Sunday, April 28, 2013


It's one am, but I am too wired to sleep. My senses are alert; I am waiting, listening.

A couple of hours ago, I woke up to the crashing of tin and the screaming of terrified chickens. A fox had gotten into our side pen, the one that houses our will-start-laying-any-day-now beautiful Plymouth Rock speckly girls, and two docile Australorp girls, as well as three very-noisy-but-not-quite-fat-enough-to-eat-yet young Plymouth roosters. Before we could get dressed and outside, he had killed three of the girls; the two Australorps and one speckled. Our next generation of laying hens, that we have been feeding from young chicks to now, has been halved.

We chased the fox out of the yard (if I only had a shotgun.......) and rounded up our traumatised brood of remaining chooks and locked them into the little shed. The fox hadn't had the chance to start eating, so we have fridged the carcasses in the back shed until morning, when we will process them. I'll be damned if I'm not going to at least eat them. After checking the older chooks in the back pen (all roosting and blissfully unaware) we climbed back into bed.

Not ten minutes later I heard the scrabbling of foxish paws on metal and bolted outside to find that wily fox in the side pen again, trying to dig its way into the little shed. I'd never have believed that chickens could sound so humanlike when they are terrified, but they were all huddled up, one on top of another, in the corner of the shed, wailing like mourners at a funeral. Nath came bolting in with a handful of rocks and an axe but the fox slipped out through a hole he had dug and vanished. I am sitting awake, waiting to hear him again, so we can try and kill him before he makes a meal out of any more of our hens.

I know it's Nature's way, I know that fox is doing what is natural to him, but I am furious at the wastage laid. It takes five or six months for hens to start laying, and in that time you get to know their funny little personalities, and you eagerly await the day that those months of feed and attention pays you back with their first egg. These chickens were the ones that would take over from our older girls, whose egg laying has become sporadic at best. I'm glad we can at least turn them into soup.

I stood outside tonight, in the chilly night air, wearing my pyjamas and barefeet, and I had that fox cornered between myself and a fence. He stared at me, his eyes flashing in the moonlight, and I saw his fear. His fur was up, his tail between his legs, and he quivered as he looked for a way to escape. As angry as I was that he had made my henhouse his hunting ground I feel strangely privileged to have been in that moment with him. It is a privilege anytime we are able to witness wild Mother Earth at her worst.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Preparing For Change

Our family is about to embark on an adventure, one that we are very excited about. I have posted before about our goal to reduce Nath's work hours so that he can spend more time at home, and so that we as a family can live more closely aligned to our values of living simply, frugally, environmentally and in a community-focused way.

After much discussion we have decided that come September, Nath will be taking a year off from work to study from home. He plans to complete the Masters course (Mental Health Science) that he is halfway through, and also complete a Graduate Diploma in Grief and Loss Counselling. These qualifications will bring him closer to achieving his work and community goals in the future.

This decision will mean that he is home, full time. Obviously he will spend a proportion of this time with his head in the books, but he will also be spending much needed time gardening, playing with the kids, becoming involved in their school lives, watching them grow, nurturing our relationship, hunting, foraging, building on local relationships, making, fixing, growing and many other things that he has had limited time to do in the past.

Obviously, we will be living on significantly less money. We are okay with that. We are making plans and preparations to be able to do this without incurring great stress or sacrificing our QUALITY of life. We are looking into getting a milking goat and a hive of bees. We are building up our soils and constructing new garden beds. We are planning what we will be needing to grow, and when, and where. I will be making soap ahead of time so that it cures ready - one less thing we need to budget for. Little things like this, little ways of reskilling ourselves, will make all the difference.

Another change that we are busy preparing for is the change in the air that Winter brings. Winter Official is still a little over a month away, but the nights and mornings are cooling right down already and reminding me to do the seasonal 'change over'. First on the list was our clothing cupboards. I go through each of the kids' wardrobes, as well as our own, rotating summer clothes that will still fit next year to the top shelf, winter clothes to the more accessible shelves, and too small clothes to the charity basket. I 'stocktake' as I do this, making sure that each child will have enough to see them through the coming season, and making a list of things we are short on so that I can keep an eye out at opshops over the next few weeks. Next on the list is shoes. Summer shoes of Miya's that will fit Eden next summer get put away, Eden's summer shoes get handed down to smaller friends, and winter shoes are bought out for wearing.

After clothes comes sheets and blankets. I bring the winter blankets out of storage and give them an air. Some are for putting on beds and some are for a handy blanket pile in the loungeroom - perfect for sitting under and crocheting (or blogging!) I will need more winter sheets for the kids this winter as I have two children no longer in nappies overnight, instead of just Miya, and the odd accident means I need more on hand. Last winter we got by on three sets between the two girls but I wanted to add another couple of sets in case we have a night where both girls have accidents. Also, I anticipate that Brannen may well be out of a cot sometime this winter, so he will be needing single bed sheets as well. I have jumped on Gumtree and found a couple of well priced, secondhand winter sheet sets that I will pick up later this week.

Next on the list is our winter pantry. I stock up on soup staples, like lentils, split peas and beans, and restock my spice cupboard with all of those warming winter spices I use a lot of in the cooler months. Cinnamon, cardamom, chili, paprika, ras el hanout, cumin, coriander seed and curry spices are filled up and I make sure I have condiments like Worcestershire sauce, Tamari, and fish sauce on hand. I have many Fowlers Vacola bottles of passata, whole peeled tomatoes and diced tomatoes lined up in the cupboard ready.

In the garden, we plan what winter vegetables we will be planting. Potatoes, garlic, onions, kale, brassicas and soup vegetables all need to go in soon, so we are prepping beds ready and planning where things will be placed. We need a good stock of wood in the shed ready for when we need the wood heater, so we are making plans to fill our newly completed wood shed with wood from friend's blocks. The chainsaw needs a service so that it will be up to the task of keeping us in wood for the whole season.

I look forward to the cooler season.  I love getting 'layering' clothes out - scarves, and leggings and boots become my uniform! I love sitting in my rocking chair under a blanket with a nice hot cocoa next to me, working on some craft project or another or tackling the mending pile. I love the changes in the garden, everything is lush and green (especially the weeds!) I love the smells that are ever-present in the kitchen.... bone broths and soups simmering on the stove, curries and stews and scones and pies, fresh warm bread on the wood heater..... yum, yum!

Are you excited about the change in season?
What do you do to prepare?

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