Welcome to February

Isn’t it amazing how fast time passes? At least this year I can say that I have been actively working towards something, rather than coasting along hoping things will change. I have to say, it’s made a huge difference to my mental health.

I am pleased to report that the thing that I have achieved is the installation of two water tanks under the deck. Not much for some, but when you realise that they weigh roughly 100kg each when empty, and the headspace under there was less than a metre in most places, and that our annual rainfall is only around 450mm, having more tanks in place is a great achievement. Kudos to my husband for his assistance, as always. I’m not sure the plumbing is exactly code, but you can click through to see some of the pictures of the (almost) finished project.

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Christmas Wrap up

It’s the second week of January and I find myself reflecting more on 2016.

I didn’t have the horror year that seems to have been the collective experience of many via various social media feeds. Numerology didn’t deal me a dodgy hand and for that, I’m extremely grateful. I appreciate the health, security, privilege and love that I experienced in 2016. I really enjoyed our overseas trip and am so thankful that it finally happened. One, because it means that DH and I made it through the ups and downs of ten years of marriage and two, because I’m conflicted about driving my car to work, let alone travelling thousands of kilometres by plane and train.

In my planning journey for 2017, I have been sorting priorities and goals and working out ways to remind myself to live more consciously, be that in the moment or by my values. The Universe, with a little help from Facebook, gave me a gentle reminder that I’m heading in the right direction by providing this blog post by George Monbiot from 2012.

So it’s been around a while. So it’s not “current” news. But, like the best writing, it’s transcendent because the topic is so relevant and still something of which we need to be conscious.

I had a great Christmas. I spent time with my siblings, parents, friends (old and new) and we enjoyed each other’s company, as well as good food and great beach weather. And for me, their presence was present enough.

Talking the talk vs walking the walk

This blog has been sadly neglected. I guess part of that is that I’m not really into talking to myself and part of that is that I haven’t been applying myself to the farm, so didn’t really have much to talk about. But it’s a new year. And new years always stir new beginnings in me, a pattern I am becoming more aware of as I get older.

I have some new subscribers, hello! Now that I know there are people out there interested, it makes sense to me to apply more of myself to this blog as a record of who I am and what I have to share, and the changes I make in myself and the world around me. I have been oscillating; between city and farm, work and self-employment, here and there, up-beat and down-trodden. I’d like a little stability and I’m placing this blog at the centre of that. Sure, it might be a big call, but I’m nothing if not extravagant!

My list of 100 things to do around this little farm in 2017 looks like this:

  1. Build more veg beds to complete vegie patch
  2. Plan and complete keyline ploughing
  3. Plan and build roof extension
  4. Plan and build filter bed for olive processing waste into compost
  5. Build 8 compost bays
  6. Plan and build chook tractors for paddocks
  7. Plan and build greenhouse
  8. Build deck at west end of house
  9. Plan and build chook house for domestic use
  10. Plan and build irrigation for olive trees
  11. Prune olive trees
  12. Finish Whole Farm Plan
  13. Install water tanks under deck
  14. Plant vegies
  15. Get breeding stock of chickens
  16. Document the farm projects as I go (at least monthly blog updates, with photos)
  17. Plan and build fire protection system (irrigation etc)
  18. Plan and build swale and dam system
  19. Plant tree corridor
  20. Mulch olive trees
  21. Plan and implement underplanting of olive trees
  22. Install taps at each corner of the house
  23. Plan and install irrigation for garden around house
  24. Plan and build herb garden
  25. Get organic certification
  26. Get biodynamic certification
  27. Plan and implement rotational cropping system for vegie patch
  28. Plant and install wall planters that I got for Christmas 2016
  29. Sell olive oil in storage
  30. Plan and build chook tractor for vegie patch
  31. Install library/spare bedroom layout in loft
  32. Plan and build internal fences
  33. Fix exterior fences
  34. Build new entrance gates
  35. Plant perimeter trees
  36. Plan and build hops trellis
  37. Plant berries
  38. Plant bananas
  39. Plant coffee
  40. Plant espalier fruit trees about the vegie patch
  41. Get breeding stock of cows
  42. Plan and build dairy
  43. Plant citrus grove
  44. Plant avocado trees
  45. Plant more pomegranates
  46. Plant chestnut grove
  47. Plant hazelnuts
  48. Plan and complete landscaping around house
  49. Plan and complete landscaping around processing shed
  50. Rearrange bedroom furniture
  51. Get two proper wardrobes
  52. Install shelves in study above the desk
  53. Buy and install shelves for cool and dry stores
  54. Plan and build strawberry forest
  55. Plant flowers/succulents under the solar array
  56. Replace wood heater
  57. Plan and implement rotational grazing system
  58. Plan and implement rotational cropping system for farm paddocks
  59. Plan and build grain sprouting system
  60. Buy seed planting equipment for paddocks
  61. Buy soil blockers (large and small)
  62. Plan and build tool shed under deck at the western end
  63. Buy electric mesh fencing
  64. Plan and build She Shed
  65. Plan and build 3 tiny houses
  66. Plan and build retaining wall behind processing shed
  67. Plan and build retaining wall near machinery shed
  68. Make path beside processing shed
  69. Plan and build stables
  70. Plan and build new graded road through property
  71. Install bath in bathroom
  72. Install shelves in laundry cupboard
  73. Install carpet in bedrooms
  74. Plan and build cool store into machinery shed retaining wall
  75. Empty shipping container and convert to dry store
  76. Get breeding stock of sheep
  77. Get riding horses
  78. Get draft horses
  79. Plan and build cafe/store at new gate
  80. Plan and build ice house
  81. Build and landscape natural swimming pool
  82. Landscape creek path, include small bridge
  83. Landscape big rock area
  84. Plan and build natural swimming pool
  85. Create sacred grotto
  86. Plan and build temple
  87. Seed truffles
  88. Seed mushrooms under pines
  89. Clean and organise machinery shed
  90. Buy and install shelves for machinery shed
  91. Plan and build labyrinth walk
  92. Install double-glazed windows
  93. Plan and build grape trellis
  94. Plant sugar beets and make sugar
  95. Buy horse drawn carriage
  96. Buy horse drawn wagon/cart
  97. Plan and build retreat/chapel building
  98. Plan and build glamping space at small dam
  99. Buy antique armchairs for studio space
  100. Plan and build a stile over the fence to Neil’s place

There is some crossover between this list and the Business Goals list I’ve written for myself this year, but that’s another blog post. These projects are things that I’ve wanted to do for a while and I’m curious to see how many I can get through this year.

Homemade vs bulk bought household staples

I have a friend who periodically organises co-ops to purchase massive amounts of various things, including household cleaners, laundry detergent, loo paper etc. I have participated in these co-ops before and they are great value. I encourage more people to get involved with bulk buying clubs and co-ops in their area, they really do make a difference to the household budget as well as saving on packaging waste.

Recently my sister asked me to show her how to make laundry detergent which is something I used to do regularly and had gotten out of the habit. I was comparing the cost of making it myself vs purchasing through my handy, friendly co-op and realised that for the cost of the ingredients, I could purchase about four litres of laundry detergent or enough ingredients to make about 40 litres of my own. It struck me as a total no-brainer and was a good reminder to go back to making the detergent, especially as it’s really grey water and septic friendly. We wouldn’t want to kill the worms in our Biolytix system.

For those of you interested in the recipe, here ’tis:

Homemade laundry detergent

1 litre water

1 cup pure soap flakes or grated soap (I use Lux brand. If you purchase or make your own Castile soap, the detergent is also vegan/vegetarian friendly)

1/2 cup of Washing Soda (This is not bicarb soda. It’s usually found on a low shelf in the laundry aisle if your supermarket carries it.)

1/2 cup borax (this can be omitted if you like; it’s used as a stain removal booster but it works fine without)

1 10-litre bucket with air tight lid

OPTIONAL: Essential oils in your favourite flavour to scent the detergent. I usually use lavender or eucalyptus if I’m putting them in.

 

Heat the water to just below boiling in a saucepan. You should be able to see bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan, but it shouldn’t be simmering. You can also use a microwave to heat the water in a suitable container.

Add the soap flakes and stir to dissolve. Try not to agitate the mixture too much as you don’t want to form froth on the surface if you can avoid it.

When the soap is totally dissolved, add the borax (if using) and dissolve. Then add the washing soda and keep stirring. The mixture is ready when the washing soda is also dissolved and it becomes slightly thickened. You should be able to trace the path of your wooden spoon or whisk in it.

Add 15-30 drops of essential oil if you’re using it.

Pour the soap mixture into the 10-litre bucket. Add hot water to the bucket until it’s almost full, making the liquid up to 10 litres total (one litre of soap mix and nine litres of hot water). Stir gently and continuously until the diluted mixture becomes room temperature, otherwise your detergent will split. If this happens, it’s still usable, just gently stir it with a whisk to break up the solid mass at the top of the bucket.

Use half to one scoop from normal powder detergent container, depending on how soiled the load of washing is. I’ve only tried it in Melbourne or rain water, so if you wash in dam water or bore water, I’m not sure how it would work for you. It is very low suds, so suitable for front loading machines.

 

Why buy shampoo when real poo is still free?

Or better yet, use the “No ‘Poo” method of washing your hair!

When I discovered this method, I had great difficulty finding instructions on how the bicarb and vinegar were supposed to be applied for maximum cleaning effect. Plenty of people were raving about how soft and clean it made their hair, but nothing about how to mix or what proportions to use. Given that bicarb soda and vinegar will cause a big mess to occur when they are mixed, I was pretty sure that they weren’t supposed to be applied at the same time.

I started using the No ‘Poo method because I’m basically a frugal kind of person and I like to know what’s in the things I’m putting on my body. Most shampoos contain parabens which are used as preservatives. They are also known hormone disruptors because they mimic the shape of hormones in the body (especially oestrogen) and can lock into the receptor sites on our cells and cause all sorts of metabolic issues.

Using bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar allows your scalp to return to it’s normal pH and moisture levels, which can assist with the control of dandruff and other scalp complaints. So here’s how it works:

No ‘Poo hair wash

1 tablespoon of bicarb soda

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I used pasteurised vinegar as it’s cheaper than the real stuff but if you make your own, feel free to use unpasteurised, it will work just fine. You can also substitute white vinegar if you like, but I think ACV smells better.)

500ml boiling water

500ml tap water (or cooled, boiled water)

2 (or 3) jugs or other pouring containers

OPTIONAL: To make a gorgeous herbal rinse so that your hair smells divine, you will also need an extra cup of boiling water and an extra cup of cool water. For blonde through mid-brown natural shades or those who would like to lighten their natural shade, you’ll need the juice of one lemon. For those whose natural hair shade is mid-brown through black, add the crushed leaves of a sprig of rosemary or a tablespoon of dried, crushed leaves. Do not use the lemon rinse on dyed hair! I’m not sure what would happen but I expect the acidity would have dire consequences on your colour . . .

 

Add the bicarb soda to one jug and pour one cup (250ml) of boiling water over it to dissolve.

Do the same for the ACV in the second jug.

Add one cup of cool water to each jug and stir.

If using the lemon rinse, add the lemon juice to the third jug and pour one cup of boiling water over it, then add the cup of cooled water and stir.

If using the rosemary rinse, add the leave to a mug and pour one cup of boiling water over them to make a rosemary “tea” by steeping the crushed leaves in the boiling water for about 3-4 minutes. Strain into the third jug, then add the cooled water and stir.

 

To wash your hair, get it wet in the shower or over a sink. Pour the bicarb soda mixture onto your hair and massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers until it feels sufficiently clean. Be gentle as there’s no suds to lubricate the massage. Rinse out the bicarb soda mixture with plain water.

Rinse your hair with the vinegar mixture. Gently massage your scalp again to ensure that the vinegar is all through your hair. Rinse with plain water.

If you want your hair scented, rinse your hair with the lemon or rosemary mixture and then towel dry. Style as usual.

Wanderlust

My little brother is off to Japan to treat himself for his birthday this year. It’s got me thinking. We did a lot of travelling as a family when I was a child. We lived in England for 18 months and did side trips around the UK in the summer holidays. We visited my dad’s European friends from when he was an exchange student back in his high school days. We visited far flung family members on the way back to Australia. It developed my love of change, new experiences and travel to foreign climes at an early age. Charles and I went back to the UK for Christmas in 2005 when my Dad was living there, before we got married.

Pretty much since Charles and I met, we have talked about going on the Trans-Siberian Railway for our 10th anniversary. It was never decided whether that would be our 10th wedding anniversary or our 10th anniversary of meeting.

Today is our 10th anniversary of meeting and we had discussed making the trip in October this year (our 9th wedding anniversary) as we figured the Autumn weather would be pretty awesome for a trip across Europe and down through China. Also, my older brother and his family are living in China at the moment, so it would be a great chance to catch up with them.

Now the time has come to start planning the trip, I’m in two minds about it. I’d still love to go; it’s not somewhere I’ve been before and I love train travel over massive distances. On the other hand, peak oil is upon us and I can’t honestly justify increasing my carbon footprint by such a huge amount to get to the start of the journey (either St Petersburg or Beijing depending on which direction we travel). I know that the plane will go whether I’m on it or not, whether it’s full or not; I know that the train will run too. But at a time when I’m trying to cut down on my driving to help reduce my carbon footprint and fossil fuel use, I don’t think we’re going to head overseas any time soon.

What are your thoughts on international travel? Do you class it a need or a want? Does it make a difference if it’s for business?

Ol’ Smokey

Anyone would think that the district is ablaze like it’s mid-Summer today. The smoke haze in our part of the world is thick and still, stinging the eyes and back of the throat. Asthmatics beware!

I was driving back from Bendigo and became more and more incensed by the increase in smoke haze as I travelled towards ThisLittleFarm. We live in an area with many vineyards, but also large cropping properties further north. I was dismayed by the burning off of the crop residue and vine prunings that I saw as I drove. What a lovely opportunity for carbon sequestration going up in smoke!

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Rediscovery and recovery

Hello there! I’ve been away from the keyboard again. Normally this would make me feel intensely guilty about not sticking with my goals and plans etc, but part of what I’ve been doing while I’ve been away is a bit of self reflection.

I was busy being a domestic goddess in Melbourne and going quietly crazy through depression and boredom so I got help and got better. Life is looking good again and I’m back to share it with you, lovely readers. I rediscovered my passion for farming and have decided to eschew the big smoke for good. I have moved; lock, stock, cats and chooks, back to ThisLittleFarm and it’s time for action about the place. We’re starting with harvesting the olives but there’s plenty to get into after that so watch this space.

 

How to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Having found a functional, reasonably priced, glass vessel which allows for the easy dispensing of liquid that will look nice on my benchtop, I thought I’d try my hand at making apple cider vinegar.

Fortunately, organic, unpasteurised ACV is fairly common in Australia, you can buy it in the big chain supermarkets or just about any health food store. But I’m a cheapskate, and I’m experimenting, so I thought I’d make my own to use for salad dressings, drinking (diluted in water), making herbal tonics and washing my hair.

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