Yarrangobilly

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Yarrangobilly hides a surprising and rich past.  Our family has made this our semi-annual holiday destination for the past five years with good reason.  It was once (in the early 20th Century) a premier holiday destination in NSW.  I guess that was when people believed thermal pools to hold healing properties and before swimming in the ocean became more mainstream.  There have been a variety of owners in this area including a farmer who lived near the river.  I really don’t know how he got his cattle in and out of this valley, it’s quite challenging terrain even for a vehicle.  The farm is long gone and was superseded by holiday goers who spent time in the still present historic Caves House.  It sounds like it was a fun place to come to and was well set up for day visitors, who most likely stayed in the then nearby Yarrangobilly Village, as well as the live-in visitors.  There is an old bus shelter with a bell placed in the nearby cliff which summoned people for the trip by cart down the mountain to the pool, a short but slightly taxing journey which must be walked these days.  The cord is still able to be pulled and the bell rung, which only adds to the charm of this delightful enclave. Tennis courts were built, now vanished, and the old caves house where we stayed was set up for a communal kind of living arrangement with shared bathrooms and a dining hall, obviously people did not come for privacy!

On a tour around the recently restored two storey section (you can see the scaffolding around that in the picture below), the manager of National Parks was telling us that it is in fact quite a miracle that this historic home wasn’t knocked down like the majority of the houses and villages in the area.  When ‘Parks’ took over in the 70s they took the liberty of removing as much trace of man as they could in this wilderness area.  And so, driving around the Snowy Mountains, you do in fact pass many places of former settlement: Long Plains, Yarrangobilly Village, Kiandra, they are gone and all but forgotten.  Those monuments to times past, which would have enriched this whole landscape with their ode to history (white settlement), have been bulldozed into the dirt, and are now covered by lush alpine vegetation, with nothing but brass plaques to speak for them.
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This area is (so far) one of my most favourite places in Australia.  There is something about the mountains, their proximity to the clouds, the underground formations they hide, the spectacular wilderness, their particular flora and fauna-including brumbies (who couldn’t love that?). The towns around here are some of my favourites: Talbingo & Tumut being two where I have spent a bit of time. It excites the imagination to imagine this area overrun with immigrant families working on the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme from 1949-1974, a great ‘discovery centre‘ for which is in Cooma. The area in fact has a slight European feel to it, and this, surely, is why.  I am greatly looking forward to seeing a similar scheme in northern WA, the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.

For the third time we visited the caves and there is no way we are bored of these yet.  It is an awe inspiring place, rather damp and refrigerator cold – just the way I like it! – the best way to escape the awful Summer heat.

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‘Us girls’ went on a few walks together, even making it twice (two ways) to the lookout which overlooked our house.  It seemed impossible to get up there but was actually surprisingly easy & a lovely walk. I will not forget that feeling of being entirely surrounded by the elegant and mysterious Australian Alpine bush for as far as the eye can see. It ought to be normal to be surrounded so by trees, that most necessary, wonderful & supremely useful of creations.  It is probably my love of trees that has, in fact, pushed me into studying Sustainable Development.

Then of course there is the pool.  A 1.4km walk from the house, down a steep incline and you are faced with an impossibly beautiful turquoise pool.  It is fed by a thermal spring so is a constant 27C.  We came here every day and so our holiday was full of nature and walking and swimming and board games, good food & laughter.

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Quote

“Learn to like what doesn’t cost much.
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people even though some of them may be different… Different from you.
Learn to like to work and the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house, and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.”

-Lowell C. Bennion

Really like this quote which I plucked from A Well Traveled Woman. xo

Mountain Family

We’ve just spent almost a week up in the Snowy Mountains with my family.  I am feeling so lucky to have been able to do this with absolutely everyone in our family there (except for my sisters boyfriend, sadly).  I am currently in disbelief as I can not accept that I can not just laze around a large, breezy house all day with people I love, go for walks, explore caves and swim all together in the pool in the bush.  It was a luxury, but somehow it feels more like reality to me.

Family holidays are something we only began after I got married and so in a way they represent to me the link to life as a sibling and child, rather than as a spouse or mum. It is almost a welcome reprieve. A chance to step back, be thankful for all the parts of this connected life – as no one is an island, to see life from both sides of the fence, to realise what it is I want to give my children, to reconcile all areas. It merely is what it is and I am thankful that time spent with my family is always fun, sometimes uncomfortable and ever familiar. Familiarity is a wonderful thing.

I once heard, I think it was from a neighbour actually, something that made me appreciate my siblings all over again. It was that, of everyone you are ever in contact with in your life it is your siblings that will know you the longest.  They (sometimes) know you from your birth to your death, or at the very least from your childhood to their death.  They are the ones with whom your memories are bonded, irrevocably and delightfully, in that rosy glow of childhood past.

When I see my Nonna (who is in her eighties) talk to her brother (who is in his nineties) and her sisters (all in their eighties) I appreciate it all anew.  She is in Australia and they are in Italy, but it is still absolutely vital to her that they all remain in contact, perhaps even more important as they stretch toward their centenaries.

I will post photos of this little holiday soon.  It was quite a wonderful one in all its experiences.

Have Bus Will Travel!

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Here it is!

Beautiful Big Bedford.  It has come in the nick of time, at the perfect time and is exactly what we were looking for.  After doing over 3000 kms up and down the south east of Australia (from Taree to Melbourne) in the past week we ended up finding our ideal bus only 15 minutes from Henrys familys place, where we have parked it for all the adjustments we will need to make to get it registered and in running order. In the end we did not compromise on any of the essentials that we wanted which were: Fair price, Bedford, Diesel Engine in good condition, sturdy rust-free body, and minimally fitted out – as we would strip it anyway.

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We are not kidding ourselves, this is not the end, only the beginning! There is a lot of work to be done, & still lots of research (though we are pretty informed by now!), finally though, action can be taken.  We can begin kitting it out, moving out and moving in.

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Apart from repainting the exterior we will also strip the entire interior, except for the framing which divides the main bedroom from the bunk & bathroom area and the kitchen and living area – all of that just so happens to be in the exact spots we were planning on putting them – fancy that!  We are going for a clean and neutral look with all of the inbuilt furnishings; light wood floors, beige walls.  We are thinking textured wallpaper for some feature areas (the curved part of the roof), most of the character will come from rugs within and the adjustable furnishings.  Because it is such a small space it is completely necessary to keep things streamlined, light and bright in there.  We are looking forward to buying our own stove and cooktop, LED Lights, solar panels, installing our own plumbing including a composting toilet and Henry has ideas for a passive solar ‘air conditioner’ he is inventing, and basically being able to alter things to be exactly the way that we want them. What a luxury after six+ years of renting!

It’s a lot of fun to be able to do all this debt free within our budget.  Though home ownership is sometime in the future for us I am trusting that the time to rustle up the money for that will come.  With houses and land so expensive in Australia I feel good about looking outside the box in order to move forward whilst having an adventure at the same time.

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Living in a bus will suit our family down to the ground.  I watched my children running and jumping around our bus when we brought it home (‘home’ which is now less about ‘where’ and more about ‘who’), and I thought, ‘this suits my kids perfectly!’, with their wild hair, their boundless energy and inquisitiveness.

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Sophia shouted ‘Oolevoir’ (Translation: Au revoir) out the window and we really will be saying that in just a few months.  But not yet. And not here in this space at least.

Better Sewing

I guess I could say that one of this years resolutions is to become better at sewing.  For Christmas I bought myself an incredible looking book which has turned out to be extremely educational and fun!

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I was drawn to the cover – I mean look at her! Glam.  I really liked how she was a ‘real’ size, well, actually, close to my size.  And actually my actual thought process was:  ‘Oo, I want that dress!’

There are patterns included (thank goodness! – I don’t have to design them all from scratch!), all dresses that I want in my wardrobe, but the main aim of the book is to teach pattern making and altering, couture sewing, and sound skill and confidence in sewing.  I am really enjoying this challenge. The time had come in my life to up the ante on my sewing prowess which was basic and could go a long way but I pretty much fudged my way through everything.  This comes down to my lack of attention to detail, something my husband has been pushing me in.  I could just say ‘this is me’ and refuse to change but I did kind of realise that that would be ‘weak sauce’ as hubby so eloquently puts it.  I want to do things well, I particularly want to sew well.  With a continued leaning toward sustainable produced food and clothing, and with a penchant for natural fibres, hand sewing will be a growing part of my life, I know it.

So, show me the way, Gertie!

Felt

Look at this melee of colour!  I have plans for all this wool.  Wait and see!…one project in particular I am quietly excited about.

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Buses and Fire

Henry has been out and about on his bike and is currently 10 hours North of us.  He is hunting for a bus.  This is the first stage in our move onto a mobile home and around Australia. It is sort of exciting, but I am not holding my breath, there is much to consider before plunging into a commitment with any bus, I will be excited when the bus is here and we can actually start doing things.

There is a severe shortage of buses in our area, most of them seem to be in Western Australia and Tasmania, with several also in South Australia.  I think most people head around Australia and end up in WA, fall in love with the place and relocate.

So he is forced to widen his search and it is a killer in the heat wave we’ve just had.  Yesterday there were ‘catastrophic fire conditions’ and I was mildly concerned we would be cut off from eachother.  With a cool change the threat has abated.

It is terrible to have to suffer at the hands of nature in such a way.  There is something about the sometimes terrifying struggle with nature that awakes something in our humanity. We are forced small and temporal by its very magnitude.  We realise how our possessions (even our lives) can disappear in a moment of flood or fire or earthquake.  Life gets real. We shake in our skins. Rightly so.

Sewing with Soph

One of my Christmas presents to my little girl was a basic sewing kit. I was unsure she would be ready for this, but the packet said 36 months + and so I took the plunge.

Turns out she’s not so ready, but she is ready to learn. So we are using this kit to get her sewing fingers toned and practiced. She is doing well! We do a fraction every day and already over the few days we’ve been going along there is improvement. She is very determined to do it herself which demands a lot of patience from me, but we sit there together every day and I point to where she needs to put the needle and correct her when wrong.  She takes it so long as it is her in control (which I guess is fair enough, it is her learning situation after all, not my own, I am there to help and facilitate not dictate!!)

Here’s our progress:

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Salad Garden

This is a true garden salad! Everything in it was personally picked from either mine or my friends garden.

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Ingredients:
Rocket
Fennel Leaves
Basil
Parsley
Chives
Mint
Kale
Tomatoes
Snow Peas
Zucchini
Cucumber

No dressing but the herbs added loads of flavour.

I could also have added baby beets, but I forgot to,  and in a few weeks I will be able to add green beans & capsicum.  If I’d thrown an egg in there I could still call it home grown! I love that. I love that about growing things and keeping chickens.  Chickens are the most rewarding of pets – and ours are pets – they are friendly, fairly independent, quiet and oh so useful!

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I only wish I could keep these kind of meals up through the entire year.  One day…one day…

Word for the Year

There are some things I never think I will ever do. ‘Too cheesy’, ‘too sentimental’, ‘too dumb’.

That’s sort of how I felt about that ‘Word for the Year’ fad that I’d only ever encountered on the blogosphere.

Well, it’s time to swallow my words (in this case my thoughts – glad I never bragged about not doing this one!) because I am doing it.

The only reason being: I need it.  I need to improve in this area and I connected the dots and realised that if I did make this my Word it would help me keep on track with it.

And actually, I have two, only because when thinking of the one I kept thinking of the other and so the two seem intertwined. One is internal and the other external.

1) Gratitude. Internal gratitude for all lifes blessings and all others bless me with.  Gratitude for others generosity.

2) Generosity.  Return that generosity…though actually also to extend generosity where genosity is backward in coming forward.

I suppose these two are very much linked because in order to be freely generous you have to be free of want. Want (also: greed) are the opposites of gratitude. That is: always thinking of what you don’t have rather than being thankful for what you do have.  When we are genuinely appreciative for all we do have then we can freely, joyfully, extend that hand to others.  I want to get into the practice & spirit of extending my hand in Generosity this year, in all and to all.

It’s also important for these two to coexist as there is the type of breed who are very generous but feel either too guilty or too proud to accept generosity. I kind of fall into this basket.  I am proud of my independence and expect others to be independent also.

I also fall into a basket which I think most people fall into, though I have met the odd and wonderful exception to this rule, and that is that I find it much easier to give to those who are generous than to sinkholes where resources are seemingly sucked in and not dealt out again.

I’ve been reminded of a saying from my youth, actually from 2000 years before my youth. Here it is:

“Most people say that you should love your friends and hate your enemies;  But I say love your enemies and pray for those who misuse you, for God makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good. If you only love those who love you, what reward is that? Anyone can do that! You must be perfect.”

Generosity. Generosity! Come to me!

Henna Feet

Zoe and I have been madly into painting henna. We were inspired when we got free henna tattoos at Corinbank (yay for that!). Sometimes it just takes a free offer to get into some thing big time.  We have plans for our henna, for now we are just perfecting the art.  It takes a bit of skill, and is a whole new medium, squeezing the cone to get the right pressure, guiding your hand into perfectly even lines. Nothing like a small challenge.

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2013

This was a bit of a different New Years for me.  Firstly, of course, with pretty little kids there was nil to little chance of going out.  Mentally though, I like to reflect a little every New Year and I often do.  My usual practice is to write the New Year in.  Not this year though.  This year I merely felt full of all the little projects I have ongoing and also waiting in the wings to get done.  So more than anything it was a year of planning or at least anticipating and I couldn’t think of a resolution that was anything other than what I am currently doing.

I’m happy with my fitness, I’m strong and can work hard. I go for a jog on a semi regular basis and I am happy with that as rather than a fitness blitz I want a lifestyle I can sustain over a long period of time, and this I am doing.  In these hot summer months running seems to go out the window a bit, or just lie down on the floor, scared to break a sweat, so I’m not in a fret about it.  However a big goal of mine is to go on an overnight bushwalk with my husband.  We will probably go in March when it cools down so I need to be working up to this!

My major thing is being the best mum I can be, but as my children are fluid and always growing, so the way I parent constantly changes, so it’s a hard one to pinpoint as to how I am supposed to change, as really…I never know.  I am so aware though that I need to challenge my little girl’s brain as she is speeding ahead and I often (mistakenly) underestimate her abilities.  We do things though like spelling, sewing, cooking, cleaning, sports, play games, gardening and all the good things.  Patience is a big area I can work on, and I am.

In other areas I am totally full of interests. Too full.  I write. Play piano. Learn French. Felt. Do Henna. Attempt to draw. I have so many small business and personal ideas locked up in my head.  Things I simply don’t know how to go about acheiving.  Things that I think are important and will be my contribution to the improvement of this planet.  Some business ideas are simply drawn from my desires (i.e. Own a Venue and Cafe!!) and so perhaps are more selfish – or perhaps self-fulfilling is a better term – but that’s alright so long as it’s constructive.  I have to remember that I have a life ahead of me (I plan on living to a healthy 105 or more year old) with time to do all these things.  I would like to be like a certain Margaret Olley, and though perhaps not a painter, I will be productive up to the end. I suppose at this present time the thing most stopping me is a lack of capital. That must be the first thing to address.

I am also totally keen to support my husband in his endeavours, particularly in his music and particularly with his band, The Burley Griffin, I believe in their music. They are a good band with good songs. Songs you can dance to and think along with. Songs with a soul. So that is something I also need to factor in.  He is also a very talented and sought after Sound Engineer. I am so proud of his strong work ethic and his perfectionist tendencies in his work (they are a pain when they spill out into our personal life, but we cope – with jocularity) It makes him good at what he does.

I have been thinking a lot about our efforts in this physical world.  In particular our apparent lack of care of it.  We live in a throwaway society and have almost developed a throwaway attitude to our planet.  My dad made a point to me recently about the fact that old cultures care much more about the health of their environment then new(er) settlers as they are there for good.  We however (Australians, Americans) do not have ancient and permanent ties to our landscape. It must take many centuries to develop this mindset.  Britain seems to do better with a ‘Right to Roam’, edible hedgerows and seemingly a more long-term view of their management of their little isle.  We Aussies would do well to deeply care about Australia not as something we can make the use of and plunder but as a long-term (the longest term) investment.

I have come to see that we are inextricably linked to this world and  are as much a physical part of it as any animal or plant, our role is as carers, guardians, protectors of our planet and so we must invest into it, not merely take from it like selfish children.  What we do in this world matters.  It matters to the planet, it matters to future generations.  We must use our brains and make ethical decision when it comes to our consumption of natural resources, unnecessary travel, over population (a problem that will not go away and will escalate if anything, escalate until, as in China, the government must have a say. I don’t know about you but I would rather play a part now than have outside forces dictate to my children or my childrens-children about the number of offspring they can produce. We must at least think about it and make the decision that we feel is best.), in fact everything we do must be thought about with foresight as to its effects long down the track. I do believe we will be held accountable for it.

So, when thinking of what I will be pursuing this New Years that is what I think about.

Joni Mitchell stated that her passion for the environment was developed simply through seeing what was happening and envisioning the natural consequences of such developments. ‘Pave paradise, put up a parking lot’. And it’s true we won’t ‘know what we’ve got til it’s gone.’ I’d hate to get to that point.

(I really did not mean for this to reach such a lengthy read, so if you’ve read this far I congratulate you! I don’t know if I would’ve stuck it out!!)