Monday, February 24, 2014

Roll out!

Coming together

An update on our driveway project. We have laid enough concrete grid pavers to get up the driveway now. The look on everyone's face who drives up, is of stunned silence.

No more, yippee ki-yay...

Finally, tyre tracks!

We had to make a small modification, by adding another concrete ramp. We still had the cement mixer on loan, so it just meant another few hours, pouring cement. It's a vast improvement, as the drop-off from the original concrete stop was too high. This has made all the difference from bumps to smooth sailing.

There's still quite a few days work involved in laying the rest of the pavers, and back-filling dips and ruts on the sides of the driveway. But I think we've turned the final corner and now on the home stretch! Happy dance...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Natural foods

Despite the inhospitable environment we try to grow European type foods in, there is nonetheless an abundance of natural foods growing around us.

early morning blooms

We have two small (coppice) eucalyptus trees in full bloom near the water tank. Because they're coppiced - happened when the earthworks to build the house, cleared the area, and they grew back - but their trunks are shorter, so we can see the flowers closer to ground level.

branches dripping with nectar

While we don't eat these abundant blooms, if we kept bees, we'd sure be self-sufficient in honey. But the Rainbow Lorrikeets and Fruit Bats love to gorge themselves on the blooms. We hear the bats at night, but they (thankfully) don't squabble much. Plus they're kind enough to avoid hitting the car parked nearby, with their bat scats.

The blooms smell incredibly sweet, and its no wonder it draws all the nectar feeding animals like a magnet. It's quite the feeding station, early in the morning and again at dusk.

loves the concrete near the house

Another plant which springs-up voluntarily near the house, is purslane. It's a native herb ground cover, which is also somewhat of a super food. It contains more omega-3 fatty acids, than any other leafy vegetable you could consume. It seems to be doing really well this year, with more of them popping up, so I may just add some to my scrabbled eggs. Our guinea pigs get pickings most of the time too. I wonder if that's why they've lived such a long life?

I do love the eucalyptus blooms however - it will be sad to see them stop, along with the regular animal visitors. But it's nice to know, even in an inhospitable environment like ours, there are some things doing exceptionally well without our input.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hello civilization

I say this with some giddy exuberance, but we have been working on something which will bring us back in line with the rest of civilization. I am of course, referring to "roads".

Our driveway, oh boy, is something we've lived with for six years. It's like Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde. Half is perfectly presentable, the other half is somewhat of a monster to navigate. The dirt ruts are so bad, I've had my car exhaust-pipe welded back together, twice!

The big dipper

The driveway climbs a slope that needs some traction, and dirt inevitably travels down hill. We had the funds to have the front section of our driveway concreted by professionals, before we moved in six years ago - but the latter was a little project we always meant to finish ourselves. Settling on the design was the main issue. We learned with concrete, that rainwater travels down the slope very quickly. We weren't in a hurry to start pouring concrete again.

Driveway solution

In the end, we decided on turf stones, which is a concrete grid paver. It allows the water through, dispersing the energy, so water doesn't travel fast. We had two pallets of pavers delivered and starting to lay them. They will be filled with stones to help with drainage.

The main job we've been working on is the concrete stop, which will butt the pavers and prevent them from travelling down hill too. We could install wooden stakes through the grids (and may yet do this) but we wanted a concrete stop at the bottom of the slope, all the same.

Rebar leftovers, surplus to house build

We installed the form-work on Tuesday and started pouring cement the next day! A work colleague of David's loaned us a cement mixer. It was a lovely stroke of luck, that was until we tried using it. Bolts were undone, fan belts were loose and the drive wheel wasn't attached properly. Thanks to David's mechanical sleuthing, we had it fixed within an hour. Then it took 2 more hours to finish pouring the cement. We're still very grateful for the loaner.

Drive wheel fitted and secured properly

How is it that I'm so stoked about a road though? Here in the Lockyer Valley, our rain events tend to be hard and fast. Add a hill to that, and in no-time there is, a la', erosion. I don't like erosion, I need the land to stay put. But things like access roads are an intrusion on nature, and poorly designed ones can really cause damage. That's why we procrastinated so long on the design. We wanted something that would counter the energy caused by installing a hard surface driveway. The grid pavers should achieve that.

Six courses laid

We're pretty chuffed with our progress to date. The worst part (the concreting) is over. I'm glad we can put it behind us now. David and I worked diligently as a team, and our daughter was able to keep her little brother entertained (just). Thank goodness we can almost mark off another project from our list. As you can tell, we're not in a hurry - six years is a long time to finish a driveway.

We hope to catch-up on all those projects we put aside to have our baby recently. Which reminds me of a funny story (at the time it wasn't) but going up the driveway, when I was in full labour, was no picnic. The joys of being a hard-working, money poor couple. Our baby arrived safely, and we can now marvel at the soon-to-be finished driveway!

All roads may lead to Rome, but I'll just settle for the 30 metres to our house...hello civilization.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Friends with chaos

I've been away from my blog while getting our daughter back into the swing of school again. I've also been chipping away at something I've decided to challenge myself with this year. I'm de-cluttering years of our life in an attempt to simplify. It's not just because my life will be easier keeping things tidy, but bush fires and the real threat they are here, were a factor in my decision too.

If I had to look at our possessions in the blink of an eye and only take what was important, it would be us, the cat, and our insurance papers. Everything else is replaceable. So with that in mind, I decided to evaluate everything in the house.

Our cat, "Muesli"

The process has been a sobering experience and not at all like what I was expecting. I'm not a hoarder, nor am I particularly precious about material items, yet when I asked what I would specifically rescue from a bush fire, I became quite agitated. I spent several days procrastinating, in an attempt to avoid those feelings. I thought I was overwhelmed by the size of the task, so narrowed the process down to the small home office instead.

It soon occurred to me, I would have to invade other parts of the house to accomplish this simple task. The bookcase I wanted to rearrange, had a messy kitty-litter tray nearby. I needed to find a new home for the tray - somewhere that wouldn't mind collecting dust from the litter. I removed a laundry basket from an out of the way corner, and placed it in the middle of the room - for want of finding a suitable place for it (yet) and the litter tray took its place.

Temporary home for the laundry
~stuff for thrift-shop in background

When I finally got to tackling the bookcase, I came across documents and pamphlets that were now redundant. I cleared an entire paper organiser worth of it. There was a stack of pamphlets from initial research on our retaining walls. Very handy when they were needed, but we had finished that particular project in 2010. There were also some old journals of mine too, but the ponderings I read about were mostly resolved now. I had to wonder why I was still storing them? In a bushfire, they could burn and I wouldn't miss them.

Another gift for the thrift-store

And that was the biggest revelation of all I did my space become so full of redundant material? Time was incredibly precious in the present, with kids, marriage and relevant work to complete today, and I was spending large blocks of time, dealing with material which had no purpose beyond marking the past. I even had to sort the shoes growing mould for lack of use, and these were items we used in the present - or didn't use, to be more accurate.

Shoe tree sorted

Most people engage in simplifying their lives to be happier - and I guess that's the end result. But the process involves embracing a lot of discomfort first. It's not a lot of fun, going through your possessions and finding a lot of idleness and redundancy in them. A lot of what I stored for "later", really just accumulated as a talisman for later. Even if I had all the time in the world, I still probably couldn't get around to using it all.

That's because the human imagination is limitless, but our ability to work dreams into being, is not.

After my brief foray into chaos recently, I managed to clear one cupboard completely. Now I can place my hands on everything needed in the office, because it's simpler, smaller and relevant to now. There is still some organising to do, but I've made a considerable start.

Bookcase now holds gear from cupboard next door
with a shelf to spare!

I'm looking forward to approaching the rest of the house with my new friend, "discomfort". It needs to stay for a little while longer, to make our spaces less cluttered with ideas, and more useful for doing things. It's not the easiest task I've set myself, but its extremely worthwhile to pursue this year.

So if I seem to go AWOL from blogging, you'll know why. I will update as time permits.