Local insects and animals –

I found this little gecko in a bucket… sadly he was dead. I must remember to store my buckets upside down. This poor little reptile probably lived a life of ease in the humpy; hunting spiders and insects, basking in the warmth of the wood heater and hiding from the antechinus who eats the occasional gecko.

My plan was to take some photos and see if I could identify him. That has proven to be harder than it should be. I know he is not an Asian House gecko because he doesn’t have little spikes on his tail, but is he a dark version of the Robust Velvet gecko, or a Velvet gecko? We have both here. He could also be a Wood gecko?

No matter who he was, his family will be missing him. Gecko’s, like crocodiles, look after their young for some time after they hatch. Both parents guard the babies and seem to teach them to hunt on windows and near doors. I feel sad to have inadvertently ended this gecko’s life, especially since he seems to have died of dehydration waiting for me to help him. This will hopefully serve as a trigger to remember to store containers upside down in future.

Washing up Injury

I am laboriously typing this with one finger on my left hand. Six days ago now, I was washing up and being inattentive (as usual) when I washed a small bucket we use for cleaning around the humpy. The washing up was almost done and I was looking forward to getting into some spinning of avocado dyed fleece I had prepared. I reached into the bucket with my right hand and swirled the water around. When I pulled my hand out, the water was weirdly red. I didn’t feel any pain for several seconds, and then a tsunami of sensations hit my distracted mind; pain, and a searing heat, along with a sense of panic because I could not piece together what had just happened.

It turns out that someone had left the lid of a tin in the bucket and I had managed to run the very sharp edge of that lid over the first knuckle of my little finger on the right hand.

I yelled for help and we were soon on our way to the emergency room (after my partner sorted the car and changed his clothes). The finger was still bleeding when we got to the hospital, despite the efficient dressing job my daughter did on the wound. The emergency room doctor stuck some needles in the finger and poked about a bit, then she announced that she couldn’t see the tendon in there and I would have to go to our regional Base hospital to see an orthopedic surgeon. She sent me home with pain killers until the next day.

Once it was cleaned up, the cut seemed tiny and I couldn’t believe how much it bled. I could not bend my fingertip at the first knuckle, which rattled me quite a bit. I went home and returned to Lismore Base hospital early the next morning. Eventually, the surgeon came and poked about at my finger, which made the whole hand scream. He stated that I needed to have the hand operated on to fix the tendon, which he thought was severed completely. The operation was scheduled for the next day and I decided to stay in Lismore for the night (in a hotel room).

The next morning, I presented my fasted and medicated self to the hospital and waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually I was taken in to the operating theatre, and off I went to unconsciousness. I woke up, some four hours later, was given coffee and a sandwich, told to keep the cast on and handed a sheet of information with more pain killers. I left, not knowing the details of my operation, medical staff are so busy.

So now I am stuck at home, not being able to use my right hand. I am bored and frustrated, as well as worried that my finger may not heal properly and I may be left with a stiff finger. I have decided to catch up on some posts here, to keep my mind busy, if not my body. So look forward to some historical posts, some left field posts and some not-strictly-necessary posts.

I will be stuck in front of a screen for several more weeks.


A banana circle/transpiration pit hybrid

The photo below may not seem like much, but it is a HUGE leap forward for us. Please excuse the finger in the shot, I was in a hurry to get back to filling the trench. This photo represents a change in our water harvesting and disposal system.

Previously, our waste water from the kitchen ran out of the humpy into a trench in the soil and was allowed to spread out randomly from there. You can see the big clump of iris and weeds against the wall of the humpy which marks the start of the previous trench. This system created a mess of muddy trench and water sitting on the surface of the soil. I put in a lot of work, with help from family and friends, to dig a drain trench and put in some actual plumbing. While I was at it, I dug a trench for the effluent from the biogas unit too. This effluent previously went to a transpiration pit near the unit, but I wanted to extend the pit, so decided to plumb all our kitchen and biogas overflow into a banana circle.

What is a banana circle? It is a hole with bananas and other useful plants growing around the edge. Banana circles usually have a water source and the centre is used as a compost pile. This provides nutrients and water to the hungry crops and makes a little island of fertility.

Below you can see the beginning of my banana circle. The plumbing is in and I have dug a hole about a metre deep in the centre and piled the soil up around the edge. My circle is in a low place in the yard, so it will also channel rain water into it. Because it is being used as a transpiration pit, I was careful to dig the hole deep enough to (hopefully) prevent overflow during rain events.

I piled logs and sticks into the hole to provide something to soak up all that water and nutrient and hold it in dry times. I also added a layer of compost over the trench to give the bananas a fighting chance. I edged the piles with big pieces of branch to make an edge to mow against and to hold in the compost and mulch.

I planted my banana suckers (only two so far), some cassava cuttings and about 100 comfrey roots. Then I started to trim and weed the garden and pile up the centre of my circle. I will continue to pile up cuttings and garden scraps in the middle of the circle. The water in the pit should be covered by material at all times, so it will be a race to keep enough composting material in there as it breaks down (it might encourage me to weed more).

This little project has solved a problem (sloppy trench through the yard) and provided a place to grow food and medicine (bananas, cassava and comfrey). It also used up one pile of sticks and wood from the sheep paddock that needed to be cleared. I am very satisfied with my results on this project.

Building a toilet – a new biogas unit

Some time ago our biogas collector tank… burst. It was a smelly and distressing event. The tank had developed a small hole in the corner and the leak burst in a rush one afternoon. The smell was unbelievable, for an hour or so. The miracle of anaerobic digestion means that the digested material left in the tank, really didn’t smell once it was exposed to the air. Our lawn was very green for a long time too.

We hosed the liquid in to the lawn well and avoided the entire area for a week or so. We had to drag the old unit out of the yard using the farm ute, and bury it in a hole in the bush. I emailed the company and reported the incident and they emailed back with an explanation; apparently some of the tanks were stitched with a non-UV resistant thread, which would give out over time. They replaced the unit (for free) and we decided to upgrade the toilet situation.

My tired and reluctant partner built a toilet shed from scraps of metal and tin we had laying around. It took three days to build and is a lovely addition to the humpy (although it is square and has no lopsided walls, so it looks out of place).

We then dug out a level pad for the biogas unit, a piece of carpet supplied by a friend was laid out as a base and the tank was assembled and filled.

Then came the long and tedious wait for the unit to activate. I added horse manure and cow manure to the water and… waited. After a month or so, the biogas began to do it’s thing and we now have an active unit.

You may ask what we were doing for a toilet while this building was going on. We used the toilet as usual, but it fed into a bucket that was emptied every few days into a hole in the bush (then covered in soil). We soon grew tired of carting a bucket of poop into the bush and waited for the unit to activate eagerly.

Now it is time to upgrade the transpiration pit.

Local insects and animals – Striped Burrowing Frog

Picture this: it’s a warm Autumn evening, and you’re heading out to check on your chooks before bed. You peek into the water pot and what do you find? A striped burrowing frog! Yes, you read that right – a frog in the chook water. And let me tell you, it was quite the surprise!

Now, you might be wondering how a frog ended up in a chook water in the first place. Well, as it turns out, burrowing frogs are quite skilled at, you guessed it, burrowing. They often dig themselves into the ground to escape the heat and dryness of the Australian climate. But when the ground is too dry, they might seek out alternative sources of water – like your chook water pot!

So, who exactly is this striped burrowing frog? Let’s dive into some interesting facts and biological information.

Firstly, the striped burrowing frog, also known as the southern sandhill frog, is a native Australian species found primarily in southern and eastern Australia. As their name suggests, they are excellent diggers and can burrow up to a meter deep in the ground. They are a small, stocky frog with distinctive stripes along their back and legs, ranging from brown to reddish-brown in color.

One interesting aspect of the striped burrowing frog is its unique breeding behavior. Unlike most frogs, which lay their eggs in water, the striped burrowing frog lays its eggs in burrows it has dug in the ground. The male frog will often guard the burrow and protect the eggs until they hatch, which can take up to six months!

Another interesting fact about the striped burrowing frog is its adaptability. These frogs are able to survive in a wide range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. However, their populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss and fragmentation, making them a species of conservation concern.

Now, back to that frog in the chook water. While it might seem like an odd place for a frog to hang out, it’s actually not that uncommon. Many animals, including frogs, will seek out water sources in the Australian landscape, especially during periods of drought. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find frogs in swimming pools, water troughs, and other water sources around your property.

So, what should you do if you find a frog in your chook water? First and foremost, make sure the frog is safely removed and released back into its natural habitat. Frogs can drown in water sources that are too deep or have no means of escape, so it’s important to give them a helping hand.

Additionally, providing alternative sources of water for wildlife around your property can help to reduce the likelihood of animals seeking out your chook water. Try setting up a small pond or bird bath in a shaded area away from your chooks.

In conclusion, while finding a striped burrowing frog in your chook water might seem like an odd occurrence, it’s actually quite normal for these adaptable little creatures. So, the next time you’re checking on your chooks, keep an eye out for any unexpected visitors – you never know who might be taking a dip in the water pot!

Local insects and animals – Corvid family birds

Ah, corvid family birds! These feathery creatures are as fascinating as they are intelligent. Found all over the world, they are known for their cunning and intelligence, and are some of the most impressive birds out there. But today, we’re going to focus on those endemic to northern NSW Australia. Get ready for a fun and informative ride!

First up, let’s start with a quick refresher on what the corvid family actually is. Corvids are a group of birds that includes crows, ravens, magpies, and jays. These birds are highly intelligent and are known for their problem-solving abilities, which is why they are often the subject of many scientific studies.

Now, let’s dive into the corvid family birds found in northern NSW Australia. The first bird that comes to mind is the Australian Raven. These majestic birds are commonly found in urban and rural areas, and are known for their impressive vocalizations. They are also known for their opportunistic feeding habits, and will eat just about anything they can get their beaks on. So, if you’re enjoying a nice picnic in the park, watch out for these sneaky birds!

Next up, we have the Torresian Crow. This bird is endemic to the northern regions of Australia, and is easily recognized by its glossy black feathers and bright blue eyes. These birds are known for their intelligence and are often seen using tools to obtain food. In fact, a recent study found that Torresian Crows are the only non-primate species to make tools in the wild. So, if you ever see one of these birds with a stick in its beak, you know it’s up to something.

Moving on, we have the Australian Magpie. This bird is a common sight in parks and gardens throughout northern NSW, and is known for its striking black and white plumage. Australian Magpies are highly territorial and will defend their nesting areas aggressively, so be careful not to get too close! But despite their aggressive nature, these birds are also incredibly intelligent and have been known to form close relationships with humans who regularly feed them.

Finally, we have the Pied Currawong. This bird is found throughout eastern and southeastern Australia, including northern NSW. It is a large and noisy bird with a distinctive call that can be heard from a distance. Pied Currawongs are known for their opportunistic feeding habits and will eat just about anything, including insects, fruits, and small mammals. These birds are also highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from forests to urban areas.

So, there you have it! These are just a few of the corvid family birds found in northern NSW Australia. As you can see, these birds are highly intelligent and adaptable, and are an important part of the local ecosystem. But they’re also a lot of fun to observe and interact with, so if you’re ever in the area, be sure to keep an eye out for these amazing birds. And remember, if you’re having a picnic, keep an eye on your food – those Australian Ravens are sneaky!

A new Hugel/wicking bed

I have had a Susu banana in a bag that I bought months ago. The poor thing has sat and waited to be planted out for so long it has almost given up hope of becoming a member of the garden. I decided today to make it a space to grow, while I was cleaning up the mess that had evolved around the humpy during the last year of living and working, and working, and working.

There was an old cast iron bath tub that has been previously used as a tub to boil pig carcass’ in (not here of course) sitting in the yard, so we set it up in a convenient position for a garden bed and I started to think about how to fill it with growing medium.

First of all I needed something to absorb water and keep the plant roots out of the slop; sticks and stray bits of wood would do the trick here I thought. I collected a wheelbarrow full of those.

Next I needed something that would fill the gaps between the sticks and break down into a rich soil… eventually. Luckily my daughter had just cleaned out her rabbits, guinea pigs and bird enclosures, so I had tubs full of poop filled paper pellets. This was the perfect pre-compost material, it will break down into soil and filter down between the sticks filling the gaps.

Then it was time to top it all off with potting mix and plant my banana.

She looked so much happier. One of the the billy goats; Mendez, was looking on hopefully, waiting for me to throw weeds over the fence to him.

I also moved one of my potted geraniums onto a makeshift platform on the trailer bed. The scented geraniums are great at repelling insects, so right beside a vegetable bed is a great place for it. As an added bonus, I have taken two pieces of abandoned detritus and made them into a usable garden bed… I love that!!

Everything we have is second or third hand, that’s the way I like it. We make use of the discarded things, we take in the discarded animals, it makes life interesting, and messy. Our humpy is not conventionally beautiful, it never will be, but it is a creative space to be in. Sometimes it is chaos, sometimes it is order, always we are striving to make it home.

Make vegan whipped cream

I recently had the most delightful desert at a friend’s house; Choc ripple cake. I have never had it before and I really enjoyed it, so, of course, I had to have a go at making a vegan version for my family.

The cake uses a lot of whipped cream, so I needed to find a vegan whipped cream recipe. This video seemed to be the simplest one to start with. I combined the first ingredients;

1 cup soy milk

1/4 cup raw cashews

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 pinches salt

Then blended them until they were smooth. Next I added 2 cups of oil slowly while continuing to blend (or whip) the mixture. Within ten minutes I had a credible whipped cream and it tasted delicious.

Then I just whacked the whole thing together and stored it in the fridge to do its magic.

I’ve got to say, this is a VERY tempting vegan dessert.

Making a car Go Bag for fire season

When we were directly threatened by fire in 2019, we evacuated our entire household for a month. When we left, we took only our animals, one change of clothes and a laptop. I want to be better organised with our personal items and have a Go Bag in the car at all times with the essentials always available. Ever since I was a child we have always had water in the car, it is a habit to check the drinking water before setting off anywhere. Now it is time to do the same with an essential Go Bag.

I need to find a way to store all the items below in a mouseproof, water proof container that won’t take up too much space in my car.

Two laundry bags are the first to go in. While we were living in a tent and then a caravan for a month, one of the things we missed most were our baskets and buckets. We carry and store things constantly as humans and having something to store and carry clothes and other essentials in is very reassuring. I chose a couple of foldable bags that won’t take up much space.

Next comes the first aid kit with spares of all our medications and generic first aid stuff. Also some wipes, glow sticks and an ockey strap on the grounds that you never know when they may be useful (and they often are). I also included a camping bidet bottle in case I need to answer a call of nature somewhere with no toilet paper.

Basic toiletries are included of course. You should never leave home without a toothbrush.

Clothes were added. I managed to fit two sets of clothes, three sets of under wear and a set of pajamas in this box with all the other stuff.

I included an air freshener to try to keep things from getting smelly and musty too.

This Go Bag has already been useful when I was flooded out of home once this year. It lives in my car so I know I can be comfortable if I can’t get home for some reason.

I would like to add some dehydrated meals to the kit as well, and maybe a basic camping outfit.

Happy Litha – Summer Solstice 2022

Litha has come around again, it seems to come along more quickly every year. Litha is when the sun is at it’s highest strength; the days are at their longest, the UV index is high (but will get higher over the next two months) and animal life has settled into the serious business of raising babies. We celebrate Litha by thanking the sun for shining and bringing energy to our world, we celebrate the shortening of the days and the beginning of the harvest season.

This year I am making cold porcelain sun discs as a Litha craft. I am using this recipe to make the clay, then making some sun symbols from it.

The recipe for cold porcelain is so simple…

3/4 cup corn flour

1/2 cup white glue

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon oil

That’s it, just add the ingredients and mix, then knead until it looks like clay.

Once these little discs are dry and hard I will paint them and add a couple of layers of lacquer to make them a bit water proof. Sun discs can be used as decorations, gifts or as coasters. I think I will punch a hole in mine and hang them around the humpy.

Happy Litha everyone!!