Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A quilt finish, a new machine and more fixing things

When I wrote my last post about fixing things, DH had a plan on how to fix the pot plant stand which was buckling. I am happy to report that this circle of wood which he cut and fixed to the base is exactly the reinforcement it needed. 

I can now turn the ficus benjamina around towards the morning sun, to help it grow more branches and become less uneven in its growth habit. 

This week I dropped some things off at the op shop, and as usual went inside for a quick look. This original watercolour  (below) was in a broken frame and stuffed in a crate. I  saw it, loved it, and so bought it for $7 and another empty frame for $5. DH helped me trim the matt to size and installed some piano wire to the frame to hang it up.

We are both delighted with it. It would appear to have been painted in 1983. 

Some time back I decided that we would try to feature original art, or buy prints directly from the artist, but each art work had to cost less than $50. Since that time we have added some very lovely works to our home. 

My friend's elderly mother received this 1960 Elna from her sister. As she doesn't sew, my friend offered to find it a home, and thought of me! It works well but I need to get the wall plug rewired. I have downloaded the manual and so know where to give  it some oil. Stay tuned for how the project goes. 

Finally here is the 'forest floor' quilt I have just finished, using batik jelly roll fabric I was given by a friend. It got a bit sidelined over Christmas, but I am happy it is now complete. As my tshirt says "done is better than perfect". 

So that is all for this week. I hope you have some joy in fixing and finishing things too. 

Friday, January 26, 2024

How to be happy and frugal: Fix Things!

 If I think of the things which make me very happy the list is long, and one of them is absolutely the delight I feel when I fix something. The sense of achievement is a real ego booster. What was a problem has now been solved. The item is useful again. In turn this is a big money saver- as well as a way of preventing things going to landfill. I think this is compounded for me by the sense of agency- as a girl I was not expected to do more than cook or sew, but give me a drill and a hammer and I am powerful! 

For instance, today the youngest grandchild noticed letters in the letterbox, and wanted to get the key and get the letters. When you are 6 this is a grown up, independent and helpful thing to do.

 The problem was that the key would not turn in the lock. We knew it had been getting worse, but had  done nothing  about it but jiggle jiggle jiggle everytime we wanted the lock to turn. Today it was a serious problem for Mr 6, and today it took just a squirt with a can of silicone spray to lubricate the lock and make it good for another 6 months. At the same time DH sprayed the tracks in our outdoor blind and made them smooth and easy to use too.  

Some kind of hardware style lubricant is a good thing to have in any 'fix it' kit. Other items might be strong glues of various kinds, a screwdriver or two, some strong adhesive tape, a couple of permanent markers for covering scratches, maybe a clamp to hold broken pieces together as they cure. 

Do you have a fix it kit? I wonder what you would include in it? 

In our hot climate an automatic reticulation system is essential in a garden and because we have a drying climate we use drippers and microsprays. Sometimes these get clogged or broken and a plant will be struggling. Yet it is a task of just moments to replace the broken part and get everything working again. We keep reticulation parts for exactly that reason, in our shed. 

We use two clothes lines outside -the kind we call 'parallines"- a rectangle hung on a wall with lines of wire to hang the clothes on, making great use of limited space. Recently the most used one -up in the sunshine and the wind-had its wires fray and snap. I took a piece of it with me to the hardware store and found a replacement bundle of wire, then worked out how to re-string it again. Not difficult, but so practical and useful. 

I did the same with the lovely windchime which announces the arrival of our sea breeze. Recently it fell with a clang because the fishing wire which holds it up had broken. I found some galvanised wire in DH's shed and made it secure again. 

A common issue in households are things which use batteries, because they stop working when the battery has to be recharged or replaced. One very aggravating place to have battery failure is the computer wireless keyboard, because you can't do anything until you replace the battery -and the batteries for mine are AAA -the very small ones, not used for anything else around here. Other things in our house which use batteries are wall clocks, torches and hand held devices. If you have little children you may have night lights, toys and games which also need batteries. 

 We keep a selection of battery sizes on hand so we don't have to run to the shop at awkward moments to get a new battery. This is just a bit or regular household 'magic' that can de-stress an awkward moment and sometimes be a big thing. We recognised this week that our battery stash is a bit scattered. Maybe I should try to find a good receptical and bring them all together so that we don't do a mad scramble when something dies. Nearby could be a place to stash used batteries, so that I can take them for recycling (they should never go in landfill!).

One major cause of frustration is anything 'remote controlled' -including TVs, garage doors, etc.  Our CD player is used daily during our morning meditation, and has a remote control. Just replacing the battery gives a moment of joy when the click starts our Hilda of Bingen music.

DH keeps a pretty well resourced handyman shed. Now that his knee replacement is behind him, he is back to tinkering in the shed again. One of the projects on his bench at the moment is a wheeled plant pot stand. It got buckled because I put a heavy pot plant with a ficus benjamina in it on the stand but it was too heavy. I like to have wheels on that pot plant so I can turn it around and keep the tree symetrical as it responds to the light. DH is going to reinforce the pot stand with a scrap piece of wood so that it can be used again, and we don't need to buy a new stand. This will require a bit of nifty cutting with one of his favourite tools -the band saw. 

We keep warranties and ownership manuals in plastic pockets in a lever arch file. This has been invaluable. 

  • Why is that light flashing on the induction stovetop? 
  • How do I clean the exhaust fan over the stove? 
  • Can I fix the dishwasher by buying a new part? 
  • How do I program this new appliance?
 Lots of things can be solved by reading the manual. If you can't solve it sometimes you can find the address of the supplier/manufacturer and order a new part which will solve the problem. If you have bought an appliance second hand you can often get a manual online. I did this recently with my new-to-me icecream maker.

If not, there are many good videos on the internet which will show you how to fix a lot of things. 

Then of course there is the good old 'tie it up with wire' approach, time honoured in the song True Blue by John Williamson. The real masters of this approach are the stars of Bush Mechanics -a humorous TV show about First Nations people hacking cars in the outback to keep them functioning 'some how".  For these times, a creativity and a 'she'll be right' approach can be what is required. In the garden, my cable ties and bits of scrap wood  or tree branches can make a whole lot of useful shade in a temporary arrangement, like this I have made at the east end of a struggling garden bed, when I realised the hot morning sun was making the silverbeet struggle. I just cut a couple of branches of bamboo and cable tied them to the end of the bed. Instant shade! Not too dark, and no money required.

Then there are the things you might find in an op shop, or a skip, or offered for free from a neighbour. They might be a bit battered, or neglected or broken, but maybe you can fix them and get more life out of them? 

We bought a rather battered old dining table at the tip shop for about $10. DH thought it was 'good wood' underneath, and had an idea. He cut down the legs, sanded and smoothed the top, turned some of the boards around...and then we have this fabulous coffee table. He used a waxed finish, so that anytime its life has been a bit rough, we can get the wax furniture polish out and buff it up again. We both love it. 

We also try to keep a list of repairers and general 'fix it' helpers -the computer shop which is able to replace a mother board, the sewing machine mechanic who can source old parts, the 'guy up the road' with a history of fixing garden equipment, all sorts of helpers. In Australia if your spectacles are broken, you can take them to any optician and they will fix them on the spot, usually free of charge. These people are rare and valuable. 

Finally a thought from Brenna Quinlan, Permaculture illustrator and teacher

So, save money and be happy: Fix Things! 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Adventures in Second Hand purchasing

 If we are to live more sustainably on this One Planet Earth we all share, it is pretty clear that we in the industrialised and wealthy countries need to reduce our consumption. One of the ways I try to do this is by choosing to purchase things second hand rather than new, wherever possible.

When we buy second hand, we keep things from landfill, we dampen the demand for manufacturers to make new things all the time, and as a by-product we save money. I try to always look for anything I need first in the free or second hand space, before buying new. 

A picture of our veggie garden and fruit trees

As I try to limit my exposure to all kinds of advertising, I generally have identified an actual need or a sensible 'want' before I go out to look for a product. This month I have been aware of the fact that I have a LOT of last year's citrus harvest in the freezer, and it wasn't moving fast enough into our meals. I need to move it through the freezer to keep the rotation going and have room for other things. Then it occurred to me that I could make sorbet or gelato or icecream and use up the juice that way. That meant finding an icecream maker!*

The ice cream maker I bought second hand

As it happens, ice cream makers are just the kind of appliance to be often available in the second hand market. People buy them with all sorts of aspirations, and then don't make a habit of using them much. At some point it is just an appliance taking up valuable real estate in their kitchen and in their freezer. 

I found a good brand ice cream maker for about one third of the price of a new one. If it should happen that I don't use the machine as much as I think I would, then I have not been much out of pocket. 

Lemon cake with lemon icing on 

a second hand cake stand, plate and glass cover

In order to make room for the icecream maker in the cupboards in the kitchen, we advertised our dehydrator on our local Buy Nothing group. We have realised that in this climate we don't really need a dehydrator. Firstly, most herbs grow all year round, and fresh herbs are usually more flavourful. Secondly, we have a LOT of dry sunny days, and anything we needed to dry could simply be hung somewhere shady and a day or so later it would be crisp. We are happy to let someone else have the dehydrator- we got it for free, so we passed it on for free too. 

So I looked on line in a popular marketplace and found a suitable machine. Sadly, after I got it home I discovered it had a piece missing. The seller didn't have the piece, and offered to reduce the price if I could find a replacement piece from the manufacturer. The manufacturer was not helpful -they said they had a backlog and would take 8-10 working days to get back to me! Hmmm.

I got my money back from the first seller, and checked if I could find a similar machine new in a shop Just as I  was reconciled to this, another machine of exactly the same type as the first one, turned up for sale -and for $10 less! Off I went again and this time all the pieces are there. 

The first Icecream I made is from Stephanie Alexander's book 
The Kitchen Companion" : lime icecream. It was extremely nice, and worth taking to dinner on Friday when our Friday friends group gets back together after a month recess over the Christmas and New Year period. 

I have been reading over the summer period. One of the books I enjoyed from the library was Kate Rawles's story of riding a bike around South America and visiting both biodiversity hot spots and places in trouble, and the people trying to heal the land and change the system.

Everything is connected, they say. One mine, one extinction, is felt everywhere and by everything. Just doing things like taking the trouble to buy second hand or fix something rather than throwing it away, is a tiny act of restoration and rebellion against the forces that will destroy everything we hold dear. 

* Of course, citrus is not just used in icecream. I have been using lemons instead of stuffing in a roast chicken, for a long time. I also use lemon and lime juice in salad dressings, risotto and just flavouring iced water for long summer drinks. The DH makes marmalade from many citrus varieties too. Cakes can be great with citrus.

If you have as many trees as I have, there is a big need to find uses for citrus- even after giving many of the fruit away there is still a lot left. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Midsummer update


Here we are still, in midsummer, and just after Christmas 2023. A lot has happened since my last post, so I thought I should do an update. 

Christmas was quite lovely. Made special by family and friends.
This little picture is of a series of fairy light strings which now grace our home. Our grapevine has these coloured LEDs, and there is a string of white solar powered ones which enchant a small area near the DDs room.

There is a new bee bath near a frangipani and Geisha Girl duranta repens which I have decorated with glass beads and stones so the bees can escape the water while drinking. 

We finally got our ugly old asbestos fence replaced with green colourbond. The workers did a great job, and I am happy to report that the large jasmine vine has had a big haircut but is very much alive at the end of the patio. This picture above was just after the fence was installed. Since then I have been decorating the space and seeing what I can do about plants. 

DH and I escaped for a week to Albany for a holiday prior to him having a knee replacement in the first week of December. He is not driving at the moment due to his pain medication, but is doing well. He can walk around inside very well, and has ditched his wheeled mobility aid for a simple walking stick. We are now in 'rehab' mode which will ramp up as his healing progresses.
We are very grateful for a modern and free health system! 

I haven't done much quilting for a while -but I hope that now the surgery and Christmas is behind us, I can get back into the several projects I have on the go! 

Thank you for visiting this site. Gosh, I hope we can all see a renewal of peace for the new year. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Getting ready for summer -it is going to be hot and dry

It didn't take long for the winter rains to dry up here in Perth. Far too early, for me, the forecasts began to be for weeks of no rain, and in this Mediterannean climate that could go on until March. 

The sandy soil dries out quickly unless mulched and shaded.

What is even more concerning are the reports and predictions that this summer will be hotter than ever, and the sea temperatures hotter also.  The toll on our environment is going to be a major concern.  

Click here for the BOM prediction of hotter, drier weather in Perth

About two years ago, Perth and the South West had one of those 'heat bubble' type of weather patterns. The accustomed afternoon sea breezes never arrived. The houses got hotter and hotter and had no time to cool down before the next hot day arrived. It was just after Christmas and went on for about 10 days. 

All the passive cooling strategies we had set up around here, all the shade sails and grapevine pergolas, all the ceiling fans were suddenly not enough.

It was hard to sleep.

Plants died in the heat. Trees were stressed.

We went to the shops to see what we could add to the house to help cool us down. They were selling out of anything which might cool people down - fans, portable air conditioners, the lot. The sales staff confessed the warehouses were empty and that even if you could buy something more permanent like an evaporative air conditioner, there were no installers free to put them in. One guy said his own flat was too hot to sleep in. 

In the end we got a house wide evaporative air conditioning system installed in March of that year, and we LOVE it. In our dry climate it works really well, is very cheap to run and if there is any run off I was able to put in on the garden via a low-pressure sprinkler. 

There are times, however, when we know this system won't be enough. If there is a lot of smoke due to bushfires, or if the humidity is too high, you can't run the evaporative air conditioner. It is not normally a problem in Perth, but the climate is changing! 

We saved up for months, and this week we put in a couple of Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners. They are in the bedrooms. This is so that we can ensure a good night's sleep, and we can always retreat to the bedrooms if the rest of the house is too uncomfortable.

DD is also happy that it will also give her a heater for the winter time. These RCACs are efficient but can be noisy, especially for neighbours. In the process of cooling rooms, they vent hot air outside, which makes the problem worse for our cities. 

Apart from this, I am working hard to get the garden ready for the summer. The reticulation is always in need of some tweaking after winter. I have shade on the veggie beds. I try to grow climate hardy plants, but in summer there is really not much which will survive a 45C day, especially if it goes on for weeks. 

Of course, some of these strategies are not available to people who are renting. There are landlords who do not even have insulation in the roofs of places they let out, and in this climate it should be mandated by law. 

I support the team of activists at Better Renting . Better Renting is a community of renters working together for stable, affordable, and healthy homes. They are doing a survey this summer of the type of conditions renters are facing, and also will be providing strategies for those who are too hot in their rental. Click the link to find out more. 

Meanwhile, I have found some tips for renters here from Milkwood -and they are really practical.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

It's here! First days with the EV


We picked up and registered our EV (Electric Vehicle) today and I have had my first drive in it! It is a Nissan Leaf. 

(For the leadup to this post, see the last one here)

There are many feelings involved!

There is the novelty of a new technology, because this is like having a mobile computer. There are displays, cameras, readouts, switches, toggles, modes -so much information at hand. It feels supportive- five camera angles to help you park, warning alarms for all sorts of things -"you wouldn't be silly enough to do that thing, would you?" kind of noises. There is a warning beep when reversing -because the car is very quiet, and people need to know you are coming. 

The first drive in any car is exciting. The first drive in an EV even more so. It is quiet -it is powerful-it is just like any car, but not like it at all. Now, I still have to figure out how to find my favourite radio station, and which of those switches turns on the aircon? 

There is relief. Did you know that we acually bought this car on the internet

As a result of Australia's geographical size and stupid car policies which do not promote electric vehicles at anything like the rate we need to decarbonise our future, there is almost no second hand market for EVs, and new ones are hugely expensive and have a wait list. We found the Good Car Company could import vehicles from Japan, second hand, at reasonable prices. We bought and paid for the car weeks before it arrived in Perth, as it had to be trucked across the Nullabor, and then we had to register it in this state. I must say, all the way along that the Good Car Company has been very helpful and supportive. There were moments of doubt however, and the relief is real. 

There is satisfaction. DH went to put a few $$ worth of fuel in the ICE vehicle we are selling, and had great delight in saying "This is the last fossil fuel I ever buy!" For me, this is the culmination of a dream more than 5 years old, to say goodbye to fossil fuels and drive a clean green car. We sold our ICE car! 

There is excitement.

Friends and family are very interested in the new vehicle because, unlike countries overseas, EVs are relatively rare in Australia and most have never seen anyone who fairly ordinary, like us, with one. We are fielding many quesions and enquiries, which is great. The more the merrier! 

But what about RANGE ANXIETY?

Well, yes, it is a thing for new EV drivers to be constantly aware of the approximate number of kms left in the battery before recharging, because, unlike ICE  (Internal Combustion Energy) cars, we can't fill up on every corner at the fossil fuel petrol station. 

We are learning to drive in such a way as to enable as much recharging of the battery as possible. This is due to regenerative braking. As you slow the speed of an electric vehicle, regenerative braking engages the motion of the wheels to act as a sort of crankshaft, sending energy to the motor via rotation of the motor shaftThe Nissan has several driving modes to promote this regeneration, one exiting one is a 'one pedal drive' in which you don't use the brakes at all!!!

This means that, unlike an ICE vehicle, the car can top itself up a little instead of just running down the fuel/charge gauge. For example, yesterday afternoon we travelled about 18 km in city driving, but when we the car dash suggested we had used up only about 11 km of range. 

Our own Power Station

It took a few days before we could perform our first recharge at home -because of course, the battery needs to have some capacity used up first, so that we can, actually, have room for more charge! This was a new skill-but it was very easy to do. DH was greatly relieved that the set up we installed a month or so ago, actually works with this car. I was relieved to know that we can power up the car at home, easily and whenever we need to.  

Charging an EV takes some time, compared to the 10 minute approximate filling up with a fossil fuel in an ICE vehicle. 

If we stop at a public EV charger, we can do a rapid charge which may take up to 30 minutes. Too slow? But it will cost about one third of the price of the fossil fuel! 

If we charge up at home on a medium speed it will take about 5 hours or so, but as the car sits outside for many hours per week, it is hardly a big problem. We will be strategic about charging up where possible when our solar panels are pumping the most electricity, and when the household is relatively powered down. For example, we wash clothes in the morning so the car is going to be cheapest if we wait until the afternoon. I will be keeping track of our use, and comparing the price on our power bills. 

Our first charge took about 4 hours, at home, while we were eating dinner and reading books. We had planned to do it earlier in the afternoon with the sun shining on the solar panels, but we had to get a grandchild from school who was unwell, so we did it in the evening fron the grid. We calculate that would cost about $10.

In Australia,  a car is typically parked at home 80% of the time according to statistics here. 

The car has a nice roomy boot, deeper than normal because it doesn't have a spare wheel. What it does have is one of those repair kits for a puncture which squirt some kind of jell into the tyre. You then go to a shop and buy a new tyre! 

So, now we are driving emissions free. Australia needs to do this quickly to meet our emissions target. I hope this experience of ours will give confidence to others to consider an EV the next time they need to change vehicles. 


Monday, July 24, 2023

Waiting for the EV! Changing our minds


For those following along, it is not news that the climate is seriously overheated and we have to decarbonise immediately. Every tonne of C02 we save is worth it. Read about it here  but it is not hopeless, eg read about it in NZ -here

We have wanted an electric vehicle for a long time but they are expensive in Australia, so much so that when we bought our last vehicle 6 years ago, we could not make the numbers work even though I factored in  years of savings of buying petrol into the purchase price. EVs are expensive in Australia. 

There is a lot of anxiety about owning an electric vehicle in Australia, judging by the comments we see online and get from people in our community. Unlike places in Europe, the numbers are small, the distances are large and the distribution of public EV chargers is patchy. 

I read Saul Griffith's book "The Big Switch Australia's electric future". Read a summary here 

"Climate change is a planetary emergency. We have to do something now-but what? Saul Griffith has a plan. In Electrify, Griffith lays out a detailed blueprint-optimistic but feasible-for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment. Griffith's plan can be summed up simply: electrify everything. He explains exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid, and adapt our households to make this possible. Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on a private rocket ship to Mars, but the rest of us, Griffith says, will stay and fight for the future.

"Griffith, an engineer and inventor, calls for grid neutrality, ensuring that households, businesses, and utilities operate as equals; we will have to rewrite regulations that were created for a fossil-fueled world, mobilize industry as we did in World War II, and offer low-interest "climate loans." Griffith's plan doesn't rely on big, not-yet-invented innovations, but on thousands of little inventions and cost reductions. We can still have our cars and our houses-but the cars will be electric and solar panels will cover our roofs. For a world trying to bounce back from a pandemic and economic crisis, there is no other project that would create as many jobs-up to twenty-five million, according to one economic analysis. Is this politically possible? We can change politics along with everything else".

What happened next?

When we noticed that there was a company started up in Australia with the purpose of improving the uptake of EVs by importing second hand models from Japan, we were intrigued. As it says on their website: 

"It's as simple as changing our habits and showing a desire to adopt new ways of being.

We have the power to write our own stories and create the future we want. We can mobilise as individuals and communities to steer the market and policies towards a clean transport and energy future.

The ripple effect can create powerful change well beyond our borders as people realise that there is a cleaner better way of doing things. As we all know, stories are powerful, and an idea worth spreading can change the world". Read more here

Was this the opportunity we needed to get an EV? We had saved for our next vehicle, but not enough to buy a car with a 400 km battery range, but we could afford a car with a 200km + range. We thought about it when we drove to Bunbury, a town 175 km south of Perth. If we needed to charge the vehicle on the way, we would have to turn off the Bussell highway into Mandurah, which would be a bit of a diversion, but there are rechargers in Bunbury. A car with a 200km battery range would get there and when charged again, could get back as EVs regenerate some power in stop/start driving. What about other places? Not to Albany -not enough chargers on route, we think for a car with that smaller range. This may change in the future- as more people own electic vehicles there will be more chargers. 

For everyday use, however,  a smaller range vehicle would be fine for our use. As we are retired, we often have days when the car goes nowhere, sitting in the driveway all day, or we go to visit friends or go to the shops, very short drives between 5 km and 80km. 

We also have a small solar panel array, which even though small, means we sell to the grid about as much electricity as we use in the house. We can use the excess production for at least 9 months of the year in recharging the car for less than 2c per Kilowat hour, which is what the electricity company buys it from us for. Perth has an average of 8-9 sunshine hours per day (source BOM here ). This means there is a huge amount of take up of solar energy on rooftops. 

This is where the real change of minds came in! 

We simply decided to purchase an  EV with a 200km range, and to save up for a hire car when we want to go on holiday to Albany! After all, we already budget for rental accommodation! If we really want to, we can go down on the free Seniors card bus, and rent from an Albany supplier. 

The car is a Nissan Leaf 2018 with 65,000 km and a battery of 85%. 

What preparations have we made? 

1. We sold the trailer, as the new car won't have a tow bar. This raised some cash towards the second step. It is OK because we can always hire a ute if we need one, to move something or just pay for delivery. This is part of the change of mind that is required-instead of storing a trailer for the 3 or 4 times per year we need it, and paying for its upkeep and registration fee, we hire something as and when we need it. 

2. We have installed an EV charger to our house. 

3. We have been reading and watching videos about how to own, drive, and recharge the vehicle. It is a change of habit, and a change of technology. Many acronyms to learn! 

4. We have a buyer for our ICE vehicle (internal combusion engine -smelly, inefficient and climate damaging). 

5. We are waiting! 

The vehicle is going to be shipped from Melbourne on the back of a truck, then go through registration in Western Australia. The delivery date is still a few weeks away. We will let you know when it arrives and how we find it!