Bluebirds on the ground. Jane in Australia (QLD)
Jane in Queensland has really been a prepping buddy to me as the last few years we have compared notes and egged each other on so much! She has taught me a lot especially gardening. Over to Jane...
A few years ago now, Bluey got very ill and had to undergo life saving surgery. When he got home, he needed full time care. This meant that I gave up work. We were living off Bluey’s part pension and small shares portfolio income. Our budget was trimmed to bare bones.
At this time, we felt the NEED to expand our garden. We added raised garden beds. These were sourced very cheaply from the tip. We have half IBC totes, large pots, half 44 gallon drums, old pool sand filters with the tops cut off, and bath tubs. The gardens were filled with twigs, branches, grass clippings, cane hay bales, manure and finished with homemade compost. After each crop is finished the garden beds get topped off with homemade compost before the next crop goes in. What couldn’t be grown from seed, was bartered for or grown from cuttings.
Once the garden was up and running the next step was to get chooks. Their eggs and the garden produce, have provided us with many meals each week. I needed to know that if everything fell apart, that we would have a means to put food on the table. The chooks manure, and the half composted material from their yard, goes into the compost bins. This ends up on the gardens. It’s a wonderful system.
I started the garden with heritage seeds. I began working on seed saving from the plants I initially planted. I use these seeds for our garden and I also swap with other people for seeds I don’t have. Seed saving has been a huge money saver. I have become quite driven about saving seeds and developing a seed library of plants that grow well in our area.
The cost of electricity had been going up and up and up. We had been saving and used what we had saved, to have a good solar system installed. Our extra power feeds into the system and we are paid a small amount for this. Our bill had been slashed. The solar panels paid for themselves within 18 months of installation.
Then the Pandemic hit. We had a well stocked pantry and didn’t run out of anything. I had a wide variety of seeds saved, plenty of greens and some fruits coming in from the garden and we were unaffected by shortages. Our daughter’s husband was thankful that our Katie kept what he had thought was an overstocked pantry and knew how to take ingredients and make them into meals. He was also thankful that I order loo paper by the carton as my loo paper stock kept their household and his parents household in loo paper.
Fast forward to now. Bluey and I have a fabulous network of friends and neighbours. We swap excess produce. We barter for things we don’t have. We share skills. Shortages have affected us mostly in the medical area. Bluey required surgery last year in February, 2022. He required a followup specialists appointment, and that has just happened January of 2023. His prescription medications have been quite difficult to get at times. Thankfully we haven’t had to do without.
We have a neighbour who has had a cancer removed off his leg. The wound got infected. Getting the right anti biotics for him has proved difficult. He had gone to old fashioned compresses to try and draw out the infection. The right meds were eventually sourced and he is now improving daily. All the neighbours have made sure that he has his lawn mowed, meals in the freezer, foods in the pantry and that his house is kept clean.
In the past twelve months our town has been flooded in twice. This meant no trucks could get in to restock shelves. Both times supermarket shelves were stripped bare. The first time the road was cut for 3 days and the second time we were flooded in for a week. Both times Bluey had a medical emergency and got out just in time. The first time I was flooded in and had to wait to be able to get to him. The second time I got out with him and was then stuck away from home. Our son and his family were living with us and were able to take care of things at home.
Our town had low lying area flood issues with only a few homes affected. Other nearby towns had homes and businesses inundated with flood waters. The worst issue for some of my friends who went through this, was that their insurance premiums went up by thousands of dollars per year. Some simply cannot afford the insurance they are being asked to pay. Our son was looking at a nearby town as the housing is affordable. He then looked at the insurance payments and the housing was no longer affordable. One of my friends property has never flooded. However her insurance went from $4000/yr to $14,000/ yr.
Electricity costs have sky rocketed. One older couple we know have turned off their electric hot water heater so they can afford to pay their bills. They rent their property and are living with the strong possibility that the rent will increase. If this occurs they will have to try and find somewhere else with less rent costs. This is really affecting them and their quality of life. Once again, all the neighbours are doing what they can to help out with produce, eggs, skills and the odd baked cake.
Housing affordability and rental accommodation availability are major issues here. There is less than 1% housing availability for renting. This doesn’t affect Bluey and I, but means our son will be keeping our address as his own for a while yet. We have an increasing amount of people, who are unable to find a home to rent. This is one factor causing our homeless rate to increase dramatically.
Purchase prices on homes have almost doubled since the start of the Pandemic. With the increase in interest rates, we have noticed that the prices are dropping, but only by a small amount. Houses in close proximity to the beach, regardless of age or condition, are still selling for stupidly high prices.
Good chook food was in short supply, mid last year. We grew sorghum, corn and sunflowers along our fenceline(we live on a 1/4acre block in town), specifically for our chooks. The plants have self seeded, so the fluffy butt girls regularly get extra greens and grain from the garden.
Right now fuel takes up a huge part of our budget. We try to wait until one of the fuel stations has a 14c/L off day, to fill up. This is for RSL card holders. There is usually a long line and waiting and patience is required. However the savings make this worthwhile. We do have two large 4WD vehicles. One is for pulling the caravan and the other is a vintage ute that is Bluey’s pride and joy. I use my electric trike as much as I can for my shopping and for visiting friends to make the fuel in the cars last as long as possible.
Bluey and I are in the privileged position of owning everything. We have enough income to pay our bills as they come in. We have enough income to purchase the foods that we need. We have a garden that provides us with a lot of our fruit and veg needs. We have friends and neighbours who are happy to barter their excess for our excess. We currently live below our means. We forward plan for large expenses. We save until we have the money we need. We live a modest but good life.
Thank you so much Jane! There is so much inspiration here and you show the value of developing relationships with your neighbours and community very well too. A great advantage. I hope everyone feels as I do ... that is each week we are reading different experiences and perspectives and picking up tips we may not have thought of. Also so much encouragement and inspiration!
There is no Save like Nana post this week as I have my Grand Daughters here... so I am too busy being a Nana to write about it haha!
Next week our Bluebirds on the Ground post is from Laura in Romania.
Have a good week everyone! xxx
Such a lovely read, thank you.ReplyDelete
Hello Annabel, Jane and lovely Bluebirds,ReplyDelete
I*ve loved reading Jane*s report - for sure I would not know all these from the news - reports on the ground are excellent - I sure learn a lot from other people experiences and help me being one step ahead if needed.
Jane, you are making the most of your garden and having such a nice group of friends and neighbours are wonderful. I hope I will have someday and I am determined to working towards it. Also, sunflower and corn around the fences are my plan for this Spring, the crop will feed my golden ladies in the winter and the garden will look beautiful.
Have a nice week everyone, and Annabel, have fun playing with the girls. (Like The Best Nana!)
Laura_s_world from Romania
Laura having sunflowers and other grain plants along the fenceline has really brought the costs of our chicken feed down. The egg yolks are also a beautiful golden colour. It is worth the effort.Delete
Jane the tip of using the fence line for sunflowers is fabulous... so much good chicken food!Delete
Thank you, Jane. Here is the Southern US we have a great network of neighbors as well and they are so valuable to us.ReplyDelete
Our neighbours are just beautiful. When we first moved in, ten years ago now, we had just started unloading, when the neighbours introduced themselves over the fence and handed us a bag of beautiful homegrown tomatoes. I knew then we were living in the right place.Delete
Thank you to Jane for posting her journey and the skills she has developed. It is sobering to hear about the cost increases in Australia, and how many people are just at the margin right now. Jane’s commentary is making me assess my exposure and make sure to take a look at our vulnerabilities. Thank you for posting, Hilogene in AzReplyDelete
Thank you Hilogene. Bluey's initial medical crisis took us by complete surprise! We had to adapt rapidly to quite a changed economic situation. It wasnt easy but it needed to be done. Forward planning is now something that we both look at with great consideration.Delete
Dear Hilogene, As reports come in we are seeing the trend that the high rents, hit prices of food and fuel are getting to be around the globe. Some countries are worse but I believe the food prices will be seen by us all. There are too many global factors now that are adding up. But we can do so much! xxxDelete
I accidentally posted anonymously last week so I made sure I got my name in this time.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Jane and Annabel! Another great report full of ideas and a light at the end of the tunnel. Housing costs are crazy everywhere. The house we sold in California nearly 20 yrs. ago is twice the price we sold it for. I thought our selling price was absurdly high, but now it is laughable. But also sad because I can't imagine many can afford it. And it's tiny at 1100 sf.
I think it's wonderful that you're involved in a group of fellow minded friends. That has to make things better. I've tried to get others involved, but so far I'm striking out. I had 2 extra tomato starts last year that I offered to a neighbor. She was happy to get them and I was hoping she might offer me a few seeds or something. Nope. I'm going to try again this year and also with another neighbor.
Again, thanks for taking the time to do this!
Debby keep working on developing your local network. Maybe say to your neighbour you have some extra starts and would like to do a swap with her for anything extra she might have. We had to do that with one person in our area. They just werent aware of the idea of trading/swapping/bartering. A community network is so worth the effort to developDelete
Dear Debby, I agree with Jane and also see f your area has a buy swap sell group or any gardening groups.... Love Annabel.xxxDelete
I really enjoy your blog. The reports from others are well done and interesting. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much Sheila!xxxDelete
Annabel, I am loving this new series you are doing! This old hen is learning some new tricks as she reads and gleans from what others are experiencing or have experienced.ReplyDelete
Jane, your contribution is so full of rich nuggets that I printed it off so that I could go through it making notes of things to try in our area. I love the emphasis you put on developing a neighborhood network, I agree with you, the importance of being a part of such a network is invaluable. Thank you for sharing!
Patsi here is an example of this wonderful neighborhood network. I brought Bluey home from hospital to find that the 'Garden Fairies' had visited. Our yard had been mowed and weeded. It just meant that I could concentrate on Bluey and not worry about the condition of the yard. They are amazing people that live around us.Delete
That almost brought years to my eyes. So thoughtful. My DH travelled when our children were young. We had a large garden. When I got home from work with my boys one day, my wonderful FUL had cultivated between all the rows in the garden. So thoughtfulDelete
Thank you so much Patsy! xxxDelete
Thank you for another interesting post. First, I love Jane's creative use of an unneeded item for a nesting box for her hens. So clever! I have to say that rents in my area of the US have spiraled way out of reach of the locals. I live just outside of a large university town and have seen the rents being driven by what students from wealthy families can afford. Unfortunately, those who live and work here can no longer afford to pay rent or purchase a home or town home. Wealthy parents began buying homes at full asking price in family neighborhoods for their university students to live in while attending school. This priced the average young family out of the market. Unfortunately for the families living in those neighborhoods the students living there do not keep up the property and often throw loud, destructive parties late into the night. Add this to the fact large corporations starting buying up rental property and making rents so high that it is almost impossible for younger generations and the elderly to find affordable housing. Apartments are being rented by the room so instead of paying for the entire apartment, a family needing 3 bedrooms have to pay so much more. For example, 5 years ago a 3 bedroom apartment was around $800/month (US). Now that same apartment is over 450/bedroom. So the same apartment is now over $1350/month which includes no utilities. I recently read that due to the high cost of rents and home purchases homelessness has risen in the US by 20%. I do not know if that number is accurate but I can truly see that happening. So sad and so concerning.ReplyDelete
Marley we are always looking at what we have and how we can repurpose items for our needs. We were on a farm for many years before moving to town. You get pretty good at making do and mending when the stores are so far away.Delete
Jane, it is so heartening to read in your report about how neighbors are pitching in to help one another. I am convinced that that is how we are all going to get through these difficult times.ReplyDelete
Chipmunk, I look back in time and see that the communities that looked after their own, were the areas that survived the worst of any disasters. Community is such a blessing.Delete
Jane, what a wonderful post you have shared with us! It is so sad the high cost of utilities, but you and Bluey were very wise to purchase a solar panel system.ReplyDelete
Australia seems to be very barter friendly. Where we live now we don't even know our neighbors hardly. We have lived here eight years and people barely will say hello. We have tried to share our garden produce with neighbors, just to be friendly, but they prefer the grocery store prices over free organic produce. People can be very strange. I am so glad that you have a friendly area where you live.
Thank you for your post.
Glenda thank you. There are areas here where neighbours dont know each other and really dont want to either. We have a couple whose home overlooks our yard. I wave to her when I'm out watering and each time she has closed the blinds. I will keep waving.Delete
Well done to you and Bluey for getting debt free, you have obviously put in a lot of work and planning for years beforehand to achieve this and it is paying off big time now!ReplyDelete
I think it was wise of you as well to invest in your garden too, no one could foresee how that would become super handy with flooding and Covid
Cheryl I was driven from within to get the garden up and producing food for our meals. I have learnt that it is wise not to ignore that voice inside my head.Delete
Thank you for sharing, Jane. The "Boots on the Ground" series is so informative and educational with real life things we would never hear about or read about in the news. CookieReplyDelete
Thank you Cookie.Delete
Thank you so much for sharing, Jane!ReplyDelete
I remember praying for Bluey. Glad you both are doing so well. Wow! I was so ministered to upon hearing about your neighbor and how he's looked after.
Thanks for the post, Annabel.
Leslie those prayers were a blessing to me. To know that so many people cared and were prepared to keep us in their thoughts was a very humbling experience. We both believe in paying it forward and do what we can to help those who helped us in out time of need.Delete
Jane, this was so helpful and interesting to read. Your garden is amazing and inspires me to keep trying with ours - we have awful red clay soil, but I have learned blackberries and figs like it and am getting better with planting things in pots. I'd love to have a neighborhood like yours!ReplyDelete
Kathy keep planting in pots if you have better success. Look around for what you already have that you can add soil to and plant into. My vegie garden is raised beds that all came from the tip. None are conventional raised garden beds. You can even grow your orchard in pots. The nectarine in the photo in the post, is in a half 44 gallon drum. A raised garden does not have to cost a fortune. Start small and just build on it. Today I added another tree, a Malabar Chestnut, to my potted orchard. The tree was a Christmas gift from a gardening friend.Delete
Being a fellow Queenslander, this was inspiring, and also very informative. Thank you Jane, and Annabel.ReplyDelete
Jenny with both of us living in that odd coastal town that faces north rather than east, and with an Island off the township catching most of the weather, I understand growing in the dry tropics as well.Delete
Dear Annabel and Jane,ReplyDelete
Great post, and lovely to see photos of Jane's green thumb on display! Very interesting info, especially about insurance prices!! What a racket! I know you are also very clever with your sewing machine, which you don't really mention, but that leads into all sorts of other wonderful benefits, too, in tough times, and in good! You and Bluey are very inspiring!!
xx Jen in NS
Thank you Jen. I see the sewing, our fishing, Bluey's wood working as part of our skills base that we use within our community as a bartering process. I take up trousers and do some mending for a few local widowers. They pay me in fresh caught and filleted fish. It's quite a win but it is a skills sharing.Delete
This was a great read, thank you Jane and Annabel. You have done so much hard work to adapt to your change of circumstances, it’s inspiring to read how you’ve handled the challenges you’ve faced. Your neighbourhood sounds lovely, with people looking out for each other. We have lived in our current house for three years now and have wonderful neighbours. It is such a nice feeling! Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thank you Jen. I have always enjoyed reading about how those in the past were able to overcome issues in their day to day lives through hard work and the assistance of their communities. We also saw this happening in Brisbane in 2011 with the Mud Army coming in to help with the clean up. People just turned up armed with shovels, brooms, gum boots and rubber gloves to help. To me, developing 'community', is one of the best insurance policies that there can be.Delete
Jane, I loved reading about all you are doing and how you have built up a strong network of friends and neighbors. Your garden looks so productive! We are in the midst of winter here in Northern America but that has not stopped me from planning my garden for the Spring. My sunflowers have self seeded also and last year I added some dark orange sunflowers to my front garden. I am looking forward to seeing if they also will self seed.ReplyDelete
Debbie the dark orange sunflowers sound beautiful. I am going to have to look for some seeds for those. Thank you.Delete
I just love this series! Thank you, Jane, for posting. I enjoyed your pictures so much, too. Love looking at pics of people's gardens. The way you were able to drastically change your life to adjust to your husband's medical needs was inspirational.ReplyDelete
Thank you Dianna. It's always fun looking at what others are growing in their gardens.Delete