First published May 2013
I’ve been encouraged by friends to start a blog. When I voiced I had nothing interesting to write about I was reminded that I don’t live like the average Sydneysider and other people may find it interesting. Don’t worry, it’s not too whacky. If you are looking for a devotional, food-for-your-soul, heart wrenching, hilarious, motivational blog, well this may not be the one for you. It’s going to be way more practical than that, in the most literal sense. I think it will be more of a city-girl-moves-to-the-country and all that entails, type blog.
We made the decision a few years ago to move from Sydney suburbia to Sydney rural, and are embracing the change. So what is country life like? From where I sit now, out of all of my windows, I can see acres of paddock, horses and morning sun streaming through the gum trees. Fresh air, space for the kids to run free, wood fires, far away neighbours are just some of the benefits. My morning rituals now include (after a coffee) going up to the hen houses to collect eggs and make sure everyone has food and water (aah, did I mention I have taken up breeding chickens?), and watering the veggie garden, seedlings or the new orchard I have planted. When we move in I bought the kids leather boots as protection against snake bites. They ended up being kicked off in the yard and rained on. Ruined. Now they just go bare footed. I have drilled in snake bite first aid. “What do you do if you get bitten by a snake?” All three reply in a drone “lay down and call for help”. They know how to call an ambulance and apply pressure dressings. We saw a red-belly and a brown snake the first season after we moved in, but since cutting the grass low (and getting a dog) we haven’t seen any.
Another rural hazard in our area are deer (yes, seriously). Particularly when I drive home from work late at night, I continually scan the sides of the road for deer waiting to leap suicidally in front of my car. Judging by the road kill, kangaroos, foxes, possums, turtles, lizards, snakes and rabbits are more suicidal/stupid than the deer. I remember Miss 7 pouting with arms folded across her chest in the back seat of the car after I pointed out a fox carcass we zoomed past too fast for her to see. “It’s not fair. You never stop so I can see them!” True, so then next time we passed a fresh, mostly intact fox, I pulled over and all the kids piled out to examine. I must admit, it was kind of cool seeing one up close. Nasty sharp teeth, but beautiful fur.
Road kill does have one benefit. Septic systems basically run on bacteria. Sometimes the bacteria numbers can be affected by excessive water, household cleaners or a disproportionate amount of vegetarian poo. If a septic is working correctly it doesn’t smell. If it starts to smell, there isn’t enough bacteria, and this is where the road kill comes in handy…just add a ripe carcass to your tank (vomit) and voila, problem solved! Everyone who wants a septic tank raise your hand now….umm, no one, that’s odd.
Without really knowing what I will blog about I imagine it will be fairly practical around topics such as gardening, chickens, parenting and the art of living simply. I’m sure there will be a series of ‘how to’s’. I do have a personal goal of living self-sufficiently…I use that term loosely as I don’t plan to live off the grid, or collect methane from the septic tank to heat the house in winter. I would however like to grow all our own fresh fruit and veggies. I have been inspired to do this (unbeknownst to him) by my Dad and his veggie patch. My parents live on a regular suburban block, yet manage to produce a huge amount of food for the table. At the moment they have one mandarin tree that is laden with fruit. In summer there were so many tomatoes we ended up making the most delicious sundried tomatoes in the dehydrator, and made litres and litres of ‘Grandma’s tomato chutney’ which is being stored in jars and will last until next season. They have herbs, spring onions, spinach, Chinese cabbage, passionfruit vines over the fence with hundreds of passionfruit on them, ginger, sweet potatoes, corn and beetroot. Nearly every time we eat at Nanny and Pa’s house my mum sends the kids down to the garden to pick the meal! I can tell you now, my dad doesn’t spend a huge amount of time in his small garden and none the less, it is so productive.
Chickens! Well chickens are just fantastic, and unless you live in a unit, you should get some. That actually reminds me…a Real Estate agent friend of my husband said once he had complaints from tenants in an apartment building that black water was running down their walls. He went to the apartment above to investigate the cause and was flabbergasted to find the people in the upstairs apartment had converted their lounge room into a rice paddy! True story. They had also removed their kitchen cupboard doors and replaced them with chicken wire and had a chicken run in the kitchen. They must have had the self-sufficient dream too! Anyway, chickens are really easy to keep, they will eat all your kitchen and table scraps, they will eat your grass clippings, they are quiet, they produce eggs, they don’t need a big area, they produce the most amazing fertilizer, they make the best pets and kids love them. Need I say more.
On the topic of parenting, I’m not going to pretend I know it all, but I have developed a few theories on things that I would like to share. Take it or leave it. I have to be honest, I think parenting advice is often the most annoying kind of advice so I will share sparingly as to not drive you all away. I will say I am incorporating gardening, chickens and living simply into my good parenting strategy, I have my reasons, and will expand on these at some point. In a nutshell, I think it is important that children are given ‘real life’ experiences, not just synthetic, man-made, marketing-at-its-best, all-the-cool-kids-have-one, type experiences.
I hope you enjoy my blogs. Stay tuned for more.