Coming into Autumn

It has been hot and incredibly humid here in recent weeks and I confess it has sapped the energy out of me. Grant also came home from a recent work trip and with Covid, so the children and I are home battling that too. Grant bounced back well, which I am thankful for. 

I do not do well in the heat, unlike my husband and children who seem far more resilient to it.  But as we enter Autumn I feel a sense of hope and enthusiasm that cooler weather is on its way. I was built for cool weather. Wood fires, nourishing slow-cooked meals, scarves, boots and woollen jumpers. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best idea to move to the sub-tropics where our winter season is disappointingly short. At least we are in the mountains where we get some good frosts and cooler winter days. When it's hot and humid I dream of living in the snowy mountains, though I'm sure if I was there I would come to curse the cold too. Ha! We can however grow year-round here, which when it comes to farming can be an asset. 

Like many people, I have been growing increasingly despondent about the state of our beautiful country. Rising interest rates, two-income families unable to find housing and being forced into homelessness and to use food banks. If working people can't afford food and accommodation then our elderly, disabled and vulnerable have no chance. 

So much for the lucky country. 

Electricity is about to jump by 20%. The elderly and those at home due to illness, disability or looking after small children should be able to afford to stay cool or keep warm in this country, but that is a reality slipping further and further away for many. Our schools and hospital systems are crying out for help and support. People are leaving the industries in droves from sheer exhaustion and burnout. It is a blight on our nation. 

The haves continue to shop and live like there is nothing wrong while renting out their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th homes as holiday homes and air B&Bs to maximise return, rather than renting them out as long-term housing for locals for a fair price. That's if they even bother to let them at all. There is a huge number of empty homes across the country, owned by people who don't bother to rent them out as it is better for their back pocket and their tax return not to. Where has the Aussie attitude of 'helping out your mate' disappeared to?  The government is scared of upsetting those in privileged positions and are doing little to force their hand to be compassionate and think of their countrymen before their own already well-padded pocket. If the government has the power to lock down the country, shut borders, and stop trade for two years straight, then they certainly have the ability to fix, or at least ease these problems. Australia is quickly becoming a country I do not recognise and it has happened in my lifetime. I remember how comparatively easy it was to get our foot on the property ladder 18 years ago. Now people can't even find a rental for their families. I turn 40 in a few months.

We are more thankful than ever for Grant's good stable job, though it is not ideal having him off the property full-time. However, we are committed to keeping me at home with Elsie for as long as it remains possible and to be there for the boys.

In order to keep me home we have been discussing plans to make things as manageable as possible in the garden and animal management. In the bottom garden, we have been moving soil and creating garden borders with rocks from the property. We will be laying down extensive gravel paths to minimise mowing and weed management. I'll continue to share some things we are tweaking to make things easier and lighter to manage as time goes by. The structural part of building a garden is always slow, and then it quickly comes together quickly once the plants go in and the mulch is laid. This Autumn we are going to plant a lot of trees around the yurt to help create a cool shady oasis, under the trees we will fill the garden beds with flowers and herbs and pretty shrubs. The little garden near the kitchen door is lovely and shady now and it is significantly cooler, so we will be replicating this elsewhere. It's a good time to plant tender seedlings in Autumn as the sun is not so harsh and new plants have a chance to get established without getting fried. There are also fewer pests and mildew problems. In many places, gardens are winding down in Autumn but being in the sub-tropics we can grow year-round. Though pretty much everything halts in the midst of winter. 

As they do every summer our goats have struggled with worms, particularly the deadly barbers pole worm. This last couple of months we have been trialling feeding them some soaked barley with ACV and then adding 1tsp of copper sulphate/goat/week as well as alternating the drenches we use and utilising good rotational grazing practices. There are a few other mineral additives we can tweak too. It's a matter of experimentation. They do have a quality goat lick with them at all times, but it is not enough during our challenging sub-tropical summers. They have done better than last year, and are otherwise in good condition. We sadly lost one baby male goat which was unfortunate. I tried to save him and he seemed to be improving but his heart suddenly gave out which was very frustrating. I have had to come to accept that even the most attentive care can't save them all. We have ordered a new bio-wormer which we hope will be a game changer and planted herbs to add to the soaked grain which will aid with natural worm prevention and good gut health. I have a few other natural goat care tips to trial and I am curious to see how we fare next summer. 

Cows are comparatively easy. They do their thing, eat grass and grow fat without much assistance from us. They are far less demanding, but they are also fussier grazers and due to their size, can be harder to handle. Though our steers are gentle, many cattle are not. Ours are about ready to take to market, though prices have dropped recently so we will hold off a little longer.

Although the cows are easier in some regards we will continue to focus on the goats while I am the one primarily at home. The goats are smaller and easier for me to manage. If a goat is hurt or sick I can lift it, move it and treat it on my own. They are gentle and less likely to injure me when I am here alone.  I really enjoy working with them. 

Come easter we will begin to build the goat milking shed and sick bay, as well as finish the fence of the new vegetable garden area. I am really looking forward to having these projects underway and to be able to produce more of our own food moving forward. It seems increasingly important in these rapidly changing times. 

We have also been looking into getting WWOOFERS or Help-ex, as much as I would like to have them to help with the gardening and orchard planting this Autumn, we will probably have to wait for the deck to be finished with the new rooms on it, as we will need Williams caravan for their accommodation and he will shift into what is currently our room in the yurt. It's a frustrating delay but I am unsure how to work around it without spending significant amounts of time on starting yet another project. 

Due to Covid, I am struggling with a terribly foggy head, fatigue and severe headaches. If you could pray for healing for our family that would be appreciated and if I am quiet here over the next week or two, that is why. But when I can, I will share some ways we as a family of 6 save money.  

Much love,

Then she was three.

I can't believe that Elsie is three already. We celebrated her birthday this weekend with presents, going to a community event with friends and a pink 'scary roar' dinosaur cake. It was a lovely weekend and while I am blessed and excited to see these children of mine grow, my heart aches with the reality that this season of parenting small children is coming to a close. 

Grant has been called into firefighting duty and things have been hectic here. The dogs took on a gonna and Maisie the young border collie came off second best, there was a snake in a bedroom (non-venomous) and a sick baby goat I was unable to save. There are animals to move tonight, chickens to feed and the usual cooking, cleaning and washing that comes with 4 children. As well as a combined total of 2.5 hours/day of the morning and afternoon school/bus run.

So this post is just a quick one to touch base and share sweet Elsies birthday with you. 
Much love,

A never used balance bike we picked up secondhand from Facebook Marketpace.

I made her this goat and a Heidi-inspired outfit for her Waldorf doll. The doll was a gift I made for her fist birthday. 


Farm progress and weekend links

Well, the boys have been back to school for two weeks now and Elsie and I are adjusting to the change in routine after having them home for so long. Elsie has been asking daily "where Will-Will, where 'enry, where Gussy?" Which is both incredibly sweet and also a bit heartbreaking. 

Grant's job is going well and he continues to be very happy and is thoroughly enjoying his work. He has started in a new role this week which he is pleased about. 

Though things are good, the last few weeks have been filled with small challenges. The kinds of challenges that by themselves are no big deal, but when they come together it can be tedious. I have been fighting a low-grade virus, nothing notable but the kind of thing that saps your energy and symptoms such as a sore throat/headaches/migraines/body aches/fatigue come and go. Maisie the pup had a nasty abscess that required surgery. The gas fridge died so we took the opportunity to buy a new super energy efficient one, which meant we had to push forward with installing the new solar system before we were quite ready. I wrote about the new solar system HERE. There was a child with headlice which fortunately was caught early but still, it required the whole family to be treated and to do the necessary hygiene cleaning of linen, towels, cushions, throws and thorough vacuuming/mopping. I know these days they say you don't need to be as thorough as they used to, but I am not remotely convinced. It only takes one particularly resilient louse to survive to restart the whole cycle. I would much rather be overly cautious than under. The caravan needed a deep clean due to discovering a mildew problem, Grant's car has been in and out of action... I don't even remember what else now. There have just been constant hiccups that have required time, energy and money. 

But such is life. At least the car is fixed, the caravan is fresh and clean, the house has been deep cleaned, the new solar is on and the new fridge is a blessing indeed. The dog is thankfully recovering too, albeit more slowly than I would like.

In between, we have been busy cleaning up some of the piles of stuff around the farm. There is scrap metal to take to recycling and rubbish to remove. We don't have any rubbish removal services here so we must cart everything in and out ourselves. Since we try to do as much as we can utilising up-cycled and recycled materials, stuff accumulates and needs to be periodically sorted through. Grant has also finished the shelving in the loft which has given Angus and Henry their own rooms, much to their delight. I have been continuing to declutter the yurt, deep cleaning as I go and doing the usual things it takes to keep a family of six ticking along.

Angus is pleased to have his own little room and space for his things. One day I will get around to painting the plywood and varnishing/oiling the hardwood. Probably after we have built the deck and there is more room to shuffle things around. 

The wall behind Angus's bed in this photo is a set of shelves facing Henry's side of the loft. 

Most importantly there have been birthdays to celebrate. Sweet Angus turned 12. He is a delightful child with big brown gentle eyes, quiet nature and a desire to do well in everything he tries. His kindness is most apparent when he is spending time with animals and his little sister. He has a wonderful sense of humour and particularly enjoys music and art. He is learning guitar and for his birthday he asked for a harmonica.  I was concerned that having a child learning to play the harmonica in such a small space would be a slightly painful experience, but I have been pleasantly surprised. He is progressing in leaps and bounds. He had a few mates come for a sleepover and they planned to go camping. They discussed it and planned it in great detail, but when it got dark they became frightened by the sounds of the bush. At 10:30pm Grant helped cart their stuff inside and they bedded down happily in the loft. They were very funny. 

Then little Elsie turned three today, though we are celebrating her birthday tomorrow as a family. Oh how time flies. She has recently weaned and so the chapter of my life that has revolved around sweet babies, funny toddlers and chubby hands is nearing its end too. I turn 40 in a few months and I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for 10 of those years, nearly half of my adult life. It makes my heart ache to know this season is coming to a close. These children of mine have been my life's biggest blessing. 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I hope to see you again next week. 

Much love,

Interesting links

For those new here, on Fridays, I often like to share a newsy post as well as links to articles, videos and things I have found interesting, inspiring or helpful throughout the week. 

A great documentary and well worth a watch. 

so surprises here, but a worth while article.
Because Helen Garner is a bit of a legend. 

Grandma Donna
I enjoyed this post of Grandma Donnas

I recently discovered this post by Dorcus Smucker and enjoyed poking through her blog.

A great listen

off-grid solar systems for beginners

Due to the increasing cost of land and the advancement of technology, many people are considering buying land that is off-grid. Off-grid properties are generally cheaper which is primarily why we ended up off-grid. It allowed us to buy a large, affordable piece of land. 

When it comes to solar systems, the sky is the limit. But I am not here to advertise or promote big corporate solar companies. If you have lots of money, it is likely you will turn to a large company that will design, order, and install a comprehensive and easy-to-use solar system. Which is great!

This is our new-to-us 2.6-kilowatt system which consists of 10 260watt 24volt second-hand house panels which cost $800 along with a $700 3.5 kilowatt inverter charger. 

But if you have been following along for a while, you will likely realize we are not those people. Instead, I am here to share how we are building our Australian homestead entirely from scratch on a shoestring budget. 

Our property is totally off-grid meaning when we first moved here there was no plumbing, electricity, phone service or running water. We spent every dollar we had simply buying the property and then getting here, which in hindsight I could probably recommend not doing. Instead, it is advisable to have an extra, reasonably large chunk of money with which to set up your property.  

But we were inspired by the pioneers before us, and figured if they could do it then surely we could, especially considering we have the significant advantage of modern technology. And to be fair we have, but it has not been without blood, sweat and a few tears. (The tears were from me, not Grant.) 

Before I get into this post I should preface it by saying we are not recommending products nor telling you how to install a solar system. That would be silly because we are not electricians and dealing with electricity can be incredibly dangerous and is best done by a licensed professional. 


Grant is a bit of a jack of all trades and he has installed ours. Not without mishap I should add, there are good reasons electricians cannot be colourblind. If you were considering tackling a DIY solar system (which I am not advocating) Always ensure you have done copious research, understand your equipment, ensure everything is earthed correctly from the get-go, that you have circuit breakers and that your home is fitted with good quality smoke detectors.  If you don't know about earthing or the difference between positive and negative, you need to call in the professionals. 

Basic off-grid solar system

When we first moved here, we camped in a little old vintage caravan. We had a tiny solar system that consisted of a single 200-watt panel with a second-hand 600-watt inverter and one 12V battery. It could run 12v lights, a 12V TV, a small fan, and charge phones. I could only put it on a few minutes at a time to check emails/messages etc via the satellite internet. It was not ideal and I was thankful when we upgraded it. Over time we added more panels so we ended up with 4 12V panels and 3 12V batteries, a good quality charge controller and it worked with a second-hand 700-watt inverter. We made do with this system for three years, along with a generator as back up power.

When we first moved to the farm, we literally camped for the first 4 months. Here are the boys in the old caravan, watching the TV and Angus is playing a tablet. 

Now we are in the process of finishing the installation on a 2.6-kilowatt system which consists of 10 260watt 24volt second-hand house panels which cost $800 along with a $700 3.5 kilowatt inverter charger.  We are still using our old batteries for now until we can afford a bigger battery bank. We charge things during the day and use any big appliances during the day when there is peak power production. We run our generator at night to run the dishwasher as our system is too small for that. Though it can run the washing machine on a cold wash and the fridge and will also run a chest freezer in the future. It is a vast improvement.  

When we upgraded the solar we also upgraded our fridge to a seven-star Hisense 417L fridge/freezer from a 280L gas/240V Bushman fridge. Which is far better suited to a family our size. One day when we put a cabin on our property for accommodation, the gas fridge will be used there. 

If you are wanting to learn about basic off-grid systems, you might find this link interesting Basic diagram of an off-grid solar system

What size solar system do I need?  

The size of the solar system you need will depend on how much power you use and how much you are willing to simplify. As a family of 6, we made do with our first tiny solar system for 6 months and the upgraded system for 3.5 years. It meant we had to run a generator for the washing machine and any large appliances and made do with a small gas fridge as it was what we could afford at the time. We also have our yurt wired to 12V lighting to save power. 

If you want to run an air conditioner and other big appliances you will need to invest in a significantly more extensive system and are best to get it installed professionally.  

Here is a calculator to help you work it all out. Off-grid power calculator

What appliances can run on solar power

You can run pretty much any appliance on solar if you have a big enough system. However, some appliances are more energy efficient than others. For example, our fridge is the most energy-efficient fridge on the Australian market, and the next most energy-efficient fridge is an LG inverter fridge both of these are commonly used in off-grid settings. Front loader washing machines are generally more energy efficient. If you can turn your spin cycle on your washing machine down and wash with only cold water it will draw far less power. You will need to do some research about what items are vital to your life and design a solar system that suits that. There is no right or wrong size solar system, off-grid can mean something other than low-tech. It's important you make the choice that reflects your lifestyle and budget. 

Appliances with a heating element like a kettle generally draw a huge amount of power, so we use an old-fashioned stove-top kettle. We cook using an LPG oven or our wood-burning Aga. However slow cookers are quite energy efficient and we should be able to run one on our new system during the day. You will need a bigger system than ours to run a dishwasher too. 

We do not have a bread maker, microwave or any heating kitchen appliances like a toaster or sandwich press. We make toast on top of the wood aga in winter and under the gas grill the rest of the year. I make do with a simple stick blender and a set of handheld beaters in the kitchen appliance department. 

We run a generator to use grinders/circular saws, use the washing machine on a hot wash when necessary and the dishwasher. 

Batteries for solar systems

If you are totally off-grid like us, you will need a battery bank or every time a cloud passes over your whole system will drop out. The battery bank allows the system to draw on extra power if needed. 

There are various kinds of batteries and the size of the battery bank you need will depend on your budget and the lifestyle you wish to lead. A lot of people on the grid don't have battery banks, they simply feed back into the grid when their panels produce more power than they need and draw back out from it if they need more. Over the month this is tallied up and they will receive a detailed account at the end of the month. Some people get a small amount of credit, or others may still receive a small bill depending on how many panels they have and depending on their production vs usage. 

As far as batteries go, there are a couple of different kinds. The main being lithium and lead acid batteries. 

Lithium batteries are increasingly common because you can drain them to a lower percentage, are long-lasting and more powerful. However, they are significantly more expensive. 

We make do with old-fashioned 12V lead acid batteries which you shouldn't drain beyond 50% or you risk shortening their lifespan. However, they are significantly more affordable, though have a shorter lifespan. 

Main problems of solar systems

You will probably need a backup source of power like a generator over prolonged cloudy periods or in winter when the days are shorter. 

Going off-grid can seem a lot to get your head around if you are used to power automatically arriving at your home via the grid. The reality is, it's not for everyone.

If you are on a budget and can only afford a simple system, it will require a significant change in how you carry out tasks around your home, but this isn't necessarily all bad. It is good to be aware of our power usage and to live more simply regarding technology if possible. While technology isn't inherently bad, it does require the earth's precious resources to produce. Technology is a huge blessing for those with physical ailments or disabilities to help them live a good and independent life. But if you are able-bodied, perhaps it is a good time to look at the gadgets in your life and question whether you really need them.  

It wasn't that long ago when people lived good lives, more connected to the earth and its resources far more simply than we do now. 

These days I make bread by hand and I have come to love the process. Many 'slow' kitchen tasks can be deeply satisfying and grounding, not unlike planting seeds in the garden. It is good for our bodies to work at a human pace and to be connected to our surroundings. Marketing has made us believe that doing things the quickest way is inherently better, but that is not necessarily the case. It is however a great way to sell us lots of things to "save time". Things we pay for with hours of our lives that we have traded for money.  

We are not experts when it comes to solar power and all the different systems that are out there. If in doubt, always call in a professional. I am simply sharing what we have done, and how we have found it works for us. 

Much love,

Keeping chickens for beginners

Chickens. They are the gateway animal to every homestead, or they should be. They are small, simple to care for, give protein-dense food in the way of eggs, are amazing composters and utterly delightful to boot. 

They also have a way of multiplying right under your nose as you get swept into all the different breeds and varieties available. They don't call it chicken math for nothing!

Chickens are so versatile they are easy to keep in the backyard too, perfect for those dreaming of owning a homestead whilst living in the suburbs. Just steer clear of roosters if you are in town, most councils won't allow them and you'll upset the neighbours. 

If you are new to chickens or want to get some I thought I would write a post about keeping chickens for beginners, to help you work out if chickens are for you. 

What chicken breeds are best? 

There are many varieties of chickens. There are fluffy chickens, big chickens, small chickens, silky chickens, and spotty chickens. 

Looks aside, chickens can be split into three main categories. Egg layers and meat chickens, the third is where my preference lies and that is in heritage breeds which are generally a duel purpose bird. 

Your best egg-laying chickens are Hylines and Isa Browns. These are commercial breeds and are bred to turn food into eggs as efficiently as possible and mature to point of lay quickly. When you buy your eggs from the supermarket, you are most likely getting eggs from these breeds. 

Sounds great right?

But, that constant egg-laying comes at a price. They usually only lay for 2-3 years and if you were to hatch them to try to expand your flock, the roosters are puny birds and hardly worth the effort of processing for soup. In the commercial world, the male chicks are killed at birth and at best, turned into fertiliser like blood and bone. Chicks are notoriously hard to sex at birth, so commercial breeds have been conveniently bred for the males and females to be different colours. They separate the males according to colour and dispatch them, whilst moving the hens to a grower facility. But if you are after lots of eggs from a small flock, they have their place. 

Commercial meat chickens are an equally mutant breed. They are most generally Cornish Cross x White Plymouth, they are bred to grow fast. Like incredibly fast. Commercial meat chickens generally need to be harvested between 6-10 weeks because their bodies grow so quickly they can run into problems if allowed to go too far beyond this timeframe. Their legs can buckle from their weight, and they can have heart and liver problems. But they are efficient growers and can have their place in a homestead. 

Though these kinds of commercially bred animals may not be ideal as far as animal welfare goes, they may still be a breed that suits your needs, property and budget. They have been bred to produce a lot of food for minimal input and if you care for them well, they can certainly have a good and happy life. 

Generally, our preference is to keep a heritage dual-purpose breed of chicken. There are many varieties but we like the Australoprs. They are nice, friendly big chickens, good mothers and good layers. We harvest the roosters so nothing goes to waste. They don't lay as much as a commercial breed and therefore have a longer laying life. However, they are quite slow growing, which means there they require quite a lot of food to get to a good processing weight. This makes the end product more expensive by the time it gets to the dining table. 

We recently had a big batch of Cornish x chickens and we kept a couple of the lightest ones who had the strongest frame. We are hoping to cross them with our Australorps to see if we can raise a big, strong healthy chicken that grows slightly faster than the Australorp for processing means.  For us, it is about finding a balance between chickens having a good life and being financially worthwhile.   

What do chickens need?

Chickens needs are pretty simple. Most importantly they need shelter from the elements, commonly called a chicken coop. This chicken coop will need to be fully enclosed and secure. In it, they will need comfortable laying boxes with clean bedding like straw or sawdust. The laying boxes should feel private and safe for the hen. Chickens roost at night so they will need perches that can be made from branches. 

They also need food, water, dirt to dust bathe in and enough space to carry out their natural chicken behaviour. Adding wormwood and lavender cuttings to their nesting boxes can help to naturally deter fleas and mites. 

What do chickens eat?

Chickens are fantastic composters and will happily turn your kitchen scraps into delicious eggs. They can eat a lot of things, but they can't eat uncooked rice and beans, though cooked is fine. They also shouldn't eat raw potato, avocado seeds and skin, onion, garlic, chocolate, citrus or raw potato. Though naturally, chickens will eat meat, it's not advised to feed it to them. Pork should especially be avoided as chickens and pigs can transfer disease to one another. 

They will also need good quality feed, which you can buy in bulk from your local fodder store. If you have egg-laying chickens they will need a layers pellet, if you are raising chickens for meat, they will require growers pellets. The fodder store will be able to point you in the right direction if you have any queries or feel overwhelmed by the choice. 

It's also good to feed chickens shell grit to ensure they have adequate calcium and to add a glurp of apple cider vinegar(ACV) to their water. ACV helps with natural worm prevention and good gut health.  You can buy ACV in bulk at the fodder store too. 

Chicken coop and run

Aside from their chicken coop, chickens will need a run in which they can scratch about, stretch their wings, socialize and generally do chicken-y things. 

Chickens are tasty and generally defenceless. (Though if you have ever been changed by a rooster, that may be hard to believe...) As a result, there are many things aside from us that like to eat them. Foxes, feral cats, goannas, dingoes, neighbourhood dogs, birds of prey even pythons will happily feast on a chicken dinner if given half a chance. This is why they need a good secure coop which they are locked in overnight. The chicken run should have a fence which is a minimum of 6ft, but we prefer 8ft. Chickens are surprisingly good flyers. We have always built our chicken run with wire dug under the ground to prevent animals from digging/pushing under. We do this by digging a trench around the perimeter, placing the wire in it and then pouring concrete around the bottom. It's time-consuming, but it means the job is done well. 

Due to wanting to keep the coop light and movable, we have not followed our own advice in keeping the coop totally secure. When we move the coop to its permanent site soon, this will be rectified. The electric netting keeps predators out, just not the chickens IN. 

You can keep chickens in poultry netting, but you will need to clip their wings. Our chicken's wings currently need clipping and they are flying in and out to their hearts content, which is far from ideal. We have been using electric poultry netting for the last few years and moving it regularly so the chickens are constantly on fresh pasture, but we are not happy with it. It is great for rotational grazing and pasture health but not for the chicken's safety. We have lost chickens to predators as it doesn't keep them in if we lapse on keeping their wings clipped. Which happens with a big family and lots of other things on the go. It is a good solution for heavy meat birds as they can't fly, as long as you have the space to move them regularly.

This year we will be building a large permanent coop with 8ft fencing and using a deep litter system. Their coop will be able to be opened up into the orchard and the veggie patch during certain times.  You can see our plans HERE.

Some people find they need to enclose their coop from above with netting too. Foxes are amazing climbers and will take out an entire flock in a night. We don't tend to get foxes here due to our dogs, so it's not something we have ever worried about. But it's an important consideration. 

How long do chickens live?

Different chickens have different life expectancies. Commercial meat breeds have the shortest lifespan and usually need to be processed at the 6-10 week mark. Hylines and Isa Browns generally live between 2-3 years. Some duel-purpose heritage breeds like Australoprs can live 6-10 years, with the added bonus of being meaty enough to process once they finish laying. Though they are better suited to making soup and broth than roasted as the older they are, the tougher they get. But they make a very flavourful and highly nutritious chicken soup 

Disadvantages of keeping chickens

Honestly, there are not many disadvantages to keeping chickens if they are well set up, their coop is properly built and their needs are met. It is important to remember if they can escape, they will. They will happily devour and scratch up new seedlings and eat your veggies. But a well-built and properly designed coop will prevent this. If they happen to escape into the neighbours, it is best to placate them with a dozen or so eggs and offer to replace any plants they may have damaged. 

If you are in the suburbs, you will need to check your council by-laws and build your coop accordingly. They will likely specify the maximum flock size, and distance the coop needs to be from neighbouring fencelines. Nearly all councils prohibit keeping roosters in the suburbs. They are noisy fellows. You will also need to be aware of keeping their coop clean and odour free. 

Food will need to be kept in secure bins to reduce the risk of attracting rodents and chickens should only be fed as much as they can eat. Feeding them excess will attract rats and mice and create a smelly, dirty coop. Which no one wants. 

All in all, chickens are wonderful animals. They are funny to watch, great at turning green waste into protein-rich eggs and make wonderful pets for children. But be warned, chickens are so delightful it is highly likely you will end up with more than you intended. Frankly, I am not sure is actually a disadvantage!  

Much love,

Slow summer holidays and interesting weekend links

The car is in the mechanics and it seems we have been without a second car now for months now. It is wearing thin that's for sure. It has been an interesting exercise in simple living. We are hoping it will be fixed by the end of the week, but I am not holding my breath. 

Sweet Maisie. She has such a little frame for a border collie, but she is delightful. She and Tuk are best mates and she is incredibly intuitive and sensitive. She is eager to learn and please and will should be easy to train as a result.

But it has made me think of families in previous generations when transport was limited and they had no expectation life would be any other way. Though we are on a rural property, most people here can not make enough money from their properties for farming to be their primary income. It is a commuting area. In the past people would have made their living through logging and selling timber, raising cattle and running small dairys. Sadly, the viability of the small, mixed-family farm is mostly long gone. Though there are some examples of those who do it well through clever avenues of diversification. One day we hope to join them. 

Back in the day when horses were the main source of transport, this place would have been quite an isolated, close-knit community. I imagine every farm would have had extensive fruit orchards, veggie patches and flocks of chickens. 

But that is not the world we live in now. Life is faster and most people spend long stretches away from their properties. Many are working away not because they want to, but because they must to make ends meet. The local post office has long since closed and now our friends live in it. The church still stands though its congregation has dwindled to just a handful of oldies. The old school hasn't functioned as a school for many decades  Children are bussed further afield, the cost of keeping such a small school open was deemed not financially viable. The building has become the community hall where markets and local events are held, it is at least well-loved. 

Sometimes it leaves me feeling like we are cocooned in our own little world and so the days pass. Feeding children, cooking meals, preparing snacks, playing games, reading books, doing the washing and caring for animals. All whilst living in a yurt. I seem to set goals and tasks for the morning only to discover the end of the day has arrived without having done half the things intended to. I have been motivated to tackle small annoying jobs between wrangling children. Jobs like decluttering the linen, board games, kitchen items and pantry. Just a few minutes here and there have helped us fit into our tiny home better. No longer does my linen tumble out the cupboard whenever I open it. Since I have no car, it is Grants job to remember to drop the bags at the op-shop which frankly, I am not sad about.  

To be a real homesteading family, I feel like I should be tackling the new garden, but it seems to be either hot and muggy or raining. I need a couple of big loads of compost to fill the garden spaces I am wanting to work on. It's premature to do too much until they come and I cannot get them until the Landcruiser is fixed which we need to tow the big trailer. Though I do have some seedlings which are ready to be potted up for when the garden is ready. Then I can start a new batch, so time is never really wasted. 

One thing I didn't take into account when we moved here would be the amount of waiting we would have to do. Waiting for things to be fixed, waiting until we have saved enough to buy supplies, waiting for one job to be done before we can start the next. It has been an exercise in patience. 

But patience is a good skill to have, no? At this rate, I will be up there with St Monica in the patience department. Ha! 

I started this sweet little goat for Elsie's birthday in February. I thought I might make her Waldorf doll a little red dress like Heidis from the book. I confess I think I enjoy reading the book to her more than she enjoys the story, even the picture version is a bit longer than her attention span at the moment. But she does enjoy the pictures and the familiarity of the mountains and the goats. It seemed an apt present to make for our own little mountain-dwelling, goat-loving child. 

Angus's birthday is also coming up in a couple of weeks and he has asked for a harmonica, I would like to make him a soft pouch for it to protect it in his pocket and perhaps embroider it with his name along with some music notes or something similar. I am just waiting for it to arrive in the mail. I can't belive my sweet, gentle Angus is nearly 12. These babies of mine are growing up so quickly. He has also requested a new bodyboard and goggles.

Well, the dishes are beckoning, there are animals to feed and children to rustle into action for the day. I hope this finds you well and that you have a lovely weekend. 

Much love, 

This is a lovely web site that offers many delightful free patterns, as well as patterns you can purchase at a good price. Many (if not all, I haven't looked that closely) are PDF meaning you can print them off at home or at the library which saves postage.  

As my days are a little less all consuming with a very young child, this year I am determined we will get back to YouTube. There is going to be alot to share about fencing, gardening, improving our solar system, milking goats and of our everyday off-grid yurt life.  We have a couple of videos there if you have not seen them yet. I keep allowing myself to be held back by imposter syndrome and feeling shy in front of the camera. Though I enjoy filming and editing very much. Though I have a huge amount to learn! 

I loved this series, and if you haven't watched it I recommend it. 

I recently read this book in Libby which is a free Australian library app. If you are not on it, do look into it. It is my favorite app. Anyway I really enjoyed the book and that Jades recipes weren't prescriptive as such, which is much like the way I cook. I enjoyed it so much I will be purchasing it, perhaps for my birthday. 

Here is a link to Libby, or you can go to the app store on your device and download it. It will sync with the app on any device you are on so you can switch between reading on a tablet or a phone and not loose your place. 

The kitchen table

When I read and look back into history, I can't help but wonder if our ancestors would recognise our lives, and if they would think all the changes that have happened are the best for ourselves and our planet. I think the women would be particularly thrilled at the development of many household appliances. Especially fridges, freezers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and small appliances like electric beaters and stick blenders. I am sure that many of the men would marvel at farming machinery, electric chainsaws and cars.

The kids playing chess on a hot afternoon. 

I suspect they would be a bit miffed by mobile phones, giant TVs, lights that change colour and the short-term/disposable nature of many items in our homes today. They would be astounded that 'fashion' changes so quickly, and that much of it is such poor quality. Though I suspect many would enjoy the light, breezy cotton fabrics available and thin undergarments. Especially if they, like us, live in a hot climate.  

I imagine they would be thrilled at the access to modern medicine and to learn that children today do not have to face the same tragedies as their children did through what we now consider preventable illnesses due to the improvement in sanitation, antibiotics, vaccines and surgical advancements.   

They would be shocked at how far most people are removed from the natural world and how disconnected that world is from farming. When my father was young, every Christmas a turkey, fresh cream and butter as well as seasonal fruit and veggies would be carefully packaged up, along with small presents and sent from the family farm to his home in Sydney via the train. Even if you lived in the city, most people still had a connection to the family farm. 

They would be shocked at our modern supermarkets and I suspect not recognise many of the items within them as food. 

Making meatballs for dinner with whole ingredients. 

There are many wonderful changes that we have access to in today's world, and many of those changes have reduced back-breaking manual labour. Socially, there have been pivotal movements throughout history that have bought vast improvements to equality, though there remains a lot of work to be done. 
But I don't think all the changes the world has gone through are for the best. They are certainly not when it comes to the environment or sustainability. But that is an entirely different conversation. 

When I read old books or hear people talk about how things used to be I'm always stuck by the amount of visiting that seemed to go on. People popped over with spare seedlings or a meal for a sick or elderly neighbour, birthdays and parties were usually held in the home rather than at an external venue, and friends came over for working bees. People would meet for games of cards or to share a meal on the weekend rather than staying in their own individual homes. I remember these things from when I was a child. These were usually not fancy affairs, some sausages and chops on the BBQ (who can even afford lamb these days?) People would bring a salad or dessert. If you were lucky there would be chips and a can of soft drink as a special treat. Such items were not the norm for most kids I knew. It seems to organise a catch-up with anyone these days needs to be organised weeks in advance and requires military precision between children's activities, work and various other appointments.

I am not sure these kinds of changes are necessarily good for us. People on the whole are lonelier than ever and more disconnected from their friends and family. Not necessarily by distance, but by time. With the advancement of time-saving technology in the home we should have more time than ever to spend with those we love most.  

"Basically, human well-being depends on interpersonal interactions and relationships. It’s no wonder that prolonged loneliness is associated with many serious health consequences such as an increased risk of depression, anxiety, dementia, stroke and heart disease, so an epidemic of it should be taken very seriously." Dean Burnett, BBC

You can read the rest of the article HERE

Instead, people seem to have less, I suspect the internet is a huge waste of time for many of us, but there are other issues. The internet means many people never log off. The endless growth economy means shops are open 7 days a week, for increasingly longer days. Those shops require staff so we can no longer presume people are free on a Sunday or after 5pm. Commuting can take a huge chunk of people's days. It seems everything is becoming automated and self-service is becoming the norm. Chatting with the person at the checkout is becoming increasingly rare as we are encouraged to scan our own items. Church numbers are in decline which I think is a real shame. Not only is faith (of any kind) an incredibly powerful thing in our lives, but the faith community has also always been an important social construct around the world.  

Living at a place that allows periods of rest and downtime is incredibly important for children. I don't believe it is good for them to sleep on the go all the time.

When I look at our modern world, I suspect there is much our ancestors wouldn't recognise about it. But some things remain the same or can return with ease if we choose. 

We can choose to slow down our lives, to minimise the activities our children are doing to one a season. We can ask our children to streamline their choices so each child is not going in their separate directions, which may require a little compromise and taking turns to focus on a chosen activity for a season.

We can choose to embrace sitting around the kitchen table. Many people today eat in the lounge room, in front of the TV. But the kitchen table remains an important place to gather, to discuss the happenings of the day. It's a place to do projects, play board games share meals and share morning and afternoon tea. It's a place where everyone can sit together, reflect on the day and discuss what is on their minds. Just as families have for generations. There is power in sitting around the kitchen table, the ritual of doing so has 
helped bind families together throughout the ages. 

Preparing food from scratch is an important ritual for children to get involved in. The kitchen table is a nice big space in which to spread out for cooking if, like me, you have a small kitchen. If you have a big kitchen with lots of bench space, you're lucky! Today we have made bread, pizza scrolls and tiny cupcakes. They ate the pizza scrolls for lunch and tonight they will have fresh bread with a big pot of vegetable and tomato soup I made yesterday. When your cooking with children they ask a lot of questions. Today we talked about gluten, what it is and how it changes dough and makes bread delicious and soft. I am coeliac so I can't eat gluten, but I can cook it just fine. The process of pinching, sprinkling, grating, measuring and tipping are all important in developing coordination and dexterity. Did you know many kids today struggle with these things due to so much time on screens? They are also lacking in upper body strength as they do far less climbing and more time sitting than children did in the past. 

If you are looking to simplify and help bring your family closer together, perhaps a good place to start is at the kitchen table. 

Much love, 

Small jobs with huge rewards and interesting weekend links

Well, sadly Grant's holidays are finished and he was back at work this week. We have loved having him at home. We didn't get as much done as we planned, but we did make some good progress. Relaxing and resting are important too and I am glad that he got plenty of that in. 

The last few days have been drizzly so he has worked on some small but incredibly rewarding jobs for me.

Our solar system is very small. Because of this, we have 12V lighting to save power. It does fine but I have wanted a light over the kitchen table for yonks. So I gave an old banged-up lampshade a coat of chalk paint I bought as a $10 sample pot from Bunnings. Then he re-wired it to 12V with parts he bought online and hung it over the table for me. The difference is amazing! Finally, I can work at the kitchen table at night sewing or writing when it is dark. He also re-wired our old bedside lamps to 12V which means I can finally read an actual book at night in bed, and not just on the app on my phone. Such luxury!  

I have wanted a little shelf by the door for quite a while so he rustled up some timber from the old cattle yards and found some brackets in the shed. Then he built this little shelf near the back door to store garden tools and items on. So handy! When you live in a tiny home with a lot of people like we do, these kinds of nifty storage solutions make such a difference. 

 One of the challenges of living in a yurt is that they are a poorly insulated building, which is difficult in a hot Australian summer. The dome in the roof is lovely in winter, but in summer the hot sun bores down through it. Though you can open it up to let hot air escape which is a wonderful feature. In summer we usually put shade under the dome and it's not a job Grant enjoys. It's awkward and really high up. I am too short to reach, which frankly I am not sad about. Anyway, he pulled out the frame, mended it and popped in a piece of cream-shade cloth and the boys helped him get it up there. It makes a huge difference.  

Sooty found Grant working on the ladder to hang the light very interesting, though I think she was slightly concerned. 

Realistically none of these jobs are huge, but together they make an immense difference to the quality and ease of our lives here. I am absolutely thrilled to have them done. 

Below I have put together some links I thought you might enjoy or find helpful. 
Much love,

I recently came across this series and we are really enjoying it. It's about a British family who goes back in time and lives as they would have in the 1900s. This is a dodgy YouTube version so the quality is poor, but you can stream it and pay for it on other services if you like. We are two episodes in and the kids are enjoying it. 

I'm sure many of you read Grandma Donnas blog. She and her husband live out their own historical studies, researching old diaries, newspapers and more to do it. I really enjoy her blog and her reflections on bygone days. We live here quite simply, with no hot water in the kitchen, minimal power, and few kitchen gadgets aside from a stick blender and electric beater. We make our toast on the Aga in winter and under the gas grill in summer. Our kettle is a stovetop kettle, our home is small and very modest. We live out of town and don't go in unless necessary. It's normal to only leave the farm once or twice a week. Because of these things, I feel a certain connection to those in the past. 

This is a short clip of a modern-day couple living their dreams as a 19th-century couple. I love how all people are different and really admire those who pave their own paths and chose to live such interesting and different lives. 

Jenny has many beautiful patterns on her blog, many of them free which you can download. If you love sewing and embroidery as I do her blog is a real treat and I really enjoyed this post. 

A lovely encouraging post as we come into 2023.

Always a good reminder to know that shops are actively working to entice you to buy things you don't need, won't last and will clutter up your house. To stop doing is like exercising a muscle, but knowing their tricks and tactics makes it easier. 

Ponderings, plans for 2023 and a very happy new year!

 Happy New Year dear readers!

Thank you for following our family's journey to a simpler, more sustainable life as we continue to navigate the life we live towards the life we value. 

Around this time every year, many of us undergo a period of reflection. We reflect on the year that was, where we are now and what our hopes for the future might be. Some of us write resolutions, others set goals and some choose to take a new year just as they did the last one - one step at a time.

For those that are new here, we are a family of six who lives entirely off-grid in a modern 30ft yurt while we establish our off-grid homestead/farm. Four years ago we bought our 265acre property and moved 2000kms to a property with zero infrastructure. It was quite literally a bush block. Those early days were a combination of exhilarating and bloody hard. We lived in an old vintage caravan and the boys slept in tents. There was no power, no running water, no bathroom and no internet or phone connection. We were only meant to camp for a few weeks until our yurt arrived from the USA, but due to shipping holdups, the weeks turned into months. HERE is a Post from my old blog 'A Simple Living Journey' which contains stories of our early days. 

Eventually, our yurt came and we began to set down roots and turn this place into a home. We added another baby, beautiful Elsie who is nearly three. We have put in a 10,000L header tank that gravity feeds water to the yurt, installed a small solar system, and built out the yurt by adding a kitchen, pantry, bedrooms and loft. We have laid flooring, built a small bathroom under the porch and put in a wood-burning Aga for winter cooking. The yurt is now a sweet and functional home. Albeit a little on the small side. If you want to know more about yurts you can read a post I did HERE.

We started our Boer goat herd which we have grown to fifteen and still counting this season. We have chickens, a few cows and are looking to add guinea fowl, geese and a pair of milking goats. Grant doesn't know about the geese yet. He'll love them I'm sure, he just doesn't know it....shhhhhhh.

Grant built a big machinery shed and in that he built a room for his wood roaches with their very own slow-combustion wood fire to keep them toasty on cold frosty nights. Soon we will be adding a solar system to the shed to run an energy-efficient heater which will ensure their temperature is more stable. You can read about his wood roaches HERE. We have the expensive parts for the new solar system which are the inverter and batteries, now we are just waiting to find some second-hand solar panels in good condition.

The last few years have been rocky. We always knew it would be a hard move but covid and unstable employment due to covid threw a curve ball we didn't see coming. Money has been unbelievably tight and there were times we struggled to scrape enough together to keep our heads above water. I know there are many people who found themselves in the same position over the past few years.

But coming into 2023 we have a feeling of hope. Finances are still tight, but we can survive if we are careful. Grant has a good, stable job with the forestry department that he loves, which is a game changer.  There is potential to build a good solid career with them over the coming years.

We have some exciting projects on the go. Our garden plans are coming along which you can read about HERE. We are in the process of putting in the first stage of our boundary fence which is a couple of km's. The posts are mostly in, we just need to save a few thousand dollars for the wire. (which is obviously easier said than done.) Once that's done we will be finally starting on the deck. While we save for fencing wire we can work on other projects like building a small isolation shelter/sick bay and yard near the yurt for the goats and a milking shed. We have gathered a fair bit of second-hand iron that can be used and we can fell hardwood posts from our own forests for the frame. We do everything we can here using recycled materials or using things that can be sourced naturally on our own property. 

The last few months have given me a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose for blogging and a clearer direction of interesting topics to write about. People are moving from the cities to rural areas en masse and many people dream of owning a small homestead or a couple of acres. I hope to encourage those dreaming of making a lifestyle change as well as those looking to simplify where they are at. Living simply and mindfully is just how we live our lives these days, it is easy to forget that our lives look quite different from many of those around us. I know have found others who share how they live simply, embracing permaculture and building a sustainable life incredibly encouraging and I hope this blog can be a place of encouragement for you too.

We don't send our children to numerous activities and sports, believing that time spent at home and in nature together is equally valuable. They have each been given the opportunity to learn an instrument. Will no longer does guitar lessons, though Angus does and is enjoying it immensely. Henry will start an instrument this year if he chooses. We don't buy our children lots of toys, partly because space is at a premium in a yurt. Instead, we buy less and ensure it's open-ended and promotes imagination and creativity. If we are able to purchase or make things utilizing natural fibres, all the better. They are welcome to purchase what they want with their own money and this is how they have chosen to buy their own tablets. We very rarely eat out due to the cost of feeding a family our size and instead enjoy home-cooked meals. An exception to that might be fish and chips at the beach. However, I believe in balance when it comes to food and our children do eat shop-bought biscuits, chips and two-minute noodles. Though I do bake biscuits, make huge pots of homemade popcorn with butter and make nourishing bone broth with rice noodles in it too. The reality is our children live in a world where fast and processed foods are the norm. We want to show them healthy food choices without hard and fast rules. In my experience children who grow up without food choices risk falling into a culture where they binge on junk food the second they get a chance and can grow to obsess over forbidden foods. Which I believe causes much bigger problems than consuming a homemade slice of cake with a generous slathering of butter icing on top or the occasional packet of two-minute noodles. 

Futuresteading is one of my very favourite podcasts. I find it really encouraging and uplifting. 

Living simply off-grid also looks different. We have limited power so we need to catch what we run, we have a small 12V TV, and we don't have any hot water in the kitchen so we have to heat a kettle with the gas or wood oven. Our bathroom is tiny and we have a composting toilet that uses sawdust instead of water. Our home is small and we don't keep up with the latest trends. We buy second-hand where ever we can and have taught our children that buying second-hand is a good thing. However, we will buy new if it's the better choice. We never shop for entertainment, in fact, we generally consider shopping an annoying chore and get in and out as fast as possible. Instead, we love to go to the beach, and national parks or enjoy some kind of experience together. The kids love the local historical museum which has a steam train, horse-drawn carriage and blacksmith shop. We swim at the beach or river, go fishing or go on bushwalks in the local forests. 

We are not absolutists in anything. We just do the best we can with what we have, including energy. Our principles and values guide us, but not at the cost of our sanity, relationships or general well-being. It's ok if we make a choice that isn't perfect. That doesn't mean trying to live a simpler or more sustainable life isn't for us or that we have failed. It just means we are trying to make choices that differ from the mainstream, consumerist driven and encouraged norm. 

It's hard to walk a different path and it's okay to not do it perfectly. 

Anyway, these are some of our plans, musings and thoughts as we move into 2023, clear as mud right? But perhaps that's ok. Perhaps we don't need a hard and fast plan of how we are going to "succeed" this year. Maybe moving forward with hope, enthusiasm and joy in our hearts is enough and the rest will fall into place in its own time. As long as we continue to take the next step, who knows where we will find ourselves? 

Much love,

PS - If you want to follow our journey, support us or get notified about new posts you can find us on other platforms HERE. I always post a link to new blog posts on FB and IG as Blogger seems to have lost is's subscribe feature. I'll be on updating my blog soon-ish to include a new one. 

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