House update – figuring out the slope

I do not enjoy maths, I have a lot of trouble holding numbers in my head and I get lost in the operations needed to manipulate them. However, I came close to having to do some maths today in order to figure out what degree of slope the house site has, luckily, I was saved by the internet. Why did I need this measurement? Well… apparently, having the degree of slope of the house site will make our house plans a whole lot more accurate and allow the plans to actually work on our site when we come to building. I just hope we did it right.

First I looked for what measurements I would need. Vague memories of Pythagorean theorem and hypotenuse floated through my brain along with the phrase ‘rise over run’ but with no real understanding of any of it; I didn’t know where to start. Enter the first clue; an explanation of triangle calculations on To-calculate.com.

I visualised a right angle triangle and used the handy little calculator on the site to do the hard work for me. The only measurements I needed were the length from the bottom point of the slope to the top point and the height needed to make a right angle triangle above that. The post at the corner of the chook pen was exactly at the bottom of the slope and a convenient large grey gum tree provided a marker at the top of the slope.

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An ‘on the fly’ sketch of how we did the measurement

With some help from my partner (reluctant, but biddable enough) we strung a chalk line string between the grey gum and the chook pen post (my partner did the vast majority of the work while I provided constructive criticism) and hung a little level thingy off it. The end on the grey gum was weighted to the ground while the end on the post was pushed higher and higher up the post until the level told us it was now forming a right angle with the chook pen post as the short leg (rise).

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After that confusing explanation, I hope the diagram helps you visualise

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The little level thingy

After I had measured from the ground to the pink chalk line on the chook pen post and the distance between the chook pen post and the handy grey gum, I took these measurements in to my trusty computer. I entered the measurements into the calculator on the web site above and it gave me the degree and percentage of slope.

I dutifully (and hopefully) emailed these details off to Curvatecture (our partners in building) and waited to see what else there is to do.

I am also in the process of filling out a fire safety assessment and have the BASIX ready to roll when I get a copy of the plans. The DA is about halfway done and the On Site Sewage Management application is being filled out as we speak. Such a lot of paperwork to build a little mud hut in the bush.

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Make your own deodorant

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I have been making my own soap and hand cream for a while now, for many reasons; I like to make stuff, it is much cheaper and I know what is in it. Today I thought I would try making my own deodorant. Deodorant has a lot of chemicals in it and is really not that good for your body, but when you work in a place filled with people it is expected that you at least try to keep your odour to a minimum. I am a particularly sweaty person; I seem to spend all summer in a damp state. A more natural recipe might be the answer to avoiding all the chemicals and still staying semi socially acceptable. There are many recipes for making deodorant pastes out there;

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pronounce

thank your body

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and many more.

Since they all share some ingredients in common, I thought I would go with my own version, that is mostly like all the others (of course).

My first deodorant recipe

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup bees wax

1 tablespoon shea butter

1 tablespoon mango butter

1 tablespoon cocoa butter

1 tablespoon activated charcoal

1 tablespoon bentonite clay

2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda

 

 

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Gather the ingredients

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Make sure you have some containers to put the deodorant in

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Put everything in a pot and melt over a LOW heat

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Until it looks like a tar pit

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Pour into containers and pop into the freezer to harden up

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Mine leaked a little

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I forgot to add fragrance to my first batch, and I added it to the container just a little bit too soon and it was still very liquid. It ran out the bottom of the wind-up device on  my container just a little and this made it hard to get winding started when it had hardened.

I am impressed with it’s action, I can go all day without having to reapply. Also the black colour and oils don’t seem to get onto my clothes, which is a big bonus. I will put essential oils in the next batch, but for now…unscented is doing the trick.

Using soap nuts for washing clothes

Recently I started thinking about more ways we can save water, because there doesn’t seem to be any rain on the horizon. One way I came up with is to somehow cut out the rinse cycle in the washing clothes procedure. Thinking about it, I decided that the reason we rinse clothes after washing is to remove soap residue. Following that logic I decided that I needed to find a way to wash without adding laundry gel.

Several options popped up in my Google search;

Laundry eggs using ceramic beads

Soap nuts

Magnetic laundry balls

I decided to go with the soap nuts option, because that was the cheapest (and it is plant based, which I like and understand). I searched online and found a company that sells soap nuts and are based fairly close to me; Biome soap nuts

The soap nuts came in an attractive little calico bag and includes a tiny little calico bag for plonking into the washing machine.

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I read the instructions carefully, popped five nuts into the little bag, threw it into the first load of washing and hoped. There was a very small amount of froth, maybe from the residue left in the clothes. The clothes came out of the spinner looking and smelling clean.

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The soap nuts turned into mush in the bag after seven loads of laundry. So five nuts washed an entire week’s worth of clothes, towels and sheets. I am impressed by the economy of soap nuts.

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I pegged them out and folded them when they were dry (all in the same day!!). The soap nuts do clean the clothes, I saved about 100 litres of precious water and I am satisfied that I now have another dry weather strategy for saving water. I wonder if I could use them to wash dirty fleece?

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The tree responsible for the miracle that is soap nuts is Sapindus Mukorossis; the soap tree. It is an Asian subtropical tree so should be fairly easy to grow at the humpy. I haven’t had any luck finding seeds though. I will continue to search for seeds or a seedling tree to plant here, it would be amazing to be able to pick our laundry and washing up liquid from the garden.

Freida update- she’s home

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After losing Daisy, we have been extra paranoid about everything Freida does; we watch for any signs of sickness at all and worry endlessly about how much she is eating and pooping. Thankfully she puts up with all the fuss with good grace and is growing into a sweet little sheep.

The owner of the herd my daughter was watching agreed to let us keep her (yay!!) and we are over the moon happy about it. She is now home in the humpy and has happily joined the dog pack as a card carrying member of the protect-the-humpy-from-everything brigade (who specialize in distant planes, loud wind, leaves and people who park the car in the wrong place); she helps the dogs bark at anything even vaguely threatening around the place.

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She sleeps in a box at night; an old TV cabinet turned on it’s back. It has blankets and newspaper in it and is fairly close to the stove. Through the day she runs around with the dogs and shares their various beds. The door is always open to the yard so she and the dogs can come and go as they please. She is drinking her bottles and is starting to nibble chaff and grass.

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This is now Freida’s box. This photo is from when Daisy was still with us.

The dogs have accepted her as just another family member, they have had a lot of practice at inter species tolerance. Bandit sees her as just another possible sleeping partner and will cuddle up to her at the drop of a hat (she does put out a lot of heat).

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We love our little Freida, she is a source of constant amusement. While discussing our attachment to lambs in general with my youngest daughter she put forward the theory that we fall in love with them because they are pure joy wrapped in wool. She may be right; they are indeed, joyful little creatures who have no agenda beyond the moment. Whatever the reason, we are besotted with our new baby.

Freida and Daisy update- Daisy is no longer with us

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Some very sad news; Daisy has died after a very short illness. At nearly ten days old, the twins were doing very well, feeding and sleeping most of the time. Then two days ago, Daisy went off her feed and began to sleep all the time. We hoped it was just an off day, but when she continued to be unwell the next day we decided to take her to the vet. Between making that decision and me actually getting to where my daughter is working (a space of two hours) she was gone. Just like that, a little light had left the world.

The vet seems to think she had picked up one of the many virus or bacterial infections that lambs are prone to and because they had not had any colostrum they were much more likely to get. We are heart broken (as you can imagine) but not as sad as poor little Freida. She has spent every moment of her existence so far with Daisy; from conception, through birth to now. She is lost and confused, looking for comfort wherever she can find it. She cuddles my daughter constantly and calls her in a small panicked voice if she can’t see her. Life will change for my daughter now, she will become the sole focus of Freida’s life and she will have to be sure that Freida has company as often as possible (sheep don’t care to be alone). Freida will have to get used to sleeping alone and eating alone too.

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Feed time for them both on their last morning together

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Daisy looking very unwell on her last day alive

We buried Daisy beside Shaun. Together they will grow a mandarin tree; we plant a tree on each grave. I will miss her playful nature and loving cuddles.

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Freida, looking lost just after we lost Daisy

Freida is now an only lamb.  She is adapting to being on her own; animals are resilient that way, they don’t dwell on things too much. I am trying to do the same (it is such a healthy way to grieve) but I can’t help but feel sad that we won’t be adding Daisy to our little flock in the future.

She is helping my daughter make a night shelter for other lambs in the flock in the clip below. The nights are sometimes below zero temperatures at this time of year, and newborn lambs can always do with some shelter, so my daughter made up a small enclosure inside a roofed yard. It has straw on the floor and is surrounded by bales and ply to block the wind. The mothers and lambs are herded into the shelter when it gets dark and given some lucerne and a bucket of water to settle them.

Freida and Daisy update

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A quick update on our new family members. My daughter is currently doing the hard work of raising the babies, so Freida and Daisy are technically my grandlambs. They are doing well, they are drinking their formula well and are in the process of weaning from Divetalact to a specialised formula for lambs. My daughter is feeding 50/50 of each milk formula at the moment, after two days on 1/4 formula to 3/4 Divetalact. This slow change over is to make sure the babies don’t get upset stomachs.

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Lambs grow so fast, they are already starting to show interest in hay and grass and to chew everything in sight. They also seem to love their temporary big brother; the dog my daughter is looking after. I thought I would share some of the photos and video we have been taking because I think they are adorable. Lambs seem to be particularly easy to fall in love with, my daughter and I have both bonded very closely with the grandlambs.

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Trying to get rid of old dog pee smells

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Our old dog; Spot, is 19 years old (yes, in people years), he is a fairly healthy old boy who still loves life. He has Canine Cognitive Disorder; or doggy dementia. His mind is going and he can often be found wandering around looking for the door in any given room, gets stuck in odd places and circles endlessly looking for the nearest human. He often forgets to go outside to pee these days, which is a real problem for us. We tried putting him in a belly band (a male dog nappy) for a while, but he ended up with a kidney infection so that was out. We now cage him when nobody is home to minimise and contain his leaks, . when we are home, the door is always open to his little, safe yard and we make sure we put him out every hour or so, but that still leaves some pretty smelly spots on the floor to deal with from the pre-cage days and times when we miss the signs.

I researched ways to get rid of the awful smell from pavers and came up with some alternatives;

hydrated lime

bicarbonate of soda

vinegar

peroxide

Of course I decided to use all of them (the smell was really bad).

First I vacuumed the areas really well.

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Yes, this is after vacuuming

Then I sprinkled lime over the spots and left them for a night

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After vacuuming up the lime I washed the whole floor with vinegar and peroxide in a bucket with warm water. I used a scrubbing brush to make sure I got into every crack around the pee spots.

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When the floor was dry, I sprinkled bi-carb of soda over the pee spots again and left them for another day.

Finally I vacuumed the floors yet again and the smell was gone.

 

I will probably have to do this all again, we still have the old dogs after all, but at least I now have a plan of attack.

 

 

What to do with dog poop- Bokashi

Because our old boy; Spot gets lost easily these days we have restricted the dog yard to a small area in the front of the humpy (what were we thinking?). This means that great piles of dog poop, never guessed at levels of dog poop, have gathered in the yard and have to be picked up daily. We have four dogs, who until recently, pooped either outside the yard or where chickens could tidy it up. I have not had to deal with it for years.

Suddenly I have a problem; poop. I decided to try a sort of modified, cobbled together, bokashi composting system, to see if I can turn all that problem into a resource. The compost which results can be buried in ornamental bed (which I will have to install).

Bokashi compost is a form of anaerobic composting that uses a bacteria culture grown on bran of some sort to activate it. It is great for city living; where you don’t have access to wide open spaces it is OK to be smelly in. I don’t bother with it here as the compost goes through so many animal systems that it doesn’t make sense to separate it into a bucket really. However, I think it is ideal for Composting dog poop.

The trouble is, Idon’t want to spend $100 on a few plastic props and a pair of tongs. So I decided to make my own;

An old yellow bin I found laying around will do as a container. It has no bottom (rusted away years ago) and has a lid (somewhere around).

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Yes, that old bin near the peach tree

I added an old Pooper Scooper that had ended up in our animal medicine cabinet (don’t ask me, I just work here), to make it clear what the purpose of the bin was. I collected all the poop from the yard and layered it in to bin with sprinkles of the Bokashi starter in between layers.

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I think the label should say Bokashi Maize, but it still works, even with bad spelling

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I will continue to layer the poop and starter until the bin is full. Then I will let it sit for six months or so (and find another bin to continue the process). After that, I should, in theory, have a great compost to add to the peach tree as a Spring treat.

I have once again taken over a job that nature usually deals with, all because I have to confine my old dog for his own safety. I do get to learn more about the secret world of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and how it relates to nutrient cycling though.

Twin tub washing machines save water

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We use a 10kg twin tub washing machine to wash our clothes (and everything else). I find it saves water and is much more flexible than a front loader. It is terribly dry here (and everywhere else) at  the moment and we are struggling to save every drop of water. Along with our policy of tipping animal water pots onto deserving gardens or trees before refilling, we also recycle our washing water onto the garden, a twin tub allows us to do that easily (relatively).

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Top view of the spinner

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Top view of the washer

The procedure is as follows;

  1. Sort all washing carefully into piles; first by colour and use, then into cleanest to dirtiest.
  2. Resort after various family members add their assorted contribution to random piles. Sigh, and try not to swear.
  3. Fill the machine to it’s highest level and throw in some home-made washing gel.
  4. Fuel up the generator and get partner to start it for you (or a daughter in a pinch).
  5. Throw in the first load of clean-ish washing and wash for 6 minutes.
  6. After the wash is done put the clothes in the spinner, making sure the drain hose takes water back to the washing tub. Throw in the next dirtiest load and continue.
  7. When all loads are washed, drain the washing water into buckets and carry out to the garden while the tub refills with rinse water (to which I add a cup of vinegar).
  8. Rinse loads of clothes, being sure to return rinse water to the washing tub for each spun load.
  9. When all loads are rinsed, drain rinse water into buckets and carry out into the garden to slake the thirst of garden beds and trees.
  10. Peg out the weekly accumulation of clothes, towels, sheets, dog bedding, cleaning rags, etc.

I know this seems like a lot of work, and it is, but it completes two tasks at once; washing clothes and watering the garden. The machine takes 100 litres to fill for washing and the same for rinsing, so in total I use 200 litres of water per week to do the washing and the garden gets 200 litres of water to help keep it alive and growing.

I don’t enjoy washing; I would prefer us all to wear nothing and air dry after a shower, but it is a fact of life and must be done. Doing it this way means we can live on much less water (which is a valid currency in the bush) and also get my load-bearing exercise for the day to help prevent osteoarthritis (not to mention the water for the garden). Did I mention that I hate to waste anything?

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This is what 100 litres of water in buckets looks like

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This is the weeks total of washing

How much water do you use doing the weekly washing?

 

Introducing two new family members- Frieda and Daisy.

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Yes we have some new family (we hope), with an interesting story. My daughter is a house sitter; she looks after people’s homes and pets, etc while they are away. It is a great way to get to know many different walks of life and (for her at least) find new family to bring home. At her current job there is a herd of Dorper cross sheep, and it is lambing time. One ewe in the flock gave birth to twins a few days ago and decided she didn’t want them.

My daughter noticed the ewe lambing during the day and took care to keep her in sight (from a distance) to make sure she was OK. The ewe had her first lamb and got up to clean it, then had another lamb which she seemed to lose interest in (maybe she only wanted one?). When my daughter checked her next she had rejoined the herd and left the lambs, bleating helplessly, where they had been dropped. My daughter left them be until almost dark, but the cold was coming in and the bleats were getting  faint, so she picked up the babies (after getting permission via phone from the owner).  I found myself driving to her current abode with a car full of multi-species formula, bottles, teats, vinegar (sterilizer), hot water bottles, towels, blankets, a big wooden box that used to be Shaun’s (previous lamb) and a horrible coughing fit (pneumonia is no fun). We bedded the babies down, got them warmed up then gave them a feed. They were both girls (although at first we thought one was a boy) and very, very adorable. We both fell in love with the little faces and nuzzles immediately.

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The next day I forced myself up and out of bed again (still feeling very tired and sore from coughing) and drove in to town to get disposable nappies, baby wipes, electrolyte mix and new formula. My daughter had rung me at dawn to report that the babies had developed scours (diarrhea) at about 3.00am and had painted the inside of the box and each other with this new and interesting art medium. I arrived with the supplies and we cleaned up as best we could with hot water and damp cloths. Put a nappy on them both and then had a shower (it was messy work). Their box was scrubbed out and they were given a bottle of half strength electrolyte and milk to keep them hydrated. Scours can be serious in little babies so my daughter was really careful to be sure they were drinking enough and that they were kept clean.

We think they developed scours because they did not have any colostrum (the magical first milk given by the mother in the day after birth) and also because our milk formula was old (and had been open for a few months). We changed to a new formula tin immediately just in case.

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The next day I was back down there again because they had used all the nappies. We bundled them into the car along with the dog my daughter is looking after and went for a drive to get nappies in bulk. I hate disposable nappies, but I do not have any handy washable sheep nappies either and they needed to be able to be kept clean if they were to be living in someone else’ home. I am currently working on a design for sheep nappies, modified from the doggy version (watch this space). We also picked up some inject-able re-hydration fluid (Hartman’s) and needles while we were out…just in case. When we got home we injected some Hartman’s fluid under the skin of each of them (poor babies) as they were very de-hyrated by that time. About 40ml each was all that it took and they perked up and asked for food within a half hour.

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They are doing well now, although Frieda (the black and white one) has a limp in one hind leg (possibly nerve damage from a botched injection…but we hope it isn’t permanent). This is a very photo heavy post because I am besotted (again) by their sweet, trusting natures and their lovely little faces. My daughter is equally besotted, but is doing  the vast majority of caring for them and as such is also struggling with sleep deprivation and frustration at not being able to visit the toilet alone (any new mothers can obviously relate) not to mention the shear weight of washing. We hope that the owner of the herd will allow us to buy these two from him to become part of our family…Shaun would be so proud.

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