New Years Eve

Well, as I sit here enjoying a rare moment of peace and quiet on this last day of 2012 I naturally fall to reflecting on the year that was. It’s sort of the day for it hey. 😉 and all I can say is wow! What a year it has been. We decided for sure to relocate this year and decided where to move to, bought a house, had it renovated, moved in, bought 18 chickens and 3 ducks, anted gardens, built a greenhouse (I just need the right bolts to attach the gutters), built a chook pen, fenced, chopped down trees and so very much more.

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Our domain!

I haven’t blogged in a while, mainly due to lack of Internet access (I’m posting this from my phone which I am WELL over my monthly data allowance for) and not due to nothing to say. Those that know me know I am rarely without anything to say. 😉 So, here’s an update since my last post.

We made it through the gluttony of my family Christmas which involved frugal and carefully thought out gifts from us and my sister-in-law (although she still spoiled them silly) and a gross spoiling from Nanna who loves to shop. It was a nice day with family though although Allegra loved her birthday gift (my old dolls house my dad had made for me as a kid that mum repainted and refurbished for Allegra) so much she was reluctant to open her gifts or eat lunch too. Funny girl. 🙂

Christmas day for us was a quiet affair with just us. We had our big meal on Christmas eve with roast duck (we didn’t harvest our own but tried to buy ethically), broccoli and cauliflower (organic but full of caterpillars so the chooks and ducks enjoyed them), peas and corn, parsnip and roasted organic pumpkin and teeth breakingly crunchy spuds. The leftover duck was stripped off the bone and into the fridge and the bones went straight into a saucepan with some filtered water to simmer for 24 hours for stock (and a brilliantly gelatiney stock it made too). No waste there.

Christmas day we started with sourdough pancakes, Greek yoghurt and organic raspberries, leftover duck in sourdough crepes with some hoisin sauce I found in the fridge, sautéed grated carrots and sliced mushrooms. Yummo! Dinner was some locally made cheeses I’d bought from the Ballan farmers market, sourdough bread and Fernleigh Farms locally raised and sourced, pasture/free range raised, heritage breed pig, organic ham. Delicious. We ate extremely well yet there was no gluttony and nearly no leftovers aside from the duck (we used all of it up). The kids played with their gifts from us and from Santa throughout the day and as we ate our home are rapadura sweetened custard and sourdough plum pudding we Skype called my mother-in-law, the kids Omi, who lives in London, to wish her a merry Christmas. It was a lovely day.

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Jasper with his cousins at Nanna’s house.

Since Christmas we’ve seen our builder all but finish the house. He’s just touching up the paint on the doors now and about to work on the bathroom window which finishes off he inside! Yay!!!

Our baby chicks are growing up well, all except for 1 of the roosters who was quite ill and we thought we’d lose him. He pulled through but he’s pretty pint sized. I hope he catches up soon. They’re enjoying their first day outside in the old chook pen inside the big pen getting used to it all. They will go outside for good in another 2-3 weeks and then into the big pen a few weeks after that.
Our older birds are clearly distinguishable between hens and roosters now and although the hens a starting to cluck rather than cheep the bits are yet to tune their vocals thankfully. Once they do they’re on limited time.

My gardens aren’t growing as well as I’d thought they might sadly but after mentioning it to our neighbour he suggested hitting it up with blood and bone as it’s likely to be nutrient drawdown. As the Lucerne or straw that the beds are made of toys down it draws down the nutrients into itself and effectively starves the plants. Hence why my tomatoes aren’t as rabid as yours Fran. :)It had me well puzzled! They have had their treatment this morning which I’ll water in well this evening once it’s cooled down and fingers crossed for some action. On the up side, the pumpkin and zucchinis are flowering and the corn is shooting for the sky. 🙂

The kids are all well and loving life. They’ve started sleeping in until 7:30 again too as opposed to the 5:45-6 we’ve had to tolerate for the past few months. We woke up the other day and it was after 8! I’ve never felt more rested. 😀

2012 has been a good year. Yes, it’s been a vey good year. I look forward with anticipation to 2013 as it promises to hold many new and wonderful experiences. Jasper is off to kindergarten this year, Orik will start to speak a lot more although he’s definitely my quiet bubba and Allegra is going to get a lot more one on one with mum time too which we will both enjoy. We’ve got a play group to join, new friends to make, our first harvest (hopefully), building our gardens up more, our first Autumn, Winter and Spring to experience, the return to work with the longer commute for Martin and much much more. More animals maybe? Removing trees and planting new ones.

Well, my immediate goal is some lunch and a clean kitchen before my husband and older kids return so I’d better get moving. See you all in 2013 and happy new year to you all.

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Climate change and changing to suit the climate

Climate change.

Controvertial, no?

Is it real or is it just a hoax?

If it IS a hoax, what is the reason behind the hoax and who does it benefit?

If it is real, how do we sort the truth from the lies? How serious is it? Is it too late?

I only wish I knew the answers but I believe climate change, brought about by man, is real. If it is a hoax it benefits no-one that I can think of bar a few comparatively small companies producing environmentally friendly goods. If we believe it is a hoax however, I can think of a few industries that will reap the rewards (think of mining and drilling).

When I think back to what started my green journey I find it really hard to pin point any particular thing. I remember hassling my mum once about buying bleach and she ended up buying vinegar instead. I remember in grade 6 I think it was, doing an in class assignment where you answered multiple choice questions and it predicted a future scenario for you. Even then I preferred a large house in a small country town with an eco lifestyle. Ok, so I no longer want a large house (cleaning the house never entered my 12 yo mind 😉 ) but the rest of the scenario has pretty much played out to be true. I’ve also had that dream of living on a small acreage in the country for as long as I can remember, interspersed with eco dreams too. For as long as I can remember there has always been some level of environmental sustainability or homesteading about my dreams.

So what kicked it all into high gear then? I’ve already mentioned some of my journey of how it’s not easy to be green but it was probably the film The Day after Tomorrow that really prompted me to start making changes. Now, do I think that there will be 3 big storms to plunge the world into a new ice age? No. Do I think that the film is very over-dramatised? Yes. Do I think that the film makes a good point though? Yes. It got me thinking long and hard about climate change and our precious planet. It got me thinking about the impact that my choices and decisions have upon the planet and although it doesn’t touch on even half of the issues out there (deforestation of our jungles, over fishing, landfill, fossil fuel usage and so on) but at least for me it got me thinking. It got me processing. It made me realise that there is a LOT more to the world than just my little piece of it.

Now as I sit here today it’s a predicted high of 38C degrees (about 29 inside at the moment). It’s still November! The average maximum temperatures for Melbourne in November is 22C although the highest on record is 40.9 on November 27 1894 (info found here). It’s a total fire ban in both the Mallee and Wimera regions of Victoria too – the far north and west of the state where it’s already at severe fire danger (info found here). This is unusual for November in Victoria in my memory at least and I suspect that the odd rumours I’ve heard of a long hot summer may well turn out to be true. And after what Ballan locals have said was a long cold winter… Well it just seems to me, in my very unscientific opinion, that things are changing.

I believe things are reaching some pretty critical levels as far as climate change goes. I mean, from a cursory glance at my dear friend Dr Google, it seems the average temperature of the earth has risen less than a degree C which sounds negligible… But is it? I know the last few years here in Melbourne we’ve had some stinking hot days. I remember the new years we waved farewell to 2007 and hello to 2008 it was still a balmy 35C or 95F at midnight. Just over 13 months later on February 7th 2009 and we saw our hottest day on record, now known as Black Saturday because of the horrific bushfires that raged across our state. It changed our hottest ever recorded Victorian temperature to a whopping 48.8C (that’s 120F) recorded at Hopetown (stats taken from here). Melbourne reached 46.4C  or 115.5F (stats taken from here). Even without counting the fires in, it was a pretty rotten day here. Including the devastating fires, it was horrendous.

What melting polar ice?

The point is, the climate is changing and we are going to have to change along with it. I read a wonderful comment this morning on Narf77’s blog The Road to Serendipity about adaption. “I LOVE the positivity of permaculture…no sitting around whinging about how we won’t have citrus trees soon and isn’t it terrible…just straight away looking at the possibilities and adapting. That’s what I prize…adaptation and the ability to look on the bright side. That’s what is noble about the human race…” and it struck a chord. Even if we stopped burning each and every fossil fuel today and set everything right in one fell swoop I don’t believe the climate trend will change overnight. Things have gone too far for that. Arctic ice melting is a prime example. From what I’ve read it works like this. When there is a large amount of arctic ice it reflects back the heat of the sun a lot more, being white it’s reflective, not absorptive. However, when it gets hotter the polar ice melts and then there is less white reflective ice and more absorptive dark coloured ocean to contain the heat from the sun. This in turn melts more of the ice, which in its turn provides more dark ocean to absorb more heat and so on. I’m not sure how that is supposed to stop to be honest because it’s self perpetuating. The melting of the polar ice brings with it warmer temperatures, more water (the melting water surely has to go somewhere although I can’t seem to find anything but arguments about rising sea levels on Dr Google).

Tagasaste or tree lucerne

We MUST take more responsibility for the environment and try to stop the global warming trend but in correlation with this we need to adapt. I for one am glad we will be raising our elevation from about 17m above sea level to much closer to 500m… Just in case. I also plan to try to grow some plants that are not considered suitable for the Ballan climate – Tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis) or tree lucerne is one such tree. It’s a dry climate plant initially from the Canary islands and doesn’t like waterlogged soil but I am hoping by growing it in a raised bed in the chook pen that it will thrive and help provide food for the chickens. I am also going to try growing sweet potatoes next year. They’re not good in cold climates and not so great in temperate climates either (I tried to grow them a few years back) but I reckon it’s worth giving them a crack inside the greenhouse. I’ll probably also try ginger and turmeric too. The Tropical Hippy, a friend in both the blogosphere and real world who lives in tropical climes is giving sweet potatoes a go now if you’re keen to try them.

For me that adaption is to try and grow things locally so that I can reduce our food carbon miles. If I can’t grow it locally (bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other tropical fruits for starters) I need to weigh up the value of having access to these foods (bananas would be a big loss to my kids) versus their mileage. With many of our tropical fruits coming from Queensland they’re not as bad as they could be, but dates (which we use in cooking and as snacks – a huge loss to me) may well come from Iran or other local countries so their mileage is huge. I guess for me if I can localise as much as possible then buying some things with carbon miles isn’t so bad. I hope that the miles our tomatoes will travel will be about 20 metres from the veggie garden to the kitchen via shanks pony. 🙂 They will then be bottled which will use some gas or electricity in the processing but it’s much less than buying a can of imported tomatoes.

Anyway, this is becoming a bit of an incoherent ramble which I’m going to blame on the heat frying my brain (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it 😉 ) so it’s time to sign off. We’re having a tv day here in the interests of keeping the kids calm whilst being locked inside away from the sun (not my favourite kind of day but needs must).

Reflections and looking forward

We are into the final countdown of the saga that has become moving. November 11th was pinged as moving day, and indeed we did begin to move our possessions up there that weekend, but sadly, we are still living in our house here in Spotswood. Things have stretched out, mainly due to us adding extra renovations (like the bathroom) so no blame on our builder John who has been amazing. But as we enter into the final days of our city life I find myself reflecting more and more on the year that has been and how it is that we have reached the point we are at.

When I stop and think about what changes this year alone has brought… It was January 1st or 2nd when Martin gave the go ahead for the move to country Victoria and it was only Melbourne Cup Day last year (November 1st 2011) that we camped with friends in Trentham (nearly freezing ourselves solid in the process) that I started seriously pushing this ludicrous idea on my husband. Since then we’ve researched locations, (Trentham, Woodend, Kyneton, Lara and finally Ballan) building materials and fruit and vegetable varieties. I’ve delved into natural fibres vs synthetics, polyurethane, polyethylene, shellac, VOC’s, then chicken breeds, goat breeds, species of trees, natural vs herbicides/pesticides and all sorts of other things. It’s been an incredible journey of knowledge and my poor husband has been awoken from sleep several times by my exclamations of disgust or surprise at all hours when I’m researching because I can’t sleep. On occasion I’ve actually woken him to share some new knowledge I’ve come across that simply cannot wait until morning. He usually isn’t too appreciative of that but hey, you get that. 😛

Martin too has had changes to get his head around, more than just the financials. He’s been the one who’s got his head around all the mortgage details, who has just added extra time to his commute to work, who is doing the heavy lifting and the hard yakka even now and he’s done so much research into Trevor, our tractor, both in looking into what we needed for mowing and also in fixing Trevor. He’s actually spending the night in Ballan tonight to start bright and early on fixing Trevor and mowing before the snakes decide our garden is their ideal habitat (saw one dead on the side of the road today). (And he has just called me so I can listen to the sound of his little engine chugging away merrily. Still some to do but he is working, YAY!:D ) Martin has been my absolute rock as I’ve dived head first into all of this, listening to my eco-ranting, huge dreams and plans for the next 1,2,5 and 10 years. He’s not put down my thoughts of goats, more acres, sheep, chickens, ducks and all the rest, just brought the voice of reason in regards to timing and practicality. He’s dealt with most of the builder queries, allowed me my perfect kitchen (although he still won’t let me call it MY kitchen) and promptly, although not necessarily cheerfully, paid the bills as they’ve come in. He’s also watched the kids whilst I’ve been shopping for tiles and carpet, helping to entertain them, feed them and keep them safe whilst I’ve dug gardens, planted seeds and then he has helped handle the machinery or lifting that I can’t do, digging holes for posts, cementing them in and also happily chainsawing off branches I’ve deemed in the way (although I think he’s enjoyed playing with his new chainsaw there 😉 ). He has been incredible, sharing our story with work colleagues and finding similar dreams, shared experiences and bringing home sage advice from those that have been there done that. He’s also listened to me moan and groan about sore muscles and aching bones, despite being 11 years my senior and probably aching just as much (sorry honey, I couldn’t resist that one 😉 ). Just cos I don’t say it enough, thank you for being absolutely the best husband and girl could ask for and for your amazing support and belief this year. I love you.

The kids have been included in all the changes too. They’ve been up to their elbows in compost, planted seeds, pulled out plants and weeds, clambered around tyres, helped us cement in posts, watered plants, carried things, dug holes (they particularly like the digging bits 🙂 ) and so many other things. They’ve learned to collect eggs, feed chickens and they’ve helped me pick up our chicks and put down bedding for them. It’s a time of huge change for them and they have coped marvelously with changes in their routine, meals on the run, hours spent in the car, repeated episodes of Thomas to keep them content, changes in childcare and making new friends too. I am so proud of each of them. Despite their voicing that they don’t want to move (it’s a stubborn streak I am well familiar with as I know where they inherited at least half of it 😉 ) I know they absolutely adore the freedom and space to play at Ballan. They have come so far in their confidences too – Jas was even playing with (albeit not quite touching) 2 friendly border collies last weekend after their owner introduced them (one was called Jasper). He screamed blue murder about 2 much smaller dogs just a few short months ago. Allegra has grown in confidence too, although she still has her “daddy daddy” moments as only a 3 year old daddy’s girl can have. She loves to help with watering and helped me plant out some flowers today too. She likes ” fwowers” so I can see that I will have to look further into friendly bug mixes which contain many plants and flowers enticing to the predator bugs we want in our gardens. And Orik has grown up with freedoms and fun that the other 2 have only just discovered. He’s had battles with chickens, specifically Okku to whom he has taken a shine. Sadly, she is a moody fat feather duster with a sour disposition and the score so far is Okku 4: 0 Orik. That’s how many times he’s been pecked. 😦 He’s also had free ranging freedom in the garden that I would not have dared to give the other 2 at his age, not because he is any different to them but because I am different.

And the changes in me have been profound. I’ve dealt with and am continuing to deal with my phobias, facing up to parenting fears and discovering a food intolerance.  I’ve given up coffee and cut down/out chocolate and refined sugars. I’ve learned about fats and oils, cooking sourdough and read up and dreamed about making my own cheeses and deli meats. I’ve changed the way I view so many things and I know that my thought processes are still in the middle of massive upheaval. So much of what I have taken for granted I now question, and so many things I used to love I now can’t stand and so much I believed and trusted to be true I now struggle to readjust to a world where I know they are not.

I don’t write all this here as I plan to sit on my laurels and nor am I expecting praise or rewards or anything. I have my rewards already in my improved health and happiness and in the health and happiness of my family. I am merely reflecting out loud so to speak on the year that has nearly come to a close (only 32 days until Christmas and 39 until 2013) and the journey that has lead us/me to this point where we are moving.

I actually never thought I’d move again until into a retirement or nursing home. In fact I seem to recall uttering the words “over my dead body” to Martin on more than one occasion, but here we are over half way through moving. I’m up to my eyeballs in packed and half boxes, unpacked stuff that I don’t know when to start packing, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, living with half a wardrobe (I packed most of our summer clothes in anticipation of moving a month ago) and I’m tired of not remembering if something is here in Spotswood or there in Ballan. I’m also tired of having limited cooking supplies as I’ve been trying to use up what we have and not buy more as it’s just more to move. But we have now got a date when the carpet will be down, and the tiles will also be finished and we will be able to start sleeping in our new house.There may still be things incomplete or unfinished – we still await completion dates on our wood heater, solar hot water system, gas connection and final plumbing details but we can work around these things if needed. Thermy will help with the cooking and I survived for 2 weeks washing in kettle heated bath water during the gas crisis in the late 90’s so I’m sure we can do that again. It won’t be for too long anyway and I know the kids will love the adventure. lol

And once we have moved we will be able to pick up life again, visiting friends and inviting them over to visit too, having all my household goods available and the kids will get to enjoy 2 Christmases, the actual 25th of December one and the bonus one they will have when they get to open up their boxed up toys. I’m also looking forward to joining our local play group, meeting other kinder and childcare mums as Jas starts 4yo kinder next year and Allegra will have a day of childcare. It’s going to be a mega busy year next year with a lot of changes and big adjustments, but since 2013 contains the number 13 it should be my lucky year. Bring it on!

Jas doing papier mache last year.

Allegra about 12 months ago

Orik at about 3-4 months old

And my big boy now

Such a great helper

And my (not really anymore) bubba