Little Things

Clean

Camellias

Poppy

Egg

Books

Strawberries on Toast

Daisy and Clover

No Knead Bread

1. I’ve been trying some new green cleaner recipes. The only commercial cleaning products I have had to buy in the last few months are oxy-action bleach and dishwashing liquid. I wish I’d made the change sooner.
2. Our two camellia bushes are blooming. They were planted many, many years ago and have somehow survived intense droughts and years of neglect. Their blooms bring so much joy to grey winter days.
3. Sweet Poppy napping.
4. Our girls are laying again! They had a really tough first moult and were off the lay for quite some time. It’s so lovely to have homegrown eggs once more.
5. I’ve been spending a lot of time cooking good, nourishing food in the last couple of weeks. I don’t often follow recipes but I love beautiful cook books for inspiration when my motivation in the kitchen runs dry.
6. Strawberries, cream cheese and a drizzle of honey on toast, with a big mug of cinnamon tea. The perfect way to start a day.
7. We’ve been painting our living room. Clover and Daisy have been helping by getting in the way and brushing up against the wet paint on the walls. They’re so cute, it’s impossible to stay mad at them.
8. No knead bread. Yes!

Katie xx

Comments { 16 }

The Chicken Tractor

We’ve had a few questions about our chicken tractor, so I thought I might as well put a post together answering them all in one spot…

Beatrice Evie Tilly and Madge

Tilly (now Billy), Madge (now Matt), Beatrice & Evie.

Reuben with Agnes and Betty

Reuben with the new girls, Agnes (on the right) and Betty.

Our flock of four has undergone some changes in the last few weeks. Sadly, Madge and Tilly turned out to be Matt and Billy, and since we aren’t allowed to keep roosters in town, they had to be rehomed. They’ve since been replaced with two more sweet little Wyandotte bantams. Keeping up with the House of Eliott theme, our new girls are named Betty and Agnes. After some initial upset amongst the girls, they have now settled in with Beatrice and Evie really well.

We actually had a bit of a scare with Beatrice this week. She was very unwell and at one point I was quite sure we were going to lose her, but with some antibiotics, two nights spent in a cat carrier indoors (with a hot water bottle!) and lots of love, she recovered. She is back to her cute, friendly, happy self again now. Thank goodness! (She’s got such a sweet temperament, she’s a bit of a favourite around here.)

Chooks

Beatrice and Evie.

Chicken Tractor

Everyone in the tractor, watching me excitedly as I walk over with some fresh silver beet for them.

We first got the idea for our chicken tractor from an episode of Gardening Australia. Our girls have a small coop under our little apple tree where they sleep and lay. It’s big enough for them to wander and scratch about in, but they quickly denuded it of any greenery and we wanted to give them access to fresh grass, weeds, bugs and grubs, so they could scratch and forage. Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to, we can’t let our girls wander free range (because our fences are inadequate and our dogs would like to eat them!) so a chicken tractor was the perfect solution. The tractor allows us to give them access to fresh earth and grass to happily carry out their natural chicken behaviours, digging and fossicking, while staying safe.

On wet or windy days, and days when we aren’t home, the chooks stay in their coop, but when the weather is good and we are at home, we put them out in their tractor. We put them out in the tractor mid to late morning, so they have time to lay in their laying box before they go out, and bring them in just as it starts to cool off before dusk. We move the chicken tractor a few times throughout the day, so they always have access to fresh greenery, bugs and grubs to pick at.

The tractor itself is just a light weight run that we purchased from a discount store. Reubs originally planned to make one, but when we found the perfect thing for a great price, we snapped it up. We bought the run when we only had two chickens and though they are still very happy in their tractor, now that our tiny flock has grown, we are planning to upgrade to a bigger one.

And that’s it really! How we work our chicken tractor. If you keep (or would like to keep) chickens in a small backyard or a space that isn’t safe for free ranging, we highly recommend this system. The girls love having the chance to scratch for bugs and dig in the dirt, and we love hearing their happy, chooky noises from the garden!

Katie xx

Comments { 11 }

Five Favourite Things (with Jane of The Shady Baker)

Our next Five Favourite Things guest is gorgeous Jane of The Shady Baker. Jane blogs about her beautiful life on a farm in western New South Wales. I am always so inspired by the glimpses of farming life, homegrown produce and delicious cooking that she shares!

rosemary

What’s your favourite plant or flower?

My favourite plants are mostly the edible variety but this wasn’t always the case. Years ago I dreamed of a garden full of roses and overflowing cottage style garden beds. Nowadays almost all of my gardening efforts are put into our vegetable garden. One of my favourite plants is rosemary. Not only is it both attractive and edible but it also thrives in our harsh growing conditions.

winter

What’s your favourite time of year?

Winter. My love of taking photos has grown with my blog and subsequently I am always observing the light. The winter light at our place ranges from icy frost in the mornings, brilliant clear sunshine in the afternoons and sparkly golden light in the late afternoons. I adore lighting fires, collecting wood, cooking comforting food and rugging up in woolly scarves. Summer in our part of the world can be brutal and I relish every cold winter moment knowing that the hot weather is just around the corner.

relaxing

What’s your favourite way to relax?

With a free afternoon I love nothing better than to light our wood oven and cook a batch of sourdough bread. There is something comforting and rhythmic about tending to the fire and preparing the loaves. After a few years of practice these afternoons usually result in sweet smelling loaves of bread goodness. It is also a chance to spend time in the fresh air, visit the woodpile and enjoy our outdoor cooking area.

Friday night drinks

What’s your favourite beverage?

My favourite beverage changes according to the time of day and the time of year. In winter time I tend to celebrate the arrival of Friday night with a dark and hearty stout. Stout seems to taste even better enjoyed by a roaring fire with my family.

ingredient

What’s your favourite ingredient?

Always something home grown or home produced. Not only does it taste better, it feels better too. A trip to the supermarket just cannot replicate that feeling. Right now I am harvesting and cooking plenty of broccoli.

Now, you! What’s your favourite plant? How about your favourite time of year? What’s you favourite way to relax? Tell us about your favourite beverage or your favourite ingredient to cook with!

Katie xx

Comments { 12 }

Blooming Where I’m Planted

Bloom Where You're Planted

I orignally wrote these words for Kidspot, but the thoughts and feelings I touched on in this post have been on my heart and mind this week, so it seemed appropriate to it share here today…

In the nine years Reubs and I have been together we have lived in three cities, two large coastal towns and one tiny rural village. We’ve occupied four houses and six apartments (not to mention the three months we spent staying with my mum between moves). In that time I’ve worked in publishing, communications, hospitality and retail, as well as in my current position, self-employed with a little handmade jewellery business and bits of freelance writing.

I’ve always thought I was just one of those people who thrived on change. But while it’s true I do love exploring new places and experiencing new things, I’ve recently come to realise that perhaps more than I enjoy new things, I like leaving old things behind. In other words, I’m quite good at running away. In the past when things have gotten tough, boring or unhappy, instead of making some changes to make my existing circumstances work for me, I’ve just picked up and left it all behind. I don’t regret doing this, as all my experiences have taught me valuable lessons and made me the person I am today, but I see now that I can’t uproot my life and start afresh forever.

The reality is life is never perfect. There will always be struggles and room for improvement in various aspects of our existence. While I don’t for a moment condone settling for a life that makes you miserable, I believe the key to happiness is not making life perfect, but rather making the best of whatever we have, where ever we are. To bloom where we are planted.

I am mostly pretty content with the state of my world right now but there are certainly areas I’m not crazy about. Sometimes I get frustrated with the limitations of the tiny village we live in and I’m not thrilled with the state of our old house, but instead of giving in to the urge to run away in pursuit of greener pastures (as I would have in times gone by) I am learning to focus on the good bits and make smaller changes in the areas I’m not happy with.

I may not be smitten with the town we live in, but if we hadn’t moved here we couldn’t have afforded to buy our first home and we certainly couldn’t have afforded for me to quit my day job and start a business. In making some compromises on where we live we have been able to make other dreams come true. There isn’t a decent coffee shop for miles and we are quite a distance from most of our friends here, but it is safe and friendly and peaceful. Our house is shabby and in need of so much work, but it is ours. We have room for a veggie patch, we can have a big family of pets here without upsetting a landlord, and our mortgage repayments are less than we were previously spending on rent.

Our life is not without flaws but there is plenty to be grateful for. Rather than using the imperfect bits as reasons to run away, I’m trying to use them as motivation to improve and make the most of where we are right now.

I believe that it is important to take risks and make changes, and I am so glad I have taken some fairly big leaps in my life, but I know now that I’ll never be truly happy if I keep leaping without ever pausing to embrace where I have landed. There comes a time when you have to stop running and just breathe. Little by little I’m learning to make the most of the here and now. In this moment I am planted in this creaky old house and this funny little town, so here I will bloom.

Katie x

Comments { 18 }

Suburban Jungle

Reuben and Veggie Beds

Gardening

Poppy

Garden

Daisy

Planting

We spent a lot of the weekend in the garden, building two more veggie beds, planting a couple of citrus trees, pruning and pottering. Though our garden isn’t producing much now, it feels good to be building something for the future. From little things big things grow.

I must admit, when Reubs and I moved into this house I was a bit worried about going overboard in the garden. Our block is very small and awkwardly shaped and I seriously doubted that we’d ever be able to make it particularly productive. Reubs was keen to make the most of our limited space and cram it full of edibles. He immediately wanted to rip out all the lawn and replace it with a giant veggie patch, and was adamant that we had enough space for a number of fruit trees, but I was reluctant. It seems crazy to me now but I didn’t like the idea of not having any lawn and I was scared that if we planted too much our yard would look messy and unattractive. (What would the neighbours think?!) So we started small with two little veggie beds, a couple of fruit trees and two chickens, and bit by bit we’ve added more and more. We now have four large veggie beds, ten fruit trees, two passionfruit vines, a couple of berry plants, two elderflower bushes (for making cordial) and hopps (for making beer) which we plan to plant next to the car port so it can climb. We are also hoping to turn a whole corner of our yard into a large chicken coop, so we can keep a bigger flock of chooks. Slowly, I’ve come to realise just how much can be done with a small space (we still have room for so much more!) and I now have a completely different kind of vision for our garden. Not a tidy lawn, tidy veggie beds, tidy trees and small tidy chicken coop, but a rambling patch overflowing with homegrown fruit, veggies, flowers and chickens.

I recently bought Backyard Self Sufficiency by Jackie French (which I highly recommend) and today I was having a read when I stumbled across a quote that so perfectly summed up what I’ve been thinking and feeling, that I had to share it with you. Jackie says:

“I have two images of suburban life today.

The first is of a neat house set in a mown lawn with trimmed shrubs and a sandpit; a clean kitchen with yesterday’s takeaway containers in the sink; and the latest DVDs to fill your life after dinner.

The second is of a suburban jungle: a maze of tangled apple trees and grapevines, carpets of strawberries, and kids with mulberry-stained faces who don’t come inside till dark. You trip over a box of apples in the laundry and the kitchen smells of summer tomatoes and of the basil on the windowsill.

The kitchen shelves are full, so are the lives of the inhabitants.

The richness of our lives depends on our surroundings and what we fill them with.”

I know which one I’d prefer. Bring on the jungle.

Katie xx

PS Just in case you are wondering what our “chicken tractor” is doing in our new veg beds – we were using the girls’ scratching skills to get a headstart on digging up the grass.
PPS My cute apron and trowel are from lovely Brenda‘s wonderful new shop.

Comments { 26 }