Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Time rich

The power has been off for 24 hours due t0 work being carried out on trees nearby. Our power is provided by powerlines that connect to the houses around ( we are pretty rural) and the trees in the storm had damaged some cables. the cables did not get replaced, just the trees trimmed. The whole day, the power saw whirred in the background, and 3 men reduced tree branches to mulch. It made me sad. Somehow it made sense but in a backward way.
After the power cut there were issues with the internet connection but that is pretty normal. I reflected on how less attached and calm I can now be about not having an internet connection for a while. Not so easy for younger people who rather depend on the internet and the gateway to information.
I got engrossed in a book 'This book will save your life' which is a fantastic read, just the thing if you need a reality check.

My wake up call came with news of multiple losses for one of my DH's Aunt who is in her seventies and not doing well at the moment which is entirely understandable; within 3 weeks she has lost her partner, her dog, her home, health and is said to be quite confused. I feel compassion in the face of such loss and when they talk about doing a hip replacement to an old lady with a chest infection who has had a fall, I just do not see how she will overcome all the losses in this short time. I am in awe of the courage required in this moment and what decision her soul will make to keep her safe.

I prepare myself to go and visit a confused, unrecognisable older woman in pain and yet reflect on the fact that within that picture is a woman who's life has a story and whose time on this earth has impacted on many in a positive way.

Time rich or money rich, what would be the best choice. How long is the perfect time to be alive in this world? Now is the only time we can feel fully alive, fully appreciate all that surrounds us. In the face of adversity in this moment for one person, the rest of the world carries on as always, it seems insignificant and yet at the same time it makes me realise that if I feel that in this moment I want to go out and walk under the stars, that is exactly what I need to do.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Follow your bliss

Today, Well Lived - Ancient Sanskrit Proverb

When we take the time to stand still, to connect with nature, to stop the chattering of thoughts about what we should be doing, how we should be behaving, what we should be buying, what the expected standards is.....we can find peace and turn our vision inwards to discover who we are.
One of the most important and powerful questions I have asked myself during many months bedbound is ' Who are you? Who are you really?"After all the usual lables of mother, wife, teacher, artist, musician and silence follows......

When you relax into that awareness and connect with the wisdom that lies within you, you might discover what Joseph Campbell calls, your bliss. Your bliss is the activity that totally absorbs you, in which you are totally lost and connected to all consciousness. As an early years educator, it is easy to spot children going through certain play schemas and being absorbed by their bliss. It could be painting, it could be mixing, it could be a fixation with anything round. For me personally it has been a sensual bliss of materials and colour. There is not a yarnshop or sheep, alpaca fleece that I would not touch and sense a connection with.

It is important to note that following one's bliss, as Campbell saw it, isn't merely a matter of doing whatever you like, and certainly not doing simply as you are told. It is a matter of identifying that pursuit which you are truly passionate about and attempting to give yourself absolutely to it. In so doing, you will find your fullest potential and serve your community to the greatest possible extent.

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are -- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.

* * *

Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chit" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture. I thought, "I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being." I think it worked.

--Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, pp. 113, 120

Speaking to an artist in my community who comes to visit weekly for some eggs and shares her apples with me in season, we both observed on the bliss feeling of total absorption. She finds it in painting silk, her husband in making pots and I find it in working with fibre. I seem to be at peace, feel connected to the activity with my whole being and if when the product is finished someone wants to pay me for having been in a blissful state, that would be wonderful. I have not got to that stage yet. I am still experiencing bliss in the moment. Its an experience when thoughts of the past do not enter, thoughts of the future do not pass but I am in the now moment, totally connected and transfixed into what I am doing.

In the film of The Last Samurai, a scene depicts a village in which each person spends all their time engaged in whatever activity is their discipline, their gift to the world. It would be a wonderful vision of community if we had the courage to be and do what we are.

Who are you, who are you really?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Over the last few weeks I have settled down to do what comes effortlessly. Having been poorly and with a household in the same way needing a bit of TLC has left very little time for my craft activities. It is still very cold out there and I am sitting contentedly with my spinningwheel, whurring away working at Rollo's blanket. The photo shows about 6 oz of spun fibre in a colour that is between cream and butterscoth streaks. Its is very soft and will be very warm. These are pilot skeins as I am seeing how I work with this fibre. All is well only a small allergic reaction that makes breathing a bit laborious so maybe will need to stick to wool in the future. We shall see, maybe spinning in the open air may alleviate some of the discomfort.

The sun is shining today with a cracking blue sky. Very cold and I am looking forward to looking at the stars tonight. No light pollution in the country does enable us to look regularly up and see whether we can make out what star is wish.

At times when the simplicity of life is simply effortless I feel blessed that I have the time, the resources and the energy to enjoy all that surrounds me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Little hen, little hen

Little hen, little hen, waking me from my afternoon nap. Under my window they made noises to say, corn, corn, corn. Its a fairly nice and cold day. I went walkabout in the garden to see what was happening fearing that a fox had entered our quarry. Not a bit of it, they just were hankering after some corn to keep warm.
I do not mind as the results of caring for them and allowing them to work hard are some eggs that await some culinary magic. It is a simple harvest at this time of the year but a welcome one. Day in day out we gather between 5 a 8 eggs from 9 chickens which is a good yield. They have off days like everyone else but on the whole they are reliable workers, noisy at times, but reliable.

Half Human

Beans by Francois Van Houtte

Up at dawn, cup of tea brought to my DH, I pondered on life. I feel half human again, the household is returning to some sort of routine. The porridge had steamed all night in the stove and as the warmth and steam wafted from my early cup of tea I pondered on the beauty of this simple life.
The chickens respond to my voice and welcomed me with a lot of cackling and I found them some cabbages to eat so at least they have some work to do today. There is very little greenery for them to eat and although 3 of them can still escape and eat whatever they please in the garden, the other dutifully wade in the mud. There seems to me to be a lot to do around the homestead but I am still taking it veryeasy. There is a stirring in me to tidy the polytunnel and prepare the bed for early potatoes. Last year I waited until late february but this year I want to try and start them earlier so that the bed is free for french beans in April/ May time. I have been sewing some lettuce seeds under heat and today.I will put some onion seed in a seed tray. This will be my first year growing onions from seed, I usually buy bulbs, without much success I have to say.
Dh and I talked about what we would increase this year in our simple activities. For him it is his crocquet game and for me it will be working in the garden. I watched Growing your Vegetables yesterday and learnt about many heritage varieties of peas and beans. It is a worthwhile crop, to think that the seed is edible, planted produces a flowering spectacle followed by fruits that are easy to eat, freeze and dry. And they give nitrogen to the soil improving it as they grow.
Met Mr Robin today, who hopped about the garden path looking for crumbs to eat. I do leave them out when I cut the breadloaf. Every little helps.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Turning the corner

The little bug is working its way through the house, only one little man to go and we will all have had the experience in one way or another.
Gradually I have worked through my emergency supplies. It pays to be prepared for moments when you just cannot go to the shops because of weather, financial reasons, illness or whatever emergency presents itself.
The red cross have some good information on being prepared for an emergency and articles on how to prepare resources in case of emergency.
In this part of the world, the emergency we encounter is not likely to last longer than 2 weeks and it is comforting to know that when the moment comes or has arrived that we can take some of the anxiety and worries away by being prepared.
Canned supplies and supplies in the freezer have been very good to fall back upon in this household. I like lists and having experienced some chaos and gaps over the last 2 weeks, one of the things I want to ensure is that a plan is in place for the next time. We have had powercuts, storms and ilness over the last 2 weeks and to me it has acted as a small wake up call.
Dried foods such as rice, pasta and canned sauces to go with them have all been of good use. The one main thing that many people forget is the water supply which should be first on the list. We have saved water in the tubs outside but that water would need to be sterilised before we were able to drink it in an emergency so some supplies that are ready would be better.
When health returns in abundance in this household I will replenish the supplies.
Ofcourse if you have a garden, some canned goods and dried food supplies in the house you are halfway there.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Get well comments

Thank you Katie and Marilyn for your get well wishes.
Another storm last night, some powercuts and boys that are wondering when Mum is going to be back to normal. DH has been talking about the difference between Man flu and woman flu......won't go into that apart from to say that silence often is better than speech especially when you have no voice to speak with. I trust nature.
Still drinking smoothies and juices to give my body the best chance to recover and it is all going well. I have observed though that when you reach rockbottom and think the end in nigh, it usually means you have turned a corner to recovery. The house looks like a war zone, visitors are barred and I have promised to put out a white flag when the coast is clear.
Questions from boys ' Why is there no bread in the box? What is for dinner tonight? Even better: " Mum is Dad really going to cook us a meal?" In their own little way they are saying they miss me. Nurse Dh is not bad, has not quite got the difference between tea and herbal tea not having milk in it, but hey, he is bringing me tea in bed which is much appreciated. Occassionally he lies down next to me, wipes his brow and says : I am bearing up, how are you doing? I smile, he smiles and we look lovingly at the mess that surrounds us in the house. Its great to feel loved.
DH thinks I am getting better.....when you start complaining I know you'r fighting it and getting better.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cold War

Fresh juices should give some pow to immune systems. Here's my favourite.

4 carrots
3 oranges
small piece of ginger root

Still poorly so am taking it easy, chores are being shared around.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Colds and lemons

Sick Looking Patient and Her Nurse by D. Euesbio

I'm sick. This is predictable usually at this time of the year, as our bodies are usually run down a bit, we lack sunshine etc. I nursed a sick boy at home this week and as is often the case, your kids share everthing with you.

I will do exactly as I did with my son:

  • stay in bed, warm and cosy until at least 10.30 am.
  • drink plenty of hot drinks, at least 1 every hour
  • eat soup and easily digested foods.
  • listen to music or watch tearful old movies ( a favourite when I am poorly)
  • Stay out of the kitchen

Some home remedies for colds and flu days :

Hot lemon drink

press the juice of 2 lemons, add 1 teaspoon of honey and plenty of boiling water.

Elderberry drink

to stop the cold going ont your chest

Chicken soup

Create a wholesome vegetable soup with pieces of chicken.


in the burner, I put 3 drops of each pine, eucalyptus and tea tree oil to scent the air ( helps with breathing)


Massage feet and hands to stimulate lymphatic system

That will do for the next few days. There are some easy meals in the freezer and if all fails there is always pasta for them to cook.

Back to the duvet!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Climate challenge

Mother and Daughter out for a Wintry Walk Pass the Woodcutters at Work Felling Trees by Francis Bedford

We are having another stormy day today. For days the weather is wet and windy. Nothing wrong with that I hear you say. Not really apart from the fact that we notice how windy it is and that the stormy weather is scaling wind speeds that can damage property, trees fall down on a regular basis and the fields and roads are flooded. What we have is extremes of weather such as droughts in summer and floods in winter which in the short term can be a mere inconvenience, yet in the long term should make us aware that weather patterns are not as they used to be. Flooding does little for the fields. Waterlogged fields means drainage is not sufficient and floods erode the top soil. We may lose trees not only because the wind catches their tops and topples them over, but because their roots are not strong enough to hold on due to soil erosion, drought and floods. Our garden lies sheltered behind a row of trees in an old quarry and when the wind comes in, it resounds around the bowl of the quarry. Some trees at the top of the quarry ( 50 feet higher) can come crashing down. ( We do not park cars very close to the wall in winter weather).
I have finished reading ‘ heat’ by George Monbiot and this has ofcourse influenced our decisions in taking the issues of global warming seriously. In the end analysis he is right in saying that we do not like taking action because it is our behaviour that needs to change fundamentally. Deciding to no longer fly for instance makes travelling long distance a thing of the past and yet we still can make choices. In the future, our children may well not be able to make those choices. Reading about the energy waste in supermarkets and the amount of fuel used to heat the supermarket, freeze and keep produce cold, travel there and back, the miles the food travels to get there has made me think about how we shop, why we grow vegetables and how generally we can work towards dealing with this differently.
As a result I aim to empty my freezer by the end of March of all food that is not needed before the new harvest comes in later in the year. I have noticed that my freezer is a convenient dumping ground for special offers and interesting items that may come in handy one day, yet one day very rarely comes along. Emptying the freezer and not using it for 2 months will mean that we will use less electricity to run it, and we will have a much better idea of what we like and dislike.
Being able to purchase food on demand will be in the background of eating seasonal food, purchased locally. What we grow and keep for winter will be discussed as we go along. Not so long ago when freezers were not in existence, we managed to hibernate in winter with a harvest and cupboards full of goodies. I want to work towards that this year. Growing vegetables, harvesting fruit and creating a menu that reflects what is available. This will give rise to a new category, seasonal produce, which will include recipes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

tranport 2007

Our aims in 2007 are to reduce our transport requirements. Having done a transport survey recently, I realized that 40 percent of our journeys were unnecessary, 40 percent off other journeys could be done using alternative transport , and 20 percent were essential journeys that could not be done in any other way than by car.

We live in a rural area and public transport is still not regular enough and cost effective enough to do without a vehicle. This does mean that we will not be selling our car. We will continue to be careful as to which car we use for which journey. When one of the cars is no longer viable it will not be replaced. I did look at getting a different car that would be environmentally viable like a Toyota Prius, which is an interesting family vehicle. If we were in town, such a car would be useful as it generates its own power by recharging a battery while you drive and switches to fuel when the battery is empty and your speed is above 28 miles. There is no doubt that technology offers possibilities in the future for cars that will be less dependent on fossil fuels, but the actual cost of the vehicle currently is prohibiting and is not possible for us. The diesel car which is now 4 years old, will be maintained, cleaned and looked after to enable us to do as many miles as possible without major repairs and costs. As mentioned in previous posts this does mean that the cost per mile we travel will increase but carbon emissions will decrease.
The unnecessary journeys are due to poor planning and wanting to do things on a whim. Better planning should result in less journeys.
We examined what we did socially and whether this could be done in a different way. We aim to live more locally and so in the next few months an exploration will include not only local food but local entertainment, leisure and sports activities ( not all for me but the children as well). The main question has been to look at the implications when for instance we want to go to the movies. That is a 30 mile trip. If we wait a few months for a movie, we could hire it at the local library, not only would the costs be reduced but also the transport to get there.
We will be exploring walking and cycling more, in particular with regards to the children as my mobility is limited however, there is no reason why my son could not walk to school with my DH, and he could buy the paper at the local village store and return. This would be a viable alternative to taking the car to school with the excuse that he needs to go to the village shop and then come home and take the dog for a walk. Both activities could be done together.
I am sure you get the picture. The only way to examine how and why you do things is to keep a journal. When your activities, money and travel requirements are written down you can examine what can and cannot be changed.
Having the car on the drive means that if for any reason we need to use the car, we can, we do not feel a sense of depravation but overall we can think before we leave home and how we plan our journeys.
A bus trip into town is quite expensive so scores low on financial sense, it takes 1 hour as where the car journey takes 30 mins, ( possible on time), then there is no parking to deal with and you have to carry what you shop for so that limits the amount of consumerism possible. The only drawback is that the bus stop is about 1 mile away. An alternative is to drive to the park and ride scheme on the edge of town, take the bus into town and pay less for parking.
I am not saying that every journey made can be changed, but if we think before we leave we can make choices in line with the values we hold dear.
We have bought a family railcard to enable us to take more train journeys at a reduced cost and journeys to visit family and friends abroad will be done using trains instead of planes if possible.
This is about the extent we feel we can work with this year.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

ready for action

Happy Birthday son, he got so excited that he wanted to get kitted out immediately. It was such a joy to see him go white, smile , jump up and realise that his dream for today had come through.
A bit later he was in was all too much.
Off to school for the day but when he gets home, a birthday tea will await him.
Such simple pleasures.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Blanket of alpaca

Its been the most amazing weekend. First the kindness of strangers, then someone very kindly came to cut the tree down into logsized pieces and my friend took me to visit someone who has alpacas in the garden. I started spinning to increase mobility in my legs after an ilness and have enjoyed it ever since. I have experimented with dying yarn and made my DH a handspun, handknitted sweater for Christmas ( its the only sweater with the right size sleeves), which he loves.
So I have come home with a blanket of alpaca fleece which will keep me busy for ...about 6 months of spinning.
Also home is a poorly child who needs a lot of TLC so am being brief today.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The kindness of strangers

Words to Live by: Kindness

Kindness number 1
It will be my DS's birthday soon and he would dearly like a cricket bat. His current one has been reglued 3 times and he is out practising in all weathers using buckets and stones as wickets and enticing anyone able to throw him a ball so he can practice his stroke.
This is a story about the kindness of friend called me to say that she was in a shop in town and that she was looking at getting him a cricket bat...not only that but he will end up with a set that includes all a cricket player may need which I know will make his heart sing and he will be absolutely thrilled. A few minutes later my DH phones me from the call box asking me to ring him back. I usually expect bad news however he started by telling me that he was in a shop in town and had seen a cricket set that would be perfect for our son but that he had forgotten his wallet and was unsure what to do. He was also due to do some grocery shopping on the same trip and I asked how he was going to do that.
I have already done that he said.
How did you pay for it then?
Well when I got to the checkout and told the lady that I did not have my wallet she said she would not accept my cheque without card. I felt embarrassed and quite sure that I would be leaving without shopping. A young man behind me in the queue told me that he would be willing to pay for my shopping if I wrote him a cheque. I asked him whether he was sure and
he said yes, I am sure, I am happy to do this for you.
My DH was taken aback a bit, wrote the cheque, packed the goods and thanked the man. He had not even asked for our address in case the cheque would bounce...which it will not of course. When my DH arrived at the car the man suddenly appeared and said :
Here, you left a bag behind so I thought I would bring it out to you to the car.

There may be questions as to whether angels do appear in real life but the kindness of this stranger and my friend has been much appreciated. Whoever you are, thank you.


I tackle this subject first as it was the easiest of all of them.
The house we live is an old cottage and space is at a premium. We have been decluttering for 2 years now and each year we feel able to let go of new things. There is still work to do in this area and we will all be focussing on what we need, what we have and what we no longer want in our lives. This is not an excuse to create a wishlist of what we want but to get on with our vision we need to deal with the past and set ourselves free from the stuff we have accumulated over the years.
Each child has a room that is their own and we will not influence what is happening in that domain. The exception is that each person will be responsible for their stuff and other people's stuff that is stored in their room needs relocating. This should give each child the power over their own space and a chance to individually express how they best use that space.
It sounds simplistic but as an example I can tell you that my youngest has boxes on the top of his wardrobe that do not belong to him, the hanging space in his wardrobe hosts old clothes not looked at in years, the chest belongs to his sister who visits regularly and the books on his shelves have been left there by his older brother. You can see that from his point of view, there is little room left to make his own mark on the space.
We have given each person permission to look through stuff and if they do not want it in their own space to deal with it in different ways, give the stuff to the person it belongs to and tell them to deal with their own stuff, sort the rest, reuse, recycle or bring to adults to discuss.
This process will be done by all over the next 2 months and should result in clear spaces and then an individual project as to how they want their space to fit their visions.
It is also likely to test relationships and require each of us to use communication skills and exercise compassion , patience and restraint.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Still here

Happy New Year to all of you. I have been absent in the last week because we have had family visiting and there has been little time to sit and put my feet up. After 5 mins there was always something to attend to.
The beginning of a new year starts in our household with a revisiting of the last year, what went well and what could go better. This year when I arrived in the kitchen with my folder, paper, pen and a serious look my Dh asked whether whisky would be called for. We settled down to compare our vision and what we could do together to work towards our vision.
It takes courage to sit and talk about what matters, what is wrong and to talk about options and there were tears, there were heated discussions and we ended up making no decisions on the major items but creating a workeable plan and time to go and do some research. We include our 12 year old son in the major discussions as I value his problem solving skills as well as I respect that at his age he has an opinion and should feel free to voice it. This is sometimes not comfortable but he is part of our team and has come up with other solutions we had not thought of. I urge you therefore to make use of young adults as they have a better grip on technology and options in that field. The end decision is a consensus but the discussions should enable each member of the family to express an opinion.

The posts over the next few days will take each area of discussion in turn and will give you a better feel of what we are trying to work with this year. I hope they will inspire you to take the bull by the horns and plan your own vision.