22 November 2017

Our Zero Waste Activity Advent Calendar

Hello little blog! We've missed you! We've been busy writing a book all year and there's so much to catch up on. Today though, the serious business is this. Advent. Tiny Owlet informed me with a most solemn face this morning that "there's only 8 sleeps until advent". There are actually 9, but it spurred me into action and getting organised, even though I'm not feeling entirely ready or happy about the fact that it's late November.

If you've followed along with this blog for some years, you'll know that our Christmas tradition each year involves an advent calendar of activities, rather than gifts or trinkets. We begin on December 1st, as we welcome summer and start preparing for the end of the year and time spent together and with family. Activities can be a practical way to get things done in the lead-up to Christmas, or they can be moments to catch our breath and enjoy time together. They also keep excited small people busy, with small things to look forward to each day. And, as this time of year is usually our busiest, these moments, where we take time to connect and have fun together, are so important.

Some years we have given our advent calendar a theme, like the years where we followed Steiner-inspired cues and looked to minerals, plants, animals and people in each of the weeks. Some years we have reflected on the permaculture ethics of 'earth care', 'people care', and 'fair share', which has worked beautifully.

This year, while our heads are still fresh with all things waste-free, we figured we'd share with you a list of waste-free advent activities. We place our activity suggestions on small scraps of paper, inside origami folded paper cups we string up over the fireplace. After we've finished with them, we pop them away for reuse next year, or we use them for saving seeds from our garden, which they're perfect for! There are things to do at home, or out and about. Things to remind you of the waste around you, and things that just happen to be waste-free festive traditions you might like to adopt. We've included a few bonus activities so you can swap some around depending on what your days look like, how christmassy you are, or for if you'd just like to have something fun and waste-free to do all month long.

Waste-free advent activities:
  1. go for a beach picnic - hello summer!
  2. make a wreath with natural or upcycled materials - leaves, sticks old newspaper, fabric scraps.
  3. have a dance party in the lounge room
  4. ferment - make some christmas champagne, ginger beer or kimchi
  5. borrow a christmas book from the library
  6. compost - start a compost heap, seaweed or compost tea, or add compost to your garden
  7. go out for ice cream sundaes
  8. make an up-cycled or handmade gift
  9. have a beach or neighbourhood litter cleanup
  10. make decorations from natural or upcycled materials 
  11. find a christmas tree - we usually pick a weed tree growing by the roadside
  12. decorate the christmas tree
  13. donate a gift to those less fortunate than you 
  14. plant - a tree, native flowers for the bees, or some food plants to feed your family
  15. watch a christmas movie together
  16. mend a favourite toy, or piece of clothing
  17. read books under a shady tree - aren't trees wonderful?
  18. make christmas crackers - upcycle those old toilet rolls!
  19. go fruit picking or foraging - bring your own baskets or containers!
  20. bake something using local and seasonally available ingredients
  21. make marshmallows from scratch 
  22. celebrate summer solstice - have a backyard campfire and toast those marshmallows!
  23. make some gift wrap from fabric, ribbons, re-used paper, or drawstring bags
  24. make a food gift and give it to your neighbours - maybe rocky road with the leftover marshmallows!

Bonus activities:
  • have a picnic dinner
  • donate - toys or unwanted clothing or household goods
  • make beeswax candles for the dinner table 
  • make a gingerbread house
  • pamper yourselves with homemade masks, lotions, foot soaks and pedicures

Let us know if you decide to join in too and have a waste-free activity advent calendar this year. Yay for having fun, finding balance and doing all the things! 

~ Lauren. xx

19 February 2017

Pigface Jam

A couple of years ago, on the way home from the beach, I tripped over a runner of pigface stretching across the track back to the car. I picked it up and saw some tiny roots poking out, so I carried it home with me and popped it out in the backyard, beside the herb garden. I didn't expect it to grow, but grow it did, and it completely covered a large grassy patch quite quickly. It grew in heavy clay soil, in the shade and continues to cover as much of the garden as we let it. We use it for bee stings and burns, in the same way you'd use aloe vera, so it's spot near the back door is quite practical.

This year, the pig face patch grew dozens of beautiful bright magenta flowers, which the bees adored. These turned into amazing looking red fruit… and so we made jam.

We referred to this recipe, but made a few minor changes, so here's our version…

1. Collect and peel 2 cups of pig face fruit pulp. The red fleshy skin peels away from the inside ball of pulp quite easily.
2. Place it in a saucepan with 1 cup of sugar and 3 cups of water.
3. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze it a bit and throw it in, peel and all.
4. Bring to a boil while sterilising a jar or two.
5.  Simmer and test the jam until it has thickened to a suitable jammy consistency - ours became really stretchy which is quite unlike any jam I've ever seen before!
6. Strain the jam if you like (we didn't).
7. Pour or ladle it into jars.

The jam is an interesting dark colour, but the flavour is amazing! Pigface fruit taste sweet and salty, with hints of strawberry and guava. The jam is all of that but sweeter… Delicious on sourdough with a little butter.

The entire plant is useful and edible. Leaves can be used in salads and wherever you might enjoy juicy and salty hints of flavour. Our chooks seem to enjoy a nibble, too! If you happen to trip over a little pig face on your way home from the beach, I'd highly recommend plonking it in your garden somewhere and enjoying this readily available bush food. Or perhaps, while you're at the beach, indulge in a little foraging? It's well worth the effort.

~ Lauren. xx

13 February 2017

Beyond Unschooling

If you've been a reader of this blog for some time, you'll know that our main approach to owlet learning and living has been through unschooling. We've always followed their lead, since they were very small. Aside from that little moment of Steiner kindergarten for Big Owlet, we've just lived life and helped the owlets learn what they needed, when the needed. It's been beautiful and amazing, and a huge learning curve for us in observing and letting go and trusting that they will learn when and what they need. We wouldn't have it any other way.

As we stepped into last year, however, the owlets asked for more. They felt they wanted a plan mapped out for them. They wanted to learn more, explore more. And they wanted to work. Big Owlet was particularly keen to see where she was at and if she was on par with the peers that she knew at that Steiner kindy so many moons ago. But she was also adamant that she didn't want to go to school. She loves the freedom we have at home. Loves the ease and convenience of being where everything she loves and needs is, all day. All the owlets do - who doesn't?

So we set about finding structure and work, but balancing it with freedom. And we arrived at Oak Meadow. We've been using the Oak Meadow curriculum for Big Owlet for almost a year now. Little Owlet has also darted around the grades, then taken some time to focus on gardening, and she's now back on board and into her third week of a new year. Tiny began puddling around with her own "special books" (Oakmeadow Kindergarten) half-way through last year and is now into week three of Grade One.  I spent the first three weeks of this year planning and finding extra resources and mapping out our year. We're all in and we have a daily rhythm and we're working hard on all the things every day. Who even are we? Essentially we're still following the owlets' lead... Unschooling with book guides? Haha! It feels like the same life, but with different hashtags.

So how did the owlets measure up? Well, there were a few new concepts that curriculum based learning introduced. We found that the writing component of the program was challenging - there's so much writing! So we've been working through slowly, picking and choosing. We began at a level that covered much of the history learning Big Owlet was after and she's now at exactly the same place as those Steiner kindy peers. Little Owlet needed a little extra time with hands on work before she felt like settling down to bookwork. Her spelling needed some help, so using a formal program has done wonders for her confidence. Both bigger owlets can read very well, despite very little input from us. It really has just happened with time, patience, lots of reading aloud on our part, and effort on their part. Maths… well there are quite a few concepts which the owlets hadn't encountered yet. But they learn new maths concepts extremely quickly, so with Khan academy and extra time chatting it through with Huz, we've got them covered. Science - well, the Owlets find all those unschooling years and the way we live, observing and exploring, mean they have a great grasp on nature and science.

The beauty of the Oak Meadow program is that from Grade 4 onward, it is written to the student, so the owlets can work somewhat autonomously. The program is rather extensive, so they pick and choose the projects that really appeal to them and we supplement with extra outings, books, films and performances. And some days we put it all aside because it's a perfect beach day and there's so much learning and living to be done there.

I'm so glad for our unschooling years. They mean we learn creatively and resourcefully. They mean that I don't stress over skipped days or push things that the Owlets don't find interesting or essential. They mean that I know we'll get to where we need to be eventually, trusting the process of living and learning, together in partnership. Whichever approach you take, and whatever you decide to call it, that's really what it should all be about, after all. That's where the real learning is.

How's your year going?
I'll be sharing a little more of our learning adventures, past and present, in weeks to come. 
Have a gorgeous week.

Much love, 

~ Lauren. xx

12 February 2017

Taking Stock :: Summer

It's been months since our last post! We've been busy as ever, doing all the things. There's much to write about. But for now, I'm ripping the bandaid off and posting a simple stocktake of where we're at now...

Making: Pigface Jam. I'm hoping it's a thing. We have lots of pigface.
Cooking: Chocolate Zucchini Cake. It's zucchini season and this cake feeds hungry owlets well!  
Drinking: Home made lemon and mint cordial. So good!
Reading: The Women in Black and Dark Emu. I read snippets when I can. Very slowly!
Wanting: So many more hours in the day and limitless energy. Yep.
Looking: Out the window to see when it's good beach weather. 
Preserving: Tomatoes! 
Considering: Sauce or canning whole toms for winter? I think whole. 
Harvesting: Tomatoes, mulberries, cucumbers, strawberries, rhubarb, apples, beans… Blueberries!
Wishing: Straws and napkins at cafes were an opt-in situation.
Enjoying: Hanging out at the beach on sunny afternoons. 
Waiting: For the rest of the tomatoes to ripen. And the corn to grow! I'm not sure it will. 
Liking: Starting our days with yoga most days. 
Wondering: Where the ducks have hidden the eggs.
Loving: Watching all the best 90's movies with Big Owlet. 
Pondering: Moving to a cheaper house, far away, with more land for growing more things. 
Foraging: Elderberries. Apparently I'm not the only one. If you see any, let me know!
Listening: To the rain pouring outside. Gotta love Tasmanian summer. 
Deciding: We're super happy living right where we are. Urban permaculture is where it's at. Remind me again in July. 
Buying: Milk in bottles again at the farmers market! Woohoo! And fetta and halloumi. Sundays are the best!
Watching: The West Wing and pretending its real life. Also Gossip Girl because it's the opposite of our life. Escapism can be fun!
Hoping: We can afford a holiday this year. 

Marvelling: At how much food three owlets can eat.
Cringing: At the news. See Watching. 
Needing: Firewood. 
Learning: As much as I can about herbs. This seems to be a sporadic, lifelong project for me. 
Questioning: How I'm going to nourish our soil better this year. 
Smelling: Basil. One of the greatest summer smells, I reckon.
Wearing: A new pair of Softstar shoes. My last pair lasted for 4 years! These were a little Christmas splurge for me. Barefoot shoes make all the difference for me. 
Noticing: The light is definitely changing. It's a little more golden now. I see you there, Autumn.
Thinking: That I'm glad we've taken our time to ease into this year a little gently and thoughtfully.
Knowing: The rest of the year will probably be full on. 
Admiring: Fellow homeschoolers who plan amazing, incredible and super beautiful years for their owlets. 
Sewing: Cloth pads. Practical, necessary and waste free!
Getting: Some immune system building remedies ready. All the garlic. 
Bookmarking: Fire Cider recipes. Tweaking and picking what works for us where we are. 
Closing: My laptop any minute now. 
Feeling: Excited about visiting my sister next month and giving my nephews a squoosh.
Celebrating: The long weekend in Hobart. Gotta love extra time with Huz. 
Embracing: Big, scary, exciting challenges in the works. They're the best kind.

~ Lauren. xx