Apron swap partners - ammended

Here are your partners, ladies. As with all swaps, there will be minor tweaking today and tomorrow. Brigit, do you want to be in the swap? I'm not sure if it's just your friend or you as well.
  • SHARON’S SWAPPERS Sharon's email is cdetroyes at yahoo dot com
  • Maria in NC and Paula
  • Jessica Chapman and Tracy (unlessthelord)
  • Donna and Allybea
  • Rhonda Jean and Sharon
  • Jenny (wren) and Ingvild
  • Elizabeth and Mrs MK
  • Daisy81 and Becky
  • Jackie @ Redcliffe and Sisiggy
  • Ann in Melb and Jennifer's daughter
  • Lisa J and Ingeborg
  • Kimberly and Jill
  • Dee and Donetta
  • Ruthie and Scooter Sissy (Christie) Christie, please email Ruthie with your details.
  • Tracy (sunnycorner) and Lis (flyinginoz04 at yahoo.com.au)
  • Aslaug and Niki
  • Coleen and Peggy
  • Bren and Han_ysic
  • Ann (UK) and Robbie

  • CHOOKASMUM’S SWAPPERS - Lorraine's email is: ma_pabarney at hotmail dot com
  • Sandra Tee and Dirkey
  • Heather1031 and Debbie
  • Aimee and Our Red House
  • Helen Thomas and Rebekka
  • Emily and Karen
  • Greeneyes and Tami
  • Chookasmum and Mama K
  • Christine and Leah
  • Mary and Rebecca
  • Polly and Billie
  • Rachel Read and Denise - rachel's email is happyharris at bigpond dot com dot au
  • Jodie and Margaret39
  • Solstiches and Maria
  • Jen and Cathy
  • Jennifer and Mrs H
  • Judy and Brigit's friend Jennie
  • Lucy (lucy.vandersluis at orange dot nl) and Rhonda Jean (rhondahetzel at gmail dot com)

Ladies, go to the sign up post to get your partner's email address so you can make contact and swap postal addresses. If you have any problems with the swap, please contact either Sharon or Chookasmum, depending on who is looking after you.

Remember, the swap deadline is Wednesday, November 28. All aprons must be posted on or before that date. I hope you all get to know your swap partner, develop your skills and have some fun.

I have my fingers crossed for this one. I hope I have everyone now. Please let me know if you're not on the list.

ADDITION: Some changes have been made. Please check that you still have the same swap partner.

24

Attentions swappers

Briget, are you in the swap or is it just Jennie?
Jennifer, can we have your daughters name or initials, or maybe an online name?
Mrs MK, I need your email address.
Suzen, are you in the swap?

I'm working on the list right now. You have about another hour or two to sign up.
5

Waste not, want not


The beautiful quilt pictured above is one my sister, Tricia, is working on. She usually gives her quilts away but this one will be kept and used in her new home when she moves next year. I love this quilt. It's called a scrappy quilt because scraps of fabric leftover from other projects, and old pieces of fabric that previously had other functions, have been used in the making of it. You might not be able to see it clearly (click on the photos to enlarge them) but it is constructed of a small table cloth, some old doilies, strips of fabric, blocks of embroidery, pillow cases, rick rack and old buttons. It's far from complete, but I love it.

Tricia has used the colour red to tie the whole quilt together but within that colour scheme, she has used what she loves and what appealed to her, and, importantly, her leftovers. We have very similar taste so I adore this quilt and when I suggested a few things when it was laid out on the bed here, she liked what I suggested and they will be included in the quilt.

I am showing you Tricia's quilt because it illustrates very nicely that the leftovers we all have - all those things like old clothes, buttons, pillow cases, doilies, rick rack from other projects, half completed embroidery squares and ribbons - all have a place in our lives if we think creatively about them. We can create beauty and function from what many would consider "waste".

So it's not just the food leftovers we have to be careful with. As Kim said in her comment, she doesn't waste much at all because she grows her own food and she sees first-hand how much time and work goes into the production of it. I think that's a really good way of looking at what we might once have thought of as waste products. If you think about the production of a pillow slip, for instance, from that cotton growing on the bush, the people who pick it and those who sell it, to the processing plant where it is cleaned and woven into fabric, the man who transports those rolls of fabric to the factory where it is cut and sewn by women, just like you and I, before it goes on to a wholesaler who sells it to a retailer where you buy it - that, my friends, is quite a story, even before the product is used for the first time.

Imagine that you use it for a year but it is ripped and you can't use it as a pillowslip anymore. In days gone by you might have thrown that pillow slip away to rot in landfill, now you stop to consider its future. Now you give it a new life, sure it can't be used as a pillow slip, but the fabric is still good so it can be made into something else. You might use it now as a cleaning cloth, to patch something else, as a baby doll blanket or for any number of things. Or, you might use it to create something of beauty that will be functional and help you carry out your rolls of homemaker, nurturer and family accountant, something like a scrappy quilt. My next project, after my kitchen curtains, will be exactly that.

I want to challenge you to think creatively about your damaged possessions. Think carefully before you throw anything "away". "Away" doesn't make it disappear, it moves your problem somewhere else. Take responsibility for what you buy and use everything until it can't be used any more. Even then, all natural products can be composted in your own backyard. So if that pure wool cardigan is going to be felted and made into a bag, or you're going to rewind the wool for another project, remove the buttons first and start your own button tin. If your old dress is going to be part of your scrappy quilt, remove the zipper or buttons, so they can be reused. Stop thinking that what you own only has one use - fabric is fabric, no matter what it's been made into and a button will continue to function whether it's used to fasten a blouse or as decoration on a hand bag.

Think creatively about everything in your home, get the full value of everything you own and that will help you get the full measure of every day you live.

This is just a quick picture of my ginger beer plant that has started fermenting - it's the fourth day today. It smell delicious, even if it looks pretty ghastly right now. LOL If you've never made ginger beer before and the weather is starting to warm up where you live, this makes a lovely drink on a hot summer day.

19

Swap closing soon

Good morning everyone! It's Wednesday morning so this is a reminder that the swap will close in a few hours. If you want to join in, please comment in the swap thread within the next four hours.

Thanks to those who offered help. I think we may be ok, but I'll know more when I do up the lists.

I worked the past two days and I'm still in a bit of a haze this morning. I have no idea what I'll write about but I'm sure something will spark in my brain soon and I'll start tapping away on the keys. I'll be back soon with my post.
7

Are you wasting food?


If you're wondering why I have a jug with a strainer and a jar on top, I'm making quark cheese.


It's a sad and cruel fact that in a world where 9 million people die of hunger or malnutrition each year, the amount of food being wasted in Western countries increases most years. In the UK 20 billion pounds worth of food is wasted each year, in the USA it's between 30 and 40%, and in Australia it's 25% wasted. We are increasingly disconnected for the source of our food and in many cases people don't even know where their food comes from. They don't connect milk and cheese with cows, or eggs with chickens.

I used to waste a lot of food. I'd go to the supermarket and stock up because I didn't want to go back to shop again before I had to. I bought food "just in case we needed it". When we didn't eat it, it was thrown out. That is a shameful confession and one I did not want to make. But I have created the food wastage problem just as much as many of you have.

But I stopped wasting food. Have you?

When I was growing up, my mother never wasted food. It was a homemaker's duty to have a nice collection of recipes for leftovers. Most home cooks took pride in what they could produce from little bits of this and that. I remember bubble and squeak being made from leftover vegetables and turned into what Americans call hash browns; I remember corned beef fritters being made from the corn beef cooked and served the day before; I remember shepherd's pie or lamb curry being made with the remains of a roast leg of lamb. We loved all these meals, they where all served, not as "leftovers" but as another meal produced from the large number of recipes my mother knew. Leftover cooking was common. It was just another skill of a busy housewife who worked hard to feed her family within the confines of a meagre budget. Nothing was thrown out, nothing was wasted.

When I stopped wasting food, I made sure I only bought what I knew we'd eat - no more food "just in case". I reorganised my fridge to make sure the foods that I had been wasting were at the front of the fridge and in full view. I regularly scheduled food made from leftovers into my menu plans. When my boys were living here, if we had roast meat, or something that wouldn't be eaten in one meal, I'd always make a curry or pie with the leftovers the next day. I scanned the fridge and my vegetable boxes every two or three days to see what had to be used that day. Now we organise our food differently because we grow a lot of it and there is little waste. If I have bread left at the end of the day, it's either frozen for toast, made into breadcrumbs and frozen or given to the chooks.

I always keep an eye on use by dates too. If milk is getting close to its date, I make a custard or rice pudding. Cheese almost on its date can be added to homemade pizza. Vegetables, even small amounts can be made into soup or stock and frozen, or made into a vegetable curry for that night's dinner. The key to this is monitoring your food to make sure it's used before it spoils.

We've become a lazy mob and this is reflected in the way we waste food. I know that if my grandma or my mother had seen some of the food I've thrown out, they would have told me to wake up to myself. I'm glad I did wake up to this big problem because it's easy to fix, it saves us money, saves the planet from being choked with landfill and methane and it's the right things for all of us to be doing.

Have you checked your fridge lately?
24

Apron swap - sign up here

This is the call for swappers in the third Down to Earth swap. Our first swap was for knitted dishcloths, then we swapped napkins. I am aware that there are a small number of late arrivals but we’ll go on to our next swap while we keep an eye on the napkins to make sure they all arrive.

This swap is for an apron, which I believe is a fitting symbol for this simple life we are all trying our best to live. I have two volunteers to help me with this, Sharon in the USA and Lorraine (chookasmum) in Australia.

Aprons are quite easy to make, even for beginners. You can make a very fancy apron or a plain one – remember the function of an apron is to protect your clothes while you work, so function is the key here. If you have an apron at home, it’s quite an easy thing to make a pattern from it. You could also google for a pattern or look at the links below for inspiration.

If you would like to take part in this swap all you have to do is to make a comment here with this post. Make sure you’re free to work on your apron before you commit because late parcels will hold up the next swap. This swap will start on Wednesday, October 31, the completed aprons must be posted by Wednesday, November 28. Four weeks. If you truly believe you can do this project and have it posted in four weeks, go ahead and join the swap. If you’re busy with other things or have to go away, please join the next swap. Men are welcome to enter too. If you are partnered with a man, you might like to make a gardener’s apron, baker’s apron or a BBQ apron.

This is important: when you make your comment to join the swap, please include your email address in this format: rhondahetzel at gmail dot com. That will give your swap partner the ability to email you for your postal address and will make the swap MUCH easier for us to organise. If you do not wish to include your email address in the comments box, I’ll have to make other arrangements for you. You might also like to discuss colour preference. One of the good things about these swaps is that they're a surprise, so talk about colour but let your swap partner surprise you with what they make.

You have until Wednesday afternoon, my time, to sign up. I'll remind you on Wednesday morning that the swap is about to close. I'll make up the list and post it on Wednesday afternoon, so you will know who you are swapping with.

APRON PATTERNS AND INSPIRATION
Beginner’s apron tutorial
Vintage apron patterns
Scalloped apron
Types of aprons
Plain apron
Apron patterns
Vintage apron photos
Apron story
Crossover apron
The Alice apron
Old fashioned aprons, these are lovely
A variety of aprons

Swappers, sign up in the comments box.
85

Suggestions for expansion needed


It's going to be 31C (88F) here today so we've both been out early in the garden. It was just a bit of tweaking, watering and checking, a little bit of TLC that generally keeps the garden moving along nicely. The king parrots were there too, arguing and running at the brown doves. LOL

I'm feeling dangerously optimistic today but I've been thinking about this for a while. I'd like to expand my blog in some way but I'm not sure what the next step should be. Maybe a section for tutorials and how-to posts? I'm not even sure if it's possible in this blogger format. I'd be interested in hearing everyone's opinions. If there are any web designers or people with a bit more knowledge than I have, I'd like to know how I could expand what I'm doing without losing the small community feeling I'm trying to foster here.

Any suggestions?
14

Jars

I love jars. I do store some things in plastic, but if it will fit in a jar, that is where it goes. This is my jar cupboard. Many of the jars in here are recycled jars, but there are also some Fowlers Vacola preserving jars, Italian Mason jars, old glass vinegar bottles, and some plastic soft drink bottles. Believe it or not, the plastic drink bottles are the ones I find hardest to get. I use them for my lemon cordial and ginger beer.

I went looking for a preserving jar yesterday afternoon to start off the ginger beer plant and was reminded again of the wonderful collection of jars in my cupboard. I've used a Fowlers jar for the ginger beer and placed an open weave milk jug cover over it. That is to allow the wild yeasts to enter the mix which will give me a good depth of flavour to the drink.

Below are the jars I like using when I'm preserving. Fowlers jars are nice to look at and evoke those days when grandma did her bottling, but I find them fiddly and expensive. If I'd know how great the Italian Mason jars were when I bought my jars, I would have only bought them. They're freely available in most department stores and the last time I shopped at Woolworths (three years ago), they were in the supermarket too. You can buy new lids for them here (Australia) and here (US). The French jars and rubber rings (at the front) are also freely available at department stores and are excellent for preserving.

The jars below are all recycled - the three at the back are jam jars, the other one is a Golden Circle baby food jar. Recycled jars are great to have in the home as you can use them for your homemade jams and relishes, and giving them away to family and friends isn't a problem. I still ask for the jar to be returned. : ) LOL Most of the time people are happy to do that.

The jar below is a French jam jar. They are my all time favourite jars as they have a wide mouth, they're really easy to fill, the glass is good quality and you can boil them to sterilise, and the lids last a few boilings. They also look good. I use them to store buttons and odd and ends in as well.

I'm sure many of you will already be recycling your jars and have a good collection of them. If you're not doing this, why not try a small collection and see how you go with them. Even if you're not preserving anything, they're useful for small amounts in your pantry cupboard - things like spices, seeds and nuts or in the fridge for the whey you pour off your yoghurt or cream. Don't ever throw out a fancy bottle as you can easily make up some flavoured spicy vinegar or cordial for gifts.

Most people like receiving homemade produce in recycled jars and bottles. It brings back memories or older days when everyone's mum or grandma made things to store in glass jars.

16

A nanna nap

I'm feeling much better this afternoon. It's almost 4 o'clock and I've had the most blissfully lazy day. I even had a sleep, yes duckie, a nanna nap. ; ) I told Hanno I was having a lie down at 9am! The last thing I remember was watching the curtain blowing in the breeze and then I was sound asleep for two hours. I made some fresh juice when I woke up, then drew my second curtain pattern and started stitching. This slow and loopy day has been just what I needed. I think we forget sometimes that we need to take a break from our chores. Working as we do here at home we don't really have days off. The work isn't what you'd call hard work, but it's consistent.

I've just been out to the garden to pick lettuce, radishes, beans, cucumber, parsley and onion for our dinner tonight. I've boiled some eggs and will make some potato salad too. I also cut up a pineapple, added four peeled oranges and water to it and processed it in the blender. That's now in a glass jug, sitting in the freezer, and we'll drink the fresh juice icy cold with our meal.

And now I'm going to start a ginger beer plant so I can make some ginger beer next week. We've no lemons on the tree right now and all the frozen juice has been used, so water and ginger beer will cool us down on those hot days coming soon.

Thank you all for stopping by today. I love my little blog community. : ) I hope you all enjoy the weekend.
11

Sweet nurturing

There have been many times in my life when I've felt like giving up, but being the queen of stubborness, I refuse to do it. Once I've made a commitment to something, I usually do it. That's not a wonderful virtue, it's just plain mule stubborness. I'm changing that because today, even though I have work to do, I'm not doing it. I'm really tired, so today I'm looking after Rhonda Jean.

I guess the two weeks with my sister here and some extra work I've been doing have taken their toll. I came home from a work meeting at 6.30pm yesterday and I felt as if the life force had been drained out of me. I don't feel any better this morning after a good night's sleep. I feel like falling down in a heap. I need rest. I don't need more sleep, I just need to rest and not do anything. My mind needs a break. Today I will do nothing.

I intend to make breakfast, look around the garden then sit on the front verandah and either read or stitch. I have my second curtain to do and I don't see that as work - it's pure pleasure. All thoughts of what we're having for dinner, ironing, gardening or cleaning, are all being thrown out the door today. Today I will clear my mind, gather my strength, rest and be mindful of the sweet nurturing I'm laying on myself.
This is what I was going to do. Mend a skirt and a little cardigan that has come away from the edging. They're sitting in my sewing room silently awaiting their repairs.
And I was going to sort through this basket of fabric that Tricia brought with her. There is a lot of good fabric in here that will go towards two quilts I want to make for the guest rooms. It won't run away. I'll do it next week. : )
14

Building your simple life

As most of your know Hanno and I took the plunge a few years ago and stopped working. We now use the hours we used to sell to others on ourselves, making an interesting life on our own little patch of Australian earth. I sometimes get emails from younger readers asking about living simply while working for a living. I've said many times that you can live simply anywhere at any time. Simple living has little to do with location, income or age, it's primarily a state of mind.

I want to emphasise first that your simple life isn't a cookie cutter version of my life, or someone else's life you've read about. Every single one of us creates our own version of what our life is. If you were intending to live forever in an un-simple world, you know your life would differ at many points to your friends and neighbours' lives. The same applies to your simple life. There will be points of similarity and points of difference but I hope that many of the new things you incorporate into your life will be environmentally sound.

I believe the best start to any simple life is to decide what it is you want your life to be, write that down and make that the focus of your new life. Know where you're headed but then work with what you have right now. If you feel like your life is a bit out of control, start with small steps towards the life you want - all those small steps will add up to make a big difference.

Work on one goal at a time, you'll probably find that whatever you work on will lead on to other things. For instance, if you want to change the way you shop for groceries, focus on that. You'll find that when you get into it, you might want to plan your menus, you might decide to stockpile, and to declutter to make a space for your stockpile. You might start cooking from scratch, so that will involve learning how to do it and finding recipes your family enjoy. The same will apply if you decide to grow vegetables. You'll learn all you can about gardening, but that might lead you to worm farms, compost heaps, chickens and preserving.

Forget all the grand gestures - small things matter. Make your lunch when you go to work, take a thermos flask of coffee or tea, always take a bottle of water with you when you go out. Your water bottle should be one that is reused many times. Stop buying water unless you absolutely have to. Add the money you would have spent to a change jar. When it's built up, pay it off your credit card debt, or pay an extra mortgage payment. If you have no debt, start a savings account to help you buy your own home, or donate your savings to your local homeless shelter or neighbourhood centre.

Say NO. Make your time your own, stop giving it away to insignificant things and people. Make sure the time you spend away from your own home and family is spent in the most worthwhile way. Time is really all we have. Use the time you have wisely. Stop shopping for junk, stop going to shopping malls - they will create a need to spend, if you habitually watch TV, stop. It all wastes your time. When you have some spare time, do something you love. Write down what you value and make sure you spend your time in line with those values. Now that you're living in a new way, you'll shed a few things that you used to do but now get in the way of living the life you want. Stop multi-tasking, stop living on auto-pilot. When you decide to spend your time doing something - be mindful of what you are doing. Concentrate on your tasks, think about them, make sure they matter and do them well.

Find beauty in your own life. That might be through obvious things that everyone would recognise as beautiful, but it might also encompass a passion for bee keeping, teaching yourself how to speak a foreign language or volunteering your time to a local cause that means a lot to you. Create a new standard of quality for yourself. Make sure you do everything to the best of your ability.

Learn to be frugal. Reuse, repair, recycle and make do with what you have.

There will probably be a long period of time when you feel like you're using simple living strategies but not really living simply. But you will come to the point when you feel it all falls into place and that you've built your version of a simple life. And when you do that, when you reach a point when you feel comfortable with your life, you know you're growing stronger and what you're doing is significant, you will begin to thrive and then no other way of living will be good enough for you.
26

Swap help

My sister started her long drive home this morning after two weeks of merriment, sharing, eating, remembering and sewing together. I sent her off with a small comfort pack of spinach pie, leftover from our dinner last night, three yoghurt pikelets and a bottle of water. She will have to stop for a cup of tea. Thank you all for your kind words and good wishes for both of us while Tricia was here. We had a really good time together.

I will announce the swap soon and intend to have swap partners contact each other. The contact won't happen through me again as last time there were so many people, it became very unsimple and drove me - and Sharon who helped me, a bit crazy. Sharon has offered to help again, she lives in the US. As I have equal numbers of readers in Australia and the US, I'd also like an Australian to help too. You need to have the time to do it, so if you're working or have young children, it might be a bit of a stretch. If you live in Oz and can help with the next swap, please email me. Thanks everyone.

Oh, and the swap will be for the symbol of this simple
life - aprons!
15

Swap stragglers

I'd like to start a new swap next week but I want all swappers to have their napkins before we go on to another swap. Please comment if you have NOT received your napkins yet, include the name of your swap partner and let me know if you've made contact to see what the problem is.

Thanks everyone.
7

Starting your vegetable garden

These photos were all taken this morning. Early morning, before the sun hits the vegetables, is the best time to walk around looking for bugs or potential problems. Observation is the key to growing good vegies. You need to know what's happening out there and help the plants along if you notice something going wrong.

I had to buy tomatoes yesterday. We had some of our own and some from my step son's garden but with three avid tomato eaters here at the moment, the time came to go to the store to buy them. Yikes! $5 a kilo for plain old tasteless tomatoes, $10 kg for the "vine ripened" ones. I had a look around at the other vegies - $7/kilo for capsicums (peppers), $4 for a lettuce, $3.50 for a bunch of radishes and the long cucumbers were $3.80 each. It would have cost about $20 just for a couple of salads. I hate to think what the same vegetables would cost if I was buying organic produce. Luckily I only had to buy the tomatoes, we had everything else.

French radishes. These are $3.50 at the store, but are easily grown fresh and organic in the back yard for the price of the seeds and a bit of work planting and watering.

That's the great benefit of growing your own, not only are they organic, they're also fresher, tastier and you're protected from the spikes in prices when there's been a drought, storms or cyclones.

Zucchini. We have just planted the follow ups to these - yellow zucchini. By the time the yellows are ready, these will be pulled out.

I've written about starting a new vegetable garden here so I won't go over that again. I want to give those of you who have started your first vegie gardens, or who are about to, a few tips that I hope will help you grow your vegetables.

Nectarines ripening in the warm sun. No fruit you buy will ever taste as good as that from your own backyard.

Almost all uncontaminated soil will grow food, but with a bit of help, the soil in your back yard will produce very good crops instead of mediocre ones. The one thing that will make the biggest difference is to add aged manure to the soil. Your aim should be to add as much organic matter as possible, but if you can only add one thing, let it be old manure. If you can add compost with the manure you're on your way to good soil, and good soil will give good crops. If you're lucky enough to have your own animals, when you buy manure, or if it is given to you, make sure the animals have not recently been wormed. Manure from wormed animals will kill the worms in your soil. You want to encourage worms, they enrich your soil. At the same time you're developing your vegetable garden you should also start a compost pile or bin. The two go hand-in-hand.

These are Richmond green apple cucumbers which were a popular variety of cucumber in Australia in the 1950s. You can't buy these at the supermarket now, they are only available in seed form to grow in your own vegie garden. The taste is sensational.

And the follow ups to the Richmond cucumbers - Lebanese cucumbers that will be picked small and crunchy in about 8 weeks time.

Think of your soil as a cake. Sure, you can make a cake from a packet and you have a cake. But you can also make a cake using organic flour, backyard eggs, good butter, homegrown carrots, walnuts and spices and you get healthy, delicious cake that everyone will enjoy. The packet cake will fill you but the homemade cake will not only fill your belly, it will add to your nutrition.

A variety of lettuces - red, Cos, butter and frilly. All fresh and waiting to be picked for a salad.

So let's imagine you've added some aged horse or cow manure to your soil, along with your homemade compost. You dig it in (my preferred way) or you add it to your layers in a no dig garden bed. If you can afford to buy a good organic fertiliser, do so, if you can't, buy some blood and bone and sulphate of potash and use them. The blood and bone will add nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus - all necessary for good plant growth and the potash will induce flowering. The ratio is one handful of potash to 10kg of blood and bone. Sprinkle that over your new garden and dig in, along with the manure and compost.

Green lake beans. Hanno loves these cooked - either hot or in a salad. I like them eaten raw straight from the vine.

Now you're ready to plant your seeds or seedlings. You're planting into good soil, so you want to give your plants the best chance to thrive. Get yourself some seaweed concentrate. I use Natrakelp when I can afford it and Seasol when I can't. There is some good info here about organic fertilisers, including Natrakelp. Seaweed concentrate, properly diluted, will help your seedlings over the shock of transplanting. I water my plants with a weak solution of seaweed concentrate every couple of weeks to keep everything healthy. A good trick is to pour some diluted seaweed into a small container before you plant your seedlings. Allow the seedlings to sit in the seaweed for about 30 minutes before you plant. Then plant out and water in. Then pour on some more seaweed to settle the plant in nicely.

The follow ups to the tomatoes. We have tomatoes in large pots, sweet bites and tommy toes in various places in the garden and quite a few planted in the aquaponics garden. One of these is a yellow pear tomatoes, I'm not sure what the others are. In the pots we have Armish paste, beefsteaks and brandywines, in the aquaponics we have dwarf pear, sweet bites and beefsteaks.

Now a word of warning. Never over fertilise your plants. If you start your garden in a similar way to the outline above, you won't need to fertilise much at all. I make up a liquid comfrey fertiliser or worm juice for the leafy greens and apply that every two weeks. Things like tomatoes, peppers and beans, I just plant into rich soil and keep watered. The rule of thumb is you give nitrogen to the leafy greens and a small amount of potash (when planting) to the fruiting plants like tomatoes, beans, zucchinis etc. Give a good deep watering maybe twice a week, depending on your climate, and three times a week in the heat of summer. Try to water your plants in the early morning as this will help you avoid the diseases of humidity like powdery mildew.
There are many reasons to start growing your own food. It's really enjoyable, you can grow organic food for a minimal price, it's as fresh as it can possibly be when you eat it and it has no pesticides or herbicides. But now it will also save you money and ensure your supply of vegetables when the supply might be a bit tight at the shop.
19

Living small

It never occurred to me when I was a spender that I was actually giving away my independence. I thought the opposite. I believed I was the queen of my realm and the more I had and the more dollars I spent, the more power, strength and independence I had. When I stopped spending I realised how pathetically wrong that was.

What I was doing was working in a job I didn't like so I had enough money to pay for a lifestyle I didn't want to live. I was shopping for clothes and shoes to make me look like everyone else, I was buying things for my home to make me feel comfortable in a place I didn't take the time to feel comfortable in, and I was buying foods to comfort and nurture because I didn't feel at ease in my life and I didn't have the time or energy to cook the foods I liked. And the strangest thing is that when I was doing that, I didn't think about the sadness I was feeling, I didn't realise I was unsatisfied and I didn't see the need for change.

I only realised that need when I took myself out of the shopping frenzy and sat alone on my verandah and thought about what I was doing and how far from my ideal life I really was. When I stopped shopping, I saw it in a brighter light and when I saw its ugly side, I didn't want to go back there.

I realised that I could do all those things I used to spend my money on. I could make clothes, I could cook well, I could do my own housework, but when I started doing those things I found that I'd lost many of the skills I grew up with. I'd forgotten how to sew and knit because I paid someone else to make my clothes, I'd forgotten how to cook well because I'd been buying all sorts of foods that didn't require me to exercise my mind and spend my energy on making my truly favourite dishes. When it came to housework, all I knew was to get the Chux and Mr Sheen from the cupboard and wipe. I was really pathetic - a grown woman who didn't know how to look after myself or my family properly; I'd forgotten the skills that all my great grandmothers had passed on to me - I, my friends, was a modern woman - I was dependent on others to help me live.

You don't have to be a genius to shop, you need limited skills to be good at it - all you need is money, or credit, and time. All that time to spend walking through shopping malls searching for something made (usually) in a foreign land by people who are probably underpaid, producing millions of products exactly the same as the previous million, and the million that will follow.

On the other hand, not shopping requires a multifaceted strategy. You need to know how to create, cook, clean and sew, you need to make do with what you have, to reuse, recycle and repair, you need to barter, grow food, preserve, and you need to love doing it. You have to discover for yourself the true beauty of being able to look after yourself, your family and your home with a minimum of outside help. The beauty of it is there if you look.

I am much richer now than I've ever been in my life. I know how to live now. I have the skills to survive a crisis, I have the strength and knowledge to produce my own food and to store it. I can clothe myself and others. All these are real life-engaging and self-empowering skills. But the real skill here is to do it and love doing it. Relearning those lost skills, and then loving the doing of them, is an act of subversion because you're not doing what women and men in our times are supposed to be doing. Nurturing your family and yourself with cooking, gardening, housekeeping, dress making, knitting, making soap, baskets, shawls and jam, and all the other things you learn to do in your post-consumerist life, not only enriches your spirit but it makes you an independent force. Ladies and gentlemen, may the force be with you.

Graphic from allposters.com
38

Beautiful curtains

I read the following quote for the first time on Jewel's blog. It really sums up, in an eloquent way, how I feel about my home.

If you wanted to gather up all tender memories, all lights and shadows of the heart, all banquetings and reunions, all filial, fraternal, paternal, conjugal affections, and had only four letters with which to spell out the height and depth and length, and breadth and magnitude and eternity of meaning, you would write it all out with these four capital letters: H-O-M-E.
Thomas DeWitt Talmage

My home is such a joy to me nowadays that I fret when I'm away from it. When we went to Brisbane on the weekend, looking for, and not finding, our kitchen appliances, I said more than once, "let's go home". And I meant it. I don't like what I find when I go out. Generally, people are more social but less socialised. There is pushing, rudeness and a "me first" attitude.

I am content at
home. I know each and every inch; all the trees, smells and breezes. I know the length and breadth of this place and nowhere else is as comfortable to me as my home. And as the quoted paragraph above says, all tender memories and eternity of meaning are bound up here. It's my important place. It's where I've buried my soul and where I will live until I cease to be.

I spent Sunday afternoon relaxing and stitching on the front verandah. Hanno was out, Tricia went to visit our cousin, and I was well content to stay in my place. I'm enjoying making these curtains for the kitchen. It seems to me that stitching something functional, something that will serve for its usefulness rather than it's beauty, is more rewarding than a merely decorative piece. With each stitch I feel I connect with my female antecedents as I am sure they did similar work at many points in their lives. All the sounds I hear while stitching, all the bird song, the children at play, the wind rustling leaves and a rooster crowing in the distance are all sounds my great great grandmothers, and their great great grandmothers, might have heard while they sat stitching. There is a connection there, made only because I sit at home and stitch. I am privileged to feel that connection.

A friend asked me the other day why I bothered stitching because it was so slow. She thought I should buy fabric already patterned or curtains already made. I mumbled something about enjoying the sewing then we talked about something else. I thought about that again later and one of the main reasons I like stitching by hand is that it is slow. That slow, rhythmic repetition is part of the charm of it. How many solitary active things do we do now that slow us down enough to allow concentration and mindfulness. Not many.

Maybe the world is being divided into shoppers and stitchers. If it is, I think the shoppers will win all the battles, but the stitchers will have beautiful curtains. : )
22

Developing flavour in home cooking

There is more to good home cooking than following a recipe. To consistently cook well, you need to understand how flavours develop. There are ways of developing flavour in your home cooking that don't involve adding anything from a packet or opening a can of soup.

CARAMELISATION
The best way to add flavour to meat is to caramelise it. Many foods have natural sugars in them. They don't make that food sweet but they are there nonetheless. When you cook meat on a high heat it turns brown. That is caramelisation. It is the sugars in the meat browning because of the heat - it changes the colour of the meat to brown and it intensifies the flavour by removing water from the meat's sugars and concentrating the flavour in the meat.

You should add a small amount of oil - I always use olive oil - to your pan, heat the oil so it's quite hot and add the meat. Don't add too much meat at a time, if you have a large amount to cook, add it in batches and brown the meat a bit at a time. This allows the meat to caramelise. If you add too much meat at once, the juices from the meat will release and it will stew instead of dry fry. You're trying to remove the water from the sugars in the meat and if you stew the meat at this point, it won't caramelise. Once you've browned all the meat, you can carry on with your cooking, knowing that you've added much more natural flavour than you would have had if you'd just cooked the meat in a sauce.

You can develop flavour by caramelisation in any food that contains natural sugars like meat, vegetables, fruit and fish.

BEEF STEW
You can use cheap cuts of beef for this recipe like shin or flank. Even though those cuts might contain sinew, the slow cooking will melt them and you'll end up with tender cubes of meat that almost fall apart.
  1. Chop beef into cubes and coat it with some plain (all purpose) flour, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of paprika, all mixed together. Dry fry in a bit of oil, in small portions, until all the meat is brown. It's not cooked at this point, just brown on the outside. Put the meat aside on a plate.
  2. Add one chopped onion - another way of adding flavour to food. Even if you don't like the taste of raw onion, it should be added to food because it will add a depth of flavour you won't get without it. Fry the onion until it too is a light brown colour. When it's light brown, that means you've also caramelised the sugars in the onion - and therefore developed its flavour.
  3. Chop up two carrots and two sticks of celery. Again, you don't have to like the flavour of these foods as they won't taste like they taste fresh, but they'll add flavour to your dish. Cook these vegetables until the celery has turned bright green.
  4. Add pinch of salt and pepper and stir. It's much better to add small amounts of salt and pepper throughout this type of cooking, instead of once large amount at the end. Adding small amounts at the various stages will add layers of flavour instead of just adding seasoning.
  5. At this point you could add a variety of other flavours - such as chilli, tomato, paprika, curry etc - or you could leave them out and go on to the next step. If you so add an extra flavour, add it, stir it in and make sure it's well incorporated into the other ingredients before going on.
  6. Add the meat back to the pot and pour in some stock or water, enough to just cover the meat, a small amount of salt and pepper, stir again, bring to the boil and stir again. Place the lid on the pot and put it in the oven to slowly cook (150C) for about 2 hours.
When it's cooked, taste for flavour. At this point the meat will be tender and there will be a thick sauce covering the meat. Serve with mashed potato and green beans.

SPICE
Spices are the flowers, bark, roots, berries or seeds of various plants used to develop flavour in cooking. Spices are usually dried to a powdered form and added in small amounts. When you add spice to your cooking, you will release more flavour if you dry fry them in a pan before use. When you buy spice, only buy small amounts as they lose flavour when stored for a long time. Store your spice in a cool dark place in a sealed jar.

Spices are often used in long slow cooking - such as curry, or sprinkled on the top of food to add a quick burst of flavour, such as pepper.

Spices are things like pepper, chilli powder, cardamon, coriander seeds, paprika, and many many more.

HERBS
Herbs are similar to spices but they're usually fresh. The actual definition of a herb in cooking is any plant that is useful and adds flavour.

Herbs are parsley, chives, sage, oregano, thyme etc.

When you add herbs to a recipe, you can add them at the beginning for slow cooking and that will develop and add flavour while cooking, but you can also add them at the end of cooking to add freshness to the dish. For instance, you might add garlic, parsley, oregano and thyme to a spaghetti sauce recipe - cook it for a while, then add more parsley at the end so the meal is served with green parsley to give it a fresh taste.

SUGAR
Sugar or honey can be added in very small amounts to bring out the flavour in certain foods. For instance, half a teaspoon of sugar in a tomato dish - such as pasta sauce, will make the tomato flavour more intense. A small amount (½ teaspoon) of sugar added to frying onions, while help them caramelise. Cooking onions like this needs to be done slowly.

EVAPORATION
You can add flavour by evaporating the water out of food by simmering with the lid off the pot. This will concentrate the flavour in the dish.

DRESSINGS
You can also add flavour to raw food. Salads are usually raw vegetables and fruits combined in various ways. You can add flavour by making a simple dressing.

SIMPLE VINAIGRETTE
Three parts extra virgin olive oil to one part of vinegar or lemon juice. You can also add a small amount of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of mustard powder, a little sugar, or a dash of cream for a richer dressing, or some water for a lighter one. Try variations of this until you find what suits your taste. You make it by adding all the ingredients to a small jar and shaking it. Dress the salad just before serving.

SIMPLE MAYONNAISE
Eggs MUST be at room temperature.
  1. Whisk together two fresh egg yolks, salt, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons of good vinegar in a roomy bowl.
  2. Add two cups of good olive oil very slowly - start whisking the yolk mixture and let the oil fall from the spout, drop by drop in a thin stream until you have achieved a thick, velvety mayonnaise. You must whisk all the time, or use an electric beater. When the mixture thickens up, you may add the rest of the oil faster.
  3. Taste it. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
STOCK
Make good stock whenever you have the bones of chicken or beef or if you have spare vegetables. You can cook the bones with the vegetables in water and that will make stock. However, if you roast the bones in the oven for an hour, you'll caramelise the flavours and make better stock. So to make stock, roast the bones for an hour, add the roasted bones to a stockpot and cover with water. Add bay leaves, salt and pepper, a chopped onion, two sticks chopped celery and a chopped carrot. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour with the lid on. When it's cold, it can be frozen or stored in the fridge.

So as you can see, all these techniques involve good wholesome food, with no artificial flavours. Home cooking relies of developing natural flavours and that is easily done using the techniques above or by adding natural flavour like spice or herbs. And don't be afraid to experiment. Start off with a good basic dish that you find appealing and modify it by adding the flavours - to a greater or lesser degree, that your family likes. Once you've mastered that skill, you're on your way to being a good home cook.
5

Gingham curtains

Here are the curtains Tricia made. I'm really pleased with them, they feel fresh and make the kitchen look bigger. I noticed that Hanno has installed one pull back hook higher than the other. : \ We'll have to adjust that. I have to buy a few hooks for the top of the curtains as there are a few missing, but when they're all fixed, I'll happily live with these curtains for many years. The curtains I'm stitching will take another couple of weeks but I'll post a photo when they're finished.




Tricia saw my other pottery crock when I featured it on the blog a while back so she bought up this much bigger crock for me to use. This one has a water filter inside it but if you take it out, the crock would hold about 10 litres (2.6 gallons). It will be just perfect for making lemon cordial and ginger beer. I mix the drinks up in the crock , then fill bottles from the little tap.


Tricia also found this vintage linen tea towel she thought would fit nicely into my new colour scheme. Isn't it pretty!
I've been honoured with two awards. The first was one given a while back by Linda at Somewhere in Time. Linda has presented me with a You Make Me Smile Award. Thank you Linda, you make me smile too. : )
Tami at Joyful Noise has honoured me with a Thinking Blogger Award. Thank you Tami. When I first started blogging it was my hope that I would help a few people think about their lives in a different way. I also wanted to be influenced and challenged by the lives of other bloggers, so I really appreciate this award.
Hanno and I went to the scratch and dent sale yesterday and the prices were still so high we walked out without even talking to anyone. Such a pity. The sale prices on these appliances were $2000 and above. So today we have our last lead - we're going to a shop here on the Sunshine Coast where we hope to find a bargain. If not, all the old appliances will be going back in when the new benchtop is installed.
I hope you are all having a lovely weekend. Thank you for stopping by today.
16

The button box

Tricia's husband died suddenly a few years ago and she's spent the past couple of years deciding whether she would sell the family home and move to a smaller place. She now lives in a beautiful six bedroom mansion house on the outskirts of Sydney. There is a library, chandeliers, four hectares of bushland and a heated pool set in a beautiful secluded garden with fountains. This last couple of months she's started packing up, decluttering and selling or giving away a lot of her unwanted possessions.

She drove up from Sydney in a car packed to the roof with things she wanted to give to me or to the people at our Neighbourhood Centre. The first day she was here, we took a lot of those things with us and gave them away to people whose needs include the blankets, pillows, coats etc she gave.

She also brought some things she thought I would like. One of those things was mum's button box.

We were both born in the 1940s and grew up as part of Sydney's working class in the 1950s. I guess we both did well for ourselves and although I became middle class, I have always thought of myself as working class. I feel comfortable with those values and the collective flaws and strengths that helped shape us.

Our parents left little in the way of material possessions when they died but what I have of my mother's I really cherish. She gave me the amethyst ring and pendant she was given for her 21st birthday, I have a small fruit knife that was her mother's - it has a bone handle with the name 'jean cullen' carved in it, a little green glass that she liked and some very fine Orrefors glasses that I drink from when I'm sick. I also still have a stainless steel wok she gave me in the 1960s - it must be one of the first non-Asian woks in Australia as no one (except me) used them then.

And now, the buttons.

I went through them yesterday and tried to remember where they were from. I wanted to see, with my mind's eye, the dresses and coats they would have been on. I didn't get far with that because going through the buttons brought back different memories to me. I remembered how mum, and every other woman we knew, saved buttons, string, ribbons, old zippers and fabrics 'just in case' they were needed. And that frugal philosophy was why I had that box of old buttons in front of me.

The buttons were packed in the small, brown, plastic containers that pills used to be dispensed in before the days of pre-packaged bubble packs and child-safe bottles; there were also two little glass vegemite jars. All these were held in a 1970s 'Fresh Pak' plastic box. It must have been one of the first plastic containers sold then. It is brown, with an opaque lid with the words 'Fresh Pak' on it.

I spilled each container out so I could have a good look and along with all the buttons came a flood of childhood memories. It really was a different world then. Now that I look back on it, we, and almost everyone we knew, were what we would now think of as 'poor'. But we didn't feel like that. We had everything we needed, we never went hungry, we took our place within a strong and happy community and we knew everyone, not just in our street, but also in the streets surrounding us.

I was too young and silly to know what people really focused on in their lives then but in our home we rarely talked about money or possessions. My mother taught me valuable things like caring for others, self respect and respectfulness, she told me it was good to be kind, brave and thoughtful, she demonstrated every day the value of hard work and she showed me, by example, the importance of positive role models. So although there may not have been much in the way of physical possessions given from her hand to mine, she left me with the soul of a frugal, hard-working woman and for that I will be eternally grateful.


These are the buttons I will keep. The rest of them will go back to Sydney with Tricia and probably spend the rest of their days, not as they were intended - as a functional part of clothing or furnishings - but as a silent reminder of the days when thrift was a part of almost every life and we all saved things 'just in case'.


24

Stitching sisters

She thought I was sitting in a lounge chair stitching, but I was quietly taking this photo. If you're wondering, that little white box has a tiny teddy bear in it, a gift from my other sister, Kathleen.

We've had some good times together these past few days. Nothing too exciting, as is fitting for two old ducks, but good, nonetheless. We've talked and remembered, laughed, had tea and fruit cake and talked some more. Tricia arrived on Sunday night, went to work with me on Monday and to the beach on Tuesday. On Wednesday we finally got the go ahead from the insurance company for the repairs to the kitchen so the three of us went to the builder's showroom to choose a new benchtop and then to the shops nearby to look at some new kitchen appliances. We've decided to replace the cooktop and oven while we have the chance (with the new benchtop) but we're not sure yet if we'll be able to afford what we want. We can afford to replace these things now if we buy lower quality, but we don't want that. We want these things to last a long time so they need to be the absolute best we can afford. Hanno and I will go into Brisbane tomorrow to a scratch and dent sale at Kleenmaid and hopefully pick up some good quality bargains. Some of their stoves are 60% off. If we can't get what we want for a good price, we won't replace anything now.

The flash alerted her there was a photographer lurking, but I couldn't get her to smile.

Yesterday Tricia made the red and white gingham curtains while I started on the kitchen curtains. Tricia bought the gingham for me in Sydney as I couldn't find anyone with it up here. The fabric cost $140. I'm using the lining from the old curtains. I bought two metres of a 60% linen/40% cotton fabric for the kitchen curtains, which cost $8.95 a metre. I've drawn my own design and I'm stitching them before making a simple half window double curtain with a valance. They will be similar to Debbie's gorgeous curtains here.

I think it will take about a week to stitch them. It's a simple pattern of flowers in a tea cup and I have the two sides to do. The red gingham curtains are hanging now and they make such a difference to the look of the kitchen. They're fresh and clean looking and they contrast nicely with the pale butter colour of the walls. I'll take a photo of them later.

Tricia is going to visit friends in Brisbane today and will return on Sunday when we plan on having afternoon tea with Susie and her family; Susie is our cousin who lives near here. I'll catch up on some housework today and tomorrow and hopefully have time to do some work on my ebooks and the kitchen curtains.

I've had a few emails from readers asking about the ebooks. I hope to have the first available for sale in November. There will probably be four or five of them from me and Bel will do one on simple living with a young family. They will be in PDF format and will cost $10 each.

Thank you for stopping by today. I want you all to know that even if I don't have the time everyday to respond to your comments, I read everyone of them and appreciate your loving thoughts and the time you take to make contact. I know many of the readers love reading the comments too and I think they add a lot to my blog. So thanks to everyone who taps away in that little comment box. Oh, and I will catch up with the remaining emails today too. : )

14

Two simple strategies

This is when your simple life starts. At this very minute. If you've decided you want to change the way you live and intend to make a plan to live simply, then I want you to think of yourself as living simply. Tell other people too; tell your family, friends and neighbours. Tell them: "I've changed how I live my life, I'm living simply now." You'll find that if you tell others and verbalise your changes, that the change itself will be easier. You'll feel like you've already made inroads on your new life and the change is underway.

I want to emphasise that simple living can be started at any time of your life, with each period having its own challenges and rewards. If you’re in your 50s or beyond, like me, it will put you on the path towards a healthy and ethically-based lifestyle that will allow you to do more good than harm. If you are in the period when you’re nurturing a young family and buying a home, I hope you’ll gain valuable insight into how to build a sustainable and fulfilling life. If you’re younger and just starting out, I hope you will use your simple values to build an ethical and secure base on which to build a fine future.

As soon as you finished reading this blog today, I have a task for you. Your first small step: sit down with a pen and notepad and think about the kind of life you want to live. Picture yourself in your ideal location doing what would make you happy. What is complicating your life? What do you need to change in your life to achieve what you want? Write down the points of change as you think of them. Write down how you believe you could achieve the changes you want. Write down what you’re prepared to give up to make the changes happen. List what you don’t like about your life now. List what is important to you.

Your list will show you what areas you need to focus on, and you can then work through your list point by point. If you’re like me, you’ll need to change a lot to achieve the life you want. Take a bit of time with this first exercise, think about what is important to you and your family and write it all down. It will be very interesting in the coming weeks and months to look at these points again to see how your path or your ideas change. Be aware it won't be all smooth sailing. You'll need to compromise on some of your wishes but maybe you can revisit them in coming months and move them closer to where you want to be.

When undertaking any major change in life you need to be organised to be able to cope with it and do it in the most efficient way. You will probably change a lot of small things to live simply, so organisation is vital. Each simple life is different as well, there is no fixed formula for what we're doing here. Your life will be different to mine, your plans will vary according to the stage of life you're at, if you're married or not, if you have children, if you're working at home or outside the home, there are many variables. You must plan your changes and keep all your information at hand.

I've written before about how to declutter and organise your home, but decluttering is only one part of this organisation. I am going to encourage you to start making lists. Shopping lists, stockpile lists, to do lists. Make up any sort of list that will help you achieve what you hope for. Use your lists to give yourself reminders during the day about what you should be focusing on. Use a calendar to mark important dates like birthdays, anniversaries and meetings. Keep a diary to record notes for yourself and to remind you of what you need to do.

This is your second small step. Start a simplicity journal in which you record new ways of doing things and new ideas you want to work on. The list of how you want your life to change should be the first thing in your journal. It will also hold the general information about your home like your To Do’s, your garden plan and a record of your harvests, when and what you preserve, and any new recipes you find for both food and cleaning. I hope you'll include some of my ebooks in your simplicity journal too.

I recycled one of those old cardboard covered three ring binders, covered it in a fabric and I use that for all my simple notes, recipes and reminders. My journal also contains letters people write to me, seeds that I've decided to plant but haven't planted yet, a calendar so I can mark down what I'm doing, my water meter card, seed and tree catalogues and many recipes.

If you find something online that will help you in your new life, download it and add it to your folder. It is important that you keep a folder to organise
your transition to simplicity, not only will it be the repository of all your notes and reminders, it will also document your journey to your new way of living. Keep this folder and your diary together so you always know where they are. You can put in some dividers and have sections for recipes, seed catalogues, ideas you want to try, stories from others who inspire you to be the best you can be. If you're trying to reduce your electricity and water consumption, keep your bills in your folder, along with your weekly meter readings. Tailor your journal to suit what you're doing and it will help you simplify. You'll have all your information in one place and you can add to it or read it easily.

Starting a simplicity journal might sound like an extra burden in a changing life, but being organised will focus you and keep you on track for all the good things that will become part of your simple life.
20

emails

I am way overdue answering emails and comments. With my sister here I don't have the spare time throughout the day when I usually answer them. I will write as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience. : )
6

It's not easy being simple and green

Many people want to live simply but don’t know how, or where, to start, or even what simple living really is. The simple answer is that simplicity is about many small things that add up to become entire way of life. For me, simple living has been a mixture of personal growth, thrift, making do with what I have, resource conservation, a change in attitude about what is considered success and achievement, slowing down, expanding horizons, living well on less money and making deliberate choices about my life and how I live it. Of course, it encompasses much more than those elements but that’s it in a nutshell. It is a fine honest lifestyle and when you get a taste of it, nothing else will be good enough for you.

I have been trying to set out information in my blog about the practical aspects of a simple life. Things like how to:
  • budget and shop mindfully
  • store and preserve food
  • grow some of your own food
  • keep chickens and worms
  • organise your home and declutter
  • and how to make some of homemade cleaners

Many of these tasks are things that will help you live simply and generally they're all fairly easy to do. The difficult part of your simple living change will be to have a deep understanding of how you are personally responsibile for how you live your life, to develop simple values and consistently live according to them, and to change your mindset about spending and possessions.

We live in an increasingly artificial world. We can have anything our heart desires, for a price. If you’ve got the money, you can buy disposable mops, toothbrushes and underwear, robotic vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, fake jewellery as well as authentic gems that may have cost someone their life, frozen dinners, fake finger nails and suntans, cigarettes that might kill you, clothes that look divine but hide their exploitative creation, and meat, fruit and vegetables that look perfect and healthy but often aren’t.

Many people have deliberately cut themselves off from the natural world. Some won’t eat a tomato that has had a bug on it but will happily eat vegetables that have been fed with artificial fertilisers, meat that comes from animals that are poorly treated and fed unnatural food, or fish and prawns that have lived their lives in polluted waters far from our shores. Even though an important part of simplicity is to have enough money to live, one thing is certain, simple living cannot be bought. No credit card has enough credit, no amount of dollars, euros or gold will deliver it to your door. It is one of those rare things of true and enduring value that you have to work for.

I'd be lying if I told you that simple living is easy. It is satisfying, rewarding, healthy, beautiful, it makes you feel happy and content, it's substantial and important and necessary, but it isn't easy, especially when you start. But it's a wonderful and significant way of life and I hope all of you decide that even if it isn't easy, it is how you want your life to be.

15

Late napkins

Mrs mk from Polly

Chookasmum from Sharon

Emme from Kathleene

It is now 2½ weeks since the posting deadline for the napkin swap. All the napkins should have been received by now. If you have not received your napkins, please comment on this post. Carla has not received from Hannah yet. Is there anyone else? Hannah, would you let me know when you posted your napkins, thanks.


17

Your food plan

I have been amazed and delighted in these past few months to see the mainstream media finally give time and space to the problems associated with Global Warming and Peak Oil. It’s been a long time coming. These two problems alone, even without factoring in the current drought conditions we’re experiencing, are enough to worry a lot of us. Some people seem to be so frightened by these problems that they are unable to do anything. Some believe that technology will save us all. Others believe there is little we can do. The vast majority though do know a little about the mess we’re in, but continue on regardless. While I’m aware that no one is really one hundred percent sure how to assist in the recovery of the environment, I do know we got into this mess by each and every thing we all do in our modern lives, and we can lend a hand in reversing the trends by stopping such careless extravagance and by taking small steps back to equilibrium - by living simply.

Every one of us has a part to play in this recovery. It is not too difficult. It requires that we all monitor our spending, cut back on our excesses, produce some of our own food and work towards a healthy future one step at a time.

One of the small steps to take when you’ve got your spending under control is to learn how to produce some of your own food. With worldwide food shortages now in their second year and the drought continuing, countries like Australia and the US, that supply much of the world’s wheat and meat, just can’t keep up with the demand. It’s a worrying sign that most people are ignoring. In the future, food will be much more expensive as there will be less of it grown on an international scale and less fuel to transport it around. The fuel that is used will be more expensive. The days of cheap food are coming to an end. Now is the time to learn how to garden and store food effectively, and to cook well using those foods you produce and stockpile.

If you don't already have a productive vegetable garden, now is the time to start one, or to plan one for the next growing season in your area. There is much to be done. First audit your own food preferences and work out how much of that food you could grow in your own backyard. You should work out a plan for bartering in your area. Swapping what you can grow for things you can't is a great thing to factor into your food plan. You'll also have to learn how to store all your food safely.

We've talked about budgeting here and having a spending plan, we talk about menu plans but we also need to think about a food plan. Where will the food come from that you use in your menu plan? How much will you have to put aside in your spending plan for food next year and the year after?

As wives and mothers we are the organisers of food in our homes. If the food shortages continue and grow worse, as they are predicted to do, how will you continue to feed your family within the confines of your budget? Your food plan should answer questions like: 'how much food do we eat in a month?', 'what kind of foods do we eat?', 'where does that food come from?', 'can I produce some of our food?', 'what foods are produced in my local area?', 'can I produce something that I can barter for local milk, eggs, bread, meat etc?'

I'll continue to write about food plans as they're an important part of our simple lives. In the meantime, start your own food plan and ask yourself all those important questions about the chain of supply. It will stand you in good stead in the coming months.


FURTHER READING

Graphic from allposters.com

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Money leaks

I've had a few emails recently from people wanting to simplify but they don't know what their first step should be. No matter what style of simple life you want for yourself, you'll need to have your finances in order, so the first step is to track your money. This is a simple process where you take a small notebook with you wherever you go and every time you buy something, you write it down in your note book. You must be consistent and mark down everything, even the smallest amounts.

You'll get a fairly good idea of what you're spending habits are at the end of a week, but keep your tracking going for a month to get a more accurate picture. Tracking your money might not reveal what's really important to you but it will show you what is important enough for you to spend money on it. You'll discover what your priorities are, what your spending patterns are and you can then use this information to change habits and focus on positive spending, like debt reduction.

I doubt there is anyone who hasn't wondered at some point where their money went in a particular pay period. Often we're so tied up with work, or the children, or things that are happening in our lives that we spend without knowing it. We may also be spending small amounts frequently without thinking how those small amounts add up over a longer period. For instance, if you're buying a coffee every morning on your way to work, or when you meet your girlfriends after you've all dropped off the children at school, I bet you'll be surprised how much that will add up to over the course of a year. If that coffee is $3.50 a cup, that's $17.50 a week, $70 a month and if you buy it for ten months in a year, that's $700 for one cup of coffee. I'm not saying that you should stop having your coffee, but make it at home, put it in a Thermos and take it with you. Or invite the girls back to your home for coffee. If there are four of your, you're all paying someone $2,800 to make a cup of coffee for you. That money could make an extra payment on your mortgage or be saved in the bank for an emergency.

Once you'll got a month's tracking done, look critically at what you're spending your money on. I bet you'll be surprised. Who knew those weekly magazines would add up to $800 over a year, surely your $5 lunch at work isn't costing you $1000 a year, your new mobile phone deal, with all those cute extras, can't be costing $900 a year! It's incredible how all those tiny amounts, when added up, cost far more than we thought and far more than they're worth.

I'm not telling you to give up all your small pleasure, but choose your pleasures wisely and know, really know, what they are costing you. When you know the full cost of something - not just the monetary cost, but also what you have to give up and how long you have to work to pay for something, you often don't want it anymore because the cost is too great.

So if you're wanting to simplify, start by tracking what your spend. It will be one of your first exercises in the self discipline of simple living and hopefully it will show you not only how your money is slowly leaking out of your life, but how to stop those leaks and start using your money to help you live the way you want to live.

Graphic from allposters.com


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And the winner is ...



Congratulations Peggy. I'll be sending you the simple living stitchery. If you send me your postal address, I'll get it in the mail in the next couple of days.

I'm sorry there is no second prize but for those of you who want to stitch this, here is the pattern. Simply click on the drawing above, right click your mouse, "save as", print it out and then transfer the pattern to your fabric according to the instruction in the stitchery tutorial. The stitches are mainly back stitch and french or colonial knots, with running stitch for the border and the dotted lines. Happy stitching everyone.

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Working and waiting

Today is a day of preparation for me because aside my normal daily chores, I’m preparing for the arrival of my sister. We’ve finished breakfast and Hanno has been to the farmers market near here to buy some fruit and a few odds and ends he needs. I will wash up shortly, clean the kitchen and sweep the floors. Instead of baking bread this morning, I’ll bake this afternoon so we’ll have fresh warm bread with our meal tonight. That simple meal will be pasta with my own preserved tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. We’ll have a crisp fresh salad from the garden as well, and cold watermelon wedges for dessert.

My most put off task, ironing, has been half completed and I’ll finish it off before lunch. After lunch I’ll make the bed up for Tricia, pick a small posy of flowers for her room and arrange a radio for her bedside. She is one who wakes in the middle of the night and likes to listen to the radio while she settles back into sleep. I will check her bathroom too and make sure there is homemade soap and some organic shampoo, and maybe another posy of flowers should find its way in there too. After lunch I have more lettuces and cucumbers to plant and I’ll tidy the front verandah as I know it will be in constant use over the coming couple of weeks.

It is at times like these, when I want to welcome someone special to my home and extend a healing heart, that I realise how much my home means to me. It really is so much more than bricks and mortar. It then becomes a place of shelter, not just from the weather but from everything else too. When we are here, it is just us; just this family, with no thoughts or cares for what is outside our fence. When we are here, this is a place where we can reconnect with each other, slow down time, or ignore it; we can wake when we choose, sleep and rest in the warm spring air on the verandahs and listen to the birds zip by. The breeze will rustle leaves and make them to spin gently to the ground and we will sit and talk and drink cool cordial and hot tea and forget for a while that the outside world isn’t as enriching as this.
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Napkin swap photos - 2

Here are some photos of the napkins received so far. If you have not yet sent or received your napkins, please let me know. Senders and receivers names are below the photos. If you have a photo of the swap you want to share with us, please email it to me and I'll include it in the next swap lot.

I'm sure you'll agree there are a lot of lovely items here. Well done to everyone who took part in the swap.

I also wanted to add that my package from Kimberly was opened by Australian customs. Nothing was taken out but it was picked up by one of the customs dogs as having a "herbal" smell. LOL Kimberly had included a little lavendar sachet.

Australian customs is the strictest in the world. We are an isolated country, the only island continent, and it is because of this isolation that we've been free of many of the diseases in other lands. Many things are banned from being sent to Australia so on the next wswap, I'll list these banned substances as listed in the literature the Customs Department sent in Kimberly's package. They're all innocent, but not allowed to be sent here.

Christi from Leah

Tami from Elizabeth

Tracy from Jayedee


Marianna from Morgan


Morgan from Marianna


Deb from Rhonda Jean


Rhonda Jean from Deb


Rhonda Jean from Kimberly


Kathleene from Emme

Lenny from Niki



Niki from Lenny

Linda from Aimee



Polly from Mrs Mk


Cheryl (cooper'swife) from Jenny (wren)
Jenny from Cheryle (cooperswife)

Heather from Lisa


Lisa from Heather You're a talented artist, Heather!

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