Monday, December 13, 2010

A spot of gardening

Jonty and I try to spend as much time as we can outside in the garden but with all the rain that we have been having it has been difficult. So when the sun comes out we are outside first thing and go in and out all day.

We picked some beautiful flowers and Jonty tried a bit of flower arranging. . . .

And we also planted some fresh herbs in our herb garden after having a big clean up and removing the nastursiums that had completely taken over.

And we mulched our newly planted native garden which Jonty especially likes helping out with!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good mornings

Jonty and I are settling into a new sleeping routine after some upheaval from him getting sick and moving into a "big boy bed". He now sleeps in a little longer than he used to (the sun is at least up when he decides to surface these days!) and I have been getting out of bed sometimes hours before him. I am loving this time of the day as I potter around doing odd chores and generally enjoying the peace and quiet and having some time to get ready for the day.

This morning I went out to feed the chickens and collect the eggs,

and I discovered who has been eating my brussel sprouts. . .

. . . .and kale (it's the big fat green caterpillar hiding there on the leaf)

I cut the soap that I had made last night as I begin making Christmas presents,

and I stood on the balcony to drink my morning coffee watching the misty clouds hanging over the mountain.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Little Red Caboose

My mother in law just gave Dave one of his books from when he was little boy that she had kept. It was his favourite and his bed time story every night for about a year; The Little Red Caboose.
It has now become Jonty's favourite and after a few days of reading it over and over he now knows sections off by heart.
It is so lovely to not only be able to share a book with Jonty that was his Dad's but also to read a book that has beautiful illustrations.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rummage Style website

So I have finally gotten around to getting my website freshened up with the current range on and a few changes here and there. I'm happy with the way it looks, have a peep here and let me know what you think!

A little bit of Christmas

Dave and I are not generally that into Christmas. After years in the hospitality industry where Christmas meant lots of extra working hours, hugely busy days, and working when everyone else seemed to be celebrating, it has taken a while for the thought of summer not to bring dread.
But we are slowly starting to come round and now we are able to take time off to be with our families and sit back and enjoy the time with everyone else. We are also making an extra special effort as I know Christmas is really exciting for little ones and I want Jonty to enjoy it just as much as I did when I was young. So, this year we purchased our first Christmas tree!
We thought that Jonty would get over the fascination of a tree in our lounge room and leave it be but it turned out that the temptation was too much, and when he started to have plans about climbing it we decided to shift it to a safe zone. It nows sits on top of our wood stove (which thankfully is not needed this time of year in Australia) without the risk of little hands slowly striping it of its needles.

I did realise soon after putting up the tree that we had very few decorations, just a few baubles given to me my mother in law a few years back. So, over the last two evenings I have enjoyed doing a little hand stitching and making some simple hearts and I sewed up a paper bunting made from old sheet music. I like our tree now and I'm sure that every year we will develop our little family tradition of going down to the market to buy our tree! Next year Jonty should be old enough to help me make some more decorations which we will keep in a box to bring out each year.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Soule Mama books

One of my favourite blogs to read is Amanda's Soule Mama and I finally got around to ordering her two books. One, The Creative Family, is full of great ideas for activities to do with children and lots of ways to help encourage their creativity and imaginations. The second, Handmade Home, is basically a how to craft book and there are lots of projects that I want to try. But, the one that I really wanted to get stuck into first was the rag rug. I love these rugs and what's best is that they use all the scraps and bits and pieces of fabric that I always have around from my business.
I have already started and am really enjoying sitting down at the end of the day after my little one is sound asleep and relaxing into the rhythm of plaiting my rug. It's a big project as I have a particular place in mind for it which means that it needs to be really big, but I am happy to plod away at it and am liking the idea of a long term project instead of what I usually do which is quick result sewing projects. Plus Christmas holidays are coming up and I'll have something to take away with me, unless of course it is too big by then as I don't think taking a giant rag rug on a road trip is particularly practical!

I'll keep you updated on my progress and also on any other projects that I try from the book.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The power of bi-carb soda

Now, I just want to let those of you that don't already know, into the secret . . . . commercial cleaning products are a farce and a complete waste of money. I don't mean that they are just expensive and full of all sorts of things that I don't want to wipe all over my house, but they also don't work anywhere near as good as what you can make at home.
I first became converted not through environmental or financial issues but because I was desperately trying to clean something that no amount of expensive products could clean and in a last attempt I reached for the bi-carb soda and it came right off. I was trying to get rid of that sticky grease that gets on the tops of your kitchen cabinets that you don't realise is there until you get up an have a look and by that time it's been there so long that it is really hard to clean. Boiling hot water and soap doesn't work, any cleaning product didn't work and I spent ages rubbing and rubbing. I then sprinkled a spoon of bi-carb soda on a damp cloth and without any pressure it wiped clean off! I couldn't believe I didn't know about this before and why wasn't everyone using it?
Since then I use bi-carb (baking soda) and vinegar to clean everything in my house. Nothing beats bi-carb on a damp rag to clean porcelin, tiles, toilets, etc. If you want to kill germs like on your toilet then just wipe over with vinegar. This will clean just as good as those stinky, dangerous products that people feel they need to use.
The other day my love of bi-carb was again strengthened when I was trying to polish my stainless steel splashback and oven canopy. I had some special "stainless steel cleaner" that I had bought in a previous life and was using that. It ended up so streaky and sticking to any grease that was there that I had my husband rubbing it with all his muscle power to get it shiny like I wanted it. The result wasn't great. The next day after I was sick of looking at how bad it looked I got out the bi-carb and rubbed it on. Without any force it cleaned and polished at the same time. I just buffed it a bit afterwards with a clean dry rag and it was perfect.
Now why aren't we all using it? It's so cheap , it's an all round cleaner, and it is by far the easiest and best to use. I guess that marketing tells us we need these certain products to get the best clean. Advertisements scare us into thinking that if we aren't using hospital grade cleaners then we are putting our families at risk of being attacked by germs. But, it turns out that disinfecting too much is actually harmful to our health. Children especially need to be exposed to certain germs to be able to build an immune system to fight off nasties. Putting them in a bubble places them at risk of being susceptible to anything that comes their way outside of the home. Besides, these awful harmful products are not something you want to be wiping around on surfaces where your children are. You might kill the germs but the product itself is probably more harmful. My rule is that if my son can't eat it then it isn't safe to spread around where he will be.

I use vinegar and bi-carb soda for all cleaning in my house and I make my own soap and laundry powder which you can read about here. I do have products for the making of soap and laundry powder in the house that are not safe for children so I am careful to keep them locked up, and other than my dishwasher's detergent (if anyone knows of a homemade alternative let me know) that is all that is used that I would consider dangerous in my home.

Don't be fooled by marketing, those companies are money making industries that invest millions of dollars to try to get you to believe that you need to use their products. Well, you don't need them so keep your money for yourself!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Into Production

It has been hard to be motivated to go out into the garden of late due to all of this rain that we have been having. It has meant, however, that my vegetable garden has just about been able to look after itself and seems to be growing super fast.
I feel like I am very close to being able to cross any vegetables off my shopping list. Today I was able to go out and pick all of the vegetables for our stir fry tonight and there are plenty more varieties that are close to being ready. At the moment I am able to pick;
snowpeas, yukina savoy (an asian green), baby heirloom carrots, Tuscan black kale, baby heirloom beetroot and silverbeet. Not to mention all of the herbs that are powering along.

I am trying really hard to be always planting so that I will always have something new coming on and be without any lean times. I know that once I stop buying vegetables I won't want to go back and so need to make sure I am keeping up with the planting. My onions and garlic are going really well along with the potatoes. Once these are all ready I am going to have a go at storing them so they will last as long as possible. Hopefully it will be enough to get us through but if not I will take note to make sure that I plant enough next time. This is all trial and error and I don't expect to get things right the first time. As long as I can figure out where I have gone wrong then I am sure that I can continue to solve problems so that over the next few years I am able to maximize my yields and my garden's potential.

We are still having to buy in compost to fill the raised garden beds, but the difference that it has made to just filling with our soil is substantial, and we know that this is just a one time investment having to only need to top it up every now and again in the future. I am finding having raised garden beds so much easier to look after than just regular beds. It's easy on your back, my son can easily be involved without doing too much damage and you are starting with the best soil possible without any weeds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rummage Style in Peppermint mag

I don't talk about my business very much and this blog is actually meant to be a bit of a break from all things "work" but every now and again there are times when I like to share a little bit with friends and family. One of my dresses is featured in the current Peppermint mag! Sometimes these little things happen and I give myself a little pat on the back, feel a little proud, and then get back to it!
I love the way I can now separate my work from my personal time. It has taken a long time to be able to do this because when you have your own business and work from home it can take over your life. I made a decision a little while ago, however, that along with the rest of my life I am going to keep things simple. I don't want the stress of trying to push and push to grow something that is too big to handle and not enjoyable anymore.
As the time goes by I value my work more and more. It has given me the freedom to spend every day with my son and also given the family more freedom financially. I do feel lucky that things have worked out as they have, even though it has taken some time and caused stress in the past it has been worth it in the end.

My dress is the blue one with the floral ruffles... all 100% recycled materials and handmade!

Chocolate face

Jonty and I have had a few rough days together over the last week. I think those two year old molars are causing some grief.
So, we find that making chocolate cake makes things just that little bit better!

Friday, October 15, 2010


When we first bought this house we had big plans. There were plans to basically double the size of the original house with many bathrooms, guest room, office, etc. We were going to get a bigger mortgage, get it all done and then be blissfully happy in our renovated and big house. A little while ago after thinking a lot about this I realised that I was feeling quite overwhelmed and stressed about the idea of such an undertaking and I was really uncomfortable about perhaps losing the history, quirks and feeling of our place through the additions of shiny and new things. You see, over the last two years of living here I have fallen in love with our house. There is nothing exceptional about it but it is just the way that it makes me feel. When I walk down through the garden I relax, I feel happy and very lucky. I feel like this every single time I come down the stairs. And I realise that it is enough for me. I discussed all this with Dave and he is completely comfortable about reassessing our plans. As long as we can replace all that needs to be replaced like our roof, shower and driveway and we continue to work on things like the landscaping, and building a deck, he is happy. And if we find that in ten years we need to extend then we will probably be in a much better financial situation to do that.

I don't know why we created this pressure for ourselves. Perhaps it was a societal pressure of striving to have more than others (or the same as others), or maybe we just hadn't given ourselves the time to love what we have first. I think that today people get so caught up in aiming to get what they don't have that they stop looking at what they do have.

I think that we all know deep down that more stuff, bigger houses, better cars, etc aren't actually going to make us more happy, but the feeling of thinking it will somehow make our lives better takes over. We get that thing that we wanted and then there is something else we want and when you think about it you are no happier than before. But, if we just get that other thing then we will be happy...and so it goes on, and on...
The funny thing is that all it takes is for you to tell yourself that enough is enough and you give yourself freedom from the cycle; the pressure lifts. It did with me anyhow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Savoury muffins

This recipe is a trusty favourite of mine. I have a sweet version as well which I will post soon. This is one of those ones that you can put whatever you want in, I made cheese and herb but you can use ham or bacon, ricotta, spinach, etc. I like to freeze these individually and Dave takes them to work throughout the week.

2 cups self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder)
125gms melted butter
125mLs milk
3 eggs
salt and pepper

This is the base so just throw it all in a bowl and mix, just make sure that your butter is cooled. Then add your flavourings. If it seems a little bit too thick just add a little milk to get it to a consistency that can be spooned easily into a tin. Cook at 220C until nice an brown on top (about 20 mins). Make sure that they get a little crispy on top, soft, pale muffins are not very nice!

Spoon herb markers

It's my birthday on Wednesday and my friend Bec from The Little Shop of Handmade in Melbourne gave me these fantastic recycled spoon herb markers. Thanks Bec!

They are from Kabwares and will soon be featured in Bec's shop. They are handmade in Melbourne from recycled materials so it's all good in my book!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sharing produce

When we bought this place it was always our intention to become as self sustainable as possible. I feel that living on such a big piece of land warrants a commitment to at least growing some of our own food, after all, our footprint is so much bigger than someone living in the inner city and we do have to drive quite a lot for work. The future for our population probably is high density living with good public transport and green technology. So, making the decision to live on a space that could house many more people came with, what I think, is the pay off; you have to be more self sufficient to lower and pay back that footprint. I'm hoping that we can more than cover our environmental impact and over time cover some of our friend's and family's as well.
We can do this by sharing our produce.

A friend of mine lives in inner city Melbourne with no backyard or growing space. And, every Friday I am on the road driving around the city working and delivering stock for my business. So on the way past her house I dropped off a little bag or surplus produce that we had. She gave me $5 for it which I will put in a kitty to pay for chicken feed, mulch, etc. This little bag of eggs, herbs and veg will be more than enough for her for the week. What's better, though, is that she is able to access locally grown organic produce which is normally so expensive that it is often out of touch for many people who want to do the right thing and make good choices. Another plus is that by giving the $5 to me (instead of a supermarket) to put back into the garden and chickens that provide the products she is eating, she is feeling connected to the garden and part of the process. She can come and visit me and walk through the garden she is eating from.
This is all part of my little plan! Once we are at full growing capacity we could sustain not just ourselves but also some friends and family with the opportunity to eat great, fresh, local, organic produce. This is a bonus for them but also for us as we know we are using our space for sustaining the amount of people that it should and therefore reducing our carbon footprint! It also gives others the chance to eat heirloom varieties that I am concentrating on growing and other more unusual vegetables that you would normally never be able to buy from a standard grocery store.
I just thought, that I guess this is an extension of the farmer's markets. The only difference is that I am personally known to the people I am giving my produce to and it is not a money making venture.
The revolution of farmer's markets all over the western world at the moment is amazing. It shows that the move and drive towards accessing good, local, organic food is here and strong and as more and more markets pop up it will become the norm to purchase your fresh produce in this way. It gives everyone more choices.

Rhubarb jam

On Saturday it was time to harvest some rhubarb that had been growing beautifully lately. I had done some reading on rhubarb jam recipes and came up with my own using the ingredients that I had on hand. I really avoid going to the shops to pick up one or two things for a specific recipe and so prefer to adapt to what I have. I find that if I pop into the supermarket all week I end up spending lots more money than what was necessary so I stay away except for my weekly shop. If I forget something it just has to wait to the following week.

So, rhubarb jam...

500gms chopped rhubarb
500gms sugar
rind and juice of one orange
dash of vanilla essence or vanilla bean

throw it all in together and simmer for about half an hour, To test if it is ready drop a little onto your kitchen bench and when it cool if it is all sticky like jam should be then it is ready!

The smell when it was cooking was divine and Jonty and I couldn't resist trying some straight away...

He gave it his seal of approval!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A new vegetable garden - in progress

When we first bought our place we started renovating the inside, then the exterior of the building, the front garden and now we are concentrating on our backyard. As we live on a sloping block it is a little tricky, but the previous owners had pretty much terraced the land and we now have three distinct levels to work with. We have decided to deal with each area bit by bit, which is what we have done with the whole house. An area is chosen, decisions are made and then we set about working on that project until it is done and then we move on. I find that this system works so well for us. It is a large property and if we had bits and pieces started all over the place it would all look like a big mess and feel even more endless. This way we get to enjoy the areas that we have done and look forward to approaching the next space.
I have mentioned that clever husband is working on a new project and I thought that I would give you a sneak peak!

This is the first terrace directly behind our house and has been one of my least favourite. It's been a bit of an eyesore for a long time and we have had trouble deciding what to do with it. Well, it does receive the most sun and I need a bigger vegetable garden, so the decision has been made to turn it into a series of raised vegetable beds.
Using some corrugated iron sheets that were scattered all over the property when we bought it and some recycled hardwood that Dave got from work (he works on building sites and is always bringing things home that were going in the skip) Dave is fashioning what I think are the most beautiful raised beds. So far all we have spent is the cost of some nails and it is going to cost a bit to fill all of them with compost and manure but considering the area that we are dealing with, overall it is a cheap project.

There are still two more beds to come but as Dave builds them I start to fill them. I am doing a no dig method which means that I am placing distinct layers within each bed that will give the vegetables good drainage and layers of goodness to spread their roots down to. I start with a thick layer of newspaper to suppress any weeds, then I add a good amount of branches and sticks which will help with drainage, then a thick layer of lucerne straw, a layer of manure and then finish it off with a good layer of compost. I am buying in all these items, except for the newspaper and sticks but the difference it makes in having good quality soil is incredible. I have already planted one box and the seeds germinated so fast and are growing really well. I don't have enough compost to initially fill the boxes but will have enough to top them up in the future. Once you harvest a crop you just add another layer and plant again. It is a little work now but later there won't be hardly any at all, there will be no weeding and I just have to keep planting which is the fun and easy bit!

Between each bed I am layering newspaper and cardboard to suppress the grass and weeds and then will layer mulch that we got free from the local council. I wouldn't put this mulch on the garden but it is perfect for pathways, I used it on Jonty's playground and it has done a good job and looks great. Basically the council chops down branches and trees, puts it through the chipper and uses it for council gardens or drops it on the side of the road for people to take. We will then have even pathways (important for little toddler feet) that will need no mowing (yay!) and it will look all neat and tidy (important for me!). I will show you the area again once we have finished.

The end of a good day's work, now time for a nap!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In the garden

We have had a lot of rain lately and then add some sunshine like we have had over the last few weeks and you get plants that seem to grow inches overnight! I have started to harvest the heirloom radishes that I planted a little while ago and am loving the little surprise that you get from planting a bunch of seeds that are all different. When you pull them up you don't know what colour you are going to get! So pretty.

Everything seems to be going really well and in a month or so I think that we will definitely have enough veg to sustain us... can't wait to stop buying them from the supermarket!

The silverbeet above has been going strong for at least six months now. I continuously harvest it and as I have enough plants I am able to let them grow again to nice sized leaves before I have to pick from that plant again. It's such a great vegetable. I use it just like I would spinach but I find it easier to grow (I have had problems with spinach bolting) and it also goes further when you cook it. It has that great earthy flavour.

I have three varieties of garlic planted and I am hoping it will be enough to keep us going until I can grow it again next year and also enough for planting as seed. It seems quite happy. The brussel sprouts have also taken off after seeming like they would never do anything. We are really looking forward to watching them grow as they are like nothing else!

Above is a planter box full of potatoes. It's a great way to fill new raised beds as you add straw, compost, manure, etc on top of the plant as it grows. I have another plot of a few other varieties that are further along. I am going to have a go at storing them to see if we can get them to last the year. I have done some calculations as to how many we may need (I have done this with other vegetables as well) and am hoping I have got it right. But it's the first year of doing all this and I will learn for next time and make adjustments. I think that I will have to keep a really good log book.

Here is a new bed of lots of seeds that are growing beautifully. It's the first of the new raised beds that we planted out and as it is full of good compost and manure everything is growing better and faster than in other beds I have planted. I'm looking forward to getting seed into the other new raised beds with hopefully the same success!