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.

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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

A life crowded with incident.

Sun over the sea

Well, it’s a Saturday afternoon, I’ve just woken up from a two-and-a-quarter hour nanna nap – (I KNOW!!! CRAZY!) – and I’ve decided that I may as well make the whole day a lazy day, so here I am. There’s a bit that’s been happening that readers of the other blog will know about, but I haven’t caught you guys up yet.

First of all, I’ve decided to go part-time next year. The detailed version is HERE, while the way I’ll be getting paid for an extra day each week is HERE.

It was a difficult decision to make and I wrestled with it for quite a while. Long-time readers will remember how I actively searched for decades to find ways to increase my income, but now I’ll deliberately stepping away from that. Looking back, I think that when I saw Mum’s feet trying to step sideways to get into the car, the decision was made at that moment. 

Mum’s accident happened a couple of weeks ago and she’s getting stronger, though she still needs care around the clock as she can’t really walk by herself. We three kids have been supplying meals for Dad to heat up, but last weekend I thought that maybe they’d like some morning/afternoon tea snacks from me instead.

They were delighted! I was pleased that they still eat baked goods – we don’t eat them much at all anymore in this house – because I’d made a litre of yoghurt that didn’t set so I was looking for ways to use it up. A lemon/yoghurt cake and a few batches of scones used up most of it, while the dogs just had runny yoghurt with their dinner for a few nights, instead of normal yoghurt. Waste not, want not!

Jar of lemon butter

Everyone’s focus is on Mum, of course, but Dad has stepped up to look after her. They’ve always been a couple who has built in time apart from each other to give themselves the freedom to pursue individual interests, so suddenly spending 24/7 together is a new thing for both of them. He used to love it when I made lemon butter for him when I was at home with the kids, but I haven’t made any for years. My neighbour passed a bag of lemons from his tree over to Ryan24, so I thought I’d pop in a blast from the past for him. Have to keep his strength up!

And yes, I think my labeller is running out of ink. Not quite sure what to do about that.

This was the scene of doggy mayhem that I came home to a few weeks ago when the dogs had been left Home Alone for most of the day. This is about as destructive as Cavaliers get! Judging by the dachshund pages on FaceBook, they can get incredibly destructive, but I’m pretty sure Scout thinks she’s a Cavalier, so it’s all ok.

The next day I came home to the toilet roll sitting by the back door. I don’t know what the fascination is with it, but they haven’t done it since. They’ll be rapt when I’m only working part-time; they’re much happier with their people around them.

Going back to the part-time work thing, I think that I’ve also made the right decision for me too. Having these long nanna naps on Saturdays is becoming a not-so-unusual thing and I’m tired a lot of the time. It’s hard getting up when it’s dark and getting home when it’s dark or nearly dark. I’ve never been a person who was overflowing with energy, but in my 50’s it seems to be a little less than it used to be. Having work as the exception in my week, rather than the rule, will be a good thing.

New front door.

Here’s Jeff modelling the latest project – new Crimsafe doors and windows. Written in more detail HERE. I want to get as many projects done to this house as I can before I retire. I like the thought of paying for them with income, not savings, so this was the next job on the list. Old Lady Frogdancer will be able to feel secure in her home after the boys leave.

The next job I really want to get done is to put the big roof over the lower paved area in the backyard to give me an outdoor room. I have no idea what it’ll cost, but I think it’ll probably need council permission because I’m looking at a large area to cover. In two weeks the winter holidays will be here and I’ll get some people in to give me quotes. This, (and the new ensuite I want to get as well), will probably be the priciest of the things that need doing around here. I’ll be glad when I’ve bitten the bullet and completed them.

I’m still slowly putting the garden beds to sleep over winter. The worm farms in the middle of each wicking bed are doing what I hoped they would – the beds are full of worms all the way through, though unfortunately a couple of young pigeons have discovered this as well. I keep finding holes dug through the thick layer of pea straw I’ve put on the top. Bloody birds!

I’m planning a quiet holiday, though in the second week I’m going to see ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.’ It’s only playing in 3 places on the entire globe and one of them is in my city, so it seems wasteful not to see it. I got fantastic tickets – fourth from the front on both sessions. See? Being single has its advantages…

ooo! It’s wine o’clock. Time to pour myself a glass and work out what Ryan24 and I are going to have for dinner. Cheers!


Posted in backyard beach, gardening, pets | 8 Comments

Sometimes you have to sacrifice free time for duty.

Today is Correction Day at school. It’s a day that students have off after exams so that we teachers can have a day to get all of the marking done before reports are due. Usually, I make sure that I have all of my marking done before Correction Day because then I get the day off. But the stars were misaligned this year…

First of all, my naughty year 8 class have taken SO LONG to get their heads around how to write essays that they still haven’t written their essay on ‘The Outsiders’. That’ll happen Monday and Tuesday next week. My year 12s are doing their SAC on ‘Cosi’ on Monday. So that’s 2 lots of marking to get done a week before reports are due. THEN, my year 9s sat their exam TODAY.

It was a difficult choice – have a 3 day weekend and then have a hellish week, or drive into work, pick up the exams and mark them now. *sigh*

I finished marking them a little while ago, then as a reward I took the dogs for a brisk walk. It may have been a bit too brisk because 2 blocks from home Scout sat down and adamantly refused to get up again, so I had to carry her home. She weighs nearly 6KGs, which doesn’t sound like much but after a while she starts to get heavy.

I’m glad I did the marking. It’s like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer – it feels so good when you stop. (That’s a bit dark...)

I can hear rain outside, so Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again! This weekend is totally free, so I may catch you up on all that’s been happening here. But for now? I got some pizza dough out of the freezer, so Ryan24 will be making dinner. He doesn’t know it yet.

At work I sit near a young Mum with 2 small daughters. She’s at the stage where she’s tired to the bone with working 4 days a week and having interrupted sleep every night, using the breast pump every lunchtime and then calling her partner to take it across to daycare to feed the youngest one.

I keep drip feeding her stories about what life is like with grown-up kids. About how they mow the lawn, give great massages (it helps that Ryan24 is studying remedial massage) and how they cook dinner when I ask.

It gives her a feeling of light far ahead… at the end of the tunnel…





Posted in Children., pets, work | 2 Comments

One more little job done.

When I had the backyard paved last winter, most of the plants were thrown away, but a few remain. One is this variegated-leaf bougainvilia on the back fence. The landscaper said it would be a feature if I trained it along the fence. He gave the scraggly old thing a trim and ran the automatic watering system by it.

Well, before I could scratch myself the thing went wild. It grew all over the place, eventually falling over on top of one of the wicking beds.

It dropped many flowers, which I’ve scooped up and used as compost. Waste, not, want not. But something had to be done about it.

When the shed was moved, we found a piece of trellis behind it. This has been sitting in the sideway, waiting for the boys to do something productive with it.

Today was the day!

While I was cleaning the kitchen after lunch, David25 decided to get out there and get the trellis off his ‘to do’ list. Unbeknownst to me, he decided to do a little pruning first. I came outside to find this waiting for me to deal with:

That’s a lot of thorny branches to fit into a tiny green waste bin! It’s bin day on Mondays, so I chopped up what I could and the rest will go in once the bin is emptied.


David25 quite likes doing Things Around The House, though he wasn’t happy when he hammered his thumb.

Meanwhile, Ryan24 made sure to keep the dogs out from underfoot.

Posted in Children., gardening, Quality of life | 2 Comments

Putting my garden to sleep over winter.

Well, will you look at this? It’s been about 6 weeks since I last wrote here. Still, no panic. I guess it just means I have a lot to catch you up on. 🙂

Winter is approaching, which means, with my commute, that I’ll be leaving while it’s dark and returning when it’s dark. Given this and the fact that the output from the soil that was put into my new garden beds was so poor, I’ve decided to “put my garden to bed” for winter.

Chopping up plants to use as green manure.

This basically means that section by section, I’m pulling up any plants that are struggling on, chopping them up into little pieces as a form of green manure, adding heaps of sheeps poo left over from Malane st, any other stray odds and ends of fertiliser I have hanging around, then after digging all that in, covering everything with a massive layer of pea straw.

The base of the worm farm.

Some of the garden beds have got added extras, like worm castings full of worms. I finally got around to emptying the worm farm I bought when I moved into The Best House in Melbourne 3 years ago. Well, I had to do something… the plastic legs buckled and twisted, throwing the whole worm farm on a precarious tilt that tipped some of the worms into the garden bed below.

Worms and castings in a bucket.

I grabbed some old bricks to support the body of the worm farm while making it high enough to put a watering can underneath to catch the worm wee/free fertiliser. I separated out the sections of the farm to make it easier to lift, then while it was all apart I emptied out the bottom section and took those worms out into the lower wicking bed and put them in. They are within crawling reach of the worm farm I have there, so if they want to be fed like they were in the old worm farm they can be. I hope they survive… I felt a bit mean putting them out into the big wide world, but they have 6″ of pea straw above them so they should be safe from birds.

One section already bedded down, one in the process.

I put home-made compost into around 3 of the other beds. Remember how I started bringing home the scraps from the Food Tech classes and the canteen? A couple of the barrels of my tumbling compost bins were just about ready, so I put them into the garden beds anyway. I figured they might as well continue to decompose in the ground, rather than take up space in the compost bins that I’ll need for the scraps coming from school over winter.

It’s a very satisfying thing to put compost that you made yourself into the garden. But DON’T do what I did. When I was first putting things in the compost bins, I was wrapping veggie scraps in sheets of newspaper and popping the packages straight into the bin. ARGH!!!

What happens is that the paper gradually solidifies around the food and encases it into an impenetrable layer. I found this out when I dumped the first lot of compost on the top of a garden bed, then got interrupted and left it there for a week before I got back to it. The little packages had dried out by them and were like hard rocks. It took so much time to break them up into pieces that were smaller and more easily able to decompose and release their goodness to the soil – even when I picked as many as I could out of the bed and put them in a bucket of water to soak before trying to break apart the softened bundles.

It took HOURS. Now, every bit of paper is ripped into small pieces to avoid this ever happening again. I don’t care how many podcasts you listen to when you’re doing this – it’s still a very tedious job.

So far I’ve put about half the garden beds to sleep. I aim at doing one a weekend, so by the end of June, the whole back yard will be pea-strawed and silent.

The success stories of the first summer of growing things? Heaps of snow peas and beans, lots of tromboncino zucchini, basil and chillis. Everything else did the best they could, but they struggled.

Hopefully every year will be a bit better!




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

Skinflint Sunday: One more set of essays to mark before the holidays!

My only cucumber!

One more week to go of term time. Gee, this term has flown by!

Last year a woman at work gave me some cucumber seedlings that she couldn’t fit into her garden. I thought my terrible soil killed them all… but one was quietly soldiering on, hidden by the Purple King bean plants. How that the beans are dying off, this cucumber in the photo above came into view a few days ago. I gave it to Ryan24 to eat – he loves cucumbers. Hopefully, the soil will have improved enough by next summer that he’ll be able to eat a lot more.

I’ve been writing on the other blog about whether or not to go part-time at work next year. I know that not everyone who comes here reads the other one, so I thought I’d post the links on here, as I’m interested to hear people’s takes on it. I know there’d be lots of you who have wrestled with the same dilemma.

Here’s the one looking at the pros…

… and here’s the one looking at the opportunity costs.

Long term readers will know that I’ve been hustling for extra dollars for years, doing housecleaning, working as a teacher, knitting baby hats and making doll quilts and selling them on Etsy until I found Thermomix and settled into doing that after school and on weekends for 5 years. The decision to let Thermomix go and ‘just’ do teaching was a big step. To think about taking some extra time for myself is a big step… so I’d welcome your thoughts.

Me kissing Oscar Wilde's tombstone

This time last year I was in North Korea. Talk about time flying! The veggie garden was still just a plan on paper and my year 12s were rehearsing ‘Jasper Jones’. This year we’re doing ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. I simply love Oscar Wilde’s plays and ‘Earnest’ is my favourite, so I’m really excited that the kids agreed to do it. (Well… not that they had much choice in the matter, but I let them think they did..!) The photo above is of me kissing the glass in front of Oscar Wilde’s tombstone when I was in Paris.

Speaking of that wonderful 9 week holiday I took in 2015, my beautiful friend Scott, who organised the whole thing for me and travelled with me in some bits, is coming back to Melbourne these holidays. It’s the first time in 10 years that he’s been back and I’m so pleased to be able to catch up in person. Skype’s good, especially with the three hours long conversations we tend to have once we get going, but there’s nothing like being in the same room with someone. We’ll be catching up over the holidays and he’ll be seeing The Best House in Melbourne for the first time, along with the dogs. Come to think of it, when he left the boys were all still at secondary school! Things have certainly moved on.






Posted in Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds, work | 6 Comments