Archive for October, 2008

Nine percent! Holy sh*t!

October 30, 2008

From the Post Carbon Institute comes this article which begins thus:

The Financial Times has leaked the results of the International Energy Agency’s long-awaited study of the depletion profiles of the world’s 400 largest oilfields, indicating that, “Without extra investment to raise production, the natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent.”

I haven’t said much (well, anything really) about peak oil at this blog, but the whole idea of my attempt to become self-sufficient in food is to prepare for energy decline as global oil extraction reaches a peak and then goes into permanent decline.

I don’t intend to waste time explaining why peak oil is an even greater threat to civilisation than climate change; Google will find you plenty of peak oil sites which will fill you in if you are confused about the issue.

So what does 9% decline rate mean and why is it so mind-numbing?

If a quantity is growing at a fixed rate (e.g. your money in a bank) the time for that quantity to double is obtained by dividing the % growth rate into 70. For example, a sum of money invested at 10% interest, will double itself in 70/10 = 7 years.

Similarly, for a quantity declining at a fixed rate, the halving time (i.e the time until half the quantity is left) will be obtained by the same calculation.

If oil output is declining at 9%, then 70/9 = 7.8 years. In other words, in just on 8 years the world will have only half the oil at its disposal as it has today.

Try imagining how society as we know it will function with only half as much energy and then, when you’ve recovered from the shock, start thinking seriously about food (and water) self-sufficiency.

You haven’t got a lot of time in which to achieve it.

Gum leaves, anyone…?

October 24, 2008

Nothing to do with food, unless you eat gum leaves, but worth a show-off all the same.

This little fella turned up on our bush block earlier in the week. Amazing, because rumour had it that koalas were extinct in the local area. He spent most of the day asleep, woke up at dusk, had a good feed of leaves and was gone by the morning.


If only our kind would let his kind exist in peace.

Christmas in October

October 20, 2008

Had a most interesting and productive morning today, visiting the writer of the Gardening at the Junction blog, who lives near me. I found the blog only a few weeks ago, while Googling for propagating information on Goji berries.

Doug is a tomato freak and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I’ve never seen such large, healthy, robust plants, most already sporting flower trusses and beautifully planted; each with its own supporting ring, each carefully labelled with easy-to-read laminated labels and each with its own below-ground slotted drainage pipe for watering. (It occurred to me that I plant my tomato plants much too close together).

Apart from the ever-popular Grosse Lisse, I’d never heard of any of the varieties, which Doug grew from seed sourced mostly in the US.

I think he said he’d grown about 300 tomato plants this year and sold most of them at a couple of markets. I actually went to buy seedlings of Goji berry, which Doug has also grown, but luckily for me, came away with 13 lovely tomato plants and 10 small Goji seedlings. Christmas came early.

So…. to this year’s tomato collection I will add:
Window Box Roma
Black Cherry
Greek Witness
Pearly Pink Cherry
Cherokee Purple
Monomakh’s Hat
Rio Fuego Nana
Tigerella (the only one I was already growing)

I’ve placed a link to Doug’s blog Gardening at the Junction at the right of this page. I suggest a visit.

If he posts photos of all these delicious fruits, I think you’ll almost be able to smell them.

Wicking box summary

October 18, 2008

Just a short summary of what’s currently growing in the wicking boxes. I’ve got 12 in operation so far and I think that will be it for this growing season, until I can make a lot more compost.

On the house deck—3 boxes:
(1) Peas, doing well; not flowering yet but soaking up the water from the bottom reservoir like crazy.
(2) Beetroot; slow at first, probably because they hadn’t got their roots into the moist soil and I neglected to water them enough in the early stages. Going fine now and the water in the reservoir is dropping, indicating that they’re tapping into it.
(3) San Marzano tomatoes. Really pleased with these. Nearly 50 cm high and already with 2 flower trusses.

Beside the deck—3 boxes:
(1) Bok Choy chinese cabbage. Red Leaf form from Diggers Seeds. Only small and still being watered from above. Probably will run to seed quickly as it’s getting too warm for them.
(2) Celery. Put out as very small seedlings but growing well and taking up water from the reservoir. I think these will be a great success as celery loves water.
(3) Box waiting for capsicums to go in.

Down the back—6 boxes:
(1) & (2) Broccoli, just starting to flower. The plants are small, possiby because I put 5 in each box. Maybe 3 would have been better. They’ve been taking up water rapidly over the last few weeks.
(3) & (4) French Beans. Just planted, so a bit soon to tell how they’ll go.
(5) Peas, planted the same time as the ones in the box on the deck. Slightly smaller but going well also.
(6) Box waiting for cucumbers.

And that’s it. I’ve created a special wicking box page to record my experiences. Just click on the link to the right.

Sunday Loaf

October 5, 2008

Work through the week and loaf on Sundays? Oh, I wish! The loaf in queston is a loaf of bread. I usually make one every Sunday, cut it nice and thick and put it in the freezer. We use it for breakfast toast—one slice each. It’s so filling and nourishing that one slice is enough.

So here’s the basic recipe:

5 cups bread flour
2 teasp salt
3 teasp dry yeast
2 & a half teasp bread improver
600 ml warm water + 1 teasp sugar

To the basic mixture I add one tablespoon of each of the following:
Sesame seed
Sunflower seed
Wheat germ
Oat bran
Polenta (corn meal)
LSA meal (ground linseed, sunflower & almond)
Poppy seed
Caraway seed (sometimes I’ll use dill seed)

The flour must be bread flour, i.e. made from hard wheat with a protein content of 12-13%. Cake flour won’t do. I buy Wallaby brand bakers flour at the supermarket. The bread improver is usually also available at the supermarket.


Mix all the dry ingredients (except the yeast).
Add the yeast to the warm water+sugar and leave till it starts to froth.
Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and mix till it looks like tacky porridge.
Cover the bowl with a towel and leave to stand in a warm place until it’s doubled in size.
Turn out onto a floured bench and knead until the dough becomes firm and elastic.
Place in the tin, cover with a cloth and allow to rise again in a warm place until the dough is level with the top edge of the tin.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg celsius for 30-35 min.
Turn out of the tin immediately and cool on a wire rack.

Here ’tis:

Energy stuff

October 1, 2008

A knowledge and understanding of the peak oil phenomenon tends to wonderfully concentrate the mind on energy issues. Energy is the currency of life, not money. Energy makes the world go round, not money. (The popular song is wrong).

So much so, that I’m now beginning to see everything in energy terms.

Consider these:


They’re tendrils from two varieties of pea plant. The pea plant uses them to hang onto any support in its vicinity. The one on the left is from a variety I grew from seeds collected from plants that germinated in a bale of pea straw I bought to use as mulch. I don’t have any information about the variety.

The one on the right is from the variety Massey Gem, grown from seed purchased from Eden Seeds.

Note the difference in the size of the tendrils. Also, there are leaves on the Massey Gem tendril shaft, but not on the other variety.

What can I conclude, in energy terms, about these differences ?

The plant on the left is putting a lot of its available energy into making tendrils. So it could be expected that it will have less energy available to make peas. The plant on the right is investing less energy in tendrils, therefore should be making a lot more peas with that saved energy. In addition, the extra leaves mean more photosynthesis, therefore more resources available to make peas.

So I would expect that of the two, Massey Gem should give a higher yield of peas. 

In order to test this I would have to grow a specified number of plants of each variety under the same conditions and measure yields. At the moment I haven’t the time or space to do this, but it’s something to think about, eh?

Think energy.