Monday, 29 December 2014

What Sherri Did - In December

"I write myself into well-being." ~Nancy Mavis


This is the first of my monthly round up posts. I am calling them "What Sherri Did" as a nod to one of my favourite childhood books, "What Katy Did" by Susan Coolidge. Did you read the Katy series when you were a child? I read the first three in the series when I was young and  found the fourth "Clover" on line earlier this month.


In General

The renovations on our kitchen started the first of the month and finished on the 10th. The renovations were due to a burst pipe under our kitchen sink. 

I had my first post treatment specialist appointment and received the OK to commence a gradual return to work from next month.

I also stopped wearing head scarfs earlier this month. Although my hair is not very thick as yet and is still slightly patchy I have enough that it looks like a very short hair cut. 

I had an early Christmas celebration with my sister and niece. The reason for this is because my niece is very popular at holiday time and gets to holiday away from home with different family members. 

We donated a 20 kilo bag of dog food to the RSPCA this month. I wanted to bring a dog home from the shelter with me, but hubby said no. So my neighbour went out and bought me a dog for Christmas. This is a photo of my new dog.

What I have been reading this month


  • Simple Abundance - A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach (I read this throughout the year.)
  • Think, Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye, by Micahel Le Gault
  • Clover by Susan Coolidge

Baking


  • Matrimonial Slice
  • Gingernut biscuits (cookies)
  • Cheese and Bacon loaf

What I have been watching

I like to watch the Money Minute on the Today show. I thought Ross Greenwood's discussion on December 10th about the country living beyond it's means very interesting. You can watch it here.   Ross told us that the message from some of Australia's most powerful bureaucrats is "people accept that your lifestyle is going backward".  

Contrast this to the simple living message of living within our means. Those of us who pursue this way of life are actually building a cushion to help through the hard times. Ross' segment of the Today show ran with the caption "Here's your wake-up call". Well it seems to me that many people have already had their wake up call and are learning to live with the principles of thrift and prudence. We are learning to husband our resources. We are learning new home keeping skills. The great re-skilling is the name given to this phenomenon by the transition towns movement.

I have caught up on the following Jeff Lawton videos;
  •  "$500 House";
  •  "Permaculture in Paradise"; In this video Geoff Lawton states "This is a system that can be replicated by anybody. It's just a matter of making sensible links between fast cycles leading to slower, permanent cycles, reducing your workload increasing your efficiency, and ending up in a really productive, extremely healthy lifestyle.";
  • "Permaculture for Profit";  Farmer Mark Shepard makes some terrific points in this 14 minute video "All the systems are patterned after nature. I think that's the most significant thing of what we're doing, is these are systems that have been observed in nature, plant communities that live with each other and have lived with each other for millions of years." And, "The less you do the less you have to earn in order to have a net profit that's greater ….. Our costs are as close to zero as we can possibly get them and the yield is essentially free except for the harvest cost."  At times we are told don't save seeds from your fruit because it won't come true to type,  this guy has great yields from fruit trees grown from seed.  If you haven't seen Geoff Lawton's videos, you can check them out at www.geofflawton.com



Permaculture Studies

I submitted one worksheet/assignment this month.
I made a hot compost pile.




What I liked most from the web


  • This post about younger people taking the lead in simple life, by Rhonda from Down to Earth. 
  • I have been following Annabel's preparedness series on her lovely blog the Bluebirds are nesting. You can find the first in the series here.
  • Gail Tverberg's post on 10 reasons why a severe drop in oil prices is a problem.
  • The Eco Cat Lady's series on how she got out of the rat race. This is the link to the first in the series.
  • And last but definitely not least the latest issue of the on-line magazine Sweet Living.

What I have been making or mending


  • I finished making a pair of winter pajama pants from a flannelette sheet that was no longer in use.
  • I shortened a maxi dress that I had not been wearing because its long length made it too hot.

What hubby did.

Mowing, mowing and more mowing. We have had nearly 200 ml (about 7.8 inches) of rain this month and coupled with the hot weather it is making the grass grow faster than Jack's Beanstalk.

Hubby's current project is fixing a side fence. He has put in one new lattice panel and painted the gate. Only one panel left to go.

He has also managed to go fishing a couple of times.

How was your December?


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

Good-bye 2014

"The time has come," the Walrus said " to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax" ~ Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and the Carpenter

…. And of saying goodbye to 2014.
Well 2014 you were a hell of a ride. What did I learn about myself? Many, many things. Chiefly I learnt that I am strong and courageous and that I can be dogged. In 2014 I got a whole lot better at practicing mindfulness.

2014 was a year of chemo treatment that finished with a bang - stem cell mobilisation and collection, and while I was in hospital with a vascular catheter hanging out the side of my neck, back home a burst pipe in my kitchen flooded my house, just for good measure. "Life's like a box of chocolates ……"

But 2014 was also a year full of days of quiet solitude, reflection, and restoration. There were many gifts that I unwrapped, thanks to many wonderful authors whose words and wisdom helped feed my courage and hope. It was the year I explored my inner landscape, and pondered what I wanted in my life during my second act.

I was blessed to be under the care of knowledgeable, well qualified specialists, and nurses who were competent, devoted and understanding.


I more grateful than I can express for the gift of prayer.

2014 is also the year I began formal studies in permaculture.

It is also the year I became a blogger.

Ultimately it was a year of healing.



And now the year is drawing to a close. In the words of T.S. Elliott  "To make an end is to make a beginning."


Here's to a new beginning and a new year. 


Thursday, 18 December 2014

The hobby of homemaking

Of all the hobbies home is the most serious; indeed, it may be said to be the only serious hobby." ~ Arnold Bennett


Hmm, can taking bad photos be classed as a hobby?

Back in the 1920's Arnold Bennett wrote about making the perfecting of the home a hobby. I love this idea. To me it represents a change in attitude from homemaking is drudgery to homemaking as a pleasurable activity. As something we choose to do in preference to other activities. And what better way of exercising the creativity of thrift could there be than making your home your hobby? Remember, thrift is the condition of thriving through the best use of one's resources. And thrift's central ideas are industry and conservation.  It need not take bucket loads of money to make your home your hobby.

Frangipani pie - my husband's current favourite.
Making one's own fermented foods like yoghurt, cheese, and home brewed beer for example can save money. Cooking from scratch can also save you money and you know for sure what went into the products you're eating and drinking. Growing your own fruit and vegetables from seed - especially when you have saved your own seed from previous crops - can be very economical. And the taste!  What an improvement on fruit and vegetables that have spent weeks in cold storage. Not to mention the satisfaction that comes from having surplus to share. Learning to make one's own clothes, repair, and re-purposing can all be done economically and contribute to making our home's our hobby.

 This is not a gender biased hobby. Men, too, enjoy cooking, growing fruit and vegetables, and household repairs and refurbishments. Today with internet, and all the ‘how to’ videos on YouTube, we have the information we need to make our homes our hobby right at our fingertips.

A hobby is an activity we pursue in our leisure and for pleasure. By cultivating the attitude that one's home is one's hobby, we can feel more positive about coming home from a day of work to more work. Instead of merely working through our ‘to do list’ of chores, we are now pursuing our avocation. That of making home a haven - a safe harbour one creates for oneself, one's family, and one's loved ones. Home becomes our very own centre of creativity and productivity. A place where our own vision and personal power can hold sway.   Home caring becomes not an obligation, but something we choose to do. For example, I can view my daily vacuuming as a chore, or I can view it as an opportunity to bring order and cleanliness to my home. It is also opportunity to increase the atmosphere of welcome and comfort. 

Of course like other hobbies, some people have been able to turn this hobby into their vocation. What a lovely and worthwhile choice to be able to make.


By recognising my home as my hobby I believe it changes the status of my home-caring from drudgery to an avocation.   At the end of my day at work I am not going home to grudgingly do a few chores. I am going home to pursue my hobby. I have decided that from now on when someone asks me about my hobbies or interests, I am going to come straight out and say ‘home-making’. If they don't understand the breadth and scope of my hobby, well, that is their issue not mine.
Nikki - Bobble says "Hi".

Monday, 15 December 2014

Thrive through Thrift - Meal Planning

"It's such responsibility having a minister's family to tea. I never went through such an experience before. You should just see our pantry. It's a sight to behold….We're going to have two kinds of jelly… and three kinds of cookies, and fruit-cake, and Marilla's famous yellow-plum preserves that  she keeps especially for ministers, and pound cake and layer cake and biscuits as aforesaid;…." ~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.


I enjoy meal planning and creating my shopping list from my meal plans. I find it keeps me organised and helps me save money when shopping for groceries.

I use Microsoft OneNote to record my menus and the recipes related to those menus. Here is some information on Microsoft OneNote if you are interested.  I divide my menus into Summer and Winter categories. Under each category I have a number of menus that I rotate to ensure variety. I continually add to these menus as I find recipes both my husband and I like. Currently I have five weeks of meals planned for summer and five for winter. I am working on increasing the number of weeks for which I have planned menus, to provide more of a selection.  I also like to include one or two baking recipes in the weekly menus as well.

I use these menus as the basis for writing my weekly or fortnightly shopping lists. I do not adhere slavishly to these menus however. Firstly I check the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what I have on hand. Then I make meal substitutions on that week's menu to use up what food I have. This saves money and prevents waste.

There are many different methods one can use for planning meals and grocery shopping, and my way suits me. Another method that caught my eye was the "Do something foodwise - yoursite for sustainable food" website.  This Australian website has been designed to, (in their words,) "create a more sustainable approach to the way that we grow, distribute, consume and dispose of" food. The website has a meal planner and in the "recipe room" you can select ingredients and search for recipes based on the ingredients selected. This is useful if you have food on hand that you want to use, and need help coming up with a recipe. If you like a recipe you can add it to your meal planner and the website generates a shopping list for the recipes you have selected. The site will then email the shopping list to you if you so choose.  The website has recipes by chef's such as Maggie Beer (I bought her book "Maggie's Kitchen" last month. I think it is awesome!), Fast Ed and many others.
  


Do you have any methods you like to use for meal planning and grocery shopping?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Permaculture Ethics

If we do not feel grateful for what we have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” ~Unknown


Today I want to write about the ethics of permaculture, but first I should probably define "permaculture". People express the definition of permaculture in different words, and for the best explanation of permaculture you could check out David Holmgren's  website.  David Holmgren and Bill Mollison were the originators of permaculture.

Estuaries provide irreplaceable ecosystem services.
I think of permaculture as a design system for abundant living. Permaculture, when well executed, is about making homes and communities more productive and resilient, whilst having a positive effect on the environment. 

The three ethics which permaculture design rests upon are:
Care of the earth
Care of people, and;
Fair share

Nothing very earth-shattering in those ethics. They are the sort of ethics that my teachers in primary school tried to instil into their students.  They are the ethics that are discussed in many churches in many countries. They are the ethics countless parents try to teach their children.

To me these three ethics seem intrinsic to the thinking and feeling of most people I know. I guess it is just in the consistent expression of these ethics many of us appear to fall short.  Not through lack of desire, but perhaps through lack of knowledge, and no doubt lack of time as "the world is too much with us late and soon".  Also perhaps, because as far as we can tell, everyone else is just passing their days "getting and spending".  So if we don't, we will miss out, or be left behind…


Here are some of my thoughts and examples of what the three ethics are and how they can be expressed.

Care for the Earth

I think earth care in the most basic sense is referring to the health of natural systems, including soil health. The best indicator of soil health is the amount of life existing in the soil.  I work on improving my soil by adding compost to the soil, and by working to keep the ground covered by plants or mulch.  I am able to observe the diversity of organisms existing in my soil in the areas where I have been composting and mulching. Though I am yet to learn to identify these organisms other than worms.

All life forms are valuable and are to be respected for the functions they perform and the systems they maintain. Reducing the amount of material I waste is a way of
As nurseries of the sea our estuaries are vital  nesting
and feeding places for thousands of species of birds
animals and fish.
acknowledging and honouring other life forms. One way I do this is by feeding our kitchen scraps to our neighbours chickens and feeding our leftovers (that don’t contain onions), to our dog. Other ways I could use our kitchen scraps could be to keep a worm farm and feed the scraps to the worms, or add scraps to our compost.

Making good choices about what I consume and what I conserve is another way I care for the earth. One example of how I do this is by making some (and hopefully more over time) of my food from scratch; for example baking biscuits and making soups rather than buying them. Another method I use is that of planning the menu for the week by first looking at what I have in the fridge and freezer. Then I build that weeks’ menu around what I already have, shopping for the needed items only, which saves a lot of impulse buying and waste.

Care for People

As I cannot give what I don’t have, “care for people” has to start from within by caring for myself. Exploring the topic of self-care is another reason for keeping this blog.

It takes a village to raise a child is an old proverb. It also takes a village, or collective of people to create the conditions in which humans and the earth can thrive. Combined wisdom and knowledge are needed, as no one person or family can provide for themselves all the ingredients of a thriving lifestyle.  A permablitz is a good example of people coming together to help one another, share skills, build community and have fun. The Transition Towns movement is another example of people working together to meet their own needs, the needs of the group, and the needs of the community.

Housing is a basic human need, and many people today are in housing stress. Habitat for Humanity helps low income families own their own home via interest free home loans. The family puts in 500 hours of sweat equity in building their home. I think Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful example of a community of people coming together to actively care for others.

Fair Share

We have only one earth with finite resources. These resources need to be shared with all living things on the planet, and
Estuaries and adjacent land, are often the centre of coastal communities
as places where people live, swim, fish and sail.
future generations to come. One of the benefits of me exercising restraint and not buying later model cars, mobile phones, etc., is that I am leaving resources for someone else to use, now or in the future.

Fair share also includes the notion of gainful and meaningful employment . Donnie Maclurcan is the co-founder of the Post Growth Institute. He has done much work to promote the not for profit sector as the way to go in a post growth world. He explains how not for profit does not mean no profit but that the profit is returned to the business. The profits then can be invested back for social or organisational benefit rather than going to shareholders or overpaid CEO's. 

Shareware is an early example of fair share. A more recent example is that of Open SourceEcology. Their vision is to weave together open source permacultural and “do it yourself” technological advances, such as 3D printing to provide basic human needs and right livelihood. Their goal is to create an open technological platform that allows the easy fabrication of essential equipment such as tractors. Their equipment is being tested on Factor E farm.


So, what do the three ethics of permaculture mean to you? How do you express them in your life? How would you like to express them more fully? 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Rainy Weekend

"Into each life some rain must fall."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


On Saturday we received 86 ml, which
I think is just over 3 inches,

Blessed rain. It started falling early Saturday morning, I am not sure of the exact time but it was around 6 a.m. It rained all day and we had some storms as well. 


This is one of the points where the rain runs into our dam.

Our power went out for a while in the morning. Hubby had been mowing the day before and had used all the petrol so we didn't have any to run the generator. We were expecting my sister and niece to arrive later that morning. As we are not on town water we rely on an electric driven water pump for taps and toilet. So off we went to the petrol station to fill the jerrycan. The petrol station is about 14 km (about 8.6 miles) away.  By the time we got home the power was back on. 


The water runs from the front of our property along  the driveway,
down to the dam which is near our back fence. To the right  of our driveway
are the driveways of the three neighbouring properties.
My sister and niece were spending the day with us to celebrate an early Christmas, as they could not be with us on Christmas day. We had a lovely time together and the earlier storms had cooled the hot summer weather.  Renese, my niece had to borrow a flanno (flannelette shirt) from my husband's wardrobe as she became cold. 


Water running into the dam

On Sunday we were sitting having a morning coffee by our dam when our neighbours drove down their driveway and then up our driveway. They were going to visit some plant nurseries and did we want to go with them? You betcha! Following a short mad scramble to get ready we headed off and spent the morning plant shopping.


Our dam is now full following Saturday's rain.

The list of plants I need for my garden is endless. However my priority at the moment is for pink callistemon, photinia, liriope and pigface. Not that I am intending to plant out all these plants at the one time. So for Sunday's shopping trip I was satisfied with the purchase of three pink callistemon. Once these new plants are well established I will move on to the others on the list. My neighbours purchased a grape, strawberry plants and a paw paw. So it was a great weekend all round. How was your weekend? 











Thursday, 4 December 2014

In the garden - December

"With the long blue days of summer comes a tide of colour to the garden, blue in feeling and in effect and grateful to the eyes because of its coolness"
~ Louise Beebe Wilder, "Colour in My Garden".


Our "long blue days of summer" come hot and sticky due to high temperatures and humidity. The plants are crying out for some rain to fall. Here we rely on the monsoon to form up north for our main rain which falls in the summer.


Spot the wallaby


This month in the garden I would like to:

  •  Mulch anything that is still without mulch.
  •  Compost: create a new compost heap. I am going to use the hot composting method. I haven't done this before so it will be interesting to see how I  go.



Pests and Diseases.

  • Treat my gardenias, lemon tree, and mandarin tree for magnesium deficiency. Their foliage can be sprayed  a mixture of one teaspoon of Epsom salts mixed into 10 litres of water. However if the weather stays hot I may hold off until the we have some (relatively) cooler days so that I don't stress the plants.  Magnesium is apparently essential for the production of chlorophyll and  I don't know what else to use for magnesium deficiency there may be better home-made remedies out there. What do you use to treat your plants for magnesium deficiency?
  • Net my lychee tree in the hopes that I may harvest some of the fruit.
  • Apply liquid seaweed solution to as many plants as I can as it is supposed to make plants more resistant to both drought and pests.


Pruning.

  • Trim the lilly pilly with hedge shears - now just where did I put those hedge shears?
  • Continue pruning the callistemon as the flowers die.
  • Cut the dead leaves off the bananas, and remove excess suckers. Too many suckers means small bananas or even no bananas at all. Apparently it is better to remove the suckers with round leaves rather than the suckers with the spear shaped leaves. I'm not sure why, I will have to do some research to find out.
  • Give the choko a light summer prune.
  • Stonefruit can be pruned once they finish fruiting. I only have the one stone fruit tree and I am not certain what type of tree it is. It looks like a plum, but I don't know if it is a European plum or Japanese plum. I have read that pruning needs are different depending on whether the tree is a  Japanese or European plum. Though the my tree hasn't grown any fruit, it produces tiny white flowers each year around October. So I guess I will try pruning the new growth back by about half in case it is a Japanese plum and see if it produces any fruit next year. (European plums apparently should have the new growth cut back by about two thirds.)



Feeding

  • I will be feeding the lilly pilly with blood and bone or some other form of organic fertiliser suitable for native plants.
  • Fertilise the bananas with pelletised manure.
  • Feed the citrus trees with an organic fertiliser.

Perhaps I might also look through my gardening catalogues for some blue summer flowering plants. Some patches of cool blue colour in the garden could be refreshing during this summer's heat.


What are you doing in your garden this month?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Climate change - hitting me in the hip pocket.

"I don't want to tell you how much insurance I carry with the Prudential, but all I can say is: when I go, they go too." ~Jack Benny

Anyone in Australia who owns their own home knows how much insurance premiums have increased over the last few years. For many, myself included, these increases have been a hard hit to the hip pocket. Other countries around the globe are experiencing the same thing. Are premiums going to keep rising until many can no longer afford to pay?  If this happens the insurance industry would be unable to continue insuring homes, as it is all of our premiums together that finance insurance claim pay outs.

This is a link to a David Suzuki Foundation video on how climate change is affecting the insurance industry. The video is called "Your insurance is being affected by climate change, here's how".  
  
Will it get to the point where the insurance industry no longer carries on the business of insuring properties, because of the high cost of insurance payouts? If this happens how would we repair or rebuild if affected by a disaster?