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.

Almost Finished

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We are on a mission to try to finish several projects around the place.  Hot on the heels of the completed cold frame, we finished replacing the handles on our latest restoration project.

It is now over 6 years since I wrote about the silky oak dressing table/drawers that we restored.  You can read about it here.  This piece has now been relocated to the guest room.

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The latest restored piece is slightly larger and now has pride of place in my bedroom.  It is also silky oak and a very similar style to the other one.  The mirror for this one is larger and rectangular rather than oval.

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The final step is the new mirror which we hope to pick up this week.

I do not think we are likely to be restoring any other large pieces of furniture in the foreseeable future but there are plenty of other jobs.  We are now working on finishing the top of the pergola/walkway.  This has become rather necessary as the mandevilla creeper has now almost reached the top of the wire on the sides of the pergola.

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This was just after we had planted them in September 2018.

 

Cold Frame Completed

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Following on from this post.  We retrieved our jigsaw on Tuesday and were able to cut the polycarbonate sheeting for the final step of the cold frame.

Once the pieces of polycarbonate sheeting were cut to size, it was relatively easy to screw them to the timber frame.  The only thing left to do was to fill the post holes and level the ground.

Finished and ready for use.  You may be able to see the tray of basil seedlings near the left-hand end of the structure.

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Another view of the cold frame as part of the wider vegetable garden layout.

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Since our winters are really quite mild, this is really only necessary for overnight protection.  I will need to make sure I open it up everyday or otherwise the basil will be cooked by the end of the week.

 

Cold Frame Construction

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What is a cold frame?  The best description is a mini glasshouse which is low to the ground.  You can check out one from Gardening Australia here.  They are predominately used in much colder climates than ours, however, the primary reason that we built one is that I want to grow basil throughout the winter months.  It will also be perfect for starting spring seedlings a bit earlier than usual.

For the past few weeks we have been taking small steps towards building a cold frame.

Two hardwood sleepers form the back wall.

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Deciding on a location, sourcing materials (the majority secondhand) and developing a design have all taken time.  GMan has cut and painted timber as well as replacing putty in the window frames.

Everything has moved up a notch in the last couple of days as we began building in earnest.

The construction is almost complete with only the polycarbonate sheeting to be added to the front and ends of the enclosure.  This last step is on hold until we retrieve our jigsaw (lent out recently) to cut the sheeting.  Hopefully this will happen early next week.

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We won’t win any prizes for our carpentry skills but the structure is solid and functional.

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A pair of casement windows from the timber salvage yard form the top of the cold frame.  They are hinged at the back and we attached some old cupboard handles to the front edge to facilitate easy access.

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Apart from the polycarbonate sheeting on the sides, we also need to finish levelling the ground and filling the holes around the uprights.

In the meantime I have put the tray of basil seedlings in this space overnight as even without the sides completed it still offers a warmer and more protected space than their previous location.

The components which we purchased new for this project were the sleepers, hinges, window putty and long screws for the frame.  The windows, handles and timber all came from the salvage yard while the screw used with the hinges and handles came from our collection of odds and ends at home.

I would love to hear of anyone else’s experience  with a similar kind of set-up.

A Bit of Wire

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I am a great fan of wire.  It is so useful.  My mother reckons that I have inherited my love of wire from my grandfather who, reputedly, could fix anything with a bit of wire.  As a farmer, a lot of his skill would simply have been tied to the fact that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

Although I grew up in the city, I now live on a semi-rural small acreage and those same skills are required from time to time.  Apart from genetics, at least some of my ability to use wire was honed during my career working in operating theatres.  The principles of application of wire remain the same, regardless of whether it is a fractured ankle, a fractured jaw or attaching fencing wire to a post.

Here are a couple of recent examples of my handiwork.

Attaching the weldmesh panels to star pickets for the sides of the compost bays.

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We bought a decorative wind ornament for the garden a few months ago but the pole was not sturdy enough to maintain an upright position.

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So, we placed a star picket immediately beside the pole and wired it to the star picket in 3 places to provide a sturdy brace.

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A couple of things to keep in mind when using wire.

Consider where the ‘knot’ will finish and make sure that it can be tucked out of the way to avoid risk of injury.

Make sure that the item is strong enough to accept to force of tensioning the wire.

Use a suitable gauge of wire appropriate to the job.

Always hold the end of the wire when cutting it to avoid injury.

 

Patched Pants

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Some would say that these shorts are not worth mending.  They are at least 25 years old and once upon a time they were 3/4 length travel pants.  After much wearing the knees finally gave way and I cut them off into a fairly unflattering pair of shorts.  They were only ever destined to be worn around the yard but they get a good workout fulfilling that role.  An incredibly comfortable pair of shorts that are lightweight and perfect for our hot summers.

They have been patched several times but the most recent rips almost saw the end of them.

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I decided to make an attempt on one more patch.

I selected a piece of strong cotton fabric which would generously cover the two large rips.  I then cut a matching piece of double-sided iron-on interfacing and ironed it to the wrong side of the patch.

 

Remove the paper backing and place on the wrong side of the area to be patched.  Make sure that the rips are closely aligned then press again to fuse the patch to the garment.

Use a wide zigzag stitch to stitch over the rip.  You may need to do several runs to cover it.  Finally, use a narrower zigzag stitch to finish the edges of the patch.

The outside and inside views when completed.

This is not invisible or even particularly neat so is really only suitable for clothes where looks are not important.

We spend a significant amount of time in the garden or painting and renovating so functional ‘old’ clothes are a must.  It makes sense to extend the life of them as much as possible.

My shorts with multiple patches have survived to see another summer but that is a few months away yet.  It is good to be prepared, though.

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Compost Bays – Completed

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We now have 4 new functioning compost bays, and as promised, here are some views of the finished product.

Because of the slope, the ground needed to be levelled once all of the structure was in place.

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Close-up of some of the details.

We wired the mesh panels to the star pickets.

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Geotextile stapled to the inside of the timber lattice.

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The 5 metres of geotextile and 1 star picket were the only new purchases we made for this project.  Everything else was already here and most of it had been salvaged or recycled.

One of the most important considerations when planning this project was the street view.  The back of the bays are parallel to and only 1 metre inside our boundary fence which faces the road.

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I am very pleased with the result, and if anything, it has actually enhanced the view from the street.

 

Compost Bays – Stage 1

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I mentioned at the end of my previous post that GMan’s latest garden project was building compost bays.

We have a small acreage (1.5 acres) in a temperate sub-tropical area with a high rainfall and good soil.  This means that everything (including the weeds) grows at a rapid rate and we are constantly trimming, pruning, weeding and mulching as well as the regular kitchen scraps.

There is a compost tumbler but this is nowhere near sufficient to keep up with the demand.  Over the years we have employed several methods of containing the compost, including a small rainwater tank cut down and 44 gallon drums plus enclosures made from a selection of wire panels.  At times these have been located within the vegetable garden area but as we expand the crops we are growing we needed a more permanent solution.

These photos show a couple of the previous solutions.

Cut down rainwater tank and compost tumbler in the background.

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Wire enclosure and metal rubbish bins beyond the garden beds on the right of the photo.

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We wanted our permanent compost bays to be within reasonable proximity to both the house and the vegetable garden/orchard.  The other limitation is that much of the land is either very steep (the rear of the block) or subject to intermittent flooding during heavy rain.  Therefore, the best site was quite close to our front boundary so it needed to be aesthetically pleasing.  This is no mean feat, considering that it will be constructed almost entirely from recycled and salvaged materials.

Two large panels of timber lattice will form the back of the bays and this will face the street.  We acquired these from a former neighbour about 10 years ago and they have been stored under the house.  GMan painted them ‘Woodland Grey’ to match the fence post and pergola.  The posts had been left over from previous landscaping projects and were painted and cut to length.

Because of the slope of the land, the bays will be stepped as can be seen from the height of the lattice.

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The central divider is made up of pieces of a roller door that retrieved from a friend – once again, many years ago. GMan riveted them together and cut it to size.  There will be a total of 4 bays, 2 on each side of the central divider.  These will be created using sections of Weldmesh panels which were here when we bought the house 14 years ago.  We have used them for a multitude of purposes but this will be the final location for some of them.

There is no more work happening on this today as GMan is the baker as well as the gardener/handyman around here and today he is making sourdough bread.

However, I will post some more photos when the compost bays are completed.  I will include a view from the street so that you can see how we have managed to keep it looking neat and integrated with the rest of the garden structures despite being only a metre from our front boundary.