Downstairs Developments

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Like many homes in Queensland, our house is high-set with plenty of space ‘under the house’. Part of this area is occupied by the double garage and a workshop area which is connected to the main part of the house via an internal staircase.

When we moved here the remaining area was simply dirt. Due to the sloping site, the majority has plenty of clearance while the area under the front verandah is only suitable for hobbits. About 10 years ago we had the usable area concreted with a view to creating an alternative summer relaxation/entertaining area. The concrete floor, ground level site and southerly aspect all combine to create the coolest possible location on hot days.

The plans have been rolling around for a number of years but we are finally starting to make some real progress.

We finally hung these chairs up yesterday and I am already getting quite used to the idea of reclining here and whiling away the time.

We bought them years ago and did hang them for a while but had to remove them from their original positions when the fluorescent light were installed. Debate about what sort of fixings were required led to inertia and no action until the other day when we decided to have another look for something suitable.

These swing mountings looked perfect and seem to be doing the job admirably as the 2 bolts go right through the joist.

One of the problems of creating an entertaining area was the bracing between some of the posts could be a hazard to people. We came up with the idea of having a ‘green wall’ which would minimise any risk of people walking into the metal bracing.

There were a number of hanging baskets here so we bought 4 new ones to supplement them as well as some chain and hooks.

The pots are still empty but we have hung them to gauge the best positions and are happy with this arrangement. The next step will be to fill them with some of the potting mix we bought on Saturday and get some plants into them. I am going to use Devil’s Ivy/Pothos which we have growing in abundance in the shaded areas at the rear of our garden. It is easy to propogate and should quickly achieve the effect we hope to create.

Changes in the Garden

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I have mostly been occupied with family activities since my last blog post but that changed today.

We had been planning a trip to our local landscaping supplies business for a while and today was the day. So, we made an early start and brought home 1/2m³ of potting mix in the tray of the ute as well as ordering 7m³ of topsoil to fill the 3 raised garden beds that we built recently.

The potting mix is now in a pile in one of the spare compost bays but I forgot to take a photo. We can’t believe that it has taken us so many years to realise that it is possible to eliminate the plastic bags of potting mix.

This is the topsoil on the footpath outside the pergola entrance.

We managed to move enough of the soil to fill 2 of the new garden beds.

One more to do. We plan to do some more tomorrow morning.

In other garden news, I lifted all of the garlic last week and spread it out in the wheelbarrow to dry off completely. Today I decided to try plaiting them. I think I should have done it as soon as they were lifted while the stems were more pliable but it was still reasonably successful. I now have 39 bulbs plaited and hanging on nails under the house.

There are at least as many other bulbs which had started to separate or the stems had broken which I was unable to plait. These are now spread out in a perforated tray in the workshop.

Reaping the Rewards

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I was away from home for a couple of days early in the week and did not think I had anything particular to share with you at the moment.

However, when I went down to the garden this morning I discovered that the sweet peas were flowering. I had planted them about 6 months ago along part of the fence in the vegetable garden area and barely taken any notice of them since. An occasional bit of supplementary watering but they really did not seem to be doing much and all of a sudden I have flowers.

Sweet peas, along with Iceland poppies, are two of my favourite old-fashioned flowers that I remember fondly from my childhood. The scent evokes strong memories and I cut some and brought them inside where I am enjoying them. I hope you do too.

A Long Road

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Many of the projects we have worked on here have taken a considerable length of time to achieve. Sometimes it is the planning, sometimes the money or resources and others are simply a matter of time and competing priorities.

It is almost 15 years since we moved here and growing some of our own vegetables was an early goal. Although we have 1.5 acres of land, much of it is unsuitable for vegetable gardening – too steep or flood-prone so we identified an area close to the house as the spot for our future vegetable gardens. It was all grassed so the first version looked like this.

The soil is excellent and our efforts were reasonably successful, however, we had a somewhat grander plan.

Early in 2011 we built the first raised garden bed. The plan allowed for 9 beds eventually.

Still just one raised bed as we needed to source more suitable uprights.

Progress and by late in 2012 there were 3 raised garden beds. The star pickets on the left of the photo show the position of the next ones to be made.

In reality, 3 beds was probably plenty for us to manage while we were working fulltime but our agenda was long-term.

By the end of 2016 the plan was definitely coming together. We had 6 raised garden beds and woodchip mulch to create paths and suppress the weed and grass growth. The area was also fully fenced.

Late 2017 shows further development but no more garden beds.

The last 6 months or so have provided plenty of opportunity for working on projects at home and thanks to scoring some additional secondhand Colorbond we have finally finished the last of the garden beds.

There are 9 nine beds as per the original plan. We will be buying some soil for the last 3 and also to top up the soil in the others. The woodchip mulching of the paths also needs to be extended to include the areas around the new garden beds.

Then it will be time to get planting. I hope the predicted rain arrives in the next couple of weeks.

All of this has been achieved with salvaged, secondhand and excess materials.

A Man Needs a Shed

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We have lived in this house for almost 15 years. There is plenty of space in the lockup workshop as well as the open space under the house. Off and on over a number of years we have debated the value of a small, freestanding shed for extra storage space.

Since we have some long-term plans for part of the workshop, we decided to bite the bullet about 3 months ago. As with everything during COVID19 there was a delay before it was commenced.

Towards the end of August the slab was laid.

A few days later the shed was assembled and completed. We were about to head off on holidays for 3 weeks so there was no further action for a while.

Once we returned we transferred some of the equipment to be stored in the shed.

The ride-on mower needs a ramp to be able to safely manoeuvre it into the shed. So, we built a ramp.

There are still a couple of finishing touches to do – compacting the pavers and sweeping some fine sand into the joints.

Rebalancing in Retirement

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I retired from full-time, paid employment in July 2019 so it is now 15 months since I was last in the office. My finishing date was pretty much decided at least 2 years prior to my retirement. I did not really contemplate gradually reducing my hours or other strategies to ease into retirement. This bemused many people who continually quizzed me as to what I was going to do when I retired. I did not really have a clear answer which made them even more convinced that I would return.

The last 15 months has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. 6 weeks after my final day in the office, we headed overseas for a much-anticipated 9 week holiday. It was an amazing adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed. Towards the end of the trip GMan and I independently came to the same conclusion – that we would have a break in 2020 and not go overseas. What a fortuitous decision that proved to be. We had previously considered travelling to Scandinavia this year.

Upon our return from overseas towards the end of October we had barely 2 months at home before setting off on a road trip to Victoria. We spent Christmas with family and then planned to visit areas in eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW but the worst bushfires in living memory crushed that plan. We did manage to visit more family in Canberra and experienced the impact of the smoke first-hand. Not a pleasant experience.

Home again in early January and we imagined that 2020 would be a time to settle into a steady routine. Enter COVID19 and the world seemed to be completely upturned. We were very grateful for the space we had – house and large garden, a well-stocked pantry as well as a garden which supplied at least some of our food requirements, not having paid work to try to do from home or children to homeschool. We were unable to see or visit family and friends for several weeks but this was barely a minor inconvenience compared to what some people have had to endure.

In fact, COVID19 gave us the opportunity to focus on projects around our home. A quick scroll through previous blog posts provides a bit insight. Compost bays, a cold frame, more raised garden beds and finishing the pergola are some of the outdoor improvements. Meanwhile, I prepared meals made predominately from our homegrown produce as well as sewing and mending. Furniture restoration completed.

As restrictions were lifted we resumed some of our activities and interests outside the home. Which brings me to the essence of this blog post.

It is easy to become immersed in a particular interest or activity to exclusion of most others. Therefore, my goal is to identify broad categories and try to include a mix of activities/interests. It is probably not feasible to try to do this each day but I think that it is possible within the timeframe of a week.

After some thought, I have come up with a list of general categories which cover most of the things I do. Yours may be a little different.

Administration
Appointments
Community engagement
Craft and creating
Family
Friends
Garden/outdoor maintenance
Garden/outdoor projects
Health and fitness
Homemaking – regular/frequent tasks
Homemaking – seasonal/occasional tasks
Planning
Relaxation
Socialising and entertaining
Travel

Of course, some of these definitely overlap and some activities may even cover 3 categories. The list is in alphabetical order so that no-one can question my priorities. I do not envisage making specific lists but it certainly helps to keep things in perspective.


Finally, to those people who were convinced that I would not have enough to do in retirement – you were definitely wrong. My days are occupied, interesting and most of all, fulfilling.

Where Did I Go?

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If you were paying careful attention to my last blog post (27th August) you would have noticed that I mentioned that we were about to go away on holidays.

Well, we certainly did and were away for just over 3 weeks before returning home on Sunday. It was a road trip though our home state of Queensland which you can read about on my other blog, Somewhere, Anywhere if you are interested.

There will be plenty of new content coming up soon but meanwhile, here are a couple of images that greeted us upon our return.

We had housesitters staying in our home so that the chickens and gardens would be maintained. Quite aside from the housesitters, the growing conditions must have been simply perfect. This is the haul I picked from the garden on Sunday afternoon.

In December last year we had some Himalayan Ash trees removed. These are classified as an environmental weed in south east Queensland – please refer to the link for details. Naturally, we were keen to revegetate the area as quickly as possibly and have planted a mixed selection of native shrubs and small trees.

It is barely 9 months since these were planted but this callistemon is already putting on a spectacular spring show.

Brilliant Broccoli

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It is wonderful to be able to successfully grow at least some of your own food but it is equally important to ensure that it is used and does not go to waste.

This is a 900g head of broccoli I picked recently.  It was as big as a dinner plate.

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I decided to turn it into a main meal with tuna and tomatoes.

Other ingredients.

Break the broccoli into florets and lightly cook.

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Saute the diced onion and capsicum.

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Add Tabasco to taste, flaked tuna and crushed tomatoes.  I blended one can of tomatoes to make the sauce smoother and thicker.  Simmer until reduced and thickened.

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Pour sauce over the broccoli.  Top with a mixture of flaxseed meal, grated cheese and seasoning.

Place under the grill until browned.

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This quantity made 6 generous serves.  I served it with a small portion of rice.

 

Bug-Free Brassicas – Part 2

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Remember this post?

Well, here is the first result of my endeavours.

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One of the things I am passionate about is eating local, seasonal produce wherever possible so this freshly picked broccoli from our own garden was destined to become part of our evening meal.

A simple stir-fry of chicken and broccoli.

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CHICKEN & BROCCOLI STIR-FRY (Serves 2)

1 chicken breast fillet, cut into strips
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/2 head broccoli, broken into small florets
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
Oil

SAUCE

2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon powdered chilli
2 teaspoons arrowroot

Heat the oil, saute the chicken until cooked then add the onion and broccoli.  Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce.  When the broccoli is lightly cooked add the sauce and stir until it has thickened and coated the chicken and vegetables.  Stir in the sunflower seeds.

Serve with rice.

Delicious and the money spent on netting the raised beds containing the brassicas has definitely been a worthwhile exercise.

I am looking forward to plenty more meals featuring our homegrown broccoli.

 

The Winter Garden

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A couple of months ago I was despairing of any winter crops as the citrus fruit piercing moth and white cabbage moth were wreaking havoc.

I decided that netting was the answer to both problems and you can read about it here.

My efforts appear to be paying off.

The first of the broccoli is almost ready to pick.

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Cabbages are growing nicely.

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There are no tell-tale holes in the leaves.

Kale seedlings are making slow progress.

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More seedlings for the next crop of bok choy.  They are ready to be thinned and transplanted.

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The bok choy and kale are much less susceptible to the cabbage moth but I will still cover them this time to see if I can get some perfect specimens.

There are no photos of my cauliflowers yet as although the plants are doing well they have not set heads.  I am still hoping though.

Finally, the other winter success which is not a member of the brassica family is celery.  We are enjoying full-flavoured celery soup from this crop.

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I am very pleased with the success of netting these beds.