I grew ginger! In Melbourne!

Some readers may recall that I’ve been bringing home the food waste for composting from the school I work at for around a year or so. Last December, the Food Tech room had some sprouting ginger in its offering for the day. Honestly, it was still good enough to use for cooking and ordinarily I would’ve done so, but the gardener/experimenter in me wanted to see if I could grow it. I had a wicking box free, so why not?

Ginger in a tupperware bowl.
The sprouting ginger from work, chopped and soaking. Don’t do this.

I googled and the video I watched said to chop it into smaller pieces, soak them for a day and then plant. Leave them until the above-ground plants die down and then harvest.

Too easy. So I did what he said and then pretty much left them along for 6 months.

Ginger is a tropical plant which likes to grow in dappled shade. I figured that I should put it on the north-facing side of the house where it’d get the most sun, seeing as how I’m in a temperate/cool climate. Over the 6 months I ignored it. Sure, I topped up the wicking box with water and I liquid fertilised it a few times, but that was about it.

Then a couple of days ago I glanced at it and saw that the plants were dying back. I thought it’d be a hard job to harvest the rhizomes, but it took all of 5 minutes.

My impressive harvest.

Honestly, if I was looking to feed a ginger-starved family, I’d conclude that it wasn’t worth it. I think I got LESS new ginger than the ginger I planted!

And yet…

I’m encouraged to think that with almost total neglect, I was able to get a crop, no matter how small. I wonder what would happen if I actually gave another crop a little more TLC?

He used to be a Simple Savings member, like me!

So over breakfast this morning, I did a little googling and found Rob Bob’s channel. He has a food forest garden up in Queensand so his climate is far more conducive to growing ginger, but he also gives advice to people in cooler climates like me.

Turns out I did quite a few things wrong.

  • First up, he says that I should’ve kept the ginger chunks big, not cut them smaller. It gives more energy to the growing plant. Whoopsies.
  • I had about 9 chunks in the one pot. Again, not such a good idea. Too crowded.
  • The wicking bed isn’t great for ginger. Apparently they like to have some air around their roots.
  • I should’ve been fertilising them every 3 weeks or so – not every 3 months. My bad.
  • And the final kicker – he says that in cool climates, you should let the plants die down AND THEN LEAVE THEM IN THE GROUND FOR ANOTHER YEAR TO RESHOOT AND GET REALLY GOOD GROWTH!!!

Damn that American guy I listened to the first time!

Anyway, I’m going to do this again in Spring. I think it’s important to earn how to grow the little things that add interest and piquancy to our food. I remember reading somewhere that if/when supply lines get stretched and things are no longer easy to get (a typical peak oil scenario), the staples will always be around, but the little luxuries like herbs and spices will be a lot harder to get. Presumably they’ll be a whole lot more expensive too.

Ginger, garlic and chilli chopped up in the thermomix.
I wish I could convey the smell. Glorious!

Anyway, I won’t save any of these baby ginger roots for planting. Here is the first lot being used for a satay chicken dinner, with a home-grown chilli as well. (Garlic from Costco. I’m not perfect!!)

It’s really satisfying to cook with ingredients that you’ve grown yourself!

Posted in balance, gardening, Peak Oil, Quality of life, vegetables, wicking beds | 4 Comments

The Bees Knees quilt.

Picture of Evan23's quilt.
He had to wait 6 months for it – but now he has it!

My youngest son, Evan23, has always loved a quilt. When I started making them, back in 2008, he was the recipient of the first one. He still uses it today, along with one I made a couple of years later for his birthday.

When he was here over the summer holidays, he asked for a queen-sized quilt. He’s in his last year of an acting degree up in Ballarat and Ballarat is renowned for being FREEZING in winter. So in the heat of January we looked online for a design he liked and then drove to Spotlight on a mother/son bonding session to choose the fabric. Unlike most of my quilts, this one was entirely made from fabric that wasn’t in my stash.

Close up of the corner.
Straight line quilting – I haven’t done this for over a decade!

He wanted yellow and grey.

He got it.

Full length view of the back.
The quilting creates a design on the back.

It’s a little hard to see here, but the lines of quilting create a design on the back, which is what I wanted. I normally do a loopy, free-style kind of quilting but this design just didn’t seem right for it. I wrestled with the decision for ages, but in the end I went with the quilting done on either side of the lines of colour.

What I didn’t realise until after I started quilting it was that because of the diamond shape at the tp, I had to fit ALL of the quilt fabric under the arm of my poor little sewing machine. There was some swearing and wrestling with bulky fabric going on, I can tell you!

I’m simply glad that he doesn’t have a king-sized bed. I never would have been able to do it.

Bees  - yellow and grey on the back.
Bees on the backing fabric.

I was surprised when he chose this fabric for the back, but it works beautifully. The bees are in a random sort of pattern so it was easy to join the lengths of fabric together without the centre seam looking too obvious.

Close up.
The centre diamond.

I like the way that the points of the diamond sneak out into the borders, which changes the quilt from a very ordinary symmetrical look to something slightly more quirky.

I also wanted the grey stripes to move from light grey to the darker grey in a gradual way, so I mixed the middle part of the quilt up a little.

Another view of the quilt.
It’s a little bit of sunshine for wintry Ballarat.

In the first week of the holidays I did a road trip to his girlfriend’s place and delivered it to him, along with a couple of loaves of sourdough. I haven’t seen them for months.

He loved it and I know it’ll get a lot of use. Even with the heater on, Ballarat was chilly!

I always intended to make a yellow and grey quilt “one day” for me and it appears that one will be on the cards. Because Maths is hard, I accidentally cut and sewed almost double the amount of squares I needed, so a quilt like this one will be in my future.

I just have to make the dachshund quilt for Ryan25 first. He only has ONE quilt (the second one I ever made) and as he says, “I don’t think one quilt a decade is too much to ask for…”


Posted in Children., Quality of life, quilting | Leave a comment

Painting with beads.

Three months ago, just before the coronavirus made going interstate an impossible dream, I whisked myself away to Bowral for a few days. I had a helicopter ride in Albury, went to lots of galleries AND I met a friend that I haven’t ever met in person.

She gave me a gift of a Diamond Dotz kit. I’d never seen these before but they’re like a paint by numbers, only with beads. On the first day of the holidays I sat down at the kitchen bench, downloaded an audiobook from the local library, unpacked the little kit and got stuck into it.

I guess it took around 2 hours or so to finish. After a while, once I was used to the process, I got into The Zone and methodically worked my way through it. These things would be really good for people who need to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, as some of the beads are quite small and you need to concentrate to put them in the right spot. Thank goodness for my reading glasses!

It made a nice change from making face masks. Ryan25 is going back to RMIT for the next 4 weeks and he’s as germ-phobic as I am, so I made him 6 face masks with 3 layers of fabric. Going the extra layer of fabric is hard on sewing machine needles when doing the side pleats. I broke 3 needles and am now out until I get to spotlight to buy more.

Only had 2 pleat seams to go on the 6th and final face mask too – darn it!

Posted in Just for fun., sewing | 1 Comment

At last! The winter holidays are here!

What a term it’s been!

I began it with a ‘to do’ list that I wanted to have completed by the time we went back in term 3 in July. As it happened, we were sent back to school 3 weeks before term 2 finished, which to be honest was a bit of a blow to me, but I’ve decided to keep chipping away at the jobs on the list.

I have a good two weeks to get them done.

At the moment I’m sitting in front of my year 7s as they’re working away on a wide reading project that’s due next term.

I told them that this will be a lesson in Present (students’ names) looking after Future (students’ names.) If they can knock over this project now, then they’ll save themselves homework next term. They like that idea, so they’re all hard at work – and this is my naughty class!

I saw these coronavirus travel memes and liked them, even though I wasn’t actually planning on travelling this year. For me, 2020 is the year of retirement-proofing my house so that Future Frogdancer will be able to totter around her perfect house.

See? I don’t ask my students to do anything I won’t do.

If Poppy and Jeff could travel!

Poppy, Jeff and Scout are going to have the shock of restrictions being lifted eased a little. Ryan25 has been home from RMIT for months, but as of next week he’ll be back – just as I go on school holidays, so they’ll still have human company.

When I go back in term 3 – well. That’ll be a bit traumatising for them. They’ve adored lockdown.

I’m still the only teacher to be wearing a mask. My classes are used to it and they comment on the different ones I wear. I’ve made my own reusable ones from THIS VIDEO and so I’ve chosen some pretty fun material.

Ryan25 has asked me to make a few masks for him to wear as he goes in and out of the city on public transport. I’ll have to break out some manly fabric.

I’m looking forward to showing you the quilts I’ve finished. But that’ll be for another post, once the glorious holidays are here. Even though we can’t go anywhere, I’m still going to love these two weeks to come.

Posted in Just for fun. | 5 Comments

My project list in lockdown – being flexible with the end date.

Sourdough pancakes
Sourdough pancakes.

Yesterday’s breakfast! Since lockdown I’ve continued to make sourdough every couple of days and we’ve been loving it. I’ve recklessly made a vow that I’ll never buy a loaf of bread from Aldi again – which means that I have to make sure I have at least a couple of sourdough in the freezer for when times get busy.

But mmmm. The chewy crusts. The different toppings. I made a couple of olive breads last week and it was delish. (One’s in the freezer.) During lockdown I had a routine going but now that I’m back at work I have to tweak when and how I do things.

We have had 5 weeks LESS time at home in lockdown than we were originally promised. Of course, this has been a serious blow to someone who has loved being in iso as much as I have, but at least I consciously knew that it was only going to be a temporary thing, so I made sure to revel in every delightful moment.

When lockdown began it was supposed to last for all of term 2 plus the July school holidays, so I made a list of biggish projects that I wanted to have finished by the time we went back.

With the time being cut short, only one of the projects was finished by the time I went back to work, but I’ve decided to keep to the original timeline and count every finished project a success if I get it done before term 3 starts. (On July 13.)

Evan23’s quilt top.

One of these tasks was to finish Evan23’s quilt.

A queen-sized half-square-triangle quilt in yellows and greys. I made sure to get the quilt top assembled by the time we were yanked back to work, but there was no way it was going to be totally finished. Yesterday I spent the afternoon quilting it and I would have finished if the tension didn’t suddenly decide to go wonky. I’ve learned that when things like happen, I should back away from the machine and pick it up again another day. Tuesday is one of my days off so I’m hoping I’ll be in the quilting zone tomorrow and I can finish the qilting and do the binding.

That’ll be another project ticked off my list!

The paint job on this fence – magnificent!

The major job that I tackled was to paint both sides of my new front fence. I painted it by hand over raw timber so it took a lot of time and a lot of paint. This took weeks to do, because whenever it was a sunny day the chances were that I’d be remote teaching; and when it was rainy I’d have the day off. So it took ages, but I’m really happy with the finished result.

I’m going to paint the uprights and the fascia on the verandah the same colour as the fence to tie it all in a bit more.

You can see the overflowing green bin – evidence of progress being made in clearing away the veggie beds for winter. This is also taking a lot of time – I’m still not finished yet!

The gate – what a nightmare.

I didn’t think through how finicky painting the back of the gate would be. It took MILES of painting tape, lots of wiping the metal bars with metho to get rid of paint smears and some expletives every now and then, but the job IS DONE. I’m hoping it’ll be at least 10 years before I have to tackle it again.

A little gift from a student.

This little ‘unbirthday’ gift bag was from one of my year 9 Drama kids. I’ve written before about how they had to submit videos instead of in-person performances during lockdown. One of their assessment tasks was to interview an older family member and then write and perform a 1 – 2 minute monologue based on what they learned about their family’s traditions/culture/history.

Jaime’s uncle fought in Vietnam and his Mum sent a care package of rum balls over to him. By the time they got there, the rum balls had fermented and the poor guy was mobbed when he opened up the package. The alcohol smell was overpowering and he only got to eat one of them – his mates took all the rest.

Every Christmas her family give rum balls to the adults and “golf balls” (without the rum) to the kids. On the first day back, she gave me this bag with the recipe and the ingredients to make a batch of golf balls. I’m going to make some on Thursday and bring them to class on Friday, so everyone can enjoy them.

Posted in cooking, Quality of life, quilting, Skinflint | 5 Comments

Loving lockdown!

A rounded pic for my rounded sourdough!

It’s been a while since I wrote here but the truth is I’ve been so busy. You know how retirees always say with a smirk, “I don’t know how I ever found the time to go to work!” Well, I think I’m getting a taste for how that feels.

Not that it’s really the same. For the last 4 weeks I’ve been remote teaching. For anyone interested in what teaching from home is like, I wrote a post on the other blog about it.

Two weeks after writing that post, I’ve learned to keep out of my work emails during my days off. I have a quick look at breakfast, just in case a kid submitted something late on the day before, then I sneak a very quick look in the late afternoon, but that’s IT! Otherwise, I was working right through the week, working 6 or 7 days but only getting paid for 3. Frogdancer Jones is not a charity!

I thought I’d be reading heaps of books, but I haven’t been. I mean, I’m still reading but not every day. I think that because I’m reading so much on the screen when I’m working that when I have free time, my eyes want a rest from print.

First coat almost done!

One of the jobs I wanted to have done by the end of iso was to get my fences painted, particularly the front fence. One of my ‘panic buys’ at Bunnings was a 10L tin of ‘Monument’ coloured fence paint, along with a redgum stain for the uprights.

Monument is a very ‘Melbourne’ colour. Melbournians tend to wear a lot of black, and I think there must be an unwritten rule that says that every house in Melbourne has to have a touch of this colour somewhere. I don’t care if it’s popular – I love it.

At first I wasn’t all that fussed about getting it done, as we were told that school would be out for the whole term. But now, just in case, I’ve decided that every sunny day that I’m not working, I’ll be out there waving a paintbrush around. If we go back earlier, I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t have the fence done.

I decided to use a brush and not a spray gun for a couple of reasons. One was that I think you get a better coverage with a brush. The second was when the woman over the road told me about when she hired a guy to spray paint her fence in her previous home and the wind took it and covered the neighbour’s cars with droplets of paint. The guy had to pay to get the cars completely resprayed!


So yesterday, I finished the 10L tin of paint. The street side would have been completely finished except for this last little scrap. I was scraping that tin, trying to find just a little more paint…

The fence palings are really thirsty, so what I thought would be enough paint to finish the job hasn’t even finished the first coat on the front fence I still have to paint behind the gate, which will be a bugger of a job because of all the metal posts there. I can see a trip to Bunnings in my future on Thursday. I can’t go after teaching today because I have an English meeting after school hours. *sigh*

Even in a pandemic, there’s no escape.

A couple of days ago I found this handwritten, posted-with-a-stamp letter in the mail. It’s from our local Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even having a padlock on the front gate can’t keep them out!

It needs some pleats at the side.

Who says face masks have to be boring? I made a couple of masks for when I go shopping. I think the chickens add a jaunty air to my appearance, don’t you? The good thing about these is that they’re reusable – I just threw it into a bleach solution when I got home and put it through the wash.

Obviously it’s not going to totally save me from the virus, but for a quick shopping trip to the supermarket, it reminds me not to touch my face and it’s a barrier to breathing in any germs. Plus it was a novelty for me to make something that wasn’t a quilt.

Evan23’s quilt… and mine.

So speaking about quilts, I finally began Evan23’s yellow and grey quilt. We bought the fabric way back in January, so it was past time for me to get onto it. I guesstimated the number of squares I’d need and spent a few days cutting and sewing them together.

He wants a queen-sized quilt, which is a sizeable project. When I laid them out on my bed (also queen-sized) to work out the layout – I discovered that I’d made DOUBLE what I needed. What an idiot! So now Evan23 and I will have mother-son matching quilts. Not exactly what I intended to have happen…

Another quilt.

I’ve also pieced together a lap-quilt for a friend. I had some fabric left over from the ‘Outlander’ quilt, so waste not, want not!

I love my Golf. 8 chairs fitted inside!

At the end of January I ordered 8 teak chairs from Schotts in Moorabbin to go with my teak outdoor table. My verandah out the back is finished and the chairs were one of the final things I needed to make it all ready.

The woman who served me said that they’d have to order them in from China. At that stage China had shut down lots of things because of the virus. She said that they were due in at the end of April, but with the virus, who knew?

I shrugged, thinking that it would be getting colder by then, so if the chairs didn’t arrive for months it wouldn’t make that much difference anyway.

Well knock me down with a feather if the chairs didn’t arrive on time! I had a week to collect them. I hadn’t left the house (except to walk the dogs) for a couple of weeks and it felt strange getting into the car and driving to get them.

I also took the chance to visit Mum and Dad. We sat on their back verandah, appropriately socially distanced of course! I hadn’t seen them in around 5 weeks. Tom28 brings them their groceries every Saturday and they talk to him in the front garden, but apart from that they don’t see too many people.

The chairs in their new home.

To my shame, the veggie garden has been left it its own devices. Once I get the fence finished I’ll be very busy cutting and dropping the old tomato and celery plants and dragging away the old zucchini, squash and pumpkin vines. It looks like a squalid dump at the moment.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. I’ve already picked 2 pumpkins and there are another 3 or 4 still out there. I’ve never been able to grow pumpkins before, so it’s a little bit exciting.

Tiny butternut pumpkin.

This wee little pumpkin grew, like all of the others, out of the compost materials that I was bringing home from work. It only had 300g worth of pumpkin, which was perfect for adding to the mashed potato on the top of a shepherd’s pie. It’s so satisfying to eat things that you’ve grown yourself.

Doll quilts for the next-door neighbours.

After I made the lap quilt for my friend, I had a few leftover blocks so I made these for the kids next door. They have 4 kids under 5 and honestly… lockdown is a struggle for them. I hear lots of tantrums and arguments from the kids so I figured that if they had something new, it would at least distract them for a while. (And hopefully won’t give them something else to argue about!!)

Plain flour loaf of sourdough.

A blogging friend put me onto a terrific website for sourdough bread. The guy who runs it is a whizz at putting up recipes that are simple to understand and which actually work. He’s also incredibly attentive to the comments, where people ask questions and offer suggestions, which makes his blog an absolute treasure-trove for sourdough baking! The loves at the top of this post are from the simple weekday sourdough recipe, which I’m excited about because it means I can keep the sourdough loaves going even when I’m back at school.

This loaf is from a new recipe he just posted, which is a sourdough bread made with 100% plain flour/all-purpose flour. When David26 and I went to Costco on that crazy day, we bought 2 big bags of plain four. I was actually wanting baker’s flour but there was none to be had. I’ve been eking out my last remaining bakers flour in the Simple Weekday recipe by using plain flour for most of it, and substituting bakers flour when the recipe calls for whole-wheat flour.

This new recipe is a really good way to use the abundant plain flour I’ve got. I put some pepita seeds on top, just for fun. I was rapt at how high it rose. It doesn’t taste like sourdough but it’s a beautiful loaf of bread just the same. I had the first slice – the crust – just now for breakfast. Bloody beautiful!


So yeah – lockdown is going really well. I really hope they keep the schools closed for the whole term because I really don’t want to get sick. But in the meantime, there’s plenty to do to keep occupied!

Posted in balance, books, cooking, family., friends, gardening, pets, Quality of life, quilting, reading, vegetables, wicking beds, work | 3 Comments

The Outlander Quilt.


Five years ago I was on the trip of a lifetime. I was away for 9 weeks, visiting the UK and Europe. As part of that trip, I was lucky enough to have 2 readers of this blog offer to put me up for a few days and show me around. One was Pam in Edinburgh and the other was Deana.

Deana lives in a London suburb, so after my first week being in the heart of London in Holbern with my dear friend Scott, I jumped on a train and headed out to spend 3 days with her and her family. She’s the most delightful person! She took me to see Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Jane Austen’s house and Canterbury Cathedral.

(Incidentally, I’m SO GLAD I blog about my trips overseas. There’s so much detail in these posts that I’ve forgotten about. Reading these posts brings it all back.)

In the Canterbury post I mentioned buying fabric in a little shop just around the corner from the cathedral. In 5 years, I haven’t touched any of it. But this is why having a fabric stash is so handy – when a quilt is called for, the fabric is waiting.

I’ve mentioned before that on Christmas Day my brother had a stroke. He’s doing splendidly now, but for a long time his condition was very touch-and-go. I decided that my sister-in-law Jen needed a quilt. Her colours are very much the colours of some of the Canterbury fabric, so I broke them out and set to it.

Evan23 and I went shopping in January for fabric for a queen-sized quilt for him and he chose this design, so I decided I’d do Jen’s quilt in the same way to work out any kinks.

Later, when it was the beginning of May and I was in Spotlight doing a bit of panic-buying of quilting supplies for the lockdown I was sure was going to come, I saw the perfect backing fabric. A few weeks before, I put Jen and my niece onto ‘Outlander’ and since then they’ve been galloping through the episodes. I knew that this fabric was perfect for her.

I was correct. I delivered this quilt two days ago – Jen, Paul and I standing on the front lawn in an appropriate social-distancing way – and when she saw the Outlander fabric she laughed so hard she was doubled over.

The colours go perfectly with the decor in the bedroom. All in all, I think I can call this one a success!

Posted in family., quilting | 2 Comments

A week into lockdown at Frogdancer’s place.

Scout brought home a tummy bug. She was very sick for a couple of days, but she’s bounced back now!

(This post is a cut and paste of the one just published on the FI/RE blog. If you’ve already read it, you’ll get deja vu if you read this one.)

So it’s been a week since schools shut down when the school holidays were brought forward by 4 days and we’re now in official ‘school holiday’ time. Lockdown was officially brought in on Saturday night (I think), so what has been going on here while the country grinds slowly to a halt?

David26 packing his bags to move over to his girlfriend’s place. She lives at home with her parents…

We had the uncomfortable chat with adult kids that a lot of families are having, especially since the new laws came in forbidding meetings of more than 2 people. David26 was over at Izzy’s place when all of this came into effect. For newer readers, Izzy is immunocompromised as she’s fighting leukaemia. After checking with Izzy’s family, David26 has elected to stay there for the duration.

He came back, masked and gloved, to pack some clothes, food and musical equipment. He’s spending his days helping Izzy’s Dad with major renovations on their house, (aka learning some manly skillz) and writing lots of music with Izzy. He’s happy.

Evan23, facetiming from Ballarat. Strike a pose!

Evan23 is up in Ballarat with the other people from his acting course. This photo was what he sent after I said that his hair looked lustrous. It made me laugh! Apple doesn’t fall far, as they say. He’s moved into the share house that his girlfriend lives in, along with one of the other podcast guys. Lots of board games, lots of drinking, lots of painting. He bought canvases and paint as part of his panic buying before the lockdown.

Tom28 is an accountant and so far he’s been able to hang onto his job. We have long phone calls nearly every day.

Fortunately, I’m sharing lockdown with the quietest and most introverted son. Our house is blissfully quiet. The only sounds I hear, apart from his lectures from his uni course, are music or ‘Animal Crossing’ drifting from his room. We have little chats, then part to do our own things, then we meet up again to share things we’ve seen online etc. It’s chilled.

I posted this shot below, after a wonderful moment on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been back since, because on Sunday little Scout came down with a tummy bug and was really quite sick for a couple of days. Then, just as she was getting better, Jeffrey came down with it.

Jeff this morning.

Jeffrey was VERY sick. So sick that I took him to the vet at 8 AM yesterday. She couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so directed me to feed him boiled chicken and rice. This morning he ate some, the first food he’s had for over 2 days. He then wagged his tail. I’d say he’s turning the corner. Phew!

Correction still goes on…

I had to bring home some correction and I was getting kids who had self-isolated earlier to send me work via email, so I was still keeping busy in the last few weeks of term. One poor little boy, who only scored 4/30 on his grammar test, sent me what sounded like a chirpy little email after I released his mark to him.

Something along the lines of “Hi Ms Jones! Could you please send me my grammar test so my Mum and tutor can go over it with me? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!”

Poor kid. That’s the LAST thing anyone would want. His Mum was almost certainly standing by his shoulder, dictating what to type. I’d already given him 15 extra minutes to complete the test, as I knew he struggles with English. Fortunately – or UNfortunately, depending on whether you’re the student or his Mum – his was a test I’d brought home. So I photo-ed the pages and emailed them across.

Another chirpy email thanked me. Poor kid…

The new fence – naked.

One of the projects I want to get done is to paint the front fence. Over the fullness of time, the lawn will be mostly replaced by garden beds. It’ll be an oasis. The following photo is the colour scheme I’ve chosen.


My parents have been gallivanting around, so I had a stern talking-to with them. They’re over 80, for God’s sake. Anyway, after this, they’ll either heed what I say or they just won’t tell me. After all we’ve been through with them, health-wise, over the past year, you’d think they’d be more sensible.

My first pumpkin.

Look at this fine pumpkin! I’ve never been able to grow them before, but the compost materials I’ve been bringing home from work, coupled with the wicking beds, have brought forth a bonanza of pumpkins. I’m so happy. This one was so heavy it fell off the vine, so Ryan25 brought it in. It’s sitting next to the tromboncino zucchini seeds I’m drying for next year.

Ryan25 just came in to tell me that it looks like Australia is starting to flatten out the curve, which is good news. Meanwhile in the US, this is happening:

It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I hope that you and yours are safe and well. It’s a time to quietly enjoy our nearest and dearests and live life at a slower pace. It’s Wednesday morning at 10:30 and I’m still sitting on the couch in my pjs. On a normal Wednesday I would have taught 2 classes by now! Jeff is snoring beside me, Ryan25 is playing some 80’s music and the sun is shining. I’ll have brunch and get out into the garden today, I think.

Stay safe! Stay home!

Posted in backyard beach, balance, Children., family., gardening, pets, Quality of life, vegetables, wicking beds | 2 Comments

Reusable toilet "paper."

1 metre of flannelette makes 16 wee wipes.

I first heard about wee wipes on the Simple Savings website, back when the kids were little. I was desperately looking for ways to trim money from my grocery budget, but at first sight I wasn’t a fan.

“Eewww!” Wiping yourself with cloth after you do a pee and then washing the cloth? How disgusting!”

But then a few hours later, the logic kicked in. Toilet paper is a recent invention in the course of human history. Using cloth to wipe after urinating, putting the wipes in a bleach solution and then regularly washing them – seems like it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to do. After all, we do the same for babies with nappies!

Back then, I grabbed a worn-out towel and hemmed all the edges. I used those suckers for around 2 years. I had a lidded bucket that I kept in the laundry trough, away from small boys and it was easy to keep the routine going. No one knew… not even the boys.

I don’t think I saved a huge amount of money, but it was more getting into that whole survival mindset of making every dollar last as far as it could. When things eased up financially, the wee wipes gradually disappeared.

Who cares about precision with these things? Near enough is good enough, baby!

When I was in Spotlight buying quilting supplies a couple of weeks ago, while everyone else was in the supermarkets panic-buying everything they could lay their hands on, I saw that they were selling flannelette for $6/metre. On an impulse I bought a metre. Considering the way toilet paper is still really hard to find, I figured that this was pretty cheap insurance. (And far softer than those scratchy old towel wipes that I used to have!!)

Later that week I grabbed a face washer, used it as a template and cut out 16 wipes. I cut them with pinking shears, but then had my doubts as to whether this would effectively stop them fraying. In the end I grabbed them and ran a line of stitching around the edges before I started using them. I know what I’m like – if I waited until I washed them and saw them fraying, I’d probably never get around to doing the sewing. Best to do it while it was still a New Project.

Easiest sewing EVER!!!!! Quilting is such a finicky thing to do… always matching seams and sewing straight and making sure everything is perfect. But this? My lady bits won’t care if corners are ragged and sewing lines are crooked. I just whacked those babies under that needle one by one and raced around them to get the job done as quickly as possible.

A few cautionary things, should you decide to try this.

1. Force of habit is strong. The first time I decided to test this out, before I realised it I’d reached for the toilet paper and torn off a length – even though I’d literally carried the pile of wee wipes into the ensuite not a minute before. I felt like an idiot.

2. Force of habit is strong. The third time I went to use one, I almost dropped it into the toilet after using it!!!!! Imagine if I had’ve done it???? Erk! It then dawned on my mighty intellect that I don’t have to keep a bucket with bleach in the laundry anymore – the boys are grown, the dogs won’t go near it and no-one uses my ensuite except me. so now I have a bucket right beside the loo.

Having used them for a few days and washed them a couple of times, I have to report back that yes, they have frayed a bit but who cares? and amazingly, they are really nice to use. They feel almost luxurious, which is a weird thing to experience when using something like this. You expect the opposite. Or maybe that was just me remembering those scratchy old wipes made from towels, back in the day!

I’ll keep using these while the toilet paper situation is still running rampant. It keeps our stores going for quite a bit longer, so we’re not out competing with the rest of Melbourne for loo paper. I still use toilet paper for um… toileting situations other than just a simple pee. Just thought I’d better make that clear!

Also, environmentally, using reusable wipes is a better thing for the planet. It’s odd how so many frugal things are also environmentally friendly.

But the most important reason for me having these wipes on hand is below. Today I went out to buy some yeast and when I got home I saw this:

Poppy’s handiwork.

If Poppy keeps trying to unroll the toilet paper to get to the toilet roll so she can play with it, these reusable toilet wipes might become an absolute necessity!!!

And finally, a meme that seems to fit the situation we’re finding ourselves in:

Posted in cleaning, sewing | 3 Comments

Stockpiling. Is it a sin or sensible?

This is a copy of a post I wrote for my FI/RE blog yesterday. I thought it was really relevant to the readers of this blog as well. I’d be interested to hear how you handle this.

My panic buying this week at Bunnings – fence paint and potting mix.

With all that’s been going on around the place with people panic-buying toilet paper and the like, I thought I’d share my views on having a stockpile of food and non-perishables around the house. I’ve had a stockpile for the last 2 decades and I find it a really useful and economical way to run my household.

Going back 20 or so years, (in the time before Aldi), I started building a supply of food and other things when things were on special. I was living on a single parents pension of around 18K/year with 4 small boys to feed, so money was incredibly tight. Over the course of a year or so, I gradually built up the supplies in my pantry so that in the end, I was pretty much buying as much as I could when something was on special.

In other words, we were eating most of our food at a discount. When baked beans, for example, were half price, I’d buy 10 or 20 of them, depending on how much leeway was in that week’s budget. Then we’d gradually eat them down until the next time when they were on sale, when I’d buy the same amount again.

Short-term, this was a more expensive way to run the household, but I’ve rarely been a short-term thinker. Over the course of a year, I’d easily save a few hundred dollars on meat, groceries, pet food and cleaning products. I was so poor that a few hundred dollars made a HUGE difference to our quality of life. The stockpile was worth doing.

When Aldi came to our neighbourhood, it was different. They had no ‘specials’ as such, but their prices were so much lower that I gladly started shopping with them.

And I still kept a stockpile. Why?

I realised that liked having reserves of food and other staples around. I liked not having to run to the shops every time I ran out of an ingredient, because I almost always had a replacement in the back cupboard. It gave me a sense of security and comfort in the fact that if something unexpected happened, I knew I could look after my boys and that we wouldn’t have to go shopping if people were out there acting crazy.

When ‘The Walking Dead’ came along, I christened my stockpile ‘The Zombie Apocalypse Cupboard’ and that’s its name today. Hearing the supermarkets run on a “just in time” policy of stocking their shelves cemented the idea that having a small stash of necessities wasn’t a bad idea.

So, seeing as I’m a bit of a prepper, how has the Jones household been acting in this time of Coronavirus?

I’ve so far been ahead of the wave. I’m a teacher and sooner or later it appears that Australia will have to close the schools down. The only question is when. I fully expect to have to self-isolate at some stage, given that I work in a school with nearly 2,500 kids and 200 teachers. That’s a lot of bodies that the virus would love to inhabit! Given all of that, it made sense to me to get ahead of the game and make sure that we had everything we’d need if we couldn’t leave our house for a while.

Years ago I read an article about the people of Sarajevo when they were caught in the middle of a war zone. It included a list of all the things they most prized. The number one item? Toilet paper, closely followed by matches and perfume. I’ve never forgotten that, so the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard has a dedicated shelf to the old bog rolls. Back in early February, when stories started to surface about this new virus but it was long before any panic-buying, I quietly stocked up on loo paper.

Then, in the next week or two, I bought a few extra tinned and packaged goods. Things like tuna, chickpeas, pineapple chunks (for pizza) and paracetamol. Grain-free dry dog food and the raw meat patties I feed Poppy, Jeff and Scout were also on the list. Dishwasher tablets, aluminium foil and baking paper came soon after that.

By the time I noticed toilet paper shelves were starting to empty pretty rapidly, I was feeling like our food situation was ok. But what would I do with my time if I had to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks? Remote -teaching my students would take up a bit of time. But there’d still be extra hours to fill…

Reading is my #1 passion. I have at least 15 books piled up beside my bed and a huge number waiting to be read on my kindle app. I have Netflix and Foxtel, so the tv viewing and book reading situations will be fine. But what about other things?

While everyone in the last week has been going crazy in the supermarkets, I’ve been at Spotlight quietly buying quilting supplies and at Bunnings buying fence paint for my new front fence, along with decking oil and potting mix.

Stockpiling doesn’t have to be just about the food. I’ve brought the paint buying forward a month or so, but now it’s done.

Though it hasn’t been all fun and games.

Two days ago, David26 and I went to Costco. It was a Tuesday morning, 10 minutes before opening time. David26 was worried about his girlfriend Izzy’s family and wanted to buy a few staples for them. Against my better judgement I agreed to take him.

The premier of Victoria had issued a state of emergency the day before. S**t was starting to get REAL.

It was incredible. When we arrived, there were easily 1,000 people ahead of us in the queue. It snaked around the carpark. David26 and I looked at each other.

“Well, we’re here now,” I said. “We probably won’t be able to get toilet paper for them, but we can get other things. And while we’re here, we need a 3L bottle of milk and I could always top up the dogs’ grain-free food. Then, if we’re isolating ourselves at home, the dogs’ll definitely be ok.”

It took us 25 minutes to even get to the front door. By the time we got there the signs were up saying ‘NO MORE TOILET PAPER.” By the time we reached the front of the queue, it was almost twice as long as when we got there.

Mini road-rage spats, with honking horns, were happening in the car park. Just as we reached the front, a police van quietly drove through and parked on the corner, clearly to keep an eye on things. Anyone trying to push into the queue was quickly told where to go… and by that I mean down to the end of the queue, not to go straight to hell!!!

Once we were inside, those massive Costco trolleys were racing around in all directions. People with a wild look in their eyes were grabbing everything they could lay their hands on. There was a limit rule of 2 cans of Glen-20 per membership, but at the cash registers I saw quite a few people who, like David26 and I, had come in a pair, trying to argue that they should be able to take 4 cans. No one got away with it though. The Costco staff were standing firm.

As we were waiting to pay, I whispered to David26, “If this is what it’s like on a Tuesday, imagine what the end of the week will be like if the news doesn’t get better? Not sure I’d want to be here then.”

So, what with my normal preparedness and yesterday’s Costco run, I guess I’ve seen both sides. So which is best?

If you’re an adrenaline junkie who likes to pit yourself against the odds, then yes! Leave everything till the last minute and go out and take your chances.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a sin to be prepared. You don’t want to be THAT guy who has 4,000 rolls of toilet paper lining his garage, but I think it makes sense to have a place set aside for things that you regularly eat/use as a back-up. When things are going wrong, the fewer people who are out on the streets competing for things, the better.

If any (or all of us) gets the virus and feels sick, it’s a comfort to know that we have everything we need to look after ourselves well within reach. By having the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard, we’ve eliminated that anxiety from our lives. If Tom28 has to come home if he has no work and can’t pay his rent, there’s food enough to cover him.

Having a stockpile of the basics eliminates that awful fear of not being able to provide for my family. Twenty-two years ago when I left my husband, I had $60 in cash, 4 small boys and no job. I did a Scarlet O’Hara and vowed that, as God is my witness, these boys will not suffer for what I’ve done. I would provide for them, no matter what.

Having a stockpile is, for me, an essential cushion against misfortune. Or a pandemic. So if you don’t have one at the moment, how do you build one up?

DON’T do what all the frenzied shoppers at Costco are doing. Going by the overloaded trolleys we saw, there are going to be lots of people with a massive credit card bill to pay in the next month. Obviously in this time of Coronavirus, buy what you need to get you through, but as for a stockpile for the future?

Do what I did when I was young and poor. Do it gradually.

Buy extra of the things that you’ll eat when they’re on special. If money is tight, buy an extra one. If you have a few more dollars free, buy multiples. Store them in a line in your pantry/zombie apocalypse cupboard. This is so you can keep track of use-by dates.

If you happen to buy more of a particular item before you’ve used up everything in that particular item in your stockpile, PUT THE NEW CANS/PACKETS AT THE BACK AND MOVE THE OLDER THINGS TO THE FRONT.

This is called rotating your stock. It may not be a sin to have a stockpile but it’s certainly a very bad thing to waste time, money and shelf space on food that you have to throw out because you didn’t use it in a timely fashion.

I’ve read that some people mark their stockpile items with a permanent marker of the date they bought them. Me? Nah. But if that idea floats your boat, go for it.

Over time, as various items come on sale or you have a few extra dollars and can buy a few extra things, your stockpile will build up. It’s a beautiful thing.

Only buy what you and your family like to eat and make sure you rotate your stock. This way, there’s no waste and you always have stores available in case something unexpected happens. It’s the most immediate way to provide a safety net for the ones you love. Having a paid-off house comes second.

Anyway, these are my thoughts on stockpiling. I’m proud to say that my two boys who are living on their own also saw which way the wind was blowing and stocked up on a few non-perishables before the supermarkets got crazy.

I normally don’t ask for comments, but I’m curious as to what you all think. I’ve laid out my history and why I’ve always had a store of food and such in the cupboards. Are you like me? Or do you have another way of navigating the world?

Posted in balance, Independence Days challenge, Quality of life | 16 Comments