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.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Pantries and Preparedness. Pantry meals and expectations.

For many reasons, all added together, our meals have become much simpler.  They are usually delicious and nutritious but overall I have completely let go of some past expectations.   We have all been impacted by so many things in a short time.... not being able to shop, shortages, rations, price rises and more.   On days when someone isn't well or in a storm I have always thought a toasted sandwich and soup are a fine achievement.  Now I just think this more often!
One of my very favourite You Tube channels is Roots and Refuge Farm.   Jess was talking about how if you have a homestead dream you should act like a homesteader right now.  She says normal consumers dream up what they feel like eating and plan a menu and go out and buy the stuff to make it.  Or they just buy it ready made.   A homesteader, gardener, budgeter ... will see what they have and figure out what on earth they can do with it that will feed the family.  Big difference.   Many of us may have become better at this while the supermarkets haven't had usual choice or while we are staying home and eating what we have.  And this is a good thing.  This is a skill and a skill worth practicing.     Like in some cooking shows they give them a mystery box and they have to use just what they have.   Well our pantry, garden, fridge, freezer and what we might have found on a good deal are out mystery box.  
When we were kids  (and when my parents were kids) no one asked "what do you feel like for dinner?"  It just wasn't a thing.  Mum or Grandma put a meal on the table using what she had and usually it was something really good.  They didn't cook 19 different meals either they made it up and my Nan would set it out on the table in a serve yourself fashion mostly.  It was usually a meat dish with a lot of vegetable sides.  But on our own (rather than with everyone there)  it was very often soup and toast.  I loved Nan's soup.  And we were happy and grateful for Nan's cooking.

Vicky wrote me on this and here is part of her letter:

Life has certainly been a bit different these days, but once again if we look to our foremothers there is still lessons we can learn from them. And I always look for ways to draw upon their experience and knowledge. I also wonder if some peoples' mindset have changed during this pandemic? Not long ago I was told gardening and canning is for old ladies who don't know how to eat organic! And the statement was made of who wants jars of gross looking food sitting around? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I guess for some seeing what's in a jar is off putting and gross, but the same thing in a can is fine. That really isn't my issue, but the fact that so many overlook the resources right in front of them. We are lucky that we can politely or not snub ingredients, but that wasn't always the case. Again looking back to the Great Depression, WW1, WW11 and even beyond to the Civil War here in the states and the first peoples to settle our countries they couldn't be as choosy and persevered through way more than we can imagine. 
A few weeks ago while I was at the post office I overheard a conversation that got me thinking. Well having to stand 6 feet apart it's kind of hard not to hear a conversation haha! 
One woman said she didn't have much to make meals and the other said her problem was they had a lot of food, but nothing to eat. What?!
I think now is a good time to take a good look at the versatility of the ingredients we have on hand or are able to get. Not only to prevent waste, but also to realize that if things get harder we may still be able to do more with what we have should our ingredients get on the slim side. 
Some of the stories I've read at times the only meat available in some cities were hot dogs, bologna or Spam. And of course we know about sugar and butter shortages among other things that happened back then. 
What constitutes a meal? Or a treat? Is it a table full of food or just the blessing to have something to put on a plate or in a bowl? I would have to say right now is the time for us to think on this.
And I am learning. I made a cake that was way too crumbly and impossible to eat since it fell apart so much. Well a little research and a ration recipe came to my rescue. That cake became a whole new cake using those crumbs, a little flour, etc. 
Stale cake was steamed a bit and served with a toffee sauce.
Self rising flour and milk, yogurt or sour cream became little drop donuts. Two ingredients became a treat and let me tell you they are good! 

Also like Annabel's pizza base plus dinner rolls and so on variety from stemming from one basic ingredient.
Vegetables whipped or pureed can be added to scones or biscuits for a bit of variety in flavor. Pumpkin or squash is especially nice. 
Herbs can be used in salads, teas or herbal drinks, freshening the home etc. and have many, many health benefits. 
Well I could go on and on, but if things get worse before they get better I want us all to realize that we can do so much even with a limited pantry as most ingredients can be very versatile. 

As Vicky is saying I have changed a bit on what constitutes a meal.   Right now a lot of people are struggling.   There are also some pretty significant meat shortages and restrictions in some places. 

I thought what Vicky said about all that food and nothing to cook is like when we have a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear! haha!   We might need to get better at some more adventurous mixing and matching!

I have heard people who have been away on a swanky holiday saying they just couldn't wait to get home for some mashed potatoes and home food. haha!  I understand this!   At the end of the day really I have to admit in the same way I would overall rather stay at home, I would rather lots of vegetables, veggie bakes,  a roast, tuna mornay, fried rice, scones, pancakes,  soup, a toasted sandwich...  stuff like that!   If you have visitors I have noticed home style food like a roast, gravy and veggies seems more thrilling to them than something "fancy."  To those that never get a home cooked meal this is really actually positively thrilling.  You don't need a 95 step recipe... just a few basic ingredients.   My go to is if I have a guest the fruit cake comes out, I made scones and put out homemade jam.   Everyone loves it and it is actually so cheap it is hardly worth counting.    Many soups made from what we have that needs using up are just about free meals too.
Tonight we are having mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli as they are what I have and sausages I dug out of the freezer.  I have some venison so tomorrow I will make a stew using that and every vegetable I can find.  It will be beautiful and I am blessed to be given venison!

I have read things on social media that make your eyes water.  Like young Mums working out how they can buy enough school snacks for their children.  The amount they budget would make several hundred pikelets, cookies and other homemade snacks and they are genuinely struggling but they just don't know snacks do not have to come in a packet!   We really need to help and teach each other the simple basics.

The old cookbooks are wonderful.  They don't use fancy and expensive ingredients.  Whatever you have you can look it up and there will be recipes!  
Knowing your substitutions is a help.
Knowing you can halve (or less) your meat and double your veggies and sides is a help.
We have talked about this subject in different ways over time.  But now this is an area we really need to be happy to get back to basics.

If you have any family recipes that make something good out of nothing please share them! For Mum's with hungry teenagers, toddlers and babies... if you have tips please share.
For those packing their husbands and or school lunches please share your ideas.
What about those with kids who walk through the door at the end of the day ready to inhale the whole contents of the fridge?  
How about recipes that just use pantry ingredients?
I will add some recipes in the comments.  
It is ok to be basic and it is ok to be simple.  Simple is good.  At the end of the day single ingredients are better anyway, we know what is in them!  
If you have a question or struggle in this area ask away and let the Bluebirds help you!  We love to help!  xxx

Friday 29 May 2020

Feather your Nest Friday, 29th May, 2020.

I would say we have some rain coming as the internet isn't working too well for me!  It has been another pretty productive week.  I am glad to take some time to look back over it.

Each day I work on my ongoing projects.  My standard way to tackle lots of work is to do some every day until I get there!  So each day I move one wheel barrow load of mulch on to my garden beds.   Each day I add one wheelbarrow of manure to my raised garden bed...  as I go about my routine I add in habits.  On the way to feed the chickens I push the wheel barrow up the hill.   I use the fork to dig up several huge clumps of grass to give the chickens and the ducks.   I have my bucket of scraps I have collected in the kitchen plus any other weeds I might find on the way.  This supplements the chickens food a lot.  Due to foxes I cannot let the chickens free range.  They wouldn't last a day.  But their coop has a huge yard and they get a lot of greens everyday and have a big area to scratch around.

I collect the eggs and bring them back to the house and put them into cartons.  If things are going well I get twelve eggs.

On the way down the hill from the chicken shed I collect sticks and pinecones.  These go into baskets for kindling.  There are pine tress and the pinecones are never ending so I will never run out!

My other big project I am chipping  away at is the cubby house (play house).   For anyone who missed this, my brother gave me a huge wooden box.   Inside was another box!  The small one is now a raised garden bed... the large one I am making into a cubby house for the Grandkids.

I am ready to show a little of what I have done so far.  It is not finished and doesn't even had a roof yet.   We salvaged windows from the old shed where we found the timber for the new raised garden beds.

I began by painting tree trunks.   Then I cut out kitchen sponges into leaf shapes and stamped on leaves.  I cut out paper napkins with nests on them and decoupaged them on.  

The theme is nature, maybe a nature lodge!    I am sticking to things that are found here on the farm.   For the animals I bought some nursery decals which I have varnished over to water proof them.

A fox isn't a native animal to us but we sure do have them! Same with deer.

We have owls so I included those.  

This is the back which is on a fence line...

I am really enjoying it.  I just do a bit each day as I can.  Then I look at it for a while (as it is outside a window I sit in front of)  and plan what to do next.  

Because of being in plain sight I thought I better make it something that I enjoy seeing every day as well as thinking of the kids.   I have some old telephones so it will have an inside and outside phone on the walls.   (To report wildlife sightings, of course.)

One bird I really want to include are the black Cockatoos.  I found a decal to use!   This one has not arrived yet but I can't wait as these are really a feature on this property.

We made progress too on the cottage project.   Some progress on the new raised garden beds...  I am so excited about those!

I made three large dark fruit cakes.   One is for my Dad's Birthday.  One will go away as these keep for at least a year.  One is for Andy as he loves them.

During the week I also made scones, apple sauce, little cakes, baked rice custard and the usual meals of course.

I am trying to rotate what is in the freezer and organise it as I go.   

After making lots of little bird cards with envelopes I packaged them up into sets of five.  These are now in my gift cupboard for future gifts. 

I did an experiment in the garden.  In each row of seedlings I used a large upturned jar over one plant.  After a week these ones were slightly bigger than the others in the row.  After two weeks they were noticeably bigger.  Since this was taken they are almost at the top of the jar and more than twice the size of the non covered seedlings.   So now I will use many more.  Lucky I have a lot of jars! 

This week I did another trade.  This time was four dozen eggs for a little hall table.   Yes a very good deal!  

Each week I am trying to increase my network and be able to barter more.   
It is an exciting time as I am working towards the new chickens coming and baby miniature goats!   And having raised garden beds ready to plant in spring! 

How did you build up your home, pantry or garden this week?   Keep your eyes open for opportunities!    Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Thursday 21 May 2020

Feather your Nest Friday, 22nd May, 2020.

It has been another good week!  I made progress on some of my projects and we had rain which is wonderful.

Some of the ways we got ahead and built up our home included:

I made progress on the cubby house (play house) I am making from the big box.  I hope next week I might be up to a stage I can show you!  But not yet!

The smaller box is now set up and in position as my first raised garden bed.   I painted it with a weather proof paint and sealer.  We lined it with  thick plastic that was in the hay shed to hopefully stop the walls from rotting over time.  There are big drainage holes in the bottom.

This thing was heavy!  

Once in position (down in the orchard near the tap) I began to fill it each day adding something.  It is surprisingly huge to fill!   I began with logs and branches and since have added shredded paper, hay and sheep manure. I am about half way on that.   The goal is be ready to plant in Spring.  Our soil here is quite sandy.  So this will give me rich soil to plant in. 

I let everyone know I am collecting shredded paper and received four more bags full!  Some went in to the chicken house and I am finding a thick layer of this in the nesting boxes is meaning clean eggs plus the eggs sink down and semi disappear.  This would be very good for anyone who gets any broken eggs or has chooks that eat them if they get a chance as you can hardly see they are there.

The other bags of shredded paper are in the shed ready for my next raised garden beds.  This is a case of having a resource I didn't know I had.  Now I have realised I am putting it all to good use!  If you have access to shredded paper you can make wonderful compost with it! 

So.... this week we went off on a bit of an adventure to see if the wood was still in the old shed and if so the plan was to bring what we could home for garden beds we are making out the front.

I packed a little picnic and off we went.   And the timber was still there!!!   It is old and heavy and some of the planks are about one foot wide.  Perfect!  

This might look like junk to some but not to me! 

We cut the wood to a size that we could fit on the trailer and lift!  Boy some of this was heavy!  So the length we cut was 3 m.   And this decided the length of the garden beds!

Of course I snooped around heaps and there is so much more wood,  there are old windows with wooden frames and there is an old bath tub.  Also there are patches of stinging nettles...

This is another resource I once would have over looked.  I have one bagful to use to dye some wool.  Nan did this and it makes a very beautiful soft green dye.   Another bagful I am making liquid garden fertiliser.  But I have more... if you use stinging nettles will you tell me what you do with it?

In the evening after all of this I started to think about the other wood, the windows and the bath tub and what we could make from all of this!!   The things I need most are a new chicken house (for the 12 new chickens that are coming) and little goat shelters (for the two miniature goats I ordered entirely by accident  😊) and nesting boxes.   I spent the night on Pinterest and found so many ideas. So it looks like we will build a chicken house with a big window on one side... nesting boxes, a goat play ground, goat shelters and nesting boxes.... and possibly a greenhouse from old windows!  
Just collecting all these materials will take us a while but our next trip to do so will be Sunday or Monday.  Andy is being shown a lot of helpful and inspiring pictures! 

During the week I made a use -everything- up Quiche.

I made Fig and Almond jam from the figs I picked last week...

I made yoghurt and used some of this to coat chicken pieces then crumb them.  For some reason this turns out to be so delicious.   You can do them on a baking tray, I do them in the air frier.

I had lots of little bird pictures.  In the cheap shop I found tiny little cards and envelopes.  Perfect!  I have been making them up then packaging them into little packs of five to use as gifts.

Now for some animal pictures.   Most days I go to check on everyone and usually I take biscuits.  So as soon as they see me coming they come running.  Laffie is a size now that having her jumping and galloping  towards you could scare the pants off someone. haha!  Maybe she can be installed as an additional security measure?   

I cannot imagine life without animals.   Every day Scout takes toys to Eddie.  Every day Eddie doesn't play with them.   But they horse around endlessly and I managed to capture a moment of this...

This is Scout going "I have a toy and you can't get it!" and Eddie, master of the leaping head butt, in action.  This does on all day...

In the background is day one of my painting...  the beginnings of trees.

So that is my week more or less.   Of course I do all the usual stuff we all do... clean and wash and housework and meals that is all a part of daily life.  Sometimes that is all I do in a day.   Sometimes I don't even get to the end of that and meal on the table is good enough!   But overall I am working and "making hay while the sun shines" on ways to get ahead, become more self sufficient in any way that we can.     
With the situation in the world and with the virus we (especially here in South Australia) have a lull and even pretty well stocked supermarket shelves.  There are even some things like antibacterial hand wipes, masks, antic bacterial sprays etc available now.  
Many are thinking "thank goodness that is over" and becoming very casual about it all.  Many are not being careful and I see people shopping in groups as an outing and general unnecessary stuff.   While I hope they are right it is all over,  I don't think they are. 

I think we are all battle weary and our brains are fried from the media and also trying to discern what is true and what is not.   Also when there are inconsistencies that do not make  sense you start to wonder... for instance being able to crowd in public transport shoulder to shoulder but not be allowed to go to Church.  I always think that when things don't make any sense they are either not true or there is information missing. 
When the big mobs are telling you complete rubbish it means you have to use your own common sense and you need to be very watchful.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard "there is no evidence of community transmission"  (remember that? When even we knew and could read this was not true!)  I could build a chook house better than the Taj Mahal. 
My point is when we are tired and over it this is a dangerous time.  We need to try and focus and be more watchful than ever.    I pray that God will lead me to be doing the things we need to be doing. And there is so much we can do!   Maybe you are like me and have resources you didn't even realise were resources!

Just now I have apples simmering and cakes to make.  It is a day of genre rain and mist and the fire is going.  

How did you build up your home, pantry or garden this week?   What do you feel to do at this time?  Do you have projects and goals on the go?    

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Friday 15 May 2020

Feather your Nest Friday, 15th May, 2020.

I am happy to say it was another good week!  We had rain and today is sunny and beautiful.  So everything will be growing!

This week Harper turned 5.  It was just a beautiful family day.  I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.  It was a such a special day and so was her birthday yesterday.

This week I was able to pick another bucket of figs.  I also used up apples and make puree which I shared and froze.   I made a kind of cheats Samosa by using puff pastry and the sandwich maker to cook them. They turned out well!   Completely non authentic but tasty and fast.

On Sunday Mum came over for afternoon tea for Mothers Day.   For some reason my scones (gluten free) turned out to be the best ones ever.  For anyone interested I never could make scones.  They were terrible.   My Nan stood over me and watched (as she made great ones) and they still didn't work.  She couldn't believe it!  After about 40 years of this I decided the conventional scone making advice wasn't working and to do something else.   So.... I ignored advice to handle them gently and made them in the mix master.   I added a bit extra baking powder.  I added an egg as eggs encourage rising, right?  I cut them thickly and I melted the butter.  So I did EVERYTHING wrong.  And ta dah!   There were amazing.    
 I use gluten free SR Flour.  However you can use regular flour just the same.     It is 4 cups flour,  a big bit of melted butter... (say 100gs or a couple of big spoonfuls) 2 cups milk, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, one egg.    Mix in the mixer until it is a lovely smooth dough.  Adjust if it is too sticky.  You want a really moist dough that you can handle.  I dip my cutter into flour and cut each one thickly.    Add cheese or pumpkin if you want savoury.  Add sultanas or dates if you want fancier sweet ones. 

Anyway these were the nicest ones ever!  Mum loved them and I sent her home with some. 

Chloe gave me beautiful Mothers Day flowers...

I put a gift together for my Uncle who isn't well.  I was able to include some of my homemade little soaps to take around with him and used a little tin for them.

We are taking measures to improve our security.  I had a series of prompts to do this. Several people I really trust and respect told me how much they were increasing their own security.  Then we heard of a local burglary on a farm.  Next we heard of trailer loads of animals being stolen over the border.  Since then someone said to me that they have had intruders on their land and to please take every precaution.  This will all enough for me to get the message.  We made a list of things to do.   One small step was to revamp a sign in our driveway is meant to get cars to slow down.   But the writing was faded and unclear.   I revived it and added a Beware of the Dog sign.

All week we have added some conventional and some sneaky security measures.  

I made up trays of Enchiladas.  They freeze really well so I added a tray to the freezer for "baby week."  

There was some progress on the cubby house.  Finally it is in position thanks to my son in laws help.
We had no way of unloading it as it was so heavy.  It was even heavier as inside the big box was another box!  

The box inside is pretty big but low and squat.  I had been thinking dog kennel, goat house... until I saw it.  Then I realised it is a perfect raised garden bed!!  

By the evening I had painted the cubby house box with an undercoat of a weather sealant.  So it is painted white now.   The raised garden bed is next.   I am lining that with thick plastic also to keep the wood from rotting.    I started to study up and things to fill a raised garden bed since I am hoping to have a series if them.   Also I was reading up on compost and material for chicken bedding.    For some reason I have always thought shredded paper would be messy and was not really suitable.   But I was wrong!  And this is the best thing ever as I have access to ridiculous amounts of shredded paper. 
So now I have several bags of this ready for my garden beds and several bags are already in the texting boxes for the chickens.   The eggs are perfectly clean everyday.  When this breaks down it will be compost I can also add to my garden beds.  I had a resource I wasn't even using. 
Today I worked a little on the cubby house.   It now has trees.  Leaves are next.   It is going to be covered in trees and the animals we have here on the farm.   Andy is adding a tin roof and cutting out the door and windows.  

On the way home from Lucy's we go through some pine forests.  I saw a new huge Wedge Tailed Eagle nest.  It is hard to guess the size but it must be five feet wide.  And several feet deep...

I love these nests!!  The chickens look like white fluffy chickens (Silky Bantams) not that I saw them on this occasion but I have been lucky enough to in the past. 
Our stores have returned to almost normal.  Not quite...  but much better.  A good deal is harder to come by.  I am noticing a big demand in everything to do with self sufficiency from seeds to caning lids.  And from chickens to guinea pigs!  Yes Guinea Pigs... suddenly everyone wants them.  I put this down to quite a few You Tube gardeners and articles suggest that for manure for your garden small animals like chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs are great to keep.   Many people can keep small animals whereas large livestock might be out of the question. 

 I was so happy I already had my gardens set up and my chickens established when lock downs and shortages began.  But I decided if I had a chance to get more chickens I would.  I put my name down on two waiting lists.   This week I got a call!   These are x battery hen chickens....  $6 each.  I have had these before.  They arrive sad and sorry.  But they respond to love and care and lay for a good couple of years at least.  The going rate for chickens is $20 to $25 each here and this is for ordinary laying hens and not fancy breeds which can be much more.  So I ordered 12.  Chicken maths is a known formula for anything to do with hens.  A few plus a couple extra and a back up = 12.   Anyway I am so exited and I have about a month to wait.

So overall I am very happy.  We had two special occasions,  I found a resource I didn't know I had and set it to good use.  The cubby house is underway.  The first raised garden bed is nearly ready to set up.  I have seedlings coming along in the garden and seeds sprouting.  I am mulching all the garden beds day by day until they are all done.  I even nearly used up all the apples! And we had rain! 

I hope you had a good week.  Did you find ways to add to your pantry or garden?  There are lots of little ways to get ahead.  They really do all add up.  Sometimes we see things in a fresh new way and see possibilities we didn't see before.  As we learn more we can put new things into action.  This is what is going to help now as many of us face new challenges.  Added helpfulness and kindness is needed too.  We can actually help each other so much!   Tell me about your week and what you are doing to build up your home and family?

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Thursday 7 May 2020

Feather your Nest Friday, 8th May, 2020.

It was a good week!  We started off with a big weekend.  I hired a plumber to work on the cottage and he asked if his mate could come, so I said yes.  Then he messaged later and asked if another mate could come and I said yes!  So I had three helpers and so much was done that soon the inside will be finished and I can put in furniture and decor.   It was so exciting to have this working bee.  
My policy is to always, always feed the workers.  I put out a big morning tea and then lunch was sausage rolls.  It was a cold day so a hot lunch was good.

I wrapped them up like I would scones to keep them warm.  They were a hit! 

In the evening I went on until I made four dozen.   This helped to build up my freezer and I gave some to both the girls.  

I had two sheets of puff pastry over.  As usual I had apples so I made an apple pie.

Luckily anything that goes wrong with a pie can just be called rustic and delicious! 

Back to the weekend... with the helpers around I grabbed this chance to get all the stinky old carpet hauled onto a big bonfire.  It was disgusting!    (Not exaggerating it was mouldy, full of dead flies and bees and who know what else..)

It was so satisfying to see the end of this!! 

I love a good fire.  I had an old cardboard box in the chook house and various things so I ran around and threw these all on too.  Instant clean up!

During the week Mum and I went to see the girls with a food delivery.  I made cup cakes...

Tuna mornay (I made two so we had one also.)

Apple puree and some of the sausage rolls went too.

I planted into the garden Rainbow Chard and Broccoli that I grew from seeds (quite proud lol)  and then Spinach.   They are all little but look sprightly and good.  We have had showers of rain at just the right time too.

I bartered a tray of Gingerbread and I made them into deer (ok Mooose) ...

We had rain and it looks like there is more coming over the weekend.  This will be wonderful.  When it is like this I get more cooking and sewing etc done.  

For almost five years now I have talked about building up our pantries, to take every opportunity to get ahead, build an emergency fund, meals in the freezer and so on.   Now I am going to add more.   Now I feel the same way about adding food to the garden,  skills to preserve food and the equipment to do it,  items you can produce to sell, barter, gift.  We cannot really be self sufficient in all things but we need to be self sufficient in some things.   I am trying to increase the number of things we can produce ourselves and do ourselves.  

I have a few things in mind.  Ok, I have a lot of projects!   I have things going on wherever you look! 
The pumpkin patch is getting built up with layers and layers of hay and manure and anything I can think of.   I am working to build up a second area that was my extra pumpkin patch but it needs a lot more better soil.  I want to build some raised garden beds.   The materials were my hold up...  but now I have found timber (in an old shed) that is thick and heavy!   It is too heavy to shift so we will have to cut it up on site and then load it onto the trailer.  But it is perfect.    Then I thought of all the paper shredders in the family and have secured bags and bags of shredded paper.  I have hay and I have sheep manure.   
Seriously,  keep your eyes out for ways and means.  God is good and if you are willing to do the work pray for what you need!  
So on that I will finish and go collect the eggs and feed the chickens.  

How was your week?  How did you keep things going in these times of lockdowns,  rationing,  shortages and stress?   Did you find ways to add to your pantry or garden?   

Have a good weekend! xxx