Weekend reading

There are a lot of elderflowers this year.

Hanno hasn't been well and during the week he was diagnosed with pneumonia, again. This is the second time in 18 months. He also had an internal bleed due to his Warfarin levels being too high - apparently a side effect of the antibiotics. He's going through the process of healing now, taking it slow, breathing in clean air, eating nourishing food and getting back in shape for his birthday next month. He'll be 77.

With Hanno out of action I've been doing a bit more work here which, of course, takes more time.  At the moment I'm trying to get the garden and bush house ready for summer. I'm on target to do that which will make things easier for us later when the hot weather returns.  We've had a sneak preview of that the past couple of days with our temperature here rising to 31C yesterday after a very warm week.

I hope things have been good in your neck of the woods. Thanks for your visits this week, enjoy your weekend and don't forget to stop a few times during the day to appreciate what it is you're working for.  See you next week. 💕

Inner Pickle blog is back! For those of you who know Fiona, she's blogging again, for those who have no idea, click on the link and get acquainted. She returns with her passionfruit slice recipe. Yum!

Can you learn to love hard work?

Amy left this comment a few days ago:
Can you do a post or point me to resources about how to love hard work? I'm finding that being a wife, mother, and grown up is frankly a lot harder than I thought it would be! I keep trying to look for solutions (usually via some gadget/ something convenient to buy) but I'm realizing it's just plain hard. Need some help "digging in" and expecting/ enjoying the work...even the small stuff.

Amy, I doubt you can be taught how to love hard work. You either love it or you don't. I think the real point of this post will be to work out how you get to the point where you want to do the work. I know nothing of your circumstances but I do know this. If you want to live in a clean house you have to clean it, if you want to get into a comfy bed at night, you have to make it in the morning, if you want clean clothes, you have to do the laundry, if you want to eat nourishing food, you have to grow or buy it and learn how to store and cook it. And when you've finished cooking, you have to clean up. Unless you're wealthy and can pay others to look after you, the time has come for you to step up, work out what you want for yourself and your family, and then do the work to make it happen.

From what I can see, you have two choices. Either decide it's all too hard and stay as you are, or think about the kind of life you want, decide on what values are important to you and start changing.  The first option will be easy now and become more difficult later, the second option will be difficult now but will become easier as you learn more. Being a grown up is hard, being a mother is the toughest thing I've ever done, but the rewards are significant and beautiful. If I can do it, you can too.  So sit down with your partner and work out your priorities.

The main things you'll need to focus on are living on a budget, saving for a home and creating a sustainable and thrifty home and lifestyle. And within that framework, you'll simplify your mindset, live a slower life and show your child, by example, that you don't have to work until you drop to pay for products, produced in their millions, which end up in landfill. You don't say if you're going out to work but if you are, the housework is something you should share with your partner.  If you're at home looking after your child, make that and your home your career. Run your home like a small business, with your partner earning the money and you using that money to build the life you both want. There are many ways you can move away from the mainstream model of what "normal" life is nowadays. You'll be able to make things you used to buy, use fewer chemicals in your home, cook from scratch, mend and recycle. By doing those things, slowly but surely, you'll create a new life.

As you do all those things, you'll develop routines and become more organised.  If you read through my blog and a few others, you'll learn how to make shortcuts that will make you more efficient. You'll develop a new strategy for your grocery shopping, set spending targets that are lower than what you're used to and then use the money you'll save for a home deposit or to pay off debt you may already have. It's all within your reach but you'll have to have a clear vision of the life you want to live and you'll have to change your attitude. I've listed a few of my older posts below to help you get started but there are a lot of other posts there that are exactly what all this is about. I hope you take the time to read some of them and then put your plan in action.  It won't be easy but it will get easier and I think you'll grow to love your new life. Good luck and keep in touch.



Last week Donna commented that she and her husband will soon be first time grandparents and wondered if I had any tips to pass on.  Of course I'm happy to share my own experience of being a grandma but I think that every grandmother-grandchild relationship is unique and even though there are many similarities, there are just as many differences. Children are wildly different too. What works with one grandchild, won't work on another, so you tear up the guide book and reinvent the strategy for each child. It's also worth remembering that times have changed since we raised our children and while that doesn't mean that everything is different, most things are and you'll need to be guided by the parents and do a bit of reading yourself.

These are my boys at age four and five.

It's a wonderful thing to live long enough to be able to hold your grandbaby in your arms. You get a sense of pleasure and duty but it also gives you an extremely clear perspective on your place within your family, both living and dead. I started researching my genealogy 37 years ago when my children were born but I didn't understand my significance in my family's story until my grandchildren came along. It's good for your grandchildren to know how they fit in their family history too.

Becoming a grandmother is overwhelming, mysterious, thrilling, exciting, terrifying, the most unimaginable thing and the most natural thing all at the same time. Everyone has their own take on it but no one forgets that first look on the day it all starts. I think it's my responsibility to love each of my three grandchildren, to show them respect, kindness, strength, intelligence and unconditional acceptance and love. I try harder and walk taller when they're here with me. I try to show them that I'm a hard worker, that I do what I can for myself, that I'm optimistic and content and that they make me happy. I help them solve problems, I show them how to do practical things and I teach by example.

But in those first few months, it's not only the new baby that needs nurturing; it's the parents too. They're learning how to be parents, they have the bulk of the work and they usually don't get much sleep. If you can offer practical help in the form of babysitting so they can have some time together, catch up on sleep, or just do the housework, those gestures help develop better relationships while providing practical help.

You don't need to keep much at your place but I've found it's wise to have a spare baby bottle and sippy cup in the cupboard. Buy a couple of books to read and a little teddy bear and if you have a quiet space where baby can sleep in those first few months, it will help. Take the lead from the parents on nappies - it's quite common for parents to use disposable nappies so don't lecture them if you'd prefer they used cloth nappies. Remember, this is not your baby. Think back to how you would have felt if you mother or mother-in-law told you you should be doing X when all you could manage was Y. New parents need support and help, not confrontation.

But having said that, don't be a doormat for your children either. If you're asked to babysit and you can't do it, or don't want to do it, let them know. We have a really good relationship with our kids and even now, after six years of babysitting when we're needed, our kids still ring and ask if we can look after our grandkids. They never take it for granted, and they always thank us when they leave.

I guess to sum it up, give as much as you can in the form of practical help without feeling miserable about it.  Remember that generally the more time you spend with your grandchildren the closer you'll be. Don't expect them to feel instant love, they'll have to get used to you, they'll have to spend time with you and if you can develop a strong bond with them without it involving toys and gifts, you'll be on the right track. But most of all just enjoy those new babies as they arrive and be the kind of help you'd wished for when you were a new mum. Congratulations new grandma. You're in for the ride of your life.

I wonder what the other grandmothers here will tell you.


One year old!

This photo was taken yesterday afternoon as Gracie was posing on the verandah.

Happy birthday to our dear Gracie who is one year old today.  We're taking her to the beach for lunch and a run around. Despite her outbursts of craziness, we both love her dearly. She's unlike any other dog we've had before and we're looking forward to many years of Gracie antics ahead.

==  ❤️ ==

If I had to name this dish I'd probably call it chicken fricassee but it's not the traditional recipe for fricassee.  This is, however, a lightish, delicious and easy to cook chicken stew which makes its own stock as it cooks.  It's popular with children as well as adults, it's a good winter all rounder.

You can use either chicken pieces with the bone in or a whole chicken. I use a whole chicken because it's cheaper; I always use free range chicken. If you have a whole chicken, using a sharp knife and chicken shears, cut along both sides of the spine, then snip it along the cut to remove the spine. Don't discard it, it goes in the stew to help develop flavour in the stock. If you have boneless chicken pieces, use them with a good homemade chicken stock.

1 whole chicken cut into portions, or 8 chicken pieces with bone in. After removing the spine, cut off the wings, cut each of the breasts in half, cut the legs from the thighs. This will give you 8 portions plus the wings.

1 cup plain/all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper)
1 tablespoon paprika
Olive oil for cooking
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
4 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and paprika together and coat each chicken piece. Place olive oil in frying pan and brown each coated chicken piece. Add the chopped vegetables and all the bones removed when you portioned the chicken. Add a litre of water and mix. Add the herbs.

Put the lid on, bring to the boil, and then place in the oven to cook slowly (about 150C/300F) for two hours. About an hour later, add some potatoes.  Yes, you can use the slow cooker instead of the oven.

As it cooks the sauce will thicken. Make sure you cook this slowly to retain the moisture. A fast cook will dry out the meat.  Serve with a green vegetable.

I hope you enjoy it.


I'm not ready now, or ever, to be non-productive

I fear there is a dumbing down battle going on. It's there in food - why would we want to cook for ourselves when there are constantly changing, easy products to buy and heat up? It's there in clothes - most of us have lost the dressmaking and mending skills our great grandmothers had. It's there in general daily life where there is a constant buzz from the social media peanut gallery made up of criticism, self-rightiousness, inane comments and fake concern for, well, you name it, just about everything.  Busyness and distractions are highly prized, shopping is an entertainment rather than a necessity and there is constant pressure to follow instead of lead. Gone are the days when we were encouraged by our elders, friends, politicians and neighbours to do our best, help out, create community, cherish uniqueness and try to do better and be better. We are now learning you are what you own.

A torrential downpour on Sunday afternoon.

I think simple life is a safe haven for those of us who refuse to be dumbed down and who want to continue learning and developing ourselves all through life. School and university are the launching pads for learning but it certainly doesn't stop there. Once we have our basic education, then we have the abilities and reason to learn about the things we want in our lives. That might be home skills, traditonal skills, craft skills, developing creativity and productivity or nurturing a family, but it could also be a career with an emphasis on calmness and sustainability at home. There are always choices along the way and it is only through building your skills and knowledge that you'll be able to make the best choices for you and your family. If you take learning and self-development seriously and if you use it to enrich your home and career then you're well on your way to living the kind of splendid life that we dream about in our younger years.

The choices are key here. Instead of following a straight and monotonous "normal" path, we can step away from that to embrace learning, independence, daily contemplation, critical thinking and individual choice. Sometimes we take the easy path, sometimes the difficult one, and each day, small step by small step, we move through life. There are times when we stop and reevaluate what we're doing, sometimes small adjustments or huge leaps are made but if we resist the noise of modern life and stay focused on our own life being a work in progress, then these periods of adjustment help us continue along the road less travelled.

Having lived through six decades I'm about to move into the most challenging one. It's not easy growing old but it's certainly better than dying young. I don't want to live a fake life where I buy everything I need and take the path of least resistance. That kind of life is always partnered by the work it takes to pay for it and a huge amount of waste. I want a life that is challenging and interesting. I want to work for what I get. I want to sit in the sun when I feel like it, grow food, take cuttings, mend the things I love and do as much for myself as is possible. I'm slowing down now because of my age but I'm not ready now, or ever, to be non-productive. 

What stage of life are you at?  What are you doing with your days? Remind me of that exhilarating phase, that lasted many years for me, when I went to bed thinking about tomorrow's plans and wanting the hours to pass quickly so I could be catapulted out of bed to face the new day. I miss that.


Weekend reading

 Who?  Me!

Hanno's been been hit with a bad cold this week so things have been quietly busy here.  I'm hoping  I don't get sick too, so far it's looking good. We're still having trouble with Gracie at night when we're asleep. Most nights are good but then she'll go crazy and destroy whatever she can find. She's now sleeping in the kitchen in her dog box and she's tethered to the wall. Luckily she loves her new bed so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope she settles down.

This week I'm delighted to give you the blog addresses of a group of women who did an online blog workshop with me recently.  I think they've all started off well and present interesting blogs, which show us, yet again, how different we all are while being very similar. Please visit these new blogs and take the time to leave a comment. Comments encourage bloggers to continue writing and help build online communities of like-minded people. The list is below, I hope you enjoy these blogs and add them to your daily reads.

A Simple Living Journey
A Truly Content Life
Fig Tree Creek Permaculture
Life after 50, Fitness, Leisure
Diva Farm Days
Home is my Haven
The Awakened Soul
Sock Knitting Mama
Creativity Grows Here

Regular news links ...
The 13 step digital declutter
Life skills all school kids should learn
What are you really getting if you buy "free-range"?
Turmeric pickled eggs
How many times can you reheat leftovers?

A visit to Green Harvest

Last Friday morning we set off up the mountain to buy vegetable seeds at Green Harvest. After driving through Maleny we were surrounded by rolling hills and many small homesteads along the way.  So many of these homes are on large blocks where the owners take advantage of the space with chooks, goats or a house cow, as well as a thriving kitchen garden. It's a lovely drive. I've visited Green Harvest many times over the years when the shop was in Maleny, this was to be the first visit to their new store and garden at Witta.  What a treat it was. The garden is bigger than I expected it to be and we happily wandered the garden paths looking, touching and smelling a very wide range of plants. You would not see many of these plants in a regular nursery.

Gracie will lead you around the Green Harvest garden.  Hold on to your hat.

The garden wraps itself around the side of the shop.

Red/purple kale.

These are pigeon peas. We used to grow these up until a few years ago. They're a great addition to the backyard especially if you have chooks. They make a great feed for chickens and you can use the dried peas to make pea soup, in much the same way you use yellow split peas.

I loved that the garden was very much a productive kitchen and medicinal garden. I'm disappointed when I visit a garden that is manicured and clipped to within an inch of its life.  I want authenticity in the gardens I visit. A wild and thriving garden is much more interesting and satisfying to me than a neat and clipped one. As we walked around I saw plants I knew as well as many I didn't know. If you're new to gardening, I'm sure a visit to this garden would help you. The plants in the garden are named, the staff are keen to help and as well as the seeds, there are a number of seedings and cuttings on display that you can buy.

When you grow open pollinated or heirloom vegetables, you can collect the seeds to sow the following season.  Above and below are the basil seeds I collected from our plants last week. Not only is it a cheaper option to garden this way, but the plants you grow from open pollinated seeds from your own garden will be better adapted to your local conditions.   

When you visit the Green Harvest website, you'll see it's not just an online shop, it's a valuable resource built to help new and seasoned gardeners. Green Harvest is owned and run by Frances and Jeff Michaels and Frances has been writing and encouraging fellow gardeners with her vast horticultural knowledge since they opened in 1992. There is a wide range of information about vegetables, herbs, fruit and permaculture online and Frances has always maintained accurate and relevant information there for all to read.  But visiting the garden where many of the seeds come from is enlightening and a great encouragement to go home and start digging.  I have visited a few heirloom seed gardens in other states but none came close to the motivation I felt at this wonderful place.

These are the seeds I bought at Green Harvest, along with the Give Bees a Chance collection of flower seeds Jeff wanted me to try. They would be fabulous if you have a bee hive or two but also a valuable addition to the collection of local flowers bees visit near your home.

You can sign up for the annual Australian Organic Gardening Resource Guide here and find many of the answers you're searching for here in Green Garden Notes. Both of these invaluable guides are provided free by Green Harvest. The Green Harvest shop is located at 9 Gumland Drive Witta, which is on the western side of Maleny, and is open Monday to Friday from 9am - 5pm.  It would be a great day out if you drove up from Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast. Don't forget to pack a thermos and a sandwich because there are plenty of places along the way to pull off the road, but there is a coffee shop next door if you get caught short.

I am not affiliated with Green Harvest at all but have found Frances, Jeff and their staff to be generous and genuine with a fine community spirit.  I have bought goods from them online and in person and recommend them to you as a business that always provides excellent products and service.


Free postage at Biome

I have shopped at Biome for a number of years and many of their products are in constant use in our home. If you've never browsed through the site, now may be the time because Tracey, Biome's founder, is giving us free shipping in Australia until next Monday 31 July. Use the code: FREEJULY when you checkout and the shipping will be free. The offer ends at midnight on Monday night.

If you've been following along with the War on Waste podcast and have decided to make a real change in your own life, you may want to buy a nice water bottle and reusable coffee/tea cup.   Hanno and I have been using the Lifefactory water bottles for some time and if you came along to any of the talks I gave last year on the book tour, you probably would have seen my aqua Lifefactory bottle.  They're glass with a protective sleeve so you can carry cold drinks or hot tea/coffee. We also frequently use the Joco reusable coffee cups and they too travelled with us on all our book tours.

Biome also has organic and vegan makeup and skin care (I use the Inika range), hair products, books - including my books (thanks Tracey), natural cleaning products, healthy baby and children's products such as bottles, small glass storage pods for homemade baby food, creams and balms, small stainless steel water bottles,  insulated school lunch boxes, wooden toys, and a wide range of Dr Bronner's lotions, balms, liquid and bar soaps, including the new baby soap in a pump pack. These Castile soaps are organic and very concentrated. I bought the 946ml bottle of Dr Bronner's citrus liquid soap four years ago and finished it this week. There is organic skin care and makeup for teenagers as well as a good range of men's products such as shampoo, deodorant, skin and beard care.  

And don't forget these Wean Meister freezer pods. I use them every week to freeze juice, make large ice blocks and small amounts of frozen homemade sauce. Once they are frozen, all are stored in other containers.

But there is so much more. Check them out here but if you're in Brisbane, Tracey's stores are in Brisbane city, Indooroopilly, Balmoral and Paddington.

Weekend reading

This season's first tomato harvest. I pick these when they're green to avoid the tomato grub. We can leave the cocktail tomatoes on the plants longer, but these are better ripening on the kitchen bench.

Gracie struck again. 😧  I got up at 3am a couple of nights ago and when I walked into the hallway, I walked on something odd. It was rice! Gracie found the rice bag I made for Hanno's balance exercises, tore into it and sprayed rice over three rooms. She also climbed onto the couch so she could reach my knitting basket, pulled out three circular knitting needles, chew them so the plastic broke, chewed an embroidery hoop and embroidery, narrowly missing a sharp needle, played with some knitting cotton and chewed on a number or pamphlets sitting on the coffee table. She was manic, running up and down the hall and only calmed down when I sat down at the computer and ignored her. After ten minutes of running, she sat down and went to sleep. She can't roam the house when we're in bed now. Last night she spent the first night on her bed in my craft room with the door closed. It went well. I have a few adjustments to make today, mainly moving electrical cables. From now on, she'll be confined to that one space overnight. Fingers are crossed.

Thanks for your comments this week. I do enjoy reading them and appreciate the time you take connecting with me. I hope to see you again next week. 

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Superannuation: Women on track to retire with half as much as men
Goats, bonfires and eggs: four city slickers head for the farm
This made me feel a bit sick and very disappointed: How tea bags are made
Tomato caterpillar
Gardening jobs for August (Australia)
Hokkaido Milk Toast
Top 10 embroidery blogs
Appalachian English

Recycling lids

Many of us are trying to cut back on plastic by looking for substitutes for plastic wrap to cover food that is stored in the fridge. If you have a look in your local op shop or antique shop, you'll probably find china lids that used to sit on top of old serving pots. Usually, you can buy them for a couple of dollars. They make excellent covers for modern bowls and can be used over and over again. Or just look in your saucepan cupboard. You might find a saucepan lid just the right size for your bowl of leftover potato salad or fresh strawberries. If the seal isn't quite right, cover the top of the bowl with a square of moist cloth or a piece of baking paper and then place the lid on it. Most food will store well in the fridge for a couple of days using this method.

Our Sunday

Sundays feel different here, I guess they always have, but the reality of it is that Sunday is just another day. There are no weekends when you work every day. But instead of painting that as being drudgery, you know as well as I do, that this lifestyle, even on its worst day, is far from drudgery. So yesterday, our Sunday, I was up early, read the overnight news and watched my two favourite live streams. Yes, in addition to the bears in Alaska, for the past couple of weeks, I've been visiting the interesting and lovely sheep and turkey barns at Sanctuary Farm in Watkins Glen, New York.

The farm has been running since 1986 and provides a safe and comfortable life for farm animal that have been rescued from unethical factory farm practices. They have sheep, goats, cows, alpacas, chooks, turkeys and pigs. I know many children read here with their parents so I've been watching silently for a couple of weeks to make sure there was nothing that would upset them. I'm happy to report the farm is run by gentle and kind staff who seem to genuinely care for the animals they tend. I watched one staff member administer medication to a number of animals before the gates were opened and there is a goat with paralysed back legs who is attached to a wheeled walker. Many of the animals are housed in large barns with straw-covered floors at night and are let out to enjoy the sun and pasture during the day. It's easy to spend 15 minutes there drinking tea while thinking about the internet and the power of the many good people in the world.

Back in the physical world, Jamie arrived around 7.30am, Hanno cooked his favourite breakfast of baked beans and an egg with a cuppa, while I wandered outside looking at the bush house wondering if it would be the day I actually tidied it up. I cut back a few wild plants and selected some pots I'd plant into later in the day.  Gracie was outside, the chooks were let out, the sun was shining and all was right in my world. I went back inside to wait until the temperature rose above 9 degrees.  Brrrrr  ⛄️

On Saturday I made a really delicious soup. I slow-cooked some marrow bones, parsley, thyme and bay leaves for 18 hours and in a separate 9 litre pot cooked 1½ cups of barley and cubed gravy beef. In the food processor, I roughly chopped onions, carrots, parsnip, turnip and celery and added it to the half-cooked beef and barley. Then I added my seasonings - 2 tablespoons miso, 2 tablespoons Worcester sauce, 1 tablespoon paprika, salt and pepper. Then I added the stock from the slow cooker to the pot, topped it up with water and put the lid on to slowly simmer for another two hours. It was one of my best soups ever. We had it again for yesterday's lunch and I added herb dumplings then because I had the extra space in the pot. Fresh local strawberries and cream followed and all of us agreed, it was a very good lunch.

I wanted to bake something that Jamie likes so he could take a few home to share as well as take to school next week.  Having a Swedish grandma, cinnamon rolls are one of our traditional family foods.  I don't make them often, maybe once a year, but when they're sitting on the kitchen bench, the smell is divine and it just calls out for tea to be made. Immediately. We had a roll each for afternoon tea while we watched Grace run around the front yard filling her eyebrows and beard with weed seeds.  Pffft.

I'm looking forward to the coming week. The only plans I have are for a haircut on Wednesday and then to travel over to see Kerry at his new sushi shop to wish him a very happy birthday. I might just take some cupcakes with me for him and his staff to have with coffee when they have a break.  The rest of the week I'll be gardening, saving seeds, tying up tomatoes, tidying the bush house (maybe), cooking and knitting.  It's still cold here so our food will continue to be hearty and warm. I've planned a pork rack on our little charcoal grill during the week and Hanno has already asked for another tray of cinnamon rolls.

What are your plans for the week?

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