I've woken up before my alarm again and lay there in bed thinking about the day ahead. Normally my head would be full of stresses and looming decisions necessary to take into the corporate world....but today is different - I have a day off. Today I get to stay at home and be the real version of myself.
I slide out of bed careful not to wake my dear wife and I pad out to the kitchen. A soft glow is beginning to manifest in the eastern sky and in half an hour the first rays of light will spear over the horizon.....but for now this cool grey dawn is my ultimate 'quiet' time. I fill the kettle and turn it on and pop a couple of slices of left-over homemade bread into the toaster. The aroma of toast fills the kitchen and I quietly spread home-whipped butter over the hot toast enjoying the moment when the butter quietly melts. The kettle has boiled and fresh coffee steam curls up from the cup. Scooping up both toast and coffee I quietly steal outside onto the deck....waiting. In minutes the first ray of sun shoots across the sky. It feels like there is healing in every beam. Birds get a little louder and I hear my hens beginning to fuss. I sip the coffee and munch the toast just content to be a small part of a larger moment.
It is six o'clock in the morning and I begin to hear the family's alarm clocks going off one by one. I rally from my reverie and begin preparing breakfast. Fresh eggs from the hens fried with home grown tomatoes and toast from homemade bread - a rolling breakfast served hot to each as they emerge from their morning showers. All too soon it is kisses goodbye all around as daughters pack off to University, college, work and school for the day. My wife emerges from the morning fray looking eternally perfect as usual and also exits for the day .... off to work with containers of lunch concocted from last nights delicious leftover lasagne and a fresh garden salad.The silence descends instantly and I bring the bins in, click the tall iron gate behind me and I am contentedly safe in the wonderful realm of 'home'.
Thus a day of solitude and activity begins. Hens are fed, eggs are collected and I pause to watch those simple feathered ladies go about their ancient routines - I catch myself smiling at their lives. I put away the eggs, load the dishwasher, put on a load of washing and head outside again. Watering the pumpkins, the mint and Aloe Vera comes next and whilst the water is running I top up the chooks' water. The rabbit (I'm still uncertain how the rabbit came to be with us) is let into its run for the day then the tomatoes, leeks, beets, capsicum, eggplant, parsley, peppers and strawberries are watered. The sun is now well into the sky. The mechanical servants have now finished their jobs and the dishwasher is unloaded, dishes stacked away and another load put on. I stride down he hallway enjoying the cool wood on my bare feet and into the laundry to unload the washer and put on another load. I pause to refill the laundry liquid containers from the big blue container full of home made laundry liquid then proceed out into the sun to hang out the washing in the beautiful morning sun - I dream of replacing my plastic pegs with wooden ones.
A quick tidy through the house, our bed gets stripped and remade with fresh linen all round and I marvel at the phenomena of a perfect night's sleep that always seems to occur with fresh bed linen.
Time for a cup of tea.
I sit, I sip, I enjoy the quiet and just 'being'. I have heard that men are good at just thinking nothing - this bloke has never experienced this and I wonder at it's possibility as the Kookaburras land on the fence to audit my lawn. Inevitably they find something or other amusing, have a grand old cackle and fly off like overladen 747's. I catch myself grinning again.
Bread making brings me delight (I still do not know why) and I start the dough and set it aside in a shallow bath of warm water for its first rise. The dishwasher gets emptied again and another load of washing put on and hung out. A flash of red catches my eye against the glorious white of my flapping washing on the line and I see that four more red tomatoes are ready to pick. Whilst I am picking these tomatoes I pluck a green capsicum and a luscious leek - perhaps an omelette for lunch later on....
The cat sidles up to butter me up before lodging its 'starvation' complaint, but I am onto this creature who does the 'starving' act to each person in the household in turn "I saw you get fed twice this morning before they all went to work you naughty cat!" - the cat knows that I know and instantly turns off the food-flirt trick and promptly sits on my chair (pay back I think). A second knead of the bread dough and now to wait for a second rise too. Another load of washing done and hung out and now to start bringing in each load as it dries. I know the washing is not truly done till it is folded and put away - I've learned to do this immediately I bring in the washing or it just does not get done.
Bread into the oven....I watch that first few minutes as it lifts up in response to the oven heat - I never tire of this moment. My attention then turns to making a light luncheon for myself...definitely a fresh omelette. The omelette is eaten unhurriedly as I read sitting in the shade of the paperbark tree - Grass Roots magazine today...I lose myself for 45 minutes in this publication. I quickly log into the computer, check the blog and some forums I am on for 15 mins maximum (have to be strict on myself or I can lose an entire day without a second thought). The oven buzzer goes off and a glorious high topped loaf of bread emerges. I wrap this in a linen cloth to cool knowing full well this will be pretty much devoured by the family as they walk in the door later this evening.
As I water the cyclamen my mind turns to dinner for the evening. As per usual there will be extras for dinner - friends, family and 'hanger-oners' - all are welcome. My guess is probably 15 will turn up for dinner. A mixed roast is just the easiest solution for dinner - lamb shoulder, a roll of pork and two pump hens should be plenty (the left overs can be had cold for lunches the next day if I over-cater). I prep the vegetables - potatoes, sweet potato, big carrots, kent pumpkin, whole onions, beets - and thaw the meat and arrange everything in the oven. That oven is mighty full. This will be very slowly roasted over many hours so the meat is succulent and the caramelisation on the vegetables is second to none. There will be lashings pan gravy too - of course!
The rest of the washing is brought in and put away, the deck tables set for dinner, cutlery polished, wine glasses wiped, white wine in the fridge and red wine on the table. Everything is just ready to go now for later on. This means I can relax and enjoy my family and guests. I make a coffee and begin to think...about the budget.
I really enjoy regularly tweaking the budget and gleefully spend an hour on this - just me and the budget spreadsheet. I muse on how I used to fear and hate this activity....but the shift to a more simple and frugal life has profoundly changed my approach to budget and money. Next I check the stockpile and take mental note of what is low....need to look out for specials on toothpaste and deodorant now as both are getting low. I ponder on starting my own loo paper empire given how much we go through with a family of seven and the steady stream of friends and family that flow through our place - I reach down and squeeze the roll of loo paper currently on the dispenser so it does not unravel as willingly (who knows, it might get better 'wipes per bum' if I slow down the spin speed!)
Letter box is checked. It bears the electricity bill and the phone bill. These days both bills are paid fully and in credit when they arrive - such a change to a previous life when thrift and frugality were points worthy of derision and mocking. The bloke across the road waves and we have a chat about cars, mechanics, gardens (his lawn is immaculate - ho hum), the neighbours, the election (yawn) and we bid each other a great-rest-of-the-day and return to our respective lives.
I check the roast - it's doing fabulously. I have an hour before the fam' starts arriving home. I let the hens out for their afternoon run and peck around the lawn and whip up another batch of home made soap. Each batch lasts about 12 weeks, so when I am down to my last 10 bars I know it is time to do another batch. Three years ago I would not be seen dead using home made soap let alone making it - how things change. I find myself smiling again. Now with 15 minutes to go before the hoards start rolling in I sit at the piano and run through some Bach and Debussy - piano has been my constant companion since I was a small boy and has stayed with me through all the seasons of my life - interesting.
The hoards are pouring in now. Stories of the day are being told and exclaimed about across each other, coffee and tea is being made and drunk, homemade cookies and bread are being enjoyed, the oven keeps getting opened to "see what's for dinner" and the cat is doing her unconvincing starvation meowing again...no one is listening mind you. The house is now pulsating with conversation, laughter and low-level family banter and the odd short-lived argument. Contents of bags are being emptied, work clothes being flung into the laundry, shopping lists being added to, phone calls getting made, news on the TV being listened to and discussed, fashion tips swapped by the five daughters and mother, remember-when's being laughed about....and now the friends and hanger-oners are arriving. It is food time.
I was wrong. It is 20 sitting down for dinner. It is all good as there is plenty to go around. Hens are cut up, pork is pulled, lamb is carved, vegetables put into the Bain Marie, pan gravy made (a big pot full)....and I call for everyone to sit down at the long white tables on the deck for dinner. All the food is placed in the middle and folks can serve themselves. I have stretched the meal out with loaves of crusty bread and a couple of big garden salads. Grace is said, candles lit, wine is poured, food is passed in all directions, lashing of gravy is poured, napkins on laps, silverware flashing in the evening light, wine glasses clinking happily, chatter rising and falling, laughter exploding like colourful fireworks, secrets whispered, hugs shared, food demolished with utter gusto. No official dessert tonight just several big cheese and fruit platters instead.
The talk continues well into the night, fresh coffees and tea are brewed, people spread out to the lounge and lawn, the chiminea is lit with a huddle standing around it (why does an open fire draw the human soul - I wonder?). The dishwasher has already started its unthankful job and will continue through about 5 loads before the evening is done. Visitors begin to disperse and their effusive delight with the company and good tasty food is reward enough for me...they'll be back again, no doubt about it.
As the family prepares for bed, I whiz around doing the last minute tidy ups and make myself a hot cocoa. I shuffle down the hallway to bed and as I slide between the clean fresh linen sheets I know of a certainty, right down into my bones, that it has been one perfect day.
As I drift off to sleep I idly suppose that someone will turn off the lights, lock the door, wind the cat and put out the clock........mmmmm.