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24 November 2014

Back inside the bubble

I promised another post about my trip, so here it is. Before I go on though, I'd like to thank everyone who commented on the previous post and who welcomed me back to the blog. I sometimes think of giving up this blog. Blogging has changed a lot in the past couple of years but as long as I have such loving comments, I'll keep writing. Although we still live very simply and that will remain the focus here, my thoughts often wander to other things that not many people write about, such as ageing and dying. So along the way there will be a sprinkling of those posts and a few opinion pieces too.

= = = ♥︎ = = = 

Back inside the bubble. Hurrah!

First there is the solo drive down to the Blue Mountains. After weeks of anticipation and waiting, THE morning when I get up early, earlier than I usually do, make a thermos of tea, get into my car and drive into the dark-soon-to-be-light. The first part is manoeuvring through local and city traffic to reach country roads before there are too many people and cars around.  I made the trip from home to my first stretch of country road, near Ipswich, in under two hours. Okay, everything's good. Get the music cranked up and let's get this show on the road.  What follows is a lot of loud singing of songs you'd never believe I like, but I filled my lungs with sound and joy and happily drove mile after mile.

There are so many unused railway stations along the way. I think that's such a shame for two reasons: we should have less trucks on the roads and more trains transporting goods around.  And we should be allowing a family to live in these buildings.
Some signs our overseas friends may not have seen.

 I stopped at a few country graveyards that are usually beside an abandoned church.

There was a lot of food growing in plain sight of the highway. Here I noticed some wild fennel but there were also apple and pear trees, and blackberry brambles.

I stopped at a bakery for a cranberry and orange muffin and then sat in the quiet shade of a country lane with my cup of tea, away from the passing traffic (because I'm paranoid that I'll be captured by a serial killer and no one will ever see me again). Looking around I could see cows, a half full dam and over on the hill, a few alpacas. I felt good, a new adventure before me beginning to unfold. I was out of my familiar bubble and loving it.

And the excitement of being out in the world, alone, being able to go where I please without telling anyone where I'll be is almost overwhelming. There is bliss is leaving behind many of the responsibilities of the average day. Being where there is traffic and hussle and bustle, where exciting things can start at any moment, where opinions, values and beliefs change with the wind. It's exciting and sometimes enriching being out there and part of IT.

I spent a week with Tricia out in the world. We ate out, met people, stayed at home and talked, watched movies, knitted and sewed. It was an absolute joy. But as the days passed by, my thoughts returned to home and then after a day or two more, I wanted to be there. There was nothing wrong being where I was, I just wanted to be in my chosen place, doing my work in silence, surrounded by trees.

Tricia's kitchen.

Tricia's beautiful wood stove.
 This is Tricia's backyard. Look at the elephant garlic growing as high as the shed roof.

 This is a little wool shop we visited in Katoomba - The Granny Square in Waratah Street.

There is such a wide chasm between being out in the world, where anything can happen, and my normal days, alone and quiet with Hanno, inside our bubble. Having chosen to live as we do and where we do, it's comforting to know that I can make these solo trips and still come home feeing the same way - that this is where I belong. Home has a way of letting you know where you're at your best. I surrender to that feeling and I'm staying put for a while.

21 November 2014

I've had enough

Hello everyone!  It seems like months since I've been here with you.  I missed writing my blog but I was so busy doing nothing, I didn't have time to post while I was on the road. And I guess that deep within me I felt I was collecting bits and pieces to share with you later on when I had the chance to think about it all. I really needed a holiday and I've come back tired but reinvigorated and motivated to keep the blog going. 

Tricia and I met in Tamworth. She travelled up on the train from Sydney; I drove down and we met when the train arrived. For those of you unfamiliar with Australian towns, Tamworth is noted for being the country music capital of our nation. There were a few cowboys in ten gallon hats and a huge golden guitar and, of course, lots of country hospitality.

Here is Megan, wrapping my items.

We overnighted in Tamworth and travelled out to meet Megan and Duncan at the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Store in Nundle the next morning. The long and winding road leading to Nundle is an easy drive through rolling hills, passing a few isolated homesteads. I couldn't quite believe it when I set eyes on the store. It was exactly as I'd seen it in photos, an ageing timber building that you could imagine people from a different time shopping at.  We walked inside and there she was - Megan embraced me like we were old friends, I introduced Tricia and we met Duncan, who had been busy packaging up parcels being sent out all over Australia.

I love finding people who live where they want to live and make a living right there in their chosen place. It's not an easy thing to do but Megan and Duncan have built up their customer base by delivering quality goods as reasonable prices. Their family is now reaping the benefits of their decision and all the hard work that followed it.



And then we started looking around. Oh my! What a place. The shop is full of the tools of household production. Cleaning brushes from Germany, enamel cook ware, cast iron pans, beautiful ceramic bowls, soaps, balms, all sorts of washing up kit, tea, tea making paraphernalia, jams, sauces, brooms, buckets and gardening tools. I would like to tell you I admired it all and left, but in fact I took many, things with me. I did take only what I'll use though and everything I have will make my work here easier or more enjoyable.



One of the many reasons I love this shop is that when you're walking around, browsing through the items there, you actually feel like you're in a really old store and you're a part of it. The shop is 125 years old, it's not been renovated, painted or changed. There are no computers, no modern till or cash drawer. My purchases (or a list of my bartering) was written out by hand on a piece of paper. The store is an artefact from bygone days and truly authentic, right down to the squeaky floorboards and hatch to the cellar.



And look at this lovely customer walking around. Yes, it's Tricia. She enjoyed the experience as much as I did.

If you're new to my blog, I'd like you to know that I don't take on the many advertisers who ask me for space with the promise of dollars. I go instead with a select few merchants and primary producers who deal in the things I use in my home. They're good quality, usually hard to find, and they last day in and day out, helping me keep house in the way I choose to. I never recommend a business unless I know I can truthfully say I use their products and I'm happy with them.

Here they are, our littlest loves - Johnathan and Alanna, with Tricia.

The following day we were in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. I had a wonderful time with my sister and her family.  I saw two of my four nephews, David and Danny, met Alanna, Danny and Laura's daughter, for the first time, and reacquainted myself with little Johnathan. He's growing fast and is a real cutie. While I was driving back I reflected on my visit to Tricia's and realised, yet again, how fortunate I am to have the family I have. To celebrate The Family, yours and mine, I've included this lovely song by the Avett Brothers, which was one of the many I listened to on my trip.



Solo driving is a wonderful way to stir up memories and to discover more about our beautiful land. I'll do another post about the trip soon because I had a lot of time to think as I drove those country roads, and I have more photos to share with you. 

And then I arrived home, drove in our driveway, beeped the horn and Hanno walked out. We hugged and over his shoulder I could see our garden. I was sure we'd lose some plants because of the very hot weather that had come too soon. But there it was - cosmos blowing in the breeze, lush parsley, lettuces and green onions. Rows of bok choy, cucumbers almost bursting out of their skins and enough growth on the cherry tomatoes to sink a ship. It was a wonderful way to be welcomed back home. And the best part was that I was missed and I missed being here. So that's it for me for another year. I doubt I'll travel anywhere so far away again in the coming 12 months and I doubt I'll be in another shop for a long time. I've had enough for the time being and enough is all anyone could want.

11 November 2014

A road trip

I'm off to visit my sister in NSW tomorrow and I'm so looking forward to it. I have most of my bits and pieces packed, later today I'll pack my clothes and toiletries. I feel like I'm setting off on the Queen Mary for an extended trip in a luxury suite (with butler service), but in fact I'll be packing a sandwich and driving myself along the New England Highway to meet up with Tricia in Tamworth. She's travelling up on the train from Sydney. We'll overnight in Tamworth then visit the Odgers and McClennan Exchange Stores in Nundle, about an hour's drive away. Meeting Megan and Duncan and looking through their store will be one of the highlights of the trip for me.



I'm looking forward to meeting Tricia's granddaughter for the first time, seeing Jono again and catching up with my nephews. I have this little sunsuit for Alanna. I bought it from one of Sarndra's friends in Gladstone at her Facebook shop. This lady does beautiful work. I can't fault it and will be very proud to give it to Alanna, even though I didn't make it myself.

Although I don't want to do much while I'm away, I've packed my embroidery cottons and needles to finish off a small sampler, and an embroidery I will make into a cushion cover.  I've also packed a book or two and my camera. I'll be taking photos.



Also packed is my current knitting project - an organic cotton blanket for my soon-to-be third grandchild. It's a big job but it feels good knitting up this beautiful cotton. I think our little baby will be comfy cozy under that blanket.


Okay, only two more things to do before I go - pack my bag and, just before I leave, make a sandwich and drink to have along the way.  I'm making a havarti sandwich on pumpernickel to have with my Thermos of black tea and a bottle of plain sparkling mineral water. That's probably not the standard they serve on the Queen Mary but it's fine travelling food and will keep me happy and alive.

Farewell my friends. I'll post a few photos along the way and be back late next week.  Look after yourself while I'm gone.  xx

7 November 2014

Weekend reading


It's been a whirlwind week here with a lot happening as we cruise into the end of the year.  Over the weekend, I'll start getting myself ready for a road trip to visit Tricia. She's travelling up to Tamworth on the train, I'm driving down to meet her there and then we'll visit the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores in Nundle.  We're really looking forward to that.  But I have a lot of organising to do before I take off, so I'd better get to it.

I hope you have a delightful weekend.  Thanks for your beautiful comments during the week. It gave me a lot to think about.  Till next week, friends!

   x x x ♥︎ x x x

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6 November 2014

Question what you do

I really don't have any concrete answers. I think life is too chaotic and changeable to have answers that I'm always sure of. I have plenty of questions though. My strategy in my own life is to reassess all the time. What is working stays, what doesn't work is changed or dropped. Of course I have the values I live by, they're ever present, steadfast and unchanging, but day-to-day life, how processes are carried out, how things are organised, how often I do this or that - all that is changeable. How I do things may change. Why I do things never does. My life is values-driven. I hope yours is too.



Many years ago, when I lived a more mainstream life, there was  no self-evaluation and life stayed pretty much the same year in and year out. I followed fashion and didn't question much. Money was spent, and when it ran out, credit cards were used.  I find it surprising now to know that there was no long-term view. It was instant gratification on a daily, if not an hourly basis. It was all such a waste.


Now I question most things and even if I did they same thing yesterday I'll question whether it should be done, or done the same way, today. The way I do these mini-audits is to question my method and ingredients every time I make something we use here.  Soap, for instance, almost every time I make it, I ask myself the same question: do you want to add essential oils to this soap?  So far, every time, the answer has been no. It's not been quite the same with laundry liquid. Over the years I've questioned the sometimes lumpy consistency of it and started processing the finished laundry liquid with the stick blender to get a smoother liquid with fewer lumps.  Sometimes I'll read something at the forum or hear in a conversation, something that I want to try and when I start doing that thing again, I'll think about how the new way might be an improvement. I might try it once and then evaluate again. I always try to improve what I do. I never think that what I do is perfect and can never be changed and I've left behind forever the mindlessness of mainstream living, so the questions are simple but they're always asked. Sometimes I question the process before I do it, sometimes it's during the task.  It doesn't really matter when you ask the questions of yourself, but it does matter that you do.


As your life changes, as you grow older, when babies are born, when older relatives die, when money is tight and when the good times visit, you'll probably need to change your routines, methods and what you do to fit in with the new circumstances. Sometimes those changes will be long term, at other times they'll be fleeting. If you're happy for the time being about where everything sits, then question your values. Nothing is set in stone. You may have new information about certain things that you can incorporate into your life plan. Question it all, don't be afraid, an unexamined life doesn't amount to much.


If you've been living a simple life for a few years now it might be time to reassess, regroup and start asking questions. Do an audit to assess what is working, what needs tweaking, what can be left alone. But if you're like me and question what you do every time you do it, you may not need an audit, you'll be modifying your routines and processes as you go. But one thing is for sure, simple life will never be static.

4 November 2014

A small world

My world is small. Many weeks of the year my world is happily contained within the boundaries of our property, and with the gate closed, I feel as close to satisfied with life as I am ever likely to be. Although we live alone, we have frequent visitors - family and friends, and, of course, we look after Jamie, one of our grandsons, three days a week. Our small world is busy and populated not only by people but also visiting wildlife such as birds, reptiles and many, many insects. There is a biodiversity here that I find pleasing. I think the visiting wild life see our place as a bit of an oasis where no poisons are used, there is fresh water to drink and places to take up residence, if they choose to. 

This is the wood stove in Tricia's home.

Inside our home there is busyness too. At the moment I'm going through things to see what I can take with me on my trip to Tricia's. One of the highlights of the trip will be reacquainting myself with Tricia's grandson, Johnathan, and meeting his sister, Alanna, for the first time.  Like many young couples, Danny and Laura work hard to provide for their children and I'd like to help them if I can. Tricia asked me to join her in teaching Laura a few of our family recipes as well as the tricks and tips younger homemakers often don't know about. Laura asked Tricia to help her with sewing so I've gone through my stash looking for fabrics she might be able to use, and yesterday I went through my cook books and found some to give to Laura.



There was a time when older women would do this sort of thing as a matter of course. They would share their recipes with the younger girls, swap cleaning tips, share resources such as fabrics, fabric scraps, buttons and such.  I'd like to give Laura her first button jar and I've been walking down memory lane here sorting through my buttons, making decisions about what to give her. They may just be buttons, but to me they're symbolic of my mother and the role mending and sewing played in our family.


There are many things available to young people now that weren't around when I was their age but the one thing they sometimes don't get now is this kind of practical support. I'm not talking about financial support, although I'd give that too if I could, I'm talking instead about unique and direct support, sharing family recipes, the shortcuts of basic housework and the encouragement to do it. It's often these sorts of conversations that help younger women transition into homemakers and creative, crafty mothers. It might all seem quite common place to us but for young women just starting out with their families, often they just need to understand how housework fits into this new life and to know they don't have to be perfect. 



What I hope to show is that life can be made better by doing what you can at home, taking control, making plans, working to routines and being an active participant in your own family life.  Sometimes we just need time and encouragement to work out where we are, where we want to go and how we fit into the scheme of things. I think sharing knowledge and showing support are core ingredients of stable family life. This is especially true when we welcome new people into our family. And it's not to make sure they do everything according to how it's already done in the family, it's to help them ease into the family unit; to not only say I love you, but to show it too. When that new family member is settled and feels a valued and important part of a strong family, they can take their time and stitch their own ideas and values into the family fabric. And then the whole family will be stronger for it.

What are your experiences with either being a new member of a family or of making that new person feel at ease?
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