Project Preparation

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Well, I had a couple of days off from blogging as we have been out and about. Yesterday WordPress decided it did not want to play the game when I tried to write this post. However, all seems to be well again and I am back in business.

Over the last couple of days we have purchased some materials and equipment for the next DIY project. 

For a number of years we have talked about creating a defined entertaining area under our high-set house.  When we first moved here over 14 years ago, this area was simply sloping dirt which was of absolutely no use and merely contributed to the dirt and dust which made its way into the house.  So, we had the area concreted , albeit on a couple of levels.  Since then it has really been a storage area for materials collected for future projects as well as overflow from the workshop area.  We had decided that the best approach was to screen off an area for casual entertaining using battens and the remainder could still be used for storage.  After literally years of discussion and refinements of the design we are ready to begin.

Initially, we planned to use salvaged hardwood for the rails but realised that we could not source enough timber of consistent dimensions that was straight and true so we opted for new timber from Bunnings in this instance.  After carefully measuring and calculating our requirements we bought the necessary lengths whilst ensuring the minimum amount of waste.

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The other major requirement for this project which GMan had identified was a saw which would make a quick and accurate cut.  There were 21 rails to be cut plus approximately 170 (yet to be purchased) battens.  He decided on this mitre saw and stand.

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The rails were cut to length in no time and are now ready to be painted.  We also need to sand and paint the rusted steel posts before attaching the rails.  

This is clearly not a job which will be done in a week but we are confident that our planning and preparation will ensure the success of the end result.

I am looking forward to being able to use the entertainment area during the summer as our summers are becoming increasingly hotter and this area is definitely the coolest place in the house.

 

 

Construction Progress

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Today I thought I would share some of the progress on a couple of construction projects.  After some time in the design and preparation phase, the cold frame is beginning to take shape.

We bought the 2 hardwood sleepers to create the back wall of the cold frame.

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They are now in position.

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The compost tumbler which can be seen in the background was quite close to where we were working so it has been moved.  GMan is yet to decide on a final location for it.

The area under the house is perfect for storage of materials and construction jobs.  The panels of wire on the left hand side are earmarked for the top of the pergola.

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The wire will be installed once a couple more crossbars are in place.  But first the crossbars need to be painted.

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We normally do the painting under the house but on a sunny and windy day like today it was perfect to paint outdoors.  The shorter pieces on the trestles at the right of the photo are the corner posts for the cold frame.

There will be more photos when the construction is completed.

Some More Structures

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Following on from the completed compost bays, I thought I would share some of our other handiwork in the garden.  Unlike the compost bays, we needed to purchase the materials for our latest endeavours.

Growing food crops invariably invites other critters who also deem it to be food.  While I am reasonably happy to share, I am not keen on seeing the entire crop destroyed.

This year has seen the inclusion of an additional pest in our garden – the citrus fruit piercing moth.  From what I have read it would appear that this is as a direct result of the extended period of drought last year followed by good rain.

We have an orchard of numerous citrus trees which generally produce a bumper crop each year but 2020 is not shaping up so well.  We have lost the entire crop of Washington navel oranges as well as the majority of the grapefruit.  These are the earliest maturing of the citrus and we are less able to assess the losses on the two Valencia orange trees as well as the two mandarins.  Fortunately, the lemon and lime trees do not appear to have been attacked much at all.

In normal seasons the only real pest to the citrus trees seems to be the scrub turkeys helping themselves.  They particularly like the mandarins.

I had previously read about using poly pipe and star pickets to create a frame for netting to cover fruit trees, however, we had never implemented this method.  A few years ago we had simply tried draping the netting directly over the tree but while it was relatively effective the netting ended up with rips in it.

The arrival of the citrus fruit piercing moth spurred me into action and we bought the supplies to create the poly pipe frame for the mandarin tree.  We chose to do this one first as it seemed to have very little damage so far which is probably due to the fruit still being quite green.  Everything I have read plus my own observation indicates that the moth attacks ripening fruit.

We used an unused net which we had over the new poly pipe frame.

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The net barely reaches the ground and I am not sure how diligent the moths are when it comes to finding their way in.  I plan to extend the length a little by adding an extra piece of netting to the bottom edge.  This will be salvaged from the previously damaged net.

The next job is to monitor the tree by torchlight at night to check for any moths which are already inside the netting.

If the netting of the mandarin tree proves to be successful in eliminating the moth as well as the scrub turkeys we will consider doing at least some of the other citrus trees.

While we were buying the supplies we made sure we also bought enough to create poly pipe tunnels over at least a couple of the garden beds.  The critter I had in my sights this time was the white cabbage moth.  Unlike the citrus fruit piercing moth, there are many and varied home-remedies to deter these pests.  However, the best prevention is to eliminate them from the brassica garden entirely.

I am determined to grow a successful crop of cauliflower this year so I  used more of the poly pipe to create hoops over the bed.

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Using some of the damaged fruit tree netting I set about making a cover.

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I included shaped ends so that it fits neatly over the hoops.

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There are a few holes which need to be patched but I am confident that this will make a difference.

I regard the money spent on supplies to create these exclusion zones as a worthwhile investment as there are a few hundred dollars worth of produce at stake – and that is just in one season.

 

Compost Bays – Completed

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We now have 4 new functioning compost bays, and as promised, here are some views of the finished product.

Because of the slope, the ground needed to be levelled once all of the structure was in place.

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Close-up of some of the details.

We wired the mesh panels to the star pickets.

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Geotextile stapled to the inside of the timber lattice.

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The 5 metres of geotextile and 1 star picket were the only new purchases we made for this project.  Everything else was already here and most of it had been salvaged or recycled.

One of the most important considerations when planning this project was the street view.  The back of the bays are parallel to and only 1 metre inside our boundary fence which faces the road.

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I am very pleased with the result, and if anything, it has actually enhanced the view from the street.

 

Prepared – Not Panicked

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As you can probably guess this post is about the current global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This post is not meant to replace any government directions regarding travel or quarantine periods.  It is simply my thoughts on the current situation.

Here is the official Australian Government Department of Health website.

It would not hurt any of us to stop and consider how we would manage if there were widespread cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Australia.

Since we do not have work commitments to consider my main focus is simply to ensure that we have enough supplies to ensure that we could take care of ourselves for an extended period if required.  I have not been stocking up on food as we always carry enough to feed us for at least a month but probably much longer than that.  While they may not be gourmet meals we could adequately nourish ourselves.

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I have also read recommendations that people ensure that they have plenty of their prescription medications.  I have checked that I have enough but noticed that my current prescriptions expire in about 6 weeks so I have made a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow to get new prescriptions.  If the virus does have a significant impact in Australia over the next couple of months, I do not want to be trying to get new prescriptions at that time.  Doctors will have far more pressing demands for their skills and I do not want to be in a waiting room full of potentially infected patients so it is much better to plan ahead and get it done now.

Preparation is not panicking, it is commonsense to take responsibility for your own well-being.

What to Take?

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I know that 2 weeks have passed since my last post as I have been occupied with various activities both at home and elsewhere.  However, I will save those stories for another day.

Although we live in a semi-rural area, bushfire has not ever been regarded as a high risk due to being in a high rainfall area (1800mm or 72 inches is our average annual rainfall) with relatively high humidity and a generally temperate climate.  This has changed over the 14 years that we have lived here with longer dry spells, periods of low humidity and an increasing number of days over 30C and even over 35C.

We have been watching the increasing fire emergency with concern for the residents who have been impacted.  Yesterday the emergency came too close to home.  An uncontained bushfire was burning a mere 10 kms (as the crow flies) from our home.  It was posing a threat to properties to the point where people in the immediate area were readying themselves to leave.  The threat has eased today but we are mindful that things can change very quickly.

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GMan and I have made a physical list of what we would take/do if we needed to leave the property.  It is in 3 parts:

1. What we would grab if we had to leave with virtually no warning.

Clothes – long-sleeved top, long pants, closed shoes and socks
Wallet/purse and car keys
Laptop, charger and external hard drive
Phones and chargers
Documents (passports, certificates etc) which are all stored together and easy to grab
Medications and prescriptions – I now have 2 weeks worth stored together

2. What to do before we leave.

Shut all windows and doors
Turn off gas cyclinders
Open chicken run

3. Additional items if we had a little extra time to plan.

More clothes
Woollen blankets
Feather doona
Jewellery
Contents of single-drawer filing cabinet
Box of family history documents
Camera
A couple of items of value
Some non-perishable food
Chickens  (in a large cardboard box)

The overwhelming majority of things on these lists are based on practical considerations rather than any sentimentality.  Decluttering over a number of years has allowed me to look rationally at what is really important when the chips are down.

I hope I never have to action these lists but the way things are changing I can no longer leave things to chance.

Please have a plan, stay safe and remember, that above all – it is only stuff.  Your life is paramount.

Wardrobe Audit – January

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At the beginning of January I turned all of the coathangers in my wardrobe around.  The idea behind this is that once an item has been worn you replace the hanger in the correct manner.  This provides an easy way to identify those items which have not been worn.

Since the past month has been recorded as the hottest ever start to the year in Australia, it is no surprise to find that jackets, cardigans, jeans and trousers were not worn in January.  Of the seasonally appropriate items, there are a couple of tops and 3 skirts which have not yet been worn.  I am sure their time will come.

The other thing I decided to do was not to buy any new clothes in January.  This was not entirely successful depending on your definition of ‘new’.  I bought 3 items that are new to me during the month.  We have a local recycle boutique which I check out from time to time.  I am fairly selective and only choose pieces that are absolutely perfect for me and I could not go past these.

Patterned cropped jeans

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Sleeveless cowl neck top

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Long sleeve white linen shirt

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Although none of them had tags attached, I am pretty sure that they are all unworn.

Finally, I moved three items out of my wardrobe.  The first was a pair of jeans I bought in 2012.  They have had a lot of wear and are getting pretty thin as well as somewhat faded and stained.  They are are now in the pile of clothes to be worn around the house and when gardening.  Similarly a sleeveless tshirt top has seen better days so met the same fate.  A pair of white shorts went in the bin as the elastane had all given way and they were not in a fit state to be used or donated.

All of this wardrobe activity takes place on a background of the knowledge that my clothes needs will evolve with my upcoming retirement in a few months along with plenty of travelling planned.

As always, I will only be making carefully considered purchases.

I will continue to monitor and report on my progress during the year.

The Slippery Slope

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It is 3 weeks since my last blog post.  All of the usual home stuff has been happening as well as going to the movies, lunch with friends, family visiting and a trip to Sydney so there is possibly a reason why blogging has not been a priority.

However, that is not really an excuse as these sorts of events usually provide plenty of material for posts rather than simply not posting.  I think it is simply that I am tired and the end of the year is fast approaching – it is exactly 11 weeks until Christmas Day.

Once it gets to September, it feels as though the year is almost gone and we seem to be on some sort of crazy trajectory and hurtling towards Christmas and the end of the year.  My work is such that deadlines loom, demands increase and everyone expects the impossible to be achieved.  I am very thankful that this is the last year I will experience this pressure as I will be well and truly retired by this time next year.

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Quite aside from work commitments, most of us celebrate Christmas and it is easy to get caught up in all of the commercialism and hype.  Our Christmas celebrations are fairly low-key and are usually a small family gathering for a special meal together and modest gifts for the immediate family.  As much as possible, I aim for experiences or practical gifts.

This year our 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters will join us for a week at the beach.  We will not be too far from home so it should not be a major undertaking.

My Christmas preparation so far has been to book our accommodation (several months ago) and I bought a gift a few days ago when I was in Sydney.  I happened to see it and thought it would be perfect.

There will be a couple more gifts to source and I will need to plan a menu for Christmas Day.  We do not indulge in huge amounts of festive food and I expect there will be lots of fresh fruit and simple salads consumed during the time we are at the beach.  Some casual, relaxed down-time for everyone (including the cook) is just what will be needed by the end of the year.

I may need to find a copy of this book!

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Recalibrated

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This blog post has been unfolding in my mind over the past few days as the next phase of our lives – retirement – is on the horizon but looming ever closer.

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We have been ’empty-nesters’, with no children at home for over 12 years.  This coincided with our move from Brisbane to our current home on a semi-rural block of 1.5 acres.  There has been no shortage of things to do as we have developed the garden as well as undertaken several renovations to the house.  There are other projects which we are looking forward to working on once we have more time but most of the major work has been done.  Additionally, we have gradually sorted, culled, decluttered and generally streamlined a lot of stuff so the day-to-day cleaning and maintenance is becoming simpler and easier.

To add to the busyness we have both continued to work full-time, however, this will change when we retire in the middle of next year.

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I am regularly quizzed by well-meaning people as to what I am going to when I retire and my somewhat truthful but flippant answer is ‘travel’.  Of course, travel will be only a small part of what we do.  I think my comment to GMan a few weeks ago really summed it up when I said that I was looking forward to having 7 days to do what I currently try to fit into 2 days of the weekend.

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A few things recently have led me to rethink how I manage my working hours which I am fortunate enough to have very flexible arrangements.  However, this has led to me not working in the most efficient manner at times.  Even though I will still be working full-time I have decided to structure my office and working from home times so that I will only work 4 days each week with Mondays off each week apart from once a month when I will swap it for a Tuesday so that I can continue my involvement in a community project.  Thursdays will a full day of working from home and I will be in the office on the other 3 days.  There is still a degree of flexibility if I need to swap my days around for a particular reason.

I believe that having a 3 day weekend most weeks will allow me to do things I want to do at home without feeling quite so rushed and be be organised for the remainder of the week.  I am thinking particularly of cooking and meal preparation and gardening.

With only 10 months (but who’s counting) until I retire I also need to consider how I will manage the workload whilst handing over the role to my replacement in the first half of next year.

There are certainly different seasons of our lives and what was necessary when I had young children is not relevant in my current situation.  We are all at different stages of our lives and sometimes the biggest hurdle is actually identifying what is best for you and your family now.  It will not be the same as mine but by finding what works for you will help to promote a sense of calm, peace and gratitude while minimising angst and stress.

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It is admirable to strive for goals and targets but do not wish your life away.  Be grateful for what you have today because this stage of your life will not last forever.

 

 

Home, Sweet Home

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The past few weeks have slipped by. I have been sick, on holidays and busy at work.  Not all at the same time!

Despite consuming more than my fair share of vitamin C, thanks to all of our home-grown citrus, I managed to succumb to a rotten cold nearly 3 weeks ago.  It really laid me low for the best part of a week then we headed off to Melbourne to visit our daughter.  Although it was cold we managed to rug up and get out and about and enjoy ourselves.

The break from work was most welcome but unfortunately it was all waiting for me when I went back to the office yesterday.

Meanwhile, it is lovely to be home and I am trying to catch up with the washing we brought back.  Yesterday afternoon I made a quick foray to the garden and picked some sweet potatoes which I used for dinner as well as a large bucket each of grapefruit and oranges.  These have all been juiced and will be drunk in an attempt to stave off any further colds.

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I am looking forward to the weekend and having time to prepare some meals for the week ahead as well as getting a bit done in the garden.  This will include the fairly rare activity of watering unless the rain promised for the next couple of days really does eventuate.  We live in a relatively high rainfall area so we are not drought-affected like so much of the country but it is quite dry nevertheless.  The lavender is enjoying the drier weather and is in full bloom.

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Other than that some sewing should round out my weekend quite nicely.  What are your plans?