Monday, 7 April 2014

1/4 acre - is it enough?

We bought our lovely little house on our 1/4 acre block almost 9 years ago. It hasn't always been wonderful, but now we love it. We have 12 fruit trees, chooks, ducks, veggies and herbs, goats (which we get some milk from, but not enough) and bees on our 1/4 acre. We also have a 2 bedroom (+home office) house which has solar panels to produce our power, a waterless loo and rainwater tanks. The house is decorated the way we like it and really quite comfortable, and also has the awesomeness of our pizza oven and pretty surrounding gardens. But....

A couple of weeks ago, someone told me about a church for sale. A church on 1.5 acres that was a good cheap price. We checked it out and could picture what it could become and then suddenly, we wanted more. More space for more goats, the orchard and gardens set up better so that watering etc became easier and the chooks could live under the fruit trees. And other people put it into our heads that we would then have more room for our growing kids, who may not always want to share a room. It seemed ideal... We thought we could buy it, do it up a bit and then sell our home. But the bank said "no" because a church isn't a house and they don't like lending money for that sort of thing without us having to jump through a thousand hoops :(

But the idea of bigger was already in our heads, so we looked around. Our budget isn't huge, but we found somewhere that we thought would work perfectly (3 acres, gorgeous house that needed some work, fruit trees, shedding etc). Turned out, they'd advertised it wrong (grrrr!) and  though the price on the Internet was within our grasp, the actual price of the property wasn't.  Again, finances said no. 

Because of our budget, location, wants and needs, we're now out of options. So we're here trying to decide if we should put our home, that we really do love, on the market to pursue the dream of 'more' or if we should be content with what we have and try to make it work. 

We have a list of things we 'want' and our house fits many of them, but not ;
-three bedrooms
-wood heating (and preferably the space to grow some wood)
-room for a bigger, proper dairy goat (as well as our beloved minis)

It all boils down to space, and its hard to create space when its not there ;)

So we're thinking, thinking and dreaming, dealing with the aforementioned disappointments, trying to be satisfied with what we have and then coming back around to dreaming again.... *sigh*. I want to leave it all alone and go back to last month when this was enough. 

Solutions anyone? Or a time machine/mind eraser to take all of this back?

~~~PS I know I'm not here very often anymore - a time came when I realised that regular blogging wasn't what I wanted to do with my time, but I'm still around, reading your comments, blogs and thinking about you. I'm also still working away here and have decided that my blog can stay here for the times when I need to just get stuff out, like now~~~

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Zucchini crumble recipe

This recipe is for all of my friends who are currently drowning in zucchini from their garden - especially those of you who accidentally grow GIANT marrow size zucchini! :-) its not my recipe, but I can't credit the original recipe as I've long since lost the source, but I do love it. 

Zucchini crumble/pie filling (a dessert)

Take a giant zucchini (or several small), peel, remove seeds (if necessary) and cut into 1cm cubes. You need about 4 cups. 

Put your diced zucchini into a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until tender. 

Drain and cover with cold water for 5minutes. Drain again (I like to leave mine in the colander for 10min to really drain and cool).

Stir in the following:

1 cup of sugar 
1 dessert spoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

There - crumble/pie filling done!

The mixture tastes a lot like pie apple and makes a great dessert. Feed it to your guests - they'll think its apple (promise!). It will thicken on sitting. 

Use this to make your favourite crumble or pie and enjoy, knowing that a few more veg are ending up in your bellies, rather than in the chook bucket! ;-)


Tuesday, 11 February 2014


It's weaning day today. 
The girls - together this morning before they were separated.
I'm listening to Jorgie call across the yard to her baby. It's a different cry to any I've heard from her before- loud, desperate and so, so, sad. She isn't herself this evening. Her favourite food remains unfinished. 
Tilly is in with the chooks. Her call sounds so much like 'muuuuuuum' that I wonder whether that's where people came up with the word. 
My mind wonders back to the first times I was separated from my babies. My heart breaks for my goats a little.  
Our little buckling was wethered and sold before Christmas. The girls were sad, but nothing like this. Storm had always been a bit different and separate to the girls. 

Jorgie and a tiny Tilly, even before Storm left, they were the dynamic duo.

Jorgie and Tilly are so alike and so close. I would love to keep them together always. And hopefully, in 6 weeks or so, Tilly will be weaned and they can be together again to grow old and each have babies and be companions to each other. 
But practicality rules today. We got the goats to be milked. Tilly is sucking out a lot of milk each day. Tilly is four and a half months old, fat and very healthy. There is no way they would wean if I left them together. 
It was time. 
I can be practical, but that doesn't make that any less sad. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Photosynthesis shouldn't cost that much!!

So with photosynthesis on my mind, I called the bore man. He was a nice guy. Came and had a look at our place ("wow, you sure have a lot going on here", says he) and gave us a ballpark figure. We smiled, shook his hand and said we'd discuss it and get back to him. Then I came inside and started brainstorming alternatives!

With every one of our financial decisions, we weigh the pros and cons and decide if they are a worthy investment. The solar power for instance - it was expensive, but will pay for itself over the years and gives us green power so we don't have to support the coal fired power plants - it was a worthwhile investment. But between $7000 & $10,000 to water our plants?  I've done the sums every which way (spent some time cursing the day we lost access to the bore water we had) and I just can't justify the expenditure - even if I have to buy rainwater every year, I can't see it as a sensible investment. 

So we'll continue to be water frugal around here, and are looking at some alternative options for the garden. I'm planning to convert our four main veggie beds into wicking beds as the summer crops finish. Ornamental plants that need to be watered through the summer are going to be replaced with drought hardy plants. I'm going to invest in some good seeper hoses to gently water our fruit trees using the water in our tank that was installed for the purpose and grey water too. And we'll look into a more user friendly system for getting our grey water to the garden (there has to be easier ways than me carting it out in buckets!). 

Would love to hear from any readers with experience with wicking beds or grey water systems or other watering ideas that I might not have thought of (though I've thought of a lot!). And we'll just keep on working hard to keep the garden chugging in the meantime. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

It all comes back to Photosynthesis

A lifetime ago (or so it feels), I was a student of biology at uni.  I studied hard for four years, majoring in Botany and Zoology and finishing with first class honours in a Botany/Ecology area.  Later I studied to be a secondary school teacher.... a biology teacher.

I've always loved biology - since before I started school I loved to know how living things worked, and I remember being in prep and studying (and mostly understanding) the detailed human biology diagrams that we had hung on our toilet walls (my mum was studying nursing at the time).

I grew up wanting to be a nurse, and then a doctor.  But somewhere along the lines, I realised that plants and (non-human) animals appealed to me a lot more than human patients, and so that is where my study lead me. 

I often have people that have known me for years worry over the fact that I "don't use my education".  No, I don't work as a secondary school teacher or a scientist.  But I use my education every single day.

My teaching education is used every time I step in front of a belly dance class (or even an audience).  I know how to teach those people - I just teach a much different topic to what I originally set out to do.  I teach my children every day, and often the topics are biology related....  yesterday, we had an in depth conversation about Siamese twins (how they form, birth of twins, the genetics etc), the other day it was ecosystems in Thailand, and as a family, we are setting nutritional goals for ourselves with a good understanding of what the human body needs to function, how the parts work and why we need to eat (or shouldn't eat) certain foods.

And I use my study in my garden.  Being a zoologist doesn't make you a farmer and being a botanist doesn't make you a gardener.  But I understand all the biology and biochemistry behind my mini-farm. 

And because I have that background study I know that when my plants are droopy, they've lost turgidity in their leaves and need water flowing through their xylem to hold them up.  I know that when I put nutrients from animal manure etc into the soil that the plants are growing in, that they need water to dissolve those nutrients in order for them to be taken up into the plant and put to use.  And I know that plants absorb sunlight using chlorophyll (the green pigment in leaves) and convert it to energy through a little chemical reaction known as photosynthesis. 

The basic chemical equation for photosynthesis is:

The biproducts of this reaction is ATP and NADPH - compounds which store a lot of chemical energy that can then be accessed by the plant.

Photosynthesis is the process that gives us oxygen and reduces the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so as humans who produce copious quantities of carbon dioxide, we should love that little reaction.  As a gardener, and someone that would love to produce most of the food their family eats , I love that little reaction because it makes my plants grow and produce food.

But, and yes, there is a but, if you look at the equation, you'll notice that it requires water.  And water is something we don't have enough of here since we no longer have access to bore water, there is no town water supply here and we have limited rainwater in tanks. So our plants are having to survive on limited waterings and recycled grey water.  They're surviving, but not really thriving

So this week's big decision is to get ourselves a bore drilled.  It is expensive, potentially destructive and something we had hoped to do without.  But we have committed to our garden and living the way we do, and without enough water, we just can't do it.  We've discussed all the pros and cons, we've checked the finances and agreed that this decision won't make us richer, but then I think about it all again as I lug out buckets of water from the house to my precious plants, and I realise, sometimes, it all comes back to photosynthesis.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Making me smile right now

  1. The vertical garden that my mum made me from recycled materials for Christmas.  Growing beautifully in the courtyard, filled with herbs and a few flowers.
  2. My amazingly pretty garden clogs that Stu and the boys gave me for Christmas.  Comfy, practical and bright!
  3. Our bee box, the cat who naps there and the beautiful buzzy creatures who quietly go about their work throughout the garden (and the thought of honey.....)
  4. Huge sunflowers that sowed from chook food in my veggie garden that make great food sources for my bees.
  5. They also make fabulous supports and provide some sun shelter for the climbing beans that are in the garden with them.
  6. Goats who love to eat the sun damaged apples - even though they are way too big for her to chew!
  7. These kids, who love their homemade knight gear and wooden swords so much.
  8. Little kisses from Tilly who is now 4 months old.

Hoping our sunshiney, smiley things make you smile too xx

Thursday, 21 November 2013

News from our mini-farm

It's been ages... I know.... But we're still here!  I thought I'd write today as I've had a typically crazy day and it seemed worth sharing. 

My morning started before 7, out in the yard, milking the goat. It's been a steep learning curve over the last month for Jorgie and me, but we're getting there. What started four weeks ago as a hand milking of about a shot glass full of milk has become a hand vacuum pump milking machine and about 400ml a day. It's not enough milk for cheese and yoghurt and baking, but its enough for drinking and it tastes a-mazing!  

After breaky, there was sourdough to start and some odds and ends with the boys. They turned 9 last week, you know? My baby boys are growing up way too fast!  They had a pupil free day today and spent most of it playing with birthday presents, but they did come and help collect a bucket full of willow for the goats. 

At about 10, I had to walk the goats. We wander up the road a bit and I let them munch on various weeds along the way. Our baby goats are growing quickly too. They're seven weeks old now and growing so fast!  They were disbudded at two weeks old, and we wethered Storm this week (poor little guy). We've found lovely local buyers for him too which is both fantastic and terribly sad. We always knew we couldn't keep him, but we'll miss him terribly when he goes. 

My afternoon was filled with baking, tutoring my 17 year old brother and belly dance work. I've been back teaching kids classes this term and absolutely loving it, and I've also recently been lucky enough to perform a few times, including once at our local Ishka store - so much fun!

I cooked us a yummy dinner, which, like every meal at the moment, featured broad beans - our massively glut crop at the moment!  After tea, I geared up and visited a friends place with Lachie to undertake our first duties as new beekeepers!

We've bought a hive and are 'rescuing' a beehive each from walls of buildings. The bees would have had to be killed if they didn't have a home, and Sharon and I are both very excited to turn our hand at apiary. Sadly, we can't find a local teacher, so it's down to lots of research, some common sense and a lot of making it up as we go along. All went well tonight and we have one hive in a box with no stings and only a few dead bees. 

And now, I'm chilling out with a glass of home brew, taking the evening off. 

So life is good here!  How are you?