Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My missing month: Lessons learned during my blog absence

So. What was I up to during the last month? You won't be surprised to hear that I've been working a lot, and also a fair bit of travel (some work, some play), which has meant several weeks when I've only been at home for a few nights. From this month, some things really stand out.

1. I love my minimalistic wardrobe.

When you're packing for a six-day trip which encompasses a business trip somewhere very hot and sunny with a personal trip somewhere probably cold and grey (the UK), and through an administrative error it transpires that you don't have any luggage booked in the hold for the flights, what is your reaction? Sheer panic? Thanks to Project 333, I managed to pack with only one fairly modest carry-on bag and with no stress at all. In fact, I didn't wear all the 'combinations' I'd allowed for because the weather in the UK was unexpectedly nice. 

This caused some humourous moments when we arrived at the business trip, me with my tiny overnight bag for six days, and everyone else with HUGE GREAT BIG SUITCASES. (Most of the guys had bigger bags than the girls, interestingly). I quite enjoyed the incredulity it prompted.

2. You'd be surprised at what Muggles like us can fix.

We're all about the repairing and mending in the simple living club. We sew buttons on, we mend tears, we might repurpose or upcycle a damaged table or stained sheet, and it's not strange to see weird and wonderful receptacles used as planting containers. We'll paint walls and put up shelves, but some things we generally think should be left to the professionals - in my book, plumbing and electricity. Anything that could kill you or damage the structure of the building is a bit of a no-go zone.

Not so for my boyfriend. Water has been constantly running into our toilet bowl for some time now. It's annoying and it's an expensive waste of water. We did have a look in the tank and thought it was build up around the outlet valve causing it not to shut properly, and started putting bicarb and vinegar down it regularly, with no success. This weekend my boyfriend amazed me by working his way round the inside of our toilet flush mechanism to identify the problem. After removing and taking apart the inlet valve, he found the problem - a tiny rubber diaphragm (about 3cm across) was degraded and this was causing a constant drip-drip of water into the tank, which was then flowing into the toilet bowl through the overflow mechanism. 

We took the dodgy diaphragm to the DIY shop, found a replacement, put the valve back together, and voila. Toilet fixed, at a grand cost of €6. I am supremely impressed, and convinced that provided you turn off water and electricity supplies at the mains/entry point to the flat before you start poking your fingers in, we could probably fix more things than we realise.

3. Gardening needs more than watering, it needs planning and execution.

During my busy period, I have managed to keep watering the surviving plants every few days. Most small seedlings have died because I didn't have anything to plant them out or up into, but my beetroot looked like a small jungle. I was starting to worry I would get sick of beetroot, that I would run out jars to pickle it all.

Then I picked some to roast for lunch. This is what I got:

I'm a gardening noob here and this is my first attempt at beetroot. I'm guessing that this is the result of (a) not thinning the beetroot seedlings and (b) letting the soil get too dry at some point and so become more dense/caked. (If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!)

It's very clear that my loose plan wasn't much of a plan at all, and I need to have something like a rough schedule and a clear idea of what will be planted where and when before I touch any seeds. I'm still on the hunt for cheap things I can use to plant on the balcony because I continue to refuse to fork out €10 for a low-grade plastic pot in the gardening centre. I feel like it kind of defeats the point of the exercise.

So that's what I've been thinking. How about you? Any standout moments from the last month?


  1. Love that minimalist wardrobe- I see I have a long way to go. Beetroots , considering they are so leafy and healthy on top may have had soil that was really high in nitrogen-hence giant leaves, but your other theories would be correct as well.
    Missed your blog posts.

    1. Aw thanks! Yes the wardrobe is one of the few parts of the house I'm fairly happy with. Such a zen experience now, getting changed and putting away clothes. I recommend Project 333!

  2. Completely agree about electricity & plumbing within reason - we've replaced a toilet flush mechanism, tap washers, wired in light fittings etc all with the mains supply switched off of course!

    Shame about the beetroot but at least you have lots of lovely beet greens to eat.

    1. Indeed - but no one becomes an accomplished gardener overnight. I consider this part of the learning curve - and as you say, I had some crop from the plants in any case.

  3. Whilst it is a shame about the beetroot, all is not lost. You can eat the leaves like spinach - so I would do that and claim it was deliberate ;)

    1. I had the younger leaves as a salad but I hadn't thought about cooking the bigger leaves as spinach - I'll do that with the plants still in the pot! Thanks!

  4. Sorry, I am late catching up with my blog reading but I thought of you when I saw this idea a while ago

    1. Oooh thanks for sharing! What an awesome idea for upcycling rubbish and using water effectively.



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