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.
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.
“Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began…” 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.
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 – 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.
“Listen 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.” ~ 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.
“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 on our new life continues… on many levels.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
That done, on a roll, I revisited the shed’s storage shelves and cleared another load destined for a charity op-shop in town.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 – 4 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.
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 – compiling 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.
Friday – I’m hoping for another day off, and maybe another blog post and blog visiting.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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:
buy what we need to live well but not extravagantly.
ask do we need it now, can we do it differently?
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.
“So 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.” ― 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.