There has been a lot of sickness - colds, flu and whooping cough - going around these hills of late, which I guess is normal for this transitional time of year. I was only reflecting a couple of days ago how Forest and I were seemingly unaffected by all the sneezing and coughing we are surrounded by, but this morning we woke up to find that it is our turn!
But despite a razor blade throat, fever, and a slightly grumpy and sniffly toddler, it has been a rather wonderful day of nurture. I have never been very good at doing this for myself during illness. But today was different. Perhaps I am more motivated than ever to care for my own health because I truly have no back-up here to help with my son if things go wrong (my family are all in England, and although Forest's father is still involved in his life he is no longer very available for any extras). I am scared to go back to the state of exhaustion that I suffered from a couple of months ago.
So today I have completely surrendered to the nurture of self and babe. We got up, wrapped up warm and ate a hearty breakfast of lacto-fermented porridge. After accomplishing all the necessary daily tasks we stayed inside with the rain pouring down on the windows, snuggled in bed together, looking through picture books, sipping warm lemon and honey tea and napping. I let go of any worry about what I should be accomplishing - and really - it was like a holiday!
Fortunately I had leftover dahl and vegetable subji from yesterday to reheat and nourish us. We grazed on the new season mandarins and hot buttered toast. This evening I cooked up a big pot of potato and leek soup, that will see us through a couple more sick days if we need it. I have dosed myself up on vitamin C and echinacea, but still don't feel completely confident to give it direct to Forest. I guess he'll get some in the breast milk. He is sleeping restfully for now, and I plan on an early night.
Last night I was fortunate to be part of an inspiring womens circle, based on the 13 Original Clan Mothers of Native American Tradition. We will follow them for 13 moons - each one teaching us a different aspect of the feminine.
The first Clan Mother - 'Talks with Relations' teaches of the interconnectedness of all things - creatures, trees, rocks, elements, stars, planets, cosmos, universe..... One of the teachings is to use the colour orange whenever it appears to us in nature, to remind us of this union with all that is. Autumn is certainly a great season to be bombarded with reminders! Our chestnut trees are a brilliant and splendid flame orange, and are a constant viewpoint for me from all of the front windows and decking. I love the weaving in of simply enjoying them for their beauty while at the same time being reminded of life's flowing, merging, intertwining energies.
Many bright orange fungi have begun to crop up around the house in the last two days. Since I began this blog I have had my eyes open much wider to the natural world, but I hope that these teachings will open them up even wider to the hidden secrets and lessons that she holds in her cycles, rhythms, colours, and creatures.
The sky is overcast and grey, the cockatoos squawk and land high in the gums, and little Forest stands on the coffee table and gazes out of the window that looks out over these towering trees that border the creek, and watches the antics of life that are happening outside of our cosy woodland home.
The chestnut trees are the last of the deciduous trees to cling to their leaves, and are now a brilliant yellow - some of them finally descending to nourish Mother Earth beneath. Fungi now begin to spring up in every nook and surface around the house. Bright yellows, reds and the more dull but exquisitely formed caps of browns and creams.
This season resonates with me so much. While others are complaining about the early frost, rain and cold, I am loving it all! Mittens, boots and hats are being happily adorned. My toddler boy is dressed in all his lovely hand-knit woolens. Our wood-fire is roaring to warm both our bodies and souls.
Although we still try to spend at least a little time outside every day, the snug of home is where it's at for us right now. We have been sorting and organising and making our home look pleasing and welcoming. We have spent much time in the kitchen creating warming soups and stews. Afternoon tea is becoming a time for some nourishing but delicious treat to greet us after time spent outside in the cold collecting wood or nuts. This week I made rice pudding and Forest gave it the thumbs up with repeated exclamations of 'yummy'! Today I will try my hand at the baked custard recipe in 'Nourishing Traditions'. I am still very much absorbed in the ideas from this book. So much so that I have taken the plunge by eating fish after a lifetime of vegetarianism. This has been a big decision, not taken lightly, that I don't want to go into now, but after much agonising over it (to the point of becoming neurotic!) I have come to a place of peace with the idea of eating meat. My health has been suffering recently and I feel that changing my diet is a very important part of where I need to go to journey back towards robust health.
I made the raw milk cream cheese out of the book. Mainly I did this to get the whey so that I would begin to lacto-ferment. On its own the cheese was very bland, but it did improve in flavour as it aged, and mixed with other things was quite nice. I used the whey to make fermented ketchup - but I have to be honest and say that it tasted awful! Not to be deterred, I plan to try again, but this time play around with ingredients to get a better flavour.
Aside from kitchen tasks, I am enjoying getting stuck into my knitting projects. I am a very slow beginner knitter so no long list of accomplishments to mention in this space, but Forest is getting a nice pair of mittens that are nearly complete, and I have started on the sheep family from 'The Knitted Farmyard'.
I have been off the computer for the last month trying to put all of my energies into recovering from exhaustion. I am pleased to report that things are so much better around here! My health has improved and Forest is sleeping quite well now. It has been a very hard time for us but the dawning of serenity and joy are slowly creeping back into our lives. Part of this process has been to come to terms with the hard facts of being a single mother, and finding a way to communicate and parent with Forest's father. I had hoped for Forest's sake that our lives could be somewhat blended, but this has actually caused more tension in his life as his mama is repeatedly upset by the interactions. So tomorrow I will drop him off to spend a day with his dad. I know he'll be fine - he is not particularly clingy to me, but I feel so sad about it. This separate life that he will have away from me at such a young age. But this is just how it is and I must make the best of it. Try to enjoy some time for myself and work on projects that are hard to do when F is around.
And so as the nights become longer and we move toward the winter solstice, I praise this beautiful cycle of nature of which we are a part. Forest and I are enjoying our candle light dinners, after which we open the curtain and star gaze when the sky is clear. After his bath we look out at sister moon from our bedroom window shining brightly in the frosty sky, before snuggling into bed for lullabies and slumber. Life is good at the end of this Autumn season...
We are going through a few hardships around here at the moment, but still there is so much that brings me joy, and carries me through this difficult time.
The little things I am enjoying right now:
The leaves that have begun to change colour in the last week. As we walk and drive around the hills we are surrounded by oranges, yellows,and reds - and these brilliant colours ignite my feelings of reverence for our beautiful world. This little beetle who is beginning to really talk now! His favourite word is spider, and as we live in a very spidery house he has ample opportunity to show it off, and can often be seen pointing upwards and exclaiming 'Pider' with great delight. Apparently we also have a sheep living in the corner of the bedroom above the bed. Forest often points out this mystery sheep and baas at it. What is it that he can see up there I wonder? And I would like to add that I am even enjoying his new-found and much-used 'No'! He says it so softly and sweetly and there is very little defiant follow-through with his actions, but there surely are a lot of 'No's coming my way suddenly. I know that this is an important part of his growing up - to understand that he has the individual right to refuse and so I am trying to see it in a positive light. I am so grateful for this community that we are blessed to live among. Yesterday,one of the local towns hosted its first ever festival. Forest's godparents were involved in the running of this beautiful event and so we spent the afternoon outside in the autumn sunlight, surrounded by much treasured friends, listening to the sweet sounds of local folk artists, sipping hot chai and wishing that days like this would never end.
My dear old cat Mowgli and I have been finding time to snuggle a little more often recently. I love how his winter coat is coming in thick and lush to keep him warm. Even better is when Forest is also in on the cuddle. Often he is a little too - erm - vigorous in his affection for Mowgli though (known as Mow-Mow to the little toddler boy).
Afternoons spent in the park have been high on our to-do list recently. I hope that there will be a time when our life becomes more home-based. But on the property where we live there are just so many hazards that it is hard to let Forest run free outdoors for the amount of time I feel he needs. We have a couple of parks nearby that are surrounded by forest and are just perfect for letting some of that toddler energy burn. It feels so right to be out in the elements - rain, hail or shine - watching F discover all the new and wonderful things that nature shares. We take our afternoon tea with us - and it just tastes better than ever eaten in the fresh air after exercise. Finally - I am enjoying the cosy, dark evenings spent by the fire after Forest is sleeping peacefully upstairs. Although I do have a daily yoga practice that I fit in here and there with my mothering and household work, a couple of evenings a week I am now turning down the lights, lighting candles, and having the luxury of an hour long yoga practice all to myself. Body, breath, mind rejuvenate, calm and centre themselves after this much needed bit of self nurture.
I have been out of action on the blog for a while, but this week have decided to join in the Wednesday 'Yarn Along' with Ginny from Small Things As very much a beginner knitter, I was very pleased to finally finish a slightly more challenging project of these toddler longies. I enjoyed making them so much......but, the toddler in question does not like them at all and cries when I put them on!! To be fair to him, they are on the tight side and he doesn't like the wool pressed against his bare legs. I knitted the size for a two year old, and he is a smallish 21 month old so I'm not sure what's gone wrong. Anyway, I'll now pack them away in the hope that another little person may one day come along into my life and wear them. I have been reading Easter in Autumn by Collette Leenman to find ways to work this traditional Spring festival into our own season of Autumn. It is a lovely book and very helpful.
Nourishing Traditions has been by my side for the last two weeks - I am stunned by this book! It has arrived into my hands at just the right time as I have some diet related health issues that I am dealing with. This book makes so much sense to me - even as a vegetarian. I am shocked that it has convinced me of the rightness to including meat in the diet. But after looking into the availability of humanely raised and slaughtered meat I have to say that I am going to try all the other tips first. Because in Australia there basically is no humanely raised and slaughtered meat, so unless I grow my own or become a hunter I just can't support that industry. My plan it to try the fermented foods and start to utilise the wonderful raw milk we are now getting weekly. I am also going to eat more good quality eggs, and then see how my health is after a few months on this diet. I had never considered myself to eat much refined foods, but this book has me convinced to abandon them as much as I possibly can.
So the chestnuts are going to feature here a lot over the coming weeks, because we have chestnuts overflowing around us waiting in collecting baskets, on tables, in paper bags in the fridge, Forest's various piles of play chestnuts - and the tree is still spitting out nuts much faster than I can harvest them! The birds are enjoying a feast. We have been watching the cockatoos and rosellas gorge themselves silly. Well - there is plenty for all of us that's for sure!
Today I attempted to make a chestnut soup. I don't recommend doing this with a whiny toddler only one hour before dinner is due. I forgot how involved the whole chestnut thing is. The scoring of the shells, the cooking, the nasty tricky peeling. Yes - I did struggle. You definitely need to set aside a whole afternoon to make a big batch of this soup. I will call this my 'blood, sweat and tears' soup, because all three of these things were part of today's cooking process! But - was it worth it? Yes, a hundred times over - the chestnut soup was incredible! So tasty and sweet, an unusual, subtle flavour with the silky texture of pureed chestnuts. It really was a special treat. Forest enjoying the blood, sweat, and tears soup!
And my latest happy find is a place to buy raw milk. I have been searching for some time having become convinced of the benefits. However, it is all a bit hush-hush as it is illegal here in Australia to drink unpasteurised milk!! Most milk in Australia has also been homogenised which is super bad for you. It is possible to find some organic milk that has not been homogenised, and I have been drinking this for some years. But now we have access to good, fresh, natural milk, straight from local organic cows. I am so happy about this. The taste of the milk is delicious - it is like drinking velvet! Forest and I go each week to the farm, drop off our glass milk bottle for the following week and collect our weeks supply. The farm also sells its own organic produce so we are also getting our fruit and veggies there. Today we made our pick up and have just enough for breakfasts for the week ahead. I plan to buy a lot more each week but am struggling to find non-toxic bottles to store our milk in. Of course glass is best, and now I am using recycled juice jars - but the lids are the BPA lined type. I cannot find any glass bottles without this - sigh.... It constantly bewilders me how crazy the world has become in this regard. The milk is very reasonably priced, and so I am hoping to get enough each week to make yoghurt and perhaps even cheese. Thank you sweet cows!
Forest is relaxed, happy and sleeping pretty well again. But I cannot seem to recover from this latest six week bout of sleep deprivation. I think it's going to take a while.
Anyway, I don't want to focus on that for now! With the equinox yesterday Autumn has truly arrived and that is something to be happy about - I love this season! March still has a memory of summer days past, but the energy of autumn is here, no doubt about it. Even the hot days lack the intensity of summer heat, and we are already firing up the wood stove in the early morning chill. As we walk around near home I am enjoying the first whiffs of wood smoke from neighbouring chimneys. The funghi are beginning to shoot up around the property. I wish I knew more about the edible mushrooms - I know that a lot of them can be eaten but I just don't have the expertise - and it seems to be a lost art in Australia as there are very few people to learn this from.
But what we are harvesting right now are our beautiful chestnuts. Finally, two of the trees have started revealing large, gleaming, brown nuts. In the last three days I have collected hundreds of these nuts from beneath the shade of the trees. Each day brings a new bounty, and as I am foraging around for the nuts there is a steady bumpity-bump around me as the heavy chestnut shells continue to fall. During this difficult time in my life these little moments are gold - connecting me with our Mother Earth, and the simple joy of food direct from nature. It is a bit if a spiky business this chestnut harvest, and I always get a couple of spines stuck in no matter how careful I am. So little Forest is in his not often utilised stroller, looking from a distance. He doesn't seem to mind as he finds my work fascinating to watch. I have observed this from him with the blueberry and blackberry harvest. For a little boy who never usually sits still - he takes a great and studied interest in the goings on of food collection. I feel that his sense of rightness is heightened when learning in this way. And so he sits and watches Mama squirreling away under the beautiful trees and coming over frequently to show off her treasures. I am a little overwhelmed now with what to do with all these nuts! Of course, we will roast them daily and have lovely, warm, fresh chestnuts as a delicious snack. But they don't last very long fresh as they have such a high water content, so I need to find preserving ideas. Basically cooking, pureeing and freezing them to be used in soups and nut loaves is probably the best option. This prospect is a little daunting as I recall some years ago my poor bleeding hands after shelling chestnuts for hours! This was after cooking for a long time - the skins were still hard to get off. I must do some research to find a better way. This is a final, random photo of the most delightful little moth that Forest spotted while we were harvesting nuts today. It is just so unusual and pretty that I think it deserves a spot in today's post!
I have been sticking close to home what with all the sleep madness going on, and taking pleasure in simple home chores. This year's project is to simplify all the 'stuff' in the house, and create peaceful, aesthetic, but very user-friendly spaces. My laundry is now under control and I have moved onto sorting out my poor old kitchen - well overdue. So far I have cleaned out my fridge, and sorted and relined a couple of cupboards. I am trying to create space to store bulk items. A few reasons for this: less shopping trips, less money, easier to make things from scratch.
I have had a minor victory over the bench spaces and have been ruthless at getting rid of things that we really don't need. I love cooking, but have felt more and more cramped as 'stuff' started taking over on the workspace, leaving my creative cooking energy frustrated and stunted. Now I have so much room - I am very, very happy about this. Forest loves to help prepare every meal now and hops up into his little learning tower to assist. Now we have plenty of space for him to have his own little cooking project on the go. Also I can multitask when cooking a meal and have space for things like baking bread and making yoghurt etc all at the same time.
Autumn is creeping slowly in and although the days are still sunny and bright the early mornings and evenings are now dark and chill. We have the beginnings of an autumn table to welcome this season into our home.
You may be able to see some chestnut shells in the last photo from our lovely trees. I have been looking forward to the chestnut harvest having watched each stage of our trees cycle so closely since last winter. But alas - I guess it must be something to do with the strange weather we've had, but all of the nuts are teeny, tiny, and not usable. Today I found the first four good size chestnuts so far - but at this time of year there are usually thousands.
And lastly, I think I may finally be becoming crafty! I have been a bit shy to show my attempts as I am such a beginner to all things handmade, but the last few months have seen a flurry of making activity inspired by all the lovely blogging mamas out there. And I am loving it!
At the moment I am working on a pair of knitted wool trousers for Forest to keep him snug in winter. This was a big jump up for me from knitting scarves, but it is going well! I am also slowly making my way through 'The Knitted Farmyard' book by Hannelore Wernhard. I started with the simplest knits - the chickens and ducks. The chickens are cute, not too sure about the ducks though..... I took my first patchwork class a couple of weeks ago, and I must say that the precision of it all totally appealed to my Virgo sensibilities. I am starting with a little quilted cushion. That is coming along slowly as my sewing space is still not very inviting, but I'm working on it!
So these are the things that are keeping me sane during this sleep deprived phase I find myself in. When I really feel like I'm losing it, I just knit a couple of rows, my breath slows down and peace returns....
It has now been 1 month since our holiday, and it has been.....well, shockingly bad around here to tell the truth. I have not posted for a while, and so felt to say a quick something about life for us at the moment.
Forest has not been going to sleep, and I have been spending hours each day working to get him to sleep, and also trying to bring some rhythm back to our days. Once he is asleep, he then doesn't sleep well. I think the holiday really unsettled him. Add to this a 'frustration' phase that he has been going through -getting grumpy with everything - well, my nerves are shot. I am totally exhausted. This has been a hugely challenging time for me as a single mother. Forest's father has been away, and all of my family are in England so I have no back up when I am totally worn out. It is so hard to parent in any kind of conscious way when you are this tired.
Anyway, I think things are back on the up again. Forest has slept well for the past two nights and I feel like a human being again after a little more sleep. He is also moving out of his frustration and into a more joyful space.
I hope my next post will not be such a complaining one, but that is just how it is for us right now.
We say goodbye today to grumbling koalas, rambling manna gums, friendly sheep, wild coastlines and crashing surf, and return to our own little patch of Mother Earth.
This holiday has had many beautiful moments, feelings of relaxation, connection with nature, special times with a friend - but despite all this I must say that I am very glad to be home! Although Forest was very accommodating to all the new-ness and traveled for a long time in the car so much happier than I'd expected, I feel that he was unsettled and not quite himself for most of the trip. He was seriously excited about everything to the point that he found it hard to sleep, and I have returned from our holiday feeling exhausted! Holidaying alone with a toddler is hard work!
I guess this just reinforces to me how much home and daily rhythm is so where it's at for a babe of this age. As soon as we walked through our front door I felt all of Forest's tensions dissipate, and he was sooo happy to be home, and back cuddling his beloved Mowgli cat.
Finally a super-sunny-hot-beachy kind of day. This afternoon we made the drive into Apollo Bay and lugged a very excited small boy, bags of beach gear, buckets and spades, towels, suncream etc down to the sand for a 'lazy' beach afternoon. Except...not so lazy. Forest was seriously non-stop for the entire afternoon. He looked so cute in his UV beach gear (we have to be very careful with this Aussie sun).
I was really pleased that Forest's water confidence was - well - perhaps a little too confident! He rushed out daringly into the ocean surf and launched himself repeatedly under the waves. Sometimes kneeling on all fours to feel the waves crash over his head.
I was, of course, always arms length away as he is still a very little person. So this meant that I spent hours running around after him on that beach. I was rather envious of one toddler mother who sat reading whilst her son was playing happily with his bucket and spade. Forest's bucket and spade sat redundantly - the water was where it was at for that little beetle. And despite my nerves being tested, I am happy to have a little water baby - his mama loves the water too, so I think we'll have lots of fun in the years to come.
The road to the Cape passes through the heart of the Great Otway National Park. Tall, straight messmate eucalypts line the road, their branches leaning in to touch one another. These trees are not as tall or grand as the mountain ash eucalypts of our Dandenong Ranges, but there is an ethereal and also welcoming quality to them - beckoning you to enter and enjoy.
Coming out of the park and further into the Cape, you hit coastal flora - low bracken and scrub bushes and fields of fluffy sea grasses waving in the wind. But what I want to mention here is the coastal Manna gums that we are surrounded by in this area. Manna gums are the favourite food of koalas. They are short eucalypts with incredible twisting, twirling branches. To say that I am captivated by the beauty if these trees would be an understatement. Each one is a spectacular work of art. I can just happily stand and follow the unique course of each contorted limb. Some of these trees are beginning to flower and this is another specialty of the Manna gum. Most eucalyptus trees do not flower. Near to our cabin is a 'flowering' gum full of bright orange blooms - I never knew of their existence before and am delighted by them. I have dreams of a native garden when I own my own home and am now adding visions of these bursting blossoms dotted around my fantasy garden. The sheep continue to visit us on a regular basis and Forest has a rather confused love of them. I mean he really can't get enough of their company, with much sitting with his face pressed right up to theirs and chattering away to them in non-stop toddler speech. But.... the 'baa' is a problem. When they talk back it completely freaks him out. As long as the sheep are quiet the love affair continues, but one baa and the show's over!
Today we visited Cape Otway lighthouse. I felt compelled to go there after our visit to the graves of the lighthouse babies yesterday. As we walked along the jagged, fierce clifftops, I thought of that woman who had lost her little ones. As we ascended the spiraling stairs of the lighthouse I could see her footsteps on those same steep steps in my mind. I have thought a lot about this woman, and am fascinated to know more of her. I also have a very sad heart when I think of her long forgotten grief and sorrow. I was so happy to find out some more information about her at the small cottage that she shared with her husband 160 year ago. Her name was Katherine Evans. This is what I read:
'..the wife of a long serving assistant keeper, William Evans. Katherine lost 2 children within 12 months whilst at this Cape. A son, Cornelius, and a year old daughter - Katherine. We see a heartbroken mother lament the lack of medical assistance or medicines in such an unforgiving environment. What's more, she faces the task of burying her children alone, her husband having detached himself emotionally, burying his sorrow in his work and sometimes alcohol. She pleads to leave the lighthouse and start life anew somewhere else but her pleas fall on deaf ears. The Evans' remained at Cape Otway for well over 20 years.'
So Katherine buried at least one of those children in that little cemetery all on her own. I simply cannot imagine how she coped. It is strange to think that in that place where Forest and I played and rested, Katherine once stood there alone and full of a mother's worse pain. I wonder what happened to her in the end and if she ever had more children. I hope that Katherine, Cornelius and little Katherine have all been blessed with more peace as their souls journey on.
On the edge of this vast land that we call Australia, on the south-eastern coastline, green, rolling, rugged hills meet the crashing blue surf of the Southern Ocean. These hills are known as the Otway Ranges. A grand road has been forged into the sides of these hills and along the curved, sweeping sandy bays - and this is The Great Ocean Road.
Capes are pieces of land that reach out into the ocean. They are wild places of bleakness and beauty, shipwrecks and fierce seas. The Otway Ranges curl down into Cape Otway - and it is here that Forest and I currently call home. It is indeed a beautiful and desolate place with only a handful of human inhabitants. The koalas on the other hand just love the Cape and their population is thriving. Perhaps because there are no people....?
This morning we walked through fields of sea grasses and scrub bushes, spiraling manna gums and fresh ocean air, in search of a hidden and wonderful place - the old cemetery of the early settlers to these parts. And why were they here these people of old - 150 to 200 years ago? Because of the ferocious seas of the Cape - to man the lighthouse. The walk was quite long, but even after just a few days of being here and spending 95 percent of our waking hours outdoors, I feel vitality pulsing through my body. My legs powering me along the sandy paths with my precious passenger enjoying the views, and my dear soul-mate L by my side. So refreshing - so sweet and fully in the now.
The fields finally gave way to low bushes arching over a path. We turned a corner and there nestled in this coastal bushland were a tiny collection of sinking headstones and a memorial pillar to a group of sailors who perished 150 years ago on the Cape.
Cape Otway Cemetery
As soon as I turned that corner, the beauty and tranquility of this spot captured my consciousness and I was so touched by this peaceful place of history and loss.
Forest ambled happily around the graves playing, as L rested in the shade and I read the inscriptions. One grave had a particular impact on me - the resting place of two babies - both children of the early lighthouse keepers assistant, who were born a year apart and died as infants. So sad. I can't imagine the hardships of life that this family must have endured - and oh, that poor mother - losing two babes. Such tragedy. It happened so long ago, but now with a babe myself, it hurts me to think of this unknown lighthouse lady.
To get to our cabin on the Cape, you leave The Great Ocean Road and drives through Great Otway National Park. This afternoon we said goodbye to L, and Forest and I took our first walk in the rainforest of the park. Wondrousness! I am marveling in the miracles of our Mother Earth! This walk was such a contrast to our morning walk of dry, arid sparseness - here was verdant,lush fecundity. Layers of interacting plant life oozing potent energetic vibes. How I loved this place! Damp, dark, mossy - vibrant springy orange fungus, giant myrtle beech trees with cavernous openings in the bases of their trunks and root systems that look as though the elves have fashioned them for their beautiful nature palaces. We do not have these incredible trees in our rainforest home.
Great Otway National Park
This evening we returned to Apollo Bay and F played on the beach in the twilight. Such a lovely day.