Thursday, March 26, 2009

With each decade

When I turned 20, I looked at all the things I used to believe as a kid and thought I was quite juvenile back then. When I turned 30, I looked at the past decade and realised I still had a long way to go. Now I'm half way towards reaching my 40's, and I'm still astounded by how many past truths I've overturned in favour of understanding more.

Let me give a few examples...

I wanted to be more "green" in my lifestyle choices, but found a lot of contradictions instead. I started using the eco feature on my dishwasher, so I'd use less electricity heating the water. What the cold water did though was not clean the dishes properly. I was having to re-do several items again.

What this showed me, was that in order to save electricity I had to use more water to rinse the dishes before they went into the dishwasher. As I'm on tank water requiring a pump too, I'm using that dredded electricity again. The most ecological way of cleaning dishes it seems, could be to do them by hand - but this in turn, discourages me from cooking. Less cooking means purchasing more convenience foods - the cycle is relentless.

So what have I learned? Well my daughter attends school, my husband attends work and I attend to the self-sufficient balance I'm trying to get right at home. When I look at "green" options on their own, they really do look quite appealing - and I give them a go to see what it's all about. Evidently though, I find in this modern life we have to compromise with green living. It's simply not possible to live carbon neutral.

I know there are some great stratagies out there to reduce our impact on the earth, and we should seriously look at them all. But if we really sat down and calculated all our activities (even using the pen and paper to write everything down on) we'd find a carbon footprint we've missed. I'm getting the feeling I'm chasing a ghost, which just keeps getting bigger and scarier the more I try and neutralise it.

This isn't a message to give up though. I'm realising that I have to be more realistic. I don't live in a society which affords me the luxury to be completely self-sufficient. With other family members spending time outside the home, I can't possibly do it ALL by myself.

I've learned this lesson with building chicken coops as well. There's only so much I can do as one person. When I have to wait for my husband to have time off work to help with the heavier stuff, it puts the schedule back more - which puts other projects back further. It's not a reason to give up though - just being more realistic. The longer things take, the further away our self-sufficient lifestyle will be. The math is there, I can't keep ignoring it.

So on the whole I think I've gotten my head around my aspirations a little better. I'm attempting to be "greener" but I'm not being so ideological about it either. Every step I take towards being more self-sufficient, realistically has it's own price tag. I won't realise how much though until I take the plunge and try it out. My cheap veggies have certainly cost an arm and a leg with materials to build the beds, buying the seeds, additives like manures, mulch and don't forget the indispensible garden tools - shade houses, etc.

I guess I've realised too that starting from scratch isn't cheap. It DOES cost money and it DOES use resources and create a carbon footprint of it's very own. Even as I'm typing this in my blog, I'm using electricity...and the server holding all the blogs in the world are using more electricity too.

These prospects aren't as depressing as they first sound though. Perhaps we've beaten up a lifestyle blueprint that just doesn't add up in the real world. We WILL leave a carbon footprint, so how can we minimise it on a continual and realistic basis? We WILL have to part with a lot more money for our greener lifestyle choices too. And most importantly will WILL have to juggle time and resources which are available to us. This is the real world our choices effect.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm certainly happier accepting what I have. It may not be the perfect model to subscribe to - but given a chance, it's improving with every decade. I wonder what I will wonder at 40...or even 60!

That could potentially be a scary thought!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Now & then...

I show a lot of photographs on my blog. Pictures explain a lot more than I could. It's quite a luxury to have a digital camera to download images on the net now. But when I was a kid, instant photography was called a Polaroid camera. Hardly a convenient unit to carry around the garden, and the images would fade with time - but you were pretty 'cool' if your family had a Polaroid.

Mental images fade with time too, I have discovered. When I drive around our semi rural area now, it feels like home. When I see the houses a few streets away, with their ancient sheds and car parts strewn around the front yard - I feel comforted.

Now - that is - I didn't always feel that way!

Don't we all try to hide our ugly bits from the neighbour's view? I'm ashamed to admit it, but when we first bought our piece of the bushland here, I wondered why the neighbours left such ugly eyesores in their yard. How hard was it to clean up? They had acres of land: why were their houses surrounded by junk!

Two years of living here though, and I've forgotten the idealistic yuppie who thought someone else's yard was an eyesore to the public. I get glimpses of her, every now and then, but it's only when I yearn for those rural junkyards that welcome me on my way home. I'm glad those neighbours treat their houses like HOMES and not trophies for passers by to admire. It doesn't matter what kind of home you own though - or where you're located. You should take pleasure in all your neighbour's homes, as they welcome you on the way back to yours.

It's such a simple pleasure I receive now. I get to enjoy my neighbourhood for what it is, rather than what it isn't. I'm finally home.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Compost on the go...mushroom style

Mmm...mushroom compost. Lovely stuff, but if you collect it straight from the farm it will have a crusty top with white powdery stuff throughout the mix. It just needs a bit of tweaking to make it easier to spread and break down quickly.

If you're anything like me, getting around to preparing a garden bed can often be the death of young seedlings, waiting to be planted out. I try to be more organised but I'm still learning a lot. So with the morning free, we all jumped in the car and picked up some local spent, mushroom compost.

We spent $11 to get 11 bags, but also scored about $5 worth of free mushrooms that were left on top of the growing medium. We're planning to make beef stroganoff tomorrow night with our mushroom hoard! We're talking about compost though aren't we?

Here is my sunflower bed when it was still producing flowers. Once I de-headed them though, it was time to do something to replenish the soil. I just laid the sunflower stalks back onto the bed.

Then I went about the day, collecting prunings from marigolds, citrus, pumpkin vines, tomato and ornamental plants, and even some long grass which had been felled with the brush-cutter the day before. They were all layered on top of each other in the bed, with a few shovels of horse manure in between the layers. I gave them a good soak with water and then left until the next day.

So here is what I used for the icing on the compost cake! A wheelbarrow full of spent mushroom compost, a large blue plastic container for mixing, some wood shavings and of course, garden gloves for mixing. I think a tumbler would do this process much quicker, but I found hand mixing enabled me to break up a lot of crusty clods.

I just mixed in a little bit of wood shavings (10%) to the mushroom compost (90%) and broke everything up until it was friable. It was easier to add the compost little bits at a time.

Then it was just a matter of spreading it over the bed until all the organic matter was covered. No digging in at this stage. After I watered it in, I'll let it sit for about 2 weeks - with the occasional drink of water.

It should break down rather quickly. In about a months time, I figure it will be ready for planting in. Which is perfect for my schedule, considering I often forget to prepare beds in advance.

I even had enough to put around my 3 pigeon pea trees. Haven't they grown! I thought I'd lost them in the beginning, but they've turned out to be quite a hardy shrub. I'm glad I planted 3 out. While they did grow quite a lot since Spring, I can see me using regular prunings for my compost. The chooks will love the peas too. Three trees is a nice beginning, but I can see a need for more in future.

As mushroom compost is mostly made up of peat moss, I will have to check to see how it performs as a mulch. I suspect the surface may become hard and repel water. If so, I think some Lucerne mulch will probably be added on top. But I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Keeping track

I've been rushing around the place like a bee making honey. It must be the autumn fever you get with a cooler change in temperature. I can actually spend a few hours in the yard at a time, without having to escape the heat.

We've been doing quite a lot actually. I've enjoyed re purposing some old materials laying around the place, and making them useful again. I like the fact that it's virtually free and I don't have to use fuel to bring it on site.

Here I made some rustic garden bed edging with some old tree saplings. It wll definitely become a termite magnet, but it was before in the pile it was sitting in, only now it's a more useful pile of sticks. Very easy to install too. I just needed a handsaw and a heavy mallet to whack the stakes in place.

Fortunately the builders left quite a bit of concrete rebar around the place after the house was built. We were happy for them to leave it here too, as we had all sorts of ideas for using it in the garden.

Yesterday, we made a garden arch between our two retaining walls with a length of rebar. Got myself an angle grinder (YEHAR!!) been wanting one of those for a while now. Anyway, we secured it in place with a few metal stakes and fencing wire. I planted some peas on either side today, so hopefully in a few weeks time we'll have some yummy, fresh peas, straight from the vine. Here's hoping anyway!

And of course it wouldn't be the Bushland project, without my obligatory post about poultry housing. I'm at it again folks! Lock up your 2x4's because there's no stopping me now. I've got drills, extension cords and self-tapping screws...and I ain't afraid to use them.

Yeah, I know - not much to look at yet, but it's just the basic skeleton. If I get this right, the rest will just be cosmetic! That's our Washington Navel tree in the foreground too. Doing really well!

Apart from that, the overall garden and chooks are doing well too. We managed to survive the weeds onslaught this summer growing season. But I'm sure it will be back for more next summer. I really can't ask for more during this glorious autumn weather though. It's just a great time to be out and about in the garden.

Happy planting/building/recycling at your place folks! Enjoy the weekend.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Little Farm in the City

If you haven't already visited, I recommend a great blog for all those wanting to turn their suburban blocks into a productive garden. Little Farm in the City is about one Queensland family's journey to do just that!

There's also a great book giveaway going at the moment, so hurry ~ entries close on the 9th of March.

Visit Little Farm in the City to enter the competition, and also stop by to read the rest of the site. It's very informative and full of practical suggestions anyone can use.