Tuesday, 21 March 2017

What Kate Did - Episode 1



Clothes from an era past.
My connection to my grandparents.


Hi folks,

Well, here it is - episode 1 of  'What Kate Did'. It is all your own fault.....you all asked for it here!

We introduce my grandmother Kate in 1905 just before her 16th birthday living in Gulgong NSW with her parents.


Episode 1


Kate stared wide-eye at her mother as a feeling of deep apprehension radiated out from her stomach. “Y’not to tell a soul. Y’hear me now Katie-girl?” her mother whispered urgently. Kate nodded, her eyes not leaving her mother’s lined face as the realisations and implications of what she had just been told organised itself in her head.  Kate hopped up off the old bed and went outside to process the information – Grandpa was a convict! A criminal in the eyes of the law! Kate knew that if anybody found out, then the family would be instantly marginalised and not treated with same equality that they had been to this point. Gulgong NSW (where Kate and her parents, sisters and brother lived), although a fast growing community since the gold rush, was still a small town and scandal like this travelled fast.  Kate now knew within herself that at some point she needed to move away, move away to create an existence of her own, where her secret could never be discovered…..somewhere that she could forge a new life that utterly transcended this shocking information.

Said Grandpa (Kate’s mother’s father, John Chandler) was such a character with his tattooed arms and his seemingly endless stories and songs about the sea. It always seemed strange to Kate that Grandpa had lived all his life in Singleton as a farmer and woodsman, yet his stories were of the sea – now it all made sense.  Kate recoiled at the unfairness of it all. Imagine a young sailor, 24 years old, a young father, being transported for ‘stealing’ a horse blanket and having to leave three small children and a young wife to fend for themselves in London town….never to see or hear from them again.  As Kate pondered this reality, the next realisation crashed down on her. Grandma and Grandpa could not have been ever legally married if Grandpa still had a wife alive in London town all those years ago. No wonder her mother was so insistent that this secret be never told. Her mother and her Uncles and Aunties were then obviously all bastard children and Grandpa was a polygamist in the eyes of the law…..the same law that had imprisoned and transported him on a stinking fetid ship ten thousand miles across the seas to Australia. It was this same law that would again condemn Grandpa, his children and their children (indeed Kate herself) as the irretrievable scum of society….if it ever found out.  Kate reeled as she tried to catch her breath through her tight corsetry and she quickly reached out clinging to the fence post to steady herself as everything she thought she knew about her family exploded into smithereens in her mind like a fire cracker.

The more Kate thought about these newly-acquired facts the more vulnerable and angry she felt. Kate now was more determined than ever that this situation would never shackle and shape her life the way it obviously had her Grandma’s and her mother’s.  It explained her mother’s constant guardedness and her arms-length treatment of her parents.  It probably explained why her mother had married a well-educated Danish man, many years her senior, despite Grandpa’s and Grandma’s deep disapproval – it was probably her mother’s subconscious attempt to escape this dreadful social reality and gain some security, respectability and connection back to the civilised world of Europe and England. Kate was thankful her last name was Peters and not Chandler…….a small mercy though.

Kate’s mind quickly became engrossed in the myriad of realisations that naturally manifested themselves in her family due to this terrible secret – the arguments, the whispered jibes, the way Grandma always over-emphasised the word MRS when she introduced herself, the families aversion to convicts or children of convicts of any description, the embarrassingly false airs and graces indulged in by her mother and grandmother, the aversion to meeting new people in town until they knew all about them..….. a million things now made sense.

Kate wandered over to the shade of the big Ironbark in the front yard and sat down to fully and rationally process what she had been told by her mother today and to get the story straight in her head. She needed to totally reorganise every single memory and thought in her head to match these new facts. Grandpa the criminal, Grandpa the deported convict, Grandpa the polygamist, Grandpa the sailor assigned his time as a field worker to a farmer in Singleton NSW, Grandpa who after seven years of hard labour receiving his ticket of leave (pardon) but still considered a convict. Criminals were known to be a different breed to normal people – tainted blood, dull minds, children of the devil, scum, unhuman. Even though the secret of this social disgrace was now two generations old, Kate still knew its power to lay low the life of her whole family and scuttle her own future if it were ever to be let out. All it would take was for the real Mrs Chandler (or someone who knew her) to appear on the scene or to write to the authorities making enquiries. Worse still, if one of Grandpa’s London town children hoping to find their father in Australia appeared on the scene. In the event of any of these possible scenarios the whole sordid affair would explode like a screaming banshee all over New South Wales. It would be in the papers and on that telegraphic invention thingy Kate had heard about recently. With so many people from England and Europe now willingly sailing out to Australia in the gold rushes, the threat of exposure and subsequent disgrace was a rising daily possibility. It was 1905 and the modern era, but Kate knew the toxic attitude of respectable folk when it came to convicts, let alone polygamous convicts!  Whilst Kate just wanted to shut it out of her mind, she knew she could not – she MUST actively reinvent herself. Kate fervently wished she could reinvent herself then and there without delay.


Maybe Kate should have been more careful of what she wished for as she sat under that gumtree……….    (to be continued)                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                      *************************     


Hopefully this story thus far is up to your expectations folks.

Mr HM                                                                                                               

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Delicious Simple Chicken Broth



How can something so benign-looking taste so good?
We sprinkle a little white pepper and vegetable salt on top just before we serve it.



Mrs HM and I have rediscovered the 'yum'ness of chicken broth. Not only is it delicious but it is also nourishing and frugal.


Left over chicken carcasses after feeding the hoards.
Don't throw them out!


Making the broth is as simple as popping two roasted chicken carcasses (after carving off the meat for another meal), two chopped up sweet carrots and two chopped up red onions into a boiler, covering with water, bringing to the boil then simmering for about three hours.  You know its done when the chicken carcasses have completely disintegrated and the bones are softish. Strain into a container and freeze in desired portion sizes for future use.


Cooking away steadily


When the urge hits us to have chicken broth we simply defrost the amount we need, chop up a little capsicum, spring onion and tomato and add it to the defrosted broth then bring to the boil and serve. We sprinkle just a little white pepper and vegetable salt on top.

It does not look fancy, but oh boy, it is tasty. Nourishing, simple, tasty comfort food at its best.

The cost is only about $1 each per serve. We consider this a filling meal.



Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The 80 cent Frugal Breakfast


80 cents for a simple nourishing breakfast


Hi folks

Here is just one of many favourite frugal breakfasts. Soft-boiled eggs and coffee.

I calculated the two eggs and the teaspoon of coffee cost me exactly 80 cents.

You could even do it cheaper than this by using cheap supermarket eggs and no-name coffee - it would probably cost roughly 60 cents.


The five HM daughters bought me
this cup for fathers day gift
a few years back. I love it.


My eggs are willingly laid by my happy free-range, scrap gobbling, garden wrecking, very vocal hens hence they cost me just a little more than buying the cheap ones laid by caged hens who have never pecked a worm, never seen the sun, never seen a cockerel fine and live in appalling conditions.

Eggs are an abundant source of protein from the whites and the yolks containing several vitamins and minerals.


The top comes off the bowler hat
and converts to an egg cup.
My coffee is staying hot underneath
until I am ready to eat.


This sure beats the pants off paying $7.50 for a toasted egg and sauce sandwich and a latte.

I had this exact breakfast this morning on the deck watching the beautiful rain.


Some of my happy hens.

So, whilst said rain is truly beautiful - I'm off to fix a leaking roof now. Mrs HM has been patient long enough with the bucket regime!


Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM


Friday, 17 March 2017

One More Week - Planning



One more week of this view
from my 19th floor corner office window.
So different to my preferred habitat.


Well folks...phew!

Can I start by saying how overwhelmed with surprise I am at the flood of responses I had encouraging me to write a dramatised story series about my Grandmother's life.  I put down 25 yes's thinking that I would probably not get that amount of response, but 70 and counting is just amazing in the extreme.  Heck folks!

There will be an episode every week (for as long as it takes) along with my other normal sporadic postings about frugality, simple living, being Mr HM, chook chasing, feeding the hoards etc. Some episodes will be sad, some will be scandalous, some will be informative, some will be relatable....I know there will be something for everyone as the story unfolds week on week.


Back to the slow art of shirt starching



Now - one more week of working in the city and the whopping two and a half hour commute each way each day.  I have been doing this commute for exactly two years next Friday.  I will be very sad to leave my dedicated and beautifully diverse staff, but I will be happy to be able to sleep in till six o'clock every morning instead of the alarm going off at 4:15am like it does now.  I am very grateful for the immeasurable value this career secondment has added to the understanding of my business, but I will be also grateful to be able to spend 20 hours a week back in my home instead of on a train.


I love the old Gothic script on the organ stops


I have had SO much encouragement from all you folk via various mediums - you will never know how grateful I have been for it. You have all wrapped me up in you collective arms and carried me through many parts of the last two years. I am humbled and grateful.


Cuppa time....


I am looking forward to more gardening, more hen watching, more home cooking, more soap making, more organisation in my home, more care and thought being taken on tasks and chores, more love, more doing things that delight me, more antique reed organ restoration, more music being learnt and played, more cuppa's as the sun comes up, more weight loss happening, more blogging, more stockpiling, more savings toward our goals, more encouragement of others, more community interaction, more time with the wonderful Mrs HM, more time with the five HM daughters....hmmm, I think that might just fill up the 20 hours per week I'm gaining?


Cooking double batches. Eat one
tonight and freeze one for another night.


Onward and upward I say!


Take care folks and stay nice now.

Mr HM (Phil)


The hens have been industrious.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What Kate Did - Do You Want To Know?




Pulled succulent corned meat


 Hi folks

I am seriously thinking of writing up my grandmother’s life story in a dramatized (yet fact-based) story series here on Mr Home Maker for everyone’s enjoyment and encouragement.


Dressing in the style of my grandparents era gives me
a psychological connection to these resourceful people


My grandmother (Kate) was born in 1889 and her life story is so fascinating particularly from the point of view of living simply, frugally and with true pioneer bravery. She was plunged into womanhood at 16 and lived a long challenge-filled life bringing up nine surviving children during the depression era passing away in 1979 just shy of her 90th birthday.  She was married to a wild penniless Irish boxing champion, a splendid cook, master seamstress, village icon and deeply resourceful.


All ready for our Friday night
nosh-up.


If I can get 25 comments of “Yes please”…..then I will post a chapter each week here.  If not, then I have plenty more to chat to you all about. Ha ha!


Let me know in the comments



Tomorrow's outfit waiting to be
ironed and starched.




Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Don't Quit - Just Rest, Reflect then Resume



I have returned to using wooden pegs. So frustrated with brittle bits of plastic
from broken pegs.  A little less plastic happening is always a good thing too.



Recently I have seen this sentiment posted around the interwebs - and I must say, it strikes a chord with me.

I think back on all the things that I have quit in frustration or annoyance over the years and now know that if I had only just taken a break from the task or goal and then gone back to it....it most probably would have been accomplished.


Slow cooked corned beef
cooked in ginger beer.


These days, ETA's (Expected Time of Arrival) is a big pushy KPI that does not allow us to step back from our work and reflect. Things are just deliver, deliver, deliver, faster, faster, faster.  I am a reflective learner (I realised this very late in life) and sometimes absolutely need time to reflect before continuing on with a task or a goal.  Without time to reflect I often become overwrought and throw my proverbial hands up in frustration.....by reflecting on the other hand, I can step away and think through what a hurdle or challenge actually is and allow my subconscious mind a little time to cook up a fabulous solution.  We're all different of course, a point in case is Mrs HM who finds solutions to challenges by pushing through - we are truly opposites in this regard.


I've found that hanging clothes inside-out reduces
fading and helps prolong the life of our clothes


For so long I labelled my need to sometimes reflect mid-task as procrastination - well, others labelled it as that I and I believed them - but now I understand myself better and am beginning to see the difference between the need to rest and reflect and when I am truly procrastinating. Incidentally, procrastination can sometimes be just a natural response to doing things that violate our core values (worth a thought).


Home made family meat pie
filled with beautiful savoury mince,
a buttery crust from scratch and
freshly cooked mushy peas


Moving towards and maintaining a simpler, more frugal and meaningful life can sometimes be overwhelming and challenge-ridden. Breaking the consumerist habits of a lifetime can be as confronting as breaking a serious addiction. Don't give up, just rest, reflect - then resume immediately when clarity emerges.


Blackie the hen occasionally
lays a very small egg. The poor
darling is blind and very senile
but still healthy and happy.



Take care folks and stay nice

Mr HM


'Oopsie' cakes made with whipped
egg white and yoghurt (according
to Dear daughter # 4)

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Living In The Past - Temporarily


Beautiful penmanship in an old
bible that I own



Sometimes I dream about living in an era of the past, or at least a romanticised version of the past. It is then that I shake myself and remember the horrors of life without modern medicine and women's equality, a life made possible by horrendous slavery and a distinct class-based society....and I think again.


My tailor made this wool vest
from scratch - it will last me
a lifetime


I guess some bits about the past that I like are certainly wrapped up in the notions surrounding well-to-do white rural families, but mostly the bits that I like are things like the following:


Detailed stitching on the french cuffs
of my business shirts


  •   The sheer muscle power required to clear millions of acres of farming land from bush land
  •   Home made music
  •   The multi-faceted knowledge of the jack-of-all-trades
  •   No plastic
  •   The love, care and total over-engineering that went into house design and  construction
  •   Teapots
  •   The true sense of occasion of fete's, agricultural shows, church and afternoon tea
  •   Men in work suits

Victorian style clutter on my piano

  •   That hard work could truly improve your life fortunes.
  •   Horses, everywhere
  •   The direct connection between what was consumed to what was produced
  •   Newspapers
  •   The minimised activity after sunset
  •   Books
  •   The importance of nearby rivers, wells, streams and dams
  •   Gold rushes!
  •   Community (not hip community...real community)
  •   The forgotten arts

1884 pedal organ I own

  •   Seasons as a life-source 
  •   Lanterns and fires
  •   Cash...in particular, coinage
  •   Cellars
  •   Leather and wool
  •   English and penmanship as a daily art form 
  •   A knowledge that new worlds and countries were yet to be discovered, pioneered and settled (yes, I would have been one of the folk who jumped on a boat and started a new life)
  •   Tailors and seamstresses, hat makers and glove makers
  •   The blacksmith, the potter, the butcher and the baker.

My cuff link and tie pin box


These days I indulge myself in small ways to reach out to the past whilst both feet are firmly nailed to the present.  I love dinner by the light of our kerosene lamps....oddly, most people that pass through our home enjoy this too.  I love real musical instruments not synthesised versions....we have silver flutes, piano, pump organs, trumpet, acoustic guitar and ukulele.  I love wearing woolen suits with tailored vests, tailored shirts, cuff links, ties, tie pins and felt hats to work....it is a little odd, but my staff are kindly tolerant and probably mildly amused. I love old cars too....but the upkeep cost is prohibitive and the safety factor is terrible.


Vintage style silk ties


So, I think it is OK to live in the past as long as it is temporary and in part only.  Modern technology, when harness for good, can be a truly wonderful thing. New technologies around solar and nanotechnology excite me very much indeed as does the somewhat more curious concepts of quantum physics. Wisdom is knowing when to choose elements of the present, the past or the future.


Dinner on the deck this evening


Take care folks and stay nice now :-)

Mr HM


A beautiful raw ivory and brass powder box from another era
that sits on our tall boy.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Do It Now - Talk About It Later


Beautiful honeycomb from my cousin's hive.


I'm a great talker, list writer, planner, thinker, dreamer......but a doer? Hmmm, that's a different beast.

Don't get me wrong, discussing, writing lists, pondering and imaging are all very powerful things - but only if something happens because of them.  I have found a funny thing in my life viz: the more I talk about an idea the less likely it is to happen.


The old rustic table comes up nicely when oiled.

It is as if me talking is my version of wanting-to-want-to-want-to-do-it (!).

Sometimes it is linked to be tired - it is easier just to talk than do.  Other times it is linked to fear or not fully understanding what to do - if we talk lots about it, then it will prolong the necessity to do it. Sometimes talking takes the form of delegation....but at my house it is a matter of "do it y'self buddy!" and thus delegation bites the dust pretty quickly.


A simple from scratch dinner.
We love our sausages dipped
in egg and flour before frying.


So I have learned over the years that if I find myself talking about my plans too much to STOP. Clam up. Bite that tongue. Get off my rump. Go and do it.

I generally have to keep a keen eye on my talk/do ratio - I'm more self aware than I used to be...at least in that area.  I am looking forward to a heap more 'doing' starting in April - I really am feeling a rising sense of energy.


So many fresh eggs.....


What have I done this week...let's see

  •   Oiled the outside dining table - came up a treat.
  •   Experimented with lamp wick trimming to get a better light and less smoke
  •   Squeezed another $40 a fortnight out of the budget into savings
  •   Culled my clothing of anything I have not worn for 6 months
  •   Recorded a couple of YouTube videos with the help of my eldest daughter
  •   Dismantled fully one of my antique reed organs
  •   Froze a whole crop of tomatoes
  •   Cleaned the ceiling fans - (I hate that job)



  •   Experimented with new laundry liquid recipes
  •   Drained the cyst on one of the hen's feet - she is much better now.
  •   Gifted 5 dozen eggs
  •   Starting new separate savings plans for our off-grid touring rig and our off-grid farmlet.
  •   Started seriously tracking our superannuation (I have conspiracy theories about these BTW)
  •   Started practicing two new pieces of music 
  •   Started a new thrice-daily mediation regime (loving it)
  •   Started BBQing more as it is cheaper than running the oven. (experimenting with hood-down cooking)

The business end of the kitchen.


What will I be doing in April?  Not saying...that would be talking and not doing. Ha!


Take care folks and stay nice.

Mr HM


Our recycled lounge suite out
on the deck




I Nearly Murdered The Family!



Looking all so innocent and delicious - I love fried mushrooms in butter and garlic.



The first cool breeze of Autumn whooshed through the open bedroom window flapping the curtains high into the air letting the early morning sun stream over our bed....what a beautiful way to awaken naturally.  I sat up, looked out the window and smiled to see a nice crop of mushrooms had sprung up overnight.  We have had so much rain recently that mushrooms are inevitable.


Nature's free gift....or not. I wonder why the chooks were
totally uninterested in them?  Hmmmm.


I swung my legs out of bed smiling at the beautiful gift nature had given us....fried mushrooms in butter and garlic for breakfast here we come!

The mushrooms looked ethereal in their unearthly colony on the lawn - they always make me marvel and my imagination always take a little turn for the fantastic when I look at mushrooms.....nevertheless, I filled a lovely wicker basket full and brought them back into the kitchen ready to start cooking.  "Can I have look at them first?!" came a voice from our bedroom.  Mrs HM is pretty fussy about wild foods and always likes to inspect first.

"They're poison" Mrs HM stated bluntly. "They have a green hue and white gills - don't eat them" she reinforced.  "Are you sure....?" said I, to which I got 'the look'.


A day later - the poisonous green hue developed.
Death on a stick.


Intrigued, I did a little research and sure as eggs there was a pretty good chance that these mushrooms were indeed highly poisonous.....gosh!  I very nearly murdered the family - phew.

Very fungi indeed! I need to be much more careful next time as making errors like this does not leave mushroom for error.


Take care folks and stay nice.


Mr HM

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

480 x 2.5 x 2 = 2400




Andrew and Jenny dropped over some of their ripe tomato crop - yummo!
Pasta sauce bottling time me thinks.



Hi folks - why the maths?

Well, this is what I have been doing over the last two years:

480 working days x 2.5 hours x 2 trips (there and back) = 2400 hours spent on the train over the last two years. Up at 4:15am and back home again 6:30pm at the earliest every day. Phew!

Three and a half more weeks and this will end.  It has been an experience that's for sure. I have spent 90% of my travel hours reading emails, studying work documents, planning and reflecting on work.....sometime I indulge in a little diversional reading to keep my sanity in place too.


My scintillating view every day from
the back of the train carriage.
This carriage quickly fills the closer
I get to Sydney each morning.



In three and a half weeks I go on two weeks leave then take up my substantive position in an office local to me.  I will be able to sleep in till six am every morning....such a luxury.  The best thing will be again having time to live a simpler life.....cooking, organising my home, gardening, restoring antique organs, soap making, reading, attending to the chickens, enjoying daylight at home at both ends of the day (how novel), blogging both blogs, sleep (proper amounts), stockpiling, decluttering, slowing down and being content....and I truly do have so much to be content about.


Indulging in some sanity reading whilst squeezed into my little corner.


18 days to go folks.  I will be very, very sad to leave my staff in Sydney, they have been nothing short of wonderful and I have forged many meaningful relationships over the last two years of my secondment - however getting my life back again will also be wonderful.


Autumn is on the way - the rains
have begun.


Now, what to do on my two weeks leave?.....Mrs HM has a little frugal road trip planned I think - we'll see.


Take care and stay nice.


Mr HM
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