26 May 2016

Take a peek in my stockpile and pantry

I realised in the past couple of days that soon I'll go through another life change. On Saturday June 11 at 11am, I'm giving my last public talk. As many of you know I retired after the book tour and this talk at the Toowoomba Library is the last part of the tour. It's the last time I'll ever be out and about spreading the word about simple life. I've been doing it for a long time now, sometimes at libraries and sometimes with like-minded folk at workshops. I feel very grateful to have been given the chance to connect with so many people and I've been surprised at the number of people who have come along. It's been a highlight of my life. But the time has come to withdraw back into my own life and let someone else take the spotlight.

If you've been thinking of coming along to one of my talks, this is the last one. If you can come along, I'd love to meet you. Hanno will be with me and we'll hang around for a while after the event to talk to whoever is there. The event is free but you must book, the booking page is here.

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It is well known over at the forum that Rose's organisation posts are great motivators and help us set up various routines for house work. Recently Rose started a month long series of posts called The Simply Organised Challenge. The challenge ran for 28 days focusing on different tasks and ways of working. The full challenge is there for you to read through and if you have the time to do that, I know you'll be pleased you did it.  She's just started on a decluttering challenge but start with the organisational challenge first because it will help you organise yourself and think about your work in a different way.  Day one is here.

= = = ♥︎ = = =

I cleaned out and organised my stockpile, pantry cupboards and freezer in the last couple of weeks. It was a job I didn't particularly want to do but I knew it had to be done. My sidekick Hanno was there to help so we rolled up our sleeves and got to it. I love looking in those cupboards now and I feel pleased that we put in the time to clean and organise all the goodies we have in there.

This is our stockpile cupboard. I store unopened food and jars in here. When a product is being used, I take it from the stockpile, often store the contents in a glass jar, and then store it in the pantry.

There is no real secret to organising groceries or cleaning the cupboards that contain them. Vacuum the cupboards, especially along the shelf edges to get rid of any small insect eggs or dust. Use something mild like vinegar or soap and water to clean the shelves, then allow them to dry completely before returning the food. Check and wipe every jar or tin as you return it to the cupboard. Look at use-by dates and if that date has already passed, if it's in glass, clear plastic or cellophane, check the contents. Remove anything that is mouldy, obviously fermenting in a jar or jars with bulging, rusty or damaged lids. Remove tins that are bulging too.

These two photos are of our pantry.  Only opened food, currently in use, is kept in the pantry.

When you bring dried foods home from the shop, place them in the freezer for two days to kill off anything lurking in the packet.  Then place the packet on the shelf in your cupboard. If you already have stock in the cupboard, place newly purchased products at the back, and take from the front.

Above is the layer of meat placed in the freezer when we restocked it. It's mostly beef, chicken, pork and lamb, with a pack of puff pastry on the side.  Below is the freezer yesterday, it still has the layer of meat at the bottom and now has a pack of salmon portions, rosellas, elderberries and a container of soup in there as well.

It's a good idea to run your freezer down at least once a year, defrost it, clean it out and return everything as soon as possible.  We did this before we went away in March and left the freezer empty for almost four weeks. When we restocked, I placed a layer of various meats at the bottom of the chest freezer, I may go to two layers later on, but more more. On top of the meat I have at various times, bread, fruit juice, frozen vegetables or fruit picked from the garden. I have nearly 6kg of rosellas and a few packs of elderberries in there at the moment. I always store the fruit and bread either in the baskets or on top to prevent them being squashed before they freeze solid.  A written inventory of the freezer helps a lot, especially with a chest freezer. Just itemise what's already in there and list new items when you add them. Make sure you describe and date everything and cross off what you take from the freezer.

And just a quick word about the fridge because we all store food in there too.  About a year ago I discovered sealing clips and bought a pack of 10. Since then I've become a convert and have them in constant use to seal plastic bags in the vegetable crisper and open packets of frozen peas in the freezer.  My vegetables are lasting much longer and those clips have saved me wasting food. Currently I have a cauliflower and broccoli in bags sealed with the clips and they've kept extremely well for the past two weeks. Even soft vegetables like capsicums have kept in these bags unwrinkled for 3 - 4 weeks. When I showed these clips to a friend she said they'd been out for years but as I rarely shop nowadays I'd never seen them. You may well using them too and if you are, I'd love to know your opinion of them.

And finally, the best way to keep celery fresh is to cut off the top and store that in a bag for use in soups and stews, then wash the celery under the cold tap, shake out the excess water and wrap the it in aluminium foil.  If you completely cover the celery in foil, it will stay crisp and useable for six weeks.

If you have time, tell me about your storage methods. We all buy or grow food so it's an important topic, and having tried and true storage methods will help us all cook healthy food with little or no waste.


23 May 2016

Without the guilt

It's a beautiful time of year and we're just about to go into winter. The weather has been unseasonal here, as it has been in many parts of the world. I wonder how you're faring where you are; I wonder if you're worried. It's been warm here with temperatures reaching the mid to high-20s most days and a few nights cool enough to warrant flannel sheets on the bed. There were no passionfruits on our backyard vines this season and right now, when we should have just finished harvesting, the passionfruit are starting to flower.  They won't come to anything, the flowers will drop off when the cold weather sets in and we'll be left wondering if we'll eat our own home grown passionfruits next year. Many years ago when I read about climate change, I wondered what would happen and how we could cut back on our carbon emmisions here. I suppose we put in an effort to reduce what we bought, we wasted less, stopped flying, bought a hybrid car, significantly reduced our usage of plastics and imported goods but it wasn't enough. Now I'm scared of what is ahead. Every year new records are set and some of the fruit and vegetables we grow here behave in strange ways. Have you noticed the same thing where you live? I believe those of us who are living simply notice the impact we have on our surrounding environment but every modern life is supported by materials that just weren't around a hundred years ago. I wonder what price we're paying for those materials or if that price will be paid by our grandchildren instead. Have you made any changes in your home because of climate change? Many of us worry and complain about the weather and what's happening in the world but when does that worry become a genuine effort to change how we live?

I feel as if I've just retired even though I stopped working for a living when I was 55. I gave up being a technical writer, then, after being totally fascinated by simple life, started writing about it and became a blogger and author instead. I didn't go out to an office every day but I put in the hours in front of a computer and still lived a life of deadlines. My days are gentler now, I said no to more published work and followed my natural inclinations back home. These days, instead of patchworking my home life with my writing life, I'm free to do as I wish, potter around to my heart's content and have my creative, intellectual and practical needs fulfilled within the confines of these fences.

Mornings start slowly because I have plenty of time to do what I need to do. During the day I've been re-establishing routines, working on my fabric and yarn handicrafts, helping Hanno with the garden, cooking, baking, making plenty of tea, reading and thinking about what is to come in the next few years. In the past couple of weeks, I cleaned out the stockpile and pantry cupboards and have decided to cut back a little on the stockpile. It's still an important part of my home management but now that I'm not writing, I have more time to go to the market and keep a better eye on my food stores. I'm committed to adding more home preserved foods to the stockpile too and they'll replace some of the jarred and tinned food I was buying.

I've just started making yoghurt again. It was a regular part of my kitchen chores up until a couple of years ago, as was preserving in jars, but when I got busy writing books, some things had to go and I started buying supermarket yoghurt.  That is never as good as the homemade version so I'm pleased to be back. I made my first litre in a long time just the other day and it feels good to be using my dairy skills again. When I gave up making yoghurt and preserving, I didn't feel guilt or any resentment about not having the time, I just accepted that for then, it was the right thing to do.  I think some of us get tied up in knots when we can't do what we think we should do. We all have to recognised our own limitations and if stopping one or two tasks makes the rest of the housework easier, then that is what should happen, without the guilt.

But now it's all there for me again, whatever I choose to do, I can do. I feel grateful for that and I know such freedom is a rare thing nowadays. It's certainly something to work towards though, no matter what stage of life you're at. If, like me, you have a period when you can't do all you want to do, it's wise to think of those days as a season that is part of your personal evolution. It won't last forever and there will come a time when your life will have different priorities and will change again. You might feel regret for not being able to do what you want, but don't feel guilt. Every day the good and the bad are part of your life, and guilt stops you seeing that usually there is more good than bad.


20 May 2016

Weekend reading

Last week I told you about the upcoming poultry show near here.  Now I have photos to show you the juniors' competition eggs plates and some of the feathered competitors.  I think poultry shows and egg competitions are a great way of getting children involved in community life. They learn the discipline needed to show and they mingle with older folk who have a lot of knowledge to pass on.  If you live on the north side of Brisbane or close to the Sunshine Coast, the Lawnton Poultry Club and the North Pine Poultry Club both promote the keeping, breeding and exhibition of heritage and purebreed poultry. Both clubs welcome new members and take individual, junior and family memberships.

Click here for more information about the Lawton Poultry Club
Click here for more information about the North Pine Poultry Club 
 Junior section egg table.

Judging the eggs.

 This Light Sussex won at the Caboolture Show.
Old English Game.
Bantam Ancona.

Blue bantam frizzle.

White frizzle.

I was very busy at the forum during the week and didn't have time to post here.  Most of the work is done there now so I hope to be back with you next week. I've also been busy out in the garden and I had a couple of days down time when I slipped on a pea on the kitchen floor and crashed onto my knees. I'm almost back to normal now so it's full steam ahead.  

I hope you all have a lovely weekend. Let's get outside and smell the roses.  ♥︎

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13 May 2016

Weekend reading

I came across this unusual sight during the week when I drove down to the coast to pick up a few things. Cruise ships usually sail past here. This one stopped and let off passengers to spend time on land here on the Sunshine Coast. I guess it would have been a boost for the local economy.

Hanno and I are spending time in the garden every afternoon enjoying the sunshine and the cool breezes that blow through. It's a beautiful time of year and one that we make the most of in the garden.  I hope you have time to get out and breathe in the fresh air in the coming days. I'll see you next week. ♥︎

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11 May 2016

Chickens for sale and an egg competition

I am really happy with our newest chickens. We got them from Beautiful Chickens just outside Brisbane. Kate from Beautiful Chickens sent an email today that might be of interest to our chicken lovers. She is sponsoring an egg competition this Sunday, 15 May, at the Dayboro Showgrounds. It looks like a great event for all ages. Details below:

We are also sponsoring the egg competition on sunday at the rare breeds show in Dayboro at the showgrounds.

If you feel your followers who live locally would be interested we are still open for entries of plates of 6 eggs up until sunday morning 9am.

They are judged in different classes looking for uniformity of colour, texture and shape and freshness in the 6 eggs. Juniors are very much encouraged to enter also.

I am happy to take entries early on Friday and Saturday if people can't make it down by 9am Sunday. It would be a great day out for anyone interested in rare breeds and colours in poultry.

These are a ginger Frizzle, a silver Barnevelder and a gold laced Barnevelder, all were bred by Kate.

If you're looking for some chickens, Kate will have a good selection of her stock at the Samford Valley markets at St Paul's Anglican Church this Saturday May 14. The market runs from 7am till 12 noon every second Saturday of the month. If you're after a particular type of chook breed, call Kate on 0414550302.


6 May 2016

Weekend reading

We took a photo of this larger than life Marilyn Monroe statue when we were in Bendigo in March. It's part of an exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery that runs until mid-July.

I haven't been in the garden much with rain earlier in the week and Hanno's health taking up the end of the week. No need to worry. He has a referral to a specialist and physiotherapist and is coping at the moment. I hope to get back to the garden on the weekend. I have more time now but always seem to be behind. I think this is a common feeling but I'm looking for ways to get around it because I don't like playing catchup all the time.

I hope you enjoy the weekend and put aside time to relax.  I'll see you again next week. ♥︎

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5 May 2016

From scarecrow to neat and pressed in one easy step

I've happily returned to ironing. I used to do a bit to help my mum when I was a teenager. I hated ironing then and my attitude towards it didn't improve for many years.  For decades I only ironed the absolute necessities and then I had an ironing lady who came in once a week to iron for us. But time passed, my attitude towards many things changed and now I've returned to ironing. It feels good.

Ageing has helped softened many of my long-held beliefs and things I used to think were too difficult are easy now. Most of the time I don't have to wear clothes that look good but when I go out to library talks and, more recently, when we were doing the book tour, I needed and wanted to look like I'd put in an effort.  I take my forays into the community seriously, I want to meet the people who come along and to be comfortable and look presentable when I meet them. Most of my clothes are a bit old now so if they're not clean and ironed, I could look like a scarecrow.

I have an ironing press now, as well as a good iron, and that helps keep household linens pressed and beautiful with little effort. At the moment one of my sons is staying with us a few days a week and I help him with his chef's uniforms. My soaking tub is getting a good work out and then I have a few chef's whites and black pants to iron so he looks clean and presentable at work.

The thing that helps the most when ironing is to use a good steam iron and starch. It makes the process of ironing easier, it gives me the finish I want and most of what I iron looks much better when use a spray starch instead of plain water spray.  Of course I don't buy starch because it's ridiculously expensive at the supermarket and so easy to make at home. Making up a litre at a time sees me through about two or three weeks of ironing and like all my other homemade products, I can modify it to suit my own needs.  Sometimes I add essential oil to the mix but often it's just its plain old self and that does the job nicely.

This is my recipe for starch. It can be made up as a weaker of stronger solution simply by adding less or more starch to the water.
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch - the one you use in your cooking
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cold tap water
  • essential oil is optional
Add 1 tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch to a bowl that can hold at least 1 litre/quart. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and mix with a spoon. When it's smooth and runny, add two cups of boiling water and stir well to mix. Then add 2 cups of cold tap water and allow the mix to cool. I use half the amount in a spray bottle for ironing and store the remaining half in a sealed jar.

My only other recommendations are to shake the bottle before use, wipe your iron with a clean moist cloth when you finish ironing and wash the spray bottle and nozzle throughly when you finish each batch.

If you hate ironing there is nothing that I can tell you that will help you change. Only time will do that. But using spray starch will help you get a better result for less effort when you iron. Of course the make-it-yourself aspect will allow you to use fewer chemicals in your home and instead of paying four or five dollars for spray starch at the supermarket, you'll pay just a couple of cents for a spoon full of starch and some water. For me the choice was simple. What do you do?


3 May 2016

Housework - a productive necessity

Without a doubt, our homes are the starting point many good things we'll experience. We all interpret "good things" differently. What I can't live without, you might turn away from. What you hold dear, I might find irrelevant. Even the way we use our homes is different but from that diversity comes opportunity, strength, complexity, sustainability, resilience, respect, generosity and the potential for many good things, and it all flows from home.

All the photos today where taken at my sister's home when I was there in March.

I used to be one of those people who didn't take the time to think about the significance of my home. I thought it was just a shell that held my possessions and where I slept. But as I changed the way I lived, I came to understand the importance of home and how it makes things possible. I'm not a perfectionist, in fact I think that mindset stops many things happening, but although I never aimed for perfection, what I have now in my home is exactly what I want and need to thrive.  Don't get me wrong, we don't live in a flash house in the best suburb. Our home is a 1980s brick slab in a rural town an hour's drive from our capital city. But it's quite here, we have plenty of room to grow grandchildren, chooks and food, we're surround by pine forest so the air is clean, we have family and friends close by, we have enough of everything we need, and the work we do here gives us good reason to smile when we wake every morning. We are fulfilled by our work, we are satisfied with enough, we are sustained by each other and our home.

Work is an essential part of life for all of us, even if we don't want it to be. I've never quite understood the people who've told me they don't like housework and therefore don't do it. I don't believe it. Not because I enjoy the work I do here but because of the mess and chaos that would result if you didn't do any housework. We all need to clean the floor, fridge, stove and bathrooms at some point. We all need clean clothes. We all have to eat and shop for food.  And if that is the case, doesn't it make sense to do the work that will give you the standard of life you want for yourself? Even if you hate housework, doing it is better than living in a house where no housework is done.

I think homemakers are broadly divided into two group. There are those who go out to work on a full or part-time basis and there are those who spend most of their time at home being productive, raising children, caring for loved ones or in retirement.  It doesn't matter which group you're in - if you fluff up your nest to make your home comfortable and productive, if you modify your home to support how you work there, if you use your home as a place where you relax and regroup, you'll be making the most it. Putting the time in to organise yourself and your home will provide you with a springboard from which to launch yourself, your paid workers and students every day. Everyone will be prepared for anything. It will also give the homemakers a sanctuary where children can grow, retirees can grow older and time spent fluffing the nest will be seen as a productive necessity rather than something to be endured or ignored. Rose has written an excellent series of realistic organisation threads on the forum that could help you. Day one is here.

If you feel this animosity towards housework, try to think of it as something you do to give yourself a clean, productive and beautiful place to live. Read Rose's threads too because they'll probably help you think differently about your housework. If you allow yourself to see beyond the work and experience instead what it gives you, it will be enriching every day and life changing in the long run.

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