Know your yarn. 

The beauty of being a small business is knowing EXACTLY where your materials come from. And that it REALLY is ethical and compassionate.

Sure, you can buy commercial, mass-produced fibre. But you’ll have no idea if it’s from factory farmed animals, has been chemically treated, or made using unethical trade/labour. But it’ll probably be cheap.

I like to know EVERYTHING about my yarn, so you can too. ❤️👍🏼 The fibres are meticulously hand-selected from small local farmers. (Some are right here at Hill Shadow!) My dyes are sourced from a small business based in outer Melbourne VIC, who supplies ethical, organic and fair trade products. All labour (washing, combing, spinning, dyeing) is done by ME. By hand. At my hearth, in the Yarra Ranges, VIC.

So, I’d like to introduce you to one of my business’ cashmere suppliers.

Everybody: George. George, this is everybody.

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Itchy feet, restless heart.

Hi guys – it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But life’s like that, isn’t it? It’s like you blink and weeks have passed while you were just getting on with the ‘routine’.

The ‘routine’ has me a bit bummed lately. I mean I dont want to sound ungrateful – Im so blessed that my life is routine enough to be boringly comfortable, and not ravaged by war and uncertainty! And the grass is always greener, isn’t it?

But I’ve been catching up on Kate’s blog and their family’s trip overseas, and feeling a tad envious! Sometimes I want a bit of escapism! …But then I look at our animals and think “Omigosh I coudn’t possibly leave you for all that time, you smooshy fluffy Collie….*smoochsmoochsmooch*”

*sigh*

Still, next weekend, we’re off to McCrae to stay the weekend in a friend’s beach house, so Im looking forward to that! (AND the dogs get to come too!)

What else?

Oh yes – we finally got our spring seedlings in! We took the trailer and bought some market boxes for this year’s garden! The bales were great last year, but eventually they do start to decompose and fall to bits, and you find yourself with a bit of a mess of plants going to seed and sinkholes and twine. We’ve planted Choy Sum, Broccolini, Peas, Strawberries, Beetroots and I got one tiny tiny tomato to pop up – so fingers crossed it takes! Today I’m going to pop out to Mt Evelyn and grab some Zucchini and Leb cucumber seedlings. The cucumbers were prolific last year!

The apple trees are blossoming, the apricot’s looking good, the plum is… not as ‘fruity’ as last year. And the Hill Shadow Feral Bees are hard at work each day, you can hear the hum of them wokring all over the farm. Bless them x

Our 2 new goats got a haircut last week, and now they look like skinny little drowned rats! Poor boys! Their fleece hadn’t been maintained at all, so they were quite matted and dread locked round the chest, and I just didn’t have the heart to try to comb and pull at them. So we rang a mobile shearer and he popped out one day between jobs and now I have 2 cashmere fleeces in bags and two tiny skinny goats. I had high hopes of selling/using the fleece, but have found removing the guard hairs an absolute nightmare. Commercial cashmere gets dehaired by machine, and because this is shorn and not combed, some of it is a matted hairy mess. Still, when Im feeling patient, I clean up enough for me to use, and blend it in with something else.

This is our cashmere, blended with some alpaca I dyed orange and yellow, and plyed with the softest 16 micron merino – turned out ok, huh? Im planning on knitting this into a little beanie for my friend’s baby girl.

Currently on my needles is Ben’s birthday present (I’ve got til Dec 31!). It’s a v-neck jumper in TARDIS blue, with a pattern of Daleks and the TARDIS round the bottom. I spun all the wool myself – it’s half alpaca, half merino, indogo dyed by the Shepherdess herself, Niki – and Im hoping I’ll have enough… :S And Im kinda thinking about more socks… socks with cables… mmmm.

ok, I’ve ground to a halt. Time to go shower and get these girls dressed for the day. And feed the horse and let the goats out and break up the fights and put the washing on and tidy the breakfast things and…

*sigh* Oh well, at least it looks like being a beautiful day. And Im going to meet my friend Tash to check out the Lilydale Psychic Expo and have a coffee.

What are you going to do to make this day fun? Where are you travelling to next? What are you putting in your garden? What’s on your knitting needles? Who’s blog are you loving?

Tell me everything.
xx

Ve-ghurt.

Guys guys guys! I found another epic vegan recipe!

I made vegan coconut yoghurt! And its freaking amazing!!! Seriously: Even the kids love it!

And this stuff is SO. EASY.

I found the recipe at Chocolate and Zucchini, and pretty much followed it to the letter, using 3 x 400ml tins of full fat coconut milk, and 1/2 cup No Udder coconut yoghurt (From Woolworths) as a starter. Whisked it all together, divvied it up into the little jars in the yoghurt machine. Turned on my little yoghurt maker and left it alone for 24 hours. PRESTO!

Easy as! (Think of all those amazing gut bacterias!)

You gotta get yourself one of these little yoghurt makers – I got mine from Aldi for about $20. I bought it to make conventional dairy yoghurt when my kids were little, and we just could not get it to set! We tried all kinds of things! Fail after fail after fail. So its basically been in my cupboard doing nothing for about 3 years.

I whipped it out to give this a go, and BOOM! PERFECT YOGHURT. First go. Coconut yoghurt ROCKS.

This morning I had it with 3 chopped fresh strawberries and a level teaspooon of coconut sugar. AMAZING.

So look, there really is no excuses for me not to be vegan now! ‘What do I miss out on?:

Yoghurt – nope. Making as much as I want!
Milk – soy (ALDI organic!) or Pureharvest Oat milk
Cheese – Bio Cheese FTW! (Coles)
Ice Cream – Soy Good Soy Icecream, in moderation!
Eggs – I do eat the odd egg from our lovely free range back yard chookies, but there’s TONNES of substitutions! (Right Maxine? x) Chia, avocado, oil and vinegar….
Meat – berk. Try tofu, kidney beans, peanut patties, vege snags and i had the best burgers this week, by substituting a beef pattie with a GIANT, FAT grilled mushroom. Took up the whole bun! OMG drool.
Butter – Coconut oil in recipes, and Nuttelex spread on toast.
Bacon – gimme a break… #facepalm

Did I miss anything? 😉

This is not about how I look anymore. This is not about weight loss. I ate for weight loss for the last 20 years and it made me freakin MISERABLE. And I still got fat anyway! This is eating for how I FEEL. This is love through food. My tummy feels good, my head feels clear, and my heart is happy.

Go on – make the yoghurt. Its a game changer x

Homespun, hay, and hungry hunters.

It’s getting colder and greyer at Hill Shadow. We still get blue skies, but colours are duller. The air is crisp. Morning frosts are a regular occurance now, and the report this morning said it was 3 degrees celcius.

I’d believe it.

I’ve been knitting lots of warm woolies! I’m about 3/4 through Ben’s woolley socks (he MIGHT get to wear the before the end of winter!). I discovered my friend Bec over at Peg and Jane spins the most amazing wool by hand (amazing skill!) so I’ve HAD to buy some and cast on a little cardi for Tara. Im in love with this wool! And knowing that it came from a small family farm in country Victoria, spun by Bec, and knitted by me, makes it all the more special.

And we bought a new little runabout car for Ben – FINALLY. We just couldnt do the too-ing and fro-ing in in the freezing pitch black early mornings and all hours of the night anymore! So this is Ben’s little work vehicle. And life has settle down CONSIDERABLY since!

It was great being a ‘one car family’ for all those years, but completely impractical now!

Last weekend we scored a few mouldy bales of hay from one of our agisters! Unsuitable as horse feed, but perfect for another bale garden! I’ve filled with layers of green clippings, cardboard, manure, straw, and compost, but so far I’ve just planted some peas and some bits and pieces from the garden. Not really sure what I’ll put in there yet.

And of course in true Hill Shadow Farm style, we’ve had some #accidentalfarming happening, with a butternut pumpkin popping up on its own in the garden and these… er… things.

There’s 2 of them. Pumpkins? Marrows?

Someone who has been loving all the wet weather is Katie!

MUDPIES!!! Perfect after-ballet activity!

And speaking of hay, we picked up this load for $4 a bale from an ad on Gumtree! BARGAIN! We got 20 bales, but I’m so getting another 20 when I can! What a steal!!! It’s so nice to have the barn full for winter. Its a comforting feeling; abundance.

Some of the old hay we were given went out to the chooks as a nice warm bed in their chookhouse. And Ben up-cycled this old coffee table into new nesting boxes for the girls – aren’t they brilliant!?

Unfortunately: Disaster. A few nights ago, we made a fatal communication error. I thought Ben had shut the chooks in for the night, he thought I had. We hadn’t. I woke in the night to frantic clucking and I knew. I bolted out in my pjs and gumboots and in my torchlight I saw the flashing eyes of 2 cunning foxes in the dark, licking their lips having helped themselves to our henhouse like theives in the night.

I felt so horribly guilty. We lost 5 girls through stupid forgetfulness, and we both felt absolutely horrible. I now have a very loud piercing alarm set to go off each evening to remind us to SHUT THE CHOOKS IN!!!



You know what IS good about winter though? Baking. Specifically, my husband’s baking.


Just LOOK at this apple pie!!! Tonight he’s making lemon meringue. God help my waistline! I shall have to chop wood for hours to work it all off!

The other thing I cant wait for about winter…

3 more weeks!

What do you look forward to about winter?

Keep warm
xxx

Puppies, pumpkins, pesto and pesky predators.

Hello! I’m typing this on my phone from my front step! So apologies if the spelling/formatting is all over the place! I have to blog this way as I’m multitasking: Chaperoning the chickens as they free range at the same time! 
Mrs Fox is back! And she’s picked off 3 chickens in the past 4 weeks. Last week as Ben left for work in the early dark hours of the morning, he caught her staring greedily into our henhouse; Sitting on her haunches at the door like a dog at a butcher shop window! And she comes right into our yard and up to the front door! Cheeky Lady! 
So no un-escorted free ranging for Lennon and the ladies. Grr. 
But today is an absolute cracker! My washing’s on the line, the windows are all open… It’s so lovely even some of my daffodil bulbs have gotten confused. 
“This is spring, right..?”
Wills having a lovely day in a light cotton sheet. I’ve added some warm, boiled barley porridge to his nightly feeds. He’s a bit older now, and he needs a bit extra in the colder months. Plus he deserves it ❤️x

I’m knitting up a red neck warmer for Katie to wear with her school uniform and some thick socks for Ben. These are my first socks! And they’re cuff-down style – which I believe isn’t usual?! – on teeny thin double-point needles. The first one has turned out so beautifully! 

There’s just a small problem: I only have one ball of wool left and the first sock took one-and-a-bit. And I found out from Morris and Sons in Melbourne that Admiral ombré 6 fach is discontinued!!! F%#€+*!?&@!!!!! Does anyone know where I can get a ball of this?! 

And the gardens going quietly into hibernation. The last corn fronds are sagging. The last tomatoes are shrivelling up. The last basil is curling and going brown. The bales around the bale garden are disintegrating as the first frosts come and turn the once lush-green baby fronds to crunchy silver-grey crystals. We’ll start piling up oak leaf-mulch, manure and compost.

There’s a few pumpkins sprawling around, which will come in handy for hot pumpkin soup with fresh crusty sour dough bread. And I’ve planted a few garlic bulbs, just to see if they come up. The chooks are moulting so we’re only getting one egg here or there, but I’ve been bottling passata at fever-pace: can’t let any of those tomatoes go to waste! There’s nothing like fresh pasta with homegrown tomato passata, and pesto made from the spoils of the ‘Basil Forest’! It’s our go-to week night dinner at the moment!
And if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll already know that Hill Shadow Farm will soon be getting a new addition!

Meet little Bluebell! She’s only 3 weeks old, but I’m totally smitten. She’s pure Border Collie. (Her mother Zoe is an absolute stunner, and super smart!) A pedigree working dog! I can’t wait to take her to obedience and agility classes! Keeping Collies active and mentally stimulated is essential, and I’m totally up to the challenge!
So that’s us, up to now. Katie’s at school, and Tara’s napping, so I’m being Chook Shepherd and sitting in the sun.

It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it 😉

Xx

Rejection, regression, refusal, and remoteness.

It’s Friday afternoon of Kate’s first week of school, and I have committed the cardinal sin of putting on a movie to occupy Kate (Hey it’s hot and she’s had a big week! Well that’s my excuse…) and I’m shirking the washing up/cleaning/cooking in favour of this. Ben and Tara are asleep.

I’m feeling exhausted.

It’s been a big week.

Ben has ups and downs, so we really cant plan anything. Most of the time, he’s lying down or asleep. So im shouldering much of the driving/organising/parenting/farming/cleaning at the moment. Also I’m getting up in the night to the girls, and getting up with them at 6 or 6:30 each morning. It’s full-on. And it’s actually a bit lonely. When Ben is not asleep I try to take the girls out to get them out of the way and give him some quiet to work or rest, but it means when I come home, he goes to bed and I start dinner or bath the girls or feed the horse or watch tv on my own.

Kate has handled her first week of school really well and has made a few friends, but it has seen the return of her Encopresis (which I thought she was getting past!) – which if you’ve never been through it, is just HELL and RUNS YOUR LIFE. We’ve been battling it for a bout a year and a half now, pretty much non-stop, though over christmas it looked like she was over-coming it: Taking her self to the toilet without prompting and staying clean most days. Then she started school, and BANG. (As if I need that!) I dont really know if it’s cureable, but I pray every day that it will be!!! It’s just horrible: Disgusting, humiliating, frustrating.

When I’m not dealing with poo inside, I’m dealing with my animal poo outside, and that is the perfect segue to the garden. (See what I did there?)

Look at the corn-babies!

I didn’t have much time for the garden this week and last (Ben’s full week of chemo), but it has not suffered for it! In fact, the basil and tomatoes have taken over!

And it looks like the capsicums and cucumbers are going to be a success!

No success with the wheatgrass however! Sickly, little shoots or nothing at all! WTF?! I cant win! Oh well, not that it matters – I seem to have jammed part of my new juicer anyway, rendering it useless, until I can work out how to un-jam it.

(It’s really been a spectacularly bad week.)

The blackberries are going MAD, which is both good and bad: Bad for the fact that it is a nasty weed, but the fruit has been abundant and has made some great jam and muffins!

Also I grew come tiny stunted carrots (NEVER had success with carrots!) Which the kids liked pulling up and nibbling on anyway.

One other thing that I’ve found REALLY frustrating this week has come from trawling the internet for animal shelters, looking for a dog to adopt. I really wanted to adopt another dog after Henry. I miss having a dog, and Cookie is very much ‘Ben’s girl’. So, of course I have been looking at shelters and websites for almost 2 weeks, and let me tell you: The whole process has turned me RIGHT OFF adopting a shelter pet. Which is sad, because I know the idea is to encourage people to adopt rather than buy from backyards or pet shops. But the process is repetitive, intrusive, frustrating, and very expensive!

I have filled in countless forms justifying myself as an intelligent human being. I have given histories of previous animals, estimates of income, details of may daily routine including how much time I am likely to spend away from home, aquiesced to ‘home inspections’, and most of the time have received nothing but a computer-generated automatic response.

As soon as I say the words ‘we have a run, but no fence yet’ (My husband has cancer ok?!) and ‘small children’, I am often instantly dismissed.

And the animals I am deemed not fit to care for are often older dogs – 9 or 10 years old – of questionable breeding, but are still priced at $400 – $1000. (No: Im not kidding). WHERE IS THE INCENTIVE TO ADOPT? Some agencys even had the gall to tell me that “if” I was “shortlisted” they would match “ME” to a dog! Yep – I wouldn’t even get to choose!!!

I feel disillusioned, scrutinised, dismissed and frustrated. And sadly, I’m not sure I will continue down the avenue of looking at animal shelters. They seem to have waiting lists and an over-supply of people looking and not that many needy dogs (which is not the impression you get from the media and all these ‘adoption drives’ etc!). My illusions of going to the RSPCA and walking up and down the line of cages and finding the perfect mate who would jump into my arms and who would become my constant companion for ever seems really far away. Which is sad. Just look at the life we offer:

Yup. Clearly cold, neglected and miserable. (And just look at the TRAUMA life with our young children is bringing her!)

So I’m not sure what will happen from here. I know we have an amazing, loving, experienced home to offer a dog. But unfortunately, we just dont appear that way on an automated pdf form.

The search continues.

Any ideas? Have you ever adopted a shelter dog before? (Did you find the process completely intrusive/impersonal/offputting?!) 

We’re not THAT weird are we?!

Dont answer that.

Big love all, have a beautiful weekend. (It’s a bad week, not a bad life. This too shall pass.)
xx


Plums, poultry, preserving and pom poms.

Hill Shadow Inventory:
Rooster – 1
Chickens – 14
Horse – 1
Dog – 1
Fox – ?
Humans – 4
Daily eggs – 3 or 4
Sleeps til christmas – 24

Unfortunatley the closest we’ve gotten Tara to Santa is waving to this reindeer at the mall.

…well, it’s a start.

And our garden produced this amazing beetroot which was ready before all the rest – isn’t it beautiful?!

It’s getting warmer and warmer! The girls are in dresses, sandals and shorts.

UGH! STOP PRESS!
Chickens – 13

Can you believe that?! Just as I was typing that last bit, Mrs Fox took another one, right from our front door step!!! There’s feathers everywhere!

The scene of the crime.

At first I did a quick head count and I was horrified that she took Katie’s favourite chook, Shiny. But luckily, Shiny has a favourite hiding spot on her own round back under the fig tree, and a quick check found her to be there as usual, oblivious to what had just happened round front.

Shiny: lives to dig figs another day!

Phew! I have no idea how I would’ve broken that to Katie this afternoon!

Lennon is recovering beautifully from his ordeal and has actually begun to crow again in the last few days. Unfortunately I think it may take him a while to regain his former glory. His crow sounded a mix between an old fashioned car horn (“A-HOO-GA!”) and a set of deflating bagpipes.

Kate and I made sure we made encouraging comments. (“Gee Lennon, that sounds… er… well that’s really… um… yeah good try, Mate!”)

Christmas activities are ramping up: Concerts, parties, and Katie’s kinder graduation (Where did THAT time go?!) are all in the next few weeks.

One of the events I did check in at was the open day of our local Steiner School. Although I dont wholly agree with the Steiner/Waldorf approach to education, there is so much I love about it: The avoidance of commercialism, the focus on nature, the peacefulness, the importance of creativity.

Feeling totally inspired when I got home, Katie and I made a 2-storey fairy house in the yard, and Kate spent ages furnishing it with feathers, leaves and flowers.

In the afternoon, while Tara had her sleep, Kate and I listened to Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake Suite (My favourite!) and made pom-poms.

Look! We have apples!!!

THREE APPLES!!!

Yeah ok: not real great for a whole tree. But the poor tree is on its side, totally eclipsed and deprived of water and sun by the 2 massive cypress’ next to it. So it’s a wonder it’s managed to survive at all, let alone bear fruit.

I was hoping to have some apricots or figs to make jam from for christmas presents this year, but alas – no dice. Still green and under-ripe. BUT! I just happened to taste a bit of the ‘ornamental’ plum in the front yard, and knock-me-down – it’s edible!!! They’re just little plums! And it seems the birds have been fooled too – they haven’t noticed them! So I’ve picked a bunch and spent this morning having my first attempt at jam-making!

Little kitchen helper fairy.

It’s a sticky red mess in my kitchen, but i’ll let you know how it goes! Here’s the recipe I used.

And lastly I made this raw vegan caramel slice this week.

Oh. My. Word.

Do your self a favour – download the Raw Desserts App from Ascension Kitchen and make a batch.

You’re welcome.

Have you finished your christmas shopping?
Are you making any handmade gifts this year?
Do you Waldorf? Steiner? Montessori? Homeschool? Unschool? None? All?

Go count your chickens.
xx

Whales, wool, water and wily foxes.

What gorgeous weather we’ve been having!!! I’m sneaking in a quick post and a coffee having put grumpy Tara down for a morning nap, and dropped Katie off at a transition day for ‘big school’ next year. EEP.

It’s meant to be in the 30s today (celcius that is! Late 80s for any US readers! 🙂 Hi there!) so I’ve whipped off the horse’s rugs, filled up all the water troughs and bowls, and given the garden a good soaking last night.

Ben and I mulched it thickly on the weekend to try to combat the heat, and the plants have TAKEN OFF! They LOVE the mulch! We have so many salad greens at the moment – they’re growing faster than I can pick them!: Rocket, silver beet, butter lettuce, and mignonette lettuce. But I’m not complaining! 😉


It’s as high as a elephant’s eye!

Last weekend, Ben was recovering at home from his surgery, so the girls and I headed into the city for World Vegan Day.


Best choccie cake EVER.

What a great day with stalls and music and FOOD! Still can’t get my head around Textured Vegetable Protein (blerg.) or some of those other vegan ‘meat substitutes’ (YUCK. Why bother!?) but we ate the most AMAZING chocolate cake, some delectible blood orange gelato, and Kate drank a whole bottle of rasberry kombucha! (Which I didn’t think she’d be into! More fool me!)

I’ve thought alot about becomming vegan over the years. I was lacto vegetarian in my late teens for about 3.5 years, and I really dont ‘enjoy’ eating meat, or ever crave it at all. Mostly I find myself eating it out of habit, social obligation, or some misguided way of getting ‘enough protein’. Which are all crappy excuses really. (Hey, if Scott Jurek gets enough protein from a vegan diet, I think I’ll be right! LOL – have you read his book ‘Eat and Run’?! HIGHLY recommended.)

But as I get older and I’m horrified by the treatment of animals in factory farms, I find it harder and harder to justify eating meat and dairy. That and the fact that I feel better and less bloated when I eat vegan. I think eating conventional, supermarket sources of meat and dairy involves switching off part of your brain, and turning the moral and emotional side of you off to do it. And I’m finding that harder and harder. Especially now as a mother.

It’s something I’ve been exploring more and more. Seeing images of the live meat trade and high density feedlot farming makes me despair at the human race, and the way we justify our actions as some sort of “for the greater good”. When in fact if you imagine these same conditions and treatments happening to humans, you’d be absolutely horrified.

I had the same reaction after watching a documentray called ‘Blackfish’ recently about Tilikum the Orcha at Sea World, Orlando. The whole thing just breaks my heart. And one of the most disturbing images I found was the ‘harvesting’ of the whales semen for the captive breeding program! Can you imagine anything more soul destroying and disturbing?! Can you imagine if a human male was kept imprisoned and exploited sexually that way?! But humans can justify it as a “captive breeding program” – to breed more CAPTIVE Orchas. To perform. For us. Right. (Don’t kid yourself that the calves and their mothers will be released into the wild to boost Orcha species numbers

I just.

Cant.

It’s one of the reasons adopting our ex battery hens makes me so happy. Yes occasionally one gets picked off by our resident Mama Fox (DAMMIT!) but mostly we’re smarter than her and we let them out when agisters are coming and going in the afternoon tending to their horses, so the Mrs Fox keeps her distance. They get out of their chook house – which is actually quite big – for about 2 or 3 hours a day at the moment, but things should get easier as Mrs Fox’s pups grow up and move on, and she’s less frantic for food. So mostly our girls and Lennon spend their day in the straw, then their afternoon like this:

I wish we could let them out all day again, but we just have to keep them safe while Foxy is feeding her pups. I actually dont have a problem eating eggs from our chooks. I know exactly how they are treated, and I know they probably wont be hatched into chicks anyway (despite Lennon’s best efforts) as battery hens are Isa Browns (or ours are!) and are bred not to go clucky so that they will produce more eggs for the industry. So our girls never go clucky, and would have no clue how to hatch them anyway! Ben and I have talked bout maybe getting another hen or two of a different breed – one with more maternal instincts! – and maybe letting some eggs hatch to chicks. More research to be done there!

Not much exciting happening in the kitchen, except I dad attempt a batch of soap.

Failed miserably.

It hasn’t set, and I dont think the lye I used was strong enough, as it’s still quite soft, oily and crumbly.


The first hint I got that things might be going wrong: “Pour mixture into moulds.” – POUR?! It’s like mashed potato!!!

Back to the drawing board…

Do you eat meat?
What issue gets your blood boiling?
Any fox deterence hints?

Wear your hat and sunscreen! It’s gonna be a warm one! And check your pets have cool clean water today!
xx

But I did knit these – you like?