2011 In Retrospect

It is this time every year that I review the goals that I set at the very beginning of the year.  It has been a very eventful year, and one that I have fond memories of.  I learnt more than I could have imagined, both academically and skills for the future.  Also, I worked less this year than any other year in my working life due to the need to take long service leave to recover from a surgical procedure.

So lets get to the 2011 goals that I set for the year and see if we achieved them;

More Vegetarian days per week

Make all our own pasta

Increase water storage

Add two more wicking beds into production

Build an Outdoor Oven

Use renewable energy to charge my portable electronic devices

Vegetarian days – We have been eating at least one veggie meal a week, sometimes two, but we still have a relationship with meat.  My favourite veggie meal is Goulash with chive dumplings and mashed potato.  It is a great winter warmer and we serve this at least once a month.  Stay tuned for more news on the veggie front in tomorrows post.
Home Made Pasta – Well it started out well, but kind of fizzled out.  I have made pasta about 5 times during the year, which has just the best taste, but convenience always wins out in the end and we go back to dried pasta for a while until we get the spare time to make some fresh.  Ravioli is my favourite, but you really need four sets of hands to make it with the machine I use.  
Increase water storage – It took a while to save up the cash, but I finally managed to install a gutter on the carport and install a 1800 Litre rainwater tank.  Then as fate would have it, my existing 2300 litre tanks strung a leak due to being laid on an uneven surface.  So, a fortuitous tax rebate assisted me in purchasing and installing another 2300 L tank.  Plus I also have three 210 litre water barrels that are full, and three 100 litre water barrels that need to be connected up to the irrigation system when time permits.  That will give me a total of 5030 litres (1,328.7 US Gall).  For an average suburban yard, that is a fair bit of water!

Two more wicking beds – Unfortunately, this goal was not met.  Due to the Clay Cob Oven build, I had to disassemble my existing wicking bed and build a new one in its place.  At least I still have one, which is working well.  The only problem I have is that the soil that I put into it is too acidic (pH 9.5) and I have been adding dolomite lime to it once a month to slowly bring the pH down to 7.   And besides that, I have kind of ran out of room to put in new beds.  I have to start growing upwards now.

Clay Cob Oven – After much procrastination, I finally bit the bullet and started the cob oven in July and we finished it in October.  It was a labour of love in the end, and each weekend we just knew that we had to work on it to get it finalised.  The project helped me learn some bricklaying skills and patience, and it was a steep learning curve trying to figure out how to cook in it.  Kim and I are very proud of our handy work, and the help from the Melton Sustainable Living Group.  Building the cob oven was rewarding.

Portable devices – What a dud!  The device I bought to recharge small electronic devices takes far too long to recharge in the sun, and does not fully recharge devices when at capacity anyway.  The only device it does fully charge is my very old school Nokia mobile phone (circa 2005), which just goes to show how energy hungry today’s devices really are.  At least I tried to give it a go.

Now for the adhoc stuff that were not goals, but significant events in their own right.  I will just list them, because if you have been reading all year, you will know most of these.

So, was 2011 a fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable year with more ups than down?  Too right it was, and even with a hernia surgery thrown in as well!  We all had a ball, and kept on living and behaving larger than life on our journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.  Most importantly, we had fun and lots of it!
Stay tuned for my 2012 goals.  I think they will a modest few this year, but will reduce our environmental footprint dramatically.


  1. Lara says

    Hi Gavin,

    … are you sure about that pH of 9.5? That’s *alkaline*, silly (lower pH = acidic and vice versa).

    Alternatively, I may have found your issue. 😀

  2. Sis says

    Isn’t it funny that you mention “Up-Gardening”. I had a dream about that last night for my house. As you know I have a caravan by the beach in Queensland and I have limited space on the block so was trying to figure out where to go next. Only place I can plant now is “UP”. Lots of ideas running around in my head. Will send you pic’s of my progress when they happen xxxx

  3. says

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

    @ Cathy, Penny & Lydia. Thanks for reading. Lots more to come in 2012.

    @ Linda. Thanks for the recommendation. It gave me the inspiration to start to grow upwards instead of horizontally. I looked around the yard it actually dawned on me how much vertical space I have available.

    @ Frogdancer & Kristy. The model is a Pico Freeloader. Good for the occational charge, but you need something bigger like a backpack model to charge most portable devices.

    @ Tracey. I better go and check the soil again. I think I may have made a mistake, but better re-test. Cheers for pointing that out.


  4. Tracey says

    Hi Gavin,
    Happy new year to you and yours.
    Your blog and your achievements for 2011 have been very inspiring. Just a comment about the soil in your wicking bed. You mention it is too acidic at pH 9.5 and you have been adding lime…I hope the pH figure is a typo, as on the pH scale anything below 7 is (increasingly) acidic. Anything above 7 is (increasingly) alkaline. pH 9.5 is quite high and certainly needs adjusting but adding lime will be making it worse. Here’s hoping you meant to type pH 6.5!

  5. says

    Hey Gav, good to hear how you went. Be a bit hard to achieve them all and then sets you up to think that’s the only success for next year.

    Realistic is the key I think – we don’t have perfect veges all the time so we get it as good as we can and go from there :)

    PS which solar charger was it that you didn’t have any luck with? I will go back and look through posts but am interested bc I’d like to get one – that works :)

    Positive and productive wishes for 2012. Kristy

  6. Linda Woodrow says

    Can thoroughly recommend up-gardening. Vertical space is hugely productive, especially if you think a little bit about aspect when establishing. In your part of the world, even more so. No tall thing will ever shade anything on its northern side, not morning noon night winter summer. Concentrating the fertility and water into a small area is much more economical use of resources too. I grow only climbing beans, peas, cucumbers now. Only indeterminate tall varieties of tomatoes. And I’m loving trombochino so much, I may start only growing climbing varieties of zucchini from now on.

  7. Penny Duthie says

    Thanks for all the time and effort that goes into your fantastic blog – love it and look forward to more in 2012!!


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