The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Friday, 17 January 2020

The Vicky Challenge, 2020.

Having just moved last year I found it too hard to do my normal Vicky Challenge.  But it is time to take it up again!

Some of you joined in during 2017 and 2018, some of you are still doing it.  For anyone who needs a refresher (and anyone new)  you will find the original starter posts here.   This challenge was started by Vicky when she explained some of her ways to me.  I thought it was a brilliant idea!

In a nutshell it is simply about tracking all the ways you save at home and adding the savings up each week.  I always stress that your presence in the home is about far more than the financial situation and the importance of running the house, caring for children and all you do is literally far above rubies.   This challenge factors in the actual money you are earning.   I say earring because saving and earning are so alike.   Money earned is taxed.   Money you save by doing things yourself will not be taxed.  You get to keep more of it.

Vicky adds her weekly savings up at the end of each week.  Then the month and finally the year.  To many of us this is very motivating.  When you see how much difference your efforts make to the household economy it is exciting!   Usually you will find this is easily a whole wage.  If you work full or part time you can do it too and count the ways you save in the hours you are at home.

If you are a stay home Mum or ever have been someone has probably said something along the lines of  "don't you FEEL you should be contributing financially?"

First things first.  I had this from someone I knew well one time  I asked her how much then did she contribute financially to her family?  She had two small children and was working.  She said what her wage was but that is not what I wanted to know.  I was asking how much profit did she make?  She said she had no idea.  So we worked it out.  Out came paper and pen. We sat and wrote out wages less tax.  We took out childcare.  We took out uniforms, hosiery, dry cleaning, transport and fuel.  We took at work parties presents and contributions and convenience foods as she was so short on time.   The long and short of it is she was earning about 50c an hour.
Now I am not saying all jobs equal this result.  But many do.  And I am not saying it was not her choice either.  I am just saying hey, with my home industry I am saving a lot more than 50c an hour thanks very much!
So really the truth of it may not be what it seems.

Then I get "aren't your bored at home?"  Well no.  I am so busy I don't have time to be bored.  There are not enough hours in the day.  So I cannot figure this one out at all.

It is up to you what savings you count.  I do not count housework.  But if you want you can count that and if you take up cleaning your own home over hiring a cleaner I certainly would count it.    I do count window cleaning as a number of times in the past I have paid a window cleaner.
I count my baking.   This week I made four dozen sausage rolls.  

I need to check our local bakery prices.  But lets say  full size sausage rolls are $5.  Then I made $240 worth of sausage rolls.   Now I will estimate my costs to be around $30 as I cheated and bought pastry!   So my savings are around $210.   Not bad for an afternoons work.
Further, the supply of quick tasty meals in the freezer means we basically never get take away.  I won't even bother to count that but I hear it is nothing for a lot of families to spend $2000 a year on takeaway!

I do my own hair.  In Adelaide I dropped into the three closest hair dressers for a price list.  To my surprise I was saving  $200+ a month.  I should now check our new local prices.  This week Chloe trimmed my hair for me.  I do my own colour and treatments.  It can't be too bad as I get compliments on my hair.  This is a savings of over $2400 a year.

When Andy was working in Adelaide I packed his coffees, lunch and snacks every day.  At that time I worked out this saved around $10 a day.  So that was another $50 a week or two and a half thousand dollars a year.

Even if you would do this challenge for a week you will be amazed!  It is worth doing!  It is certainly motivating.

Week one this year I had so many things to count.   By putting the word out about wanting to can and needing jars I came into over $1000 of free canning equipment and jars!

I count the amount I save on gifts by making them myself.
I count the savings on bargain priced items I find.
The amount saved on things we fix ourselves.
Sometimes I can't quite decide whether to count things or not!  For instance when we came here everyone expected me to want to rip out the kitchen and oven.  But I love all things farmhouse and I love the old oven!   I wonder what I saved there!?!

Savings Andy makes are also counted and this motivates him.   Many things he makes himself or fixes are big savings.

The other day I learned to make Meringues.

Lucy told me she saw a small bag of coloured meringues for $15!  So now I will adapt and make pretty little ones and colour them.  That is my next project!

Just now I have a Pavlova in the oven for Mums Birthday.  Since the eggs are from our chickens it is only costing me a tiny amount.  I will work out my savings and count those.

At Christmas I gave out homemade treats and worked out what I saved there over bought things.  Some of these savings are surprising!

I trying to keep up to date with the going rates for hand crafted goods.  I have found soap making a big saver.  I gave my son in law chunky and rustic homemade soaps.  Some he had were from Lush and they were around $14 a bar!   Mine were just as good or better and cost me so very little.

Making my own laundry detergent is a huge saver.  It worked out to be a savings of about $90 last time I made this up.

Each day there are just so many ways to save!  The possibilities are just endless.  
It is absolutely up to you how you do your own Vicky Challenge and how accurate you want to be.  I mainly to quick checks on retail prices or services, usually get a shock,  then record my approximate savings.   I do not spend too much time on it.  The main thing is I quickly jot things down so I will remember them! 

Tonight I am making pizzas.  I am using tomatoes and basil from the garden.  I will figure out my savings over buying pizza from the nearest place which is a local Tavern.

Apart from it being motivating I think knowing just how much difference you are making to the home economy is very uplifting.  It also gives you ammo when someone tries to tear you down.   Trust me, you may be contributing financially more than them.  Not that is is anyones business but that does not seem to stop negative comments!
At the end of the day you need to know your own worth.  Read Proverbs 31.  Study it.  The work you are doing might involve wiping snotty noses and endless washing but it is more than that.  Building a family and strong foundations, good nutrition, morals, charity, education and so much more are all things that will pay off long term.  The work you do WILL affect at least several generations.  
If you have no children at home then your work is still important.  Read Titus 2.  There is much work to do.  Coming along side a younger woman who needs encouragement, teaching how to save money, how to cook, garden, sew, make soap or whatever you can is helping someone else in their home.  
Many people are struggling and one pay check away from disaster.  The need to learn skills and encouragement are so needed. 

If you really want to save this year ,or just get ahead in any way, it can be helpful to work out what area to attack first.  If gift giving and Christmas are big expenses for you come over and join The Tuesday Afternoon Club, start now and make your gifts for next Christmas! 

I find a secret in crafting too.  I am CONTENT AT HOME.  In fact I would rather be home than anywhere else.  I can't think of anything worse than the mall.  I would rather have time to get some crochet done.  Or some card making.... (Oh the savings in card making!!)  A while ago I said I would rather be making jam than jetting around.  I am serious! 
When you are truly busy growing some veggies,  feeding the chooks,  making your yoghurt, sewing or mending,  baking and decorating and so much more you do not have time to be in the shops.  You are busy.  I say this because shopping is an addiction for many people.  Spending on things you do not need is a big problem for many families.

At one time Friday night pizza night cost us a lot of money.   So I just learned to make a good pizza base and began making my own.  Over time I have picked a lot of areas to see how I can save.   One of my best tips is just to take time to think over any purchase.  Many times a good idea will seem like a stupid idea after a few days.

Now with the money you save you have options.   But I would PLAN what you are going to do as your increase your savings.  It might be wise to pay down debt.  It is always wise to have a good emergency fund. 
Four years ago I gave up weekly coffee and cake and used that money to build up a pantry in my cellar (at our old house).  I saved $8 per week.  I chose half price items to use it on which gave me $16 worth of goods to add to my pantry every week.  Building up a pantry is a very good investment.

You might bank it. You might decide to invest in things that will further increase your savings.   Some of the things we invested in were chickens,  a bigger freezer,  I invested in a spinning wheel...   when I began making my own yoghurt I invested in a yoghurt maker.  If they are well planned they will give you new savings!   

This year my savings are going to be invested in doing up the cottage.  I could have a potential income from letting out the cottage or as a B and B.  To me this will pay me better dividends than the bank.  So that is where most of my savings are going for 2020. 

I hope you can see just how important your work is and how much potential there is to save. 
If you would like to join in you can do it privately or share each week your savings.  We can get so many ideas from each other!   

You are very welcome to ask for ideas and you are very welcome to share how you save.  I would love to hear of anything you have invested in that you feel has helped you save more.  Also any skills you learned that have helped with savings.  

Together we can make 2020 a year of getting ahead, even though it is a year in which we are expecting to see some pretty big food price rises. We are battling ever increasing electricity and water prices also.  But when things get tough the tough get going!  So be encouraged. xxx

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Feather your Nest Friday, 17th January, 2020.

It was a big week!  We still lived in a cloud of smoke until Wednesday afternoon.   That morning the smoke was particularly thick.   NASA reported that the smoke from the Australian fires was so intense that it drifted across and past New Zealand and made it's way around the whole globe then came back over Australia!  Yep, we had it all twice!   I would never have imagined this possibility!
But now we are smoke free, fire free and some of the worst affected areas in the country have rain!
Rain is also forecast for here.  I sure am hoping that is correct!

The first adventure of the week was Saturday. Shearing day.  My sheep were "rounded up" by getting out the biscuits and they all came running.  This was the first time any of them have been shorn.  I took biscuits with me so after their hair cuts they would get a reward.

Blossom went first.  She honestly didn't care.  The shearer was kind of amazed by these docile sheep!

So her wool is lambs wool which I saved and it is so soft.

Paddy was waiting for his turn.  (for anyone new Paddy is Chloe's pet Alpaca) 

You hear that Alpaca's do not like being shorn and put up a giant fight and kick and so on.  Not Paddy.   He just relaxed and it was so funny.  He looked like a big teddy bear.  The shearer was really nice and talked him and Paddy talked back.  Alpaca language is quiet little mmm mmm mmm noises. 

Alpaca wool is so soft like a cloud.  As it came off we found a neck! haha!

The transformation was amazing.   Paddy was completely fine with it all.

I ended up with a lot of wool for my spinning and two beautiful brown/black fleeces also.  As this came off the sheep it was like thick velvet.  

The sheep are much more comfortable now as this is summer.  They all had their biscuits and off they went back into the paddock.  Paddy and Blossom went in the trailer home to Chloe and Luke's. 
This all took a whole afternoon!

Other than this some of the ways I got ahead, built up my home and added to the pantry included:

I did some baking.  First I made two high fruit cakes that my Dad and brother like.

I had bananas to use up so made two banana cakes.

Then I made up little sausage rolls for Harper to take to Kindy on Friday.  And full sized ones to share with everyone else.

I made tomato relish as well and this went beautifully with the sausage rolls.

And Harper's favourite Peanut Butter biscuits.

We had beautiful peaches and have been living on them but I also made a peach crumble which is the most beautiful thing ever. 

Lucy gave me a box of Lux Flakes.  I love these.  If you are not in Australia these are pure soap flakes.

On the way home from our trip to see the girls we stopped in town and I went very quickly into the op shop. I had so much luck!  I found flannelette sheets with big pink roses and soft flannel pillowcases to line my joey pouch (that I am crocheting) plus a bag of sewing cottons, beautiful fabrics and so much more.  Even a toy bunny for Scout.   It was fantastic.     I will show everything in The Tuesday Afternoon Club next week.   It is so good to find supplies this way.

During the week Mignon came over with MORE JARS!
Dad came by with venison. Lots of fillet all packed beautifully.

One night we had toasted sandwiches for dinner and just used stuff up. I need to re introduce toastie night weekly.

The pumpkin patch is growing...

There are lots of little pumpkins forming...

I now have a little chicken coop for my little bantams.  This is because I want them to have chicks.  

I also get to talk to them while I water the garden.

Finally...  I made up some Liqueurs.  Here I have Coffee, Baileys and White Chocolate liqueur.  Some of these are gifts.   They are are delicious.  I love my collection of bottles too!

So that was my week!  I like to see my relish lined up and food in my freezer.  The garden is coming on and I have new things coming up to fill any spaces I still had. 

I hope you had a wonderful week.  How did you get ahead, save, add to your preparedness?   There are so many little things we can do and they all add up!

Over the weekend I am going to re launch the Vicky Challenge for 2020.   So there will be a weekend post.   This is a very motivating challenge and really works for me.   

Now I am off to feed the chooks and collect the eggs.  We are so lucky it is not hot, just nice. If all goes well I plan some sewing over the weekend! xxx

Friday, 10 January 2020

Feather Your Nest Friday, 10th January, 2020.

What a week we had!  Truthfully I have lots track of what happened and on what day.  But after having to evacuate  (due to the fires)  each day was still a bit of a worry as it was a big fire ground and much of it was smouldering.  So every time the wind came up there were firefighters here and farmers attending to everything so the fire would not start up or get away again.   Some days we had so much smoke. It was thick. Visibility was low and it smelled so bad.  Today is the first day I can say the fire is out for good.  We had some rain!
On Sunday Dad came to see me.  We had a cup of tea and talked over all that had happened.  We both concluded we were so lucky.  No one was killed, even Dad was amazed by this.  We all have our homes.  Our animals were ok.  We were so very lucky.

During the week we went on as normal as much as we could.   Some of the ways we caught up, got ahead, added to the pantry etc included:

I began harvesting parsley seed.  I have so much parsley that has gone to seed and it is so heavy with seeds it is bent over.  They are dry now and ready to collect.  I snip them off and bring them inside to dry a little bit more.  Then each head of parsley which contains a couple of hundred seeds goes into a little paper envelope.  I have stamped a bee on each go these.  This gives me little gifts I can share and they fit in a regular envelope in the post.   I have made up about 50 envelopes so far.
I also planted a lot of the seeds to establish new rows of parsley.  I cannot have too much.  It gives me a gift,  something to trade, something fresh each day for the ducks, chickens, cows and sheep.  And to use in the kitchen of course!  I can also dry it for gifts as well.

I planted a lot of the succulents I had last week into spots in the garden. They filled a few empty areas.

I made an Impossible Pie to take to the girls (and to use up a few eggs!)

This week I finally made Meringues from scratch.  I am sorry to say I have never made them before and they were so easy.  I am trying to add new ways to utilise all the eggs.  I use a lot of eggs in baking.  I keep Mum and Lucy in eggs.  I give some to my neighbour and some to a charity.  Scout eats eggs a few meals a week...    Anyway I thought meringues and pavlovas would make great gifts and contributions to meals when we are asked out etc.   I took a big tin of them to the girls and they fell in love with them.   

I started a fresh batch of Coffee Liqueur.  Between the meringues and the coffee liqueur my popularity seems to be rising.  haha.

I planted a lot more sunflowers, plus 2 types of beans and filled up my garden some more.

With three bananas that needed to be used up I made a couple of dozen little cakes.

Tomorrow is a big day. Paddy, Chloe's Alpaca,  Blossom and all the lambs are being shorn.  Tonight Luke came to get my sheep.  They were loaded onto his trailer which was pretty easy.  A packet of biscuits and they will do anything.   My "lambs" are not really lambs anymore! 

The sight of a packet of biscuits causes a near riot as Eddie wants some and the calves come running too.  Now when Laffie runs towards me she is pretty big and she is strong.  Sometime soon their love and affection is going to get very heavy! 

In the op shop I found some nice drinking glasses and got them to start the cottage glory box.  If I collect things as I find them I will have all that is needed when the cottage restoration project is over. 

Our local supermarket was not directly affected by fires... the road was not cut off and there were no fires near the town.  None the less the shelves were bare.

All around the store there were signs to explain the lack...

I think very much about all the towns with closed roads.  I heard one town finally got food today as the army got it there.  If your supermarket was closed for over a week and the roads were closed would your family have plenty of supplies?  

Tomorrow is exciting as it is shearing day.  I will have lambs wool and Alpaca!  Soon I will be ready to begin spinning.   After shearing they will all get biscuits.  Like a jelly bean after going to the doctor... only for sheep.

I hope you had a good week and were not impacted by fires.  How did you increase your pantry and preparedness, add to your savings and build up your home? 
When something goes wrong you are so grateful for all the times you stored away supplies and things that would be helpful when the power goes out.  I am still thankful to have had a battery operated fan to keep cool with.  Now we are adding other things that would have been good and I now have emergency bags packed in case we have to leave at a moments notice again. Lesson learned. 

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Pantries and Preparedness. The fires. January 2020.

For weeks now Australia has had terrible fires.  This week it was our turn.  Australia is burning and the whole world knows about it as it is in the headlines everywhere.
I have been working on our preparedness now for several years.  I felt a persistent nudge a few years ago and this has continued until now and still I feel it.
In my life I have learned (the hard way) that if you have a feeling about something to never ignore it. God is telling you something.

In the Prepper world everyone refers to SHTF.  This is Shit Hit the Fan, it kind of covers every bad situation!   It might be personal i.e.  your marriage broke up and suddenly your security and income is gone or it might be global.
Well, this week in Australia SHTF.  Both for us personally and for the nation.
Some states are in a State of Emergency.  The Army and Navy have been called in.  They are evacuating people off beaches.  Whole towns are virtually wiped out.  Many towns are cut off and have no communication, no power, no shops, no food... not fuel.
People are trapped and even if they could leave there is no power or fuel to fill their car.
Hundreds of trucks that haul food and supplies are stranded with fresh food rotting in the back.   There are air drops to give people radios and satellite phones.
One town on the news last night had one working radio that was connecting them with the news outside.  Everyone was gathered around this one radio.
The size of the areas now being evacuated are bigger than some European countries.

The news mainly covers the east coast since the bigger populations are there.   We are in the very southern area in South Australia.    We have had a lot of fires over the years.   On Monday we were on alert due to a very hot day with high winds and dry lightening.  Most of our fires seem to start from lightening.   There was already a big fire a good distance north of us.   So everyone was concerned about that.   Monday morning it began...
The weather quickly deteriorated.   When things are bad we drive to the top of our hill to have a look.  We could see smoke.  And fairly near by.   Things happened quickly and we knew lightening had already started a fire East of us.

This is what it looked like at first...

This is what it looked like shortly after....

From there things happened too fast to take photos.   The next time we went to the top of the hill we saw there were CFS people down the corner of our property where a track meets the main road.   We drove down to them to see what they could tell us.  I guess it took two minutes to drive that far.

They were closing off the main road as east of us the fire had jumped the road and was traveling south.  This was what had made us feel ok... everything was moving south.   We maybe spoke to them for one or two minutes.   Suddenly the everything went dark and the smoke was thick and all around us.  The man said "the wind has changed, go!!"   We raced back to the house.  The smoke was thick and moving fast.    Andy headed off to set the big sprinklers going on the east side of the house. I grabbed the dog and put her inside and ran down to the bottom paddock and opened the gate so the cows and sheep could hopefully escape into out yard and on to the lawn.
But the time I go inside I had breathed a lot of smoke.   Andy yelled out "the power is out!"  and so the sprinklers would not operate.   He went then to start the generator and get the over the house sprinklers going.

I rang 000 and reported where the fires was.  This was pretty hopeless as the girl on the phone wanted to chat all day and I said sorry but there is a fire coming straight for us!

By now the sprinklers were running over the roof.   The smoke was thicker and thicker.   It started coming into the house.
Just then a firefighter started banging on the door.  As the door opened I saw his face. It was my brother!  He said "you have to get out, it is catastrophic."   Now my brother is an understated kind of guy.   He meant it and I knew this meant we had to leave.
I grabbed my bag, my iPad and a few things.   I slapped a note on the door that said "Evacuated." We jumped in the car with the dog and headed fast to my brothers and sister in laws.   This is only fifteen minutes away but they have irrigation all around them making it pretty safe.  He promised to go get Chloe and we would meet there.
Driving out the smoke was so thick.  I looked back and the sprinklers were going.  This was the only thing that made me feel maybe the house would survive.  But it was no certainty.

We got to my brothers and Chloe was there.   Checking she was there was the first thing.
There was electricity and communications.   We let everyone know where we were.  From then on it was a day of listening for news.
A couple of good things were my nephew who was fighting the fire could report later in the day the house was ok.  He also came in and added fuel to our generator.  This would give us eight more hours of over head water.
I know I am so lucky to have somewhere to evacuate to.   We were all together and cool.   The smoke did begin to become thick here as well but the house was fine.

The day was a bit unbelievable!  There we were in a situation I had not envisaged at all.   There were some encouraging moments and some bad ones.   Chloe got a phone call that the fire had reached her house.  I saw the could drain out of her.  She held it together and called Luke to tell him.  For a while we thought her house would be gone.   But it was not!  It was ok!  
For a time I thought what if we lose the house, animals and garden we worked so hard to build up?  I was doing a lot of praying.

The fire was now moving north easterly so going up and past us.  We knew the back of our property was on fire.  We knew the neighbours was on fire.   We were communicating with her, she had evacuated also.

As the day wore on (and boy was it a long day) the fire continued to head north.  This was good for us... now it was going towards Mum and Dad!  Oh great.   My brother,  nephew, niece and Luke were all out there fighting.  There were bombers and so many crews.  A big plane came here too from the USA!

Late in the night we came back home.   This is how it looked ...

The air stank.  The over head sprinklers never faulted and the house was drenched.  The animals were ok!

With no power we began to use the generator to keep the fridges and freezers going.    This continued on through the night.   All efforts now were further north and to keep Mum and Dad and other houses safe.  So much effort, big machinery ploughing fire breaks,  so many exhausted people. 

As I write this it is another bad day.  My brother just rang to say if the wind changes we may have to evacuate again.   So we are watching closely.  To be truthful it is good to have things to work on in the cool (while we still have power!) and keep my mind occupied.   However the noise of the wind is now too loud to not be frightening. 

We have a map now that shows the burned area. You can see it was in a semi circle around us.

Ahhh it is giving me a bit of a picnic attack writing this especially as we are waiting for the wind to change.

Now from this all I learned a lot.  We did some things right.  These were:

From the day we moved here we began cleaning up and clearing around the house.  The first few months we had thirty something big bonfires, removed man many trees and extended the lawn.
In our second season we had over forty bonfires and they weren't little piles of leaves most were the size of a car, some were the size of a small house!  We hauled, stacked, cut and needed a tractor to help at times.
We got a generator so that if the power is out we have water and  can  put on high pressure sprinklers.
Andy made an over the roof sprinkler system.  It absolutely drenches the house.  This can also be run with the generator.
We bought a back up generator.
We have sprinklers that are powerful and cover long distances.
We signed up for all weather and danger updates via phone and email.
I keep the fridges and freezers very full so if the power goes out they will stay cold longer.   I succeeded with three out of the four.   Empty space in a freezer will mean it will stay frozen solid a lot shorter time.
My fridge and freezers are full of cold and frozen drinks.
We have battery operated fans, plenty of torches and lanterns.
We can cook and boil water on a gas BBQ so are never without the ability to cook and have a cup of tea.
I have all emergency numbers in my phone, printed and stuck inside our emergency cupboard.
We have a non electric landline phone.   The walk around phones need electricity.  The mobiles fail even if you have them charged as the towers that repeat the signal only have short back up batteries.  They all reply on electricity.  Only the old phones require no power.  Having this to plug in was important.
I have enough food and general supplies on hand to last a few weeks.
Also enough animals supplies to last.
We have extensive first aid and medical supplies.
I keep mops and buckets for extinguishing embers if this occurred.
We have a wide area clear and the wood etc all stored a long way from the house.
The next day when we had no power I still had a hot cup of tea, eggs on toast for breakfast so this was good.
We have a battery operated radio.
We had professionals take down two huge gums that were in a position should they fall they would go straight through our roof.

Ok now for things I did wrong or could do better!
I was not packed.  In my mind we would stay.   So I never packed a thing.  Luckily we were able to return home. If not I would have had no clothes, nightie, pillow, nothing.  Pretty dumb.
I did not have documents packed or in a fire proof safe.   So now I am getting a safe and just keeping all important stuff in there.
I left with phone and iPad and no charger.
My most recent freezer addition was not full.  I should have had that full even if just bottles of water.

As I write there are thousands, tens of thousands, Australians who have no communication, no food or water and no toilet paper etc.  Oh, and no fuel.  The government have been dropping satellite phones, food and water to many.
Now if you have lost your house or evacuated then of course you don't have much.  But many are in trouble that still have their homes.   But the power is out.  The supermarkets are mostly shut.  Those that are open have empty shelves.   I am seeing photos posted of completely empty shelves.   And queues that last hours to get in to any open shops.    It is hot and smoky.  You would just not want to be having to queue.  It would be much better if you had your supplies and could wait it out.
On top of this the roads in and out of many towns are closed.   There will be no trucks re stocking the supermarkets.  

This could affect any town or city.  If trucks are stuck between capital cities the food is not moving.  If the power is out for any reason the supermarket will probably not be open and the fuel will not be pumping.   How long would you household supplies and pantry keep your family going?   Would you be listening to radio updates on your battery radio?  Would you be able to keep the fridge and freezers going and manage to put food on the table?   Would you have fuel to keep your generator going for a week or two?  Do you have a generator in the first place!?
Does anyone in your family need medication?  How many days do you have left?
Do you have bags packed if you have to leave at a moment notice?
Are important documents safe or coming with you?
How long would it take you to get out the door?
Do you have a check list to work through... in a crisis it is hard to think.  If you have list of what to grab and why to do this can help.
If you have no mobile phone do you know anyones phone numbers?
Is your car kept full of fuel?
Do you have somewhere you could evacuate to?
There is so much to think about and there is no time to think about it when the crisis comes.   And if you do head off to get a generator or fuel or fuel cans they are not going to be available. It will be too late by a mile.

We have had a time of if it doesn't "spark joy" throw it out.   Well, right now that old radio, the old phone,  the woollen blankets and many other items would spark a lot of joy!  So would a well stocked pantry and supplies.  

As I type the fires have got going again.  We can see massive smoke clouds.  If the wind changes we will be evacuating again.  This time I am packed and the bags are at the door.  Including my documents.

I am sure I will think of other things and my list is by no means comprehensive but I hope it will inspire you to be prepared.   When something is really big the government cannot help everyone.  Help might not be coming. You need to be self reliant as much as possible.  That means you can also be helping others.  I was able to take drinks and snacks to some of the fire fighters.  We have more than we need.   We are ok.    I think of things like the families with babies on bottles and half a tin of formula in the cupboard.   Trying to keep cool with no cold water available...  don't let this be your family if you can avoid it.

I have a whole preparedness series on my blog.  I wrote this weekly for a year.  There are many ways to be prepared that are completely free and many ways to inexpensively greatly increase your preparedness.  This is a good place to start Totally free ways to get better prepared.

If you are able please help your local fire and emergency departments in some way.  They work like you wouldn't believe.  And the farmers too, everyone is fighting the fires.   Please pray as we need it. xxx

Feather your Nest Friday, 3 January 2020!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2020!  To me a new year is so exciting as is a brand new planner and diary.  A fresh slate.

Our week was far from normal.  Everyone will know Australia is in the middle of a crisis with so many fires. Today is another potentially very bad day and there are states of emergency, the army and navy have been called in.   They are actually rescuing people on to a Navy ship.
Our area has had one of these fires.  On Monday we had to evacuate our home and it was a terrifying day.  We are very lucky as we still have our house and all our animals are ok.  Chloe still has her house next door.  But today will be very hot again and a north wind... so we are on alert and waiting as basically there is a smouldering huge fireground that goes on for miles both west and north of us.
I am going to write a seperate post on the fire and what we learned preparedness wise over the weekend.  I have been talking about preparedness for years now.   Suddenly we have a situation where thousands have no food, water, they are cut off and have no communication, trucks in their hundreds are stranded so no food will get through to many areas either.  And if it did well the supermarkets are closed as they don't have electricity...    Some places may end up isolated for a long time yet.  So this is worthy of a post of it's own.

Today I will think of what ways I did still manage to build up our home and get ahead.  As we did have some "normal" days too!

After last weeks gift of a canner, equipment and jars I realised my neighbour was still giving me more!  Every evening she dropped by with boxes of jars.  And they just kept coming.  Some mornings I would wake up to find more jars next to the back door.  I felt like I had a jar fairy!   Every day I washed jars.  I have lost count now but all my kitchen cupboards now look like this:

And this...

There are three more but you don't need to see inside all my cupboards! :)

Oh, beautiful shiny and thick glass, many with that old green tint to them.  
And I have more coming.  I figure that if God is sending me this many jars then He must be planning to send me a whole lot of produce!  I will be ready!

This week I started harvesting basil, tomatoes in all shapes and sizes and also Parsley Seeds.

I had three sad bananas so I quickly made a nice big banana cake and put that in the freezer.

Also I made a big batch of GF Gingerbread biscuits and I freeze them so when everyone else has snacks I have something too.

My neighbour also offered me succulent cuttings.  Her Mum is elderly and used to have such a great collection and they are neglected now.   So this is some of what I came home with...

I didn't waste much time and collected up all my empty pots and containers and planted them up.   I still have many to go and now will make up some as gifts.

I love them! 

I have many spots in the garden where things have failed so these areas will be filled with succulents too.   So what a blessing!

Considering the week I am pretty happy to have had such good things to report!

Over on The Tuesday Club We have started the year by reviewing our craft supplies and natural resources,  i.e. I have lots of old floral cottons, wools, cotton yarn, card making supplies, my natural resources include pinecones, antlers, Bay Leaves, Rosemary, Gum Nuts etc.    We are working out what we can be making with what we have.    There are some wonderful ideas already.   We are hitting the ground running on making our gifts and putting things to good use. 

Now I will work on a preparedness post while the experience is fresh in my mind.  Today we are on a watch and act alert as we have foregrounds to the east and north of us.   

When we returned home it was dark.  This was our sky...

This is what hell looks like I thought.  

I hope you have had a good week.  Almost all Australian's now know someone affected by fires and many are in a crisis today.  I hope you are all safe.  
How did you build up your home, increase your preparedness, add to your pantry this week?xxx

Friday, 27 December 2019

Feather your Nest Friday. 27 December, 2019.

I am so late posting as I have had no internet all day.   So first of all I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.   We were really blessed with a beautiful family day and I loved it.  I appreciated every moment.  It was a lovely day with time spent with family and all the work on gifts during the year paid off!

It seems a long time since last Friday!  It is very hard to know where to start because right now we have a fire north of us.   The whole week has had the worry of fires.  There has been a distant one in a national park all week and today it escaped and is causing a lot of worry.  I can see there are bombers there and fire units... Luke is there fighting it ( and so is Dad I just found out.) We can see and smell smoke.  So I feel unsettled...
On Thursday morning we woke up to see the whole landscape was smoke.  It was like being in a thick blanket of fog... but it was smoke.  This was from the same fire but then it was contained...

I will try to concentrate on the ways I managed to build up my home this week:

The first was I had a ten kilo box of Apricots. They were just beautiful.  Many were soft and needed to be used right away.  I made those into jam.  As I handled each apricot I sat aside the best ones.  Some went into the fridge to eat fresh and the rest went into jars for my very first canning attempt.

I had purchased a Ball starter kit which was only about $30.  This is just to use your own stock pot and it is an easy way to start and cheap!  I studied all the directions and decided to make a light syrup for my apricots.  Well, I just followed the steps and ta dah!  It worked!

At the end of the day this was just like soap making.  I wasted years thinking it was difficult when it is easy.   So thank you everyone who encouraged me!  Now I can save sooo much freezer space!  

So I am excited and ready for the fruit to come in over January and February!

On Monday evening we had a Christmas dinner on the deck and invited out neighbour,  Chloe and Luke.  It was so nice.   I kept it very simple and it was relaxed and happy.

My neighbour walked through the kitchen and commented on the canned apricots.  She admired them and said how she used to can and has so many bottles and supplies, perhaps I would like them?
This would be an understatement, obviously!

On Boxing Day I went outside to water the veggie garden in the morning and this is what I found near the back door..

The canner has a full instruction book and recipes...  
Beautiful tall and wide mouth jars... 
I was just so thrilled.  But it didn't stop there.  It turned out this was just the beginning and my neighbour has been back twice since with boxes and boxes of jars in different shapes and sizes.  
The dish washer is on as we speak with another load going through. 
Since I felt the prompted to begin canning I have found that letting everyone know has seen so many jars come my way.  Now I believe the fruit will come my way too!

I recently bought a little cabinet for $15 from my local Buy, Swap and Sell on Facebook.   While it was hot I painted it up as an indoor project. 

It is a nice little solid wood cabinet.

I used a decal and knobs I had left over from other projects and paint left over from the house...

The drawer is going to be for storing seeds and the shelves for other gardening things.   It fits the space I had wanted it for just nicely.
I have a little table to do next and as it is hot over the weekend that might be another job I can do inside quietly.

It is getting late now.  Dad is home and ok and Luke is on his way home.  The fire is sort of contained they say.   This is the first fire that I have really felt seriously worried about.  If everyone is safe and sound I might have some hope of sleeping tonight.
So much of Australia is burning.  We have lived through some shocking fires but I don't remember fires going on and on for weeks as they have this year.   

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas.  How did you build up your home and family?  

The next few days are my absolute favourite time of year.  I always feel very reflective and think over the year that we have had.  It was a really big year!   Actually it was massive!   Over the weekend I  am getting out my brand new planner and the financial planner from The Cheapskates Club.   I do well with goals, lists and plans!   The thought of the opportunity to start a fresh new year is very exciting to me!  And we are starting a fresh new decade too!   But first lets count all our blessings and how far we came this year.  

So this week there are two questions... how was your Christmas and week?
And what were your achievements this year that helped build up your home?   We always look week by week.  But looking over the year as a whole is really another thing!  It is hard to do as we forget so much!   But goodness a lot can happen in one year!  I hope there are many ways that you were able to get ahead and many things you learned along the way! xxx

Friday, 20 December 2019

Feather your Nest Friday, 20th December, 2019.

I am sitting inside the cool lounge room hoping the power stays on.  Outside it is blowing a gale and it is 47 here.  This is about 117F.  Dust is everywhere.  It is hard to tell dust from smoke so we keep doing to the top of the hill to check.

This is the worst and most dangerous day since we lived here.  I prepared all I could yesterday but I think I am going to lose a lot of my plants.  Things got so bad so quickly this morning I was outside in my dressing gown watering.  The wind is too much for anything I have had covering my plants.  My market umbrellas over my vegetables have had to come down as they are a hazard now and could blow away and break a window.

I got in the car and checked all the animals.  I could not find Laffie!  Oh great!  She got out of her paddock and was sitting in the sun in the next paddock.  With the car I drove her over the hill and down towards the trough.  I got her as far as I could then got out and called her.... she followed me to the trough which also has some green grass around it.  Then she had a big drink.  I gave her a big pat and she seemed ok.  So I went off to do the next thing.  I set a sprinkler going in the chook house.  I got wet through from that but it is working to keep them going.   After this I went looking for Brady and Freddie.  Then I thought I must be a sight in my nightie and dressing gown, wet hair... and boot on!  hahah! So I went inside and dressed for the rest of the day.

Now there are reports of lightening coming.  Lightening is what has started most of the fires on the farm over the years.  A cool change is due tonight.  I am just praying for tonight!

Here we are, it is almost Christmas!   I am pretty well ready.  The last two days were also hot so I was able to work quietly inside most of the time on things like crochet and painting a little cabinet.  I set my painting up on an old sheet in the lounge room.  It is beautiful to have projects to work on in dreadful weather.  Being safe, sound and content inside is a wonderful thing.  I save up things for these kinds of days.   These are the times to update the photo albums, clip my recipes, write letters, sew, paint and make cards!   Being content and absorbed in a project also just makes the time pass happily.  And reduces the stress a bit...
When the girls were little I would set them up with crafts or some kind of indoor game and pump out the homemade ice blocks!   Cath suggested to me how Jelly is very good in the heat as it helps hydrate kids too.  So when you know heat is coming it is good to fill the freezer and fridge with cooling foods and drinks to keep everyone hydrated and happy.  

Not all of the week was this way!   Some of the ways I feathered my nest were:

The basic water bath canning kit I ordered arrived!

I had ordered some Ball jars at the same time not knowing how many jars I would find in the op shop and for 50c!  However I am glad I did as I have apricots coming today and my order for lids, rings etc has not arrived yet.  So happy I have jars ready to use!

 I have been studying and asking friends for all their tips on this kind of preserving.  I have made jams, relish, sauces and some pickles most of my life.  But I have not canned.   And I really need to as freezer space is precious.  And last year we had so much fruit, especially apples.   Last season the cores and peels went to the chickens.  Not this time!   This season they are going to become apple jelly!   So much to learn so little time!

Chloe and I went to a lovely Christmas craft market in one of our regional towns.   We found a few ideas.  After we sat in the park and ate dinner. There was a street parade and kids were everywhere because Santa was coming!!!   Then we heard sirens and along the street came an ambulance blaring then a fire truck then another fire truck carrying Father Christmas!   All the kids were going nuts.  Chloe said  "take a photo! This is soo  Australian... "   and so I did! 

That evening we picked up all the canning jars I got for 50c.  There were 98!  We loaded them into the car in big boxes.

All week I have been washing these jars.  First I soak them in the sink, then they go through the dishwasher.   I am still going!  Many are that lovely old thick glass with the greenish tinge.  They are beautiful.

Lucky for me this house has really high kitchen cupboards.  All my top shelves were empty.  I have been able to store all my ready to use jars this way.   I even admire my rows of jars as the cupboards fill.   I have been up and down the kitchen ladder a lot of times!

I am down to my last box of jars to wash.  It continues!

This week we had an early Christmas celebration at Lucy's.   They are going to the city to see Kato's parents on real Christmas Day.  So Lucy put on a Christmas lunch for Mum and Dad, Chloe,  Luke and us.  The girls thought it was Christmas too since in the city they won't have their Christmas tree and all of that so it was truly like Christmas Day.  

Lucy had set her table beautiful and baked a beautiful ham.  

She made a centrepiece from the beautiful pinecones she picks up in her garden...

It was a beautiful day.  There girls were so excited.   

This is Mum helping Harper with a present...

And Scarlett using her new vacuum cleaner! 

It really was just a joyous day.

I took Gingerbread biscuits and the girls loved these as they decided they were Snowflakes like in the Frozen movie.

I also made a trays of angels, stars  and moose.  Nothing like variety! 

During the week I made a large impossible pie and gave eggs away.  I gave 8 dozen eggs away this week alone.

It is late evening now and I still haven't been able to publish this post as the internet is not loading photos.  So meanwhile we had such heat that our driveway is lined with dead birds.  I have driven up and down and turned over every bird I saw.  There are dead Rosellas, Lorikeets, Galahs and Corollas.  I found two Corollas still alive so they have been in the lounge room in front of the air conditioner.  Then we had a thunderstorm.  Then a downpour. Now a fire at a farm further north.  I am hoping that the downpour we had will be enough to mean it won't get too far.

I will be glad when this day is over!  In the Adelaide Hills the beautiful winery where Kato and Lucy got married has been burned. I know I will have other readers affected by fires today as there are severe fires all around the country.  I pray you are all safe. 

I hope you had a good week and found lots of ways to get ahead, be prepared fro Christmas and also to just be able to enjoy the season.   However some weeks and some days are just about getting through! This was one of them!