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30 November 2015

Maggie, version 2

We had a great weekend with a nice balance between work and relaxation. Jamie was here yesterday and he enjoyed helping us clean out kitchen cupboards by climbing in and bringing out the things at the back. Then it was just some shelf cleaning, deciding what would go back and getting rid of the excess. It feels so good to do that. I still have the plastic containers cupboard and the tea towel drawer to organise and will probably get to them this week some time.

I finished Maggie rabbit and I'm happy with it now. I knitted a cross-over apron in 8ply cotton for her. The top and bottom are seed stitch and the rest is stocking stitch. I did a new shawl too because I wasn't happy with the colour combinations of the purple and orange. Ecoyarns organic cotton in the Mercy colour looks better. I bought Alicia's pattern for a cute little knitted pinafore but didn't have the right needles so I made up the cross-over apron and I think it suits her very well. A couple of ladies told me about magic loop knitting, so I could use the needles I had to knit in the round, but I decided to go with what I know now and add magic loop knitting to my Christmas tasks. I'm happy with how Maggie turned out and I'll probably make another one next year for Tricia's grand-daughter, Alana.

I ordered a few things from the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores last week. Enamel mugs for trips out in the car, two Robert Gordon Australian kitchen jugs, an enamel sugar bowl with lid and a fly swatter. I often use jugs in the kitchen and these two cornflower beauties will serve me well for many a long year. I have them sitting on the dresser at the moment so I can keep looking at them. :- )

Today I'll be baking bread in my new loaf tin. It's has perforated holes all over the sides and bottom to produce a crusty loaf. I'll let you know how that goes.  I haven't been making nearly as much bread as I did before since we switched our main meal to lunchtime. But I have to get back to a routine with my bread because often we end up with none in the house.

The year is beginning to sprint to a close and I'm quite busy with various things at the moment. I'm not sure how often I can come back to write here in the next couple of weeks. I'll just have to see how it all goes and assure you that I'll be here when I can be. I hope you have a good week.

29 November 2015

Pre-Christmas special

Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores was featured recently in The Shopkeepers blog.  While shopping is not something I usually write about, this blog shows a different side of shopping by featuring the story of the shop and the shopkeepers. There are some beautiful stores, most of us will never see them in person, but they are there, beautifully photographed, for you to browse through. Don't forget to click on the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores feature because there are some excellent views of the interior of the shop. It took me back to the day Tricia and I wandered through there. It's such a good memory for me. I'll take some photos here when the sun comes up and come back later to show you what I got from the O & McC shop this week.  :- )

Megan and Duncan at the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores in Nundle are having a pre-Christmas special on their beautiful Mason Cash coloured caneware mixing bowls. Everyone needs at least one good quality mixing bowl in the kitchen.

A modern twist on the classic Mason Cash original cane mixing bowl design, the Mason Cash coloured mixing bowls are made in Portugal and available in four colours and sizes. 
  • Red Mixing Bowl, Size 12, 29 x 29 x 14cm
  • Yellow Mixing Bowl, Size 18, 26 x 26 x 12cm
  • Blue Mixing Bowl, Size 24, 24 x 24 x 11cm
  • Green Mixing Bowl, Size 30, 21 x 21 x 10cm
In the lead up to Christmas, Megan and Duncan are offering us 25% off the coloured bowls listed above. To take advantage of this offer, simply go to the Mason Cash page at their store to make your purchase and enter the discount code COLOUREDCANEWARE at the checkout to receive your discount on the bowls. The offer ends Friday December 18, 2015.

Christmas postage deadlines from the store are Friday December 11 for WA, NT, QLD, TAS and SA, and Friday December 18 for NSW, ACT and VIC.

28 November 2015

Weekend reading

Well, I forgot it was Friday, again. I haven't had much time for reading this week but here are my offerings to you. Better late than never. Enjoy your weekend and take some time out to relax.

Another sunrise.

Time online, all the time?
It's Impossible Pie Week on the forum. All sorts of sweet and savoury impossible pies are being made and recipes shared.
Why you only need five things on your to-do list
Easy pillow case with crocheted edging

26 November 2015

How to grow blueberries

I forget when we bought our blueberry bushes, it must be at least eight years ago now. We planted them along the fence line that we then had in front of the garden to keep our Airedale girls away from the tomatoes (they picked their own) and the compost. The blueberries struggled in full sun for a few years and although we got the odd berry, I can't say they were a viable crop for us there.  When we took the fence down, I put the blueberry bushes into pots to wait until the following spring when I intended to replant them in another spot. Well, those bushes started growing in the pots and looked very healthy so I decided to replace the soil, add compost and mulch and see how they did in the pots full time.

If grandchildren or birds discover the berries they'll be picked as soon as they change colour but leaving them on the vine for as long as possible will improve the sweetness and taste.

In that first year they gave us a couple of cups of blueberries, the following year there were more and this year the bushes are full of berries. They're in full sun most of the day and partial shade after about 3pm. I keep them fertilised with comfrey, a sprinkling of potash in spring and they're watered with rain water about three times a week. Good water is critical for blueberries. They thrive on rainwater and don't do so well on tap water containing minerals. They don't like any manures but they love acidic soil - so if you're growing camellias, you're in the right area for blueberries. I give them the cold leftovers and grounds of the coffee pot occasionally to boost the acidity in the pots a bit.

Keep the berries close together to aid in pollination. There are two blueberry seedlings on the side as well as one avocado I'm growing from seed. Propagation by cutting is quite easy and a good way to increase your stock of blueberries quickly.

As I was watering the garden yesterday morning, I noticed that two of the bushes are now as tall as me. They can be pruned which you would do after they finish fruiting. I prune ours like I prune my roses - vase shape, open in the middle, prune out any branches that cross over each other and any branches that touch. You can cut back any shoots that grow too tall. Once they get to the stage where you're pruning, they take off and grow into strong bushes.

Blueberries come in many different varieties and can be grown in cold and warm climates. We have Biloxi and Sunshine Blue. Of those two, here, Biloxi is the better. Both Biloxi and Sunshine Blue can set fruit without pollination from another plant but fruit is increased if you provide a means of cross pollination. Check varieties and pollination requirements here at Daley's site. It's easy to propagate blueberries. I took six inch cuttings at the end of winter and they started growing new leaves in spring. Doing this you can develop a nice stand of blueberries, just make sure you have the right varieties for your climate and types that pollinate each other. If you're growing them in the ground, they must have good drainage. They like to be wetter rather than drier, especially in summer, and here, watering three times a week with rainwater seems to keep them happy. Otherwise their a hardy plant, easy to grow, despite what you may have heard, and definitely worthwhile addition to the back garden.

25 November 2015

My tribe - near and far

You probably remember that I don't go out much. I am naturally a bit of a hermit so it's never bothered me that I stay in more than I go out.  Now when I do go out, I feel out of place. There is nothing familiar out there and the only place I feel at home, is, well, at home. But this week I will be out in my community again with a few talks at my local libraries. I actually enjoy these outings because after wandering about feeling like a fish out of water, I find my tribe waiting at the library. We talk, share, compare and laugh a bit, and I go home again feeling that, maybe, my little bit of the world is not so unfamiliar after all. There are still a few vacant places so if you want to come along, book on the Sunshine Coast Libraries website and I'll see you there.

I found a new friend today, someone I could easily live next door to. Unbeknownst to her, I crept into her kitchen, her home, her farm and looked around without anyone knowing I was there. Of course I wasn't there in person, I found her blog after she posted a comment here and followed the breadcrumb trail back to hers. I love finding blogs that feel very familiar to me. I realise all over again that I'm not such a funny fish out of place in the general scheme of things and that there are many others out there doing what I'm doing, finding joy in the small things and living true. 

Sally and Brian live on Jembella Farm in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, one of our great wine regions. They run their farm along biodynamic principles to produce organic food for their own table and for sale. They have cows, alpacas, bees, sheep, chickens and geese and live in what looks like a beautiful house, tucked into the valley away from the rat race. I'd love to have a cuppa with Sally on that shady verandah of hers. Go over, have a look and be prepared to be charmed by her and learn a little about how these small farms are run.

While I was there I noticed another familiar name - Farmer Liz, who lives closer to me here in Queensland. Liz runs her property with husband Peter using permaculture to produce organic food. She writes about her life on Eight Acres and has a lot of good information on her blog so she's worth a visit too. It makes me feel very hopeful for the future when I know that people like Liz and Peter are coming through as the younger generation. If anyone will save us from ourselves it will be people like them who do it. Check out Liz's info on dairy cows, cheese making, butchering, chickens and so much more.  I doubt I'll ever tire of looking at the faces of Jersey cows. 

I've added both Sally and Liz to my sidebar so if you forget to bookmark them you can find them again over there.

And finally today, my friends, I have the recipe for my new muesli, asked for by Jules. It's simple and you can use whatever dried fruit you have in the cupboard.
  • 3 cups of rolled oats - we're working our way through Quaker oats at the moment but we usually have the cheap Woolworths traditional rolled oats on hand.
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup flaked almonds
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • dried fruit - as much or as little as you like. I used a small pack of dried peaches, two dried pineapple slices I had in the cupboard and a hand full of dried cranberries.
Mix it all together and that's it. Simple. I put the muesli in a bowl and pour milk on, then leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning the oats are on their way to sprouting and the fruit is plump and soft. In summer you can just take the bowl out in the morning and start eating, in winter you can warm it up. I hope you enjoy making your own version of this. 

24 November 2015

Controlling your own life

Last Friday I linked to a forum post written by one of the members who is working on reducing her spending and doing the grocery shopping on, or under, budget. She wrote about  using a calculator to add the purchases as she shopped which helped her come in under budget. But the sentence that really struck a cord with me was this: "... it felt so good to be taking more control and knowing that it is helping me to reach my savings goals." I smiled when I read that, I've heard it so many times before, I feel it myself.

I get a lot of emails from people who've consciously moved away from the mainstream idea of living above their means to become more frugal and pay off debt. This usually involves writing up a budget and working hard to bring in all planned purchases under budget so that the debt reduction plan moves ahead every week. The common theme in these emails, and I felt this very strongly myself back when I changed my life, is the feeling of control you get from carrying out and repeating these humble actions.

When I decided I'd had enough and would change how I lived, I stopped listening to advertising and just concentrated on what I was doing instead. I thought that if I stopped buying 'stuff' I would be better for it. And that is what happened. Look at me now, I ended up here, living a life I could barely dream of back then. When you turn off the advertising and stop caring what your friends are buying you realise you don't need the latest dress, shoes or phone and at the supermarket you stop buying convenience. That results in less money spent and more debt paid off. When you keep repeating that and actively try to reduce your cost of living without sacrificing your quality of life you're well on your way to living the life you want for yourself.

And instead you do something like I'm doing today - cooking a piece of corned beef in the slow cooker to use as cold cuts because it's much cheaper than buying them already cooked, sliced and cold. This week I'm making good quality ice blocks for Jamie too. I have one of my sponsor Biome's stainless steel icy pole sets and I'll be filling them with yogurt and fresh fruit, and making an egg custard and freezing that instead of looking for expensive good quality ice blocks. It's not as quick and easy as buying cold cuts and ice blocks, it takes more time and effort but I'm not prepared to pay for someone else to do those things for me. I'd rather do it myself, know what's in our food and pay less. I don't get caught in that convenience trap anymore and I'm in control of my own life again.

Advertising and the habit of convenience tells you to sit back and everything will be taken care of for you. Everything is for sale as long as you work enough to pay for it. And that creates a cycle that starts with you wanting the best for yourself and your family, you work hard to buy the things you need and want, and tiredness creeps in, you buy more convenience to get you through and then you have to work more to pay for it. I know it's difficult finding the time and energy to become more productive at home when you're busy with paid work or small children. The trick to doing it is to choose the right things to start with. It's a slow process of picking what will make the most difference in your life, starting with that and adding more as you go along.

I'd encourage you to start with making your own laundry liquid , then use that to clean other things in your home so you can stop buying those cleaners and save that money. Homemade laundry liquid will cost you about three or four dollars for ten litres and even the commercial liquids in bulk packs will cost between $4 and $6 per litre. It works and doesn't take a lot of time to make - about 15 minutes for ten litres and that should see you through at least two months, depending on the size of your family. It might be a year's worth of laundry liquid if you live alone. Fifteen minutes every couple of months isn't much. Combine those savings with shopping at Aldi and cooking from scratch as often as you can and you're well on your way to significant savings and paying off debt. And when you do, you'll feel that elation that taking back control of your own life gives you. You never get that when you keep buying 'stuff', you just get to work longer.

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