Starting from scratch

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by Possum, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    Where to begin? The property is almost 9 acres, surrounded by crown land on three sides, one of those (west) being a lovely creek, and the fourth (east) side is a sheep farm (I think, I rarely see any animals from our house, sometimes one or two horses). There is nary a plant on the property other than waist high grass and three dead palms.

    The house is not ideal for the conditions, being transplanted from the inner 'burbs of Melbourne, and situated to take advantage of the creek views instead of the sun. The creek is west of the house, so the rooms which get the sun are one bedroom and the bathroom. The whole house is surprisingly light-filled, fortunately.

    We're renovating (read: gutting the kitchen and bathroom and moving them, and ripping up the stinking carpets and painting the walls, and....) to make the house more life-friendly.

    I'm really interested in using what is there to help the whole system work in a healthy way. Much to my plumber's amusement I am wanting the greywater used on the front garden (ha! the front patchy boggy grass). We have plentiful stock and domestic water rights from the creek, and are getting two large water tanks.

    Sadly the house is situated on the northern side of the property, so most/all of our edible planting will need to be done on the southern side. But that's a fair few acres of southern land, so the shade from the house is not really an issue.

    It's a flat piece of land, for the most part. Dead flat, to the unobservant eye.

    I'll add a satellite image here, showing the orientation of the land.

    View attachment 981

    The corner with the house is fenced off. North of the house we need to add a shed and some water tanks. East of the house (front) will be a garden purely for my own enjoyment. :) West of the house will be the children's play area. South of the house, just outside the fenced area, will be the chooks, the veggie patch, and the orchard. The very south of the land will have a few acres of indigenous vegetation. In between, I don't know. I'm researching the idea of a few sheep and alpacas. As you can see there is a massive eucalypt in the NW corner, and that's about it.

    The previous owners used the property for paddock bashing and drinking beer. Woo! ;)

    Hmm, I'm quite happy to have other options presented for thought. It's all really quite overwhelming and I'm making it up as I learn more. I have two friends on hand to help, at least one has permaculture/landscape architect experience.

    I'm looking forward to adding pictures of our plans as we move along. At this stage the gardening is just a dream while we try to get the house into a liveable condition.
     

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  2. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    You could have a little dam like the one over the fence , though i don't know how it would get full if you've got no slope. You could also get some free range chickens straight away. They'd have a lovely time in all that grass or geese as someone told me geese like to eat grass. Anyway, then you'd have eggs and with the chickens pooing everywhere, your soil would be improving right from the beginning. You could mow your grass at a high level, to keep it as long as possible for protecting hte soil. Just get some mulch happening. Or plant some legumes asap.

    Anyway that's just a few ideas for what its worth.
     
  3. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    Thanks.
    The dam across the road was filled to overflowing in the floods of a few weeks back. We could have filled a few dams with the overflow from that onto our land and coming up from the creek in the other direction.
    Is there a benefit to dam water over stock & domestic from the creek? We have about 4 meg (unmetered) S&D with the property. I'd rather not build a dam without a very good reason because of our young children.
    We have some chooks and a friend is breeding more for us.
    I like the suggestion to mow the grass high. Thanks.
    Mmmm. legumes. Yum! Now I'm hungry. ;)
     
  4. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    Well, this property just gets more interesting by the day.

    I've just found out that for the bargain (ha!) price of $200+/year we can have the arduous task of walking our rubbish and recycling bins 500-1500 metres to be collected. (They're unsure exactly where they're supposed to go, but we'd have to go along more than 500m of dirt roads and either cross a 100kmph road, or walk another 1km along that road and cross a different 100kmph road). And then back again.

    No way am I taking my energetic little boys for a walk across a 100kmph road when I wouldn't even be able to hold their hands because I'd be busy dragging the heavy bins along dirt roads.

    Fortunately we have the option of opting out of the cost and the service.

    So now I begin the though process of how to eliminate our waste. Cardboard and paper waste can go into compost, as can any food which doesn't go to the chooks. I think I'll be taking a few lessons from a blog I really enjoy - Rubbish Free. It will be interesting to see the reaction from butchers and delis etc when I ask them to put my purchases into my own containers because I don't have a bin.

    I wonder what we'll do with plastics we can't avoid - ie inside cereal packets, or the UHT cartons of milk (we drink a special kind of milk due to family-wide dietary problems).
     
  5. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Exciting prospect you have infrount of you pussum.
    Perhaps you can get oats and puffed rice in brown bags from your organic shop and buy a cow - one of many way to avoid the bin.
     
  6. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Where's ya bin

    reminds me of the story about the council official that knocked on the door doing a census of council property and askd this big guy "where's ya bin" - the guy answered "on holidays" patiently the official supposed he had been misunderstood and asked again "no I mean where's ya wheelie bin" OK fool said the big guy before getting agressive " I've been in jail - what's it to you."
    8)
     
  7. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    Oh dear PP, that's an old joke. My mum tells that one, which is my sign that it's an old groaner. ;)

    The chance of finding an organic shop within two hours' drive of here is fairly slim, but I intend to search. It's on my to do list.
    I don't think I have the ability to treat cows' milk to make it free of lactose. I could be wrong, but I think it would be easier to find a way to get our milk cartons to a recycling plant than to have to milk a cow each day and find a way to make it digestible by my family.

    And yes, it's an exciting prospect, but one I'm keen to embrace. The inlaws will think I'm completely nuts. Even more than usual. Hooray!
     
  8. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Most lactose intolerant people can consume yoghurt and its very easy to make. And good for you.
     
  9. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    True. However I can't see my DH or children agreeing to eating their cereal with yoghurt. DS2 and I are the yoghurt eaters in the house, and even he and I wouldn't go for it.
     
  10. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    Possum congratulations on your property you have plenty of room for a whole host of projects , we have to cart our bin 10km to the collection point and of course the truck can pick up at any time so meeting the truck isnt a option so we rarely use the service at 40km a time , if you process and wash out everything its remarkable how little you can get down to you could shred your plastics so they take up no room and do maybe a twice yearly drop off we used to use a old hand operated wool press , washed out plastics it was easy to get 150kgs in it . We store up and do large drop offs for example we have a trip to do soon on glass , in SA we have deposits on a lot of containers so we can cash these in and the same place will take other glass for free . Having said that the volume has dropped of a lot since the three young ones have left the nest .
    Do the research get some help from Permaculture text and get some food trees in as soon as you can afford them as they take time to establish , pick the right varieties and rootstocks for your soil PH and climate , put them on a swale , the biggest hurdle with these is setting them up so you can protect them from birds and other raiders like possums (sorry) couldnt help that . Another suggestion when you build your shed go as big as you can , they are fantasic for water collection and they never seem to be big enough . You can grow a few things like cucumbers , bush pumpkins , tomatoes ect in large pots to get a start , they are pretty easy to manage if you put them up on a bench with water containers protecting the bench legs you can eliminate a lot of insect trouble and throw a net over them . When you know where your garden beds will be you could throw down mown grass , source some manure and the natural processes can begin while your busy with the house .
    A woodlot some where for future firewood , its endless but easy to achive a bit at a time good luck and im sure you will have a lot off fun setting up and enjoying you new place .
    Regards Rob
     
  11. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    Since I've found this forum again (where did it go?) I thought I'd give a brief (ha!) update instead of starting a new thread.

    We finished the renovations enough to move in. We lived here for almost 6 months before we had hot running water - fortunately it was summer! There are a few things still to be done, but all aesthetic. I did all the painting and tiling myself, DH (furniture maker by trade) built the kitchen and repaired the floors (had to rip up huge amounts of flooring where the old bathroom was).

    At least once a week I declare how blessed we are to be living here. It is not a tourist-worthy picturesque site, but it feels like blissful camping each and every day. The birds, oh my goodness the birds! Cockatoos by the hundreds, kookaburras, white-plumed honeyeaters, superb fairy wrens, fairy martins, welcome swallows, willie wagtails... I have become a huge bird-watcher.

    We decided to use the council waste and recyling service but we seem to have pared down our rubbish to the point that we only take the bins out once a fortnight or month.

    The garden: We've made a bunch of garden beds out of old corrugated water tanks which were lying about. I am growing a small amount of garlic for the second year. Last year I think I harvested it too early (too small) but this year's crop looks wonderful already. I'm impatient to eat it but I'll bide my time. I'm going to plant a bunch of tomato seeds again but last year's crop all died and we tipped the soil into a garden bed and three plants grew up and fed us for many months. The strawberries are already turning pink. I need many more plants because two plants will never suffice. I have a bunch of herbs growing but can't eat any as I'm dealing with recently-developed food intolerances. So frustrating! The food intolerances are dampening my gardening enthusiasm because there are so many foods I want to grow but couldn't eat, eg pumpkin.

    DH made a good roost/nesting house for the chooks *entirely* from junk he found lying about the property. He made a large run for them so they have a protected place to go. The only part of the whole project which was bought was the chook wire and netting for the run. We lost one hen to a brown goshawk. We have 8 hens currently and one is sitting on 6 fertilised eggs from a friend which will make my boys happy. We are getting 6 eggs a day on average which is perfect for making vanilla ice cream. :)

    DH and DS1 (7yo) made a worm farm two years ago, from junk lying about. It makes our plants grow amazingly with its compost and worm juice.

    The shed is in process. Because we want it about 80-90m from the creek we need a planning permit, so that's slowing us down. We can't put it any further away because that's how close the house is. Once the shed is built we can start putting in the permanent veggie patch since we've decided to use the small paddock to the north of the house for food growing. I'm looking forward to my back verandah being a fun place to hang out instead of it being DH's workshop - but I won't complain, it's been brilliant having DH able to do so much of the work on our house.

    We've been given three lovely orphan sheep by a neighbour. Merino and border leicester merino weathers, they are. We raised them from 5 days old and they are now about to be shorn for the first time. It's such a steep learning curve but very enjoyable.

    We've been chatting with the local indigenous plant arboretum and buying many of their plants. They've given us great ideas for how to make the overflowing dam next door work for us. It overflows very often so we're going to dig a winding trench through the south end of our paddock to the tiny dam and down to steer it to the creek when our dam overflows. We'll plant it out with grasses and shrubs and make it into a pretty waterway and useful part of the ecosystem instead of just having a boggy marsh at the end of our paddock. We hope to plant many firewood-providing plants down the south end. Currently our firewood comes from the *real* farmer's paddock where he lets us have it for free and even lets us use his log splitter and delivers the wood in his tip truck.

    The three sheep will go into the big paddock once the fences are fixed and we've fenced off the plantings along the south end. We might get some more sheep in there. I'm keen on getting at least one coloured sheep. The sheep are for grass-eating and for my fibre stash. :D DH is making me a spinning wheel once his shed is built.

    So that's a brief (*ahem*) summary of the past 3 years of my life. :)
     
  12. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'm jealous!
     
  13. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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  14. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Very interesting how junk can be so useful!
     
  15. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    It sure is! DH was just saying tonight that he needs to get on with making our seed raising frame. (I have no idea what they're really called, but it's essentially a large shallow box with a glass lid to act as a mini-greenhouse for raising seedlings.) When we pulled out the old manky bathroom we kept everything we could, to reuse where possible. The glass door of the shower will become the glass lid of this box. The rest will be made with dh's plentiful supply of scrap plywood his boss was throwing out.

    Speaking of the boss throwing stuff out - dh came home yesterday to say the foreman made a huge blundering error on a job so it needs to get scrapped unless dh wants it for his shed. So dh now has a kitchen's worth of cupboards for his shed at no cost. He can easily make doors for them himself. The boss is happy because dh is saving him $100 worth of skip fees by hauling it away.

    I'm glad I updated this thread. It feels like we've done nothing since we've been here, but writing it down reminds me what we've achieved (in addition to the relentless task of raising/homeschooling two small boys!). Things I forgot to mention: we went with an Aussie-made wood fire (Nectre) which we love. I didn't want a fire but this is vastly different to the fire we had many years ago which I hated and I'm very pleased with every aspect of it. Also, dh talked me into a walk-in pantry and I'm so glad he did! I can't wait to fill it with preserves. I'll have to wait until I sort out my food issues first. In the pantry I want to put in the cooling system I've read about on here with a pipe underground - can't remember what it's called.
     
  16. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    there is so much indeed. :)

    regarding garlic, i always have so many starts (growing hard-necked garlic that puts out miniature bulbs up top) from the garlic around here that i can never use all of them, they are edible themselves.

    what i've found is that green garlic works a lot like green onions (and is much easier for me to grow) that can be harvested in the late winter to mid spring (before the stalks get hard and the bulbs get their tunics). what i do is plant the cloves a few inches deeper (to get more blanched stem length) and space them a little closer together. this season i planted 100 extra for green garlic harvesting and that should be enough (along with other places i'm trying to clear out garlic that i planted a few years ago -- don't do the random fling of garlic starts around unless you really want it in there forever... oops... :) ).

    the tops can be picked early too and used, sliced up or whole, including the leaves, like chives. a bit more fiber, but acceptable to me (i guess i don't mind a little challenge in my greens). :)
     
  17. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    Thought I'd give a little update.

    One of our lambs died a week ago. We don't know what was wrong and the farmer who gave him to us couldn't pinpoint it either. Most likely culprits are poisoning or snake bite. His symptoms didn't match any usual illness. So that was our purebred merino, and we have two border leicester merinos left. They are 6 months old now and will be shorn shortly. I believe the aforementioned farmer (our neighbour) is waiting on dry weather to shear his lambs and will call us to join him when that happens. Rain is expected most of this week. I'm really keen on this first shearing even though I won't be able to spin it - it'll be great for felting and other uses.

    Speaking of rain - I told DH to stop watering my garlic plot and now we have rain! Over 25mm just today! I guess we'll be waiting until closer to December to pull the garlic up.

    I'm expecting my chicks to begin hatching tomorrow. I got some fertilised eggs (to put under my broody chook) from a friend and hope to give the resulting chooks to a mutual friend to start her off. This is our fourth attempt at hatching chooks, but they've always left the nest quite early on.

    We homeschool, so the lamb shearing and chick hatching are part of our whole-family learning process and we try to have the kids as involved as they are willing. We went to visit a pig farm the other day because our 7yo has been keen on pgs since he was 3yo. We plan to get him 2 pet pigs next year and we'll use them for digging up ground where we need it. I don't think he will want to eat them, and that's ok with us. We're also considering getting a dog, but that's a thread for another day because I have lots of reservations.
     
  18. helenlee

    helenlee Junior Member

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    Hi Possum :)

    Sorry to hear about the lamb. I love sheep & the lambs are just precious. It's hard to lose one when you only have a few.
    Where do you live? I can't see any info on your profile page ...
     
  19. Possum

    Possum Junior Member

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    H Helenlee. :)
    Yes, it is hard. The one who died was the pet of my 4yo, so it was especially hard for him. But we are all about learning from life and I'm sure my boys' understanding of death from this will help them in the future. Hard, but true.
    We're in NE Vic.
     
  20. helenlee

    helenlee Junior Member

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    They come to understand it better from living it than from watching "The Lion King" that's for sure :)
    Glad to read you've just had some rain. It sure was getting dry all over.
     

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