Friday, July 13, 2018

Holidaying with the whanau

Hi friends, I hope you're enjoying relaxing school holidays and getting to spend time with the loved ones in your life.

We are holidaying at our family's bach this week.

Several years ago, my mother-in-law bought the bach from her own mother. It's the place my husband grew up holidaying at, and also the place he proposed to me at, so it has precious sentimental value for our family. Paul and his brothers and sister all pitched in some money to help secure the property, and had no regrets doing so, even though Paul and I hadn't even bought our own home to live in yet. 

We have enjoyed many, many beautiful holidays at the bach, and in between life in Hamilton, Wellington and Auckland, it has been a constant place of rest for us and our children.

This week we are holidaying with various members of Paul's family. Paul's brother is here for the holidays from China with his two daughters, and they are staying in their own bach, which is just behind our one. He and his wife bought it about three years ago and it has been a real blessing as it allows all the extended family to holiday together here. The kids have made the garage between the two baches their clubhouse, and spend hours playing in there together.

If you follow me on Instagram and have ever wondered about all the beach pics I post, now you'll know what they're about.

With lots of people sharing the same space this week, we've been cooking large family meals and eating them together.

I usually start the morning by making a large smoothie for all the kids. I make these quite thick and the kids eat them with a spoon. We call them FroYos, which makes them seem much more exciting, even though there isn't any yoghurt in them. The smoothies are actually just a mixture of frozen banana, frozen blueberries or strawberries, water and collagen powder. They taste delicious.

With the smoothies, I also often make scrambled eggs for the kids that want them. The rest help themselves to cereal.

Lunch is usually soup, because it goes a long way, tastes delicious, warms us up and ensures we all eat lots of vegetables. I brought pre-made pumpkin soup from home, so that made for an easy lunch on one of the days. I had cooked up a large batch using pumpkins and chokos my mother-in-law had given me, and I had enough soup left over after eating it for dinner that I was able to freeze two ice-cream containers worth as well. We've also eaten a vegetable soup that my mother-in-law made, and leek and potato soup that my sister-in-law made.

Dinners have been varied. My brother-in-law bought a whole lot of meat to share for dinner, as he misses good New Zealand meat when he's living in China. Thanks to him, we've had steak one night, lamb another, and we'll be having roast pork tonight. I had brought a whole frozen chicken from home, so we also ate that for dinner one night and I turned the leftovers into chicken stock which then became soup. Each night with the meat, we've cooked a tray of roast vegetables like potatoes, kumara, pumpkin and yams. We've also served salad, cole slaw, vegetable crudites, broccoli and peas. My mother-in-law and I cooked these meals together, and they were all very simple to prepare.

I cooked slightly more complex meals the past couple of nights, and enjoyed doing it because it gave me a sense of purpose in an otherwise very relaxing holiday. First I cooked lasagne, which I served with garlic bread, vegetable crudites, broccoli, peas and cole slaw. I made an apple crumble to have for dessert, as our apples were getting soft and needed using. Last night I made butter chicken, which I served with easy homemade Naan bread (just tortillas fried in a little butter on each side), broccoli, peas and cole slaw. There was apple crumble leftover from the night before, so we had that for dessert again.

Activities on our holiday have been fairly low key. I've read several books and gone for a few walks along the beach with my children. The kids have played with their cousins down at the beach, at the local playground and around the two properties.

They've also played several board games together, and especially enjoyed Pelican Cove, which is one Paul brought back from America last year.

My sister-in-law managed to borrow a water blaster from a local man, so she spent a day water-blasting the slippery steps that lead up to our brother-in-law's bach, and then I spent a morning water-blasting the steep driveway that we use as a path between our bach and his. My sister-in-law and I baked chocolate chip cookies to thank the man who'd lent us his water-blaster. He had also given us a bag of tangelos from his tree, so the kids have enjoyed turning those into juice, along with grapefruit from my mother-in-law's tree.

My son is begging me to walk down to the shop with him, so he can spend the $2 his Aunty paid him for running an errand. I'd better leave you here. Happy holidays my friends.

Emma xx

Monday, July 9, 2018

Our homeschool schedule for term three

It seems that every term we're tweaking something on the homeschool front. Heading into the third term of 2018, we are in for a major change as S joins us homeschooling.

S's exemption to homeschool came through a week and a half ago, so she officially finished up at school last Wednesday. I baked a banana cake and S iced it to share with her class on her last day. It was a nice way to finish off her school journey. Her teacher suggested S become a pen pal to her class, which I thought was a lovely idea.

Bug Lab.
One of the reasons I wanted to bring S home was so she could join her brother and sister on family excursions during the week. I felt bad about her missing out on the fun things we were doing, so we were either waiting until the weekend to go on excursions (when everything was extra busy), or I was taking her out of school for the day to join us. This year we've already visited Auckland Zoo and the Bug Lab there, Kelly Tarltons, the Star Dome and Maungauika/North Head. We've got more trips planned in the coming months.

Our timetable this term is going to be pretty packed, but, like last term, I've managed to keep all the regularly scheduled items to just three days a week, so we have breathing room on our other days to catch up on book work and house work, or to go on excursions.

This term, S will join L at our local Christian homeschool group, where the classes for the term are in Te Reo Maori and Folk Dancing / Celtic Dancing.

She has also signed up for a couple of classes at our other homeschool group - Art Play and Computer Coding. In that same group, L has signed up for Computer Animation, Creative Journaling and Visual Art, while J will continue on with his usual Gymnastics and KiwiSports classes.

This term, S will join her brother and sister in homeschool swimming lessons too, which is good because she didn't do any swimming lessons last term and it had just started to click for her in the term before that. I've mentioned before, but these swimming lessons are great because they're much more affordable than other lessons we've done in the past, and the children get to swim in the main swimming pools before and after their lessons, getting extra swim-time and play-time with their homeschool friends.

L and S are carrying on with netball this term. They're in the same team as each other, which is awesome for me because it means I only have to drive them to one practise and one game a week. They are both loving the sport, and I love watching them play it, so it's a win/win. S has been holding her own in the Year 4 team she's playing with, and I couldn't be prouder of her.

L will carry on with her violin lessons this term, and now I've also signed S up for piano lessons.

J will carry on at Kindy two days a week. It's a good place for him to burn off energy, play with other boys his age and indulge his creative side.

For maths curriculum this term, I have been printing off all sorts of maths worksheets for the kids from Education.com, which they love. The kids also love playing Prodigy Games for maths and they are working through various other maths books, like Mathletics, Life of Fred, Primary Mathematics and Step Ahead Maths. Our maths is a pretty eclectic mix, but that helps keep things interesting.

For writing, L is still using the Level Three Good and the Beautiful Language, Arts and Literature curriculum. I will print off a Level Two course for S to start working through this term. I also plan to bring in copy-work for the girls by choosing a passage for them to copy each week.

For history, we are still working through the Story of the World, Volume 1 - Ancient Times. S will join in with that.

For science, we are still working through the Apologia Space curriculum, so S will join in with that too. She has already picked up a lot about outer space from her brother and sister, as well as from our visit to the Star Dome earlier this year.

I'm not very good at running science experiments - it's a bit out of my comfort zone - but we've had success using Pure Nature kits to make calendula balm and shea body butter. I would also like to experiment with making soap, candles and deodorant with the kids for some hands on science.

For reading, we go to the library a couple of times a week and check out as many books as the kids can carry. I encourage free reading in the kids' downtime. We also listen to audiobooks when traveling in the car for 15 minutes or more. The most recent audiobooks we listened to were Little Women and How to Train Your Dragon. The latter had all the kids riveted, and got us through a long drive to Te Puke.

Well, I think that's about everything we have in the schedule for term three. It should be a fun term, although I'm sure it will have its challenges too. It's good to have it all sorted before the term starts though, so I can relax and not think about it for a couple of weeks.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Homeschool activity: Maungauika / North Head

A few weeks ago, our family spent a wonderful afternoon at Maungauika/North Head in Devonport.

I remembered this mountain full of tunnels from my childhood, and wanted my kids to explore it too. Luckily for us it had even more to see than I'd recalled.

We went to Maungauika/North Head armed with maps we had printed off from the Kiwi Guardians website so the kids could look for the activity pole and claim their medals. Finding the pole was a real highlight for the kids, and it took some hunting.

Things I hadn't remembered about Maungauika/North Head:

How amazing the views are! Since the mountain juts out into the Hauraki Gulf, you get 240 degree views of Auckland, and they are stunning.
Looking out over Auckland's CBD.

Emirates racing boat.

A view of Rangitoto Island.

Looking down on Cheltenham Beach.

There were also a lot more buildings, tunnels and cannons than I remembered.



Looking down into a cannon loader. 

Looking up into the cannon loader. 

One of the many tunnels to explore. 

And I had completely forgotten about the natural caves:



So if you're looking for something fun and frugal to do with the kids these holidays, definitely check out Maungauika/North Head. And remember to search for the Kiwi Guardians post while you're there, so you can claim your own medals and certificates.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Frugal Fun No. 20

Hey friends, I'm back with another edition of Frugal Fun and I hope it finds you well.

These are the things I've done to save money over the past couple of weeks. I'd love to hear all your clever, money-saving tricks too, so please share them in the comments below.

My kids and I watched the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice on Netflix this week and I was surprised by how much the kids loved it. I thought it might be a bit over their heads, but they just asked questions when they were confused and then carried on watching. S thought Mr Darcy secret-smiled a lot, especially when he was looking at Elizabeth Bennet.

I told you about our trip to North Head in my last Frugal Fun post, but what I didn't mention was that the kids went as part of Auckland City Council's Kiwi Guardians initiative and kept their eyes peeled for the Kiwi Guardians post so they could find the code word on it and send off for their Kiwi Guardians medals and certificates. Our packages arrived in the mail last week, much to my kids' excitement.

As usual, I've been getting out stacks of library books to read. Too many to list here, but since one is actually about being frugal, I thought it would be pertinent to mention. It's called Meet the Frugalwoods, and I'm yet to read it, but I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it when I'm done.

L and I have been listening to the Little Women audiobook on our drives to various homeschool group activities. The book is surprisingly long, so I'm glad I'm not the one reading it aloud. We got the audiobook out through the Auckland Library's Overdrive app, so it was free.

We've been trying to think of ways to help L learn French, so yesterday I allowed her to watch several episodes of Miraculous Ladybug in French on YouTube. By the end of the episodes, she felt like she was understanding more, so I'll try to find other French shows for her to watch from time to time to increase her French exposure.

You may know from my recent health post that I started taking iodine about three weeks ago. The result has been nothing less than spectacular. The goitre on my thyroid that had been growing since last year, has shrunk away to almost nothing. Seriously, it's crazy how fast it's shrinking, considering how long it took to grow. I've also been rubbing Francincense oil on the goitre every day, and sometimes taking a drop of Francincense oil under my tongue, so that could also be helping shrink the goitre. (I mentioned it in my health post, but I'm still so amazed/horrified that none of my doctors ever mentioned that iodine deficiency is a cause of goitres. When I asked the throat surgeon who ultrasounded my thyroid what might have caused my goitres, he said it was probably hereditary, which I thought was a bit strange since, to my knowledge, no one else in my family has ever had them.)

To take the iodine, I mix it into almond milk, because taking it in any kind of milk neutralises the iodine taste. I could use cows' milk, but I'm trying to cut back on my dairy intake. To save money on buying almond milk, I bought raw almonds last week and am using them to make my own fresh almond milk every few days.

I bought a couple of non-fiction books for our homeschool library from my local library's sale rack. Wonders of the World has beautiful imagery all the way through which has had my kids completely fascinated. My children have also enjoyed flicking through the book about Leonardo de Vinci, although L thinks Leonardo was better at drawing animals than people, and S wonders why he drew so many naked people.

I accepted six short-dated free admission tickets to the Auckland Zoo from a friend and hoped to use them before they expire at the end of this week, but the rain was not on my side. I will ask my neighbours if they want them.

L and I made shea body butter for science last week, using ingredients I bought at Pure Nature in Henderson. It was a pretty fun science class, and I like that we have something useful to show for it. My skin gets really dry over winter, and the shea body butter is great for combating that, especially on my hands.

L is hand-sewing a bag out of fabric scraps she found in my sewing basket.

I bought a lifetime membership to Education.com last week in a 40% off sale, because my friend, Angela had shared a couple of resources from the site and my kids loved working through them. Now we have the membership, I've been printing off all sorts of worksheets and workbooks for my kids, and have been amazed at how quickly J is picking up maths and writing concepts with them. I've also let L and J trial a few games on the website for maths and typing, and those were a big hit too. I'm yet to explore the guided lessons, but I think that's what I'll be trying to figure out next.

I've been getting out early readers from the library so J can practise reading to me. It's so exciting to see how excited he is about learning to read, and he already knows far more than I thought he did, just from constant exposure to books. He loves his night-time stories (and his any-time-of-day stories).

I finished my final assignment for the Certificate in Horticulture I've been working on for the past year and a half. I passed the assignment too, so I guess this means I'll be actually receiving my Certificate in the mail soon. Woohoo! Now that I've finished the course, I'm using my spare time to work on other writing projects. It feels really good!

I gratefully accepted two bags of fruit from my mother-in-law, when she came to stay with us over the weekend. I also collected several free kiwifruit from J's kindy, which had a bucket of them free to take, and I happily received a bag of oranges that my friend, Anna, dropped around yesterday afternoon. This afternoon we made orange, grapefruit and lemon juice with some of the free fruit, and it was delicious. We were able to share it with friends who came over for a play date this afternoon.

I took a salad to share at a family dinner on Sunday night, and much of the salad (kale, lettuce, spinach and parsley) was sourced from my own garden.

I baked Chocolate Weetbix Slice for kids' lunch boxes to use up all the Weetbix crumbs leftover in the bottom of the box. It was my first time making it, and S thought it tasted like chocolate brownie.

I turned leftover pasta bolognese into a pasta bake for our Monday night's dinner by sprinkling cheese and bread crumbs on top and baking it in the oven.

Last night we had roast chicken for dinner, since I got a good deal on whole chickens at Pak'N'Save recently and stocked up. Tonight I used the leftovers to make chicken barley soup for dinner, which I served with homemade bread rolls. L and I will eat some of the leftover soup for lunch tomorrow too, so this chicken is the gift that keeps on giving.

I filled up two of my raised beds with store-bought organic potting mix last week. I had been topping up the beds with free ingredients like seaweed and homemade compost, but they both needed a little bit more to get filled right to the top, and I wanted to be able to plant into them now so I can use the gardens over winter. I bought a few different greens, like spinach, silverbeet, lettuce, coriander and broccoli to plant into one of the gardens, and I'm sprinkling seeds in the other. So far S and I have sprinkled in kale and coriander seeds, which I collected off my own plants earlier in the year. I also found a packet of carrot seeds down the back of a piece of furniture, so I'll sprinkle that in too.

I managed to dry quite a bit of washing on the line in the sunny days between rainy ones. Today was beautifully fine all day, so I was able to catch up on all the washing that had built up in the rainy weather over the past few days. I staggered each load so that it could spend some time on the line to get mostly dry, before I pulled it in and finished it off in the dryer. I had several loads to get through and not enough line space to hang everything out at the same time, so this was the most power-saving way I could think to get through it all.

I've been running the dehumidifier pretty constantly over winter to keep the house dry, as it means we don't need to run the heater at such a high temperature. Hopefully that will keep our power bill at a reasonable level during these colder months and help keep us healthy. I'm so keen to get a heat pump when we have the funds for it, because that will be a much more cost-effective way to heat and dry our house.

I babysat for a friend last week, who I do a regular babysitting swap with. She will babysit for me next week when Paul and I go out to our monthly parents' group.

I haven't put out our kerb-side rubbish to be collected for the past fortnight, since there's still plenty of room in it and it costs about $3.60 every time we have it emptied. It will need to go out next week though, as it's getting pretty stinky and I think it will be completely full by then.

I think that's all my frugal news for now. Remember to share your frugal successes in the comments below, so we can champion each other on. Have a good rest of your week!

Emma xx

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Frugal Fun No. 19

Hey friends, here are the things I've done to save money lately.

I bought a box of (delicious) apple seconds for $5 from an orchard in Oratia. L eats several apples a day, so we'll go through most of these fresh, but I might also make dried apple slices in the dehumidifier with them.

I've been making lots of green smoothies for myself, using the abundant kale and spinach growing in my garden. I collected kale seeds from spent plants earlier this year and sprinkled them around in several of my raised beds. Now I've got loads of new plants popping up all over the place.

My kids have been really enjoying blender oat pancakes for breakfast lately. It's an old recipe on the blog, but a good one. I got a good deal on rolled oats at Pak'N'Save, so bought a couple of bags to make this recipe. I've been making a new batch of milk kefir out of milk powder every couple of days to keep the quantities we need for these pancakes.

I found a good deal on free range eggs at a local fruit and vege store, so I bought four cartons. These will come in handy for our blender oat pancakes. I also love poached eggs on toast, and I'm planning to make this Shaksuka recipe for dinner one night this week, which will use a few eggs.

L has been enjoying eating frozen blueberries mixed into homemade yoghurt as a snack lately. I took the advice left for me in one of your comments and started making my yoghurt using 2T of Easiyo powder and 1 cup of milk powder. It means that a packet of Easiyo powder makes about eight litres of yoghurt, instead of one.

Our family visited Maungauika / North Head in Devonport on Saturday and spent a good couple of hours exploring the mountain and its various tunnels. I had been waiting for a sunny weekend day to go, and Saturday dawned bright and glorious. The views of Auckland Harbour were stunning. I'm planning to do another post about this trip, so look out for that.

I've started giving myself facials each night before bed, using some of the delicious World Organics products that I sell. I'm really enjoying this Everyday Carefree Cleansing Milk, which feels so gentle and hydrating on my dry skin. I love teaming it with the Everyday Bamboo and Shea Face Exfoliant, which leaves my skin feeling incredibly smooth and vibrant.

And that's all my frugal news. What have you done to save money lately?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Seeking after health

My wee family has been through the ringer over the past fortnight, with various health issues plaguing us. Colds and vomiting bugs have run through most of the family and I was starting to despair about us ever being healthy again.

Despite loading up on vitamin C tablets and even eating raw garlic several times, my cold lingered, and all my kids came down with vomiting bugs. In desperation, I turned to my homeschool mum friends to find out their tried and true sickness remedies.

Vitamin C + D3
The first mum I spoke to recommended Vitamin C + D3 in a Micron-Particle Delivery System. I found this in the refrigerated section of Out West Organics in Glen Eden. It comes in gel form, in individual sachets. I've discovered it's best to tip the gel into a glass of water, where it will clump together, and drink it with my nose blocked, because it tastes disgusting and has an unpleasant consistency, like snot. I didn't see any major improvement in my cold by taking these vitamins, but I'm sure my body would have been making use of them all the same, and they possibly prevented me from getting the vomiting bug that went through the rest of the family.

Frankincense essential oil

Another mum swears by Francincense Essential Oil as it is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. I found it at Pure Nature in Henderson and bought fractionated coconut oil to use as a carrier oil with it. I bought the small roller ball jar to mix the two oils together for applying topically on the kids, but I have been taking one drop of the Frankincense oil under my tongue for the past three days (internal use is not recommended by Pure Nature), and noticed an immediate improvement in my sore throat and cough when I did this. It will sound strange, but I could feel the Frankincense attacking the bad cells in my throat. It was such a relief. Once my cold is completely gone, which it nearly is, I will change to taking the Frankincense oil under my tongue once a week to keep sickness at bay.

Iodine and Activated Charcoal. 

The same mum also recommended iodine as an all-round health tonic, and sold me a spare bottle she had at home. In talking to her, I realised I am severely deficient in iodine. I show most of the symptoms of iodine deficiency, especially the multi-nodular goitres I have on my thyroid. It's crazy that I've seen several doctors and throat surgeons over the past two years about my thyroid, and none of them have ever mentioned iodine deficiency could be a cause. Our medical system is so clueless about nutrition, it's really quite worrying. I've also been giving a drop of iodine to the kids in milk (you can't see or taste it in when it's in the milk), to flush out any toxins from their system. I gave Paul three drops in milk yesterday, the same day L came down with her vomiting bug, and I think it was just in time because today he got diarrhoea, which I'm picking was the vomiting bug flushing out of his system without him actually having to vomit.

It's easy for us in New Zealand to be deficient in iodine, because it's not in the soil here, and every time we drink water containing fluoride and/or chlorine, the iodine we do have in our system gets flushed out. For many years I've used a Brita water filter, which filters the chlorine out of our water, but doesn't filter out the fluoride. Knowing that I'm iodine deficient, I've decided to upgrade to a Fill2Pure jug, which also filters out fluoride.

For flushing out vomiting bugs, another mum recommended activated charcoal. I bought a bottle of Red Seal Activated Charcoal from my local pharmacy today and gave one to Paul when he had diarrhoea and one to L after she had finished vomiting (since she wouldn't have been able to keep it down when she was vomiting). You can't take activated charcoal and iodine together, because the activated charcoal will absorb the iodine, but according to my mum friends, taking either the iodine or the activated charcoal would be good to prevent catching gastric bugs.

From now on, I plan to always keep activated charcoal, iodine and frankincense in my house. I will also continue to give vitamin C tablets to the kids too, since our bodies can't make vitamin C on their own. I'm not sure if I'll get the Vitamin C and D3 Micron-Particle gel again, as it's very expensive and pretty disgusting to take. I can't imagine the kids would ever take it willingly. I'll keep using what I already bought though, as needed, until it runs out.

To help us recover from all our various ailments, yesterday I made us a small batch of Revive Cafe tomato soup (using homegrown tomatoes I had frozen during the summer) and a huge batch of pumpkin soup. Both soups used homemade chicken stock as their base, as it has good gut-healing properties. I froze the leftovers in several portions, to pull out for easy dinners on busy sports' nights.

While I was at my friend's house yesterday, picking up the iodine I had bought from her, she showed me how she plans her weekly dinner menus. I was so inspired by her system, I went home and typed up a similar document and planned out this week's menu. My menus run from Friday to Thursday, because I do my grocery shopping on a Thursday. For my menu, I tried to think of vegetables I have growing in the garden, as well as other items I want to use up from the fridge, freezer and pantry.

This same friend also lent me her DVDs of The Truth About Cancer documentary, which is where she learned a lot of beneficial health information. I couldn't get the DVDs to work properly in my laptop, but fortunately she had also lent me the complete transcript of the documentary, so I've been reading it instead. Very enlightening! It has given me hope for my health again, where before I had been feeling like I was on a downward spiral.

With rain forecast for today and the next few days, I spent this morning cleaning our car, cleaning toilets, washing all our cushion covers, washing L's bedding, washing the dining room chair covers, mopping downstairs with Dettol and wiping all the lounge furniture with Dettol. I still need to tackle the upstairs bathroom with Dettol, to really feel like I've killed whatever vomiting bug germs are lingering in the house, but hopefully with everything clean at home and with all the healthy supplements we're taking, we will start to be a family of health again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Getting three hours of outdoor time a day

This week I stumbled across an article about a family who committed to spending three hours outdoors every day for a year. As you can imagine, they noticed loads of positive benefits for their family, like better health, easier sleep, and pleasanter play between their kids.

It got me thinking about how I can get our family outdoors more this winter. We've had so much sickness already, and winter hasn't even started.

Last week it really wouldn't have been possible to get outdoors much, what with all the crazy storms passing through, bringing heavy rain, hail and lightning with them. The weather has been stunning this week though, so I've been trying to make the most of it while it lasts.

S has been off school for the past three days recovering from a vomiting bug that saw her hunched over a bowl most of Sunday night. Her temperature finally dropped today so she'll be going back to school tomorrow. I know that vitamin D is really good for boosting the immune system, so I've even been encouraging her to get outdoors as much as possible, even while she's been recuperating.

When she didn't have the energy to move around, we set her up with cozy blankets and pillows on the trampoline. She and L have been out there every day, sometimes reading books, sometimes playing imaginary games. It's been sunny, without being too hot, which makes the trampoline the perfect little nook to hang out in.

The girls biked to a local park and played on the playground there. That took a bit more energy than S had in her, post-vomiting bug, so I had to help her get home by pushing the bike while she sat on it.

This morning we stopped in at another playground on our way back from an activity, and I went for a walk around the track there while the girls played. Usually I would stay close to keep an eye on them, but I figured that they're old enough now to cope with me going for a walk, especially since I was in eye-sight of them the whole time. It was nice to stretch my legs in the sunshine.

Since we had the car with us, we also stopped in at a carpark where I had spied a fresh mulch pile earlier in the week. We had already visited the mulch pile several times the day before, to load up the car and bring mulch back to my gardens. The mulch must have come from a Eucalyptus tree, because it smells exactly like Eucalyptus essential oils.

After two days of trips back and forth from the mulch pile, my gardens are all topped up and looking fabulous. It smells divine out there now, and I love the contrast of the orange mulch with the green plants. Nothing freshens up my gardens up like new mulch.

Now, every time I open a window, I get a fresh whiff of Eucalyptus, which is the best thing since I'm recovering from a cold. I'm almost tempted to set a bowl of the stuff on my side table.

While I was in the gardening zone, I mowed the lawns. They were well overdue for a tidy up. Our property is clay based, so it gets really boggy in wet weather and the lawn mower just chops it up. I hadn't been able to cut the grass for a few weeks because of the rain. After all the sunshine we've had this week, I was able to mow it today without too much trouble. 

After mowing the lawns, I took one final trip to the mulch pile to top up this corner of the garden, which is quite a big space and takes a lot of mulch. All the gardens got weeded before I dumped the mulch on them, so at least I shouldn't have to weed them again for a while. 

Even my apple trees and nashi tree got a fresh dressing of mulch around their trunks, along with some sheep manure pellets for a hearty fertiliser fix.

The other gardening chore I tackled today was to clear one of my raised vegetable gardens. I pulled out a lot of spent plants and moved the rest so I can top up the soil with various ingredients and let it rot down over winter, ready for spring.

The girls wandered outside and soon got stuck into shifting strawberries out of the garden I was clearing and planting them in the one pictured above, which we'd already topped up with fresh soil recently.

The girls even put on their gumboots and turned all the soil in the freshly-cleared raised bed for me, with a large spade and a large pitch fork each. I told them to break up any clods of clay they found and mix them with the compost in the garden. We had ourselves a bit of an impromptu science/horticulture lesson on the difference between clay soils and sandy soils, and the best way to improve them both. (Hint: compost.)

The girls told me they felt like farmers, digging the soil over. In a way, that's exactly what we are. Vegetable farmers.

With the soil all nicely turned in our raised bed, we set out to a local beach to collect seaweed to top it up with. The girls went searching for treasures on the beach while while I filled up a couple of large containers with whatever seaweed I could find.

Back at home, I layered the seaweed on the garden (which is the top left-hand one in the photo above), mixed it with the soil, added a good sprinkling of sheep manure pellets and then covered the whole lot with grass clippings from my freshly mown lawns, which is why the garden looks green in the photo above. Next I'll empty one half of my rotating compost bin onto it and that should see it all the way full. I'd love to get my hands on some horse manure for the garden too. Veges go crazy for that stuff.

And that's all our outdoorsy stuff so far this week.

Do you think you could get outdoors for three hours every day? I'm not sure if we'll be able to do it consistently, but at least it's got me thinking about ways to fit more outdoor time into our days.