Friday, December 30, 2011

Heralding in 2012

new years resolutions, we all have them right?  oh, i bet you do!  even if you don't admit them to anyone, there are things you are wishing and praying that you will do better this year than last.  i certainly do!  and for me .... it's a bit about taking stock of what the last year held and building on that.

2011.  wow.  what a year!  who would have thot when i took that course in March from the good folks at Milkwood Permaculture that our lives would have been so extraordinarily changed by the venture into a sustainable lifestyle.  it has been an amazing journey .... some ups and some down ... but we have certainly leaped off the deep end into the journey of a lifetime!  it has been a journey both of change in our hearts and a change of location.  and as we finish 2011 ... we aren't done yet.  infact, i reckon, the steep learning curve is about to hit big time!

2012.  dreams are big in our household right now ... and it is easy for us to dream because we well and truly started down that road towards a creation care life of sustainable living that we believe, honours God.  next year two kids will be in school and one in preschool three days a week, which means more time for me to get my head and heart around what God would have our lives be, from a sustainable perspective!

and now the hard part... 
acknowledging that this is a year to grow and learn
i'll have three days a week to myself ... something i haven't had in a very long time!
i have personal goals ...
full of promise and perseverance
family goals ... 
where i crave the best for my family and their own ownership
of creation care stewardship

my dreams / goals for 2012 ... in a nutshell (not in priority order, btw!).
  • learning how to make cheese.  i want to start exploiting our access to good milk in this area, and to learn to make a variety of different cheeses and do it well!
  • get my PDC.  this is a Permaculture Design Certificate, and the principals and framework knowledge that you get from this course about land management, water use and contouring are invaluable when it comes to living on the land.  truth be told, both hubby and I should get it .... but realistically, don't even know if i am gonna be able to do this.  would require two weeks away, a few thousand bucks of   investment and not sure that exists in our lives right now.  this may be more of a dream than goal .... but we have to try!
  • learning how to preserve properly.  from berries to beetroot and beyond .... preserving as a means of shoring up our larder and preserving those yummie tastes that we have enjoyed fresh.  i reckon it is an art ... and i am keen to learn!
  • learn about beekeeping .... specifically warre' hives.  apart from soil, i reckon i am coming to terms with just how important natural beekeeping is.  we have lost far too many of our hives to chemicals and pesticides.  the role that they play in pollinating for our future crops and sustenance is undeniable.
  • have a passata party!  and of course, this requires the "getting" of a passata making machine (do i sense a birthday present request coming on???).  what to do:  invite all your friends over, requirement being that they have to bring their end of season tomato's .... the good, bad and very ugly please and some jars to bottle in.  the tomato's all get stewed up with some yummy herbs, onions and whatever! and then passed through the passata machine where all the skin and seeds are removed.  the resulting liquid magic is then bottled and the friends can take it home.  
  • work with Rehoboth Children's Home and help them move towards sustainability.   this is the amazing place in the Philippines that  our children come from and that cared for them in their first years.  they are in a unique place to affect real change for God, and for health and community in their corner of the world.  i will be making two trips over 2012 that will hopefully, along with amazing staff on the ground there, help them to form a real foundation for change and development in the area of sustainability and self-reliance.
  • honestly .... just keep learning about how to live a richer and more fulfilled life from a creation care perspective.  to continue to seek out how i can serve our Lord and care for this world that He has given us.
... so that's where i am heading in the new year.  nothing over the top, but certainly a commitment towards the hard work that is ahead of us.  i look forward to continuing this journey with you and sharing my continued growth and failures!

what about you?  personal goals?  family dreams?  dare to dream big!  challenge yourself and be willing to give up all the security you have now (or think you have now!) for a great new horizon!  go on ... i dare you!  and may 2012 be for you and yours more than you ever dreamed and richer than you ever imagined.

blessings as we ring in 2012 .... BRING IT ON!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Djanbung Permaculture Gardens

SO ... good news?  our house in sydney settles in January!  that means we will be able to start saving and working towards buying land to do our bit for a sustainable world.  but the question remains ....

what do we buy?

it's ever so much fun looking ... but the issue of size keeps coming up.  do we get something bigger (e.g. over 15 acres) which would allow animal husbandry, forest regeneration and be a wonderful way to reclaim some good earth .... or could/should JustEarth be something on a smaller scale?  sometimes the idea of 5 or 6 acres seems so, well ..... small.  and yet, we hear many people say 5 acres is heaps!  you can do a lot with that.

so .... in order to see if this truly is so .... we went out to Djanbung Permaculture Gardens in Nimbin.  They have a no dig garden, a food forest, chooks, ducks, pigs and a food forest too boot.  all on 5 acres!  with some great dams and waterways!  we had to see if something so LARGE scale could be done in limited space.  well ... we were not disappointed!  we learned so much .... and the bamboo!  well ... let's just say once i've had a chance to digest the new year .... there will be a whole blog post on the benefits of bamboo because of what we saw there!

so .... rather than just spouting on endlessly ... here is a pictorial journey of our few hours at Djanbung!

ok .... let's start with me and the kids
in the middle of one of the gardens 
i reckon my kitchen garden could look
a lot like this!
little ponds everywhere to capture water and
provide habitat and protection for small
one of the veg gardens .... good companion planting
going on here!
this is going into an upper part of one of their
gardens ... the slope provides drainage
and the varying plants are creating a
luscious micro climate.
one of the chook pens (with a turkey!) these are all
just on point of lay and will go into the main chook run soon.
notice the mulch.  it is the leaves that have dried and fallen
from the bamboo.
speaking of bamboo!  it was
everywhere!  and HUGE!
just a cool shot of the sunflowers .... there were
cool shots everywhere!
beans growing up a bamboo pole.
the key here is that spikes where the leaves
come off have been left on ... allowing for
additional "perch-age" for the
the must have propagation area .... along side the
humanure toilet!  
hubby and kids standing deep in the
food forest!  
the fire pit!  no good permaculture
farm can be without one!  this is
the pigs!  these are for manure only and not for eating.
so they have a pretty good life!  
at the end of the day what we learned was that yes .... we could do a heap of a lot with five acres if that was all we got.  so now ... we just have to wait and fall in love with whatever dirt and soil is destined to become JustEarth.

Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Days of Christmas ... creation care style!

my precious kids, in their
filipino best ... ready to
bring on the
Christmas Cheer!
so .... it's time for christmas cheer and good wishes and lots of laughter from every corner.  if you are in the cooler climates, snow, hot chocolate, warm woollies and turkey no doubt are a big part of your plans.  if you happen to live in a more tropical places (like us!), your christmas day will probably be spent beach side, heaps of yummy cold platter treats,  or at the very least with a bbq on the game game plan with a seafood platter laid out!

given the massive transformation that our family has undergone to move towards a sustainable lifestyle this year, i thot it only appropriate to playfully put a creation care slant on an old christmas carol favourite ....

the 12 days of Creation Care Christmas

  • on the first day of christmas my true love gave to me a u-bute rocket shower
  • on the second day of christmas my true love gave to me two humanure toilets
  • on the third day of christmas my true love gave to me three worm towers
  • on the fourth day of christmas my true love gave to me four rainwater tanks
  • on the fifth day of christmas my true love gave to me five mango tree's
  • on the six day of christmas my true love gave to me six runner ducks
  • on the seventh day of christmas my true love gave to me seven wood pallets
  • on the eighth day of christmas my true love gave to me eight silver wyandottes
  • on the ninth  day of christmas my true love gave to me nine heirloom tomato's
  • on the tenth day of christmas my true love gave to me ten preserving jars
  • on the eleventh day of christmas my true love gave to me eleven piles of compost
  • on the twelth day of christmas my true love gave to me twelve acacia trees!

blessed christmas to you and yours ... and remember why we are here... He made this world for us, for you and I.  He came and Christmas is when we celebrate that ... because of His love ... for you ... and for me.

Aquaponics Update

Hi All .... many apologies for not posting for a while.  year end school activities, massive sickness in the family .... all that.  well .... that's my story and i'm sticking by it!  <g>

i have had a few people asking about the aquaponics system and the experiment i have been running regarding the thesis that it is quicker to grow things in an aquaponics bed than a regular dirt bed.  why not, right?  makes life interesting!  <g>

the main aquaponics system seems to be bedding in quite.  we've had a few issues such as filters to be cleaned out and water flow .... but hubby has happily tweeked the system and it is going quite well now.  we also had some real concerns over shading.  didn't realise just how harsh the northern rivers sun could be!  while it has been a wetter year (again!) than is normal, on those days where the weather is warm ... man!  it is bright and hot!  so shade cloth has been installed!

so first .... the experiment.  beans planted in some yummy, well composted soil and even a modified drip line to boot.  at the same time, beans, from the same lot planted in the aquaponics system.  four weeks on ... well, shall i let the pictures speak for themselves?

in the ground
in the aquaponics
the results have been resoundingly astounding ... to say the least!  and if i'm being honest.... these pics are a good week and a half old .... we have had some dappled, muggy weather that has aided in everything growing like bonkers since!

here are a few shots of the aquaponics bed.  i can't seem to help myself planting more and more things in it and they are certainly taking off!

the big overview of the two beds
the malibar climbing spinach ready to go crazy!  (fyi,
a good summer season spinach alternative for when
you can't get your regular spinach in season!)
and strawberries!  they are going crazy!
there are other things in the system too .... coriander, various lettuces, corn, tomato's, basil, egg plant .... all coming along really well.

overall, i would have to say that i like aquaponics.  it is a great, closed loop, SUSTAINABLE system that allows you to grow things fast.  it is of course not suited to most root crops (can you imagine what a carrot or parsnip would look like???) but it can certainly do lots of other things.    i could never ditch good earth as the primary means of growing.  but this ... as an addendum is fantastic.  it's a great testing ground for hubby as he works out the kinks for when we go to JustEarth and actually grow eating fish as well, rather than using  goldfish.  i would also highly recommend this as a system that works for renters (like us at the moment!), where use of land is significantly curtailed for whatever reasons.

i can't wait to see what the summer months holds for production in the aquaponics beds .... i have a feeling that some amazing and yummy salads will be coming our way ... and that makes a mothers heart very happy.  and in the mean time ... aquaponics part deux has commenced .... stay tuned!
hubby laying in the pipes for
the next phase of

Friday, December 2, 2011

failure is grand!

every time i talk to someone who is deeply into sustainability and permaculture they always talk about the times they have gotten it wrong .... and then smiled!  early on in our journey i used to wonder why they wouldn't be frustrated or throw their hands up and walk away.

but i learned something ....

part of the move toward sustainability is about seeing things as learning opportunities ... and when you learn you fail .... and then you get it right!  (come to think of it ... isn't that a good approach to how we should philosophically approach life? )

when you buy a piece of land you observe, you learn how the water flows, the wind blows and how the contour is affected by rains, etc., etc.  and you try something ... and it works ... yea!  but i am learning that most of the time, you try something and it is a mixed bag of success and failure. so that when you do it next time .... you do it better ... because you have observed the systems around you.

here are a few area's where we've been learning and growing!

propagation in toilet roles.  ok .... it has it's place.  it's meant to be for those of us with the patience to plant a single seed and see if it grows, and then planting out the whole thing, toilet role and all as it is degradable.  i don't have that kind of patience!  i plant three or four in a toilet role and end up having split the role and put them into new containers anyway.  the other thing is here at least, i'm having a lot of issues with mold.  not sure why .... but i am.  have had heaps of failure in propagating here.  so.  my solution?

this is my last batch of toilet roll propagation seeds.  in an effort to keep mold out, i'm trying to see if stuffing some straw in the bottom and then adding seed raising mix will stop the mildew.  from here on out we are gonna use either tried and true pots or broadcasting methods .....

the other major area is aquaponics.  this has been heaps of constant tweeking and fine tuning.  something, i have to say, hubby has enjoyed thoroughly.  from adjusting the flow rates to adding more fish and fixing aeration ..... but it's worth it.  this system has been set up as a test bed to ensure that whatever we do in the future works well .... so bring it on!

a seedling tomato
ready to take on
the system!
the other thing with the aquaponics is choosing the plants and when to plant them.  i will admit that a few have been lost to heat and not understanding how deep the roots needed to be placed.  but the other thing is that smaller plants seem to adjust quicker than  larger, long term root bound plants.  our strawberries really struggled for a while because they had been in soil.  but when i put in younger plants it seemed that they adapted much easier and got that they needed to stretch their roots down quickly to ensure that they got the maximum benefit from the oxygenation and water drainage.  as a result .... my small plants have just been booming along.

so learning is fun .... we teach our kids that, right?  but learning as an adult is good too.  yep ... i fail .... HEAPS.  but i learn from those failures and do it better the next time ... oh, and i do have fun along the way!