Thursday, 18 December 2008

Huntinglea Charity the Almighty Snob

Daisy, the new Toggenburg and Charity, the Anglo Nubian
We finally have a new goat. We would have been happy with some mongrel beast with a set of good looking udders, but it was not to be. We ended up with Charity, Anglo Nubian royalty and a royal pain in the bum with it. She won first prize in the first milker section at the Royal Hobart Show probably a year or so back. But she became an uneven milker and she has one teat that needs a rebore it's so narrow. She takes forever to milk. That would be OK if it wasn't for the fact that she's behaved like such a cow the other goats will have nothing to do with her. She roars her displeasure constantly even after nearly a month of being on the property.

Daisy, our other newish goat, is young, unflappable, and ignores Charity's derision and continues to offer the hoof of friendshi. For her troubles she bites poor Daisy on the ear and generally shoves her around. Bella sees Charity coming, puts her head down and horns out and lets her know Butt out!

Still, we have 2.5 - 3 litres of milk a day, a fetta factory coming on and Charity has finally learnt how to jump into the goat palace for a milk (you think goats are agile, but it's not necessarily so).

On the up side she has a gentle character with humans, friendly with us as she is haughty with the Toggenberg's. She'll get there, but the next goat we buy won't cost $300 and will hopefully be a little less self-important.

The Beehive Dive

They're all dead, I didn't count them but over several weeks the 80,000 or so bees died. We watched them weakly walking around or trying to remove some invisible irritant from their bodies, and then they died. I watched them in the garden stumbling over flower heads, and drooping with exhaustion. We watched them pile up in front of the hive in the hundreds, then thousands, dead. Finally it was down to a few hundred or so surviving bees and the queen. But her reign was nearly over. A descent of healthy robber bees, and the few hundred died trying to protect the hive, from invasion. I saw the queen one more time clambering about on her own, no retinue of devoted followers. Then she too was just another corpse.

The reason - pesticides, somewhere within the surrounding 3km either forestry or Gunn's has aerial sprayed, or someone has had enough of the summer wasps and has doused them in Baygon, the kind of poison bees and wasps take back to their hives and which destroys them all, or it could be that the Cherry orchards thin their sprays with Carbryl, another death to bee treatment.

It was very sad. I've said it before, you can't throw a hive of bees a ball, you can't cuddle them, and they don't have big soppy eyes, but they are an entity of their own, and their demise was really very sad, and a crappy indictment on our poisonous lives.

The wax and honey left in the hive was pulled out and discarded due to pesticide residue which will continue to kill future bees, the frames have been boiled and scraped till all the wax is off and I've ordered a new queen. She arrived with four or five worker bees in a queen cage, a wooden cage with a candy plug that the bees eat their way out of. By the time they have done so the couple of frames of new bees and the accompanying workers I've been given by a local beekeeper will have become accustomed to her smell and will accept her as their own.

No honey this year, it will be a battle for the new hive to establish itself without me robbing them. Very disappointing, and the question now is, 'what say someone sprays, baits or poisons again and my bees happen to have their working party in that area of the woods on that day?'

Go home and spray - you'll never know, the hell where bees and colonies go.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Book Arrives!

Well one of them does anyway - however, this was as a small parcel, the others, in a box, were sent at the same time so I'm anticipating that they will arrive tomorrow, and will be straight back out again the following day to hopefully arrive in the letterboxes of those poor people who ordered it anytime back as far as early April.

Thanks again for the patience of those who've lasted through the last nearly nine months!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

House progress

It's happening - Trev's up on the roof everyday - the big common rafters he's beaten back to 8 remaining out of 37. He has a three rafter a day challenge, so hopefully not to far away before it's nil. They are all 'birds mouth' joints, and Trev enjoys measuring them exactly so that when they go up they fit snuggly, or as I hear him exclaim from the roof line , 'Fit like a finger up a bum!' - not sure where he got that particular expression from.

Then 24 creeper rafters on the roof hips, then its roofing mesh, sisalation, battens, insulation, sisalation and roofing iron. Then, later on down the track Solomit straw panel lining inside the house. All up 8 layers or levels of building - no wonder Trev tends to focus on the undone rather than the completed.

I've been home for the last month, so good to be able to do some of the dogs body work. We had hoped to have the roof completed by Christmas ... still possible, good weather and back providing.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The White Stuff diet ends...

It ends, and not before time - it was getting very difficult - it's the last few days that are always the hardest. But it was worth it - I've discovered how much energy I have when I'm not eating sugar and wheat - since I've gone back to both I've noticed a quick decline. So I'm going to reduce my intake of both till I find a happy medium (supposing there is one). I lost a kilo, which was a nice side effect, and I'm still eating more fruit as a snack rather than a roll or sandwich. We had a little bit of an outbreak of chocolate, but really, it's been good to break old habits.

While salt reduction was the hardest - by far. Which was a surprise. We did reduce it, but roast vegetables were always dusted off with a bit of added sodium. a serious addiction. However, whether it was the added energy and the additional running around I did or reduced salt my blood pressure levels dropped quite significantly. The time period coincided with a month off work, and starting on co-enzyme Q10 capsules, so not too sure that I can lay the benefits all at the white stuff diet.

We mucked up, of course, almost goes without saying. Someone handed me a lemonade on a hot day and I drank it, not till I polished it off did I have that, 'Oh', moment of, 'that tasted good because it's loaded with dissolved sugar.' Doh! Trev got up late one night and smuggled a vegemite roll into his maw - but ended up admitting to it.

Wheat is difficult because everything seems to have it incorporated somewhere - almost all lunchtime items are bread based and it takes some thinking ahead to not end up losing weight simply because your food imagination completely fails you. Sometimes it would be nice, when tired, to whip up a dinner of pasta, or homemade pizza, or just soup with cheese toasties. Still, one night Caleb decided to help out and made us a lovely chickpea curry that we're all keen on. Thanks Elliot from Rollercoaster.... a definate 5mmm, out of 5mmms.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Smart Burn

Found this in the local hardware store - some of you might have seen it on the New Inventors where it won an award. I'd LOVE to know how it works, as without knowing the science behind things I tend towards the skeptical, especially with such an impact as this has. It's a short metal tube with 'something' inside it that is placed in the firebox of a wood heater, but not near direct flame. It reduces carbon emissions from the chimney. While not an answer to burning unseasoned timber any reduction in emissions has got to be a good thing. So we spent the $45, cleaned out the chimney so it had a clean start and we'll check again in three months to see if there is any reduction in soot. We'll let you know. If you've already trialled this product please let us know how you feel its spiel holds up to reality.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Mass Extinctions Underway

This is from The Australian newspaper - you can read the full article here The story leaves me feeling despondent and strangely, for me, mute.

Mass species extinction 'is under way'
October 03, 2008

PARIS: Earth's animal and plant species are vanishing at unprecedented rates, evidence that the planet is facing a tsunami of mass extinction, experts gathering for a global conservation conference have warned.

Whether through habitat loss, pollution, hunting, or indirectly by global warming, humans are squarely to blame for what may be the first major die-off in 65 million years, they say.

From Sunday, more than 8000 ministers, UN officials, NGOs, scientists and business chiefs will brainstorm for 10 days in the Spanish city of Barcelona on how to brake this loss and steer the world onto a path of sustainable development.

The World Conservation Congress, held every four years, will also release an update on Monday of the famous Red List on biodiversity, deemed the global standard for conservation monitoring.

“The evidence is overwhelming - and we have really good data now - that what we are seeing is probably a mass extinction,” the sixth in 450 million years, said Michael Hoffman, a mammal expert at IUCN who worked extensively on the Red List.

The current pace of dieoff is 100 to 1000 times higher than the so-called “background rate” of extinction - the average rate, over millions of years, at which species bite the dust.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Baby Animal Rescue - and a new challenge

This morning I noticed a dead animal lying on the road outside our place, on closer inspection it was to see a baby wallaby struggling to get out of the pouch. The dog was quickly restrained and we went in for a closer inspection. Mum was long gone and cold, and the wee fellow, while he had his eyes open was completely hairless, this is not a good sign. Still, we weren't going to give up on him and a few phone calls later we'd found someone living 10km away that we could take him too. First we had to get a knife and cut him out of the pouch and straight into Caleb's fur lined hat, then a dash off in the warm car with Caleb cradling him in the backseat. We had the chance for a long discussion around the amount of dead wildlife we see on the road in Tasmania. Since we've been in Tassie we've taken two wallabies, one with a broken leg and this little guy, plus an injured parrot and the bandicoot that got caught in chook wire through to animal hospitals, parks and wildlife and carers. We know that people around here see anything on the road as fair game ... a game of seeing if you can run it over... whether you're a fair shot with your front wheels. It's infuriating to hear about, to see and to be able to do nothing. So when we dropped this fellow off we decided that we're going to become wildlife carers, all three of us. Caleb's wanted to do something like this for a while but thought he'd have to wait till he was an adult. But I don't see any reason we can't start now. So we'll be contacting Parks and Wildlife to see how we go about getting some training and a permit.

Here's the Tassie link - if anyone has any others they know of for Australia or elsewhere, please share. Looking after wildlife is one way to protect biodiversity and to try to alleviate, to some extend the wholesale massacre of native animals on our roads and highways. Tassie wildlife caring information

About 34,000 native animals are killed on Australian roads every day.15 Multiply this by 365 days of the year – and you get a very large number in the millions! Their pouch young often die slowly from the cold or starvation if they survive the initial collision.

Dr Daniel Ramp, Road Ecology Research Group, University of New South Wales, personal comment.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Fellow frooglers and freecyclers!

Hi all,

Could you please help me flesh out my list of groups forming with environmental goals which require pledges to do without or do better by recycling stuff etc in their own home/workplace etc.

Here's my beginning list.

Zero Waste
100 mile club

I know there are heaps more I've read about, but dredging them up from my murky memory is proving an issue!



Saturday, 20 September 2008

The White Stuff!

Oh poo! I went and had another one of those ideas, the ones requiring the voluntary renouncement of pleasures, large amounts of self discipline and a dead line.
This one has been floating around for a while, but this weekend after long bouts of chocolate eating I finally got around to making it a little more tangible. Like setting out guidelines and a date. I've been generous enough not to include Trev and Cal, thought Trev has opted in. I doubt Caleb will follow suit.
We're going to do something that didn't happen during our six months, we're going to go without salt, sugar and flour. This is a serious resolution for a sugar addicted, salt encrusted, bread binging bit that I am. Trev will have a hard time with salt and flour, but he'll forego the sugar without too much struggle. Sugar should be that white little snowcapped pinnacle on the food pyramid, but in my case the snow is right down to the foothills. I drink alcohol on the very rare occasion, and I don't smoke, but my virtuousness ends there. I think this month will be harder than the whole six in Queensland, but I think a good step in the right direction.

My reasons:

Trev has always been 25 kilos heavier than I am - at the moment I'm closing that gap, and the one between my thighs at a rate not destined to make me a happy or a healthy girl.

I have a strong propensity towards diabetes in my family - and I was gestationally diabetic, so it's almost assured that I will one day top the blood sugar charts.

I don't like being a slave to anything, and I am a slave to sugar and I'm a bit too keen on salt (my blood pressure is up again), and all those carbohydrates make me a dull and bloated girl. (I keep referring to myself as girl as my recent departure from the 30's and arrival in the 40's is also a stirring a case of denial).

So, as of tomorrow, no salt, no sugar, no flour. Wonder what the hell we will eat and what kind of a mood I'm in by Friday?


Another great book! Came across this one by chance, and was intrigued by the concept of someone trying to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (to try and out do his dad who only managed to get to B). Mind you, getting to B would be a big brain blow out anyway, there are 33,000 pages, with 44 million words on 10 billions years of history, as the title goes, he's one obsessed man.

For fans of Bill Bryson, he's as good if not better on the wit and manages to illuminate a number of interesting topics on his way through the small font and ultra thin pages of his gold embossed EB. He's a humble person with a self depreciating wit that has me giggling. He also has some very disturbing Woody Allen characteristics, like being a Jewish Ectomorph with a propensity for long bouts of paranoia inspired handwashing. I fight off the urge to share some of the quips with Trev, he'll be reading it soon enough. For the inveterate fact finding fan it's a lark!

You can try before you buy and read the A's at A.J Jacobs (the authors) website here.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The World Without Us

I'm reading a fantastic book at the moment, Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is a treatise on what would happen if we disappeared today and weren't seen back again and how nature will reclaim and recover our various marks on the world and eventually rub us out. It makes for riveting reading, so nice to see the world from such a fresh perspective! I must have some vital gene missing because I've always secretly like the idea of an emancipated world! (as long as we all disappear with a minimum of pain and distress).

Caleb and I discuss the ludicrous hypothetical question 'If a tree fell in the forest and there was no one there to hear it would it still make a sound?' and the anthropocentric weirdness that humans have put on our own importance, this wonderful book puts us firmly in our place. Though the chapter on plastics still bothers me :-(

The World without us
The site has an interesting multimedia 'quick flick' through the resulting decay of human related remains. I was amazed to learn that New York is built on rivers and without constant pumping it would soon flood. 1/2 an hour without pumps and the trains in the subway would grind to a halt.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Bruny Island Trip

I recently turned 40 and my birthday present was a trip to Bruny Island for a couple of days, I think we all appreciated being away from small sheds, building sites and computer screens. It's A beautiful spot only accessible by a ferry that takes 10-15 minutes to travel across from Kettering. We found a small house to rent where we could take Nuju with us. It was fantastic. The beaches were so pristine, and the place remarkably undeveloped. No shopping malls! This shot was taken in Adventure Bay, and the other at Allonah. There were lots of beachcombing done for the gorgeous array of shells. I'm still pulling periwinkles out of pockets and cleaning sand out of the car - but well worth it.

Spring has Sprung, the grass is ris!

Moorepark Apricot blossom

Every spring Trevor and I can be heard reciting this gorgeous little poem from Arlene Dahlgren. Think of a strong Bronx accent when reading. Caleb thinks us a little odd but indulges us as we remark on all the blossom, the daffodil and snowdrop laden paddocks where they grow wild.

Spring has sprung, the grass is ris,
I wonder where the boidies is
The boids is on the wing,
Don't be absoid
The wings is on the bird!

Arlene Dahlgren

Flavourtop Nectarine Blossom

Would you trust this man?

Trev's been hard at work on the sunroom - he's placed all the structure, joists etc, and he's been given a thicknesser for Father's Day which should make putting the deck down an easier job. Half of this length is the sunroom, the far end will be plain decking, though Trev's done a great job of putting the last double joist on an angle to try and obfuscate the too many right angles feel. I'm about to embark on my first mud experience by putting up a mud wall about 1.2 metres high. It's school holidays here, and I've figured the kids will love to get in and get muddy with me.

We're going to have a dark slate, stone flooring in the sunroom to create a thermal bank of heat - while it will help warm things in winter I'll be planting wisterias, or grapes or something that will provide shade in summer and hopefully reduce it's abilities to turn into a heat trap. I bought these gorgeous pieces of diachroic glass to use as a feature on the otherwise dark floor. I'm hoping they will glow when the light falls on them.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Cover Design Debacle continues

Well, they've come up with a 'winning' cover. And before you say, 'hey, it's not much different from the last one', I know. Must admit that after almost six months of carry on you'd expect something better than this. But, having said that, if it means they hurry up and reprint it I'm happy with whatever they come up (within reason). I came home to another email from a book buyer asking for their money back (who can blame them, but it made me feel physically ill that it has come this far).

The publisher has also decided to rejig the wording, so it will be a different subtitle, and they'll fiddle with the wording on the back cover too. They say this will happen within the next week, and then it will go to print, which usually takes a fortnight before it's back at the warehouse. There are 83 unsold copies coming back from NZ (book miles alert!) so it will be whichever ones turn up first that we'll get a hold of. So for you wonderfully patient people out there who bought the book back in April, the end is in sight! (hopefully).

On a brighter note, the last three weeks of rain, drizzle and sleet appears to have almost cleared and Trev is back out there working hard on the sunroom.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Trying to be Proactive

Only partially successful I ended up sending my own possible cover off to the publisher with a small rant attached. The book sold out in April and we are half way through August. Apparently the hold up is the design cover so I decided I'd give them one! Took me a couple of hours in Photoshop, but it felt good to DO something. I'm so very tired of having to explain myself to people who understandably want to know where their book is. Rest of Rant Suppressed.

Anyway here's the one I knocked up.

Oh, and we had snow this week down to 100metres with road closures etc, but not enough for anything more than a few snowballs. Caleb was whirling around in the falling flakes at nine o'clock at night, but too much rain in the mix to amount to much. It's been raining for almost a week, and nothing is happening on the house, in the garden and the chooks spend most of their time fluffed up and looking miserable. The goat, Bella, spends most of her time in the carport/Trev's workspace peeing and pooing and making the place smell like goat. On the up side, we purchased the roofing iron today - finally decided after much deliberation that corrogated iron wins the sustainable roofing contest - shingles might have been better, but we're getting older and can't see ourselves up on the roof replacing them when we're 80... though, maybe? I'll go ask Trev...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Green Publishing and Printing

On my soapbox!

What with one thing and another I've recently decided not to approach a publisher with my latest scratchings. I figure no one does things quite as well as the person for whom it means so much, so I've decided to go it alone. One of reasoning behind this decision was I want to try and do it as sustainably as possible. There are a lot of trees chopped down each year that end up on bookstore shelves, and a formidable amount of chemicals, water and waste. We'd tried to go print green with Living the Good Life, and the publishers were amenable about looking into some aspects, but not really going the whole hog. We were in the process of moving to Tasmania so didn't really get into the research side of it. Now I have it seems there are lots of options to explore, not just recycled paper, but vegetable inks, acqueous varnishes, elemental chlorine free, FSC stewardship, waste management programs etc.

There's an interesting read to be had at this Melbourne University site called
'The Little green Guide to Publishing'

Eco Directory
have these printers listed. Their websites are worth having a look at. Some of them have been at this for many years and have environmental publishing honed. If you print brochures etc as a part of your business, or who you work with does a lot of printing, perhaps it's an idea to pass this list under their noses. It seems it's only marginally more expensive if at all to conventional practices. It also means you can print lots of goodwill inducing words on the paper that shows your business is environmentally responsible.

North Coast Print Solutions NSW ·
Eco-friendly printers.
Black Rainbow Vic ·
Environmentally responsible printers.
Complete Colour Vic ·
Environmentally friendly printing.
EcoDesign EcoPrint NSW ·
Eco-friendly design/printing.
Finsbury Green Printing NSW, Vic & SA ·
Environmental printers.
Fishprint Vic ·
Eco-friendly, waterless printing.
Focus Press NSW ·
Eco-friendly printing company.
Goanna Print ACT
Environmentally friendly offset printers, Canberra.

Pristine Publications Pty Ltd NSW
Eco-friendly printers.
Spectrum Printing NSW ·
Environmentally friendly printing.
Think Vic ·
Environmental printers.

My latest project is raising money to publish something that's not about the environment, in fact it's fiction with an Australian bent, the only environmental thing being that it will be published using best practice. I wrote it a year or so ago, and Penny, my proofreading friend has been very supportive about getting it happening. Who Killed Dave? is a comedy whodunnit about a dysfunctional group of neighbours living in Kaos Crescent. Here's the first draft cover.

Friday, 25 July 2008

$10,000 dog?

Nuju and little ramses provided us all a good giggle recently. The little black ram decided to have a go at ramming Nuju, repeatedly, backing up, putting his little head down and charging Nuju. Nuju, of course, just stood there and 'grinned' before leaping away, though not being so quick that he didn't get the occasional smack. Caleb and I raced outside to record it. Caleb was keen to send it in to Australia's Funniest Home Videos, so we did. We heard back in the last couple of days that they'd like to use the clip. Caleb is so excited and calls Nuju the $10,000 dog. If it wins Caleb is going to get the other half of the kayak he's been saving for, and hopefully we'll get a roof over our heads! It would be nice.

Here's a retrospective image of a much smaller Nuju and a much smaller Caleb and the doomed to failure attempt to combine the two of them with gardening.

Inside Daze

It's been a month since my last entry - a good reflection on the weather more than anything else. We've had lots of inside days, a good opportunity for Caleb and Trev to practice guitar - especially Caleb who received an electric guitar for his birthday (not necessarily the most conducive thing to peaceful days inside a small shed). I'm looking forward to hearing more than Smoke on the Water one day.

We've planted more bare root trees and had a go at grafting different types of apple and cherries. Looking forward to finding out the success rate.

We're eating potatoes, pumpkin, yams, carrots,onions, garlic, brocoli, cauliflower, rainbow chard, parsley, coriander, lettuce and our bottled apples and tomatoes (also dried), along with eggs and honey. We still haven't gained a milking goat - Bella has been retired and a new companion has been planned for some time, but one thing or another has disrupted various plans. Hopefully soon.

The house is going slowly at the moment, but we're expecting a big burst forward soon. We're going to employ someone to help with the roofing - it's too much for one person, and with the next step being 24 rafters 200mm X 50mm X 5 metres long it will be good to have someone on the other end of them.

Caleb is enjoying his school gardening project. But I'll let him fill you in on that on his blog sometime soon.

I'm plodding away at a wind break propagating trees and buying them, and trying to make them goat, sheep, rabbit and wallaby proof all the way up the 100 metre fence line. There is a great variety of natives that I want to use as a windbreak, source of nectar for bees and eventually be able to burn inside the stove. Quickly learning that not all pollens are equal.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The book is getting closer!

This is the proposed new book cover - it has to be officially decided upon by Hardie Grant, but once that happens, it should be available again within a couple of weeks

What do you think?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Book Availability

Still waiting on the book to be reprinted, apparently there were issues with suitability with the cover design that their designer came up with and he was sent back to try again. This has caused delays. Publishing houses work slower than any other industry I've ever known, especially when it comes to responses to emails requesting an approximate date for the books arrival. So for those with the book on back order I can't tell you anything other than eventually it will get here. It's very frustrating. Also, to Julie H, all my emails to you bounce, your filter thinks I'm spam - so sorry for the apparent non-response.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Little Black Rambo

Trev was the first to notice that Louise, one of the Suffolks was looking a little portly and we stood there and tried to figure out which of the two absent rams had done the deed, it was either her son or her nephew, and neither thought was too comfortable. Within a couple of weeks she dropped little Ramses VI (named by Caleb), if it had been a girl he was going to call her Black Betty. No such luck. However, he is as cute as a button at this age and incredibly black.

Nuju spends half his time mucking around with the lamb, who is completely fearless of him. However Nuju has a lot to fear, he is busy playing silly buggars with the lamb and Thelma, the hard headed woman of a sheep, comes in at a gallop and does some serious damage by the yelps of pain that are heard on occasion. Nuju is always seen twisting around to see his rear end to give it a consolatory lick. Caleb is getting lots of exercise running after the lamb and generally failing to catch it. It’s a wily wee thing. However it’s about to have a minor operation of the attitude changing variety in the next week or two. I don’t think we’re in for another round of fence jumping ram just yet.

Trevor, of course, makes noises about eating it … my argument is that in times of starvation you can eat meat to save yourself, but if you have sufficient protein in vegetable form then there is no excuse for carnivorous behaviour. Though I still haven’t kicked white meat – mantra: potatoes, the other white meat.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Up on the Roooooffff!

Can't remember who sang that old song, but it's the one I'm singing. (Trev informs me it's the Drifters)

Trev has been able to get back to the house recently after stints on his back and on pain drugs, and then out in the apple orchard. He's all fired up finished with posts and beams and has his first 6.5 metre long rafter up. We managed to do it together, I must admit I wait for some catastrophic gravitational event at every moment, assuming of course, that I will fail to notice, or not have the strength to obviscate some disaster that will kill one or both of us, probably simultaneously, just to make insurance policies extra difficult. Of course it all went according to Trev's plan, with a bit of, 'why don't we?' input from me. I'm hoping by the time the house is finished I've got one heck of a lot better at climbing tall ladders without shakey knees, running over joists without 'envisioning' an inevitable bone snapping sound and moment. I'm really looking forward to the mud and straw part they are so much more my kind of element than chainsaw carpentry and trignometry of a truly awe inspiring kind (I am mathematically impaired).

So it's with great respect I watch Trev cut out notches at particular angles in exacting exactness so that birds mouth joins and other complex 'bits' fit glove like. I've included one at the end of this 6.5metre behemoth as an example, plus one of Trevor taking a moment out to survey the new view from the top.

Friday, 16 May 2008

I yam what I yam, and what I yam is Oxalis Tuberosa!

Hmmm, hmmm - I've been out bandicooting my favourite vegetable, and, as of last years harvest, Trev's too. Yams, are not yams at all, but a form of oxalis, while they don't spread like the dreaded weed, they do colonise areas much like potatoes, as you can never quite remove all of the little bulbs. But who'd want to when you can eat them. Roasted is best, traditionally eaten in NZ with roast lamb, but I'm happy to eat them straight out of the pan. They taste like a very light textured potato, but they're sweeter and have an unusual after taste which has been described as slightly acid, but not sure I'd agree. They almost caramelise in the pan, sorry, have to wipe the drool from the keyboard. I describe them as looking a bit like an old mans big toe, that's a tad less flavoursome thought!

I'm seriously thinking about growing a commercial crop of them, I know I already have a market with every yam starved kiwi in Australia, have to convince all those Aussies out there too.

I found them difficult, no, impossible to grow in QLD, they cooked in the ground. Here they flourish, despite being frost sensitive and taking six months till ready to harvest they seem to have handled the light singe around the edge of late, and are still powering away.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Great Chooky Drama

Hard to hatch egg

As you will see on Caleb's blog we had a birthing drama playing out in the chook pen yesterday. Two out of the three chicks had hatched, and while the third had pecked a hole in the shell wasn't making any head way over a number of hours. Home school became a google search for information on whether to intervene or not. As the day wore on and the chick was clearly weakening we took the advice of one site and used tweezers to crush the shell in small sections till it was 'unzipped' and allow the chick to struggle out of there. But once returned to the nest the mother no longer recognised it and attacked it. We retrieved it and bought it inside and Caleb watched it struggle out of the shell and has nursed it for the last 24 hours, including sleeping in the shed so he could be near it. Propagation heating pads are useful things, not only do they get seedlings going, and keep beer brewing but also baby animals alive.

It seems to be doing OK and is now walking around peeping, cheeping and pooping and of course Caleb is doing a lot of bonding - I hope it's not a rooster!

A name has yet to be settled on - Caleb was keen on Little Tree after a movie he saw recently, but considering the amount of salivation going on in a certain dog - I suggested Little Treat might be closer to the truth. You can vote on Caleb's name choices at his blog - the link is just to the right.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Organic Tea Range

Hi All,

I've been working away on a range of organic teas. I hope one day to be growing certified organic dandelion root, but for now I'll have to content myself with buying it off others. All these

Raspberry Leaf and Stevia
Chamomile and stevia
Chai Tea
Dandelion Chai

are made from BFA certified organic herbs, spices and teas and represent some of my favourites. The pungency of the herbs is amazing, every time I open the sealed containers it's a sensory blast.

I worked out last night that it costs between 15 - 20 cents a cup, depending on the type of tea purchased. Which is good value.

I've had heaps of fun creating the website and taking photos, but as my laptop is very limited in what screen resolution I can view it in I'd appreciate a heads up if it views oddly on yours.

I'd also be interested in hearing what your favourite tea is, and any interesting blends you enjoy. I'm a tea freak, have been for years, but there is no doubt that chai tea is considered food around here, it is such an intrinsic part of our diet served milky with dollops of honey. Hmmm!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Musing about Museli

I love toasted museli, and making it isn't difficult. This is the second batch made recently, I use it as topping on the stewed apples whose jars haven't sealed properly and it makes a yummy breakfast with homemade yoghurt sweetened with honey.

4 cups of organic rolled oats
1/2 cup of seasame seeds
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
3/4 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup of sultanas or mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup of honey (warmed till it's runny)
1/4 cup of vegetable oil

throw the lot in a big pan and mix till the honey and oil is thoroughly blended in, then pop it in a moderate oven, turning the mix over every five minutes or so till it is evenly golden brown. Allow to cool before putting in a airtight jar or container.

Perservering with Preserves

The tomatoes this year have been outrageously prolific, it's got to the point I throw perfectly good ones over the fence to share with the goats. We scored a bin of Jonagold apples (500kg) and while a lot of them have become bowling practice for the boys, and a bruised little treat for the animals, they've also found themselves squeezed tight into jars and sealed. With varying degrees of success.

A request to freecycle Hobart for old jam and preserving jars netted 38 and a combustion stove top preserving unit. A couple of trips to the second hand store netted 40 more jars, of varying sizes, some of them huge. We finally figured out how to use the jars and seal them with the Fowlers system, but found the jars of apples would cook down so far that they'd only be half full. So I've ended up stewing the apples filling the oven heated jars and then topping it up with water before putting seals on and boiling them, or using the clear cellophane sheets, that if you do exactly right work fine, but it took some time not to get nice fluffy kinds of mould on the top.

We've been drying apples too, using the apple peeler and dipping the apples in a solution of citric acid to stop them going too brown, and drying them in the warmer drawer. Tomatoes too, halved and dried, Trev downs them by the dozen, or puts them in jars of olive oil and herbs.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Capitulator

On Tuesday night Today Tonight aired a segment on our family. After the previous segement we had vowed 'Never again!', and when Gavin Alder first approached us a year or so ago we were quick to repeat never again, but recently, in view of the ongoing financial issues that a lot of Australians are now facing, and having just pondered how we could inspire more backyard gardens we capitulated.

It wasn't that hard a decision, it was obvious that Gavin is 'a good bloke', and understood where we are coming from, he promised not to use the 'G' word, I thought he meant Gympie, Trev thought it meant Geeveston, but no, it was the 'guru' word. As always, we spent around 8 hours filming to gain just over four minutes of finished product.

The crew did a great job and if missed it you can read the story online here.

Not sure how long the video footage will be available online, but it's currently accessible through Today Tonight, here.

P.S We are currently absolutely swamped with emails from all around Australia, Trev's answered a fair few, I hope to get into the rest over the next week, so if you read this, and haven't yet read a pesonal reply you eventually will (plus will get to my backlog from the last month or so).

Sunday, 23 March 2008

The recycled pram

Caleb and his mate Stan have assembled themselves a go cart from the base of an old pram. It even has rudimentary brakes, not that that helped Caleb much when he 'cart wheeled' out of control and through a blackberry patch. An entire box of bandaids later... but no doubt he will give you the low down on that story himself. It's been fantastic watching them careening down our hill dodging goats, sheep and tree stumps. Apart from a bike helmet each there is no real protection from electric fences (which are difficult to pass through at speed) and other obstacles, so they've got quite good at it. It's quite a steep slope and I enjoy watching them walking up it as much as I do seeing them speed down. At last, an activity that rivals The Age of Empires!

Apple Picking Season

Trev's abandoned the building site and is instead, seen at regular intervals picking apples in the orchard across the road. I've helped him with two five hour days, but mostly he picks four bins of apples a day - and then knocks off and comes back home. It's hard work, I have bruises on my shoulders just from the weight of the bag straps, and the ladder work isn't much fun. But once you're in the rythym of grabbing two apples and lifting them sharply up while placing your thumb at the apex of the stalk and the stalk attachment and placing them in the bag that hangs around your neck and moving on to the next two it's almost meditative, it certainly helps you sleep well. The bag, once full, is unclipped and the apples slide gently out the bottom of it to ensure they're not bruised. A tractor races around the orchard picking up full bin and replacing them with empty.

It's a beautiful place to work, Nuju runs up and down the rows and kids run around eating apples and generally getting in the way, it's like a scene from a bygone era and it's all just 100 metres away.

This is Trev's second year picking. I'm not that keen on him doing it as his AF is triggered by strenuous work and he has it almost permanently at the moment. And he won't give himself an inch, and collapsed during one recently day - the 36 degree heat didn't help. The only way I could get him to stop was to take his place.

I've been picking up fallen apples and chopping them up for the animals who seems to be happy enough to chew through a motza of them. We're doing our best to keep up too.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Tatoes and Matoes

Took me a day to do it, but I unearthed three overflowing wheelbarrows of potatoes, weighing in at about 120kgs (we've already had at least 2 wheelbarrows full) and around 20 kg of tomatoes, and planted out 65 broccoli's/cauliflowers in their place. I found heaps of big fat juicy worms, which is very gratifying as there were none at all when we first got here and I despaired of the soil, plus lots of small frogs, which I think I have correctly identified as the smooth skinned tasmanian froglet. They are in the thousands, again, very gratifying to see garden life.

We still haven't had a real rainfall event since December. About to run out of dam and domestic tank water. Supposed to be 30 degrees today, it was 36 on Friday and Trev, with Atrial Fibrillation, picked apples under the hot sun, and ended up collapsing. I finished off the day for him but he was back out there the following day.

Trev's hard at work again today, this time he's dropping trees for fence posts up at a neighbours place. We need to replace the fence and as quickly as possible as the goats have found there way into the neighbouring orchard (after having been shown the way by the two rams Butty and Choppy). They're now tethered till the fence is repaired, and I spend way too much time chopping them foliage and hand feeding them. They are also expert at getting themselves tangled up in the rope, and of tangling me up in the rope and upending me, which can be painful, but more usually provides injury to my dignity.

The neighbours are still laughing about how early one morning I woke to discover the two rams were in the apple orchard (again) and I raced down with a bucket of grain to entice them back out again. I was wearing my dressing gown. I couldn't entice them back through the fence and had to take the road. I had two full grown rams jumping at my outstretched arm to get to the grain, when I saw a freshly hit wallaby on the side of the road, poor thing... but also, pragmatically, now a good source of dog food. I swooped down picked it up by the tail and continued to run, with the two rams jumping up, and now a dog on the otherside jumping up at the dead wallaby (about 10kg of dead wallaby), me running down the middle of the road, still in my dressing gown huffing and puffing and praying no one is currently looking out their window.

They weren't, but they all want a reinactment. Not likely.

The rams now live at the next door neighbours, and they turn up at the fence line to say gidday fairly regularly. But I'm glad they're gone.

Then Bella decided the electric fence wasn't such a big obstacle. I was already over the electric fence and halfway through the barbed wire when she realised this and decided to rush at my bucket of grain and shoved me through the barbed wire (I ripped out hair by the roots, clothes were rent, and the air was too; with a torrid stream of invective designed to relief angst, but more likely succeeded in raising the neighbours concerns about the seemingly mild mannered me).

Then she figured out that if she grovelled really low and kept inching forward she could get under the barbed wire too. Hence, two tethered goats tangling my legs.

Keeping animals is 1% feeding and care 99% fencing.
Caleb recently helped out and became resident goat herd, to keep the sheep away from the goats feed, it kind of worked. However he's totally engrossed in the John Marsden Tomorrow series at the moment.

Having said that we're getting a new goat, a Bristish Alpine in the near future, after her offspring have been turned into goat pies, which a local chef will be turning them into for Medieval Mayhem, which is on again this year, along with the race for the highest blood pressure reading.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Notebook Magazine

There's an article out in the latest Notebook Magazine about our family with some beautiful pics. You check some of it out online

House and Garden

I admit to being slack about updating the blog of late, but it doesn't extend to the rest of my life, which is almost at stage pop! I think there must be some kind of psychological disorder around trying to stuff too much into one life. I've got to the stage recently, that reading fiction, (which I usually love) has become too frivulous an activity and now I read only non-fiction, and not half enough of that as I'd like. Reading Peter Singer's The Ethics of What We Eat, in very short installments just before I fall asleep. Hopefully it will promote my vegan tendancies, as I was vowing six months of vegan/vegetarianism on January the 1st (Trev's birthday), but as his father died and there was the resultant turmoil, it was quickly put aside.

Bottled 52 jars of honey last weekend. All up we've had about 60 kilos of honey so far this year. Which isn't bad for a first years effort, and after losing half the colony when they swarmed.

The job has been made far harder by the annual influx of millions of European wasps. Though, in true permaculture spirit I have put them to work cleaning up my sticky honey barrel, and cleaning the honey off the beeswax. They're very efficient.

I made the mistake of putting two boxes of 'stickies' the frames that have had their honey spun from them. In the greenhouse, thinking it was a good weather protected area to allow bees,bumblebees and wasps to clean them up for me, and filled the greenhouse with them, half of which then had difficulty locating the exit. Eventually all was resolved.

Trev and I enjoyed watching a few wasps try and enter the hive recently, only to see them unceremoniously tossed out on their heads again by the guard bees. Great bouncers they are.

The cover article of the latest ABC Organic Gardener Magazine is on the basics of backyard beekeeping. Written from the perspective of a novice beekeeper (me) a few more years yet before I profess to know much of the intricacies. But I have learnt how not to get stung too often. No new stings in the last few months or so. Three layers of protective clothing gets very hot, but better than being stung. ABC Organic Gardener

Spent half last weekend in the garden digging trenches. The BOM have given Tassie a prediction of 10 for rainfall in April, 10 being the highest possible indicator of rainfall. So I've dug new beds with trenches for drainage, and filled these with sawdust from the mill. Planted out chinese celery, Carentian Giant leeks, savoy cabbage, paleface cauliflower, romanesco brocoli, a mix of heirloom lettuces, including drunken woman, Hollow crown parsnip, chantenay carrots, all season carrots,hunter river brown onions, white onions, beetroot, Rainbow chard, english spinach, parsley. Quite a lot of it, has been transplanted wildlings, as I enjoy letting things go to seed and then having a swing around in circles and scatter the seeds garden frenzy, hence interesting things grow in weird places.

Photo is of Trev in his Hawaiian shirt standing at the garden gate, my newly trenched and dug garden, and of course, the house behind him. Four more beams up since then, the big, big ones. Trev sighs alot while passing conventional houses, 'Look at those beams', he says whistfully, 'they look so flimsy'. But you know he'd rather deal with them than our oversized jobs.

Homeschool is going well. Caleb is sprinting along making up for lost ground over the past two years. We've quickly realised how little has been achieved, and how much has been lost since our last homeschooling round. Especially in maths. He's even starting to enjoy art, which is a formidable task to reunite him with his artistic ability.

I borrowed a stack of art books from the library and Cal and I looked through them together, me trying to pick up on any latent interest. I pointed out a particularly well drawn giraffe and said, 'Oh, isn't that a beautiful zucchini!'
Only I hadn't heard what I'd said, I'm already turning the page and Caleb is looking at me sideways, 'Ah, mum, that's not a zucchini, it's a giraffe', whereupon he fell into hysterical (and protracted) laughter, now whenever we can't think of a word we say zucchini, though Lions are now cucumbers.

Needless to say I'm chopping up the rest of the zucchini's and feeding them to the sheep and goats, somewhere along the line I've eaten one too many

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Caleb's Blog

Caleb has started homeschool again. I homeschool Monday and Friday's and Trev, Wed to Thursdays. It's a big commitment from all of us, but so far it seems to have paid off. We're all enjoying it and Caleb is taking on more challenges though confront him with any artwork assignment and he hauls up pretty quickly and gives his, 'Yes, well I am not like you, I am not good at art, and you're asking way to much of me'.
This was our recent, draw a blackberry art assignment and paint it with blackberry juice.

Part of homeschool has been starting his own blog and updating it every week (something I haven't been keeping up with of late, something to do with harvesting red kidney beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, honey and my fingertips have blisters).

If you have time to drop in to Caleb's Blog and have a look at and leave a quick note would be great. Also if anyone can tell us how to correctly link his flickr slideshow into the top left hand corner would be appreciated. I'm stumped. And it took him hours to take enough Bionicle photos. Oh, the photo of Cal is of him chewing on his own blackberry leather ... there's a recipe and a tiger snake in the story!

Cheers, Linda

Friday, 8 February 2008


The sunflowers are bursting forth. I ended up whippersnipping the vast majority of sunflowers a while back as the lack of water meant they were stunted and dying. Reduced their numbers to around 500 and tried to keep the water up to just those. Which looks like it's paying off. I was thinking the bees from my hive would be onto them, but only wild bees and bumblebees are, my bees are up the hills supping on Eucalyptus Obliqua which is in flower. I watched one bee do the waggle bum dance yesterday as he told all the other bees the location of a new pollen source.

Eventually I hope to harvest the sunflower heads and press oil, but more likely, with the reduced numbers I'll just shake the heads into a bucket and use it for goat food.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Finally managed to get a copy from the library. Enjoyed the read, very similar to 'Living the Good Life' in a lot of ways. The biggest impact for us is we now make mozzerella cheese using the recipe in Barbara Kingsolver's book (one of my favourite all time reads was The Poisonwood Bible)and I am finally convinced that a deep freeze is a good investment. Trev's been bothering me about getting one for years, but I keep voting against it. He wants to fill it with dead animals, I want to fill it with tomatoes. Barbara freezes her tomatoes on a tray in the freezer, and then throws them in a bag so they rattle around 'like croquette balls', rather than merge into one frozen lump. She grates zuchini and freezes it in bags. There are no end of things you can put in a freezer.

I had to laugh at her discussion about zucchini's, and when in season everyone suddenly locks their car doors in case someone leaves you a bag ofthem. We're at that stage where we can no longer give them away, you mention the Z word and eyes glaze and people back away uneasily. One neighbour recently surprised me with a, 'No bloody way, thank you very much!' I've been growing golden zuch's, a neighbour green, and we aim to have an exchange of zuchini colour. We've eaten them curried, fried, in the ubequitious zucchini slice, I've given them away to the local librarian, and I'm just starting to think about hanging them in bags over peoples door handles while they're asleep when Barbara cut me back to size.

Instead we're coming on for tomatoes on mass. Siberian Cherry, Apollo, sweet bite, and lots of others I've forgotten the names of already. There are at least 30 plants and all rearing for bearing masses of fruit fly free super berries. Man are we estatic about it. Hopefully we can find enough jars to do enough things to them, we're going to dry them, freeze them, cook 'em up and pour them into jars (that are all currently occupied with honey).

I'm watching my tiny, only just fertilised watermelons in the greenhouse, hovering over them, occasionally drawn in for what I call a 'bit of watermelon sex', rubbing the depetalled male flowers over the female. Add a bit of water, more decomposed animal poo and a bit more hovering. It would be fantastic if I can grow even a few to maturity before the first frost.

We don't buy watermelon in the supermarket, it's the locavore thing for us too. If the fruit comes from another state/country, it's out of the trolley. But if I can get it happening here and in a greenhouse it will make it a more sustainable and ethical choice. I've perused the Digger's Seed Club and discovered varieties that grow in cooler climes. I'll be giving those a go next year.

Running the Numbers

Fantastic website worth checking out, it takes an age to load, we're still on dial-up (we've been waiting close to a year for the broadband that we signed up for). Running the Numbers is a Seattle artist, Chris Jordan and his work, a series of things like 32,000 barbie dolls artfully arranged to represent the number of elective breast surgeries performed in the US every six months.

"Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming."

Chris Jordan.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Sexing Chooks

When my parents stayed here over Christmas, my mother, who has a alektophobia (fear of chickens) became quite attached to watching (not touching) the five young chicks. She wanted to know what sex they were, and of course, we still don't know.

She mentioned that you can use the pendulum to find out, and that that's how they do it in NZ. Dad, who is ferociously sceptical in all ways, so much so that he doesn't not only believe in God, Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny he doesn't believe that daughters should have opinions of their own, though admittedly I beat that one out of him years ago. Anyway he was keen to document the process of someone holding onto a chick and mum swinging her wedding ring suspended by a cotton thread over a chook and watching which way the pendulum swung. Dad recorded the details and we're now awaiting the outcome. This experiment was held on Christmas Day and the chicks were half the size they are now.

We think that she's definately right about the orange chook, he's growing tail feathers and tends to go into attack mode when confronted with a pair of human feet.

Consider yourselves part of the documentary evidence... we'll confirm or deny Mums predictions as the results come to light.

If you'd like to you can add your own predictions to the list...

White bird with flecks of ginger. Mum's prediction: Female

Nearly totally white bird with just a few flecks of grey. Mum's prediction: Male

Grey chook, he looks like a hawk - mum's predictions: Female

Grey orange chook - mum's predictions: Female

Orange chook - mum says he's male, we think she's probably right.