14 May 2019

Twelve years old today

Twelve years ago today, I sat here at a table in my sewing room and started my blog, Down to Earth. I had no idea what I was doing. During the previous few years I had written the beginning of a book documenting our new way of living and after the book was rejected by publishers, in a rare lightbulb moment, I decided I HAD to share what we were doing and the only way I could do that was to start a blog. My first post was about Brandywine tomatoes. I knew nothing about blogging and didn't know how to start but I did want to write honestly about our ordinary days here at home that, in the context of the times, were surprisingly enriching and satisfying. Brandywine tomatoes were what I was thinking about that day, so that is what I started with. Writing about what I was doing and thinking set a pattern that I repeated for many years.  In those first few years, honestly, I had so much to tell you, I could hardly contain it. I started off posting everyday and did that for years before having the weekends off.

I was 59 when I started, it seems like such a long time ago.

Simple living blogs as we know them now didn't exist then. I was writing about life inside our home and garden so I was surprised that the blog opened up my world like it did. I've made life-long friends sitting here tapping away on my keyboard. If anyone had told me back then that a blog about housework, saving money and growing food would be popular or that I would grow to care about people I would never meet, I would have thought they were crazy. That, and so much more, surprised me and brought me closer to the thousands of people who wandered in here and told me they were hoping to do what we were doing.  It's all been such a wonderful experience for Hanno and I. I'm glad Brandywine tomatoes led me to write about my version of simple living as well as take photos of what we were doing - be that making a bed, cleaning with vinegar, baking, growing and so much more.

When I started the blog, Facebook and Instagram didn't exist but now I write on Instagram too and that has brought a new way of connecting with people who have an interest in this way of life. It's a fast and changing connection with the people who I follow and who follow me and while I enjoy the passing parade of Instagram photos and the thoughts that go with them, this blog is where my heart is. Blogs seem to be richer and deeper, and with the capacity to store thousands of posts in the order they were posted, it provides the most wonderful way of recording life while providing an archive of topics for anyone looking for ideas on how to change their life.

The discipline of writing and staying in touch with you helped improve my writing and encouraged me to branch out and learn so much more.  Eventually the blog lead to an offer of a book contract with Penguin and that in turn opened a hundred other doors. But all things come to an end and in September last year I lost the love of blogging and being online, and said goodbye.  Two weeks later I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  I went through a period of medical tests and then sitting and thinking about life and death; six months later I returned to the blog.

Since coming back I've realised I love being part of something much bigger than myself.  When I read your comments here, my first thought is that I'm lucky to have a connection with so many people that I otherwise wouldn't know.  I feel grateful that in a world that sometimes feels like nothing is connected or predictable, in this little corner of the internet, while I sit here in my sewing room, people come to talk to me.  And I like that.  Thank you for visiting and for your wonderful comments. Each comment adds to the picture I have of you.

There was a time when I focused on everything away from my home and didn't see the value in being here. I guess it was my age that slowed me down enough to see more. When I took the time to see just what we had in our home, when I realised we could easily feed ourselves from the back yard, when I started to earn money writing at home and when our little community started to form, I was content and happy. There is always something to do here and the thing that keeps our home economy ticking over is the work that is needed to live simply and mindfully. Writing about that has been the icing on the cake and it is because of the writing that an otherwise solitary and quiet life is made so interesting.

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