Monday, August 18, 2014


It's all happening! Exactly 3 weeks ago today we secured funding for Stage 1 of our Farm Project to go ahead. Stage 1 is all of the Orchard and Berry plantings along with the Vineyard and a smaller Farm-Gate building at the bottom of the site near the road. I think elsewhere in the world it would be referred to as a Farm Shop of sorts but it will essentially encompass the Chocolatier, the retail/fresh produce outlet as well as a gorgeous Cafe. 

It has been the cause of much celebration to finally see our little dream turn into a reality. It has also been 3 weeks of enormous activity and pressure as we are racing against the clock to get everything prepared and in the ground before Spring, less than 2 weeks away!

We immediately welcomed Jamie to the team, a Farmer who has worked in the area for a long time and has been an absolute legend and has embraced the concept of a family business with open arms. He arrives at 7am into our chaotic kitchen and we try and have a coffee and a morning chat about work as Flynn climbs up his legs for a cuddle whilst we deal with the everyday interruptions of spilt milk at the breakfast table, school lunches and the search for missing socks, books and whatever the new puppy has found to chew up that morning.

Things are moving so fast that I'm running the risk of not having any "before' shots, so this is just a little update of what's been going on.

Old fences have been removed, new fences put in and all the of dreaded Box Thorn has been removed from the top of the paddocks.

We have a new road at the top of the Project site (below) which will provide a safe turning circle for the tractor as it reaches the top of each row as well as being a nice flat viewing platform for visitors picking their own fruit from the Orchard to look out over the Coal River Valley. The road will have another pass over with the bulldozer and smoothed off at the edges and grass planted over the top.

All of the trees and berries have been ordered and delivered. There are over 2000 trees with numerous varieties of each type of fruit, 15 000 Strawberries, 10,000 other Berry canes, 10,000 grape vines and a large flower bed. We have a portable fridge on the driveway to house the plants and we cleared out the shed for the ones that didn't fit.

Aside from the grapes which will be planted in Summer, all of the above will need to be planted over the next couple of weeks. That's a lot of plants! It is going to be a busy couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, there is no time for luxuriating under the stars in the outside bath but it is still being put to good use bathing the roots of the trees in a special solution before planting.

The paddocks have been worked over, fertilised and deep ripped. 

The first 300 Apricot trees were planted on the weekend. The cherries will go in tomorrow.

Looking north, the Strawberry bed is ready to be planted out on the left and the other berries on the right.

Looking south, the bed to the left will be more Strawberries and the one on the right that I'm most excited about is the Flower bed.

These upper grassy slopes will be where the Vineyard will go and tomorrow it will all be ploughed over and sown with Oats until ready to be planted out in Summer.

And because I am a glutton for punishment and fell head over heels for his little Whippet puppy eyes, here is our new addition to the circus, "Rocket".

As an aside, apologies for falling off the blog without notice. I didn't anticipate it.  The start of this Project has brought about two rather conflicting revelations. The first is that there doesn't seem to be  much time available in the evenings to dedicate to blogging anymore - the older children are now staying up a bit later and Daniel and I are needing the evenings to chat about work things now too. An obvious solution seemed to be what I hear other people doing and that is to squeeze some time out of the mornings before the children wake up. However, the second revelation I've had, as highlighted by the arrival of Jamie at the crack of dawn, is that I'm not at my conversational best in the mornings or at least in the first hour before the 2 coffees have worked their magic. This will no doubt translate to my blog writing so please bear with me as I embark on this new phase of life I'm going to call "Mel gets cheerful in the mornings". I wrote this Post this morning and it was hard and did feel very strange. I'm hoping it won't take too long to find my morning groove.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Snow Chasers

Holy Mackerel! I don't know why it has taken 3 weeks to get back into this space but I suspect it has something to do with the School Holidays, a Dance Eisteddfod, and the military precision that has been required to coordinate the social calendars of millions of children. It's all been a whole lot of fun.


When we woke up yesterday with just our own 7 members of the family sitting at the breakfast table with no extras coming and no one going, I said I needed a day off. A day off from decision-making, a day off from ferrying kids here, there and everywhere, and a day off from the home and all the things that call me to action. Top of my list was a hike in the mountains.

It was a picture perfect day with blue skies and winter sun. As we crossed the bridge we noticed Mt Wellington had received a dumping of snow overnight. "Snow! Let's go up there!", they all screamed. "We can make Olaf snowmen!" Every man and his dog was going to be up there and I just really needed a day away from people. I needed a day for the 7 of us to reconnect again.

We headed to the Hartz Mountains where we were met with a little piece of World Heritage Area and not a soul in sight. The fog rolled in so we saved the 4 hr Hartz Peak hike for another time but enjoyed a rather magical alpine walk to Lake Osbourne. The look on Flynn's face when he walked in snow for the first time was priceless, a smile plastered on his face the entire time.

Back down at sea level, it was all blue skies and sunshine again. We had a late BBQ lunch and a game of soccer and as the saying goes "it's all fun and games until the soccer ball gets kicked into the river!". We headed home with tired legs, full bellies and a Mum who nodded off in the car, her tired mind finally having the space to relax now that it had been cleared.  It was just what the Doctor had ordered.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tea with Joan

Our farm was originally part of historic Craigow Estate, the parcel of land granted to Scottish Doctor James Murdoch in 1822. In the 1980's part of the Estate was subdivided into 50 Acre lots and one of those lots was bought by the owners before us, Joan and her Husband, a couple in their 60's looking for a place of healing to live out their retirement as Joan's Husband was in poor health. They fell in love with this parcel of land for the very same reason we did 8 years ago when we were taken for our first walk to the top of the hill by the real estate agent and were captivated by the breathtaking view of the Coal River Valley. In that very moment, and before we had even seen inside the house, we knew we had found our home.

Joan and her Husband built this house in 1984 and named the property "Meryemana", the Turkish word for "The Virgin Mary's House", which is a Catholic shrine in Turkey believed to have been where Mary, Mother of Jesus, lived for a period of time. This much had been disclosed by Joan when we bought the place from her in 2006. She had by then lost her Husband and was 86 years old and finding it difficult to manage the farm on her own (I hear you Joan!). She was insistent that the farm go to a family with children who would enjoy it and I'm so pleased that we have been able to fulfil this wish for her.

Last year when we put the wheels in motion to develop the Farm I felt a burning desire to find Joan and let her know how much we love living here. I wanted her to know how much I love the garden she planted even though I haven't been able to keep up with it. Every single flower I pick for the home was planted by Joan*. I also wanted to let her know our future plans and how we were trying to turn the property into a working farm again and replace the bare paddocks with Orchard fruits just like it had once been in the 1800's.** Not only were we thinking about how we can honour and encompass some of the history of our Farm into our new development, we also had to consider changing the name of our Farm. The Virgin Mary's House just didn't quite capture what we were trying to achieve and I wanted to find out from Joan the significance of the name she had chosen before we made any drastic changes. 

I nervously rang a few nursing homes, knowing that Joan would be about 94 years old by now. Success! She was only a 10  minute drive away and would love to meet up. I said I would be right over but she insisted it was "too dreary" and that she would love to come here instead but would have to wait for her Son to find a suitable time to bring her as she was in a wheelchair and needed the use of a special car. A couple of weeks went past and I hadn't heard anything so one day I just turned up  to her door with Roses from my garden that she had planted 20-30 years before. She was delighted and so begun our friendship.  She still hasn't been here but whenever I'm walking along the river with Flynn I pop in to see her and always bring her flowers from her original garden. I pepper her with questions about the Farm, the garden and surrounding area and she just wants to know all about the children. She has no grandchildren of her own and thinks its just wonderful that I have 5 Children. She is the most astute and sharp 94 year old lady I have ever met and her company is delightful. 

I had morning tea with Joan today and she was in a tizz because her daughter was due to fly into New York and she hadn't heard from her yet. Her daughter would have to be in her 50's or 60's. "Try not to worry Joan", I say, "I'm sure she'll call as soon as she can and with the time difference she may not even have landed yet". "You never stop worrying about your children", says the 94 year Mother. And just like that I was transported straight back to the home of my Grandparents in Sydney where I heard those exact same words come out of my Grandmother's mouth many a time, "you never stop worrying about your children". I was thinking about this again as I was cooking dinner tonight and didn't notice the tears streaming down my face until Eleanor said "What's wrong Mum?". 

"I just really really miss Nanny" I say. I really really do. 

Joan mentioned again today that I must have so many other things to do than visit an old lady in a nursing home but actually she has given me so much more than she can imagine. Spending time in her delightful company and learning about her and her past as well as providing that link to our older generation that I have been missing since my Nanny passed away almost 3 years ago is an absolute privilege. 

* I was relieved to learn today that she had a gardener.
** She said that if we could grow a fruit tree that bears just one fruit that hasn't been touched by the wretched Possums then good luck to us :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why I Write

"I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself" : Rita Mae Brown

Thank you to Bridie, Christina and Claire for asking me to be part of the "Why I Write" Blog Hop. It has been a perfect opportunity to finally get some of the thoughts that have been rattling around in my head down on paper.

So, it turns out I've become very attached to my blog over the past few years. Whereas in the beginning I thought it would be easy to stop blogging when it no longer provided joy, over time it's grown to become such an important part of my life as well as being a very special record of memories for my family that I can't contemplate parting with it. It's a difficult thing to explain but there you go!

That said, lately there has been a little grey cloud hovering above this space and I have never questioned why I continue to write here as much as I have these past few months.  Rather than mention it or take a break or do anything drastic like throw in the towel completely I've just pushed through hoping time would provide the clarity I have been looking for. Thankfully, it has. I've made a few mental shifts and some more tangible changes in how I spend my time in Blogland and I've returned to my blog with a renewed enthusiasm.

It seems I've allowed myself to be affected by what is happening "out there" in Blogland. I don't know why, when  I'm constantly dishing out advice to the Kids to "run your own race and don't worry about what anyone else is doing" but I can't deny I've been affected.

The thing is, Blogland has changed so much since I started almost 3 years ago. Lately I've felt bombarded by messages on how to blog, how to create content, how to monetise, why monetise, how to be better, how to be bigger, how to comment, how to increase traffic (yuck!) and basically how to do and be anything and everything except what I actually want my blog to be. In a nutshell, it has felt strange to be part of an industry that is changing so much and not wanting to be part of those changes. There is safety in numbers and I've felt the weight of not following the crowd. Likewise, I've felt the loss of so many fabulous blogs that have either shut up shop or scaled back to near nothing. Many of us feel the same and thank you to those who have been on the receiving end of my e-mails and conversations around this topic.

There is increasing chatter "out there" too about blog etiquette (or lack thereof), of websites critiquing Blogs, of judgement towards bloggers who include Children on their blogs, of cliques and strategic alliances forming, of trolls lurking on social media. It's all affected my enjoyment of blogging. Yet, when I open up my laptop all I see here is the kindest of people popping in with the very best of intentions and this is something I don't take for granted one bit. I've never had a single negative comment here and I'm proud to be part of the little online community that we have built together over the years. How silly to be blinded by all the negative "out there" when the reality is that everything is AOK in here.

I'm mindful of online privacy issues yet I'm not a total narcissist to think my blog is so important that masses of people are flocking here to read my words and look at my photos. This is a very small blog in the grand scheme of things and for the time being I am comfortable with the intentions of my blog as well as with the way I share my words and photographs. I'm going to continue blogging although I shall henceforth be putting on some blinkers to what is happening "out there" and sail through Blogland, happy to be a boat with a red sail rather than one of the white ones so to speak.

So, this is all a very long introduction to answering the following simple questions:.

What Am I Working On?

Nothing. I have so little spare time available that I simply write whatever I can in the couple of hours that I allocate to blogging each week. If anything, I should probably be working on an "About Me" page.

How Does My Writing Differ From Others In My Genre?

I don't know if or how it differs. My blog is essentially a personal blog and I actually don't think I fit into any specific niche or genre and I'm OK with that now. I've never intended my blog to be a useful resource for anyone about anything. It's just my life -  family things, things I do, places I go, things I'm making, random thoughts and stories.  Thank you to Claire for this Post which made me realise that it's OK to not have a niche or teach people anything. The fact that anyone outside my extended family finds anything I write remotely interesting is very humbling. I write in a way that is probably described as conversational, as if we were sitting around the table having a cup of tea together in the sense that I get equal enjoyment from visiting you in your spaces.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I write because I love it. It's a hobby and more importantly a little space just for me. I write what I do to record memories for myself and my family. My Husband is the biggest fan of my blog and the biggest compliment for me is when he or friends and other members of our extended family mention how much they enjoy my Posts and seeing what we have been up to as a family.  I love documenting life and it is something I have done since I could first hold a pencil. My relatives have always lived overseas or elsewhere in the country and I have been writing letters to them since I was about 4 years old. As a child I had pen pals from Europe and South America and I loved getting an insight into how people from all around the world lived. This fascination with people and how they live is something that prompted my desire to be an exchange student to Germany and then Canada a few years later. During those years my favourite thing to do was take photographs and write letters back home documenting my travels and experiences. This blog is simply an extension of what I've been enjoying all my life. The ability to connect with like-minded souls from anywhere in the world through blogging is one of the best bits of blogging.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I usually have a Post "written" in my head and then it's just a matter of typing it up. My most productive places for forming sentences are in the shower or when I'm going for a walk. I don't set out to interrupt my showers or walks with thoughts about a blog post but I guess because those are the only times I am on my own without children it's a natural place for my mind to wander to. I don't schedule Posts or have a single Post sitting in "Draft" form. I just sit at my desk and write something and then hit publish. This means that when I look back on old Posts I am often very confronted by what I've written and generally cringe my way through the Post wanting to re-write the entire thing. I now never read back over old Posts! Having Posts in "Draft" would also cause stress in the same way Pinning ideas on Pinterest or a having a Queue of projects on Ravelry would in that I know I don't have the time to do anything other than what I can do right now!

EDIT: I'm passing the baton over to the lovely Katie from Life With The Crew who writes about her life in Pennsylvania with her sweet little girl and menagerie of animals.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On the Homefront

Winter has certainly arrived here in Tasmania but MONA's Dark Mofo brings everyone out of hibernation for the 10 day Winter Festival which is a celebration of food, art and music and all things weird and wonderful that MONA is famous for. 

Whilst I missed the Ball of Death this evening and have no plans to participate in the Nude Swim, it was quite magical walking around Hobart's waterfront with the Kids.

We said 'hello' to the Giant Blow-up Bunny

And watched the spectacular Light Installation.

On a quieter not,  I've joined an Art class at our local village and it has been so much fun meeting up with a lovely group of ladies each week and doing something for myself during the daytime. These past 10 years I've reserved such crafty things for evenings while the days are spent taking care of the Children but with things about to change around here in a few months I thought I better seize the moment.

I was a bit hesitant taking Flynn along but he has been welcomed with open arms and has so far been an absolute gem. I set him up with a lunchbox full of food and some toys and he is happy as Larry.

Speaking of crafty things, I was extremely fortunate to win this hamper from our local yarn store The Stash Cupboard in celebration of their 2nd Birthday recently. It's full of all sorts of goodies that I can't wait to try out.

I've made a start on a new shawl with the Fyberspates Cumulus, a lace weight yarn that is just gorgeous but the knitting is a hard slog given the tricky lace chart coupled with the fine and fluffy yarn. It's the Baya pattern by Mindy Wilkes from the 2014 Pompom Magazine which you can download now. I absolutely can't wait to get to the garter stitch body where I get to use a whole skein of Madelinetosh for the very first time. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel like a serious knitter with some Madelinetosh in my possession.

Also on my needles is my second "Follow Your Arrow" Shawl. It's been waiting patiently in the wings for the past 5 months. I was down to my final clue when I got discouraged to see I had 500 rows to go on the border.  

I am also working on my first pair of knitted socks, for no other reason than The Sound Of Music was on TV recently and when Martha requested a pair of pink socks for her 7th Birthday I decided I would like some too. I'm following this Simple Skyp Sock pattern.

It has been slim pickings in the vegetable patch since we decided against planting any winter vegetables while we worked on plans for our larger project.

Thank goodness for that rainy day back in January when Daniel harvested the entire crop of Broad Beans. 

Fortuitously, his parents happened to be here so the shelling was spread amongst many helpers

That second shelling is a pain isn't it?

They've been providing sustenance for almost 6 months now. There's probably still enough left for another 3 years!

 In other news the Chooks have decided to leave their "Chook Palace" and can be found roosting 2 meters up this pine tree every evening. I love that they free-range but it has created a game of hide and seek to find their eggs every day.

Speaking of odd, I walked down the stairs this morning and found the boys eating their breakfast like this. 

I didn't know whether to praise them for eating at the table or be concerned that their love of food outweighed their ability to pull the chairs off the table and sit down for a comfortable meal. 

Finally, I don't know why but I couldn't resist taking this photo of my lovely Husband looking after 8 Children and the Whippet while I enjoyed a nice night out on Saturday with the girls.

And that's just a little bit of what has been going on this last week - a bit of a scatty and random Post with substandard iPhone photos but some weeks are just like that. My blogging Mojo seems to have been swept away with the Autumn leaves so I've also been a little absent around the traps lately.  I think I'm getting back on track now and looking forward to catching up on all your news.

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along this week.

Hope you are having a good week!

Mel xxx

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fun Guys

It's the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend here in Australia and after 2 days of serious cleaning and de-cluttering, we gave ourselves the day off today and decided to head to Mt Field National Park. We bumped into friends Nat and Jared which was a bonus and necessitated pre-hike Lattes and Hot Chocolates to brace ourselves for the 2 1/2 hour bush walk. Russell Falls were spectacular and all the Fun Guys* were out in full force too. We packed homemade chocolate cake with coconut icing to celebrate the Queen's Birthday along the track and it was altogether a pretty fantastic day. As always, the highlight for the Kids - the Swings! 

* Fun Guys = Fungii, courtesy of George, our 5 year old Humourist :-)