Friday, 31 August 2012

The capes

I bundled the kids into the car last week and headed west, to the limestone coast of the capes. It is a tradition we started a while ago, when Lewis was just a baby. At the end of each winter we make the pilgrimage to our friends' old holiday house nestled in the bush high above the bay. My good friend Jess and our kids spend a few days hanging out in the trees, building cubbies out of fallen branches, making fires and exploring the nearby beaches. Every afternoon we scoot down the road to gather loaves of Yallingup Woodfired Bread hot from the oven, cradling the paper packages in our laps for the short drive home where they are quickly devoured with pots of homemade soup and local cheeses. We take no toys with us - just a small pile of books, pencils and crayons. The kids make their own fun. We spent a happy hour tearing down the big sand dune at Indjidup. Quinn found a beautiful cuttlefish boat under a ti-tree at the top - two sticks and a feather sail pushed into its soft underbelly with a twisted shell for a steering wheel. He played with it for hours.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Cold feet

Our home is laid from front door to back verandah with beautiful old jarrah floorboards. The boys have been pulling on one pair of socks over another and sliding down its long hallways. I love the ease of sweeping again after lugging our vacuum cleaner upstairs and downstairs following trails of toast crumbs through the vast carpeted space of our cavernous rental. There is a joy in keeping this lovely space of ours clean that was completely lacking for me there. It was only once we moved that I realised how important aesthetics are for my heart and soul. Everywhere I turn here there is something that makes my heart sing. This cottage is smaller but it is well proportioned and its fits us like a glove. There is no wasted space. Every belonging has found its allotted corner - there were even three hooks waiting for our boys' bath towels. Time and again I have found myself thinking 'it was meant to be.' This house was waiting for us, I am certain of it.

But floorboards, even beautiful, wide, old ones, do let in the winter chill. My feet - which are cold at the best of times - are never without a pair of woolly slippers, socks or ugg boots. I requested child sized ugg boots for Quinn and Lewis' birthdays and Nana was happy to oblige. There is an ugg boot workshop just down the road, where lambs gambol in the lush green paddocks and we try not to think too hard of their fate. After seeing the birthday boots and giving it a great deal of thought, Darcy, my barefoot boy, decided that he might even like a pair too. So back we went to wade through shelves of fleece and leather to find the perfect pair. He wears them sometimes, with the boardies and t-shirt which is his uniform on the coldest of winter days. But they mustn't ever get dirty, so more often than not he just carries them, or leaves them tucked under his bed.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Out to sea

We gathered on the beach despite the black rainclouds massed on the horizon and waited for the digger driver to finish his cup of tea before he climbed back behind the controls. The waves were breaking against the caterpillar tracks as he scooped the last few shovels of sand out of the channel and the brown water started flowing seaward. Within a day the giant sandcastles heaped alongside had been washed away and the water was flowing strongly right up to the cliffs.

It is a special moment for this town whenever the inlet breaches the sandbar. It used to happen naturally, but declining rainfall and valuable farmland which turns into swamp come the end of winter means the town's folk now dig it out themselves. They once used a horse and dray, and would raffle off the last scoop of sand. Protestors who believe it should be opened further to the east have even been known to come under cover of darkness and dig it out by hand.

We went back to look at the cut yesterday and marveled at all that water which had so quickly reshaped the landscape. The bike racks and bridge were once more on dry land, and the paddock which was just days' earlier a lake was now a boggy mire of brown grass. The small hillock of sand I had climbed to photograph the spectacle for the newspaper was nowhere to be seen. I ran along the river trail this morning, the rain falling softly on my shoulders and the sheep shying away as I jogged past. The track has been under water for the past month and mine were the first footprints to mark the fine silt that covered the broken slabs. I came home soaked through and happy. It has rained steadily all day. My footprints would by now have been washed out to sea.

Friday, 10 August 2012

In the chook house

Our chooks are living in the rabbit hutch while they await a more permanent home. We are gathering old pieces of timber and tin to build a chook house which will be home to our growing flock. But for now they range free during the day and  return to temporary lodgings come nightfall. The Pekins nestle together in the straw at the back of the hutch and Bluebeard, our wayward Araucana, roosts high in the tree that grows through the fence above them. Darcy's little hen Lemony laid her first egg last week, the tiniest egg you could imagine. I cooked it for his lunch with buttered sourdough bread and he pronounced it good.

Eggs are almost as rare as hen's teeth around here at the moment, so I was looking forward to gathering a full carton when I went to feed my friend's flock last night. The sun was dipping over the hill when I opened the door to their rustic hen house and the chooks rushed to meet me in the gloom. The last time I looked after them they had made a dash for freedom, and I spent the next day rounding them back into their enclosure, so I made sure I pulled the door securely behind me this time. They were out of grain so I filled up their feeder and pulled one precious egg from the grain sack where they lay. Turning to go I discovered the gate latch was on the other side of a solid timber door. I was locked in with the hens, and my evening started to look grim. There are no neighbours within hearing and I was heading straight to my yoga class, so would not be missed for hours yet. I eyed off the birds, who were hungrily devouring their grain, and told them seriously that we might be spending the night together. I scavenged for wire that might reach through the gap in the door and lift the gate latch, but there was none. In the end I found a stiff piece of straw, threaded it through the hole in the latch and arrived at my yoga class in time to squeeze the last mat between the rows of bodies. But my meditation was somewhat scattered.

Work on our chook house is due to start tomorrow. I have grand plans for a hatch to let us collect eggs from outside the run. And we might minimise our use of latches. Just in case.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Water, water everywhere

It has rained, and it has rained, and it has rained. One of the wettest winters on record for us on the south coast. The rivers have swelled over their banks and the inlet has risen steadily until it has almost reached the ocean. The diggers are moving in tomorrow and cutting a channel through to the sea but we decided to take one last look at all that water before it starts draining into the big blue.

We pulled on our gumboots and stomped around the sodden grass, almost making it over the little bridge before the water breached the top of our gumboots and we retreated for higher ground. Darcy and I pulled off our boots and went barefoot instead, walking around the channel to Ocean Beach to see the narrow strip of beach that still separates the two bodies of water, my boys running bare bottomed across the sand. It started to rain so we ducked up a surfers' track to take a short cut back to the car. We pushed our way through a snarl of sword grass and peppermint scrub which at times swallowed up Darcy in a tangle of vines and leaves. Half an hour later I was still pushing my way through with a child on each hip, my toes bleeding where the sword grass had sliced through. We emerged into the sunshine at the lookout to some very surprised looks from the surfers surveying the swell. Back home we had a midday bubble bath, hot chocolate and tea to warm our bones.

I paddled the kayak down the river to the inlet on Sunday, stopping to pick armfuls of wattle and swamp bottlebrush from the banks. It is so still and quiet on the water. Just the dip of my paddle and the call of the birds and frogs swelling with the breeze. The flowers now stand in preserving jars dotted around the house while the rain thrums down on the roof and we wait for the next break in the storm clouds.