29 March 2013

Weekend reading

The loss of you lingers - Letters of Note

Baby shoes at Tipnut

How to survive hard time - grandpappy info

Documentary films to watch online - some good documentaries for Easter viewing

What could be better than a story of birth at Easter - watch Petal's baby stand up for the first time. This is unbelievably cute and life-affirming. This will make you smile.


Now the Easter weekend is here, I hope you have a chance to relax and spend some time with your family and friends. We're going to Kerry and Sunny's home today to celebrate Jamie's second birthday and we're really looking forward to it. In Australia, a lot of people go away camping over Easter. It's the last chance for a little break away while it's still fairly warm. I hope you enjoy whatever you do. Don't forget to share the chocolate rabbits and eggs with the children.  ; - )

For those of you waiting to get back into the forum, I hope to have it up and running again sometime over Easter.  We have to move to another server to accommodate our increase in membership and that takes some time to organise and transfer.

See you all next week.

28 March 2013

Building your community networks

Our blogging workshop at the Maroochydore Library.

I've been very fortunate lately to have been involved in writing and blogging workshops in the Sunshine Coast libraries. We do the last one today. My business partner and friend, Ernie Marcum and I, delivered the 16 workshops at every one of the council libraries. It was exhausting, we had to leave home far too early and too often, we carried heavy bags containing computers and notes, some days were hot, some days it rained, but we loved every minute of it. Not only did we get to talk about things we love doing, we met some incredible people who are passionate about writing and blogging. We also met hard working librarians who focused on delivering appropriate and interesting activities, workshops and reading materials for their communities.

This is me with my good friend Beverly Hand, elder of the Kabi Kabi people. We met at our Neighbourhood Centre and I'm sure we'll be lifelong friends.

Above and below are community events that rarely rate a mention in mainstream media yet they're an important part of our community.  You need to be part of your community to know when your local events take place.

I have no doubt that libraries need more funding. They're doing a great service with what they have, but we need more librarians, and the libraries need to be open longer hours and open up to even more new programs and ways of operating. If you're in Australia, I urge you to lobby your local councillor to increase library funding and employ more librarians. Just a quick email should do it.

Libraries are wonderful places. They are there for us in large and small towns and in recent years they've been moving from the older model based solely on books and reading, to a wider approach of presenting workshops, genealogy research and resources, JPs services, baby and toddler reading and rhyming and much more. Libraries are the community places that many of us feel comfortable in. We introduce our children to them at a very young age in the hope of developing a lifelong love of reading and learning.

This community gathering was at Bell last year when Hanno and I travelled out there to demonstrate how to make soap, scones and laundry liquid. We had the best time with these ladies and Hanno was spoilt with hot coffee and cake - frequently.

Often in the past, when we moved to a new community, the library was my first port of call because of the local information and valuable connections to be made there. For all of us who live a simple life, libraries hold information we need, spaces we can use for community meetings and ideas for future projects. But I love libraries because of the people there. If you've simplified, cut back or downsized, then probably, like me, you won't be interested in most of the mainstream advertised information about big TVs, mobile phones and $400 shoes. You'll be looking for information that is not broadcast. You want to know where to buy old breed chooks, the best value for money water pumps and solar panels, organic yarn, good knitting needles and crochet hooks, incubators, honey extractors, where the community gardens are and the closest farmers' market or LETS market. You'll never find this sort of information in a magazine and often not even in the local newspaper. You need to know people in your community who will tell you. You need to build your community networks.

In our community, you can learn to sew at the Neighbourhood Centre, and it's free.

Community networking can start, very successfully, at your local library. If they don't have the information you're looking for, ask the librarian or put up a notice on the noticeboard. Ask about community groups you can join, be active, get out and be part of your community. Your neighbourhood will only be as supportive and active as you make it. If you're living a simple life, if you're aiming for a sustainable lifestyle, it will open new doors for you if you get out and be a part of your community. I have found you only ever get out what you put into life and when I first ventured into my community about ten years ago, a whole new world opened up for me. I have been changed in profound and significant ways simply by being part of my community. If you haven't made your connections yet, don't wait to be asked, every community is screaming out for people who don't mind a bit of hard work.  Just dive in, get involved and be a part of something special.

If you're a part of your community I'd love to know how you got involved in the first place.

27 March 2013

Internet safety and passwords

I am using this post today to write about email safety. I know this isn't my usual topic but I've had a lot of emails lately that are obviously from hackers who have hijacked someone's email account.  There are two things here to watch out for. One is not having your email hijacked in the first place, the other is what to do if you receive one of these emails.

Even though this isn't something I usually write about, I'm a bit of an expert on it because, unfortunately, I've had my email account hijacked and, as I said, I've been receiving a lot of emails from hackers, using names I recognise.  When I had my email hijacked, it happened when I had a very simple password on my email account. Hackers now have programs where they can hook up to an email address and the program will run scanning through thousands of words until it hits on your password. If you have a common word or name as your password, generally it can find it. Then the hacker can use your email address to send his/her own emails - usually containing viruses, spam or pornography.

When my email was hacked, the hacker used my address book to send all the rubbish they sent out and it looked like I had sent it. So everyone who received one of those emails, received an email from "Rhonda Hetzel" and many of those people would have opened it. Had there been a trojan or virus of some kind, all those people who received that email would have been infected. Sorry.

When that happened, gmail contacted me and explained what had happened. The most important thing to do immediately was to change my password. As soon as the password was changed, the hacker could no longer use my account.

That all happened a few years ago now and since then, I always use strong passwords and I haven't had any more problems. In the past few weeks, I've received a lot of emails from people here whose names I know and their email was sent with just one link in it. I NEVER open these emails.

So what do we do to stay safe?  
  1. NEVER open links in emails unless you've asked it to be sent to you or you know, without doubt, it is safe. Even your family may have had their email hacked so it could look safe and innocent, but it's not.
  2. Change your email password right now to something that is much more secure. You need a longer word - about 9 or 10 characters, mainly letters with no spaces. Then throw in a few numbers and maybe a hash, question mark or ampersand for good measure. So "rhonda" is not secure but "rho2n83?da" is. Often, when you make up a new password, the program will follow you along and it will show you going from unsafe to safe to strong. And it makes a huge difference just making this small change.
  3. If you're like me and have a million accounts, get yourself a little notebook that sits next to your computer and enter in the usernames and passwords for all your accounts, or add this information to your homemaker's journal. Always update it if you change passwords or create a new account.
And that's it. Strong passwords work and they're easy to change. And if you get an email with a single link, don't open it. Delete it straight away. I don't want to scare you but we all need to take care on the internet so we can enjoy the time we spend here. Stay safe, everyone.


26 March 2013

Living in the outernet

Here is Hanno bent over planting seeds and seedlings in the late afternoon sun.

Not only is March the best time of year for me with the weather, it's also when we see the re-emergence of our beautiful vegetable and herb garden. We're both looking forward to a good growing season this year and hope to have an abundance of fresh organic food to eat and share. We are committed soil gardeners, we don't like no-dig gardening. We look after our soil, dig it over and it produces vegetables that contain minerals from the earth as well as all the vitamins we need. The heavy work of weeding, turning over and soil enrichment happens here at the beginning of every growing season, and Hanno breaks that hard work up into smaller chunks that he can manage. Many of the vegetables are thriving already and some are big enough to pick.

Hanno planted 36 Glen Large garlic cloves yesterday - they're suited to warmer climates, so hopefully they'll do well here. Last year's garlic crop rotted away in the rain. He's also planted bok choi, sugarloaf cabbage, cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, lots of curly kale, pickling onions, shallots, leaks, beetroot. lettuce, silverbeet (chard) and zucchinis.  There's still a lot to go in but this is a very good start. Next step - root vegetable seeds. We have carrots, turnips, radishes and daikon to be sown.

I have a selection of flowers too. I've planted sweet peas in a big pot and have Queen Anne's Lace to attract bees and other beneficial insects to the garden and at some point through the season, I'll probably add calendulas, alyssum and maybe some borage, if I can find some seeds. We already have a number of culinary herbs growing - parsley, sage, basil, thyme and lemon basil and of course, the ever present chilli bush is still producing more than enough medium-hot chillies. We have three ginger sprouts to plant too.

In the foreground, on the left, is the bench we sit on under our elder tree. Finally, after those five weeks of rain, the ground has dried out a bit and the elder is flowering.

This patch of lettuce, bok choi, silverbeet and cucumbers was planted on 14 February. You can read that post here.   Almost six weeks later, most of it is ready for the table.

This is Giuseppe, the guardian of the garden when no one is around. He is the recycled top of a Villaroy and Boch jar. My friend Kathleen was going to throw him out because he had a chip in his hat. As we all know, I have no requirement for perfection and therefore Giuseppe sits in our garden, with his hands full of carrots, watching when we can't.

This year we decided to let strawberries grow as under-storey plants around the vegetables. Hanno put the container next to the garden, the runners are self-rooting in the garden and when they do, he snips them off.

 The dark, bare area in this first garden is our garlic patch.

Hanno will be making comfrey fertiliser soon so we won't have to buy nitrogen fertiliser for the green leafy vegies. We'll probably put some on the compost too as comfrey will accelerate the decomposition there. It's a very helpful and versatile herb. If you can get some root cuttings, grab them and plant them close to your compost heap. A lot of people think comfrey runs like bamboo. It doesn't, but you have to be sure of where you plant it. If you dig it out, even the slightest piece of root will allow it to regrow in that spot.

There is no doubt about it. Having a garden to spend time in and being able to grow food and keep chickens helps me find balance in my life, especially when I'm busy writing and out working. It's even more important then. Walking out there into the fresh cool air makes me relax and I know that right here, right now is all I care about.  Life here is simple and apart from our clothes, the scene in our backyard on almost any day resembles scenes from hundreds of years past. We are just two people providing for ourselves. And sitting there under the elder tree - and I think everyone over 60 should have an elder tree - I'm calm, thoughtful and slow. There isn't much I want in life but I would like to put in a request to stay here, tending vegies and collecting eggs until I drop. I know I'll go out with a smile on my face. This is the outernet at its best.


25 March 2013

Back and full of enthusiasm

One of the pleasures of having a break away from the blog is coming back full of enthusiasm. I miss all of you when I'm not here writing and imagining, in my mind's eye, you, drinking hot tea, breastfeeding the baby, planting seeds, milking cows, collecting eggs, folding laundry, sitting in the sun, walking around in the fresh air, coming home from work to the comfortable seclusion of your home, knitting on the verandah, watching birds and insects, tending your balcony garden, rigging up the downpipes from the roof, baking or returning home from the farmers' market with a packed basket. Yes, it's better when we're all here together.

I went to Maleny Dairies during the week to pick up milk for the family. It was late afternoon, I looked over beside me and this is what I saw. The rolling hills and the brown and white Guernsey cows, on the track, making their way up to be milked.

My foot is on the mend. It's not quite back to normal yet but the zinc certainly has done a wonderful job in repairing all that damaged skin. I'm still sure I have eczema and when my doctor comes back from his own sick leave, I'm going to ask for a referral to a dermatologist. In the meantime, I'll continue with the zinc, put my foot up when I sit down and generally look after myself. Thanks for sending all your healing thoughts and prayers as well as all your favourite home remedies. They certainly were interesting reading. I believe that certain treatments work on different people. Not everything works on everyone. If you have something that works for you, hold it tight and keep using it. For me, although I've tried Manuka honey and various herbal ointments, my go-tos are emu oil and calendula salve. This time though, they didn't work. This time my saviour was zinc cream. When the nurse applied the zinc impregnated bandage for the first time, I felt it soothe my foot within the first minute. It's wonderful stuff.

Jamie showing the chooks his big hands.

One of our free writing workshops, this one at the Cooroy Library. 

So what's been happening here? A lot. I'm about to be catapulted into a very busy season again, full of writing and all my home and family activities, as well as workshops with Ernie and some work with the Sunshine Coast Council promoting simple life. I must apologise for not having the milk recipe book out by now. It's finished and I'm trying to find time to get it made up into an ebook and then it will be on sale. If you've signed up for my newsletter, and you can do that on the sidebar near the book photo, you'll be the first to receive the news when it's published. When that's out, I'll work on a new print book proposal, some simple living modules to be presented at the Sunshine Coast libraries in July and August and then I'm starting work on a Down to Earth ebook for North America, Europe and Asia. The 16 free workshops we're doing at the libraries have been successful beyond our dreams. All were booked out, and just meeting all the writers here on the Coast has given me a few ideas about how to support and encourage them through the libraries. But that's another meeting for another time.

Sunny and Jamie have been over to visit us quite a lot and we're really enjoying that. Jamie follows Hanno around like a little shadow. So not only do I get to see my gorgeous grandson run around the backyard, I've been having many quiet conversations with Sunny and along with that, the chance to get closer to her. I really do see her as a daughter now. She is such a blessing to us. And it's Jamie's second birthday next Sunday. How did that time go so fast?

As usual, Hanno has been working with me to get us through this period of me being out of action. He's done everything in the home, including the cooking for the past couple of weeks. I've either been out workshopping or at home with my foot elevated - either with my laptop on my lap or knitting. Now that I'm back in action, Hanno can get back into the garden and finished his plantings. But more about that tomorrow. 


22 March 2013

A capable husband

I think I'll be back writing new posts on Monday. My foot is on the mend.  :- )

The following was written in March 2010.

I think most of us become more selective as we age. When I was younger I wanted to experience everything I could so I would know rather than surmise. I'm happy enough now to leave things I'm not interested in. The ability and the sense to do that came to me with age, although I think many people are like that all through life. Now, at this point in life I know that it would have been prudent to choose a husband who possessed skills that would compliment, and not duplicate, mine. If I were looking for a husband now, the colour of his eyes wouldn't matter, I would want to know if he could successfully raise an organic vegetable garden. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the truth is I was rarely prudent in my younger years and when Hanno wandered into my life I never once thought of any of those practical considerations, I just loved him. I was more concerned with what was in his heart rather than in his bank account.

When I hang clothes or towels, the frame sits on its own legs. When I have sheets on the line, we use a little steel support to hold the line up a bit.

Now it's a bonus to me that he is multiskilled. Not only does he possess the skills of his former trade - mechanics, he can turn his hand to most things in the home. He can make furniture, repair the roof, rewire a lamp, unblock the plumbing, fix the car and cook delicious potato pancakes. I think I hit the jackpot.
It just pulls down from the roof where it sits when not in use.

A while ago, I asked Hanno to make me an all weather washing line. I wanted something better than the rope line we had strung up on the back verandah. I wanted a line that I could use when it was raining, that was ready to go all the time but would be out of the way. I needed a line that I could reach without stretching and one that would hold a full load of washing. That was the brief - it's been delivered.

When the washing is dry, the frame is lifted up to the roof again, out of the way.

Even though it was some time ago that I asked for this washing line, Hanno did start working on it almost immediately. We settled on a steel frame that would be able to hold a full wash and last a long time but we had no way of welding the pieces together. Luckily for us, our neighbour John just bought a new welder. Hanno and John put the line together on the weekend and the ideal testing weather promptly arrived soon after. Five inches of rain fell yesterday, much less that what was predicted - 12 inches, but a real soaking nonetheless. I pulled the line down from where it is safely tucked away, pegged on the laundry and stood back to admire the scene. There are a few things that really improve with age, a capable husband is one of them. Thank you Hanno (and John).


21 March 2013

Homemaking - the power career

The Down to Earth forum is still down for maintenance and repair. I have a technician working on it and I'm hoping it will be back online in the next day or so. I apologise for the inconvenience this may be causing you.

16 AUGUST 2010

I have just finished reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, which was kindly lent to me by my friend and fellow radical homemaker, Sonya, from Permaculture Pathways. I enjoyed the book, and although I was radicalised many years ago and am already doing much of what the book is about, I did get a strong message from it - we need to stand up, be proud of our lives and talk to others about how we live and why we live this way. We need to develop small communities of like minded souls so that what we are doing becomes a common way of being. If we all do that, hopefully those small communities become bigger and young people will learn that having one partner stay at home to keep house, raise children, shop wisely and manage the income, is a valid, significant and acceptable way of living. And not to leave anyone out of this revolutionary equation, those single people, the divorced, widowed and never married out there who work a paid job and who live as simply as they can while they do it, they need to spread their message too. We all need to be role models and show that living a simpler life brings much more than a clean home, connected children, nutritious food and no debt; it brings contentment and enrichment with it, and it is a career.

I have had three careers - I was a nurse, a writer and now I'm a homemaker/housewife. Writing that sentence has highlighted to me just one of the hurdles we face - that of language. When I was a nurse and a writer, everyone knew what those terms meant; with homemaker or housewife they don't. Homemaker is more an American term than an Australian one, and housewife is old fashioned and implies that everyone is married. We need to coin a term that accurately describes this work we do and we need to realise that even though work at home is unpaid work, it has value and it contributes to our countries wealth. I really dislike those terms that make light of our work - domestic goddess, home engineer etc, we need something substantial that describes, in general terms, what we actually do. I do like the term homemaker because it could mean just about anything that is done at home, but I also like home worker.

We all need to help change the perception that happiness is gained by buying it, that economies should grow at the expense of their people and that stepping back from the mainstream idea of buying more than we need, with money we don't have, is a hippy fantasy. And on the more positive side, we need to show our younger people that living this way is empowering, engaging and revolutionary. At the moment young people see staying at home as a drudgery. They have to clean and cook, look after children, and sometimes frail parents, and when the only knowledge you have of those tasks is what is seen on TV or advertising, you start to understand what a negative perception there is in the community about working at home.

We have to show that working at home gives us freedoms that paid work rarely offers. Imagine your first day at a paid job. You're given a range of tasks to do, a time limit in which to do them and standards to meet. All the time someone is watching you, making sure you do everything according to their plan. Now imagine your first day in your new home. You have already talked about your values and needs with your partner, so you set about setting up routines and learning new skills that will support your visions. The sky is the limit. You may do your work to your own rhythm and to whatever standard you set yourself.

You start taking control of your home - this is not a place where you just spend time waiting for your partner to return home. This, my friends, is a work in progress, a place that you want to spend time in, you want to make beautiful, safe and comfortable. You want to create a home that will nurture those who live there and that provides a warm and welcoming feeling to those who visit. You decide on a plan that will see you use your home and the land it sits on to help you live. You decide to grow organic vegetables and fruit in the backyard, get a few chickens, make a worm farm, or keep bees. You want to live an environmentally sound life, to eat organic food, or at the very least, the freshest food you can. You decide to learn as much as possible to cut the cost of living in this healthier and organic way so you set about learning how to make soap, laundry powder, bread, jams, relishes, sauces, and pasta. You start mending torn clothes and household linens, then progress to making gifts and simple clothes for the children, you start knitting and crocheting with natural fibres. In short, you take your new life as the positive empowering career it is and run with it. You make the most of what you have and you reduce your impact on your environment while doing it.

Sure, I agree, no one wants to clean toilets or dirty nappies/diapers, but look at the alternative. Do you want to use a dirty toilet or have your baby unhappy and uncomfortable? Every job has parts that we don't like doing, life is not always about what we want to do. We need to step up to all our tasks - enjoyable and not so enjoyable, just do them and then get back to the rest of it.

I have already seen changes happening. More people are cooking and gardening now than in the past. There has been a revival in home crafts, sewing and knitting. More people are understanding that debt is a life sapping burden and working actively to paid of their debts. Many beneficial things are happening, but we need to drive this along and we need to talk about our lives in a positive way to show others that working in our homes helps build good lives. That might be evident to us but to the general population, it isn't. Let's start talking about the happiness that lies waiting when we live this way and let's show, by example, that housework rewards us with homes we want to spend time in. Stop talking about housework as if it's the last thing you'd want to spend your time on, discover the good in what you do and highlight it. Let's start supporting other women and men in the work they do, no matter what it is, unpaid or paid. We can change things if we start with our own front door and work our way out. Gentle reminders about our way of life, speaking up when we heard someone complaining about housework, writing about this on our blogs, all these things will help make a difference. All it takes is that a lot of us start doing it.

I am doing a soap making class at my neighbourhood centre next month and I'm continuing with my frugal home workshops but I'm also going to think about how I can engage with the young people at our Flexischool and talk with them about this. What will you do? Do you have any great ideas that we could all use to help show that housework is not only radical, empowering and enjoyable, it is also a career? If so, please share.


20 March 2013

The whole world in the backyard

This was first posted June 2012.

I've had a lot of emails lately thanking me for various things so I want to remind you all that I am a normal woman and despite what some of you think, I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I think that some of you think I'm better than I am. I would like to do more than I do, I would like to be better than I am, but I'm just me and I have to settle for that. I think my saving grace is that I'm easy on myself now. I don't expect perfection in myself or anything else, or anything close to it.

I think I'm like an organic backyard orange. I look old and motley on the outside, if you had to pay for me you'd offer five cents at a stretch, but when you open me up, the inside is sweet, juicy and healthy. It's a surprise. I think most of us are like that. Very few of us are like supermarket oranges that look perfect, cost a lot, but rarely live up to their promise. Most of us do our best but we are all flawed. We all think we should do more and be more, but now that I've got a few more years on me, I know that being flawed is not a crime, it's just a part of life. If I had not made all the mistakes I have made in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am now. When I fail, I learn from it. Not much happens when life goes smoothly and you succeed all the time. I'd much rather push myself and fail than to sit back and never try because I was too scared. Life is made interesting by uncertainty and the need to improve. 

If you look closely at the photo above you'll see what looks like a little black V shape - it's right in the middle at the top. That is a little male willy wagtail bird that lives here in the trees. He always joins the chooks and wanders around with them pecking at the grass and the crumbs they leave behind. I've noticed he's in nearly every photo I take of the chooks now.

It has been a beautiful winter day here today. I've got three layers on (one cotton and two woollen), the sky is bright blue, the air is crisp and the wind blows right through you. I've done some weeding, I've researched recipes, written, read and knitted. I sat for a while on the back garden bench and took it all in. I could live my whole life right here and not feel I'd missed one thing. So much is happening now that autumn has turned into winter - the pecan tree is still full of leaves that will soon turn brown and drop, the wisteria is golden and almost bare but the orange tree is growing and putting on new leaves already.

The tomatoes are going gangbusters, there are plenty of crisp young peas for afternoon snacking in the garden, the lettuces are crisp and delicious, the potatoes are up and we have all sorts of cabbages, brocolli and kale growing slowly and delevoping their unique flavours. The lemon tree is full of ripe fruit and it makes me think of one of the CWA recipes I saw today for Lemon Delicious pudding. As I breathe in the cold air and watch the chooks, and a willywag tail who thinks he's a chook, I know that this is close to as good as it gets. There is a small leg of pork and vegetables in the oven roasting for dinner, and I can smell that the red cabbage is almost ready. I should go inside but I'll linger here a little longer. I want to get colder. I want to see more.

We have some great outings coming up where I'm hoping to meet many of you. Toowoomba Library next Wednesday for two sessions: 10.30am and 5.30pm. We'll stay in Toowoomba overnight, thanks to the hospitality of the lovely staff and friends of the Toowoomba Library. The following week we have the big day out at Bell where the old hall will be chockers with all us girls and a few men; then in the last week of June, I'm speaking at the Landcare conference in Brisbane. But that last week is also the week Hanno goes into hospital to have cataracts removed, so, as usual, it's the good with the bad. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But I know that while I'm at home with interesting and productive work each day and with a few outings thrown in for interest, I'm happy and fulfilled. Life's good. I hope that when you weigh it all up, yours is too.


19 March 2013

Minister for Simplicity

I went to the doctor again yesterday. It was a different doctor. The swab of my foot grew nothing, it's not infected. This doctor thinks it's a spider bite. I think it's eczema. But whether it's a spider bite or eczema, I have to rest with my foot up and not walk around unless absolutely necessary. She's given me more antibiotics, a different kind. I have a zinc dressing on it and have to go back next Thursday and Monday. My family wonder why I hesitate going to the doctor. This is a prime example of why I don't - there are few answers, it's guessing. I am resting when I can but life goes on and I have workshops to do. There is one today at Cooroy and eight more after that.

Thank you all for your continued good wishes. I appreciate it very much.

This was originally posted back in December 2008, the first year of the GFC.

I didn't think I'd be frightened by our economic crisis. Initially I saw it as a way of slowing everything down, putting the brakes on indiscriminate spending, and forcing many people to rethink the way they live their lives. Now it has gone beyond a simple lesson and is hitting hard. At the Centre I volunteer at, many more people are needing help and some of them are losing hope in the future. The crisis has a long way to go yet, some say life will be very difficult for at least another 18 months. My fear is that our governments have no idea how to handle what is happening and if they continue to throw money at the problem, the chance to grow through this, and eventually prosper, will be lost.

Simple living is the answer but politicians and those in power refuse to acknowledge that reducing what we spend on 'stuff' will help us and our planet. They are choosing to support 'the economy', and here in Australia, sections of our community - pensioners, carers, some people on a low income and families with children are being given one-off payments of over a thousand dollars ($1000 per child) and being encouraged to go out and spend it. It's a great pre-Christmas boost for those people but it's not a long term solution and it totally fails to address the problems associated with always having an economy reliant on non-stop spending, shoddy products and debt.

Simplifying our lives is not just a decision for tough times, although it makes the most sense then. I am not naive enough to believe that moving to a more simple way of life would be easy. I know it would be tough. But would it be tougher than what we are faced with now? Continuing to spend like drunken sailors is not sustainable, there must be a point at which the economy can't "grow" any more. Is climate change telling us we have reached that point?

I think our political agenda needs to change. If we had a Minister for Simplicity, she would be overseeing the development of factories to produce good quality, repairable, electrical appliances and cars that run on hydrogen; she would be encouraging us to attend the sewing or gardening classes in our neighbourhood; she would support the use of renewable energy, give rebates for solar panels and make water tanks compulsory on all homes. Schools would teach life skills. Community gardens would flourish. The general population would re-discover self-reliance.

Isn't that alternative an enticing idea. It would be wonderful if we had governments that really meant it when they said "it's time for change". Imagine if our factories reopened to produce sustainable, good quality products we all needed. Imagine if children grew up learning about vegetable gardening instead of sitting in front of an Xbox for hour upon hour. Imagine if credit cards were banned and we went back to thinking carefully about what we need, and then saving for it. The reduction in our landfill dumps alone would be astounding!

I don't believe that is going to happen, at least not in my lifetime. I am an optimist but I'm not stupid. I know handing out money is far more popular than being the instrument of change. I know band-aid measures are popular.

But in the meantime, we can all work towards further reductions in our lives. We can teach ourselves lost skills and be energised by producing some of our own food. We can slow down our spending and pay off debt. Big business hates that - it takes away their control of us. We can sew and knit, keep chooks; teach our children; talk to our neighbours; make do with what we have; be aware of our local natural environment and care for it; cook from scratch and become healthier because of it; and live smaller instead of bigger.

And while you're doing that, show your friends and neighbours what you're doing; they might be interested. Talk to your children about your family's changes and show them ways they might change too. Explain what you're doing to your extended family and work mates. If we can help others find a way of living that will help them survive this financial crisis, that helps us all. Be open with what you're doing and show others the benefits of your changes. And if you get the chance to talk to your local politicians, tell them how you've changed, what you've done and what you've planned for your future. Then ask them when we will have our first Minister for Simplicity.


18 March 2013

The return of the homemaker

I want to sincerely thank everyone who has sent prayers and good wishes for my foot to heel. I tried all the natural remedies before I went to the doctor. Unfortunately, in this instance, they didn't work; I'd left it too long.  I'm going back to the doctor today and I think he'll start me on stronger antibiotics. The first two packs didn't work as expected. I haven't taken antibiotics for about 15 years so I don't really know what the common ones are now. Anyhow, I'll go back and talk to the doctor and hopefully I'll be on the mend soon. 

Thank you for your patience. I'll be posting old blogs again this week. This one is from 19 March 2009.

We've all wanted her to return. That icon of the fifties, the housewife in the Audrey Hepburn dress and frilly apron who had perfect lipstick and a hot meal waiting for her man. Well, it looks like she's back, but she's changed a lot. Now our homemaker is dressed in jeans and a T shirt, a long linen skirt, or pretty dress. The apron is still there, it might even be "vintage", purchased on eBay for a price we would have laughed at back then, but apart from the apron and the kids, our modern homemaker is nothing like her 1950s counterpart. In the 1950s, housewives were looking for convenience and Laminex, and were embracing plastic. Now we are getting back to basics, going green and reskilling ourselves. Convenience has been replaced by authenticity.

Today's homemaker lives with increasing prices in an international economic crisis. She lives in a world of sharp contrasts - on the one hand she has the internet to connect with others, learn her craft and reskill herself, but that same technology also brings danger into her home in the form of scammers, paedophiles and conmen. She lives with the convenience of mobile phones, but also their cost and proliferation into the lives of our young children. She lives in a world of man-made antibiotics, chemicals and preservatives that are added to our foods and drinks, but some of those antibiotics and chemicals have reduced common illnesses and virtually eliminated some diseases. She also lives in a world that gives little respect to the role of the homemaker, while courting her to spend her money in this store or that.

Nowadays, women are returning to their homes for a number of reasons. They may have decided to raise their family and not return to work, they may have lost their job and realised they can add to their family's health and well being by working in a more frugal home. There are also all those women who I include in this huge shift in thinking - working women who must go out to work but who know the true value of the home and dive into it head first in the evenings and on the weekends. Altogther, we are the women who will change the face of homemaking in the coming years.

I am proud of the work I do in my community, I am equally proud of the work I do here at home. Working side by side with Hanno, we have created a life that enriches us and allows us to live with independence and freedom. We are independent in that we know how to look after ourselves, to grow food and make a comfortable home, and we are free in that we owe no debt. And there are many people who look at us and say how much they admire what we do and wish to do the same, but if truth be told, we are just enacting the role of the homemaker where we make do, repair, cook, bake and clean, using what some might see as old-fashioned techniques, but within a modern context.

Big deal, we are doing what our grandmas used to do. There is nothing new in this. But maybe the pride in doing it is new. I want to encourage all of you, whether you are just starting on this path or have been on it longer than I have, to take pride in your work and to support other women who are homemakers. The work we do in our homes is significant and vital, not only for our selves and our families but for the nation.

I hope you all know how important you are in your own homes. Take back your power to look after yourself and your home. Use the power of your hard earned dollars to support your family and the local businesses you believe give you the best value for money. Complain when you don't get good service and prices and tell that store manager you will take your business elsewhere. They might pretend to ignore you, but a business who doesn't take their customers seriously doesn't last too long. If things don't change, shop somewhere else, then tell your friends. The power of the dollar is an incredible force and we homemakers do most of the buying for our homes, let's use the power we have. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we get value for our money. We need to help our families through this crisis by cutting back as much as we can. We have to learn new skills to do that and we have to learn how to shop for food in innovative ways that stretch our dollars. You are your family's role model right now, it is up to you to show your family that personal growth is possible at such a time and the days of buying whatever you want are behind you. Thrift is back.

Let us welcome the happy homemaker. The move is on to make our homes a haven from the stresses of the world, take control of your life, change how you look at housework and look to the future with knowledge that whatever effort and energy you put into your home will be returned to you, plus some. Sure, nothing is good all the time, you will have bad days, I know I do, but the good days should far out number the bad.

As modern homemakers we have the power of our shopping dollars, we have the power of our technology, and we can choose to see the work of our homes are challenging, satisfying and enriching. You can make your home a place of contentment and comfort. You can change the way you think of housework and see it as an investment in your family's well being. You will be very influential in seeing your entire family through this economic crisis. What you learn now and what you already know could very well mean make or break for your family.

There is a significant job of work to be done here in our homes. We need to plan what we're doing, learn the skills we need to get us through this and work for the good of our families. Let's put our aprons on and begin.


15 March 2013

Be bold, live a life you care about

My sincere thanks to everyone who sent a comment or email. I'm doing fairly well with my foot but it's so slow to heal. I'm going back to the doctor tomorrow and I'm pretty sure I need another course of antibiotics.

This post was written on 9 August 2007.
. . . . . . ♥ . . . . . . 

I live a life of contentment in a beautiful part of Australia. I grow some of my own vegetables, keep a few hens in the backyard, I bake bread and preserve food. I live well with no debt on a low income. My goal is to continue living this way and if I can convince a few others to walk this path less travelled, I’ll be a happy woman.

There was a time when I worked as a technical writer, paid a mortgage and shopped at mainstream supermarkets and department stores. There was no method to my madness and I didn’t know where I was headed. Yet from the time I was around 25 years old I had a buried yearning to live the type of simple life my contemporaries viewed with contempt. In those quiet hours of 4.00 am contemplation, I knew that my future held a new direction where less was more and contentment would fill the sweet air I breathed; but I didn’t know almost 30 years would pass before I started to live that dream. I wish I’d been serious about simplicity long before I turned 50, because this way of life holds appeal for all age groups, and will change the way you view the world.

The most common question I hear regarding simple living is: “How do I start?” Well the answer to that seemingly simple question is not so straight forward. It depends on why you want to change. The end result will be the similar but your focus will be slightly different. Hopefully this blog will show you the steps needed to start living simply, whatever your reason.

I also want this blog to encourage people, young and older, to take charge of their lives by not buying into the materialism trap. I think there has been a major shift in thinking in Australia in the last ten years or so. As a society we are moving closer to a kind of moral and material bankruptcy because we trust self-indulgent, unsustainable promises that tell us living a good life requires the latest product in this year’s “must have” colour. We have to have the biggest and the best and it is fine to go into debt to get it. Those promises are problematic. They require that you mortgage your life, enclose yourself with debt obligations and work non-stop to pay for stress-filled fake living that doesn’t allow you enough time to enjoy what you have. Those promises don’t allow for enjoyment of the natural world, they encourage a consumerist approach to life when what is needed for long-term gratification is a prudent and simple one.

Your life should be about you, your family and the people you choose to include in your daily activities. What you see portrayed in today’s advertising is a false representation of modern Australian life. It is a glamorised lie to encourage you to spend money on products you don’t need.

Reinvent your life. Think about what is really important to you and develop a set of values that reflect your true beliefs. Respect and nurture your values. Discover what it is you really want your life to be and then make plans to live that life. Define for yourself what are needs and what are wants. Be courageous and change your attitude about what success means to you. Free yourself of the conventional idea of what you should own and want, strip yourself of pretension and in the process you’ll discover your true self.

I want this blog to take you on a journey inside yourself to discover your passions, uncover your true potential and to help you be the authentic you. Mindless consumerism masks us all. It surrounds us with junk that turns us into curators of merchandise. Free yourself of all that ties you down, be that debt, clutter, stress, envy, or wanting too much. In a world filled with overindulgence, simplicity will liberate you.

If you’re wondering why you work from dawn till dark just to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, this blog is for you. If you just bought more clothes and yet more things to put in your home and still feel a sense of emptiness, this blog is for you. If you don’t have enough money to live on, or if you have too much, this blog is for you. If you feel trapped by modern living, welcome home.

Many of us may voluntarily choose to live simply but even if it chooses you, the result is similar. You live a life that is marked by less rather than more, you organise your home to nurture and support you and your family members, you help develop a caring and supportive community, you make from scratch much of what you consume, you aim to live debt-free, you respect your environment, minimise waste and you are content with your life choices and the kind of person you are.

Living a simple life is about beating the system and not following the same road everyone else is on. Stop following what your friends and neighbours are doing. They’re probably up to their ears in debt too. Reinvent your life. Be bold, live a life you care about, simplicity can make you soar.

I hope this blog will help you discover the essence of simple living and how to apply it to your own circumstances. Please remember that we are diverse nation and have different aspirations. What is right for some is wrong for others. So cherry pick the information here and apply as much as you can to your own life while keeping an open mind about developing new strategies and ways of living that suit you. There is no one size fits all formula when simplifying your life.

To help you simplify I have included information about the practical aspects of day-to-day living. Some readers will already be familiar with some of the activities contained within these pages, others will be novices. There was a time when much of this was common knowledge but our consumer culture has conned us into relying on products to sustain and support us. We’ve forgotten old ways and instead work our entire lives to pay for merchandise that others create for us. The more we have, the more we want, and so the never-ending cycle continues. It wasn’t like that in the past and it doesn’t have to be like that now. We can relearn our collective heritage of basic skills and apply them to our modern lives.

So, what do you really want out of life? If you want more of everything, if you know that you’ll never have enough or be enough, then stop reading this blog now and go back to work. But if you want to live an authentic life, if you want to enjoy time with your family, if you want to help save dwindling resources, if you want to become more self-reliant and build your skills, if you want to discover the real you and live the kind of life you dream for yourself, then read on, the simple life is for you. When you know that buying more of everything will not make you happier and that saving resources is better than spending them, then you will really know that less is more. Welcome to your new life.


14 March 2013

Email sign up

Hello friends.

I've added the subscribe to the newsletter sign in on the sidebar. It's just near the book cover. Add your email there if you'd like to be on my email list for extra news about ebooks, workshops or general news from the Hetzel family. Your email will never be shared or given to anyone else.

I hope to be sending the first newsletter out next week with news of the dairy ebook and some workshops.   :- )  If you sent me your email address to me yesterday, please add it again to this list so I can keep it all together and organised. Thanks!

ADDITION: I just subscribed myself to the service to see what the process is all about and because Chele just emailed to tell me there is nowhere to add her name. So, when you get your confirmation email, mine went to the junk mail folder, if you click on "add us to your address book" that will stop the next newsletter from me going to your junk mail.  Also, if you find the "update your preferences button" or "update profile" button in the conformation email, click that because that is where you can add your name, in addition to your email address. Having looked through the list this afternoon, most people haven't given me their name, so their newsletters will just be addressed to their email address. It will still get to you but it's not as personal as I'd like it to be.

Respectful. Economical. Productive.

This post is from 2008

We say a lot about respect when we use the full measure of what we grow or buy. In the old days it was common practice to use every part of a slain animal; and many people who slaughter their own livestock still do it today. From cow horns being broken down and used as a fertiliser, or filled with cow dung and buried to produce the magical biodynamic Formula 500, to using bones for stocks and gelatine, and the meat, including the offal, for nutrition and the hide for warmth or furniture. Crafters do a similar thing with patchwork. They don't waste any scraps and by taking the time to piece the fabrics together, either randomly or in time honoured patterns, they produce beautiful quilts, bags and clothing that are sometimes featured on the walls of galleries, but always yield their true qualities of warmth and comfort.

Respect is expressed in those actions of honouring the life of the animal or the work involved to grow the cotton and produce the fabric, by using every part for a worthwhile purpose and by making sure there is no waste to pollute or be part of a landfill dump.

We can carry those principles on very easily when we use our fruit and vegetables too. Again, they can be either grown at home or purchased, the respect for the work and resources involved in producing what you have before you is clear and unambiguous if you use every part of what you have. Take our pineapple, for instance. That pineapple was grown from the top of a local pineapple we bought a few years ago and it will continue on because I will plant this top to grow two more pineapples.

Growing pineapples in a warm climate is simple, it takes a long time, but you will be rewarded for you patience when you taste that sweet juicy organic fruit. I sliced ours down the middle and cut it into chunks. We've feasted on it twice now after our tea and we will finish it off tonight. It is so sweet! When I tasted it I forgot about those years of growing and thought only that we grew it, it was organic and we used every part of it - no waste, everything was used. So how do we get to that point?

Take the top from your pineapple - if you have a choice, use the best pineapple - the juiciest and the sweetest. You will be passing on those genes to your next fruit. Remove all flesh from the base of the top, then peel off several layers of leaves. You want a cutting that is clean and undamaged at the base. Allow it to dry out for a few days, then plant it in the garden in a sunny spot where it can grow for at least two years. Don't put it where you plan on planting tomatoes next season. If you live in a colder climate, I believe you can plant pineapple tops in large pots, at least the size of a bucket, filled with good quality potting mix. Keep the top in the sun for as long as possible, then move inside to a sunny window during the cold weather. Pineapples don't need a lot of water but you'll need to water it in well and water every couple of days for about two or three weeks until the roots start reaching out into the soil.

We didn't fertilise our pineapple much. It got some liquid fertiliser occasionally and natural rainfall, otherwise it sat quietly doing its own thing. They do take up a fair bit of space when the top has fully developed so if you're planting a number of tops, make sure you give them a metre / three feet space in which to develop. When it's been in a year or so, you'll notice a tiny pineapple emerge from the centre. That slowly develops for about six to nine months and ripens to a perfect fruit. It is ready to pick when, instead of standing upright, it falls over while still attached to the centre. Cut the pineapple stalk off the main plant and leave the plant in the ground. Fertilise with liquid fertiliser and continue as before - this same plant will produce a second pineapple and will take the same amount of time doing it.

When you harvest your pineapple, cut the top off and replant. Eat the fruit and make the skin and the off cuts into pineapple vinegar. I've written about that here. Wonderful! No waste at all. You've used the entire fruit and that one top will continue producing pineapples for as long as you continue to plant the tops.

Respectful. Economical. Productive.

13 March 2013


Hello everyone.


While I'm resting with my feet up I thought I'd create a private list of your email addresses so I can send out the occasional newsletter. It's been something I've been thinking about for a while. If you'd like to receive emails from me every so often, when I'm releasing a new ebook or doing something new, I'll need your address.

If I have your email I can tell you about what's happening, when a book will be released, where you can buy it and how much it will be. I will also send information about my workshops; I'm thinking of doing one in the Blue Mountains in June. Of course, I won't give your email address to anyone else. It's for my personal use, just so I can keep in touch with you.

UPDATE: Don't send me your address right now. I've decided to download a program that I can install on my side bar and you can enter your own email addresses into the box provided. It will save me cutting and pasting hundreds of addresses over manually. To everyone who has already sent their address, I'll get you to enter in the new program when it is up. It will be there in the next day or so and I'll remind you all when it's ready for use.

Thanks everyone.



This is from 31.3.2010. Little did I know that 12 months after that day our first grandson, Jamie, would be born. :- )

 The beginnings of our new season garden.

From the outside, our simple house belies the fact that such rich lives are being lived here. You can see and feel it in the backyard with the abundance of life evident there, but at the front, well, our small home looks like many others dotted endlessly throughout the urban and rural areas of Australia. But Hanno and I have found the secret of living well and we are developing the art of it every day. It took that break away from blogging for me to step back and look at what we've got here. Our lives are not just skin deep, there is real depth here.

 Tomatoes, capsicums and green onions.

Taking a break from this blog, even though it is a familiar friend to me now, helped me step back and take in how our lives here have evolved and shaped us. During my break I made sure I slowed down. It's one aspect of this simple life that I always need to readjust. Swiftness and efficiency often take over from slow and mindful, especially on work days and when I'm away from home. I need to slow myself back down again, put the brakes on and remind myself that work done slowly and mindfully easily gets through the chores and there is no stress at the end of the day.

Here is my main gardener, Mr Hetzel.

So while I've been away, Hanno has been working on the garden and I have to tell you that the soil this year is the best it's ever been. From almost empty beds just a few short weeks ago, we now have cucumbers nearly ready to eat, capsicums (peppers), lettuces, tomatoes, bok choy, beetroot, radishes, sugarloaf cabbages and green beans. In the bushhouse, we planted seeds for leeks, tomatoes, more sugarloaf cabbages, silverbeet and those wildly mad zinnias that bring bright colour to the garden. The zinnias are ready for planting now, the vegetables need another week or two.

Bok choy growing fast in front of grass clippings waiting to be made into compost.

Inside our home I've been knitting Hanno a jumper (sweater) and am just finishing the back. I hope to have him in it by June. I've also been reading new books and re-reading older ones, especially the wonderful Simple Living by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska. I read it several years ago but I'm enjoying it more now because I understand, from experience, what it is they hoped to do and how they fashioned their lives to suit themselves. I also have The New Compete Book of Self Sufficiency by the late John Seymour, sent to me as a blog giveaway by Steel Kitten, that I'm enjoying a lot. She actually sent two copies because the first one took months to arrive and she immediately ordered another copy when I told her it hadn't arrived. Naturally, when one turned up, so did the other. Thank you, Sarah. And thanks to everyone who sent a comment about my return. It gives me a wonderful feeling knowing that I'm welcomed back and have been missed.

Yes, it came back again.  It was hiding behind the nesting boxes.

The chooks are healthy and happy, even though they had another visit from that snake. Alice is doing well, despite her old age and ill health. Things are starting to settle down at my voluntary job and I imagine that in a month or so the slow rhythm of my days will return there as well. I've rearranged and stopped a few things I was doing so that now I feel quietly confident that I can keep up my home duties, work in my community and at a couple of little jobs and get everything done that needs doing. It's a good feeling knowing those tasks I've set myself will be carried out as planned. I do not need every day to be a good one, but I do need to know that I have done my best everyday.

Cucumber tendrils have grown higher than they ought. In the background is a lemon tree with about one hundred lemons growing fat and juicy.

I remember when I first stopped working for a living, one of the things I hoped the days ahead would hold was richness. I was not seeking richness in a monetary sense but more a life that was multi-layered, that built on its foundations and add layer upon layer the kind of work that would result in an unusual life by today's standards, as well as a rich and rewarding one. Tick.

Some of the seeds we planted.  The zinnias will be planted out today.

There is nothing better than waking to a new day that you know will be full of productive and interesting work around the home.  Pottering with this and that, putting things right, cooking, gardening, baking, sewing, sitting and thinking - all the things that went into old fashioned lives and not so much into those that are modern. Those things, to me, make a perfect day.  And the truth is these days are so easy to home make.   All they require is a commitment to one's self - a promise to stay true to our values and to live as we wish, not part of an homogeneous crowd, but as individuals who think about how we live.  I do not need many of those perfect days to keep me going, just the promise of one tomorrow or next week is enough.  And enough is all I'm after.

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