Monday, August 31, 2009

Healthier Scones

I'm still preparing my post on encouraging children to write animal and nature stories, so today I would like you to invite you into my kitchen at eight acres of eden and share via a series of posts, my healthier scone and pastry recipes and let you know how I am adapting my cooking and kitchen routines to cater for a larger family who have healthy appetites to match their healthy diet!

My most used kitchen appliance is my grain mill, we purchased a Whisper Mill when our local wholefood store was offering a $200 discount on the RRP. I buy my wheat grain from them in 12.5 kilo bags (27 1/2 lbs). Buying in bulk gives me a 10% discount. A bag of organic bio dynamic wheat grain costs me around $25 and lasts 4-6 weeks depending on how much baking I do.
A 1 kilo bag of organic white flour cost over $5 at the supe
rmarket. It may be organic and unbleached but the most important, nutritious part of the grain, its outer husk, has been removed. The grain costs $2 a kilo. The mill has been a worthwhile investment that also benefits our health!

I often make muffins but my girls love to rub the butter into flour when we make scones. Most scone recipes ask for self raising white flour and store bought scones will usually have extra artificial ingredients such as preservatives. Ask your bakery what ingredients go into their scones if you are unsure. Do they use butter or margarine? Dried fruits are not likely to be sulphite free. I have stopped using white flour and now that I own a grain mill that is capable of producing a finer flour I have been using freshly milled flour in all of my recipes. Over the weekend I made two big batches of scones... a fruit scone with dried cranberries rather than sultanas and the one my family enjoyed the most, orange and coconut scones which utilizes another of my pantry staples and a healthy oil... coconut oil, along with organic dessicated coconut and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Orange and Coconut Scones

You can take your favourite scone recipe and substitute wholemeal flour for the white flour, raw sugar for the white and replace half the butter with coconut oil... place it in the fridge in order for it to solidify if it is warm and your oil is runny. Add in half a cup of dessicated coconut (I always buy organic to avoid preservatives), grated orange peel and a good squeeze of orange juice or you can use my recipe which I must let you know is very approximate... if the mixture feels too wet add in more flour or if it seems too dry and crumbly, add more milk. I always make dough by feel but remember with scones to not overwork the mixture or your scones will turn out tough.. the lighter the hand the lighter the scone!

In a large mixing bowl sieve together
2 cups freshly milled flour
3-4 tsp allergy free baking powder (aluminium free)
a pinch of celtic sea salt

Rub into flour mix until it resembles breadcrumbs
25 g butter (approx 1 oz)
25g extra virgin coconut oil

1/4 - 1/2 cup raw sugar (depending on how sweet you want your scone to be)
n.b I use rapadura or honey in muffin recipes but prefer the texture of raw sugar for scones. I never use white sugar.

Stir in
grated peel from an orange
1/2 cup organic dessicated coconut

1 free range egg (lightly beaten)
a good squeeze of orange juice
(I use half an orange)
3/4 cup milk

Combine gently to form a dough. I use a knife at first and then my hands.
Roll out on a lightly floured bench to desired thickness and cut out rounds with a cutter
Place rounds on a baking tray (I line my tray with baking paper)
Brush beaten egg onto tops
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C (392 F) for approximately 10 -15 minutes until scones are risen and a lovely golden brown colour on top if you chose to glaze them.

These scones have a subtle citrus flavour and you can taste the coconut. For my second batch I used only coconut oil... they really taste of coconut! Today I am going to use the last of the limes from my Tahitian lime tree to make lime and date scones. Other scone variations my family loves are....

Banana and milk chocolate
Blueberry and white chocolate ( I occasionally buy a chunk of organic Swiss chocolate from my local health food store)
Apricot and honey

What is your favourite sweet scone variation?

An update Lime and Date Scones

It is Monday lunchtime and I have just baked a batch of lime and date scones. I did not use coconut oil this time as I used the last of it this morning when making a new batch of my homemade muesli. I used one cup of chopped organic pitted dates which I buy at Aldi and the grated rind of 2 small limes and the juice of one lime. They were delicious and I had just enough time to arrange them on a plate for a photograph before they were demolished... I have saved one for my husband to try when he returns from work this evening! I have three limes left so I'm going to use them make another batch. I'm looking forward to the next harvest as I want to make a lime and date chutney. A friend told me that she tried this at a farmer's market and it was beautiful.... this is what gave me the idea of adding lime to date scones. There are no limes left on my lime tree but it is starting to blossom and the bees are arriving... just a reminder that tomorrow is the first day of spring!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

'Rocky Come Home' Another Adventure of 'The Collie with Class'

I could not resist sharing for the sake of nostalgia, another doggy tale from days gone by, of Rocky our beloved Lassie lookalike, the rough collie who aspired to live a more affluent life. This is one of those stories I want to preserve, which is why I have decided to write about it on my blog which is also my family journal, the story of our lives. My older children have fond memories of Rocky from their childhood days growing up on the dairy farm in New Zealand but they were too young to remember some of his more famous antics! When we moved onto the farm Rocky was older and wiser, the more carefree days of his youth were over and he settled down and even grew tired of roaming our 300 acres! His beautiful, gentle nature remained and he would allow toddlers to clamber all over him. He was the perfect family dog.

I hope you enjoy this canine tale, after all stories about pets, dogs in particular, are becoming bestselling books and are even being turned into Hollywood Movies and don't forget Hollywood's most famous dog was, like Rocky, an adorable rough collie who captured the hearts of generations of children and adults and launched some famous careers!

The original 1943 film 'Lassie Come Home' starring Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor is one of the best Lassie films. My children have not watched this since we replaced our VCR with a DVD player. I will have to look out for it on DVD. It is a great movie to have in your family film collection.

In my previous post I shared how Rocky had been offered generous country town hospitality and had feasted on gourmet fare when he gatecrashed the garden party of our neighbour, a local town councillor. This experience must have given him a taste of the good life and a few weeks later he found a way out again (despite our back garden being fully fenced) and went on his search for another venue offering more refined dining options than Pedigree Chum!
We pounded the pavements of our town, searched its highways and by-ways, hunted behind hedges and visited every park and open green space. After 3 days we gave up the search. Rocky was wearing an id tag on his collar (these were the days before micro-chipping of pets) and we just hoped someone would find him and call us and not fall in love with him and adopt him!

The Country life beckoned but Rocky was not interested in chasing cows!

We never thought he would head out of town but this is what he had indeed done! He was wanting a tree-change and gone in search of the country life. He did not have to go far as we lived right on the edge of town. I received a phone call from a lady who lived on a farm a few kilometres away. Do you own a Lassie dog?' she asked. 'He's here on my farm, he's just fine, don't worry, we are looking after him'. I had to wait for my husband to return home from work with the car until we could head out to pick him up. We found the property and drove up its long driveway, the homestead could not be seen from the road. And what a homestead it was! The most palatial, expansive country home I had ever set eyes on. A restored, opulent 19Th century villa with wrap-a-round verandas and magnificent gardens. The type of country property you are likely to see in the exclusive real estate brochures. 'Wow - these people have money' my husband remarked! I was still speechless and taking in every aspect of the glorious home we had come across. 'That's my dream house' I told my husband! And it was obviously, our dog's dream house too, for there sitting on a big comfy cushion looking very much at home on the veranda was Rocky. We pulled up in our car in the driveway but Rocky did not come to greet us. He had seen us and recognized us but even the sight of our shiny, red apology for a sports car (a Mitsubishi Cordia!) would not entice him from his regal position. The lady of the house came out to greet us and told us that Rocky had turned up the day before. They had not noticed his tag at first, hidden in all that long collie fur. 'He's such a beautiful dog, we knew he belonged to someone and we have looked after him for you, he's just had some steak for dinner'. Steak for dinner! No wonder Rocky did not want to come home! He continued sitting on his cushion with a look on his face as if to say 'Please don't take me away from here, I have green acres to roam, a beautiful spacious veranda and steak for dinner! This is the life!' It took lots of persuasion to get him to move off that veranda but eventually we managed to coerce him into the car. We thanked the lady for looking after our dog and contacting us and we headed back to our humble abode with one rather forlorn looking dog on the backseat! I had taken note of the name on the mailbox at the entrance and later discovered that her husband was the director of a NZ dairy company. We joked about there being money in dairy cows without realizing that we would be entering this industry ourselves.

This is the Country life Rocky went in search of. This was not the actual home he visited but it was similar to this gorgeous homestead. I took this photo on a garden tour many years ago, to tell you the truth, like Rocky I was more interested in the homestead! My friend and I spent the time viewing the gardens surrounding the veranda so we could take a closer look at the house!

A few years later we were able to fulfill Rocky's dream of a life in the country when we sold our home and bought into the dairy herd owned by my husband's parents, we moved onto their farm and our new abode was a very humble stone farmhouse and although Rocky was delighted with his new three hundred acres, I suspect he was disappointed to see that there was no veranda! A few years later, we indulged him when we had a rather large deck added on to the house. He even received the odd steak from time to time, as farm life meant lots of beef in the freezer! He never went walkabout again!

It was so hard to leave him behind in New Zealand but he was getting old and we knew that being confined in quarantine would have been too much for him. I later heard he moved from the farm to the city of Dunedin, I'm not sure why or what the circumstances were.. at least he had a decent fur coat to keep him warm in this very cold place! I just pray he was cherished by his new owners and spent his final days in doggy contentment!

When we came to Australia and moved on to our eight acres of eden, we found ourselves another puppy, a kelpie collie cross we called Nisha who would not require the hours of grooming a rough collie required. Sadly, we experienced the heartbreak of losing her to paralysis tick poisoning in 2005. I was not sure about having a dog with a longer coat but Faith our border collie has been a much loved member of our family for the last four years. She does not seem to be affected by ticks, we are very vigilant about checking her. I'm also very aware of the early symptoms of tick paralysis. She is a part time working dog and accompanies my son and daughter when they go to work on the next door dairy farm, she is a real pro, an expert at rounding up cows and keeping them in order when they have to be moved along our country road.

Faith is a faithful friend!

Charity is our adopted cat, she came to our door as a kitten that had been abandoned in the bush. My 9 year old son took this lovely shot of her sitting in the concrete barrow! She will be a perfect subject for a story or he can choose from budgies, a cockatiel, chickens or our bush inhabitants such as green tree frogs, geckos, koalas and our current visitors the bower birds.... catbirds, satin bower birds and the regent bower bird have all been sighted recently and are stealing biscuits from the dog's bowl!

This is the Regent bower bird.... a most colourful inhabitant of Australia's forests and an occasional visitor to my garden. Seeing bird life such as this is one of the joys of living in a forest setting! No, I did not take this picture, they are quite elusive but you cannot miss them if they do fly in. I once had one fly past and brush my ear as I stood on the patio.

I did have time to grab the camera when these colourful King Parrots came to visit the magnolia tree outside my kitchen window!

I hope you enjoyed the story of Rocky the 'Collie with Class'. If you have a furry or feathered friend who is a much loved member of your family, I would encourage you to record your memories. If you are a parent of younger children you could have your children write stories about their pets - this would make a great homeschool writing project. In fact I'm going to have my children do this shortly... animals make great subjects for stories! In my next post I will share some ideas for combining nature study and creative writing and dip into our homeschool archives to show you some of the projects my children undertook which involved animal life.

Reading books about animals may inspire your children to write their own stories, especially if you can find books that feature a pet similar to the one they own. Collies often feature in children 's books.

Your children will enjoy reading about their animal's adventures and antics in years to come and at the same time you will have helped them create a very special record of your family's time spent with their best friends! You will also appreciate having a record of the different places where you lived (and visited for day trips and holidays). The property where your children spent their childhood years will no doubt bring back many memories and you may be amazed at how many of your memories involve interaction with animals. Just thinking of Rocky the collie with class reminds me of two homes and two special places and I will always hold him fondly in my heart!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If Teacups Could Talk

'And it's not the teacups themselves that bring such a message of beauty and serenity and friendship-although my teacups do bring me much pleasure. It's not the tea, in other words, that makes teatime special, it's the spirit of the tea party'
- Emilie Barnes from her book 'If Teacups Could Talk'

This is a story of a teacup, a pretty china teacup, not unlike the one in this picture, a pavement (yes a pavement or sidewalk if you live in the USA!), a country town and hospitality which was bestowed upon a young wife and mother, an unusual act of kindness that she has never forgotten, which anchored in her heart to create a memory so precious, it still encourages her today and reminds her that a cup of tea can truly be a cup of kindness.

I was that young wife and mother and the scene I am about to describe unfolded in the early 1990s outside my home in a sweet, country town in the North Island of New Zealand where my husband and I bought our very first home.

Our first home. My husband built the new deck and stair rail and constructed the patio. Ever resourceful, he made all the pavers by hand to save us money!

I loved our first home, it was special because it was our very own and we relished the opportunity to transform this simple white timber home with a 70's showpiece interior (complete with orange bench tops in the kitchen and amber bubble glass panels everywhere!) into a more serene and comfortable family home where we could raise our children and welcome friends.

My husband set to work building a lovely timber kitchen, even though he was not a carpenter by trade, he wanted to use his hands creatively, to save us money by doing it himself and he designed a kitchen where his wife would just love to spend time developing her culinary skills, which of course would benefit him! He thought of everything... bench tops at a height to suit me, accessible glass fronted china cabinets, a wonderful corner pantry and an antique iron wheel suspended above the island to hold pots and pans and cooking utensils. When we later sold this home, the buyers stipulated that we had to leave the wheel! They loved it too!

The large living room had Axminster carpet in a swirly brown design ... not my favourite floor covering but it had to stay as it was in too good a condition to rip up ( it was the type of carpet made to last for decades!) But no one noticed what was underfoot as your eye was drawn to the view from the window. A garden with established fruit trees and a stunning maple tree, met the boundary fence of a farm. We had bought our home on the last street in town and rather than overlooking a neighbouring yard, we looked out over rolling green pastures and our only neighbours at the back were dairy cows... little did we realize then, that this was a taste of the life that was to come, five years later we would sell our first home and buy a dairy herd!

My husband with his first born son in 1992 (- he is 'eating' a flower! ) standing on the deck of our home overlooking our quarter acre paradise with its glorious maple tree and stunning rural backdrop. This beautiful outlook always made pegging out the washing a far more pleasant task!

The view and the established gardens were the draw cards and of course, the location. A quiet street in a 'good area'. It had belonged to an old man who loved his gardening and there were flowerbeds everywhere! A rockery in the back garden, flowerbeds along every fence and a front garden filled with flowering annuals... mainly marigolds to match the orange bench tops in the kitchen! I loved the English cottage garden look and the ample rainfall of this region allowed me to set about establishing a cottage garden to complement our country style home. I planted roses, lavender, daisies and all those flowers one associates with an English country garden!

Of course, a cottage garden is a lot of work. I spent hours weeding, trimming and pruning. I was very diligent in looking after the front garden which did not have a front fence. It was on full show... and it had four beds to maintain and a nature strip to mow. For some reason we had a pavement at the front of the boundary, as well as some nature strip next to the road. Most of the homes in the street only had nature strips up to their front fence. It was a very handy place to perch on my garden kneeler when I needed to weed the front garden bed.

It was a sunny afternoon and my baby son was sleeping soundly in the front bedroom. I would hear him if he awoke and I had decided to use this time to do some weeding in the front garden. I was now used to the solitude of staying home, I believe I was the only stay at home mum in the street! At 8am a procession of cars would leave for work and return at 5pm. There were retired folk living in the street but I rarely saw them. On that day as I ripped out the oxalis, only one car passed by, someone popping home for lunch I presumed.

'Hello there!' a kindly voice almost caused me to drop my garden fork, I was not used to meeting any neighbours during the hours of daylight! Standing on the path was an older lady dressed immaculately in a suit, she was holding a tray on which sat a china cup, a jug and plate. 'I drove past earlier and saw you working so hard in you garden, making it so lovely. I always notice it when I drive past. I thought you deserved some afternoon tea' She set down the pretty china cup of steaming tea, a jug of milk and a matching plate on which sat some dainty, sweet biscuits. 'Enjoy your tea, I'll pop back later to pick up the dishes.' And with that she walked away, leaving me to sip my tea on the pavement! I was rather stunned and had somehow managed to utter a thank you. I had never taken tea on the pavement before! I have to say I rather enjoyed it, the tea was refreshing but what was most uplifting was that I had just been the recipient of a most unusual act of kindness. I wonder how many of us would think to do something like this for someone they didn't know?

I did know who the lady was, she lived further up the road in the adjoining cul-de sac, her name was Pat and she was a local councillor, a very busy lady. I had seen her picture in the newspaper but I had never met her.

The next time I would meet Pat she would once again offer hospitality, not to me but to my dog! We had adopted a lovely Lassie lookalike, a rough collie named Rocky. He was adorable but liked to go walkabout, we had nicknamed him 'Houdini' because he always found a way out! I would spend hours searching the streets in our neighbourhood for him. On one of his most memorable escapades I had returned home without finding him and decided to take one more walk up the street. There were lots of cars parked outside homes, very upmarket cars - BMW's and late model sedans. Someone was having a party, a garden party to be precise. It was to celebrate Pat's 60th birthday I later found out and there among the smartly dressed guests I spotted mingling with the mayor and dignitaries, one rough coated collie.. my dog! I was so embarrassed when I had to enter the garden party to retrieve him. Rocky was loving every moment, attention had been lavished upon him and he had enjoyed lots of tasty gourmet morsels fed to him by adoring guests. I apologized profusely but was told not to worry, he had been most welcome, a lovely dog who had livened up the party no end!

Rocky our beloved Collie. He stopped going 'walkabout' when we moved to the South Island, he now had 300 acres to roam. He was one happy dog! We allowed him to retire to the farm when we moved to Australia. The new owners agreed to let him stay on but we missed him dearly!

These are some of my more unique memories of the early days of marriage and motherhood. I loved being home with my children, looking after my home and tending my garden but it was sometimes a very lonely place to be. No one to talk to, apart from a gurgling baby and a friendly dog. There were days when I wished I was 'Dr Do Little', if only that dog could talk human talk! I longed for adult company and conversation and so did the dog obviously who was so sociable he raided a party! He had class that dog, inviting himself to a gathering of some of the more affluent townsfolk! I did not have his kind of nerve! There were also times when I used to wonder if all the work I did at home was appreciated. Why did I spend so many hours pulling out weeds and planting flowers in the garden when people hardly ever passed by, we were not on a busy road or thoroughfare after all. Then God sent along an angel with a china tea cup to remind me that my work at home did not go unseen, that it bought pleasure to a lady who drove past every day on her way to work. And she recognized the hard work that was put into beautifying a simple home on a street in a country town. Just one simple act of kindness which spoke so much to me and told me I was appreciated and my work was of worth.

I have shared this story to encourage you. Perhaps you are in that same place I was. You have chosen to stay home to raise your children and be a wife and homemaker. You work hard but sometimes do not know if anyone really notices or cares. Maybe you were once someone with a career, a responsible job and you were daily affirmed and thanked for your contribution. This was my experience when I worked as an occupational therapist in the health service. I was told my role was vital and others begged me to reconsider when I informed them I was leaving to become a full time mother and homemaker. 'We need you Ann, don't leave!' But deep down in my heart I knew God was calling me home, I longed to be at home and I was needed at home by my husband and children. I was no longer designing activities for clients or delivering assessments at meetings. I was cooking, cleaning, changing nappies, doing laundry, weeding gardens. The work sometimes seems mundane and repetitive.... clothes get dirty and have to be washed again, the weeds grow back, the flowers die and you have to start all over again. And there are days spent in solitude, with no adult company until your husband returns and he is tired and just wants to relax rather than converse. I did learn not to share the woes of my day but rather the joys and the highlights (such as the story of my special afternoon tea!) and after a time, I realized that he did appreciate my work at home. He loved coming home to the aroma of a home cooked dinner, a clean and tidy home and although he did not always verbalize it, I do think he liked the flowers in the vase set out on the table. He didn't always notice the freshly weeded garden out the front but a lady called Pat did. The work we do at home is never in vain and it doesn't go unnoticed, you may think it does but a cup of tea on the pavement proved to me all those years ago that it ministers to someone and is pleasing to God!

Can I also dare you to be like Pat, the lady who bought me the cup of tea in a china cup! Perhaps you know of a young girl who works in her garden or maybe you have an older neighbour who is always out sweeping her porch. Would you be so bold to take her a gift or bless her with afternoon tea. You could even invite her into your home and share the gift of teatime together! And if you are not prepared for guests you could always serve tea on the pavement!

There are lots of wonderful ideas for sharing cups of kindness in this book by Emilie Barnes. She is one of my favourite authors. I learned all my homemaking and home organization skills from her books. She encouraged me to make my home a haven, a beautiful peaceful, welcoming abode for all who would live there or enter in. I wrote to Emilie to thank her for her books and she sent me a handwritten note of encouragement and thanks. I still have that note, it is one of my most treasured possessions! She writes 'Dearest Ann, I was so touched and impressed by your letter. It really made my day, your ideas are wonderful and beautiful....' This little note encouraged me to start running my 'Creating Christmas' seminars from my home which have blessed many women over the years! If you are not so bold as to serve tea on the pavement, perhaps a simple handwritten note from you to an aspiring homemaker will be what God uses to encourage her to continue her blessed work at home!

Another glimpse of my Family Vision poster which reminds me daily that as a homemaker, I am to create a sanctuary for family and friends, to have a welcoming home where hospitality is a way of life!

Today, whatever you are doing, I pray that you are feeling blessed to be in the place where God has ordained for you to be. You may be outside pulling out weeds in the garden, rocking a baby to sleep in your arms, cleaning windows or preparing a meal. Know that every task you do that serves another is important and God sees it as vital work in His kingdom and admonishes us to do it! '

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.' Colossians 3:17

With love and joy,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Embellishing an Easel

This make-over project was easy as ABC, as simple as child's play and my 3 year old twins are thrilled with their 'new' chalkboard, magnetic whiteboard and painting easel which will provide them with hours of creative fun and learning.
We have had this child's easel for a number of years and it was in a bit of a sorry state after being stored under the house. It was unpainted and stained from greasy fingers but still sturdy. My home is painted throughout, every wall and every French door, in this shade of white - Dulux's Antique White USA- I love it! - and it seemed appropriate to continue my obsession and complement my home by painting the easel in the same shade plus we had leftover paint and why go out and spend money for a different colour! I gave it three coats but just left white it looked a little stark. I found this gorgeous chipboard alphabet set in pastel shades in a discount store (Crazy Clarks) for $4 and attached them with craft glue to the frame. The girls have a set of plastic magnetic letters and are learning their ABCs at the moment. I'm thinking of buying some more letters to attach to the other side to spell out their names.
So if you have an old chalkboard lying around why not liven it up. You can paint it whatever colour you wish and use your imagination to decorate the frame, so many discount stores sell wooden embellishments ... I'm seeing boards with butterflies, flowers, clowns, cars, animals, teddies - just choose something which will delight your child!
I see child's' easels and chalkboards at garage sales all the time often for less than $5, many are paint splattered so would be ideal to make-over. Don't pay $60 at the store for a plain wooden one- embellish an old easel, save money and create something unique!

P.S This would make a great Christmas present for a child! Add in some chalks, paints and magnets for stocking fillers and you have a gift which will nurture their creativity for years to come! I hope to share some more ideas soon for alternatives to toys for Christmas and show you simple gifts and 'kits for kids' as I call them, that will educate rather than simply entertain - gifts for all the budding artists, cooks, gardeners, collectors, animal lovers and more that we are raising!

With love and Joy,

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home Sweet Homebirth

I promised to share some stories of my birth experiences and as my daughter recently celebrated her 12Th birthday it seemed appropriate to relive for this post, the story of her birth which was my first home birth. I planned a home birth from the start because I was confident that I could have a birth without relying on medication for pain relief and little or no intervention (no attachment to drips, monitors, internal checks etc).... this was my experience of my second birth which took place in a maternity home. I had laboured at home and we drove the short distance to the facility when the contractions intensified. The lovely young midwife on duty was able to sense that the baby would be arriving shortly. I never once lay on my back, not even for the delivery and within 45 minutes of arriving at the home my second baby first daughter. It was not until later that I realized that I had just experienced a completely natural birth.... no drugs were needed or suggested and I felt so good afterwards. I returned home later that day and remarked to my own midwife who had come to visit me (she had been unable to attend the birth due to being at another birth) that it was 'almost a home birth'. 'Next time' she said 'You should consider one'.

By the time we were expecting our third child three years later, we had made the move from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island to become dairy farmers. We were now in a rural location and driving long distances to antenatal appointments did not appeal. This is when I truly came to appreciate New Zealand's maternity care system which offers women real, informed choices about the birth of their babies and simply the best care. There was a Midwifery practice based in a city about forty minutes from our farm but I did not have to drive in there to visit the midwife I had chosen as my 'lead maternity carer'. She came to me! She was a qualified, experienced midwife who had delivered lots of babies at home. All the usual checks were conducted in the comfort of my own home and of course we had lots of discussions about plans for the birth including the circumstances that could arise that might facilitate a transfer to the hospital for the birth. I knew that I was in very good hands. I was confident not anxious. Relaxed and reassured.

Ten days overdue and praying for our baby to arrive soon, our prayers were answered when I went into labour when watching a gardening show on television in the early evening. My previous labour had lasted 6 hours .. would this be shorter? Longer? I was hopeful, the contractions were regular and I felt certain this was true labour. I rang the midwife and by the time she and the assistant midwife arrived, I had run a bath and was more than ready to hop into the warm, soothing water.
I'd thought about hiring a birth pool but honestly, the thought of the hassle of setting it up and having it slap bang in the middle of the kitchen floor and then having to fill it caused me to dismiss this option. The bathroom was small but the steam from the bath soon filled the room and made it warm and cosy and it was winter, a South Island winter!

Icicles on the dairy farm fence

My midwife was an expert at back massage and this helped me through the latter stages as the contractions came closer and intensified. As had happened in my second labour, she could tell how far the labour had progressed and did not need to perform any internal checks. I too, was aware that this baby would be arriving soon and not wanting to be on my back in the bath I stood up and grasped the towel rail which ran along the wall. I nearly wrenched it from the wall with the next contraction which so overwhelmed me and with that one huge push my daughter was born into the hands of the midwife. It was around 10 pm and the labour had lasted about 4 hours start to finish. I had done it! My first home birth and what an experience! The midwives quietly worked and organized everything and very soon I was in my own bed cuddling my beautiful daughter... she was my biggest baby at 7 lbs 12oz and in perfect health. She took to breastfeeding straight away and was soon feeding contentedly. My other two children had both been asleep in bed and my husband awoke them to come and meet their new baby sister. This was one of the most wonderful aspects of the home birth for me... they did not have to wait for 'visiting time'; although the maternity home had been 'homely' it was still a public facility run by a health board and still had to abide by routines and regulations. At home it was always visiting time! I could choose when to have my meals, when to rest, when to sleep (without being woken up by other babies crying, as is the case when you have to share a room in the hospital!) and it wasn't long until I was back into the flow of everyday life on he farm.

Following my experience of home birth I was sold! It had been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I know it isn't the choice of every mother but this was my choice and I was living in a country with a health system which although not perfect had set up a maternity care system that allowed me to make this choice knowing I would have an experienced midwife in attendance. I could have chosen to give birth at the hospital and have the same midwife deliver the baby... a total continuum of care. If I had needed any specialist care or intervention the choice of having an obstetrician was also available to me. What's more this care was free! Following the birth for the first 6 weeks, the same midwife visited me at home to check on my baby and me.

Our first home born baby grew quickly and within the year was soon exploring her environment and raiding the pantry! See those ice cream cones... I should have learned and moved them to a higher shelf. She later returned to try those too and bit the bottom off every cone in the pack!

It should come as no surprise to learn that I was now a huge advocate for home birth and planning another birth at home for our fourth child who would arrive two years later in a most memorable way but I'll save that story for later!

And then I moved to Australia and the home birth choice was wrenched from my hands as I discovered we were living in a region that did not even have an antenatal service at its new shiny hospital! I was back to visiting my GP (a nice family doctor but it takes a month to get an appointment and he is always so busy, after a long wait you usually get no longer than 5 minutes for a visit with him!) and once it was found I was expecting twins I was off to the obstetrician.

And here I am again expecting another baby... just one this time and yes, I would love to have a home birth but find that choice is really not available unless I am prepared to pay for it or use an unqualified birth assistant, something which I am not prepared to do. There are one or two independent qualified midwives around who offer home birth but at a cost of $3000 and it seems the Australian government is making moves which will basically make home birth illegal by 2010.

I am so thankful that I did have the opportunity to experience a home birth on two occasions but no matter where my next baby is to be born I am assured of this, that God my Father who placed this baby within me and has knitted him or her together, who already knows my baby and has a plan, a purpose and a destiny for the life of this child, will be with me wherever and whenever the birth happens to take place. Although I have little confidence in the system here which limits my choices, I have every confidence in God and I know I can trust Him.


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