Saturday, 30 July 2016

Saturday Evening Yak

Cauliflower beginning to set.

Hi folks - time to settle down for a bit of a yak and gossip from around the traps.

Well, the cauliflowers are beginning to set, we have flowers about to bloom on the early tomato bushes, the pullets are quickly turning into hens (four eggs a day now) and the Kent pumpkins seeds have sprouted.  These are all signs that spring is on the horizon for sure.

Here in Australia our winters are rarely snowy (except for certain small sections of the continent) but just cold and wet in the south and cold and dry in the east and west (generalisations I know).  There is that ever-present lazy breeze - lazy, because it does not bother blowing around you....instead it just blows straight through you.

Dried pumpkins seeds ready to plant a couple of weeks ago.

A couple of weeks in the sun in
 moist soil - Kent pumpkins seeds
have sprouted.

Today was a perfect Aussie winter's day .....minus 1 at sunrise and topping at 13 degrees C at 2pm. Sunny and cloudless all day and only the faintest of breezes. Today we brought Mother-in-law home from hospital after a nasty fall a few days ago - thankfully no broken bones.  Old age is not a crime, but goodness me, it certainly is no joke. She gave me a list of items to fetch from the shops and upon my return I was quite 'chuffed'  as she quietly checked  the docket and said "My, my! You certainly are a great shopper"....2 or 3 years ago that would never have been the case.

Hens on the roam....

I scored a beautiful wool-rich coat recently for 50% off - it will last me a lifetime as it is so nicely constructed. In other news, the Kombucha continues to be brewed weekly, yoghurt continues to be batched up weekly and as the hens increase their daily egg production we find ourselves thinking about new ways to commit to cooking so many eggs. I love the humble egg - such a neat form of daily protein.

I have been doing a bit of self-examination and have come to the conclusion that I am very future-driven.  Whilst this is great for forward planning and getting things done, it is not very good for stopping and celebrating wins, enjoying the moment, nurturing contentment or going slow....I guess self-awareness is the first step in addressing this character flaw. Time for me to start just being in the moment more fully.

Have a great rest-of-the-weekend folks.  Take care and stay nice now, won't you all?


Monday, 25 July 2016

Renting and Frugal

Two old cook books in perfect nick for $5.
I love the two fat ladies and their delicious
food and fun

THIS post is for renters.

So often renters can be made to feel like they are second-class citizens because they have not quite 'made it' to the top of the financial pack. Those with their own home (well with mortgages anyway) can sometimes make renters feel a little inferior...."Oh, you only rent" or worse still "What, you're STILL renting?"

OK renters - cheer up, gird your loins because the following should make you feel much more worthy.  Renters can rock at being frugal along with the best of them!

Curious shaped boxes always
make for a unique storage


  •  Don't have to worry about paying twice the price for their house due to interest payments
  •  Renters can always afford to rent a nicer place than they can afford to buy
  •  Renters never have to worry about installing new kitchens or upgrading bathrooms
  •  If something breaks or wears out - ring the landlord and keep your money in the bank.
  •  Save on a million home improvements that you simply would never be tempted to do on a rental property.
  •  No distracting thoughts about resale values or updating for the market.

Renters can still excel at being frugal.  Just because you rent does not stop you from stockpiling, cooking from scratch, furnishing your home off gumtree (seriously, the beautiful things people just give away!), being mindful of power and water usage, growing your own vegetables in containers, mending, making do, saving and practicing thrift.

The overflow working perfectly on my self watering vegetable
boxes. Unlike other wicking boxes, 90% of the bottom half is
just water - no medium or filler in this version.

Renters - Try This Tip:

Most renters can certainly afford mortgage repayments - it is usually the deposit that seems impossible to save up. Also stamp duty in Australia is pretty much the same amount as a basic home deposit....also seemingly impossible to save up. 
So what to do?  Well, just pretend you DO have a mortgage.

By pretending you have a mortgage, this will allow you to save a deposit for a home (or even enough to buy a country town home for cash if you are patient!). In Australia, rent is usually much cheaper than having a of $450 per week would require you to have a mortgage payment of about $600 a week for the same home (using basic average figures).  So pretend you are paying the $600 per week mortgage - just pay your rent and bank the $150 every week (that's $7800 saving per year using this example). This will require you to tighten your belt exactly as if you were in a mortgage.  

Just a thought folks.

Take care folks and stay nice.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Our Savings Might Be Ficticious

Morning tea out on the verandah.

LET'S get straight to the point.....being a frugal shopper, a DIYer, a veggie gardener, a thrifty recycler, a super smart stockpiler, a home mechanic, a from-scratch cook, a capable sewer or a ride-your-bike-instead-of-driving devotee does not necessary make you any better off financially.

Let me explain.  I meet many folk who claim to be simple-living and saving money on this that and the other but are clearly still spinning their wheels financially. This is plainly evident by their reaction when I ask them what they did with the money they saved on a purchase - try this scenario for size:

Me: Hi Bruce! Hey nice suit - is it new?

Bruce: Yes it is new. You'd be proud of me....I got it 50% off. Saved myself $250. 

Me: Cool!  So what did you do with the $250 you saved Bruce?

Bruce:  Aaaahhh, oh, um, aaah, yeah, um

Me: Sorry Bruce...just razzin' you up. It's a great suit and a great bargain Sir....real nice cut. You're looking real sharp. (then I change the topic).

I let the chooks out at dusk to
have a 'supervised' peck around

You see, Bruce has not saved a blessed cent. Truth be told, he only bought the suit because it was on 50% special not because he needed it, so in fact he has wasted $250.   The paradox is he thinks he has saved $250.  The worst of it is that his finances are thus unreconciled to the tune of $500....yep.

So here is the straight up facts about buying bargains, saving money and being frugal:
Unless we take those savings and use them to either  put into a savings account as an extra savings payment, or, use them to pay against a consumer debt as an extra debt payment on top of what we would normally be paying down, then the savings we think we have made are just fictional and theoretical.



For so long we used to 'budget' when we shopped and enthuse over only spending X amount on groceries or getting cheap petrol or fixing the car ourselves......but never actually got around to putting those savings aside.  It was all theoretical talk.....and worse than that, as all the effort and thought we put into chasing bargains and frugal savings were wasted because we never took that vital final action - putting the savings in the bank or off our debt.  We were not Robinson Crusoe either - so many folks fail to take that last logical and vital step too and thus inextricably find themselves no better off despite their fine efforts to be frugal.

So the next time you save $20 on your grocery bill - bank the $20 the same day.
The next time you get petrol cheap - bank the $6 the same day.
The next time you get a discount - bank the difference the same day.
The next time you get your free coffee stamp after buying 9 others - bank the $4.50 the same day.

An exhilarating moment....

In all seriousness, unallocated monies due to frugal activity are the most easily misplaced and squandered monies. Every dollar must have a home. If you save a dollar - immediately give it a home....don't leave it laying around in your wallet or in your general expenses account.

Take care folks - stay nice.


After thought:  I guess this post is totally self evident for long-time skilled frugalistas and budgeters, however it was a hidden trap we fell into in our journey to turn around our finances and thus may just strike the right note for other folk working hard to curb spending but feeling they are not making headway. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

6:00 am Success

The sunrise breaks through the kitchen window over my
freshly prepared breakfast

SIX in the morning is the latest that successful folk arise....and by "arise" that means actually out of bed up and doing, not still in bed and repeatedly punching the snooze button till seven.

Fertiliser infused water ready to dous my vegetables - my first
chore of the day.

I love to sleep in as much as anyone, however a couple of years ago I noticed that if I rose early on my days off that so much more got accomplished. Not only did I accomplish more in a day but evenings were calmer and more leisurely too. We seem to be somehow wired to the natural rhythm of the sun. Awake with the sun and winding down with the sun too - this is life at its best. With the advent of electricity and in particular light globes that produce daylight-strength light, we have distanced ourselves from the very nature of our beings - no wonder we are exhausted, stressed and unravelling.

Home baked foods - a deeply
satisfying and frugal activity

Being out of bed before anyone else gives us that luxurious time to be quietly alone, to allow thoughts to just 'be' without the need to put them into words, to sip a cuppa as the rays of the sun reach over the horizon and lay themselves gently on the kitchen bench and dining room table.  The stillness of observing a sunrise is a spiritual moment shared with the earth as a new day is born. Being present in that moment gives us the blessings of a full day in sync with the natural world we find ourselves in.

Caramelising beef before adding to the stew.

Early to bed and early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise (they say) - I tend to agree. I consistently get more things finished in the morning than in the afternoon or evening. The cool of the morning seems to clear the mind and refresh the soul.  The observance of the sunrise becomes an addictive moment of wonder which appears to ensure a calmer equilibrium and a more productive day ahead.

Veggies prepped ready for
the evening meal.

Before the blazing demands of electric lighting gripped the world - things were different.  Humans rose with the sun and monopolised the daylight in every way possible.  When the sun sank to its hiding place of an evening then folks enjoyed those handful of restful hours  around a fire or lantern to quietly talk, meditate, do gentle crafts, to cuddle their children and reflect. Bedtime was early and usually sleep was bi-phasic with perhaps 3 or 4 hours of sleep then a couple of hours of wakefulness around midnight (known as the night seasons) followed by another 3 or 4 hours of sleep.

Sauce ingredients being fried up.
The smells gently fill the home.

How different is the sun-driven life rhythm to our modern world where of an evening after sundown we are all still hammering away full-bore at life and its activities, throwing down a meal, attending to chores and studying often till midnight then throwing ourselves into bed and commanding our bodies to immediately get a full 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep before the alarm clock shrills us back to our life of consumer slavery. This insane regime sets us up to fail good and proper - the first casualty often being our mental health.

An quick and easy lunch -
left over chilli con carne
on a hot jacket potato with
sour cream and parsley

Lean into 6:00 am starts and sunset finishes (even for just one day a week) and experience the difference.

Take care folks and stay nice now.


P.S:  Hmmmm.... so many food photos.  I might have to mix things up a bit more me thinks.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Being Fancy For Nix

Coq a Vin in the making in a double-sized slow cooker.
(great for making double meals and freezing half)

GOSH it's nice be be all fancy-pants once in a while, but realistically we can't put on that fascade all the time ..... so it's time to rethink.

Green vegetables with almond
flakes, butter and sesame seeds

I was thinking about this the other night as I was laying the table for 21 friends and family that were coming over for dinner.  What to do with not enough matching dinner plates, matching chairs, matching cups and cutlery??......embrace the conundrum and just make it work, that's what.  So this is what we did instead.

Making do with what we have.

We pushed three picnic tables together, laid them with a variety of white table clothes and white bed sheets, overlaid them with some random white curtain and tulle.  We mixed up the plastic garden chairs with our two types of wooden chairs for a shabby chic look and decorated with candles in an odd assortment of glass jars.  The cutlery was purposely mixed up so not one setting matched, the Christmas fairy lights were strung above the table, the gas patio heaters (bought new at 50% off) threw out delicious heat and the glassware in all its mismatched glory sparkled and shone.  If it can't be perfect then let it be a tiny bit Bohemian.

Finished overflowing pot of
Coq a Vin

The food was all cooked from scratch - good nourishing tasty French recipes all served in mismatching pots and vessels.  It is funny how a buffet seems to totally make up for the lack of perfection in other areas.  We are slightly messy cooks but the produce is super fresh and the recipes well know you have it right when guests sneak back for third helpings from the buffet table. That is one of the best feelings in the world.

Boeuf bourguignon ready to put
onto the buffet table

The chatter rises and falls up and down the long tables, the clinking of glasses ring out in happiness  and bread is being used to unapologetically mop up delicious sauces.  Candles flicker, smiles are traded, stories are tall, laughs are real and eyes are shining. Sighs of full stomachs and dismay over not being able to fit in another homemade creme patissiere filled vanity cake are heartfelt. They linger at the table not wanting it to end (or being too full to move).

Sweet caramelised onion and
Camembert tart with parsley

Nobody missed the mismatching table settings - not even the fancy folk. Nobody had to know that whole 'look' did not cost a penny.

Friends and family tucking in with relish.

Take care folks and stay nice.


Potato bake x 2.
A bland looking dish of which
not a sceric was left.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Talking About the Weather

It is fun to sit around our little Chiminea
with a glass of red and just chat.

YAWN ....... folk are talking about the weather again. Shallow meaningless chatter. Meh.

Well, it might be a shallow and meaningless conversation nowadays, but once upon a time the weather was a vital subject....the difference between starving to death or living.

Watering the pumpkin seeds.  Waiting for seeds to sprout is
such a trial for someone as impatient as I.

Isn't it interesting how consumerism has reduced weather-talk to just a topic of idle chatter for the bored.  It isn't even a topic of remote interest for any positive reason except for perhaps a trite "I hope the farmers are getting some of this...".

The weather is just a nuisance these days, that natural element that we have to endure whilst scooting from our air-conditioned, dehumidified house to a climate controlled office.  Even the washing is of no consequence as everyone has clothes dryers and uses them regardless of the weather pattern. So many food plants are grown in hot houses that are artificially climate controlled year-round (...have you ever seen the green houses in Almeria in Spain? Google it and be shocked). Most of the other meaningful stuff in our world is made from plastic or other oil derivatives which can be drilled for and pumped out of the ground in any weather.

First caramelise your onions....

 Commercial Lean Six Sigma greenbelts would oust the natural weather patterns as inefficient and counter productive if they could....way too much dead time between growing seasons which affects profitability and consumer supply and demand cycles. There is nothing positive to be said about the weather and its cycles in the context of modern messes up sports events, hairdos, vacations and road visibility. Oh wait - there is something that is positively impacted by the weather in the modern world - silly me, why didn't I remember....the fashion industry. It loves the four seasons and milks them for all they are worth (billions of our dollars I hear).

Then make your pastry from
scratch and cut into circles...

Place into tart tins whilst cutting
up Camembert cheese.
(this recipe will not work unless
you drink a glass of red!)

In many ways the weather is the last remaining bastion of realism that reminds modern folk that food production relies on water, that plants rely on seasons and that life is best experienced with a cycle of contrasts. Once upon a time most folk knew what all the types of clouds were and what they meant. Folk used to have barometers hanging up in the hallway or next to the clock to see changes in weather. Most importantly everyone used to know why weather was important and how it directly related to local food production and community abundance. Now unfortunately, if the crop fails we just buy it in from the other side of the half the price.

Cook in the oven and serve warm.
French sweet caramelised onion
tarts topped with melted Camembert
and fresh parsley.
The taste is a revelation!

Time to educate ourselves on the weather again me thinks. Let's go and buy ourselves rain gauges...that might be a fun way to start.

Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Hennifer Is Found

Hennifer Anniston - unimpressed at being contained.

REJOICE - the lost is found!

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago Hennifer flew over the fence and down the road never to be seen again. Apparently the tea and biscuits here were of inferior quality and she was not going to put up with it for a moment longer, so I'm told(!)

Antics at Cluckingham Palace.

The actual facts are that when I purchased the six pullets a few months ago I forgot that pullets get a new set of adult feathers and also seeing as it was the beginning of winter that they would also go through a moulting season too.  These two factors rendered my wing clipping session ineffective in no time at all  - hence Hennifer's escape. (The tea and biscuits around here are fabulous by the way)

My plastic watering can eventually disintegrated.
So no more plastics - I have replaced with a stainless steel one

Anyways....We get a message yesterday on the neighbourhood FB page about a missing Isa Brown!  Bingo.  A Hennifer sighting - she liveth yet!  I was pretty sure a fox would have gobbled her up by now so I had ceased worrying a week ago and thought she would be just pecking at the great corn-mash dish in the sky.  So this morning she was rescued from a kind neighbour several doors up.  She has returned to us a little more 'racy' and with more attitude than before (she is wearing her feathers well above the knee now - shocking!) - but she's back.  What a great ending.

Eggs! At last.

Oh, the girls are starting to lay (at last). My darling better half was beginning to make veiled threats about unproductive chickens recently and mumblings about chicken pie.  So I had to go out and have a stern chat to the girls about their KPI' know, the obligatory "I-love-you-but...." talk.  It worked for a couple of them and the rest look very close to laying too judging by the quickly increasing size and redness of their combs.

Now that we have a steady flow
of eggs we can cook lovely
things like choux pastry. Yum.

So all in all, it's good news here today.

Take care folks and stay nice.


Friday, 15 July 2016

No Need To Move To The Country

Who can argue with roasted veggies?!

AD NAUSEUM across the 'interwebs' I see folks breaking their necks to move to the country and start a simple life on a rural property. Nice.....but unrealistic and a little naive unless you have previously lived in a rural environment.  Ask anyone successfully running a small rural holding about the work, time, commitment and money involved - you just might be surprised.

However, I am not wanting to be a complainy-pants about moving to a rural setting, it truly is a worthy goal and deeply rewarding.  I grew up in a couple of different rural settings on smaller holdings and although it was idyllic, in reflection my folks worked pretty hard at it too.

A winter show

But guess what? We can have our own rural setting right where we are.  We can utilise our current home to be as rural as we like, giving it that country feel, eating good quality country fare and all. Besides running large stock, we can pretty much do on a suburban setting what we can do in the country.  How so?  Well, let's see:

Keeping chickens - deeply satisfying

Convert Our Suburban Home Into A Farm House

  • Sprout our own lentils
  • Dehydrate surplus fruit
  • Stockpile
  • Make jams and marmelades
  • Brew Kombucha
  • Run a deep freezer
  • Make our kitchen the hub of the home
  • Bake - lots
  • Make our own bread
  • Make our own vinegar
  • Make our own yoghurt
  • Sew and mend
  • Make fermented foods
  • Do sourdough
  • Make our own soft furnishings
  • Leather work
  • Learn the harmonica (!)
  • Cook from scratch
  • Sit down for meals - extend meal times.
  • Can and bottle surplus garden produce and produce bought cheap at markets
  • Keep seeds
  • Have kero lamps on the ready for blackouts
  • Recycle
  • Learn furniture repair and restoration
  • Crotchet and knit
  • Make our own quilts
  • Make our own laundry liquids, soaps, polishes and cleaners
  • Make baskets out of vines from the yard
  • Sun dry our clothes
  • Upcycle
  • Brew our own beer
  • Have a craft corner (or room)
  • Make our own tinctures and ointments
  • Have rocking chairs on the porch or verandah ( Ha ha!)

Convert Our Yard Into A Mini Farm

  • Keep hens or ducks for eggs and manure*
  • Grow all our own vegetables 
  • Keep hens or ducks for meat*
  • Compost
  • Install a watertank and hook it up to the garden, loo or laundry*
  • Plant some fruit trees
  • Brew our own liquid fertiliser from weeds
  • Plant food vines
  • Have a worm farm or tunnel
  • Keep bees*
  • Raise meat rabbits* 
  • Go solar 
  • Make our own potting mix
  • Do no-dig gardening
  • Food scraps and paper products to the hens or the compost
  • Do self-watering container gardening
  • Grow all our own herbs
  • Grow all our own salad greens
  • Build and use a small greenhouse*
  • Raise our own seedlings
  • Make a food forest of any size
  • Service and repair our own tools and machinery
  • Do basic car servicing and repairs
  • Do basic repairs and maintenance to the house and out-buildings
  • Smoke our own meats and fish*
  • We will have excess produce, so swap, barter or gift it.
  • Learn and apply permaculture

Anything with a * next to it might be a tad difficult in a high-rise apartment and we would have to check our local council requirements no doubt....but all the rest is completely doable to any scale and in any type of dwelling.

An old clothes horse ready to
support the beans as they grow

If we can't move to the country, then let's move the country to us.  It is as simple as deciding it to be so and then doing it bit by bit.

Take care folks - stay nice.


A couple of friends in
the garden

Sunday, 10 July 2016

A Comfy Sunday Evening

Toast for tea after a big Sunday lunch

We are having some planned down-time today. Sunday lunch has just been finished and we are settling in for a deliciously quiet evening.  Normally weekends are whirl of activity getting all those projects done around the house and yard that have been ignored during the working week. We often throw ourselves into bed at midnight on a Sunday exhausted but satisfied.....but not today we don't.

Our hearty Sunday lunch roast

We made today's Sunday lunch the main meal of the day today.  We had roast chicken with roasted curried pumpkin, roast creamy Desiree potatoes, roast honey carrots, young Brussel sprouts fried with garlic, sesame seeds and bacon bits, homemade pan gravy and butter for the spud.  For dessert there was hot banana and pear cake with honey and cinnamon cream  topped with beautiful ice cream bought on special.  For this entire meal the only part that was not made from scratch was the ice cream. Raisin toast and a cuppa for dinner tonight me thinks.

Hot banana and pear pudding
topped with honey and cinnamon
cream and ice cream

Yesterday and this morning have been busy. Chooks were attended to, endless loads of washing done then sun-dried and folded, deep freezer defrosted then repacked, fridge/freezer totally emptied then wiped down and repacked, the last of the boxes of kitchen stuff was unpacked and put away,  yoghurt was made from scratch, brewed-weed fertiliser was made, compost was turned, tomatoes were planted in new wicking boxes, fences repaired, meals for the week ahead cooked, totally rearranged the lounge room (including moving the piano - puff, puff).....and now it is time to stop. Enough.

The kettle corner - keep those hot teas and coffees coming!

The long afternoon winter sun filtering through into the lounge room.
The mood is gentle and reflective.  I expect Mr Badger to shuffle
in soon and sleepily mumble something about hedgehogs.

This afternoon and this evening will be spent in the newly arranged lounge room. Reading will be relished, there will be crocheting happening, eBay and Gumtree looked at (looking for an antique reed organ to restore and have something specific in mind), small acreages in NSW will be poured over online and discussed. Cuppa teas will be sipped, the lamp will be glowing softly in the corner, the piano will be played (I am practicing a new piece of Chopin), a box of ornaments will be leisurely unpacked and arranged in the lounge room, cushions will be fluffed, wraps and rugs will be draped over knees as conversation rises and falls into companionable silence. There will be the odd person snoozing off for 40 winks now and then, tennis might be watched later on with the volume down real low, the sewing machine will rattle along in the adjoining room as 'something' takes shape and biscuits and cake will be a high probability during the evening.  Thoughts of Monday will be actively eschewed, favourite blogs quietly read and our dreams, hopes and plans will be chatted over. Smiles will be traded across the room, secrets whispered and I will be keeping council with myself here and there. Lists and notes will be jotted down, notations made on music scores, pencils will be chewed absentmindedly and someone will get the hiccups for sure.

Her special corner.
Note the work laptop tightly closed
and the craft within handy reach for a
quiet relaxing evening.

It will be a delicious afternoon and evening of undisturbed down time - long overdue and deeply needed for a healthy equilibrium.

I hope you get to have a Sunday evening that is just lovely in whatever way you choose too.

Take care folks - stay nice.

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