Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Investing in a new tomorrow

"… people (like you and me) can change 
the world by changing what they do 
in their own lives." 
                                                             ~Will Sutherland

I believe I create my tomorrow by what I do today. So to create the future I want, I invest small amounts of effort  every day in developing new habits. Not many, just one or two changes at a time to which I commit until they become natural and automatic. This accumulation of small changes become an investment in my tomorrow.

To do lists and planners help keep me organised, but it's my passions that move me forward on my journey. My passions and desires fuel my momentum. My passions remain the same as I have already described earlier on this blog; creating a self-supporting home;  thriving through thrift; enjoying the comforts of home;  and living by the values that are important to me.

I remain connected to my passions and desires using interior processes such as journaling, self-reflection, meditation and visualisation.  Using these processes I  can reframe any situation and move in the direction I want right now. I know that only I can decide the meaning of anything that happens in my life.

"Whoever has resigned himself 
to fate,  will find that fate 
accepts his resignation."

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Healthy Eating On a Budget

"Feel gratitude for what you have and for what you are about to receive." 
                                                        ~ Joseph Clough

I am wanting to reduce the amount of money we spend on groceries in our household. I already use a menu plan in conjunction with a shopping list. To help reduce our grocery spending further I am going to:

Do more cooking from scratch. In our household we already do a lot of our cooking from scratch, but there is always room for improvement.  Of course cooking from scratch takes more time, so I am going to be looking for shortcuts like using home-made premixes.

Use more seasonal produce. This will require some adjustment to menus. So I will do some research on what is available seasonally each month. It is too hard to wing it as supermarkets stock fruit and veggies out of season, as you well know.

This will also mean using up the fresh produce and not letting sit in the fridge moldering. So I will need to check the fridge every couple of days to monitor this and discover how I can use up any fresh fruit and veggies. Hmmm more time in the kitchen and less screen time for me.

Buying no name brands, but only when it is produce of Australia.

Adding canned beans or lentils to make dishes go further.

Buying more items in bulk. This slipped last year, but I need to get back to this.

Take time to compare prices as sometimes items on special aren't really the best buy at the time. Some items on special at one supermarket may still be cheaper at Aldi's.

Only buy grated cheese if it is not more expensive than buying blocked cheese and doing the grating myself. Ditto for diced bacon and ham.

Well now I have a plan. I will start putting this into practice and monitor how I am managing.

Do you have any tips for me on how to reduce the grocery budget?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Permaculture and your Bioregion part 2

"We will not have any more crashes in our time"
~John Maynard Keynes 1927

There are so many interesting financial forecasts and prophecies from the Wall Street Crash era and the Great Depression era.  They serve as a reminder to me that those people who are looked to as expert sources of information and leadership can often lead us up the garden path.  Our own judgement and discernment are just as likely to be useful in helping us plan our way forward as those of our experts and leaders. Probably more so. 

It is often repeated that those people who managed best during the Great Depression were people who had their own basic resources; shelter, food gardens, orchards, water, chickens etc, and managed these resources well. 

Because Permaculture is  a design process based whole systems thinking, I find it a very useful approach in developing an "insourcing" lifestyle. A lifestyle where we increasingly become the producers of our material needs rather than being merely consumers.

In part 2 of Permaculture and your Bioregion I would encourage you to take some time to consider the hours of sunlight in your area at various times of the year, as well the wind patterns that predominate in your area at different times of the year and extremes in weather that you experience.

Knowing the hours of sunlight at various times of the year is information that is important to gather for the design planning process., whether that is designing for growing conditions of for a house building project.   If you live in Australia, you can find information here

Here is what my average hours of daily sunlight are for each of the months.

Jan   7
Feb   7
Mar  7
Apr   7
May  6
June 7
Jul    7
Aug  8
Sep   8
Oct   8
Nov  8
Dec   8

Now some people may think that the highest hours of sunlight per day would be November, December and January as that are our summer months. However I am guessing that the difference is due to our rainy season usually sets in after Christmas. So we probably have lots of overcast days that affect the hours of sun recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Which directions do your cold winds come from? From which direction do your cooling summer breezes arrive? Are there times of the year that strong winds affect the health and growth of your plants. Do you need a buffer from hot summer winds? Of course you can discover this information where you live through observations made through a period of 12 months, and it is probably best to keep some notes. The Bureau of Meteorology can help you to find out this information for your local area. 

When working on this subject I found researching the local topography most interesting.  Some of the information I discovered included.

The majority of our bioregion has a low profile - less than 20 metres in elevation, and is divided my many rivers and creeks which form a system of interconnected estuaries. Habitats within the estuaries include; seagrass beds, low mangrove forests, salt marches, salt flats, closed heath communities and beach ridges. Tidal energy moves sediment around within the Estuary which is an important catalyst of habitat within the Estuary.

Surface soil is sandy and poor with low nutrient content. Underneath the surface soil along the coastal strip runs Cainozoic sedimentary rock. The rock provides recharge for aquifers, streams and rivers.  In some areas the soil has a high magnesium content which leads to the soil hard setting, which causes water run off instead of allowing penetration and this can lead to erosion.

There are remnant turpentine/bloodwood woodlands in the area.

I have learned so much about our bio-region that gave me many 'aha' moments when preparing the permaculture design for our property.  Because I can now  look around when I am travelling around our local area and identify topography, flora, fauna, dominant weather conditions etc, I can identify the interconnectedness of things and feel myself connected to my environment in a much deeper and more fundamental way.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Here comes another one!

"Here comes another one
Here it comes again
Here comes another one
When will it ever end?"

                               ~Monty Python - Here Comes Another One Lyrics

Once again we have another 'rain event' on the way with heavy rains forecast down the east coast of Australia due to another East Coast Low.  Warnings of flash flooding and possible severe storms.  The rain is just starting to move into our area as I write. It is very light at the moment.

Warnings have been issued for Queensland, NSW, and Victoria.

East Coast Lows produce heavy swells and very rough seas that can damage the coast line. What this means for those houses perched precariously on the beachfront in Collaroy is anybody's guess.

I hope everybody stays safe.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Produce No Waste

This is part six in my discussion of the 12 principles of permaculture. This time I am sharing my thoughts on the principle, "Produce no Waste".

The best way to produce no waste is to exercise care in what we purchase and produce, so that we generate less waste. Secondly we need to look after our resources/possessions with proper maintenance and repair to prolong their useful life. We can take time to consider how the waste product may be utilised in another system, such as compost. Finally with the waste we do have it is a matter of seeing how it might be reused.

Here are some ways I integrate this principle into my life:
Instead of throwing or burning our garden prunings (for example banana leaves) we put them through the mulcher to make mulch.
We have a food scraps container in the kitchen that is emptied into our tumbling compost bin, so our food scraps are recycled into compost.

Instead of purchasing a separate night cream I use extra virgin olive oil on my skin at night and instead of purchasing a separate facial mask I use greek yoghurt and honey together. These practices reduce physical waste, save money and time spent in running out to the shops to purchase –  so it also saves fuel.

Additional ways I could practice this principle in my life are:
In the future I would like to improve at reducing our food waste and preserve more of our harvest.
I would also like to have a ‘worm farm’ to recycle waste and provide nutrients for the garden.
I would like to become skilled in repurposing, and mending clothes.

For me, an inspirational example of this principle in action is the "Make Do and Mend" mentality that existed during the first and second world wars and during the depression. The people of those generations were skilled in reusing what we would now commonly throw away.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Growing Apple Trees in the Subtropics

According to the Prose Edda, "Iduna keeps in a box the apples which the gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become young again. It is in this manner that they will be kept in renovated youth until Ragnarök" (or the destruction of the gods).
                                                     Henry David Thoreau

Though apple trees will grow in part shade they fruit best when they are positioned in full sun and should have at least five hours of sun a day.   As a member of the Pome family, apples need regular careful pruning to ensure a maximum yield. Apple trees need deep fertile soil and their water needs peak during the spring and summer months when the fruit is forming.

I have three apple trees planted that have been cultivated for warmer climates. My three are Coastal Cropper, Tropical Beauty, and Anna. Coastal Cropper is the oldest of the three and bears a lot of fruit. However I haven't netted the tree early enough in the growing season as yet, and the King Parrot's have eaten all my fruit the last two or three years. It is a low -chill, self-fertile tree. Tropical Beauty originated in South Africa. It's pollination group is PG2 and the fruit is supposed to be ready for harvesting in March through April.  My third apple , Anna is supposed to have the lowest chill requirement of any apple and it is also supposed to be self-fertile. Though mine has yet to fruit , I have read that early in the ripening stage it is supposed to taste a bit like a Granny Smith and then later when it is fully ripe it has a flavour similar to Red Delicious.  Anna is also supposed to be able to cross pollinate with Tropical Beauty. Anna originated in Israel where it was bred to produce an apple that could deal with almost tropical climates. I take that to mean sub-tropical.

Apple trees uses from a permaculture perspective are:

Popular fruit, very portable.  Used in cooking
Beautiful tree especially during flowering.
Apples are a source of vitamin C and fibre
Part of the “BRAT” diet for convalescence following stomach upsets or diarrhoea
Ripe apples are sometimes used to treat constipation
Apples have also been used in poultices to treat skin inflammations
Apples can be preserved by drying

Apple companion plants are said to be nasturtium and chives.

I feed my trees annually after flowering finishes. I like blood and bone with crushed granite (as a rock mineral) added as the granite dust provides a source of potassium as well as other trace elements. Rock minerals are supposed to increase the water holding capacity of the soil, and increase soil life (microbes).  Apple trees, it has been said, also like a bit of dolomite.   It is also good to give apple trees a monthly dose of liquid seaweed it is best applied to the leaves of the tree if possible.

What are your tips for growing apples?

March 2017 Edit: During February we harvested some of our Anna variety. The earlier harvested apples did indeed taste like a Granny Smith and when the apples were left to ripen a little longer they did taste more like a red delicious. We were very impressed with the fruit from this tree.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Permaculture and Your Bioregion Part 1

A more current definition of permaculture, which reflects the expansion of focus implicit in Permaculture One, is ‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.

While studying for my certificate IV in permaculture I was required to take an in-depth look at the bioregion in which I live. Unlike a region which is usually characterised by man-made divisions,  a bioregion is an area that is that is defined by characteristics of the natural environment.

The New South Wales Department of Environment and Heritage give this definition of a bioregion "Bioregions are relatively large land areas characterised by broad, landscape-scale natural features and environmental processes that influence the functions of entire ecosystems. They capture the large-scale geophysical patterns across Australia. These patterns in the landscape are linked to fauna and flora assemblages and processes at the ecosystem scale, thus providing a useful means for simplifying and reporting on more complex patterns of biodiversity."

If you accept the premise that permaculture is consciously designed landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, then it is of the most basic and greatest importance to study in-depth the environment in which one is practicing permaculture.

Our property is situated within the South East Queensland (SEQ) bioregion which runs from the Queensland/NSW border up to about Gladstone. The SEQ bioregion is broken down further to a number of sub-regions and our property is in the Burnett-Curtis Coastal-Lowlands Region (SEQ-08) which runs from Gympie up the coast to Miriam Vale.

For information on where your bioregion extends you could go to this link on on Australia's 89 bioregions and 419 subregions.

For Queenslanders this Government site provides detailed information on characteristics of the bioregions in our state, and is a good place to start when researching your bioregon.

We are living in an area characterised as freshwater estuary.  The non-riverine and riverine wetlands of our area play a significant role in reef resilience due to their high connectivity with adjacent estuarine salt marshes, mangroves, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. Many of the local riverine, non-riverine and estuarine wetlands are also scheduled as High Ecological Value waterways under the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 2009.

Our climate is s a subtropical maritime climate with mild winters and warm to hot, humid summers. Being on the coast our climate is principally influenced by the south east trade winds and the moderating influences of the ocean. We experience major frontal systems and also receive occasional strong northerly winds and storm swells during summer

Rainfall on our area is usually from late summer to Autumn. Average rainfall is 636 mm per annum. Most of our rain is from the northern monsoons.  The highest rainfall recorded in the area for a year was 1709.6 mls in 1898. Rainfall data shows that annual rainfall has decreased over time.

An in-depth look at your bioregion will naturally include temperature averages and variations. You may want to  do some research to see if there have been changes over time and records set for minimum and maximum temperatures.

If you are in Australia you can find information on your local climate data including rainfall, temperature, weather and climate and solar exposure here 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

In my garden in June 2016

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
~Maya Angelou

One of my gardening buddies.

Maya Angelou's words above are so good, aren't they?  I can become disheartened sometimes by my lack of progress, but when I stop to think about it, I am doing the best I can right now with the knowledge and resources I have. Because sometimes it is not just a lack of knowledge that can hold me back, it is a lack of funds too, that stops me progressing as fast as I would like.

He and his partner like to sit above my keyhole garden in the hopes of being fed.

If my pockets were bottomless I could order in truckloads of beautiful, fertile garden soil, use trailer loads of blood and bone, build another dam and install automatic watering systems that would save me hours of work endlessly moving sprinklers.

This is what gets the Butcher birds so excited. Grubs from the compost 'basket'
in the middle of my keyhole garden.

It has been  dry here for a long time now.  Last Saturday I watched the water truck drive past our house many times on its way to fill up house water tanks in the area. I bet they now wished they had waited and extra week because the drought was broken this weekend. My photos were taken before the rain.

Here the grub is burying himself back into the compost.

So during May I managed to fertilise and mulch some fruit trees including the mandarin and lemon tree. I have not yet given them the light prune that I wanted, I will hopefully do that in June and the mulberry as well. Actually I am hoping to prune a lot of plants so that I can put the green prunings through the mulcher and add it to my compost heap.

The old shade cloth on the ground and Don working on replacing the timbers.

Don spent many hours during May working on our pergola. Originally it had a lot of shade cloth around the rails which looked a bit ugly. However when we bought the property we kept the shade cloth in place because our dog spent a lot of time out there and I felt it made the area more snake proof. However our dog died earlier this year, a couple of months after Don had spent a lot of time building her a nice dog run. Anyway we do plan on owning more dogs in the future so the dog run will still be useful. So once the shade cloth was removed it became apparent that a some of the posts and rails needed to be repaired. Don has made the repairs and re-painted all the rails and we are happy with the result. We need to work out some type of shading for the summer months, so that will be our next project.

This is a section of the garden I will be working on this month.

This month I am going to spend a lot of time working on this ornamental garden (shown above).

I am going to prune any plants that need pruning, and then weed the garden. Once the weeds are dealt with I am going to lightly fork some blood and bone into the top soil and then cover with mulch. The mulch I am using this year is Lucerne. I try to change the mulch each year so one year it will be lucerne, the next sugar cane mulch etc.  Once I have a layer of mulch in place - and I don't use thick layers of mulch, my preference is to use a thin layer of mulch to help prevent moisture evaporation and to feed the soil. Anyway once the mulch is applied I will toss handfuls of manure pellets around which will feed the soil as it and the mulch break down.

Here is another photo of part of the same garden from another angle. The bare spot to the front left is due to 
an Agave that flowered and then began to die off. Behind the garden is our drive way. Note the white/very light 
grey colour of the sandy soil. Not much to work with in that soil

I want to find the time to remove the spent flowers from the grevilleas and banksias and then feed them.  This is easy to write but the truth is we have a lot of indigenous banksia's possible due to being close to an environmental park. They just appear on their own, but mostly I just let them go because the areas they appear  are not going to interfere with any of my future plans. They usually come up near angophora's, along with swamp grass trees and Dianella's, and occasionally there may be a bacon and egg plant in amongst the mix.

This photo is taken standing next to the middle section of the garden looking toward the far end. 

What are you planning to do in your garden during June?