27 June 2016

Being self-reliant in a connected community

I've been wanting to review our financial situation for a while now and when the Brexit referendum came up with a surprise "leave" result last week, I knew I had to start.  Of course no one knows yet what sort of changes this vote will bring. The only certainty is that there will be change. I hope for the sake of all my UK and European friends that the changes won't be too drastic or drawn out.  Whenever there is uncertainty in the world and it looks like there may be hard times ahead, the first thing I do it make sure my own house is in order. If I know I'm doing all I can do, if our budget is solid and we're prepared for anything, I know we have a good chance of getting through it.



Over the weekend I spent time looking at our financial situation. I went through all our contracts and accounts so I know exactly where we stand and if there is any way we can improve what we're doing. Wasting money at any time is unwise, to do it now is stupid. I also looked at our stockpile and garden and worked out how we could cut back if we need to.  One thing is for sure, the less we rely of others to live the life we want to live, the better. Being self-reliant in a connected community is the best way to move forward and provide for yourself. That is true all the time, not just in times of crisis and change.


Above are two elderberry bushes I propagated to give away along with an edible cranberry hibiscus and a Grumichama cherry that Morag gave me.

I've been wanting to look at my food shopping for a long time. I think we're doing okay but I can't be certain until I check. So I'm in the process of making up a price book which is something I did very early on in my simple life. I expect that price book will help me as much now as it did back then.  I've kept my shopping dockets from the past month so I know the current prices of all the groceries we buy regularly. There are apps you can use on your phone to do this too, but I can't be bothered keying in all the info and for me, paper works best for this. In the coming weeks, I'll be using that price book when I menu plan and make up my shopping list and I'll take it with me when I shop.  It should help me not to over pay for anything on my list.


I'll add a few more cheap and easy meat-free meals to my rotation. Dropping meat from the menu is an easy way to save money; we usually eat too much meat anyway. The protein we eat doesn't have to be animal protein, it can easily be plant-based protein so finding new recipes will add variety to what I serve in the coming months. I'll continue to shop for what is in season because it's usually at it peak flavour and cheaper.  23 meals to cook when you're broke

I often cook from our garden so I've also taken the time to look at how that will function. We have a productive vegetable garden now but I want that to continue right through to the end of the year so we increase the amount of vegetables we eat but don't buy as many. There are a couple of things I want to add to the garden but mainly we have to successfully follow up the greens, beans, herbs and salad vegetables that we're currently growing so there are no gaps in the supply. Succession planting has always been a hit and miss affair for me but I'll focus on it now and plan more carefully.


We don't have any financial problems right now. We've been systematically replacing appliances with good quality energy saving models for the past few years.   That has set us up well for the future and has helped reduce our electricity costs significantly. Our home maintenance is very good, we have a near new car, we don't need new clothes or shoes at the moment.  I do need to work on gifts, make soap and continue to cook from scratch, make our cleaning products, mend clothes and sew household linens when we need them instead of buying them. I'll continue to compost and recycle and we'll try to cut back on our consumption of electricity, gas and water, not just because it's expensive to waste those resources but because it's something we should all be doing.


And what if all this is for naught? What if nothing dire happens in the UK and Europe and we sale into the future with no ripples to tip our boats over? Well, then all this will be for our own peace of mind and to address the increasingly desperate problem of our environment. That's something we all need to do, starting yesterday. I wonder what your immediate plans are and if they've been influenced by the vote. I'd love to know what you will do, maybe I'll pick up a few things that will help us here.

24 June 2016

Weekend reading

The bathroom renovation is slowly coming along. The floor tiles are down now and although I initially thought they were too light and Hanno thought they were too dark, we both like the look of them on the floor. They have to set over the next couple of days and the workmen will be back on Monday to tile the walls. 

I forget the name of this cream coloured rose - is an old-fashioned cabbage rose. When at full height it's enormous but this is recovering from my brutal pruning.
 The Montville Rose, above, and The Fairy, below.

I think you know what I'll write next - I've been in the garden! ; - ) The flowers are looking beautiful. I love their radiance, the roses in particular seem to beam in low light. I'll be organising the bush house next week so I have plenty of growing room on the benches in there. I untangled the old vanilla orchid vine last week and gave most of it to Morag. There is a small cutting left to grow but I doubt it will flower because I don't have the patience to do all the things it requires. The flowers are a different matter altogether. I'm pruning, tweaking, cutting and admiring every day.

Two pots of Viola Tricolour.

What Makes Berlin a Playground Paradise
Shattered records show climate change is an emergency today, scientists warn
Compost, sharing the love
Three Easy, Low-Tech Ways to Keep Container Gardens Watered
Food waste - what can we do about it?

Hopefully I'll have photos of the completed bathroom for you to see next week. Thanks for your visits this week. Enjoy your weekend.  xx

20 June 2016

The discipline of daily life

What a few days we've had. Everything was going well with the bathroom renovation until the waterproofers arrived and applied a coat of whatever it is they use. They came back the following day for another coat. That stopped us sleeping in our bed for the next few nights. The smell was overpowering and gave me asthma. Not much housework as been done this week. I've spent a fair bit of time outside, had morning tea with Morag and her daughter in the garden on Friday and I have stayed away from the bathroom-end of the house.  Today the floor will be levelled with some sort of liquid gloop and when that dries - possibly in two days with all this rain we have at the moment, then the tiles can be laid and the new fixtures and fittings installed. We're looking at the end of the week at the earliest for it to be completed. 

And here I was thinking it's only a bathroom, it will take a couple of days.


There has been rain on and off all week and yesterday a lot of rain fell over the east coast of Queensland. It's surprising because winter rain is unusual here in our state. It looks like it's broken the drought in some places out west, so that's a great outcome for the farmers and rural communities.

We had Jamie here over the weekend which is always a pleasure. We made cupcakes and he played with his Legos, making some magical aircrafts and all sorts of spectacular "people". There wasn't much time outside because of the weather but he brought his Lego Movie with him so that DVD saved the day.




Viola tricolour - Love-in-Idleness.

Even though the house has been turned upside-down, outside it's a different story. Outside has a power all its own. I've never had much control out there where nature reigns with a strong and steady hand. Roses are flowering, sweet peas are climbing, I've planted some love-in-idleness aka Viola tricolour, and iris seedlings are sitting on our rain-soaked table waiting their turn to be planted.  Tricia collected an iris seedpod for me when she was out walking last year and these seedings are the results of those seeds. I'll be planting them in with the vegetables to bring in the bees and give me something wonderful to look at and care for.  One thing is for certain, with this rain and our overflowing tanks, everything is growing well and we're harvesting every day to eat and share.




I'm looking forward to getting back into a small part of my routine this week. It won't be the full production but small elements will slip back into place for me when I make soap, declutter and organise the front verandah.  There's no rush to do anything, I'll take my time and enjoy the process of reconnection and the discipline of daily life.



I love this quote from the book Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair that I've ordered from Book Depository:
Here’s the true secret of life: We mostly do everything over and over. In the morning, we let the dogs out, make coffee, read the paper, help whoever is around get ready for the day. We do our work. In the afternoon, if we have left, we come home, put down our keys and satchels, let the dogs out, take off constrictive clothing, make a drink or put water on for tea, toast the leftover bit of scone. I love ritual and repetition. Without them, I would be a balloon with a slow leak.

and this:

People like to say that it - significance, import - is all about the family. But lots of people do not have rich networks of hilarious uncles and adorable cousins, who all live nearby, to help them. Many people have truly awful families: insane, abusive, repressive.  So we work hard, we enjoy life as we can, we endure. We try to help ourselves and one another. We try to be more present and less petty. Some days go better than others. We look for solace in nature and art and maybe, if we are lucky, the quiet satisfaction of our homes.

I think I'll love this book. It will remind me to think about "the quiet satisfaction" as it unfolds, to look for meaning and appreciate things that make ordinary days at home so significant and enriching. Life is not about toil to me, it's not the main point of every day. I love to work and do my fair share but I want to enjoy every day and appreciate the beauty lurking in my home too. Finding those beautiful gems in a home I've live in for almost 20 years can be tough sometimes but it's not impossible. And when I do something I'll remember forever or when I increase my knowledge of my environment or myself, when I cook a great meal, drink our fresh orange juice, eat a crisp pea straight from the vine, follow a pattern until the end, or when I sit breathing fresh air deeply that, my friends, is something that helps me appreciate what is and keeps me going until the next time.



17 June 2016

Weekend reading


There was not much time for reading this week but here is a small list I hope you'll enjoy. The main one, of course, is the first link. I'm sure I'll spend a fair bit of time watching those bears in the coming months. I hope you have a lovely weekend. I'll see you again next week. :- )

The cameras are back on at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park. It's bear watching season again!   These are live webcams. The bears are emerging from their hibernation and soon we'll see them wandering in to feed on the largest Sockeye Salmon run in the world.  UPDATE: I saw my first bear at the falls this morning. A small bear on the far side of the river jumping at salmon but not catching any.  This area will be occupied by the biggest bear soon so this little bear is lucky to be there today.
Nanatechnology
Living off the grid - thanks to my friend Andrew Davies from Radio National for this link.
Revealed: first mammal species wiped out by human-induced climate change

14 June 2016

Turning my back on chaos

I feels quite liberating and exciting to wake after a good night's sleep knowing I have the entire day, week, year with no commitments other than those needed to take care of my family and run my home. Ideas come to mind, I decide to make a list of projects I've put off because now I have the luxury of time to do whatever I want.  My needs and ambitions are simple though and all my current plans involve home projects and fluffing our nest. I'm so grateful to be at this point and I'm happy to be able to share it with you.

The evolution of our bathroom. The story continues ...

The house is chaotic today because we have workmen here demolishing our old bathroom and making way for the new. The sound of their work belies the true nature of our calm home but I know there is a time for everything and out of this busyness will come a bathroom that will serve us well for many years. Soon the noise will stop, making way for quietness to return and be part of our days once again. But for now our bedroom is swathed in old sheets and there are towels on the floor to keep the renovation dust under control. I'm staying out of there too because of my asthma. I just creep in there for quick photos.

A basket of vegetables for Sunny and Kerry.

One of our sons has been staying with us for a few weeks while he established himself in a new job and searched for a new home for his family. That's done now, he put in the hard yards and yesterday he left to drive north, pack his family up and return here to a little country town to the north of us. I am so proud of him and his commitment to his family and his work. It will be good having everyone here on the coast, not that we'll live in each other's pockets, but the potential for visiting and helping is always there. That's what families do best.

Last week I discovered the musical Hamilton so while the 2016 Tony Awards were being presented yesterday, I wrote this blog post and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack quietly in the background. I'm very pleased that the rap musical won so many awards, especially as it's already won a Pulitzer Prize for drama. Generally I don't like musicals but this is exceptional, creative, inspirational and joyful. I've heard the music so much over the weekend, that it plays in my head long after I stop listening to it. If you've never heard the music or of the musical, check this out and this and tell me what you think of it.

An easy one-pot meal - lemon and herb chicken with vegetables. I'll used the carcass to make pumpkin soup for today's lunch.


The house looks like a bomb has gone off but I'm happy to leave most of the cleaning until the workmen go early next week. There have been a few tidy-ups and some laundry done, and of course the meals but for the next week, little else will be done.  I know the world will not fall in on my head because we have a few days of disarray, soon it will be over and all will return to normal. I hope to be out in the garden for a large part of the next few days. We've been harvesting quite a bit from the garden to eat and share and it all has to be replanted to keep us in fresh food over the months to come. I want to make calendula soap this week and if I have the time, I'll defrost some rosellas and make up some jam. So much to do!  But maybe I need to pull back and just wait until the house is back to normal. Maybe I should just spend this week in the garden and work on my projects when order is restored here. You're such a wise thing, blog, thank you for helping me organise myself. :- )


10 June 2016

Weekend reading


I came across a reference to this book on the forum when Mr Homemaker mentioned it. Six dollars, plus $11 postage later and it was on its way to my door. I haven't had time to read it yet but I'll get into it next week. I hope you have time to read your favourite book this weekend. 

- - -  ♥︎ - - - 

A Young Man Quits His Old Life and Goes West
Rose is writing about food management and freezer storage.
Sherri is moving so let's move along with her and see what life bring her in a new location.
There's a reason these old-school manners have stood the test of time
Make Simple, Beautiful Garden Fences and Trellises
Feminism in a frilly apron is for the few who can afford it


9 June 2016

Behind the closed gate there is solitude and stillness

You might think that I've been off galavanting with no time to post here.  Well, you would be wrong. I've been living the most ordinary of days, enjoying the cold weather, sitting in the sun and doing all the things that are too common-place to mention. I'm doing what you do in your home, you already know what I've been up to. 

I've passed on my radio commitments to my friend Morag Gamble and here is her first broadcast.  She'll be doing her radio broadcast every month so if you're in Queensland you'll be able to listen, live, on your local radio or at the 612 website if you're out of the state.  Morag has a great blog with many interesting and thought-provoking posts, this is one of them:  5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Soil and Grow Better Food or you could start with today's post.

There are a few tickets left for my free talk at the Toowoomba Library this Saturday, 11 June at 11am. Bookings are essential. Hanno will be with me, we'll have my books to sell at discount prices and if there are some people who want to stay behind after the talk to chat, we'll be there for that too. See you there! The Toowoomba talk is my last public event and then I will once again become the non-distinct Rhonda Hetzel, living my ordinary days in splendid isolation.  

My gate is closed.

Behind that closed gate I've been mending Hanno's work shirts, reattaching handles to shopping bags, baking miracle cake and brownies, making cauliflower soup and roast pork, using left overs, knitting, gardening and enjoying the solitude and stillness.  Life's good and I have a feeling of liberation and satisfaction.


We're looking forward to our bathroom renovation which starts next week. Our colour scheme is grey and white and we want to keep it simple. Hanno has been working in the warm sunshine on the back verandah, putting together a vanity and mirror cupboard from flat packs. The plumber has capped off the taps and shower in our bathroom and we're using the main bathroom instead.



We have taps and a shower waiting to be installed, beautiful Australian tiles called Bellingen Ash reading to lay, and paint almost jumping out of the tin onto the wall. We are primed and ready to spring into action when the work men arrive next week. They'll be demolishing the bathroom as it has been for the past 18 years, removing the spa bath and moving us into the present day. In the bathroom at least. ;- ) I wonder if our choices will stand the test of time. I guess only moving forward will help us discover that.  I wonder who else has renovated recently. 

Salihan at EcoYarns contacted me today to thank everyone who visited her site during the sale last weekend. It was a splendid success and Salihan wants you to know she appreciates the support we give her.


8 June 2016

Egg and chicken workshop

Kate from Beautiful Chickens
 Kate, the owner of Beautiful Chickens, will soon be running a workshop on how to raise and manage chickens for egg production. The workshop is for beginners so if you're thinking about buying chickens or have your first flock, you'll learn what you need to know to raise healthy chickens.

When: Sunday 19th June 2016 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

Where: Private residence at Mount Samson. 

Cost: $65

It is an unfortunate reality that chickens are still intensively farmed for eggs in Australia. Although approved by authorities, standards for keeping chickens in cages for the intensive production of eggs lacks even the most basic of humane standards. You may even have tried buying ‘free range’ and ‘barn laid’ eggs, but these definitions can be very deceptive.

You can help break this cycle by keeping your own flock to produce eggs. Chickens that are treated well will provide you with fresh eggs where you know what your chickens have been consuming. They are also amazingly entertaining and curious pets.

At a minimum, you will know that you have control over how your chickens are treated and ensure that they live the lives they deserve in return for supplying you with wonderfully, healthy eggs.

A small sample of the eggs Kate's chickens produce.

Is this Workshop for you?

The workshop is aimed at backyard chicken keepers who wish to have their own laying chickens. It is a beginner level workshop. You will learn how to raise and manage chickens for egg production. Topics will include: 
  • Appropriate egg chicken breeds for backyard growers 
  • How to house and what to feed egg chickens 
  • How to handle your chickens 
  • Do you need a Rooster? 
  • Laying cycles 
  • What are Council requirements for keeping chickens 
  • How to recognise health issues and what to do about them 
  • Routine care including worming 
  • Pests around the chicken coop – rats, snakes, foxes, and other predators 
  • How to get the most out of your chickens

Inclusions 
  • Morning tea 
  • Workshop Notes 
Morning tea from a recent workshop.
What you need to bring 
  • Hat 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Paper/pen if you are an avid note taker! 

4 June 2016

Ecoyarns tenth birthday sale

Ecoyarns is celebrating its tenth birthday this weekend.



To celebrate, they're having a 20% off storewide sale this weekend - today and tomorrow only. Enter 10BIRTHDAY as your discount code. One order per customer. The offer ends Sunday 11.59pm Australian EST.


 I am currently knitting a cardigan for my granddaughter. I'm using Eco-Organic Cotton Virtues, 8 ply  in the colour Truth. It's a joy to knit with.  I feel very comfortable recommending EcoYarns to you. Have a look through their online catalogue and email Salihan if you have any queries. Happy shopping!

3 June 2016

Weekend reading

June already!  Time moves so fast for me now. I remember when a week felt like a month, now time goes in the blink of an eye. We're getting ready to renovate our bathroom and while we're not doing the work, we've done the planning and this week we bought many of the materials. We're aiming at being as thrifty as we can be and our plan is to have everything on hand, the flat packs made up and for the workmen to come in and do the physical work.  Well, that's the plan. Stay tuned for updates.


If you live in SE Queensland, it looks like being a week of wild weather ahead.  Let's batten down the hatches and stay safe. Wherever you are in the world I hope you have a lovely weekend, doing something you love.  I'll see you next week. ♥︎

Are today’s clean-eating women really so different from 1950s housewives?
My year of buying nothing – six months in
How a good night's sleep became the ultimate status symbol
Brilliant : A special double bucket to grow potatoes This is a French site with no English but the photo will explain the idea.
Peter Cundall: Prune fruit trees to restore vigour
Save over $23,000 a year and de-stress with a few simple living strategies
Beechworth Food Co-op offers a fare deal for local producers
List of quality dairy foods in Australia
My week as a vegan
The beginner's guide to cleaning your whole apartment in half the time


1 June 2016

Thriving, with a sense of purpose

I received an email last week asking why I do the work I do. The person who sent it said I seem to be a bit obsessive and that at my stage of life, I should be doing less. She said I should sit back and enjoy life a bit more. I'm sure she meant well. It's an ongoing goal of mine to enjoy every day and I am conscious of that every waking hour, probably more than most people are. One of the many significant things I get from the work I do and living simply is a sense of purpose. That feeling is enough to get me out of bed in the morning, it fires me up to work in my home, grow food, cut back when others are buying more and every day I appreciate being able to do the work I need to do to give me the life I want.  I feel I'm contributing and that my life has meaning beyond being a commercial entity available for hire by anyone who would pay the price to use my brain and energy.  When I was working for a living, I knew my purpose - it was to earn money so I could buy everything I needed and wanted. I wish I'd thought deeper about my life back then because I think it is possible to live simply and work for a living, and many of you do that. Had I thought more about my own situation back then, I might have made different choices and perhaps travelled a different path.


What was missing then was the undeniable feeling that my life had meaning apart from being a paid worker. I wanted a sense of purpose that resulted in making life meaningful and I didn't find that until I'd given up on it all, walked away from my working life and started from scratch all over again. Getting back to bare basics opened up my horizons and gave me the opportunity to build a different life. If I had not been prepared for the work I do here at home, that opportunity might not have been there for me.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison


Now I find purpose and meaning in being able to provide for my family, teach my grandchildren, share my knowledge through the forum, my books and this blog. Small, ordinary, practical tasks fill my days and make me feel satisfied when I go to bed at night. That is important to me and possibly to many of us. I feel useful when I knit for my grandkids instead of buying something off the shelf. I feel I'm doing the right thing when I serve up a meal that's been cooked from scratch and partly produced in my own back yard. Making soap and cleaners, gardening, preserving and baking help us live well. And when I look at the work I do I feel proud that I have the ability to do it and that I organise my days so that I work, as well as relax and enjoy life.


Life is tough for most of us. There's pressure to perform, we have to be good role models for our children and many people feel busy all the time. By taking a bit of time to think about what you want out to life and then organising yourself to either learn how to do what you need to do or just getting stuck in to it, does pay off.  I don't want to live a life in which I'm working and busy all the time and I don't want to just get by, I want to thrive. I want to enjoy my hours, expand my mind, I want to be a good wife, mother, grandmother and friend.  Life's too short for anything less than that. I wonder if you feel that too.

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