Natural Living Family

The natural parenting place...

Monday, 18 June 2007

Gone off the rails...

Recently I was browsing through a local newspaper and came across some articles; one was about child friendly MP3 players and featured a picture of a small baby ‘listening’ to music with headphones. The other article was about – an online imaginary world.

This all left me wondering if all this modern technology is what is really wrong with the world today. Call me odd, but I firmly believe that society started going off the rails with the introduction of television and has gone downhill at an alarming rate since. It used to be that several generations of families would stay together and look after each other. Grandparents looking after little ones so parents could work the land tend the animals. Parents would take care of grandparents when they got too old to fend for themselves. Most things would be done as a family, and everyone had a part to play. Nowadays it’s everyone for themselves, our kids are shipped off to daycare and school before they are old enough to object, they are no longer a valuable part of the family unit where they have a part to play and chores to do, they are superfluous. The older generation is even less important, they are put in old age homes and all but forgotten.

Has life really gotten better, or are we just living in a virtual fool’s paradise while the planet is destroyed?

Used to be people would sit around the dinner table and discuss the day’s events while they had dinner, now they all sit around the TV. With both parents most likely working, just when do these families find the time to spend quality time together, or do they? Has the alarmingly high divorce rate or, the fact that young adults leave the family home just as soon as they can with barely a backward glance have something to do with this lack of family time. Have we traded our families for convenience? While most people will argue that they work so that their families can have a better life, would those families in fact not have a better life with less luxuries and more family time?

Things just aren’t what they used to be; now I am not saying that everything was better in the days before TV. There was a lot of injustice – towards women, towards people of colour, and often children, but why can’t society take the good from progress and reconsider the bad?

Most people believe that they have to go ‘out and work’, in the vast majority of families both parents work outside the home, while children are left in daycare. It should not necessarily be mother’s job to stay home and raise the kids, but should not one parent be around at least part of the time? Should we not be bringing up our kids instead of working our fingers to the bone making others rich, because if you think about it; that is what most of those ‘out there working’ are doing. They are not the ones reaping the benefits of their labour, instead some large corporation or business owner is, they bring home a paycheck which is not really enough and live from month to moth.

All this in the name of progress. I would rather my kids survive without that new MP3 player they are far better off feeding chickens and tending the veggie garden. As for me, I can really do without an imaginary online world; I actually have a life I love – with my kids and husband.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Voluntary Frugality – Green Cleaning

by Annie Austin

Recently I was asked what we do to save money. In this day and age where it is pretty much expected that both parents go out and work, it is really difficult to make ends meet when one parents wants to be at home with the kids.

I have put together a few tips of what we have done to help make ends meet. I do still work from home, but it is difficult to earn anywhere near as much as I would if I was ‘out there’, but watching my kids grow and being there for them makes any sacrifices well worth it.

We grow our own veggies - a must here where we live since there is very little available. It does save quite a bit of money. I freeze a lot of the excess and have on occasion sold some. If you are doing this organically you need very little apart from some good compost. If you have the space you can make your own by recycling household waste – watch out for future article on compost making.

I have a menu I put together for the month, this way everyone knows what to expect and there is less waste from stuff going off in the fridge. I try to minimise the shopping trips and when we do go only buy what is on the list, makes a big difference to the monthly budget. We stick to budget foods during the week and have a treat on Sundays. Meat is something we have cut back on drastically, not only is it full of chemicals and I feel just awful for the way the animals are treated, but with the cost nowdays it is beyond most peoples means. We eat a lot of lentils, rice, beans and potatoes. Eggs are a staple, we did have our own chickens and had more than enough eggs. We only have a few chickens now and I want to build this up again. Chickens can eat a lot of kitchen scraps and weeds so are not too expensive to maintain if you have the space. The kids just love feeding the chickens and geese.


  • I try to keep this as non toxic as possible and have managed to save a lot of money by simply not using all those commercial cleaning products.
  • I use vinegar for most things from cleaning floors to bathrooms to kitchen counters and windows. Dilute one tablespoon of vinegar and one teaspoon salt to about 4L hot water, this is great for cleaning most things. I buy a 5L container of vinegar, it is cheap and best of all non toxic.
  • For windows put some undiluted vinegar in a spray blottle instead on ‘windowlene’.
  • If you need a scourer use bicarbonate of soda.
  • Vinegar and borax make a great mildew remover – but be careful borax is poisonous if ingested, keep away from little ones and pets.

  • I use really hot water for most and only use dish liquid for the really greasy stuff.
  • Lemon and bicarbonate of soda work pretty well too as a grease cutter and are brilliant for burnt on pots (something I have often) just sprinkle some bicarbonate add a teaspoon of lemon and cover with 5mm water. Soak over night.
  • Salt is anti bacterial as is tea tree oil, either added to hot water will kill any bacteria – specially useful if you have been preparing meat.

  • Bicarbonate of soda sprinkled on and sprayed with vinegar, leave for 20 minutes and wipe off. Any stubborn patches can be scrubbed with extra bicarbonate.

  • Use half a cup of vinegar instead of fabric softener.
  • I find that the Enchantrix laundry gel when bought in 5L containers actually works out cheaper than the commercial stuff.

    Air Freshners
  • Spin-Fresh Bathroom Deodorizer - Add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil to the inside of the cardboard toilet tissue roll. With each turn, fragrance is released into the room.
  • Make a Lemon and baking soda spray - Dissolve baking soda in 2 cups hot water, add lemon juice, pour into spray bottle, spray into air as air freshener.
  • Bicarbonate of soda placed into an open container will freshen any area, works great in the fridge.
  • If you carpets are smelly, bicarbonate sprinkled over and left for 20 minutes before vacuuming is fantastic.

    Drain Cleaner ~ For slow drains, use this drain cleaner once a week to keep drains fresh and clog-free.
    1/2 to 1 cup baking soda
    1 cup white vinegar
    3 liters boiling water
    Pour baking soda down drain, followed by vinegar. Allow the mixture to foam for several minutes before flushing the drain with boiling water.

Most of these are fairly simple tips that can make some difference to the montly budget, but also a huge difference to the environment. We have also started putting together a monthly budget and deciding before hand how much we can afford to spend on various things so that we know where we stand at any given point.

Tuesday, 05 June 2007

Keeping Baby Close

frog small Written by Annie Austin

Baby wearing is just another one of those facets of attachment parenting that I am passionate about. It just feels so right, your baby nestled in close to your heart! After 9 months in your body what can be more natural than to nurture your baby right against it. Baby is happy and secure and mom’s hands are free to do what she needs to, it just makes everything easier, including nursing. Now don’t get me wrong baby wearing is not for moms only, my husband still carries our little one often.

Baby wearing is something that comes naturally to many cultures – just look at our African ladies wearing their babies on their backs – these babies cry less and just look so content. Westerners are finally starting to see baby wearing for the wonderful attachment tool it is. While there is loads of info overseas about baby wearing there is still sadly little knowledge about this in SA.

I have been wearing my youngest who is now a year old since birth, we have gone through different carriers in the different stages my son went through. When he was a newborn a sling worked well, but he soon started to dislike being so enclosed. I tried several of the commercially available carriers, but they just did not work for me and left my son’s legs dangling which is not healthy for hip development. I then discovered the Khanyisa African Baby carrier which till this day we can use comfortably for prolonged periods. We alternate this with a sling which, now that he can sit up in it he just loves.

While it may not always be easy to find the right carrier and some trial and error may be necessary, once you find the right carrier you will never look back. I only wish I knew about slings when my older son was small, he like most babies did not much like being in a pram and I spent a lot of time simply carrying him.

Some further reading:

There are now several slings and carriers available in South Africa that are made locally. Among these is the African Baby Carrier and aSling.

Earthbabies have some lovely info on baby wearing and some great carriers and slings.

Sunday, 03 June 2007

Writer's Block...

by Annie Austin

I have been seemingly suffering from writers block...
But then at three o’clock this morning it dawned on me, I am not in fact suffering from writers block! But instead from sheer utter exhaustion! The mind numbing kind of exhaustion that renders one incapable of walking up-right let alone stringing a cohesive sentence together, why do you ask am I walking around in this dazed state? What was I doing up at 3am? Could it have something to do with a certain adorable little boy who recently turned one and is sprouting yet another molar? The very same little angel who now lies sleeping in my arms, my breast firmly in his mouth, while I one handedly type this? I look down at his precious angelic face and my heart just melts all over again.

Looking around our toy strewn study, I once again think about what a wonderful roller-coaster ride the last year has been. Hurricane Ryan landed here abouts on the 4th May 2006 and has steadily been gaining momentum with every new skill acquired.

The reason I say ‘our’ study is that my sons and I share a study – we homeschool and it is easier to have everything in one room – I am sure our house-keeper who probably lives in a home smaller than our kitchen finds our living arrangements most amusing. You see we also co-sleep and with the birth of Ryan our eldest has decided that he does not like being ‘left out’ and started sleeping in our room too. So while we live in a huge old farm house most of the rooms are unused while we all sleep in one room and spend the vast majority of our day either outside or in the study.

Yes, I have a house-keeper (shock horror gasp – not very crunchy indeed!!), but I am a work at home mom (WAHM) who needs to work several hours a day, educate and love two growing boys and look after my family, find time to write; and edit this blog. Somehow house work just does not fit into the equation. As much as I am capable of multi-tasking I have not yet found the secret to being in more than one place at a time, and until I do I have a house-keeper.

So here I sit on an unseasonably wet and cold autumn Saturday wondering just what the future holds for my nearest and dearest, will their kids too have the luxury of growing up on a farm – or will life as we now know it no longer exist? Will they get to run outside in the sun, or will the atmosphere have been destroyed so much that being out in the sun will be impossible? While many people choose not to think about global warming and what the human race is doing to this planet, one look at my children is all I need to know that unless we all do something drastic here and now, they face a future far bleaker than we can even begin to imagine.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Why I choose to Homebirth

by Annie Austin

While most doctors will tell you that giving birth is a medical event which needs to take place in a hospital, with doctor in attendance “in case something goes wrong”, there is a whole range of alternatives out there. From having baby in a hospital with a midwife instead of doctor, to unassisted childbirth. With a whole spectrum of options in between.

Thought I would start with the birth of my second child. I had resigned myself to having a hospital birth, my husband was totally opposed to a home birth. He was worried that we were too far away from help if something went wrong. I think he realized that we would have to look at other options to hospital birth after a completely stressful visit to my now second OB. The first one and I parted ways on rather bad terms as he was completely unprepared to allow me to have a birth plan or to have any say whatsoever in the kind of birth I wanted. He said we would either do things his was or he was not prepared to be my doctor anymore. I was not about to let him bully me into having a medicated, medically controlled birth, especially since my first had been a home birth without complications. I changed OB’s only to end up with even more stress and being told I would probably need to have a c-section as my placenta was low lying – this was at about 24 weeks – I had had an ultra sound at 19 weeks and my placenta was nowhere near low lying. To cut a long and boring story short, the two OB’s know each other pretty well and both have an incredibly high c-section rate.

So there we were 25 weeks along and no care giver, I was desperate enough to consider using my GP who operates from the only hospital in our nearest small town – a state hospital – but at least he would be reasonable and would not try to bully me further.

I decided to look at other options, there had to be something better than the options I had considered thus far. Even if it meant me giving birth in Durban almost two hours drive away. I found a midwife in Ballito, not as far as Durban, but still over an hour away. I went to see her and we clicked immediately – she gave me the confidence to seriously consider home birth as an option, after all my first pregnancy and labour had been straightforward. My husband and I agreed (or rather I convinced him) that home birth would be the way to go and we haven’t looked back since.

Our son was born on the fourth of May, after an amazing labour assisted by a midwife and doula. I used a birthing pool for pain relief and was allowed to labour at my own pace. Ryan was born in water, with the membranes still intact. I was able to nurse him as soon as he was ready, he went straight into daddy's arms and was never left alone to fend for himself for one second.

After the birth we got into the family bed and got to know our youngest son better. Our oldest son was present to meet his new brother and the whole day was relaxed and pleasant. And I never had to eat hospital food!

Compare this to how most birth happens in a hospital. Firstly there is the drive to the hospital, in our case 40miles along bad roads, then having to get checked into hospital. After arrival, spending time on your back attached to monitors, and being examined by a midwife and nurses you have never met before.

If all this is not enough to stall labour, then chances are that the constant interruptions and offers of pain relief and IV needle in your arm would be. Not to even mention the fact that you are not allowed anything to eat or drink but clear fluids – just in case.

If you are one of the lucky ones, labour will proceed as expected - doctors expectations that is - not yours. If your membranes have not ruptured, then labour will be ‘helped along’ with rupturing of membranes. This often has the effect of speeding labour up and making the whole process more far painful.

Labour is given a time limit and if things take too long or start to slow down - due to all the interruptions - then drugs to speed up labour are given. Chances are that this will lead to the mother needing pain medication, as the labour inducing drugs cause harsher and more intense contractions, forcing baby out into the world before it is ready.

Due to the drugs extra monitoring is required, mother is expected to lie on her back so that baby’s heart rate can be monitored. Lying on her back not only makes for a more painful labour, but will also have a negative effect on baby’s heart rate.

If baby is seen to be in distress – possibly due to drugs given to the mother, or due to mother lying on her back, words like emergency c-section or forceps delivery start being bandied around.

What started out as a straight forward birth, has been turned into a medical emergency. Unfortunately most doctors are taught to deal with medical emergencies and not healthy mothers giving birth to healthy babies. One intervention leads to the next.

Add to this the risk of infection from other patients, risk of kidnapping (a common occurrence where we live in South Africa) and homebirth starts looking like a far better option.

These are only two of the options available to moms, there are many great free-standing birthing centers available – these are staffed by midwives and doulas. Some hospitals are open to independent midwives attending births instead of doctors. On the other end of the spectrum is unassisted childbirth where the mom chooses to labour at home with only her partner present without any medical intervention whatsoever.

Further reading on homebirth and birth stories:
~Mothering homebirth article
~Mothering Reasons to choose homebirth article

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce Recipe

2kg tomatoes
1kg onions
1 house of garlic
3tbsp olive oil
Fresh parsley and either basil / thyme / oregano

Tomatoes can be blanched and peeled, but I generally omit this step unless I am using really tough skinned tomatoes.

Chop the onions and fry lightly in olive oil. Add the tomatoes and herbs mix well and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until ingredients have cooked down and most of the liquid has evaporated. If you want a really chunky sauce, keep out about 500g tomatoes and add these in about half way through cooking.

The riper the tomatoes the tastier the sauce will be, and of course if you can grow your own organic tomatoes and leave them on the vine until really ripe all the better!! This recipe is a really great way to store and freeze excess tomatoes for the winter.

This sauce can be bottled and frozen – I use glass bottles – mainly as it is a good way to recycle them and also I try to avoid plastics as I just don’t trust that the chemicals will not leach out of them especially during freezing. If you are using glass, make sure to only put the lids on the jars after the contents have frozen to prevent the jars from cracking.

Cooking Kids

My 10yo son has decided to learn to cook; we have incorporated it into his homeschooling activities – after all what is cooking if not reading, maths and science all rolled into one.

Here is one of his favorite recipes, it is easy to make with some supervision and tasty enough for the whole family to eat. This Veggie Bolognese is enjoyed by everyone in our family from my 1 year old to the adults to the cats and dogs!! My son now does most of the preparation himself (including cutting onions and putting the pasta into the boiling water, but you can let kids do as much or as little as they are up to doing – even just measuring some of the ingredients is a maths lesson)!

Veggie Bolognese Sauce and Pasta:

For the Sauce
1 cup red split peas
2 large carrots
2 sticks celery
1 onion
1 tbsp olive oil
500ml veggie stock
250ml tomato ‘sauce’
Salt to taste
Fresh parsley & oregano

I usually make my own stock and tomato sauce (see next entry) but this can be the store bought kind if you prefer. The carrots, celery and onion come straight from the garden as do the stock and tomato sauce ingredients.

Let the kids start by washing their hands and donning their aprons (look out for child size apron pattern soon!!). Then wash all the veggies, peel the onion, top and tail the carrots.

The veggies can now be either mixed or grated in a food processor – kids love this part and it is something even the little ones can safely do.

Heat the oil somewhat in a pan, remove the pan from the heat (I usually let my son put the pan on a heatproof pot holder on the table next to the stove) add all the veggies & herbs, mix well and return to heat.

Allow to cook for about 5 minutes until veggies are starting to soften.

Add the split peas, stock and tomato sauce, removing from heat before doing this – the reason I remove the pan from the heat each time is just an added safety measure for the kids. Mix all ingredients well and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. More stock can be added if necessary.

While the sauce is cooking, cook pasta of your choice to accompany this.
This is also great with a bit of percorino cheese on top.

Be sure to pop in again for more mouthwatering kid’s recipes!!

Monday, 14 May 2007

Co-sleeping in comfort

I have always been pro sharing sleep, my first son spent the first six months of his life in my bed and first year in my room - at the time I was newly widowed and spent so much time away from my son during the day while I was at work that I hated to be parted from him when I didn't have to - including while we slept.

After marrying a wonderful man and finding happiness in a marriage that I thought I would never find again, I was expecting my second child. We looked at cots and bassinets and started putting together a nursery for him, but somehow it just didn't feel right. The more I read parenting info the more the attachment parenting mindset made sense to me. I started reading forums and magazines like Mothering and realised that I agreed with the shared sleep philosophy and all it entailed. Now to convince my huband of this... unlike me he had a traditional South African upbringing and all the ideas that go with it. Anyhow I shared some of the info I had read and realised very quickly that my wonderful husband would prove to be even more wonderful, he agreed with my ideas and was happy to have our baby share our bed. I even convinced him that giving birth to our baby at home was the best option for us, even though we live on a farm and are some distance from the nearest hospital, but that is another story alltogether.

Our youngest is now a year old has slept with us from the begining and we just love having him in our bed. Though even with a king-size bed things were getting a bit cramped as he tends to stretch out across the bed. I then got the idea of putting a single bed next to our bed. We are fortunate in that we live in a really old farm house and the rooms are huge, so this is an option. I adjusted the legs of the bed so that the beds would be the same height and made a fitted sheet that fits over both beds. The single bed is now in the corner of the room, so that my son cannot fall off during the night - he learned how to get off the bed without falling off about two months ago, but I still worry he may fall off while asleep. I now sleep in the middle of the bed and no longer have a bedside table - which will take some getting used to, but there is now enough space for all of us - even my oldest (he sometimes sits on the bed with us and watches a movie) and the really great thing is that should we be fortunate enough to have another baby while this one still sleeps with us, there will be enough room for everyone to sleep safely. Now if I could just convince my body it is ready for the next one, but with Ryan still breast-feeding who knows when this will happen?

Sharing sleep or co-sleeping really is an amazing way for both parents to bond with baby, and I find nothing easier than just feeding my baby when he is hungry during the night without having to leave my bed. While this is not an option that will work for all families I stronly recommend that it is something that is considered by future parents as an option. While many may say it is not safe to sleep with your baby in your bed, there is a lot of research out there that shows, that as long as a few simple rules are followed, it is a truly safe and rewarding experience for the whole family.

After all babies have only been sleeping apart from their parents in recent history, a few hundred years ago nobody had even heard of cots...

Recommended reading:

Get the book

~Three in a Bed: the benefits of sleeping with your baby by Deborah Jackson article Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson
~Safe Co-Sleeping article by Elizabeth Pantley (author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution)