Gardening between the showers

It’s rather soggy around here at the moment due to a fairly substantial amount of rain (17mm this month) that has been falling this week. Aside from the gale-force winds and sideways rain the weather has been simply delightful. 😉 Continue reading

Another weekend in Ballan

As I sit here stuffing my face with take-away Thai (my favourite red curry duck too) I reflect upon the amazing weekend just finished and try to remember everything we’ve done.

Mudbath anyone

The house is at the point of ordering tiles and it’s just about ready for painting. The bathroom has been stripped and is ready to be fitted out again and I’ve scored the old bath for the garden. It’s now full of soil and carrot and radish seeds and I’m hoping for a bumper crop. 😀

The only visible greenery being the capsicums

I also planted out some of our tomatoes on Friday- the German Johnson and the Red and Yellow Tommy Toes are in, along with the capsicums too. There’s not much to see though unless you look really closely, just a forest of stakes and a few small green plants at either end of the garden (the capsicums). The garden bed next to it is also for tomatoes but it won’t be planted out for a bit as the Siberian Tomato plants are just popping up now and bravely waving their cotyledon leaves in the morning sun. I’ll probably also plant some basil in there with them too, but not until the tomato plants get large enough to provide some shade. See how we and they go.

Saturday was a busy day. We actually managed to be on the road by about 8:30 thanks to the morning alarm clock coming in and hopping into bed with us at 5:50 and then proceeding to chat in her piping (and occasionally piercing) little voice and waking her brothers up. Thanks Allegra. We made good use though and managed to be on the road in good time to make the produce swap at the Ballarat Community Gardens. I made some fantastic swaps – organic sourdough starter with some freshly ground organic rye flour for the first feeding and a few dollars in donation to the gardens exchanged for a huge bunch of parsley, some lemon balm, 2 litres of worm wee, a punch of parsnips, 3 GIANT spring onions (about the size of a super fat leek), a pot of oregano and some fantastic chats and great advice. We spent far too long there which curtailed our plans somewhat but it was well worth it. We headed into town and I got to go tile shopping again. I’ve picked out my kitchen and bathroom tiles. The bathroom is pretty much plain but the kitchen will have a swanky little border. I’ve seen all sorts of lovely tiles and some gorgeous feature tiles used for splash backs but sadly none of them worked with our choice of bench tops but I am as happy as pie with the border. 😀

We ran out of time for carpet decisions but I know what I want so it’s planned for tomorrow and hopefully it won’t take long. From there we went and chatted with the heater company in regards to our solar hot water and after a quick chat with our plumber we will be ready to go with that too. This is our first eco utility if you like so it’s a big deal. 😀 Even though our water and the gas boost both still rely upon external supplies, it will be a vast improvement on the existing electric system and I’m hoping by keeping the water temperature level as low as we reasonably can, we will hopefully only use a little, if any gas.

Back to Ballan we went, grabbing some lunch on the way. We didn’t spend long there as Martin had planned a day mowing but sadly he wasn’t able to get Trevor running and the mower packed it in too. He whipper snipped until evening and caught the train back. In the meantime, I spent the afternoon in the garden in our current house with the kids, retrofitting our current chicken pen to cope with an influx of 9 more chicks which I will pick up tomorrow morning. 🙂 Yay. 😀

Head to toe with mud!

Today was the day to fix the mower (achieved), mow back the rest of the grass that needed clearing in order to put up the fence (nearly done) and get started on clearing and fitting out the new chicken shed and run (achieved). My parents were coming up to have a sticky nose at our new house and check out all we’ve been talking about for months (they’ve been overseas) but before they arrived I planted a heap of onions, some chives, spring onions, radishes, 16 paper pots of corn seedlings, 3 of zucchini and 3 watermelon seedlings too. Again, not much to see unless you’re up close, but they’re in, and their roots are free to find soil so I’m expecting to see some vigorous growth now. I was allowed to use Martin’s new toy, the pressure washer, which helped me to quickly clear the 2 inch thick mud off the cement in the shed. Poor Dad found himself clearing out ripped up and pummeled into the mud carseats and all the rest of the debris left there. He too had a go with the pressure washer and was as loath to share as I had been. It’s kinda fun. lol

I also won my eBay bid on a 1000L water tank which nearly complicated things as we were offered pick up this evening by 5:30. It was 4:45 and still in Ballan. 10 minutes to clear up, put stuff in the car or house, dress the kids (they’d been running around after having had a swim in our half wine barrel) and drive for 40 minutes to pick it up (5 minutes drive from our current home). Surprisingly we made it on time, so I am now the proud owner of a square galvanised steel framed water tank for my chicken pen. Just need to add a few metres of guttering to the roof and we will be harvesting their drinking water from the roof of their home.

Well, I’m off for an early night tonight. I have chickens to pick up in the morning with 3 kids in tow and a car to pack tonight. Zausted!

Carpet

The more I try to do the right thing by the environment the more I realise how hard it can be sometimes to do the right thing all the way. I know I sound like a conspiracy theory crazy person but it really does seem that many things are green-washed or just very careful about hiding the less natural aspects of something. And sometimes there really does seem to be no other option.

I am currently researching carpets for the new house and trying to make a choice that is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Sisal – Sisal is made from the fibres of the agave plant (Agave sisalana) as opposed to the Agave (Agave tequilana) which is used to make tequila (it would make choosing carpet a lot more fun. 😉 ) Sisal has been traditionally used to make twine and rope. The environmental impacts are the waste product resulting from the breaking up of the plant into fibres which can cause pollution if allowed into waterways but the plant needs no chemical fertilisers and needs few or no herbicides which is a huge point in its favour. I’ve not actually handled any sisal carpet though so I don’t know about its softness etc.
Wool – Wool can come from several animals, sheep being the first we think of but also goats, muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel and even rabbits – thanks Wiki 🙂 Most wool carpets I believe though are made from sheep wool. Wool carpets wear well, they dye well and they are naturally flame retardant, stain resistant and natural too, even though they may be treated with bleaches in order to strip natural colours before dyeing, insect repelling agents and other such chemicals. They are also comparatively expensive and from what I’ve seen they are still marketed as an item of luxury on tv. Wool to me seems one of the best choices available, but as one of my readers pointed out, there may very well be animal rights issues. 😦 Blending wool with fibres such as nylon makes it stronger and more durable and it’s often an 80/20 blend favouring wool. I can understand the appeal of blending.

Polyester – polyethylene terephthalate (PET) the recyclable plastic used for drink bottles. It’s sometimes made from LPG, a fossil fuel and since fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, it seems a waste for me to make carpet out of them when there are so many other alternatives for carpet. Old PET bottles can also be recycled, either into new PET bottles or into PET carpets, which in turn can be recycled again. This does add to its green credentials at least, but not enough for me.

Nylon – Yes, this is the same stuff as nylon stockings are made from. I’ve read and reread the wiki information on nylon and to me, all I can gather is that it’s made of chemicals and it’s a polymer – poly meaning many so I guess its made from many chemicals. I am no chemist but if I need to start sounding out the syllables in order to have half a go at pronouncing names, it’s usually not for me. However, in its favour it does print, dye and wear well as a carpet but does stain easily.

Polypropylene – This is the stuff that many kitchen plastics, green shopping bags  and Australian bank notes are also made from polypropylene. It seems to be a very versatile plastic but again it’s not natural and so it’s not for me. It is also difficult to dye and doesn’t wear as well as other synthetics, but it is cheap. It’s also sometimes known as olefin in the carpet industry.

Corn – yes I am referring to sweetcorn. The corn is changed into cornstarch then into a polymer. It’s a different form of plastic (bio-plastic) but it’s still a pretty synthetic even if it has come from a natural plant. Also, with all the GMO products around and with the GMO corn taking over the market I wonder how safe it is. Not to mention using food for things like carpets and fuels seems decadent to me when so many people around the world are starving.

As recommended by one of my readers missusmoonshine I checked out http://www.velieris.com who make alpaca and wool carpets. Thank you. 🙂 Initially I was disappointed as, although they use the natural colours of the wool which means no bleaching or dyeing, they were still partly synthetic blends. I have since come back to them and found that they do have 2 of their alpaca carpets that are a 70/30 blend in favour of alpaca wool. They have a limited colour range, 6 to be exact, ranging from white to charcoal but they have neutrals and browns which will complement our house. I have received information from them that “the only real option currently available is using a polypropylene backing” which makes me very sad but this may well be one of those compromises we have to make. 😦 However, as their wool is not dyed or chemically treated with insecticides, stain-blocks, repellents or flame retardant treatments this may be one of the better choices. I have a store location so will be checking it out.

The next part of this equation is the underlay. Seriously, if my brain wasn’t already badly fried by carpet research and 3 small children today! From an incredibly quick glance at a few pages, underlay appears to be often made using recycled fibres from the carpet, garment and plastics industries and recycled clothing. Yay for finding good news! I also found another underlay made from rubber My initial thought was petroleum based, followed by recycled tyres and off-gassing toxins but again, underlay seems to be a bit of a knight in green armour. This rubber underlay is made from natural rubber which is sourced by milking the rubber tree rather than cutting it down. 😀 Another underlay I found is polyurethane which sounds un-eco but it is made from 90% post consumer recycled product so it does have some green claim at least. My initial response is either the natural rubber or recycled clothing but it’s great to know that there is some environmentally friendly aspect to underlay.

Looks like I still have many hours of research to go but I do feel like I’ve at least narrowed the playing field somewhat. Do you have any knowledge on carpet purchasing? Or something else that you have researched the pants off?