The implications of collapsing ERoEI

January 26, 2017

Judging by the relatively low level of interest the past few articles published here regarding the collapse of fossil fuel ERoEI (along with PV’s) have attracted, I can only conclude that mos…

Source: The implications of collapsing ERoEI

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix

Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

January 26, 2017

The crescendo of news pointing to 2020 as the date to watch is growing apace…. it won’t be the year collapse happens, because collapse is a process, not an event; but it will definitely…

Source: Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh, to be a fly on the wall as it unfolds…

January update

January 23, 2017

First thing I did in January was to buy myself a present. A toy oven! So, what’s a toy oven, you ask? OK, read this post from Maree at Around The Mulberry Tree.

Now, I’m nowhere near as good a cook as Maree (let’s be honest, I rarely cook, not fancy stuff anyway), but I thought a bench-top oven would be easier to use, would heat up more quickly (which it does—5 minutes to 180 degrees C, compared with 15 minutes for the wall oven!) and therefore be more economical with power. (For the detail-minded, it’s a Sunbeam 19 litre Pizza Bake & Grill model #BT 5350 and was $96 at the Good Guys.)

I found a spot on the bench without too much fuss :

image

When the weather finally cooled down, I tried a tray of roast veggies. Very happy with the result. Cooked in less time than the big oven and the potatoes were nice and floury. Next up was bread—I make a loaf about once a fortnight.

Ooops! Not so good :

image

The bread tin almost fills the oven! I let it rise too high in the tin beforehand and watched in panic as it rose towards the top elements, ready to whip it out before it touched them. Luckily it just fell short, but as you can see, not a nicely browned top!

I’d cut the temp back to 165 from 180, following recommendations in the manual, but the rest of the crust was too pale in comparison to my normal loaf, so next time I will put it back to 180. I don’t want to fiddle about with the recipe to make a smaller loaf (there too many ingredients), so next time I will put the tin slightly lower (turning the wire rack upside down lowers it by a couple of centimetres), and try putting a piece of foil over the top halfway through. I won’t let it rise so much beforehand either. Despite the lower temperature, it was cooked right through and wasn’t doughy.

I’ve since made a batch of choc muffins which was a success (no photo…I forgot) and will get the bread right eventually. On the whole, very happy with my new ‘toy’.

Out in the garden, the thornless blackberries were starting to colour up, so it was time to get a net over them :

image

image

They’re ripening unevenly and I discovered I have to be careful picking them because if I leave them to get too ripe, they fall from the bunch when I touch it and I lose them in amongst the ground cover of native violets underneath. I love their shiny blackness :

image

So the trick is to wander down the back to the blackberry patch before breakfast and pick the ripe ones, which then end up on my breakfast bowl of mueslii and fruit. I’m definitely going to put in more plants of this variety this winter :

image

The ‘mini’ Cape Gooseberry I bought a couple of months ago is doing well and setting fruits :

img_3371

They’re much smaller than the normal variety I’ve been growing :

image

The flavour is quite different, much sweeter, and am I imagining it, or are there hints of pineapple? It might not be imagination, because some years ago I grew a definitely pineapple-flavoured variety from Phoenix Seeds, called Cossack Pineapple. It isn’t in their current catalogue but Googling will find other suppliers who do have it. It’s another species of Physalis—Physalis pruinosa (the common Cape Gooseberry is P. peruviana—that’s it in the photo above, on the right). I’m going to extract the seeds from the ‘mini’ fruit and grow more. It’s lower-growing and more spreading than the common gooseberry, with a neater habit and is a good plant for a large pot or tub (I put the two plants I bought from Bunnings in large pots). I might even try one in a wicking box.

The hugelkultur beds alongside the main pathway are taking a while to break down. I’ve planted asparagus and rhubarb in the longer one and an espaliered dwarf Granny Smith apple and two pepinos in the smaller one. The rhubarb’s not doing so well—it needs more feeding. I tidied up the beds, removed weeds and covered them with mulched bracken. The blackbirds persisted in tossing the mulch all over the path and I was sick of raking it back onto the beds, so I’ve edged them with short (1 metre long) sticks cut from the dozens of branches that are always falling in the bush. It seems to have done the trick. I’ve only done the edge that fronts the path so far, but will eventually do the rear edge, too :

image

image

I’ve decided I need a dedicated potato bed—one that I can grow an actual crop of potatoes in, instead of just poking odd ones that sprout in the cupboard under the sink into any convenient spot. I can go back to buying a bag of certified seed potatoes again each winter like I used to do. I can also use the bed for other root crops like yacon and Jerusalem artichoke. So I’ve decided to use one of the three second-hand baths I have. Two were being used to grow azolla, the floating water fern, and I don’t really need two for that, so the one next to the compost tumbler is being re-purposed. I bucketed out most of the water and began filling it with weeds and other prunings so they’d rot down and provide a good base of organic stuff. Then it rained and the bath re-filled again. The water is now a rich, black, very stinky nutrient-rich liquid that should grow anything. I’ll have to bucket out most of it again, before reaching through the mire to find and pull the plug, but I’ll use it to water other crops until then :

image

The Magpie Larks in their mud nest on the TV aerial finally fledged three young ones :

image

They managed to keep them alive in that exposed nest through Christmas day with the temperature in the high 30’s and, a couple of days later, through a downpour that delivered 30 mm in half an hour. They’ve left the nest now and are constantly yelling “feed me” from the branches of a nearby tree. Mum and Dad Mudlark deserve a medal for devoted parenthood.

Last year I had a go at growing eggplant, but the seedlings didn’t make it into the garden. This is this year’s effort :

image

If I’d known it was going to have such huge leaves, I’d have chosen a shadier spot. It has flower buds already so I’m hoping for some fruit this year.

My dwarf Stella cherry didn’t do so well in its third year, with only a dozen or so fruit. Last year it had about 20 and I sowed most of the pips in a pot and left them through the winter. Disappointingly, only one germinated. I’ll plant it somewhere and see how it goes :

img_3368

I had better luck with seeds from the Concord grape variety which produced one small bunch last year. I potted up 6 seedlings from this pot :

img_3367

Oak-leaf lettuce, endive and carrots in wicking boxes—all direct-sown. So much easier than potting up and transplanting seedlings :

image

image

image

This, believe it or not, is 2 cucumbers in a recycling crate (not wicking—there are drainage holes in the bottom) :

image

Ordinarily, I’d be assuming I’d mixed up the labels and planted pumpkins instead, but I knew I didn’t have pumpkins sown at the time. The crate was filled with chook poo compost and just shows what lots of nitrogen will do for leaf size. Here are what my normal cucumbers look like, in a wicking box on the deck, only topped up with a bit of chook poo compost :

image

I thought I’d have another go at growing Goji berries. I tried several years ago but they didn’t survive in the garden. I think I wasn’t au fait with my soil types then, in terms of what should be planted where and probably put them in the wrong spot. So I took some dried berries out of a trail mix I’d bought (previously, I’d just bought a packet of berries in the supermarket) and soaked them in water till they swelled up, then I scraped out the seeds and sowed them and I have 4 plants to play with. This time I’ll do some homework before I plant them. I’ll probably try one in a large pot as well, just to be on the safe side :

image

Still no ripe tomatoes or beans. This is the latest they’ve ever been, owing to the cool wet spring we had. I’m starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms for a nice, home-grown tomato sandwich.

That’s about it for January. We had 18 mm of rain in one event mid-way through (the average for Melbourne for January is 47 mm) and another 25 mm a week later, which will help swell the February apple harvest. We’ve had some hot days, but nothing over 40 C as yet and no really hot, northerly winds which freak me out because of the bushfire risk. I always count down the days to the end of summer and breathe a sigh of relief when we get through another summer without a fire.

For bird lovers….

January 5, 2017

….. a selection of the ABC’s best bird pics of the week to scroll through.

And here’s my personal favourite, a King Parrot, who visits regularly for a meal of sunflower seeds.

IMG_3138

The Deck

December 31, 2016

The deck isn’t for outdoor entertaining—there’s no room. Instead, it’s for outdoor growing—a variety of edibles in pots, tubs and wicking boxes.

Looking west, there are mostly tomatoes and strawberries sharing wicking boxes and tubs and strawberry wicking buckets with just strawberries :

image

There’s a couple of cucumbers in one wicking box and they can scramble over the deck and be free of ground-dwelling critters which might chew them :

image

In the other direction, more wicking boxes with climbing beans and capsicums in one and parsley, basil and more climbing beans in another :

image

Against the house wall, there’s a blueberry in a large pot and strawberry wicking buckets on stands :

image

There’s even room for a pond of sorts, with a solar-powered pump and water spray :

image

Down below the deck there are more wicking boxes and tubs, with tomatoes, climbing beans and the little Australian native Finger Lime in a large tub next to the gas bottles. The climbing beans are on wire frames set in behind the pots and when they’ve climbed to the top of those, I put string lines up onto the deck railing to extend their support  :

image

image

I’ve put more climbing beans in the milk bottle planters which will be going through their second summer. I expected the plastic would degrade and fall to bits long before this, but it’s hanging in there. They’ve got string lines also, to take the tendrils right up onto the deck. When they get to the top, I just wind the climbing ends around the deck wires :

image

First (very small) crop :

image

On the other side of the path around the base of the deck is another row of wicking boxes and tubs, with more tomatoes, capsicums and whatever else can be poked into a spare growing space :

image

And finally, a grapevine growing along the deck wires and the top railing. This is a purple muscat grape which I grew from seed :

image

It’s planted in the ground beside the steps up onto the deck. It’s been in about 4 years and has never flowered. But look! This year there are 2 small bunches of soon-to-be grapes hidden under the leaves :

image

The deck and surrounds are my permaculture Zone 1 growing spaces (permaculture design creates zones—areas around the house, based on frequency of use—there are usually 5 in all). Zone 1 is the zone nearest the house, which you visit at least once and probably more than once, a day. You plant all the things you use regularly—such as herbs, and leafy veggies where you want just a few leaves at a time. It’s a short step out onto the deck to pick herbs for dinner or a few strawberries for breakfast mueslii. The chooks are in zone 1 also, just a few metres from the deck.

Originally, I had all my vegetable beds right down the back, 30 or 40 metres from the house, because it was the only spot away from trees and in full sun. It was stupid—I was never going to walk all that way (especially if it was raining), just to get a sprig of parsley for the mashed potatoes. The permaculture design course I did just blew me away—it showed me how we do silly, unworkable things when we put a garden together, without any conscious thought or design as to our use of physical energy, or the connections between things. I’ve had to do a lot of retrofitting—using the deck as a growing space has been a real success.

Who needs to entertain anyway?

The Thin Green Line

December 24, 2016

Here’s a story from the Guardian about wildlife poaching in Africa.

Wildlife Rangers, whose job is to project wildlife, not just in Africa, but around the world, are being killed in action. If we want these iconic animals to survive into the future (what would the world be like without elephants), we need to support those who are trying to protect them and giving up their lives in the process.

Sean Willmore formed the Thin Green Line Foundation to assist and protect Rangers around the world and equally important, to help the families of those Rangers killed on the job. Check out their website at the link to read their story and see what they do.

I’m writing this because I have a connection of sorts to Sean. He’s an Aussie and back when we bought this bush block, Sean was Conservation Officer in the City of Frankston where I live.  He was also an assessor with the Land for Wildlife voluntary wildlife protection scheme which operates in the state of Victoria. We applied for LFW registration for our property and Sean was the one who came out and assessed it. A great guy—his talents were wasted at our local Council and I’m glad to see he’s moved on to greater things.

I’ve donated to the Thin Green Line in the past and will do so again. It’s a bit late now for this year, but it would make a great Christmas present for a friend or family member next year, to donate to the Foundation in their name, instead of spending money on a glitzy present, then giving them a card to say what you’ve done with the money you would have spent on their present. I know I’d much rather have someone do that than give me a present.

Here’s a short video of Sean being interviewed about the work of the Foundation :

Please consider donating to The Thin Green Line.

 

 

Vale Toby Hemenway

December 22, 2016

I just heard, through another blog, that Toby Hemenway passed away on the 20th December. Toby was a well-known permaculturalist and speaker and the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. A few weeks ago, a regular reader, Chris, from Gully Grove blog made a comment here and left a link to a video of one of Toby’s talks. I watched it with interest and was going to post it here eventually, but then found a similar video which I think is slightly better. So here is Toby, who will be greatly missed in permaculture circles :

How do we know what to believe?

December 21, 2016

Fake News is in the—er—news at the moment, with Facebook and other outlets assuring everyone they’re going to clamp down on it. So how do we know what, or whom to believe?

I found a new blog recently called Neurologica—your daily fix of neuroscience, scepticism and critical thinking. The writer has a good post up at the moment : Skeptical Questions Everyone Should Ask. I found it really useful and a good follow-up to the FutureLearn course in logical and critical thinking I did recently.

“But there is no substitute for going through the process yourself. The process is also open-ended and is never done. This includes developing a basic scientific literacy and critical thinking skills.”

Unfortunately, like ‘common sense’, scientific literacy and critical thinking are not all that common.

Maybe it is better to believe nothing, apart from what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. For instance, I can ‘see’ flowers on my persimmon. I ‘believe’ I am going to be eating persimmons next winter. Yum :

img_3363

 

The Great Contraction

December 19, 2016

Some time ago I found a new blog about energy and the economy and related issues. It’s written by a Canadian and it’s very good. He explains concepts in a way that makes understanding easy. He’s about to launch a new series of posts on ‘political realities’—the problems of running a country in an age of scarcity. But before he starts that, he’s posted a set of links to a similar series he wrote previously, in 2014. I’ve put the list of links below. For anyone who doesn’t understand how energy and the economy are connected these make an excellent starting point :

Wildlife surprises

December 15, 2016

Woke up to find this on the deck :

image

I heard the screams during the night and thought it was just the possums playing games.  I can’t believe it was a fox….surely he’d have taken the carcass off to eat elsewhere or store for later. Maybe a not-so-hungry, shouldn’t-be-roaming-at-night dog, just biting off the head for the fun of it and not caring about the rest. Thanks for leaving it on my deck, fella! However, I’m more inclined to think of a large owl and the only one we’ve had here big enough to fit the bill, was a Powerful Owl which appeared some years ago and very rare in this area it was, too. We even got our pictures in the local paper over that one, thanks to a friend who was the president of the local birdo group at the time and took a spectacular photo with a better camera than mine. Anyway, I left the rabbit remains down by a tree trunk at the rear of the property and they’d gone next day. I assume the fox picked it up there. Nice to find dinner just lying on the ground and not have to chase it. One rabbit less, which is a good thing.

The other wildlife surprise is this :

image

A Magpie Lark has picked the TV aerial to build her beautifully-formed mud nest. What a place to do it! Up there in all weathers in full view of predators! And surrounded by dozens of trees! What was wrong with them? Mr Mudlark has been keeping guard and taking his turn on the nest. I hope they’re successful in raising young, but I’m not hopeful.