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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Fatigue, food forests, foraging and fabulous flowers.

It’s been a hard week. A very very hard week.

But I think we’re finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Ben did his last full week of chemo, which means we only have two Thursday ‘short days’ to go. It was heartbreaking for me having to drive him there each day, like a lamb to the slaughter. It’s absolutely floored him. He’s lucky to get out of bed each day. And I’ve been doing the equivalent of a single mum and a ‘one woman farm’. I’m exhausted, and the cracks in my armor are beginning to show.

Luckily we’ve had our parents here for the worst weeks, and our new friends have been so helpful! Still, I can’t WAIT until he starts to feel better again.   

Cookie: Constant companion.


And summer is finally coming to an end. We’re going to have to start doing those Winter preparation jobs, like stock piling firewood and hay, and cleaning the fireplace.

The veggies are starting to go to seed with the end of the season, but the garden is still bountiful. Right now there is still tonnes of basil, plus green capsicums, parsley, lebanese cucumbers, rocket and quite a bounty of Gross Lisse tomatoes, still pale green.

We sadly lost another of the older hens last week. Not to a fox this time, but to some sort of respiratory virus-thing that all the others got and got over. But little old Snuggles just couldn’t seem to shake it, and got weaker and more lethargic. She was one of the original hens that were here when we moved in, so god knows how old she was!

Do they all have names? Well, no. But often they name themselves, and we certainly recognise individuals! Aside from Lennon the Rooster, there’s Hoppy (was lame, now better), Shiny (Kate’s favourite), Patchy (is patchy), Scruffy (is scruffy), Trouble (with a capital ‘T’) and Walkabout (who is always on her own at the far ends of the farm pecking at something and reluctant to come in for dinner).

We’re getting about six eggs a day.

And just LOOK AT KATE’S SUNFLOWERS! Magnificent! Planted herself before christmas and lovingly watered and tended by the Hill Shadow Ferals and all our other insect friends.

I can honestly say that we’ve discovered chaos is key in the garden! (Ours anyway!). Ours is an ecosystem. The weeds are welcome!: They shade the seedlings, hide the produce, feed the compost, hold the soil together, feed the birds, conserve the water. Insects are welcome!: the bees tend the flowers, the good bugs control the bad bugs. And we plant everything everywhere in every available space: “Wanna feed, Pests? – You’re gonna have to find it first…!” It is a veritable food forest!

I also recommend what I’ve termed “accidental farming”. Just seeing what comes up. We’ve had a tonne of seeds just sprout from our compost or shoot-off from parent plants. Just leave it be – you never know! Some of those have been our greatest producers! Survival of the fittest! (And if it turns out to be a weed, you can always pull it out later!) An example of this was our potatoes: We just decided to leave it be and see… and ‘presto’! Accidental Harvest!

Also anything you can forage is GOOD. FREE FOOD = #winning! Just be sure any plants you pick arent sprayed, get permission if you need it, and they are DEFINITELY what you think they are (ie mushrooms – mistakes can be fatal!) We have been harvesting LOADS of blackberries from our thicket (we asked our landlord not to spray them!) and found a rogue patch of mint growing in our gully, which we took a few shoots of and have now established in two big pots by our front door.

One day, Old Man. I will get you out for a ride again one day! x

Now, I best go. Tara’s putting stickers on my arms, Kate wants a snack, and there is a suspicious smell coming from Tara’s nappy…

And Im gonna cook some bicuits for Kate’s lunchbox, cast-on some knitted slippers, and feed the chooks. A farm girl’s work is never done! 🙂

xx

Pills, poison, patience, and pallid poultry.

Chemo days

This week was totally consumed with chemotherapy. Ben had to go everyday at 9am, sit in a hospital chair, while his body was effectively fed poison, again, and again, and again. He’s been amazing: sleeping lots, woozy and weak, but every minute he feels well enough, he’s helping out or playing with the girls.

He gets nausea – there’s a pill for that.
He gets dizzy – there’s a pill for that.
He gets insomnia – there’s a pill for that.
And he’s been chronically constipated (sorry Ben!) – and you guessed it….

I feel so bloody helpless. All I can really do is make him food/drink, let him sleep, check he’s remembered whatever pill he’s due for, and exit the kids whenever possible so he can have some peace! Phew. It’s tiring and emotionally pretty hard. And this is only after week one.

Eep.

On the Friday I booked both the kids into care, and went with him to keep him company for the few hours in the ward. I watched the nurses come and go: Efficient, professional, and endlessly paitient. I listened to the 93-year-old platelet-recipient in the next chair (“and he says to me ‘what are you in here for?’ And I say, ‘I think Im pregnant’. And then he looks at my paperwork and says ‘*insert medical term here*: I’ve never heard of that!’ And I said, ‘Well it’s probably never heard of you either!’…).  And I crocheted 2 tealight lanterns to sell at some local markets on a friends’ stall.
And I won a free knitting pattern over at Foxs Lane! Woohoo! Another project! I’m thinking a beanie for a certain husband who might need a head warmer/sun-protector soon…
Some people do chemo for YEARS. Thankgod for us, it should only be 9 weeks. HOPEFULLY.

But the garden, it doth provide. It’s all wild and going to seed now. But we still pick cherry toms, basil – loads of that!, lettuce, leeks, spring onion, spinach, corn, oregano, and parsley. Soon, we will hopefully pick our first Grosse Lisse tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, carrots, rocket, and more beetroot.

Corn! BIG success in a bed that nothing else could survive in because we couldn’t keep the slugs away! But the corn was too tough!

What to plant next, what to plant next… 😉

We were so proud of our spotty apricots (BEST JAM EVER. SERIOUSLY!), our “Accidental we-thought-they-were-ornamental-but-they’re-not-actually-they’re-just-undersized Plum Jam” and our poor bent apple tree’s 4 little green apples (I juiced em before the birds ate ’em!) . But our figs are so disappointing. They’re HUGE! We had high hopes! But inside they’re dry and completely tasteless. And before they get a chance to go really black, they get eaten (but not by us.). It’s not looking good. I dont know whether it’s because they dont get a chance to go fully ripe, or because the whole massive tree (well over 12 ft!) appears to be thriving from between 2 concrete slabs in an old garden bed and is deprived of water/nutrients/space..? However, every chance it gets, it send out new shoots, and it is massive and loaded with fruit, so I figure it cant be fareing too badly! Truly, you wouldn’t believe the mutant base of this tree and where it’s growing from. Isn’t nature’s resilience amazing?!

Tomatoes and basil: perfect bedfellows x (and that garden bed literally used to be A BED. Recycling, doncha know!?)

And can we recommend SWEET BITE as a cherry tomato variety?!?! Holy crud, these guys PRODUCED! For such a compect little bush (I’m talking balcony-pot-plant size!) they are LOADED with fruit, and the girls snack off those 2 little bushes every day! Highly recommended!

Discovery! We lay our glass panels (used for mini ‘glasshouses’ over our foam-boxed seedlings) on the weed patches in the direct summer sun! Who needs weedkiller & chemicals? Just leave it a few days, then move it somewhere else! The weeds cant handle the heat, and go brown and die! #AccidentalFarming

And our poor chookies appear to have… um… colds?! I’ve noticed a few looking listless, and they appear to have ‘snotty’ beaks and bubbly eyes… OMG – what?! You guys cant be sick too?! So Im frantically googling and I’ve added some garlic granules to their drinking water. and I swear I saw some lice on one of them… (There’s probably a pill for that.)

So tonight I’m listening to the wild wind, contemplating a shower and the washing up, googling chook antibiotics, wondering WHY THE HELL Katie isn’t going to sleep, drinking tea, savouring a belly full of cauliflower crust pizza (TRY IT), feeling grateful to live in a country that offers subsidised childcare in difficult circumstances, and trying to breathe deeply and evenly.

One day at a time.

-xx-

Chickens, christmas, and cans of catfood.

That fox. She has me paranoid. At every cluck of a chook now, I bolt outside like

It’s totally nuts. Plus our chickens seem to have totally gone off the lay. 15 chickens only producing 2 eggs a day. Hum.

The chicken forum I follow on facebook suggested upping their protein as they will be trying to recover their feathers after life in the battery farm. And you know what they suggested?

Cat food.

(Yeah, I know.)

But we’ll try anything, so bring on a the tinned Whiskas and we’ll see what happens I guess!

As things head toward christmas, Im really thinking about what Im going to give for gifts this year. I LOVE giving presents! It’s one of my FAVOURITE things. BUT, I hate commercialism and giving “stuff”. There is a practical side of me that hates the frivolity and waste. I hate wrapping paper, I hate birthday cards, I hate useless plastic gimmicky crap. So this year I am trying to give what I love receiving: handmade and useful gifts.

I’ll go into more detail post-christmas (just incase anyone on my gift-giving list happens upon this blog! *spoilers!*)

But I do love how busy the end of the year gets. I love the end of year festivities: concerts, parties, catch-ups… FUN!

OOH! And DECORATING! A new house to decorate! We dont even have a tree! Where do we start?!

Get thinking! Only 5 weeks to go! 5 WEEKS!

Longer post next time, I promise x

Teeth, twigs, and time ticking away!

My Mother in law’s bluebells – FLOWERING! ❤

Just when I thought summer was here… Today is freezing again! yesterday afternoon I had to walk my horse down to the neighbour’s place to have him seen to by the Equine Dentist through gale force winds and icy rain! I felt completly mad! But today is the old boy’s 18th birthday, so its nice to know he’ll be able to crunch comfortably on his birthday carrots!

 

Cant believe I’ve had him 13 years now! Gee it seems like a long time! And it also means I’ve been riding horses for 24 years! I started riding at 8, but I think the horsey-bug has started to bite Katie a little earlier…

I also went to a Home Harvest seminar night last Wednesday where I think I was about the youngest there by 20 years… but I did get some good ideas and affirmation about what we’re doing. Here’s Ben’s great custom ‘glass house’ over our pea seeds in our bale garden…

Re-purposed windows from a demolition!: Genius.

And here’s my silver beet seedlings that I swapped for some citrus (score!) but that I am taking NO CHANCES with! As you can see I have surrounded them with twigs (blackbird deterrent!), coffee grounds (slugs!) AND crushed egg shells (snails!). Hopefully Ive been cautious/paranoid enough for something to survive for once!

And here you see my custom Lady Bug hotel! I’m trying to encourage GOOD pests to my garden! (Wanna know more about Bug Hotels? Try here.)

Still no sign of the beans yet…

But plenty of these.

Still, there is one cute furry critter round the place-

Naaaw, Tufty!

What critters help your garden? 
Do you put any sustainable practices into place at your place?

Keep your coffee grounds!
xx