When I was young and my parents had separated, we moved on to a single parent pension which is modest allowance from the Australian Government to assist and provide the very basics for children without two parents on the scene. Its great and Im very thankful for living in a society that provides for single parents to ensure that there is some consistency at home despite the separation, and Mum could be home with us, rather than out, searching for a job for minimum wages.

One of the pitfalls of a having a modest income raising four growing preadolescent children is that there is not a lot of money for things that, today I take for granted. Going down to the nearest cafe for a coffee, just wasn’t something that was done, as ever dollar would be allocated to rent, groceries, utilities (water, electricity and gas) etc.  So lets just say that when I went to school, if we had a sandwich and a piece of fruit for each day of the week, we were doing well. At school, recess and lunch times would arrive and my friends had what I called ‘proper lunches’ muesli bars, cake, biscuits, chips, white bread sandwich (we know better now), basically a smorgasbord lunch that would make my stomach tighten with hunger!

I now have three beautiful children, two of which are now at school, and being a stay at home dad, I make it my duty to correct the ‘wrongs’ of my childhood, by providing what I would consider a lunch that would make other children envious… I know, I know, its shallow and questionable, but I really put a lot of effort into making their lunches with my main focus being, they are not hungry at school. However, my efforts are not being appreciated to my satisfaction… the lunch boxes often come home  with a half-eaten sandwich, biscuits left over, crackers and cheese not eaten, and this gets me frustrated! Why won’t my kids eat what I give them?!

After getting frustrated and trying different things like reducing their lunch removing goodies in the effort to have them eat the healthy things and providing a variety of lunch box fillers, I had some time to reflect and ask some questions… Recently, I asked my son why he didn’t eat all his lunch. He turned and said, Dad, if I ate all my lunch I wouldn’t have time to play with my friends (lump in throat). Ok, then, did you have enough to eat today? Yes, thanks Dad, just enough. I realised that I was making a lunch that suited a teenage kid not a 6 & 8 year old… Oops!

Hi there,

Thank you for my readers and apologies there hasn’t been a lot of content lately. I just wanted to say thanks for the comments Im receiving, but ask if all comments posted if they can be in English. Out of all the languages, my German is basic, Tagalog is slipping, Chinese is a work in progress and Italian, I can order a coffee… So if its in English I may respond!

Thanks and stay tuned, we’re about to commence a whole heap of works on our new place.

Owen Wade

Please don’t read if you’re eating dinner…

So its been over 12 months since I embarked on the stay at home dad (SAHD) role and I’ve had a few stories to tell, but thought I would share my yesterday. Whilst I can’t provide photos of the event – because it has some child nudity, I will try and be as descriptive as possible…

So I put my two year old down for his mid day nap. He likes to play around in his cot for a little while before going to sleep, he also has to have his drink bottle, the music on, a book or two, his cars, and his teddies. He plays around in his cot for about half an hour after Ive put him down and I eventually call out to him from the lounge room and say ‘head down time to sleep!’ He bursts into tears which is a bit strange. I go to his room to see what the fuss is and settle him, only to find he’s taken his nappy off and there was shit (poo) everywhere! It was and is my worst nightmare!!!! In disbelief, I start to think, what the hell do I do? It fucking stinks, but Im here on my own and so there is no-one else to handle it and I can’t afford to think about it too much or I would throw up. There’s shit all over the place, Ive got to try and avoid the two year old digesting any, and prevent it spreading any further.

Ok a plan… I run the shower, I grab the boy, strip him down and put him in the shower saying ‘Don’t Move – He’s two and I think with the tone of voice and the frantic nature of the incident I think he knew exactly what I was saying… I go back to the crime scene and start dissecting the bed sheets from the blankets, there is nothing that has escaped the incident even Mickey Mouse had bailed out of the cot but not before having being exposed and tarnished by the excrement. I strip the bed throwing the affected sheet straight in the bin outside and I take the blankets x 3 to the wash. I then proceed back to the shower, the boy hasn’t moved. Strangely enough he didn’t fair too bad, and the rinse in the shower had moved on some of the evidence. The boy is washed, and reclothed and he’s back in the cot with new sheets and blankets and ready for about 25 mins sleep before I have to pick the others up from school.
Its now dinner time, Ive picked the kids up from school, there are now three of them, they have chores, they argue, they’re hungry, the make noise, its the 2 hour period of the day that no parent enjoys. I’m in the kitchen, the two year old is at my feet and using my legs as an obstacle course in and out, in and out. I’m trying to peel potatoes and cutting up veggies for a once a week meat and 3 veg dish. I suddenly hear a grunt from below, I look down and the two year old projectile vomits, not once but three times in a row! OMG! vegetables are cooking, steak is in the pan, no time to think… I grab a cloth, wipe his face and hands quickly remove his top, and put him in the highchair – don’t worry he wasn’t sick sick, he just vomited, I think parents know when the kid is sick or not and two year olds are always walking around the house, picking up thinks and putting them in their mouth. I kept the virtual peg on my nose and proceeded to clean up the spew. Please don’t trust the ‘super absorbent hand towels, I don’t think they have a tolerance for spew. I do the first pass, I stir the vegetables and steak. I wash my hands profusely in between clean up sessions and continue. I feed the first two kids as the other one was out at dance lessons. The boys are both eating, Im gathering myself back together…

L gets home sits down to a nice steak… How was your day? :) Her words echo, its the first time in 12 months I preferred being at work!

 

I touched poo!!!

Posted by: Owen in Stay at home Dad 1 Comment »

I know I should be an expert at it by now, having had 3 children, and having changed my fair share of nappies. However, there is nothing you do so fastidiously than wiping a young one’s bum after a big (or even small) No.2, making sure you get every little bit cleaned and being careful not to have any direct contact with the… well you know…

But the other day IT finally happened. I was at the change table with child number 3 ready to carry out the big unveiling; everything I needed in close proximity, a toy of distraction, so that there is minimal movement on the table. Then, as I had my quick look, holding the left leg with my left hand and grabbing for the nappy wipes with the right, I inadvertently put my hand into an unfolding nappy! And it wasn’t just a finger or the top of the knuckle! It was a four-finger grab, fingernails and all!

At this point, I’d like to say that I handled it with restraint. But I yelled… AAAARGHHH! Child number 3 then lost concentration with his ‘toy of distraction’ and started wiggling around on the table, risking getting his leg tangled in it. So I was still holding the left leg and hadn’t yet closed the nappy, wondering how could finish this and clean my hands and get back to my counsellor and talk through the ordeal. I eventually pulled it together and finished the exercise one-handed, and was able to make my way to the bathroom without having to cut my arm off. And after a nice relaxing manicure…

I have to say that despite nearly 8 years of changing nappies, it hasn’t become anymore pleasant or easy on the nose or one of my top 5 things I do as a father. I’m sure everyone has a good poo story to share that is equally as unpleasant and something to be shared at the 21st birthday party!

Now that I think about it, there was that time with Child Number 1 in the bathtub…

 

Wicking beds

Posted by: Owen in The garden No Comments »

Not long after moving to our new farm, we wanted to move towards a more sustainable way of living. L is a avid researcher, and of course has spent many hours researching different ways that we can achieve this and be more sustainable, and at the same time reduce our living expenses.

One of our first projects is to construct a garden bed so that we can grow our own vegetables. So much of the fruit and vegetables that we buy from our supermarkets is either imported from other countries or been in storage for months prior and been injected with chemicals prior to being cut up for our dinners. It’s nice to have the option of going out to a garden, and having in season fruit and vegetables that you can pick straight from the garden or tree and eat, that night for dinner.

We looked into different types of garden beds that would suit our area and be easy to maintain. We came across a garden bed called a wicking bed.

A wicking bed – which can also be called a self watering garden bed is constructed a little different to an ordinary garden bed in that it uses its own reservoir to water the garden from underneath the soil rather than watering from the top. It’s particularly great for spring and summer vegetables as often it is hard to water the plants enough, dependant upon how much each plant needs and when we remember to water. Whereas the wicking bed allows the plants to get as much water as they need, and all you need to do is fill the reservoir – say, once a week or so.

I have just completed our second wicking bed and thought to share how I did it, so that you can see how easy it is. You will note from my earlier posts, Im not a tradesman and so anyone can really do this. You can build these as large or a small as you like depending upon the space you have. You can also do them in the ground, but for our beds we have built them above the ground, for ease of access and maintenance.

Materials I used:

  • 6 x 3m lengths of 200mm x 50mm treated pine boards – eco board – or one without arsenic
  • 6 x 1.5m lengths of 200mm x 50mm
  • 4 x 800mm lengths of 100 x 100mm cedar posts
  • Approx 50 No. x 100mm galvanised screws
  • 4m x 2m of thick black plastic – or pond liner
  • 1 x 600mm length of 50mm pvc
  • 1 x pvc T piece
  • 6m of 65mm slotted pipe
  • Duct tape
  • 1 x 50mm bracket for holding the 50mm pvc
  • Approximately 1 cubic metre or between 1.7 & 2.2 ton of 14mm crushed rock
  • Approximately 2 cubic metres of topsoil – which can include some of your own compost and other ingredients

Step 1 – Set out – prepare the area that you want the garden bed. I had already constructed one (as you can see in the background) and so it made it a bit easier this time to start the setout. I simply measured 1 metre off the existing bed but also ran string lines out to dig the stump holes. You also need to work out what size you want your garden bed. Our beds are 1.5m x 3.0m long.

Step 1: Set out

Step 2 – Holes for posts – Measure the distance between the posts and dig the holes. The materials I have used are treated pine (eco – treated) 200mmx 50mm for the boards and 100mm x 100mm cedar posts. I wanted the beds to be 600mm off the ground and so have the made the posts 600mm out of the ground and about 200mm in ground. Its not 100% essential you have big footings for the posts, so its your choice if you want to use concrete or not or just backfill with soil. As you can see I have dug 2 of the holes, but I wont bore you with the rest… This requires a crow bar (in our case) and a shovel, and a beer waiting for you at the end… :)

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Step 2 – Holes for the posts

Step 3 – Installing the posts – As per step 2, I have used 100mm x 100mm cedar posts and now set them out so they are at right angles to each other – you can do this by using the 3,4,5 triangle rule (thanks Mr Pythagoras) to ensure you have the posts at 90 degrees and parallel. As you can see I have used the other garden bed to prop one of the posts, as I was doing this by myself and needed some other way to prop the post and make sure it stayed straight and let the rapid set concrete do its work.

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Step 3 – Installing the posts

Step 4 – Attaching the boards – once the posts are set. Cut your boards to suit – remember measure twice cut once… Due to the size our our beds we were limited by the 3m boards and so to get the largest bed I could we made them with butt joints along the lengths and concealed the edge of the boards with the width boards of 1.5m, therefore I had to set my posts 50mm in from outside so that the length boards would butt into the end boards. Im a bit of a perfectionist and so I made sure each board was level and used packers or little rocks or pieces of timber offcuts, where the treated pine was bowed or twisted and could not give me the perfect level. For the fixings, I used 100mm galvanised screws.

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Step 4 – attaching the boards

Step 5 – Level the inside of the bed. Once you’ve completed the boards (below) you need to level the base of the ground inside the bed. As you can see in the photo above the ground is not level – the sun is shining through the bottom of the board. So I just shovelled some dirt back inside the bed and levelled it off. Its important to have a level base as you want the water not pond up one end of the bed as it will affect the wicking (transfer of the water) up to the plants. Make sure you also remove any rocks that may stick through your plastic as you’ll see in step 6. I did also use a small piece of timber in the middle as my boards were a bit twisted and needed a support mid span.

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Step 5 – Level the inside of the bed

Step 6 – Insert plastic – tanking – As you can see in the photo below, we then line the inside of the bed with plastic. This is not just your usual plastic it is quite thick and is often called pond liner. Go to your hardware store or Home Depot and ask them. It needs to be able to hold water. You place the plastic in and staple it to the top board, try and make it as even around the outside as possible. Due to the bed being rectangle it is difficult to get the corners right so just bunch the plastic up in the corner and staple as best you can.

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Step 6 – Insert plastic – tanking

Step 7 – Watering point – now I must apologise as I didnt take a photo of the installation of the installation of the slotted pipe (ag drain), so I will do my best to explain… I used 65mm slotted pipe and a piece of 50mm PVC. I fixed the PVC to one end of the garden bed. At the base of the PVC pipe I used a PVC ‘T’ piece (50mm) connecting the slotted pipe to both sides of the ‘T’, I used duct tape to connect the slotted pipe to the T piece. I used about 6m of slotted pipe and made an ‘S’ shape in the bottle of the bed. When you add water to the bed via the 50mm PVC pipe (at the end) it doesn’t really matter how the slotted pipe is laid as you will see later.

Step 8 – Add crushed rock – Our bed is 600mm deep and you want around 400mm of topsoil to grow your vegetables or plants. On top of the slotted pipe you add approximately 200mm of crushed rock, some people call it scoria or gravel. The main thing is to get a product that has minimal amount of fines in it. I used a 14mm aggregate (blue stone), which has a smallest stone of around 7mm. In the photo below you can see the piece of the 50mm PVC pipe at the end. Make sure you make the crushed rock level too.

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Step 8 – Add crushed rock

Step 9 – Install an outfall spout – at the top of the crushed rock cut a hole into one end of the bed. This hole is used to allow water to drain from the bed when you are filling the spout. When adding the water, keep filling until it comes out the spout.

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Step 9 – Install an outfall spout (1)

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Step 9 – Install an outfall spout (2)

Step 10 – Install geofabric – The next step is to install a membrane between the crushed rock and the topsoil (where you grow your plants) the material needs to allow water to transfer through. Again your hardware store will be able to help. The material as you can see I used is like a fleece. This stops the fines of the topsoil filtering down into the crushed rock. I bring the geofabric up the sides about 150-200mm and use staples to fix it to the wall of the beds. Cover the drain pipe with the geofabric too.

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Step 10 – Install geofabric

Step 11 – Install topsoil – The final step (woo hoo). Go to a good nursery or garden supply place and get some topsoil. You can get some good blends made up for you. If you tell the salesperson what you’re doing (making a vegetable garden), they’ll be able to help you. We have a number of compost bins at our place and so we used some topsoil and compost to aide the development of the plants. For a really successful bed you should also add some blood and bone too. Finally add some straw to reduce the evaporation of water from the top part of the soil and you’re done!

Step 11 – Install topsoil

In the above photo I havent yet gone around and neatened up the plastic but will do that tomorrow. I will also set about painting the ends of the timber too to ensure a longer life for the timber.

Hey I hope that was pretty straight forward and gives you an idea of how to make a wicking bed. If you need any further help, drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

You’ll be amazed at the produce you get from this form of garden bed!

Enjoy!

Well a lot has changed since my last post. I have become the father of another beautiful son – Patrick (Feb 2015), I had a real push into further establishing a consulting business. I worked in a place that I hated and kept doing it because the money was good. I took a position in the Philippines on a hotel project for 4 months away from my family. I returned and began a new era in my life. The life of a stay-at-home-dad (SAHD)!
I have to say that of all my positions in life, of all the jobs that I’ve loved doing, all of the projects that I’ve worked on, all of them pale into insignificance for my new role as the primary carer for my 3 beautiful children.
When reflecting during my time in the Philippines, many things became clear and many unclear, about how I am making it through this time I have on the planet. I have always been someone who has pushed myself to achieve and be successful, all the while not really understanding what it means. Whilst Im still not there in my understanding of what it is all about, I am now in a better position, to keep searching to find out what it all means, without the pressure of sitting at someone’s office for 10-12 hours per day.
Unfortunately, the realisation of what an important role being a SAHD is, didnt come to me naturally, it did take time, as it meant temporarily letting go of all I had worked for for the past 20 or so years, but with time (a few months), I think Ive got there and now fully embracing the opportunity of spending some real quality time with my beautiful children.
I’m very greatful to my remarkable wife, who has chosen to be the main breadwinner for our family, which has has come at the sacrifices of some of her own personal goals, and so I hope I can do it justice.
With regard to the day to day running of our household now, I can say, it is a difficult challenge and a job that leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. My 7yo, 5yo & 16month old, do tire me out and take me to my limits of diplomacy, but with a lot of love, patience and humility, I think im doing ok. Lets see what happens!

The Farm Shed

Posted by: Owen in The Shed No Comments »

Its been a while since I’ve blogged and in that time a few changes have occurred. Ive moved out of our suburban house, become the owner of a (hobby) farm on 11 acres and am now the father of 3 children. Never a dull moment. You may also notice that I have (with the help of L) revamped my old blog platform… I hope you like it.

Now that im back up and running, I am looking forward to letting you know of all my exploits on the farm and in my farm shed. The list that I blogged about years ago now for our house in suburbia has now grown dramatically as maintaining a farm is somewhat different and has its own challenges.

I now have so much more room to play in and I now have a larger shed to get up and running too. Its in need of a bit of work now but Im sure with a few thousand hours of love and attention I should be able to bring it around.

My weatherboard shed

The finished product

In order to have a shed blog, I thought it might be worthwhile me actually having a shed to write about and let my readers know that my shed is in fact finished. So this blog is all about showing that the shed is finished and then moving onwards and upwards of the rest of the articles that I have been thinking about over the last few years of not blogging, during which time we also had some landscaping done and have improved the yard conditions you may have witnessed in my earlier writings/ramblings.

Weatherboard shed

My weatherboard shed

As you can see piece of dirt in the corner of the yard has been transformed into an amazing work of art, aka ‘my shed’. I did hear echos from the house, ‘dont spend too much money on that shed, we dont want to overcapitalise’ but how can the thought of overcapitalising be considered when the finished product looks like this!

The shed has changed over the last few years (as they do) and is now equipped with the standard items being:

  • Beer Fridge – the essential component of any shed, which should also be considered the ‘spare’ fridge ‘just in case our main fridge goes on the blink honey’!
  • Mower – This item adds the necessary petrol and grass aroma that helps a shed develop that ‘smell’ that all sheds get over the years
  • Tool boxes – continually updated with sale items and things that you will never get rid of just in case you need them in the future
  • Work bench – the first item I built in the shed and essential to any activities conducted in the shed
  • Cupboards – places of storage – generally started but cupboards removed from the house and ‘stored’ in the shed until such time the shed absorbs it never to release it back to the ‘house’
  • Home brew kit (not yet out of box) – A Christmas present of some years ago, however not one of the things I have got into, actually im scared to open the box for what may present… ok thinking of Yahoo Serious in the movie Young Einstein of 1988!
  • Door from the kids room that kept getting slammed so is being ‘stored’ until such time that a door is needed again
  • Pieces of timber – offcuts of timber framing and pieces of hardwood collected for small projects that are required along the way
  • Paint tins – although contrary to popular opinion, paint does not last forever however it never surprises me to find at least one paint tin in just about every shed I have ever gone into! I will get around to throwing those out one day!
  • The toolkit – those lucky enough to convince the ‘other half’ that a tool kit is an essential part of any household and should be up there with the likes of a vacuum cleaner or kitchen aid mixer and food processor – dont be tricked into buying something cheap as a good tool kit will last a lifetime!
  • A ladder – this item took me 12 trips to Bunnings to purchase, I dont know if I thought that if I went back again and again that the price of a ladder would somehow fall… it did not and I ended up getting a Bailey ladder that I do love and cost me around $350 bucks. In hindsight, I dont know why I thought I’d scrimp for a ladder but this thing has been a great addition to the family!

As per my previous post about allowing your shed to become the place of ‘short term storage’ I think I’ve held the line quite well, which was further evident when we held a garage sale recently, and anything out of place in the shed went to the driveway and was whisked away at 7am in the morning by those early bird garage sale freaks (sorry but true).

Ok on request, one last look at the shed in all its glory!

Thanks for reading!

Weatherboard shed

Shed in the setting sun!

 

My new shed – part 4

Posted by: Owen in The Shed No Comments »

Well now that you’ve had a few days to look at the previous photos, I will give you a bit more eye candy. But before I do, I do want to acknowledge the person who was responsible for organising the labour and materials to turn my vision into a reality, so a big thank you Mick (and Katrina) from Mitty & Price Builders who has not only worked on our house and the renovation but has become our good friends at the same time.

So now for some photos and details, so basically without drawing the whole thing up, I wanted to have a window a door and a skillion roof and have the shed clad in the same material as the house so that it could provide some consistency in the back yard. So Mick took my specifications and put it into action…

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I’m sure you’re still noticing the new piles of dirt forming in the backyard again.

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How exciting it was to see it finally taking shape.

The next part was the cladding. This cladding isn’t the weatherboard cladding that you see on the old houses made from timber. This is cement sheet in the form of cladding and has very good thermal properties but also lasts a lot longer than timber weather boards where this does not need the same treatment as its timber counterpart.

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Ok now there was going to be a bit of a wait for the window which also was to be a match with the windows of the house and of course the roofing needed to be done. I think from one of the photos above I have already started moving in… Now where to put the bed…?

Now I’ll have to find some more photos showing the next stages.

My new shed – part 3

Posted by: Owen in The Shed 1 Comment »

Ok, now we’re all ready to pour the slab… then it was wait a week or two, allow the plastic to fill with water and then we’d be into it. Yes Melbourne did have some rain and we did have to let some of the water go!

It then became concreting time, hmm how do we get concrete around to the other side of the house, without backing a truck around, without wheelbarrowing 13 cubic metres of concrete around using food vouchers for uni students. No it was using a concrete pump and a heap of pipe. Unfortunately, I was too excited to see all the concrete going everywhere that I forgot to take a photo. All this gushing about concrete I feel like Im turning into a Grollo (the best concrete pourers in the world) developers, builders etc etc. ha ha no this is not a plug… email me and I will tell you where to send the cheques.

Ok the finished product… oh and yes I didnt waste anytime organising a brick layer and the delivery of a stack of bricks from Paddy’s a name synonomous for used reds in Melbourne.

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So thanks also goes to my little brother Phil for his handy work during the day to transport 3500 bricks from the front of the house to the shed… And if you’re after a good labourer just let me know and I will forward on his details.

The bricklayer that we used was a very fussy guy, but I like fussy! He spoke to Phil and told him exactly how he wanted the bricks stacked and then proceeded to build one of the straightest walls made out of old reds I have ever seen. Very careful and meticulous. It took a little bit longer than your normal brickie, but I wouldn’t hesitate using him again. See for yourself:

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Keep the bricks coming Phil!!! No time to rest!
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Only 1 thousand to go Phil, no your arms wont drop off! Keep going!
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Ok I can see you’re getting tired looking at a brick wall going up, so I will spare you the other 2500 photos I have of each brick being laid…
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The finished product – oh it is a beautiful thing!

Stay tune for part 4!