Category Archives: Simple Living

Mending – a Radical Act of Value

Another Vlog post is up.

Josh (having listened to my rants on long journey’s far too often!) suggested that I talk about some of our values and philosophy behind our choices.

So I did…

 

Chicken Update – 7 weeks later!

We are about 7 weeks into our chickens and it is going really well.  I think eggs are more expensive (with all the additional costs of keeping chickens) but I’ll do a proper reckoning when we have a better estimate on how quickly we go through bedding.  But we are enjoying having them so much and our compost production system is now getting to levels which might meet as much as 1/3 of our needs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gardener with a veg plot is in want of more compost.

So here is episode 6 of Tales from Westwick all about chickens.

Tales from Westwick Episode 1

I’m experimenting with the form and trying out a few you tube videos – little diaries of what we are up to.

 

 

I’d love to know what you think so please check it out and if you feel like it then like and subscribe.

This is episode 1 and episode 2 is going up shortly!

Show Notes:

Book I mention…The Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes
Dinosaur jumper pattern – by Linda’s Knitwear Designs
Yarn – Cascade 220
Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn (I got the company name wrong in the video, sorry!): Awesome Aran in the Suffragette colour way

Book Review: Moontime by Lucy Pearce

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I love reading and although I read less than I used to now I have a busy toddler I still try and get in as much as I can.

When I was feeling particularly lost in Motherhood Lucy’s book “The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood” was vital and re-energising for me.  So I jumped at the chance to review a copy of the second edition of Moontime when it was offered!

I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty ambivalent about my periods.  They are neither bad nor good, they just are.  They are a bit annoying when I want to go swimming, they are extra hassle when I have to remember to wash my pads (I’m still a big re-usable hippy!).   But they are neither horribly painful and heavy or deep and meaningful spiritual experiences.  But I am a big hippy and I am open to thinking about things in new ways and it was in the spirit I picked up Moontime.

I did not regret it.  Lucy has a beautiful writing style, warm and heartfelt.  Her words flowed off the page and it was a joy to read.

It was also wonderfully practical. I’m in my 30s, I’ve had a baby, I’ve read all about fertility and I thought I was pretty smart about my insides.  But there was loads of factual information in here that was a revelation to me.

Secondly I really enjoyed reading how other women experience and celebrate their cycles.  This was a whole new world I never knew about and it has opened my eyes.  It was an amazing world of women gathering together in Red Tents, connecting and making a special kind of magic and it goes far beyond simply bleeding once every 28 days.

I think there is something I’ve been missing here, there is some level of connection with myself which Moontime might just be a roadmap to.  I’m still thinking and digesting what I’ve read and I’ll definitely be re-reading – so many things to think about!

There is a link here where you can buy the book (not an affiliate link).

Full Disclosure – I got a free review copy.

Mending, Mending, Mending

I’m having one of those months where the pile of mending is definitely growing faster than I can manage it.  Which has got me to thinking about mending a lot…

So far I’ve finished:

1. Sewing a busted seam on R’s swimming costume

2. Sewing a busted seam on R’s PJs

3. Sewing two busted seams on Josh’s green cabled  jumper

4. Sewing a busted seam on my PJ bottoms

(Sensing a Theme right!)

5. Darned 4 socks with about 8 to go more holely socks.

6. Invisible mending on my best jeans 3 times (and they have just blown a forth hole – totally my fault, I thought that my last patch was too close to the hole, turns out… it was!)

Which leaves darning my lightweight Spring jumper, sewing a seam on R’s duffle coat, patching my other PJ trousers, patching Josh’s black jeans, patching my combat trousers and patching another PJ top of mine.  Oh and probably a whole load of horrors lurking that I haven’t found yet.

Most of these items I’ve had for years (that PJ top, did about 20 years hard service in my normal wardrobe first! before it got downgraded to PJs). Sometimes I bought them second hand expecting a fair amount of wear and tear in them. But others, like R’s duffle coat were brand new – worn once or twice at most before the seams split. These were not cheap throwaway clothes from Primark or Tesco but brands you would think better of like Marks and Spencer. There is only so many times I can mend those items before it gets me down.

If you are reading this blog then I probably don’t have to tell you why I’m mending.  But just in case… the short story is that I don’t believe in throwing away useful things, I don’t really care if people see me wearing patched jeans (because I’m lucky enough that any judgement they make doesn’t really affect me) and I don’t want to waste money buying clothes I don’t need.  But it is exhausting sometimes.  I don’t really mind mending all the socks – I knitted them in the first place and the mending maintenance is expected (socks often last several years round here before a darn is needed) – but I am angry that brand new clothes seem to fall apart with a harsh look. Believe me it isn’t because I’m washing them at 60 degrees!

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post – I think it is a shame people don’t mend clothes much anymore but part of me empathises with them, mending is endless with the poorly constructed garments available today.

I’m just going to drop a few useful links on mending down here – to make this post slightly more useful and slightly less like I’m just having a rant for no reason 😉

– There is a huge amount of amazing resources in Jen’s Make Do and Mend website here.

Repair Cafe, a fantastic movement which is connecting people who can mend with people who need mending to happen!

This is the you tube video which taught me to darn socks about 7 years ago (it is still a great video and the only technique I use).

Recovering Creativity

 

Recovering Creativity

For as long as I can remember I’ve considered myself a creative person; probably even a Creative Person. I feel like my creativity is an integral part of my green, sustainable life.  So much of what we are doing requires us to get creative, whether in the garden or the kitchen or somewhere else entirely. I’m also always so admiring of the other green, frugal and sustainable bloggers out there – there put out so many interesting ideas daily I struggle to keep up with them all.

I always feel like I am a Creative Person even when I feel like I don’t do much creating.

Sometimes I think this is the greatest gift I got from my Dad. He is always creating something, music, art, novels, short stories – right now he is building a clever sandpit for R which will one day convert into a raised bed. So R can go from playing with sand to growing his own fruit and veg.

I want R to grow up surrounded by the sort of constant creativity that I lived with.

Sadly not my Crab Apple Tree.

Sadly not my Crab Apple Tree.

And part of the reason for starting this blog was to create things – instead of just consuming endless kitten pics on facebook.

But I’ve had a bit of a creative drought recently. A few busy weeks at work and a busy Autumn’s preserving has left me without much energy to put into anything else. Yes the Autumn preserving is also creative – I shan’t deny that, but it has sucked up more energy that it should have done recently.

Luckily I had a great time at Yarndale recently which has helped to kickstart my creativity again.  It was amazing seeing so much talent and I’ll be writing a full post about it soon. I also completed a writing deadline last week and finishing things always gives me a boost!

The cowl I started designing less than 24 hours later.

The cowl I started designing less than 24 hours later.

So I’m getting out my resources on creativity and making a plan.

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1. Making Space – clutter in my creative workspace, clutters up my brain. I can’t focus quickly to getting things done. I’ve allowed my study/studio to get bunged up with rubbish recently. Time to fix that. I have cleared about half my study as I’m writing this, only half left.  I find Chez Larsson to be the perfect inspiration for remembering how creativity flows from Order.

2. Making Time – I read a great book a while ago, “The Rainbow Way” by Lucy H Pearce. It is a manual to help new parents find their creative rhythm again after having children. Most importantly it has some really great tips on how to find time to be creative. If you only have 20 mins for creating then using those 20 mins effectively is essential.  Hence clearing my space and getting all my projects organised.  If I only have 20 mins to write, design or blog then I’d better not have to do 20 mins of tidying and admin before I can start!

3.  Making Plans – I always have a number of creative things on the go, writing projects, knitting projects, designing projects, smallholding projects, gardening projects, recipes I’m inventing etc.  I’m usually pretty good at keeping track of them but I’ve let that slip recently.

I also plan what learning I need to do to make my creative work really zing. For example I really want to take better pictures for this blog.  In order to level up I need to be learning about Photography!

I’ve got a huge stash of pretty notebooks (I’m sure I’m not the only one)  Time to bust some of them out and get some planning done. I love a good list!

A small collection of my pretty notebooks.

A small collection of my pretty notebooks.

4. Making! – I’m squeezing in blogging time, tidying up, designing and writing.  I’m showing up and doing stuff even if I don’t quite feel it.  I know from experience that practising creativity makes me more creative.  I’ve just got to show up and do something.

This was a really big swatch!  Seriously big.

This was a really big swatch! Seriously big.

How do you get back on the creativity horse when you hit a futless streak?  Let me know in the comments below.

Better dash – the sound of little feet bouncing on a cot mattress tells me my 20 mins are up!

Zero Waste Week: Use it or Lose it

This week has been zero waste week, I’ve been remiss in marking it on the blog but not at all remiss in observing my part of it at home

I think I might even be an Ambassador for ZWW which makes my shame all the greater.  Quick go over there and check out the cool stuff I keep forgetting to blog about!

The view from our local park.

The view from our local park.

I chose to focus on food because whilst I work hard to reduce waste there are always things I could do better and new tips and tricks to try out. This culminated in an ultimate Zero Waste Meal that I am incredibly proud of because almost all the ingredients were grown or made by me!

The meal was Potato and Kale stew and my ingredients looks liked this:

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Shallots (grown by us)

Garlic (grown and preserved by my Dad)

Cavelo Nero (grown by us)

Potatoes (grown by us)

Borlotti Beans (grown by us)

Parma Ham (grown and made by us)

Leftover shredded chicken (remnants of 4 chicken carcasses I used for stock)

2 cubes of chicken stock (made by me, reduced until concentrated and frozen in ice cube trays)

1.2 litres of whey (leftover from cheesemaking I used it to rehydrate the stock cubes)

Smoked Paprika (shop bought)

Olive Oil (shop bought)

The method was pretty simple after that..

Fry the shallots and garlic in the oil until softened and add the potatoes and ham.  Then add the paprika, chicken, whey and stock cubes and simmer for about 20 mins or until the potatoes are done.  Then add the cavelo nero (destalked and roughly chopped) and the beans – cook for another 10 mins.  Voila!

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It was incredibly flavourful and highly nutritious with all the extra protein from the whey and of course that Superfood darling – Kale!

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Growing your own food is really waste saving in so many ways, there is no packaging and no air miles, you only pick exactly what you need so nothing rots in the veg drawer and any trimmings can go on the compost heap to be put back into the soil.

Over the week I’ve been looking out for more food waste saving tips to pop down here:

1. Chillis – my chilli plants failed this year so I’ve had to buy them from the Supermarket.  I always get more than I need in a pack.  So I read online that you can just throw chillis straight in the freezer in a container and when you need them, get them out and use them as if they were fresh.  I have about 4 chillis in the freezer right now!

2. Milk – I over ordered milk recently and ended up with double what I needed.  I froze one of the bottles and use the other to make Paneer Cheese.  I used this blog post and the final recipe in it is for Queso Blanco which (as it turns out) is the same as paneer!  I used some of the whey in the above stew instead of water and the rest I’m freezing in portions for baking.

3. Preserving – as a Gardner with a lot of fruit trees at this time of year I am rushed off my feet trying to preserve the harvest.  Currently I’ve made two plum cakes, 7lbs of Damson Jam and nearly 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial.  There is much more to come this weekend.  There are lots of good jam and chutney recipes online and if you use homegrown or foraged produced they will often cost pennies.  Our 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial cost under a £1. I can’t bear to see blackberries rotting in the hedgerows near to a supermarket where they are being sold at £1.75 for 150g!

4. Pizza Sauce – I love this idea by A Girl Called Jack for making pizza out of leftovers.  I often have a couple of tablespoons of veggie stew, chilli, bolognese leftover and nothing to do with it.  How come I didn’t realise I could use it as pizza sauce!