7 October 2014

The Great Owlet Zine Swap

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We've been having fun re-discovering making zines this week. Collecting things we like, drawings and funny little things and cutting and pasting and giggling as we read. Zines are so much fun! But we got to thinking how we'd like to read zines from families all over the place. Share some creativity and ideas and have a little fun with snail mail!

So we'd like to invite you to join us in a mini-zine swap…

A mini-zine is an eight page, A6 sized booklet made from a single A4 sized sheet of paper. You can make it in colour or black and white and make as many copies as you like, using a photocopier or scanner and printer. We made ours in an afternoon! Would you like to give it a go?

Here's how it works:

1. Let us know via email that you'd like to be involved. Include your mailing address so we can match you up with other zine makers in interesting places.
2. Make a mini zine. You might make one per child or one per family, whatever works for you.
3. Make 10 copies of your zine.
4. You'll receive 10 mailing addresses for recipients of your zine. Post your copies to these addresses!
5. Wait for the postie to bring you 10 different zines to read!

Things you might include in your zine:

Artwork
Recipes
Tutorials
Games
Jokes
Stories
Something about you… Anything that you feel like doing or writing or drawing will be great!

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If this turns out to be fun for everyone, we might make it a more regular thing, but for now, we're just hoping to share and read some great zines!

Join in by emailing your snail mail address to owletmama@gmail.com

Find some great tutorials for making mini zines here and here.

6 October 2014

Unschool Monday :: Privilege

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It's one of those tricky questions that comes up… Education is, to some, a privilege that many over the world go without. Especially girls. Shouldn't we feel grateful for it? Without formalised education, how will they find their place in society as adults?

When we were talking with Big Owlet about Malala Yousafzai,  she asked us "But why would she fight so hard for something that we don't need?" And so began a lengthy discussion of the privileges of living in a small, peaceful island at the bottom of the world, with access to clean air and water and food and education. Of two parents who have spent long enough within the education system to pass on a large portion of our own formal learnings, should they be required. And with the freedom to give the owlets the kind of education and childhood they desire. And how so many don't have what we have. We are SO lucky.

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But then we spend time talking about permaculture and then traditional or lost ways of doing things. About survival and living in the real world and what that might mean. About nature and what we can learn from just observing it… The irony that we're rejecting mainstream schooling and embracing life learning through permaculture, while less commercially developed nations reach for formal education with open arms,  isn't lost on us. And I can understand Big Owlet's confusion. The truth is, we're conflicted about the concept of formal education for everyone too, when we don't choose it for ourselves, and explaining the complexity of it to our owlets feels confusing, even for us adults.

Last week I finally sat down to watch the film Schooling the World: The White Man's Last Burden. I re-watched it with Huz yesterday morning and I may watch it with Big Owlet when I think she'll fully grasp it. I was a little gobsmacked watching it the first time. It cleared up a few conflicts for me and tapped away a little more at that deschooling process we've been going through for over 5 years now.

The film raised questions around the mass loss of culture and language across the world, brought on by the western education movement of the last 200 years. The fate of people educated in the school system worldwide. The ushering of people towards a consumer society and away from a sustainable one. Westernised education has moved quickly and with a defined purpose. Are people better off with it, or without? Lots of food for thought and although we don't have answers for Big Owlet yet, it does make us question our position on the supposed privilege we choose to opt out of. And the privilege we have to ponder such things.

If you have a chance to watch it, do. And let me know what you think, won't you?

Have a gorgeous week. xx

30 September 2014

Why we love the farmers' market

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We're getting into a little rhythm in our nest. Having sworn off big supermarkets a couple of months ago, we've started to notice we're managing to pick something from the garden for most meals. Finally! We get a delivery from a local shop roughly once a fortnight, with ethical meats and staples we need, which has been brilliant. Next we're working on a food and essentials co-op with our homeschool co-op buddies so we can order organic, awesome staples at a price our mostly-single-income families can afford.

The final piece of the puzzle for us has been going semi-regularly to the farmers' market. Here's how it works:

1. Arrive and secure donuts or bagels or freshly shucked oysters or something equally amazing for breakfast. Scoff at leisure.
2. Flag down some seasonal veg that we don't have growing in our garden just yet - this will diminish over time, all going well.
3. Find some ethical meat from happy animals. Right now we're loving goat.
4. Pick up a pot of local raw honey and locally roasted coffee.
5. Check out plants, seeds or spuds to take home and grow our own. Or just to admire and get excited about.

Here's why it's so great:

1. The food is so fresh! The veggies we buy last much longer (like, weeks longer) than any supermarket bought produce.
2. We know the people we buy all the produce from. We can ask them about how they grow their food and we see the care and pride they take in it.
3. Sometimes we bump into friends we haven't caught up with in a while, or just share a wave and a hallo across the crowd. That's a bit nice!
4. The donuts and bagels and oysters and… well, you get the picture.

Best of all, the owlets see the transaction of money passing hands and each item being directly paid for, rather than just a big credit card bill at the end, paid for by plastic. It's more real for them and for us. And they like to be involved in buying things too. Unlike the supermarket, which is usually a place we'd rather leave as soon as we've stepped inside, the farmers' market is like a regular community-building experience each time. And one we talk about after the event. It's like we haven't been out to do the shopping at all! See you there next week? xx

Some beautiful resources for talking more about farmers' markets with your owlets:

To Market, To Market, by Nikki McClure.

Alternating between story and fact, this lovingly-crafted picture book follows a mother and son to the weekly market. As they check off items on their shopping list, the reader learns how each particular food was grown or produced - from its earliest stages to how it ended up at the market.  Find it here

Let's Go to the Farmer's Market Kit.

This kit contains everything kids need to have tons of fun at the farmers' market: a strawberry tote bag, 20 activity cards, an informative booklet about farms and the farmers' market, plus a shopping list pad. Find it here. 








29 September 2014

You say frittata, I say fruittata...

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Our hands down favourite, most simple grain-free breakfast… Or lunch… Or dinner when there's no time and nothing but eggs and bits and pieces… Frittata is our go to. Here's our version.

First I'll pop out to the garden and see what's fresh… Lately it's broccoli and silver beet and herbs. Sometimes there are left over roast veggies too. And if I'm lucky, the chooks will have laid enough eggs for the whole recipe.

Back inside after a quick nip out the back door, I'll quickly blanch the veg and have a look if there are any pine nuts or things like that to roast and throw in. Sometimes I'll caramelise some onions or sauté some leeks… Sometimes I won't. Sometimes I'll just grate a zucchini.

Then I whisk up four eggs in a bowl and oil, butter or coat the base of a frypan in ghee while it warms up a bit…

Next I add the cooked veggies and nuts and bits to the pan and scatter herbs and maybe a bit of parmesan on top. Cook the bottom on the stove for a bit and then cook the top under the griller until puffy and golden and just like you want to eat it. And serve!

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If we're feeling a bit sweet tooth-y or fruity, we'll swap the veggies for some fresh or semi-thawed frozen berries, cooked pear or rhubarb, and maybe a splash of maple syrup, and make a fruittata! Served with cream, of course. Perfect for Sunday morning breakfasts or last minute desserts. Little Owlet will ask for the fruittata every time.

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Best of all, the owlets love making it themselves and sharing it. It's our go-to-any-time-of-day meal. It's our main table-to-plate-in-fifteen-minutes meal too, which means we feel extra brilliant and smug while we eat it. And it's one of the only recipes we have that everyone almost always agrees on. That's a major win in my book.

Do you have a favourite go-to recipe?
Are you a frittata or fruittata person?
What are you eating from the garden right now? 

Happy Tuesday. xx

15 September 2014

Unschool Monday :: The creative flow...

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A couple of months ago, you may remember I was lucky to have been granted a scholarship spot in Pip's Inspiration Information ecourse. I had been in the midst of a bit of a creative slump and I was hoping to draw myself out of it just a teeny bit. Setting aside a little time to write and draw and think was a wonderful discipline. But, in reality, to fit it all in, I needed to involve the Owlets. Big Owlet is always up for some creative learning so she was more than happy to join in the more practical aspects. And the other two always want to follow her lead. So we launched into some simple, fun collage and talked about creative heroes. 

Using old magazines we had on hand and working with colour and shape, as quickly as we could… 

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Then I began remembering. I told them how I would sit up the back of life drawing classes and tear paper to represent the model. Trying desperately not to attract attention in a quiet room. We giggled about that. We talked about Matisse. And then Little Owlet remembered that Eric Carle works in collage, so we ended up watching the Mr Roger's Neighbourhood episode where he visits Eric Carle. And that's how unschooling flows… 

I love that. When you get swept along by a creative thought and before long you're in a totally different place to where you started. But you've learnt so much, just talking and observing together. And those learnings have sunk in, because you've created memories of more than one kind. 

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Next I was prompted to delve a little deeper into the work of a creative hero, so I chose Mirka Mora. Sensing her style and some themes she covers might appeal to the owlets, we dove in. We looked at her drawings and paintings and dolls. We talked about Mirka herself and her life and anecdotes and looked at old pictures of places we knew. 

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Remembering the windows Mirka painted at Heide, we set about making our own kitchen windows cheerful and bright for the final months of Winter. Big Owlet took to Mirka's style immediately, with her talent for faces. And so, with an interest shared, we were able to follow up with a visit when we were in Melbourne. 

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Three generations of art-loving women, following the creative flow to its source. And being inspired all over again. 

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As for me and my creative slump… well I suppose it wasn't really a slump, so much as a bit of burnout and needing some time and space to get stuck into things. Keeping my cup full. But remembering that through much of my creative process I have Owlet pals along for the ride (and that isn't such a bad thing), was helpful. I just need to keep that in mind, stop compartmentalising my time, and share the inspiration and see where it leads us all. There are great learning and creating days ahead, indeed. 

Do you create alongside your Owlets?
Has a creative idea led you to something you didn't expect? 
How do you manage time to create or do the things you love? 

14 September 2014

When life gives you neighbours…

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Every time our minds wander to getting away from it all and moving to some isolated patch of bush, we think about all the good things we have where we are.  Wonderful neighbours is certainly on our list. Even though we are that family in our street… The house with artwork and fingerprints splashed all over the front windows… With Owlets roaring (sometimes nude), around the garden during the daytime. And a weedy, unkempt garden it often is, by most standards. We're that family who are always home and loud and choose to do things a little bit differently. Some of our neighbours choose not to engage and keep heads down as they run from the car to the sanctuary of home.  But the neighbours who do say hello and make time make our street a beautiful and supportive extended family, of sorts. A community.

Over the back fence is a piano teacher who has helped Owlets learn when they've shown interest. Happy for us to fling a ladder over the back fence, she gladly catches them on the other side for a half-hour lesson. And wonderfully, she's not been offended when they decide to give it up, or begin again. Recently her house guests asked to feed our chooks weeds from the garden as they work, having seen us do the same on our side. And so we discovered another beautiful connection for our permaculture design.

Next door on one side, we have a neighbour who has a beautiful, wild garden and she's happy for our Owlets to explore it. There's an amazing dolls house inside, the Owlets tell me. And more than once, we've been given a cup of sugar, a pile of newspapers or a handful of lavender, when we've needed it.

On the other side are neighbours who the Owlets have adopted as surrogate grandparents. Tiny likes to ring the doorbell and say "hi", if she hasn't seen them in a while. They knew our house better than we did when we first moved in and they're always a wealth of information about our street. They assure me that on the night Tiny was born, they heard nothing - although how that can be, I have no idea!

Next door, they are around most days, like us, and pottering in the garden, like us. Their garden is neat, well tended and abundant, with more than enough food for their meals and plenty to share. Often I've seen our neighbour popping in to houses in our street with apples or lemons for who ever is home. Sometimes it's us. Once it was a posie of violets to say she thought I was a great Mum. She had four kids of her own, you see... And there are plenty of times the Owlets have been handed a bowl of raspberries over the fence to gobble up gleefully on the way inside to tell me about it, red stained chin and all…

"Neighbourhood" by Phoebe Wahl. Available in our shop!
We have rather low fences in our neighbourhood, so we've had to become comfortable with company outdoors. Often a head will appear at the fence and we'll get to talking about how the broccoli's growing or why the lemon tree might not be thriving in that spot. Over the years, the next-door neighbours have witnessed our experiments with soil improvement and no-dig gardening and they've shown keen interest. Tut-tutting the weeds at this particularly lush time of year - I suspect they're being polite as we endeavour to get on with the business of growing food, despite the weeds. They're interested to witness the latest transformation as our permaculture design takes shape. And I think we're winning some clout as we seem to have luck with cauliflower.

We've been the glad recipients of a tiny rhubarb plant from next door, which is now huge and adorning our food forest. One of the enormous tomatoes passed over the fence was saved for the seed we have growing in seed trays in the lounge room… And we're more than glad to help out with the lemon glut when we collect the mail while they're away on holidays.

These neighbours embody the permaculture ethics of people care and fair share so well. I suspect that they see success the way I do; that true success is not just being able to feed your own family, but those around you too. And spreading a little joy along the way… I've been giving a little thought to how we can work to make this friendship a little more reciprocal. To be better neighbours and have enough to share (more than the odd cup of milk or stick of butter - although these are helpful too!). Enough useful stuff anyhow, and choosing a few things that are not in our neighbour's garden has been in the back of our minds while putting together our permaculture plan. To begin with, I think it might be a few eggs. They don't have chooks. And when some of the fruit trees grow up a bit, maybe some quinces or pears or cherries. I may just save some seed from the cauliflower and maybe our neighbour will finally have luck with that too, as we have. Hopefully there'll be enough to share with other neighbours too. Even the ones who don't have time for a chat.

This is how community building starts. Its how Owlets find mentors and friends of all ages. Its how we find support and our garden grows stronger. And it's how, when you think there's nothing much in the cupboard, you suddenly have the fixings for Lemon & Rhubarb cake…

Lemon & Rhubarb Cake

5 rhubarb stalks cut into 2cm pieces
1/3 cup rapadura/coconut sugar/raw sugar/maple syrup/alternative
125g soft brown butter
1 cup (or thereabouts) of sugar. I've used rapadura/organic raw sugar/ honey/rice malt syrup with luck.
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup SR flour
100ml yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Grease and line a 20-22cm springform cake pan

Toss the rhubarb with rapadura and set aside
Cream the butter & larger quantity of sugar/sugar alternative.
Add lemon zest and then the eggs, one at a time.
Stir through the lemon juice.
Fold the flours in gently, a little at a time, alternating with the yoghurt.
Fold in the rhubarb.

Spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes, until browned on top.
Test the cake with a skewer. If the skewer comes out with some cake batter on it, cook for another 5 minutes and repeat.
Cool for 15 minutes before removing the tin.
Dust with icing sugar if you like - we don't think it needs it!

Adapted from Allan Campion and Michele Cranston's Rhubarb Lemon Cake in Every Day Cooking. 
Published by Hardie Grant Books in 2006.







3 September 2014

The pretty way...

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When I was small, my Dad would often ask us kids in the back seat of the car, which way we wanted to go. "The pretty way!!" we'd shout out with enthusiasm. He always knew the windy, beautiful, wandering ways to get to most places in our city. And if he didn't know, he'd find his way… All the roads join up somewhere…

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This has pretty much been how I've rolled ever since. Just slowing down, following the road ahead, keeping an open mind and seeing what life has to offer. When I've attempted to get from A-B in the most direct way, I've often felt like I took a wrong turn somewhere. I suppose it's a bit like taking the road less travelled. It's why I live in Tasmania. It's why our owlets are unschooled… Sometimes it's a little like hurtling along downhill without brakes. But usually it's slow and colourful and infinitely more interesting and satisfying.

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It's the kind of thinking behind this app, which totally appeals to me. Shouldn't we all be trying to find the most beautiful way?

Hope you're having a beautiful week!

So much love. xo

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