Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Binimum: Five months on

Principle 6: Produce no waste

Rubbish Bin (120lt) is about 60% full, Recycle Bin (240lt) is about 25% full.

I noted in my previous binimum entry that I wasn't sure whether I should include my workshop waste in the exercise, as that increases our load considerably. Well I have, and we are now 'over budget' with our hope to only fill one rubbish bin for the year, but it's still a posibility. As we adopt this approach as a way of life we find that we are reducing our rubbish more and more without effort.
One big change has been the amount of food that we preserve. This is a everyday part of our lives now. There always seems to be something sitting in a box ready to be bottled, jars ready to go to the cellar, fruit ripening in the sun, something bubbling away on the bench. It's a busy and rewarding life, no time for TV (although we do watch the odd movie). We find that we see containers as a valuable resource, gathering them from neighbours (as we don't buy them), rather than something to put into the recycling bin. In fact I wonder if we are going to suffer from a shortage of paper to start the fire  - as we no longer buy the newspaper and don't accept junk mail.
We are finding that we are becoming more in tune with the seasons. Produce comes in waves, persimmons, feijoas and olives at the moment. Quinces have just finished and we had boxes of them to preserve - they are great stewed up on porridge. We don't actually grow these ourselves, but are given them or buy them in bulk when they are available - while we wait for our new fruit trees to mature.

Dehydrating
We've been finding that drying food is the easiest way to preserve. Solar drying is great when the sun is out (and it's hot) - but a few cloudy days in a row can result in fruit going off (check the forecast first). Of course we can use our electric dehydrator, but the electricity use is excessive in my eyes, using 4-5 kWh to dry five trays of plums. As a comparison we use about 3kWh per day to run our household. I have found the electric dehydrator very useful to finish off fruit if the sun decides not to come out, preventing it from spoiling.
As the seasons change so do the methods that we use for preserving and cooking. We have had success drying persimmons inside. Fruit is now cooked up on the wood stove top, and jars sterilised in the oven instead of using our gas stove and sterilising in boiling water. I am keen to try preserving using a solar oven next summer...

Homemade solar dehydrator full of fruit ready to dry - having it enclosed like this means that it can stay outside overnight.
Solar dehydrator exhaust fan, which operates using a small photovoltaic panel
One batch of solar dehydrated apples and nashis ready three days later, with solar dried nappies and clothes in the background

Sun drying peeled persimmons hung by string on a wooden frame inside our house, based on a traditional Japanese method
Olives
We continue to buy food in bulk, recently purchasing 20lt of olive oil that was grown at a permaculture property called Murrnong in Violet Town, about 75km north east of here. We were invited to help with the olive harvest, in exchange for a share of the oil. The day that we were there was fun, with people from all ages and abilities getting involved - learning by doing. After being involved in the process we were keen to buy our supply for the year, direct from the farmer at a very reasonable price (not industrial organic either). The 20lt container can be cleaned and returned once it's finished for reuse.
A call from another friend, to pick some eating olives, has led us to some new preserving techniques. We are using two methods. The more mature olives are sliced and stored in a strong salt and water solution, mixed every day for one month. The harder green olives are crushed to remove the seed and soaked in a weaker brine, which is changed each day for a minimum of 10 days. Once ready, and the bitterness is removed, they will be stored in oil to exclude the air.


Murrnong - Harvesting olives for olive oil production using a 'net' that is wheeled under each tree. Plastic rakes are used to strip the fruit, which rolls into one of four areas.

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Murrnong - once the olives have been 'drained' from their area on the net they are unloaded into fruit bins.


Olives (that we picked from a friends tree) being prepared for preserving using two methods. The darker (softer) ones are sliced and the green ones are crushed with a beer bottle to remove the seed. Salt is used to remove the bitterness.

2 comments:

Chris said...

That's really interesting, thanks for sharing. :)

I've been looking at building a solar dehydrator, but must admit the certainty of an electric unit seems reassuring if you're not going to lose a seasons harvest.

Having said that, I suppose there's always the option of preserving in jars if the sun didn't want to come out and play!

The expense of equipment is the biggest hurdle we're trying to overcome at the moment. Just one of those things.

Well done with the rubbish reduction. Looking forward to seeing how that concludes.

Gina said...

In case you don't know this, in Europe, Cuba, Mexico, etc., they make quince paste, which they serve for dessert with some mild cheese. In Mexico, after cooking I just dried it in the sun, as I was taught by my neighbour. It keeps forever. I wish we grew quince here so I could make it! Just google "quince paste" for a recipe.

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