Archive for December, 2013

Eating words

December 29, 2013

I don’t buy supermarket strawberries. I’m usually pretty scathing about them. They’re huge and tasteless. I reckon they feed them on steroids. No natural strawberry would ever grow that big, I say, scornfully.


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It weighed in at 31 g. It appeared on a plant that was planted as a companion to a tomato. They say tomatoes like strawberries. I think it must be the other way round.

It tasted divine!

There’s no tomorrow

December 27, 2013

I’ve written about this excellent short peak oil video in a previous post.

I’ve just learned how to embed videos in this blog so thought I’d choose this one as a trial run. Let’s see if it works:

Wow! Whaddya know! It works.

No stopping me now!

A video to watch

December 24, 2013

I’m not up to speed with adding videos to this blog yet (and may never be), so here’s a link to the Damn the Matrix blog where you can watch a video of David Suzuki talking about exponential growth.

He does it so well—it’s the classic scenario of the bacteria in the bottle, which comes originally, I think, from the late lamented Dr. Albert Bartlett of Boulder Univerity, Colorado, whose quote, “the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function”, is well known to Bartlett afficionados.

Have a look—and if you really DON”T understand the exponential function then you may find yourself to be well and truly shocked and you will understand why any politician who continues to talk about continued growth is blatantly insane.

And while you’re at it, have a really Happy Christmas!

Help this farmer fight Monsanto

December 21, 2013

I’ve been following this case for a while.

Like most people who grow their own food, one of the reasons I do it is so I don’t have to eat genetically-modified food. I don’t like Monsanto (who does?). They’re insane. Someone’s got to make a stand against them and maybe this guy can do it.

It’s the end of the year and my personal spending budget has wound up in the black for once. Instead of buying myself a present I’ve donated $50 towards Steve Marsh’s fight against Monsanto. He deserves all the support he can get. Here’s hoping for a good outcome.

Summer solstice

December 21, 2013

Today marks the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere, when the sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky and starts on its annual trek northwards.

I expect to see less and less generation from the solar panels from now on.  There are many trees on the north side of the house (it’s a bush block, after all). They aren’t that close to the house but there will surely be some shade in the winter months. Even if there was no shade, the fact that the panels are on the east and west facing roof means the sun’s rays will be hitting them at an oblique angle, which doesn’t make for good generation. I won’t really know how much the solar is doing for me until I have a full year of data.

The maximum solar generation for this half of the solar year was 27.1 kWh on December 7th. It will be interesting to see what the maximum will be for the other half.

The view from the deck, looking north:


Postscript: I planned breadmaking for today. I do it in the middle of the day now, so that the sun (i.e generation from the solar panels) will cook it. And wouldn’t you know it; it’s cloudy!

Ginger in Melbourne?

December 19, 2013

I don’t drink coffee at breakfast time and I’ve given up conventional tea at that time in favour of herbal tea, usually using something I have growing in the garden. Anise Hyssop is nice if you like aniseed flavour (which I do) and Lemon Verbena rates highly, but my all-time favourite breakfast drink is a few slices of fresh ginger root and a teaspoon of honey in hot water.

The trouble is, ginger is so expensive and I’d love to grow my own but it’s primarily a plant of tropical climes and good ol’ Melbourne sure ain’t that, so when I learned that Suburban Tomato has managed to grow it here, I was determined to give it a go.

Last week I found some bits of ginger rhizome in the cupboard that had started to sprout tiny growth buds and it seemed silly not to plant them out:

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I’ve put them into a polystyrene box in a really composty mix of oak leaves and other rotted stuff and will keep it in the polyhouse where it will be warm and humid:

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Here’s hoping there will be a few cups of ginger tea in there.

Next solar update

December 14, 2013

I’ve been thinking I should do another solar update post and have been spurred on by reading that 500m² in Sydney is just about to put in a PV solar system. I’m sure she’ll love it!

When I last wrote I said:

“(Note that when the energy supplier FINALLY comes out and reconfigures the meter to show what has gone to the grid, I’ll be able to read it directly from the meter; no messing around with the spreadsheet).”

Well, the meter was finally reconfigured on 1st November and the first thing I noted was that the total amount of power exported to the grid was now showing on the display. I’d been saying that I thought I wouldn’t get a credit for it until it WAS showing, but it must have been metering all along. I had thought that when it began to show on the meter that it would start from zero, so I was rapt to find the amount was 482 kWh, which meant I already had a credit of just over $38!

The other, not-so-good thing I discovered was that separate metering of off-peak hot water had disappeared and was now reading zero. The amount that had previously been showing had been ADDED to the normal household metering, which is charged at peak rates. Not good. I’ve rung the energy distributor and retailer several times and they say I still have off-peak hot water, but no-one can explain why it’s not being metered independently as it used to be. The energy supplier hasn’t updated the retailer with details of my system yet and I think they’re just parroting out what used to exist in the belief that it will continue to exist. I’ve been following energy forums on the Net and there seems to be a feeling that energy suppliers won’t allow separate off-peak hot water metering once you’ve got solar. If I have to pay peak rates for electricity used between 11 pm and 7 am, then fur is going to fly. I’m told that it will all come out in the wash when the paperwork is finally done (I thought we had computers to do that now). My next electricity bill isn’t due till late January, so I’ll wait to see what that is before I start putting bombs under people!

Anyway….I now have figures on my spreadsheet for the whole of November and it’s looking good. Below are daily average figures.

Power imported from the grid = 5.4 kWh  (about half what it used to be pre-solar)

Cost of imported power = $1.37  (I’m using peak tariff rates to calculate this; it will be less if some is off-peak)

Power exported to the grid = 15 kWh  (we’ve had lots of nice sunny days)

Credit earned on exported power = $1.15  (@$0.08 per kWh)

Actual generation from the system = 18 kWh  (which means 3 kWh was actually used in the house)

Net cost with credit = $0.16  (if you’re wondering why this isn’t just  = cost of imported power ($1.37) minus credit on exported power ($1.15), this is because on some days I actually sent more to the grid than I took from it)

Total cost with supply = $1.08  (adding supply charge @$0.92 per day to net cost with credit)

So what I’m seeing is that for November the all up cost of power was $1.08 per day. The nice sunny weather has a lot to do with it. Winter will be a different story.

Some final comments.

There are a number of ways of looking at the savings from solar power. Firstly, there’s a reduction in power taken from the grid, so there are savings to be had there. Secondly, there are the credits earned by exporting excess power to the grid. That comes off the bill.

But I discovered another way of looking at it.

My system cost a tad over $5600. The money was sitting in a bank account earning 4% interest. That works out at an income of about 61 cents per day. But for November, I earned $1.15 per day for power exported to the grid. That $5600 isn’t in the bank any more, it’s sitting up on my roof and it earned me an interest rate of 7.5%. You won’t get that from a bank!

Oh…and the maximum solar generation so far was 27.1 kWh on 7th December. Love those sunny days!


December 8, 2013

Mainly photos—easy post when you don’t have to write much.

The redcurrants are ripening. I haven’t protected them and I can’t believe the birds are ignoring them. Same thing happened last year:

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These ones made it inside. I’ve probably nibbled this many straight from the bushes:

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OK, so potatoes are relatively cheap. I still like growing them. These are Sebagos:

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The rhubarb in the hugelkultur bed has taken off:

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Here’s what it was like when planted a few weeks ago:

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Burdock leaves. Huge. Better dig up the root and see what I should do with it:

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Corn getting going:

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Oca leaves. The tubers won’t be ready till winter:

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Picked my garlic. Could be bigger, but better than last year. Will be useful:

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Small tree. Its first year. Only two apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Supposed to have the best flavour. Better put a net over these:

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Threw some old parsley seed amongst the zucchini on the hugelkultur mound. Who says parsley seed has to be fresh?:

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Borlotti beans. My first attempt at growing beans for drying:

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Pumpkins on the hugelkultur mound:

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Self-sown tomatoes on the hugelkultur mound. Really should pull them out, but will leave them to see what Mother Nature decides:

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