Years ago I hired a jack-hammer and totally destroyed my backyard. Before I unleashed my wobbly electric powered fury that backyard space was a flatland of cement. The people the owned the place before me must have liked clean easy living. I can kind of understand that. But it was what lay underneath that easy to maintain cemented backyard that had me intrigued.

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In a year my yard transformed from a lifeless slab of cement, to a jungle of food. It’s a great metaphor for the change that occurred inside of me. I was pretty happy eating McDonalds, KFC and any form of easy processed food that would fill my belly. I left that life and found something more real. I guess I had some sort of awakening. I wish it was more dramatic, like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, having his mountain building moments. But for me it was just lame and gradual. Each time I discovered something depressing about the food production machine, the more determined I became to remove myself from any association with it. I’m still not perfect. I don’t expect I’ll ever be. But I do enjoy where I am right now.

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Under that concrete slab was soil. Soil in which I started to grow food. I learnt so much along the way. I learnt a great deal about growing vegetables. I also learnt a good deal about myself, and what I wanted in life. I learnt that you can grow too much of something (e.g. corn) and I learnt that it’s imperative to preserve it. Because just around the corner, lean times may lurk.

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Committing to living off what is seasonal, means a bit of extra work. I wont lie. I figured out that all I had to do was shuffle some ‘priorities’ around and viola! I had time to be more useful. And I don’t mind it, the extra work that is. Sure I might grumble a bit, but thats just my nature. I’m a grumpy ol’ bastard at times. But when I have moments like this, there isn’t a chance in hell that I’ll be grumbly. My girls and I, spending time in the kitchen, blanching corn, cooling it and freezing it. A simple task for sure and it’s one in which we all shall enjoy the benefits of down the line. In winter I’ll make the kids many dinners of corn fritters. With a crunchy bread crumb layer and soft insides. Corn fritters where each individual corn kernal pops that sweetness of summer in your mouth. It’s a happy land, where the rivers are made of corn fructose.

It’s amazes me what I can grow. It amazes me what WE can grow. At times, I think if we all did some of this kind of living then we’d all have too much. The possibilities are pretty amazing. Just like the potential of that soil laying restfully under that concrete backyard.

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  • March 11, 2014 - 11:20 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - That is an awesome corn crop!ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2014 - 12:02 pm

    penelope pitstop - thanks.keep growing and bloggin. you can take the girl out of the country but you cant take the country out of the girl.city living woman with a family and i grew corn and my kid who had stopped eating corn then dicided…mama i like corn but only the corn you grow. keep growing vege i say you never know how many you may need to feed.ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2014 - 12:46 pm

    Mike Sepelak - My how those girls have grown. And it does my heart good to see a child with dirt under her fingernails. Cheers, my friend.ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2014 - 4:54 pm

    Linda - Hope you scraped the deep insides and sweet milk from the cobs from that last photo! I trust you did :-) ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2014 - 10:39 pm

    Cle-ann - Dear soil, your awesome! And the hard work is all worth it! I love to see your daughter with dirty fingernails, best immune boosting stuff ever, and it’s fantastic to see kids growing up as I did. Soil over cement any day! :-) ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2014 - 1:37 am

    melinaphotos - Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, every bit of this. Your lens captured the essence in your girls. LOVE.ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2014 - 4:10 am

    Dad Berry - Ah don’t lark corn. Ah lark Spam.ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2014 - 11:06 am

    Aina - Imagine if everyone had adopted their gardens or soil patches we have access to around our houses, to cultivate fruits and vegetables? I am very confused and surprised that so few around us here in South east of Norway do not use their land in a more efficient manner. Why not use this valuable land ?? I find it incredible sad. Myself have adopted a small space in our landlords Greenhouse,(he can`t be bothered) in this tiny space I now grow tomatoes, herbs, beets, broccoli, cucumbers .. I make new plans all the time, the day we move to our own space, no land will go to waste!

    It is truly inspiring to follow your everyday life, it positively affects my life !

    ~ Aina ~ReplyCancel

  • March 15, 2014 - 9:36 am

    Jesse - “It’s amazes me what I can grow. It amazes me what WE can grow. At times, I think if we all did some of this kind of living then we’d all have too much. The possibilities are pretty amazing.”

    Hear hear. This was a big realization for me. I have never found a place full of more possiblity than the soil. It’s overwhelming at times, pinning down what to actually do when you can do anything, but it’s freedom, too. Great post.ReplyCancel

  • March 15, 2014 - 10:11 am

    lisa | renovating italy - We are just outside turning over our ‘orto’ ready for another year, this is our second year with a veggie garden here in Italy and keen to try new things. Last year some crops boomed and others flopped. We are still eating the rewards of our garden now and it’s late winter here. This year I’m going to try some jams, and preserves as well. Our rabbits just had babies and we are getting eggs from the chooks, how our life has changed in just one year. xxx
    ciao ciao lisaReplyCancel

  • March 16, 2014 - 11:48 pm

    Yelle - you may not be perfect, but remember that no one is. to me, you have gone through an extreme change, and i’m so happy that you share this with us. i’m so happy to learn from your good food habits and your wholesome garden.ReplyCancel

  • March 18, 2014 - 11:43 pm

    Alice - Hi Rohan, I look forward to seeing more delicious posts from both you & Kate. From delicious passata days to beautiful husks of corn, it’s certainly an idyllic and simpler life. No doubt the modern world is never free of complications, but I love that you share the ups & downs. Plus the food! Love that you share the good food!ReplyCancel

  • March 19, 2014 - 10:40 am

    Jude - When we bring our little man inside he chucks a huge wobbly and refuses to leave the garden. He knows how to toddle over to the strawberries and cherry tomatoes and eat them off the bush. He loves squatting down and having a burble to the chooks (he’s learning not to offer them his pudgy fingers). Seeing him in the garden is how I know we’re on the right track and that all the hours lugging watering cans around is worth it.ReplyCancel

The engine roared as it worked its way through the central highlands. Morning mist perched itself motionless on the hills, the valleys of tan coloured grass sat crisp, punished by a dry summer. As we covered more ground, the darkness of morning gave way to early light. The glow of the rising sun, poked its head up over the ranges to the east. The light rudely shone straight through the windscreen, sharp and bright, forcing us to rub away the slumber from our waking eyes. Within a few hours we reached the highway town where we’d set our rendezvous with Raynor. Before long we were transferring his gear from his truck to mine. We set about for a place to grab some last minute camp supplies, mainly the staples of bacon, eggs and sausage. We hit up the butcher, but I didn’t like to look of the eggs. Cage, factory farmed eggs, not good for the chooks that work their so we opted for the fruit and veg store a few shops down. The two boys went in and found the same deal. Damn cage eggs. We decided to put some road behind us and keep a look out for a road side stall selling farm eggs. At least I had a dozen from home, but with three blokes on camp they wouldn’t last more than a day.

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There was one last stop in town before we’d be highway bound for hours. Gas. Whilst I was filling up the truck, a car sped into the station. An angry looking man ran towards me in a feverish pace, anger set in his eyes. “Those two boys with you?” he asked hurriedly. “Yes…..why?” I replied.

“I believe they stole my eggs, and I have the CCTV footage to prove it. Can I check your esky?” Knowing that the boys wouldn’t have stolen the eggs I didn’t hesitiate to open the esky. Inside was only food we’d brought from home, no stolen eggs. “Who are you again?” I asked. The man explained that he owned the fruit and veg shop, and his wife had seen the whole event ‘go down’. The man headed for the cabin of the truck, and proceeded to talk loudly and angrily at Sam and Raynor (who had no time to figure what the hell was going on). I continued to fill up while the man yelled at Sam, “You covered the eggs with your jacket” then pointed to Raynor “and then you slipped them under yours jumper and walked out!” We where all scratching our heads as the man huffed off in his car, after he’d taken down my number plate, heading for the police station across the road. Dumbfounded I went to pay my bill.

I returned to the truck, where a combination of laughter and puzzlement ensued. The mad grocery store man had my details so I needed to go sort the situation out. Clear the air so to speak. I pulled up out front, the truck rumbling, subtly announcing my frustration. I picked Sam, the bigger of the two friends to accompany me into the store to chat to this fella. I did all the talking, presenting my case not allowing for rebuttal. I explained  why we didn’t buy his eggs the best way I could. I turned to Sam and asked him “why DIDN’T you steal the eggs?” Sam quickly answered “because they weren’t free range, let alone organic”.

As soon as I started explaining my beliefs in regards to food, that I’m an real food advocate blah blah blah, the angry man started to realise that I was more of a hippy than a redneck (as my appearance initially suggested). The clincher was when I stated with concern, that I required eggs because I was planning on cooking zucchini fritters that evening. I needed eggs to bind the whole meal together. It was then that I realised what a total hippy douche bag I sounded like. In slow motion, the words came from my mouth, and in slow motion, I realised there was no going back. In the end I’m not sure what the guy though of us, but I gather that it was a stark contrast to what he initially thought of us! Zucchini fritters WTF.

With that ‘interesting’ start to our trip we headed north east, slowly humming on the Hume Highway. Its a deadly highway, a boring road. It can lull you into a robotic state, crosses mark where people have fallen asleep behind the wheel and subsequently crashed into the roadside trees like a back handed volley. Thankfully we had a hilarious event to keep us entertained. We laughed most of the way up.

As we got closer to Ray’s cabin we where welcomed by valley country. Where the river snakes its way through the country one turn after another. The river floats through paddocks dotted with diary cows who meander about, feeding on irrigated grass, bolstering their already plump udders. The valley country was shadowed by grand mountains, dressed neatly in eucalyptus. The mountains stand watch over the valley, as they have for all ages. One final bend and we enter the small town of Mitta Mitta. A town boasting two outstanding waterways, the Snowy Creek and the Mitta Mitta River. Behind the town, perched on a hill, sat a humble pine cabin, our home for the next few days.

Without hesitation we unloaded our gear and set out for a session on the water. The Mitta was flowing fast, it seems a lot of water is being artificially fed from the Dartmouth dam to help farmers irrigate the last of the summer crops. This made the fishing tricky as the water was fast, in fact it was too fast. Most of the spots that would normally be good fishing where under deep, heavy flowing water. River crossings were dangerous and after a few hairy river crossings we decided it was best to fish the slower water and not attempt any further crossings. By late afternoon we found ourselves on the Snowy Creek, where the water was slow and calm. The creek snaked its way through the ranges, its flow more subdued than the wildness of the Mitta. I looked for any sign of trout, a splash, a rise. Nothing. After a long day on the road, the egg incident, and no sign of fish, we were all a bit drained.  A good idea was clearly to head back to the cabin and cook those zucchini fritters. Maybe we’d wash them down with a few quiet ales.

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The following day we spent mostly on the upper reaches of the creek. By the afternoon, dark cloud rolled in above us, eventually dropping a payload of rain as we fished the creek. It’s been so long since I’ve been caught in the rain, so I relished the experience. It’s been a dry summer. What a feeling it was to be fishing a river so remote, so wild with cool rain dropping down on us, washing away summer from our minds. We had no luck on the creek and decided to check out the Dartmouth dam. As we drove higher up the hills, the clouds firmly set in. The rain became consistently heavy enough to make instant waterfalls on the cut out of the enormous dam wall. Looking out across the dam the hills where now blanketed by fog, clouds and rain all hinting that our summer had suddenly turned to Autumn. It was right on cue too! The second day of Autumn and we had this cool rain arrive. Amazing. I don’t think it will last though, it’s more of a sign of things to come.

The dam was a pretty as a postcard. We sat still, leaning against the truck simply absorbing the vista.

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Our final day on the water was upon us. Still no fish had graced our nets, but somehow we’d pushed that aside and we were still filled with optimism (possibly blind stupidity). We fished the big river, with its fast runs and bubbling turns. Cast after cast, one fly change after another and talk of clever strategic approaches all garnished zero fish. It was during one of those moments of rest, where Sam noticed a large trout in the water close by. A chunk of flesh had been removed, possibly from an attacking cormorant. The fish was lucky enough to have survived, but then came another predator. Me.

Without much thought I jumped in the water to make the most of the presented opportunity. This fish was lively, and slimy too! I couldn’t get a grip so I yelled out “GRAB THE NET!!!!” Sam raced up to the truck where Raynor was, the two of them looking desperately for the landing net. “Its not here!!” someone yelled. This fish was not getting away, we where desperate men, hungry and desperate fishing men! I tried everything, fingers in the fishes mouth, two hands front and back, I even tried using my hat as some sort of net. Water was splashing everywhere, it looked like I was wrestling something big, it was a Steve Irwin moment. Suddenly I got enough of a hold to toss the damn fish clear out of the water into the long grass on the bank. Down she went, with desperate Raynor following behind with a rugby spear tackle “I’VE GOT IT! I’VE GOT IT!” he screamed. Covered in water I got to the bank and held the fish. A great size fish, enough to feed us for dinner. Sure our new approach to fishing was slightly unconventionally, but our mission was to acquire fish. After the fish was literally in the bag, we paused to realise the hilarity of the situation. The mud and the blood, the screaming and the yelping. Three fully grown men trying to get a fish for dinner, three men ready to do anything to get that fish in the bag!

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That night we sat around the fire, laughing at the weekends events. We talked of the beauty of the creek, the rain that shifted the season from summer to autumn. We laughed about the egg incident and the trout wrangling.

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The stars came out brighter that night. Our friendship all together a bit stronger from our experience. Late into the evening we sipped single malt whiskey and told tall tales. Sure our fisherman’s bag had been filled with a catch of pure random opportunity, we all agreed that its not always about catching the fish. Sometimes its just about the time you spend on the water. Its about spending time with mates. Its about spending time in the deep country, away from everything that blocks us from living with nature. Oh and it’s also about stealing eggs.

 

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  • March 4, 2014 - 8:24 am

    Steve Burns - Love the stolen egg story, Rohan… you painted the picture so well! I could just see that bloke charging around the servo giving you all hell… beautiful! :) ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2014 - 9:06 am

    MontanaCal - Reminds me of a life worth living.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2014 - 9:48 am

    Matt Gallagher - It is funny seeing peoples pre conceived ideas crumble before your eyes like that! Next time your up in the beautiful North East you should try deer stalking. It’s delicious, nutritious, free range and free.
    I’m heading off on my first hunting trip of the season this weekend. If you ever want to tag along with a like minded stranger – let me knowReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2014 - 10:39 am

    Cle-ann - That was hilarious! Sounds like my friends :-) ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2014 - 3:02 pm

    Patty - Such a lovely “guy” story. Does not matter….male or female….get away weekends with your friends full of laughter, relaxation, and a few ales are always the best! Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2014 - 12:41 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - Great story Rohan, sounds like good, wholesome fun. I love that photo of the dam, it does look like a postcard.ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2014 - 8:17 am

    Heather - Haha, I love that you explained how unappealing the cage eggs are, like buddy, I wouldn’t eat these eggs if you paid me to, let alone steal them from you.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2014 - 3:23 am

    Yelle - you are such a fantastic writer/storyteller. i feel like i was right there with you, on the mountain and in the water. seems like a successful camping adventure for sure.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2014 - 5:41 am

    benny - Quite apart from the hilarious egg larceny, I do believe that’s the best tale you’ve written. Loving the first paragraph especially. Nice one, man.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2014 - 6:09 am

Its easy to forget, time passes, we busy ourselves with the daily chores of living. Half a year drifts past, a gentle flowing stream, meandering away each day, lost forever. The cold of winter is a distant memory this time of year. The warm days of summer are bewitching, lulling us into a comfortable slumber. Summers daily priority is getting water to the plants, the animals and quenching our own thirst. The thought of warming ones body against the flames of a fire is as distant as an ocean horizon. However it’s imperative for us to be prepared, for when that weather does return, when we encounter that bone chilling south westerly our bodies will crave the warmth of the house fire.

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There is nothing like a warm fire. The flames red, orange and yellow. They dance, don’t they? With a flicker and a hiss, it has powers to mesmorize us. That same fire has joined us together as people. It has been the centrepiece of many of mans greatest community and family moments. It has warmed our fathers and their fathers before them. In every corner of the world, it’s provided us with comfort and heat for cooking. It binds us together. Well I guess it used to much more in days past, but not so much these days. In my previous life I lived with gas heating, which was fine, but out here on the hill, where I currently reside, there is no gas plumbed to the house. We rely on bottled gas which needs to be delivered. It becomes vitally more precious a resource. The reality is, we need wood as a fuel for heating. Thankfully this house is equipped with an efficient ‘modern’ wood heater. It’s small in size, but don’t let that fool you. It’s an efficient wood burner i.e. it burns slow and hot. The heat in that room is magnificently heart warming. The girls have dubbed it ‘The Cosy Room’. Its the room we gather most days when the weather outside is just plain ugly. Its where my kids snuggle into me on the sofa. It’s where we lay, under a few Pendleton woollen blankets, not having a care in the world other than staying warm.

 

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To keep the home fire burning I need to source wood. Mornings after an evening of big wind I head out and scout for fallen timber. There is plenty about. Trees gift us our fuel. A large branch here, a half rotted limb there. It’s a fantastic resource you just need to keep your eyes open. You need to embrace being opportunistic.

I spot fallen timber, fresh, green and soft to saw. A large branch weakened by internal rotting in the join, finally succumbed to the strong wind and dropped its heavy load. I fuel up the saw, and pack it in the tub of my truck. If I have anyone else around with a saw I’ll drag them along for help, it gets the job done faster. This time around it’s Sam. He has this great old Stihl, its a heavy old tool but it was made to last, it’s still useful. The saws buzz loudly for a spell. Limbs become neatly cut logs, custom cut to a size to fit the home fire. The wood is too green to split, its like striking an axe onto a bonnet of a car. It just bounces back. So it needs to be seasoned. It will be ready next year.

 

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In my truck I carry a pair of leather riggers, they come everywhere. The stories they could tell. They’ve been a companion, a partner. In a small country hardware/outfitter store somewhere deep in the hill country of Vermont, I picked up the gloves off the shelf. My mate James told me the story behind them. They’re made from tanned deer hide in Vermont itself. Manufactured by one of the last family companies making the gloves and other leather items I imagine. After hearing the background story I didn’t even bother looking at the price which I later found to be a mere $17. If its a family business making something great, competing with mass produced alternatives I figure they could do with my support. I’ve been rewarded with that purchase. They are another useful tool, like Sam’s old saw. It keeps doing as was intended. They protect my hands from many things. Again on this day, they come along, helping in the process of loading the cut wood into the truck, and then finally stacking it for a year of seasoning. I hope they last forever. But I know one day, like everything good, they will eventually wear and fail me. But that wood will still need to be cut. Maybe I should go back to Vermont and get another more pair.

 

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It may pay me to return in more ways than just a new pair of gloves. Last time I was there, that New England pal James, gifted me with my favourite work vest. Its an oldy but a goodie. He found it for 60c at a New England thrift store. Keeps my arms free for work also keeps the core of my body warm with that cosy wool lining. You wouldn’t know it was summer today. A cool change had set in. It has me wearing wool lined vests and chopping firewood for the winter. The winter thats not supposed to be here for a few months yet but feels like its arrived early.

 

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  • February 21, 2014 - 2:24 am

    alan middleton - Com’mon mate, give us the full info on the gloves! I’ve paid more and never happy.

    PLUS: Keep on with this, man. You’re like a Pirate Radio “station” for people world wide who want to get on the “real path”. I bought your book and keep it at hand just for the “vibe”. Every day just know you are connecting with at least one guy in a Yank State that is probably much like I’ve heard rural Australia to be. I’m considered a “Liberal” here in Texas but really, I’m just open minded.

    And please come to Austin, TX – you’ll find (and build) a strong following, I’m sure.ReplyCancel

    • February 21, 2014 - 2:49 am

      rohan - I came last year. I loved it. When I return to Austin, I’m going to hunt.ReplyCancel

    • February 21, 2014 - 2:50 am

      rohan - James Fox from 10 Engines will know the brand name. I have no idea, other than they’re good riggers. Sorry brother.ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2014 - 3:10 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - You have a way with words Rohan. Gathering wood has never looked so good! We love gathering wood as a family…it feels good to work for warmth.ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2014 - 4:48 am

    Erik - I occasionally forget that this is an Australian blog and wonder just what sort of person thinks this kind of weather is summery…and then I remember I live in the US. Oh well! Enjoy it!ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2014 - 5:33 am

    Charlotte Houston - Snap! It’s been riggers and logs here today too. With three open fires no curtains and way too many draughts at our place there was no cosy room last winter. Preparation starts now. Jealous of your Carharrt (sp?) vest! CharlotteReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2014 - 4:25 pm

    sarah - i’ve lived in maine my whole life, and have to say every working man wears carhart round these parts, the women too! when you see a fella in one you know theyve been cutting wood getting muddy and all manner hard working things, just makes life a little sweeter when your man is covered sawdust and smells like a chainsawReplyCancel

    • February 24, 2014 - 6:00 am

      The bowerbird girl - Oh Sarah, I think I need to go to Maine. ‘… life a little sweeter when your man is covered sawdust and smells like a chainsaw’. I LOVE that!ReplyCancel

  • February 22, 2014 - 4:48 am

    Leonie @ Cuppa and Cake - Hey Rohan, Great to meet you today. I wish you all the very best with your books and promos. Take care. LeonieReplyCancel

    • February 22, 2014 - 9:47 am

      rohan - Rad! I thought I recognised you up the back there!ReplyCancel

  • February 25, 2014 - 3:42 pm

    Bryan - Carhartts and flannel shirts, the outerwear of people who get stuff done. I need to get myself a pair of gloves like yours, mine don’t seem to last through a cord of wood. Maybe I’ll tag a deer this year and make my own.ReplyCancel

  • February 26, 2014 - 2:51 pm

    thedesertecho - It’s such a lovely picture you paint with your words. Nothing beats that smell of an open fire, so comforting on a cold day.ReplyCancel

  • February 28, 2014 - 12:20 am

    Monique - Perused a library copy of your most fine “Whole Larder Love” this morning. Later now, supper’s on the stove and it’s a few minutes in to beginning the adventure of your blog.

    My Papa was a lumberjack in Canada’s north way back in the days of horses, lice-ridden camps, big-ass trees, log drives and before chainsaws arrived. Once my Mom and Papa moved to a southern Ontario city’s edge they still heated with wood taken from family land in the north, ignoring the heating oil furnace that was already in the house. Years later, in a rare expression of sentimentality, one of my dear sisters wrote how the two-stroke oil Papa usually smelled like was what defined all that was good in him.

    He’s in a home now after a bad stroke. Mostly blind too. But seeing pics of a gorgeous work truck, wood piled, hard-worked gloves on the dash, I’m more heart-softened than I already was from your book’s forward, and it’s memories of far off bush sound of a good sharp saw felling timber to keep a family snug that’s warming my soul. My dad would love your blog. In his honour, I heartily commend your stalwart spirit to live kind to all that’s necessary for real livin’.ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2014 - 1:36 am

      rohan - Thats beautiful to hear Monique! Thanks for sharing with me. Its very heart warming to hear these stories from the other side of the globe. I hope your Papa is well!ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2014 - 11:52 pm

    Gem - We’re east-coast NSW and ALL of our winter woolies are from Japan. Even the most expensive clothes in our area aren’t really all that warm.

    There’s a kind of build you only get when there’s ice on everything, I think. It kind of focuses the attention on what you really want from a vest: that it be as thick and warm as possible. Mine is actually stuffed with feathers!ReplyCancel