Slow cooking and slow living

20 August 2010
I woke, as usual, just before 4, showered, dressed and crept out to the kitchen. There is baking to be done - some cakes for a fundraiser this morning. I'm making the whole orange cake as little bundt cakes and muffins. Alice is sleeping, nothing else is happening. I am alone in the world. I get the cakes in the oven and turn on the computer. Outside, rain is falling. It's the beginning of another day, different to all the yesterdays, yet similar.

I like to get a lot of my tasks finished by 9am. I never hurry what I'm doing; I'm not in a hurry. If I'm not finished by 9, it will be soon after; I rarely know what the time is anyway. I write my blog before anything else - except today when I baked first. If I write first, it helps me think about what I'll do during the day, it focuses me on my simple life and it connects me with you. Although I work alone, I prefer the Amish ideal of collective work - that many hands make it light, and although I don't have your hands to help with my work, nor do mine help with yours, the mere idea of you being there draws me into my tasks and reassures me that we are part of something bigger. Once the blog is done, my apron is on and work begins.

Pre-9am work is feeding the animals, letting the chooks out, checking the garden, breakfast, deciding on what we'll eat for dinner and defrosting, if necessary. After breakfast I make bread and get it on to rise, wash up by hand, clean down the benchtops and sweep the floors. I make the bed, if the bed linen needs changing, it's washed and hung outside to dry. Luckily I can do that if it's dry or raining because Hanno made me a very nifty sheltered clothes line last year. Sometimes the bathroom needs cleaning, or soap or cleansers need to be made, or the verandahs need sweeping, sometimes I dust, vacuum or wash the floors. I have no strict routine to work to. I do things when the need arises and when I feel like doing it. It all gets done eventually with no stress, and no guilt if I leave it for another day. I am my own boss here and I'm very good to the staff.

When you bring a celery head in from the garden, or buy one, wash it, take of the top (to use in soups and stews) and wrap it in aluminium foil. If you wrap it when it's moist, with no holes in the foil, you will have crisp celery for at least 6-8 weeks.

After 9ish, I write, breaking for lunch around noon and sometimes a nap in my big soft chair. What a luxury that is, to sit and relax enough to feel sleepy, then to drift off to sleep. I had never liked sleeping during the day but but now it's deliciously self indulgent and although I don't nap every day, I feel refreshed and that I'm taking care of myself when I do. I write again in the afternoon, or at least work on the computer answering emails, visiting the forum and checking out the co-op.

Sometimes, like yesterday, I have food slow cooking throughout the day and the aroma of that fills the house with the promise of a table laden with delicious food later in the day. There will usually only be the two of us eating simple food here at dinner time, but we feel like we have feasted. Yesterday's feast was a low fat and high fibre vegetable, beef and barley soup, made better because many of the vegetables and herbs came from our backyard. All of the rest of it was in the freezer and stockpile, so there was no trip to the shops for ingredients. If I didn't have something, like parsnips, I substituted something else, like home grown turnips. I used onions, a potato, celery, carrots, dried green peas (because I noticed half a cup full in the fridge), silverbeet, turnips, parsley and thyme. The stock was made from scratch, using beef bones, in the morning - giving me the slow cooking all day, and I added ½ kilo/1 pound of gravy beef when I added the barley. Just before serving, I made little herb dumplings. It was delicious. I made about five litres/quarts of soup for less than ten dollars and I have enough to serve for dinner over the weekend as well as some for the freezer for next week or the week after.

Dessert, after our bowl of soup, was homemade egg custard with stewed apples. I peeled two granny smith apples and sliced them finely, sprinkled them with a little butter, sugar and cinnamon and microwaved them for four minutes. In the meantime I made a custard using four eggs from our chooks - the yolks are a deep golden colour so the custard looks like a golden sun sitting in the bowl. Custards are simple - just whisk the eggs with one tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of good vanilla. In another container, heat 2 cups of milk to just under boiling point. Pour the hot milk into the eggs and whisk together. Place this mixture in a bowl, sitting in a container of boiling water in the oven. Slow cook on 160C/320F for about 25-30 minutes. Take it out of the oven when it is firm but still wobbly in the middle. If it overcooks and hardens, it changes consistency. It's still edible but won't be as lovely as a softer custard.

There is no escaping it - slow cooked food nourishes you throughout the day simply by the thought and smell of it, and then does its real magic when you place it on the table. This is not fancy, it's simple food that is fresh and wholesome and will do you more good than any pre-prepared food you'll buy. Food from your own hands, there is nothing like it. When you invite Hanno and I to dinner at your home, we'd be more than happy to sit down to a meal of homemade soup and a simple dessert or fruit. This is our kind of food - simple, economical, homegrown, or at least fresh, and straight from the heart.

I am slowly getting through the long list of emails waiting for replies, don't give up on me. Thank you for your visits this week and for voting for me at Kidspot. I will be doing some grandma knitting over the weekend :- ). I hope your weekend is gentle and stress-free.


  1. I love to have my work done in the morning too, before everyone else gets up so I can be more available to them.

    I also love slow cooked food. Yesterday I had a roast in the crockpot and we could smell it all day. We were chomping at the bit by suppertime, it smelled so good, lol! I was hesitant to buy a good roast but DH was suggesting McDonalds for supper and this roast was enough for several meals for less money, including veggies and a lot healthier and enjoyable! I don't think people think about that as they stream through fast food restaurants (McDonalds is in my backyard so I hear it non-stop, 24 hours a day!).

  2. Your soup looks so good! I love the idea of your morning plan. It makes me wish I wasn't a night owl:)

  3. Excellent post, love this line:

    "This is not fancy, it's simple food, that is fresh and wholesome and will do you more good than any pre-prepared food you'll buy. Food from your own hands, there is nothing like it."


  4. What time do you go to bed at night??

    Your last sentence about "grandma knitting" really made me smile! :) Congratulations!

    We are just about to sit down to a meal of homemade potato soup with dumplings. It's been slow cooking all afternoon.

    Take care,
    Melanie in Canada

  5. mmm the custard looks lovely! I am exactly the same with my 'workplace' do it when the need arises but dont stress if it doesnt get done today because an afternoon nap, or at least a relax, is of upmost importance ;)

  6. I do love reading about your days Rhonda! And that custard sounds lovely - I've actually never had home made egg custard before, must rectify that very soon.

    One thing just struck me as I was reading your post. I like getting up early ish, but because of the way things are set up here at the minute, I go to bed later and get up a bit later, usually between 8 and 9. I potter about, get a few things done, and am usually frustrated that I haven't started writing until after lunch.

    I read about you having lots of things done by 9am, and felt *very briefly* a little inadequate (I know I shouldn't!) - before I realised that at 9am you've actually been up for five hours already!!

    I haven't quite got the first five hours of my day to potter, but I'm certainly going to make an effort not to feel bad if I have a couple of hours pottering before starting work.

    Thanks, enjoy your day! I'm off to bed :)


  7. Morning person here, but routine opposite. Animals attended to first then us humans. My slow cooker is my best friend. If I know something is on the go a particular day I slow cook. It is a wonderful tool.Lovely soups.

  8. Do slow cookers use lots of energy as they are on for a sustained period of time? I plan to make a haybox come autumn (next week, judging by the turn in the weather here!) for similar ends.

    Many congrats, Granny in waiting! I hope you enjoy your knitting, baby clothes are so satisfying to knit. After years of struggling to progress past garter stitch, I finally learnt to knit when I was pregnant with my son. That was just two years ago and soon I will be casting on a winter jumper for him.

    Reading your blog has helped me no end since our son was born and I hope that the Kidspot nomination brings your blog to the attention of even more people who can benefit from your wisdom (and delicious recipes).

  9. You blog is just wonderful!
    Looking forward to catching up with your older posts.
    Thanks for the celery hint - I love growing it, too.

  10. Hello Rhonda, I don't leave comments very often but I want you to know that I read your blog every day, without fail. I do love it. I particularly love you me and kitchen sink series, what a lovely insight into people's lives.
    I will not be able to read your daily posts though for the next 5/6 weeks as I leave today for Italy etc. I am very excited it is the culmination of years of dreaming and months of planning. So I hope you keep well and productive until I get back.

  11. I love egg custard! Yours looks so yummy -might have to make one this weekend! My 14 yr old daughter makes a great apple crumble too!:-)

  12. Oh, my, I wasn't even hungry until I started reading your blog today and looking at all those tantalizing photographs. Now, I think I'd better figure out what's for supper.

  13. Thanks for a lovely week Rhonda. Lots of things to ponder as we head into the week end. I'm really trying to embrace the simple life. It's not that I'm not always busy as there are so many things I want to accomplish, but to do it at an easy pace is delightful and to know that if it isn't done today then there's always tomorrow. My aim is to have my home clutter free. A place for everything and every thing in its place without being fanatical. I just love neat and tidy.
    See you next week on the computer.

    Blessings Gail

  14. i'm 27 and just beginning setting up a little home for my partner and I, and although I can't see myself waking up at 4am, I feel completely inspired by your beautiful post and business that you work through in your day. What a lovely post and an insight into the beautiful everyday.

    Thanks a lot.


  15. Getting up at 4am isn't in me...yet. I am however awake most days by 6:30am. I do need a much more productive morning schedule. Time to work on that starting tomorrow or maybe the next day. LOL.

    The need to rush still hasn't left me but I am slowing down. I can feel it and so can my family.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about every day. The advice and quite conversation always finds a way to ground me. Have fun knitting baby stuff.

  16. I have always been a morning person and I have learned in the past months that waking up earlier than others in the house really helps me get a better grasp on the day. So every morning I'm up at 5am and sometimes I just have some tea and watch the sun come up and others I get stuff done and breakfast made. I find that little bit of time by myself to be completely wonderful and I would not trade it for an extra hour of sleep ever.
    I too found your account of your day to have a calming effect and it made me smile. Thanks!

  17. Hi Rhonda...You're an early riser like my father. He's always up at 4 a.m. I asked him once why he does this. He likes to read his Bible, pray etc...when it's quiet. Now me on the other hand, I like to get up around 7 a.m. I just recently started working again, after being layed off since February...and now I get up at 5 a.m. It's not always easy...but I do love it, because I get most things done the earlier half of the day. The latter half I can enjoy for myself...knitting, crochet, etc!!!
    The barley soup with the veggies and beef...looks really good. Do you have a link to the recipe?

    Oh congrats on the new little one :) :) :) That's so exciting!!! You'll have loads of fun knitting things for that precious baby!!!! Have a great weekend. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  18. Hi Ronda,

    I often do not react, and read your blog every day.
    Like you helps you feel connected with other women so I feel it too.
    No out of bed as early as you, I do not often, but I love the morning.
    I'm in my early years worked for a couple whose husband is so early in the morning got up and always cared for the animals.
    He also went to bed very early evening, it said, the big light goes out, so it's bedtime. People lived once more in the light of day I think.
    Warm regards, Margaret

  19. I enjoyed this post very much, and the pictures of your delicious meals - even though it's early in the a.m. here, I'm ready for dinner! I'm also a Blue Willow girl, and I love your dishes!

  20. I am not a morning person! Occasionally I'm awake at 4am (toddler related), but I always intend to go back to sleep again :-) I do like a slower start to the day, though - I find that making porridge in the morning on the stovetop sets up an approach to the day that is far more pleasant than the rush-rush alternative!

    One of the things I love about winter is the possibility of slow cooking. It doesn't always come together with the unpredictability of a toddler, but when it does, it's rather lovely!

  21. Thanks for sharing, especially the egg custard recipe. I have loads of eggs to use since my hens started laying this season and you have reminded me about custard! Best wishes.

  22. I had never thought of making custard with apples:) We have a family favorite...custard pie, that I adore! Will have to give the apples a try next time.

    I agree with you about the slow, steady pace, and enjoying your work. Although I don't usually get up as early as you unless the cat and dog decide I should, I love those days when I don't make a "to do" list, and just work my way around the house, doing what needs to be done. I usually get more done on those days lol.

  23. Sounds like a lovely day! I get up early too- but an hour later than you. It's so nice to accomplish everything so early.
    Your custard looks very mouth is watering.
    The slow cooker is so handy when the preserving/gardening season is on (all summer), and it doesn't heat up the house like the oven does. Squash soup is especially good in it.
    I love knitting at night time as well! DH usually wants to watch something, but it doesn't hold my interest so I always have something nearby to pick up. Loved reading your post this morning! Hope you have a beautiful day.
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  24. Hi Rhonda , I have just enjoyed watching this video on you tube and also thought that you and other readers would enjoy it as well. What she says about working with your hands really spoke to me. If you get a chance I highly recommend it.!

  25. Thank you for this wonderful post. I read it before breakfast and it has started my whole day right.

  26. I'm making a stew just like that (minus the beef) for dinner tonight. Herby dumplings in stew are a loved food here, but I try to avoid the dumplings because of the calories (honestly, I need to avoid the calories!). Your picture has my mouth watering!

  27. Hi Lynda! I'll need your email address to add you to my new blog. Definitely could use some insight on canning and food preservation right now.

    I am looking for a really good chutney recipe. Any recs?

  28. Oh how this sounds so much like my life. Grand just grand. Now add two active kids
    balance just the balance. Retirement is not a thing to aspire to it is the contentment of finding pleasure in the work that we do.

  29. Hello Rhonda jean.
    The soup looks just wondeful. we here are great soup lovers and you can beet a winter stew.When I do buy a roasting joint normaly it is brisket and lamb always more than we need for one meal as I will make cheets pie(I make a filling and cook it on the top of the stove and cook the pastry seperatly in the oven).
    Rhomda, I was wondering if you would share your dupling recipe with us all please?
    England... leaning to let go and try not to be perfect lol

  30. I love the expression that your thoughts of all us working toward the same ideal draws us together into a community of something far bigger.

    Now that I have aging parents who need help and look so forward to visits from me to gather the harvest and put up garden bounty, I gain strength from the stories of unity and generations gone before me who shared the workload. But still, I miss the human companion. Though I don't have siblings to share the load with, I am so glad technology has given us the ability to be that "something bigger".

  31. I'm very good to the staff...haha. that was funny.

    The custard looks SO YUMMY!!!!

    and I WiLL have a gentle and stress free weekend. I like that saying. very nice!

    great post!

  32. I remember when I was a child if I was feeling sick, my Aunt would always make custard in pyrex cups, in a pan filled with water.
    Oh, how I would fain an illness if I could get someone to pamper me like that now. Wonderful to see that delicious custard. Congratulations on your grandbaby.
    Your turn to make lasting memories.

  33. looks soo yummy!. I need to remind myself to slow down way too often. Thanks for a lovely post! :)

  34. I'm a morning person too, and like to get on with any baking first thing in the morning, as I will do today with Apple Gingerbread and some Pear Scones (I have a blogging friend arriving later).

    Your soup looks absolutely scrumptious! If I wasn't on a different continent, I'd be round with a begging bowl : )

  35. The slow cooker and my cast iron cooker are my favorites for slow cooking. Using either makes our home smell wonderful and it's so nice to have a day's work behind me and a nice meal in front. By buying on sale and using the freezer we've always got a slow cooked meal waiting to happen.

  36. I think your meals are lovely. I find as I get older that we don't need fancy or big meals either - it is just too much.

    As a side question, any tips on how to be an early morning person? I've struggled with this my whole life and really want to be "awake with the chooks". :)

  37. hi there! yes I love the blog! as I have rh arthritis being slow in everything I do is a way of life! I used to be very impatient with myself but after 5 years I accept my limitations and almost thankful for the ra....not the pain but the life lesson! and I do get most things done..and ask for help if its beyond me. I have recently started knitting again and although I cant do more than a few rows at a time it is helping keep my hands going!! Crochet next?

  38. I just wanted to say thanks for this post. I sometimes forget that I really CAN take it slowly if I want. I feel like I pressure myself way too much at times & it's really getting to me that I'm feeling so overwhelmed. You reminded me to take it slow & things will get done eventually with a happy mama and not an anxious one!

  39. Lóve this post Rhonda.
    It's difficult for me to get up early in the morning, but when I'm out of my bed, I usually do most things before I have to go out to bring my son to school. When I get back to our house (still no home, but I'm busy with it) most things are done and I can spend my time knitting or sewing.
    Thanks again and thank you still for the wonderfull words about being home-proud. They get to me every single day and I'm learning of it, eech day.
    Thank you, God bless.

    Love from Holland



Thank you for taking the time to comment. They are an important part of my blog because they help build the community here. Please don't add links or email addresses to your comment. This is a family-friendly blog and I don't have the time to check all the links before I publish them.

These comments are moderated so yours won't appear until after I've read it.