For those who have asked for news about me.

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fruit tree raised beds

Hi all

Now that it’s a bit cooler, I feel a bit better, a bit more energetic to do heavier work.

So I’ve started changing the mounds, now overgrown with grass, to raised beds. I’ve done three now.

This is how they looked before:

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(This picture is of the next mound to do, with a Pecan nut tree that is struggling.)

Then I cleared the grass and put the edging and filled up the new raised bed with soil:

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(This picture is of the third bed I did with a Jackfruit. On top of the mulch I put large rocks, which will absorb heat in the day and release it at night. This is important for our winter where the temperature can get below 5 degrees centigrade, which the Jackfruit does not like.)

Then added lime, rock dust, ash and egg shells and watered it, keeping a basin around the base of the tree to hold water, so it can seep to the roots:

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Then put wet cardboard then mulched:

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(This picture is of the second bed I did with a Pomelo, the largest citrus known. Afterwards I applied organic treatments to control the scale and their friends the ants.)

Lastly I had to level the dirt that was left around the new raised bed.

Phew! It took a bit out of me and have to rest a few days before continuing, due to my post-viral fatigue.

Best wishes

Masonry Heater Update

Hi all

Now I am publishing updates that are mainly educational, I think most, to my academia page. If there are any that are not particularly educational, then I’d post them here.

Here is the most recent news update on my masonry heater, probably the most efficient wood (renewably) fuelled heater known to man:

https://www.academia.edu/31767825/20170308_masonry_heater.pdf

 

best wishes

 

propagation

Hi all

I have a backlog of photos to upload, for various posts, but I decided to upload these straight away rather than add them to the backlog and make it bigger.

I got three of these trees free from Logan City Council to plant on the property:

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I got 10 Brazilian Tree Fern (Shizolobium Pahayba) seeds from a friend and got five to shoot which I’ve planted around my shed for future shade.

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Following are the seedlings I’ve grown: (lemon grass, Ethiopian cabbage, which is an ‘open’ cabbage, some local tea trees, Bunya Pines, more local tea trees, pigeon peas and assorted others).

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That’s it for now.

best wishes

Other news from the garden

Hi again

I continue to make sauerkraut, which is a probiotic food. Once my aquaponics system is set up, I may be using home grown cabbages. This is my latest batch just after preparation and after a couple of days, having topped it up with brine and you can see fermentation has started via the bubbles on the top.

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I give free honey and native bee workshops each month. This is one of my native bee hives that I am ‘budding’. That is a method of reproducing the hive. You put a pipe from the entrance of the established hive into the back of a new box and move the established hive back, putting the new box in the established hive’s original place. Thus the bees have to go through the new empty box to get to the established hive and they usually decide to build a new hive in the new box. This method takes longer, but is less traumatic to the bees.

budding-a-native-bee-hive-2 budding-a-native-bee-hive

This is the north side (warm winter side) trellis with the Madagascar bean (7 year bean) giving shade to the Flow Hive and some of the harvested beans. I’ve planted this bean on the south side trellis and plan to replace this north side one with grapes.

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Here’s me and the Flow Hive.

tu18oc16-bj-eurob_flohiv-loganvil

that’s it for now

best wishes

 

aquaponics progress

Hi all

An old acquaintance came to visit and helped me on the next step of my aquaponics project and with some mulching. I needed the help of another person to fix the frame of the aquaponics dome, so that’s what we did. It had been sitting unchanged for a couple of months.

The PVC pipe had to be pushed over the top of the star pickets. I needed the extra weight of another person to do this. First we took the PVC pipe down, then tried various ways to get the pipe over and down the star pickets to be stable enough. I decided that 20cm would be enough. The star picket corners were digging into the PVC and getting stuck. In the end we put masking tape over the star pickets and then put petroleum jelly on them. Lastly  I put the top bar on, which helped make sure the dome top was level.

I have a section of a large PVC sign (pictured above) that I intend to use for shade from the hot summer western sun. It will go from the top bar down the western side and I’ll roll it up in cooler months. Now I have to put a pin in through the PVC and the star picket to ensure the PVC pipe does not slip down the star picket with the weight of the shading material.

It was suggested to put the fish tank (an IBC that I have already prepared) partially underground to help stabilise the temperature, but rather than do that, I think I’ll buy bales of mulch to surround it.

This area was going to be a poly dome for veggie beds and I was going to put fruit fly mesh over it all. Since I changed the plan, I realised I only needed mesh over the actual growing beds. I want bugs to get to the top of the fish tank, where I’ll have a solar light at night to attract them.

I also got more PVC pipe from a neighbour – one complete ring and I joined the ends and placed it in the dam. I was wondering if the pipe would float, as it seemed quite heavy, but it worked like a dream. I moved the water jet, recirculating and aerating the dam water via the solar pump, so the water landed in the PVC circle. Then I seeded outside the circle with duck weed, which will be food for the small mozzie eating fish and the turtles (and eels?) in the dam and the fish in my aquaponics system, once it’s set up. I have a separate batch of duck weed as back up.

Next I have to get the other two IBCs to make the three grow beds, the gravel for the grow beds, the electronics (pump, aerator), Besser bricks and planks as the base and the plumbing. Once the system is set up, then the plants go in and lastly the fish.

Murray Hallam is not far from where I live, though I haven’t been to his place his 3 DVD have been very helpful. To keep the water warm in winter, I intend to follow his advice and pipe the water through a large compost heap.

Best wishes

Food Forest

Hi all

Just letting you know some of the progress which really lead up to the Sustainable House Day event.

There is an ~5m x 75m strip along the back of this property, which was just grass and weeds and was hard to mow, because of the cones and roots from the pine trees. The soil is also acidic from the pine needles and the pine trees suck up moisture and nutrients. It is on the western  boundary.

The development coming to our back boundary is called Yarrabilba. They said there will be a 10m buffer zone, in which they will promote native trees and cut down the pine trees. Of course, there always seem to be pros and cons for everything. I mentioned the cons of the pines, but the pros I can think of are: shade from hot summer western sun and the white and native black cockatoos eat from the pine trees.

The developers says they will build a 1.8m high fence along the boundary, which is great because with our ~1.2m high fence 5m in, that whole strip ~5m wide and ~75m long, could be a daytime free range chook run. I just have to fix up the two ends.

With this in mind, I decided to make a food forest there and planted fruit and nut trees with wire around them. This initially protected them from the kangaroos, but now that the development has started full blown, they are no more. Once the trees are established, the chooks can clean up the fallen fruit.

This is basically what it looked like before:

zone-before

except you might see some mulched natives in the middle. I saved about 20 leptospermum saplings, common name is Jelly Bush, from the development land, before the big trucks came in to remove vegetation and top soil. Honey from this tree makes up about 30% of Manuka from NZ. They are in flower now (Spring) and NZ has a relative of this plant.

jelly-bush

At the far end I have planted a Bunya Pine. I have five others planted on the lower end of the property, also in a low traffic area. This tree is related to the Monkey Puzzle in South America and has huge cones, larger than coconuts, that fall after about 15-20 years. Each cone has ~100 large, date size, pine nuts.

To condition the soil, I put down used lime from my bee hives, ash from our fire places and rock minerals. Then mulched it. Here is what it looks like:

zone-after

As you can see I have only done half, because the father-in-law living in the shed, said he did not want any mulch ‘anywhere near’ his shed because it attracts termites. I have mulch right up to the slab of my shed (see note on mulch below), as it attracts termites (away from the wood in my shed) and raises me up above the wet soil in rainy times. I already had termites in my shed before the mulch.

I have planted pigeon pea, which is a nitrogen fixer, with each fruit and nut tree and put a 25lt recycled black plastic container to drip irrigate in dry times:

nitrogen-fixer

As a member of the local native plant group, I got free seed for native plants. They are native peas and acacia, which fix nitrogen and a native ground cover. They are starting to shoot along with the grass seed which the chooks didn’t eat from the compost used to make the seed raising mix.

native-seedlings

I bought 30 Acacia Fimbriata, Brisbane Wattle from Sydney Wildflower Nursery and have planted 20 of them in this zone about 2m on either side of the fruit and nut trees along with wattles that I found popping up around the property.

nitrogen-fixer-2

The mulch I got very cheaply from a local tree lopper, as it is mixed with Cocos Palm, which is hard to cut up and produces ununiform pieces, which people don’t like.  So they find it hard to sell it. I also heard it repels termites.

When the seedlings get larger I’ll plant them out. So this food forest will be a mixture of exotic fruit and nut trees and natives.

These are the food trees planted so far:

fruit: Acerola Cherry (used to make vitamin C tablets), Chocolate Pudding, tropical peach, Wampi (grape like native), Japoticaba, Tamarind, Avocado, Brazilian guava

nut: native peanut, saba (Malabar chestnut – said to be the highest producing nut tree), Bunya Pine

In another zone along the southern boundary, I’ve planted: mango, pomelo (said to be the largest citrus), jackfruit (said to be the highest producing fruit tree), pecan and macadamia.

Other food trees I have are: mulberry (at least four black ones and one white shahtoot – long thin and sooo sweet!), cherry guava, moringa, olive, grumichama, Brazilian cherry, dragon fruit, lemon, bay leaf, kefir lime, china flat peach, curry leaf, sweet leaf, neem, aibika (Qld Greens), pawpaw.

Greens and vegetables: Malabar spinach, NZ spinach (Warrigal Greens), Okinawa spinach, Surinam spinach, common spinach, silverbeet, sweet potato, pumpkins and various herbs, e.g. parsley, lemon grass, tulsi rama, various basils, aloe vera, rosemary, lavender, mint…

I mostly have only one of each tree, except for the Mulberries and Avocado, which I have planted two of, which are different types that support each other.

All these have been planted within the last two  years.

that’s it for now

best wishes

update on biogas (methane) plant for summer cooking: even though the system does not have any leaks now, the odour of the liquid in the tank seems to be infused into the gas and is seeping through the air mattress used as the gas storage tank. Therefore, I would recommend to keep it undercover but outdoors, or in a shed that is not a living space. I think I will have to move mine and may put it in an area on the north side of my shed, where bees are kept at the moment. I’m in the process of moving the bees.

 

 

 

Sustainable House Day

Hi all

I initially thought they would not accept my shed, into this national event. So I emailed them saying it was my home, but not a house and listed the sustainable features I had implemented with pictures. The response was that the committee would discuss it and they decided ‘YES’! I felt surprised.

The event was last Sunday, the 11th of September. I think only 12 properties were open for public display in Queensland. The most were in Victoria, 60, then NSW and WA with about 30 each.

I think my home was the only shed. All others that I saw were either new and flash, or fairly new retrofits.

This is the link for my shed and it was in a local paper.

Just over 40 people signed in, including 5 children.

I try to live sustainably out of compassion for future generations (conserve resources) and the current one (less pollution).

best wishes

 

Finished Rocket Mass Heater for Winter

Hi all

My long term plan was to build a cob wall and bed with rocket mass heater built in, but for now I decided to make something for this winter. I finished the day before yesterday and used it for the first time yesterday, the last day of June 2016.

I got seconds fire bricks from PGH for only $1.50 each. They weigh about 4kg each.

fire bricks 4kg each

When I rang them they said the bricks would cost $3.40 each, so I worked out that I could afford only 65. When I got there I was told about the seconds. So I could afford 100 at that price. These 38 bricks are the leftovers. So only 62 would have been enough.

The 44 gallon drum had had food stuffs in it and had a lid with a clamp. To buy one is about $15.

The grate I used was lying around the yard here.

I cut a hole in the bottom of the tank for the loading bay (above the grate) and air intake (below the grate). This is designed so I can use a brick as a door for the loading bay.

loading bay and air vent open

Then I started to fill the drum with bricks. I wanted the bricks to protect the drum from direct fire as much as possible and to have gaps for air to circulate as much as possible.

burn chamber

burn chamber a

I put steal pipe on the top to stop the fire directly hitting the lid or going through the chimney, but air can get around it.

burn chamber b

Then I cut a hole in the lid for the six inch (150mm) inner chimney pipe and cut a star in the hole to fold one flap forward and one backward around the base of the inner pipe. Then I put a couple of screws in to secure it.

chimney 45 deg bend 6inch connect

Then I used the sealant from the fireplace shop to glue it.

sealant

chimney 45 deg bend 6inch seal

The only pipe I needed to buy was the 10 inch (154mm) and 6 inch (150mm) 45 degree bends. The rest of the pipe (2 m x 6 inch and 10 inch pipe) I got from my neighbour a few months ago, when he had his fireplace repaired.

Then I cut the hole in the wall for the 10 inch pipe, placed the 10 inch bend and pipe, fed the 6 inch pipe down the 10 inch pipe, connected it to the 6 inch bend. I put some screws through the lid to position the 10 inch pipe and sealed the pipe to the lid.

chimney 45 deg bend 10inch connect

This is the outside view of the chimney, which I have to make a cover for, to stop rain and wind entering directly.

chimney end

Then I sealed around the 10 inch pipe and the outside wall.

chimney outside

The next day I checked that seal and added a bit more sealant to where I could see light coming through.

The first burn was not successful. It went out before the larger fuel could get alight. Then I thought of putting starter fuel (pine cones) up the burn chamber, so there would be more cinders and that worked.

That’s it.

I hope you get to do this kind of experiment yourself sometime.

Best wishes

 

Update:

I need to enlarge the loading bay, so I can put more sticks at one time, but still be able to close it with a brick or something. I had a 15 lt bucket of sticks, that took me about an hour to load. The mass half warmed up and after three hours, sometime shortly after 9pm, when I went to bed, it was still warm.

I had to resist the temptation to collect larger branches to use, which I felt myself tending towards, as they would produce lower burn temperatures.

small branches

 

Fridge upgrade – more sustainability

Hi all

This is a much smaller update than what I was planning.

I was in an accident with my scooter on Wed. 11th of May about lunch-time. Fortunately, no other vehicle was involved and I only suffered minor scratches, bruises and concussion. My scooter was written off, which surprised me, as it seems to only suffer the same. Maybe the concussion was much more serious on the scooter side. 🙂

I have finished by ‘above ground cellar’. I thought to call it either that or ‘ground cooled fridge’ and chose the former on suggestion of Chris Downes, a friend who gives a hand now and then. The reason being, ‘fridge’ would give an impression of much colder temperatures, where I was expecting 24 degrees year round.

I originally had an approx. 240  lt fridge freezer. Then I downsized to a 120 lt bar fridge freezer, through simply a bit more discipline on the food side. Once I installed my 500 lt above ground cellar, I could downsize my 120 lt bar fridge freezer to a just-under 50 lt bench top fridge freezer.

I intend to change to a solar powered camping fridge over time. I have to research that. They are chest type (top loading) rather than front loading and so I think would be much more power efficient.

These are the pics:

~500lt ‘above ground cellar’

fridge 500lt

Later I thought that using a large freezer might have been better, as I would not have had to cut out the dividing floor/ceiling. That gave me another shelf and was necessary, as I wanted the cool air to enter at the bottom and warm air to exit at the top. More pics to come on the installation process. It cost near to $1000 all together.

~250 lt fridge freezer next to my brother’s solar hot-water tank.

fridge 240lt

The 120 lt bar fridge freezer I had (fuzzy pic):

fridge 120lt

The 50 lt fridge holds, milk, butter, cheese, tomatoes, broth from cooked bones (recommended by doctor), fish when I buy it (once a week), cooked sweet potato (now from my garden, see picture under fridge), kefir water probiotic, juice when I buy it (about every 3 weeks) and hummus. Other things are stored in the above ground cellar, including Kombucha probiotic and some dried things are stored in a small esky. Unfortunately the energy rating is very low on the new fridge freezer.

fridge 50lt

Huge sweet potato with ‘head’, first sweet potato crop from my garden. I think it weighed 2kg. I put the cuttings in July 2015 and didn’t bother to check till May 2016. So I don’t know how long this particular one took to grow.

sweet potato

That’s it for now.

best wishes

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 580 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 10 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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