Monday, April 21, 2014

The productive home

I remember about two years ago when I was still knitting my own dishcloths an onlooker asked me if I had never heard of "Mr Price Home". For international readers this store is where you can buy almost every kind of home decor and necessary thingamajigs you will ever need. Most of the stuff is made in China and is cheaply priced. I would hate to have her in my home to see all the other things that I do from scratch, even if I do not knit dishcloths any longer due to time constraints.

There are so many things that I can buy instead of make, but I know that I will not get the same quality or flavour, in the case of food, from the shops compared to what I can make at home. I once bought a ready made macaroni cheese for my son when he was much younger and just would not let up nagging. He had two mouthfuls and the rest was given to the chickens. I remember doing the same with another convenience food that another child had to have, and they too agreed that it was much better to eat a home cooked meal of the same kind.

I have not subscribed to a convenience lifestyle for many years, even before growing my own veggies and developing my cook from scratch skills. I would love to say that knitting and sewing were still part of my reality, but they are not. I used to sew all my babies clothes but by the time number 4 came along it was no longer feasible. I do not need to knit, but I do need to cook, so I let the knitting fall away. Perhaps one day when Superman and I travel the world, I can knit as I go :)

Having a cook from scratch mindset develops a productive mindset. When a woman thinks that the only option to her is to grab a convenience food off the shelf, or buy take aways a couple of times a week it does free up her time for other things, but it also makes her less productive and it stops her learning wonderful skills.

I know that everyone does not get the same joy out of preparing a meal as I do. That's can switch off here, but I will write to those who do or who want to grow in their cooking skills. A special and close friend once said to me that she really detests cooking as it seems that it creates a whole lot of mess, is gone in 10 minutes and then the kitchen has to be cleaned before the next meal needs to be prepared.

There is no way around is my kitchen this's messy! We felt like a special breakfast so I made poached eggs on spicy spinach topped with hollandaise sauce.

Background: sons science experiment, newspaper pots!

Being productive does equal mess. Mess is easily cleaned with the many hands we have and it is worth it when the labour and learning are compared to the clean up. The Bible says in Proverbs 14:4 "An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable." 

Our every day activities, whether it be the books spread all over the dinning room table as we learn together, the seedling pots halfway through the making, the soil on the picnic bench where the children were sowing seeds, the mess in my kitchen from creating meals, all brings a profit to us in some way. Our income is learning skills so that in a future world where REAL food is going to be hard to get, we will be equipped to grow our own and to turn other raw materials into something useful.

We hope that one day, even if it is as a retired couple, we will be able to raise our own meat animals, but if not we will continue to source our meat from local organic farmers.

I hope that if you are battling with the messy's you will see the profit in your work. I have always felt that as long as the underlying spaces are clean, tidying and washing dishes is an easy process and has shown we are busy and productive in our home.

Whenever I find it all get's too much, I turn to my favourite lady and look at the legacy of productiveness her life shows:

Proverbs 31:10-31

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Back to basics

Everyone looses perspective sometimes. We also get overwhelmed and stressed. Sometimes we are to blame because we try to do too much, when we don't count the cost, in time or money, before committing to a new project or simply because life throws a series of curveballs at you for whatever reason.

I have come out of a very fulfilling but tiring time of 8 weeks of giving and giving and giving. The job is done and now I need to pick up the pieces of my life again and find the lovely rhythm of my days, weeks and seasons.

The only way I know how to do this is by getting back to basics.

First I prune back my life which includes our children's commitments outside of the home, I say no to more things for myself that would draw me away from my first priorities - which in my life are time sitting at the feet of my Lord Jesus, connecting with my husband, mentoring my children in their different stages of life, guiding their education needs, being busy in my home growing then preparing the right food for us and finding a place to just breathe.
This process started over the last two weeks and today has found me at home on Sunday with nothing on my to do list and the freedom to rest, sleep, read...or type a blog post! :)

Things that have slipped through my fingers this year has been making sure the basics are attended too. No soap was made, no bread made, and because I refuse to eat the toxic shop bought breads, no bread eaten either. Meal plans were not done and garden planning, sowing and planting not attended to. Cupboards and drawers were in a shambles, and the chaos and time wasting that resulted from this was frustrating.

Soap cooling slowly. I will cut it tomorrow. This gives us enough bars for 3 months.

Getting back to basics allows me to see what is important and what I value and how much a simple thing like making soap or bread, or having orderly shelves, means to my family as well.

So today I made Down To Earth's plain lovely rich soap. This will cure for 5 weeks and be ready for use. A similar soap that I buy at the Earth Fair market costs R20 per bar. I can make soap for 18 of the same size bars at R20 for all 18!

These are some we made two weeks ago and were never filled. Sam made another 3 trays on Friday.

Making sure that I have newspaper pots for seed sowing is also something I got going again this week and we have 5 beer boxes of pots ready for seeds which I will sow this week.

My mom gave us this Can-O-Worms in 2008 and it is still working well.

Our wormery also needed attention as we use the worm tea all the time for our fruit trees and strawberries. Switching around the trays and feeding the worms was also on the agenda.
Each Tuesday Superman fetches 3x25 litres of water from Newlands Spring for our drinking and cooking.

One of our water bottles that we use to collect spring water has had green algae growing on the sides and allow strong vinegar water to stand in it for a day or two will solve this.

What a joy to move quietly and smoothly through my day doing some simple tasks that reap huge rewards.

What simple tasks do you enjoy that "ground" you in your home?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Slow Living 2014 - March

And we blinked then March was over. It was time to take out jerseys in evenings and warm slippers at night. The rain we have had this month is winter rain - days of drizzle - not Autumn wind. But there were lots of highlights to March, even though it whizzed by in a blur. Linking up with Christine at Slow Living Essentials for her monthly review.


I have really trying to work on my wastage (and waist-age :)) and use up what we have in the garden. As it gets seasonally wetter and wetter from now on I know I will loose a lot of my herbs. Basil is finding its way into lots of meals as is thyme. We have started working through our huge pile of butternuts and the best way to do this was to simply roast one every now and again when the oven was on. One large butternut can be split into two meals - our favourite is a gorgonzola and butternut pasta and another a chickpea and roasted butternut filling for rootis (chapatis). I also pureed one and made it into flapjacks and served with a fried egg and sage for breakfast - so yummy.


Nothing in the bottling jarring way...chilies need to be picked and pickled this weekend and I need to make two batches of soap.


It is cupboard cleaning time in our home. With a week (only) of school holidays each kiddo needed to clean out their cupboard (3 have) and give me old clothes to give away.


Two things come to mind...flies have been a never ending pest this past summer. A friend told me about Ecomist which is a spray that you can get which once installed releases a natural pyrethrum spray which repels flies, mosquitoes and other pests. We had one installed and have reduced our file visitors by 90%.

The other thing she told me about was Triple Orange's Wonder Gel which we now use for all our cleaning and dishwashing. After years of vinegar and bicarb I have made a switch. I love the fresh orange smell and it really does a good job of cleaning our home.


Quite honestly, if it wasn't for Sam, right now my garden would be bare, however, I have turnips, carrots, brinjal, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and beets growing. My garden plans are done and this Friday when Sam gets here he will sow our seeds in newspaper pots for our winter garden.


The other day I took my one and only hand knitted socks from the cupboard and longed to get back into knitting. The moment passed in a flash {grin} was I know I just do not have the time to dedicate to any project. I create food (as I have said before) and I need to be content in this season.


Well...allow me to bend the boundaries of this category a little - I have discovered the power of social media i.e. Facebook and how it can be used for wise purposes. I tried it out in 2012 and hated every moment there. 2014 saw me needing to reach a wide audience for our Franskraal Ferals and I sucked in my breath and tried it again. I will share the success of this in the enhance category. But through Facebook I met up with my cousins who I hadn't seen in over 20yrs and we got together for lunch. I have reconnected with old church buddies and been able to peep into their lives. This time Facebook has been a pleasure. Will I be there forever? Not sure, but it has certainly done what it needed to do.


Last month I shared about our fundraising campaign for the feral cats. The project is a go ahead and the massive trap, sterilise and release program will run from the 7th - 11th April. We have raised over R25 000 for this and the community that has sprung up around this need has been astounding.


So much to enjoy this month...In order of happenings:

Watching my son waltz through the first phase of his Gr 12 and passing with everything above 80%.

My 15 year old daughter dressing up in a glamorous evening gown and attending one of her closest friends Matric (prom) dance.

My younger son's 12th birthday - this turned into two parties! One a pizza evening making pizzas in a wood burning oven an the other swinging from treetops at Acrobranch.

My Mom and Dad visiting after not seeing them since October.

Picnicking at the gorgeous Bishops Court Community Garden where they have reclaimed the Liesbeeck River from its polluted canalised state.

My adopted feral cat allowing me to pick him up and hold him.

When I write this out I have a sense of needing to take another deep breath, but while busy and a whirlwind, I am alive and kicking and very very grateful for this week of school break. How was your month?