Keeping chickens will make your life better!

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Keeping backyard chickens will always add a bit of colour to your life. Taking part in #100happydays is really helping me appreciate the small things in life. I’ve made a commitment to notice the small things that make life a little bit better. And the lovely girls that we share our backyard with, do just that.

 

We’ve had Myra, Molly and Maisy now for about 18 months, and I admit that I often take them for granted. But sitting outside this week, enjoying the winter sunshine, I watched them scratching around and generally getting on with their chicken lives.

 

It has to be said, they are the funniest, oddest, most endearing creatures I’ve come to know. There are so many great things about keeping chooks in your backyard, here are a few:

  • Fresh eggs, of course! Who doesn’t love a weekend breakfast of eggs. There is nothing quite like the feeling of listening for the crow of one of your chooks to signal a fresh egg has been delivered for your breakfast. And without a shadow of a doubt, eggs laid in the backyard taste better than those you find in the supermarket.

 

  • Their chook poo provides soil that is incredibly rich in nutrients. This summer, our tomato patch was better than it has ever been, largely due to the nutrients in the soil that was raked through a couple of months before planting. It was all from the chicken house. So cleaning out their house might not be top of your joy list, but the compost will have a little party each time it’s done.

 

  • If you want to live a bit greener keeping chooks is a great way to do it. All our household scraps go straight in to the chook tin and get delivered to the chooks after breakfast the next day. So by giving them your scraps you provide them with their food, and you reduce your waste (and landfill). So it’s a win-win.

 

  • If you have kids and live in the city, its a great way for them to learn about the farm-to-table cycle. This simple act of waiting for the chicken to lay an egg for our Saturday morning breakfast shows them that food doesn’t just materialise at the supermarket, that there is a whole process that happens before food lands on those shelves.

 

  • They are a low maintenance and affordable pet to keep. You need close the door to their house at sunset and let them out in the morning to keep them safe from foxes. (If you’re away a bit, you can even buy an automatic door that will close at sunset and open at sunrise.) They need fresh water, and every couple of weeks their house needs a clean. That’s it. Low maintenance and low cost.

 

  • If you’re having trouble switching off or you’re stressed about something, go and spend ten minutes watching the chooks scratch around. You’ll be in a trance in minutes!

ImageYesterday’s loot – two days worth of eggs

Do yourself a favour, get yourself some chooks. We’re all weighed down by our modern lives and making an effort to get lighter will make your life better. Simple things, like backyard chickens, make life richer.

Decluttering versus sentimentality

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Image via Pinterest (alifesdesign.blogspot.com)

Decluttering, it seems, is the new buzzword. Holidays come around and every man and his dog plans to declutter. I’ve said it myself, (ahem) several times. I’ve done it in varying degrees, but obviously not enough, because I wouldn’t need to keep revisiting it.

Why are our houses so cluttered? What is it with our preoccupation with things, with stuff? I’m not sure I can answer this in one blog post, as I suspect the answer is complex and layered, and varies for each individual person. I’d say a lot of our own individual history informs our behaviour towards ownership and the collection of goods.

My Mum was a hoarder, not the psychological-illness-type of hoarder, but hoarded enough to qualify for the title. And my siblings can verify this as clearing out her place after she died was a joint effort. Even though the task was monumental, in a way I was grateful to her for holding on to lots of the things we came across.

There were lots of old photos, but there were cards that we’d made as kids, pictures we’d drawn for her, school reports, behavioural cards (from being badly behaved at school!), newspaper articles that were relevant to our family. But also paraphernalia that related to her story, letters between her parents, photos of their family dog, so her story, but also our back-story.

And now I have at least a couple of boxes in my garage of the same things – school diaries, photos, letters between friends, letters between my husband and I, before I joined him in England. And I have boxes in each of the kids rooms with their hospital bands from when they were born, cards from their birth and first birthdays, their coming home from hospital outfits, a couple of outfits bought just for them that I can’t bear to part with, odd pieces of paper, like the first time my daughter wrote her own name, the first drawing that was clearly a person.

I’d never dream of getting rid of these things, and I lug them around, from house to house and curse myself for being a hoarder as well. But then there are things like the shelves and shelves of books, that I’ve read once and am pretty certain I won’t read again. But for what ever mysterious reason, I can’t bear to part with. Racks of clothes in my wardrobe, that haven’t seen the light of day for a very long time (when your clothes are gathering dust in the wardrobe, it really is time to let go).

And here’s the thing, I’ve gone on decluttering frenzies and delivered bags of clothes to the Salvos, only to look for an item to wear the following season and then realise it’s gone. Then I curse myself all over again for trying not to be a hoarder. So how do we strike a balance?

When we were clearing out Mum’s place, between us, we probably found at least 20 sets of keys. There were also padlocks, not of the same number, but more than the average person could use in a house for one. Some had keys inside, some didn’t. Funnily enough, I still have some of those padlocks and sets of keys from Mum’s kicking around my place now. I don’t even know how I came to bring them home. Like Mum, I probably thought, ‘I’ll need that one day and then I’ll be really annoyed for not keeping it’.

But alas, I’m not giving up my quest for a minimalist home, I just have a feeling it might be lifelong quest.

Got any tips for letting go? Pray tell…

 

Time to nude up people…

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There are a few cliches around food: ‘you are what you eat’ ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ ‘eat too much of the wrong food and you’ll get fat and sick ’ – ok, I made that last one up, but it has as much truth as the others.

 

Our modern lifestyles have resulted in a diet vastly different from our grandparents, we eat things that can be consumed, but can not necessarily be called food. Hot dog anyone?

 

Our physical and mental health would be vastly improved if we all made a pact to ‘get nude’. That’s right, ‘get nude with our food’. Ditch the supermarket for the green grocer or farmers market, go to the butcher instead of the deli, bring a box of veggies home instead of supermarket bags full of square things in packets. Nude up your food, bring it home in its birthday suit – your body with thank you for it.

 

Everyone knows that rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune diseases are higher than they’ve ever been. So are rates of clinical depression and anxiety disorders. No one knows why (apparently). I’m no expert, and I only have my own experience to go by, but I do think what we are consuming goes a long way to explain it.

 

Obviously there are things at play that are out of our control, such as genetic predisposition and environmental aspects. But it astounds me that modern medicine does not include a protocol of eating real food as a way of managing certain conditions.

 

Alas, you do not need a doctor to tell you to eat real food to improve your health and quality of life. You are in control of this, what goes in your mouth is entirely your choice.

 

But know this, there are plenty of foods that will improve your health if you are facing illness. It’s complicated, there’s no doubt about that, as there is no prescription for it – what works for one person may not work for another. It’s a case of trial and error.

 

Given that winter is just around the corner, for those of us in the southern hemisphere, below is a list of really simple remedies for winter ailments, without setting foot in a pharmacy. And if you’ve been chowing down on too much ‘fawn’ food, you’ll be more compromised because your body will have been working really damned hard to process it. So wrap your laughing gear around some of the treats below.

 

Thyme tea: a brew of thyme leaves will help loosen congestion and ease symptoms of bronchitis. Steep a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves (or a teaspoon of dried) in a cup of boiling water. Drink as a tea.

 

Cinnamon & honey tea: this tasty little powder stabilises blood sugar, and is a great antiviral and antibiotic. Mix one tablespoon with one teaspoon of honey and boiling water, drink as a tea that will help relieve cough and congestion and lower fever.

 

Lemon Balm tea: this little maestro will help you fight that cold sore that’s brewing on your lip. Steep two to three teaspoons of  fresh leaves in one cup of boiling water, for 10 – 15 minutes. Dab on to your lip daily with a cotton ball.

 

Ginger & Lemon tea: Steep a knob of ginger in hot water and squeeze in the juice from half a lemon. Ginger will help with high fever and headache and is very effective against sinus symptoms and congestion. The vitamin C in the lemon will help speed up your recovery.

 

These little remedies are just the tip of the ice-berg, there’s a whole world of whole foods out there, all designed by nature specifically to nourish your body and make you feel great. This is the first in a series of posts on the therapeutic value of food, so if there is something that you’re interested in, comment below and I’ll be sure to include a post on it. What foods work for you and make you feel great?

 

Mindfulness:#100HAPPYDAYS

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Are you practicing mindfulness or are you just too damned distracted with the business of your life? Mindfulness is such a buzzword these days that it’s almost lost its meaning. So to remind you, it’s about being in the moment, instead of obsessing about the the past or fretting about the future.

 

The practice has its roots in Buddhist meditation, but has been appropriated by the mainstream and our western understanding of what constitutes mindfulness is probably far removed from what its Buddhist originators were thinking.

 

But alas, its modern, western incarnation is a great thing for all of us, god knows, we need it. If mindfulness is practiced regularly the benefits can be enormous. For example, it is found to reduce anxiety and depression and has become a clinical tool for psychologists treating some mental illnesses.

 

It also helps reduce general distress, can reduce the emotional pain associated with grief, anger, jealousy and fear; increase psychological and emotional resilience, improve concentration, enhance creativity (I’ve written about creativity and its benefits here), and generally increases your overall appreciation of life.

 

It works like this: mindfulness increases the intensity of everyday experiences and the result is that they are vastly more satisfying. Boredom with life is less of a danger as your are constantly engaged in the moment and the magic that it brings. Think about the moment when you flop down in the arm chair, coffee in one hand, book in the other, relief washes over you. Noting this moment of relief, the smell of the coffee, the comfort of the chair and the chance for a break. This is mindfulness.

 

Not being mindful in this moment would appear more like this: ‘hmmm, I haven’t really got time for this coffee break, it’s been such a busy morning and I haven’t got half the things done I needed to. I really should just quickly drink this as I’ve got so much on this afternoon, I must remember to pick up the dry cleaning, oh no, I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer for dinner…’ and so it goes.

 

We’ve all been there. There would not be a single person reading this blog post who has not lived that exact moment I just described. Mindfulness is about having less of those moments, those guilt-ridden, stress-inducing moments; and more of the ‘ahhh, comfortable chair, hot coffee, rest for a minute’ moments.

 

One way you can do this is by signing up for the ‘100 Happy Days’ Challenge. So the idea is that you sign up for the challenge and each day submit a photo of what made you happy that day. Pretty simple. You can do it in a public forum, like Facebook or Instagram, or privately by email. Personally, I was inspired by seeing my friends posting their 100 Happy Days shots on Facebook, so I’ve gone down that path in the hope that someone might be inspired by mine. But it’s totally up to you.

 

So far, 71 percent of people who didn’t complete their 100 Days said that time was their biggest barrier. I am busier than I’ve ever been, ever. But I will make time for this. Today is Day 1, and I was struggling to choose which moment to publish. Without the challenge I probably wouldn’t have even noticed those lovely little moments of simplicity, which actually, just made my day.

 

How are your mindfulness skills? Needing a hand with it? Check out #100HAPPYDAYS.

 

Creativity – A Salve for the Soul

 

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People tend to categorise themselves. Do you consider yourself creative, or academic or a ‘maths and science’ person? Believe it or not, we all have our own creative adaptor. It’s just that some people have learnt where to plug it in, and some haven’t.

We are also quite constrained by what we think is a creative undertaking. Being creative is not just about painting pictures or doing ‘art’. It can be anything you want it to be. What characterises creativity is that it is done with a passionate outpouring.

Mindfood’s theme for this month’s edition is ‘Creativity’, which is what has inspired this post. Carolyn Enting interviews art therapist Irena Stenner in her article ‘Unleash your inner artist’. Stenner explains that creativity is a way of connecting with something ‘beyond our intellect’. I think it’s important to remember this; not every activity you undertake needs to be cerebral.

When Mum was very sick, I was having a hard time managing my emotional stress levels. My very thoughtful and intuitive brother presented me with a sketch book and a set of artists pencils, and reminded me that when I was younger my art was a strong force in my life and a means of expression that I was heavily reliant on. My practice fell away over the years and was replaced with going to work, studying and looking after my children. It had been many years since I’d sat down to draw.

Mum passed away not long after this, and so for his birthday I decided I would take his advice and make a piece of art for him to take home to Queensland, where he lived with his wife and family. The process was incredibly soothing and I had forgotten how healing it could be. I had transcended to a peaceful happy place, right there in my living room, with my baby kicking on the floor and my older kids happily drawing at the table with me.

But you don’t have to draw or paint to be creative. You can sing, or bake, or whittle some wood. Try something that you’ve always admired other people doing, but believed you wouldn’t be good at. The point of the exercise is not what you produce at the end, but rather, the process of creating and where that process takes you.

There was a time in my life where I was stuck in a bit of a rut, with not much money or support to change things, and I read an article that suggested doing one thing each day, that you wouldn’t normally do and see how it feels.

So the next day I wore red lipstick out to the supermarket. I felt fabulous all day. The day after that I wore a beret. The next day I walked, instead of drove. These simple acts were acts of creativity, without any effort, expense or time required from me. And I tell you, they were a salve to my soul.

I still struggle to make time for creativity, but when I do, it feels like I’ve been on a little holiday. What about you? Is there something you do that makes you feel brand new?