Thank you 2017. Hello 2018!

I know it’s mid February already and not technically the beginning of the new year anymore… But due to high demand here’s a recap of how I went with my goals that I had set for 2017 . And when I say “high demand” I mean my dear friend Sophia has suggested this and I hold her in high regard so therefore this is high demand. Follow my logic? Nah me neither 😀

 

January last year I wrote down a few things I wanted to focus on during 2017. How did I go with them?

Figure out how to connect the rainwater tanks to the gutters

Well… I have managed to connect my 1000l IBC to a little backyard carport roof. The roof is only approx 10-12m2 in size so it doesn’t collect large amounts of water, but it has managed to fill that tank up a couple of times. As you can see in the photo it is a really high tech gutter connection. A milk bottle, a flower pot, a couple of clothes pegs, an ocky strap, some old pool pipe, and an old nylon stockings to filter out debris and keep out mosquitos. It’s hodge podge but it works! The tank is connected to my veggie bed drip lines and the water flow works purely on gravity 🙂 I use about 50l a day so a full tank doesn’t even last a month unless it rains heaps and often. Regular rain is not something that Meeka is known for so this is only a small supplement to mains water.

I still want to figure out how to collect water from the house roofs and now that two backyard gum trees have been cut down ( 🙁 they were invading the septic tank so they got the chop) there won’t be any leaf litter clogging up the gutters so that will make it a bit easier.

So this project has seen small successes but still needs working on.

The IBC Rainwater tank 3/4 full after the last few rains.

High Tech Water Catchment

The Drip Line irrigation works well

Take time for my own well-being (I’m hoping to figure out how to be well and centered. 2016 saw me eat a lot of chocolates because I was stressed or worked hard or felt I somehow needed or deserved it. Resolving that need will save the world a fair few plastic wrappers.)

I did once again work hard for a lot of the year and feel like I’ve been running around, doing things, creating, managing, figuring out, deciding, changing, making, doing. It’s certainly been a busy and productive year and whilst I enjoy creating things I don’t like being busy for being busy’s sake. Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less was an eye opener and helped me consider my priorities in life so that I can spend my time and energy on the things that matter to me rather than just random busy stuff.

Towards the end of the year I decided to take a break from the ambulance service and to not do any call outs for 2-3 months. This has been very helpful in showing me that the ambulance and the world still goes on without me (who would have thought!). Instead of trying to push myself further and harder and achieve more and create more, I have learnt that I, too, have limits and that it’s OK and necessary to get to know and respect those limits. I am back on active duty again now but am still limiting myself to only a couple of call outs a week (rather than being available every night and all day during the weekends) and I don’t feel guilty when I don’t answer a call. I’m no good to anyone if I burn myself to the ground. That whole ‘looking after yourself first’ is easier said than done but I’m slowly learning.

I still ate a fair bit of chocolate but not so much out of a stress response but more out of enjoyment.

 

Learn more about Permaculture and environmental sustainability

There is a lot of information out there and I have read a fair few articles online and have borrowed books from the library or have listened to podcasts. Geoff Lawton has a good newsletter and the Permaculture Research Institute has a massive library of valuable information.

I have also subscribed to Pip Magazine and love getting a well edited treasure chest of information in my mail box every few months. It is fantastic to kick back in my hammock in the garden, watch my chickens roam around the lawn and read about the big wide world of Permaculture and sustainable living out there.

Learning Permaculture & Relaxing

The ladies (Henny Penny, Elsie and Davey)

The ladies are enjoying Broccoli leaves and Lambs Quarter

The Hammock of Relaxation

Design and develop my backyard further with that new found knowledge

During the year I installed a herb spiral near our back patio that has given me the pleasure of a multitude of herbs over the last few months. It’s still in its first year so it’s interesting seeing what grows and what doesn’t grow, and what seasons are fine for what varieties. Between the summer heat and the chickens having broken free from their enclosure and having used my herb spiral as a dust bath (they can be destructive little buggers!) there is only basil, mint, lemon grass and the curry bush soldiering on still, but once the weather cools down I will rejuvenate it with more herbs. If anyone in Meeka or in a similar hot dry climate has figured out how to keep coriander alive for more than a few weeks please do let me know!

The big veggie garden beds I have installed next door are doing well. Last year I dabbled around and just put seedlings wherever there was some room which turned the garden into a beautiful mess of food. This year I want to go about it in a slightly more planned and controlled fashion and am going to try crop rotation and I am very excited about it! So excited actually that I can’t wait to finish this blog post and go outside to do some gardening! 🙂

The Herb Spiral in April when I first built it

Herb Spiral in April. The plants have grown heaps, the dog still hasn’t.

The herb garden a month later. It’s growing!

The herb spiral in August, four months after planting.

The herb garden in full bloom in September.

The Herb Spiral looking a bit sad in the middle of summer after Chicken Attack

September: I never knew that Dill could grow so tall.

A dill flower adding its colour to the mass of blooms in the herb spiral.

The nasturtiums were loving the winter and spring.

The neglected garden bed with the Broccoli tree and bits and bobs here and there

The silverbeet is soldiering on through summer

The garden beds in March

Beans with the rambling garden in the background

My new crop rotation plan is starting with nitrogen fixing beans

Basil in the herb spiral is flourishing

A plentiful harvest of Snake Beans and Dwarf Green Kale

Between Kale, Pumpkin and Beans I wasn’t going to starve this year.

Silverbeet grows so well here.

Harvesting Basil, eggs, parsley and tomatoes in November

Rex is not quite sure what that veggie stuff is all about.

Plant (fruit) trees

I have researched productive/useful trees  that are can cope with this hot, dry climate here and have drawn up a plan as to where in the garden they would be beneficial. Fruit and shade are the most common reasons as to why one might want trees, but trees can also provide nuts, beautiful flowers, mulch material, security (by way of thorny branches trained along a fence making it harder for people to scale that fence), fodder for animals or nitrogen fixing properties.

Two friends (Jo and James) kindly gave me a grapevine and a few fruit trees and I’m looking forward to the weather getting more amicable so I can put them in the ground. I already have planted the grapevine and it’s going gangbusters climbing up the trellis! My friend Helen (geez it’s great having friends with plants and materials 🙂 ) had two off-cuts of metal grids that make the perfect trellis/arch between our fence and patio. It will look so beautiful once the grapevine has climbed its way up there!

Our dwarf lemon tree. Thank you James!

Grapevine

The Grapevine on its way to the arched trellis

The trees in pots waiting for next autumn so they can go in the ground.

Try out more recipes and learn how to bake amazing sourdough breads so I don’t have to buy any bread wrapped in plastic that comes with lots of food miles attached

Okay let’s break this one down into two sections:

  • Try out more recipes:

Definitely! Success! I have marked recipes in my cook books that I want to try and have week after week studiously been working my way through them. Sometimes they resulted in “Yum! This is a new favourite I’m going to make again!” and sometimes they resulted in the dog and the chickens having a feast. I have a fair few recipe books so there is still a lot to be tried out.

  • Learn how to bake amazing sourdough breads:

Yeah.. well… Somebody once said that sourdough starters are like pets that need to be fed every week. I really hope that sourdough starters don’t have feelings because mine would be some demented, neglected child that unfortunately withered away from lack of light and love. I have tried sourdough-CPR a couple of times and got it back to living (but certainly not thriving) until after a six week holiday and a following period of two months of neglect I finally tossed out the whole jar. It was so far gone that I didn’t even attempt to wash and reuse the jar.

That means I am mostly back to buying and eating packaged breads. One positive aspect of packaged bread is the plastic bag that is perfect for re-using as a doggie poo bag. So once we’ve finished a loaf of bread I take the bag and tie it to Rexi’s leash so that next morning when he tries to landmine the sports oval I have come prepared.

I did manage to make a couple of nice loaves of sourdough bread so I’m not completely disheartened but I’ve tucked this interest away for later, one year in the indeterminate future when I have more time, patience and commitment to looking after sourdough starters.

Eating from the Garden. There is some successful sourdough bread underneath all that plentiful goodness.

Declutter our whole house and make better use of what we have

Yes! This is work in progress and certainly a baby-steps project. I read Marie Kondo’s Konmari method and find it works well to declutter by category rather than by room. I previously would have tackled say one cupboard or one room which effectively just tidies that room and resulted in me putting everything back in there more neatly. Soon enough it would become messy again. Now I collect up every piece of that category (e.g. books, or charge cables) and chuck it in a pile. Then I go through that pile, get rid of a lot of duplicates and stuff that we don’t want anymore, keep only those that we want and are useful and then I put all those well appreciated items in a spot where they belong. The things I discard I don’t just throw away but I see if I can re-use them for something else in the house or garden, or I donate them to our Meeka Goes Green Repurposing Section, or I donate them to a secondhand shop in Perth. Only as a last resort, when something is utterly broken or useless, do I recycle or chuck it.

I’ve broken this goal down into small sub-goals/projects and have broken those down again into small tasks. Here’s a short example of the breakdown:

  • Goal: Declutter whole house/life
    • Sub-goal: Bathroom stuff
      • cleaners
      • hair accessories
      • shampoos
      • first aid stuff
      • etc
    • Sub-goal: Laundry things
      • Detergents
      • Bags
      • Baskets
      • Pegs
      • Tools
      • etc

Then every day I do one or two of the tiny tasks. Sometimes they take all of 2 minutes! E.g. cleaners is just a matter of collecting together all bottles of bathroom cleaners (and who would have thought I have 3 half empty bottles in various locations?) and keeping those that you want to keep (or in my case pouring the three half empty ones together into one so I can re-use or recycle the empty bottles 🙂 ). They are tiny steps but if you do this every day it really adds up.

Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less really helped me with defining my goals and breaking them down into manageable chunks.

Together with my mates improve the Meeka Goes Green recycling centre

Yeah baby! 2017 did see some great improvements. We now have a concrete floor! Previously the shed was just built on compacted gravel and whilst we made do with what we had, it is much nicer now to have a proper concrete floor. It keeps the dust down and makes it easier and safer to move around.

We also invested into a new crusher that has much higher compacting power and is perfect for cans, tins and plastic bottles. So now we have ‘greenie’ (our green crusher) for just cardboard, and ‘bluey’ (our blue crusher) for the other materials. It produces some beautiful compact bales of recyclables and has made a serious impact on our revenue as we can now get more tonnage on each pallet which translates to more income for us and more donations for the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation. Bluey is a bit of a temperamental dude though (we women at the recycling centre have decided it must be a dude, not listening to what we want) and we need to get the technicians on it to fix him up as something seems cross wired in there. Sometimes it works fine and then next round it doesn’t want to play the game.

We have also created a Repurposing Section where people donate their stuff that they don’t want anymore and other people can come and help themselves and give us a donation. It keeps perfectly good things out of landfill and allows people to pick up things for cheap whilst supporting a worthwhile little not for profit organisation. Win win win! Plus we use that section to lure people into the Recycling Centre, then we tell them how good our project is and then they come back for more and start helping us with the Recycling! Another win! 🙂

I love working with the people at Meeka Goes Green and we’ve seen a steady increase in recyclers, volunteers and income. Yay! I’m keen on 2018 and letting it evolve even further. Next up is a Permaculture Food Forest out the back, how exciting!

The old gravel floor of the Recycling Shed

The beautiful new concrete floor!

Our Can Crusher ‘Bluey’

Part of our Repurposing Section

Embrace everything and anything else that life is going to throw at me

Life is certainly good at throwing and I’m not half-bad at catching. 2017 has been a good year. There was a lot of work, a lot of everyday routine, a lot of days that merged into weeks that merged into months. But I chipped away and step by step I achieved things that I wanted to achieve. There have been a few curveballs – such is life – but I always seem to manage to work around them or work with them. I also have discovered a very strong sense in me to always see the positive side of everything. Everything that happens has a positive side. Everything. Even the other day when I came home and the two beautiful eucalypts in our backyard had been chopped down and suddenly our garden seemed empty and bare and exposed I stood there crying for the trees and yet in that same minute, mixing in with my sadness and anger, thoughts like “well the gutters won’t clog up now” or “ooh suddenly there’s lots of light behind the shed. I could grow something here!” popped into my head. Next moment I was angry at myself for not giving the trees the mourning I felt they deserved, haha! It was a real mix of emotions. It certainly showed me though how my brain immediately searches for and finds the positive aspects of everything.

I could forever dwell in sadness, disappointment, frustration or anger about the things that happen in life, or I can acknowledge those emotions, thank them for highlighting what’s important to me, let them pass and then focus on the new opportunities that change has opened up.

 

So what would I like to see happening in 2018?

  • Finish decluttering the house/garden/life
  • Establish a Permaculture Food Forest at the back of the Meeka Goes Green Recycling Centre
  • Practice crop rotation in my veggie garden beds
  • Plant my fruit trees
  • Train my grapevine up its trellis
  • Delve into movie making with my aerial drone footage
  • Continue the catching rainwater saga
  • Fine-tune my wellbeing (I might try that ‘exercise’ stuff that people talk about)

Keeping in mind that to ‘focus’ on something means to give all of ones attention to one thing I may not be able to tackle all of these, at least not at once. One after the other. Step after step. Day after day, month after month, year after year all these small steps will add up to big changes to myself and to the way I live on this planet.

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