Voluntary Simplicity: In the Garden

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Simple living, or voluntary simplicity isn’t a new concept in this household, but it is one that gets constantly edited, it evolves and gets reassessed as needed. It’s also something that while my children have always grown up with it, as this stage of their lives I’m finding I’m explaining more of why we make certain conscious decisions, and the longer term effects of those decisions. The why we do things and not just because.

Sometimes I can feel like I’m all over it and other times it feels like I’m floating in mini version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The good thing about that though, is despite occasional overwhelming feelings there’s always something that shifts and then counter balanced by a complete sense of fully bodied satisfaction, (and that is always a good thing.)

Just over 12 months ago we swapped small apartment inner city living for a house in a smaller city, and surrounding suburban area. It’s close to shops, schools, transport and health caregivers when needed.

Another important choice for us was to be able to grow things. So now with the multiple neighbours that I know by name, there came a fairly blank canvas space of a backyard.

Making that move meant initially we didn’t have a lot of things that we would need (like) to embark on growing a lot of our own vegetables. Wheelbarrows, spades, pitch forks etc weren’t items that I had needed to access with a previously small shared concrete city courtyard.

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To get started with our growing, somethings we bought straight up, (I knew there would be an initial outlay of items as our number one aim was to get things growing. We wanted to eat from our back door step!) Somethings were given to us, somethings passed on to us as were no longer needed by the original owners. Somethings we bought second hand, and some the things we simply borrowed.

Ultimate Goal? To be growing as much as possible utilising the space we have, keeping costs down and equipment to a bare minimum.

How did we set about it and how do we continue to manage it? (As I mentioned it’s a constantly evolving process.)

Gumtree- either bought second hand or freebies, also been great for selling things we no longer needed to keep clutter to a minimum and redirect $ to something else more useful.

Borrow- lawn mowers we borrowed two before buying our own push mower. I still get a smug sense of satisfaction of hearing virtually nothing when mowing the lawn. As more grass gets turned over for edible growing space, I’m hoping the lawn mowers use will gradually decrease.

Trade- Somethings I refused outright to get, and a whipper snipper was one of them. Borrow one sure, but I didn’t want to buy one. (Actually we never did end up borrowing one either.) Living in an area where people pride themselves on their grass care. I asked a neighbour if he would trade the occasional edging out the front for baked goods. He could sleep easier knowing our edges were looking less scruffy and my conscience was clear knowing we didn’t have a garage full of implements that might be used once in a blue moon.

Hire- And if we do change our mind on using that whipper snipper, or anything else for that matter. Well I can hire one from a household a couple of km’s away at an hourly rate from Open Shed. (Another awesome example of the share economy.)

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There will always be a juggle between keeping/finding/sourcing things that might be useful in the future, (but have no immediate use) and keeping our gardening gear to a minimum, (that’s our reality and the way we’ve chosen to do things in this period. While tools are a fairly easy decision. I’m finding more and more discarded wood finding its way in as it has the potential to be made into something else entirely. I’m ok with that, as mentioned in the beginning, it’s an evolving process. Choices are made, as opportunities present themselves.

Conscious decisions over unthinkingly just taking… this is our version of voluntary simplicity, in the garden.

Helpful links

Gumtree

Open Shed

 

 

Conversations with Community: Tricia Eco (Treading Lightly)

Tricia Hogbin

Today it’s continuing on from a new series I started at the end of last year, Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some truly inspiring things. These are people quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

Today though, someone who often shares ways in which we can all slow down a little and make time for the important stuff is Tricia Hogbin. Otherwise known as @TriciaEco on her popular instagram handle, or where I first was drawn to her words and way of living, her blog Little Eco Foot Prints.

Grab a cool drink, put your feet up, and I hope you enjoy Part II of Conversations with Community.

Most important question first up… tea coffee and favourite thing to eat for afternoon tea? (Cake, biscuits, savoury, sweet? What shall I bring?)

Tea. Super strong with a good dash of milk thanks.

My response would likely be different at any other time of day. Pausing for a cuppa is something I treasure and I even have a cuppa routine. First thing in the morning it’s tea, then one strong coffee, then too many teas to count. If it’s just me i’ll simply toss loose leaf tea into a cup and drink bushman style – leaving the tea leaves to sink the bottom. If I’m sharing, I’ll be more civilised and use a teapot. Late afternoon I switch to herbal teas. Mostly home grown. Current favourites include lemon balm, nettle or camomile.

Biscuits would be lovely thanks. Preferably hard and sweet, like biscotti or gingernut (perfect for dunking in tea). I’m obsessed with baking Swedish biscuits at the moment so I reckon I can rustle up something to fit the bill.

Tricia Hogbin

You recently ran a workshop through Newcastle’s Fair Share Festival. Sharing with participants some of your story on simplifying life and changes you had made, (both as an individual and as a family) while also helping others in how they might be able to learn to live better with less. It’s a topic that seems constant as more and more people are wanting to step off what they’ve often unknowingly signed up for. While actions like this can often seem unachievable to people, words and stories like yours become more and more important. As it gives hope, encourages change, and while offering an opportunity for resilience within our communities. All things that many of us hold importance to. What are some of those things in life that are a priority for you?

Health and resilience – mine, my family’s and that of our environment are my greatest priorities. It’s a simple statement – but it captures all that is most important to me. Its brevity doesn’t reflect the time I’ve put into considering and defining my priorities.

A clear vision of what is most important has helped to ensure that I spend my time on my priorities. I’m now less distracted by other people’s priorities. It’s easier to say ‘no thank you’, even to great opportunities.

Knowing what is most important also gives me the confidence to make decisions that others may not understand. Many people won’t understand why we’ve chosen to live in a tiny home – and before that a shed and even a tent when the shed was too hot. But I’m not concerned with what other people think – because my family’s priorities guided these decisions. Patience and compromise enables us to live on a rural property without being burdened by debt. We’ve made choices so that we aren’t forced into being a dual income family. The life we want to live can’t happen if both my husband and I are away from home most days.

Making time for what matters is something I know is close to both our hearts. While I seem to regularly need to remind myself of that, do you think it’s something that comes easy to you?

Making time for what matters has been a challenge. I’d shuffle my actions to more accurately reflect my priorities – and feel that everything was under control. Then I’d slowly start saying yes to more opportunities. Because how could I not – ‘it’s a great opportunity!’, or ‘it’s for a worthwhile cause’. Then I’d find myself back where I’d started – sick, or overwhelmed and making decisions that didn’t always match my ideals – because I didn’t have time to do otherwise.

I see-sawed like this between overwhelm and calm for many years – until two years ago. I injured my back and was forced to step away from paid work for a few months. A few days after my injury, Plain Buddhist Monk Bhante Jason Chan, who I had met only briefly a year earlier, turned up on our doorstep and asked if he could stay for his rains retreat – a time when wandering Buddhist monks traditionally stay put for a while.

For three months I fell into a slow daily routine. Each morning in my kitchen, while I prepared wholesome nourishing food, I’d ask Bhante a question or two about simple living. Then I’d listen to him chant before his meal, and then I’d spend the afternoon contemplating what I wanted to achieve with my life. It was a luxury I’m extremely grateful for.

Pausing and giving serious thought to what I wanted to achieve with my ‘one wild and precious life’ (to quote Mary Oliver) gave me the confidence to say ‘no thank you’ to my dream job. Just days before my back injury I’d finished one job so that I could accept another. It was a position I couldn’t resist – working in science, communication and conservation for an organisation I respected. But the position would have turned our family life upside down. It meant regular trips to Sydney, juggling before and after school care, and left little time for me to garden or simply wander through the forest. In that three months, I realised that despite it being my dream job – saying ‘no thank you’ was the right decision for me and my family.

Since that one hard decision – all other no thank you’s have been easier. Prioritising what’s most important becomes easier the more you practise it.

Tricia Hogbin

You have a big following on instagram, with people looking forward to your posts in both words and pictures, drawing their own strength from within that. How do you think it fits with today’s fast media culture, and living a consciously slower lifestyle? Where do you draw your strength from? (doesn’t have to be social media based!)

I love that social media is an easy way to inspire and be inspired. I love the enthusiasm the Instagram community has for (hashtag) slow living, foraging, growing your own food, zero waste, minimalism, and tiny houses. These ‘trends’ each have the potential to contribute to people living a more sustainable life that is kinder on our planet.

But note I say only ‘potential’ – to truly change the way you live you need to be grateful for what you have – rather than continually yearn for more. Social media can feed that yearning for more.

Social media can also be a mindless distraction from being present. Spending too much time looking outwards also leaves little time for looking within.

I don’t feel comfortable contributing to the mass of online noise – so I am very careful with how I use social media. I consciously use it in a way that points people away from the internet (to their garden, to their family, to their kitchen, to their neighbourhood), rather than deeper within.

I also set boundaries for my own social media use. I use only one channel – Instagram. I could easily auto forward my Instagram posts to Facebook and Twitter – but doing so would feel like barging into a crowded room, shouting out a few words, and walking out again. Instead, I set aside time purely for Instagram (at the moment it’s one or two brief moments throughout the day). I share a snippet from my life, respond to comments, and visit and comment on other people’s feeds. I try to avoid mindlessly consuming (liking) without creating (posting). I value my Instagram community and treat my time in that space with the same respect I would a real-life conversation.

I also take regular breaks from social media when I feel like it’s interfering with my ability to be present. In the past I’ve declared weekends screen-free or enjoyed screen-free months. Now I simply set a timer and log off once a set period of time has passed.

I’m inspired by people I follow on Instagram – but my greatest inspiration and strength comes from real-life interactions. I gain strength from conversations with friends and family and even brief chats with other people in my neighbourhood.

I’m also inspired by memoirs – particularly those where authors share their every day in a meaningful way. Reading a memoir gives me the same sense of taking a peek into the lives of others that I get from social media – but at a slower and more meaningful pace.

tricia-03-brydie-piafIs living in a sustainable manner something that you grew up with?

I was fortunate to be greatly influenced by my grandparents. My Gran and Grandad lived a simple life – sustainable out of necessity. They lived in the house that my grandfather and great grandfather built and lived in the garage for a few years while they built the house. They ate from their garden, they mended, they made, they lived without much but yearned for little.

My Grandad kept bees and my Gran was the one who taught me to sew and garden. They gave me my first chooks. They even built me my first shade house when I was ten so I had a space to propagate my own plants. My love of nature, and particularly plants, was inherited from my Gran.

Although sustainable living wasn’t something my parents consciously thought about – they gave me a childhood with ample time to explore nature. Weekday afternoons were spent roaming local bushland, weekends were spent at the beach and we went camping a couple of times each year. I believe it is this time in nature that sparked my passion for nature conservation and in turn sustainable living.

You live in a small home (14.5 sqm or 29 if you include the verandah) with your partner and 9 year old daughter. Surrounded by vegetable growing, micro greens, chooks, dogs, horses and a rugged mountain backdrop for your morning garden wanders. Where did you imagine yourself to be 10 years ago? Was the imagery anything like the reality you now live in?

Ten years ago I was working full time, and we were renovating a small inner-city cottage as our ‘forever home’. Childhood dreams to live in the country had been abandoned (because work was in the city). I couldn’t envisage any other life at that stage. Urban sustainable living was a passion – because that’s all I thought was on offer for me. I couldn’t (or wouldn’t dare let myself) have imagined a life like the one I’m now enjoying.

I’m grateful that we noticed an opportunity for change, fell in love with a piece of land, and were willing to take risks.

Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?

Ten years from now I hope to be travelling Australia in a camper van with Mike. Liv would have finished high school the year earlier – so our attention will shift from home to exploring and adventure.

In the meantime we hope to plant an orchard and build a larger, but still small, home. I’d be happy in a tiny home indefinitely, but Mike wouldn’t be. And I’m guessing Liv will grow tired of sharing a room with her parents one day. I hope the next ten years also includes a flock of ducks and a herd of milking goats.

Tricia || Brydie Piaf

What do you get asked the most when people find out you live in a tiny home?

How do you cope?’ is probably the most common question.

Having a clear vision of what we are working towards (a resilient and debt-free future) helps us cope with the challenges of small space living.

It also helps that we choose to laugh rather than cry. There’s been lots of laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.

Having other spaces to go when we need quiet also helps. Mike has the shed to retreat to. Liv has an old caravan set up as a playroom (a space I am especially grateful for when she has friends over). And if I need my own space I plead with Mike and Liv to “please go away for a while” – always said with a laugh and a cheeky grin. It’s impossible to hold grudges or drag on disagreements in such a small space.

“Learning to live better with less” and “Trying to tread lightly. Growing, foraging, simplifying and tiny home living.” Are both tag lines that you go by, if you wrote a book, what would the title be? 

I change my mind often about what I want to the title of my first book (a memoir about our ‘tree change’) to be.

A current favourite is ‘Not a shed, or a tent, or a caravan, or a shipping container – but a real house’. They’re my daughters words. Her teacher was laughing as she relayed them to me. The class was asked what they wanted to remind their adult selves. Common responses included “to not drink” or “to not smoke”. Liv confidently responded with “To live in a house. A real house. Not a shed, or a tent, or a caravan, or a shipping container – but a real house”. She’s lived in all these places over the past few years. Its an experience that even she acknowledges has been worthwhile. I love that she knows happiness is possible no matter where you live. And I especially love she’s learnt to be patient and to be grateful for what she has – rather than always wanting more. I know she is a far more resilient person than she would have been without this adventure.

What are some of your favourite things in life in 10 words or less?

Shared cuppas, homegrown & foraged meals, laughing with Mike & Liv.

A perfect ending to a wonderful chat. Thank you Tricia, for always inspiring.

conversations-with-community

Conversations with Community– a new series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet these inspiring wonderful women here.

 

this weekend…is on pause

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Easter long weekend,

and everything is slipping into ‘go slow’.

I’m not hurrying, I’m not clock watching and I may well dissolve completely into those magazine pages at some point.

Spelt hot cross buns have been made,

the beach is whispering,

and if someone offers to make me a second coffee? Well I might just say yes.

That’s how this weekend is rolling, and everything else in life?

…is on pause.

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When the Night Comes- by Favel Parrett: wonderful, wonderful book if you are looking for a new book to read.

 

late afternoon

cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

 Afternoons, when the sun goes down just a little later

two boys on bikes whizz by

I lay in the grass, breathing in the earths smell, only a second or two

until two little legs land with a plop on my back

Hoss mama, hoss! The obligatory horse ride, the giggles

the whizz by again on the two bikes

laughing, and concentration as they get used to their new wheels beneath them

a grassy pile is gathered up on the small of my back

I lay still while she concentrates so very carefully,

continues and then in a green flurry she’s gone

whisked high up into the air by strong trusted hands

giggling again as she lands on his shoulders

the bikes slowly peddle homeward, the infectious giggles continue

and the sun drops that bit lower,

late afternoon

 it’s time to go home.

cityhippyfarmgirl

a little slow living round here


 

 Nourish- My little kitchen has been churning out quite a lot at the moment. Including the ever reliable Anzac Biscuits for when things are called for at a last minutes notice. Make these and I know I won’t turn up somewhere empty handed. Rhubarb recipes have been enjoyed, the ever present sourdough and I’m still playing with cardamom buns. So many doughy variations to play with!

Grow- My mint was finally looking reasonable once more. I had conquered it. I would now have a steady supply of delicious mint infused meals. Then, I didn’t look at it for several days… a big mistake. Someone else had also decided it quite fancied some delicious mint infused meals.

I found the culprit, a big dirty caterpillar, then I found another, and another. Needless to say, those minty meals will have to wait…again.

Create- I’m happy to say there has been quite a bit of creating action going on round here lately. My Wednesday group’s blanket is growing, and things are slowly getting stitched together. Bunting had been planned for far too long, and finally I decided enough was enough and I just had to do it. A fine example of some shonky sewing, but I did it and I’m happy about that. Advent calendar plans are still being mused over. I wanted to do one last year, hell I think even the year before as well and I still haven’t started. Time is tick tocking, but I’m still hoping to get it together… hopefully.

Discover- I was very happy to see that my local library had ordered in Whole Larder Love. Such a wonderful book and stunning photography by the very talented Rohan.

Prepare- Eeek! Not a lot happening here. I can’t think of anything I have done to preserve this last month. I’m actually having jamming withdrawals at the moment so, I suspect some preserving is just around the corner. Stone fruits are slowly trickling in too, just the thing for a little jamming action.

Enhance/Connect- Beautiful little Tasmanian wooden buttons sent to me from the lovely Mel @ Coal Valley View. Now what shall I make with them?

A gathering yesterday that was so much fun, I just wanted to rewind the whole thing and press repeat- Food, lots of people big and small, all in an open green space.

I also swapped some sourdough starter and some bread to another mama from school. She in turn gave me some kimchi. So much nicer than what I had bought recently, absolutely delicious. As for the starter, I love thinking about how many kitchens those little tubs of starter have travelled to.

Enjoy- the year is galloping along, and this time of year finds a whole heap of enjoyable things happening round these parts….and that is a whole bunch of happy.

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For more slow living action, pop over to the lovely Christine @Slow Living Essentials.

slow living

Slowing it down just a little more.

Some things have felt very rushed this last month, busy, busy, busy. Go, go, go. Sleep a little and then repeat. This post is a nice little reminder that not all was like that in the last month and in fact there was a whole lot of ‘slowness’ going on.

Slow living, slow food, slow entertainment and slow thoughts. I’m very appreciative of them all at the moment.

Create- Another crocheted hat with ears. This one is a gift for a babe with the bluest of blue eyes. It’s winter and that little baby head doesn’t have a wisp of hair. The crochet project bag is looking a little full, I’m happy about that though. Options.

Also played with some vegetable stamps. The bok choy being the winner so far.

Grow- The rosemary is holding on and looks happy and healthy. Everything else in the pots is looking a little sad, sorry and wintery. Whoever said, “Anyone who can’t grow mint, should just give up now”… well I think they are particularly mean.

Nourish- More bready, scroll type things. Half sourdough and half dried yeast. I filled these with almond pesto, fetta/ tomato, and ham/ mozzarella. Monkey Boy declared that six was probably enough for him, but he might be able to eat another one in a little bit. Hollow legs you see… and I’m beginning to get a little nervous of the teen hollow belly years.

I also discovered that radishes were delicious steamed. Tossed in with a little silverbeet, olive oil, salt pepper, and the clincher- curry powder on top. Served with a fetta omelette. It had a high probability of not working, but it did. It so did, (to be fair Mr Chocolate didn’t think it worked quite so well as I did.)

Reduce- Thinking well ahead of time for birthday gifts that will be needed throughout the year. It’s incredibly satisfying making something, upcycling something or revamping something as a gift.

Discover- I started reading Pathways magazine. It caught my attention on-line, and then my chiropractor had them to give away for free. Loving that. Free, with an awesome read that seems to fit in exactly to my head space at the moment.

Enhance/Connect- I met up with two friends in the park. Five kids and two babies. One empty popcorn packet= three hours of fun. Not a peep, not a pester, not a whinge or a whine.  just a whole lot of fun. That is incredibly satisfying as a parent. The Monkeys followed this up by playing with our clothes pegs for two hours when we got home. Laser shooting flying whales I think was the stand out one.

Enjoy-  I was lucky enough to be given a gift voucher from a good friend for a massage. Ooooooo, yes.

Lying there, draped in warm blankets, I could feel the tension just silently slide away. With each sweep of her determined hands, another muscle broke down into what felt like a pool of melted butter.

Ahhh, bliss…

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Pop on over to Slow Living Essentials, where the lovely Christine has a whole lot more Slow Living going on.

Slow Living April

slowing it down…

(a wonderful concept created by the lovely Christine over at Slow Living Essentials)

it's not pretty but it fills happy bellies

Nourish– I’m loving a simple rustic family sized quiche once a week at the moment. A couple of sheets of puff pastry, (seems I got over that packet guilt rather quickly) beaten eggs and what ever looks appealing on the day. The Monkeys quiche of choice? Fetta and some free range bacon. Mr and Chocolate and I? Whatever seasonal vegetables that look particularly quiche like from our local CSA delivered box, (but lets be honest…he’d rather the fetta and bacon one too.)

Prepare– School lunches are particularly easy when all I have to do is whack one out of the freezer. Pesto parmesan scrolls and apple cinnamon ones are the taste of choice at the moment. They are also easy for a hungry mama to grab on the run.

Reduce– I’ve been putting aside some old worn out clothing. Rips, tears, thinning fabric, too big, too small. I’m sure I can turn them into something else. Just waiting for the inspiration as to what. I’ve also been incredibly lucky with receiving a whole bunch of wonderful little girl clothing. She will clearly have a whole heap of Monkey clothing to grow into but a small amount of pink as been infused into the mixture as well.

Green- Being economical with the oven use, and utilising all the racks when cooking. Also cooking bigger batches of things, and cluster cooking. (cluster cooking…. now there’s something to pop into you days vocabulary.) The worm farm is still going strong. The little fellas seem to have worked out their own little wormy balance and it requires very little maintenance.

Grow– I’m growing mould on my bathroom ceiling… does that count? No, no I guess not. I’m also growing my children, and they are growing like weeds!

Create– Making a little hat for a three year old girls birthday. Teddy wanted to model it, as my own residing three year old refused, (at least teddy keeps still.) I’ve also been playing with using vegetables as stamps and creating cards. It’s been fun playing with what works and what doesn’t.

Enhance- There is hooking action going on lately. I still suck, but I’m willing to learn as I want to get better. Hooking plans in the park or cafe with other hook yielding friends. A recent visit to this shop, just inspired the pants off me. (Thankfully they stayed on while I was in there as I didn’t want to scare anyone away.) Crochet and knitting classes I can see being a part of down the track, unless I really nut out the whole crochet thing by myself, (which seems unlikely to happen at this stage…sigh.) I’m still getting my Foodconnect box delivered too, it makes life just a tad easier.

Discover– I plan to become one with the above crochet book… that’s the plan anyway.

every man needs a penguin sinking into his cake

Enjoy- Mr Chocolate’s birthday, being with my little people, BLT’s in the back courtyard with family and enjoying the beautiful time of year that Autumn is.

Slow Living February 2012

First up, a huge thank you to all the lovely, lovely well wishes from my last post. We are still taking things nice and slow, and really enjoying this precious babymoon time. I’m still around, quietly reading your blogs and really appreciate any comments thrown my way as well.

I will be posting here and there with a few posts I have up my sleeve until I get used to our new family rhythm. For now though, here’s what was happening round these parts slow living style in Feb.

Slow Living February 2012

(an awesome concept created by the lovely Christine over at Slow Living Essentials)

NOURISH: Mr Chocolate has taken over the kitchen in the last two weeks, which I have to say has been fantastic. There has been a steady supply of chocolate chip biscuits, (now perfected) lots of tasty healthy meals for a hungry mama and a few well timed containers of deliciousness from awesome friends. Perfect.

PREPARE: I had been stocking up my freezer with ready to go meals, or little things that can be easily cooked up quickly. A few rolls of biscuit dough can make things a whole lot easier when there are school lunch boxes that still need to be filled and hungry little hands being held out. Now if only that freezer was twice as big, THEN I would be sorted.

REDUCE: Making use of my mum’s rather hefty sized stash of retro terry towelling. A new change table cover, and some little wipes sewn up. So much more interesting than standard bought ones.

GREEN: I’m still using the bicarb to wash my hair. So easy, and I really love not having to rely on shampoo to get my hair clean.

GROW:  My little pots still continue to struggle on. Too wet, too dry, not enough sun… the usual cityhippyfarmgirl garden goings on. I still like having some sort of greenery to look out to though. A little rosemary to rub between my fingers, a chilli or two to pluck… a caterpillar or three to squash under my shoe. I’m also still thinking about an olive tree in a pot, or perhaps a gardenia… or a bay. It’s for our placental planting, so if anyone has any tips or has done this before with good results in a pot I would love to hear from you.

CREATE: I’ve been hooking a cowl. After putting it over Mr Chocolate’s head 53 times, (to get an idea of what on earth I’m doing) I’m still not sure about the over all look. But I am loving the colours, and the rhythm of crocheting has been really relaxing…hook, hook, hook.

ENHANCE: I was the lucky recipient of this bag full of garden goodness from my lovely midwife. Home grown… just tastes so much better.

ENJOY: New life… yep, I’m completely smitten.