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.