About Me

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I am happily married and have two very rough and tumble boys. I have ideals of self sufficiency and low impact. My favourite passtime is growing veggies, reading books on all kinds of topics, finding out about how things impact earth and your body.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I am tickled pink!

Met a lovely lady yesterday who graciously gave us her 14 muscovy ducks! and after a while of chatting about cooking/preserving etc she so kindly said I was an inspiration! I have been called that a few times in the past year and let me tell you - although compliments are at times embarassingly hard to swallow - I was tickled pink!

I am far from being self-sufficent and I am still very reliant on (and I mumble this) Woolies for some staples, but if I can be an inspiration to someone I have just met then I must be doing something right!

So thank you Mrs ST  and husband D -  I hope we can help each other bump along this road to sustainability together over the next little while.

Some of the new muscovys from Mrs ST

Some of the new ones with a couple of the muscovy's we already had

Some of our original muscovy ducks (out and about while the rain has stopped) Note the pineapple in the pic!

Just a catch up - since I last blogged about my life here..... I have

Received a dehydrator off freecycle and made my own beef jerky and a miriad of other vegies have been dehydrated and stored away.

Tried yoghurt without a yoghurt maker (found recipe in Donna Hay's magazine from a few years ago). It turned out just fine but have recently purchased a second hand yoghurt maker so will have a turn and see how that goes too.

I still make my own additive free icecream and occasionally bread. About to investigate getting a hand grinder to grind my own grain!

Still making my own stock or soups from bones left over from roasts or ham

Today I am makin bacon! he he - seriously tho - using a piece of pork belly to cure bacon with recipe I found in this wonderful book called Frugavore by Arabella Forge. Fingers crossed it is delicious and I can have nitrite free bacon!

I really want to try this lacto-fermentation - so if anyone has tried this and has had some success, please feel free to share secrets.

Anything else I should try? let me know what works for you.

Till next time


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our New Additions!

First one - Its our Vege Table - and how wonderful does it look. Not the most ideal location - backing up against the water tanks - but it is the flattest bit of land we have anywhere near my veggie patch. It is also shaded by a lovely big gum tree in the hottest part of the day - which we will more than welcome in the summer time. We picked it up from the Trash n Treasure Market (the Tip Shop) on Friday! We are stoked.

Vege Table
And we loved it so much we had to have our BBQ lunch down there and celebrate with a beer and a lovely glass of red.  Hats off and into it. (Before you call the authorites - my kids had water - twas only hubby and I that enjoyed a glass).

Our first lunch - including the dog waiting for the chop bones!
But we didn't slacken off. We had had such a busy morning preparing a spot to grow some clucker tucker (hoping to get a bit more variety into our ladies diets)

First planting of clucker tucker
while I planted about another 30 bean seeds, 5 cucumber and about 5 zucchini seeds. I am really looking forward to summer pickings and I hope my followers are too. I already have 9 beans germinated 2 cucumbers and 3 zucchinis so fingers crossed they will be producing in a couple of months well enough to go on the for sale list.
Here is a seedling of one of the Dragon tongue bean varieties. We are trying something different - putting them straight into some pretty rough ground/mulch so we will see how they go - the pH was ok!

Dragon Tongue bean seedling - Sept 11, 2011
Now the other things we got up to was I dug up my first few potatoes which we are over the moon about - but hoping the rest will produce a few more than this!

Sebago spuds lifted Sept 11, 2011
And hubby made me "Ned" the composter. We called him this as he kinda resembles an Aussie bush outlaw gangster baddy that we all seems to love! and we are hoping we love our Ned just as much. Now to find some materials to put into him coz by the size of him - he is very hungry!

Ned the compost bin

All in all we have had a fantastic day in our patch. I have so many other things popping up - about 25 corn, 4-5 spaghetti squash and a watermelon or two - but my pride and joy is this whopper pumpkin picked a day or so ago - WE BREED THEM BIG IN QUEENSLAND. (its a Gramma variety)

our biggest pumpkin to date

Till next time - Bye for now

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I am so far behind.....I think I am first!

on this homesteading/self sufficiency path I have chosen for me and my family.

I have been reading a few blogs lately and so many other like minded people have been on this same or similar path for years. This makes me feel so inadequate to even share my stories and excitement over a 25 corn seedlings germinating!. I must seem so amateurish compared to some homesteaders. But I will continue coz I love it and you know - I can learn from them I am sure!

But...  then I question "Are we really making a difference"?

I often think that about my own journey - is what I do honestly making a difference to the whole grand picture. For those that know me I am a 'one drop in the bucket each and soon the bucket is full' kind of girl and take pride if I change one persons life or someone is inspired by what I do and also start doing it, but I often wonder to the big food companies and supermarket chains we are merely a pebble on the road.

Are we self sufficient homesteading community gardeners etc making a difference to the vege/canned food lines they stock? It never looks like it when I meander down the aisles gawking at the 40,000 lines they have on offer. The shelves are never empty (unless there is panic buying due to a natural disaster), the fruit and vege never seem to wane - so are we really just a drop in the ocean?

Then I ask - well does it matter - and I take a walk thru my garden spot something new ....

Our first of many sunflowers 2011

and always come back to "No of course it doesn't. Your life is what you want it to be" - So today is the day I say "YIPPEE to me and my beginnings! I and we will make a difference and not only to the pockets of the big food companies! to our hearts, souls, tummies and health".

A dollar spent today on good organic wholesome food - as close to its natural state as possible - is better than at dollar spent on medication later on down the track.

No GMO's, no artificial pesticides, no herbicides, - the way nature intended it to be.

What do you think? Are the urban gardeners/local organic farmers/CSA's/homesteaders making a difference?
So while you ponder that question and formulate your response I will leave you with your thoughts.

Bye for now

Sunday, September 4, 2011

To cube or paste it!

So while most will run the the local supermarket to buy a packet of stock cubes to 'add flavour' to their dinner tonight - I just wanted to share my vegetable stock paste I made up from scratch and have preserved it so I always have some in my cupboard.

To me, its one step closer to being self sustaining (and yes I have a long long way to go), but also, I know exactly what is in it and by jingos it tastes sensational.

Basically it is a way of using up some veggies that are 'on the verge' you might say! Not good enough to do anything else with - except maybe feed to the chickens. Well they aren't rotten but not good enough for selling or puting into your childrens lunch boxes.

I used any amount of veggies you may have just in your fridge including but not limited to carrots, silverbeet, capsicum, zucchini, celery, mushies, tomatoes, onion, garlic, rosemary, basil, thyme, and processed them until they are very small or even paste like to begin with. Put into a large pot a dollop of olive oil and begin the cooking process. Add to this (its a bit of personal taste and largely dependent upon the quantity of vegetables you have in the pot) but about 1/4 to 1/2 bottle of white wine and upto 200g salt.

My first batch I only put 1/4 bottle of wine and 130g of salt and it was fine, but my second one I had twice the vege and would have put twice the wine (so 1/2 bottle) and twice the salt (so roughly 250g). Lets face it - I don't have a recipe and each time I make it it will taste different and to be honest - it tastes and smells divine. (It is salty if you just have a spoonful but in a casserole/stew etc it lifts it way better than a normal stock cube)

Thirdly keep it cooking so that it does form a paste and cooks up the vege a bit.

Once it is paste like I gather some glass jars. Make sure they are clean and sterilised (you can find out how to do this via google!), and after re-processing the paste so that it is a tad finer, start popping it into the jars, seal them and boil them (to vaccum seal them) for approx 5 mins.

Pop a label on them with the date and leave to cool before storing them in your pantry. Incase you are wondering - 1-2 tablespoons is equivalent to 1 stock cube.

Here is today's batch (yes I know I haven't labelled it!)

Veggie stock paste - Sept 4 2011
So that is pretty much it from Longancis yard today
Bye for now

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is it time for each city, town and individual to take the lead?

Just thinking about sustainability - but not as a whole - just for myself the other morning. How would I go if there was a real food shortage. I probably would be very hungry within a few days! Then what would I happen? I shudder just imagining it.

Then out of the blue I stumbled across this article in the newspaper and thought it hit the spot. There are a few surprising facts n figures in it so I do hope you read the lot. I will highlight with italics and a different colour the bits that struck a cord with me.

Can our cities ever be self-sustaining?

By Sue White

ABC Environment |
TVSTILL: A family inspect the public compost bins in Chippendale community garden.
A family inspect the public compost bins in Chippendale community garden. Credit: ABC(file).

See also

The humble backyard vegie patch is back in vogue in the suburbs of Australia. But can growing spuds and greens in the cities really avert a coming food crisis?
"WE HAVE TWO SETS of needs as humans...sociability and sustenance," says Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City and lecturer at Cambridge University. "They are in conflict, because the more we cluster together in villages, towns and eventually cities, the further we get from our sources of sustenance."
According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than 50 per cent of humanity now lives in cities and that figure is rising. But while cities are good at generating jobs and providing us with social stimulation, they're less effective at providing food or recycling their energy, water and nutrients.
"The people who plan cities are ignorant when it comes what human beings need for survival...Cities are quite good at providing water; they are hopeless at providing food," says author of The Coming Famine, Julian Cribb.
Rapid urbanisation means the situation needs to change, and fast. "By 2030 there'll be many cities with 30 million people. If those cities produce none of their own food, they're totally dependent on a river of trucks. If that river fails [due to an oil crisis, a local war, or a disaster like the Queensland floods] those cities would be starving within three days," Cribb says.
"If we can get the world's cities back to producing 20, 30 or even 40 per cent of their own food, and only relying on the landscape for the balance, we'll have a more sustainable agriculture and more sustainable cities," Cribb says.
To get there, Cribb believes we need to put in place an array of urban food producing industries and activities. But while governments lag behind, resident of the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, Michael Mobbs needs no convincing. After taking his inner city terrace off the grid in the late 1990s, Mobbs soon realised his house was sustainable but his belly wasn't.
Urban food
Food co-ops typically buzz with members who know local and seasonal food inside out.
Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network - join or start a community garden in your area. For inspiration, check out two of Australia's best: Northey Street City Farm, Brisbane and CERES Community Environment Park, Melbourne. While you're there, keep an eye out for Stephen Muslin's Micro Farmers Food Hub project, run in partnership with CERES and a recent winner of the British Council's Big Green Idea award.
In Sydney or Brisbane? Try Food Connect vegie boxes to support sustainable urban food model.
Most councils run free courses in urban gardening or composting.

"My house saves 100,000 litres of water a year, but eating the typical Australian diet means there's over 100,000 litres of water in my food every 10 days. I realised I needed to grow or buy my food locally. Living in a small terrace I was compelled to go onto the street," he says.
Mobbs soon found others wanted in. "Neighbours were attracted to it and inspired; it wasn't my plan."
It is now. Chippendale residents have planted out six city blocks with food; provided the suburb's 4,000 residents with community composting; and planted over 200 fruit trees, herbs and plants across the 32 hectare suburb. It's just the start, especially now that Mobbs' local council, City of Sydney, has recognised the value of planting the streets with food. "The General Manager came out and walked the streets and saw it as a no-brainer," he says.
As a result, the two groups are now working together to turn Chippendale into a sustainable suburb where growing food is a key part of the picture. "We'll paint the roads to cool the suburb by two to three degrees; put in pop up median strips that are self irrigating and shade the street; and we'd also like the first urban commercial urban farm," Mobbs says. Space is at a premium in Chippendale, so the urban farm which could grow 33,000 kilograms of vegetables and 10,000 kilograms of fish will be "on top of a roof".
Mobbs believes the 10 year plan could see the suburb growing 40 to 50 per cent of its own food, a huge boost on the 10 per cent they'd be lucky to get at present.
"In [less dense] suburbs, you can [easily] grow 50 per cent now - that's what used to happen," he says.
Mobbs considers securing even part of his food supply locally to be a smart move. "Why would you bet everything on the chain stores? Have an each way bet; put some money on yourself and your community and some on the usual methods," he says.
Of course, Mobbs isn't the only Australian taking action. The humble backyard vegie patch is experiencing a renaissance. Once an unremarkable part of every Australian backyard, the vegetable patch experienced a boost in the 40s, when 'victory gardens' were promoted to make up the shortfall as farmers turned into soldiers. But since then, perhaps because of the abundance of fresh food, the vegie patch gradually waned in popularity.
But now, says Peter Kearney from Cityfood Growers, vegies are back. His company, which provides local food growing tips, has 2,000 subscribers. Demand for plots in urban community gardens is booming, with hundreds of gardens (both formal and informal) blossoming nationwide; and Australia basks in occasional kudos from global experts thanks our status as the birthplace of permaculture.
And it's not just Australia. Mayors of cities like Barcelona, Rome, New York and London have written strategies recognising the importance of urban food systems. In Holland, South Korea, and Japan the idea of vertical farms - hi-tech, food-growing high rises - are taking off. And projects like Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Program and Rome's School Food Program (where 140,000 local, seasonal meals are provided every day) show it's possible to creatively tackle the issue with adults and kids alike.
Both Cribb and Mobbs believe it'll be hard to achieve substantive change in urban food systems without people feeling the ramifications of inaction on a personal level. "It's hard for anyone in Australia to take what I'm saying seriously, because none of us have ever been hungry," Mobbs says.
"My view is that the food riots we had in 17 countries in 2008 were a precursor to a complete global food shortage, which I think will happen before 2020," Mobbs says. "I'm gardening as if my life depends on it, because I think it does," he says.

I'm back now......So what did you think of that article?. disasters stopping the flow of food (remember the banana shortage from cyclone Larry?, food using 100,000 litres of water every 10 days, and gardening because you life depends on it? - yeah I found them thought provoking.

So do you think you could just start growing a few tomatoes, spuds, or even your own onions? Of course you can - it is easy and so very very rewarding.

It also got me thinking that I would love my shire council to start growing food in our streets! I think I might look into it so will keep you posted.

and until next time, bye for now

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Next time you think about a new piece of jewellery...think about this too

I was thinking about my birthday a few days ago - not the age dilemma! just what did I really want to get from my hubby and boys. I really 'want' for nothing so realistically I should get nothing - but my boys like to make our birthdays special with breaky on our balcony and a home-made card and then yes usually something purchased so I had been thinking, well maybe I could get a nice simple piece of jewellery.

Now, Mothers Day wasn't too long ago and I had the same dilemma. We have our personal motto of "Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without" - borrowed from the Annie Leonard book "The Story of Stuff", so decided as I needed a new watch I would dig my old discarded ones out from the bottom draw of the kitchen and fix one of them rather than buying a new one. Well, the story went ... that while I was in the jeweller getting the new battery put into the old watch, I decided to have my wedding engagement and eternity rings cleaned and checked.... It ended up I had badly worn claws around the main diamond and it cost me $250 to fix it (which is still a load better than the heartbreak of losing the stone and the $5k price tag they said it would be to replace it)!. But I still didn't buy something new!

Anyway, back to my birthday.... I thought, if I was contemplating a piece of jewellery I had better ask a few questions of just what it might cost to extract that piece of gold or that diamond or whatever gem I decide upon out of the ground.

These figures are general/average and are a bit of open pit (surface mining) cost and a bit of underground costs and by no uncertain terms are they indicitive of every mining operation in the world but still thought provoking and maybe just worth a second thought or two.

This is also just the raw end of the deal! the extraction. There are way more costs involved in getting the final piece on to your body! or if you want to take it further - the chip in your computer - the plastic around your chip packet - the processed cereal you eat for breaky - or the lovely yellow glow of the bulb when you turn on the light switch at night.

So here we go, sit down for the ride

On average the amount of diesel used per month on one contractor on one site for surface mining vehicles 1,634,760 litres.  (Multiply that by the bowser price - not that they would pay that price.... I wouldn't mind that much in my bank account in the positive)!

Each genset (generator) uses about 60,000 litres of diesel per month. This particular place has 2 and is about to get a third.....

For a 260 tonne payload dump truck tyre is $40,000 (the one below in the pic is of the loader that loads the dump truck in 6 buckets) Weighs about 200 tonnes and the chains around the tyre cost $150,000 each

Surface Mine Loader

sitting around on site are an estimated 450 used tyres - @ $40k each??? just an astonishing $18,000,000

used tyres - guess they are still being used - as a pad for the office buildings

 and the truck new is $5,500,000 - yes million.

Underground truck
 An underground jumbo (drill) is just a cool $2mil!

Accommodation for one contractor per month is $150,000
Wages for one contractor for surface mining is about $2 million per month
Wages for one contractor underground mining is about $750,000 pm
Total for this one site would be tens of millions if you included all personnel from client and contractors!!

Naturally this is all dependent on number of people in the operation and the number of machines etc but for the ease of adding it up, the total just for wages and fuel in this example is close to $4.5million for one month - add on a tyre or two or a new machine and well the mind goes into overload!

Now, I am not picking on mining here (goodness knows I am very dearly attached to mining in more ways than one) - I am trying to get people to think about their spending habits and start thinking about the fact that everything you do, every choice you make has an impact on this place we call home.

So, next time you want something new - anything too - almost everything uses oil or coal in their extraction, manufacturing, distribution and storage - (yes even the plastic its wrapped in is a derivative of oil)  think about the real cost of where it came from and what it cost to get to you.

It may cost just more than the Earth!

Try shopping at cash converters, an op or antique shop - you may be more than surprised at what you find and what people throw out Plus it won't cost more than the Earth to buy.

What do you think? Will you think about this even once or twice? or go the next step and cut down on stuff?

Till next time
Bye for now

Monday, August 22, 2011

Climate Change

I have been reading a few books lately! no kidding!! I am devouring all kinds from Climate Change to Peak Oil, Organic Gardening/Permaculture, The End of Growth, The End of Food.... you get the picture - and its a pretty grim one let me tell you - but only if you let it!
Currently the book attached to the end of my nose is "Our Choice" by Al Gore. I devoured his "An Inconvenient Truth" (Which I found better than the doco BTW). Its about how there are solutions to climate change and mostly the carbon dioxide that we - the industrialised era - have made it increase exponentially that it is not even questionable anymore.

He touches on all kinds of things from wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear sources of energy. Living systems and how vitally important they are to our earth and climate, like forests, soil and population! and points out the good and bad of each - but the value I get is 'everyone should do something! and we need to do something YESTERDAY'. Obviously technology will change and things will get cheaper (I think that is debatable! if you count the cost of waiting), but why wait for the cheaper option when you pay in more ways than one today? it doesn't make sense.

I have a couple of one liners I want to share - quoted straight from his book.

HERE HERE - here here and everywhere does the addiction to oil have to be stopped! (Me included)
"The United States is still borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change."

"In just 10 years, citizens of the US wasted enough aluminium cans to reproduce the world's entire commercial air fleet 25 times"

My favourite and this is so because I am actually doing something (more than one actually) to reduce my footprint.

"The  International Energy Agency (IEA) found that, "On average, an additional $1 invested in more efficient electrical equipment and appliances avoids more than $2 in investment in power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure"

Now I know that primarily means motors (big and small) - however I have out of my own pocket invested in 16 solar panels that happily, on a sunny day, send power back to the grid at more than double the price it costs me to buy it back at night.

And it doesn't only save me money! 

I love sunny days (although I love and need rain too). I also love watching our power metre going backwards!! I know I am a little weird like that :)

Our solar panels

I am doing my bit. Are you?

Till next I write, bye for now

Not once! not twice - 25 times. That is an insane amount of soda pop! and food, wastage, fast food, subsidies, mass production of grain for fuel, distribution of food worldwide to keep trade deals going?? a whole other chat just waiting to blog out.