Hello ladies and gentlemen of Europe. Privacy laws are in a state of change at the moment and as a blogger European Union laws require me to give European Union visitors information about cookies used and data collected on my blog.
I must display a cookie and privacy notice on my blog and Google emailed me saying they'd added one. However, as I'm not in the EU I can't see it. If you're in the EU, I'd appreciate you commenting here to tell me if you see this notice, or not. Tell me what country you're in as well, that may help identify problem areas if it's not on display. Thanks to you all.
It was delayed a short while but we're almost finished our final renovation project - a new tiled backsplash in the kitchen. I'll have more photos of our home next week but these two will give you an idea of what we've been doing (and when I say "we" I don't include myself in that in the kitchen 😊). We had a tiler help with the tiling yesterday and we're both very happy with the result. What do you think of it?
The tiles are down but we haven't had a chance yet to clean up. I'll be doing that this morning.
Where was I while the workers worked? I drove over to the coast and spent some time here.
I've decided to cut The Simple Home posts down to two a month. Writing one a week was doing my head in so instead of giving up on it, halving them will give me a chance to write about our home life as well as The Simple Home. Don't forget, I'll be giving away a free copy of the book in June and another in December. All you need to do to enter is to share helpful information or discuss what you do in the comments. The winners in June and December will be someone who has made multiple valuable, productive and supportive comments. Good luck, everyone. ♥️
I had a wonderful week away from the blog. Hanno and I were going to work on a project but he had a sore back and I had a sore knee so instead we both slowed right down and tended to each other and ourselves. Late in the week, Hanno started on the project and prepared the area and tomorrow, it will be finished with the help of a tradesman. I'll post photos when I have them. I'm so excited to see it finished - this final big job in our two years of on and off home renovations/tidy-ups/improvements/.
Turnips and daikon.
Life is full here. We're harvesting deep purple-red turnips, daikons, herbs, chillies and green leaves from the garden. The first tomatoes look like they'll be ready next week, 50 garlics are tall and green and the potatoes and sweet potatoes are growing well. One disappointment has been our orange tree. It looks like we'll get half our normal harvest this year. I think that's come from a combination of dry weather and last year's pruning. But we'll get through it and look forward to next year's crop.
This is where I'll be working today.
There are quite a few large passionfruits on the vine and if I tie the Youngberries to the lattice frame they should grow a good crop for us later in the year. We'll put in some more bok choi and kale next week and today I'll be sowing French radishes and pak choi. A few days ago I transplanted a big patch of ginger - they went from a polystyrene box to my enamel baby bath and I noticed the roots are strong and very healthy. Just the smell of them transported me to the fermented ginger beer I'll make and the sauces and stir fries I'll cook.
The chooks have been off the lay for ages now - a combination of the summer's heat and the stress of introducing six younger girls to the flock but they've settled down now and the first of the eggs are starting to come in. Our two younger grandchildren were here on Sunday and they were excited to bring in an egg each. Simple pleasures.
Sunny and I have picked hundreds of chillies this season. I still have a couple of kilos in the freezer for the chilli jam I'll make soon.
I've been asked to write for Earth Mother Living so I'll start that in the coming week. I hope to find new readers there and hopefully sell a few books. They have a readership of 2.5 million so it might open up a few opportunities for me. And that reminds me, Amazon is selling my books now and currently the prices are The Simple Home - $21.73 and Down to Earth - $27.80. You might like to start your Christmas shopping early and get some gifts at a really good price.
When I finish writing here, I'll be in the garden for most of the day. The mornings are cool here, it was 8C overnight, but as soon as the sun hits the garden, the warmth creeps in and with a cup of tea and shade from the umbrella, I'll be set. I'm repotting plants in the bush house, cutting back herbs and roses, weeding, sowing seeds and tying up the tomatoes - already heavy with fruit.
Below is the tomato bush that is growing these tomatoes. They're cocktail tomatoes which are slightly bigger than cherry tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes are perfectly round, but this clump have ridges in the top. These are the ones I'll use to collect seeds from for follow up crops.
It is the most wonderful workplace out there. Working in the garden relaxes me and improves my mental health and as I watch migrating birds and clouds, I hear the chooks low clucking as they talk to each other and squabble over a caterpillar on a plant. I feel the importance of sharing our garden with those of you who don't have one. We all need a place where we can throw off our concerns and just relax into the surroundings. If you don't have a garden I really hope you are enjoying ours or you have found a place where you can relax and be your true self. Having such a space encourages us think about the balance we need and often helps us think about ways to organise our busy lives.
Turnip tops on the compost heap. You can also see our comfrey growing right next to the compost.
Every day we make choices. We might not consciously think about them, but they are made anyway. Every morning I choose between blogging or not, about whether I'll make bread, or whether I'll make preserves or do the ironing, and along with those choices, I also choose, everyday, to live simply. Having a space where I relax, in a spot where I can punctuate the work with sitting and thinking, gives me a much clearer understanding of what my options and responsibilities are. Like collecting fresh eggs, it's another simple pleasure that is there for the taking. xx
Buying laundry and cleaning products can become quite an expensive part of grocery shopping, but it doesn't need to be. They are easy to make using ingredients from the supermarket. All these cleaners suit a simple home because they contain a tiny portion of the chemicals found in the commonly used expensive products. I've included a couple of recipes below for you to try but first we'll start with one of my favourite cleaning processes - soaking.
Soaking and stain removal
I often look for ways to do my day-to-day chores without using any, or very few, cleaning products. I remember when I was growing up, my mum used to soak clothes before washing them. Sometimes she put them into a big copper boiler and boiled them while moving them around with a wooden stick. The washing took hours to do and often she did it on a Friday night after she finished her paid job.
I soak cotton, linen and poly-blend clothes too although I don't do it the way my mum did. If I have something that is badly stained, I fill a large container up with very hot water from the tap, add Disan, an oxy-bleach, dissolve the Disan with my laundry stick and drop the clothes in. BTW, my laundry stick is a spurtle - a scottish stick for stirring porridge. If you want to do something similar, a piece of dowel would work well. Many stains can be removed using this method. You can also whiten your greying whites this way as well.
Another way to remove a stain is to wet the fabric and then rub laundry bar soap or laundry liquid on the stain, roll it up and leave it for an hour or so. You roll it up so it doesn't dry out. Then pop it in with the normal wash and the stain will probably go. If you have a top loading washing machine, fill it for your normal wash, apply soap or laundry liquid to any stains you notice, put the stained clothing in the filled washing machine and let it soak, overnight if possible. The following morning, do your normal wash. Generally all stains will be removed by the soaking.
Soaking is one of those gentle, old-fashioned methods you very rarely hear about now because often it doesn't use a product that someone is trying to push. This type of clothes care is particularly good for perspiration stains under arms, collar grime, whitening whites and general stains. Soaking works really well with overnight soaking in plain water but if the stain is a stubborn one, add some oxy-bleach or rub with soap.
Caring for Leather
You’d think that caring for leather would be pretty straightforward; leather has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. But no, everyone has their own method, and if you look on the internet, as many claims are made for one method as against it.
There are products that clean and condition at the same time but I prefer the two-stage method because leather usually just needs cleaning. To clean leather clothing, hats or couches, check the seams first and if they’re dusty, put the upholstery head on the vacuum cleaner and go over them. Then add half a teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap, or a gentle liquid soap, to one cup of warm water and moisten a soft cloth – don’t make it too wet. Clean a small area at a time, and finish by rubbing the leather with a clean soft cloth, making sure everything is dry. Every three months or so you can apply a leather conditioner – the products available at car care or equestrian shops seem to be better than those from the supermarket.
For spot-cleaning, deal with the problem as soon as possible. Clean with the liquid soap as above and then nourish the area with a leather conditioner.
I have several wicker baskets and they’re all workhorses, used to store everything from potatoes to wool. If you have a dirty basket, brush the wicker with a little liquid soap, not detergent, on a soft wet brush. When you’ve given it a good clean, take the basket outside and hose it down. This sounds harsh, but it tightens up the wicker and pulls it back into shape. Dry the basket in the sun and open air before using it again. If you have fragile baskets, simply brush them over with a dry bristle brush and rub a moist cloth over the wicker, then dry in the shade.
Straw hats can be maintained with a soft-bristle brush (I use a soft-bristle paintbrush), all over, as often as you feel like doing it. To clean a dirty hat, mix half a teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap with one cup of warm water. Dip a soft cloth into the warm soapy water and clean small areas of the hat at a time. Make sure you don’t wet the hat too much, because it will weaken the straw.
For oily stains, sprinkle the area with cornflour or talcum powder and gently rub it into the straw. Leave it for a couple of hours, then either vacuum or brush off. Repeat if necessary. When not being worn, straw hats should be stored away from the sun, either in a box or on a hook resting on the sweatband, not the straw. Cover with a soft cloth to protect it from dust.
Read the care label and if the toy can be washed, wait for a dry, sunny day, place the toy in a pillowcase and close with a rubber band. Add laundry liquid or powder and a teaspoon of either lemon myrtle or tea-tree essential oil and wash in cold water on the eco or fast setting. Hang the toy on the line in the sun, using an ear or tag to peg it to the line. Depending on the weather, it may need a couple of drying days.
If the toy can’t be machine-washed, place it in a pillowcase and add 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda. Close the top of the pillowcase with a rubber band and shake it. Try to rub the toy all over through the fabric to make sure every part is covered with bicarb. Leave it for a few hours, then take it out of the pillowcase. Finish off by shaking it outside and then vacuuming the toy with the small upholstery head attached to your vacuum cleaner.
Laundry cleaning products to make at home
This is an important part of cleaning, because if you learn how to make your products at home, then customise them to suit your own taste for scent, you’ll do three important things: you’ll make a significant cutback in the chemicals you have in your home, you'll stop adding the phosphates and salt in commercial cleaners to our waterways and you’ll save a lot of money.
These homemade products work well, they don’t take a lot of time to make and they won’t make your skin itchy and red. Many of these products can be used for multiple purposes. For instance, the laundry liquid will clean your clothes and remove spot stains, but with a couple of simple additions, it can also be made into cleaning paste.
Most of all, you’ll know what’s in the products you’re using. You’ll buy only a few natural chemicals– borax, washing soda, vinegar and soap – to make cleaners yourself. If you bought the commercial cleaners and laundry products recommended for the modern home, you’d be using hundreds of chemicals. I think living with fewer chemicals is better for our health and if you've got small children, family members with skin sensitivities, general allergies or a compromised immune system due to age or failing health, these cleaners will serve you well.
Makes 10 litres/quarts
Add about quarter of a cup of this liquid to your machine. It’s fine in a cold-water wash and in front or top loaders. You can find borax and washing soda in the supermarket.
1 cup grated soap or Lux soap flakes
½ cup washing soda
½ cup borax
1½ L /qt of water
Add the ingredients to a saucepan and heat the mixture on the stove. Stir until all the ingredients are completely dissolved and remove from the heat.
Pour the hot soapy mixture into a bucket or tub that holds at least 10 L/qt, add warm tap water until the bucket is about three-quarters full, and stir. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, fill the bucket to the 10 L/qt mark and stir. You can add essential oils for fragrance at this point if you want to.
To store the laundry liquid, gather some containers (clean plastic milk bottles serve the purpose well) and pour the liquid in, leaving enough room in the containers to allow you to shake them well before use. As the mixture cools, you’ll see two layers: a gel layer at the top and a liquid layer at the bottom. That is as it should be. The gel gets quite thick but combines well with a good shake. Alternatively, you can use your stick blender to emulsify the mix.
The laundry liquid above makes an excellent stain remover. Just cover the stain with some laundry liquid and rub it in. Wait for 15 minutes before adding the items to the regular wash.
Laundry liquid cleaning paste
You can use the laundry liquid in other ways as well. Just add ½ cup of bicarb to ½ cup of laundry liquid and mix together to form a thick paste, adjusting the consistency by adding more liquid or more bicarb. This mix can be used for cleaning baths and stainless steel sinks, or for any difficult-to-remove grime on benchtops or around light switches. Store it in a small container with a lid. It will dry out within a couple of months, so make a smaller amount if you need to.
Stainless steel pegs I have a recommendation for those of you who have problems with clothes pegs. We live in a sub-tropical climate here and when we used plastic pegs they broke easily after a month or two of use and if we used wooden pegs, they went mouldy. Then I discovered stainless steel pegs and I love them. I got mine from Biome in Brisbane. They have a very strong grip and, of course, they neither go mouldy or crumble. These will last a lifetime. :- )
I hope you're all well and happy. I'll be back later in the week to share our news with you.
Hello friends. I want to take a small moment to thank you for your comments. Over the years I've tried to build the comments section into a valuable part of my blog. I want people to share what they do, I want newbies to see how many things are done differently and I want to know that my online neighbourhood is thriving. I don't respond to many comments because I don't have the time and mostly I want to just say a quick, "thank you" or "well done!" or keep going". If I did that, I'd be on my computer much longer than I'm comfortable with and the comments section would be filled with so many repetitive messages you'd think I'd lost my marbles. But I do think that way when I read what you write and it makes me feel happy and inspired and proud. So to all of you who leave comments, thank you, well done! and keep going. ♥️
Our laundries are mainly used for washing clothes and household fabrics but they also hold a place of importance as your home cleaning headquarters. I'm sure you don't like having too many harsh chemicals in your home and it makes sense to keep all our chemical in one place - this is vital if you have young children living in or visiting your home. But today we're talking about washing clothes, next week, we'll go on to general cleaning and making your cleaners.
Dealing with Washing
I know it’s difficult remaining upbeat when you’re doing the fifth load of washing and you’re tired. I find that doing all the heavy chores like washing and ironing are easier in the morning, so if you can organise yourself to have the washing ready to go when you get up and your energy is at its highest, you’ll get through it without having already worked a full day before you start. Maybe you can put a couple of loads through the machine in the evening and leave them in the washing basket overnight or just before you go to bed, fill the machine and soak a load to start in the morning.
It’s also a good idea to use products you like. I love using the laundry liquid I make because I know it’s safe on my skin. I don't like to add fragrance to anything, I'm very suspicious of products that are fragrant, and then, when the clothes are drying and brought in from the line, they smell of sunshine and cleanliness.
It’s easy to become a bit obsessive about sorting pre-wash, so I like to keep it simple. Rather than having separate hampers for different kinds of washing, I have two hampers - one for us and one for floor rugs and Gracie's blankets and towels. I hang damp dishcloths and tea towels over the rim of the hampers so they can dry out.
When I’m about to do a wash, I empty the hamper and sort the items into heaps. Sometimes I have one heap, sometimes I have more. Most of our clothes are either cotton or linen and we have no permanent press to worry about. But you need to be familiar with your fabrics – every time you have something new to deal with, including secondhand items, read the care label. It will probably just confirm what you already know: that it can be washed along with the regular washing. But sometimes an item will require special care so that it doesn’t get damaged or pulled out of shape.
As you pick up each item for sorting, empty pockets, do up zippers and turn your darks inside out if you want to reduce fading. It’s a good idea to fasten the collar button on shirts and button long sleeves together to prevent tangling.
When you do your pre-wash sorting, decide what needs pre-treatment, such as stained or dirty garments, and what has to be handwashed. Small items such as pantyhose, bras and hankies can go into a small mesh bag. If there are a lot of small items I sort the whites from the darks and wash as two separate lots. If you only have one wool jumper or one pair of jeans and no other dark clothes, it would be prudent to wash the woollen jumper by hand and leave the jeans to be washed on the next washing day. It’s not environmentally sound or economically efficient to run a wash for only one item.
This is a general guide for sorting:
Whites and light colours
Darks and jeans
Towels, pillowcases and sheets
Small items and pantyhose
Stained or very dirty items
Wool, alpaca and knitted pure cotton
Delicate fabrics – silk, cashmere, embroidery, lace, etc.
We always hang the washing on the line and take it in when they're dry, folding and sorting as we go. Dealing with the folding straight away makes the job easier because if you leave it for a few days, it will have new creases. Even if you can't put it all away immediately, try to fold everything and leave it in piles to be dealt with later.
Everyone has their own way to wash fabrics so if what you're doing is working, don't change. Try to get into a routine with your laundry and work out the best way and time to do it. Rethink how often you wash clothes - this is different for everyone. Don't automatically think everything needs to be washed after it's been worn once. If you can cut down on your washing, you'll save money, time, effort water and electricity and that will help both your budget and your environment.
Next week will be the last of the laundry posts and it will be on general cleaning and how to make a few environmentally-friendly cleaners and pastes.
Don't forget my book giveaway. I have two copies of The Simple Home, kindly supplied by Penguin. I'll give one away in June and the other later in the year. Over the last couple of months, I've made up a list of helpful, kind and interesting comments here on the blog and every time I see another thoughtful comment that adds significantly to the information we have here, that reader's name is added to the list. There are several readers who have their name added a number of times. The book winners will come from that list.
Hello dear friends. It's Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand today. I've been sorting through my photos and found a nice Anzac Day photo. There are a few photos in this folder that I don't think have been published before so I thought you'd enjoy a slow browse through them.
A teddy I knitted for one of the grandkids.
Arthur Close is Hobart. Taken when we were on the 2016 book tour.
My birthday afternoon tea.
Rose and me.
Gracie staring at her nemesis - the wool winder.
Library visits, 2015.
Visitors! This is Sandy, my sister Tricia, Jude and Jude's cousin.
Making winter tonic.
The Montville rose.
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