Weekend Reading

5 March 2021
I'm getting excited about getting closer to starting our gardening season. We've had cooler evening temperatures, soon the humidity will ease and then I'll start pruning and planting. I sowed seeds during the week - 15 Woolworth's flower, vegetable and herb seeds and open pollinated seeds from Eden Seeds.  I'm hoping I got the timing right and when the seedlings are ready to plant, it will be comfortably cool enough to do it.




I also put out some kipfler potatoes to chit last week and when they send out some shoots, I'll grow them in a grow bag. Over all this season, we'll grow the potatoes, silver beet/Swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchinis, Welsh onions, purple turnips, all the herbs we eat and a variety of fruit.  The passionfruit are doing really well and should be ready in April - the two vines are full; there are plenty of lemons on two trees and they're still flowering; and it looks like there will be loquats to pick later in the year.  We pruned the tree six months ago, fertilised it and then there was enough rain to soak the fertiliser in and it's made a real difference.  The dwarf banana needs some help and it will get that as soon as is cooler.  It's certainly enough to keep me busy every day, engaged in outdoor life and breathing fresh air. I can't wait.


Here is one of our lunches from the week - pork fillet with red cabbage, sweet potato and potatoes. The gravy is from the mix I showed you last week. A delicious meal and quite cheap - $6.50 for the pork fillet which was enough for both of us, red cabbage from the stockpile cupboard and the potatoes are vegetables we always have on hand. I served them with butter and green onions.  Today we're having chicken parmigiana, potato salad and salad. I think we're very fortunate to eat food cooked from scratch every day. A good variety of meat, fish and vegetarian meals that suit our tastes and keep us healthy.


The final simple living workshops are on the weekend - Backyard, gardening and chickens. We've all had fun with these workshops, I think the ladies have learnt a lot and it's been a treat for all of us to sit with our cuppas and talk about how we live and what the challenges and benefits are.  I'll be doing a workshops for the Ku-ring-gai Council, the North Sydney Council and the Willoughby Council soon too. The Ku-ring-gai Council workshop on Baking and Cooking and is on 16 March, the ad is above. That is booked out and has a waiting list. The other Council workshops will be in June and July.

I hope you're staying healthy and happy, have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you again next week. xx

This week's readings:




Weekend Reading

26 February 2021
Hanno had an operation yesterday to clear up some bleeding in his eye. I'm happy to tell you that he's woken up this morning with normal vision and his eye is looking good. I'm grateful for the eye doctor we both go to. He's very skilled, efficient and does most of these smaller ops in his private surgery.


I've transitioned from plastic bins and jars to glass in recent years and only have this plastic bin, those blue bins and two larger bins left.  This one on the right contains sugar and I'll probably change it over fairly soon. The bin is beginning to show signs of cracking at the base and when it finally goes, I'll buy another one of those large glass jars. 

I've spent the past few weeks methodically cleaning and organising my food cupboards. There's been no clear plan and I'm not rushing it, I've just done a cupboard or drawer here and there when I felt like doing it. It's part of a bigger plan to reduce food waste so it's not just about clean spaces, it's more about how food is stored so it doesn't spoil and get thrown out. I have to tell you, there is nothing like the satisfaction of cleaning and organising a space that you use a lot. It makes an immediate difference and the satisfaction grows every time I use each cupboard.


Here are the two larger plastic bins.  I hope these last a few more years because I like the size of them for bread flour and rolled oats.

Maintaining inspiration can often be a problem with this kind of cleaning and organisation so I was really happy to find a You Tube site that became my motivating force. Harugreen at Freezer Organization, Refrigeration Organization was exactly what I needed to keep me focused. There were foods there I didn't recognise, but I was fine with that, I was there to learn and improve what I do. I hope you watch it. I think you'll be surprised. Watch for the wonderful makeshift utensil she uses to pour black beans into a container and don't forget to choose "English" subtitles in the settings at the bottom of the screen. There are a lot of other videos there on various forms of housework so I subscribed and I'm slowly working my way through the rest of harugreen's videos. I'm so glad I found her. If you're looking for help to start organising or to keep going, join me over there.

I'm presenting an online workshop this weekend on Food Storage and Stockpiling, so this all slotted in well for me. This is the second last of the six-week series; next week will be Backyard - Gardening and Chickens. I've had a wonderful group of women join in, some for all six workshops, some for one and some with a selection of the subjects they have particular interest in. We've had a great time and I'm pretty sure they've found simple life homemaking interesting and hopefully more helpful than they might have expected.

I've also read and watched these links during the week. I hope you have time to go through them over the weekend.  



Weekend Reading

19 February 2021


Another busy week, this time with more organising and decluttering (again!), thinking about dying, planning for the future, deep cleaning the front verandah and the usual cooking, baking, cleaning, writing and gardening. Oh, and writing notes and preparation for the weekend workshops which this week is all about cooking and baking. I'm looking forward to it. All the workshops have been real fun so far.

Weekend Reading

12 February 2021
I've gone a bit berserk this week and have been cleaning cupboards and drawers in the kitchen in addition to a lot of other work that HAD to be done. I still haven't done the pantry or the stockpile cupboard but I'll get there next week.  On the subject of stockpiling, it's got such a bad reputation since the Covid toilet paper wars, I'm changing the name of my stockpile cupboard to my larder. It's got a comfy ring to it and it feels right to make the change.


This new cutlery tray has a slider on top so I can fit in the vast number of spoons etc. I have in my collection. BTW, I have more teaspoons in my tea station. ๐Ÿ˜Š I'm definitely not a minimalist.

Weekend Reading

5 February 2021

Many things have returned to normal here after our long summer holidays. School and work have started, limited sport is back, shops are open, people are travelling between states although some are still closed or have removed border controls but then put them back again for a couple of weeks. So although general life looks normal, there's a feeling of uncertainty and the knowledge that it could all change again.

Weekend Reading

29 January 2021
This is Mary Rose, a standard David Austin rose. It flowers like crazy during summer as long as I keep the water up.

Each day gets busier here and we're almost back into full working mode. My online Zoom workshops start tomorrow and I'm excited about meeting all the ladies face-to-face and being able to talk about how we live. I'm also negotiating simple life workshops for the Kuringai, Willoughby and North Sydney Councils so stay tuned for news about those in the near future. 

Weekend Reading

22 January 2021
It's been a kind of quiet busyness here this week. I'm trying to get some sewing finished before I start the simple living workshops, and they start next weekend. Thanks to everyone who has signed up. I think we're going to have a great time and I can't wait to actually see all of you in person. 

I'm thinking of having another workshop, closer to Easter, on writing. I'm not specifying the type of writing, it will be a general discussion, over two workshops of three hours in total, where I share how I started, how I maintain motivation, how I became a published writer, the commitment and hard work all serious writers need, and a little bit on contracts. I get quite a few emails from budding writers who usually ask me about getting to the next level. They want to make a living out of writing but they get to a point, get bogged down and don't know what to do next.  I think a workshop using our shared experience might kick-start a few writers and maybe clarify for others what they need to work on.  It will be online, on Zoom. Let me know your thoughts.


Soft vegetables like green onions last much longer if you prepare them as soon as you pick them or bring them home from the shop.  They just need a good wash then cut them to suit the size of the container you'll store them in; they should be stored in the fridge.  They'll easily last a couple of weeks like this. When you want to use them, just take them out and cut to size for your particular recipe.  Lettuce and celery can be processed the same way, they will last much longer and be nice and crisp.

Weekend Reading

15 January 2021

Things are slowly returning to normal and I have to say I'm really pleased about that.  I don't really enjoy the Christmas/New Year holidays anymore. The last cricket test starts today and by the time it's over next week, I hope to be well and truly back into my 2021 housework routines.



Jamie and I baked these choc chip biscuits just before Christmas and I sent him home with the leftover biscuit dough to cook more when his biscuits ran out.  Luckily he had that dough because they had no snacks to leave out for Santa. They quickly baked more biscuits and I have no doubt Santa would have loved the smell of fresh biscuits when he arrived at Jamie's home on Christmas Eve.

Radical knitting - dishcloths

12 January 2021
When I made my lifestyle change many years ago, there was a period of about 12 months when I thought about what work needed to be done at home, what ingredients and products had to be bought for our home and what I could make myself. When I had all that information I worked out a plan and a new life was born. That plan in it’s polished form, is what became the Down to Earth blog and book. 


I went from spending a lot on convenience products to being more frugal and mindful about what I could stop buying and make at home. I wanted to start with the items/cleaners/food I used everyday, so I stopped buying Chux and started making cotton dishcloths. That one action saved money, was a sustainable practice and it increased my skill set, in this case the traditional skill of knitting. So within the first 12 months of changing my fast-paced, money-driven life to a much simpler one, I picked up my needles and started knitting cotton dishcloths. I say dishcloths but they can also be baby cloths or washcloths.

\

I use 8 ply organic knitting cotton on size 5 needles but I’ve also used two strands of 5 ply cotton on the same needles and it worked well. I always keep the small half or quarter balls left over from other projects so I have the opportunity to use all my knitting cotton for a useful item. Don’t use polyester or wool because they tend to retain smell and cotton is more absorbent and easier to look after. 


These cloths will last for years, even with constant washing. I wash mine every one or two days in the washing machine with homemade laundry liquid and dry them on the washing line. Sometimes you might catch one of your cloths on a knife and it will unravel if you don’t mend it quickly. So try to catch your two yarn ends and knot them or do a quick darned repair. 


You don’t have to be too precious with dishcloths, so this is a good project for beginners. They don’t have to fit, they’re just a square and I knit mine while I watch cricket on TV. I make mistakes sometimes but it’s a dishcloth so I don’t fret about it, I fix my mistake and carry on. 

Here are some links I found to help all the beginners.







To all our beginners, have patience and remember that when you learn how to knit, and this is the first step, you'll be able to make clothing for your family, that will last for many years.  If you get stuck, put a comment in here or IG and one of us knitters will come along and help you start again.    Happy knitting everyone.  ๐Ÿงถ


Weekend Reading

18 December 2020

This will be my last blog post for a while. I'm having a break over Christmas and will come back when I'm rested and ready to go again. Next year will be my 14th year blogging about how we live. In the beginning, knowing I wanted to write about making beds, washing up, housework and budgeting, I wondered if my blog would last 14 weeks. But it's still here and so are you and for that, I'm truly grateful.


Happy holidays from Gracie!

My sister sent this photo during the week. The Down to Earth paperback in the window of a bookshop near where she lives.

My sincere thanks to everyone who bought my books this year. It's an important part of our income now and 10 per cent of what you pay for one of my books comes to us and helps us live our chosen life here. Thanks also to all the readers who continue to visit.  Without you, this blog would not be here.

My tomatoes were growing in the bush house last week. This is what happens when you don't stake them early enough and it rains for 12 hours.


Munstead Wood standard rose growing in the back garden.



This has been the strangest year I've ever lived through. We aren't locked down now but we have been in the past and I know it's difficult shopping for food, going to the doctor and taking children to and from school. Staying at home helped stop the spread of Covid here and although there's a spike in Covid in Sydney this morning, we have almost no restrictions where I live. Hanno and I are still cautious and stay at home most of the time. What frightens me is how quickly it spreads and, as Sydney is showing us now, it goes from zero to five to 17 in less than a day. And many people don't have symptoms when they're tested but they have the virus. 

If you're locked down, I get it, it's hard but so is this virus. Keep hanging on, stay at home, be safe and wear a mask when you go out. Keep hand sanitiser and masks in your car or if you usually walk or use public transport, always have a mask and hand sanitiser in your bag. 

Use the time at home to think about your life and how you want to go forward. I'm pretty sure things will change after this, I really hope our governments will lead us towards a sustainable, less commercial, pollution-free future where businesses think about the environment as well as profit margins. It's a good idea to contact your local member of parliament too and ask how they and their party intend to protect the environment while we recover from Covid. But it's up to us to make our own personal changes too and now is a very good time to think about what we can change and improve in our own spaces. I use the plural 'spaces' because as well as being at home, most of us are also in our workplace, schools, parents homes, library and various indoor venues and these spaces must be safe for you as well.

Cecile Brunner rose growing over the chook fence.

Here is the last 2020 reading list. There are some lovely links here and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 



So that's it for another year, my friends. Enjoy the holiday season, look after yourself, rest, think, play and come back ready for what might be another challenging year. Make the most of the time you have with your family in your safe haven.  

Hanno, Gracie and I send love to you across the miles. ๐Ÿ’œ