Nov 25, 2011

In Theory..... eeer well time will tell.

One of the bizarre things about the way this whole moving to the country thing is panning out is that I have had way to long to think about the things I might do once I get there without being able to test anything in practice. For over a year now I've been scouring the internet about all manner of things, preserving fruit, working with PVC pipe, building with old shipping palates, creating a ventilated pantry, turning an old fridge into a dehydrator, irrigation systems, composting, killing chickens, raising sheep, fencing, building a geodesic dome, growing fodder crops, making a dam, using a sun oven etc etc. There is no way I can actually remember everything I have learned about.

Sometimes when I have an idea I jump on the computer and make a 3d model. That may seem a bit odd, but like I said I can't do anything in practice for now (only a couple of weeks to left to wait!) and I am an animator :P

So I thought I'd put up some images of the sorts of things I've been doing, not because these are locking plans, more because I think it will be interesting in the future to look back and see the difference between these ideas and what I actually ended up doing. In reality I will be working with the limited materials and funds at my disposal, scrounging and foraging for materials when I can. Responding creatively to change is one of the principles of permaculture after all :)

Its also worth noting that we don't actually own the house yet, until the 12th of December, and while everything seems in order, you never know 100% for sure. If the sale or purchase falls through for any reason we will be taking a few steps back.

First up is some experiments with shade sails on the back of the house which faces west and will get the afternoon sun. I have tried to simulate the angle of the sun in the afternoon, I've taken into account the latitude for this part of the world, the slop of the land and based to direction of the house on google maps.

Initially I has hoped the sails could slop back towards the house so that we could catch some of the water from them in the water tank, but as you can see in the first example here this will significantly reduce the shade on the back of the house. In permaculture everything should be able to justify its self in more than one way so I will have to look into some ways of catching the water from the front of the sails, maybe if it slopes towards the outer corners I can make something up.

Next up is an idea for a mobile chicken coop.

Its on wheels so I can move it into the sun in winter and the shade in summer, the floor would be made out of fine wire so I can park it over areas I want to fertilise, even over veggie beds and (in theory) their dropping and scraps would fall through. It would not be my intention that the chooks are in there all the time, but I will have to be careful about when I leave them out to free range because there are wild dogs, fox's and hawks in the area.

On the end of the house is a fold up cage, so during the day even when I'm not keeping a close eye on them they can still get out and stretch their legs in relative safety. this could be a separate piece if its not practical to attach it to the side.

Lastly is the plan for the vegie garden beds, I'm particularly proud of this one. A few other principles of Permaculture is to work from patterns to detail, and to exploit edges. These things clicked together for me when I was watching a documentary on fractals the other day, these are mathematical equations that exist all around us in nature (apologies to any mathematicians reading for my inept definition :P) and the create repetitions in scale (ie patterns). I wanted a design that would capture the water running off the driveway at the property, and was wondering if there would be some kind of fractal design that would help me achieve this. 

 Sloping driveways are great for catching water, or so I've read, so I want to exploit that. The individual small rounded beds should be easy enough to protect with wire and netting when necessary using wire and netting.

This solution dawned on me when I though maybe I should be looking for a design in the paths between the garden beds instead of the beds themselves (the edges). If you look at the paths between the shapes bellow you can see a kind of repeated branching pattern where the path splits into three, the middle path stops and then the two remaining paths start over. If I gradually reduce the width and length of the branches I can create a variety of different sized beds.

Nov 24, 2011

The Experiment Continues

I just thought it might be worth noting that it is about a year now that Vicki and I have been living on one day of work each a week. I have had a few freelance jobs, and a 6 week stint filling in for another teacher, but then again I am a casual teacher and don't get paid for school holidays so that kind of balances out. 

We still have our savings in the bank, we have not required or sought any welfare assistance, we have been supporting ourselves, a horse and a dog, and best of all we are as happy as we have ever been. I can't tell you how liberating it is to have the work to live to work model smashed before your eyes. I walk around these days looking at people working their way through a strange parallel dimension. Everything we achieve is made possible by my the co-operation, drive and support of beautiful wife, she rocks :)

While life still has its inevitable ups and downs I am at least free from having my happiness tied to some unattainable work related goal, maybe other readers manage to engage in full time work without this trade off, but for me its never really been an option. I don't do things by halves and always tended to end up emotionally entangled in my work. I still do even with the one day a week of teaching I do, but I find the long periods of time away from the classroom inevitably keep me grounded.

I wonder if others read this (all 2 or 3 of you :P) and tell themselves I'm somehow lucky I can do this, and that for some reason you can not. I suppose one factor is that we don't have a mortgage, but even if we did have one, that could probably be covered if we each worked an extra day or so each a week, so we could still be keeping full time work at bay. Before this situation was forced upon us the changes we are making seemed impossible to us as well.

Next we look ahead to enhancing our lives even further with land, a serious veggie patch and livestock.

Nov 19, 2011


 Well with less than a month to go till the move its time to start packing up this house. Not a pleasant job, but the sooner we get it out of the way the sooner we can focus on out new life.

We also made a purchase for the new house, we drove out to Nanango on Wednesday and bought a wood fire stove from an old guy who restores them.  It was a real interesting day, a taste of things to come perhaps. We were not allowed to just drop in and pay, we were invited in for tea and cake and ended up spend most of the afternoon there. As we had been told would be the case, our first encounter with locals (who were not real estate agents) showed that people are open, giving, and friendly.

Within minutes of meeting us for the first time Bob had offered to lend me his rotary hoe to help get my veggie patch started, amazing. As we thought might happen we do have to be careful when it comes to politics as some country folk can be a little conservative, but its not like they jam things down your throat, there is a distinct live and let live vibe. Having lived in the suburbs for as long as we have it was quite confronting to have strangers open up their lives to us so readily, but it was also a wonderful feeling.

I'm finished teaching for the year so we need to switch to money saving mode, a challenge when we are in the middle of moving and setting up a new home. It will be interesting times. But on the whole we are super excited and very happy, can't wait! :D