Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Dear Readers,

Herewith I wish you all a merry Christmas!!! I hope you're able to be with your loved ones - enjoy your time together! I'm at work, I started at 5 am but we're allowed to go back to camp 2 hours earlier to call our families. I'm not sure how the phone network will cope with 6500 people making phone calls, so I'm not taking my chances.

It's a beautiful day today - sunny, hot and humid - like most days here. The ocean looks beautiful however!
This is my decoration in my room. We're not allowed any candles, so this is a battery operated one and a battery operated Christmas tree which changes colours.

My dear colleague (who unfortunately will be leaving the industry after the new year) had a beautiful Christmas present for me! It really made me smile.

So have yourself a very merry Christmas! I'll be thinking of my family - both here in Australia and overseas. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Visiting my family overseas

So so sorry for not writing for such a long time! I have been very busy with work and travelling and something else - I will tell you about it in a later post. First things first. In September/October, Steve and I went overseas to go and visit my family (me) and to travel (Steve). We met up in Dubai (UAE) as I flew straight from work and Steve from home and stayed a night there to be able to have a shower and a proper sleep. We then flew to Duesseldorf (Germany) and as we arrived late, we stayed in a hotel right next to the airport to rest and sleep, ready to see the family in the morning.

We took the train to Koeln (Cologne, Germany) and were greeted by my Mum who then walked with us to the flat we rented for 2 weeks. We wanted our 'own home away from home' where we can cook, sleep and relax. So we rented a little flat on the 4th storey with a magnificent view of the Cologne Cathedral in a very central area - 10 mins walk to the next train station and within walking distance to my Mum's place.

We spent the first 2 weeks in and around Cologne and visited my Grandparents, my Auntie, my Mum and my Sister. It was so nice to see them all. Mum was on vacation as well, so we saw her nearly every day. I only saw my Grandparents 3times in the time I was there and of course felt really bad about it. I never know if I will ever see them again which is very hard to cope with at times. But it was also hard to combine family visits and sightseeing. Steve doesn't speak any German and except for my Mum and Sister my family doesn't speak English.

However, we spent our time as good as we could enjoying all these sights:

Drachenfels - a popular weekend destination to walk up to the Drachenburg and enjoy the view over the river Rhine.
Bridge of Remagen
Vineyards on the river Rhine
German dinner with my auntie and uncle (left), new friends and Steve.
Blue Hydrangeas - my favourite flowers.
Unkel, where we had morning tea.
Rolandseck in Koblenz - where the Rhine meets the Moselle
Cologne Cathedral - never ceases to amaze me!
Grand Place in Brussel
Manneken Piss in Brussels
Steve LOVES Belgian beer
Windsor Castle
St Bath
London Bridge
Buckingham Palace
It was very hard to leave and I think next time, I probably would prefer to visit my family alone to just spend time with them. I hope I will see my Grandparents again soon and I hope everybody stays healthy and safe! I love you all!
After spending 2 short weeks in Germany, we took the train to go to Brussels for a few days and then to London. I have to honestly say that I was absolutely exhausted after those 4 weeks and couldn't wait to get back to work where I don't have to think  about where to go for dinner, what to wear and how to get anywhere. It was hard to play tourguide for 4 weeks but I was glad I could show Steve around and he saw some interesting stuff. Next time, we will have less cities and more rest!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Looking forward to my new future

A couple of days ago was my 38th birthday. It was a good opportunity to reflect on my life - past, presence and future. In my last post I said that I feel a bit under the weather. I've thought a lot about this in the past few weeks and tried to figure out why this has happened. So here it goes:
1. I'm having a long-term family problem which I tend to ignore. Now with my upcoming visit to Germany to see my family, this problem has resurfaced with its worst possible consequences. 
2. I moved to simple living to obtain a less materialistic and more simpler lifestyle which I have achieved (still improving of course). But I made it a full-time job, not offering time for leisure, personal development, my partner or even my paid work.
3. Perfectionism - still, identified as a problem but not the main cause of my current unhappiness.
On my birthday, Steve let me choose how we spend the day. I wanted to go hiking - despite the wind, rain and cold weather. So after a basic breakfast, we took our sandwiches for lunch, our backpacks and warm, rainproof clothing and went to the Cradle Mountains. We spent 3 hours hiking, talking, admiring. Steve didn't really want to go on the walk but since it was my birthday, he came along. But to both of our surprise, he really enjoyed it. We saw the mountains disappearing in clouds right in front of our eyes, we saw some beautiful plants and wombats. Upon our return in the cabin, we put our wet clothes in front of the fire to dry, enjoyed our sandwiches in our tracksuits and then had a relaxing Spa Bath overlooking nothing but natural bush while drinking Champagner. I felt happy.
So I made some decisions for my future:
1. I need to clear up the family problem and I need to do this properly. There's feelings of family members involved but I have to make the right decision for me, otherwise I will just please other people - even if they're family - and wouldn't be true to myself. It's not easy to solve this problem but I cannot have it continue to haunt me, it needs to be dealt with once and for all.
2. Simple Living is supposed to be a lifestyle, not a full time job! I need to decide what's important to me, what I enjoy doing and what my partner enjoys doing. It's not good enough for me to decide how I want to live knowing to well that my partner doesn't want to live that way. I've been selfish and hoped he would just grow to it but he hasn't. We had a big talk before our holidays that he doesn't want all the things I want and vice a versa. So we decided we would take this holiday and think - each on our own - about how we want to live and how we can make it work. I will talk about this topic a bit more in another post.
But what I have decided is that I need to make time for leisure, personal development and my paid work! I cannot see my paid work as a hinderance to my simple living pursuit! Without my paid work, I cannot pay my mortage off, so it needs to be a priority. Also things which I enjoy doing might not necessarily fit the frugal simple living lifestyle but this is my life, it's the only one I have, i need to live it the way I want to. I don't need to feel bad when I go to the hairdresser twice a year, when I buy my favourite cheese (which is very pricey) or when we decide to go travelling or out for lunch. I have felt guilty and deprived of some pleasures I enjoy because they aren't frugal. I started a simple life but have forgotten about the living! So this is where major changes will occur and I'm looking forward to it!
3. Perfectionism - that's a tough one. I guess once I come up with an idea, I have to implement, rather than getting stuck in the planning phase. That's not always easy due to my work - I get the best ideas at work and then have to wait to get home and implement them. I added a due date column on my to-do list. Hopefully that helps!

Thank you for all of your nice comments and email. I feel much better, more determined and look forward to this new year of my life!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Under the weather

I'm not feeling it lately, I'm sorry. I can't explain it, I just don't feel happy at the moment. I want to do so many things but I either don't have the time or it's the wrong time of the year to do things or something else needs to be done first. I'm planning for 2015 as to me 2014 is already over (meaning planned out and time taken up by various activities). I'm looking for a new hobby but can't find anything which interests me. I don't know what it is, but I'm feeling seriously discontent. I have no reason to feel this way, I just do. Nothing seems right, everything seems to be too much. I'm just not happy.

Well, first step is to recognise my predicament. I have. And I have blamed everyone and -thing for it: my partner for not wanting the same things as I; my job for not fulfilling me; the weather for not helping me with my efforts to create a beautiful luscious garden; my family for not understanding who I am and everybody else for not caring. So does this make me feel better? No! So what to do? There's only one thing which always makes me so happy, I have the feeling my heart bursts out of my chest: taking Hera for a big long walk. Hera, my GSD x Kelpie, is 15-years old and doesn't really enjoy long walks anymore. So we took a short walk to our favourite place just opposite our house where I can see the roos, cows and mountains; a place where I can listen to the birds and think without interruption. 
I was sitting there for a long time - Hera by my side having an occasional stroll and a sniff and then returning to sit with me. While I was thinking of my life and all the things I want to do and feel like I can't do (right now), I sadly realised that there's one person standing in my way: me. My constant strive to perfection, my planning ahead to the minute, my planning in general for everything just drains me and it makes me unhappy. How did this happen? I just started my simple life and changed so many things which made me much happier, why am I feeling unhappy again? What have I missed? 
The truth is, I haven't missed anything, I just never have accepted life as it really is: constant learning, making mistakes, fixing mistakes and making more mistakes. Life isn't perfect - it's not supposed to be perfect and you cannot plan everything. People who have dealt with me before will know that I plan my holidays with an Excel Spreadsheet, they will know that I have a 'cross off days at work' list and then create a list of what to do each day for my R'n'R. And once I'm done with all the planning, I get nervous and I plan further into the future. So here I am in the middle of July 2014 having already planned all of 2015! Not kidding! I love to plan and my lists become longer and longer and less gets crossed off because I'm too busy planning.
Another big fault standing between me and happiness is perfection. Most people will say we should strive to perfection but when perfection stands in the way of actually doing things, it gets too much! My latest example: my new chicken coop. I decided to move the chooks to the cubby house as they're closer and I don't have to move manure across 3 acres anymore. I got a fence build around the cubbyhouse which is right next to the dog kennel. I have given Steve instructions to build me some gardenbeds while I'm at work, so I can plant some green manure when I come back in November and then plant some beautiful veggies in March. Can't wait! The other thing is fitting the interior of the cubby house out to make it chook friendly. I need to consider cleaning, acces for us to collect eggs and to feed and water them, roosts for the night and nesting boxes. So for at least the last 3 months - possibly longer - I've been trying to figure out how to fit the interior of the cubby house out: how hight should I make the roosts? Do they need food and water inside and outside? How can they easily go in and out by themselves without other animals getting in? Can I have nestboxes outside? How much space do they need? 
I mean honestly, how hard can it be? I looked at 100s of plans, blogs and facebook pages and have not found anything useful because I didn't take the information given and translated it to my project. I wanted something to show me exactly what I need to do with my cubby house. Why? Because I wanted it perfect. This is ridiculous! I have to work on me. So I decided to live more in the moment and less in the future. Steve and I are going on a holiday to Tasmania - and I have not planned anything. Steve organised places to visit and accomodation, I only booked the flights. We have another holiday coming up and I will do exactly the same. 
I promise myself that for the rest of this year, I will make no more plans and expect no perfection. I want to become at ease with myself again and do things when they need to be done, not when they're scheduled. I want to be happy again!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Mid-year Review

I'm back at home at last! At work I had to do mine and my team's mid-year review to see how we're tracking and if there's anything we might have neglected and have to pick up before the end of the year. I thought this is a great opportunity to have a look at our new simple life and see how we're tracking. Our life certainly has become more simple, also I still struggle with the some parts. So, let's see what we have achieved and how we can get back onto track if need be.
I've written about our budget in the last post. We finally have a budget and track our spending and also we have reduced some of our bills significantly, we identified areas where savings can be made and now I have to implement these and track those areas closer. We still do a fair bit of travelling and then love to go out. My goal is to do some more advanced planning in the future and stick to a set budget. We've got a fair bit of holidays coming up in the next few months and I will keep a close eye on our spending there.
At the beginning of the year I've started spring cleaning in zones which means each time I'm home I concentrate on a certain area for a deep clean. I've noticed that those areas now stay clean and clutter-free for longer which means my spring cleaning next year will be a breeze! I enjoy cleaning, re-organising and decluttering. And I'm good at decluttering! Half of the items at the local St Vinnies store came out of my home. If there's no use for it or it doesn't fit with the style of our home, it goes. I have been making my own cleaners for a long time, so that's nothing new to us. I probably have now taken it a step further and make my own washing powder and a few other things. I have created daily routines which makes it easier for me to follow as I have a set plan of things to do. The new cleaning routine has freed up a lot of time.
Currently I'm trying to develop a better flow for our home. It's a small house and also it's just the two of us, it sometimes felt a bit uneasy. But I have some great ideas on how to change that - the biggest change will be an extension, so Steve and I have a nice Master Bedroom and a 2nd bathroom but this is still a while away. Other things have more priority, like fencing and a new sewerage system. Also our furniture needs to be replaced. The items are Ikea items and they have moved from Germany to Australia and then another 4 times. Since this is our forever home, I'm now looking for some good quality, solid timber pieces and matching artwork. We have now installed solar panels and I'm curious to see how much money this will save us. Electricity prices are roaring in QLD, I hope to be independent of the grid in the near future. I have a kind of Moodboard Book for my house and write all ideas in it. The important thing for me is be aware that I can't have everything straight away and I have to carefully plan and budget.

This is one thing I need to improve on! I have spend a lot of time in my house in the past few months changing and improving things but I haven't spend enough time in the garden - well, at least not to work, but plenty of time to enjoy myself. I am developing a new permaculture plan for my garden, which in the next few months I hope to be implementing. I'm looking forward to this project. I'm trying to produce enough produce for my family without having to buy fruit and veggies. But since Steve is on his own for 6 months of the year, I need to find an easier system than the current one. I will blog about my plans soon.
Most of the time, I am sticking to my meal plan and keep loosing weight - slowly but steadily. I always enjoyed cooking and baking but I never had attempted making my own bread. Since I started the simple living journey I thought I have to give it a go. Now I know what I have been missing for the last 16 years - good sourdough bread! I love making break and it's something I look forward to. The only thing I haven't managed is to produce a nice fluffy white bread for Steve. I had many attempts but none of them were fluffy enough for him. If someone has a nice recipe, please share it with me.
We started stockpiling early this year and it feels great to walk out of the Supermarket with just a bag I can carry rather than a trolley and change to a $50 note! It also makes us experiment with recipes as I created a spreadsheet (sorry I can't help myself, I'm a German Engineer...) with all our pantry items and their expiry date. So I now I have to cook something with certain ingredients if they expire soon. I think our stockpile will last us a year easily. We bought most of our items at Aldi's as it's much cheaper than the local Supermarkets. Buying meat fresh from the farmbutcher has also saved us a significant amount of money. We will re-stock probably March next year.
Since I have started growing our own food, I had to start preserving as there's only that many beetroot one can eat at any one time. I always thought preserving is complicated and requires specialised equipment but have since found out that I can easily preserve with what I have in my home. So far I preserved beetroot, onions, mango (chutney), tomatoes, various herbs, capsicum, cabbage and garlic. I also have frozen pumpkin, silverbeet, snowpeas, corn and beans. It's nice to be able to bring a small gift of homemade relish when we're invited to a BBQ and I feel so homely!
Unfortunately, I lost Quentin earlier this year to a snake bite. I miss him heaps and still cry nearly every day. Hera has turned 15 years old and is still going strong! I hope she'll be with us for a few more years. I love watching her rolling in the grass - I know that she loves our place just as much as I do. Stormy, our Sun Conure loves his new girlfriend Sunny and I hope they might lay some eggs in the future. The Indian Ringnecks Bella and Fella have laid a few eggs but none of them have developed unfortunately.
Our chooks are now 1 year old and I never want to live without chooks again! They're so much fun to watch, I love them. I plan to convert the cubby house into a chook pen and get another 5-7 chicken. I don't have them free range but they have a very large area to forage. I also would like to get some Guinea Fowl. I heard they will be great to protect us from snakes, plus they look nice and I like the sound they make. I haven't got any plans for any other livestock at the moment as we're doing too much travelling but we will see what the future holds.

Planners and Routines
Well what can I say - I love planning things! I plan our holidays on a Spreadsheet (no kidding)! I have a daily, monthly and annual plan. I helps me to budget, I don't forget things and I know everything will be taken care of. I previously had plans in my head but since I have written them down, I actually stick to them which helps me to manage my time better. Working away for 6 months of the year, I really need to manage my time!
My mindset has significantly changed if i compare it to the same time last year. I no longer enjoy shopping, I have decimated my wardrobe to a bare minimum and I do things in a way women would have done them 'in the good old days'. I refuse to buy a bread maker or a pasta maker or any other fancy item which can do one thing. I do have a Thermomix which I adore as it's one machine which can chop, crush, roast, grate, heat, juice, knead, melt, mill, mince, mix, sautee, steam, whip and cook! I have to learn that I cannot have everything at once and that I cannot plan everything into the tiniest detail but sometimes just have to do it. For me, if it's not perfect, it's not right, so I have some learning to do there. I also have to be more mindful of my partner who has very different dreams and aspirations, I need to make sure neither of us looses sight of our dreams.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Budget for the start of the new financial year

The end of the Australian financial year is only 2 days away. Most people probably have New Year Resolutions in regards to budgets and savings but I think the beginning of a new financial year is an even better opportunity. So what does it involve for me?

For the first time, I now have a budget and an expense spreadsheet. I've set it up a few months ago and have been practising but now it's ready to go for the start of the financial year on 1 July. Don't get me wrong I have set-up budgets before but never followed them or I tried to track my spending without actually having a budget. But now I've got a fantastic document - thank you Lynn and David for creating this spreadsheet! I've changed the headings and added an overview to it, so I could enter an amount under each heading and then calculate the total for each category which made it easier for me to come up with the budget.

I used the link out of the Down to Earth Forum. If you're not a member, please sign-up as it's a fantastic community providing excellent advice. Alternatively, you can fin the
Budget Tracking Spreadsheet here. Please note, I have not done this spreadsheet - it's all thanks to Lynn and David!!!

Once I entered all of our expenses, I was in shock. More or less each month everything I earn is spend. And I earn a very decent salary. I mean I sort of knew that we weren't saving a lot because I do read our statements but seeing a 5 digit figure coming in and going out again in the same month is a different sensation all together. So where can I save?

1. Income: This will be the same every month until my contract runs out. I also have an income from my investment properties. I'm not planning to take on any more work, so I will need to find a reduction somewhere.

2. Loans: Home Loan and Investment Property Loans are our only loans we have. We make extra repayments for our home each month. We also both have credit cards but we always pay them off in full.

3. Budgeted Savings: Additional to the extra repayments we're making for our home (this money could be withdrawn in an emergency), I save money monthly for a separate emergency fund and holidays.

4. Home Bills: Rates - nothing we can change and our rates bill isn't very high as we don't have access to town water or sewerage. Electricity has always been high. Everytime we turn the tap on, 2 pumps will start (water to the house and greywater from the house). Also as I never rains here (except for Jan & Mar), we need to water our plants which is done from the bore water but also costs electricity. Our beautiful Pool also uses a lot of power, however, we were able to change the Tariff for the pool pump and that saves us about $200 per quarter. We have now installed solar panels and hope that this will reduce our electricity bill even further. Unfortunately Steve is not so great at saving power and always leaves everything on. We normally don't have to pay for water - only if the rain wasn't sufficient to fill our tanks. We have about 55,000 L of water storage and that lasts us a season.
Gas for our hot water and the stove is required and we might get a new bottle once a year so that isn't pricey at all. Our monthly phone/mobile/Internet is too high. I need to call the provider and reduce as we hardly ever make any phone calls but our plan offers $350 worth of calls. So, here is my first saving.

5. Home Living expenses: Furnishing/Decors, Repairs, Renovations, Gardening, Appliances and Tools. Hm. I know I spend a bit on those areas. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with patience and when I want something, I want it now (how annoying, I know). So, I have to sit down, write down all the things I want, the price and then schedule those items. We're working on upgrading the house and making everything efficient, so I know this will take some money and work but I will have to learn to schedule it. this is my second saving.

6. Investments: We have several investment properties (mostly our old homes) - they all cost money: rates, water, insurance and maintenance etc. We need to sit down and calculate if they're continue to be financially viable. If we sell them, we reduce our expenses in this category but also under our loans section. This is my third saving.

7. Transport: We have one car, so we pay Rego, Fuel, Insurance as well as maintenance on it. I recently reviewed insurance and was able to save $600! We live about 30 km away from town but we wouldn't use the car more than once a fortnight - except when we go on holiday. I don't think there's any more we can save here.

8. Medical: Doctors Fees, Chemist, Dentist and Specialists - they're the only costs I do not want to compromise on! There's nothing more important than our health.

9. Food: Since I started stockpiling, we only go to the Supermarket fortnightly, mainly for dairy products such as milk, cheese and cream as well as anything which might have run out. I bought half a side of beef and a lamb early this year and I can see this will last us for the rest of the year, so no more buying meat in the Supermarket or the butcher. We got our meat from a local farmbutcher for $6/kg. I try to grow fruit and veggies but it's not yet enough (we're slowly getting there), but I do buy them from the farmers markets once a month and then preserve/freeze the rest. I reduced our monthly grocery bill from about $180 a week to $50 a week - all by stockpiling!!! Very happy with that.
We hardly ever have take aways, so not much expenses there but we do go out a fair bit I've noticed. This is my forth saving - taking our own drinks and food from home and have a picnic instead of going out for lunch.

10. Work: I need to pay for my own flights to get to Perth and then also need accommodation and transport. I try to book everything as much in advance as possible but it's a fair amount of money I spend on travelling for work. The only reduction I see is if I would change jobs but then I might use more fuel for the car, so maybe that's not an option.

11. Insurance: Home and Contents, Building Insurance for our investments, car, health as well as travel insurance are essential for us. However, it pays to shop around before you renew. I saved over $2000 this year by changing my insurance provider.

12. Clothing: Steve and I don't need many clothes or shoes. Mainly if something is worn, it is replaced but that's about it. I try to buy the best clothes I can get to get good quality. I used to buy a lot of clothes and now have a set wardrobe and I stopped buying. I do plan to learn mending, knitting and crocheting but I just haven't got enough time for it at the moment, so this is something I would like to do when I retire and something I'm looking forward to. Another saving, but not in the upcoming years.

13. Animals: Our chooks, birds and dog need to be fed, Hera needs to get her annual vet check-up and supplies such as hay for the chooks, beds and toys for the dog and birds are required. The expense here is far smaller than the pleasure I get from my beloved animals, so nothing to be changed here.

14. Recreation: I love to read, Steve loves to travel. My hobby is certainly cheaper than his. We pay for flights, accommodation and car hire. As I have 6 month of the year off, we do a lot of travelling. Therefore we decided to buy a caravan, which will enable us to reduce the spending for accommodation and car hire. With the amount of travelling we do, the caravan will have paid itself off within a year. The only exception is international travel. My entire family lives in Germany, so I do want to go over there and visit them every 3-4 years. Saving money from this category is my fifth saving.

15. Grooming: Haircare - twice a year, beauty treatments - sometimes a massage when I return from work and my back hurts, cosmetics as required. I like to be well groomed and I like make up. But I have stopped buying the most expensive stuff. I use Grown and love their products! They use natural organic products. At home, I make a lot of things myself, at work I cannot do that, so I don't believe I can save much more money in this section.

16. General: Presents - I normally buy when I see something suitable and then keep it for the occasion. I've stopped buying Newspapers and Magazines and I use the Internet instead or recycle my old magazines. I don't spend much on stationary. Postage is a big one as it's expensive to send things overseas. This is my sixth saving: If I send items earlier, I can send them much cheaper. Alternatively I can buy something overseas online and get it send to Germany. I do give monthly donations and will continue to do so because I believe this is the right thing to do.

So as you can see there's 6 potential savings in my budget I will need to explore. I will let you know how I go. What are you up to this weekend? Maybe enjoying a nice relaxing afternoon and doing up a budget? Let me know how you go.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

3 weeks at home

I've done it again! I'm so sorry!!! I spent 3 weeks at home and did not write a single post for my blog. Well, that's actually not true. I did start writing several but didn't finish and therefor didn't publish one. My apologies! I have to try and be better. So as a request for forgiveness, let me tell you what I've been up to over the past 3 weeks.

A few days after I came back home (and after cleaning up the chook pen and house), Steve and I decided to go away for a few days. Things have been a bit difficult and tense between us lately as we're at a different stages of our life and wanting different things. We hired a lake view cabin at Lake Maraboon in the Central Queensland Gemfields. It was beautiful! We went for walks, exploring the area and enjoyed this view with a glass of wine from our cabin.
We also had lots of visitors like these Lorikeets who are very cute but very noisy and it was rather difficult to defend our food.
In the end, I just covered it and let me tell you, they weren't happy!
This is Virgin Rock near Springsure where we stopped for coffee and had the last of the best (as it was moist, rich and full of rum) flourless chocolate cake I've ever made. We also explored House of Magnolias which had beautiful homeware.

The trip was good for us. We talked a lot about how we feel, what we want to achieve and how we can go about it. I will tell you about it in the next few months but for now, we feel stronger and more aligned. A good feeling. Steve is still the love of my life!
When we came back home, we had solar panels installed. It was on the list for a while but because we moved a lot, we were never sure which one our forever home would be. Well, looks like we finally decided - this is it. I hope so because I like it very much and I love the area. I'm confident that this is a good areas for jobs as well - despite the fact that I'm currently travelling all the way to WA to go to work. Eventually, I will take on local work again. I'm very happy with the company we've chosen. We have German solar panels and power router. I will monitor the system and do a post about it in a few months time to see how it is going. Our water bill is rather large as we only use tank water and a bore. So every time we turn the tap on, two pumps will start up. Electricity prices are increasing from July again, so it will be a saving for us. We calculated that the pay-off of the system is 4 years.
One morning I was woken by loud noise. We always have a lot of birds around but this time, they obviously had a party - a Pool Party to be precise!
A lot of them flew off when I walked outside but there was still lots of them around the Pool, drinking, cleaning themselves and having fun (= making a lot of noise).
The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were also in the Grevillea next to the clothesline having breakfast. Also they're noisy (and messy), I love having them around. Recently we also had a large amount of the red-tailed black Cockatoos but I have not been able to capture them on camera - mainly because I'm full of admiration when I see them - I just stand there and watch them.
A small rainwater tank was installed in this down pipe which carries a lot of dew every day and we now have a good supply to water our indoor plants.
It is winter! I like winter here in Australia, well here in Queensland at least. It's dry and cold and cosy and after a long and very hot summer, it's great to wear long trousers, jumpers and don't break out in a sweat when I walk from the house to the chookpen. It's also the one and only time, it's worth while having fires going. So nearly every afternoon, I started the fire in our beautiful Chimnea and sat next to it with a book or magazine and a glass of wine. So cosy, I already miss this!!!
We even spend time at night (ah well late afternoons, early evenings) outside, having a BBQ with freshly harvested corn and potatoes out of our garden and a nice local steak. We watched the full moon, listened to music and enjoyed cooking our dinner outside. Beautiful!
I even re-arranged the dining table, decorated it in romantic red (Steve reckons I should have served pasta with these colours) and picked some flowers out of the backyard for us. How romantic! We had a lovely evening.
And how does the garden look like in winter time? The Golden Penda has started flowering.
The Grevilleas are also flowering and provide food and shelter to the native birds.
The Tibouchina looks amazing and gives an otherwise boring area some colour.
And the winter veggie garden is monstrous!!! I think I went a bit overboard with the tomatoes...
Here strawberries, beetroot, capsicum, silverbeet and snowpeas are growing. Unfortunately I have a large infestation of caterpillars and they eat all my leaves.
The capsicums look yummy, ...
... so do the peppers.
This is caterpillar poo! I tried to find them all, pick them off and give them to the chooks but I'm still finding more. Not happy! I need to think about how to remidiate this garden bed after the harvest.
The snowpeas are growing nicely and we had a few stir-frys with our own capsicum, onion and snowpeas. I heard snowpeas don't grow here but well, what's this then???
Lots of snowpeas!
My favourite tree - the Bauhinia - is flowering like crazy. It looks so beautiful! No wonder this tree is also called Orchid Tree.
On this side we have corn and onions. This is my first attempt to grow corn and it's easy and tastes magnificent!!! I reckon it looks pretty good as well.
And this is one of our many baskets of harvest. A Pineapple, a large eggplant which I utilised to make Pasta alla Norma and lots of Passionfruit. I know the Passionfruit isn't ripe yet but the Cockatoos started 'harvesting' them, so my only option was to pick them and hope they ripen. Yum!
Hera enjoys this weather as well and watches me gardening. She has celebrated her 15th birthday and I am so grateful she's still with me and still quite fit for her age.
Quentin now has a proper tombstone and his tree is growing nicely. I miss him very much and there only have been very few days where I haven't cried. It's been 3 months now since he was taken.
I moved Hera's kennel into the entertainment area as she likes to sleep there and now she's more protected from the cold winds.
I know our entertainment area is pretty good but something is still missing. Any creative ideas?
We always wanted to make a bit of a Mediterranean area out of this site. We have concrete between the house and the Pool which was required for drainage but due to that, we have a very uninviting hot area there. I'm still not sure what exactly to do with it but we're slowly decorating the wall. We got these window frames from the local market, painted them a nice blue and will put little pots with succulents in between them, so it looks like a proper window.  No idea what we actually could do with the large concrete area as such but if you have any ideas, let me know!
I did enjoy sitting here, looking at the mountains, right next to my Italian window. What do you think?
As you know I'm German, so sometimes (also very rarely) I crave German food. This is called Sauerbraten (it's a sour roast) and I marinated it in a mixture of red wine, vinegar and herbs and spices for 3 weeks, so it turns a dark purple. The purple was much stronger I guess the artificial kitchen light took that away. I then cooked the meat for about 2 hours, so it becomes really soft and tender. As the meat is sour, the sauce needs to compliment it and I put raisins and a German type of biscuit in the sauce as well as some cream to sweeten it.
And this is the end result (minus the gravy): Sauerbraten, Dumplings and red cabbage. It was a beautiful dish and even Steve loved it!
This was a great end to my R'n'R. Now I'm back at work and I will share some of the other things we have been up to during my last break soon.
Have a great Sunday, looking forward to hear from you!