Sunday, 15 April 2018

Cool Sundays and less food waste

I love my Sundays.  Sundays are family days.  Our weekends are often full but my preference is that we are home on Sundays.

Weekdays are busy.  Saturdays are filled with children's sport.  Today we are all choosing our own at-home recreation.

I should be cleaning my fridge.  I don't do it anywhere near as much as I should.  My fridge often has containers of leftovers, veggies and unrecognisable items that I have forgotten about for far too long.  Ewww!

I figure there are two ways to stop this waste.  One would be to go through my fridge a couple of times a week and make sure I use what's stored in there.  The other would be to ensure I know what we will eat each day and only buy what we need.

I recently discovered an app perfect for my needs.  It's a menu planning app called mealboard.  I purchased the app for $5.99 and I'm loving using it.  I can choose to upload recipes from the internet or I can type in my tried and true everyday meals.  I then enter the number of servings each time I add a recipe to my weekly menu plan so, when cooking a double batch, I just increase the servings.  Easy peasy!  Once cooked, I have a spare meal for the freezer.

I'm so much more organised with my food now.  Each week I create a menu plan by clicking on a meal for each night, including any larger batch meals for freezing for a rainy day.  From that, the app creates my shopping list from the ingredients.  I can also add other items that I need to buy to the shopping list.

So now my cooking and my shopping are much more organised and I'm finding we are spending less.  I buy exactly the right amount of food for the week and each morning I check the app to see what we are having for dinner.  It helps me plan my day and my time if I know what I’m cooking that night.  I only choose four or five meals for the week because we often have a night on which we eat leftovers or the kids sometimes have sausages at the club on training night. 

So what have we chosen to do instead of cleaning the fridge today?

Wrapping a present for a party.

Googling football videos.

Playing with nephews.
Last minute homework.
I have no affiliation with the meal planning app.  I'd just like to share what works for us.

I hope you're enjoying this lovely cool Sunday.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

the good, the bad and the ugly

When I began this blog I promised to post about our journey, warts and all.

Instead, when life got too hard, I stopped writing here.  It's been nearly two years since my last post.  I don't even know where I've put my camera and my life has changed dramatically.  So much so that I don't know how to fill the gaps succinctly but I'll try.

I became too busy to post in 2016.  I was offered an opportunity to learn a lot about myself and my effectiveness in community work.  I gained an extraordinary amount of information about community groups, being subjective about my use of time, my personal strengths and weaknesses, how government and organisations function, how to effectively communicate with people and the list goes on.....

It was a huge year for our entire family and coincided with a point in time that I was thoroughly overwhelmed by our attempts to live sustainably.

I was trying to be as self sufficient as possible, from gardening through to milking our goats and producing cheese from their milk.  Homeschooling the children was either very time-consuming if I was doing it well, or guilt inducing if I was spending too much time on self-sufficiency and not getting around to lessons.

These pursuits were wonderful, they truly were!  I loved the pottering around living our lives - the spinning, the cooking, the gardening.... However we didn't keep it manageable.  Our family had taken on so much that we were doing nothing well.  I was feeling dejected by the chaotic mess that was our life.   At this time, the dread of fire I developed every summer was playing with my head.  Our property was at high risk of not surviving during a bush fire.

The introspective journey of the program I undertook in 2016 made it clear to me.  Life needed to change.  I pushed passed my fear of the volume of work required to prepare our property for sale and set to work.  All else was put on the back burner and by April in 2017 we had relocated closer to my adult children and my grandkids.

I enrolled my children in the local schools so they could make friends in our new community.  I set about finding groups to join so I could know people and make a new life for us. I joined several committees and craft groups and the children joined sporting clubs.  I deliberately became a pub-goer for the first time in my life.

It worked.  Tomorrow we have lived in our new home for a year and we feel firmly entrenched and well accepted by the wonderful and diverse folk in our new town.  Unfortunately our environmental footprint is larger than it was at our last home.  It's an area that needs attention but I can't continue with the intensity of the lifestyle of previous years.  My sustainability was unsustainable.

I hope to post again soon about our family and the smaller daily details. 

Right now I'm trying to make an impact on a different level.  I'm trying to create change at a community and organisational level.  Hopefully all efforts count and if we all keep on trying, in our homes and out in the wider world, we will leave the world in a better place for those who follow.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Easy mulled wine recipe

 I'm in need of some down time today. I've had a huge, productive week outside of my home. This weekend I am trying to balance catching up on household organisation and giving myself a well earned rest.

I've washed dishes, clothes and tried to tidy up a bit. I shopped for some veggies at the farmers market. I've ferried the children that needed pickups from overnight stays.

I've watched the sun break through the clouds as though it was determined to banish them despite the chill wind which blew.  The clouds have won and brought more rain and bone seeping temperatures.

That was all the encouragement I need to break out the first batch of mulled wine for the year and pull out the iPad in front of the fire. 

Mulled Wine

One lemon
One orange
200g castor sugar
One cinnamon stick
Six whole cloves
One whole nutmeg
Three fresh bay leaves
Two star anise
Two bottles of red wine (I use cheap wine for occasions like today, good wine for special occasions)
Grate thin slices of the lemon and orange peel straight into a pan. Add the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and grate in some nutmeg. I grated it about twenty times on a fine grater. Juice the orange and add to the pan.  Cover the mix with red wine (barely cover it, you don't want to waste your wine). Over medium heat, stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and continue to boil for five minutes without stirring until you have made a syrup.
Add the rest of the two bottles of wine and the star anise. Warm through (not too hot or you'll burn off the alcohol) and enjoy.
I'm keeping my pot warm on the fire. I probably should be sharing this with friends because *hic* it's a little more than hubby and I need! But the warm, sweet, syrupy brew is sure making my hectic week seem an irrelevant thing of the past. Surely this is good for me, medicinal I'm sure, *hic* coz I'm feeling shooo mellow!! Cheers.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Down time

A little school holiday fun sees us baking chocolate muffins and heading to a friend's place.  A couple of days of beaches, buckets, fish and sea snails.
Of exploring, playing, walking and talking.
The kids have laughed lots, argued a little and imagined over and over again.  I love listening as the sand banks become their homes and the seaweed their gardens.
I'm watching the transformation of Belle who's changed from a child into a teenager in a few short months.  No longer part of the games but exploring and photographing wonders.  She's always around but just a little separate as was Buddy today, tired from a long drive.
It's lovely to have a change of environment.  A five minute solitary walk amongst rocks and water did wonders for my soul.  I was frustrated to be taking photos with an iPad! I was given a camera for my last birthday and I'm learning how to use it but sadly my computer just died.  I need to fix it so I can load my photos and continue to play with the basics of photography.  The beach is a photographers dream.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Lotions and potions

There's something incredibly satisfying about making things for yourself. It's nice to identify needs then feel you are able to satisfy that need without turning to someone else outside of your home. Perhaps it creates a little bit of security because you know you are not totally reliant on the outside world. Perhaps it's just the sense of pride that comes with being capable.

I like beginning my days caring for my various brews. I haven't been doing much in the way of this over the past few months and I'm realising it feels good. Kind of right. This morning began with sourdough. I made up a double batch of dough, kneading away in a quiet kitchen while the children still slept peacefully in their beds.
Next I fed the ginger beer plant and put some kefir grains in fresh milk. I added flour and water to the sourdough starter. Done. My brews are all taken care of.

I also have kombucha and some comfrey ointment sitting on the bench. I made the ointment to try and heal some eczema I've developed on my ear of all places! I'm not sure if it's helping or not but something is. I've read that keffir helps too by balancing your system. I'm very new to keffir and still quite wary of it. I only have a small sip each morning. I worry that I haven't made it correctly and that, in reality, I'm drinking milk that's gone off. I've taken to putting some silky material over my pillow as well in an attempt to fix my silly ear. It's much more comfortable than the cotton pillow case. If my ear doesn't improve soon, I'll make myself a silky pillowcase.

There are pleasant offshoot thoughts too as I tend to my concoctions. I placed my bread into the large glass bowl that a friend sourced for me at an op shop. I used to use a smaller bowl but found, as the bread rose, the dough would get on the teatowel I covered it with. It is so hard to get sourdough out of the fibres and it's just an added chore. I mentioned to her that I was looking for a larger bowl and she found me one. So I smile remembering this thoughtful gift. 
The keffir was given to me by a new friend I've recently met. I met her at a program I am taking part in this year. I'm warmed by the anticipation of this and many other new friendships I know I will strengthen as the year goes by and I spend more time with them working side by side.

There are down sides to the many various things I'm nurturing (but they are far outweighed by the positives). My benches are cluttered with many bowls and jars. Last night I tried to make room for a clean towel on which to place my gnocchi as I cut it. In the process of pushing a bowl further back on the bench, I knocked a carafe of red wine off the other side! It spilled over my handbag which I think may be ruined now. I'll try washing it today but I think it might get damaged in the process. The wine was from a bottle that tasted like it was turning so I saved it, hoping to turn it into vinegar. (Another lovely memory here of opening the wine during an afternoon with good friends)

The other down side is the dishes! So many dishes!

Tell me, what are you lovingly tending on your benches?

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Autumn comes

I'm dragging myself, worn, damaged and battle weary, away from summer and into the arms of Autumn.  The days are beautiful!  Cool and gentle mornings begin with birds telling me they feel just as I do. They are warbling and trilling in a way I never heard through the hot, dry summer.
The sun's rays, so recently angry and cruel, now warm and caress me as I wander outside.  Like the phenomenon that is childbirth, I feel the pain of summer receding and the memories quickly fading.  Already I am preparing new garden beds in an attempt to create a shady oasis to protect me when next the heat attacks.
The human spirit is strong and I am able, each year, to gather enthusiasm and work with wonder as I watch the land renew.  The grass grows, hidden seeds burst through the soil and life becomes lush, abundant and healing for my soul.  The process happens annually without fail though I've realised lately the dreams and hopes are dimmed slightly.  Almost imperceptibly.  

The cycle continues with dreams and hope awakening.  My energy slowly recovers, hope puts a spring in my step as I toil stubbornly to create my dream.  When will I acknowledge that I am beaten; that I will never win the battle on this property we chose to make our home?
When will I learn? How many plants will I nurture through the gentle months to watch helplessly as they die a cruel, dry death?  

How many summer onslaughts can my dreams live through before they collapse and crumble, defeated, just another component of the dust in my yard?

The end

I laugh as I read this. Yes, it's how I feel but HOW dramatic!  It's just a post by way of explanation on my current mood and my reason for my absence.  The good, the bad and the ugly of trying to live sustainably while dealing with climate, lack of money and time, and still trying to raise a family.  I hope things are running smoother at your place.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Trial and error

My whole life seems to be in constant change. In the garden it's trying new methods, repositioning where I grew last season's vegetable varieties; on the farm it's introducing new animals, new hatching/birthings; on the maintenance front it's trying new nesting boxes, changing which poultry live in the orchard, moving paddocks to suit the seasons...

It's all about watching what's working. At the moment, the geese have left the orchard and made nests all around the place.  I'm watching the grass grow longer and longer.  Our orchard fence has gaps where chooks can squeeze out so my latest plan is to do some fence repair and let my dorking chooks in there to keep some of the grass down. I don't want them to get out of the fence or they'll make their way to the veggie garden. Hopefully when the goslings hatch, the geese will return to the orchard because they do an amazing job of the grass! We haven't needed to cut it once since the geese came to live.
The paddocks need to be in the right place to suit the season. In late winter and spring I want the animals keeping down the bush on the west to reduce our fire hazard. Then in summer, when the vegetation stops growing, it's time to move them to the shade on the east side of the hill for their comfort.

I'm often reminded of the first principle of permaculture, observe and interact, as I think about what's happening and make changes accordingly. No area in our lives is exempt from this process. Not even my children's progress.

I've been loving my children being at home with me but have recently realised that I'm concerned that it's not working so well for Buddy. He learns differently to the girls and needs more guidance. I don't seem to find enough time to teach him well. As a result of that realisation, we are trialling our special school. I've always thought that, if he was educated conventionally, he would go to mainstream. However, with our lifestyle of the children being with me, they get plenty of 'real life' experience and special schools offer some advantages that mainstream can't. They have small class sizes which benefit the children, therapy and flexibility. 
We are going to trial Buddy attending two days a week and spending the rest of the time here with me. He spent the day at the school yesterday and loved it! I felt a tad guilty too when I discovered how much I enjoyed the time without him. It was quiet and peaceful. While he's generally so good and helpful, I wasn't aware that I live in a constant state of low lying stress because I'm always on guard 'in case'. You mothers of toddlers would identify with this feeling. You always need to be alert.

So for now we watch, assess and decide later if we've made the right decision. And try to stay calm and contented as we live our lives in a constant state of flux.