Sunday, 6 December 2015


...But not from Hill Shadow Farm! (Dont worry!)

Go and check out our new combined site over at Wordpress. Ben and I have decided to combine blogging forces, so that we can share the updates! 

There may also be a store opening....!!! VERY EXCITING!!! :)


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Why I'm not "A Vegan".

I had an interesting learning experience last night. I made a post on a vegan forum (one that claimed to be inclusive, peaceful, and accepting of all questions) - "If you could source yarn knowing it's origins (from rescued/pet sheep, organic, spun by hand in Australia, dyed naturally with plant dye) would you choose it over synthetic fibre? Asking for business research. All comments which are positive/constructive will be appreciated and respected."

Some people said "Yeah sounds good!"

Others said "Mmm I personally wouldn't, but my mother in law is a keen crafter - she'd love it!"

Some said "Nah. Not vegan. Any animal product is not by definition 'vegan'. Have you thought about cotton or hemp?"

I learnt so much, and most people were so lovely and positive.

Others were downright viscious.

I had no right to call myself vegan. Stupid people ask stupid questions. This question has no place on a vegan forum. I dont really care about people anyway.

These reponses are why I shy away from saying the word 'vegan' when talk to people. Why I hesitate, holding my breath for the uncomfortable silence that inevitably follows, and watching the other person prepare their defenses. I dont want to be associated with extremists. (Wait... is this how it Muslims feel?!?!)

So I learned something. I eat vegan food that does not come from animals. I try not to wear leather (unless it's 2nd hand). I believe cruelty and exploitation of animals is wrong.

But would I choose commercially produced, environmentally unsustainable, chemically treated, possibly sweatshopped synthetice fabrics over the fleece my goats have shed and I have handspun, just for the 'no animal fibres' principle alone? No way.

I dont believe in "ethical perfection", and I dont have one philosophy. I wouldn't choose animals over environment, animals over humans, or humans over animals. I dont think it's that black and white.

I ride my horse. Therefore I'm not a vegan. I vaccinate and desex my dogs. Therefore I am not a vegan. I feed my dogs meat. My kids wear their cousins' hand-me-down leather shoes rather than buying new. I buy and cook local free range meat for my husband (but not often!), because I respect him as a person and respect his choices. I adopt ex-battery hens rather than have them be killed, and sell their free range eggs cheaply, so that others will have an alternative to caged supermarket eggs. Therefore I'm not a vegan.

One forum member put it beautifully:

"I just try to do the 'most vegan thing' in each situation".

Perfect. That's my mantra. Well nearly: "I just do my best to be kind. What is the best, most compassionate thing I can do here?"

I dont think vegans are wrong. I dont know whats right or wrong. I'm not an expert. I'm not the Messiah ("Im just a very naughty boy!"). I dont need a definition, a title, or a 'box' to put my beliefs in. I just do my best. We're all just trying to do our best.

Respect and love to everyone who's just trying to do their best.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Psst! Want my Vegan ANZAC recipe..?

Ok, lean in.
Closer. *looks around*'s pretty much identical to the original one.
Well ok there's a few tweaks, but this is a good one for school lunches - no nuts, no eggs, no dairy.
Vegan ANZAC Biscuits ("VANZACS?!")
1 c flour
1 c brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
3/4 c shredded coconut
1 c rolled oats
2 T boiling water
1/2 c melted coconut oil (original recipe uses butter here)
1 T golden syrup (or maple syrup, or rice syrup, or agave...)
1 t bicarbonate soda
Preheat oven to 150 deg c. Put all dry ingredients in a big bowl. Mix all wet ingredients in a little bowl. Dump contents of small bowl into big bowl & mix. Roll mix into balls and arrange on a baking tray (they will spread!) Bake 15-20 min. Let cool on tray.
Don't turn your back on them - they'll be gone.
Add sultanas if you like. Or cinnamon. Or dried cranberries ("CRAN-ZACS"?!) - hey, it's your kitchen! Do it your way!

Two more sleeps till market day!

Cannot wait to spend the day out with the other talented souls who are members of DRAFT (Dandenong Ranges Artists of Fibre & Textiles). I've got so much beautiful yarn spun up!
In all honesty, if I didn't sell one or two of these, I could be convinced under extreme duress to keep a couple of these warm smooshy lovelies and knit them myself. You know, if you really twisted my arm ;)
And the spindle kits! They'd make such great Christmas  presents!

And that's just my stuff! You should see what all the other members have! Come take a look! 
See you there :)

Thursday, 19 November 2015

When it all becomes work.

Lately, I've been finding it hard to slow down. There always seems to be another task in the back of my head that needs to be done, and not nearly enough time to do it all. Im working on a number of projects at the moment, all of which demand my attention, my work environment has been tense and stressful, and the girls have all their end-of-year activities on and:swimming lessons, dance recitals, christmas parties.

And the news is full of violence. And the pollen is itching my eyes. And we've had restless broken sleep each night for various reasons. And it's all just a bit loud, a bit bright, a bit much.

I'm trying - REALLY TRYING - to keep slowing down. To breathe. To remember the really important things.

Im trying to carefully and deliberately to compartmentalise my work hours to keep work from bleeding into my day. When I plan to work for an hour, at the end of the hour, I close the program, get up and walk away from the computer.

Easier said than done.

Part of the stress is planning for a big market coming up. I've been spinning wool and dyeing roving late into the evening (aften way past when I planned to go the bed!) spinning wool until my eyes ache and my fingers are stiff. I want to have tonnes of beautiful things for the stall. Often I work myself to the bone like this, only to sell NOTHING on the day, and come home not even having my stall-money re-couped. That can be so disheartening.

But then I had a bit of an epiphany at a friend's house the other day. She made a comment about trying to find a craft that would be lucrative. She was going to try pottery, commentting on how she felt she'd be able to make more volume in less time. (Can I add as an aside here, that I do not mean to suggest in any way that this friend is materialistic or intends to sell-out and go into mass production! Merely that she was talking about the need to help supplement her family income! I hear that!) But it made me think about handcrafting vs mass-production. Would I sell-out if I could find some way to make this stuff pay?

And I realised I wouldn't. I really enjoy the spinning and knitting. I love the slowness and meditation of feeding out the fibre, and the suprise results of dyeing, and making bits and bobs for people I love who appreciate my pieces. When I feel like Im working to a deadline, or trying to make it profitable, I dont enjoy it. It becomes mundane, and becomes just another 'job'.

I have a job. I do this because its fun. Even when I get up in the dark, load the car, drive to a market, set up sit in the sun/wind/rain all day, and come home having not sold a single thing; I've still had a fun day.

So I'm not going to find another more lucrative thing to sell. Cos I love doing this. And someday I may have to buy a warehouse to store all my unsold bits and pieces, and then move in to it because wool wont pay my rent. Oh well.

But I AM going to remember to stop stressing about finishing items in time for the markets. I can never predict what's going to sell or not anyway! This is NOT MY JOB. (I should stop making it like one!)

And as for my actual job... :/ Weeellll. It pays the bills. Mostly. And the people are nice. Mostly. And I can turn off my computer, and not open my email, until I decide to be in "work mode" tomorrow.

Its been getting warmer too. We had friends over for our yearly "hazard reduction burn" (aka Bonfire Night) and the kids had a ball! I wanna plant more food in my garden. And take the girls to the beach more. And start doing some running again. Not for weightloss this time. Not for punishment. I dont do that anymore. Just for a bit of fun, and to get the dog out for some exercise. Thats another thing I have conciously decided not to make into a "job". It started to become one a while back, so I stopped, cold turkey. I realised I was using running to punish my body for being "too big". I was using it as a weapon to beat myself with, when I really needed to be my own friend.

The little voice in my head became a drill sargent. screaming out internet "fitspo" slogans: "You'll make time, or you'll make excuses!", "you just dont want it bad enough!. I imagined laying my boot into myself, curled in defense on the ground, kicking and flogging it to get up and get my 'fat ass' to do one more rep, when what I really shouldve been saying to myself is "...honey, you're tired. You've been caring for 2 little kids, a farm, and a sick partner all day on your own. It's ok to go to bed." I was my own worst enemy. In fact if i had heard anyone absuing someone the way I abused myself inside my head, I would've bodily thrown myself inbetween, screaming "STOP! STOP!!! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! SHE DOESN'T DESERVE IT! LEAVE HER ALONE".

But I wasn't my friend.

I choose to be my friend now. I wont punish myself anymore.

So I choose to slow down. To log off. To stop making the things I love a 'job'. Even if I only have a few beautiful, hand made things on my market stall, they will be made with integrity and love. Even if I didn't push through to get that last email sent, at least I wont be stressed and yelling distractedly at my kids. Even if the house is dusty, and the garden's going a bit to seed and weed, Im not a size 12, and I havent worn my Garmin in months, it's ok. I can cut myself some slack and do something nice for me. It's what friends do.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Itchy feet, restless heart.

Hi guys - it's been a while since I've blogged. But life's like that, isn't it? It's like you blink and weeks have passed while you were just getting on with the 'routine'.

The 'routine' has me a bit bummed lately. I mean I dont want to sound ungrateful - Im so blessed that my life is routine enough to be boringly comfortable, and not ravaged by war and uncertainty! And the grass is always greener, isn't it?

But I've been catching up on Kate's blog and their family's trip overseas, and feeling a tad envious! Sometimes I want a bit of escapism! ...But then I look at our animals and think "Omigosh I coudn't possibly leave you for all that time, you smooshy fluffy Collie....*smoochsmoochsmooch*"


Still, next weekend, we're off to McCrae to stay the weekend in a friend's beach house, so Im looking forward to that! (AND the dogs get to come too!)

What else?

Oh yes - we finally got our spring seedlings in! We took the trailer and bought some market boxes for this year's garden! The bales were great last year, but eventually they do start to decompose and fall to bits, and you find yourself with a bit of a mess of plants going to seed and sinkholes and twine. We've planted Choy Sum, Broccolini, Peas, Strawberries, Beetroots and I got one tiny tiny tomato to pop up - so fingers crossed it takes! Today I'm going to pop out to Mt Evelyn and grab some Zucchini and Leb cucumber seedlings. The cucumbers were prolific last year!

The apple trees are blossoming, the apricot's looking good, the plum is... not as 'fruity' as last year. And the Hill Shadow Feral Bees are hard at work each day, you can hear the hum of them wokring all over the farm. Bless them x

Our 2 new goats got a haircut last week, and now they look like skinny little drowned rats! Poor boys! Their fleece hadn't been maintained at all, so they were quite matted and dread locked round the chest, and I just didn't have the heart to try to comb and pull at them. So we rang a mobile shearer and he popped out one day between jobs and now I have 2 cashmere fleeces in bags and two tiny skinny goats. I had high hopes of selling/using the fleece, but have found removing the guard hairs an absolute nightmare. Commercial cashmere gets dehaired by machine, and because this is shorn and not combed, some of it is a matted hairy mess. Still, when Im feeling patient, I clean up enough for me to use, and blend it in with something else.

This is our cashmere, blended with some alpaca I dyed orange and yellow, and plyed with the softest 16 micron merino - turned out ok, huh? Im planning on knitting this into a little beanie for my friend's baby girl.

Currently on my needles is Ben's birthday present (I've got til Dec 31!). It's a v-neck jumper in TARDIS blue, with a pattern of Daleks and the TARDIS round the bottom. I spun all the wool myself - it's half alpaca, half merino, indogo dyed by the Shepherdess herself, Niki - and Im hoping I'll have enough... :S And Im kinda thinking about more socks... socks with cables... mmmm.

ok, I've ground to a halt. Time to go shower and get these girls dressed for the day. And feed the horse and let the goats out and break up the fights and put the washing on and tidy the breakfast things and...

*sigh* Oh well, at least it looks like being a beautiful day. And Im going to meet my friend Tash to check out the Lilydale Psychic Expo and have a coffee.

What are you going to do to make this day fun? Where are you travelling to next? What are you putting in your garden? What's on your knitting needles? Who's blog are you loving?

Tell me everything.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Weekends, Hill Shadow-style.

This week Ben happened to pick up a packet of the Pancake Parlour's pancake mix, and was absolutely astounded at how many ingredients were listed! I mean, they're yummy, but I have no idea why a pancake mix would contain so many things. Maybe to help you justify the price of buying something that's so simple to make at home!

Rarely does a weekend go by here where we don't have pancakes. They're super easy! Our pancake recipe is loosely based on Jamie Oliver's one

Serves 4 -ish

2 cups SR flour (we use 1/2 wheat, 1/2 gluten free. I hear buckwheat flour works well too!)
2 cups milk of your choice (we use soy)
2 eggs (free range ONLY and ALWAYS, please x)
Pinch salt.

That's seriously it! 

Whisk ingredients together til well-combined.

We cook our pancakes on our sandwich press left open - It works a treat! But your fry pan/skillet is fine. A medium/low temp is best. 

Pour out pancakes of 10 - 15 cm and wait until the air bubbles on the surface pop and don't fill back in. The top of the pancake will be covered in craters & look 'dry' (not like wet batter) when it's ready to flip. 

Serve with local honey or real maple syrup (it's worth spending a little extra for the real stuff!)

I hope you're out enjoying this beautiful weekend with your loved ones! I'm washing some beautiful alpaca fleece ready to card and spin. Won't take long to dry today! 

Right, now go put your washing out, then make a cup of coffee and take it out under a tree with a good book x