19 December 2014

Weekend reading

Christmas colours.

This will be my last post of the year as I need to take a break. I won't be far, I'll be here with Hanno and my family, probably with the gate closed to the outside world. But there is plenty here to keep me happy and engaged.  I hope you are able to take a break from your normal routines too.

I think I have the most endearing and faithful readers on the entire World Wide Web. Every day, whether I post or not, you're here in your thousands, reading about our simple life. I've never been able to quite figure out why. Perhaps we all seek the familiarity of everyday life, but your visits here, and especially your comments, keep me writing. Thank you for your visits. Everyone of them give me a reason to keep writing.  If you continue to visit over the holidays, I invite you to read through the archives - there are almost 3000 posts there - and if you're a new reader, it will give you the context to my story. If you have a particular topic you want me to write about next year, add it to your comment and I'll see what I can do for you.

I hope you have a beautiful Christmas and that next year will be a happy one for all of us. Stay well, stay safe, rest and recuperate. Make the most of the holidays and in addition to looking after your family, look after yourself too. xxx

I'll ride with you
Middle classes employment earthquake
The cheapest generation
The mysterious rise of the non-working man
7 steps for getting your kids involved in the kitchen
The student who is raising money for a homeless man who tried to help her
A charming new-to-me blog - Frontier Dreams
How to carve a turkey
Festive drinks - cold
Festive drinks - warm
Make your own marachino cherries
Sorry kale, quinoa, we've already forgotten you   (Psssst, just eat what you like.)

18 December 2014

Cleaning up for Christmas

Here is Jamie with his little red Hamburg overnight bag.  He wanted to know why Santa left those presents at our place. 

We have a surprise visitor staying with us. Last night Jamie had his first sleepover with grandma and opa, while Sunny and her mum overnighted on the Gold Coast. Sunja goes home to Korea tomorrow so it was nice for the two of them to have that time together. As I knew he was coming over, I took the opportunity during the day to wrap presents and set up our very small Christmas tree. Lights went up, the reindeer is out and it's looking a lot like Christmas. I knew he'd be excited when he saw the tree but on the way home from kindy, he fell asleep and instead of running in, Hanno carried him in. But the excitement was there when he woke up and he wanted to know why Santa left presents for Alex and him at our place. I sometimes forget how innocent and sweet young children are.

Before I have a break for Christmas, I want to encourage those of you who haven't yet tried any green cleaning to make up this very easy creamy cleanser and see how well it works.  When I first made my move to a more simple life, I worked hard to remove as many chemicals as I could from my home. I had a real bee in my bonnet about dish washing powder, I thought about how caustic is was and that you couldn't touch it with wet hands and in the end it wasn't good enough to come up with a replacement, I got rid of the dishwasher instead. That was many years ago, and I've washed up a lot of dishes since then, but I'd never go back to machine-washing my dishes. I viewed all commercial cleaners the same. I knew they made my hands red and itchy and the thought of the invisible harm those chemicals did helped move me towards green cleaning. 

That was before the days of eco cleaners and ethical companies such as my wonderful sponsor eco store. I use their dish liquid and hand wash everyday. But I still make my own laundry liquid, soap and creamy cleanser - and I use white vinegar in a spray bottle for wiping down the kitchen bench and other small cleaning jobs. If, like me, you're well and truly into the habit of making your own cleaners, if there comes a time when you can't do it, I recommend ecostore to you. They sell their products online - see my sidebar link - and in most major supermarkets. Woolworths has a 25% off special at the moment. Thanks Sue.

This cleaner will replace your Jif or Gumption or whatever you use to clean the bath or kitchen sink. It's a simple mix of bicarb soda (baking soda) and a soapy liquid. I have used my homemade laundry liquid in the past (recipe here), I also use Dr Bronner's Citrus Castile Liquid Soap.  To make it up, place about half a cup of bicarb soda (baking soda) in a small bowl that has a lid. Mix enough of your liquid - either the laundry liquid or liquid soap - to make a paste.  Mix it up well. It will look like frosting, so make sure it's kept away from the children. Make only enough to use for about a month. If you want to make a larger amount, you have to add a couple of teaspoons of glycerin to it to keep it from drying out. Store the paste with the lid on.

This is my kitchen sink after I cleaned it with this paste.

You might also add essential oil such as eucalyptus or tee tree oil. They're both powerful antiseptics. That will help kill some of the germs in the bathroom and around the kitchen taps and sink. But the paste will work well with just the two main ingredients.

So what are the advantages of using this cleaning paste and other green cleaning pastes and liquids?  You know what's in them, they're much cheaper than buying a commercial product, and you'll be reducing the number of chemicals you live with in your home.  Please let me know if you try this. I'd love to know what you think of it.


16 December 2014

Moving forward, looking back

These tiny pink roses were one of my mum's favourites - Cecile Brunner roses. They're easy to grow and they're what I'd call a non-vigorous climber. Also, no thorns, a definite bonus. The buds are about the size of a small finger nail and they smell divine. These are growing happily in our front garden weaving through the wisteria.

I like having the luxury of looking back and remembering what's happened to me and my family during the year. Over the past couple of days I've spent a bit of time looking through old posts and being reminded of just how many people I've connected with through my blog - both online and in person. When I started writing this blog I wanted to create a record of my own changes. I also wanted to get simple life information out to the world because there wasn't enough of it around. That was over seven years ago now. In the beginning there were plenty of people looking for ideas on how to simplify and I was happy to share what I could remember about doing housework the old way and encourage others towards self-reliance. Now there are a lot of blogs and simple living experts everywhere, how times have changed us all. I am not an expert. I'm just an ordinary woman who remembers how things used to be and can harvest some of those memories and tack them on to contemporary life in a way that makes sense. If I am anything, I will always strive to be that.

A year's worth of notebooks. I love to hand write and write something every day. I hate the thought of handwriting dying out so I make sure I keep mine up to a reasonable standard.

To be honest with you I did think of stopping my blog a couple of months ago. I wondered if it had run its course but I continue to receive so many emails about being a surrogate grandma and online friend and in the end, I realised the blog is an important part of the day for many folk, not just for me. So the blog will continue next year and I hope you'll continue reading.

Square knitting needles, bought in Katoomba when I visited Tricia. Have you used square needles before?  They're supposed to be ergonomic and easier on the hands.  And below: slow and steady with the organic cotton baby blanket.  I'll have it finished in plenty of time. 

This will be a quiet week for me. I have Christmas chores, cooking, some personal sewing and a new embroidery project to plan. Hanno is getting through the mowing by doing a small amount every day. The cricket continues, the days will slip by slowly and then another Christmas will be here. So shhhhhh. It's early in the morning here and I'm up with the elves. I'll do a few things before Hanno wakes and if I keep working slowing during the week, I'll do everything I must do without rushing, and I'll appreciate it more. 

It's been a year full of toys and story books and stepping on Legos. Again!

A year of fruit photos on our kitchen bench. I wonder if anyone likes these photos as much as I like taking them.

And a year of tea - loose for me and bags for Hanno, enjoyed on the front verandah, watching the lizards and birds and being entertained my Jamie.

Looking back these past couple of days has reminded me just how much I have to be thankful for. Kerry and Sunny have been living close by for a year now so we've finished a year of having Jamie in our lives on a much more frequent basis. I must say he's slipped  into our routine like he was born to it and he's given us a hurry up in the process. There has been dancing in the lounge room, soccer in the hallway, conversations in the garden and so many snacks and drinks.  It's been a joy. We also had Alex here with us staying overnight. He's another gentle soul who seems to have been born knowing us. And maybe that's what does happen. Maybe kids just know their grandparents because love is like glue that bonds generations together.  And next year?  Well, a new baby of course. Due in April, Shane and Sarndra are expecting their second child and I can't wait. Another little love to care for and cherish. These are the people who will replace us and be here to form our family when we're gone. I'm grateful that I have such a loving husband and wonderful family. I hope most of them keep simple values close when they're older and help encourage those who will come along after them.

I have to say though that both Hanno and I are tired at the end of this year. We'll celebrate the season along with our family but we'll also take the opportunity to rest and relax and get ready for next year. We have some movies chosen to watch, I'll have the knitting needles clicking away, I'll be hand stitching and I'll be writing.  Both here and more for Penguin, but that's another story and it can wait till next year.  See you tomorrow, my friends and in the meantime, please tell me what you're grateful for this year. 


15 December 2014

Saving electricity, money and greenhouse gasses

The end of the year is a good time to think about electricity, gas and water usage and how you can manage your usage. Work out what you pay, on average, see if you improved your usage figures during the year, or if they still need work. We're a mixed bag here. We are really good with electricity and gas but we struggle with keeping the water usage down. We're still under the local average for water usage, but I want to be better than that.

The spike in our usage during the August period was when our inverter broke down and we had no solar power to use.

Don't think about your electricity as one single block. Divide it up into hot water, lights, cooking etc, depending on what your appliances are, and it should be easier to manage it.

  • Turn off electricity when you leave the room. It will soon become a habit. Yes, it's only saving a fraction but if it becomes a habit and you do it for the rest of your life, the savings, in dollars and green house gases, will add up. 
  • Buy energy rated when upgrading appliances. 
  • Have groups of appliances on a power board and turn the board off at the wall at night. 
  • Electric ovens - bake more than one thing at a time, turn power off a few minutes before the food is cooked and allow it to finish cooking in residual heat. 
  • Use a slow cooker in the winter.
We have a solar hot water system and seven solar panels and our last bill was $26.32 in credit. Our bills have been up and down lately, due to a broken solar inverter, so I find it easier and more accurate to go on the average usage figures instead of the amount. Currently we use 5.9 kWh, which is half the average of one person in our area. If we were using what most people use, we'd be on 13.8 kWh.  We're not experts but we always seem to be very frugal in our usage or electricity, so let me share a few thoughts with you. 

If you're going to invest in solar power, buy a solar hot water system first. Hot water uses about thirty percent of our total energy. A solar hot water system is a smaller investment than electricity photovoltaic panels so you'll be able to save that thirty percent without such a large investment. When you have enough money for panels, your hot water is already catered for, so all the energy you produce can go towards your electrical appliances and you probably won't need to install as many panels.

Think about home insulation. I have to confess, we're a bit obsessive about it. We have good insulation through the house and roof and a few years ago, Hanno painted our steel roof with solar-reflective paint. That made a big difference. Now it's consistently six degrees cooler inside the house, without turning on even one fan or the air conditioner.

We have two internal rooms - a bathroom and the laundry - with no windows, so we installed skylights in those rooms. We also have one in the kitchen because after we added the front and back verandahs, we found the kitchen was too dark, unless we had a light turned on during the day. The skylights provide daylight into those dark rooms and after the cost of installation, there are no further charges.

Think about the kind of light you're using. If you can change your ordinary light bulbs to LEDs, it will cut your costs.  These are an improvement on the compact fluros many of us installed a few years ago. According to Beacon Lighting website:

LED lights are super energy efficient, using approximately 85% less energy than halogen or incandescent lighting – meaning significant savings on your power bills. LED lights also have a much longer lifespan than other types of lighting - see the table below.

Lighting technologyEstimated lifespan
LED30,000-50,000 hours
CFL8,000-15,000 hours
Halogen1,000-5,000 hours
Incandescent1,000 hours

Security lights outside - LED on movement sensors.
If you're watching TV at night, try it without the light.
Turn off the Christmas lights when the children go to bed.

Water heating - if you have a regular water heater, reduce the temperature so that the water isn't on the verge of boiling all the time. According to Smart Blocks website
Storage hot water systems
To save energy it is recommended that the temperature of the storage tank is set at 60 degrees Celsius
A minimum of 60 degrees Celsius should be maintained to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria.

Instantaneous hot water systems

Domestic hot water should be supplied at a temperature lower than 50 degrees Celsius to avoid accidental scalding

This will lower running costs and extend the life of the tank

Unless there is something in particular that needs a warmer wash, wash with cold water.
Buy the best quality washing machine you can afford and make sure it has an energy-saving high rating

I'm not going to preach to you and say you should only use your airconditioning when absolutely necessary. What you do is your own decision. We have airconditioning here - the energy efficient and rated kind - but we never automatically turn it on when it's hot. When I get up in the morning, I open the front and back doors to let in the fresh air. Later, when the air coming in is warm, I close the doors and because the house is so well insulated, if I can keep the cool air in, the house is noticably cooler if kept like this for a few hours. But there comes a time when I have to cook something or the air feels stale and I turn on the air con. I have it set at 24C and on an average day in the middle of summer, I'd have it on while I cook lunch and wash up. I turn it off around 3pm, depending on that days temperature. If it's very hot, the air conditioning stays on until later in the afternoon.

I encourage you to think about your usage and try to work our a routine for using your air conditioner that keeps you and your family comfortable, without using too much electricity and without you feeling guilty for using it. The decision to use it and how long you use it for is yours, don't let anyone tell you you're not doing it right. Just be prudent and turn it off when you can.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket - don't be an all-electric house. Mixing it up with a small amount of gas and solar will probably serve you better. Of course this may not be relevant in your region so please do your research before you invest your hard earned money. Overall though, if you can get yourself and the kids into the habit of turning the switches off, you'll reap the rewards. It just comes down to common sense.

I should add that we've been living here for 18 years. All the above didn't happen straight away. We added what we could as we could afford it. And it's fine to do that. Just reduce what you can in the meantime and change what you can to improve the future when you have the cash for it.  What changes have you made in your home that have made a difference to your electricity consumption?


12 December 2014

Weekend reading

Spicy pickled cucumbers.

In two short weeks, Christmas will be over for another year. I hope you have some time this weekend to plan out your festivities menu. Mine's all done but I've done nothing about decorating. I don't go overboard but I do like to put up reminders of Christmas. It's done mainly for Jamie but I think all the adults like it too. It makes a delightful change to the usual look of our home, especially having the sparkle of fairy lights. 

When you've finished all your work this weekend, sit down and relax for a while. There is nothing that can't wait for 30 minutes while you catch your breath and collect your thoughts over a cup of tea.

See you next week!

Check your email less
How to improve your Google searches
A year offline, what I have learned - youtube
The incredible shrinking incomes of young Americans
Santas getting ready for Christmas
The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis
Over five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans
Recipes for a packed lunch - some good scratch recipes in here
Ideas for a Christmas nibbles platter
Christmas finger foods


11 December 2014

December round up

Here are the boys relaxing on the ocean's edge at Airlie Beach near the Whitsunday Islands.

We've had our brother-in-law Peter visiting from Germany for the past six weeks. It's been a wonderful visit with plenty to do but he goes home tonight. The last time I saw Peter was in 2000 when he and Hanno's sister, Angelica, visited us. Sadly, Angelica died suddenly a couple of years ago. Hanno and Peter have had fun roaming around, visiting Stradbroke Island, Byron Bay, Toowoomba, the Bunya Mountains and the Whitsundays so although there have been plenty of days at home relaxing, there has also been a lot of activity. But from tomorrow, it's just me and Hanno again counting down the hot and humid days till Christmas and the end of the year.

Here is our fabulous watering can with brass shower head from Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores. Unlike the galvanised ones you get from Bunnings that rust in a year, this is properly galvanised to last a lifetime.

I still have three targets to tick off my list before the year is through. I want to make a couple of new summer nighties for myself and I want to clean and tidy my work room to set myself up for a productive new year. And I've ordered a new computer because even after replacing the hard drive on this one, it's still rebooting itself whenever it feels like it. So my last task will be to clean up my filing system and photos so that only what is necessary is transferred to the new computer. I wonder if you've still got a couple of tasks you like to get done before Christmas. I find that I look forward to the coming year with more enthusiasm and a sense of direction if I complete all the tasks I set myself. There is something about ticking that last item off the list that is very satisfying. Then I feel ready to take some time off from my daily tasks, just do only the essentials for a week or so, and take it easy. I hope that's a possibility for you too.

I love this! It's a large enamel baking tray, again from Odgers and McClelland. I'll be baking hundreds of scones on this tray in the coming years.

A German pastry brush with hairs held in place with brass wire. And below, my beautiful hedgehog green mixing bowl that I've discovered is just the right size for a salad for Hanno and me. I also have a smaller owl pudding bowl but it's in use at the moment.  The green jug is a one litre enamel measuring jug. All have been very handy in the kitchen so far.

Our Christmas day menu has been decided. It will be simple and easy with all the cooking done the day before so just the addition of dressings and the presentation to be carried out on the day. We'll start on Christmas Eve with Hanno's traditional northern German smoked frankfurts and potato salad. The next day I'll serve roast free range chicken (cold), free range ham, potato salad, garden salad, quinoa tabouleh, homemade pickled beetroot and cucumbers. Dessert will be tropical fruit pavlova and lemon meringue pie. Drinks will be served icy cold - homemade ginger beer, beer, champagne and red wine. I'm sure we'll have a wonderful day together, enjoying the company and the food. There is no doubt that Christmases have taken on a new lease of life since we've had grandchildren to enjoy it with. Have you planned your holiday menus yet?

This Night Night Balm is for the new baby.  And if she is a girl, one day I might give her my tiny cleaning brush set (below), complete with its own bar of soap. In the meantime, it's sitting on my desk, a sort of symbol of my simple life. :- )  Again, all from Odgers and McClelland.

And speaking of Christmas, if you're going to order anything for Christmas from my sponsors, you should do it today to make sure it arrives on time. I've had hundreds of requests from advertisers during the year wanting me to promote this and that but I only recommend those I am sure about and who share my values. I use products from all of my sponsors so I can confidently recommend them to you as reliable and honest merchants. Thank you for supporting them too.

All of my photos today are things I got on my recent trip south, via my bartering agreement, with Megan and Duncan at the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores.

10 December 2014

Providing food for loved ones

One of the best things, for me, about being a wife-mother-grandmother who cooks is providing good food for the people I love. It's not only the selection and cooking of food I love, it's also providing warm and comfortable situations when family connections are strengthened while food is being shared. Food brings people together and although it can become something mundane and uninteresting, if love is put into it as well as effort, it becomes more than just food prepared in a certain way. It becomes a significant and important part of daily life.

I've gone from being an ordinary housewife, using my food budget to provide as much as I can for the money I had, to being someone who looks for fresh food that's been produced locally and ethically. I almost never buy beef now, if I do, it's minced beef. Usually I buy pork, chicken or fish. Now it's always free range and if I can't get that, I'll go without and use something else. It's easily done. I always check labels, and never buy products from compromised locations such as China and Thailand. I only want to be a part of a food chain that considers kindness and quality of life along with nutritional values and profit.

Even though we're not growing as much in the garden as we used to, we still grow all our salads and herbs, some of our fruit, tomatoes, cucumber, chillis, kale and chard. We might still grow potatoes, let's just wait and see. If I didn't have the space to grow food, I'd spend some of my time looking for a suitable market where I could buy the best fresh food available.

It gives me a feeling of purpose to select, prepare and serve food for Hanno and me. I see it as an important part of my homemaking to provide food that will keep us healthy and supports our values. I love when our family gets together and we sit around the kitchen table and share a meal. That is the time when we catch up with each others news, use the time to forge strong connections and solidify our family ties.

And then Christmas comes along and the family gathers to celebrate. For me, this is one of the important times of the year. It's when simple food draws families together to celebrate their union and to remember that in addition to being a strong individual they're also part of a reliable and steadfast family. It is a time when we share what's happened to all of us during the year, when we pass on family stories and when we show our younger members, by example, that there is love and respect here. I always take the opportunity to provide food and drinks that my family and friends love and will remember. Food's like that - it helps us remember special days, people and occasions. All of us need to build good relationships with those in our family. We need those relationships to last a life time and luckily, good food, shared at a kitchen table, helps us do that.

Is food just food for you or do you think it's something more than that?


9 December 2014

Global warming and what we can do

Still having computer problems so no photos today.  Sorry.  :- )

- - - - - - - - 

I know you probably don't want to read about this now, or ever, but global warming is a fact of life for us and it should be uppermost in your mind, particularly at this time of year when credit cards are running hot. There is no better time than now to make a stand and to stop buying into the mindless consumerism that many politician tell us is good for the country but we know is killing the planet.

I'm a proud Australian, I love my country and the people who live here dearly. But I am ashamed of our environmental policies that promote coal for the sake of the dollar when we all know it is fossil fuels that are doing the most damage.  Read this recent article for more info, and this.

This is today's Guardian headline: Australia has been named the worst-performing industrial country in the world on climate change in a report released at international negotiations in Peru.

It's a crying shame we have no political leadership on this. Those forward-thinking leaders and the new ways of industrial thinking have emerged in other countries - Denmark, Sweden and Britain. But not here. Here we choose the dollar over the environment. We're being lead down a pathway we should have left behind years ago.

I'm worried that we're not heeding the warnings from scientists all around the world that we have to change how we live. It seems to me that many people believe they can't make any changes that will matter. This crisis was created by all of us just doing what we're doing now - buying what we want with no thought of how or where it's manufactured or at what environmental cost. We don't think about how we'll dispose of all the rubbish we buy. We seem to think it will just take care of itself. And that's what we've been lead to believe all these years - that it's fine, don't worry your pretty little head over it, science/the government/new technology will save us from ourselves. Let's do it tomorrow, or next year, or ten years from now. Well, I think it's time to bite the bullet, let's do something about it ourselves - now.

It's wonderful if you've set your home up to be as environmentally friendly as possible but what will also make a real difference is if you start cooking from scratch, recycling, stop eating so much meat, grow some of your own foods, make your own cleaners, mend your own clothes, save water, cut down on electricity usage, use public transport. Be a good steward in your own home. Take back the ability to look after your own needs. Just live a simple life. If we all do it, it will make a difference.

Now is the best time of the year to stop spending. When all those Christmas specials are there luring you in, turn your back. I'm not saying you should not give any gifts, but only give half what you used to give.  Everyone will survive. Small steps. Don't do it all at once, choose your steps wisely and follow through. Once you decided to live a more simple life, don't be tempted to return to your old ways. If we can do this now we can all start 2015 with a focus on what we can reduce next year. I hope you'll join me because we're already waited too long.

What are you doing now and this Christmas to reduce your own environmental footprint?


5 December 2014

Weekend reading

We have a lot of flowers in the vegetable garden right now. They love the hot weather. Not only do they look beautiful and give us a harvest of flowers for the kitchen table, they bring in the beneficial bugs too.

I guess many readers are preparing for the holidays, it's a busy time of year. Australian schools stop for summer holidays soon and many people will be taking it easy until late January. Whatever you're doing, enjoy the change of seasons and the anticipation of all those hot days at the beach or cold days by the fire.

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Reviving Blue Collar Work: 5 Benefits of Working in the Skilled Trades
The importance of work
Notes from a novice quilter
How to clean a quilt
The secret to making a great curry
Fragrant pickled vegetables
Gardeners' World Christmas
Christmas in Australia - a short film from 1958. I would have been ten years old then and mum would have taken Tricia and I into the city to visit Santa.
Lovely light bakes, gluten-free
Dining out for Christmas?  No thanks, for me, Christmas is always connected to home.
Five frugal ways to furnish your first home
Holiday garland tutorials
Mini festive wreaths
Felt Christmas ornaments

3 December 2014

Rolling down to the end of the year

When I was younger, I always loved this time of year because it was the start of summer and everyone was thinking about the holidays. Back then, I lived near the beach so after work and often before work, I went swimming at Bondi. It was invigorating and had the ability to focus my mind like a razor. I always worked well when I swam before work. Now I don't like summer but I still like this time of year. Now it represents the end of another chapter when I check to see I've done what I was obliged to do, along with all I wanted to do, and I start thinking about the coming year. Now it's a time of reckoning and preparation.

My computer is still in being repaired so I have very limited photos. I've taken all of these this morning. 

Although we haven't spoken about it yet, we'll probably have Christmas lunch here at home. I'm sure Kerry and Sunny won't have the time or energy to prepare a large lunch so I'm guessing they'll be here, and possibly Jens and Cathy. Shane, Sarndra and Alex will be staying at home in Gladstone because the house they're renting is being sold and they have to move. They're hoping to come down during January. I'm trying to get some gifts up to Alex, in two medium sized boxes, and I'm hoping that someone who will be driving through Landsborough can take them to Gladstone for me. If you're driving that route sometime in the next three weeks can you please email me on rhondahetzel@gmail.com  Thank you.

Usually at this time I'd be wanting Thursday to arrive because it would be the first day of the Cricket Test Match at the Gabba. That, for me, was always the real start to summer. I'd have my knitting reading to go, plenty of ice cubes in the freezer and some books close to my lounge chair so I could watch cricket and read at the same time. But this year there has been the tragic death of a young cricketer, Phillip Hughes, who probably would have played in the upcoming match. He was killed during a game when struck on the neck with a cricket ball; such an unimaginable sadness, killing a fine young man, only 25. His funeral will be held today. So the matches have been changed around and the first match will now be held in Adelaide, a week late, to give his family, his fellow players and the nation, a chance to mourn his loss. RIP Phillip.

Yesterday, Sandi (Blinky) came over for morning tea. We had a lovely chat, talked about and showed our current yarn projects and looked at the garden. So the front verandah has been cleaned up in preparation for Sandi's visit and I took the same opportunity to move the plants around to their summer configuration. It's one of the tasks that marks the end of year and change of seasons. The garden usually gets a lot of attention now too. It needs to be able to withstand the heat of the coming months so new mulch is applied and all those plants that we know are passed their prime are removed and the garden beds tidied up. We don't do a lot of gardening over the hot months so the work is put in now so the beds look tidy and all we have to do when it's really hot and it doesn't rain, is to water the plants.  The two garden beds we wanted to be removed have gone and now the grass is growing over the bare patches.  Soon there will a beautiful place for us to sit in the shade there, either in the afternoon shade of trees or with an umbrella proving much appreciated morning shade.

We have two international visitors at the moment. Peter, our brother-in-law from Germany (staying with us) and Sunja, Sunny's mum (staying with Kerry and Sunny) from Korea. They're both going home again in about two weeks. Then I'll think more seriously about our Christmas lunch and I'll start making notes about some workshops I'll be giving next year. I'd like to give some writing and blogging workshops to, hopefully, inspire and motivate local writers who are serious about blogging and writing.

So that's me, what is the end of the year looking like in your home?


1 December 2014

Younger folk are taking the lead in simple life

Hello everyone!  I'm still having problems with my computer and will probably have to take it back to the technician later today. I hope to carry on using Hanno's computer so my aim is to continue on tomorrow, as usual.

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I read this very interesting article in the UK Telegraph recently. It tells us that young people are not as inclined to drink or take drugs now, less inclined to cause trouble when they go out, and more inclined to knit, cook, go to bed early and take care of themselves. The young tend to be more conservative and are more helpful than we are, "we" being those in our older years. I love that they are more helpful and hope they learned from our mistakes, although my guess is that common sense and economic reasons have more to do with it.

This is a little kerosine lamp I bought while I was away. I came across a small antique shop in Glenn Innes, went in looked around, and there she was waiting for me. And the asking price? $25. :- )

The other thing I found really interesting was that yellow line in the data. There are more over 65s drinking, more than the under 34s! The age group 45 - 64 has the highest percentage of sexually transmitted disease!  Good grief.

We're the elders, we're supposed to be guiding and encouraging. We should be the ones handing on the stories and family history. Authentic family history and stories must be truthful and really reflect the history of the family. Elder duties are best served sober with the ability to answer questions, motivate and, hopefully, inspire. I'm not saying everyone over 60 should be sitting around knitting on the verandah (although I will be) but we should be doing something to help those younger than us live well. We should be role models.

From the linked article: We are increasingly polite: one government survey found that those born in the early 1990s are less rude and noisy in public than previous cohorts at the same age. We’re more likely than the over-55s to give to charity or volunteer.

While there is an element of the pendulum swinging back to the 40s and 50s in all this, which was something I expected would eventually happen, I didn't expect to see it happen this soon.

As the article indicates, the young are rebelling against rebelling. I majored in rebelling when I was in my teens and 20s. I had a good few years of doing, saying and being what I chose to be, regardless of the consequences. But then my children changed me. Of all the things I'd ever been, I was never a hypocrit or a liar so when Shane and Kerry were born, I turned the leaf over and started my life as a decent parent and (I hope) a good role model.

I don't see a reason for that to change now. I have grandchildren who will look to me for guidance - maybe not so much of the verbal kind but I certainly want to be a grandma they're all proud of. I want them to see me living the life I have chosen and not just talking (or writing) about it. I want them to look back and remember me as a kind and generous person who taught them about gardening and cooking and how to carry eggs, and to not be afraid of spiders. I want teach them there are good bugs and bad bugs, just as there are good and bad people, and help them develop the ability to tell the difference.

Young adults have found the contentment of knitting, cooking and being comfortable in their homes very early when it took my age group much longer to find that simple type of happiness. Instead of us being role models, maybe we should be looking at our younger folk and start wondering why they see the value in the quiet and slow and we don't. I hope they lead the way to a new kind of modern life, one in which shopping and debt don't play such a big role.  I know I have a lot of young readers because I get a lot of emails from them telling me what they're doing and the dreams they have for themselves. Maybe some of them will comment here today and tell us why it was easier than it was for the rest of us for them to choose simplicity over consumerism.


28 November 2014

Weekend reading

From just outside my window, a baby magpie and a pair of noisy miners having a bath.

I'm back, again!  I picked up my laptop yesterday afternoon after two days away in the computer hospital. It's the first time we've ever been separated. Sob.  LOL It's strange how attached we become to our computers.  Anyhow, she's had a new hard drive fitted. The old one worn out after constant use over five years. I hope she'll go on for another five years.

The weather is very warm here and the storm season has started. We had good rain last night and the tanks are full, surely that's a good sign. I hope your weather isn't too severe although I did see on the news yesterday that parts of the US had heavy snowfall.  Stay safe, friends.

I'm starting to think about Christmas and will start acting on those thoughts in the coming week or two. How about you? What do you start decorating?

Enjoy your weekend. Take it easy, put your feet up, even if it's only for 15 minutes. 

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How to fold a fitted sheet - Martha Stewart on You Tube
How small farmers Fiona and Adam won chook lotto  And here is Fiona's wonderful blog, Inner Pickle. Many of you know this blog but for those who don't, you must visit. Fiona has some of the best cake, biscuit and slice recipes on the web. We've tasted Fiona's biscuits too. they're absolutely delicious.
How to make water kefir  Check out the rest of Tricia's blog while you're there. It's full of good accurate information.
Vegetarian recipes
Christmas ideas
Free Christmas printables
Traditional Christmas recipes with an Australian twist


26 November 2014

Save money - grow your own herbs

Good morning everyone. I haven't quite returned to my previous posting time and I'm not sure I will. At the moment, late morning posting seems to be working for me.  Today I'm writing this on Hanno's computer because mine is being repaired. It will take at least two to three days so we'll have to see how it goes. I hope I'm back tomorrow but if I'm not, I'll be here soon after.

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If you're like me you've discovered the pleasure of eating food flavoured with herbs. Even when our garden isn't fully productive I generally have parsley, oregano, mint, thyme and lemon thyme and a small bay tree in pots to keep me supplied with fresh herbs.  When the garden is in full production I have sage, lemon balm, rosemary, borage and comfrey as well.  But it's the herbs in pots I want to write about today because no matter where you live, they will keep the fresh herbs coming for your meals and save you money in the process.

Above and below: these are some of our in-ground herbs - sage, two kinds of parsley and rosemary.

Most fresh herbs at Woolworths cost $2.98 a bunch. If you buy a bunch of parsley, chives, basil, oregano and bay leaves each week, you'll be adding about $14.75 to your weekly shop for those basic herbs. It will be more if you're adding a greater variety of herbs.  Of course you could use dried herbs, but fresh herbs give a special taste to the meals we cook and they add nutrition, which dried herbs don't. Herbs are really easy to grow in pots.  The added benefit is that if you're renting, you can still grow them, even if your landlord says you can't have a garden. They're also portable, you can take them with you when you move and you can place them exactly where they need to be - anywhere from full sun to full shade, depending on the herb. Most herbs need good drainage. That just means that when you water your herbs, or if it rains on them, the soil needs to drain off the water so the roots don't get water-logged and die. If you have clay soil, herbs will not grow well. So the solution is to grow the herbs in pots - and to vary the size of the pot according to the amount of that herb you usually use.

Above: ordinary thyme.
Below:    lemon thyme.
For instance, most herbs will do very well in a normal pot of about 12-20cm. Remember you need to give the plants enough space for good root growth because the size of the root ball will determine the size of the plant. If you restrict the roots, the plants will usually remain small. So use a bigger pot rather than a smaller one.  Don't go the opposite direction and go too big because most herbs need to be able to fill the pot within a few months and some like to be root bound. Herbs such as mint will easily fill a large pot and grow well if you give it good potting soil and enough water.

Above - our oregano pot which sits in the entrance of the bush house, with morning sun and shade the rest of the day.
Below - our mint needs repotting. I hope to do it today because when I took these photos this morning, it looked very sad. I'm going to put it into a larger container - I have an ancient enamel baby bath - cut the plant back to ground level, moisten the soil and fertilise, and it will grow like the clappers.
I've grown herbs here in plastic troughs and polystyrene troughs but the polystyrene does disintegrate quickly when it's left to sit in the sun. Plastic pots are better for herbs because they retain the moisture a bit better than terracotta ones. So use your common sense. Don't go overboard buying containers if you have something suitable on hand. Recycle old containers, buckets, olive oil tins (minimum size 4 litres/quarts), polystyrene boxes but if you've only got terracotta, use it, you'll just have to water it a tiny bit more. If I were to buy something new to use, I'd go for two 4-5 litre plastic/rubber, two-handled tubs. You could make up two very good mixed herb gardens in two of them. Make sure you plant the herbs together that need the same conditions. For instance, most Mediterranean herbs (parsley, rosemary etc.) like drier conditions, herbs such as mint and oregano like moist, not wet, soil.

Some herbs can be difficult to propagate from seeds so I generally buy seedling herbs or I start them from root cuttings.  Mint and oregano easily grow from root cuttings.  Just get a piece of the plant with a bit of root attached, place in on the top of your filled pot - use good quality potting mix - tap down the soil over the top of the root, water well and leave it in a shady place to establish. After a couple of weeks, when you've seen some leaf growth, place the pot in a suitable place. Most herbs need full or partial sun but oregano and mint both like shade with only a small burst of sunshine in the early morning.

Even though they're classified as a vegetable, if you have a little more room, and you can find them, grow some Welsh onions too. They are perennial onions, which means, if you cut them correctly, you'll have them forever.  As you can see by the photo of our Welsh onions above, we cut them off about one inch above soil level and the onions quickly grow another top. Over the course of a year, they'll flower and multiply to keep you in fresh green onions all through the year. Yet another money saver.  And yes, they too can be grown in a container. I think a 4 litre tub full of Welsh onions would be a great asset to any cook's kitchen.If you have a friend who is growing these onions, they will grow well if you plant up the bottoms. Seeds are available here:

Buy a good quality potting mix but not the one with all the additives. You'll be doing your own fertilising so you don't need additional time-release fertiliser or water retainer. Potting mix here has a red Australian Standard stamp on it, that is the one we use. If you're overseas, buy your basic standard potting soil. Please note: you can't use garden soil, it will kill the herbs because it won't drain effectively in a pot. Remember to re-pot your herbs every two years.

The sunnier the position, the more water the herb will probably need. Pots need more water than your in-ground plants. I water my pots every two days in summer but watch yours and see how long they can go without wilting. When you know that, water just before you know the plant will wilt.

The slower a herb grows, the more flavour it will have, so don't go crazy with the fertiliser.  A monthly, very weak watering with comfrey fertiliser, or an organic liquid fertiliser as a weaker than recommended solution, will keep your herbs in tip-top shape.

You'll be using the herbs frequently so that will count as pruning for most of the year. Plants such as mint and oregano love to be cut back about once or twice a year.  Wait till the end of the season when the plant is naturally weaker, and cut it off to soil level. Then fertilise with a weak solution of whatever fertiliser you use and watch it spring back into growth.

It doesn't take much to get a small group of your favourite herbs growing in pots in the backyard or on the window sill. If you put in the time to do that, and to water them, you'll save a lot of money over the course of the year.  When you get into it, work out ways to dry or freeze your leftover herbs so you never have to buy herbs again. That is entirely possible, it just requires the desire and the commitment to do it. I think it's a very worthwhile frugal, self-reliance project.

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