"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - June 2014
This issue includes:-
- Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: As Good as New
- June: Heritage Month
- Penny Wise: Pass the Buck
- Best of the Vault: New Life For Old Fashioned Skills
- Best of the Forum: Give it a Go!
- Best Members' Blog: 'Spaving' and Our Trip
- Mimi: Budget Busting Meals - Cauliflower Potato Curry
- Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Home-Grown Vegie Shopping
- From Last Month: Ideas For Outdoor Cover and Flooring
- This Month's Help Request: I Smell a Rat!
How are you going? It has been a couple of strange months in the Lippey household. It started with a car accident and severe whiplash (just me; the kids were not in the car). My first set of scans showed a large carotid tumour as well as a lot of other damage. Eight weeks later the next set of scans showed the tumour had shrunk significantly and things are on the up and up! Everything is looking good.
When running a business, having four kids and managing a household is way too much work for Matt and I, I sneak into our email folders and re-read your emails to remind me that everything is worthwhile and we really are helping people.
Here are some of my favourites this month:
"I have been trying out the hints in the free newsletter from Simple Savings to make some improvements in my home. With five of my own children ranging from two to 14 years old plus raising my now 16-year-old nephew, saving money and time is very important. I love to read them each month after the housework is caught up on and the kids (except one) are at school. I have been able to take on board many tips and I have to say that April's newsletter with the shredded paper has been a great idea. It has helped me by reducing the amount of paper that overflows our recycling bin each fortnight, which in turn will boost our worm fertiliser and hopefully our vegie garden produce. So THANK YOU Simple Savings, you really do make a difference to many people." (Michelle)
"Since receiving your newsletter I have looked carefully at what I do - even the small things. I seemed to be forever buying shower gel until I switched to a pump container and can't believe the difference it has made. Another little thing I do is use hand towels for bath mats as they are less expensive, dry quicker and everyone can have their own. Your newsletters have certainly made me look at what I do!" (Deirdre)
Have a great month!
All the best,
1. Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: As Good as New
'CRACK!' went the chair as Pete took his favourite seat at the table. "Oh, would you look at that!" he said, jumping up. "Well I keep telling you not to sit on it; it's been wobbly for ages!" said Sally. "Why don't you just sit on another one?" "But it's my favourite chair," lamented Pete. "We know, it's got your bum print in the cushion!" giggled the kids. "Enough of your cheek!" he glared at them. "That's that I suppose, we'll just have to get a new one." "We'll do no such thing!" chided Sally. "It's my day off tomorrow, I'll have a go at fixing it," she said firmly, ignoring Pete's sceptical look.
The next day, Sally set to work. She carefully took the chair apart, gave everything a good clean and repaired the broken seat frame. "The kids were right about that cushion!" she giggled to herself. "Hmm, what can I do about that?" She hunted in the cupboard for some odds and ends she could use to re-stuff the cushioned seat and was delighted when she stumbled across some pretty fabric Aunt Edna had given her years ago. "I know just what I can do with this!" She used the fabric to re-cover the cushion, then carefully glued everything back together. "It looks as good as new!" she said, pleased as punch with her handiwork.
Sally settled herself happily in the lounge while she waited for the glue to dry. That afternoon, Pete returned from work and grinned to himself to see the 'new' chair. "I knew you couldn't fix it - but how did you manage to find another one that matches so well?" He did have to admit, the new chair looked very smart. "That chair looks a treat! Looks expensive though. Which shop did you get it from?" he called from the kitchen. "Shop?" Sally asked vaguely from behind her magazine. "Ohh, which SHOP did I get your lovely new chair from? A brilliant little place known as 'Edna's Emporium' - don't worry dear, it was an absolute bargain!"
2. June: Heritage Month
Nice work Sally! She saved money on having to buy a new chair, just as she intended - but in doing so she achieved much more than that. She learned valuable new skills, was resourceful in putting items she already had to great use and was rewarded with a fantastic result. Best of all, she did such a good job, she actually fooled Pete into thinking she must have bought a new one! What a great feeling that must have been.
Even more importantly, however, is that Sally's efforts made her independent. You see unlike the old days of 'make do and mend' which was so second nature to our parents and grandparents; we have a dependence that everything has to be instant. It always seems easier to throw money at the problem, to pay for someone else to fix it, someone else to make it. But in doing this we become dependent and we become trapped; trapped in that we always have to rely on someone else; that getting something fixed always has to cost lots of money; that old or used isn't acceptable or good enough; everything has to be new.
The only way to escape the trap of always needing to spend more and more money is to regain your independence. The 'make do and mend' philosophy of days gone by is still as valuable to us today as it was back then, even if some of the skills have changed. For example, knowing how to clean the contacts on your mobile phone could save you hundreds of dollars on buying a new phone. Instead of rushing off to the shops or picking up the phone when something needs fixing, first have a go at solving the problem yourself.
This month is Heritage Month and we want you to follow Sally's example (wow, whoever thought we would say that!). Instead of letting more money fly out the door, make buying your last resort and have a go at fixing a problem yourself. Make something, mend something - anything! Learn a new skill or brush up on an old one. While we may not always need these skills in modern society, it's still vitally important that we HAVE them. Some day we might just need them, and when we do, just like Sally we can enjoy the satisfaction and many rewards that independence brings.
Here are some easy ways you can have fun using heritage skills this month and save yourself a lot of money in the process:
Heritage Week 1: This week, try cooking something you've never tried before. Instead of cooking out of a jar, learn how to make the same meal yourself from scratch. Or do some baking and fill the tins the way Grandma did. But whatever you make, don't make the same old stuff. Choose something new and skill up!
Heritage Week 2: This week, find something to fix around the house that's been bugging you. Learn how to fix that dripping tap, mend the broken cupboard door, give the computer printer a tune up, darn that holey sock to save you buying a new pair - it can be anything you like, just give it a go! Instead of buying a new bike, Matt recently took his old one apart, cleaned it up, polished it, replaced the tyres and got it back on the road for around $70. Even the handy little carry bag on the back of the bike came from the kids! There is so much information available these days to help us fix countless things ourselves such as online instructional videos that when you think about it, we really have no excuse not to at least TRY and solve the problem ourselves.
Heritage Week 3: This week, work on fixing up yourself! Do your own beauty and hair care for a change rather than paying for someone else to do it. Our parents and grandparents never had anyone to do it for them, yet they were still a generation of beautiful, well-groomed men and women. So this week, give yourself a manicure, pedicure, facial or hair colour for free or at the very least a fraction of the price. Go through your wardrobe and do an inventory of what you have, which goes with what and how you can use the accessories you have to create different looks. The power to look and feel fantastic is in YOUR hands. Not only is it fun, you may well find this exercise saves you a fortune on a new winter wardrobe!
Heritage Week 4: This week, have a go at making something - anything! Think of something which would be of help to you or solve a problem. Knit a beanie, make a hat rack or a hanger for school bags. Be different! Make something unique or beautiful that no one else has. If you have little ones, make them a new toy or activity instead of buying more plastic clutter. Whatever you choose, take pride in making something that you can't buy, or at least didn't have to.
You never know what you can do until you give it a go and as Sally discovered, even repairing something big isn't as hard as you may think. And, the happiness and satisfaction you get from being able to fix something yourself far outweighs any short-term buzz you may feel at purchasing something new from a shop. But don't just take our word for it - try it out for yourself this Heritage Month. We'd love to hear how you go!
3. Penny Wise: Pass the Buck
I hate to say it but my ex-husband was a rather smart man. Just kidding, he and I are still great friends! But I've lost count of the times he said over the past few years, 'One of the biggest problems with the world today is that nobody takes responsibility for anything. Nobody is willing to be held accountable for their own actions'. Being a bit of a cruiser, I never thought about the world's problems too much and always thought this was rather an over dramatic statement. It's only now I'm out in the big wide world all by myself that I realise he was - and still is - absolutely right.
Apologies once again for the delay between posts - it's just all this STUFF has been happening and to be honest every time I tried to write something I sounded like a right old whinge bag! But even if I do sound like a whinge bag (and I apologise heartily if I do) I've decided I will share it after all because let's face it, stuff happens to us all and it just so happens that all this stuff has come about through exactly what I was talking about before; people's failure to take responsibility. Which as I have recently discovered, is not only extremely annoying but it can cost you a lot of money. And one of the other things about STUFF is that it always tends to happen all at once!
Anyway, get on with it Penny. As I type, I'm a bit up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Some of it is my fault - I probably shouldn't have spent a fortune on ingredients to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie after seeing it on Facebook. And I probably shouldn't have let the boys convince me to take us all out for dinner on Mother's Day. But the rest I'm pretty comfortable in saying that I really don't believe it was my fault. Now we all know how life has a quaint little habit of sending us two steps forward, then three steps back and it always seems to be the case with finances too. One minute you're full steam ahead; the next, slam on the brakes! Which is exactly what has happened in our household lately. Just as the budgeting ladies had me knowing exactly where I was going and the future was looking bright, my little parade got well and truly rained on! I shall endeavour to explain:
Stuff 1: I check my email one morning to find a letter from my insurance company along the lines of 'Dear Penny. Remember that nice little car you bought back in June 2013? Well whoops-a-daisy, when you rang us up at the time of purchase to change your policy to cover your new vehicle, we didn't charge you enough. We'd like another $518 please'. Right - so what you're saying is, even though I did everything that was required of me as a customer and it was someone at YOUR end who didn't do their job properly, it's still perfectly alright for you to suddenly demand hundreds of dollars out of me almost a year to the day later. Fortunately, being the nice caring people you are, you're allowing me to pay it off at $184 per month over the next four months.
Stuff 2: The same week I open my mail and almost faint to find a bill from the local Council for $2200 in rates arrears. 'That can't be right! I've been paying my rates automatically at $80 a month for as long as I can remember!' I thought, so got on the phone to the credit control officer at the Council. I've dealt with him before and he's a really nice, helpful guy. 'Yes I remember setting that up with you, I've still got the paperwork!' he said. Come to think of it, so did I. However, when he checked the records, he could find no record of payment from July 2013 - the time I bought my house and we switched the rates over from my old property to the new one. 'That can't be right - can you check from your end?' I can't believe I never noticed before but with all the myriad of automatic payments I had constantly coming out, somehow I didn't realise that he was right. Even though we both had the paperwork to prove it, the direct debit had never been actioned and I was now indeed more than $2000 behind in my payments. Which means that my carefully budgeted $80 per month has now rocketed to $328 per month in an attempt to catch up before the year rolls round again! Who should claim responsibility for that one? Marc - even though he drew up the document? Me - even though I sent it to the bank? The postal service - for not delivering it to the bank? Or the bank - for not loading the direct debit? We'll never know but it's a bit blooming inconvenient to say the least and puts a nasty big hole in my budget!
Stuff 3: Bank Tale of Woe #1. With my budget going swiftly down the gurgler and a never ending stream of new bills coming in adding up to thousands (I won't bore you with them, heaven knows we all get them, especially with teenagers!), I went to see my bank manager to take her up on her pre-Christmas 'hopefully we won't have to go there' offer of changing my mortgage agreement to interest only for 12 months. This is a very long story which has been going on for almost two months now and I shall also refrain from boring you to death with but suffice to say I have been well and truly led down the garden path. As it currently stands I am receiving assistance from the banking ombudsman but should the situation be unable to be resolved it will take me a very long time to recover financially. Even the budgeting service has been unable to help for weeks - they have been trying, bless those lovely ladies but as we are constantly waiting for updates from the bank, everyone's hands have been tied. As long as I can hold on to my beloved Nawtypoo I will be happy.
Stuff 4: Bank Tale of Woe #2. Although my bank balance wasn't looking too healthy, at least Liam's was! After a busy summer working his socks off he had made some great savings and was trying his utmost to spend as little as possible. Unfortunately somebody went and spent it for him by hacking his debit card details and spending the whole lot in what we soon discovered to be a global scam. An organisation or individual pretending to be Google systematically withdraws $10 at a time for 'games', then another $10 and another until before you know it, they've cleaned out your whole bank account. As you can imagine Liam was devastated and I was certainly miffed but not panicking too much as the exact same thing had happened to two other people I knew in the last 12 months. Interestingly they were all customers of the same bank, BNZ and they had both had the same amount of money withdrawn by the same organisation. All it took for them to get their money back was a quick email or phone call and the bank replaced the lost funds and issued new cards so I figured the procedure would be the same for us. Not so unfortunately. You see the other two parties were adults. Liam on the other hand is 17 and as far as the bank was concerned he must have been playing games and 'done' something, e.g. signed up for something, therefore it was his fault. Firstly, Liam doesn't and never has played online games. Secondly, he has never given out his bank account number online and although he uses his Eftpos card to make in-store purchases, he has never used his debit card for online purchasing without me being present to make sure everything goes through OK. This has only ever been used for Trade Me and purchasing clothing from Culture Kings in Australia, which all his friends use regularly without any problem. He has never once used his card for purchasing games, yet the bank still insist it must be his fault and told him that he would have to pay to lodge a dispute. 'Seriously, this is a worldwide scam! You only have to Google the transaction reference to see this is happening to thousands of people!' I told them. What's more, they have all been reimbursed by their banks in less than two weeks. In comparison, Liam has been waiting four weeks and has heard nothing whatsoever from the bank with regard to either the dispute claim, who was responsible for taking his money and where they were from, or if and when he can expect his money back in his account.
I think that's quite enough stuff to be going on with for now! The funny thing is, even with all this inner turmoil sloshing round in my brain I feel wonderfully content. The boys are settled and happy, our little house is adorably cosy and all three of us are just enjoying a simple routine and a simple life. My constant challenge to make delicious food from next to nothing has resulted in a huge love of cooking and what I always saw previously as a chore has now become an absolute pleasure. Every day I can't wait to cook something new and fill my boys' tummies with something yummy. Of course they love it too and I had to laugh the other day when Liam was tucking into his dinner and said 'This is absolutely exquisite Mum! Your standards have definitely improved!' Not a bad effort considering much of what we eat comes from food parcels these days! Whenever I open the pantry door I see countless opportunities - how can I use up this cereal? What can I put this can of soup in? Without blowing my trumpet too much I always considered myself a pretty good cook but now I pride myself on being an excellent cook and it has brought me much joy and confidence. The other night a friend of mine was on her own for the weekend so I invited her over for dinner. This is something I haven't done since my marriage ended so it was a little nerve wracking for me, especially as I wanted to make something special. I warned her with a giggle that my challenge was to make her a gourmet cafe style dinner entirely from my garden and my food parcel! Undeterred she agreed to be my guinea pig and I set to work.
With no money in the kitty for meat I took advantage of my lovely crop of silverbeet, parsley and carrots in the garden and together with some of my tomatoes I had frozen from the summer glut, used them to make Garden Cafe Vegetable Lasagne. You can find the recipe for this in my little recipe book 'A Dash of Soy and a Splash of Lemon' in the Downloads area. It really does taste just as good as anything you would find in a cafe and is so full of flavour even the boys can't tell there is no meat in it! I accompanied this with a fresh salad and some little dinner rolls I already had in the freezer. For dessert, with so much fruit in the garden the options were endless but Ali especially requested an amazing and very simple recipe for 'Gooey Little Chocolate Puddings' from my heroine, Chelsea Winter. Once again, these are as good as any restaurant dessert and I made them almost entirely from my food parcel goodies, including the tinned raspberries which accompanied them! It was such a pleasant and relaxed evening and I really enjoyed using my culinary skills to turn everyday foods and basic ingredients into something really quite lovely.
My recent prowess in the kitchen has elevated my status to such that Ali finally felt he could trust me to cook something I had never done before - wild roast pork, provided by the young hunter-gatherer himself. I confess, I do not like wild or 'gamey' tasting foods and before had always managed to get out of it by saying I didn't know how to cook it; instead delegating that job to his dad! However, Ali insisted he had faith in me (well his actual words were 'harden up Mum!') and with it being the only meat we really had in the freezer, last night I relented and attempted my first wild roast. The fire crackled in our cosy home, the candles gave off a comforting glow and as the smell of wild roast pork filled the air it felt so rustic and homely it was hard not to break out into a Beverley Hillbillies style accent at that there dang cotton-picking hog a-cooking! The only challenge was, it was such an enormous roast that even three hours later it still wasn't cooked and I had to squeeze it into the microwave to finish it off. Thank goodness for modern technology, or we'd probably still be waiting! But we got there in the end and although I wasn't game enough to try it myself, the boys scoffed it happily. Ali was proud he'd contributed to dinner and even more happy that his mum had finally taken the bull by the horns (or rather the pig by the leg) and cooked something she always swore she couldn't.
So another new week begins and who knows what STUFF life will throw at us this week! But whatever happens, thanks to the budgeting ladies and my self-sufficient son, we will at least be able to eat. And even though it feels some days as though everyone is out to take from us, as long as we have the support and love of family, the company of good friends and the kindness of strangers, we will always be rich - and nobody can take that away!
You can get updates on Penny's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page.
...or in our Members' Blog section.
4. Best of the Vault: New Life For Old Fashioned Skills
There are some wonderful ways to bring an old skill to life, such as making your own jam or rejuvenating an old chair. Don't be afraid - jump in and learn something new, well, old, today!
$10 lounger transformed into $600 Balinese beauty
I saved $500 on a Balinese-style lounger by making my own. I looked for one in the shops but could find nothing for less than $600, so I started looking in recycle shops and local dumps. I eventually found a wooden lounger for $10, which I sanded back and stained. I then cut an old single bed mattress to fit, covered it with fabric and added lots of colourful cushions. So all in all, my Balinese lounger cost less than $100.
Quality quilting needn't be a costly craft
I enjoy the traditional craft of quilting for next to nothing by using traditional techniques and principles. I find it rather sad that quilting, a craft which grew from the need to reuse resources whenever possible, is now such an expensive craft to pursue when using purpose-made fabrics. It's much more interesting and satisfying to salvage old garments, curtains and fabrics to use in quilting projects. I'm currently sorting through my stash of various fabrics and pooling resources with friends. We all share ideas, yarn and fabrics and it's amazing what we can produce together. I also visit op shops looking for garments and material to cut up. It takes more skill to find colours and fabric from a range of sources that complement each other rather than buying new colour co-ordinated fabrics, and it also results in an item with more character. Another advantage is that pre-used fabrics have all been washed, so there is no danger of shrinkage which may happen with new fabrics if they are not pre-shrunk. I spend next to nothing on my much-loved hobby, my only investment is time and effort.
Melt and mould new candles
I have a great way to use the unwanted 'stumps' from used candles. I keep all the bits left over in a bag over time and then have a candle melting and moulding day! I have also put aside any suitable moulds for candle making, such as tins with smooth sides and left over pasty containers for individual cakes (the plastic ones).
On 'melting day', I grab my old saucepans (picked up from the local op-shop) and in a double boiler melt all the leftover wax from the candles, add a wick (very cheap to buy from craft shops), pour in the mould, allow to fix and you have a whole set of new candles - ready to go and even good enough to give away for presents!
Tip for easier home-made bread
Here's a tip that will make baking your own bread even easier! We buy all of our baking goods in bulk to save money and try to make our own bread as often as possible. We love fresh home-made bread (free from nasties and preservatives) and it's so much cheaper than store-bought 'fancy loaves'. But I have to admit that occasionally I simply can't be bothered making the bread, even with the ingredients and breadmaker sitting there. The prospect of pulling out the huge tub of bulk ingredients and measuring everything out can seem a bit daunting sometimes, meaning that I end up sending hubby to the corner store for a loaf and the ingredients just sit there - which certainly isn't a saving!
So now what I do when I bring my ingredients home is measure them out right away into re-sealable bags.
- 4 cups of plain or wholemeal flour
- 1 tbsp powdered milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp gluten flour
- Whatever seeds, nuts or oats I want for that loaf
I then write on the front of the bag to add 250ml water and two teaspoons of yeast. The re-sealable bags can be stored in the fridge or freezer, so all you need to do is grab a bag, dump the contents into the breadmaker and add the water and yeast - it's so easy that even the hubby or kids can put a loaf on. Since using this approach I haven't needed to send hubby up to the corner shop!
5. Best of the Forum: Give it a Go!
Most of us spend huge amounts of money paying for the skills of other people, when perhaps all we need is a bit of confidence to give it a go ourselves.
Almost everyone has room for a few chickens and an easy-to-make cute coop to keep them safe!
Some lovely ideas here to knit beanies for families and friends or for charity. Who can resist a unique, hand-made beanie!
Join Chatterbox and friends to create unique gifts for family and friends. Some wonderful ideas to try with lots of support and help.
Why not get back into the garden and grow your own food?
Katie and fellow crafters have the comfiest spot in the Forum! Come in and ask questions, discuss your project and better still - show it off when it's finished! You'll be hooked (teehee!).
If you're stuck for ideas, try some of these suggestions.
6. Best Members' Blog: 'Spaving' and Our Trip
One of the many benefits of being a Vault member is that you can win a $100 store credit in Ye Olde Shoppe or $100 cash each month for your Simple Savings blog! Starting your own blog on the site is easy. All you have to do is log into the Vault, click on 'My Desk' at the top left, then 'Your Blog'. Then get writing! We love reading all your money saving trials and tribulations and really appreciate the effort that goes into each one.
This month's winner is Deb for her 'spaving' adventures!
I believe I am great at 'Spaving' - making really good savings from spending that I 'have' to do. I love searching out bargains and finding ways to save money on things that I have to buy or had already planned on doing.
Examples of this include always using Entertainment Book vouchers when we 'have' to go out; collecting loyalty cards for things I buy regularly (for example, haircuts), using coupons where I can, checking out all flyers to only purchase items needed on sale, tracking down factory shops and op shops and closing down sales to get items that we buy cheap. I've also just changed to a Kiwibank credit card as they have the best Air NZ Airpoint earning rate available.
I want to use this blog to record the ways I 'spave' while trying to reach my goals of paying for Christmas gifts, summer camping holidays and overseas family holidays. I am excited to start this as I now have a range of short, medium and long term goals that I want to reach (from now to 2022!), spurred on by a conversation my DH and I had on the weekend. We were reflecting on Mother's Day how quickly our girls are growing up when I made a 'startling pronouncement' (as my husband called it). I pointed out that our oldest daughter (now 8) will probably be leaving home at the end of 2022 to start university and we really only have the next nine years to do things together as a family, for example, travelling. While we both realise that starting uni won't be the end of us doing family things, it is the end of an era.
Both DH and I have wanted to travel with our girls and give them a range of experiences while growing up and we had written a list of places we wanted to visit with DD#1 was little. We have covered a few of these including Australia, Hawaii and all around New Zealand but we revisited this list on Mother's Day. We now have a travel plan for every year from 2014 to 2022 and it's my job to put the savings plans in place to meet these goals.
Trips we want to do include Disneyland/Wild West road trip in 2015, China tour 2017, Asian Cruise 2019 and Alaskan Cruise with Canadian Rockie tour in 2020! This blog is going to be a record of all the savings challenges I am a part of as well as all the spaving I do to reach these goals!
Let the spaving begin!
Well done Deb - we are looking forward to following your adventures.
You can read more of our members' blogs here.
7. Mimi: Budget Busting Meals - Cauliflower Potato Curry
A super cheap, super tasty, super satisfying meal that feeds a crowd for next to nothing.
At least eight serves for under $8.00.
- 6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger and turmeric
- Chilli flakes or powder to taste. We like ours hot, so I use 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes to this quantity
- 2-3 cups of water depending upon how much sauce you like
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2-3 tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with a tablespoon of water (1 tablespoon per cup of water added)
- Coriander leaves to garnish if desired
Steam the potatoes until tender.
Pan fry the diced onion in the oil added to a large saucepan or wok, until it's translucent.
Add the potato, cauliflower and the water and spices. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender.
Add the milk and the cornflour paste and stir until the sauce bubbles and thickens.
Serve immediately, on its own or with steamed rice and/or pappadums.
You can get updates on Mimi's new blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
8. Rob Bob's Gardening Blog: Home-Grown Vegie Shopping!
Walk around the autumn vegie garden
I haven't done a blog on how the patch is going as a whole for quite some time so thought I would give you a bit of a look at what's growing in our sub-tropical vegie patch in autumn. We are very lucky in that we get a mild winter here and can grow some things that other folks don't have the luxury of during their winters.
I'll start the walk around at the IBC wicking bed right down the back. This bed is home to a long Asian purple eggplant, Mexican tarragon and two mouse melon/Mexican miniature watermelon (Melothria scabra) vines that were planted out mid-summer.
They are actually a gherkin cucumber and have a crisp sour bite to them. I think they go great in salads but in saying that, only one lot has made it into a lunchtime salad. The majority of the fruit get wolfed down while we are in the patch with the others being snacked on once inside the house. ;) I've found these fellas to be a bit slow out of the gate with the fruit only starting to form at the start of autumn. One thing that's impressed me with these vines is the absence of powdery mildew and cucumber moth caterpillars. This is most definitely one plant I would recommend folks try if you like the sour gherkin style cucumbers. The chap that gave me the seeds (cheers Peter) was still picking fruit from his a few weeks ago down in South Australia so they are a very hardy plant.
Next to this bed we now have a small cabbage butterfly-proof annex off the main hoop house so we can protect a few extra brassicas from the cabbage butterfly caterpillars. To get the bed ready for the cool weather crops, compost and natural fertiliser were turned through the top mulch layer then the bed was left to rest for a few weeks. One thing that took me by surprise while adding the compost was the number of earth worms (not compost worms) in the soil. They came in the original soil a number of years ago and appear to have done very well in these wicking beds.
Last weekend we popped in six Chinese cabbage/Wombok (top right of bed) as well as four cauliflowers where they could be squeezed in. Nothing has been planted along the trellis for now as we might try and use it for a late crop of peas once some of the brassicas are finished.
The first bed in the hoop house is the tomato and amaranth bed.
It may not look like it but we have harvested several meals' worth of amaranth greens from this bed already. This is one plant we are all loving at the moment with it tasting just as good raw as it does cooked. I've been wrapping the last few yellow cherry tomatoes in the leaves along with a small basil leaf for a quick snack in the patch. Goes down very well when chased up with a mouse melon. ;) The best way we have found to cook it is sautéd in butter with a few cloves of crushed garlic as a side dish and find it tastes sort of like a mild chard/silverbeet. It is so easy to grow and the plan is to let a few go to seed so we can collect as many as possible for following crops and to share around.
The next bed is a bit of a mixed bag at the moment. There are turmeric, mustard greens, bush beans, ginger, green onions, perennial leeks, two different celeries and some sugarloaf cabbage.
On the weekend it got a few marigold refugees that have popped up in the lawn. Kira didn't want me to mow them so thought it best to give them a new home. ;) I have also noticed a capsicum/chilli or two that have popped up, so it will be interesting to see what they turn out to be. The bush beans are about done for now so while they are busy with their last few small flushes some 'Giant of Naples' cauliflower seeds we were gifted will be sown in punnets as replacements for them.
The polyculture bed has performed very well indeed and we have been picking a fair amount of greens from there.
Can't wait to make a broccoli and macadamia salad with the first head we get to harvest, just doesn't taste the same when made with store bought I think. :/ The perpetual spinach has been another stand-out in this bed. I was lucky enough to receive some more seed so a whole heap is being sprouted as fodder crops for the chooks. This is one style of bed we will be doing more often as the amount of greens we've picked is quite amazing. I think we could easily have one salad from this bed every second day no problems and I have already made a start on a bed that we can harvest on the other days. ;)
I am really happy with the way the top bed in the hoop house is filling out.
The sweet basil bushes in this bed are still hanging on strong and are being picked regularly for salads and sauces. We have also been eating the beetroot greens for a while now and noticed that a lot of the roots have started to form up nicely too. The cauliflower and fennel that were planted a month or so ago in this bed are coming along nicely as are the newer arrivals like the Tuscan kale, celery and a few left over sugarloaf cabbages from a punnet planted out last weekend. The matriarch of the bed, the three- to four-year-old chilli bush (foreground) will be getting a bit of a prune again to see if she can see it through for another crop next season. I would have done it sooner but there are still a few fruit hanging on and just starting to turn red now. ;)
The honey pod pea and bush bean bed just outside the hoop house is looking very green.
The beans are loaded with pods ready for harvest but the eggplants just don't look that happy in there. I'll leave them go a few more weeks and see if they put on a growth spurt like their sister plant in the bed with the mouse melons. If they don't they can make way for a few more beans or perpetual spinach I think. ;)
The other bed next to the hoop house has had a few different brassica seedlings started off in it as well.
We planted it out with some broccoli, a few cauliflowers and some more marigold refugees from the lawn (thanks Kira). Decided to make this another polyculture bed as hundreds of fallen mustard greens seeds from the last crop have decided to sprout. Various leaf lettuce varieties will be sprinkled around with a few Chinese red shallots being planted in the bed as well.
Shopping in your neighbour's vegie patch using "Ripe Near Me"
I thought I'd mention a great site called Ripe Near Me that has been set up to allow folks to list the produce they have excess of rather than letting them compost or go to waste. Produce is listed as either free or the grower can set a price. It would be a great way to get rid of an excess of lemons, limes or an over-productive rosemary bush and maybe even earn a few dollars on the side, which a few of us would welcome after the recent budget announcement. ;)
I think it's a great idea as it allows people to have access to food grown in their local neighbourhood by folks just like themselves. It's a great flashback to the days when neighbours traded with each other for produce and services. I remember my grandparents doing this all the time with their eggs and home-grown goodies. It was a way for neighbours to connect, trade and build relationships that helped build community spirit. I can really see this idea taking off and think it will be a way to be even more frugal while helping out others in your local community.
On Tuesday night our family had the privilege to attend a public function hosted by "Ripe Near Me" in South Brisbane. One of the founders, Alistair Martin, jumped up and gave a great explanation of how they came up with the idea and ran through the ideas they have to expand the service. One aspect that really interested me was the prospect of having seeds and plants listed on the website. It would be a great way to meet other local gardeners, trade varieties and even pick up some great tips on what works/grows best in your area. After Alistair had given us all a great run down of their future plans for the site the stage was taken by Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia. Costa reminded us of the way we used to trade vegies over the back fence instead of nipping down to the supermarket if you were in need of a cucumber or a couple of eggs. He spoke of the great community spirit he had seen through the local community gardens/groups around Australia in his travels and how the movement to get back to eating locally is gaining ground. It was a great talk and I would recommend that if you get a chance you should go hear him speak on the topic.
For folks in Adelaide you will have your chance to hear Costa and Sophie Thompson talk on the local food movement as well as finding all about Ripe Near Me on the 15th of June. Details can be found on the "Edible-izing Adelaide" page. It will be a great day if the other night was anything to go by and even includes a vegie swap if you have some extra produce you want to trade with others. ;)
It was a most enjoyable evening and the girls loved that we got to have a bit of a chat to Costa just before we left (even if it did take a while for their dad to introduce the family **blushes**). This is one man that has an infectious passion for inspiring others to grow not only food but the communities around them. I must say that I left wanting to get home to play with the compost and worms. ;)
Cheers all and shall catch you all next blog...
You can get updates on Rob Bob's new gardening adventure blogs on the Simple Savings Facebook page
or in our Members' Blog section.
9. From Last Month: Ideas For Outdoor Cover and Flooring
Last month Nayia emailed us about ideas for covering and flooring for an outdoor area:
"I would like to ask if anyone has any ideas to solve this problem. We have a (very) small room out the back which has become our fourth bedroom. The room itself is fine, but it is four metres from the house, with no eaves for protection. If my son wants to go to the toilet or come into the house, he gets wet if it's raining and/or traipses dirt into the house or his room. There is no space outside his room for a mat and very little inside it. The room also gets full sun, so is boiling in the summer. We are renting so we can't drill into the walls or guttering for cover, but we'd love some suggestions for:
"(a) a cheap cover we could use that would reduce or block out the rain and sun. We thought we could buy a big patio umbrella, but it won't cover the whole area and will blow over in wet windy weather.
"(b) a cheaper solution than decking tiles, which are very expensive, for the ground. The area to cover is about 1.5 x 4 metres.
"Thanks for any suggestions."
We got some fantastic ideas - thank you for sharing your wisdom! Here are some of our favourite replies:
Keep the elements at bay with a sunshade
Would the owner of the house permit you to drill a few small holes into the wall to install a sunshade? Bunnings has lots of cheap options and you can ask them how to install it too. For low-cost flooring, I've found it is possible to get deck tiles cheaply if you know where to look. I bought mine for $10 each here in Sydney but they will ship them round Australia, just ask for a quote. For more information check out eBay which gives information with prices here http://bit.ly/1fOagGK or their company website: Green Forest Timber
Posh path for a cheap price
You can make a very cheap and attractive looking path by purchasing ordinary concrete squares from the local landscaper and painting them with a dark grey concrete paint. My neighbour did this with great results; he just laid the squares on the ground and put a bag of gravel in between the cracks. They look very upmarket for minimal cost and with no cement needed, if you're renting you can take them away when you go!
Make a jigsaw floor
For a cheap indoor/outdoor flooring solution, visit your local Kmart. They have large plastic blocks that fit together like a jigsaw. These make a super-fast and easy floor covering!
Scour the classifieds for free supplies
Here in Western Australia we have a newspaper that is called the Quokka, which advertises free items. Most areas have something similar, check what is available in your area. Through our local paper a friend of mine managed to find enough cement slabs for my patio AND his, for free!
From portable carport to deck cover
You can make a suitable shelter for around $100 by purchasing a portable carport. The metal frame, plastic fittings and plastic material can be erected and anchored to the ground to cover the required area.
Make a walkway from pallets
You can create a simple and effective walkway in next to no time by using wooden pallets. You can usually find these for free in any industrial area. Just lay them on the ground to make a path. If the slats are too wide, it is easy to pull other pallets apart and add extra ones. You can even stain them and seal them to make them look a little smarter. The result? A raised walkway that is practically free!
Portable toilet solves to-ing and fro-ing
To reduce 'traffic' from your son going from one building to the other to use the bathroom, consider a portable toilet! I bought one from a camping store for $40. It has a seat and lid, which can be removed for easy emptying and cleaning. As for floor covering between the two areas, I would concentrate on purchasing something such as a free-standing car cover for the 1.5 x 4m area and perhaps get some stepping stones for underneath. Freecycle is well worth checking to see if you can pick up some free pavers!
AstroTurf is answer to cheap ground cover
If you're looking for a cheap ground cover or outdoor flooring solution, try AstroTurf! Our greyhound tracks a lot of mud about the place and we found AstroTurf (fake grass) works really well at helping to reduce the mess. It lets the rain run through and can be shaken clean as needed. You can purchase it by the metre at hardware stores and is usually in rolls about 1800mm wide. You can even choose how bushy you want it!
10. This Month's Help Request: I Smell a Rat!
Susan has emailed asking for some help! She writes:
"I need help getting rid of the smell of a dead rat. My husband has been up in the ceiling twice but cannot find its body. The smell is particularly bad in one of our bedrooms. We heard a rat in the ceiling above the bedroom, but now there is no noise, just an increasingly bad smell. I would appreciate any advice or tips."
If you have any pearls of wisdom you'd like to share with Susan, please send them in to us here.
11. Goodbye for Now
Well, that's your Simple Savings Newsletter for June and we hope you have enjoyed it. We hope you'll find some ways to learn some 'new' heritage skills - please let us know how you go!
Our members are hugely important to us and we love hearing from you all! So next time you're on the website, why don't you get in touch and say 'G'day'! Let us know what you would like to see more of in our newsletter or any suggestions you have for something new to try. We love receiving your clever ideas!
Don't forget to spread the love around to your family and friends too by forwarding them our newsletter or letting them know about our website. Help make their lives easier and save them money too! Or tell them about us on Facebook by clicking the 'like' button on our Simple Savings Facebook page.
Till next time...
All the best,