Archive for June, 2014

June update

June 30, 2014

I’ve been doing a bit of reblogging lately, since I learned how to do it, but it’s because I find other people can say what I want to say so much better than I can, and it seems almost criminal not to spread good blogs around.

So for something original for a change, I thought I’d do a regular end-of-month post about all the things that have happened on the property during the month and also include the monthly solar update as part of it. Since I only just thought of this brilliant idea, I can’t remember the first couple of weeks of the month, but from now on, I hope I can remember to document and take photos regularly.

Last week. What a shocker weather-wise! Gale-force winds nearly every day and bitterly cold to boot. Trees down all over Melbourne. I didn’t venture outside much, as I don’t like working in the bush under trees that tend to fall over or drop huge branches without warning.  I lit the wood fire and worked inside on my new chook coop (of which more later).

I did go outside briefly, to check on damage and found this. It has popped up, at least 2 months early by my reckoning:

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It had a tiny mate:

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Means I’d better get some chook poo compost on them to boost a few more spears. I really don’t mind climate change if I can get fresh asparagus in June.

Solar generation continued to be down, with most of the readings between 2.5 and 5 kWh per day and of course, I was taking more from the grid, but still sending a little bit back. Which is good, because they pay me more for my electricity than I pay them for theirs. I received my next bill during the month—the one I’d been waiting for, which was only 5 weeks overdue (!!) and true to form the retailer got it wrong again! Surprisingly it wasn’t the meter reads they got wrong this time—they agreed with my readings—it was in working out the solar credits. Would you believe they managed to subtract 1838 kWh from 2854 kWh and come up with 125.463 kWh!!!! To three decimal places, what’s more!! I thought all this was done by computer. It meant I got a credit of $41.40, when I should have received $335.28. So I rang, AGAIN, and pointed it out and I’m still waiting for the amended bill.

I imported an average 2.6 kWh per day from the grid; sent 2.1 kWh per day back to the grid and the panels managed 2.9 kWh per day.

It’s been 8 months since the solar was installed and although it’s too soon to tell yet, it’s looking hopeful that I might wind up at the end of 12 months with an overall credit. Which means I will have not only saved about $1200 in electricity bills, but an additional credit might also pay for all, or some of, my bottled gas bill. Which would be very satisfying.

The winter solstice happened during the month and I was so wrapped up in the idea that the sun would be heading south again (thinking solar generation), that I forgot it’s also when I start sowing my tomatoes. So I got to work and filled dozens of small pots with a mixture of sieved potting mix and a little bit of blood and bone and went through my seed bank. I soak about a dozen seeds in water overnight and sow three to each pot—4 pots of each variety. They’ll be thinned to the strongest seedling:

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They’re in a plastic box inside on the kitchen table. When they germinate, I’m going to put half the tubes out into the polyhouse (in the cold, poor things) and leave the rest inside as a control. This is because I spoke to the old chap who sells tomato plants at the Sunday Market and asked him how he gets his plants so big by August when he starts selling them (they’re 30 cm tall with stems as thick as my little finger—I could never manage that!). He said he puts them outside as soon as he’s potted them up, BUT they should have protection from cold winds. Well, they’ll get that in the polyhouse, but it certainly won’t be warmer than inside.

So far, I’ve sown—Silvery Fir Tree, Reisentraube, Grub’s Green, Black Russian, San Marzano, Burnley Surecrop, Checkmate and Red Pear Cherry. I have plenty more varieties in stock and will keep going with it.

I’m still picking tamarillos and having a couple on my breakfast cereal each morning. I’ll really miss them when they’ve finished:

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And finally, rainfall for June. We had 109 mm (Melbourne’s June average is 43 mm) making up for the abysmally low February (8 mm; average 46 mm) and low May (36 mm; average 68 mm). Everything is nicely soggy.

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Capitalist Industrial Civilization = M.A.D.

June 28, 2014

Now there are some things in the world we can`t change — gravity, entropy, the speed of light, the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and well being. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die.

Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere.
___David Suzuki

Reblogged from Collapse of Industrial Civilisation

Collapse of Industrial Civilization

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“This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights and computers or make nuclear weapons… Have we, the human species, the ability to mature psychologically in time to avert these catastrophes, or, is it in fact, too late?” ~ Dr. Helen Caldicott

Radical, wide-scale planning should have been executed decades ago in response to the limits to growth study. Instead, we carried on with business-as-usual as the natural world underwent cataclysmic, mass extinction level changes. Every day, the insanity of capitalist industrial civilization(CIC) is on full display as we entertain ourselves with the illusion of token political gestures towards “sustainability”. None of it changes our death march over the cliff of extinction. Nature died long ago with man’s discovery of fossil fuels which fed his terminal overshoot. Any isolated pockets of remaining wilderness are trampled underfoot, amounting to no more than a mere novelty destination commercialized by the tourist industry.

Enslaved to his own…

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Why Standard Economic Models Don’t Work–Our Economy is a Network

June 24, 2014

Reblogged from Our Finite World

Here’s my favourite blogger, Gail Tverberg, connecting dots again. Looking at the points she makes in this post makes it easy to understand why it’s so hard to get all the interconnected problems of energy decline into the 30-second sound bite that most people can cope with. Hence you simply cannot tell people about peak oil. They have to be given this sort of stuff to read, re-read and contemplate. And the average Joe isn’t interested.

Our Finite World

The story of energy and the economy seems to be an obvious common sense one: some sources of energy are becoming scarce or overly polluting, so we need to develop new ones. The new ones may be more expensive, but the world will adapt. Prices will rise and people will learn to do more with less. Everything will work out in the end. It is only a matter of time and a little faith. In fact, the Financial Times published an article recently called “Looking Past the Death of Peak Oil” that pretty much followed this line of reasoning.

Energy Common Sense Doesn’t Work Because the World is Finite 

The main reason such common sense doesn’t work is because in a finite world, every action we take has many direct and indirect effects. This chain of effects produces connectedness that makes the economy operate as a network. This network behaves…

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20 Reasons to use Turmeric in your Diet

June 24, 2014

Reblogged from backtobasics.me

Back to Basics

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Here are 20 reasons why you should have turmeric in your diet!

1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.

2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.

3. Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.

4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.

5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.

6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.

7. May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.

8. May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.

9. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.

10. Has shown promise in slowing the progression…

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Drastic pruning

June 22, 2014

One of the tamarillos grew so tall before it branched that I wasn’t going to be able to reach the fruit when it fruited, so some drastic pruning was needed. There were some leaves left on the lower growth, so I was sure it would shoot out some new growth, which it did. It’s now about chest-high and I should get a good yield next season. That main stem is over an inch in diameter:

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There were 4 other tamarillos in the greywater line that had never been pruned when small. While I could reach the fruit this year, it wasn’t going to be easy next year. Trouble was, there were no leaves at all on the lower growth to keep the plant going while new growth sprouted. Oh well, can’t be helped. Let’s see what happens:

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I had a passionfruit vine growing around the water tank, grimly hanging on, not very tidily, to a length of plastic-covered wire, tied between the inlet pipe and the overflow pipe. I wanted to give it a wire trellis to hang on to and keep it properly pruned and tidy. To get the new trellis in place, the whole plant had to go. Again, there were no leaves on the lower growth:

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I was doubtful that it would survive, but I wasn’t worried. Passionfruit grow easily from cuttings and I had several new plants ready to go if it didn’t. But look:

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New shoots. And from every node. This will be a much better specimen.

Making a swale

June 18, 2014

I’ve made a couple of new swales recently and started a third, so thought I’d document the process.

I had a lot of asparagus to plant out and wanted to put them on a swale mound. Here’s the first swale. It’s about a metre and a half long, 40 cm wide and 30 cm deep:

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The asparagus are a bit hard to see. I’ve planted dandelions in between them, which are easier to see (the flat rosettes). The day after I took the photo the dandelions disappeared, courtesy of the rabbits. I put wire over them and they grew back good as new. Can’t keep a good dandelion down! There’s a variegated mint doing well at the far right. Rabbits don’t like mint, it seems.

At the outer edge of the swale mound there are four Strawberry Guava plants. They should grow into shrubs about a metre high with tangy red berries.

The second swale is about the same size and sits at the lower edge of a gravel path. It fills from water running off the path. I’ve planted more guavas at the base, Cherry Guava this time. They’ll get a bit taller, but I’ll keep them to a metre or so. In between them and on top of the mound are a couple of oregano plants. They should sucker and spread along the swale, maybe even grow down into it.  On the far right is a Buddleia—a Butterfly Bush. Circles of wire surround everything until it’s established. Pesky rabbits again!

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I’ve just finished the third swale. Like the others, it’s on a slope. I had just a few asparagus plants left and wanted to get them planted before they go dormant for the winter.

Since these are small swales it’s not really necessary to mark out the contour; trial and error is pretty much OK. First job is to dig out the ditch by hand and rake the soil into a mound on the lower side. Then I cover the mound with cut branches sloping away from the swale. I’ve used meleleuca here because it’s no good for firewood as it’s too soft, and it rots easily, so will add carbon to the soil fairly rapidly:

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Then I deepen the swale and rake the soil over the sticks. If I have extra soil I’ll add it, too. I could go on adding sticks and soil, making the mound higher and higher, but while sticks are plentiful around here, soil is not (unless I want holes everywhere). The sticks are supposed to deter the rabbits and blackbirds from digging up the soil on the mound. It sometimes works:

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You can see water in the swale. I fill it frequently as I’m going, just to check the levels. Mostly the ends will be the spots that need adjustment, building them up so that water doesn’t flow out. It’s looking pretty good:

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Finally, I cover the swale with mulch. I’ve used casuarina needles here, because I have a huge supply:

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It would be ideal to be able to broadcast seed into the mound at this point. Something like clover or vetch—something that would hold the soil in place and maybe provide nitrogen, but the rabbits would eat the seedlings down in a flash.

I might use yarrow. It spreads by underground rhizomes and the rabbits usually don’t touch it*. I can dig up a few clumps and plant them out, protected with wire, till they establish. I’ll put the remainder of the asparagus in later this week and that will be the end of about 2 dozen plants I grew from seed last year.

This swale is a bit over 2 metres long and I estimate that it will hold about 80-100 litres of water when full. I won’t put any chook poo compost on it until the asparagus spears are starting to appear in spring. They won’t be big enough to eat this year but my older plants are in their third year of harvesting so I can afford to wait.

* I once found a dead rabbit with a wisp of yarrow poking out of its mouth. I can’t believe that’s what killed it, but it would be nice to think I’m growing something that would. They do eat down the flowering stems though, but don’t seem to browse the leafy rosettes; not excessively enough to notice anyway. It annoys me because the flowers are rather attractive en masse:

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Cheesed off!

June 14, 2014

This isn’t a post about cheese.

It is really about being cheesed off (angry/annoyed/fed up).

I read this post about growing a shiitake mushroom log, by Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture and decided I’d like to give it a go. There were three suppliers of mushroom spawn linked to (the third didn’t post to Australia). The two that did were:

I looked at both sites and chose the second one, ordered a batch of shiitake plug spawn, paid by credit card then sat back and waited for the card that told me AusPost had a parcel for me to pick up.

Over two months later and I’m still waiting.

I’ve checked the status of my order and it says ‘processing’.

I’ve emailed twice and haven’t had an answer.

I’ve tried ringing the freecall phone number at the site and I’m getting a ‘cannot connect’ message.

So I’m cheesed off. Mightily. I want my $48.50 back.

(Note: this is no reflection on Kirsten from Milkwood. I’m sure the link was given in all sincerity).

 

Why I say no to GM foods

June 13, 2014

Nucleic acid invaders in food confirmed

Even if you don’t understand much about genetics (a particular interest of mine), the conclusion to this article is chilling:

Nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) from food can resist digestion in the human gut and enter the circulatory system, with the potential of being taken up by cells to influence gene expression and/or become incorporated into the cell’s genome. This underscores the hazards of GM and other unknown nucleic acids introduced into the human food chain by GMOs.

 

Be the change you want to see

June 13, 2014

I really love the ability to reblog. It saves me so much work. 😉
Thank you Jess.
Enjoy!

Rabid Little Hippy

Reading through my RSS feed this morning and Milkwood provided yet another awesome post (love you guys). There were 2 videos embedded, one from Nicole Foss and the other from David Holmgren. Nicole outlines a goodly part of the problem and David hands us the answer. Doesn’t come clearer than this. 🙂

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The winter garden

June 9, 2014

Not much is happening and I’m not picking much. There are still a few tamarillos* on the trees and in the greens department there’s silver beet, dandelion greens and warrigal greens. There are oranges and (very) small mandarins.

The kale seedlings finally grew big enough to plant and I bought a couple of punnets of broccoletti from the old chap at the Sunday Market. They’ve all gone into the big planter box…:

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…and there’s more kale in a wicking box…:

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…and some climbing peas in a wicking box behind the potato onions…:

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…and dwarf peas in another wicking box:

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There’s just one celery plant:

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Carrots are too small to pick.

Potato onions still looking OK.

Garlic likewise.

And leeks.

And that’s about it!

One good thing…I finally managed to buy a bamboo plant:

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This is Bambusa oldhamii. I’ve wanted a bamboo for ages and finally Bunnings had them in stock. This one will grow to 12 metres. I want to use the culms for stakes, bean tepees and trellises and whatever else I can think of.

This is a clumping bamboo, not a running one, so it won’t take over the neighourhood. I’m not sure if rabbits like bamboo, but the wire circle means I’m not taking any chances.

I’ve started building the new chook run and coop, but I won’t write about it until it’s all finished.

* Just an update on the tamarillo seed for those who wanted some. I haven’t forgotten you! I extracted seed and dried it and it was very thin and immature-looking, so I’m leaving some of the remaining fruits on the tree till they’re almost ready to fall and hoping the seed will look more mature.