2 Aug 2015

eight years a windhover (and farewell)

Oh friends, isn't the wattle flowering along all the roads around here beautiful? That distinct smell and yellow fluff reminds me Spring is not far away...

This August marks eight years since I started this here blog - how strange to think when I started it - in my first year of university, just eighteen years old, that I would keep it up all these years later. It has been an enormous blessing - a place at once to feel familiar, comfortable, thankful and vulnerable - when I moved house, lived overseas, missed my kin, had children, worked, convalesced, meditated. So many friends made, dialogues started, I have felt so much encouragement and validation as an artist, cook, writer, mama in being able to share here. Truly, looking back I realise how much I needed it. It's been eight years and now it's time to go...

I have always had an agreement with myself that when it seemed time to move on from here, I would. I've been mulling over this for months now - a sense of distance from this space, and a deep right feeling that it's time to close this chapter.

And as you know, in the last year Alex and I have really taken a huge leap of faith - in starting a smallholding farm business, Hand to Ground - since it's inception I've felt the need to pour more time and energy it's vital, young years - my days are overflowing with what we are trying to create, grow, sell, establish - the very full occupation of caring for my young boys, tending to a garden, selling produce and making local connections... and as much as I love reading blogs and keeping up with friends on Facebook and instagram swooning, I really do need time to carve out and call sacred -  time to slow down, be mindful, nourished - offline. Not to mention the inevitable weaning that comes with such limited internet connect here in the countryside!

And so, from time to time, or as often as I can - I will document my days of learning to homestead and build a nourishing life on my instagram and on our farm blog...
Oh, blog - there are so many posts half written in my drafts, things I wanted to say and didn't, or couldn't find the time to put exactly how they needed to be said, or soon became too outdated and no longer relevant to the narrative of life as it moved along. Still, you've been so good to me. I not do not leave empty handed... in fact, I look forward in the next year or two to compiling a series of printed photo books with my favourite posts, odes, poems, photos, reflections, recipes...

Finally readers, it's you I owe a great thanks -
for joining me here, going away and returning,
leaving comments, emails, or unspoken well-wishes,
supporting my crafty or poetic or wordy pursuits -
delighting in the seasons, in my loves,
thank you 

and for the last time let me ask you to please comment, if you can, and tell me:

where are you reading this?
what is your favourite season?
what is your beverage of choice?
what do you like to read?
what have you liked best here?

fare thee well and adieu,
eight years ago...

29 Jul 2015

thankful, a list

feeling: quite cold - it's been snowing not that far from us
making: door snakes to stop the drafts and wooly hats for our heads
eating: lots of roasted root vegetables (parsnips, poatoes and beetroot especially)
drinking: warm milk with raw honey and ginger 
thinking: about all those emails to catch up on
disliking: dripping noses
planning: for farmers markets, baby chicks, and vegetable gardens
growing: heirloom cabbages, sprouting broccoli, kale, cos lettuce and masses of parsley!
watching: daffodil, freesia and jonquil bulbs pop up in the grass
delighting: in the wide smiles and tongue-poking of our cheeky baby
anticipating: a busy busy Spring
playing: with wonderful homemade polymer/borax "slime" 
cutting: colourful paper snowflakes with the kiddo
listening: to eggs on the boil, wind against the windows, lambs bleating in the pasture
reading: epic fantasy "Magician", and "the polytunnel book: fruit and vegetable all year round"
praying: for peace and understanding
wearing: layers and layers of wool (thermals, socks, sweaters, beret, scarf)
collecting: dozens of eggs every day
laughing: at funny three-year-old expressions
loving: the indoor plants on top of the fridge
remembering: childhoods spent listening to my grandma's stories
contemplating: a big change
knowing: the nights of broken sleep pass
wanting: a long long soak in a bath tub
wishing: we had a bath tub... 

Inspired by Pip's monthly reflections. Happy Wednesday friends with all you're doing, thinking, hoping...

19 Jul 2015

a little quilt

 A few days before Beren was born I finished hand stitching the hem of his little quilt. It became a quiet meditation in the late months of my pregnancy, preparing myself for his pending arrival. Now  it hangs on the side of his crib - those natural, earthy hues, a balm for my tired eyes. A reminder also, that a crafty season will come again...

I came up with the simple design of squares and rectangles. Save the bamboo fleece wadding and hand dyed silk thread - it's made entirely of linen. The square pieces from linen scraps I had lying around and found (to my delight) a 1 1/2 yard length of stone coloured linen was just enough to frame them and back the quilt. Like all my quilts, it's not perfectly straight and symmetrical - but I like that - linen is such a wondrous, wrinkle-prone fibre - it leans itself generously to imperfection...

Oh and do you remember the little quilt I made for Reuben those three and half years ago? So very colourful and bold compared to this, but still in good use...

17 Jul 2015

life with two

As you may have guessed, I seldom find time to update on here the stories of life and new motherhood of two boys - what a constant, intense, satisfying (and sometimes unsatisfying), beautiful occupation it is! Truthfully, most of the time I am happy to just pause (without camera lens or pen and paper) and soak into my soul the scenes of juggling, mess and mayhem, of everyday goodness; like my three year old leaning in to kiss his baby brother - who when he hears his big brother's voice - will smile and coo wildly. The love between them is vast and I feel teary at the ease with which his big brother especially - has adjusted to life with a sibling. At the same time I feel a twinge of lament that I documented his first year of life so clearly, month-by-month - compared to his little brother - because it’s true, you do forget so many things…

Our Beren is now fourteen weeks old, and oh! he is so far a calm, pensive and cuddly soul...
He is very chatty, and will for ten or twenty minutes at a time - look into your eyes and "talk" to you with eyebrows raised,
He is mostly happy to put himself to sleep
He loves watching his brother playing/talking/whinging/reading and will beam with glee
He gives little chuckles when you blow raspberries on his tummy
He likes to be warm, and does not like cold hands changing him
He makes those lovely sighs when sleeping,
He nurses with gusto, sometimes too quickly,
His legs are deliciously chubby, so far he's in the 90th percentile for weight!
He has been on so many more car trips than his brother did at this age and for the most part likes the car seat, as long as we're moving... 
He is muscular and robust - those big hands, such a strong neck, we're certain he'll be helping us around the farm in no time,
He likes being worn - in woven wraps and carriers (probably because it keeps him so warm)
He has been to farmers markets, up windswept hills, and on a plane to Sydney,
He has been introduced to chickens,
He has had to learn the art of waiting, and is mostly so very patient - 
He doesn't get very many baths, but always smells so milky pure,
Despite everyone always saying how much he looks exactly like Reu - he is distinctly his own person - his face is more oval, eyes bluer, his hair darker -
He smiles often, and especially after feeds - those contented, love drunk smiles are my favourite.

I think you assume because you have had a baby before, that it will be easier the second time - and in many ways it has been, well - maybe not easier, but certainly more relaxed. My initial fears of managing two little ones - of getting organised to go places - of keeping healthy - of getting wholesome meals together - and keeping on top of the chores - have mellowed into a kind of peacefulness - an acceptance to take each day as it comes... let my fears be known... set limits... ask for help... expect every task to take longer... prioritise what's most important... be okay with imperfections... take sleep in increments... give more hugs... try to go for a walk every day... pray... 

I am no perfect mother to my boys, but I am theirs. And they are mine. 

8 Jul 2015

Ode to grandma, the storyteller

Nancy Margaret
or just grandma to me -
where do I begin to remember you,

all you’ve been?

do I start with your soft skin -
those bright and kindly eyes
your aged and crackly voice, 
asking us always to plant
on each cheek and forehead - kisses three,
your powdery nose and loose singlets,
legs lying in the sun
for vitamin d you said, and everyday
in armchair or lounge or bed
open books, folded newspapers
the napkins up your sleeves -
your tiny handwritten notes,
the keenest, most hungry
mind for news of the world

you read everything -
biography, philosophy,
fiction and non, literature
poetry, history, magazine
old letters intended for you
and others that weren’t,
school notes and failed
a wealth of knowledge,
a treasury of verse,
story, song -
the meaning of words
the stories of others
you felt the most,
they made you cry -
made you happiest

the child who lived in the bush
won a scholarship for school in the city,

wrote and edited poetry,

became a schoolteacher

whose grandma rode past Ned Kelly

whose father went to war,

who married a farmer
and had eight children
birthed and breastfed
and how many young minds
you taught too -
when we were children
you came each summer
with a full and musty suitcase
sweeping us up in big hugs
tucking us into bed
we would request from your repertoire
favoured stories, fables, poems -
all the milestones you shared,
our first walks, words, school concerts -
then as teenagers,
you came to live with us -
in my room and then by the dining room table
your movements were slow and strained
but your mind as sharp as ever,
how you loved the bustle of a full house
all our comings and goings -
and in the early dark of morning,
a voice asking
who’s there?

you the tea drinker,
liberally with milk -
teabags stretched for three cups,
lashings of butter,
we knew the gifts you liked to eat
dark chocolate, crystallised ginger,
marzipan, peppermints -
sardines on toast,
cheese and beetroot,
the time you taught me to eat 
nasturtium leaves,

your faith that weathered decades
of experience and loss, 
unshakeable, in a loving God -
we counted on our fingers 
forty-one people
have come into being because of you,
you were not perfect
but you were as much
as a person can be -
a capable woman,
a generous mother
a great teacher
a wise listener
a miraculous storyteller -
and even in your last years
a source of interest,
faithfulness, remembrance
the older fragile you
barely moving,
with my own red-haired boy
who helped pop green peas
in your mouth,
who kissed your hand
and ran cars along your bed
I like him, you said, and smiled

and on my last visit
the mind that remembered
the chickens we keep
the days until they lay
the porridge that came late
you were lively, 
gripping my hands
with papery skin so soft -
those kindly eyes
thank you for visiting 
you said,

thank you for all you gave me
a love for words
to read and write
and recite aloud
to soak in sunshine
and watch the seasons,
to treasure hope,
and care for kin -
and above all,
the gift of life -
you gave to me
my mum.

24 Jun 2015


(of a moment beautifully ordinary, odd, wondrous to remember always)
Reuben: "Look what I found in the garden mama - a fire flower!" Oh I say, the most amazing nasturtium blooms and still alive in midwinter...

Beren: during his first visit to the chickens at five weeks old, safe view from under dad's coat...
Reuben: "Mama... heeelp... I need you to help me clean it up"... the do-I-look-guilty-of-something-truly-mishevious?" face - you know, like scatter the contents of container of tapioca flour through the house!

Beren: decides on a cold winter's morning this is the best place to be; wrapped up warm in bed on mama's knees...

21 Jun 2015


today was a perfectly lovely shortest-day-of-the-year - 
it was cold, so very cold
but it was radiantly blue
crisp, sun-soaked

I woke to the uncomfortable snuffling of my baby's congested nose (poor lad)
and the knowledge that my parents were asleep in the spare room
that a happy day awaited us - 
sunday morning pancakes,
cuddles, conversation,
paella, slow pace,

late morning, I walked up those hills you see in the first picture
I watched lambs frolicking
 and wrapped my scarf around my ears
I felt alive and well,
and so thankful for fresh air,
for kin, Creator -

later the boy and I planted 
the little pansies a friend gifted us
and we inspected the garden, 
cypress green
spring onion shoots
curly worms

through the window we spied the babe 
warm, still sleeping -

for such a cold day 
we spent a lot of it outdoors,
and it was the best shortest-day we've had.

18 Jun 2015


we wake to the chill
outside the world is
patterned with 
frosted breath
the still
and the screech 
of birds flying,
the smell
freshness, grassy -

the sun sparkles
off leaf and blade of grass
feet crunch and
nose drip 

most days are not
dusted as beautifully
most are grey and damp
cloudy headed
undecided -

it's strange how 
the colder days
are the clearer ones, 
the crisper ones
the season 
has only just begun.

8 Jun 2015

the birthing of beren argyle

On the afternoon of my due date we took a walk up the big hill behind a friend's property. From the top you can see out in all directions, the highs and lows, bends, boulders, hills, forests of our part of the country. We are new to this place but its felt like home from the moment we arrived. Something I can't explain, a feeling maybe, a history in my blood of the farming folk who settled here years and years ago, or before that to the indigenous peoples - a love for earth, space and open sky... my mum took my portrait from the top of that hill, and I'm glad she did - the ripeness, the expectancy. More than anything I remember feeling peaceful that baby would come when he's ready, and he did three days later.

It was Wednesday morning, April 8th. I was 40 + 3 weeks with child, and it was the day our 300 broiler (meat) chicks were arriving. Alex's alarm went off at 6am and I roused myself from light sleep. I felt a dull cramping ache in my belly and a pressure - an urge to visit the loo. On returning, I curled up around Alex under the warm sheets and lay there wondering about this sensation I felt - those cramps - getting stronger, then tapering off, going away altogether, beginning again. I breathed deeply and kissed that man beside me. Was I in labour I asked. Are you? Let's see where it goes...

Alex drove off to do morning chores and I began on breakfast; porridge, rice sourdough toast, scrambled eggs, a plunger of coffee, a pot of earl grey tea... Reuben woke and I hugged him tight. Every few minutes I had contractions - rushes of crampy pain - I began to time them and jot them down on a piece of paper... six minutes apart... five minutes... five minutes... four minutes...  regular, anticipated, increasing in force - I held onto the edge of the kitchen table and bent my head down to breathe. I think the baby's coming I told Reuben.

When Alex came home we breakfasted. Then we decided to call the midwife - and she agreed that we should come into the hospital. Alex collected his parents who were staying nearby so they could watch over Reuben while we were gone. I packed my bags and pillow into the car. I looked up into the sky and saw a big arching rainbow through the clouds. A promise I thought, of what's to come... 

We got in the car and began the twenty minute drive into town. I clutched my pillow as we drove those familiar winding roads, and we listened to the birth playlist... I remember gazing out at the landscape and feeling comforted, excited at the thought of meeting our baby. We talked and laughed. 

We arrived at our small country-town hospital and went directly to the birth room. It was 9am. One of my midwives, Helen, was there getting things ready. She began running a bath at my request so I could labour in warm water. I lay back on the bed as she lay hands on my belly, trying to work out where baby's head was positioned. She was having trouble, he was so low down - all she could feel were limbs. Gently she examined me - I was already 6cm dilated and thin, really to have this baby soon. 

I went into the bathroom, my waters broke soon after. I remember undressing and looking at my heavily pregnant body, with tummy so full and tight with child, my hair was still neatly braided up. I got into the bath and that warm water washed over me. It soothed. I was left alone in there for a while - another midwife came in and introduced herself. Alex hooked up our music - Alt J, Sufjan, Sigur Ros, Tazie chants, Iron & Wine, Boy and Bear, Radiohead, Cornor Orbest, Sixteen Horsepower... 

My contractions became more intense. Alex came and sat by the edge of bath, I lay my head on his arm and moaned and breathed through the pain. He stroked my face. I was transitioning and the pressure was increasing. I felt unstable floating in the water, I needed to get out. so I did. I leaned onto a gym ball on the bathroom floor, dazed, breathing hard, moaning for relief. Alex put pressure on my lower back and reminded me to make low sounds, to keep breathing. I remember my mum calling, talking to me on the phone - encouraging, loving me from afar - I think we were both weepy - our spirits close and vulnerable, I told her that it hurt so much... 

Then the desire to push came quickly, forcefully -
I felt scared for a moment -
then I let go, I had to -
prayed a silent prayer,
I followed my body's call,
the midwife urging me to push,
and it burned like fire -
I was leaning into Alex when baby's head emerged,
just as I had done with Reuben,
not that we planned it 
it just seemed the right place to hold myself -
a head, I felt it
and the longest minute
waiting for the next contraction to push the rest of him out,
and ah, oh, a beautiful body
a pink boy hollering for me,
dark haired and lovely.
It was 10.01am.
Throughout the pregnancy my midwives and doctor thought the baby would not be so big, but when he came he was a fairly decent 8 pounds 7 ounces. He actually looked robust, muscular, with big strong hands and eyes that could fix on faces. It's hard to describe, but he felt more mature that my first baby, already wise to life out of the womb. I guess we were older and wiser too. 

His name - Beren Argygle - was picked out months ago. We always imagined Beren as a dark haired baby so when he came with that crop of dark brown we were decided. Beren is an old-English name that means "brave" but is also a nod to our shared love of Tolkein and fantasy. Argyle is Scottish and refers to the west coast of Scotland - which I was able to see years ago, and fell in love with. It is a homage to our shared Scottish ancestry and to the history of the area which we now live and farm on. The Scots were some of first farmers of this land, and I think would have felt at home among the rocks and boulders and windswept hills... 
It all went so quickly - from moment of waking that morning to meeting my babe a few hours later. I am asked if it was easier than my first birth - and it wasn't, it was different. In many ways I felt more peaceful when labour progressed a bit slower with Reuben, and this time I felt a kind of shock by the brevity and intensity of it...

But there is nothing so lovely and good in all the world as holding that baby against your chest and those eyes squinting open at you, and breathing him in. To know a tiny child already so well, but to first meet him face to face...