Buy Nothing New October 2015

So Buy Nothing New October started yesterday. A. and I have decided that we will pledge again for this.


Given how over the last few months I have had to clear out 10 cubic meters of stuff into skips this will be a cathartic process for me.

It will also be a nice break for our bank accounts which have been pummelled by the work on the back yard and granny flat.

I have enough items to keep me in projects probably till the end of the year LOL J as does A. with our room looking like a quilting store 🙂

Our main driver is that we need to reduce our impact as a collective reduce the amount of stuff we are stealing from our kids future!

We all have to try to live by the motto

Reduce then Repair then Reuse then Recycle

So why not give it a try what is the worst that could happen?


The heat is still on …

Well day 3 of the heat wave is almost over. It should cool down at about 2am with the way things are going 🙂

Garden has done ok. A few sections have taken a hiding but the one thing that surprisingly so far has taken a real beating was the banana tree I had been gifted. I am surprised as this I though in a good container of water would have loved the heat. Clearly wrong on this one. It will recover but it interesting to see how things operate in these conditions. In many ways we are in uncharted territory with so many once in a life time heat waves in in 5 years.

I covered the bees with some shade in the form of a trellis but after A. got an email from the Victorian apiarist association we did a bit more work. They suggested a sheet or box of polystyrene on top of the hive to help insulate. Seems to have worked as the last two days the back hive had none and there where bees outside cooling it but yesterday and today in even warmer temperatures they seemed fine.

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We really need to get quilt boxes for them all and some Warre style tops as well. Warre hives maybe not in our plans at present in what we are doing but parts of the design I can see working with our langstroth hives.

The water bowls are checked each morning and it is nice to see the stone carving I did 18 months ago working so well as a reservoir for our bees 🙂 It is really important that you have stones or gravel in the bowl. Bees drown easily and this or floating rafts in the water supply help them to stay out of the water.

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Ducks and chickens are really feeling it the shaded pond seems to be helping and they are just staying in the shade.

The water from them is keeping some of the trees happy and it is being swapped out regularly for them.

Shade and water is all they really need.

The kiddie pool idea worked out well even my wasabi so far has stood up well (touch wood) the other plants seem fine and the wicking beds are doing their thing and the fruit trees are ripening well and even that mint seems to standing up to the heat. If a small section of food forest works like this interested in seeing how half the backyard will work.

One area we are struggling with is the house. We really need the insulation in the house. Being uninsulated it is just not staying cool and locking it up has had minimal effect. The shade sail is working well though and the back half of the house really makes a huge difference to the heat in that section it has been cooler than the back half. This sort of passive design is a winner.

When the kids come home they ask for a cool bath and this seems to make a huge difference along with a couple of small fans.

Other than we are just ensuring we keep our fluids up.

It is interesting but I think people have forgotten how to deal with this in their lives. Lots of people have lost pets by not setting them up correctly (not even enough water) and people look broken limping between air conditioned buildings and onto the train.

If this is the future people are going to need to adapt to it in regards to them and their properties. I was discussing with A. with the way that power grid is simply not standing up to the load I am wary of relying on this technology. Our house is better than most and we have the capacity to improve it to be less reliant on systems that can fail so we will.

Two days to go so hope all the Melbourne people are doing as well as me. Interesting times ahead and we will see more of these heat waves I believe.

On the upside it is not to bad to come home and go out into the backyard and be hit by the smell of warm honey and fennel 🙂 not to bad at all.

Buy Nothing New October 2013

So buy nothing new October has come around again. Last year we did this and enjoyed the process it made us look at our buying habits and how we can reduce our load on the world and save some money at the same time.

Even now it has made me look at things. A store I shop at had some interesting stuff and I had thought hey I could use a couple of things, then thought no I can’t it is buy nothing new October oh well next month.

Then I read this article

And it reminded me that with tools(one of the things I was looking at) it is quantity not quality and I have learnt this the hard way a few times. I have quality saws and chisels I was given 20 years ago by my grandfather they are still some of the best tools I have. It is a concern that even people like me who think about this stuff can be drawn into the marketing ploy so easily and it takes something like buy nothing new to get perspective. So far from being a silly stand on soap box and look at me it can make people think. At the end of the day sadly my dollar seems of more value than my vote these days.

As with last year A. and I have looked at exclusions and have come up with two. One is anything I grab at the Elmore field day I am taking my daughter to tomorrow. And the other is a couple of things I will need for a wicking bed skill-share/working bee with the local permaculture group.

On both occasions I am going to be careful and remember to look at anything with a close eye on its environmental effect and long term ness. For the wicking bed I am going to trawl for second hand stuff if I can’t find it I can retreat and grab it new if I have to get it last minute for the get together.

And I had my eye on one of those dynamo torches at that store in question then I remember the last one I bought failed after on 12 months. Probably best to wait in hindsight and buy something of better quality.

Oh and that wheel barrow I fixed last year in buy nothing new in October 2012. Still going strong.

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A Busy Week

Man what a busy week. After restarting blogging here and realizing that I was paralyzed by own my thought pattern I have found that the process of just getting into the blog has led to a burst in energy here doing the real stuff here in urban hippie land.

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We have a function here in a week or so and (more on that next week) add to that A. has finally run out of patience at not being able to get into the car port for the last 12 months.

I have so many projects where I have all the parts and have just been in a state of ennui it will be a while before I need purchase anything which is a great situation to be in.

This weekends projects have been to get the back yard into a safe state for non-urban hippy children and adults. Our kids are not helicopter parented and they know about nails in old pallets and to stay away from the stinging nettle. Not all kids have had that well a developed level of self-preservation J or have made as many mistakes …

So the back yard was cleared up and looking pretty swish. Unlike other times I have made sure that it has not been a quick cleanup. Where possible I have finished projects rather than just dumping the items in the area where the shed will be moved to as a hidey spot. If I couldn’t I have grouped them into projects to be worked on later.

A number of things done will be posted in the week to come. Such as extending a chicken run getting the front garden bed started but the big one was the side path and clearing up the 1.5 cubic meters of road base that I have had in the drive way for the last year or so and was threating to get me into trouble with the non-hippie wife.

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While cleaning up I found a large amount of snails and slugs and the girls have been very happy to help my getting rid of them 🙂

As you know I am great collector (read hoarder) of things and hold a great believe in the idea of not buying something new if you have something that will fill its place.

The side of the house in the coolest and least sunny part of the site. I store my mushroom logs there and have wasabi and other shade loving plants. It also provided access to the back of the house and it has been a bit of disaster with a lot of water coming down and a lot of weeds needing to be managed.

So the first order of the day was to get down some weed proof material. I could have purchased weed mat but I had a lot, and I mean a lot of the bags that I get my organic chicken food in. So why not utilize them? Why buy more stuff made from petro chemicals when I already have it here and have to purchase it for what I need?

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So I laid them in an overlapping pattern and then piled on the blue metal road base and when I ran out of bags grabbed dome the old ripped tent tunnel cover I had that was not water tight enough for a wicking bed and used that. By the end of the weekend the base is down and the rest of the phase will be to compact it and then a thin layer of sand, and then lay second had bricks that I have been collecting (and using for garden beds) finally as nature abhors a vacuum I will supper seed the brick gaps with a mixture of herb seeds, roman chamomile and lots of dandelion seeds mixed with sand. Those spots in high usage area’s will remain clear the rest will produce for the bees and for us. As I go through the phases I will explain each one and why I am doing it this way.


Phase one is the road base, and it was chosen is for two reasons.

One. We have quite reactive soil and I have seen what it has done to concrete slabs in the back shed and the road base has a bit more flex in it. In a worst case scenario the bricks can be pulled up re-laid if they get too moved.

The second is embodied energy. While the breaking up and transporting the basalt for the road base is intensive it pales in comparison to the amount of energy for concrete. Don’t get me wrong we use concrete and will continue to. For some jobs it is the best and most effective product but where possible we limit its use.

I also got a wicking bed in a bath ready to go and this will hopefully be completed by the end of the week.

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Time to get some sleep… need to go to work to get a rest tomorrow.

Didn’t plan it so going to have to wing it.

Last year a friend gave me some amazing Sicilian basil. Big leaves perfect on a slice of bread as it had a milder flavour and was large enough that two or three leaves covered a slice of A. sourdough.

Teamed up with good cheese it was awesome.

So at the end of summer it died back to a few twigs but a lot of seeds. I put the poor sad pot at the back door with plans to put a bag over it to collect the seeds for next year. But each time I walked past less seeds where there and I forgot or got busy. It would have taken me 5 minutes to do it but didn’t…

It is a luxury in this time we are in that I don’t have to stress about it as I can always go online and find some or ask the friend again. In the future we may not be so lucky in which case I would hope I am more disciplined or one of my neighbours is. Seed saving is a skill I am more intermittent at than good at. I is a skill that I have said I will work on this year along with better propagation techniques.

But I did have an idea that sad forlorn pot was still! There maybe, just maybe some of the seeds in it?

So I am going to do a bit of an experiment. I covered the pot with a light dusting of good potting mix and chucked it in a tub it allow the water to wick up. It went into my new propagation hot house. What is the worst that could happen? Some weeds grow? Chickens can eat those.

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It got me thinking that now is the time to work on skills and experiment now, build for a future where at the very least everything we do will become much more expensive and learning very unusual skills harder as $200 flight to another city to do a course becomes a $500 train trip or $1000 plan ride.

It is a reason my garden beds are mostly made with recycled blue stone blocks or bricks they will last forever and can be reused over and over again with little to no additional fossil inputs.

So as i have said before go out there and skill up, But I add to that go out there and experiment as well!

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Are we all making it easier to do nothing at all?

So I have been quiet again… nothing new there … (or NO news there 🙂 )

And have been contemplating why?

I had a think on father’s day as sick number 2 child was sleeping in the sun next to me and came to the conclusion I have been my own worst enemy in a number of ways recently. I have been looking at what I have been doing and going well that is not blog worthy, that is not environmental ‘enough’ and worst of all comparing. I think that other person is doing everything so much better than me. Look they are living in a yurt made of their own hair and fuelling it with their own dried dung while living entirely of raw foraged food…


Perfection is a dangerous, dangerous thing. It can easily paralyse us and make us look at what we are doing and says I can’t compete with that and simply give up. It is something those of us interested in a better world need to consider. Often near enough is a damn side better than not at all!

I think looking back on it that has been an issue with me over the last 6 or so months. Recently however I have had a couple of the shining examples that have held themselves out as the saviours of various parts of the world and I have been comparing myself to start to look not so perfect after all.

They don’t look bad, not even poor, quite good actually but not perfect.

It has made me consider that we all do what we can and judging yourself to harshly is counterproductive. I lost sight of why I am doing what “I” do and lost my own direction. So I am going to get back on the horse and live by the old motto below.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are, when you can!

Now amusingly as we speak of full circles. Sunday was father’s day and strangely enough I had a ground hog moment when I realised that last father’s day I worked on my mini seed raising hot house and again I did the same thing this year. 

The unit last year worked ok but had a few serious faults and lead to some losses so I wanted to do something a bit different and easier to use this year.

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So it has had an upgrade with recycled windows replacing the builders plastic and it now has much better access as the two windows at the front are hinged which will mean I can see everything and easily access the seedlings to manage them and check on them (which is a major cause of failure last year).

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I have moved it so it is not in the way but close enough and easy to get to keep an eye on it.(we live in this house it can’t just be my green playground)

I was lucky and have been harvesting the hard wast for a while and it made of repurposed material,  an old shelf I found, some old shower screens for the ends, and windows I picked up as hard rubbish, even the boards are from a pallet I found. Only some of the screws are new.

In the end I like making stuff up from what others in our society perceive as no longer useful the environmental aspect is important but anyone using a cheap commercial mini hot house from Aldi or Bunning’s is still doing more for the environment than those who poo poo the purchases of such items on environmental grounds and do nothing.

Again do what you can with what you have! If I worked out all the environmental background noise of my cordless drill I used to build my mini hot house if I had only bought one for occasional use then the cheap plastic seed raising hot houses looks very good in comparison (no Congo gorilla parts for a start in the battery components or slave child labour to mine those materials)

To me not wasting that is the primary driver. Not spending $60 or $100 is a good thing as it allows me to utilise that money in a far more environmentally effective ways in the rest of my life style.

But as I don’t get to make stuff in my challenging white collar job it is kind of cool to make it myself which is as good a reason as any.

As you can see I still need to seal a few gaps and add some latches but it is a working unit now and will be for a number of years if I look after it.

Even without those steps I can now start to plant up some seeds and get into the doing what I can part for the coming spring.

A quick question. When was the last time you read about a complete failure on a blog by the blog poster? Something I need to rectify myself on this site from now on. I screw up recipes and other projects all the time and learn from them.

Expect to see some failures documented in the future. 🙂

Gross Amounts of Inspiration

Well despite having only just caught up with sleep, being part way through a 15 day juice detox and getting back to a busy week of work I am still buzzing from my last weekend and start to the week. I went to the amazing Milkwood Permaculture Institute up in Mudgee to attend a natural building course.

I will not go into details of the building process as I think it is only fair for Milkwood to publish the detailed steps in their excellent blog (they allready have an overview of the build so jump to their site and have a look once you have finished reading this post) which I would strongly recommend that people sigh up for.

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Suffice to say I had a great 4 days we built a rubble foundation, stacked bales, built a reciprocal roof, rendered the outside with lime render, the inside with clay render and put second hand timber on the roof in preparation for a earth roof they are planning (we didn’t quite get onto this but that was no biggie)

My brain was fried by the sheer volume of information and the professional builder who was the instructor gave us amazing amounts of information and was so generous with his knowledge it was ridiculous.  

But it was more than the course. Being at Milkwood showed what can be done. As Sam the builder said ‘Many talk the talk, these guys walk the walk’. We did a quick site tour and the knowledge and skill and the understanding is everywhere. From the management of water to energy to food production. All done with a level of practicality I don’t often in people who are out to change in this area.

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The people on the course where great and everyone got a chance to try everything as well as get good sound theoretical knowledge and ask as many questions and discuss options.

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We ate incredibly well (most of it from Milkwood) and sat outside and watched the stars, drank tea, planned and chatted as a group.

Even the 11 hour drive home and a couple of hours sleep before heading to work, worked out well. It gave me the time to sort through the info I had in my head and idea’s I need to get into. And boy do I have a few idea’s.

I have already put in more winter vegies and am looking at the hot house glass going I have to get this going now. I have to get the new chicken pens sorted. And a host of other things to keep me entertained.

It is still unlikely I will ever get a consensus for a move out country and build something as grand as full sized sustainable house and permaculture life style block 🙂  At the end of the day I do see a reno of my place in the very near future and a weekender where I can put in more food forest and my own zone 4/5 and build of a  small place to stay in. Probably a lot like the one we built up there. The reciprocal roof is such a thing of beauty I couldn’t not have one on any building I built.

I also gained a huge amount of knowledge about what to do with my place to get it more efficient. So I will continue to dream and will most likely be back to Milkwood to do more courses. I will also still keep working on getting the most out of my little urban block. After all not everyone can have acreage in a finite future and being able to do what I can in the suburbs is the most important thing.

Oh and one last thing. I got to see the mythical upside down fire in action. And yes it definitely does work.

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