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[Friday, 2015-04-17, 20:43]
Happy Easter ... already??? Oh that was two weeks ago.


Something crazy has happened, and the last 10 weeks have just disappeared. It's now April, the Easter long weekend has been and gone. We stayed home for this one, since going away at Easter time is always chaotic and also we only just recently spent 10 days in Victoria to see family.

For the long weekend I did take the opportunity to set up the tent in the back garden - something I did with Majandra last year and of course now Aliana is old enough so they can both join in. It's always exciting for the girls to come out of the tent and find chocolate eggs waiting for them!

This year on Easter Friday I'd invited Micheal and Helena around with their two children Caitlin and Aidan. I thought it might be a nice idea for them to come round and set up camp with us, let the children play and spend some time chatting. As it turned out that's exactly what happened - they came in the afternoon, the children played, we set up tents, had dinner, then the children & Helena went to bed. Briony, Micheal and I sat by a small fire enjoying the warmth. Briony went to bed shortly after, with Micheal and I staying up for more chatting and red wine. The following morning after breakfast we went for a walk through our "pine forest" to collect pine cones.

I mentioned above the trip to Victoria. We left after work on a Thursday, which worked really well driving at night and staying in Kaniva then finishing the trip the following day. The trip was good, with hardly any grizzling from the girls. First destination was Melbourne to see Oowan and Fiona and their new house. Whilst in Melbourne we visited the Melbourne Star (not allowed to call it a ferris wheel), the Aquarium and a bit of walking around town. After Melbourne we went to see Kerrie and Rob at Clunes. We had a nice time there, and the girls loved seeing the horses, sheep, geese and chickens. We also taught Aliana all about names, with the lesson being about Kerrie's dog's name (which is Amy). The girl enjoyed Kryal Castle too - Briony had heard over the years that it wasn't all that good, but I think for the young kids it's quite good to explore! And it's not every day you can see guys in armour doing jousting, just something a bit different.


Girls Update

Aliana

Aliana is going through that phase of making bed time drag out as long as possible. At least this means the "kicking and screaming" bed time phase is over. It's likewise for doing teeth - lots of stuffing around, but at least no more screaming.

Aliana is copying everything that Majandra does. In some ways is nice - things like playing together, dancing, singing songs from 'frozen' and even pointing and saying ICE like Elsa from Frozen does. Of course in other ways it can be annoying where Aliana picks up bad habits from Majandra such as the angry face (although she's been doing that for a long time).

Aliana's talking is going well. We know she understands quite a lot that we say, she can respond with simple words and she has just in the last couple of weeks started making proper sentences. She has a cute little voice, although like all children the voice can be loud!

Aliana is also very much entrenched in "mum do it" - and I'm not allowed to change her nappy, dress her or do her teeth. It's even as silly as she won't let me pour a drink. I have been reinforcing the "mum is busy" answer and it's starting to work.


Majandra

Majandra is in her last week of Term 1 at pre-school for 2015. That means only one term to go until she's finished pre-school and she will start 'big school'. It's going to be an interesting change not having her at pre-school any more, she's growing up fast!

Majandra is turning into a really polite and well-behaved girl. She uses her manners properly including please and thankyou, we are very proud of that. As of two weeks ago she's also said goodbye to the high chair - she's now sitting in a big chair for every meal and she's handling it just fine. We're also saying goodbye to the double pram, which means when we go places with both girls Majandra will have to walk (both girls are normally quite good at that anyway).


House Update

We are slowly progressing with the house. There's a long list of jobs and we seem to get through the jobs very slowly. But that's OK, life is good and I suppose there's no critical rush to do anything. In fact sometimes it's best to take a step back and see how the house goes for a summer and winter season. For example the huge rains last night that got us about 30,000L of rainwater ... there's evidence of water pooling at the side of the house. Do I need more drainage, or is this simply because there was so much rain? The lawn is also quite soggy, we'll have to keep our eye on that.

Oh I almost forgot - Briony and I went Sky Diving. This time it was at Langhorne Creek with SA Skydiving and it was the 14,000 foot jump which gives about 1 minute of freefall. We had a fabulous time, the freefall was amazing and we got to fall through the thick cloud cover that was present on the day. We bought the photos of our jump, we weren't going to but it's not something we do often so we decided to get them. Mine are OK, Briony's are hilarious!


And here's some miscellaneous photos, including our weekend breasfast picnic at Mount Lofty Railway Station, my 36th, and a sunny day picking strawberries!



[Tuesday, 2015-01-13, 22:48]
Happy New Year!


It's only one week until the 2015 Tour Down Under ride which this year is about 150Km. I'm sure I'll be fine, but I must admit I'm a bit out of practice. With moving house I havn't been riding to work as much as I'd like and I haven't done much in the way of social riding for a while. A couple weeks back I arranged to go for a ride with Matt, we went out through Stirling, then Piccadilly, Ashton, Cherryville and back via Mount Lofty. We did a little over 40Km, a long way off the 150Km TDU but still a very enjoyable ride. I did the same ride on New Year's Day with Eli, someone I know from high school (18 years ago!) but haven't seen since high school.

I mentioned recently that we'd been doing a few things to the house, namely roof restoration, solar power and solar hot water. The roof restoration went well, done by a company called Local Roof Care. It's not quite as nice as a brand new Colorbond roof however since it's a paint job I fully understand it won't look the same as what comes out of a factory. The roof looks good now, a million times better than what it was and our colour choice (Woodland Grey) goes nicely with our surroundings and even goes well with the Heritage Green gutters and verandah posts.


The Solar Depot 5kW Solar Power is done and we're getting good results. I got a Steplight EW4009 Wireless Energy Meter for inside the house so we can see how much we are generating versus how much we're using. This is actually quite important with the changes in Solar rebates because we really don't get paid a lot for power we export to the grid. These days it's about using your appliances wisely as to ensure the power you consume is the same power generated by the solar. So that means look at what you're generating versus consuming so you don't end up using more than you're producing. Of course any excess still gets a credit, but not much. The meter will tell us if we can use our washing machine + dishwasher at the same time, or whether we aren't producing enough to operate both together for free.

Solar Depot also installed 3 panels of Evacuated Tube Solar Hot Water system for us. It looks awesome, and works really well. We had to drain the system to install the panels and it was refilled and commissioned somewhere around 2pm. By 5pm it was hot enough to have a shower. I now have the electricity switched off to my water heater, it's running on solar only. The water is now so hot that it would actually cause a serious burn. Even on a hot day the water coming out the tap is steaming, and during strong sunlight sometimes we can her the hot water tank boiling in the roof. Our house being 20 years old does not have a tempering valve which means tap hot water is direct from the tank - very close to boiling. This could cause serious burns so I'll have to get a tempering valve installed. For those that don't know, a tempering valve mixes some cold water in with the hot, as to ensure the water coming from the hot tap is hot but not to the point of being dangerous.

Here's some photos of our Solar stuff ...


The latest thing at the house has been tidying up the orchard where we have a several fruit trees including apples and cherryplums. The birds have already been having a feast so we have been trying to get nets up. We have of a bit more of an idea now, but at first it was really challenging.

We're also on a mission in the orchard to get the blackberries under control. There are lots along the fence which I'm OK with, but we all dislike the little ones that pop up all over the ground and make it difficult to walk around without catching a thorn.

When we bought the house, the previous owner Gary offered me a tractor and slasher at a decent price. So I have this as a toy and it's fun to use plus also eats everything in its path really quickly. But it's a monster to get out, and while it cuts nicely it doesn't cut all that low. I wanted to cut really low in the orchard so we can start discouraging blackberry growth - my regular lawnmower did a good job but the area is too big for a push mower. I did a bit of looking around at ride-on mowers but that quickly got up to a proposed spend over $6000. Considering the work that the mower would have to contend with, I thought I might try my luck with a cheapie from Gumtree. I saw a few, but then this old-looking one was there for $1000 including a trailer and a 'dozer blade. On the one day I went to look at a John Deere for $2500, then this Rover Rancher for $1000. I settled on the Rancher mainly based on price but in hindsight there are a lot of other benefits. Firstly it's all metal - the John Deere 'shell' was made of plastic. Secondly it's an auto-drive which means I drive with the heel and toe of my right foot - heel for backwards, tow for forwards. This was great when doing around the trees, whereas the other one I would be constantly shifting the gear stick to achieve the same result.

I mowed half the orchard last weekend using the Rancher. It was good fun, and the machine did a wonderful job nice and low to the ground. Something else too - the girls love the machine. They climb on it, pretend to drive it, and of course go for rides in the trailer.

We have nets over two apple trees and those apples will be ready soon. The plums are about done, we've picked sevreal buckets-full and they are just lovely. Once the fruit has finished we'll have to prune the trees - they have been ignored for a long time and ar a bit scraggly and a bit too big.


In signing off for this entry I'd just like to say that I'm really enjoying living "out here" and I'm realising more every day that it's a wonderful place. We are only 25 minutes from town yet we have a freeway almost to our door, we have a big block with lots of trees and plenty of wildlife every day.

And compared to suburban living, it's all about the things I *can* do. If I want to jump in my pool naked, I can (not that I do, but I could). If I want to make noise such as vacuum the car at 11pm I'm not going to annoy my neighbours. I have enough space to drive both cars onto the lawn and wash them. If I want to have a campfire to keep warm and/or cook food and/or toast marshmallows, then I can (but not during fire danger season).

Here's a couple of random photos to finish off.


Anyway that's all for now - hope we all have a good year ahead for 2015.






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