Monthly Archives: June 2012

In the Garden: How to Make Leaf Mould

While it is actually the first month of winter (boo!) the majority of deciduous trees around us have still yet to lose all their leaves, which means two things: Mess and the opportunity to make leaf mould.

Sounds Gross. What is Leaf Mould?

It’s basically the term used for rotted down autumn leaves.

The gardening nerd in me knows that this stuff is beeeyootiful for your garden – it can be used as a soil conditioner (to improve the overall health of your soil) or as a gentle, rich mulch to help retain water and keep weeds at bay, and gardeners often refer to it as “black gold”.

It’s perfect for ferns and rainforest plants in particular, but will help enrich any soil in your garden by improving the water retention and overall health of the garden.

How do I Make Leaf Mould?

Super simple.

Just rake up all your fallen leaves and give them a spray with the garden hose. You want them to be fairly wet, to help speed up the decomposition. Then fill some heavy-duty black plastic bin bags with your leaves, adding a handful of blood and bone every 30cm or so (this appears to be optional, but I trust the word of Gardening Australia!) Close your bags up, poke some holes in it with a garden fork and leave in a sheltered place, preferably on soil/grass, for at least a year.

So, this isn’t an activity for those who are after instant gratification, but it is worthwhile. If nothing else, it gets you outside in the chilly winter air for a while, and gives you something for your garden for basically no cost.

How do I Know When it’s Ready?

It will be crumbly and sweet-smelling, and resemble the look of regular compost. (Just a side note: you can’t add many autumn leaves to your regular compost bin, as they don’t easily break down in those conditions. Too many and it will slow your bin down.)

Sounds Good. Any Tips?

If you want the process to go a little quicker, try dumping all your leaves on the lawn and mowing over them. This will break them up, meaning they’ll break down quicker. Also, there are special leaf mould compost bins available, which compress the leaves, apparently speeding the process up some more, so perhaps try keeping a weight of some sort on top of your pile. Maybe some timber or corrugated iron would do the trick.

Have you made leaf mould before? I’ve just applied last year’s haul to our garden and could not believe how many worms were in the bags when I broke it open. Such rich, crumbly stuff!

 

Do It When You Can.

Do. Not Undo.
{via Pinterest – original source unknown}

Have you changed any rules lately? I have. Lots, in fact.

But there is one I’ve changed that has helped my well-being and contentment immeasurably. It’s simple enough and it’s this:

Do it when you can.

(So that when you can’t it’s not a tragedy.)

I try to apply it liberally in life these days. And I’m feeling the difference in:

  • more motivation to do things – it’s like flipping a switch on your energy levels
  • less stress when the day doesn’t go as planned
  • more flexibility in how we spend time – both alone and as a family
  • I don’t feel like a failure so much when I can’t (or don’t) get things done
  • understanding that if I’m doing one thing, that means I can’t possibly be doing another – and learning to be OK with that

It’s the life equivalent of eating your broccoli first, so you can savour the taste of your sweet potato bake later, feeling virtuous at the same time. Ha!

Another way of looking at it – for each part of your life (kids, partner, alone time, work, housework, relaxation, exercise, spirituality) you have a bank account. Spending time doing the things that need doing in each of these areas means you are increasing the balance in that particular account. During the inevitable times when you can’t do the things that you would like to do, you have a healthy balance from which to draw down, meaning you won’t leave any area of your life in the red.

And the beauty of this is you can apply it to every aspect of your day-to-day life:

  1. Kids: Play, and I mean really play with them when you can, because there will be times when you simply can’t. (See Housework.) You are then establishing a bank of time and trust with them, so they understand when you need to do other things, they’re not being punished.
  2. Housework: Sweep the floors/clean the toilet/dust/iron when you can, so that if you miss a day (or week) because of life, it won’t be disgusting.
  3. Exercise: Go for a run when you can, because tomorrow it may be raining, or your other half may be working late and you can’t. Then you’ll wish you’d gone yesterday.
  4. Romance: Do romance when you can, because there will be times that it must inevitably fall down your priority list. (Young children, anyone?) But you need to ensure that doesn’t happen permanently.
  5. Solitude: Spend time alone, recharging, when you can because there will be many times (see all of the above) where it’s simply impossible to do. You can establish an account for yourself too, you know.
  6. Friends and Family: If you’re invited for a coffee or to a family function and can make it, then do, because there will be many times that you can’t. Build up the foundations of your relationships whenever possible and they will reward you with resilience and support when you need it.

Certainly there are other ways you could apply this rule to life. Tell me, do you think it’s helpful, or do you think it’s enabling us to set the bar lower?

(For more on this, see The Myth of Work/Life Balance and Be Kind To Yourself.)

As Organised as You Need to Be


Are you a naturally organised person?

Me? No. Definitely not.

I have always been a last-minute-finisher kind of person. And it’s really only been since the kids were born that I’ve started to realise the benefits of being organised.

But there’s a danger lurking in that organisation.

An insidious, spontaneity-sucking, stress-inducing, shadowy devil. And it’s name – The Joy Vampire. (And here ends that particular metaphor.)

If you over-do the organising, if you schedule the bejeesus out of your days, weeks, months, school terms, you risk losing one of the biggest joys in life – spontaneity.

The feeling that grabs you on a Sunday morning, saying, “Let’s blow off the chores and go to the beach“.
The feeling that leads you and your daughter to fling paint with wild abandon.
The feeling that says its not only OK, but encouraged, for you to call your friend and organise a coffee/chocolate morning tea in say, oh, ten minutes time.

So my tip (as passed on to me by one of my sisters):

Only be as organised as you need to be.

For you, that may mean a to-do list, a daily routine and a weekend each month strictly for chores. Or it may mean knowing what’s for dinner by 5:00PM each afternoon. It looks different to everyone, and there’s no point in comparing.

For me, it means:

  • a list (in my head) of things I LIKE to get done in the mornings. But if these things don’t happen, I’m learning to accept it and not let it spoil my day.
  • a general list of tasks to do each day (EG Monday is change linen, sweep and vacuum floors, laundry)
  • trying to avoid having housework to do on the weekends, so that those days are ours as a family
  • most importantly though, it means understanding that its no tragedy if these things don’t always happen. Do it when you can, so that when you can’t, the house won’t fall into complete disarray.

It sounds like a simple thing to do, doesn’t it? And the tricky part is that what this looks like will change, depending on where you are in your life.

If you have little kids, it may be helpful for you to be more organised than someone with older children, or someone who lives alone, or with a partner or housemate. Regardless, it only has to work for you and your family, so what this looks like to anyone else should barely matter.

That being said, I’m quite nosy and would love to know if you have a system that keeps you on track of your home organisation? Or do you wing it and do what needs doing at the time? Or are you quite strict with your schedule? A mix of all three?

Share your sage advice, folks. I’m always picking up juicy tidbits of wisdom from you!

Bringing Joy (We Are All Connected)

Our joy is connected

Today I woke up in a really shitty mood. I’m tired from broken sleep, battling PMS, just a bit worn out and over it. After the initial “poor me, this sucks” routine, I told myself that today was going to be a good day. I didn’t believe a word, but the world turns regardless.

Toby and I were on the front deck, waving goodbye to Sparky as he walked to the train station. Toby was in his pyjamas – adorable when you’re 18 months old. I, also, was in my pyjamas – not so adorable at 30.

As Sparky headed up the street one of our neighbours was coming home from her morning walk and stopped to say hello. She made comment about how cute we looked, huddled together on the front steps. Then she said something that amazed me.

“You know, I get so much joy from watching your family.”

A few weeks ago she had watched us spend hours playing in the autumn leaves on the front lawn. I remember the day clearly – it’s one of my favourite recent memories.

“I called my mother as I was watching you, simply so I could share with her what was happening in your front yard. It was so delightful. It made my day and hers.”

I found it incredible that I live so close to this lady, but up until that moment had no idea that we had any impact on her life at all. Aside from the occasional chat across the fence, a friendly wave, a Merry Christmas, we are essentially strangers.

And yet there it was, undeniable proof that we are all connected. Not only to our neighbours, friends and relatives, but to the ever-widening circles that ripple out from them. We can and do make a difference in other people’s lives. Even if just by living our own life well.

Sure, this is a small story about a small thing. But as you may know by now, I am a huge believer in the power of small. Small things add up over time to create big, wonderful things. And this small thing has made my day. Which in turn has made my world infinitely brighter.

Amazing, right?

When was the last time someone unexpectedly made your day? Did you pay it forward?

Simple Living. It’s Ridiculously Complex.

the meaning of life is to give life meaning
{via hottiegeek.tumblr
{Hello to any new readers from Planning With Kids! If you haven’t been here before, you might want to check out these popular posts: How to Start, 12 Things Happy People do Differently and The Myth of Work/Life Balance.}

 

This blog is about creating a slow home. And another term for creating a slow home is creating a simple life.

What is Simple Living?

The same as success or happiness, it’s vastly different things to different people.

But to me, and on this blog, simple living is:

  • living in a decluttered home
  • living in an organised (enough) home that works for me and my family
  • treading lightly on the earth in as many ways as we can
  • trimming excess and unnecessary stress from our lives
  • eating a balanced diet based on unprocessed whole foods and limited meat
  • being mindful and present and intentional in our interactions with each other and our family and friends
  • being kind to myself – with solitude and exercise
  • growing some of our own food
  • being content with our lives as they are right now
  • being out of consumer debt and living within our means

And in each of those things, I am failing. In some cases, very badly. (Cough cough – being content right now. Cough. Consumer debt. Cough, cough.)

So How Do We Learn to Live More Simply?

1. Priorities:

You need to know why you’re making these changes. Why you crave a simpler life, a slower home, a contented heart. It’s the why that drives everything else. So spend some time getting to know your heart before you move ahead.

This is something you can’t copy from someone else. You need to determine your own priorities, because they need to work in your life, your home, your family.

To determine these priorities, sit down for a minute and visualise your perfect simple life. Run through your ideal day of simple living (while not ignoring reality!) and take note of what makes you light up, what leaves you feeling content and what feels best for your family.

Then note down the first five elements that come to mind. These are now your simple living priorities – your starting point. (You can always shift them later so don’t get too caught up in choosing the right ones.)

2. Choose One Thing:

Of the five priorities you’ve listed, choose one. Then choose a small part of that and make it your first baby step.

For example, if you choose:

The truth is it doesn’t matter WHAT you choose, it’s that you start.

3. Adopt it Whole-Heartedly:

Once you’ve taken that first baby step, keep doing it like it’s your job. Repeat it until it becomes part of your day-to-day life. This way you are building a habit that will last, which is important if you want your simple life to last the distance.

4. Take Baby Step #2:

Choose your next step and work it into your life, day-by-day. And continue putting one foot in front of the other, making strong and intentional changes each step of the way.

Accept That There is No Perfect Life Waiting For You

What you will invariably discover as you take this journey towards simple living is that it’s not a race. You will discover your own way, what works, what doesn’t. And you will learn that there is always something to improve, something new to try, a different perspective. As you master one part of the process, it will reveal ten new things to work on. It’s endless.

But please don’t let that stop you from starting. Once I realised that there was no finish line, no perfect life of simplicity waiting for me around the corner, I relaxed into it. And simple living started to become our lifestyle rather than another list of jobs to add to the to-do list.

And that in itself has been worth every second.

Tell me, what does your ideal simple life look like? (Without swapping the suburbs for a beach in Thailand!)