10 May 2017
6 May 2017
I had a strange sense of anticipation on Saturday night, November 5th. I was just three days shy of my due date, and it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to carry my full belly of baby around - to sit, drive, keep up with a busy toddler. After putting the boys to bed and a hearty dinner of roast chicken (raised by us) I set about sewing with varying success; a linen changing mat cover and a pair of cotton gauze pants. Later than night Alex pulled up a chair and we chatted about the pending birth; we agreed that Monday would be the best day for baby to arrive, if one could plan these things!
I struggled to fall asleep that night, every position I got into seemed uncomfortable, I tossed and turned, felt a dull ache in my stomach, and finally around 4am decided to just get up. I felt like the baby would be coming soon, and began to potter around the house; stacking the dishwasher, clearing the sink, getting breakfast ready, packing away sewing things, I was hungry and ate yoghurt with chopped up banana and granola. I had to go to the toilet again and still had a lingering dull crampy feeling, so I decided to run bath with lavender and epsom salts. It was just after 5am now - I had a little lamp on for dim light, the warm water washed over me, then contractions started to come regularly every 10-12 minutes. I felt them come and go - anticipated the intense rushes and breathed long slow breaths - the spaces between contractions were becoming more and more of a relief. It felt sacred somehow, to be alone and labouring, and yet feel safe in my home, in the bath my mum helped us install, trusting my body to know what to do. I thought about the babe inside my womb, wondered what his face would be like, the colour of his hair...
The warmth of the water was so soothing, I must have been in there for almost an hour when Alex woke up and popped his head round the door - I think it’s started I said, so he went up to quickly feed out the chickens. Slowly I got out of the bath, dried and dressed myself - pausing for contractions, learning on the edge of the bed, circling my hips for relief, taking the slow “silky” breaths I'd practiced throughout the pregnancy, and exhaling through my mouth. I got my hospital bags ready - and felt so thankful that my older boys had been able to have a full night’s sleep. Reuben was up first at around 6.45am, then Beren soon after. They had breakfast and we called my parents-in-law to come and collect the boys. I called our local country hospital and spoke to the midwife, and we agreed since my last labour was so short, I should make my way in soon.
There was a bit of confusion about cars - you see, we had a farmers market to attend to that morning. Thankfully we still had Ant, our farm volunteer staying with us, and he agreed to go ahead with our car (packed with market things and our chickens and eggs) and set up. My father-in-law would drive me in to the hospital, Alex would follow behind in Ant's truck. I closed my eyes for most of the car trip in, gripping the seat in silence, leaning my head into the window, praying. I wished Alex was with me.
At the hospital, midwife Lisa was there to greet me with a big hug and a warm smile - we were both glad to have “got each other” this time - she took me up to the birth room, Alex soon joined us with my bags and set up our music - the same playlist we made for Beren's birth (and Reuben's before him), with a couple of extra tracks added in. Lisa started a bath and we chatted, she told me to relax, that the car trip might have slowed things down a bit, not to worry… the bath was soon ready and I undressed - as I walked toward the bathroom I had such a powerful contraction I had to get down to my hands and knees to breathe through it. When I finally made it to the bathroom, I looked at my big tight belly in the mirror, just to pause and take the familiar sight one last time…
The warm bath water was sweet relief for my lower back, which was really beginning to ache unbearably. Alex joined me by the side of the bath, kissing my face, stroking my head. He told me to loved me and that I was strong, I could do it, this would be the last time I had to… I stayed a while in the bath before feeling an urgency to get out and return to my hands and knees on the floor, the contractions were getting more intense and I needed to feel firm against the earth. I leaned into a gym ball and Alex pressed warm towels into my back. I wanted to move back out into the main room - it was lit only by the natural morning light streaming through the windows. Lisa got a mat ready, felt my belly and listened to the baby’s heartbeat through the next contraction, she said I was beginning to sound different, like I was needing to push, I felt it too.
The transitional stage felt so different from my other births, my contractions seemed to alternate between mild and so much more intense, forceful pushing ones. I asked Lisa to check how far I was along, she did gently and said I was fully dilated, that I could push when I felt like it… and with the next contraction my waters broke, I groaned and pushed, leaning on my knees into the end of the bed - I could feel baby’s head getting into place, I made short blowing breaths as baby’s head began to crown, and that minute or two, between the next contraction, seemed like the longest in all the world. A searing sting, and then a final push, and out came baby. I sat down on the ground, holding my new baby boy, his cord still attached, I took in the sight of this pink, squishy babe - dark haired like his brother, he was covered in white vernix. His head seemed rounder and more delicate than my other babes. It was 9.45am. We were in love.
We had three boys names on our list, but Archer fit best of all. We named him Archer Brenin. Brenin is Welsh for king, and Archer an old English name we just liked the sound of - we call him Archie and Archie-babe...
Leading up to the birth I asked a few close friends to pray for me, to write a blessing or a word of encouragement… a number of people prayed specifically for joy and peace - and truly I felt that - it was as peaceful a labour as one could wish for (in the circumstances) - yes, I felt discomfort and intense pain, I had to persevere, but I also felt strong and able and the sweetest, sweet joy!
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning"
6 Apr 2017
30 Mar 2017
as the mind and heart moving in sync -
and sometimes its a brisk pace
of farm chores, jobs to be done,
a juggle and a tussle of needs and wants
and hats and bananas and clean nappies -
laundry hung to dry, eggs to be packed,
or the steady pace of a toddler who stoops low
to notice a small beetle scuttle across the floor
or in the grey of the morning
the flapping arms and open smile
of a babe, just awakened -
ahhh, in the carefully savoured sips of hot tea,
and the smell of verbena leaves crushed,
or the time we woke up earlier than usual,
and finding ourselves with time aplenty to
draw after breakfast, he working on squids
and me on a sketchy hen -
how good it felt to my weary eyes,
to see that old friend, familiar blue!
a tuning in
on car rides to school;
confessions of a five year old,
questions asked, ideas posed -
"how many days will you be alive mama?"
or to a well-written book propped open on a pillow
while breastfeeding in bed
(instead of scrolling on my phone)
to shed a tear for the beauty of the afternoon sun
against the kitchen wall,
and tuning out
to the inner-critic who
so easily finds fault, or worries,
to the temptation to keep scrolling
on social media, and to all the cheap news and fluff,
is choosing to live with less,
or make do, mend a thing,
borrow, go without even -
taking time, when we can, to do just one thing -
is being rooted
in belief, in the
treasures of the heart;
gentleness, compassion, love, grace, celebration -
is being exactly where I am at this moment,
18 Mar 2017
So I am back here with no great vision, just an urge to write again, and savour more fully the everyday graces...
2 Aug 2015
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!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...
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...
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,
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,
29 Jul 2015
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
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
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 am no perfect mother to my boys, but I am theirs. And they are mine.
8 Jul 2015
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 -
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
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
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
your faith that weathered decades
of experience and loss,
unshakeable, in a loving God -
we counted on our fingers
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,
the older fragile you
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
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