The cost of electricity - I've decreased mine

28 September 2022

I usually don't look forward to the electricity bill arriving, especially since the prices have gone up so much and look like increasing even more. However, I wanted to see what my bill was because over the past months I made a few choices to lower it. I knew it would be lower and I wanted to see how much I'd saved.



This is the new solar unit - 18 panels.


There's a bit of a story behind this so let me start at the beginning. Our old solar system stopped working in September last year. It was installed 11 years ago and when I finally got a technician to check it, 3 months later, he said the solar panels were corroded and the system was a fire hazard. So instead of the expected repair job, everything was removed. I was so busy looking after Hanno, I didn't even think about it again for a few months and after weighing up the pros and cons of solar and the certainty of increased electricity rates in the future, I had a new 6.66 kW system installed at the end of February. The bill I've just received is the first bill which is fully covered by the new solar system. We also have a solar hot water system. We've used these for almost 50 years and one of the first things we did when we moved to this home was install solar hot water. If you can't afford to get solar panels, go for a solar hot water system instead. If you live in Victoria or South Australia, there are government rebates.


This is the old solar unit - 7 panels.   In the background is the solar hot water unit.

Of course solar energy helped lower this current bill and in December, when Hanno was still at home we replaced our 10 year old fridge. New appliances are much more efficient than older ones so that was another reason our bill started to decrease. When an appliance we own starts getting old or shows signs of problems, we usually update it with an energy efficient model because it does help with energy costs. We have a dishwasher, oven, toaster, food processor, mixer, iron, computers, sewing machine and overlocker/edger, washing machine and dryer - most with energy efficient technology. Our air conditioners have inverter/heat pump technology which cuts the cost of electricity.   All our lights have LED globes, I turn off TVs at the wall so they're not running on standby and often I don't turn on the TV or lights at night because I prefer it that way. I have to say though, it's much easier to do that when there's no one else here. Over the years, Hanno thought I was crazy for wanting to do it. 😵‍💫

You'll notice on my bill there are a couple of government rebates. One is the $175 cost of living rebate that most of us got and the other is the pensioner discount. But I'm looking at the electricity usage rather than the dollar cost here. I'm celebrating decreasing my usage from 300 kWh to 5 kWh.





I knew, on average, air conditioning/heating and cooling consumed about 40 percent of each electricity bill, so when I was here alone over winter, I chose to not use the air conditioning. I made myself comfortable with an extra layer of clothes, an over the knees electric blanket and an electric blanket on my bed. But it's not always the appliances you have in your home, it's how you use them that makes the difference. All the little things like turning off lights when not in use, washing up by hand when there are only a few dishes, not having appliances on standby, always washing a full load in the dishwasher and washing machine - all this became part of my normal housework. One other change was I went from using our appliances at night on the old solar system because our feed-in tariff was 44 cents and it was cheaper for us to sell to the grid during the day. Now I use our appliances as soon as the sun hits the roof and I'm using solar energy generated here instead of energy from the grid. When the sun goes down all my cooking, sewing and cleaning have been done and I might just have a solo light or the radio on. My choices have made an impact on what I pay for electricity and saved a lot of carbon emissions.


I hope you to see that there are things you can do to decrease costs at home and all it takes is for you to make your particular choice and stick to it. I know many of you won't be able to do it even if you want to because you have family members who come home late and need to eat dinner, children who have to do homework and those who relax in front of the TV for entertainment.  But if you can't do it now, you can do it when your family grows older and you're in a new season of life.  


For every thing there is a season.


This is the Australian Government's Guide to Sustainable Homes. Lots of good information here.


New Workshops

23 September 2022


Hello everyone. A number of people have contacted me about the workshops I proposed this week. It looks like people are interested in writing workshops whereas what I’m proposing is a workshop on getting published - different workshops. The getting published workshops are for people who are already writing with the hope of getting their work published. So, I’m taking a different tack and I think this is a better idea.


I’ll do one getting published workshop for six people here at home. The course will go for four hours and cost $150, lunch and some notes are included. There’ll also be one getting published workshop for six people on Zoom. The cost for that is $150, notes included. When everyone is signed up, I’ll send more details.


I thought I’d also offer a two hour Zoom kitchen table chat for six people. The cost for this is $75. There might be several of them, depending on the numbers interested. It’s very appealing to me to sit and talk to a group of people who share my values. I’ve done this type of online chat before and it well very well. If you’ve never used Zoom, you don’t have to have any software, I send you a link which will take you to our Zoom room. All you need is a computer with a camera and microphone and we’ll be able to see and hear you when you join us.


The topics for these chats will be those I write about but I hope they expand out to include your experiences and ideas too. Suggested topics: cleaning, budgeting, cooking, baking, growing food, chickens, preserving food and family life. There’ll be plenty of time to ask questions. So if you’re interested in this, choose the topic you’re most interested in and I’ll make up groups of six. Our starting point will be the topic chosen but I’m sure conversations will include many other issues as well. This should start in early October.


Please send an email to express your interest. My email for this is downtoearthworkshop@gmail.com

Will the glass be half-full or half-empty?

21 September 2022

I like to think I’ve got a pretty good grip on the work I do here in my home but now when I sit down to write to you, I can’t think of what I did this past week.   Luckily I have photos I took along the way and after seeing them it all comes back to me.  I’m still sorting through drawers and cupboards and getting rid of things I no longer have any reason to keep. It’s part of my general housekeeping now - a couple of times a week I bring in a little trolley, fill it with things I once thought I’d keep forever. Now my priority is to have a home that encourages me to be the person I am now, not the other Rhonda who was part of a couple. Every week life moves slowly away from the home of a happily married couple and towards a place when an independent woman lives.  I hope I find the same level of satisfaction I had back then but it’s still early days and the practical work of rebuilding needs to be complete before I can make any judgements about contentment and happiness.  Will the glass be half-full or half-empty? 


This is the area where I sit and think with Gracie at my feet. Sometimes I read here and sometimes I just listen to the radio and potter around. Gracie follows me everywhere now. If I go inside, so does she, if I wander outside, she follows. And if she’s sniffing around the yard and doesn’t see me go inside, she stands at the door and gives one loud bark and I know she wants me to open the door for her NOW.  



Waiting for the postman. She doesn't bark at him, I think she just wants him to know she's there. 🙄

I’m building a flower, spice and herb garden on the sunny corner of the front verandah. It’s always nurtured ferns and tropical plants in the past, and I still have them, but I’m introducing flowers - roses, nasturtiums, foxgloves, yarrow, lavender, pansies and penstemon, as well as green onions, chilli, parsley and ginger. 


This area changes almost every day. I used to be able to make instant decisions, now I have to look at my changes to decide if they suit me.  🤔 😵‍💫



That's a digiplexis foxglove in the pot. It's a soft orange colour with several flower spikes. I'll take a photo for you when the flowers are open.


Plants waiting to be put somewhere. This area is a little further along the verandah. 

Like most of you, I'm always trying to save the food I buy from being wasted. Now that I'm single this is more difficult. I bought a long cucumber last week, had one salad and knew the cucumber might sit in the fridge and waste away. So I grabbed the vinegar and pickling spices to make bread and butter cucumbers. The idea with this is to remove as much water as possible from the cucumber so I sprinkled a tablespoon of salt over thinly sliced cucumbers and left it a few hours. Then I washed the salted water away and squeezed the water off with a cucumbers in a clean tea towel. Don't forget to do this because if you add your pickling liquids and spices to the cucumbers in the jar, they'll release their water into the pickling liquid and will dilute the pickles.

  




They'll taste wonderful if you let the flavours develop but you can eat them straight away if you want to.


To make the pickling liquid, add the following to a small saucepan: 1 cup vinegar, ½ cup sugar, pickling spices, pepper and little pieces of onion or chilli if you have them on hand. Bring to the boil, simmer for 30 minutes and let it sit on the stove until slightly cooler. Taste it and if liquid is a bit strong for you, add ½ cup water. Then add the cucumbers and the still-hot pickling liquid to a sterilised jar and store it in the fridge. I have one serve of pickled cucumbers left but I'll buy another cucumber to pickle on my next shopping trip. I don't like oil in my salad dressing so I always make enough of this so I have some for salad dressing. I use the leftover liquid as salad dressing too. It keeps well in the fridge.


Parsley salt and dried parsley

Two other quick herby tips for you here - parsley salt and dried parsley. I harvested most of my parsley on Tuesday, washed it thoroughly and removed the stalks (they're bitter when dried). Preheat your oven for the dried parsley now - 180C/350F and when it reaches temp, turn it down to 120C/250F. Make the parsley salt while your oven is heating up.




This is what the sink full of parsley looks like now. 

Parsley salt
To a food processor, add 1 cup salt, I used pink Himalayan salt but rock salt or pure cooking salt is also good.

Add two cups of parsley with no stalks.

Process the mix until the parsley is flecked through the salt but don't overprocess because the salt will be too fine. Lay it out on a plate to dry for about an hour then add it to a jar. Store in the fridge and give it a gentle shake every couple of days so it doesn't clump together.

It's great to use in scrambled eggs, sprinkled over the top layer of lasagne or any pasta, mashed potatoes, salads, roast meats, steak and, of course, fish. You can do this with a variety of herbs - oregano, sage, bay leaves, coriander/cilantro, fennel, rosemary or finely grate lemon or orange zest and add it to the salt. All of them store well in the fridge.

Dried parsley
Then go on to your dried parsley. Dry the leaves as much as possible, preheat eat your oven to 180C/350F and when it reaches temp, turn it down to 120C/250F. 

Lay the washed, dried parsley, with stalks removed, onto baking paper in a baking tray, place the tray in the oven making sure you have your temps right. Leave it in the oven for about 25 minutes then remove from the oven. When it cools down, crush the parsley with your hands and add it to a jar. Two well loaded large oven trays gave me the amount you see in the small jar.  Store this alongside your herbs and spices in a cupboard.

🌿 💚 🌿

The creation of my new life is a slow process. I could sit back and let it make its own way but I want my life to include diversity and creativity as the the main building blocks; and I want moments of joy liberally mixed throughout each ordinary day. I'm so thankful that Hanno and I prepared well for this part of life because if I had to go from what we had five years ago to what I'm capable of now and in the future, I'd be in a worse space. I guess I've done the difficult part of working out what I want in my life now. It's important to me to continue with the housework I've done in the past. I will still cook from scratch - for Gracie and me, preserve, bake occasionally, keep a small stockpile, make my own cleaners and laundry liquid. I will continue to look for opportunities to be kind and generous. Those ordinary everyday tasks help define my life giving each day structure and purpose and a reason to get up every morning.  Of course, family is a significant part of my life and while my family has changed, it's still on top of the priority list. 


What fits into the rest of my life is what I'm focusing on now. It will be made up of creativity, productivity, sharing what I know and being grateful for each new day. It's a complex model of a simple life but I guess every life is complex in its own way. I'm glad I have the freedom to create life in the way I want it to be and I have the time now try different things to fit into the mix I already have.



Kerry and Jamie bought Gracie a dogie donut (with bacon topping) and a bone biscuit. She wasn't sure what to make of it first but she didn't hesitate in eating both of them.
 

My main new thing will be painting and drawing. I used to be quite artistic when I was young and I want to examine that again. I also want to do some final getting published/writing workshops. Of all the workshops I've done, I enjoyed the writing ones the most. I need to earn some money to build up my nest egg again after I spent so much during Hanno's final months. I want to have some workshops here, maybe with lunch included, and maybe some on Zoom. If you're interested in this, let me know because it will help me make the decision on whether to go ahead or not.

But that's all in the future and today is just as important. When I finish here, I'll tidy the kitchen, harvest chard, set some aside for lunch and freeze the rest. My bed is made but I have to put away yesterday's washed clothes and sheets. Two toilets must be cleaned and I'll finish off reorganising the laundry. After lunch Gracie and I will be out in the garden fertilising, cleaning up, weeding and repotting. We're expecting rain this afternoon so I want both verandahs clean and tidy before the wind and rain starts.

And that's it for me, another ordinary day done and dusted. I hope things are going well for you. Home life is usually busy when seasons change. What are you doing? I send my love across the miles. xx