Friday, September 30, 2011

The Self Sufficient Life, A Dream?

With all the news about the economy and wild weather events even the non crazy people are talking about self sufficiency. The last few years more people are talking about it and doing something about it, even on a small level.

Our new batch of chicks

There are news articles about how people are starting backyard gardens with a few chickens, and community gardens are starting to pop up around the place especially in big cities.

We have always wanted to be self sufficient, since we were first married. With the idea of building a mud brick cottage, a large (and of course very efficient and prolific) garden and the healthiest and juiciest fruit trees. We have always had a garden of some sort even just a few herbs and tomatoes and in a few places only a fruit tree or two as we moved around with the military, and our first home that we bought only had a very large mango tree and not really any room for more. The property we dream of has to be large, like a thousand acres, in the middle of nowhere, with permanent water supply, no neighbours, and good soil (not much really).

Welding up some new bench frames

However, we have always done a lot of reading, we have books that we bought twenty years ago that we still use and of course now we have the internet for information and forums to link up with other like minded people even if we can’t find them in real life. I have also done various crafts and a few courses and my partner in crime and life is also very handy and has done various things too. We are also trying to teach our number one and only son, got to practice for the life.

Our books shelves have lots of books on gardening, herbal remedies, self sufficiency, cooking out of the garden, survival in hard times, building stuff, medical and of course craft so I can make our own clothes (cough cough, in my dreams).

A smoky sunset

So finally after all this time of making plans we are on five acres with clay soil, not really that far from town, a seasonal creek, still on the grid and we can see the neighbours. We still dream about that other place though, of course I am older and a little tired, it would have to be a bit established and I still want my laptop with an internet connection. Don’t need a phone or TV, I can live without those but I love the internet and watching movies. I want it all, the simple life combined with modern technology and all the creature comforts of course, don’t we all want that?

The reality of self sufficiency is it is harder than you want to think, and not relying on anyone else is a dream. There is no way I can make my own clothes, especially without an electric sewing machine and not even really then. We need fuel and power to run the water pump for the rain water tanks and the bore pump, I sure there is another way but I am still looking into it.

A lovely paw paw from the garden, great for breakfast :)

My garden isn’t as large as I would like and I have to buy my soil to make raised beds due to the clay. We eat out of it but it is really only supplementing what we buy. The fruit trees are young and while they may get a few fruit, are a few years off full on production and they are in clay soil so we are always mulching and feeding them.

Pete and the hens free ranging as nature intended

The chickens are actually what I imagined. As they are free ranging, they are not eating as much store bought grain and we have now more than doubled our flock size with all the chicks. Another six to twelve months and we will be getting eggs out of them, of course they are all hens and no roosters that we have to get rid of, also another dream. They are also good entertainment value, though going bush with my cup of tea to find them isn’t something I want to do very often.

We are still working towards that dream, there will need to be some sacrifices as the dream doesn’t actually exist, but it doesn’t mean we will give it up, nor does it mean we won’t be happy with what we have. However, we will always be striving to improve where we are, as we do love it here, but we can also have goals and dreams (like I can dream of travelling the world) and we should have them, and still love our life as it is.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I REALLY Want It To Rain

It is trying hard to rain. It was hearing some sprinkling on the roof that got me out of bed this morning. Only yesterday I told my partner in crime and life that we should put some bore water into the rain water tanks as they are getting so low.

I actually don’t want to put bore water in the tanks, though a lot of people do. We have started using bore water for the washing machine as we still have a water guzzling top loader, next year we will have a front loader which will use less than half the amount of water, it will make a huge difference. Though for the time being, putting the hose through the bathroom/laundry window and filling the machine will have to do.

We have started having two minute showers instead of five minute showers and of course we do all the other water saving things without a thought as that is just what we do all the time.

It has just been so dry, the grass is crispy and you can hear it crunching under your feet. We are seeing a lot of wallabies around as they come looking for feed, I always wave at them, and they look they want to wave back as they sit up and look at me, but don’t want to encourage the crazy woman :D

Our second lot of baby chicks have started hatching out in the last couple of days and we have been told it won’t be long before we are totally out of control with chooks everywhere. Hopefully there won’t be any more hens going broody, we have had enough of not many eggs and with the three chicks from the first batch and now (so far) three from this batch, we have just doubled our flock size.

Well, I had best go put some fuel in the bore pump and put the hose through the bathroom window and fill the washing machine as we always seem to have washing to do. Also, I really want to encourage it to rain and a good way is to hang washing out, lots of it.


In case you didn’t know, an old satellite is about to come crashing back down to earth. I have been reading articles for a few weeks about this and they now think they know when and where it is going to come down.

Once again an interesting post and some good ideas from over at Organised Castle about reusing things you have around before you recycle. I love the old school table that has been decorated, and the shoe box that is used to store stationary. I do this one too (I keep all shoe boxes, from the few shoes we buy, and I think it drives my partner in crime and life crazy, so maybe that is a little why I do it) and I use old gift wrapping paper to decorate them (yes, I keep all wrapping paper too, and all old envelopes become shopping lists and to write notes to each other on).

Grams Survival Kitchen has a post about how she is going to cook recipes (and eat of course) from a Little House on the Prairie cook book. I used to watch this show growing up and so will watch this with interest.

Monday, September 19, 2011

School Holidays

We are now into the school holidays here, and I have no plan. Luckily our number one and only son can occupy himself, until he runs out of ideas and then tends to sit in front of the Xbox or computer, so far so good. He will be coming into town when I do my Tai Chi classes and he can go to the library and help me with any shopping that needs doing. We have plans to help a friend get a homemade swing set from her parents, and also have a sewing day at her house where the kids can then swim in her pool if it is warm enough. We are also going to do some painting, as in art, and I promised to get him a large canvas to paint on, I am going to paint our chooks (on canvas, not on the actual bird).

I finished my hot water bottle and am very happy with it, not sure if I have mentioned this before or not.

I also made myself a little cap/beanie/hat. It is only light and is good for cool evenings or mornings.

We haven’t been getting many eggs from our lazy chooks, actually, we have been lucky to get one a day. However things seem to be picking up and we have gotten a few more the last few days and we found four eggs in a nest in the bush, so that is where some of the eggs had gone.

We managed to get a photo of the SIXTEEN eggs that two of our hens are sitting, crazy chooks. The two hens are Blackie and Dirty, and my partner in crime and life hopes none of any hatched chicks imprint on Dirty as they will end up delinquents and Dirty will probably forget they are there.

We are letting the chooks free range for a fair bit of the day, early morning when it is cool, lock them back up when it is too hot for them, and then back out again in the afternoon when it has cooled a little.

Mondays are my big housework day and I also want to do some cooking today as we are pretty much out of snacks. So had best get some breakfast and then get on with it.


My partner in crime and life pointed me to this good article “Wiggling out of agreement, one policy at a time” regarding our politics here in Australia, should definitely check it out.

There is going to be a lot of this going on now “Siemens pulls out of nuclear industry”.

I have come across this you-tube video in a few places so it is obviously doing the rounds, it is about a solar water bottle, you must watch it. It is amazing the difference some things make in people’s lives. Here is a link for it through The Apartment Prepper’s Blog, so you can also check out this blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Growing Garden

My garden seems to finally be on the way with it nearly all being refreshed and replanted except for a small bit. I got some horse manure from a friend who has brumbies and hopefully the garden will kick along.

The corn is quite high and very healthy and we would love to plant more but we are running out of space. I really don’t think the garden is big enough. There is also sweet potato growing amongst the corn, leftovers from when I actually allowed sweet potato to grow there, hopefully they are compatible.

There are cherry tomatoes popping up EVERYWHERE. So there will be no shortage there, though I did plant a grosse lisse tomato plant just to get a couple of large tomatoes and it is very healthy. I actually discovered a decent sized tomato underneath all the growth. I also planted some basil around it too as companion plants.

One whole square is now dedicated to Ceylon spinach and it has room to grow on its own and is a great addition to the garden.

I have planted the zucchini seedlings out and planted some more seeds. We also put in winged beans, also in a patch of their own, so hopefully they will grow better this time. And in the small section next to the winged beans my partner in crime and life planted Egyptian spinach seeds which will probably go better than when I tried, just because I wasn’t’ the one that planted them (he also is able to grow chillies while I can’t, don’t’ know why).

The loofas are going well with the little bit of warm weather we are getting, and two of them now have baby loofas on them. The chokos are also now starting to pick up with two doing better than the other two.

I also have snake beans (which I must not touch as I always seem to break off bits) and the cucumbers are also starting to grow well. The green things like bok choy, pak choy, lettuce and rocket are, as always a huge success, I love that they are quick growing and I can start to pick them fairly young.

I have a couple of potatoes finally popping up, some already there that won’t be long before they can be picked, and a few more sprouting that can be planted soon. I always check the potatoes I buy for any that are sprouting and save them for the garden; I always buy local potatoes that come from up the road.

The sweet potato patch is starting to regrow, though not as quickly as I would have hoped because of the bandicoots, but I think it is under control. I have one more patch to dig up, though don’t know how much is left in there, also because of the bandicoots, but I am sure they have left us some, and then I can also refresh and replant that one too.

Well, best go finish crocheting my first hot water bottle cover so I can get on with the others and then maybe some dishcloths.


More bad news on the economic front in Europe, Alarm sweeps eurozone as crisis deepens, don’t know how much the media hypes this up but we still need to take notice.

In case you hadn’t noticed I have put up a list of links to the recipes that I have put on my blog. Sometimes I go looking for a recipe, can’t find it and know I have put it up on my blog, so thought I would make it easy and put the list there. It probably won’t stay in that spot so when I have time will rearrange, but I do like know it is there.

At Vintage Foodie is a recipe for a chocolate caramel slice. I think I have made this one before and it is yummo, evil, but yum, so I think we might make it on the school holidays and just keep it for then, or my waistline will re-expand, is that a word? Well, I can say it so it must be.

Here is a crochet pattern for a vintage sweater. I love these sorts of patterns, I don’t think I will make any but I still like them and you never know I might decide to make it. I even found a vintage pattern for a hot water bottle cover, who knew?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ginger Beer

Another week has zoomed by. Not long till Christmas now, I have plans for Christmas and just need to manage my time better so I can get organised.

I have been making ginger beer the last couple of weeks and I had forgotten how easy it is to do. We used to make quite a few years ago, bottled into glass and had a few explosions and ginger beer going everywhere. Now however, I have plastic bottles and it is so much easier, our number one and only son just loves it, so I am going to have four boxes going around so there is always some there ready to drink.

I don't know where this recipe came from but the ones I have looked at on the internet are much the same.


The Plant

In a sealed container place 8 sultanas, juice of two lemons, and teaspoon of lemon pulp, 4 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 2 cups cold water. Leave for 2-3 days then feed daily with 2 teaspoons of ginger beer and 4 teaspoons sugar for one week.

The Mix

Pour 4 litres boiling water into 4 cups sugar, stir until dissolved, and add juice of four lemons. Strain the plant/lemon into ginger beer mix with fine muslin and squeeze cloth dry. Add 7 litres of cold water and bottle. Leave for 2 weeks before using

To keep the plant alive halve the sediment and add two cups of cold water. Feed again for one week.


Three sultanas can be added at the bottling stage, when the sultanas float ginger beer is ready to drink. Use of plastic soft drink bottles will avoid the problem of bottles exploding.

We tried ours after one week and it wasn’t very fizzy, and of course just to test it out had a bottle a day after that to test the readiness. The batch got a little fizzier each day, so I think 2 weeks is a good time to wait before drinking, though being the first batch we couldn’t wait, the flavour was great though.

We actually bought empty plastic bottles because we don’t buy soft drink, we have a soda stream for when we want some soda water or our number one and only son wants a soft drink on the weekend. It was about $15 for a box of 15 750ml bottles which are of course reusable and you can buy replacement lids when needed.

My partner in crime and life is now wondering what else there is we can make ourselves. Of course the list is endless and interesting. We currently brew our own beer, from a kit of course, but it is way cheaper than buying cartons. Say you buy a carton for approx $40, it varies of course, well we pay about $20 for three cartons plus some time and effort but not a lot.

The cost of the ginger beer is not a lot, say 50c per lemon or free if you grow your own, some ginger maybe a couple of dollars, some sugar also a couple of dollars, and some time and effort. I am going to say (because I can’t be bothered to cost it properly) about $5 for 15 bottles of ginger beer. I am not including the cost of the bottles as they are reusable and you could get them for free if you asked friends to save their empty soft drink bottles for you.

So the whole ginger beer thing is a success and so easy, makes me wonder why it took me so long to get back into it, there is barely no time involved and very little cost. So I will be continuing to make it and we will also be looking for more things we can make ourselves, it is very satisfying and nice to just know we can do it.


I read the news on the internet every morning, even when I don’t have a lot of time I have a quick zoom through just to get a gist of what is going on in the world that day. On goes the computer first thing and a quick look at a few sites to see what is happening here in Australia and in the rest of the world (I always think of the ripple effect, what is happening overseas could very well affect us here).

And so, here is one bit of news that caught my eye this morning, regarding chooks not really being free to roam despite claims by producers. Well, we all knew this was happening but hoping is wasn’t, well I was anyway, so here is the link.

Here are some lovely quilts made by Jan at Outside the Lines. This is something I would like to try my hand at one day because I think they are beautiful as well as useful, I just need to get some more focus so I am not distracted and don’t finish. So check out someone who has patience, and obviously skill, and see what can be done, I love them.

I so need a wood pile like this one in the photos on Red Woman blog. I will work on it for next year. In the mean time I am also going to check out some of the interesting looking blogs she follows, listed on the side of her blog.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Weather Has Turned

The weather has turned. I went outside one evening and the air was warm, it certainly felt to be the change I had been looking for, don’t need a hot water bottle at night now.

Though, talking about hot water bottles, I have bought some more and am crocheting covers for them so they will be ready for next year. I have realised that one hot water bottle is just not enough for me. I also have gotten out my beanie patterns and so will make beanies for us for next year, mine will be purple. I used some of my pocket money to buy some wool that was on special (didn’t really need it but I wanted it and that is what pocket money is for) and got green and purple wool to add to my collection, so hot water bottle covers and beanies it is.

Our baby chickens are growing at an amazing rate and the mothers now take them out of the pen. They seem to stay close by, though yesterday they ended up down near the garden. We are amazed at how active they are, they can run and jump and do all sorts of things, they are very athletic.

We have put the side gate in our boundary fence and can now get to the other side without hanging over the creek. We will now be able to mow and go out to gather back the chooks that roam over there, though they don’t really go over there much now. So now we just have the front gate in the driveway to go.

The garden is zooming along now the weather has warmed up, I still have a few gardens to fill but need to get some manure first. We have a banana circle to build and more potatoes to plant. I have had to fix the sweet potatoes as the bandicoots have gotten in and dug it up, so hopefully it will fine now. The corn is high and we want to plant more, and I have zucchini to put in too. I must get in and plant more seeds in pots so they are ready to go in when the garden is good to go.


Hasn’t there been so much news this week, here in Australia our politicians are out of control, they have officially identified the remains of Ned Kelly (our most famous bush ranger), BlueScope has gotten rid of a thousand jobs and backyard vege gardens are becoming cool.

I am really not very good at sewing and need pictures and everything, so I have come across some instructions to make my favourite pants, fisherman pants. I wear these all the time and they are so comfy, I even have fisherman skirts. I want to make some myself out of my choice of material and while I am pretty sure I could figure it our, having some help is very handy. Now just have to go buy some material.