2016/03/19 deej 0

Our darling Cloud-kitty has returned from her trip to Adelaide, and she does indeed look pregnant. She seems to remember us, and is super affectionate, hungry all the time, and starting to look a bit barrel shaped.

However. She’s been away for long enough that she’s forgotten George and Prism, and they’ve forgotten her. Prism wasn’t too much trouble – she’s not the dominant cat in the house, and never has been, so she just backed off and gave Cloud space until they were friends again. George.. not so much. First he growled at her because she smelled of other cats, and then she growled at him, and now they’re apparently mortal enemies. So, for most of this week, they’ve taken turns being locked in the bathroom, behind 2 baby gates (one on top of the other) because both cats can open the bathroom door. It’s not ideal.

Today’s project is putting gates on the library, so that George can have the run of that space – and once his run is finished, he’ll have that as well, with a kitty door into the library. We can go sit in there with him and give him cuddles and attention and company, but he can’t get to or stress Cloud.

Anyway. TL;DR: we’re modifying our house, so we can keep our cats separated. It’s a pain, but it’s also kinda awesome.

I’ve also been doing some business plan updates for Gallifrey, and amusingly my top potential commercial enterprises turn out to be: bees & honey (and mead), fresh mushrooms, quail eggs, and chicken eggs. Cuy (cavies, or guinea pigs bred for meat) are also a win on the cat food front, as feeding them is much cheaper than buying meat for the cats. So the next animal project – after hatching the wyandotte (chicken) eggs which are in the incubator at the moment – is getting some quail to put in the run we have ready for them. And then we might think about a guinea pig run.

free mulch

2015/11/26 deej 0

One of the ideas about permaculture which resonates with me quite strongly is that everything you need is available to you, you just need to learn to take advantage of the resources you have. This isn’t the radical self-reliance ideal which has been so problematic for many people suffering various forms of disadvantage, from mental health problems to fiscal difficulties; this is the idea that you make your own luck by paying attention and taking opportunities when they present themselves. I really like that.

The latest illustration of this idea is embodied in some free mulch. A lady I work with was talking to my project manager about plants and she advised him to mulch his garden to save water & improve the soil – and then she asked if he wanted some mulch. Turns out she’d just had a tree taken out and had the guy mulch it and leave the mulch, but it’s far more mulch than she needs. I figured she’d probably be happy to have the same conversation with anyone, so jumped in and I said that if she had excess mulch, I’d be happy to take some. She said she’d love that because she really wants it gone, and none of her friends or family are interested. So we went and picked up a trailer load of high quality organic wood chip mulch to spread over my in-progress herb garden.

mulched garden

It makes me deeply happy to do things like that, create situations where everyone benefits that way.

My friend Charlie Mcgee created an album of permaculture songs, and one of them is about that very idea. I sing along with it (and the other songs on the album) in the car, and now every time something like this happens I get the lyrics quietly playing in my head: “Everything you need is right in front of you; when you learn to see, good things come to you.”

The whole album is awesome, by the way. You should listen to it.

aesthetics vs utility

2015/11/17 deej 0

One of the things which many, many permaculture practitioners seem to struggle with is a particular type of hoarding. I have this problem myself. You hold on to things because they might be useful, and because the idea of simply throwing them away is distasteful. After all, we know where “away” is in this context – it’s the mid-ocean garbage patch, or the local waterways, or at best the local landfill.

I can throw away biodegradable things without a moment of guilt, because I know that they’ll just rot down and return to the soil. But those things tend to go into my compost anyway, since good soil is one thing we’re a little short on. Throwing away plastic hurts me inside, because I know that most of those plastics will still be there in 100 years, making problems – so I try to avoid buying plastic non-recyclables as much as possible, and one of the factors in my purchasing choices is the recyclability of the wrappers of the things I buy. But potentially useful pieces of steel, or aluminium, or wood.. I find those very difficult to toss. Even if they’re covered in rust or in sizes that will never actually be useful.

The problem with this is that you end up with a yard full of junk. It’s ugly, and it just sits there not being used.

Moving to a rural property doesn’t make it easier to avoid this sort of hoarding. We have so much more space now, and many, many things that we need to build. Plus, more sources of possibly-useful junk. Our neighbour has a collection of old truck gates, for example, previously used as sheep- and horse-fencing, which he’s said we can have if we want them. They’re rusty, and bent in a few places, but they have so much potential. We’ve taken the four in the best condition to use as trellising for grapevines, and we’re resisting the rest. For now. I’m still thinking about what they could be used for.

In the meantime, though, we have some epic grapevine trellising to de-rust, paint, and put up. This is useful, because the hot weather is here and I really want some shade along the western side of the verandah to keep the house cool in the afternoons.

And some pictures, just because

2015/11/13 deej 2

George, relaxed & sleeping after getting home from the vet.
sleeping kitties

The view out the back door. It’s still a bit Mars-like, but we’ll get some pasture down next winter and put some fruit trees in. The hedge maze will be out there, too, once we get that planted.

Boxes of books to unpack once the shelves in the library are up. Also, some of the tree decals.

My unfinished mediterranean / arid herb garden along the front of the house.
herb garden

And more boxes to unpack – the craft storage room is actually a lot more under control than this picture would lead you to believe.
more boxes

And to finish on the same note as I started, some mid-morning kitty cuddles.
kitty cuddles


2015/08/10 deej 0

The house is so very, very close to being done. It’s a matter of weeks until we can move in, and while there’s a certain amount of argh-can-we-afford-all-this stress, it’s also a deeply satisfying feeling. It’s hard to rein in all the plans and projects.

We’ve made a pact that we’re not going to buy any furniture except for a rug or two (the floor of the new house is tiled throughout, because I like tiles and hate the ground-in filth that accumulates in wall-to-wall carpets – rugs can be taken outside and beaten, or washed, or at worst replaced) for the first few months. We’re going to move ourselves in and cull our existing stuff down to what we really want. The rest will either be re-homed or broken down to use as building material for things like new shelves and the cat runs.

translucent blindsOur first major project after moving in and unpacking and building the cat runs is probably going to be window-somethings.

We told the builder to exclude window treatments because we weren’t sure what we wanted, and we thought we’d just sort it out once we’d moved in. Now’s the time to start thinking about that, working out logistics and aesthetics and the cat-survivability (as in, will the blinds or curtains or whatever survive the cats) of the various options. So that’s a practical project.

whole tree cat toySlightly less practical are the array of landscaping projects, such as the as-yet hypothetical rockery courtyard which will be landscaped in around the front door. I’m imagining trailing veils of banksia roses and colourful succulents, rocks and sitting spots which will catch some of the afternoon sun, and a pathway leading to the front door. And the collection of paddocks, marked out by posts to which temporary fencing can be attached, for rotational grazing of goats & the house cow I want to acquire – and also the chickens, who’ll appreciate some variety in their surroundings, and will scratch the cow and goat manure into the ground so that it breaks down into soil. And the courtyard garden I plan to put along one side of the house. And the mulched on-contour pathways I want to put around the entire property.

wall decalsAnd just in case I ever run out of landscaping ideas (which I won’t, honestly), I have so many interior decoration pictures and ideas that it’s absurd. At least some of those elements are also in my plan: some whole-tree (or whole branch, at least) pieces, wall decals (ordered already), indoor plants (which the cats will inevitably try to eat), artistic and unobtrusive cat-climbing toys, reworking my enormous loft bed to be a little lower to the ground and somewhat redesigned, possibly with four-poster style curtains (which in my head are still called “princess-bed curtains”). Shelves in the craft storage room so that we can have our art/craft/electronics stuff out and easy to get to, but not in the middle of our living space or anywhere that the cats can try to eat it (seriously, George will try to eat anything – I have kitty chew-marks on my laptop). Shelves in the library so I can have books out and accessible. I miss my books; they’ve been mostly stored in boxes for years now.

Basically, I’m dreaming of the nesting part of this exercise, the bit where I get to put all my artworks up wherever I want them,  and plant my fruit trees out in the ground so they can settle in, and cuddle up on a beanbag with my sweetie in our space, together. I imagine sitting in the bath together on a winter evening in the not too distant future, with candles lit, reading our books together while we listen to the wind and the silence and the occasional oceanic roar of a truck going past on the highway up the road.

(P.S. I don’t have image sources for these pics. Sorry.)

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