Since we started our Permaculture challenge last May, we’ve found and received quite a few useful bits and pieces that we’ve added to our garden and home. Some items have been given to us by family and friends but lucky for us, they understand and support our pledge to reduce our footprint on the planet and have given us things that are useful and meaningful.
Some of the items we’ve added have been purchased, some are hand made gifts of friendship, others are no longer needed hand-me-downs or deliberately sought out roadside collectables. The rest are refurbished, restored or reused unwanted treasures.
This year my main aim is to write about all the different things we’re doing to reduce our ecological footprint and I’ll be putting them under specific themes so it’s easier to follow. The themes are listed below and while I have the opportunity, I’ll tell you just how the items we have got from other people are fitting in with our goals.
Our 2012 themes for reducing our ecological footprint
So, like everyone else, the two biggest contributors to our ecological footprint is the food that we eat and the energy we use. Food consumption in Australia accounts for about 35% of our ecological footprint so our first theme will be all about growing your own.
Our edible garden is a Permaculture garden. We follow the Permaculture principles to achieve remarkable things in a very small space. The ethics of Permculture are consistent with the way in which we live both sustainably and ethically.
We’ve designed and created a beautiful sustainable and edible garden that is not only environmentally friendly but is providing us with vegies, fruit, herbs, native fruits and chook eggs. We grow only food we like to eat and we eat something from our garden every day by using our produce to help supplement our meals.
We’re planning on extending the garden this year and already have quite a few fruit trees waiting to go in. Last year I received a beautiful fig tree from Luke’s girlfriend Roz and a rosemary bush from Ali and her husband Ben, both in memory of my wonderful Dad Joe so they’ll have an extra special place in our Permaculture garden.
My neighbour Vicki doesn’t have a vegie garden but she didn’t hesitate to bring me back some parsnip, broad bean and sage seeds she got from a Seed Saving group in Albury last year. So when these produce, she’ll be the first to receive some of the goods.
We’re also working on a nursery where we’ll grow all of our own seedlings and cuttings and where we can store all our garden related stuff so it’s accessible and out of the weather.
2 Sustainable food includes growing your own, cooking from scratch, vegetarian cooking, preserving food and minimising food miles
We use food from our edible garden to create delicious meals and I’m always on the lookout for new recipe ideas. Ali and Ben brought this beautiful Dean & Deluca Cookbook with them from New York and it’s full of fabulous recipes using fresh ingredients from our garden.
We’re now up to a minimum of 4 vegetarian meals per week and I’ll be sharing lots of new recipes on the blog. We’ll be looking at meal planning and why it’s important to consider where your food comes from and reducing your food miles.
3 Saving Energy
We’re forever looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption further and we hope to be able to install some solar panels this year. Following on from our participation in the Greening of Gavin’s ‘Great Kilowatt Challenge’ last year, we’ll be continuing with monitoring our electricity usage and scrutinising results a little more closely. We’ll look at efficiencies in every room, even the kitchen and will take advantage of power efficient applicances like our Fagor pressure cooker, a gift from my favourite mother-in-law Eileen.
4 Water Saving
We’re now harvesting up to 8,000L but our goal is to connect the remaining tanks so we’ll have up to 14,000L of our own water to use.
5 Creating healthy soil, composting and worm farming and reducing waste
We don’t have a lawn at our place because we live on a bush block and apart from veggies, fruit and herbs, our garden is strictly native. But our neighbours Carl and Amelia have been giving us their fresh lawn clippings which has helped us exceed temperatures of 40° in our compost. Very exciting!
We’re continually working on our compost and have almost got the 3 bin system in order. I’ll be talking a lot about the mistakes I’ve made and how I’ve managed to just about get it right and just how important our compost, worm tea and castings are to our garden.
We haven’t put out a green bin since May last year because we’re re-recycling all organic plant material on the property and we can look at ways we’re using those materials around our home.
6 Reusing old materials, roadside collectables and hand-me-downs
We’re taking advantage of other people’s unwanted stuff like this beautiful recycled candle lantern, rescued from our last roadside cleanup by our king of frugal, Luke. Our talented friend Andy no longer has a need for his beautiful little seed raising bench so we’ve taken it off his hands and the boys spent a few hours refurbishing our old barbeque, turning it into a seedling and storage bench.
This rusty hand made ‘Chook Nook’ sign was given to us by our extended family members Andy and Tanya (and Hannah). How thoughtful to have had this custom made for us by one of last year’s Mudgee Small Farm Field Days presenters.
My work friend Col, has passed on some great unwanted treasures: 2 classic Harrowsmith Readers from the late 70’s and a pre-loved breadmaker that still works a treat. It’s interesting to read the articles in the Harrowsmith’s and although they date back to the 70’s many ideas and methods are exactly the same as those practised today.
7 Greener cleaning
Last year I discovered the simplicity of making home made soap. There’ll be a few more batches to make this year and a demonstration session for interested friends. I’ll also be trying out my first bag of Soap Nuts I got from Roz for Christmas. They’re a Fair Trade, organic, biodegradable, eco-friendly alternative to commercial detergent and I’ll be interested to see how they go.
We’ll also be continuing on with our home made cleaning products.
8 Getting organised
Our little loveheart Maddie and her boyfriend Jez gave us this hand made eco-friendly storage box and we’ve taken advantage of it’s perfect size where all our seeds and garden trinkets can be stored together for easy access.
9 Skilling up and getting back to basics
We’ll be doing some courses this year to learn some new skills and improve on others. I’m starting with a preserving course next weekend and we’re both doing a natural bee keeping course in February. And there’s a series of other interesting Permaculture modules we plan on working on throughout the year.
We’ll be continuing on with our back to basics with bread making, ginger beer production and preserving our own food and we hope to have our own Warré bee hive in production some time later this year.
So stay tuned for my next post as the ginger beer robotory begins!