Sunday, May 31, 2009

Organisation - or not?

I'm really struggling with organising my life at the moment. Well, not just my life, but that of my husband's and daughter's too. We've had a lot of changes recently, so just when we settle into one routine it gets shelved to adapt to the NEW changes.

The wonderful job my husband obtained recently (giving him weekends and public holidays off) lasted all of a month before he was given the golden handshake. Rather than sift through all the entrails of that experience though, let's just say Dave was given the cut to save the job of the manager above him. We were told as much - off the record of course.

So now we're back to hospitality hours again. He's working nights but at least he's working. Another job came just as quickly, but there is uncertainty around this position as well. Remarkably, I'm not panicked. We have put some savings aside for just such an eventuality. It means the wood heater probably gets shelved for another winter but at least we have the money to pay the mortgage.

"...don't put all your eggs in one basket"

This period in our life is teaching us diversity I suppose. But I struggle with organisation at the best of times. A fact life doesn't stop reminding me at present. What can you do when nothing seems stable?

One important decision I've made recently is putting a hold on my plans for building another chicken coop. Instead I'm going to reduce my numbers of chickens and focus on what we can afford. I'm fortunate to have two coops in operation, so no "poor me" stories to tell here. I can continue my plans for expansion later, but right now is not the time.

We are also going through the storage areas in our house and getting rid of stuff we don't use any more. If struggling with organisation is my problem, then I can practice with things I can effect. Like books, clothes and gadgets no longer used. Letting the excess "things" go, is an incredibly cleansing experience. I feel like I've achieved something and the family has the opportunity to connect too. We go through our accumulated stuff together and spur each other on. It's great.

The next challenge is to go through our insurance, utilities and service companies to find a better deal. Then there is the menu planning to reduce our grocery bills. I guess the biggest hurdle for me though is changing my state of mind. Organisation isn't second nature to me. I'm a bit of an artist, grabbing inspiration from here and there - I hate boundaries. Perhaps "hate" is a strong word to use? I don't respond easily to boundaries.

Can I learn to be inspired by organisation instead? Does anyone else struggle with this state of mind?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dual purpose

I like finding new ways of examining old concepts. Somehow I like the challenge of discovering what I hadn't noticed before. My garden is an endless source of wonderment to me! The seasons always bring with them a new level of understanding. Last spring was my first real attempt at growing my own food. Now that plants have reduced their growing for another season though, I'm noticing other stuff around the garden.

Take the roof of my chicken coop. It's somehow become the place I dry and store the pumpkins on.

These are the last of my Kent and Butternut pumpkins for the season. It's much easier to grab the pumpkins from the top of the roof now, as it's only shoulder height and ready to go. In the midst of sprawling pumpkin vines in summer you miss these subtle conveniences.

And what of the mundane scraps often laying around the yard? Can they have a dual purpose and given new meaning too? Take this archway, made from concrete rebar off-cuts.

It's now supporting the snow peas scrambling all over it. Much more than that however, it's often a place the finches, wrens and willy wagtails perch to go about their daily business. It's delightful to witness a flock of finches land on the archway, then dart off just as quickly to feast on some grass seeds.

When the rebar was left on the ground, it grew weeds around it. Now it provides a trellis for food to grow on (my convenience) and a place for small birds to perch on (their convenience). Now I find myself searching the garden for other things to re-purpose. I want to use it all. It seems such a waste to see things in only one dimension.

Now if every season was exactly the same - would we stop to notice what was different?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Moving a mountain

Well it's a small mountain as far as mountains go! It's no small feat though, considering we're only moving it with a wheelbarrow, spade and mattock. Here's one of the spades in question:

This is leaning against the wall we're chiseling back. I love how all the colours of the soil are revealed. You can see some black charcoal from a past bushfire, red clay, and even the beginnings of sandstone. We've hit a few rocky sections, so our second wall project may be finished a little later than we thought. We're gradually making progress.

Here's a picture taken from above the wall. The wheelbarrow is next to the mini mountain we're bashing away at. This is also what our front yard has looked like for a few months now. Actually, it's been this way since about December last year. You can just see the first wall in this picture, which is a light colour. We're building a ramp to access the upper level, which the three walls will partially retain.

And what of all the extra soil - where is that going? Out the back of course!

We're using the excess soil to build another ramp to the backyard. There's a very steep decline and this extra ramp will make it easier to get there - as well as support the soil holding up the house.

These are just early photos, so probably don't make a lot of sense right now. Like everything here it's always a work in progress. I love moving dirt though. Something very primal and invigorating about a day's hard labour. You know what sleep is by the time your head hits the pillow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Autumn layers

Great news! My bantam Orpingtons have started laying. They just hit the 30 week mark (or 6 months of age) and I was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to start laying. The Araucanas started laying at about 24-26 weeks. True to form, the Orpingtons are slow developers but got there in the end.

So here's what a bantam Orpington egg looks like:

It's in the middle of a shop bought egg (left) and the Araucana egg on the right. Not a bad size I thought, for a bantam that is! It's slightly larger than the Araucana egg, but not as big as the store bought one.

So now I have the Araucanas and Orpingtons giving me eggs every other day. I'm happy with that!

Dave and I have been working on some large earth moving projects today. If the weather holds out we'll get another retaining wall built within the week - fingers crossed. This is a rather large project and has taken several months to get going. One wall out the front is already up, we're onto the second wall and then there will only be one more to do!

Sounds exhausting, but this is what we do out here - and don't we love it! Will report more on that project later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Living where you are

I haven't gone into much detail of our lives before coming here, but we use to live on a suburban block in Toowoomba - which is a small city in Queensland. We experienced some wonderful memories in our house too. It's where we got our first taste of home ownership and also where our daughter came into the world. Those days were good while they lasted.

Fast forward and we're now living on a semi-rural property, near the same city. It's taken us two years to really make a difference to the place - and we still have much to do.

But it really gets you thinking about where you live and more importantly, how you live. I can say good things about both places we've had - and some bad - but why does "location" seem to influence how we look at things in our lives? Could you easily let go of all your hard work and move somewhere else?

If you're wondering why I'm dwelling on such thoughts, I've had to consider the idea of selling our Bushland Project in recent times. Not because I want to, but simply because circumstances could dictate as such in future. Although we own most of our property, there's still a considerable mortgage for a family on one income to pay off. You watch what's happening to the wider Australian economy too, and you're forced into thinking about the unthinkable.

But let's not dwell on the negative, and focus solely on the positive. I've come to realise that living in suburbia and living in the country has many similarities - they involve a home, a family, a garden, perhaps pets or even small livestock like chickens? In the past I think I've made the mistake of believing life would change if we moved to the country. The truth is I could've changed at any time, regardless of where I lived. You just have to know what you want to change in to.

Our family is changing as we speak, and while a lot of it has to do with where we live - it's not like we wouldn't be going through this metamorphosis if we lived in suburbia too. The changing economy is changing the wider community. It may force some into selling or even (God forbid) losing their houses. But that doesn't mean what you end up with afterwards is any less than you had before.

You still have the important stuff, like your dreams and your family and friends. These things don't die just because we have to let some other things go.

Living where you are is being who you are...and no-one else can take your place in this world. I'm going through the process of counting my blessings, so that whatever changes come our way in future, we'll remember who we are...a family, a household and a contributor to society wherever we are.

What are your blessings?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Autumn clean-up

I often have a project kicking around my head for months (even years) and it's something you always mean to get back to - one day!

Well one day has come for this particular area of the garden. The septic unit area. It's basically a big lump of concrete which sticks out of the ground.
It's been about 2 years since we took these photos. So this is our second autumn here. When we first moved in though, it didn't take us long to start preparing the area for a garden. With log off-cuts from a felled tree, they naturally became our first choice of garden edging.

We also sectioned up a few timber sleepers for stairs. It made it so much easier to travel between the two levels. Problem is we let it sit for approximately 2 growing seasons. All that bare soil became a weed garden which needed mowing every three months, so the septic guy could do his quarterly reports for council.

To give an indication of how an area can change within two growing seasons, I like to use before and after pictures.



As you can see the stairs have filled out with grass, which requires a whipper-snipper/brush-cutter to mow for access. You can imagine it's not a job we look forward to in the middle of summer. I love the grass, but not when it's past your waistline. Time to finally put my project musings into action.

Last Sunday (Mother's Day) we visited our local markets to buy some tubestock seedlings. I had the best time!!! Oh the herbs I got too, so pungent. Not for this part of the garden though.

My septic tank area needed a date with my mattock first. Very carefully, I may add! It's not something you want to carelessly hit a pipe with. Thankfully the grass wasn't very deep rooted, so I barely had to skim the surface.

The weeds served their second purpose in our backyard though, by becoming a thick garden edging. I just peeled the grass back and dumped it around the raised bed.

The weeds should compost down nicely after about twelve months. Hopefully by then we'll have come up with a more permanent idea for edging. I like this compromise for the time being.

Speaking of compost though, I raided our bins and was able to put a rim around the top to plant directly in to. The clay is rock hard and it needed a bit of organic matter added. It should give the natives a bit of a head start, but after that, they're on their own.

I won't show you all the plants which went in yet, because they're still so small. But I did want to mention a special plant which was a cutting from a local lady I visited last year. I'm not sure what it's called, but it's a succulent type plant. Hi Mel, you know who you are. Thanks for the cuttings. These are just the small ones, I also have the larger ones planned for another part of the garden.

It was a great days work and hopefully this area will be growing plants rather than weeds in future. Can I direct your attention to the mulch you see in the picture too. Would you believe it was free?

The Toowoomba City Council (TCC) has a free mulch collection day, the first Sunday of every month. You don't have to be a rates payer to collect a free load - you only need to bring a trailer and tarps to tie it down. Collection is from the TCC rubbish tip.

They fill it up so high, you have to scrape it off the mudguards to tie the ropes down. Great value for money.

I hope to have updated photographs later next Spring, should they take off. Native plants are pretty good like that!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hilltop house

This new coop has been dubbed "Hilltop", as it's on the highest peak nearest the house. I'll show you what I mean later. But finally, after building commenced a few months ago, the main undercover area is now finished. It started like this...

Then after a lot of splinters, aches and pains...we finally put it's clothes on!

The main cladding we used is second-hand roofing iron ($4 per meter) but the front door has a panel of see-through corrugated roofing, to let in more light. It was a secondhand off-cut, given to me by someone who was going to throw it out.

At the back, we used some flat perspex sheeting in the corners, to also let in more light. It had been laying around the yard for ages and needed a proper use. It may look like a complete unit now, but many days were spent finding the right materials and cutting them to fit. It's cheaper and more environmentally friendly to build in this manner - but it will take twice as long to finish the project.

Bear in mind, I also had to walk up and down a hill every time a piece needed to be cut, or to test different ideas I had for filling in the spaces.

This is the other side. The door was made out of recycled pallets, which were pulled apart and used as needed. This door could have more netting used, because the awning is going to extend over the run to stop the rain coming in. I've started the run too, as you can see. And our house is in the background.

Here is a better picture of the run. It will mostly be netted, but we'll also dig in some roofing iron at the base, as a deterrent for predators from digging underneath. It will go down about 30cms underground, and be attached to the lower cross-beams. The run will also have a separate door because I intend to put another lot of chickens in there - separate to the enclosed area, while I build the last coop.

Am I a glutton for punishment or what - yes, I have another coop to build after this one!

The new residents have been moved to the coop. Remember these little guys? Well they're not so little any more. These are the Gold Lace Wyandottes which hatched from eggs about 16 weeks ago. The two you can see in the centre and right, are both boys. The other 4 are girls. They certainly have grown.

Inside the coop again, these are the 3 girls up the front. The last one is in the upper, left hand corner, but you can barely see her beak in this photo. They seem happy with their new home.

Inside, consists basically of a roost, plus a food and water dispenser. No nest boxes needed yet, as these guys shouldn't be laying for at least another month.

This is looking through the two doors when they're open. OPEN!! Yep, they've been on their first few free-range expeditions in the afternoons. Don't they love it too.

Look at this cheeky girl...checking on my building abilities. That wasn't designed to be a roost!

Stick to scratching for bugs and leave the building to me, hey?

This is the hilltop I mentioned earlier - being located on top of the hill. This photo was taken from the clothesline, looking up the top. Hopefully I'll have the run finished soon, so the Araucanas can move next door.

By the way, they met for the first time while free ranging the other day. The bantam Araucana rooster came up to strut his stuff, and these 16 week old babies which towered over him, didn't seem phased by his appearance. The boys tried to play fight with him, but that was all really. They were all too interested in eating bugs.

Almost finished upgrade

Well I'm getting close to finishing the new layout for the blog. Thanks for the comments. The picture in the header is our first successful crop of bottle gourds, drying in the sun. We did get a second flush of growth on the same vines, but there weren't as many or as large.

I wanted to put this post up however to give people the opportunity to report anything which isn't working on the new layout. I went through the tedious process of fixing the codes in every post, so the formatting remained consistent. If you bring up a post and the formatting is inconsistent though, you can let me know by leaving a comment on this post.

I haven't put up a button to access our profile yet, but that will be coming later.

One final issue I have to fix is the title of my blog. You may have noticed on any emails sent to notify you of a new post, it has a [.] instead of "Bushland Project". There is a reason for that and it's basically to stop the blog merging into the header image. I'm scouring the internet for a solution. There is one, I just have to find it!

Now onto the update of my new chicken coop...