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The Hidden Life of Trees - a review

Every time I share a book review I include Amazon affiliate links, and if you use those links to buy things I gradually build up Amazon credit.  Earlier this year I used my credit to order a couple of books, which I finished reading ages ago, but haven't had a chance to share with you until now.  I just wanted to say again, thanks for using my affiliate links because it does help me to buy more books!




One of the books that I bought was The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World.  I had heard an interview with the author of this book on ABC radio national which had really caught my interest.  We own a lot of trees, as you can see in the image below.  Our property was on the market for a long time before we bought it because it has so many trees (about 100 acres of our 258 acres) and most are protected under QLD vegetation management laws, so they can't be cleared.  Farmers around here believe that trees are unproductive and wo…

We don't have a microwave

When the cabinet maker asked me where we wanted the microwave in the new kitchen I had a mental-blank.  I couldn't think where to put it and when I really thought about it, I didn't actually want a microwave.  We did still own one at that stage, but we hardly used it.  I find them kind of ugly and I don't completely trust them.  We haven't had a microwave in the new kitchen since we moved in Easter, and I really don't miss it.




There may or may not be reasons to not eat microwaved food, but personally I don't like the taste of it and I don't like the look the microwave, so I'm happy not to have one in my kitchen.  When I considered whether to include a microwave in the new kitchen, I could only come up with three things:

Defrosting meatHeating leftoversHeating wheat packsMore suggestions here if you have other uses for your microwave.
Defrosting meat without a microwave This one is pretty easy.  If you want a roast or a large chunk of meat, you do just hav…

Homemade leather dressing balm

I don't own many pairs of shoes, so I really like to take care of the shoes I do own.  My favourite pair are these leather boots that I bought in NZ a few years ago (sorry Brisbane, but you didn't have any nice boots).  I've had these boots for about eight years.  I don't get to wear them very often, I have to wait for our short winter, but I will wear them at any opportunity!  The key to looking after leather shoes is a good leather dressing and the right storage.




I've been using a leather dressing that I bought, but I ran out, so time to make my own.  Leather dressing is made with neatsfoot oil, which is the fat from the legs of cattle.  This has a different melting point to the tallow (fat around their body).  Neatsfoot oil is popular for leather dressing and available from produce stores and horse supplies.  Its actually liquid at room temperature, so I added beeswax to make it solid and more manageable.  And some lavender essential oil for a nice fragrance as …

How to make coconut yoghurt

Lately I have been cutting back on eating dairy.  I know, I know, we own two house cows!  But I am trying to heal inflammation (bad skin) and dairy is one of the possible triggers, so as a last resort and after much resistance, I decided I had better try to cut back.  Its been hard because I eat a LOT of cheese, and cook with butter, and love to eat yoghurt (and have written extensively about making yoghurt).  I had to just give up cheese completely, switch to macadamia oil and the only yoghurt alternative was coconut yoghurt.  I tried it and I like it, but only a spoonful on some fruit here and there because it is expensive!





The brand I can get here is $3 for 200 mL containers.  I was making yoghurt from powdered milk for about 50c/L.  So I was thinking there must be a way to make coconut yoghurt, but I didn't feel like mucking around and wasting heaps of coconut milk trying to get it right....  and then Biome Eco Store sent me a Mad Millie Coconut Yoghurt Kit to try.  The kit is…

A soap saver sack

Have you heard of a soap saver?  I hadn't until recently.  A friend mentioned to me that she was putting the small bits of soap in a sock and that I should think about crocheting a little bag instead.  And then they keep popping up on social media, so I thought I would give it a go.  Am I the only one who hoards the little end bit of soaps that are too small to use?  I have a bit of a collection of them.  So I whipped up a little soap saver sack and filled it up with a few odd soap ends and I'm very pleased with the results.  If you can do basic crochet, they are very easy to make, but you can also knit or sew a simple soap saver (or last resort - use an old sock!).




Crochet soap saver pattern
I used cotton yarn from the local market.  You could use any yarn.  I liked cotton as it can be composted (wool, hemp, bamboo or sisal would also be compostable).

Chain 6, turn
Chain 1 and single crochet back along the chain
Don't turn, but keep going around into the back of the chain…

The story of our secondhand house - part 1

This is an article that I wrote for The Owner Builder magazine.  If you're building a house (or thinking about it), this is a wonderful magazine for those interested in alternative building techniques and DIY options.  I have just submitted part 2 of this story since we moved in, so I thought it was about time to share part 1 here.  If you are building I'm sure they would love to publish your story too, just get in touch via the website.

*****
In mid-2012 my husband, Peter, and I bought a 258 acre property in the small South Burnett settlement of Kumbia (near Kingaroy) in Queensland, with the intention of eventually building a house and setting up a small farm. Over a year later we were still trying to decide what type of house to build. Both of us were keen to use a sustainable building method, as we like natural materials and hate waste, but it wasn’t immediately obvious what would suit our property. Then we came across a removal house in our local area, advertised for on…

Experimenting with houseplants

I've never been a big fan of houseplants.  I had one on a dresser for a while and it leaked and cracked the veneer.  And I had another one that didn't get enough sun and it died.  Our new house is sunnier and less cluttered, it just felt like it needed some plants.  I've had others that I overwatered, or underwatered.  Its just seemed too hard to keep them alive.




Benefits of houseplants
You might be wondering why I would bother with houseplants, seeing as I just said I don't really like them.  I haven't actually read any scientific studies, but its does seem pretty obvious that plants are going to improve indoor air quality.  If you google it you will find lists of up to 15 benefits, I guess its just one of those topics that attracts fluff articles.  A basic knowledge of biology tells me that plants suck up carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen.  This is probably more useful in the city, as we are out here surrounded by acres of trees producing oxygen.  For me, it…

Farm update - May 2017

Even though its not "technically" winter until after winter solstice on the 21st June, its getting cold enough to really need to light the fire (not just want to light it because its fun) and to wear winter woolies, so I kind of call it winter already.  The past few days have been close to freezing overnight, with some very foggy mornings as well.  The dogs are still sleep outside, and we have somehow lost the dog coats in the move, so I made some more (very easy to make).  We have been going for "walkies" most afternoons, although there is not much time before it gets dark when get home at 4/4:30pm.  We go and check the cattle in one paddock or another and the dogs LOVE it.

We think that it won't get as cold at Cheslyn Rise because we are higher than Nanango and it looked like the house was above the frost line (from observing the grass, it stayed green the last few winters), and we will soon find out.  Here's some thoughts on managing frost.



Food and cooki…

Pack your own lunch recipes - May 2017

Are you still with me?  Packing your own lunch and/or cooking in bulk to save money and avoid nasty takeaway food?

We always cook in bulk in the weekend and make all our lunches for the following week.  These are ideas for lunch or just bulk cooking.  You can find recipes from previous months here. I also share them on Instagram each Sunday or Monday night (you will also see them on the Facebook page).  I hope these posts are inspiring you to cook from scratch and take your own lunch to work - both to save money and eat better.

I'm not great at following recipes, and I'm also not good at writing them, because I tend to just use up what we have in the fridge/pantry/garden, things that are on special or we've been given at our local produce share.  I'll tell you what I made, but I'm not saying you should follow exactly, just use it as a rough guide and use up whatever you have handy too.
You might think that we just seems to eat the same things all the time.  And now…

How to avoid soaping mistakes **AND my soap eBook!**

I'm not saying that I never make soaping mistakes, but I have figured out how to get my recipes right 99% of the time.  I am on a soapmaking group on FB and every day or so someone will post that they forgot to add an oil or a butter to the recipe, or wondering why the soap hasn't turned out right.  I am surprised because I don't have this much trouble.  Here are three tips from my experience with soapmaking that will help you to avoid soaping mistakes:



Accurate scales
You can skimp on all equipment except for scales.  It is absolutely important to have stable and accurate scales so that you can measure exactly the right amount of fats/oils and caustic.  One of the biggest causes of soaping mistakes is inaccurate measurement of oils or caustic, which results in incomplete reaction and soap that turns out too soft (or too caustic/ high pH).


Keep it simple
The more complicated your recipe, the easier it is to make a mistake, leave something out or measure something incorrectly…