Building a Chicken Coop

In order to manage a little procrastination on our bus we have filled our time with lovely home projects. One day Henry picked up the tools, found some wood and managed to build for less than $10 a chicken coop which is quite cosy, well insulated and ventilated, easy to clean and barely portable.

Our neighbour, who is very friendly (everyone seems to know eachother on this street, and there are some characters…including us perhaps…but they are all quite lovely), had a connection who had a few henpecked chickens which needed a new home and so we adopted these. They are a little flighty, but not aggressive, this could have something to do with their breed, the Anacona.

Our friends in Canberra also passed on two little bantams, who are just the sweetest and cutest and very friendly with the tiniest of “crawcks” and a Chinese Fighting Bird which sounded very exotic and dangerous to me, but turns out it’s just a tough little chook with great thighs, a meaty little thing (but not for meat just yet, we’ll see how we go with that one!).

I don’t really have an instructional post here, but our coop may give you some ideas.

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In the Garden #3

Ah, I love to study, but freedom from the books is good when I can return to the blog and talk about all those things which are nearest and dearest to me.

Our garden is growing steadily. We are finding spare patches of land with not much grass or scraggly tufts of flora and enthusiastically throwing poo and straw down for our babies (plants) to gobble right up.

gardening-mess planting-seeds cucumber-seedlings tomato-plants tomato-seedlings tomato-seedlings radish-seedlings Raised-bed-garden

horse-poo-garden

This is poo. Plants loves this crap. The best is poo (of a grass fed animal) that has been left to compost (sealed in a bag in the hot sun) for a few weeks/months. This is our potato patch.horse-poo zucchini-plant

Our zucchini are suffering a little, there is an abundance of slugs and snails on this property. In my last patch slaters were the main problem, they would chop the seedlings off at the base, deadibones. The place before that we had a real rodent problem (they ate my corn seeds the day I planted them) and it was a hassle keeping the hens out of the garden beds. So every patch has its problems and I’ve heard gardening referred to constant problem solving. The way to solve slug and snail problems (without bait…I should explain that one…see next paragraph) is with chickens! Can’t wait til the ladies come!

 

The reason I don’t like to use snail bait or roundup or other such chemicals is because of the delicate balance of all of nature’s systems. Birds are the best solution to snails. Birds also need snails to live. So if I am poisoning snails the birds are eating the snails the birds are then dying or getting ill. The birds then disappear and snailtown booms! This is the way with all natural systems. If we humans are interfering in nature there will be repercussions (probably bad ones because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing most of the time!). The best thing to do is to work with nature.

bean-seedling

The sunflowers are our current great success. We’ve grown these everywhere we’ve lived (mostly). They are Henry’s favourite. I probably wouldn’t be growing these if it weren’t for him (preferring roses and more rambling plants myself), but they bring the native parrots into the garden and I like that.sunflower-plant  sunflower-plant sunflower-plant nasturtium-seedlings snowpeas

tomato-seedling

So this (above and immediately below) are our front garden beds. We face directly north, great position for sun loving plants like sunflowers and tomatoes, in the Southern hemisphere.plant-boxes eggplant-plant

I am attempting to propagate a couple of fig cuttings which I got from pruning our fig tree. I’ll see how we go with this. I just successfully propagated seven hydrangeas – I’m really quite proud of that, it’s been the first thing I’ve ever propagated! Yippee.Fig-cutting capsicum-plant

The potatoes are chitting in the shed. Chitting is the scientific word for sprouting taters.seed-potatoes

And here’s our hand powered mower. Being the true greenies we are it is satisfying to mow our rental property lawn with this baby. It actually works a treat! Clackety clack.Non-petrol-mower

Seed potatoes
Seed potatoes

And it is good to have this one home. At times we’ve talked about selling this, and while it is noisy and has broken down twice I’m actually quite fond of the beast and so is Henry, so currently we’re keeping it.

 

I feel like we’ve come full circle. This home reminds me very much of our home near Canberra before we moved to Young to renovate our bus. It’s been a rough and tough journey since that time. Lots of ups and downs. Moving here was like moving back home. It’s the same but different. Better in many ways (new friends, better house, lovely church, cheaper rent, actually better time with friends and family in Canberra as the time is more concentrated and precious), not as great in some other ways (miss Canberra culture a fair bit, and really miss the excellent Farmers Markets, also being far from work is a juggle).

 

All in all, I love the homelife.

Honda-GB-50

In the Garden #1

Here we are beginning a garden again at the beginning of ‘the growing season’ (generally assumed to be Spring into Summer/Autumn, though in Australia it is only the very attentive gardener who is lucky enough to have plants survive through our Summers!)

And when I say ‘we’ so generously I actually mean Henry and his helpful slaves children (they actually love it!)

gardening (1 of 3) gardening (2 of 3)

Henry’s strength, or should I say ONE of Henry’s MANY strengths is his focus on p.r.e.p.a.r.a.t.i.o.n. and so he spent the money on (composted) manure, seed raising mix and some kind of dirt brick which swelled up into several times its volume and filled a kid sized swimming pool. If preparation is his strength, gadgets are his weakness. He likes to have ‘the right tool for the job’ and so he also found these little hard little pellets (about the size of a tea light candle) which, when watered, swelled up and tripled in height, the now loose dirt is contained in a gauze like sock. The idea is to place one seed into each pellet and once sprouted simply pop the little capsule into the dirt and the roots will break out of the gauze skin as they grow outwards.

Part of Henry’s extensive preparation has been to dig manure into any available plots of dirt and dig down down down to give the plants all important drainage and room for growing roots.

We also, together, discussed appropriate places for our veges to grow (important for me to be involved in as I can defend the need for flowering shrubs and existing ‘useless’ plants to remain where they are and not be chopped down or dug up!) and planned the grouping of various veges.

Seed packets Companion Plantinggardening (3 of 3) So we have established our groupings:

Corn, beans, cucumbers with nasturtium and marigold bordering.

Sunflowers, peas, cucumbers and dwarf tomatoes (Beans do not like sunflowers we are told)

Carrots and radishes in rows of their own on the North end of the patch of corn so as to receive our Southern Hemisphere sunlight.

Tomatoes along a fence.

Beans along another fence

Zucchini in mini-plots (basically their own little patches of turned and composted soil in an unused corner of the yard)

Herbs scattered amongst all and in their own pots too.

My strawberry plants, which I have dutifully transported to several dwellings are currently homeless – I think I will just have to squeeze them in after Henry is done.

As we are renting we are also planning on buying a few big pots to grow more veges in our front yard which is North facing and so prime vege position!

 

 

The thing about stuff

So, recently I’ve been on a mission to declutter, clear out, recycle, reuse, produce little waste etc. etc. One day when I was ranting on about this stuff to some new friends one kind soul piped up and said, “my view is that it costs you money to buy it and it costs you nothing to keep it.” This was in the middle of my throwing out everything stage (though, in reality, everything is not everything).

She’s had me thinking though and recently these thoughts have taken some kind of communicable form.

One thing which I have been wondering about has been the ‘why’ of why stuff can tug at our emotions and heart the way it sometimes does.

Some things I now regret tossing. So what’s with that???

There’s that pram I bought in New Zealand, those three mats which I thought weren’t my style any longer (turns out they still are and when we were in a house and needed a bath mat or two I had to go and buy another), that blackboard which was such a find at a monastery fete, which I passed on to a friend and since have a small longing for it which I continually squash, even some of my solid furniture (bookshelves and the like) which I also passed on and could actually use now and have had trouble replacing….even that desk which I loved and never bought and think ‘damn’ if only

What’s with stuff??

And it’s this (I think). We invite stuff into our life and when we do we take responsibility for it. From that point onwards it is our responsibility where that stuff ends up. Landfill, second-hand stalls, even when given to friends there is still that biting responsibility: is that stuff being used to the best of it’s ability? Is it being wasted? Will it go to landfill after several uses simply because the second or third person along the chain can not care for or repair it?

It is strange that even when friends hand stuff over to me there is still that element of: “oh, that is *Jenny’s* chair” even after a number of years. Sometimes I do not emotionally let go of stuff too and I think it’s tied up with this idea of responsibility. It’s a bit like children or puppies.

So I think this kind of approach toward stuff can fill us (or me, at least) with a new kind of trepidation when making something or buying something or taking something into my own life. When I stick my hand up to become an owner I am accepting responsibility for that object’s existence, it’s end, it’s care. Even if I casually pass something on to the second hand store that is not its end (I have heard that much of our second hand clothing ends up in poorer countries where traditional methods of clothing production are suffering because of an inundation of our (tacky, polyester) clothing rejects so…I mean, I don’t want to contribute to that!!). We can use the second-hand dealer as a bit of a cop-out to dealing with our stuff I think.

As the potential owner of stuff I have the responsibility to ensure that my stuff is well made, ethically made, high quality, cared for and when my use for it is over my responsibility is to ensure it’s end is a good one or at least pass it on carefully and conscientiously.

So, this is my thinking currently. Does anyone else have any ideas about this?

Blogs. This Blog

I saw a trailer for a movie about bloggers and…I’ve become a little blase about it all.

One thing the husband and I have been talking about (over the last several years – it’s been an ongoing and continually developing conversation) has been the quality of our lives on this earth. In a world where noise is everywhere, where the number of people currently making their lives here on this earth is growing, where addictive consumerism is everywhere, where mind numbing, brain dulling tools are numerous and at the tips of everyone’s fingertips (tv’s, phones, the internet, addictive computer games, food-food-food, fashion) what is it that we want our lives to count for?

The run through of most of these bloggers proved they were mostly women who blogged about ‘fashion, food, kids, craft’ and all of them, all of us I should say as…I blog…are contributing to the noise that exists on this wonderful world wide web, which is one of the final bastions of freedom, where, unlike the struggle of buying a house you can acquire a ‘page’, an online home, for free! Expression is relatively unfettered and it is a place where ideals seem real and attainable due mostly to the magic of photography, a medium which thrives within the four walls of a computer screen.

The thing is that I don’t know if I want to be contributing to this noise.

One reason I dropped craft oh so many moons ago is that I just couldn’t stand the thought of churning out thing after thing, maybe buying completely unnecessary bits and bobs from el cheapo craft stores in order to fulfill some fantastical ideal of being the mummy that makes things. How could I utilise junk to create more junk all for the sake of crafting for the sake of crafting. No. It’s not good enough. The days of sitting down to make a doily or paint dipped cutlery or adding ‘pops’ of colour to the back of a kitchen cabinet or sequining up a frock, these days are over for me simply because I am much more environmentally conscious than I was and I am sick of the treadmill of consumerism, which crafting can be a subtle cousin of.

Not that I am against making things, but my position is more: QUALITY

In a world where there are billions of people we need to forget about achieving simply many things in our small, short lives, need to stop rushing so much, need to back off the attainment of many things and instead seek to acquire very well made items which will last many many years. There needs to be fewer things of greater quality.

Working on our bus-home has been influencing me this way. I realise so strongly that I would rather our bus be completely beautiful and very strongly built and be a joy to live in for the next several years, even if it takes us a year or two longer to build than we thought. Later, I would rather build just one very good dwelling place (and a small one, not a waste-of-ground-space-mansion) instead of buy my way through several badly built excuses for houses. If I wrote books I would rather write just one worthwhile work than several money-spinners. If I were an artist I would rather paint (or insert medium) five masterpieces than churn out many works or unextraordinary forgettable nonsense. If I were in the business way I would want to build just one small, caring, high quality business without any thought for ‘taking over the world’ for fear the quality of it would be compromised. Think chain stores vs a local cafe.

You see where I’m going with this.

As a people we can’t afford to waste any more. The other 6 999 999 999 people deserve for my life to be one of quality not quantity, just adding to the noise, the chaos, the insipid waste of it all, this planet which is groaning under the weight of our garbage also deserves better.

And so, because I blog, instead of blogging up billions I have to stick by my values and refuse to contribute to the noise of all those mummy/fashion/food/craft/lifestyle blogs out there and instead stick to something which could be of more value. The idea is: less noise, more depth.

The 15 months we’ve spent in Young simply building are coming to an end. We are still going to be building, but we are just juggling things around a bit so that we can have a better quality of life while we (slowly) build. While this is happening and while I am beginning to invest in my photography business, and while I am studying, this blog is going to receive a bit of an overhaul as well. I’m not dropping it but I’m going to focus things so that they reflect some of these values which I’ve just mentioned.

I’m inspired by such blogs as Aurajoon and mnmlist, and my wish is to approach blogging without such a frenzy to post frequently or meaninglessly, to generate hits or cash or anything like that. When such things become the focus the things that really matter suffer.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you in the loop.

May Morning

May Mornings blow the air off the snow around about and bring the first, promising, chill of Winter.

I am thrilled.

A day begun well enough, with porridge and foggy windows which revealed hidden handprints and sifted the light through our bamboo forest. The kids often paint in their books in the morning and this morning practiced their target practice with the bamboo bows and arrows I made them. They actually work, but they will not last long, still totally renewable and not a milligram of plastic in sight! That’s my kind of toy.  The later half of this day was spent in bed watching Pride and Prejudice as I’ve lately had the flu and was fading fast…so it actually ended pretty well too!

May Morning May Morning

A capsicum from our garden – did not get enough sun to bloom red.May Morning

This boy cuddles legs. He injects love and sunshine into our lives.May Morning

This little girl loves the industry of painting, the only problem – her paints do not last long.May Morning May Morning May Morning

The ‘burbs.May Morning May Morning

Mm, here’s a handiwork. I’ve been making planters with coconut shells, this one’s new and is an ‘upside down planter’. Very nifty. I’ll see how it goes. May MorningMay Morning May Morning May Morning May Morning May Morning May Morning

 

Tiny House People

I stumbled across this film a couple of months ago and then this film today. Both of these creative endeavours made me proud to be (almost) able to call myself a tiny house person.

My favourite person was the girl at around 13 minutes along in the second film by Kirsten Dirksen. I loved her adaptability, her approach to her lifestyle, her creative storage and her use of a chamber pot! I love that she built it herself, and sourced her material from the tip.

I am anticipating the onset of tiny house living for several reasons:

  • simplicity (not crowding our lives with stuff)
  • simplicity (not filling our time with sorting/cleaning large spaces or large amounts of stuff)
  • simplicity (not having to worry about or think about or chase after money)
  • Quality over quantity. We have fewer, but higher quality items and fittings around our home, this makes us feel good. We are able to support ethical & often local companies.
  • Adventure. We are not forced into a lifestyle of 9-5 work to pay off a mortgage or even have to save for an overpriced home (the honest truth is that housing and land these days is excessively, unnecessarily expensive – it’s not worth getting into debt over.)
  • Autonomy. We can move as we wish, live as we wish. There are expenses along the road, but they are far less than rent etc.
  • By far, though, the greatest benefit to living small is being able to be together, because of all the above reasons and also because the smallness of the space forces us together. It’s nice.

Currently we are struggling a little bit. We are just over half way through our bus build and while each step excites us there is still a lot of building to go. We are tossing up our living arrangements, unsure whether to move into a rental as there is uncertainty about how long this project will take. Sophia will/might be going to school this year and so plans are all ambiguous.

I am not someone unwelcome to changing plans, I am liable to toss a project in the air if it is ‘not working’, I guess it is harder for me to persist and while I am determined to persist with building our bus (there is no other option there) I am just investigating the different ways we could reach the end goal…all in one piece.

We will see what we will see.