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.

Ready for a New Year

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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.

Date Amount CategoryDescription
1/01/2021$24.76GroceriesAldi
$10.00SelfGym fees
2/01/2021NIL

These are the categories that I use. The final column ‘Description’ is for extra details – as much or as little as you want.

Transport(public transport, taxis and Uber)
Groceries(food, toiletries and cleaning products at home and on holidays)
Clothing(buying and repairs for clothes, shoes, jewellery and fabric for dressmaking)
Haircuts 
Cars(fuel, tyres, servicing and repairs including when travelling in our car)
House/Garden (all equipment, repairs and renovations to house and garden including chicken feed)
Pets(vet bills, toys, medications, equipment and dog food)
Health(dental, medical, allied health and chemist expenses)
Entertainment(meals, shows, movies and events attended jointly)
Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits and home brew supplies)
Subscriptions(any subscriptions not listed in fixed expenses)
Gifts(Christmas, birthdays, cards and postage, memorial donations)
Holidays (flights, accommodation, tours and entrance fees)
Husband(gym fees, individual socialising, hobbies and books)
Self(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.

Indoor Pursuits

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We have experienced some wild weather (strong winds and heavy rain) over the past 48 hours but I have been happily ensconced indoors.

Our granddaughters have finished school for the year and are spending this week with us. I decided that it was a perfect opportunity do do some sewing for them. I had promised it some weeks ago but it is definitely easier when they are here and I am able to try garments on and fit as I go.

The first project was a pair of summer pyjamas for Miss13. I had previously begun the boxer shorts so it was a relatively simple matter of measuring and attaching the elastic. The elastic was salvaged from worn-out underwear when the elastic is as good as new. It is great to be able to re-use this resource.

I did not have a suitable pattern for the shirt so I turned to my collection of Enid Gilchrist pattern books which belonged to my mother. She used various patterns to make outfits for me and my siblings when we were young and in turn I used them for my daughters and granddaughters. Most of the patterns are for birth to 6 years, however, there is one book of outfits for girls which goes up to 12 year olds. I decided that a pattern for a blouse/shirt with numerous variations would be suitable and set about drafting a copy onto some salvaged heavy brown paper.

My piece of gifted fabric proved to be just enough for the pyjamas. Here is the shirt with mauve buttons which I found in my collection.

The recipient was happy to model them once they were finished.

I am now working on another top using the same basic pattern but with a different neckline and sleeve. I am using one of her existing tops as the template for the sleeve.

Stay tuned for more sewing projects.

Concrete – Covered and Cleaned

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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.

Growing Green

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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.

Ladybird Ensemble

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Yesterday I did some sewing that was not Boomerang Bags. I had made a start on a black linen shirt a few weeks ago and finally found some time to get back to it.

This is not just any black shirt as I specifically wanted it to wear with these trousers that I had made almost exactly a year ago. You can read all about them in this post.

I half-jokingly refer to them as my ladybird pants.

Back to the shirt. When I started making it I was on a mission to find some suitable black buttons, however, my mother sourced these ladybird ones from a large stash of pre-loved, but possibly unused buttons. I could not help but use them.

The finished shirt with ladybird buttons.

Today I wore the outfit which was cool, comfortable and above all, unique.

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.

Saturday Stall

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Even though I haven’t written a blog post for a couple of weeks it doesn’t mean that I have been slothful. Far from it. It is just that most of the day-to-day happenings have not been worthy of a blog post.

I have also been occupied in creating as many Boomerang Bags as possible for our very first market stall at the Witta Market on Saturday. This market in our district is dedicated to local makers and growers so it seemed to be the perfect fit for our bags.

We kept it very simple and used the bags as the decorations to attract potential customers.

Here is a close-up of some of the bags.

The market was a clear success with bags being sold as well as some potential volunteers identified and raising our public profile.

Next month’s market is barely a week before Christmas so will be a great opportunity for some last-minute gifts.

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.