Skinflint Sunday: Road trip.

Today the boys and I, along with my parents and my sister, brother-in-law and one of my nieces, are all driving to Ballarat to see Evan23 in his end-of-year play, ‘Twelve Angry Men.” Well, they’re doing ‘Twelve Angry Jurors”, but it’s pretty much the same play.

He’s Juror number 5. He said that mastering the New York accent was really hard… their vowels are worse than ours, which is saying something.

I learned from the flap to get to the theatre last semester, when we nearly missed the beginning of the play, that it’s best to meet BEFOREHAND and then take people where you want to go. So I booked a restaurant for lunch, then it’s a short stroll across the road to get to to the play.

Mum is still very shaky and can’t walk for long distances, so hopefully this plan will suit her and her wheelchair.

Woo hoo!! Going to see my boy doing something he loves!

*Strictly speaking, this day won’t be Skinflint. David26 is driving (there goes $50 petriol money) plus I’ll be paying for the boys’ lunches. Still… worth it.

Posted in Children., Skinflint | 4 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Getting Things Done before school starts again.

The day before school goes back is always a day torn between mourning my lost freedom and racing around getting little jobs finished before I go back. Today was no exception. I swore that I’d have the garden ready to go by the end of the holidays – seeds planted, beds prepped, pruning done, everything immaculate.

Instead, I spent most of my time either sleeping or quilting. Oops.

I showed you the queen-sized quilt I made for Tom27. No sooner was that done and dusted than I realised that I’d promised David26 that I’d make a quilt for his girlfriend Izzy for Christmas. Of course I did…

I bought a pattern online and thought I’d see how it looked by making a baby quilt for Blogless Sandy’s daughter, who’s expecting her third child. I just used stash materials and, as she doesn’t know the gender, I went with a mix of yellow, orange, pink and blues.

If she doesn’t like the colours she can always flip it over and use the back.

Yesterday I was up cooking like a maniac, because I promised Evan23 that I’d host lunch for HIS girlfriend’s family, who were over here from Adelaide. I was cooking for 8 and 4 are vegetarian, so I made 3 vego Indian curries and got David26 to whip up an “Indian Salad”.

“You know this is just a salsa, don’t you Mum?” he said after looking at the recipe. I had no idea – never made one.

The lunch was a great success. Jenna’s family are absolutely lovely and we all got along like a house on fire. It was worth all of the cooking! (Plus it made me clean the house, which at this stage of the holidays was looking a little dicey as to whether or not I’d get around to it.)


After they left I hand-watered all of the wicking beds down the side verandah, then pruned all of the dead-looking bits. That was one job ticked off the list! It looks a thousand times better now.

Last year I went to Diggers and spent an absolute FORTUNE on 4 clematis vines. They were in full flower when I bought them and after I planted them they dropped all their flowers within about 5 minutes, or so it seemed. This year there are heaps of buds appearing, so I’m hoping that the view from the side door will be full of flowers.

A couple of little ones have already opened.

Remember how I told you how Ryan24 helped me move the Ballerina apple trees from a place that will soon be in the shade when my verandah roof is built, over to a sunny patch over the other side of the yard? They’re so happy, even the couple that I was a bit worried about whether they’d take. 3 have put blossoms out and all have sprouted leaves.

I was looking at them at the beginning of the holidays and realised that their labels were starting to get uncomfortably tight. Any more trunk growth and the plastic ties would be ring-barking them. Today, while I was doing other things in the garden, I grabbed some secateurs and cut the labels off, just in the nick of time. It was really hard to cut the plastic without nicking the trees, so I’m glad I didn’t let this little job slip to the back of my mind!

Just so I know, here is the order that the trees are planted in:

Lime tree; Polka apple; Charlotte apple; Flamenco apple; Bolero apple; Waltz apple and a Pomegranate.

I’m a bit worried about this pomegranate tree. The branches are still flexible but it’s already October and it’s still bare. I hope it takes off soon – I remember the pomegranates we grew at the old house and they were amazing.

So far 5 purple asparagus plants have come up. Considering I planted 13 last year, the others had better get a wriggle on. I was diluting and using the compost juice from the compost tumblers, so I gave them a nice juicy drink, so maybe that’ll encourage them.

One of the jobs I really wanted to get done was to empty at least one of the four compost tumblers I have so that when I start bringing home scraps from school, there’d be a place to put them. That job is now done.

It took us a year, but we finally managed to eat all of the 2 punnets worth of spring onion seedlings that David26 gave me for my birthday last year. I planted hundreds of the damned things, and because they were from David26 I didn’t want to waste any. So in the end, I placed a ban on myself and I didn’t buy any brown onions, substituting them for spring onions instead. I thought we’d never get through them, but the bed is finally free, so this afternoon I emptied a full tumbler’s worth of compost onto the bed, sprinkled some sheep’s poo and aged autumn leaves over the top, then covered it all with pea straw.

I haven’t started any seeds, though I did put together about 12 packets of Lazy Housewife beans to give to the canteen and Food Tech workers who save the veggie scraps for me. If they plant them, they could have a lifetime supply of beans. 🙂

Speaking of compost, look what’s sprung up in one of the garden beds that I bedded down for the winter with a hearty supply of home-made compost! I have heaps of either pumpkin or zucchini plants and masses of self-sown tomatoes. I’m tempted to leave that bed to its own devices and see what ends up growing.

The trouble is, I planted tomatoes in this bed last year, so until they fruit I won’t know if they’re self-seeded purebred heirloom plants or just common as muck tomatoes.

I guess food is food…

But we’ve been eating many many peas from the plants that sprung up from the pea straw. Gotta be happy with that!




Posted in Fruit trees, gardening, Quality of life, quilting, Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds | 5 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: A gift from the past.

Readers who’ve been around for a while might dimly recall a time 2 years ago that I went away to a Craft Camp and broke the 6-year sewing hiatus that I’d been on. I began a quilt for my oldest son, who was then Tom25.

I don’t know what I was thinking. WHO decides to relearn quilting by making a queen-sized quilt made up of over 1500 tiny squares? Only an idiot, that’s who.

When I started making it I wasn’t thinking of a specific pattern; just larger squares of 6 x 6 tiny squares in a diagonal. I wish I had’ve thought to use the same fabric running down the middle of each large square – it would’ve created an interesting grid feature on the quilt, but when I began it I was just looking to use up fabric.

This is the quilt top laid out on the floor so I could measure it to go and buy the backing.

So why did I suddenly drag it out and finish it? Because David25 wants me to make a quilt for his girlfriend, Izzy, for Christmas, so I thought I’d better get this job done. Besides, Tom27 knows about it. He said, “I thought it might be ready last Christmas and when I came in and there were no quilt-sized packages under the tree I went, “Uh…”

To be honest, I think I like the backing more than the front! But that’s ok, Tom27 should like the colours. The quilt isn’t for me, after all.

I quilted it in the ditch, which is THE HARDEST thing to do. I forgot.

There was a reason I started quilting in free form. It looks harder but is so much easier!

Look what I found when I opened my tin of quilting pins! This is from Evan23, back when he was 14 years old.

And here comes the gift from Past Frogdancer. Years ago, I published a tutorial on how to machine sew binding onto a quilt. Over the intervening years, I completely forgot how to do it. But I knew I had the tutorial on the blog

I chose a greeny fabric, because it’s Tom27’s favourite colour.

I took the measurements that I used to buy the backing fabric (180 cm X 230 cm) and added them up. Then I measured the width of the binding fabric against my cutting table (24 inches) and worked out how much fabric I needed to sew into strips.

Does anyone see where this is going???

This is the pile of LEFTOVER binding that I made. Yep, turns out mixing cm and inches doesn’t work out well. I made just over 14 Metres/15 yards too much. Lord knows how many extra quilts I could bind with all of this!

One broken needle later… because yes, of course, it would break just as I was finishing…

… we have a completed queen-sized quilt ready to be wrapped up for Christmas.

I wonder what I’ll make next?



Posted in Children., holidays, quilting, Skinflint | 8 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: sometimes you have to spend a little…

I like the idea of doing/buying something once and then never needing to worry about doing/buying it again. I also like the idea of not cluttering up the place with plastic AND I also like the idea of cutting down costs as I go into retirement.

Though, with this purchase, that last one is a bit shakey. I probably spent on these marine-grade stainless steel pegs exactly what I would have spent in a lifetime of buying plastic clothespegs. But I love them anyway.

They’re made from one piece of steel and they’re guaranteed not to rust. They’ll probably see me out. I had to get the more expensive marine grade ones seeing as I’m so close to the beach.

Look at that sparkle! For anyone interested, I got them from BIOME which has all sorts of tree-hugger friendly products. Ah well! Back to the ironing…

Posted in balance, cleaning, Peak Oil, Quality of life, Skinflint | 3 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Sometimes plans change.


Remember when I put these Ballerina apple trees in, with lavender around them to encourage the bees to pollinate? Turns out I should’ve held my horses, because my plans on how big I wanted the verandah roof has changed and now it turns out that these apples would be in shadow for most of the day.

They had to be moved.

Fortunately, I have Just The Spot for them. Originally I was going to plant flowery shrubs near the wicking beds at the back, again to attract bees, but I had to wait until we replaced the fence between me and the new neighbours. Turns out, they have a watering system that soaks into their side of that area (I know this because the fence gets wet, even on my side) so I thought I may as well plant some fruit trees there instead. It’d be a shame to waste both mine and their watering systems, now wouldn’t it?

It’s so nice to have another pair of hands to help! The job that I thought would take all day was finished by lunchtime when Ryan24 asked if I needed help. The place where we planted the trees has a line of building rubble that we had to manoeuvre out (or leave in place) which took a fair bit of digging. Ryan24 flatly refused to get up on the ledge to remove the trees (coward) and he wouldn’t let me go up until we trimmed the lavender bushes back to make a neat hedge behind the edge, so I could see where I was going.

So now we have 1 Tahitian lime, 1 pomegranate and 5 apple trees all in a row. I feel so sorry for the trees and I hope they’ll bounce back. They’re in a far sunnier position now so I hope that, given some time to recover from the shock, they’ll all decide that it was a move for the better.

While we were trimming the lavender, Ryan24 started looking around for more things to hack into and he spied the saltbush, which was seriously running amock. I bought it as a twig from Karen Sutherland’s garden tour and it languished in the pot for years until I finally planted it last year. It was still tiny, so I had no idea it’d grow so quickly. It was hiding my pepper bushes, a rose that somehow survived the garden reno and a few sprigs of parsley that you can see here in the kitchen sink.

I decided that I couldn’t waste it so I looked up a thermomix recipe for tabouli and we had that for lunch. There was still a ton of the stuff, so I got creative. I separated the leaves from the stalks and chopped the leaves and put them in this icecube tray. When I make casseroles I can pop one in for a burst of green goodness.

I carry this brown tub in the boot of my car for when I bring home compost materials from school. Once was enough to have the bag leak! I brought it in and chopped up the parsley stalks.

Then I ripped up an egg carton and a couple of wine casks for the carbon component, along with some sad veggies from the fridge. I’ll pop this into one of the tumbling compost bins later.

While we were out there, Ryan24 decided to save our money tree. The wind blew it over and broke its pot, ironically just as I was beginning talks with verandah people. He repotted the parent plant but also wanted to save this sprig, as it had roots on it. He swears he’ll water it every day to get it established, but we’ll see…

Posted in Fruit trees, gardening, Quality of life, Skinflint | Leave a comment

Skinflint Sunday: Don’t lend your laptop to your son when his computer dies.

No photos this week, because the laptop that is able to put the big photos up is now being used by Ryan24 to get some uni work done.

This weekend has been a little bit productive.

  • Planted a Pomegranate, Tahitian lime and repotted a Kaffir lime. Only 2 more trees to buy and plant in my “orchard” space. I’m thinking a lemon and a Hass avocado.
  • Baked Anzacs for Mum and Dad.
  • Ryan24 gave me a massage. It’s awful having a son who’s training to be a remedial masseuse.
  • Set up the guest room to be a sewing room. That quilt I started 18 months ago for Tom27 isn’t going to make itself… (I know. I’ve tried. It just sits there.)
  • Will I do some ironing??? Not sure…

Heigh-ho! Back to work tomorrow. Only 6 weeks to go till the September holidays.

Posted in Skinflint | 2 Comments

Quick post on a cold Monday morning before work.

Ryan24 snapped this as I was stretched out weeding. Jeffrey ‘halping’ me. It reminded me of this meme:

We had some bad news with my mother’s broken arm. It isn’t healing, even after being in a brace for 3 months. If it doesn’t improve in another 3 weeks, she’s looking at having a bone graft…

David25 and his girlfriend Izzy met me at their place on Saturday and they made lunch for us all, then David25 stayed behind and pruned a Golden Ash tree for Dad. Mt father has finally realised that perhaps he’s getting a little too old to be climbing ladders. On the way home I stopped in at Garden World and bought a pomegranate and a Tahitian Lime to go against the side fence. I want to put in a Haas avocado as well, but they won’t be in until October. They had some Bacon avocados, but I had one at the old house in the chook coop and it never did very well. Karen Sutherland put out an interesting video on growing avocado in a cool climate:


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Skinflint Sunday: Another little job done.

As you can see, I’ve just about finished putting the veggie garden to bed for the winter. I just can’t bring myself to rip out the spring onions in the front bed – David25 gave me the seedlings for my birthday last year so I don’t want to waste them.

If you look to the top of the shot, you’ll see a building behind our back fence. It’s a church. I’m pretty sure starlings have been nesting in their roof and they’ve been swooping down and digging through the mulch to find tasty, tasty worms from my worm farms on each bed. Something had to be done.

I saw a post by Late Starter Fire where she showed her new wicking boxes. They had a netting set-up, so I asked her where she got them, jumped across to their site and had a look at how much they charge for a netting kit.

$45.  Yikes! Surely I could get it cheaper? Besides, my wicking beds are longer than hers so the kits wouldn’t work here. So in the holidays, I took a trip to my local Mitre 10…

There I found clamps, screws and long hose-pipe stuff that tradies use for electrical wires or something. Then I had to wait for David25 to be available.

Yesterday was the day. First, I had to relocate the worm farms to the middle of the beds, not the edge, so that once the uprights were installed I’d be able to easily open the lids.

Then David25 screwed the clamps onto the sides of the beds. We allowed a bit of space at the sides for weights to hold the bird netting down.

Then we cut 3-metre lengths of the hose stuff and slotted them into the clamps.

Hopefully, after this, the wormies will be safer.

Here’s the finished result.

The netting will be too low for tomatoes and beans, but everything else will be fine. The hose things may need some wire to hold them straight, but maybe not. Time will tell on that one.

I love the feeling that you get when a project is done and dusted and you don’t have to think about it any more!

Next project? Putting a verandah roof over this area. I just accepted a quote… dear God! Everyone charges like wounded bulls! … so stay tuned.

Posted in gardening, Quality of life, Skinflint, tutorial, vegetables, wicking beds | 5 Comments


These holidays didn’t go AT ALL how I expected.

Two days before they started, my sister rang with the news that Dad had been rushed to hospital with suspected internal bleeding. Mum is unable to be left on her own because she suffers from vertigo and, after having broken her arm a month before, is unable to do even the most basic of tasks without someone there to help.

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday with my Mum. Dad came home on Saturday after having a small tear in his bowel fixed up. Thankfully, it looks like he’ll be fine now, but it could so easily have gone another way. He’d been suffering from breathlessness and dizziness for over a year. Doctors kept saying it was asthma and giving him puffers, but it appears that it was lack of blood.

With Dad sudden;y out of the picture, it quickly became obvious how dependent Mum now is. My sister spent the first 24 hours with her and then I moved in at the start of the holidays. Dad was only away for 3 days, but it’s clear that we have to start looking at delightful things like aged care packages, respite and retirement homes and so I’ve begun education myself about how that system works. There’s so much to find out!

So my holidays were a mix of organising things for Mum and Dad and spending quiet days at home sleeping, reading and Netflixing. The new brick pavers that I put in less than a year ago were getting absolutely covered in moss, so I invested in a pressure cleaner. As you can see, it works a treat, thank goodness!

I’m also getting quotes to finally put a verandah rook up over those pavers. So far, I’ve had 3 different tradies out with 3 different designs. I’m hoping to get the job done by Christmas.


The only thing I ticked off on my list of activities to do in the holidays was to go and see ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’. I was sitting 4th from the front so it felt like I was practically on stage with them. I’m glad I went – it’s truly spectacular. They handled the magical elements of that world beautifully. The theatre technologies were amazing – I kept wishing my Theatre kids were with me to see it all.

The plan was to get the veggie garden totally put away for winter, but yeah… that hasn’t quite been done. The birds are still digging through the mulch to eat the worms, so I’ve draped the bird netting on the top of the beds as an interim measure while I organise a more permanent fix. But more of that later…

Posted in family., wicking beds | 3 Comments

Three more days till the holidays!!

Cpt Picard,"Holiday mode: ENGAGE!"

The last couple of weeks at work have been hectic, but then they always are at the end of semester. There’s always stray bits of work to catch up, exams and essays to mark, feral year 8’s to discipline… you know, that sort of thing. In three more days I have two glorious weeks stretching out before me, with only ONE definite day planned. The rest of the days are a wonderful patch of blankness in my calendar, ready to be filled (or unfilled) exactly as I please.

I can’t wait!

A few weeks ago I booked a ticket to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” It’s only playing in 3 places on the whole planet and seeing as one of them is Melbourne, I thought it would be wasteful of me not to pop in and see it. I decided to go in by myself, so I scored magnificent seats seeing as I was only booking one ticket. Fourth row from the front!

Depending on how long the gap is between the two halves of the show, I thought I might take a tram down to the Gallery and have a quick gallop around to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. When we were in Beijing last year we decided against going to see them in their natural habitat because it’s pretty much a day trip and we were only there for a few days either side of our trip to North Korea. Now, I can see what all the fuss is about and cross them off my “Must See” list.

I’m thinking that on one day I might do a road trip and go to the Bendigo Art Gallery. They have an exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery in London called “Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits.” Anyone here who followed my UK and Europe trip back in 2015 would know how crazy I am about English history, so this exhibition is very tempting.

It’s a 3-hour car trip to Bendigo though. Still, imagine all the podcasts I could knock over on the drive there and back!

I still have Things To Do around the house, with the rest of the wicking garden beds needing to be put to bed over winter. That’ll be a couple of day’s work. I also want to get tradies in to give quotes for the roof I want to put in over the brick paving in the back yard. Time to cross that job off my list.

After lunch my year 9s have one more wide reading oral presentation to do, then as a reward for being beautifully behaved I’m going to show them ‘The Truman Show’. It’ll be a nice way to wind down the term for them (and me.) I’m showing my year 7s ‘Back to the Future’ – can you believe that only one of them has ever seen it???

Picture me at 2:30 on Friday. School lets out an hour early… imagine the joy!



Posted in holidays, wicking beds, work | 5 Comments