Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spinning honey

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There are some days where me and my farmer boy frantically rush through the farm jobs all day long hoping to have them done before school pick-up so we can slow down then and enjoy the afternoons with our girls. Then there are other times when we save jobs for when the girls get home. When we plan their after school activities carefully looking forward to sharing these special tasks with them.

Last week we had a few frames of honey to spin, it would have been quicker and easier to get the job done then and there, but there was no way we could resist the thought of the girls' excitement at watching the sticky frames become jars of delicious gold.

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The first step we took to extract the honey from the frames was to uncap the honeycomb.  Using a heated uncapping knife we carefully scraped the surface of the comb to remove the wax lid of each cell of honey.

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Then we placed the frames of uncapped honey in the extractor,

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and we cranked the handle which using centrifugal force spins the honey right out of the comb and onto the sides of the extractor.

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We took turns turning and spinning, and spinning and turning, until the frames were empty and the bottom of the extractor was full of honey which had dripped down the sides.

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Then we opened the valve at the bottom of the extractor, let the honey pour out into a honey strainer and then into a big bowl at the the bottom.

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After that all there was to do was wash all the sticky fingers and bits of equipment, pour all the honey into jars, eat spoonfuls straight from the jars and then some on toast.

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And then later on I baked this cake.

I know I'm writing this blog as if we did all the cool stuff but really we all know that we just took the baton on the last little leg of the honey journey. It's really the bees that live here at Daylesford Organics with us who do the real work pollinating our fruit and veggies, providing our spring soundtrack and not being too cranky when we take a tiny share of their honey now and then.

I feel so very fortunate to have cool activities like honey spinning to share with our girls, to watch their excited faces as they play their parts and to see how proud they are of themselves and how much more connected they are to their food source as they spoon big spoonfuls of golden honey into their porridge each morning.

What a fascinating, exciting, sticky, delicious, buzzy world.

Bee good my friends.

Big sweet love to you from me.

xx

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adventurous girls, mapmakers and a giveaway

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The girls who live in my house wear shorts under their dresses so they can climb trees, they ask for bows and arrows for birthday presents and they experiment with starting fires without matches. The girls who live in my house explore the forest out the back of our farm on weekends, they carry sticks for fighting the enemy and have lengthy discussions about what they would eat if their home disappeared. The girls who live in my house have scratched up knees, they wear their hair in long plaits to keep it out of their way and they play games about escaping from jail, about fighting dragons and about ninjas. The girls who live in my house are brave, and a bit wild, and a lot noisy.

So I guess it makes sense that the girls who live in my house are interested in reading books with adventurous female characters in them. Books about girls who aren't afraid to find their own way, to break the rules and who definitely are not afraid of boys.

Recently my friend Bron, Maxabella Loves, sent me a book that her clever sister A.L. wrote. Even though it is a book aimed at upper primary school aged kids, I read it in one night. Even though I knew at the time I was risking exhaustion the next day, I could not put it down.

The Mapmaker Chronicles is filled with adventure. It is full of interesting characters, mythical sea creatures, drama, and emotion. From the website:

The King is determined to discover what lies beyond the known world, and has promised a handsome prize to the ship's captain who can bring him a map of the whole globe. To do that, they'll need mapmakers - and 14-year-old Quinn is shocked to be one of the chosen. 
While his older brothers long for adventure, Quinn is content with a quiet life on the farm, but when word of his special talent gets out, he has no choice but to pack his bags and join the mismatched crew of slaves and stowaways on board the Libertas. The other competitors will do anything to win, but the greatest danger may come from the strange sea monster hot on their tail or the mysterious unchartered lands for which they are bound.
I really loved this book and highly recommend it to other nine+ year olds (and their Mum's too).

But I really do have to tell you that my favourite part of this whole thing was when I read on Bron's Facebook page that she'd spent the past month reading a chapter a night to her kids. And her kids LOVED the book and were sad when they came to the end. But only once they did come to the end did their Mum tell them that their auntie Al was the author. Imagine that! Your very own auntie the author of your very favourite book. So cool!!

I have am thrilled to announce that Hachette, publishers of The Mapmaker Chronicles, would like to give away one copy of the book to one of you guys. Yay! Please leave a comment below telling me something about the adventurous girls in your life or your favourite adventurous girls in fiction and I'll choose a winner early next week.

Until then I hope your dreams are sweet tonight.

Big love,

Kate xx

Monday, November 10, 2014

watching a bee hatch

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Late yesterday afternoon while visiting one of our hives we watched a bee hatching.

It had been one of those messy mornings when the girls wanted to do anything else but farming and be anywhere else but outside, and I felt disappointed and took it personally and found it difficult to give up the idyllic picture I'd had in my head of how we'd spend the day. But eventually I did give up and after an hour or so of broad-bean picking and shelling, we went our three separate ways; one into town, one to my parents' house and us three to visit the bees.

Even though we've had our own bee hives now for a few years, I still mostly feel like a beginner bee-keeper. It's like when we put on our suits, light the smoker and crack open the first hive, we enter a whole other world. And even though I'm not really scared of being stung, I am constantly aware of doing the right thing by the bees. Often I don't even realise until we come home and get our bee gear off how filled with adrenaline I've been. Bees are buzzy and their hives vibrate with activity and by opening them up we are exposing them and you can feel their tension. And we've noticed that different hives seem to have different personalities. We have one particular one that always feels frantic while some of the others are much calmer.

Late yesterday afternoon we visited one of our calmer hives. We cracked open the lid, slowly pulled out a few frames to see what was going on, and on one of the frames closer to the centre we found a bee hatching out of its cell.

It was such an incredible experience to see it nibble its way out of the capping. First came the feelers, waving around and then the head. After a bit more wriggling it went back inside and turned around and tried again from a different direction. And then the whole bee wandered out. A brand new, light grey coloured bee.

What a buzz!! It felt like such a privilege watching that bee's story unfold.

All three of us were so excited about what we had just witnessed as we closed the hive up, collected the honey frames we had swapped from another hive and drove up to the house.

And later on as I heard Miss Pepper tell the story of the hatching baby bee first to her grandparents and then to each of her sisters, I realised that it was OK that they hadn't wanted to come along. This is their world, they are SURROUNDED by bee keeping and veggie growing and bio dynamic stirring on all sides. It makes sense that they need some time out, that they need to find their own passions, and it makes sense that they just want to socialise on their weekends too. I just hope Miss Pepper remains our farm loving, animal cuddling, bee-keeping girl for many years to come.

Check out this link if you want to see some great pictures and info about the bee's life cycle.

And may your news be good news.

Lots of love

xx


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Catching a moment

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Hello! How are you dear friend. I was wondering if you might like to join me on a quick skip through my past week that was. I know it's a little self indulgent but it was a gorgeous week and I'd really like to catch it before it flitters off in the wind.

So here we go, this past week;

I visited a family with their new baby girl Holly, not even 19 hours old.

I sliced my thumb open on a pair of secateurs.

I saw blood clot and was impressed at my body, but not so much by the sight. 

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I woke up one year older.

I thought a lot about what a wonderful place right now is to be.

I threw a little, last minute birthday breakfast in our garden and hired a coffee van. During the party I was serenaded by my family, the girls singing and Bren on the ukulele, on the steps of the cubby-house.

I wrote an article for one of my fave magazines.

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I sucked honey out of honeycomb that we stole from the roof of one of our hives.

I planted 100's of seeds.

I started reading my first ever e-book - My Year Without Matches - which I am really enjoying, but still missing turning the pages.

I spent two whole days not knitting due to my cut thumb.

I sent the girls to school with yesterday's plaits due to my cut thumb.

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I read through the 102 Clover crochet hook entries and loved every single one. I love how crochet unties us, calms our busy minds and enables us to make pretty gifts from scratch for ourselves and other people in our lives. Eventually I chose Dre at No Frills Mum because her story touched me. Dre please email me your postal details and I'll get gorgeous Renae to mail you your hooks ASAP.

I thought a bit about how cool it would be to run a yarn store like Yarn Haus and how we should support Renae by buying our yarn from her because she is brave and living her dreams and sourcing some really gorgeous yarns.

I spent an afternoon without house water when farmer Bren ploughed through a pipe.

I cleaned up another Mother's child's poo in our bathroom without any water (of course it happened when I had none).

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I knitted a hedgehog Softie for Mirabel.

I did half of Indi's painting homework.

I remembered that I'm not such a great painter.

I remembered that I love couscous.

I felt overwhelmed and honoured and thrilled by all the birthday messages and calls and love.

I ate my first mango of the season.

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I visited a bio dynamic sheep farm and fell more in love with wool.

I accumulated 246 unread emails.

I accumulated a kitchen table full of beautiful birthday flowers.

I donated to our community's Clay Space project.




I listened to this song and watched this film so many times and felt more than a little bit proud of our Indi, Tim and Geoffrey.

I think that's all the main points. I'll probably think of more once I press publish.

I have to now, my farmer boy is teaching the girls to make fire with a magnifying glass and I don't want to miss out.


So how about you?
What have you been up to this past week dear friends?
Tell me three or four things in the comments if you like, I'd love to know.

I hope you have the most wonderful weekend.

Love Kate xx

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eloise the snake and a crochet giveaway

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What do you give the seven year old who has everything for her birthday?

Why an enormous stripy crocheted snake of course!!

The Sunday before the Friday of our Pepper's birthday we found ourselves asking each other this question often. Seriously, what on earth did she possibly want or need? Being our third girl the answer was most certainly not clothes, or toys, or books. And being seven the answer was most certainly nothing too babyish and nothing too grown up either. And not giving her anything just wasn't an option.

So we were stuck.

And then it occurred to me that I could make her a toy. And hopefully the fact that it would be made by me, and the fact that it would be bright and big, would kind of negate the too babyish bit

So I got to work on ravelry, found a pattern, and every night as soon as she went to sleep I got out the hooks and the cottons and started crocheting. Around, and around, and around.

And you know what? She loved it! She loves it!!

She takes it everywhere she goes, she changes its name constantly and she's even given it a much coveted place in her bed so she can snuggle it all night. (Poor old Big Ted hasn't been as happy finding himself in the crack between the wall and the bed every morning though).

Funny how I am petrified of snakes in real life yet this stripy one makes me so happy.

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So, do you want to make a stripy snake for someone you love too? You know you do. The pattern is simple and totally make-able for beginners. I just used lots of scraps of cotton I had from other projects and I used these gorgeous Clover crochet hooks.

And guess what??

Gorgeous Renae of Yarn Haus has kindly offered to send one of you a packet of these wonderful hooks too. How cool is that!!

I am seriously in love with the Clover hooks. The padding is in the right place not to leave an indentation in my finger, I love the colours and I don't think I will ever use another hook again.

So if you live in Australia or New Zealand.
If you love to crochet or would love to learn.
And if you think these hooks are just what your hooky kit needs, then please leave a comment telling me something about crochet. Anything you like. And we'll choose a winner early next week, (my birthday week - YAY!)

Oh I just realised my pink hook is missing from the pics. Oops! Never fear, your kit will definitely include the pretty pink hook too.

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In the meantime why don't you check our Renae's;

Gorgeous new yarn haus website here.
Go like her pretty yarn haus Facebook page here.
Go follow her fabulous yarn haus instagram account here.
And go and follow her witty yarn yarn haus twitter here.

You gotta be in it to win it!!

Happy hooking friends!!


Love Kate

xx

PS Miss Pepper's snake is ravelled here

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a nest among the prickles

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IMG_1961A week or so after we got back from our winter break up north I had a mega tantrum.

I think it started when I went down to check the asparagus patch only to find it waist high in prickly weeds. The very same thing happened in the raspberries and the strawberries. After that I was a mess. I wandered around the farm with tears streaming down my face for hours. I felt overwhelmed, out of control and completely hopeless.

It felt like we had left this place in the depths of winter and while we'd been gone the sun had come out, warmed the earth and everything had shot up and taken over. It felt like in another few months we would be like Sleeping Beauty in that fairy tale where she goes to sleep in her castle and the vines and creepers grow up and cover her home until no one knows there is anyone or anything there at all. It felt like it would take us weeks and months to get on top of all the vines and thistles and that was precious time we didn't have considering it was the start of spring and things needed to be planted.

So I wandered and wept. And I wept and wandered.

And after a while my farmer boy came and wandered with me and tried to console me and make practical plans for mowing and slashing. He would put in a few days on his tractor and I would follow behind with the brush cutter. It would be hard work but he promised we would see results quickly.

But the truth is that I knew then that we were having the same conversation but thinking two different things.

In my head I was planning a war on weeds. I would spend as much time as it took to get this place in order. I would slash from sun-up to sun-down. I would prioritise it and I would be super proud when in a few months or weeks time I would stand back and look at our manicured farm.

On the other hand I knew that my farmer boy was thinking a very different thought. He would happily mow the orchards and clean up a bit around the place, but he didn't see the horror story that I did. To him weeds aren't the sworn enemy but another part of the farm's ecosystem. He certainly doesn't want them to take over and bury us, but he doesn't want to eradicate them all together either.

So we did as we planned, we spent a few days mowing and cleaning up this place and almost immediately I felt better. I felt like I could breathe. I felt like I could cope.

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But then this morning as we were walking from the house down to the bottom garden to gather some rhubarb and asparagus and broad beans for lunch, we decided to check in on the hazelnut orchard to check for fruit set. And there, under a tree, tucked into the prickliest blackberry bush there ever was, was the most beautiful little nest. A nest for a tiny bird. A nest for a bird that needs undergrowth for it's habitat and undergrowth is not really something that our local forests, having been disturbed over many years, provide.

And as we walked down and then back up the hill for lunch I opened my eyes further and saw this place differently all over again. Not so much overgrown but biodiverse.

We're thinking the nest we found is probably a fantail nest and I'm thinking good thoughts about that fantail family living happily in our hazelnut orchard. I'm also thinking about picking those hazelnuts and eating those hazelnuts and cooking with those hazelnuts come autumn-time, fingers crossed for a good harvest.

Fingers crossed I can keep seeing the habitat and move onto other pressing farm jobs.


I hope your fairy tale castle has a clear way in my friends.


Love Kate xx




Monday, October 27, 2014

Miss Pepper's floral party

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Last Wednesday, two days before Miss Pepper's birthday, I was having a little bit of a moan at school about how I don't have a baby any more. About how time is flying. And about how hard it is sometimes not to feel a teensy bit sad at her milestones because they are firsts for her, but also lasts for me.

At that point one of the girls' teachers stopped me. She told me that she'd lost so many friends over the years that now she looks at ageing as a gift. We are so lucky to live our lives and watch those we love, live theirs. Life is a blessing.

I decided then and there that I want to think like that too. I want to celebrate and feel grateful and be happy and leave all that melancholy stuff behind. That especially makes sense when it comes to our Pepper, the happiest, most joyful child.

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Last Thursday, one day before Miss Pepper's birthday, she told us that she wanted her world to be filled with flowers, so we filled every pot we could find with colourful blooms.

Last Friday our Pepper turned seven. We celebrated her with cards and presents and pancakes and cake and songs. I felt happy the whole day thinking about how exciting a little kid's birthday is and she had the very best day too.

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Last Saturday, the day after our Pepper turned seven, eight of her best friends came over for a flower fiesta party!!

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As they came in, each of the girls lay fabric flower petals and leaves and feathers on a piece of elastic and I hot glued them on for them.

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I absolutely loved watching each of them create their masterpiece. Some crammed on as many petals as they could fit all the way around, some placed layer upon layer upon layer, and then some went for one single bloom - gorgeous and simple.

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Once they were all crowned, we played pass the parcel with notes, pin the bees on the blossoms and musical statues.

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And then my farmer boy sat the girls in a circle and taught them how to make paper flowers.

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We made garlands with some, while others wore theirs as corsages or held them like posies.

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Then we sang to our birthday girl, ate cake and then we danced.

Much later on, after her guests had left, the cards had been opened and the presents had been played with a bit, our family went and ate ice cream down by the lake. We played charades, we watched the ducks and then we went for a long walk. At one stage I asked our Pepper if she had enjoyed her party. I said that to me it looked like it had included all the best ingredients; yummy food, craft, music, laughing and her best friends. First she told me that I had forgotten crying, because indeed there were a few seven year old party tears. And then she told me it was the best party in the whole world, the best party ever. You gotta be happy with that.

And I totally am happy with that.

And I love that in a seven year old world crying can be part of the happiest time.

I'm hoping for happiness and not too many tears when I turn a year older next week and when Indi does not long after that.

I'm not 100% sure that this blog makes sense but it's been crazy windy and stormy since very early this morning and I feel wriggly and jiggly and rattled inside.

Enjoy your present and your presents lovely friends.

Big birthday season love from us.

xx

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