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Showing posts from October, 2014

One year of commuting

Nearly a year ago I quietly announced that I would be working in Brisbane and staying away from the farm during the week (to recap, I drive down to Brisbane first thing Monday morning, stay at a unit under a friend’s house through the week, and leave work early on Friday to drive home again for the weekend, its about 2.5 hours drive each way, I’m lucky that my company allows this flexibility in my working hours). You might have missed this because I kind of buried it in a post about an excellent book I’d just read. I wanted you to know about it, but I didn’t want to make a big fuss. I didn’t want you to worry about me or feel sorry for me. Even so, the reaction from some friends and acquaintances has surprised me. People have worried that our marriage was in trouble, but as you know from my post last week, we just celebrated our forth wedding anniversary and I can't wait to go home every weekend. Where else would I go? I don’t want to be in Brisbane! I miss Pete and all ou…

Three simple ideas: Cook from scratch

Lately I've been sharing with you simple ideas for getting started with simple living.  As many of us have discovered, simple living isn't simple, certainly when you're getting started, there are lots of new skills to learn and its important to find a routine that works.  I've already shared simple ideas for growing your own food, and for saving money on groceries.  Here's a few ideas of things that you can cook from scratch that will save you money and be better for your body.

Simple: Homemade bread
I didn't think that making bread was easy at first, but have got myself into a system and haven't bought any bread since April 2012, so it must not be too hard after all! More here on the bread recipe that I've settled on.  If you have a bread maker (or can buy one secondhand from someone else who gave up on the breadmaking dream), its even easier to make bread.



Simpler: Chicken or beef stock
One thing that I have been trying very hard to keep doing is makin…

Raising chickens for meat

There are many reasons to consider raising chickens for meat. The fact that they are small means that they are very easy to butcher, with no specialty equipment required. Even on a small property, you can raise a few chickens, and even better, you can either butcher them all at once, or just do a few at a time as you need them, which is far more flexible than larger animals like beef cattle, which can fill several freezers in one go.


If you do decide to raise chickens for meat, you have the option of buying “meat chickens”, or simply butchering chickens from your flock. For the second option, it is better if you can keep a dual purpose breed, so that you have larger hens that also lay well. While culling the old hens will provide you with a few meals, the meat can be a little tough. Ideally you would hatch and raise chicks from your flock and cull the roosters at 4-6 months old. Of course this assumes that you can keep roosters.
 I think this is where specific “meat chickens” ca…

Our wedding anniversary

Pete and I got married on the beach four years ago yesterday (23.10.10).  I wrote ALL about it one our first anniversary, so if you're interested in simple wedding ideas, here are the links:

A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception


Any simple wedding tips to add?








Clever Chicks Blog Hop Simple Saturdays Blog Hop From the Farm Blog Hop Homestead Barn Hop The Homeacre Hop

Hand sewing - hems of skirts and trousers

Hand sewing is an important skill and the ability to mend garments by adjusting hems, sewing on buttons and darning small holes, can be a good way to save money by making clothes last longer.  I was lucky to learn to hand sew by doing cross-stitch as a teenager, which involves learning to make small neat stitches.  My mum taught me to hem when she got sick of adjusting my school uniform skirts as fashions changed.  Since then, I have been able to adjust hems as required.  I'm tall, so I often extend hems on trousers, and skirts can go either way.




First step is to unpick the hem (or as often happens in cheap clothing these days, it will come apart before you have a chance to unpick) and decide what length hem you want.  Then iron, measure and pin the hem.  (Ironing is a pain, but its worth the effort for a neat finish).


Next, choose some thread as close as possible to the colour of your garment.  Thread a needle and tie a knot in the end of the tread (I make a knot in the fabric, b…

Valley Bee open day - learning about bee keeping

Last Sunday we travelled to Kandanga, near Gympie, for an open day held by Valley Bees.  It was a wonderful day, I was surprised by the professional and informative displays.  We learnt about solitary bees, Australian native stingless bees and top-bar hives.  We bought a couple of books, but no bees yet!

Why keep bees?  Pollination, honey, wax and another addictive hobby!




Overall, we decided that the easiest thing to do would be to encourage solitary bees in our garden.  This should help with pollination, but we won't get any honey!  Here's a good post about solitary bees.



The next step would be a hive of Australian native stingless bees.  These are relatively easy to manage because they don't sting!  They also make a little bit of honey and wax.  At the open day we saw how one full hive can be split to create two hives.  In this way you can expand the number of hives and spread them around your property.  The bees only travel 500 m, so you can keep them in your garden to…

Sustainable soap - 100% tallow!

We don't use much soap, so I haven't been able to experiment much lately.  My last batch was a disaster that had to be rescued by a hot-process rebatching, so we have had a massive excess of soap to use up from what turned into a triple-batch.

When we had our last steer killed we asked the butcher for all the kidney fat, so we were both keen to try making some more soap using the tallow (how to render the fat).  Pete helped me to make a batch of bath soap using tallow, coconut oil and olive oil, so get my confidence back after the last disaster (caused by not measuring properly).  When we saw that batch was a success, we decided to finally try 100% tallow.


The reason that we hadn't tried 100% tallow before was the higher temperatures required to keep the tallow liquid during the mixing for cold-process soap.  I was nervous about it and wanted to practice using coconut oil and olive oil mixtures first, at lower temperatures.  I modified the bath soap recipe that I publishe…

My soaked dough bread recipe

I haven't shared my bread recipe before, I think because I was still refining it, and then I memorised it, so I didn't really need to write it down!  Also, I'm hopeless at following recipes, so I forget that other people want to use them.  This bread is a "soaked" flour recipe.  This means that you add some kefir or yoghurt to slightly ferment the dough before baking, but it does not rely on wild yeast or a starter like sourdough.  It takes longer than a standard bread recipe, but does not require any "dough conditioners".



Soaked flour bread in a bread maker

3 1/4 cup flour (wholemeal wheat, spelt etc, it will rise better if you add some white flour due to the gluten content)
about 1/2 cup seeds - sunflower, chia, hemp etc

about 370 mL of water (this is why recipes are a problem for me, you just get used to what the dough needs to look like, this will vary with the flour you use and the amount of seeds)

1 Tbsp (i.e. a splash) of kefir or yoghurt

1 tsp of…

Milk Cow Kitchen - book review

I know I keep saying this, but if you want to get a house cow, you need to read every book you can find on cows.  Even if you don't agree with everything in every book, the more you read, the more you will understand what your options are.  And some books cover different topics in more detail.   Milk Cow Kitchen has excellent step-by-step photos and discusses topics that I haven't seen in other books at all.  Its definitely worth adding to your house cow reading list.

Read the rest of my review over at my house cow ebook blog.







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You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy Interview with myself

Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture

Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow

Interview with Rose Petal

Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow

Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on EtsyLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to arrange delivery.  Mor…

Three simple ideas: Save money on groceries

Last week I wrote three simple ideas for growing your own food, because I wanted to start a discussion about ways to start living a simple life.  There are lots of options and the path you choose will depend on your priorities and abilities.  I've been thinking about some good (easy and cheap) places to start, based on my own experiences.  This week I'm thinking about saving money on groceries (apart from growing your own veges, see previous post!)

Simple: Make your own yoghurt from powdered milk
A 1kg bag of milk powder costs about $7, and will make about 10 L of yoghurt, so it is a very cheap way of making yoghurt! I use an easiyo thermos, which costs around $20, but if you have a small eski or drink cooler that can fit a jar, you can use that to make yoghurt too. I see easiyo thermoses at markets and op shops all the time, I bought a second one from the dump shop for $2.  Look out for one, buy it and make cheap yoghurt!  See my posts about yoghurt here.




Simpler: Use natural …

How I use herbs - Parsley

If I was to encourage you to grow just one herb, whether you have a large garden or only a small balcony, without a doubt it would be parsley (Pertroselinum crispum).  Parsley is incredibly easy to grow and propagate, it goes with nearly every meal and has a number of important medicinal properties.


How to grow parsley
Depending on your climate parsley may be an annual or biennial (mine is annual in the sub-tropics, it seeds and dies off in the heat of summer).  I can't actually remember where the parsley in my garden first came from originally.  I think I bought a small plant about seven years ago and planted it in the garden.  That small plant grew into a large plant, flowered and set seed.  And ever since then, parsley has popped up in my garden whenever I need it.  I took a couple of plants when we moved house, and the cycle continues.  I do save some seeds from the plants, but I usually just sprinkle them all around the garden, and weed out any extra plants that grow.  I never…

Garden share - October 2014

We had a little bit more rain in September, about 10mm in a "microburst" that nearly blew over the neighbour's shed and destroyed one of the blinds on our veranda!  But I'm not complaining because everything is still green, only just, but its nice to start spring with some green because the forecast is not great for the next few months.  My vege garden is in transition from winter to spring.  Its still full of greens, but many of them are starting to go to seed.  I'm still harvesting silverbeet, mustard greens, kale, parsley (and various herbs), calendula flowers and celery.  I have leeks and carrots growing very slowly.  And maybe some garlic.

Last month I planted seeds and I had a bit of trouble with them. I wanted to put the seed tray in the mini greenhouse to stay warm, but a mouse dug up my seeds, so I put them inside the house, but then the seed tray dried out. Some seeds sprouted but didn't really grow much, and in the end it just didn’t work out and I…

Happy Birthday Puppy Taz!

We are not exactly sure when Taz was born, but when we bought her in the first weekend of January 2014, she was 11 weeks old, so counting backwards, that puts her birthday in the second week of October, which means Taz is now one year old, give or take a few days. Happy Birthday Taz!



Taz was my first ever puppy, and I as I wrote in the last update, I was really dreading having a puppy. I don’t know if its good luck or good parenting, but Taz’ puppy months have passed quickly and she’s calmed down and stopped chewing things (although she does still collect gloves).
When we bought Taz, shortly after Chime died, we had been debating whether to buy a working dog. Trained working dogs are very expensive and we don’t have a lot of work for a dog, just the occasional day when it would be nice to have a good dog around. We have friends who got a dog from the pound that turned out to be a good working dog, so it is possible to get a free or cheap dog that has some ability. We decided to t…