Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Farmers' Markets

I've just spent a lovely morning in the city at the Farmers' Markets and returned with a basket of produce. Would you like a closer look at the fresh local produce I was able to procure?

Today I purchased beautiful rainbow chard, leafy green spinach, Dutch carrots, spring onions, stir fry vegetable mix and Italian garlic. Most of this produce came from one stall which sells mainly organic vegetables. It's part of a local employment enterprise that is run by people who need support due to mental health issues. I used to be an occupational therapist and I love to see ventures such as these in action in the community. The people involved see the produce that they have grown go to market to be sold directly to the public.

I was also able to buy local organic pecans. Chopped pieces are cheaper. I don't mind - I usually chop them up! I'm wary of commercially grown non-organic nuts these days after watching a 60 Minutes programme about the spraying of macadamia orchards in Queensland. Scary stuff - knowing that chemicals banned in other countries are still allowed and routinely used here.

I forgot to mention the peas - the twins could not resist these sweet and crunchy snacks.
I'm looking forward to summer harvests from our own vegetable gardens. The cos lettuce and Asian salad leaves we harvested over winter have finished. I was looking forward to cauliflowers and they were growing beautifully - little creamy heads had appeared and then one morning I discovered each one of them gone - completely eaten by some creature. Only two suspects - pesky possums or quite possibly bandicoots. They have not touched the rhubarb so I guess they know that the leaves are poisonous! Time to make the garden bandicoot proof - wire cages will be constructed before any more seedlings go in! The birds are also feasting on our fare.

The mulberry tree is dripping with fruit and the green cat birds are in heaven but there is so much fruit we can share - I don't really want to net this tree. We will be netting some of our other trees though as I am not prepared to share.......

Peacharines! I was so excited to find out today that we have peacharines on the tree. I have never seen organic peaches or nectarines at the markets. We have never sprayed our orchard or used any form of chemical fertilizers on our gardens. Going out to buy bird netting on the weekend - I have waited so long for organic peaches. All the other trees we planted blossomed this spring. Cannot wait to try my first angel peach this summer. Oh that is such a luscious thought! Apples and pears to follow.

Cherry guavas we are assured of - they crop every year. Prolific - enough to share with the catbird and his mate. I love the sherbert flavour of the fruit. Makes great jelly too.

Need a bay leaf? Come visit me!

What to do with all this fresh produce? Make it into amazing meals for my family! And inspiring me at the moment is Annabel Langbein 'The Free Range Cook. Aussies have you seen her programme yet? Saturdays ABC 6pm. I'm so excited to have found the cook book from the show at the book store today. It is the most beautiful cook book I have ever owned and deserving of its own dedicated blog post. I'm going to be reviewing this gorgeous book soon. I will be back to share more from my kitchen and garden when I return from cook book heaven. If you want a taste of her recipes and fresh food philosophy visit her website here

With Love and Joy and mulberry stained fingers,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Australian Backyard Explorer

When I spied this new book at the library recently I was drawn to its beautiful cover and initially thought it was a nature study book for children. I opened it up and flicked through and knew instantly that this was going to be the most amazing resource for our latest unit study. Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis published by the National Library of Australia takes you on a journey of discovery of one very big backyard - the great south land that is Australia by introducing children to the explorers and their incredible journeys.

It is a beautiful book packed with information, exquisite drawings, photographs and illustrations - the layout is exceptional. The author asks the question 'Who were the Explorers?' in the opening chapter and reminds the reader of the forgotten heroes of exploration - those who have no statues erected in their honour or highways named for them but were members of the team with essential skills and the toughness of character necessary for survival in inhospitable terrain and conditions.

I knew this book would be perfect for a unit study for it contains backyard projects with clear directions that use everyday materials found around the home. Each project relates to a topic that is relevant to exploration such as keeping a journal. The explorers kept journals! They recorded their observations, their findings, their frustrations. A whole chapter is devoted to the subject of journals - we haven't reached that chapter yet but have created a journal style folder to hold the work undertaken as part of this unit based on this book.

The front cover of my son's journal inspired by the book. Travel themed scrapbook paper and stickers of Australian flora and fauna decorate the cover. He was quick to spot a postage stamp featuring Burke and Wills on a letter that arrived in the mail. What excellent timing!

This was the first project - learning about the sand dune angle. It just so happened that we had taken delivery of a huge pile of sand for a landscaping project. My son was sent out with a board and a bucket to the sand dune in our backyard, issued with instructions and told to return to report and record his observations. I love topics that combine science and history - sand dunes were a major challenge for some of the explorers and having completed this hands on project my son now understands why! He was soon recalling the desert episodes from his favourite television programme 'Man versus Wild'.

Tracing the map of Australia and the routes of the explorers

How do you get a son interested in the history of exploration? You take his interest in survival and tell him about the original 'men versus wild' who used the same skills that Bear Gryllis demonstrates on his show - hunting and fishing, tracking and navigating, finding edible plants and berries. All of these topics are covered in the book. His interest is sparked and he is soon drawn into an enthusiastic discussion when I ask him to tell me the reasons for the tragic outcome of the Burke and Wills expedition. They reached Northern Australia but died on the return journey and never made it back to Melbourne. If you want to know why you need to read some history books! One contributing factor was their failure to prepare the water plant nardoo prior to eating by soaking and cooking it as the Aboriginal people did. Nardoo contains an enzyme thiaminase which breaks down thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Deficiency of this vitamin leads to the disease beri beri and Burke and Wills both developed symptoms prior to their death. You learn something new every day! Actually I already knew this but only because Clarence the bush tucker expert on Gardening Australia shared this fact in a recent episode. I'm making all these learning connections in the same way my children are - it's why I love the unit study approach and this book is the perfect resource for unit learning.

We've just finished the chapter on food and my daughter has suggested a damper making contest. Damper is an Australian bush tradition. It's a simple bread made from flour and salt often cooked on camp fires. The explorers made it from the flour that they carried with them but the Aboriginal people used flour made from grass or wattle seeds and nardoo - which of course they prepared first by soaking. Today my son is putting together a mini field guide of native Australian edible plants. He's not the most enthusiastic gardener but he enjoys sketching. His task is to select five different plants draw them and write out a description for each. We have some wonderful rainforest plant guide books which he has to browse - he spotted the native raspberry first. In one activity we are covering art, writing and botany. See how it all works and brings subjects together?

Earlier sketches from our nature journal

And some other resources from a previous unit study that we will also use in this study

He's going to love the next chapter which is on Australian animals. One of the activities is sketching birds, already a favourite hobby (see above) and he's going to very motivated to make an insect light trap - the fireflies are out! Yet to come are the chapters on finding water, survival and mapping. So many topics that can be covered under the umbrella of exploration. The author Peter Macinnis is a science writer who obviously understands what motivates children to learn. I have a few other textbooks on Australian explorers but they are just textbooks with fairly dull text, black and white photos, maps and line drawings. No hands on backyard science projects to bring history alive and facilitate understanding.

I've just renewed the book at my library but I'm purchasing my own copy this week for our home library - there is one copy left at the educational bookshop. It is a resource I will use time and time again. It costs $29.95 and I have found it available online at Fishpond. I'm sure this is going to be a favourite resource for teachers, homeschool parents and anyone interested in Australian history, it is a fascinating read. Deserves to be in every school library!

Just one gripe and that is with Dymocks. It was out of stock at my local store and had to be ordered in. Then they rang me to let me know they didn't have a big enough order yet with the supplier but could still order the book in but it would cost me an extra $8. I find this really frustrating as a homeschool parent - I encounter the same problem when buying maths textbooks there. I wish they would address this issue and start ordering in more of the quality educational books for children such as 'Australian Backyard Explorer'. In the hope that someone from Dymocks might read this post I'm sharing this frustration! Never mind, the other bookshop had just one copy left and it is set aside for me.

I must let you know that this is my own personal review. I'm not being compensated in any way. Just once in a while I discover a resource that reflects one of the themes of my blog and assists me in my everyday homeschool life - no need to spend hours searching for resources and ideas when they are all presented in one beautiful volume. I believe this book will delight those who prefer not to teach subjects in isolation and want to see children enjoying learning about the history of the country in which they live. This book was short-listed by the Children's Book Council of Australia for the Eve Pownall award (for books designed for birth - 18 years) and it has been announced as the winner for 2010. I'm not surprised - absolutely deserving of its success.

I'm off to help my son paste the botanical drawings he has just presented to me into his journal.

With Love and Joy,

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Lovely Links!

Today I want to share with you two lovely links. The first is a short You Tube video of the Christian singer/songwriter Christy Nockels sharing on 'Being a Mom'. This is where I first came across the statement 'Inviting the glorious into the mundane.' Since viewing this clip (it's just over 6 minutes) not a day has gone by when I have not thought about inviting the glorious into the mundane. One short but profound statement that has really affected me and is transforming the way in which I think about my life and and carry out my daily work as a wife, mother and homemaker.
You may have already viewed this but I'm sharing it here as I believe if it only encourages one other mother it was worth putting up the link. I love links that offer hope and encouragement rather than just amusement! You will find part 2 of Christy's message at youtube.

And the second link is a fabulous new cooking show that I could have missed but thanks to my sister-in-law in New Zealand adding a 'like' and a link on Facebook I have discovered the 'freerange cook'. I've missed the first few episodes but it airs every Saturday night at 6pm on ABC1 just before Gardening Australia. I believe it is also international but don't know when or where it is aired - assuming one of the Food networks.

My free range children - when they were smaller.
This is Banks Peninsula not too far from Christchurch which experienced the big earthquake recently. This is where we used to holiday. I do miss the scenery of the South Island.

What is so special about this show is that it is filmed in the most spectacular of settings with the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island as the backdrop. Annabel Langbein is a well known kiwi cookery writer/presenter known for her love of seasonal fresh produce and simple but stylish food. Her family owns a cabin on the shores of Lake Wanaka and this is the setting for the series - her kitchen and vegetable garden which provides much of the produce for the recipes she shares which are presented in the format of a three to four course meal that she prepares for family and friends. It is worth watching for the scenery alone and it is making me a little homesick for New Zealand. I have visited all of these places including the stone walled town where Annabel shops for produce at the farmer's market. If you love to cook uncomplicated food that is organic, fresh, seasonal and straight out of the garden or bought direct from the farmer you will love this show. I'm not missing another episode. I was so annoyed to have missed the Gourmet Farmer on SBS - read about it on the blogs after the series had ended! If you loved that show I'm certain you will love the Free Range Cook. You will also love her accent - I'm going to ask my friends if I say frish when I say fresh!

You can watch previews of the show at the website
There are also featured recipes (I am making the salsa verde next time we have lamb) and a slide show of the glorious scenery. You can also view missed episodes at the ABC website using their iview service.

My daughter enjoying the park at Akaroa (a most beautiful place!)
We always send our friends visiting NZ here!

I'm also excited because we have just booked our tickets for a trip to New Zealand next February. We will be going to the North Island and staying with family on the Coromandel Peninsula which has stunning coastal scenery. It is almost ten years since we left New Zealand and I'm looking forward to showing my older children the places where they were born and where they spent their early years.

Hope you enjoy these links. Have you seen the Free Range Cook yet?
Are you watching Junior Masterchef? Wow - did you see what those kids were making? All I want to know is whatever happened to cupcakes and pikelets?

With Love and Joy,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Climb Climb up Laundry Mountain

Remember the old Sunday school song 'Climb Climb up Sunshine Mountain Heavenly Breezes blow'? On washing day which is every day at this house except for Sunday, I change the words and sing 'Climb Climb up laundry mountain I wish the breeze would blow'! It would be wonderful to see the sheets flapping in the wind but they don't. The coastal breeze does reach us late in the day but to catch the breeze to dry the washing on the line super fast we would need to relocate the clothesline - to the driveway at the front of the house - not a good idea!

And as much as I am sentimental about my faithful friend the Hills Hoist, I am not prepared to have it on the side patio either! But the washing does dry eventually. This is Australia and we have sunshine! We also receive rain - lots of it at certain times of year in the region where I live but rain or shine the laundry is always with us. It has to be sorted, washed, pegged out (or hung on clothes horses inside on wet days) brought in again, folded and returned to drawers and wardrobes ensuring that the right socks are returned to the right person - providing we can find matching pairs!

So here is my plan for laundry management for a family of nine people. Some of the discoveries I have made are recent 'why didn't I think of this years ago' implementations.

1. Accept that laundry will always be with you and choose to keep it as a priority household task. Clothes before cobwebs!

In times of extra stress or just in the busy seasons of family life such as when a new baby arrives, I can let other tasks go (such as polishing or washing windows) but laundry and meals are essential to living. If I can keep on top of these we can keep on living and I am not burdened by trying to have a 'home beautiful'. Clean clothes, meals on time and a reasonably clean, tidy and ordered home will suffice. And when laundry tasks need to be prioritized when the rainwater tanks are running low, everyday clothes, towels and sheets are given priority over party dresses and picnic blankets!

2. Give every member of the family their own linen hamper.

This has been one of the best home organization tips I have ever implemented. Even my husband and I have separate linen hampers in the walk in wardrobe. I have found the old fashioned plastic hampers to be the best. Calico lined baskets for children are not the best idea - sooner or later a forgetful child tosses in a wet towel or clothes and sets up their personal science experiment in the bottom of the basket - to grow mould! I also have a separate hamper for bedlinen and a 'wet towel' tub located near to the bathroom.

Baby boy has a calico lined hamper next to his change table but I am in charge of what goes into it. I need to keep an eye on his brother's linen hamper - this is the scene that greeted me today.

My laundry basket runneth over!

3. Enlist the help of your children

If you have children and they can dress themselves they can assist with laundry! Over the years we have had various rosters but it all started to fall apart when they began working part time on the dairy farm next door. Not only did they have extra dirty work clothes that needed washing but they were away from home at the very time of day when washing needed to be put on and pegged out or brought in from the line. So now rather than allocate days when they are on laundry I have divided up the clothes that belong to our family and given individuals areas of responsibility. This is also when I started to use the term 'pegging out' as I used to be heard calling out 'Okay, who is meant to be hanging today?' !!!

I am the Laundry Manageress and decree what is to go into the machine. The separate basket system is a great asset - I know for sure that one of the boys must have a load go onto tomorrow. He is younger and needs more reminders but he will load the machine, turn it on and peg it out - I have shown him how to do this but he still needs instruction. I am still training him and hope he becomes as reliable as his older brother.

The homeschool graduate now 18 and still living at home does all his own laundry. He has his own routine and generally does his washing on the weekend when we are away at ice skating lessons. How did I manage to persuade a teenager to do his own laundry? Well we made a deal - when we gave up the roster that wasn't working and causing too many arguments that he was part of, I put it to him that he just had to be responsible for his own laundry. He agreed on the spot! He even does his own bedlinen which is a great help to me. As the manager of my home I keep one eye on the line - if rain is threatening and my son is not home I fetch in his laundry and expect the other children to do likewise - to look out for ways in which they can be helpful and kind to one another.

His sister age 15 - is responsible for her own laundry and is also assigned her father's clothes, bedlinen and towels. She is very responsible and also prefers the new system rather than the alternating days roster which just became too complicated with children swapping days because of work/study commitments or missing their day because it happened to pour down when their turn came around.

As younger children grow in stature and maturity they are assigned more responsibility and the pressure is taken off the older ones as there are more people to carry the load. Once upon a time, I believed it was all my responsibility as the mother but my husband wanted his children to be taught how to work and to share in the running of the household, especially as we grew in number. So we start teaching them when they are little and are eager to help out. The twins cannot reach the clothesline yet but there are lots of ways in which they can help - they can match socks, deliver clothes to the right rooms and pick up dropped pegs at the clothesline.

Her sister age 13 looks after her own clothes and her twin sisters. I put more time into assisting her and have recently been showing her the value of folding in at the line. This shakes off pollen and the occasional spider - I once brought in a very venomous funnel web spider into the house in a basket of washing. You should have heard me scream when I spotted it sitting on top of the towels I had tossed into the basket which was dropped in an instant. I am now much more vigilant to check towels and try to avoid leaving washing out on the line overnight.

4. If you have time, fold in at the line. I have been trialling this in recent weeks because the mountain range of laundry which was being dumped on the sofa each evening was becoming quite depressing and there was nowhere to sit! I was the chief folder and found this task was defining our evenings. Now warmer days are here, the extra time spent at the line in the late afternoon, removing clothes and folding them before placing them in the basket is proving to be a wise investment. Clothes are less creased and because we peg them out in sections - dad's clothes are all together, baby boy's clothes (my responsibility) are all together they are brought in all together. Apart from a separate load for whites and denims most of our washing is put on in 'people groups.'

5. Consider the colour and type of clothes you choose for your littlies. When I had just two little girls I had to return to England to attend my father's funeral. During my stay I made sure I made a trip to the department store Marks and Spencer which always used to be known for quality - in clothing, home wares and food (It's one of the few things I miss about England!) I was looking for beautiful little girls' poplin dresses and found two - one in white, one in lemon with smocking on the bodice. The same dress came in 'French' navy. If I was buying the same dresses today for my twins believe me I would have chosen the navy! The twins have now inherited the dresses but they are for special occasion wear only! I also look out for hard wearing fabrics that will wash well and not pill or fade after a few washes. I'm now applying the same rule to towels and tablecloths opting for green and earthy brown shades for towels and tablecloths. As much as I love the idea of fluffy white towels and pristine white damask tablecloths I'm washing in cold water these days and have opted for the practical over the pretty. Or better still I look out for clothes and linen that are both durable and beautiful. Anyone know where in Australia you can purchase 'oilskin' tablecloths like they have in England?

Baby boy's clothes drying in the sun will be folded in at the line

Ready to be returned to their storage basket which sits under his change table.

Other stuff you might be interested to know

1. We have two washing machines. The old top loader (a Maytag) which uses a lot more water is used infrequently for doona covers/blankets or when we are on washing overload after days of rain. We had found it could not cope with the poor water pressure and wanting to have a more water/energy efficient machine, purchased a front loader (a Bosch). I was amazed at how much cleaner the clothes are when they are washed in a front loader and it does have a 15 minute cycle which is great for towels or lightly soiled clothes. Although it uses a lot less water we did make the mistake of not buying a bigger capacity machine. If I did not have the other machine as back-up we would struggle to cope with the amount of washing our household generates. I've also found the filters are prone to blocking and the rubber door seal perishes easily and needs replacing annually. So far no problems with the electronics after 3 years of continuous use.

2. I make my own laundry liquid (ingredients are grated sunlight soap, borax and washing soda) which has saved me a small fortune over the past year but I am going to discontinue using borax as an ingredient as we are reusing the grey water from the machine on the garden where fruit trees are located. I had not considered this when making up my liquid. Some people substitute bicarbonate of soda for the borax but I might just try a measure of an eco laundry liquid deemed safe for septic systems and grey water reuse. If you make your own laundry liquid and reuse your grey water I would be interested to know what you use in place of borax and how it performs.

3. I iron in the hallway! A strange place to set up the ironing board you might think but this is where the laundry storage cupboard is located and my son plays really good music most of the time - saves me searching for CD s and setting them up. I like to have music to listen to as I attend to this task. Sometimes he is not aware that I am at the ironing board until he hears me singing along to 'The Sound of Melodies' by Leeland or my favourite at the moment 'It's all because of Jesus I'm alive' (by Fee from the album 'We Shine'). If I am ironing a garment I pray for the person it belongs to - this means I pray for my husband daily as he needs a freshly ironed shirt for work each day. I also meditate on the many blessings of family life as I iron right next to my hall table where there are photo frames holding pictures of family , figurines and plaques to remind me of God's providence. Who would have thought ironing could bring you into the presence of God!

This cloth is my latest garage sale find, it came with matching napkins - all hand stitched and the complete set cost me two dollars. The iron was also two dollars from a garage sale! Even my ironing board came from a garage sale! When I iron tablecloths I pray for our family meal table that our fellowship around it will be a sweet blessing and a precious memory for our children when they are older. And when I iron my own clothes I pray for strong arms for the task, for my ministry of motherhood and for patience and perseverance - especially when the ironing pile doesn't seem to be getting any smaller!

A sneak peek at my latest project. The vintage wardrobe has had two coats so far of Dulux antique white USA - always a pot of this paint colour to be found in a shed here at this home. I'm preparing myself for painting the formal living room which is undergoing extensive renovations at the moment. Have to say I prefer painting wardrobes to ceilings - no strained neck muscles!
It was of course, formerly a dark timber veneer wardrobe and it dominated the hallway. It is really quite big - a monstrosity according to the rest of the family but I saw its potential. It is going to be my craft/homemakers cupboard. I hope to get it finished on the weekend.

So there it is - a post about how we do laundry. The children now think I have lost the plot - taking photos of the washing baskets, the clothesline and blogging about laundry! But I do hope this has been of help to someone and given you insight into how we are raising homemakers and responsible sons. This is what works for our family in this season of our life.

The mountain is sometimes moved but the baskets are rarely empty and soon refill. The clothesline is usually full and our days are busy but somehow we get through. Working together as a family, a little household organization and choosing to take pleasure in the domestic is how I climb, climb up laundry mountain and conquer it. (I still wish the breeze would blow!)

How do you move your laundry mountains?

With Love and Joy,

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