Lawns Into Lunch .... always busy !

On the weekend we extended our 'farm' area. We had a vision for many more garden beds so we moved the fence closer to the house, giving us an extra 2 metres in length and lots of room for extra beds. Today we dug out an area for a tomato and chili patch. Of course the chooks had to get in and help.

I am really loving the 'farm' area. I spend quite a lot of time up there now, planting seeds, filling in the garden diary, sketching plans and reading gardening info. As part of the 'farm' extension we took out the clothes line. It was far too close to the chook house and took up quite a bit of space. I now have a temporary makeshift clothesline along the veranda in this area until we 're-purpose' the old clothesline into a new model that better suits our needs.

Someone commented on the simple savings website that they enjoy my blog, but I don't write enough. I have been thinking about this...... I guess the reason is that sometimes I am too busy doing things to sit and write about them! lol

People can go to work and be busy all day and get paid for their efforts and then spend that money outsourcing their life needs. They get someone else to grow their food, bake their bread, make their clothes etc. Some even outsource even more of their ‘needs’ – they have other people mow their lawn, wash their car, take care of their children, and even cut and buff their toenails! Lol

When you don’t have a job, you have to do many of these things yourself. This means that your job is ‘life itself’. I find that living this DIY lifestyle is somewhat busier than a ‘normal’ life.
You see, If I want bread, I have to make it. If I want baked potatoes for tea I have to grow them. These tasks are not easy by any means! I can’t just get up at 7am and realise that there is no bread and ‘whip one up’. It takes about 2 ½ hours using a bread making machine and if i make it by hand I still have to allow time for rising etc. So there is a lot of forethought in a loaf of bread.

Potatoes! ::geesh:: they are even worse. If I want baked potatoes for my tea then I have to think about 14 WEEKS IN ADVANCE ::lol:: so that I can actually grow them.
This translates into a lot of busyness on any given day. Life is always about getting ahead and thinking ahead.

Thinking about needs for the future – what will I eat tomorrow, next week, next month? What can I do today to make sure that happens? That might be as simple as getting some meat out of the freezer or planting some broccoli seeds. It might be baking a cake for afternoon teas for a few days or making jam. Each action we do today is a sowing that we will reap some time in the future ....... therefore,....... :: AS YOU SOW, SO YOU REAP::

So if it is such a busy life, a life that takes planning and preparation – why would you bother ? Why would I bother growing potatoes when I can go to the supermarket and buy them for $2 a kilo ? Why would I make soap when it is on special around the corner ? Why not just go and earn money and just buy these things ?

The answer is THE JOY FACTOR. An undefinable, unquantifiable invisible element that some people see everywhere, whilst other people miss completely. There is a deep sense of satisfaction in roasting your own potatoes, or snipping off your own shallots. Sure sure, there are other factors at play. People have a number of reasons for doing things like growing their own food. It may be as a way of saving money, a way of obtaining fresh, organic produce or a way of securing a food supply in times of uncertainty. These factors DO play a role in my decision to grow my own, but the number one benefit to me is JOY, HAPPINESS, FULFILLMENT, ACCOMPLISHMENT, SATISFACTION or whatever other title you want to put on it!


Nothing To Leave The Block

I often think of the ideal of nothing leaving our block. I have written before about thinking ' what if everything we bought onto our suburban block was to stay here'. Imagine if we had to use, re-use, recycle or dispose of every little thing that came onto the block. I could go to the shop and buy what I needed - flour, sugar etc. That wold be fine because I can tear up the paper packaging and put it in the compost to break down. But when it comes to other forms of packaging I am totally lost. Where would I put the plastic wrap from the inside of a packet ? What about the bag that the oranges came in or the plastic tray in the rice cracker packet ?

If nothing was to leave the block I would have to start a little pile behind the shed, then maybe in the roof, then under the house....... how much would I use in a month... a year ??

:: I often think like this::

Of late I have even been suspicious of recycling systems. We put all our recycling into a different coloured wheelie bin and it is taken "away" wherever that may be. I have read quite a bit recently about how the price of recycled materials has dropped to the point where it is not financially viable to process the materials. Will companies still process recycled goods without a profit ? Out of the goodness of their hearts or their love of the environment ? ( that's for you to answer, but I know what my gut tells me)

So in keeping with my gut, I am still attempting to not have things leave the block, even if they are 'recycle' worthy.

The picture above is of my compost bin in the kitchen. I tear up any packaging or paper that will breakdown as well.

Living with the ideal of nothing leaving the block means you have to be really mindful when you are shopping. Believe me, this is EXTREMELY difficult. I can't ask the girl at the checkout whether waxed milk cartons breakdown in the compost and how long they take !

Yesterday one of the boys opened the last packet of water crackers that was in the cupboard and I tore up the cardboard packaging and ::gulp:: placed the plastic into the bin. Today I made a huge batch of lavash crackers to make me feel better.


Last Night's Meal

With what feels like thousands of eggs on hand the obvious choice for dinner last night was a quiche. This one has a little bacon and handfuls of herbs ( basil and coriander) and shallots. It was very tasty indeed.

We combined it with some home grown corn and beans. The corn is SO tasty. We always leave it in the husk and put each cob in the microwave for three minutes and then take them out and peel the husk and silks off it. They come off really easily and the corn is cooked beautifully. It is crisp and very very hot!

Maybe it is all in our mind, but things that come from the backyard seem to taste so much better. Is it the freshness? Is it because they are organically grown ? or is it the secret ingredient of the joy factor that comes from knowing that you grew it, you picked it and you then took the twenty steps back to the house and cooked it ?

Sad to say that some things didn't survive the huge amount of rain we had while we were away. While we were in Sydney for five days we had over 90 mls of rain.... and I was worried about getting someone to water the garden !! My poor butternut pumpkins became completely waterlogged and just dropped off the vine and the chook house turned into a swimming pool. At least the seeds I planted before I left were up when I got back.

Here is one of our chooks. I thought I would give her a little spot in the limelight considering their wonderful contribution to our food supply.


Garden Update

You can menu plan all you like, but sometimes the garden will dictate what is for dinner.


Radio National Interview

If you have found A Vision Splendid after listening to the interview today on the ABC Radio National's Life Matters show, I would like to say a huge warm welcome to you !

If you are a reader who missed the interview, there will be a link available to the podcast later on today. I will put up a link on this site in the next few days.

If you are new here, please have a look around. We are a family of four who are attempting a simpler lifestyle, based on the wisdom of my (almost) 102 year old grandmother.

We are everyday, normal people. I was a school teacher who became and lawyer and hubbie was a police officer for 15 years.

These days our efforts are on growing our own, cooking our own, raising our sons with intent, try to manage financially and laughing through our miserable failures!! This is is the place we record our adventures.

Please drop us a line and introduce yourselves. You can get on our mailing list, or you can purchase our 'e-book' from the link on the left hand side.

Hope to hear from you soon!


Learning Piano The 'Unschooling' Way

For years I have wanted my eldest to start playing piano.

 Notice "I" wanted him to play.

When he started first class I discussed the idea of having lessons with him. but he wasn't interested. He would say ' maybe one day'. Little by little he started mucking around on the keyboard and from time to time I would ask him if he wanted to do lessons - but still not interest! ..... didn't he realise that it would be much easier if he learnt when he was young and that it would be 'good for him'.

But...... I let my feelings of frustration aside knowing that if I forced him into lessons it would be something of a chore. He would 'have' to practice each week and I wanted him to LOVE IT, not necessarily be good at it.

I grew up playing the piano. I had formal lesson from about the age of ten and did up to my 5th grade AMEB exam. But for me, it wasn't about exams, techniques etc it was about being able to hear something and play it, to write pieces of music, to write songs.

Last year, the spark in my son was switched on. He started to tinker and I showed him a book with very basic 'teach yourself' notes. He absorbed it so quickly. I didn't 'teach' him, I just yelled out "that's meant to be an A" from the kitchen from time to time when I could hear him miss a note.
Every week or two I would show him a little snippet more. Lately he has been putting a one finger chord in his left hand while playing a tune with his right.

Last week I thought I would step things up for him. I grabbed a piece of paper and penned down the notes to a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song that he knows and loves. Then I left him with it to figure it out. He self corrects, which makes me so happy because he hears his mistakes!

Then I started him a book, with nice bright colours. You can see above that the 'music' has no rhythm associated with it ( that will eventually come). The note above the line is his left hand chord and the notes below are the melody. The different colours are used because that is how I think ( and I hope he does too) that is, the colour is used to 'section' the music.

The results are phenomenal. He plays with real passion. He has mastery over the keyboard. I will do him up some more songs like this, then we will move to the sheet music and start looking at the shape of the notes ( pitch) and the rhythm. He knows his 'every good boy deserves fruit', but this just gives him some quick success to embed his passion for music.

It gives us joy when we hear him pump it out - sometimes over and over again, ten or so times a day. This is very different to having to beg a child to do their piano practice before their lesson.

He played the song for his grandparents who were visiting this week. They liked it .......... I did not dare tell them that the title of the song is 'californication' LOL


Home On The "FARM"

Well....... 'farm' may be a bit of an exaggeration, but with my garden beds now fenced off from the chooks with a stretch of makeshift netting and a wooden gateway it has affectionately become known as 'the farm' and I am fully embracing it!

I have a vision for the 'farm'. It is a vision splendid. I have been looking back through the archives of Path To Freedom and have seen that they started with something not that much different to what we currently have. I think we even have a little more space.

Reading their journal is so inspiring. They didn't wait until they had their acreage in the country to start leading a more self sufficient lifestyle, they jumped in where they were, in the city in Pasadena and just made the most of the space they had.

So, whilst my 'farm' is not a huge area, it does have it's advantages. It is only 20 steps away from my back door, yet I am still within walking distance from the little shop, post office and the boys' school. It is small but extremely manageable. There is room for expansion ( a whole two square metres! ) and I can run and get anything from the area when I am cooking.

It would appear that the more joy I am finding around my home, the less I search for outside 'entertainment'. I like the planing, digging, seed raising, harvesting and preserving that comes from having a garden. They are 'feel good' activities. I could never find that sense of joy in shopping mall!

I like falling into bed at night knowing that I have worked hard all day. It seems I fall into bed exhausted yet wake refreshed ready to start a new adventure, or try something new.

Our boys finished school on Thursday and don't go back until the 28th april. I am really happy about having them home because there is so much 'home learning' to do. Sometimes their school days interrupt real learning ( and my boys have great teachers this year!) - I know that sounds strange, but to me ( and I spent eight years as a primary school teacher) parents are the first educators of their children. Kids learn the most amazing things by osmosis up until the age of five. They learn at least one language, how to crawl, walk, count, the names and attributes of animals and things in nature. They even learn to read! Then, once they start school, we seem to think that they can't learn independently anymore. They need a 'teacher' to tell them what to learn. For boys that classify birds, write 'how to manuals', cook, build, design lego robots, paint artworks and solve puzzles, it can be pretty boring to go to school and colour in sheets that say " F is for firetruck" LOL

So, school holidays is the chance to rev up some passion for learning. We will even take them to Sydney to some museums to spark some curiosity.

But for now....... can't stop to talk..... got to get back to the farm... - crops to plant, corn to harvest! LOL


My Creative Space

I like to have a creative space. It is a place where I can sit and.....create. The space is almost like a canvas itself. It is a collection of little things that bring me joy, photos, flowers, tidbits of memories.

Overall, I think it is the combination of the colours that make me happy. Considering that the rest of our home is neutral coloured with timber furnishings, this room is quite a contrast. The desk is just a fold up table and the shelving was put up by Hubby.

This is the space where I sit, or the boys sit to make things. I use it to make cards or do some scrapbooking. I always joke about how therapeutic it is to sit and cut up bits of coloured paper.

I got these paper racks second hand when a local scrapbooking shop was closing down. It's not as if I do so much craft that I have to have these out all the time, it's more that I love the rainbow of colours. ( They are Easter hats on the top shelf, waiting for some pieces to dry)

The whole area needs a bit of a clean up. The space is just inside the office door so it tends to be the hot spot where things like paperwork and school notes are put when the rest of the house is being cleaned.

This is the style of albums I make. I am not very decorative, I am just producing photo journals to have a hard copy of our yearly adventures. These photos are from last year's Junior Spirit, a triathlon style event held at Forster each year.

Do you have a designated area where you create. knit, sew ? Do you have an area that you purposefully decorate to make yourself feel a particular way or to express your individuality. I think expressing yourself in a creative way is good for your soul!


Sustainable Health Choices.

I wrote last month about feeling as though most 'simple living tasks' were going quite well and that I wanted to start focusing on my health as well. We take such good care of our garden, testing our soil, correcting PH, using only organic materials..... why then is there a separate set of rules when it comes to taking care of my own body ? If I am not healthy and fit I won't have the energy or ability to do all the things that make my house function, like cooking and gardening.

I really want to get fit and have increased energy. As a by product I want to lost about 10 kgs.

Today is day sixteen of my continuous 'better choices' and I have lost 2 kilos. Nothing too exciting, but I am aiming for a sustainable lifestyle change, not a quick fix. I am not on a diet, I am just on an awareness campaign.

I found the above book while I was browsing around waiting for some photos to get developed in a department store the other day.

I liked the no nonsense approach and I like the pictures - sound strange, but it's very motivating.

I wouldn't say that I have really learnt anything knew, more of a bit of a 'aha' moment, or that moment when you suddenly 'get it'.

So far I have taken on board that it really is about calories in and calories out. My body ( using calculations from the book) uses about 1560 calories per day to function normally. So whatever I put into my body either creates a deficit and means a weight loss, or creates a credit and means a weight gain. Add a little exercise to that and I use up more calories each day resulting in a larger deficit .

I don't count calories every day, but I did do some homework to find out the calorie count of different foods to gain an understanding of what I was eating. ( i use calorie king.com) Once I had that information I made some adjustments to what I was eating. Did you know one fancy drink at a particular fast food cafe has the same calories as almost a whole days worth of food? So if you were to consume this AND your food you would be eating for two adults ? No wonder Australia has such an obesity problem. Who would of thought that a drink could be that calorie dense ??

I now ALWAYS eat breakfast. Before I started I would think that I am not hungry enough to eat breakfast and would go without. By lunch time though I could eat the handles of the kitchen cupboards.

I opt for foods that are filling and make me feel full for a lot longer ( i.e. low GI ) so that I can get more bang for my calorie buck. What I mean here is that for the same calorie intake I could either eat four squares of chocolate or opt for a huge sandwich. I know that if I eat the chocolate I will still be hungry afterwards.

Exercise is the number one feel good drug on the planet. This has taken me a long time to 'get'. I am often too tired to go for a walk or a bike ride, whereas Hubbie would say "I am SO tired I NEED go for a ride or a walk". He understands that energy comes from exertion and the more you do the better you feel. This is in contrast to me 'waiting' for a magical burst of energy, missing the point that the energy comes from the very thing I was avoiding.

Exercise doesn't have to be a 5km run. Exercise can be dancing around your house with the stereo on, playing with the kids, walking while pushing the pram. The thing is that if you make a small start, even walking around the backyard five times, it gets easier each time and you feel the need to naturally build it up.

Never say you don't have time to exercise. I heard Michael Pollan say once that we say we don't have time to cook, yet we have time to watch cooking shows. It's the same with exercise... we don't have time to exercise, but we watch television shows about people exercising and losing the most weight.

Exercise helps you sleep better, breath deeper, stand taller, think clearer and gives your skin a lovely glow. It's up to you whether you want a spoonfull of this free, magic medicine.

So... I will keep posting about how things are going. It's a shame I don't own a video camera. I think you would get a great laugh out of footage of me jogging with Hubbie while he looks fabulous and is encouraging me and I am panting out " i'm gonna die, I'm gonna die" LOL

A Busy Beetroot Sunday

The day started off with a request for pancakes. Seeing that I had an extra hour this morning ( daylight savings finished and the clock was wound back) I kindly obliged.

Then it was time for a quick trip to town for Easter Hat Parade supplies and some seedlings. I managed to get in some more broccoli, beetroot and a heap of onions. While I was pottering I also got a lot more corn plants. I have also decided to grow sunflowers so that I have lots of seeds to feed the chooks. They go totally mad over them, to the point where they always pick them out first in the seed mix.

Then it was time to get the creative juices flowing. The boys had excellent designs for their Easter hats and I had to beg to have a go at painting the foam eggs. The parade is on Wednesday.

While the paint and glue was drying I managed to process some beetroot that I picked yesterday, using my mother-in-law's recipe.

When you pull the beetroot from the ground, twist the leaves off and leave the messy stumpy bit on the top and the root ball. at the bottom. Wash all the dirt off and boil them in a little salted water until a cooking fork will go right through them.

Remove them from the pot and let them cool completely. Then peel them by rubbing the skins off. They come off really easily.

Then slice them up ( cutting off the yucky top and bottom) and put them into a container. I had my trusty Tupperware on hand. I like the way it lifts the beetroot up and it has a lifetime guarantee.

Then mix 500 mL of vinegar and 250 mL of boiling water and dissolve two dessertspoons of sugar into it. Pout the mixture over the beetroot and discard the remaining mix.

After retrieving the washing from the line and managing to get some ironing time in it was time to start preparing dinner ( by my body clock - but the clock said it was only 3.45 pm lol)

Dinner was very easy tonight, just some 'special' fried rice because we had a big meal last night. . I just cook the rice first, stir fry some bacon and then scramble some eggs into it ( i used three) a clove of garlic and a few splashes of soy sauce and then pour in the rice ( I use basmati ). Then I pour in a chicken stock cube dissolved in a cup of water and then add some peas or shallots or corn or whatever I have on hand.

I hope you had a lovely Sunday. I certainly did.


Handmade Easter Card

Garden Update

Most things are growing quite well in the garden, although we aren't eating much from it at the moment because we were so bad at overlapping the harvesting of different plants. We tend to have feast and then famine, floods of beans and then nothing. We are really working on trying to stagger the planting better to prevent that problem in the future.

Little green caterpillars are attacking the broccoli leaves like crazy. They did the same last season as well. Luckily they don't eat the usable part of the plant, so we just let them go. It makes the plants look ugly but it's better than spraying them. Perhaps you have some way of getting rid of them using natural products? Does the soap and oil spray work on this little grub ? Please share a recipe if you have one.

The basil is fabulous and brings a lovely fresh flavour to past sauces. I love being able to go and grab handfuls of leaves as I need them. Before growing our own basil I used to buy a plastic wrapped pack of fresh basil from the supermarket. It would be fine for the first dish but would be soggy and lifeless when I needed it again three or four days later.
A herb garden is a great starting point if you don't already have a garden established. Even if you don't have much space, you can have a few pots of herbs growing on the front porch or even on the kitchen window sill. I use basil, shallots and coriander the most. Once you taste the fresh flavour in your food, it is hard to go back.

My in-laws arrive on Monday and I am looking forward to learning my mother-in-laws beetroot preserving method so I can take care of these little babies.


TV Free Week

Picture from allposters.com

We have joined with friends of ours in going tv free from Monday to Thursday.

Our friends said they were interested in getting their kids more motivated and having earlier nights themselves. We thought we would also give it a go. Even though we don't watch commercial television, we do watch the ABC and the occasional SBS programme. One of the difficulties is that the shows we enjoy are in a bad time slot for our kids.

They enjoy The New Inventors, Collectors and Catalyst, but all of these are on in an 8pm time slot.

I thought there would have been more opposition to the box being switched off. We have don't it a few times in the past without any problem, but number one son is now ten years old and really enjoys science programmes.

Anyway, we have flicked the switch. There was a slight murmur on Monday when I reminded number one son of our choice, but he got over it pretty quickly when I joined him in doing some other activities. Number two son is seven and he could take it or leave it. He is more of an outdoors man!

After Monday.... they haven't even mentioned it! They do homework, they "play", they draw, they build models with cardboard boxes and they try to hypnotise the chooks! They are so funny to listen to.

Last night we commented about the change in them. We started to think about their imaginations and giving them time for their brains to expand and think of wonderful ideas. Often these ideas only arise out of total boredom. When they have to ask the question 'what is there to do?'

It's got me thinking. If our kids are watching two to three hours of television a day - is that time when there brains are in a vegetative state? Are we not allowing our kids to reach their true potential because their brains are 'on hold' for such a huge amount of the week ?

As far as the favourite programmes go, I taped 'Top Gear', and 'The New Inventors' and I will tape catalyst tonight. They are welcome to watch them on Friday night or over the weekend.
I wonder whether it will be a sustainable idea, or whether we will slowly go back to sneaking a few programmes in here and there.

I know that I much prefer listening to the boys talk to each other, play, argue and resolve issues as well as make up 'toilet humour' jokes and limericks. The only issue I have is that I am ready for bed at 7.30pm LOL

What is the TV situation in your house ? Are you happy with it? Do you have any TV rules or guidelines ? Are you a TV addict and happy with your choice ? - would love to hear from you on this topic.

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 ...