Home production of simple needs

27 May 2008
It's easy to get caught up in posts about producing food when we're trying to live a frugal and sustainable life but the truth of it is that there are other things we can be doing in our own homes that will help us move towards a simple life. Food and groceries are the easy ones because they are products we use everyday but other things can help up live well and remain green, and be doing it quietly in the background.

Above is a photo of part of our roof. Further down, unseen in this photo, is an unused satellite dish that we used to use for our pay TV, but what I have photographed is far more exciting than that - in this photo are our solar hot water unit, some skylights and a whirlybird. Australia has been making solar hot water systems for at least 30 years that I can remember. We have had solar hot water for 25 of those years. It's fairly cheap to install and free to run. Ours can be plugged into an electrical socket in case of a few days of cloudy weather, we rarely use that. When we know bad weather is coming, Hanno and I are very conservative with our water usage until the sun shines again. That way we have enough water for showering and we don't have to rely on electrical or gas to heat it. I think we've plugged into the grid with our system maybe twice since this unit was installed, which was about five or six years ago. This unit and our previous ones have all been Solarharts and we have never had a problem with any of them.

There are two skylights in the photo but we have three installed, they are in the kitchen, the spare bathroom and laundry room. We installed them because we needed more light in the house and I didn't want to have lights on all the time. Shortly after we came to live in our home we built verandahs front and back. We needed sheltered areas for drying clothes, storing bits and pieces and an area for the dogs to sit out of the sun and rain. But our main reason for adding the verandahs was to create cool air around the house. In the style of the old colonial houses, we wanted to create cross ventilation of cool air through our home and for this reason, our house is comfortable in all but the hottest summer weather. The air is cooled just outside the windows and doors, and by opening the windows and doors the cool air flows in one side of the house and out the other. There is more information about passive design here.

There is a price that is paid for that cooled air, the rooms are darker because of the verandahs. No sunlight reaches the windows and while that is fine, it makes the rooms inside darker. Enter the skylights. They give us good natural light every day and have paid for themselves over the 11 years they've been providing that light.

Whirlybirds are a great idea in any hot climate. We have two and they've made a big difference to the heat retained in the house during summer. True, there are days when nothing like this helps, but there are many days when it's hot outside but okay inside because the hot air is constantly escaping from the roof.

I've blogged about our rain collection tanks before. We have two tanks that hold a total of 15000 litres and that is the water we use to keep our vegetable garden going. The tanks silently collect rain water, with no help from us, and that water is stored until it's needed on the garden. If you can harvest some of your rain water it will be a great help in maintaining a sustainable vegetable garden.

So that is some of the hardware we're using here but how could I leave a post about home production of simple needs without mentioning sewing and knitting. The ability to sew and knit will help you keep your family clothed. Mending will help you look after the clothes you have and will keep them wearable for a much longer period. I think of the days I used to throw away clothes that needed mending as the 'dark ages'. That was when I had more money than sense and before I realised that by teaching myself a few simple skills I would be a much better custodian of my belongings, and in doing that would cut down dramatically on what I need to buy.

Simple living isn't all about cooking from scratch and stockpiling, it's a holistic approach to life that relies as much on your silent partners working away in the background, and your ability to reskill, to look after what you have and to produce as much as you can at home. Sometimes there is a price to pay to have the hardware installed, but often our lives are made easier and greener by just learning how to do something we couldn't do before.

I would be really interested in hearing about what you have at your home that helps you live simply. Do you have water tanks, knitting needles, a sewing machine, solar panels or a solar oven? How have you reksilled yourself? What do you know now that you didn't know last year? If I walked down your street today, what would make me know that yours was that one house where people were getting back to basics and living a simple life?


  1. With your water tanks, have you ever thought of having them plumbed into the house? Have them connected to the main pipe with two cut-over levers and you could use you tanks inside (pump and filter required). You could reduce the water use even more.

  2. Dear Rhonda,
    I have just been teaching my 10 year old son to sew. He is sewing an outfit for one of his little friends, she has exactly the same birthday as him and he wanted to bless her with something special. When he saw me sewing something for another little friend's birthday he wanted to know if he could do the same thing. I said sure why not, just because he is a boy doesn't mean that he can't learn to sew clothes, he has already learnt to cross stitch! He now has grand plans to make his own clothes once he has finished making this little out fit for his "girl". Thanks for the inspiration to continue to live simply and the encouragement to keep taking the small steps. Living simply is a lifetime journey for all the family.

    Kind Regards Michelle

  3. Hi Rhonda
    In our village there is no central supply of water or sewerage, so each household is responsible for its own systems. This makes you much more aware of water usage!
    Probably the most important skill I have acquired is spinning. It is much cheaper to buy a fleece, and you end up with a 100% woollen garment (as its currently 10 degrees C warmth is important)
    We have a good stockpile, and I make a point of marking everything with the date bought.

  4. I'm just in the process of getting my water tank installed.....and will have it plumbed into the toilet and washing machine...the rebate covers the cost of the pump. Although I own the house outright, money's a bit tight at the moment, but I'll be able to access some money early next year, then I'll install soalr power, so I may be able to trade credits with the energy company.

    I sew, recycle, shop op-shops, accept great hand-me-ons from friends who've gained weight, so I rarely buy new.

    The only thing I could think of to answer your question about anyone looking from the street.....maybe the one small light burning in the evenings,rather than a houseful. There's not much can be seen of my house from the street, except a small yard and the verandah.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean
    One of the areas of our home that helps with our journey on the road to a simple life is Tony's workshop. There he mends and makes so many things for our home.
    I myself have started to knit again and make all my greetings cards.
    Thanks for all the ideas and inspirations.


  6. If you were to walk down my street you would see windows open until it is too hot to stand having them open any longer, gardens galore, a clothesline, lots of fruit bushes and trees, and porch furniture for sitting in the shade. What you wouldn't see are things like no dishwasher, simple meals which seldom include more than 1/2 pound of meat for five people, a spinning wheel, knitting needles and crochet hooks, two sewing machines - treadle and electric, a knitting machine, canning supplies, bread making supplies, a stockpile, a food dryer, a pasta machine, fluorescent bulbs, an ultra-efficient gas fireplace which allows us to keep the furnace turned way down in the winter among other things. :)

    Thanks for reminding us though of what you do. It gives me things to aspire to!

  7. I love the solarhart system, but I don't think we get enough sun in our corner of the world. Anything that gets us closer to off the grid living is a good thing.

    I have learned to use cloth napkins exclusively since the swap. I love the feel of them, much much nicer than paper. Continue to grow and home can all we can from the garden and grow our own meat and eggs. Crocheting or knitting dishcloths, which I've done for years and years. Stockpiling and keeping a full pantry when things are on at a good price. All these little things add up!

    We are currently phasing out as much plastic as we can especially given the leeching into our food and water. Canada has prohibited certain plastic baby bottles. I'm very grateful for our home canned foods, as we are finding out that commercially canned food has a plastic lining that is known to leech.


  8. Hi Rhonda,
    from the street you would see water tanks which are our only water supply, town water runs past but we never connected to it, and solar hot water. Inside there are compact flourescent globes, food cooked from scratch, a sewing machine and knitting needles, lots of games and jigsaw puzzles for kids to play instead of turning on the TV and food stock piles.

    Being careful with what we purchase and consume also has another effect - we often only throw out a couple of small bags of garbage a week compared with the overflowing rubbish bins of neighbours.


  9. Hi Rhonda, I have been on the road to simplifying for a bit and last year we were finally able to move to our "dream home". A 200 yo post and beam , not everyones idea of a dream home:-) We are raising chickens and goats and I have gotten my herb garden going. No formal veggie garden as there is goat fencing to fix and some big projects on the land for my husband and there are just so many hours in a day! We moved about 45 minutes from family and most conveniences we had a mile away so gas usage is tough. We are conserving though and I have started really gauging where I need to go. I am a voracious knitter and I do love to sew also and hope to find more time for that. What we did do alot of this year was cook over the open hearth and on our tin reflector oven--nothing tastes so delicious! I can even bake and make bread in the beehive oven. I have some pictures of it on my blog if your interested. I am enjoying all your articles and am popping by as I can to read snippets:-) Thanks for all your wonderful information.

  10. Hi Rhonda,

    With your water tanks, do you have a problem w/mosquitos growing in the water and what would you do to prevent this? We are thinking of collecting rain water to water our garden.
    From the street you would see my clothes line and my car sitting in the driveway not going anywhere. :-)

  11. from the road you would see, our sheep and lambs, that keeps us and some of our family in meat (the other kids live interstate so can't help feed them), our cows whose calves we sell to help offset expenses e.g. rates or to use the proceeds of to visit the interstate children,
    from the lane that goes past the back of our home you would see, the solarhart hot water system on our roof, this is also plumbed into our slow combustion stove so that we do not need electricity to boost hotwater, you would see the chimmney tops of our slow combustion stove, and our slow combustions heater, both these burn for about 5/6 months of the year and most of the time they are closed up, because you can't see all the insulation that is in our walls and ceilings.
    you will see the 2 concrete tanks and 1 steel tanks, totaling about 64,000 litres of rainwater that we have connected to the house. Our loo is connected to both tank water and spring water so can interchange this.
    you would see our wood piles that we have collected over the years, you would see our chook yards and sheds, chickens give us eggs and meat, they eat our food scraps and give us manure for the garden.
    You would see the sheep and cattle yards which we use for looking after animal husbandry etc.
    you would see the silos for storage of oats for the sheep and cattle and wheat for the chooks.
    You would see DH's workshop which he uses to house all his tools, as he is the major builder/repairer. you would see the tractor etc.
    what you wouldn't see as well as the heaters and insulation, would be my sewing machine, overlocker, huge stash of sewing and craft supplies, computer, kitchen supplies and tools, pantry , freezers etc.
    I knit, sew, for us and for gifts and for pleasure.
    we grown a lot of our own food, freeze our meat, preserve excess tomatoes etc, dry some herbs etc.
    Making a list like this reinstates the values of simple living and doing things for our selves and families and friends, It also shows me our far we have come along the road, hopefully the house will be finished and the mortgage paid in the next 4 years when DH is due to retire.
    Having rambled on and waffled on one of the best things that has come out of this lifestyle, whiech have have basically lived for 38 years is that most of our children are coping some of the things that we do.

  12. As I work in the neighbourhood grocery store I have been privy to prices even if it is stuff that I don't buy, unfortunatly when it's on things like flour and rice (3times the price this year on the flour and twice on the rice) it really hurts those of us trying to conserve. Most of the people I work with think I'm a bit nutty but I've come to terms with it. I've come to terms with that, we are doing what we can,
    God bless all who are trying to help the world with all they can do.

  13. Since I live in an apartment I don't have control over such things as installing solar, which I would love but... I think I try to make a difference in my own way such as watching my water use, heat use and one of the big ones I think, considering if I really NEED something BEFORE I buy it. For example there are big things like my food dehydrator. I thought about that one for months, literally. I know you can dehydrate in the oven but my thinking was since I don't have a garden my main cheap veggie purchases are seasonal in the summer. Not a time I want to run the oven a lot. I eat a lot of salads and cool foods then so it would be extra energy. The dehydrator I got runs on minimal electricity. Since I don't have much freezer space I felt this makes good sense for me. I can slice up my veggies, dehydrate and then store them in glass jars for the up coming winter. I can then make whatever I want with them by simply reconstituting with the added bonus of fresh good food instead of who knows what preservatives in those store canned items. Not to mention home made soup/stew/etc has what veggies I want in it instead of whatever they throw in the can. Needless to say the flavor is superior. I also think the little things matter such as sponges vs. dish cloths as has been talked about here. Often it's the little things like a packet of sponges that sucks up your money. Sure people think of the big purchase but who is keeping track of $1 here and there? Not to many and I didn't for a long time either. Now instead I can make a dishcloth from left over scrap yarn from other projects and I'm using up something that might of sat in a drawer. I feel it's more efficient use of my previous yarn purchase and these are just 2 examples. I'm really better with a crochet hook but I know a lot here are more toward knitting so on that note I will add a link for those that want it to start or add to your dish cloth supply. Peace and happy Memorial day to my fellow USA readers. Also thanks to Rhonda for another great post to keep us thinking.

    Knitted Dish Scrubbie

  14. Rhonda,

    rain water tanks....even our dog yard has it's own water tank made from a recycled 40 gallon drum discarded by a local food manufacturer.
    knitting and crochet needles
    sewing machine
    recycled glass food storage jars
    home brew kit
    solar hot water booster
    whirlygigs x 3
    double glazing
    thermal blinds
    knitted jumpers
    green homemade cleaners
    preloved clothing
    homemade jams and preserves
    grey water recycling from bath and shower for our fruit trees
    ..the latest thing will be the surrender of our large'ish family car for something smaller and less comfortable, that runs on the smell of an oily rag. The squish factor will be made up for by the halving of fuel consumption.
    * most important in choosing the simple path is the attitude that just because others are doing nothing to reduce their load on the world, is not an excuse for personal excess.
    There's sure to be other things too but that's a quick list. Lisa x

  15. Rhonda
    My family and I have taken a path to living simple due to an accident that caused my husband to be permanently disabled.

    On this path we bought a very run down farm(in December) and have made it a goal to fix it up at the low cost no cost mentality. We have currently only spent around 600 US dollars. This also included replacing the heat unit with woodstove.

    We have put in three chicken coops and only purchased 6 2x4's. We use our local freecycle and a friend that is in the construction business...he gives us all the throwaway leftovers...chicken fencing that is used for Stucco, remnant 2x4, shingles, tin siding, plywood, and on and on. It has been such a blessing to us.

    Another area that we have been recycling is in campaign signs. My husband works in the court system so a judge that no longer will be running for re-election gave us all his plywood campaign signs. Nearly 60 4x6 pieces of plywood and 60 t post(for fencing). After the word got out in our small city another person who is no longer running gave us his old signs too. It is funny but there is so much available to re-use and refashion.

    I must confess that I have painted the outbuildings barn red to make them all uniform, but I love the effect.

    Oh and to acquire free range, organic fed animals? My children and I have spent sweat equity to earn them. We will be painting two sheds and a water storage unit for 2 ewes and a ram. One must really work slowly and realize that the box that we all have been placed in, is really not the only way.

    By the end of the year, we will be totally self sufficient on our eggs, chicken meat, turkey, duck, and goose. We will have goat milk next spring, and wool by the beginning of the year also. It has been quick in coming but long in my mind to live and use all to the very capacity that it offers.

    Sorry to run on...

  16. Currenly, driving past our house, you'd see our giant (23,000 litre) water tank, and anther one waiting to be installed on our new house. Our solar hot water panels are on the roof (not connected yet either, plumber is SUPPOSED to be here today, but isn't!). We will be running our entire house off rainwater, and only using the town supply as a backup (hopefully we'll never need it, although if it doesn't rain soon...)

    I love the idea of skylights, as I was wondering how to keep our house light without having to turn lights on all the time, I will look into those, and whirlybirds (we currently have 3 on our shed, and they do make a huge difference, currently blocked off for winter though) as soon as we're settled in. Hopefully, one day, you'll see a grid connected solar power system, but that is a fair way down the track.

    If you came inside, you'd see my spinning wheel and the socks I'm currently knitting, clothes put aside for mending, blankets hung on the shed walls in an attempt to keep the warmth in, a water saving washing machine, and most things switched off at the wall.

  17. What a GREAT post~it causes me to think!
    From the street you wouldn't see much! We don't have a TV,so no attena or dish on side of house. You would see open windows instead of AC. As with the other posts, it's what you don't see inside that makes the difference...simple meals for my family of 6, timed & quick showers, hang dry some clothes, a sewing machine,cloth napkins,clothes from garage sales/thrift stores & garden pots on deck.This list is a good reminder to my self when I don't think we are doing a good job at simplifying. Thanks Rhonda!
    Maria M

  18. If you walked down my street you will see, a heavily mulched garden, to keep the soil moist; you will see a herb garden full to the brim with kitchen herbs; you will see rain barrels right under the gutters; you will see a small pond to keep the frogs and birds happy; you will see clothes drying in the drying racks; you will see a vegetable garden ready for transplants; you will see the windows without a/c, instead they will be open to catch as much morning breeze as possible and you will smell freshly baked bread, a chicken been cooked slowly in the crockpot... You will hear the treadle machine going under busy feet...definately, a family enjoying life simply.

    Again, your words are encouraging, inspiring. Thank you for your writings Rhonda Jean.


    Maria in PA

  19. We started a big compost pile a couple years ago. We'd waited for awhile to purchase a "real" composter but then thought that silly when we had room to just start a real PILE beside our back shed. So far it has worked very well.

    Even with everything we are trying to do, I think the best thing I did recently was go through the entire house and garage and declutter, getting rid of "stuff" we had been holding onto for either emotional reasons or because we thought we would use it someday.

    One of our neighbors has a lot of money and sometimes I think he is not too fond of our old cars but they are paid for! Hubby is careful with maintenance to keep them going. (We had only one car until we were recently given a second since our youngest son is commuting to college.)

    Great ideas, as usual.

  20. By the way, we just returned from a vacation in Amish Country (USA). It was very interesting to see what their farms looked like from the road since they do not use electricity, drive cars, etc.!

    I kept thinking how their life is not as affected by the price of gas and such as the "English" (what they call the non-Amish).

  21. Food does seem the most immediate area of saving and simplifying doesn't it? I too tend to focus on this as it is part of the daily rhythm, and something that gives our family pleasure and togetherness even when other things are difficult.

    But there are other areas we are working on and planning - keeping water use and garbage low is ongoing; sewing our own clothes and household goods; creating a house and garden that are self-sustaining and low energy.

    We are working over quotes for solar hotwater and grid-connect power systems at present. Later this week I will stick bubble wrap on the unused windows for winter insulation, and soon I hope to have gathered more ideas for reducing heat loss through our windows.

    But from the street our house looks like any other. Rainwater tanks, fruit trees and vege patches are hidden behind. Future solar panels will be on the back roof as well. I've thought of expanding tree plantings and a mandala-style garden onto the large front lawn - lovely to have plans :)

  22. Hello Rhonda,

    I'm a long time reader, but I'm finally commenting lol. Not sure why it's taken me so long. I have long been a thrifty person, a taker of other people's cast offs. For as long as I can remember, we have composted and gardened. Currently due to difficult circumstances, these things have been put aside, but will be resumed as soon as possible.

    I have been using your recipe for Laundry liquid for a couple of months now and no complaints from the family, or the planet ;). I have never owned a clothes dryer, and love the smell of fresh laundry coming in off the line. I have also just knitted my first dishcloth, much to DH's bemusment. Baby steps, right?

    I did want to ask you about dishwashing, and soap, and liquid soap. I am afraid that I don't like soap in bar form very much... but I found a recipe for turning a soap bar into liquid soap. Do you think this would be a suitable substitute for dish liquid? I mean, it's all soap, right? And as soon as I get some time, I'll be making my own soap using your recipe too.

    Ok, for a first comment, it's a bit long. Sorry about that. Now I'll never be quiet around here you realise.... :)



  23. You're right - it's Kim!

    I'm happy to have found you and am thoroughly enjoying reading through your posts. I needed motivation and you've provided it!

  24. Hi Rhonda,
    Many thanks for the info of where to buy flour - I live right near Alderley so will go there!

    I loved reading everyone's comments as well as your post. You are all so inspiring to me - you have exposed me to a whole new way of thinking. As I am very new to a frugal, green thinking lifestyle I have to admit I am nowhere near everyone here... But what I am doing so far is receycling, mending, stockpiling, planning a vegie garden & compost, knitting a few things so far, making gifts rather than buying them, tracking expenses & actively looking for ways to cut them, baking & planning meals (I used to rely heavily on convenience food), looking for ways to conserve energy, switched to 20% green power & will look into increasing this, shopping in the second hand store, reducing use of my car. We are renting so i can't consider solar heating but we do have a water tank so that will come in handy when we get the garden up and running.
    Rabbit, thankyou for the info on how to make the dishcloth, looks easy!

  25. All you can see from the ground outside our third floor apartment is the top of a 200L water tank which we fill by bucket with waste water and which goes onto our little potted vegie garden. Inside however you will find all natural cleaning products, homemade or 'earth' brand as well as my new very first sewing machine, a canning kit and jars, pasta maker and a bokashi bin. Oh yeah, and a pile as tall as myself of books on cooking, preserving, self sufficiency, permaculture, organic gardening, quilting etc. We are lacking somewhat in both space and money, (I wonder if all the books has something to do with that?) but making up for it in enthusiasm!

  26. Hi Rhonda Jean
    Ok Our house...
    If early morning visit you may see a box of pizza - a friend drops them at our gate for the animals.

    You will be greeted with electric fences everywhere, our lawn mowers the sheep eat every bit of grass. You'll have to watch your step sometimes if I haven't done the manure run. Their manure I make into sheep poop tea for the vege garden & the compost.

    You'll hear the security system - a mastiff & goose. You'll also hear cats screaming a few are on call... we breed pedigree cats for a hobby & any profit pays to keep all our pets.

    In bottom paddock are the pet chickens - pets I say cause they are off the lay a tad too chilly for them to think about giving us an egg.

    Top paddock ewes fattening up ready to give us some lambs - boys go in the pot girls we keep. The wool pays for the shearing. One day I will get into spinning.

    Pine trees drop pine cones for us & DH usually drops a tree or two for our firewood.

    We have a big barn where DH has his handy tools - he can fix anything, Including changing oil in cars - much cheaper buying oil in bulk than at garage.

    A large chest freezer holds meat off paddock, beef from friends home kill & any meat on sale at shops.

    A large second pantry is full to the brim from stockpiling weekly on sales. I enjoy sitting with a cuppa tea & working out the shops sales. This has been one of the best things I've ever done - we hardly ever have to pay full price.

    Inside is sewing machine for quilts. I like making scrap quilts.

    Kitchen has preserves from summer garden, all our meals are baked from scratch. Breadmaker is well used & I pop a loaf in at night - mmm yummy smells to wake up to.

    If early evening curtains are drawn to keep warmth in, House heated by wood fire. Clothes are hung on clothes horse in front of fire - don't need a dryer.

    School books are on table from home schooling. Piles of to sell or sold from decluttering - doing quite nicely selling on trade me

    I enjoy reading everyone's comments very much on your blog. off now visiting all the new bloggers who have left you a comment.

  27. We don't have enough sunshine in this part of the uk to merit solar water tanks - but I think they are an excellent addition. I have always sewn, and am looking to improve on the knitting! I am starting small with dish cloths. Keep up the good work Rhonda.

  28. Hello Rhonda,

    If you see our house:
    Dubble glazed windows,
    Just one car (i do shopping on my bike and let it bring home from the biologic farm)
    A natural garden with plants, some herbs, fruittrees and place for birds etc (not the fashionable gardens you see here a lot with just bricks and only a little green so you have less work).
    Curtains open so all sunlight can come in to warm our living room.
    Because you can see our livingroom from outside you can see our furniture which i still love and most of it is old or bought when we married (21 years ago)
    No fashionable things, just the things i care about.

    In our home you see
    Clothes drying in the ceiling
    Buckets in the shower to store the first cold water.
    A knitted patchwork bedspread on the couch made by my mother and me for a cold evening.
    Warm waterjars in bed.
    No high tech tv, stereo etc.

    We want to move and in our next home we will invest in technics like solarcells. In Holland these things are very expensive so we wait till then.

    I make a lot at home such as breads, cakes, jams, syrup, homemade vegan meals, knitting and reparing clothes. I don't where fashion.
    I buy mostly organic and thanks to your blog yesterday i do more stockpiling.

    I have two sons and i see they like the way we live in our family and they also want to have a simle living. Perhaps i even spoiled them, they don't like storebought bread anymore ;)
    And my eldest son is learning all those housekeeping things on the simple living way such as cooking from scratch, repair clothes, making clean withouth chemical poison. As you can see, i'm a lucky woman :)

    Annikka from Holland

  29. If you look at my house in about two weeks you will see a solar hot water system...yeah!!
    Currently you would see a house set on a north facing slope with a northerly aspect, designed with it's living areas facing to the north, and needing little heating, even during recent cold weather equal to normal winter weather.

    There are plans for more, a water tank for the garden, a skylight for the dining doom and kitchen which are south facing, removal of the majority of the grass and replacing it with vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

    One thing you do see a lot is my car, because I can walk to work and the shops now so rarely drive there, and live close to family and we often share a car ride to church and other events.

  30. hmm if you were looking at my house from the street the first thing you would notice is all the trees i have planted- lots of native, bird friendly trees. then you would see the heavy mulches i use on all my gardens. you would also see our car sitting in the driveway because i try not to use it much. you would also see the kids soccer balls and other toys which they use instead of watching tv and playing computer games. What you wont see is my sewing machine, overlocker, bottomless mending pile (such is life with 4 kids, knitting needles, crochet hooks and latchook rug im making. you wont see the green homemade cleaners i use or the homemade bread, jams and preserves, the dinners cooked from scratch and the tasty treats for lunchboxes and afternoon tea. you may see the clotheslines brimming with secondhand/ handmedown or handsewn clothing drying in the sun- we sold our dryer ages ago. we rent so solar power isnt an option- we have 44 gal drums under the downpipes to catch water for the gardens. until yesterday we had 6 hens- last night they became fox food. you wont see my big vege and herb garden as its outside in the pool enclosure. you may see things on my front porch that i have sold on ebay or given away on freecycle because we are trying to downsize- and live with and NEED less.

  31. Hi Rhonda
    If you were standing outside my house you wouldn't be able to see anything of what goes on inside. We live in a terraced house in the UK so our house looks the same as next doors. However, we are trying to live more simply by:

    growing our own veg on an allotment nearby;

    making my own preserves;

    knitting socks, gloves, hats, jumpers etc;

    crocheting (just started);

    sewing - so far cotton grocery bags;

    darning, mending, patching up clothes etc;

    walking or cycling;

    phasing out plastic everywhere we can;



    treasure hunting (rummaging in skips);

    enjoying simple things with my family and just being happy each day with the little things in life.

    Best wishes

  32. I love the original post and all the comments!
    What you would see from the street is our apartment, nothing much on the front. The windows are open, AC is not common here. The back would perhaps be more interesting, there you would see my laundry drying, including the cloth diapers my son wears. There are many pots with vegetables and herbs growing right now.
    Inside we have our heating (it runs on gas) off from May 1st until Sept 1st. We bought the most energy wise fridge we could find last year and it saved us 100 euros on our annual electricity bill.
    I sew and crochet, and there are always multiple things I make when the oven is on for something. A lasagna, but also cookies, for example.
    We really committed to not put things on stand-by anymore, and unplug chargers as soon as it's done. Last year we also changed all our lightbulbs and now only use the good ones (I forgot what they're called, sorry). We only have two lights in the living room.
    We keep leftovers in the fridge to eat or give to our dog, it's really a fun challenge to not waste anything. I got rid of almost all of the chemical stuff, we love our baking soda!
    You mentioned sweeping the floors in a post a few times and I've been doing more of that too. No need to get the vacuum out every time and save energy!
    I guess there's more, but I have to cut it short now. Love all these stories!
    Christine from the NL

  33. We live in a housing complex and I think one of the greatest things the local council could do would be to install solar panels on our roof. We have a district heating system, which is good, be we do not use as much heat as some others in the complex. (we have one chap who goes round swutching the radiators on after I switch them off, heat blasting out 24 hours of the day)

    One of the thngs we could do was to have a water meter installed, we pay £8 a month for water £96 a year against almost £300 if we did not have the meter.

    One thing I do have difficulty with is the amount of electricity we use, I have tried so hard to reduce it, our apartment is all electric........I bought a combination microwave which is much cheaper to run that the oven on the stove we have and I switch the hot plates off about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, they are solid plates and hold their heat for quite a while, certainly long enough to finish cooking whats on them.

    One thing I do want to do in the next couple of years is replace my curtains and line the new ones with
    thermal blackout linings, keep the heat in during the winter and out in the summer, they will also help with the light pollution we suffer from.

    I do sew but have not made my own clothes for some years, I am rather a funny shape now and find it difficult to fit things properly, I might see if there is a class at our local education centre for fitting etc.....and start again. In the mean time I haunt our charity shops for pre-loved clothes.......

  34. Hi Rhonda,

    A few weeks ago you had an item about cheap homecooked meals. A lot of women react on that and i have now new cheap recipes and i'm very glad for that.
    Can we do that with cookies or cakes?
    I came to this idea because so much woman here are baking cakes and cookies.


  35. Our house doesn't look much different from the front, except that we probably have the weediest garden in the street! The front faces south -- the Solarhart is on the north side, of course, and that's where the back yard is too. I deliberately chose a house with minimal windows to east and west, and a nice sunny back yard. We are planning a retrofit to make it warmer in winter; it's lovely in summer. The extension to the north will give us a sunny living area and I'm planning rainwater tanks and a greywater system. I'm talking to the architect again tomorrow...

  36. You would recognise our house at this time of year because our beautiful big north-facing living room window, which faces the street, is full of clothes airers festooned with cloth nappies :-)

  37. Driving down the road you would see 2 things.... a chicken coop! Our first round of chickens.... oh the eggs to come. and our green house that houses the aquaponincs system!


  38. If you went past my house you would see:
    1. sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, 2 dogs, and a cat (if she is sitting in the window) all eat a natural diet and provide us everything from eggs to wool to weed and lawn control to alerts when "danger" is near.

    2. an orchard, a huge herb garden, a strawberry patch, a 3000 square foot garden. A ton of canning jars,2 canners, a dehydrator.

    3. buckets used to catch water (still no collection tank. Maybe next year

    4. a woodpile that slowly grows until November then slowly disappears until May (when the whole process repeats itself)

    5. spinning wheel, carders, new pantry room, large "simple life" library, knitting needles, crochet hooks, hand sewing, mending, grain grinders, grain flakers, terra cotta bread bakers

    5. people so tired they collapse into bed at 9:30 p.m.


  39. You would see:

    a 400-year old farmhouse across the road from a field of grazing sheep

    3 water butts

    5 veg beds and a greenhouse on 1/2 acre

    one renegade pheasant stealing food from the feeders

    plum tree, apple trees

    compost heap

    solar panels for hot water

    one X-type jag diesel, which gets 45 mpg

    one bicycle for the wife to go to the train station

    inside: woodstove which is our central heating

    bread making supplies

    stockpile of food--grains, flour, canned goods

    a wife fiddling with a pressure-cooker trying to figure out how to can food, LOL

    most furniture bought at junk shops and refinished

    clothes from ebay and charity shops

    lots and lots of books



  40. Lovely post, and great comments to read. If you looked at my house you'd probably think it could do with smartening up! I live in a terraced cottage, so nothing obvious from outside except compost heap and veg patch in the making.Water butts are coming soon. Otherwise :-

    I'm new to knitting, and am converted

    Sewing machine - totes etc from repurposed fabric

    Cook from scratch, make own bread

    Lots of jars for homemade preserves etc

    Cupboard full of homemade cleaning supplies

    Some rescued and second-hand furniture

    A full toolkit for repairs and diy!

    No tv, ancient stereo


    changed my car recently to more efficient one with lower running costs

    cutting mat/scalpel blades for card and notebook making from paper scraps and old magazines

    a very full library of books

    energy efficient lightbulbs

    washing line outside for drying and racks inside, along with energy efficient washing machine

    lots of pairs of very patched jeans!

    darned socks

    Think that's about it!

    Best wishes,

  41. Hi Rhonda. I'm a reader from the U.S. What is a whirlybird? You mention them in this post but I am not familiar with the term. - Another Rhonda from Vermont

  42. I just loved reading all these comments. I am heartened by everything that is going on out there.

    Andrew, we will probably plumb the rainwater into the bathroom at some point. At the moment we need it all for the garden and chooks.

    Hi Kim!

    Rhonda, here is a link to the whirlbirds: http://www.edmonds.com.au/html/products/superwhirly_turbine_ventilator_300mm.htm

  43. Hi Rhonda,

    If you came past our house you would see a whole lot of old weather boards on the ground, replacement boards on the house and a bit of insulation poking out the bottom were we still need to replace a few boards (this afternoons job!). We "rent" from Pete's parents but to make our life better we have insulated the previously uninsulated house meaning we use less heating. We subscribe to wind power, use energy efficient lighting, have a bunch of toys and books from the local toy library and library, gifted fleeces drying from scouring, roaming chooks, a clothes line full of cloth nappies, homemade wipes and liners and hand me down clothing! On most afternoons you'd probably see two cheeky babes covered in dirt "helping" mum in the garden or dad work on the house. You'd see us making the best of our rental situation and loving life!

    Thanks for the inspiration as usual.




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