The garden evolves

Our garden continues to evolve. I’m not one of those people who can have a pristine lawn with concrete bordered gardens. I’ve had houses before that have had  immaculately bordered garden beds, and within a few months of moving in, out come the borders and the shape of the garden starts to change.

We’ve been in this house for two and a half years now. There’s been a lot to do, both inside and out, and I’m pleased to say stage one’s garden evolution is over, and we’re now moving onto stage two.

We went from the ugly orchid sheds that were here when we moved in, to native/cottage gardens, with a temporary gazebo.

The blue cottage garden is taking shape – I’ve waited more than 20 years to plant a blue plumbago and surround it with blue agapanthus – gorgeous when it all flowers together around Christmas time

The next big overhaul has now commenced. We’ve started on a shady fern garden outside our garden room (garage converted to man cave).

Shady fern garden will continue the green theme from the inside to the outside of our garden room/man cave

A Chinese Tallow tree has been planted to provide the shade, and the clothes line that was in that area has been removed. Paul has left a small frame from the clothes line for hanging baskets,  and we’ve placed a couple of potted palms around to get things started. The tallow tree will need a year or two’s growth before it’ll resemble our shady garden in Duncraig. But, hey, once begun, half done! And we’ve definitely begun!

Chinese Tallow has been planted. Now all we have to do is wait for it to grow

Eventually the tree will be strong enough to support hanging baskets – this photo was taken at our Duncraig house where we lived for 13 years (our record in any one house). We’re working towards having something similar again

The newly planted Chinese Tallow is near to our three Frangipanis. These two areas will eventually flow together with palms, ferns,  lush jasmine and hanging baskets. 

 

Temporary gazebo will go. In its place productive vegetable gardens

We’re putting in three raised garden beds for rotational vegetable crops. Also planned is a smaller raised bed for asparagus along the fence line, and another one for strawberries. I think we’ll find some space for a few potted miniature fruit trees, and some blueberries too.

one raised garden bed partially filled with soil and manure – two to go yet. By the week-end we should be ready to start planting

Of course, one can’t have a successfully producing vege garden without a compost heap. I’m still on the look out for a spot to start my composting, and along with a compost heap will be a worm farm. The worm farm will be a bit different than the commercially purchased plastic worm farms. I can’t wait to get that going, and when the worms are successfully providing nourishment for the crops, I’ll be excited to show you the farm. Perhaps I’m a bit weird, but I love composting. Turning the slowly decaying vegetable matter regularly and watching as it turns into sweet smelling, rich loam, and then putting handfuls around struggling plants. To see a struggling plant almost instantly burst with vigour and renewed life when given a compost boost – what’s not to love about that.

Perhaps the best change coming though is a change to our side verandah. We’ve struggled with not having a patio that flows from our main living area, and have been trying to come up with an idea that’d work ever since we bought this house. A month or so ago Paul had a ‘light bulb’ moment. We’ve had the builder out, and yes it’s possible. We’re going to get steal beams engineered that’ll be fixed to, and run from the house, along the underside of the two metre wide verandah and continue another metre out to the fence line. The existing veranda posts will then be removed and moved out to join the engineered metal posts. This will give us a workable area of around 7 x 3 metres to play with, and there won’t be any posts in the way.

The posts are to be moved out to the fence line

It’s this wonderful idea that’s allowed all the other changes to take place. Now our side garden will meet our desire for an outdoor seating area, and our rear garden can be put to productive use. I’m so excited. What a pleasure it’s going to be picking our own sun ripened produce.

Oh, and before I finish this post, here’s a close up of a new water feature. I went walking with the ladies this morning and came home to this lovely surprise.

A lovely surprise to come home to after my walk this morning

Also thought I’d show you my orchid plant, still going strong after Alice presented me with it for mother’s day more than 25 years ago. This year it’s had five blooms so far. A way to go till it exceeds it’s record year of 17 blooms, but I’m working on it.

Still going strong after more than 25 years

Advertisements

The Queen Elizabeth comes to our home-town

The Margaret River region is world renowned as a tourist destination. Our home-town of Busselton, located at the top of the Margaret River region has become a stop off destination for cruise ships allowing their passengers to dis-embark and get to see some of this famous region. Yesterday, Cunard’s ship, the Queen Elizabeth paid us a visit.

The previous day the ship was in the port of Fremantle, approximately 2 hours north of Busselton by road. Whilst in Fremantle people drove many kilometres from all over Perth to catch a glimpse of the visiting ship.

We live approximately 3 minutes walk to Geographe Bay. Yesterday when we went for our daily morning walk along the beach the Queen Elizabeth, a beautiful site on a glorious sunny day,  was anchored just off shore. How lucky are we, no driving needed to see this majestic, luxury liner.

In the late afternoon we again wandered down to the beach for a cooling swim. The tenders were returning their passengers to the ship ready for departure which was scheduled for 6pm. It was 5.30pm and we were wet and salty after our swim, so walked home to shower, and grab a bottle of bubbles. A quick text message to a couple of friends and within 15 minutes the four of us had walked back to the beach for a relaxing drink.  How lucky we were, sipping our champagne as we watched the big ocean liner ready herself for departure, knowing we are fortunate to have this all within just a few minutes walk from our front door.

6pm and the ship is readying for departure

The  passengers are now all back on board, and the last of the tenders is being loaded

The ship slowly does an about turn

Dusk falls as we sip the last of our champagne

and watch the Queen Elizabeth sail off into the sunset

Just another one of the pleasures of living in Busselton!

Storm batters south-west WA

We awoke this morning to the sound of battering winds and torrential rain. Winds of close to 110 kilometres an hour battered our coast. The rain was the heaviest I’ve ever seen. At one stage it was so heavy that I could have sworn we had ocean waves crashing over the house. To say it was ‘sheeting down’ was an understatement.

By mid-day the worst of the front had passed over and we were able to take Mr Tilly for his walk. Usually we incorporate a beach stretch for him to have a good romp off his lead. However, when we arrived at where our beach usually is, it was nowhere in sight. The tide was high and we had big waves surging as high as the beach shrubbery.

Our boat launching ramp under water with seaweed dumped well above usual water line

The small jetty beside the boat launching ramp

Several residents were out inspecting the beach damage, with some even braving the elements on zimmer frames and motorised gophers. It was clear what we were seeing was mild compared to the fury of the storm and tides during the morning hours. The walking track that runs parallel to the shoreline showed evidence of the waves having washed over the path. The path was littered with sand and seaweed. Benches had been ripped off their stumps and dumped high up in the beach shrubbery, or overturned in the water.

A concrete bench seat washed into the ocean

The fury of the ocean has washed out tonnes of sand, carving away at our shoreline.  The normally calm waters were frothing and awash with thick seaweed long after the worst of the weather had passed over. I have no doubt that once the water settles from it’s fury, it’s going to be leaving most of that seaweed where our sand should be.

The water awash with sand and seaweed

Residents were chatty as they inspected the damage sharing stories of previous storms. One resident said they hadn’t seen the ocean so high and wild since when Cyclone Alby hit in 1978. Others said it’s just winter as usual.

Usual or not, it’s going to take a while for our beautiful beaches to return to their normal pristine condition. Will Mr Tilly care – not one bit, just as long as he gets to romp along the shoreline.  As far as he’s concerned, the more seaweed on the beach, and the smellier it gets, the more fun he has. A messy beach, while not my cup of tea, is a joy to our Tills. He’ll be prancing around and charging after seagulls just as soon as there’s any visible sand to romp on. To him it’ll enhance his beach experience, he’ll be jumping for joy amongst the seaweed, and thinking to himself – what a pleasure!

 

Wasting time

House renovations are progressing, not to schedule of course, but we’re nearing completion.

Four days for the initial part of the kitchen stretched to two weeks. The floor, that was scheduled for between the two kitchen stages had to be postponed, as did the second part of the kitchen.

4 days dragged into 2 weeks with kitchen completely out of working order

We’ve been doing a lot of camp style cooking in the garage whilst the kitchen’s been out of order. Fortunately, being campers, we’ve managed to roll with the delays reasonably well. The delays weren’t that unexpected, as anyone who has undertaken renovations will attest to – they rarely, if ever go to schedule.

The kitchen has now been operational for almost a week between stages, and today the floor’s being prepped for the laying of the planks. The second stage of the kitchen (the splashback) is now scheduled for next Monday.  Fingers crossed!

Drawers, cupboards, dishwasher and benches fitted – floor and splash backs still to go

With tradesmen coming and going through the days and weeks, there’s been many days that we’ve virtually been confined to the back yard on puppy minding duties. We can’t really leave Tilly in the back garden, shut out of the house with strangers indoors, and expect him not to bark persistently. It’s also been one of those renovations where one of us at least has needed to be on hand for any queries that arise as the work progresses.

Only a few days more now…..

With time on my hands you’d think I’d be well up to date with all my reading, gardening and blogging. Not so.  As is often the case when one is out of sorts with usual routine, and with too much time available to do required tasks, I’ve been stretching things out to fill up my day. The result is I get to the end of the day and there’s a multitude of things I could have done, and haven’t.

Instead I’ve succumbed to a virtual reality home staging website. In it, I’m given a painted bare shell of a room, and have to furnish it.

A bare room awaiting furnishings

All of the rooms are judged by fellow participants and scored. The highest score available is a 5 (I’ve come close, but not there yet), but anything scoring more than a 4 wins virtual prizes (more furnishings and furniture to add to my available stock). The more rooms you enter, the more furniture stock you receive as prizes for future rooms, and as you progress, you go up in stages unlocking extras, like table decorations, pot plants, and wall art to add to your future rooms.

One of my early rooms when I had very little available to me in the way in art work or pot plants

Of course, the people who have attained the higher levels have more items at their fingertips. I’m up to level 10 now, and I think it goes up to around level 40. It’s good fun, if you have time to waste. Have I been wasting to much time on it – you betcha!

A more recent entry – with bowls of lemons and a bank of artwork accumulating now to choose from, higher scores are possible

Anyone who knows me well will know I love buying and selling houses. Goodness, we’ve bought and sold more than anyone I know…. I love staging the house, the declutter, the strategically placed pot plants, the quick visit to a the local cheap homewares shop for a couple of the latest trend items to add to the house, the last minute big bunch of fresh, scented lilies for the table – Paul’s not so enamoured with it all, but I love it. To have found a virtual reality home staging website ap – I’m hooked.

Do you have any internet big time wasters?

And as a post script – I just received my first 5

Keep the home fires burning

The fire bans have finished for the year. We don’t have an inside fire so we’ve acquired an outside fire pit – perfect to sit around for our finger food Friday nights.

Paul wanted to wait until dark – I was to impatient

As darkness fell the flames came to life

As the flames took hold a hose came over the fence – Our friend and neighbour had seen the smoke and decided he’d better come to the rescue…… LOL! Now Brian’s starting to get a bit of reputation with flames and fire (or perhaps he’s always had it) – so rather than risk him completely dousing our flames, we thought he and Kaye had better come over to share a glass of red and soak up the ambience with us.  Anyway, what’s better than sitting around a fire pit in your back yard? Having friends sitting around it with you of course!

On a recent camping trip Brian took some amazing photos of flames through a glass of red wine. Paul copied….  I couldn’t post these next two photos without acknowledging the inspiration.

A photo inspired by our friend and neighbour, Brian Love

A glass or two of red, and Casper came to visit – can you see him?

We had our sausage sizzle, then we toasted marshmallows to celebrate the first fire in our new fire pit. There’s an art to getting a marshmallow toasted perfectly. Sometimes I hold them to close to the flames and set them on fire. And sometimes I get them to perfect only to wait a second to long – and they drop off the fork into the fire. But when they’re just right, all crispy on the outside and warm and gooey in the middle…… Yum!!

Twirling marshmallows on the end of a toasting fork

I’m definitely more a summer person than a winter person, but when I sit in front of glowing fire I start to have my doubts. Each season definitely has it’s place.

Cold weather pleasures

 

Pioneering spirit

I’m sure anyone who enjoys a bit of camping must have a bit of pioneer spirit in them. I think I have. Renovations that would turn many into princesses seeking short term, alternative accommodation will see me embracing the challenge of getting back to basics, and managing as best I can.

Many years ago we had slate laid through all the living areas in our house. At the same time we were having new carpets laid in the bedrooms, and new skirting boards throughout. We couldn’t access the house through any of the external doors for over a week. We moved all the beds out under the pergola, and prayed it wouldn’t rain. We moved the fridge outdoors under cover, and cooked nightly on the barbecue. Our camp sink came in handy for washing the dishes,  and we climbed through a window to access the toilet and shower.

Kelvin was in his early teens, and Alice around ten. We lived like that for close on two weeks. It was a great bonding experience, and we all loved it.

Our current kitchen and ensuite are undergoing a bit of an overhaul. The kitchen’s completely out of action, our ensuite only has the vanity unit undergoing changes.

The gutted kitchen

New kitchen equipment is stored in lounge

For this renovation we’ve set the garage up with a couple of spare tables to double as storage shelves and preparation benches.

I bet our pioneering ancestors would have loved a microwave

Our laundry trough is our washing up sink. Most things from the kitchen are packed into boxes, and we only have enough things out to get by with. I imagine what we’re managing with though is most likely still considerably more than our poor forefathers would have had. Our microwave is certainly getting good use.

The laundry trough makes a great kitchen sink

By Monday of next week the kitchen should be ready for the sink and dishwasher to be plumbed in. Tuesday should see the kitchen operational, but not complete. The splashback can’t be ordered until this afternoon when a few things are in place to allow for measurements. It should all be complete by 9th May.

But there’s more…..We’ll have time to get things packed back into their rightful place in the kitchen, and then preparation for the new living area floors will begin. That’s going to mean moving all the living room and dining room room furniture as well as the fridge into the garage. We’ll have a few nights when we won’t be able to sit in the lounge with the heating on, nor will we be able to watch TV. Just like our great, great grandparents, we’ll have the choice of lighting a fire pit in our back yard and watching the flames dance as darkness sets in, or we can have early nights with a good book. Fire bans have finished now, so I rather fancy getting the fire pit out! It’ll be just like camping – only in our own back yard, and with our bed to snuggle into when the day is done.

An almost minimalistic kitchen

I subscribe to several blogs. There’s no common thread running through them. I choose them either because of the content, because I like the way the writer writes, or I like the personality of the writer. Often it’s a combination of all three that keeps me hooked and looking forward to my next good read.

In any one day I can read on subjects from travel, to minimalistic small house living, to recipes, and kitchen gadgets. This post has been inspired by some of the posts I’ve read today.

This morning I read a post by one of my favourite bloggers. Diane has all manner of kitchen gadgets. I’m sure her kitchen must be almost the size of our house so as to store it all. Sometimes I’m envious……

In a past life (the one before the life on the road, which was the one before this current  living phase in a house), we had all manner of things in our kitchen. We sold almost all of it when we hit the road. We now have a small kitchen. It’s soon to be updated, but the update won’t give us more space, and will only slightly improve our storage capacity.

The machine that does it all

We’ve managed for a long time with basics. One of our basics that I wouldn’t like to be without is my Thermomix. This wonderful little machine takes the place of so many other gadgets – food processors, mixers, blenders, steamers, and even a coffee machine. For someone starting out, this one gadget although expensive, makes a lot of sense, especially for space saving. It looks attractive too, so it tends to sit on the bench rather than stuck away in a cupboard. I use mine almost every day, sometimes several times in one day.

 

Having a house somewhere between a house that qualifies as ‘a tiny house (11 square metres)’, and a normal 3 x 2 house, we have to err on the side of minimalism. Our house is at best only the size of a very moderate apartment. So what gadgets do we have that I wouldn’t like to do without:

Cappuccino made in the thermomix

First and foremost, as already mentioned,  is my Thermomix. In it I can cook and blend soups. I use it to cook a smooth custard or hollandaise sauce. It does all the stirring for me as it cooks to perfection. I can grate cheese and carrots with it, and use it to make a pretty good coleslaw. I can steam fish and veggies, or vietnamese spring rolls. It’s a pretty good rice cooker, it cooks perfect boiled eggs, and it kneads a good loaf of bread in around 2 minutes. I can grind spices, or coffee beans, and I can froth milk for cappuccino. That’s just the tip of the iceberg – I could probably live without my Thermomix, but I wouldn’t want to.

Next, I have pyrolytic (self cleaning oven). There’s no way I’m getting on my hands and knees to breath in caustic oven cleaner as I scrub the grease off the walls of the oven after cooking a roast of pork. I’ve done it before, but it’s not for this girl – not anymore.

I use a microwave, that’s mainly for re-heating or defrosting. It’s very useful.

Whilst I can, and have been living without a dishwasher, we’re succumbing to that little luxury when our kitchen gets it’s update. We absolutely don’t mind washing our dishes by hand, and we find the kitchen remains cleaner with hand dishwashing as we always wipe over the stove top and benches, and dry them when finishing up. Sometimes that gets overlooked when stacking a dishwasher. Why are we succumbing to this luxury then? Simply because our track record of staying put in one house for any length of time isn’t great in recent years. If we again decide to move on, the lack of a dishwasher can hamper a sale. Will we use it – absolutely. I don’t want anything in my house that isn’t loved and used, so I’ll use it, and I’ll love doing so for sure.

We have a small deep fryer but to date we haven’t used that very much. The reason for that is we don’t have a great kitchen exhaust system and it makes the house smell greasy. Part of our kitchen update is to have a good exhaust system fitted with an external motor so as the noise doesn’t make it unbearable to use. We still won’t use the small fryer a great deal, but I do like it for safely cooking up things like samosas or fried spring rolls when we have guests. I can cook them in a wok or frypan of course, but a minute or two of distraction can prove dangerous with deep frying at an uncontrolled temperature. So, we have a little deep fryer.

We also have an electric frypan. That’s mainly for our caravan though and barely gets used in the house. In the caravan it allows us to cook barbecue style when in a powered site without using our own gas.

Another luxury I have is my hot food trolley (hostess trolley). This was a very special gift which Paul arranged to have made for me in the UK many years ago. The purchase of it, and it’s transportation to Australia, as well as getting it through customs is a story on it’s own. Alice took care of it when we were travelling. I was pleased to have it returned safe and sound when we returned to WA. I’ll tell you the story behind the acquisition of this little beauty one day.

Squashing my sandwich down in a frypan as it cooks

Apart from that, we try to make do. We don’t have a slow cooker, we manage between a heavy based saucepan and the oven. We don’t have a sandwich toaster, we butter the outside of our bread and cook it in a frypan on the stove top. We do have a toaster though  for ordinary toast.

Perhaps not as good as in a sandwich press, but it does me

We don’t have a coffee machine. We do have a small stove top percolator though (currently in transit on it’s way back from Tassie). And we have the Thermomix if we want our coffee cappuccino style.

I love my old hand whisk (rust and all)

We poach our eggs in a normal saucepan. We either use an old style hand whisk for beating, or if it’s a bigger quantity we’ll use the Thermomix. We do have good, heavy based saucepans and frypans, and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

Gee whiz, – I had thought I had a fairly minimised amount of kitchen gadgets. Now I list it all, perhaps it’s not as minimalistic as I thought!!!  From what I’ve read though minimalism is defined as only having what you love, and what makes you happy. If you don’t love it, and/or use it often, out it should go. I do love the few life style enhancing gadgets I have, and I’ll love the addition of a dishwasher and good exhaust canopy when they’re fitted.

Our china and glassware though – that’s another matter. We’ve been in this house less than 18 months, and we are definitely starting to bulge a bit in those areas. Some of it is definitely not what I want, and not what I love. I can sense a cull coming on……