Green Laundry

soapnuts pp

I’ve been updating our Changes to Lifestyle post and have been focusing on the laundry side of things which has many options available for making some wiser, greener changes. So much so I thought a post of its own would be worthwhile.

  • Wooden Pegs : we’ve had a mix of pegs in our peg basket for years. Plastic pegs, wooden pegs and other odd ones. The wooden pegs have actually outlasted the plastic pegs because of their ability to withstand degradation from UV light. The other benefit is that when they fall apart, as they eventually do, they just get put in the compost or buried into the garden soil. Easy. There are some fancy set-ups in the marketplace for hanging clothes up to dry, but wooden pegs do the job.
  • Clothes Horse : Following on from wooden pegs, we also use two clothes horses to simply hang washing on under our deck. It doesn’t require pegs and is handy to place indoors or out. We are holding off from a clothesline until the paving is done to find a suitable location. If it is required.
  • Laundry Balls : also in the laundry – we use good quality Laundry Balls containing small ceramic balls that soften the water in the washing machine to allow the clothes fibres to open and release dirt. Does many hundreds of washes and reduces the need for laundry powders or liquids.
  • Soap Nuts: These are a classic substitute for soap if the wash is remarkably dirty and needs a little something extra. Soap nuts have natural soapanin and leave a very delicate fragrance to the clothes. They also do a really good job on little boy clothes.
  • Wash times: This has mainly applied to living with the solar pv system. We now wash clothes during peak sunlight times, using the timer on the machine if we know it will be a sunny day. This way we are using electricity we are generating. Sometimes we will run the electric dryer during this time too.
  • Greywater: It is satisfying to know that the laundry water goes out into the garden and continues the water cycle on our block. This is not really a change as such, but an improvement with the introduction of the greywater system.

The Garden & The Muse

cropped-apple-box1.pngIt’s 5 am and its dark. Really dark. Inside and out.

Gran, with little regard for the silence that embalms the house (because she’s losing her hearing), bursts from her bedroom door and wheels herself into the bathroom with an urgency we won’t see for the rest of the day. The noise echoes through the floorboards. The Little Fellas are restless. I can sense it.

I’m already awake anyway, sitting in the office. Planning the day ahead. Thinking. Making notes. Being aware. Practising my ‘Dad Radar’.  I have a few minutes before I anticipate hearing little feet across a big floor. The Muse shifts about listlessly in the house also. She’s been away so long now I can’t remember what she looks like. She has a habit of changing regularly anyway.

One of the Little Fellas comes in and joins me. He’s the first half. The Muse has fled by now, as he perches on the seat and begins the inquisition of questions and furtive, curious investigating of objects and pieces that litter the top of the desk.

My thoughts are with the garden. After putting it to the side for so long now I am feeling compelled to get it up and running. But there is much work to do still – and the other house needs finishing in order to put it on  the market. It’s closer. I’ve been working on it.

Autumn came so soon, and now it’s nearly gone. I implore for the Muse to return. We can consolidate our ideas over chilly winter nights and make plans for the Masterpiece that lies sleeping in the coming Spring.

 

Mini-Crops for your Little Paradise

As we await the completion of our larger, raised garden beds, I cannot let it stand as an excuse not to grow our own food. So in the meantime we have a couple of plants started to supplement that which we purchase from the local farmers market. I have sprinkled lettuce seeds, parsley seeds and mustard seeds pretty liberally around the garden in areas of sand or bare dirt so that we can benefit from those plants that thrive with our neglect. However, there are three plants in particular that I have in containers simply because they are so easy to get started.

The first is Pak Choy which I am very, very fond of. Particularly in smoothies and stir-fries. This little crop was started from about an inch of the base of each Pak Choy plant that I used in the kitchen. Like most Brassicas they are keen to keep on giving so they are really easy to start on some damp towel on the kitchen bench and then transplant out once they have leaves forming.

pak choy petit paradis

The Little Fellas are keen on potatoes. They love them. Regular white potatoes or sweet potatoes, or purple. Really, whatever Dad is happy to grow for them. They are easy to grow in containers with a bit of compost and some sand. I wait for the flowers to die down and get to them when I need some for the kitchen. The Little Fellas are acutely aware of the difference between a Ladybug and the Twenty-Eight Spotted Bugs that are really the only sort of pest that might trouble them and they are happy enough to squash them or feed them to pet birds.

potatoes petit paradis

Next up are Shallots. Those in the photo below had only been in the soil about a week. A little autumn rain and sunshine and they were into it. I grew the original crop and kept some of the smaller ones from the harvest in a container over summer when we moved house. Little Fella J and myself planted them out, spoke to them nicely and let nature do the rest.

shallots petit paradis

There is yet another favourite crop we like to keep on the go as well which does really well in pots and that is Spring Onion. Again, like the Pak Choy, we leave about an inch or so of the lower part of the plant and roots – typically the whiter part of the ‘bulb’. This is put in a little bit of water, only to get it by until we plant it in the garden. Don’t cover it completely. Let it breath and bask in the sun a little and within days, if not overnight, it will be reaching for the sky. When you harvest, simply repeat the process. Again and again and again. They take up so little room and are really handy in the kitchen.

The containers are usually filled with kitchen scraps at the bottom. Cardboard. Paper. All the good stuff that compost worms like. We ‘seed’ the containers with some soil from the worm farms so that further down the track there is rich feed for both worms and plant.

These mini-crops are easily fertilised by the run-off from our worm farm. It’s fantastic stuff. It feeds them well. Uses up scraps from the kitchen. Makes great compost and soil amendment and can fit on the back deck, verandah or patio. Usually Zone One in a permaculture design. Back door step stuff! Easy.

Cos’ it has to be! Right?

The Professionally Engineered Leaf Trap

 

petit paradis leaf trap

This was one of those “Mate – you’re different.” moments.

There was no friend present when I first lay my eyes on the above scene, but I’m sure that would have been the response to my reaction of “Awesome!” and my spontaneous enthusiasm to immediately begin gathering as many handfuls of leaves I could, shoving them into a bucket for swift relocation to the compost bin.

I grew even more ecstatic when it dawned on me that by having inset the stairway entry to the house, we had inadvertently engineered ourselves a perfect leaf trap from which to harvest the bountiful autumn leaves that blow over to our house from the park.

I expected the leaves to gather in the drive-way.

They did this before the renovation. The wind hand picks them as though on fishing line invisible to the eye and carries them in an almost deliberate dance to gently place them on our drive-way, where the distraction of playing amongst the roses and the sloping corrugated fence-line means the wind loses interest and forgets about the leaves. They lie there for days. As they build in number they appear to accumulate at a faster rate.

I am also aware that this would be an abhorrent mess to any regular gardener. There would be cursing, the revving of the leaf blower.

It would be regarded as an abomination to the order of things. I am aware of this. It’s what I like about permaculture. The problem is the solution. It means I can slacken off from trips across the road to the park to fill a bag of leaves for the compost bin or worm farm. They are instead conveniently placed – at the front steps!

It gets better. I have assistance. The Little Fellas also take it upon themselves (dare I say, sometimes with financial incentive) to harvest the leaves and put them in the compost bin. It’s cooking up a storm that compost bin. It’s going to be a great bit of vintage dirt. The crap we’ve put into it! Amazing.

 

 

Take what the day gives

chaos pp

No pretty blog pics here. Raw chaos. Photoshop not included.

From time to time I briefly observe the remarkable sights of other peoples blogs and websites. It’s both an experience of awe and total disenchantment to me. Awe at others endeavours and successes. Disenchantment on reflection of our own current state of utter chaos and the relentlessness of working through the mundane list of chores that line the path to the flicker of hope, the glimmer of the shiny vision of what could be – if we keep going. It’s a grand vision. It has to be. I would have stopped years ago otherwise.

Will it be worth it?

Probably not. Not unless we remain committed to sticking to the plan.

With each day, I know I have to take what the day gives. To continue to work through the new distractions, the fatigue, the days I get up early and go to my day job. There is often so much more happening in and around our home life that I joke to people that I go to work in my spare time. I take inspiration from such blogs as The New Good Life, Growing with Plants, the realness and down-to-earth postings at Much More Mulch.

The day to day observations and captured images of Tony Tomeo take me beyond our own little emerging paradise and remind me of my travels. Of the world that lies out there beyond our little forming paradise.

I realise that much of the disenchantment I feel stems from seeking order and organisation. Natural beauty. All the while being surrounded by visions to the contrary. A seemingly ever-increasing list of jobs to do. To work through. I’ve been through this landscape of lists before and I’ve overcome them. I was however, never prepared for the magnitude of what it would take for this current endeavour or the time it would take. Let alone navigating through it while raising two young boys and in contrast, managing the requirements of my Mother-in-law.

At any rate, when the days work is done I reflect on what has gone before. I wouldn’t say it feels rewarding. It’s just the subtlest feeling of moving closer that mildly satisfies for now. Scattered through the day are moments when the notebook is taken from my pocket and scribbled with ideas, dreams, sketches and reminders of goals being worked towards.

The Notebook is proof that something other than present circumstances are at work. The ideas captured within are reminders that I’m in for the long haul.