Autumn equinox update

posted 21 Mar 2017, 14:46 by D Graves   [ updated 21 Mar 2017, 14:47 ]

Our quarterly video update showing what we have been doing over the past 3 months:

SPG - Repair Cafe

posted 18 Mar 2017, 02:12 by D Graves   [ updated 18 Mar 2017, 04:10 ]

repair cafe ad poster

Today we went to the first Repair Cafe in Stanthorpe. There were 4 repairers plus 2 more available to either fix bicycles or musical instruments. We set up inside because it was raining and wet outside. The first items arrived promptly! An alarm clock with no sound and a child's talking soft toy. Soon after an old fan presented with buttons not staying down i.e. one has to hold the button down for it to work! everyone soon busy...

The fan was old, made in Taiwan, but easy to take apart. A good clean of the mechanical button switches and it worked again! Good for another 20 years perhaps!? Satisfying to repair old things built to last as that means not having to replace it with the designed obsolescence of cheap Chinese made appliances of nowadays...

The alarm clock was very difficult to take apart, with one hexagonal screw along with normal phillips ones. This had to be drilled out as the head was stripped by a previous repair attempt. It then had to be pulled apart as it had also been glued. Obviously made not to be repaired! Anyhow, it seems the speaker still worked (tested with a battery voltage applied across it), and so presumed that something on the electronic circuit board was at fault in not outputting the sounds to the speaker. Disappointing.

The soft toy had lots of thin wires inside the stuffing and then an integrated circuit board controlling the functionality. Again, nothing obviously repairable, so disappointing to give it back 'talkingless'. On the positive side, a rice cooker was brought in by a Taiwanese woman that was not switching on. On opening up and testing at various points with a meter, we quickly deduced where the problem was - a blown thermal fuse! Again, poor design - it should be a resettable fuse:
fault finding
So, after a quick visit to Top Beat, a new one was purchased for $3.50 and installed. 1 rice cooker averted from the tip and a very very happy lady who won't be burning her rice on the stovetop anymore ;)

Two chairs easily repaired and safer to use:
fixing chair

chair repair

A stick blender was brought in late in the session and after much difficulty in opening it up - again NOT designed to be fixed - it turns out a blown fuse on the circuit board was to blame (again, why not a resettable fuse!?). Destined for the dump (and re-purchase) due to a $1 fuse weak point!! A sad world capitalism has caused...

And to finish off, a repair for the cafe's kitchen - a lid's handle glued back in place!! 

Thanks to Yvette and the cafe for hosting us all and providing sustenance as needed - yummy! A second Repair Cafe is on the cards in a few months time. Look out for it and save your repair items!

Thank you to all the helpers for coming, giving up their time, and sharing their skills :)

Video by a helper

posted 9 Mar 2017, 03:17 by D Graves   [ updated 9 Mar 2017, 03:18 ]

One of our recent helpers asked to film us talking about and showing some Permaculture insights. She wanted to send this to her Mum who teaches English to French students back home in France. We think she did a lovely editing of it ! And, we did try and speak really slowly and clearly!!

Feb update - mulch, superadobe, swale, good life

posted 22 Feb 2017, 03:29 by D Graves   [ updated 22 Feb 2017, 03:43 ]

Woody mulch completed around fruit trees - less grass and weeds to maintain. The random containers are worm towers - pony poo and worms that will fertilise the soil:woody mulch around fruit trees

Outside render completed:
outside render completed

Evita learning to fish:

Helpers Fanny and Sarah proud of the little wall we assembled using all the 'spare' rocks:

Inside of the dome painted - why not a little different?! :
inside of dome painted

Sunflowers just survived the hot weather. We finally had 41mm over 3 days earlier this week to give the soil a much needed drink:

Day off - exploring at two local National Parks:

Stunning sunset colour:

Cute capture of Milkie:
pretty goat

Fired Kev the oven again to cook pizza, bread, and a piglet. Gosh helpers are spoilt here!

Third swale; dug in a day. Fertilised the mound with humanure from caravan setup. Have added woody mulch over the agpipe:

Door hung today:

And a short little video about bees that Fanny made - she is making a larger video about Permaculture here for her Mum to use for her English class back in France:

More goats

posted 1 Feb 2017, 03:56 by D Graves   [ updated 1 Feb 2017, 03:56 ]

Last Thursday, we bought 2 more goats that will hopefully become milkers in the future. They are the new grass maintainers meaning less often that I have to weed eat the eating

The guinea pig numbers are increasing again. They are fertilising this food forest area nicely:
guinea pigs on pasture

3 ducklings with their 'mother' in tow, born last day of 2016. Fortunate timing as a quoll attack resulted in 4 adult runners dying just days after. Very sad. We were able to save 1 of 2 that were injured (wondrous hydrogen peroxide!):

Progressing bit by bit on the dome. Completed the rendering around the inside of the doorway yesterday:
rendering doorway

Today, Dylan added the third boxes on the beehives. All going well, this box will be filled with honey in the next few months and then harvested in Autumn, leaving the bees a box of honey for the Winter:
beehives with 3 boxes

Otherwise, it has been HOT. Spending time watering things. Some just to keep alive, others more often for food. Also, time spent improving fences, working on the terraces, repairing salvaged smashed solar panel with home made glue (another post coming about this), and general maintenance of the gardens. Evita has been harvesting bountiful amounts of food and putting some of it away  eg cucumbers galore!

Happy 2017!

posted 12 Jan 2017, 00:45 by D Graves   [ updated 12 Jan 2017, 00:46 ]

Well, another year has passed and another birthday yesterday. My 10th 29th birthday! - one of the best I think.. Made a fire in the pizza oven in the morning while reading some stuff, and then made pizza for the 3 helpers plus 2 friend couples. Another couple came later on.. and then we had lovely fruit cake they had made - yum! ah, and Evita's gift on awakening - her first poem beautifully written on a small blank canvas frame we bought from the dump shop ages ago. Full of thought and meaning. A special gift I treasure. Who needs to go to a shop?!

In early January we have had some helpers arrive. One from Sydney, and 2 from Brazil, each here for around 10 days. As usual we are getting lots of tasks done. 

Evita and I did this before the end of the year - the last duck area:
another duck area

and with all the hot weather and sparse rainfall, decide we needed an alternative to buckets and watering cans... got a 12V water pump 2nd hand at Woolies market (sold because pressure switch not working - bypassed it), battery from dump, old lawnmower frame and wheels from dump shop, and misc old irrigation fittings. We charge battery with a standard battery charger when the sun is shining and then push it to where the water source is, connect to syphon pipe or into pond, prime if needed, and switch on. Not heaps of flow, but decent pressure. Run until voltmeter shows about 12V. Image below is Evita using water syphoning out of the duck pond (i.e. fertigation) and the corn and squash 'love it':
portable 12V water pump

Caroline helped me finish the first rice paddy trial on one of the terraces. Clay sides with bentonite stomped into the floor - it held water surprisingly well the first time we filled it. Now, let's see if the rice will germinate:
rice paddy trial

We all concreted the floor of the superadobe dome one morning:
superadobe dome floor

Adding sawdust to the paths in the old kitchen garden (in conversion to perennial atm) after weeding them:
adding sawdust to paths

then adding lime to help balance acidity of sawdust and wood chips to follow:
adding lime to paths

Wood chip mulch on top. Hopefully this will deter weeds for some time and eventually break down to form more topsoil:
wood chip mulch layer on top

Decided to finally have a go at sealing the 2nd pond with clay that was dumped in when we last did some earthworks and excavated the new pond. Lots of stomping followed by lifting it up the sides and smoothing it flat. Also used geotextile between layers of clay to hold it in place longer term:
lining pond with clay

Thanks for help! let's hope it holds water for longer now...

Otherwise, planting seedlings, trees, more mulching, watering, fencing improvements, and so on. Off to Girraween tomorrow for a day off :)

Summer solstice 2016

posted 22 Dec 2016, 14:38 by D Graves   [ updated 22 Dec 2016, 14:38 ]

Our quarterly update - mini-swales, tree platform, small solar system, superadobe earthbag dome, veggie chicken circles, terraces, bees, grafting fruit trees, and outdoor shower...

Dec musings

posted 17 Dec 2016, 03:46 by D Graves   [ updated 17 Dec 2016, 03:48 ]

Friends of ours put up a sign last week; very cool:Mt Marley Permaculture - sign

European carp given to us. Tastes great after simply roasting in the oven:
roasted carp

Weeded the Herb Garden at The Summit on Thursday and added a dogbane plant. Herbs are growing very well and the soil under the hay is lovely:
The Summit herb garden

Pickled wombok and radish this week; delicious:
pickled wombok

Added some plants to the outdoor shower recently - they seem to like this microclimate:
outdoor shower plants

Gardens quite productive. Tomatoes and squash coming along nicely:
salad greens, etc

Vege chicken circles working well:
vege chicken circles

A circle close-up showing the diverse polyculture going off:
polyculture veggies

The Euc Retreat

posted 8 Dec 2016, 01:17 by D Graves   [ updated 8 Dec 2016, 01:27 ]

Evita went away last Friday afternoon for 5 days. I took this opportunity of absence to surprise her with wish - a tree house; well it's turned out to be a platform in a tree. Fortunately, helper Ruby was here, so we worked hard to get this mostly done before Evita got back yesterday. It will be a place for rest, relaxation, meditation, siesta, etc. Here is the build step by step; first 2 beams attached to tree: 
start of platform

Cutting panels (sectional garage doors from an auction) in half and then painting cut ends:

Half boards fitting perfectly:

All boards secured and ladder constructed:

Shade sail up, very happy how it turned out - was a daunting task to start:
shade sail up

First safety railing up:
Safety rails up

Mosquito/fly net hooked up - can be quickly removed to help preserve it:
completed tree platform

Ruby's sign (Euc for eucalyptus tree):
Sign on ladder

One happy lady who got quite a surprise as we walked down the trail and she saw it in the distance. After breakfast shot with new haircut:
Happy lady

The basket is on a pulley for taking things up or down. Safest way to descend:
climbing down ladder

Dreams come true, sometimes, sooner than expected, hehehe :)


posted 25 Nov 2016, 23:27 by D Graves

As many of our helpers know, we are rock miners here at Sugarloaf! Any time you want to dig for some reason; like to plant a tree, slow and sink some water in a swale, or some other useful activity, we have to take out rocks. From gravel size to um, well... to what is just possible to move, somehow...  So, as we attempt to flatten out and plant our recently terraced area (with excavator), it is incredibly slow going, hard work. The flies aren't making it any easier! So, it's small areas and usually no more than half a day at a time. 

This is the top of the terraces. The very top triangle is being sheet mulched to suppress the weeds and grass and will later be planted with bushes for nature habitat (and will extend down the side along the duck fence). The first terrace has corn and squash planted and the second is the same. The syphoning of water from the duck pond nearby (and above) worked very well - both to clean out the pond and supply nutrient rich water to improve the soil:
top terrace

The partly completed 3rd terrace has these potato mounds (most of the visible rocks have been dug out):
potato heaps

Another little patch further down is an experiment to see if corn can be transplanted - I found a cob from last season that had sprouted all these little plants:
corn transplants

Somewhere near the middle, we observed many tomato plants coming up, probably seeds from former pig area, so we mulched around them by pulling weeds near them and adding hay on top. There are some squash volunteers too:
volunteer tomatoes

This photo shows the general pattern - dig out the inside of terrace until it is level or slightly lower and use that soil to fill somewhere that is low. The areas with less green show how shallow the soil is and indicate lots of rocks hiding underneath. The terrace with the spade is too hard to fork up, so we eked out some holes, filled them with compost, planted butternut seeds, and mulched over with hay. We spread these out as a kind of inoculation because the soil is very poor and will need as much improving as possible:

This little sub terrace eventuated because of where some rocks couldn't be removed and where it was wider anyhow. Remediation/soil improvement included biochar inoculated with Em, sawdust, rock dust, lime, compost, and soybean mulch. This has been planted with corn, parsnip, carrots, and sunflowers.
carrot terrace

Now, hoping for some rain to hydrate these terraces again and nourish the seeds and plantings :)

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