Sunday, July 9, 2023

Gentler living...

 The idea of living a gentler life may seem quite a romantic fancy, because it almost sounds too good to be true...and in some ways it is, if you equate gentler with easier. But in fact, living gentler is rarely easy.

I've always had a full life, some seasons busier, other seasons quieter, but always full in the context of having no reason ever to be bored because when living a gentle homemaker life there is a perpetual list of things I can do. Choosing the gentler way though, means I no longer push myself to achieve more in a day than is necessary, needful, or beyond my physical and mental abilities. Choosing to live gently allows me to potter about, slowing my pace, and actually being attentive to whatever tasks are at hand unhurriedly - rather than thinking of the next task, the next thing, the next accomplishment. Letting the knowledge sink in that there will always be a tomorrow, next week or month or year, as long as the Lord keeps me here, has helped me shake off many unnecessary self-adhered burdens, freeing me to embrace what is before me on this day, attending to it first with prayer, and effort to follow, but not adding what is not required. 

This time of year the winter garden takes much of my time, and as we seem to have missed our hoped-for cool winter due to temperatures most days around 30C, and even up to 35C one Saturday, more time than usual has been needed to water everything and keep the vegetables and fruits growing. It was such a blessing last week as we had three inches of unexpected rain over two days and my goodness, the plants simply shot up overnight - something I notice always happens with good rain, rather than water from the tap. It was also delightful not to have to water the gardens for the following two days as well! 

I've spent time preparing food, baking biscuits (cookies) and breads, and enjoying 'new-to-us' produce, like these small cucamelons, which after a slow start have spread like crazy and are now bringing forth an abundance of citrusy/cucumbery treats.

They've taken over the wire rack which holds the rockmelons, grown over the top of the brown privacy fence, and are making their way along the branches of the tabebuia tree outside our bedroom window. But they are delicious little morsels for salads and snacks, and we're thrilled for such an abundant harvest our first year planting them.

Picking from the garden each morning helps me plan that night's evening meal, or a luncheon outside with hubby on Sundays. Today this was what I picked, putting aside the snow peas, cucamelons, lettuce, spring onions, chives and baby beets for tonight...

We are growing a lot of beetroot in various raised beds around the house because we love them when they're small, but also because I use the beet leaves (and radish leaves) to make pesto.

With today's harvest of leaves, along with last week's leftover basil, I made two more pots of pesto (one goes to Blossom). As I had more than two pots worth I decided hubby and I would share the excess with lunch.

While he was outside working hard to remove a stubborn tree stump, I baked a rosemary and garlic Focaccia bread as it's the perfect base for a 'choosies' lunch. Do you have 'choosies' meals? We've been doing this for more than thirty years, and it's a family favourite. 

You have a lovely fresh bread baked and ready to enjoy, then you spread the table with all the bits and pieces from the fridge which may needing using up. Everyone chooses what they like to fill their plate, adds a big chunk of focaccia, and pours a lovely sparkly drink (or a cup of tea)...then we all relax and enjoy the chatter and the food for as long we like.

Being that today there's only hubby and myself, I filled a platter with his favourite salami, olives, cheese, onions, tomatoes fresh from our vines, boiled eggs, the pesto I just made, and some of the pickled cucumbers and red capsicums I made last week. 

I also like to have a sweet treat for afters, and today it was a freshly baked batch of gingernut biscuits. This was the first time I'd made them since my husband was at University, but we both quickly remembered just how delicious and crisp they are, so they've been added to our menu rotation!

Last week I make Cowboy Cookies for the grandkids, and though we enjoyed some too, my man thought them a bit too heavy for his liking (it was the oats, as he's not the biggest fan of oats)...

I also used up some of my sourdough on these really yummy blueberry and apple muffins. We had them for breakfast on Saturday and agreed they make a hearty change from our usual fruit, cashew milk, cereal (him) and muesli (me) weekday breakfast, so I'm glad I made a double batch because I have portioned them in the freezer for the weekends ahead. 

I get a lot of requests via email for my recipes, and am 'gently' working on a file of the most popular to share soon, but one thing I must say about my muffins - I never use a recipe. For things that I make often, and have made for many years, it's all intuition and a decision to use what's on hand. 

The school holidays finish today so Cully May and Rafaella go back to school tomorrow. Spending time with Blossom and the children these past two weeks (in between various bouts of a tummy bug which travelled through our family circle) has been extra special. We all love the library and try to meet up there one afternoon a week during the school term, so I made the kids a library bag each. The girls have pretty sparkly unicorn fabric (I used different lining fabrics so the girls can tell their bags apart) and Charlie has a gorgeous print of dogs and cats from old Disney movies...we all love Lady and the Tramp in our family, don't you?

Back in the garden I'm making use of unusual things for planting or trellising. Around the yard are three strainers, two which were found for pennies at a garage sale and one which was my own kitchen strainer for years but was replaced recently with a bigger one. I like to plant a lot of flowers and herbs among the vegetables every winter, but this year I have tripled the amount so I look for extra ways to get them in and around the place. The wire fencing hubby put up for the blackberry bush and the tomato vines was perfect for displaying pansies and seaside daisies. I also have another right up the back near the pool with zinnias and geraniums.

Blossom and her family have to move from their rental home after five years there (the owner is selling the house) so she's busy decluttering for the charity shop, and throwing away what's broken. In her broken pile was the frame of a laundry basket which had broken along the bottom. I quickly snapped it up and brought it home, had hubby remove what remained at the bottom, then placed it over some newly planted beans. 

You never know what you can recycle. My eyes are always looking for things to make use of in the garden! 

How are you this time of year? Though I'm close to the middle of our Australian winter, the tropical climate in the top end where I live seems to mirror many of you who are enjoying summer in the northern hemisphere. My friends in southern Australia are freezing, as my eldest daughter Kezzie attests to. She lives in Tasmania and laments winter as she's a true gardener and loves nothing more than growing her own produce to feed herself and her children, but alas the ground is frozen and she must wait for mid-spring to begin planning and planting. She did decide, however, that an indoor hobby for winter would be wise, and just bought herself a sewing machine. I got quite teary over her declaration that learning to sew would help her feel closer to myself and Blossom, and that we'd all have something else in common to chat about. Isn't that precious? 

( an old favourite rose)

(a new favourite rose)

(dianthus are everywhere, along with salvia)

Well, I shall say farewell for today, and offer you these heartfelt words...dear ones, give thanks for what you have today, and take time to be aware of the people God has placed in your life. Listen more than you speak, taking the time to consider what others are sharing with you before you answer. Conversation is a gift some of us don't get to enjoy very often, but when we do, the most important thing is to listen to the one who is talking. The Bible tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19) - something which I find is becoming rare in this social media, self-obsessed world. How very sad. I admit to being like that myself at times, wanting to get 'my' thoughts out before the other person finishes, but God is working on me in that area, which is probably why I feel led to write about it today. Interrupting is something my husband never does. He never interrupts when someone is speaking, and though he will admit that he's not the best listener, he does try to. I really admire that about him. 

Hugs and blessings for the week ahead,

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Angela said...

Another lovely post, thank you. My garden is coming along well, despite the extreme heat here in England right now. Gardening is my new hobby in retirement and it's a real blessing. Time to enjoy creation - and then to eat the produce around the table with family and friends.
In our house we call them "picky lunches" because you pick and choose your favourites.
I'm a thrifty gardener too - repurposing a nursery fireguard as a trellis for my sweet peas, and supporting plants with tent poles (the fabric of the tent wore out years ago, and the elastic perished, but I have lots of strong 60cm poles to support tomatoes etc)
Retirement is proving such a blessing - still busy serving Jesus, but at a gentler pace, with more time for uninterrupted reflection.
Have a blessed weekend ❤️❤️πŸ™πŸ™‚πŸ˜ŽπŸŒ±πŸŒΏ

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for inspiration and praying Blossom and family find a nice place close by.

FlourishingPalms said...

I've never been a gardener, but I enjoy and appreciate everything you've shared about your garden - how it's set up, what you like, and how you use your fresh produce. Your efforts are truly admirable. I'm so happy for you (and trying mightily to not be envious) that Kezzie has invested in a sewing machine. No doubt the three of you will enjoy many hours of discussing and sharing projects. Thank you for your parting words. I already know I am guilty of not being a good listener, and too-often interrupt. I appreciate your reminder of how God wants me to behave. Bless you, Jenny.

Allie said...

Oh that gorgeous, gorgeous garden - how I wish I had listened to my grandfather more, he grew up on a farm and we'd go outside in summer to pick fresh raspberries for breakfast. He grew tons of roses for my grandmother. He knew so much - why didn't I listen more!
I love that you're repurposing things to use in the garden, the strainer is a fantastic idea! Love the library bags for the children, such a good idea. Be well dear heart, love you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,
Good rain ! We’re enjoying it and more today!
Gorgeous rose and the zucchini flowers photos!
We have the same lunch style! Now I can give it a name!
Thank you for a beautiful post today! ….reading replying this on the iPhone.
Hugs take care

Julie said...

Another wonderful post Dear Jennifer. How great your garden looks compared to our mid winter one. I am able to pick some brassicas though. Your baking always makes my mouth water & want to reach into my screen for a taste test!!! Wishing you a wonderful week my friend x0x0

Nancy Kelly said...

What are ginger nut biscuits?

Linda said...

Hi Jennifer,
I loved reading your description of what a 'gentle life' is to you, and how it is lived out in your life. I would say it's much the same for me. Your garden produce looked lovely too. Blessings ~ Linda

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your “gentle life” with us, it’s like having a cup of tea with a friend ❤️.

terricheney said...

Summer here in the US and in my area which is in the deep South it is quite warm. I've been puttering about the patio and have planted loads in pots. I currently have eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions and just this morning set out two bell pepper plants I'd bought this past weekend. I also have oregano,dill, sage, basil, chives and peppermint. I have mixed all these in with lilies, marigolds, roses, salvias, celosia, geraniums, hibiscus, mandevilla, dusty miller, coleus. I'm sure I'm leaving soemthing out. It is the joy of my early mornings to go out and look over my wee potted garden and flowers and to be astonished daily at how the rain has made something shoot upwards.

I have been living gently for years now and no, it's not easy. It often means doing things in a more intensive and less labor saving way but enjoying the motions and movements and rhythms that satisfying work can bring.

I agree with so much of what you write. Thank you for taking the time to share.

Tammy said...

Dearest Jennifer,

What a beauty filled post. With gorgeous flowers, plants cucamelons. Gorgeous foods. Love looking at your gardens. They are filled with beauty. I am trying to be a better listener.
love Always Tammy

Susan said...

What a lovely winter post. Seeing the beautiful plants around you is a joy. I wouldn't have thought of strainers, though I might have thought of the bean-climber laundry basket. You're so inventive about repurposing things. I love what Kezzie said, and it shows how much she misses you both. I'm so glad she has the option of acquiring a machine and learning to do more.

We have had choosies, only we called them fetchies, because we fetched different things. My favorite bread is ciabatta bread. There's something about it that makes it seem like the perfect bread to me - in small buns, not long pieces. It's particularly good with honey butter - yum!

I haven't heard of cucamelons, but plan to investigate if that's a plant available here. I do love beets and turnips, and if one needs more magnesium, they are definitely good with that, along with avocados, bananas, and spinach. Those little beets are so cute, and I'll bet they are tasty! I'll take my biscuits with oats in them, please. =) Maybe there's something Mr. E likes that I don't and we can swap them. Mushrooms, perhaps? Any fish! He can have both without even returning oats. LOL

Thank you for some beautiful thoughts about food and flowers today, and about all God has provided for me to enjoy on this earth. I'm so grateful. Time to head to the library soon! Enjoy your many blessings, and I will do the same. We are both so fortunate.

Angie inSoCal said...

We had growing up Clean out Saturdays which would be the equivalent of "choosies". We do that now on Saturdays, too. Blessings!

Lin said...

Always good to see pictures of your garden and your lovely ideas. Love your use of the colanders - what you call a strainer! - and I wonder what you have used to to line it with?
I love having 'picky bits' usually for Sunday supper, and foccacia is the perfect accompaniment. xx

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about the tummy bugs, its never nice to spend the holidays unwell. Hopefully everyone is fully recovered. I'm sure you had such a lovely time with the Grandies over the break. What a special time!
We love "Bits and Pieces" around here for lunch or even dinner sometimes. Our name for it has now shortened to "Bits'n'"

You've inspired me! I'm off to make some Gingernuts now!
Love Em xox

Jenny of Elefantz said...

Hi Nancy! Gingernut biscuits are a crispy biscuit (cookie) made with a lot of ginger and golden syrup. They are very popular here in Australia.
Here's a good recipe -