Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Run free Quentin!

On Friday afternoon when I returned to my room after work, I had a message from Steve on my phone to contact him. Immediately I knew something was wrong. Upon calling him, he broke the bad news to me. My beloved Weimaraner Quentin had died of a snake bite. I burst into tears in the middle of the camp, my heart felt like it was being ripped out. I could not believe it!
Quentin was only 6 years old and a pure bred Weimaraner from Tasmania. I bought Quentin in 2008 when my old girl Hera was 9 years old. Hera had bad arthritis and I believed she wouldn't been with me for much longer. As Hera was my first dog and has been through a lot with me, I love her wholeheartedly and I was worried that it would totally destroy me when she passes. Along came Quentin, a loving 9-week old male Weimaraner pup.
Hera must have thought I was completely mad. I did separate them for the first few weeks but they so quickly fell in love with each other, all my concerns disappeared. Hera wasn't the kind of dog who liked to be cuddled to close or needed physical contact all time - she was quite the opposite, she preferred to be left alone, just like me. Quentin however was a whole different story. He would have been happy to sleep wrapped around my shoulders. He loved physical contact. But I knew he was growing to be a big dog and never encouraged anything which would have hurt us later on.
He grew up quick and he was not just a pretty face! He won several shows including the Brisbane Royal with Puppy in breed and he was voted as 'Best Head' at the Weimaraner Speciality. But I didn't enjoy the showring much and neither did Quentin, so we did more breed-appropriate things. I did basic obedience training with him but we were both to impatient to follow this to a higher level. There was 2 things Quentin loved: searching and retrieving.
Retrieving he absolutely loved, his only issue was his fear of water. I just could not get him into it. Hera loves the water and will use every puddle if I'd let her. Quentin always waited on the safe land for her to return. I took him to doggie swimming pools, bought him a swimming vest but no he didn't want to go into the water. As Hera was getting older, she got tired more quickly and I was worried she would go for a swim and tire to much to return - especially in the wild ocean she loves so much. So for her 10th birthday she got a swimming vest as well and I took her for a swim in the river when Quentin just ran in to follow her. What a surprise that was! He loved the water ever since.

He completed his search and rescue training and he loved to go retrieving. Hera and Quentin were inseparable and I love this big boy to bits. We travelled and celebrated birthdays and Christmases. Quentin adored my sister when she came for a 3-months visit. The two of them were a match made in heaven. Quentin grew into a Weimaraner with beautiful features and very intelligent. We moved from Brisbane to Central Queensland for work and we found a beautiful place to rent despite his size and the fact that I actually had 2 dogs.
We lived in the rental for 18 months but then Steve retired and we bought a 3 acre property just west of Rockhampton. Quentin loved his new home! There was so much to do and so much to smell! There were birds to be chased, cows to be looked at, horses to bark at and all those roos and rabbits to hunt - he must have felt like in heaven. Unfortunately he wanted more and ran away as soon as you flashed an eyelid - and left the gate open. But he never ventured far and in time, he visited all the new places and settled down at home.
I think the past 3 years were our best. I changed jobs and started a new life I actually enjoyed living and with this I became more relaxed, more at ease and happier. Quentin must have felt this. He was always by my side. I get up in the early morning, make myself a cup of coffee and sit on the porch overlooking the cow paddock and the mountains - one of my favourite views from my property. I sit there and enjoy - coffee in one hand, cuddling Quentin with the other.
He was a fantastic dog - beautiful, big, gentle and loving. Steve, Hera and I as well as everybody who ever met him will miss him deeply.
Run free Quentin!!! We will see each other over the Rainbow Bridge.

Grausturm Quentin's Dream
8 January 2008 - 21 March 2014
You'll be always in our heart.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


When I started my living simple journey, I wanted to do it all. I became overwhelmed very quickly and didn't know what to do first and suddenly, simple living became just too hard. I've since learnt, the most important thing to do is to establish a routine and to stick to it. I have a daily, weekly and monthly routine and I have to say, since I actually written down all of my tasks in an order, everything just goes so much quicker and I don't forget anything.
My daily routine goes like this: I get up between 6 and 6.30 am. I used to get up earlier but I'm a FIFO worker in WA, so if I get up at 6/6.30 am QLD time, that's the same as 4/4.30 am WA time, which is when I have to get up at work, so I don't need to change when I have to go back to work/home. After getting up, I wash my face, comb my hair and brush my teeth. While I'm in the bathroom, I clean it. I just use some Vinegar mixed with clove oil (natural bleaching) and tea tree oil (natural disinfectant) and wipe around the shower / bathtub, the open shelves, the window sill and the sink. Afterwards I spray some toilet bowl cleaner into the toilet and wipe the toilet down with the same rag. So I use the rag in the bathroom first and then for the toilet and then it goes on the washing basket to dry (but I will not use it again, just don't want the other laundry to go mouldy, so I dry the rag before it goes into the basket.
Then I walk my dogs for an hour. When I come home, I water the dogs (no food yet to avoid bloat) and then make breakfast for Steve and myself. While setting up the breakfast bar, I unpack the dishwasher. We usually have toast but sometimes I treat us to Buttermilk Pancakes (our favourite) or Steve cooks us a nice Aussie Breakfast. Afterwards I clean up the kitchen by putting everything away, wiping down the benches and sink with All-Purpose-Cleaner and packing the dishwasher. Then I go outside to tend the animals: I let the chooks out and feed them with kitchen scraps, I feed the dogs with home cooked dog food, I feed and water the birds and chooks and sweep the concrete around the house. Then I water the pot plants and move the greywater sprinkler (we use treated greywater for the garden). Once I've finished with the outside, I go inside, make our bed, tidy the house by dusting every room, putting things away if necessary and then I sweep the floor. I use this broom as I can use it for tiles and carpet.
After I'm done with the house, I like to do my paperwork. I update our budget with any expenses, file invoices, reply to any correspondence, pay bills and keep all my paperwork in good order. To me that's really important as I work 4 weeks away, I have to get everything back in order when I come back. This process makes tax time a breeze because everything is ready to go and in order. Once I finish with my paperwork I prepare lunch for Steve and I. We normally have sandwiches or a quiche or salad. Sometimes, when it's really hot, we just have some fruit - watermelon is our favourite.
After lunch, I bake bread if needed. I bake my own bread, however I still haven't found the right recipe for Steve's 'white fluffy' bread but I keep trying. If you have some suggestions, please leave a comment! I also preserve any harvest or cheap seasonal fruit or vegetables I got from the farmers market. Last year we ate all our produce and we were getting sick of beetroot, onions, cherry tomatoes and silverbeet. I invested in some books, a simple preserving kit and I made some space to keep my preserved treasures as well, so now I enjoy it. I also prepare dessert or dinner if required. We don't snack during the day, so we enjoy a nice dinner and a dessert. Since we're only two people, most desserts like cakes and slices are too big and I can freeze portions of it. Therefore Steve can still enjoy homemade desserts when I'm back at work.
Once I'm finished in the kitchen, I tidy up and go outside to do some gardening. Same as my house, my garden is divided into zones. We have 3 acres, so there's always something to do. Steve takes care of the general yard maintenance such as mowing, wiper snipping ect. I prefer to do the weeding, pruning (also if I'm not fast enough Steve does it and he's not as gentle as I am which can be a good thing because the bushes look magnificent). I do gardening in one zone per day, so my garden is divided into the following:
* Veggie Garden & Fruit Orchard
* Front Yard
* House Yard
* Chook Pen & Dog Kennel
* Backyard
* Side Yard
We also have a Pool we look after with Steve doing the maintenance and me checking the water quality - in summer by just jumping in. :-)
In the late afternoon, once it has started to cool down, I take Quentin, My Weimaraner for a jog. I avoid this in summer as it's just too hot. When we return, I check for eggs. Our chickens are a bit strange and normally lay their eggs in the afternoon. I lock them up for the night and then go and have a shower. Often Steve and I just sit outside (if the mozzies aren't too bad) and talk over a glass of wine and once the mozzies come, I feed the dogs and then go in the kitchen to prepare dinner. We eat together and enjoy the dessert before I tidy up the kitchen. We then watch some TV or read or if it's a hot summer's day, I jump into the Pool. Before I take the dogs to bed, I sit outside with them and watch the stars. After I've locked up the dogs, I go to bed myself, looking forward to the next day.
Additionally to my daily routine, I also have a weekly routine:

Monday Washing
Tuesday Officework, Blog
Wednesday Dog’s Day
Thursday Steve’s Day
Friday My day, Meal Planning
Saturday Clean House
Sunday Market/Grocery Shopping
Obviously I work away from home at the moment, so this works for the weekly routine. My daily routine was very similar when I worked in a more ‘normal’ job (I've never worked less than 50/60 hour weeks). I will talk about some of those routines in more detail but I guess for me it's important to have a day out. I made Thursday Steve's day, so he can decide what we do and where we go on that day. Sometimes, that results in a drive somewhere with a picnic, sometimes he just prefers to stay home and watch a movie. The Dog's Day is a day where I take the dogs somewhere. It could be a walk in the Botanic Garden or a swim in the close-by dam or even a visit to the beach. It's an enjoyable day for all of us. My day is normally a lazy day. I love sitting at different places in the garden and read in old magazines or a book. I also use my day to make cleaners or try something new for dinner. It's important to take time out, relax and rejuvenate.

Implementing a routine have made things a lot easier. I did the same things before but in no particular order and setting a routine made me think about what I need to do and it also made me realise that if I do a little every day, it will not pile up and become so annoying that I don't want to do anything about it at all. But what changed for me the most was my monthly routine. I used to do 2 spring cleans a year (normally during some public holidays) and I was really thorough when I started and at the end I just wanted to get it done, so I didn’t pay that much attention anymore. I now moved away from that and now spring clean one room/area per month. So for me this is how it looks:

January Bathroom & Toilet
February Guestroom & Garage
March n/a as I'm at work the entire month
April Kitchen & Patio
May n/a as I'm at work the entire month
June Bedroom & Entry
July Study
August n/a as we're on holiday
September n/a as we're on holiday
October n/a as we're on holiday
November Living/Dining Room
December n/a as I'm at work the entire month

If I would work in a normal job, I'd put one weekend a month aside to do a spring clean of one room. For me this works really well and since I do bits everyday, it's so much easier!

What are your routines?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

4 busy weeks

Apologies for not having written my blog in weeks!!! I had a really busy R'n'R and was mostly too tired to get onto the Computer and write. To make it up to you, my Reader, I will post lots of pictures in this post about what we've been up to in the past 4 weeks.

For Christmas, Steve gave me this Rocking Chair which has been on my wishlist for years. I was so exited and put it in my cosy corner where - together with my daybed - it faces the Pool and backyard and I can enjoy the view - rocking, reading, relaxing. The pillow on the rocking chair was a Christmas present of my sister and so sitting there reminds me of her. She lives with the rest of my family in Germany and I do miss them a lot. Now this is one of my favourite spots, also sometimes I wish, it could be all outside but practicality determines it's better to have it in there - out of the sun and away from the mosquitoes which like to turn up once I sit down in the late afternoon. The 'Granddad's Bar' sign will soon move to the other side of the Patio where Steve is planning to install a bar for himself. I will have to have a look for a nice relaxing and inspirational sign which matches the area far better. There's only 2 walls in our Patio and we now have a Steve wall and a wall for myself - I just need to move Steve's things onto this wall.
I have 2 beautiful dogs who I love to bits. This is Quentin, he's a 6-year old Weimaraner enjoying his breakfast.
And this is my old girl Hera, a German Shepherd x Kelpie who will turn 15 years old this June! She's my first dog and we have travelled the world together. I always made sure she eats well and exercises, that's how she got so old without any major health issues.
Today, the dogs are having fish for breakfast. I don't often feed fish but since it's rich in omega 3 fatty acid which is good for the joints and the coat, it's an occasional treat. On this occasion, I bought whole sardines on special. After cooking and mixing them up with some vegetables (carrots and celery in this case), the dogs enjoyed a beautiful healthy breakfast. I used the Thermomix to chop the sardines and vegetables as well as cooking them. Next time, I will add some rice with the meal and it will last a few days. 
Steve loves palms, especially Foxtails. So he was all exited when he saw them at the Calliope markets for a really good price and we came home with 2 new Foxtails (we already have about 5 or 6). One he planted near our favourite early afternoon spot just in front of the Pool. It will look nice and tropical once it's grown a bit.
We also share the houshold with some parrots. We have a couple of Sun Conures and Indian Ringnecks. Both of them just recently had a partner of the opposite sex added to them, so now our Ringnecks have laid their very first egg!
The female Ringneck guards her egg and is very protective of it. I'm not sure if the egg is fertile and it it will work out but I read the incubation period is about 26 days, so if there's no baby Ringneck when I come back from work, we will have to remove the egg. It's very interesting to observe the Ringnecks behaviour. We had the female for a long time and she's very nippy. We had 2 Ringnecks originally but unfortunately they were both females and when we first moved here, a cat jumped on the cage which came apart and either the cat took the other Ringneck or it just flew off. This one flew off as well but she came back once she was thirsty.
It's still too hot to plant the veggie garden, so I planted a little succulent garden in my cosy corner. All these plants are cuttings of existing plants, so Just had to buy the bowl which was on special and I reckon this looks very decorative. Steve is going to put some coloured little gravel around it as well which will look nice.
The Patio is nicely decorated and I love sitting in there - protected from the weather and mosquitoes but still overviewing the garden - I love it!
When we first had the Patio build and we experienced heavy rain, the gutters overfilled and spilled inside the Patio. This has now been fixed and our Plumber installed this drain with a valve so we can direct the waterflow to the drain below. We live in Central QLD - west of Rockhampton and it only rains Dec - March. We've been in a severe drought and we only had very few showers, often related to cyclones on the coastline. So if it does rain, it rains heavily.
This is our citrus orchard and the raised beds is the veggie garden. We will be planting a tropical Nectarine and Apple Tree along the fence line and I'm also planting some melon, pumpkin and climbing plants such as cucumbers and beans there next time I come home. Steve is preparing the area for me. It's hard to mow there, so he prefers to make a gardenbed out of it which suits me as I'd like to grow as much food for us as possible. Eventually the whole area is going to be a veggie garden but as long as I work away and can't look after it constantly, this way is just easier. Plus I have to wait until the Citrus Trees have grown a bit so I can plant in their shade.
Together with the plumber, Steve installed this drainage system and will now have to backfill it and make it look pretty. I'm looking forward to have this annoying gap removed as the bins and wheelbarrow always get stuck there.
This is the gardenbed in front of our bedroom. Normally you shouldn't have gardenbeds right on the house as termites could infest the house. This is our only gardenbed on the house, so we're keeping an eye on it but so far so good. I've planted those Lavender bushes a few months ago and they're growing well. I love Lavender, it such an easy to grow plant, it looks and smells devine and has many uses. I will talk more about it once I cut it back after flowering. If you do grow lavender, remember to cut it back by two thirds but DO NOT cut back to the dry wood. 
This is the front entry of our house which we actually never use. The Agaves mark the walkway to the entry door beautifully and it's a nice porch. I sit here at night to watch to stars and early in the morning with my coffee and enjoy the view.
Hera is taking it easy at her favourite spot. We had some rain in January and the grass is now nice green and soft for her to sit on.
We've planted Cuphea all around the gardenbed. They're a beautiful groundcover and easy to maintain. They either have mauve or white flowers and flower all year round.
This Grass Tree has developed a beautiful nice big spear and looks fantastic. 
The Cardboard Palm (Zamia furfuracea), a Cycad, is also growing well and started to develop seeds. I will have to read up on propagation for this plant.
Steve has created beautiful gardenbeds around the house. They need a bit of TLC after the dry and hot summer we just had but most plants are looking great without too much looking after them.
This is my Orchid Tree (Bauhinia) I planted in September. I had a beautiful Cottage Garden around it but Steve found it too difficult to mow and removed it. The Bauhinia however is growing beautifully and has flowered several times. It's such a pretty tree!
The Frangiapanis around the place are still flowering and I love the smell of those flowers.
There's not much growing in the veggie garden at the moment due to the heat and I have not started to re-plant yet for that reason. However, the eggplant doesn't seem to mind and produces beautiful fruit. A little later I show you how we prepared our first eggplant for dinner.
Some of the larger Citrus Trees have fruit, like these are lemons. I hope they will ripen and keep producing. We had a bit of trouble with our Citrus Trees and after a lot of research I know now how to care for them and hopefully they produce better next year. We planted a variety of citrus in a row but the tags got lost and I'm not too sure which one is which, so I have to wait until they have some fruit. I know we have about 3 lemon trees. I love lemons, they're such a diverse fruit and can be used in drinks, food to preserve and even to clean! There can never be enough lemon trees in my yard!
The only things continuing growing in the veggie garden are the lemon grass and chillies. I can't find any information on drying and preserving lemongrass, so I use it for cooking and the dogs love it as well - the dogs actually love it more than the chooks!
Before I left to go back to work, I harvested all the red, yellow and orange chillies to dry them while I'm away. When I come back, I will put them in the oven to extract all leftover moisture and then grind them to cook with. I love chillie flakes on the base of my home made Pizza, on tomato-based Pasta dishes and in curries, stir-fries and of course casseroles.
Steve found his creative site and decorated the  retaining wall with wall art and foliage. It's a big space and probably the hottest around the place. I'd love to do a bit more with it but I just haven't had the right idea. If you can think of something, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your ideas.
After we finished building the garage and the driveway, Steve created little gardens on either site of it - of course with his favourites: Foxtail and Swanes Golden Cupressus.
Similar on the other site. We're still looking for a nice large pot to place in the middle there.
We planted a Dwarf Date Palm once you enter, I just love the look of them.
This is our Pool. It's one of the biggest Pool's I've ever seen in a backyard and was already there when we bought the place. I never thought I'd be a big Pool person but I am! There's nothing better than jumping in a nice refreshing and deep Pool like this after a day's work in the yard or even in the morning after walking the dogs and feeding all the animals. I swim, relax and do aqua aerobics in there. I'm determined to continue to use it in autumn as well - as long as I can ran inside afterwards and put something warm on.
On our recent trip to Brisbane we went to the Eumundi Markets and bought this birdhouse. Steve hang it together with an old wooden swing from our Parrots into this tree. Every day we now have Galahs and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos visiting their fly-in to eat. Just beautiful! We will get a couple more of these houses I reckon.
This is our little paradise. So nice and green at the moment, it just looks magnificent.
At the end of January, cyclone Dylan hit the North QLD coast and brought with him some well needed rain - not enough to cope for another year without rain but at least something. We took the opportunity to plant some trees on our northern fence line. 
We have a few Poincianas in our yard and they're doing well, so we planted another one, this one being a Yellow Flame Tree.
This one is an Ivory Curl Flower (Celsissima), a hardy tree bearing spikes of white flowers during Spring and Summer.
Tulipwood (Pendula) is an excellent shade tree with yellow fragrant flowers.
On either site of the cubby house, Steve planted some Duranta Blue Cascade. Eventually we plant more of them between the trees so we have a nice tree - hedge line.
Also it doesn't get used very often as Steve and I don't have kids, it was used during the Christmas Holidays when Steve's Grandkids visited. He painted it beforehand and it now looks really nice. The colours blend in with the rest of our property.
I can't remember the name of this tree but it's a fast growing shade tree which hopefully will provide some much needed shade to the dog kennel.
To break up the harsh look of the fence around the dog kennel, we grow Passionfruit vine around it and there's lots of beautiful Passionfruit growing - great for desserts and drinks. 
The Passionfruit flower looks amazing! And where there is a flower, there will be a passionfruit...
One of my favourite ornamental plants is the Alamanda with their large flowers. 
I have various Alamanda bushes in various colours in the yard. Just looking at them makes me happy.
This is where Steve and I sit over an early afternoon - just before dusk (before all the mosquitoes find me). We have a row of Lilly Pillys planted there which eventually will be a great wind (and sun) break for the Entertainment Area. There's also a Golden Penda growing. The tree provides a stunning floral display each year.
Along the Pool we've planted Bird of Paradise. After a lot of trouble in the beginning we worked some more organic material into the soil and now they flower beautifully. It's one of my Mum's favourite plants.
In January a friend from Brisbane visited us for a week to build us a laundry in the shed. The old laundry was too small and also served as the main entranced to the house since the garage was build on that side. So we moved it into the garage (and closer to the clothe line). He did a fantastic job creating a room in the garage out of nowhere. I now love doing laundry and I also use the space to mix my own cleaners. During my last R'n'R, I spent a LOT of time here.
Since I work in WA, there's a 2 hour time difference. To make it easier, I try to keep the same times of getting up and going to bed at home which means I shouldn't get up before 6.15 am when I'm home. That's rather difficult for me because that means I would miss fantastic sunrises like this. I enjoyed a cup of coffee on the porch watching this. What a fantastic start to a day!
I will talk about routines and spring cleaning at a later stage but I do spring clean a different room each month, rather than doing one big spring clean. During February, I gave the Guestroom a good spring clean and decided to replace the old vertical blinds with these timber blinds as we have them throughout the house.
Looks good, doesn't it?!
During my Mum's last visit in November, she bought me this beautiful Hibiscus which is growing well and flowers constantly. Every time I look at the Hibiscus, I'll be reminded of my Mum and her holiday in our little paradise.
This is a Peace Rose - my first and only Rose. I have it in a pot on the porch and enjoy the look (and smell) of it. 
As blue is my favourite colour, we've chosen Evolvulus as a groundcover for some gardenbeds.
This is another tree we planted over the past 4 weeks: a Neem Tree. Neem Trees are fast growing shade trees and while the seeds produce an oil which is used as an organic pesticide, the leaves are used for Ayurvedic remedies.
About a year ago we bought 5 chooks. They not only provide us with beautiful eggs, they're also a joy to watch. I will write a post about them soon.
The Magnolia Tree started to flower and also I missed taking a picture of the flower itself, the fragrance was beautiful!
This is our gardenbed with the Bird of Paradise.
Remember the eggplant from the beginning of the post? Well, here it is:
I used a beautiful recipe I've found and we had Eggplant Parmigiana with Lamb - just yummy!
Our chooks lay beautiful hard shelled eggs. To make sure this continues, I collect the shells of any raw eggs I'm using, wash them and then dry them in the oven. I then turn them into grit with the Thermomix and add this to their feed. I also add it to the Parrot food as it's healthy for their beaks and feet.
Originally these 2 pots were outside in front of the retaining wall but since it's a shade plant we moved it into our Patio and I reckon it looks even better in there. Can you spot Quentin in this picture?
I hope you enjoyed this post and the pictures. Apologies again for not blogging for so long. I promise, it will not happen again. As you can see we were pretty busy with Gardening but I also made a lot of cleaners, stockpiled and 'renovated' the chook pen. I will write about this in the next few weeks while I'm at work. Hope to hear from you!