Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Seven Kilo Challenge Part 1

2 month trip. No checked in baggage, just a 7kg carryon luggage limit

LogoYou are allowed one piece of cabin baggage of up to 7kg and/or 1 laptop bag or 1 handbag onboard, each of which should not exceed the size dimensions.
Size Dimensions: Cabin baggage should not exceed dimensions of 56cm X 36cm X 23cm.
Weight: Cabin baggage must not weigh more than 7kg

Stuff I want to take with me:

DSLR camera and 2 lenses, some filters, battery charger, card reader, tripod

Laptop computer, charger, cables, external hard drives

Kindle, iPhone, cables

Clothes, raincoat, footwear, toiletries

Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, mosquito net, hammock, stove, cook set - yes I'm going camping!!

Can I do it??

You bet I can!!

Stay tuned to find out how....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I really appreciate it...

A blog draft Hazel wrote a few weeks ago that I hadn't got around to editing. Hazel passed away this week.....

Hi! Hazel here. Been a while...

Yes, I'm still around, even if I'm a little slower, a lot deafer, and mum says a helluva lot smellier than I used to be. I quite like my new perfume thank you!!

As you know mum's been away in New Zealand sliding around on some cold white stuff ( I prefer sliding down sand dunes myself), but she left me here in the care of a very nice lady called Mel. Hi Mel, hope you're enjoying life. And it got me thinking that I've got a lot to be grateful for.

I really appreciate how much mum cares about me. How she's never put me in a kennel but found wonderful humans to love and nurture me when mum can't be there herself. How she always takes me with her if she can, in fact she's even knocked back jobs when they told her I wasn't welcome.

It's meant I've seen some pretty amazing places and taken some pretty wacky transport. Planes, automobiles, boats, kayaks, windsurfers..... I've barked at kites and howled when mum's gone diving underwater, but she's always come back for me. I appreciate she forgives me my little neuroses...

I appreciate that she lets me sleep on the bed. Mum says the dog books reckon that sleeping on the bed is all about dominance, which is why she makes me jump off before she goes to bed. Or at least get out of her way. I like to think we treat each other as equals...

I appreciate that she doesn't make me wear a collar all the time - man those things make me itchy - and doesn't poison me routinely every month with Frontline. Yeah I know we have to use it some of the time, but do you have any idea how disgusting that stuff makes everything taste? It's not just the fleas that get to feel miserable with that shit...

I appreciate that we moved to WA. I may have been born in the Territory but my background is definitely salt water people. I lurve the ocean and the beach and being able to wander down there any time I please.

I appreciate that mum loves me so much that she won't let me suffer when I get too old to do normal doggie things. I've had arthritis for a few years now, and I'm slowing down a lot, but I trust that she'll know when I'm hurting too much and let me go.

You really are the best mum a dog could have.

Thanks mum xx

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The time may have come to say goodbye

For the last week Hazel has been limping badly. She can hardly weight bear on her left front leg, however she can still get up and down the stairs and even sometimes up onto my bed for a snooze. She is eating fine but mostly just soft food as her teeth are wearing down fast.

She is pacing a lot. Though she is limping, she still paces, with a lot of panting. I'm pretty sure this is a sign of distress.

She is unable to go for walks anymore because she is in obvious pain.

She doesn't always make it outside to go to the toilet. She sometimes falls down the stairs in her haste to go. I leave the light on at night so she can see where she is going. Her sight is failing. I clean up her accidents...

When she is lying down, or sleeping, she is fine.

Is that a life??

I have added Tramadol to her analgesia mix. I have recently upped the dose and am hoping it will help. I am running out of options.

I have a vet appointment on Friday with a vet I've known for years. I'm having to change vet practices in order to see her because I believe her to be compassionate with what is going to be a very frank discussion. I don't have that rapport with the revolving door of vets at my old practice.

I see no point prolonging Hazel's distress. If she can no longer run and play is there a point in continuing her life? My feelings are irrelevant - sure I don't want to let her go - but it is her welfare which is paramount.

I hope there are still options, but I am prepared to make the hard decision if there aren't. Of course I will be devastated, but it's something all pet owners know will happen some day.

Wish me luck

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Planning for Java 2014

My next trip to Indonesia, in April next year, will be to Java. Now that I've made my decision it's full steam ahead. And since I've travelled in Java before I sort of know what to expect.

The next step in my personal travel preparation is destination research. I'd done some pretty extensive research on Java back in 2010, but I need to do a little updating. My scummy old LP Indonesia (2007 edition) has already been downsized by separating the Java section from the main book and there's even handy little post-its from last trip indicating points of interest. There's little point purchasing a new guidebook, if anything the more recent LPs have less destinations in them, and I've never had trouble finding somewhere to stay or eat. Of course I already own a map of Java.

I love maps. I haven't really got into Google Earth/Maps for trip preparation as yet, but I love poring over large format paper maps contemplating heading off up some small minor road and seeing where it ends. Or sketching out a route to take...

In 2010 I skipped the entire West Java, so after about 15 minutes of contemplation I decided to book a flight to Jakarta and start there. Those 15 minutes were taken up with deciding between 2 scenarios:

  1. grab a flight from Bali to Jakarta on arrival from Perth. Arrive in Jakarta at lunchtime, take a cab to the western bus station and head west outta there. Note the airport is to the west of Jakarta so I'm in the right general direction to start with. Start Java holiday in West Java and slowly head east. Jump on a through bus or flight to Denpasar when my time is up.
  2. head east overland from Bali. Risk spending too much time in East and Central Java and not give myself enough time for the west. The thought of making my way in to Jakarta from I don't know what direction, to get to the airport, seems worse than getting out. 
I'm now really excited, because I love planning my own itinerary. This isn't a day by day trip plan with accommodation and transport pre booked, but more a schedule of potential destinations to visit within a 58 day time frame. It's a what's out there, what's possible kind of plan. It's flexible and open to change. Except the end date - I still have to get back to work when my time is up.  :(

It may still be over 5 months till I leave but I'm starting early for a number of reasons. I really like to research extensively. This means poring over maps, doing multiple google searches and then using Google translate for the Indonesian language sites. Indonesians are keen travellers, and frequently blog about their experiences. Finding these sites and information opens up so many more possibilities than what's available from Western language guidebooks. Of course this sort of research takes time.

I'm keen to use this trip as a trial run for my extended overseas travel once I retire in 2015, so I want to pack and travel with gear I intend to take with me permanently. Doing the research, selecting the equipment, and then giving it a test run is an awesome opportunity. I mean how often do you hear "I wish I'd had ....." or more often "I wish I hadn't brought ....." from travellers on their return? Certainly my lurking on travel blogs reveals gear talk to be a common point for discussion.

I have some issues with gear because not only do I want to travel light, I want to camp, trek and climb mountains. I was limited last Java trip by not having gear for sleeping outdoors, yet I had a number of opportunities to do so. I didn't fancy dying from exposure however. Don't be fooled into thinking tropical places don't get cold. Once you climb into the mountains the temperature plummets. Kerinci in Sumatra is 3800m ASL, it was freezing up there, as was Bromo, and the day I wanted to climb Lawu it was raining and cold.

Once I've got my gear together I'll write about it. That will be in a few months though. The challenge is to carry lightweight camping gear plus electronics/camera gear and keep it to 7kg max.

The reason for this imposition is I have a 7kg carryon luggage limit and I'm not checking in luggage on my flight out of Perth.

I'm loving the challenge!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Where shall I go Indonesia?

My next holiday will be in April and May next year. I'm treating myself to a backpacking trip to one of my favourite countries: Indonesia. I'm also planning to avoid any hoohah surrounding a certain pivotal anniversary....

Next year's trip will be my sixth time visiting my neighbours to the north. Part of the attraction is it's just so damn close to home, but more than that, it's such a fascinating place. The spectacular scenery, the friendly people and so much cultural diversity it's staggering. Plus it's cheap.

I have a return flight Perth to Bali (purchased on the fly whilst in Tekapo Backpackers back in September) and am now in the process of deciding where I will spend my time and what I will take with me.

At present I am trying to choose between either heading east to Nusa Tenggara, in particular Sumba, Flores and Alor islands, then making my way west back to Bali, or heading west over to Java and exploring further than I had time back in 2010. I am yet to see a Bromo sunrise, there's a lot more of Central and West Java for me to see and there's some volcanos I want to climb.

my Bromo sunrise April 2010

this sucker has my name on it.

My main concern is the weather, as it is only the start of the dry season, and my experience in Java in April 2010 was there was still a lot of rain, which closed access to climbing some of the mountains. Dying in a landslide isn't my idea of a birthday treat!

East Nusa Tenggara, OTH, has a dryer climate and should have finished raining earlier than further west. But in the tropics, surrounded by sea and volcanic mounts, local ecosystems cause their own weather, so who really knows? I could just leave it to the last minute, hoping I can swing a flight east on the day I arrive in Bali, and if not head west instead.

I'm swinging towards Java for a bunch of reasons:

  • I know I can't do East Nusa Tenggara justice in 2 months. Transport is slow and laborious and the way I travel I'm concerned that I'll be frustrated at having to miss out on some places just to make it back to Bali in time. I suspect I can do Sumba, Alor and Flores quite thoroughly in my 58 days, but that still leaves West Timor, Sumbawa and Lombok. Places I could do on another trip, but more practical to do with a visa extension and/or a visa run to East Timor. There is an impending retirement coming up after all...
  •  Although I made some sacrifices on my Java trip in 2010 to get to Bali in time for my birthday and return flight, I mostly took my time to explore places and was able to experience some fantastic hospitality from strangers I met along the way. Some of those people are now friends I'd like to see again.
  • Java has a lot more infrastructure, like access to internet, and I want to trial my gear and system for blogging on the road whilst still travelling light. It will be the first time I backpack with a laptop, and I want to see whether my set up works. Sort of a trial run for the big trip. East NT, however, is still an internet backwater (not such a bad thing really).
  • There's a lot of Java still for me to explore, in fact more than 2 months' worth. And when my 2 months is up it'll be no trouble to jump on a cheap flight back to Bali to connect with my homeward flight. Flights back from Nusa Tenggara, sadly, are renowned for their unreliability and frequent cancellations. The upshot of that would be a very long and arduous bus and ferry trip to get back in time for my flight, cutting into my actual "tourist time" by probably a couple of days. 

Hmm, it looks like I've decided to go to Java.

Nothing like writing things down to get some perspective...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vegetable transients

It always amazes me how much my garden changes from year to year, season to season, month to month, even day to day. I love watching new seedlings pop their first little green heads up through the soil and then, BLINK!, there's suddenly a plant in front of me.

new watermelon seedlings

Some of my tubs perform better than others, but it remains unpredictable. Water repellant sandy crap can suddenly transform into moisture laden soil with the addition of loads of compost and manure. But some years even lots of compost doesn't seem to work and a particular tub under performs whilst another brims with vege goodness. I've never really got the hang of proper crop rotation, or writing down what when and where I plant things, but I'm not overly bothered, because I kind of work on another philosophy.

I love the higgledy piggledy nature of my vege tubs. I like planting a mixture of different plants in each tub, and try to steer clear of monocultures whilst embracing chaos instead. Since I never write down what I plant I am continually surprised to discover new plants when the seeds germinate. And this confuses unwanted guests too: something might eat one plant but not know its sister is hiding over in another tub.

So there is logic behind the chaos. Confusion has its merits.

cucurbit tub
This week I'm watching pumpkin and zucchini plants thriving in the bed that was growing broccoli this winter. I've also got cucumber and carrots beginning. The carrots will no doubt have multiple legs due to the extra compost I put down, but I'm OK with that, they still taste the same. There's a grape vine in this bed too, but it's been sorely tested over the last 12 months and has put on very little growth. However, now that this tub has become a super tub, the grape is looking up too.

lonely little asparagus spear
The asparagus has been rather disappointing this spring. I put a lot of effort into regular watering and feeding and haven't been rewarded with thick stalks yet. They are getting there, but it may be yet another season till I'm producing a reliable crop. Patience...

Geraldton tomato plant
I have been purchasing heirloom tomato plants off Freddie at the Farmers Market, including Black Russian and Romas, and last week acquired a "Geraldton tomato" plant. This is the original hardy plant that market gardeners grew here from the 1940s until the Vietnamese immigrants introduced newer hybrids in the 1970s. Apparently it crops for a good 3 years!! Hopefully I can collect seed from it to propagate some more plants.

The eggplants don't look happy, in fact they look a little bug infested, so I'm pretty close to pulling them out despite them only being in less than one season. They should produce for at least 2 seasons, but the hot weather here seems to stress them too much causing them to succumb to disease quickly. I guess I need to learn this lesson and just rip them out after their first fruiting.
tiny capsicum

lettuce everywhere
Lettuce is growing everywhere - the product of lots of seeding from last year's crop. I've many plants that have bolted already so I'll be spreading around a new lot of seed pretty soon. Same with parsley, though the wind seems to self seed without any assistance from me.
onions I think

I've noticed some healthy looking stalks in one of my tubs. I know I've sown onion and garlic in various places but without notes to tell me where, I'm not sure exactly what this is. I'm hoping it's not more chives - just got to wait for the green shoots to start browning off and then I can lift and see. How exciting!!

One little okra plant germinated. I've planted a few more seeds so here's hoping for a better crop than last time. I'm still not sure what time of year I should sow them, because no plant climate zones exist that accurately account for our weather. Geraldton does not share a climate with Perth, yet all the planting guides lump us in with them. Maybe there is a reason to write notes after all....

okra seedling

I bought some oranges last weekend, because it's time to harvest rhubarb. Cooked in orange juice it's delish!! So glad one corm has survived for me to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

rhubarb prior to harvest

In the water tub the kangkung was hibernating over winter, and slowly being squeezed by algal weed. That's now scooped out and a watercress plant is shading most of the surface. A few more weeks and I should be harvesting my first kangkung for the season. The watercress makes a lovely filling for an omelette. Can't wait till I have a proper water garden when I can try growing even more edible plants.

mini water garden

It was 41 degrees last Sunday! The first serious plant burn off day. Up went the shade cloth and the rest of the week has been much milder. But there'll be many more hot days to come, and the less heat stress my little veges have to deal with the better.

Meanwhile there's a tyre wall to finish.....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hey Ho The Witch is Dead

I walk past it and it smirks at me: "You can't get rid of me that easily."

I'd chopped its limbs off with a chainsaw, I'd sawed cuts in it and poured poison down its throat.

But still, little shoots would appear. "I'm still alive!!"

So this afternoon, I dug down into the underworld. Sawed off all links to the soil, disentangled it from a mystery pipe.

And dragged it out of the ground

Then took it away in a wheelbarrow.

The evil bougainvillea is no more.

The wicked witch is dead!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Feature plant: Dragon fruit

Here's the first in a little series I've been meaning to do for some time, featuring some of the plants I grow in my garden. I thought I'd start with the dragon fruit, because seriously, this plant rocks!!

I first encountered dragon fruit in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. It was a strikingly colourful fruit with not a lot of flavour, but when I discovered someone selling plants at our local Farmers Market I thought I'd have a go growing them.

Dragon fruit is a succulent, originally from Central America, and not dissimilar to a zygocactus, which means it makes for a strikingly ornamental plant even if it didn't produce anything of substance. It thrives really well in a frost free environment, puts down deep roots, and loves the sun. Perfect for Geraldton weather!

Once a year it begins to put out flower spikes. They start out as little buds

                                                               That get bigger

and bigger

                                                      Until they are phallus like.

And then in the dark of night they do this:

If that isn't a dragon breathing fire.....

By the morning that beautiful ephemeral vision has gone

And for the next six to eight weeks you need to wait patiently for the spike to fatten up

and turn pink.

Then pick, slice open and tuck in!

It's not an excitingly tasty fruit, a bit of a cross between a passionfruit and a kiwi fruit, but it is juicy and quite refreshing.

And what a journey!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The beginning of the end

Having made the commitment to definitely retire at the end of next year I've been trying to make some decisions about where to start.

First I need to get some important home maintenance done on the beach house. I've decided I won't rush into selling it immediately, but if it turns out I need to, then it'll be in a better condition to sell for a good price. This means re-roofing the house to get rid of the asbestos roof and fix the water leaks, and add some much needed roof insulation. It also means being able to install solar panels if I end up keeping the house.

This also means getting the backyard finished. My tyre retaining wall project is half finished and I'm absolutely sure no prospective buyer would want to be confronted with this!

However a beautifully terraced back yard with water feature, fruit trees and a chook run would be a great attraction. I don't think I'll finish the pizza oven though, just lay the concrete block base.

I plan to put my Cairns property on the market after the wet season finishes next year. There is likely to be a big construction boom in Cairns in the near future so it's hopefully going to boost what is currently a stagnant property market into a buoyant one. This should knock $200K off my debt.

I am not going to renovate the downstairs ex garage into a granny flat just yet. But I will build a secure storage space in there so I can store what I need to, and then be able to rent out the rest of the house. The dimensions of the secure storage space will perhaps morph into a bathroom/laundry space should the granny flat renovation follow.

I plan to sell almost all of my possessions. I will keep things that I'm personally attached to, plus some kitchen stuff and appliances, but anything that won't fit into the storage space will go. Big garage sale coming up!!

For the next year I shall be going through all my paperwork and scanning as many documents as I can. And throwing everything else out. Yes, I will make backup copies and store them elsewhere. I love that hard drives are now so cheap.

I'll keep my car and camper trailer initially. I can live in them for quite a long time, especially since I set up the solar power system in the camper, and travelling around Australia extremely slowly is definitely on my to do list. In fact, probably one of the first things I'll do in Jan 2015 is head off windsurfing and camping to Coronation Beach and then north to Gnaraloo.

As an aside, I have given up watching television. I decided not to start watching it again when I got back from NZ and I'm not missing it. I'm also finding lots more time to read and do other stuff, now I'm not wasting it lounging on the sofa. Which means I might as well get rid of the sofa too!!

So follow along as I begin to declutter and disentangle from my work life, and plan for my next great adventure.