Simple pleasures

23 May 2018
I had a wonderful week away from the blog. Hanno and I were going to work on a project but he had a sore back and I had a sore knee so instead we both slowed right down and tended to each other and ourselves. Late in the week, Hanno started on the project and prepared the area and tomorrow, it will be finished with the help of a tradesman. I'll post photos when I have them.  I'm so excited to see it finished - this final big job in our two years of on and off home renovations/tidy-ups/improvements/.

 Turnips and daikon.

Life is full here. We're harvesting deep purple-red turnips, daikons, herbs, chillies and green leaves from the garden. The first tomatoes look like they'll be ready next week, 50 garlics are tall and green and the potatoes and sweet potatoes are growing well. One disappointment has been our orange tree. It looks like we'll get half our normal harvest this year. I think that's come from a combination of dry weather and last year's pruning. But we'll get through it and look forward to next year's crop.

 This is where I'll be working today.

There are quite a few large passionfruits on the vine and if I tie the Youngberries to the lattice frame they should grow a good crop for us later in the year. We'll put in some more bok choi and kale next week and today I'll be sowing French radishes and pak choi. A few days ago I transplanted a big patch of ginger - they went from a polystyrene box to my enamel baby bath and I noticed the roots are strong and very healthy. Just the smell of them transported me to the fermented ginger beer I'll make and the sauces and stir fries I'll cook.

The chooks have been off the lay for ages - a combination of the summer's heat and the stress of introducing six younger girls to the flock but they've settled down now and the first of the eggs are starting to come in. Our two younger grandchildren were here on Sunday and they were excited to bring in an egg each. Simple pleasures.

Sunny and I have picked hundreds of chillies this season. I still have a couple of kilos in the freezer for the chilli jam I'll make soon.

I've been asked to write for Earth Mother Living so I'll start that in the coming week. I hope to find new readers there and hopefully sell a few books. They have a readership of 2.5 million so it might open up a few opportunities for me. And that reminds me, Amazon is selling my books now and currently the prices are The Simple Home - $21.73 and Down to Earth - $27.80. You might like to start your Christmas shopping early and get some gifts at a really good price.

When I finish writing here, I'll be in the garden for most of the day. The mornings are cool here, it was 8C overnight, but as soon as the sun hits the garden, the warmth creeps in and with a cup of tea and shade from the umbrella, I'll be set.  I'm repotting plants in the bush house, cutting back herbs and roses, weeding, sowing seeds and tying up the tomatoes - already heavy with fruit.

Below is the tomato bush that is growing these tomatoes. They're cocktail tomatoes which are slightly bigger than cherry tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes are perfectly round, but this clump have ridges in the top. These are the ones I'll use to collect seeds for follow up crops.
It is the most wonderful workplace out there. Working in the garden relaxes me and improves my mental health and as I watch migrating birds and clouds, I hear the chooks low clucking as they talk to each other and squabble over a caterpillar on a plant. I feel the importance of sharing our garden with those of you who don't have one. We all need a place where we can throw off our concerns and just relax into the surroundings. If you don't have a garden I really hope you are enjoying ours or you have found a place where you can relax and be your true self. Having such a space encourages us think about the balance we need and often helps us think about ways to organise our busy lives.

Turnip tops on the compost heap. You can also see our comfrey growing right next to the compost.

Every day we make choices. We might not consciously think about them, but they are made anyway. Every morning I choose between blogging or not, about whether I'll make bread, or whether I'll make preserves or do the ironing, and along with those choices, I also choose, everyday, to live simply. Having a space where I relax, in a spot where I can punctuate the work with sitting and thinking, gives me a much clearer understanding of what my options and responsibilities are. Like collecting fresh eggs, it's another simple pleasure that is there for the taking. xx

Laundry liquid and general cleaning

21 May 2018
Buying laundry and cleaning products can become quite an expensive part of grocery shopping, but it doesn't need to be. They are easy to make using ingredients from the supermarket. All these cleaners suit a simple home because they contain a tiny portion of the chemicals found in the commonly used expensive products.  I've included a couple of recipes below for you to try but first we'll start with one of my favourite cleaning processes - soaking.

Soaking and stain removal
I often look for ways to do my day-to-day chores without using any, or very few, cleaning products. I remember when I was growing up, my mum used to soak clothes before washing them. Sometimes she put them into a big copper boiler and boiled them while moving them around with a wooden stick. The washing took hours to do and often she did it on a Friday night after she finished her paid job.

I soak cotton, linen and poly-blend clothes too although I don't do it the way my mum did. If I have something that is badly stained, I fill a large container up with very hot water from the tap, add Disan, an oxy-bleach, dissolve the Disan with my laundry stick and drop the clothes in. BTW, my laundry stick is a spurtle - a scottish stick for stirring porridge. If you want to do something similar, a piece of dowel would work well. Many stains can be removed using this method. You can also whiten your greying whites this way as well.

Another way to remove a stain is to wet the fabric and then rub laundry bar soap or laundry liquid on the stain, roll it up and leave it for an hour or so. You roll it up so it doesn't dry out. Then pop it in with the normal wash and the stain will probably go. If you have a top loading washing machine, fill it for your normal wash, apply soap or laundry liquid to any stains you notice, put the stained clothing in the filled washing machine and let it soak, overnight if possible. The following morning, do your normal wash. Generally all stains will be removed by the soaking.

Soaking is one of those gentle, old-fashioned methods you very rarely hear about now because often it doesn't use a product that someone is trying to push. This type of clothes care is particularly good for perspiration stains under arms, collar grime, whitening whites and general stains. Soaking works really well with overnight soaking in plain water but if the stain is a stubborn one, add some oxy-bleach or rub with soap.

Caring for Leather
You’d think that caring for leather would be pretty straightforward; leather has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. But no, everyone has their own method, and if you look on the internet, as many claims are made for one method as against it.

There are products that clean and condition at the same time but I prefer the two-stage method because leather usually just needs cleaning. To clean leather clothing, hats or couches, check the seams first and if they’re dusty, put the upholstery head on the vacuum cleaner and go over them. Then add half a teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap, or a gentle liquid soap, to one cup of warm water and moisten a soft cloth – don’t make it too wet. Clean a small area at a time, and finish by rubbing the leather with a clean soft cloth, making sure everything is dry. Every three months or so you can apply a leather conditioner – the products available at car care or equestrian shops seem to be better than those from the supermarket.

For spot-cleaning, deal with the problem as soon as possible. Clean with the liquid soap as above and then nourish the area with a leather conditioner.

Wicker baskets

I have several wicker baskets and they’re all workhorses, used to store everything from potatoes to wool. If you have a dirty basket, brush the wicker with a little liquid soap, not detergent, on a soft wet brush. When you’ve given it a good clean, take the basket outside and hose it down. This sounds harsh, but it tightens up the wicker and pulls it back into shape. Dry the basket in the sun and open air before using it again. If you have fragile baskets, simply brush them over with a dry bristle brush and rub a moist cloth over the wicker, then dry in the shade.

Straw hats
Straw hats can be maintained with a soft-bristle brush (I use a soft-bristle paintbrush), all over, as often as you feel like doing it. To clean a dirty hat, mix half a teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap with one cup of warm water. Dip a soft cloth into the warm soapy water and clean small areas of the hat at a time. Make sure you don’t wet the hat too much, because it will weaken the straw.

For oily stains, sprinkle the area with cornflour or talcum powder and gently rub it into the straw. Leave it for a couple of hours, then either vacuum or brush off. Repeat if necessary. When not being worn, straw hats should be stored away from the sun, either in a box or on a hook resting on the sweatband, not the straw. Cover with a soft cloth to protect it from dust.

Stuffed toys
Read the care label and if the toy can be washed, wait for a dry, sunny day, place the toy in a pillowcase and close with a rubber band. Add laundry liquid or powder and a teaspoon of either lemon myrtle or tea-tree essential oil and wash in cold water on the eco or fast setting. Hang the toy on the line in the sun, using an ear or tag to peg it to the line. Depending on the weather, it may need a couple of drying days.

If the toy can’t be machine-washed, place it in a pillowcase and add 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda. Close the top of the pillowcase with a rubber band and shake it. Try to rub the toy all over through the fabric to make sure every part is covered with bicarb. Leave it for a few hours, then take it out of the pillowcase. Finish off by shaking it outside and then vacuuming the toy with the small upholstery head attached to your vacuum cleaner.

Laundry cleaning products to make at home
This is an important part of cleaning, because if you learn how to make your products at home, then customise them to suit your own taste for scent, you’ll do three important things: you’ll make a significant cutback in the chemicals you have in your home, you'll stop adding the phosphates and salt in commercial cleaners to our waterways and you’ll save a lot of money.

These homemade products work well, they don’t take a lot of time to make and they won’t make your skin itchy and red. Many of these products can be used for multiple purposes. For instance, the laundry liquid will clean your clothes and remove spot stains, but with a couple of simple additions, it can also be made into cleaning paste.

Most of all, you’ll know what’s in the products you’re using. You’ll buy only a few natural chemicals– borax, washing soda, vinegar and soap – to make cleaners yourself. If you bought the commercial cleaners and laundry products recommended for the modern home, you’d be using hundreds of chemicals. I think living with fewer chemicals is better for our health and if you've got small children, family members with skin sensitivities, general allergies or a compromised immune system due to age or failing health, these cleaners will serve you well.

Laundry liquid
Makes 10 litres/quarts

Add about quarter of a cup of this liquid to your machine. It’s fine in a cold-water wash and in front or top loaders. You can find borax and washing soda in the supermarket.
  • 1 cup grated soap or Lux soap flakes
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup borax 
  • 1½ L /qt of water 
  1. Add the ingredients to a saucepan and heat the mixture on the stove. Stir until all the ingredients are completely dissolved and remove from the heat. 
  2. Pour the hot soapy mixture into a bucket or tub that holds at least 10 L/qt, add warm tap water until the bucket is about three-quarters full, and stir. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, fill the bucket to the 10 L/qt mark and stir. You can add essential oils for fragrance at this point if you want to. 
  3. To store the laundry liquid, gather some containers (clean plastic milk bottles serve the purpose well) and pour the liquid in, leaving enough room in the containers to allow you to shake them well before use. As the mixture cools, you’ll see two layers: a gel layer at the top and a liquid layer at the bottom. That is as it should be. The gel gets quite thick but combines well with a good shake. Alternatively, you can use your stick blender to emulsify the mix.
Stain remover
The laundry liquid above makes an excellent stain remover. Just cover the stain with some laundry liquid and rub it in. Wait for 15 minutes before adding the items to the regular wash.

Laundry liquid cleaning paste
You can use the laundry liquid in other ways as well. Just add ½ cup of bicarb to ½ cup of laundry liquid and mix together to form a thick paste, adjusting the consistency by adding more liquid or more bicarb. This mix can be used for cleaning baths and stainless steel sinks, or for any difficult-to-remove grime on benchtops or around light switches. Store it in a small container with a lid. It will dry out within a couple of months, so make a smaller amount if you need to.

Stainless steel pegs

I have a recommendation for those of you who have problems with clothes pegs. We live in a sub-tropical climate here and when we use plastic pegs they break easily after a month or two of use and if we use wooden pegs, they go mouldy.  Then I discovered stainless steel pegs and I love them. I got mine from Biome in Brisbane. They have a very strong grip and, of course, they neither go mouldy nor crumble. These will last a lifetime. :- )

I hope you're all well and happy. I'll be back later in the week to share our news with you.

Weekend reading

11 May 2018

Hello friends. I want to take a small moment to thank you for your comments. Over the years I've tried to build the comments section into a valuable part of my blog. I want people to share what they do, I want newbies to see how many things are done differently and I want to know that my online neighbourhood is thriving. I don't respond to many comments because I don't have the time and mostly I want to just say a quick, "thank you" or "well done!" or "keep going". But if I did that, I'd be on my computer much longer than I'm comfortable with and the comments section would be filled with so many repetitive messages you'd think I'd lost my marbles. But I do think that way when I read what you write and it makes me feel happy and inspired and proud. So to all of you who leave comments, thank you, well done! and keep going. ♥️

Adjusting to modern life, or not

9 May 2018
It's been a busy week here although I must point out it's not the same busyness we knew when we were much younger, working, looking after children and living life like there was no tomorrow. Now my busyness is marked by the fact that last week, I went out three mornings in a row. 😊 Oh, how we are changed by time. As you probably know, even though I'm not agoraphobic, I prefer to live my hours in my home. It's interesting and comfortable here and there is always something to do. Sometimes there are chores I don't like doing but I see it all as part of a big tapestry - the background is just as important as the main feature points and without work going into the background, the tapestry is unfinished and unsatisfying. I know the awful jobs will always be balanced out with hours of enjoyment and the ongoing process of making life what we want it to be.
 This is part of our living room now. I'll have more photos soon.

Washing and folding

7 May 2018
Our laundries are mainly used for washing clothes and household fabrics but they also hold a place of importance as your home cleaning headquarters. I'm sure you don't like having too many harsh chemicals in your home and it makes sense to keep all cleaning chemicals in one place - this is vital if you have young children living in or visiting your home.  But today we're talking about washing clothes, next week, we'll go on to general cleaning and making your cleaners.

Weekend reading

4 May 2018

It's unheard of around here but I've been out three mornings in a row this week. On Tuesday I went along to my GP for a flu vaccination and ended up having the Pneumococcal vaccine as well. Apparently it's a one-off jab that will help protect me from a few nasty diseases and along with the flu vaccine, I feel it was a good reason to head off into the traffic. Both these vaccines are free to all us Australian over-65ers and if you're in that age bracket, I hope you've had yours or have plans to have it soon. Apparently now is the ideal time to have the flu vaccine and with bad memories of last year's flu season, I think the visit to the doctors office is a small price to pay for the protection it gives us. 

Let’s throw open the laundry doors

30 April 2018
May - week 1 in The Simple Home

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a kind of simple elegance in using and cleaning household linens. Clothes, sheets, towels, curtains and kitchen linens always look better when they’re well cared for. When I see them in homes I visit, fresh and neatly stored away, especially when they have quite an age to them, I get the feeling there is a lot of love in that home. My aim is to have a clean house, clothes and linens, but I know that it can take a lot of time to achieve that consistently. The answer is to make the laundry room your cleaning headquarters. If your laundry room is organised to support your general cleaning tasks, it will go a long way to helping you keep a clean house and stay on top of the laundry. 

Weekend reading

27 April 2018
Don't forget my book giveaway. I have two copies of The Simple Home, kindly supplied by Penguin. I'll give one away in June and the other later in the year. Over the last couple of months, I've made up a list of helpful, kind and interesting comments here on the blog and every time I see another thoughtful comment that adds significantly to the information we have here, that reader's name is added to the list. There are several readers who have their name added a number of times. The book winners will come from that list.

A hodgepodge of photos

25 April 2018
Hello dear friends. It's Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand today. I've been sorting through my photos and found a nice Anzac Day photo. There are a few photos in this folder that I don't think have been published before so I thought you'd enjoy a slow browse through them.