Creating an urban homestead and news about life.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lights off....thinking caps on

I, like many others will be participating in earth hour tonight. This was started in Australia last year and picked up by many, to the point where this year it has gone global. The idea is that for one hour (8-9pm friday 28/3/08) as many people, businesses, govt depts turn off all lights and non essential technology.

There has been some criticism of it claiming to have reduced emissions by so much depending on how many people sign up. My understanding of this is that it takes a few hours to switch a powerstation down and then similar time to start up again and if they do not know exactly how much less will be used they can't really cut back the power production.

I personally see this event as a part of a growing recognition by people and communities that things need to change. It's exciting that people are getting involved. However, if all people do is turn their lights off for one hour a year nothing will change. Instead use this time as a household to brainstorm ways of reducing your emissions, your waste, and your energy usage. Look at ways you can get involved in your community, in lobbying govt for change. Be creative. If this doesn't build momentum for change then why bother.

I personally will be enjoying earth hour over some candles and a bottle of wine with my friend Sue in her strawbale house talking about the national permaculture convergance she has just been to. Better finish work quickly so I can get there sooner. Talk later. Hannah

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eco House

On the way home from the hike we dropped in on a friend. He and his wife have a property in Nerriga which is inland from Nowra on an unsealed road to Canberra. There is a little cottage where we shared a cup of tea and saw his rough set up with car batteries powering a 12 volt lighting system and his portable dvd player, and gas used for cooking and refrigerating, but only when they are staying there.

They are building their dream home, and once finished plan to live there almost full time, but a lot of the preparation and work is being done by him and I think he really enjoys being a hermit in the bush, but was still glad to show off the house.

They have excavated large areas visible in the bottom photo, the house will be on two levels and once completed the earth from the excavation, currently in piles at the top of the hill will be pushed back over the roof and native grasses grown.

This first photo is of their water tank, the structural parts internally are made of reinforced steel with concrete brick surrounds and once complete will be filled with concrete and the timber frames removed. this is done because the house will be built on top of it. They are planning to use solar power for lighting and heat pumps to heat water and provide air conditioning in summer at the same time. They have a worm farm and reed bed system for sewage and then using the water to irrigate the fields down by the creek where they may look at growing some of their food, although it looks like it will be a battle against the critters, white ants demolished their orchard that was her 50th wedding anniversary.
It was great to actually see the place after hearing about it for a long time.

My house process is continuing, just waiting for all the red tape of title searches and bank approvals and valuations, all of which are not concerning, just time consuming. . . more updates soon.

Easter Hike

Went on a lovely hike over Easter Long Weekend with a group of friends from my bible study at church. There were six of us, and we headed off after the morning service on Good Friday to Wog Wog, an area of Morton National Park on the south coast of NSW. It took about an hour to drive there and then a four hour walk through ghostly gums and rock monoliths

We camped at a place called cascades, so named because of the lovely...cascades there, swimming was enjoyed by the braver members of the party, myself included, and did a good deal to wash away the sore muscles and make you feel alive (around 15 degrees celcius and colder out than in.)

A picture of the group around the campfire, with my lovely tent in the background. I didn't get to sleep in it though due to the gender mix, and I did miss it a lot. Had a lovely dinner and sat around the fire as the mist settled in for the night telling stories and drinking tea before heading off to bed with a nalgene bottle full of hot water.

My friend Frances took this photo of the gum trees and I thought it was just beautiful, the dampness in the air makes them really come alive in their colours and kept us comfortable while walking. This area can be very difficult to walk in in hot weather as you can very easily become dehydrated. No danger of that on this walk though, and we enjoyed walking as it kept us from getting cold. (I must add a note that the weekend before I spent in balmy sunshine only half an hours drive away from here sunbaking and snorkelling for hours. - gotta love the weather)
And here is Gareth, a hiker on the rock. A small arrow led up the hill and around the back of this huge rock monolith of conglomerate stone, lookes like millions of giant pebbles stick together with dark concrete and lovely to climb. I feel so priveleged to live here, and to have health that enables me to get out in God's creation. For me this trip was as much my Easter worship as any church service could be. The bible says that all creation honours God and as I walked once again through this area I could not but agree.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Growing Challenge

I have decided to join Melinda's growing challenge. I was going to wait until I was somewhere I could start planting, but when she said she was so close to 100, I thought I could join and start planning my planting. I know that's always a good idea :)

The garden challenge is that you commit to growing at least one thing from seed this year that you have never grown before. You also have to write at least once a week about how it is going (or growing). There are now at least 98 people joined and Melinda writes a report on some of the gardens each week.

You have to identify your zone. I went to this website which is part of the Botanic Garden's website, and you can look at other interesting things, like records of native plants and their uses amongst other things. It says that my zone is 3-4 in Australian standards. One of the good things on this site was that it showed a comparison for American zones. In USA I would be in zone 10-11.

The difficulty is that a zone is a large area, and you may find micro climates in that zone, or even on your property created naturally or artificially to grow things with very different requirements. For example to grow something that is frost sensitive in a colder zone, I had a lemon tree growing in my house in Parramatta, Sydney which frequently had frosts through winter, but as it was in a north facing spot and had a mango and a lilli-pilli sheltering it above, it fruited all year round. I think the best way of working out what grows well, is as the author of that site says. Look at plants with similar growth requirements. If lemons can grow where you are, then look at the zone requirements for lemons, and then you should be able to grow other things within that zone.

And my own challenge? I would like to try some eggplant this year which I have grown from seedling but never from seed. I would also like to grow more varieties of lettuces, Pidgeon Peas, and banana passionfruit, which I remember my grandmother growing at the back door of her house when I was much younger.

Until I can start planting. I will plan to post some of the techniques and ideas I have learnt about gardening over the years, some permaculture techniques and propogation techniques. Until then, happy gardening.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Termites and Mortgage Approval

These are termites, actually the flying variety. Unfortunately the damage they can do is .....


The pest inspection found termites, fortunately very localised, in one spot that I had noticed some decay, and in the extension part of the house, not the original part which would worry me more. I am now in negotiations with the owners through the real estate to drop the price by the amount treatment will cost, or for them to carry out treatment. If not treated, the whole house could fall down in a matter of years - that doesn't really appeal to me. If treated, there should be no further damage, but it is costly.

The good news I just received is that the bank has conditionally approved my mortgage, conditional on a valuation of the property, to make sure it's worth what I'm paying for it, so if the I can't pay and they foreclose they'll get their money back. I understand that. But they're not going to get a chance to foreclose.

It's really hard to not jump into planning and buying too much, but I am getting very excited. I have bought one item, which was a single futon from Ikea that I have wanted for over 6 years, and stopped myself by rationalising that I didn't have the space and didn't want to lug it around. Now I am going to have a study/spare room hopefully in just a few weeks, which is quite small, so it will be great to have in there, and is really comfortable to sleep on. I have also made arrangements with a friend for some Barnevelder chickens, an heirloom breed. I know, I know, nothing else, nothing else. I am going to post this and then sit on my hands and tell myself to wait until I have a contract.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dreaming of a Quarter-Acre Lot

Well, actually I'm no longer dreaming, and the quarter acre is more and eighth of an acre, but all things aside, I am buying a house - Well, that's the plan. I put this picture in as I feel like I've just taken on almost more than I can handle, and that's just all the paperwork to get the house.

I moved back to the sizable town I grew up in from the big smoke of Sydney last year for a number of reasons. My mum had found out she needed further cancer treatment, I needed to move house (and rentals in Sydney are a nightmare) and I missed the coast, and the outdoors.

I was looking at purchasing a property within a year, however decided to wait until mum had finished her chemotherapy to start looking in case she was not doing well and needed assistance with her own mortgage.

Then in January I think it was my housemates (a married couple) decided to start househunting. I was intending to move with them and continue paying rent and helping them out, however the house they found while lovely has no garage. (currently my house full of stuff is in storage in half the garage where we live.) I realised that I would need to get a storage unit if I was to move with them so decided to start looking at properties. First few were dismal and in poor repair.

Then my brother mentioned that one of my sisters had been around at his place looking at houses for her and her husband to do up. He had seen one that he thought I should look at, and had called the real estate to find out that the house was vacant and I could go round that evening and look from the outside and if I liked it arrange to look through it.

That happened just a couple of weeks ago. I didn't realise just how stressful making an offer on a house would be. Wow! At last we reached a figure we could both agree on and then I arranged for building inspection. That happened today and I got the go ahead from the builder!!!

Next step pest inspection and Mortgage approval and then I'll have a house. This is just a little bit daunting and very exciting. On the weekend after I calmed down from the offer being accepted I realised that by the time I move into the house, it will be almost a year (2 months off) from the time I moved. Funny how time flies.

I haven't posted a lot about gardening and living because it's hard when you share a house with people who have a giant dog and digs up all the garden and rips apart your plot. The house I am hopefully buying has a northerly aspect, some established fruit trees and vegetables from the last tenant and potential for so much more.

I will continue to post as the process goes on. Please keep me and the house in your thoughts and prayers if you have time that all will proceed without issue and I'll be able to move in soon.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Baskets of Flowers - a teacosy pattern.

Just posting a photo of the tea cosy I made for Sarah in the swap at Down to Earth. I crocheted the flower and put a mother of pearl button for the middle of the flower. The teacosy is two squares stitched in basket stich with rib stitch at the top and bottom to give it the stretch it needs to go around the teapot.

I thought I would post the pattern in case anyone would like to make one like it.

For this size Teapot the pattern I made was:

Cast on 36 stiches using 3-4 size needle. (This can be increased by multiples of 4)

Rib Stitch

(Knit one Purl one) repeated to the end of this row.
Repeat for 14 rows.

Basket Stitch
(a)(K4 P4) Repeat to end of row. Repeat for four rows.
(b)(P4 K4) Repeat to end of row. Repeat for four rows.
Continue (a) and (b) until you achieve the desired length.

Rib Stitch

(K1,P1) Repeat to end of row. repeat for 6 rows.

End off. (This is the top)

This is one side. After you have made a matching side Sew them together up the sides approximately 3-4cm (depending on the placement of the handle of the teapot) and across the top from each side approximately 2cm. Embellish or not as you desire. You can knit a plain layer to increase the insulation and attach this inside or use a piece of felt or flannel (but this will limit the stretchability of the cosy). Sarah lives in the warmer parts of USA so I didn't think this would be necessary.