Relaxation and the feeling of presence

This is one of my favourite photos of Jamie, taken on the evening of his first birthday. Look at that tummy!

He was out in the garden with his dad yelling at the potatoes before he could walk. LOL
And this one is with opa, both having a quiet drink on the front verandah.

It's Jamie's third birthday today. It doesn't seem that long ago when we got a long awaited phone call to tell us that Sunny and Kerry were at the hospital and to come down. I can't imagine not being a grandma now but it was only three years ago that I made that very happy transition. Jamie, Sunny and Kerry are all in Korea at the moment but we'll have some Facetime with them later today. I'm really looking forward to it. Happy birthday, Jamie! We love you.

::::::::❤:❤::::::::

It makes no sense to me to try to relax after being massaged from head to toe when you know you're going to pay for the "relaxation experience". Relaxation to me doesn't involve people I don't know. I have a better way - it's more simple, it involves the great outdoors, it doesn't come as a bottled essence and it's there for the taking whenever I need or want it. Our backyards grow relaxation. If you let it and if you're completely present, with no phone or tablet, out there fresh air will fill your lungs and bring you back to yourself. The sweet, almost silent breeze, the insects and birds will welcome you back to nature, tranquility and gentle self-awareness.




 Blueberries are still growing.

There is a touch of autumn in the air now. I was out in my backyard yesterday afternoon, sitting, watching, picking, cutting, digging and tying. The temperature is at that perfect state of balance where it is neither cool nor warm. The wind blew the tops of distant pine trees I could see, but in the sheltered confined of our yard, the fences and shrubs kept the wind at bay. I tried not to think about anything other than what I was doing and that feeling of presence stayed with me when I eventually came back inside again. Relaxed.

Sunny, those are daikons front left.


Last week we had a lot of rain so the garden is growing strongly now. Little cucumbers are forming and pak choy is ready for picking. When I share some with the chickens, they go a bit crazy at first trying to reach the green and white crispness first, then they run away to a quite corner to eat their prize. I've pulled up most of the pumpkins and the vine has been added to the compost. They weren't a great success but I think I left it too late to plant the seeds. Next time, they'll go in two months earlier. We have two pumpkins from the vines, another one other was rotten and another still was only half grown and not worth picking. The 'Rouge de Marmande' tomatoes are going like the clappers and the first of the prolific cherry tomatoes are red and plump. Even though the rain brought a lot of growth to the garden, it stopped us planting out our seeds and seedlings. There is still a lot of bare ground out there. No doubt more planting will be done this week. There is always something to be done here. It's one of the benefits of living in a productive home.



It a wonderful time of the year now and I feel the optimism that only autumn brings. I'm writing every day to get the last three books finished and every so often I slip out into the garden to renew my energy and spirit. I hope you have a place like that where you can go to recover from normal life, whatever that is for you, although your relaxation place might not be a garden. It could be a room, your patio, a beach or any place where you feel safe and can just enjoy and appreciate the time you spend there.

Remember that relaxation is an activity you have to engage with. You don't just walk out there and wait. You consciously focus on the space you're in, you stop thinking other thoughts about what happens next or what you're having for dinner. You have to be really present in that space, at that time. If you can do that you'll have one of the many natural things that money can't buy.


27

Weekend reading

I thought I may have been dreaming but no, it's true. I was told by Penguin yesterday that The Simple Life is being reprinted, already! Published on Wednesday and reprinted on Thursday. Thanks to everyone who helped make that happen. :- )  I hope you enjoy it. If you bought it online and have time, would you mind writing a review at the shop you bought it from. It does help spread the word. Thank you. xx

We've had a lot of well needed rain here in the passed couple of days. The tanks are full and the vegetables are growing like Topsy.  I finally finished off Johnathan's cardigan and sent that down to him with Tricia. Johnathan is Tricia's grandson.

Johnathan's cardigan in Eco-organic cotton, 8 ply,  from Eco Yarns.

I've got a weekend of housework ahead and then back to writing next week. I usually feel a bit disconnect from my books until people start reading them and now The Simple Life is out, it's fired me up again for the three remaining books. I hope the series will help many of you in your journey towards a simpler life. Have a wonderful weekend. 

The powerful belief of a loving mother
Photographing a sweet town that never was
Your own backyard emagazine
http://www.permaculturedesigntraining.com from Lorrie
11

Taking a break from routine, then getting back to it

I'm longing to return to a state of relaxed normality but it's been a busy few weeks here. We've all been waiting for yesterday when the book was published. Thank you so much for the warm support you've given me with your comments and emails and by purchasing the book. Those comments encourage me to continue here because I know people are reading and are connected enough to comment. It is good to have the book out and on the shelves so now I can concentrate on getting the last three written and out to you.

Tricia crocheting a jug cover.

My sister has been here for the past week, and flies home today. While she was here, she helped me organise the Mending, Repurposing and Household Linens book and she made up the cutest, sheer, patchwork kitchen curtain and a jug cover for the book. It was good to sit and talk to someone who understands what I'm trying to do with the linens. I want to encourage mending and recycling instead of buying new, as well as help develop traditional sewing and mending skills for some of the younger women and men. This is work such as replacing zippers, sewing on buttons, making dishcloths, mending rips and general maintenance of clothes and household linens. If you have these skills it allows you to keep trousers, shirts, jumpers, jeans, dresses, pyjamas, night dresses, skirts and school uniforms going for much longer, as well as save money by not buying disposable products such as dishcloths and dusters, which helps a lot with the budget.

The patchwork kitchen curtain. I saw this idea originally in Pinterest - it's on my page there.

The final reason for my busyness has been the continuation of Hanno's illness. Since early December he's had long periods of gout pain that have come every month and only let up for a week or two, only to return again. We went back to the doctor yesterday and have a referral to a new rheumatology specialist at Greenslopes, which is a large hospital in Brisbane. The GP is changing his diagnosis too, from gout to gouty arthritis, and possibly to rheumatoid arthritis. So bear with us. We're a bit slow at the moment but we're getting there.


Over the next couple of days, I'll take the opportunity to catch up on a few things not done while Tricia was here. I don't know why but I find it impossible to stick to my routine when she's here. I haven't made bread for a week, we bought bread from the local bakery and while I did continue feeding the chooks and letting them out each morning, then quickly watering the garden before going back inside, there were quite a few things I should have done but didn't. I did cook from scratch each day but we also went out for lunch twice. Once was Tricia's treat and the other was yesterday when we celebrated the book with a beer, fish and salad at the local pub. I did make the bed everyday, I did wash up but I didn't sweep the floor.  I feel like I've been on a little holiday. I'm not feeling guilty about it. It is what it is. I just have to pick up where I left off a week ago and get things done now.


So to get me back into gear and to help those of you who struggle with this sort of thing, I recommend Rose's 28 day organising challenge at the forum. These are small challenges for common household tasks that can be done in a few minutes. You can do the entire challenge or pick and choose the tasks you struggle with. Either way it's a great refresher for all of us who've fallen off the wagon, or never got on it. ;- )  

Rose's discussion thread. Look below the discussion thread for the individual day challenges. For example, this is the entry for day six:

Day 6 will essentially repeat Day 5, if you've been sticking to this challenge you may find a rhythm emerging especially with your morning and evening routines. Today, keep to those routines, do the tasks for today from your weekly routine, continue to put away dry washing, declutter at least one item and identify an undone thing that is niggling at you. You may decide to do this on the spot, if it's going to take a while then note it in your journal and break down the whole task into smaller steps.

Day 6 challenge:

  • do your morning and evening routines, keep to the essentials.
  • do today's tasks from your weekly routine.
  • put away clean dry washing.
  • declutter one item.
  • identify an undone thing that is niggling you.

I love how Rose talks about a rhythm developing when you carry out these challenges. That rhythm often comes in when you repeat these kinds of tasks and it's that rhythm that helps you get through the work. If you've been struggling with your house or yard work, I recommend this challenge to you. They are easy and quick tasks that can be slotted into most days and will keep you on target in your simple life.
29

The Simple Life is published today

My second book, The Simple Life, the first in a series of six, is published by Penguin today. I am one of those writers who never thought I'd publish one book, let alone two. So today is a special one for me. The Simple Life is a Penguin Special, with the distinctive Penguin cover. Their aqua blue series is for works of non-fiction. While it's not the same kind of book as Down to Earth, with pictures and beautiful design, it still contains my heart and soul and I truly hope you enjoy it. Everyone can buy either the print or ebook version of it and while it will be available from Amazon and iTunes, you can buy it from the Penguin site here. The book is light so postage will be fairly cheap.  Added later: Apparently the Penguin site is experiencing problems. Please make your purchase here at Bookworld. Several readers have said it's cheaper there and you can order today.

Once again my sincere thanks goes to Penguin for their support of writers world-wide. In particular I want to thank my editor, Daniel Hudspith, who cleverly guided me through the editing process and to my publisher, Andrea McNamara, whose grace and wisdom have seen me through The Simple Life and Down to Earth.


Price: AU $9.99 - print book and AU $7.99 - ebook.
This is from the back cover:
Rhonda Hetzel feels passionately that living simply leads to a richer, more fulfilling existence. Having made the decision to live frugally, embrace sustainability and opt out of the capitalist consumerist mindset, she set about working out how to achieve her goal, learning traditional skills, reducing her spending and environmental impact and focusing on the simple things that make life worth living: family, friends, and a home-cooked meal. This is the story of her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way. Rhonda relates why she wanted to change her lifestyle, what simple living means to her, and offers guidance to those thinking about taking the same path.

I'll be back tomorrow with a post about organising and routines.

73

Weekend reading


Another busy week here. It's probably been the same at your place too. I hope all is well in your home and that you'll have a chance this weekend to slow down and look after yourself.  Thanks for your visits this week and for your help with the shopping questions. XXX

If you can't keep hens in your backyard, here are some webcam chooks for you to watch.
NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?
Farm to table living takes root
How to be fashionable with no money
Over-scheduling children may rob them of a life worth living
Joel Salatin on Converting people to sustainable food
Lost trades fair - coopering, chair and knife making and a lot more
Leftovers? Ask the dinner doctor
Lady's work mittens - free Revelry pattern
Food photography 101
Urban Sketchers
How to make a herbal salve


sustainable mum
Simple crafty life
Homestead in Africa
15

Have you shopped at Costco?


Hello everyone! A late post today because we just got Kerry on the plane to Korea, and Tricia is here. It might be a bit hit and miss with the posts over the coming week. But I wanted to do this post because we've been talking about products and shopping all week and I want you to share your experience of shopping at Costco.  

We are fairly new to Costco in Australia. I think there are five Costcos here, one currently being built fairly close to where we live and another in Adelaide.  So if you've been a shopper at Costco, what I'd like to know:

  • What products are they selling?
  • Where are they sourcing their products from?
  • What are the prices like?
  • What is the service like?
  • And any general comment you'd like to make.
I know there are websites to go to to read about these things but I prefer hearing from real customers who share my values. Thanks for taking the time to do it. 

64

Do you know what's in the cosmetics, cleaners and skin products you use?

Making gifts - homemade soap with organic cotton face cloths.

Recent research by the American organisation Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has shown that women in the US use an average of nine personal care products every day. In those products are over 100 different chemcials.  I'm sure it would be a similar figure for women in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Click here to see more information about that study. 

In another piece of interesting news, Johnson and Johnson have started removing cancer-causing hormones from some of their products and other companies, namely Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Procter and Gamble and Unilever have been asked to do the same.

The FDA in America require an assurance from cosmetic companies before they go on sale that the product is safe to use but they aren't allowed to pre-test to confirm that assurance. They rely on the integrity of these companies to sell safe products.  Fragrance is another cause for concern. Fragrance used in room fresheners, cleaning products and cosmetics has been linked to breast cancer. The US Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act allows fragrance ingredients to remain a trade secret and because of that, no one really knows what's in these products.

Making laundry liquid in the kitchen.

 Set up with about six months supply of homemade soap and laundry liquid.

One of the things I wanted to do when I gave up work and started working in my home was to make this place as safe as it could be. I want my entire family, and yours, to be safe and now that we have grandchildren, that decision is even more urgent. I want to live a long and healthy life and I will not jeopardise that by using any of these products now. Skin is the largest organ in our bodies, what you put on it, what touches it and what it absorbs has the potential to harm you. Please be careful. I don't want any of you to become sick or die; I want you to live a long and healthy life too.


I encourage you to check the products you're using. Many companies put their ingredients lists online now. For example, here is the ingredients list for Cold Power with Cuddly, made by Colgate:

Cold Power with Cuddly - Front Loader

Ingredients (INCI Name)Purpose
Sodium carbonateAlkalinity agent and cleaning aid
Sodium sulfateProcessing aid
Sodium tridecyl benzene sulfonateCleaning agent
Pentasodium triphosphateWater softener and anti-redeposition agent
Sodium aluminosilicateAnti-redeposition agent
Bentonite clayNatural softening agent
Sodium silicateAgglomerating agent
C12-15 Alcohol 8 EOCleaning agent
Sodium anionic terpolymerProcessing aid
Lauryl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorideCleaning agent
Antifoam compoundFoam regulating agent
CI Flourescent brightenerWhitening agent
EnzymesCleaning agent for enzymatic stains
FragrancePleasant scent

Notice the last on the list? Fragrance. Phhhhht. 

If you're doing your washing with that product, or any of the others that are similar, you're sleeping on sheets and then wearing clothes that have been washed in all those chemicals. The laundry liquid I use has got four ingredients: water, soap, washing soda and borax. It works as well, if not better than the commercial brands and it's much much cheaper. Here is my laundry liquid recipe and soap recipe. Laundry liquid will take you about 15 mintues to make up and will last a couple of months. Soap will take about 45 minutes of work, spread out over a few hours - it's a weekend job. My recipe for sun infused calendula salve is here.

Calendula salve made with organic calendula petals grown in the backyard.


I tried to find ingredients lists for various bar soap and shower gels but they're not showing them. Hmmmm, I wonder why. Here is one I did find, however, it's Imperial Leather bar soap. My soap recipe has four ingredients, one of them is rain water.

Ingredient
Function

Surfactant
Emulsifier

Surfactant
Aqua

Solvent
Parfum

Fragrance


Glycerin

Solvent
Moisturizer
Palm kernel acid

Emollient
Tetrasodium EDTA




Benzyl Benzoate

Solvent
Fragrance
Eugenol

Fragrance

Fragrance

Fragrance

Fragrance
Alpha-isomethyl ionone

Fragrance
Geraniol

Fragrance

Pigment

Pigment

Pigment

Pigment
CI 77891


Pigment
Sunscreen


This is important. Even if you think you're bullet-proof, this is worth some of your time to check the soap, shower gel, washing powder or liquid, sun screen, insect repellant and cosmetics you're using. Do some research online into those products. If you can't find anything, email the company and ask.

I would love to leave you with good news but instead I'll leave you with this to read - it's an article about the FDA's rejection of the cosmetic industry's draft legislation. It is dated 6 March 2014.

Part of it: Writing that "the draft industry bill could put Americans at greater risk from cosmetic-related illness and injury than they are today," Taylor expressed he no longer saw common ground with the industry in a 14-page memo that detailed how industry’s proposed changes would weaken the FDA’s already very limited regulatory authority over the safety of cosmetics and personal care products.

Do you think that profits are more important than customers?

♥::♥::♥::♥

Rose is leading a very interesting set of organising challenges over at the forum this month. The current one is: Today is Stop Driving Ourselves Crazy Day. Today we face up to one thing we are doing which is driving us mad and we do something about it. If you have trouble organising yourself or doing what you want to do, have a look at the challenge. It may help get you on track. Just click on the link to go there, if you're not a  member, you can join up free here.
31

Local shopping

When I was growing up, my mother, like most other women, did her grocery shopping at what was often called the corner shop. This was a little shop that sold goods such as flour, sugar, tea, biscuits as well as butter and cheese. She also shopped at the butcher shop, green grocer, and delicatessen, then known as the ham and beef shop. They were all close together along the main road near our home. My first memory of a local "supermarket" was a converted grocery shop that had long narrow aisles where people served themselves and put goods into a basket, and then went to a checkout. The car-friendly, enclosed, all-in-one supermarket/mall came in the mid-1950s but we didn't go to the one a dozen miles from our home because we, like most other Australians then, didn't have a car. But we still thought it was all very exciting.


When supermarkets started opening, it was generally understood they made grocery shopping cheaper. These shops could order stock in much larger quantities, so they sold it on cheaper than the old corner shop could. The idea that supermarkets are cheaper is still with us but I have found that often they aren't. Now they win their market share because of convenience.

There was a time when you could go to your grocer and ask for something in particular and they'd get it in for you, and stock it after that if it was popular. You used to be able to do that to a certain extent in the big supermarkets too, but now it seems we don't tell them what we want to buy, they tell us. Now they trade for the benefit of shareholders; customers come second or maybe third, after the employees. They have more product lines now than you can poke a stick at, far too many in my opinion. Like many other things, you pay for the convenience and if you have the butcher, green grocer, baker and groceries all in the one place, you'll pay extra for it. Step away from that convenience and you'll reap the rewards.

I decided to look at the Woolworths online shop just to get a general idea of what they're selling now. I was shocked.  They have 32 pages of baby products, 43 pages of beauty products, 100 pages of beer, wine and spirits (I didn't know you could buy alcohol at the supermarket), 47 pages of biscuits and snacks, 87 pages of canned or packet foods, 23 pages of condiments, 97 pages of drinks, 87 pages of confectionary. There is a lot more but it's too depressing to go on.

These rolled oats are the best quality for the lowest price we can find in our area.

In the beauty aisle they had a bath cleansing puff, exfoliating towel, loofah pad, toothbrush bath (I don't even know what that is), the ready to wear cosmetic lashes, face wipes, cosmetics and sunscreen. In biscuits and snacks they have the obvious, including breakfast fruit and fibre (whatever that is), popcorn, nuts, "health" bars and crackers. Breakfast foods is particularly depressing. We buy the homebrand traditional rolled oats for 17 cents/100grams, even though we could buy the Uncle Toby's Gourmet Selection Sachet for $1.81/100grams - over priced because you pay for all that extra packaging and the advertising. There are also a lot of different flavoured "liquid breakfasts". What happened to a cup of Milo or a banana smoothie?

In canned and packaged food, there are almost 100 different varieties of tuna (why?), there is canned chicken! canned beef! canned frankfurts! canned soup! something called finishing sauces (whatever that is) long life custard, jelly, cones, waffles, pavlova mix and creamed rice in a tin (oh no!) and get this - one cup of wild hibiscus flowers in syrup for $10.39 - they are rosellas! One cup of rosellas and sugar for $10.39. If anyone here buys them I will personally track you down and show you that if you made this at home it would cost you less than a dollar. Be warned.

Some of the ingredients I use to make soap, laundry liquid and cleaners - borax, washing soda, bees wax and soap flakes.

All these convenience foods cost much more than what you make at home from scratch. Your home made goodies taste better too, there are no preservatives in them and you know exactly what's in the foods you eat. I can clearly see how dependent we are on supermarkets because I wasn't brought up with them, I have seen a different way of shopping. We can all choose to do our shopping in a way that doesn't make us dependent on brands and shopping centres. If you can find a good green grocer or fresh food market, a local butcher, a bulk food store for all your dry goods like flour, sugar, rice etc, if you make your own cleaning products, bread and snacks, then you won't have this reliance on supermarkets. You'll have more money in your purse/wallet too. Women do about 85 percent of the shopping for families. If we all thought more about the power of those shopping dollars I think we'd have a better system.

I have no doubt that like us, you'll still do some shopping in your local supermarket. It's crazy not to stock up on items at a good price when you see them,. There are also things that only a supermarket will stock - like Lux Flakes, butter, Vegemite and the like. But doing all your shopping in a supermarket will cost you more. There is usually a balance in these things which you'll only find if you look carefully at what you're doing and then do some research in your neighbourhood.

If you've already started moving in the direction of local shopping, I applaud you and encourage you to continue. You're not only doing something fine for yourself, you're helping your local business community and you're cutting down on your carbon foot print. If you're still at square one, I hope you'll think about this and deconstruct your shopping. Work out what you buy, list them in categories such as dried goods, cleaners, dairy, meat, fruit and veg etc., then look around your local community and see what the shopping alternatives are. There might not be any, but if there are, I hope you'll try them out and see the difference it makes. And don't feel guilty if you still shop for some of your products at your local supermarket, or even all of them. The main thing is to be mindful of your shopping and change it for the better if you can.

34

Weekend reading


Thanks to everyone who sent suggestions for accommodation in Tasmania. We have been there before, Tricia hasn't, but we're all looking forward to the trip very much. Hanno didn't recover quite as quickly as we thought and only yesterday was able to walk around freely without the walking stick. So we're almost back to normal now. I'm looking forward to doing some gardneing on the weekend, and to the reader who asked about the bush house, I'm cleaning it up on the weekend, so I'll take photos and write about it next week.  

Have a lovely weekend everyone and remember to look after yourself. 

♥:::♥:::♥


Why bother? - if you only have time to read one thing here, let it be this one by Michael Pollan.
Frenchfoodbaby via Small Wonders (on my side bar) both are excellent resources if you're feeding babies and young children
25 things you might not know about the web on its 25th birthday
What do you do?
Cheap eats in Adelaide
Meat straight from the farm - grass to grill
Keyboard shortcuts for Mac
List of companion plants
Survivorman - Off the Grid - You Tube
Beekeeping for Beginners - You Tube
A parrot gets a job in Legoland
Roman and Jana are having another free sustainable living workshop on Sunday 6 April @ 2pm in New Farm, bookings essential. Email spurtopia@gmail.com to book.

FROM THE COMMENTS HERE
Becci's Domestic Bliss
Eight acres - the blog
Tassie to Karatha
14

Look at this! + Trust yourself


Here it is! I have two advance copies of The Simple Life. It will be published on 25 March. They arrived yesterday so I quickly took a photo, no makeup, just as I was, old T-shirt and all. I'm sure you won't mind. When I have more details about the new books, I'll let you know. This print book is also in ebook format and after this, there are six other ebooks on Down to Earth subjects. All these books can be sold internationally but I don't know the exact details yet of where you can get them. I'll have it for you soon. :- )
♥:::♥:::♥

I get a lot of emails from readers about various topics and also a lot from people who thank me for motivating them towards the changes they've made. In with all those emails are  quite a few that are full of uncertainty and indecision, so today I'd like to talk about confidence and trust. Let's be clear right up front - if you're living like we are, you're living outside the mainstream. What we do is seen as unusual and sometimes, odd.

The light rye I baked a few days ago.

There is nothing wrong with anything unusual or odd but when people who live in a more conventional way start to criticise or question the way you live, you have to be strong enough to ignore them or to stand up for your choices. Confidence often comes when you do something often enough for it to be easy, but when you're new to this lifestyle and you're trying to convince your family and friends, and maybe yourself, that what you're doing is good for you, sometimes that confidence takes a back seat. Of course, you don't have to explain anything to anyone if you don't want to but if it's going to be easier for you, explain it in a way most people will understand. They probably won't understand the need to pull back from spending but they will understand paying off debt, so tell them that - you're not doing the things you used to do so you can pay off your debt. If you want to add anything to it, say you're trying to get healthy and cutting back on the chemicals in your food and your home. Most people understand success when they see it, so if you've got a great vegetable garden, or you're making soap or bread or knitting, show what you're doing.

My new girls learning to eat real food - watermelon and grapes.

This life isn't easy. Often you'll be making what you need, be it clothing or food, and while that ends up being beneficial, choosing convenience is easier in the short term. Look at it this way. Picking up bread, soap, cleaners and prepackaged or pre-cooked meals at the supermarket is easy, but whatever you make yourself will be better for you and will usually fit well in your budget too. Convenience comes at a price because you're paying for someone else to make it for you.

Making fresh cheese from yoghurt, homemade chilli jam and Welsh onions from the backyard.

Given time, your confidence will increase. Trust yourself to know what's good for you and your family. Others don't know that. You do. And when you're sure that living a more simple life will make you happier, when you know that you'll be able to reduce your cost of living and start paying off debt, when you feel that ever-present feeling of satisfaction in knowing you can look after yourself and your family, you will stand rock solid and you won't care that you're not the same as everyone else. In fact you might just be proud of that difference.

There is a very interesting conversation about this topic over at the forum, click here to go there.


45

When simple life is not so simple

I'm a strong advocate for slow and simple living but if you had seen me this past week, you would have wondered how slow and simple my life actually is. I'm going through a busy patch at the moment. There are lots of little things going on, I'm writing and test baking and then Hanno got gout and couldn't do any of his work. I'm sure you've all done it too. When the person you work beside is ill, you step in and do your chores and theirs. Of course I didn't do all he does but I did the tasks that couldn't be put off. That's why I didn't blog yesterday. I couldn't manage it at my normal time and then I was too tired.


Poor old Hanno has really bad gout in both ankles, one being worse than the other. For the past five days, he's hobbled out of bed using a walking stick and then has to sit down all day. I moved him from the loungeroom to the front verandah to give him a bit of variety but it's tough walking around with swollen, painful ankles. Yesterday started at 4am as usual, but I was book writing not blog writing. At six, I went out, fed the cat and let the chickens out. I checked their food and water, then picked up Lucy, our blind old girl, and brought her out to the back verandah where she spends her days with our old cat Hettie and very young wild magpie that seems to have adopted Hanno. Someone cruelly cut the end off the magpie's beak so we're feeding it. I doubt it could kill and pick up grubs and other insects. It turns up everyday and Hanno has been spoiling it with roast pork and topside mince. I went back inside to make up food for Lucy and the magpie and when all of the outside creatures were fed, I had my breakfast, and when Hanno was awake, I made his.

I tried a Vienna loaf.
Persisted with the hightop so I could break it apart when it was baked to see what the crumb was like.

But of all the week's baking, this was my favourite - a light rye.
The concoction above turned into the pineapple and passionfruit cobbler below. I used the last of our frozen passionfruit.

Then I made the bed, got bread on the rise, made sure I had everything I needed to cook lunch, did a general tidy up and washed up before doing more book writing. Break at 10 for morning tea, break at 11.30 to make lunch. During the day I also watered the plants on the front verandah, continued knitting Johnathan's cardigan, finished off a set of dish clothes, took the garbage bins out for the collection, did the washing and some ironing and whatever else came up. After a light tea and toast in the evening, I feed Hettie, put Lucy back to sleep in her favourite nest, collected the eggs and locked the chook house up for the night - all the girls safe and sound out of the rain and away from visiting night creatures. It's very interesting seeing the chickens on the roosts at night, the pecking order so neatly displayed before me. Fiona, our Araucana, who thinks she's in charge, couldn't find a place on the top roost so she slept on the tiny bit of wood that attaches the roost to the wall - above the other chickens. And Martha, the new Plymouth Rock, was still walking around because she couldn't fit on the top roost with the others and didn't want to sit on the lower roost with Tricia and Kathleen. She gets taller and more rooster-like each day. I'm keeping an eye on her.

This unappetising pot of soon to be boiled vegetables soon turned into the delicious potato and bacon soup below - our main meal yesterday.



I'm hoping to get the books fiinshed before the middle of April because I'm doing workshops for a few months then and after that, we're going on a holiday! Our first holiday in a long, long time. Three of us, Tricia, Hanno and me, all on a road trip to Tasmania. So in between the above, I've been searching for places to stay and things to see while we're there. We hope to visit lots of small markets, the Heronswood and St Erth gardens, and look at the beautiful beaches and forests along the way. On the way back, we're driving through Victoria, along the Great Ocean Road, up through the goldfields and along the Murray River. If you know of some great places to visit, or places to stay, let me know. We're looking for self-catering cottages. I am so looking forward to it.

And good news to finish off. Hanno's ankles are improving. Late yesterday afternoon he started walking without the walking stick. I hope that instead of doing his jobs and looking after him today, I'll have time to sow more seeds and do more holiday research.

What happens in your home when someone is ill and can't do their normal chores? Do you have a plan of action or do you just take it as it comes?
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Weekend reading


Here is my big boy Jamie on his way to kindy on the train in Korea. And later having lunch with mum, Sunny, in a cafe. He'll be three years old on 31 March. We sure do miss them both.

This week seems to have flown by. I've been writing and test baking, Hanno has been gardening but was slowed down a bit by gout. I'll be out in the garden later today sowing seeds and reorganising the bush house. I'm looking forward to spending time away from the computer and in the fresh air. The weather is beautiful at the moment. I hope you enjoy your time today and on the weekend. See you all next week. :- )

Transition Farm
Interest in craft declining in British schools
Very cute home decorated fish bowls
Spurtopia's sustainable living on a rental property workshop. Watch Roman and Lada on Gardening Australia again on 19 April.
Recipes for Pancake Day
Stocking up on goodness
Use your loaf to prevent food waste

Happiness. stuff and nonsense
The desert echo
A simple track


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How to make raw unpasteurised vinegar

As you know, we like giving our chickens apple cider vinegar in their water. It boosts their immunity and has a mild antibiotic effect and therefore the ability to clear up minor infections. The dosage is 25 mls per litre or 2 - 3 tablespoons per quart. They don't need it all the time. If you clean out their drinking water every couple of days, put it in every second time. About half the month they should have it in their water and half the month, just plain water.


The type of vinegar you use should be an unpasteurised  and unfiltered vinegar. These are most likely going to be apple cider vinegars and usually they contain mother of vinegar. Mother of vinegar is a jelly-like susbstance made up of yeasts and bacteria called Acetobacter. The vinegar most often used is Braggs but here in Australia, in addition to Braggs, you can use Melrose. Both are expensive because it is fermented the traditional way and not mass produced like salad or cleaning vinegar. Melrose unpasteurised vinegar is currently $6.37 for 500ml at my local IGA.

So how do we frugal folk get around that high cost? We make our own. In the unpasteurised bottles of vinegar you often find mother of vinegar and if you have a piece of it, you're on your way to making your own raw vinegar. If you don't have mother of vinegar, I did a post about making pineapple vinegar years ago, it's here, and you can use those instructions to make fruit vinegar. You don't need the mother for that process but your success will depend on the floating yeasts in your home, and maybe a passing vinegar fly - the ones most people call fruit fly that colonise rotting fruit. Vinegar flies carry tiny bits of mother on their feet.  Doesn't that sound lovely. ;- )

Yesterday I started making raw vinegar to use in our chicken water. To lessen the risk of the wrong yeast invading the liquid, you must use sterilised one litre or quart jars or crocks. Take the lids off the washed and clean jars, put your jars or crock into the oven on 150C/300F for about 15 - 20 minutes.

 This gelatinous mass is the mother I got out of the Melrose vinegar bottle. 



To make fruit vinegar using mother:
  1. Decide on the fruit you'll use, wash it thoroughly and place it all in the sterilised jar.  If you have organic fruit or fruit from the backyard, a quick rinse will do just to remove any dust. Most soft skin fruit is okay - pear, apple, plums, grapes, or take the skin and core from a pineapple and use that.
  2. Add one litre/quart of filtered or distilled water, or tap water that has stood in a bowl for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate off. 
  3. Add ¼ cup of sugar or slightly less than ¼ cup of honey. Stir.
  4. Add the mother, to the jar, cover with a clean cloth and leave it in a dark cupboard. 
I started two different type of vinegar yesterday. My second darker liquid is old white wine that I've added mother to in the hope of making white wine vinegar.

Above: the mother added to the pear liquid. 
Below: the mother added to white wine. 

Please note that fermenting is an aerobic process - it must have air to thrive. Never put an air tight lid on the jar. Stir the liquid at least once a day to incorporate air into the liquid.


Fermenting works best in darkness so either store the jar in a dark cupboard, use a stoneware crock, or tape brown paper around the outside of the jar if it's to sit on the kitchen bench.

The ideal temperature for this process is between 15C - 25C/60F - 80F degrees. It may take two weeks, it may take six months. You'll have better vinegar if it takes a few weeks rather than a few months. The liquid may turn brownish and become clear again, it may develop yeasts on the top. If it's simple grey yeast, simply remove it with a clean spoon. If it's pink mould, throw the vinegar out and start again. Cleanliness is important in this process - start with sterilised jars, wash your hands before and after touching the vinegar, and always use clean utensils and cloths.

After a couple of weeks, taste the vinegar and if it tastes like weak vinegar, you've been successful. Remove the fruit from the liquid and put it in the compost. Keep the jar of liquid going in darkness with the cloth cover until the flavours develop more. If the liquid doesn't taste like vinegar, keep stirring every day, keep it in the dark with the cover over the top and taste it again in a week or so.

I can't tell you how long it will take to make vinegar. I can't even say you'll be successful, it will depend on the yeasts and bacteria in your home. I can tell you that if you use anti-bacterial wipes or clean with bleach, you've got little chance of the beneficial yeast and bacteria being there.  But if it does work for you, you'll have a cheap but very good raw vinegar to give your chickens.

Good luck my friends.

Food security ✔︎
Self-reliance  ✔︎

FURTHER READING

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