A New Sink

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In this post from a month ago I mentioned that we had made a start on constructing a frame for an old kitchen sink in order to make an outdoor sink.

This was what we had done then. Simply cut some timber to length and positioned it to gauge how it would fit.

Things progressed well and this is the result.

This is not quite the final resting place and we have yet to arrange some rudimentary plumbing – hose from the nearby tank as well as a drain hose connected to the outlet. The drain hose will probably just run out onto the nearest patch of lawn.

I am pleased with the result of our most recent upcycling project which will be positioned adjacent to our vegetable garden. It will be useful for cleaning up after gardening as well as washing freshly picked produce. I can also visualise the draining boards being used as a potting bench.

Different Decluttering

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Our small acreage provides us with plenty of opportunities to build and create in our garden. For the first 13 years that we lived here we were constrained by available time as we were both working full-time. However, that did not diminish our enthusiasm, ideas and the ability to collect materials.

Here are some of the projects we have completed in the past couple of years.

I have written previously about our plans to create an entertaining area under the house so part of the long-term strategy has been to sort and tidy a lot of the materials that are stored there.

During the past few days we have had a bit of a blitz to identify what can realistically be used, what is just rubbish and what we can pass onto other people.

These are some of the last pieces of salvaged Colorbond sheeting which were gratefully collected yesterday after I listed it to giveaway on a local Facebook group.

One of the things we definitely plan to use is the old kitchen sink. When we had the kitchen renovated almost 12 years ago we salvaged it with a view to building an outdoor sink close to the vegetable garden. This would help to eliminate the amount of dirt and unwashed produce that was brought into the kitchen.

Yesterday GMan removed the original taps and plumbing. We cut some timber to length to make the framing and stand. Here are the first pieces in position.

GMan will paint all of the timber before the frame is assembled so it will be a little while before it is completed. More on that another day.

Meanwhile, we recently acquired some more material but it was not stored anywhere. We used an offcut of vinyl flooring to cover the concrete is one corner of the workshop to make a small home gym area.

We are pleased with the ongoing progress.

Saving the Summer Harvest

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When growing your own produce you do need to be prepared to spend some time processing the excess. Today was one of those days.

Yesterday I picked 5kg of cherry tomatoes. I washed, de-stalked and sorted them.

I roasted the ripest 3kg of them in the oven at 120C for about an hour.

This is the 2 trays as I put them into the oven.

Once the tomatoes were roasted I transferred them to the high-speed blender and blitzed them thoroughly. Whilst not completely smooth, I had created a rich tomato puree.

I filled ice cube trays with the puree.

Ready to go in the freezer.

Once they are frozen I will transfer the cubes into a bag for easy storage. It will be a simple matter of adding a cube or two when preparing various meals.

Bits and Pieces

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Many of my meals are really not recipes but simply creations which utilise whatever happens to need using up.

Tonight is a perfect example. This is the selection of ‘ingredients’ I decided to include.

At the back of the photo is some leftover mashed potato to which I added a small amount of tuna that I had not used when making tuna mornay. In addition to the 2 main ingredients there is some flaxseed meal which helps to bind the mixture together as well as nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. This mixture became 4 tuna patties.

The sliced vegetables at the front are small quantities of 2 different varieties of zucchini and a button squash. I sauteed these in a little olive oil. The mushrooms were cooked with the garlic cloves (chopped) along with some parsley (not shown) and finished with a spoonful of sour cream.

Served with fresh cherry tomatoes and strips of capsicum.

The cherry tomatoes, garlic and parsley are from our garden while the zucchini and button squash were gifted to us from a friend’s garden.

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.