Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hot water from the sun

Well, we now have solar hot water... well almost, still heating off the booster at the moment because we needed to get the sparky back today to FIX IT!!

But soon we shall our water heated by the sun! Soon.

then we will get our photo voltaic system installed - yay!

and we have another rain water tank coming soon too...

getting ready, little by little.

In the past week I've also learnt how to make homemade lemon cordial and how to pickle our excess lebanese cucumbers. What a week it's been.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Anyone for coffee?

My husband has been busy feeding and mulching our 40 coffee plants (arabica variety) as they prepare their beans for us to harvest.

Processing your own coffee at home is achievable, it takes a lot of time, is very labour intensive, but we do a little every evening and there is nothing like drinking a cup of your own home grown organic coffee.

When the fruits are red we get out there and start picking them off. We only harvest enough to process that night. You have to move quickly with coffee.

We sit surrounded by buckets as we pop each red berry, put it one bucket (for the worm farm), and then we put the slimey beans (usually two per berry) into a bucket of water.

Any floaters are taken out and discarded. And the rest left to ferment for about 24 hours. Keep and eye on them, or more specifically keep your hands on them, as you need to feel the beans to see when the ferment process has finished.

The beans will go from being slimey to grainy - they'll feel like they are covered in sand.

Rinse them then and lay them out in the sun to dry - we use old flyscreen doors and windows from the dump. After a few days - depending on what the weather is doing - the husk will start to split. Then you have to sit (again) and remove all those husks.

Revealed will be a small grey/green bean with a flimsy papery covering. How put those beans out in the sun again (keep them dry though) until they go very hard. Bite one between your teeth to see how hard they are.

Your beans are now ready for roasting. You can store them at this point, or you can roast them and then store them.

We roast ours in the oven and our wood heater/baker's oven. Set it to high, put the beans on a tray and keep an eye on them. They will expand and get an oily sheen. The smell will give you a clue too. When they smell like roasted coffee beans, are plump and fat and shiny - they're done. Store them in a jar in the fridge and we mortar and pestle them as we need them for the plunger.

We have our special twice roasted blend. That's the one we get out of the oven, check and decide they need to go back in again for a while.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Small and slow solutions

"the bigger they are the harder they fall"
"slow and steady wins the race"

David Holmgren's Design Principle Number 9.

Today I'm thinking about all the small changes we've made in our lives to get to where we are today. A place where we are living better on less, much less.

Behavioural changes, attitidunal changes...

A few years ago we both worked full-time. I was in the corporate world, doing a masters degree, working unpaid overtime, trying for promotions, driving a flash convertible.

My husband was working shift work full time. We had a big house with a pool, all landscaped (none of it edible mind you!). We thought money was the answer - buy the things you need... boy were we wrong.

Now, we live on a quarter of what we earned then. The flash car's gone, 'traded' for a solar hot water service and a 1kw photo voltaic solar energy system.

We eat really, really well. We don't eat out much at all, very, very occasionally we have take away (usually only we've been out running around and haven't been home). The food we eat at home is better than what we can get in a restaurant, because we grew it and it has a story to tell, our hands have touched its seeds, its leaves, we've watered and cared for it - nurtured it and now it is nourishing us.

We spend a lot of time at home, we do this because we enjoy it.

Lots of other small changes are happening. We don't have a clothes dryer anymore, instead we have a solar clothes dryer (we like to call it a clothes line). Our low water, front loading, energy efficient washing machine water runs onto the garden and waters our bananas.

We shop a lot at op shops - especially for the clothes we wear when we are working in the garden and sometimes we find a surprise and score some great going out clothes too.

I take care of our clothes. They are repaired, kept in good order and I dry them in the shade - the sun here is very harsh and will shorten their lives. I'm proud to still be wearing t-shirts that are 20 years old.

All our purchases must be practical, useful, aesthetically pleasing and useful! An example is our wood heater. We needed a more efficient, more environmentally friendly heater than the old oil heater we had (which drew a lot of electricity). We went hunting for the perfect permaculture heater (multifunctional and useful!).

We found the Australian made Nectre brand and bought their baker's oven. It heats our home, it has an oven, it has a cook top and we could have got the water jacket option too (we didn't because we have the solar hot water system which makes more sense in this climate). It's cute and very aesthetically pleasing - just perfect for our little cabin. During winter when it is lit, we do all our cooking on it, including the roasting of our home grown organic coffee beans.

We move our bed into the lounge room in winter to take advantage of the warmth it generates and the ambience. Enough said there!

Back to our diet. I now wander around our abundant garden, basket in hand and harvest what's ripe and ready. Okay, that image is a bit dreamy and you also need to have secatuers on hand, and gloves and perhaps even a bucket to collect grubs for the chooks to eat.

But I do try to make the effort of collecting our food in a beautiful basket... I then plan our meals around what's available. Back this up with a good pantry stock of staples - all bought in bulk with neighbours and stored in cleaned labelled recycled jars - and you will always be able to put together a feast - great when people turn up unexpectedly.

Cars - we sold one and now get by with one car and one motorbike. It's a small car and fuel efficient (actually more efficient than the new hybrids coming out) so it has a place in our lives.

Recycling - we recycle a lot. Green and kitchen waste goes to the chooks, the worms and the compost. Jars are cleaned, scrubbed, labels removed and kept, plastic milk bottles are washed out and put in the recycle bin, same with tins.

We scour rubbish dumps for materials to make things.

We have a small home, and keep energy use to a minimum.

I'm trying to retrofit the inside of our home to permaculture principles. Especially our kitchen, I think the kitchen is the perfect place to practice this. Zoning, multiple function, catching and storing energy... sprouts grow in jars on the kitchen window sill, shelves are full of jars full of goodies, pots n pans are sorted...

A lot of changes have happened here and many more are still to come - it will always be a work in progress. But it's good to take stock and look back at how far you've come. To be grateful with what you have. To enjoy what you've got!


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Permablitz hits town

We just farwelled the last of our Permablitz helpers from our property.

Since early this morning a team of locals has been weeding, chopping, cutting, preparing, mulching and generally helping us get ahead of the game in the garden.

Our relocalisation group has regular working bees at member's houses helping each other get ready for the future by becoming more self-sufficient with our food supplies.

It's been great. Rather than everyone trying to do it all by themselves, a day with 10-15 people all chipping in and working hard makes a big difference.

This collective idea of relocalisation is taking a lovely form here in our town. We have the working bees, soon we'll have a seed saving co-operative and other ideas are beginning to come to fruition.

Now if someone is ordering mulch, they will take the time to phone around and see if anyone else wants some too. That way, we all get the benefits of reduced costs and it sparks everyone into action.

Other co-operative ideas we have going is a bulk buying scheme where one of our members who is a caterer orders extra dried goods, oils, honey, flour etc and we can all take our empty containers to her place for a re-fill.

Other ideas I hope to see one day here are things like bulk-buying - co-operative machinery purchases. Say we all buy one thing, but share it around.

I'd also like to see a community dairy and or goat herd here too.

I'm pretty exhausted after our big Permablitz day and I have an appointment with the lounge! We now have a huge pile of chopped up arrowroot we have to add to the compost heaps tomorrow and I need my rest.

Be wise, Relocalise!