Sunday, October 27, 2019

The tradies are back, and other improvements

We have been making small improvements in our house, which has meant some work for DH and also an invasion of tradies.

First DH put up a utensil rack above my stove, which I absolutely love. When we renovated, the old utensil rack came down under the baleful eye of the kitchen designer, who seemed to have a very negative opinion of such things. Six months later, and none of us can find where to put our most used tools, and the constant searching between drawers was an obstacle to effectiveness. Time to take back the space and use it the way we want to! We went to IKEA and saw this black metal one, which would be just right for our lovely new space. DH put it up and we all love it.

Both bathrooms were looking tired even though they were renovated not too long ago. The main bathroom had a ceiling which had peeling paint -the bathroom renovator had not managed to solve this problem, so we got a plasterer in and he has made us a new ceiling out of special waterproof boards. We are waiting for him to come back to paint it with special waterproof paint.  We got another  tradie in to clean the grout in both the main bathroom and the en suite. He removed the grout and replaced it with water repellent stuff which is guaranteed for 15 years.

The decision to take on these projects was made because we want to have a home which is easy to maintain in our older years, and we are not now in the position where we can do some of these jobs ourselves.  You have to know where to spend and where to save. We feel this is a good investment.

Our Living Smart Course has been quite a joy. Last week I wrote about the water savings were were able to make as a result. This week we visited the home of one of our lecturers -and you can read about it here. Ecoburbia is a innovative retrofitted home which is  an "alternative urban infill development, housing cooperative, community garden, model sustainable house and benevolent dictatorship".  DH and I enjoyed seeing lots of the ideas we have been trying to incorporate into our place -and others we have not yet tried -in  a real life situation.

It has also been great to be with like-minded people. We have one of the people we met in our course coming over tomorrow to look at our garden.  Community is important for resilience -we can support one another in our simple living journeys.

Another community event that gave us much joy was when we travelled to a country town to spend a day learning about Benedictine Spirituality. I took this picture inside a newly renovated heritage farm shed where we met. They had used the old roof corrugated iron as lining in the shed, and put up some lovely art works around the walls. This picture of a tree has the motto "We all draw from the same ground water, we all reach to the same light." The lotus flowers were from the farm dam.

Another source of inspiration this week has been this book:

I borrowed it from the library, but I am putting it on my Christmas list because it is really so, so good! If you find yourself feeling hope is waning about the state of our world, this is the book for you!

Finally I have been making progress on my house quilt.

I am now working on a scrappy checked 4 patch border.

All in all, it was a very good week, but I am ready I think to release the sharks into the moat and put up the drawbridge! I am an introvert who needs recovery time from each adventure into society!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The virtual water tank -how to have 3000 litres of water for the garden

DH and I have been attending a local course sponsored by the Water Corporation, on living sustainably in this drying climate. Our local flora and fauna need us to conserve the water in the underground basins -where half of our water for the city is now being drawn from, as Perth dams now get less than 10% of the runoff that they were getting 50 or so years ago, due to climate change. We need to save as much water as we can.

We have a 3000 litre water tank in our garden -but would like more, because it is collects free water! Our roof gutters are still sending a lot of water down the drains, when I would like to use it in the house and garden. One of the problems in putting new water tanks in, is that we don't have a huge amount of room to do so, as the house is quite close to the fence on three sides.

The good news is that, as a result of the course we are doing, we have found at least 12,000 litres of water that used to go down the drain, and all we have done is change a couple of habits.

1. Collecting the cold water from the sink while waiting for the hot water to flow through.

We have a 3 litre old milk bottle under the sink.  Every time we want hot water, we put the bottle under the tap. We have discovered that it usually takes 3 litres of water before the hot arrives-water which used to go down the drain. The cold water is then easily walked out to the vegetable garden a couple of times a day, and gives extra water where it is needed. In the course of a day we would do this 3 times, so that is 9 litres x 365 days per year or 3,285 litres of water per year - the equivalent of one full water tank per year!

2. A bucket in the shower in the en suite to collect the cold water before the hot water arrives

Similarly, we are now collected the cold water in the shower. It is further away from the water service, so we have found it collects around 9 litres per shower. We have a toilet right next to the shower, so we are using the water to flush the toilet. Not only does this use the cold water we collect -we save the water which was used in flushing . Our low-flush toilets use 6 litres maximum each flush. If we use the shower water in this way, we have saved the 3285 litres of water per year x 2 for DH and I when we shower - a total of 6570 litres,  plus the saving of 4 flushes per day at 6 litres = 8760 litres per year, which is close to three 3000 litre water tanks! This saving will help us when we are using scheme water on our garden -we can still have a thriving garden without using too much water!

I still want to do more water storage on our property -but finding this water with just a couple of changes to our behaviour is pretty good.

IN other good news, I have moved on from my quilting disaster of last week and am having great fun making a new quilt. I found the inspiration pattern in a book I picked up cheaply at a WAQA sale -it is called The Thimbleberries Guide for Weekend Quilters, and the pattern I am using is called "Welcome Home". I have always wanted to do a 'house quilt" and this is a great introduction to it. The original design is in the traditional muted Thimbleberries fabrics. I think they give it quite a traditional look.

This is the picture in the book

I am adapting it a bit as I go. My daughter commented that as a quilter, I rarely follow the pattern!  Two of the houses now have doors, and I am making scrappy stars. I am also thinking of making a 6 patch border and perhaps even sashing and cornerstones for the main blocks-all scrappy. I have chosen slightly brighter fabrics from my stash, and mixed up the colours of the houses.

Here is my version so far, still on the design board.

Here is the house with a door

I am pleased too that this quilt lets me use two of the Accuuilt Go! dies that I have -the one which came with it when purchased has a 4.5 inch square and a 2.5 inch square and 2.5 when complete half inch triangles -I am using this one for the stars. The 2.5 inch strip cutter is used for many pieces of the house.

So it has been quite a productive week! Which is a bit surprising, given that we had quite a few interruptions from our usual routine going to events for anti-Poverty Week and also for the launch of the Perth branch of Equal Voices. We also made dinner for friends on Friday night.

I have an optometrist appointment today -hoping for better general multifocals as a result!

Have a good week !

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Frugal achievements this week 15_10_2019

This week is Anti-Poverty Week -check out the end of this post for some resources about poverty.

Meanwhile many of us are living simple, frugal lives for many reasons. Some of us are living on small and insecure incomes, some of us are voluntarily reducing our spending in order to care for the planet and support charitable works, some of us have big savings goals. 

DH and I are loving our simple retired lifestyle. I am getting better at my 'elevator speech' which explains that no, we are not travelling around the world and no, we are not playing golf every day. Our lives are full and wonderful just the same! We cook from scratch, grow some food and have volunteering days and crafty days which keep us happy.

Here are some of the achievements this week

1. I gave up on a quilt project.

Sorry to start with a negative, but that blue community quilt with the wonky blocks that I struggled with for so long? Well, in trying a new-to-me technique I inadvertently quilted over a couple of safety pins and sandwiched them between the layers of the quilt.

Nope, not going to give it to anyone -not even a pet (it could be unsafe).

Nope, not unpicking any more (this thing was a nightmare).

Instead I made a Christmas place mat for the the WAQA community quilt project -we give them to nursing homes for the trays on Christmas Day, and I have a new project all lined up to start. 

Sometimes you just have to do what brings you joy. How was this frugal? Well, it was frugal with my time and energy! I quilt as a hobby, to be creative and to produce things which bring other people joy. If a project isn't doing that, I reserve the full and complete right to ditch it. I don't do this lightly or frequently and yes, I did think about the fabric and the wadding (which was stitched together left-over strips anyway). They were unusable for anything but a compost heap, and even then the presence of the pins would be a hazard. 

2. I saved seeds from my mizuna, after having let the bees have their fun on the pretty yellow flowers for quite a while. One of my projects is to grow more from seed, and to do that where possible from seed I have saved, so that over time the plants I grow are more and more adapted to my growing conditions.  (PS do check out this lovely video about regenerative agriculture) 

3. Following on from example from Annabelle over at The Blue Birds are Nesting, I am drying rose buds and petals, and lavender flowers. I figure the rose buds will be pretty decorations on Christmas presents, and the petals and lavender I plan to use in little mesh bags for going under my pillow! 

4. We combined a number of trips together to go further afield to find a few things we needed. I have been buying conditioner in bulk to save on the plastic bottles, and I needed a specialised pump to get the conditioner out and decant it into my own bottle for the shower. While we were there, we found some preserving jars to go with some new lids someone gave us -but the shop said that the supplier only provided them with jars and lids together! After a minute or two, the assistant said that she thought they had some jars without lids that we could have...and the next thing we had 15 jars for free! 

During this trip I also went to a local quilt shop to pick up a part I needed for my Accuquilt Go strip cutter. This will enable me to cut my next project out with ease. 

We also looked in some antique shops and op shops -at the moment DH is looking for a chess set to go with the chess board he made this week using scrap timber someone gave him. Didn't find one yet -but that is OK. Part of the fun is the hunt! 

Then we went a bit further to the wonderful Stitched and Bound exhibition of quilts up at Kalamunda. It was too far to go as a single trip from our place, but all together with the other errands it was doable, and we both enjoyed it very much. 

5. We put out a fire! 
It all started with an innocent lunch on the patio when DH noticed smoke from behind our neighbor’s place. Some kids had set a xanthorea on fire in the walkway behind her place. 

We started a bucket brigade and the neighbours used shovels to damp down the flames until the fire brigade turned up -they were quick, but with the situation around the fire as it was, we couldn't wait. The fire was about 3 metres from our neighbour's house, and it was underneath a big eucalypt. If the tree had caught fire, and sparks had landed on J's roof, this would have been very serious indeed! 

6. We are enjoying our library books. This week I read Dr Michael Mosley's book called The Clever Guts Diet. It is about eating a variety of foods designed to improve the biota in the gut. I found it very interesting, and I am making sure I add some of the foods he suggested, into our meal plan regularly.

7. Exercise for free I have been getting back into walking around our suburb -there is a route which takes about an hour. I prefer that to exercising in a noisy gym where you can't even see outside. 

Thanks for reading my blog, and all of your comments are very much appreciated.

Reading about poverty in Western Australia here   WA Council of Social Service report Food insecurity can lead to long-term entrenched food stress, and significantly impact people’s health and wellbeing.

Here's a $75 fix that would help solve Australia's poverty problem  

For those in Australia
Join the campaign to Raise the Rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance this Anti-Poverty Week.
- Call 6277 7111 and ask to speak to your local MP and explain why we need to increase Newstart
or find them here:
- Register to meet your politician:
- Sign up to the Raise the Rate campaign:
- Share your story with us:

Sunday, October 6, 2019

We painted a wall!

Last week DH and I painted this wall on the left.

It is not easy to paint brick -especially bark faced brick. We put on two coats of undercoat before the top coat of premium outdoor paint. Our hands were sore from all the pushing of the paint into the grooves of the bricks, but no lasting damage was done -and we were very pleased with how a couple like us with hand and joint issues, were able to get this job done together.

The reason we painted this wall is that it faces west -and gets a lot of afternoon sun in the summer. The room behind is my sewing room -and I spend a lot of time in there during the day. I felt as though the room was significantly hotter than the rest of the house, and we had thought about installing an insulated false wall of light coloured colourbond in front of it. Someone at the Sustainable House Open Day suggested trying the paint first -turning a dark and heat absorbing wall into one which will reflect light and heat.

As soon as the fairly thin first undercoat went on you could tell the difference -light was bouncing off the wall and into our little 'French cafe' space and the lounge room beyond. The cafe is just tucked in to the right of the picture above near the carport door. You can see that we have a colourbond wall here -which is the same colour as the carport door and the same colour of our newly painted wall.

At the same time we moved the pot plants which we had here -and we haven't moved them back. We are thinking of creating a water feature for this newly painted wall...with some 'Moroccan' inspired tiles as a backsplash.

This is the kind of thing we are thinking of

Northbridge Concrete Water Feature - 110cm

We already have the plinth and a similar sort of bowl, but we are thinking of putting it up against the wall, with some kind of decorative tiles behind. We already have outdoor lighting and water nearby.

Meanwhile I can see that I need to improve the weeding of the bricks in front of the wall here! The solution to every problem creates another problem!

I am also wondering if we will get to the point of painting the whole of the house this way...but I think we will get a tradie in to do it!