Weekend reads

Finally school holidays are here!  I know not every parent exclaims this with such delight when the school holidays come, but this week has been full of colds, asthma and grumpy attitudes.  We are all well overdue for a change in routine.  I'm looking forward to the slower days of holidays with time for trips to the beach, and bush-walks.  This weekend we will be spending time with family, I hope you manage to take some time to look after yourself and fill your tank this weekend.

Here are some links that caught my eye this week or that are old favorites.  I hope you enjoy them.

Oh and blogger has gremlins in it for me today, so the links are high lighted in pale green.

(I love this photo Will captured of Aggie, her brindle is really showing up in it!)

Zen Habits
When fear is stopping you from perusing meaningful work.


 Jembella Farm
Sally is a dear friend I met through the blogging world and I just love her blog.  Its so packed full of wonderful, practical information written with a deep sense of kindness and warmth.  I can attest that sitting in her beautiful farm kitchen, surrounded by the heat of the wood oven, with a hot cuppa, with fresh milk from Lavender, eating toasted sourdough is really as marvelous as it looks in her photos.

She has a ripper two series post on how she perfected her sourdough loaf.  Her tips have greatly improved my loaf.
Part one
Part two


Mr Homemaker
I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane by Mr Homemakers, as he shared memories from his grandmothers era.


No Spend Year

This is a really interesting Ted talk by Michelle McGagh is the author of the No Spend Year - How to spend less and live more.  Though most of us will never go to the extremes of not spending for a year, she shares some interesting and valuable insights about what she learned, and many lessons we can adapt to apply in a way that can suit our own lives.


Pacific Yurts
Another interesting You Tube link about Yurts.  I am not affiliated with this company in any way, but they are the company we have chosen to go with for our yurts on the farm.  They have an excellent reputation, they are highly competitive on their pricing and their communication has been second to none and extremely thorough throughout the entire process to ensure the product we have ordered is suited to our needs.  



6

The realization

Recently I blogged about the the power of egg custard, and how by making it from scratch triggered me to question what we were eating and how I could make other simple changes to our lives.

But whilst that was the first real "step" if you will into living a simpler, slower and greener life, I was already onto the path of questioning.

You see, in December 2011, a serious flood came through our home which deemed our house inhabitable and where we lost nearly all our possessions.  At the lowest point of our home the muddy, septic filled water was 1.5m high.  William was 3 at the time and I was 34 weeks pregnant with our second child.

We were left displaced, with only a few boxes of our most precious belongings and a couple of suitcases of clothes.

By the grace of God our friends and families rallied around us to pick us up and dust us off, we found a nice rental home to move into whilst we sorted out our lives and welcomed our second son, Angus into the world.

(photo credits this post go to Will.)

I worked like a mad woman to create a "home" for our family.  I was like a pregnant, nesting woman on steroids.  I re-bought all the things we had lost, and upgraded things into better quality where I could.  I thought once I had made our home lovely, and got the nice bedroom suite that eventually a sense of "enough" would settle upon me, contentment.  Something.  I thought that when everything looked "normal" the experience of the flood would be behind us.  That the gaping hole I was trying to fill would eventually become full.  I bought more, new clothes for us all, new toys.  But still the empty feeling in my chest remained.  I knew we were lucky, we had a beautiful family, we had a warm, safe and comfortable home to live in, we had almost adequate insurance.  I can't tell you how many people said they wanted to be in our situation because they would love to buy all new stuff.  (just a hint, don't say that to someone who has lost everything.  It's not at all helpful.)

Until one day it dawned on me....If I couldn't be happy without these things, I would never be happy with them.  Because things can never bring us the kind of happiness that lasts.

I realized I wasn't going to fill the hole I felt by creating a beautiful home out of the lovely things I was buying.  That stuff wasn't going to give me the deep comforting feeling of "home" I was so desperately looking for.  It wasn't going to erase the unsettling realization I had little control over the big things in life.  Mother nature would do what mother nature does, storms will happen.  Both metaphorically and in real life.  I had no control over the flood just as I had no control over the virus that attacked my heart late last year.  When it comes to what truly matters, control is an illusion.   


Once I realized this....I was left looking, searching for more.  I stumbled across a blog about living simply, and through it I discovered other blogs and books.  Through them all I learnt about slow living, mindfulness, minimalism, sewing, gardening.  I discovered beauty in the things I had right in front of me.  I took the bits and pieces that resonated with me and slowly weaved them together to forged my own path.  A path that continues to grow, change and evolve today.  I re-discovered a faith I had put to the side many years ago as I wasn't given the theological foundations for it to grow with me and I nurtured it.  I loved being at home with my children and realized when I challenged myself to continue to grow that being at home was not at all dull, nor boring.  Shopping was boring, consuming mindlessly was boring.  But being at home could be challenging, interesting and deeply fulfilling, and after much consideration I made the leap to do it full time.  Something that I do not always feel the outside world sees as a valuable choice when a person leaves their career to stay at home.  (I also recognize that being able to stay at home is a privilege, and not a choice that is an option for everyone, nor a choice everyone wishes to make.)

In staying at home I learned to improve my cooking skills, I learned to make soaps, I became better with our finances, I learned to garden and grow food, I learned to sew, I became more aware about environmental issues and the things I could do in my own life to live greener.  I re-discovered a love of writing which I have channeled into this blog.  I started my BA Theology, and who knows where that will take me.

But most importantly, through living more simply, slowly and mindfully I learned to take notice of the beauty that was in front of me.  To truly see it.  I realized the power of thankfulness, of gratefulness and of contentment.  I saw the importance of being fully present.  Slowly the empty, hollow feeling in my chest began to fill up.


I have been blessed to find deep and authentic friendships, both old and new.  I love that I have the time to open up my home, and have people come for a cuppa or gather around the table for pizza, it is such a beautiful thing.  People are meant to be in relationships with each other, we are not meant to do this things called life alone.  Yet when we are too busy, when life is constantly rushed and frantic we simply can't.  We find all our time is spent paddling madly to just stay afloat.   

When we are living at a frantic pace we often consume more.  We don't realize that when we are shopping we are not just buying an item, but we are instead trying to buy the life we want to be living.  Weather it be shiny and expensive, or that we want to be sitting around a table with our friends in a warm and inviting home.  The meaning is not in the items, it never has been.  The meaning in the living.

At some point we need to stop buying the recipe books, and the dinnerware for the lovely dinner parties we are going to have "one day" and actually open our doors and invite the people in.  Until then the stuff we so lovingly collect is meaningless, and the hollow feeling will remain.  Once we start to actually do the things we say we value, that is when the gap between the lives we are living and the lives we want to be living will begin to narrow.

The power is in the doing.  My encouragement today is to look at something you want to be doing, even if it is small, consciously carve out a space to nurture it and to take a step towards it, even just a little shuffle.  Just one step, and tomorrow?  Take another.

Much love,
Emma
xx




16

And then he was 11.

11.  How did that happen and where did the time go?

For 11 years I have been blessed to call this young man my son.



His kindness and empathy for others astounds me.  He has a wisdom often far beyond his years.  He has patiently stood by me as I fumble and bumble my way through this motherhood gig.  Always forgiving me quickly when I bugger it up, always a companion by my side when we are knocking about the place.  He is a lover of all animals, a warrior for justice and deeply generous.  A kind and loving big brother who is everybody and any bodies friend.  And if it involves being someones friend in the middle of a lesson he should be concentrating on?.....Well, he is up for that too. 

Its can be difficult to try to parent slowly and mindfully in today's modern world.  We live in a time where children are constantly bombarded with all the latest "must haves".  Branded clothing, ipads, gaming consoles....the list is extensive and endless.  Advertising specifically geared towards children is everywhere.  Whats more, branding and gaming companies use various psychology tactics in their advertising strategies to manipulate our kids so we as adults will cave in and purchase their goods.

But as much as modern media and the consumerist industry would like us to believe, we don't actually have to step into giving our children everything.  They don't "need" it at all.  It is so important for all of us to learn to be content and enjoy what we have, to learn to value the important things in life and this is a lesson that starts with childhood.  It's our job as parents to do our best teach our children this, as we our selves navigate our way through life.  It's OK if there are bumps in the road, consistency and continuing to put what we value in the center of our lives is key, even when we wander off our path and find ourselves walking to the beat of someone elses drum. 

The reality is that most of our life is made up of completely ordinary, everyday moments, with a few spectacular ones scattered throughout.  It's when we learn to appreciate and find deep contentment, even enjoyment in the ordinary that we can live a beautifully meaningful and fulfilling life.  From this point the extraordinary moments like celebrations, a new job, reaching a goal or what ever else it may be, are simply the cherry on top of a life that is already happy and well lived. 


Home made pizzas with friends and birthday cake.  

This year we wanted to acknowledge Will is in fact growing up, his tastes are changing we do parent a little differently.  This doesn't mean we do it better.  But each family has its own values, and goals its working towards which is what makes this world such an interesting place.

We simply walk to the beat of our own drum which means ipad time is heavily limited, as is what the boys are allowed to do on it.  Instead we favor things like bush walks, trips to the beach and camping.  I'm not remotely interested in motorbikes (I worked in ED.  Enough said.) I don't mind the kids having a few brand name clothes in the form of a cool cap and sneakers but our budget simply doesn't stretch that far, nor does my interest in spending mountains on children's clothing.  The boys do play Grant's old Atari occasionally (old school Mario Brothers all the way!) but we don't actually want them in front of screens any more then they are.  I don't see the benefit and instead see the fighting, the tears and the anxiety it causes as well as a general decline in attitude, which is backed up by extensive research. 

But I also recognize Will is in a bit of an awkward transition.  We wanted to give him something really special, that would allow him to tread his own path, acknowledged his maturity and which had the ability to grow with him.  The solution?  A beautiful entry point DSLR camera.  We hesitated on the price, I'm going to be honest.  But the camera is both his Christmas and birthday pressie from us and a joint gift from all the rellies who put money towards it.  After much discussion, this is what he decided he wanted and it was something Grant and I knew he could enjoy for years to come that tied into our values.  Nature?  Tick.  It will take him outside into nature and out exploring this amazing world we live in, challenging him to really "see" it.  Technology?  Tick.  Not only with the camera but when it comes to editing photos later.  Cool factor? Well, obviously.

One of our birthday traditions is going to the zoo, a perfect place for Will to use his camera.  

Photography is something he has always loved and he has well out grown the simple cameras he had handed down to him.  I love its a hobby that can grow and change with him.  Its one present, which means it wont add clutter and its a good quality item meaning it will last until he wants to upgrade.  (If that time comes.)


And it has been a total hit!  He is SO proud of his new camera and it is constantly in his hands.  In fact most of the photos in this post are ones he has taken, the exception being the three he is actually in.  I think I have found a new photographer for my blog!  I'm looking forward to learning about how to use it with him, and to the places we will go while he develops this hobby of his.





It is so important to stop and acknowledge these milestones.  Even if they do fall in amidst end of term-itis, sniffles and school concerts!  

Much love, 
Emma
xx
19

Weekend reads

This week has been full, appointments, school concerts, kindy art shows, jobs, and various other coming and goings.  But somewhere in there I made a Facebook page.  If Facebook is a platform you use and would like to join me there you are most welcome!  It will be a place I link to the blog as I write new posts, as I know not all people have a blog list which automatically updates like mine.  (My blog list is huge, though only the 10 who have most recently posted are shown in my sidebar. They automatically rotate up or my list would go on forever.) I will also link little snippets of our days and various interesting articles from other bloggers and sites there I feel are relevant to the topic of living a slower more mindful life.

I have read, and noticed things have a slowed in the blogging world as many people favor Instagram at the moment, but there are many small time bloggers who find the ever shifting and changing algorithms of Instagram baffling.  There remains a wealth of knowledge, encouragement and beauty in the blogging world.  I hope this new Facebook page will give me a chance to support and share other bloggers valuable work and help my blogging colleges get their important work out there. 



A Simple Living Facebook page

The Minimalists - 1 in 10 out rule
We all need to consume things.  But when we are decluttering and simplifying it can feel like one step forward and two steps back.  I loved this concept.

A Ted talk on what makes a good life, based on an amazing long term study by Harvard.  HERE

A local family who has done the big shift to tiny living, read about them HERE  
and on Facebook HERE

A gorgeous American couple who live in a beautiful Yurt.  Watch them on You Tube HERE

This is the company who we have just ordered our first 30ft yurt from, we will later be adding a 20ft or 24ft one which we will convert into bedrooms for the boys.  They show the construction process which is really interesting to see.  Check it out on you tube at Pacific Yurts

Well it is a long weekend here and the sun is shining.  May you have the most wonderful weekend and are able to sit and enjoy some time to do the things that fill your tank.  

Much love, 
Emma
xx


18

The power of custard

Its funny the things that can trigger a massive life change isn't it?

Sometimes those triggers are obvious.  A health scare, a change in family circumstance, a new job or a new baby.

For me, it was custard.

Yep, you read that right.  Custard.  It was about 6 years ago when I read a blog post from Rhonda at Down to Earth with a recipe for a simple egg custard.  I can’t find the exact post now.  But it contained vanilla, milk, sugar, cornflour and eggs in a pot simmered over the stove with a whisk for a few minutes.  I was surprised.  No double boiler, no instant custard powder, you didn't even need to separate the eggs.  Apparently it was super easy, simple and quick.  What??  I had been told my entire life that egg custard was a pain to make, a tedious thing.  All the women I knew used custard from a carton, even though they were all very good home cooks.  Upon this discovery I decided to give the recipe a try.  It was then I made a life changing realization...

Custard is not the deep yellow I had come to know.  It is creamy in colour.

Perhaps that shouldn't have come as such a shock, but it did.

Home made custard.  6 years later it's still a favorite.  

Of course I knew on some level that some food contained colours, flavors and preservatives, but it had never dawned on me until that moment the extent at which they did.

This new knowledge triggered me to begin to question all the foods we were eating, I realized that many of the things I was using as a "short cut" were full of things I didn’t want to be serving my children.  Slowly and surely I began to implement changes to the way I cooked, growing more confident in using fresh herbs and spices, learning how to add depth and flavor to my dishes by putting a little more time and effort into my cooking.  It wasn't even a lot of extra time, I mean I was already in the kitchen.  I had been conned into thinking these “short cuts” were saving me vast amounts of time, but the truth is they weren’t.  At most it was a few minutes of prep time, if that.

I discovered after one week of cooking every thing from scratch that the “short cuts” (which weren’t really short cuts at all) were the thing that was making Angus, who was a baby so damn miserable.  I was trying to do the right thing by feeding him what we were eating, together around the table.  He was eating casseroles with fresh meat and veggies, spaghetti bol, and a good variety of dishes I would prepare for our family.   On the surface we looked to be eating a healthy, well balanced diet.  One week after cutting all colours/flavors/preservatives and cooking everything we ate from scratch he was sleeping through the night.  He had even stopped his strange head banging he had started to do out of irritation.  It was a revelation, not only were these additives unnecessary but they were in fact HURTING my child.

From there my desire to live more greenly and simply grew and branched out into other areas.  Green cleaning, making laundry liquid, soap making, baking, gardening, fermenting, preserving and sewing are all areas I have explored and continue to implement in our families day to day life. 

A few of my favorite simple living books, and my home journal.  

These changes slowly began to propel us in a different direction.  My days started to take upon a new rhythm.  I found meaning and importance in the tasks I had previously considered dull.  I realized there is a huge amount of value in the work I was doing at home not only for our family but that it was better for the environment.  I discovered a deep sense of joy and satisfaction in making my home a place people could drop into at any time.  That there was always a cuppa to be had and something in the sweet tin to enjoy.  Around the kitchen table we talked about the guts of life, the kids doing their thing in the background.

Bit by bit over the years we have added to these changes, Simplifying our lives, de-cluttering, and changing the way in which we consume.

Now we are about to embark on a brand new chapter of moving to our farm 18hrs away in NSW.  We will be learning how to live totally off grid, starting out in yurts.  To those on the outside it sounds like a huge transition, and in many ways it absolutely is.  I would be lying if I didn't say I'm a combination of excited, apprehensive and anxious about how we are going to pull this whole move off.  But it is also just another step on the journey to simplicity and living a greener, more sustainable life.

And it all started with a simple egg custard recipe.

My encouragement today is to remember that the little changes matter, even the seemingly insignificant ones.  Each small change we make in our lives has the ability to propel us in a direction we might not be able to even begin to imagine.

Much love,
Emma
xx
20

Quick getaway.

It dawned on me in the middle of last week that a Church camp had unexpectedly crept up on us!  So we threw some bedding and bits and bobs in the old caravan for a quick get away with friends.  We are getting pretty good at getting away now, though I have come to the firm conclusion I do prefer bush camping rather then being cooped up in a caravan park.  Its what I grew up doing and whilst a caravan park is convenient.....It does lack the soul of being out in the bush, surrounded by nature without another person in sight.   

We stayed at a small caravan park in Port Pirie and spent a couple of days exploring the Southern Flinders Rangers.  The scenery was truly spectacular and we spent most of our free time bush walking and 4WDing, making the most of exploring all the local landscape had to offer.     



Aggie had a blast exploring with us, scrabbling up rocks hot on the scent of all kinds of wildlife.  She was rather dismayed to be on a leash the whole time I think!  






 I love that camping invites slowing down and playing games. 

This fellow is ultra competitive.  He lost this game.  Hence the photo....bahahahah!

Much love, 
Emma
xx
16

Small, natural and mindful gifts.

I have been listening to a really lovely pod cast recently called "Dispatch to a friend"  HERE The podcast is about two dear friends who write to each other and share the news of their daily lives.  They then read out the letters on the podcast and chat about them in more detail, its a beautiful insight into their friendship.  Listening to it triggers some kind of warm nostalgia for slower times.  They talk about farming, baking cakes, family and a myriad of other topics as it takes their fancy.  It's just the loveliest show to listen too and I highly recommend you check it out.  

The idea of actual letter writing captured my imagination as a result I was inspired to hand write a few letters to dear friends and make a little care package or two, though it seems my letter writing skills need work and my handwriting is as messy as a 10yr old boys, made more apparent by the beautiful paper I was writing upon.  Ugh!

This thought was spurred on by a young friend who sent me a picture of a rainbow he had drawn.  I quickly sewed him up a little Waldorf gnome, blue in his favorite colour along with a little rainbow cape from fabric I found hidden in my stash.  I mixed up my friend a few rollers of essential oil blends I thought she might like, and of course I couldn't ignore her eldest son, so I wrote him a note too.  I didn't think he would be so keen on super gnomes mind you as he is a little older, but I know he will enjoy the oils also.  



This little gnome is made from all natural fibers and stuffed with wool and lentils so he feels good to squeeze.  Perfect to fit in a pocket.  


I have always loved essential oils and usually have them diffusing in the cottage with one blend or another.  I recently bought the most beautiful beginners kit from Young Living Blending up little unique roller blends is just lovely, and makes for a simple and thoughtful gift.  I have made some for Will to help him sleep which he finds helpful, and have made my own uplifting blend as a natural substitute for perfume.

Well that's all for now,
much love,
Emma
xx


14

A completely ordinary morning.

An slow and completely ordinary morning, among the mess of daily family life.  There is endless beauty in the familiar.  





An actual letterbox, for our actual farm.  Can you quite believe it? 

Much love, 
Emma
xx



16

Spring time in the garden.

Well its spring time here and warmth has started to creep into our days.  Our citrus this year is on the small side, due to not enough water I suspect.  One of our orange trees has no fruit at all, which is highly unusual.  There seems to have been so much wind I suspect all the flowers blew straight off before the bees got the chance to pollinate them.  Our little lemon tree is light on fruit also.  Normally the gnarled little tree produces so much fruit it's astounding.  This year there is enough for our needs but we don't have the excess we are used too.  



Everything is beginning to grow again and the warmth invites us all out to play and potter.  Unless it is windy.  Goodness me.  There is no wind like the wind that blows a gale over the vast, flat, unending plains, picking up dust and pollen as it goes.  I have never known such wild winds until we moved here.  

Whilst the warmth is nice, we are not getting any where near enough rain.  This certainly shows in my garden and the surrounding farmland.  The land around here is good, reliable cropping country but this year the crops are stunted, some are quite sparse.  If the season doesn't pick up its going to be a hard year for our farmers.

This country of ours can be a beautiful but harsh, unforgiving lady that's for sure.  


I went around the garden yesterday morning looking at our ramshackle garden and took note of the flowers waking up.  I'm glad I did as looking out there now I doubt there will be any flowers left by the end of today!


The dogs have decimated so much of the garden we tried to create in this house.  Aggie the Scottish Terrier is the prime culprit.  That little dog!  As soon as she has the scent of something she goes digging.  As a result simple is the look we are going for, or I'm happy to settle with alive at this point in time. 

"Trouble?  What on earth are you talking about"
Don't be fooled, these two sleeping beauties are full of mischief, even old Tessa who is nearly 14yrs old now still has the odd burst of puppy in her, though they are few and far between and usually motivated by food.  

At the farm we will use raised beds for veggies and herbs with boarders around any ornamental garden beds like below.  Without exception.


Well, I best be off.  Henry is at kindy today, so its unusually (and blissfully) quiet! 

Much love, 
Emma
xx 


12

Simple kombucha.

Kombucha.  

Its one of those things I knew was good for me for a really long time.  It's an ancient naturally fermented drink, full of good bacteria.  Amazing for gut health.  Good gut health is fast becoming a well recognized component which is essential for overall health and well being.  But.....Lets be real, the "SCOBY" which is the mushroom like thing that makes kombucha so amazing for its health benefits is well....... pretty ugly. 

Anyway, after getting hospitalized with a nasty case of pericarditis last December, which turned into a chronically inflamed heart which caused ongoing chest pain and chronic fatigue.  My approach to health has been top of my priority list.  My goal is to reduce overall inflammation, eat foods which support my immune system and help my gut health.  

One of the various things I have done is to introduce fermented foods into my diet on a daily basis.  Kombucha and sauerkraut are things I really enjoy, and I genuinely find they help my tummy feel better.  So I thought I'd share how I make kombucha, the slack persons way.  Its super simple and it is quite expensive to buy if you wanted to drink it daily. 

First you need a SCOBY, which is a kind of fungus or mushroom which full of beneficial bacteria.  This is the little (ugly)  workhorse of the whole thing.  

The SCOBY, clearly not blessed with beauty! 



Preparing the brew for the first ferment.  The SCOBY remains out of the tea until it is cooled.  

You can get a SCOBY off someone else who brews kombucha very easily, as they make baby SCOBY's on the top of the tea, or if you buy a bottle of kombucha you can feed it with sugar and tea and a SCOBY will grow.  

Like a giant cup of tea - simple!

I have few SCOBY's as you can see, I either give them away as they form or feed any spare to the chooks.  Mine are square as they will take to the shape of the container they are in.  

So firstly you need a sturdy glass container.  This big one of mine holds a little about 1L and it was simply one I had in my cupboard.  To this I add about 3/4 of a cup of white sugar, a black tea bag and a cleansing herbal tea bag, and fill with hot water to allow to steep while it cools.  I chuck some roughly chopped ginger in at this stage.  When it is tepid I drop the SCOBY in, cover with a lid/clean cloth and set aside on the bench for a week.

 Making up the honey and lemon mix that will flavor each bottle for the second ferment.  


A week later its ready for its second ferment.  I like to keep it simple and make up a mixture of local raw honey and fresh lemon juice.  About 1 good table spoon of honey and the juice of 2-4 lemons.  I mix this up till then honey is dissolved and then pour evenly into the bottom of the two glass jars you can see pictured.

 Straining the SCOBY off.  

Then I strain out the kombucha into a jug, and pour the fermented tea into the bottles for their second ferment.  I secure their lids and leave these in a cupboard for a few more days.  Then I pop them in the fridge ready to use.  Super simple, and ginger, honey and lemon make a lovely addition to the tea.  You can also add fruit and experiment with all kinds of flavors if that's your thing.

Then we are at the beginning of the cycle, ready to start a new batch, you might like to keep a little of the "old" tea to put in with the fresh tea and the SCOBY but to be honest I usually forget this stage and really the whole thing is pretty flexible in my experience.  

The bits down the bottom of the jars is roughly chopped ginger, also known for its anti-inflammatory and tummy benefits.  

I hope if kombucha is on your list of things to do, this post highlights the simplicity of it.  It costs nothing to set up, is super simple to maintain, is really good for you and on top of all that really make for a lovely, refreshing drink.  

Much love, 
Emma
xx





14

It's official!

So, it's official - We bought a farm!

Contracts are signed, money has been handed over and the deal is done.

What does this mean for us and the little old cottage?

It means we aim to have her done and on the market in about 4-5 weeks time, realistically priced.  (there is a lot of work to do prior to then!)We have a real estate agent lined up who comes highly recommended by dear friends and he certainly feels like the right fit for us.  We aim to move to the farm over the Christmas holidays, ready to start the boys in their new school at the beginning of the year.

The farm is truly beautiful and I'm excited to be able to begin to share our plans with you.  It is 45 mins inland from Port Macquarie, NSW.  The property is 265 acres and a combination open grazing land and hilly rain forest.  It's climate is sub-tropical, so lots of warm weather and rain.  Very different from what we are used to here.  We are able to open it up to the last time it was logged in 1990, as per strict environmental guidelines.  This will greatly improve the amount of sheltered grazing land.  At the moment there is about 60 acres cleared.  Currently there are cattle on the open land and the rain forest is mostly left to be wild.  We will be clearing out a lot of the undergrowth and will push goats through the hilly parts with movable, electric fencing.  There are a lot of weeds on the property and are a large part of the undergrowth which needs to be cleared.  We aim to have a chicken tractor or two and breed a good heritage duel purpose chicken that's suitable for both egg and meat production.  Something we hope will be good as a backyard pet and also for the small acreage farmer.  Joel Salatin has some great techniques about running a bio-diverse property and the advantages it can bring.  Grant will also have his wood roach farm which he has been busy growing and expanding in preparation for the move.  He sells them in bulk primarily to lizard breeders and has a link in the sidebar, if your in need of some woodies.  ;)

Port Macquarie, which will be our large center, though there are smaller towns closer.  Looking out to the ocean.

There is a HUGE amount of work to do.  They entry road needs serious repair, there are sheds and infrastructure to build.  The property is totally off grid so that will be a learning curve in itself.  However technology has come a long way and we should be able to live a pretty comfortable modern life.  We will have a generator for backup, LPG for hot water and cooking, a composting toilet, large galv rainwater tanks, and some kind of natural system for filtering grey water, maybe reed ponds?  Council approval will dictate that.  We have a lot to learn and we hope we will have a lot to share upon the way. (Whats life without an adventure or two right?)

A little peak at the property. 

You may be wondering about where we are going to be living?  Well upon a lot of research, too-ing and fro-ing we have decided to built a 30ft yurt, from Pacific Yurts which will be custom made for us and and shipped in from USA.  We will then build a second smaller yurt which we will kit out as bedrooms for the boys and second living space.  We are buying in cash, so we are being very slow and mindful of budgets, choosing to act slowly and methodically rather then rushing to do it all at once.  There are going to be a lot of unforeseen costs in this venture and we need to leave room for that.  I'm not going to lie, its already proving to be challenging to force ourselves to act slowly.  My desire for the boys to find this transition simple, comfortable and for life to be as "normal" as possible throughout this period is at direct odds with going through the process slowly and doing things only as we can afford them. 

A rough to-scale sketch of the yurt floor plan.  Above the master bedroom in the big yurt there will be a mezzanine which will act as a study/sewing space.  

The reality is, we don't want to rent.  We want to live on our farm together from day one, with all our pets.  To line out part of a shed takes time and money, at the end we would be stuck with a lined out shed and little chance we could get any return on it in the future.  I mean a farmstay/B&B is not an appealing retreat if it is situated next to a workshop/machinery shed.  Shipping containers are not actually that cheap by the time you kit them out, whilst also being very time consuming.  Access to actually deliver such huge items is also problematic on the farm tracks.  So, after much consideration we have settled on yurts.  One big one and one little one, linked by a corridor which will double as the laundry.  This will give us the space and privacy we need as a family.  They go up in a matter of days and once up the entire outside and inside of the yurt is instantly finished.  Which is a huge plus for this for this Mama who is tired of the dust and the dirt of renovating.  They come with NASA designed insulation, and have three layers to them.  From there popping up a few stud walls to create a couple of rooms and lining them with timber match lining is relatively simple in comparison to a more traditional build.  We will then build a simple, modern and functional kit kitchen.

Yurts are such a beautiful space, with their round walls, exposed woodwork and lovely high ceilings.  We plan to call the yurts home for a number of years until we have managed to save, buy and self build a kit home.  At that point we will disassemble the smaller yurt, move it to a private location on the farm, freshen them both up and make them into two beautiful nature/farm stay B&B's and open them up to the public.  The big one will be suitable for a family and the smaller one will be more suited to a couples retreat.  So whilst we sound crazy, we have an extensive long term plan that is bound to keep us busy for the next few years and beyond!  (What could go wrong?!)



You may be asking what that means for this little blog?  Well in our researching we have found a lot of American and overseas people talking about how they set up their off-grid properties, but far fewer Aussies.  As a result we have been thinking we may record our journey via a YouTube channel.  With the perspective of things we have learnt which are relevant to an Australian audience.  As we slowly develop income streams from the farm, links will be added to access those on banner or sidebar of the blog.  I'm contemplating a Facebook page to increase the blogs reach, though I'm somewhat hesitant to add another social media platform.  Is it really a worthwhile extension or simply another thing to add to my "to do"list?  I love Instagram and blogging, I'm not sure I feel the same about Facebook.  What are others thoughts?  The blogging side of it will remain much the same.  I'll still share as I do now, with the aim of keeping it real, being imperfect, writing about family, simple living, creativity, and various ramblings as they come to me.

Anyway, what an epic post hey?  When I started this blog I didn't think it would take us quite so long to get to this point, but persistence and patience always pays off.  On that note I had best tackle the washing before the kids run out of socks! 

Much love,
Emma
xx 
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Baby steps to waste reduction.

You know the amazing zero waste people?  Whose entire waste for a year goes into a glass jar or a single small bin?  They amaze me.  Seriously I’m in awe of their waste reduction super powers.

But I’m not them.  Not that I wouldn’t like to be mind you.

So instead, like I do most things in life - I tackle the issue slowly.  Sometimes I even do it terribly.  This post is about the tiny baby steps we can all make that are worthwhile, even when we do them imperfectly.  It's about swapping one habit out for an equal habit in.

It’s easy to look at zero waste and think its all too hard.  That we could never get there so there is no point trying.  But like all small changes we make over a period of time, they slowly add up.  One day we look back and realize we have come a really long way.

In South Australia, there has been a plastic bag ban at the supermarkets for a long time now.  Instead I use cotton tote bags, and little cotton draw string bags for my veggies.  I have bought various items like my cotton veggie bags from HERE, Spiralgarden which is a fantastic, family owned business.  They are such a simple switch to make.  Even I can manage it and organisation is NOT my strong point.  After I unload my groceries I stuff all the bags into a bundle, then shove them into my handbag.  Then when I next go to the car next I bundle them with the rest of my cloth bags on the passenger seat.  I always keep a single reusable bag in my handbag for those purchases I make whilst on the run - the chemist, gifts, clothes what not.  It’s a pretty simple switch to make, and the bonus is it feels really good to know I'm not about to strangle a bird with a plastic bag that will eventually find its way into landfill.

To prove if I can manage to shift my daily habits to greener ones then anyone can.  This is Grant, looking for his Agriculture degree certificate.  In the kitchen dresser where I *may* have put it, with all the spare crockery....Because that's where one keeps their important paperwork right?  I mean, obviously.

This issue of the Great Pacific garbage patch WATCH HERE was the key motivator for me to try to change my habits.  I’m not perfect.  Not even close, but I sincerely believe if each of us makes a few small changes, slowly those changes will be come our new normal.  Then we make a few more changes and hopefully, over time they will all eventually snow ball into a massive culture shift.  Along with pressure on our Pollies to implement changes to legislation, new technology and improved recycling.....Hopefully one day we will actually halt this huge problem, and perhaps even reverse it.  (Big dreams I know.)

The thing is - our actions matter, and there is simple, ordinary stuff we can each do.  If we the consumer don't consume it, the manufacturers wont make it.  (Unless its Cadbury Caramilk chocolate, which was consumed with a cult like following and great gusto and then Cadbury ceased production.  What the deal Cadbury?!   I'm still mourning the loss....I'm not sure I'll ever truly get over the betrayal....But moving right along.....)

A few simple tips:

- Reusable Cotton bags.  This is an instant and direct swap.  There is no need for plastic bags the vast majority of the time.  None.  Except maybe laziness.  I’m not going to lie.  I too get caught out on occasion, usually because I couldn’t be bothered putting in the 30 seconds it takes to be slightly organised, then I kick myself and think of the video.  It motivates me to do better.

                               
Cloth shopping bags.  Fully bio-degradable, and pretty.  Win-win!

- Beeswax wraps or other reusable wraps instead of glad wrap.  These can be bought online, plenty of Eco stores sell them or there are plenty of Aussie homemakers making them who sell them via small ebay shops.  They are also simple enough to make if DIY is your thing. Biome is a large online retailer that sell all kinds of solutions to waste reduction and green living.  

Home made food.  Sourdough, Sauerkraut, bananna cake and kombucha.  My beeswax wraps are in constant use.   

- Using containers with lids to store left overs in.  Bonus is they stack, and if you buy glass you can reheat directly into the oven.  Also a direct swap in and out and I can throw them in the dishwasher.

- Purchasing the item in the cardboard/ paper option rather then the plastic when possible.  Ie; when I buy pasta from the supermarket, I buy pasta that comes in a cardboard box, with only a small plastic window.  I buy a block of butter and leave it on the bench to soften rather then in a plastic tub.  It's not perfect, but it’s still a better choice whilst being convenient.

- Baking a simple cake/slices for school lunches.  Home made popcorn and fruit make great snacks.  Fast, and cheap.  My kids still take some packaged foods to school, I’m not perfect at this.  But I can minimize it, plus its healthier.

- Get into the habit of bringing a drink bottle and a piece of fruit with you for those times when the kits get the dreaded "I'm hungry/thirsty I need to eat RIGHT NOW!"  I have a picnic hamper that fits all our drink bottles in it, plus a wet bag that carries spare cutlery and other little bag with cloth napkins in it.  The hamper stays packed, and I toss any last minute food/drinks in it as I leave the house.  I bring it inside after the outing, chuck the dirty stuff in the wash and re-pack it instantly so its always ready to go on a spur of the minute decision to head out.

Reusable women's sanitary items.  Even if we still use disposable items occasionally for the convenience factor, there is still a huge reduction in waste.  A solution doesn't have to be perfectly executed for it to still be better.  I use Hannah Pads.

- Saying “no” to the fad/collectible/cheap/crappy toys.  (Coles minis and happy meal toys anyone?)We love Lego, my kids love their action hero’s, we own a plastic doll, and far too many small plastic figures, Henry is obsessed with those magnetic plastic shapes you build with......BUT, we still say no to junky collectible mini things that are simply going to add clutter, break and irritate the crap out of me.  I try to avoid the re-peat of toys that are simply rehashed into what ever the newest and latest fad is.  I’m not too controlling of this as I know others like to gift things to them.  I value the relationship over the need to put my foot down over gift giving.  It’s simply not my way.  Though if I'm asked and I can gently and positively influence a gift choice I will.  My point is we can filter the things that we allow and choose to enter our home, every little bit helps. 

There are lots of "how to live zero waste" posts out there which are amazing.  But it can seem such an overwhelming goal.  Not all of us have the head space to make big drastic changes, or have the energy to cook everything from scratch, or are able to travel to a bulk food wholesaler.  But that doesn't mean we cant take baby steps.  Most of us can do that.

This post is about the simple baby steps.  None of us start at our destination.  Eventually these baby steps will add up, and who knows, perhaps one day as these changes will become our new norm, and as we continue to add more baby steps to our everyday routine we may too find our families wheelie bin is only half full at the end of the week.....and who knows where that could lead us?

Much love,
Emma
xx

NOTE:  I'm not affiliated in anyway shape or form with any of the companies I mentioned in this blog.  These are simply places and items I personally choose to support and products I use in my day to day life.  I have nothing but good experiences with these companies and am happy to recommend them.   
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