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Early Autumn Days

Autumn In Australia

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when we decided on the move to Australia, I was naively under this false impression that the sun shone all the time - but as the weeks roll by and I find my feet, I’m surprised by each new day and what it brings. Yesterday morning we woke up wondering if we needed to build an ark, the rain was so very loud on the tin roof! Oh how I’d missed wet weather, it sounded glorious.

These gorgeously cosy morning rainstorms often give way to warm afternoons that require only a cardigan, and leaves of a thousand autumnal hues are falling into the garden at a rapid rate. It’s a delight to say they’re rather crunchy! It’s such a simple thing, a true reminder of childhood, and I’m not sure of the last time I walked through really crunchy Autumn leaves. Back in England, they all seemed to be rather soggy most of the time. As a child I remembering raking and piling them up high (then throwing myself into them). Perfect natural outdoor entertainment, if you couple it with hunting for conkers too.

Autumn leaves never fail to put a smile on my face, and in the late mornings when I go out to the postbox to check on the mail, it’s still fun to send those leaves up in a little flurry and hear the crackle underfoot. Some things never change.

The nights are starry, and in our new neighbourhood you can often detect the delightful smell of woodsmoke at dusk as people settle in for the evening. Just last night my husband and I headed to the school at 6pm to collect our son who had been away for a few nights on his first camp. As the fresh evening air hit us, we both said, “it smells like Bonfire Night”. So, though it’s April, and Easter not long ago celebrated - somehow we feel like we’re in November too.

It’s going to take some getting used to this ‘upside downness’, that’s for sure!


Autumn days in the kitchen

With the colder weather setting in, and rainy days outnumbering those with clear skies and sun, cosier dishes are firmly on the menu in my kitchen. Lots of soups, casseroles, and baked dishes, and thankfully now I have a little more free time, I’m inspired to start stocking up the freezer too. I made a big batch of homemade chicken stock from three birds (for recipes, and to treat colds), and I’ve been enjoying baking with my new sourdough starter, “Bridget”. She was a little blonde at the start, as the oven here is rather slow, but further loaves have since been baked a little longer. Cooking is always trial and error for a while when you move house and get used to a new oven isn’t it?

Baking Sourdough Bread

Next week’s menu is made up of lots of “River Cottage” inspiration. I’ve always had a bit of a love for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His demeanour, simplicity of style, and “back to the land” ways and passion for natural and old methods is what I find so appealing - like the hurried life just passes him by. So too has lots of inspiration come from young-blood Julius Roberts, and Gill Meller, who I think was, or still is, a teacher at River Cottage. I’ve bookmarked a dish of roasted sprouts and pancetta with eggs baked in to serve for supper one evening. I think some sourdough and homemade butter might be a nice accompaniment. Maybe a couple of sausages too, in case the boys complain about the lack of meat. Also a delicious sounding Chorizo and Butterbean Stew. Just my kind of food! You can imagine my delight when I spotted River Cottage Australia (now a Farmstay) on TV the other night. It’s an old series, but cooking and homesteading shows never really date.

Local food and small scale farming is something I’ve always been interested in (and like to support), so last weekend we went to a nearby Farmer’s Market at an apple orchard, and it was such a dreamy setting. Bedecked in wellies and gilets for warmth, we were met with live country music on arrival, indulged in hot steaming coffee and warm donuts for breakfast (don’t judge), while we perused the stands. We came home laden with local honey (after trying many varieties), a chopping board from a lovely retired couple who now woodwork together for something to do, and the most gorgeous studio pottery bowl made by a Swedish lady. She told us she holds pottery classes and taster days - a craft I’ve long been itching to learn. It’s certainly on the wish list for the future!

At the moment I’m keeping my hands busy in the evening with crochet. I’ve not graduated to anything complicated yet, but I was surprised by how much I remembered since I haven’t really picked up a hook in nearly a year.

Learning How To CrochetEvening crochet

Plans for the house and garden this Autumn

We still have many things to do in the house, but nothing is urgent. I’m undecided as to whether I want to keep my vintage/English sitting room walls white, or paint it a cosy green. I think this shade, Calke Green, may go nicely with the vintage floral Sanderson sofas that we collected a few weeks ago, but perhaps the idea of a painting project can be held off until Spring. I’m a little impatient when it comes to wanting to make this place feel like ours, but I do have to sometimes temper my feelings with what’s practical.

I feel pretty homesick for what’s familiar too. I parted with many things in order to make this move as easy on us as possible, both logistically and financially but I won’t lie, I have a lot of regrets.

Life isn’t about material possessions, I know, but I also think a home reflects a person very much and the feathers in my nest feel a bit sparse right now. It’s not easy to replace either, as most things I like are vintage. I’m sure time will remedy this of course, and I have been out hunting on occasion, picking up a few bits here and there.

To ease the homesickness and indulging in my own passions for times gone by, I signed up for Britbox - a couple of episodes of The Darling Buds of May/The Larkins, and the new series of All Creatures was such a tonic!

I realised that I have been shying away from my love for vintage recently because the community isn’t entirely pleasant, and can leave you feeling a little inadequate at times - but I’ve come to realise that just because you love something, doesn’t mean you need to reflect every part of it. I dipped my toes into a community a while back that shocked me with it’s values underneath the 1940s facade! I have met some very lovely people, but sadly there are a few that spoil it for the rest. The way they spoke to, and about newcomers on the scene would give Regina George a run for her money! It’s all rather demeaning and frankly it shocked me. I know of a fair few people who have been quite hurt by it all too!

However the love of history does not belong to the privileged few. If you love it, then that’s enough, no matter how you choose to dress, or whether you attend events or not. I have a love for the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s and I really enjoy collecting things from those eras, but I look daft dressed in its fashions. I’m learning as I get older that dressing in a simple way is best. I’m not one who likes standing out in attention grabbing clothing. It looks fabulous on some people, but that’s just not me.

All among the barley by Melissa Harrison

A book I read during the first few weeks here in Australia taught me a great lesson on the topic of not romanticising the past! I’ve been meaning to share All among the Barley with you for a while now, as it’s a great pastoral read and I know so many of you will enjoy it. Set in the 1930s, following a farming family, with lots of references to the previous war and the one to come. It tells the story of their daughter who is coming of age, but the ending is quite devastating in a way. Not how you’d expect, but it sears in your mind a little. Anderson shelters, and playing at war is a good way to educate, to remember, and honour those who lived through it, but let’s face it, it was also an horrific time for many! We shouldn’t forget that. I won’t spoil it for you, and please don’t be put off by my mention of the sadness in this book, it’s still a lovely sweeping story and you’ll like it if you’re a fan of The Dig, or All Creatures, and The Darling Buds of May… there’s just a lesson behind the prose. One that I think is vitally important.

All Among The Barley Melissa Harrison

Secondhand books are something I have been enjoying finding in the charity shops to fill my shelves lately. I have been struggling with my current book. I branched out from my usual genre of historic fiction, bucolic/pastoral themes, and wartime sagas to try out The Secret History, and it has taken me MONTHS to get through, and I’m still a chapter away from the end!

I know we have been somewhat busy lately, with little time for reading, but I honestly think it’s the subject that I can’t digest easily. Tartt’s book is very well written, but its not a style I’d pick up again. Sometimes comfort zones do need to be stretched and the wider literary world explored, but I’m excited to get back to what makes me happy…

I’ve picked up lots of sagas, some set in the gold rush and pioneer eras, and my lovely Mum recently snapped up a collection of Miss Read titles from one of my favourite bookshops back in Tewkesbury that she’ll be posting over soon. Michelle inspired me to give them a go! Christian fiction has also been a common theme of the spines I’ve been drawn to, and now the nights are drawing in you’ll probably find me with my nose in a book for most of the season. I’m excited to read Janette Oke’s books too as I’ve found a fair few and they have great reviews.

Janette Oke Books

Our garden plans

We’ve inherited somewhat of a blank canvas with the garden here. The front is gorgeous, but the back - though layout wise is great, definitely needs a few more flowers! Even the ones we’ve already put in (a rose tree, two rose bushes, a Foxglove, and violets) have made a big difference and make us smile.

For ideas, I’ve been catching up with some of my very favourite garden themed YouTube channels, and while she is mostly focused on vegetables, Katie, who I have followed for years now, is the one who never fails to keep me inspired! Her interests are also very similar to mine, and she is very good at planning her gardens on paper. As a visual learner, I think this might be a good way for me to translate what I have in my mind (and my dreams), before we stick forks in the ground.

Violet PlantBeautiful Violets

We will also be putting in some vegetable beds very soon so that we can grow our usuals. Strawberries, French Beans, Courgettes, Tomatoes, and Kale were grown every year back in our garden in England - and maybe now we’re in a slightly warmer climate, we could perhaps branch out with a few other fun crops too.

Dig For VictoryReady to Dig for Victory like this lady

The yellow rose tree “Gold Bunny” was procured at the garden centre, along with an Apricot Digitalis, a double pink Hellebore, and ground-cover violets for under the trees. I can’t say it’ll be anything other than pastel out there - and that’s fine by me! I also nabbed a packet of wildflower seeds that I might just scatter about for fun to see how they take. We need to encourage more pollinators into the garden and I couldn’t think of a better way to do that.

I’m thinking perhaps that more chat about garden plans are a post for another day as I have so many exciting ideas for it. I could waffle on for ages!

Victory GardenOur old veg patch


My hopes for May’s homemaking

In the coming month I’m hoping to finally have our guest room sorted. It is a project that has somewhat stalled lately. We have the furniture ready but we just need to put the room together. My husband has been busy on work projects, and come the evening time and what with it being rather dark and chilly we’re finding we would rather snuggle up in front of “Farmer wants a Wife”.

I need to get those garden plans together so that we can see what needs “doing” on a grander scale before we start thinking about the little things. We need to remove a few structures, and perhaps build others as we have space for some chickens that’d I’d really like to utilise. The problem is, we’d also like to get some kittens to join our family too. I’m wondering what’s best to adopt first? Fluff or Feather?

Should the kittens join the family with chickens already established? Would the prey instinct in cats, when adding chickens later be a touch harder to control if the cats joins the family first and thinks they’re top of the pecking order? What came first, the chicken or the cat? Ha! If anyone has any experience and knowledge here I’d be grateful for your input.

I’m also hoping to keep meditating on what’s to come next for The Darling Academy. There are a few opportunities that have been presented to me that I need to pray over, and also I’m feeling nudged by The Holy Spirit in a certain direction, time will tell whether it’ll bear fruit, but I’m feeling positive!

Please also pray for the family of my friend Jacqueline, who graduated to heaven this week. I know many of you prayed for her over the past couple of months. She will be missed by many.

With love and until next time!

Alena x

A big hug and thank you to our Patrons for the month of April; Ruth, Lauren, Katherine, Allison, Kerita, Natanya, Eilis, Camilla, Laure, Janie, Angela, and to those who have wished to remain anonymous in your donation.

There has been a suggestion to set up a “Patreon” but it’s something I need to explore as I’m unsure how it would work at the moment, for the time being Ko-Fi is the best way to support the blog and my writing. It’s always appreciated, so very much!


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