Monday 11 April 2016


About a month ago the seven-year-old learnt to knit. It is an activity that is encouraged at his new school, and something the children learn before writing or their times tables. Even before I had the chance to read about the reasoning for this teaching method, I found myself buying yarn and a set of bamboo needles. Initially it was because I wanted to help him and couldn't quite remember how to knit as I hadn't done it since I was his age. Then as he became more adept, I became transfixed watching his new-found dexterity with the needles. It seemed like a fun activity to do together.

After teaching myself from a few online tutorials, I soon became addicted too. Moving through the stitches and rows can create a meditative state. It is a repetitive action that is incredibly calming. And while many experienced knitters can talk and not even look at their stitches while they work, focusing on the task at hand creates the single-minded calmness that I have only experienced before from yoga, swimming laps and meditating.

The school's literature states that the amount of attentiveness required to knit helps to train young children's concentration spans which will help with their problem-solving skills in later years. It is also an activity that focuses on fine motor skills, which can assist in learning to read and write, especially the repetition of moving from left to right.

Counting the number of stitches and rows and devising patterns with various colours for the piece that they are working on can help children to develop mathematical skills in a stimulating yet enjoyable way. 

Then there are the conversations that we have had as a result of this new activity. Why wool is better than acrylic. The pluses and minuses of using different types of ply and materials - from twine to cotton. And the cost of wool - as he was going through so much so quickly - and why some products from countries such as China are cheaper - but explaining how the companies who produce such goods get those costs down.

While he learnt French knitting at his previous school, and got a loom weaving kit the previous year, which he went through spurts of using, the act of having knitting as an ongoing class activity has spurred his interest in all sorts of knitting, knotting and weaving again. He sometimes intersperses his knitted pieces with French or finger knitting. This way he has created bunting, which now hangs from his sister's bed, and a bag that he uses to carry his school hat inside. Also, in the past month he has created various bracelets for his sisters and a stock whip, which he enjoyed learning to crack.

His current focus is on using a bale of sisal twine, which has lead to many interesting twists and turns in our talks. We have spoken about how you might create string bags, coasters and light shades using this material. The work of Indigenous artist Regina Wilson also came up. She has created home furnishings for Australian furniture and design company Koskela in the past. He was impressed with her dilly bag design and some of her other weavings.

"We cannot underestimate the self-esteem and joy that arise in the child as the result of having made something practical and beautiful - something which has arisen as the result of a skill that has been learned. In an age when children are too often passive consumers, who, as Oscar Wilde once said, 'know the price of everything and the value of nothing', learning to knit can be a powerful way of bringing meaning into a child's life." - Eugene Schwartz, "Knitting and Intellectual Development" in Waldorf Education: A Family Guide (ed Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L Rivers), Michaelmas Press, 1995.

And if you're interested in a few other facts about knitting, here are a list of six unexpected benefits.

images the indigo crew

Monday 4 April 2016


The month of March was marked by the arrival of visitors - both welcome and unexpected. The former were friends - almost local, although they live closer to the coast - as well as some international visitors, who have been travelling around the world with their family of six. Both families had four children apiece and made for a fun albeit slightly rambunctious day. These are the visits we remember though - when the house is full, there's food and special treats aplenty, conversations are somewhat snatched but cut to the essence of what's important in life, and a walk down to the creek becomes an adventure. We see our home with fresh eyes.

Unexpected visitors also provided us with a new perspective on where we live. After the flooding rain of January we experienced two months of virtually no rain. The extended summer kept temperatures warm and the humidity high. And snakes came out searching for water. We have seen at least three different varieties in the past month - a diamond python, a tree snake and potentially a yellow-faced whip snake - although we're still learning to identify our slippery friends. One of them was found in our living room and had to be captured on a makeshift hook attached to the end of a broom handle. 

We also came across an injured bird that had flown into our living room window. The children delighted in creating a temporary home - made out of a cardboard box, lined with wool and filled with berries - where it could recuperate. The four-year-old was initially devastated though when it was well enough to fly again. Although she's since told me several times that she's happy that it flew away. We spoke about the bird wanting to return to its family and friends.

The tree house has continued to be an ongoing weekend project with the children. The platform was completed last month and since then we had added a safety rail and fence. Our visitors helped us to collect sticks and they were cut to size and attached with twine. We've also added a more permanent ramp and the children enjoy spending time on the deck, playing and eating meals.

Work on the house itself has been on hold for the most part while the treehouse was being built. However, in the past month the magenta fireplace surround was painted white and a hanging rail was added to the girl's room, as well as a cupboard converted into a temporary wardrobe of sorts. Over the Easter weekend a wall was built in the place of a hanging curtain behind the bed in the master bedroom. Modest changes that make a difference to our day-to-day living.

We are fast learning that there is always maintenance to be done on a property. No sooner had we moved in than we were issued with a notice to clear under the electrical power lines. As a lot of the bamboo had grown out of control, removing tracks of it was the first stage. We then employed the school gardener to trim some trees too. This turned out to be a good exercise as afterwards he was he able to walk around the property and identify various trees and plants, giving us a quick lesson in what is native and what should be scaled back.

One benefit of chopping down trees is that we now have a small supply of firewood for the upcoming winter. While it is still warm during the daytime, the evenings can get cool and so we decided to test out the fireplace. We have never seen the children bathe and dress for bed so quickly.

The end of the month posed some challenges. Our water supply is derived from rainwater tanks - three of them at various points along our hill. Pumps feed the water up to the house and when one of them died a couple of weeks ago we tried to get it serviced, were given a different pump that didn't work, and had to cart water up the hill in containers. Then the hot water system itself failed and, finally, we ran out of water completely. It was a sharp lesson in the importance of water, and how much we are beholden to nature and its inconstant ways.

But every morning we are treated to watching the mist lift off the surrounding mountains and the view from almost every room provides with the most wonderful, calming vista. And we can open our front door and the children can run, play and explore. That is why we moved here, and embarked on this journey. To find freedom in the everyday.

images the indigo crew