Still fairly sick, and sorry I have been away for so long. I have a post scheduled up on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op today about Environmental Friendly Cleaning products. I hope you will drop on by.
Still fairly sick, and sorry I have been away for so long. I have a post scheduled up on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op today about Environmental Friendly Cleaning products. I hope you will drop on by.
I have been doing a bit of digging and photographing. The picture above is of my Diggers Rosemary bush in flower. It says of the label that it was grown from a cutting brought back by a wounded digger during WWI that was growing at ANZAC Cove. It is nice to have a piece of history in your garden that is also edible and smells simply divine!
All the kids and I attended the Dawn Service in Melton at 0545. The same crowd of dignitaries as last year, but I reckon that there was about 25% more people at the service than there were last year. I decided not to write an oratory about ANZAC Day this year, but I urge you to reflect on what I wrote about the day this time last year. I believe it is still relevant today as it was when I wrote it.
After work yesterday, I planted some Spinach seeds direct into the patch. The first lot I sowed in punnets about 20 days ago failed to germinate. A bit disappointing, but thought I would give it another go. Last year I had a bumper crop of spinach and it tasted so good. It would have been a shame not to grow some this year.
Today, I transplanted the red onion seedlings. Every single seed germinated, and I put about 48 plants into the patch. The photo doesn’t do them justice as they are so small. The leek seedlings I sowed at the same time as the onions need a little longer to grow stronger before I plant them in the patch. You can see to the right the garlic that I planted at the start of the month. Every clove sprouted with in a week. At this rate I should have about 30 big fat bulbs of garlic.
I gave up trying to grow broccoli and savoy cabbage seedling, so I went to the nursery and bought those and some bok choy and put them in the same bed that I planted the spinach in yesterday.
I also bought some chamomile seedlings and planted them in two large pots. It will be nice to harvest the flowers in spring to make my own tea. How nice will that be!
I have one more bed to plant out, into which I will plant the swiss chard that has sprouted from seed I sowed on the 5th of April. Out of 12 seeds, I got 4 plants. Pretty ordinary germination rates, but the seeds were quite old so I kind of expected it.
The capsicums are still growing strong, and the two bushes of Italian fryers finally have some fruit on them. I think I will wait a little longer before harvesting. I really don’t know how long they will last before they drop their leaves like they did last year.
You will note the self sprouting spring onions in the background. I ate one the other day, and the flavour was excellent.
The swiss chard that I planted in spring is still going strong in the same bed. I hope it lasts through the winter without going to seed. I just keep fertilizing and watering it, and harvest the outside leaves once a week. Some for the chooks and some for me. I’m not greedy!
Other than those few events today, Ben and I are off the visit Kim in hospital in about 15 minutes ago. I better dash, and we will send her all of your love!
As you know, our Sustainable Living Group had a spot in the local paper this week promoting our existence. I kind of expected a massively full inbox just from enquiries. Maybe it was just a pipe dream.
I have had three enquiries from wonderful people wanting to join the group or help out. Yes, just three. I am disappointed to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, I am most grateful for the members that we have, but lets just hope that the “Awareness” meeting draws a few more people in. In a town with a population of 35,000+ you would think that more people would like to know how to live a sustainable lifestyle, and save a bit of money in the process.
Maybe people just don’t read the local paper anymore!
Welcome to Melton/Moorabool Express Telegraph readers. Some of you may have already read the article titled “Green gospel spreads”, which would have given you a small taste of what we are trying to achieve with the Melton Sustainable Living Group. We have our own website at this link,
which has much more information about the vision and mission of the group. We are currently a band of eleven members, and welcome prospective members who want to learn about taking the first steps towards a sustainable lifestyle. The first step is always the most difficult, however, be assured that there are others in our community that can help and are willing to share their knowledge freely.
We are only newly formed, but are very keen to build a strong community presence, quickly. If you are interested in any aspects of sustainable living, then please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you the details of our awareness meeting that will be held on the 7th of May at the Melton Community Hall.
Thanks for dropping by. Gavin and members of MSLG.
It has been a difficult few days. Kim is still in hospital and after 15 doses of antibiotics, her foot is now only just getting better. We had a bit of a scare yesterday because it looked like she might have lost a few toes, but she is over that hurdle now thank goodness. We believe that she will still be in hospital till the end of the week, so I get to keep running the house for a while longer. I miss her dearly, but at least she is still in good spirits and that is all that matters.
I have lost my voice. Not sure why, it just happened on Saturday and has been getting progressively worse. Right at the time when I need it the most, because we have had so many phone calls in the last week with everyone enquiring about Kim’s progress.
Amy has been helping me out because Uni doesn’t start again until next week. She has been staying here full time and commuting to work at Ballarat during the day. She is a real treasure, and has been cheering me up.
Just to prove that I have been keeping myself occupied, here is the marinated feta I bottled this afternoon. It should be ready in about three weeks time. I have been promising my co-workers for some time that I will bring in some cheese for morning tea. Now I have no excuses.
Yesterday afternoon, I planted two rows of all season carrots, two rows of beetroot, and one row of parsnips. I have been following Cosmic’s moon planting guide, with much success so far.
All of the garlic is now about 15 cm tall, and all of the red onion and elephant leek seeds have sprouted.
I have always had problems getting onions (right) and leeks (left) to germinate, so I am sold on moon planting so far! The purple podded peas are also growing strongly.
The rest of this bed will be planted out with broad beans near the end of the month.
The deck has been oiled and all the furniture has been replaced while Kim has been unwell. I hope she likes the layout and the girls did all the heavy lifting of the pots so as to save my back. They are very strong lasses!
Other than that, we are just managing to keep our heads above water, and had to cancel the Sustainable Living Group meeting as I was with Kim in hospital. We will reschedule for this coming weekend, as Kim should be out of hospital and should be able to join in the fun. Oh and thanks to all of our friends and family for their support so far. It has been overwhelming and heartfelt.
Life always throws you a curly one when you least expect it!
Yesterday, amongst all the chaos of the day, I managed to squeeze in a cheese making session. In truth, I was about an hour into it when Kim said she needed to go to the doctors to check on her foot, so I threw in the cultures, hoped that the milk would be OK (and Kim of course), and spent the following hour looking after my lovely wife and getting the antibiotics from the pharmacy for her.
When we returned home, I tucked her into bed, made her as comfortable as I could and got back into the kitchen. I added the rennet and waited for an hour for it to set. I then cut the curds with a whisk and spent the next two hours stirring every 10 minutes to get the curds to gently release the whey and to stop it from clumping together. The final product needs to have a fair bit of moisture still in it so you have to be careful not to stir too often or too vigorously.
After the two hours, it was time to strain the curds and whey and to press. I decided to make two wheels out of the 7 litres of milk. One big one for marinating in oil, and the other to eat straight away. The small wheel pressed OK, and held its form well. However, the second one was very cumbersome. Every time I tightened the press, the cheese erupted out of the sides of the follower like a volcano. I decided that I must have missed a step that was not in my recipe book. I remembered back to my class, whereby I had to massage the curds gently to release more whey after the initial straining. So that is what I did. After that, the cheese pressed fine. Here are the finished products.
The large one weighs 740g and the smaller one is 440g.
Here they are in brine, being salted one on top of the other.
I have found that a 2 litre flip top ice-cream container is just perfect for brining. There is about 5mm of solution covering the top wheel.
I will remove them tomorrow, cut the large one up into 2cm cubes and marinate just like I did with the first feta I made. I will take some of the smaller wheel when I visit Kim in hospital with some crackers for an afternoon snack. That should put a smile on her dial!
I have just spent all morning and part of the afternoon in hospital looking after Kim. She was admitted this morning as the Cellulitis that she was diagnosed with yesterday did not respond to the antibiotics that she took overnight and was in excruciating pain.
We woke up this morning and her right foot had blown up like a balloon. Not good, so back to the doctors in Melton and then she was referred straight to the Emergency room at Bacchus Marsh hospital. She was tended to straight away, and was placed on an antibiotic IV within two hours. As she was so dehydrated, she spent the first hour just on a saline drip to rehydrate and bring her blood pressure back up again.
I can say that I was worried sick, as was Kim, but we kept a brave face for the kids, and she is now resting in a nice ward and is in very good hands. She will be on the IV for about two days, so we are all off to call on her tonight during visiting hours.
Darling, I wish you a very speedy recovery and miss you already!
No good news happening in Antarctica of late. Long time readers will not I did a post about the Wilkins Ice Shelf last year. Once again it hits the news, but not the front page.
As the planet warms, so do the poles, but at a greater rate. We are witnessing the impact of our civilizations inaction towards averting climate change as in the span of a few decades. This is like a horror movie!
During the video the commentator says that the collapse of the ice shelf is exciting. I find it extremely terrifying. This ice shelf is holding back others on the mainland, and
if when it breaks up the land ice will begin to move and melt. That is when we start to see sea levels rise on a visibly human timescale.
How much more evidence do policy makers need to take quick and positive action to reduce carbon emissions instead of pissing into the wind? Maybe an iceberg in Sydney harbour or Port Philip Bay would get their attention!
The moral imperative to fix or stabilise climate change is a duty that rests upon all of us. We need to get creative about a solution, either with or without the help of the governments of the world, and the time to act is now. Not next year, not after the Global Financial Crisis, but right bloody now! If we wait much longer to begin reducing emissions we are toast, literally.
That is where you come in. If you have been a reader for a while or even visiting for the first time, and you have been inspired to act by some of the things that my family have done, or by other green or sustainable living bloggers, let me know via a comment. While you are writing your comment, have a think about how your action has inspired someone else to act in a positive way. Please, please think hard and long, because I really want to know if all of this stuff I have been doing has been making a difference to anyone out there.
Now, if you do leave a comment, think some more about how you can use the inspiration you felt to further inspire others. I want this thinking process to go viral and reach as many people as it can. Grass roots action is the only thing that can truly make any big difference to our fate. With all the lobbying, denial, and negative political action regarding Climate Change which is one of the two biggest issues (Peak Oil the other biggy) facing us in the next 20 years, we cannot simply sit back and do nothing any longer.
Here are a few tips on how you can get active and inspire others to begin to act on lowering their emissions.
So what are you waiting for? You must have been inspired by someone even if it is the guy in the video, so hit the post a comment link and get writing. I think I have written enough for today.
What a great long weekend to get things done!
Easter is always a good break from work, but more so now that I am well on my way to a sustainable lifestyle.
Friday, I rested and reflected upon the things I had to do in the next three days. We had baked potatoes for dinner.
Saturday, Bacon and Egg muffins for breakfast. I weeded the veggie beds, and enjoyed the company of family and friends. Lydia, Matt and Amy came over to stay for the weekend. I also performed the initial stages of some pickling. Drank a few bottles of home brew beer, sake, and made sushi, and hummus dip and corn chips for afters. Wonderful!
Sunday, scrambled eggs on toast, finished off the pickling. I made green tomato pickles (left) and Brinjal Pickle (right).
Matt helped me with washing the deck in preparation for its annual oiling (he did most of the work). Watered the veggie patch and noticed that all the garlic bulbs have sprouted and the purple podded peas are growing well. Minestrone and Monkey bread for dinner, more homebrew and hummus.
Monday, homemade yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, leftover Minestrone for lunch and homemade pizza for dinner. Did a bit of gardening, a bit of composting, and I noticed that the Horned African Melons are still growing well. Spiky fruit, and I have no idea what they are going to taste like. They are just a bit bigger than my fist. I have also been working on the constitution (rules), incorporation papers, insurance, a budget for establishment, and applying for a establishment grant from our local council to get the Melton Sustainable Living Group off of the ground legally and financially. Hard work, but well worth it in the long run.
Tomorrow, I start four days of annual leave, and will be oiling the deck and making some feta cheese. I am looking forward my week at home. I believe I might even get time to start on that cob oven I promised myself at the start of the year!
Well I always knew that green was the new black, but I didn’t expect a mainstream current affairs show like 60 minutes to pick up on the fact that the home grown revolution is making a lot of headway in the ‘burbs.
On Sunday, I watch an interesting story presented by Liz Hayes about backyard food production. I thought that it was great. You can catch it here at the Backyard Revolution.
It was a well presented story, and I urge you to watch the video at the link if you missed it. It featured none other than our familiar old mate Peter Cundall of Gardening Australia fame. Everything that this bloke says is true. You can dig up your lawn and feed your family for most of the year. I am testament to that! What they didn’t mention was the other benefits of growing your own food, like reducing food miles, loosing weight, cutting consumption, rejuvenating the soil, the joy of harvesting your own produce, the magic of nature, sustainable organic gardening to name a few.
Maybe we should let the facts of this story settle into the general populations collective mind before approaching a story on Peak Oil, food riots, Catastrophic Climate change. When these stories reach 60 minutes, then I will know that my beliefs have finally reached mainstream thinking.
So, "That's Your Bloomin' Lot", as Peter would say!
I never thought it would make the front page, but a nice little story none the less. The kids are tickled pink to see themselves in the local rag. You can find the story at the link below.
No sign of the article on the Sustainable Living Group, so I will give the reporter a call tomorrow to find out what is going on.
Holly is slowly being trained, and we have been getting some tips from one of our friends. She even lent us a doggy cage so that we have a bit more control, and so that Holly feels like she has a secure place to sleep at night. Contrary to the article she is still a mischief maker, and is still getting into my garden beds and chasing the chooks! She will learn.
Garden preparation is one of the most rewarding jobs in the gardeners calendar. I really enjoy having a good dig around the garden to improve the soil with chook poo, dynamic lifter, worm castings, and blood & bone.
This year I had some additional help in the garden. Two weeks ago my friends decided to get together and help out in the patch!
They got out their digging implements and gave all of the beds a good going over.
All I had to do was coax them into the next bed once I thought that the previous bed was worked over sufficiently.
I had no complaints from Edwina or the other hens, that is for sure. They thought that all of their Christmas’ has come at once. Over the course of the week, I led them to the garden beds, and for a good couple of hours they turned over each bed. They got rid of any earwigs, slugs, caterpillars, and any other insect they could find. For services rendered I gave them a big handful of sunflower seeds when they got back into their coop.
As I mentioned on Wednesday, I planted some purple podded peas. Here is what the legume bed looks like at the moment.
It is a little difficult to see, but the picture is of a trellis held in place by recycled tomato stakes. I found that my summer crop of snow peas was able to grip onto this wire much better than string or wooden trellis, so I went with this again this season. Soon it should be covered in masses of green with wonderful purple flowers.
Today, according to Cosmic’s moon planting guide was a good day for planting leafy, onions, garlic plants. I started at about 1100 and first planted the garlic. I had two bulbs of Early Purple that I bought from Diggers, and I managed to get 29 cloves out of them. Here are some of them in the ground.
I then mixed up some potting mix that I made from coconut coir, worm castings, garden bed dirt, and some compost. It was a fairly fine seedling mix and I hope it works well. I planted red onion and elephant leek seeds into punnets and will transplant out in about a month. The orange things on top are Maxicrop snail pellets. Last year, everything I planted got decimated by slugs so this year I took precautions.
I then decided to plant some more rainbow chard and English spinach. They shouldn’t take long to sprout, and I have the garden bed all ready for them to go into.
In one of the beds I have some spring onions that I must have missed last year. They re-sprouted about two weeks ago and are doing well. After all they are just glorified bulbs. I also have some silverbeet that is still going strong in the same bed. It should last another few weeks.
I also found three leeks that had re-sprouted from last years crop, so I transplanted them into the garlic/onion/leek bed. They look a bit lonely, but will have other leeky friends soon enough. I used a bit of spare broom handle that was about 30cm long, poked it into the ground about half way and dropped the seedlings in. I then watered them in. That way, I am hoping they will have nice white stalks come harvest time. I think the Veggie Gnome gave me that tip.
Next, I re-potted two blueberry bushes I had been neglecting.
The pots had contained the remnants of two nasturtium bushes that I planted three years ago. They lasted for ages, but the heat wave got them over summer, so it was time to make good use of the pots. I mixed up two big handfuls of worm castings and about half a handful of blood & bone into each pot before I transplanted.
I then transplanted a Chilean guava that had out grown its pot. I used the remaining seedling mix and added about four handfuls of garden bed dirt for good measure. It is in the square pot, in front of the sage bush.
I still have three capsicum bushes growing well, and all three are still flowering. Here is a two year old bush that is still producing masses of bell peppers. I just keep watering and feeding it, and it keeps flowering and fruiting. There are about 20 capsicums on it now, with some of the smaller ones going red very quickly.
Well that is about all I managed to get done today. I was quite happy with the days work. The other seeds that I bought from Diggers were Broad Bean Aquadulce, Broad Bean Crimson flowered, Carrots All Seasons, Warrigal Greens (native spinach), and a big bag of lucerne seeds that I will sow in Spring as chook feed and green manure/mulch. I will plant the broad beans near the end of the month. I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty. It was great fun.
Just a quickie to say thanks to my son Adam for making my new banner. I think it is quite cool and adds a little pizzazz to the site. I suppose a change is as good as a holiday!
I also have a windows background version if anyone is interested. It is 1680 x 1050 pixels in diameter. Email me if you would like me to send it to you.
Once again I find myself writing to the Energy & Resource, the Hon. Peter Batchelor MP about the Premium Solar feed-in tariff bill that he has tabled before state parliament.
Remember that I wrote that this bill had some sensibility to it. Well, that was before I read the fine print and I am sorry if I misled any of my readers. Most of the proposed bill compares well with what the other states in Australia have legislated regarding feed-in tariffs, however there is one huge clusterfuck of a clause which is the credit vs. cash clause. In the bill drafters wisdom, they have chosen to give credits on the system owners bill that are can be rolled over each quarter for a period of 12 months. If at the end of a year there are remaining credits, they get cancelled and you start again! What a crock. At least the law in South Australia, Queensland and the ACT says that retailers have to pay the owner in cash and not as credits. I am disappointed to say the least.
This is what the ATA have to say about it;
The Victorian Government’s proposed feed-in tariff will cancel out thousands of dollars owed to solar homes for the clean electricity they generate and feed into the power grid, says the Alternative Technology Association (ATA).
Under the scheme, solar homes selling electricity back to the grid will see none of the 60cents per kilowatt hour owed to them, and instead the payment will be in the form of a credit on their electricity bill that will be cancelled out every 12 months.
The government's decision to cancel any remaining credit at the end of each year, will make solar homes either forgo their credits or deliberately increase their energy use, says Damien Moyse, ATA’s Energy Policy Manager.
“For a modestly energy efficient household with a 3kW solar system, this scheme could result in $1000 or more loss."
“A use it or lose it scheme encourages homes to consume more energy, and is in complete contradiction to the need for Australia to decrease energy consumption and reduce emissions.”
Mr Moyse says the government also plans to exclude solar systems larger than 3.2kW from receiving the tariff.
“Community buildings, churches, farms and schools that need to install larger systems to cover their energy needs will not receive a fair payment for the clean energy they contribute to Victoria’s power supply.”
ATA is calling for the state government to bring Victoria’s scheme in line with other states and include all PV systems up to 10kW.
Mr Moyse says the government has completely missed the point of a feed-in tariff.
“The key reason for having a feed-in tariff is to drive rapid, large scale uptake of solar systems and bring down the costs of installing solar, as electricity from dirty sources gets more expensive.”
“Under the state government’s proposal there will be little to no change in the current uptake of solar installations, and once again consumers and the solar industry will lose out.”
So here is my letter to the Minister.
Dear Mr Batchelor,
Thank you for sending me up to date information about the Premium Solar Feed-in Tariff bill that is currently progressing through Parliament.
Whilst I agree with most parts of the proposed legislation, including the 15 year term, I do, however, strongly disagree with the credit vs. cash proposal whereby payment will be in the form of a credit on solar PV system owners electricity bill that will be cancelled out every 12 months.
I disagree and hope you will reconsider, for the following reasons;
For a modestly energy efficient household like my own with a 2.8 kW solar PV system, this scheme could result in $1000 or more loss on my environmental investment per year. I believe that most residential owners of solar PV system will be up against a similar loss. As you rightly stated in Parliament, most people have been motivated by 'doing the right thing by the planet' to date, however there are millions of Victorian who are motivated by money, and a regular cash cheque from energy retailers as payment for electricity fed back into the grid would dramatically increase the up take of solar renewable energy in this great state of ours. A greater uptake of renewable energy would also assisting in stabilising the local energy grid during the extreme summer temperatures that we have experience in the last two years. As scientists are predicting, durations of extreme temperatures will become the norm in our summers, as will massive electricity demand on the national grid during these heat waves. By encouraging the rapid uptake of a renewable, and therefore a semi-distributed electricity grid, you would be instrumental in averting the frequent backlash from voters while at the same time avoiding energy shedding and the constant power failures. You could become the electricity infrastructure hero of the year or the man of the hour who ensured a stable power grid!
Secondly, this use it or lose it scheme encourages homes to consume more energy, and is in complete contradiction to the need for Australia to decrease energy consumption and reduce emissions. I thought that the state government of Victoria was all for fighting the effects of climate change, not against it. Why would you propose a scheme that encourages this behaviour in the good citizens of Victoria? A cash payment would discourage this behaviour, especially if the credits are due for expiry in the summer months, whereby placing increased stress during a peak energy use season on an already struggling power grid.
I hope you have the time and inclination to read my reply, because I consider that my email is not just from me alone, but from many thousands of existing and potential solar PV owners in our state.
Enough said on the subject. I just hope that they change this ridiculous part of the legislation. The bill is now up for its third reading. Maybe a bit more pressure might just help clear his head. Or not.
Say hello to the newest addition to the TGOG house! Her name is Holly. She is a 12 month old Corgi/Silky terrier X and we picked her up from the local pound. She is cute, and full of beans. Butch the wonder dog is very cautious around Holly at the moment and has snapped at her a few times. He is going to just have to learn to share.
Holly has also tried to round up the chicken, which they did not like one little bit! But, butter would not melt in her mouth. I was hoping that she would eventually do her fair share of deterring the neighbourhood cats from around the chicken coop. Time will tell.
Other than picking up Holly at lunch time, we had a journo and photographer over after work to take some pictures of Ben, Megan and Holly for the local paper. The story will be about adopting pets from the local pound. They were all very excited during the photo shoot, but Holly cottoned on very quick and hid under the bench for a while until the flashes and noises went away!
Whilst the paper guys were here, Kim had hit them up yesterday for a story about the Melton Sustainable Living Group as well. Kim had taken a shot of Dale, the chickens and I this morning, but the photographer also took some photos of me in the chicken coop with my chicken friends scratching around. I felt like the Great Gonzo! There was also a pose with my eggplant bush. Very becoming. Here is Dale and I with his proud butternut pumpkin that he gave me for teaching him how to grow vegetables! It is the best gift in the world and I shall savour every mouthful when I turn it into Pumpkin soup in winter.
Then came a brief interview by Ryan about how the MSLG began and what prompted me to start it. If you have read the blog, you have heard it all before. Green Epiphany, Hybrid, worms, compost, rainwater tank, veggie patch, Solar PV etc….. Then he asked Kim what she thought of her husband. Oh, the praise. I felt ten foot tall and bullet proof. Love you too, honey.
After dinner, I planted purple podded peas from seed I saved last year. I chose today in accordance with Cosmic’s moon planting guide for April. I planted about 50 seeds in a well composted and fertilised bed, so hopefully this lunar stuff works and the peas will be strong and healthy.
An exciting day, but I not finished yet. I have just completed waxing a gouda cheese wheel that I made on Sunday. I had to wax it three bloody times, because gouda is not a solid as wensleydale and the cheese kept moving under the wax. The wax then started peeling off if I held it for more than 20 seconds. Eventually I wised up, put the wheel in the freezer for 10 minutes, and then waxed it again with a single layer, put it in the fridge to solidify, then gave it another coat. After an hour of mucking around it is finally done.
Well that is all for today, and on top of all of that, I did a full day telecommuting from my home office. Flat out like a lizard drinking!