Sunday, 23 November 2014

On my plate


Hi there, I hope you're doing something lovely with this beautiful, if somewhat hot, weekend.  I have a thousand things I could be doing but I'm lying in the hammock, under a tree, writing a post.  I've been sewing Christmas presents this afternoon and Belle has been working alongside me.

I'm loving this time of year.  I'm trying to fly through my household chores early, leaving the day free to teach the kids and then spend some time in the garden.  I'm trying to get out into it at least once a day.    That way, I can identify any problems early and I'm also aware of the food available for eating.
The little round garden is jam packed with veggies.  I've chosen to cram it all in because our biggest issue here is water.  I want to grow as much as possible in the smallest possible space so that I only need to keep one area of ground moist.  It's working quite well except I keep wanting to plant more seedlings so the 'one area' I need to keep moist has expanded to include two other small beds!  Oopsy!
      
In the round bed I have tomatoes that are looking very promising, eggplant, capsicum, some holey silver beet (haven't found the culprit yet), spinach, peas, leeks, carrots, dill, coriander, lettuce, nasturtiums, viola, beetroot and kohl rabi.  Of those vegetables we are harvesting lettuce, peas, a couple of carrots, spinach and the viola and nasturtiums.

I have been loving looking around the garden and planning our meals around our produce.  Yesterday I had eggs from the chook shed, goat's cheese in the fridge (thanks girls) and spinach in the garden.   Well the obvious choice was a spinach and goat's cheese quiche with a garden salad of lettuce, peas and edible flowers.  Yu-uum!! 
Now THIS is what I aspire to!  A healthy, delicious meal using ingredients from here, our place, creating next to no emissions caused by food transport, improving the soil due to us adding carbon to the soil in the form of compost during the gardening process.  What's not to love?!!

Of course, there were other ingredients, such as salt and pepper, that were bought in, but all in all, a much better way to provide food. I would be happy if I produced a meal this sustainable once a week, ecstatic if I managed it two or three times a week, and completely, absolutely smug beside myself with happiness if I could do it all the time!

Is this your aspiration too?


Monday, 17 November 2014

My day



Another day draws to a close and I'm so glad to pick up my iPad and sit to write.  Please excuse the quality of my photos but I'm still plugging away without the computer. I suppose I should have fixed it by now but life is busy and I haven't co-ordinated a time with my computer guy (who works out of hours).

Today was much like any other. Busy but productive and enjoyable. I hung out washing and folded yesterday's load. Today saw us pick up a trailer load of manure, grabbing a couple of grocery items on the way, and helping Belle with her maths book exercises while we travelled.

I wrote up a basic weekly calendar for Buddy who is always asking me if his dad will be home today. I thought he might process the pattern of the week more easily if he can see it in front of him and cross off the days as he goes. Sure enough, he loves it! After his dad came home from work, he proudly showed him the calendar and explained which days we are home and which days we go out. I circled the weekend days so he will see at a glance when Dad will be home.
I milked goats, fed animals and chooks, watered some plants and dreamt of making Christmas presents.  As for the kitchen, dinner's eaten, sparkling elderflower sits in a tea towel covered bucket while, under another tea towel, elderflowers and lemon rind steep waiting to be made into cordial. I was lucky to have a friend invite me to cut some of her flowers yesterday.

I've read books with the kids, printed out work sheets and made some flash cards. I've been the recipient of some beautiful drawings of myself in the garden and handed out coloured paper for Belle to make Christmas decorations.

I managed to wash every sheet, doona cover and pillow case in the house and get them back onto the beds, bringing with them the scent of sunshine! I do believe it's a first for me. Normally I tend to do a couple of beds at a time.  I can't wait to go to bed tonight and I'll be wearing my favourite comfy nightie just to complete the cosy experience.
I've prepared the items I'll need to take with me tomorrow. I'm going to a friend's to make soap so I'm steeping some chamomile and I've packed my moulds and ingredients. We'll continue to our swimming lessons straight from her house.
Soon I'll put the dishwasher on and start a load of washing to hang out tomorrow.

There was so much else I wanted to achieve today that didn't get done. I wanted to sort my room and make Christmas pressies and bread.  Still, I feel great!  Today was a day like many others, they are my days lived my way and they are good!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dinner for two - garlic prawns

The kids were at Mum and Dad's last night so I jumped at the chance to eat something non-kiddy!  I hardly ever eat prawns these days (or any seafood) because humans are over consuming to the point that our seafood is threatened. However I couldn't resist making a meal that Hubby and I love and which combines all the ingredients that our children wouldn't touch with a ten foot barge pole; seafood, chilli and enough garlic to kill a vampire!  Yuuumm!  It was lovely to share a nice meal together.  And it's such a quick meal to cook!  Recipe below.
I love it when I have space from the kids.  Because I spend all my time with the kids, it's a treat to have quiet time.  When here, they keep my brain overfilled all day and once they are in bed and I get 'me' time, my brain is kinda numb.  It's only when they're not here that I find myself reflecting on how we are doing as a family, our daily routines, changes I'd like to make etc.

So once I've finished chatting to you, I'm going to throw myself into my remaining kid free time with oomph!!  A little bit of reorganising our living space, a touch of gardening and some serious planning complete with lots of lists and time tabling!

But I need to ask a burning question.  How do you wash your rice?  It disturbs me to throw out good water.  Years back, I used to just rinse rice in a strainer under the running tap until the water ran clear.   All that lovely water going straight down the drain!  These days I put the rice into a container with a little water, swoosh vigorously, strain into a fine mesh strainer over the sink and repeat.  I only do it three or four times and the water is still cloudy but I figure I've wasted enough water at this point so proceed to cook it.  Do you have a better method?
Now for that recipe...

Garlic Prawns

Ingredients:
500 grams of peeled raw prawns
300ml cream
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon chilli paste
1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with one tablespoon water

Method:
Pat prawns dry with a clean tea towel. Combine cream, garlic and chilli in a saucepan, bring to boil. Remove from heat and thicken with cornflour mix.  Heat a frying pan to hot.  Add a knob of butter and some olive oil, stir fry prans until just changed colour.  Pour sauce over and heat through.  Serve on boiled or steamed rice.

And there you have it.  A ridicoulsly unhealthy but yummy meal that a responsible parent wouldn't serve to her children!  I find this meal makes enough to serve the two of us with enough left for me to sneak into the fridge for my lunch the next day.  Hubby's at work so what he doesn't know won't hurt him.  :-)

Monday, 3 November 2014

Ups and downs

The computer's busted; it's time to host the monthly link up that I so love and I can't attempt it on the iPad! There was a brown snake slithering around in the veggie garden today. It was the second time I've seen him in a couple of weeks so I don't think he's just passing through! The cat ran passed before with a rabbit hanging out of her mouth and we ran out of castor sugar and EGGS! Lucky we had a couple of duck eggs in the fridge because Pumpkin was making a chocolate cake. And then I saw the sheep! See the electric fence? Well he should be on the other side of it with the horse. Time to move them to new grass.
And on the up side.... today Pumpkin cooked a great cake, I made some food to share at a fun cup day event with friends tomorrow, I sowed some corn seeds this morning, the kids had fun making pasta necklaces and Hubby has the day off tomorrow!
You wouldn't want to map out your day too clearly, would you! You just never know what's coming your way on any given day, even the mundane I'm-staying-home-to-bake days.....

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Monthly nine slow living apology

Hi all! I am terribly sorry but I'm having major technical problems with my post! I would really like you to be able to get your monthly posts out  in the meantime so I'll put the linky tool below. I'll be back soon with my own post.

For those who have not taken part before, this link up is Christine's brainchild. We record our  slow living achievements under nine categories which can be found at Christine's blog, Slow Living Essentials. It's great to find inspiration from each other so please join in!


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Disturbing

While we were away and staying at a caravan park something yukky happened.  I am usually a bit of a helicopter parent when it comes to Buddy but I try very hard to allow him the independence that I give to my other children when I think that it is safe to do so.
I have discovered that the trust that I place in him really affects his sense of self.  When I am overly cautious, he misbehaves a lot more.  If I allow him some freedom to move away from me and act grown up, he really rises to the occasion.  He feels good about being trusted and wants to live up to my expectations.  I find this a real juggling act because he is not capable of making complicated or clear decisions in new situations.

Buddy learns by experience (like the rest of us) but it often takes him a little longer to learn.  I find if the others learn something first go, Buddy will learn it by repetition on say the fourth (or fortieth) go. It all depends how complicated the skill or situation is for him.
Anyway, I tell you all this because staying at caravan parks is a very new experience for my children.  We don't often venture far from home and our experiences are fairly consistent each week.  With new surroundings with which I was unfamiliar, I had to make decisions about the freedom of all my children.  For example, do I let them wander over to look at the cage of birds which is very close but not in my line of view?

On this particular night, I was at the camp kitchen washing our dinner dishes when Belle and Buddy wanted to go to the toilet block.  It was directly opposite the camp kitchen.  I was unconcerned and let them head off together.
Next thing I knew, Buddy came flying out of the toilets and ran up to me looking very scared.  He was quickly followed by Belle who told me that, while she was in one of the toilet cubicles, a lady had yelled very loudly at Buddy.  Apparently he bobbed down and looked under a shower door.  I quickly explained to Buddy how inappropriate this behaviour was and I marched him back into the toilet block to apologise.  He was sooo scared but I explained that he had to!  He was to look her in the eye and say sorry in a voice loud and clear enough for her to understand.  I felt for the woman because no one expects to have their privacy violated while showering naked.

The second she came out of the shower stall Buddy apologised.  She had not yet looked at him.  I also apologised and explained to her that we don't go to caravan parks and he would just have been curious as to what was happening in the little stall.  Buddy said sorry again in an audible voice while looking directly at the young woman just as I had advised.  She then told me how distressing it was to have Buddy look under the stall when she was completely naked.
Again, I apologised and explained that he would not have realised that someone would be naked in there.  Again, Buddy very clearly said sorry.  She then asked me was he in the toilets unaccompanied.  I'm afraid I didn't handle this well.  I don't know why my mood changed so instantly from contrite to furious.  Maybe because I felt guilty that I hadn't accompanied him.  Maybe because I hate the idea that he won't easily become independent.  Maybe because my young child (with an intellectual disability to boot) was so uncomfortable about facing this lady, but was doing it with courage and dignity, and she refused to even acknowledge him.  Maybe because she was acting as though his behaviour was unforgivable which led me to believe she thought Buddy's motives were dark.

I coldly said, "NO!  He was in here with his older sister!  She was in the toilet.  Come on Buddy!  Let's go.  She's obviously not interested in your apology."  Then I stormed out with Buddy in tow.  I'm not proud of how I handled the situation.  I should have kept my emotions out of it.
His sisters were terribly upset about the chain of events and were fussing over him.  I asked them to stop making a big deal out of it, explaining that his behaviour was very wrong and that he needed to be aware of that.  However, I also told them that the lady had made too big a deal about it and was very thoughtless in her response.

I went to bed feeling very disturbed.  My boy is eight.  Did this woman really think there was some deviant sexual reason for him looking under the shower stall?  He intellect is low and I liken the incident to a three year old peeking under out of curiosity.

I guess I was also very disturbed because I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.  Will Buddy be judged for his differences in an unfair way as he ages?  Will people distrust him through a lack of understanding of Down syndrome?  Or am I now making the same mistake as the young lady and making a mountain out of a mole hill?
This is my little boy who is kind and compassionate, the boy who, when given a gift, asks if there is a gift for his sisters as well, before he opens his; the boy who insists on getting changed in the changing rooms for swimming lessons (because it's the grown up thing to do) and then comes out starkers because he just doesn't understand what this privacy thing is about; the boy who wants to work in the house and yard and be respected; my little boy who wishes he was just like everyone else.

Oh Buddy, how I wish I could make sure life goes well for you!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Irony

Last week, I packed the kids into the car, kissed Hubby goodbye and headed off to join the Pacific Climate Warriors in their battle against the coal ships.  The boot was full to the brim with our tent, little stove, clothes etc.  This particular protest meant a lot to me.  For a start, our damaging use of fossil fuels desperately needs to change and NOW but more than that, we were heading off to protest with the very people who are already impacted by rising sea level.  I spent my formative years growing up in Vanuatu and I am angry that so many people choose to ignore the plight of those in the Pacific.  The bitter irony is that the islanders' lifestyles didn't cause the issue;  nor did they benefit from the use of fossil fuels, yet they are now bearing the brunt of our actions.
Here in Australia, many would like to pretend that the effects of climate change are something in the far off future, something that can be ignored for a long time yet.  Clearly, this is not the case.  If Aussies aren't capable of looking beyond their own backyards and noticing those in immediate peril, then surely they would be aware of what is happening right under their noses!

We had planned on an easy trip up to Newcastle, using the time away as an opportunity to have a bit of a holiday.  We set up our little tent at Goulburn, planning to continue on the next day.  We were aware that rain was predicted for Newcastle but figured we could tough it out or spend a night in a cabin for shelter.  
What we didn't count on was the ferocity of the weather.  Climate change, with all its power and might, saw us sheltering in a cabin at Goulburn on the second night while thunder shook the walls.  The next day we braved the trip to Newcastle knowing another storm was on the way.  We found more cabin accommodation but woke to see the State Emergency Service helping a couple in a van across the way from our cabin.  Then we heard reports of mayhem in Sydney.  Flooded train stations, snow in the Blue Mountains, over two thousand calls to the State Emergency Service for help with fallen trees etc., one hundred and seventy millimetres of rain in some areas.....  The predictions were that the wild weather was heading to Newcastle.
 Our plan to have a cheap journey to join in with the flotilla was falling apart.  The tent was not an option.  The wind was blowing us away.  So for all my passion and commitment to fighting climate change, with the children's safety to think about, we gave up and drove home. 
 I was so disappointed to have used so much time and energy to get to Newcastle and turn around without even meeting the Climate Warriors, but more so to not even get to add our voice to the protest of the coal leaving the harbour.  It felt scary though, to be so far from home with not much money, knowing no one locally and being aware that I was responsible for keeping my children safe.

There was a sense of relief to be heading back down the highway for home.  I felt worn out from driving and from trying to make decisions on the hop.  I had also struggled with providing for ourselves in a sustainable fashion while we were on the road.  We ate organic tinned baked beans one night, tinned soup with bread another.  We had to buy boxes of milk and breakfast cereal.  The caravan parks didn't have recycling facilities.  I thought about bringing our rubbish home but there wasn't an inch of spare space in the car.  The children were already drowning in a sea of pillows, blankets and tourist maps so I guiltily placed our rubbish in the bin.

As we drove home, I reflected on the irony of not being able to participate in the protest for action against climate change DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE!!!  The very areas that snow fell had been battling bushfires at the same time last year.  The previous year to that, snow!
I also reflected on the fact that we have worked very hard to minimise our personal impact on climate change and travelling away from home threw me back into a world of convenience.  I looked forward to arriving back home to our bulk foods in our own containers, our veggies from the garden, our eggs from the chooks and milk from the goats.  Year by year, we have reduced our packaging and our waste; we have reduced our personal demand on energy used to package and transport our food to our kitchen.  
So while I couldn't take part in a public and dramatic demonstration to shake the people into awareness (and they sure need to wake up to themselves) I can fight climate change here at home with my family.  I can fight in a way that is very effective yet gentle and positive.  I can fight by fertilising my veggie garden, composting our food scraps, tending our animals and poultry, by teaching my children practical life skills, by sharing our goats milk, by being part of a larger community of environmentally aware people.  Tonight we will dine on spatchcocked chicken grown here on our property, potatoes from the farmers market, spinach from Mum's and pavlova made with some of our eggwhites.  These are left over from the yolks I used to make custard, which will become ice cream for the children later today.  It's certainly not an uncomfortable way to fight climate change!  It just requires commitment to make personal changes and a bit more thought and effort into providing for our needs.
So one way or another, please join with the Climate Warriors, please join with me....  Let's fight this fight together whether it be by joining protests, signing petitions, letting your politician know how you feel or simply by growing some veggies!