Sunday, June 28, 2020

Fun bargains in winter

Last weekend we celebrated Solstice with a bit of a family party. The grandchildren came over the day before to help decorate. We talked about longest days and the way the earth moves around the sun -all sorts of things, and they decorated small trees and we spread candles and greenery around.   The next day DGS1 turned up with his stuffed toy from the Frozen movie -Olaf the snowman! Great idea, as this is the closest we will ever get to snow during out winter! 

Due to the restrictions in place to keep us all safe during the pandemic, we couldn't have our friends over for a Winter Feast but we still had a lovely day. As it happened, it was sunny day and we were able to be outside. Our DD helped the grandchildren to a long painting session -I think DGS2 must have painted about 14 pictures in about an hour. I had made beef cheeks into a pie, and we had an apple and raspberry crumble to follow. 

The weather has been a wonderful mix of rain and sunshine. When we can we get out the bikes and go to the park. All of the kids' bikes we have here have been found at our Tip Shop, which is a social enterprise employing vulnerable people and saving things from landfill. DGS2 loves his balance bike.

DGS1 now has a big bike at our place with trainer wheels -it was $15 at the Tip Shop, and DH just tidied it up, oiled it and made sure the bell worked! He was delighted with it -"it's perfect!" he declared.

In the same vein, we have noticed that we really like the kind of ambiance you get from table and floor lamps on a winter's day when it is grey and cloudy outside. I got the idea that our lounge room could do with a standard lamp, and went online to see what was available to fit our 'traditional/cosy' decor. That meant that we didn't want any modern lights, nor anything too fussy. I found a wooden lamp secondhand on marketplace, and bought a new shade.  The whole thing cost $105 which was a third of the price of new lamps which look like this.

The sunshine and rain have been great for the garden. I have continued to make compost, and am pleased that the new mulcher I got for Mother's day has improved the quality of the mulch a great deal. I have moved some roses and planted some native plants like this one, for the birds and the insects. It is part of my on-going campaign to add flowers to my edible garden, and to ensure that there are mid and lower story plants among the trees. The garden is by no means full! 

I have been working on a quilt, using some gifted panels with a gardening theme. It is almost at flimsy stage -I have found one of the border patches has a hole so I have to take it out and replace it. It is a generous single bed size. 

We continue to experience the house, following our insulation upgrade, to be a bit warmer overnight and less in need of extra heating, although there are of course days when a glass of wine and a fire seems just right.

My state of Western Australia is doing very well so far in the COVID19 epidemic, and we are moving out of restrictions for everything except interstate travel on July 18. As a result, my choir is working on a regime to enable us to sing together in a very modified way, and we are now holding small dinner parties in our homes. This is a wonderful feeling: today I can go to my library and get some new books! 

If you are still in more resticted times, I hope you are coping well and staying safe. None of us can go back to normal yet, but life is still good. 

Thanks to all who leave comments -I love to read about your responses and your different lives. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

We upgraded our roof insulation

What is in your roof in the way of insulation?

Our brick and tile house 

When we bought this house about 25 years ago, it already had blown in recycled paper insulation. This was pretty standard for the time, and was usually installed to the R2 specification.  Over the years, this kind of insulation can become compacted and lose a bit of its insulating properties. It still works though as an insulating layer, and we have not been in any hurry to think of a replacement project until we had done every other possible thing we could think of to improve the thermal properties of our brick and tile home. 

We installed a north facing pergola with a grapevine for summer shade and winter warmth, we shaded our only west facing window, we improved the curtains and blinds. DH recently also went around sealing lots of gaps around doors, and those wall vents which let so much cold air in during the winter time. 

Blown in recycled paper insulation
The old insulation
We decided that this was the season we would upgrade our insulation. A local family owned business came with a huge vacuum and sucked up all the old insulation, and replaced it with "EarthWool" batts at the now recommended rate of R4. "Earthwool" batts are over 80% recycled glass  and use no added formaldehyde in their production.  

The team also installed special covers over the exhaust fans, so that they are sealed when not in use. 

The new insulation and a cap sealing the vent on the exhaust fan

Why did we do this?

This diagram of the temperatures for our city will explain.

Like many places Perth's climate is getting a lot hotter. We wanted to see if we could improve the temperatures inside our home without resorting to the use of air conditioning (this is a last resort for us, but we may have to do it at some point in the future).  Last year the lowest temperature we recorded inside was 14C and the highest was 30C. We wanted to see if better insulation could bring those extremes back a bit-we want to be comfortable. It is early days yet, but even though the past week had outside temperatures down to 4C we did not get lower than 17C inside. We have also not used much heating in the evening. 

Would I recommend this to others?

I think that we need more data to be completely certain we have a Return on Investment  recommendation, though initial results look promising - I will keep you posted! 

Meanwhile I encourage you to watch a blogger named Nev talk about the measures he has taken to improve his place in Western Sydney -also visit his blog Under the Choko Tree 

Monday, June 15, 2020

The power of a good list for the garden

Yellow rose with drops of rain
Rose after a wet morning

Are you a list-maker? I love a good list, it keeps me on track, reminds me of what needs to be done, and I love ticking things off when they are completed.  This week was a pretty good week for me, mainly because I came back to making a list of things I wanted to achieve, and have been reviewing the list regularly. 

Iris in bloom
Iris in bloom

One of the things I have learned about myself and lists, though, is that I often need to break down a task into some smaller bits in order to get the energy to complete it. "Make an apron" is better listed as "choose the fabric to make an apron", especially if that choice is the thing which is holding up the whole process. 

I am also a person who is quite happy doing things in stages. I had the idea that I wanted to totally revamp the garden bed which borders our patio out the back. It is in full shade in the winter, but in full sun in summer, and has a wonderful trellis which needs to be in use.

In order to get that done I had to remove some plants which were not really working there, including a gardenia which had always struggled-it was too hot for it during the summer, so I moved it under at tree.  In the course of several weeks I have removed and replanted some ground covers which were here.  I needed to weed the whole bed, to buy some plants which I hope will succeed there, and to prepare the soil. The plan is to try some roses here, as they are deciduous when it is shady but will cope with the sun. The trellis will have a passionfruit on it and possibly a climbing rose. 

A garden bed with no plants in it

 I am now keeping a sort of 'garden journal" which records what I want to do and what I have done -successfully or not-and I am finding it very helpful. It is just a spiral bound notebook, and all I do is write the date and anything else I find helpful. I stick in seed packets or draw a design for a garden bed I have in mind.

Today's citrus harvest of lemons, limes and grapefruit in a basket
Today's citrus harvest

Today we had a good time in the garden, pruning the citrus. I like to keep my trees quite low, as I am a small person and the fruit needs to be within reach.  Next time I am in the garden I want to give all the citrus a bit of a feed and attention, as they have all given such a lovely crop of fruit this year. The grapefruit has a second crop coming, which is a surprise but very welcome. As a result of the rain we have had, everything is looking quite happy. 

rainbow chard leaf with red veins
rainbow chard

Yesterday I made this recipe for a chard and feta pie using my rainbow chard. It was really nice! I used fresh oregano, parsley and thyme as flavourings. Rainbow chard is a pretty vegetable -mine has lovely red stems, and it copes with our climate very well. I have had this one growing for over 12 months- I just cut it from the outside of the plant and it keeps on putting out new leaves. As a result I am always glad to get another chard recipe. 

snow pea in flower

I planted some more snow peas this week. The ones I planted a few months ago are now putting out flowers and pods. I am hoping for a good crop this year -who knows, maybe some will actually make it inside? I love to eat them right there in the garden! 

How is your garden growing? Do you keep a garden journal? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Hard times need soft hearts

Times are tough all over, and we know that around the world we are dealing with multiple problems -COVID19, institutional racism and climate change.

DH and I went to the protest in Perth today in front of the Rio Tinto headquarters, to stand in solidarity with the PKKP people whose Juukan cave site with over 43,000 years of cultural significance, was destroyed by that company recently.  Organiser Josh Eggington said Rio Tinto knew of the land's importance.  "The PKPP (Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura) Aboriginal Corporation has on numerous occasions since 2013 communicated to Rio Tinto the significance of Jukkan Gorge," he said.  

DH and I are happy to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal people as allies, in their struggle for justice. 

I hope you are safe where you are as you read this, and working as we do, in our own space, for systemic change. Everyone has an opportunity somewhere to build the world we want for the future -in our own living, in our friendship networks and in the wider world by what we do and how we use our various powers available to us in the ballot box and in our economies by using our money wisely, building communities and supporting one another. 

In times like these we need to find beauty where we can. DH and I enjoyed a walk in the lovely Walyunga National Park on Friday. The river is low, but there is more water than two months ago. We are still waiting for good winter rains here, but have had a couple of storms of rain.  The land responds to the rain. It makes us feel as though anything might be possible. We supported a local Swan Valley winery by having a leisurely lunch, and enjoyed it very much.

We had DGS1 at our house for a sleepover on Saturday night. Saturday was the day our playgrounds were open again after the COVID19 shutdown, and we celebrated with a picnic in the park. DGS1 is nearly 6 years old, and we had a lot of fun with him. We took torches out at dusk to look at the trees and birds, we found big logs to climb on, we did all sorts of wonderful things!

 DGS1 is keen on all things with wheels, so DH put some wheels on a box he had made, and we had fun playing with it as a bus. Our lovely boy decorated it with chalk, including blue 'go faster' stripes! 

Our usual activities have continued -we are still gardening and taking care of things. I updated my "from my kitchen' page to include a pesto recipe I made using mizuna and peanut butter! 

DH completed my spice racks this week. These are IKEA picture rails with IKEA spice bottles. I now have them in alphabetical order from Allspice to Za'atar! 

DH also renovated our outside lights. He had to repair one, and the technology had changed but he worked out how to use some of the old system and some new bits to get a nice wash of light at the front of our place.

He also renovated my secateurs, after seeing a story on Gardening Australia about a repair cafe. He sharpened the blades, lubricated the spring and fixed the lock mechanism. 

Finally, to encourage your gardening, a bit of reading! I hope you stay safe and well till next time.