Operation Homestead: Days 15 & 16

What a weekend! Yet again, exhausted but elated and we have made some real progress that is hugely visible. Don’t you hate when you slave away at something but at the end there really isn’t an awful lot to show for the work invested?  This weekend, in fact the whole week has left a very visible mark on the house and gardens. 😀

Yesterday was a day of showers. Not particularly warm (although not cold either) and it couldn’t decide if it wanted to shower or not. I was also down with a rotten headache and sore neck (hence the headache) and after a night of broken sleep from Orik who is attempting to cut 3 molars all at once, it wasn’t the best of days. Still, I managed to work on the defencing of the gardens. I didn’t get to impale but did remove many of the palings at least. 😉 Martin, due  the warmer weather forecast today and with summer just around the corner, continued to focus on the grass. Mowing a 1/2 acre of foot high grass is no mean feat at the best of times, but when it’s wet and hiding all sorts of things like empty buckets, broken pipes, carpet, rotted down carseats and plenty of rocks and tree stumps, well, let’s just say he has the patience of a saint. He was also watching the kids as I was working out the front. And poor Orik took a faceplant onto the bitumen, breaking his fall and slide with his nose. Poor bubba. 😦 We headed home about 4:30 with grumpy kids and a cranky headachey me. Frustrating kind of day.

Today more than made up for the frustrations and disappointments of yesterday though. We arrived up there armed with food supplies and snags to have a little barbecue with friends and I had a run to Gordon, a nearby town to grab some give away pots of currant cuttings. I came home with 4 pots of currants, both red and black, some of which are even fruiting (yay 😀 ) and 2 pots of thornless blackberries, all of which will be planted and trained over the fences (when we get them). What a wonderful score. 🙂

The afternoon involved 3 kids behaving themselves very well, a LOT more mowing being achieved, a side fence almost completely removed, a temporary fence being installed and more. No spuds up yet but their beds are nice and toasty under the lucerne mulch and the veggie beds are rotting down nicely. Soon they will be ready for planting. Maybe another week or two until the end of the frosts? Oh I hope so.

The pile of rubbish removed and the fencing to the near left that is now completely gone.

Work on the house has progressed too. Our builder, John, started work on Wednesday. In 3 days he has finished clearing out the kitchen, stripped all the floors out (tiles, floating floorboards and a bit of remaining underlay), removed the old wardrobes and built the framework for our walk in robes, removed the wardrobe in what will be Jasper’s room, changed the wardrobe in what will be Allegra’s room to be a wardrobe for both Jasper and Allegra’s room (it was too deep and just wasted space before – now it’s 2 useable wardrobes), cleared out the laundry and bathroom and removed all the broken doors.

The exciting part is that my kitchen should be ready to go in next week and be finished the week after! Paint colour has been chosen so I need to get a move on and work out tiles and carpet now.

Well, the children are all asleep and I’m not far off sleep either. A few more pictures of our work and the property and our family.

Some very temporary fencing. It’s enough to keep Orik in and slow Jasper and Allegra.

My little poser 😉

My poor bubba getting ready for bed with the grazes of the road on his nose.

Jasper flaked!

Our creek

A glorious winters day in the garden

Today has been a very pleasant one. Seeing the glorious sunshine outside I just HAD to get out and enjoy it. Having a lot of washing to hang out meant I didn’t feel frivolous just soaking up the rays. Washing hung and more still being done. By the way, what is it with small children and washing? I swear they can get themselves dirty just by breathing. Well, today they did a lot more than just breathe, and boy were they dirty! And gloriously happy and probably a little cold too. Whilst they painted things with muddy water and paint brushes, drew with green crayon on the hot water heater, dropped pebbles all over the lawn and then picked them all up again after getting in trouble for it, jumped on the trampoline, swung on the swings, dug up worms, fed the chooks and found a crysalis, I started dismantling the trampoline and fed all my seeds and pot plants with some Seasol. Stoked to see it is 100% organic too. I also planted my sage seedlings in various pots too so my thumbs got a little more greening today as well. Yay.

Anyway, once the “work”was done I just lay on the trampoline on my tummy and did some reading online. It was bliss! And informative too. Thoughts of Peak Oil got me thinking and I got to wondering what life was like before the industrial and agricultural revolution. Before petrol and diesel. Way back in the “olden days”. Well, before modern machinery was steam power. Before steam was horse power. Before horse power was donkey, ass and oxen power and before that was shanks pony. Most people had a veggie garden and chooks and most farmers raised their own pigs too. Land often was worked until there was no nutritional value left as crop rotation wasn’t understood and soil nutrition undiscovered. Unless you planted legumes as well your soil would cease to produce the crop you normally grew. Manure, wood ash, and other substances were used with varying degrees of success to re-energise the soil but the science behind it wasn’t understood.

A farmer using a hand plow

Food transport was probably not much farther than the nearest town so food shortages could be quite localised if there had been a local disaster, and at the end of winter like around now you were most probably on some kind of food rationing. Keeping animals was expensive as far as food went too so only wealthier farmers could afford to raise them. Wool was a big money crop and most people only owned a few sets of clothes their entire lifetime as it was just too expensive to buy or make more. Labour intensive too.

Another thing to think of too is foods we consider to be such staples like pasta, rice, potatoes and such weren’t even around or available. Spuds were only brought back from the America’s in 1600 or so! Staples were a grain mush instead. And here’s a statistic that stunned me. 80% of people were in agriculture in the 1300’s compared to less than 2% in the developed world today! We have moved so far away from our food.

It all got me thinking, bringing together a whole lot of aspects and thoughts from A Crude Awakening, The Power of Community and Food Inc. We need to get ourselves back to the land and back to at least having our own veggie gardens and a fruit tree or 2 as most people had back in those “olden days”. If you have the room, keep a few chooks too for eggs. If you own your home and get on well with your neighbours you could even work out who grows what and then divide your crop evenly between you all. When we move I will be moving a lot closer to my dear friend Corrie-Lyn whom I am hoping to be able to play crop swapsies with. We already swap jars of preserves and information and we both bought our canners together. She is one of my greatest inspirations! I am hoping to find other like minded people in Ballan too and I won’t be too far from Gavin either, whom I one day very much hope to meet. He is another huge inspiration and it was his blog that got me started watching the films that have changed my life. And another friend Penny who also has veggies, fruit trees and chooks will be nearly a neighbour too. Both Penny and Corrie-Lyn are Thermomix owners too.

So, I consider that an incredibly profitable day in the garden. Vitamin D, great play time for the children, fresh air, chores done AND some education too.

And there is hope again

I was feeling so despondent and afraid still after watching A Crude Awakening. Concerned for my immediate and extended family, concerned for friends and for the community and wider world too. Even if things don’t suddenly snap into a major crisis, I truly believe that the way of life we are used to NEEDS to change. Large cities with large houses and little land is just not going to be sustainable in a world where fuel costs so much. My brain was flipping from “it will be ok” through to sheer panic and back. It’s been unsettling to say the least. And it’s made me very impatient for our move.
So, last night I watched Power of Community; How Cuba survived Peak Oil. Cuba faced a trial run so to speak of the Peak Oil crisis when the Former Soviet Union collapsed. Cubans were heavily reliant on oil imports and they stopped dead. The economy spiralled into recession within months, food became scarce and fuel even more so. It was sink or swim time. Food rationing was put in place, every available scrap of land was put to use to grow food and people had to till the land by hand as parts and fuel for tractors did not exist. Overnight, the humble farmer became king. And people learned by trial and error. Chemical based pesticides and fertilisers were unavailable so organic practices were sought. Things began to improve. Now, the majority of Cuban crops are organic, farms have shrunk down to a size that can be managed by a family tilling by oxen, power is mostly through sustainable means such as solar and wind and the people there have learned to do with less.

I must admit it all seems a bit too easy but I imagine that during “the special period” as it is known, things would have been terribly tough. Rolling blackouts for long amounts of time, unreliable power making food storage risky, unreliable food sources, uncertain transport and having to learn the hard way day after day would have made for a rough ride for most people, particularly city dwellers. However, from what was shown on the film, Cubans now have a much healthier life. Bicycles were imported to provide transport options and fresh fruit and vegetables for food has helped lower the risk of heart attack and incidence of diabetes, decentralisation of everything has meant the opening up of 47 more universities and a greatly increased sense of community has grown.

Watching this has given me hope. I know that the tough times are still coming but having seem proof of a thriving lifestyle after peak oil I know we will make it through.