Monday, 30 June 2014

musical beds

Our eldest son turned nine yesterday. It felt pretty big - halfway to 18 and adulthood. When he came home from school on Friday I walked him into his new bedroom. It was the first time he had slept in a room by himself since I started tucking his baby brother in beside him when he was three. He said it felt a little bit lonely but by sunrise that brother had tiptoed across the hallway and climbed, giggling, in beside him.

In the endless game of musical beds we play around here, we will be moving Thea down the hall from our room to sleep with her big brothers. Her clothes have moved out of the little cabinet in the hallway too, and into the drawers and wardrobe in the kids' room. Lewis now shares the room I use as a writing and sewing space with me - I have the front half during school hours and he inhabits the back half when he is home. I think it will work.

I had been gathering bits and pieces to make the space his own for the past six months. Sewing curtains, and a cushion to pad the top of our old toy chest, and pestering Grant to mount some old (and endearingly misspelled) wooden packing cases on the wall. They now house Lewis' collection of fantasy books, lego constructions and general ephemera. A watercolour decal of a soft grey rabbit, rather like his old pet bunny Storm, was stuck on just before he got home.

We took him ten pin bowling with five of his friends to celebrate his birthday, and he came home with a battered old bowling pin as a souvenir. I found the pin tucked in next to him when I went to kiss him goodnight. "Today was the best day of my life," he told me in a voice full of joy. "It was like going to the Royal Show and then a Dockers' game; it was that good."

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

making - winter woollens

The winter nights are long here on the south coast as we spiral down to the solstice. Noticeably longer than back in the city, just a few hours north. It is dark before dinner, and by the time the kids are all in bed I am ready to crawl in after them. While I would love to be spending these cold, dark evenings sitting in front of an open fire knitting wooly jumpers, in truth I struggle to finish knitting a row before I head off to bed. 

I finished this pixie hat for Thea's first birthday, then started another when I realised it was a perfect fit for Quinn, who will be four next week. I am knitting with a yarn spun from fleece grown just down the road in Kent River. Next to spinning my own (which I hope to learn with the fleece from a friends' goats this winter), I don't think I could find anything more local. And I love this vibrant teal yarn more than just about any other wool I have worked with. To celebrate the launch of their website, our local craft shop is giving away a free ball of wool to anyone who pops by their page and says hello. I am still wondering what to do with my ball of cream yarn, but I think I might try dyeing it with tea leaves.

We are still talking about where we are going to put our fire, next winter, when Thea has some sense of its danger. There is none of the romance of an open fire in the reverse cycle air conditioner that heats our home again this winter. I burn beeswax candles just to see the flicker of their flame, and huddle under colourful crochet blankets on the couch. 

A friend gave me a lovely piece of pink wool (which she had bought while pregnant with her first baby; who came out a boy, as did his brother) to make into a blanket for Thea at the end of last winter.  I finally got around to binding its edges using offcuts from all the things I had made for Thea during her first year. The dresses and bloomers, smocks and apron tops, and even the birthday bunting that I strung from the trees for us to (almost) sing happy birthday to her beneath. She is sleeping under her blanket now on a mattress tucked into the space between our bed and the window, from where I will scoop her in beside me when she wakes in the dark of the night. 

Thea's pixie hat raveled here.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

welcoming winter

We welcomed winter with a four day weekend around these parts. At least the boys had four days home from their school; Grant's school was still open on Friday. After he headed east on his daily commute we steered west into the Walpole Wilderness to climb Mt Frankland. It is just a little climb, as most of the ascent is done on the road in, but there is a bit of ladder climbing involved. Fortunately no one succumbed to vertigo.

It must be a lonely life for the fire warden who is stationed up on this granite monadnock during the warmer months. There is virtually no sign of human habitation in the unbroken panorama from its peak back to the coast and inland to the ranges.  We didn't see a soul on our drive north from Walpole - aside from the occasional grazing cow - which heightened the adrenalin rush I felt surge through my body when the fuel light in our car came on on the lonely dirt road below the peak. Alone in the wilderness with four children and no mobile phone; I wondered how we would pass the night if the tank emptied before we made it back to town.

Thea tripped around the rock (and I was quietly grateful for the safety fence) while Lewis sketched, Quinn read through some bush books and Darcy emptied his entire collection of plastic Kinder surprise figurines onto the granite. I had asked him to take some of the unnecessary items out of his backpack, so it was good to see that he kept the essentials. We picnicked in the bush beneath the mount and Thea walked back to the car with us through the trees like she had been walking all her life, and not just a few weeks.

We climbed a rock closer to home with Grant the next day, then lit up our backyard fire-pit and roasted the last of our apples in the coals. There may be three months of snotty noses ahead of us, but right now we are embracing the change in season. The forest is cool and dripping and there are bright splashes of colour underfoot as the fungi push their way to the light. And there are always hot baths and drinks and warm, dry clothes waiting for us once we find our way home again.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Apple harvest

We picked the last of the apples a few weeks' ago; pulling off the nets and stripping the trees bare. There weren't as many as last year, but we are getting a feel for when to cover the trees and when the fruit is ripe. Our first autumn in this garden we got over enthusiastic and picked most of the fruit before it was at its sweetest. I left the box of fruit sitting near the back door and every time Quinn walked past it he must have grabbed an apple, taken a bite or two and then discarded it somewhere (under the couch usually). Excited by the food storage potential of the cellar beneath our kitchen I stowed a box down there, only to pull it up again and find half the fruit had spoiled with the damp.

This year I decided to enjoy what we had while it lasted, and save the work of storing our produce for another, more bountiful season. We cancelled our weekly box of organic fruit from a local farm and we ate apples instead. We chopped them up and dipped them in hommus. We baked apple pie, apple bread, apple muffins and our favourite Italian apple cake. I added an armful of rhubarb from the garden to make apple and rhubarb tart. And we roasted the fruit with homegrown pumpkins then blitzed the lot into a pot of roasted pumpkin and apple soup. I am left with just a small handful of fruit, which I am going to take to our organic farmer to see if she can identify them for me.

Thea's Granny Smith, which I planted in an old wine barrel as her birth tree, yielded just two apples this year. I caught the boys throwing green apples around the yard at the end of summer and had stern words with them. The ring necked parrots, which are the bane of every fruit growers' life in this part of the world, chewed up the rest. After that I wrapped her sapling tree in an old lace curtain and nurtured the last two apples for her, and her alone.