A Peter Cundall Moment.

For those of you who aren't aussies, Peter Cundall is a TV presenter of a show called Gardening Australia and he is extremely passionate about what he does. ( and I love him ! )

Well, yesterday I WAS Peter Cundall. I went to empty the food scraps and found myself yelling out " Gees I love compost. Have a look at this beautiful stuff". ( Aussies will be laughing)

It absolutely amazes me that our scraps turn into the earth.

I have always understood this process, but the speed at which it happens just blows me away. It really moved me because I suddenly had a huge permaculture wake up call. We really need to try and move towards that idea that anything that comes into our property stays on our property and gets reused or turned into soil. Then I looked into our garbage bin and saw all the things that won't turn into soil, won't regenerate and are not cyclic in nature. The garbage bin truck came and picked those things up today and took them out of sight, but they will lay there wherever they are put forever and never return to the earth. Forever is a very long time.

So... if I was to ONLY bring things onto our property that became part of the ongoing cycle, that is used then broken down and used in another format, what would I have to STOP bring home ?
That is such a difficulty question because the answer is things like milk, margarine, etc etc.

So....... the question remains. How am I going to get rid of all this plastic. There are only so many milk bottles that you can cut up or reuse etc. I would estimate that we would use about 4 2 litre bottles a week. That's 208 bottles a year. Hmmmmm I will definitely need to start buying the three litre bottles. I will also give the whole thing a lot more thought.

Bring back the milko with the reusable glass bottles - pppllllleeeeeeaaaaaassssssseeeee


Getting Ahead

" When you have time, you do things for times when you don't have any time". 

This is what my Grandmother taught me. 

The idea, in my words, is to get ahead that is, the 6 P principle. Prior Preparation and Planning Prevent Poor Performance. So... how does this work in real life ? Well...

Have a planning day. On my planning day I usually write out my menu plan based on our family schedule for the following week. I then write my shopping list from that plan. I also work out what I will wear for the whole working week (Tuesday to Friday ) and get those clothes ready. I also organise school uniforms ( although we still need to wash and iron through the week because the boys only have two shirts and two sets of trousers)

Have a cooking day. This can be simply 40 minutes of your time that you set aside for the purposes of getting ahead. I often make up a triple batch of cookie mixture ( usually Anzac biscuits) and only cook a few. I then roll the rest of the dough into balls and freeze. That way I can have fresh biscuits at 10 minutes notice. This picture is what they look like when they come out of the freezer. I just lay them on the tray and they still spread nicely, even if they are frozen solid.

Look Ahead: Don't spend today working on something that you need tomorrow. Anticipate your needs. Look at your calendar for next week or next month and do today what is required in the future. That way, if something happens and your time doesn't go to plan you can be at peace because you already have yourself organised. Believe me- if you can win at this one, it brings great peace but when you don't do it you are so cranky with yourself for leaving things to the last minute!
If you can get ahead, the rest time that you have will feel great! You can sit back and watch a movie, go out with friends or have a weekend away knowing that you don't have any black clouds hanging over you because you have the peace of being ahead. So next time you go to do something, think of what you can tack onto that job to " get ahead".


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.


Working with a Cash Budget

Over the years we have tried many different methods for controlling our spending and working on a budget. By far the most successful method for us is to work in cash. I have worked out what we need each week and I withdraw that amount of money.

The following are our ' cash categories'.

Scarlet Ribbon ( clothing shoes etc)
Kids Banking

You can see in the photo that I use resealable plastic bags with the category and the amount written on it. Each week I go to the bank or post office and I have a little card in my wallet that says " 3x $50, 4 x $10 etc and get the exact breakdown. When I come home I give the cash to our young sons and they go through and put the amounts into the bags. Then, when we want to do something like hire a DVD or buy a present etc, we just go to the appropriate bag.

Having the money in cash is great for a couple of reasons. When you have cash in your wallet you are much more careful about spending it. My sons have also learnt the value of money because they control it. We are also empowered by the fact that we have money in advance for needs that may arise.

I call one category 'scarlet ribbon' because of the proverbs 31 woman who has no fear for her household for when the winter snows come her household is clothed in scarlet. It is a very old proverb but one that has always stuck with me.

I have also calculated how much we require for bills. You can do this by looking at what your bills are over a year and dividing the amount by 52 or 26 depending on when you get paid. Then I transfer that amount into an account we use for bill paying.

So.... what do you do when you finally sit down and add it all up and the results are frightening ? When I did this the first time I was totally shocked at our living expenses. Son number one was about 12 months old and I was faced with the prospect of going back to work. I was a school teacher then and was going back to work just two days per week. I hated the thought of it! So, we sat down and worked through everything in a huge amount of detail. I called it my " Plug the holes audit". By this, I meant that I thought the ship ( our house) would sink by the little holes that were in it, not the gaping big holes. So I set about saving money on little things, $2 here, $1 there. I changed phone plans, shopped for cheaper insurance, worked out a price book to track specials and calculate unit pricing, worked a cash budget etc etc. The results were amazing and I gave up teaching at the end of that year.

I often hear people talking about how difficult it is to make ends meet ( while they are watching pay TV and smoking and eating take away food). My answer is to be totally honest with yourself and live within your means. Take control of your money so it doesn't control you. It is such a wonderful feeling to jump in the car and go for a holiday with the freedom of knowing that you have the cash for it all and you won't have to face the credit card bill when the holiday is over.

If you can't be bothered with the hassle of micro-managing it all then you will need to be happy with staying in debt and having no money and having lots of stress. The choice is yours to make, so which path will you choose ?


Food (glorious) Food ???

 As you know, we too have been to a Sue Dengate seminar and that is the basis for my non-preservative approach to things.

When I first read Sue's book and checked out her website it really struck me. I explained to hubby  that all we had to do was eat like it was the 1950's. I shop with her little wallet reminder of which additives to avoid and when you do, you end up cooking things from scratch and the few packaged things you have in your trolley are the products that have been around for some time and have remained unchanged.

If you have young children I really suggest you download her material from the website and have a look. I have two boys aged 6 and 8 and I would certainly not class them as naughty or hyperactive in any way.
 I just know how different they are when they have an accumulation of junk food. Son no. 1 is very placid and gets dark under the eyes and lethargic and sad when he has overdosed and son no. 2 gets really emotional - crying, angry and ends up wetting the bed when he has overdosed. When they eat the pure way ( only avoiding numbers not salicilaytes and amines) they are calm, even tempered boys.

Tonight on ABC Radio National I was listening to a broadcast about imported food.

 The USA and Japan have recently formed committees to investigate the safety of imported food. Recently Chinese seafood, toothpaste and toy trains ( of all things) have been deemed toxic by US standards. I find it really interesting to look at Seafood in the supermarkets since the legislative changes now mean that the country of origin must be displayed.

 What better reason to eat locally !!!

Hubby was talking to a fisherman today from a fishing town near our home and he said they are now feeling the pinch because of the imported seafood. Do you know that it is OUR fault ?

We always want things cheaper. What price are we willing to pay to save a few cents ? Are we willing to put our local businesses out of work so we can save a few cents ?

 Are we willing to ingest unknown toxins to save money.

 I challenge you to THINK before you BUY.

Read the label. What list of additives is in your food and where is it from ?

The Old Ways

Before we went away we visited Timbertown for the Steam Festival.

Timbertown is a tourist attraction near Wauchope NSW which is set up like a pioneer village.

As a lover of the old fashioned way of living I really enjoyed the day.

It always amazes me when I go into the old homes how families that had 5, 6 or more children lived in a tiny four room home. They had all their needs met.

Now, I am not saying that I won't to go back to living in one room without a stove, but I do want to hang on to many of the lost skills and principles of the time. I want to maintain resourcefulness and a strong work ethic, a sense of self sufficiency and of community.

If you listen to the messages being delivered through our media today it's all about ' the self', that is, look after number one, take it easy- you deserve it etc etc.

We have listened to these messages so much that now people can't even saw a piece of wood or mow their own lawn.

Many people don't even realise that they are on a treadmill.

They work hard, then spend money because they deserve to buy luxuries because they work hard and then they have to work harder because the marketeers always change what it is that we need to 'reward' ourselves with because we work hard.

At the end of our lives we have accumulated so much 'stuff' and still have no money and no happiness !!!!

As you know, we don't watch commercial television and haven't for many years. I would estimate that it is coming up to 9 years since I have seen a commercial programme.

This is about the time when no. 1 son was born. I found that not being exposed to ads stops the subconscious desire for 'stuff'. If you are not being constantly bombarded with how inadequate your life is because you don't have the right appliance or drive the right car you don't really focus on it. Funny that !

This picture is a little dark.

You may need to click on it to enlarge it. The thing I love about it, is that it is taken in a tiny room in a tiny house, but still, they have gone to the effort to make the best of what they have.

Ask yourself how we have over complicated our lives.

How have YOU been seduced by the promise of happiness through the accumulation of ' stuff'.

What do you really NEED in your life, as opposed to what society tells you you should need ?


A Little Light Reading

Do you know that if you want something you should always start by ' putting the word out'. Someone will always know someone who has what you need.

Rather than spend money, ask what already exists in your circle.

Using this principle I was able to gather all this reading material. I also got some from the local library. Your local library is such a brilliant resource. Check it out.

I am excited by the prospect of reading these books. I love being inspired.

Seeing the Sense/ Cents

This is my electricity meter.

Today at Towards sustainability ( see link at right) has installed a wonderful device to track electricity usage. I was very impressed when I saw it.

I had to laugh because before we went away I wrote down the numbers on the counters to see what our house used while we weren't in it. It was a miserable wet day and we conducted an experiment.

The left meter turns fast enough to see it moving really easily.

My 8 year old son and I took turns at turning on the TV, clothes dryer and computer and watching how fast the meter turned. It was unbelievable. The dryer was the biggest culprit. When we turned it on the dial spun like a record player!

 No 1 son went and got his Dad to explain electricity usage to him. Now no 1 son is in charge of turning off lights and appliances when not in use. It was such a great exercise. Test it out for yourself. It is frightening, but sticks in your psyche believe me !!

Spinning Plates

Have you ever seen those old fashioned plate spinners? I remember seeing them as a child on the TV show "Young Talent Time" ( all aussie readers will be nodding with me).

The plate spinners lined up about 10 plates on sticks and would spin them and balance them.

The idea was to keep them spinning. Often as the spinner was attempting to keep one plate from wobbling and falling off, a plate at the other end would begin to wobble.

 That is exactly how life is sometimes.

We have been working really hard at renovating the inside of our house.

 As a result the outside has been let go.

Here is an update on our new bathroom.

We have been doing it ourselves. although we have recently got a tiler in to do the tiling. We had an old bathroom with a laundry out the back. The laundry was huge and we felt that the bathroom was big enough to combine the laundry with it.

We recently bought a front loading machine as a water saving option and suddenly realised it takes up so much less space. We have now successfully integrated it into the bathroom. Here is a 'during' shot.

This is a shot after the tiler had finished - we still have to do the window and change taps, put in towel holders etc. I also want to add some plants, but it is coming along. Number 1 son is enjoying a bath to celebrate the fact that we have running water in there again!

So.... spinning plates. I guess the answer is to continually do upkeep in all areas rather than focus too heavily on one area.


My Part of the Planet

This is the view from the banks of the river near our home. Why would I live anywhere else ?

I am also pleased to announce that Rhonda from Down to Earth has nominated me for an award.

Visit this site for the origin of the award. http://climateofourfuture.org/?p=33

I will tag the following blogs as nominees:

100 Years of Simple Living

On Sunday 15th July we celebrated my Grandmother's 100th Birthday.

 This woman is amazing.

As you know, she lived on her own up until a couple of months ago when she slipped while she was raking up some leaves and broke her leg. She now lives in a nursing home.

We asked her what the secret to a long and healthy life is she said " Just don't worry".

Maybe she is right.

 I think the home grown food, no smoking, no drinking and simple, purposeful, joyful living also plays a part, but I guess if you implement her life principles of prior preparation and planning then you will have little to worry about.

As the song goes, 'don't worry, be happy'.

What is it that makes you happy ? I doubt it will be 'stuff ' 


Benefits of Our Simple Changes

It is now some weeks since we sat down and had our family meeting and brainstormed ways that we could simplify our lives and reduce our budget outgoings, energy usage, fuel usage and garbage output. I have to say that the results speak for themselves. It is very satisfying knowing that we can make changes by doing little things

The following things are working really well:

- cooking from scratch

- working on a cash only budget

- buying things with minimal or no packaging

- turning off appliances

- limiting water usage and having shorter showers

- riding our bikes instead of driving

- composting our food scraps

- not eating preservatives and artificial colours and flavours

- washing up in the small sink

- limit trips to town

- using things sparingly

- no take away food

- grocery stockpile

- think before you buy

- grow sprouts

These are the things we need to focus on now:

- riding to work ( still quite chilly in the mornings and dark in the late afternoon)

- buy/ eat local - so far I have only found oranges, red wine, Camembert cheese, milk, yogurt and macadamias. The farmers market is on this Saturday but I will miss it. I am definitely checking out the next one.

- getting the herb garden up and running ready for spring and planting the vegies

- getting water tanks up and running

- grey water system

We still have a long way to go, but it is all a step in the right direction.


Menu Planning

Why Menu Plan ?

There are many benefits to planning out your meals before hand.

- It brings peace to your evening and stops the " what's for dinner" drama

- It prevents panicked take away purchases

- It saves time and money - you only purchase what you need and can have meals ready in advance

- You can plan meals thoughtfully if, for example, you have have family members with special dietary needs or are trying to plan healthy balanced meals or to lose some weight.

How to Menu Plan

1. The No-Brainer Method. This is as simple as " if it is Monday it's Spaghetti day" etc.

2. The Rational Roster Method: This is where you may do a two or three week list of meals and just work through the list and then come back to the beginning

3. The Schedule Matched Method: ( My favourite). This is where you look at your schedule for the next week or fortnight and plan your meals around it. So if you know you won't be home until 5.30 on Tuesday you plan a quick meal or if you are not home to really late then you make sure you plan a meal the day before that has leftovers etc.

In order to carry out this method successfully I suggest that you take the time to list about 20 or so meals.If you don't have that many in your repertoire it's time to search for some recipes or ask some friends or family about their favourite recipes.

The next thing is to group the meals. I use three headings a) quick and fresh 2) leftover style and 3) gourmet ( meaning time consuming)

Now you can match your meals to your schedule. I think it is always a good idea to have some meals in the freezer ready to go as well. You never know when you may need a standby meal. Next time you are cooking, just cook some extra and freeze it.


Christmas in July

No I am definitely not talking about those functions and parties everyone seems to be going to. 

Perhaps I should call this post THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS IN JULY. 

Most people ( me included) start complaining when Christmas decorations and 'gift idea' catalogues start appearing around late September. But the strange thing is that many people leave their gift shopping until the last minute and have to battle the crowds and are left with the age old dilemma of what to buy people in your family. You even hear them talking about what you buy the person who has everything !!!! ( Isn't the answer obvious ??)

I want to start thinking about Christmas so that there is no rush. Without prior preparation and planning we end up buying complete rubbish and maxing out credit cards buying STUFF for people that already have enough STUFF.


So, remember the phrase Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance (The Six P Principle).

Think about these things: 

1. Who do you want to give a gift to. Make a list

2. Will you make a gift or buy a gift.

3. If you start now there is plenty of time to make thoughtful gifts

4. If you don't want to give STUFF then do what I have done for the past two years - buy a goat in a village in Bangladesh in the recipients name. Last year we purchased school books, a water well for a village and a toilet. Visit Tear Australia and get a copy of their "World's most useful gift catalogue". http://www.usefulgifts.org/

Anyway, the challenge I put to you all is .... be prepared. Refuse to be sucked in to the marketing concept that people will know you love them by what you buy them. 

Think carefully. Start your purchases now. Mail order from small Australian business houses. Make thoughtful ethical purchases or make it yourself ! Nothing says I love you like the investment of your time !!!!

Let me know your ideas for gift giving or home made gifts.

A Warm Morning


This morning the sun was warm enough to open the front door early. I had a glimpse of spring, even though it is a little way off. Spring is my favourite season.


Aussies Living Simply Challenge - Part Three -Garbage and Water

This next challenge is in two parts. Garbage and Water. Here are the ideas from the website:


* Take your own bags to the shops – this is an idea that has really taken off but it does take a bit of discipline. Don't I know it ! Refer to my earlier post.

* Buy secondhand. There usually isn't any packaging on secondhand goods.

* Buy from a market. You can take your own bags or boxes for produce.

* Buy in bulk or buy from a bulk store.

* Buy meat from a butcher.

* Make your own. If an item for daily use can be made in a factory, it can probably be made at home too and often more cheaply and better for you. I LOVE this one. I usually make my food from scratch but I am currently looking into other areas. The ALS website has many recipes. One thing I am really interested in is cosmetics/ soaps etc.

* Do without.

* Think before you buy.


* Turn it on and then turn it down. - Reduce the pressure.

* The On/Off Shower. Turn off the shower after you are wet and spend as long as you like soaping, shaving, shampooing, etc. Then turn on the water and rinse off. Quite a few years ago when I was a teacher I used to have Japanese exchange teachers come and stay. I would always be puzzled by the amount of times they turned the shower on and off, but never mentioned this to them. Now I know.

* Reusing water is a big saving. Try to use water more than once. Put buckets in showers to catch water for your garden.

* Toilets are water monsters! Each time you flush at least 4 litres of fresh, clean drinking water gets flushed away to be treated again. I have heard of some households having a pipe running from the basin to the toilet so the next flush is ready when the last person is washing their hands. Not a bad idea !

* In the laundry, always use a full load in the machine. This could mean waiting a little longer to wash, doing a quick handwash. Ask yourself, does this NEED washing or can it simply be aired.

* Avoid hot water. Hot water use uses the most energy, so reduce hot water use anyway you can – do you really need the water to be hot or warm? Would cold water do? My mum gave me a good idea recently. She said fill the air pot ( remember these large thermos things) with boiling water and use it throughout the day. I thought this was an excellent idea because we have to collect more than half a litre sometimes waiting for the hot water to kick in.

Does anyone have any further ideas ?

The Local Fruit Shop Dilemma

A funny thing happened in the fruit shop on Monday.

 I have been trying to avoid plastic bags as you know. I walked through the shop selecting my produce and putting things loose into the trolley.

 It was awkward but I could cope.

There were loose potatoes, oranges etc. With the smaller items like mini squash and snow peas I cheated and put them in the paper mushroom bag. ( must sew those small calico bags to take with me).

 At the checkout I fumbled with the loose products ( as did the older lady trying to weigh them).

 She then attempted to put them into a plastic bag and I said very proudly " I've brought my own bags, thank you" and she placed the items into them.

I was then momentarily distracted by the 6 yr old son and then paid the lady.

When I went to leave she handed me my bags and said " I've put your potatoes into a plastic bag because they were too dirty and you wouldn't want them in there( pointing to my bags) ".

 She then started to serve the next person. I stopped, thought, thought some more. Do I interrupt her and say " I DON'T want your bag" or try and give it back albeit somewhat dirty and unusable.

Do I explain my whole philosophy and give her the address of my website to get a full understanding of my reasoning ? Would she even have the Internet ? Oh, the guilt of my first REAL TEST that I failed !!! So, after staring at her whilst all this thinking took place I decided the most appropriate thing for me to do was...................................

..............................go back to the car and whinge to hubby about it.

NEXT TIME I WILL BE READY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Local Food Month

Crunchy Chicken ( http://crunchychicken.blogspot.com ) has set a challenge which I think is really interesting.

As you all know, I have been approaching most topics on this website from the viewpoint of old fashioned living rather than an environmental one. It seems, however, the benefits flow from all viewpoints once you take action, that is, health, wealth, environment etc.

So eating locally was something that was done automatically in my Grandmother's day because it was logical. Food was often grown and made at home and goods were sourced locally because it was the backbone of the community.

So, if I was to support my local community and do the 100 mile diet I could (technically) purchase products that are in a 160 kilometres radius. ( is the metric conversion pushing it a little ??? ) I would need to extend the boundaries a little I think because there are simply no towns in the area.

 I am on the Mid North Coast so I would need to extend to Coffs Harbour out to Scone and down to Newcastle. Hmmmm I think this is going to be extremely difficult. I will start doing some research to see what is around the area.

 I guess the value of the challenge also lies in investigating what is around your local area. I will keep you posted.

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...