About Me

In April, 2007, my husband, 3yo daughter (now 6yo) and I sold our 2br unit in the inner suburbs and bought a 3/4 acre block of land on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia. Join us in our simple living adventures as we attempt to manage all our animals, grow some food, and slow our lives down a bit.

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Transplanting Arrowroot

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This afternoon we transplanted the arrowroot from the front garden (where we have something else planned). I couldn’t find much info on how it would cope with being transplanted in the middle of it’s growing season, but I really wanted it moved now, so we’re taking the risk. We’ve dug it out in very large clumps, so I hope most of it survives

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We’ve moved it to the side of the chook pen, where it will give them some welcome shade in summer. They free range during the day, but are locked in at night, and until we get up to let them out in the morning, which is not as early as they would like!

There is rather a lot of it! All this grew from my two tiny tubers about three years ago. It’s definitely prolific! So long as even some of it survives, we’ll have plenty of shade here in the future. I’ll try to remember to post to report on it’s survival in a few weeks. We have surrounded it with some shade cloth to protect it from the chooks digging it out before it is established. I’m hoping it can survive them after that.

Wicking Bed Update

Not  many posts lately.  What can I say?  I’ve been busy.  DD’s homeschooling report is finally sent, it’s NaNo this month (I’m currently at 12282 words), and I’ve been busy gardening.

Here is how the wicking beds are going.  I’m SO impressed with them, and really really happy.  These beds have been growing for only ONE MONTH!  The bed on the right wasn’t even filled on the 8th of October, and today is the 11th of November. 

In the left bed are beans (at the back), peas (in the middle), and corn (on this end). 

The peas (the first thing I planted in this bed), are covered in pods.

We picked the first ones today.

Here is the other bed with it’s cover off.  The cover is some uv protected netting that I scored from my parents.  It’s the perfect size to cover this bed and keep the 28 spot ladybirds off my potatoes, and the cabbage moths off my broccoli!  The strawberries up this end of the bed were transplanted from the front beds.  The silverbeet was too.  When transplanted a month ago, it was about 4 inches high.

Also in this bed are carrots, planted from seed.

Silverbeet/rainbow chard, planted from seed.

Broccoli, planted from seed.

Kale, planted from seed, and being a little overshadowed by the potatoes.

But the number one, most impressive growth in only one month, is the potatoes, planted from seed potatoes.  They’re about a foot and a half high, and just about to flower.  They are pusing up the side of the netting, making the hooks (that I stuck on the side) come off!

So if you’re considering a garden, I’d really recomend wicking beds!

Yep, I’m slack

No new posts for a while.  Oops.  I’ve been so caught up in trying to get DD’s homeschooling report put together that I haven’t had much energy for editing pictures and posting.  Not that it’s hard, I’m just procrastinating and it’s hanging over my head.  Not much left to do now though, then hopefully I’ll manage to post more.

Have plenty to post, the garden is doing beautifully, growing so fast you’ll be amazed, and I’ve been doing some re-decorating and sewing in the bathroom.  Hopefully I’ll be back to post soon.

Saving on the Bills

After paying out over $1000 in bills last fortnight (in all fairness, most of that was the home and contents insurance, but still), I decided it was time we looked at ways to reduce our bills.  One of the obvious reductions is in our electricity bill, the last of which was nearly $700!  I could come up with all sorts of reasons why, our DD was diagnosed with asthma a few months ago, and wakes up coughing if the air in the room isn’t warm, and since she eats mainly oven cooked chips and nuggets, we’re using the oven a lot, but the reality is, $700 is still over the top.

So I arranged a Climate Smart visit, and we had this cool little electricity meter installed.  It displays how many kW’s we are using at any given moment (updated every 8 seconds), and how much this is costing us per hour to run.  You can also switch to daily, weekly, and monthly totals. 

We thought we were pretty good at getting rid of stand by electricity usage, but we soon discovered we had become pretty slack at it.  When we first fired it up, we were using around 0.600kW’s.  After turning off a few things, we soon got it down to under 0.400kW, and that’s with our two computers still running all day.  We discovered some interesting things too.  My sewing machine and overlocker, which I thought wouldn’t be using anything because they were turned off (and had no standby lights etc), were still drawing a small amount.   Our two air conditoners were also drawing standby current, so we turned them off outside at the wall.  Turning our monitors off at the switch instead of letting them just go into standby also saved quite a bit, and we’ve turned the microwave off at the wall too.  I’ll have to buy a battery operated clock, as we used the micro for the time mainly! 

The meter has been a really good wakeup call.  We’ve discovered that our booster on the hot water is kicking in quite a bit (in all fairness, it has been quite overcast since we had the meter installed), so we’re going to look into getting a booster switch.  Having our lights on all day was also using quite a bit, so we’re living with it being a little less bright.  We’re making a point of putting on a timer while the oven heats, so it isn’t sitting wasting power at full temperature.  And we’ve pulled out the fan now that the weather is heating up.

So overall, we can get by for most of the day using only about 0.4kW.  Then of course, the booster kicks in, we use the oven, dishwasher or the washing machine, and it jumps up to over 2kW immediately.  So we’re trying to limit the amount we’re using these major appliances, and trying to use them in a more energy effecient manner.  Like using a timer for the oven, and making sure they’re turned off at the wall again as soon as we’ve finished using them. 

So in the last few day’s, we’ve reduced our energy usage from about 27kW a day, down to around 16.  Of course, that is going to go up a little over summer, as we won’t be able to avoid the air conditioning completely (both DH and DD really feel the heat), but we’ll have to see how that goes when we come to it.  Our aim, based on the Climate Smart aim, is to get down to 6kW per person per day, so in our case, 18kW a day.  Wonder how we’re going to go with that?

The service costs $50 for the visit, installation of the meter, several energy saving lightbulbs, some remote devices to shut down electronics on standby, a water saving showerhead if you don’t already have one, and lots of advice on how you can reduce your power.  It’s definately worth it, and I’d recomend the service to anyone who wants to save on their power bills.  It’s a Queensland Govt initiative, I don’t know if they have something similar in other states?

While I was looking for the Climate Smart page (couldn’t remember what it was called), I visited our energy company’s webpage, and found out that they have a deal at the moment where if you sign up for a 12 month contract, you save 10% off your electricity bill for that time.  Since I had no intention of switching companies any time soon, I signed us up, and signed up for 25% green power too.  Even after paying for the green power, we’ll still be saving.

While I was on a roll, I went and checked the phone company’s plans, and yep, they had new plans too, so I signed us up for one that not only reduces our bills by a significant amount, but doubles our internet bandwidth as well.  (Not that we use all that we have, but you never know.)

And I also went out and bought an iPad 2.  How is that relevant to the discussion you might ask?  Well, my sister and mum have one, and now I can talk to them using facetime on the iPad through our internet connection, and not add to our phone bill.  This saving method only works though if you the other people who you talk to most also have iPad 2′s.  I expect changing plans and using mostly the ipad for talking to my mum and sister will reduce our bill by nearly $80 a month, meaning the iPad will pay for itself in less than a year.  And it’s cool.

Berry Planting

My DD loves raspberries, but hates the way they get soggy as soon as you put them in the fridge, so it was time for us to have a go at growing our own.  I bought this plant (2 canes I think) at the markets last Sunday, and finally got around to planting it out today.

They also had thornless blackberries, and I figured I’d give them a go too.  I have no idea if they will grow here or not, or fruit properly.  The man we bought them from said they would, but I’m a little dubious.  Will give it a go anyway.  Even if we only get a taste of the fruit occasionally, it’s worth it.  I don’t think I’ve ever tasted blackberries.

I planted them in a bed specially prepared up near the chook fence (on this side so the chook can’t dig them up).  I’ve edged the bed with plastic edging, burried 2/3 into the ground, in the hopes that it will slow down the raspberries spreading too much.  If it doesn’t actually stop them, at least it will give DH a boundary where he knows escapees can be mown down at will.

Rain!

Yes, I’m sure posts about rain are kind of boring, but I’ve found it really good to be able to look back and find out when the rain started each year.  We’ve had a few sprinkles before this, good for the garden, but had a negligible impact on our tank.  This downpour added about 4 rungs to our tank (probably around 3000-4000 litres) that will hopefully keep us going until the next lot of rain.  (Let it be soon!)

Some Sewing

My sister was getting sick of all the plastic grocery bags building up, but wanted something pretty to take shopping.  So we sewed up 7 of these little bags.  She’d had the material around for a while, waiting for something perfect to make from it, and I think this fits the bill. 

Took rather longer than we had thought to make them all.  My sister said she had seen some on Etsy for $30 each, and that was more than she wanted to pay, but after spending all day helping me sew, I think she was thinking it was a pretty good price!

Of course, we knew that as soon as the kids saw these they’d want one, so DD and my neice got a slightly smaller one each.  They’ve been a big hit.

She took them shopping today, and they did a great job apparently, and she got some compliments.

The bags are made from Film in the Fridge’s Market Bag tutorial, if you’re keen to have a go, and are fully reversible.  For these ones, I used an old purple sheet I had (previously seen in this skirt), that went with the purple in the check almost as if it were designed too.  Had just enough of this sheet, and the origional material, to make the 7 bags plus 2 for the kids, with almost no leftovers.  Pretty good planning on our part huh?

I added the little loop in between the handle to be similar to the green bags you buy at stores here.  Makes it a little easier for the checkout operator to use them, as they fit over the little stand that they use when packing.

Thanks to my sister for the beautiful photos!

The orchard is growing

In the time since I last posted, the orchard has been busy doing it’s thing, growing steadily.

Here’s one of the apple trees.  Can’t remember what kind it is, and the tags fell off long ago.  If I went looking at previous posts, I’d probably find it, but I’m OK with a surprise.

Lots of apples on it this year, though I think unfortunately the fruit fly have been at them.  For some reason, I didn’t realise that fruit fly went for apples, I thought it was just soft fruit like peaches and nectarines.  I’ll have to look into netting it earlier next year.  Bit late to bother now, so we’ll just see how it goes.

 But probably our most spectacular fruit tree is the mulberry.  This tree is only 4 years old, but it’s HUGE.  And we’re getting plenty of mulberries too.  Just in front of it, you can see my little orange tree with far too many oranges on it for such a small tree.  And hiding underneath are the chooks.  This is one of their favourite spots in summer. 

Here they are, wondering what I’m doing shoving this clicking box in where they’re hiding.  We lost two of our initial 5 rhode island reds, one to impacted crop, and one just disappeared, no idea what happened to her.  Could have been a fox, but it seems unlikely given it was full daylight.  Off to the right of the pic you can see our one remaining duck.  We lost the other 3 (all males) to a fox. :(  

We haven’t had much trouble with foxes all things considered.  We lock up the chooks every night, but the couple of times we’ve forgotten, and they’ve put themselves away but the gate wasn’t shut, we’ve still had no problems.  Unfortunately, with the ducks, we’d put the girl in the little pen by herself overnight (one girl and 3 boys isn’t a good combination, she needed a break!), and the boys decided that instead of sleeping in their shed, they’d stay with the girl.  Otherwise they probably would have been fine too.  We’ve been much more careful about making sure they were locked up since then.

This berry is growing at the side of the chook shed.  It looks pretty sad, and has ever since I moved it here, but in the last couple of weeks, since I’ve been making a point of tipping the chook’s water on it when I change it, it’s really picking up.  Today when I was locking up the chooks I saw that it was flowering.  I can’t remember (sad I know) if it’s a youngberry or a loganberry.  I wish I could say that I’ll find out when it fruits, but to be honest, I wouldn’t know the difference! 

And finally, here’s our native privacy screen that we planted a couple of years ago.  It’s grown quite a bit!  really need to get some more trees in the places where we’ve lost some, and extend it right up to the corner.  Hoping to get onto that in the next few weeks so that we can get some spring growth in.

Growing sprouts

DD saw this sprouter at bunnings today and wanted it. Who was I to say no?

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Progress on the Gardens

Spent a few hours  yesterday setting up my second raised bed, and thought I’d take some pictures in case anyone is interested in the process.  Here is the bed with the plastic lining down and the drainage pipe in.  The plastic only goes half way up the sides to that the water can still drain out.  This bed has poly pipe curved over the top so that I can put a net over it once it’s planted.  I’m planning on putting potatoes, broccoli, silverbeet, and the strawberries in here, so I want to protect them from the bugs. 

Started filling it, but didn’t get very far, and the ‘storm’ this morning added some water for me.  Not much though, as you can see.  Despite it supposedly being a huge storm, we had about 5-10 minutes of hard rain, and that was it.  Tanks still mostly empty.  (Well, OK, I haven’t actually checked, but I’m guessing they are, because we didn’t even really have any water pooling around the back door like we would if it had been a decent amount of rain.)

This little bed was our test one, used to see firstly if we could cut the colourbond (we could), and then if we could join it together, which we also managed.  It will be DD’s garden bed, and she’s quite excited about it.  Since it’s quite small, I didn’t loop the drainage pipe up both ends, just tied it off at one end with some plastic and a rubber band.  No need to make it watertight, because the pipe is full of holes anyway!  You could easily do this on a bigger bed too, I just wanted a pipe at both ends to make watering easier rather than only being able to water from one end.

And here’s all the beds together. 

And finally, some clearer pictures of my little peas poking their way up in the first garden bed.  Though the storm might not have helped our tanks along much, it’s absolutely great for the garden.  I always find rain brings up seeds much better than the hose!

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