30 November 2013

Slow Living Month - October and November 2013

Oh poor, sad, neglected blog!  So much going on, but none of it managing to get to written status! So to recap on the last couple of months, here's my combined October/ November Slow Living Diary, joining up again with Christine at Slow Living Essentials and the gang.

Very little creative cooking recently (except for a Kransekake that you can see at the bottom of this post), but we assisted a friend who has set himself the challenge of tasting 100 cheeses in a year that he hasn't eaten before.  He was falling behind in the count, so threw a Cheese Party and asked everyone to bring something interesting.  So much cheese!!

Not much preparation recently, but I have just harvested lots of garlic, so have been cleaning that up and drying it so it can be plaited and stored.
Following up on my post about needing to reduce power, I went through a process to identify where the main power usage issues are, and have started to address them.  The main culprit was definitely my heating, so one of the heaters was immediately vanquished from the house, instantly dropping the usage.  It's not a solution for next winter, but I now have time to work through a long-term strategy.  (I also got out the thermals a couple of times when it got really cold!)  I've started to swap over the light globes, although discovered quickly that it's not as simple to do that as I'd hoped, and horribly expensive.  I'll do a post about my discoveries on that topic soon.  We've also been much better at making sure that everything gets turned off if not in use.  A new fridge is also on the list, our current is very inefficient, so I've been investigating the best option for that.  As part of my Permaculture course I did an energy audit for a week and was excited to see that there had been a major drop in power use from our previous average, so all those little actions are definitely having an impact.

The Country Garden is now fully planted out for summer, except for some beans that will go in shortly.  There are zucchinis, spaghetti squash, golden squash, capsicum, tomatoes, basil, kale, potatoes, rocket, cucumber, blueberries and raspberries, eggplant and probably a few other things that I've forgotten.
Potato bed - happy times ahead!
The slow but definitely growing stone pine
Over the last two months we harvested broad beans, peas, celery, fennel, silverbeet, radish, leek, garlics, carrots, beetroot, broccoli, rhubarb, turnip, warrigal greens and most excitingly the first potatoes!
yesterday's harvest
In the City Garden there is lots of promising growth on the fruit trees, and the tomatoes are flourishing, however some news that wasn't so good.  I decided I'd read too much about the potential of lead in suburban gardens to not get my garden tested, and as was not unexpected, the results came back higher than they should be.  The limit for safe levels is 300 parts per million, and the City Garden came back at 400 parts per million.  Not a completely desperate situation, but not great.  So I will work hard to increase the organic matter on the areas of the garden that I grow vegies in and the chickens access, and limit the choice of vegetables to plant to exclude brassicas, leafy and root varieties until the soils are  improved nd the depth built up more.  Coincidentally I was due for some blood tests, so added a lead level test as well, which thankfully came back quite low.
Baby peaches in the City Garden
And hopefully the first blood oranges too
The Country Garden has been in full swing in the last two months.  About 90% of our vegies came from the garden.  There will now be a bit of a dip I think, until all the summer crops start to produce in a few weeks.

Not a great effort, but a little spot of colour for the street herb garden
Sadly, I have just about finished my Permaculture course, I don't want it to end!  But tomorrow is the final design presentation, so I have been working with my group to develop that.  I'll try and post the final design solution after we present it.  My collection of fascinating books on various related topics also keeps growing, so there'll be lots of reading over summer.  
An early study sketch for our PDC design
There were two interesting site visits for Permaculture, as part of our studies on farm-scale design and designing for bushfires.  Both properties that were hit by the Black Saturday fires and are now rebuilding.  A gorgeous and very inquisitive herd of milking goats at the first property!

I've continued to help look after the kitchen garden at work, and am planning a series of lunchtime fair food sessions for the new year, drawing on the skills of some of the staff, including beekeepers, chicken owners, green smoothie fans and food security advocates.

A visit to a country agricultural show.  It had such a lovely atmosphere, so much less commercial than the Royal Melbourne Show, and it was the first warm sunny day of the season to enjoy it too.  I was particularly interested to check out the entries in the produce categories, wondering if I'd stand a chance at the local show next year.  It was a bit sad to see how few entries there actually were, and after a few hours of the sun warming the tin shed the competition was housed in, everything was a bit droopy, but great to see how the entrants presented their produce.
The 25th Vintage anniversary of the vineyard was also celebrated last week, with lots of delicious food and wine, including a traditional Norwegian celebration cake called a Kransekake that I made, and a few bottles that had been reserved for a suitably important event... :)
It was a cold rainy day, but a rainbow emerged
just as the party began


  1. Gosh you do sound busy. I like the sound of reducing power, I think I will try approaching it like you did.
    That cake looks amazing, and I bet that wine tasted divine.
    Happy Birthday to the vineyard!

    1. I've been guided by the sustainability guy at the local council and his method of not jumping in to randomly do stuff until you really understand where you're using power makes a lot of sense I think. Good luck with it!

  2. Looks like a pretty busy time, glad you've captured it in photos and I too need to use less power...those silly stand by's but I do have a HDD recorder attached to the TV so it stays on. Oh well...win some in some areas and lose some in others. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

    1. We got one of those powerboards that turns off all the standby power. Not sure how much impact it's having, but worth trying I think.

  3. Just visiting from Slow Living Essentials slow living posts. What a lot of productivity you have going on in your garden beds! Thank you for a very enjoyable read!

  4. The permaculture class sounds interesting and you have been it seems to me very methodical in your efforts - good for you and best wishes for continuing growth, thank you for sharing - via slow living essentials, Idaho US

  5. Thanks for your lovely comments Kim and Kathy! :)

  6. Oh, you yarnbombed your verge garden! I love it!! And your kransekake looks magnificent! xx