Showing posts with label work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work. Show all posts

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Time management for the scatty

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Productivity ebbs and flows and some days I am superwoman and others, not so much. It doesn't help that I tend to follow my feelings about things, as opposed to my rational thoughts. If I don't feel in the mood to do something, forcing myself do it drains me. If it involves other people, I have no problem sucking it up and getting on with it, but when it comes to the humdrum necessities of my own life and stuff it isn't so easy. Domesticity can be a little too routine, however much I try to be mindful and focused on the task at hand.

I really do envy those who can pick a task and stick with it to completion, who can happily create and follow a rigorous schedule,  but my mind works a little more globally than that. In the past I have tried to fight it, to conform to strict routines and processes and it lead to burnout and joylessness. Instead, this method works well. Everything gets done within an acceptable time frame and my mind gets to hop about a bit and follow its whimsy, something it does not get to exercise in my very routine day job.

This is my _____ a _____ a ______ way of being and doing. I just fill in the first ______ with a verb, the second ______ with a subject and the third ______ with a regular, manageable time frame. Some examples from my current blank a blank a blank list currently read like this:

  • Crochet a row a day (cheery warm chevron blanket will be ready to go in just 120 more days)
  • Sow a crop a week (no empty spaces in any bed, container or paving crack this year!)
  • Wash a load of laundry a day (no more midweek laundry heap blues/running out of nappies trauma)
  • Write a blog post a week
  • Save a pound a day (to put towards a long dreamed of project)
  • Sort ten items to give away a week (decluttering is a lifetime project apparently)

So, in between scheduled activities that are set in stone, I pick any project from my list, whatever suits my mood. I don't resent having to carry them out, I have a few fun things (I can't really call crochet a daily necessity, but it sure is relaxing) that I can pick without guilt - there is balance. I take childlike pleasure from achieving tiny, incremental goals that I can see building into a worthwhile whole, not unlike collecting pennies in a jar.

I am now writing a list like this for our longer term goal of moving to Norfolk. Part of the reason that the self reliant life so appeals to me is the sheer variety of skills I would get to exercise on a daily basis, but self discipline is still an essential. A balance, as always, is the best way forward. I have made my peace with the reality that some things just have to be done there and then; and sometimes I have to just commit; and sometimes I can hop about from task to task.

So, how does your brain work? How do you organize your activities? And if your brain works like mine, all advice will be gratefully received. If your brain does sound a little like my brain, you may want to check out this time management method. If your brain doesn't work like mine, well, you probably don't need any advice on time management anyway : )

Friday, 14 October 2011

Let's Be Careful Out There

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Our first hard freeze was looming last week, so it was time to bring in all the tender crops. Two days prior, I'd cut all the squash and cucumbers; the day before all the chiles, peppers, and eggplants. As I snipped apart tomato plants and hauled tubful after tubful of green tomatoes up to the house, Aries was busy clear-cutting the stripped-clean plants and hauling loads up to the chipper/shredder.

After a break for lunch, he started processing everything for the compost pile. I was down by the garden shed - organizing the cages and trellises for storage, coiling up soaker hoses. Faintly, I heard Aries calling me from up near the house. I poked my head around the shed to see what he wanted. "Get up here! You have to drive me to the emergency room," he yelled down.

I thought he was kidding, and replied, "Yeah, right."

"No!" he said, "I really mean it! I caught my hand in the shredder! Get up here!!"

I ran. He was holding the fingers of his left hand with his right. At least, there was no spurting blood. I grabbed a clean washcloth for his hand, closed up the house (it was threatening rain), and grabbed my purse and keys. The hospital is about five miles away, on the other edge of town. It took me maybe 10 minutes to drive, and they got him into an emergency room right away. I settled in and waited, for hours, as they x-rayed and stitched him up, updated his tetanus immunization plus gave him two massive doses of antibiotics (those two shots, one in each arm, were the only things that brought tears to his eyes) and finally sent us home with prescriptions for pain-killers and more antibiotics.

He's reasonable lucky, albeit in quite a bit of pain. He was sweeping the shredded pile away from beneath the bottom screen, using a piece of board. There's a rounded guard piece there, with nickle-sized holes for the material to fall through. The holes are also just big enough, that when his grip on the board slipped, to let the tip of his middle finger on his left hand slip through. In an instant, it shredded his fingertip, shattering the bone into pieces. Fortunately, it didn't penetrate deep enough to damage the joint. Right now, he has 20 stitches and his hand in a cast, but it looks like the bones will knit back together.

We're ok financially. He has pretty good insurance coverage through work, and we have enough liquid savings to pay the deductibles and emergency room co-pays. His bosses are looking to see if they have any modified light-duty position he could do, but it's not likely. So we're now in the waiting period before his medical leave of absence gets approved. It's looking like he'll be out of work for 6 - 8 weeks.

I have to tie his shoes for him each morning, but since it was his non-dominant hand he's managing ok for the most part. I've had to take over the firewood hauling, and putting the garden to bed. Aries just finished up with the antibiotics, and is cutting back on the pain-killers. He's not the type to just sit around though, so being so restricted in his actions is really getting to him. Plus, I know he's berating himself for getting into such a fix in the first place.

So, could this accident have been prevented? He's always so careful around machinery - wears safety glasses, heavy boots, tucks in his shirt, but hates wearing gloves. In this case, gloves might have been enough to have been stopped by the size of the holes. As I said, it was threatening to rain that afternoon, so he wanted to get everything finished up before it started - maybe he was rushing the job a bit. He'd sprained a couple of fingers on his right hand at work the week before, so he's been using his non-dominant hand more instead. The lack of coordination in his left might have been a factor. We'll make it through this. It's a shock, but not a disaster.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Organising Information

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

The most common item on my To Do list is "tidy office".  My office is an alcove off the dining room which houses my husband's desk, the kids' laptops, my business stock, my desktop computer and all of our household paperwork and personal finance 'stuff'.  It's only 3m x 3m and has no door - so it needs to be well-organised all the time!

There seems to be so much information coming into our lives - local newspapers, magazines handed on by friends - as well as my couple of favourite mags bought new, books to be read, homeschooling resources, lists, my precious diary, paperwork for my volunteer roles and my business...  And then there are bits and pieces like recipes, notes from workshops and meetings, samples and catalogues from suppliers, birthday cards to send, bills to pay.  Argh!  It's very easy to be overwhelmed...

So, every now and then I clear off the 2m x 2m dining table, which is just beside the office, and I start to make piles of things which need to go in different places to where they have accumulated.  Of course, I could deal with paperwork and other items the day they arrive, but with six children, homeschooling, the farm, the business and LIFE - I am just not that organised.  But I am a little organised, and I will share below some ideas I've found invaluable for keeping track of the paper trail...

Household Notebook
I got the idea for a Household Notebook from  I bought the biggest ring binder I could find - it's the white type with the clear insert cover.  On the spine I used the printable 'household notebook' label from Organized Home, and on the front I inserted a beautiful photo of my garden.  Inside I used a whole box of clear sheet protector sleeves and some plastic dividers I found in our house.  I made labels for the divider tabs - farm, house, me, education, food, family, community, work.  I left a couple of dividers at the back of the folder in case I decide to take on any more roles! All of those pieces of paper I've saved and wanted to keep were sorted and filed into this folder, which sits upon my desk to be grabbed whenever required.  Items in it include maps of the orchard, drawings by children, scraps of poetry, booklets, brochures, handouts, master menu lists the very many other lists...

Garden Journal
I have never kept a Garden Journal, but I wish I did!  I do have maps of trees and perennial plants around the house paddock, but nothing for the vegie gardens.  I searched online for images of Garden Journals, to see what sort of thing I'd like to create, and the options are endless!  From online journals to scrapbooks, meticulous record books and everything in between!  If I had a garden journal, I'd keep a record of which seeds I sow when, and the results.  I'd write notes about frosts and rainfall if I had a system in place.  I'd boast about harvests and preserves in my garden journal.  Do you keep a garden journal?  I'd love to hear about it!

Finance Folder
Our finance folder is a bit like the household notebook, but it's all about money.  It has a beautiful title page with an image of blooming flowers and quotes about wealth.  Then there are a couple of pages of important numbers and details, a printed calendar for the current year for easy reference and a page with the months of the year with regular bills written in their month - insurance renewals, rates, vehicle registrations.  There are sleeves for bills to be paid, my balance sheet summary (I work well with pen and paper, rather than spreadsheets or online budgeting programs), a sleeve for that month's receipts or accounts paid for my business, wish lists for birthdays, bank books for the younger kids' accounts and other taxation, budget and finance bits and pieces.  This is a system I have used for over 10 years and I really like it.  As soon as a bill comes in, or a receipt hits my desk, it is filed in the finance folder.

I like to cut recipes from magazines, receive hand-written recipes from friends, print recipes from forums and websites...  So I bought 4 ring-binder folders last year and labelled them - sweets & baking, meals, preserves and Thermomix.  In each folder I have more clear plastic sleeves and in the Thermomix folder I organise recipes approximately by recipe type - meals, sweets, preserves, dairy, etc.  The folders look great on a shelf in my kitchen and anyone in the family can find our favourites.  They are also a great inspiration at menu-planning time, because every single recipe is hand-picked by us, so there's no sifting through things we don't like in recipe books!  I used to keep a lot of recipes bookmarked on the computer, but with our power outages and internet interuptions, especially in our summer wet season, I have gone back to paper versions.  After creating these folders, I had a big clean-out of unused recipe books, copying the one or two recipes I used from many, and passing them on to others to enjoy and use!

Filing Cabinet
We bought a 2nd hand filing cabinet for next-to-nothing about 18 years ago.  At first it had just a few suspension files hanging in it, and some junk in the bottom drawer.  As our family grew larger and our lives grew busier, the filing cabinet accumulated more folders.  Each year, when I do our tax, I clear out unwanted pieces of paper from the filing cabinet and shred them for use in the chook nests, or to start the fire.  There's something very satisfying about incinerating old bills!  I don't file items as soon as they come in.  Maybe because of the awkward corner the cabinet is in, or maybe because I'm just a procrastinator!  I have a green file folder on top of the filing cabinet which fills with papers to-be-filed.  Every couple of months or so, I file away these papers when having an office clean up.  It's a method which suits me, and the two-step process in fact reduces some of the items filed, as I might put something in the green folder just-in-case, but by the time filing day comes, I realise I didn't need to keep it.

Next post: organising daily information - diaries, calendars, menus and more!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Farm Sitting

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

We have been so busy! I agreed to farm sit again for my neighbours just under 2km up the road (we are almost direct neighbours, there are very few properties between us). And the day after they left, I took surprise delivery of a new house cow! The cow is on loan to me while Lucy is dry, and she is just lovely. So I have once again been juggling twice-a-day milking with twice-a-day farm sitting!

I take one or more of the children with me when I visit the farm. It's nice to have their help and company, and sometimes we've had jobs which take more than one set of hands - like manouvring hungry goats so I can squeeze out of the feed room door, holding gates ajar, tipping 20kg bags of grain into high storage drums and dragging a billy goat back into his paddock!

When our neighbours go away, they give us a tour of the gardens and animals, reminding me how to pump water and where everything is... They give me a key and some contact numbers, and tell me the date they'll leave and return. I always take notes so that I can remember the right feed mixes and other details.

Since I'm not staying at the farm, I carefully plan our days to allow enough time for all of our tasks. Sometimes we do some preparation for the morning if I know we'll be rushed. Sometimes we'll do a lot of extra work one day so we can pop in and out more quickly the next. When we're going via the farm on our way home, we have our work clothes, boots and raincoats in the car. By being really organised with our farm sitting tasks, just as we try to be with our own farm, the extra work isn't such a very big deal (as it could be)!

Some of our tasks include:
* feeding and watering animals - some twice daily, some daily, some every couple of days
* cleaning up after animals as necessary
* collecting eggs, harvesting from the garden
* watering the gardens, potted plants and seedlings, covering plants in case of frosts etc
* collecting mail
* caring for any sick or injured animals, often taking them home with us

The best things about farm sitting are:
* spending time with different animals (goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, aviary birds, cats, and guinea fowl this time)
* walking in others' gardens - admiring their planning, and harvesting the bounty
* getting some exercise - squeezing farm jobs into an hour, up and down hills, carrying buckets etc, is hard work!
* doing something to help others - our neighbours could not go away if they didn't have reliable farm sitters
* sharing chores with my children - team work, being outdoors, learning together, supporting each other
* earning some (shared) pocket money!

The worst things about farm sitting are:
* when things go wrong, like a sick animal
* working in the rain and mud
* dealing with animals we aren't comfortable around
* the extra responsibility - we must be there, no matter what's going on in our own lives - there's no one else!

Farm Sitting Resources
It will depend on the level of care (article)
Farm Sitting Checklist (pdf)
Farm Sitters Australia (database)

Friday, 14 May 2010


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I've mentioned LETS before, when describing some of the ways our family are attempting to connect with our community. Today I thought I'd share some more information, as I'm so excited about the growth and activity within our local system, which I've been co-ordinator of for two years this year.

A Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) is a non-profit community organisation. It lets ordinary people share skills, talents and resources using alternative currency.

Our LETS group

LETS in Australia

LETS Australia on Facebook

LETS Worldwide

Community Exchange

For our family, LETS is part of our everyday economy, as well as a means to enjoy little extras that we normally can't afford. Some of the things we've received recently include: two new ukeleles for my children, soap, furniture, horse riding, yoga classes, fishing gear, crockery, delivery of a washing machine, books, fresh produce, take-away food, phone credit, a crocheted rug, cleaning products, cheese, CDs, Italian lessons for my teenagers and stock for Spiral Garden (my business). And some of the things we've offered include: macadamias, plants, vegetables, eggs, Spiral Garden products, books and magazines, tutoring, garden labour, outgrown toys, cow manure and preserves.

LETS increases our family income by the equivalent of over $2000 per year, and that amount grows as our local system does. Could you use some extra income, without the commitment of more working hours? Perhaps LETS can work for you, too.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Work Options

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

People are often surprised when I tell them that I’ve never had a permanent full-time job. I have worked full-time hours as a waitress and in office administration, but they weren’t permanent positions – I was doing temp work or extra shifts as a student mostly.

I was a student doing a double-degree before I became a mother. I intended to go to work, to study further, to do something with my life. I’m glad I realised that being an at-home mother is a wonderful way to live. A blessing. A privilege.

I’ve been at home whilst my husband studied, did an adult apprenticeship, worked very long hours, worked away and worked part-time. We’ve always found a way to pay for our expenses and move ahead. We have struggled, but we made it through!

I have usually dabbled in some sort of paid hobby:

For awhile I did some design work on the computer – stationery, address labels etc.

I have usually sold our excess household items etc through auction sites and on internet forums.

For awhile the children and I were packaging our saved seeds and bulk-bought seeds and selling these online. This appealed to us because growing food is something we are passionate about.

We’ve also sold excess eggs, produce, jams and plants from a roadside stall.

I have done some freelance writing and editing. Sometimes a lot of hours for reasonable pay, and sometimes only small amounts of work and financial reward. I stick to my interests with the freelancing, and don’t pursue work outside my field of parenting and education and my passion of gardening.

A couple of years ago I decided to buy an online business from a busy friend who had returned to full-time study and couldn’t keep up with the business. It is called Spiral Garden and is a real blessing in our lives. It is growing slowly into another stream of income for me, while I’m at home with my children – homeschooling, growing food and planting trees.

Ideally our home-based business would also support us all, but then I would be stuck in my home office several days a week keeping the business going. At the moment my husband can earn much more than me per hour, so he’s still out there working. He'd love to be at home with us on the farm, though.

While my hobbies have paid me, they’ve been very much about keeping my mind active and showing my children how there are many ways to make money. The pocket money is lovely, and has helped to support my hobbies at least – more plants for the garden, some fabric for sewing, magazine subscriptions etc.

Now that they're older, the children have developed their own streams of income - husking and weighing out macadamia nuts from our trees and breeding chickens, ducks and guinea pigs. The older three also busk at local markets.

If I needed to make more money to be able to stay at home I would initially look at where I could further save money. A dollar saved is a dollar earned – more because it’s not taxed! If we were still struggling I’d further pursue one of my 'jobs' above or even take in ironing or childcare, because these fit with my lifestyle of being at home with children. If this didn’t work, I would look for casual work outside of normal working hours so that I would go to work when my husband was at home with the children. Now that they’re older (our youngest is five), I can see that this would be much more manageable. I would try to avoid commuting a great distance and a job where I needed to outlay a large amount for clothing etc. I’d want to keep as much of my earnings as possible. For example, I'd rather drive 3 minutes to clean rooms at a local Bed & Breakfast than travel across the region to a more complicated position of employment.

I hope this post helps you to think about your own employment options, especially if you have young families. I encourage you to think about what you’re good at, where your interests lie, what sort of work you prefer, what’s lacking in your community and how you can perhaps make a little extra money to help the family budget or save for the future. I’m not saying that staying at home is better than working, but it has been a wonderful lifestyle for us. Watching my sister juggle her children and work, and seeing my own mother (against her wishes) do the same from when I was three years old – I choose this way because it’s what I can handle. I prefer to be home, cooking from scratch, growing food, bartering with friends and neighbours, mending clothes and making do, and feel blessed to have been able to do so for over 15 years.

Further Reading:
Bringing it Home by Wendy Priesnitz
Hundreds of Ways to Make Money From Home by Rosalind Fox and Tessa Stowe
Making Money from Home by Better Living Collections
Making Money from your Garden by Jackie French
Write to Publish by Vin Maskell & Gina Perry

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Small changes really do add up!

By Frugal Trenches

A little more than 6 months ago, I was a city girl living in London, working around the clock (often leaving my flat at 6am and arriving back sometime after 9 or 10pm), I was frequently flying for the day to Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh or taking trains across the country for meetings. I had a never ending list of things to do that I simply didn't have time to do. My weekends were often spent trying to get some work done from home, meeting a friend or two and simply crashing. The weekends were when I tried to recover, only in reality you can't really and truly recover from a 80 hour work week when confined by walls, in a city that doesn't sleep and when you know you have at least another 10 hours + of work to get done before Monday morning at 5am rolls around.

The last six months have involved a lot of changes, it was as if I knew where my destination was, but I wasn't so sure of the steps to get me there. I knew I needed to leave London, I knew I wanted to live back near family in another part of England, I knew I wanted to work on my health, stop being so exhausted and really live but I really didn't know how. So I started small and blogged through it all. Slowly I learned how to knit, began reading more. These two small steps brought me enjoyment and forced me to leave work at work and enjoy an hour or two in the evenings of a hobby that brought me so much enjoyment. I won't let you know how terrible my knitting skills still are 6 months later, but I live in hope :0). I joined a book club and helped form a knitting club. I worked out with my employer a different work schedule (part time) knowing that it was simply buying me time to leave. A couple of health difficulties and sick time really gave me the push to put myself first now rather than later. I had saved up 6 months worth of expenses so knew I could take the plunge when needed. I began swimming again, something I'd spend many hours of my childhood enjoying. I met a great group of early morning swimmers who while 50+ years older than me, are a great source of inspiration and determination. I resigned.

Many people questioned what I was doing. What I was doing was finding my life and learning how to live it. Instead of a complex, career & money driven existence I was embracing a simple, green and frugal life - a life filled with new experiences (growing veggies, making my own shampoo and soap, learning to make things), volunteering, helping others, working in order to live not living in order to work. I let go of the illusion that I needed my own house (I don't say home because a home is anywhere you feel at home and at peace) and decided more than that I needed balance in my life in order to live fully. I cut my expenses by 75% in the areas of housing, bills, travel, food. And I learned to live and love life.

I feel that by embracing simple, frugal and green living (and yes I still have a way to go!) I found myself. I awakened something inside me that lay dormant when only focused on following the herd - working full time, climbing the career ladder, building up my pension and owning a house. The reality is we need money, but my reality is needing money will no longer interfere with every other area of my life. It will no longer be the reason I do something, instead it will be 1 or 2 pieces of my puzzle. The reality is I'd rather have a lot less stuff and more experiences, I'd rather be true to myself, I'd rather have the time to help others and contribute towards a better earth so really the choice is simple.

Had anyone told me I'd be capable of these changes I would never have believed them. They didn't happen over night. It was a year long journey that in many ways is just starting. I didn't turn into a green thumbed, domestic goddess overnight and yes I'm still far away from reaching some of my green goals but now I have no doubt I'll get there because I have not only the motivation but the time.

I thought I'd leave you with this quote that really sums up the learning I've experienced:

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, "Wow, what a ride!!!"

I'd love to hear from any of you who have made big changes, where did you start? How many little steps did you have to take before you realized just what you'd accomplished?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Willing Workers

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a cultural exchange whereby guests offer volunteer assistance and hosts in turn offer food, accommodation and hospitality.

We have been WWOOF hosts through WWOOF Australia for about two years. We have hosted many WWOOFers from Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Each of our guests have brought something special to our home by way of their knowledge, sense of humour, enthusiasm, patience, eagerness to learn, willingness to help, caring, travel tales or love of animals and children.

Feedback from our WWOOFers has been positive, and many have kept in touch with our family. Everyone has loved the food and felt very comfortable here, just as we have felt comfortable having them in our home and lives.

The scenery has impressed all of our guests, and seeing a tree kangaroo, platypus or echidna has been an added excitement.

Together we have enjoyed camping, juiced oranges, built a bonfire, picked fruit, planted seeds and trees, done lots of general farm maintenance, visited waterfalls, walked in the rainforest and laughed... among many other things. Hosting WWOOFers keeps our enthusiasm and energy high with regard to the many improvements and jobs we have here on our little farm.

WWOOF hosts aren't only organic farms - there are urban and suburban households, tourism ventures, animal shelters, hobby farms and other rural landholders in the WWOOF listings.

And WWOOF is also great for the traveller. All of our guests have explained how WWOOFing has enriched their travel experience and their lives. They have learnt a lot and lived cheaply (or free) but well for the duration of their stay with us. It is sweet to see how relieved they are to have free laundry and internet facilities, not to mention good fresh food and a comfy, quiet, warm bed! WWOOF is for young folk, couples, families, mature age travellers and everyone in between.