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Showing posts from 2013

Crazy paving with urbanite

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Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

I collected a large pile of concrete which had been sitting out the front for a number of years. It had become habitat for snails mainly. Originally the concrete blocks were footpaths from around the original house, so they hadn't traveled far. This material is more commonly known as 'urbanite', and is used in some pretty creative ways.
I've been thinking about creating a space for an outdoor kitchen for some time now, and figured that I really needed a paved area in between the shed and cellar to set it up. The urbanite seemed like the perfect answer, allowing me to clean up around the front and create a great space round the back.
My mate Dylan suggested that I make up a form and mortar mix to set the concrete block pieces onto. Seemed like a good idea to me, so after thinking about it for a few months and with summer just about to start, I decided to get stuck into it.









At this stage I still wasn't sure how I was goi…

A guide to chicken breeding... from a novice.

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Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

In March this year we were looking to build up our flock as our egg production was too low. I took the kids to the farm nearby to pick up a couple of point of lay hens and they convinced me to also get a couple of young chicks for them.



One of the point of lay hens turned out to not be a hen at all - but has become a very noisy and overprotective (read aggressive) rooster. Rather than get rid of him I told my closest neighbours of the situation and asked them to let me know if he was becoming a problem for them - and that I'd deal with it. I contacted council to check in regarding the legalities of having a rooster in town, and it appear that this is not an issue. I imagine that if people complained then that would be a different story. I make an effort to get along with my neighbours, which certainly helps in situations like this. My hope was that the rooster would help provide us with the next generation.

The next generation Mis…

Energy Futures Forum - a local event

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Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

While there is still quite a bit of work to do around the house, none of it is that urgent - so my focus has moved to the garden and the local community. My involvement with local environment group BEAM: Mitchell Environment Group has increased somewhat since taking on the presidency role in August. With the VCAT hearing on the Cherry Tree Wind Farm to be decided any day now, I've become the face of the group and appeared on local news channel WIN TV to present some of the benefits of the proposal - for 15 seconds or so.

While the Wind Farm may or may not go ahead, one thing that has come out of the 'debate' about the proposal was the people who are for or against it all seem to agree that renewable energy is good and a way for the future. Perhaps just 'not in my backyard'. With that in mind we, as a group, decided to run an event with Yes2Renewables, which we called the Energy Futures Forum. Where some renewable o…

10 weeks without a van, and counting

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Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change.
The story of Tang I've become quite attached to my Kombi. I bought it in back in 1995 when I decided to head off for an adventure around Australia. I spent about 5 years living on wheels and 'Tang' and I became close friends. We've had our good and bad times, but mostly good. We also know each other intimately.

About 10 weeks ago I suspected that something was seriously wrong with Tang. The gears were playing up. My VW specialist mechanic in Pylong, about 35km away, is usually busy. So it was a 3 week wait before he would even look at the van. I've learn't not to push Trevor too hard over the years, just give him the time he needs to get things done. A friend told me a story about her putting the pressure on him and getting her Kombi (unrepaired) on the back of a tow truck.

Trevor took the gearbox out, and from what I can tell it was sitting around in the workshop for a while before he opened it up. Things did…

2014 Permaculture Calendar with moon planting guide

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Principle 3: Obtain a Yield

UPDATE: The 2014 Permaculture Calendar has sold out, but the 2015 Calendar is now available


It's been a very busy time over the last few months. I've been collecting images and stories from around the world to illustrate the 12 Principles of Permaculture for the 2014 Permaculture Calendar. It's now available and the busy time continues as I spread the word.

The cover image, which is very cute, is of young Verti from Whanganui in New Zealand. Her father, Nelson, writes a great blog called Eco Thrifty Renovation about living more simply - highly recommended. I see similarities between our blogging efforts, though he post more frequently than I. I'd also like to point you towards another blog about a simple life in the suburbs by Michael Conlin called Suburban Digs, he's based in Canberra. Michael has allowed me to use some of his amazing photos, which I've used in this post. I love his work.

A Moon Planting Guide I've been interes…

Part-time schooling pt2

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Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

After one term of two days a week at Tallarook Primary School, Kai decided that he wanted to spend more time at home. He kept telling us that he found school 'boring'. We explained to him that if he continues one day a week at school he would still be able to spend time with his friends that he has made, the thing that he enjoys most. He thought that one day a week sounded much better, and so for the second term Kai told his teachers that that's what he wanted to do.

Before I continue further, I just wanted to say that we are most impressed with Tallarook P.S., to have such open and understanding teachers is fantastic, they have been very supportive of the choices that we have made. I think that the schooling system has improved tremendously since I was there, and being part of a small school like Tallarook, with only 50 or so kids, gives us the feeling of being part of a caring community. We get involved as much as we wou…

Spicing things up for winter

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Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

With 5 days in a row of heavy frosts over the solstice period winter has well and truly set in. We've not needed to run the fire during the days though, as it's been sunny most days which has been heating up our solar passive living space beautifully. On occasions the house has remained so warm that we haven't even needed to light the fire at night - though hot water bottles are a must for the kids. With so much sun around we've often been using our electric kettle over the gas alternative, figuring that our solar PV system would be generating an excess. When the fires going that's our first choice.

We bottled the black olives that we harvested at Murrnong after only 18 days of rinsing with water. This was less that what was recommended to us, which was a minimum of 21 days, max of 40. The olives were more ripe, some being quite soft and I did slice each of them which would help leach out the bitterness more quickl…

Olive picking and processing

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Permaculure Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate
Picking olives can be a great way to hang out with friends, lend a helping hand and get a harvest to last you till next season. While we wait for our olive tree to grow, we have been invited to harvest olives from friends trees. We were invited up to Wuk Wuk, a property in Tallarook, with another family to pick green eating olives and have a BBQ. After an hour or so picking and a great night out we ended up with about 10kg of green olives to preserve.

I've tried a couple of techniques in the past, but wasn't super impressed by the result - although they were pleasant enough to eat. One of the main issues I had was with the amount of salt used. I wanted to try a technique that allowed me to reuse the water that is used for rinsing the olives.

Caro and Mark, who came with us on the Wuk Wuk trip have been preserving olives for many years and experimented with different techniques. They have adapted the kalamata method of pr…