Green and Thrifty: Red Edition

I have been blogging for over ten years now and Posy has featured in these pages since they were four years old. Over the summer Posy changed their real life name (I do not actually have children named Rosy and Posy), and to reflect the changes in their life Posy's blog name has changed to Red and their pronouns to they/them. I am so grateful to have this kiddo in my life. Like all of the children Red has challenged my thinking, expanded my vision and most of all made my heart a bigger and better place. Like many new parents I fondly imagined that I would be the one nurturing and guiding my children into adulthood, and although a certain amount of that has gone on, I believe that it has gone just as much the other way  - that it is the children who have nurtured and guided me in many ways; they certainly forced me into adulthood, lickety split, ready or not. The journey has always been extraordinary and is ongoing, with me learning more every day.
These last few weeks have seen us re-emerge as a homeschooling family. Once upon a time, when the children were young, that meant I was nominally in charge. This time is different, and Red is definitely in charge of steering the education ship, something they are well capable of doing. As well as the odd foray into maths, mainly to appease me, there has mainly been an explosion of writing and handicrafts. And mess. There has been candle making. Paper making. Stacks of journals and scrapbooks. Jewellery making. And very much cooking and experiments with herbs. Did I mention the mess?

I am happy because at last, after many years of struggle of dealing with school and feeling both underwhelmed and overwhelmed by it all, Red is home and Red is quietly happy. They are free to have down time and work through those times without the pressures of school. At the same time, here in Tasmania we have a splendid opportunity for part time enrolment at school for homeschoolers, so Red gets to spend an afternoon at week at their very nice ex-school doing the Creative Learning Program and spending time with their friends. We are not homeschooling because the school was terrible, far from it. But even at the best, most supportive small school that has allowed many children to thrive when they were not thriving anywhere else, it was still not the place where Red could thrive. So here we are. And it is good. We are learning to function while occupying the same small space and enjoying each other's company.

This week I have been very unwell, days of dizziness and nausea where all I have been able to do is to stay in bed very still with my eyes closed. Lots of enforced thinking time. Luckily Red is an accomplished cook and fire wrangler. They chose this time to spend days in the kitchen making paper. Oh, the mess. But thankfully for most of the time I was unable to see it and stayed blissfully unaware in my bed with my eyes closed.

The paper is absolutely beautiful and is headed straight for the journals and scrapbooks.

Red also found a box of old candles I was planning on renovating, and did it for me. If you have a bunch of half-burned up candles in nice jars, here is how to save the jars and make new candles. First, pour boiling water into the candle jar. The wax will soften and melt and float to the top of the jar, and when it cools it will solidify on top of the water and you can just lift it out, or break it an lift it out. Save the wax for reuse, and save the little metal doodad that holds the wick for reuse as well.

Wash the candle jar with hot water and soap (or use any jar, teacup etc). Glue the metal wick holder into the bottom of the jar. Attach the wick to the metal holder with pliers. You can buy wicks from candle making suppliers. Red has tried using string for wicks and it doesn't work. We could experiment with coating string with wax but we haven't done that yet.. Put the wax into a tin can in a pan of water (we keep an old frying pan for candle making) and boil it slowly until the wax melts.

Tip the wax carefully into the candle jar and let it cool. And there you have it. New candles from old!

Pretty much the most active thing I have done this week is to make more dog food. This week he has chicken with brown rice, sorghum, silverbeet and broccolini from the garden that started to get away from me..

However something that both Red and I have done is more visible mending - Red embroidered this fabulous mushroom onto denim and patched it into their jeans.

And before I got sick I darned a beautiful cashmere shawl for a friend - she had caught it on something sharp and torn it. I used a single thread of pale green embroidery thread to darn it and I love how it has turned out. I hope she does too.

That is our week then, very productive on Red's part, and very meditative on mine in these, the darkest days of winter. How has your solstice week been, whether celebrating high summer or the deep winter?

I leave you with a picture of our yule log. Red decorated it with a jaunty bow. It sat on our table for a week and then we cast it into the fire on the winter solstice with our hopes and wishes for the new year of returning light.


simplelife said…
Loving all that crafty goodness, probably serendipitous timing for you to be unwell. Only sat at the table last night and wondered if it were possible to make new candles from the pile of wax that was once our table candle. I think I'll get some wicks and give it a go.
Hope you are better now, sounds like an awful time.
Is it just me or do others wish there were a pronoun other than they/them? It just feels so clunky and like the best of a bad choice. I mean no disrespect to anyone, I just wish the English language had a better gender nonspecific word.
Cheers Kate
PS don't our kids teach us just how little we actually know and control.
Jo said…
Kate, I do agree, they/them is very clunky. There are other invented pronouns but these ones seem to be most commonly used, and I am just going with what Red wants. It would be great to have gender non-specific pronouns but we have what we have..
I LOVE your PS... and good luck with candle remaking. There are definitely more detailed tutorials in website land on how to do that..
Anonymous said…
Our children are most definitely our guides. Oh! The lessons and growth my two daughters have provided!
The candle re-making is one of the first projects I did, when the Stay at home orders began. All the bits and pieces provided 2 large candle jars, and an immeasurable sense of accomplishment to me. I date.
How lucky you and Red are to have and learn from each other. Hope you feel better soon.
Have a good week-end.
Jo said…
Patricia, children as guides - yes, I really like that image. They lead us to places we never imagined, they keep us honest, they cheerfully tell us about all our deficiencies so that we have ample opportunity for character development:)
I feel that sense of accomplishment re the candles, even though I didn't do any of the work myself! And I would reframe cheap date as: the capacity to wring joy out of every small creative act..
Mary said…
"There has been candle making. Paper making. Stacks of journals and scrapbooks. Jewellery making. And very much cooking and experiments with herbs." Way to go, Red. These are all things I enjoy or have enjoyed at one time or other. Even the mess. Controlled chaos.
Jo, would you write a little more sometime about making dog food? Or have you done that and I missed it? How do you know what's healthy for your dog and how much to feed?
Treaders said…
I'm going through the misery of my son's wife telling him she wants a divorce. Out of the blue, lightening bolt kinda stuff. But he has been strong and I'm just amazed to find that he is actually a man! I've always thought of him as my son and that I would be there to protect him. But some things you can't protect them from. So yep, the tide does turn and life moves on and then suddenly they are not kids any more. What can I say. I hope you're feeling better now!
HannahB said…
I love winter solstice. Embracing the snuggly cold, while looking forward to the light. I made lanterns with the children. I’m very proud that I was organised this year. It made me feel like a create mother rather than just a very practice one.
Jo said…
Mary, I had a book from the library once about making home made dog food. The author pointed out that manufactured pet food was only invented in the mid-20th century and that somehow dogs and cats have survived as pets for millenia without dog kibble..
My vet is also happy to see animals on home made diets and specifically prescribes raw chicken necks/wings for both dogs and cats as the most effective teeth cleaner available.
My basic recipe is meat plus wholegrain plus vegies and herbs all slow cooked up together. Dogs also thrive on porridge for breakfast. I also give Benson leftovers, bones etc, but no sugar and only tiny amounts of high calorie foods like cheese. He likes licking all the pots that I cook in.. I know, no-one will ever come over for dinner again now..
I give Benson just over a cup of food for dinner, but he is quite a small dog. He is his ideal weight now, he was a bit overweight when he just ate dog kibble, which is quite concentrated food. You could experiment with food amounts, give the dog about the same as it was eating before and adjust if they lose weight or gain it. Benson would eat all day if allowed to so I don't use 'hunger' as a guide..

Anna, oh, that is such a difficult time for you all. I know a mum's immediate reaction is to want to protect their kid. And I'm sure he appreciates your support and love, but isn't it marvellous to discover just how capable your kids can be when they need to be! Sending my best hugs you way xx

Hannah, hello lovey:) Oh, I remember the few years that I made solstice lanterns with the littles. Honestly? I can't stand doing craft, but I kind of stood around and held the sticky tape helpfully while they mostly made them.. I was a very disappointing mother, craft-wise.. still, I did love taking them out on the lantern walk and seeing their little lanterns bobbing in the dark night. There is something about children and candles, the children light up as much as the candles do.
Anonymous said…
"Red is home and red is quietly happy". Perfect, that's all we want for our kids really, isn't it?

Well done on the home-made dog food. My dog used to have mostly kibble and ended up a little bit chubby and on heart medication. I changed her diet to a much more natural one and managed to slim her down and get her off her heart medication. She is almost 13 so I thought that was quite impressive. Both dogs went through some tummy issues, probably due to being geriatric, and I put them on slippery elm powder in a bit of Greek yogurt. The vet was very impressed with the results. The strange thing is, she still has concerns about them not getting all they need on a natural diet. I think I will repeat what you said about dogs and cats surviving for millenia without packaged food.

Hope you feel very much better this week, Jo.

Jo said…
Madeleine, yes, I'm all fine, I don't ever get sick for long. It's funny, I bet your vet doesn't eat kibble, so how does she know she's getting all her nutrients??
What do you feed your dogs?
Anonymous said…
Love all the crafty creativity. (And the use of the red wine bottle to hold down the paper.) You're a great mother to be so flexible and open to learning from your children. Hope you are feeling better - migraine? Hope it has lifted.

I love winter and snuggling under blankets and reading. And walking without collapsing. And my gardening not dying in Sydney heat. Lucinda
Anonymous said…
Oh, and Mr S cooked home made dog food for our two German shepherds. One has Parvo virus as a pup, and if he ate bought dog food, he would have the runs. Mr S would cook up rice and meat, alternating with pasta and meat. They had some kibble in the morning - and sometimes toast and honey as a treat! Occasionally they would get bought dog food - if friends were feeding them when we were on holidays. Talk about smelly, farty digestion!!! The home-cooked stuff must be must healthy. They didn't stink and they were very active and happy dogs on the home-cooked stuff. Lucinda
Anonymous said…
Jo I was giving the dogs raw kangaroo with plenty of steamed pumpkin and carrots when they needed to lose weight. After about 18 months they both started having tummy trouble so I stopped the raw meat and added the yogurt and slippery elm, which has worked really well. So currently they are having the most 'natural' kibble i can find (ie no soy, corn, fillers etc) with some fresh food, usually in the form of raw veg and yogurt, sometimes apple. They love oatmeal too. Given I've been vegetarian since I was 13 I'm not sure I could cook meat for them so as long as they stay healthy I will keep with what we are doing. I was upset that the raw meat started giving them issues as I believe it is the most natural thing for them to have.

Anonymous said…
And I give them olive oil also for it's anti-inflammatory properties and nourishment, and crushed pumpkin seeds as a worm expeller. I add apple cider vinegar to their water for flea prevention in summer. I think they must be quite healthy as none of them ever has fleas, including the cat!

Jo said…
Lucinda, red wine has so many uses.. I am so interested to hear all the stories of home-cooked dog food. Sometimes when we run out of home made and give Benson kibble he just stands there looking at it mournfully, as if he is asking, where is the real food?

Madeleine, thanks so much for all this information. I have read about ACV for chickens, but didn't think of it for the dog and cat. Oregano oil is also excellent for expelling worms, but i don't know what the dosage would be.. This gives me some extra ideas for adding goodness to Benny's dinners. The cat flatly refuses to eat anything that isn't kibble but I'm still trying.
Anonymous said…
Jo, I think oregano oil is very toxic for cats. I think dogs can have it in small doses. It is sold especially for dogs but I wonder if that's just a way for them to charge more? Pumpkin seed dose is 1 teaspoon crushed seed per ten pounds body weight twice a day. It is really good for normalising the stool also. Sorry if that is lowering the tone of your blog!! Giving dogs things like grated carrot and raw pumpkin is a good preventative.
I hear you on trying to get good food into your cat. I used a slowly, slowly process to get our little Violet to eat different types of fish. She also doesn't mind kangaroo - sometimes! Lots of cat food contains tuna which contains mercury so I don't like to give her too much. I don't want her to get alzheimers!

Anonymous said…
Red is happy again, and well. You are well again, and happy. All good.
I love all the kitchen table creativity! I'd love to try the candle re-making, but I don't seem to have the candles to begin with - don't know where they went. I do, however, love papermaking, and have done since my daughter and I did a weekend course together when she was 12 - such a long time ago! Yes, messy, but such lovely and useful results.

Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Madeleine, ah thanks, good to know about oregano oil and cats. I add oregano leaf to Benny's food. I know you do have to be careful with the essential oils as they can be very strong and toxic. I will go over your suggestions and start adding different raw veg to Benny's dinner to see how that sits with him. Never fear about lowering the tone of the blog - I love a good discussion about poop!

Linda, I just love Red's paper. It has so much texture and interest with little bits of words and different colours. What a fun thing to do with a twelve year old - a papermaking course. That is so lovely:)
Mary said…
Lots of good information on homemade dog foods! Buster is the first dog I've had that absolutely will not eat vegetables or fruit, and I'm vegan so I can't get into cooking meat, but we do give him homemade treats along with his kibble (Jo, we also let him clean out cooking pans -shhh), so I guess that will have to suffice for now. And I've never had a cat that cared much for anything but kibble except for the little critters they catch outside :(
Judy said…
I have had 2 spells of dizziness over the last year. I couldn't even lie on my side as it just made me feel I was spinning and it is very tiresome lying just on your back. However the Dr gave me some Prochlorperazine tabs, which seemed to work. I am going to ask my herbalist friend for an alternative though. Maybe you could request some just in case it comes back, although I hope it doesn't.

I am glad Red is thriving. I agree our kids teach us so much.

Jo said…
Mary, will Buster eat cooked veg when mixed with rice etc? (love Buster's name!) I am very fortunate that Benson will eat anything - it may be his breed - he is half beagle. He doesn't believe most raw vegetables are food though, and he carefully picks cooked green beans out of any stew and leaves them lined up politely on the side of the plate! My cat sounds like yours, except when she kills the odd rat she doesn't eat it, she brings it to me as a present..

Judy, that sounds exactly like what I have been experiencing! I have had it once or twice a year for a couple of years, and it's dreadful, I can't even turn over in bed without the room spinning for minutes and feeling like I want to throw up. One of my daughters said that happened to her with an ear infection, because of the inner ear/balance thing. I don't have an ear infection but i do have very blocked ears at the moment, so maybe that is the problem.. I will consult my GP, and if I ever get any answers will let you know!

Mary said…
Good idea about the cooked veg with rice. Since it's the middle of summer here I have lots of beans and squash, as well as year-round kale, so I think an experiment is in order.
Cats and their idiosyncrasies!
The symptoms you described sound similar to what I experienced when I had sinusitis a few years ago. Very unpleasant.
Jo said…
Mary, even one better would be pureeing up the vegies and mixing with rice. As if he was a toddler who wouldn't eat his greens!
Maudy said…
This week has been a bit upsy downsy. I'm still working from home, and Reg is still one week on one week off (this week was mostly on) BUT the kids are home on holidays. There is an issue among the offspring at mine that while they are both exceedingly capable of fending for themselves and foraging in the pantry for adequate sustenance; when the female parental unit is around, apparently only that person is capable of finding food (I think they figure I'll just make something for them when I'm making stuff for me). Also nobody is capable of shutting a door in this joint and I'm constantly bellowing "shut the bloody doors" at random intervals, or getting up in search of the draft.

We live in a lovely old late 50's brick veneer - loads of massive picture windows and interesting drafts. I can tell in the lounge room that the back door is open because of the draft that creeps up my leg. Anyway, in the interests of (relative) frugality, I am keeping the heating on low and the doors shut. They are quite keen on barging through doorways and slamming things open. Constantly.

The Hound loves the home made food - she often has what we're having (raw veggies, meat off cuts etc)+ kibble because apparently, it's not a meal unless there's some biscuits to go with it. She was very excited yesterday when the parcel man delivered a parcel that was for her! (It was her food).

But I am taking next week off. Which will be nice
Jo said…
Maudy, ah, hah, ha, this week I have been sick again and Red has had to perform a number of household tasks that are usually mine. They have done very well at everything, oh, oh, what a mistake, now i know that they can tackle all the things...
Hope you have had an excellent and restful week, draughts around your ankles notwithstanding..
gretchenjoanna said…
I'm so glad that one of your children is living with you during this strange time!

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