A loyal old friend.

Yesterday we said goodbye to a loyal old friend.  He had been a big part of our family for 8 years and we rescued him from the pound as a middle aged dog.  He was the scruffiest, motliest dog there and he and Grant had something special from the get go.

His name was Barkely.  He has been by our side as our family grew from just Grant and I to being home to welcome our 3 boys into the world.  He moved house with us from being in the country on land to being in a unit in town, to our current suburban block, he even swam his way through a flood.  His fur has provided a soft place to cry for many a members of this family and has been there to give countless hugs and cuddles in both celebration and sadness.

Enjoying his last nights by the heat of the fire.....He never like to be inside did this silly old dog,  He wanted to be in his yard, patrolling it.  Except in his last days he finally allowed himself to rest his old, weary bones.  

He had a good innings did old Barkley.

Owning pets brings so many lessons to a family.  Responsibility, empathy, gentleness, a companion, friendship.  It also teaches that life is finite.  It will end.  We have used this opportunity to teach our boys about death.  To talk to them about their emotions and to let them sit in their sadness while they work out how to process it.  We let them see death as we brought Barkley home from the vet to bury him in our garden.  They patted him for a final time and saw he looked peaceful.  Death is not something town kids see much of.  But we believe it is important.  It is a reality of life.

Thanks old man, forever in our hearts. 


Blogs and things I love...

We are going to spend the weekend at home chilling out, resting between some odd jobs, pottering in the garden.....Max is my inspiration.  

So here are some blogs and things I have enjoyed or found interesting recently....

The first and my favorite simple living Blog.  So much useful, practical information here. 
Down to Earth

A friend of mine writes this blog. She is an Aboriginal woman returning to country and this documents her time.  The good, her history and the truth of the realities of living in a remote Aboriginal community. 
a dingo named gerald

I love the idea of living structures in the garden, here is a You Tube link of a woman who does it.  But it is certainly something possible on a small garden scale.  Its something Grant and I have played with the idea of in our garden.  
Building with willow

Great out door nature play ideas for the school holidays. 
50 nature play activities for kids

Want to know where your clothing comes from?  Some brands are not as good as you would expect.....
exploitative fashion retailers named and shamed

A blog of a young couple living simple and recently had their first babe.  
House of Humble

I love silly cat videos.....We all need a good giggle!
scaredy cats!

Soap making and sewing!

One of the things on my list to do for a long time is soap making.  I want our family to bathe in good quality, natural soap.  Free from artificial chemicals, poor materials and artificial scents.  Its certainly possible to buy beautiful soap but its quite expensive.  I love the idea of making our own soaps - say lavender and oatmeal for sore skin and to help relax using good quality essential oils.  Perhaps using essential oils to create invigorating soaps in summer.  Our skin is our biggest organ and it's important too look after it.  Grant also has psoriasis so I'm interested to see if completely scentless, simple, nourishing soaps help.

On Saturday Grant and the big boys went to a local footy game.  They were so excited!  Will wants to go to an AFL game but we think he needs to get used to local games a bit first.  Sitting still for long periods is not his biggest strength!  I think they need to find out when the local A-graders play.  Henry went down for a nap and I had an hour or so to myself and all the ingredients I needed so I finally got soap making! 

The recipe I used is from a blog called Down to Earth, by a blogger by the name of Rhonda Hetzel.  Its an fantastic resource of great information.  The link is HERE.  

The soap recipe is from her blog.  

I was careful to organize all I needed, lay newspaper to keep my surfaces, and myself safe from the potent caustic soda. (lye)  It all went hiccup free. 

Weighing the oils precisly and ensuring the temperatures of the lye and the oils are the same is essential in this simple process.

Here is the soap poured into a lined baking tin.  I might grab some silicon molds in the future but for now I just wanted to use what I had on hand to see if I wanted to set myself up for it properly.  Space is at a premium in our house.  I don't want things we don't love or use all the time cluttering it up.  Now I have done it, I know it is certainly something I would like to do again and implement it as a regular part of my "simple living" jobs.  

Here are my "rustic" hand cut soaps.  They may not be the most beautiful looking soaps but I have never been so excited to try a soap in my life!  and the beauty is in the inside so they say.  ;)

After my soap making session I was on a roll!  So I whipped up a quick peg bag as my old one was about to drop its contents on the ground at any stage - and you can garuntee it would have been on the ground, in the mud, at night if I had of put if off any longer.  I had some scrap fabric and an old machine lace doily I had in my draws from goodness knows where.  A peg bag may be boring but everything can be beautiful, yes?

And here is the finished bag and a basket of fresh rags I sewed up for cleaning.  I read something online about the synthetic fibre rags shedding and causing our tiny marine life huge problems and it highlighted the importance of aiming to use cotton cleaning cloths.  I'm not certain how much truth there is in it, I have not researched it any deeper but it makes sense and I do prefer natural fibers.  Its been rattling around my head since.  So 15 mins of boring sewing of some old towels I cleared out of my linen cupboard the other day and my conscience is clearer now Im moving to fixing this problem in our household.

Hope you have a wonderful day!

The sale of the shop update.

Its been a while since I have mentioned how the sale of our shop and Post office is going.  Here is a photo of her for those recently following along. 

We have been patiently waiting for the Chinese people to formally sign the contract who put it under a verbal contract but it seems, after much deliberation they have cold feet. 

So Grant and I discussed it, and we decided to take it off the market, to put solar on the roof, perhaps investigate a few smaller items to help increase the turn over.  Like a coffee machine, a hotdog machine, popping a table and chairs in the window and some tables outside.  (which we did have but are broken.) And then as always, refining the shop in general which is an on going process of assessing whats working, whats not. 

We decided we would focus our efforts on buying a small acreage near the shop.  That we would make the farm focus small scale farming like expanding and growing Grants bug business, heritage chooks for the local pet market and also veggies which we could perhaps grow for markets but also for our own shop.  We planned to bring in a rotation system to tie them all togeather to make our land as healthy as possible.  We figured we would do it part time and continue to grow the shop.  It is a good, solid little business after all.  

But as fate would have it we hit nothing but hurdles when trying to arrange implementing these changes.  We had sourced some things that were a good price, found a place we could rent a re-furbished coffee machine from which saved a big outlay and we could see if it was worth it prior to investing into it.  No one was answering, or responding though and poor Grant was getting mighty frustrated. 

Then our agent rang and told us an indian businessman was very interested.  He had sent him the figures a couple of weeks ago and not heard back.  Then he happened to ring just as we had taken it off the market. 

So our real estate agent gave him the hard line of explaining we had decided to keep it, that we were happy to keep it, that we had been messed about, that there was NO negotiation on the price.  Then called us and apologized and assured us to send him away if that was what we wanted, but we don't mind.  He rushed down that very day to walk through.  It seems he and his business partner have bought a couple of stores like ours and turned them into IGA's.  He seems a very knowledgeable fellow according to Grant, and certianly seems to know what he is on about.

So here we go again! 

I must admit it is a little frustrating not knowing what we are going to do with our lives and being left to hang for such long periods of time.  But I have much comfort in knowing God has a plan for our lives and he will put us where he needs us if we let him.  So we are being called to be patient.  Again.

But in this time I have come to realize I really dont think I want to move interstate.  I want to watch my neices and nephews grow.  For our families to know their families.  I'm so invested in my church and its growing in such a wonderful way, I feel I really have something to offer there in helping encourage that growth.  The healthy growth of a church, where generations combine and truly know each other.  To help it to become a strong, healthy "village" if you will.  I love our weather, Bible collage is an inspiring place to be if I go down that path.  Friends, the community so much I love. 

So perhaps this is the reason it is talking so long to sell.  Because God is not calling us to move.  Perhaps we are being called to stay and we needed the time to see that.  Only time will tell, and we are exploring that.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Working with children.

Its so important to get children involved in the daily work around the house.  Though the reality is it can be slow, messy, and sometimes tedious!

But none the less, I REFUSE to be a mother who molly coddles her sons.  We want them to grow up to be good, strong, practical, kind, generous men.  We do not want them to be big boys who shave.  Because, quite frankly, there are far too many of them about.

The boys tidy their rooms, open curtain, put things away, cart wood, garden, help look after animals, wipe cupboards, the list goes on.  Explaining why we do things to them as we do is an important part of the process.  They don't really get pocket money yet, only occasionally if they work especially hard.  But it is just part of being in our family.  Work is life, it's just what we all need to do.  But they are pretty content and they rarely ask for things.  

We openly talk to our children about money, we always re-assure them we have enough but we explain that their guitar and footy are expensive luxuries.  We explain because we choose to spend money there, we choose to private school Will, that we don't always have money for some of the other things they want.  They have a good understanding of it too for their ages, they don't panic, but when I say, "sorry guys, not this week, we have too many bills" they are just fine.  It makes the special trips to the movies and the odd treats all the more exciting!

Tonight we bough hot chippies and gravy from the local take away shop and they boys had a feast for $11.  Simple pleasures go a long way.   

But anyway!  This morning we made washing liquid.  I have made it many times before but not recently.  My boys are grubs, I struggle to get it to get the tough stains out.  But for what ever reason, perhaps as we tighten our budget with a tough economy and the business slwing a little over winter, I got inspired to try it again.  Though I used more soap, and I use grated SARD soap.  Not as green as velvet no doubt, but none the less I find it more effective. 

Henry supervising me grate the soap.

Pouring the liquid into clean milk bottles.  It's always messier with children helping!  Excuse the PJ's, the boys woke up absurdly early....I do dress them, I promise.....most days!

Making labels with instructions so everyone knows how much to use....(Grant I'm looking at YOU buddy!)

The finished product with Henry telling us all about it.  

Then it was time to tidy up, make school lunch, and get on with our usual morning routine.

Once Will was at school I tackled the linen cupboard.  I saw this blog post HERE on keeping matching sheets together in the cupboard.  It has popped up a few times on various sites I visit. so this morning I decided something needed to be done about my exploding linen cupboard and pulled my finger out and stopped procrastinating.

Look - space!!  I know, not much of my linen matches, its not color coordinated, but it's clean, warm and dry.  Frankly no one in this house cares for anything more, and none the less its REAL.  Im a REAL Mama, in a REAL home on a REAL budget!  

A pile of bits I later sorted to either donate, make into rags, or send to Grants shed for work rags. 

 So that was my morning - exciting stuff!!  HA!  Oh how life has changed, and I wouldn't have it any other way.   


A home day.

Today I am ment to be at church helping with a mothers group.  But instead I am at home.  Little Henry has a little blood in his nappy yesterday that appears like it is innocent, perhaps some sore, irritated skin somewhere we cannot easily see.  He has gone to the GP for a thorough check and specimens have been taken and tested and they have come back clear so it is a matter of trying to keep that area as comfortable as possible.  He has been very bothered by it when he wees.  Last night was long, today we are all tired. 

Im am pleased to be at home.  The fire is burning, we are playing duplo on the rug, reading books.  The lounge has clean washing scattered about in various states of drying. Our home is not a show home, it is real and functional, welcoming and cozy.  There is always time for a cuppa here!

Loading up the fire first thing this morning, there is just enough coals left to light it.  It needs emptying, the harth sweeping but not today.  It is still dark out.  

Dinner tonight will be roast chook, pulled from the freezer bought on special and potato with pan gravy, and fried cabbage with bacon, fennel seeds in butter.  I love this as a side dish, its seriously yum.  Oh and lots of salt and pepper.  Bacon, butter and salt - what could be better?!  Clearly I'm not a blogger who is all about whole, raw foods! I'm a comfort food kinda a cook.

Defrosting on the bench, I know they say you shouldn't, but my mother did, my grandmother always did and so do I.  The cabbage was bought from the markets, super fresh.  The chooks will love all the tough outer leaves.  I love that about chickens, the ultimate recyclers.  Then you get manure for the garden in return, and eggs.  Except ours are slack and past laying.  We really need to deal with them.  Though we will replace them with a variety of heritage chooks.  

There was nothing extraordinary about today, I pottered about, gave the bathroom a quick scrub.  The smell of eucalyptus oil and vinegar was refreshing.  Its funny how over times my idea of "clean" smells have changed now.

Henry and I spent some time discussing his animals, I love his little crochet slippers I bought from an beautiful old Granny at some markets.

"COW!"  He exclaims with delight as he finds the animal I was asking for.  This kid is so full of beans and mischief I wonder where he gets it from.  

Between the sleepless nights and resulting cups of coffee, loads of washing, noses wiped, bottoms changed, games played, books read....I know these days will soon be passed.  In their simple, small delights and their challenges.

Henry hoards books in his bed, he cuddles them nightly.  Children are strange creatures, but what a delightful hobby to have.  Together we stripped his bed and re-made it, he loves to help, though is the best at all my children of creating a gigantic mess as he does so!  

I often think I suck at being a SAHM.  I'm too often irritable, and not energetic enough to keep up with my rowdy boy tribe!  But then there are kisses too steal, soft chubby bodies to breathe in and tickles to be had, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  There are so many moments of joy and beauty in my days that fill my heart, in even the most ordinary of days.


Our old van!

A few months back we went on a random road trip and bought a beat up old Franklin caravan.  Im sure I blogged about it but I cant seem to find it now!  She was $1000, rough and needing a whole lot of TLC.  Most things my husband buys tends to buy do so I have gotten used to his crazy hair brained plans and find life is much more interesting if I go along with them.  

So after many hours of repair work, rebuilding, painting and welding she is ready enough to use.  There is more work to be done, small jobs really but the bulk of it is complete.  We painted her green and white to keep it bright, airy and fun, the laminate cupboards were chipped and damaged so it really needed it.  Grant built the bed frame which is a full queen and it has hydrolic hinges so the storage under it is easilt accessible.  There is heaps of room under the bed.  Its where all the camping gear like tarps, BBQ, chairs, outdoor table and so forth fits.  I also have a clothes horse/pegs etc so the van is fully set up ready to be packed at a whim.  I whipped up some curtains from some rubber backed curtain fabric I found at $7.0/m which toned in nicely.

Here is Grant working away.  He spent many late nights out in the cold.  

The queen sized bed, which has space around the sides and hydrolic hinges to help it lift with ease.  We will pop a bit of storage in and there is also a gap for Henry to have a little mattress that links up to ours. 

Busy sewing curtains - I got off lightly in this project!

A family member had a little old aircon we installed for free which is excellent for powered sites and also my parents were getting rid of an old queen mattress we grabbed for it.  We just bought bits and peices as we could every week and eventually it all got done!  We estimated we spent a total of about $2500 on it and it wont take many weekends away to get our value out of her!

old reclaimed timber tops for the benches.  One side lifts up and it houses a little grill and electric stove top. 

The dining area with the origional cushions.  Grant build a new table out of ply and when it drops down it makes a bed the size of a king single so both the bigger boys fit with ease. 

The old stove and grill was in good nick, she just needed a bit of a scrub and she is as good as new! 

I plan on having everything in her ready to go.  Fresh, clean linen in big plastic tubs washed and put away after every trip, all the bits and bobs so all we have to do is grab some clothes, some food and we are ready to go!  We look forward to many weekend adventures exploring our local parks and forests with the boys. 

We did our first little trip away on the weekend.  It was a great little trip.  We took it gently and stayed in a caravan park by the river.  I even got an en-suite site, which was a luxury but totally worth it!  It made for a gentle introduction into camping and caravaning.  When we were younger Grant and I used to lots of rough and ready bush walking trips and camping but since we have had children we have gone for long weekends away in simple holiday houses for the ease.  Frankly we have been too tired to manage much else!  But as the boys grow older life gets easier and we are ready to explore these options. 

Goodness the time away did both Grant and I some good.  I cant say it was a relaxing trip, nor did I get much rest but despite that I have come back energized and ready to face the world again! 

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