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I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Origins of Hazel

My tough old Mum is home in time for her birthday.  She broke a hip a few weeks ago but is recovered enough to come home.  She is walking with the aid of a stick.  My sister and I moved the kitchen table to the middle of the room to create a safe, straight path from the lounge to the bedroom.  I hadn't been gone for more than a couple of hours and Mum had moved it back to its normal herself.  Like I said, tough...and determined.

Today is her birthday...94 years old!  

She only gave up driving when she was ninety because she parked way too close to the very, very close if you get my drift!

She will tell you that she lives alone and is independent but really she (and the whole family) is very lucky because one of my sisters lives next door.  This sister cooks Mum's evening meal and organises her in every way, but tactfully enough that Mum is sure she does it all herself.  I think this is an amazing juggling act on my sister's part.  The other three of us do what we can to help.

The barometer

This may just look like the kitchen sink to you, but to us it is the Mum barometer. When she stops scrubbing her sink so that you can see your face in it, then it will be time to worry.

These pansies are planted in Mum's old copper.  There was a time when she would light a fire under this to boil the water to wash the clothes.  She had a hand wringer over the concrete trough and used blue bags to whiten the whites...always on a Monday, weather permitting.

That was until she got a new-fangled, green, round, electric, agitator washing machine with a powered ringer on the top.  She crushed my dummy in that ringer...I am not sure I have really forgiven her yet.

Ah, here she is at the back door.

The house has only two bedrooms and one bathroom but housed a family of six, plus extras like a grandfather, an uncle and a married sister and her husband and their baby at different times.

The house is made of 'Fibrolite', in other words, asbestos.  It has lasted well and is quite safe unless drilled, sawn, broken or driven into by a ninety year old.

It was built in the latter part of WW2 when materials were scarce.

The glass in the top of all the windows is frosted because no clear glass was available.

Plaster was scarce too so the builder put up some very inferior plaster and then plastered over using the texture to cover up the flaws in the sheets.

The lino tiles in the kitchen have been on the floor for just over 40 years.

Most of the furniture in the house was bought by mum and dad when they married well over seventy years ago.  This dressing table matches the wardrobe reflected in the mirror and there is a matching 'gentleman's' wardrobe as well.

 The kitchen cabinet and the table and chairs are original too. I wonder how many coats of paint are on those?

This is the front terrace. 

Those are the same pebbles, paving stones and furniture that have been there for half a century.  I know it is this long because Mum says she can still see dad laying those three stepping stones, 'for the bride.'  Which bride?  The one that just celebrated her Golden Wedding Anniversary.

The terrace used to have an ornamental grapevine over the top and along with those two maples, it made a wonderful green outdoor living room.   The family cat jumped up and gobbled my pet mouse on that terrace.  Nowadays, at the family Christmas party each year the great grand-children put on a concert using the terrace as their stage.

Dad has been gone almost 20 years now but his shed is still much as it was.

I remember the day Dad put these jars up.  He hammered the lids to the plank so he could screw the jars underneath. It was probably about forty-eight years ago.  He did a good job!

The tools are still in occasional use.  As a matter of fact I used them yesterday when my sister and I did some gardening.

Dad took good care of his tools.  He NEVER left them out in the rain, and he regularly oiled the handles with linseed oil.  They are a bit rusty now.

Dad always had a huge vegetable garden that fed us well.  He made wonderful compost and liquid manures, planted green manure crops, grew plants from seeds and cuttings.  He was a passionate about it all.  At different times growing up, we were all his apprentices.  At least two generations will  have memories of being given the grand tour of the garden at every opportunity.  I am sorry for the times I was reluctant and now I make up for my lapses by dragging people through my garden.

They kept chooks for eggs and meat and bottled all the excess produce.  We four girls have always been healthy and remain so even as we begin to age.  I cannot help thinking that, apart from good genes, a big part of this is the diet we had as children.   As Mum said today, 

"You kids lived off the fat of the land".  

We all learned to cook and sew and knit too.

My point is that we moved away from the more frugal, self sufficient lifestyle of my parent's generation.  So many things available today are manufactured to become redundant.  We are the victims of advertising that makes us a slave to fashion...not only in clothing but in furniture, appliances and gadgetry. We are not happy with small houses, one television, one car.

Older generations not only expected things to last, they took good care that they did.  They made their own clothes, knitted, sewed, mended and altered, and passed clothes along.
This is not just a bad case of nostalgia.  

It is a reflection on how life has changed. 
Our parents were frugal because they because they had to be.
Globalization and rampant capitalism have deskilled us.
I was lucky to have good mentors who taught me well, but I was guilty of not passing on what I know to my children.
I am not suggesting we slavishly emulate previous generations but there are important things to learn if we take the time.

I wonder what sort of world our grand-children and great grand-children will be looking out at when they are elderly?


  1. Hazel this is a fabulous post!

    A very happy birthday to your Mum. My Mum turned 84 a week ago so she and your Mum are from the same vintage.

    Mum lives with us now as where I grew up became worryingly unsafe. Mum's a powerhouse too, does the ironing for the household, brings in washing, feeds the animals, walks the dog etc. She's little like your Mum is but obstinate and determined.

    My Mum barometer is how cold the iron is. ;-)

    You might enjoy this post:

  2. Happy birthday, Hazel mum! God bless her! Cheers

  3. I love this post! I am 20something and never had this kind of upbringing. Both my parents worked my whole childhood life and always spent they're wage before they even posessed it.I wish they had tought me more frugal ways as life would be a lot easier now however I am learning to do these things now to save money so I dont have to return to work and pay off my 2 mortgages. I would like to pass this kind of upbringing onto my children as I am now a mother. Wish me Luck.

    PS am new to your blog and loving it, Thankyou!

  4. Happy Birthday to your mum. Thought provoking & interesting post; less is more in so many ways.

  5. good old age 84 happy birthday hazel's mum

  6. Ha ha yes I see why Nan put the table back - it was a good idea but it looks wrong - it's just not Nans house with the table in another spot! Off to scrub my sink now - I have been put to shame by my grandmother!!

  7. Oh Hazel. That is a wonderful piece. I had a lump in my throat as it is the same as when I was a child. Apart from one of the fish ornaments which I broke. (the ones on the mantle piece in the lounge. )

  8. A beautiful post Hazel and a very HAPPY 94th BIRTHDAY to your dear mum.

    It was a good life back then, even though many kids today wouldn't agree. Too many wants nowadays in this disposable society.

    I am proud to say my parents, in their 70's are a lot like this. They have their original bedroom suite too and dont replace anything unless it cant be fixed any more.

    Thank you for this post. It was a very interesting read.

  9. Hazel, this is much more serious post than your normal style. I am entirely in tune with your views though, and they brought back many memories of my early years, when my parents' "Make do and mend" attitude often annoyed me. I was particularly averse to wearing hand-me-down clothes! Still, my Dad did pass on to me his love of gardening, even though he only discovered it late in life (when he retired).
    Best Wishes to your Mum!

  10. Totally gorgeous, I love a tour of a nana's house, reminds me of my own nana...your mum is so lucky to be in her own home still, so very lucky...
    Thank you for this great post...and Happy Birthday to your mum...x

  11. That last photo of your mum is just gorgeous Hazel, and you can imagine how much I am coveting the furniture! Happy Birthday Hazel's mum.

  12. A fantastic post today, Hazel.
    Must go, I have to clean my sink!

  13. Happy Birthday to your Mumma..Wonderful post

  14. Mum did see this post and was touched by all your lovely comments. She was amazed to get Birthday wishes from around the world.

    We had a lovely afternoon tea at a winery yesterday to celebrate her birthday. She is now staying with me for a few days before the big family Christmas party next week. We are indeed all lucky to still have her.

    Mark, if you read my profile you will find that this post is very much what I am on about most of the time.

    I hope you all have shining sinks now. :-)

  15. Great photos of your mum's house! It's lovely that you can look at all those things and know the history of them. Hope your mum had a great day.

  16. WoW my Dad had the exact same deal with the jars,! He still has them there....he is 80yrs old but had a stroke a few years ago so he doesnt work out in the garage anymore....sad but everything is as he left it.I've always wanted to put the jars up the same way too, Ive saved the jars now I just need the shelf in the garage! Yes they were pretty clever back then. Brilliant post!
    HaPpY BiRtHdAy wishes to Mummy!

  17. I think your children have to be ready to fully appreciate any of the knowledge you have to offer! Like when they have kids of their own and realise there is more to life than an extra TV or the latest 'toy'. I am learning things now, that I probably wouldn't have thought that important before I had the boys! You're too selfish before you have kids! ;)

  18. I'm late reading this, being new hereabouts, but wanted to say what a wonderful piece this is. Such a tribute to your parents, and a reminder to me of my past.


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