Green and Thrifty

It's nearly Spring! Daffodils and fruit blossom.. it is so exciting watching bulbs popping up and flowering in my new garden. Who knows what I will find. I was weeding the other day and unearthed a potato, which we promptly mashed for dinner. Someone dug up a 4kg gold nugget in the Victorian goldfields this week, but honestly, if I could have a 4kg gold nugget, or a garden, I would choose a garden any day.

I am slowly reducing the dirt pile in the backyard as I pile it behind my new retaining wall, and I have begun sheet mulching with all my left-over moving cartons, plus several inches of pea straw. This is the only useful weed deterrent I have found that also uses biodegradable materials. Plastic sheeting works, but who wants to use more plastic? What doesn't work is newspaper. Disregard any gardening book that tells you to sheet mulch with newspaper. Doesn't matter how thick you lay it, the weeds will work their way through. Cardboard, however, two layers thick, is magic.

In other green and thrifty news, one of my neighbours hauled a ute-load of floor board off cuts from a local sawmill and invited everyone in the street to come and take a barrow load for kindling. Perfect kiln-dried Tassie oak kindling? Yes, please.

My next door neighbour brought me a bag of kiwifruit that she grows over her pergola. I love my new neighbours!

I got my first electricity bill for my new house. Lowest bill ever! Powering down appears to be having an excellent payoff:)

I had several evergreen trees cut down which some deluded person had planted in front of my windows. Sunshine in the house! Hooray! Plus, lots of extra firewood for next year.

My very old washing machine finally died. I have a heroic washing machine repairman who has been repairing it for about three years now, but one day it had a giant fit and died, taking the power with it. However, the next day the heroic washing machine repairman brought me a 'new' machine - he reconditions old machines and sells them, so now I have a washing machine that works, and he even took away the old one to see if he could resurrect it. Maybe I can buy it back one day when this one stops working! I love to meet people who are dedicated to re-making and mending.

Speaking of which, I also had my black winter boots mended by the shoe-repairman recently. He has resurrected several pairs of my shoes, put new metal poppers on my winter parka, and next week he is going to fix my purse, whose zipper has come to grief. If green and thrifty is what you are after, finding a good shoe repairman is a must. Mine can also cut keys and sharpen knives, and we buy our shoelaces from him as well.

Tell me about your green and thrifty projects this week:)


Debbie said…
I love reading about your life. :) It hit me as odd that you were talking about it being Spring until I realize we live in different hemispheres. I must be more tired tonight than I thought. :) Good job on reducing your electric bill and that really was nice of your neighbors!
Jo said…
Debbie, I love reading about gardening in the opposite season - it does seem like a peculiar magic, though, doesn't it? Here is a question that popped into my head the other day - how did all our European plants, which were originally brought to Australia in ships on a nine month voyage survive the season change? I mean, they could have left Europe at the beginning of spring, and arrived in Australia, months later, at the end of spring? Yet somehow they survived, and thrived. A miracle, really.
GretchenJoanna said…
I wonder if shoe repairmen are a dying breed down there as they are here. A truly skilled one is hard to find, and the one we have -- maybe the only one in the whole county -- says that he can't find people to train. Everyone wants an easier, higher-paying job, and of course most people are willing to just throw away their shoes and buy new stylish ones. I think it is very sad.

Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna, maybe living in a less wealthy area helps - there are 3 or 4 shoe repair shops in our our town - possibly more that I haven't discovered, and the one I go to is always busy. Mind you, I haven't seen an apprentice - I'll have to ask next time I go in.

I do know that the timber mill I bought my sleepers from, plus the landscaping supplies business I buy my gravel and pea straw from are both having trouble finding reliable workers. And this in a state suffering from chronic unemployment! Truly, there are jobs out there..
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Thanks for the tip about the newspaper versus cardboard as a weed suppressant. And good for you with the smallest electricity bill yet! I'm impressed. Years ago I had a long and difficult discussion with an architect about how "large" and "green" houses are mutually exclusive outcomes and your electricity usage sort of proves that.

As to projects, I don't even know where to start, which is why I started writing the blog simply because I kept taking up so much valuable comment space over at the ADR (insightful comment too from you this week!) waffling about this and that - and then I had a horror moment of realisation that some may think that it is all just talk. Anyway, the system for the garden taps sprung a leak a few days ago and about 1,500 litres of water disappeared before I noticed, and the ground is so wet that I have no idea at all where the leak actually is over 100m of pipelines...

Hey, that little plant in the bottom right hand corner of photo one is one of my favourites and I have dozens of them here. It is of the borage family, but it is very long lived and does not die back over the winter. The leaves make great reliable chicken feed (as it is prolific) whilst the little blue flowers are adored by bees. I know the plant as Anchusa sempervirens or the more common name as Alkanet. I used to call it Borage until one of the local gardeners who has been in the area for 30+ years corrected me. It will happily self-seed, but you can also divide up the root systems just like you would for comfrey. I mow those plants flat some years and they just grow back stronger than ever and they are very drought hardy. When the sun is low in the sky around June 21 and you have chickens demanding green pick, that plant is a true gift of nature.

Neighbours with excess kiwi fruit that are happy to share their produce. Yum! Plus free dry kindling. You have definitely landed on your feet. :-)!

You probably already know this, but I believe photo three is of forget me nots. They grow feral up here in the moister parts of the mountain range and they turn up in all sorts of unexpected places all about the farm. I like them for their colour and are hoping they spread down into the paddock.

I reckon you are about two weeks ahead of here. It should be a very good spring with all of the winter rain that has fallen.

Did you get any fruit trees in the ground? If not there is always next year.


Jo said…
Chris, I am so glad you could name that plant for me, I have never known what it is called - I thought it was comfrey or borage until someone knowledgeable told me it was neither, but couldn't tell me what it WAS. Isn't the internet community a marvel? Good to know I can feed it to my future chickens as well, as I have quite the thicket of it.

No fruit trees this year, as I haven't prepared the ground yet. But I will be all sorted next winter. My vegie garden prep is coming along though, and should be ready for spring planting in about a month, goody, goody:)

So sorry to hear about your water troubles. Doesn't sound like fun having to dig all of that pipe up..

PS I can't imagine that anyone who has ever read your blog believes you are all talk... unless you have a minion who secretly does all the work, and you just pose in front of completed projects for photos??
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Glad to be of service! The internet community is really great for that sort of stuff. The local guy that told me what the plant was, has a delightful French accent and I know him through the local seed group. I can still hear him saying to me during an open garden visit: "Ah, eet eez not Bo-rage!". He then spent hours on the Internet looking up what the plant actually was. It is a good soil starter for vegetables as it mines minerals that produces a more alkaline soil (which some vegetables love). You could harvest the leaves and bury them in your vegetable beds to give the soil life a boost?

I look forward to reading about your spring vegetables. I'm getting strawberries and blackberries (thornless) ones ready to plant over the next few weeks. Hey, do you reckon it is too late for potatoes?

I may not do the digging up option as the pipe runs through the established garden beds (under ground)... It all seemed like a good idea at the time. Thanks for the good idea too, I hadn't thought about employing minions. :-)! In the early days of the blog someone once asked whether I used photoshop for the photos... Honestly!

Anonymous said…
Hi Jo
How lovely to see your daffodils blooming, on this side of the ocean we are heading into autumn, which is very welcome to me after the hottest July ever.
I am getting my tomatoes in (well OK the hot weather was good for the toms) harvesting and drying herbs to keep me until next year, and my green bean crop was also into the freezer with them, and the green peppers.
I am glad you can keep your washing machine husband is a dab hand at fixing our appliances, he keeps them going till they die of old age.
He fixed out cordless kettle and gave it another 4 years, but we are not buying another one as they are rubbish....the connection to the kettle is the weak point. I have a thrift store one I had as a back up....with a cord attached, so nothing to go wrong( I hope)

I can't seem to find a shoe repair place here...but hot glue is wonderful sometimes.

W. B. Jorgenson said…

Powering down must save a lot of money, it's a wonder more people don't think of it. I've seen quite a few people who try to figure out ways to game the system, like doing laundry and dishes at off-peak times, but the easiest way to save money on electricity would be use less. I'm surprised few people think of it, but it seems obvious to me.

I think there are a few electronic devices that really improve lives: washing machines, fridges, and radio. Everything else I think it's easy to do without, but those three are very important. What do you reckon?

And shoe repair is something wonderful, but it doesn't seem common. Actually, repairmen in general don't seem to have much luck these days. I had one come in to take a look at the fridge, and say that the part would cost us more than a new fridge...

It's a little hard to live if that's the case, no?
Jo said…
Chris, I am happy to report that I have been stamping down many examples of Anchusa sempervirens into the soil as they are growing right where my future vegie garden will be. My soil preparation = stamp down weeds, throw down manure, sheet mulch with cardboard and pea straw, leave for six weeks. Plant. Works like a dream.

Now is a perfect time to plant potatoes. Go crazy!

Marieann, how wonderful to have a harvest to put away for the winter. Doesn't it feel safe to know you have a house full of food? And what a treasure of a husband you have:)

WB, washing machine, fridge, radio? I'm with you there, not getting rid of any of those any time soon. My washing machine repairman, who I believe I mentioned as being heroic, buys secondhand parts from ebay to fix his clients' washing machines, so that they can continue to be mended frugally. He is such a star.

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