Monday, December 27, 2010

A little video for Christmas

After years of using my little power-shot G7 for taking pic's for my web page and the blog I've finally got round to using the video feature.

This is a short clip of the flood that's presently flowing past my back boundary, laced with a few stills from my library. It was shot today and edited with a bit of software I downloaded off the net this afternoon. The song "Cowboy take me away" is sung by local girl Lyla Quinn and can be downloaded from here along with other songs by some of our local talent.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lakeside property

We now have a lake at the bottom of our block. Flood water moving down the Murrumbidgee is starting to spread out of the river proper and into all the little side creeks. We have one at the bottom of our property that flows through the reserve. 

This morning flood level at Hay town was 7.72 and rising with a predicted peak of around  8.5 metres by the 28th. The town is fairly well protected by a levee system and our Council think it unlikely that the Hay community will suffer any adverse flood effects from the predicted event. But it is causing a fair bit of excitement around town.

Our house is well above the predicted level so we are safe enough, but I will probably be able to cast a line from my deck. Or perhaps a yabby trap or two (Singapore chili prawns yabbies for Christmas lunch).

A bit of excitement and a nice view for Christmas, life's never dull out here in the boonies.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Drive update

The bobcat came today to clear the spoil from my trenching. It's taken a few day to dry out enough but we can now get the car in and out without to much trouble. I have also started casting the gutter blocks that will make up the drain and garden edging. I had intended to box and free form the concrete but after an initial trial gave that up as a bad idea. I just couldn't get the shape I wanted with that method. 

After a bit of head scratching I decided to make up a steel form that I could use to mold the right shape. A quick trip to the local engineering shop and a half hour on their sheet folder and I had my form. The form is made of 16 gauge black steel sheet and will give me a gutter block 1200mm long. Laid end to end and bedded on hard-fill these will form the drive edge.

Each block is a full barrow of concrete and they weigh a bit so I will have to make up some sort of lifter to get them in place. Since I only have one form I can only make one a day so I've got plenty of time to work that one out. I need about sixty to complete the drive so that should keep me out of trouble for a while.

The form is coated with used cooking oil as a release agent and the ends are clamped in place to contain the concrete. With the end caps removed I can spring the mold a bit to release the finished block.
Form ready for filling
Fill with concrete and vibrate
The next day the concrete is strong enough to be turned out of the mould and the whole process starts again.
The first couple are a bit rough but we will have it under control soon enough.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just add water

The place is turning into a jungle. By the time the tomatoes are ready I'm going to need a tracker and machete to get in there.

Shade-house jungle.
And the corn is as high as an elephants eye, Yeeow! Aye-yip-aye-yo-ee-ay!
Garlic in plaits, well rough old plaits but I was pressed for time.
First lot of beetroot, second lot will be picked before they disappear under the bush tomatoes.
We normally share these with the birds as the vine is mainly grown as a shade for the office window.
Not far off.
We'll be eating Scarlet runners soon.

And my pumpkin patch looking tidy as usual. Mixed varieties in there along with some watermelon just to make it interesting.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Frantic preparations, lucky escape.

A couple of days ago I started making preparations for the 100mm of rain and and wild weather that was predicted to pass through South Western NSW by BOM. Last night the worst of that event passed us by with only a couple of millimeters of rain falling on us. I had spent time clearing  and strengthening my guttering to cope with all the rain expected, redirecting storm-water systems and arranging a syphon set-up to drain the swales if required. Luckily for us none of this was needed this time but I will for future such events be making these improvements permanent.

Last week I was given a good example of what to expect from a heavy rainfall event with my drive being turned into a mud hole when we received about 27mm in a couple of hours.

Over the last couple of weeks with the completion of the shed I have been working on realigning and weather proofing my drive. This involved grading down about 75mm for road base and building guttering to deal with the run-off. This year was probably not the best time to pick for such a project being one of the wettest years for a long, long time. Still when done the new drive will be a great improvement. No more mud tracked onto the deck or into the the shed or carport, my fearless leader will be pleased with that.

On the bright side the garden is looking great, the best production we have had in years. Spuds, corn, beans and tomato are heading for a bumper crop. 

Garlic has been harvested and stored, along with the first crop of beetroot. The grape vines are looking like they will give us a good crop this year and I may even have enough for a couple of bottles of wine.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Duckie wants a Tandem

I want one of these

There is also a great vid over at The Duck Herders that is worth a look.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Changing Landscape: The Lawn

I've been looking through my photo collection documenting progress on the house and garden and was struck by the evolution and changes over the last few years. We moved into the house in February 07 with all the major construction completed but a bit of the finishing still to be done, an ongoing process attended to as time and money permit.

 Landscaping at that stage had not really been started, apart from some rough shaping of the block, a small veggie patch and lots of plants in pots. Although there was no formal plan for the garden we did have an idea of what was needed. The garden had to be water-wise first and foremost, provide a climate for the house, a habitat for the birds and bees and other creepy-crawlies, a bit of stuff for us to eat and look nice enough to keep us on-side with the tidy- town folk.

I have lots of pic's of the progress on the house and garden, way too many for one post so I thought I would start with the lawn.

Since we don't have a lot of spare water to throw round and I'm not to keen on pushing a lawn mower or spending the money on fuel we only have a small one (about 60sq metres). Small it may be but it is particularly nice as lawns go. ;-)

I'm proud of my lawn, but it did take some work, lot's of digging. The soil we have on our block is mostly clay, hard as rock when it's dry and sticky as toffee when wet. To get a workable soil I scrounged around the neighbourhood collecting leaves and lawn clippings from anyone who had some spare. This was all dug in along with trailer loads of horse manure from the local stables. I dug and rotary hoed that patch about five times before I was happy with it. The first attempt at a lawn was a native grass that I thought would be drought tolerant and hardy but it became infested with couch and ended up a total failure. So it got rounded up and dug over again, more horse poo and a mulch crop to finish it off.

After a bit of research I settled on buffalo as a good prospect for our area and purchased a few rolls of turf from a local supplier. This was chopped into small squares and planted out willie nilly over the levelled area, anyone who asked about the planting system was told I was setting up for lawn chess.

So far it has been a total success, thick enough to suppress any weed growth it requires virtually no more water than it gets from the rain we get from time to time over the summer. I try to time my mowing runs to just before we get a rain event and always use a high setting so it' stays around 75mm deep all the time. Worked like that it retains good moisture at it's base and is soft and cool to walk on. Any visiting kids love it and spend ages laying and rolling around on it.

It goes dormant in the winter and requires no mowing until spring. That's when I give it a good scalping and hit it with a bit of dynamic lifter, work it over with a fork for aeration so it's good to go for the summer. Although I'm not a great fan of lawns I am happy enough with this one and the neighbors are impressed enough to keep requesting the runners I cut off from the garden edges.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blogging has resumed

Well here we are, 2 o’clock in the morning and I can't sleep, so I thought I would have a go at a blog update. It's windy and raining outside so it looking like another miserable inside day for us today. There has been stuff happening since my last update, it's just that I've not been able to get motivated enough to write it up. Maybe it's the weird winter we have had this year that’s having a down in the dumps effect on us. There has been plenty of rain by the standards of last few years and everything is damp, damp, damp. This is due mainly to the lack of sunshine rather than the amount of rain. It's been unusually overcast this winter and as a result the garden has just been marking time, although, the last week has seen us with a bit of sunny weather that has perked everything up, and most of the fruit trees have suddenly burst into bud.

Anyhow on with the show.
The pay it forward vids have gone to their new homes with Nevyn and Ramsey, I hope they find them enjoyable and enlightening. A great idea, so thanks to Molly for getting me on to it.
The bubble wrap has been reasonably successful and even though its hard to tell how much difference it's made to heat retention overall (the house is well insulated anyway) its definitely helped with a major condensation problem we had with our large windows. The bathroom has really benefited from the extra insulation, being completely unheated it totally relies on heat from elsewhere in the house to keep it warm. The bubble wrap has helped there for sure, all in all it has been worth the effort. I'm thinking now that because it doesn’t look to bad or effect our views to much I will leave it in place through the summer to see if it has any effect on the cooling of the house.

The shed is still without a roof, another weather problem I'm afraid. I haven't been game to put it on until the rainwater tank is in place in case I end up with a flood, and I haven't been able to get the tank in place because the ground is to wet to do the landscaping required where it will be situated. The shed has been a bit of a marathon working by myself, I've had to find ways of doing two and three man jobs solo. I have a good neighbor who's been keen to help but since he is a mobile accident area I have tried to keep him away from anything sharp, heavy or high. Still he is handy for passing stuff to me when I'm up a ladder. The roller door was I major job to get in place solo but I managed that by walking it up a couple of planks bit by bit.  The decision to put eaves on the shed meant a bit of extra work but the appearance of the building has been improved I think, so worth the effort in my book.

The rain overnight filled the swales and attracted this visitor, it's a Buff-banded Rail, although common to this area of NSW it's the first we have seen in the garden.
With all the moisture in the soil it's looking like we will have a good spring this year.  In the garden we have broad beans ready to produce and the tomato plants I nursed through the winter are ready to start giving us some early tomatoes. Silver beet, swedes, cabbage and cauliflower are all powering on and we have pea bushes in flower. Garlic, onion and leeks are doing great and I've got some new beds ready for corn and more tomato plants.

The sharp eyed  will have noticed that although its says 2 am at the top I didn't actually post until midday. That because I'm a slow writer and it takes me a while to knock stuff into shape, and I did have to have a nanny nap about halfway.;-)


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pay it forward winners

The winners are Nevyn and Ramsey, if you can give me a postal addy guys I will get your DVDs off straight away. Email is jonseyattpgdotcomdotau


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pay it Forward

Following on from Molly's "Pay it Forward" today I have on offer the DVD I received from her and a couple of my own.
If you would like to enter, just leave a comment to let me know which of the DVDs you'd like (first, second and third preference) and I will add your name to the hat, first drawn gets their first pref and so on. I don't mind posting international so it's all in. I'll do the draw this coming Sunday 1st August 2010.

The first is “Victorian Farm”, this is a historical observational documentary series following a team who live the life of Victorian farmers for a year. The team recreate everyday life on a small farm in Shropshire in the mid-19th century using authentic and replica equipment, clothing, original recipes and reconstructed building techniques.

The second is “The Thin Green Line” a documentary film, made by Australian Park Ranger Sean Willmore. In 2004 Willmore travelled the world, across six continents and nineteen countries, interviewing and filming the lives and stories of park rangers, recounting their experiences and extreme difficulties. The Thin Green Line is also the name of the not for profit foundation set up by Sean Willmore in the wake of the documentary's success. The aim of the foundation is to support rangers on the frontline, including the International Ranger Dependency Fund which supports the families of committed rangers who have lost their lives, or rangers who have been severely injured in the line of duty.

And the last is “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”. A very graphic presentation of how Cubans adapted to limited energy resources. This documentary explores the economic collapse and eventual recovery of Cuba following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The dramatic steps taken by both the Cuban government and its citizens who pulled together, created solutions, and ultimately thrived in spite of their decreased dependence on imported energy. The major themes include urban agriculture, energy dependence, and sustainability.

Remember, the deal is you get to watch them and then pass them on free of charge to others.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

And now for something completely different

Support John Abraham,

Some months ago, professor John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, released a detailed critique of a Monckton presentation given on October 14th, 2009 at a climate skeptic event sponsored by the Minnesota Free Market Institute.

Monckton is not used to such exchanges and has climbed out of his tree, he has authored a 99 page “rejection” of Abraham’s talk and sent threatening letters to both Abraham and his employers (University of St Thomas, Minnesota) asking for the presentation to be removed form the web site with a demand for money (in this case $110,000 to be paid to a charity of Monckton's choice),

In his attempts at intimidation of Abraham and his University he is now organising his minions via climate change denier blogs to send similar letters to the University of St Thomas. Monckton can’t be allowed to succeed in this campaign so it is important that supporters of science make the university aware that this sort of bullying is just not acceptable.

Gareth Renowden at Hot Topic is organising a way for you to make your support for Abraham known. Rather than flood St Thomas with supporting emails, he is collecting signatures for this statement:

We the undersigned offer unreserved support for John Abraham and St. Thomas University in the matter of complaints made to them by Christopher Monckton. Professor Abraham provided an important public service by showing in detail Monckton's misrepresentation of the science of climate, and we applaud him for that effort, and St. Thomas University for making his presentation available to the world.
If you agree, nip over and sign up.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Stone Soup

A cold miserable day today so what better than a nice bowl of piping hot soup for lunch, and what better than my favourite, “Stone Soup”. This is made using the traditional family soup stone, part of my inheritance from Granny. Granny was a master cook who had served, in her youth, in  the kitchen of “His Lordship” in County Derry, Ireland, (the old country) back in the olden days. The stone has been in the family for generations and I believe may have been a leftover from when Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway. I can't show you a photo of the rock (family secret don't you know) but here's a pic of the box we keep it in.

Rock on.
Usually it's just rock in the pot, a bit of salt and pepper, simmer till done. But sometimes a bit of variation is nice and since I had a bit of stock made from the carcasses of a couple of chickens I boned out yesterday, I started with that (the meat as well, don't want to waste anything). Now as this rock has done a fair bit of service a bit of thickening doesn't go astray, so I fired in a carrot, spud, apple and a bit of onion that I had laying around in the fridge. Rice, rice is good too so a handful of that as well, and, since I don't mind a bit of fire, a teaspoon full of curry powder just to sup it up a bit. Piping hot with some toasted home-made Chimichurri Bread you can't beat it, just the thing on a cold miserable day.

Stone soup is seriously good tucker, so good in fact I thought I should share  the recipe. Of course if you don't have a family soup stone all you will end up with is plain old Mulligatawny soup.

1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium potato peeled and diced
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1Litre (4 cups) chicken stock
1/2 apple - peeled, cored and chopped
3 tablespoons basmati rice
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillet - diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch dried thyme
125ml (1/2 cup) very thick (45%) cream

Preparation method
Fry onions, ginger and carrot in butter in a large soup pot. Add flour and curry powder and cook 5 more minutes.
Add chicken stock and potato, mix well and bring to the boil. Simmer about 1/2 hour.
Add apple, rice, chicken, salt, pepper and thyme. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until rice is done.
Stir in cream and serve.

Don't forget to put the rock back in it's box for the next batch, a good soup stone will last forever properly looked after.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stuff's happening but the blogger's been slack

Despite the winter chill things are moving along out here in the boonies, the gardens doing well with the bit of rain we had and the shed is nearing completion despite it. The frame is up and wind braced ready for the cladding, which should be done in the next week or so. I have made a few alterations to the standard plan so we are waiting for the extra materials to turn up. I have put a few extra roof girts in to take the weight of the solar panels I intend putting up there. I have also extended the eaves a bit rather than cut off at the wall, the standard with these sheds. I want to be sure there will be no water getting into the building.

In the garden we have broad-beans powering along, winter lettuce, cabbage, and Bok Choy. I've planted garlic, onion, peas, leek, and swede. A bug excluder has been constructed to keep the white butterfly from destroying my cauliflower and so far we're winning there.

The Laurence/Jones mansion has been bubble wrapped, we've taken a leaf out of Margo and Jerry's book and installed bubble glazing.

Simple, cheap and effective, well worth the effort, it has made a noticeable difference to the warmth retained over night. The bathroom especially has benefited, it's nice in there now and since I still wear the same PJ's I was born with (they're a bit threadbare now) the early morning dash is not such a chore (I'm happy with that). ;-)

Not totally kosher I know, we did buy a roll of the bubble wrap but will share it with any of our neighbors interested in installing it. We have used double sided tape to stick it to the glass, this allows a full seal and no problem with condensation getting between the glass and the bubble. We have covered all of the solid panes apart from one set of sliders that provide our main view and the Louvre windows in the bedrooms and office. I will make up some removable panels for the louvers as time permits, the main view window we can live with as is. More information on bubble glazing is available here


Friday, May 14, 2010

Shed update

Finally, six weeks late we have our shed kit on site.

After suffering weeks of BS from the agent I finally lost patience and rang head office a couple of times. The second of those calls produced the desired result. The agent rang yesterday with a tale of woe that went on for about ten minutes and almost had me on the floor splitting my sides with laughter. Anyway, the upshot was that the shed was to arrive on site crack of dawn today, and, I was to get one of his men to help with construction free of charge.
Crack of dawn turned out to be after lunch (mid afternoon actually) and the offer of free help was turned down because I really don't want any more dealings with this guy, enough is enough.

My fearless leader is looking brighter now that the new sewing room is in sight and come Monday morning we will be cracking on. I think we should be able to handle it ourselves.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pedal power

On my last post LS from Down and Out In A Brave New World asked about the E- bike and I promised a reply post, so for you mate and anyone else interested here it is.
The e-bike is built around an old mountain bike frame that has been fitted with a hub motor. This motor is laced into the middle of the bikes front wheel. The axle of the motor is then secured to the bikes front forks. When power is provided it spins the wheel around the axle, driving the bike forward. This is a brush-less hub motor and is designed to provide peak efficiency rating of around 85%.

The hub motor was part of a kit I brought from DLM Energy (since vanished from view but you can get the same stuff here) and came already laced/spoked into a 26 inch rim. The kit included three 12AH 12V lead acid batteries in a battery bag, controller with connectors, twist grip throttle, battery cables and electric brakes. The batteries are wired in series to provide 36V, officially the motor is 200 watts  ;-).  Also provided was a charger, extra long stand and pack rack.

The cost of the kit was $850 and I think well worth the money, when compared with the registration and running cost of a car. The e-bike is incredibly cheap to run, costing only about 2c per kilometer. With batteries full, it will travel around 32 kilometers without peddling or around 55 kilometers in pedal assist mode. No taxes, no parking problems, no licensing, no pollution and the motor is virtually silent.

This bike can scoot along a bit and the granny that rides it has been clocked at 40km/h on the flat. She scares the bejezzes out of the local triathlon riders on their training ride as she breezes past them like they were standing still. She also had the local BMX kids stonkered as to why they couldn't keep up with her, until I spilled the beans to one of them in an unguarded moment.

The e bike is Jan's work bike and because she works shifts it gets used a bit at night, a decent light is a must. The lights I use on all my bikes are home made 12volt 20W-halogen with a 23-degree spread. The spotlights, switches and connectors I buy from Jaycar electronics and mount the whole set-up in a piece of tube from a broken hang glider keel. The lights were initially run off a cheap battery drill pack that provided about 30 minutes of light, more than enough for Jan to get to work and back. I have since made up my own battery packs that run a bit longer per charge. Anyone interested in building their own bike light set-up can find information here at the The fat hippy's home made bike lights.

I'll do the rest of my bikes in another post sometime soon.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Rellie Attack

We have over the last week or so been entertaining Jans' two sisters who popped over from NZ for a short visit. As a result blogging and blog cruising has taken a back seat, but we are back on track now so off we go.
While they were here we made them ride bikes everywhere as that is the way we like to get around, unless it's hosing down rain, then we take the car and of course out of town trips are also car days (it's 150km's to anywhere out here).

As luck would have it I happen to have a spare bike or two so finding a seat wasn't a problem. Just a quick tidy up needed and they where on the road (the bikes not the girls). ;-)

While I was at it I shouted the electric bike a new battery set as the last unit had shorted out and caught fire one day when Jan was coming home from work. It caused a bit of excitement amongst a few tourists who were crossing the bridge at the time, they noticed the flames coming from the rear and thought the rider was rocket propelled.

With the new battery pack I have changed from NM-HI to Sealed Lead Acid Batteries. I think they are a better bang for the buck system. The SLA's are less expensive and easy to maintain. A small ply box was built to contain the new battery set that should keep the whole system waterproof and trouble free. I think the cause of the fire may have been some dampness in the vinyl bag the NMHI were in.

The electric bike has been on the road now for about seven years and has been remarkably trouble free. Apart from three battery sets the only other problem was the controller shorting out when the main power leads got caught on an obstruction and where ripped out of a connector.

The next job is to build a new battery pack for the Fat hippy bike light.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Shed

I had hoped to be blogging about the new shed by now but it still hasn't arrived, already three weeks overdue I got a call from the agent to say I will not be getting it until the end of the month. So there will be no shed blog for a week or two. Still that has allowed me to ease back into work around the place as I'm still feeling a bit doughy after the surgery.

The cooler weather and a little bit of rain have been a great pick me up for the garden and everything is starting to fire up again. I've turned a bit of ground for the winter veg and planted swedes, turnip and parsnip seed. I've also started some cauliflower and cabbage in pots that I will plant out as seedlings when they are ready. I've also been making a bit more biochar.

I started playing around with this stuff about five years ago after watching a documentary on Amazonian black earth ("Terra Preta de Indio") and doing a bit of internet research on the work of Johannes Lehmann. While I did start out being all scientific and working with little test plots I soon got sick of that and now just use it everywhere as I make it. Whether it makes that much difference it's hard to tell, although my veg always do a bit better than my neighbours and the ground does seem to hold the moisture better where I have used it.

I make this char out of all the fruit tree prunings that are too big to compost. I just let them dry for a while and burn them in a big wood gas burner I made out of some old paint cans. The residue is charcoal that is broken up and spread on the garden. While doing the burn I can do a stir-fry, cook up a bit of rice or even a BBQ, saves wasting the heat that is generated with this stove.

There is a fair bit of research going on into the sequestration and land improvement benefits of biochar at the moment and also a bit of amateur interest as well. Who knows, it may have a lot of benefits in the future but in the meantime it's a way of getting rid of my prunings and seems to help my veg grow a bit better.

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