Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ride on to the Rescue

Now I am the first to admit that my hubby works pretty darn hard.
He works in a very physical job as an Arborist (Tree Dr) and spends his days climbing trees, cutting them down and fixing them up (not necessarily in that order). 
In addition to his job being physically demanding he also generally works 6 days a week, 8+ hours a day, most weeks then still has to come home and help out on the farm.  This leave little quality time as a couple.
He is often over tired and the last thing he wants to do is slog it out mowing 1/4 acre of lawn with a push mower, not even a self propelled push mower might I add.
Until recently we had shared the job of mowing lawns but I currently have an injured back so cannot help out.
So when the idea of purchasing a ride on lawn mower was raised yet again I realised that yes it was time to give this the go ahead even though it represented a substantial outlay of savings.
So he got online and made some calls to see where he could get the best deal.  Thankfully mowers and chainsaws are often sold in the same shops so he was able to go to a retailer he regularly deals with and get a good deal, $400 off the RRP.
So off he set to pick up the new mower. 
He returned a few hours later with the new mower and pleased as punch and it was time for a test run.
Well what a breeze.  It mows forwards and backwards and took only half the time that it does with a push mower and that was without really having the swing of it.
The verdict.
Well yes it was a lot of money but considering we only get 2 full days a fortnight to spend together, and some of that has to be spent doing chores, I think that the extra time we gain will work out to be worth every cent.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

One Naughty Puppy

Earlier this year we got a puppy (Jessie) and she has been giving us lots of love and entertainment.
We had been talking about getting a puppy for a while so we were aware of the time and effort required as well as what to expect in terms of naughty puppy behaviour.
We have been taking her to puppy school and so far I feel we have achieved quite a lot, sitting, walking on the lead, not coming inside when the door is open (well most of the time) and generally being a fairly good little puppy for her 4 months of age.
However, she has recently developed an unhealthy obsession with the chickens. 
Until now she has not been too interested and just sat outside the Chicken run (a large 6m x 15m enclosure surrounded by .9m fence) looking through the wire or watched them if we let them out into the house yard.
But she has now decided the best fun of all is to climb the fence and chase the chickens around the run.
So the chickens are squawking and flapping and the more they squawk and flap the more excited Jessie gets.  She has never tried to catch one, she is just chasing them, but I have a bad feeling the catching part is not too far away if we don't nip this it the bud.
Now I cannot blame Jessie entirely for the bad behaviour as she is a Kelpie and Kelpies are herding dogs with huge energy potential (adults can heard stock covering up to 40km in a day and still not be exhausted), so she is doing what comes naturally to her.  But this cannot go on.
The chickens can't take the stress and quite frankly I can't either!
Tomorrow night is puppy school so no doubt the trainer will have some tips for us.  But because training takes time action had to be taken.
So early this morning I went to town and purchased some 1.8m garden stakes and a roll of chicken wire.  Hubby is currently out in the rain raising our fence to 1.6m (bless his (wet) cotton socks) which will buy us some time while the training takes place.
I have just been out to inspect/pass approval on the work being undertaken and it is looking good.  So good in fact that my mind has started running through a list of climbing plants that might like to take advantage of this new fence.  And that is where I leave you.  I'm off to see what kind of chicken proof, climbing, hopefully food producing plants I can plant around the run.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Loss of the Still To Come

Today is a sad day for me as it marks 12 months since my best friend Trevor took his own life after a long battle with injury, mental illness and depression.
But when I say sad I don't mean bury my head in a pillow all day sobbing kind of sad (although a few tears have been shed today), more of a sad he is not here to share life's experience's with me sad.  Sad that he did not have the strength to carry on and sad that his illness did not allow him to see the the possibility of  a better time to come.
I remember all of the good times we shared, all of the mischief that we got up to and that brings a smile to my face, but I think it is part of human nature to always be thinking about the time to come, the experiences you are yet to have together.
And that's what I miss.  The still to come, the possibility of what might have been.
As someone not prone to depression I choose to live my life looking for the good and the precious and the beauty of life regardless of how dark life might seem to be.  I have learnt that even in the darkest weather there is always the promise of sun after the rain and that sometimes it is the stormy weather that allows us to build strong roots and defences to help us stand up in tough times to come.
Sadly the reality is that for some people depression and mental illness is a part of their daily life. 
Sometimes as a spectator like I was, living through the feelings of helplessness and the constant fear of where this might lead.  And sometimes as a participant where the dark days outnumber the bright.
According to Beyond Blue one in five of us will suffer from depression at some stage of our lives.  So while it might be difficult to start the discussion with a friend or family member about how they are feeling it is often more difficult for them to come to you and let you know there is a problem.
So get out there people.  Touch base with your friends and family.  Check in and say hello, let them know that you are there.  And if you need help seek it, let your friends and family know how you are feeling. 
For everyone regardless of if you are the support person or the sufferer go to for more information about where you can get help and support.
And if you are able donate, volunteer or get involved please do so, remember one in five pretty much means we will all be touched by this at some time in our lives.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Possession Obsession

With the latest technology release (iPad 2) only hours away the hype surrounding it got me thinking about societies obsession with possessions, and more specifically the constant upgrading of items we already have.
We all know of people who are convinced that they must have and can't live without the latest gadget, fashion item or appliance.
This craze of always having the latest version of something even though the one we have is still in perfect working order baffles me and illustrates the type of wasteful society we have become.  How far removed we are from the lifestyles of our parents, grandparents and those who lived through the depression.
How is it that as a society we are prepared to camp out overnight in the street just to be the first to have that latest "thing" yet many people are no longer courteous to one and another, possess basic manners or do not have the patience to tolerate minor inconveniences, such as slow drivers, without becoming agitated?
And for What?
What does ownership of that item actually get you?  Respect?  Admiration?  A feeling of belonging to an exclusive group the "first to haves".
I suspect that this validation from being in the "first to haves" group is short lived.
Within a matter of days many other people have become a "first to have" and the exclusive bubble is burst.  You are no longer receiving interest from your peers as they too are joining the now not so exclusive group.  Then within months, if not weeks, they are everywhere, almost commonplace, and that feeling of elation and validation is over.  Now you are just one of the masses.
And then you hear about it.  The next "it" thing.  You just have to have it.
So there you are back on that mouse wheel, always trying to stay ahead of the pack.  And where does it get you?  The short answer is not very far.  There will always be a next thing.
So what is it that people are missing from their lives?  How is it that we have become disconnected from each other and instead are connected to machines that feign a personal connection?

For an in depth look at where we are as a society on some of these topics I would suggest reading "Affluenza" by Clive Hamilton.

Af-flu-en-za (n). 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
Our houses are bigger than ever, but our families are smaller. Our kids go to the best schools we can afford, but we hardly see them. We've got more money to spend, yet we're further in debt than ever before. What is going on?

The Western world is in the grip of a consumption binge that is unique in human history. We aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the cost of family, friends and personal fulfilment. Rates of stress, depression and obesity are up as we wrestle with the emptiness and endless disappointments of the consumer life.

Affluenza pulls no punches, claiming our whole society is addicted to over consumption. It tracks how much Australians overwork, the growing mountains of stuff we throw out, the drugs we take to ‘self-medicate' and the real meaning of ‘choice'. Fortunately there is a cure. More and more Australians are deciding to ignore the advertisers, reduce their consumer spending and recapture their time for the things that really matter.

This is fantastic must read book that I encourage everyone to read.  If you ever felt like you were caught in the spending trap and wanted to get out this book will help you see how you are constantly being sold to and give you ideas about how break free from the cycle and recognize the manipulation that goes on.
Even if you a living a simple life I think you will find this book a great read and maybe like me you will feel like perhaps you are doing a good job of fighting off the suggestion that shopping will make you happy and solve your problems.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?

Monday, 21 March 2011

A Baking Bonanza - Banana Cake, Bread and Biscuits

Over the space of 4 hours today I managed to get done what I have been trying to do for the last 2 months.
Earlier this year the oven from my upright stove stopped working.  The stove top still worked but no oven, no grill.
Parts were ordered and a repair man came and replaced what appeared to be a faulty part and left.  I turned the oven dial and hooray the oven was working again so I set about preheating the oven and making some biscuits.
Then 5 minutes later and "Click" and off goes the oven. Ahrrrrr!
It's now after 5pm on a Friday so the biscuit dough goes into the freezer and it's another weekend without an oven.
Monday rolls around, I call the electrician explain what happened and he orders another part believing the first to be faulty, and 2 weeks later the saga repeats and he is back to install it, again. 
Turns out that it wasn't the oven at all, but a faulty wire in the fuse board that failed when ever the was a load put on it (ie lots of power needed to heat the oven).  Bless that electrician and his patience my issue is finally resolved.
So back to the baking.

The Bread
Last year the ABC ran a fantastic cooking series "The Free Range Cook" staring Annabel Langbein and all about creating great home cooked meals using produce from the garden with very little fuss.
Annabel demonstrated a "Busy Peoples Bread" that I had been dying to try. 
There is no kneading or waiting for it to rise, it makes two loaves and the mix takes less than 15 minutes to make.  So I gave it a go.
Despite the fact that it sunk in the middle (because I should have given it 5 minutes more and was too impatient to wait) it was fantastic and I will be making it again.  If you like a Vogels style loaf that is moist and full of seeds then this one is for you.
I also think I will try out some different seed combos for the filling, I'm thinking pumpkin seeds and linseed's in the mix.

The Banana Cake and Biscuits
While the bread was baking I got the biscuit dough out of the freezer to finally make those biscuits I'd been waiting to make.  And then i saw the bananas.
Hubby loves to have banana smoothies for breakfast but doesn't like really overripe bananas (who would have thought it mattered for a smoothie but apparently it does).
So because I hate to waste food every over ripe banana goes into the freezer and if I'm not careful that one banana a week builds up till the freezer door is over run with frozen bananas.
Clearly an banana cake was on the cards.
So I whipped up the cake mix while the bread finished cooking and the biscuit dough thawed and as the bread came out the cake went in.  Then while the cake cooked and the bread cooled the biscuits took shape.  Two dozen choc chip,  two doz jam drops and a dozen cranberry.
I have been using the same basic biscuit recipe for ages and just change the fillers.  It is so simple with only 4 ingredients, makes 5 - 6 dozen biscuits depending on how big you make them and the dough freezes well for a few months (as I well know).
Now we all know that biscuits are not good for us in excess, but since both the dough and the cooked biscuits freeze well you don't have to eat them all at once, plus they are cheap to make and you know exactly what went into them.
I have attached the recipe so feel free to make up your own cookie creation.

Basic Biscuits

500gm Butter                                          
1 Can of Condensed Milk
1 Cup of Sugar
6 - 6 cups of Self Raising Flour
Fillings/Toppings to your liking

Cream butter and sugar, add condensed milk and mix well, stir in flour.  Divide mix and add Chocolate chips, sultanas or other fillings at this stage. Shape into balls and flatten. For Jam drops make a dent in the flattened biscuit and add 1/4 tsp of jam.  Bake 180 degrees for 10 minutes or golden the cool on racks.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Meat-Free Meals

One of our goals for this year is to have at least one meat free evening meal per week.  And by meat free I mean fish and chicken too.
For us this is a bit of challenge.
It is not that we don't love to eat vegetables, far from it.  But to be honest we both really enjoy eating meat.  I personally find it much less effort to plan a meat inclusive meal than one without.  In addition we have the added benefit of having sufficient land on which to raise our own livestock for the freezer (which keeps the cost down) and I barter eggs for a locally caught fish.
So for us the challenge is meals that are as easy to plan and prepare and give us the same satisfaction eating them.
We are pretty new to meat free meals so I am sure it will get easier and we will find a greater variety of meals that we enjoy over and above the Stir-Fry's, Curries and Egg based meals that have so far made up the meat free quota for the week.
From here I am sure that it is only a matter of  searching the net and seeing what other suggestions come my way from those who are already pros in this area.

The future freezer fillers

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A Simple Life

Simple   n Clear, Easy, Not Complicated/Complex
Life       a Animate Existence, Way of Living

So what is a simple life?

For each of us there will be a different answer, depending on our perception of the world, and none of them right or wrong.
What one person considers a simple life may be an extravagant one for others.  Where some have already achieved their ideal simple life there are others of us still on the journey to where we want to be.
For us personally the simple life is about being less reliant on others for our food and power, not buying into the consumer lifestyle or trying to keep up with the Joneses, reducing our debts and living more frugally, making use of recycled goods and generally living more like our parents and grandparents did with a greater focus on what we do have rather than what we don't have.
American author and poet Henry Thoreau, who lived more than 200 years ago, tried to practice living a simple life by building a cabin in the woods and furnishing it with only a bed, table and a chair.  He lived like this for more that 2 years during which time he recognised the coming of a material age where people would be fixated by possessions. 
Thoreau said " Most of the luxuries and the so called comforts of life are not only dispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind". 
Now for most of us living in a log cabin with only a bed, table and chair is not only impractical but also not desirable either, or maybe for you it is?
For some families living a simple life is not so much a choice but a necessity.  However many people are now choosing to simplify their lives for a range of reasons from clearing debts or living a lifestyle that has a lighter environmental impact to simple choosing to make family and lifestyle a priority.  There is even a term for this type of lifestyle change "downshifting".
If you are someone who is choosing to downshift follow this link and complete the survey for the Simplicity Institute. 
We are still a long way from reaching some of our simple life goals but some have already been reached and crossed off the list.  I am sure as the days go by and life takes us in new and unexpected directions more will be added to the list but as they say "The only constant in life is change".


Switch to Solar Power
Raise Chickens
Build a Vegetable garden
Have a productive vegetable garden most of the year
Plant an Orchard
Harvest fruit from our Orchard
Grow enough vegetables to not have to buy them
Fiona to work from home
Fiona to work less
Fiona not to work
Barter food
Improve my sewing skills
Bake more
Preserve more food
Eat at least 1 meat free meal a week
Have a baby (or 2)
Plant trees on our barren land
Plant natives to attract the wildlife
Establish gardens around the house
Build a pond and dry creek bed
Build a new house

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Where it all began

It has been 18 months since the cat, hubby and I packed up our things and opted for a tree change moving from inner city Brisbane to the country.
We left behind not only the noise pollution, traffic congestion and living too close to neighbours, but also easy access to public transport, entertainment and shopping precincts as well as being within 15 minutes from most of our friends and family.  But we haven't looked back.
We are now 100km north west of Brisbane, 10 km from the nearest town pop 2000, in a tight knit farming community.
We purchased 3.5 acres with an old house run down out buildings, one big empty paddock and loads of potential.  We have good soil and technically live in the sub-tropics, but because we are inland (approx 100km as the crow flies) we get cool winters including heavy frosts.  I am hoping this gives us the best of both worlds and allows us to grow some crops from cooler regions as well as things like bananas and mango's that traditionally do well in this area.
Our farm (again I use that term loosely) had originally been part of a much larger dairy farm so was pretty much barren in terms of established trees with just a few Eucalyptus along the road frontage and a coupe of misshapen Jacarandas.  There were also a few ornamentals around the house yard including some roses chewed off at ground level by cows that had been allowed to wander freely and a collapsing shade house densely packed and waist high with who knows what.
There was no vege garden but we did inherit a large Bell Chili bush and an overgrown Passion fruit vine that would later yield a harvest of more that 7kg of pulp.
So that's where we started this journey.  Now I hope to use this blog to record our successes and failures on the farm, voice my opinions about life and generally track our progress as we aim to life a simple life.
The shade house - after clearing the path