Friday, 29 May 2009

Who Killed Dave?


It's been a very interesting experience, the first self-publish. Mostly because I've been trying to find the best possible practice when it comes to an environmental publish. So it goes like this...

I've printed it using POD (Print on Demand) in Australia using recycled paper, 91% recycled waste and it's carbon neutral. This is a first, small print run in order to gain a few (hopefully positive) reviews, and to present it to book distributors without whom you can't sell your book through bookstores, and they don't appear to make decisions on whether they will or not until you've printed it. It presents a few delimmas that a small print run deals with. So there are 100 first editions available!

Because I'd like to make it available worldwide the environmental and postage costs make it unsustainable to send it overseas. So I've signed up with Lulu, a print on demand US company for northern hemisphere sales. The book can be viewed here Who Killed Dave?@Lulu Unfortunately, while it's still carbon neutral - it's not from recycled paper stocks or printed using vegetable ink. But! It can also be downloaded electronically from the site for $5 US - making it an environmental read of the first order (as long as you don't print it.)

It also mean it'll be available through Amazon - eventually.

Some of you may have heard me rabbit on about it some time back - for those of you who haven't heard or seen it - excerpts and pitch are here

I had a ball writing it, I hope people have as much fun reading it.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Little Chook House Project (stage two)

Spent Friday slaving over a full wheelbarrow full of mudbricks. Loved it, had got the roof up during the week, and it was gratifying to finally get the part I was looking forward to, the grubby part (how typical). Still have two walls and four doors to go. But managed to drop by the South Hobart tip shop on the way home from Hobart yesterday and scored a $1 wooden window to lighten things up for the chooks.
Really enjoying the process of doing it on my own. Trev gives me advice and helped me shove a couple of screws in that were high and just before a rainy squall hit, but apart from that, oh yes, and cutting the wood to the required length, still not up to using a drop saw, last two times, one chopping fire wood, and the other small wooden posts, I've managed to bust the thing, not strictly my fault but I'm not much interested in tools that spit plastic bits of cooling fan at your face and then go up in smoke.

I'd like to hear what amazing things you've done in the name of home handy person ... particularly if you are a woman. Spoke to one of the female persausion the other day who was renamed Chainsaws. After being told she needed to take out the top of a tree she tied a chainsaw around her waist, climbed the tree and chopped it out. Hats off to her. Way beyond me. What about you?

and I will walk 400 bales ...

We have 400 bales packed tight on a tarpolin, temporarily. It took Trev and I two days in which Caleb (who came down with a horrible flu right on time, and had to come along with us)Trev and I travelled to Hobart airport and hired a 9 tonne truck (Caleb was most impressed with his truck driving dad) and drove out to Cambridge where Laurie and Paul helped us load 400 bales in two truck loads and cart them back to Surges Bay. Trev handled peak hour Hobart traffic with aplomb (no, I didn't say 'a bomb') though it would have been handy a couple of times. Tip no 1. When driving with trucks please don't duck in front of them just before they get to a red light.

Anatomy of a strawbale throw

Didn't get home till 7pm the first night and were up at dawn the next morning to unload the last 200 and take the truck back. Arrived home stuffed to find that the sheep shearer had turned up so we spent the next hour or so running up and down hills after recalcitrant sheep, both ours and a neighbours. Glad the day was finally over and we could stay still long enough for tired muscles to stiffen up nicely. Still, beats paying gym fees.

Getting closer all the time to plonking the bales into the walls and adding another dimension to the house.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Little Chook House Project

I'm not a builder, as I like to tell everyone my help towards the house is being on the dumb end of the tape measure and doing a bit of the donkey work, lugging things around, pulling on ropes and every now and then Trev lets me use a hammer (sparingly). My skills are next to nil, so I figured I'd get around to a small project of my own to increase them without the issue of making a mess of the house at the same time. I was inspired by an article in the ABC Organic Gardener Magazine, either last issue or the one before. It was the chook clock. Mine is separated into 15 minute intervals. Basically the large area is divided into four by the central chook pen. From each corner a fence (will) radiate out to the corners of the paddock, dividing it into four wedge shaped garden beds. Each side of the chook pen will have a human sized and chook sized door. When I want the chooks in a particular garden bed, I open that side, leaving the others closed. So I rotate them around the beds without having to relocate the chooks, and pen.

I've already made the mud bricks for two of the walls, and as soon as we have strawbales I'll be able to complete the other two. Wanted to have a trial go at rendering too.

Run into the usual 'trap for young players' as Trev calls it. One of my post holes had a weird natural hole at the bottom, and of course once weight was placed on it my post collapsed into it, I had to do the wonderful Tasmanian trick of propping one corner of the chook house up on a few rocks. (some sheds around here have been sitting on piles of rocks as foundations for over a hundred years). The usual not quite square issue, matched with Trev's reject wood which is bowed, twisted and not square in the first place and I'll have some interesting doors to make.

Still, it's all experience, I just wish I wasn't still scared of the drill, the one that twists your wrists off your arms off their stems when you've got your screw in. It's also convinced me even further of Trev's natural born brilliance... I can only look on in wonder.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Pea Paper

Not to be confused with paper that you use in the toilet to deal with pee.
I picked up a book from the library The Art of Papermaking with Plants by Marie-Jeanne Lorente. I adapted it to more organic methods, using wood ash as a lye solution rather than caustic soda. It worked well, I let the pea vine and leaves, which were already dry and brown rot down for weeks in the solution and then cooked it for several hours on the wood stove. I played around with the mix making paper that was purely the plant pulp and then added pulped recycled paper and created a different paper from that. I've got beans, pumpkin and tomato stems to use next, though, no doubt the goats will think it a waste.

We Flew

My no-flying policy took a bit of a lickin' this month. We jetted off to see a friend in Queensland because we really wanted to. It was an emotional 5 day rollercoaster ride which ended on a high note when we spent time with Leela and Ehren, Trev's kids. Despite paying to offset carbon emissions the guilt of such flagrant non-renewable energy use was a trifle unsettling. It's my first flight in around 7 years, and that was work related.

Of course we had to make a trip round to our old house where we did our six months. We shouldn't of. The solar panels were not connected, not sure what the issue was, and why they weren't, the rainwater tanks were also disconnected,same story. My citrus trees are covered in scale and partially skeletonised. Lots of trees are missing, though my avocado tree is still thriving, there were macadamias, custard apples, carambola and chillies still going hard, and the surprise was the size of the three olives, massive.

I was chuffed, but then you can't kill an olive with neglect. Nor too can you do much to buggar up bamboo, they were HUGE! They were planted to be an eventual barrier to the road beneath, and if I'd continued propagating them they would now be a complete sound and visual barrier about 30 metres high.

One small gratification ... spotted some tobacco drying, not all is lost.

The Great Frost

Autumn announces itself with a gentle turning of leaves, winter blasts it's icy warning with a frost capable of turning tomato leaves to black slop and NZ yams to a brownish slump, pumpkin leaves are limp seaweed hanging from drooping stems. Oh well. I manage to get half a wheelbarrow of tomatoes good enough to bottle. Between Trev and I we've 45 1.5 litre or bigger jars full of them. Plus pasta and tomato sauces using Trev's mum's recipe
Pumpkins are salvaged and stored, the yams stay where they are, they're capable of their own small resurrection at this advanced point and will continue to develop tubers under the ground. Though this bandicoot has rooted around for a couple of meals worth already.

On to the apples, bottling of which I'm onto today - it's wet outside and great weather to slave over a hot stove in.

Internal Walls

Trev's right into it, getting the roof on has been a great boost, not just to morale, but to his ability to work in all weather. Each internal wall is made on the floor and then lifted into place. His perfectionism shows, each one fits (like a finger up a bum). It defines each space so it's no longer just in minds eye. The flooring goes on last and so far we've managed to avoid falling into the void. Next step is electrical wiring, plumbing and walls. We've decided to go for a small mortgage, as the next stages are expensive, so far we've managed to save for each step, but not this one. But there's a hold up on this, we've just discovered that the banks insurer will not insure a strawbale house, or a mudbrick or an EPS (polystyrene home). Which has left us bemused. Surely there must be an insurer happy to do so. We make jokes about the durability of our house, as a devotee of ABC's Time Team I hope that they will doing a segment on our house one day in the very distant future.

Anyone know an insurer willing to step up to the mark on strawbale housing?