Seed time

Work has kept me away from the island for the past 2 weeks and the garden is looking out of control. It’s frustrating only having a weekend to get work done here. It would be nice to be able to sleep in one day and just relax but that’s not going to get this project finished.  

Most of the plants, including broccoli, broccolini, Bok Choy and various lettuce have now gone to seed.  I’m not complaining though as it’s going to provide me with plenty of new seeds for future planting.    

The leeks in the photo below have shot up from tiny seedlings in just 2 weeks.  By having the plants seed now, I won’t be needing to buy any new seedlings for new crops. Ever!

  
My tomatoes are going crazy.  There are literally hundreds of these beautiful tomatoes which grew from simply burying food scraps.

   

These green tomatoes should be ready to pick next weekend.

 

I’ve been eating all of the big peas from the garden over the weekend and still there are more.

  

Nature is amazing.  The food process where our modern society relies on supermarkets for produce is clearly flawed.  From a micro economic perspective, a $3 seedling of Bok Choy has not only returned me with fresh produce, but has now seeded with literally thousands of seeds which will provide thousands of Bok Choy plants.  The rule of diminishing returns doesn’t seem to apply here. It’s an incredible return on investment and ensures food security for the future.  It has even better potential with a community of gardeners who exchange seeds for free. Unfortunately, I don’t think the government or supermarkets like the concept since they don’t make any money from it.

   
Below are the perfectly formed seeds, ready to grow again.  They will go into a paper bag and labelled for future use.

 

I’m trying to make progress on the guest cottage. It is coming along a bit slower than I’d like, but I have to go to work to pay the bills, so I can’t expect it to happen overnight. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do.  This is the living area next to the kitchen sanded and painted.

   
The next job is to sand and re varnish the timber ceiling, which despite looking ok in the photo, really needs to be done, especially in the bathroom.

And this is the main bedroom freshly painted with a “bay window” looking out onto…well the bay 

 
The view from the guest cottage looks straight down to the park where my old Westail was moored.  I’m looking forward to finishing it off so I can have some guests give it a trial run.

  

A week of + and –

It’s been a great week having spent most of it on the island and the weather is back to being sunny and cool.  I’ve been trying to be as self sufficient as possible with food and having recently bought a bread maker I’m now making my own.  After some initial experimentation, I’ve got it sorted.  Thanks to my bread machine I wake up to freshly baked bread using organic flour with no preservatives.  I love how it makes bread while I’m sleeping.     

  

I grind some coffee beans using my old hand mill from the boat.
  
This is the organic coffee from the Lemon Farm which is probably the best coffee I’ve had, regardless of it being organic, which is a bonus.

    

Some free range poached eggs, basil from the garden, a bit of tomato and worcestshire sauce and some Aussie mustard and breakfast is served on the deck.

  

Starting days like this puts me in such a positive state of mind and I’ve been extremely motivated to make some progress on the cottage.

It’s not all positive on the island though. Like anywhere there are people who just don’t give a damn about their community or environment, let alone the bigger picture. We do have a few feral drug addicts and dealers on the island and that element is what keeps the island from reaching its potential. 

I came across this depressing scene today down in the mangroves along a part of the island waterfront. Fortunately it’s nowhere near my place.  It’s impossible for me to comprehend how anyone could do this. Here we are living in a small community in a precious marine sanctuary and they have dumped oil drums and rubbish along the waterfront.  Apparently it’s leftover from an old house boat that was dismantled here.  It’s such a lazy, short sighted and selfish act. 

  

The oil slick is visible in the photo below. I rang the local council and they palmed me off to the state government. So I called the state government pollution hotline and they passed me off back to the council. Nobody wants to deal with it. What’s more frustrating about this is that apparently it’s common knowledge who created the mess but people are scared to say anything.  

I can get rid of the rubbish by taking it to the tip but I can’t get rid of the oil in the ground which will need to be properly removed with an excavator.  Personally I’d like to dump it in the backyard of the feral prick who created the mess, although it wouldn’t make a difference since he keeps his yard in a similar fashion.  

There are going to be some changes around here soon. I’m talking to the council about this on Monday morning. It’s a ridiculous situation.

 

So back to a more positive note.

I worked in the garden today sorting out some paths.  As I was digging there were worms all through the soil.  I accidentally broke this poor fella, but look how healthy and big these worms are. 

  

The soil is ridiculous here.  I wanted a choko vine, so I literally stuck a choko in the ground a week ago and now it has started to grow.  No special technique or care, just dump it in the ground and bam, we have growth. It works the same for anything.  I’ve literally hacked off part of a plant, stuck it in the ground and within a week it’s taken root. 

I replanted it next to a post so it can start to climb.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes to produce chokos.

  

Plants and worms aren’t the only things that do well here.  I think I found the owner of the snake skin I found recently.  I was walking through the yard tonight and came across this very healthy Python.  He is about 2.5 metres long (I put the highlighter pen next to him for size reference).  I’ve probably disturbed him with the recent work so I relocated him to the neighbouring bush.  He will probably be back though and I don’t mind having him around as they feed on rats, possums and even cats (thankfully not Portuguese Water Dogs).  They are a very docile snake and beautiful to look at.
  

Wet wet wet…

 We’ve had wet weather this past week and just when it looks like it’s going to clear, it rains again. 
  

 I was heading back to the island on the barge and seeing this rainbow was hopeful that it was clearing.

  

The wet weather continues unfortunately but it does provide some nice photo opportunities.

  

Being stuck inside for most of the day I had depleted my supply of coffee.  I decided to make a quick trip to the organic farm on Macleay to pick up some of that awesome organic coffee.  I was greeted by these ducks.  They were happy since there was plenty of water around.
  

I wonder if he was an ugly duckling?

  

Day to day

After I took some branches off one of the old pines a couple of weeks ago I was cleaning up around the cottage and saw my old mate the kookaburra was visiting.  They are such great birds to have around and excellent snake catchers.  

The council for the island has been very active lately with the work on the new park and sealing of the roads.  I liked the old gravel road but the sealed surface is far better for keeping dust and mud out.  The original drainage system that the council implemented consisted of just a graded roadside with some road base.  Not ideal when the next big rainfall came.  So today they came back and graded a spoon drain and laid turf over the top.  It looks very fancy.

  

We’ve had a lot of rain these past few weeks and the garden is going crazy.  Everything seems to grow twice as fast on the island.  Here are some egg plant coming along.

  

One of my favourite things in the garden are snow peas.  They rarely make it into a meal because I just pick them and eat them raw as I’m working in the garden.  It’s bizarre but I swear they grow to full size overnight because I eat them all, then the very next day there are more.

  

A few ingredients for lunch.

  

I was doing some work on the cottage yesterday and as I pulled a part of the roof away I found this old snakeskin.  It was at least 4 foot long and I could fit my fist inside it.  It’s only a harmless carpet Python and good to keep the rodents away.  I haven’t seen the snake around but it may still be hanging around somewhere.  This one is definitely too big for a kookaburra.

  

 

On the barge again

After my last trip over to the organic market on Macleay Island I was keen to get back.  I feel it’s important to support small local business since this is what communities develop and evolve around.  Living on the island really isn’t inconvenient at all.  I simply jumped on my bicycle and rode down to the barge.  It’s a free trip between islands and it actually encourages me to not drive the car.  Here is Cutty enroute to the neighbouring island.  It’s less than 5 minutes and as usual the scenery is breathtaking.

  
After a short ride I was at the market.  The main purpose of the trip was to buy some coffee for my reinstated coffee machine.  I bought some beautiful fresh figs, which I had immediately for breakfast, and some unbleached organic flour to make some bread when I get back home.  I remember several years ago reading the labels on food and being shocked at all of the chemical names.  It was virtually impossible to find anything without all of those preservatives and colourings etc.  As I’ve learned more about commercial food production I’ve realised that even the “fresh” fruit and vegetables that don’t have labels still have plenty of chemical additives.  This is why I like the natural stuff.  
  

I tried this coffee from the market and it is fantastic.  I’ll be buying this brand from now on.

 

Having the market so close is hugely convenient and it’s also a social hub where people come to meet and have a chat. That’s what a community should be. I’ve never had that feeling walking into a supermarket to buy my groceries.

Pod crazy…

It seems the world is crazy about coffee pods.  Even I bought a pod machine and would make my morning coffee by inserting the little plastic pod, snapping down the handle and watching the delivery of creamy caramel brew flow into my cup.  How convenient.  No coffee grinds to dispose of and the little pod just ejects, ready to be thrown in the bin.  Oh how my life has become reliant on gadgets since moving onto land. 

A few weeks ago I threw a bunch of used plastic pods into the bin and it made me question whether these machines were really a good idea. Sure, they are convenient, but imagine how much rubbish is being produced by pods.  Literally billions of these things must be ending up in land fill dumps all around the world.   The coffee pod craze can’t be a good thing.  Coffee grounds can be used in the garden for compost, but plastic pods take, who knows how long to break down. 

So I made a decision to get rid of the pod machine today and pulled out the trusty old Breville espresso machine which I picked up at a garage sale for $5 a few years back.

  
I don’t want to sound like a greeny health nut but I wonder if the plastic used for the pods is bpa free and whether there are any potential long term health issues with the plastic pods.

I’m  happy with my decision to ditch the pod machine and in future I’ll have to be more conscious of my consumer choices.

Battery revolution?

There has been a lot of excitement and discussion about the launch of Tesla’s new battery system which is touted as the missing link in off grid solar systems.  I’ve heard some people say that the Tesla batteries last twice as long and charge twice as fast as “normal batteries”.  All of the hype prompted me to take a closer look.
  
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to solar systems, but having lived off the grid for many years and designed and built my own solar and wind system I know enough to figure out whether something is a quantum leap in technology.

As far as I can see the Tesla battery offers a nice aesthetically packaged consumer friendly battery system.  Most people with an interest in solar know the fundamentals. For example:

 Charge your batteries properly;

Don’t discharge below 50%;

Don’t discharge rapidly; etc … Etc…

The Tesla system appears to manage all this for you electronically optimising charge and discharge rates, but at a price.  They even come in pretty colours to suit your house, but I don’t see it as a huge leap in technology and it appears that the battery chemistry is nothing more special than the latest development in lithium ion.

The positive thing about this is that most consumers tend to like simplicity and will appreciate the plug and play package and it may encourage more people to take a step toward moving off the grid.  If that happens then the price of batteries should follow the same trend as solar panels, which are significantly cheaper than they were 10 years ago. 

Unfortunately most consumers are used to using electricity without any appreciation of the math behind the supply and usage equation. For example, the single Tesla pack can only provide a constant 2kw which means you won’t be running an air conditioner in a large home, or a hairdryer and a kettle simultaneously.  This probably ensures some longevity to the package and Tesla probably limited the discharge load so they can confidently provide a ten year warranty.  The answer is then to buy multiple Tesla units, which now becomes even more expensive than mains electricity or alternatively (and far more sensibly) start to be more considerate of power usage in the home.  My neighbour who leaves their TV and outside light on 24/7 could take this tip.

For me, the refrigerator and freezer is the biggest consumer of electricity.  I only use LED bulbs and my vacuum cleaner is 1000 watts.  Gas is used for cooking so 1 Tesla unit would do me just fine. I used to get by with a 1200watt inverter for just about everything.

It’s a nice development, but definitely not as revolutionary as many people are suggesting. It’s the first time that a battery system capable of running a house has been nicely packaged in a plug and play package. A company called Goal Zero has been doing something similar on a much smaller portable scale for well over a year.

Goal Zero’s range of portable battery systems

It will be interesting to see the price of the Tesla units when they hit The Australian market.  You’ll still need to factor in the cost of solar panels, wiring and an inverter.  So as Flavor Flav would say, “don’t believe the hype”.

Organic

We have had some severe weather and loads of rain around Brisbane over the past few days.  The rain has been relentless and it has wreaked havoc on the mainland with some cars being washed away and some deaths.  Fortunately nothing like that happened on the island.  I suppose that is one benefit of being such a small island, the water doesn’t have a chance to build up.

This morning the bad weather has well and truly passed and it’s a glorious day out on the bay.  

I went down to the local shop, which usually has a little market on Saturdays, to see what was on offer.  It has always struck me as a bit odd, and not to mention uneconomical, that the market imports produce from the mainland market.  We have an abundance of amazing soil and land on these islands and a history of agriculture, yet we appear to be reliant on the mainland.  I try to grow most of my own produce but sometimes it’s good to have a bit more variety and if I had the choice of organic over commercially grown produce I’d happily pay the extra. 

So I did a little research and found that  the neighbouring Macleay island actually has an organic market which produces food locally and is wholly organic. Not only do they have organically grown fruit and vegetables , they sell everything organic from fresh milled flours, organic coffee, cereals, grains etc.  

  
This is a link to their website.

Infinite Earth Organic Market

The owners of the business established the business due to the lack of availability of organic produce. The business is modelled on a co-op which ultimately benefits everyone and they provide a free pick up service from the island ferry for mainland visitors and even free home delivery on the island.  For residents on the neighbouring islands, including my place, they have free delivery to each of the islands’ jetties.  So basically I can order my organic produce online and go collect it down at the jetty.  How good is that!  Locally grown organic produce delivered to your door.  

Before I became interested in organic gardening I didn’t really appreciate the significance of the term.  I recently wrote about my gripe with supermarkets removing the tops of pineapples so it’s impossible to grow from them.  Here is a picture of the Macleay Island market’s produce.  Notice the pineapples!

  
I saw this interesting, and ridiculously cute, video about a child’s experiment with trying to grow a sweet potato.  It’s a good lesson on the difference between organic and regular commercial growing methods.

Click here for video: chemicals vs organic

Micro climates

It’s blowing a gale on the Bay today. I was incredibly fortunate to get my cottage on the island in the position that it is.  Being at the highest point of the island and surrounded by low, but steep cliffs, it seems to be immune to bad weather. The strong winds literally hit the cliffs and pop right over the top.  I still seem to get the regular gentle breezes though. 

50 metres away at the edge of the cliff I can see the tree tops rolling around like crazy.  About 50 metres down the hill in the other direction (S/W) the park is getting a strong breeze through the moorings, even though it is quite protected.

You can see from Cutty’s tail that there is a good breeze on the water.

  
The photos don’t portray the strength of the breeze very well but there are a few white caps visible.

   
Cutty loves the park and the breeze and despite being an old girl at 8, she runs around like a 2 year old pup.

 

Green is Good, Greed is “not” good!

My recent excitement about the little park in my street was met with a combination of disappointment and disbelief today.  The property owner next to the park has decided to try and claim “adverse possession” and has fenced off a significant chunk of the new waterfront park as his.

  

  

He claims that he has used it for the past 10 years and therefore he is entitled to it.  Firstly, I have a bunch of photos that clearly show that he hasn’t used it and secondly he must be getting his misguided legal advice from his cornflakes box since it’s crown land.

I know this bloke reasonably well and have had many conversations over the past year or so and I never got the impression that he was dishonest or unethical.  I also had the impression that he was a community minded person, but clearly I was mistaken.

He has happily sat back allowing ratepayers money to be spent on a rock wall, earthworks and turf and now seeks to not only solely reap the advantage from it but dishonestly claim that he has used this land for the past ten years.  Even the photos I’ve posted of the project’s progression below clearly show the land as unoccupied.  

It’s particularly disappointing because this is such a small community with very limited funding and facilities and it’s a blatantly selfish and greedy move on his part to disentitle the local community from the benefit of the park and/or the money recently spent on it.  

I’m even more angry and offended about this because I’ve recently had discussions with the Council to allow me to make a donation to a local island community project.  I’m trying to add some benefit to the community and this bloke is trying to take it away.

Since it’s completion, the park is actually getting lots of use.  There are 10 people in this photo all enjoying the new facility today.  Hopefully it continues.

He obviously hasn’t told those two little girls that they are trespassing on “his property“. How dare those children enjoy the park!

  

Rest assured there will be updates on this.