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Showing posts from 2016

Blogoversary and time for a Christmas break

Well I can't believe I have just past 6 years writing on this blog!  I've been taking some time lately to go back into the archives and update old posts, and I really enjoy reading what I wrote back then, seeing how much I've learnt on some topics, and how much I've forgotten on others!  I'll keep reposting them as I work through them.




This year I've seen some good bloggy friends stop writing, which has been quite sad (I miss them even though I've never met them!).  Ohio Farmgirl who has blogged for years and has a wealth of information on self-sufficiency, particularly butchering pigs and just general common-sense stuff about growing your own food, has stopped blogging, but at least can still be found on facebook if you know where to look ;)

And Our New Life in the Country, which I enjoyed mostly for the sweet doggies, but also more common sense chats about gardening, chooks and downsizing, has announced her last post.

There are more that have not official…

Planting seeds or seedlings?

Its taken me a little while to learn this, but I think I've now figured out which veges to sow directly in the soil as seeds and which to raise as seedlings and then plant in my garden, so I thought I'd share with you what has worked for me so far.

At first I tried to plant everything as seeds directly in the garden, but I wasn’t happy with the results, too much work to thin the seedlings and some didn’t sprout at all.  So then I tried raising seedlings, it took me a while to realise that I needed to use a good seed-raising mix, and I prefer to use toilet rolls than the seedling trays that bought seedlings come in.  I wrote more about raising seedlings here.

Then I decided that I wanted to grow root crops, and they don’t transplant well, so I had to think about how to do this.  I observed that tiny brassicas were popping up through the mulch, and they must have come from the ones that I’d left to go to seed.  Previously I had thought that seeds couldn't sprout through the …

Three simple ideas: Learn basic skills

Lately I've been sharing with you simple ideas for getting started with simple living.  As many of us have discovered, simple living isn't simple, certainly when you're getting started, there are lots of new skills to learn and its important to find a routine that works.  I've already shared simple ideas for growing your own food, and for saving money on groceries.  Then I wrote about ideas for cooking from scratch.  Now I'm thinking about some basic skills that you can learn that will help reduce what you need to buy.





Simple: learn to knit, crochet and sew
The best way to learn to knit or crochet is to find a willing tutor.  Failing that, youtube has some wonderful tutorials to get you started (here's my knitting and crochet posts).  Start with something simple so you don't feel like giving up when it doesn't work out.  Knitting and crochet are the cheapest options, as you will need a sewing machine to get started on sewing, but look for secondhand, lot…

Water the garden while you're away (2016 update)

This is a method that I use in hot weather so that I don't have to water every day.  With the holiday season coming up, the hardest thing about going on holiday is leaving my garden, particularly in hot weather, as I worry that it will dry out and all my hard work will whither and die.  We pay someone to come and check on the animals, but as we use grey water for the garden, if we're not home, there's no water to use on it (and we're not going to waste our good drinking water!).




The solution came in a post from Emma at Craving Fresh.  She uses beer bottles full of water and pushed into the soil to keep it moist between watering.  I tried it the first time just before I knew I was going to be away for a few days.  Pete was going to be home, but not sure if he would get time to water, so I placed beer bottles full of water next to my favourite plants, just in case.  It was very hard to choose which plants received a beer bottle though, they are all so precious!  I set it…

How to save seeds - a 2016 update

I love being able to keep seeds from the vegetables I grow.  Some people get upset when their plants bolt and go to seed, but I'm happy because it means I'll be able to save the seeds and sow some more.

I have saved seeds from beans, capsicums, lettuce, mustard greens, tomatoes, parsley, basil, broccoli and spring onions, as well as flower seeds.  I keep the seeds in little jars from my Damadi moisturiser and have a cupboard full of tiny jars.  I also keep the little sachets of desiccant that come with shoes and other products and drop one in each jar to keep the moisture out.

Saving seeds from most plants is easy, just let them flower and wait for the seed pods to form and dry out.  A few tips for some of the seeds that I regularly save:
Beans and peas - I just leave some large beans on the plant and wait until they're yellow and dried out.  Tomatoes - best to ferment the seeds (that's why they do so well in the compost!). Capsicums - I just scrape out the seeds, let t…

Farm update - December 2016

Even though its still spring, November is more like Sprummer here, we usually start to get hot days, if not absolute heat waves.  We had no rain at all until the last few days of November, so the grass went from a pale green, to a crunchy dusty brown in no time.  Its really difficult to maintain any motivation in the garden when you can see it withering before you, and all the animals look hot and uncomfortable.  Except for the dogs who have been going for swims to cool off.




Food and cooking
Pete and I took a long weekend and drove down to Sydney to visit friends.  We drove because they had some things that they wanted to give us, including portable solar panels and an overlocker.  When we travel we have a habit of stopping to buy food, and on this trip we managed to find a cherry farm (I'm still eating through the 3 kg of cherries that I bought!) and a goat cheese dairy farm.







Land and farming
Apparently there was a butterfly invasion in November, they had a great year "out wes…

Harvesting water for the house and animals (2016 update)

When I first wrote this post back in 2011, Queensland had too much water, but usually water is very precious to us.  Being in a rural area, we rely on our own rainwater supplies for drinking water and septic to treat our sewerage.  I’m quite happy with that arrangement, as it means we don’t have to drink the unnecessary levels of fluoride and chlorine in town water.  It also means that we have to ration our own water supply when the weather is dry and consider everything that we put down the drain.  I feel sorry for people in the city having water rationing forced on them through water restrictions, we just have to be responsible for our own use.  The funniest thing is that my first reaction now when it rains is to put on several loads of washing so that the water isn’t wasted by running out of our full tanks (luckily we have plenty of space on the verandah to hang it to dry).

At our previous property we also had two large dams.  We used the water from the dams for the steers, the chic…

Getting prepared

A while ago I wrote that I'm not a prepper, but we do like to make sure we're prepared.  I mean I don't spend all day considering doomsday scenarios and on the lookout for zombies, but I do know that we are at risk from floods and storms some years and bushfires other years, so its good to have a bit of a plan in case disaster occurs.  This post is about how we plan to provide our own energy, food and water needs if SHTF, whether is for a few days (last year we had no power for three days following a summer storm) or indefinitely.

The prepping tendency is possibly also because I grew up in New Zealand, where its normal to stockpile bottles of water and have a "bug out bag"!  I remember seeing instructions like the image below in the phonebook when I was a kid.  The recent earthquake is a good reminder to review your preparations.


Energy
We primarily need energy for keeping food cool, cooking and heating the house in winter.  While we were very tempted to build our…

Guest post: Three Things To Ask Yourself Before Getting Backyard Chickens

It’s not hard to see why backyard chicken-keeping has become increasingly popular. Raising chickens comes with a host of benefits — whether it be eggs, meat, or companionship. However, if you’re looking to keep your own flock, there’s a lot to know before you get started. No matter what reason drives you to get chickens, ask yourself the following questions...

This is a guest post from occasional contributor Liz Greene.  Her last post was Bee-Keeping and Happy Neighbours.


1) Is It Legal?
Poultry keeping is regulated at the local, state, and federal levels, and if your property is zoned as residential, you should expect certain restrictions. In addition to zoning regulations, you may also run into restrictive covenants — a clause in your home’s deed establishing constraints on how you’re allowed to use your property. If you’re subject to a restrictive covenant (or other homeowners association rules), you’ll need to determine if there are terms surrounding the keeping of chickens.

Don’t …

Getting started with Beekeeping: what equipment do you need?

If you're thinking about getting bees, you might be looking at all the equipment in the beekeeping shop (or website) and wondering what you actually NEED and what is just nice to have.  We were lucky to buy a lot of gear pretty cheaply from an older commercial beekeeper who wanted to get rid of all his beekeeping gear, and we have gradually figured out what its all for and what we need to keep.  Here's what I think you need first up and what you might need in the future.




Hives and bees You are going to need at least one hive box and if your hive is productive you will need to give them more space in the form of a "super" pretty quickly.  In Australia you typically buy a nucleus hive or "nuc", and depending where you buy it, you may need to provide the nuc box as well (more info on buying bees).  You will need enough frames to fill your boxes (see building frames and wiring frames here).  This is assuming that you've decided to use Langstroth hives and th…