Sunday, July 26, 2020

Back to basics- how to make your own life

From time to time I go back to the inspirational books which ground me in this Simple Life, and in re-reading them am reminded that what we are doing here is counter-cultural. We are resisting the tide of consumerism and busyness, and instead we are Making our Own Lives.That is why the Simple Life is different to each of us -we have our own likes, circumstances, and -let's face it- our own families to negotiate with. One person's artisan sour dough is another person's nightmare! One person's delightful bush camping holiday is another person's cold and drafty tent. 

The books which I have been re-reading this month were written about 50 years apart! 

First published in 1937, ORCHIDS ON YOUR BUDGET gives advice on all manner of subjects, from entertaining and creating the perfect capsule wardrobe to relinquishing the family estate. Lest you worry about how to put the advice into practice, each chapter concludes with a case study providing examples of women who heeded - and those lamentable souls who ignored - Marjorie's wise words.
I love this book because the tone is so sassy. Marjorie has no time for prolonging your misery about a lack of money by sulking. Instead she gives us plenty of ideas for being creative and having fun on whatever funds we have.

The other book was written The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More was published in 2016 and written by Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb. I love this review: 
“The Art of Frugal Hedonism is like having a small firecracker in your pocket for performing guerrilla actions on everyday life that just might upend everything and put it back together in a different, cheaper, and much more interesting way. The writing is buoyant and often verges on hilarious.”
~ Kirsten Bradley, Milkwood

Making our Own Lives is a creative and absorbing past-time around here. For example, this week we took the opportunity of an errand to a place on the east of our city, to travel a short way up the scarp to a national park, again looking for the waterfalls and rivers that are quite ephemeral in our climate. It was a bit cloudy and drizzly when we were at the top of the scarp, but the sun came out as we walked, and we had a lovely time. We found some gorgeous wildflowers in bloom. We try to really be present in this moment during such times: what does it smell like, what colours are we seeing, what can we feel? We loved this little extra luxury of a walk in the hills, where we are away from our normal routine. Of course, we know that just going for a walk in the bush would not seem like a lot of fun to some people, or even very counter-cultural to others, but for us, we are trying to take every opportunity to make ordinary life special, and fun, and this was one of the ways we did it this week. 

One of the things that Annie and Adam's book (above) encourages us to do, is to follow our interests and seek inspiration -often from finding time to read and dream.  I got this book from the library "Foraged Home" by Oliver Maclennan as a new source of inspiration. I love changing things around in my home -creating little table top or shelf displays or groups of objects arranged in ways that please me. They might be composed of something I found in an op shop, or something I picked up in my walks, or just some things here at home that I have never put together before in quite that way. 

DH makes things in his shed, and is always on the look out for a new project. This writing desk was gifted to him by someone, and he is working on ideas to turn it into a dressing table by adding drawers underneath it.

I am still working on my garden themed quilt -I have just about got the straight quilting done, and it will be time this week to do some free motion quilting in the panels before the binding goes on. I love working in my garden and constantly try to improve what I grow and what we eat from it. At the moment we have gorgeous snow peas to harvest. 

We both are involved in community activities -both serving as committee members - and we find it part of our giving something back to the community. This week we also took part in a protest at a local hospital, to complain about the heartless treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. I also spoke at a public meeting about it and later will deliver some much needed food supplies to a local organisation which is feeding people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and because they are asylum seekers.

How do you find the business of making your own life going? Do you have particular books which you find inspirational? 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The rain came down

We live in a very dry continent of Australia, and in a very dry corner of it, in Perth in Western Australia. This week, though, we have had lovely, soaking rain for days -the kind of rain I remember from when I was a teenager and the winters were a lot wetter than they are now. Perth has lost on average almost half of its average yearly rainfall in the last 50 years. 

DH and I took the opportunity to visit the lovely Lesmurdie Falls yesterday to see the waterfall. It was so good to see it in full spate. 

The little river was running, and all the trees were happily soaking up the rain.

Our bushland is incredibly well adapted to take advantage of good seasons -roots store rain, leaves are adapted to prevent transpiration on hot days, seed beds lie dormant for long periods of time to suddenly come to life after a rain shower or even a bushfire.

As we all adapt to our current pandemic and climate realities, we all need to learn to be as resilient as our bushland, and take advantage of each season and the opportunities they offer. 

The rain made it hard for me to get out and do things in the garden so I tried to make good use of my time in getting the walking foot on the sewing machine and doing some quilting on my garden quilt. This is the picture of the quilt I am currently working on, with my 1954 Singer 306K ready to go to work. She is a grand old machine. 

My garden is looking good though. There are a few asparagus spears poking their heads out, the rhubarb is growing again, the snow peas are ready for snacking on in the garden. I am very pleased with the speed of making compost, now that I have my garden shredder machine to pulverize everything. I am getting a bin of compost in about 5 weeks and so can spread all that lovely goodness around my favourite trees more frequently. We are eating our home grown pumpkin -I made a lovely Sri Lankan pumpkin curry from Annabelle Crab the other night to take to a dinner of friends. 

I have also been active with my local choir, as I am part of the committee, as we negotiate the path towards starting to sing together again -very carefully and with good medical advice.  

We can do these things because Western Australia has no community transmission of the virus at present -and so long as nothing goes wrong we can move about fairly freely. I do feel very much for the people of Melbourne, back on lock down as the virus has been spreading there. I hope they can get it back under control soon. We love Melbourne, and used to live there, and want to go back to visit...hopefully one day not too far away.

If your situation is difficult, I hope you can be like the plants of the South West, and take advantage of the season. 

Meanwhile, here are some good ideas for simple living. The author does not own their home, so they are particularly good for renters. Check out the resources for living simply even when renting

Saturday, July 11, 2020

You are needed

Three pictures: preserved lemons, pumpkin in a dish and stock

More than a decade ago, I was a full time working mum with two adult children at home and a full time working husband. We were doing the whole thing! Commuting, travelling for work, worrying, working late or at home, trying to get by.  The thing is, I was not happy. My weekends were not enough to reset my equilibrium before the week started again and I was back in the grind.

I started searching for anything which would improve the way we lived. It led me to the Simple Living movement -to bloggers and forums and books. It made sense! We started, very slowly, to change.

One of the best things we did was to put a sign on the letterbox to say 'no junk mail' and immediately we stopped seeing those colourful glossy catalogues which are full of attempts to make us buy things we don't need. We stopped using shopping as recreation. We watched less commercial television so we saw fewer advertisements. We started to learn about growing things, making a lot of mistakes but having enough success to keep going. We started to find new ways to do things for ourselves, and our sense of confidence and happiness grew along with our skills. 

This week has been part of the long and abundant harvest of those changes. It has seen us be happy to be at home, to try to help others where we can, to do things for ourselves. I cut up another pumpkin we grew, and roasted some for a recipe. The peels went into the stock pot with other veggies which were getting tired in the fridge, plus herbs and onions from the garden. I brought the stock to the boil and put it in the hot box for several hours. I put some lemons in a jar with salt and spices to make preserved lemons. I made bread, as usual. We had a lovely chaotic day with the grandchildren and in the midst of it all we made bread together and jam drop biscuits. They picked things from the garden, and sampled edible leaves -some they hated, others were a big hit. DD has been back volunteering at the op shop she works in, DH has been doing the important work he does for another community group and I have been involved in a couple of community based groups too. 

Four purple flowering plants

The rain left us for a few days and we used the time to put some tree prunings through my new shredder and add the result to the compost. My compost is going so much better in recent months as a result. It gets hotter and produces a better, finer compost. We have continued to add flowers to the garden, to support the insects and birds who come here. I was delighted to see a wattle bird in my veggie patch, eating bugs on the rainbow chard. I have planted another Happy Wanderer -the deep purple one-to add to the pink one which grows up a post which holds up our summer shade cloth. 

Geoff Lawton said on a post this week "Flowers are a functional part of pest management in a permaculture garden where pests are confused by colour, scent, patterned form, and predators favoured with perches, ponds and rockeries".

Pinning a quilt on an outside table

I worked in the garden, pinning together a quilt with a garden theme! Now to start quilting it -first with a walking foot and then with some free motion quilting. Nothing makes me quite so happy as doing this in the garden on a sunny winter's day. 

I read a lovely quote this week which I wanted to share with you all.

Remember the earth. Remember your ancestors. Remember your four-legged, winged, crawling relatives. Remember life. Your life, your way of living, that is the only activism you’ve ever had. Use it. Make your existence a ritual that honors everything your body and words touch. The times are troubled and you are needed. Wake up—notice the consequence of every action and non-action. You are needed. You are needed. You are needed.” - Eric Chisler

I hope we can all live in ways that bring our world to the healing we all need. 

Here are some links you might enjoy and be inspired by

Morag Gamble has a new podcast! "SENSE MAKING IN A CHANGING WORLD podcast where I explore the kind of thinking and permaculture action we need to navigate a positive way forward" Find it at your usual podcast app or listen here

Do you read Pip magazine? Lots of wonderful resources here 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

It is the simple things

A table with a cup of tea in the sunshine outdoors

In a world where there is so much anxiety, so much uncertainty, it is good to stop and  focus for a moment on what is good and going well. This means, for me, getting out in the garden, where I always feel calmer and happier. This little table is right by our front door, a sunny warm spot in winter, and created by that corrugated iron clad wall which cut off the passage into the carport. The workshop behind has become DH's happy place, and this 'French cafe at home" spot has been a joy. We often stop for a morning cup of tea, both of us just reflecting and quietly sharing our projects and their challenges and successes. 

Four home grown pumpkins

One of the successes is that I have harvested these four good size pumpkins. I will let them sit outside for a while to 'harden off' and then use them one by one. The ones with the withered stems are ready to eat, apparently. 

I have a new recipe on my "From my kitchen" page which we enjoyed last night -pumpkin gratin, inspired by Stephanie Alexander's must-have recipe book "The Cooks Companion". If you grow food you eat, you get a great deal of satisfaction from it.  These self sown pumpkins just ran under the citrus trees and looked after themselves. Next summer I want to be better prepared to grow more, and possibly try some melons too. 

A bunch of eureka lemons on a tree

Last year we hard pruned the Eureka lemon in the front garden to get a good shape. I have two compost bins under the tree, and have been taking care of feeding it with slow release fertiliser too. We are going to be rewarded with the best crop for years! I am looking forward to trying my preserved lemons again -the last lot I made with the Meyer lemons turned into a strange ferment, so I threw them out! 

A garden shed in the sunshine

The Shed in the back corner is awaiting a make-over. When we bought it we put it on concrete slabs, but now we wish we had a proper concrete floor. I have been wondering if we could take it down, get a floor laid, and then try to put it back up again? DH is a bit unsure about whether this would work. If we could do it, maybe we could redesign it to have a part for a couple of chickens to live, with a door to a small run outside?  Not sure about this one -it would be great to add eggs to the things we can produce, but chickens are a step up for us- the only livestock we have around here are the worms, and of course our cat Dora! 

A black and white cat is staring at the camera while a tv screen shows a musician

Dora is pictured here, enjoying a momentary visit on my footstool. She looks like she wants something -maybe she doesn't like the music being played on the WASO broadcast? 

a puppy in a coat made of crochet wool

This cutie is a new grand fur-baby called Kaylee, now living with my grandchildren. We babysat the kids on the weekend, and Kaylee was there too. She seems to be good with the kids so far, and we hope she has a long and happy life with them. 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you can find some simple things to enjoy too in your life.