Thursday, May 23, 2013

Proud to buck the trend

I've been blogging for five years now, and have noticed quite a change in that time. Changes that might suit some, but aren't for me.

There's a lot more people blogging for one, which means a lot of competition out there for readers. There's comments to moderate, stats to worry over, and Facebook pages to promote your blog on. There's ads, sponsored posts, and affiliate marketing. Then there's networking, through like minded blogging groups as well as through Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest and whatever the latest platform is.

There's bloggers conferences to go to, blog competitions to enter, and the need to ensure you have a steady supply of new material on your blog to keep the punters happy. Because if you don't get the traffic, then you won't make the money.

So, what starts as a little hobby, a chance to share some tips, or indulge in a passion for writing, soon morphs into an all consuming full time job running a business. And hopefully making enough money to justify the numerous hours spent doing so.

I'm impressed that people put all that effort into making a go of it, but I'd just like to stand up for the other point of view.

Which is that blogging just for the fun of it is just as valid. And it doesn't have to be about numbers.

I think people today are totally obsessed with gaining recognition for every little thing they do, and blogging is no different. So what if only 3 people read your post? Does that make what you wanted to say less valid? Of course not!

If you want to make money, then your content needs to reach a big audience and you need to market it better. Well written content markets itself better, but even crap content gets an audience given the right hard work. Perhaps it's in the eye of the beholder but I've read some total drivel on some extremely successful blogs in my time.

If your blogging stays a non commercial hobby, it actually isn't all that important if you don't have a burgeoning readership because just one comment from someone makes your day. Savouring the joy of a complete stranger finding your blog and leaving a comment is priceless, but when you become obsessed with keeping that readership up, it loses its shine pretty quickly.

Are we all so obsessed with gaining our 15 minutes of fame that we forget to sit back and smell the roses? Does the act of creation no longer gain credibility until it's acknowledged by a few thousand followers?

I hate that crap!

In fact I'm proudly bucking the trend.

I won't monetise my blog, because I hate ads and, to be brutally honest, I'm far too lazy to put in the marketing effort required! I'm not against a bit of self promotion so I do have a Facebook page. I removed Google Plus comments because it limited who could comment to those with a Google Plus account, which is just plain wrong.

I'm not against commenting, in truth I love receiving comments. I also like to reply to them, because I enjoy the personal connection and hope that I can add to their experience. And keeping it small and personal is all the joy I need. At the same time I totally refuse to value my creative output purely based on number of visits and comments.

I just want to say to anyone thinking about blogging, or who already blogs and wonders whether they should jump on the bandwagon with all the other yummy mummies, travel blog gurus and probloggers, YOU DON'T HAVE TO!

It's OK to just have a hobby. And share it with others. And be happy that at least your mum, your bestie and the funny kid down the street are fans.

Yes it's awesome when a stranger says Hi, I like what you're doing.

You start hoping that will happen every old day and before you know it you'll be eaten up with self doubt. And for what? A darn hobby you enjoy doing in your spare time.

But since no-one actually reads my blog........................................

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My chilli addiction

Start with the recipe.

Raid freezer for chillies, and garden for lemon grass.

Ignore the reference to 20 chillies, I mean seriously??

Add rest of ingredients and pound and chop and mix. Develop coughing fit due to high level of volatiles being inhaled.

Place in jars.

Wash hands, thoroughly!!

Add to cooking because everything tastes better with a teaspoon or two of curry paste to spice it up. Do not offer to others as will probably kill them!

Today I made 2 jars so probably a month till it's time to make the next batch....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Following the dream, or how to avoid carking it within a year of retiring

I have a dream.

Stop working a regular job and go travelling.

Long term.

Probably with some extended periods back home as well, but not working a regular job.

My job doesn't cater well to working on a casual basis within a limited time span. Sick people like to have a regular doctor, someone they can rely on to be there for many years, that understands their problems, that remembers the highs and lows in their life. And yes, I like that continuity too, of seeing kids grow up and be your patient as an adult, and see them become parents too. Of looking after people in their final years, and sharing their children's grief at their passing.

It is possible to do casual doctoring, called locum work, but it's not professionally rewarding, except financially, and you have to do enough of it to cover your startup costs. Which are considerable.

Most professions, and doctors are no different, have to maintain a professional standard. This means belonging to a continuing education program and completing a prescribed number and type of training activities as set out by the program. All of this costs money. A lot of money.

Then there is membership of the registration board, which in 2011 went National, a good idea, but also tripled in price to belong to. And if you aren't registered, you can't work.

Finally, there is your indemnity insurance, which you must pay in order to work and to get registration. Depending on what procedures you do, and how much you work, this can cost anything from $3000 a year to many hundreds of thousands. If you deliver babies, insurance starts at around 80-100K per year!! Now you wonder why obstetricians charge so much??

Now whether I work for one week in a year or 52 weeks in a year, the minimum amount of money I need to pay annually to work as a non procedural GP is about $6000. Sure if I worked for 2 months per year I would well and truly make that money back, and make enough to travel for the other 10 months, but it's still tying me to a regular timetable of returning to Oz to work, finding the time to attend training seminars to keep my points up, and unrewarding work. Trust me, locum work isn't fun for the doctor either.

Alternatively, that $6000 could last me 5-6 months in SE Asia, or 2 months skiing in NZ, and not needing to also factor in a flight home to Australia to work, plus the costs of attending training conferences and the pressure of keeping up to date with latest medical research.

You see my point?

It makes total sense to give up the doctor job and follow the dream. And not go back again.

Which is why I have been agonising over my budget for the last six months, analysing what happened financially when I took six months off last year (and loved it!!), and crunching numbers to see how much passive income I can squeeze out of my investments.

Which is incredibly stressful!

I suspect retirement, as a lifechanging event, is up there with having your first child, and all the accompanying uncertainties that come with it. I'm incredibly lucky that I'm not impoverished and am trying to find the money to follow a dream, not just to keep a roof over my head. But that doesn't mean that the transition, or rather, the planning for transition, isn't without a lot of sleepless nights, multiple scenario calculations going on in my head, and the occasional panic attack.

And frequent flyer points on my bank's internet page micro-managing my finances!

I suddenly had the insight as to why so many people end up dying soon after reaching retirement. It isn't because they suddenly haven't anything to do. It's because they've spent the final couple of years preceding retirement worrying their little socks off wondering whether they have enough money to give up the day job. My arteries are hardening as I write this!

So as much as I know I've got to chill out, not micro-manage everything into insanity, and restrict my internet visits to my bank account, it's a hard ask. Thank goodness it's only 6 weeks till my ski trip to New Zealand where I can try and live day by day for a while.

And since I've reached my savings goal 2 months ahead of target, I have no excuses but to smile, be happy and rejoice in another drop in the interest rate.

Poor precious me.....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The terracing continues

Stage two of the Great Wall of Drummonds is another retainer higher up the sand dune. I wasn't sure whether I'd get this project up this autumn, but now the weather has turned cooler, it's off to the tyre place in town, trailer attached, to procure a big load. Of course more than one load is needed to build the whole wall.

The second level will have steps on the left hand side. These continue on from the steps that ascend beside the water tank, with the stone wall on the left. The stone wall is a beautiful piece of garden architecture, which I can't take credit for as it was part of the original house construction. The plan is to merge the old wall into the new one by creating a rock facade in front of the tyres instead of just plain render. How long I extend the facade will depend on the difficulty of the task, and my patience. I have a lot of rocks! Yet another sand, water, lime, cement recipe to learn to make mortar.

The wall will merge on the right with the current steps, with a few more steps up yet to be created. Because the dune slopes down from left to right, as well as down to the house, there's less vertical height needed over on the right hand side. I like the fact that there's no symmetry. Me and symmetry? No, didn't think so..

This level will also incorporate an upper pond/reservoir for the waterfall, and if I get creative enough, I'll make another waterfall and third reservoir above the wall. I've a pump sitting in a cupboard that should have more than enough power to lift the 5-6 metres required.
now wouldn't this look nice!

Once this level is done, I'm in a position to measure out and lay the concrete slab for the pizza oven. Maybe that will be done before July.

Or maybe not...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Birthday Girl

Today is Hazel's 15th Birthday.

We started the day with a lovely little snuggle in bed, something that hasn't happened for quite a while as she prefers sleeping on the bathroom floor. The cooler weather means she's changed her mind and joins me on the doona during the night.
who wouldn't give her a cuddle?
After ringing grandma it was off to the market for supplies for the week. Had a chat with Freddie who gave me a little advice on growing Florence Fennel, commiserated with Anh about my poor okra crop, and picked up a curry leaf plant that Dave had dug up for me. I love the friendly community that has developed at our Farmer's Market.

Then it was off to Coronation Beach, Hazel's second home, for a long wander along the shoreline, a quick dip, and a climb up to the lookout to check out the awesome swell coming through. Pity there's no wind....

Back home we visited the neighbours, because Carter and Hazel have a special bond that even a coterie of his mates can't break. In fact all the boys love Hazel to pieces, she has that effect on most humans. Maggie the pup is becoming less boisterous with her as well.

After a morning of exertion there was nothing for it but an afternoon nap.

And another chillout sunset.

Friday, May 10, 2013

May garden report

Golly gosh, another month done and dusted. I've been rather busy in the backyard building my next tier of retaining wall, with more steps, out of more donated tyres. Such a good feeling being an eco-warrior in my own little way. No photos for now, OK, a teaser, here's the trailer and back of the troopie full after my last foray to the tyre place.

In the vege patch, we've at last had rain. It was our first winter storm and aside from washing half the community basketball court and a good deal of beach away, it's been filling my water tanks and frying a few plants. I really need to set up a proper wind break for the winter storms as I think these winds cause more damage than the summer winds. Mainly because the garden has much more exposure to the northwest (where the storms come from) than the south or east where the summer winds originate. Time for creative shade cloth 101.

 bean plant looking a wee bit fried courtesy of our first winter storm.

Meanwhile, lettuce is growing madly everywhere, due to my careless scattering of seedheads from summer. I like picking off just enough leaves for a salad so I'm not complaining. The okra plants are slowly beginning to produce, but it's hardly a bumper crop, yes I am complaining about that.
one freaking fruit, how is that gonna make a meal?

The one serendipitous butternut pumpkin plant is still producing, looking forward to a nice yummy pumpkin soup in a month or so.

getting bigger and juicier by the day

Two dragon fruit flowers did their thang a few weeks ago, now I have to wait very patiently for the fruits to swell and grow and ripen.

that brown dead bit is the shrivelled up flower, with the big green bulbous bit being the fruit slowly developing

I thought I'd lost the rhubarb in February, but it has recovered. The stalks are a bit spindly but it can fatten up with a bit of yummy plant food.

I love rhubarb, mmmm

The broccoli seedlings, which are actually in one of the most exposed spots, really thrive when the weather starts to get a bit narky. Have you ever seen a more happy looking crop?

bring on windy cold rainy conditions, they love it!

The passionfruit vine is on it's way over the new pergola. Can't wait to see what havoc it gets up to whilst I'm away in NZ for 3 months.

no more pinching out the side growths, go forth and occupy!
With all the wind and rain the frangipani still managed to hold onto a few delicate flowers. It is definitely my favourite decorative tree.

And finally, a wee view of the garden from the verandah, complete with my messiness exposed. It's a composite picture so excuse the gaps.

Ciao for now, the sun's out at last and there's laundry to be done...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ski goddess plans for July

2 months till I jet off to the Land of the Long White Cloud, Aotearoa, New Zealand silly!

And I've been making lots of plans.

Because I'm flying in and out of Christchurch this time I've got a few miles to travel to get down to my winter playground in Wanaka. Which means 1. being a tourist and 2. skiing somewhere else besides my beloved Treble Cone.

So here's my plans so far:

Fly in to Christchurch at lunchtime. Discover my luggage didn't make the transit in Sydney and I am ski less. Seriously, I'm a little worried this may well happen as there's just over an hour between my Perth flight arriving and my Christchurch flight leaving - domestic terminal, international terminal, very busy Sydney airport. Look, it was a really cheap ticket: $260 Perth to Christchurch OK? If the luggage makes it, emerge from Christchurch airport elated!

Next, pickup hire car, go to Chill office to pick up Chill Pass, hit supermarket then drive an hour up the road to Springfield for 3 nights. Spend the next 3 days skiing, or possibly only 2 days if I have a little misplaced luggage problem, a selection of Arthur's Pass ski fields. Have my first nutcracker experience!

Friday evening drive to Banks Peninsula for 2 nights in Akaroa, site of an old French colony and apparently very quaint and scenic. Eat lots of croissants and enjoy fabulous coffee because Kiwis know how to do the best coffee!

Sunday meander down the coast, through Geraldine and Fairlie to Lake Tekapo, where I am booked for 6 nights. Monday to Friday go skiing at either Round Hill or Mt Dobson, depending on weather and snow/road conditions. Spend evenings watching awesome night skies and maybe even catch an Aurora lightshow if I'm lucky.

Saturday go skiing on Tasman Glacier! Yes, go up in a plane, get some awesome aerial views of Mt Cook and all the nearby glaciers, land on the glacier then ski down it, past ice caves and weird formations, then do it a second time!! Once I found out about this trip it had to be on the bucket list, and everyone says Tasman Glacier is so disappointing from the ground so why not do it in a plane and then ski down it hey? Did I say we do this twice?? And with a week in Tekapo I've got a weather window to ensure I get on that glacier, can't wait.

Sunday, probably rest the legs, or alternatively go ski Ohau on my way south to Wanaka. Remind myself how freaking scary that road is up from the lake to the carpark. Arrive Wanaka Sunday evening and check in to my home away from home, Wanaka Bakpaka.

Then spend the next 6 weeks in Wanaka, skiing Treble Cone. Make Klaus happy by booking a couple of Sofa Ski Schools, catch up with Sonja for one of them, and also with all my Wanaka skiing friends. Cook sticky date pudding and be universally adored and appreciated, again already!

There's room in the clapped out old hire car for a travel compadre if anyone's interested....

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A little itch scratched

Today, something I have been coveting for a long time arrived. It's a tent. But not just any old tent, it's a Force Ten tent.

Back in my mid twenties, after I toured China with mum, almost died in Thailand, and got held up at gunpoint in Pakistan (you'll get that story one day), I ended up in the UK, bought a bicycle and proceeded to do quite a few months of cycle touring. At the time I didn't know more than how to fix a puncture, but I managed. Actually, I still don't know much more than that!

After touring Ireland, working over winter, and recharging the batteries in Egypt, I bought myself an awesome little touring tent and headed off for the wilds of Scotland. And rather than staying in hostels, as I'd done in Ireland, I free camped on some of the most amazing beaches throughout the inner and outer Hebrides. It was bliss.

Part of that bliss was having the right tent. Staying warm and dry, and coping with strong winds, were all prerequisites for the tent I needed, and I'd spent up big buying myself this strong little one man Force Ten tent, which served me well. Man I loved that tent.

I've scoured through my photos, but no pictures of the tent were ever taken. Now with digital we take so many shots, back then you'd rather take a piccie of a pretty sunset than of a bloody tent, especially with only 12-36 photos in a film canister. In fact, I have a grand total of 40 shots documenting an entire 2 months of travel. Gosh haven't times changed....

I loved that tent so much I brought it home to Australia. I sold the bike, kept the tent. I bought a new bike and when I went cycle touring through the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland the trusty little tent came with me. And then I gave it to my younger brother to take on his world trip, and never saw it again. I never did ask him where that tent ended up going to...

Of course for many years I've had no use for a dinky little lightweight tent, preferring instead to go car camping with all the mod cons. I mean these days I have the fully kitted out solar self sufficient camper trailer for all my luxury camping needs. But just sometimes, you do want to walk somewhere, and you don't want to lug anything heavy with you.

When I went to SE Asia in 2008/2009 I took a Hennessy Hammock. It's a really awesome piece of kit, but not always practical, as it requires posts, big rocks, trees or something fairly substantial at any rate, at both ends for securing the hammock. I quickly found out on my volcano climbs in Sumatra, that a tent has more versatility because above the tree line there are.... no trees! Was great in the jungle though.

I'd been thinking about purchasing a new lightweight tent for some time, as I'm at some point contemplating some long distance hiking either in Australia or New Zealand. Perhaps even the US or Europe. Huts are becoming more common, particularly in NZ, making a tent less necessary, but any back country hiker knows a tent may be their only chance of survival should they get caught in inclement weather a long way from shelter. But I adore camping in the middle of nowhere, just you and nature, and not having to share it with another soul.

For over 2 years I've been coveting a new Vango Force Ten tent, and last month I bought one. I've gone for a 2 man tent because the weight difference is negligible but the extra space well appreciated. I haven't done a trial erection yet, but I thought I'd share the little blurb that came with the tent, because it's exactly how I feel, and have always felt since that first tent all those years ago.

Doesn't that make you want to go adventuring?