The Good Life: Field of Dreams

Summer’s finally over!  It’s time for the Autumn harvest!

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Behold!  My glorious field of two radishes!

As you can clearly see, the harvest has not exactly been bountiful this Autumn. The field you’re looking at was planted with onions, carrots, beetroots, leeks, daikons, radishes and an entire row of parsnips.

Unfortunately, the harvest failed.

There were several reasons for the failure, of course. Early in the season, the Boobook thought to help me out with the weeding and managed to weed out the baby leeks before I managed to stop him. We’ve also been having issues with the neighbour’s cat digging up some of the seeds when it comes to hang out in our garden.

But the biggest reason for major crop failure was the weather.

It has been hot in Australia, and I mean severely, extremely hot. The hottest it’s been since 1896, even. It was so hot that the remainder of seeds and sprouts basically fried in the earth before they got big enough to thrive. The only plants remaining are the two radishes you see in the picture.

The reason for the survival of the radishes is simple. They were the only plants in the garden be in the shade for the majority of the day.

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Happy little radishes.  Diagram courtesy of The Boobook

So there you have it. It’s slim pickings this Autumn, I’m afraid, but there’s no reason to fret. The backyard vegetable gardener has to be prepared for disappointment.

After all, perseverance and trial and error is how one gets a good garden.

Check out the rest of The Good Life Challenge series here.

Queen of Konmari Challenge: Stage 1 – Clothes

I was feeling quite chirpy on the morning that I decided to start the Konmari process. I’d already gone through my clothes once before, only a few months ago as part of the Happy Family Plan, so I figured that this was going to be a cinch.

I was in my PJs about to get started, when I remembered that one of the caveats of Marie Kondo’s process is to treat the whole thing like a big party. That means dressing up and everything. I thought this was an immensely silly idea – I might as well wear my pyjamas, then once I was all messy, I could just pull them off and throw them in the wash – but I figured that if I was going to commit to the Konmari method, I might as well go the whole hog.

So I brushed my hair and changed my clothes, then went around taking stock.

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All my clothes.

My clothes are actually split into two cupboards, one narrow cupboard in my bedroom and one larger wardrobe in the spare bedroom.

In my bedroom cupboard I have my daily wear, tops and trousers. In the spare bedroom wardrobe, I have outerwear and dresses. As you can see from the picture above, I had so many clothes that I didn’t even have enough hangers to put them on and ended piling some of them over the top of the clothes rail.

I got everything out of the cupboards and dumped them in a big pile on the ground in my bedroom. I didn’t include anything that was in my dirty laundry or my clean laundry because I knew that those clothes were ones that I would definitely wear again. Then I wandered around the house gathering up accessories like belts, hats and socks.

Gathering my clothes in one place took me the better part of an hour, and I was sweaty, dusty and very upset by the end of it. Why did I buy more shorts and trousers? How could I forget that I own 8 pairs of denim shorts and 5 pairs of jeans? Did I ever wear that white polyester skirt and will I ever have an occasion to wear it? Why am I still hoarding that vintage silk top in puke green? I felt so greedy, and so wasteful.

This was when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, carrying an armful of moldy leather belts and surrounded by untidy hillocks of clothes.

Instead of continuing to feel upset, I actually felt a little bit better, because even though the room was messy, I was still neat. I think that if I was still wearing my toothpaste-stained top and sleep-creased pyjama pants, I would have felt so much worse about myself that I would not have been able to continue tidying. I would have just stuffed everything back into the cupboards as quickly as possible!

With renewed confidence, I began sorting through the piles of clothes.

First, I pulled out everything that I hadn’t worn over the last few months because I knew that those clothes made me look like a giant walking mushroom. These included new clothes that I had altered to fit, but had still looked terrible on me. Those went into a large bag to be given away.

Next, I pulled out clothes that I loved very much but knew I couldn’t wear anymore because they no longer fit. I divided these into two piles. One pile went into another large bag to be given away. The other, much smaller pile, were a few ‘heirloom’ clothes that I felt were classy and special enough to be handed down to Little E once she was older. These were mostly dresses – and I hung these up in the cupboard in the spare room.

By the time I had finished, all of my clothes could fit into the small cupboard in my bedroom. I folded them in the Konmari style and put them away. I wasn’t going to bother folding and storing everything the Konmari-way, but after reading her method carefully, I realised that if I follow her style of folding and storing clothing, I will actually prolong the lifespan of my clothes and be able to wear them for much longer.

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All of my clothes folded Konmari-style can fit into one cupboard (Ignore the Barn Owl’s messy top shelf. It is beyond my reach anyway.)

Looking at the my cupboard now, I have realised that not only is there a lot of wasted space, but the cupboard itself is very poorly designed. The trick to Konmari’s clothing storage method is that it allows you to see all of your clothes at once and get them out of the cupboard or drawer easily. As you can see from the picture above, I need to replace those deep shelves with drawers.

So, although my clothing storage problem is not yet solved, I think that my decluttering of clothes is pretty much done and I can proceed to the next stage!

The Good Life: Protecting the Babbits

Rabbits have long since been considered a pest in Australia. I mean, the longest unbroken fence in the world was built in the country to keep the rabbits out of precious farming territory.

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The Greater Bilby, endangered in Queensland.  Photo courtesy of DHP

Besides, there’s well documented evidence that the introduction of rabbits can vastly alter the ecosystem. Heck, the adorable little rabbit is believed to be responsible for the decline of several Australian native species such as the Greater Bilby through habitat destruction.

It is no surprise that the Australian government works to control the feral rabbit population through regular releases of biological agents like the Calicivirus[1] (aka Rabbit Haemorrhagic Diseases). In fact, a planned release of the virus is happening across 1,000 sites across Australia as we speak!

For those of you not in the know, the Calicivirus is a very nasty killer. It basically makes your rabbit bleed out internally, until it finally dies from the stress. BUT! A vaccination for this horrible disease does exist and is available at most local vet clinics! Both Bonnie and Clyde are regularly vaccinated against Calicivirus, so they’re covered in the event of a planned release.

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Bonnie and Clyde after being vaccinated.  They’re very upset about the whole situation, but it’s for their own good!

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to take extra precautions to protect the rabbits from the dangers of horrible diseases. Both Calicivirus and Myxamatosis are spread by flies and mosquitoes, so you should take steps to insect-proof any rabbit play areas.

To protect our precious bunnies, The Boobook and I lined Bonnie and Clyde’s outdoor hutch with UV protected mosquito netting. It’s a little bit expensive, but at least it’ll keep them safe.  Plus, we’ve lined the bottom with thick gauge chicken wire so that they can’t dig their way to freedom and get themselves hurt.

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Mosquito-proofed babbit home!

So, now our babbits are free to dance and play in the sun and are safe from the virus come rain or shine!  If you’d like more information on how to protect your rabbits during this viral release, RSPCA Australia has some very useful information and advice available.


[1]Calicivirus is pronounced Khaleesi-virus, but doesn’t have anything to do with dragons, unless you count the fact that it kills kinda messily.

The Queen of Konmari: 5 Tips to Getting Started

Okay, I’ve been starting to tidy up and organise the house according to the Konmari method for a few weeks now, and I am happy to report that things are progressing.

It is not easy, but I am sticking to it.  I think the reason that I am sticking to it is because I managed to figure out a way to do it without getting too overwhelmed. Additionally, I found that there was a great deal of inertia when it came to actually getting started to Konmari and I needed some help with that.

So here’s what I did after I finished reading the books:

Five Tips to Getting Started with the Konmari Method

  1. Get moral support: Konmari’s books were initially written to get her potential clients inspired and start tidying before she can actually fit in a personal appointment with them. I think it helps to have somebody going alongside you, cheering you on (especially if you, like myself, are not naturally a tidy person). I formed a small Facebook group with a few of my friends who were planning to start or who were unsuccessfully trying to Konmari on their own. Being a part of this group is really helping me because we celebrate our small successes together and encourage each other if things appear to be insurmountable.
  2. Set aside a time where you have the most energy and can work undisturbed: Whilst reading the the books, I noticed that Konmari’s clients would put aside 5 hours for every session with her – sending the rest of the family out of the house. I don’t have a whole 5 hour block in a day to devote to tidying, so I took a leaf from my Happy Family Plan and set aside one hour in the morning during weekdays when Thumper is sleeping and the older two kids are in school.
  3. Keep to your schedule: It’s tempting to want to skip around Konmari’s method and try to do a little bit here and there whenever you have snatches of time. However, my friends who did that ended up feeling like they were spending every waking moment tidying and decluttering with no end in sight, and they burn out. I think the tortoise approach, where you just plug steadily away through the various stages of decluttering, works best for Konmari. I set aside time for myself to declutter each day and I would stop after that time had passed (even if I wasn’t finished) or after my task of that day is accomplished, whichever came first.  Then, I would reward myself with a break with a good book.
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    Lister vs Dent (okay, they are both kinda sloppy looking.)

    Dress nicely: Okay, this is one taken straight out of the book, and when I first read it, I thought it was utter rubbish too, but there’s a reason behind this.
    At some point in your tidying, your house is going to look real messy and you may start to question your life choices…then you take a glimpse of yourself in the mirror…and if you are still in your unwashed pyjamas, you are going to feel like a total slob. And not in a cool ironic way, like Arthur Dent saving the earth in his bathrobe with his trusty towel by his side, but more like Dave Lister, slobbing his slobby way around the universe.

  5. Designate a Konmari corner that will remain undisturbed during the rest of the day: This is key, especially if you have kids around because you don’t want them coming in and picking through the mounds of stuff or moving anything around that you haven’t finished sorting through. Pick an area of the house that gets low traffic or can be shut off from the house. I am fortunate to have a spare room in my house, so I did all of my sorting and reorganising in that room, so that at the end of the hour, I could shut the door on all of it and not have to see it until the next day.

P.S. If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

The Good Life: Conversations about Carrots

So, I had my first carrot harvest at the New Castle, so obviously I had to share the joy!

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That carrot knows it’s got it

ABC:  Debs!  Check out my carrot harvest!

Debs G: It’s like looking at a runway.

ABC:  Is it because of the leggy purple carrot?

Debs G:  Yes, it is stealing the show.

Much later, I ate the leggy purple carrot in a stew.  It was terrible.

Oh well, them’s the breaks.

The Good Life: Mr B

So, for my first post in The Good Life series, I would like to talk about pollinators.

This is Mr B. Mr B is a stingless Solitary Carpenter Bee that lives in a hole in the wall next to our front door.

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As good a picture as I can get of Mr B.  He’s quite a shy fella and I don’t have a very good camera!

Mr B moved in the day after we took down the ornaments that were hanging on the outside wall and removed the nails. When Boobook went to fill in the holes in the wall, there was Mr B. Sitting there. We decided not to evict him because he is a Beneficial Insect.

Pollinators are essential for any garden. Without them, we can’t get any good fruit or veg, as nothing would sprout. Insects are, of course, by far the best pollinators in the business, so we’re not at all shy of having a few buzzing around our home. This is why, despite all the problems I’ve been having with Thrips lately (more on this later), I haven’t done any pesticide spraying at my home.

The boand I have been discussing the possibility of getting a bee hive for the garden sometime in the future, but in the meantime, we’re doing all we can to attract good pollinators. We’ve recently purchased a bird bath, which we’re planning to load with marbles and smooth river rocks so that both birds AND bees can take a drink in this hot Summer weather. Only the oldest bees are sent out of the hive to get pollen, so it’s important to give these little old ladies a rest!

Australia also has a number of interesting stingless native bees. We’ve had a few of the really tiny ones buzzing around our garden – they live in a small nest inside one of the gum trees. It’s really important that we don’t disturb the nest, which is REALLY TINY (smaller than the size of my palm even!). Native bees are quite rare and they don’t have stings.  They do not make a lot of honey, but their nests have quite a complicated spiral pattern that interlocks honey with larvae, so we risk killing the baby bees by harvesting the honey or even touching the nest!

I’ve saw a Blue Banded Bee in the flower patch the other day! They’re massive critters, golden and fuzzy, with a blue and white butt. They have a really loud buzz too, owing to the fact that they’re buzz pollinators – their method of gathering pollen is to flap at the flower really hard until the pollen flies out and sticks to them. Inefficient, yes, but it does a lot less damage to plants, so you end up with healthier, larger fruit.

EDIT: It has come to our attention that Mr B may well be a Mrs B, as she has recently been attracting suitors to the little hole she lives in. Also, an astute friend of mine pointed out that she’s not as golden in colour as a Mr B should be. Mea Culpa!

Queen of Clean Konmari Challenge!

Hi Debs!

I’m so pleased that you managed to complete not only your Baking Challenge, but also successfully implemented your Happy Family Plan!  I’m so proud of you!

Now, I have a new challenge for you!

I know that we have a slight tendency in our family to hoard all sorts of junk.

When I moved from my old apartment to the New Castle, I noticed that I had built up an impressive collection of junk not limited to but including:

  • Guinea feathers that J collected from a beach when he was just a little pup.
  • A Sonic the Hedgehog figurine that had fallen down the back of a shelf
  • A set of fancy titanium ladies golf clubs that I hadn’t used since moving to the apartment; and
  • Every stuffed toy I’d owned since I moved to Australia, some of which had deformed into just little balls of shapeless fluff.

Luckily for me, my move to the New Castle forced me to par down my collections of old rubbish, though I think I’ve still got some old High School clothes that no longer fit.

That being said, you have not had the luxury of a recent move to pare down your stuff.  Plus, the last time I visited, I remember you mentioned that J, Little E and Thumper had so many gifts of old and new toys, that you were despairing of where to put it all.  Therefore, I would like to challenge you to a total declutter of your home!

Obviously, I’m not asking you to throw away all of your stuff like a crazy lady, that would be excessive.  However, there’s no better way to declutter your home than by following the advice of the Ultimate Declutterer, Marie Kondo!

That’s right!  For 2017, I am challenging you to the following:

  1. Complete a Konmari style clean up of your house by the end of this year!
  2. Review the books “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” and “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
  3. Write a post every time you do a Konmari step or feel particularly proud of doing a Konmari-inspired thing (like folding clothes the Konmari way).
  4. Enjoy your happy family!

So, get ready to be the Queen of Clean!  Good luck!