Friday, 1 August 2014

Slow Living Monthly Nine - July 2014

How exciting!  I'm hosting the Slow Living Monthly Nine link-up today.  Christine, at Slow Living Essentials, began this link up early in 2012 and I have regularly been taking part.

It's a lovely way for people to record their months and share their ideas, acheivements and news.  If it's inspiration you're after, you will love reading through these posts!

It has been wonderful to watch a connected online community form throughout the process.  I have got to 'know' many new people and formed some great connections.  I'm often amazed at how thoughtful bloggers can be, even offering assistance and advice to each other via email outside of the link-up.  This little group of people have become friends!

I am honoured (and a little bit amazed) that Christine has gifted me the custodianship of this link-up!  I hope I can do it justice.  While I will really miss popping over to Slow Living Essentials to join in each month, I totally understand the point Christine has arrived at with needing to blog less.  I am glad that her idea will continue on and the community can continue to grow!

 Thank you Christine for choosing to keep this forum alive.  I hope to hear about your happenings often and hope that one day you will decide you are in a position to take your blogging baby back.

The Monthly Nine format is perfect as it is, so you will see little change.  I will probably rename it but am reluctant to do so without some thought.  So for now it remains the Slow Living Monthly Nine.

Please join me and many others as we relate our achievement and joys. I look forward to reading your posts.

If you are new to this link-up, welcome!  You will find all the details here.

Slow Living Monthly Nine - July 2014

Nourish

We've been enjoying continuing on with winter warmers.  There have been plenty of casseroles and soups appearing.  I've been making a conscious effort to choose meals that I can cook in huge amounts so that I can freeze some.  It has paid off BIG time!!  Do you know how good it feels to go to the freezer on a disorganised evening and find a precooked meal waiting.  It's even better if you have a terrible memory like mine.  I am often surprised by what I find in there; it feels as though someone has gifted me a meal!
Rhubarb Pudding
While our lemon tree has not been at it's best this year, lemons are something that are often shared by others at this time of year, so we've been enjoying lemon slice, pancakes with lemon and sugar, lemon cordial and lemon and vinegar to soothe colds and sore throats.

Prepare

Ah ha!  I've already covered this in the last category.  My frozen meals are serving us well.  We've also been dipping into the preserved fruit that we bottled in summer and autumn.  The kids are loving eating fruit on their puffed rice, puffed sorgum or just in a bowl with yoghurt.

Reduce

I participated in Plastic Free July.  The aim is to reduce and track the amount of single-use plastic that enters our homes.  To be honest, I think we did worse with reducing plastic this month than we normally do.  We always shy away from plastic when we can, but July saw lots of plastic sneaking into the house while we weren't looking!  The best outcome this year has been the kids involvement.  They have been very aware of the challenge and have shrieked, "PLASTIC!" whenever we accidently acquired some.  They treat it as though it is poison entering our home, and so they should!!
Green

The idea was that I would be telling you all about the soap I made in July but I never did get around to it.  Again. 

I've been using a little bit of castor sugar mixed with some lovely, local olive oil as a facial scrub.  A couple of times I have used honey or yoghurt as a mask, much to the children's amusement.

Grow

My garden has been sorely neglected of late, yet I am still enjoying broccoli and plenty of rhubarb.
Buddy and I have begun the task of weeding and making compost in preparation for spring.  We've had a lovely time.  His favourite job is shovelling and it works well for me.  He carts compost and manure wherever I want it!
Create

I actually have stuff to report this month!  Yay!!  I made Rosie a belated gift for her birthday.  The intention was to have it ready on time but I was too preoccupied with organising the party.  So early in July, I finished the book I was making her and popped it in the post.  The photo's from Rosie's phone because I forgot to snap it!
I made some draining board cloths too.  I hate using dish drainers because they harbour so many germs.  Now I drain my dishes on the cloths and at the end of the day I can use the cloth to wipe over my sink before I throw it in the washing basket.

I have a jumper on the go for Buddy and am half way through a sock for me.  Wow!  I hadn't realised I had done so much (for me) in this category!
Enhance

I have a great group of like-minded friends and we work together with trying to source food outside of the major supermarkets.  Sometimes I receive a phone call offering me excess fruit from a glut (yes, I know....  It's only a dream here too!  I've never had excess yet) or someone might contact me to see if I have spare flour to see them through until the next bulk food day.  Together we co-operate and share where we can and it feels lovely!

Discover

I attended a course on beekeeping and how to put together a bee box.  The presenter was a very experienced bee keeper and I learnt so much!  Some people just love to share knowledge.  I have volunteered to work alongside him in spring.  I can't wait!
Photo of a queen bee cell - courtesy Clare Watson
I even received a book to take home.  Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees.  It's fascinating!  The children and I had a bit of a giggle over the mating process.  I had no idea!!  Apparently he pops with "an audible pop" and part of his doodie falls off!

Hmmm.  Who want to be a boy bee??!  It's also amazing how each type of bee has an individual role for the good of the hive and, if the need arises, can reactivate past functions to keep the hive in good health.  I'm looking forward to getting back into beekeeping in spring.

Enjoy

While I didn't lay eyes on my older girl's in July, I enjoyed great chats on the phone and saw some lovely photos on facebook.  Aren't we lucky to be able to communicate in so many ways?  I was also delighted that my parents had the children to stay a couple of times.  It's so nice to spend time with Hubby without feeling like parents.  Nice to remember that we are people in our own right.
A photo of my granddaughter that I was able to enjoy via face book
I really savoured the cool weather.  The contrast between the biting cold outside and the cosiness of sitting near the fire, reading a book to a child, enjoying warm meals and the occasional hot pudding, drinking hot chocolate and even doing a bit of knitting if time allows, is just wonderful.

I particularly enjoyed milking time with the goats.  Belle has taken over this task most nights so I do the manual work of feeding and watering and then sit on the hay and listen to Belle chattering happily away.  All in all, July was a fantastic month for me!
Did you have a lovely July too?



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Home Education and the dilemma of style

The longer I homeschool, the further I seem to stray from the mainstream ideas of education.  I have attempted to teach at home twice before (with my older children) and both times I panicked and sent my children back to mainstream government primary schools.  I was scared I wasn't doing it properly and that my children would fail to learn.

There are definitely difficulties when deciding on educating at home. You tend to think very deeply about what your children's needs are, what their futures might be, etc.  When children attend mainstream, parents often don't doubt their choices because that's just what everyone does and society views it as the 'best way' to educate our children.  So, without another thought,we send our children off in the mornings, relaxed in the knowledge that we are doing what we need to for them, and pick them up again in the afternoon.
We're actually not sure about what happened in their day and they are completely unwilling to relate it to us.  "What did you do at school today?"  "Nothing.", is the standard reply.  Then the busyness of afternoon tea, homework, dinner etc takes hold as we prepare to send them off again the next day.

It's amazing how we happily take part in this system with little thought, yet when keeping our children home we are assuaged with doubts and guilt because we are not educating them in the same way as everyone else.  When I originally took the kids out of school, I tried to emulate what happened in the conventional system.  My idea was that we would do formal lessons but for a shorter time than at school.  I figured it would be interesting for the children because they could help guide the topics we studied.  On top of this, I tried to immerse them in our lifestyle of being connected to our food, energy usage, skill learning and attempting to reduce our environmental impact. Ultimately, this would be perfect.  A conventional education as well as learning about their place in nature and our family values.
However, I think I was being unrealistic.  There aren't enough hours in a day.  I don't think this method of learning was good for me or the children.  I was trying to teach as expertly as an experienced, trained teacher and cope with the huge task load at home.  The children were great at sitting down to their lessons and accepted that was what was expected of them but were very obviously bored and uninspired.  They were also under a fair bit of pressure due to having to do lessons and participate so actively in daily life.  I'm going to try a new approach.

I have been alternating between ignoring, and actively arguing against, my gut instincts which were.... to let them play and follow their own interests.  I found myself wanting this more and more but kept thinking it was irresponsible, lazy, selfish  (and a thousand other negative self labels) of me.  I was plagued by questions like, "How will they learn anything?", "Will they resent me later for not having taught them in the same manner as their peers?", "What if they want to go to University but don't know enough?", "What if they can't get a job?"
After many conversations, Hubby and I have decided sit down learning is not right for us at this point and that there is heaps to be learnt by simply being.  And I think it's ok.  After all, how many parents of children at school never mentally torture themselves like this even though the reality is that their child may never achieve a high enough score to enter university, may resent attending school, be miserable or not be able to get a job at the end of it all?  School is perfect for many children but not for all.  Let's face it, I managed to NOT learn my times tables right into high school.  I hated maths, hated being forced to study, so didn't try.  Yet as a young adult I was able to go to university by sitting a mature entrance exam.  Not learning my maths was not the end of the world for me (though I now wish I'd listened at the time, of course).
Over the past year, I have missed out on so many opportunities for natural learning because I was being  'responsible' and stayed home to do lessons.  A lady at our local patchwork group offered to teach Belle embroidery and she was very excited at the prospect but we didn't get around to going down because the group is on a school day.  Another lady, whom I find very interesting and I believe my children would learn a lot from, asked me to visit about a year ago.  For the above reasons, I never made the time.  Also, Pumpkin has been asking repeatedly if I can teach her to knit and I haven't got around to it yet.

Now I want to change the way the children spend their days and immerse them in play and following their interests.  I believe they will learn so much by thinking for themselves, problem solving during play, work and craft and by meeting a diverse range of people.  Today I have watched them playing and they are not idle!  They are incredibly animated as they go about their chosen activity with no adult input.  Buddy and Pumpkin have created a water slide for toys with a puddle at the bottom.  They have also experimented with rolling a barrel down a hill.  That looked like fun! At only seven and eight years they can move a heavy hay bale through a tight space with no adult help.  It took them ages to work it out but, through experimentation and co-operation, they have learnt to work together to move the bail and guide it in the direction they want it to go.  No one showed them but they figured it out.
This week, Belle has learned to pearl and is knitting a very simple pattern for the first time.  And this morning, as if to demonstrate my point about problem solving, I found her in the dairy using a new method to fill the hay bags.  It's hard to keep them open while filling them with bulky armfuls of hay.  I've previously encouraged her to hook one end over a post to help hold the bag, which helps, but it's still difficult.  This morning she came up with a much better method.  She organised herself two posts to hold it open.  She filled it in no time!  I've watched her today and she skips along rather than walking.  I don't think she's even aware she's doing it.  Since educating at home, I have watched her mature past her eleven years in her dealings with the world while simultaneously watching her learn to play like a much younger child at times.  I think it is very healthy for her.
Now I'm not saying there will be no academic learning in this house.  Of course there will.  But I am not going to value it over natural learning.  This afternoon I will finally teach Pumpkin to knit!  Belle is still outside at the moment but I imagine she will choose to continue with her knitting later.  Or maybe write.  She has begun writing her own blog and is very enthusiastic about it.

I know some people will read this post and doubt the sensibility of our choices around our children's education and future.  All I ask is that you take into account that no education style is perfect for all children, that we are not doing this without thought and, just like everyone else, we are doing what we feel is best for our children.  I'm happy for you to watch with interest but I hope that you won't be quick to judge.  We will continue to assess their progress and can change our minds if we feel we need to.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Seize the day

I had a fairly clear plan of what I wanted to do with the kids for lessons today.  Belle was to start with a couple of pages in her maths text book, Buddy Boy and I with a maths lesson and Pumpkin writing a poem.

The morning unfolded and my plans changed.  It was cold this morning.  Very cold.  I had used all the sheltered wood so I went to the pile near the cutting block to collect more.  When I came inside, we all went to the window to admire how the layer of frost on the wood glistened in the sunlight.  It looked magical coated with sparkles!

When we had all dressed and made beds, we headed out to the orchard where we milk the goats each day.  Belle chose to milk while I fed the chooks and refilled hay nets for the evening.
Buddy Boy wandered around feeding the ducks and geese.  Then he called to me, "Mum, I saw something amazing!"  I expected it to be something very boring like the goose drinking water or similar but wandered over to see.  "I saw spikes!  The goose was chasing something with spikes."  We wandered over to the geese and sure enough the goose had chased an echidna which was hiding in a corner.  Buddy Boy was right.  It was amazing!
Then we lay on our tummies in the sunshine waiting for the echidna to move into a good position so that I could snap a photo of his face.  We lay still, whispering quietly and enjoying the sun on our backs while we waited.  When we grew bored of photographing the echidna, Buddy grabbed some more wheat and tried to hand feed the new chicks.  He had no success but it was lovely to listen to him coaxing them.
We watched the geese and rooster arguing over some food then walked the goats back to their paddock.  Finally Buddy rediscovered a doll he had left out in a pram overnight.  I left him playing outside with his 'baby' and went to help Belle.
She was in the kitchen, finishing up the milking.  She had measured out the milk, placed it in the fridge and was in the process of washing the milking buckets.  She was asking about what she could bake and settled on Anzac biscuits.  I found the recipe book for her and left her to it.   I have found she prefers to cook independently and requests help when she needs it.  I poured some boiling water for her and lit the stove.  The rest she did by herself.
Pumpkin and Buddy dried the dishes while I refilled the fire and then we played a game together.  The morning flowed and felt right.  I couldn't bring myself to spoil their wonderful mood and insist they sit at the table with text books out.  Sometime this afternoon I will probably bring out the books for a short while but right now I'm enjoying watching my children just 'being'. 

They've decided to go and play outside for a while.  I asked Belle to recite a couple of tables before they went and we played a counting game for Buddy's benefit and then they ran off to play.  Some days school work seems to be the be-all-and-end-all but other days life itself seems so good that school work doesn't seem so relevant.
We experimented with this candle we say online.  It's just an orange peel with olive oil and it really works!
I love teaching my children at home because it is so flexible.  I place so much importance on the children appreciating nature, being in touch with their world and learning practical skills in a way that makes sense to them.  As a family, our priorities are somewhat different to many in the general population and, like all families, we would like our children to grow up with our values.  I welcome these gentle days that are full of wonder for my children.  I love listening to them laugh, play, imagine and, yes, argue too.

Tomorrow I may feel differently and be frantic about getting through enough lessons.  We have plenty of days like that.  It's hard to find the balance.  But for today, I'm just going to revel in the beautiful people that are my children!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

CERES excursion and Plastic Free July report

We are well into the Plastic Free July challenge and I can confidently report a huge fail in my efforts to avoid single use plastic!
I've stopped saving my plastic since taking this photo because I managed to completely fill and even overflow this plastic bag.  I think I know all I need to know to convince me we need to try harder.  I'm even contemplating saving my plastic every month so that I can monitor how we are going.  It concerns me that we have done better in the past.  We should be moving forward, not backward!  To add insult to injury, do you see the discoloured patch on the table?  Me, who never, ever irons, decided to iron our hankies this morning.  Seeing as they are small, I thought I'd be clever and not get out the ironing board.  I just ironed them on a hand towel on the table.  Not thick enough obviously!!

We've had a great week all in all.  I've been meaning to take the kids to CERES for an excursion for a long time now.  I kept putting it off though because I find it very tiring taking the kids on a trip by myself.  While they are (usually) pretty good they still require a great deal of energy in supervision.  So when Hubby had a day off this week, we jumped at the chance to go even though it's school holidays.  It wasn't a very schoolish excursion anyway.  We basically just had a good look around.

I suffered strong pangs of chard envy!
 The children had so much fun on the play equipment!
 What a clever use of recycled materials. Buddy has taken to trying to ruin my photos with face pulling of late.
 So then I tried to take one of just his sisters, without him in it.  He didnt' like the idea of not being in the shot, so decided to be sensible.  LOL  He does love a photo of himself!!
 They also climbed on this great piece of bamboo equipment.
CERES has community garden plots, a scheme for restoring broken bikes, a market, permaculture nursery and so much more.  The children were so well occupied that I forgot to keep snapping the camera.  Hubby and I actually *gasp* held hands as we strolled along!  The kids usually keep us far too busy for those sorts of shenanigans.  We'll be going there again, for sure!  Apparently they have music playing on a Saturday morning.  I'm not sure if that's part of the market or separately but it sounds very appealing.
Have you visited CERES?  Maybe you're lucky enough to get there on a regular basis if you live in town.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cheap and easy yoghurt

My mother rang me this week to discuss the way I make yoghurt.  She used to always make her own yoghurt but it was many years ago.  In fact, she used to make her own bread, keep a garden for veggies and cook what we needed.  It was through necessity because we lived in a place where there were no shops.  I believe there was a monthly trip to get supplies but then she made do.

Now she wants to have a go at making yoghurt again but doesn't remember the process.  I pointed her to Rhonda's link at Down to Earth.  Rhonda has easy instructions.  I made some yesterday using this method and it worked perfectly.
However, if you want to try a cheat's method.....

Do you have a yoghurt maker?  There are sachets for yoghurt making in the desert aisle at the supermarket. You are supposed to use a full sachet to make up one batch of yoghurt in them.  I like my yoghurt to be cheap so if I'm using the purchased sachets, I do it differently.
I put one cup of powdered milk in the container and add water but not right to the top.  That way I have room to stir the mix.  Add two tablespoons of the mix from the sachet (the natural one, not flavoured), do it up with a rubber band and pop it back in the fridge for next time.  Stir until well mixed, then add more water until the container is completely full.  Give it a good shake to mix the contents thoroughly and put into the yoghurt maker, following the instructions on how much boiling water etc.

A few hours later you will have yoghurt.  The sachet last for several batches instead of just the one!
I prefer the proper method of making yoghurt but if I'm short on time I use the cheat's method.  It is certainly better than buying yoghurt.  Shop bought can never be as fresh as homemade, accumulates lots of food miles and wastes material on packaging.  Mind you, I do love the bucket my last bought batch came in!

Do you make your own yoghurt?

Monday, 14 July 2014

In with the new

I've been conflicted over what to write this morning.  I had a happy little post in my head because I'm feeling very contented at the moment.  But then I read an interesting blog post about the carbon tax!  Sadly, the article was predicting the demise of the carbon tax this week which will make Australia the only country in the world to back track on climate action.

I am ashamed of the Australian attitude in so many ways right now.  It's not just the carbon tax either but our attitude to asylum seekers and numerous other issues.  We've always had a reputation for being casual and laid back.  Was this image only a result of an 'I'm all right Jack, bugger you' attitude?!  The average Aussie doesn't want the carbon tax but the average Aussie is living very comfortably.  That makes them very selfish in my eyes.  They have an amazing knack for wearing blinkers and ignoring the plight of so many other humans in the world that are already suffering as a result of climate change.

Anyway, I can feel myself winding up.  I've decided not to discuss my feelings on the matter in depth because I simply don't have the energy.  It's the start of the new term today so I'll focus on my children, our home and our personal efforts to address climate change.
We address our own carbon emissions by keeping our minds on the big picture.  We constantly reassess the details of our lives and try to make changes where we can.  Sometimes we do it better than others, depending on our focus with our children and other things happening in our lives.
We try to keep things in perspective.  I have become a 'scruff' in recent years because I couldn't give a damn if my socks match or if I have a 'gardeners hole' in the knee of my jeans!  I wear my holes and mismatched socks with pride.  The true perspective is that my feet are warm and I am not unnecessarily wasting resources on an inconsequential detail like whether or not my socks make me look tidy.  There are, of course, times that it matters and I need to dress conservatively.  If I'm going to a restaurant, a meeting at our local shire, etc.  These are the times that I bother to make sure I dress in a manner that is acceptable to the general public.  I pretty much have one or two outfits that are like my 'going out' uniforms.  Some of the items were bought new, some from the op-shop.

By constantly assessing our personal impact we are often trying new things.  We've changed the way that we cook so that we have dramatically reduced our packaging and our food miles.  Sometimes that sees us eating some pretty weird meals.  For example, yesterday saw us eating a pizza with oranges and rhubarb.  The oranges are local (grown by a friend), in season and the rhubarb was in our garden.  I spread the pizza with the fruit butter that I bottled in Autumn.
I thought the kids might love the sweet pizza but the experiment was a bit of a flop.  The oranges didn't have the sweet, citrusy flavour that I was imagining.  They made the pizza quite bitter.  But again, perspective... our tummies were filled with food that was wholesome and local, if somewhat bizarre.  So it wasn't the yummiest meal we'd ever eaten.  So what!  Will I try it again?  You bet!  But I'll replace the orange with some bottled fruit.  Maybe pears.  We also had a pizza topped with silver beet and rocket.  It was yummy.

I'm also learning new skills.  Having brushed up on my knitting in the last couple of years, I keep attempting to take my knitting forward.  I'm making Buddy Boy a jumper at the moment and it's the first time I've attempted a V neck.  It was doing my head in yesterday!  Decreasing at one side every six rows while simultaneously decreasing every alternate row on the other side.  Argggh!  And getting to the bit where I should have three stitches remaining but finding five.  *Sob*  Now I have to work out how to even up the other side of the V neck when I don't even know what I did wrong.
I have assured him that the needle will be gone when the jumper is complete!  He was feeling a bit nervous.  Ha ha!
Belle wearing the knitted dress I finished two years ago.
But persist I will, because I want to learn new, low energy skills that benefit my family.  I know persistence pays off because I taught myself to knit socks on four needles and they are the nicest socks I've ever owned!  So warm in winter (and match ;-)) but they weren't easy.  It took me several frustrating tries before I achieved the first sock.  These days I really enjoy knitting socks because they seem easy now that I know what I'm doing.
I've learnt to milk goats, make cheese and I stubbornly continue to bang my head against the garden.   Nothing much grows but I keep at it!  I think healthy veggies require more time than I have in between lessons, milking, cooking etc. 
New ways of doing things just require thought.  Our fire is keeping us warm at this time of year so I pop the porridge on top of the fire instead of the gas stove.  It make sense to use resources in more that one way.  I do, however, heat the kettle on the stove for that very first cup of coffee.  Once warm it goes on the stove too.  Patience is not a virtue I possess when it comes to my morning caffeine hit.

There are heaps of things we've changed over the last few years.  I don't know what my next new skill or practice will be, but I do know there will be plenty of new things that we will try as a family.  It doesn't always work out perfectly but we are happy, comfortable beyond the imagination of many in the world, and pleased that we are reducing our family's level of pollution and will continue to do so.

To use a well worn analogy - the path we have chosen is not the easiest; in fact, it's pretty bumpy sometimes.  However I think it's much more beautiful than the main road and I happen to know that the main road is leading to nowhere and very, very fast!  We are not lonely.  Many of our friends are walking down our path as well and we have lots of fun and laughs along the way.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Paprika biscuits, plastic and a nice surprise

There's no missing the fact that these school holidays are the winter holidays!  We have slushy areas underfoot, it's been bitterly cold and one day last week the sun failed to show through the fog.  That's almost unheard of in these parts.  The Bureau of Meteorology predicted a 'mostly sunny' day but it didn't eventuate.  The temperature only reached seven degrees!
It was on this particularly biting day that Buddy Boy and Pumpkin took part in a football holiday program.  The idea was for the parents to drop the children off and leave.  I was looking forward to a rare day alone with Belle.  However, it wasn't to be.  Within an hour I received a phone call to say Pumpkin was crying with cold because the cuffs of her pant were wet.  I was still in town so I raced to the op shop and bought a complete outfit including a long sleeved thermal singlet!

The poor little girl was sitting in a car shivering when I arrived but a change of clothes and a cuddle and she was ready to play again.  I didn't want to leave again in case I was needed.  After all, the day was not improving. Hence Belle and I found ourselves outside for most of the day on the coldest day for ages!
I did decide though, to take Belle to a local coffee shop for a nice, warming hot chocolate as a bit of a treat to get us through the day.  As it was an unexpected visit, I was unprepared and had no cash.  Our purchase was under ten dollars (the minimum allowable for use of a card) so I quickly looked around and saw a packet of freshly baked short breads.  That took our purchase to around thirteen dollars and I could pay with my card.  And that's how easily it happens!!  It wasn't until we got outside that I realised the biscuits were prettily wrapped in plastic.

At the end of the day, the children were presented with show bags of goodies.  Rulers, a football, all wrapped in plastic.   And again, that's how easily it happens.
I'm taking part in the Plastic Free July challenge and thought it would be easy this year, having done it before and being relatively happy with our efforts.  I thought it would get easier each year.  So much is dependent on what you are doing though.  I had my eyes wide open for the supermarket, expecting this was where I would need to avoid plastic.  I was caught off guard with the extra activities we participated in.  I wasn't about to tell my children that they had to miss out on the show bags that every other child was receiving.
In a similar way, Belle and I brought plastic home yesterday.  Hubby kept the younger two at home so that Belle and I could have some time together and we headed of to a charity craft day.  Lots of little raffles during the day saw us gather several little gifts covered in plastic.
At home it's a different story.  It seems fairly simple most of the time.  Most ingredients we need are already on hand from our bulk food buy.  With the addition of butter (paper wrapped) and milk (straight from the goats) I can provide cakes and biscuits galore without a scrap of plastic rubbish.  A large pot of soup full of veggies and herbs wasn't too bad either.  The shanks were plastic wrapped but I cooked enough soup to see us through three meals.  Yay!
A large casserole (three meal size too) and enough snacks baked to last several days meant limited plastic use.  The diced beef also came in single use plastic but that was the only piece for three meals.  Cooking in bulk is a great way to reduce rubbish and it also means less work later in the week.  Bonus!!  I made sure I had savoury snacks as well as sweet by cooking some cheese and paprika biscuits.  They remind me of a particular brand of small cheese biscuit that I used to love snacking on years ago.  But no packaging, no palm oil, no preservatives and very easy to make!  I'll give you the recipe so you can try them but be warned, they are more-ish!

Paprika Biscuits

85g butter
85g cheese (grated tasty)
1 cup plain flour
1 tspn paprika
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn dry mustard
poppy seeds to sprinkle

Beat together butter and grated cheese until soft and creamy.  (Beat for a few minutes)  Sift together dry ingredients, add to cheese mixture, beat until well blended.  (The recipe I used, suggested dessertspoons rolled into balls but I made mine much smaller.  I find them a better size for nibbling on.)  Place on greased oven tray, flatten slightly, sprinkle poppy seeds lightly over each biscuit.  Bake in moderate oven 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Loosen and cool on tray.  (Made about forty little biscuits for me)

This recipe is taken from the ancient copy of The Australian Women's Weekly,1970, that I bought at the op shop once.  I have converted the ounces to grams.

Now for my nice surprise.  One of my dorking hens often refuses to sleep in the pen, choosing to perch up a tree instead.  Well, she wasn't up the tree over the last three weeks, unbeknownst to me!!  Out she came the other day with ten little charges.  Although we don't want 'moggy' chooks (these are crossed with the Australorp rooster) you can't fail to be happy when you see these little chickies.
 Daisy was most surprised to see ten little chickens running around in the milking shed in the morning!
Here's hoping your life is giving you nice surprises too!