I am going to be upfront – this post will be mostly photos. I thought I would manage a blog post last Wednesday and then again on Sunday, but feeling rundown, internet dropouts and failed media uploads meant that the week disappeared without an update here, and I am again deep in the this week’s work and running children around commitments. So I will post a few photos of what was going on last week, and will return to a more descriptive account of my days next time!
The flowers are in full bloom, the bees are busy and happily foraging. I brought some more lilacs inside to enjoy their heady scent and glorious purple hue, but they do not survive vase conditions on a hot day, so I replaced with sweet peas that are just as fragrant but will keep well cut for at least a week. I discovered the aphids are attacking our roses again, so I followed the advice I used last year from The Village by Matt and Lentil Purbrick, and applied an equal solution of milk and water sprayed on the affected areas. The lady beetles are moving in now too, so I will give them a chance to do their job.
I made two batches of cold processed soap. One I have made many times using the recipe that appears in Taproot magazine Issue 13: Song, substituting lard for the palm oil specified. I experimented by adding some turmeric powder to get this rusty colour. I will find out if the colour bleeds! I also made a batch using Rhonda Hetzel’s recipe in her book Down to Earth, which uses mostly olive oil and makes up a decent amount of soap. I experimented by adding ground oats to one half of the batch and honey to the other, with a swirl of cinnamon through the middle. Making soap is a rewarding project that is both frugal and gives you full control of what goes into the products you use on your skin.
The garden is flourishing, but so are the weeds and I have not had the time (I made the soap on two ridiculously windy days so definitely not gardening days) to devote to weeding and preparing the veggie beds for this seasons plantings. The season here starts late so I am not panicking yet, but the longer I leave it the lusher the weeds become and the bigger the task. My seedlings are coming on nicely, albeit slowly (I really need to get a greenhouse setup to be truly productive and efficient), and will be ready to transplant once space has been made. The apricots are coming on so nicely too. They are our first summer stone fruit, and I know the cockatoos are watching as closely as me so I will need to be on my guard. Once I get some ag pipe I will be able to create a netted frame to protect the growing fruit. I bought a fine gauge nylon net that reduces the risk of birds becoming trapped and entangled. I don’t know what variety the apricot is, but they are delicious, and crop heavily. I took trays of them home to Queensland with me two Christmases ago to make apricot jam. It was so gloriously apricotty and summery. I can’t help gifting jam, but then I discover too late that I’ve given almost all of it away. I think I might like apricot jam more than strawberry, and that is saying something.
I have also been enjoying moments to read the kids stories – we are currently making our way through the Harry Potter series, but I am looking forward to starting on this full length version of Heidi. I am sure my kids will be longing for a simple life in the mountains once we start. They had a similar longing while we were reading Laura Calder-Wilder’s Little House series. So much hardship and so many challenges are depicted within those pages, but also much reverence and respect for what truly matters in life. The frivolities of modern life would surely have our great-grandparents shaking their heads in disbelief. But I am not immune to the pull of life’s luxuries and conveniences, so reading these books is as much a lesson and a reminder to me as it is to the kids.
In keeping with that perpetual longing for a simple life I finally bought two of Rhonda Hetzel’s books Down to Earth and The Simple Home. Rhonda talks about how her books came to be here and here. I have always enjoyed her blog, but had admittedly taken a long time to buy the books. I realised in hindsight that I was holding off as I was afraid of budgeting, but so much of being able to realise a simple life is first taking control of your finances. Ever since I left home at the age of 18 (I turned 18 on the bus as I headed up to Townsville to study at Uni) I have always had to budget tightly, so tightly there was no money for anything but the absolute basics and more often than not the funds dried out long before next payday. It is only in recent years that I have felt more comfortable financially. We still have many limitations, but I can buy a bottle of wine now, an Aldi bottle, but nevertheless a bottle. It has been hard to want to reign that in again. We live in an expensive area, have been mostly single income, and not on a public servant wage, and we have a large family. Kids cost money, no matter how we might limit them to one sporting interest each. I have been afraid to enter that feeling of never having enough, always scared of how I am to feed us until the next payday. Rhonda’s books tackle that head on, and I don’t think I had the strength to face that until now. So when I get moments of time, I will read, and be open to the wisdom of Rhonda’s words. I just need to see this particular part of my journey not as a return to hardship, but an opportunity to create freedom and security. I am looking forward to moving forward.
I have subscribed to Taproot magazine since it’s inaugural issue in 2012, and have found the ‘hands’ chapters to be a wonderful resource for patterns and projects for a slowing-down, homesteading kind of DIY self-sufficiency. But the more issues I collect the harder it is to remember were certain patterns, or ideas are contained. I am a visual and tactile person so need reminders I can pick up and examine without the bluelight and ultra-efficiency of an app. So I went old school and put post-it-notes on all the projects I’ve done, would like to do, or provide some inspiration that I might want to return to some day. Granted I will still have to pick up each issue, but I will see at a glance what it contains. They are thoughtful and inspiring magazines, without a flick of advertising, so I really don’t mind getting lost in their pages from time to time while searching for a dutch baby recipe or whatever, but mostly I just want to get straight to the source and crack on. My simple method, perhaps not the most efficient, will work nicely for me, and it really felt like a luxury to just sit and work my way through the pages of those magazines. It was a peaceful afternoon and reminded me what it felt like to read without distraction and without any purpose other than enjoyment.
That was a lot more words than I expected.
What have been the highlights of your week?