a perfume that is positively heady.

Of course we’re so lucky that our lovely previous owners had the foresight to plant a lot of fruit trees and we’ve enjoyed the juiciest cherries and what I would call a delicious glut of apricots. I even had a go at preserving them in my brand new out of the box fowlers vacola preserving kit. Alas it wasn’t to be, by the time 24 hours ticked over I knew the jars hadn’t sealed so it was into the pot to stew them into a thick apricot sauce. All 12 size 20 jars of neatly packed halves, each half placed one by one to make for the prettiest jars. It’s ok, I’m over it now. Most of the sauce went in the freezer but I did pop some into a smoothie (yum) and even more into a mix of blended rockmelon, lemon juice and sugar syrup, of which the ice cream maker converted into the most refreshing sorbet. I’ve made a couple of batches of jam, one apricot & vanilla bean and one apricot & plum, with the plums also from our tree and a few from our neighbour down the road. I’ve found myself in the kitchen a lot more since not working and am really enjoying that time. Picking and washing the produce from the garden takes time and can provide surprises… I found a frog in the sink water whilst washing lettuces once– don’t think it gets much more organic than that.

There’s been a little craft here and there, a beanie for my Dads 70th birthday and I’m still knitting my hoodie – it’s slow going. I’ve had a go at making my own liquid soap using this recipe but changing the essential oils and the oil base. I could only get my hands on macadamia nut oil not vitamin e at the time and for the essential oils I used Lemongrass & Tea Tree for hand soap and Rose Geranium & Patchouli for the body wash. And I’ve made my own spray deodorant using this recipe but again changing the oils – I used Lavender, Myrrh & Spearmint for me, and for Charlie Cloves, Patchouli & Peppermint. No nasties and this recipe contains some good stuff that our bodies need – Magnesium oil. I’ve found it very effective but a little stingy if used after I’ve shaved my underarms! Overall I’m pretty thrilled with both these products and next on my list is laundry detergent. Mostly I just want to reduce the amount the unknown-to-me-chemicals that are about in our everyday lives.

A good portion of my time is spent in the garden, tending and watering and planting and ripping out and mounding and netting and harvesting. How lucky am I right?! I’ve had a couple of bouts of feeling unwell and after a few days of not being in the garden I get that yearning feeling to get back out there. Unless it’s stinking hot. Or it’s a bad fly day. Or the wind is that wild it takes all your strength just to walk from the house to the patch. Then I choose indoor chores like making deodorant or jam. With air con. Thank goodness for air con.

I’ve been enjoying listening to some new podcasts, mostly gardening, homesteading, permaculture types as I like picking up new tips and tricks and feel so inspired listening to how other people manage their land and look after animals and grow produce. Our neighbours flock of sheep are now out in the big 100 acre paddocks so we don’t see them much anymore. Although a couple of times when I’ve been in the patch and Lucy happens to be in the paddock next door, I’ll call her name and she’ll come running over for a pat and maybe some fresh silver beet leaves. We’re not really any closer to getting our own livestock but I think we’ve figured out what we’ll get when we do. Sheep. We need to set up some sort of water trough for the sheep before we do and we still need to work out how many. Then when we can fund a nice little safe chicken house, there will be chooks. That’s probably the main goals for the farm this year, sheep and chooks. Aside from increasing production in the veggie garden and the million little things that need doing.

So that’s me all caught up, now I’d love to hear from you. Can you tell me what’s happening in your life and where you are from so I can get to know you lovely dear reader?

May the cool breeze blow gently your way on a hot day and the flies nowhere to be seen.

Ps. Marathon post, if you read this far you’re a gem x

orchard and veggie patch

I can hardly believe it but after many years in the dreaming, I can now say we have an orchard and a great big veggie patch! It’s so exciting! As I type this there’s a new water tank being installed specifically for the veggies. The shed tank is also receiving some plumbing love with new tap connections running off it into the orchard. Although water is plentiful right now, I know summer will change that and we’ll be using it like we’re sprinkling gold dust.

In the orchard we’ve planted a yummy selection of trees, some are old heritage varieties and some newer varieties. If I’ve semi-planned it half way right, we should have fruit over an extended period of time although I still think there will be a glut at times when lots of varieties peak their harvest periods together. There are apples, peaches, apricots, cherries, figs, pears, nectarines, quinces, plums, a crabapple, an almond tree and a mulberry tree, plus we’ve planted a few lemons, limes and a blood orange. We planted just over 50 trees! Along one boundary of the veggie patch we’ve planted raspberries and in the patch we already have potatoes, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, beans and peonies planted! ( Now I know peonies aren’t veggies but we brought a heap of them with us from our old house and if we left them in their ‘temporary’ planter boxes any longer we might have lost them.) I also have a heap of peas, snow peas and sugarsnap peas all starting to sprout in my little make shift seedling nursery on the back deck. And today I’m hoping to add tomato seeds to the mix.

We garden biodynamically and have applied preparations to the property, it was quite the surreal moment as it was often talked about when dreaming out loud. Everything has been planted in accordance with the moon calendar and I’ve done a few extra things that I’ve read about in Biodynamic books but are possibly just good gardening tips. For instance I’ve heard about soaking pea seeds prior to planting them, as it helps soften the outer skin which can result in better germination rates. The only difference I did was soak my pea seeds in Chamomile tea, as chamomile is a significant herb used in Biodynamic gardening. Actually it was Chamomile and honey tea as that’s all I could find at the time!

Our property was certified Biodynamic when we purchased it and we can see how much this has benefited the land, the soil is incredibly healthy. Even the earthmoving guy that dug our tree holes and cut in our garden beds, couldn’t believe how many worms there were… and he digs soil for a living! It’s quite a heavy clay type soil but it’s chocoblock with worms and there’s a lovely layer of rich top soil that’s been chemical free for 8 years, whilst being fertilized naturally by the sheep and cattle that are lucky enough eat all the spray free pasture. The proof’s in the pudding as they say, and so far whatever we’ve planted is looking great… fingers crossed this continues! Although I did hear a funny saying from a neighbour the other day, ‘They say you could plant a toothpick a grow a forest around here!‘ … maybe the odds are in our favour anyway hey?

To say it’s been a very active time getting our orchard and veggie patch in, is putting it rather mildly. I’ve been keeping an eye on my step counter in my phone, and when you see the graph for this year it’s very easy to spot exactly when I finished work in the office. I love it! It’s wonderful to be doing something physically active during the day after years and years of sitting at a desk. My body is thanking me for it, albeit in a whiny ouchy voice at times! Meanwhile the voice in head keeps telling me to pinch myself. ‘You’re here on the farm of your dreams. And now you have an orchard, something you’ve dreamed of for years. And a massive veggie patch, with more room than you could possibly need. Better pinch again to make sure you’re not dreaming girl’…. *pinch*

Wishing you all the fruit and veg and sprouting seeds of your dreams x

PS. Here’s the before and after photos in case you want to see exactly what we did and just how paddocky this patch of earth was before we turned into an orchard and veggie patch!

Before – Looking East towards Veggie Patch

After – Looking East towards Veggie Patch



Before – Looking West towards house

After – Looking West towards house



Before – Looking North over Veggie Patch

After – Looking North over Veggie Patch



Before – Looking West over Orchard

After – Looking West over Orchard



Before – Looking South over Orchard

After – Looking South over Orchard

Phew that’s a lot of photos…you’re pretty awesome if you scrolled all the way down here – thanks!

knitting sheep

It felt like I hadn’t really been crafting much lately but then I realised that I’ve made three beanies in the last month or so. One pure wool chunky knit for Charlie to double up with his pure baby alpaca beanie on the super chilly days. Both of these beanies were made with the ace “Farmer Boy Beanie” pattern from the lovely Kate at Foxs Lane. Thanks Kate, this is my go to beanie pattern now! Plus I’ve made two Baable Beanies. And I’ve cast on a third! Such fun to knit something like this and watch the image appear as each row grows. It is a pretty easy pattern to follow, even for the pattern challenged like myself, I managed to make it without one single #%$@&*!!%!! moment. I think I originally spotted the beanie on pinterest but have tracked back to find the creator of the pattern here. Thanks for designing such a cute pattern Donna!

The beanie with the darker richer colours is all pure wool, and the lighter shade beanie has a mix of pure wool and pure baby alpaca yarns, including some of my special baby alpaca I brought back from Peru. I didn’t have the same ply yarn the pattern requires, so I knitted the lighter shade one first, with 8 ply not 10 ply but used the needles recommended for the 10 ply. This produced a nicely fitting beanie, but not surprisingly it was a little too loose in the tension. The darker shaded beanie was knitted with 8 ply and finer needles, 3.75 for the rib and 4 for the body, and it turned out perfect! Lovely tension and a great fit. The whole gauge and swatch thing isn’t my favourite part of knitting, kinda does my head in to be honest. In fact I think that contributes greatly as to why I feel a bit antagonistic towards patterns. So I just do what I usually do – fluff and bluff my way through till I land where I’m happy. Not the most efficient path at times but that’s the way I roll.

I love that the Baa-ble beanie has Suffolk Sheep in it, with those being the sheep that roam around our home. It feels like I’m knitting exactly what I’m meant to be knitting. I guess I’ll have to find an Angus Cow pattern next. And just as I typed that two ducks flew by the back door, so ducks too!

May you never drop a stitch in a tricky spot x

my sabbatical

So don’t hate me or anything, but I’ve just begun a 6 (ish) month long sabbatical. Well, long service leave actually… but then truth be told I’m also officially unemployed after being made redundant due to a recent company merge. So long service leave, redundancy or sabbatical, call it what you will, but I choose sabbatical as it feels like a happy word and brings with it thoughts of retreat, holiday and time out… and that is kinda sorta what I plan to do with this time. Redundant on the other hand, not such a nice word, but in reality it was my choice. A new job or the opportunity to take my long-awaited hard-earned long service leave. It really wasn’t too difficult to decide, in fact I felt a bit like it was fate and the decision was already written in the stars… or sheep or cows or something. I did have plans to leave my job in another year or two anyway, and find something closer to home, rather than continue indefinitely with the 3 hour (at best) daily commute. I’m going to stretch out my long service leave and see if I can make it last double the time, hence the approximate 6 month time frame. Hello budgeting, meal planning and ultra conservative living!

To be totally honest I’m beside myself with a mixture of excitement, exhaustion, joy and overwhelm. It’s been a huge year of change for me, I’ve left my home of 19 years and moved far away (well around 100 odd k’s away) from my friends and family. Now after 14 years at the same job, I’m on a sabbatical and at home full time. It’s a lot to digest. But I’m so happy and have that awesome and rare feeling, that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be in life right now. I’m keen to tackle the ridiculously big list of things that needs starting in order to convert our paddocks into a productive farm. I want to invest some time in Charlie’s Stockman Leathercraft shop. I’m ready to spend some serious time crafting and possibly reopen my poorly neglected and too-long-on-vacation shop. I’m going to dust off my sewing machine and get stitching again. I’m busting to spend some reading time with our wonderful collection of books, full of teachings on practical self-sufficiency and practiculture. I plan to write a little more here, it’s something I enjoy enormously but find it hard to justify the time. In fact, I’m looking to make peace with time, it’s felt like my arch enemy for so long now, but I’m hoping these 6 months will unfold at a gentle pace and we can become friends again.

In other news, the two baby lambs are even more adorable than ever. They hang out together and play in the paddocks, running and bouncing and looking like they smile even for the camera. I’ve renamed Big Ears to Bouncer, didn’t want to give her a complex about her ears, and the new littlest lamb is Buttons, you know cute as a button and all. There’s also been another lamb born, sadly her mother didn’t make it so she has been hand reared by our neighbours (the real owners of all these sheep, although you’d think reading this that they’re mine!) with much love and care. To the extent she wore a nappy and slept inside during her early days. I know – just the image of that in my head makes me smile. They have named her Lucy and she is so very sweet and friendly, and actually let me get really close for a photo and pat.

The wrist warmers started out as this pattern, but I got really confused (it’s not hard!) around the thumb bit so I veered off pattern and made up the bit from the thumb up. They are not as nice as the original pattern, but still I’m pleased with the outcome. And in pure baby alpaca yarn they are so light and soft and warm and in time for the chills of winter. (my missing pairs still haven’t turned up)

So tell me, if you have a moment, what’s your best budget-friendly, gluten free, dairy free, recipes… ha, don’t ask for much do I?

May time be on your side x