Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Impact Week: Day Two - Waste

Day two of my No Impact Week challenge focused on waste: what waste do I create and was it really needed? Day one, on Sunday, was all about trying to reduce consumption, trying to avoid filling your life with unecessary stuff.

On the first day, I had to collect all the waste I created. On the Monday I looked in the bag and categorised things into: items I used for more than ten minutes and items I used for less than ten minutes. A lot of it were wrappers, tissues and food. So really, a lot of it is for less than ten minutes. Oops!

I normally use hankerchiefs (yes, I'm rather old fashioned that way) and this week I have a cold. I tend to change habits when with a cold and go all out and use the Aloe Vera tissues in order to avoid a sore, scratchy nose. Not that I'm proud of it.

To reduce waste, I can proudly say that this is the first month I've used a menstrual cup instead of tampons. The brand I have is Lunette. I'm still getting used to it, but it's ok. The cups last for years, so although a big upfront cost (about $70 I think, although cheaper online) they pay for themselves as tampons are expensive.

The No Impact Week challenged me with two questions: what went into my special waste bag? Why was it hard or easy to make waste? During the challenge week, I've carried around a plastic bag and collected my waste wherever I go: at work, in public, at restaurants. I opted to eat lunch at the cafe rather than take away, as it cuts down packaging waste. I noticed most restaurants only provide paper serviettes. A pity. I collect very few plastic shopping bags and don't use plastic bags for vegetables: I buy them nude. I've started washing the plastic bags for reuse (as they do in Cuba) and set aside ripped bags that I'll take back to the supermarket for recycling (I've never done this).

My Fregie collection: for when buying nude vegetables
I'm big on recycling: I try and recycle the maximum including items often forgotten in the bathroom. So my challenge is reducing waste. This week was the first time I ordered fruit toast from the local cafe and got them to put it into my plastic container. No paper bag needed! I always go there with my own mug, and get a discount for my environmental efforts. One of the shops at the Camberwell Fresh Food Market sells nuts, grains and dried fuit in bulk, so this week I bought red lentils in my plastic container. Not so hard after all! Buying a whole set of Decor plastic containers is high on my agenda so that I can buy food free of packaging. I can probably buy it cheaper that way, too, as bulk goods are normally discounted. I'll end up with higher nutrition from unprocessed foods plus lower packaging waste. Yay! I've always thought I should take my own container to cafes, but this week is what pushed me to finally do it.

Container for lentils: no bag!
The amount of food waste I put in the garbage disturbs me: I'm used to a worm farm or compost bin for all the scraps and peelings. I don't have one at the moment, which means I don't get to use the wonderful nutrients on my plants. I'm in two minds whether I should fix this, as I move house in three months. At least by using the peelings for making stock I reuse waste, although I can't recycle it. By making more meals from scatch, this will help reduce my packaging waste, too. I already cook my own meals rather than buy prepared meals. I could go back to basics even more e.g. pastry and stock (I nearly used up last weeks stock with a lovely potato and leek soup). Both I can keep frozen.
Betty: my shopping companion of 9 years
The No Impact Week challenge on waste has definitely made me consider all the wrapping I throw out. I think I will be able to use my own containers at more shops and cafes in the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Impact Week: Day One - Consumption

The first challenge dished up to participants in the world wide No Impact Week was Consumption. Essentially, we buy a lot of stuff, and although it may take a lot of resources to get to you, an amazing amount of what we buy is discarded within six months.

If you want to take a roller-coaster of how our society consumes, watch The Story of Stuff.

So my challenge for the week is to try and not buy new stuff, except for food. The hope is that instead of using shopping as an activity, I can spend time with friends and family and socialising or giving back to my community. I wouldn't say I consider shopping a pleasurable experience, a "hobby". However, I do occassionally shop so it still applies to me.

The task I was given: write all the items I am planning on buying this week, apart from food. Then I was asked to cross off whatever I could live without for the week. Third, I had to creatively think how else I could get these items without buying new. This might be borrowing, buying second hand, swapping or making second hand. Here are my potential items and what I can do instead of buying new (keep in mind I'm organising a permaculture conference):
  • texters - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • Blu-tac - borrow
  • butchers paper - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • Decor plastic containers - buy 2nd hand on eBay, swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • a top - can live without for a week
  • casual shoes - can live without for a week
  • eucalyptus oil - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • garden stakes - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • dish cloth - buy 2nd hand facewasher at the Salvos or Vinnies
  • scourer - can't think of another option but new. Could wait
I need garden stakes because I potted up my fruit trees. I thought I had 12. I have 16. And an obsession with buying fruit trees. An investment in the future, I say!

Heritage apple, persimmon, cherry, peach, almond...

Monday's focus is Waste, so I had to collect all my garbage and recycling from Sunday. The food waste will be a bit high, as because I am trying to reduce over-processed foods, I decided to make chicken stock to freeze. Only $2 for a bag of bones, and I get a stock that is only real ingredients, no numbers (you know, the number codes on ingredient lists) and no salt.
Stock pot and finished chicken stock
I made pumpkin chutney so added pumpkin skin, pith and seeds. Hence it has a slightly orange tinge.
Pumpkin chutney
The pumpkin is homegrown!

I'll let you know how I went with Day Two-Waste.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

No Impact Week: 18-25 Sept

Tomorrow is the first day of No Impact Week. I've signed up for an eight day "carbon cleanse".

My life is pretty busy right now, organising the 2011 South East Australian Bioregional Permaculture Conference which is only two weeks away (starts with a party on Friday 30 September). After I watched the documentary, No Impact Man, I felt compelled to check out their website. I discovered I was right in time for the third annual No Impact Week: open to participants all over the world (want to join me?).

I was both interested in challenging myself to go one step more, as well as doubted I had the time or energy to participate. Then I thought, if not now, when? Enough excuses, just do it! What's the worst that can happen? I participate partly rather than fully? That's still a good outcome: at least I will have partly challenged myself and my way of living on this earth and in this society.

So I am signed up and ready to go. Each day has a theme. Sunday 18 September is Consumption. I hope to share some of my experiences with you.

I already know what I'm doing part of Sunday: finishing making chicken stock and pumpkin chutney. This is my second batch of making chicken stock instead of buying stock powder (in my attempt not to eat ingredients of "numbers" and varying levels of salt, plus using the waste of a carcass as a resource). It really is just boiling up a $2 bag of chicken bones for hours, I discovered while reading Arabella Forge's Frugavore. Why make chutney? Because it is yummy! This time, I even grew the pumpkin myself!

I didn't finish making the stock and chutney on Saturday as I also have a social life: dinner down at the pub with friends was calling me. A lovely night it was, too!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No Impact Man

Last night I watched the film No Impact Man, at home. A good time to reflect on my life and my impact. It was a one year experiment of a man and his family to live with no environmental impact in New York City. It wasn't billed as a scientific experiment: they did what they thought was the best option to reduce their impact. So it was also a social experiment. They wanted to see how they would deal with the challenge.

The challenge progressed in stages. By the end,  they produced no garbage, bought nothing except local food, turned off from mains electricity and only rode a bike or walked. This wasn't an environmental activist family: the wife at least had a typical life and so had a high consumerist lifestyle. It was hard. Many families say that having a child increases waste generation: they had a toddler to contend with!

The more you get into such a challenge, the more you realise the impact of your life. Producing no waste meant buying food free of packaging, so mainly possible at farmers' markets and bulk supplies stores for dry goods. Only local food meant no coffee, which was very hard for the wife. Only walking or cycling meant they didn't even use the subway and they took the stairs instead of elevators & escalators.

By the end, they had definitely reduced their environmental impact. But they felt the wonderful extra benefits were that the simpler lifestyle meant the family was healthier, happier and had formed better relationships with each other and those around them. They were richer by being free of the excess. After the year, they kept some actions and let some go.

It was good to be personally challenged and inspired. I feel I do a fair amount to try and live sustainably. Watching the film made me reflect on how even my actions that evening required a lot of energy and produced waste. I had the heater on, was watching a DVD, had more lights on than where I was sitting, had eaten a non-vegetarian take away meal which came with two plastic bags, a plastic container and styrofoam container, to which I added a dash of Japanese made soy sauce and then I washed the dishes with store bought dishwashing liquid. The plastic bags are recyclable if I take them to a supermarket (I've never done this) and the styrofoam is headed for landfill.

It inspired me to follow Cecilia Macaulay's suggestion of getting a good set of stackable plastic containers and using them at food co-ops: decrease useless diversity in order to help you have good dinners. I searched the local supermarkets today for what the Decor range could offer.

I went online tonight to The No Impact Project. I was greeted by the offer of undertaking the No Impact Challenge, along with thousands of people around the world. The next week long challenge starts 18 September. Should I just do it? It even has the option for a group starting a challenge team. Pretty cool to get support from those around you and give it a go together! I'll ponder.

Monday, July 11, 2011

One year reflection

On Tuesday 12 July, it will be twelve months since I reached my goal date of being in the King Valley. So how has the journey of the last year been? Where am I now? Where am I headed?

The last year has been a good journey. I lived part time in the King Valley for most of it, travelling up and down to Melbourne each week. I installed an irrigation system around the house, rejuvenated most of the garden beds around the house and had a great yield of mainly tomatoes, potato and pumpkin. The broken fence over the creek meant I didn't plant more than four fruit trees on the plot, as the cattle ate the lemon leaves. I also finished Certificate IV Small Business Management. I didn't however, commence any of the three businesses I planned to: a permaculture market garden, making chutney and sauce and selling Guatemalan textiles.

Where am I now? Mainly in Melbourne, still working part time and only going to the King Valley monthly. The commute became too much, plus I realised my best network was in Melbourne and was where I get my energy from. Though I do love being up at the farm. I'm still very much involved with the local permaculture movement, plus have begun promoting Landshare in Melbourne. If any groups are interested in sharing land or a backyard for gardening, I'm happy to come and speak.

Where am I headed? Of the three parts to the plot, I've decided to not sell sauce and chutney. I just love making it for my family and friends but don't really have a great desire to make it en masse. Selling textiles is also on the back burner: I would really need to partner with someone to make it happen.

So what of the permaculture market garden? I've discovered that I really like the social connection at work, so a rather solitary job as a farmer may not give me everything. However, I also realised I would like to run workshops. Eventually teach the Permaculture Design Certificate. So I am going to learn by doing, and find myself some land or multiple plots of land (using Landshare) in Melbourne for an urban market garden. My new long term goal is to be a permaculture teacher.

It's disappointing to not have some major concrete evidence of achieving any of my three parts to the plot. But I have learnt along the way and become clearer in what I want to do in life. My permaculture future is still central.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Winter planting of garlic

This afternoon I quickly planted some garlic in my Melbourne backyard: it is now or never! Most of them could have been planted over the last three months, but I didn't get around to it. Someone else told me their rule of thumb: plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day (winter and summer solstice). The winter solstice was only last week, so I popped them in at sundown and I hope some of them do well. I planted both Russian garlic (large, mild) and Italian white garlic (small, white and I assume stronger flavour). I also planted some shallots: can't remember when they were supposed to go in!

I'm currently eating my way through the pumpkin harvest: got 22 pumpkins from two plants! Very happy, especially as I was given the seeds and told they were zucchini! They look like Jap pumpkins.

The unusual zucchini - a pumpkin!
I also had two Delicata pumpkins - very cute. I cooked them and put butter and honey on them for a neighbourhood Autumn harvest.

Delicata pumpkin
In preparation of many years of prolific zucchini and pumpkin harvests, I've gone and bought a book which gives me 225 recipes on how to use them! The Classic Zucchini Cookbook. I'm sure I'll need both this and other books with an ingredient specific theme as I try and best accomadate abundance. As a permaculture principle says: catch and store energy. When you have something in abundance, make best use of it at the time and even store some of this energy for future needs (pumpkins are great at keeping for months).

I was given a cutting of sage from a friend during summer and I planted it at the farm: I believe a pineapple sage. Gorgeous red flowers. Now that I have both Simpson and Day's bird book and some good binoculars, I say it is probably the Eastern Spinebill which love to eat the nectar, hanging from the thing branches. Great to watch in Autumn. Am I becoming a twitcher? I can only hope.

Pineapple sage

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What relocalising looks like in Coburg

I wrote the other day about the film The Economics of Happiness, with the central theme being relocalising for a resilient community. On Friday, I had a wonderful “local” day in my Melbourne suburb of Coburg.

I was working from home, and when feeling peckish for lunch, I went around the corner to my local Lebanese bakery, Akaar Bakery. Those who know Melbourne know Coburg is a Middle Eastern heartland. I don’t know much about Lebanese bakeries, so most of it is new to me. I picked the Lebanese omelette and the Herb Pizza (I think thyme is the main ingredient, plus sesame seeds). It’s clearly a family business with only the young man looking after the store, who quickly put them in the oven for me. Weekends mean quite a few people are behind the counter and in the kitchen.  He made small chit chat, asking if I liked the omelette (beaten egg, poured onto the pizza and baked). I admitted I’d never eaten it before, but am working my way through their menu, though the Herb Pizza is a firm favourite already. I unexpectedly got a discount!

Later in the afternoon, I headed off for the local hardware store (not Bunnings, nor Coles, who both stock what I was after but buying there means most of the price goes out of the local area). Charalambous Hardware is a small shop front. On entering, I was amazed at how much stock they had managed to have in the store. Let’s say that vertical space was well used. The dusty front window is not a reflection of the order found inside. I quickly concluded this was a store to ask for the item not self-service (half the stock seemed to be behind the counter anyway), but before I got to the counter I was distracted by the seed packets – Australian and Italian. Not the run of the mill varieties.

After the gentleman assisted me in finding a watering can and spray bottle, he began quizzing me on gardening. Do I garden? What do I grow? What specific vegetables do I grow? Do I eat salad? Increasingly getting more specific and I think I must have passed a small test, as he then offered me Japanese salad seeds. Wow! He described the vegetable, a green and brown coloured leaf with bite, the seeds of which he was given by a family member. So I’ll go back this week and pick up the seeds. How lovely! Not an offer I would have got in a chain or supermarket!

I saw across the road a shoe store, Quik Shu. I had seen their advertisement in the local paper as it had a closing down sale (closes Friday 27 May 2011, with the Moorabin store remaining). I walked in to the sound of Italian babbling away by the older ladies. As the sale was on, I decided to buy some bright blue leather shoes for a bargain price.

On the walk home, I popped in to a Lebanese sweet shop for some Turkish Delight. The family must live behind shop, as I learnt early on in my move to Coburg that with a ring of the doorbell they would open the shop (they did put this on the sign). It is a simple, small white tiled shop with quite a few platters of sweets behind a glass cabinet. Yum!

So that is what it means to have a local day in Coburg! Very satisfying.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Success at Screening of The Economics of Happiness

Andrew Lucas and Helena Norberg-Hodge

The Melbourne screening of The Economics of Happiness happened on National Permaculture Day, Sunday 1 May. I think fair to say it was a success, with around 300 people coming. The documentary showed both the negative impacts of globalisation on our culture and happiness and environmental and economical stability, plus featured many positive stories of communities who are relocalising, reconnecting with their neighbours and patronising their local businesses. 

 The Q&A Panel: Adam Grubb, Andrew Lucas and Helena Norberg-Hodge

After the screening, we had a Question and Answer session with the film maker, Helena Norberg-Hodge, and Permablitz founder, Adam Grubb, and transition initiative enthusiast and founder of Transition Bell, Andrew Lucas. Themes raised during question time included:
  • how to include the older generation or ethnic groups that the sustainability/transition movement does not initially attract: pass some of your produce over your fence to your neighbour! Even if you don't share a language, you may find your neighbour starts handing you some produce of theirs. Andrew tried and succeeded
  • what to do about going to a Permablitz and the first thing you do is head to Bunnings for a shovel (national hardware store that local hardware stores struggle to compete against): try your local hardware store, or Freecycle or Sharehood: not every house needs a shovel!
  • how to get companies re-regulated so the people have more control: demand it from your politicians

One fact that interested people was a study on spending $100 at a bookshop. They found spending $100 at a book chain meant that only $13 stayed in the local economy, while $40-odd stayed in the economy if spent at an independent bookstore. This extra money went to management who were co-located, as well as services provided locally like accountants, lawyers and tradespeople.

My main aim for hosting the screening was to act as a catalyst for more local activity plus increase the membership of permaculture and transition initiative groups. Going by the buzz in the foyer both before and after the screening, I think the activity definitely affirmed many people were heading in the same direction together and were pleased to see they weren't alone. The groups who helped put the screening on (Permablitz, Permaculture Inner North, Sustainable Fawkner, Transition Brunswick, Transition Darebin and Transition Banyule) all had many people put their name down to find out more information. I'll admit, even though I organised the event on behalf of Permaculture Inner North, not many people put their name down for this. But it was great people connected with the other groups: there is a lot of crossover between us all. 

 The crowd

Thanks to Helena for appearing at the first Melbourne screening, to Adam Grubb, Andrew Lucas and Andrew McClelland for being on the panel, to the above mentioned community groups for spreading the word and to Moreland and Darebin City Councils who supported the screening both financially and through marketing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Screening of The Economics of Happiness, Sunday 1 May 2011

I'm organising the Melbourne launch of a film 'The Economics of Happiness' and it would be great if a few of you Melbourne dwellers could make it.
Please join Melbourne permaculture and transition initiative groups at Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre on Sunday 1 May, for a screening of ‘The Economics of Happiness’, a new documentary film by the International Society for Ecology & Culture (ISEC) about the worldwide movement for economic localization.
It shows how people around the world are already engaged in exploring alternative visions of prosperity: uniting around a common cause to build more ecological, more human-scale, more local economies – a foundation of an ‘economics of happiness’.

The film features a chorus of voices from six continents, including Vandana Shiva, Clive Hamilton, David Korten, Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins, Juliet Schor, Zac Goldsmith, Bill McKibben, and Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of Tibetʹs government in exile.

The film on National Permaculture Day 1 May will be followed by a Q&A with film maker Helena Norberg-Hodge and those involved with local permaculture and transition activity.

Permaculture Inner North, Transition Brunswick, Transition Darebin, Transition Banyule, Sustainable Fawkner, Permablitz, Moreland City Council and Darebin City Council are the official cosponsors of this event.

When: Sunday 1 May 2011, 6pm-8pm
Where: Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre, cnr Bell St and St Georges Rd, Preston

Tickets cost $15 or $10 concession, and are available from the venue by calling (03) 8470 8280 

View the filmʹs website:

The Economics of Happiness on Twitter:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coburg Food Swap

I went to my first Coburg Food Swap yesterday. What a great way to meet the locals and exchange your excess harvest for items not in your own garden!

I've been to two other food swaps, one we have as part of the Permaculture Inner North monthly meeting, the other was a once off organised at my work by the Permaculture Community of Practice. Most of my produce is at the country plot and not in Melbourne, so I wasn't sure if I had enough to swap. Then I read an article in Earth Garden magazine, where woman saw the food swap near the Fitzroy Pool and just HAD to join it. She figured a few bunches of herbs in the garden should do the trick, and it did.

So I headed out to the backyard which has a lovely rosemary bush and snipped off a dozen sprigs. I thought everyone has rosemary, don't they? Well, if they did, why is it sold in supermarkets? From the potato harvest, I had a few of the purple Saphires in the cupboard so grabbed some of them, too.

I headed down to Pepper Tree Community Nursery, on the corner of Bell and Sydney Rd. It's part of Kildonan Uniting Care (Uniting Church).  The Coburg Food Swap is held from 10am-midday on the first Saturday of every month at 512 Sydney Rd, Coburg (corner Sydney Rd and Bell St).

With my little offering I managed to meet new people and was offered seeds, recipes, cooking tips and biscuits as well as a whole host of fresh produce. I went at the end of the swap, and as people have the tendency to be generous but not take much, I walked away with a full bag, including:
  • apples
  • pears
  • garlic chives
  • two types of chilli
  • capsicum
  • okra
  • warrigal greens (NZ spinach)
  • rhubarb
  • oregano
  • basil (needed some help identifying it, I think it was basil mint)
  • tiny, unusual eggplant

Amazing, no? My recommendation: go to a food swap or start one up. CERES lists a few. Do you know of a good list of food swaps in Australia or Melbourne?

We've all got some excess produce we would prefer to exchange for what we don't have. And don't be shy taking a decent amount of food home with you as you don't want the organiser to be stuck with too much.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Autumn Harvest Season

Potato Harvest
It's so satisfying when the time comes to harvest. I grew potatoes for the first time and the nursery assistant quickly figured I would be the type to buy some heirloom potatoes. So I grew Saphire (large potato, purple skin and flesh), Cranberry Red (pink skin and pale pink flesh) and Kipfler (smaller, elongated) and a good all rounder, Sebago.

I enjoyed the Saphire boiled, then covered with heated butter, sage and salt and pepper. I thought yum! My mum roasted them and didn't like it.

Potatoes I planted: Saphire, Kipfler, Cranberry Red and Sebago

To plant a potato, one piece should have about 3 eyes on it. So you can cut one potato into many as long as you have about 3 eyes per piece. They grew very well although I should have mounded and mulched more for a greater harvest. Potatoes grow up not down, so if you keep mounding the soil more will grow. Plus it will reduce the likelihood a potato will see the sunlight and things then going wrong. I thought I got a good harvest. Digging them up was fun: I hadn't noticed so many earthworms when I planted them but now there are heaps.

Apparently if you mulch well, you can "bandicoot": dig up a little baby potato close to the surface. My friend and I read this in Jackie French's book, so we went out to my friend's potato plot in a bathtub and she quickly found a potato under the mulch.

I've given away the other potatoes so far in a food swap at work or to my parents, so haven't tried them all yet. But I have some waiting for me in a cool, dark spot of the house. Best to store with dirt on them to lengthen their life.

I've also had a great harvest (when I'm at the house, which hasn't been much) of tomatoes: Silvery Fir Tree (red, slightly ribbed) had about 100 tomatoes per plant, Yellow Cherry Cocktail was prolific with a long fruiting time and Yellow Pear is also going well. Then I have red Tommy Toe, orange Tigerella and red, ribbed Rouge de Marmande. I'm not sure the name of the other yellow tomato, similar size to Tommy Toe. I'm still waiting on the green Zebra (a mystery as I don't know which ones these are amongst the green tomatoes), Grosse Lisse and Black Russian to ripen.

I have made my own tomato relish out of 3kg of (mainly) Silvery Fir Tree tomato. Tomorrow is my 4th Annual National Tomato Sauce Making Day with friends (yes, I made this title up) and then on Sunday I'll do it again with Permaculture Inner North. Looking forward to it! Hard to get tomatoes this year: lots of rain and humidity=not many good tomatoes in Victoria. But I still managed to get my $20 for 20kg box. I don't have enough cooking tomatoes to make my own tomato sauce. They are more for salad.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Installing Irrigation System

Zucchini with flower: good for stuffing and frying

Watering my plants around the house takes me an hour. I like to give them a good soak, as they don't get watered every day. The house is on the farm, at the corner of the farm is the plot but I haven't built my vegie beds there yet. The water is from a spring that sources water from the mountain behind the house. I'm only at the house for half a week, so getting someone else to water is a big issue in summer.

I decided the most efficient thing to do with my time and the time of everyone else, was to install an irrigation system. I'd never installed an irrigation system before. I treated this as my "pilot" for what I will do on the plot.

As I didn't know anything, I had to learn. I first went down to the local rural supplies shop (W.B Hunter) and told them I was wanting to install an irrigation system around the house. I asked what this would involve. They pointed out the polypipe (they said I'd need the 13mm for the drippers and the 19mm to transport the water over a longer area with minimal friction). They also gave an introductory run down on the dozens of pieces of plastic that you attach to an irrigation system. From the first visit, I walked away with a measuring tape.

I then headed over to the local library and borrowed books on waterwise gardening. I found "Waterwise Gardening" by Kevin Walsh very helpful in explaing what irrigation parts I needed. It also explains how to calculate your water flow and then convert this to the number of drippers and metres of pipe the tap can service.

I measured the water flow, the length of each bed and sketched my plan. The area needed to be broken into subareas for watering, as it was too large for one tap to handle at one time. Installing valves was the solution. Then I came up with a list of items I needed to purchase. Once this was done, I was back to the shop to make my purchase.

There are a number of drippers and sprays. The drippers are often 4 litres per hour, while the sprays are much more than this (Kevin quoted a 246 litres per hour for a garden spray). The author explained that the drippers are way more effective, and you normally lay the pipe with drippers under the mulch. This should soak the soil, as compared to the garden sprays that wet the leaves and on top of the mulch but don't easily penetrate it (and float off on the wind).

The explanation on why the sprays weren't as efficient and the micro sprays even worse, held me in good stead. When I returned to the shop (Permewans hardware store this time, as rural supplies store keep rural hours of shutting at midday on Saturday), the attendant offered me all the drippers and spray types (360 degree and 180 degree). I was more interested in the drippers, so I asked why would I get the spray types over the drippers. She responded that the sprays were way more popular in sales than the drippers. Not so much a rational for why the sprays performed better, but a view based on sales volume. At least I knew why I should pick the dripper: efficiency. I took a sample of each type, anyway.

Task: turn this mind-boggling pile of plastic into a functioning irrigation system

At home, constructing the system took quite a while. I think if I had stronger muscles it could have been easier. For those with a bit more muscle, they can push each connector into the pipe easily, or completely close the ratchet clip that goes around each pipe end (I can't get the last tooth clicked over without help of some pliers). Even pushing the contraption to make the holes in the pipe and then pushing the drippers in was more effort than I'd imagined. But it is all achievable, even for a pint-sized person whose office job has not prepared her muscles well for physical labour.

The fun part was working out how to get the pipe attached to the tap. It was like playing Lego: which piece of plastic should go where. But I got there with:
  • tap
  • 2 hour manual timer (in hindsight, I'll upgrade to one I can set while I'm away)
  • two way diverter (so I can still use the tap without unhooking the irrigation system)
  • hose connector
  • pipe
  • elbow join (so system goes from vertical to horizontal)
  • pipe
  • filter
  • pipe
  • t-connector
  • pipe either side
  • valve either side that can isolate the water flow

I was pretty impressed with my first effort at installing an irrigation system. And it works! So now when I go and water the garden, I turn the dial on for two hours and I'm free to harvest produce or do a bit of weeding while I'm out there.

 Irrigation system complete

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A homegrown meal

Garden harvest
Mary, Mary, quite contrary how does your garden grow?

Quite well, at the moment. It's so lovely to see my zucchini plants and 25+ tomatoes taking off. I had a lovely meal last night, mainly harvested from the garden. I made a couscous salad that included beetroot - chioggia (has red and white concentric circles), lettuce - cos purple freckle, mint, purple sage, a squeeze of lemon and the first tomato - a yellow cherry tomato! Very happy with my harvest, which I dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus a chévre (goat cheese) from nearby Milawa Cheese Factory.

I have either grown my vegetables and herbs from seed or from cuttings from friends and the lemon tree was here way before me.

Comparing paying for seeds to seedlings is huge. If they don't all germinate, oh well, you haven't really lost much money. Just a few cents. So just give it a go. Not all the beetroot germinated but that's ok. So if you want to penny pinch, buy a packet of seeds and try it out. Go crazy with all the different varieties available that won't be sold as seedlings.

You'll end up with too many seeds than you can use in a year, so share amongst your friends. It's a bit of an insurance policy, too. The germination rate of the seeds will decline over time, so if a few of you are growing a variety then if one of you should run out, someone else will have them. I shared my seed box with my workmates. It did a lap of the office before it got back to me. It made me happy that others were going to use them.

About six or so beetroot grew, but I gave most to my Mum so the remaining one in the garden is for seed harvesting. Try and buy the seeds once, save them from the next harvest so you never have to buy again. What an investment! Apparently, the chioggia beetroot was grown as a staple in 1583 in Venetian cuisine!

 Beetroot Chioggia