1. Are there limits to making the life of a housewife interesting and fun?
I doubt there are limits if you look at it the right way. I know there are many women who look at housework as a complete bore, and I understand that because I used to think the same thing. But when I realized that I could take control of my home and make it a place I felt comfortable in and proud of, when I knew that what I did in the home made it a safe haven and stress-free place for myself and my family, I jumped right in and never looked back.
Slow down; don't try to get everything done in one day. Housework never ends, so don't try to finish it all in one day. Be mindful, understand what it is you're really doing, learn something new every day, and look for enjoyment in what you do. It is there if you look.
2. According to your blog, you seem to have a very busy life at home. What inspired you to focus your attention on so many things?
I wanted to retire and at that stage was still in my late 50s. And I knew that if I stopped working for a living I would need to cut back on a lot of the things I was then taking for granted. That was fine with me as I didn't like shopping and wanted to cut back on what I spent and bought into my home. Luckily my husband and I were debt-free so I knew that if we could save money on groceries, making as much as I could at home, we'd do well.
So I started "re-skilling" myself to make many of the things that support home life. I taught myself to make good soap, laundry powder, dishcloths, bread, sauces, chutneys, and to cook from scratch - every meal, every day. After I'd been doing that for a while I realised we were healthier because we weren't eating preservatives, trans fats or colourings, but more importantly, I was happier that I'd ever been. Making my home over made me over too.
3. Can you describe some of the most important organic gardening practices?
The most important thing is to plant into good soil. It is much better than planting in poor or mediocre soil and applying many dollars worth of fertilizers. Making compost to add organic matter to the soil, with the addition of cow or horse manure and worm castings, will give you good crops, even if you're a beginner.
4. You have mentioned using compost fertilizer for your vegetable and fruit garden. Can you advise our readers on how to make it right?
Compost is a gentle and natural fertilizer and it helps you get rid of most of the kitchen waste and table scraps you might have. If you build a compost heap, you'll cut down a lot on what you throw out in your rubbish bin. You can use compost in two ways - you can dig it into the soil or you can make compost tea. To do that, simply put a couple of shovels of compost into a burlap bag and place it in a large bucket, cover with water and leave it to steep for about two weeks. Then dilute the tea in your watering can to about 10 percent compost water to 90 percent plain water, and water that onto your plants. That is particularly good for seedlings before you plant them in the garden. Another good homemade fertilizer is comfrey fertilizer. Comfrey is a herb that thrives in boggy and moist conditions on the edge of a garden. Just cut of the comfrey leaves and add them to a bucket of water. Put a brick on the leaves to keep them submerged and a lid on the bucket because this really smells a lot. It's extremely high in nitrogen though and is excellent, diluted in the same way as the compost tea above, and poured onto tomatoes, lettuces and peppers.
5. What types of activities does homemaking entail?
The main activity is to make your house a real home that you all feel comfortable in. Involve your children; give them tasks to do that will help with the overall running of the home. When you rely on children to help, particularly from a young age, you will build their self-esteem like nothing else because they know they are helping the family. My boys are now 29 and 30 and I raised them that way. Now they are two young men, one married and one with a long-term girlfriend, who are ambitious, protective, generous and kind. I couldn't be more proud of them. But to give you a better idea of my day-to-day activities, this is what I do. I rise early to write my blog, make breakfast, wash up (by hand), get some bread dough on to rise, clean the kitchen, sweep the floor, make the bed, clean the bathroom, make morning tea, and sit down with my husband to relax and talk. I am writing a book, so I try to get a few hours of writing in then, if I don't write, I'll sew or knit. I'll take a break for lunch and do a few more hours in the afternoon. I try to make all our dishcloths and face cloths, and our gloves, scarves and cardigans. I'll collect vegetables from the garden in the late afternoon and start making dinner. After dinner I wash up (by hand), clean the kitchen and read. I also do volunteer work in my community two days a week.
6. You have chickens as pets in your home. How different is taking care of them in comparison to usual pets like dogs and cats?
Pet chickens are easy. You can put their feed in a hopper so they feed themselves when they feel hungry, unlike dogs and some cats, chickens don't over-eat. You leave fresh water in a container, open the gate for them each morning so they can free range, and I generally just keep an eye on them during the day. The bonus is that late mornings I can go and collect eggs; and we use them for our meals and to give to our sons when we have excess. We have 12 chickens at the moment, all pure breeds; they all have names and they do the funniest things to watch when you have a spare moment.
7. You seem to be focusing on wasting nothing and making use of everything to the maximum. What do you do to make your leftover meals much more appealing and delicious?
It depends on what it is. If it's left over meat, I make that into a shepherd's or meat pie, or chop it up finely and make it up with a stir fly of vegetables. Left over vegetables can go into soups or will make bubble and squeak. You can use most leftovers as the stuffing in pancakes. Roll them into tubes, line them up in a baking tray, cover with shredded cheese, and bake in the oven. Everyone loves that.