Fear and a veggie garden makeover

Last week I was working hard to clear my RSS feed of unread posts. I follow quite a few bloggers and some of them are rather prolific in their posts. 1 or more per day. Some are heavy bloggers, others light. Some fun, some permaculture, some cooking and basically a wonderful variety of information. Some days I can’t handle the heavy posters. I mean, how much doom and gloom can one handle? I KNOW the climate is going to hell in a handbasket. I KNOW our economy teeters on the brink of an all out and likely permanent collapse, or at least never to be recovered in the same way, and I KNOW that we are also on the slippery slope down the post peak oil slide. Some days I want information on just how screwed the world is. Other days I need to forget this so I can continue to function. Continue reading

Growth is Obsolete (reblog)

Growth is Obsolete.

A fantastic article on Peak Oil that outlines, far better than ever I could, just what peak oil is and how it will affect every aspect of our lives.

If only society would wake up and change the entire basis of our economy before it’s too late. 😦

What does the future hold?

Several posts on blogs I follow have really got me thinking of late, about what the future will hold. Gavin from the Greening of Gavin had a dream which he wrote out and shared as a short story (read it here) which really struck a deep chord with me. Thanks Gav! And today, I made a conscious decision to try to live some of that dream. Continue reading

If the end was nigh, how would you survive.

Picture the world as it is. Modern conveniences, easy access to food at supermarkets, toilet paper on hand, petrol with which to drive your car(s), flick the switch and on goes a light. It’s pretty cushy hey. Cold? Ok, turn on the heater, crank up the thermostat and welcome the warmth. Too hot? Switch on that air conditioner or go and dive into the swimming pool for a swim. Bored? Lonely? At a loose end? Stick on the telly or computer and check out Facebook, read some blogs or play a game.

 

 

 

Picture that same world in a few years when petrol and electricity have reached prices that only the wealthy can afford. You can still go to the supermarket… IF you have the money for the fuel for your car or if you live close enough to ride a bike or walk there. Take your own bags though as there will be no more plastic ones.

Once you get there the shelves may well be bare and you may well be shopping in the dark. Imagine long queues to line up for a few cans of food, some stale bread and maybe a few cups of rice because the supermarket is rationing what they have as there is no fuel to ship the food over from China and no diesel to drive it from our farming communities or for the trucks to drive it from the docks, then to the supermarkets.

It’s mid winter and the electricity brown or black outs mean there is no power to switch on the heater. Or a 40C day and the air con needs power to run and the pool is green from lack of adequate filtration. That boredom and loneliness will  not go away with online access either. No power remember?

Take it further. How will you cook that last can of baked beans you’ve managed to find? Power is out and gas is either too pricey to use or run out too. How will you heat water for a shower? How will you prevent food from going off?

 

 

Where will your clean water come from?

It’s Springtime and it’s time to plant a garden. Have you got seeds to plant? What will you grow? Where will you grow it? Suppose you have the seeds, the space to grow some food and kind weather. How will you keep that bumper crop of tomatoes and corn? The fridge and freezer are unreliable at best (remember the brownouts?).

And most scary of all, how will you prevent others from taking your food from you should things reach that point.

Ok, so that’s all pretty extreme I know and a long way from the world in which we currently live. But does it make you stop and think? I mean we’ve all seen those post apocalyptic films and tv shows. Mad Max II, Waterworld, Tank Girl, Dark Angel, the list goes on I’m sure. But have we ever stopped and thought what would happen to us if we had to survive in those situations.

I know many have lived through similar conditions after the disasters that have struck. Cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes, bushfires, floods and other catastrophic events that render us unable to access the amenities we can normally take for granted. I salute those who have survived these situations. I have no idea how I would manage. How would I cope?

How prepared is my family?

Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin has posted about exactly this (inspiring 100% of this post) and has linked in a wonderful calculator to help you assess just how ready you truly and actually are. Click here to see Gavin’s post and follow the links. My family report card brings home a score of B. There are some areas that we are in a great position and others we are seriously lacking. I have an afternoon of research ahead of me. I strongly urge you to think about this and to read this post. How will you survive when the end of the world as we know it is nigh?

Is growth the solution or the problem?

Big Ideas - Full program podcastMartin enjoys hanging out the washing. No, I don’t make him do it. 😉 He offers… For the 20 minutes or more of uninterrupted(except by mosquitoes) peace and quiet. He gets to be alone. He gets to listen to the radio if he likes. He gets to listen to Radio National, his station of choice. I prefer background music to talking so he loves this quiet time in our garden in the twilight after the kids are in bed where he gets to enjoy the peace at the end of a long day.

The other evening whilst he was hanging out the washing he comes in with his little hand held transistor and tells me I would LOVE this talk. I’m thinking “no, not really” until I heard the topic of discussion. Continue reading

An update and things coming together

It’s all pretty amazing when things start coming together. I mean, you plot, you plan and you dream and you try and cram the plotting, planning and dreaming into reality, dodging around obstacles like time, money, weather, differing ideas, legal requirements and everything else and you hope to come up with a workable situation that hasn’t strayed too far from your first inspired musings.

File:Heidi Bild.jpg

Heidi, grandfather and Aunt Dete hurrying away

My initial dreams involved up to 5 acres, an eco friendly house built by my own two hands, robust and healthy children who look liked they had escaped from Heidi, friendly animals, beautifully landscaped (but not rigid) gardens and fresh produce pouring from their richly composted soil. The reality is a little different.

We have a 1/2 acre, the house was not built by my own two hands although I have had a lot of input into the design and materials used and we have been as eco friendly as the budget allowed for (low VOC paints, woolen carpets over recycled fibre underlay and LED lights). My children don’t have the plump legs and ruddy complexions of Heidi fame but they are healthy and happy and sporting somewhat of a tan, testament to their enjoyment of outdoor life. Our animals aren’t quite as keen on us as we are on them but Milly and Molly are getting more comfortable although Mandy still keeps her distance. The baby chicks are well acclimatised to children as they are picked up and carted around by the kids for a couple of hours each day and the silkies are fast becoming favourites (Mrs Silverpants was replaced last night along with her companion Dandelion the white silkie and Goldie or Gold Star the golden silkie). The baby chicks are used to being handled by us too although they still peg it during the day (we go out each night to make sure they’re either sleeping in a nesting box or on the perch which they’ve finally figured out last night too). The gardens are not the verdant oases I dreamed of and their soil, although rich, is not as rotted down as I had dreamed. It’s getting there now though. We do have crops coming along nicely too. I have 2 zucchinis that will be ready in the next day or 2 (they’re taking longer I think due to the still un-rotted garden beds) and my corn are flowering and I can see the beginning of corn cobs. 😀 My watermelons won’t make harvest this year but I will try transferring them even though they hate it. I have nothing to lose at this stage. My tomatoes are still coming along in the garden too. I live in fear of possums discovering them but we appear to have few of those thieving little blighters around thankfully. My broccoli are doing much better since I got up close and personal with them, rubbing the underside of their leaves and squishing all the caterpillar eggs (or are they butterfly eggs – defined by what they hatch into or what lays them?) and caterpillars of the (presumably) coddling moths that had turned their leaves into fine green lace. They still look a little lacy but much happier. My onions haven’t even made it to pickled onion stage sadly but then again I never really expected them to. 😦

The greenhouse garden

The greenhouse garden, marked out with sticks and some used chicken straw for nutrients. I will mulch it when the seedlings are up more. Thanks for the idea Narf. 🙂

But it’s the greenhouse I am most amazed with and proud of in our garden. It’s a Sproutwell greenhouse built from a kit I bought off eBay (they also have a website and the price is the same) and the garden beds I built myself using corrugated iron and hardwood corner posts. The hardwood we already had and the iron, bought from my uncle, makes each bed cost $1.50! WIN! Anyway, I’ve built 3 beds in there and filled and planted 1 of them. I transplanted the tomatoes from the second martie bed as they were very small and not going to make harvest before the frost arrived so I had nothing to lose. I planted my mandarin, banana and lemon trees in there first, then the transplanted tomatoes and transplanted marigolds in there, some beans planted down the side, transplanted capsicums, rocket seeds between them, then planted carrot and radish seeds, some spinach seeds, leek seeds, coriander seeds, transplanted chives and also chive seeds. So far the chive seeds are the only ones I haven’t seen a sprout from yet. I also transplanted in a pumpkin that popped up from seeds I’d scooped out of a pumpkin around Christmas time and planted out mid January. So, although it’s not yet that verdant oasis, it is well on its way to being a nifty little food garden.

Radishes

Capsicums and radishes

A bean

A bean

Carrot wisps :)

Carrot wisps 🙂

Spinach

Spinach

Capsicums and rocket

Capsicums and rocket with a tomato and the beans in the background. The carrots are near the icy-pole stick.

Nice mangel wurzels 😉

I’ve also bought some more interesting seeds – mangel wurzels which are like turnips but they get HEAPS bigger and if harvested small they’re good for human consumption or if left to grow out, great for cattle and chickens. I wanted to try them just because I can! I’ve also finally sourced some black carrot seeds (purple/black inside and out and amazing for antioxidants), kale, rainbow chard and some other bits and bobs. I’m planning some BIG gardens over winter. 😀 And speaking of winter gardens, I’ve started building the garden beds to go in. The existing beds will be raked up to fill the new ones and they’re a little shorter but I can double the amount of beds, greatly increasing planting area overall. I am eagerly awaiting Autumn now, something I NEVER thought I would say. 🙂

But the most fun of all is that Ignisa and I are starting to work together. We’ve had some very unseasonably cold weather this last week and Ignisa, our lovely Gourmet Cooker has been alight for about 44 hours although she’s been resting for the last hour or 2 but I’m getting cold again so reckon it’s time to fire her up again.. We need to organise some hardwood to burn (if anyone local has any they’re getting rid of or selling…?) but in the meantime we have been able to make do with our existing poplar stocks which is marvelous that we can use them up. 🙂 We also had a little bit of plum from a tree that we chopped down after it died at Spotswood. I started off by bringing in our old DVD shelves and then arranged them in such as way as to make a surround or frame for the stove. I’ve now got some space for trinkets, wood, kindling and fire lighting paper. The lamps came out and look lovely too, bringing some pleasant ambiance to the room. The fire guard, half of our playpen is doing duty as a fire guard and at night it makes a great clothesrack too once stoo up on it’s ends. 😀 Multitasking and repurposing at its best. 🙂 I’ve done some cooking with Ignisa too. 😀 I cooked a compete meal on her the other evening, spuds in the oven and then fried off the bacon in a fry pan on top and breakfast this morning was homemade sourdough English muffins cooked on Ignisa and a hot chocolate made with her heat too – another complete meal. 🙂 I also baked bread in her belly the other night but the oven was a wee bit hot (like 350C rather than 200C required). Should be fine once I carve off the top inch. lol

3 bookshelves arranged just so

3 bookshelves arranged just so

IMG_5380

English muffins and hot chocolate – this mornings breakfast

Briquette?

Briquette?

I also did some more unpacking – DVD’s away (not that they will see much use given the lack of tv), my crystal radio set up and working (I need to find a better station with some music although ABC news radio is ok too), and I’ve been knitting away getting clothes ready for winter. The kids each have a new hat and I’ve made a scarf for Orik too. I need to source some more yarn to make Allegra a scarf so it’s time to dig into the stash. I also knitted my first dishcloth using this pattern and I’m happy with how it’s come out. Now to test it and see how it works.

Our food is improving on a weekly, if not daily basis. I’ve committed to making sourdough pasta using this recipe so we are slowly using up our normal pasta which I can’t eat and once it’s gone, that’s it. We’re now drinking real milk, our veggie box arrives each week from Highland Heritage (I highly recommend contacting them if you’re local and interested as their produce is first rate) and I’ve started culturing milk too – milk kefir is like super dooper yakult and it tasted a HEAP better as well as being heaps better for you. Google kefir if you’re interested. I just don’t know enough about it at this stage other than to say it’s very good for you and not unpleasant to taste.

Bertha was also split and fattened up and her daughter, Agnetha has gone to her new home. Bertha will be fed and split again and posted this week to The Eco Mum and Narf so you should see some mail coming your way soon ladies. I had planned to post it today but I haven’t fed her or her babies enough for the rigors of travel. 🙂

IMG_5353

My Bertha, Agnetha her daughter and the tub with my bread in it at the bottom of the picture.

A Dexter. Photo is not such a good one of the cow but gives a brilliant idea of their size.

They come in black (most common) dun and red, polled or horned, short legged or normal. I think these are polled and the black one closest appears to be short legged. Aren’t they pretty. 🙂

My latest project, much to the horror of my darling long-suffering husband is to purchase a house-cow. Yep, a cow! 🙂 Don’t have a cow, she wouldn’t be a full sized one and nor will she be a genetically twisted (albeit via breeding only) miniature cow but a genuine naturally occurring small breed cow, the Dexter. The average Dexter cow, when fully grown will stand no higher at the hip than Jasper. They stand around and just over the 1m mark although the bulls are up to 1.17m I think (44in) so they really are quite small. They’re easy calvers, easy milkers, friendly animals and make excellent lawnmowers! 😀 They also require a lot less pasture space and although we don’t quite have enough land for exclusive grass feeding we may have access to some good local and I believe organically grown hay. It’s also another reason I want to try growing mangel wurzels as they used to be used for winter and early spring food in the UK for cattle. We are big dairy people here with hot chocolates, homemade yoghurt, custard and cheese (not yet homemade) on our menu with frequency. I want to know that our dairy is organic and hence free of hormones, anti-biotics and all the rest of the garbage pumped into many commercial cows (I’m not sure how much of that is dairy cows rather than beef cows which I believe are treated with regularity in factory farming conditions but any of that gunk is too much gunk) and I also want to know that it’s cruelty free. These cows are prolific milk producers for their size and can easily feed 2 or even 3 calves so I figure that there is no need to remove the calf from mother and we can simply milk the excess. No poddy calves! 😀 I also want to know that our milk is local. Full respect to dairies around Australia but I would prefer to support any in the district and preferably my own back yard… Literally. 😀 I also want to be able to give my children raw milk, full of all the wonderful goodness that milk contains, not pasteurised to within an inch of its life. I understand that pasteurisation aims to kill nasty bugs but it also kills many beneficial ones and a single cow raised at home will be much easier to maintain in a sanitary milking condition than hundreds of them all traipsing in manure and mud. And that brings me to another great reason for keeping a cow… I want her manure for my gardens. 🙂 Bonus fertiliser cakes. 😛 Dexter cows are also great for their meat which is reported to be superior – a wonderful duel purpose cow. They can also be trained to pull like oxen, something that will come in handy in a post peak oil world. Any bull calves would be fattened up for organic, pasture-fed, free-range, cruelty free (need to find an on-site butcher) and utterly local beef. It’s a HUGE undertaking though, with initial costs, commitment (10 months of the year they lactate and they live for up to 20 years, even more) and we obviously need to check council rules and permits (definitely required) and whether we have or can access sufficient fodder (I do not want to grain feed except maybe as a treat) and there is also up to 10 litres of milk a day to work through. I would need to make cheese on a daily basis which would be far too much for us to eat) and I’d still have enough left over for custard, yoghurt, bechamel sauce, Orik’s bottles and all the rest. It’s very exciting to dream though and following up on information and researching is keeping the old brain box ticking.. 🙂

So anyway, that’s the updates for now. There is lots happening, lots in the pipleline and many many more things on the discussion table. It’s a busy time and I’m loving it. 😀 What’s the news in your slice of paradise?