Weekend reading

3 April 2020
I'm still working on my Miss Marple Scarf - this time while watching Gardeners' World.

We haven't had such a good week here.  Hanno's been fighting hiccups and then was knocked out by the medication the doctor prescribed. Neither of us has had a good night's sleep for ages so we don't have any energy the following day.  The good news is that the medication has worked and Hanno has another phone consultation with his doctor today.  All the practicalities are taken care of, we're getting our groceries from Woolworths delivery and Sunny is buying our meat. Overall we don't have anything to complain about. We're both content being here but we both wish we had more energy to do what we want to do ... gardening. 


Weekend reading

27 March 2020
How is everyone going out there? We're okay and taking each day as it comes. Routines, good food and the process of preparing it, Gracie's antics and working in the garden help a lot. Hanno had to go to the doctor yesterday and I'm pleased to say, the doctor came out to the car park to see Hanno so he didn't have to go inside the medical centre.  He'd had hiccoughs the three previous days and he was exhausted. The doctor had no answers about the cause but he gave him some pills, the problem eased last night so he got a good sleep.

A wall of passionfruit. These will be ready to pick at the end of April.

Simple and cheap meals

25 March 2020

Potato pancakes AKA kartoffle puffer, Hanno's favourite.

Judi asked the following question on Monday so I've racked my brain to come up with this. I hope it helps Judi and many, many others.  Readers, if you can think of other Australian food ideas that fit this frugal category, please add your thoughts in the comments.

"I am now 63 and living on my own, I have been wife, mother, stay at home Mum, and now a carer, my income is now very low and after having been used to raising all our own meat and vegetables and really eating quite well, I am struggling to feed myself. Having to purchase food is one of my biggest expenses and I am wondering if you could please put your thinking cap on and give those of us struggling financially with a good weeks menu plan please. I have all your books and I do love the menu plan in the Down To Earth book but I can not afford to eat that well anymore. Help, please.

"I am in Australia, I have noticed over the last month a big increase in the cost of fresh produce here, thanks to the drought and bushfires, I really like to eat fresh but have given up having things like avocado on my salad as they are $4 each, I am looking for ideas from the 1950s when we ate a little bit more simply but most of the information you find on the internet is American and we eat differently to them. It is quite frustrating and I am struggling with brain fog, that does not help."

Living on one income and developing routines

23 March 2020
On the weekend, I received a message from a reader, "Emma", who is about to leave paid work and will stay at home to manage the family. This is some of what she had to say:

"I was just wondering how you plan your days (if you do at all). 
My partner and I have decided that I will cease work out of the home this year and manage our little family! I just feel a bit lost and overwhelmed with what to do each day to keep the house/garden and hobbies ticking over. I know it will be different for everyone but just seeking some guidance as I enter this more simple phase of life."


Weekend reading

20 March 2020
We went to Bunnings during the week to buy plants, seedlings and seeds so we'll have a decent garden to tend in the coming weeks. I chose only one vegetable seed, rainbow chard, to plant in with what we have here now. I'll write about what we're doing in the garden soon and if there are some new or inexperienced gardeners out there, I'm happy to help with your questions if I can. The rest of the week, I took advantage of the time to think about our current situation and work out our best response. We won't be going out again for a while, Sunny and Kerry are doing most of our shopping, and I don't want to waste any opportunities provided by these extraordinary circumstances.

 Seedlings waiting to be planted.


Weekend reading

13 March 2020
We've been at home most of the time this past couple of weeks. We're both over 70 and the advice is for us to stay at home if possible. I went to my CWA talk last Sunday and I stocked up on fresh fruit, vegetables and milk on Wednesday, the rest of the time we've luxuriated in the calmness of our own nest.  Of course, it's business as usual for us, we usually stay at home enjoying each other's company with occasional visitors popping in to provide interest and support.

A lovely parcel arrived in the post too. It was Pichinku organic cotton, in a delightful shade of pale pink, straight from EcoYarns.  Don't forget there is a 15 per cent discount at Ecoyarns for all Down to Earth readers. The following day I started a Miss Marple scarf that should be finished in the next couple of weeks. These scarves are a great way to stay warm over a milder winter, especially if you use cotton instead of wool. I wear mine with my normal clothes, slippers and an added cardigan or two over winter - I'm always the dag.

The rest of the time I worked on my genealogy, making quite a few discoveries and a lot of progress. My month-long access to the World Heritage resources ends on Monday and I still have a list of things to do but I'm satisfied with what I've done so far. I'm beginning to think building a family tree is like painting a portrait. Potentially, you could go on forever, tweaking this and that, but there will come a time when a firm decision to stop will have to be made.

I'm thinking of doing online blogging and writing for publication workshops again. These will probably be the last workshops and if there is interest, would start in late April. Please email me - my name at gmail dot com if you're interested. 

Are you isolating yourself too? I think it will be a good opportunity for many people to organise, mend, read, bake and rest. Or do you have other plans?

Have a wonderful weekend. Look after yourself, do something you love doing and try not to worry about the Coronavirus. ๐Ÿงถ

Didn't Know They Should Want for More
Portrait Artist of the Year 2020  - my favourite TV program at the moment
The Great Gardening Challenge

International Women's Day and Apricot Custard Cake

9 March 2020
There was no better place to spend International Women's Day (IWD) than at my local CWA cottage. Yesterday, I went along to give a talk and spend time with about 30 other women. It felt good to speak about the life we live here and to acknowledge IWD with local women. Everything I've done publicly since I set up my blog in 2007, including three books published by Penguin, being a monthly columnist for the Australian Women's Weekly and Burke's Backyard, and being on ABC radio on and off for many years, I did at home. Right here in my sewing room, I spoke live on air and I tapped out words that seemed to take on a life of their own and ended up landing all over the world. Home is not only a place to live and grow, it can also be the base from which we launch ourselves and our ideas. We really can do amazing things when we have a passion and put in the hard work to achieve our goals.  


Weekend reading

6 March 2020
Apricot and custard cake made with backyard eggs and pantry staples.

It's been another busy week here. I've been mending and organising and Hanno has been doing his outdoor work, although he's not been well. Our main complaint is dizziness, we both have good days and bad days, and luckily the good outweighs the bad. Today I'll be deciding on my topic at the CWA talk I'm giving on Sunday - International Women's Day.  Later this morning we're taking Gracie to a groomer to be washed and clipped.  Happy days!

I hope your week has been a good one. What have you been doing?

Here are some reading and watching links when you have some downtime.  Enjoy the weekend. I'll see you again next week.  ๐Ÿ’•

Tragedy of the Isle of Women
Pegging out the wash
13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings
Yes, There Is a Correct Way to Wash Your Hands—Here's How
Face-changing paper dolls
Killer sudoku

Coronavirus stockpiling

2 March 2020
Last week, after listening to the ongoing updates about coronavirus, we decided to check our supplies and restock. No one knows what will happen in the coming days and months but one thing is certain, I don't want to go out into the community to get supplies if I don't have to, virus or no virus. So we checked our food stockpile and made a list of the medications and supplements we needed from the chemist.  It's all packed away in cupboards now and I feel secure knowing we can easily look after ourselves without having to go to the supermarket every week.

It's unusual for journalists to write about their own reactions to a current topic but here it is from The Guardian this week: It just seems sensible, the Australians stockpiling for the coronavirus


Weekend reading

28 February 2020

Someone asked for new Gracie photos last week.  Here they are!


Weekend reading

21 February 2020
Have you had a good week? I've had a lovely week with visitors, multiple family tree discoveries and my housework, and tomorrow we're having a family lunch here with all the grandkids and assorted parents. 

I feel the absolute bitterness of summer coming to a close with shorter days, but it's still hot and humid. There's more rain forecast for the weekend so I hope that spreads itself out and we all share the rain and its benefits.

Here is one of our visitors - Nicole from This Simple Day. We've known each other online for a couple of years but this was our first face-to-face meeting. I had a thoroughly enjoyable morning. Nicole brought finger limes and Brazilian spinach with her and went home with a bunch of Welsh onions. Such a simple exchange of time and produce but deeply satisfying on many levels and symbolic of the way we both live.


Discovering my family and preserving their goodness

18 February 2020
It's been a good week here at home.  I've been researching my family tree again - an ongoing, intermittent project since 1980. Learning about my long-ago family is so interesting and engrossing.  Their lives would have been much harder than ours so I would like them to know that we survived and their hard work paid off. Collectively, they laid a firm foundation for our family and that I'm very thankful for their resilience, strength and intelligence.

Genealogy is such a rewarding pastime. I started my research in 1980 when getting just one piece of information took many letters and a lot of time.  Now we're connected to archives all over the world. All you need to start is a name and a birth, death or marriage date and you'll soon see connections happen as your past comes alive.

Weekend reading

14 February 2020
I'm very pleased to tell you that it's been raining here for the past nine days. On the last rainy day, the rain gauge overflowed.  A total of 265 mm/10.5 inches all up. It's changed the feel of the backyard and what was brown is now green and growing fast.  The rain here resulted in a few flooded areas but up and down the coast, with the effects of Cyclone Uesi battering the east coast, it not only brought rain to areas that had been dry for many years, it also put out all the bushfires. That is good news for us all.

Full to the brim and overflowing. A sight for sore eyes. 


Keep calm and carry on

11 February 2020
Not many of us really enjoy housework. I love being in my home but if I look at housework as one big thing - washing, cleaning, cooking, baking, gardening, maintenance, mending etc. - it can be overwhelming and I don't know where to start. My best advice is to organise yourself and do things ahead of time. Most of us don't do all our housework in one day. We organise smaller chunks of work and spread it out over a week, or a weekend with small chores morning and evening. When you organise your work into chunks and do it at the same time each week or day, that's a routine and it usually makes it easier.

Here is our tea and coffee station.  It's right next to the electric kettle, with cups and mugs in a cupboard above. If you have hot drinks fairly frequently, it sensible to keep all your things together.


Weekend reading

7 February 2020
In the past few months I've been asked by quite a few readers to restart my Weekend Reading. This list is made up of things I've Googled in the past week as well as some of my general online reading that I think others might be interested in.  Let's see how it goes this time.  I hope you enjoy it.

I didn't grow these roses, they were a gift.  ๐Ÿ™‚


Linen bread bag

4 February 2020
I finished my bread bag a couple of days ago and it's a nice bag to use. I'm not sure how good it would be in other climates but with our humidity, it doesn't trap moisture inside the bag and it doesn't go mouldy. If you're in a cold or mild climate, and you have been using a linen bag, please tell us what your experience is.


Micro-plastics, plastics, plastic pollution

1 February 2020
This is the followup to an Instagram post about getting rid of my microfibre cleaning cloths. I watched a program on plastic waste hosted by Hugh Fernly-Whittingstall and Anita Rani, produced by BBC1, and it showed the terrible cost of keeping those cloths. It's on Foxtel's Lifestyle Channel in Australia (episode 3 tomorrow at 7.30pm) and on the BBC iPlayer in the UK. If you don't have access to those sites, the first episode is here: DailyMotion.  I hope you watch it if you can but it is the second episode that was mind-blowing for me.  I can't find that one or episode 3 online.

It looks clean but there are plastics in all our oceans and the problem is getting worse.


Make your own household linens

27 January 2020
Making your own household linens is a BIG step towards a simpler life. You'll use numerous simple living skills such as sewing, recycling, budgeting, home maintenance and organisation when you actively work towards fabric recycling and creating your own cloths, bags, napery and soft furnishings. I gave up looking for what I wanted in the shops many years ago and over the years I've made cheese and yoghurt straining cloths, tablecloths, tea towels, hair towels, tea cosies, table runners, aprons, napkins, shopping bags, pillowcases, cushion covers, lamp skirts, bread bags, mats, plate covers, cool cotton sheets and warm woollen blankets for Gracie's bed. Increasingly what I want is not sold in any shop and I get a wonderful sense of reassurance and satisfaction when I make what I need. About 90 percent of the time I use recycled materials. 

This is a simple activity that takes only time, a change of mindset and a bit of effort but it will make a huge difference to your day-to-day life. And if you do this and can stand back from the commercial world, where everything has a monetary value instead of an environmental one, you, my friend, will put yourself in a powerful and sustainable position.

I'm about halfway through this project - a new linen bread bag using linen I first wore as a skirt many years ago.

Caring for Australian wildlife affected by fires

25 January 2020
In the past week, I've had a couple of emails from international readers wanting to know about the native animals caught up in the unprecedented bush fires. We’ve had some rain over a large area but unfortunately, fires are still burning in some areas. We were all devastated to learn that three American men who came to Australia to help fight the fires, were killed when the plane they were fighting fires in crashed on Thursday. We send our sincere sympathy to their family and friends and thank them for the help they gave us. Rest in Peace.

This is a baby wombat rescued by Charles last year.  Sadly the mother was run over by a car.


Housework, it's never-ending

22 January 2020
I've got a good job. I rise when I want to, work and rest when I feel like it and every day I look after us and our home. Hanno does the same thing but generally, his work is outside; we also share a lot of tasks. Although I do the same thing every day, each day is different. I try to make as much as I can from scratch - that includes our meals, bread, biscuits, cakes and drinks as well as cleaning products such as soap, laundry liquid, cleaners for the kitchen, toilets, bathrooms, furniture, glass and floors. 

I start every day by making the bed. This is an extremely important symbolic gesture that reminds me to look after myself. Slow, simple tasks play a big part in my life.


A letter of thanks from Charles

18 January 2020
A few weeks ago, when Tricia told me that she was going to sew bat wraps and joey pouches for Charles to use in his wildlife rescue work, I suggested I call in our wonderful sewing bee girls to add a few more to the collection.  I didn't think that we'd end up receiving over 200 wraps and pouches but that's what arrived.  I know I can always count on you. Thank you, ladies, you've been so generous. ♥️

Charles with some of the parcels he received.


High fibre white loaf recipe

17 January 2020
I've been working on a new loaf - a high fibre white. I usually make either white or rye loaves and I do that because Hanno loves rye bread and our main toast loaf is white. When I plan to make something regularly, I want to be able to easily buy the ingredients in bulk. I can get good white bread flour at the local supermarket and good rye flour at an organic supermarket that I have to drive to get to.

Recently I've been adding extra fibre to the loaves, using mainly milled rolled oats, but in this loaf, I also added rice bran. The oats add moistness and the rice bran gives a slightly nutty flavour. Both the fibre additions make for a slightly heavier loaf which is absolutely delicious as sandwiches on the day it is baked and makes really good toast.  Of course, if I have ends left over I either add them to a bag of frozen bread I turn into bread crumbs when I need them, or, when they're soaked in milk, they make up a high protein extra meal for the chooks. That will help you cut down on your feed bill as it provides a nutritious boost for your hens.

Looking forward, looking back

13 January 2020
We don't go away on holidays anymore but always make sure that the time between Christmas and mid-January is like a holiday.  We both do what we want to do and make sure it's different to the regular things we do during the year. I forget about routines, my meal plans loosen up and I sleep when I'm tired. My main aim is to rest and recuperate, watch Test cricket, tend the garden, read and think and as I pack away another year, I prepare for the year ahead.

Peaches were prepared in front of the TV with the cricket on.


If you want to live a simpler life - identify your needs

8 January 2020

"Why are those pots upside-down on sticks?" - that's the question I'm asked more than any other. The second most asked question is this: "How can I start to live a simple life?"  Well, that's easy - stop shopping for things you don't need.  Of course, you could also take it one step at a time and start budgeting, menu planning, cooking from scratch, batch cooking, and making your own soap and household cleaners. You could mend your clothes, plant a vegetable garden and keep chickens. You need to keep up to date with your world, I do that via crikey.comThe Guardian and by maintaining a thoughtful connection with my online tribe; and you could lobby your local MP to find out their view of climate change and what they're doing about it. But if you want to start living more sustainably in a way that will help you save money, pay off debt, cut down on paid work or retire early, don't go shopping for "stuff". You don't have to prepare in any way, you don't have to research it, you don't need any special information or skill. You just stop. And you can do that right now. Today.

We need sewers who can sew straight

7 January 2020
One of my nephews, Charles, is a volunteer wildlife rescuer and he spends a lot of his spare time in the Blue Mountains bush rescuing native animals. We all know our precious native wildlife has been decimated in the ongoing bush fires and injured and scared animals are now coming into local properties and homes looking for water and food. In the coming days, these are the animals Charles will be helping.  When the NSW RFS give the all-clear for people to return to the burnt bushland, Charles will set off looking for injured animals.  These animals will be carefully handled and taken to either a vet for diagnosis and treatment or a wildlife carer for longer term care. To do this work, Charles supplies his own equipment but there is a chance that he won't have enough wraps and pouches to transport the animals he finds.

I suggested to him that we - you, me and the rest of the gang here - could help him by quickly making a selection of what he needs.  I wonder if you'll join in with this.  The main need is for bat wraps and he needs 60 of them, he also needs some hanging joey pouches. Bat wraps and pouches are vital to help calm animals during transportation. Both these items are essential to Charles' work.

We're happy to accept whatever you can send - one, two, six or 20. They will help in a significant number of rescues. So who is up for this?  The patterns are simple straight sewing and the links are below for you to click on and look at.  Please be guided by the suggested fabrics - most are cotton, cotton flannelette, calico or wool. No buttons or Velcro are used. All the finished wraps and pouches need to be sent to Charles in the Blue Mountains, please contact me by email: rhondahetzel@gmail.com and I'll give you his postal address.

I wonder if there is a vet who reads my blog. I'd like to introduce you to Charles so he can speak to someone about rehydrating animals and general burns first aid. At the moment, he needs some burns cream, syringes and Vet Wraps.  If you can email me, I'll give you Charles' phone number so you can talk to him directly. Thank you.

I'll be making this part of our Instagram Sewing Bee so when you finish your sewing, please send me a photo of what you made, along with your IG name, so we can link to you from the Bee.

Thank you all. I know we'll get this started quickly so we can help Charles in his important work.

The fires in Australia and what you can do to help

6 January 2020
As the final hours of 2019 rolled along, I sat with increasing sadness watching our country burn. Each new day revealed red landscape and sky and then news reports started trickling in of farmers, homeowners and volunteer firefighters who died protecting properties, and millions of helpless animals dying trying to escape the ferocious, unpredictable fires.  These are our unique and beautiful Australian animals - the kangaroos, koalas, wombats, echidnas, possums and bats as well as snakes, lizards, birds and insects. If you have the chance to donate to the recovery programs, please do so. Our communities and wildlife need all the help they can get. Some may never recover, the ones that might need financial assistance to start again.

You can donate to Red Cross, Salvation Army, Victoria's Country Fire Authority, NSW's Rural Fire Service,  or have a look on Instagram where there are quite a few people who have set up Go Fund Me pages to help rebuild their lost homes and farms. Also on Go Fund Me are Will Connolly (egg boy) and the wonderful Magda Szubanski who are fundraising for long term mental health care to support men, women and children traumatised by the fires. These funds will be administered by registered charities such as Beyond Blue when the short term care ends.

I have two more links for you specifically for wildlife rescue and support, courtesy of my nephew, David.  WIRES Emergency Fund for Wildlife and Wildlife Victoria.

I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart if you can help us rebuild our burnt country. ♥️