Different Decluttering

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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.

We are pleased with the ongoing progress.

The Plan Becomes Reality

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Sometimes I feel as though I have spent so long planning a project that it almost becomes real in my mind. That is a bit of how I feel about the long awaited drying rack/hanging rail for the laundry. I have been dreaming, planning and researching this for close to 5 years.

I wrote about my plans 3 years ago in this post. The options were quite expensive ($250 – $400) and mostly imported as ceiling mounted drying racks are not a big thing here in Australia. However, the biggest stumbling block was the installation as the fixing points would not line up with the beams above the ceiling sheeting and I realised that the window was where the holder for the pulley rope would need to be attached. In the end I decided that the installation issues were really insurmountable so I began searching for other option.

Imagine my surprise when I found an alternative close to home. It was this DIY Bunnings video which sent me off in a somewhat different direction. I know it is not a hanging airing rack but I realised that being able to hang clothes was my main requirement.

Why would I want to hang clothes in the laundry rather than the wardrobe?

I can dry them using the dehumidifier, either straight from the washing machine or to finish off in the cooler months.
Somewhere to hang the clothes when I bring them in from the clothesline.
To air clothes after ironing and before putting them in a closed wardrobe.

Once I convinced GMan that this was a feasible option and a doable DIY project, we bought the various pieces of piping and screws and set about assembling it.

Here is the basic construct.

Naturally, I wanted it painted.

After several coats of paint it was finally ready to install. I had worked out a way to place additional timber supports in the ceiling space to ensure the stability of the fixation. This entailed accessing the roof space which is fairly shallow in our house and I am the smaller of the 2 of us so I ended up spending a considerable amount of time clambering in and out of the roof space and lying spreadeagled in order to achieve my plan.

It proved to definitely be worthwhile as this is the result.

Some of the washing from today was brought directly from the clothesline to hang on the rail.

Since the rail extends above the laundry tub, I also intend to have a hanger like this to hang above the sink.

We have lived in this house for 15 years and there have been several additions and modifications in order to make the laundry more functional. This one is an excellent addition.

The total cost was about $70 for the pipe, fittings and screws. The paint and timber bracing were sourced from our stash at home. The only other cost was our labour, time and sweat (it is hot in that roof space).

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.

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.

A Man Needs a Shed

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We have lived in this house for almost 15 years. There is plenty of space in the lockup workshop as well as the open space under the house. Off and on over a number of years we have debated the value of a small, freestanding shed for extra storage space.

Since we have some long-term plans for part of the workshop, we decided to bite the bullet about 3 months ago. As with everything during COVID19 there was a delay before it was commenced.

Towards the end of August the slab was laid.

A few days later the shed was assembled and completed. We were about to head off on holidays for 3 weeks so there was no further action for a while.

Once we returned we transferred some of the equipment to be stored in the shed.

The ride-on mower needs a ramp to be able to safely manoeuvre it into the shed. So, we built a ramp.

There are still a couple of finishing touches to do – compacting the pavers and sweeping some fine sand into the joints.

A New Measuring Device

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We used to have a rain gauge but we removed the last one when the verandah railings were replaced. Like most rigid plastic items which are exposed to the weather, it had become brittle with time and a couple of pieces were cracked/broken so we decided that we needed to replace it.

This did not happen immediately and time went by. Fast forward about 4 years and a couple of things have changed. The local Council have done some remedial work to the verge adjacent to our driveway where the water used to pool. This had been our unofficial rain gauge for some time but now that the water seems to run off properly the ‘rain gauge’ is no longer much use.

GMan received some money for his recent birthday along with a suggestion that he put it towards buying a new rain gauge. This was just the impetus we needed.

After considerable research he made a decision about which one to buy. One of the considerations that needed to take into account is that we can receive in excess of 250mm rainfall in 24 hours so the rain gauge needs to have substantial capacity. However, he discovered a digital rain gauge which does not need to be manually emptied but the amount of water passing through it is measured using the sensor.

The gauge with sensor is mounted on the pergola (top right-hand corner).

The information is recorded on the screen which sits conveniently on the kitchen bench.

As an added bonus, it also records indoor and outdoor temperature as well as the indoor humidity.

He is very pleased with the new rain gauge and all we need to do now is to wait for it to rain. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a high chance of La Nina (significant rain event) occurring in 2020 so we will wait in anticipation. At least we are ready.

Painting Posts

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Yes, this is a post about painting but more importantly, we were actually painting posts.

We have a large area under our highset house which was simply an untamed soil embankment when we first came here almost 15 years ago.  This was unusable and generated a lot of dust in the house.  A few years later we had most of the area concreted.  We had no specific plan and for the last 10 years it has mostly been a storage and work area.

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Nevertheless, in the back of our minds was a half-hatched plan to turn at least part of it into an outdoor entertainment area.  Part of the reason is that this is by far the coolest area of our home during the summer.

Our half-hatched plan has developed over a few years but it was not until this year that we have had time to really get started.  We intend to screen part of the area using Ekodeck battens.  The first step of this process was to paint the steel posts.

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Most of the posts are painted dark gray to match the other exterior paintwork on the lower level of the house.  However, we painted the posts which will be in the middle of the designated area in a much lighter hue.  This will ensure that they are easily visible.  We will combine this with strategic placement of furniture and plants to minimise any risk of accidents.

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We plan to create a green screen using multiple hanging baskets hung at different levels in the section which contains the light-coloured cross-bracing.

Several weeks ago we bought the timber for the support rails.  The 21 pieces have been cut to length, painted and are stacked in preparation for the next stage of the construction.

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After much planning and preparation we are finally seeing results.  The difference between the first and third photos in this post is the result of about 5 hours work by GMan and I today.

I think we deserve a couple of rest days after that effort.  We have a lunch date planned for tomorrow and are going to the movies on Saturday.

 

 

More Modifications

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A few months ago I wrote about mending my mop.  You can read about it here.

Well, I have made another modification or addition to increase its versatility.

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We have a large expanse of timber decking which we recently had revarnished.  It can get quite dusty so I wanted to mop it.  However, I was not keen to destroy the sponge head which I use for the hard floors indoors.

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So, I set about making a removable cover.  This is a piece of old towel from my stash of rags which live in the cupboard below the laundry tub.  I actually remember this as my father’s beach towel about 50 years ago.

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Using the mop head as a template I cut a piece of towel and mitred the corners.

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I checked to see that it fitted before trimming the excess and finishing the raw edges.

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On the mop.

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I obviously needed to keep it in place so I sewed some salvaged elastic inside the edge to draw it over the mop head.

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The addition of a couple of ties to fully secure the cover in place.

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Ready to go.

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The end result.

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I was pleased to be able to create a solution using salvaged materials that I had on hand.  I addition to the old beach towel I used elastic retrieved from worn out underwear and the ties were from a long ago pair of trousers that had worn out.

The cover cannot easily be squeezed out so it is not suitable for indoor use but is perfect for washing down the verandah floor.

The Lid is On

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It is over 2 years since we commenced building the walkway/pergola entrance to our property at the eastern end of the house.

This is a photo I posted in a blog post in mid-March 2018.

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The 6 sticks marked out the proposed location of the posts.  You can also see the newly-planted shrubs to the right of the pergola site.

By July 2018 the majority of the structure was completed as per this blog post.

In September 2018 GMan laid the repurposed pavers that we had salvaged from when the entrance stairway was demolished and rebuilt.

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The mandevilla creepers have been planted close to the pergola and the garden beds on either side have been mulched.

But, there is still no roof covering on the pergola.  We would still considering our options.

These things take time but a couple of months ago we finally agreed that we would cover the top with wire and we would also need a couple of horizontal rails to support the wire.

We sourced, painted and installed the timber rails a couple of weeks ago and today we added the wire panels, or as otherwise described, put the lid on.

The finished entrance to the eastern end of our house and the vegetable garden area.

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The shrubs and mandevilla creepers are well-established and we now have a well-defined entrance.

Lemon Curd – My Way

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It is early winter where we live and that means we have citrus fruit in abundance.  The fruit on the Meyer lemon were ripe and we picked them all as this particular variety does not seem to hold well on the tree.

We gave away heaps as well as freezing some juice and using it generously in drinks and recipes.  GMan asked if I would make some lemon curd, also known as lemon butter.

Apart from wanting to use up some of the lemons, I was keen to find a reasonably ‘healthy’ version of this sweet treat.  So, I turned to the ever-useful Google.

This is an indication of the usual lemon butter offerings.

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 125g butter

After a bit more research I found a recipe which seemed to align with my goals.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 4 tablespoons lemon zest

I was keen to try it but moderately sceptical as the proportions are vastly different.

The full recipe is here.  My slightly amended version is below.

First I collected the utensils I needed.  You can read more about my kitchen utensils here.

Low Fat Lemon Curd

Ingredients

2 large lemons, juiced
Lemon zest from 2 large lemons
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs

Grate the zest from the lemons and set aside.

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Juice the lemons.

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Place the strained juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on low and stir until sugar has dissolved.

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Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl.

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Remove lemon syrup from heat and pour slowly into beaten eggs while stirring the mixture with a whisk. Continue to whisk by hand for one minute.

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Return mixture to saucepan; add lemon zest, and heat on low until it thickens―about two minutes.

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Allow to cool then refrigerate.
NOTE:
My concerns were realised as the mixture did not thicken as much as I would have liked.  So, I resorted to my back-up plan.
2 teaspoons arrowroot blended with a little water.
Gently reheat the lemon curd until it reaches boiling point the stir. Add the arrowroot mixture slowly and continue stirring constantly.  Cook for one minute.  Cool and refrigerate .
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This version of lemon curd does not have the smooth richness that additional eggs and butter creates but I am very happy with the result.  It is definitely worth trying if you are looking for a healthier version of the traditional lemon curd recipe.