Monday, 18 August 2014

First barbeque

There's not so much to blog about with life settling into a routine.  We are at the tail end of Winter and the first signs of Spring are appearing.  Our almond tree has blossom on it, the wattle is incredible this year and there are bulbs flowering.  It's got us thinking about getting a vegetable plot going. 

Mick's been busy doing what he loves best.  He's never happier than when he has a project on the go out in the yard.  He has sorted out the garden shed, been making up some shelves for our pantry and then made a start on a carport.  The very rustic old garage is on such a lean and it's been depositing huge dusty splats all over my new car.  Mick's truck is out in the weather and although that's tolerable in Winter, I don't think he's looking forward to a sizzling steering wheel in Summer. 

The days are getting slightly longer and when we saw our favourite lamb cutlets on special at Woolworths we decided to have our first barbeque.  I got home from work just before 6pm Friday night and Mick was already out there heating and cleaning the barbeque.  He made our barbeque from an old enamel cooker.  The oven is a good place to store the gas bottle.  The smell of a cooking barbeque is like nothing else..... Aussie through and through.

Yesterday we had a solar consultant out to give us, and a couple of our neighbours, quotes on having a solar system installed.  In the afternoon I went walking with Tracey, our neighbour, and way off down a dirt road we chatted with a lady who had an ex breeding labrador from Righteous Pups.  We stopped to chat and pat the dog and another kilometre or so further down the road we turned to walk back home.  We saw her chatting to the lady across the road from her and a while after we walked on we found the dog had followed us.  We turned back and when we got near their property the dog spotted their dam and ran off for a swim.  We quickly walked off again in the direction of home while she was distracted.  More than halfway home the dog found us.... again... panting from running to catch up and dripping wet from her swim.  Now we had a dilemma.  She had no road sense at all and twice we had slowed down an approaching car to avoid her being hit.  I rang Mick and he came to try and get her in his truck to take her home again but she wasn't going to be caught.  There was no choice in the matter but to turn back all over again.  This time as we neared where she lived a neighbour was standing out on the road and saw her coming.  He apologised profusely when we told him this was the second time we'd brought her home, although I don't know why it was his problem as we'd not seen the owner since our initial chat.  Not a terribly responsible dog owner to not even come looking for her.  The dog happily trotted off after him as he took her back to her home.  Our walk turned out to be twice as far as we first intended and I won't be patting that particular labrador again unless she's on a leash!

Below...... roo photo for the week...... Mick pleased with his shed..... the enormous moon the other night...... Mick cooking our first barbeque.




Saturday, 2 August 2014

Snow..... Rain..... Sunshine

Yes, we had snow!  Not at home but at the office while I was at work. There was a few particularly mild days and then a sharp turn.  The Southern areas, especially Tasmania and the South of Victoria had violent winds causing terrible damage.  With it came freezing temperatures.  Last Friday only reached 5 degrees where I work and on the way I could see the rain turning to sleet.  By the afternoon it was snowing in bursts.  It melted on impact among the rain sodden streets but higher areas of the state had everything covered in a sprinkling of snow.  The news on TV showed scenes more familiar to us on England than here at home.  It was a bitterly cold night with forecasts predicting -2 degrees.  It felt like it!

This week we have woken to crisp blue skies and a good frost.  This is just the sort of Winter day I love.  Mick can't wait to get outside and we decided last weekend we would let the chickens free range for the first time since we got them.  It didn't take much prompting as they had a large area at the place we got them from.  Wilbur immediately starting calling his girls to show them some morsel he had scratched up.  The girls have been given names now.   One of them has blue leg bands (Betty), one has red leg bands (Rosalie) and the third doesn't have leg bands so she is "plain legged" and called Prunella. Our boating readers will likely know where we got that name.  After our first egg last week it took almost a week for another to arrive.  One of the girls has much more red in her comb so I'm guessing she is the layer.

At last we feel like we have a routine and have settled down a bit.  I enjoy living in this house.  Mick has made some improvements on the little garden shed so we have plenty of shelving now for storing tools, garden equipment and chicken stuff.

It's lovely to be baking our own bread again and to be able to pick up a bulk bargain and have somewhere to store it.  My mum and her partner bought a huge box of rather ripe bananas for $5 and I came home that day with 27 bananas!  I used to bake banana cake a lot when we bought our first house and were on a very tight budget.  Mick ate like a horse when he was younger and would go through 2 banana cakes each week for his morning tea, although I later discovered they were being shared with his workmate.  My recipe came from my high school cookbook which mum had in her cupboard.  So now it has been resurrected.  I've made 3 banana cakes in the last month and there is bananas chopped and frozen into parcels for one cake each in the freezer.  I've passed on bananas to friends and neighbours too.

We really enjoy chatting with our UK friends on FaceTime and Skype.  We had a great chat with Andy and Jean on nb Josephine tonight, even saying hello to Missy the cat.  We miss you guys and it was so nice to see your smiling faces.  

Monday, 28 July 2014

Inside


Since last weekend we have been receiving, bit by bit, a lovely daily log of Parisien Star's first big cruise with Tore and Kirsten and Kirsten's mum (I really must ask her name because I know she reads the blog!).  The dinette has become Kirsten's mum's room after having been my office for so long. It's good to know she is finding it to be a comfortable spot.   We have enjoyed reading about their adventures and we are happy to know they are loving having their own boat.

We heard the iPad tinkling one evening. It was Carol calling for a chat.... Barry still asleep in the bed beside her (yes, she showed us his slumbering form).  He appeared sitting up beside her after a few minutes... blinking eyes like a big old owl.  We caught up on our news and had a look at their mooring location.  We even took them outside to meet Wilbur and his girls.  It feels so strange talking to them from so far away.  We are meant to be just a few feet away.

We are finally starting to feel a bit more settled.  Having the chickens to care for has given us a boost and we enjoy the early morning call of Wilbur the rooster.  They've settled in really well and Wilbur rushes to the fence whenever he sees me approach.  I'm sure it isn't just my company he seeks but hoping for a treat.  He is a lovely placid boy.  We even got an egg the other day but so far no repeat performance.   The large pile of mulch that Mick put in their run has been spread out nicely already.  It didn't take them long!  Inside their house they appear to be excavating their way to China.  The hard compacted dirt floor is now a moonscape of dust bathing potholes.

The weather has been lovely this week with only a little rain on one or two days.  Otherwise it's been mostly sunny and mild enough to fling open doors and windows to air the house in the nicest part of the day.  The days are getting slightly longer again.  It's still light at 6pm now which is a far cry from the extremely short winter days in the UK.  I leave work just after 5pm for the 40 minute drive home and I have been home before full dark every single day.

Mick has been happy as a lark, dressed in his grubby working gear, and pottering outside.  He has thought up a new improvement for the chicken house as soon as he has finished the one prior.  They now have a wire "window" with a lift up cover that becomes a little shade cover in Summer but let's the breeze through.  When it's cold it will stay closed.  I think next weekend we will begin letting them out into the back corner of the yard.  Mick has fenced in that corner to confine them but they will still have plenty of space and good shade in the Summer from the nut trees growing there.

We are starting to plan a veggie plot too.  Our dear friends Kevin and Bernice came to visit and it seems there is a bit of a deal being done involving removing a fallen tree in exchange for an old water tank (that will make fantastic raised garden beds). So there's something else to look forward to.  How nice it will be to have salad straight from the garden again.

As promised, here are some photos of inside our house... a big L shaped kitchen (there is a separate walk in pantry next door), dining, living area.  I love the room as it has windows all the way around.  We do need to bring some more furniture across from the shed.  We don't have a huge television and the lounge room is much larger than our previous one.  We sit in the middle of the room with vacant space behind.  I'm sure we will find something to fill the space.

This is proving to be a rather cold house and we have the heater running a lot.  We had a lovely wood fire at our previous house but here we have an electric split system heater / air conditioner (ugly thing on the wall in the dining area). There is no insulation in the outside walls and we certainly feel the difference.  If we decide to stay living here we will definitely do something about that.  Something else we have discovered about this house is that there is no drafts whatsoever.  That sounds like a good thing but it's the first house we've ever had where we get condensation on the windows.  It's only when we have wet washing hanging on racks but it reminds us of a much smaller living space we had over the last couple of years!




Monday, 21 July 2014

Glorious weekend

What a stunning weekend we had.  The Winter has been unexpectedly cold the last couple of weeks but then we got a weekend like this.  The sky was clear blue and it was mild enough to be out in short sleeves as long as you kept busy.  And we were.  Mick was keen to get the chook house ready.

I went out to take some photos and noticed a magpie on the back fence with a few twigs in its beak.  I paused and watched where it went - up into the tree by our back door to continue nest building.  Looks like we will have baby magpies right there.  I was down at our old house yesterday and was thrilled to hear the kookaburras in the trees at the back of the block.  They nested there once about 4 years ago so it's lovely to find them back.

So here are some photos of outside our house.  There have been a few requests and I keep promising to take them.   The inside ones next time.  This house is right in the middle of our half acre block so there is plenty of space all the way round.  There is an old "dunny" out by the laundry door and a little garden shed beside that.  There was also a woodshed built on the side of the garden shed and that's what became our chook house.  It's worked out well.

Sunday afternoon we were ready for the feathered family so I drove off to collect them.  When we let them out of the crate one of the girls was a bit quiet.  This morning she didn't come out to eat and huddled in the house.  I had to return the crate to the breeder, who lives about 2 miles away, so rang and told her about the unhappy chook.  She said to bring her back and she would swap her for another.  Seems she was in shock. 

I returned with the new girl, tucked in our neighbours cat carrier, and discovered the breeder hadn't zipped the side up properly and I hadn't checked. I discovered this the hard way with one expensive free range chook!  I was certain we would never be able to catch her and having never been in our chook house she was hardly going to take herself to bed once it got dark.  I tried to get her heading to the back corner of the yard so she would be furthest from the road.  As she rounded the corner of our wonky carport the little rooster (named Wilbur) spied her.  He called frantically and the hen raced down to the chicken run.  Despite her best efforts she couldn't get in.  I couldn't open the gate as surely Wilbur and the other two girls would come out rather than the new girl going in.  She was keeping well away from me.  I rang Mick, who was down at our old house doing a little job, and he walked up the hill to come and help.  We got Wilbur and the girls into the house, blocked the pop-hole so they couldn't come back out, and opened the gate from the run into the backyard.  It took only a little bit of herding by us and a bit more calling by Wilbur to get the hen to run through the gate. When we released the others they ran out to join her.  One happy family.











Saturday, 19 July 2014

Tough 6 weeks

It's 6 weeks since we arrived back on Aussie soil, and what a challenge it's been.  I really didn't expect to be still feeling so unsettled after this long.  Our long list of "chores" is nearly complete and we can start to settle into life.

We have held off a bit from really making this house our home as we have a potential project in mind.  After discussing how unsettled we were both feeling we decided that since we will likely be here for a year at least we really should get pictures on the walls and bring over some knick knacks for display and some books and bookshelves.  At the moment we have our sofa and chair perched in the middle of the living room as the room is much bigger than the one we had at the old house.  They look a bit lost sitting there.

This week I do feel like we are getting our act together a I bit.  I'm sure it is because we took the first steps towards a new feathered family.  We decided it might perk us up to have some chickens in the garden so drove out to a friends property to pick up some old fencing materials.  Mick could then make a run and sort out the little shed that was to become their house.  On the way home I got chatting to a lady selling chickens at a farmers market and we arranged to go and visit her that afternoon.  She has 400 chickens!  We spent an enjoyable time walking around her property looking at all the different breeds.  In the end we chose Barnevelders as she had three pretty hens and a smallish rooster that would suit us well.  We will hopefully collect them this weekend if the henhouse is finished.  Now we just ned to come up with names for them!

The other day I drove to my mum's place and on the way passed a pretty area set back from the road side where there are often caravans or mobile homes parked up enjoying the lovely location.  That day there was a couple of nice setups with washing flapping on a rotary hoist and an outdoor setting by the other household.  I had the most overwhelming urge to go and talk to them.  I really felt like I wanted to ask them about their adventure.... where they'd been and where they were heading next.  I've been missing talking to new people all the time.

Mick has been doing an enjoyable little job at our old house.  The lady who bought it was waiting for him to get home to insulate and line the walls and ceilings of what used to be Mick's workshop.  She will use it as a studio.  We had a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for what to line it with.  The ceiling is now lined inside with old corrugated iron.  It's looking really good so far.  He has also put a door through to her guest room next door.  It used to be my office and has a little ensuite bathroom.

I've had a few people asking for photos so I'll try and remember to keep taking them.  The other day I drove to Melbourne for the first time since we've been back.  I came home on the country roads as I started the return journey from the East of the city.  There was plenty of new bushfire scars since I last drove this way.  It was a dreadful Summer that we just missed.  This one was a grass fire so the tree tops still look fine. 

And finally, a photo of a couple of our new neighbours - there's four of them on a regular basis.  I think Mick thought I was exaggerating when I've been telling him how sharply the roo population has grown while we've been away.  He followed me on my 60km drive to the office Thursday morning to have a look at where we need a section of kitchen counter in the office.  He then drove on to Melbourne to visit his old work partner and collect some tools and equipment that he'd left with him while we were away.  On the drive to the office I was disappointed that there weren't as many kangaroos out as what I see most days.  But, when I got home from work the first thing Mick blurted out was "Did you see how many roos were on that hillside!".  Shame he didn't get to see a busy roo day.



 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Parisien Star goes cruising

We received an email from Tore and Kirsten on the eve of their Summer cruise on nb Parisien Star.  How exciting to think she's out doing what she does best.  We wish you all a wonderful cruise and hope Kirsten's mum likes her little room.

Meanwhile... we are slowly settling in.  There's been some ups and downs with sometimes one of us having a bad day of it and then the other.  Thankfully never both at the same time.

I spent hours searching for the electric blanket for our bed until I stumbled upon a note I'd left to myself before we left, with a list of what we'd need to buy when we got back.  That list included an electric blanket.  I've driven to the wrong house..... before realizing that the car in our carport belongs to Tracey, the lady who bought the house. The grocery shopping has taken much longer than usual.  We're become accustomed to the English supermarkets, the price of food items has gone up, and we have been agonizing about what to buy now.  This week we have begun to get back into our old routine with cooking from our favourite recipe books

Mick's found it difficult with me having a job to go straight back to while he has been at home and trying to sort out some work.  The first day he was waiting at the door for me to arrive home.  I don't think that's happened for about 20 years!  He has something to keep him busy for the next week or two with a friend who is in Antarctica for a year wanting to sell his property while he is away.  So Mick is going out there to do some maintenance work and tidy up the property ready to go on the market in a couple of weeks time.  He also has a project to do for the lady who bought our previous house.  She wants to insulate and line Micks enormous workshop to to turn it into a studio.  That's a job that's nice and close to home.

We both encounter constant reminders of the lifestyle we've left behind.  As I threw out the remains of a candle Mick said "Barry wouldn't be throwing that out".  I brought home a couple of items we used in our kitchen on the boat.  Every time I pick them up to use them it's like a flashback to that little galley.  And, we now have a constant reminder on top of our TV cabinet!  The other things that remind us of our home for the last couple of years is the luxury of a full size shower, the novelty of being able to get out of my side of the bed, and the feeling that this house is just enormous when in fact it is only a modest size by Australian standards.  We are definitely enjoying having time to ourselves away from each other.

It does feel a bit strange to read about the summer weather on boaters blogs.  Our own weather has been chilly.  We haven't had freezing nights yet but daytime temperatures are hovering around 10-13 degrees.  The other day at work it only reached 6 degrees which is pretty extreme for us.  We have the heating on whenever we are home and miss the wood fire from the old house and the coal fire from the boat.  Our electricity bill will be well above what it was before we left two years ago.  If we stay in this house we will definitely get a wood fire in time for next Winter!

We have regular visitors to our back fence.  



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Secret

I've been harbouring a secret from Mick for the past few months!  I had arranged for a model to be made of our boat.

His birthday was Monday and this parcel arrived today.  Not bad timing.

All the hours of measuring and taking photos whenever Mick was off for a walk has paid off.  We are thrilled with the model of nb Parisien Star.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

First week at work

Work brought the first signs of a routine to our lives this week which is just what we need.

Mick was happy to be working close to home for a couple of days building a verandah.  He loves it when he gets to come home for lunch and it's nice for our fuel bill.  He is still desperately trying to get onto something more permanent as he hates not working.

I had my first day at the office in 21 months.  It's a different office to the one I left with them having moved across the road.  When I arrived the bosses wife, who works in the office too, said they had something to show me.  She lifted the blind beside my desk and revealed the surprise.  They had a huge collage printed of some of the photos I'd been sending them while we were away.  I got a bit weepy to see so many photos of our adventure in an environment so totally away from it.  I couldn't stop looking at them.  The first few days of work were enjoyable and it was nice to catch up with everyone.  It was a treat to have so much space to work in and spread paperwork across the large corner desks that are mine. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Photos - walk and drive

For everyone who has asked for photos of the area where we live, here is a start.

We went for a good walk the other day and I took my camera along.  I'm so used to having it in my hand all the time that it feels strange to be without it!  It was a lovely Winters day and we headed off from home with the magpies singing.  We saw a flock of sulphur crested cockatoos.  So destructive they are.... look at what they've done to the branches of the dead tree they're sitting in.




We also took the new car for a drive on the weekend.  I took a few photos of the roadside views and one of the road itself.  This is one of the roads into Bendigo.  We drove 20 minutes without seeing another car.  Such a contrast to the UK traffic.




And, yesterday's drive to work on the highway at 8.30am.  No traffic here!  It's an easy drive on wide sweeping roads.  It takes me 40 minutes to drive the 60 kilometres (37 miles).


Today was a totally different day.  It was foggy when I left home and it was even thicker at the office.  I went out during my lunch break for a walk and got a shock at how bitterly cold it was!  The fog was still heavy and it was only 6 degrees!!  On the way home it was prematurely dark and the driving was hard work with visibility so limited.  What a cold, damp, pea-soupy day it was.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Glad to be home

We are both feeling better now that we are sleeping through the night and the house is feeling a little more familiar.  We know where to find the light switches and door handles in the dark now!  Although we still have a way to go, the house is beginning to look a little more homely.  We have caught up with several of our neighbours, chatted by phone with friends, and I've spent some time with my mum.

Friday we collected my new car.  What a relief it is to have my independence back.  It's sheer luxury to go where I want, when I want, and shopping on my own is bliss.

I had a lovely day with my friend Tammy. She came over after taking the kids to school and I don't think we stopped talking until it was time for her to collect them again.  We went to our favourite Thai restaurant in Bendigo for lunch.  It will take us some time to catch up on 21 months of gossip. I've missed her!  While we sat drinking coffee at the kitchen island a kangaroo jumped along on the other side of our back fence.

I called in at my favourite quilt shop.  How nice it was to see the girls who work in the shop and I was thrilled when they said there was a sewing group Friday night and did I want to come along.  Yes!! I do!!  Something else to look forward to.  

Mick has been back in his element.  Dressed in his work boots and Yakka trousers and mowing the grass... his idea of heaven.  We spent half an hour chatting with our dear Wintons Folly friends on Facetime.  We showed them our house and the garden.  It was funny talking to them in their pj's before bedtime when we had just had our breakfast!

Tomorrow is my first day back at the office.  It's a different office to the one I left so that will be interesting.  Mick has been making phone calls and visits looking for some work.  He has something to keep him busy the next couple of weeks and I'm sure something more will come along.  Going to work will help us settle into a routine.