in pursuit of simple


I totally signed up for the simple life. 

The living on the farm, living more sustainably, with a smaller ecological footprint, and feeding our family home raised, home grown, dynamically nutritious food. 

Turns out there's nothing at all bloody simple about it. 

I read Possum Living and while it was all very interesting, I don't think you can live without money. Well, not with children that you want to do stuff with, and (before you can afford to invest in the tanks and the solar power) if you need to pay bills, right?

Don't know about you, but I'm no good without internet. Need to pay the service provider bill. Suspect they're not so interested in bartering home grown broiler chickens. 

And you know what? I bought Possum Living. Ridiculous? I could have walked the mile into town to the public library open for 4 hours once a week, put my name on the list to borrow it in six weeks, but I'm in the commercial kitchen baking for our biscuit business the day the library opens. 

Oh the irony.

I can't escape the need to work for a living. Who can?!

I adored Radical Homemakers, but I cannot see how you can completely disentangle yourself from the commercial reality of needing some kind of income. Lucky you if you have no need to pay rent, or ever buy food, or school excursions or the jars to put up your preserves in.




How did we get so busy?

Can we dial it back? 

When did I last lie in the paddock with a kid, looking at the clouds? That was pretty much the principle reason I moved back down here. (That and the desire to have my own dairy cow and a flock of ducks. It's been at least three weeks since I've brought up the ducks, right?! Coming soon, coming soon.)

So in a vague effort to find some kind of rhythm, some degree of calm, I make bread. I make the time to make bread. 

Because when I'm flat out like a lizard drinking it's the bread making that falls by the wayside. 

I find myself making sandwiches with a bought loaf of sliced bread. 

And even though the scaffolding is all there, I feel like the simple life has fallen away from me. Or me from it. 



The blossoms are coming out. Spring is springing. 

Is there one thing that makes you feel like you're on track? Making time for breadmaking? Finding yourself in a downward dog? Looking at clouds? Holding knitting/a hammer/an instrument?

I hope there is.

I'm off to knead mine.

Because simple takes time. The homemade laundry powder, all those hankies on the line, all the from-scratch food in lunchboxes and on the dinner table, the chemical-free cleaning, the vegetable garden, the chickens and for heaven's sake, the twenty-four-hour sourdough process.

But for some reason I really really really believe in it. I believe it's a better way to live, if you can, if you're inclined. 

Not-at-all-simple, but fresh out of the oven it's a little bit of awesome. 





24 Comments on “in pursuit of simple
September 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Oh yes!! You have totally hit the nail on the head…. these types of all or nothing simple living only work for some people, in their circumstances, which I think puts many off before even trying it. All too easy to put it in the too hard basket.

Maybe the better term is mindful living – because trying to make it work, especially with a family, is far from simple. But being mindful of your food, your spending, your impact on the planet, the dynamics of your family. THAT is something we can achieve, block by block, in our own lives. You demonstrate this very well, I’m always inspired around here.

As to my small sense of achievement? Knitting my own socks. That’s something that you just can’t buy.

September 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Got my own place recently and i now have the time and space to make my own food. Last nights dinner was veg and chicken soup with home made rolls and lemon barley water to drink with lemon delicious for desert (yes our lemon crop went kind of mad!) All made from scratch and didnt take any longer than it normally would to make dinner, tasted better though and gave me the pleasure of knowing what went into it 🙂 all this from a one bed apartment too.

September 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I think you just have to choose your simple. It’s a conscious choice to say, No, actually, I won’t do that today…but we aren’t really good at that, are we? We always choose ‘to do’. You have chosen to make bread which is a lovely way to spend time…and you get a pretty good result at the end too! I’ve just chosen to sit down with a fresh choc chip biscuit and a cup of tea and read our blog. Lovely x

September 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Gosh you wrote that one well. Really well. Because you’re right. It all takes so much time and effort. It takes us away from the kids, from the simple art of doing nothing. But I don’t like the alternative either: processed food and a heavy dependance on everything else they’re trying to sell us out there doesn’t make my heart sing. So we do what we do. My one thing? My food garden. And watching my two tuck into my cooking. Ok, that’s two things…

Marijke Van der Vlist
September 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I know the feeling that it all starts to overwhelm you, take a step back and prioritise. I would love to do more, make more, but sometimes the pull of laying in the hammock with a book is too strong. Yep my house then turns into a mess, having two young kids does that anyway. But then the next day you feel revived and fall back into rhythm again.
My priorities are always met: the kids, the chooks, a loaf of bread, dinner, water the and/or veggie garden. On my energetic days I do lots, cooking up a storm, work in the veggie garden, clean. On my tired days I do some bookkeeping, sewing, research and enjoy some time off while reaping the benefits of my energetic days. It’s finding the balance, once you start clenching your jaws to get things done, I find, it’s no longer worth it. Better to step back a little and focus on what you love and enjoy. For me bread making is easier then buying bread. My sourdough technique: keep starter in the fridge, in the morning after breakfast in between washing the dishes: mix in the bread maker your flour, starter, salt and (cold!) water. Ten minutes of kneading is plenty. No need for it to rise in a warm spot, just let it sit in the bread maker. In the afternoon around 15:30 turn on the bread maker for a minute for a punch down, tip the dough in a bread tin and let it sit for another hour. When I start making dinner I turn on the oven, put the tin in (yes, cold oven) and bake the bread for 50min. Tipping out the bread while having dinner is easily done. Before we go to bed I put it the bread box, it’s ready to slice and go in the morning for breakfast and lunch boxes. I hope this method might help you too.
Cheers, Marijke

Mr Shell
September 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I love the simple (but busy) life too! Sometimes I wonder why I put so much pressure on myself to make everything from scratch….but in the end, the feeling of satisfaction makes it all worthwhile. Downward dog? Funny you should mention that…..I’ve just started attending a yoga class – it IS the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done for myself…truly…..I want to shout out to the world “DO YOGA”!!!!!!!!! Now to go and make some washing powder….I just ran out 🙂

September 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I think about this on and off, as I remind myself ‘busy is not a virtue’ (my mother is still of the opinion if you’re not racing through life trying to cram in stupidly long work hours then you’re wasting your time. The fact she constantly complains she wishes she could spend more time with her grandchildren/in the garden/doing X or Y is not lost on me).

I also loved Radical Homemakers, and it helped me make some life balance decisions, but I do wonder whether we’re now trying to ‘have it all’ in a different way to our mother’s generation. My 96 year old grandmother told me that she had to teach herself to knit because with (admittedly 7) children and all the other work entailed in running a rural cottage with garden, her mother had no time to help her. That’s not the version of the simple life I see on the blogs I read.

While I try to figure it out, making compost is something that’s up there with things that make me feel on track! I like the fact it closes the loop- food scraps, weeds and chicken manure become growing medium for more food. It makes me feel self-contained in a very small way!

September 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

My simple? Reading /Words in any form, just reading.

The family simple, 3 come to mind immediately. The Beach. Homemade Baked Beans in front of a movie on a Friday Night. The organic markets on Sundays, choosing our produce, no packaged foods, nothing in plastic it reminds us how good food should be and how awful is anything that so truly removes us from the origin of food(IE SUPERMARKETS)

September 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

sorry ^ your blog x

September 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I find myself in an inner pickle so frequently these days (by that I mean the frantic mess and tumble inside). Working for a living and living the simple life is damn hard work…for me it is taking the time to pick a few flowers and pop them around the house, and boy I have to force myself to make the time to do it sometimes! Great post…

September 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Love these words Fiona.

Perhaps we’ve been using the wrong word. Perhaps we should be calling it ‘mindful living’. Or perhaps we need to just accept that ‘simple’ does not mean easy or quick.

Have a great weekend.

x t.

Penny Hannah
September 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Complete ‘simple’ living is probably an impossibility unless you happen to live on a desert island [with no internet!], so as your first commenter said, ‘mindful’ living is a more achievable goal and one that you are obviously doing. There is a quiet revolution going on and you’re up there with the banner carriers!

September 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Hi Fiona,
great post! And wouldn’t it be grand if we could live without money!! I find that the ‘busy’ I am when doing the simple things (the garden, the baking, cooking etc), is a different busy completely to the one I am when I have deadlines to meet for work and the rushing about for the kids. One is stressful, one is just busy.
I’ve been wondering how simple a life I can achieve in the city, with kids and jobs. But I am in the process of shedding, shedding, shedding…so we will see 🙂

Inner Pickle
September 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Ha ha! Actually I thought ‘our blog’ was perfect and an enormous compliment! xx

September 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Actually that’s perfect – closing the loop – that’s perfectly expressed. Compost is Adam’s thing too. xx

September 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm

You too, honey xxx

September 7, 2012 at 10:36 pm

It has taken me such a long time to realise that the version of simple/green/frugal that works for one person will not work for another. I’m crap at the permaculture principle ‘small and slow solutions’, I like to jump into lots of new and exciting things (ducks?), take on really too much (ducks), be too busy. If it makes you happy to live in a whirl, that’s okay, because it’s your life, and you wouldn’t be happy living someone else’s version of utopia. Read something ages ago about the psychology of gifted women, that it is normal for them to take on what looks like too much from the outside, and to cop criticism from external AND internal voices for these choices (funnily enough this was a feminine gifted trait – apparently gifted men have an inner voice less inclined to guilt trips). Anyway I think what I am saying is that you have a brain the size of a yacht, and if it makes you happy to do a lot with it, all at once, then that’s your normal and that’s okay. It might be a statistically unusual ‘normal’ but it’s yours.

September 7, 2012 at 11:50 pm

mmmm, homemade baked beans…. and how I loathe supermarkets. You & me & the sunday market, one day sister! xx

September 7, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Hooray! Now I must go immediately and make lemon delicious, now you’ve mentioned it. xx

September 8, 2012 at 2:59 am

Even with so much to catch up on this morning, I had to stop and read this post, and loved it. It made me realize your idyllic life on the farm is not without determined hard work. It gave me inspiration to be more ‘mindful’ right now in my own home. I admire your determination to keep the balance. This is where I am lost. I need to find my ‘bread making’. Thanks for pointing it out.

September 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Great post! REALLY liked this one! My “I’m on track and everything is going ok” things is 10 mins outside in the sun, lying on the trampoline or the ground, depends which is less crowded at the time. It works every single time, reminding me of why I do what I do and why I choose to NOT to do a whole lot of other things)

Bee Girl (AKA Melissa)
September 10, 2012 at 11:39 am

This is a wonderful post and perfectly timed. Thank you. It does take time. And patience. And the willingness to work at it, despite the exhaustion and frustration and questions. And it is all worth it. Absolutely.

September 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Like all the others said, wonderful post. It does take time and effort, and sometimes I do wonder whether the flurry that I feel I’m sitting on top of to get everything done just seems a tad crazy.
I was asked today, “why are you trying to reinvent the wheel?” I’m not, but biting in to my freshly baked sourdough sanga today was a lovely reminder of why I do, do it all. (…’cause you’re right, it is a little bit of awesome.)

October 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I only just caught up on your blog now after subscribing months ago. Great post, and a great reminder that simple does not always mean less busy.


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