Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Frugality (Page 1 of 7)

Frugal Friday – respect the past by not wasting things.

Stalks of rainbow chard in a glass.

Look at this bunch of rainbow chard. Whoever grew these babies knew what she was doing!

We have a saying in this house: If we grows it, we eats it.

The only exception to that rule is kale. Ugh. I grew it one year and it was so horrible I let the cabbage moths swarm all over it. It was a fitting way for it to go. It also meant that it wasn’t wasted. It was a decoy for the moths so that other, more delicious veggies, could grow.

Now that I only have one other person living here, meals tend to go a lot further. Last night we had bolognese with sweet potato gnocchi. I’ve blogged before about the one tomato plant I had that decided it wasn’t going to go down to winter and death without a fight. It kept producing tomatoes until a month ago, when it dropped some seeds and turned up its toes.

I wasn’t going to let those tomatoes go to waste. I threw them into the freezer. There were 200g worth – not enough for a can’s worth but still useable. Last night I grabbed them and threw them into the sauce. I wasn’t going to let that plant’s heroic efforts go to waste!

The extra dollop of tomatoes made the sauce extra large and so there was enough left to make a lasagne for us tonight. My rule is that if we have greens in the garden, a lasagne must have layers of leaves and our pizzas must have lots of greens on them.

I picked enough rainbow chard to make a lasagne and a couple of pizzas for tomorrow night.

Half-assembled lasagne.

This is layered by tomato, pasta, tomato, leaves… then it’ll continue until I run out of sauce. Then I’ll top it with a cheesy bechamel sauce and into the oven it’ll go. I love getting extra greens into my kids. Even when they’re taller than me.

But I don’t like using the stalks in this dish. So what do I do with them?

Chopped up red stalks in front of a grey compost tin.

Sometimes their fate is to end up in the compost tin where, over time, their elements will make more plants in the garden, but not today. I make my own stock pastes. It was the item that pushed me over the edge to buy a thermomix when I went to my first demo. I don’t stick to the exact veggies in the recipe, but use whatever comes to hand. I simply cut these stalks up and popped them in the freezer for when I make my next batch.

It won’t matter if they go a bit freezer-burny. They’re going to be chopped into a mush and cooked when I drag them out, so it’s all good. Just because they’re stalks doesn’t mean that it’s ok to throw them away. They still have fibre and nutrients, whether I use them for humans’ benefits or for the next generation of plants in the garden.

Soap curing.

The soap recipe I usually use has 500g of copha in it. For some reason, I had 125g of it sitting in my fridge. I decided that rather than throw it out, I’d force myself to do some maths (sigh) and make a 1/4 batch.

When making proper soap, you have to stay strictly to the recipe, otherwise it won’t work. For prettiness, I threw some dried calendula and cornflower petals on top. I bought these a while ago and they’ll last me for YEARS. They don’t lose colour when the soap is curing and they add a touch of fanciness. They weren’t exactly cheap, but that doesn’t matter if I actually use them.

Soap cut into bars.

Only 6 bars of soap, but they’ll be ready to use when I finish using up my motel soaps. They’ll tide us over until I can get to Coles and buy some more copha.

And I got to use up the little block. No waste!

They’ll be sitting in the laundry for at least 6 weeks, curing until they’ll be ready to use.

Washcloths piled on a table, with Scout looking on.

My washcloths are finished. I sent one to a teacher friend who I know likes them, but I haven’t heard back from her so I hope I have her address right. Or maybe she just didn’t like this one…

I know there’ll probably be some people who’ll think that doing things like this and being conscious of not wasting things that I make and grow is an ironic waste of my time. I’ve retired early(ish), so why am I mucking around with things like this? For many years when the boys were kids, I HAD to do things like this to make our dollars stretch as far as they possibly could just to survive. But those days are over. So why bother to do them now?

A part of it is looking after the Earth and sustainability – though probably not as big a part as it should be, if I’m honest.

Mostly it’s to do with respecting the time and money I’ve put into things. I feel that buying something isn’t a waste of money if you use it. So that’s why I unpicked the bamboo top and reknitted it into washcloths. There was a lot of money tied up in an item of clothing that was never going to be used. This way – I get to make gifts and people will use them. The money spent on that beautiful bamboo tape won’t be wasted. Plus it kept me entertained for nearly a week as I knitted and listened to audiobooks.

We make sure we use as much as possible of the food that I grow. I’ll never recoup the money that I poured into setting up the food garden in the first place. But growing some of our food was never an economic decision.

The garden offers so many things to my retired life. Obviously, it gives us the freshest organic food that it’s possible to eat. But it also offers the chance to run experiments, to problem solve and to get outside and quietly while away the hours being productive. Poppy loves to steal beans from the vine. As I chop and drop, I kick the ball for Scout and Poppy to chase while Jeffrey snoozes on the couch on the verandah. Sometimes I listen to podcasts or audiobooks as I work, while other times I let the birds and the wind do their thing.

(Incidentally, I’d like to thank Nic for posting a comment this afternoon on my previous post. They mentioned planting potatoes and that reminded me that I had some seed potatoes and some grow bags that were still sitting in the laundry. They’d been there for more weeks than I’d care to own up to. Within 10 minutes the potatoes were planted and I’d used the potatoes and seed bags that I’d spent good money for. Plus I felt good that I’d ticked another job from my list.)

When I was working I used to look at the price of things I wanted to buy and work out how many hours of my life I’d put into teaching to get that much money. It was roughly $50/period. Then I’d think of my absolute worst class. Was this pair of shoes equal to putting up with 8K for 3 periods????

Sometimes it was; sometimes it wasn’t. But it would NEVER be worth it if I bought the shoes and then never wore them. What a waste of my mental anguish putting up with that group of kids for all of those periods!

This is why I try not to waste anything. Time, money and hours of my life have gone into the things I have around me. I respect Past Frogdancer and so I don’t want to ignore what she did to get to where we are.

Does that make sense?

Dad joke of the day:

Joke.

After I posted a couple of days ago, I realised that I forgot to include a Dad joke. Sincere apologies to anyone who felt let down by such unprofessional Personal Finance blogging behaviour.

So here’s an extra one to make up for it:

I saw a magician yesterday that turned audience members into wind turbines.

I immediately became a big fan.   

Frugal Friday: Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers.

Dorky guy dancing

When we moved here I brought with me a big bureau-type thing that used to live in the lounge room and had the tv on top. It has shelves and also drawers which were perfect for storing DVDs and CDs – remember those things?

Dog on a couch.

You can see how it used to look in this old photo. Look behind Jeff on the couch – the couch which now lives on the backyard verandah – and there it is.

Soon after we moved here I found a dining table and chairs that were on Gumtree. When I went to look at them, the people were also selling the strangest-looking bureau I’ve seen. It was all business on the top but it has the weirdest legs. I wasn’t sure if I liked it but I knew I’d probably regret walking away from it so I bought it.

Cabinet with long spindly legs

It’s in my lounge room with the tv on top of it. I’m still not sure if I like it but I’m used to it and in an odd way I’m fond of my strange-looking cabinet. If it ever came alive like in nightmares, those spider-like legs would be impossible to escape.

So we moved the original bureau to the Man Cave, where it sits covered by family photos and, other than being dusted every now and then, hasn’t been touched by human hands since.

It has the family DVDs, the boys’ old games, computer cables and my CDs. We only have one device capable of playing CDs and I’ve packed it away somewhere. In the last few years, I’ve veered away from listening to music and am more a podcast girl. However, Ryan26 has an excellent Spotify account and he plays music a lot so I still get to hear some groovy tunes. If I want to hear something specific, Youtube is handy.

Boxes and tubs piled on top of each other.

I’m a lazy soul at heart, which is one of the reasons why retiring early appealed to me so much. A couple of months ago I spent a couple of days sorting through tubs of my fabric stash and putting them into colours. I put them, all sorted, into the tubs and piled them into the wardrobe of the guest/sewing room.

There! All together! All sorted! Nothing can stop me now!

Tangle of fabric strings

Except… ugh.

Who wants to go and lift all those tubs out if you want a colour from the bottom of the pile? Or worse – if you want to PUT AWAY a fabric that belongs in the bottom tub? Look at this pile of selvedges and strings. I’d have to lift out at least 3 tubs to put these away.

It’s such a hassle.

I didn’t retire just so my life can become so difficult.

I started looking at chests of drawers on the LKEA website, but we were in lockdown … then I remembered the old bureau. I mentioned to Ryan26 that I was thinking about taking it over for my fabric. He had a look in there and started dragging out all my old CDs.

“How about I make a Spotify list for you?” he asked. This is how ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ was born.

We had the best afternoon! He put all of my CDs on there – except Michelle Shock’s album ‘Short, Sharp Shocked’, which apparently isn’t on Spotify. Pity, because that whole album is a banger.

After a while, he started playing random tracks and I’d try and guess the title and artist before they started singing. It’s amazing how many songs I remember, though Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ had me stumped.

Then he called me in, sat me down and said, “What are the other songs you want to put here?” Now that was a gloriously fun rabbit hole to go down. I think it was 3 hours and over 3,100 songs later that we decided it was time to stop and make dinner.

That was two days ago. One of today’s tasks is to swap over the fabric for the junk in that bureau. I’m happy for never-used boys’stuff to sit in the tubs, but this Frugal Friday win is to utilise the space we have in a far more user-friendly way, without racing out to buy more furniture. I’m far more likely to use the fabric I have if I can access it easily. Lazy at heart, remember?

The monetary loss is, of course, once Ryan26 started playing ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’, I realised that I wanted to be able to hear it whenever I wanted. It’s got some damned fine… well… bangers on it.

So we’ve splitting a Spotify account between us. $7/month each is a small price to pay for hearing songs like this again:

I haven’t heard this song for I don’t know how long. Just imagine how many other excellent songs are lurking on ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ waiting for me to rediscover them?

(But apologies for all of the grammatical errors on this vid. Ugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have retired – the world clearly needs English teachers to help the Youtubers.)

Speaking of English teaching – one of the things I miss about teaching is putting up Dad jokes on the board at the start of each lesson. So guess what? At the bottom of each post from now on, I’ll put a Dad joke.

I know it’s not in the Financial Independence vein, but hey. Don’t you try and repress me! My blog – my rules. Besides, I have a huge list of jokes saved. It isn’t frugal to let them moulder and go to waste.

Today’s Dad joke:

I dig.
You dig.
He digs.
She digs.
We dig.
They dig.

It’s not the most imaginative poem. But it’s quite deep.  

Frugal Friday: Anyone for pizza?

Even without a thermomix, pizza dough is so easy and cheap to make. When the kids were really little, I used to cop out and use wraps as bases, but honestly… that’s a travesty. A good pizza needs a good base, so I love the pizza bases I make. Have a look at the ingredients – could it be cheaper?

2 tsps dry Yeast

220g lukewarm water

30g olive oil

1 tsp sugar (At the moment I’m using the sugar sachets I liberated from the motels I stayed in on my South Australian trip – SO EVEN CHEAPER!!!!!) heh heh…

420g bakers flour. (Though plain will do as well.)

1 tsp salt.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put garlic, chilli and some fresh rosemary in there as well. (I freeze whole peeled garlic cloves and whole chillis and grow rosemary in wicking boxes – SO NO WASTE!!! EVEN CHEAPER!!!!!!!) Ok, I’ll stop now.

How thrifty is this? It costs literally mere cents to make this dough – enough for 4 or 5 pizzas, depending on how large you like them.

I keep the yeast in the freezer in the blue insulated thermos-y thing. It’s the yeast I bought a few days before our very first lockdown back in March 2020. Still going strong.

Oh! Did you notice the olive oil container? I bought that in San Gimignano in Italy on my 2015 trip. Another frugal tip – buy souvenirs that you’ll USE, not ones you merely look at. Nearly every day when I reach for the olive oil, I think of that trip.

Here’s the dough, just before I wrap it up in a silicon mat and put it near a heating vent. (It’s the middle of winter here in Melbourne.)

After an unfortunate incident when Poppy was a puppy, many years ago, we’ve learned that we have to keep dough that we’re proving up high.

There is a very strict rule in this house, brought in when the kids were little, that EVERY pizza must have green on it. No matter what else is happening in the garden, I always have leaves growing and so they must go on.

Edited to add – in the background is a ceramic tea caddy that I bought in Beijing when my friends Helen, Rick and I went to North Korea. Another useful souvenir!

Ryan26 is the pizza maker in this household. The toppings vary, depending on what’s in the fridge and the garden. This was last night’s effort.

Of course, I forgot to take a photo when he pulled them from the oven. I was starving. But we fed 2 adults an incredibly cheap, yet incredibly delicious dinner for 2 or 3 dollars at most.

And here’s the answer to Toni’s question in the last post.

I have a side-by-side fridge and freezer in the kitchen and the lowest basket is devoted to ice-cube sized portions of home-made pesto – which always goes on our pizzas – and balls of frozen pizza dough.

Ryan26 just divides up the dough after it’s risen and put’s individual-sized balls into freezer bags. They’re so handy if someone, such as an adult son who lives away from home, drops in and is starving. He can whip up a meal very quickly.

I also like it when it gets to around 5PM and I’m not in the zone for cooking. I just throw 2 frozen pizza dough balls onto the kitchen counter and by the time Ryan26 is ready to start cooking, the dough is ready to roll.

Some people recommend freezing them in flat discs so they’ll defrost quicker, but I don’t like the sound of that. How many times have you gone to the freezer to get a sheet of puff pastry, only to find that it’s broken? It’s a PIA. I’d rather it take a little more time to defrost and then you can roll it to to the size that you want.

Thanks, Toni, for asking the question. I got to have the night off from cooking last night. Love pizza nights!

Frugality and FI is the gift that keeps on giving.

Pea soup in a bowl.
Not my soup – mine’s still cooking!

There’s a rumour that’s been circulating for a while now that Frogdancer Jones – that’s me – is frugal. Or maybe a tightarse… take your pick. I was told about a conversation that happened in the staff room at work where people were describing a continuum of spending. Apparently, I was on the thriftiest end, while the others spaced themselves along the rest of the line up to the biggest spender.

But hey, I like being frugal. I like the challenges of making material things last longer, enabling my money to go a little further and only shelling out for things I HAVE to have and things I WANT to have. Middle of the road ‘meh’ stuff doesn’t cut it in this household.

Being frugal means that I can cut down unnecessary spending, freeing up my cash for fun things. You know, things we’ve all wanted to buy… a mini dachshund puppy, a trip to North Korea, 6 more apple trees… Things that are by far more important to me than designer handbags and the like.

It’s fun for me to save dried peas from the garden and turn them into soup, using my slow cooker that I’ve had for over 20 years. It makes me smile to look down at my slippered feet and see the ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ patches. My ‘Earn back my council rates’ challenge costs me nothing, but because of it I’ve read 86 books so far this year for free. If you think getting lost in a good book doesn’t add to your quality of life, then I have news for you!

I’m a big fan of finding experiences and activities that entertain and inspire you without having to necessarily cost a whole lot. This automatically leaves money that you can put towards something else.

Being frugal doesn’t mean that you never lash out on expensive items.

Which is why I’m really excited about my latest purchase.

Big box with Poppy ( a cavalier) sniffing it.

This is a gift for David27 and Izzy. It’s an engagement + wedding gift because it’d be an extraordinarily generous engagement gift and I’m not that rich! It was delivered here in the middle of lockdown #5 so it’ll be a while until I can drive over there with it to give it to them.

It’s a product that I hold very dear to my heart. I have 2 of them and I can’t possibly do without them. Just this morning I used one to make bread dough, pizza dough and gratin sauce for cauliflower cheese for lunch. We now have 8 bread rolls and 4 balls of pizza dough in the freezer for literally mere cents. And absolutely no artificial ingredients. Izzy and David27 both have health issues and she’s also lactose intolerant, so this will be perfect for them to eat cleanly and with fresh ingredients, while being able to produce gourmet meals. They’re both foodies.

I’m so excited to be able to provide this for them.

Just to make it fair for the rest of the boys – because 2 have already bought their own thermomixes, while Evan24’s housemate owns one – I’ve decided to give a little less towards the wedding. I’ve always thought that I’d give 5K per boy per FIRST wedding – (any subsequent weddings and they’re on their own!!) – so I’ll give 4K towards this one.

Come to think of it, I also gave them the diamond for Izzy’s engagement ring. There are definite advantages to being the first cab off the rank when weddings come along! This is a product of the practical thinking that frugality brings. I had a very good quality diamond in a ring sitting in the jewellery box, back from when I was in my twenties. I’m never going to wear it again. It makes no sense for it to sit there for decades when Izzy could have it put into a setting she loves and then get to enjoy looking at it every day.

By doing this, I release something that was useless to me and David27 gets to put the money that he would’ve spent on a diamond towards the wedding. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Being frugal and FI is almost like a superpower. When I think back to the days when the boys were small, when I could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads, I feel so very lucky to be able to buy a gift like this now. Back then, I would never have believed it would ever be possible.

All I have to do now is wait for this current lockdown to be over. The box can sit in the hallway, just like the boxes of my customers used to do when I sold thermomixes as a second job. Once we’re free to drive further than 5 km from our homes, I’ll look forward to driving over to Izzy’s parents’ place to deliver it, just as I used to do back in the day for my customers. It’ll be fun.

But if you know them in real life.. sssshhhh!

Don’t spoil the surprise!

Frugal Friday: Support the Arts and save some uggs all at the same time.

I’ve noticed that it’s been nippier in the mornings lately. It’s not just that we’re in the middle of winter, though that’s a factor – it’s also that BOTH my ugg boots have a hole right where my big toes are. It’s surprising how much colder you feel when a little breeze is whipping across your toes first thing in the morning.

The easiest thing to do would be to chuck these out and buy another pair, but I didn’t want to do this. My son, Ryan26, bought these for me 2 Christmases ago for over $100. That’s a lot of money for a student. And apart from the toe holes, the rest of the boots were in tiptop condition.

Then came an email from one of my favourite podcasts, ‘Welcome to Nightvale.’

This poddie has been going for 9 years and it has quite a bit of merch. Including cloth patches…

Hmmmm…

I could send away for 2 patches for $24, or spend $100+ on a new pair of uggs. But gee – do I have the time required to actually sew the patches on?

Well yes. Yes I do. I’m retired, after all.

I LOVE THEM!

When the patches arrived I put on a podcast that I wanted to listen to, brought a cup of lime verbena tea from the garden over to the couch and started sewing. It was a pleasant way to spend some time and I knocked over both the repair job and a couple of podcast eps. Now that’s being productive!

My uggs are now snug again and I have a totally individual pair. I’ve respected my son’s gift and now they’re even more special to me than before. Plus I’ve stopped 2 boots from disappearing into landfill.

I’ve also supported a podcast that has given me YEARS of entertainment and I’ve saved a chunk of cash as well.

Who says that frugality has to be drudgery?

All good things must come to an end…

'No Spend Days' chart with FOUR days' spending last week.
My winning streak has finished. 🙁

I’ve written about the nitty gritties of the ‘No Spend Days’ chart HERE, way back in 2018, then HERE in the middle of 2020. That last one was funny because I was congratulating myself on an 18-week streak of silver weeks. I never dreamed I’d get to 61!

For the TL;DR version: I have a chart set up from Saturdays to Fridays. Every day I don’t spend money I get to colour in a square. This worked ok at first, but it lacked an incentive. When I added the EXTRA column – the one where, if I spent money on 3 or less days per week I get to colour in a silver square, that’s when my spending ratched up a level. The chart makes me concentrate on when I pull out my credit card. It makes my spending intentional. I still spend money, but never mindlessly.

I wanted to keep my winning streak of low spend weeks going for as long as I could. The first lockdown kicked off the streak of consecutive low-spend weeks, but last week was when it all came to an end. After 61 straight weeks of keeping my spending to 3 days per week or below… along comes a 4 day week.

So what happened last week?

Cavalier asleep on a couch with a dachshund behind him.
Jeffrey (front) and Scout.

It all started when Ryan26 went to Aldi because we’d run out of tinned tuna. He likes to have that for lunch. We’d run out of onions and a few other bits and bobs, so I told him to take my credit card and stock up on a few things. That was Sunday.

I was having lunch with Simone, the old school friend that I caught up with after 40 years when I was on my holiday in South Australia, and another school friend who I’ve stayed in touch with over the years. We were meeting on Thursday, so that was going to be a definite ‘spend’ day.

We’ve just come out of a 2 week lockdown and I was overdue for a visit to the hairdresser. I decided to go on Wednesday. This meant that Friday had to be a ‘no spend’ day. What could go wrong?

Jeff’s eye, that’s what.

Cavaliers have such big, beautiful eyes. Sometimes they get a bit mucky but they clear up in a day or so. This eye slowly got worse. Ryan26 noticed something was a bit wrong with it late Wednesday … Thursday it looked as if it might be getting better but on Friday morning we woke, I looked at it and rang the vet.

My 61 week silver streak had finally run its course. Anyway, I think that 61 straight weeks was pretty good. Jeffrey’s eye is improving and really, that’s the important thing. Poor little man. Having an ulcer on your eye is never a good thing. We caught it early.

But maybe it was always fated to end on this day? A couple of days before, a friend from work rang me and said, “It’s correction day on Friday AND it’s my birthday. I’m going to get all my marking done before Friday – damned if I’m going to work on my birthday! – so do you want to go out for lunch?”

I hesitated. I knew this would be the end of my silver streak, but I knew it had to finish someday. However…

“Will it be just us or will there be other people?”

I knew that if there was going to be a group of us, then that was it. No more winning streak. But if it was just us… then I could serve lunch here instead and my silver week would be saved!

“No, just you and me,” she said.

I explained about the winning streak and she laughed and agreed to come to my place for lunch instead. I knew she’d understand. She’s one of the people at work who talk finances with each other. She’s on a similar path to me, on a quest to pay off her house and retire early(ish).

Apparently, at work they now call it “doing a Frogdancer.”

The chart is one of the ways to make the hard slog in the middle of the FI/RE journey fun. Every day you get to colour in the chart is a little achievement; something to mark the fact that you’re putting in the effort along the way. People need little wins when working towards financial independence and this was a technique that works brilliantly for me.

Yes, I’ve reached FIRE. So why do I still do this?

This chart was one of the things that helped me to get there. So why on earth would I stop using it? It’s proved its worth. It’s also handy when you want to check things like when the dogs’ vaccinations are due, how many weeks since you’ve had a haircut, and it’s invaluable when filling in my ‘Annual Spend’ chart each month.

In the middle of the second lockdown last year, I asked myself the question – “How long can you keep this silver week streak going?”

I’ve discovered the answer.

After 6 months, I’m still learning about retirement.

Granny squares with circular quilting.
One of the placemats.

You know, it always makes me smile when I see a blogger tweet something like, “Sorry everyone, I haven’t released my usual Wednesday blog post. Never fear, I’ll put a post out on Thursday instead. Apologies!!!”

Honestly… no one cares! It’s been a month since I posted here and no one’s sent out a search party. After my little holiday up in the high country I wasn’t feeling the urge to write here, so I didn’t. I threw myself into other things, mainly quilting (2.5 finished plus a couple of placemats), reading, (only $400 or so to go on the ‘Earning my rates back’ challenge) and getting the veggie garden ready to slumber over the winter.

And that’s where I learned something new about transitioning to retired life.

Ian’s quilt. Blogged HERE.

While I was happily down in the quilting rabbit hole, my veggie garden was sitting there, untended and unloved. The shrivelled up beans were hanging, brown and ugly, on their vines, the huge silver beet plant had gone to seed and the basil was running amok. Grass had come under the fence from the neighbour’s place and is under the apple trees, so that needs getting rid of.

It was time to get out there and put it all to rights.

Cathy’s quilt. Blogged HERE.

Monday was a public holiday here in Victoria and the day was dry and slightly overcast. Perfect for a person like me with vampire-like skin that burns at the merest hint of sunlight! I grabbed my secateurs, the garbage bags filled with the autumn leaves that I brought back from my little holiday in the high country – souvenirs don’t have to cost anything – and out I went.

I’m a permaculture gardener, which means that very little gets taken out from the garden in our green waste bins. I ‘chop and drop’, which means that I use the secateurs to cut all of the dead tomato plants, bean stalks or whatever into little, mulch-sized pieces and I leave them on the garden beds. Over time, this breaks down and gives you lovely, lush soil. Very frugal – wastes nothing – and very eco-friendly.

‘Chop and Drop’ is great for the soil, but it takes a lot more time than simply ripping things out and stuffing them in garbage bags.

Once I cleared a section of the wicking beds, I put a thick layer of the souvenir autumn leaves down, then a layer of mushroom compost and then some animal manure. This year it’s cow manure as that was the cheapest one when I went to Bunnings. Over the top goes a layer of pea straw.

Free peas. Just leave them to dry on the plant and you have the makings of pea soup – or plant for more free peas next year!

I love using pea straw for veggies. Usually, you get a free crop of peas. Last year I saved the dried peas and a few days ago I made a hearty pea soup with a ham hock. Bloody beautiful!

All of these layers of leaves, compost and straw are wonderful for the soil but are time-consuming and after a while, rough on the back. After a few hours out there, my back was starting to hurt. But I kept eyeing off the garden beds. ‘Push on! There’s a couple of easy sections over there. There’s still daylight!’

This is how I’ve always worked in the garden. Once you start a job, you push through until it’s finished. Of course, up until now, I’ve only had weekends and school holidays to Get Things Done.

2 dogs sleeping with a ball between them.
Poppy and Scout while I quilt, making sure they keep tabs on the best toy ever.

I worked in the garden from around 10 until just before 6. I did heaps of work – 6/12 sections of wicking beds are now done and dusted for winter. But when I came in, my lower back was in pain. There was a lot of bending and lifting going on out there. Luckily, I have a live-in remedial masseuse. Ryan26 is an RM and myotherapist. I hobbled inside and asked for a treatment.

I lay on the massage table while he treated me, getting lots of information about, “It’s your glutes, Mum. When they’ve had enough, they constrict and it pulls on the muscles of your lower back which makes your back ache,” or something like that. Remedial massage hurts, so I was trying to be in my happy place.

Then he said, “You have to listen to your body. Why didn’t you stop when your back started hurting?”

“Ummm,” I said intelligently. “I wanted to finish the job.”

“Aren’t you retired?” he said. “You know you can always pick it up again tomorrow.”

Oops. While I was out there I fell into the usual way of doing things – get it done NOW because time is short and you’ll be back at work tomorrow!!!

It honestly didn’t occur to me that I could feel the twinges in my back, walk to the shed and put the secateurs and bags of leaves, compost and pea straw away and go inside and read a book. I just kept pushing through because that’s what I’ve always done in the past.

Interesting. Even after 6 months of retirement, it still didn’t dawn on me that now – for the first time in my adult life – I have the time and space to pace myself. To tackle tasks in a more leisurely fashion, rather than race at them and attack like a bull at a gate. In the big scheme of things, does it matter if the garden beds take 2 weeks to be bedded down for winter, rather than 2 days?

It’s nice being out in the garden. Jeffrey curls up on the couch under the verandah and sleeps, positioned where he can open an eye every now and then to check where I am. Scout and Poppy bring the ball for me to throw and when they get tired of that, Poppy curls up next to Jeff and Scout disappears inside. I hear the birds, the people singing in the church next door if it’s Sunday and kids playing. Sometimes I work in silence, other times I have podcasts or an audiobook playing.

It’s lovely. Why wouldn’t I want to savour those moments over lots of sunny days, instead of racing through them? Isn’t this part of what gaining freedom over my time actually means?

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!

Where we arrive at the extroverted part of the holiday.

I’ve had 4 or 5 people contact me to ask whether I’d died in a fiery car crash on my holiday – some asked it more tactfully than others! – so I thought I’d better get back into the zone to write. I’ve been busy finishing off a quilt, reading, having a rapturous reunion with the dogs (and with the boys, of course!)

LOOK at this beautiful painting. After I finished looking at the Antarctica exhibition at the Adelaide Art Gallery I walked into the next room, just in time to join an hour-long tour, looking at 10 Australian works of art. Exactly the amount of time I needed to kill before I walked back to the restaurant to meet up with the FIRE bloggers for lunch.

This painting wasn’t one of the 10, but it was hanging on the wall near the UGLIEST cabinet I’ve ever seen – which was one of the 10. So while the tour guide was waxing lyrically about the ugly 1930’s cabinet, I was gazing at this. If it was in a different art gallery – one where you could actually buy the paintings – I’d buy it in a shot. I’ve been looking for a painting to hang near my dining table for the last 5 years. And here it was – unattainable. Still, I thought, at least now I know the colours I’m looking for. (More on this later…)

Nolan’s ‘Narcissus.’

This next one made me chuckle. It was in the Surrealism room and is Sidney Nolan’s take on the greek legend of Narcissus – the boy who was so good looking that he fell in love with his own reflection and starved to death beside a pool of water, because he couldn’t bear to leave the beautiful face he saw in the water.

This was the most beautiful sculpture. It’s called ‘Kathleen’ and was made by Marjorie Fletcher in the 1930’s. There’s all this talk about women’s art not being appreciated in their lifetimes, but sometimes not even THEY appreciated it. She worked in sculpture for around 10 years, then got married and had a family and shoved all of her artwork into a cupboard under the stairs. Over time, her work was given away, left out in the hard rubbish and generally spread far and wide. This one was found by her son, who’s made it his life’s work to track down his mother’s art and bring her the recognition she should have received. I loved this figure.

Nora Heysen’s ‘Ruth.’

Nora Heysen had a way famous artist father – Hans Heysen – but in the end she won the Archibald prize while he never did. I can’t remember the woman’s name in this picture, but she used to sit for Nora quite a lot and they became good friends. One day Nora asked her if she would let Nora paint her in the nude. The woman got up, left and never came back.

I saw this fine fellow on the walk back towards lunch. There’s something distinctive about a well-defined chin, don’t you think?

A couple of weeks before, I’d let Michelle from Frugality and Freedom know that I was coming to Adelaide. She’s exploring the boundaries of what FIRE really means, by freelancing and travelling the world, basically living life on her own terms. Ahhh, the freedom! Covid clipped her wings, so she’s biding her time in her hometown of Adelaide until things open up again.

She put the word out and three more bloggers joined us for lunch.

Captain FI is a pilot who’s normally in Sydney but he happened to be in Adelaide visiting family, so we got to meet him. He’s MUCH more numbers-based than I am, though I suppose you have to have that sort of brain to understand what all the dials and gadgets on the aircrafts’ dashboards are all about. You definitely wouldn’t want someone like me behind the controls of a jet.

He’s just done a post on payday lenders and I really liked this paragraph – “This is why the grassroots Financial Independence movement is so important, and can be so powerful. If we can spread the message of financial health and wellbeing, then gradually these unethical pay-day-lending companies will go out of business.”

The other two bloggers were Sarah and Laura from Keepin’ it Frugal and the booming food blog Wandercooks – I’ve linked to the recipe that we went shopping for after lunch to buy the essential ingredient that I’d never heard of – nduja.

Blog-meets are always a success. You all have things in common, otherwise we wouldn’t be reading each others’ blogs, and so the conversation flows right from the start, with very little of the whole awkward “getting to know you” stuff. After 3 days on my own, otherwise known as indulging my introvert side, I was ready for a few days of talking and laughing with other humans.

After lunch I drove to Jenna’s parents’ place. She and Evan24 have been going out for 3 years now and I was going to stay at her folks’ place that night, after going out to dinner with Simone, an old school friend that I haven’t seen for FORTY YEARS.

omg.

I can’t be that old, surely?

It was either going to be a great night – we were really close back in the day – or incredibly uncomfortable with lots of pauses and dull questions about our children and how they were going, just to fill in the space of the silence. You know the sort of thing.

Fortunately, it was great! We actually walked past each other on the street. To be fair, 40 years is a long time. But once we turned around at the same time and started laughing, the evening just flew.

She lives in Melbourne, like me, after having spent most of the intervening years living in Japan, South Korea and the US. She just happened to be in Adelaide for work and so we caught up there. It’s lovely when you meet up with someone you haven’t seen for ages and it’s almost as if no time has gone by.

The next day I drove to Victor Harbor to meet up with yet another person I’ve never met in real life. Extrovert Frogdancer was 2 days into a 3-day people-fest. This time I was meeting with Lara and her husband. We both belong to a couple of investment groups on FaceBook.

Again, I didn’t know who I was looking for, as she doesn’t have her real photo online, but I recognised her dog, so all was well. We had a really pleasant lunch at a café on the foreshore and then after lunch we walked back to my car so I could show them the sculpture I bought. I was in a bit of a tizz because my car was refusing to lock itself. The battery in the cha-ching thing that opens the door was dead and my car door handles don’t have keyholes.

Lara suggested calling around to see if any local locksmiths were still open on a Saturday afternoon. Talk about good old fashioned country service! The locksmith I talked to suggested I drive to Repco and get a battery there. Took 5 minutes for them to replace the battery for only $7 – and a spare battery. The place at home that I’ve been going to charges $10 per battery.

I’ve never enjoyed locking and unlocking my car more.

A whopping big tree.

After I sorted out the battery problem – thanks Lara! – I headed to the little beach outside of town to look around. On the way I saw a quilting shop so I popped in and bought some fabric for a quilt I’m going to make for another old school friend. Simone and Cathy and I were all close, back in the day.

It was a cool, quiet afternoon. I walked along this little jetty and watched people fishing. The waves were lapping against the rocks…

… which were clearly popular with the local seagull population.

Then, after wandering around there for a while, I jumped in the car and followed my nose in a vaguely southerly direction.

Anywhere that looked interesting, I’d stop the car and have a look.

Then I decided that I’d go down to the bottom of the peninsula to Cape Jervis, which is where you catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. I wasn’t going to go to the island this time around, but hey! I’ve got all the time in the world now. I’ll come back here sometime.

So I drove through winding roads wth cows, sheep and, once, a herd of goats dotted around the countryside. The area had had a bit of rain so, unusually for Australia, the paddocks were green and lush. I was listening to a really good audiobook ($20 off my challenge!) and all was right with the world.

I got to Cape Jervis just as the sun was going down. There was only one other car at the lookout. The man behind the wheel was looking at the view without getting out of his car, but Frogdancer Jones is made of sterner stuff.

Besides, I wanted to get a shot of these two.

I stayed here for quite a while. It was beautiful. So still and clear.

Then I jumped in the car and drove back to the timeshare in Normanville. Tomorrow I was off to a vintage car rally with Jenna’s parents!

Costs of the trip:

Day 1 cost: $272

Day 2 cost: $67 fuel.

(That’s it. I ate my food I brought from home and basically just drove all day to get to the timeshare.)

Day 3 cost: $70 sculpture. (I’m so happy I bought him. I absolutely love him.)

$9 lunch. (A bagel from the local bakery.)

$33 food for dinners and breakfast in my room.

Total for Day 3 – $112

Day 4 cost- $35 gifts. (For Michelle and for Jenna’s parents.)

$31 parking. (Ouch. Missed the earlybird parking at the market by 15 minutes.)

$12 lunch (Frugal FIRE bloggers lunch.)

$50 dinner (Non-FIRE friend dinner.) 🙂

Total for Day 4 – $128.

Day 5 cost – $7 car lock batteries.

$79 quilting fabric for Cathy.

Total for Day 5 – $86

Running total for the trip- $665

London Bridge and other sights.

London Bridge.
London Bridge.

At the moment I’m pointing the car towards home and I’m in Naracoorte, but this morning I woke to rain hammering down outside. A perfect morning to do a little ‘catching up’ with you all.

I still have some shots to show you of the first day, when I was in Port Campbell looking at the sights on the coast. When I put up this photo, I wondered if I could find a youtube thingy to show you how London Bridge used to look when it was attached to the mainland. I hit the jackpot.

Imagine being the tourists stuck on the wrong end of London Bridge! I’ll bet they were glad they weren’t walking across 5 minutes later…

It would’ve been a very scary dive down to the sea.

Rock formation and pool below.
View of ‘The Arch’ from above.

The Arch is much smaller.

As I said in the post before this one, the tourist board here has made these spectacular features very accessible to view. I was on the boardwalk looking down at The Arch on my way down to the viewing platform to see it properly. As I leaned over the edge, the wind blew up from this little bowl of seawater and the smell…!

It was beautiful. So salty and fresh. I walked down behind a family with 3 little girls all chattering away to see this:

Picture-postcard view of The arch.
The Arch from the viewing platform.

You can see the bowl of seawater below it. I’ll never forget the fresh, salty tang of that lungful of air.

Even though it was school holidays, there weren’t that many people there. When I was doing my research the day before, lots of articles and posts were warning people to get to the 12 Apostles etc at sunrise or sunset, when all of the big tourist buses weren’t there. But here was I, in the middle of the afternoon, wandering around without too many other people around. I was never alone – which for a single woman travelling alone would have probably creeped me out anyway! – but there was plenty of space for everyone.

It couldn’t have been just the weather – covid is still definitely having an effect.

Waves hitting the beach.
The sea.

As I was walking back to the car park, I tried taking a shot of the waves below, hoping I’d get an accurate picture of the colours. I’m just using my iPhone.

Isn’t it lovely?

The grotto from above.
The Grotto.

And now we come to a place I’d never heard of before I came here – but I LOVED it.

The Grotto.

It was a fair walk from the car park but it was all pretty level until the steps descending steeply to the actual grotto. The chatty family with the 3 little grls was with me again and I overtook them on the path as we walked to the top viewing platform.

Then I went down the steps to The Grotto.

The grotto
The Grotto.

The chatty family and I shared this space for about 10 minutes – 10 LONG minutes. I just wanted them to take their pictures and go away, because I knew that this space would be so serene and peaceful if I could stand there in silence. Eventually the family left and I could let it all soak in.

It’s incredibly beautiful. The rocks lined up at the bottom of the photo are at the top of the fence which protects the pool from yahoos who want to wade in it.

To the left is a little cave, but to the right is the arch looking out towards the horizon. It was quiet, with only the sound of the waves washing in and the cry of an occasional seagull. The tide was coming in.

Even on such a dull day, the light was constantly changing.

More grotto.
Still more grotto.
The Grotto and me.

I stayed there for quite a while, then it started raining, so I decided that I’d seen enough.

There were another 2 sights to see, but I decided to leave them for the way home. I’m planning to drive along the Great Ocean Road all the way to the ferry at Queenscliff.

I hadn’t bothered to have lunch so I was starving. I was parked outside the pizza shop in Port Cambell, waiting for it to open when my phone rang with an unfamiliar number.

**** Here’s the story that I was never going to tell anyone, but it’s too funny not to.

Yesterday, when I was researching the trip, a blog had mentioned a particular motel in Port Campbell as being quite good. I pulled up one of those booking sites, booked a night’s stay in Port Campbell, but when I drove down and went to check in at the good motel, there was no one at Reception and no key had been left for me.

A little miffed , I rang the phone number on the door and the woman who answered told me to take room 7 and to flick my booking confirmation across to her when I had a chance.

I dumped my bags in the room, emailed her and then took off.

The phone call was from her. “Frogdancer, I’ve looked at your booking and you’re actually meant to be staying at a different motel.”

I felt like such an idiot. Thank God I hadn’t used anything in the room. So I left the pizza place, grabbed all my bags and loaded up the car again and drove to the other place. I told the girl in Reception about it and we had a good laugh at my expense.

WHAT a fool.

I went back to the pizza place and bought what might be possibly the worst and most expensive pizza I’ve ever eaten.

Served me right.

Day 1 cost of the trip:

*Food I bought from Aldi for meals and snacks: $60

*Fuel $55

*Accomodation at the second motel: $138

*Unenjoyable pizza – $20

Running total: $273

Can you believe that I saw all of these amazing things for NOTHING? I really want to keep the costs down on this trip – I have Antarctica to pay for, after all.

EXTRA THING – Remember when I wrote an imaginary Money magazine article a little while ago? The Joyful Frugalista sent it to the actual magazine and they published ‘How I retired early as a single mother with four kids‘ a couple of days ago.

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