Winter has well and truly arrived in Melbournetown, and fingers and toes are frosted at any given moment.
We had the coldest morning so far this week, school dropoff was 4 degrees but the sky was blue and clear and the golden sun lit up the remaining crispy foliage like it was on fire. I couldn’t feel my nose, but the world around me was beautiful.
The chickens are still as hectic as ever, absolutely destroying the earth and everything in it. They will shit on my freshly-cleaned concrete, they will kick and scratch every spare bit of dirt and grass, and they will push through the net of their little chicken fence (carefully constructed so they can play outside but STOP RUINING MY LIFE) until it snaps. They are freakin’ next level and keeping them entertained, happy, well-fed and in clean surroundings whilst also not annihilating the yard is getting to be a full-time job.
AND THERE IS ONLY TWO OF THEM.
Our cold-weather mossy ground cover has made its winter debut, the lawn looks lovely and green but in reality we have the worst grass I think you could ever have in a suburban block.
Sadly, any and every attempt at a kitchen garden was a Complete Disaster all season. The seeds never germinated right, the garden I managed to salvage from the late seedlings ended up either getting fucked over by the cat or chickens, fried by the brutal Victorian summer sun, or strangled by the aforementioned megagrass that ruined everything despite my best efforts at pre-planting ground cover and vigilant weeding.
In about February I declared defeat and just stopped watering anything, letting it die its happy death. I figured I’d start again this spring and see how we went. Above, you can see the rocket is growing to epic proportions, the only thing to survive the triffid grass that insisted on growing everywhere and anywhere at any given moment. All given moments.
I tried to save what little I could – the parsley is ok but the chillies and capsicum are not happy, the sage wishes it was somewhere else, the thyme and rosemary vanished, the lavender could just not be bothered and the coriander needs replanting, but not much is going to grow over the next few months. I’ve replanted the kale in with the chillies to see if I can revive it, but I’m not hopeful.
Indoor though, the handful of plants I am able to keep alive seem to be doing well – except the violet is having a moment, and the massive fern (not picutred) I bought mid-last year died off and is only just starting to grow new shoots now.
The kitchen fern, however, is living its best life.
Every year around this time I have the opposite of Spring Cleaning Fever, and start rearranging, cleaning, and purging the entire house. I feel maybe like if we must be indoors as much as we are, with all windows and doors closed and the light dim outside, then the interiors should be pleasing. Not caked in dust and crammed with crap. I can’t do it, internet. I won’t.
Spices were sorted and old ones tossed. New glass jars were found for the replenishment, and while I really should source visually-pleasing matching vessels, I’m probably better at making do and repurposing other jars.
I am very partial to Ball Mason jars and do use them very often for storage, but I’m building my collection slowly. I usually bulk purchase every January ready for sauce/jam/preserving season, and chuck in a few extra for pantry purposes. This year my delivery went awry, sadly, and my precious jars got sent back to Sydney without ever touching my doorstep, so I asked for a refund and am a year’s worth of jars behind.
One thing that is never disappointing, however, is the china cupboard. It was proudly enlarged recently with the addition of some beautiful botanical-inspired pieces from Maxwell & Williams thanks to some work I did with them recently (I hope to hell you made those baked eggs, because if you didn’t, YOUR LIFE IS EMPTY). The two plates you see here, and the tea set below were part of the styled shoot. They are fitting in very well, and are used every day. Dishwasher safe, for all y’all who love fancy china but are too scared to use it!
I know you’re out there.
Another collection that got a boost recently was that of my royal china.
I have spies everywhere scouring their local charity shops for stuff I’d love, and this wonderful Royal Albert Queen Elizabeth Coronation mug was sourced for me (along with several books and a 1986 Australian Women’s Weekly covering off Andrew and Fergie’s wedding which is CHOCK FULL OF FANTASTIC 80s ADVERTISING) by Oberon in Tassie – you might remember him and his lovely wife Lauren from my favourite online shop Spiral Garden, and Owlet blog? If not, you should make yourself aquainted. They are doing wonderful things in the permaculture/zero waste space, and are super practical and very inspiring.
Haz and Meg have made an appearance with a plate brought back from London for me, and I happily ate my Royal Wedding feast on it while simultaneously watching it go down on four separate screens.
Part of the frenzied winter cleaning involves keeping the books and records in this bookshelf in check, because it gets used multiple times a day and is often a complete wreck. Lego everywhere, LOL dolls hiding in amongst the stacks, the books pulled out and cubbies made with them, the records hastily slipped back in their covers and pushed around looking for that one song we need to hear, random shit getting left on the shelves, the dust.
Real talk for a minute: this is legitimately my current reading/knitting stack and I cannot make it any neater or I’d forget where I’m up to. It’s the one area I can cope with leaving as a complete disaster. There is a method to my madness, and if I want it tidied, then I’m just going to have to read faster.
The cats are extremely needy at the moment, I find myself every night wedged in between the two of them, unable to turn. Bobbin sleeps as close to my face as he can possibly get, if not completely spooned. He is very insistent and I have to wake up and let him under the covers for him to arrange his face-hugger self.
The kids are great, if a little tired. Smalls is loving school and I’m so glad there has never been an issue as we all adjusted to her beginning her prep year. She continues to barge into the school like she owns it, without a backward glance. Everyone is counting down to the holidays though, including their teacher dad. Last winter school holidays we drove the Great Ocean Road and spent a couple of days in Warrnambool, but this year the girls and their dad are heading to Queensland for a week. They will very much enjoy thawing out and seeing family, I imagine.
Book club this month is Lost for Words, which I just cannot get into no matter what, and I’ve chosen A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain for July. I’m looking forward to that as it’s been on my to-read pile for ages. I’m also sad because it will be sad. We meet monthly at Buck Mulligan’s in Northcote, and online in the Facebook group, which is always fun. Although this month I’ve had to cancel the IRL meeting for book club and for stitch n bitch because school council stuff is ramping up in the lead up to our biggest fundraiser of the year, and there are more meetings than ever. My crochet projects are absolutely not getting a look-in (one of them is the Roseanne afghan, which I feel completely ambivalent about now), and there’s another for a larger project that I’m on the verge of scrapping and starting again for the fourth time. Sigh.
In other news, I have applied for a job with Stephanie Alexander, which will amuse those of you following along with my book efforts, and as a volunteer with the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. Fingers crossed for both of those! Work is very quiet at the moment, so I am constantly on the lookout for extra projects to boost the coffers.
The book itself is taking much longer than I’d like it to, but I want to do it really well, and that requires a hell of a lot of muddling through excruciating detail. So the first draft is a while off yet, but I want to give it my absolute best. Speaking of which, I should tend to it now.
Wish me luck for a continuance of clean concrete.