Monday, December 2, 2013

My family is weird

  While transferring photos from the camera to my computer, I came across this.


  Lols, holding a chicken chopping-block style, on the table in front of a photo of the husband holding a chook on an actual chopping block. This table is in the kitchen-thankfully not the one we eat at. On questioning, this is because they wanted to see if this rooster (bought as a day-old brown Leghorn, but most definitely is not) is a Rhode Island Red. The only photo they could find of our mature Tasmanian RIR roosters were harvest day ones. So they were comparing.

  Conclusion-we don’t know what he is. And the hatchery (Darling Downs, aka Peak Poultry Supplies) is ignoring us, so I guess we’ll remain ignorant. Sadly, after we pick out the sub-standard appearances from our purchase, we’re only left with about 12 breeders in the three colours. These seem perfect, so we’ll cross our fingers that we don’t get any funny-coloured throwbacks when we start hatching them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My life’s so picturesque it even makes me want to vomit

  It’s been especially nice, recently, to realise that this farming life of ours really is the most wonderful way to live. This was emphasised at 6am a few weeks back, when the alarm went off  and the husband offered me a morning off milking and a sleep in-and I refused. On my 30th birthday, I much preferred to get up early and spend time with our goats and cows, outside in the fresh air, than sleep in for the first time in months. Not many people can say they’re so eager to get out of bed every morning.


  I feel fitter and healthier than I have in my whole life. I’m outside every day, using my body for meaningful tasks. I have better muscles than I did when going to the gym, and I got them without really noticing. Hauling bales of hay and carting wheelbarrow loads of manure will do that-the husband and I call it ‘farm gym’. We’re eating like peasants, with plenty of vegies straight from the garden, raw dairy, and sourdough bread. The kitchen is a chemistry lab of good things to eat, with ferments bubbling away, preserving jars filling, and of course the magical alchemies of cheese and butter. And really, anyone would be happy when the amount of cream passing through the kitchen can be measured in litres.


P9305978   Poor confused calves, they think i’m their mother

Most surprising to me is just how much i’m enjoying the animals. I wouldn’t have called myself an animal person before now-although I like chickens I don’t like dogs and i’m indifferent to cats. And I hated the guinea pigs. Now the kids call me the crazy goat lady, because I really like my goats. I regularly wander over to sit down and have a scratch and a chat with them, they follow me around like dogs, and fondly nibble my hair while i’m milking them. I spoil them rotten with warm molasses water and armfuls of organic silverbeet that city folk would pay $30 for at a farmer’s market.

P9085660   Not sure why they call me the crazy goat lady…….

  It’s also been exciting to have our future farm take shape. We’re getting a real picture of what we plan to do and why. While we’ve always known we wanted to have land, we didn’t really know what we planned to do with it, and how we planned to turn it into an income. Which is why we didn’t last at our first acreage-we bought it because we liked it, without the cold hard light of practicality and forethought. Now, with another five years of experience in gardening, animals, and life in general, and many more mistakes under our belt, we’re rather older and wiser (I hope). We’ve started slowly looking for our piece of land, but we’re in no rush. In the meantime we’re concentrating on setting up with our herds and flocks, and continuing to skill ourselves up.

  This is not to say we’re perfectly content-the lure of travel still calls, and i’m really not sure if we’re ready to settle down just yet. The thought of more travelling, this time in a caravan (oh, the comparative luxury!) still has some allure. And we like change, and new challenges so much that everyday life can seem a bit……..everyday, sometimes. But we’ll decide all in good time-until then, i’ll keep eating ice-cream every day. It’s a hard life, but i’m up for the challenge.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I think our Pekins are too tame.

  We’ve found eggs on beds on a few occasions recently-i’m hoping to discourage the practice before someone flops onto their bed and splats one………..


Thursday, September 5, 2013

NSW Board of Studies destroys educational freedom

  I’ve just finished reading the new ‘Home education info pack’ from the NSW BoS. Those of you in the home ed community will know the furore this has created-I admit, it was a rather entertaining read. They’ve been unequivocal about their intent to force homeschoolers to comply with their will. Let’s look at some salient parts, shall we?

Home schooling, also referred to as home education, requires a parent to deliver the NSW Board of Studies curriculum.

  There it is, right in the introduction. If that isn’t throwing down the gauntlet, I don’t know what is.

As with other forms of education, there is no single approach to home schooling. Regardless of the approach to teaching, the educational philosophy that might be adopted and/or the learning context for each child, the requirements for registration must be met at all times during any period of registration.

  In other words, screw your approach. Bend to ours. There is no room whatsoever for any approach other than school at home in this document.

The visit provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate that the educational program you plan to deliver will comply with the requirements for home
schooling registration.

  It is amusing how often they state this. There is virtually nothing about showing that your child is actually getting educated-I think they believe that is synonymous with their beloved requirements. I’m not sure how forcing parents to take at least ten hours a week to fill out paperwork and records related to their child’s learning will be better than them spending that ten hours choosing and doing activities with them.

Whether the time allocated is comparable to that allocated in schools

  Any home educator knows that you can cover the same material in less that a quarter of the time-one to one teaching, at the child’s speed, compared to classroom teaching. Bah. But you still have to come up with records for 30 hours a week, per child.

    • there is an adequate system of planning, supervising and recording teaching and learning
    • there is an adequate system for recording the child’s progress and achievement

  Those two bullet points spell out hours of pointless paperwork every week for the parent. I mean, who are these arrogant parents who believe that they can see progress in real terms, because they spend hours every day with their children? Now, you have to prove it, in every area.

It may also be an important document if enrolment is sought in a school, TAFE college or other educational institution at some future time.

  Veiled threats, anyone? Who’s guessing that your registration form will soon become mandatory to enrol in the above-sorry, but you can’t enrol in this TAFE course which has no prerequisites. Your naughty parents ignored the registration requirements, therefore ruining your life! Bad parents.

You must notify the Home Schooling Unit…….if you intend to deliver an educational program for Years of schooling other than those specified on the
certificate of registration

  Above or below age level in any areas of any subjects? Sorry, but you’ll need permission to deviate from the average. We’re aiming for average children here-and parents, how could you think you’re qualified to assess their abilities? Please don’t touch the next level textbook until you have permission-meanwhile, do what bored schoolkids do, stare at the wall and count the minutes! It’s education.

The registration process may take up to three months from the time an application is made to receipt of a certificate of home schooling registration.

  They repeat this a lot, too, and stress that you cannot remove your child from school until it’s done. Severe bullying? Too bad, suck it up while the application sits on someone’s desk gathering dust. Maybe they’re modelling it on the paperwork system in the refugee detention centres?

If your child’s home address changes from the home address specified on the child’s certificate of registration, you must advise in writing the Home Schooling Unit providing details of the new home address. On receipt of notice that the home address of a registered child has changed, an Authorised Person will contact you to arrange a mutually convenient time to assess the new home for its suitability for home schooling registration. If suitable for home schooling, a certificate of registration specifying the new home address will be issued.

  Ah, their precious learning environment. I’m guessing that doing bookwork on the dining table, reading up a tree, or science in the kitchen won’t be counted as a suitable learning environments. I imagine this one will be used to exclude any number of applications by default-if you don’t have the space or money for a dedicated classroom with all of the accessories, too bad. Because you can’t learn outside a classroom, can you? Or maybe your equipment won’t pass the test, if you don’t have Bunsen burners and lab equipment, full sports supplies, or a cupboard full of art supplies? Even though we all know that the average school child gets very few opportunities, if any, to take full advantage of the school equipment provided-it’s just there to look good and wave around to visitors.

(f) courses of study in a key learning area are to be based on, and taught in accordance with, a syllabus developed or endorsed by the Board and approved by the Minister.

  Individualised curriculums, based on your own family’s conviction of what it is important to learn? Your opinion counts for nothing. You are to follow their syllabus to the letter-if you think anything else is important, jam it in outside your equivalent allocated school hours. Our current chronological world history study would be replaced with ‘personal and local history’ (like you can’t cover a six year old’s personal history in an hour), Auslan doesn’t fit in anywhere (LOTE isn’t mentioned until high school), and can you imagine the conniptions the “Authorised Person” would have on finding that the children don’t use the computer? Because it’s in the requirements in the syllabus for every subject from a young age. No room for a philosophical objection there.

  Well, here’s my gauntlet, BoS-if this goes through (and I have no doubt that it will, with no significant changes), i’m moving interstate. I’m not wasting my time filling out reams of paperwork when I could be doing meaningful activities with my children, and I refuse to be welded to a curriculum and system that churns out thousands of failures (through no fault of their own) every year.

  That is the most offensive part-your system is filled with problems, and you insist on forcing it upon people who are doing a whole lot better, all by themselves. With no educational degrees, not following your system, and not using your resources. Ordinary, unqualified people are producing children that are happier, better educated and more well-rounded than the average school child. I’m not biased either-it’s been measured in a number of studies. But you can’t be having that, can you? Spending billions on education and still not achieving the educational average of parents around their dining table looks terrible-so instead of improving the system, you’ve decided to drag us down with you.

  As always, we’ll take the contrary option. We’ll jump ship. Again and again and again if it means preserving our educational freedom. We will not submit to arbitrary control when the source of that control can’t even demonstrate success. And I don’t imagine we’ll be the only ones-us home educators aren’t generally ones to toe the line. They’re already getting a good demonstration of that.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Unradical Unschooling

  When we first decided to home educate, about 7 years ago, I did what I usually do upon gaining a new interest-I read. I read my way through every home ed book in the Tasmanian library system (there’s many, the wonderful place) and fell in love with unschooling. With a houseful of toddlers, it worked for us. Then, about 5 years ago I noticed more and more popping up online about radical unschoolers, so I investigated. Basically, it’s about removing all limits, rules and expectations. The child decides everything, and trust is the buzzword-just trust that your child is doing exactly what they need to do, right now, even if you don’t understand why (even if it’s killing related, completely clashes with your beliefs or involves 14 hours a day on the computer). That when you get in touch with yourself, and your true way of being, you would understand, that you would be free! Then the world will be a better place, populated with ‘free’ people.

  Well, call me a reject, abjectly out of touch with my true self, because I really don’t get it. Oh, I thought about trying it, but I never accepted the reasoning behind it. It sounds all lovely and wonderful, but it’s like every other extremist viewpoint-all dressed up in flowery language and sounding suspiciously religious (you just have to believe, to have faith, to let go, then you will be truly free). It doesn’t respect the family’s value systems. And of course, there’s lots of criticism of schools. While I don’t see many positives in the school system, I also tend to distrust beliefs that need to knock their opposites down for them to climb up-if it’s as good as you say it is, it’ll speak for itself.

  I finally realised that I really don’t like the philosophy because we’re technically not child-centred. We’re family-centred. There’s seven of us in this tribe, and we all need to get along, which means we all need to take everyone’s needs and wants into account. I’m happy to cater to every whim of a three month old, but as they get older they learn to compromise too.


  Old fuddy-duddy that I am, I believe in bedtimes, for their and my sanity. My kids eat what they are given. They contribute to the running of the household, the garden and the animals. Screen time for them is non-existent (and nearly non-existent for me, I practice what I preach).And sometimes i’ll make them do something, even if they think they won’t like it. Usually, after the initial push, they enjoy it. (A recent incident with Sparkles and handwriting practice comes to mind. She said she didn’t want to, I said it wasn’t optional. Fifteen minutes of copywork later she was ecstatic to see how much she’d already improved, and now happily does it regularly). Sometimes you need a kick to try something-and when the kick is given by someone who knows you well, it’s usually a kick in the right direction.

  RUers seem to believe that if a child must fit to some of the parent’s needs, that the parent is selfish and enforcing their will upon the child. It seems to me to be a sure recipe for stress, guilt, and the extension of extreme natural parenting philosophy (which also seems to be a sure recipe for stress and guilt). And if I have to honour every decision of my child, what is that saying about my knowledge and experience? I definitely don’t know it all, but surely nearly 30 years of life counts for something? The kids certainly seem to think so-they trust my judgement and respect my recommendations, and are generally happy and eager to see what I suggest. In return, if they have a go at something and hate it, I don’t force them to continue.


  Over the past couple of years, i’ve found myself adding a qualifier when asked which education method we use. ‘Unschooling…………but not radical.’ Unschooling seems to have gained more and more of a radical aura, to the point where most people who once would have called themselves unschoolers seem to be using the term ‘natural learners’ instead. Unfortunately, unschooling now seems to mean the extreme end of the scale-no rules, no schedule, no educational goals.That is completely not us, and to be honest I really wouldn’t like people to think that it was.

  However, after the initial raves, RUing seems to be losing popularity. I’ve started to read accounts of people who have tried it and found that their lives descended into chaos and their kids were unhappy (such as Owlet-there’s also good comments there). Most people seem to adore it when their children are young, then by the time they’re reached about 8 they’re looking to add a bit more structure (usually at the child’s request). I think it’s because toddlers can generally pick up what they need to know in their everyday life. But when they start wanting to learn more complex skills and knowledge, structure really helps. It also helps Shorty, who doesn’t pick up much intuitively, and requires more repetition and graded increase in difficulty to really master a skill.

  Anyhow, I don’t even know if we could call ourselves unschoolers anymore-I have a houseful of academics now! But i’ll save writing about those changes for another day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cheep cheep!

  Our new babies finally arrived-36 day-old chicks. We have 11 Blue Leghorns, 11 Brown Leghorns, 10 Australorps (sadly, one died in transit), and 4 Cobb. They’re currently living in the kitchen next to the fire (which really doesn’t need to be on for humans during the day right now, we’re roasting) and being mollycoddled by everyone. We’re raising them on real food, not chick crumble (I won’t use anything medicated and highly processed), and keeping records on their growth. We have raw milk now for protein, and the rest is easy now we have a grain mill to crack grain. It will be interesting to see how they grow, and how it matches up to ‘standards’.


  And, in my chicken retrospective, I completely forgot our Pekins! The kids got a Pekin each when we arrived here-although laying breeds are scarce, ornamentals are common. Sadly, Frosty’s Snowy met an untimely end after playing with a dog. But we’ve still got four. They’ll be our incubators, once the littlies above are big enough to lay viable eggs.


  They’re easy to forget about-they’re quiet as can be, and the kids have reached the age where they can look after them independently. I do like them though-they’ll quite often jump onto my lap. One was assessing me for an egg-laying spot recently, but decided against it. All in all, they’re miles better than the silly Silkies we had.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Happy (belated) birthday, husband

  I promised the husband a Jersey cow for his 30th birthday last year. However, we were in Tasmania, and not planning on staying, and it’s a little hard to move a cow over an ocean.

So he got an IOU. And when we got here, he called it in and reminded me that it was time to go searching. We found Melaleuca, and she’s been wonderful. Placid and tolerant, she’s ex-dairy as she wasn’t producing enough milk for them. The Friesan-Angus calf came with her-we called him Tucker, because that’s what he’ll be. He’ll be our first beef in about five years-we’re sticking to the ‘only meat we raise’ rule.





  She’s quickly become something like an oversized dog-she gets pats and handfed tidbits by the entire family. She’s not a big fan of the kids riding her, but that’s understandable. She’ll get used to it. She’s also getting used to playing soccer. And although she is most definitely the husband’s pet, I get to have a shot once in a while. Note the milking setup-as it’s rather difficult to scavenge a stainless steel bucket, it’s looking like we may actually have to buy one. New. Eventually.


  We haven’t bought any dairy for four weeks now. We have as much milk, butter, yoghurt, labne, kefir and cream as we need, and then some. I haven’t got enough to make hard cheeses yet, but considering she’s giving us at least three litres a day and then topping up a calf……………what on earth will we do when she’s giving us fifteen litres a day? Or more? I’m happy to meet the challenge though-I love abundance.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A chicken retrospective

  We get 37 day-old chicks in four different pure breeds next week. And it got us to thinking, how many chickens have we had over the years? I worked out it’s about 76-here they are!


   First up, four White Leghorns. Rather flighty (I had to tackle them out of their perches in trees quite a few evenings) but good birds.


   Next, four New Hampshire hens with their rooster. The rooster was a big wimp, and ran away one day when a dog visited. The next one we got was just as wimpy! Maybe it’s a breed trait? There’s also a frizzled Australorp that was thrown in with them.


   A few weeks after that, six Australorp pullets arrived. Very few photos of them, oddly. We also found a rooster for them, the wonderful Spartacus. He’s the rooster that has reached mythical status in our family-fantastic with the hens, he never hurt the children (and Frosty would chase him, grabbing his tail). And he even fathered the chicks-of course in the literal sense, but when they were out with him he would teach them to scratch, find them tidbits and attack any hen that bothered them.


The clucky New Hampshires made excellent sitters and mother-can’t remember how many the two of them hatched though. Nine maybe?

DSCF0791 Look! He’s parenting!




   Next, we wanted some broody hens, to hatch us lots of chicks. So we got two Silkies. I hated them, they were silly birds, not an ounce of sense in their heads.


  Then we had to sell most of them off, but kept the three remaining New Hampshire hens, when we moved back to town. We bought this mixed lot, but suspected after a few weeks they were mostly roosters, and gave them away before they started crowing, and our neighbours started throwing rocks at us in protest.


Three hens past their prime was not enough for eggs for seven.The friend who bought our Australorp flock had an incubator-so we had an adventurous drive thought Bundaberg during the 2010 floods to pick up 15 chicks for ourselves. We raised them, then gave them to a friend to look after while we went south for a month or so……then we travelled, then moved 2500km from her, and as far as I know she still has them. They started laying a week after we dropped them there, literally. I wasn’t happy!


Then came the packing up, and travelling, and the general horror. Ugh.


   In Mount Gambier, we had a horrid time finding hens. We were desperate for eggs after nearly a year, so bought four commercial hybrids (two ISA browns, and two Australorp/ISA). I hated these ones too. Yes they laid well, but only if they got a specially formulated high-protein feed. And seeing as our vegetarian-based ethics means we don’t buy feed with animal products in it, and our anti-GM ethics mean we don’t buy anything non-organic with soybean in it, and there was no organic feed available………….their egg production was woeful. Our conclusion: don’t bother with hybrids if you’re planning to feed scraps and free range, with available grain. They’re a high-performance animal, so they need high-performance feed. Purebreds lay much better on forage and grain.


   And in Tassie, we bought twelve Rhode Island Reds hens and their rooster. Eggs galore! I like the RIRs, they’re a bit lazy and dopey but because of that a perfect backyard hen.


And they go clucky! Even though the books say they don’t. But the books also say the roosters are vicious, and ours wasn’t a bit. Mrs Broody, as our mother of the year was christened, did a wonderful job with her six babies. And we ate the three roosters, so I can vouch for the fact that they taste good too.


  I’ll leave you with this photo of our RIR rooster-he came into the house, the kids tried to catch him, he freaked out and ran under the fire and got completely stuck. Luckily (especially for Tasmania) it wasn’t lit, or he’d have been roast chook. I had to drag him out by his tail.


Next week (or whenever I get around to it), more chicken blogging! Bet you can’t wait, right? RIGHT?!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Unschooling horseriding

  Pony Club would freak if they saw our method of learning to ride. It goes like this.

  -Acquire pony and gear. Ignore saddles, but wear helmet.

  -Catch pony (can be tricky), bridle up, have sibling hoist you up with assistance from milk crate.

P7064865If you try to catch me, I will run.

-Hold on while wily pony goes straight into a canter. Extra points if you don’t fall off when she deliberately goes under a low tree branch.    

-After a week or so, and a few bruises, you will be able to stay on without holding the mane for dear life. Congratulations! Now you can learn how to steer. And maybe even stop!

  This is basically where they’re up to now. The girls can steer, and sometimes they can stop. Mareea has a hard mouth, so they have to haul pretty hard. Sometimes they’re still holding on for dear life, but they’re improving at an exponential rate. I learnt to ride ‘properly’ when I was a child, learning proper posture, rising to the trot, and all of the excruciating details. I don’t remember ever just going out and riding independently, for fun. Not surprisingly, that love was killed fairly comprehensively, and i’m still not a very confident rider. My kids may never win any awards at the show, but they’ll be able to ride well, and ride hard. And they will continue to love it-which is the most important thing in any endeavour.

  I don’t imagine we’ll stay at one horse for long either. We regretfully had to turn down a gorgeous buckskin brumby colt foal last week, as we didn’t have a yard to keep him in to tame him. But we were all keen to have a shot at taming and training him-when we want to learn anything we’ve found it’s best to throw ourselves into the deep end. We haven’t drowned yet.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hello Mareea

  It’s funny what happens when you meet a few people and let it be known you’re looking for animals. They just appear. And on hearing our girls really, really wanted a pony, our landlords mentioned they had an old one up the back paddock we could borrow. We didn’t hear any more for a few months, then one morning they rang and said their son had caught her, and would we like to come and get her? Only……..someone had to ride her home. Guess who was nominated?


  Lucky me. As the husband can’t ride, and I had a somewhat horsey childhood, I got to ride the cunning old Mareea home about 4kms. After not riding for thirteen years. I went across country, through creeks and gates, and had her show me some of her tricks-like turning circles while mounting, and her astonishing inability to walk. Even at walking speed she can canter. I had bruises the size of my palm on my thighs from stiff stirrup leathers and my core muscles were agonising for days. Who needs the gym?

However, she is a lovely horse. She’s not nasty at all, just clever. And knowing the three boys (now men) who rode her I can see why-they would have been encouraging her all the way! The kids love her, and ride her daily. And i’m breathing a sigh of relief that we get to try out this horsey business without any outlay of money.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Feelin’ goaty

  Well, when I said in the last post i’d been doing nothing, it wasn’t entirely accurate. We figure setting up farm means settling in, and we’ve never done dairy before………done!

  The husband has been dreaming of a long-lashed Jersey for years, but I dragged him along to a local woman’s house to look at her goats. Really, she was the perfect choice-she dragged us into the shed, sat us in front of a goat and ordered us to milk-even the kids! But I think she won our hearts when she yelled ‘Stop yanking on her tits!’ to the husband, who was stripping a little too enthusiastically. A few visits and a few weeks later we took our girls home. They came with names, but we decided we needed a theme for goat names, and weeds won-so here are Nettle and Guava.




  They’re Anglo-Nubians, hence the distinctive Roman nose and comical floppy ears. I adore them, and even the husband likes them. What really won him over though, was seeing a calf feed straight from a goat. I never knew they were known as the universal foster mother, and he’s now sourcing Jersey heifers for when they kid.

P7064870 Goats without coats

  Guava (right) is one month into her second pregnancy and is in milk, giving us around 1.2L a day. She’s a dream, placid and easy-going, happy to let the kids and strangers milk her. Nettle is on her first pregnancy, so we’re training her to milk now, hauling her onto the milking stand and getting her used to touch. She’s very leery of touch anywhere except her head and neck, she is beginning to tolerate her back and sides being touched, but go for her teats and she freaks out! Fair enough really.


  And milking twice a day? I love it. In this pic, it’s in the first few days (at 6.30am), when we weren’t expecting to bring a milker home. Now we’ve built milking stands and set the shed up quite cosily, which is much easier than squatting on the grass with a child as feed holder. Getting up early doesn’t bother me as it really doesn’t get cold here, and there’s always a payoff-such as sunrises like this. Or a child asking for milk to be squirted straight into his mouth-they’ll regret those pictures as adults.


  Milk-wise, it took a little getting used to. It’s not a bad flavour, it’s just different. And so rich! Today I made the first carob i’ve had in about two weeks from boughten milk and it tasted terrible. Oversweet, with a background of cardboard-and it was organic, unhomogenised milk, not homebrand! We’ve made yoghurt, which is beautifully tangy and sharp, and labne which is the same but more so. No proper cheese yet as we don’t have a freezer to store the starter in, but i’m working on that.

All in all? Fantastic purchase. The husband agrees, while working on making the vegie garden look like a maximum security prison. Well, everything has its downsides, right?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Settling in and settling down

  So. We are here. After many years we don’t have anything that needs doing somewhere else. No big move to plan, nothing elsewhere to worry about, no big plans for the future. We can be be here………….and live.

  It’s really weird.

  I’ve almost forgotten how to have a home, how to settle down into a place and belong there. I’m used to being the fly-by-nighter, with it always in my thoughts that in six months, I won’t be here. When that’s always in the back of your mind, it does affect the way you live. Lazy with friendships, no involvement in the community, always living in the future-that’s me for the last few years.

  I’m used to having a big something ahead of me. I can plan, I can pack, I can get everything in the house into a storage unit and be on the road with very little disruption to our life. The kids don’t even notice. I’m really good at being busy and efficient and getting an insane amount done easily. It’s pretty normal.

  Normal, however, is not normal. In the three months since we moved in here the husband and I have had many freak-outs. Maybe we should have moved somewhere else instead! Oh no, it’s cold-let’s go to the tropics! I find myself feeling antsy and irritable, and realise that it’s because i’m a bit lost. I’m not used to this normal stuff. The idea of finding social circles and groups and putting down roots is rather daunting, and I think it’s because this is it. There’s no more changing things by taking off somewhere else. We’re here, and there’s really no reason at all to go elsewhere. One thing I realised in our travels is that there is no utopia. We went to notorious alternative areas, intentional communities, and places people raved about. They were all pretty disappointing. The alternative places were full of drugs and not somewhere you’d want to bring up kids, ICs were not full of farmer-types like us, and most of the other raved about places were yuppie-hippy-wankery. So while here is completely unremarkable, it’s perfect precisely because of that. It has the climate, the beautiful land, the relatively safe town. It’s a good place to bring up children in a farm lifestyle.

  However, I have gained some wisdom-I am doing nothing. Which means i’m not trying to expand my business, throwing myself back into study, or coming up with any other hare-brained schemes. We’re not madly searching for a property to buy or doing anything else huge for a change. I’ve definitely gotten the urge to, but i’m not acting on it. Instead, we’re collecting animals, making a garden, and attempting to make a home (furniture would help). I’m knitting a lot while the husband plays the guitar………..and we’re slowly starting to feel a bit more human. The stress is draining away and i’m feeling less raw. Like always, I didn’t realise just how stressed I was until I had time to stop and pay attention. I still don’t feel like getting out much, even though i’ve met some lovely people-right now we have everything we want right here, and as right here is where we’re planning on staying, we’re enjoying it. There’ll be plenty of time for life here, and it’s a good feeling.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Winter Solstice

  The whole Christian series of holidays has really been starting to grate on my nerves over the past few years. I’ve become the Scrooge of Christmas and Easter, because let’s face it, if you’re not religious, what is there to celebrate? A great big consumerist excuse for buying a heap of crap and having stressed-out meltdowns in the lead up. Not really our thing (understatement of the century). And starting Santa? Big mistake. I hate having to come up with ever more intricate lies, so I just shrugged when they asked probing questions. The husband has been telling them he doesn’t exist, but they think he’s joking (I think the girls are cottoning on although they haven’t said anything, probably because of their brothers. They’re too smart and too removed from external reinforcing to be sucked in for much longer anyway).

  We solved the problem early this year-let’s become pagans! Not in any sort of belief sense, but in acknowledging the change of seasons. We live outside and seasonally in so many ways it made sense. So now each quarter (two solstices and two equinoxes) we have an excuse for an occasion. Summer Solstice will involve gift-giving, solving the thorny issue of relatives freaking out at us rejecting yet another basic tenet of society, and the rest are a chance to enjoy a good, seasonal, home-grown feast.

And this winter, a huge fire. Because everyone, deep down, is a pyromaniac.


When it was truly dark, it was an excellent excuse to break out the sparklers.




  Funnily enough, the kids haven’t complained about the loss of the jolly fat man in red AT ALL. And I feel as if I can throw myself back into it all again, with no reservations.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bitten by the knitting bug

  I learnt to knit as a little girl. I grew up with my nanna, and if she was sitting, she was knitting. She taught me how to, and I would diligently start a project………….and then get bored with it, and put knitting aside for a year or so, until I started the next unfinished project.

  As an adult, I got heavily into sewing (no surprises there). Every so often i’d mention that my kids needed jumpers, or pants, or beanies, or scarves, or toys, and like magic a package of handknits would appear in a few weeks.

  Until her retina detached. She soldiered on with deteriorating eyesight for a few years, but now, ten years since her eye problems began, she’s given up. I think it’s been about two years since she knit anything, and after eight (I think) eye surgeries and waiting for the next one who can blame her? But I did start thinking that I really needed to start knitting. After all, i’ve already requested that my claim on her houseful of yarn, needles and patterns be put in her will. And I managed to teach my girls to knit, and they’ve already produced more than me.

  So I cast on for a dishcloth (from The Knitter’s Year, Debbie Bliss) about six months ago, in cotton. It crept along at an absolute snail’s pace, and I remembered why i’d always deserted knitting-it’s so slow. Halfway through I decided it was time to ditch throwing, and learn picking, or Continental knitting. It was quite fun to have that challenge again, of feeling all thumbs and getting tangled constantly-it’s been a while since I learnt something completely new. But once mastered, it was much faster. I lost the pattern a bit while travelling, and some up the top is in ribbing rather than moss stitch, but for a dishcloth that’s fine.


  Next up, I cast on for a beanie for myself. With my big hair I can’t wear standard beanies, and I tend to look like a wharfie in most of them. This one is from an unremembered book but is called the Simple Squishy Slouchy Hat, in Paton’s Totem wool from an op-shop. I realised with this one that I was wrapping the purls the wrong way, so the first few stocking stitch stripes look herringboned. Other that that it all went easily-I made it longer than the pattern called for to fit the hair.


  The husband has nabbed it now though, so i’m still hat-less. OK, so you can’t see the beanie well in this picture, but don’t we live in a gorgeous place? Him riding the kids’ horse, with our goats in the background……………


The first main goal is to make myself socks-I have a funky sock fetish plus feet like a corpse. They’re always cold. So circular knitting needs to be mastered. I made myself a K2, P2 ribbed headband to teach myself the Magic Loop technique, but it ended up too messy for my perfectionist tendencies (mostly because of the fluffy, loosely stranded yarn). So I pulled that apart and am now knitting a beanie for Shorty, to my own pattern, brim-up using two-colour helix knitting with Magic Loop. I figure why learn one new skill with each project when I can tackle fifteen?

  Already, I have plans and supplies for a jumper for my girls and cabled armwarmers for myself (my hands get as cold as my feet, and I LOVE cables). I’m officially obsessed in a way I never have been with crochet-I think it’s something that appeals to the mathematical, pattern-loving side of my brain. And when I work out how to turn a heel nicely, i’m sending a pair to my Nanna. She’ll find it amusing to be on the receiving end for a change.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Two solid years of dreadlocks

  I think it’s sixth time lucky-after stuffing them up five times, i’ve finally worked out how to keep my hair in dreads and keep them looking good. For two whole years!

April 2011-new, wispy dreads.


April 2013



   That I haven’t screwed them up must be a good sign. I mean, look at my history…………

Dreads #1-Done by an African lady. Looked great, but I couldn’t lock the roots up when they grew out a few inches. A circus performer I met told me to wash my hair with soap and scrub it right into my head, so I did, and it worked great at knotting my hair up-it all matted together at the base into a helmet with dreads poking out. Complete write-off.

Dreads #2-The previously mentioned circus performer did these. Again, no luck with the base growing out. About a year later, I brushed them out because they were all hair at the bottom and looked fluffy and crap.

Dreads #3-The husband had a shot, and did a pretty good job. But we were in Tasmania in the dead of winter (ie March-October), and being someone who hates spending excessive (read:any) time on my appearance it only took two months or so for me to get sick of timing washing my hair to the weather, and having it sit icily on my head for hours. Got the brush onto them again.

Dreads #4-The husband again did them, but insisted I needed to have them thicker. He did them far too thick and tight and lost a lot of length as a result, and I felt as though I had turds hanging from my head. I think they lasted two weeks.

Dreads #5-The husband made atonement, and did a better job. These worked really well, and i’d figured out how to care for them. This time it was a mental thing. We were at our property, and with it being so hard to wash everything, from clothes to bodies, I started to think that I was looking icky. Looking back at photos I was just paranoid-we all looked fine. But mental trickery worked on me, and after about eight months I went back to boring normal hair.

   Now I can look after them with no issues i’m fairly confident i’ll one day reach my goal of having my hair waist length, for the first time in my life. At the glacial rate my hair grows i’ll probably have grandchildren by then, but oh well. It’ll give them something to play with.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

7 months and 10 days in Tasmania.

  Not that I was counting or anything. Oh, but how glad I am it is all over-and so quickly! We expected to be there for much longer, living in limbo, waiting for the freedom that selling our house would give us. And it was all over and done with before winter began. 

  We decided to make the most of it, and while renovating our house started visiting the local attractions-North-East Park


  Ralph Falls and Cash’s Gorge



The majestic White Knights, at Mathinna. Somewhat ruined by the astonishing amount of leeches there, and us not having salt in our kit.



I forgot the camera for Columba Falls. Oh, and Lilydale Falls. The site of the infamous snake episode, years ago. None spotted this time thankfully!

And basically tried to settle in as much as possible-and when you’re us, and you have half an acre of beautiful soil at your disposal, that means producing food. Hello meat, for the first time in four years! We bought five sheep, and ate three. As my sister-in-law told us, we lost our vege-tinity.


Doesn’t he look tasty? But Sam the Lamb escaped the slaughterman (for now), and was sold with the house.


  13 Rhode Island Reds kept us piled with eggs.


And hatched seven babies!  A chicken book the husband was reading recently stated that RIR’s do not go broody. Obviously a book Mrs Broody hadn’t read.



   Um, we ate three of those babies too. Our friend was willing to teach us how, so we had a tatt-covered bloke turn up with lots of very sharp knives. We had lots of giggles about being friends with him-i’m sure most people assumed that with the overload of tattoos and dreadlocks between the three of us, we were up to something more illegal and interesting than sitting around drinking herbal tea and talking animal husbandry.


  I’ll keep the photos of the next part of the process to myself though, as i’m sure the vegans wouldn’t appreciate them. Come to think of it, most meat eaters wouldn’t either. IF slaughterhouses had glass walls etc…….

  We gardened. This is what a couple of months, a pick and a shovel can do to a patch of grass.




  Considering the hail storm we had in late October (see below), we ended the summer pretty well. While people rave about gardening in Tasmania, i’m not a fan. Give me more pests and a longer growing season any day. We literally got about six weeks of okay summer growing weather, and by the start of March when we left we’d had two ripe tomatoes. Considering we’ve lived in places where we’ve had tomatoes all year around…………..they can keep their brassicas!


  I finally started my herbal medicine study, but that’s on pause, maybe never to be resumed, as I was horribly disappointed with the quality of the course. I’m still waiting for a resolution of my complaints about references and accuracy-it’s time to go to the next stage of making sure they can’t ignore me, I think. But we grew many herbs, I made infused oils from comfrey and calendula that work amazingly, plus many other practical experiments. I feel like a mad scientist, which is probably why I like it so much.

  And that was about it. After living in a few places in a row knowing they were going to be temporary, I just couldn’t muster up the energy required to get out and do permanent-type things there. So I spent most of my time at home, got a hell of a lot of sewing and tie-dyeing done, got obsessed with the classical method of home education and began weaving that into our life, and basically kept myself manically busy while I crossed my fingers that this last hurdle of ours towards a permanent, stable life would be over quickly. And it was! When the house settled we had grand plans of travelling all around Tasmania. In the end we spent four days at Lagoons Beach (spectacular, free, highly recommended)



Then we decided we’d had enough, booked tickets, spent six days enjoying the north-west, and got on the Spirit of Tasmania. A night in the ocean recliners was enough to convince us that we never want to live on an island again (the mainland doesn’t count), we all cheered when our tyres hit the ground in the morning, and we were ready to head north again.

So, we were happy there. But now it’s done, and i’m nothing except glad. Phew.