new arrivals on the farm

Recently we had a friend over for dinner and he offered us 30 meat chooks that were surplus to his needs. He kindly grew them out until they no longer needed heating and then passed them on to us for a carton of beer. 

We have no experience growing meat chooks, so it will be an interesting experiment. So far they are living very happily with our egg chooks, scratching about on pasture and able to freely undergo their natural chicken behaviours. I foresee a lot of chicken dinners in the future. 

We will have to process them at various sizes due to only having very limited freezer space. We also have a couple of Australorp roosters which are not too far from going in the pot. I'm interested to see the difference in flavour and texture between the meat chickens and the heritage Australorp chicken. We might need to cook them side by side as a comparison. 

It's already clear that the meat chickens are a far more cost-effective breed to put in the pot. The rate at which they can convert feed into weight is astounding to watch.  They are already the same size as our Austrlorp chicks that hatched out 6 weeks ago. 


We also have another new addition to the farm, which readers who follow along on Instagram might have already heard about. Meet Emma the Maremma who is to the right of Hagrid in the photo below. We will probably change her name to Gemma, as there is already one Emma here, clearly. And since I was here first, I claim shotgun on keeping my name. Already I have called back to answer Grant when he was calling her. Ha!

Emma is a really sweet girl. She has gentle kind eyes and particularly loves the kids, having grown up with children. She was given to us from another lovely, caring small farm. Her last farm had regular open days, and she was no longer coping with visitors on her turf.

Guardian livestock dogs are working dogs, they have been bred for thousands of years to be independent and protect their flock (animal and people) from perceived threats. Maremmas are known for being snappy dogs and as such, require respect. Anatolian shepherds like Hagrid are generally considered less snappy, but they are bigger dogs with a significantly stronger jaw. They too are bred to protect their flock and protect they will do. Having seen Hagrid in action, I wouldn't want to be on the end of those jaws.

Sadly, there are many livestock guardian dogs surrendered as their owners realize they have taken on more than they can handle. Sure, they are cool dogs. Sometimes people get lucky and end up with a chilled-out companion. But all too often, as any livestock guardian rescue organisation will tell you, people find themselves with a big independently-minded dog that has become excessively protective over its environment. 

Emma's previous owners are lovely and I was pleased to make more connections with similarly minded people in the area. They carefully made sure she was going to another farm, where she had the company of another livestock dog and would be able to work. They really do love it, and I'm pleased that she has settled in so beautifully. 


All the other creatures on the farm are doing well. They all look happy the weather has dried out after an incredibly wet summer. Tucker the border collie is delightful as always, Aggie continues to rule the roost. Barking to be let out at ungodly hours of the morning and then barking again to be let back in, lest she is forced to sleep outside. The cats are content, the cattle are looking fat and healthy and Hagrid is thrilled with his new mate. Hopefully, she will help calm him down a bit and grow a brain, he's a bit like an over-exuberant 18-year-old boy at the moment. 

Now we just need more goats for them to guard. I'm not sure Bob the billy goat has done his job this time around. The girls should have kidded before winter and though they all look nice and round, they are not showing any signs of kidding anytime soon. We had planned for them to kid before winter, so we will give them a few more weeks and if there is no action then we might have to start looking for a new billy goat. 

Well, that's about all the animal updates I have to offer this morning. I hope this finds you well. 

Much love, 
Emma
xx 

 

simplicity

It's 3am as I'm sitting writing this and when I got up to load up the fire I discovered it was nearly out. I am nursing it back to life before I return to bed to try and ensure the yurt is warm when everyone wakes in a few hours. I'll fill the kettle and put it on the stovetop before going back to bed so it's hot for Grants morning cup of tea when he gets up at 6.
 

The yurt has very little thermal mass, so once the fire is out it quickly cools down. Last night I slept through and the kids grumbled all morning as they shivered getting changed.
 
This is the reality of living off-grid. There is no backup system. No heater we can quickly plug in because we can't be bothered or because the fire went out. The wood always needs to be sourced, chopped, stacked and split, the wood box inside needs to be filled once or twice a day. 

To write to you now I have had to unplug most of the house and turn on the inverter so we have power. I can't keep it on for long as I'm running on our very small battery bank. It's not good for them to run out. 

To save power, I light candles when I'm up overnight. To run the washing machine, dishwasher and vacuum I need to turn the generator on. Fortunately, these days our generator has a remote, but it still needs fueling up, and that fuel has to be lugged in. If we don't keep an eye on our fuel stores, we loose our backup power. Which is fine unless someone accidentally drains the batteries by plugging in something we can only run when the sun is shining. Which happens, because people make mistakes. When that happens we have no power, no lights and no wifi/phone service. 

When we first moved here we had two small solar panels and one car battery. It ran some 12v lights, a tiny fan and the 12v telly but not all at once. It also allowed me to turn the internet on briefly a few times throughout the day, as that required the inverter which uses a fair bit of power on its own. 

Over the last 3 years, we have become accustomed to living like this. It has made us more conscious of our ecological footprint, and we have become more connected to the seasons. When it's hot, the yurt is hot. When it's cold we feel it also. Due to the design of the yurt, we are connected to the nature around us. The rain and the wind is noisy, we can hear the rustle of the trees and the birds sing. Even when all the doors and windows are closed. 


Over the last few years our systems have become more technological, we have a bigger solar system and battery bank which allows us to run power all day. I even run a dishwasher and washing machine on the generator with ease. 

Recently we were discussing if we should bring a second-hand cottage onto the property, which I mentioned a few posts back. After a lot of discussion and too-ing and fro-ing, we have decided against it. 

Instead, we will be putting on a large deck, with a couple of rooms on it for the boys. The deck will have big panels that can be closed for winter and it will be a kind of outdoor/indoor room. We have an old wood oven we will put out there as part of an outdoor kitchen for off-grid summer cooking. We can rejig the living space of the yurt a bit to add some more kitchen bench along the outer edge and a wall of bookshelves. Elsie will be moved up to the loft, her room will become a home office/sewing room for me and Grant will put a door at the opening so they can be closed off for privacy. One day we can retrofit the yurt to have better insulation, windows and cladding. Many people do, but there is no rush.  

We have decided to make do with what we have got, to utilize every spare cm and keep our debits down. Rather than put ourselves under unnecessary financial pressure, we are choosing time. Time with our family. Time to work on our property. Time to sit around the campfire, go on bushwalks and tend to our small, but slowly expanding garden.  


Our home here will never be big, but I'm fine about that. I like my funny little house. I like feeling connected to the seasons. I like that living small forces us outside. Humans are prone to taking the easy path, which I don't think is always good for us. In many ways, our lives have never been easier. We have 24/7 connection at our fingertips, tools for every job, climate control at the press of a button, and endless food at our disposal. Instead of being happier, we are more stressed with mental health issues at an all-time high. The cost of living is higher than ever before. People suffer from disconnection and loneliness. Longing to be part of a community. 

The reserve bank is going to keep increasing interest rates for at least the remainder of the year. Currently, they are still low but combined with the record-breaking house prices and subsequent mortgages, it's going to hurt. There is also increasing talk of a global recession.  

The cost of fresh veggies is going through the roof, $10 lettuce, anyone? (to be fair, it's not the season for lettuce, but nonetheless.) and going to the fuel pump is an exercise in pain. Not to mention there's been a drastic increase in the cost of energy. 

It seems like many people are experiencing or are about to experience a level of financial hardship they have not experienced before, with no sign of things improving any time soon. The growth economy is clearly broken and unsustainable. Yet our world leaders and those in power refuse to back down. 

But we as individuals do have a choice in how we live our lives. Now is a good time to be trying to grow our own food, or to join a community garden if space doesn't allow much. It's a great time to have chickens, who turn kitchen scraps and garden greens into little balls of protein goodness. It's a wonderful time to support our local op-shops and to learn how to mend and make do. It's a brilliant time to learn how to cook delicious, frugal, healthy meals from scratch. 

But if we focus only on saving money from a purely a scarcity mindset, life can become pretty miserable. 
Instead, if we can shift our perspective to look for the joys and delight within an experience we can change our perception. Despite living in perhaps the fastest moving period in history, it is possible to re-learn how to focus and be entirely in the moment, rather than distracted by all things trying to compete for our attention. 

Elsie and I went with a dear family friend to a local historical village the other day. She loved the 'choo choo' train especially. The big beautiful Clydesdale horses had my heart. 

Entertainment doesn't have to cost much for it to be fantastic. Picnics, bushwalks, going to the river/lake/beach. Spending time at parks or in the garden, watching a movie or even starting a family-friendly series together are all good fun. Having friends over for a make-your-own pizza is a delicious and cheap way to feed a crowd, and gives everyone a shared project to focus on. Recently an old friend taught us a couple of new card games, and now whenever we go out I need to make sure there is a deck of cards in my bag at the boys request. Checking out your local historical sites can be a super interesting experience too. The possibilities are endless, and I find if we are still feeling uninspired or restless, we just need to add some more people into the mix and suddenly they bring a whole different perspective. 

I don't believe we are designed to do this thing called life alone, rather we are meant to do it surrounded by friends and family. Wether they be people we share the same genetics with, or similar interests. 

On that note, I had best get going. My favorite people need me. 

Much love,
Emma
xx




changing seasons and Winter routines

With the cooler weather having firmly arrived, the Aga has been lit around the clock. This means I can cook freely at any time of the day without the concern of wasting gas, stacking chores or heating up the yurt. 

For most people, these kinds of things don't require a lot of consideration. If you live on the grid in a normal house with air conditioning, you can flick a switch to turn the air conditioning on when you're cooking. Gas or power for the stove is usually via mains, so if you don't stack baking, sure you will pay more in utilities, but you likely don't have to cart it in yourself. 

But living off-grid means that's not the case for us, so winter is a welcome change. 

The after school/witching hour/pre-dinner window is always an intense time with small children. There are snacks to dole out, chores to complete and tired behaviour to soothe, all whilst trying to get a nourishing meal on the table at a reasonable hour. 


The one thing that has always been my saving grace with a gaggle of children underfoot, is cooking dinner in the morning. If I can cook a double or even a triple batch, that's even better. That way no matter how the day unfolds, you know you have a healthy dinner sorted. If the afternoon really falls apart, you can feed the kids early, run them through the bath and get them ready for an early night. I find winter especially accommodating for this kind of routine. In winter we naturally tend to lean towards warm, nourishing meals of casseroles, soups and roasts. These kinds of meals are perfect for popping on the Aga, or in the slow cooker if you have one and allowing it to simmer away all afternoon.

Tonight's dinner is a savoury mince. The kids have requested pasta on the side and I'll steam some broccoli, tossing in some butter, and lemon juice and seasoning it at the end. The mince is a simple, rustic meal, with whatever veggies I could rustle up thrown in for goodness. A generous handful of fresh herbs from the garden added in at the end will help to lighten it up.  It's a bit of an old fashioned dish, and certainly not one you will find on Master Chef but it's a cheap, healthy, comforting dinner that the kids all enjoy. And frankly, that's enough for me. I am not big on dinner time battles, I prefer to keep foods familiar and predictable while children are young, and slowly over time broaden their palettes. Once children understand the concept of just trying a bite of something new, then mealtimes can become more adventurous again. Also in my experience, it's often easier to introduce a new food in the morning to a child, rather than at dinner when they are already tired and at the end of their day.   


I was listening to the radio the other day and there were economists discussing the sale of mince having increased dramatically, due to the rising cost of living and people feeling the strain on their purse pockets. I think mince gets a hard time, it's like the ultimately uncool cut of meat. But for many people, it's a versatile staple, and kids usually like it. I think texturally it's easy for them to manage and the higher far content makes it tasty. We eat a lot of mince. 

It's amazing to think of how things have changed in the last 30 years isn't it? When I was a kid, I remember we ate a fair bit of lamb, it was considered an affordable cut of meat. But now it is rare for my children to eat it, because it's become so expensive. Chicken is generally affordable, though modern chicken farming practices are concerning. 

There is a lot of wisdom in old, fashioned thrifty cooking. The kind of cooking that is reliant on the seasons and what's available locally. Not only is it cheaper, but it is also more sustainable and strengthens the local economy. I often like to flick through older recipe books for ideas or look at recipes online. It seems that in the past everyday meals were often simpler, often using fewer ingredients. Although desserts including homemade pastry etc were more labour intensive than simply buying it pre-made. But I suspect for many, pie wasn't considered a week-day dessert. Well not in an Australian context anyway. America seems to eat significantly more pie than us, if books are anything to go by.  


If I cook a big batch of something, the next morning I will usually try and do some baking for the week. Predominantly biscuits or cakes for the kid's lunch boxes. Baking with kids is also a great way of doing an activity with them, so it kills two birds with one stone. Though it is usually significantly messier and slower, but that's working with kids in general. By planning and alternating what I cook each morning, I ensure we are eating wholesome, budget-friendly food, with minimal effort and time in the kitchen.  

What are your favourite thrifty meals? Do you alter what you cook to suit the seasons? What's on your table this week? 

Much love, 
Emma
xx




considering choices

It seems everyone has finally recovered from the terrible tummy bug. I don't think our family has ever been so sick and I am beyond thankful it is behind us. Now to rebuild everyone's immunity. Unfortunately, as soon as the children were over the tummy bug, they began to come down with a nasty cold one by one. I suspect having covid a couple of months ago, really knocked our immune systems out and it's going to take a bit of work and a lot of rest to get them back in shape. 

Sooty hiding her face from the world. I have found myself in a similar situation as sickness strikes our home again. Will it ever end?! 

In the meantime, we have been having big conversations about how to move forward. 

A suggestion came up recently to buy my parents' vineyard in South Australia after the next harvest, as they are looking to retire sometime in the coming two years. Due to where William is at in school, it's unlikely that will work, as we want him to be well settled in before year 11/12. But it got us looking at options, and we could potentially afford to buy a similar property in the region, which is the area where I grew up. The property could be established, with a house/shedding and mains power and water. You get more for your money there than you can here. 

But as with everything, there are pros and cons to such a move. The pros are that we would be closer to old friends and family and we would move to an actual house. Day to day life would be significantly easier. 

But, we have opportunities here as a family that we wouldn't have there. It's a totally different style of farming, livestock compared to horticulture. It's breathtakingly beautiful, and the children are settled into wonderful schools and youth groups. 

This kid has never known a 'normal' life. She lives in the bush, with countless animals as her friends. She has a really magical childhood.
  
When it comes to the crunch, the main frustrations I have been struggling with are access problems and housing. We are beginning to outgrow the yurt. It's been a great little home but with a teen and a tween in the house, space is at a premium. I don't mind living simply, in fact, it's kinda my thing. But I am struggling with not having a space of my own. To maintain some level of long term sanity, I need to be able to sew and write without needing to rescue my laptop from the threat of spills or deal with constant interruptions. The only place I can work is on the kitchen table, which also acts as a food prep area, a desk, the laundry folding station, art studio, and home office for 5 other people. Even if they are not using it directly, they are inevitably milling around me. Jostling, asking questions and generally needing me. All. The. Time. 

After a week or two of prayer, weighing things up, and exploring options we are leaning towards staying. But the process of considering options was important for me. I needed to remember we will always have different cards on the table, and that choosing a different path doesn't equate to failure if that's what is right for our family. It's funny the stories we subconsciously tell ourselves, which when put under examination don't actually stack up. 

However, Grant enjoys his work and though things have been incredibly tough I do believe we are close to breaking the back of this place. I just need to keep reminding myself. 

Most people give up just when they're bout to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown. 
                                                                            H. Ross Perot  

The bugs are not far from having their new home which is a good side income when running well. Which will make all the difference to our budget and our sense of financial security. I am slowly meeting more people as everything opens back up and playgroups and the like have returned on a regular basis. Our family has decided to make building community and attending local events more of a priority. We have been terrible at losing ourselves in all the work that needs to be done here. However, the work will never end. The projects we take on, need to be meaningful and align with our values. We could do any number of things here, but that doesn't mean we should. 

We have also been considering options on how we can create more space and some privacy for me. One option is to build a deck and add a couple of fully insulated rooms under it for the boys, linked by a kind of indoor/outdoor living space. Elsie would move up to the cozy loft and I would turn her little room into my study/sewing room. Another option we have considered is buying an old timber cottage, re-locating it to the farm and then renovating it as funds allow. If I were to be honest, purchasing a cottage and renovating it would be my preferred option. Then we could rent out the yurt for a small amount of rent + a few hours of gardening/week to a couple or young family interested in living a simpler, more sustainable life. But we will see where we are financially in a few months once the bugs are up and going. 

Wet washing hanging on the line above the wood burning Aga, and clean washing folded on the table, patiently waiting for people to put it away. 

It is good to consider options and to remember that the way things are now, is not the way they will always be.  Everything always seems more challenging when everyone is sick. And we have had a lot of sickness over the last couple of months. 

There are many people I have talked to over the years that are waiting for the perfect opportunity, or the perfect property to move to. They dream of living a different life, they talk about living another life but the idea of actually making the change is paralyzing. And look, I get it. We all fear failure and looking silly to a degree. Of people saying "I told you so." But unless we are willing to consider change, and I mean truly consider it, we will never know what we could be missing out on. There is wisdom in waiting, researching and not rushing into a situation. But we also only have one life. Sometimes it can be helpful to review all the options on the table, even if it's just to ensure we are still on the right path. Whatever that path may be. 

As far as life on the farm goes, it looks like we have another week of rain on the cards, and the Aga has been burning 24/7. There is clean washing drying in every available space. My garden has slowed for winter, and naughty Aggie dug up a bunch of seedlings. Those she didn't brutalise, seem to have stopped growing. Ahh well, one day I'll have a good size greenhouse to prolong the growing season.

Anyway, I hear little footsteps shuffling out of the bedroom and it seems Elsie has woken up from her midday nap. I hope all is well with you. Are you considering any changes big or small in your life?

Much love,
Emma
xx

 

  



 

  


Unwell and seeking advice

We have all been hit by a nasty gastro bug, and goodness it has knocked us. Grant and Angus were the first to get it and though they have recovered now it took them a little over two weeks. Elsie, Henry and Will have recovered but their tummies are still tender.  I'm struggling to shake the last of it off, I have not eaten anything other than a small amount of toast and a little chicken soup in over a week. My taste buds are in dire need of a change. 



What are your suggestions dear readers? For healing sore tummies and simple meals. We are taking pro-biotics, having bone broth, plain crackers and toast. I feel like we need some simple transition meals over the coming week that are gentle, but a little more substantial before we are back to our usual diet. I'd love to hear your suggestions. 

Much love,
Emma
xx 

Autumn gardening in the sub-tropics

The mountains we live in create a funny climate. Technically we live in the subtropics, and as such our summers are long, hot, wet and humid. The valley we live in is surrounded by tall hills, which creates a microclimate that on one hand gives us protection from strong winds, but on the other hand, it means we struggle with moulds and mildew in the hot summer months. 





Turning these raised beds into a kind of hugelkulter beds.  

In winter get hard frosts overnight, and the hills cast shadows over our garden quite early in the day, which narrows our growing potential too. We are in our third year here, and I find gardening in the spring and autumn to be the most forgiving. If I am honest, our gardens are not as advanced as I would have hoped them to be by this point. There has been a lot of trial and error. Like really a lot. I remember listening to Millie, one of my favourite presenters on Gardening Australia one day and she told gardeners to not be discouraged by killing plants, that if you were going to garden, you were going to kill plants. It's all part and parcel of gardening. It really stuck with me. To see someone as awesome as Millie, still killing plants from time to time and still learning all these years later. Well, there is hope for me yet, which means there is hope for you too. 

When we first arrived here we came amidst drought and bushfires. Then the drought broke and for the last two years, we have had record-breaking rain and flooding. As such, we are yet to work out what a "normal" season looks like. We have learned a lot, including that weeds grow into monsters seemingly overnight. The insects multiply and demolish seedlings just as quickly, though once things get up off the ground they fare much better. Kale, herbs, spring onions, pumpkins, particular breeds of cherry tomato, and cucumbers thrive here. Each season I seem to be able to add a few more successes to my growing scoreboard. 

Our soil is low in potassium which means we need to add it to encourage flowering. A lot of other micro-nutrients seem to be leached out by the heavy rains meaning we need to add more compost and manures than we first realised.  Favourites like rosemary, lavenders and sage need a little encouragement here, preferring to be planted on slight mounds with some sandpit sand mixed in with compost to aid drainage in our heavy soil. I have never struggled to grow these three plants in the past. I can't tell you how many sages have turned up their toes at me since moving, and the lavenders. Oh, how they sulk after a big rain.


However, many perennial flowers seem to thrive and bloom in abundance. The regular rains mean it's a forgiving place to garden if you are a bit of a distracted gardener like me. Though we are not as far along as I would like, the bones of our garden are taking shape. I have decided I want to use raised beds at the bottom of the garden for greens and the like. Grant doesn't like raised beds so much, but I find the clearly defined spaces and barrier from blankets of encroaching weeds suits me. I keep an eye on second-hand beds on Facebook Marketplace and currently, I'm experimenting with making them into hugelkulter beds. Well, maybe hugelkulter inspired beds might be a more accurate description. I'm curious to see if the timber at the bottom of the raised garden beds helps with drainage. 

We are building still building the big vegetable garden beyond the yard which we will fence off from the dogs and cattle. Between all the other jobs Grant has on the go, he's slowly building a frame that will allow us to have a part of it under shade-cloth in the unrelenting summer sun. The big garden will be for sprawling large crops like pumpkins, bush tomatoes, zucchini, corn etc. He slowly works on putting posts in the ground between other jobs which is slow, but there is no real rush. It's better the job is done once and done well. 

We have some citrus planted along one side of the yard, and a mulberry tree on the other which has taken off. There are plans for an orchard on the gentle slope to the left of the yurt, but again, it will need to be fenced off from wildlife and livestock. As much as we are itching to get the orchard started, there is no point rushing and wasting money on trees that will likely get eaten before it's done. And there is no point in getting into debt over such things to achieve it quickly, as that would defeat the purpose of trying to grow our own food in the first place. 


If there was one thing moving to the farm and living in a small yurt on a limited budget has taught me,  it is patience. There is a saying amongst Christians to never pray for patience because God will teach you patience through having to wait. And by golly, we have had to wait. A huge portion of our off-grid life has been a lesson in patience. Accepting what is and adapting to the hurdles in front of us. Frustration and impatience are wasted emotions. They only serve to create feelings of discontent which sucks energy that could be used in a far more productive manner. It doesn't mean we don't indulge in them from time to time. But there is little point in allowing ourselves to dwell there for long. Especially when there are weeds to pull. 

What season is it where you are dear readers? Are you tending an established garden or are you a total beginner gardener who is perhaps tending a few potted plants? Both are wonderful and I'd love to hear where you are at. 

Much love, 
Emma
xx 



 

Taking an hour

It's an overcast morning this morning and I'm sitting at a lovely cafe, alone. Waiting for a coffee surrounded by music, friendly chatter and the scraping of dishes. 

A few shots of the garden in early Autumn. 

Grant and Angus are unwell with a tummy bug, though on the mend. I took the opportunity to wake up early and slip off to church alone. I have been badly needing some time by myself, highlighted by increasing feelings of impatience and crankiness. So today, I grabbed my laptop on my way out and vowed to take an hour between church, getting groceries, visiting the chemist, the farm supplies shop, petrol for the generator and Officeworks. It is actually bliss to be able to sit here, watch the world go by and touch base with you all. 



The yurt, while it is a lovely little home, feels like it is becoming increasingly smaller. The children are growing bigger and naturally take more space. Elsie is into everything and there is nowhere I can go to be simply alone in the quiet. It is part and parcel of being in the thick of mothering, but living small complicates things further.

In time, we hope to build a deck with a couple of rooms on it, which will help. But that is something for future me to enjoy. Current me needs a breather. 

I can always tell when I need a break. My inspiration and motivation to live more simply drop off. More and more "make do" meals find their way to the table, I find myself browsing online for things I don't need or even really want. Disposable nappies creep into my trolly, the idea of trying to keep up with another load of washing simply too much. Instead, I end up using that time saved mindlessly scrolling online. Ironically looking at others living more simply then I feel I am. Fortunately, I am pretty good at not buying the things I look at, but it is a habit that leaves me feeling somehow like what we have isn't enough. Which is of course, utter rubbish, and a reminder of the power of marketing. And very few people live simply perfectly all the time. 


As I sit here this morning, I realise I should have taken a morning for myself two weeks ago. I'm not sure about you, but I am often better at seeing others' needs than recognising my own. I am also not as good at going gently on myself as I would like. I suspect it is common amongst mothers. 

Thee reality is, we have recently gotten over a house of coronavirus, Grant has started a new job, the weather has been appalling which has made it impossible to keep up with the washing, we have had the boys Ganny visit for a few days which was wonderful though very busy, and currently, the other adult in the house is unwell. If there was ever a time to take advantage of shortcuts, now would be it. If a friend were to lament her perceived failures to me, I would of course point her to all the things she is doing right and wonderfully. I would remind her to give herself grace. But somehow, often it seems our inner dialogue speaks the opposite to us, and we have to take the time to stop and pull ourselves up on it and re-direct ourselves onto a kinder path. 


So dear readers, I wasn't sure what I would write to you about today when I sat down. It seems it has been a somewhat rambling post of setting myself straight and clearing my head. 

In an ideal world, I would manage to live waste-free, grow all our own food, cloth nappy my baby at all times and cook all our food entirely from scratch while supporting only local co-ops. There are definitely families who manage that, and they are utterly amazing. But alas, I am not one. Instead, I'm a bit disorganised and usually run 10 minutes late. I drink too much coffee and I get overwhelmed when things pile up. Sometimes all our meals are wholesome and cooked from scratch with home-baked goods in the kids lunch boxes, and other times, they are less so. Sometimes the floors are dirty, the washing basket is overflowing and instead of catching up on tasks while Elsie sleeps, I give in and join her, breathing in her sweet scent, marvelling at her dimpled hands and knowing it will mean there is porridge or scrambled eggs for dinner. Whoops. 


Today, present me is thankful for past me who cooked double last night, meaning we have sausage goulash for dinner and self-care looks like taking an hour, in a cool cafe. Alone. 

But now my tank has a little fuel in it, it's time to tackle the list of jobs and head home to my family. 
What are you doing to fill your tank? Do you need to take an hour? 

Here is a favourite article of mine, I re-visit it from time to time and I thought I would share it with you again, I'm sure I have shared it before but it felt relevant today. A mediocre life

Much love, 
Emma
xx




 

changing of the seasons

It's the school holidays here, and for now, the sun is shining. Kind of. We are expecting heavy rains again in the next few days, so while the sun is shining I have been trying to catch up with washing and opening up the yurt to the warm sun to chase away the damp that seems to seep into every nook and cranny. 

With the changing of the seasons, we have a few chores to tackle. I need to go through everyone's wardrobes and take stock of what clothing they have and what they might need for the coming winter. I also need to deep clean the boys' loft with them. If I were to do these myself, they wouldn't be long jobs. But instead, I get the boys to lead and I come after them and help if needed. This means the jobs take forever and require a certain level of patience. 

There is also Grant's volunteer giant pumpkin overtaking my little garden near the door. I'm pretty sure it's not the right season for it but Grant wanted to let it grow out of curiosity and the thing has become an absolute monster. He has since become oddly attached to his feral pumpkin plant, and invested in seeing if the pumpkins will ever mature. He gives me regular updates on how many pumpkins it's attempting to sprout and how much more of the garden it's taking over. I, in turn, have been turning a blind eye to it strangling out my little garden because seeing his amusement at something so simple has in turn been deeply entertaining. But it's attempting to set fruit in my crape myrtle and squashing it, so today it will meet my snips. 


All of this is from growth came from one wild plant, probrably dropped from the compost bin. 

Everything is a bit beaten after the endless rain and removing the pumpkin vine which was strangling everything out. I have planted a few punnets of greens and flowers to hopefully fill in the gaps again. The pumpkin has been left to do it’s thing on the other side of the fence. I only removed it from my garden bed. 

We are thankfully over covid now and fully recovered, though the tiredness lingered on for quite a while. 
I'm also happy to share that Grant is very happy with his new job as a farm manager for a local dairy. He doesn't help with milking as onsite staff do that. Instead, he looks after machinery, fencing, pasture, feeding and rotating the cows, calving, overseeing the staff and other general farm duties. His boss is a lovely fellow who cares about his employees, pays a fair wage and Grant gets to do what he loves. It is the happiest I have seen him in a long time. 

We feel like we can begin to breathe again. There are desperately needed car parts ordered and on the way,  and we have been able to purchase some timber needed for the bug shed roof which will bring a much-needed income stream when finished. We are cutting it fine to get the woodies in the new, heated bug shed before winter really hits but all we can do is our best. We also have an improved payment plan for school fees. All in all, I'm beginning to feel a renewed sense of hope about life here, which I confess had begun to disappear in recent times. 

Easter was a simple affair. Grant worked good the Friday and Monday public holidays because farming doesn't stop, but he was happy to have Saturday and Sunday off with us. We attended church on Sunday, and I was incredibly proud of Will who was invited to do one of the easter readings on stage. At 14 he is becoming such a lovely young man. There were hot cross buns for breakfast, an Easter egg hunt and my parents, as they do every year, sent money for winter PJs for each of the children which they were all thrilled with. There was a lovely chicken roast dinner on Sunday night and there's been an excessive daily consumption of chocolate since. 

Will doing one of the Easter readings. 

Opening their PJs from grandparents. 

As usual, I turned the bones into broth, left them to simmer on the Aga for 12hrs and made a big batch of chicken soup. I have always made a very traditional western chicken soup if you will. Sauteed onion, celery, carrot and garlic, broth, other assorted soup veggies, thyme, parsley and risoni or another type of soup pasta. But since becoming coeliac, I'm yet to find a gluten-free soup noodle that fills the same flavour/consistency. 

The last couple of times I have made chicken soup, I have been channelling the Chinese chicken and corn soup I loved to get when we occasionally ate out in Chinese restaurants when I was a child. It's a simple but delicious recipe, seasoned with gluten-free soy, sesame oil, fish sauce and a dash of oyster sauce. Thickened with cornflour and egg whites slowly poured in at the end. I think it might become my go-to chicken soup over the coming winter. I often do a simple clear Asian soup with broth, noodles, veggies and maybe chicken or whatever meat I have on hand, with coriander, chilli and spring onion sprinkled on top, but this Chinese chicken and corn soup somehow feels heartier. It's an absolute hit with the children, especially Henry as he loves corn. However, I think I need to purchase some Asian ceramic spoons I loved to use as a child, just to make it that little bit more special. We don't get to eat out often as not only is it expensive to feed a family our size, my strict gluten-free requirements can make it a little tricky. I'd really like to get better at creating these kinds of memorable traditions at home. 

This is the link for the recipe I used as a base for the soup. It's a simple recipe that easily lends itself to tweaking. If you're wondering what to do with the spare egg yolks, I make a simple egg custard for dessert while the soup is simmering.  This is the recipe for the Chinese corn soup with chicken. 

I hope you have had a lovely easter dear readers, and that this post finds you well. 
Much love, 
Emma
xx



I'm here because of you

On Sunday I shared a post that was flatter and more vulnerable than usual. Once I wrote it, I debated if I should hit publish. There is a sense of shame in talking about financial difficulty. But the reality is that due to global events, the last couple of years have not been normal. The ripple effect from that reaches far and wide. Not just for my family, but for many, many people. I hesitated about whether I should put up a PayPal link for those that wanted to contribute financially to the writing I do here. I know there are those doing it harder in the world, and there are certainly those who write more eloquently then me. 

This morning Henry made me a gorgeous rainbow heart. He melts my heart with his kindness and thoughtfulness. 

But, I decided to bite the bullet after encouragement from Grant and a dear friend to share the hard things. The things I hadn't quite finished processing, and I'm glad I did. 

My pms were inundated with lovely messages from you encouraging our family not only financially, but also by sharing your own stories of how you had found encouragement for your own life here. My heart is overflowing with warmth, care and appreciation for all of you. The truth is, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't still be writing. Your stories matter to me.  

Today I woke with a renewed sense of purpose here on the farm and on the blog. I was astounded by people's generosity. Your response has been far more than I ever considered it would be. When I put my PayPal link up I thought a few readers might want to send a few dollars, just like you might pay for a newspaper or a magazine. Over time I thought those small contributions could help with the occasional running costs that pop up with things with YouTube/blogging etc. Instead, our family has been blessed with overwhelming generosity. This community has brought tears to my eyes with its kindness, both big and small. 

We are not 100% here with covid in our house so this post is brief. I just wanted to say thank you everyone. Thank you for caring and thankyou for sharing your stories. I am more grateful for you all then you could ever know. 

Sending much love to you all,
Emma
Xx


A tiring couple of weeks

It's been a tiring couple of weeks here. 

Home. 

We have been plagued by sickness, Elsie struggled to get rid of a niggling virus and now Will has tested positive for COVID which throws us all into isolation for goodness knows how long until the virus works its way through our big family. Fortunately, Will remains quite well in himself. I hope and pray that continues for us all.  

We have also been on the receiving end of unrelenting rain. I've lost count of how many times we have either been rained in on the farm or bogged this wet season. The little boys have missed more school than ideal, due to my car not being able to get up one of the particularly slippery hills safely or cross flooded creeks.  The ongoing access issues since last year's floods have become increasingly problematic and stressful. The track was badly eroded during last year's floods, which created gaping washouts 6ft deep. It was repaired, but this year's heavy rains have continued to damage it on a regular basis.   

Poor feverish Elsie, though one is never too sick to wear a skirt. Elsie is obsessed with skirts and dresses. 

I'd be lying if I were to say the constant rain wasn't getting all of us down. The goats hate the rain, we have put them in a thick patch of bush with a big tarp strung up for extra shelter, but the poor things have been pretty miserable. We are all fed up. 

When it's raining like this, the boys don't want to spend a lot of time outside. They do love sliding in the mud, but there is only so much mud play one can do. It means we have been spending a lot of time inside, which is tricky in a tiny house with a two-year-old who wants to be involved in all the things. Elsie is not a kid that is content just to observe, she has to be touching everything which makes activities like board games hard. Currently, the boys are working on creative writing projects, while Elsie takes a nap. Building a marble run is next on the agenda. That counts as science, right?  

Marble run fun

In more positive news, Grant started a jew job this week. Though he enjoyed his last job, it was very poorly paid. They didn't take into account his previous BA Ag or business management experience and with the rising cost of living, our already tight budget quickly slid into deficit. The minimum wage is a real problem in Australia and the concept of the working poor is becoming increasingly common in this day and age. The cost of living in Australia is high and rising fuel prices are sending prices for essential goods and services rocketing. Many industry wages are way behind inflation and token tax cuts do little to offer real help for those battling along. After three years of putting up with crappy pay in various jobs, Grant is finally earning a fair wage for his skill level, while doing work he really enjoys. He is thrilled to be back farming full time, and I am thrilled to see him being valued and happy.  

I hope this is the beginning of a fresh start for us. Because I am bone-weary from battling to make ends meet. 

The extra money is badly needed. We have both the cars needing repairs, school fees to pay, the bug shed to finish, a generator to repair, wet weather gear for the kids, shelving to finish in the loft to give the boys much-needed space, a bathroom to finish, lighting in the yurt to improve, painting the downstairs bedroom ceilings, repairs to the satellite unit for the TV which broke and fixing/replacing various other tools which would make life significantly easier, like the whipper snipper. Many of these jobs only cost a couple of hundred dollars, but the truth is that we simply haven't had any money spare. 

Though his new job doesn't help currently, as we are in isolation for goodness knows how long. *sigh* Though I know we are luckier than so many and I’m deeply thankful for that. 

To combat the feelings of 'blah' that are currently invading our lives, we have been trying to go for walks when there is a break in the weather, visit the animals, watch fun movies, read lovely books, cook tasty nourishing meals and create pockets of the day we can all look forward too. GF Chocolate biscuits also help.

A wonderful and thoughtful gift from Katie @loveroflimes on Instagram

Meals we have been particularly enjoying are baked chicken drumsticks with garlic and herbs from the garden, buttery/chicken broth rice and big salads, nachos with fermented salsa, sour cream and guacamole and meatballs with a tangy creamy sauce, homemade oven chips and a big crunchy salad. Not fancy I know, but very budget-friendly, simple and tasty. Even the simplest meal can be delicious if you spend a little time and consideration building flavour throughout the cooking process.

Another thing that cheered me up this past fortnight was a letter and beautiful and generous bundle of seeds from a friend on IG and also some beautiful hand knitted beanies for Elsie and me from my dear friend Nic in SA. I'm always astounded by the generosity of the simple living community. When we read so much negativity about social media, we can forget about the wonderful communities which can be created and the connections built across the miles with like-minded people.      

Unfortunately, the heavy rain has caused a lot of diseases and rot in a bunch of my veggies, so I have been clearing the diseased plants and making way for Autumn crops. I'd really love a safe little protected greenhouse/propagation area away from boisterous dogs and curious toddlers, but I'm yet to solve that issue in a budget-friendly manner. It's on the list. But these seeds will be added to my collection and hopefully this week I can sit down and pull out some to prepare for the growing season and rig up some kind of ad hoc propagation area.

I'm sorry today's post is a little flatter than usual, but with the aim of keeping it real, I decided to share anyway. Life here is not all sunshine and encouraging words though I do try to always find them. I am quite simply a little tired and worn out. It's been near impossible to fill my cup in tiny pockets of time between juggling unwell children, heavy financial burdens and managing rural, off-grid family life amidst unrelenting record-breaking rains.  

But what I do know is this. The sun will shine again, money comes and goes, and the seasons will turn. Just like they always have. I hope this finds you well dear readers. 

Much love,
Emma
xx

PS. I hesitated over this decision, but you might notice a new PayPal button in my sidebar. If you have enjoyed reading along our journey over the years and ever wanted to support us financially in a small way, this is an option for you. Please know there is no obligation, expectation or pressure to support us financially. The fact that you visit us here on our little corner of the web, comment and continue to come back means the world to us. Nothing will change, I will continue to share here as often as I can, on Instagram, Facebook and the occasional YouTube video as time allows. You can Support us via PayPal by clicking the link. 


 

 


 

  



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