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.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Sunny Sunday

Yesterday was the first day in ages that I have been home and able to get out in the garden on a sunny day. Doesn't the sun inspire you! Everything in the garden is moving; I have spinach, lettuce, leeks, rhubarb, silver beet and asparagus ready for the eating.
The muscles in my arms and chest are reminding me of the work we did. I can't believe how much we managed. I shovelled six barrows of manure to the potato patch. I'm a bit later than I'd like with the potatoes this year. Late August is a good time to get them in if I watch out for frost and cover them on the bad nights.

I manured two other veggie beds, fixed a hole in our little pond, clipped the wings of our young layers and put them back in the paddock, gave the pigs some wallowing water and belatedly mulched the asparagus. I've sown seeds for parsnips but I'm not holding out much hope. I don't seem to be home enough to constantly keep soil wet for veggies like asparagus and carrots.
Belle set up the monitor in the goat shed so we'll know if Argoo goes into labour during the night. We're both quite nervous about the event as it draws closer. She's such a sweet little goat and her tummy is huge!

I attended my first Landcare working bee yesterday but felt a smoodge guilty that I only stayed an hour due to my work screaming at me from home. I found out that the working bees are only every three months though, so next time I'll try to free the time. It's quite lovely hanging out in the bush pulling out weeds.

I hope to get back out in the garden today. Isn't it funny how achieving work in the garden always makes you see more, not less, jobs!

We have baby goats, geese and ducklings due in the next few weeks so there's no missing that Spring has sprung.
We think our first nest of goslings will hatch in the next week. It's made me realise we've come so far in our food journey with the children. Pumpkin was chattering to me as I worked and she commented that the goslings might be old enough to eat for Christmas lunch. "Oh, and we might have goat! Then we could kill a rooster too and it would be a real feast!"

I like how normal this lifestyle appears to my kids. There's such satisfaction in providing food that wasn't manufactured, bought from a multinational company, feed or sprayed with chemicals, transported for miles or packaged in wasteful packaging. Little bit by little bit we are becoming less dependent.
Pumpkin has been asking for days if we can make some pasta now that we have plenty of eggs again. I think I might do that with her today and enjoy pasta with asparagus for dinner. In fact, talking about asparagus has me craving some. I think I'll go and munch on a fresh spear for brekky!

Happy gardening and eating!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A slow living link-up apology

My computer's playing up this morning so I jumped on the iPad to post.  It was an interesting exercise.  Over a year ago my twelve year old daughter, Belle, began a blog.  She posted once and then never again.  I nagged encouraged her to write again but she never did.  Or so I thought!!!

This morning I completed my post and started to publish when I realised with a shock that I was using Belle's account!  I found she had written several posts but never published them.  I've talked her into letting me publish her posts (even though she never got around to putting photos to them) because I thought they were lovely!  Pop over to have a look and also to find my post for today that was posted on Growing Up Green in error.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Monthly nine - July 2015

..........and it's August!!  How time is flying this year!

Please join with me as I record the happenings of the last month.  This link-up is made up of a group of warm and friendly bloggers with many ideas to share.  We each cover nine categories for the month which you can read about here.  This group was created by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and continues on with many regulars joining in.  Please join us by linking your post below.

There's no mistaking it's winter as I walk out the door in the mornings.  We've had many frosts this July and my fingers are usually stinging with the cold as I tend to the animals in the morning.  It's wonderful to step back into the house and go about my day with the fire warming us all and keeping us cosy.  So what did I get up to in July?

NOURISH: 

We've enjoyed eating more meat than usual lately.  It's been a confronting time for all of us as we've become more serious about eating in a way that is more sustainable and kinder to animals.  I've posted many times about my struggle to enjoy eating roosters that we have butchered ourselves.  I've just pushed on though and finally I'm becoming used to it.  I'm able to enjoy the meals for the first time since we started this process.  Hubby and I dispatched two roosters and faced the really confronting task of having our young goat dealt with.

It's hard when you're on a small farm like ours because you get to know your animals so intimately.  We had planned to deal with the goat ourselves but when the time came, we just couldn't do it!  So we had a butcher do it for us and it was the right decision.
The two younger children were totally at ease with eating the meals but poor Belle, at the age of twelve (and the carer of the goats), really struggled.  She understands our reasoning though and was very mature about it.  She even tasted a little bit of the goat.

We've discovered two important facts about eating your own poultry.  Age matters.  It really makes a difference.  As does resting the meat.  We dispatched a young Australorp and used it as a roast, followed by a chicken pie made from the leftovers.  The other rooster was a bit older so it will be used in a slow cooked casserole.

The goat provided us with twelve kilos of meat.  We've enjoyed a casserole cooked with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and a curry so far.  The rest of the meat is in the freezer.

PREPARE:

We made some lemon cordial and I even water bathed it this time so that we can keep it for later in the year.  I haven't made as much as I would like though so I must prepare a couple more batches soon.  It would be lovely to have some ready to drink in summer.
REDUCE: 

We've been making shelters for the animals in different paddocks on the property.  We've started a rotational system where we move the animals into a new paddock every week or two.  I love the idea of moveable pens but, given that we're on a rough hill, I haven't come up with a useable system.  So we'll just keep building the new pens as we go.  This hard work will pay off in the long run.  Next year the shelters will be sitting waiting for us.

We haven't purchased any materials except for the screws so far.  I've been taking the trailer to town and scrounging pallets.  The tin is just old stuff we've had lying around but we've nearly used it all up now.  I'll need to find out where I can access junk tin soon.

GREEN: 

I've done nothing new here.  We still make our own washing powder and bathroom soap.  We use soap to wash our hair.  We've gone backwards in some respects because we now use a purchased dishwasher powder.  The dishwasher kept getting blocked up and smelly with the homemade stuff and I just haven't got time to worry about dishes right now.  This is the only chemical product we are using at the moment and I put in half the recommended amount.  It works effectively.

GROW: 

I've been quite halfhearted in the garden.  I've put in some seedlings from a friend and some from Mum but I'm certainly not looking after them well.  I think I've only fertilised once this month!  Hopefully the soil can create some magic and grow veggies without my help.

I did, however, spend some time making net covers for the garden when I realised that every seedling I planted was disappearing.  I'm not sure who/what the culprit was, but the nets have fixed the problem.  I now have spinach and the leeks are nearing maturity.  Broad beans are poking through the soil and lettuces have self seeded.
CREATE: 
I'm still working on my little neck shawl.  Nearly there now!  I haven't had time to sit and knit so it's a project I only work on if we're travelling as a family when Hubby drives.

DISCOVER: 

I completed a MOOC (Massive Open Online Learning) run through RMIT.  It was a photography course.  You won't see much improvement by way of photographic embellishment of this blog yet though.  I'm way at the beginner level.and I'm happy just to understand a little more about aperture, focal length etc.  My dream is to own a digital SLR one day....

I've also been learning about pigs with the introduction to our farm of a boar and sow.  Meet Peggy.  Isn't she lovely!
ENHANCE

Well I must have been keeping to myself on these chilly winter days!  I can't think of a single thing to report here.
ENJOY: 

I loved implementing our rotating paddocks in July.  There were many mistakes and mishaps but I can already see that over time this system will flow.  The arrival of the pigs has changed the pace of farm life along with our young chickens who will become layers in spring.

We also managed to squeeze in some fun family outings.  The kids and I loved Inside Out and we enjoyed visiting a park in Bendigo.  The children are fascinated by the bats.
But most of all we enjoyed adopting our new maremma, Gypsy!
Please join in with us and share a post about your month!