Thursday, May 31, 2007

A new link

While talking about strawberries I wandered over to Girl number twenty. If you have a chance, go and say hello and enjoy her world.

That was my strawberry moment today!

Strawberry reflections

Strawberries and Cream by Gregory Gorham
Strawberries and Cream

We have been receiving many invitations to parties and at the same time have been issuing our own to friends and family. Some are about beginnings and others are about endings. All of them give me time to reflect on what we are celebrating and what getting together gives us. When you have downshifted, does it mean that fun is no longer available. Maybe not the way you knew it.

In his book, The Endorphin Effect, William Bloom tells us about strawberries, events and moments that we really savour and that produce the feel good factor in our bodies, the endorphins that help reduce pain and allow us to really feel pleasure.

William Bloom continues to tell us that we feel lonely, that we have limited our environment to be our bodies....that we have lost our ability to wonder.

You are not just a citizen of Blobsville.
The mass eneregy field of humanity is not your only environmnet. You are a creature of the earth, of nature and the universe. This is your true home.

No matter how terrible your situation, there will always be a strawberry, There is always something to connect you with the wonder and beauty of life.The occassional and tiny dose of your passion is better than none at all.

When we celebrate together, we feel a bond, we share the excitement, the hope, the completion, the tip of the mountain, the achievements of our family members, the endings and the beginnings. It is an opportunity to see, touch, feel and savour the strawberry and sometimes get a glimpse of theirs and share it.

This family is preparing to celebrate some achiements of its own and others :

  • DS 1 has successfully been accepted with a scholarship to continue his education
  • DS 2 is making a commitment to our church community and is being confirmed in his faith.
  • DH is celebrating a birthday, and as his health has been challenged for years this is a big thing for us.
  • We are attending the Baptism of the first granddaughter in my DH’s family for 2 generations.
  • I am completing my educational training as counsellor in a few weeks.
  • We are celebrating the courage and acceptance of a friend who was sent to prison and has now completed his duty to society.

Not many of these require ‘ money’ to celebrate although quite often that is what people do to celebrate things and have big parties.
In the past we would have had big parties, lavish food in order to show our monetary wealth. This time though in organising a party for my son, family and friends have been invited to bring a potluck supper to share after the celebration. This works on many fronts, it shows my son that his community values him as much as his family, it also minimises waste and washing up , we work together as a team and will not take away the special strawberries for any of us. Most importantly, there is no limit on the amount of people that attend as there is no limit in our budget.

Its a busy time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Smelling the roses

Gertrude Jekyll Rose - my absolute favourite for smell and shape

Give yourself space by spending time in nature, taking an hour or day off, enjoying quiet moments for reflection. Take time to smell the roses. Breathe in the wonder of life and its bounty. Open so your deeper awareness and imagination can percolate through mundane thoughts and activities. Let go of both resistance and force to allow yourself to connect more deeply to life.

I do only want to advise you to keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer." -- Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Domestically challenged

Domestically Challenged by Linda Grayson
Domestically Challenged

One of the things I enjoy a lot is reading old cookery books. Margaret Sheppard Fidler who offers the following qualifications to speak with authority about being a good cook.
Margaret is a
  • Triple Honours Diploma in Domestic Science
  • Formerly Trainng College Lecturere in Cookery and Dietetics
  • Examiner in Cookery for Matriculation and other bodies
  • Inspector of Housecraft Teaching in Schools
  • Cookery Editor and Expert
  • Housewife.

What strikes me is that she was proud to be a housewife. How many women today are ' proud' to be homemakers. In my simpler life, the skills that have enabled me to stay at home are those of the housewife. When my Dh was at home and ' househusbands' were frowned upon, he used to call himself a Domestic Engineer or Director of Home Affairs when asked what he did with his life. Eventually he found other ' directors' and they had a meeting each week to compare notes.

Yesterday I watched Andrew Marr's programme about the History of Modern Britain and through it I gained an understanding how rationing, World War II and skrimping and saving had created a want to have a better time in the hope that thus, famine and war could be forgotten. Women played as an important role in those times as men did. Whilst men fought at the front line, women stayed and brought up children single handedly, in dangerous circumstances with very little resources. Andrew shared what a week's rationing was spread out on the table, and frankly it would not have been enough for our family to eat in one meal, let alone a whole week. I can understand therefore that a move towards a simpler life, could mean to some, hardship and doing without many material things, and yet, some people looked healthier and more resourceful because they had to be.

If global warming is to be halted, as reversing may not be possible at this stage, maybe rationing what we use is the way forward. It sounds harsh, it is difficult and yet what I have admired so much about the British people and humankind in general is their ability to pull together in adversity.

Margaret Fidler offers us the following advice on how to be a good cook :
  • Be interested in cooking
  • use foods when they are in season and at their best and cheapest.
  • prepare ovens, pans, tins and utelsils before mixing ingredients
  • measure accurately
  • Get all consistencies right
  • Follow basic receipes exactly and add variations
  • Understand your cooker
  • Season and flavour everything you cook.
  • taste it before serving
  • See that it is right in flavour, colour and consistency
  • Serve hot dishes hot and cold dishes cold.
  • serve attractively
  • Experiment
  • keep a record of exactly how you cook a new dish - temperature, time etc, so that you can repeat it eaxctly if it is a success and vary it, if it needs improvement.
  • It is better to cook a few dishes really well than many dishes badly.
  • Repeat your successes, with variations.
  • Simple dishes, well cooked, perfectly flavoured and coloured, and properly serviced, make perfect meals for even greater occassions.
  • Picture the meal in your eyes and in your mouth as you plan it, and let it be pleasing on the plate and the palate.

From Basic Recipes, by Margaret Sheppard Fidler, published in 1953.

I guess that stands in contrast with buzzing around, no idea what is for dinner, quick shop in the supermarket, ah lasagne that will do, whizz home, bang in microwave, dispose of packaging and get on with that project that needs to be in by tomorrow. Lots of energy spent, packaging to be disposed off, energy used in reheating etc, etc.

Hope of things to come

The onion trials are up...the clear winner so far is the small onion bulbs, they are going ahead much faster than the seeds on the left of the picture. Of course it will all depend on what we harvest in August. Maybe it simply means that the onion seeds need to be planted earlier. In between is a row of carrots as companion planting means the pests of one should be put off by the smell of the other.The plum tree' tsarina' shows itself heavy with fruit. Thanks to the rain recently they have swollen to a reasonable size. Looks like a plum year again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Carnival of downshifting

Some tools to slide into downshifting and consuming less :

Prudential, an insurance company and investment company offer an online calculator that enables you to find out if you are ready to take the plunge.

The french entree website has lots of categories on smallholding, how to keep chickens, sheep pigs etc that may make interesting reading, if you need it before taking the plunge.

Coaching does help to realise your plans to downshift. If you have trouble seeing the wood from the trees, give Sally Lever a call to explore your options or read the very useful guides that Sally has on her site. Sally helped me a lot to put my ‘
I need to do something to downshift babble’
into some focussed action. The rest, as they say, is history. Sally has downshifted and continues to walk her talk.

The downshifter offers articles on how to prepare for downshifting

Author Judy Jones, shares her story about downshifting in a Resurgence Magazine article.

Monday, May 21, 2007

10 ways to live on one income

Country Blue by Deborah Chabrian
Country Blue

  1. Stop taking on borrowing, which necessitates a regular income to repay monthly. ( This does not apply to housing costs).
  2. Learn to cook from scratch - plan your meals with seasonal ingredients
  3. Sell a car - if one of you stays at home and you do not need the car for emergencies, you might be able to sell one car or cycle.
  4. Do not try and keep up with the neighbours in terms of material possessions, value your time and the freedom of how to spend it.Buy secondhand,;buy in thrifts stores
  5. Grow your own food, vegetables and fruit where possible, if not take on an allotment.
  6. Learn how to fix things....fixing may be cheaper than replacing
  7. Take a holiday at home together, plan picnics, walks and daytrips out in your local neighbourhood. Get to know your area.
  8. Make a packed lunch for the person who goes out to work, make it fun and exciting. You can add little comments about how much you appreciate that person to make their day.
  9. Set a budget and stick to it. Plan a budget for holidays and give each person a present within the limits you have set.
  10. Learn not to waste anything, reduce, re-use and recycle. Cut portions to healthy size, compost leftovers and vegetable scraps using compost heap and bokashi bins.

but most importantly:

Make the decision and commit to it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tarte aux pommes

I have lovely memories of apple tarts made by both my grandmothers and whenever the weather drives me in the kitchen and I knead pastry I am reminded of their words, kindness and time they spent showing me how to make this delectable easy feast.

You need a quantity of sweet pastry, shortcrust pastry, rolled out in a flan dish. Slice 4 to 5 apples and put them in layers on the pastry. Sprinkle 100g/ 4 oz of sugar over the apples and put a little dot of butter. Put in the oven at 190 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the apples are baked through and the pastry is done. Then warm up apricot jam or in my case, blackberry jelly) and spread across. It is best kept in the fridge for 1 day if you can resist eating it. In may case it is usually difficult to keep small boys from eying the apple tart standing on the table.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Garden update

Its been a busy few days, there are still beds to clear and plants to pot on, seeds to sow and beans to pick. Potatoes planted in february under cover are ready to be harvested as well as the broad beans that are producing very prolifically. I do not like eating them but they make a very good hearthy soup for colder spring days as today. I have some beds still empty, runner beans that should have come up are slow to germinate. Red cabbage and savoy cabbage seedlings are showing through. I intend to plant them out under fleece to discourage the white butterfly larvae that last year grew into spectacular looking caterpillars, eating all cabbages in site.
Butternut squash and cucumber are waiting on the bench to grow a little sturdier. Flower plants, zinnia and sunflowers are awaiting planting out as well as a new variety of lime green nicotania. That should look stunning in flower arrangements.
Posts have been put up to allow the tomatoe plants to grow up in tripod support. I am limiting myself to 6 alicante tomatoe plants and 4 sungold tomatoes in pots. I will try and grow a tomatoe in the front garden as that is south facing. It might be worth growing them outside if the weather really warms up.
Its a very busy time in the garden, as we have had rain for about a week the weeds are popping through and taking full advantage. I do get to eat the odd strawberry that is ripening under cover. Sweet treat during the hard work.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Using the earth gym

Go For Long Walks
Go For Long Walks

If like me you have got used to a sedentary lifestyle in the past and exercise feels like a grim prospect, think again. The earth gym, walking in the countryside provides many benefits :

  • Promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of stress and depression
  • Reduces tiredness and gives people more energy for everyday tasks
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Helps the muscles and ligaments in the feet to work more efficiently, and keep them supple and flexible
  • Reduces depression and anxiety
  • Helps people achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • Helps to reduce the risks of many serious health problems in old age
  • Helps to reduce the risk of developing non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus
  • Helps to reduce the risks of developing osteoporosis
  • Helps to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Helps to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Helps to reduce blood pressure in people who already have hypertension
  • Helps to lower total blood cholesterol
  • Helps to reduce the risk of stroke
  • Helps to reduce the risk of developing colon and breast cancer

The average person walks 3000 steps per day and the recommended amount is 10,000 steps per day. I have been able to increase my steps very gradually over the last years and from 0 am now at about 4000 steps per day. The increases are small in my case I have to pace my activities severely but I am confident that in time I will reach 10,000 steps. It currently feels still like hard work and yet the above benefits speak for themselves.

The walking site provides a 12 week beginner schedule if you need that to get you started. A pedometer is also a useful tool to check how you are doing. You can simply buy one or check out the promotion for a free one (subject to purchasing cereals?)

Monday, May 14, 2007


Grant Me the Serenity - Niebuhr
Grant Me the Serenity - Niebuhr

Know yourself through journalling

"The blank page gives us the right to dream."

Gaston Bachelard

According to Sarah Dan Breathnach in Simple Abundance the path to simple abundance requires a variety of steps.

Simplicity in which we simplify our lives by decluttering our environment, our mental and physical health. To do this you could do it 15 mins at a time by using the flylady’s method of decluttering your home and your body. The body clutter book is clearly laid out how you can take steps to love yourself.

Journalling, as the word implies, allows us to work out our own individual map to arrive at our unique destination. I have been using this blog to help me with my daily journalling and reflections. I have a vision and a dream and writing each day is a valuable tool . It allows us to delve deeper into the realms of the subconscious where we can clean out personal problems, pain, patterns and reactions whilst at the same time taking us into the higher realms of our potential where we can connect with intuition and our higher guidance to uncover our authentic self, our essence and purpose.

"Life is a narrative that you have a hand in writing."

Henriette Anne Klauser

Decluttering takes us to a rhytm and order both inside our being and outside in the environment. I have talked about natural rhythms before and how we push the boundaries every day. Children can be themselves, authentic, because we offer them the security of boundaries and routines. Aryuvedic medecine and eastern culture provide excellent examples of rhytms, how to surf with the energy instead of batlling through mud. Timing is all!

When you have found the order that suits you, you will find a sense of wellbeing and harmony. A place where there is tranquillity and harmony. As you continue to journal you will have a clear idea of what you enjoy, for me that is the contentment of sitting in my kitchen watching the everchanging spectacle of nature and feeling a connection with that. This brings us to a place of Joy and simple abundance and can give a sense of deep peace.

It is a journey, your journey and my way of getting there will not be the same as yours, but I hope you will take up the invitation to put down the load you are carrying, take out your compass, get that map out and start planning where it is you need to go to find your authentic self, the place where you can reach your potential and find peace and harmony.

"I want you to get excited about who you are, what you are, what you have, and what can still be for you. I want to inspire you to see that you can go far beyond where you are right now."

-- Virginia Satir

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Easy going green with The Big Green switch

If you need an easy way to get's a way.

To start you off on the road to a cleaner, greener lifestyle, tthe big green switch has picked out 15 of the simplest yet very effective things you can do in everyday life to make a positive difference to the environment, your carbon emissions and even your bank balance. Its free to register at the big green switch you just need a bit of time and motivation.

Take a look at the big green switch and remember to show your commitment to going green.

They also offer a free personal switch list to keep track of exactly what changes you plan to make and, most importantly, mark them off when they're done so others can see the efforts you are making in every way.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The staff of life

Loaf of Bread
Loaf of Bread

As technology find ever more ingenious ways to adulterate our bread, so science is revealing the havoc this may be causing to public health. Recent research suggests that we urgently need to rethink the way we make bread, If you are dismayed at the covert curruption of our daily food, you may agree that bread matters too much to be left to the industrial bakers. More and more people are taking control over their loves and health by making their own bread'
from Bread Matters, the state of modern bread and a definitive guide to baking your own by Andrew Whitley. ( 2006)Link

If you knew that they added chalk to white flour to make it whiter and lighter, if you knew the salt content and sugar content in your daily might want to change that and make your own bread.

The first step is to make bread in a breadmaker and go find organic flours or at least your choice of flours to make your own loaf.
When you have the confidence to then make your own bread ( it takes but flour, water, yeast and a whole lot of time and waiting), you will never look back. Cuts down on packaging.

Search our artisan bakers and small village bakers if you can and support organic bread.
Or go on a breadmaking course with the man himself at breadmatters.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The power of word of mouth....

The polytunnel by moonlight.....

Today we had a new visitor. We have lived here sometime and today a neighbour walked up enquiring as to whether it was true that we had chickens and whether she could possible avail herself of some eggs. I loved the conversation that flowed and the sense of community it conveyes:
I was talking to D about their apple tree and they told me that you picked quite a few last summer. You see I give them some of my blackberries as we are usually overrun with them and we talked about omelettes. D told me about your eggs and that is why I am here, could I possibly have some?
We walked around the garden and through the polytunnel full of seedings and plants. Her face astonished at what was growing so early and we were happy to share a lettuce. She promised to come back for more. We heard a bit about others and I sat smiling all the while in the kitchen while she talked about her life in the village, about what a lovely place it is to live and by the way...why would we ever want to leave?

Over a cup of tea, toasting my toes near the Aga, I felt a sense of contentment. Although it was raining, we had time to catch up and listen, to listen to people's fears about their lives in the countryside. Would the post office hold out or will it be one of the closures? Who knows.
The garden is very green after a few days of rain, the lilac blossoms shine in the garden at night by moonlight and indeed I ask myself, who would want to leave this behind?

Every day, the landscape that surrounds us here changes and I am grateful every day that I can look out and am greeted by the power of nature. I don't believe that I am the only one to see this beauty and it is because I value it so much and this community that we want to continue with our plans to enable it to be strengthened.

Word of mouth is powerful in the countryside: we do not tell people about our produce and when people arrive and ask, I feel humbled and blessed that the abundance we have can be shared with others. From townie and city girl to life in the can be done.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Making way for a new way of life

I am sooo proud of my DH today, cannot tell you. After years of decluttering and sorting stuff, reusing it and recycling things. After months of seeing me go through cupboards, books, videos, clothes, and other stuff the question came :
Do you think you could give me a hand decluttering my cupboard?

I did not ponder for long. We sorted, shredded, reminded ourselves why we had kept this stuff and worked together as a team. End result, tired but happy.

The reason it is so important to declutter is because we have no idea what we have accumulated over the years. We moved from one house to another because the house was too small, not for us we now know, but for the stuff we moved with us.

It reminded me of the story of the young monk who is invited to have tea with an elder. They talk and the old man is pouring tea in the cup until it overflows. the young monk asks him why he continues to fill the cup when it is obvious that it is overflowing. Ah, says the older monk, I am glad you have noticed, to make room for anything in your life, you need to have room in your cup.

So it is with our clutter. My Dh and I had a dream some years ago. As I said in the story yesterday, I certainly got to a point where my bowl was covered in algae and I could not see the clear picture.

What has helped me is decluttering the house, how we use our time. Spending time together looking at the clutter we have in our lives, provides an opportunity to talk about our dream, what we would like to see in it, and a lot of searching and enjoying eachother's company, a picture is emerging. Its a personal picture and it my not be yours. We can ask ourselves the questions, what would we like to happen, followed by : Can we do that? When you ask those questions, and talk it through you have an opportunity to face what it is you really want and how you can make that happen. At that moment we realised that the size of our house is no longer important, but the time we have together and how we spend it together is.
To you, reader it may sound like utopia, and I don't blame you if you cannot see as clear we do now, don't beat yourself up about it a minute longer, all it takes is a small step. Do not stop dreaming.

On a practical note, I emptied the freezer yesterday. It will be switched off for at least 2 months before the harvest comes in again. That would have been impossible a few years ago. It will save energy, it gets a rest and I can start afresh when the garden produce rolls in. I am still working on canning more of the produce and not rely on the large shop freezer size. I needed it years ago because I bought convenience foods and it took up an awful lot of room. Buying fresh produce locally takes away the need for that too.
Right, I am off in search of some local asparagus!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What is healthy living?

Silhouette of Scales with Business People on One Side and Childr
Silhouette of Scales with Business People on One Side and Childr

Does anyone know how to achieve healthy living? What does it mean anyway?
To some it relates to weight, nutrition and fitness. For me, it brings a sense of peace, tranquility and balance back into my life. But how to achieve it.
Here’s a little metaphor. Imagine a goldfish in a bowl, the glass is murky, the water is green with algae and try as it might, it cannot see a thing, it wades through muck where clean water should be and eventually it stops moving. The options for the fish are simple, stop moving, then die. Would you have noticed the fish?
Some of us might notice that a layer of grime is depositing on the bowl, others may not. And some may not even notice because they are too busy until the fish has stopped breathing and is floating on the top.
When you plant a little seed, it needs soil, light and water. When its a hot day and I walk in the polytunnel, I can visibly see what is happening to my plants, they wilt. To reach its inborn potential, each seed needs a variety of variants such as warmth, water and nutrition and if you miss one of these, you will grow differently. Some do not make it to germination, others die because a fungus attacks them, others flourish. Whats the difference?
I always had this idea that my weight was the problem and it is, but it was only a symptom of something not going quite right. I thought it was nutrition and to a certain extent, it was. The amount of sugar, fat and additives that have arrived in our foods are horrendous. They were placed there with the intention that ‘ that is what the customer wanted’ and in the meantime have done untold damage to our bodies. I have observed what sugar did to my body, how sugar influences the behaviour of my children and our brain chemistry. I am sensitive to foods and their toxins and I know that when I eat bread from a shop, I have a reaction. What exactly is in it? Why does it have to be that way?
The more sugar we eat, the more we want. Our bodies adapt and the mechanisms for turning starch into sugar switch off ( why would they bother if you are giving the body and instant fix). When that instant fix runs out, the body demands another fix, so you get cravings for chocolate and sweets. This happens because your mechanisms for turning starch into sugar have been turned off. Slowly but surely, we and our children, through fast foods, are becoming addicts. Addicts to convenience foods, addicts to quick fixes and we forget that our bodies have an ability to repair and nurture us. Slowly as the goldfish, we stop moving, we find breathing harder and we can no longer see the clear picture.
And you cannot just stop. Since your body has shut parts of it down and on the other hand screams for quick fixes, you feel trapped. When I was working full throttle ( and it was like that) I had the strange feeling that eating more would give me more energy. Wrong! The quicker the fix the better until I got to the stage of just breathing.
This may all be obvious to you but it was not to me. Noone had actually taught me how to look after my body. Do we teach our children? We try, there is a motion to get people to eat 5 a day, to move and drink more water. At the same time, our children spend a lot of time learning using their minds; their bodies and souls are left a bit behind. To function they need quick fixes and they are available> We would rather not deal with behaviour that is off the scale, we give in and lose our ability to say NO!
I have seen a gradual change in my children, they have calmed down, they want to go outside for cycle rides and they want to fulfill their potential. Lets make it easier and change the water.
Technology is a wonderful thing. New scales can now give you the information you need to see how much you weigh, what your bodyfat content is, what your hydration percentage is and how healthy your body is. Its not a case of eating more or depriving yourself of food, its a case of looking at what you put in your body as fuel and how you use your energy and finding a balance to enable you to see clear and fulfill your potential.
It sounds overwhelming and it is and yet, with every small step you take to change small aspects of the imbalance, the scales stop swinging madly and gradually reach a state of balance and calm.
Could that be healthy living? As an afterthought, could the earth similarly be out of balance?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Gentle rain

Clear blue skies have given way to gentle rain, cool breezes and a wind which is blowing from the south. The breeze carries lots of blossoms with it that fall like petals into each room , as a white and pink confetti layer on the carpets. The white lilac is in full bloom and I have resisted cutting some branches and bringing them inside so their perfume can linger in the livng room.
While the plants have been begging for water over the last few weeks, so too have little slugs hiding from the heat of the day. With gentle rain, their pathways are free to go and roam for seedlings in the newly planted beds.

I always keep a few seedlings over in the polytunnel to fill any gaps that may present themselves. The chickens did do a good job clearing out some grubs over winter and the damage caused is not so apparent. Not yet of course...famous last words.

Rhubarb is still plenty and although my boys are not that keen on it, the combination of rhubarb ( mixed with a few strawberries or orange juice) brings out laughter and the association to rhubarb and custard sweets.
They cannot sense any resemblance to the taste of either but there you go, I am giving them the healthy alternative.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

necessary or not

Some of the things we would like to let go of but are still addicted to :
  • Sattellite TV
  • Internet
  • Chocolate and coffee
  • Books
  • Gismos and gadgets
  • Using the car
  • Travel
  • Oils, Fuel etc

Some of the things we value in our life ;
  • Time
  • Education
  • Time to build relationships
  • Reading, talking and sitting together for meals
  • Produce from the garden
  • The beauty of nature
  • Healthy living and healthy eating
  • Walking in the countryside
  • Fresh eggs from the chickens
  • A sense of community with our family,neighbours and local food producers

Some of our aspirations for the future:
  • No rubbish collections required
  • Self Sufficient in vegetables and fruit
  • More water collection and grey water saving
  • learn how to make a variety of breads
  • Living, working and playing locally
  • Balance and wellbeing

In the end analysis I realise that to be happy and feel well, I need very little on a daily basis. I am content.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What happened to spring?

Wisterias are out all over the place and my sweet peas are in full flower. That would be happening in June normally so we are heading towards summer. What happened to spring?
On the homefront I am in the bedroom this week and decided to have a swap and change my winter woollies and get the summer shorts out. This gave me an opportunity to check what was worn out, what has never been worn, which items I did not throw out last spring. I love discovering my new summer wardrobe. Its plenty and I need nothing to add to it.

I have a drawer full of sweaters just in case the weather turns.

Its a beautiful day to be alive

Life Is Much More
Life Is Much More

To help you on your journey to live your dream instead of dreaming your life I thought I would follow with letting you know the process of my journey that has taken place for the last 3 years. Its a work in progress but if you bear with me on this, you will see how it takes you down a path to a beautiful place, a place that only you know, the centre of your authentic self.

About 3 years ago, having had a little voice inside me that talked a lot about a creative, abundant and fulfilled life, and having constantly ignored the little voice day, my body crashed and I ended up in bed. It felt like something inside me was about to expire and I realised that it was my dream....

In my life's chain of events nothing was accidental. Everything happened according to an inner need.
Hannah Senesh

At that moment, while I was lying down breathing I started to be grateful. Grateful for what I could do whilst at the same time, grieving for the things and actions I could no longer do. For the biggest part of 6 months, I looked out of a window, at a garden where leaves started to fall, where rain made a trickling sound , where raindrops made patterns on the glass, where the moon shone at night and moved around the sky, where stars shone and made beautiful patterns, where birds flew.......and I cried a lot.

I cried because I saw them as I had seen them when I was a child, full of hope. I cried because I had forgotten....simply forgotten how on a simple day, it is a beautiful thing to be alive, to simply be alive and to breathe.

What are your grateful for today? In all the things that may not go right for you, in this day, I want you to write down a few things you are grateful for. Here are mine for today :

  • I am grateful for the clear blue sky, the fantastic colours and blossoms in and around me that remind me how much I love nature and how much joy it gives me.
  • I am grateful for the return of Sooty, our cat, who was lost for 2 days and who has returned safely and is catching up on sleep on my bed.
  • I am grateful for time, time to reflect, time to practice my daily routine and time to spend with those who matter most to me.
  • I am grateful for 3 hours physical energy that I can use as I wish in a paced way today.
  • I am grateful for inner peace and the ability to listen to music which soothes my soul.
  • I am grateful for the laughter and joy of my family around me.

Every night, I close my eyes, in the knowledge that I am grateful for the opportunities life has afforded me that day, for the time to enjoy its beauty. I wish you the same.

Instant vegetable gardens

LinkAu Potager D'Emile by Pascal Cessou
Au Potager D'Emile

here is a Uk company with a few new ideas to share. Rocketgardens offers to grow your vegetable plants and send them to you if you have difficulties with bringing seeds into seedlings and offers instant vegetable gardens and patio gardens to choose from. As a flavour.....

the instant patio garden pack contains the following
Instant Patio Container Garden

This garden is ideal if you want to grow your own in containers or grow bags. Many of the plants will also grow well in window boxes or in the garden or borders.

Contains the following established plants:

Tomatoes x 5
Courgettes x 2
Yellow courgettes x 2
French Green Beans x 10
Runner Beans x 5
Mixed Lettuce x 40
Mizuna x 20
Rainbow Chard x 5
Rocket x 20
Garden peas x 12
Strawberries x 6
Our Price: £36.99

If you are new to gardening and want to have a go I reckon this is a cost effective way to start. Otherwise you would be buying pots, growing compost and seed packets with a limited guarantee of success.

They also have a campaign that offers free vegetable gardens to schools who set up an organic garden in the school grounds. I believe this shows some forward thinking and a real interest in getting children to grow what they eat. Brilliant idea.....

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bokashi start

May has started and to keep things simple, I decided to wait until now to start the bokashi approach to recycling. Starting a new routine takes on average 30 days to become a habit. As there are 2 bins and they need 15 days each in rotation I felt that starting on the 1st or second seemed a good way to keep the routine simple without a diary system.
Above is the pack received from wigglywigglers which has 2 bins, a bag of bokashi and instructions to get started. I still needed DH to read the instructions while I started the practical stuff. Bokashi works in a closed environment in which EMS go to work to pickle the waste. Step one was to find the waste and then sprinkle a handful of the bokashi on it, squash it down. ( May I suggest that the pack includes a third sieve so that it is easy to squash things down).

This is the bottom layer in my bokashi bin and we shall see how it pickles. Every 3 to 4 days, the liquid will be collected and added to the watering can used in watering round the garden. That is scheduled in on Wednesdays and Sundays for ease of memory. The proof is in the pudding. Hopefully you will see how we get on.

Recycling so far happens in a variety of ways as discussed in a previous post. This is the new kid on the block and as many local authorities will be switching to fortnightly waste collections, a bokashi system may be a valuable addition.

Podcasting idea

We have the technology, not the knowhow however at the moment and we could do a podcast on downshifting path.

I have put a poll in the sidebar where I would like your honest opinion on what you think about that. PLEASE VOTE
Its an idea at the moment, I am a bit shy about it really......but maybe its the way forward in the internet sphere.....
If you are a seasoned podcaster and you are willing to be a sort of buddy to help me set this up, please send me an email.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Living your dream continued

Great comments, thanks.......

The book that originally planted a seed of downshifting and self sufficiency in my mind was John Seymours Complete Guide to self sufficiency. If you have not read any of John's books, they offer motivation that even in the world today it is possible to make a contribution. His motto( as I recall) was based on the phrase,
one will do what one can do
and that has been in my mind ever since. So even if you feel global warming is too much and people tell you that your contribution is worthless, remind yourself that if more people were to do the will add up to a greater impact. To add to that point, the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell makes a good read.

Wishcraft by Barbara Sher is a book which provides a guide to get you thinking about what exactly you want to do ( however ridiculous the idea may sound) and motivates you to create a plan with steps that you can do now towards your goals. Its a great tool for procrastinators and people who think they have an idea of downshifting for instance and are unsure how they will ever make it a reality.

A great shift for me was to evaluate what my values and beliefs were and to make a commitment to start living in tune with those and prioritise my life accordingly. Needless to say ' money and materialism' had figured at the top of my life before a wake up call of illness. That moment , visible inbalance in the way I lived and worked , gave me the impetus to make changes. What I am trying to get across here is that if you want to downshift because something urges you to inside your being, do not wait until you crash down.

Fear of the unknown is the biggest hurdle to overcome and living without a paycheck also seems difficult. If you chip away at letting go of all the material commitments you have made over the years then slowly you can release and let go. Time really is money .We have reached a point in our downshifting where after decluttering and reducing consumption our house actually is too big and we are ready to live in a smaller house. Don't get me wrong, I love where I live, but reducing our living space is also a step towards reducing our ecological footprint. Its taken 3 years to get to that point but slowly we get there. I had no idea that I had worked hard to get a bigger house to put all my enlarged stuff in it. Just shows.

A good guide to the balance between money and life is Joe Domiguez's book, Your Money or your Life.

Hope that inspires you to go and search more about your own vision. And if you feel inclined to buy these books..check out the library, but if you still want to buy them, you could make a contribution by purchasing them through the berrycottage bookstore in the sidelink. Just a thought.....

live your dream

A Red-Billed Tropic Bird Flying in a Cobalt Blue Sky by Ralph Lee Hopkins
A Red-Billed Tropic Bird Flying in a Cobalt Blue Sky

After 3 years of downshifting and reflecting on what prompted such a change in my life, I feel I am beginning to flow a little better with life. Sitting in the sun, having had a near perfect soup with home made bread and stretching my toes while watching a buzzard fly high in the sky were one of the highlights of my day today.
When I left home as a teenager I was full of hope to a new life in a new country but instead of following an inner guidance to be who I really was, i was caught up in a world that seemed to mould me and in which I found my place. Somewhere though this did not sit well and for years after reading John Seymour a little seed planted itself to have a simpler life. I recall countless visits to the surgery where after a short discussion I would come away with some medication and a gentle nod from my Gp asking me to reassess my life. I must say that at that time I had no idea what he meant but he did warn me to listen to my body.
I ignored his advice, kept dreaming, handled every pressure that came my way with immense effort and harboured a shrinking dream of ever getting out of the ratrace. A husband with a chronic illness, a 12 week baby did not seem to be the perfect timing to downsize. That was 12 years ago.
Why am I telling you this? Because like children, there is no perfect timing to change from dreaming your life to living your dream. It involves risk and eventually something needs to change. For me, crashing with chronic fatigue syndrome was not only a heavy blow but at the same time, being bedbound for 6 months, left me plenty of time to dream and thus the concept of less is more was put into action.
Many life decisions I have made have been made for the best reasons, but underneath the dream of living a unique life that suited my values and beliefs got lost.
If you have such a dream, while the sun is shining and watching a buzzard fly in the sky, I want to invite you to go and find out what your dream is today and ask yourself what needs to happen for you to make that a reality. Then take one step.....its a simple thing to do.

Let you dream become a reality.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Making a fool

I have been hunting and gathering, spying what is happening in the garden and two things that are on today's menu are rhubarb and broad beans.
Above is the the rhubarb. The leaves get cut off and put on the compost heap.
(If you are a natural dyer of yarn, a mordant can be made by boiling up the leaves, They can provide oxalic acid but you need to do that outdoors as it a great irritant.) However, I am happy to compost the leaves at the moment.
The stalks left are about 12 oz. Cut these up into small chunks, add orange juice and sugar.
Boil up until you have a fruit compote, fold in whipped cream and eggwhite and voila, tonight's fool.
350g/12oz rhubarb
55g/2oz caster sugar
1 orange, juice only
150ml/¼ pint cream, whipped
1 egg white, beaten until peaked

1. Place the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and enough water to cover the rhubarb in a medium saucepan. Boil rapidly until rhubarb is soft.
2. In a bowl, fold the egg white into the whipped cream.
3. When the rhubarb is soft, fold it in to the egg white and cream mixture. Reserve a little rhubarb for decoration.
4. Spoon the resulting fool into a tall dessert glass. Top with the reserved rhubarb and serve.