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?


Does Space Matter

So I have been an absent landlord from this blog for some time now. Coming and going as I could but not there as often as I could be.

I am member of a group called the Garden Share Collective and this month’s blogs are on space.

Space has been on my mind and it seem ironic as I am currently coming to terms with the fact that I am about to have a lot less space in my back yard for my garden.

When we bought the non-hippie house hold we had 3 very lose requirements

  1. A house with lots of light (or the potential for)
  2. Gas for cooking (not very environmental but still the best option for control for me as a cook)
  3. A decent sized backyard. 8 years of living in a flat with no back yard had given me a desire to have some space for a garden etc.

So we bought the place and moved in.

Life got in the way, the decent sized back yard got over run.

When the kids came along I had really only put in fruit trees and tried a few garden beds half heartedly.

pumpkin2 pumpkin1

On finding out more about permaculture and because of the kids and desire to move to a simpler life I started to work on the back yard. A food forest was put in chicken runs lots and lots more trees. Wicking beds garden beds, perennials. All sounds good. We grew a decent amount and I foraged a lot but in truth the back yard never really lived up to its potential. Out hybrid life style of full time work, 3 kids, the changes in rainfall, multiple half started projects and the eternal war with couch and kikuyu grass meant the output was always lower than its full potential.


It wasn’t till I got bees and put in a lot more flowers and looked at rhythms and the garden had been there that we started to see yield but still the garden space never really lived up to its potential.

And now well due to a change in family circumstance the back yard has to have a granny flat for my parents in law. 50 square meters plus at least another meter all the way around and few more for access in total about 100 square meters gone.


The way our back yard is structured the space issues are exacerbated. All the sheds had to go, 8 trees had to be removed including my greengage that was just starting to kick along and flowered just before I was forced to move it.

We have also had to level out a huge section and to put in some retaining walls due to the slope.

All in all the back yard is now in a state of flux.

But flux can be a good thing. In permaculture we the objective is not really to make the best of the best but to make the best of what you have.

The addition of my parents in law adds in resilience and reduces some our dependency on the service society that is the childcare industry.

A smaller better managed back yard space and garden beds, the use of the additional vertical spaces will add yield. A smaller area will mean that harvests do not get missed and the yield is maximised. Less space to fight the grasses in.

In a probable el nino year the addition of 50 square meters of water harvest space to that back of the property will potentially help a lot

In the same way Small scale organics can win over large scale conventional it is the human factor that decides the win or lose of this outcome. Conventional farming only trumps small scale organic when the amount of labour is added in, so a smaller space more output less labour.

Don’t get me wrong there will be challenges. My parents in law come from a very different generation and have very different ideas of what is sustainable.

I have also noticed already that some pests are back as their predators where most likely in hibernation will have been destroyed by all the work and the balance of plants in the garden has been reduced particularly the early flowering small flowers which small predators such as wasp and lace wing love.

In the end the one thing we all cannot deny is there are more of us in the world and less space.

It all remains to be seen if this is true and that smaller might be as good but I think in the end you can make many things as positive or negative as you choose.


I am currently working on a new design for the back yard and after all I do have 10 more trees now to plant around in that new design 🙂

Never too Old to Start Something New.

So I had to head into work for an update to a system and was bemoaning this and the fact that the day I would get in lieu is going to be spent tearing apart the back yard I have worked on for the last 8 years. More on that latter.
I headed down to get the few items I needed from the farmers market first and got chatting to Maria a lady who is my go to person for fruit and veg. I usually look at what she has pick up anything she doesn’t have from other vendors and then head back and finish up with her and her husband’s stall.
She was telling us this might be her last time at the market as she is starting up a restaurant in the small town she comes from. Nothing fancy quite small all based around the produce they grow or the local produce from around her region. No menu just whatever is in season or she feels like cooking that is what is there to be bought.
This is an idea I have often thought of with my wife and another good friend has stated the same thing many years ago.
Maria said to me have to try now otherwise I will be too old (she is in her mid 50’s I would say) to try. I don’t want regret not having tried.
I know a number of people who have made these decisions recently and to me it strikes me having a bit of midlife crisis at 45 and watching the shenanigans of my work that this is perhaps something I need to look at. I am seeing far too many terrified people who are worried about this and jobs, financial market, housing bubbles etc. and with good reason.

But they are (and me) are missing out on taking a risk and trying something.

We are currently looking at my parents in law setting up in our back yard in granny flat. (hence the ripping apart my backyard comment) to me this is the destruction of a place I had started to get productive but it is also a chance to refocus.

Recently I have been focusing in on the negative of this happening. I am aware that an extra generation will add extra resilience to us but it took the chat with Maria reminded me that this a chance to get things moving.
The extra support will help and a lot of the back yard is underutilised with a LOT and I mean a LOT of project part done. This has left it looking messy and cluttered and less productive than it could be.
So it is time to remap the yard. Clean up (may mean a skip ) and work out what we want to do and what we want to support.
It has also focused me in on what I want to do once the gig at corporate is up. I do not want to be one of the many scared that their existence will end. What do I want to do?
It is odd that it is this time of year that refocusses me I had similar thoughts back in May 2012. Again I am feeling like a member of the spooked herd and it is time to decide if that is what I really want. Or not! I guess NOT!
Enough said time to get busy clearing up.


Still here. Still busy

Sloe to make into gin (and whiskey),

Quinces to bottle (and blet)

Chestnuts to roast.

Olives to brine

Haws to jam

Acorns for flour

Mushrooms to cook.

Autumn is treating us well.

Back when I can. FYI tend to post a few extra photos and updates on Facebook if interested.











Help needed for the people of Vanuatu

This is the price paid by the poorest for the richest (by that I mean the middle class of world) to live their life. They have not run the aircon all day so they can come home to a cool house (no electricity let alone aircon), they don’t have 10 lights on the house or waste fuel to heat parts of the house. No plastic junk for the kids each day that then kills their food in the ocean.

Keep this in mind when you decide your monthly meal out or extra latte a day means that you ‘can’t’ afford to buy renewable power or sustainable food!


I have written several posts in the past talking about our friends from Vanuatu and a couple of my blogging friends have kindly emailed me to ask if they can help them in some way. Yes please, if you can!


Vanuatu is a group of 80 islands in the Pacific ocean, many of the men from Vanuatu come to NZ to work as seasonal workers in our vineyards and fruit orchards, this is how we came to know a group of them – they worked with Roger in a vineyard and for the past four years we have got to know them and learn more about them.  A post I did for Eco-grandma aka Living Simply Free about the men we know.

The majority of Islanders are unemployed, their jobs are “gardeners” which means they simply grow their food, their homes are dwellings built from what is available on community…

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It is going to be a long trip back from the edge.

I wrote about polishing my daughters and my shoes yesterday. I did this on that night because it was to be followed by the madness of a business trip.

As I have discussed the life I have is a hybrid life (read I am working out how to get of the stupid go round). I used to travel a lot for work now I am lucky I only rarely have to.

To a degree this was a good bad trip. It was a less than gentle reminder of the madness of the world that is the current business paradigm.

Up at 5:30am and out the door at 6:30am. Driven to the airport by migrant taxi driver who probably earns less than minimum wage for the hours he works even though the trip was the equivalent value to the amount of money we would spend on petrol for a week if we stay in Melbourne. Most of the money goes to the cost of a license and the monopoly system that can drive these kinds of wages.

To the airport. Check in and the madness of waste begins. Courtesy of the fear that pervades the world post terrorist acts everything is disposable and expensive. Again prices are high but lots of young people on the casual go round do the serving. Again the money goes to the airport corporations and governments who control it.

On the plane. More disposable items (most made from plastic and too small to efficiently recycle)

A weeks’ worth of fuel used up for our car per passenger on the way up.

Off the plane more taxi fares as above but a different city.

Meeting for 7 hours with a company that ships items from all over the world to Australia (admittedly they also have a large R&D facility here and the items are not something we can easily make here in Australia)

Back across city as above.

Into the airport. More disposables and same structure of casualization of the work force. Lots of tired burnt out souls in business suites wandering around looking for something to fill in their time and keep the amused. So buying crap basically.

Back on the plane and more disposables and more fuel.

Back to Melbourne and another taxi ride (same as the others) to get me home at 9:30pm

This is the life style so many aim for and yes this was a very productive meeting that reduced several weeks of back and forth to a single day of meetings. How anyone can see this as a romantic job option is beyond me (but then again I did once) let alone the staggering cost to the world of this day times the tens of thousands of people in this country or the millions worldwide every day

The whole process is highly exploitive. I was probably the least exploited in the process and in the end I had to work a 15 hour day!

So does this mean I throw my hands in the air and give up and not polish my shoes, not barter duck eggs for chiro treatment like my wife did yesterday, or go foraging for some figs on a tree I saw in a vacant block when I got of the train last week? Or work on the gift economy?

Maybe I could stop the feeds that show me how bad things are getting with plastic in the oceans or buy a second car with debt so I don’t have to see the exploitive nature of the taxi industry and can drive myself to the airport?

In the end it is none of these things it is a day of perspective and it is simply a reminder of the fact my hybridisation process needs to speed up.

In time, this short period we live in now will be seen as                 oddity, an epoch of unsustainability, and aberration of how we should treat people.

How do I know this? Because if it is not and we continue on like this then no one is going to look back on anything!

Off to collect the duck eggs before I go to work.

As simple as polishing your shoes

I read an article recently on preparing our kids for extinction.

While some of the article I did not agree with I did agree with the idea that the feeling of we are too small to do any good rang home as true to me.

The movies, our culture everything looks for a silver bullet a great leader a great philanthropist. Some one bigger wiser better than me.

Sorry no hero to come along and save you that is in your own hands. The acts you do each day multiplied by the billions will either save you and your children’s future or damn it.

As I have children it is something I contemplate often.

So stop waiting and just do.

For me polishing my work shoes and my daughters school shoes is one of these simple acts.

If every western person bought quality shoes and polished or paid for them to be polished and their shoes lasted 50% long this would have a positive impact on the world.

I am no fool know people buy them for fashion for status for a bunch of reasons other than to walk in so let’s just say 5% do it multiplied out that is a lot of resources saved.

For now I polish my daughters shoes, in time she will learn this. She needs to even with the best I can do at teaching her she is used to if it breaks I just get a new one. That is the mantra of the world she lives in.

In time like all children of her generation she will need adaptive resilience. Darwin was well aware of the fact it was not the biggest, smartest, most aggressive of a species that survived it was the ones who could adapt the most effectively.

Teaching her this and my own actions are the biggest gift I can give her and her generation.