Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Winter ready

The winter solstice is just around the corner and I'm finally feeling like our family is ready for winter.

Our warm winter clothes, coats, beanies and gumboots are within reach for keeping warm and dry when we step outside. 

We have hot water bottles on the ends of our beds ready to be filled and slid between chilly sheets (flannelette of course) before bed. 

Our pantry is stocked with the goodness of summer and autumn all bottled up as jams, chutneys, passatta and pickles. And alongside them, supplies of dried legumes for soups, stews and curries and plenty of wheat and flour to be turned into sourdough breads. 


Throw rugs adorn the back of the couch for pulling onto knees for cozy evenings of crafting, reading or relaxing in front of the telly. 

We've gathered firewood, chopped and stacked it in our "new" woodshed (thanks to the local gun club for donating the shed and letting us forage for wood!). 


The garden is planted out with cabbages, caulis, broccoli, kale, Asian greens, snow peas and broad beans and is growing well (despite the slugs which have chewed great holes in everything!). 


And today, after months of waiting, we finally have the centrepiece to our winter - our wood heater/cooker has been installed. The house is feeling warm and toasty for the first time in a while. A loaf our sourdough just went in the oven and a pot of veggie soup is bubbling away on the top. 


Bring on the next few months of winter's cold and drizzly weather - the Wright family are ready!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Fruity muffins on winter mornings

It's cold here. Winter has hit and come with a chill and we still don't have our heater installed.

Delay after delay from the place we've bought it from means that despite being promised that it would be installed in early May, we still have it sitting in boxes on the verandah. We've been told it will be installed first thing Monday morning. Fingers crossed. 

In the meantime, while we continue to snuggle inside in our winter woollies and dream of crackling logs, bread baked by their heat and a constantly hot kettle on our wood stove, I've been enjoying playing with our sourdough. 

For about 9 months, our starter lived in the fridge and was pulled our once a week, fed, used to make tortillas and then put back in the fridge.  But I've had a few successes with bread so I'm using it as my go to loaf a few times a week and also making these delicious sourdough English muffins with dried fruit each week. I make a double batch and freeze the leftovers - they are so lovely toasted with honey, butter or jam for breaky on a cool morning. 

Sourdough fruity English muffins
This is the double batch, feel free to halve and make only 8. 

The night before you want them, put a few handfuls of dried fruit into a bowl. Add two tablespoons of delicious local honey and a cup of hot water from the kettle. Mix and allow to sit a little while. 

Then add 2/3 cup more water (you can use milk or whey if you like) and 4 cups of flour and a cup of active sourdough starter. Mix well and put in a 'not too freezing'/warm place overnight. 

Next morning. Turn an electric frypan onto medium low her. Put on the lid and let if warm. 

To your dough, add 1 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp bicarb. Mix and knead well adding extra flour as needed. Cut the dough into 16 even pieces and roll into balls. 

Flatten and shape each ball into a rough muffin shape (roundish, about 8cm diameter and about 1-2cm thick). Place muffins into your pan and replace the lid. I fit 8 in at a time. 

Cook for 5-10min until golden on the bottom. Turn and replace the lid and cook for a further 5-10min. Remove to a cooling rack. 


Cook remaining muffins. 

To eat, split muffins with a knife, toast and spread lavishly with your topping of choice. Yum!


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Reflecting...

It's been feeling like time for a blogpost for a while, a good reflective blogpost that talks about where we are right now. This weeks' post at the owlet blog finally gave me the 'go' needed.....

Making: in the lead up to belly dance camp my crochet hooks flew, using up leftovers to make a mandala which I turned into a cushion for a dear friend (Neika, if you're reading this, can you send me a photo?  I forgot to take one)
Cooking: sourdough English muffins have made a welcome, wintertime addition to our breakfast menu. 
Drinking: many many pots of rooibos tea. 
Reading: the last three books of a long teen vampyre saga and loving the easy escapism. 
Wanting: my goat to be pregnant. 
Looking: for caterpillars, slugs and snails on my cabbages each day (where do they all come from?)
Playing: 'with friends' tournaments with my family and being amazed by my kids' brain power (again!)
Deciding: that right here is where our family belongs. 
Wishing: that people that I love wouldn't talk about leaving - even though I know their life needs to take them away, I just want to hold onto them here. 
Enjoying: teaching and learning with my kids. 
Waiting: for our wood heater to be installed. 
Liking: autumn sunshine coming through my kitchen window right now. 
Pondering: how I'm developing as a dance teacher but still have no idea how I'm going to teach the choreography that is in my head to the students in my classes. 
Considering: the new electric SUV car that is on the market that Stu really thinks we should buy. 
Watching: the new season of Offspring - love that show!
Hoping: for a quieter month in June. 
Marvelling: at the fact that my baby brother is turning 18 this week but it seems like only a minute ago that I watched him make his entry into the world. 
Needing: more sleep!  It's been a crazy week. 
Wearing:  right now, pjs, but I've been loving wearing my new hooded tunic dress to parties and concerts this week. 
Noticing: that our homeschooling style is actually really relaxed and it suits us. 
Knowing: that I'm good at all of my jobs (except housekeeping!) and that feels good. 
Thinking: that I should really work on being better at the housekeeping part of my job. 
Feeling: lots of love for my family and the collections of beautiful friends we have. 
Admiring: my husband for managing to get on with his day to day work while being a passenger on the roller coaster ride that is our family life. 
Sorting: nothing.... But knowing that we really need to sort out all of our craft materials (again!)
Buying: in bulk. Homeschooled kids who hate the supermarket are a great excuse for monthly shopping to happen. 
Getting: used to the new routine of taking the kids to their different sporting activities.
Bookmarking: homeschooling ideas, recipes and homemade gift ideas. 
Disliking: the government's decisions on just about everything. 
Opening: my new edition of earth garden magazine. 
Giggling: till very late with Sharon at our third very successful belly dance camp (yay!)
Snacking: on the last of the Easter eggs. 
Coveting: the wood heaters in other people's homes (one more week till we have one too!)
Wishing: there were more hours in the week to fill with awesomeness. 
Helping: my kids to find joy in learning and relax into homeschooling (though they don't need much help - they're feast at this!)
Hearing: The Waifs on my iPod (and memories of their concert in my head) and my kids singing musical style as they play invented games. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Whirring in the wee hours

I've been waking in the early hours of the morning a lot this year. 3am has become a time that I've started seeing about as regularly as I did in my late teens. Back then it was as the last hours of a big night out. Now it is me waking up ridiculously early, my brain begins whirring around and sleep doesn't look like ever coming back. 

This morning, I've been laying in bed for over an hour, whirring. Thoughts of things that I need to do become worries when the hour is less than 6am. Tasks that I was 'getting to' in no particular hurry, suddenly seen urgent.  I begin to stress a little - why haven't I done that yet?  Why can't I get up and do it now!?! In the morning, I can always see the answers clearly - I haven't done it yet because it really wasn't the right time or I'd simply forgotten; and I can't get up and do jobs in the dark, quiet and freezing old hours of the morning, it just isn't feasible. 

Eventually, after worrying over my mental list for ages, I'll get up and write it down. Whirring thoughts are much better when dealt with in the morning. Sometimes just writing my thoughts down is enough to allow me to go back to sleep, other times, I need to read, or listen to an audiobook to switch off my mind. Mostly, I manage to go back to sleep by 6.30, only to be woken by the daytime noises and chores a mere half hour later. The day stretches before me, fit for filling with my nighttime list of urgent chores, only I'm too tired to do them all. 

This morning I'm wondering how many others are awake, wishing they could sleep, laying there, brain whirring. I wonder if other people are thinking that they need to get on with converting their veg beds to wicking beds, planting out cauliflower seedlings, taking their goat for a servicing visit, sewing gifts for birthdays, finishing the building of the hearth for the fire, finalising the plans for an event that they're organising that is creeping up at a crazy fast speed now and/or ringing the doctors to get test results. And is anyone else wondering whether they will try to fit homeschooling book work in around all that, or use that as the learning for the week?

Perhaps I have too many things going on in my life right now. Perhaps my brain doesn't have time to deal with it all during the hubbub of daily life, so it takes the opportunity when all is quiet and I can't run around 'doing stuff' to think it all over. Well, to that I say, good plan brain, except you failed to remember that my body needs enough sleep to be able to do all the jobs on the list!

Sigh..... 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Homeschool Dairy Farm Excursion

We've been homeschooling now for a few weeks, and the general consensus is that we're loving it!  Every day is something different and we're loving the freedom to learn what, when and where we want.  I'll fill you in on some of the things we've been doing soon, but today's post is all about this morning's excursion.  It was our first opportunity to meet up with our local homeschooling group, and we joined them on an excursion to a dairy farm.....

Lachie: We woke up early in the morning to get out of bed, get dressed and get in the car.  We were already running a bit late.  For breakfast, we had muesli bars that we had made yesterday - yum!

Tracey:  It was the coldest morning so far this year!  The car was frozen when we went to leave, but the views on the drive were spectacular of a terrific sunrise over misty country.

Jamie:  The drive was 45 minutes.  We eventually drove past where we were supposed to go, eventually we got there,  thanks to mum's terrible navigating! (T: AHEM!!!)  When we got out of the car, a couple of people were already there, so we walked up to the dairy for the first bit of the excursion.

Lachie:  We went and saw the calves, one was bigger than our goat and only two days old!  Then we went to the dairy, the cows got milked and then when they were done, they would kick the milking machine off because it was sucking too hard.  Me and Jamie had a go at washing the cow poo off the yard with a hose and then we went to see what the milk did next.

Tracey: Travis (the farmer) did a terrific job of showing us how he milks his cows.  It was great to visit a small (320 head) herringbone style dairy - they all seem to be huge rotary dairies around here these days!

Jamie: Washing the yards was my favourite part.  The hose was really strong, you felt like you were going to be pushed back.  The poo went down a drain and into a pond.  Then we went down to see how the milk was processed next and got to look inside the vat at all the fresh milk.

Lachie: Next, we went and fed the calves.  One had been taken off its mum a bit early and took a bit of time to get there and there was another one who thought it was a bit special and stole the bottle off it!

Tracey:  The kids helped feed hay to the calves too and spread out rice hulls for them to sleep on.  Then they loaded up for the highlight of the day......

Jamie: All of the kids got into the trailer and we went off on a trailer ride to see where the cows go.  We went under the road in a passage that they made a year ago.  The cows used to cross the road, but people got sick of waiting for the cows to cross and since it was a tourist road it was pretty busy.

Lachie:  The trailer ride was my favourite bit.  We followed the cows all the way down, went under the road, then turned around.  We saw the hay bales being turned onto the ground.  It was cool.  Then we went back to the house to turn some of the milk into butter to have with some date loaf that we had brought - yum!

Jamie:  Just before we left, we were playing on the trampoline with the kids that we had met that were closest to our age.  We had a good day.

I had a lovely time meeting other homeschooling families (and other thermomix owners! - LOL).  Thanks so much to April for organising the great excursion and to Crystal and Travis for being such great hosts.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Fixin' stuff

The last few years have seen us doing some hefty renovations - the kitchen, pizza oven, shed, solar hot water and then solar power, goat yard, other fencing etc.  So this year, we decided to take a break from big changes and building projects and focus on maintenance and repairs. Of course, that was before someone suggested a property to look at, before we decided to homeschool our kids and before this years bunch of 'great ideas' popped into my head!

But we're still trying to keep a lid on major renovation type projects and repair and care for what we have.  This has meant washing the weatherboards (all that dirt and dust was masking our pretty white house), touching up the chipped architraves in the hallways, cleaning the parts of the house that don't get much of a cleaning look in usually, pruning trees and shrubs that have grown too big and more. Our maintenance list was quite extensive when we wrote it at the start of the year, and it is, sadly, not getting shorter even though we've been working on it every week. 

It seems our house heard that we were fixing stuff this year, and with a groan, decided to show us a few older fixtures that needed replacing or fixing. Our water pump isn't working properly, the skylight in the bathroom decided (in last week's rainstorm) to pour water onto  the bathroom floor and the little old (really really old) portable room heater that carried us through last winter when our central heating had died, tried to cause a fire - so we had to make a decision about a new heater. 

So it's been a busy time around here, and looks like it won't be letting up for a while. But we have made the decision to stay here and each one of these little problems reminds me that if we had moved house, we would have been finding so many more problems and household idiosyncrasies than what we are finding here - at least here, we know what we're dealing with.  

Friday, 18 April 2014

A brand new adventure starting in 3, 2, 1....

This year, the Victorian school holidays are finishing with Easter. So in three days from now, schools all over the place will be re-opening their doors and a huge part of our population, those aged 4-18 (or thereabouts) will return to the day in, day out life of school. But this term, my boys won't be joining in. Why?  Because we've decided to give homeschooling a go. 

We started making this huge decision back in the summer holidays. I was loving having the kids at home and learning alongside me as we went about our everyday life. I was sad when they had to go back to school and so were they. We'd had such a great 6weeks together that it seemed unfair to stop because another school term was beginning. We started thinking about homeschooling. 

Throughout the term, it stayed in the back of our minds, but as things happened with school that we didn't really agree with (they weren't really bad things, just not to our beliefs), the idea became more apparent and we started researching and talking about the possibility. 

When the whole school went on an excursion that we had chosen not to partake in, we spent a few days playing at homeschooling and we loved it. But the boys (one in particular) weren't convinced still. 

I don't know what changed their minds, but a couple of weeks later, they came home and told me that they'd announced to their teacher that they would be homeschooled as a trial in term 2. We were a little shell shocked, but quickly recovered and went about putting the plan into action. We registered with the appropriate people and informed the school. 

The boys finished the term and brought all their books home, packed away their uniforms and excitedly prepared for our new adventure. 

We've received very mixed responses. Many were quite 'off' about our choice - maybe they're jealous, don't understand, just think we've completely lost the plot or are turning our back on society - who knows!  I just have to keep repeating to myself that our decision has no impact on them and that they can just mind their own business. On the flipside though, the support and positive reactions have outweighed the bad ones and have come from lots of places I wouldn't have expected. 

We've toyed with a bit of our homeschooling over the holidays, but as it is easter, we're taking a few days off of our formal learning (of course, learning will be just happening, even if we don't truly 'hit the books'). We're all loving exploring and learning together, with the flexibility that our days have now. Maths in our pjs is now normal and writing letters to grandparents, checking out the moon and stars at night and visiting the library have all become welcome parts of our day. 

Some people want to know what style of homeschooling or what curriculum we're following. The answer is, we're following our style. If we love something, we'll go with it. So being maths geeks �� we choose to do a full on maths curriculum (a year ahead of what they were doing at school) and with two bookworms, reading and writing have become more leisure activities rather than true schooling. Everything else will fit in and we're just going to experiment and see how it all works - I don't want to be unschoolers, but I also don't feel that we need formal curriculum to fit in IT, PE, science and SOSE - it's all there, in our everyday life, jut waiting to be discovered, expanded on and, well, learnt. 

It feels right and exciting and I'm truly looking forward to embarking on this journey with the precious little people we brought into the world. And, if for some reason, it just doesn't work, then we'll go back to the way things were and we'll be no worse off for the adventure.