seachange

How we got rich . . .

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The¬†title of this post was supposed to be “how we got happy…” but it‚Äôs more than that, I’m feeling rich these days, an abundance of happy.¬†We made it, we‚Äôre really living the life we dreamed of.

We found our pot of gold of happiness out here in the hills

We’re in the middle of a glorious Australian subtropical winter, I’m in the middle of a mid-year study break. Just over 18 months has passed since we traded our city lives & working incomes for the best laid plans of a new life in the country.

Good morning winter solstice

Our first year was a whirlwind of unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling interspersed with several months of holiday caravanning around Australia before resuming unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling. Much of which continues.

‚Äč‚ÄčIt isn‚Äôt quite what we’d envisioned‚Ķ lazy days reading books in the sun, pottering around the garden, leisurely homegrown home-cooked meals,¬†creative projects, day trips to the beach. It‚Äôs more; busier, challenging, exhausting and rewarding.

It seems we’ve hit a sweet spot. In words and pictures, as briefly as I can…

achievement
First on the list and incredibly satisfying is doing things for ourselves. I grew-cooked-made-built-fixed-did this. Tangible & immediate payoff, or long-term gain.

Our winter vege garden

belong
We support, share, barter, collaborate, exchange with neighbours, family and friends.

Some produce from our garden, and other from the neighbour’s

choosy
With so much going on in our lives exposure to television, news media and the superficial side of social media is naturally limited. We’re not sorry about that.

Keeping it real… carrot top pesto, fabulously frugal

downtime
Although we no longer participate in a structured Monday to Friday working week, this wonderful homemade life is fulltime, so we endeavour make -at least- weekends our free days.

Somewhere to get away from it all

enjoy
We focus on what we have, what we can do for ourselves and the benefits.

Homegrown, home-made Sunday café style lunch on our verandah

exceptions
There are times we spend modest funds running errands, going to markets, celebrating occasions, and so on. Sometimes we make major purchases that will add value to our life. We then resume our usual fabulously frugal.

The G.O. browses at a local swap meet

know-how
We aren’t alone, there are people in our community and all over the world living similarly,¬†many using creditable social media platforms to document their experiences and inspiration. Our life would be so much poorer and less enjoyable without the generosity of their shared information. We contribute to the mix via¬†the¬†blog, Instagram and Facebook, and taking time to chat.

Making something from nothing is an everyday art. L to R clockwise: Dried rosemary, dried lemon peel (later to become lemon & rosemary salt), pumpkin soup, fig & walnut cake, filled focaccia

mindset
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.

Sit awhile…

priorities
We believe wealth is more than money in the bank and dollar value of possessions. Time is an under-valued resource. How much of your life did that Thneed cost? Time or money, what we spend must give us a lifestyle return.

The G.O. does his thing

reality
Although our income is limited we have an extras contingency plan which enables us to take advantage of bargains, bulk buys, and cover emergencies. We use it judiciously. We live fabulously frugally by choice, and long term have modest funds we can’t access until later in life.

Few things taste better than foraged bush lemons made into curd using homegrown egg yolks

seek
When I planned to study I called the local Tafe college, then visited, and was provided with advice on courses, what financial support I could access and how.

When it became apparent the G.O.’s self-employment plans were going to be delayed by his knee injury we sought assistance from local government agencies to understand what options were available for him.

Tafe Horticulture Certificate III project, re-establishing this subtropical garden outside the classroom

thrive
We don’t do cheap. We prefer the terms fabulously frugal… or plain old-fashioned thrifty, embrace less is more and live well.

In our happy place

Finally, free advice if the ambiguous title led you here and you made it through all the way to the end.

If you’re searching for rich don’t overlook happy. If you’re searching for happy you can make it yourself.

start as you mean to go on

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#resting... before Diesel decided if the futon was good enough for my 20 month year old niece it was good enough for him.
#resting… before Diesel decided if the futon was good enough for my 20 month year old niece it was good enough for him.

It’s just nice to be home¬† is my customary response to numerous What now?¬† enquiries¬†about our plans¬†since we’re back from our Big Trip around Australia and settled into life at Taylors Arm.

During our staycation over the busy festive summer school holiday coastal season we alternated progressing projects with R&R. Somewhat rested & refreshed I started my Horticulture Certificate III course at Tafe yesterday. It involves a twice weekly drive to & from nearby Coffs Harbour, 80 kilometres-one hour each way, 9 am to 3.30 pm classes + home study + assignments + projects for assessment, and runs until the end of November 2017 with half term and mid-year breaks.

The G.O. continues to potter in injured knee accommodating manner. His specialist diagnosed torn cartilage and likely treatment with keyhole surgery but will confirm next week after viewing the MRI taken last week. Once that’s fixed, the G.O. has plans for lawn mowing & garden services self-employment to which I hope to value-add my newly acquired horticultural knowledge.

#cooldog... guess whose mum's got a new airconditioner #itsbloodyhotoutside.
#cooldog… guess whose mum’s got a new airconditioner #itsbloodyhotoutside
Deez...
#rudedog… Deez.

Diesel-Dog has further entrenched himself… eyeballing the kookaburras, defending his yard against cats, greeting his daytime visitors enthusiastically, guarding his nighttime territory vigilantly, sleeping on my his verandah futon, chasing tennis balls, swimming in the river, sleeping in front of the air-conditioner.

In lieu of January blogging-mojo Instagram was yet again my go-to social media… Following this first, catch-up post for 2017 there will be more Insta-blog posts where I upload daleleelife101 pics and short commentary rather than fewer EllaDee wordy observations. I’ll also continue flitting around the interwebs of the blogworld, Instagram and Facebook, visiting & commenting.

Instead of making new year resolutions I commenced 2017 on the premise start as you mean to go on… reflected via the daleleelife101 Instagram January theme #wordsfor2017.

#endeavour... my first attempt at making pesto.
#endeavour… my first attempt at making pesto.
#equanimity… our favourite waterfront dining location for fish & chips on the bank of the Bellinger River at Mylestom.
#connection... we all share the same moon... village lights & life on a full moonlit night.
#connection… we all share the same moon… village lights & life on a full moonlit night.
#diversity – Balinese Peanut Sauce inspired by Francesca @ Almost Italian.
#fwords... #fearless #firsttimer #filledfocaccia - Inspired by Celia @ Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, Francesca @ Almost Italian & Maree @ Around the Mulberry Tree.
#fwords #fearless #firsttimer #filledfocaccia… inspired by Celia @ Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, Francesca @ Almost Italian & Maree @ Around the Mulberry Tree.
#acquafaba… water bean, tofu byproduct, egg replacer.
#regift... Christmas Biscotti from Siracusa inspred by Francesca @ Almost Italian becomes a belated birthday gift for my bestie Mrs S.
#regift… Christmas Biscotti from Siracusa inspired by Francesca @ Almost Italian becomes a belated birthday gift for my bestie Mrs S.
#alchemy.... chilli plum sauce inspired by a gift of 1.8 kg plums from a neighbour
#alchemy…. chilli plum sauce inspired by a gift of 1.8 kg plums from a neighbour
#cultivate... we finally planted out our vege garden tubs after growing soil and hot summer days gave us lessons in patience.
#cultivate… we finally planted out our vege garden tubs after growing our own soil, and hot summer days gave us lessons in patience.
#blend… celebrating Australia Day by blitzing up a multi-cultural trio of basil cashew pesto, sochi salsa adjika & hummus.
#conserve… using the remainder of the plums to make a flagon of homemade worcestireshire sauce decanted into the G.O.’s Pop’s old sherry bottle.
#sustain… seed saving for future plantings from a $1 bag of chillies then becomes sweet chilli sauce.
#groundwork… for my first day attending Horticulture classes at Tafe.

‚ÄúBegin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began‚Ķ‚ÄĚ Charles H. Spurgeon

For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101 and the G.O. at welshy055.

daily life 101

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christmas-lite
Our tree & decorations are staying in the cupboard this year. ‘Tis the season of Christmas lite… festive baking and fragrant oil burning is all we need to get us in the mood. Wishing you all the very best for a festive season & 2017 with love and light and happiness. ‚ô• EllaDee

daleleelife101.blog the new identity of my EllaDee blog heralds a fresh start, my answer to the oft asked question Where to From Here? Before I go ahead with that, it’s important to know how I got here.

2016 feels like it turned in a series of circles, bringing us back to the chapter we commenced a year ago, when we relocated from our city existence to life in the country.

We are living the life we dreamed… in our rural village in the Nambucca Valley hinterland, in our home with its wide verandah and backyard overlooking green hills.

Already we’re supplementing the dream; adding a dog -Diesel, a Koolie adopted from the RSPCA days after we returned from our around Australia roadtrip, and a sizeable vegetable plot enclosed within a wire cage to grow, firstly our own soil, and then enough veges to go a long way towards feeding ourselves.

To be able to do this at a relatively early stage in our lives ‚Äď the G.O. is 61 and me 51- we spent ten years living & working in the city with the purpose of being debt free with sufficient immediate-use financial savings, and moderate reserves locked away for longer term. We then swapped our city cash flow time poor existence for a modest lifestyle where time is our currency rather than money.

The process of setting ourselves up began from rudimentary beginnings a decade before the pay-off. But any starting point is better than none. Recognising the watershed moment, when enough is enough, is the real art.

We could have remained longer in the city: working, saving, spending, working, saving, spending… And our dreams would have patiently waited for us to let go of the ring and grab them. Or would they? What happens to dreams that aren’t pursued, are parked while the dreamer quests for more and better? Too many times we hear anecdotes of dreams faded to What Ifs and shrivelled to Might Have Beens.

Where to From Here…

We’ve enjoyed a self-funded holiday during 2016, fulfilling that plan. For 2017 I’ve enrolled at Tafe to study Horticulture, a basic Certificate III course two days each week at nearby Coffs Harbour: a new beginning realising a long-time aspiration. However, not everything has gone to plan. The G.O. is currently -literally- hobbled with an injured knee which will likely need keyhole surgery some time in 2017. But that prognosis rather than a knee replacement is good news. The intention he had of finding work and/or self employment are in hiatus. For the time being there’s plenty he can gently apply himself to catching up on small projects around our 1930’s house that have waited more than a decade for attention. He really did need to slow down -one of the reasons we left Sydney- so it’s not all bad.

Our daily life 101 maxim is Live Simple Home Made Grown Local Creative Better. Our lifestyle is authentic, modest, about trying new things, doing it ourselves, and in turn inspire & assist others.

Then, after 2017? That comes under the wonderful realm of Possibilities.

‚ÄúListen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.‚ÄĚ ~ Shel Silverstein

In the immediate pipeline is a few days spending Christmas with my Dad, followed by festive season houseguests and a Taylors Arm January staycation which if all goes to plan I will spend lounging around reading blog posts & books, and maybe writing a blog post or two.

Below is a selection of photos from the two four six eight ten busy weeks since we arrived home from our roadtrip around Australia.

01-diesel-collage
Diesel: Charming clever funny best four-legged furry friend, writing muse, thong-jandal-flip flop & tool thief, ball-cat-kookaburra chaser, kitchen buddy & taster…
02-garden-collage-1
Garden cage: Devised and constructed in injured knee accommodating stages by the G.O. with the assistance of our neighbour & Diesel.
02-garden-collage-2
In the meantime: Our interim vege potted garden is in much the same style it was at the end of 2015.
02-garden-collage-3
Summer in the garden (clockwise): We’ve been fortunate to get enough rain to fill the tanks and water the garden which delights the passionfruit on the fence. The Cherry Allamanda is beginning to flower alongside the white flowering Mandevilla Sanderi we planted for contrast and to fill in the fence eventually. We moved day lilies, apricot gladioli, walking iris & red geranium to gain space for the back garden adding colour to the front. A shade sail carport for my car constructed in injured knee accommodating stages by the G.O. with the assistance of our neighbour & Diesel. Moving what we thought was a flowering ginger to make room for a path along the side of the shed we discovered turmeric… gold.
01-kitchen-witch-collage
Of all the things that encroach into My Time I least mind being in the kitchen. It’s where I make food for us to eat -most of our meals are cooked & eaten at home- and weekly make our staples of yoghurt, ricotta and bread. It’s where I try my hand at new-to-me homemade goodies (clockwise): baked beans, frozen ginger & turmeric cubes, summer tomato sauce, biscotti & mustard.

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”¬†~¬†Mother Teresa

For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101 and the G.O. at welshy055.

work in progress

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Work on our new life continues… on many levels.

work in progress... view from the verandah
work in progress… view from the verandah

Practically, our 1930’s house made it clear she hung on as long as she could in our absence. Once she¬†had our attention, it became apparent we couldn’t ignore the few cracks that were appearing. When the G.O. looked at her underside, the bearers were holding her up without much¬†support from the stumps.

work in progress... TLC needed
work in progress… TLC needed

This was the G.O.’s cue to bring forward beginning¬†the restumping work¬†he had planned for 2017. This involves the 6 foot +¬†tall G.O. digging tunnels under the house, pulling out timber stumps, inserting temporary jacks, pouring concrete pads, bricking up new stumps.

work in progress... where does time go? 4 hours replacing door knob
work in progress… 4 hours replacing door knob

Over the past several weeks as well as attending to¬†other ongoing¬†repairs and work he’s completed replacing a dozen of the worst stumps, with only about 38 to go…

work in progress... where does time go? chopping wood... will it get cool enough to light a fire?
work in progress…¬†chopping wood… will it get cool enough to light a fire?

Unable to assist sub-floor, as well as everyday domestic goddess cooking & cleaning I embarked upon the stages of sorting and spring cleaning I had thought to park until we returned from our travels, in doing so discovered the warm Autumn we were enjoying had created the perfect environment for seasonal sub-tropic climate mould-mildew we experience every so often.

work in progress... wiping and sorting
work in progress… wiping and sorting

This was my cue to twice wash every curtain, wipe all surfaces I could reach -climbing up & down a step ladder- with clove oil & hot water, wash windows and pull contents from cupboards and shelves to get into their nooks and crannies.

work in progress... re-sorting
work in progress… re-sorting

That done, on a roll, I revisited the shed’s storage shelves and cleared another load destined for a charity op-shop in town.

work in progress... sorted & destined for charity op-shop
work in progress… sorted & destined for charity op-shop

I’d like to say we are thankful and philosophical about this opportunity to embrace our new lifestyle but honestly, it’s not quite what we planned for this part of our holiday year.¬†However, we are grateful we have the time, money, health and pleasant space in which we’re doing what we need to do in a home, place and among people we love.

There's no place like home
There’s no place like home

Stay tuned…¬†before we leave on our next trip mid June, I’ll share details of where we’re headed, some highlights of our travels through Victoria¬†last March, and how we plan to link the two.

work in progress... Soossie-Cat holding the fort
work in progress… Soossie-Cat holding the fort

For glimpses of our new life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right and if you are an Instagrammer, you can find me at dalelee011.

life as a full time job . . .

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Choko vine - backyard treasure
Choko vine, backyard treasure

I was thinking of changing the tag for my blog from¬†there is an art to the everyday ¬†to¬† got the life I wanted… now what the hell do I do?

Red rose - front yard treasure
Red rose – front yard treasure

Since moving to the country and taking a long holiday from having a day job my everyday is unlike that of my city life when I created the blog. Another kind of art needed to manage it.

Yesterday Р4 loads of washing. Bottled 7 jars of choko pickles. Made yoghurt. Made pumpkin soup for dinner-freezer-MiL. Made lasagne for dinner & freezer. Made frittata for lunch & leftovers. Baked sourdough bread. Made pots of tea. Cleaned up kitchen. Made beds after swapping mattresses. Vacuumed floors. Watered vege garden pots. Took photo of rose in the front garden. Fed Soossie-the-share-cat [who has now been desexed] at least 6 times. Gave myself much needed mani & pedicure.

Soossie Cat, treasure who loves her food

I’ve taken today off… after ticking off a few jobs. Council final inspection of the shed.¬†Create bespoke moisturisers by adding essential oils, and decant. Transfer birthday funds to the G.O.’s granddaughter. Clean coffee machine. Wash up. Collaborate with the G.O. to hang pictures. Rearrange shelves and cupboards. Make pots of tea…

Mid morning I found a quiet sunny-shady spot on the verandah to attempt to catch up on blogging life. And made a start Рcompiling 10 of the better photos from our Victoria trip. Watch this space.

Tomorrow – Thursday,¬†is town day. A repeat¬†of last Thursday… car services, errands and grocery shopping. Hearing test for G.O. Visit MiL. Maybe a birthday lunch with my aunt & uncle.

Took my car to mechanic for service and the G.O.'s broke 2 fanbelts
Took my car to mechanic for service and the G.O.’s broke 2 fanbelts

Friday – I’m hoping for another day off, and maybe another blog post and blog visiting.

Saturday – Macksville Show. All the fun of the fair and checking out the pavillion displays, woodchop, The Rooftop Express arena evening entertainment and demolition derby. Visit MiL.

Sunday РTake MiL to the movies at the old Bowraville Theatre to see The Lady in the Van.

 

We arrived home from our travels a fortnight ago, hit the ground running to clean, garden, shop and generally catch up. Even during our self-governed Easter break there were little jobs.

Vege garden in pots
Vege garden in pots

Life outside 9-5 and accustomed infrastructure, I now realise after 4 months, is equal parts rewarding and wearying. Not worse, just different, and requires more adaptation than I imagined during the city-office bound incubation stages of the plan.

Pumpkin soup and sourdough bread... time is the hidden ingredient
Pumpkin soup and sourdough bread… time is the hidden ingredient

Travel, I now realise after our month away, is equal parts stimulating and wearying. I will get around to writing travel (we took about a thousand photos between us) & other blog posts, visiting and commenting on blog posts, also to reading books (only 2 short books so far this year)¬†and articles… and all the online people¬†& things that are an important part of my life that I miss and think about.

In the midst of being busier than I ever expected via the throes of changing from one life to another I encountered a form of mental inertia that leaves me¬†often unable to convert thoughts to keyboard strokes. Sigh. I was somewhat stressed about this for a while. After all, it is what I planned to do but I attempt to release the self-imposed pressure and console myself that for a while I’m simply being and doing.

 

The G.O.'s everyday...
The G.O.’s everyday…

the grass is greener . . .

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The grass is greener on the other side of our city to country-coast tree-sea change fence but it hasn’t quite¬†panned¬†out¬†the way¬†we expected.

We love our new life at¬†Taylors Arm, and¬†not given the city life we left second thoughts. A few days short of two months along, much has been accomplished; some planned, some¬†figured out¬†as we go. We haven’t had a¬†proper¬†break yet… in hindsight we realised even thinking it possible to combine¬†holidays with¬†a move was kidding ourselves. We’re settling into a home that’s been marking time for a decade, and¬†fielding¬†new challenges & opportunities including preparing for our caravanning travel¬†adventures.¬†Most things¬†take longer and more effort than we think. More often than not our days leave us feeling exhausted.¬†The effects of our¬†previous life of 5 am starts 6 days a week has collided with the new and caught up with us.¬†I keep repeating the words Relax – Patience – Process – Journey like a mantra.¬†I have a multitude of blog post narratives running around my head and a miscellany of photos on¬†my phone which I will need to share.

However, in the midst of it all we garden, which is a good place to begin catching up. I started taking photos and planned this blog post weeks ago.¬†Ah well,¬†these things take¬†time…

Our¬†situation is sub-tropical, coastal hinterland. We use little water on the garden as¬†it only comes from the sky,¬†the house¬†rainwater tanks and grey water run-off (we use eco-friendly green household products). Over the years we’ve supplemented the original hardy¬†garden -the house was built in the 1930’s- adding native & flowering shrubs & vines, cottage plants, herbs and odd little garden ornaments. We’re starting off simply with a vege garden in containers using those¬†we had on¬†our city apartment balcony and others cached from footpath discard piles because for much of this year we plan to be away travelling. We don’t use chemicals or sprays.¬†No matter¬†how much effort we put in,¬†the garden¬†will never be orderly… or finished.¬†Having such a garden¬†is a blessing.

 

prepping for transplant shock

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I get the appeal of an adventurous leap¬†between disparate¬†lifestyles¬†+ locations but part of me is thankful I already have the lay of the land to which the G.O. and I are headed; not so much¬†tree-sea changing our life from city to country-coast but¬†evolving via steady steps of progression… alleviating the possibility of transplant shock.

Later¬†this year the G.O. and I will have owned together¬†our house at Taylors Arm¬†for a decade. I grew up in the country but lived in urban environs all my adult life.¬†My rural village experiences¬†haven’t been quite as were depicted in the U.S. TV series Green Acres¬†but the¬†weekends and holidays¬†we spend¬†at Taylors Arm¬†give me the opportunity to¬†reacquaint myself with the vagaries of country life¬†prior to¬†leaving¬†the city to reside there permanently.

Our house was empty for some time before we took possession and it was in need of a good clean. We were up for the job but after having spent our first hot summer day in situ scrubbing dirt off the surfaces and onto ourselves, we were also up for a cold beer and a hot shower. As it does from time to time, the electricity cut out, minutes before we were about to jump in the shower.

As the house water is supplied via rainwater tanks¬†fed by an electric pump,¬†no power meant no water.¬†The electricity came back on in the early hours long after we’d half filled the bath via saucepans of water obtained in a trickle from the sole outside garden tap and heated on an ancient gas fuelled camping stove. At least the beer was cold.

The first Christmas¬†is etched in our memory as being hot as hell; 40+ degrees Celsius (104 F) on Christmas Eve as I was trying to¬†roast a turkey in a too-small electric kettle barbecue under the back awning of the house. To make it fit, the G.O. flattened out the turkey in the manner of Portuguese style chicken,¬†to be forever remembered as the year of ‘roadkill turkey’.

Since then¬†we’ve installed roof insulation, whirlybird roof vents, ceiling fans and window awnings; making the summer months much pleasanter. And we’ve reverted to more manageable roast chicken and cold ham for Christmas lunch.

Resident fauna¬†don’t care whose name is on the deeds, or who does the work. They come with the house as a package deal. I’m not overfond of bats to say the least but have become accustomed to sable microbats at¬†dusk¬†flitting past, darting into almost imperceptible cracks in the house’s structure.

Over the years we’ve been friendly with neighbouring turkeys, geese, chickens¬†and cows. We’ve had visiting wallabies, goannas, ducks, dogs,¬†cats, snakes and a fox. Also,¬†we aren’t the only inhabitants of our house. Fortunately George the carpet python moved on from our roof space¬†but making themselves at home in addition to the bats we have; birds, frogs, lizards,¬†mice, a bandicoot and the biggest mangiest meanest old possum I’ve ever encountered. Its traverses of the roof sound like not just a single creature but an army.

"The company you keep defines you. Surround yourself with shining souls that inspire you, lift you higher and bring forth the best in you"
“The company you keep defines you. Surround yourself with shining souls that inspire you, lift you higher and bring forth the best in you”

The G.O. wasn’t convinced of the possum’s notoriety until¬†one summer evening he decided see for himself what¬†was on the awning roof near the big bottlebrush tree. The G.O. climbed the ladder he’d used for cleaning the guttering,¬†strolled across¬†the roof expecting to¬†encounter one of the neighbour’s cats enjoying the last of the warmth… but was instead met then pursued¬†by an aggressive arboreal marsupial¬†displeased¬†the G.O. was interrupting its constitutional. The G.O. didn’t bother with the ladder beyond the first rung down, leaping to the safety of the ground as the possum growled its disapproval at the invasion of its space. Possum 1: G.O.: Nil.

I have a horror of dead things, so the G.O. and I have an arrangement. I deal with live things -except snakes which we tend to just leave alone- and he deals with the demised. That means particularly incursions of spiders and mice are my domain. To the G.O.’s frustration I usually let the spiders be -even if it means showering in their proximity-¬†but if pressed I will corral them into a plastic tub and release them into the garden, usually too close to the house to suit the G.O. but I refuse to walk for miles to appease him.

I also employ the same technique for¬†evicting mice. The G.O. doesn’t have the aversion to rodents¬†he does to spiders but after umpteen rounds of the kitchen in fruitless pursuit of¬†Taylor’s Arm’s own Speedy Gonzales,¬†the G.O. paused long enough for the mouse to jump up on the table to assess the worthiness of its opponent, and I swear I saw it¬†laugh. After being bested the G.O. no longer deigns to participate in their contests. Mouse: 1. G.O.: Nil.

My own mouse-keeping efforts haven’t been without glitches. I learned the hard way after scooping them up¬†mice aren’t as cute as they look, and their teeth are sharp. Still merciful I tossed the ungrateful bitey little bugger -alive- over the fence into the back paddock. Our neighbour’s grey cat showed me the error of my ways by returning it -dead- to the back step. And looking at me as if to say there, I’ve avenged you, remember the lesson. Mouse: Nil. Grey Cat: 1.

The rainbow lorikeets act out their own colourful version of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds,¬†stalking us demanding a feed. When¬†service has been too slow coming, they’ve followed me door to door around the verandah, and set up a stakeout at the door en route from the kitchen to the garden. Unlike their demands on the neighbours at least they haven’t come inside our house. Yet.

Local knowledge is gold, and the G.O. kindly and wisely pre-warned me about frogs who know no boundaries. Leroy, the main-man of our green frog¬†gang¬†has no respect for personal space. He’ll springboard off a back or… his claim to fame is attaching himself to the¬†nether regions¬†of an earlier-era female houseguest as she sat on the¬†toilet resulting in her panicked flee to the hilarity of the assembled company. As a child I admired green frogs, from a distance, in their ability terrorise my aunts. Now I¬†enjoy¬†how they casually hang out with us, like we’re part of the furniture in their house.

Visitors sometimes look askance at our tap water. Because the aforementioned bottlebrush tree overhangs a lot of the water collecting area of the roof,¬†our water may be tinted an interesting shade of tan. Fortunately bottlebrush trees are¬†also called “tea trees” and “frequently used in teas… has antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties”. Although the colour takes a bit of getting used to, there’s no taste or harm to it.

At a time¬†before¬†we’d¬†installed gas appliances and a wood burning fire we’d been supposed to take a winter holiday in Queensland,¬†however the G.O.’s boss vetoed the time off so we settled for a long weekend at Taylors Arm, but Mother Nature intervened¬†causing us to spend¬†a cold early-winter week flooded in, several days of it without electricity.¬†The experience wasn’t quite camping, nor was it glamping.

To¬†underline the lesson, once the power¬†came back on the TV advertisements¬†teased us with¬†“Queensland… Beautiful one day perfect the next“.¬†Taylors Arm might not quite live up to that but¬†writers have¬†long waxed lyrical about bucolic pleasures…
“There is virtue in country houses, in gardens and orchards, in fields, streams, and groves, in rustic recreations and plain manners, that neither cities nor universities enjoy.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott

Transplant shock is a term that refers to a number of stresses occurring in recently transplanted trees and shrubs. It involves failure of the plant to root well, consequently the plant becomes poorly established in the landscape. New transplants do not have extensive root systems, and they are frequently stressed by lack of sufficient water. Plants suffering from water stress may be more susceptible to injury from other causes such as the weather, insects, or disease. When several stresses are being experienced, the plant may no longer be able to function properly.”

Another ‘branching out’ story inspired by comments to my Out on a Limb post.

slow progress

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The G.O. drove. It was quiet and my thoughts roamed. I was thinking about numbers. Heading back to the city three days after we’d driven up to Taylors Arm for a quick busy Queen’s Birthday long weekend, my mind calculated we’re coming up to owning our house for a decade and we’d been driving this highway public holiday weekends and then some, so my very ordinary maths estimated we’d spent¬†about 140 six-hour days in the car doing just that. Given I have a zero annual leave balance, to consider I’ve spent a good part of them in the car pains me slightly.

In contrast to this contemplation of¬†distance between our city and country habitats is the realisation we’re making progress. We veer from a quiet home-life busy work-centric city existence to hyper-gardening home handymen on long weekends and holidays.¬†In between¬†we have plans and measurements and lists and reminders scrawled across numerous convenient yellow post-it notes.

But¬†also we manage to get things done remotely. So far this year we’ve had a gas stove installed and a shed built without us being on site. Both items have been on the patiently waiting list while we figured out what we really wanted. Ditto for the new fridge/freezer purchased via phone & internet but which we managed to be around for delivery. No wastage there either, both the old electric stove and fridge found a good home with a neighbour.

Taking our time has enabled us to rethink our energy consumption needs towards a lighter footprint. Originally, back in the crazy days of cheap electricity when climate change seemed to be a catchphrase rather than reality we were aiming for pigeon pair fridges, chest freezer and a bar fridge! However, the days of thoughtless energy consumption are gone. The clothes dryer purchased because of my penchant for warm towels in winter is too good to get rid of but now rarely used, so has gone to a corner of the shed. The bar fridge is alongside it waiting for a new owner.

An upside to slow progress is better options come along, and it gives things time to find us. It took us years to¬†source¬†the right¬†kitchen sink unit and longer to find the kitchen sink tap still in its¬†box waiting for the G.O. to get time to install it, so much more functional than the current tap with a bit of rubber hose clipped to the end. Two big old cupboards, shelves and a pot stand¬†have come our way in the last couple of months. And when he couldn’t fulfil my wish for a side burner addition to his barbeque, the G.O. bought me my very own barbeque with side burner & hood on sale at a ridiculously low price.¬†He of course isn’t parting with his old-faithful.

In turn, while wishing for¬†his own the G.O. got by borrowing box trailers to move things,¬†which¬†twice involved doing running repairs on someone else’s trailer. The new barbeque and a cupboard bought in Sydney finally necessitated¬†the G.O.¬†parting with cash for his own. Delayed gratification¬†sweetened his delight in¬†a shiny new black trailer.

Then there’s the opportunity for serendipity that slow progress affords. As the shed build progressed, RHS neighbour put us¬†in contact with an old friend of the G.O.¬† Sixty years ago the G.O.’s family share-farmed on their property just down the road. This lovely, now older lady was cleaning out her late husband’s shed and offered the G.O., who’d spent much time in¬†the farm sheds¬†with him and his father before him, pick of the contents. Once again¬†the G.O.’s¬†trailer,¬†plus RHS neighbour’s carted benches and tools home;¬†the big timber¬†bench¬†coming back to Taylors Arm just up the¬†street from the house where it originated.

Slow progress also requires flexibility, compromise, sharing and caring. We wouldn’t make quite so much progress without the kindness of neighbours and friends who are there for us when we’re in situ, and when we’re not. They mow our lawn, keep an eye on the house, help us move things,¬†keep a spare¬†house key and share a cat.

The G.O. and I although both cat lovers never considered our lifestyle suitable for a cat but Soossie Cat decided otherwise and shares herself between LHS neighbour and us. Soossie brought her kitten over for a visit last weekend. LHS neighbour¬†wanted a litter of kittens, got two litters, and found other¬†homes for them except Soossie’s grey and white daughter who will be staying. LHS neighbour now has our cat carrier so Soossie is off to the vet for her op, as will be¬†daughter when she’s a little older.

We’ve still a little way to go, and inevitably more trips up and down the highway but¬†steady-as-she-goes suits us just fine.

Some quit due to slow progress.
Never grasping the fact that slow progress…
… is progress. Anonymous

moving a mountain with a teaspoon

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The sombre latter days of¬†winter preceding the brighter busy-ness spring heralds¬†provide me¬†an opportunity to take stock of our life and progress¬†moving it from¬†city to¬†country. After consideration, I pronounce it¬†satisfactory. We’re getting better at living well in our quest for a simple life. Although it’s not perfect, fortunately we have chosen wisely many aspects¬†we¬†find¬†good in the everydayness of.

Broome vs Sydney
Sydney vs Broome

Comforting¬†when contemplating my sister’s escape from Melbourne’s chilliness to take a break in the Northern Territory, first stop Broome, one of my favourite places, then onto Darwin and Kakadu following a similar route the G.O. and I took a few [too many] years ago over a comparable fortnight period. A timeframe the G.O. and I decided was too short, too exhausting to ever again contemplate.¬†I experienced a few pangs of Kimberley region holiday envy, and got on with Sydney day-to-day life.

I’ve been spending days at my desk glued to the computer screen reviewing documents to a tight deadline, which after I’d¬†rapidly laboured though a thousand or so, the deadline stretched… Notwithstanding I was captive and working I was at least sat in the sun drinking pots of tea and nibbling consoling muffins, so I considered those worse off than me. That would be the G.O. whose unpleasantly cold, windy and dusty construction site environment I wouldn’t survive half an hour in, let alone his 50 hour working week.

Sydney Soossie Cat dining in the dark
Sydney Soossie Cat dining in the dark

The G.O. and I were planning our own late winter escape of a week-long road trip to Queensland but dissecting the time-distance continuum it was pronounced implausible, and shelved [yet again] in favour of a week of attending to a little business, and as much R&R as possible sitting in the sun or by the fire at Taylors Arm.

It’s a change of plan that if she hasn’t sensibly decamped to reside with LHS neighbour our Taylors Arm independent living Claytons¬†Soossie Cat will approve of no doubt, as it will facilitate her access to the inside amenities.

In the meantime our latest Sydney independent living Soossie Cat has after a year of ad hoc beneficence become sufficiently familiar to intercept the G.O. on his evening smoke-stroll, somehow understanding when she does it causes me to appear with not one but two tubs of cat food to feed her hungry self.

We’re impatient to be off on our longer term adventures both at Taylors Arm, and travelling further afield. Consolingly though, we see our forbearance transforming our dreams and plans into the landscape of¬†our future. We’ve recently moved a couple of big [metaphorical] hills but the process requires more¬†industry until the exciting stage is practically and sensibly within reach.

Our basic tools:

pay bills.

buy what we need to live well but not extravagantly.

save money.

ask do we need it now, can we do it differently?

wait.

Simple… Although it took us a while to feel like we were balancing¬†it well enough.¬†It’s not¬†flawless. Sometimes time¬†& energy is short.¬†External factors¬†are encountered. But the more we live, eat and spend ethically, sustainably, enjoyably, prudently; the less effort it takes to live, eat and spend ethically, sustainably, enjoyably, prudently… makes sense, huh.

‚ÄúSo be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and¬†1/4 percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē Dr. Seuss

Taking advantage of the embryonic interim we are assimilating much of the lifestyle we aspire to. Once we attain it, carefully considering the best use of our resources will be a necessity. But now it has the correlating benefit of furthering our efforts.

It truly is a mountain of a process, and depending what perspective we’re viewing it from¬†sometimes it’s hard to see progress. ¬†At the end it will all come together quickly, and things will get busy and scary…¬†because scary accounts for¬†the¬†other¬†1 and¬†1/4 percent¬†in Dr Seuss’s math.