Tuesday, May 21, 2019

All things compost



Over at the Gully Grove website, I've written about all our composting attempts to date. It was interesting for me to revisit where it all began, to where we ended up! If you want to read the new update, visit Compost Gully.

Just a quick update, on the comment box on my website too - Weebly has determined it's a bug, and is endeavouring to fix the "notify of reply" check-box. You can still comment, with no problems. But the tick won't appear, if you click the option to be notified of follow-up comments.

Passionfruit slice

My kitchen has been getting a workout recently. The things I've had to bake in the last week, are a birthday cake, and some bake wares for my son's school. The latter was to raise funds on voting day (last Saturday) as they ran a baking stall, and sausage sizzle at the school - where people vote.

I made caramel popcorn. Yum! But do you think I remembered to take a photo? Good news is, the stall was a resounding success. So all those kitchens around the community, baked up a storm!

But this post is about, Passionfruit slice. I have a gluten free version (which I personally think tastes better) but will share the regular flour recipe, in the "variations", down the very bottom.


These two ingredients are staples in my pantry ~
but you can use fresh passionfruit, if it's in season for you



PASSIONFRUIT SLICE


Preheat oven 170 C (fan-forced) or 180 standard oven
Grease and line a slice pan


 Ingredients pressed in pan, ready to bake

STEP 1 (BASE):


Combine 1/2 cup plain, Gluten free flour *
                1/4 cup almond meal *
                1/4 cup buckwheat flour *
                1 cup desiccated coconut
                1/2 cup white sugar
                1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
                125g melted butter
                1 tea vanilla


  • Mix together in bowl, until well combined - then press into slice pan.
  • Bake 15 minutes, or just golden brown. Don't over bake. Cool slightly.



A little overdone - aim for "just" gold brown



Reduce oven temperature to 120 C (fan-forced) 130 standard oven


STEP 2 (TOPPING):

              
Combine 1x 395g can of condensed milk
                1x 170g can of passionfruit pulp *
                juice of one lemon


  • Mix together in bowl, until well combined - then pour and spread over base.
  • Bake 10 minutes, or until set. 
  • Cool, then slice into individual portions. Store in fridge, in a sealed container.



Glossy after baking


(*) VARIATIONS:


For all those questions you may want to ask, about ingredient substitutions

  • Substitute the 1/2 cup Gluten free flour, for regular flour, OR,
  • Substitute the first 3 dry ingredients (base) with 1 cup regular flour, OR,
  • Substitute the first 3 dry ingredients (base) with 1 cup Gluten Free flour
  • Substitute canned passionfruit pulp with 2x fresh passionfruit (just the pulp)
  • Add zest, as well as juice of the lemon, if you like tart. Otherwise just the juice 
  • A slightly larger can of condensed milk (up to 410g) is fine


Enjoy!


While I personally love tart flavours, and will enthusiastically add both the zest and juice, to most recipes - it tends to overpower the flavour of passionfruit, in this one. So it's one of those extremely rare recipes, I will opt for the zest OR the juice. The latter, is more palatable for children.  

Once finished, the base should be chewy, and the topping like a soft gelatin, which will keep it's form, once cut.

If you're wondering why I add the buckwheat flour and almond meal - it adds depth of flavour (and a few more nutrients) to what is otherwise, just white flour and coconut for the base. This is unashamedly, an indulgent, sweet treat. But any way I can slip in a few more nutrients, and improve the flavour, I will.

After sitting down and writing about this slice, I think I can hear it calling from from fridge! Most likely, it's just my stomach talking, lol. I missed lunch.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Before we were...

I have promised a Passionfruit-slice recipe, which was meant to be the very next post. However, I couldn't let Mother's day pass, without a tribute, first. This special day is a happy time for some, and a sad one, for others. Mothers who have passed away, and some who struggle, to live up to the title - well, life is not always fair like that. Yet we hold "mother" as the gracious role it was meant to be.



My mum & I, on my wedding day ~ 2013
6 months pregnant with my first child


Like all mums (myself included) we are not perfect. Yet they endeavour to be there, for all the important things. Like being ready with a band-aid, when kids fall from their bikes. A hug when they feel uncertain. Home-made meals, only mum can make. They teach us it's okay to fail, and more importantly, how to get back up again. Basically, they try to be there, to help shape us into decent human-beings.

My mum is getting older. I am getting older too. So are my kids. It's all happening the way it should. Yet, how easy is it, to get caught in the busyness of life, and forget how important the ones who went before us, really are? Does it matter what we're doing, if we forget them? For me at least, life starts to lose more of it's meaning, when glossing over the ones who came before us. I know all too well, life can be stressful and take my eyes away. And the needs of my own kids, don't take care of themselves either.

So how do you balance it all together?


My youngest, makes a heart ~ he will turn six, soon


As my mother taught me - each day is a brand new one, and (if you're lucky) you get to start all over again. So start each day, like it's a new opportunity to do better. Hindsight only comes, if we give ourselves the benefit of patience, grace and humility, to change. This applies, whether we are mothers or not. I wasn't a mother, when she taught me this. But oh, how I've needed that wisdom, when I threaten to come undone as one. Or maybe, even just as a human being.

Patience, grace and humility have more value, than any kind of busyness which can occupy us. Because it purchases the coveted ticket, of gaining wisdom. Something, I might add, I'm still attempting to do! Because life (at this point in time) is extremely busy. But I'm fortunate to have my family, still with me. To remind me, what it's all for.

At some point, the baton will pass to my own children. And I hope through all their busyness (that comes with life) they will see the seed of wisdom, my own mother planted in me. So they too, may blossom with this understanding. For it's an imperfect world, we live - and each day, is a brand new one.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Update



For all those who still keep me in their blog lists - thank you! I will leave a notification here, every time I do a blog post (see the latest) on my new property website. 

I will still be blogging here, just not in as much detail, about the property. It's more to do with my life, family, cooking and other stuff. Although I'm sure the property will still be mentioned here, from time to time. Just not in as much detail.

I have not forgotten that Passionfruit slice recipe, Meg *wink*. I intend to share that (here) next.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Technical difficulties

Photo by burak kostak from Pexels


Well it cannot be a true unveiling, unless something goes wrong. Like going live, with my new website today, lol. I realise the Disqus comment box is becoming an issue, so I've reverted to the Weebly default comment box, - in hopes Weebly will help me fix it again. Doing what I can behind the scenes, but I'm waiting for their feedback. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

You can actually make a comment successfully, using the default. But the checkbox which says, "Notify me of new comments..." doesn't apply a tick, when clicked. Even though the service will be engaged, if you click it once. It's terribly confusing.

I'm just going to be good humoured about it all, and chalk it up to a learning experience. So folks, you're free to still visit my site - it's live. You can even comment via the default comment box, without any unnecessary hoops to jump through to sign in. Just a name, email and optional website address. But you may get confused when it comes to checking the "Notify me of new comments" box.

I'll post updates, as they come. Hoping the default can be fixed. But for now, thanks for your patience folks.

Lift off

Image by IO-Images from Pixabay


Guess what folks? I was able to string enough time together, over the long weekend, to finally complete my website. YAY! If you just want the fun of exploring the new website, all on your own, visit gullygrove.com now. It's a fairly basic website (nothing too fancy) but I enjoyed putting together all the little details, which say - this is what we're all about.

If you want a bit more information, namely about the comment box, here's the brief to help navigate.

**At present, I've switched to the Weebly default comment box again. To see if Weebly can help me fix the issue. So if you don't see the "Disqus" comment box (outlined below) that's why. Sorry for any confusion this is causing. I realise Disqus may be limiting your ability to contribute, so please disregard all of the below - for now.**

I was going to use the Weebly default, comment box, but there was an issue getting the notification of replies, to work. Which is an important feature. Opting for the third-party, Disqus comment box, not only fixed that problem, but has several more advantages:


  • Sign-in with existing Google, Facebook, Twitter or Disqus, social media accounts
  • Avatar image, distinguishes your comment
  • Pre-filled data, avoids unnecessary typing, every time you comment
  • Stores all your comments, in one place - from any website, using Disqus
  • Edit or Delete your comments
  • Easily add, images, gifs, links or video to comments
  • Rich text options (like bold, italics, underline and strikethrough)
  • Receive notifications of comments and replies, via the registered email
  • Immediate publishing of comments


Don't despair, if you only wish to comment as a guest - that option is also provided. Just click inside the comment box, and tick the box, which says, "I'd rather post as a guest". See this article, for a more detailed explanation. If you opt for this, please write your name and/or your blog name (ie: Chris, or Chris@GullyGrove) so I'll recognise you. It's not necessary, but I wouldn't want to miss a regular commenter, from this blog.

The 3 main disadvantages of the guest post (must there always be a downside?) are:


  • No email notifications of subsequent replies
  • Cannot edit or delete, once posted
  • Requires moderating, before publishing (sorry about this one, but it's out of my control)

If you have any questions or concerns about the comment box, let me know. While I have disabled the captcha verification process, I'm not sure if it still requires a checkbox (as a guest) to verify you're human. As opposed to a spam bot, lol. I know that process is annoying, but I suppose it prevents spamming.

UPDATE: Due to feedback on the possibility of information being collected, using Disqus, I'm including some links to the Opt-out feature, for tracking - as well as, how to make your Activity Private. Which are added layers of protection, while using Disqus.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

The blog boggler

What title could adequately describe, a conundrum, of the many different ways to set-up a blog? Nothing short of a tongue-twister, would do. Because that's what it feels like, trying to sift through all the options, and find ONE that's right for you. Luckily, I just finished torturing myself with the learning process - so I can shed a bit of light on what's involved, for others.

Basically, it's a choice between a company that specialises in making blogging as EASY, and user friendly as possible - for both the author, and the audience. Like Blogger and Wordpress. They have free blogs, with ready-made templates for you to move straight in to.

The second option, is to set up a blog, through a website.




The latter, it's a little more complicated, than just blogging. It requires creating a whole new website, for your blog to nestle into. This includes designing different pages from scratch (Home, About, etc) your website logo, and branding. This is all before getting to the blogging part! In some website builders, you construct each blog post from scratch too. Every. Single. Time. Luckily, I enjoy doing all that stuff as well.

With your own website, there is the possibility of running into technical problems. Which I've encountered recently, with Weebly. One of the elements weren't working, in the comment box. After many volleys between myself and the support team, I decided to nix the default comment box, Weebly supplied - and go with a third party, one.

Another third party, getting involved with my comment box!! Recollections of Google+. Thankfully Disqus has been operating for a long time, and many of the websites I follow, like Geoff Lawton's, also uses this embedded comment box. It provides the option to change web hosting companies, in future too, without losing my comments. As Disqus can be migrated over.




Bear in mind however, the price for your own website freedom, is to take full responsibility for running it. From conception, content creation and maintaining all the bits, which plug into it. That's the huge difference, and why I would encourage others to stay with their user-friendly blogging platforms - unless, you have a good reason to have your own website. Because it is a lot of responsibility, just to blog!

Thankfully for me, this new website happens to coincide with a few items, I've been wanting to cross off my bucket-list. So it's something I want to achieve. These new responsibilities, are a learning opportunity, and valuable skill-set to add to my repertoire. If I didn't have that drive and purpose though, I may not enjoy what can sometimes feel like a torturous learning curve.

Please let me know, why you would consider setting up your own website? Even if you're not in a position to follow through. Because it doesn't hurt to imagine what's possible.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Protecting your content

I received some great questions, about the process of changing blogging platforms - and what that might entail. Does it really add more protection, for your content, if you're paying? Also, how is it different blogging on a website, versus a dedicated blogging platform? I want to keep this simple, so will dedicate a post to each question.

So what does paying for your website, offer as protection for your content?




Well it all depends, who you choose as your website hosting company. There is a confusing amount of hosting companies around, but the companies I explored were, Wordpress, Bluehost, GoDaddy, Wix and Weebly. Why these? Because they offered either a free plan to start with, or a free trial period. If you're still a novice in the website building universe, why pay, before knowing if you actually like using these products?

These free versions, are limited in their features, however - Ecommerce, shopping carts, using your own domain name, etc: are generally, off the cards. Also the free versions, often come with advertising on your website (once you go live). But at least, you can experiment whether navigating their site builders, ie: how you put your site together - is for you. One of the reasons I chose Weebly, is because of the simple, drag and drop, construction process. But there are some limitations I will share a little later.




Effectively, when you're paying the hosting company though, you're paying for: a site builder, domain name, and real estate to park your website RV. As long as you continue to pay, you continue to protect your content. There is the option to purchase your domain name, elsewhere (which I did) but otherwise, as long as you continue to pay, they don't touch your content. That's entirely your department.

There is somewhat of a sizeable, caveat though. As long as the hosting company doesn't close down, or doesn't get hacked by a trojan virus, your content is safe. These incidents are extremely rare, but never say never. Which is why it's always sensible, to back-up your website, in some way. Most hosting companies have the ability to export a copy of your website, via a zip file, to your computer. And it's something you should do regularly, as a safeguard.

How accessible is that information afterwards though? Once again, it depends which hosting company you go with. This is one mistake I made with Weebly, I didn't realise until after paying for the plan. I can export a copy of my website, but it cannot be used to create a new website in Weebly. Isn't that remarkable? I have to manually cut and paste, everything back in.




However Wordpress have built a workaround, through a special importer tool. It allows you to migrate your Weebly website, over to Wordpress, in a simple process. Sadly, it's a feature Weebly hasn't offered it's paying customers. Weird. But I'm still happy with Weebly, introducing me to the concept of building my own website, nonetheless. You've got to start somewhere. If I need to change hosting companies, I will most likely go with Wordpress, for reasons I won't go into now. Because I know I'm already in danger of giving you information overload!

There's one other aspect I should mention, which deals directly with the Google+ shutdown recently. Another potential loss of information, can come from third party Apps. If you've embedded them into your website, and anything happens to the company with those Apps, the information they controlled (like comments, stats, etc) can get deleted too. Which was the case with Google+, and my Blogger account.




So just because you're paying to protect your content, doesn't necessarily guarantee 100% protection. But what it does mean is, you have more control over, what Apps deal with your content, and what advertising is shown on your blog/website. As a general rule, the website hosting company, doesn't want to touch or otherwise delete your content - as that's their business, keeping you in business. Which is why, when building your website, it's a good idea to keep as many features with the hosting company as possible. The more third-party Apps you bring in - the more liable you are, for things to go wrong.

The one exception to the rule, is when it comes to buying and hosting your domain name. I won't go into that now though. This post, is already long enough!




I hope that helps to answer the question about what protection, is gained through paying for a website, versus a free blogging platform. There is slightly more protection (definitely more control) if you're paying, but check what each hosting company offers - more importantly, what they don't.

My advice, unless you have an interest building your own website (for personal or business reasons) then stick with a free blogging platform. You don't have to make all these decisions, or go through a steep learning curve, just to blog about what you like. Always be diligent however, no-matter what option, to back-up a copy of your content, via the export tool.

Although the desire to have more protection, was in the forefront of my mind. The desire to start a website, was a personal reaffirmation about our property too. Which I've written about in my first blog post, on the new website. But I've got one little issue, I'm attempting to fix, before I can go live. Just one! So close.



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Pauses and practice

The house is quiet. Kids are back at school today. Mercifully, the chocolate has gone back into hiding again. Yesterday, we had visitors from Brisbane, and enjoyed the art of all-day conversations. But the introvert in me, is grateful for the stillness, now. I can gather my thoughts, to plan the next steps.

Pauses on my blog, are normally due to one of a few things. I'm either peculating ideas, which need time to take form. Or busy working in the background, on the mundane and/or extraordinary aspects of my life. Family needs me. I need me. Or the words just won't come. But the pauses, always give me new things to write about, later on. So they are productive, in their own way.


Recycled coffee jars and used chocolate wrappers ~ 
make Bunny themed presents, for relatives


I was wondering when I would mention something, I'm working on, in the background through the pauses, though. Something new to do with my blog. It involves, all of the "few" things I mentioned above, and so many more new things, to learn and put into practice.

Okay...

So I'm working on building my own website. A new home for Gully Grove. I won't be closing this blog down, because I'm respectful of the links, others have been so kind to put on their blogs. Plus I don't want to lose, documenting over ten years of our lives. I will still post here, when it has to do with Sourdough, or things which may not have a lot, to do with our property's development. But I will always link to the new website, here, when I write a new post about the property.


Brown paper bags, and used chocolate wrappers ~
also make Bunny themed gifts


I'll share all the reasons why I'm changing, later. But it was time to make a declaration about it. Making it real, instead of a "maybe" that was still creating pauses in writing this blog. It's rather mundane and tedious, to put a website together - but also extraordinary, I can even try. I look forward to unveiling this new development, in full. Soon, I hope!

May you have enjoyed the holiday, just past (safe and sound) ready to pay respects to the Anzacs, next.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The hand you're dealt

You know how at Easter, after stuffing yourself silly on chocolate, you swear never again! Until the nausea is forgotten about, and you're back to eating the regular 4 squares of chocolate, a day? Yes, I really do that. The 4 squares, that is. I don't gorge on chocolate at Easter any more though - not like I used to. Yet there are other vices, which still manage to catch me out.

Like doing online research, and learning how to use computer graphics programs, in new and interesting ways! I had a binge session recently, followed by the swearing off technology, until my senses returned. Hence, the sudden silence on the blog front.

But I have stuff to share, you funky people...so let's get to it!


Pitter-patter


Remember this stuff? It's meant to fall from the sky during our summer rainy season. But decided to skip it entirely, and make a late appearance, in autumn instead. I wasn't going to mention the first storm. Or the second. The one with large hail. Ultimately though, I was expecting the storm activity to disappear. Thankfully, it decided to love on our property a while longer, with steady, all day rain.

So that now...


 It's accumulating


...puddles are begging to form in the swales again. This sight always makes me so happy. But after this year, I recognise a swale of itself, is only as useful as the rain falling from the sky. So I look upon it, a little more soberly. Extremely grateful however, we still got a reprieve from the dry.

So now life can slowly begin to emerge around the new water source again.


Sweet cycles


I caught a couple of dragonflies, dancing around the pooling water. Teasing it with their feet and tails, as they dipped in. I had to follow them, up and down the swale. Because their iridescent wings, didn't want to stay still long enough, for my camera to focus in.

This is part of the tantilising orchestra though, which always emerges after the rain settles in. I couldn't resit chasing the dragonflies, in the rain, as it felt like forever - since hearing the delicate whisper of their tiny wings.


 Hello there


The resident kangaroos were feasting on the new greenery, which they had waited for the rain to bring, also. October last year, was the last flush of decent greenery they got to enjoy. Now her gaunt facial features, from the summer drought, are just starting to fill out again. Which also makes me very happy to see.

But again, I reflect soberly. How quickly it can all change.


 Remember these, hugelkultur mounds?


This was mostly dust, not that long ago. The paths are slowest to respond to the moisture, with all that compaction. Yet how quickly the greenery emerges elsewhere, after the rain. I was beginning to wonder if we would see it, before winter came again.

It's still not the kind of rain we're used to dealing with - the reason we built all those swales and ponds to begin with. But we could still feel the soil take a deep breath, it desperately needed.


 Like a sponge


With the dwindling heat of autumn, the moisture still has time to break down the plentiful supply of wood material. I've already seen several blooms of fungi emerge. While hopeful to see at all, it's still not as plentiful as normal years. But really, what is normal nowadays?

The weather patterns are changing, and maybe this is the new normal?


Human ingenuity


Unlike our dry-stone retaining wall, which is pretty permanent and predictable - nature has been fluctuating to more extremes. More heat. More time between drinks. Even more rain when it does fall, which causes more erosion.

Really the jostle is to find some kind of medium, on this ever fluctuating scale of normal. Is drought normal, for this particular 10 year cycle. Or is it, the wet? In the wet, is a great time to get plants established. In the dry, it culls a lot of potentials and breaks your heart.


Like night and day


When everything starts to green up again, the casualties, really begin to stand out. This hardy native, Westringa (right) is cactus now. Yet the Brazilian cherry on the left (also known as Surinam cherry) was able to pull through. Although, the cost was not seeing any fruit flushes, all growing season. There just wasn't the rain to spark that particular event.

Still, it lived. Which cannot be said for some of my other fruit trees.


Bupkis baby


I've lost all my bananas, an avocado, and surprisingly a mulberry tree. These are normally, the most bulletproof edible fruit trees I've come across. This one was planted in the lowest gully, which normally floods. It hasn't happened for well over a year now, but I thought surely this specimen had the best location for survival?

The dry slopes are much less forgiving. Yet the oldest mulberry we have, lives on those very slopes, and managed to pull through.


Original mulberry (centre)


It's extremely sparse on the leaf front, as it's normally covered in leaves. But it's also an older tree by several years, than the one which died recently. It was established in a flood too, so had the opportunity to send it's roots down deeper.

I also credit it's survival, from being planted on the berm of a swale, as well as stacking functions around it. While I think it looked like the flooding gully, was giving the other mulberry more water, it wasn't being held up as much, as the swale was doing, for the surviving mulberry. The directed water in the swale therefore, really encouraged the tree roots to go down deep, in the years we were receiving rain.  

The observation I take from this particular drought, is while water is indeed the crucial factor here, large amounts (passing by) are no indicators of success. It's "directed" water, held back, which really sets up the roots better for extended dry periods. So I need to identify how to concentrate water, when it does fall from the sky, and place my edible trees around it.


 Lush and green again


The clear winner though, has to be the grass. An annual which seeds itself quite readily, is the quickest to respond to water. It all but browns off at the surface, and we never scramble to save it. Yet it completely overtakes the garden, as soon as the rains return.

The heavy seed-heads are bent over, when they're laden with water too. So it carpets the ground, to hold-in more moisture. I know it looks unruly and unkempt, but we hardly scramble to control the grass either. For starters, there's just too much of it, but it also has a vital cycle to perform, setting seed for the next drought. So it can emerge quickly, after the rains return again.


 An early morning, walk in the bush


How do I feel about it all though? Grateful. Sober from the experience. And finally, hopeful in a new directed purpose. Not that swales are the be all, and end all. Especially when it comes to establishing plants (short term) in a drought. Seriously, they're useless when it comes to that! But you've got to cop it all on the chin, and be realistic. This is nature, we're dealing with here. It's not made to please us, or our ideas of what a garden is meant to be. It's there to make us better gardeners, whatever the season.

So set up your infrastructure, regardless, to take advantage of the wet cycles. For me, it's swales and ponds. But be prepared to find the best medium, in the drought cycle too. Whatever that happens to be. We're talking decade investments in a garden for resilience, not annual returns. Although they're always nice to have, and I will always "try" to glean some kind of annual edible harvest. Greenthumb nirvana cannot be based on that premise alone though, or its likely to bring disappointment.

Because annual plants are short lived, and designed to expire quickly anyway. Throw in an extreme event, and they're the first to fail. It's more disappointing for me, when my perennial trees fail. But I've got to cop that on the chin, also. If I choose, I can accept the feedback delivered, and work with it. That's what nature's going to be doing, without me anyway - so why not become a willing student in the process?

I hope your gardens are delivering treasures, whatever they're being subjected to, at the moment. I know we don't always get, how we desire it to be. We can still play the hand we're dealt though, to the best of our ability.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Unexpected bills, part 2

Somewhere between the car dying, replacing the battery, and having it die again...the oven in the kitchen went kaput! We only had the element replaced eight years ago. Yeah, I'm kidding. Eight years is pretty good, in the world of Whitegoods. Just the timing, could be better.


 Old faithful


In the post written back in 2011, I estimated $180 for the repair bill of our (then) broken oven. Well it came in, after GST (Goods & Sevices Tax) at $190. We got eight years longer, from old faithful. Could the same great, repair company, come to our ovens' rescue again?

Indeed. They replaced the element and a few lugs in the back. It cost $208, this time. A mere $18 hike in eight years. That's cheaper than two coffees and two slices of cake, at a cafe. Also, that's now TWO ovens of ours, they've prevented going into landfill. Makes me want to do a happy dance!


Inside my 12 year old oven ~
 element, around the fan


Speaking to the technician, he said there isn't much, which can go wrong in a BASIC oven. Electrolux parts can fit our oven, even though the brand (Gianni) no longer exists. We got lucky. Apparently, Westinghouse is the Whitegoods company in Australia, with the MOST readily available parts. But if you have an oven that fits Electrolux parts, you're fortunate. As they're well made. Our eight-years, straight run, on an Electrolux element, can testify.

Wow - eight years. That went fast! Guess we've been living here, for almost 12 years, come this Easter.


Made a passionfruit slice, yesterday ~
(Gluten Free)


I can probably expect to write my next, "oven carked it", post, in 2027. Hopefully the car is still around then, and me too! The emergency fund better stay in shape, though. Because just like taxes, death (of Whitegoods) is a given. It's comforting to know however, our stance on purchasing only BASIC Whitegoods, may continue to stand us in good stead.

One small, side note - in case my regular repair company ever goes anywhere, there's also Downs Appliance Repair (DAR) in our region.


A rare, light-bulb moment


Oh yes, one other thing I forgot to mention - our fridge light-bulb, carked it too. At a mere $3 or so, pocket change in comparison. But doesn't it all add up in the end? Bad timing. An extra month's grace would have been great!

In the scheme of things, we're still doing okay. I don't have to choose whether to get the oven fixed, OR, put food on the table. Even though Murphy's Law, applies in this situation, it's still not the end of the world. It's good to keep that in perspective.

I would be ever so grateful though, if no more unexpected repair bills, came to visit for a while.



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Unexpected bills, part 1

As the title suggests, there's more to this story. We had a couple of unexpected bills, join the queue of regular expenses, for this time of year. Anyone who owns a home, knows Council (County for the US) rates are due, the first electricity bill arrives, and in our particular case, annual registration for one car and a trailer. Oh, did I mention the insurance too? Car, and home.

Thank goodness, my car rego, comes later in the year. I guess it was feeling left out, and decided to die one afternoon. Not entirely unexpected, as the battery light had appeared on my dashboard for about a month. I assumed it was a dying battery. When it did quit, we simply replaced the battery and thought all was well. Until...


"I'm Givin' Her all She's Got, Captain!"


The day it was booked into Toyota (just to make sure) the battery was completely dead again. Brand new battery! Thankfully, I'm a member of RACQ, so they jump-started the car at home, and checked the issue. It was then, I discovered, I wouldn't be going anywhere. Not driving anyway. They would have to tow my car, into Toyota.

In order to save the brand new, top of the line battery we just purchased, it was best not to drive the vehicle at all. Because the alternator was overcharging the battery. Okay, great to know. New alternator time. Over $700 later though (includes a service and a few extra parts) I had my car back. Crikey!

Truly, I'm grateful RACQ and Toyota, were able to rescue my little sedan. Even though it had to stay in longer than planned. Three days, all up. I've also got another $300+ bill coming in a few months, to fix a few other issues they found. On the whole though, my car is pretty problem free. I rarely have issues with it 99% of the time. Not like the Ford I had, previously.


I'm sure this was smaller, a few months ago!


Gotta love, torn seat-covers, for that true vintage look I've been aiming for. Okay, maybe not? But to appease my DIY, frugal mindset, which had absolutely no place fixing my car at the time, I decided to give my car, some extra care and attention, when it returned home. Best part - it would cost absolutely '0' mullah.

And maybe it will know, I truly do appreciate it, and not try any more drastic attempts for attention, in future.


Matching pair


Both the driver's side, and passenger seat-covers were torn. And nothing says I live in the country, without sealed roads - like dirt, caking the entire carpet. My kids have worked hard, trouncing that inside the vehicle. Actually, it's not that hard. You can see the culprit in the lower left-hand corner. The dirt is just begging to jump inside the car, on the bottom of shoes.

Thankfully, I had the sense to purchase front car-seat covers, in the middle of last year, when on sale. I just hadn't gotten around to installing them. Maybe it's time, when the $700 paid to fix the darn thing, looks like overcapitalising.


Much better! 
Still must work out, all those wrinkles


After the dust settled once again, in our little corner of the world, it was a good reminder how important an emergency fund is. There's virtually no public transport system, in the country (school bus only) so you have to ensure your vehicles are working.

A stroke of good fortune in all this, is my husband happened to be on holidays, when it unfolded. So I didn't have to worry about how the kids would get to the bus and back. Especially when the walk home, looks directly into the afternoon sun, with almost no shade.

Stay tuned, for part two, in the queue of unexpected bills.



Monday, March 4, 2019

Almost, catch-up time

I have a lot of catching up to do with you guys. So many times I wanted to sit down and write a blog post, but there was barely enough time to catch my breath, during the day. Nothing earth shattering is happening in our world, just regular stuff. Which is actually good stuff!

It's been a mixed bag of some expected things, and some not. The unexpected (read: expensive) things we didn't want to happen, were delightfully balanced out by encountering some unexpected savings too.

I promised myself, I would sit down a little this week, and tackle a post to catch up! Not one big post, but lots of little ones. I think I can manage that. But first...


White Baker's flour ~
organic, and Australian ingredients


This, just in today, after returning from a trip into town for supplies. If you're a baker of bread, and happen to live near, "The Source" - a bulk buy, bring your own packaging and mostly organic shop, then check out their special on Baker's flour.

It's normally $27 for a 5kg bag of flour, but for this week, it's only $20. Or $4 a kilo. I know I can get it cheaper at a Supermarket - somewhere between $11-$14, for the same amount. Which is the route (confession time) I normally take. But at such a reduced price, I wanted to try what organic, Baker's flour would be like to make bread with. I don't know if this is a local special only, as the general website seems to list the normal price.

I intend to take a serious look at how I shop for food, this year. In an attempt to reduce plastic packaging, and see if I can source more local produce. I actually had a couple of wins on that today. Which I'll share in another post.

Anyway, if you want to know where, The Source, Toowoomba store is located, it's on the corner of Ruthven and Campbell Street, opposite, "The Spotted Cow". If you want to know where's the nearest store is in your State, check out their Store Locations link.

Have you come across any great specials in your area, recently?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Making tracks

"There’s a track winding back
To an old-fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai –


Do you recognise this line, from the classic Australian folk song, Along the road to Gundagai? It was made popular during, World War II, when battered Australian soldiers, dreamed of returning home. The lyrics call, to make your way back home again - to family, friends the landscape, and ultimately, the things of your youth.

I guess that's the power of a road, and how to find yourself on one! Which is a rather long introduction, for my first land management post, for 2019. We're making tracks. Literally. Into the bush. For a significant purpose. I will return to that classic Australian folk song, at the end.


 One of these paths, is not like the other


Above, is a Roo Track, made by kangaroos. They're forged over the years, by a multitude of hopping marsupials. It's pretty impressive. However, those tracks are generally narrow, and follow a ridge-line. Consequently, they tend to be steep. Which is great, if you're as agile, as a healthy kangaroo!

Looking into the future though, if we want to use small machines to get about on our property (because of age, or we just need to get equipment up there) it makes sense, to develop better tracks. How do we do that? By working with the contour of the land....


 Going up slope
 

The contour, is essentially the shape of the slope. We wanted to cut a road, around the contour of the slope, rather than straight up it, like a ridge. This creates a gentler gradient for people, animals and machinery to traverse.

We started by raking away the mulch (compliments of nature - thank you!) and used a mattock, to cut into the slope. Then the fill from that cut, got dumped further away from the slope - making a wider track. Old logs and branches were placed at the base, to stop the fill, slowly migrating down hill.

Covered with the mulch again, it looks like it's always been there.


Top of the path


We're still working on the top of the slope, as indicated by the dirt. We'll mulch over it, once satisfied, enough fill has leveled the top. We're not going for plumb level, accurate. Slopes are the nature of the terrain, and we'd be working forever, trying to flatten everything. So the goal, is only to flatten the ruts and any dangerous tipping points, up the top.

Nature helps in this regard as well, by providing the trees we cut down, to stop the fill, migrating down hill. This is how we managed to flatten(ish) the top of the slope, a little more. A large tree trunk was used, to raise the level of the footpath. Not much higher, but enough to make a difference.


Fill, butts against the log


As you can see, we're still working around a lot of living trees too. And I mean, A LOT! Which is how we get so much, free mulch and landscaping logs, in the first place. It's nice, that we don't have to hitch-up the trailer and make a trip into town for these things. Nor, hand over our hard-earned money. We just wander into the bush, with some hand tools, and find what we need.

We're enjoying one of the many pay-offs, for not removing the indigenous plants, willy-nilly. Although it IS harder work, when you want to remove them. But it's far better to work from abundance, than scarcity. Especially in a drought.


   The drop-off


At the very top of our new path, it merges with another, preexisting, Roo track. It goes down into a steep dip, because it's near the end of one of our gullies. Or a natural path of erosion, where the water runs off, in a storm. That water, continues to cut between two slopes - creating a wider and deeper gully.

We're planning on harnessing those windfalls of water, and stopping the erosion. By improving the old Roo track, in the process. We're going to fill in that dip, with more dirt.


Dam wall, joins with new track


We're getting that dirt, by cutting a new pond, back into the gully - up slope. We create the dam wall, by dumping the dirt, lower down hill. I had some good clay in the beginning, but the further I cut into the gully, the more sandy sediment I'm finding. Which is not suitable, for building dam walls.

However, it's perfect for footpaths where quick drainage, is desired. So we hauled that sandy sediment, to the top of our footpath. Now we've improved the gradient up hill, I can migrate clay to the dam wall, from the front of the property, instead. My barrow will have a much easier time of it.

It's a lot of hard work, but also significant work too. I actually started this project, last year. The heat of summer, mostly put an end to it. However, there were a couple of reminders lately, to get cracking again.


Attempting to cool down


Remember this female Joey, that was enjoying the cool dirt, recently? She actually found that patch of dirt, from the footpath I tinkered with. Her presence reminded me, what we do in the landscape, has an impact.

It was the presence of the Roo tracks, which showed us, where to start improving them in the first place. Not on any part of the slope, but where the kangaroos had specifically chosen. We're essentially, following the tracks the kangaroos have laid out. Then, improving them.

But now for some sad news...


Some don't make it


Fret not. This isn't our female Joey, but a male kangaroo. Only about 3 years old, we estimated. In another year, he would have entered his prime - but unfortunately, we think he had a collision with a car. Somehow, he made his way back home. He would have been raised here, by his mother. Which is why we think he returned.

We first saw his injuries, late January, when he was drinking from the birdbath. He couldn't hop, because of an injury to his heel, but he could walk on one foot, with the help of his tail. I don't know how far he walked, but I know I saw him enter our property, from the back - where there are no roads. So he had a long way to travel.

Several days later, in early February - I found him laid out, in the lowest and widest gully on the property. Which normally floods. But not this year. Not for over a year. So we buried him, right next to where he laid. I couldn't help but wonder, afterwards - why here? Why did you walk all that way, to come home - when you could barely even walk?


Life continues


I guess the answer to that question, starts right here - with the next generation of male Joey. I wrote about this little fellow, suddenly appearing, while Growing at Gully Grove. He's about the same age as that female Joey, above. So he's bigger now. I saw them both in the yard, yesterday afternoon, grazing from the grass, watered by our septic.

These Joey's are brought here, by their mothers, because we landscape with them in mind. We keep the plants, improve the tracks and hold back the water. In the wet. As well as in the dry. Which is precisely why, that injured male came home to rest, I guess.

"Then no more will I roam,
When I’m heading right for home
Along the road to Gundagai."



All tracks, lead home


I know it's a little sad, but just like we followed the kangaroo trails, I couldn't help but thank this male, almost at his prime - for reminding me to continue improving those tracks again. For people and animals to use, who may not be in their prime any more.

There's a rhyme and reason, for everything we do here. Always more connections, than what's on the mere surface. Consider a dirt track. After all, it only comes into being, because everything was laid down before it. The water cuts the gully. The kangaroos, mark the trails. The people (at least these two) attempt to build a track, across it.

Are you planning for your not-so-prime years yet? Any great ideas to share? As you can see by this post, we're planning for better accessibility around the property. For us, and the wildlife, we share our story with.