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.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Growing our own - food harvest results for 2013

Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity

The intention was to give a running commentary of food harvest throughout the year - but it wasn't to be. I've bitten off a bit more than I can chew this year. Anyway, Kunie and I recorded all the data that we could - I managed a report for the first quarter and this final one for the year.

In short, we recorded the harvesting of 509 eggs, 276kg of vegies, 90kg of fruit and about 4kg of herbs - which averages out at around 1.4 eggs and 1kg of produce per day. Certainly not enough to call ourselves self-sufficient (which is not our intention), but we are becoming increasingly self-reliant and rarely purchase vegies - with the exception of mushrooms and potatoes.

Sen enjoying some freshly picked carrots
Some produce was not recorded, so the figures are conservative. Strawberries, raspberries and carrots are often eaten by the kids in the garden. Salad greens and herbs, often available year round, are almost always picked without weighing - while some produce was given away, fed to the chickens, left to go to seed or we forgot to record it.

Some other things to note:
  • We planted our first seeds for growing vegies in July 2010, so it's a young garden. 
  • Vines, canes and other fruit / nut trees planted after July 2010 and some have just started producing. Grafting of Wild Cherry Plums with Apricots / Plums and Peaches began in August 2011 - Almond grafting began in mid 2013.
  • We used about 76,000lt of water from the mains, which is a substantial increase on previous years as we decided not to use (much) tank water for irrigation - reserving it for household use or for the garden in the case of tight water restrictions.
  • Rainfall for the year was officially recorded at 435.6mm - significantly lower than the mean over the previous 30 years of 583.9mm. We recorded 526mm in our rain gauge.
  • We imported no animal manure or other fertiliser to add to the garden beds during the year - using just material composted on site which included chook and humanure. The soil was tested and depleted nutrients added in July 2012.
  • We do receive regular deliveries of lawn clippings which is used as mulch on the paths and beds.

Check out the 2013 harvest figures.


I was quite surprised by the fluctuation of egg supply, with a low of 2 recorded eggs for the month in April. We started the year with 3 hens and added another 2 at point of lay and 2 female chicks in March which have since come into lay. One of those point of lay hens was actually a rooster, which sired 6 more chicks in November. We ended up with 509 eggs counted for the year, an average of about 1.4 per day - although currently we get 2 to 4 eggs per day (averaging about 3).


I didn't realise how many different types of vegies we grow here. I recorded over 40 varieties, but there are more than that. There's always something ready to harvest, but not often a huge variety at any one time. We do store some vegies to carry us over the lean parts of the seasons. Potatoes (not many), bulb onions, garlic, pumpkins and sometimes beetroot too - which are often stored in the cellar. We've started freezing broadbeans in quantity too. All other vegies are eaten fresh or kept for limited times in the super fridge.

A big harvest of Jerusalem Artichokes - 11.4 kg, most of which was fermented into an experimental wine.

Some great looking cauliflower - I haven't had much success with brasicas in general.

38kg of pumpkin harvested, a few different of varieties - store well in our cellar.

About 9kg of leek harvested, available all year round. Keeps well in the ground and is harvested as needed.


We had a very impressive harvest of watermelon, grapes and boysenberries in 2013, and the apples, apricots, peaches and plums began fruiting.

A huge 25kg of Boysenberries harvested for the year, in just 7m of plantings

9kg of these small, but intensely sweet grapes - many of which were dried

Kai trying to lift this 8kg watermelon - which was delicious.
Our mulberry, black currant, kiwi, figs, loquat, mandarin, olive, cumquat and feijoa trees should start producing soon. We planted four more citrus trees (lemon, pink grapefruit, orange and lime) and four hazelnut trees in Spring of 2013.
Four hazelnut trees planted as a hedge along south boundary

Orange tree (left) planted along west boundary, near herb garden - acting as a screen and providing a micro-climate for herbs.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Our outdoor kitchen - Part 1

Principle 1: Observe and interact

During the summer the last thing that you want to do is heat up the house. It's a time to preserve, which can be messy and involve long periods over a stove top. This is all best done in the outdoors.

Every since I paved the carport we have been using it as an outdoor eating space during the hotter times of the year. Being on the east side of the building, it's perfect during the afternoon when it's well shaded. The next logical step was to create an outdoor kitchen, made all the easier since I recently paved the area that I had in mind.

Double outdoor laundry trough
I like to design furniture around the items that I have available to me that are suitable for the job at hand. In this case I had a large double laundry trough and a one of two giant pieces of slate that I dug up in the backyard (what a score!). The perfect job for me is to complete it using only what I have laying around. This was one of those jobs. All of the timbers were left over from the house deconstruction / build (stacked in a timber rack), the screws were recycled from a demolition job and the raw linseed oil is something that I always have on hand to protect exposed timber.

My original idea was to build a stand for the trough and attach the slab alongside, but I ended up building two separate units. This gives me the flexibility to move things around if required - like when I want to renovate the old shed. I can also try things in different spots and see how they work. I've discovered that it's best not to be too stuck on a design solution that comes out of my head. I like to try it out and see how it goes before really committing to a design, applying the principle Observe and Interact.

Kai and Sen helping dad paint the outdoor bench with linseed oil

Bench with slate slab top and double laundry trough - primarily for washing produce.
We can now use the bench and trough and find their ideal placement before getting the trough plumbed in.

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