and we have a roof

Thankyou for all of your kind comments on my last post. It seems many of us either struggle with gluten intolerance, or have someone in our lives who do. It makes sense that people with food intolerances would be on a similar simple living path, because cooking from scratch from the comfort of our own kitchens means we can eat well and safely.


Beautiful organic, pasture raised chicken from friends at Kanooka Creek Farm just up the road. They are doing similar to what we hope to be doing in a few years and they sell their chickens to restaurants and other local businesses. 
 
It's 4:30am as I sit and write by the flickering yellow glow of candlelight.  A stark contrast to the white light radiating from my laptop. The creeks are roaring and the morning is alive with the sounds of frogs and cicadas. The rooster was trying to muster the farm into some kind of action, but I think he has since given up and toddled back to bed. 

In farm news, the shed is fully undercover now. The boys all pitched in and worked hard to get it done, and not a moment too soon. It is a wet and rainy summer this year. In fact, it we are having such a wintery spell at the moment and I have been lighting the Aga. I have just tried to coax the last few coals into life for the day though I'm not sure how successful I'll be. I was planning on getting a pot of chicken broth on the simmer. Our nights are so cool at the moment that I have been popping Elsie in flannel PJ's as she was kicking off her blankets and waking a lot. It seemed to do the trick. Can you believe it? Winter PJ's in the middle of an Australian summer in the sub-tropics? Madness.


My garden has been hit by mildew. The cherry tomatoes that got established early enough are doing ok, but the ones I planted late don't look to be doing much. My lavenders are a sickly yellow colour and are clearly not loving the rain. I dug one of the younger ones up and threw a scoop of sandpit sand under it, in the hope to improve drainage and cheer it up.  They don't appreciate soggy feet. There are a few things hobbling through though. My herbs are going strong and I'm getting a steady flow of cherry tomatoes, kale, chard and spinach. Despite battling with cabbage moth. We have a couple of cucumbers beginning to produce, but it's been hit and miss. I find gardening is easier here in spring and autumn when the humidity is less and the bugs fewer. I'm sure if I was out there every day and being more vigilant my results would be better, but I confess I am a bit of a distracted gardener at times. 


The weather is either pouring with rain or swelteringly hot. 

The yurt feels a little like an Alison Lester book at the moment, but slightly less charming. There are complex games strewn about, ready to be resumed when the mood strikes. Washing in various states of drying is hanging in every available space, and we duck and weave through the racks as we negotiate our way around the yurt. The loft has been converted into a complex lego city where dragons, robots and space ships co-exist. Guinea pigs get brought in, bundled in an old towel numerous times a day. It must be said that guinea pigs are very sweet animals, but not very bright. It always feels a little precarious bringing the guinea pigs inside with two cats and a Scottish terrier underfoot. Tuk the border collie appears more trustworthy. Upon meeting them he gave them a a sniff and a gentle lick, which seemed to be a more of a 'hello there' lick rather than a taste test. 


I can hear Elsie stirring so I might leave this post on the short side and sneak back under the covers with her. 

I hope you are keeping well dear readers. Is the weather weird where you are? 

Much love, 
Emma
xx


  


a preliminary diagnosis

You may have noticed my blogging dropped off a bit last year, there were several reasons behind that, babies are busy yes, covid sucked but for a lot of last year but also I was struggling with my health. I was having severe tummy troubles, chronic exhaustion, constant body aches and pains, hormone issues, and walked around with my head in a constant fog.  I had initially put it down to the arrival of Elsie and being run down, but then I became really unwell. Like struggling drag myself out of bed unwell. The pain in my hands meant I kept dropping things and I was feeling more and more like a person such older then my age. 

This book was given to me by a dear friend and is not only beautiful, but filled to the brim with lovely gluten free recipes. 

My symptoms seemed to flair up dramatically after pasta or wheat and a piece of the puzzle clicked into place. I had resorted to cooking a lot of pasta and the like because it makes a quick, budget family, family friendly meal. After a trip to the GP and bloods tests, We worked out I carry the coeliac gene and the blood results that often indicate coeliac disease were significantly risen. 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body cannot process or absorb gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. In a person with coeliacs, gluten creates inflammation and toxins that destroy the villi in the small intestine which can lead to the malabsorption of nutrients, hormone imbalances, osteoporosis, anaemia and a bunch of other problems. If you would like to learn more about coeliac disease you can read about it HERE The genes for coeliac disease can switch 'on', and can be triggered to switch on by challenging health situations, like pregnancy and birth, illness, a virus and the like. Or it can just happen with no particular trigger. A person can live with coeliac disease for many years before getting diagnosed as the symptoms can be vague. Because it can come on insidiously, people learn to live with the symptoms and often put them down to other things, before they find the root of their problems. 

Now, in an ideal world one would remain eating gluten until after a specialist referral and bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. But the wait for a non-urgent biopsy is a minimum of a year in this area, and I'm yet to even find a specialist who has any space on their books for a new patient. The local health care system is under immense pressure which has been greatly exacerbated by covid. Because I was so sick, I have chosen to follow a strict gluten free diet and I can undertake a 6 week gluten challenge prior to a bowel biopsy closer to the actual date. 

So, for the last several of months I have been eaten a strictly gluten free diet and the change I have felt in myself is astounding. I was so sick I didn't realise how bad I was feeling as I had slowly done my best to adapt and just get on with life. My whole body ached with pain which I had put down to being unfit. Because I was so utterly exhausted all the time I couldn't see how I could get out and about to improve my fitness. But since cutting gluten from my diet I feel better than I have in a long while. No longer do I groan like a 90yr old arthritic woman when moving about. My energy levels are better than they have been for years, clothes that were too small have begun to fit again, my mind is clearer and calmer and my tummy troubles are gone. It can be a long slow process for the gut to fully heal, but as time passes I continue to see steady improvements in my health.

It turns out I'm incredibly sensitive to gluten. If I so much as eat something which has been contaminated by gluten I find myself back to being sick for three-four days. With headaches, full body aches, round the clock upset stomach and exhaustion. A bit like the worst flu but without the mucky cough and fevers. My food has to be prepared and cooked separately to any gluten containing foods. I can only buy certain brands of things like soy sauce which have a 'gluten free' badge on the label. No longer can we turn to the humble hot chook as a quick meal as the stuffing contains gluten and I suspect the seasoning on the skin does too. I tried to just eat the breast meat one day but got really sick.  

It means I need to read packets very carefully, I cannot eat anything thing which has "may contain gluten" in the allergen statements which can be tricky to work around. 

But all in all I am relived to have a probable answer to the health problems that plagued me much of last year, and possibly before. My blogging frequency picked up towards the end of the year, which was in direct correlation to my health improving. Of course I still get tired and run down, I have four children and we live on a farm after all! But it is now a far more 'normal' tired.

In the past I have not shared a huge number of recipes, preferring to link to recipes online. But I think moving forward I might share a little more about gluten free cooking and adapting our family meals to be affordably gluten free, as well as particularly good gluten free products like the very best gluten free pasta I have found which is pictured below. As a passionate lover of good pasta pre coeliac times, this brand of dried pasta makes my inner Nonna happy. Though it is not the cheapest pasta, I do think it is the best. I would much prefer to eat a little less of something and eat a better quality product. I am yet to nail gluten free home made pasta. 


Woolworths has partnered with Coeliac Australia and I generally find them to have a more extensive range of gluten free/gluten alternative products. Their gluten free choc mint biscuits are the bomb. I also shop for things like different flours at the health food/organic store. 

The difficulty with gluten free cooking is that gluten is the thing in flour that acts as a binding agent. It makes doughs bouncy and elastic, it stops biscuits and cakes falling apart. You can't really sub gluten free flour for plain flour in a recipe and expect similar results. They cook up quite differently. Gluten free flours are generally a mix of other flours, and because of that each brand differs. You can add a small amount of xanthin gum to gluten free baking which will help with holding/binding a mixture together so it acts similarly to gluten, though it's still not exactly the same. I find baking gluten free biscuits, brownies and slices pretty forgiving. 

Anyway, more on this later. For now the creek is calling us for a paddle. 
Much love,
Emma
xx 




preparing for uncertainty

It seems once again Australia is coming into a challenging period with covid. Our case numbers are very high and it's affecting supply chains and putting our hospital system under excess pressure. It is a very good time to stay home as much as possible, if you are able to do so, to do our bit to slow the curve and minimise pressure on the health care system which is groaning under the weight of it all. 


Once upon a time, children spent a huge amount of time at home. These days children do alot of extra-curricular activities and often 'go' to places to have fun. But play is children's work. Art supplies, walks to the local park/beach/bushlands, board games, puzzles and the like can keep children occupied without needing to go too far from home. I 

The government is quickly making policy changes to try and minimise food shortages, such as removing restrictions on truck drivers and the like, but none the less shelves are empty, meat shortages are predicted and no doubt many Australians are feeling anxious. 

If you are a single person, these restrictions may not be a real issue, but as a family of six with the same restrictions applied without exception, they can quickly become problematic. 

However, we are fortunate to have a reasonable stockpile to see us through. We are not peppers by any means, but we are a large family living 1hr20mins round trip from the supermarket. On top of that we live off-grid and sometimes we sometimes get flooded in for several days at a time, so we always keep a well stocked pantry.

If you are a daily shopper, try not to panic about the news we are hearing. It's not too late to change your habits and start a bit of stockpile to see you through. Take a deep breath and lets start planning. 
 
Firstly, look at the staples you use most. How much do you use? What do you look to grab? These are the things you need some spares of. Think of simple, nourishing meals you and enjoy and write out the ingredients you will need on hand to prepare them. Then when you go to the shops instead of only buying what you need for that day add an extra packet of rice, pasta, oats, a can of tomatoes, tomato paste, flour, sugar etc as you can afford too. These basics are cheap to buy and are versatile. They have a long shelf life too, so they won't go to waste.
 
Making Rhonda Hetzels meatballs from Down to Earth. Click HERE for the recipe. 

Things like onions, garlic, potato, whole pumpkin, apples, carrot and other root vegetables are long lasting items if stored well, which will provide you with goodness if you can't access other fresh fruit and veggies easily. That way you know you can still prepare nourishing meals for yourself and your family, even if you can't buy other fruit and vegetable items you usually would. 

Most recipes will require some form of oil or fat, so ensure you have a spare couple of blocks of butter on hand and the same for your oils of choice. 

When it comes to dairy we keep a box of long life milks in the cupboard at all times and a pack or two of powdered milk. Powdered milk is not great to drink, but it is perfectly acceptable in baking cakes and making pancakes etc. It can also be used to help make thickened yoghurt. Cheese can be frozen and if you buy a plain pot set yoghurt, it can be used as a starter for you to make your own at home really easily. 

There are meat shortages predicted, and already when we go to the shops the meat section is often nearly bare, so look at sections of the freezer that are less popular. Chicken thigh fillets with the skin and thigh bone intact is lovely seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and then browned in the pan and popped in the oven to cook through. They may look a little more daunting to cook, but I promise you it need not be complex. If you can, buy a little extra to pop in the freezer. Some cans of tuna/salmon can also be handy to have on hand and are shelf stable. Pepperoni or salami can pack a punch in a simple pasta dish or pizza, last a long time and a little can go a long way. 


Eggs are nutrient dense and are great for things like scrambled eggs, quiche, cakes, pancakes, and a huge assortment of meals. If you can't get eggs, did you know that flaxseed and chai seeds can be used in baking as an alternative? They also last a long time in the pantry so can be helpful to keep on hand just incase you run short. You can google quantities you need in baking if you are going to sub them for eggs.  

Now is also a great time to change habits and get to know your local butcher and green grocer. Because they specialise in one particular area, they will most likely have more contacts to local supply chains and who they can buy form. We are finding our local IGA is remaining better stocked when it comes to fruit and veggies then the bigger supermarkets because they have pre-existing relationships with local suppliers. 

These shortages are expected to last a few more weeks yet at least, and it seems the uncertainty surrounding covid is something we are going to have to continue to learn to live with and adapt to. It is tiring I know, and I suspect many people feel a deep sense of grief and loss of control about the whole situation. While we can't control the situation, we can often control how we react to it. We can ensure we are eating good nourishing food to keep our bodies as strong and healthy as possible. We can look after our mental health by staying connected to friends and family and if needed, we can seek external help via our GP or Beyond Blue has a whole range of resources available.  We can spend time in the garden, or in nature to help ground us and we can continue to make a conscious effort to look for the beauty within our ordinary day to day lives. Last night I cooked meatballs in a creamy sauce and chocolate brownies for dessert, which are some of my children's very favourite foods. The look of excitement and happiness on their faces as they tucked into their dinner and argued about who was going to eat the last meatball made my heart happy.   


However, do be mindful not to hoard food. There is a big difference between sensible stockpiling to ensure you can meet your families needs and hoarding food you're not actually going to use that others could. Being prepared is not an excuse for selfishness and we have seen throughout this pandemic that panic buying serves no one well.

I hope and pray you are well dear readers, how are things in your neck of the woods? 
Much love,
Emma
xx   




A new year on the farm


It's been showering on and off today and it's lovely and mild. The boys are in and out as they work on the shed roof. After three years I can't describe how good it feels to be finally getting the shed undercover. The iron for the roof was a very generous and unexpected gift from Grant's parents when they were visiting over Christmas. We will slowly line the walls with secondhand iron as we can afford it, but to have the roof on is going to be wonderful.


Having the shed done the shed finished is going to be a big milestone for us. It will mean we can put machinery, tools and building materials undercover. It will give us a place to store all the animals medications and items that isn't the yurt loft which is where it is currently crammed in. It will be wonderful to have everything neatly stored away, safe and accessible. It will mean we can clear out the space in front of the caravan which is an utter mess, as well as move the building materials from under the yurt and clear out the loft which will give the little boys more play space for their lego. Grants tools can finally have a home and he will have a dry, spacious workshop to use when it's hot or raining. Which considering we live in the sub-tropics, is a lot of the time. 


Most importantly it will allow him space to get the woodroaches up and running again properly. For those of you who are new to the blog, Grant breeds woodroaches which are a native cockroach. I know it sounds a bit weird, but think of it as farming on a micro scale. Woodroaches are a sensitive insect that naturally live among leaf litter in the bush. They like warm, humid conditions around 30-38C. They live in boxes filled with egg cartons, eat chook pellets and get their moisture from vegetables. He then boxes them up and sells them to lizard breeders and pet shops via Australia Post. When it's running well, it is a very good business. But since we have moved here we have not been well enough set up for them. They need a better insulated shed and a slow combustion wood heater to keep them warm in winter. We get very cold nights in our mountains over winter and the woodies can't cope. We are also struggling with various native animals that think Grants currently woodroach shed is an all you can eat buffet. 



An insulated shed with a cement floor will mean he can run his business well again. The extra money will mean we have a little breathing space financially to slowly complete the partially finished jobs like the bathroom, laying the flooring, improving lighting in the yurt, starting the fruit orchard and building a much needed undercover deck which will increase our living space enormously. As far as the farm goes, it will mean we can build fencing and shelter which will allow us to increase our livestock numbers and get this place up and running. Until now, these jobs have been on the back burner and we have been slowly chipping away as we can find a little money here and there. We can do a lot with not a lot of money, but we still need some. And raising a family, taxes, cars and the like take pretty much all of what we earn now. It's not been an easy 3 years financially to say the least. 



But, we have broken the back of this place, when we moved here it was totally bare. We now have a comfortable, perfectly functional little home and yard, solar, our first 10,000L header tank and the shed/workshop well under way. We have the beginnings of a nice looking heard of boer goats, chickens and a few steers. We have some animal shelters and portable solar electric fencing set up. We also have the excavator which allows us to clear fence lines and maintain our farm tracks. We need a post hole digger and a slasher attachment yet, but those will come in time as we can afford them.

We are not ones for new years resolutions as such, but we hope this year is a little less of a struggle for our family. That we can complete some of the big jobs we have started and focus a little more on family time and fun with the children rather than quite so much hard work. There will always be work on a farm of course, and we enjoy that. That is why we have chosen this lifestyle. But it is much easier to do jobs when you have the proper spaces set up from which to do them and when you can do them well from the outset, rather then constantly mending and making do with materials that are not really suited to the task at hand in the first place.




Well, I had best go. There is a sweet little girl demanding my attention! What are your hopes and dreams and plans for the new year? I’d love to hear them. 

Much love,
Emma
xx


Replacing bad habits with good

How was your Christmas dear reader? 



We have had family visiting from interstate for the last two weeks and it was really lovey. However, they have left now and life is back to normal. They took the boys for three nights into town and the break was wonderful. It felt so strange to be puttering about with just Grant, Elsie and I. There was also significantly less washing. Ha! 

Unfortunately, or perhaps inevitably, Covid has taken off here. Although those of us who can be vaccinated are, we are still concerned about the children so we are bunkering down on the farm. 

In farm news we have new life here with 9 baby chicks hatched out by two hens. Will's guinea pig had two babies and the three steers are growing well. Our goats are looking fat and healthy and baby goat is not long off matching his mother in size. He is a fat, greedy little fellow and really needs to be weaned, but she is a good patient Mum and has not yet kicked him off. I'm sure it won't be long. Good progress is being made on the shed. Grant is just finishing putting up the purlins and then he can begin to put the iron on the roof. Because he built the frame from hard wood felled from our forest, it was fiddly to get it all the beams notched out and level, but he is doing a very thorough job of it.


I have been reading a lot recently, in the aim of breaking aimless social media browsing. I think many of us can relate to such brain numbing habits in these uncertain covid times. It was beginning to leave me, more often than not, feeling less confident in myself and more and uncertain. In response to this I have been hitting Libby, a free library app hard. I have been focused on reading books that fill my tank and resonate with my sense of being. 

A book that had a real impact on me was 'Radical Homemakers; reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture' by Shannon Hayes. Have you read it? It's a wonderful book. I bought it on kindle, but it made such an impact I'm looking for a second hand copy in paperback. 

I came away feeling more invigorated and inspired to continue on this path of simple living then I have in a long while. It was a boost I needed after a long and hard year. It stirred all kinds of emotions in me around the difficulty of having a parent stay at home with their children. Childcare is not valued in this country, we only need to look at the poor pay child care workers receive to confirm this notion. Many duel income families can barely support themselves and live hand to mouth despite working hard. The idea of owning a home is a ludicrous pipe dream for many. Our world is not interested in supporting the family unit, it is only interested in how to maximise profit, consumption and growth. The narrative and that everyone to be "independent" is a farce and the stigma around asking for help is often seen as a source of shame rather than a logical path. 


A couple of the advent calendars I sewed for gifts, there was also doll clothes, stockings and Grant made a wooden bow with arrows for Angus and Henry. I hurt my ankle badly so I didn't get to all my Christmas sewing, but the boys understand it's on the way still.

Rather than nurturing community and family interdependence we instead rely on banks, credit cards and personal loans to keep afloat. All of which have various interest rates attached to them. The price of housing and rent throughout much of Australia, including many rural areas is, to put it quite plainly, appalling. Something which has not been helped by covid. House prices here have gone through the roof with a little 3 bedroom cottage in the closest country town to us fetching upwards of $650,000.  

But, if we can find the encouragement and drive to forge our own path many of us can lead a more sustainable, creative, resourceful life in some form or another. Which if you're reading this blog, I suspect this is a dream you share too. 

The book also talked about the home as a unit of production rather than being solely a unit of consumption, which resonated deeply with me. A place where quality food is grown and raised, items are made by hand and resources re-imagined to fulfil a new purpose. 

It reminded me to listen to the beat of my own drum. To stay on my own path, even though it might be different from those around me, and if you're wanting to live a life that's perhaps a little odd, it's important to have courage. We need to be secure enough to be able to listen to those with different experiences and ideas to us and say 'I understand what you're saying, that's not been my experience.' or 'This is the path 
I'm going to follow, it's ok we differ on this.' Rarely does getting defensive or offended get us anywhere. But by holding firm in what we believe, we can still get the message across of who we are and what we are about. Hopefully with our relationships with those around us intact.

With the noise of the world, it is easy to become sidetracked and lured into feeling the need to do more, to BE more. But I don't think all of us are created for a fast paced life. There are those that thrive in that environment and they adore being busy and out in the world. But I have come to learn over the years, especially the last couple, that I most certainly do not. I thrive in a quieter life. A life where there is room to create, to read, to process, to be out in nature. I love spending time with people 1:1 or on a small group. Large shopping centres are noisy and stressful. I find parties a bit of a nightmare. I like to cook meals for people I know they will love. The look of happiness on their face as they realise they are about too tuck into their favourite thing fills me with joy. 

A simple life doesn't mean a life without work, in fact I think in many ways it is just as much work or even more. There are animals to care for, meals to cook from scratch, thrifted items to source, gardens to tend and things to build, make and mend. But I think in many ways it can be a more connected life. A life where we know where what we consume comes from, where we barter with neighbours which builds community and independence. We live a life connected to nature and the seasons and we are aware of our impact on it, both the good and the bad. 


As this year comes to a close, these are the things on my mind and heart as we move into the new year. I don't think it is going to be an easy year again for many unfortunately. Covid continues to put pressure on people, the community and the economy. It seems the world economy is shifting on its axis as trade relationships crack under pressure and international relationships are either in a state of renewal or trouble, depending on the situation.       

A stark reminder that when it comes to the big picture, it can feel like we have very little control. But we can still vote with our dollars and our actions for the life we value. And that collective action has the power for transformative change. 

I hope this blog post finds you well. 
Much love,
Emma
xx 

A mindful Christmas

Its early morning here and everyone is fast asleep. The soft morning light is just beginning to peak over the top of the mountains. The kookaburras are cackling and the rooster is crowing. Theres a cocophany of bird noise coming from the bush. 


I have been unwell this past couple of weeks with a cold that triggered my asthma and I have struggled to shake it. But I am on the mend now, so I thought I would pop in to say hello. 

How are your Christmas plans coming along? Are you getting organised? 

Christmas will be a simple affair here this year, money is very tight so we are trying to be creative in what we give and also give gifts that are needed. The little boys need a new pair of leather work boots each, so I'll need to pop into town and get those from the local farm supply shop. They would like some headsets for their tablets too and a wooden bow and arrows with a quiver which we will make ourselves. Grant will make the bows and arrows and I will sew some quivers from some sturdy denim I have. The arrows are just play arrows with little felt balls on the tips so no one looses an eye. Along with some new summer thongs (flip flops) a book, some chocolates and perhaps a nice little rechargeable torch each. We always seem to loose torches! 

For Elsie we picked up a sturdy home made cubby from marketplace for free, It just needs the floor repaired and some paint. The boys will fix it up, build some little shelves and I'll make some bunting, curtains and some other bits and bobs to make it a sweet play space. That aside, I'm in the process of making her some clothes for her dolls. There will be some books, chocolates and a few items of clothing just so she has some presents under the tree too.

Elsie's cubby, structurally it’s really strong and well made. Nothing a little TLC and a lick of paint won't fix.

Will would like me to sew a couple of little carry pouches for his guinea pigs as well as his usual request for money. He will get a book, a few much needed items of clothing and some chocolate too. Because no one is ever too old for books and chocolates. 

Their stockings will be filled with a few little things like pencils, pens, notebooks, lollies, socks and jocks ready for the new year. 

When I was browsing online I found a simple pattern for some really gorgeous advent calendars with pockets. I'm in the process of whipping up a couple of them I’ll tuck in with a box of chocolates. With the right fabrics I think they will make lovely gifts for some important women in our lives. Advent calendar link

There are a few other little gifts to give, but the list is small.

It feels a little sparse this year, but the reality is we are not willing to go into debit over giving gifts. That is not what Christmas about and it won't add any joy to the occasion if we are stressed about money. Instead, we will make it special with curated, thoughtful gifts, board games, swimming in the creek, fairy lights and lots of delicious home made goodies. A gingerbread house, honey biscuits and home made fruit cake with thick white icing. We might even make some toffees, just for fun. 

I suspect for a lot of families this year, Christmas is already feeling like a burden and they are filled with dread at the thought. There have been extended lockdowns, job losses and decreased work hours for so many people. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to take a deep breath and let go of the commercial expectations of giving lavish gifts.  

I’m not going to lie, there are times I have been tempted to buy lovely things we can’t afford, but by avoiding online browsing and creating detailed lists I can usually overcome the temptation. I try to not buy anything on a whim, instead I might cart something and then come back to it in a couple of days time if I still think it’s going to be useful/appreciated. Generally, most things are forgotten about or I think of an alternative in the meantime or I find the item on marketplace. 

I can hardly remember what gifts I got as a child, but I do remember the joy of Christmas. The special food, the people, the decorations and most importantly the love I felt with everyone being together. There will be church services to attend, carols by candle light and of course seeing the Christmas lights which is always special here as the summer days are long the kids get to stay up extra late.    

I have ventured into the shops a few times, and goodness they are packed already. The plastic, single use junky items over flowing in abundance, usually marketed as a bit of “silly fun”. But it’s not fun. The resources for all the the items we see on the shelves have to come from somewhere, and at the end of the day when they are broken, they have to get dumped somewhere too. I always find this a sobering thought, and it helps me put items back on the shelf that I don’t think will really be loved, valued or well used. Supporting small, ethical makers is always a good thing to do if possible. As is buying items like clothing made from natural fibres so at the end of the day they can be composted. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for commercial toys, it just means they might not need 50 versions of a similar thing. 

Bebe’ goes on all kinds of adventures with Elsie. She also has a little plastic doll with a dummy she likes to take in the bath with her. 

If we think about why an item is special to us, it’s usually because we only have one of them, so carries a high value. Perhaps it’s a beautiful mug we use for our morning coffee, given by a friend. A tool, that used to belong to a father or grandparent. A doll or teddy that goes along on all childhood adventures. Items become important and precious to us because of the stories they hold over time. I want my children’s lives to be filled with stories, and for them to grow up valuing their belongings. I don’t excessive consumerism adds to either of these things. Instead, I think thoughtful gifts and time spent together with items playing a part is what creates the cherished memories we are all longing for our families and children to have. 

I’d love to hear how you create memories over the Christmas season. 

Much love,
Emma
Xx




     


How to earn money off a farm/homestead

I often see people that have just moved to a property or homestead and one of their very first questions they ask is; "What can we do to make money off our property?" 


I think that this question, for most people anyway, is the wrong one. Unless they have the financial backing behind them to develop a fully functioning farm right from the get go. 

A more appropriate question is; "What can I do to save money and while providing for my family?"

It is generally far easier to save money than it is to earn money. Sadly, it’s common to hear of people finally moving to their homestead/farm then going bust within the first 1-3 years. They spend all their money establishing infrastructure and rushing out to get the animals they have always dreamed of as well as setting up huge growing spaces to pursue their dream of self-sufficiency. The problem is this all takes time and money. They are forced to work full time to provide the finances for their endeavours and then they are left with no time or energy to maintain what they are building, which then wastes more money and it quickly becomes a vicious cycle. Before long, a huge percentage of new farmers/homesteaders find themselves struggling financially, disheartened  and worn out. Many people get themselves into such a dire predicament, they are forced to sell their dream within a few years. 

A far more sustainable approach is to first learn how to provide for yourself. 


A families weekly food bill is often their biggest expense. By taking control of that and learning how to replace store bought food with home grown food in a reliable and cost effective manner, is a great first step. Once this stage is achieved, excess produce/seedlings can be sold at a farm gate stall or sold via marketplace or at a local farmers market. Or bartered for with someone who is producing something you are not, bartering gives you the added bonus of learning about how to do something you are not yet doing in the meantime. The money brought in can then go into subsidising on-going garden costs and slowly improving infrastructure like saving for a greenhouse or a quality irrigation system on timers. 

I'm a big believer in mastering one thing before adding another. 

When buying animals it's essential to do the necessary research first and ensure you have the appropriate infrastructure in place before buying the animal. If you have never built a fence, you might be surprised to learn it's not necessarily quick and easy to build good, strong fences that will hold animals in. Some animals like pigs, goats and some breeds of sheep are notoriously hard on fences. And sure, you can milk a cow in a paddock, but on a cold wet morning she's still going to need milking. And if you can't seperate her calf off, you're not going to get much milk for your all efforts, not to mention you'll still have the expense of her feed costs. Aside from keeping animals in, you need to be able to keep predators out. A penned animals is a sitting duck to predators like wild dogs and foxes. Because wild dogs are a real threat here, we have Hagrid our Anatolian Shephard who lives with and guards our goats. He also acts as a general alarm as he can hear/see/smell a long way. He is a wonderful asset to the farm, but he has his own set of expenses like vaccinations, worm/tick treatment and a rather large food bill.  



Another thing to consider is all animals will need medical care, which can add up. A scouring or stressed animals may need electrolytes/scour medication and it will need to be separated off and kept warm with its own set of food and water. Animals will need occasional drenching, tick/mite care, vaccinating and perhaps antibiotics. Wounds will need to be treated and kept clean. Of course we aim to rotate our animals carefully with good pasture management practices to minimise the risk of worms and the like, but in our warm, wet climate barbers pole is a particuarly nasty parasite. The wallabies and native wild life carry it in despite good rotational grazing. 

Grain and pelleted food will need to be kept in rodent proof bins, and straw and bedding will need to be kept in a shed/shelters to keep it clean, fresh and dry. Until you can do this, you're not ready to add animals into the mix, no matter how impatient you are to do so. Getting them earlier than you are ready for will likely result in wasted money, time, frustration and potentially the loss of animal life.  
So if you're looking at getting a farm/homestead, or perhaps you are just starting out and wanting to do all the things you have ever dreamed of. Just pause for a minute and breathe. Think about what you can do with what you have right now, in this season and make that the focus. Then make a plan of what you want to do next, how much it is going to cost, and start to save before you dive into the deep end and find yourself unable to tread water. 

Take it one step at a time. Remember if you want to be living this life for the long haul, don't risk it all by rushing in to tasks and diversifying before you are ready. 

Much love,
Emma
xx

 

New Vlog on YouTube. Finally!

Well, I have been away far longer then I intended but I was determined to finish off our latest vlog before my next post. Hence the delay. 



I gotta say, I find it significantly simpler to write about our life here. 

Videoing can be blurry, there are animals and children to work around. The weather and light needs to be taken into consideration. Batteries die and memory cards fill up mid-filming. Then there is the editing process which is a whole other kettle of fish. It's ALOT to get my head around. 

Although I'm painfully slow at filming and editing, and I make a ton of mistakes before I get to the point of producing something remotely ok-ish to actually post, I'm very much enjoying the process of learning the ropes of this visual form of story telling. 

I also adhere strongly to the philosophy of done is better then perfect. 

It is easy to be paralysed by the desire to create something of perfection, to be scared to show our wobbly first steps to avoid potential embarrassment. But when we are authentic, I believe it encourages others to try the thing they want to try too. To step off the well worn path of what society shows us is 'success'.

We are surrounded by images of perfection today in a way no other generation has ever had to navigate. Of perfect homes, perfect colour-coordinated children wearing cute outfits, perfectly manicured gardens and cars. It can be a lot of pressure on people who are already prone to perfectionism to feel they have to keep up. 

However, that's not the life we have choosen, nor is it the life we lead. Money is usually tight, our cars are dinged up, our farm has about eleventy billion projects to do, There are piles of salvaged materials patiently waiting to be needed, our clothes are mostly thrifted, as are most of the things we buy. But our garden is green, our animals healthy, our children happy and our hearts full of love. 

And that, dear readers, I think is pretty good. 

Besides, if we live our lives in fear of what might go wrong, imagine all the things that might go right we would miss?

So, on that note, if you're interested in checking out the vlog the link is below. In this vlog we share parts of our ordinary days living on the farm off-grid in a yurt, the children, animals and a general update of what we have been up to. And you see plenty of a super cute, toddling Elsie.

I hope you enjoy this snippet of our lives!

Much love,
Emma
xx









A time for everything

Although we may have a couple of hundred acres, our garden area is comparatively small at this point in time. It's been a steep learning curve moving from the hot, arid climate of South Australia to our current growing climate in NSW. In our valley we get a sub-tropical summer and a temperate winter with hard frosts overnight. Learning what grows when has been hit and miss. In summer things grow like mad, including the weeds. In winter, frosts burn off any tender plants and growth grinds to a near halt. Though there are a few things like kale and spinach that remain reliable producers.  


But these spaces, though they are not huge, actually provide our family of six with a surprising amount of food. Things like herbs, asian greens, kale and spinach are incredibly generous plants. I just harvest the outer leaves as we need them and they continue to produce. Pinching out the flowers helps to prolong their productivity and likewise if you cut spring onions off at the base rather then pulling them out they quickly re-shoot. 

Every week I plant another 1-2 of punnets of seedlings to ensure we have a continuous supply. It's not the most frugal method of buying plants, but I can buy punnet of seedlings for around the same price as I can buy a bunch of kale, so it works out far more economical in the long run. And I'm supporting a local business at the same time.


In an ideal world I would grow everything from seed, and some things I do. But in this season with young children, livestock and living off-grid with a haphazard system, seeds are somewhat less forgiving. There is plenty of time for that in the future. We do not need to do everything perfectly all the time and I'm a big believer that giving things a crack is far more important perfection.

This garden for me is not about doing as much as humanly possible and building something I cannot sustain which then makes me feel like a failure that I'm dropping all the balls. (A feeling most of us can relate too I’m sure.) Instead, it is about slowly creating something that works for us, in this season of our lives. If I add one or two new garden beds and plant 2-3 fruit trees every year, then in 5 years time that's going to end up being a really substantial and well established garden.  And the process will have been enjoyable and workable around our lifestyle.  Sure, I could throw myself in and do all the things all at once, but I'm not sure that putting ourselves under enormous pressure and working around the clock is the most sustainable path to success. Instead, in my experience it is a sure fire way to burnout. 

It might be a surprise to think of burnout existing within the simple living/homesteading community, but it does, just as it is in any other group of people. Which sounds odd doesn't it? People jump into this way of life passionate about growing, preserving, sewing and making things. People want to produce their own meat, dairy, veggies and live off-grid. They want full freezers and shelves of beautifully canned goods. They might want to "stick it to the man” who ever that is. But then they get so busy doing all the things they eventually find themselves  just as unhappy, stressed and worn out as they were when they decided to start to simplify. 


And suddenly, simple living isn't that simple. 

They might rush into buying equipment they feel they need to meet their sustainable living goal, discovering with dismay the costs quickly add up and they have fallen down an alternative rabbit hole of consumerism. They might find they can't produce or sell their produce for the money they thought and the realisation on them dawns that it takes a huge amount of time and effort to produce anything well at all. Then throw in the uncertainty of the weather which can make or break us and it all gets too much and people find themselves feeling like they have failed their dream. 

It is a sobering thought.  

"Busy" is the modern day narrative to success and it takes work to unpack that mindset and§ pursue a gentler path. It's been my experience that the most profound and soul enriching experiences usually occur in the quiet. Sure God, (feel free to insert your personal spiritual lean here) can work in the busy, loud stressed and chaotic. But can we hear Him in that environment? I'm not so sure. And I'm less sure that we are meant too.     

There are many pieces of scripture which have impacted my life, but the following is one that I think of almost daily, and I think no matter what your belief system, it's stands as a beautiful and profound piece of writing.   


    There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.


I have found when I try to do all the things that are important to me all at once I end up stressed and feeling unless. Like I am failing at doing the things I feel so strongly about. But it doesn't necessarily mean that thing is something I shouldn't be doing or that I can't do, instead it may just be a thing I have picked up in the wrong season. The season for that thing still exists, it's just a little in the future. 

Gardening, simple living, cooking from scratch, establishing a farm or a homestead. These are all good things, but that doesn't mean they all need to be done at once. Perhaps in this season you plant a few pots of herbs near the kitchen, or source one garden bed in which to start to grow a few easy pick greens. Perhaps you might try and cut out one packaged item, like biscuits, and make your own most of the time. It's ok if you can only do it some of the time. Starting is the most important thing. Maybe its bringing your own bags to the supermarket for now and later on you might work out how to minimise more plastic packaging. Perhaps you might cancel one streaming service, or reduce your kids screen time 5 minutes at a time until it's at a place you feel happy with, that lies in with the life you want to be living.  


There are some people for whom huge sweeping changes work. But I suspect for many of us, maybe the majority of us, that making small steady changes work better. 

It is through many, many small changes I have found myself here today. Living off-grid, establishing a beautiful farm with goats, cows, chickens and veggies with my family by my side. Sure there have been a couple of big leaps of faith along the way, but the truth is that all of them first started with the little steps.


I wonder if you are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out? Is this a season in which you could, and maybe need to put something down? Or are you itching to live a life that seems unattainable? My encouragement today is to simply start where you are. To perhaps give yourself permission to try something a little different. 

Much love,
Emma
xx










 

And finally, new life

This little fellow was born in the wee hours of Saturday morning, safe and well much to our relief. The mother Coco is a gentle, attentive and patient mother. He wasn't the strongest or most energetic newborn which had us a little concerned, but with her patience and encouragement he is making beautiful progress and they have formed a strong bond. Phew! 


Starting our boer goat herd has been harder than we anticipated. There has been losses of a mother, stillborns and babies which has resulted in hours of futile round the clock care, research and adaptation. But this little fellow marks a new season of hope. That maybe, just maybe, we are past our initial bumps and a sign we might just be getting the hang of this goat herding thing.   

As I look around the farm I can see lots of examples of us settling into this place. Our first garden beds are becoming well established, the new trees we planted last season are shooting out, the animals are looking strong and healthy. I'm hoping to trial milking Coco as she has an abundance of milk to see if having a dairy animals is something we are ready for in this season on the farm. 


Our tiny home is becoming increasingly easier to live in, as we implement and improve our very basic systems.....Though hot water on tap would be nice. Or perhaps I am just getting used to this haphazard way of life. 

I'm finding the less time I spend in town the less time I'm wanting to spend there. Though it is always nice to head out for a cuppa and sit at the beach. When I'm not home on the farm my thoughts drift back to the animals, hoping the young ones are ok and that none have got them selves in trouble without us there to help. 

I love watching the kids out with the animals or marching through the bush with pocket knives in hand and plans of how they are going to build their next bush shelter. The TV show Alone is a big hit here. We are about into fire season which marks the end of their little campfires being carefully built in the bush, but soon the rains will come and that will be replaced by plenty of wading and sitting in the cool flowing creeks. It's school holidays for the next two weeks. The kids, perhaps tired by the never ending talk of covid and the upheaval of switching between home learning/lockdown and school are not their usual upbeat selves and all suggestions of non-screen activities have been met with unenthusiastic grunts which is unusual here. I guess like many adults who are feeling flat at the moment, our kids are not immune.


What free, hyper local activities are your families engaging in at the moment?   

On that note, I best get going. I have no intention of letting these kids spend the next week and a half on screens all day so it's time to muster up some enthusiasm. 

Much love,
Emma
xx  

      

 







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