Thursday, February 23, 2017

Back to business

As I recovered from the heatwave, which finally broke, I suddenly came down with a cold/flu. Sarah got it first (most likely from school) and then we all did. It was one of those colds, that was very forgiving with the regular symptoms – but knocked your energy levels out, for about a week.

Today, was the first time, I've been able to get back to business in a serious way! So I rolled up my sleeves, and set to work on the verandah again.

Something is growing on the concrete

Our verandah is 1.8 metres in width, all around the house. At certain times of the year, some areas don't see any sun. I've never cleaned the concrete, so it has moss and mould growing in certain places.

There's a deadline I have to work to, to tackle this problem. Well before winter, I hope. Because once we head into the colder months again, when the sun sinks lower in the sky, I won't get a chance to dry the verandah I'm cleaning. So it was imperative to get my cleaning supplies out, as soon as possible.

Minus the hose for water supply

Concentrated bleach, water and a squirt of dish-washing liquid, went into a bucket. First, I wet the concrete down with water, then scrubbed my cleaning solution in with a stiff bristled broom. I also have a small, hand-held brush (with stiff bristles) for getting up close to the brickwork and around the posts.

The moss is proving to be difficult to remove, so a straight mix of concentrated bleach and dish liquid is best applied to those more mossy areas. Never apply the concentrated mix for the whole verandah, because you'll waste a lot of water, just trying to get the suds out!

I have nearly 60 metres of verandah to get through! Thankfully, the moss only gathers on the edges, where the soil touches.

Creating better conditions for circulation

I managed to muster enough energy yesterday, to clear around the verandah with a mattock. Part of the problem with mould growing, is a lack of air circulation. Weeds grow over the concrete, and when the sun goes into winter hibernation - whulla - moss!

I've definitely got my work cut out for me, getting it under control again. It would have been best to manage it, from the get-go. Once I finish our verandah renovation, I'll have some tips to share about maintenance for concrete areas. I know concrete is tough stuff, but there are things we can do to make it easier to clean on a regular basis.

All clean

This is what the verandah looks like, once it's been cleaned. What a difference, removing the mould makes. I wish I could have done it sooner, but in reality, our verandah has served as a much needed storage area too.

I like having a wrap-around verandah. It's one of the things I always wanted, if we built our own home. The reason I like it, is the all-weather protection it provides to the brickwork and windows. We'd have to get serious horizontal hail, to do any damage to the windows. It also means if one of our gutters starts to overflow in a storm, we have the protection of the verandah, to get out and empty the leaf catchers on the downpipes.

The downside is the maintenance. There's a lot of ground to keep clean. Which is why I'll be happy, when I finish this renovation, to have an easier time of it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The great exchange

David's employer kindly allows him to take the food scraps home for our chickens. It's not always consistent, but it helps curb the cost of feeding them. We've also received surplus from the same employer, who has a veg garden in town. As well as another employee, who gave us surplus veg too. We eat some of it, but the chickens get a healthy portion.

With nine new layers, we hatched and raised, joining our existing four layers, we've had a surplus of eggs to get through recently. When our fridge started exploding with full egg cartons, it was time to return the favour.

Fried eggs & fresh tomatoes - ones I can actually eat!

We've given away 4 dozen eggs, to 4 people in David's workplace. The first two said, "are these REAL eggs!" We were happy to inform them, yes, they were indeed, real eggs. And the chickens who laid them, were indeed grateful for their food offerings.

Recently, we received two large bags of tomatoes from David's employer's garden. Several kilos worth. They were big, red, and tasted like REAL tomatoes! No astringent after-taste, which I find comes from store bought ones. I can't normally eat tomatoes, as they're from the nightshade family. I tend to have reactions with itchy skin, bloating and twitches. I could eat these however, without any problems.

 Home grown tomatoes

We can't seem to grow tomatoes here, but we can grow chickens who lay eggs - where David's employer doesn't have the time or space to keep them in town. So a good exchange of produce, from two productive households.

None of us "expected" these acts of generosity. It just seemed the right thing to do when a surplus came alone. Use it up. Don't waste it. That's what a community does - keep it in the loop. We also help David's employer, by taking buckets of coffee grounds home to put in our garden. It saves them from having to pay to throw them out. Plus it helps our garden!

Haul of coffee grounds - December 2016

We even started giving some of the empty 10 Litre buckets of ice-cream away from his workplace too. They accumulate, after we empty the coffee grounds. But an acquaintance, we met at playgroup, thought they were perfect for planting their daffodil bulbs. So we've passed on, at least a dozen their way too. They said to keep them coming!

I'm happy to report, all our chickens managed to survive through the scorching heat over the weekend. They predicted 42 degrees Celsius, for our area - but I recorded 44 degrees  (111 Fahrenheit) on the verandah at 4pm. So I don't know how hot it got during the day!

With the new tank we installed last year, and the rain that filled it, we were able to hose down the coops, on both days. Which probably made the difference in their survival. Instead of sitting still with their beaks open, attempting to cool down, they would come over to the wet ground and start clucking. They even rolled themselves in the cooler, dirt - despite the fact it was wet.

Birth bath

You should have seen our birdbath yesterday though. The above picture was taken back in November, last year. With 2 rainbow lorikeets, having a drink. I didn't take photos yesterday, when the kangaroos, brush-turkey's and every imaginable species of bird, wanted to take a drink.

It was full, they just had to wait their turn. I even put an extra bowl out there at ground level. But I still had birds come up to the house, near the verandah, as if to say, "come on human - bring the water!"

I'm relieved it's a lot cooler today though, and I pray we get that predicted rain! The ants have become really active, which is a good sign.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Almost there...

I am so tantalisingly close, to finishing my mini room renovation. So, so, close!
You can see what I'm working on below, which should be the last improvement to make. I love this feature. I love all the little features I've added to this room.

A little ornate woodwork

But the heat has sapped my energy for now. I don't feel like driving half an hour to town, for the few remaining parts needed. Sometimes I can get tetchy from the heat. I spent the first 7 years of my life in Darwin, in the Northern Territory.

Darwin had the kind of sapping heat, days on end, like we're experiencing presently, in our temperate region. I got heat stroke once at school, and I reckon it must have fried my patience metre, or something. I can handle the heat, so long as I don't have to do a lot. So all my projects are on hold, at the moment.

I love green!

Although, I have enjoyed some knitting time, because it doesn't require much energy to sit and knit. Making dishcloths helps to pass the time, as the heat runs through the course of the day. We only have ceiling fans, but I'm glad we don't have air-con now. We had it at our last house, in town. Going outside was a lot harder, once I sat in air-conditioning all day.

Now when the sun goes down, the cool of the afternoon brings us outside the house, and I think it's healthy to feel what the outdoors is feeling. I like looking forward to going outside in the afternoons - like, I look forward to our home-made ice creams from the freezer.

Making mango ice-pops

Or eating a chilled bowl of fruit salad in the middle of the day. Fizzy kombucha, is a refreshing beverage, to help bring a little zing back to my day as well. I remember winter isn't far away, and I'm sure at some point, this heat spell will break. I'm also looking forward to hearing the raindrops on the roof again, which inevitably comes with such heat.

I hope you're staying cool in the summer heat. Or staying warm, if you're in the northern hemisphere. The seasons will be changing for both of us, soon. And maybe, I'll get that room finished too.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Colour project

I was inspired recently, to brighten up a few areas in our home. We have a blank canvas with slightly off-white, walls. I've never been one for bright colours in large quantities, but am partial to splashes of colour in the right place.

They're referred to as accents, and that was the focus of my room makeover. This post is not about the entire room - just a particular aspect I'm adding to it. I needed something to fit a narrow section of wall. So what about a simple picture?

Click image to enlarge

I went through my framing supplies, and discovered a picture either my mum found, (or I did) at a second-hand shop. It had $3 written on the back. It doesn't have any glass, and the frame isn't designed to include glass anyway. It would suffice for the project I had in mind.

But I needed to change a few things about it first...

Two pieces

I needed to paint both the frame and the backing board, white. For reasons, which will become clearer, later. The little metal latches at the back, simply pulled back with a butter knife, allowing me to remove the backing board entirely. Goodbye - "afternoon at the beach", and hello new.


Newspaper was mandatory, as a splash cover on the bench. I could get as messy as I liked, without worrying about it. The tools were simple. A paintbrush, a roller and a flat-head screwdriver.

That roller has been with me for well over a decade. It helped paint some of our former house, before this one. It's great for getting around tight spaces, where a big roller would just be too cumbersome. Only I discovered recently, the foam roller had disintegrated. Fortunately, a trip to my hardware store, found replacement foam rollers - much to my delight! I love that little roller and glad to have it back in action.

White paint?

The flat-head screwdriver, was for lifting the lid off an ancient can of paint. It's lasted many years. But it was in a poor state, when I finally broke through the rusted seal. It was more like putty, than paint. There was a rubbery skin on the top I had to break through too, but inside I found a workable medium.

I scooped what I needed into a spare glass jar, added water, and stirred well!

First coat

The paint went on smoothly, if only a little thinner. The first coat went on but actually took four coats, in total. And two of those were white gesso from my art supplies cupboard. It's thicker and has more tooth for paint to grip on.

But I had my background and frame done within the day. Which allowed me to move onto the next step:

Taping over

I wanted something very simple in this room. The feature was going to be the colour, not so much what the image was meant to represent. So I took some masking tap, and put it down on the board, to cover the areas I wanted to stay white.

I found a picture online, of a Monstera deliciosa, or fruit salad plant. I used it as inspiration (you can see it in the background) for my taped experiment.

Ready to roll

Once I was happy with the design, I poured the paint into my rolling pan. Isn't it a beautiful colour? It's called Cool Aloe, and is from the Accent range at Mitre 10. I've used this colour elsewhere in the same room, and I needed to carry some of it over to a different wall - hence the picture idea. This is a sample pot, so very inexpensive - under $10

First coat

Then it was just a matter of rolling the colour, over the board. I needed two coats, with two hours for the coat to dry in between. Luckily, I had a busy day that day, or I would have been highly impatient, to start removing that masking tape!

Partial reveal

The tape did it's job well. Almost too well. It was a little challenging to pull some of it away. To get the shapes I did, I had to tear the tape and place it on, several layers think. I wanted that ragged edge look, which I achieved, but it was a little fidgety to get it all off.

Then it was just a matter of fitting new hooks to the picture frame, so I could hang it portrait style - instead of landscape.

Done and hung

It fitted perfectly, into that narrow space on the wall. I didn't mind how it looked rustic or imperfect either. That was the whole point. It was introducing colour, more than it was introducing shapes. It made the plain walls a little more interesting to look at.

For this project, I paid under $10 for the paint, and replacement foam rollers. The room I'm doing up, also has other equally, inexpensive updates. I wanted a change after 10 years of blank canvas walls, and this was fun to create. It also used up supplies I had in storage and put them to good use.

I look forward to doing a full room reveal in the near future.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rustic bench

One of the projects I completed recently, came about, when we had to clear everything off the verandah. You'll see what hoarders we were, when I eventually share the adventure of the verandah project.

Needless to say, we threw away a lot of junk we hoped we could turn into something else. When it starts rotting on your verandah though, it's a good sign you're never going to use it. One such item, almost made it to the dump.

That long piece of tree trunk, had been individually shaped, and someone attempted to paint a picture on the other side. It was faded beyond recognition now. I was going to make a "Gully Grove" sign out of it, but it just didn't happen.

Another item to go to the tip though, was my old washing basket trolley. You know the ones, which roll your wet clothes to the line? Well the dodgy wheels had fallen off, years before. It sat at the clothes line though, to receive my basket of washing instead. It really helped my back, not having to bend down to the ground, all the time.

With the trolley in the trailer to go to the tip, I decided I had to come up with an alternative bench. My mum gave me that piece of wood, years ago. Also those stumps of wood underneath. She had one of her trees cut down and didn't have a fireplace. Neither did we. So we used the short logs instead, as individual seats near the front door. A place to hold bags as you attempted to get the keys for the door. Well, everything just had to come off the verandah though!

Like a lego master-builder, knee deep in junk, it just all clicked in my head. Those pieces would soon make my new rustic bench, at the clothes line.

Only the wood wouldn't last long, out in the sun, without a coat of linseed oil. I like to use raw linseed oil, to help preserve the wood. It adds moisture, so it doesn't dry out too much, or soak in too much moisture in the rain.

That's one of my children's, damaged baby singlets too. Very rudimentary tools, for a very rustic project. I didn't have to purchase anything for this. It was already here - including the linseed oil.

The wood was very thirsty, so I just poured the linseed oil, directly onto the surface. I did this several times, as the wood just soaked it up like a sponge. It hadn't seen any kind of moisture for a while. In the middle of summer too, it was bound to be dry.

Then it was just a matter of gently rubbing it all in, with the cloth. I found this part of the process, extremely enjoyable. How can I describe something as tactile, as oil and wood - and the gentle rhythms of massaging it back to life? I had no idea how beautiful it would look afterwards.

The grain just glowed back at me, and signed. I sighed too. Did I already say, how enjoyable this process was? That old piece of wood, destined for the tip, had rekindled some divine quality it didn't have before. But for a bit of TLC, and a new purpose, it came back to life.



I've already used it to hold my laundry basket. It's much more sturdy, than the rickety trolley with missing wheels. I've also used it as a seat. Perhaps a little short for that purpose, but perfect for little people. I discovered Peter crushing some sort of plant on it already. The perfect work space!

So projects don't have to cost a lot of money. Sometimes it just requires looking at what you've already got. I found when I made myself choose an item's worth, with threats to go to the tip, I suddenly found a practical use for it. All those years I took it for granted, collecting dust on our verandah, while the rocking trolley was falling apart.

Now I love my new rustic bench, and the process of bringing it back to life.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


So as I was doing my Kitchen room Blitz recently, I found a cherished item on top of the refrigerator. It's something which means a lot to me, because my daughter made it at school. She gave it to me for Mother's Day, the same year her brother was born.


Naturally, I've wanted to put it on display, but it had an awkward shaped bottom, so prone to falling over when leant against something. I didn't want to glue any eyelets on it, for hanging, in case it fell down and broke. So Owl sat on top of the refrigerator, constantly being righted, and sometimes not.

When I did my weekend project, back in July 2015, gluing up our dinning chairs, I realised you can buy, super strong epoxy glues, which holds up to 150kgs. My recent project blitz, got me thinking about that glue again. I kept it capped, and tucked away in the laundry closet.

Bibs & Bobs

Which is the original tube, in the image above - along, with some of those bibs and bobs, I was telling you about being purchased from the hardware store. Owl was not going to sit on the fridge any more. Owl was going to defy gravity, like all birds of prey, should.

One of those triangle hooks would do the job, and I planned to use the other two, for another project I have on the go (I'll share another time).

Placement (without glue)

Owl was made of modelling clay, which was also varnished. Fortunately, not completely on the back. The centre was clean and dry to apply the glue. I positioned the triangle, to see where I wanted it to be placed. Then it was a matter of mixing the epoxy glues (according to the instructions) and applying it to the clay, and metal.

Reading the instructions on the glue, it could adhere both those materials. Always check the selected glue is appropriate for what you want to join.

Glued & taped

Because this was not an instant glue, it needed an hour to start solidifying. I wasn't going to stand that long, holding the metal tab down. So I found some electrical tape, to do the job for me.

It worked really well too. I didn't remove the tape for a whole day, which is the duration needed, for maximum bonding capacity. I could have removed it after two hours, but I wanted to wait the whole 24. I wanted Owl to stay in place, after all.


With the help of my new cordless drill, I attached a screw into the dividing wall, between the kitchen and lounge room. Owl is now hanging beside the fridge, and right at eye level, for maximum adoration.

I love Owl, and it's one of those projects I was immensely satisfied, upon completion. Because I've always wanted to do something special with my daughter's creation of love. Now I have. It was worth the spare change I spent on parts, to do it. Sometimes you've just got to commit to doing those little things, which always seem to be put off.

So if you need to, write a list of small projects you can realistically achieve on a weekend. You'll be surprised by what you already have around, which can be used. You probably don't need to buy much at all - if anything. Which is the the theme of the next project I intend to share.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


The firecracker was lit under me recently, and I've started (and in some cases, even finished) a multitude of projects. Not just a few, but many! Like a possessed woman, I've noticed all the things I've left undone, and just gone through them all, one by one.

Some tasks take weeks, some take months, and others, only a few hours to complete.

My booty!

I went to the hardware store recently. Actually, several times. But this is what takes a simple project so long - I wait until I have enough jobs, to justify going into town for. I don't like going, just for one thing at the hardware store.

Visiting the hardware store to me, is like some women view shopping for clothes and shoes. I have a thing for power tools, little finishings for bibs and bobs (all of which I'll show you in future posts) but I also make sure I gear up with adequate safety protection too.

One of the projects we're embarking on, requires a dust mask, goggles and proper work gloves (seen above). So forget stilettos. I want safety goggles!!

Needed purchase

And I want the right tool for the right job, at the right price! I was fortunate to find a Makita cordless drill, with accessories, reduced by $40 recently. I had gone without a cordless drill for many years. Most of my coops were built only with a single corded drill. Changing drill bits, was time consuming. But that's not why I bought an extra drill.

I had a project in the bathroom, which required drilling near a power socket. We saw the various stages of house construction, so I'm fairly certain I know where the electrics are. However, I'm not going to drill anywhere near a power socket, with the mains power still switched on. Hence, why I needed the cordless drill.

If I hit any wires, I'll soon know when I switch the mains back on. The safety switch will kick-in, and more importantly, I won't be in direct contact with a live wire! Always play it safe.

One of these things, is not like the others...

One of the instant projects I achieved recently (literally took minutes) was replacing a few bulbs around the house. One bulb went, in both bathrooms, and one down-light in the kitchen blew too. Blub fittings can vary with different companies, so if in doubt, take the blown bulb into the hardware store, to make sure you get the right ones.

Working order

Ask me how I know this? I didn't realise on my recent trip to the hardware store, hallogen down-light bulbs, have different fittings. Did you know that? Well yes, apparently, they do, and it meant another trip to the hardware store, several days later.

So if possible - and I usually do this - take whatever you need replacing, directly into the hardware store. Not only does it make it easier to get exactly what you need, but it helps any store assistants, you might need directions from.

Little step

Of course, to do a job like changing light bulbs, a sturdy, step ladder comes in handy. Chairs are okay to use, but I like the top-step on my ladder, to hold my gear too. Which saves me from having to get up and down the ladder all the time. This is indispensable, when it comes to cleaning the ceiling fan blades. Heavy bucket on the top step, and any spare rags hung over the handle.

So choose the right tool, which will help you do the whole job (many jobs) easier - not just elevate you higher. We invested in a good step ladder for inside jobs, and a larger, expandable ladder, for outside jobs too - like cleaning out the gutters, or building chicken coops!

 Big step

Our ladder has several clever design features, which allows us to fold-it up for compact storage, but it can also be expanded to well above ceiling height. This equipment can set you back a pretty penny at first, but they generally last a lifetime, if you take care of them.

I have not regretted investing in quality tools. They help take care of the largest asset we're likely to own - our home. This gear has been used in former rentals too. Some kit has been with us a looong time. If we continue to take care of our tools, they will be handed down once we're gone, and still be in working order, for our descendants.

I look forward to sharing more of our projects soon.