Weekend reading

27 October 2017
Dear friends, I thank you for your patience. The stats tell me that several thousand of you are visiting everyday during my break so I thought I'd pop in with a list of weekend reads and to tell you I'll be back mid-next week. Hanno and I have been busy with all sorts of things here but I'll tell you about that when I come back.

For those of you in Australia, don't forget it's National Bird Week and the backyard bird count is on right now. It finishes on Sunday. I was ready to do my count yesterday afternoon but storms threatened, which affects bird numbers, so I'll be out there doing my count this afternoon.

I hope things are good in your home. Enjoy the weekend, take time for yourself and you family and friends and get ready to dive in head first again next week.  I'll see you then! xx

How you can actually save money on your power bill
Ziferblat. I saw a TV program about this in the middle of a stormy night recently so the next morning I searched for it online.  Originating in Russia, they feel more like a neighbourhood centre to me, but these places look like homes with living rooms, craft rooms and libraries. I'd hate to recommend anything to you that was touted as "the latest" no matter what it was, but even though this might feel like the latest trend to many people, to me it's an old-fashioned meeting place, and that is timeless.
Top 10 tips for tea!
How to repair a hole in a Tshirt
Women do most of the housework and other surprising census figures
The day 344 men moved a barn - community spirit, neighbourly love, hard work, low tech, don't you love it!


Dear everyone

16 October 2017
This is one of my roses - Summer Memories. Just around the corner from this, Cecile Brunner is flowering her heart out. I'll save her photo for another day.

Dear everyone, we have a lot happening here at the moment so I won't be writing my blog for a while. Everything is fine but blog writing is at the bottom of the list. I feel like a break anyway so now is as good a time as any.  

Rose's husband Tony called in for afternoon tea a couple of days ago. He's sold their house and is up here looking for a new home to settle in with Mavis, Rose's mum. She's still in good health and is back in Wollongong.

I'll be back when things settle and there is more time for writing. Take care. xx

Changes in the garden too

11 October 2017
The garden we have today looks different to those we had in the past.  We're in the process of preparing for older age while we continue to live here, close to our family, in a place we love. Next month it's been 20 years since we moved here. We've kept chickens and grown a garden for the past 30 years so it's not been an easy decision to let some of it go.  One of the must-haves for me is herbs. I use a lot of herbs in my cooking and can't imagine having land outside the back door without half a dozen different herbs growing in the sun.  We both love our fresh oranges and lemons too and if we can harvest 60 or 70 passion-fruits and a few berries, well, it feels like we're living on easy street.

The photos above are three of our past gardens. The last photo is probably around 2013-14. Soon after that we removed the two middle beds and now have four garden beds left. We're not taking out any more but we're not growing vegetables in the bed next to the chicken coop now. As you can see in the photo below taken last week, it's been given over to roses, sage, grumicharma (tropical cherry) and a late variety orange - Lane's Late. None of which require intensive care.

Two years ago when we took out those two beds, we still managed to grow what we needed in the four beds we had left. We moved all the citrus into the main garden and continued on with fruit, herbs and vegetables.

The photo above is of Hanno's soil preparations which always happen in March. When all is ready, we plant seeds and seedings and continue gardening till December. When it's too hot to garden, the herbs, citrus and berries continue on without much help from us, most other things die back and we start again in March.
 Above, I think it was 2014-15 when we took out the first bed, the one in the middle went soon after.

And this is what it looked like the following year.  The grass grew back and we moved a table in.

 Head gardener and his apprentice.

We frequently have visitors and these familiar faces - Nana Chel and Damac (centre) with her cousin have been here a couple of times.  This was us having afternoon tea in the garden last year.
Of course now we have our gardening Scottie, Gracie.

Currently we are growing our summer veg and herbs: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, kale, berries, lettuce, chilli, capsicum, Welsh onions, dill, sage, thyme, rosemary, basil, bay, comfrey and fennel. Now that all the winter vegetables have been removed, we're planting flowers in the back beds closest to the chickens and next year we'll still have the four beds but will only grow veg in two of them. I think we'll manage that smaller space well. We'll be able to grow our favourites, still have plenty of herbs and fruit and the planting out and maintenance should be well within our capabilities. I'm only looking ahead three years, when Hanno will be 80.

I planted these out during the week. It's a selection of flower seeds - Cosmos, Bergamot, Queen Anne's Lace, Yarrow, Dill, Caraway, Cornflower and a few others that will attract bees to the garden.  I planted out my Thai Pink Egg tomatoes around the border of the garden and have sprinkled these seeds in the middle of the bed.  I hope they flourish there because the bees will help pollinate the tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges and passionfruit.

Hanno still loves gardening and looking after the chickens; he cleaned out the chicken coop and renewed nests yesterday. It's only when he's sick or dizzy and not feeling well when I step in. This past year he had two of bouts of pneumonia and a couple of other small things so I did most of the gardening. It took me longer than it takes him but time is something we're not short of so I pottered away at my own pace and enjoyed the time spent out there in the garden. We had a magnificent year for tomatoes and I've just planted a new crop of Thai Pink Eggs so, hopefully, we'll be eating our own tomatoes on Christmas day.

Some of our girls.  Above, a silver laced Wyandotte.
Blue Australorpe.
Gold laced Barnevelder.
Silver laced Barnevelder.

We have a lovely block of land with rainforest and a creek in the backyard and although the yard is big, Hanno enjoys mowing the grass with a ride-on mower. There will come a time when we hand over those tasks to others but I'm pretty sure we'll be out there watering and harvesting for a few years yet. There was a time in the not too distant past when most of us lived like this. Our homes were more productive then. We made bread and soap, cleaned our homes using a few basic cleansers, cooked from scratch, invited family and friends over and spent time in the back yard gathering vegetables, fruit, honey and eggs.  It's still a viable and very satisfying way to live and doing it gives you the feeling you can go on forever. Although none of us do. 😊


Housework and how it changes

9 October 2017
Like you, I put a fair bit of time into my home. Doing the housework here allows us to live in relative comfort and to invite our family and friends over to enjoy our home as well. I've grown to understand that the work I put into my home pays off handsomely. But our housework is going through a transition at the moment, we're reassessing and reorganising ourselves so we can continue to live here well into our older age. My intention is to stay active right up until the end and then to be carried out feet first.  There will be no retirement village, no over 50s living, no nursing home for me. I will do my daily chores as they change over the coming years and enjoy life here breathing this fresh air and listening to countless wild birds who have chosen to make this place their home too.

If we are to stay here we have to be smart about what we do now that we're older. We've removed a couple of garden beds (I'll write about soon) and I don't do nearly as much baking or preserving as I once did. I still do it, but not as much. I have few problems with the housework now but I'm starting to struggle with things high up and down low, so does Hanno.

I'm pleased to tell you that in Australia, our government provides assistance for older folk who want to stay in their home in their final years. They assess you and then provide a range of services that might mean the difference between leaving your home or staying in the place you love. We have to pay for these services but they're subsidised and are within the means of most older Australians.  Hanno and I underwent our assessment a couple of months ago and were approved to receive 90 minutes of help, per fortnight, both inside and outside. As we get older, the range of services will change from the simple ones we start with, to having help with shopping, being driven to doctors appointments and general in-home nursing if needed. I have to tell you that it makes me feel quite confident that with that extra help Hanno and I will still be here in our home on our last days.

I used the normal Anzac recipe for these but replaced the coconut with almond meal. 

But in the meantime, my housework continues much as it always has. Along with the general daily tasks, this week I cleaned the oven, did some ironing, made cordial and biscuits, cooked, gardened and sorted out our winter jumpers, cardigans, scarves and shawls. They'll be washed and dried in the coming days and then put away until the cold weather returns next year. Most of them can be done in the washing machine on the wool cycle. I'll use my homemade washing liquid with a teaspoon of eucalyptus oil added. That good old washing liquid has saved us hundred of dollars over the years.

As usual, I'm cooking enough for two or three days when I cook our main meals, so there are only two or three big cooking days a week. I've stopped baking cakes, except when we have visitors, because now we can't get through a full cake without giving half of it away. I'm baking biscuits or slices in a half tray now and that seems to suit us much better. The rest of our food remains the same although we have smaller serves. One task that might change in the next five years will be the grocery shopping but I think we'll just move to home delivery then.

I have a self-cleaning oven but I have to remove the side rails and wash them separately.  I do this by filling the laundry sink with hot water to which I add Aldi Di-san oxy-bleach. I let it soak overnight, which loosens any burnt on food or fat, and then just rinse it and wipe down.  It works like a dream every time.

Hanno and I continue to work as a team. We discovered tiny black ants in the house last week, they were trying to invade the honey pot we keep on the shelf near the tea making gear. We got rid of them but then they turned up in the pantry cupboard, near the golden syrup. This week we'll work together to empty the pantry cupboard, check everything in there, wash the containers, clean the cupboard and return the food.

Lemon cordial made using lemon juice I froze a few months ago.  All I did was make a light sugar syrup and mix it with the defrosted lemon juice.  Fruit cordial recipes are on the blog.

All through our lives we've worked according to the circumstances we faced at that time. The two biggest changes have been when we had babies and growing children and now in our older years. Housework is an important part of life because it gives us a clean and comfortable home. I've found that by giving it the time and thought it needs, and working in an organised way, we've been able to move through this transition period without too much fuss. The changes we've made in recent years have certainly helped in this process, and by keeping up our home maintenance over the years, we're now able to adjust as we need it with small, simple changes.  I look forward to being here for a long time yet.

Weekend reading

6 October 2017
This is my one and only vase of sweet peas this year. I had to pull them out to make way for the cucumbers over the garden arch. They are Old Spice - a very old heirloom variety with smaller flowers but an intense fragrance.

Another lovely week has floated by and soon it will be the weekend again. Our Thai Pink Egg tomatoes and cucumbers were planted this week and a couple of Fairy roses moved from pots into the vegetable patch. But the most exciting news is that we had rain, good rain, and the tanks are full again. It feels good going into the warmer months with enough water to keep the garden hydrated.

I hope your garden is thriving, or your knitting is taking shape, or your sewing or soap or bread is doing what you want it to. Hanno and I are doing well and we're enjoying spring. I hope things are fine at your place too. Have a lovely weekend.  xx

Seven delicious things you can make with stale bread
A guide to the chores we can no longer do
Scientific evidence that Transcendental Meditation works
Normal for Norfolk
The wonder of bees
How To Keep Your Apartment Clean Even When You're Depressed
Poached egg, the easy way
Raw Craft - Anthony Bourdain

Just a heads up to let you know that my wonderful sponsor Biome is having a 50 percent off, 48 hour sale right now. Click here to go there.

Housekeeping routines and avoiding the pressure

3 October 2017
I sometimes have a quiet laugh at myself for something I've said or written. Yesterday I was reading through an old list of chores I'd set down for a normal day. It was the usual kind of stuff - "clean the bathroom, wash floors, water plants, sew on buttons, post mail, bake scones", then right at the end, the last on the list, "do whatever you didn't do yesterday".  It was a valuable reminder. A good friend of mine who is very well organised and lives in a neat and tidy home, would look at that last list item and shudder. It would not be good enough for her, not finishing a list would not be an option. 

But I take it in my stride. I'm not in a competition, I'm not trying to outdo anyone else, I'm not trying to be perfect. I just want do my daily chores, do the best I can and go to bed happy. Putting undue pressure on yourself, setting too high a standard everyday, using lists and routines to regiment yourself is not the aim of my kind of housekeeping. Lists and routines are a good way of helping you set your own rhythm. They allow you to be flexible with your housework and will guide you through what can be done each day. A list should not pressure you or make you feel guilty for things left undone.  Your lists should be a gentle reminder of what could be done but if you run out of time or decide to change the list, you can start it again the following day.  Without the guilt.

What we do is hard enough without applying unnecessary pressure to ourselves. It is a really good idea to make a list to guide you through your day. Hopefully that list will become a part of your daily routine and when you go through it for a couple of weeks, it may take on its own rhythm. When that happens, things move along at their own pace and it's easier to get your work done.  But if you ever have a day when you have extra chores to attend to, or people arrive, or someone is sick, you don't have to solider on doing your work according to the list.  Modify your day and your mind, do what you can and let that be it. You can either start the next day with the undone work at the top of the list or just drop it altogether and do whatever it is the following week or when you can manage it.

Remember, you are in charge of the list, it's not in charge of you; it's just a guide. If it doesn't work like that on a particular day, just accept it and go to bed knowing you did your best and that any work not done can wait.  Aiming for perfection and getting upset when you don't meet your expectations is a recipe for unhappiness. Be kind to yourself, set manageable goals, try your best and remember that there will be days when all the work will not be done.

You'll get pressure from all directions in the normal course of a week, no matter where you work. You could be at home with children or your elders, you could be in a shop, office, factory or outdoors working for a living. You may be retired, ill, volunteering or living the life of Riley. At some point, things won't go as expected and you'll make it worse if you pressure yourself to carry on regardless.

We're all trying to live our best lives and achieve the goals we set ourselves. But when that doesn't happen, when the normal flow of your work stops, when the unexpected happens and your daily goals just can't be achieved, it's okay to let go, step back, and start again the following day.  You wouldn't insist that a friend keeps going to tick everything off their list when it's just not possible. Don't do it to yourself either.  ❤️