new arrivals on the farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love, 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,

changing seasons and Winter routines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love, 

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