A dish drainer cupboard for the kitchen

With the nice bit of rain that fell in mid January came flies. Many, many flies… so many that the buzz from the sheep shelter can be heard from the humpy. So a project that has been sitting on the bottom of the list, suddenly came to the top; an enclosed dish drainer for the washing up.

The rain was so very welcome. We danced and sang while it fell.
Those sticky fly paper things are hanging all over the humpy. They don’t take long to fill up; these ones are only four days old.

Living with nature (in all her adorable, but messy incarnations) requires us to make a few adjustments to the way things are done; we let go of socially held expectations somewhat; like having clean floors at any point, like being the only being on the bed at night and like using harsh chemicals to clean anything. One problem with having animals (other than humans) in the humpy and not being able to seal all the holes in walls, is that we have many flies in the humpy in Summer. The washing up (which I habitually air dry) is then sitting out in the open for the day and flies crawl all over it (not ideal). There is a clearly identified problem here that has a neat solution.

For years, I have wanted to install a Finnish Dish Draining cabinet, and this fly invasion (which is more extreme than other years) is the push we needed to do it. As usual, we had to do things the hard way; instead of buying the chipboard and wire modular units available, we decided to go with a steel cabinet (to match the new kitchen and to make sure it lasts) and replace the shelves with the drying racks.

We bought a cheap steel cabinet in powder coated steel (black, of course) and some dish draining racks, roughly the same length. My fairly handy partner put it all together one morning while I was doing the washing.

He screwed some structural ply over the wall frame behind the sink and screwed the cupboard onto that.

Next, he scratched his head for a while about how to fit the dish drainers in. Until finally he came up with the idea of fixing a thick piece of wood on the inside of the cabinet to provide an anchor for the drainer. The dish drainer units were about 5cm shorter than the width mof the cabinet.

These are the dish drainer units. We got them from good old Ebay.

Then he put the doors on for me and we were set to go.

As an added bonus… my in-the-good-books partner also screwed the peg board onto the wall.

I think this really adds to the usability of the kitchen.

The drying cupboard is used to store the equipment we use on a daily basis; coffee cups, plates, bowls, baking trays, etc. Only a few of each and only what we use daily. That way, the majority of the washing up goes straight into the cupboard and is protected from flies. It also frees up the other cupboard shelves for more storage. Our cupboard doesn’t have an open bottom (flies and lizards) instead it has a tray in the bottom to catch drips. This tray is emptied daily. There is enough air flow to dry the washing up and not enough space for critters to enter.

I love it!! What do you think?

The bench is much clearer now too.
I added some magnetic spice holders to the mix too.

Home Biogas system- part four- the mulch pit

Since the toilet is up and running, we need to get the mulch pit finished. At the moment it is hard to concentrate on any project. The constant threat of fire and the despair that comes with knowing that so much of our ecosystem is destroyed keeps us in a constant state of depression. It is hard to concentrate on anything except watching the media releases about the fires all over Australia. However, it is important to keep working towards the future we want; how else will we reach it? In between the fire threats and increadibly hot days we made a plan that involved digging a pit to drain the effluent into then covering the lot with gravel, wood chip, soil and mulch.

The biogas system continues to impress me, the only down side I have discovered is the flammable nature of methane (which is kind of the point) and the fact that we can’t move the unit away from the house in the event of a bushfire threat (we are at a count of three direct threat situations so far in the last twelve months). We have countered this by releasing the methane into the atmosphere when there is any risk of fire. There is a handy tap that allows the gas to be vented easily. The refill time is getting less every day; currently the tank will fill in about ten hours and the effluent has proven fairly easy to bucket into the old toilet pit on a weekly basis.

Since the effluent is from human poop, it needs to be handled carefully. The effluent is passed through a chlorine chamber before it emerges from the unit. Treatment with chlorine is the accepted way to treat human effluent, it kills off a lot of nasties and oxygenation and exposure to sun takes care of the rest. After it emerges from the unit our effluent goes into a bucket, which is then emptied into the old toilet pit (which helps the waste in this pit continue to decompose). It is time to put in a hands free option for handling the effluent. In our situation we have several options; we could feed it into our septic system (except we don’t have one), we could build a dedicated transpiration pit or we could build a mulch basin. We went with a combination of the transpiration pit and the mulch pit ideas.

First we (and by ‘we’ I mean my hard working partner) dug a pit that was about 40cm deep.

I took this photo after we had begun to fill the bottom with gravel.

Then we put in a layer of gravel in the bottom. This layer is about 5cm deep. The plumbing part of the project was then completed before the pit could be filled up all the way.

Next step was adding a straw layer to slow down the migration of soil into the gravel.

After that there is a layer of wood chips (to soak up any nitrogen rich moisture that makes it that far) and a layer of soil to seal the pit off from the surface.

After that I planted the passionfruit vine I bought to (hopefully) take advantage of all that moisture and nutrient. I mulched around the vine, then realised that it is now a fire risk and would be raked away when the next fire threatens. To counter this a little, I buried the mulch under a deep layer of soil again. I hope this will protect the mulch from ember attack in the event of a fire.

So now we have a new garden bed that doubles as a transpiration pit. Hopefully the roots of the passionfruit won’t bung up the draining system and hopefully the buried mulch will be safe from ember attack (I am thinking that this method might be good for the new vegetable beds when we get to that). We, like most of Australia, are still in shock from the magnitude of the fires this year. We fear that next year will be more of the same, so everything we do from now on needs to be focused on fire safety and how to keep our family safe.

Home from evacuation

The humpy, without the shade sections at the front and side

We are finally home from being evacuated. There was a blessed rain event on December 23rd-25th which allowed us to assume that the fire is now under control (along with a few other factors). We came home with everyone, only to find that we had to go straight back out again for a medical emergency. I am trying to capture the events here as I know how our memories play tricks and re-arrange things. Here is the sequence of events as I remember them now;

We had settled in to the regular work of being in the evacuation centre; walking dogs, feeding sheep, cleaning cages, feeding animals. We were making multiple calls every day to my partner, who was still at home defending the humpy. One morning, my partner (who never misses an opportunity to shop) called to say he had been looking for a farm 4WD to convert into a ‘Black Ops brigade‘ fire vehicle (unofficial fire fighting crews). The house building account was already under seige due to having to use some of it to buy food for my eldest daughter and I while we were in exile, buying fire fighting equipment and now we were looking at having to dip into it to buy a 4WD.

To cut a long story short, we ended up buying a Mitsubishi Triton that is close to being a registration failure. We had to borrow about half the money to buy it, leaving us with more debt (sigh). My partner arranged for an obliging nephew to pick him up and take him to pick up his new partner in fire fighting (he also did the initial check over of the vehicle, thanks Matt). Now it was time to outfit the old girl as a fire fighter.

The new fire fighting 4WD

We have already bought two fire fighting pumps, two 1000 litre pods and many metres of fire hose to help set up our fire defense system. We have also bought sprinklers for the roof and walls and my partner set them up in a watering system that covers the entire humpy area (now all we need is enough rain to fill the tanks). One of the pods and a pump with hoses will go on the back of the ute (she needs a name now), along with a box for the chainsaw and various other tools, such as a few water backpacks, a McCloud tool or two, shovels and rakes.

This tank and pump set up will go on the back of the 4WD

Before the pod and pump went on the ute, my partner was using it to patrol the fire front closest to us. He did regular night time patrols while a neighbour (whose property the fire happened to be on) did daytime patrols. Not to be political at all, but the RFS have been in short supply ever since this whole thing began. Let me be very clear here; the RFS is doing it’s best to fight the fires. There are just not enough resources to go around. When our little area was under direct threat they showed up with a bulldozer and pushed multiple fire breaks both around dwellings and through the bush at seemingly random intervals. They were around to do occasional patrols of the fire front and the planes and choppers flew over almost daily. The fire jumped over the first fire breaks that were put in because there were not enough patrols to observe and black out the slow moving fire that reached them. As soon as he had a vehicle capable of driving around the fire lines, my partner and other local people made sure there were regular and constant patrols on our section of the fire front. I think this has allowed the fire to be bought under control.

On the morning of the 23rd December, we decided that it was time to go home. The fire was reported as under control on our Northern side, and my partner considered it under control on our Western side, and we were feeling VERY homesick. So we packed everyone up (except the sheep) into their travelling cages and crammed them into my car, my partner’s car and one of the trailers. We set off for home like a travelling circus (or maybe like Ma and Pa Clampett), and reached home by mid morning. I quickly unpacked everyone from my car and set off back to the evacuation site to finish cleaning up the shed.

Some of the cages piled into my little car for the trip home.
More packed cages ready for the trip home.

After hours and hours of scrubbing cages and cleaning out the caravan, I was ready to drop, but I kept going until my partner got there to pick up the sheep. We took the trailer up to the yards and spent some time chasing Kracken around and around as she had apparently decided she liked the lodging and wanted to stay a bit longer. Eventually we managed to drag her into the trailer and I decided to leave the cleaning until the next day. We went home for one blissful night in our own beds with our animals all around us.

The site of the humpy still standing bought me to tears. It may just be a little, rough shed in the bush, but it is our home. I was overjoyed to see the animals that live wild around the humpy still in residence. The big open area around the humpy had been widened considerably, and the chook pen and Hugelkultur garden beds had been pushed away by the bulldozer to make the humpy more fire ready (thank you RFS). The yard fences had been partially destroyed by the dozer too, and all the shadecloth awnings around the humpy had been taken down. It looked bare and strangely neat, but it is still home.

This used to be the chook pen and the Hugelkultur beds.

The next morning, my daughter came to me with Prim in her hands. Prim was struggling to breathe and could not talk to us at all. We took off for the vet (2 and a half hours away) and reached there with her still struggling to breathe. The vet put her in an oxygen tent and recomended that she be transfered to the Gatton animal hospital. I didn’t feel able to make the drive, so we rang my partner and got him to drive up to Killarney, pick up my daughter and Prim then drive to Gatton with them. Meanwhile, I drove back home to watch over the animals still there.

Prim in her oxygen tent.

Prim died that night in the animal hospital. There are no words to tell you how grief striken we are. I will write a seperate post to honour her death. The next morning, my daughter and partner drove home to bury her. The work of settling into the humpy again begins…

We really need to put the toilet tent back up.
We did manage to get a screen door put on the front door.

NOTE: My mother lost her home and farm buildings in this fire. A fact that still seems unreal to me. However, I am not posting about my reaction to this event or any other information as it is not my information to share.

A new kitchen for the humpy and the house

The cupboard above fell to pieces.

One of our old kitchen cupboards fell apart; it was a third hand, patched up old thing, but it served us well for many years. Instead of patching it up again, I decided to go with the option we had identified for the house (when it is finally built); a garage storage system. We can use the storage system in the humpy, then move it to the house when it is finished.

Instead of spending thousands on a chipboard, prefabricated kitchen for the round house (which wouldn’t really fit anyway), we decided to go with stainless steel storage modules. So I went online and found some reasonable options. To be fair, the prices were only reasonable if you factored in the decades of service we expect from this kitchen.

The delivery truck came right out to the humpy; a total unknown experience for courier companies up until this week. Usually we have to take a trailer in to the local town to pick up anything delivered ‘to the door’ by courier companies. He unloaded the flat pack boxes and drove away fast, no doubt vowing to never deliver out of town again.

We got to work putting the cupboards and bench together in between bush fire preparation and animal care, and managed to get everything sorted and put away with only two days work.

My partner un packing the first box
The inevitable pause to read the instructions and puzzle over what language they are written in.
Putting the bench together
The panels and little packets of screws were leaned up against every surface.
The bench and two rolling cupboards with timber tops put together and filled with kitchen stuff. Then the old cupboards were taken out and the contents stacked all over the kitchen while we put the new one together.
Part of the old cupboards were cut down to give us even more stacking space in the new cupboard.
All sorted and put away. I managed to get rid of a few things from the old cupboard, but not as much as I had hoped.
This is the big cupboard with the doors shut.
A new stainless steel bench to fill up with washing up.
Notice the coffee and wine bar; I painted an old book case with the purple and gold paint left over from painting the bin system and stacked our coffee and tea on it. Then I thought I may as well keep the wine there too.
I haven’t had kitchen draws for years, it is nice to be able to put things away in draws like a normal person.
Doesn’t the cutlery look neat…so far.
The biogas stove has a new shelf and it is going so well we sometimes have to think up things to cook with it just to use the gas. We are thinking about getting another gas bladder to collect all the extra gas we are currently losing.

I am really looking forward to cooking in this new kitchen space. It feels clean and fresh. The space seems much bigger in there now too.

Eggs everywhere- it sure is Spring

There are three people living in the humpy at the moment; one can’t eat eggs, one won’t eat eggs, then there is me. We have 8 laying hens, about 6 laying ducks and 2 laying geese; we collect about 8 eggs a day, or about 66 eggs a week. If you compare both sides of this scale you can see that a lot of eggs get wasted, and I hate waste.

I do attempt to use all our eggs, but have failed miserably in the task so far. Some of the methods we use are;

Fried eggs on weekends (for me)- this uses up about 4 eggs a week

Trading them to friends for veges- about a 12 a week

Using them in baking – about 6 a week

Making quiche (not every week)- about 8 a week

Giving them to a friend with an incubator- about 6 a week

All that gives me a total of, at most, 36 eggs used. I did freeze 2 dozen for use when they all stop laying, but that was a temporary reprieve. I don’t want to sell eggs (too many regulations) and most of my friends have chooks and are in the same predicament as I am (but if you live close and want eggs let me know, especially duck eggs).

So, to address some of the extra eggs, I went looking for egg recipes that could be made then frozen. That way we use the eggs and I have another meal that can be heated up for dinner. This is what I found;

Scrambled eggs, beans and sauce in a burrito; love the sound of this one.

Blueberry scones with icing; sounds delicious

Baked French toast sticks; okay we’ve drifted away from the idea of dinners, but they do use eggs.

Egg and vegetable noodle slice; freezable and good for lunch or dinner.

Halloumi, cheese and egg hot pot; sounds good, but I’m not sure it will freeze.

Broccolli and feta strata; whatever that is.

I’m not going to try all these recipes in one day (I do hate to cook), but I think I can manage one each weekend. That should fill the freezer with breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the first frantic weeks of school.

We also take some of the excess eggs out to the edge of the firebreaks for the goannas and possums. In these dry times all our native animals are searching for food and water. The sheep water troughs and the occasional water tray around the outskirts of the humpy provide water for wildlife and the excess eggs provide just a little nutrition for struggling beings.

I know this sends a mixed message; we don’t want goannas in the house yard and the possums can be very destructive too. I do it because I can see a day, not too far in the future, when animals that are common now will be rare and endangered. I do it because I don’t want any being to suffer and if I have the means to ease suffering, it is my duty to do it. I do it because I love to see the variety of animals who show up to take advantage of the free food.

Eggs show up in the strangest places.

Home Biogas system- part three- the toilet

We finally got around to putting the toilet on the biogas system. Mostly because the old pit toilet is VERY full (no pictures), and I developed a tummy bug over the weekend. These two factors in combination drove me to push everyone to throw together at least a temporary fix for the increasingly urgent problem of the full pit toilet.

The inside of our new toilet. Only another humpy dweller is likely to understand just how exciting this moment actually is.

The pit toilet has been great for about five and a half years. It took a month to build, and it was a great relief to have it finished at the time. If you click the links, you can read all about that adventure. Since the worms seem to no longer be living in the pit, and there are very few flies around (a worry of a deeper kind), the pit has filled to the point of being in danger of over flowing. We never did get the toilet building built, instead we continued to replace the tarp stretched over the top on a yearly basis.

The new biogas toilet will have a similar privacy situation, and the plan is to build a solid structure over it (but given our past experience, I don’t know when/if that will happen). The kit came with almost everything we needed, so instead of taking a month of labor (on and off) to build, it took me a frantic two hours (and a bit of help with lifting and drilling) to put the basics together.

First, I found a solid pallet in the useful pile in the sheep pen. This pallet will need to be replaced fairly soon as it is not made from hardwood, but it serves the purpose for the moment. The pedestal is bolted onto it using four roofing screws and another piece of timber under the screw holes to give it a bit of security. The pedestal feels solid and reliable, and the extra height brings it up to the western conventional position.

The temporary bucket set up
The kit even has a filter for the flush water.

Secondly, the flush side of the plumbing was set up. I just pushed the inlet hoses onto the inlet spout on the toilet and put the filter on the pipe, then dropped the free end into an old bucket (with water in it). The bucket holds some precious second use water from the sink where we wash our hands. Usually we use this water on the garden, but we are forced to put some of it through the biogas system now.

You can clearly see the hose connections in this photo
The outlet hose goes into the biogas unit. There is about 2 metres of hose inside the unit to be sure the poop is delivered to the bottom of the bacteria colony.

The last step is to connect the outlet pipe to the toilet and feed about two metres of pipe into the unit to be sure the poop goes where it needs to go; to the bottom of the unit where the most bacteria live.

The toilet is operated by setting a switch to either a 1 or a 2 (I figured out that this is 1 for pee or 2 for poop) and pumping the handle up and down until everything goes away. It is comfortable and easy to use.

The effluent currently flows into the white tub and is used on the garden, but now there will be human effluent rather than just horse poop going into it that will need to change.

My next job is to connect the effluent pipe to a transpiration or mulch pit. Since we have been using only horse and occasionally dog poop in the unit (along with some food scraps) and the effluent is filtered through a chlorine tablet, I have been using it on the garden to feed all my plants. Now the human poop element has been added, I will have to divert the effluent to a mulch pit or another underground absorption situation. The tummy bug that made this job so urgent also means that I am introducing some not so human friendly bacteria into the unit and I don’t want to risk those bugs getting loose among the other humans of the house. Since my fairly useful partner is in town getting fittings for this phase of the job, I will make that the subject of another post.

The biogas situation at the moment is wonderful; I feed the unit about half a bucket of horse manure and any food scraps or dog poop I collect through the day (most food scraps go to the chooks though) and we can burn the methane for about two hours a day. I expect to get better gas once we are feeding the unit fresh manure (ours) rather than days old horse poop.

Recovering an old lounge- part two – new fabric going on

The deck on chair one is done.

After getting all excited about the Sunbrella fabric in the last upholstery post, I went home and measured up the lounge and chairs to see how much I needed (lots of complicated measurements there) only to discover that I would need approximately 24 metres of fabric. At $50 a meter, that ended up being $1200; way too much for me. I am not willing to spend thousands on a piece of furniture, especially when I am new to the hobby and don’t know what I am doing.

I ended up going to Spotlight (online of course) and matching the colours as closely as I could (probably not that close, given the nature of digital monitors and human perception) and buying $500 worth of fabric. I also ordered some bits and pieces such as cardboard strips, upholstery nails and thread and a huge load of wadding (oh and a little upholstery tool kit) from an online upholstery store based in South Australia. Then I waited…

During the wait I discovered (by watching even more YouTube videos) that I would need another staple gun as the two hand operated ones we own do not have staples long enough for upholstery. The staple gun and a big box of staples was purchased before the fabric arrived.

Then I received an email informing me that the cotton wadding I had ordered was out of stock and no suitable natural alternative was available. I searched all over the internet without finding what I wanted, until my accidentally genius partner said “Can you use pure wool as wadding?”, some research revealed that you can indeed use pure wool batting to pad out upholstery. This little discovery may have saved me $100 dollars and cleared off half a shelf in my craft room. Wool is commonly used to wrap seating and back cushions as it compresses to a much greater degree than cotton, meaning that if I use it on the deck (the base that the cushions sit on) and back rest areas of the lounge I will need to use much more of it to get the same amount of padding. I will also need to put a fabric cover over the wadding to help prevent felting.

In my craft room at present I have about a wool bale of various fleeces, some are too fine and beautiful to use as sofa stuffing, but others are a bit course and hard to spin. I will use a pile of these fleeces, washed and carded, to stuff my lounge. I also have a lot of cotton fabric from sheets and quilt covers in my fabric stash that can be used to put a layer over the wool batting before I cover it with the final fabric. I knew there would be a way to up-cycle or re-use things in this new hobby (there always is).

In the process of researching this project I discovered a great YouTube channel on natural upholstery. This channel is dedicated to using natural materials to reupholster furniture (right up my alley). I found some really interesting ideas and tips here.

So the fabric began to arrive in bits and pieces; the red came first. It is very red…almost iridescent, luckily it will be used for the deck and for the stripes on the inside backs, so the really bright colour will not be over powering (I hope).

I followed the instructions on the various YouTube clips and used the old fabric as a template to cut the new piece. Then I stitched a seam across it to sew the seam between the deck and the front padded bit. This little strip at the front should be slightly higher than the deck behind it (to help hold the cushion in the seat), so I padded it out with raw (scoured and carded) wool and put two layers of cotton batting over the lot. I decided to re-use the cotton and wool felt (the grey stuff) that was already on the chair and to just add a bit more padding to the thin bits.

Of course, after I had sewn the seam, by hand, with a curved needle, I discovered that the fabric was not quite wide enough (I made it a bit bigger than the template on all sides, not sure why it was too short). So rather than undo the sewing and cut another piece, I hand sewed some strips of scrap fabric to the short edges and continued on. The deck for the next chair will be cut MUCH wider than the template.

Lastly, I stapled the fabric down tight with my trusty new staple gun. It took a lot of pulling, snipping easement cuts and smoothing fabric, but I think it came out alright.

The raw wool padding over the old padding.
The layers of cotton batting over the wool.
Sewing the seam with a curved needle and some crochet cotton.
The seam all sewn up.
Then it was all stretched, pulled and smoothed into place.
Finally the deck was stapled down.
I think it came out alright, not perfect, but it wouldn’t belong with us if it was perfect.

I am enjoying this process and learning a new skill. The red is so much brighter than it appears to be on the screen, luckily this bit will be hidden by a cushion most of the time.

Re-covering an old lounge- part one: taking off the old fabric

Yes…I know I said I wouldn’t take on another hobby, especially one that takes up a lot of space and time…but…

I was scrolling through Facebook Marketplace (as you do) and I saw a striking lounge (to me anyway) and it was free (my favorite kind). I messaged the owner, without much hope that it would still be available, only to find out that it was. Now I had to tell my reluctant partner that I wanted a new lounge.

The original picture that caught my eye.

After a medium amount of wheedling, convincing and outright bullying, he agreed to drive over and pick up our new hobby…err…lounge.

The lounge is old, faded and while the armchairs have good springs, the lounge itself badly needs re-springing or something. The fabric is thin and starting to rip in places, but I just fell in love (of the furniture persuasion).

We got the set home and unloaded it into the only open area in the humpy; beside the heater. I will work on the re-covering here, right in everyone’s way. I hope to complete it all during this school holidays, but I am probably fooling myself.

All piled up in the way

Several hundred YouTube clips later, I decided to start the project. If I start of the lounge chairs first I can learn as I go (in theory). The lounge chairs don’t need any structural work (probably) so I can develop my skills on them then move on to the big job of the lounge itself.

The clips all stress that re-covering has a sequence; the last piece on is the first piece off. So I looked over the chair and found the last piece on, which happened to be the bottom dust cover. To get that off, I had to remove the back wheels and their little timber bits.

The wheels themselves are made of wood; how amazing is that.
The bottom dust cover is removed and set aside to use as a pattern.

Once the bottom was off, I could see that the chair is webbed and has coil springs in the back and seat, which apparently means my find is from the posh end of the furniture gene pool.

A close up of the coil springs in their hessian envelope.

The next piece is the outside side pieces. The little cover plate things at the front were easy to pry off, but then things got difficult as there are cardboard strips with about a million staples under some of those folds. The piping (or welting as it is properly called…apparently) is sewn onto the red fabric and stapled onto the yellowish side pieces, meaning that there are a lot of staples to remove.

The little cardboard strips with a million staples that give the fold a nice, neat edge.
Next step; taking off the outside side pieces.

Up until now I have been using a screw driver and a pair of side cutters to remove staples, but then I ran into a problem; the pleats at the front of the chair (under the decorative plate thing) are held on with actual nails. These nails have proven themselves immune to screwdrivers and I can’t get the claw of the hammer under them as yet.

In the end, I used a hammer to gently tap the screw driver under the edge of each nail. This made a bit of a mess of the wood, but the nails (or upholstery tacks) are out.

These are the upholstery tacks from the pleated bit of the front arm panel.
It left a few holes in the timber, but I did get them out.

Now that the front arm panels and both outside side pieces are off, I can work on removing the deck covering (the deck is the flat bottom of the chair that the cushion sits on). Once the deck covering is removed I can start putting new fabric on it. Of course, that means I have to choose and buy the new fabric.

Apparently, the recovering process happens bit by bit; first the deck (for this piece anyway) is recovered, then the arms are stripped and recovered, then the back. Doing it this way means I can avoid losing bits of loose stuffing and wadding as the piece sits there waiting for me to get some free time and energy to cover the next bit. It also breaks the process down into manageable pieces for me to focus on.

The wadding on the deck will need to be replaced too.

I am off to town today to see if I can find some upholstery fabric and assorted bits of hardware…wish me luck.

I found an upholstery shop, and it carries a fabric called Sunbrella. Sunbrella is an acrylic fabric made for indoor and outdoor use. I would not normally use an acrylic fabric on anything, but this time I decided to go with the hard wearing and easy care option. This lounge will have to suffer a lot of indignities in it’s life with us (not just dogs on the lounge here) so I think it is important that it be properly dressed for the job.

We looked through the samples of colours and found a few combinations we like, then we took down the details and went away to think about it. The fabric costs about $50 a metre and there will be other needs on top of that (wadding, piping, staples, etc), I don’t want to make a hasty decision. Besides it is fun to think about the possibilities before I commit to only one.

It will take a week to get the fabric after it is ordered, so I have changed my plan. I will strip the other chair (and maybe the lounge) to the same stage as the first chair in my remaining week of holidays, then when I have the fabric, I will cover them one at a time. That means work on the project really slows down because I will be working on other things.

First possibility
Second possibility
Third possibility
The long road home, dreaming about lounges.

Which combination do you like best?

Checking our environmental footprint in 2018 and 2019

A gratuitous Primrose photo to get your attention

Over the years we have saved and worked towards becoming more environmentally friendly, with varying success. I thought this would be a good time to review our progress over the last two years, given the recent Global Strike for Climate action. The world seems to be asking what the leaders of our nations are willing to do to reduce the effects we are having on our planet, and while I want our governments to take this risk seriously too, I am more focused on small local and accumulative actions. I believe that the general population does not change in response to governmental decree; instead I believe that the governmental decree is a response to changing attitudes and practices in the general public. In other words; change is bottom up not top down. So… in keeping with this philosophy, these are the things we have achieved in the last two years towards being more sustainable (and the things that make us less sustainable).

Larger solar system;

We put in a new and larger solar system in the last two years so we could run an electric fridge and turn the fan on whenever we liked. This has been a game changer for us as we now buy almost no LPG gas (the previous fridge was gas fueled), we only run the generator about once a month as we do the washing using solar power and we have been able to put in a solar friendly freezer. Our life has become a LOT easier and more efficient because we have these things. We have reduced our use of fossil fuels significantly and increased our food storage potential (and reduced our food wastage too). This is a definite win in my books.

New solar panels on the roof.

Two car family;

This is definitely a fail. When I began teaching we were forced to buy another car, and I was forced to get a driver’s license. I don’t enjoy driving at all, but I do need to get to work before the school bus (which is how I got to work before becoming a teacher), so the car was a necessary evil.

The average car emits 153.0g/km of carbon (according to Lightfoot) and we have doubled our emissions in this area.

We are now a two car family.

Swap to low waste alternatives;

shampoo; recently I started to use a hair product called Beauty Kubes. These little grey cubes are great for washing your hair without having shampoo and conditioner bottles to clutter up the shower and eventually find their way to the bin. Beauty Kubes come in a little cardboard box and you simply take a cube to the shower with you when you want to wash your hair. They smell great and lather up well, my hair feels soft and clean for ages after a wash and the little box takes up no space at all in the cupboard. This is definitely a win for me. I am still trying to figure out how they are made so I can make a DIY version, but so far no luck.

deodorant; I have only made one batch of natural deodorant so far and I am still using the original batch. The containers I chose were not the greatest decision ever; the liquid mixture flowed out the bottom and bunged up the winders. Instead of struggling with the containers I just dig out a small glob of mixture and rub it into my arm pits every day. It works well. I think next batch I will add more bees wax and make a cake of deodorant that I can scrape a bit off every morning.

toothpaste; I have been making my own toothpaste for quite a while and find it economical, low waste and easy to make and use. Recently I have been thinking about trying to make a tooth powder (just because I like to try new things) and that will probably be an upcoming post. There is almost no waste involved with making your own toothpaste; no packaging except what the ingredients come in (they last a long time) and I reuse the same jar over and over to store the paste. This is definitely a win for us and the environment. I am trying to find an alternative to tooth brushes now, although I have swapped over to bamboo, natural bristle brushes until I can find an alternative.

soap; I have been making soap for our family for more than a decade. This year I swapped to making our soap from cooking oil that had been cleaned from the deep fryer. This is a win for us as the oil we buy is used twice (which cuts the total dollar cost in half) and it keeps the used oil from the compost bin.

silicon reusable ziplock bags system; we didn’t use a lot of single use plastic bags prior to buying the Kappi silicon bags, but we did use some. By swapping to Kappi bags we have been able to mostly stop using single use plastic in the freezer and have also cut down on buying plastic lunch boxes and containers. The real saving these bags have given me is in space; the Kappi bags all fit neatly in an old ice-cream container in the cupboard among the plates, while the lunch boxes and other plastic containers used to take up an entire cupboard by themselves. I love reducing the stuff I have (except wool and yarn of course) so this has been a big win for me.

soap nuts for laundry; I began using soap nuts for clothes washing this year, they reduce the amount of chemicals I am using in the house as well as cutting our water use in half. I count this as a huge win for our budget and for the environment around our humpy. I also now use soap nuts to wash wool for spinning and have been considering swapping to soap nuts for washing dishes too. My only problem is that I have to buy the soap nuts and I am looking for an Australian native alternative that I can grow in the garden.

biogas toilet unit;

Buying the biogas unit was a MAJOR purchase (and you know how I hate to spend money), but it has turned out to be a big win for our environmental footprint. The unit is still operating on the bucket of horse manure I collect from beside the road every day on the way home from work, but will eventually be attached to a toilet. It produces gas for cooking from the manure and has minimal inputs beyond our waste products (also very little maintenance required). The down side we have found so far is that the gas bladder takes a few days to refill after we use the gas, possibly because we are only feeding it horse manure at a rate of about 2 kg per day; higher value food will equal more gas.

Aquaponics system;

The trial aquaponics system has been a success and A*****e the fish is happy living in his five star solitary confinement. I have plans to build a much bigger system soon, which will be attached to a grey water filter system. This new system will hopefully grow a much larger amount of food for us and the animals. The greens we grow in the trial system have been useful and tasted great, I want more now that the theory has been proven.

Our aquaponics system.

We continue to try to be more sustainable, more autonomous and more environmentally friendly; sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. This blog is a diary of sorts for me, and reviewing our progress over the last few years to write this post has made me realise the huge difference we have made to our lives, the lives of the animals in our area and , hopefully, to the world at large, I feel proud of our efforts.

Biogas system update

I realise I should have posted about how the biogas system is working a while ago, but…better late than never.

The system took a while to produce gas, it sat for weeks looking sad and deflated, even though I fed it a bucket of horse manure every day for the first week.

Eventually the weather got warm enough and the microbes in the tank woke up and started to feed. The gas holder slowly filled up until it was just over half full. I really wanted to try out the burner to see if we have methane in the tank or just carbon dioxide (which is apparently common in the first few months).

We connected the gas line to the stove that came with the kit as soon as the gas holding…balloon? (I’m not sure what to call the thing that holds the gas) got to almost full.

The gas balloon about half full.
The gas line connected and running through PVC pipe to the house.
The gas line into the house.
This is the cute little burner that came with the kit.

The first lighting of the flame ; this was a momentous occasion. We lit the flame and it just hissed at us for a few seconds, then an almost invisible blue flame was born. We boiled the kettle for the washing up in about 5 minutes and celebrated with a coffee…then I made soy milk…and my daughter made a stew…and so on.

Our first water boil using biogas. The flame is almost invisible.

The gas balloon went down a lot in that first afternoon as we used the burner constantly (that’s what you do with new toys isn’t it?). After that I went back to feeding the system a bucket of manure every day. The colder weather certainly slows down the gas production and we don’t have enough gas to use as our only supply just yet. Once the toilet is connected to the system the feeding of the digester will hopefully take care of itself.

I am sold on biogas; even though the initial set up of the bacterial colonies takes so long (especially in Winter) and the refill time is fairly long at first, the system works and is improving daily.