Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: FIRE as a single. (Page 1 of 8)

One year of early(ish) retirement.

As of midday today, I’ve been retired for fully twelve months.

I thought I might write about what it’s been like so far.

Hmmm… where to start?

It’s safe to say that the thing I was most worried about going into retirement hasn’t come to pass. At work, especially in classes, I was extroverted and cracked jokes and generally soaked up all of the human interaction. At home? I’m an antisocial hermit. I was concerned that I’d start to miss expressing my extroverted self after a while and that maybe I’d begin to get bored with my own company. I didn’t THINK I would, but that’s why they call things in life ‘surprises’.

In fact, the opposite has happened. I haven’t missed work at all. Which in itself was a bit of a surprise, because I loved being in the classroom, but it is what it is.

Every morning I’m glad that I don’t wake to an alarm clock. Jeffrey licking himself is almost as bad, but he tends to wait for a more civilised hour to start. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy a slow pace to the start of each morning. Get up, brew a coffee in the Aeropress, let the dogs out, then we all end up on the couch. I sip my coffee with the laptop on my lap, the dogs go back to sleep and it’s calm and peaceful. After a while we all have breakfast, (wild excitement from Poppy), and then the day will start to take shape.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most is the different way my days are organised now. Instead of having structure thrust upon me by the demands of the school’s timetable and the bells, I now have total control over how my hours are spent. I’m in a wonderful space in my life where my kids are grown and I don’t have grandchildren yet, so there is no time needed to set aside to run around after miniature people. That’s hugely freeing. I can do whatever I want.

I plan to enjoy this ‘selfish’ stage while it lasts. Many people retire when grandchildren are on their way so they can help with childcare, but my boys are very ugly so there are no children on the horizon as yet.

This is the time for me! Not many people get a chance to live for themselves, so I’m not going to waste it.

Reading meme

The days tend to be dominated by one activity. If I’m making a quilt, then that’s it for the whole afternoon. If I start a book; then I READ THE BOOK. I’m on my 126th book for 2021 and I’ve discovered some cracking reads. If I’m gardening, then I spent HOURS in the garden. It’s a good thing because I can spread myself around different activities and I don’t get bored.

Doesn’t really matter what it is I’m doing, I’m as happy as a clam because I’m undertaking what I’m in the zone for that day. This is why hosting Christmas this year is slightly annoying. I have a quilt for David28 that I want to get finished, but there’s cleaning and organising to do. So far, I haven’t really been in the zone for any of that, but this week that’ll have to change. My life is so hard…

The real luxury is when I strike a day that I don’t really feel like doing much of anything at all. My early retirement was full of these days. After a couple of months I texted a friend who’d retired a year before me and asked, “When does the need for having a nap every day stop???”

She replied, “Why does it have to?”

Yes, the first few months of retirement coincided with summer, so it was easy to just relax and let my body dictate what it needed. What it needed was lots of reading and lots of sleeeep. One good thing about this was that it really turno-charged my Earn Back My Rates By Reading challenge! You can check how I’m going by looking at the sidebar. By August I’d reached the target for 2021, so, not wanting to let the grass grow under my feet, I started on 2022. I made it harder by adding in the dog rates as well.

After a while the need to be almost constantly horizontal receded and I started doing more things. I whisked myself away on a trip along the Great Ocean Road over to Adelaide in between lockdowns, where I met up with Jenna’s family, an old school friend I hadn’t seen in 40 years and a blogreader in Warrnambool. Hi Loretta!!

If covid hadn’t lingered I’d be in Antarctica right now dancing with penguins, but I was lucky enough to be able to get it postponed to December next year (at this year’s prices, baby!) I’m planning to see Easter Island on the same trip, seeing as I’ll be in the neighborhood. Until then, I’ll be staying close to home, with only a couple of short trips – I was about to say “planned” but I haven’t planned a thing. But I’m sure something’ll pop up.

I bought quite a few permanent plants and fixtures for the garden, seeing as I was stuck at home during lockdowns, so I’m hoping that costs here will start to go down now that most spots are filled. Columnar apples don’t come cheap! I spent a fortune at Spotlight on expensive things like quilt batting at 40% off ( I bought in bulk) so I should be able to entertain myself nicely next year pretty cheaply. I want to put most of my money into my trip. If apple trees are expensive – penguins are worse!

Though having said that, I’ve put in an enquiry for an artist to paint a mural on the back of the house. He does incredible work and it would look AMAZING. Anyway, we’ll see what happens with that. It’s only money, right?

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I used to be in a constant state of awareness that things Had To Get Done whenever I had a spare minute. Sometimes I’d ignore it, but in general, I had a list in my head and I was always conscious that time shouldn’t be wasted.

Now? The list is still there, but my version of a productive day has loosened. It used to be that when I crossed multiples off my list – I felt productive. Now it’s enough when only one or two get done. The amount of extra time you have at your disposal when work isn’t sucking up most of the week is incredible. So it’s no longer a logistical nightmare if I don’t tick 47 items from my list in a weekend. If I don’t get to a few tasks; there’s always tomorrow.

Something inside me that I didn’t realise was tightly wound has eased up.

At the moment I still have one adult son living with me, though I fully expect this to change over the next year or so. Then, for the first time n my life, I’ll be living alone. (Unless you count the Little Woofs, that is.) Ryan26 and I give each other our space, both being introverts. I’ve discovered that, for the moment at least, I have enough social contact by having a phone conversation every day with someone, as well as interacting with people online. Usually, at around 5 PM, I’ll finish off whatever I’m doing and then I’ll pour a drink and pick up the phone.

Maybe when Ryan26 moves out I’ll find that this isn’t enough, but for the moment I’m happy. It’ll be easy enough to look around and find places where I can meet like-minded people.

Managing my money without the constant top-up of a wage coming in has been an adjustment. It hasn’t been a year of ‘normal’ spending, as I used my long service leave to renovate my ensuite and the other bathroom at the beginning of the year. The share market has been kind this year, so a mixture of harvesting dividends and using a touch of savings has been the way I decided to go. Every 6 months I plan to balance up everything and pull out what I’ll need for the following 6 months, with a view to harvesting divvies if the market is going well, or using savings if it’s dropped like a stone. I have 2 years before I can access superannuation without paying tax, so I’m happy to let that burble away in the background.

Now to address the question that gets asked most often when I go and visit my friends at work – Do I get bored?

Are you kidding me? Why would I get bored when I can do whatever I want and have my time totally free to indulge myself? There was a time a few weeks ago when I put my back out REALLY badly – Jeff was limping so I was getting him out of the car at the vet’s when I twisted something. Even with having a remedial masseuse on the premises, it took over a week for it to heal. I NEARLY got bored one day… but then I realised I could walk around and read a book standing up, so all was fine. Phew!

My days have a basic rhythm to them. Mornings are chill until around 9 or 10 AM. I read, write or just scroll through social media. Then I get on with the day. I do whatever I’m in the zone that ay to do. I never have the tv on during the day… but most nights I’m bingeing a series on Netflix, Stan or AppleTV. Most days the little woofs have a walk; I’ll chat with people on the phone before dinner and really, that’s it.

It may sound dull when I write it like that, but when every day is spent doing something that I’ve CHOSEN to do for that day, then it’s the opposite of boring. Now that we’re out of lockdowns and life is getting back to normal, I’ll be out and about more. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to the theatre 5 times, so that’s not a bad start.

The foundations that I laid over the last few years are starting to bear fruit. Literally, if you count planting all those fruit trees! My veggie garden is doing really well, while the front yard is looking far prettier with the flowers and hanging baskets I’ve planted. The major renovations that I wanted to do to the house have all been done (touch wood), while now there’s pretty much only painting to be done. I still haven’t painted my ensuite – I know that once I do I’ll have to go through the whole house room by room to paint and I’m not ready to do that yet!

My trip to Antarctica is the next international holiday I have planned. My overall plan was to have one major overseas trip each year. I’m thinking 2023 will more than likely be the UK again, but who knows? I wasn’t planning on visiting North Korea, but when the opportunity arises who in their right mind would say no? So I’ll be keeping my options open.

The biggest surprise of this whole year was just how little I missed work. I really thought I’d have pangs of missing it, but not a jot. I’ve been lucky to have seen the school musical and I was able to use up a spare ticket on a Drama excursion to see ‘Come From Away’, and once a term or so I’d pop into the staffroom at lunchtime to catch up. It’s been lovely to see the kids and my friends, but do I wish myself back?

Not on your life!!

Scout.

Frugal Friday: The no-spend week.

screenshot of a chart.

After my mammoth 61 week streak on the No Spend Days chart which ended when Jeffrey had to go to the vet on a Friday, I had a 14-week stint before I had to keep going to the hardware to buy things that David28 needed when he was building frames over the wicking beds. Now I’ve started again…

If you look at the chart, I’ve technically already performed a 7-day in-a-row streak of not spending any money, but I’m holding off so that there’s a full line of colour on the chart. It looks far more like a full week when it’s all in the one line.

These are the stupid ways that make this chart work so well for me. By far the best idea was making each week that I spend money on 3 days or less a ‘silver’ week. Once you start to get a continuous streak going it’s hard to break the chain.

This all serves to make my spending intentional. I still spend money – but I now do it in blocks, rather than just let dollars dribble from my wallet without realising.

meme

Another bonus to having this chart is that it makes it very easy to track spending in various categories. This came in very handy when a friend at work and then a neighbour told me about a very good – and far cheaper – vet in the next suburb over. Of course, I had to check him out.

The vet that the Little Woofs have been going to since we moved here is literally around the corner. Over the 5 years we’ve been living here I’ve spent thousands there, what with Scout swallowing a pip and getting an intestinal blockage; Poppy and Jeff having teeth extractions left, right and centre, as well as the usual injections and stuff.

When Jeff put his back out a few weeks ago I was able to easily compare prices by quickly scanning last year’s chart. Again, this isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s nice to have an easily-accessible way to look things up.

And yes; this vet is cheaper and I got a good vibe from him. We’ve swapped over.

Poppy the cavalier.

It helps that this week has been a quiet one, where I pretty much stayed home and puddled around. This is where I’m really reaping the benefits of preparing The Best House in Melbourne for retirement, while I was still working. There have been a couple of days in the garden, a few more reading and sewing days, while at night I have Netflix, Stan or Apple+.

I had a few self-sown silverbeet plants that after a year or so were going to seed themselves, so I chopped off all of the good leaves, added some water and ground them down to a paste in the thermomix. I’ve frozen them in ice cubes and I’ll add them to soups, stews and bologneses in the winter. Just like a green vitamin pill!

I’m a ‘chop and drop’ gardener, so the rest of the stalks and leaves were chopped into small pieces and left to lie on the wicking beds as a mulch. This adds so much goodness to the soil – for free! It takes a lot more time to do this, rather than just ripping them out and throwing them in the green bin, but the improvement in the soil over time is absolutely worth it. Plus – I’m retired! I have the time.

I don’t switch the tv on during the day, unless it’s 45C outside and all anyone wants to do is sit under the air-con and zone out, so my days are spent doing whatever I feel like doing, while at night I chip away at whatever series I’m watching at the time.

Today, in order to make sure that I don’t accidentally rush out in a frenzy and spend money, I’ve taken the dogs out to post a letter to Vanguard – (how ANYONE can fill in that stupid US taxation form is beyond me… this is my second go at it) – and then we took a detour home and went for a walk beside the river.

On the way home I went and had a look at a house that was sold recently for what seemed like a LOT of money for what looked like a bit of a dogbox. It was even worse than it looked online. Oof.

Then I wrote this post. After this, will I go and have a nap? Or will I keep working on David28’s quilt? Or will I go out and do some more ‘chopping and dropping’ in the veggie garden? Or maybe I should go out to the front garden and tidy up the weeds in the garden bed near the apple trees? Hmmm, there’s that book Tom29 bought me for my birthday that I haven’t yet picked up. The Colour of Money – maybe I should crack that open and dive in? I loved the writing in The Queen’s Gambit, so this one should be good too.

So many options. All able to be done here, without having to race off elsewhere.

I’m really enjoying this new phase in my life, eleven months in. I have yet to be bored, which I think is pretty special.

Dad joke of the day:

Did you hear about the maths teacher that was afraid of negative numbers?

He would stop at nothing to avoid them.

It’s the little things.

Bedding.

This morning was another cold and rainy one in Melbourne’s bout of wintery weather. It’s a Tuesday morning during term 4 of school. It was probably around 7 AM. I stirred, then heard heavy rain start to fall on the tin roof outside.

“Hmmm, guess I’ll roll over and go back to sleep. Don’t want to take the dogs out in that,” I thought.

We ended up with feet hitting the floor at 7:50 AM… exactly the time that in years gone by I’d be racing out the door, thinking, “Oh shit, I’m late!!”

I like retirement. The mornings are so peaceful, warm and snuggly.

Sewing.

I’m making a quilt for my son David28. It was designed by his younger brother, Ryan26, and it’s HUGE!. It’s queen-sized and will measure 99″ X 99″ (251cm X 251cm). ****

I was happily sewing away yesterday when I made a mistake which needed what seemed like 1400 hours with the Quickunpick. I was ripping seams and trying to get corners right and it was quite the exercise in concentration.

I want to have this quilt finished by Christmas.

In days gone by, the only times I had available to quilt was weekends and school holidays, where I had to fit it around everything else that also needed doing. Fixing a mistake like this used to have an extra layer of angst because “I don’t have TIME for this!!!!”

How often have I said that sentence over the years?

Yesterday, as I sat doggedly ripping and stitching away, I knew it’d take some time but I’d work it out. If necessary, I could take all afternoon to get it right and it wouldn’t matter at all. Instead of only having 5 weekends before Christmas to finish this absolute monster-sized quilt, I have 5 whole weeks.

It was such a novelty to feel so calm when I was working on a mistake.

I like retirement. It’s so soothing.

Twitter.

On Twitter, I saw a post by Gwen. She was asking about how many alarms people have on their phones. People were sending in videos of them scrolling down, showing 10, 20 , 30+ alarms. Others were replying, saying they had 50+ alarms, ranging from wake-ups to 5 minute warnings before meetings.

I like retirement. No more startling noises in the early mornings.

Goodreads challenge.

I’ve always loved reading. I could read before I went to school and it has always been a beautiful refuge for me. I’ve been tracking my reading each year on the Frog Blog since 2007 and this is definitely the year that I’ve read the most.

My ‘Earn My Rates Back’ challenge has definitely helped, but suddenly having 10 extra hours each weekday – and that’s only if there wasn’t an hour-long meeting tacked on at the end of the school day; then it’s be closer to 12 hours because of peak hour traffic – means that if I choose to spend an afternoon engrossed in a storyline, then I can.

When I read a new-to-me book, I find that I have to gulp it down in huge chunks. No spreading it out over 4 weeks reading a page or so a day for me! No – I have to find out what happens as soon as possible, so when I pick up a new book it’s lots of consecutive hours spent with that book and nothing else.

Because of that, most of my reading during term times was RE-reading books. I already knew what was going to happen, so I could pick them up and put them down far more easily. It’s like visiting an old friend. And really, who has the time to fully immerse yourself in a world during term times?

So my new books were almost always read during holidays.

Now? Every day’s a holiday. I’ve read more new-to-me books than I ever have before. And I’m loving it.

I like retirement. I’ve been able to live so many more lives than I ever have before.

And now, before I zip off into the sewing room to chip away at David28’s quilt, here’s why I used inches instead of the by FAR more sensible centimetres when I was talking about it before:

**** Some of you who aren’t quilters might wonder why I’ve measured the monster-sized quilts in inches. Despite being one of only 3 countries IN THE WHOLE WORLD to use imperial measurements, the majority of quilters are in the US, so inches are used.

Ugh. Even the people who invented imperial measurements have moved to metric!

Dad joke for today:

The rotation of Earth really makes my day.  

Little Adventures #7: The Archibald Prize. Nov 2021.

One thing the Little Adventures thing has taught me – don’t leave it too late in the month to go off and do/see something new. We were coming out of lockdown in late October, so I bided my time, thinking I’d sneak October’s Little Adventure in just as things were opening up again. But then Jeffrey put his back out. As I was getting out of the car at the vet’s, I turned to speak to him and I put MY back out. We both hobbled in together and I had to ask a vet nurse to lift him back into the car when it was time to go home. Thank goodness Ryan26 is a remedial masseuse! It took a week for my back to get better and by then November had well and truly rolled around.

Monday morning was a good one. I was sitting on the couch with a coffee, little woofs asleep beside me, when 2 ads came up on Facebook. I know, normally it’s just annoying when that happens, but one ad was for a play the local council was supporting… (ticket price was free – my favourite price, so I snapped one up) … and the other one was for a gallery in Sale, which was showing the Archibald Prize paintings.

The Archibald Prize is a portrait competition that has been going for 100 years. The subjects are preferred to be notable Australians in some way and have had to have had at least one in-person sitting with the artist. It’s WAY famous.

Sale is MILES away. It’s buried deep in the Gippsland countryside and it’d take 2.5 hours to drive there. I know because I googled it. But… what if I went to see the exhibition on a weekday, just because I can? Also, the tickets are $17, so that’s definitely affordable.

Because of covid, they’re limiting the number of people who can go into the gallery at any one time, so I had to scroll through a few days to find a time that would work. So Thursday morning at 11:45 it was.

I left with plenty of time to get there, which was just as well. If I ever see another sign saying “Road Works – detour” I won’t be responsible for the consequences. Got there with seconds to spare!

The following photos are the portraits that I particularly liked. Some have the info card in the same frame, others don’t. There’s interesting stuff on those cards – well worth zooming in to see what they say. 🙂

The first thing I saw when I walked into the entrance foyer was a school group. How many times have I followed a school group around the National Gallery in St Kilda Road? But one thing I know from having done this for so long… if you discreetly attach yourself to the group, the guides tell you a lot more about the paintings than you’d otherwise know.

I loved the shirt on this guy and I liked the story behind the painting, too.

This was the first painting I saw and I loved it. The man gently protecting and nurturing his inner creative person is so great.

It’s not just the fact that we have the same hairdo! I like that this is a reflection from her window – see the bottom left corner?

This is the card that goes with the painting at the top of this post. It was the winner of the whole competition. Honestly… not one I would’ve picked, but I guess the symbolism of it being of a 100-year-old man and the competition was also in its 100th year was hard to beat.

This portrait of Kate Ceberano was right next to the winner. This painting won the Packing Room Prize. This is when the people who unpack all of the paintings as they arrive vote as to which one they like the best. It seems like a bit of a poisoned chalice – to date, no one who has won the Packing Room prize has gone on to win the Archibald.

I think it’s stunning.

This portrait of Rachel Griffiths is the size of an iPad. It was painted using a brush with only one bristle. I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken to finish this painting with so much detail in it.

I liked this one because her face is so interesting. I could easily imagine her wearing a medieval bonnet or something. There’s something timeless about her face.

I absolutely loved this one. The sea was incredible, as was the story behind it. Over the past year, who hasn’t had moments when they’ve wanted to wrap themselves up in their favourite blanket – or quilt – and take a break? I also like how, if you look past the tumultuous water to the right, you can see that things will eventually become calm again.

How could I not like this one, considering I’m reading my 115th book of the year?

Such a brave young woman.

The play of light from the fire was extraordinary. The more I looked at this, the more was revealed.

This was the portrait I chose as my “people’s choice” award… though, thinking back… if I had my time over I might’ve gone with the sea one. But even so, it’s a wonderful painting. The light! It almost glows.

How cleverly is this done? So muted, yet so perfect?

And finally, this one made me laugh.

Then in the gallery just outside where the Archibald exhibition was, I saw this one. Oh My God! I LOVE it. In real life, it’s much darker than this. You could look at it all day and see new things emerging. I’ve put this here so I don’t forget.

After I’d finished, I bought some lunch from the adjoining café and took it outside to eat by the river. There were too many people without masks inside as they were eating and drinking. It might be ok for the Gippslanders, but it was a little bit much for this Melbournian to see without feeling weird.

Then, on the way home I went to a nursery and bought a couple of plants and a terracotta pot for the front yard, then popped into a quilting shop at Rosedale and bought a couple of things. We’ve been asked to spend our money in the regional areas so I did my bit. Then home I went!

Ryan26 had a couple of friends around so he cooked dinner and made strawberry daiquiris – all in all, not a bad day!

Who knows? Maybe because I missed October I should go on another Little Adventure this month, just to even things up? We’ll see…

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a fat psychic?

A four-chin teller. 

Operation Beautify continues.

The last few weeks have gone by in a hurry. Time is odd, isn’t it? The individual days slip past in no particular rush, but then you look up and it’s the middle of October. How did that happen? Even in the middle of the longest lockdown in the whole world, time still flies. Meanwhile, Operation Beautify is continuing along.

A while ago, before I retired last year, I thought that it might be fun to call in some real estate agents to value The Best House in Melbourne. I paid 750K at the end of 2015 for this place, with an extra 68K (or so) for bridging finance payments.

Self!‘ I thought to myself. ‘Why don’t I give myself a year to smarten the place up, then call in people to see how much this place is worth? It might be fun.

Since moving here 5 years ago, I’ve done a lot to the property, particularly in the gardens. I have no intention of selling. For the first time in my life I have total freedom over how I want my house and garden to look and I have the time to spend on making it all happen. This is the place where I’m happy to spend a lot of time in retirement.

My idea for this place is to make it practical and capable of supporting my interests. It needs to be a warm and nurturing place for my children, family and friends. I want the decorations and little touches around the place to be built around memories, so that more and more over time my house will be a reflection of who I am and where I’ve been.

Still, having said all that, I’m curious to see how much it’s worth now. I’m only human.

I gutted the entire backyard and built a wicking bed vegetable garden and mini orchard on the top level, with a huge verandah and entertainment area against the house. The entire backyard is paved with bricks, so Future Frogdancer doesn’t have to drag a lawnmower around up here. David28 just finished putting up these wooden frames on the top of the beds. Much neater and I can either throw netting over them or grow plants over them instead.

This is a photo taken at the beginning of spring. Give it a month or so and the wicking beds will be brimming over with veggies and flowers. I’ve left some lettuce and rainbow chard to go to seed – gotta love free food! – but the rest of the beds will be a mass of green and spots of orange, yellow and white from the flowers I’ve planted among the veggies. They’ll look pretty and bring the pollinators.

Now that there’s only two of us living here, not counting the little woofs, I can leave some space in this food growing space for prettiness.

The side yards are also paved with bricks, with hanging baskets along the more public pathway. These were put up last week and I’m hoping that the masses of petunias I’ve planted in them will billow out over the edges of the baskets and look lush and wonderful.

All of the fences have been replaced, with the front fence being totally changed by replacing a rusting metal picket fence with a tall paling fence and electric gate. All of the front yard fences are painted, but I’ve left the back yard fences to age naturally.

I transformed half of the front yard into a mini orchard and last week I underplanted the trees with masses of petunias and daisies. Again, there should be a mass of colour in a few weeks.

I’ve slowly been working on the front of the house too. I had a chippie come around and replace some rotting rails on the verandah. While he was there, he asked if I wanted to lower the height of the rails. I didn’t realise, but they were way higher than they needed to be. When he lowered them, it opened up the whole space.

They were white, but I painted them to match the fences and installed new guttering in the same colour. (It’s ‘Monument’, for those interested. I think there’s an unwritten law that every house in Melbourne has to use this colour somewhere.)

I’ve planted a maple on either side of the entrance, underplanted with white flowery groundcovers. One maple is always red, the other is green with pinkish new growth, so it’s the same look but not being absolutely ‘matchy-matchy.

Two more hanging baskets will hopefully fill the space with a huge pop of colour. Because of lockdowns I couldn’t go and select the plants in the hanging baskets in person. I had to select from the colours and plants that a local nursery had left in their online shop. This year the plants are petunias and the colours are red, purple and white. I figure every year I can have a different colour scheme. It’ll be fun.

The bay tree in the terracotta pot on the left of the steps is a plant I bought in K-Mart about 20 years ago when the boys were little. It cost me $6 – I still remember because I was horrified at the price they were asking for a mere twig – and I brought it home and planted it in the biggest pot I had. There it is, still there. I haven’t ever had to buy bay leaves again.

Frugality and forward-thinking for the win!

I have 2 couches on the front verandah. The green one on the right is Jeffrey’s favourite, while I prefer the old white one on the left. I’ve created a little conversation nook here. The pink painted pot plant was a gift from a friend years ago, while the succulent in it is a cutting I took from the backyard last week. The sunburnt palm is part of an indoor palm that I divided and got 4 new plants from and will be repotted into a terracotta pot when lockdown ends and I can go and see what’s available.

The front verandah will have mainly terracotta pots. I like the look of orange against the grey, with some being planted with permanent plants while the rest will be flowers and colour.

I also want to have a little bit of whimsy in the garden. I like the idea of the eye finding something beautiful or quirky in odd little spots. On the back steps leading up to the wicking beds, I have a combi van planter I found for $17 in Mitre 10 and I filled it with more free succulent cuttings from a plant in a pot on the other side of the steps.

I also have the sculpture of the dinosaur that I brought back from my last holiday in South Australia, up the top of the steps near the kaffir lime tree in a pot. It’s not the right place for him, but I’ll find it. I have nothing but time…

I found this little guy in the ‘marked down’ section of a garden supplies shop. He was part of a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” set, but I didn’t like the other two so only he came home. He’s under the apricot tree among some bluebells I saved when we were digging up the side pathways for the paving.

This is right at the side entrance to the verandah at the back. My rusty bird in a cage. I bought the bird when I went for a little mini break to Bowral a couple of years ago, then months later I saw this birdcage at Gardenworld. The daisy draws the eye, then you see my sweet, sad little rusty bird. My son David28 walked by this the last time he was here and said, “You know, I really like that bird.” Made me smile.

How great is this guy? My brother-in-law gave this to me as part of our family’s Kris Kringle thing two years ago. My sister said that they were at a local market, took one look at this guy and said, “Frogdancer would LOVE this!” He’s secured to the stump of the old grevilia that used to be here and he watches over the entertaining area. Who doesn’t want Grievous coming to Christmas dinner?

Before I call the real estate agents in to have a look, I still need to paint the ensuite, buy terracotta pots for both the front and back verandahs, fill them with flowers, and do a few other little bits and pieces.

If I’d placed a tighter time frame upon myself this all would’ve been done much more quickly, but tight time frames are what I retired to escape from. So far in the 10 months of retirement, I’ve read 110 books, made 6 quilts (with 2 more on the go), had many nanna naps and transformed my guest bedroom into a sewing room/office. (More on that in a later post.)

The thing I like about Operation Beautify is that most of the expensive projects like the landscaping and the huge verandah roof were done while I was still at work. My ensuite and the half-reno of the boys’ bathroom was paid for by my Long Service Leave payout, so basically this year I’ve been able to puddle along spending smaller wads of cash on plants, potting mix and mulch, but nothing like the amounts of money I spent on the big things. The landscaping of the back and side yards alone was over 50K. Oof…

By putting these jobs at the front of the queue, I was essentially able to cash flow a lot of it while I still had a wage. Next year, now that I have all of the trees and other plants in, should be even cheaper.

Just as well. I have Antarctica 2022 to pay for, after all.

🙂

This was the view I woke up to from my nanna nap yesterday.

Just to show that it isn’t all ‘Instagram perfect’ around here!

Dad jokes for today:

And one for the Maths people:

Retirement’s so hard…

As soon as I finish posting this, I’ll be packing for a mini holiday. Two nights in the high country at a resort near Merrijig. Retirement is so hard – all these holidays I’m forcing myself to take!

I had some points with my stupid timeshare that were due to expire at the end of next month. In my previous life as a productive, teacherly member of society, I’d have had to let those points expire or hope that one of my uni boys could use them up.

But now – I’m on a mission to use up every single point from now until I drop in my tracks.

So for the next 2 days, I’ll be reading, bushwalking (moderately!) and generally looking at gum trees and kangaroos. I’m going to go to the Healesville Sanctuary on the way up – I haven’t been there since I was a kid. I remember seeing the Tasmanian Devils and hearing the weird noise they make.

The resort restaurant isn’t open on Monday and Tuesday nights but that’s ok – I was planning on self-catering anyway. The studio apartment comes with a kitchenette. Frugality meets necessity!

I took the boys here on a holiday once when they were a lot younger. We played mini golf, they fooled around in the gym and we went for walks. It’ll be interesting to see if much has changed here since then.

I was planning on taking a leisurely ride home but I have to attend my great-aunt’s funeral on Wednesday in Melbourne, so I’ll be leaving at the crack of dawn. How’s this for a retirement? Doris was 95 when she died. She lived independently all her life in the house that she and her husband bought in the 1940’s. She was adamant that she didn’t want to go to a nursing home and she maintained her independence (with help from her local council with cleaners, shower girls, etc) until the end. She was also a great-great-grandmother – she lived for her family.

I hope I’m still happily pottering around the Best House in Melbourne when I’m that age!

Then vs now.

It’s 8:57 AM on a Wednesday morning.

In my previous life as a teacher, I would have left the house at 7:45 AM, driven all the way to school, parked in Hall st and then made it to my desk in the staff room by 8:30 AM. I’d chat with the colleagues at the desks near mine, then we’d look at the time, grab our computers, our books and whiteboard markers and gallop off to where we need to be for period 1.

The walkways between the buildings and portables would be packed. There were 1,200 kids and around 200 teachers all on the same mission, but all moving to different points of the campus. All of us had to be on time.

By 8:50 I’d be in my classroom, facing the first of the day’s crop of kids, ready to mark the roll. My lesson plan would already be laid out for me, with every class at the same year level doing the same work with the same resources at the same time.

Practically the only point of difference between my class and everyone else’s is that I’d write a couple of Dad jokes on the board at the start of every lesson. The kids loved it.

The bells define the day when you work at a school. The periods go for 48 minutes, lunch is an hour and recess is just under half an hour. There’s a bell at the middle of lunch so that the teachers on yard duty know that it’s time to swap in or out.

Now?

I’m on the couch in my pjs. I’ve written a blog post for the Frog Blog and I’m thinking vaguely about getting some breakfast before I take the dogs to the beach. Yesterday I googled “Quilting shops near me” and found there’s one just a few minutes drive away. I might have a look and see if there’s anything I’d like to buy for the next few quilts I have in mind.

Two minutes ago I was reading a blog post and I absently reached out to give Poppy a cuddle. She stretched out and I felt her silky fur under my hand. I glanced out the window behind her to see the blue sky, with just a touch of wind stirring the trees. I had a flashback as to where I’d be if I hadn’t retired.

I’d be in a room with 28 other people, locked away from most of this beautiful day. I’d have fun some of the time, sure. Kids can always make me laugh! But most of the time would be spent making them do work put together by earnest, serious young teachers that frankly, used to bore even me. Teaching used to be a lot more creative and fun. Now it’s getting more and more “cookie-cutter” style lessons, with the belief that one size fits all.

Thank God I was frugal, paid off my mortgage and was in a position to take advantage of an opportunity to accelerate my retirement date when it presented itself.

The whole day stretches out before me. I can spend it however I want. There’s no excuse for me to be bored! I’m the one in control.

THIS is why I put in the work to retire early(ish).

The ability to control your own time is worth its weight in gold.

Yesterday I went to a free talk at my library. An excellent author, Rosalie Ham, was talking about her books and the making of her first book, The Dressmaker, into a movie. Today I’ll potter around here, maybe go to that shop, while tomorrow? Who knows? I’ll probably decide what I want to do when my feet hit the floor tomorrow morning.

Next week I’m going away for a few days into the high country of Victoria. My timeshare had a few points that were going to expire at the end of June and for the first time – I’m in the position of being able to use them up because I’m free to travel midweek.

Five months into retirement, I’m loving it. My days are filled with quiet contentment and I’m happy.

A petrified forest, a blowhole and a walk down memory lane.

The man in the motel in Portland told me to back-track a little and to go and see the Petrified Forest. After I checked out, I raced down to have a look.

You park your car and walk along the cliffs to see it. On the way, there’s a fork… right to see the Blowhole and left to see the petrified forest. I decided to save the Blowhole for the way back.

I was a bit sad to read the explanation of how these tubes formed. It’s much more romantic to think of trees being slowly buried, rather than being all drippy and watery things making these strange tubes.

It was an eerie sort of place. I was the only one there and it was blustery and cold.

It was definitely the perfect place for a wind farm!

Looking out towards Antarctica again…

I walked around for a fair while, feeling all broody and mysterious, and then I walked back to see the Blowhole. I was so glad I did.

This was taken from the lookout. The waves smash into the cliffs and they rise up. Every now and then I could feel light spray on my face if the wind happened to be blowing in the right direction. The sound was amazing and it felt so wild and free.

I glanced at my phone and saw that it was morning recess time at school, so I texted a few people at work with this photo. The contrast between the crowded staffroom and this isolated place was huge.

I stopped the car to take this photo. The fence was hung with shoes for hundreds of metres.

Then I headed into Port Fairy for lunch. Found a nice little bakery and had a lovely lunch. Then I went out to explore.

I was in two minds about how long I should stay here. I was looking forward to seeing this place. Everyone says how pretty Port Fairy is and I was keen to have a squiz. I was going to book a lace for the night so I could really have a good look around.

But honestly, it was really boring.

Sure, there are plenty of pretty little cottages but most of them are privately owned. The lighthouse walk was closed because they were resurfacing the path, so I drove around for a bit, looking at the picture-postcard cottages, then yawned and headed off to Warrnambool.

I was meeting a blog reader for coffee there!

Loretta has been reading the Frogblog for years and was also a member of Simple Savings, so we knew we’d have a lot in common. We met at a café by the beach and talked our heads off and then went for a walk along the boardwalk.

“Now that we’ve met each other and we know we get along, would you like to come back to our place for dinner?” she asked as I was huffing and puffing along beside her. I’m slowly getting fitter but it’s clear I need to make more of an effort!

So off we drove. On the way, I rang Ryan26 and told him where I was going – safety first! (I could see that Loretta was ok, but what if her husband was an axe murderer??? ) Only joking, but as a single woman travelling alone, I sent Ryan26 texts everywhere I went. He must have loved being in so much contact with his Mum…

I had the loveliest evening with Loretta and her family. When we got there I met the dogs – it was so good to see some waggly tails again. Her husband made dinner for us all and he cooked the most tender steaks I’ve eaten in years. Paired with home-grown potatoes, which, when I got home, made me start harvesting mine. It’s too easy to forget them when they’re under the ground.

When it was time for me to go, she walked me down their driveway to the car parked on the street outside. You forget just how dark it is out in the country. She said that she and a friend take walks in the evening all the time. I’m sure I’d fall down a hole and break my leg in the first 5 minutes if I tried that. It was pitch-black. She’s an intrepid woman.

The next morning I was on the road again, heading back to the Port Campbell area to see the 2 sights I didn’t see on the way up, due to rain. Here’s the Bay of Islands.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The sun was shining over me and in the bay, but the grey clouds were gathering behind me. I stayed savouring the view for quite a long while, then jumped back in the car to go and have a look at the Bay of Martyrs.

By the time I got there, the sun had moved on.

So had the rain. Towards me.

I ran back to the car. I didn’t get too wet.

Then I drove on.

The rest of the day was me basically driving juuuust ahead of the rain. The Great Ocean Road ducked inland for a bit and I suddenly realised that I was getting low on fuel. There was a tiny dot on the map in the middle of nowhere that had this petrol bowser outside a shop. I thought for sure that it wouldn’t be operational but thank goodness it was. Saved my bacon!

They’d just filled the bird feeder out the back before I arrived. We get lorikeets at home but we don’t get rosellas. Pretty, aren’t they?

Lots of twists and turns but I was listening to a shockingly bad audiobook, (Hamish McBeth – don’t even go there) so it helped take my mind off the awfulness.

By the time I reached Apollo Bay I’d pulled ahead of the rainclouds a bit.

WHAT a beautiful place!

I tried to capture the turquoise water but my iPhone camera doesn’t do it justice. There’s a lovely beach so I took the chance to walk along it.

I met the beautiful Heidi. She made me miss my snag, Scout. Heidi was just as tiny as my girl.

By the time I’d finished my walk, the sky was beginning to darken. Time to push on.

The drive along the Great Ocean Road was so weird, because the sea was 2 different colours. I’ve caught it here. Right where I was driving was the line between the rain and the sun. The left is bluer than the right, can you see?

Then I came to Lorne and I as I was driving through, I passed a place that I haven’t seen since I was 18. I did a u-ey and drove back.

There’s a caravan park beside a bridge on the foreshore. It has a creek going through it.

At the end of year 12, back in 1981, we all drove down here and camped for a week in tents by the creek. This is exactly where we were.

Nowadays they’ve got cute little cabins, but back in the day it was just our tents, then caravans further back. We had such a good time!

I took a short walk along the creek bank, being mindful of the rain chasing me. All I could hear was the sound of the water and birdsong. It was beautifully calm and peaceful.

One thing that I found out about when I was doing my all-too-quick research about what to do on this trip was the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. Rather than driving through Geelong and then battling peak hour traffic all the way through Melbourne and then around to the bayside suburb where The Best House in Melbourne is; I could drive to Queenscliff and take a short ferry ride to the Mornington Peninsula, then have a 30 minute drive home.

I was excited to try it. Every ferry ride I’ve had has been fun. What an exciting way to end the holiday!

I was lucky enough to arrive 5 minutes before it was due to leave, so I drove straight on. I went up to the deck to get the full experience of what was sure to be a dashing ride across the bay.

Here’s a photo of the most boring ferry ride ever. Honestly, I think I could’ve swum quicker than the ferry. It slowly chugged chugged chugged its way through the water while I gave up and turned to the book in my bag. It was far more interesting.

And then home I drove. The dogs were ecstatic to see me and so was Ryan26.

“The dogs are SO ANNOYING!” he said. “They’re so clingy. They’ve got to be with you 24/7. I never thought I’d say this, but when I leave home I think I’ll get a cat before I get a dog. At least the cat will come up and want a pat, but then it’ll leave me alone!”

But that’s the best part of being home again. 🙂

Costs of the Trip:

Running total: $2,096

Costs of Day 9 :

$108 accomodation. (No bowl supplied here either.)

$12 lunch

Total for Day 9: $120

Costs of Day 10:

$88 fuel

$5 lunch

$69 ferry

Total for Day 10: $162

Total for the trip: $2,378

That’s not too bad for a getaway like this. (Though as Dave from Strong Money Australia asked me on Twitter, “What are you getting away from?” LOL.)

If you take away the $1,100 painting I bought, it’s only $1,278, which equates to an average of $127.80/day.

These figures are slightly smudged by the fact I used my timeshare for 5 nights’ accomodation. I pay 1K/year for costs for the timeshare, but because it is calculated by points rather than by weeks it’s been used for a fair few holidays by the kids and now me. The points blend into each other year by year.

In fact, I’ve just booked a 2 night break (from what?!?) up in the mountains to use up 280 points that are due to expire on June 30. In previous years they’d just have to expire, but now I’ve go the time, by God I’m going to use them up!!

Penola, a saint and a sinkhole.

I stopped in at Penola for lunch, and while I was walking around I saw this sign. Petticoat Lane. How could I NOT take a look here?

Apparently this street got its name because in the 1890’s so many girls were born here. It has quite a few National Trust houses and one of them was open.

Gammon Cottage’s front gate was ajar so I prowled around the yard. It even has the old well!

Have a read in the next photo of what happened to the builder of this cottage when he went to find gold!

Not everyone who went to the goldfields had a rollicking good time.

This is one of Sharam’s cottages. This couple had so many kids that he had to build another house next door, just to house them all.

This reminded me of Wordworth’s cottage in the Lake District.

The roof was only just above my head and I’m only 5’2″.

And people have the gall to say that I have a large family. Compared to this couple, I was positively restrained! Only 4 boys.

At least the poor woman ended up with one nice room.

This is inside the original cottage which was only divided up into 2 rooms. As you can see, the wall didn’t even go up to the ceiling. Not much privacy going on here…

But look! At some stage she got a pump to get water instead of a well. LUXURY!

The garden out the back is still run by volunteers. There was a woman working there when I walked through and we started chatting. At first she was merely polite but when I showed that I recognised most of the herbs growing here, she warmed up and I walked away with a packet of lovage seeds from the garden. I’ve never grown lovage before. Its like a strong tasting celery.

Growing food means that you can bond with people wherever you go.

Next door was the McAdam slab hut. Anyone who wants to romanticise the lives of the pioneers should have a quick look inside this place.

I would NOT have been happy in this place. Can you imagine the wind whistling through all of those cracks in winter? Plus every neighbourhood Peeping Tom could be glued to your every move and they wouldn’t miss a thing.

Penola also has a museum dedicated to St Mary McKillop. She started off her teaching here and due to her efforts, Penola had the biggest library in South Australia outside of Adelaide. I guess that’s what happens when you raise the literacy level of an entire district by educating every child, not just the rich ones. People need reading materials, once they know how to do it.

I knew very little about Mary McKillop, aside from the facts that she was on the $5 nots and that she’s Australia’s first Catholic saint. I don’t have a religious bone in my body. I decided to invest $5 in an entry fee to the Mary McKillip museum and see what I could find out.

First I went to the church where they have this little ante-room where you can have a chat to her, if you’ve a mind to.

I went to the museum but the only new information I came away with was that she and her fellow nuns were excommunicated for a while. Can’t remember why, but the bishop who did it reconsidered on his deathbed and lifted it.

The $5 fee also allowed entrance to the schoolroom where Mary and her fellow sisters taught school. It was all a bit interesting but for me, once is enough.

I jumped in the car again and made it back to Mt Gambier. I drove around the Blue Lake again, then headed for the Umpherston Sinkhole.

This was originally just a huge hole in the ground but the guy who owned the land back in the 1890’s decided that summer in South Australia was too damned hot. Why not build a pleasure garden down in the big hole where it was so much cooler?

It was about 4PM when I arrived.

You walk along the top of it…

… and then you see this.

Down the steps you go.

View from halfway down the steps.

Imagine being able to punt along in your own lake…

I wandered around here for. little while, then decided I could push on a little bit longer. It was that time of day when it was too early to think about stopping, but too late to think about driving for too much longer.

I saw some cool things as I drove along to Portland for the night.

There were contented cows.

This farm decided to put old bikes at the entrance and up the driveway. I suppose that’s one way of making sure that when they give directions to their place and say, “You can’t miss it,” then they’re correct.

Lots of pine plantations. It worries me to think of bushfires happening here – pine trees go off like rockets.

I got in late-ish to a cheap and cheerful motel. One thing I’ve found about motels for around $100 a night – they don’t include bowls in the crockery they supply. So annoying if you’ve planned on making oats for breakfast and you have a sneaky tin of baked beans to have for a dinner.

But I wasn’t going to let them steal my rights and repress me. If I want a disgustingly cheap dinner in a sad motel room then I’m going to have it, dammit!!

Baked beans in a mug… mmm mmm!

The dinner of champions.

Costs of the Trip:

Running total so far: $1,935

Costs for Day 8:

Entrance fee for Cave tour: $35

$13 lunch

$5 St Mary McKillop musuem

Accomodation: $108

Total for Day 8: $161

Running total: $2,096

Cars and Caves.

Cute car.

When I was a kid we’d go to vintage car rallies ALL THE TIME. Dear God, it was so boring. My Dad was a Riley enthusiast – beautiful British cars. Dad has a 1930 Riley 9, a Drophead and a couple of others. My first car was a Riley Elf, which is basically a mini with a Riley grill on the front.

We’d drive to car parks/wineries/paddocks/whatever. All of the Rileys would line up in a row and the men would crawl all over them, the women would pull up picnic chairs and chat and the kids would be bored. I think this is when my addiction to reading became cemented.

So when Jenna’s parents suggested that we go to a car rally in a town on the peninisula, I inwardly groaned.

But it was actually quite fun.

Red Morgan. LOVE!

I think the difference was that it was a huge mix of different cars and they drove down the main drag of the town in a procession that lasted around an hour.

Black corvette.

Jenna’s parents and I drove to a mid point to meet up, then I hopped in their car and off we went. No, the corvette is not their car!

We found a spot at a table under a verandah and settled in to watch the parade.

Cute cop car.

There was everything from a model T Ford, dune buggies, Morgans, VW combis and beetles, muscle cars, sedans – something for everyone.

Red 3 wheeler.

There was even this 3 wheeled thing!

For a while I stood on the kerb with Andrew and watched the parade, looking for any Rileys, but after a while I got a little bored and thought I’d better go back and sit with Ann-Marie.

We were chatting away when I glanced over at the parade. A car was smoothly driving past with a silhouette that has been ingrained on my psyche since childhood.

“Holy shit, that’s a Riley!” I exclaimed, ever the lady, and I leapt up to join Andrew. I was ridiculously excited.

There were about 5 or 6 of them, one of them a mint-green Riley Elf. I could’ve taken photos but I called Dad instead and described what I was seeing. He was reliving his glory days as I was talking. It was pretty special.

Then we went to a winery for unch. I thought I did pretty well to get to pay for their lunches – I’ve learned from David27’s “in-laws” that you have to be quick to stop them paying for everything. Jenna’s parents are the same.

I sneakily overheard what they were going to order, then made sure I was ahead of Ann-Marie in the queue to order. When I ordered my meal, then went on to list theirs, I heard, “Oh you better not!” behind me. I put my card on the payment thingy, then turned around and said, “OMG, my card just slipped. Oh well…”

I thought I got away with it too, until we went to another winery for a wine tasting and I raved about a shiraz that was priced in the 3 figures and made them taste it. Guess who went home with a bottle of it? I’ve told them that they’re invited to my 60th and we’ll all crack it open then.

It’s so nice to see that my boys are choosing to be with partners with such lovely families. Andrew and Ann-Marie let me stay with them Friday night and they gave up their Sunday to spend time with me. That’s going above and beyond! I’m looking forward to enjoying that bottla wine with them in a few years time.

Pretty house.

Monday. Time to start heading home. I had no fixed plans, other than wanting to see the Ulpherstone Sinkhole in Mt Gambier that I missed on the way up – and I knew I wanted to spend ages in Port Fairy. Everyone says how pretty it is.

I wanted to learn from the mistake of my rushed trip over and take my time on the way back.

As I headed out, I thought I may as well drive up to Murray Bridge and have a look at the river. Why not? I put a generic address into the TomTom, ( 1 Main st / Smith St /First st ; whatever works), and I set off.

Then I started seeing signs to Harndorf.

I’ve been hearing about Hahndorf for 17 years. It’s the first German settlement in Australia and every year the German students from our school would go over there for an excursion and report back at the next General Assembly.

I had to see it for myself. I wanted to follow my nose home and this was an ideal place to start.

Pretty restaurant.

I pulled up in the Main st and parked outside an art gallery. Following my nose, I walked in.

And you wouldn’t believe it – I finally found the perfect painting for my dining room. I’ve only been living here and looking for the last 5 YEARS.

It’s absolutely nothing like I thought I’d buy. The subject is SO not me, it’s smaller than I visualised and the colours are different to what I was looking for, but when I saw it I knew it’d fit really well. So $1,100 lighter I walked out of the shop.

What are the odds? I had no plans to go to Hahndorf and there just happened to be a spot for my car directly outside the gallery. The painting had been put up less than 24 hours before I arrived. Maybe it was meant to be?

It’s being delivered sometime this week. If it looks awful then I only have myself to blame.

Bust and a row of sketches.
Hans Heysen – bust and sketches.

Look who I found in the museum behind the information centre!!!!

Remember when I showed you the picture of Ruth by Nora Heysen? Here’s her Dad – the way famous one of the two of them. The bust is of him and the sketches are his.

I like how when you travel in an area, the stories loop around. It reminds me of when Scott and I were walking on the battlements of Lincoln Castle, listening to the guided tour through our headphones, when I suddenly heard that Henry VIII and Katharine Howard had walked along the very same stones I was walking on. I’ll never forget the unexpected thrill.

Photo of Prince Philip looking interested.

Speaking of royalty, the museum behind the information centre was tiny, yet Prince Philip had visited it. One huge advantage to being a working royal is the amount of travel you could do. Imagine all the countries he must have seen? But imagine all the hours of tedium he must have gone through as well. No wonder he sometimes said the odd non-PC quip.

Exquisite lace collar.

In its day, the building was a school for boys and also a hospital. Look at the lacework, or is it tatting? This was on a maternity dress. I think I’d go blind, squinting, if I tried to do this, though I have some tatting that my great-grandmother did. Amazingly detailed.

Hahndorf was a very pretty little place. A few shops had jolly German music spilling out onto the street as thr tourists walked by. It was still school holidays in South Australia so there were a fair few people about.

Scott suggested that I mark all the school holidays in my calendar at the start of every year so I don’t make the mistake of travelling while the kids are free. I’m going to have to mark every state’s holidays, I think.

Murray River.

Then I drove to Murray Bridge.

Here’s the river Murray. It’s long. It’s wet. I had a look, ate lunch and drove on. I was aiming for Mt Gambier but then, as it was getting to late afternoon, the heavens opened up. I drove into Narracoorte.

There was a huge sign on the highway just before you enter the town, spruiking their caves. I vaguely remembered that Narracoorte was way famous for its caves, so I thought I’d get a cheap motel, stay the night and have a bit of a look around underground the next day.

Giant extinct wombat.

When I reached the caves the next day, I saw another instance of stories looping around. See this massive Diprotadon? Otherwise known as a giant wombat. What does he look a bt like?

My sculpture.

Remember my sculpture that I bought from the arts festival, thinking that it was going to be my only souvenir? They look like they might be cousins.

Beautiful cave.

The Narracoorte limestone caves are a world heritage listed site. They offer a few different tours but the lady in the information centre said to go on the fossils tour, because that is why they made it to the heritage list.

Don’t make the mistake I did and assume that the caves would be chilly. I wore my duckdown coat. It’s actually really warm down there.

Stalactites in a row.

See how the stalactites are hanging in a row here? Our guide said that in the early 1900’s guides used to clamber up there and ‘play’ the stalactites like a xylophone for their customers by hitting them. Sometimes one would break. Can you believe it???

Incidentally, I learned how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Stalagmites MIGHT reach the roof one day, while stalactites have to hold on TIGHT to the roof to stop from falling.

Never say that this blog isn’t informative about the issues that matter!

Hole in the roof.

This fascinating photo is of a hole in the roof that leads up to the ground. This one was man-made to get all of the rubble out so that the tours like the one I was now on could be made. These also occur naturally, which is how the fossils have ended up in the caves.

Animals (and people, probably) would be innocently walking along and then fall down these shafts into the caves below. Some died immediately, but others survived until they died of thirst. They know this because they have complete skeletons of animals who look as if they’ve just curled up and gone to sleep, but with bones that have started to heal from their initial fall.

Drop bear skeleton.

This guy is a literal drop bear. Yes, they used to exist! He was some sort of carnivorous koala-type.

Nasty claw.

See the massive claw on his opposable thumb? Imagine that slicing into your soft underbelly?

Kangaroo bones.

This one was a kangaroo, but with only one toe. I took this photo to show you, but I like this next one a lot better.

Shadow on the cave wall.

That shadow is very Star Wars, isn’t it?

The caves that were initially found were just open caverns full of the rock formations, but then a couple of cavers found their way into some massive caverns further in that were jam-packed full of bones and fossils.

Bones scattered on the cave floor.

These are real bones that have been left as they were.

Behind the cave where we were standing is a massive cave where they’ve removed a small section of bones to study. They plan to leave the rest where they are for as long as possible. Our guide, who is a palaeontologist herself, said that they’ve removed enough bones and other material to keep many universities busy for decades. Maybe by the time they need to take another look, they might have technology that can study what’s in the caves but be able to leave everything untouched.

It’s an interesting thought.

Country road.

And then I was off and away. I pointed the car towards Mt Gambier and off I went. It was just before lunch and the day was still young!

Costs of the trip:

Running total so far: $665

Costs for day 6: $85 for lunch.

Costs forDay 7:

$1,100 painting

$10 lunch (Subway – eat fresh.)

$69 fuel

$91 accommodation

Total for Day 7: $1,270

Running total for trip: $1,935 (Yikes! I hope I still love this painting when it arrives!)

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