As in crazy. Stir crazy.
Yesterday was a total fire ban. It was hot. Continue reading
As in crazy. Stir crazy.
Yesterday was a total fire ban. It was hot. Continue reading
My gardens are full of excitement at the moment and it was a real joy to get out and muddy this morning. 🙂 However, I’ve been having some identification problems. Continue reading
Much to my surprise 2013 has come to a close. And as is natural at this time of year I am reflecting over the year that was.
I feel like I’ve been in hiding for the last month. In fact, I pretty much have been. It’s been needed. I am still not back to normal (not that I could really EVER be considered to be normal 😉 ) but I am getting there. I figured though I’ve been appallingly slack on the blogging front and there are several things I need to update on.
Firstly, I blogged about a giveaway that Missus Moonshine was having on her blog where the winner got to choose an outfit from Alicia’s Etsy Shop EvieandLiv. Well, I was the lucky winner of the competition. 😀 I chose a lovely upcycyled blanket tunic dress for Allegra which she loves and looks adorable wearing too. 🙂 I haven’t taken a picture of her wearing it yet but I shall when next she’s dressed in it. 🙂
Anna the goat is doing well too. She’s plumping up and the round of what may have been mastitis has cleared. She’s producing a little milk which we milk most of it out every few days although not completely. We don’t want her in milk at the moment as we’re trying to dry her off to allow her body to focus on gaining weight. Milk production takes a heavy toll nutrition wise and with her current state of underweight it’s not a burden we’re willing to place on her at the moment. We’re also working to get her into optimal nutrition in order to breed her again, hopefully in a month or two so we want nothing to be taking away from her. She is looking better every day. 🙂
The gardens aren’t seeing much action at the moment but it doesn’t mean things aren’t growing well. The broad beans have the odd flower although they’re a less than impressive height. I must admit I am disappointed in our crops this last year but I’m also trying to remember that this is purchased compost, our first year of the veggie beds and the soil and the gardens also haven’t had the full benefit of experience and time. However, I have my second cauliflower head forming in the greenhouse. I don’t know that it’s had enough feeding to be honest but we’re learning. My greenhouse spuds are coming up in their cage on top of the citrus bed. Citrus don’t like their roots being disturbed but a cage of spuds grown on the surface doesn’t hurt them and any extra nutrients from the spuds drain through to feed the lemon and mandarin. 🙂 In the garden beds proper I have 3 beds of garlic all looking healthy and 2 beds of potato onions which also seem to be doing what they’re supposed to. It’s hard to know with them though being an uncommon plant nowadays and also being my first year growing them but all seems well. 🙂 The traditional onions and leeks are growing somewhat but not enough to make me jump up and down and the broccoli that I planted back when we first moved up here are still just growing away with no sign of heads forming. I’ve left them there in order to see what happens but I’m figuring nothing will happen now. Time for them to feed Anna.
The front gardens have ground to a halt sadly since my last update on them. When Martin was gathering wood from off our block across our creek the other week the chain tightening gizmo from his chainsaw came loose and has taken an extended vacation to the land of missing so we’ve been waiting for a replacement part which has just arrived so here’s hoping we can get some more trees chopped down soon. We’ve decided to forego hugelkulture beds for the rest of the garden this year though simply due to the time required but I think we’re going to do best by buying in straw bales for straw bale garden beds. They will rot down to produce good composted straw for the hugelkultur beds for next year. 🙂
We’ve finally sorted out a way to get our washing dry over winter too. Friends of mine have a drying rack they built that hangs above their wood heater which is on a pulley system and we have blatantly plagiarised the idea. 😉 We have a hexagonal play pen purchased when the kids were little, half of which we use as our fire guard but the remaining pieces have been used as lash up drying racks so we arranged for our builder to hook us up one too. I love it! With the fire roaring we can get jeans all but dry overnight and most other clothes dry faster. The sock hangers I built also allow us to dry our underwear and socks quickly (in the space of an hour if the fire is cranking) so it’s one more use we wring out of the wood we burn. We’re up to 5 uses now (heating the house, heating our hot water, cooking stove top and oven and now clothes drying) so i feel like we really are being conscientious about our fuel usage. Whether fossil fuels or not, judicious use of fuels, even the renewable ones, is a wise idea. Trees still take time to reach maturity so it’s not wise to squander that resource. 🙂
Orik is also now in a big boys bed so I’ve been coming to terms with no longer having a baby. He’s still my snuggle-bug so I’m not struggling too much but for the past 5 years I have had a child under the age of 2 to cuddle so this is an adjustment for me. I’ve packed up the cot and put away the cot sized sheets and blankets. Orik is sharing a room with his big brother so I’ve been packing up the nursery too. I’ve met that last challenge with mixed feelings. On one hand I no longer have a baby but on the other hand I now have a spare room which has been converted into a room for us to do some of our educating. Yes, we are considering homeschooling our children. So this last weekend, whilst Martin sourced firewood from across the creek, I spent my time converting an old cot into a desk and moving furniture around to get a working set up for us. I think I’ve got something I can work with. 🙂 The cot desk now just needs painting. The top will be painted with blackboard paint and I might see if I can attach a large bulldog clip to one end for a painting easel. We will see. 🙂
In cleaning this all up I have also been working through more boxes and bags of stuff that’s still unpacked from the move. I’ve a box of books to return to my cousin from when she lived with us over 7 years ago (whoops) and I’ve also come across photos. Several packets thereof. 🙂 I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. Many, like photos from my brothers 21st will be posted on to those for whom they are relevant. Others will be recycled but there are many that I wish to keep for the memories although I definitely have no space for the hard copies. I either need to sit and scan them one by one or find the extra money to pay someone to do that. I have the negatives for most of the pictures too. It sure takes up a bit of space so all I can say is thank goodness for digital mediums and terabyte drives. 😉
We’ve also had to replace the glass on Ignisa. Just another frustrating expense really. I managed to close the door on a large piece of red-gum which broke the glass yesterday evening. Frustrating much? We dug out our electric oil heaters to warm the house and made it through a night that dropped down to around 2C in comfort. The use of electric heating grates at me but it is for only one night and sometimes needs must. Martin had a day off booked and so has changed plans to take the fire-box door up to Ballarat to get the glass fitted. Wood n Energy, through whom we purchased Ignisa repaired the glass whilst we waited to save us the drive up this afternoon to pick it up. Their service has been exemplary I must say and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone in the area looking for a wood stove.
The last lot of news I have is somewhat amusing. Mandy, our female duck had decided to sit eggs again and as I had a dozen in the pantry of her eggs I placed them under her warm feathery derriere to sit which she did with pleasure. I have however been noticing the eggs disappearing one by one until we h=now have 4 left so it appears we have an egg eater. We’ve increased their food and hopefully we lose no more. However, Miss Mandy decided she wasn’t interested in sitting them any more the other day and deserted her nest. Fortunately for us we’d had a slight misunderstanding with eggs and Martin hadn’t realised that Blackie was once again sitting on some eggs. He brought them inside and it wasn’t until morning that I connected the necessary dots, by which time it was too late for Blackie’s eggs. She decided then to help take over from Mandy so when Mandy ditched her nest, Blackie took over. Another hen had also deposited an egg in the next and since I think they’re due to hatch at similar times, I’ve left it in there so Blackie is sitting on 4 duck eggs and a hen egg. It should be interesting to see what happens when they hatch. 🙂
Well, it’s time for me to go and get into the day properly. It’s been a slow morning due to a week of very broken sleep as we’ve had a virus through the family this last week resulting in another hospital run with suspected croup last Thursday night I think (not croup, just a nasty chesty cough for Mr Orik which is on the mend), and we haven’t had good sleep since then. I hope you all have a productive week and hail the arrival of Spring on Sunday. 🙂
Our house needs a heater. It currently has a hole in the roof for the flue and a chimney on the roof, nothing else. Given that Ballan has some rather cold nights (and days) over winter and well into Spring, we will need some decent heat. I don’t want to be relying on fossil fuels for our heating either which means we are quite restricted with how we can heat the house. In fact, from all I’ve read, there really are few sustainable choices; passive solar housing design, houses with high thermal mass (such as Earthships, straw bale homes, earth-bermed/sheltered homes and rammed earth homes) or geothermal heating (like in Reykjavic). These are the only ones I can think of that are truly environmentally friendly heating options.
The normal options would be electric heating which as we all know, can be expensive. It’s also usually reliant upon fossil fuels unless you buy “green” electricity. Gas is still not a renewable fuel no matter how clean it is, well not unless they start using methane. 😉 Wood fires can cause issues in some areas where the smoke pools and it can cause problems with some people with respiratory problems and not all heaters are efficient. There really don’t seem to be any truly viable in all areas heating options out there and unless you have a house that requires no or very little heating, you will need to make a compromise somewhere.
Passive solar heating is capturing the heat from the sun that’s coming through the northern windows (for us here in the southern hemisphere) and trapping it in flooring such as tiles or cement slab floor. However, our house in Ballan is on stumps and technically faces south. We are considering changing the back door to a larger glass sliding door to add greater glass space for passive solar heating but the house, even if it was insulated to the extremes, will just not generate and store enough solar heat to be solely heated by passively solar. We need to look at another option.
We have chosen to try and kill as many birds with a single stone as possible and have opted for a wood burning heater which has an oven and stove-top (so we can cook once post peak oil prices have driven gas to unreasonable amounts), hot water heating capabilities that can also use hydronic heating to further utilise the heat. It’s a LOT of work being done by each piece of wood and we should truly get full use of the heat.
I love the idea of being able to heat the house comfortably, then further make use of the heat to also bake my bread (I bake bread at least 4-5 times a week) rather than turning on the oven. I can use the stove top to reheat soups, boil the kettle and other such things and I already use cast iron cookware all except for a kettle. They are hard to come by.
We are installing solar hot water too, hopefully at the same time which, although it will have a gas booster for back up, I hope we won’t ave much need for it. The house is only 120 square metres, give or take so we’ve opted against a hydronic heating panel for now but we can retrofit that easily enough if we need it.
The best bit is that I believe they are made right here in Australia. 😀
Anyway, today was all about a trip to actually SEE one of these heaters. It’s bigger than I thought even despite all the pictures I’ve seen and after being warned at the small sized oven I was pleasantly surprised at its size. I hadn’t expected a full sized oven but it’s more than big enough for a casserole dish, roasting tray or 2 loaves of bread which is all I ask for. I am also stoked that I will be able to generate my own wood ash which can be of benefit in the garden.
So, one more task is knocked off the list and we will let our plumber (the installer) now we are ready to go. YIPPEE!