new beginnings

So its been 10 months since I last posted anything here, but hey, time for a new start.

Lately I’ve been reading a fair bit about permaculture, a la ‘Milkwood‘ and friends.  And it seems that this lifestyle (or living choice) is exactly what I’ve been trying to achieve, yet didn’t know it!

Think chooks, worms, composting, growing fruit, veggies, herbs and grains… think solar power, rainwater tank, greywater, food forest, a tree bog (!!), bees and mushrooms… and more!

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Food Forest – Wikipedia

Future posts to look forward to, from our little suburban ‘farm’ will be:

- the progress reports on my culture of oyster mushrooms on spent coffee grounds

- conversion of my bike to solar powered electric

- further design of the yard using permaculture principles

- a vertical wall garden aquaponics system, cycling nutrient-rich water from fish pond through plants on wall and filtered water back into fishpond. I can already say that I’ve thought about this one a bit, and I’m trying to find a way to use soil instead of the hydroponics clay (any thoughts, comments or encouragement welcome!)

Well, stay tuned my friends.  I will leave you with a photo of the oyster mushroom mycelium that is quickly spreading through last week’s coffee grounds.

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Oyster mushroom mycelium growing on spent coffee grounds substrate

Tikka Masala’s big day out

This is the story of how one chook single-footedly managed to wreck our neighbour’s entire yard.

‘Twas rather embarrassing to say the least.

We have a good relationship with our neighbours.  You know, they’re the kind of neighbours who say g’day in the morning, and bring back your mail if it ends up in their letterbox.  Not the annoying kind that sing ‘Don’t break my heart, my achy breaky heart’ amplified on a karaoke machine at 3am, or the kind that borrows your shovel and then claims it was theirs all along.

But last weekend Tikka, one of our four chooks, almost ruined this cosy neighbourly relationship.  She decided that the greenery looked a little tastier on the other side of the fence.  While she and her mates were out of the pen roaming the yard she found a little gap in the hedge, made her way through it, and helped herself to our neighbour’s veggie patch.  And his flower beds.  And his rose garden.  She even had a poke around his potted plants on the verandah, and kindly left him a great big messy green calling card.

Imagine if you will, my embarrassment when a few hours later there was a knock on the door, and lo and behold, there was our rather annoyed neighbour to complain about the state of his yard.  I apologized repeatedly, and then he informed me the chook was still grazing in his yard and could I come and collect it please?

Ladies and gentlemen, this was not my finest hour.  Have you ever tried to catch a chicken?  Well.  It is not something that can be done gracefully.  Especially not in pink gumboots.  Although it may have been somewhat entertaining for our neighbour to watch me in my wellies stomping about in his garden beds (finishing off what Tikka had already started), I’m sure he was fuming by the time I’d actually caught the chook.

I’m pretty certain we’re not on their Christmas card list this year.

Don’t look so proud of yourself miss, you’re in big trouble.

There’s no point hiding now, you’ve been a very naughty chooky indeed.
Go to your room, you’re grounded for a week!

Free plum jam

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that its impossible to count them accurately.”             Oscar Wilde

As a kid I had two goldfish which I kept in a tank in my room.  One day I noticed hundreds of little eggs all through the tank.  My usually sensible {and fairly boring} goldfish had mated!  And there were literally hundreds of eggs.  You have to imagine my excitement and then multiply this by 10, because that is approximately how ecstatic I was.  It quickly occurred to me that my little tank on my desk in my bedroom could only realistically support two goldfish.  So, I did what any rational, level-headed kid would do: I started to ‘give’ the baby fishies away to my friends before they had hatched.

It wasn’t long before mummy fish and daddy fish started consuming the eggs in the tank, and in a panic, I started moving hundreds of eggs to my mum’s fruit salad bowl.  I had moved almost all the eggs by the time I realised it would have been quicker to transfer the two adult goldfish instead of moving all those eggs.  Slowly, over the next week or so, the little baby fish started to come out of the eggs, and swam around the fruit salad bowl.  By now everyone had been coerced into adopting a fish, it was just a matter of time before they would be getting their new pet.

You guessed it… one by one all those little fishies died, every single one of them, and I was left to explain to my friends that there would be no pet goldfish.  Years on, and I haven’t learned my lesson.  I still count {goldfish} before they’re hatched.

Recently I’ve been planning how I am going to transform our unproductive backyard into a kitchen garden; with fruit trees, veggies, herbs and chooks as well as an extensive composting system.  Typically, I’ve already got plans for all the future produce:  jams, pickles, salads, omlettes…

This was our yard (20m x 15m) before we built the chook pen.  I used an online Garden Planner software to draw it to scale.

On the left is the back of the house with the patio, in the middle is the Hills Hoist, and on the right is the shed.  We’ve finally finished building the chook pen, so the yard currently looks like this:

So… here’s what I’m planning for the rest of the yard…

A little over-ambitious perhaps?

Lemon, fig, orange and olive trees on the north-east fence (left of the chooks).  Grape vines growing over the chook pen fence and the shed.  Plum tree on the right, between the shed and composting system.  And a MASSIVE veggie/herb patch on the south-west fence.  I was planning on raising the veggie patch beds to help with drainage, so it will end up being bricked up about 12m x 2m x 0.5m (LxWxH).

Considering my track record with plants, comments and advice are appreciated!

And if we have an oversupply of plums one day, I’ll be giving away lots of free plum jam…