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.

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.

Not Busy

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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.

One Small Cupboard

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Two shelves in place.

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The contents rearranged and easy to locate.

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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.

Close to Home

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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.

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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.

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Coffee and gluten -free carrot cake consumed while perched snugly at the high counter overlooking an increasingly wet afternoon.

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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.

 

Times Are Changing

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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.

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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.

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.

 

 

Chairs, Clothes and Other Bits

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We have recently replaced the protective felt feet on the legs of our kitchen chairs.  There are four high chairs which fit around our large return bench/meals area.

This project was undertaken two chairs at a time so for several weeks there have only been two chairs in the kitchen at any given time.  I realised how much less cluttered the area felt with only two chairs.  Since there is only GMan and I here most of the time, there is really no necessity to have four chairs.

The next question was, where could we store the other two chairs so that they would stay clean and be easily accessible when we had additional guests?  We found that the wardrobe in the guest room would be perfect but the space was currently occupied.  My off-season (summer) clothes were hanging on the rail and the floor was filled with about 100 magazines which are some of my retirement reading material as well as 5 large photo albums.

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I set about working out how I could re-arrange things.

The clothes were moved to the empty hanging space in the third bedroom which is used primarily as my sewing room.

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The photo albums provided the impetus to continue working on sorting and culling my photos – both digital and hard copy.  You can read more about that in my post from yesterday.  They will live in the library/study until they are no longer required.

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The magazines have been relocated to the drawers of the dressing table in the guest room.  I intend to make a start on reading them and expect that once I have finished reading them I will pass them on to someone else who may be interested in them.

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The chairs are now in the wardrobe but easy to retrieve when we need them.

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I am pleased with the final result and as an added bonus I have been spurred into doing some more work on the photos as well as making a start on reading my large collection of Australian Geographic magazines.

Rainy Day Activity

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It has been a cool, showery day so outdoor activities were not really possible so I returned to my photo project.  I started this about 2 months ago and you can read the details here.  After the initial burst, I have continued to make progress by doing a bit almost every evening.

Yesterday, I located the albums which had all been scanned.  They were carefully stored in the bottom of a wardrobe in the guest room.  It was an incidental find as I was not specifically looking for them.

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Today I have cross-checked that all the photos have been scanned and filed in correctly dated folders.

It seems like an enormous waste but the hard copies of the photos and albums will eventually all be discarded.  However, I need to retrieve all of the dates and details to include in the description of the digital copies before I consider doing that.

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The albums cannot be reused as there are details written in them.  Therefore, I will be removing the plastic photo sleeves which can be recycled as ‘soft plastic’ and then the lightweight cardboard pages will be able to be recycled separately.

As you can imagine, it has been something of a nostalgia trip as I sort through over 40 years of photographs documenting various aspects of our lives but predominately celebrations and holidays.  It is a stark reminder of how valuable photographs were when images were recorded on film then sent away to be developed and the anxious wait for their return.  We thought twice about taking dozens of images which were relatively expensive to develop.  Our attitude to photos has certainly changed with the advent of digital cameras and cameras built into mobile phones.

Planning Posts

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Thank you all for your comments and feedback to my last post.  I gave myself the day off from posting yesterday while I considered how I will manage posts and new content in the future.

Three weeks of daily posts has convinced me that it is not feasible to continue this schedule indefinitely.  While there is sometimes plenty of content to fill daily posts there is not always time to create the posts with the detail I prefer to include.

I canvassed the possibility of creating a pattern of posts each week based around cooking, gardening, organising and sewing.  However, I have discarded that idea as I really do not want to lock myself into a regimented pattern.

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So, I will generally be posting every 2 – 3 days on a variety of subjects with no strict pattern but simply based on what is happening, and hopefully, of interest to my readers.

As well as the regular blog posts there will also be content posted on Instagram.  Please follow me @ organisedcastle  Additionally, the Instagram posts are shared to the Organised Castle page on Facebook.  ‘Like’ the page on Facebook and receive notification of new blog posts.

If you find a post that resonates with you please feel free to share with others, either via a link on your blog, Facebook or other social media.

Finally, do you have a blog?  Please share in the comments if you would like me to add it to the blog roll on the right-hand side of my blog.  This is a list of some of the informative, useful and downright lovely blogs that I follow.

That is enough introspection from me.  The next blog post will be back to the garden to show you the progress on our latest project.

See you then.