Archive for November, 2014

Preserving mushrooms

November 26, 2014

They’re not the cheapest food to buy and I love them, so when I see them on special at the supermarket, I’m quick to snaffle up a bagful.

Because they dry so well in the Excalibur dehydrator :

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Ready to store :

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When I take them out of the dehydrator, the smell is unreal. Drying seems to really accentuate that beautiful mushroom flavour.

I use them in soups, casseroles and risotto. I don’t bother to rehydrate them, just toss them in as they are.

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Energy & the Future of Food

November 23, 2014

I’ve recently found a new blog. It’s called How Eric Lives and it’s excellent.

Check out his latest post—Energy and the future of food

I’ve always maintained that most people don’t understand energy. They don’t know or understand the Laws of Thermodynamics and their application to how life on earth functions. They think that anything is possible if you throw enough money at it. But money is a human construct and the planet does not need it to function (nor does it need humans). Energy is what powers life on Earth.

If only the people in power who control all our lives could be locked in a room together and be made to read this post and not be let out till they understand its implications. But they will never understand because their brains are not wired that way. And while we, the sheeple, are still stupid enough to vote them into power over us (not me; I don’t vote), nothing will change.

Some of us do understand and we are changing the way we do things. We’re building resilience into our lives by growing our own food and providing our own water and fuelwood. Given the stupidity of the majority, we might not survive, but we’re giving it our best shot.

 While no one can wave a magic wand and change food systems today, we each have the power to shape the future of food production, processing, distribution and consumption by abandoning old problem-solving strategies in favor of new, more innovative ones. There are many approaches to food provision that are far less energy intensive than our modern industrial approach, and a healthy mix of acknowledgment, discernment and investment can turn currently marginal approaches like wildcrafting, natural systems agriculture and permaculture into tomorrow’s mainstream ideals. While the challenges of producing tomorrow’s food are many, the future of food will be what we make it.

Energy & the Future of Food

You don’t know shit

November 21, 2014

This reblog from Mike at Damn the Matrix.
It blew him away! It blew me even further! And like Mike I kept thinking, “what will they do when the oil runs out?”.

I’d like to see a full chemical analysis of these ‘biosolids’, aka sh*t.

I’m so glad for my composting toilet. Quite the best thing I’ve ever done. I know what goes into it and I know what comes out of it. I have no reservations about using it for the garden. But the fecal waste of a city the size of New York. No thanks.

Damn the Matrix

I’m well known for predicting the demise of large modern cities.  Utterly convinced of their massive unsustainability I am…  apart from the vulnerability of their food distribution systems in a collapsing fossil fuelled world, there is the issue of sewerage.  People in cities just flush and forget, but have no idea of what happens afterwards.  Nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to know what happens to their shit!  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find it the most palatable of subjects myself, but if you’re interested in sustainability, then shit is a major issue.

Then, along comes this film past my intray.  It’s times like these you’re glad they haven’t yet worked out how to make your computer generate smells as well as sounds..!  All the same, it’s a real eye opener.

There is no doubt that sewerage saved London (the first sewered city in the world, if you don’t count Rome…

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In a wildlife garden…

November 17, 2014

… you need to be careful where you put your feet.

You’ve put down new mulch. You’ve carefully raked it out level, nice and neat and tidy.

Then you a see a slight mound in the mulch.

You touch it—gently—and it moves!

Well… hello Blue!

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(For overseas readers, ‘Blue’ is our native Blue-tongue Lizard. I think my Blue is the Blotched Blue-tongue.   Whatever species he is, I’m glad to have him in the garden, but I do have to watch where my feet go!)

October update

November 16, 2014

I’m a bit late with this owing to activities on the chicken front taking precedence, but anyway here it is—better late than never and just to prove that things other than chook things do happen here.

The passionfruit climbing over the old chook run has finally decided to flower… :

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…and produce fruit :

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The redcurrants are colouring up. I suppose I’m going to have to think about netting them, although last year I didn’t, and the birds left them alone (although that ant seems to be interested) :

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I put three cucamelons into a wicking tub and they’ve been slow to establish; maybe the weather hasn’t been hot enough yet. Their thread-like tendrils have finally found the wire support, so maybe that will jog them along a bit :

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Last year was a poor year for the persimmon, with only three fruit and the blackbird got all of them while they were still green. There are only three buds on the plant again this year, but this time I’ll get in ahead of him with netting :

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I planted out all the tomatoes during October because they were big enough and it looked like all the cold weather had gone. I did a quick tour & count and there are 36 plants out, most in wicking boxes or wicking tubs and just a few in the garden. This one, in a wicking tub, has trebled in size in just a couple of weeks :

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These are in a wicking box :

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The comfrey re-appeared with a vengeance :

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These three chokos in pots are looking for something to grab onto. I don’t know where I’m going to plant them as I don’t have a trellis prepared. Maybe I’ll see if they’ll climb up a tree :

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Well, I finally put one next to the wire corridor connecting the two chook runs. I have a feeling I’m going to regret it if it takes over the whole area :

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The raspberries are in their first year of growth. Looks like I might get some fruit :

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Basil futures. I froze pesto last year and it worked so well, I’m aiming for plenty more this year :

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This is Wild Rocket. I think it has a stronger flavour than the common variety and the foliage is more attractive :

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I go through 3 litres of milk a week. While I know the bottles can be recycled, it still pains me to have to throw out something I could maybe use. So I came up with this:

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I’ve put 4 tiny holes in the bottom and I fill them from a bin that contains water with seaweed fertiliser, worm juice and comfrey tea, then sit them on a wicking box or wicking tub and let the contents trickle out slowly. It helps when I don’t have time to stand and water with the hose and it adds a bit of extra nutrient along the way.

I picked all my garlic. There were three batches, one (supermarket purchased) in a wicking box and two in the garden (one from Yelwek and another from a local source). The garlic in the wicking boxes didn’t form single bulbs, but separated into cloves, each with a single stem. Not worth eating, not worth replanting. I composted it. Was it because it was supermarket garlic or because it didn’t like the wicking box? I’ve grown it successfully in wicking boxes before, so I’m blaming the supermarket. It wasn’t that stark white Chinese stuff. I know better than to plant that! :

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The local garlic in the garden was OK, but the bulbs were very small :

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The Yelwek garlic produced the most robust plants, with the thickest stems, but that still didn’t translate into large bulbs. I think lack of fertiliser may be the problem. I really need to do more research into growing garlic :

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The potato onions, also from Yelwek, aren’t doing well. After planting the bulbs way back in April, some in the garden and some in a wicking box, they sprouted and seemed to be growing well. Then in winter, they grew backwards and some died. Now it’s warmed up, the leaves are growing again, but the bulbs are small and I don’t know if they’re going to get any bigger. The batch I put into a wicking box all rotted away in winter. Too much water probably :

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I’ve put pumpkins in the hugelkultur bed, in between asparagus which are only in their first year. In the other hugelbed I’ve put zucchini and button squash. I’ve made a huge hugelmound from raked leaves and twigs and put 3 extra pumpkin in there.

Pumpkin :

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Zucchini & button squash :

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Pumpkin on the hugelmound :

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The strawberries in the strawberry wicking buckets are bearing, but a lot of the fruits are deformed. They look awful. I’ve never had this happen before :

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Google tells me it could be caused by inadequate pollination or lack of calcium or boron, or attack by certain types of mites. I inspected, and there are aphid-like insects on them so I’ve removed all the trusses of developing fruits and given the plants a good spray with a garlic-pyrethrum spray. I wouldn’t be surprised if pollination was a problem, because they’re up on the deck against the house wall, where insects might not find them.

I always like to have a patch of calendula somewhere in the garden. The bees love the flowers and I can pick the petals for salads :

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That’s all I can remember for October. I won’t write anything about chooks because you’ve had that ad nauseum by now and anyway that all happened this month. I’ll bore you with more on that in next month’s update.

Settling in…

November 13, 2014

Day three of the Newby Adventure. The New Girls, aka the Chooklets, are settling in.

I opened the pop door at the far end of the run and allowed them into the first 2 square metres of the corridor that connects the new and the old system. I put a load of mulched bracken in there and they pottered away happily in there most of the day :

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To get them used to me, I’ve installed my morning coffee chair beside them. They’re apprehensive at first but soon settle down. I prattle away, saying soothing chook things and tell them what good girls they are :

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The first night didn’t exactly go to plan. They didn’t understand that ‘bed’ was actually inside the coop, and roosted on the top :

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So next morning saw me, in rubber gloves, scraping poo off the top of my formerly beautiful paint job. I put a layer of newspaper there with a length of timber on top, to prevent it blowing away, and they settled there again last night, but at least it was easier to clean this morning. Lying in bed, thinking, it was obvious I had to prevent them roosting there pretty quickly, before the top of the coop imprinted on them as ‘bed’.

I have a plan for tonight. This is what the coop looks like :

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As you can see, there’s no door. But as dusk falls, I’m going to wedge a wire panel in front of the opening and move the nestbox away from the side. That will make a narrow space between the coop and the end wall of the run. I’m hoping to herd them into this tight space where the only escape will be to go through the nestbox opening into the coop. Then I’ll replace the nestbox and they’ll be inside for the night. If I do this for several nights, I’m hoping they’ll prefer to go in there by themselves rather than be herded in. This morning, they all went in there and poked about in the wood shavings, so fingers crossed for tonight, ‘cos there’s no Plan B.

Later edit: It worked a treat! One of the Girls ran into the coop and the others followed. They’re tucked up in their ‘proper’ bed, and so am I. ‘night all.

The newbies have arrived!

November 11, 2014

I picked up my three new chooks today. Twelve weeks old. Henceforth they’ll be The New Girls and Cheeky & Molly will be The Old Girls. No names yet, until I see what fits their personalities. Anyway, I can’t tell them apart.

They seem to be settling in OK.

“Well, this is better than that car ride. And the music she plays! Mozart! I ask you! We prefer Beatles beetles.” :

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“Is that the bedroom?” :

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“Well, the food’s half-decent. Will we stay? Yeah, why not?” :

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“It sure was one heck of a day!” :

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Oh dear! It looks like the first night is going to be spent in the dress circle rather than the stalls :

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A big thankyou to Julie at Country Chooks, for all my Girls and for the 2 dozen eggs. And to my friend B for the loan of the cat cage, which was just right.

Last-minute jobs on the chook front

November 9, 2014

I’m due to pick up my three New Chook Girls this week, so the new system got some last-minute tweaks at the weekend.

Food containers installed. They look so clean. That won’t last :

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Water (I may have to shift this to a less sunny spot so the water doesn’t get too hot) :

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Shell grit :

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Pop door between the secure run and the playground (no, its not crooked; it’s the angle—I was down on my knees taking this).  The chooks gain access to the larger run through here. It will be closed off at night by a drop-down wire frame after they’ve gone to bed :

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The two runs (the old & the new) have been connected by a corridor of wire panels with wire over the top :

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I’ll keep the newbies apart from the oldies until they’ve settled in. Eventually they’ll all have access to the whole system in the daytime, but I want them to learn to go back to their own run and coop at night and not try and roost with Molly & Cheeky in their coop. Just hoping to avoid too much bloodshed.

I’m going to put a few new wicking boxes along the outside of the wire corridor. At the moment I don’t have any spare compost to fill them :

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The view from the back deck. The old run :

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And the new run in the distance :

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I think I’ll call it Chook City.

Twelve months of solar power

November 5, 2014

My grid-connected PV solar system was officially 12 months old on 1st November.

‘Officially’ means that was the day the Smart Meter was reconfigured to show solar credits, i.e. how much electricity I’m sending to the grid.

Even though the system was installed in late September and turned on a few days later, I had to wait a further 5-6 weeks for the reconfiguration to be done. During that time power was being sent to the grid but I wasn’t getting a credit for it. (Electricity retailers always make sure they come out ahead, which is why they’re so universally disliked).

Anyway, I’ve been reading the meter and inverter on a daily basis, as a check on my bills and for my own interest. All the data has been entered on a spreadsheet, which has been really helpful, as I can instantly check when a bill comes in.

So…wait for it…I didn’t pay a bill in the whole 12 months. Not one cent. AND I still have almost $400 in credit.

Mind you, these are my figures. My retailer still hasn’t fixed up the problems with the January-April bill. That’s the one where they got the solar credits wrong and I missed out on $300 worth of credits. I’ll give them one more billing period to get it right and then the Energy & Water Ombudsman will be getting a report (to add to the thousands they already have to cope with, from other disgruntled consumers).

In previous years I’ve paid about $1200 for electricity. So I’ve ‘earned’ $1600 on the $5600 investment (the cost of the system). That’s a return of nearly 29% !! A bit better than leaving it in the bank.

Here are the average daily figures for the 12 months:

Power produced by the panels = 11.1 kWh   (highest summer reading = 27.1 kWh; lowest winter reading = 1.8 kWh)

Power imported from the grid = 3.2 kWh

Cost of power imported from the grid = $0.87

Power exported to the grid = 9.5 kWh

Credit for exported power = $3.12

Total cost including supply = -$1.13 (the minus sign signifies a credit).

 

I’m pretty chuffed with the results, as you’d imagine. One of the reasons it’s all come out so well is that I use very little power from the grid anyway, so the size of the system is far in excess of what I need and I’m receiving a good feed-in-tariff (33 cents) at the moment. It won’t always be that way as that’s due for review at the end of 2016, and I expect it to be less or zero (depending on the government we have at the time), but at least I hope to have most of the cost paid off by then. Eventually I’d like to go off-grid completely and that will end the ongoing frustration with energy suppliers and retailers.