Reward For Effort

It has been over two months since I put some gardening pics up.  A lot has changed in that time.  Summer has been, wreaked havoc, and gone.  A warm and milder Autumn is progressing.  The plants have breathed a sigh of relief and are putting in extra effort to do their thing.  Thankfully.  If only it were forever Autumn or forever Spring.  But no, that wouldn’t do either.  The four seasons are necessary.  Just as long as they don’t become continuous Summer, which for those who haven’t been paying attention, is a distinct possibility.

Since I tend to forget what I have planted and where, as soon as I have done it (don’t have time for labeling), and also because I planted some unusual varieties,  I have had a few pleasant surprises in the past few weeks.  That’s always nice.

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I haven’t grown corn before so I am not sure when to harvest but judging by these ‘ears’, ‘cobs’, or whatever they are called, it is getting somewhere near time to do so.  This is a Balinese variety.

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The  Yacon, with sweet edible tubers, while it isn’t as tall as it should be, looks healthy and I expect to get a good harvest from its tuberous roots before winter sets in.

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Tomatoes are still ripening but mostly finished now.  I expect to replace them with a more seasonal crop soon.  Also, you will notice that I have removed (well, almost finished removing) all traces of grass from the garden, replacing it with straw.  a) that will cut down mowing time, and b) I hope to reduce the amount of mud and dirt that I trail through the house this winter season.  Although that may be a forlorn hope and I may find that I am making trails of  both mud and straw.  Such is life.

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Garden greens and beets.  Plus, because I allowed my ‘Freckles’ lettuce to go to seed, there are lots of little seedlings beginning to appear.  Hopefully they will mature while the weather is still mild.  I must plant some more Asian greens too, since the ones that were there have all been eaten away.  There seems to have been a plague of grasshoppers this year.  I am not sure if that is just in my garden or a more general infestation.

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The cucumbers, while they seemed to be flowering for a very long time without doing anything else much, have recently begun to produce profligate quantities of fruit.  I also planted a variety of Apple Cucumber this year (one of the things I forgot about) and was completely surprised when these round things (pic below) appeared.  They don’t have a strong taste but are very tender and watery (juicy?).  I will definitely be saving seed from these.

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Apple cucumbers invading my Rainbow Chard.

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I have not (successfully) grown Sunflowers previously.  These ones are supposed to have edible seeds in flower heads that can be up to 40cm across.  They were sun-effected or heat-effected while still tenderly young and so have begun to mature quite late in the season I think.  They may not reach their full potential but I remain hopeful to at least obtain some seed for future years planting.

Just on sun and heat effects, I have ordered both sun and frost protection materials, yet to arrive, which I intend to use with framework that I will construct (there’s always something to do to try to make things better) over the next few weeks.  I will report on this some time later, I hope.

Another task yet to be completed is framing up the rest of the garden.  There are large areas that I have not so far been able to utilise due to undefined edges.  Every square inch must become gainfully employed in food production.  So much to do.  So little time and energy (well, energy more than time).

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Look at those beautiful dark green leaves.  Full of nutrition and beneficial substances.

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I know, I know, it’s time I started mowing grass again.  It is not easy to see what is Goji berry bush and what isn’t, here in this pic, but I am so please that it is coming on so strongly.  There are still a few flowers and I was surprised to pick half a dozen fruits earlier this year.  So different fresh than the dried fruits available commercially.  It can only get better.

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I’m cheating a bit here.  This picture was taken in February but I haven’t published it before, so not really cheating.  I was surprised to find a blossom on my Passionfruit or Pomegranite bush (I can never remember which without looking it up).  It fell off in the wind without producing fruit but is a good sign for future years.  I would rather it put its energy into growing big and strong anyway just now.

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More Apple cucumbers in a wicking box.  This is the first time I have grown anything in a wicking box.  They seem to be smaller and the leaves are a lighter green than the ones in the garden but I think they all came from the same seed packet.  Interesting.

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Beginning to look a bit more like a garden now.

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Even the shrub garden, which suffered quite badly through the heat (I think I have lost a few plants), is beginning to show a hint of colour now.

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Some recent produce from the garden.  Forget the beans, they are just there for seed saving, not eating.

Finally a couple of pics from February when the Golden Zucchini were in full production.

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Oh, and below is what the garden looked like in February.  A marked contrast to today.  Satisfactory progress after only two years.

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…and when I think back to when I started…

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Gardening. Yes, I Still Do.

It has been so long since I did a post on gardening (can’t bring myself to look back that far) that people may have forgotten that I still do that.  And I think that it is really important to do so.  For everyone.

This is learning time folks.  While there is still back-up in the form of shops.  The time to make mistakes, lose crops, find how to plant the right things when and where, and what to do with whatever it is you manage to grow, is now.  Now.

There will come a time, sooner or later, and it could be sooner rather than later, even this year the way things are going, when there will be no shops.  Or restaurants.  Or MacDonalds (I make the distinction MacDonalds  Restaurants, for good reason, but that’s another story) or other take-away places.  Don’t believe me?  Oh, that’s ok.  Until it happens.

Then the only way you are going to eat, unless you are growing your own food, or are prepared to steal from someone else (and I am sure there will be those), is to go out and hunt for it.   Good luck with that, when every Dick and his dog is trying to do the same.  It may work for a while, but eventually…  no more little wabbits to waste.

So, learn to grow food.  The best time is now.

Ok.  So, how’s my garden going?

Oh, just a note:  click on the caption link below each picture to see a larger version.

First, the orchard, if such it can be called.

Four apple trees produced four apples.  Well it is only one year since planting.  All four apples fell, were blown off, or knocked off before ripening.  I did get a taste of the last Cox’s Orange Pippin but it was nowhere near ready.  Next year will I hope be a different story, but with no high expectations.

The Nashi pear produced one fruit, which is still hanging in there.  You may just see it among the leaves.  I have never eaten a Nashi so I don’t exactly know how they taste or what they look like when ready.  A case of suck it and see (not literally).

It appears that I may see a few Goji Berries this year.  Well, there are quite a few blossoms currently on the plant.  Bear in mind that none of these plants have been growing for much more than a year.  The remaining plants, blueberries and I think a pomegranate (my memory is hazy on that), are going ok, but nothing to write home about so far.  The same goes for my two hazelnut bushes.  All are still hanging in there, which is Ok.  I will expect more of them soon.

I obtained a Black Muscatelle grape vine a few months ago (I do love Muscat Raisins) but I wasn’t sure where to plant it so l left it in its pot secured to the garden fence.  During a couple of consecutive really hot days before Christmas, all the leaves burned and I thought I may have lost it, assuming that the roots had cooked in the plastic pot (hope no-one reports me to the society for prevention of cruelty to plants).  I decided to plant it anyway and fortunately it has started to sprout shoots again.  A second chance for me.  I will try to look after it better from now on.

OK.  On to the vegie patch.  I am pleased to say that I had a spurt of energy today (which is probably why I am writing this) and got all of my remaining garden areas planted with sow direct seeds.  A crop of potatoes and also peas have already been harvested and a second lot of peas were planted a couple of days ago.  I planted them in the same spot because it looked to be too much effort to move all of the supports.  I will move them over winter of course or after this next crop is done, to a different spot.  I only have so much energy to devote to this and it is better served by planting more seeds.

Let’s do a roundup then.  My two Rhubarb plants are struggling.  They were too embarrassed to let me take a picture.  Each has only two leaves and half of those is only just making it out of the ground.  They were doing much better than that but bugs and heat have treated them badly.

Before I go on, let me say that I have put a huge amount of effort into the garden this year, but it is still not as ready as I want it to be and there is still a lot more to be done to protect the plants from the elements.  I think that is going to be a major factor in the future and not just for the backyard gardener.  Our global food supply, even if the globalised transport system remains intact for a while longer, is going to be greatly affected by the same two things which drive all gardeners crazy, bugs and heat, bugs and cold, bugs and flooding, bugs and drought.  Did I say it was just two things?  I obviously can’t count.  However, we have no option but to persevere, and win somehow, if we don’t want to risk starvation.  That is something that the modern citizen of the world really doesn’t want to think about.  But think about it we must.  And we must also begin to act.  To not do so, is to sign our own death warrants, whatever that old saying means.

So much for struggling Rhubarb. What else?  Well, I have some Sweet Corn growing, and some pitiful looking Capsicum plants.  While the Capsicums are at least beginning to get flowers, there is no sign so far of anything resembling that on the corn, much to my daughter’s amusement because hers do have actual corn cobs on them.  Ah well, we’ll see who laughs last.

Beans and Peas.  As I said before, the peas are a newly planted second crop and only just showing above the surface.  The seed is still from saved stock from a 2012 harvest I had back at my previous garden.  Three years old and still germinating at a high percentage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I planted three rows of beans, a different variety in each row.  The middle row have all died off for some reason.  I guess it could have been a bad batch of seed or maybe I just planted the rows too close and they were starved of water.  Anyway the others have climbed well and have lots of flowers on them.  Some pods can be seen but most are still quite small.  Oh well, I will give them time, and maybe I have learned something from this.  It is the first time I have grown climbing beans.  I have definitely learned why there appears to be a no-growth gap about a third of the way along the rows.  I am pretty sure this is because a drainage channel runs diagonally across this bed which starts way over in the distance across the grass in the photo above and then out to the boundary fence.  I think it must have been put in there to get water to a dying tree which has since been chopped down and the trench is filled with white river pebbles.  Perhaps this is sucking all moisture out of the soil above it.  Just something else to think about.  I do hope to get a nice harvest of beans at some stage.

Note to self: That reminds me that I have kilos of various types of organic beans in storage that I bought for cooking.  I did make quite a nice spicy baked bean recipe at one time but since I have been at my present place of domicile (towards two years now) I haven’t done any of that sort of thing.  I must try planting some of those and see how that goes instead of buying more expensive seed stock.

Tomatoes. I planted 38 tomato seedlings this year, the most ever. Most of them I raised from seed in my cold frame. Another first. They were from seed stock obtained from a local gardener in Melbourne.

This patch is about 6 metres by 1 metre and the plants are in two rows with about 50cm between where each plant hits the ground.  A little tight, but I had to throw away quite a few good seedling specimens that I didn’t have room for.  I wasn’t sure how they would go anyway, being from a new source.  There are four varieties and until I had planted them and filled up the available space, I realised there were no red tomatoes among them.  There are some large ones that are supposed to be pink.  Some tiny pear-shaped yellow ones.  A variety called Black Russian with a purple-ish hue, and, I think, a green variety.  Well, they are all green at the moment but I can see the four different varieties.  A few are ripening and I have tasted some of them, which I am pleased to say that so far I am happy with the result.  They all have fruit on them but have not really grown to full height yet.  Still, it is only mid-summer season.

Raised beds.  You may have seen my three sided raised bed in an earlier post.  I have recently added a 2.3 metre square raised bed, to only one sleeper height.  None of this space has been utilised so far, until today that is, except for a few lettuce that are now going to seed, deliberately being left to do so.  But today was the day.  Seed Planting Day.  And now every square inch, or at least every few square centimetres is planted with some type of seed.  Wahoo!  I finally did it.  Now I can sit back, for a while, and watch them grow.  Hopefully.

I am very proud of my nettle which can be seen at the end of the three sided bed above.  This grew unexpectedly from the soil that I bought for these gardens.  I had been looking for one for quite some time for their medicinal benefits.  They have all been killed off in agricultural areas.  There is not too much that I can do with it at the moment I think.  It is just hanging on to get through the heat.  But over winter or next spring when it is at full vigour  (hopefully nettles are perennial, I didn’t check) I will be able to extract some good stuff from it.  Nettle tea, at least, but much more I hope.

Just one more thing.  I haven’t mentioned Pumpkins.  Pumpkins, along with Tomatoes were my first success story when I first started gardening in earnest a few years ago and since then I haven’t really done much with them.  But I have plans.

I am gathering materials to build a Hugelkultur bed around in the back corner behind the water tanks.  I plan to grow Pumpkins on that mound.

Hugelkultur beds come in all different shapes and sizes but their construction all follow the same basic pattern.  This is something that I have done before and I think it is a great idea.  These beds are built on a base of unwanted dead wood (the fallen poplar tree in one of the earlier snaps which was brought down in strong winds only last weekend will do nicely to form part of that) and cuttings, left to rot away under a covering of soil, compost material and grass or straw.  The whole thing gradually sinks as the timber rots, but it can be added to if necessary.  Most plants can be planted into such a mound, which has the dual purpose of producing good soil from waste material and providing an above ground level, minimum bending, harvesting experience.  If combined with a down slope water harvesting feature such as an on contour swale (which does not have to be a huge excavation project, depending on the area covered by Hugelkultur of course, and the amount of water run-off expected).  This area, like most of my garden, is on a slight slope but I expect any overflow from my water tanks throughout the wet season will take care of any watering needed here.  I might dig a shallow trench on the uphill side of the bed but I can decide that later.

Well, that’s all for now.  Happy gardening, all.

 

 

The Land That Time Forgot

I thought I would share something useful or potentially useful and not at all grim, for a change.  It contains information, at least, that can be used for further reference and sourcing for beneficial uses.  This information should not be lost to mankind.

This post inspired by: Amazing 1930’s Pharmacist Map Of ‘Herbal Cures’ Released To Public

The Land That Time Forgot  …or nearly did.  We can bring it back, naturally …and, likely, will soon need to do that, wherever we are.

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Here is a link to a full size (readable) version of the map (you still need to zoom when you get there).

Jobs Of The Future – Tinker

‘Tinkering’.  What a great word, and one that will assume even greater importance soon.

This post inspired by: The Lost Skill of Tinkering from The Travelling Naturopath Blog

Only very old stuff can be tinkered with.  All new stuff, when it stops working (and often before that), is simply junk.

My advice is to keep hold of or seek out, any and all, old stuff.

quote-the-first-rule-of-intelligent-tinkering-is-to-save-all-the-parts-paul-r-ehrlich-56286The second rule of intelligent tinkering is to not have any unused parts left over 🙂 – me

 

I tend to use the word ‘tinkering’ a little more broadly, for anything that I need to do that I am not very good at.  Since I have no special talent for anything meaningful, I am always ‘tinkering’. curiosity-small

Also, by that definition, since there are no real ‘jobs’ any more, anyone who goes out and ‘does’ something for income, is really only tinkering with stuff that hasn’t quite yet been superseded or thrown out.

Very soon, the only way to get anything done will be by real honest-to-goodness tinkering with stuff that is still capable of being fixed and made to work.  Like the article says, “you can’t tinker with plastic.”

123728…well, for myself, not so much the hiking, but I do wear hiking boots, all day, every day.

 

The ‘Renewables’ Myth

Picture courtesy of Minerals Council of Australia  (OhMyGosh, never thought I would be promoting something from this particular organisation, but everything has some potential use)

…and this is why (well, one reason why) the world can never be 100% renewables powered.

It is also why so-called ‘renewables’ can never be called ‘sustainable’.

Just to clarify my position, renewables may have a short term (25, 30, 40 years maybe) period of usefulness by helping us (or at least giving us the opportunity) to power our society down to really low-tech, no mining, no electricity, no oil, levels of living.

Won’t that be great?  Imagine the freedom.  Providing everything we need for ourselves, by ourselves, using our own hands.  No jobs.  No mortgages.  No debts.  No central government (you can’t have government without taxes).  Great.

Striving For Low-Tech Self-Sufficiency Continues

Because I enjoy a good coffee, even though I generally only sup one cup a day, I like to make it the very best coffee that I can, within the constraints of the simplicity of plain black coffee.  That means, generally speaking, making it myself.

I buy what I consider to be the best pre-roasted beans from Jasper Coffee of Melbourne.  My favourite is their Cafe Feminino, produced by an all female co-operative in Peru, but I recently tried a couple of their latest blends, ‘Isabel’, named for the founder of the Cafe Feminino co-op, and ‘Mexican Peaberry’.  All good, but sadly, the Cafe Feminino ‘brand’, like all enterprises that start off good and pure, the sniff of success tends to draw in the ‘entrepreneurs’ and ‘helpers’ and it appears to be being taken in directions that will not do anything to enhance the purity of the concept.  In any case, getting coffee or anything else from far-flung places is not sustainable and will, with the impending failure of globalization, cease to be an option.

But, for now…

Out of necessity I recently equipped myself with a rather special hand coffee grinder, my previous one having passed its useful life some time ago.  My new grinder comes from the stable of one of the finest lineages of manual coffee grinding equipment there is, the German company of Zassenhaus.  Zassenhaus 'La Paz' coffee grinder

The model I purchased is the ‘La Paz’.  Just look at the solid, cast iron and brass build of the thing. Should last a lifetime and all of their models come with a 25 year guarantee on the mechanism.  The company began production in the late 19th century and original vintage models are now being sold as antiques.

They are not easy to find in Australia (I got mine on eBay) and are priced around five times what would be asked for a run-of-the-mill grinder in shops.
Zassenhaus 'La Paz' coffee grinderI am always looking for good quality, relatively low-tech, practical, stuff that will still work when all of the fancy electrical equipment is sitting, unusable, or acting as doorstops, after our modern slick, oil dependent society has ground to a complete standstill.

Of course I will still need a supply of coffee beans to grind, and possibly even to pre-roast at that stage.  I haven’t successfully grown any yet, but I intend to work on it.

What’s going on in my garden?

It has been such a long time since I made any real reference to my continued attempts to earn the appellation ‘gardener’, a practice or profession that many of my ancestors made a living from doing.  But that was before we all lost the art of growing stuff and spent our lives as spoon-fed babies, totally reliant on someone else for our food intake, something that many of us will come to regret and eventually die from.

The King Parrots have returned after no show for several months. Always nice to see. I feed them with sunflower seeds and pepitas at least once a day. Swallows are back too, but they are too hard to catch with a camera.

The Cox’s Orange Pippin is about to blossom. Can I hope for apples this year?

So, it is Spring again, as evidenced by the new plant growth and, in my case, the return of the King Parrots to my garden.  Well, actually it is already one third of the way through
Spring according to the official and artificially prescribed seasonal calendar that many of us live by instead of ‘feeling’ the start and end of the seasons and/or letting The Sun and Moon tell us when that happens.

I will let the photo captions tell most of the story from this point.

I have to acknowledge that the ideas for the water collection bins and the wicking boxes a few photos down, were not original.  They came mostly from the Foodnstuff blog.

The Nashi pear was the first fruit tree to blossom.

These are my hazlenut bushes. A male and female tree are required for pollinating.

A long shot of my little orchard. Four different apples, a Nashi, two blueberries, goji berry and pomegranate. There is a Fig off camera and also existing (and old) Lemon and Peach trees.

In the Vegie garden: Three rows of peas. These are a mixture of sugar snap and snow peas grown from seed that I saved from my earlier harvest, two summers ago now, in Hazeldene. So, it will be interesting to see how they produce. There are also a couple of red onions that sprouted before I could use them. I have never planted red onions before so it will be a nice surprise if they do the right thing.

In the left side vegie garden: Potatoes, and behind them spindly garlic. The garlic I really planted far too late and I am not sure they will do anything much. We will see. The potatoes are simply left over stock of various various varieties, Dutch Cream, Sebago and Kipfler, that I didn’t eat and they sprouted so I cut them up and planted them. Oh, and in the foreground are two varieties of Rhubarb which don’t look terribly happy but they have survived the winter and I hope will pick up from here.

Over Winter I captured a supply of rainwater in these garbage cans with lids upturned and a central hole drilled to let the water in.  Behind are a set of wicking boxes where I hope to grow strawberries.

The shrubbery I am creating in front of the house is coming along nicely, most things having survived the winter.

I’m pretty sure this is a Quince. It came with the house.

This is a Camelia Sinensis. The Tea Plant. Maybe one day I will be able to pick, dry and drink my own tea leaves.

For the first time ever, I am producing seedlings from seed in my cold frame, which I built four years ago now. We could still get some frosts. I am quite satisfied with the results so far since all of the seeds are over a year old and I can replace them with much newer seeds.

My herb mound. I am generally very happy with what is going on here. What are Spinach and Kale doing in a herb mound? Well, I am growing them for seed and didn’t have anywhere else to put them before winter.

The other side of my herb mound. Have you ever seen a Parsley plant looking so happy? Lots of herbs are hidden at the moment, but that will change.

Shush, composting in progress. Last year’s closest. Grass recently mown on the other side.

I have plans for all this tree cuttings and fallen branches. They will make a fine base for Hugelkultur mounds, which means I will need to get some more soil delivered.

Cute? Well I think so, and I consider myself lucky to be living here.

Come on plants. Grow, produce flowers and attract some bees and other beneficial insects.

A happy Gooseberry plant.

A happy Chilean Guava. And I am happy to see the little red currant stick behind it, is growing leaves. The mulch, incidentally, is simply fallen leaves from last Autumn, raked over the garden. With Summer coming, and a hot, dry one by all accounts, I will need to add some further protection soon.

By uploading the previous photos in this album I shamed myself into doing something about the unmown grass in my vegetable garden. Here is what it looks like now. Not perfect but an improvement. Such a lot of work to do. So little time. So little energy. Incidentally, the bales of straw and planter boxes closing off the entrance are there to deter the local wombat from getting in, until I can build a gate for that.

The Final Days

 

Pleased to share this post The Final Days from Bealtaine Cottage.  Colette O’Neill uses many of the phrases I have used in the past, and I share her sentiments.

The Final Days?  Not the final days of the world. Not by any means.  But yes, the final days of Empire, the world made by Man.  The end of our attempted domination of the natural world.  The time when we, or those that remain (and I expect I shall not be among them, at least not for long), must learn to live in harmony with that world.  Or perish, utterly.

 

 

 

Solutions – A Stitch In Time

If you wish to start at the beginning of this series, go here.

Just Suppose…

What if you found yourself in a situation of need to sew something as an emergency repair, a patch or even in the act of making something?  “Oh, I would get my electric sewing machine out” you say.  But what if there is no electric power available, whether through temporary outage, circuit failure within the home or out in the grid?  “Well, then I would use my treadle sewing machine” you say.  Oh, come on, you don’t really have a treadle sewing machine do you?  And even if you did, it has also been destroyed by something more serious like it is buried under the wreckage of your home following a tornado, tsunami, superstorm, fire, flood, earthquake or volcanic activity.  So, what now do you do?

I will tell you.  You retrieve from your readiness storage or emergency bag, your SPEEDY STITCHER Sewing Awl, and get straight to work because you were prepared for just such an eventuality.  Well done!SPEEDY STITCHER

With your sewing awl, which takes up very little space and is quite light in weight, you can perform construction, repair, patching and strengthening on materials both light and probably heavier than your electric machine would not even have been able to touch, using a genuine lock-stitch action.

This is an American product with a vintage dating back to 1909 but it is also available in Australia and I expect most other countries through outlets like eBay and Amazon.  I bought mine (and a number of other useful gadgets which I propose to reveal here) from a local online shop called Fusion Gear.  I think it was about A$22 but you may be able to find cheaper elsewhere.  I bought parts from a couple of sites because I found that the kits for sale did not always contain identical components so shop around until you like what you see.

The kit I bought came with a couple of different size needles and a full spool of white thread which appears to be unwaxed and therefore of not mush use for outside tasks.  To enhance the usefulness and resilience of this product I also opted to purchase an additional set of six different size needles and an extra spool of tan coloured waxed thread.

This is a very useful tool for emergencies such as tent repairs, tarps, outdoor clothing, or for regular but heavy duty work at home.

The thread spools are the bulkiest part of the kit but you may find that you can leave them at home base when traveling on short journeys.  There should be enough thread on the internal spool inside the wooden handle for most emergency repairs.  Or you may have a spare spool laying around that you could fill up or maybe use just a small length of dowel.

I keep my extra needles wrapped in a small snap-lock plastic bag rolled up and inserted inside the centre tube of the extra thread I bought.  Know where they are and shouldn’t lose them from there.

The actual awl fits nicely inside the other thread spool which is one of the tapered variety and hides the nasty sharp end of the needle, meaning that the awl can be safely stored ready for immediate action.

Just suppose…  you find a need for a length of strong waxed thread.  With this kit in your readiness store, that is another problem already solved.  “Why would I need a piece of strong waxed thread”?  How about to tie around your finger to remind you to buy more thread (or anything else).  Or, as I did the other day, to create a nocking point on my bow string for correct arrow positioning (but that’s another story).

Be prepared.

Note: This is an example of how I intend to work on this series from now on.  See a problem, find a solution, where possible, and give advice, if able.

Electricity Consumption

Here is a picture of my household electricity consumption over the last two years, extracted from my most recent utility bill.  This represents my total power usage since there is no gas installed at the property.

Consumption Profile

Please note that I post this merely to show that it is possible in these times of soaring energy usage where the trend is towards global planetary warming, to personally reduce our impact on the environment.  This is not to set myself up as some paragon of virtue in this regard when I fully know that is not the case      …but I am trying to limit the damage to the Earth for which I am personally responsible.

Three factors have changed over this period, which have had a marked effect on power consumption this year from the previous year.

  1. I changed my power plan from a 15% renewable energy one to 100% renewable energy around August 2011.  This means that I am paying more per kWh but I have a reasonably clear conscience regarding  my energy usage effect on global climate.  The energy supplier is supposed to purchase my equivalent energy usage from a supplier producing electricity using only renewable resources.  Yes, I know that ‘renewable energy’ is really a complete misnomer  and is just as unsustainable in the long term as fossil fuel based energy, but it is better than doing nothing except of course for reducing our energy use to only basic essential levels.  This is what the remaining changes are all about.
  2. I installed Solar Water Heating back in March 2012.  I did this even though I am living in rented accommodation on twelve month renewable leases.  I figured that if I were to remain where I am for several years then the savings in power consumption would go at least some way towards paying for the installation and even if I was forced to leave for some reason, then someone else plus the planet would still benefit.
  3. I decided not to install solar power generation tied into the national grid because I wanted a level of security around me that, should I need to move house, or for other reasons require a more mobile lifestyle, I would continue for some time at least to enjoy a level of independent, ‘portable’ power generation capability under my own terms.  To this end I have built a 1 kW, solar fed, battery backed power source that I have been able to use to take up some of my daily electricity requirements over the last 6 months or more.  It is usable even though not in a finished state at this time.  I will at some stage post a detailed review of my system and as I am not an electrician, look out for any helpful hints from others on the way it operates.

A season on season comparison of my power consumption is not easy to make because in 2011 there was an estimated meter reading in July followed by an actual reading in August, resulting in an additional consumption bar for that year.  These two bars need to be combined.  Also, of course, the differing weather patterns over the period would have had some impact.  The May quarter (Autumn) shows around a 50% decrease in consumption.   August (Winter) shows at least a 50% drop (2 bars combined).  Oct/Nov (Spring) shows not much difference.  I can’t explain why that is.  February/current (Summer) shows around a 30% drop.  Very pleasing overall, with an annual reduction of around 40% average.

Of course the cost of power has increased over that period, meaning cost to me stays much the same regardless.