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6 May 2016

Weekend reading

We took a photo of this larger than life Marilyn Monroe statue when we were in Bendigo in March. It's part of an exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery that runs until mid-July.

I haven't been in the garden much with rain earlier in the week and Hanno's health taking up the end of the week. No need to worry. He has a referral to a specialist and physiotherapist and is coping at the moment. I hope to get back to the garden on the weekend. I have more time now but always seem to be behind. I think this is a common feeling but I'm looking for ways to get around it because I don't like playing catchup all the time.

I hope you enjoy the weekend and put aside time to relax.  I'll see you again next week. ♥︎

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5 May 2016

From scarecrow to neat and pressed in one easy step

I've happily returned to ironing. I used to do a bit to help my mum when I was a teenager. I hated ironing then and my attitude towards it didn't improve for many years.  For decades I only ironed the absolute necessities and then I had an ironing lady who came in once a week to iron for us. But time passed, my attitude towards many things changed and now I've returned to ironing. It feels good.

Ageing has helped softened many of my long-held beliefs and things I used to think were too difficult are easy now. Most of the time I don't have to wear clothes that look good but when I go out to library talks and, more recently, when we were doing the book tour, I needed and wanted to look like I'd put in an effort.  I take my forays into the community seriously, I want to meet the people who come along and to be comfortable and look presentable when I meet them. Most of my clothes are a bit old now so if they're not clean and ironed, I could look like a scarecrow.

I have an ironing press now, as well as a good iron, and that helps keep household linens pressed and beautiful with little effort. At the moment one of my sons is staying with us a few days a week and I help him with his chef's uniforms. My soaking tub is getting a good work out and then I have a few chef's whites and black pants to iron so he looks clean and presentable at work.

The thing that helps the most when ironing is to use a good steam iron and starch. It makes the process of ironing easier, it gives me the finish I want and most of what I iron looks much better when use a spray starch instead of plain water spray.  Of course I don't buy starch because it's ridiculously expensive at the supermarket and so easy to make at home. Making up a litre at a time sees me through about two or three weeks of ironing and like all my other homemade products, I can modify it to suit my own needs.  Sometimes I add essential oil to the mix but often it's just its plain old self and that does the job nicely.

This is my recipe for starch. It can be made up as a weaker of stronger solution simply by adding less or more starch to the water.
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch - the one you use in your cooking
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cold tap water
  • essential oil is optional
Add 1 tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch to a bowl that can hold at least 1 litre/quart. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and mix with a spoon. When it's smooth and runny, add two cups of boiling water and stir well to mix. Then add 2 cups of cold tap water and allow the mix to cool. I use half the amount in a spray bottle for ironing and store the remaining half in a sealed jar.

My only other recommendations are to shake the bottle before use, wipe your iron with a clean moist cloth when you finish ironing and wash the spray bottle and nozzle throughly when you finish each batch.

If you hate ironing there is nothing that I can tell you that will help you change. Only time will do that. But using spray starch will help you get a better result for less effort when you iron. Of course the make-it-yourself aspect will allow you to use fewer chemicals in your home and instead of paying four or five dollars for spray starch at the supermarket, you'll pay just a couple of cents for a spoon full of starch and some water. For me the choice was simple. What do you do?

3 May 2016

Housework - a productive necessity

Without a doubt, our homes are the starting point many good things we'll experience. We all interpret "good things" differently. What I can't live without, you might turn away from. What you hold dear, I might find irrelevant. Even the way we use our homes is different but from that diversity comes opportunity, strength, complexity, sustainability, resilience, respect, generosity and the potential for many good things, and it all flows from home.

All the photos today where taken at my sister's home when I was there in March.

I used to be one of those people who didn't take the time to think about the significance of my home. I thought it was just a shell that held my possessions and where I slept. But as I changed the way I lived, I came to understand the importance of home and how it makes things possible. I'm not a perfectionist, in fact I think that mindset stops many things happening, but although I never aimed for perfection, what I have now in my home is exactly what I want and need to thrive.  Don't get me wrong, we don't live in a flash house in the best suburb. Our home is a 1980s brick slab in a rural town an hour's drive from our capital city. But it's quite here, we have plenty of room to grow grandchildren, chooks and food, we're surround by pine forest so the air is clean, we have family and friends close by, we have enough of everything we need, and the work we do here gives us good reason to smile when we wake every morning. We are fulfilled by our work, we are satisfied with enough, we are sustained by each other and our home.

Work is an essential part of life for all of us, even if we don't want it to be. I've never quite understood the people who've told me they don't like housework and therefore don't do it. I don't believe it. Not because I enjoy the work I do here but because of the mess and chaos that would result if you didn't do any housework. We all need to clean the floor, fridge, stove and bathrooms at some point. We all need clean clothes. We all have to eat and shop for food.  And if that is the case, doesn't it make sense to do the work that will give you the standard of life you want for yourself? Even if you hate housework, doing it is better than living in a house where no housework is done.

I think homemakers are broadly divided into two group. There are those who go out to work on a full or part-time basis and there are those who spend most of their time at home being productive, raising children, caring for loved ones or in retirement.  It doesn't matter which group you're in - if you fluff up your nest to make your home comfortable and productive, if you modify your home to support how you work there, if you use your home as a place where you relax and regroup, you'll be making the most it. Putting the time in to organise yourself and your home will provide you with a springboard from which to launch yourself, your paid workers and students every day. Everyone will be prepared for anything. It will also give the homemakers a sanctuary where children can grow, retirees can grow older and time spent fluffing the nest will be seen as a productive necessity rather than something to be endured or ignored. Rose has written an excellent series of realistic organisation threads on the forum that could help you. Day one is here.

If you feel this animosity towards housework, try to think of it as something you do to give yourself a clean, productive and beautiful place to live. Read Rose's threads too because they'll probably help you think differently about your housework. If you allow yourself to see beyond the work and experience instead what it gives you, it will be enriching every day and life changing in the long run.

29 April 2016

Weekend reading

This is one of the places we visited in Tasmania. It's Arthur Circus, a delightful little collection of colonial houses surrounding a park in Battery Point, Hobart.

I've been enjoying spending a lot of time at home, working away to my heart's content. It's another long weekend coming up here and I'll be in the garden again and having the family around for a meal.  What are your plans for the weekend?

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26 April 2016

Symbioses at its best in the backyard

It's exhilarating and exciting settling in new chickens and setting up a vegetable garden for another year. Of course the chickens require more thought and time because not only do we provide nutrition and water, they also need shelter, security, comfort, nests, roosts and we want them to have the opportunity to spread their wings, scratch the ground, chase insects and live a good life. We have an unspoken agreement with our chooks - they provide eggs and entertainment for us and we give them an environment that supports them in a life that is far removed from the confinement, distress and limitations that millions of their cousins live with every day.

 Ginger frizzle Tricia with silver laced and gold laced Barnevelders Dora and Thora.
 Cora, a light Sussex.
 Farmyard crosses Lora and Flora.

 Flora, Lora, Thora, Cora and Dora.
 Jezebel, Miss Tammy, Patrick (losing her feathers) Kathleen and Nora.
 Annabel, a blue Australorpe.
Our older ladies free ranging to the side of the house.

We've already introduced the new chooks to bread soaked in milk, which they loved, and live worms, which they were confused by. There is much more in store for them in the coming weeks and months. Soon they'll out free ranging with their older sisters, walking around on the grass, enjoying the sunshine and the freedom to go where they choose within their large secure garden.

To recap for all the new readers, we now have 12 chickens which give us enough eggs for ourselves and our family. We get our girls from Kate at Beautiful Chickens over at Mount Samson, just to the west of Brisbane. Kate's chickens are mostly pure breeds with a few farmyard crosses and they're healthy, wormed and vaccinated.

Our new girls are Flora - buff and white farmyard cross, Lora - farmyard cross that looks like a New Hampshire, Dora - silver laced Barnevelder,  Thora - gold laced Barneveldver and Cora - light Sussex. They have joined our older girls Nora - blue laced Barnevelder, Miss Tammy - silver laced Wyandotte,  Patrick - barred Plymouth Rock (named Patrick because I was convinced she was a boy when she was younger), Tricia and Kathleen - two ginger Frizzles, and Jezabel and Annabel - two blue Australorpes.  At the moment the two sets of girls are living in the same shed, separated by a wall with a door they can see through. During the day we let the older chooks out to free range and the younger girls out into the run just outside the coop.

And what of the garden, you ask? It's getting there. We're much slower this year. We've been slowed by age and the desire to enjoy the process. But even thought it's harder for us we still relish the opportunity we have to make the most of the land we live on. Sure we have aches and pains sometimes but we push through it and just get on with it. We also stop for tea, to watch the chooks, to sit and talk in the shade of the umbrella and to discuss the important topics of seasonal food, rainfall, soil fertility, compost, worms, bugs, mulch, trellises and sweet peas.  Hanno bought me a garden arch for my birthday, which is now at the entrance to the garden with sweet peas planted at the base. Soon those delightful plants will scramble up the arch and flower, hopefully for a few months. When they finish flowering, we'll plant cucumbers there.

The new arch way will soon hold a swag of sweet peas.

 Front bed planted up, back bed still needs a lot of work.

 Waiting to be planted - penstemon, roses and salvias.
Roses soaking in Seasol, they'll be planted out today after I chop off all that old wood.
View from the back door.

Yesterday I dug up two roses in the front garden and have them sitting in Seasol before planting them out in large pots today. I also have two small carpet roses - The Fairy - that will be grown in smaller pots among the vegetables. My other flowers are stocks, salvias, primroses, Japanese wind anemones and no doubt, self-sown Cosmos will appear as time goes on.

Our vegetables this year are snap peas, bok choy, several types of lettuce, turnips, kohl rabi, beetroot, ruby chard, green beans, butter beans, swedes, kale and Welsh onions. Soon there will be daikon, tomatoes and ginger and I've left in a mild pepper that won't grow during the cold months but won't die either. I'll cut it back a bit in spring and it till start producing chillies again.  Our herbs are parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and basil, and we have raspberries, oranges, lemons, passionfruit, cumquats, loquats and bananas. We've just harvested 5.7 kg of rosellas that are now in the freezer waiting to be made into jam and tea. Those bushes were removed last week.

It a good combination having chickens with a vegetable garden. They each supply the other with some of their needs - the chickens give fertility to the garden in the form of manure, the garden gives green leaves and fruit to the chickens which boosts the nutrition level of their eggs. It's symbioses at its best and it plays out everyday right outside our backdoor. We are indeed two lucky ducks.

22 April 2016

Weekend reading

Pasta sauce in the making.

It will be a good day today. This morning we're driving over to see Kate at Beautiful Chickens to pick up five new ladies. Photos will be up next week when they've all settled in a bit. I hope you enjoy your weekend. Thanks for your visits this week. I'll see you next week. 

Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry - long conversation
Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis shown from space
Giving the phatic finger to outback drivers
Make jam, be happy
Tool organiser ideas
Different ways to use vintage hankies
Last Words - a Welsh tale
Tilda's Spring Diaries Quilt, free pattern
Free Lego party printables and ideas
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