Smoko – Why I Don’t Turn Off Lights For Earth Hour

I meant to write this about a week ago.  It’s a bit late now, but hey ho, something for you to think about for next year.

There are some reasons why I don’t participate in the Earth Hour ‘movement’.

To get the obvious ones out of the way:

1.       Our home is powered by a stand-alone solar system, and fossil fuels don’t power our lights. At least not so directly as from a power station (they do have to make solar panels and batteries from something though, and it aint woven palm leaves).

2.       We live in a secluded valley.  No-one but ourselves can see the lights from our house.  So as far as making gestures goes, to perhaps influence some masses into sudden revolution by turning off our porch light, for example, it would be a pretty ineffectual one.

And then anyway,

3.       As far as making gestures goes, Earth Hour is a pretty ineffectual one full stop, in my opinion.  In fact it’s worse than ineffectual, it’s counterproductive. One would think that a world-wide movement against climate change would actually do something to address climate change, rather than add to the problem.

You see, when everyone on a mains electricity grid suddenly switches off the power, the grids don’t immediately, magically, stop burning fossil fuels.  The turbines don’t cease to turn for an hour while people light up their room full of Chinese-produced, imported candles.  I fact the opposite occurs.

Until the moment of Earth Hour, people are drawing power normally (and let’s face it, many will continue to do so throughout the entire 60 minutes and beyond), and power stations are burning and turning to meet that demand.  When, at 8.30 (was it?), everyone turns out their lights (and perhaps their other appliances? Or is it just lights?), the power stations experience a sudden drop in demand, which causes a lot of the power they are producing to be suddenly not needed and therefore dumped off / released off as heat, gases, through power surges, etc, and all the things we don’t really want happening.

Then, because it takes a fair bit of time to get enormous power generating turbines turning, the power stations not only don’t stop them for the hour, but also have to anticipate that, in 60 minutes, half of Australia is going to turn it’s lights, aircons, tvs, dishwashers, coffee machines, phone chargers, laptops, etc back on again.  This causes a sudden, enormous, power demand on the system, akin to ‘peak hour’ (dinner time, when every family gets home from work/school and switches on every appliance in the house simultaneously).  Power stations, as with peak hour, have to gear up the system to meet that demand when it occurs, meaning they have to burn more fuel and ‘rev up the engines’.  In short, power stations burn, and waste, more fossil fuels during and immediately around Earth Hour than would otherwise happen on your normal, average climate-change-causing evening.

earth-hour-sydney-before
Sydney, a few minutes before Earth Hour
Sydney, about half way through Earth Hour
Sydney, about half way through Earth Hour
Aaaand...Sydney 1 minute after Earth Hour
Aaaand…Sydney 1 minute after Earth Hour

A more worthwhile gesture, if you like, would be to invest in renewable sources of energy for your power needs.  Another would be permanently cutting your power consumption.  Yet another good gesture would be throwing away your multitude of electronic goods, keeping only those you actually really need, if you must, and turning off your stuff when you’re not using it (if you really must use it – btw, anyone selling a working old typewriter by any chance?).

Or are those not gestures, but actions?  Yes, I think that’s it!  Actions are where it is at. Gestures only gesture, but actions speak louder than words. Vote with your lifestyle, not your finger (the light-switching one, not the middle, though both of these will cause about as much positive change in the world as the other).

So I for one never have and never will, as it stands now, turn off my lights because it is Earth Hour.  Lights aren’t the problem people.

That said, it’s well past 8.30 here, and it’s time to turn off the light, turn off the sole remaining appliances (excepting fridge) that are on (this computer and that modem) and go to bed. Not because it will influence climate change, but because I am very tired.

Support action on climate change, and ACT yourself, but don’t think that turning your lights off for an hour in any way constitutes this.

One love J

Advertisements

Smoko – In Praise Of Pallets

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent times. We’re very busy these days; T with her PhD, me with planning, building, and organising some events in Brisbane, and both of us with the little lad, who gets less little and more laddish every day.

But, given the massive amounts of rain we’ve had recently, which has put a stop to a lot of building projects (even the indoor jobs get put on hold as we don’t run powertools when the solar isn’t charging), I thought I’d write a quick blog, in praise of pallets.

We’ve gone a bit pallet crazy round here recently (and woe betide anyone who goes to town and doesn’t bring at least a couple back without a good excuse), having discovered a myriad of ways online to recycle (or upcycle) them.

Here are some different shelf units I’ve knocked up recently. We also made a bed for T’s mum, but she’s in it right now so I can’t take a picture. Well, not a publishable one any way… 😉

This is the second or third unit I built, to clean up the veranda a bit. (Incidentally, it also houses most of our new sound system, which more than adequately solves all the problems I wrote about in a previous post. I’d tried running an 18” (like the bottom one in the pic) at my house some years ago, while living in Brisbane, but the police came. Out here, I can crank it as hard as our little amp will allow (pretty bloody loud) and no neighbours can hear. Gotta love the bush!):

IMGP8323

Office bookcase:

IMGP8325
Already overused tool shelves. It has, as I said, been raining ridiculously heavily for days, so it’s a wee bit messier than usual, but probably only a wee bit:

IMGP8329
And today’s effort, a new spice rack, freeing up some much needed bench space. Now I’ve discovered how to efficiently strip pallets apart (a reciprocating saw and a trade quality 12” blade…beats the hell out of (but doesn’t totally eliminate the need for) a mallet and crowbar) things can get a little less chunky when needs be:

IMGP8327
I also will be using pallets bolted together as a stud wall frame in the new shed/annexe we’re putting up on the east side of the house (to hold the tool and materials overflow), and there’s a good chance they’ll feature heavily in the fittings of the new guest room / office.  Will try to blog about it when it’s done!

Cheers! J

 

Smoko – flying off the handle

Quality – it aint what it used to be.

And not just the obvious stuff either, like cars that are designed to last a few years, phones that last less than one, shoes that give you six months. No, I’m talking about things that are touted as tough, durable, authentic or state-of-the-art. Things that cost ridiculous amounts of money, that one buys in the belief that the price is worth the lifetime of use one will get from the thing.

We have a frying pan that we bought with a very generous wedding gift voucher, plus some money on top, from a top end shop (okay, Myers), that I’m sure came with a lifetime guarantee, though I’m buggered if I can find it. It’s not the sort of thing you keep is it, frying pan receipts? This thing is supposed to be bullet proof – cook anywhere there’s heat: stoves, ovens, fires, 6 inches in front of Tony Abbotts face. And it’s Italian. I figure if it’s got a lifetime guarantee, is made from metal…you get the idea…what’s gonna go wrong?

But the handle fell off it, about 6 months ago. Well part of it anyway, enough to spill dinner on the floor. We still use the pan, but it does have a tendency to slip sideways at inopportune moments. And so I decided to call the company and ask for a new one. But I hadn’t quite got round to it yet.

We also have another piece of cookware, also very expensive, also a wedding gift. German this one, I think. This thing has in-built temperature gauges in the lid, a multi-layered, multi-metalled base, you can cook without oil or water (and without burning)…a lovely reassuring weight…it’s everything you’d expect from high quality 21st century cookware. In fact it’s so damn classy, it must have a couple of lifetime warranties on it. But, coincidently, the handle fell off it, about 4 months ago.

This got me pretty irritated. 2 pans in 2 months? And both on the handles? Is it something we’re doing wrong? Maybe we’re not supposed to pick pans up by the handles but no-one ever told us. Are pan handles purely decorative? But no, I’ve worked in enough kitchens in my time to have seen pans cop major abuse without breaking (as many a brain-damaged, previously lippy waiter can testify), and I’m damn sure Giovanni’s didn’t spend $400 per pan, so what’s the deal? I added the fancy pot to the list under the frying pan, and even made it as far as pulling up the respective company websites for the phone numbers, but once I’d done so I didn’t have the heart to ring them, pretty much because it was a nice day, and nothing ruins nice days quicker than talking to service reps.

And I know whereof I speak as, 2 days ago now, our almost brand new, energy efficient (solar-friendly), most excellent SAMSUNG (beware, beware!) fridge suddenly started blowing warm air instead of cold, which of course we didn’t realise until everything in the freezer had defrosted. This one I addressed immediately, and have spent one day on the phone, another waiting for the phone to ring back, but so far to no avail. The best I’ve wrung out of them to date is that they will try to find a service technician in our area within a week, and then try and book them in, and then they’ll access it…

I’m normally very good at getting people moving, even service companies. If there’s ever a problem that needs addressing in our household that requires someone getting eloquently fucking furious on the phone, I’m the man for the job. It brings out the best in me! But this time…I found I just couldn’t be bothered to spend hours on hold, going up and up the Samsung food chain, repeating myself again and again to someone who doesn’t understand me. I’ve got better things to do. Like, er, running to town for ice for one, but other stuff too. So for now (tonight) I’ll think of other things, tomorrow I’ll call them back and get cross, and so despite the broken fridge having reminded me of the bastard pans, which I really will get on to now soon, right now I shall think of other things.

That’s what I was thinking, about an hour ago. Think of constructive things to do, I thunk, like tightening those screws on the chair that the kid got himself stuck in the other day that I had to dismantle in order to free him.

So I go and get my screwdriver, just now, before I started writing this – a very nice Kincrome screwdriver that came in a set about a year ago. Funny thing about this screwdriver is that it’s a flathead screwdriver – a big chunky one – and one of two that came with the spanners. I’d never used it before…and who has? No-one uses flathead screws anymore. But I had to use it the other night to free my 3 year old, who’d managed to squeeze his bum through the 4 inch gap between backrest and seat on the chair and got completely stuck. I got my toolbox to free him, drills and everything, but the whole flaming chair is put together with flathead screws! Lord above. It took me about half an hour to find the flathead driver, in the dark, at the bottom of a tool box up at the shed site while the poor little fella was stuck in a chair on the veranda with the wallabies closing in. (I thought about taking him to a neighbour’s for the tool at one point, when I couldn’t find mine, but I couldn’t work out how to get him in the car – sideways? The boot? Should I strap in the chair or just him?).

Anyway, to get back on point (and wrap this up cos it’s bedtime), I did find the driver, and I did free him, but just now when I came to check the screws are tight, I put the screwdriver in the slot and turned the first screw, and guess what…..the fucking handle fell off!

Smoko – quick cubby

So I haven’t written anything for ages because I don’t think that much has happened that is worth reporting*. We’ve planted a few trees, strung a fence or two, built a bridge over a seasonal (but when she goes she goes) creek, and steps down the hill.

Work has progressed on the shed up the back, but I’m in need of some extra muscle to help with the next stage and have found myself happy for the break from it. I’ll update once the roof is finished.

But recently we decided to build the little fella a cubby house down the hill a bit. Our house isn’t very big, and given that his cardboard box kitchen seemed to have taken up permanent residence in the middle of the floor, it was time for an extension.

Take one tree, a couple of 4x4s, two pallets we found by the side of the road, half a leaky tank and a handful of screws and voila! I’m a bit proud, hence the blog, and the little man loves it, thank god.  The underside will eventually be levelled off and walled/windowed to make another room.

IMGP8027 (Large)

IMGP8028 (Large)

IMGP8031 (Large)Bit of a gap in the picture taking here…imagine lots of sweating, swearing, running to recharge the drill every 5 minutes cos I left the spare battery elsewhere, and a fair bit of scrubbing paint out of someone’s hair.

IMGP8051 (Large)

IMGP8053 (Large)

IMGP8054 (Large)

*And also because that last blog was a wee bit embarrassing, thanks love, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever come back here… And also because I’m lazy when it comes to writing blogs.

And here it is:

The legality of mining in Australia hinges on the assumption that many of the environmental impacts of mining will be addressed via adequate rehabilitation once mining ceases. Currently, rehabilitation is viewed as a technical process (albeit with ethical drivers), which can be objectively assessed against primarily ecological and biophysical criteria. Philosophical explorations in the field of restoration ecology, however, recognise that restoration is value laden and that different stakeholders may perceive success of restored landscapes differently given how they value and utilise landscapes (Higgs 1997; Rogers-Martinez 1992). If restoration agendas are driven by social norms then restored landscapes must be viewed as cultural products resultant from particular worldviews (Edgar 2007). But as Kirsch (2001) asks in relation to landscapes transformed by mining; what kind of places are these? How do Aboriginal people make sense of rehabilitated landscapes and rehabilitation processes based on their own ecological and cosmological understandings? Do rehabilitated landscapes address the social, political and spiritual concerns expressed by Aboriginal people whose land has been impacted by mining? To answer these questions involves an analysis of the goals and desires that Aboriginal people hold for their land post mining and the criteria against which they would assess rehabilitated landscapes as meeting these aspirations. This itself requires an analysis of the processes in which elements of a group’s ethnoecology are brought into play within the intercultural and political context of mine-community relationships.

This man

IMGP6305

I write this from Far North Queensland. Weipa, on the western side of Cape York Peninsula, to be exact. I’ve been up here since Sunday. The boys are home alone.

I’m here setting up my Phd research project. Speaking with Traditional Owners, seeking their permission to do research, trying to suss out what may and may not work and what might be beneficial to the community. It’s all pretty confusing for me. I want to work with the community here to design my research. But that takes a lot of getting to know people first. Building relationships. So much background that I am oblivious to. Both on the ground and in the literature.

I’ll get there. Maybe.

But this is what i get to look at, talk about, work in :IMGP7553

Oh, and this 😦

IMGP7618

 

But the point of this post is that none of it would be possible without significant support from J.

What a guy! Playing single parent, exhausted, overwhelmed, but still encouraging and reassuring me.

It’s been really hard for everyone. I don’t really feel okay being away for this long although i really want to do this work. It will be 10 days altogether. Lil I was really sad the first night and the following day. Crying, and asking me to come home now and J has had to pick up the pieces, all of them, the whole time, as well as cook dinner, clean, deal with night wakings etc.

He sent me this email on the first:

Long long night, day going fine.  He got upset when Luke called and he talked to Luke – said he’d lost his mum (yep, there it is). Luke did his best to reassure him.

  … We’ll be okay my love – it won’t be easy but it is fine….

Will ring in a bit – I’m just scared to cos I don’t want to set him off again, need a few hours of no crying first to recharge my batteries!

and this conversation on the second:

Hey, Dada, what about ice cream?

No love, not now, we’ve just eaten a big lunch

No Dada, I don’t want to eat it, I just want to talk about it (folds arms thoughtfully)

Oh, okay, well, how about that ice cream?

Well, I like to drink it when it’s a drink. In the bowl.

When it’s melted?

Yep! (looks pleased with himself)

What else do you know about ice cream?

There’s lots of colours like red and white and green

Mmmm, yum, I wonder what flavour greem is?

It’s……..colomma-ela

It’s what? Melon?

It’s Ela

Ela flavoured?

Yes

Why is it Ela flavoured?

Because it’s green

Then it was this one on the third:

IN bed, ASleep, TEN to seven, NO tears or moanin’….! Man a bad man!

Some days have been worse then others for both me and them. We miss each other. But I know that they are working it out together and growing stronger and closer because of it.

Makes me feel very blessed and supported.

Thank you my love.

Ma and Pa

 

Smoko – shed building

Okay, so quickly while I’m having a cuppa, an update on the block:

At every given opportunity for the last couple of months, I have been stretching my mental faculties, skill levels and muscles building a new shed.

Long story short, it began as a simple 10m2 design, with a 10m2 veranda but quickly escalated into an earth-covered 80-100m2 design, incorporating a reciprocal roof. Well, at least on paper it has. I have many moments of doubts about my ability to carry it off, particularly as I pretty much do it all on my own and there are some seriously heavy pieces of timber involved (and lots of them), but nevertheless I have been slowly plodding forward, and now have all bar 3 of my poles cut and several rafters.

I’d consider myself reasonably proficient with a lot of tools, but am definitely an amateur when it comes to carpentry, and so I have spent a lot of time researching online and talking on the phone to a builder mate asking him to picture it in his head and answer my complicated questions. I even had some advice from a fella in Dorset. There is a lot of stuff about reciprocal structures around. This bloke (www.simondale.net) is by far my main inspiration as his ragamuffin approach to his “hobbit” house construction remind me of me (i.e. I know I should debark my poles and beams before installing them, but I look at them all [we’re talking a total of some 200m+ of structural wood here, all taken from the bush around the site – within 20m of it in fact], and I look at how many other jobs I’ve got to get done, and I think (excuse my french, Gran) ‘fuck it, I like the rustic look…!’).

Anyway, for all the information that is out there, I find myself needing more, and being unable to find it I am working it out for myself. I have some factors influencing my design:

  • I have a budget of almost zero. With the exception of some fasteners (threaded rod, washers and bolts and a bucket of batten screws), and almost certainly the waterproofing (probably plastic sheeting), I need to spend no money on this, because we have none.
  • The site is beneath a fork in a very seasonal creek, so that it has a banked wall on 3 sides of it (east, south and west) with a creek on the other side. I plan to use this on the east and west to determine my roof width, so that it will drain into the creeks. I’m still pondering drainage for the south side.
  • No budget means no excavator to level the site, just a mattock, so I am building on fairly wildly fluctuating floor levels. This is a total nightmare when it comes to getting pole heights right for the roof.
  • No budget means no concrete, so poles are going straight in the ground.
  • There is only myself to do the build, though now and again T can help move a particularly big piece of timber.

There are probably others that will come to mind, but one more big factor is this: I started building before I started planning properly, or rather I was planning something else when I first started building, so for a good solar passive design I have my north wall at 3.1m high whereas my south wall is only 2.3m. Here’s an example of a question that goes round my head: If my roof peak is at 3.6m high, and 1.2m from my 3.1m high wall (that’s a 22.5 degree pitch), and the pole I’m trying to work out the height of is 4.3m from the peak, but on ground that, as far as I can tell not owning a laser level, is about 840mm higher than the ground the 3.1m wall is on, how high should the bloody pole be?! And I’ve got 22 poles in this building, and every single one of them needs the above question answered, all with different variables of course.

Here is my most excellent blueprint:

Image

Those who zoom in may get confused until they understand my clever system of combining both metric and imperial measurements (in order to draw a bigger scale plan that still fit on my graph paper), and graphs with a right-to-left axis. Okay, so it wasn’t very clever (the pole-length question above actually has another element in it – if my plan shows the pole in question is 3.2 inches away from the reference point, how many mm is that so I can check the meter length on my right-to-left axis height-working-out-thingamajig – almost certainly then misreading, say, 3.5 for 2.5).

Here is a picture of my tool kit. Everything will be built with what is in the wheelbarrow, with heavy emphasis on chainsaw, hammer and chisel.

Image

And here is the site as it was a few days ago. There’s a fair few more poles in, hole points marked and cut timber lying up there presently, and the pieces lying across the roof space are a relic of the skillion roof I originally planned and no longer there.

Image

I’ll try to give updates, and plan to do a how-I-did-it step-by-step guide for other penniless crazy bastards out there.

There’s lots more I should have said – how I’ll do the floor for one (dunno, maybe floating, maybe with a reciprocal frame also, maybe compressed dirt…cheap ideas anyone?), but typing blogs isn’t getting timbers prepared and mind boggling mathematics worked out, so I’m back into it.

If you have any questions…comment on the blog and ask them! It might motivate me to write a bit more often.

J

Smoko #something-or-other

So I’ve been writing a blog post since around Christmas about some of the challenges we’re facing at the moment (various systems in need of upgrading or fixing, buildings we need but don’t have, etc), but it’s turning into a thesis and opening it this morning made my head swim and it all seem too much.

So I thought I’d take some good advice I got (not for the first time in my life) last night, and try and be in the moment.  This moment.  Or at least write about it.

The cicadas have all but gone, and the deafening noise we’ve had for the last couple of months has been replaced by birdsong and a faint background noise of the creek, slightly higher now after recent rain. The basil and parsley (and an acre of weeds), flowering just off the veranda are filled with bees of every sort, from big bumbling ones to our lovely little native stingless ones, buzzing their little heads off.

The grape arbour, still in need of cross wires but with baling twine temporarily doing the job, now has a grape vine on one side starting its way over the roof.  It grew up there in record time, and though only currently covering about 5% of the roof space, we expect a fair bit more growth before the weather cools off.  Sadly the vine planted on the other side of the arbour died, but a random pumpkin vine that grew out of the worm castings in the potting mix is putting the grapes to shame, having covered nearly half one side and a similar portion of roof.

The sweet potatoes are powering, the arrowroot and comfrey we planted in July are in the process of being split and replanted in various spots, the tomatoes should keep producing for quite a while and we dug up our first harvest of potatoes the other day.

A chicken has been sitting on a dozen eggs for almost 3 weeks now so we’re hoping to shortly have some new additions to the family.  We’ve had her separated from the other chooks since she started sitting, and yesterday knocked up a small run for her to help keep the chicks (and mum) safe from the multitudes of things that like to eat them.  Like this little fella that spent a day and half the night trying to find a way in.

Image

Hopefully he’ll find a way into the house roof and take out some of the antechinus and friends hiding there.

All things considered, “the moment”, right now, is fairly peaceful, pleasantly warm with a cool breeze, aesthetically very beautiful to look at, and full of things living.  There’s also a smell of bbq wafting through the air, which means lunch must be nearly ready.

And honestly, being in the moment is a good thing and something I think we should all try to do more, but finding a way of being in the moment while planning the future is something that eludes me. And there’s lots of planning to be done. And I’m being asked to supervise sausage cooking. So I shall leave this moment here for posterity – to remind myself at least that there are moments of calm amidst the chaos – and get back into it.  Cheers.

Image
Basil, strawberries, garlic chives, luffas and severly henpecked chilli
Image
Sweet potatoes, arrowroot
Image
Comfrey, arrowroot, lemongrass, artichokes
Image
The wine vine doing fine
Image
And a pumpin’ pumpkin

Smoko #6

So we decided we needed more shade around the house.  The veranda is in need of insulating as it gets roasting hot during the day, and sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere to go to escape the heat.  (Okay, there IS the creek, rainforest, abundant trees and so forth…but they’re not immediately by the house, and when I want to, say, sit and write a blog, cup of tea and smoke at hand, I want somewhere cool, shady and flat, preferably with a power point nearby).

So – we decided to build a grape arbor off one side of the veranda, which once grown over with grape vines will provide us with shade in summer when the leaves are out, and sun in winter when the leaves drop off, as well as, of course, grapes.  This is how we did it (click on the pictures to view full size):

First, take one wife, one wwoofer and a couple of big poles, introduce them to each other, and get 2 of them to carry the others up the hill.

IMGP7431

While they did that, I dug a couple of post holes

A post hole yesterday

and as I was finishing the second, right on dusk, T and the wwoofer were carrying one of the poles up the steps, so we dropped it straight in the hole.  Unfortunately, I should have measured the pole and hole first as, on putting the tape on it after setting it in the ground, I realised it hadn’t quite touched the bottom of the hole, and far too much was still sticking out.

IMGP7409

So, next morning, we dig

IMGP7413

And then try tying rope handles on the pole to pull it out

IMGP7425

And dig some more

IMGP7412

And then eventually tie it to the car (using a passing goanna to make up the shortfall in rope)…

IMGP7444

And haul it out.  Tore up a big chunk of ground around it, but job done, and at least we could now make sure the pole fit the hole.

IMGP7439

…unfortunately, though I already knew this, I should have measured the pole and the hole first, as, having spent bloody hours getting it back out of the hole, I discovered that, in fact, it was simply a longer pole than I thought, and had been touching the bottom all along.  What a wally.

So we drop it back in the ground along with another pole

IMGP7447

Put on a horizontal support (probably not permanent though, as I’m now envisioning a bar (think drinks in the afternoon) between the two poles), and called it a day.

IMGP7459

Meanwhile, work had been progressing on the planter boxes to put our grape vines in.  I simply got a bit of colourbond tin we picked up at the tip, cut it in half, bent the two pieces around and riveted them together. A length of hosepipe slit lengthways provoides a nice rim and prevents cutting your fingers off on the sharp tin edge.  Then we dug them slightly into the ground, put 20 or 30cm of gravel in the bottom, and filled it up with a nice soil mix.  One grape vine, lots of mulch, a bit of a fence to stop the [wallabies, bandicoots, chickens, assorted marsupials, young children] from trashing it before it can grow up, and Bob’s your uncle! (Interestingly, my uncle is, in fact, called Bob, so it must be true).

IMGP7423

IMGP7411

IMGP7453

Back to the arbor, I next cut the crossbeams (I apologise – I can never actually remember what any of the various terms of timber and what different cuts [etc] are called, and tend to use any word I know that sounds right at the time.  “Nice beams” I say…”They’re rafters mate”, etc.  Anyway, these may well actually BE crossbeams, otherwise they’re the bits that go up high above your head, running from one pole to another.  Okay, moving on…).  Then I chiselled a mitre cut into it (see above disclaimer), bored a hole for the bolt to go through (with my 120 year old hand drill.  I eventually upgraded and purchased the most expensive drill bit I’ve ever bought to get a 15mm hole through the steel veranda poles)…

IMGP7465

And up went the first crossbeam/rafter mate/whatever.

IMGP7503

On the pole on the other side, I cut a seat for the crossbeam, using the time honoured technique of standing on the 2nd top step of a step ladder with a chainsaw while absent but wiser friends and family screamed at me in my minds’ ear.

IMGP7505

Yesterday I got the other side up, although I did stop for a cuppa when a storm rolled in.  I’d persevered for a while, but brandishing a chisel up in the air on a very precariously balanced step ladder (I console myself that, having some understanding of health and safety standards on the workplace, I am therefore more qualified to break them, as I know exactly what the dangers are… Actually, to digress, it was exactly this kind of enlightened thinking that lead to T and I setting fire to our tent while we were in it years ago, but that’s another story), while the lightning was flashing close by proved too much for my nerve and I waited it out.  Which was good, ‘cos the hail would have made the step ladder slippery ha ha.

IMGP7518

Anyway, the other side is now up, and all that remains is to run some wires or thin poles or bamboo between the crossbeams for the vine to grow over.  Given it will take a while to grow and give us lovely summer shade, for this year we will rig up some shadecloth over it, and, with luck, lay hands on (or figure out how to cut without buying a mill) some slabs to make the bar.  Picture it – a nice slab bar with some tall tree trunk stools, sipping on our home made wine (we planted 2 vines, a table grape and a wine grape) under our cool, shady, leafy roof.  Bloody fantastic mate, whatever word you wanna use!

IMGP7523

Recent inspirations and a touch of whooping cough

So it’s been a while since my last post. Luckily J’s on the blog band wagon and can fill in on weeks when I have no time or just no inspiration. No inspiration? How can that be when there is so much to be inspired about.

Things that are inspiring me at the moment:

  • The afternoon antics of kurrawongs – every evening we can watch them from the verandah as they fly through the trees down by the creek with their amazing call. One has taken to sitting on one of the garden posts – surveying the world. Not sure why I love them so much. It’s something about the perspective that they create as they fly through the trees…
  • This guy. Image
  • Projects and fruit trees – when we first moved here the enormity of what we had in front of us, i.e. clearing land, building a house, making enough soil to grow enough vegies, was stifling. It prevented me from attacking projects because it all seemed so hard. Luckily J stepped up and got to work. Not saying I’ve done nothing around the place – just that I was slow to really get stuck in. Now that I can see the progress we have made I am enlivened by the realisation that we are only limited by ourselves (and by money) and that so much is possible. Especially inspiring is that we have planted our very first fruit tree! We have a budget for one fruit tree per fortnight – so slowly, slowly we will create a food forest.  After much deliberation (and a little arguing) we chose a bowen mango as our very first tree (I wanted a pecan tree because they have a very special place in my heart). Avocados were also up there. Hopefully the mango will survive! They don’t do well in frost. We are hoping that we can create an appropriate micro-climate for it. Fingers crossed. We also have two grape vines ready for planting out to grow on our new (still in progress) grape arbor. I’ll try and document the building process to post in a future blog post but here is a sneak peek for now:

IMGP7451

  • A recipe for rye crackers that I found on the back of a packet of Bob’s Red Mill rye flour. I’ve made it twice now and am excited about how easy it is to make crackers. They are something that I had never made before and always like to have some in the cupboard (we don’t mind a cheese platter around here). I am excited to cross something else of the shopping list, and with it go any nasties in the crackers (including palm oil and preservatives) and the packaging. So far I have made them in two different ways – once with caraway seeds and yesterday with rosemary. I made star shaped ones for Lil I. I don’t have a photo. We ate them all.
  • Did I mention this guy?
Making play dough

  • Milky Mondays – I have sourced a raw milk supplier just down the road from us. Every Monday I head to the milking shed and fill up my bottles whilst the cows are being milked. It literally is coming straight from the cow into our bottles. The milk is still warm and sooo creamy! We then let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge then spoon off the cream and voila milk and cream for the week. Because of regulations the farmers are not allowed to sell the milk to us – to make it worth their while I’ve been making them gluten free bread as a trade. It works out well for everyone!
  • The garden. I love my garden. We are still not harvesting much from the beds but everything seems to be coming along well enough. Herbs, silverbeet and cherry tomatoes are a daily harvest at the moment. We had a bit of a lull in salad greens over the last month but we will be back in business in the next week. We ate our very first home grown onions the other day and have been getting a trickle of broad beans too.
    IMGP7397
    Pretty broad bean flowers, silverbeet in the foreground, garlic in the background

    Taste bombs
    Cherry toms or as Lil I calls them – taste bombs
  • The potential of my Phd. I’m still in the excited about my topic period. I am heading up to Weipa, North Queensland, to meet traditional owners and to scope my research ideas on the 20th November. I’ll be gone for a week. It will be my second time away overnight from Lil’ I since he was born. The first was last week when I stayed in Brisbane for one night (and drank a little too much – thanks sari and lefty’s old time music hall). It will be hard for everyone but especially J. Lil’ I is just a little too attached to me despite the amount of time that the boys spend by themselves when I’m studying. Its night times that are the problem really. I guess I’m also inspired by the thought that I might be able to do me things more easily once the boys sort out their patterns. Like stay in Brisbane to catch up on study, or go to seminars, or whatever it may be.

Things that haven’t been so inspiring for us lately:

  • We are all currently in quarantine. It’s not quite as dramatic as that but we are trying to keep ourselves isolated for a few days because we have whooping cough! Not sure where Lil I picked it up from but he has been coughing for over two weeks now. He hasn’t been too badly affected – there was only one day in which we even thought to take him to a doctor and that was when he got tested. He didn’t develop the ‘whoop’ so we didn’t suspect anything. The ironic thing is that that the only vaccination that Lil I has had is for whooping cough (more for tetanus really but it includes whooping cough and polio). So I’m guessing that that is why it hasn’t hit him so hard. The rally annoying thing is that my dad and step mum were coming to visit and now they have had to postpone their trip.

 

  • Sore backs. Poor J’s back is still sore. It is definitely on the mend but he is still trying to take it easy. He feels antsy as he wants to do so much and can’t. Luckily we’ve had a wwoofer for the last few weeks and so we have still managed to get lots done.

 

  • Dry, windy weather. Is it part of human nature to whinge about the weather? It wasn’t so long ago that it was so wet that everything was going mouldy and we were going a little insane. Oh for some of that rain now! We’ve had a few showers and promises of summer storms to come but the tanks are getting low and the creek could do with a nice flush out and an end to our fire season would be nice.  The creek is still running though and the tanks aren’t at disaster level yet. If they get really, really, low then we will plug into the spring water and top up our tanks. We are so blessed with water on this property so can’t really complain. My sister lives 50km away and they have had to buy water twice already this year. Things don’t look too promising for a wet summer though – the BOM is predicting drier than average conditions for the next 3 months at least. We might have to start constructing self watering garden beds like these wicking beds over on Milkwood permaculture blog.