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Showing posts from November, 2012

Making a living, doing what I love

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Principle 3: Obtain a yield

Dare I say it, my background is as a Graphic Artist in the advertising industry. I never really enjoyed working for agencies, I didn't find it very rewarding and sitting at the computer all day (and sometimes all night) was depressing and exhausting. I stopped working full-time back in 1996. Freelancing at agencies ceased when my son Kai was born, over 5 years ago now, though it died off almost completely a few years before that.


Back in 1996 my original plan was to spend a year on the road and find the ideal place to live. It was over 5 years by the time I returned. I worked a couple of times at agencies to keep me going, never more than a few months, living frugally from the Kombi the rest of the time. While working at a small agency in Perth I attended a 'Old Growth Forest Rally'. I remember that it was raining heavily, but the crowd was huge. I was moved by the experience and spoke to the organisers about how I could get involved. I put toge…

Part-time schooling

Principle 1 : Observe and interact

We've been interested in Home Schooling for our 5yo son Kai but have been put off by the fact that we couldn't find any support networks locally. Every parent that I've spoken to who has expressed interest in home schooling have raised the same issues.

We don't feel ready to take on full time home schooling, but don't like the idea of sending Kai off to school five days a week (he doesn't either). We are stay at home parents and are flexible and willing to help our kids learn from home. We are not interested in creating school at home, I think that they would be better off at school if we were trying to do that - rather I see this as helping our kids learn  life skills according to their needs.

A friend of ours was taking one of her children to a nearby small country school part-time last year, and was telling us how the principal was open to this. Her child went full-time at the school this year, it was right for him. On hea…

Seymour Community Garden with Costa

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Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

I've had an interest in the development of the community garden in Seymour since participating in a  meeting which discussed the concept and possible locations at the community house a few years ago. While I've been supportive, I haven't been very much involved. My focus has been on building our home and gardens here.

I've watched with interest as Mark Padgett took on the project, originally as part of his Permaculture Diploma, working in collaboration with the Salvation Army. It certainly wouldn't have got as far as it has without the ongoing help of Greg, who kept the project moving when there was little interest or involvement from the wider community. While I don't know Rick, I hear that he has given the gardens a real push more recently and developed the Seymour Community Gardens website, which I was quite impressed by. Credit to the whole team, especially the volunteers who have transformed the wasteland behi…

Finding balance in the wind

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Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

I've been feeling uncomfortable with the division that has been emerging in our community about the proposed Cherry Tree Wind Farm. These tactics, employed by the Australian Landscape Guardians, have been used before to divide the local community and create angst. Who wants their community divided? I don't like it, and have been looking at what the two positions have in common.

The local newspaper, the Seymour Telegraph, has been publishing letters from both sides of the debate along with regular updates of how the planning application is progressing (or not) with Council / VCAT. The paper has provided an important outlet for the local community to express their opinion, but it tends to fuel more adversity. I've contributed a couple of letters recently - picking out elements of the 'anti-wind' letters that align with the 'pro-wind' letters:
Published 7th November in the Seymour Telegraph Lee Stephenson raises an …

Giant geodesic sphere from scrap

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Principle 7: Design from patterns to details

My friend Dylan spoke to me of making of making a sphere from polypipe, as a project for kids at the upcoming fete at his local primary school. He discovered the video below that explained how to do it, so we spent the day (my birthday) working on it. My best birthday yet!

We soon realised that the project was a bit beyond the abilities of a primary school student.


The key bits of information that we gleaned from this video was: using the soccer ball as a guide, the calculations for the lengths that we needed and the quantities of lengths.

A soccer ball (football) is made up of 20 hexagons and 12 polygons, all of the stitching is the same length. We called this length 'Normal' (N). The diameter of the sphere is about 5 x N. We wanted to make a 2m high sphere so N = 400mm. We needed 90 lengths of polypipe at 450mm, 25mm extra at each end to give us room to drill a hole. We wondered if we would need to include the star shapes within…

Build your own: consume less, live more

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Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

A couple of months ago I read an article by Michael Green in The Age. It spoke of a new target of 5kWh per person per day, the "Go 5" campaign. I was horrified. We used less than half that amount of electricity for a family of four!
In the article there was a link where you could find out how much energy was typically used by a household in the same area with the same number of residents. For our household it was 18.1 kWh per day on average over a year. That's less than the target! What's the point of setting such a target if most of us have already made it?
I wrote to Michael Green of my concerns and he replied with this:
The idea is that we can bring down overall consumption by establishing a norm that's slightly less than the mean (more like the median), by shifting the really high consumers. Still, it seems such an unambitious goal... Michael checked out this blog and was interested in writing about our projec…

Cleaning old beer bottles for brewing

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Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services

I've been home brewing beer off and on for more than 20 years. It was my first venture into fermenting and making my own anything. I used to turn up regularly to parties with a crate of homebrew. It's a financially rewarding pursuit, each bottle of beer costing about 70c to make, while they retail for $5 or more. The trick is to set yourself up right.

Cleaning bottles is the least fun part of the process by far. It's the type of job that you only want to do once. To avoid going through this process more than once make sure that you rinse the bottles a couple of times to ensure that they are clean after you've used them, and stack them away in a cupboard somewhere near where you bottle your beer.

The newer 750ml screwtop bottles can be used but are of poor quality. They are made to be recycled, not reused. The glass is thin and they often break. I use them, but dislike them. My favourite bottles are the old l…