Spring has Sprung

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Here in the southern hemisphere it is springtime.

The romantic ideal of spring promotes images of renewal, growth and new beginnings, however, the reality can be somewhat different.

We have very few deciduous trees in our climate so we enjoy being able to witness the changing seasons through the liquidamber tree in our garden. Here it is looking magnificent and covered in new leaf.

Spring serves to remind us all that we never know what is around the corner.

In the past 6 weeks we have had wild thunderstorms, ferocious winds and a couple of heatwave days all interspersed with some glorious and moderate weather. The extremes and sometimes violent weather events are becoming more frequent as the climate changes.

A couple of days ago we heard creaking and cracking. Upon investigation we discovered that a couple of the lower limbs had come off the liquidamber tree. I suspect this was as a result of the wind we had experienced in recent weeks.

Time to clean up the debris.

Being prepared is not just something for the Boy Scouts. We should all be prepared for whatever might happen. Whether it is driven by the weather, linked to the pandemic or of global origin out of our control, there are plenty of things that could immediately and suddenly disrupt our comfortable lifestyle.

As the seasons change we need to prepare ourselves for the shocks that natural and other events may have.

Storms and bushfires are our main threats in the coming months. If you are in the northern hemisphere and approaching winter, what are your risks? Blizzards? Storms? Flooding?

I am interested in what your seasonal risks are and how you prepare yourself and your family.

Take care and stay safe, wherever you are.

A Step Ahead

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Before I begin on the actual content of today’s post, I have a bit of general news about the blog.

I have been absent for 3 weeks. Part of this was due to us being on holidays for a portion of the time but the remainder of my inactivity has been while I reassessed my general online presence. There are limited hours in the day and it is not all devoted to online activity. Therefore, I have decided to alter some of my priorities and this blog will be the main spot where you will be able to engage with me. The content will generally be shorter and more frequent – possibly daily. I look forward to your comments and interacting more fully with my readers. If you are not already following the blog, please consider doing so so that you don’t miss anything.

So, dear readers it is back to the real stuff that happens here every day.

This morning I whipped these 2 takeaway food containers from the freezer. One is vegetable curry and the other is rice. Therefore, dinner tonight is all ready to heat and eat.

My cooking style is pretty much a constant cycle of stocking up the freezer while using from it at the same time.

In that vein I have done a spot of cooking this afternoon. I always do more than one thing if I am turning the oven on.

6 gluten free pizza bases partly cooked and ready to freeze for later use.

Zucchini quiche which used the last of the packs of frozen zucchini from last summer’s harvest. I have about 3 different dishes I can use for making the quiche but this one that belonged to my mother is a new favourite.

The recipes for the pizza bases and zucchini quiche can be found checking the recipe index – click on the tab ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the front page of the blog.

Please share your prepared meals or glut of produce stored for future use. 🙂

A Lucky Find

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This morning we went out to do a couple of errands including picking up a few items from a nearby fruit and vegetable stall. Occasionally, there are boxes of cheap produce so it is worth keeping an eye out for a bargain.

Today I stumbled upon an amazing bargain. A box of passionfruit for FREE!! A quick look revealed that almost all of them had soft or rotten patches on them but I thought it might be worth seeing what I could salvage. I asked about whether I could have the whole box and my enquiry was greeted wholeheartedly. Here they are when we arrived home.

It was clear that I would need to process them straight away to prevent any further deterioration.

I simply cut them and salvaged the pulp from those that were OK. A small number were completely unusable.

The final haul was 2.5 litres of passionfruit pulp which is now in the freezer.

The trick is to be able to deal with bargains like this as soon as possible.

The Plan Becomes Reality

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Sometimes I feel as though I have spent so long planning a project that it almost becomes real in my mind. That is a bit of how I feel about the long awaited drying rack/hanging rail for the laundry. I have been dreaming, planning and researching this for close to 5 years.

I wrote about my plans 3 years ago in this post. The options were quite expensive ($250 – $400) and mostly imported as ceiling mounted drying racks are not a big thing here in Australia. However, the biggest stumbling block was the installation as the fixing points would not line up with the beams above the ceiling sheeting and I realised that the window was where the holder for the pulley rope would need to be attached. In the end I decided that the installation issues were really insurmountable so I began searching for other option.

Imagine my surprise when I found an alternative close to home. It was this DIY Bunnings video which sent me off in a somewhat different direction. I know it is not a hanging airing rack but I realised that being able to hang clothes was my main requirement.

Why would I want to hang clothes in the laundry rather than the wardrobe?

I can dry them using the dehumidifier, either straight from the washing machine or to finish off in the cooler months.
Somewhere to hang the clothes when I bring them in from the clothesline.
To air clothes after ironing and before putting them in a closed wardrobe.

Once I convinced GMan that this was a feasible option and a doable DIY project, we bought the various pieces of piping and screws and set about assembling it.

Here is the basic construct.

Naturally, I wanted it painted.

After several coats of paint it was finally ready to install. I had worked out a way to place additional timber supports in the ceiling space to ensure the stability of the fixation. This entailed accessing the roof space which is fairly shallow in our house and I am the smaller of the 2 of us so I ended up spending a considerable amount of time clambering in and out of the roof space and lying spreadeagled in order to achieve my plan.

It proved to definitely be worthwhile as this is the result.

Some of the washing from today was brought directly from the clothesline to hang on the rail.

Since the rail extends above the laundry tub, I also intend to have a hanger like this to hang above the sink.

We have lived in this house for 15 years and there have been several additions and modifications in order to make the laundry more functional. This one is an excellent addition.

The total cost was about $70 for the pipe, fittings and screws. The paint and timber bracing were sourced from our stash at home. The only other cost was our labour, time and sweat (it is hot in that roof space).

Emergency Preparation

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In the wake of the unprecedented bushfires which ravaged most states of Australia last summer and the forecast of La Nina this summer, it would be very foolish to ignore the risks of natural disasters.

Last night GMan and I attended a Disaster Preparedness Seminar in our local town. It was presented by our regional Council and included some excellent information regarding the local resources that are available.

We regard ourselves as relatively well-prepared but there was plenty of new and enhanced information that has encouraged us to fine-tune our arrangements.

Here are a few points to remember:

Very few of us can think logically and quickly in an emergency situation. Therefore, It is important to have considered and planned your response to various scenarios.

A couple of resources to assist in planning.

You need to have both an evacuation kit (if you need to leave in a hurry) and an emergency kit (to be self-reliant for at least 3-7 days in your home) as emergency services and other resources may not be immediately available in the case of a major disaster.

Some useful items. Waterproof, hi-vis raincoat, a waterproof document pouch, USB drive for copies of documents, resources and information.

Services will be co-ordinated by local councils as well as possibly involving state and federal governments.

Your family, neighbours and local community will be integral to supporting each other in the first instance. Make sure your cultivate these networks.

Know your risks. Our local council has identified (in no particular order) the top 4 risks for our region as:

Bush/grass fires
Flooding
Heatwaves
Storms/cyclones

Yours may be different but the principle is the same – be prepared.

Bagging a Bargain

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Last week I bought 13 pineapples. Why 13, you may ask? There were 13 medium sized pineapples in a box at the front of the local fruit and vegetable stall where I shop.

It pays to keep an eye out for these occasional bargain boxes as you can see from this post from January this year. This time the pineapples were in perfect condition apart from being slightly odd shapes and I did not need to discard any of the flesh. My $10 box of pineapples yielded one which we ate fresh and 12 others at 77c each.

Some were sliced and others pulped. Here is the results ready for the freezer.

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.

Big Weather

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Did you watch the latest offering from Craig Reucassel on the ABC last night? It is ‘Big Weather (and how to survive it) and if you missed it you can watch on iview. Last night was the first episode of a 3-part series.

Watching this was a reminder to check our preparedness for a range of scenarios. Last summer was a wake-up call for me because although I have always considered myself to be reasonably prepared for most situations, bushfires had never really been a consideration. This was due to our location, however, the summer of 2019-2020 changed my perception of that as the affected areas were unprecendented in both location and scale.

For the first time in our lives, GMan and made and articulated a clear bushfire evacuation plan last year. You can read about it here. While bushfire is certainly not the only severe weather risk, it is probably the one most likely to put you in the position of potentially having to make a split second decision to leave.

Emergency planning for severe weather or other events should really fall into 2 categories.

  • Evacuation – this is primarily due to destruction, or potential destruction of property. Examples include bushfire, storm damage or unwanted/unexpected incursion.
  • Self-reliance – total or partial isolation. Possible reasons include pandemic, other illness or weather events which isolate your property from some or all services (flood, fire or storm damage).

There are 3 possible responses when presented with the need for emergency planning.

  • Ignore – simply believing that ‘it will never happen to me’. After the past 12 months, this is a foolish and totally inappropriate response.
  • Inertia – being overwhelmed by the enormity of possible scenarios.
  • Logical action – regardless of how prepared you are or not, starting to take incremental steps to improve your overall preparedness.

Everyone will have different needs and priorities but there are plenty of checklists and hints online. Reading and considering these could be an excellent first step in developing your personalised plan. The Australian Red Cross one looks like a good place to start.

An emergency evacuation plan and kit does not need to be complicated or impact significantly on your day-to-day living arrangements. In fact, the more simple it is, the easier and more likely it is that you are going to be able to implement it effectively if required.

This is ours.

One plastic crate and two sturdy plastic bags. Our household is two able-bodied adults so we could literally grab this and make one trip to the car then leave.

One bag holds the feather doona and the other has a woolen blanket with space to quickly add a spare set of clothes for each of us – long pants, long-sleeved top, socks and closed shoes. The plastic crate includes a box of important documents as well as the list of items to add before leaving and a notebook and pen. The list is the afore-mentioned clothes, medications, toiletries, wallets, car keys, laptop, phones and chargers. A second list is a reminder of extra things we have identified that we would pack if we had some extra warning time (more than 10 minutes).

Do you have a plan? When did you last review it? Is it still fit for purpose?

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

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.

Shopping Expedition

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When we went to Brisbane on Friday I made the most of the opportunity and bought a few things that had been on my ‘to buy’ list for a while.

My lipstick – yes, I only own 1 lipstick – was almost depleted.

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I bought a lip brush so that I can utilise all of the remaining lipstick.

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A new lipstick which will last for several years.  The previous one lasted over 3 years so I expect this will last at least as long, especially as I am no longer going to work every day and sometimes do not wear any make-up.

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It is perhaps a little more pink than I have worn previously but I am sure I will get used to it.  Samples to try out are no longer provided so the best I could do was to look at the small colour chart on the display stand.

I also bought a pair of stockings as I had managed to ruin my last remaining pair around the time I finished work – over 12 months ago.  As you can see from the last sentence, I rarely require stockings but they are not something that I can easily buy locally so it is in my best interests to have a pair on hand if needed.