Site Preparation

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In my last post I mentioned that we had ordered a garden shed. We have been debating the need for a shed for a number of years and have finally bitten the bullet.

It will be a very simple 3m X 3m structure with double opening doors at the front. There are no windows, no side door and no power. It is really no more than an oversized lawn locker to store the mowers, mulcher, brushcutter and possibly wheelbarrow as well as some storage shelving for accessories and fuel.

This will create some real workspace in the area known as the workshop.

It will probably be 3-4 weeks before the shed is ready to be installed but there was a bit of site preparation to be done beforehand.

This is a view of the area where the shed is to be placed.  There is no ‘before’ photo but it had become somewhat overgrown so we cut back shrubs and some heliconias as well as moving some logs which had been dumped there.

The impending construction is certainly motivation to clear up the area surrounding the new shed.

We have quite a large stand of heliconias so we removed a few that were encroaching on the access to the would-be shed as well as using the opportunity to clean out some of the spent ones.  The edge of the clump is clearly visible on the left-hand side of the photo.

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The shed will be in the centre foreground of the photo.

Looking slightly to the right you can see the area where we have almost finished moving what was a huge pile of mulch.  We will be planting several shrubs once the mulch is cleared.

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The shed site is not the only one we are preparing.  Yesterday we moved all of the furniture from our verandah which extends around 2 sides of the house in preparation for the floor to be sanded and recoated.  The sanding was supposed to happen today but it rained overnight and some of the flooring was wet so the start has been delayed.

This is the long side at the front of the house.

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The shorter end which looks out towards the vegetable garden.

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In other garden news, GMan planted clivias along the western edge of the driveway.  These were sourced from multiple plants we had in pots.  Most are orange but there are also some yellow ones.  My $20 investment in a single orange clivia which I bout almost 20 years ago has paid handsome dividends.  The yellow ones have also multiplied from a single plant which was a gift several years ago.

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I think the clivia plants will make a nice border to the edge of the driveway.  The area behind them is a work in progress.  The shrubs were planted in mid-December and are growing quite well.  You can see some of the piles of mulch which have been moved from the site near the shed.  We plan to lay some sheets of cardboard to suppress the weeds then cover them with the mulch.

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.

A Frugal Mindset – 1

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As promised yesterday, I plan to address the points from the link I posted one by one.

The first point is:

1. Frugal people plan ahead. Planning ahead may not, at first, seem like it has anything to do with money, but it really does. Frugal people plan ahead in many ways. They do things like plan out their meals for the week to save money at the grocery store, or more long term planning like knowing that they’ll need a new roof on the house in several years, and to begin saving for this expense now.

Frugal people live by the mantra that failure to plan is planning to fail. They’ve learned that taking steps now for anticipated future events helps make those future events easier to deal with. And typically those plans make it both easier in both time spent, and in money saved.

Question to ask yourself: What can I do today to make tomorrow and the future easier to deal with?

If you really want use this strategy to its fullest potential don’t just make those plans in your mind. Write them down!

I regard planning as one of my strengths and there is no doubt in my mind that it saves money.  It also saves time and my sanity which are equally important to me.

I plan our meals, plan to combine errands in a single trip, plan what I will wear to work, plan what to pack for a holiday, plan future projects at home – there is no end to what we plan.

An example of long-term planning was when we began looking for our current home.  This was over 10 years ago and I was still in my forties but one of the things that we considered was that it would have to have at least one point of ground-level access or be able to be relatively easily adapted to meet this requirement.  Although we have numerous stairs to reach the verandah we know that this can be altered if required – we have a plan.

We are also changing and adapting our large garden to reduce the level of maintenance which will be required as we age.  Putting in the effort now will reap rewards in years to come.

As a result of ensuring that we have sufficient rainwater storage as well as the installation of solar panels means that we are pretty well self-sufficient for water and electricity which minimises the ongoing costs of running our home.

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As GMan regularly quotes from Baldrick in Blackadder, “I have a cunning plan”.  The difference between Baldrick’s plans and ours is that ours are realistic and generally achievable.  Even if things do not go quite according to plan you have a framework with which to start again.

 

Preparations

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Exactly a year ago we were in the midst of managing with no power as a result of the wild weather which was the aftermath of Cyclone (Hurricane) Oswald.

When we finally regained power I wrote this post.  More importantly, I wrote a follow-up assessment here.

It feels like groundhog day as it appears very likely that a cyclone will form off the north Queensland coast in the next 36 – 48 hours.  There is no guarantee where a potential system will track but the Bureau of Meteorology predictions are currently showing it crossing the coast and causing widespread rain over much of the eastern and central parts of the state.

Colour Forecast map for next 4 days

Colour Forecast map for next 4 days

My second link is interesting to re-read as it shows that once the immediate threat was over we relaxed and did not pursue some of the things we identified.  We have not bought a generator, nor organised the rainwater tank closer to the house.  The small freezer is not currently in use but is downstairs and could be used if necessary, however, the better option would be the camp fridge (also stored downstairs) set to ‘Freeze’.

We have had a long weekend here and I have unwittingly done some useful preparation.  All of the washing and almost all of the ironing is done.  Meals are planned and some are prepared for the coming week.  There is clean linen on the bed and in the bathroom.  I plan to finish the ironing and vacuum the floors tomorrow evening.  All of this means that I have most of the housework up to date and we do not need to worry about basics such as washing if we were to lose power for several days.  We also have enough food and basic supplies to ensure that we do not need to go to the shops.  All of the electronic equiment is fully charged and we have wind-up torches and radio.   The car has a full tank of fuel.  There is no need to panic but we are prepared simply because of how we live.

What preparations would you make in the event of the chance of severe weather?

No Frills Friday

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This is not a new series of posts but simply the best title I could come up with.

The power was interrupted briefly yesterday evening so I reset the clock radio alarm for 5am before I went to bed.

2013-03-08 01The Duke usually takes care of this but he was out of town.  I re-checked that I had set it correctly then hopped into bed.  It was actually much earlier than 12.38.  That is the only picture I could find.

I am not sure whether it was the cool night, the bed to myself or just sheer exhaustion but I slept soundly and the first thing I knew was it was 5.23am.  The music was playing but the volume was quite low.

We generally leave between 5.36am and 5.40am to catch a train at 5.53am and drive almost 8km to get to the station.  I had 30 minutes to achieve the impossible!

Out of bed and showered
Teeth cleaned, medication taken
Dressed, hair brushed, face moisturised
Grab prepared breakfast and lunch
Grab my bag
Let dog out
Lock door
In the car at 5.38am and standing on the station platform at 5.48am – exactly 25 minutes from when I opened my eyes.

I am a no-frills kind of girl at the best of times so I really managed to do everything I would normally achieve in my morning routine – just at super speed.  Being organised certainly helped as I had already decided on my outfit and did  not have to trawl through a cluttered wardrobe wondering what I might wear.

I have one handbag which contains the essentials and it is ready to go.  My essentials for going to work are – rail pass, access pass for office, purse and car keys.  There are other things in the bag but that is what I need to easily navigate the day.

What is your routine?  Can you pare it down further if the need arises?

Prepared

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The wild weather we experienced 3 weeks ago is back, although not quite so dramatic.  Parts of the Sunshine Coast and hinterland, where I live, have received well in excess of 200mm since the rain began on Thursday.  The majority of it fell overnight on Sunday and all day yesterday.

2013-02-19 01The rain has eased for the moment and the forecast is that we have seen the worst of it so any flooding should only be minor to moderate.  The lake in our backyard is nowhere near as extensive as it was last month or on many other occasions.

2013-02-19 02Gale force winds are being forecast for the next 2 to 3 days and of all the extreme weather conditions, it is wind that actually poses the greatest risk to us and therefore the need to be prepared.  While there is a small chance of structural damage, either directly or from falling trees, loss of power is our major potential problem.

2013-02-19 03Electricity is integral to almost everything we do in the 21st century so we have done all that we can to make sure that we can function for up to 3 days without it.  Before I left for work today I made put containers of water in the portable fridge/freezer (set to ‘freeze’) so that we will have plenty of ice available to keep foodstuffs cool if we lose power for more than 24 hours.  We also have 20 litres of drinking water immediately available.  The cooktop is gas and we have solar hot water (if the sun happens to be shining!)

2013-02-19 04A less obvious piece of planning was my choice of clothes to wear to work.  I had previously decided to wear a skirt, blouse, stockings and heels but instead opted for lightweight jeans, fitted ¾ sleeve top and lace-up shoes and socks.  If we arrive home this evening (after dark) and there is no power I do not need to be stumbling around in my fancy work clothes.

I hope my preparation is not required, however, since it is only 3 weeks since we lost power for more than 3 days the inconvenience is very fresh in my memory.  I wonder if others have taken heed as a result of the previous storm or if they have quickly slipped back to the complacent attitude of expecting that there will always be power whenever they flick a switch?

No Power – No Worries

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As many of you would be aware, a large portion of the eastern part of Queensland has endured some pretty wild weather over the past week or so.  Ex Cyclone Oswald (hurricane) has wreaked havoc over a large area.  Because the system was moving quite slowly we had plenty of time to prepare for the bad weather.

Flooding in the backyard

‘Prepare’ is the key word here and I think I did a reasonable job.  As usual, there are things that we did well and some that could be improved.  In the interests of creating a reference for the future I thought I would share what I discovered.

Firstly, here is a bit of background.  Our household consists of 2 adults in a 3 bedroom, high-set timber-framed home on a small acreage.  We are totally reliant on our tank water and have solar hot water as well as grid-connected solar panels.  We live about 8km from the nearest town and there is no public transport.  We have 2 vehicles.  Strong coastal winds do affect our property.

Apart from the risk of structural damage to our home, my main concern was losing power.  Without electricity we are unable to run the pump to get water to the house so we boiled water so that it was ready to drink.  We prepared 40 litres which we stored in a 20 litre drum from our camping equipment and the Duke’s 20 litre home brew kit.  We have a refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen as well as a small upright freezer in the study.  I filled several ice-cream containers with water to freeze in an attempt to keep the frozen goods OK for as long as possible.

Home brew

Once we lost power we were still able to access water from a tap on the tank to fill buckets.  However, it is about a 400 metre round trip to the tank.

Solar panels
Because we are connected to the grid we cannot access power directly from our solar panels.  I have heard that this can now be done so I will be investigating this possibility with the company that installed the panels.

Cooking was not a problem as we have a gas cooktop and we also had the wood-heater blazing in an attempt to keep the humidity down.  We had 2 billies of water on the heater at all times so there was plenty of warm water for a ‘shower’ using buckets of warm water.  I also cooked soup and bolognaise sauce on the heater .

Bolognaise sauce
The biggest challenge was keeping food cold.  Since the refrigerator/freezer was in the same zone of the house as the wood heater it did not stay cool for long.  The small freezer fared better as it was in another part of the house.  I ended up using it like an ice-chest.  It was lucky that we did not have a lot of meat on hand so I was able to cook and use all of it without any loss.  I did throw out a few things  but the total value would have been less than $30.  That is a small price to pay rather than getting sick from eating food that has not been stored safely.

We were without power for a total of 59 hours and in that time we had to work hard just to ensure that we had food and drink as well as water for washing dishes and bathing.  I did not even contemplate washing clothes as I knew that we had enough to last until the immediate crisis was over.

THINGS I DID WELL

Prepared plenty of drinking water
Cooked nutritious meals using ingredients we had available
Made sure that the perishable foodstuffs were used first
Wasted a minimal amount of food
Bought a lighter for the gas stove/fire when we realised that the humidity meant the matchbox was damp and striking a match was almost impossible
Having the house decluttered and organised meant that we knew where things were and they were easy to access with minimal light

THINGS I COULD DO BETTER

Start freezing water earlier to ensure that it is completely frozen before the power is lost
Consider buying a small generator
Set the camp fridge to ‘freeze’ before power is lost and fill it with frozen goods that will not need to be accessed during power outage.  This would be especially useful if I had a lot of meat.
Move the small freezer downstairs (the coolest part of the house) and use like an ice-chest
Follow up on our plans to install a rainwater tank close to the house so that water is easier to access

I also gave some thought to what we would take if the house were damaged substantially.  I had sturdy shoes and socks and a torch as well as my essential medications ready to grab if we needed to seek shelter downstairs.  This seems very minimal and I need to give a lot more thought to what we would need to take if we had to leave in a hurry for any reason.  I would love to hear if you have a ‘grab-bag’, what is in it and where you store it.

We survived quite well and were certainly not tested to the limit but the last week has given us several things to think about and priorities to consider.

Dinner Module

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I have previously mentioned the concept of having modules to contain items fore a particular purpose.  It helps to set limits so that you cannot begin to store more of a group of items than what will fit in the container.

Modules are also a useful concept to keep all of the things that will be used for a project in one place.  It is this theory that I applied this morning in my kitchen.

Before I left for work I began the preparation for dinner.  We will be having stuffed capsicums (red peppers) so the peppers are de-seeded and washed.  I also thawed some rice which I will use when I make one for The Duke and there is grated sweet potato for the stuffing of mine.  I have not finalised exactly what else I will use but there will definitely be mushrooms in the mix.

So, I grabbed a large plastic container (and lid), put all of the partly prepared ingredients in the tub and popped it in the fridge.  Now it is all ready to go when I get home so I can quickly finish the preparation.

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Sunday Stuff

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Today I continued with my sewing and sorting our some more of the stuff that was on my sewing table.

I have all but finished the apron I am making.  Just a bit of handsewing on the waistband and buttons and buttonholes to attach the neck strap.

2012-04-15 01This is what the neck strap and buttons will look like.

2012-04-15 02Finally, the pocket detail of which I am rather proud.

2012-04-15 03I really hope my apron partner likes it.

The next things I am working on are 2 summer tops for myself.  I know I will not need them for several months but it will be nice to have them finished and hanging in my wardrobe, rather than cluttering up space on my work table.

Now that the space is cleared I can see exactly what else I have to sew.  There are several Christmas gift bags as well as fabric for a reusable shopping bag (I am going to copy an existing one for a pattern).  I have other fabric earmarked to make a skirt for my niece, summer pyjamas for my granddaughter, a dress for Belle and a couple of polo shirts for The Duke so there is plenty to keep me occupied.

My plan is to do some sewing at least one each week and gradually work my way through the ‘To Do’ list.

On other matters, I have done a menu plan for the week for both lunches and dinners.  I have been rather slack lately and although we have not resorted to takeaway or eating out, my planning has been a bit haphazard.  I am back on track and hopefully this will make the morning rush a bit less rushed.  Tomorrow we are having leftover lasagne and salad and this is all prepared and in the refrigerator ready to grab and go in the morning.

I like to spend some time on Sundays getting organised so that I can have a headstart on the coming week.

Are you prepared for the week ahead?

Making A List…..And Checking It Twice

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Santa Claus certainly had the right idea when it came to being organised.

2012-02-14 01I am doing some paid work at home tomorrow but also have a long list of things to do.  It is essential that I write a list to ensure nothing gets forgotten and also to do things in the most efficient manner.

Things I need to do include:

Put out rubbish and recycling bins for collection

Pick cherry tomatoes at neighbour’s place

2012-02-14 02Pick up parcels from the Post Office
Deposit a cheque
Take poster to the picture framers and choose a frame
Drop off stuff to the op shop
Go to the Co-op to buy tamari, peanut paste, shower gel and face wash
Go to the IGA to buy bacon and salami
Pick up seeds that I have ordered
Meet friends for coffee and to swap/share our produce

2012-02-14 03The list in italics all needs to be done in Maleny which is a 16km round trip so I make sure that I bundle everything together and get it all done in one trip.

2012-02-14 04Now I am off to set up a new bit of household organisation.  More on that tomorrow.