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.
The 2 weeks since my last blog post have slipped by quickly. Our 2 granddaughters came to visit for a week and then we spent a week at the beach with them and our daughter. Christmas was a fairly low-key affair as we, like many others, simply needed to relax at the end of what has been a challenging year.
Anyway, this post is about looking forward. I know that COVID19 will not disappear at the stroke of midnight on 31st December. Much of what we have endured in 2020 will remain with us as we enter 2021.
Six years ago, at the end of 2014 I decided to record all of our spending for the year. Since then, I have continued to do it each year and have refined the methods I use in the process. I use an Excel spreadsheet, however, you could use a notebook if you prefer.
When I was setting up the spreadsheets for 2021 I noticed that I now have 6 years of records of our spending. During that time we have both retired from full-time work and had major home renovations done as well as travelling overseas on 5 different occasions. There won’t be anymore of that in the foreseeable future, though.
It is interesting to see how some categories of spending have altered dramatically in the wake of our retirement. The most significant is the category ‘Transport’. During the first 4 years of recording our spending, we were both working fulltime and our total transport costs were about $6000 per annum. We had a long rail commute from our home to offices in the city. In 2020 our transport costs were less than $300. Not everyone will have the same costs but if you are considering retirement it is wise to take changes in circumstances and spending into account.
Grocery spending was interesting for a different reason. In 2015 my average weekly spending for 2 adults was $93.88. Unsurprisingly, by 2020 this had increased. However, the margin was very modest with the weekly average being $97.11. In five years my grocery bill for 2 adults increased by a mere $3.23 per week on average. We eat good quality but relatively simple meals with an increasing number of vegetarian meals and are working on growing more of our own food. Minimising food waste is also important from both an environmental and financial perspective.
Clothing was another category where there was a substantial change in our spending during the six years of recording data. Our total spending on this category in 2020 was less than 30% of what we had spent in both 2015 and 2016. Since our retirements were planned, we made a conscious decision to limit our expenditure on work attire over the final couple of years. Additionally, I now have time to source some excellent pre-loved items.
For anyone who is interested I have provided a sample of what my spreadsheet looks like. I use a new sheet in the workbook for each month.
These are the categories that I use. The final column ‘Description’ is for extra details – as much or as little as you want.
(public transport, taxis and Uber)
(food, toiletries and cleaning products at home and on holidays)
(buying and repairs for clothes, shoes, jewellery and fabric for dressmaking)
(fuel, tyres, servicing and repairs including when travelling in our car)
(all equipment, repairs and renovations to house and garden including chicken feed)
(vet bills, toys, medications, equipment and dog food)
(dental, medical, allied health and chemist expenses)
(meals, shows, movies and events attended jointly)
(beer, wine, spirits and home brew supplies)
(any subscriptions not listed in fixed expenses)
(Christmas, birthdays, cards and postage, memorial donations)
(flights, accommodation, tours and entrance fees)
(gym fees, individual socialising, hobbies and books)
(gym fees, individual socialising, cosmetics, hobbies and books)
I have only addressed our variable spending in this post but I also have a spreadsheet set up for our fixed expenses each month. This helps us to easily see what bills are coming up and predict when we are going to need extra funds. Some months are less than $200 in fixed expenses, whereas, there are other months which are much more than that. This is because we choose to pay some of our bills on an annual basis.
Do you have a plan for keeping track of your finances for the new year?
I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding tracking your spending.
Today I want to show you a couple of small but significant home maintenance jobs.
Since we live in a rural area we do not have sewerage. Instead there are 2 tanks – a septic and a greywater one. They would have been installed when the property was initially developed so they are probably close to 30 years old. Unfortunately, both of the lids had become cracked and chipped so we decided to replace them
I thought this would be a relatively simple task but after much research via Google, I was still unsure as to what they were actually called, whether they came in different sizes and whether it was possible to replace the concrete lids with fabricated steel ones.
I rang our local Council who were of minimal assistance except to say that they had to be restored to the original state – so that ruled out steel covers. Next, I tried a local plumber who said that he didn’t keep them on hand but to ring Everhard Industries. I had perused their website extensively in my research and been unable to find a reference to anything like what I wanted but I rang anyway.
Everything took an immediate turn for the better as the young lady on the phone knew exactly what I wanted and was able to give me the part number and description but said I would need to order it from a plumbing supplier as they did not sell directly to the public. She also gave me the names of several suppliers in our area. I rang one of them, ordered the covers and we were able to collect them 2 days later.
GMan replaced the old covers with new ones and here they are looking bright and shiny.
Speaking of bright and shiny, the other concrete project has been cleaning some of the back path.
Here is the section that I did yesterday.
Then I moved some of the potplants to the space under the stairs.
There is still more to be done but that may have to wait as there is rain forecast for the next week.
A few weeks ago I wrote this post about our plans to develop and use the space under our house.
We have made some progress by planting out the Devil’s Ivy in the hanging baskets.
Here is a closer view of one of the pots.
We hope that it grows as rampantly as it does in the shaded area in the garden from where we collected these cuttings. They all appear to be healthy and sending out new growth already.
I can already envisage our green wall.
In other news, we cleaned most of the exterior walls of the house the other day. Naturally, this entailed moving various items from the verandah and encouraged me to rethink why some of them were in their current locations.
The BBQ and terracotta chimney were both on the western verandah near the clostheline, yet in reality, this is not the spot where they are likely to be used.
They are now both downstairs and in a much better position to be utilised.
We have had a bit of hot weather with more predicted over the coming days and out hanging chairs are definitely a winner in the cool area under the house.
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.
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.
As I mentioned in a post last year, I have tried to remove ‘busy’ from both my vocabulary and mindset as much as possible.
I have spent the last 3 days occupied in one of my favourite activities – sewing. It has not been just any sewing but specifically dressmaking clothes for myself.
The first project was a dress which was modelled on an oft-used shirt pattern.
I bought the fabric which is a cotton drill from a local thrift shop for $5. I have yet to source suitable buttons and finish the hem.
Another dress. A simple, lightweight shift which will be perfect for hot summer days at home or the beach. The fabric for this one was leftover from a previous project. Of course, both of the dresses have pockets.
A navy linen shirt made using the same pattern as the first dress. This is an extremely versatile pattern which I have used numerous times. The contrasting binding on the neckline and armholes is not visible when the garment is being worn but I think it adds a somewhat whimsical touch. Making my own bias binding allows me to indulge ideas like this. Once again, buttons and hemming are required to complete the shirt.
I have another linen shirt cut out which is black.
This has barely put a dent in my stash of fabric and I am looking forward to making more items to add to my wardrobe.
It is almost 2 years since I last bought any brand-new clothes apart from underwear. In that time I have bought less than 10 pieces from thrift shops and recycle boutiques and made a few items. Some of the clothes that I wore to work are still suitable for some occasions, however, I find that I am gradually changing the mix of clothes in my wardrobe to reflect my retirement lifestyle.
I started thinking about how to begin this post and went trawling through the archives of the blog. What an eye-opener!
This photo is from a blog post in January 2015. It is one half of the the cupboard in the office/study – the other half is my linen cupboard. You can read the whole post here if you are interested.
These are before and after photos from a follow-up blog post in June 2015. We had down-sized from the 4 drawer filing cabinet to a 2 drawer one. This also meant that we were able to create an extra shelf using an offcut of melamine shelving.
Fast forward 5 years and after gradually reducing the contents of the filing cabinet, we were able to get rid of it completely and relocate the last few remaining files to the filing drawer of the desk which had remained unused up to that point.
We decided to add another shelf but also removed the previous extra shelf as the cut edges had never been painted. There is plenty of space.
Two shelves in place.
The contents rearranged and easy to locate.
The plastic crate on the floor of the cupboard is going to be our evacuation/emergency box. There will be a few things stored in it but the primary thing is a checklist of what to add (eg: medications) and what to do in specific situations. The contents and list may have slight seasonal variations and will be reviewed at regular intervals. My camera is sitting on top of the box.
It is interesting to see the evolution of the organisation of various spaces in our home. We have lived in this house for almost 15 years which is considerably longer than we have ever resided anywhere else. There has not been the impetus of an impending house move but we have actually decluttered quite a bit by doing it slowly and consistently. The blog is quite an amazing record of what we have achieved in the last 9.5 years.
All things are relative. Today we went to Brisbane which is about 80km from where we live but compared to London, New York or even Melbourne, it is close to home.
We had a business appointment to attend this morning and decided that we would make a day of it and go out to lunch for a slightly delayed birthday celebration for GMan.
Although we both worked in the city for quite a number of years, we were not terribly familiar with restaurant options. We had mostly packed our lunches and when we did eat out it was usually with work colleagues in a noisy pub environment or fast and furious cafe. Neither of these were the setting we were looking for.
I turned to the ever-helpful Google and found Greenglass, a French bistro and wine bar. One review I found described it as “a cross between elegant wine bars of old and a spacious NYC loft apartment”. The simple black door at street-level belied the airy, minimalist decor and quality food which we encountered after ascending the narrow staircase. We enjoyed our meal and the outlook of trees despite being in the centre of the CBD. If I had any criticism, it would be the level of noise due to the polished timber floors and lack of any soft furnishings.
There is a reason I mentioned London, New York and Melbourne in the opening paragraph. We have visited all of these cities and the weather we encountered as we departed from Greenglass was far more reminiscent of one of them than sub-tropical Brisbane and its usual ‘perfect’ winter weather. The predicted rain had arrived during our lunch and this was the dismal scene that greeted us despite it only being 2pm.
Since I have barely been to any shops in the past 5 months (apart from groceries and home renovations) I took the opportunity to pick up a couple of things that I needed.
With about 30 minutes to spare before the next train was due, we headed to Sugar’n’Spice Cafe which is quite close to Central Station. This is the view that greeted us as we entered the small, old-world premises.
Coffee and gluten -free carrot cake consumed while perched snugly at the high counter overlooking an increasingly wet afternoon.
Today was a complete departure from our home renovation activities of yesterday and we both enjoyed the opportunity to be out and about while still managing to maintain effective social distancing.
It is 7 years since I wrote this post. The essence of it was about rearranging the wardrobe in the spare room but the aspect which I want to discuss further was the fact that we had just hosted our first Air BnB guests.
We were first introduced to Air BnB by our daughter and used it on our first trip to the USA in 2012. Since then, we have stayed in Air BnB accommodations all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Singapore, Mauritius and Canada as well as in cities and rural areas in Australia.
In the spirit of the sharing economy, in mid-2013 we decided that we would offer our spare room on Air BnB. We have not had huge numbers of guests due to our location and somewhat limited appeal but we have enjoyed hosting guests from all over Australia as well as many international guests.
We had never really decided if or when we would cease to host on Air BnB. Like so many other aspects of life in 2020, our hand has been forced with the appearance of COVID19. Since our guests are in our home and share space with us, we decided to immediately suspend our listing until at least the end of August.
The hiatus created by COVID19 provided space for us to consider the future of our Air BnB hosting and it was some degree of sadness that we made the decision not to resume hosting as travel restrictions are gradually eased.
As well as the obvious continuing risk of COVID19, there are a multitude of reasons that have combined to lead us to our decision. These include:
acquiring a new dog in the future
desire for more short-term travel
want more flexibility in activities in retirement
being able to welcome friends and family to stay at any time
physical demands of changing an extra bed frequently
additional cleaning that is required
The experience of being an Air BnB host has been amazing but it is time to move on.