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Precious cargo

Tonight I opened a box, sent from Tasmania by a dear friend.  It is full of fabric from three generations of her family, and she is entrusting it to me as someone who will make good use of it and appreciate where it has come from.  Talk about precious cargo!  I will be taking my time to examine each piece and really think about what to do with it.

Opening the box and thinking about precious cargo got me thinking about my last few days and other sorts of precious cargo I have encountered.

Yesterday was rather dramatic. I was sitting at the bench having a cup of tea and chatting to two friends when I heard our dog Dottie barking ferociously.  I stuck my head out the door to have a look and found her flinging a dark coloured snake with her mouth. The snake wasn’t running (slithering) away though – it was attacking her.  After calling her away I went to look for the shovel and told my friends what was happening. As we looked for the snake and watched the dog we realised that she wasn’t well, so a phone call to the local vet, a pile of towels wrapped around her and under her and with one of my friends holding her carefully, off we sped to the vet.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

The good news is that we arrived safely, despite my rally driving over the mountain range that sits between us and the vet.  The vet rushed to meet us in the car park, and was able to treat her quickly, and she should make a full recovery.  The bad news is that the treatment is extremely expensive ($1500 just for the anti-venom medication alone).   The moment that our precious cargo stopped panting loudly and my friend thought she had stopped breathing will stay with me for a very long time.  Dottie is very precious to all of us, and to lose her would have been devastating, particularly while the children are away visiting their grandparents and having adventures with their father during our school holidays.

It has really shot home the need for us to be prepared for snake bites for humans as well.  Time for some first aid revision and reminders for the children and adults!!  (The snake was later located and dealt with by my parents who were digging out the garden bed it had disappeared into.  It was a juvenile tiger snake, so we are very lucky.  A grown tiger snake would have killed her.)

We are really experiencing the full extent of country life this week.  The day before Dad and I had to make the hard decision that it was time for two of our old hens to go.  We didn’t want to do it but knew that it had to be done.  I described it as ‘farmering up’ – taking responsibility for the hard bits of being an animal owner as well as the good bits.  They had been precious cargo – they had introduced us to being chicken owners, had provided wonderful eggs, and had taught us a lot about caring for our animals.  The responsibility to end their lives with respect was a heavy one.

On the flip side, our green hued eggs continue to be produced as precious cargo to be carried from the coop.

Green eggs|a little bird made me

In amongst all this drama and country life I have been cutting out patterns, matching fabrics, and dreaming big. Might be time to put the fabric with the machine and actually make something!  How novel!

I am also enjoying the beautiful roses from our garden in these lovely vases that a friend gave me as a house warming gift.  The sight and smell of them warms my heart.

Bud vases |a little bird made me

I hope that your precious cargo, whatever it may be, is safe and well tonight.  Give them an extra squeezy hug, just because you can.

 

Finding time

I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time!  When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time.  I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do.  This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.

Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities.  I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life.  (Not just once!).  The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives.  I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better.  Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes.  I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation.  (Usually.  Definitely not always.)   When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down.  (Sometimes).  And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea.  Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.

Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!

I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre.  (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!)  I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it!  It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!

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The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

This weekend just past was also very special.  The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra.  I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level.  The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight.  Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too.  They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art.  Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist.  She was thrilled!

The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support.  They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend.  This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!

I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night.  I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house.  I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own.  We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away.  I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food.  Oh my goodness.

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The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly!   I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts!  (The owners are also delightful people!)

017b44bb4b29c63f9f742e0e02f00cabd99df22e73I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup.  And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself.  Talk about bliss!

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week.  Hmmmm…… the best laid plans!  Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.

The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot.  (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!)  I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.  I like it!  Maybe I should make some more…..    where is that ‘to-do’ list again?

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives.  We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!

And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind!  It is just so lush!  The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads.  Drool.

01336619eb5f8a927b88032198547f2c2f9f3620e1Now to decide what to do with it!  Choices, choices, choices!

I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.

 

 

Autumn

We are settling in well here on the farm.  We have grown our chicken flock by 4 with the addition of some Araucuna hens – and they lay green eggs!  Green, white and brown eggs

The Dr Seuss references abound as you can imagine!  One of the hens has been named Sam-I-Am, while another is Yertle the Turtle.  Then we divert into random chicken names like Fiona and Big Bertha.  Dad continues to work on perfecting their coop and run and we all love just watching them as they scurry around negotiating their larger group.  The ‘pecking order’ is alive and well!

With time has also come room to start sewing again.  What a joy!  I am taking it slowly, and focussing on building up stocks in the Shop Handmade, and filling some gaps in their stock, so have expanded my range of baby goods a bit, and am not back to bag making just yet.

New products for my range - Reversible baby blankets - flannel one side and cotton the other!

New products for my range – Reversible baby blankets – flannel one side and cotton the other!

A quilted baby blanket from organic cotton and cotton flannel - this one was hard to put in the shop!

A quilted baby blanket from organic cotton and cotton flannel – this one was hard to put in the shop!

 

Baby change mats with laminated cotton outers, bamboo padding and cotton lining have also joined the product list.

Baby change mats with laminated cotton outers, bamboo padding and cotton lining have also joined the product list.

I am also working on some concepts of  re-branding.  The break away from blogging and sewing has given me time to reflect on where I want to take this little adventure I call my business, so stand by for a bit more movement over the next few months!  Now that I have a studio set up it is easier to think about moving forward again.

My sewing studio.  Still need to work on the curtains and carpet and paint - well the decor generally - but the space is awesome!!

My sewing studio. Still need to work on the curtains and carpet and paint – well the decor generally – but the space is awesome!!

I have been focussing on my own health a bit more over the last couple of months.  For the first time in my living memory I have lost weight, and kept it off, and passed that magic weight point that has alluded me for over 20 years.  You know that point where you diet, get down to a certain weight, but just can’t get below that, even though you have plenty of excess ‘body’ that could go?  I actually beat it!  Even better, I am feeling healthy and energised.  I did it using a product system that my sister is selling – I was extremely sceptical at first but have been converted.  Now to get the exercise happening a bit more regularly (my never-ending battle!)

What else have I been up to?  A quick trip to Queensland to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday.  It was a great weekend full of colour, laughs, great music and shared stories.  The interesting thing is that these are people I met a couple of years ago, by chance, at a Bluesfest.  We just clicked, and have become fast friends ever since.  The people I met at their house and the party were all just like them – warm, generous of spirit and amusing.  One of the guests said that ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and this is so true when I think of this family!

Nothing like a tropical back yard party to set a great scene!

Nothing like a tropical back yard party to set a great scene!

With more headspace, and time to start designing again comes a return to fabric buying, researching, and coming up with ideas.  Look out – the grey matter is ticking away coming up with all sorts of ideas here!  I am even contemplating making something for myself.  I know!  Wonders will never cease!  But in the meantime here is an awesome free printable for pop-up hot air balloons that I found on the wonderful site Design is Yay, by the delightful Wita.  (That is my favourite sort of researching – finding cool things to share!!)

Our weather is just starting to turn cool, so I am even contemplating crochet again.  That change of seasons is always enough to kick me into gear!  I have been happily pinning ideas on Pinterest (so addictive but such a good way to capture ideas for later!)

I hope that your week is going well and that you have awesome plans for your weekend!

Hello 2015!!

Can you believe that it is February already?  I knew that January was going to be busy for me this year, with the house move, but I really didn’t anticipate just how busy!  Although moving house is meant to be stressful, in fact it was just busy.  I seemed to be short of time to do anything, for days on end, and yet when I got to the end of each day I couldn’t report what I had achieved.  However, the good news is that we are in, the house is now in our names (my parents and I) and we are settling in nicely.  The danger is that those few boxes that haven’t been unpacked might never get unpacked…….  but I am sure that one day I will remember something I need is in one of them and they will be emptied!

A photo by the artist-in-residence of the boy at our dam.

A photo by the artist-in-residence of the boy at our dam.

There are many wonderful things about our new home.  There is room to spread out, for the kids to have adventures, for us to consider what animals we might get to fatten up in the paddocks, or which crops we might plant to generate some income in the future.  There is room to ride bikes, find frogs and grasshoppers, to entertain friends, and to make new discoveries.   The kids decided that swimming in the dam was a pretty awesome summer activity.  Until a visitor spotted a tiger snake (extremely venomous) swimming across the top of the water towards them!!  After that they returned to skipping stones across the water from the bank, after doing a full snake check first!

Looking across the biggest paddock towards the boundary

Looking across the biggest paddock towards the boundary

bywong sunset | a little bird made me

We can see the most beautiful sunsets from our property, but they are especially good when I climb to the top of our property.

The artist-in-residence has been enjoying taking photos of all the gorgeous roses in our garden

The artist-in-residence has been enjoying taking photos of all the gorgeous roses in our garden

 

However there is one drawback in the midst of all this bucolic bliss.  We are currently restricted to using mobile broadband modems as we can’t get cable broadband.  12GB a month for the four of us.  Eek!   Such a first world problem, but such a chore to work out!  It has been quite good for all of us and forced us to change our internet habits, but sometimes it is just plain annoying!

I had already identified that I wouldn’t be doing any of my ‘work’ in January.  I have managed to set up my sewing room (in what was formerly the formal dining room), and have made a laptop bag for my boy to use for going to school.  But that is about it so far!  As usual I have so many ideas, and plans, but the reality of being time poor means that I have to learn to be patient!

A lap top bag for the boy - waterproof of course, with a hint of Minecraft about it!

A lap top bag for the boy – waterproof of course, with a hint of Minecraft about it!

I have been learning a bit more than patience during the last few months too.  I have discovered that I am very like my father in many ways.  Once we moved house the first thing that was required was a new home for our chickens.  Torrential, and unseasonal, rain put paid to the original plan to build something by recycling our swing set on the weekend we moved.  (Okay – I was a tad ambitious in hindsight.)  So a hurried purchase of a ridiculously small and even more ridiculously priced chook shed occurred and we moved the girls.  Then Dad set to work, using completely recycled materials (bar the sheet of plywood we had to buy to build the nesting box).  As he planned, built, measured, and interacted with the rest of us I saw myself reflected in many of his words and actions.  (And not just the good ones!)  After all these years of thinking that I take after my mother so much it has been quite an eye opener to discover that I have inherited so many traits from him!

The emergency purchase chicken coop - far too small for chickens, but pretty good for rabbits!

The emergency purchase chicken coop – far too small for chickens, but pretty good for rabbits!

The first stage of the new chicken palace.  Next steps include a fenced run, and an internal wall to provide shelter from the elements.

The first stage of the new chicken palace. Next steps include a fenced run, and an internal wall to provide shelter from the elements.

I have also had lots of reminders about why we have made this move, and that I can’t plan to do things with gay abandon as I used to, as my children don’t cope with it.  I can’t say that this is a lesson that I have learnt as I seem to keep forgetting it.  I thought that I could swan off the day after we moved, to clean the house we were selling.  in hindsight that was a ridiculous plan but it took three phone calls from crying family members for me to realise that I needed to abandon that plan and return to the farm to support everyone through this massive change. (And I paid someone else to finish the cleaning!)  I had also thought I could head off to the other side of the country for four days to attend the wedding of a dear friend.  A few days before the trip I realised (after a particularly drastic action by my boy) that he was in no state for me to leave him for even a few hours, let alone a few days. So the trip was cancelled too.  It is exhausting being ‘needed’ so much, but I am extremely lucky that I am able to be available so much.  The generosity and support of my parents in helping us to move house has meant that while money has been tight over January, we could keep moving forward.

What else have I learnt?  That my impatience stretches to myself!  I have spent the last week setting up a book-keeping system that will (hopefully) save time and improve processes for the Shop that I support in an admin role.  I kept wanting it to be perfect instantly, and wanting to fix everything that is associated with it instantly, and finally had to realised that I have to switch off, make a plan, and return to that dance of balancing family, work, obligations, fun, and time to let go.  So – more life lessons for this old duck.

The final lesson?  Purple hair die does not last!  So now I have returned to blue, and added turquoise.

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Other big news?  My eldest has started high school and is relishing every moment of it!  The two girls have been catching the bus home in the afternoon, and enjoying that new independence too.  The children were given pet rabbits by their paternal grandparents at Christmas, and the bunnies very happily inherited the chicken coop.  Unfortunately two of them died suddenly of unknown causes a few days ago, so there has been a fair amount of grief as a result.  (And I had to dig two holes because the first one cut some buried irrigation pipe. The ground here is very rocky – more lessons learnt there!)

Three pet bunnies the day before the two grey ones, Pixie and Carrots, died.  Mittens (white) is very lonely now.

Three pet bunnies the day before the two grey ones, Pixie and Carrots, died. Mittens (white) is very lonely now.

I can also report a very positive start to the year for my boy. I am cautiously optimistic, as last year started well too, but he has grown a lot and is constantly learning how to manage himself, and he has made it through the first week remarkably well.  His autism traits are becoming more obvious in his social interactions, so that will be a big focus to support him with over the next few months, but his other behaviours are responding well to his medication and allowing him to control his emotions much better.  Phew!

There you have it – an update on the family news.  Hopefully the next posts will have news on sewing, making, and farming!

One of the Campine chickens having a scratch around the new yard - so many juicy bugs to be found!

One of the Campine chickens having a scratch around the new yard – so many juicy bugs to be found!

Time has passed

Things have been a little quiet here on the blog for a while, but my life has been very busy  The second explains the first.  If I try to share everything in one post you will be reading for days, so I thought I would start with some highlights.

Over the school holidays the chicks and I got stuck into our garden and created four vegetable patches – well, one herb garden and three vege patches.  Between chickens, birds and possums we were quickly down to two vege patches and one herb garden, but they are thriving well. I was particularly proud of our efforts in recycling and repurposing in order to protect the gardens!  (These are old junior hockey pop up goals).

Vegetable garden|a little bird made me

A couple of weeks ago the chicks and I hosted some very long term friends for a weekend to experience Canberra as part of the Human Brochure.  I will write in more detail soon, but can report that the weekend was more wonderful than any of us expected!  Some photographic highlights to whet your appetite include:

Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon

Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon

 

My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Sienna feeding a lion - as you do - at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Sienna feeding a lion – as you do – at the National Zoo and Aquarium

My parents came to visit for a week about three weeks ago and are still here.  We decided that I needed to sell my house and move to somewhere that cost a little less to maintain, so have spent the last few weeks working flat out to spruce up the house.  All those little jobs that I have been meaning to do for the last few years have been done and the house looks wonderful!  At the time of writing we are re-thinking the decision to sell, so stand by for developments in that area over the next few months!  If I stay it means that I get to enjoy all our hard work, which will be great!

I haven’t managed a large amount of sewing, with everything else that has been going on, but have been creative in other ways, including making some gifts for my guests using some great quotes from an article about Canberra.

01a3caefaa7aa8ff89adca6a86199d5a746170eb4e Canberra tote bags |a little bird made me

This might be the briefest update in my blog’s history, especially given all that is going on, so I will have to provide more detail and more photos over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime I have to share my latest hair colouring adventure with you.  My father asked me if it was ‘designed to attract or repel?’.  When I responded that it was ‘to amuse’ he informed me that it had done it’s job!

Jacaranda Hair|a little bird made me Jacaranda Hair |a little bird made me

I hope that you are all well, and being kind to yourselves!

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

5 things I have learned about divorce

My marriage ended 5 1/2 years ago when my husband announced, via email, that he ‘couldn’t do this anymore’.  At the time I truly had not seen it coming.  Looking back I can see that the marriage was doomed.  Ah the wisdom of hindsight.

Since then I have been through the ups and downs and ins and outs of divorce.  While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and while my first question to anyone I meet who tells me that they are thinking of leaving their partner is “Is there any way you can fix this?” there are a few things I have learned along the way that might help someone else going through separation and divorce, particularly if there are children involved.  I am not an expert, these are my personal experiences and learnings, but they seem, from discussion with friends, to be universal.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

1. The grief process following divorce is the same as the grief process following death of a loved one.  I truly didn’t understand this until I read a blurb in the back of a vampire fantasy novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (I was hiding in bad literature at the time) where the author talked about thinking that nothing would be worse than losing her mother as a child until she got divorced.  That statement shocked me but also resonated with me.  The death of a marriage is more than just walking away from someone you have loved.  It is the death of your dreams, of your idea of who the other person is, of the idea of who you are, of how you fit into your community and family, and of your belief in your future.

Once I understood this I realised why I had been angry, sad, wanting him back, etc.  It helped me to heal and bounce back much more quickly when I realised that my reactions were ‘normal’.

2. Putting your children first in every decision you make about how to react to your separation helps.  When I remembered to look at my decisions through the lens of ‘how will this affect the children’ my decisions were much better than when I had knee jerk reactions of ‘I don’t want this to happen’, ‘Hell no way am I agreeing with you’, or ‘You need to suffer too’.  (All of which are completely normal but not completely pleasant reactions.)

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

3. Something that was a problem during your marriage will continue to be a problem after your marriage.  I know – really obvious huh?!  For example it took me a long time to realise that the issues that we had about money during our marriage were exactly the same issues we were having about money after our marriage.  In fact it has taken me 5 years to realise that there is no point engaging in those discussions as nothing changes.  The sooner you learn to change your response, the sooner the situation will change.  By not engaging in these pointless conversations I am more able to gain perspective, less frustrated and more able to just ‘let it go.’

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

4. Biting your tongue lets your children develop their own relationships and form their own views on their parents.  Look.  I am no saint, and I make mistakes like everyone else.  However I have tried really hard not to tell the children every thought, feeling, frustration or anger I have towards their father.  They need to be able to work out his role in their life themselves, untainted by my history and views.  I try to just give them simple facts, or direct them to him for their answers.  When it is really hard I simply say ‘I don’t really understand why he did that either. Maybe you should talk to him about that so that he can help you to understand.’    What I mutter under my breath, in my mind or to my friends when the kids aren’t around is something quite different!

5. There is no perfect way for children to share their time between their parents.  No matter what people tell you there is no perfect solution.  Week about, every second weekend, every Friday night, half of each week, just on school holidays, and all the other weird and wonderful arrangements that we can dream up will never give our kids the ideal balance or life.  They will always feel a little displaced, out of sync, and disrupted.  There will always be the drama of telling a teacher ‘sorry I left that at Dad’s house’, or ‘Mum won’t sign the form because that is on Dad’s week’ or any of the hundred ways that they are forced to publicly share that they come from a broken home.  All we can do is support them, listen to them, give them a voice (but not control when they are too young), and let them know that we understand.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

Life is complex.  Learning more about how to lead better lives helps to deal with that complexity.  Do I sound sage or just weary?  Either way – time for a cup of tea while I contemplate the latest development in the household.

Be kind to yourself today.