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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?

You can buy a cheap chicken today, but we all pay for it in the long run
17 Simple Swaps for Big Savings in Groceries
Wood burning gift ideas
Classified as probably carcinogenic to humans

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
Craft closet makeover

21 April 2016

Champagne brush, straw brush: cleaning bottles

I was asked recently how I clean bottles. Of course I use a brush, I use brushes for much of my cleaning and cleaning bottles is no exception. Last year I added a Redecker champagne bottle brush and a straw brush to my collection.  The Redecker brush, made in Germany, is made to clean inside champagne flutes but I've found they also fit inside the narrow neck of most glass bottles. The brush looks like a narrow bottle brush but it has a longer than normal steel handle and a soft wool tip that helps a lot when cleaning in a small space.

The straw brush makes cleaning in small spaces much easier.

This is the woollen tip of the brush that helps when cleaning the bottom of bottles.

The other brush is a straw brush which I use to clean inside the tops of some drink bottles. You can get inside the mouth piece, both inside and out and then when I've scrubbed the area, I place the top in the dishwasher to finish off the job.  If you have glass straws or sippy cups, this brush will also clean them efficiently too, allowing you to get into the small tight spaces.

If you use cleaning brushes, don't forget to sanitise them frequently by either cleaning them in the dishwasher or soaking them overnight in water with a dash of peroxide added. If you care for your brushes and store them upside down so they can dry out between uses, they'll last a long time.

I bought my brushes from my wonderful sponsor Biome who have shops and a mail order business situated in Brisbane.  Champagne bottle brush.  Straw brush. Please let me know if the links don't work for you. If they don't work, don't click on the following links they won't work, go to google and add the following URLs to your search bar for the champagne brush:  and for the straw brush:  I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I'm working with Google to fix the links.

I love cleaning brushes. If you are using an unusual one, please tell me about it.

18 April 2016

Hallelujah, we're back in the garden again

It was a late start this year but we've finally got the first plants in the ground. Hanno has been digging and enriching the soil for the past week, so most of the garden beds are ready to go and well equipped to help us produce a lot of organic vegetables, herbs and fruit in the months ahead. When we moved here 19 years ago, the clay soil over the entire property was rock hard.  Through a lot of work we've changed that clay into beautiful fertile soil simply by adding a lot of organic matter to it - mostly manures, compost and mulch. Every year Hanno builds on progress made in the previous year and between crops, more organic matter is added. By doing that the garden has remained fertile and productive.

We started off a week ago by digging up the Welsh onions. I sat under the sun umbrella in the garden and sorted through the onions, removing grass, seeds and weeds. I cut off the green tops and put them in a bag to use in the kitchen, then the onions were planted again in a new bed. They're growing really well now and have already put on new growth. We've added parsley, sage, rosemary cuttings and self-sown basil in a small area that will give us herbs for the next year. In another bed Hanno's planted kohlrabi, beetroot, turnip seedlings and swede seeds and yesterday, curly kale, Asian greens and ruby chard were added to another bed.

Sorting through the onions to keep them going for yet another year.

After they were cut in half, the bottoms were planted and the tops used for various meals in the kitchen.

The onions were rehydrated in a weak mix of seaweed concentrate and water before planting.
And here they are in their new position, and have already put on new growth.
Two bananas suckers planted in the vegetable garden.

When Shane was here recently he dug up one of our bananas and transplanted it to the vegetable garden.  We kept forgetting to water it in the old location and haven't had backyard bananas for a few years. Now it's got a place in the vegetable garden and with water and organic fertilisers, it should take off like a rocket.  The raspberries have been cut back to the ground to encourage a winter crop, the lemons and oranges are growing well and will be ready to harvest soon and we've just harvested 5.7kg of rosellas and removed the shrubs to make way for new vegetables and flowers. I'll write a post about them when I make up the jam and cordial. Have you grown rosellas this year?

We removed the two year old rosemary bush that was taking over its space and I took cuttings for planting in a few weeks time.
This rosemary cutting is a tip cutting about 4 inches long. I've stripped off the lower leaves, leaving only the top, which I cut back to reduce transpiration. I planted up a cutting I took a couple of months ago. This cutting will be ready in about 6 - 8 weeks.

It feels very good having vegetables growing in the backyard again. There was a time when we grew produce all year long but now we take it easy in summer and stop planting late in the year. We usually start planting again in March which is when the weather starts to cool down a bit.

So now part of the daily routine will be to check on the gardens and to water and weed when needed. It's a very pleasant part of the day when I'm out in the garden. I still need the umbrella to protect me from the sun but in a month or so, it will be cooler, the sun will be lower and I'll be able to do without the umbrella. I'd really love a pair of binoculars so I could watch the visiting birds more closely from my shaded vantage point, but for now I'll use my eyes and be content with what I've got.

Tell me about your garden or your garden plans.


I'm coming to the end of my book publicity commitments and I can tell you the final four venues.  This week on Wednesday 20 April, I'll be at the Cooroy Library from 10am - 11.30am, next week on Wednesday 27 April, I'll be at the Noosa Library from 2pm - 3.30pm. I'll have books for sale at those events and I'm happy to sign books.  Then on Saturday 30 April I'll be at Rosetta's Books in Maleny from 10am till about 11am. It's a casual affair, I'll be drinking tea, talking to whomever comes in and answering questions. If you're around on that day and fancy a cuppa and a chat, I'd love to meet you there.  The final event will be at the Toowoomba Library in June and I'll remind you of that date when we're closer to the day.

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