Thursday, 31 October 2013

Midnight Madness

So where were you last night at midnight?  Curled up in your bed in the Land of Nod.  Well, so was I up until 11pm when i was woken to go on an adventure with my teenage son.  It was his first time so he was super excited and i was more than agreeable in order to make him happy and to up my  super cool mother kudos.  He even had a shower before we left (bonus with stinky teenage boys).

So where did we go?

Shopping, i hear you say.  Well not exactly since the goods were already pre-ordered and pre-paid  but yes we did go to our local shopping plaza to pick up the goods, at midnight. 
Now this is where i might actually lose some readers and gain a few "tutt tutt's, you shouldn't be encouraging him".   We went to the midnight launch of the a long awaited next sequel in the gaming series called Battlefield, and I'm not sorry. So There!

There it is, the countdown clock.  We arrived with 8 minutes and 18 seconds to go.  So why such a crazy time.   As soon as they are taken home, most are loaded onto the server.  If every game purchased in the world (we are talking millions of copies) went on at the same time the server would crash.  This recently happened with Grand Theft Auto and some buyers took 3 days to gain logon after purchase.  Not Cool.   There is alot of pocket money spent on these games and players are passionate. So the sale times are staggered around the world and in Australia it was 12.01 this morning.

Am i being too defensive?  Probably, since the only people who read me are pretty cool and very understanding of my situation.  Its important to me that Tom does what other kids are doing and going to midnight launches is a very cool thing to do.   The thing that confused me was where were all the other Mums and Dads.   There were quite a few young boys there (12-16) that were unsupervised.  Were they all gathered somewhere having coffee and i didn't get the invite?   There did appear to be a few cars outside but all vacant.  Perhaps, and I'm hoping, they took the opportunity to do their shopping for groceries while they waited.  Yes, we have 24hr shopping here.

Tom is actually in there somewhere, i think his ticket was No. 36.   The festivities started around 10pm and they had plenty of consoles set up for multiplayer games.   A bit of fun in a group.  That would be socialising.  Yes, you can see Christmas decorations in October which is madness.  I could see Tom talking to strangers in line.  That would be people, not his Mum and Dad and that's a good thing.
The following young girls were very busy throwing lollies and cheap promotional toys at the line of boys and men while they waited.  I think i saw one girl in there.  I know that their shorts were rather short but to tell you the truth i don't think anyone was paying much attention.  I asked Tom if he thought the girls were pretty and he said "Huh"!  Phew!! looks like i can leave that minefield for a while.

Please don't send me messages about sexual exploitation of young girls.  It was a bit a fun and when i asked them if i could take their photo they rushed to grab their props in order to look the part.  

Tom, leaving with his booty.

The Booty - with some pretty cool dog tags.  
He started playing around 12.45am  and had finished the game by 6am on a relatively easy setting.   The beauty of these games is that you can play them over and over on different levels of difficulty and then you can go online and play multiplayer with people all over the world including the boy next door.   I figure that with him starting a full time job shortly, this will be one of the last all nighters so i wasn't making a noise about it.  Neither was he, headphones are a blessing.

We have this picture on our fridge.  We call them Aspie Headphones because they stop the talking as well.  
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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Thrifty Gardening and Troublesome Toddler Puppies

The other day on  All The Blue Day - Green & Thrifty, Jo gave examples of how she had been thrifty thus ensuring a flood of comments and further examples of thriftiness by her followers.  When it came to my turn, the only recent example i could dredge up was the fact that my husband, tradie extraordinaire, had fixed our appliances (hot water service, oven, stove top, washing machines, vacs etc) so many times that i was left hoping that they would finally prove too much or he would give up so i could get new ones.   How sad is that?  Such a first world problem to have. After 18 years, our rather cheap (read property developer installed) hot water service has been replaced.  Too many mornings of laying on the ground at 5.30am (him, not me) because it had gone out overnight had brought the issue to a head.  Hubby was quoted and he paid for a HSW with a 5 star energy efficiency rating and they installed a 4 star.  Bugger!  Back on the phone...(update - it was exchanged today).    Nope Gav, sorry no solar this time.  Just cant afford it and i left the decision up to him.

Hubby has just received from China the electronic components he needs to fix our son's Playstation, so that is another  thrifty task.  Our dining table has seen more electronic components, soldering irons and computer parts than it has cooked meals.  Hence the need for several other dining options.  Plans are afoot for an electronics desk in the garage.       
So, in order to restore the balance of thriftiness in my blog circle (so i can hold my head high) and in this family i set myself the task of finding solutions to a few problems in the garden whilst spending the least amount of money i could.

Problem 1 - Tilly the Terrible, Tilly the Explorer, Tilly the "I want to do what you are doing too", Tilly the "I'm under your feet with every step you take so that I'm not walking but doing a mad swaying dance all over the yard".  By far the worst of her personas is Tilly the Excavator.

Keeping these little paws clean for the carpet is a full time job.  
I have nightmares of coming home from work and finding everything ripped out and her standing there with a piece of root hanging from her tiny mouth with an expression that says "What"?  As it is, I've found the contents of my compost in the middle of the lounge room on the carpet.  She has also discovered that there was a previous dog in residence here and that he had a secret cache of buried bones.  Bonaza!!!  Some of the things i have found under the dining table would make your hair curl including fossilised poo.  I have always said that God made babies and toddlers (including puppies) extra cute so that we are don't try to give them back or do something dastardly to them.

Its a mad scamper to grab her when she first comes in and then its off to the bathroom for a cleanup. This could happen several times a day.
So what's the problem?  I have four veggie beds that are 45cm high and they are very attractive play things for Tilly the Everything is a Game/Toy and Tilly the Excavator.

Tilly chasing her tail so fast she's a blur...
I think I've mentioned before that i had plans to invoke my special powers at work and have built elaborate removable gates for the lower beds but now that i am in thrifty thinking mode and having seen a few of the homemade trellis and wigwams at Shoestring's Learner Garden i have a better idea and more immediate with no lost brownie points.

I think these look more natural being bamboo. 
Total cost - Pkt 20 Bamboo Sticks from Bunnings  @ $1.67 each X 3.  I had the rubber ties already and so it took a total of 20 minutes to make my own fence.  Ive watched her approach it and put her nose through and walk away.  I don't think its particularly strong but the image of a barrier means she's no longer interested.  The pointy tops might also prove a deterrent.

Capsicum Red - it should be a nail polish colour
There are two more beds to do which ill try to complete after work this week.

Problem 2 - I need more growing space.  So....... once again, inspired by the Learner Garden i went in search of pots for more tomatoes.  Cue, another trip to Bunnings.

The new Bunnings Superstore opened in the last few months in Hoppers Crossing.  Its massive.  I avoid most of it but do love their garden section, way way down the other end.  We honestly need shares in this place.  I'm sure i paid for at least a few feet of this building over the years at the old store.
I noted large black plastic tubs with a flimsy 4 stick trellis' about 80cm high (no where near high enough) placed conveniently at the foot of a virtual tower of tomato plants (the commercial kind).  These tubs were selling like hot cakes on Sunday, but at $30 each.   Really?  I can do better than that so i walked around and found these in the cleaning aisle.

These buckets are really tall and on special at  $5 each.   I marched back to the garden centre to ask if they were made from some sort of toxic plastic and their response was "jeepers, that's a good idea" and "yeah, its the same as the tomato tubs over there".   A few drill holes later and we are in business.
Honestly, if you had been within earshot of me on Sunday you would have thought me certifiable.

I was standing near the entrance to the garden area (having been deserted by my husband in favour of tools) right in front of a big stand of tomato plants.  I was directing people to the Diggers Heirloom stand further down the aisle.  Then i followed that up with the "Salad Plate Speech" and advice to get basil, garlic, spring onions and marigold plants as well.  I was nuts.  I was giving impromptu lectures on companion planting to perfect strangers and they were lapping it up.  One woman was filling her trolley with anything i told her.  I even added in a few flowers to bring bees to her garden.  It was a hoot.  Retail therapy on her credit card.  Since i was there for several hours thanks to Hubby, i got to meet lots of people, some of which  i had to reign in and tell them to spend $50 and get Craig from Edible Gardens to come out and do a consult. They had no idea what they wanted, no plans, no graphs (that one was for your Bronwyn - LOL) but were intent on spending up big.  Best to start out right than to fail and have to start again. I Reckon anyway (add southern drawl and hay stalk in corner of mouth).

I was really worried about what the black pots would look like as everything else is terracotta or colourbond but then realised Ive put them right in front of Tom's room with his new black blackout blinds. So i can breathe easy that i haven't introduced a new colour that clashes.  I can hear you laughing from here Jessie!
Not bad if i do say so myself.  The handles will make them easier to move around when it get too hot on the concrete area mid summer.  It's my Mediterranean area (concrete + full sun = blistering radiant heat).  I also need to think about a spacer at the top to keep the three bamboo poles evenly spaced when they get some weight on them.

I'm calling this my Diggers Garden as it contains three varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes from the Diggers Club. I'm hoping that this is the last year ill have to buy them as I'm planning to collect the seeds for next year - more thriftiness.  

For the rest of the season i will be using all the freebies.  I must have left a few on the ground last season as i have tomato seedlings popping up everywhere.   Ive got other seedling coming up that i dont recognise at all.  When they get a bit bigger ill take pics and you can all play the guessing game.  

So that's several thrifty ideas this week and i am going to put my brain to rest.  Enjoy some garden pics.  I'll be  adding more plants next weekend.

My morning chair (when i get a chance).  Half in the pergola but out enough to catch the morning sun on my legs - I'm a red head and i burn.  

Mint ( i love the fragrance when you brush past it), Dill, Lettuces and Corn on its way up.

The herb garden going nuts.
Excuse the washing on the line in the background.  Yes, i do have one, but i don't think I've ever included it in a picture.  I bet you thought the magic fairies did my washing but no, I'm just like you only i wash and hang out at night.  I have a thrifty solar light above the line.   Oh, there is also a garden shed which has become my domain.  Hubby gets the garage.

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Shoestrings Learner Garden Launch

Tonight i attended the AGM of Shoestring Gardening Inc and the official opening of the Learner Garden by Councillor Peter Maynard.  If you look back at some of my much earlier posts you will note that over the last year i attended a number of workshops run by Shoestring that were held at the Western Region Environmental Centre in Ridge Drive, Wyndham Vale.  At the back of these premises were the basic bones of a garden used to teach the principals of gardening on a shoestring.  It had a double storey playhouse right in the middle and some basic raised beds around the edge that had some misc plantings of herbs and veggies.  A green house had been erected at the far end in which seedlings were being grown for sale.  I know that the volunteers were frustrated by a lack of time, volunteers and funds but they had big dreams.

Through the course of the Growing Communities Workshops the garden was used to show in a practical sense hands on demonstrations of how to build a garden and grow your own veggies without spending large sums of money through recycling, repurposing or re-using everyday items.

Turning a Cubbyhouse Into a Chicken Coop
Keeping Chickens
Fruit Trees for Beginners

Many hours of hard work have been put in by many volunteers to create a garden that demonstrates how to garden organically and follow permaculture principals through the use of forest gardens, companion planting, chickens, composting and worm farms, wicking beds etc.

Well take a look at it now on launch night.   They should all be justifiably proud. I hope their dreams have been realised.

This little teepee has been made from simple sticks.  A great project for children.

The girls are loving their Chook House made from a repurposed cubbyhouse.  Lots of herbs and plants that aid chickens like wormwood growing around the fence line. 

Growing Plants in a hay bale

This teepee was really lovely and made once again from tall sticks and bending soft woods around them.   It was covered in snow peas.  

Our espaliered apple tree from the Fruit Tree Workshop

Simple wooden plank made up the raised garden beds. 

A unique way to house the plastic bottles that are used during holiday programs to make mini gardens. 

Seedlings galore - i cant wait to get my hands on some of them.  Nearly all are heritage varieties.

Herbs and flower all in together, being good companions

Container Planting for those without the space for garden beds.

These arches really set off the beds and create a room.  Later they will have beans growing on them.  Craig from Edible Gardens giving an impromtu lecture on why we need to take back control of our food system from the Big Supermarkets - his favorite topic.   Watch out for him on Youtube with Vasili's Garden.  I believe there may also be a book in the pipeworks.   
Vasili & Craig Castree - Grafting Demonstration
Type in Craig Castree in Youtube for other videos on Growing you own edible garden, fruit tree managements and his other favorite topic, bees!

Got to admit they have done an amazing job.  There are also examples of wicking beds and soon they will introduce aquaponics on a budget.  Cant wait for that one.  Its your one stop shop for information and practical examples.

The current set of programs are aimed at people that are not working of which there are sadly many in our community.  There are also large communities of people from countries like Karen, Sri Lanka, Polynesia and China in our midst.  Bringing these groups together is not just about gardening but helping them to connect with their local community. Holiday programs for children are provided at low cost and Twilight Markets generate a stream of income that is fed back into other programs.  Shoestring are also active on social media and hope to expand in this area to spread information and motivation to a larger audience.

Check out their Facebook page

One of the courses that i did was on Harvesting and Preserving.  Because of the lack of cooking facilities in Ridge Drive we had to go to another centre and due to renovations on their kitchen we ended up doing the course using little burners on tables in a conference room.  Well this will not be a problem anymore.  Since all the courses are FREE to participants the funding is either generated by seedling sales, consultancy fees to business/schools etc or through rigorously applying for govt funding or any grant that might be available.  Take it from me, applying and winning a grant is hard hard work. This i know, as Ive successfully applied for and received over 2 Million in Export & Marketing Grants over several years for my previous employer - FIGJAM!.  This little beauty was provided by a grant and will allow Shoestring to not only teach how to grow the produce but also to prepare them and preserve as well.  

One thing you can always guarantee at a Shoestring event is lots of laughter and great food.  Tonight was no different.  Lucky i hadn't had dinner.

Can't believe i didn't take more photos of the food table - perhaps my hands were full? LOL.  They were groaning with savouries, quiches, homemade sausage rolls, fresh veggies, fruit and dips.   There was one dish that was cooked on the BBQ (I'm not sure that this one qualifies as a BBQ, more like a cooking centre or kitchen) that went down a treat. It was Turkish flat bread with feta and chopped spinach.  It was simply folded over with the ingredients inside and cooked flat on the hot plate, cut into smaller pieces.  How simple, yet i handed them out and came back with an empty tray in moments.

We were also entertained with classical music played by Clare on violin and Charles on keyboard.  They were really good.  Thank you.

Down to the business end of the evening and with so many door prizes we were all pretty much guaranteed to go home with something.

Would it be wrong to re-gift this at Christmas.  I am growing these 3 already.  
Minutes of previous meetings were read along with the Chairman's Report, Financials and then election of office bearers.  While i would love to stay involved with these guys, i think, if I'm invited, that i would like to attend meetings when i can rather than take on responsibilities of being an officer where i could not give my all.  I tend to jump in with both feet, dig in too deep and then have to scramble to get out of the hole Ive dug for myself.  So I'll sit on the edge of the hole and dangle my feet in once and a while and hope that i can contribute something worthwhile. Thank you to those whodid volunteer and accept the roles of President, Treasurer, Secretary and Committee Members.

Special mention from me that was also mentioned in the Chairman's Report.  Karen Bembridge was previously a part time employee but she also volunteered a huge chunk of her personal time and effort. Given a period of uncertainty regarding funding she was forced to seek more permanent employment and had to let go of something that was very dear to her.  I wish her well and thank her for all her beautiful lunches, gardening advice, and big welcoming smiles.   My other thanks goes to Bronwyn Riddell for her wealth of knowledge on seemingly everything, her self deprecating humour that is hysterical and for her continuing service to our community.  We are all very lucky that she chooses to serve us.

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

20th Anniversary Get-Away - Great Ocean Road

If you have just received a flurry of comments on your posts from me this afternoon then its because I've just caught up on whats been happening while I've been away for a few days.  Its our 20th Wedding Anniversary today and to celebrate Hubby and I escaped the pressures of work and family and literally retreated to an idealic holiday home at Grey River for three days.  Where, you say? I know, its not a town but a settlement of several holiday homes between Lorne and Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. The closest village would be Kennett River, a few windy kms down the road and while we were there we only saw the guy working on the new house next door a few times and he made no intrusion.

I cant say we were "off the grid" but we certainly had no mobile service (unless we drove several kms up the hill to Cape Paton Lookout - which we did several times), no data service (hence no blogs or emails) and a landline that only allowed local calls.  After the initial panic of not being able to reach Tom and a quick dash up to the lookout, we gave him the house number and from then on we got a call at midday and in the evenings to reassure us that he was OK.  Tom had Tilly sitting duties and sent lots of photos that were designed (I'm sure) to make me feel bad.

OH Mum, where have you gone???
 She was still waiting at the door for us to return several hours after we had left. Such a mad frenzy today on our return.

OK guilt trip is over, back to the real trip.

The very short bush walk down to the beach/rocks.  I don't know who would maintain this path.  As it neared the beach there were cut out wooden steps.  As it is on the other side of the road to the settlement and it wouldn't belong to anyone, i can only imagine that the owners of the holiday houses do it for their guests. Don't Know?  

There was a reason why the surf was so loud at night.  The house was just above this very rocky outcrop and the waves were crashing down on it at high tide.  It was awesome and we slept with the doors open all night despite the cool nights .  This little sand area doesn't look much but in summer it should make a lovely place for a picnic and sandcastles.   There is a swimming beach down the road at Kennett River or Wye River with lifeguards.  

Lots of rockpools to explore
So where did we stay?   Sea Oaks  a holiday home owned by Bruce & Lyn Pascoe.  I found it through the booking site Stayz.  It is out of season at the moment and also we chose mid week nights making our nightly tariff for the house only $150 per night.  Bargain.  When booking on the Internet i always read the reviews of the property over the last 12 months, off several sites to be sure that its OK.  So far, I've aced it each time and we have stayed in some pretty spectacular places for very reasonable prices.

These extremely well fed parrots were our welcoming committee and they were hanging around the deck almost the whole time we were there.    They weren't the only ones though. Several times a day we would look up from our reading and see beautiful wild birds perched on branches or foraging in the garden.

View from Top Bedroom

The whole house is surrounded by big picture windows and the garden was planted to provide a stunning view of natives flora whilst ensuring total privacy.  

These couches were so long and wide that even completely stretched out, i was swamped. 

The main bedroom also had its own deck with sliding doors.  They were left open all night and it sounded like the sea was crashing right outside our window.  

View from kitchen window
Very tastefully decorated.  

I loved this picture.  
So what do you get up to on your 20th Anniversary Get-Away?  Not much when it rained everyday and that's exactly what was needed and wanted.   No gifts were exchanged, just a few days in each others company doing what we wanted.   As it turned out, we both read, slept and ate the whole time.  Sounds good to me.

I actually did start and finish reading all 3 books and the papers in 3 days.  Sounds like we didn't speak to each other but we did and i kept asking if he was happy reading his technical magazines (HI-Fi and Computers) and was assured he was.  He was abit bummed about having no Data connection but i dont think he suffered too much.
We both catnapped throughout the day on our respective couches and just relaxed.   We drove the 28 km along the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay on Monday for lunch and a quick walk on the beach.  Always up for a soup, we went to The Bay Leaf Cafe and i woofed down a cauliflower, leek and blue cheese soup with sourdough toast while Hubby enjoyed a beef curry with rice, naan and chutney.

Hubby in a reflective mood.  Was he deciding as he looked out at the horizon in Apollo Bay whether he could put up with me for another 20 years.  He didn't enter the water and keep on walking so i guess he's going to stick around. 
The kitchen at the house was well stocked and was fully equipped with anything you might need.  I always cook when we are away and so i took a dry bag (full of condiments, sauces, cereal, coffee, eggs, bread, veggies, baked beans, crackers & nibbles) and a wet cooler bag (meats, bacon, yogurt, milk, butter, cheese, dressings and more veggies).

As you can see we didn't exactly rough it.

I'm looking forward to our next holiday that wont be until next year.  Not only will Hubby be working through Christmas season (shutdowns and maintenance period) but today our only child, Tom, 16, got his first full time job.   Woo Hoo!!!!!     Shortly he will join a very local KFC, not as a casual, but as their Full Time Day Cook.  I am hoping that this will lead into a traineeship.  It was a hard, big decision to let him leave school in Year 9 (after almost 11 years of private schooling - there is our mortgage) but he continues to do tutoring in Maths and English and now has his first full time job. Tom is on his way.....

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