Monday, September 26, 2011

It's the simple things

At the moment I have a cold. Might be the explanation behind this post. Anyway I was at my mum's when I realised I had left my hanky at home. I had just bought a set of hankies the week earlier and although they are very old man and tough on the nose they will do.
So I was telling my mum I left my hanky behind and that I needed to find some girlie ones. Well up she jumps in a flash and brings me back a bundle of hankies.
As I went through the little pile she told me the stories of who they belonged to and how she came to have them. I have never been so happy over such small pieces of cloth. These are more then hankies they are practical memories. I went home with a little bundle of hankies and a heart full of family history. You would never get such joy out of a tissue.

Two of my childhood hankies.

My mother's childhood hanky given to her at Christmas time by a friend.It's monogrammed.

My mother's "something blue" hanky that she wore at her wedding.

My grandmother's hankies, one machine laced the other hand laced.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On my mind...

Another inspiration from Rhonda Jean at down to earth.
My garden is on my mind today.It will be open tonight as part of a Sustainability Expo. Will others love it as much as I do?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eco guilt

Have you ever heard the saying that too much information is dangerous? Maybe it's a real saying or maybe it's something I heard from my family. Some days I wish I didn't know so much.I wish I didnt look at a packet of biscuits and think about how much sugar is in it, how many preservatives, how unrecyclable the packaging is? I wish I could mindlessly drive my car without thinking about the fossil fuels, the ever impending oil crisis and time I spend behind the wheel. I could wear my rose coloured glasses as I shopped at the local mega mart and not see the waste, the very bad produce or the products flown in from the other side of the globe.
But I do! I have eco guilt!! I am still so far from my place of self reliance, my world were i have said goodbye to packaging, the one where I can say I don't eat that junk food crap.But I'm not. Days like today feel too hard and just for a moment I want to hide in the Reject Shop and buy trolley loads of cheap, nasty crap while I eat fast food and not recycle any of it. But then I sit at my computer with my not so much a baby sleeping on my shoulder reading blogs and articles from people around the world who are moving forward and maybe not living the dream but doing a damn good job pretending to be, and I am thankful for my knowledge as annoying as it can be. Cause like you know, knowledge is power and power means you have a choice, and as apathetic as i am this night I know that this knowledge will be better for the planet and better for me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Great Strawberry Battle

My children are addicted to strawberries. Pace our youngest can eat an entire punnet without a blink of an eye. I had heard that strawberries were high on the pesticide list and I could understand why.Growing strawberries at our place has always meant one for us and three for the slaters. However when The Environmental Working Group released their 2011 Dirty Dozen list Strawberries were up there at number 3!!! Scary stuff considering how easy they are to eat. Further research and I found that is not even as easy as washing them before I feed them to the kids. Most of the pesticides and herbicides are absorbed into the fruit as it grows. This was not good news!
I have had an old pot belly stove planted with strawberries since we moved in but this was really just for a treat as I walked around the garden.

So last year the decision was made to try and plant as many strawberry plants as possible to see if we could even make a dent in the strawberry consumption with home grown produce. I drooled over photos of others (usually in the USA or UK) with huge hedges of strawberries and tried to replicate with 24 strawberry plants in the orchard.I had dreams of our own cardboard punnets of strawberries and jars of strawberry jam in my head. Well I think we ate about 10 strawberries last summer.With the combination of slater attack and scorching sun they did not survive. Strawberry season ended and I forgot about our strawberry attempt until last month when there they were again in the markets and shopping centres, plastic boxes (yuck) of bright red sweet strawberries. But this time all I could see was a box of poison so back to the strawberry harvest idea. This year they will all be above ground to keep the slaters away (hopefully).

Lovely one was set the task of creating a strawberry box and I replanted the pot belly with new stock and a large pot by the front door.

So now there are about 30 plants above the ground that will hopefully keep my strawberry fiends happy. Wish them luck!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The lost art of homemaking

Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or do without. This little saying was on the fridge at my best friend's house for many years when I was teenager and young adult. I always stopped to read it, maybe because it would become a mantra in my life or maybe just because it was next to the cupboard that always had cookies in it.

Over two years ago I presented a talk on the lost art of homemaking that I would love to share with you.

I think my generation lost it or maybe our mothers lost it and we weren’t taught to find it. Grandmothers used to teach us to knit and bake but I think our mothers taught us to work and succeed. Now those things are important but on the way we lost a valuable skill. With the economic times as they are I feel we need to rediscover these lost arts to not only enrich our own families but to help provide for others.

I came across this message in the 1978 Ensign entitled Degrees of Homemade Glory. It is from a Mormon Church Magazine and I think it really amplifies how times have changed.

"Relief Society sisters of the Kahului First Ward, Kahului Hawaii Stake, recently doubled their attendance at homemaking meeting with an innovative “degree” program, part of a series of miniclasses. By completing specified requirements in different areas of homemaking skills, women were able to obtain a bachelors, masters, or doctorate degree in the “Art of Homemaking.”

To obtain a bachelors degree, a sister had to complete fifteen out of twenty-three listed goals. Her visiting teacher or the Relief Society president verified the completion of each item by signing her goal sheet. These goals represented achievements in basic homemaking skills, such as making a crocheted or knitted item, darning a sock, making a girl’s dress or a boy’s shirt, baking bread, making a white sauce, setting in sleeves, sewing an item with gathers, making a tossed salad and a jello salad, sewing in a zipper, organizing a recipe file, giving the lesson for family night, and giving increased attention to one’s husband for two consecutive days.

Once the sisters had obtained their bachelors degrees, they could work toward a masters. The requirements for this degree emphasized more difficult tasks based on skills learned in the bachelors program. For instance, the sisters had to make a one-piece dress or suit for an adult, make a throw rug, prepare a year’s supply of sewing items, make a flower arrangement, make a quilt, add two new recipes to four sections of their recipe file, make a raised sweet roll, make one foreign dish, plan and serve a dinner or luncheon party, avoid gossiping for three consecutive days, or be patient, kind, and understanding for, three consecutive days with either children or husband. The sisters had to complete ten of twenty-four suggested items for the masters degree.

Seventeen enterprising ladies went on to earn their doctorates in the art of homemaking. They completed ten of twenty-one challenging activities, including painting a room, sewing on cording, putting a washer in a faucet, refinishing a piece of furniture, putting up a shelf, weeding the yard or garden, upholstering a piece of furniture, baking all the bread the family used for a month, making and following a schedule for routine work for two months, adding to their book of remembrance, reading the scriptures at least fifteen minutes a day for two months, having family prayers in their home night and morning for three months, and anonymously giving something homemade or homebaked."

How many of you can say that you could do the skills listed in the article?? That was written the year after I was born and I am pretty sure that most people my age or younger will say that they wouldn’t have the first clue how to set sleeves in a dress, knit an item or even bake bread from scratch. I wonder why. Are these not skills that we still require? Would we rather spend our hard earned money paying someone else to do it for us?

It continues to astound me that people think it is more worthwhile to buy something, use it once and discard it, then learn to repair it. I can however understand the feeling of not knowing how to do it even if you wanted to. Who do we turn to, to teach us? If we are lucky we still have grandparents, aunts, uncle and parents to ask advice of. But so many of us are not so fortunate anymore.We live so far away from family and many of use don't talk to our neighbours. With the passing of the older generations we are losing the skills that we may soon discover we need. By then it may be too late.

So how do we change this?? Talk!! Ask questions, speak to friends, if your own family is unavailable adopt another. Choose a skill and then find a mentor or just sit and chat with people in your neighbourhood,even your virtual world. There are amazing blogs out there of people that are willing to share their skills, learn from then. Thanks to Rhonda Jean at down to earth I have my first rack of homemade soap in my craft room nearly ready for use.

Make wiser choices when you buy products. Can it be repaired?Teach yourself how to repair it. Will it last the distance?Unfortunately this is becoming less common. Ask older members of your community what they buy, you can bet they are still using a trusted old brand.

And believe me when I say I know how hard that can be. With 4 children in my home I find it an uphill battle to buy goods that will last more then a month. The saying they don't make it like they used too is oh so true around here.

If someone can suggest a pair of shoes that last longer then a term I am all ears.

But I will continue to look and learn how to make the products stretch and last. It is a choice I am willing to make though I know I will not always succeed. I can bake, although I don't always do in preference to convenience snacks, I can sew, though anything more then a pillowcase gets a bit wobbly and I can garden.It's a start. But without conscious effort I would easily fall into the consumer trap and fill my trolley with $5 pairs of shoes!!!

So the real trick is to broaden your horizons and learn the skills before you actually need them.

I leave you the challenge to discover a new skill this month whether it be learning to bake your own bread, sewing on a button or give increased attention to your husband for two days. I can guarantee your life will be richer for it.

Oh and when you do find someone else to teach!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Winter Garden

I can't believe how long it has been since I posted a blog entry. Busy isn't even an excuse.I have continued to garden and create a simpler life (kinda) in the past few months. The solar panels are doing fantastically and we haven't paid a bill since they were installed.In fact we are still in credit!! The garden is looking quite bare with most of the trees in winter dormancy but I have learnt from past years that this is not the time to stop planting as it only leads to a huge gap in the spring months. So although things are far from productive at the moment here is tour of the garden as it currently looks.

I divided the rhubarb a month or so ago and planted one out in a tyre...seems to like it!

Kumquat that just brings a splash of colour to the back yard. Already made 6 jars of marmalade this season.

The great passionfruit vine eating the chicken enclosure.Will bring fantastic shade come summer and is currently covered in big juicy passionfruits.

Purple sprouting brocolli.Can you see the nasty caterpillar?? I didn't until I looked at the photos on my computer, a quick dash outside and the caterpillar is now hiding in a chicken's stomach!!

The wicking bed is still earning it's keep.

Peas, brassicas and fennel in a raised bed.

The mulberry tree reaching for the stars. Can you believe that two years ago it was barely a stick!!

Seven year bean. Looks like a snow pea tastes like a bean.Beautiful purple flowers.

The orchard all bare except for the guavas and one pomegranate.

A surprise!! Thought it was a red kale but found out today it's a Kohl Rabi!!

The girls are all back on the lay so we have eggs a plenty!!

Pretty Calendula one of the newest additions to the garden.

I hope your garden is growing strong and that the caterpillars are on a diet at your house.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tromboncino Squash

I have followed the garden adventures of the Dervaes family for over a year now. They are an amazing inspiration when it comes to Urban Homesteading.One of their most fascinating plants is the Tromboncino Squash (Cucurbita moschata). They grow them on a pegola and they hang like swan necked bells. After happily finding the seeds at Diggers I set to work growing my own.
It has been a joy to watch it grow literally an inch a day and soon cover my arch as well as travel over 3 metres each way along my fence.

I watched with anticipation as the first flowers

and fruits appeared and celebrated when they too started hanging like bells. Each visitor to our house was given the special tromboncino tour and they even made an appearance at my daughters school for an Earth Hour presentation. This week we finally got to eat one and they are delicious.A cross between a butternut squash and a zucchini. They are susceptable to powdery mildew so you need to be vigilant.I have been spraying mine with milk spray.

If you are after an interesting and delicious addition to your garden then I highly recommend the Tromboncino Squash. By the way if you leave them to sprawl on the ground they curl up like a trombone hence the name :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Solar Update

At one day under 8 weeks since the solar panels were installed, today we crossed the 1000kwh mark.1008 kwh to be exact. We only had the new meter put in about a month ago so the first half was just solar used during the day and second half has included export as well.
As of this afternoon we had used 242 kw and exported 346kw so we should have a nice surprise in our first bill.
As lovely as the sunshine is the garden is dying for rain..I am not sure how much more of this weather it will take.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A solar we will go!

Today the Baudains' went solar. We had a 2.8 kw system installed on the roof. It looks amazing and is already generating power even though it has been cloudy all day.
This is another big step to making our place a sustainable home in the suburbs.
We have a little room for expansion which we hope to do once we add an alfresco to the backyard.
I am sure that this step will help us become even more aware of our power usage,we already turn off lights and don't do standby but I am sure there are many more ways we can improve our power consumption.
Will let you know how the first power bill goes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Solar Oven

Inspired by Tricia's pics of her new solar oven I thought I would share mine with you. It was made here in WA about 6 years ago. I am pretty sure the man is no longer making them which is a shame because we love ours. Unlike Tricia's one it is just a black box with large glass panel and doesn't have any wings. I haven't used other solar ovens but I have no complaints about this one. Just a few days ago it got to 120 degrees which is a tremendous heat. It's main body is metal with a wood framed glass top and wool felt lined insulation. It is rather large and heavy but this is not a travel model. We have it set up permanently in the back yard. In winter we bring it under cover to protect the wood.
The temperature of your oven will only get to a certain heat depending on where in the world you live.Where I used to live the max temp I could get was 110 degrees. Even though these temperatures may seem low compared to a conventional oven it is more then sufficient to cook food and the plus is that you can never burn anything no matter how long it stays in.
We have cooked everything from snags to bread and even a few Christmas turkeys. Bread and baked good do take a lot longer to cook in the solar oven but as long as you plan ahead and set them up for say afternoon tea you will be fine.
Solar ovens come in a range of sizes, shapes and designs, what does yours look like?