Sunday, September 24, 2017

Natural resources

When it hasn't rained for months on end, I'm relieved we finally took the plunge last year, to install a second water tank...


Original tank (left) ~ new tank (right)


In total, it cost us around $4,400, and we've recently hit, just under the halfway point, on both tanks. If we hadn't installed our tank, last year, we'd be out of water right now. And like the neighbours, ordering water deliveries.

I thought we must have been really frugal, until I heard the neighbours running their air conditioning, yesterday. The early heatwave season, is settling in for about a week. Or so the weather forecast predicts. Six days of high 30's (high 80's Fahrenheit) and Spring has just arrived.


Being installed, November 2016


We're hoping our remaining water supply, will get our family through, but also allow us to continue offering water to the native animals. If we don't get rain in the next fortnight, however, we'll be ordering a delievery of water, too.

It just goes to show, even when you plan to increase your stores, nature can turn it up a notch, and render you in the same position - only a little further down the track. We've had a few vegetation fires, very close to home, which reminds us how important the rain is needed, right now.

In other parts of the world, however, rain is causing enormous destruction.


December 2007


I've had my fair share of natural disasters, and will probably see more in my lifetime. But that doesn't mean the prospect of another, should steer us away from continuing to build necessary infrastructure. The kind of infrastructure, that will help hold onto natural resources, such as water tanks, earthworks, soil improvements, plant propagation, waste disposal and food storage.

Our family is woefully under prepared, on many of these counts. But I can't waste time feeling bad about that, nor do I intend to splurge on hoarding supplies either - simply because we cannot afford to. We're still on a budget. What we can do though, is take necessary steps which are both practical, and economical. Like learning how to stretch out the natural resources, which come into our homes.


 A nice drop


Which is why we're embarking on water budget strategies, such as:

  • Doubling the time between flushing toilets - so long as it's not solids.
  • Catching water from the shower, before it heats up, to help water plants, or put out for the native animals. 
  • Reducing showers, until they're necessary.
  • Not laundering sheets, towels and other Manchester, until dirty
  • Using a small tub in the sink for washing hands and rinsing dishes - that would otherwise see the tap go on, numerous times a day. 
  • Vegetable garden has not been watered, even though it's one of the reasons we wanted to install a second tank.

And we have plans to change things even further, where financial resources allow. I don't want to make any announcements, until those projects are under way. If I can take any good out of this long stretch between drinks though, it's how to be more responsible for our use of natural resources. I'm not driven from a sense of survival, rather, a sense of responsibility.

If it only comes from a sense of survival, people tend to make changes when it's only bad enough to. But if you make changes from responsibility (or a sense of ownership) they're likely to be adopted, indefinitely.

Are you making changes in how you deal with natural resources, in your life?


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Incentive

When it comes to making sourdough bread, my son doesn't need much incentive, to jump in and help. He loves to get his hands dirty. So when it comes to kneading the dough, he gets a little ball of his own.


Honey & sunflower - his small portion, front


He tries to knead the dough, but ends up rolling it, instead. Then he sometimes treats it like playdough - making things with it. Being such a small amount, it doesn't make a huge difference how it's kneaded. Because his dough, always turns out the same as mine, anyway.


Putting it together


While he doesn't NEED incentive to help make sourdough, I decided to reward him for his efforts, all the same. With something he could take control of, and see through to putting in the oven, himself. What better, than a mini pizza...


Ready to prove for an hour


The little ball of dough, gets special treatment. After being rolled flat, it gets a layer of home made chutney, a sliced twiggy stick (salami), a sprinkling of herbs from the garden, and grated cheese on top.

Then his mini pizza proves in the oven, along with my sourdough bread. Which he often gets impatient for! I have to remind him, sourdough takes a while.


Freshly baked


Once it's cooled down, and sliced - he gobbles it off his plate. Such a sense of satisfaction, knowing he helped make it and got to eat it too. I don't have to worry about leftovers, because mini pizza's are just the right size for kids.

He often asks me to make bread now, because he knows what's on the menu afterwards!

Is there anything you do, to encourage others to help in the kitchen with you?


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Marvel at GOMA

Yesterday, our family trekked all the way to Brisbane, to visit GOMA - or the Gallery of Modern Art. They were holding an exclusive display, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a last minute decision, as the event was due to wrap up, after 4 months in Brisbane.

The event, "Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe", will close after this weekend. Personally, I wasn't thrilled to travel all the way to Brisbane, to contend with crowds and noise - while there was certainly that, it was also a display I'm glad to have experienced. Because it wasn't what it first appeared to be.


Click to enlarge


Our experience with Marvel - whether it be through reading the graphic novels, watching the movies or the various television series, is somewhat of a passive interaction. Your imagination comes along for the ride, but the material you're observing, is doing all the work.

What you're greeted with, upon entering the exhibition however, is a giant illustration of Spiderman. It completely dwarfed Peter, and he loved it. We pretended to throw webs through our wrists, just like Spiderman does. Which is a far more interactive experience, because you're not just looking at an image. You're experiencing it, in the larger than life scale, our imaginations work with.


Captain America


The adjoining room, behind the Spiderman wall, was the Avengers room. Where we got to see the costumes used in filming the various movies. It was an impressive display, and I couldn't help but admire the creativity that went into designing each costume.


Scarlet Witch, Ironman, Thor and Vision


Not only was the craftsmanship, exquisite - details, designed not to show details, but the creativity it took, to subdue the costumes, was phenomenal. The vivid colours, that worked in 2D comics, wasn't an appropriate treatment for movie reel. It had to be believable, like it could fit in our own universe. 


Black Widow, Ironman & Thor


Different mediums in the Marvel universe, obviously required different treatments. But behind each treatment, was a creative individual. And behind those individuals, was a creative team.

I have to admit though, it was hard not to just view them as manikins, wearing costumes. The actors, needed to add the third dimension, to bring them to life. But this wasn't about the cinematic universe, as the passive viewer of a screen. It was about appreciating each individual piece, and the time and effort it took, into making them appear believable.


Hawkeye

 Thor

 Vision


The viewers, in this case, had to add the third dimension, to the lifeless manikins. We got to appreciate, they were more than an end product, hanging on them. Because there was creativity, imagination, determination and effort, behind each cut, stitch and mould.

Of course, there were two members of the Avengers team, who were comprised mostly by CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) but the exhibition, still managed to include them, in the line up.


Hulk


The green Hulk, was quite large and intimidating - caught in his classic pose. You need to see his size, in comparison to the manikins however, to fully appreciate his presence.


Captain America, Scarlet Witch & The Hulk


Hulk was perched up higher than anyone else, and for small kids, that was probably a good call. Not only might his expression, terrify small children, up close, but as far as my four-year old was concerned, he would probably attempt to climb it!

I was impressed, the displays were open view. No fences, no glass boxes. It made the characters, and the creativity behind them, more accessible to the audience.


Iron Man


The powerful zoom on my camera, was able to capture the other CGI character, up close, in the Avengers room - which was Iron man. I loved the lighting, in the chest piece, and the eyes. I couldn't help but notice all these details, while the characters were frozen in their poses.

It's not something you can observe in such detail, while the movie is playing. Behind the plastic moulding though, is a set of electronics, and someone painstakingly, designed them from scratch.


 The Winter Soldier (aka: Bucky) & Loki


The villains, got their own showcase as well. Again, I loved the effort that went into these costumes, to look like they could fit in a modern location. Incredibly unassuming, when you consider what modern soldiers have to wear and carry around.


The cell


They even had on display, the cell Bucky was contained in, to be transformed into the Winter Soldier. Doesn't it look like it could pose as an underwater diving sub, or piece of mining equipment? That's how unassuming the design process had to be.


Crossbones & Loki


Hydra, Flame Throwers


There were so many other villains, I'm not going to name them all. Although I have to say, I was surprised to see the costumes of Nick Fury and Agent Hill (not shown) in the same line up, as the villains above. They were supposed to be the good guys. But, it depended on their agenda, I guess. They could, and did turn on some of the Avengers team. But I wouldn't consider them true villains.

I'm not going to be able to show ALL we saw and took photographs of, but there are a few more highlights, of our experience.


War memorial


This is a display, of a scene, contained in the Winter Soldier, movie. It's the Captain America, memorial, meant to honour the (assumed to be) deceased, Captain America. I found it ironic, because it's an exhibition, within an exhibition!


Close up


It has a postwar, meets steampunk, feel about it. Almost comic like, in it's use of primary colours - in the shield, at least. I like how the manikins had no facial expressions, like a Waldolf doll. Although, I did struggle with the lack of animation in them, at first.


Fleeing the scene


These are the motorcycles used in the various movies. Notable, because Peter got scolded by a security guard, for touching the lower bike. He leaned over the raised podium it was on, and grabbed the bar, near the foot rest. I saw him heading for the bike, and was on my way to intercede. The security guard launched from the corner, and beat me to him, by half a second.

Peter was completely oblivious, but it scared the living daylights out of me. Because I was reaching for his shoulder, just as her hand went to grab his hand off the bike. A misunderstanding, I'm sure. No hard feelings. But it did scare me temporarily.

On with the rest of the exhibition, and some of the additional movies to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


 Doctor Strange: Stephen & The Ancient One


 Ant-man: Scott Lang


 Guardians of the Galaxy: Groot (CGI character)


Guardians of the Galaxy: Gamora & Star Lord


Costumes and props, all help to create a movie, but then the sets are quite impressive too. Like the one of the throne room, of Asgard. The size, scale and detail, makes you feel like, you've just stepped into a God's court. Which of course, is the desired effect.
  

Throne Room of Asgard


I suspect the dimmed lighting, throughout the entire exhibition, helped create more of a presence. Had it been bright lighting, parts of this set would've dominated the scene. Having only the brightest light, cast on the thrown, however, begs to ask the question: who's going to sit on it?  


Brothers: Thor & Loki


One of these two brothers, perhaps? I love the stance of Loki's manikin. A slight tilt towards his brother. Very much in line with the character. He's attempting to be unassuming, while waiting for the right opportunity to stab his brother in the back, and get away with it.

A small detail, in the manikins stance, but stays true to the family politics.


Thor's hammer: MjoInir


Are you still with me? If you're not a Marvel fan, I could be overwhelming you with tedious minutiae. But there is a point to all this. I walked away from the exhibition, with a greater understanding, of the process it takes, to create something. It could be said, the exhibition wasn't about the characters, but the creative processes, behind them.

An evolution, if you will...


 Trio


Somewhat like the Iron Man suit, Tony Stark created. Three different suits, on display, which changed in detail, as the story arc for the character, developed. Which took many years. But all an evolution of the creative process.


 It's in the detail


I loved how the hi-tech, mechanical suit was contrasted by the Japanese screen, behind. All these details, from the production companies, to the manufacturers, and even how GOMA displayed the items at the Museum. All required a creative process, based on individual input. Then all the pieces came together, to tell a combined story. Or in the case of the Marvel Cinematic universe, several stories.


 The mask, minus the occupant


Some people saw it as a photo opportunity. Others, saw it as a day out, viewing. But there really wasn't ONE way to experience the exhibition. Except perhaps to experience the process of creative design. Which was actually my favourite part. I loved it!

There was actually two things I loved most, about this exhibition. First, was the artwork, dotted throughout. From the giant Spiderman illustration, at the beginning, to the various paintings they had on display, which helped turned 2D into 3D movie productions.



 Art


I'm not referring to the classic story boards, all movies start with. They did go into explaining with some high-tech gadgetry, how those classic story boards got turned into movies. But I was more partial to the various artist's rendition of the story, they had displayed throughout the exhibition.






There's some really talented people out there. And I guess that's how I found my tribe at the exhibition. Through the art work. Not comic books, costumes or props - although, I did appreciate the effort that went into them all. But I really loved experiencing how the artist's rendered the story. I got to see their creative muse, in it's rawest form. 


  Peter and David


The second part of the exhibition, I loved, was experiencing it with my family. We traveled in the car together, listening to a Eurovision CD. Peter got to ride on a bus, for the first time - and press the button to make it stop. We ate the food we brought from home, in a little green patch, outside the museum - then grabbed a treat of Gelato, afterwards.


David, Peter and Sarah


Walking to the museum, after we got off, at the wrong bus stop, we saw a beautiful Bougainvillea, climbing a metal sculpture. It seemed to climb all the way to the sky...


Bougainvillea


We even got to experience the tantrums of a four year old, on the way to the museum. Because there were so many things he wanted to touch and experience, but we didn't have time for. Especially when it involved sand and water, with no spare clothes to change into.


Space


In amongst the hustle and bustle, to get to our destination though - there were always a few moments to steal. Like a plant lined walkway, leading to the river view. We were crammed amongst so many pedestrians, but there were unreal moments which pulled us away, too. Thank goodness for those moments, and being able to spend them together.

I can easily be overwhelmed by the full pelt of the city. But my family, and nature, always brings me back. I'm glad I went and experienced something, which isn't exactly my normal surroundings. I got to come home afterwards, and enjoy the things that really mattered about the day.

Creativity, family and evolution. Something to experience, rather than spectate. In all it's many forms.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Brush with fate

Or how to have a brush, with Brush Turkeys. Here's the incriminating evidence of one of their recent visits.


Roots exposed


They've dug up the oregano, I was attempting to establish on the retaining wall. The roots have been exposed and the soil is drying out. Now, the tenacious scratching of the brush turkey, would be a valuable tool in rainforest. But in my moisture deprived garden, they hone-in on everything watered.

Which is not only bad for the plants, but it's also a waste of water. When there's little abundance to go around, it becomes a rather frustrating predicament. It's a case of first in, first served - but we have to wait longer, for vegetables to be ready.


Ground - zero.
Brush turkeys - 5 now, is it?


I just knew when I watered the raised hugel beds, yesterday, I was ringing the dinner bell. They've already killed the beetroot and capsicum plants I germinated from seed. The latest damage was my cherry tomatoes. The milk crate, above, saved the ocra though. Which is precisely why I put it there.

I was hoping the brush turkey's wouldn't find it desirable to scratch in such a narrow space, between the crate and edge - but they proved me wrong. The truth is, I've been a little lazy, dealing with this brush turkey carnage. I know it won't end, until I put up a permanent barrier. I've just been lazy about making that happen.

It looks like I might have to buy seedling plants, with some size to them, until I can get barriers up. So I won't miss out on the spring growth spurt, due very soon. I'll sprout my remaining seeds, again, in autumn.


Seedling, lock-up


Luckily, I have my enclosed nursery, to protect seedlings from the blight of brush turkey's. They do this to my garden, when it hasn't rained for a while. We haven't received any serious rain for months. They're attracted to all the wet areas, because that's where all the bug-action happens. Plus, it's a lot easier to scratch damp ground, than dried.

So it's VERY frustrating in the garden, right now. I know I'm losing money every time they kill my plants. We chase them off, whenever we see them. But they're oh-so clever. They know our routine. If David gets his way, he'll start hunting them for turkey pie.

But I know the deal. I know what they do. It's my responsibility to protect the things I want to grow, as a way to live with the brush turkeys. They're a part of the landscape, just as we are.

Do you have to live with plant assassins, in your garden too?


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pay to learn

So I've been eating herbs from our garden a lot, with whatever I can pair them with. I love herbs, because they often make the meal! They're even great in smoothies. I'm grateful I don't have to buy how much herbs, I actually use. That would cost a lot of money.

But when it comes to growing vegetables, that's another story. I recently harvested some food from the garden, and was lucky to come away with anything at all.




I got two sweet potatoes (Japanese variety) and two heads of cauliflower. The purple head, was about to flower, so I picked the green head too. It was about the size of a tennis ball. Of all the brassicas I planted (brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage) this small offering, was all I gleaned.

I may be lucky to see some brussel sprouts, if they don't bolt to seed. The warmer weather is making most of the brassicas go to flower. In winter.




The two sweet potatoes from the hugelkultur bed, were large, at least. There's more, still in the bed too. I have no problem growing this particular Japanese variety. They tolerate more weather extremes (heat and cold) than the traditional orange varieties. So if you're having problems growing sweet potato, look for this white fleshed, purple skinned, variety.

So let's get real about this whole, GROWING, vegetable deal. I technically "lost" money, on what I spent, setting up the hugelkultur beds, and buying seeds and seedlings. But that's only if I was comparing it to the vegetable yield, alone. On the other hand, I paid myself to learn to grow edibles better.

It's fine to read a book or blog post, about how to grow vegetables, but at some point you've got to just invest the money, and practice. Getting a bounty is the bonus, and ultimate objective - but there's a huge learning process involved in succeeding. The sooner you can get started, the sooner you can turn the odds of success in your favour.

I know what these hugelkultur beds, need to succeed now. I just have to gather the materials and build more infrastructure. As I don't have a very forgiving environment, with reliable rainfall. That's the number one lesson, I would tell people to do, before embarking on growing edibles. Secure their water supply, first. Second is, make shade. At least for this continent.

In the end, I made a delicious leek and cauliflower soup, with some of the ingredients above. So not a bad deal, after all.

 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Red Smoothie

I wanted to share a new recipe for a red smoothie. It tastes really refreshing, and has some great nutrients. So, let's keep this simple with a diagram.




A few notes:

  • Use a small amount of cucumber (1 inch round)
  • The softer the fruit, the sweeter it will taste
  • Use flax flakes, if mixer won't crush seeds
  • Only about 8 cashews, and a teaspoon of flax
  • Use fresh or canned beetroot - grate first, if using fresh 
  • Fill a third with kombuch (or fruit juice) and the rest with water
  • Blend for a minute, or until smooth - I use a Nutri-Ninja

Variation: add a sprig of fresh coriander leaves, to highlight the cucumber flavour.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Use it twice

It depends on your set up, but if you can work towards using your feed-grain, allocated to chickens, twice, you'd be crazy not to! In our permanent coop, any spent grain makes it to the floor, and basically turns into dust. I clean it out, a few times a year, and use it in the garden - but it's a poor return on what I spent on the grain.




In our movable chicken tractor however, any spent grain which makes it to the ground, reshoots - and if left alone, turns into a green crop. Which means we get to double the return on what we initially spent on buying the grains, in the first place.

Our lone chicken was recently turned onto this patch of primarily brassicas, wheat grass, and a few tufts of corn and sunflowers.




She looked a little confused at first, with all that greenery around her. But she quickly cottoned on to the element of "food". Especially since there were bugs hiding in all that greenery too.

Jungle terrain is actually the natural terrain of chicken fowl, but domesticated chickens rarely get to see such delicacies. Mostly because gardeners want to keep their plants in the ground.

We're no different either. In the past, wandering chickens have destroyed the mulch under our citrus trees, which in turn, invited pests to attack them. So it's a balancing act. Where we can integrate plants into the chicken's domain, however, by cleaning up grain waste, its a better use of resources all round.




And that patch of corn I'm intending to plant in spring, is all the more achievable, now our chicken has knocked down the plants. You can see the path of the tractor. The yellow area was the place she was at, before being released onto the green manure crop. She didn't get all the plants down, but reduced them substantially.

Sure, I could have turned that green manure crop into the ground, myself, but I get to save money on feed, and get the chicken to do the work for me. Sometimes it just takes, avoiding mowing the lawn, to let the seeds germinate. And moving the chicken around other areas, as the plants grow.

It gives me ideas for developing other areas around the place as well. Food for chickens, as well as food for thought!