Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sun day

How I love a Sunday!

The day lies open before me.  No expectations.

I postpone my planned soak in the tub.  Later.  I may get grubby yet...

Time beckons, not threatens.  The sun shines with warmth.  A pretty dress kind of day.

Will I plant new seeds for winter growth? Will I empty beds of spent summer growth?  Reacquaint myself with the spinning wheel?  Endless options.

Rag rugs to continue, ponds to dig.

Or books.  Books read to children; or a novel in the hammock with no-one but me....
And then my bath.  Once my passions are sated.

On Sunday time is my friend.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Self care

There's been quite a silence from me recently.  You may have noticed I regularly have spurts of blogging and spurts of nothingness.  If I've not been writing, one of three things have likely happened.....
  1. I've been so busy with projects and fun stuff that I haven't had time to write.
  2. I've decided I'm finally going to get life 'right' and I'm putting all my time and energy into organising the house and kids.  Always a nuisance when I get into this mode because I waste precious time sweeping and wiping surfaces!!
  3. I'm overwhelmed, exhausted and feeling like a failure.
This time around it was number three.  One of the down sides with trying to live thoughtfully and with respect for the planet with which we are blessed is that often we are time poor.  Since I began teaching the children at home I have really struggled with time issues.
I still want to find time to cook most of our food from scratch to avoid shortcuts that mean creating waste.  I want to garden to avoid feeding my children food with residual pesticides.  I want to make cleaners, again to avoid packaging waste.  I'd like to sew rather than buy products that have wasted resources in the transport process.  The list goes on and on........
Not only do I want to do all of this; I want to do it all perfectly!!  Of course.  For the last few months I have been feeling very tired.  Near on exhausted.  But I couldn't see a solution.  Especially because, even in this state, I keep jumping at opportunities to learn new skills.  A new recipe here, how to dispatch a goose there, how to pickle.....  So I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to think about it.
Now, this is not a once off exhaustion.  This is a pattern I follow.  I think it's probably something many of you who are greening your lives can identify with.  A lifestyle danger if you will.  On other occasions I have reached crisis point by exploding with the kids or by falling into a sobbing heap.  Last time, I decided to really take notice of the warning signs and be proactive in fending off an inevitable collapse.  But how............?
I thought long and hard about what I felt I needed.  I decided I just. needed. to. STOP!!!! I didn't want to feed another chook, milk another goat, teach another child, book another appointment, clean another mess - all the things that make up our day.  I didn't even feel like talking to Hubby once the kids went to bed because I was so worn out from doing and thinking.

So there it was identified, I needed a break.

I am very lucky.  I rang and asked my mother, feeling very guilty, if she could take the children and she didn't hesitate.  She and Dad looked after the kids for two days even overseeing their lessons for me.  Hubby took on a load as he worked all day and then cared for the animals and milked.  Belle and I did heaps of preparation to cut down the work and I think it helped him.

I booked a room near Rosie so I could squeeze in a visit with her and my lovely granddaughter.  I spent two days listening to relaxation cds, crafting, planning a new daily routine for when I went home and generally just sitting quietly (just being) !
It worked!  I came home refreshed, implemented my new routine and threw myself back into our busy lives.  I kinda felt validated when the kids arrived home.  They were all talking to me at a million miles an hour and it was mayhem and busyness right from the word go.  No easing back into it.  The contrast of my peaceful time made me realise that my life really is very busy and tiring.  The difference is that I have got through my week with it's usual up's, down's and minor crisis's with a sense of humour rather than doom.   I have had energy as I've tackled my work and I've found enjoyment in my everyday tasks.  Cooking and creating a nice environment for my family has been a particular pleasure.  Taking care of myself was really successful in enabling me to care properly again for the others in my life.
Pre-rest photo.  I didn't even get around to icing the cake for poor Belle!
As I stated earlier, I am very lucky to have such caring parents.  I know not everybody has a backup but I hope you have a way to refresh yourself when you need to.  Or more importantly perhaps, the ability to know when you've had enough and it's time to care for YOU!  Maybe you have your own secret weapon to use against burn out.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Monthly nine - February 2015

Ughhh!  I feel a bit like sleeping beauty!  I've just woken after a couple of days of solid sleep.  I've caught a doozy of a cold.  I'm delighted no one else in the house is showing signs of catching it!  I hope you've been faring better.

I'm excited to be welcoming Autumn again.  Not only does the calendar announce this wonderful season, the days are changing also.  There's moisture in the early morning air and the sun is noticeably swinging around to it's winter position.  The birdsong is changing.  It's happier and more gentle.  Trilling birds and warbling magpies.  I think they are enjoying the weather as much as I am!
It's now time for reminiscing.  February.  The final month of summer. What did you achieve under the nine categories?  Thanks go to Christine at Slow Living Essentials for this great link-up.  Please join in and tell us about your month.....

We've been eating a lot of pizzas lately.  It's the perfect time of year because there's always something in the garden.  Tomatoes and silver beet are the most common.  More often than not, I have some home-made goats cheese to add a flavour boost.  That reminds me, I must make some more!  I love having goats cheese on hand for cooking.
Crumbles have also been common.  All sorts of crumbles.  The standard apple crumble is yummy but we've had lots of fruit in the house over February.  We've enjoyed plum crumble, peach crumble and a couple made with a fruit medley (my favourite).  My children tell me I'm a GREAT cook when I make desserts!


I purchased tomatoes from an orchard and set about making passata.  To be honest, I'm not sure how well I went.....   I had empty champagne bottles to preserve them in.  Champagne bottles are thicker and stronger than beer bottles.  The caps, that I thought were champagne caps, turned out to be beer bottle caps instead.  They didn't want to go on very well.  Hubby later showed me where the champagne ones were hidden but there weren't many left.  Arggh!  I hadn't purchased more because I was so sure the beer bottle tops were champagne ones.

I made enough tomato sauce to last us the year too.  Same issue.  Now I'm not sure what to do.  Do I just open each bottle as I need them and carefully inspect or should I throw them all out *sob* and start again?  Oh well.  Every year, every mistake, I come closer to being experienced at preserving....


I'm giving this category firmly to Hubby with a pat on the back!  He extended the goat pens.  We now have four pens in the shed where previously we had two.  Hubby made use of some posts we bought a while back for the purpose of espaliering.   Every thing else he used was scrounged!  Right down to the catches and hinges.  Our pens are a hodge podge of second hand materials, bush poles etc. and they are perfect for their purpose.  I love sitting out there and admiring his work.  I think it was in January that I came across a swing seat by the side of the road with a 'free' sign on it.  We snapped it up and it now sits out in the dairy.  We often all hang out together at milking time and the seat is the perfect spot to sit.

Same old, same old for this category.  I desperately need to make more soap though.  I've also found my hair a bit like straw because we've been going to the swimming pool so regularly.  Our pool is due to close for the season this weekend.  I will miss frolicking around with the kids.  Oh.. and hankies!  Lots of hankies!!  Much better than tissues.


I'm mainly producing tomatoes and eggplants now.  I have silver beet and a few beetroots growing too.  The tomato plants are looking very sad but are still managing to produce enough tomatoes to keep us going.  I'm overdue to sow my winter seeds.  I'm thinking I might just buy seedlings in the next week or so.

Hmmmm....  I pulled out a rag rug that I began years ago.  I spent a couple of hours working on it, which I really enjoyed, but haven't got back to it again.  Hopefully I will find more time this month.  I find with looking after the animals and teaching the children, there isn't a lot of leisure time left.

I've been looking for free sites to teach me about photography.  I have a dilemma here.  While I love my camera, it is not an SLR.  I can change shutter speeds and whatever else it is that you need to change.  (Well, I could if I knew how!)  However, it seems from all I've read that I need an SLR to learn proper photography but I'm reluctant to go out and buy one in case I just can't master the skills.  I don't learn well by reading.  I like to be shown a skill and to be able to ask questions.  Therefore I'm also reluctant to use a paid course online in case I just don't 'get it'.  I'll keep tossing all of this around in my head but I feel I've nearly reached a point where I just HAVE to learn!!  It's on my mind a lot.

I've applied to join a group which will be making decisions on our little community swimming pool.  As you know, the pool means a lot to our family and over the next few months decisions will be made about its future.  Apparently it runs at a large loss and it appears that most things are valued in monetary terms these days!  Personally I don't think you can place a value on a resource that provides rural kids with good, clean fun and also connects the community.

I've really enjoyed teaching my kids over the last month.  It was our first month of study for the year and I feel that (maybe?) we're finally developing a routine.  The children have been so cooperative with their work and seem to really enjoy using Reading Eggs and Skwirk.  I have found Skwirk has taken a lot of the pressure off me wondering what they should be learning next.

Pumpkin, in particular, has been enjoying writing stories and, while I was tucked up in bed, she read books to me.  There's nothing quite like listening to your children read!

I hope you can join in with the Monthly Nine.  I can't wait to read about your month!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Food fight

Everyone loves a good food fight, don't they?  Apparently not.  Last week the children and I travelled to Melbourne for the EatBuyGrow Rally held by the Regrarians.  We expected to see hundreds of people and hoped to see thousands gathering to stand up for this important issue.

I was very disappointed to find around a hundred (correct me if you were there and I've made a wrong estimate) people standing up for a better food system.  Admittedly it was a week day so harder for people to attend but still.....  I found it strange.  Climate change rallies are so well attended but this one was not.  Is it possible people haven't made the connection between the way food is delivered and the damage to our climate?
Our food system has become so commercialised.  Since the introduction of supermarkets food has moved further and further from our homes.  It became easy for people to buy fruit and veggies so they stopped growing vegetable gardens.  Women left their homes to go to work and appreciated the ease of buying food from supermarkets.  Now busy families can buy pre-prepared meals and can avoid cooking at all if they so choose.  As time has gone by, large commercial food suppliers have found more and more ways to sell their products.  They market their products with a great deal of thought and their advertising works well.  Most people no longer know how to provide food for themselves without going to the supermarkets.

Families trying to manage their weekly budgets are often looking for the cheapest options to provide food.  The commercial companies wanting their dollar have responded by finding cheaper ways of manufacturing food.  Small farms are dying out as companies push them to supply food cheaply.  They simply can't make ends meet.  They've had to sell their land.  This has resulted in HUGE farms owned by corporations growing crops as cheaply as possible.  I can tell you now, the main concern of these companies is NOT your health or the health of the environment.  They encourage intensive farming and they are not focussed on environmental issues such as salinity, erosion, water conservation etc.  Their focus is how to make a profit.  The super-farms aren't worrying much about improving soils because they don't need to.   They can use chemicals to fertilise crops and kill weeds and there's now the option of genetically modified seeds.
Can you see the strong connection between buying from the supermarkets and the damage we are causing to the climate?

But wait!  There's more.  There's the issue of transport. Years back I briefly lived in Shepparton.  I was buying my apples from the supermarket and paying through the nose for them although I was in the very area that these apples were grown.  The large supermarkets were buying from the local orchards, transporting the fruit to Melbourne to their warehouses and then trucking them back to Shepparton.  I paid more for my apples than people from Melbourne were paying!  I've learnt a lot since those days.  The unnecessary use of fossil fuels was causing damage to the environment when I could have just searched for a local orchard that sold direct to the public.  Convenience has a lot to answer for!

Now think about the production of manufactured food.  The plastic and cardboard used in the packaging.  The unhealthy process of adding preservatives so food can sit on shelves for weeks/months.  Additives so that their products will look more attractive.  Do you think this is done to make your life easier, your family healthier, or to trick you out of a dollar?

Food is tampered with in so many different ways.  Milk is an issue that is close to my heart because it is such an obvious problem.  As a person who milks goats and yes *gasp* drinks raw milk, I'm very interested in what is happening in our milk industry.  Milk is taken from many dairies (again the smaller dairies are pushed to provide cheaper prices but are outcompeted by large corporations taking over and forming super-farms), put into one lot, forced through a tiny strainer to homogenise, heated to a temperature that damages vitamins and good bacteria, and then transported again to the supermarkets.  Now not only do the corporations, advertisers and supermarkets but also our government tell us this is done for our safety.
This is a half truth.  Yes, pastuerising milk ensures any dangerous bacteria are killed.  It also kills many health benefits.  It's a half truth because while they have told us about the risk, they have not explained that this risk is absolutely minute and applies to soooo many foods including foods like fruit and vegetables.  Since the tragic death of a young child (linked to raw milk) the FDA have painted such a vivid picture of the risk from fresh, untampered milk that in many people's mind the term RAW MILK equates to drinking poison.  What rubbish!!  You could die from eating a lettuce!  It's not possible to eliminate all risk from life.  We are human and susceptible to bacteria from many sources every day.  I can only think that we are being fed this half truth to encourage us to spend our money on the milk the large companies are profiting from.  Did you know that the milk in question, in the recent case, tested negative for e-coli?  No?!  Well the media haven't really been running with that very relevant information!  So before any proof of a connection with raw milk, our government have banned sales unless it contains a bittering agent (making it undrinkable) and non-compliance attracts ridiculously HUGE fines!  Just for the record, you can legally drink raw milk in many countries across the world.  I feel failed by a government that seems to value money before people.

I know that my children are being nourished by the raw milk from our goats.  I have been giving it to them for over a year now.  One of my children has suffered terribly from colds for eight of his nine years due to a low immune system.  He caught them easily, was affected for weeks, developed infections and developed hearing loss from his colds. Now he rarely catches them and recovers quickly.  Ironically, I have my first cold in two years as I write.

I had never attended a rally or protest in my life until a couple of years ago yet now I've been to a handful.  I don't go willy nilly.  It takes time, energy and effort to traipse to Melbourne with three children in tow.  I attend rallies if I think they are addressing issues too important to ignore.
The EatBuyGrow Rally was of vital importance.  Costa Gorgiadis came to speak, amongst others.  He was great!  Joel Salatin also spoke at the rally.  He even waived his fee because he is so passionate about changing our food system.  The current one isn't working.  Farmers are going broke, our food is being produced overseas, some people can't afford good food and cheap food isn't good for them.  (think obesity, diabetes etc...)  Our food is poorly labelled so we can't truly make choices about what we are eating.   And now we are banned from using food which we know is good for us.

Okay.  I've painted a pretty bleak picture (because it is) but there's heaps you can do on a personal level.  You can grow fruit and veggies, buy locally, buy in bulk, buy organic, buy direct from growers, cook from scratch rather than buying pre-prepared food.  You could also link in with organisations working to create change.
Why not join Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA).  They are aware of all the above issues and their website will explain them much more clearly than I did.  They are lobbying government to try to bring about a better food system.

The Regarians are also very proactive with changing our system.  I must admit I didn't know much about them before the rally which they were instrumental in organising.

There is also an organisation fighting for our right to drink raw milk.  They are the Australian Raw Milk Movement. I'm sorry but I couldn't find a website for them, just a Face Book page.

Now, you know I'm not a food scientist, chemist, doctor etc.  I'm just a mum.  But being a mum doesn't make me inconsequential.  It gives me the strength, the right and also the responsibility to fight for a healthy and fair food system that doesn't damage our climate.  I owe it to my kids. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A week filled with.....

I'm halfway through writing a lengthy 'save-the-world' post.  Somehow I haven't been able to find that elusive hour or so to sit uninterrupted and complete it.

So! Rather than complete silence from me, let me show you what we've been up to.  Our week has been filled with....

...tomatoes (not mine, boxes bought from the orchard)

...train trips to Melbourne rallies

...coming home to a busted solar hot water system
and nine little baby chickens!
After more than ten years of keeping chooks, I still get excited when chickens hatch.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

My muddle

On my good, productive days, I feel gooey!  I'm living the life I've always wanted to live.  What could be better?

However if I'm honest there are lots of bad days too.  Trying to live as sustainably as possible does create extra tasks.  There are the days on which I wake feeling tired before I've begun.  There are days on which I wake to a terrible mess in the morning.
I'm not a night person and will fall into bed at the end of the day without a thought of the dishes waiting by the sink.  But then I wake up to...........
In our home, more often than not, I don't just pop that empty jar into the recycling.  Oh no, not me!  I leave it next to the sink to be washed up ready to use for some gastronomic delight I am yet to make. I can't waste a perfectly good jar!

There's the garden to water, seeds I should have sowed already, animals to care for, milking to be done, chaff to be bought, children to be taught, a house to clean, cooking to be done, clothes to be washed, appointments to be kept.....

I still need to make time for the children to enjoy the things children should.

I can't throw out that piece of ribbon!  I might use it one day to pretty up a gift.  So I pop it on the stairs to take up next time I walk past...... and the pile on the stairs grows.

The stale bread can't go in the chook bucket this time.  I'll crumble it and pop it in the freezer when I get a chance so that I have breadcrumbs on hand.  Ooops!  Forgot.  I've now found a green loaf in the pantry.  Similarly the plums need attention.  I've used most of the plums for preserving, jams and sauces.  But there's one bag remaining.  These plums are going soft so I'll turn them into more sauce.  Ooops!  Forgot.  They've created their own version of a sauce by turning into slop as they waited for my attention.

Last night I was pickling as Belle and Hubby bottled cider.  No time for dishes or a tidy up.
Life's not always like this.  Sometimes I turn my attention to the house, tidy it up and swear I'll never get behind again.  But then I notice the garden is suffering so I'll turn my attention to outside......

How I long for some consistency!  Or more hours in the day.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The packed lunch trip

You know when you tell someone you're going somewhere and they want to tease you about the distance?  Most often used when you've decided to move house.  You get that supportive (NOT) quip about, "Geez, We'll need a packed lunch to come and visit!"

Well, I use the term packed lunch a lot these days. I think I'm the queen of the packed lunch!  If I need to go anywhere by car, I want to make the most of the trip.  I save petrol by multitasking and I save on time.  Home educating my children becomes very hard when we flit here, there and everywhere.  When we have a few 'home' days in a row, we feel organised and relaxed.  I'd much prefer to get heaps of jobs out of the way on one day so we can be home more.
Hence my packed lunches.  If we are going to our near town (twenty minutes by car) I write a list of all the things we need to do.  For example,

  • buy butter
  • buy shoelaces
  • go to bank
  • library
  • take clothes to op shop (and usually come home with heaps of other stuff from there)
  • sewing shop
 More often than not, I can get these jobs done before or after lunch.  Sometimes we treat ourselves to a pie at the bakery.

However, if I need to travel further afield, due to our small town's lack of shopping variety, it becomes a packed lunch affair.
We're due to go to the dentist for a check-up for Buddy.  He usually goes to Melbourne to the Royal Children's Hospital and always goes under general anaesthetic if he needs any work done due to his behaviour in the dental chair.  Actually, we can't even get him into the dental chair.  He insists that he sits on the regular waiting chairs while the dentists check his teeth.  He obviously feels they are not threatening as they are placed there for the non-patients.  I have found a dentist at a rural city near us that is soooo good with children and have decided to take him for regular check-ups to combat his fear of dentists.  I don't want him to have to undergo a major anaesthetic every time he needs a small procedure.

Sooo..... We'll travel for about an hour and visit as many places as we can.  There are orchards nearby so I might see what they're selling.  I'm hoping to source some tomatoes (for preserving) but I'm not really sure which orchards sell them in bulk.  I'll allow time to ask around.  I'll go to look for more school supplies.  I'll go to a camping supply store to see if I can replace the broken lids for a couple of our stainless steel drink bottles.  I'd hate to throw them out.  I'll try and get a new cord for my external hard drive and so on and so on.  Ooooh!  And I think I'll pop in at Spotlight!  Love a massive range of craft stuff.

The children will have food and drink in case we spend a lot of time driving from place to place.  I'll take our devices so they can study in the car, some readers for Buddy in case we have waiting time at the dentist.  Belle will take some craft.  It will be a big and hopefully productive trip with lots of planning and preparation.  Heck, I might even get fancy and iron a shirt for Buddy for the big occasion.  Lol!

Do you go crazy trying to achieve everything on one trip?