Saturday, January 24, 2015

We're back!

Well. That was the biggest break from blogging I've had since I started the blog some years back. There have been times in the last 6 weeks where I've wondered if I was going to come back to it. But hey: this thing is a record of our adventures, and the adventuring ain't stopping here. It's a place for us to rant about the things we're passionate about, and we're passionate about a lot. It's a place for us to share stuff and (hopefully) teach or inspire people, and there's a lot to learn. So we're back.

What have we been up to since the canceled party debacle?
Heaps of stuff! And also heaps of relaxing!

We have a little break from chicken farming over the summer because we find the chickens really struggle with the hot weather. Also, chicken farming is bloody exhausting, especially after the year we've had, so we need a break!

Life without chickens is roomy and free and relaxing. There's space for new friends, foraging (blackberries! plums! raspberries! oh my!), baking, crocheting, quilting Australiana-themed baby-quilts, reading, swimming, eating, old friends, bee-swarm-catching, a trip to the big-smoke for circus shows and visiting, and general merry-making.

After processing our last batch of chickens for the year and (happily) providing delicious chicken Christmas dinners to the people of the Bega Valley (and one lady who comes all the way from the Snowy Mountains for our chicken!) we headed out to the coast for a luxurious 2 week holiday with some of our nearest and dearest. It. Was. Amazing. Eating, swimming, reading, crocheting. Repeat. Oh, and we harvested a bucketload of native wild raspberries, which we dumped onto a baked ricotta for New Year's dinner. 
Not a bad spot for an afternoon of foraging
There are no words to describe the deliciousness, but here's a picture...
When we came home to the farm the garden was ridiculously overgrown, but we didn't mind. We harvested and made merry.

Our neighbour called to say there was a late swarm of bees at his place, so we caught it in an esky and installed it in our top-bar hive. We've been waiting for a swarm for 2 years since our last lot of bees got hive beetle and evacuated, so that was a happy day.
Me in my "crazy person" beekeeping 'suit' and Gunnar in his proper suit.
The roadside plums came on, and we had a harvest-and-preserve party with some new lovely friends.
I finished a custom baby-quilt order for an Australiana fan in Sydney. Love this quilting bizzo...
The blackberries have come on, so we're harvesting and freezing daily. When the season's over and we've got our haul, we'll have a massive jam cook up. In the meantime, we pick and pick and eat our fill.
Locavore dinner parties with friends, including plum cakes with Jersey cream!
And in between it all we've been working at our off-farm jobs. I've started a new job at the local wholefoods co-op, which is AWESOME, and of course we've been running and working at our little abattoir, which continues to process for small-scale chicken and duck farmers and backyard growers around the traps. Sometimes, the abattoir cleaning (not processing!!) is a family affair. 
The kids don't mind at all (it's an excuse for us all to hang out together playing with high-pressure hoses, after all), and we feel it's important for them to see us (and share in) working hard for the things we believe in.

Oh and I've been thoroughly enjoying exploring the instagram world. Never thought I would, but there you go. Life's full of surprises, right? 

On the immediate horizon we have another little break and then we dive head first into building and chook-enterprise-expansion and abattoir overhauling and school and uni and show season and roadside-apple-and-peach season and all the other busy-ness that comes with this life we're living. I'm excited.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blessings on the helpers

When I was having chemo, part of my healing-through-gratitude regime involved making plans and daydreaming about the massive thank you feast we would throw for all the people who helped us out during that supremely crappy time. I felt that even though things were not that awesome for us during those months of treatment, I still had so much to be grateful for, and I still felt super lucky. Maybe even more lucky than I feel normally. It's true I did have cancer, and I did have one of my boobs removed, and I did go through chemo, which was gross. But I have an incredible, strong, kind, compassionate and loving partner, and 2 beautiful kids. I have an extended family who love me. I had an amazing day-bed out the front of our beautiful little house on which to rest, overlooking a sweet little valley farm which I love. I live in a country with (kind of) free health care, which meant I was able to have the treatment I needed to give myself the best chance of survival. I have access to an abundance of all kinds of nutritious foods to heal body and spirit. 

And I found myself among a community of people who helped out in all kinds of ways. There were people who came and helped Pearl move the chicken houses, and to help load chickens on processing day. There were the people who brought us meals. There were the people who put money into our bank account to pay for herbs and vitamins and medical bills. There were the people who processed our chickens the night I had to unexpectedly go to hospital with neutropenia. There were people who bought us massages. There were people who knitted things for me. There were people who gave me Reiki, and people who gave me acupuncture. There were people who brought us firewood. There were people who lent us their showers and spare bedrooms. Awesome, right?

The party planning started off with me emailing one of my favourite artists, Phoebe Wahl, to see if I could buy one of her images to use for the invite. What I love about Phoebe's art is it's warmth and vigour and heart - all the things I wanted for our party. Because she's lovely, she happily obliged.
Food planning involved the procurement, fattening, killing and processing of a lamb, which our friend David took care of for us, other than the boerwurst sausage-making, which was a team effort.
We bought veggies and salad greens from all our friends with market gardens. I, with the help of 2 very special ladies, made 25 litres of rhubarb and strawberry champagne.

For party favours, I lino-cut a 'thank you' stamp and stamped it onto serviettes I'd made, for people to use at the party then take home and use over and over.
My mum and her partner made a dessert, my nana made her signature custard kisses and a 'thank you' fruitcake, and Pearl's mum made brownies.

Everything was set.

And then it started to rain.

Plan B for Bad weather was to move the party to the incredibly beautiful Quaama Hall. Ain't no way 60 people were fitting in the tiny house.

Saturday morning, the hall was booked, as it seemed like the rain would never let up. And it didn't. In fact, by sunday morning, the day of the party, we, along with food enough for 70 people, got flooded in as the river broke it's bank and covered our main road to town with over 2 metres of fast-flowing water.
The give way sign at the bottom of our road, on the morning of the party
Not really the kind of development you want on the day you've been planning for months.

So we sent out texts and facebook messages telling people the party was off. Ironically, sunday turned into a beautiful sunny day, and we cheered ourselves by cracking jokes about it being a beautiful day for a party. My brother, who was visiting from WA got to spend some quality, flooded-in time with the kids. Some also-flooded-in-neighbours dropped by, and we had roast lamb for dinner.
Nice day for a party. Shame that 'lake' is covering the road to party-town
The next day we made 'Canceled Party Pickle' with all the zucchinis, squash and capsicums we'd bought. We preserved most of the harissa we'd made and froze the marinades.
We breakfasted on harissa and labne and cucumber and lettuce and asparagus and roast beetroot for days. It was actually divine.
Luckily, no food went to waste, between the freezing, the preserving, the eating and giving things away to all and sundry. And Oscar was thrilled to have Thank You fruitcake in his lunchbox today.

So what's the moral of this rather long-winded post? There're probably a few. One moral is that flooding waits for no man, and the river and rain don't give a crap about your plans for thanking people.
Another is that a jar of Canceled Party Pickle and a lovingly hand-made serviette, while not the same as an awesome party, is also quite a nice way to say thank you. And yet another is that all exercises in feeling grateful, whether the plans eventuate or not, are good for the soul. Even though we were sad our party didn't happen, we still feel grateful for all our friends, and the things they do for us. One day, that party's gonna happen, and we'll all be glad.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Handmade delights for giving

Are you by any chance looking for some delightful handmades to give to a loved one this Christmas? If you are, I may just have something for you, but you'll have to order this week, especially if you want something custom made to arrive in time for Christmas. 

Here's what I've got for you:

P&E gift certificates - these are handmade by me (of course!) using reclaimed kids' books and cereal boxes (lovingly saved for me by my nana). You give them to your friend/lover/mum/sister/daughter, they feel happy, email me, and we have a chat about fabric and colour choices then I make them a skirt. Just for them. They feel good in it, it fits them perfectly, because it was custom made, and it's special, I tell you. $70 (this includes postage of the card and the finished skirt)
If you want to buy someone a ready made skirt all I have left at present is this beautiful turquoise Birds  of Tasmania wrap 'n go. It's about a 12-14, and it's awesome. $50
Crocheted stubby holders are crazy good, handy and pretty unique. I'm into granny-ing them at the moment but I can do whatever. $12 each
Crocheted heart hair clips. Sweet as! $10/pair
Crocheted flower bangles. These are made using the rings that come off yoghurt and Vegemite jars and 100% hand-spun, hand-dyed wool. And they look awesome with some redpeg ecostudio recycled silver bangles too! (Dirty gardening hands optional). $15 for a set of 3
That's what I've got in stock, which I can send out tomorrow. If you email a custom order to me this week I could probably get it to you in time for Christmas, but you'll have to act fast! 
I hope your Christmas/holiday/gift-giving time is a handmade extravaganza!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fruit, music and brand new babies

Today I finished off a baby quilt I've been working on for a few days now. It's the first baby quilt I've ever made that's not been for a dear friend.
Normally when I'm making a baby quilt I channel a lot of energy and love into imagining the little person whose quilt I'm making, thinking of their parents, the life that's beginning, as I select the fabric and make the stitches. It's a beautiful process and I absolutely love it.
When I was asked recently by our friend Kate if I could make something for a dear friend of hers who's soon to have a baby, I was super-keen to make a quilt for her. And it came together beautifully.

Even though I've never met the soon-to-be parents, or their soon-to-be bubba, I still imagined and channeled love and joy as I stitched, musing on what adventures were in store for the new little family, and imagining how the quilt might figure in their daily lives.
Selecting fabrics and laying it all out, making pockets and tassels and mini-bunting, and then stitching it all together while meditating on life and love and growth and change is such a fun way to spend some hours. I love the process, and I love knowing that my craft is involved in a whole cycle of giving and receiving that's founded in love and a respect for handmade goodness.
Oh, and the quilt is part of a trade: you know how much I love bartering. So in exchange for the love stitched up in the quilt, Kate's providing me with music and fruit. How awesome is that?

Happy life, little bubba. May it be filled with heartfelt music, warm sunshine and sweet fruit.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Autumn Farm Chook School Part 2: 4 days old

In the last little Autumn Farm Chook School video you had a peek inside the brooder house, at the day old chicks.

In this video, you'll see the same chicks at 4 days old, on their first day outside of the brooder house, enjoying the sunshine and grass that makes them the tastiest, healthiest chickens around.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hello sailor!

As I mentioned in my post about Edie's reading gloves, I've got a bit of thing for sailing. I've never actually been on a sailing ship (or any kind of boat really, other than a ferry... and a kayak), but I seriously dig the romance of all things seafaring. Possibly because of (or maybe the cause of??) my infatuation with Herman Melville. And the Decemberists.

So you can imagine my excitement when my real live seafaring friend Vanessa (she actually lived on a real boat!!!!) announced she was pregnant - nautical-themed-baby-quilt-time!!!

What would a sea-baby quilt be without some ribbon 'seaweed', a pirate ship and a cormorant?

Bryn hanging out on deck. Custom-made 'let's not have overboard babies' netting can be seen in the background.




Little Bryn's baby quilt has a bit of boat applique (including a little tiny anchor on a 'rope'), a map (of the far south coast!), some sea-birds and other oceanic paraphernalia, all in a colour theme of blues and greens, of course. 

I was pretty in love with it when it was done, and pretty miffed that I didn't at least get an encouragement award when I entered it in the Bega show. But, as the kids say, 'whatevs'. Because this quilt got to go sailing.

That's right: Vanessa and Ian took little Bryn on a 3 month sailing trip when he was a few months old and the quilt got to go with them. AWESOME.



Ships ahoy!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Autumn Farm Chook School

It's been a little over a year now since the first Autumn Farm pasture raised chickens graced the dinner tables of the Bega Valley.

In the last 15 months or so we have learned an INSANE amount, including, but definitely not limited to, 'Dogs are way better than electric mesh fencing' and 'How to run a farm single-handedly while your partner suffers through cancer treatment'. While the learning definitely isn't over (though hopefully we're done with that last lesson), I feel like we've got a good handle on things and we're now pretty comfortable with our operation and all it entails.

A big part of our Autumn Farm vision has been education: educating people about food systems, educating people about sustainable agriculture, educating people about good food and nutrition. It's awesome to be able to share knowledge with people, and to empower people to make positive changes in their relationship with the food they eat. We love love LOVE answering questions and sharing information, hosting farm tours and taking people through the abattoir.
Pearl talking to the group of Making a Buck from a Beetroot course, run by Bega Tafe.

We also get lots of inquiries from people who are interested in our chicken farming methods, which is why we're looking to run some 'chook school' tours from around April next year.

At this stage (we're still planning) chook school will probably consist of a day (6 hours?) at Autumn Farm, where we'll take you through all the components of our chicken system from managing the day old chicks, to growing the chickens, to slaughtering, to legal requirements, and marketing. And a big local lunch to boot!

We're pretty excited,  because we love growing chickens, and we think other people should grow chickens too. It's an awesome way to improve your pasture, make a small income from even a small acreage (we only have 7 acres) and feed your community. 
In the meantime, though, I'm going to be posting some little videos about our system, and about the way we run things.

And here's the first video! This one is called 'Day old chicks in the brooder house', and there will be more coming! So if you're interested in growing chickens, or you know someone who might be interested, please forward this on to them, and/or let them know about chook school.

We're looking forward to seeing some of you at Autumn Farm Chook School next year!