We Are Home Schooling

I’m writing this not to justify our decision to home school, nor to convince anyone of our ideals.  Home schooling is not for everyone … but it is for us.  I wrote this to provide information for those who are interested in knowing more about how and why we are following this path.

My experience with schools is that they cater for logistics more than students.  Timetabling, segmented subject disciplines, start and finish times, behaviour management systems (rewards, punishment, threats and bribes), and attempts to make learning happen when it suits the timetable and the teacher all work well for teachers and administrators, but not necessarily for children. That is not to say that teachers and schools don’t care.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  Generally, teachers are overworked, over-committed and passionate about kids and learning.

I should know; I am a teacher.  I have worked at many levels – classroom teacher, specialist teacher, regional advisor, bureaucratic project officer and manager, and university lecturer and tutor supporting pre-service educators.  As a liaison between university and schools hosting prac/intern students, I have visited countless classrooms over the years, as well as teaching in my own classroom. Unfortunately, in over 17 years as a registered teacher, I am more frustrated than ever that despite everything we know about learning, neuroscience and child development, schools and curriculum are becoming more standardised and point-in-time test performance is held up as the most valuable and celebrated evidence of learning.  Play has gone out the window in many mainstream schools and a quiet classroom with children working individually on a worksheet at their own desk is highly regarded.

As parents, my husband and I want our children to:

  • Be independent and capable thinkers, tinkerers and risk-takers.
  • Be autonomous learners capable of authentic inquiry and discernment.
  • Not be afraid or ashamed of failing, but to recognise failure as a necessary step in moving forward.
  • Be filled with wonder and to know the joy of curiosity fulfilled.
  • Be confident with people of all ages, to learn with and from those who are older and younger and to participate and contribute to social situations with a huge diversity of people.
  • Experience and understand the potential an individual can have to activate change.
  • Be meaningful contributors to community who respect people and all living things.
  • Be skilled communicators, able to articulate their point of view with eloquence.
  • Embrace differences in others.
  • Speak and write because they have something to say, not because they are being graded on it.
  • Progress at their own rate, to not be left lagging behind or waiting in front.
  • Ask new questions and solve new problems where solutions are not yet known and where there is no one correct answer.
  • Have opportunities to explore, express and develop their creativity.

We believe that a home schooling environment with the world as our classroom is how and where our children will best develop these attributes.  Our plan for home schooling is to foster our children’s natural interests and personal learning styles, incorporating core subjects into real life contexts as appropriate. Some people call this natural learning, as it does not involve following a prescribed curriculum.  As parents, we are also co-learners and learning facilitators, modelling how we investigate our own curiosities to develop meaningful understanding.

We live and learn much of the time at our home and 13-acre organic farm. We have a large inside children’s play area and office set up, where the children have free access to a huge range of toys, blocks, puzzles, games, stationery and craft supplies which are used daily. We are a family who loves reading; our children have been surrounded by books and multi-modal texts since before they were born, which likely contributed to Boy Wonder being an early and confident reader. We have a range of Internet-enabled devices which are used for learning ‘just in time’ – when we want to know something, we choose an appropriate way to find out, be that a book, reference magazine, YouTube, search engine or a phone call or email to someone who does know.

Both our children have a great interest in the natural world and we have always encouraged and embraced that. Our farm provides limitless opportunities to learn about and explore rocks, plants, animals, weather patterns, soil, and natural cycles (water, food, life). We are beekeepers and our children enjoy observing bees, helping extract honey and weighing and bottling it after harvesting. Growing much of our own food affords an avenue for our children to understand and appreciate the relationship between inputs and outputs, and to respect natural phenomena such as rain, the moon and the sun. Caring for pets and animals is all part of life on our farm, and provides an opportunity to understand more about the living world. We adopt permaculture principles in our practices, which enables us to have a deepening understanding of the relationship between people and the earth and the impact our every day actions can have at a local and global level.

We are grateful to have the luxury of home schooling as an option, although it does not come without sacrifice.  In fact, we see this as the greatest privilege of our lives.  We don’t see ourselves as commencing home schooling at the beginning of 2016, when our first-born becomes ‘school age’,  as we have been home schooling since the day he was born. We were our children’s first teachers and we continue to love, inspire, guide, support, encourage and challenge our children as they explore, learn and discover themselves and the world around them. As mentioned earlier, the world is our classroom and we are learners every minute of every day.  We have opted out of a system in favour of an alternative that is viable and that fits with our ideals and lifestyle.

Although well-meaning, there are things that you don’t need to worry about on our behalf: socialisation, university entrance, socialisation, university entrance, socialisation.  A special request to please not trust or continue to circulate outdated and false mythical norms about these matters.  I don’t believe that socialisation is thirty children of the same age working through the same material at the same time, raising their hand when they wish to speak and all simultaneously being required to be hungry and need the toilet when a bell rings. Our children are highly social and our lifestyle affords them opportunities to regularly be with other children and adults in a range of contexts. Also, there are multiple entry pathways to tertiary education and scores of home schooled children choose to take these, in many cases much earlier than those who attend school.

As passionate life-long learners ourselves, my husband and I believe that the opportunities and experiences we provide our children are respectful of them as people and learners, honouring their individual needs, interests and personalities while reflecting our own values and ethics. These opportunities mean that their daily lives are purposeful, interesting and fun.

For anyone interested in knowing more about home schooling, some of the following thought-leaders have ideas which resonate strongly with us – Sugata Mitra, John Holt, Alfie Kohn, John Taylor Gatto and Sir Ken Robinson.

 

 

 

Posted in Children, Homeschooling and Natural Learning, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Hints for Easy Peasy Water Kefir

IMG_2114Water kefir is an easy to brew carbonated drink you can make at home. It is rich in probiotics and minerals and good for your immune system and gut. This post isn’t about the wondrous health benefits of water kefir – the Internet is full enough of that already. I have learned many things in my time brewing water kefir, including a simple way to brew it, and I share these below. Informed Papa and I both drink about a litre of water kefir a day each.  Our children (ages 3 and 4) both also consume about a cup or two each day, and have for the past 15 months or so.

What you need
Water kefir grains (tibicos) – ask around with friends or look on Gumtree. Water kefir grains are a symbiotic mass of microflora and are fairly easy to come by.
Pure/filtered water (no chlorine). Mineral water works beautifully, however can be costly. See note below regarding coconut water.
Cane sugar – I alternate between organic rapadura and organic raw sugar.
Glass airlock jar such as a Fido jar for brewing in, plus jars/bottles for storage.

Important ratio – 1 TB sugar: 1 TB water kefir grains: 1 cup water. You can scale this up to make a batch as big as you like, for example, I use 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water kefir grains, 4L water each batch.

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Brewing water kefir with rapadura in a Fido jar. The grains bob around, some float and some sink, and some like to dance up and down!

How to make
1. Put your grains in a large empty glass Fido jar.
2. Add the same amount of sugar as grains. Just pour or sprinkle the sugar on top of the grains.
3. Fill the jar with water at the appropriate ratio (1 cup water per each TB of grains), allowing some headspace for the gases .
4. Close the lid and swirl the jar or tip upside down gently a few times to help dissolve the sugar. When I first started making water kefir I would dissolve a small amount of the sugar in boiling water, then I would cool that before mixing through. For over a year now I have skipped that step and just add the sugar straight in, making sure I give it a swirl.
5. Set jar aside, out of direct sunlight.  This is called the first ferment. You can burp it a couple of times a day if you remember, especially if you find the liquid to be quite fizzy.
6. After 3 days remove 3/4 of the liquid and strain through a cloth (I use a funnel with an in-built strainer instead of a cloth) into new glass containers/jars/bottles.
7. Check the level of grains. It is not unusual for them to double each batch, however you will observe over time they though go through periods of high growth and activity and periods of low growth and activity, often for no apparent reason. Excess grains can be removed and refrigerated in a small amount of sugar water in a glass jar with a lid.
8. To the newly bottled and strained liquid, add fruit, such as 5 sultanas, pulp from a passionfruit, a slice of fresh lemon and fresh ginger, 6-8 frozen blueberries, a small amount of fresh apple juice, some strawberries etc. You will soon learn which fruits you prefer, or you can even leave it plain if you would rather not add flavour.  Ensure there is headroom at the top of the bottles to allow for carbonation – if there is too much liquid and not enough air space you can experience an explosion. If you think there is too much pressure building up you can burp the containers.
9. Put the lid on the bottles and sit on the bench for another 1-2 days. This is called the second ferment. You can drink the second ferment after 2 days or put it in the fridge until you are ready to drink it. The cold will slow down the fermentation.
10. Add fresh sugar and water to the grains and repeat the process. As your grains multiply you can increase the amount of sugar water you use so that you are getting more water kefir to drink.

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2nd ferment water kefir with passionfruit

When you first start brewing water kefir, I recommend tasting a small amount each day so you can see how it is fermenting. It will become less sweet each day and after 3 days or so (see notes below) will be like a mild apple cider vinegar. I also recommend tasting the sugar water when you have freshly made it so you have an idea when comparing sweetness. The best way to know that your grains are working is to observe the change in sweetness over time.

Some pointers
– Less processed sugar works well, such as rapadura. If you are using white sugar you will need to add some molasses also as the grains require and thrive on minerals. I do not recommend using coconut sugar. I mistakenly used coconut sugar once and my grains deteriorated to the point of looking like sand. I have also read testimonies of coconut sugar causing the liquid to go slimy and stringy, although this did not happen for me.

– The finished product can be as sweet or as fermented as you choose. You decide at which point you strain the first ferment and at which point you drink the second ferment. If you are working to reduce sugar in your diet, you will want a highly fermented finished product. If that is unpalatable to you, start sweeter and slowly ferment for longer until your taste adjusts.  As the drink ferments, the grains feed off the sugar and convert it to kefir, making lots of amazing strains of good bacteria. The less sweet the finished product is, the healthier it is for you, as it contains higher probiotics and less sugar.

– Some people use a cloth and rubber band, not a lid, to cover the first ferment. Water kefir does not need that much oxygen and I have found I get better carbonation when I use a lid.

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Grolsch bottles are good for carbonation

– If you prefer a super fizzy kefir, use Grolsch style bottles (see pic) for the second ferment. You can buy these at home brew shops. I steer clear of similar ones from bargain shops, as the glass may contain lead and may not be strong enough to withstand the build-up of gases, leading to an explosion of shattered glass. It is a good idea to burp Grolsch bottles daily by gently releasing the lid and then re-sealing.  If you’re not as concerned about carbonation, any glass bottle will work well.

– Excess grains can be eaten, added to smoothies, fed to chickens, given away or put in the fridge in fresh sugar water to rest. If your body is not used to lots of probiotics it may take a little while for your gut to adjust to water kefir, and in this case I recommend not eating the grains until you feel your body can handle it.

– If you would like to use coconut water for making kefir, complete the process as usual but omit the sugar and use coconut water instead of filtered water. It is important that you do not make more than one batch with coconut water without a regular water batch in between. That is, alternate one batch coconut water followed by one batch regular sugar and water, and repeat.

– In warmer weather fermentation will happen quicker, so adjust accordingly. I typically brew my first ferment for 4 days in winter and 36 hours in summer.

– Water kefir grains are delicate and sensitive in some ways, but also hardy and good survivors in other ways. They are pretty hard to completely kill, but do thrive on being cared for well.

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Store excess grains in sugar water in the refrigerator

– If your grains seem a little slow or sluggish, add a pinch of high-mineral salt to the first ferment, such as Himalayan salt.

– Water kefir grains are entirely different to dairy/milk kefir grains and they two cannot be used inter-changeably.

– If you use Facebook, check out the group called I Love Water Kefir for support and ideas.

Soon I will write a post about another fermented health drink that I brew – Jun tea, which is similar to Kombucha, but a different scoby which feeds off green tea and raw honey.

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My three favourite uses for a dehydrator

Beetroot and zucchini dehydrated

Beetroot and zucchini make delicious dehydrated snacks.

A dehydrator is one of those kitchen appliances that some people use once or twice after purchasing, and then it sits tucked away in a cupboard forevermore.  Not in my house!  My dehydrator has proven itself indispensable in the preparation of foods and especially snacks.

A few years ago I was considering purchasing an Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator. My mum found out and gave me her 15-year old Fowlers Vacola round dehydrator – and then bought herself a new Excalibur! Sometimes when my parents travel away for extended periods, I am lucky enough to babysit the Excalibur, but most of the time the old Vacola works perfectly. I decided I would use it until it died, as I could not justify outlaying money for a new machine when I had one that still worked well.  It is still chugging along and not looking like it will give way soon.  When it does, I have a new option in sight – a Sedona. If you are in the market for a new dehydrator, take a look at the Sedona.  I’d also suggest checking out second-hand varieties, as I often see them around on Gumtree and sometimes Freecycle.

In this post I thought I would share my three favourite uses for a dehydrator.  There are many more ways to use a dehydrator, and I have a few Pinterest boards that I like to add to with interesting dehydrator recipes and ideas.  If you are trying to incorporate more raw foods into your lifestyle, a dehydrator may come in handy.  Some people believe that heating food above 42C destroys beneficial enzymes, so slowly dehydrating is one way to preserve more goodness.

1.  Dried Fruit

When fruit is in full season and the harvest is bountiful, one of the best ways to preserve it is to whack it in the dehydrator and make your own dried fruit.  Popular options in our house include kiwifruit, apples, pears, and strawberries.

dehydrated fruit

Top: fruit before dehydrating. Bottom: fruit after dehydrating.

The amount of time various fruits take to dehydrate depends on the type of dehydrator used, how thin the fruit is sliced, and how crisp/chewy you prefer your finished product. For super crispy fruit, like strawberry chips, the key is slicing the fruit very thinly and dehydrating long enough to get a crunchy result.

I have found the quickest and easiest way to prepare apples and pears for dehydrating is to use a slinky-maker. This sure beats slicing the fruit by hand, and it gets a fairly consistent result with the thickness, meaning when it dehydrates evenly.

appleslinky

Apple slinky maker. These are the trays from the Excalibur dehydrator.

Dehydrating fruits removes the liquid content, leaving a highly concentrated sugar content. This can make them easy to overeat, resulting in digestive issues for some people.  If this is you, you can rehydrate the fruit in a bowl of water for an hour or two before eating. This bulks the fruit back up, meaning you are less likely to overeat as you will become full more quickly.

 

2. Kale chips.

kale chips

Kale chips appear on the menu most weeks around here

I know, I know… kale chips is one of those hipster foods that has come into vogue in the past few years… but there’s a good reason for that. Besides all the nutritional benefits of kale, these suckers are delicious! They beat regular potato crisps hands-down in all areas – taste, texture and nutrition.  You’re not likely to feel ill and full of regret after eating handfuls of kale chips, like you might if you had downed a packet of potato crisps.

There are countless kale chip recipes around and it’s fun to try them out.  Most of the time I keep it super simple – I rip kale leaves into pieces and put them in a bowl, drizzle with macadamia oil, massage some nutritional yeast in, and sprinkle with Celtic sea salt.  I then whack it in the dehydrator for 4-6 hours. Sometimes I substitute paprika or curry powder for nutritional yeast.

All types of kale and dark leafy greens work well for chips - this is black kale, sometimes called Cavallo Nero or Tuscan.

All types of kale and dark leafy greens work well for chips – this is black kale, sometimes called Cavallo Nero or Tuscan.

Both my children have at times sat beside a dehydrator full of kale chips, shoving their mouths full before the chips are even ready.  I’m not complaining about that! I also usually put these out as party food for birthday celebrations, and there’s never leftovers from that.

 

3.  Activating nuts

My third favourite use for my dehydrator is to activate seeds, nuts and grains.  I learned much of what I know about the need to activate nuts from one of my most treasured cook books, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  Sally Fallon advises that many raw seeds, nuts and whole grains contain high levels of phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zine in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption.  Many seeds, nuts and grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion.  Soaking or fermenting these items before eating them assists to lesson or neutralise phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigests them so that their nutrients are more available.

soaking nuts

Soaking raw nuts before dehydrating or ‘activating’ them.

I buy my nuts in bulk, so every few months when a new order arrives I spend a few days preparing them to eat.  I soak (sometimes overnight) and then dehydrate them, before storing in glass jars. Besides reducing the phytic acid, I love that the texture of the nuts changes after they have been activated (soaked and dehydrated).  Activated pecans are especially delicious – super crisp and tasty.

While my dehydrator is mostly at use with fruit, kale chips, and nuts, I also use it for other purposes, like making flax crackers (not often due to the phytoestrogens in flax) , raw onion bread, fruit leather, buckwheat buckinis, sprouted flour and for drying things like tomatoes and herbs. I have had beef jerky on my mental to-do list for a few years now, and am sure my trusty dehydrator will come in handy for that. If you’re looking at tools to help you make healthier than store-bought processed snacks, borrow someone’s dehydrator for a week and see if you can’t live without one after that!

homemade buckinis

Dehydrating pre-soaked buckwheat with maple syrup

dehydrated apple chips and tomato chips

Dehydrated snacks – apple rings and tomato chips

Dehydrated flax crackers

Dehydrated flax crackers

Posted in Homemade, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Story stones: how to make and use

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Story stones

I was tidying the desk in the study this morning when I found a small toy catalogue that had slipped beneath the printer.  I looked at the pictures and thought they would be great for making story stones, a project that has been at the back of my mind for many months. Being my spontaneous self, I set to task. I cut out pictures from the catalogue and took my children hunting in the back yard for suitable stones. I still haven’t got back to finish tidying my desk.

There are lots of fancy ways to make story stones. You can paint or draw on rocks or use stickers or photographs – children are naturally egotistical and will adore having story stones featuring themselves and their loved ones. You can create themed sets (fairy tales, in the forest, outer space) or just a general set like we chose to do. You can paint the rocks first or leave them natural. You can use felt-tip pens, paint or liquid paper. There are no rules!

To make story stones similar to ours, you need some smooth stones, pictures/stickers and craft glue that dries clear. I also made some textured stones with dirt, ‘grass’ (from a fake Christmas garland), rice and sugar.  I wanted to use sand but didn’t have any in the back yard, so I thought raw sugar would work nicely instead. I don’t recommend it; when we set the stones outside to dry, the sugared ones were almost carried away by ants.

We sourced all our stones from our backyard. Some were in pot plants and some were part of our rock path.  If you happen to be near a river or a stream, don’t pass the opportunity to gather some large smooth stones for this purpose.  We gave the stones a little wash (which involved Sunshine Girl sitting fully-dressed inside her water table in the backyard) and then when the stones (and the children) were dry the kiddies glued the pictures that I cut out onto them.  This was a sticky mess and some of the rocks looked completely white because there was so much glue on them. It didn’t matter! Once the glue dried it provided a nice seal for the pictures.

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Sunshine Girl (age 2) making story stones

We are giving some of these away as part of a Christmas gift and keeping some as our own set.  I have brainstormed below ways to use them so that I can include a list with our gift set. Please if you have any other ideas share them in the comments.

FORCED RELATIONSHIPS: RANDOM. Child chooses three stones at random by putting their hand into the bag of stones and pulling three out.  The stones are then used as a ‘forced relationship’ which promotes creative thinking. The child tells a story incorporating the three different characters, places, objects or textures. This is fairly advanced for young children and may require modeling by an adult the first few times.

FORCED RELATIONSHIPS: CHOSEN. As above, but instead of randomly selected stones, the child thoughtfully selects three stones that they would like to use.

STORY CIRCLE for three or more people.  Sitting in a circle, each person selects two stones, either randomly or by choice.  One person starts the story using one of their stones as a prompt.  They place their stone down in the middle of the circle. The next person continues the story, incorporating one of the stones they have chosen. They place their stone next to the first one in a line. This continues and the circle repeats so that each person has a second turn and an opportunity to use their second stone as a prompt to weave into the story. When the last person has their last stone, they bring the story to a close.

SHARED STORYTELLING. Turn all the stones face-down so that no pictures can be seen. The adult begins to tell a story and at various points in the story, invites the child/ren to turn over another stone revealing a new character/object/item which will be weaved into the story.

PUPPET SHOW. Child/ren use the stones to put on a puppet show, either impromptu or rehearsed.

CLASSIFYING. Child/ren can sort the stones into various categories or types, such as small, big, light, dark, animal, person etc.

FREE PLAY.  Child/ren use the stones however they choose to. They may use other toys as props or hold conversations between different characters on the stones.  Time to play and explore freely and without structure is an important part of early childhood. I find it is best not to interfere during this time.

Posted in Children, Homemade, Parenting, Radical Homemaking | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Informed Papa was given a couple of bottles of alcohol as corporate gifts for Christmas last year. We aren’t big drinkers so I repurposed the grog into something more useful for us. I made vanilla extract.

Vanilla beans + alcohol + time = homemade vanilla extract

Vanilla beans + alcohol + time = homemade vanilla extract

Here is how to do it.  Get some vanilla beans and slice them each in half lengthwise.  I managed to get my hands on some organic vanilla beans for about 60c each through a co-op I am fortunate to be part of, but you can also get them at supermarkets and health food stores. After slicing, slide the beans into the bottles of alcohol. You may need to empty a bit of the alcohol first so it doesn’t overflow when the beans are added. I used a malt scotch whiskey and a white rum.  As far I have read and know, you can use just about any liquor – the final product will take on some of the flavour of the base alcohol, so you may prefer to use something mild like vodka. I used what I had on hand so I didn’t need to outlay any extra money.

You can use most types of liquor. Clear alcohol is nice because you can see a distinct difference between start and finish.

You can use most types of liquor. Clear alcohol like white rum or vodka are good because you can see a distinct difference between start and finish.

After adding the beans (about 20 per bottle – but it doesn’t matter too much, there is no exact science), add the lid/stopper and give it a good shake. Continue to shake it whenever you think to over the following weeks. The vanilla will continue to infuse the alcohol. By about three months your vanilla extract will be ready to use. You can see in the final picture how dark the alcohol becomes after a few months. There’s no real reason to remove the beans after three months. I leave mine in to continue infusing, resulting in a more concentrated extract.

You can see how dark the clear alcohol (Bacardi bottle) becomes after three months as it is infused with the vanilla

You can see how dark the clear alcohol (Bacardi) becomes after a few months of infusion

Homemade vanilla extract makes a lovely gift. I have already given some away as part of a basket of homemade goodies. I found a small swing-top bottle and tipped some extract into it, along with one vanilla bean from the original bottle.

Mini gift bottle of vanilla extract.

Mini gift bottle of vanilla extract.

If you’re wondering the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence, the first is made with real vanilla beans while the latter is fake synthetic ingredients made to taste like vanilla. The extract doesn’t just taste better, it’s better for you!

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Inside my fridge

Earlier this week Natural New Age Mum asked if I would share a photograph of inside my fridge and write a blog post to go along with it as part of a blog hop – see the links below to snoop inside other bloggers’ refrigerators.

After saying yes, I went to my fridge to check some used-by dates only to discover (shock horror!) jars of olives and sun-dried tomatoes that had been there a little longer than the ‘two weeks after opening’ recommendation.  I emptied the contents and washed the jars and immediately upcycled them into a decoupaged and jeweled hanging candle holders (not really, they’re still sitting next to the sink waiting to be washed, but indulge me for a moment).

The second thing I did was scrape away a blob of unidentified syrup-looking gloop that could outdo superglue for adhesiveness and  had found its way onto the second shelf.  I am sure your fridge has nothing like this in it! While I was there I grabbed a cloth and wiped down all the shelves and trays so that I could pretend my fridge is always sparkling clean.

The third thing I did was turn my house upside down trying to find a decent camera.   I found three digital cameras and a box for a fourth, but could not find a ‘complete set’ consisting of camera, battery, memory stick and cable.  This may have something to do with the tiny army who occupy our house who like to open drawers … and a mother (who me?) who should take better care of important property.  So, I had to use my iPhone to take the pics of my fridge.

cameras

You thought I was kidding.

Now for the fun part. I’ll share a few photographs and explain what is in them.  I make most of my family’s food from scratch and I follow many traditional food preparation and preservation methods. My father refers to my kitchen as demon-possessed because there are always a hundred jars and utensils and pots and appliances, and no matter how many loads of dishes you wash, there is always more. These are the realities of a real-food kitchen and I’ll take it any day.

Here’s the distance shot –

Informed Mama's Fridge

And now here are some close-ups of the different shelves.

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Top shelf

Top shelf: At this time of year I try to keep a ready-to-go salad made in the fridge that I can nibble on or add to a meal at any time. This one has red cabbage and leeks and baby spinach.

I also like to have a salad dressing available. This one has macadamia oil, freshly-pressed orange juice, apple cider vinegar, fresh ginger and probably some other ingredients that I can’t recall.

There are always sprouts and micro-greens in our house, either soaking, sprouting, growing or in the fridge and ready to consume.  My two-year old loves these ones – lentil sprouts.

Raw milk yoghurt. I make this from raw (unpastuerised and unhomogenised) organic milk. I make a batch every 1-2 weeks.

Second shelf

Second shelf

Second shelf: There is a lettuce, half an avocado and some leeks on the left.  On the right is a heap of dehydrated fruit that I have made, including bananas, apples and mulberries.  If I dehydrate them to a crisp then I store them in the pantry, but in warmer weather and when they are still a bit squishy I keep them in the fridge.

I make these little probiotic jellies for my children using water kefir, fresh orange juice, raw honey and grass-fed gelatin. They think they are getting a treat. I know they are getting a treat-ment.

Shelf three

Shelf three

Third shelf: Not much to see here. Some papaya, watermelon (with seeds!) and pumpkin.  The eggs are certified organic, local and free-range. Our current house block is not large enough to legally keep chickens (we only get tiny eggs from our tiny quail), but we hope before too long that we’ll have our own eggs.

Shelf four

Shelf four

Fourth shelf: More vegetables, specifically a couple of bunches of kale.  On the right are some Fido jars containing various ferments. I love lacto-fermenting and I am sure that one of the reasons I rarely get sick is because I eat probiotic-rich fermented foods. There are two varieties of sauerkraut, some kimchi, red onions, carrot and ginger.

Fifth Shelf and Vege Drawer

Fifth Shelf and Vege Drawer

Fifth shelf and vege drawer: More seasonal organic produce. There’s carrots, squash, eggplant, chard, silverbeet, beetroot, corn, baby spinach, salad greens, cabbage, cucumbers and zucchini.

Dairy tray

Dairy tray

Dairy tray: butter, cheese, feta cheese. I’ve been shown how to make feta by my mother but I am still buying it at the moment. Hopefully within a year or two we will have our own jersey cow and I will be making all our own dairy products.  I prefer raw milk butter when I can get it, both for consuming and for making ghee. This tray also has some ginger and some medjool dates, which only make their way into the fridge during warm weather.

Side door tray 1

Side door tray 1

Side door tray one: Fermented fruit paste, some of Informed Papa’s natural treatments (I have no idea what they are) and pectin for making jam.

Side door second tray

Side door tray 2

Side door tray two: bottles and jars. There’s some organic tomato paste, homemade tomato sauce (I make about six months supply at a time and am panicking because this is my last jar and I have limited tomatoes in the garden and am having trouble sourcing bulk organic tomatoes at the moment, even though I run an organic bulk buying group – eek!), some resting water kefir grains, jams (I am aware of the irony that I have pectin on the shelf above my store-bought jams), some iron tonic and a jar of whey strained from my homemade raw yoghurt.

Side door tray 3

Side door tray 3

Side door tray three: Every week or so I grind a mixture of seeds together (hemp, sesame, sunflower, pepitas, flax). I sprinkle this on anything and everything.  I also add it to many baked goods. Annnnnd some more vegetables are there on the right.

Side door tray 4

Side door tray 4

Side door tray four: Two types of fermented cod liver oil (one liquid and one paste), some liquid colloidal minerals which I try to take every day but actually only remember to once or twice a week, and bone broth.  I make bone broth every fortnight and as well as drinking it straight, I use it in many meals.

Side door tray 5

Side door tray 5

Side door tray five: And finally we have the bottom shelf.  Here you’ll find water kefir and raw milk which is local and organic (unhomogenised and unpasteurised). It is labeled and sold as bath milk as it is illegal in Australia for a seller to claim you can drink raw milk, so there is a ‘not for human consumption’ sticker on it.  There is usually a carton of rice milk on this shelf too, which Informed Papa drinks.  I have tried making him every type of nut/seed/rice milk/mylk I can think of and he still prefers the shop-bought variety. Even the smell of it makes me gag.

So that’s it!  That’s what’s in my fridge on any typical day.  If you’re looking for the chocolate, it’s in the pantry.  I have two pantries. Here’s a sneak peak inside one of them. And if you would like to see inside the other one, I will need at least three hours -and preferably three days- notice please!

Inside my pantry

Inside my pantry

Thank you Natural New Age Mum for inviting me to be part of this. I hope everyone enjoys fridge-hopping!

(I am having trouble getting the blog hop links to display on this page, despite having a paid site… To see the other participants in this blog hop click the link below and check out their awesome blogs – and fridges!)

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Posted in Food, Homemade, Radical Homemaking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mama Bake and Mama Make

An old adage suggests it takes a village to raise a child. I have discovered it also takes a village to keep a mother sane. In fact, I believe while the villagers are busy raising the child, they are also raising the mother.

My village (my tribe, my people, my sanity) is a group of mummy friends who connected through Nurture magazine. We live in the same geographic area, even though that area is large. We meet fortnightly at a local state forest. We converse over morning tea, sharing our joys, learning, wonderings and frustrations. Our children then lead us along walking tracks, sticks in hand, to marvel at the wonders of nature. We are not put off by bad weather, and some of the most memorable times have involved rain and large muddy puddles for our little ones to play in.

On the off-fortnights when we don’t go bushwalking, we often gather at one of our houses and have a Mama Bake session.  This involves each person deciding on a dish to make, and then making enough for everyone to take some.  While we cook and laugh and chat, our children play and grow – and sometimes quarrel! Our children are various ages, and it’s common to see plenty of boobs (breastfeeding) and wraps/slings/carriers (babywearing) when we gather, as we are bonded in our natural/attachment parenting styles. At the end we trek home with a bounty of meals and snacks and healthy treats.  It eases some of the burden and monotony of preparing family meals each night, but more than that it strengthens the weaves in the tapestry of our village.

Recently we decided we would create homemade cosmetic and cleaning products instead of making meals for each other . We each chose what to make, sourced our ingredients and vessels, and gathered in a mummy friend’s back yard. We shared ingredients, utensils and stories, and at the end of the day twelve of us left with exhausted children and basketfuls of non-toxic homemade goodies.

Mama Make

We made dishwasher powder, laundry powder, bath salts, sun cream, remineralising tooth powder, cockroach bait, chest rub, luxurious moisturiser, foot moisturiser, deodorant, lime body scrub, sugar scrub, and a foot powder/dry deodorant.

The recipes for some of these items are listed below. I will update this post with the rest as I gather them.

Mama Make 3Mama Make 2Mama Make 4

If you would love to be part of a group like this, choose a date to host an event and invite like-minded friends. The right people will come into your life, but probably not if you’re sitting at home lamenting your isolation. I say that because I have been there.  Search on Facebook for Nurture Village and see if there is a group near you – and if not, why not set one up? We are not exclusive. There are new people regularly. If you plan on doing a Mama Make and you’re stuck for what to make, take a look at Pinterest or search the web for some homemade natural cleaners. One of the best websites for this type of thing is DIY Natural.

Mama Make 5

What we have is special and I am grateful for motherhood and my children. Afterall, it is the children that have brought our village together. If there were no children, the cohesiveness within a village is diminished because there is less protective instinct binding the villagers. If each person in a village can take care of themselves the population slowly segments and drifts. When there are vulnerable children to protect and nurture, people stop thinking only of themselves and start looking outwards. It is true that when a baby is born, so is a mother. And when a mother finds or creates her village, the journey of motherhood is shared in the most sacred of ways.

Now for the recipes from our first Mama Make session. These are listed as single recipes, so multiply as required depending on the size of your group.

Laundry Powder

Combine 2 cups bi-carbonate soda, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1 bar of grated Sunlight soap.

Natural Chest Rub
Recipe from Natural New Age Mum <3

Coconut Oil, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Peppermint Essential Oil, Lemon Essential Oil

Melt coconut oil by placing the jar in a bowl of hot water. Pour 1/4 cup of the oil into a glass jar. Add 20 drops of eucalyptus oil, 20 drops of peppermint oil and 10 drops of lemon oil (this is a fairly mild recipe, add more if you want). Shake well. Let it re-solidify for easier use (pop it in the fridge in summer time).

Luxurious Homemade Moisturiser
Recipe from Quirky Cooking 

This recipe is made in a Thermomix.

Weigh 130g apricot oil, 260g macadmia oil and 50g beeswax into the Thermomix and cook for 15 minutes at 60C, speed 2 or until all the beeswax is melted. Add 2 TB rosewater or orange flower water, 4 TB distilled or boiled water, 1/4 tsp lavender or rose essential oil, 1 Vitamin E capsule squeezed out, and mix on speed 6 for three minutes, scraping down halfway through. Pour into clean pots or jars while still warm.


Cockroach Bait

Recipe by Vidyut Kale

Take boric acid and wheat flour in equal quantities. Add a quarter of that quantity of powdered (icing) or very fine sugar. Knead dough combining all ingredients and adding water as needed. Once you have the dough ready, make tiny balls out of it, and put it in cockroach-friendly places. Cockroaches get tempted by the bait and eat it. It kills them. Bait sticks on their bodies and goes to their nest with them, killing others there.
Cockroaches eating dead cockroach also die. And so on. This method is not as fast as aiming an aerosol poison at a roach. It will likely take about a month or so, with later cockroaches being smaller and smaller until they just. end. The boric acid dust will continue to act on
cockroaches from future infestations forever or till you clean it away.

Dry Deodorant 
(Can also be used as a foot powder)

1 cup cornflour
1 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 cup bicarb

Mix all ingredients well together. If you need a stronger deodorant, wipe underarm with apple cider vinegar. When dry, apply coconut oil.  Once seeped into the skin, apply this dry deodorant.

Foot Moisturiser

1/2 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup shea butter, 15 drops tea tree oil.

Combine ingredients together over heat. Add to jars and store in a cool place.

Suncream
I have blogged this before as well as ways to build up internal sun cream. Original recipe from Green Foot Mama.

3/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup beeswax, 2 TB shea butter, 2 TB zinc oxide powder (non nano), 5 drops lavender oil, 5 drops Roman Chamomile or Myrrh essential oil

Melt coconut oil, beeswax and shea butter gently.  Remove from heat and stir in zinc oxide and essential oils. Set in refrigerator.

Bath Salts

3 cups epsom salts, 2 cups bi-carbonate soda, 1 cup table salt. Mix together with essential oils of choice.

 

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

1/4 cup coconut oil, 1 cup white sugar, 1TB shredded coconut, 6-8 drops lime essential oil

Melt coconut oil. Add sugar and mix until well combined. Add coconut and lime oil. Mix together.

Posted in Cleaning, Homemade, Parenting, Radical Homemaking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment