Thursday, 27 November 2014

Around the Homestead - Preparing for storm season

"Organise, don’t agonise."
                    ~ Nancy Pelosi

Where I live it is now storm season. In previous years I had my emergency kit together, but not this year. For me, things are still a bit topsy-turvy and it will take a while to get back on an even keel. To help me this year I signed up for the "Get Ready Queensland" online program called "One Step at a Time. You can find more about the program here.  According to the website it will send me one simple task each week.  Simple sounds great to me. The first step I received by email was to save the phone number of State Emergency Service (SES) into my phones, landline and mobile. The phone number was included in the email. How simple is that? Done. Easy.

The website also contains a number of fact sheets explaining how to prepare emergency kits and evacuation plans.

Do you have a storm emergency kit? What do you have in it?

Another job around the "homestead" at this time of year is clearing the gutters of debris and making sure the down pipes are unobstructed. This is because we are on tank water. We also need to check the screens on the water tank inlets to make sure they are clean.

What jobs do you do around the home and garden to prepare for storm season in your area?

Monday, 24 November 2014


"The body must be nourished, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We're spiritually starved in this culture - not underfed but undernourished" Carol Hornig

What nourishes you? What restores your spirit? Do you find it hard to find the time to nourish yourself? I know I do.  In this blog I want to include things that I discover that nourish my mind, body and spirit.  I hope in your comments you will write what nourishes and upholds you in your day to day life, because it might be what I need to include in my life too!

Rower on the Brisbane river at sunrise

The basic meaning of the word nourish is to provide with food or other substances necessary for life and growth. This meaning of the word nourish is all about meeting the physical needs of our bodies. In the future I hope to explore information and ideas that may help with this.

But there is more to nourish than just meeting our physical needs. What about the times we nourish a hope? When we make an effort to think deliberately to "feed" our dreams and desires?  I think it might be fun to look at the many ways to nourish one’s spirt. I have no doubt there many are tools and strategies to explore and some will be useful.  I find I focus very much on the things I have to do, and I rarely stop to celebrate what I have done. Even when it is something fairly major. This is something I want to change, I want to make sure I take the time to celebrate - including the small things.

View from the lookout near Cooran

What about nourishing one's mind? How much time is spent in worry, anger, fear and resentment? How much of the time do people today feel anxiety, rushing and trying to get "it" all done? Instead of beating ourselves up with an endless list of goals and to do lists we can, as speaker and author Danielle LaPorte suggests, get clear "on how we actually wanted to feel in our life" and then set our intentions. She writes "What if your most desired feelings consciously informed how you plan your day, your year, your career, your holidays - even your life" If you find this idea intriguing (I certainly did) you can find her website here.

  I have decided in my life I want to feel more; love, joy, secure, prosperous, serene, connected, playful, adventurous, energised, festive, fulfilled, strong, engaged, blessed, nourished, thriving, centred, clear, and empowered. I will let you know how I get on.

How do you want to feel in your life?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Plant profile - Black Mulberry

Here we go round the mulberry bush so early in the morning.~nursery rhyme

One of the subjects I want to keep an "archive" of here on my blog is that of plant profiles.  For my first plant profile on this blog I have decided to profile Morus nigra, the Black Mulberry.

The black mulberry is and attractive medium to large deciduous tree growing to a height of 8 to 12 metres and can spread up to 20 metres. With close planting and hard pruning it can be grown as a hedge. The leaves are heart shaped, and have serrated edges, and green flowers appear with, or just after the new leaves. The flowers develop into fruit and change colour from red through to dark purplish black. The berries (which are really not berries but collective fruit) are 2 to 4 cm long.  I have one growing in my orchard and plan to put at least one more in when we build a chicken yard.

To avoid problems with the fruit staining clothes, it is a good idea to site mulberry trees away from paths, recreational areas, and clotheslines. Mulberries prefer a site in full sun. When planting it is a good idea to add compost to the back fill soil, especially if your soil is as poor and sandy as mine. Once planted, water in well with a seaweed solution to help the tree settle in.

I like to apply manure or compost, just before the spring bud bursts, that is just before the new leaves are ready to open. Many gardeners do not feed their mulberry trees once they have matured. However, my tree is only young so I will keep fertilising it for a few years at least and then I will see how it goes without fertiliser. After all, the mulberry trees I remember foraging from as a kid were never fertilised and produced abundantly.

Once the mulberry tree is grown it has low water needs and should survive on rainfall unless there is a prolonged drought. They are also tolerant of very moist soils, and mine has survived several periods of heavily wet soils over the last three years.

I intend to limit the height of my mulberry tree by pruning after each fruiting, and this also helps repeat fruiting throughout the year. I will add that I live in the sub-tropics so I do not know if pruning encourages repeat fruiting in temperate areas.  My mulberry fruits in autumn and spring.

The only real problems I have with my mulberry is the birds eating the fruit before I have a chance to pick them. Netting helps, and I have also found that picking mulberries “early in the morning", before the birds have a chance to get to them works too.

Mulberries can be eaten straight from the tree, or used in jams, smoothies, wines and pies. The fruit also can be frozen, just remember to remove stem and wash prior to freezing. Also the leaves are reportedly a nutritious fodder plant for chooks and dairy cows, I can't attest to this as I don't have either, hopefully one day……

The berries can also be used to make a dye. If you are interested in using mulberries for making dye you can find a "how to" here.

Mulberries apparently also make a great face mask according to this source.  I have tried this but so far have only left the mask on for ten minutes. Prior to putting on the mask I did a test patch to make sure my skin would not react to the mulberries. This is a very messy mask folks, and I would suggest being very careful the mashed mulberries do not slide/drop off your face onto something that could be stained.

Do you have any favourite recipes using mulberries?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Why I am studying to gain qualifications in permaculture

"Keeping house has always encompassed knowing and doing whatever is needed to make the home a small, living society with the capacity to meet the needs of people." ~ Cheryl Mendelson, 'Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. -

As I understand it, the development of permaculture has been influenced by traditional regenerative farming systems and natural ecosystems. Permaculture also includes the use of appropriate technology. Permaculture can help me to establish a productive household, guiding me to establish systems to provide for food, material, and energy needs. It can help me to husband my resources, saving time and money whilst reducing my impact on the earth. Permaculture encourages cooperation, and through this cooperation stronger and more resilient neighbourhoods and communities can be developed. Through implementing  permaculture practices, I can move beyond being merely a consumer to a producer. This is why I decided to study to gain qualifications in permaculture.

To be honest, I see permaculture as the best solution that we currently have to deal with the issues we are facing today; climate change, peak oil, a global economy that is struggling, a widening gap between the very wealthy and the middle class, and so on.

Many people think permaculture is all about gardening, and food production is certainly emphasised. If  you stop to think, isn't gardening one of the simplest ways of increasing household resilience whilst reducing our impact on the environment?  However permaculture is really a design science for abundant living that is based on ethics and principles, it is complex and multifaceted. In future blog entries I will write more on the ethical guidelines, and principles that govern decision making in permaculture.

If you are someone who uses permaculture principles and systems please comment and share what permaculture means to you.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Home-made Face Mask and Night-time Moisturiser.

"Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of 35, you will be nostalgic for at the age of 45." ~Nora Ephron

Here is a simple tip folks, which is both thrifty and nourishing. During the day if I am going out I use a day moisturiser with foundation in one. This saves me money, and shopping time. (But that is not the tip, the following is.)  Instead of buying a night cream, I use extra virgin olive oil to moisturise my skin. It also supplies my skin with vitamin E and vitamin A. I started using it because I was looking for something to put on my skin that didn't have added fragrance. As I already keep extra virgin olive oil in my pantry, I find it an easily available, inexpensive and a kind to the earth option, to buying night cream. After reading this article, I have decided that there are more ways I can put olive oil to good use.

I also mix Greek yoghurt with a small amount of honey and use that as a face mask. Honey reportedly has moisturising qualities, and yoghurt reportedly exfoliates and softens the skin and refines pores. It leaves my skin feeling clean, soft and hydrated. I leave the mask on for about 15 minutes. I usually have both ingredients on hand, so this saves me from spending money on a face mask, and saves time shopping. It helps the environment because I am buying less packaging. Instead of using fossil fuels driving to the shops, I am just walking to the kitchen for my face mask. Oh, and I am also using less man-made chemicals on my skin.

It is always a wise idea to test anything you are going to put on your skin by applying a small amount as a test patch, in case of reactions.

Do you use any home-made skin care products?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Thrive through thrift

"Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste."                                                                                                          ~G K Chesterton

Creating a thriving life is a cornerstone of this blog. Thrive is one of my favourite words. It is closely related to the word thrift. While the idea of thriving is fashionable in today's consumer society, the idea of exercising thrift seems to be less exciting to the general population. How are the two words connected? The word thrive means to flourish, prosper, to do well, to grow vigorously. Thrift carries the meaning of exercising wisdom and caution in the management of money.  In today's culture of instant gratification, exercising wisdom and caution in managing money is not very exciting. However thrift used to mean prosperity and wellbeing. Thrive and thrift come from the same old Norse word that contained the meaning to "grasp or get hold of", and in the middle ages "thrift" was a means of acquiring wealth. Thrift is not miserly, it is not hoarding, it is wise giving and spending.  Thrift is the condition of thriving through the best use of one's resources. Thrift's core ideas are industry and conservation.

According to Joshua J Yates, ‘In the Victorian era, thriving was primarily located in individual and family life as a reflection of financial security, middle class respectability, and diligent philanthropy. Thrift became, in the historian Lendol Calder's words, the art of "coaxing wealth from scarcity."' (If you are interested, you can read more of Joshua J Yates thoughts on thrift here.) We can see a return to these ethics today, with the growth in interest in ideas such as permaculture, transition towns, the small house movement, and the resilience movement.

Author Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote, "But what made thrift such an honorable aspiration was that its bounty was not conveyed by celestial benediction or favor of the crown -- but rather through the everyday choices made by prudent housewives who were neat, clean, industrious, imaginative, honest, clever, enterprising, and generous."   You can find Sarah Ban Breathnach's website here.    This idea of thrift is not about scrounging round or making things stretch because money is tight. It is about building wealth by persistent effort and from the wise management of one's resources.

So can we "thrive" through "thrift"? That is something worth exploring, surely?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

In the Garden - November

“I may till and plant and weed and prune, but without honeybees to pollinate them, my crops would bear no fruit. These little creatures are my partners. We are stewards of the land together."
~ Faith Andrews Bedford

 Where I live the weather is really becoming hot and more humid. I find it really difficult to spend any time gardening during the heat and humidity, so I mostly confine my gardening activities to the early morning and late afternoon. As we are in the early stages of our homestead transition we have yet to plant a proper vegetable garden. I want to wait until I have progressed further in my permaculture studies before establishing any new garden beds.

Nevertheless, we do have some rather large ornamental beds to look after and a small orchard. So I still have plenty of work to keep me busy in the garden. My garden became rather neglected this year, as I was advised by medical staff not to work in the garden. However I was recently given the o.k. to return to gardening, though I have not done much as yet due to ongoing fatigue which is a side effect of the treatment I had.

Our neighbours recently gave us four trailer loads of mulch (howdy neighbours, and thank you kindly), and my husband has been applying it to our garden beds and orchard as time allows.

Here is a list of things I should be doing this month.

  • Set up fruit fly traps and coddling moth traps.
  • Fertilise the passionfruit
  • Prune the spent flowers on my callistemon (bottlebrush)
  • Prune my grevilleas by cutting of the spent flower heads and trimming any long, leggy, shoots by up to a third if they need it to promote bushiness.
  • Trim the new growth on the mulberry by about a third, once it has finished fruiting.
  • Weeding

I am very lucky because a lot of my native plants mentioned above are self-sown. I also have Dianella, flowering tea trees, grass trees and other native plants that I have yet to identify, that come up by themselves.

What are you doing in the garden this month?

Monday, 3 November 2014


"Making a home is a form of creativity open to everyone"~ Terence Conran

Welcome to Making Haven. My name is Sherri. I am deeply interested creating a nourishing life that empowers one to thrive, and I will be exploring this theme throughout my blog. My husband and I are in the early stages of transition to our  small acreage property, 'Amblein', and together our intention is to  slowly create a self-supporting homestead that will provide for many of our needs.

I am studying Certificate IV in Permaculture which is an Australian nationally accredited program, and I have a deep, abiding love of gardening and a growing fascination for how soil health affects the growth of plants and their nutritive values. I also hold a diploma in Community Development as working together to create stronger, more resilient local communities is another passion of mine.

As mentioned, I have an abiding love of gardening, and I also love those household traditions that nourish mind, body and spirit. However, like many, earning a living and taking care of life's responsibilities took up most of my time, and I had to cram the things that gave me joy into the small recesses of my life as time allowed.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Treatment required that I travel every few weeks to Brisbane over five hours away and then a few days later travel home again. There were also side effects to the treatment. During these hours I paid a lot of attention to my thinking and my emotions. I felt it was important to both my mental and physical health to stay positive and hopeful. There were times it became hard and the words "what if…." floated into my mind. So I tried to spend some time each day in some of the following activities; meditation, prayer, listening to music,  doing gentle yoga stretches, tai chi, walking on the treadmill, reading, repeating affirmations, and watching metaphysical DVD's, - these activities were a tremendous help to my achieving peace of mind, happiness and joy.  It was during also these hours I began to think about what I call my "Second Act".  What could I do to increase the joy in my life? What things were impeding my joy and could I decrease or even eliminate these things?  I also knew I wanted to increase feelings of love and security in my life and started to think and do research on how I might do this. I will write further on this in future blog entries.

My musings regarding my "Second Act" led me to decide I wanted to spend more time growing plants and in pursuing things that nourish me as a person. I knew that these things would allow me to thrive. Another decision I made was when my treatment was finished I would create a blog as an archive of the ideas and actions that might help me during this new period of my life.

So now I have entered my "Second Act" beginning to bud and put forth shoots of a different kind than those that grew earlier through my life, though the seeds were sown long ago in my "First Act." I hope my journey may also inspire others to grow, and nourish themselves in the ways best for them and our beautiful, amazing earth, and I also hope that perhaps this blog in some small way helps us all to thrive.