Cleaning Air

I’ve been interested in cleaning the air in our house for some time. Years in fact. During the renovation I was particularly concerned with the possibilities of off-gassing from the building materials. Where possible we tried to reduce or eliminate these. For example, with our choice of floor finish (natural oils and wax) instead of polyeurethane seal.

There are numerous plants that do well indoors and have been scientifically proven to cleanse the air and produce oxygen. Sometimes despite the presence of daylight. I had three that were easily propagated and that we already had in our garden. Before our move I began the process of increasing their numbers with the intent of having them indoors to increase the inside air quality.

Now that the renovation is nearing a satisfying end it is time to bring in the armies of plants that we’ve been propagating with the intentional purpose to clear the air of any off-gassing from paint, building materials, oils, varnishes etc etc.

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 Aloe Vera – Aloe barbadensis

petitparadis spider plant

Spider Plant – Chlorophytum comosum

petit paradis snake plant

Mother In Law’s Tongue Snake Plants Sansevieria

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?

Take what the day gives

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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.

J’aime la saison d’automne!

As we’ve mentioned before – we love the season of Autumn in Albany. We also like the change of the seasons as one shifts into another. Sometimes subtly, sometimes sudden.

calm beach

Albany is a place of contrast. Often visitors tell us, it’s just like Melbourne. Or they exclaim, it’s four seasons in one day! This is all quite true, and is why we love Autumn in Albany. Cold crisp mornings turn into hot, sunny afternoons, and by dinner time it’s back in doors to escape the evening chill.

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As the season shifts, we are also moving some of the back log of stuff. This is the hidden stuff, that we thought we might hold onto for a later time. Well the time has come.

Poppy has been helping us sort out the good and the bad, for quite a long time now. And now we have fishing gear ready to go. What does that mean? Well, it means we can take the Little Fellas off for an adventure to catch a “real fish”. As opposed to a fish fresh from the shop.

Fresh apples and pears, and late season plums can be found at the farmers market. The promise of taking the last of the green house tomatoes home to make the extra few bottles of passata and relish. Oh – and apple chutney from windfall apples, a true Autumn delight.

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The best bit about Autumn in Albany? The sunny days with balmy weather, the sort of clear blue sky day where we are caught in the lullaby that anything is possible. And indeed it is if you believe.

Petit Paradis in Collage

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The Eighth instalment of our annual bit of artwork tracking the Two Little Fellas.

This year, on a whim, our youngest Little Fella takes the stage given that he’s played smaller roles in previous pictures and I loved how he embraced his nature playground in the garden – quite literally.

Over the years friends and family have wanted to know a bit of the story behind the artwork so this is a little about this years . . .

In the New Year we will move to Tillellan, the long-term project that is finally nearing completion. The landscaping and backyard will be a project within its own right. In anticipation of the move this years art features some of the elements of the original petit paradis abode.  A kind of thank you and goodbye for our first family home.

This place has seen several families of guinea pigs and chickens pass through it. It was pivotal in my adventures in seed saving and building up varieties, quantities and experience in locally adapted edible species. As a result, much of the growing space was for seed production and really only supplemented our kitchen from time to time with food. Moving to Tillellan we plan to accommodate both requirements.

There was a whole lot I could have put into this picture, but some of the highlights are the Pitaya flowers that made a showy display the last couple of autumns. Our eldest Little Fella is feeding Pinky, Brownie and Missy Miss – some of our current guinea pigs. Our original g-pigs Maiki & Jazz can be found in the picture as well along with various pet chooks that have been on the adventure also.

One of the favourite things about the house that I will miss is seeing the flocks of ibis and pelicans flying past the house on their way out to feed or returning home in the afternoon. Quite regularly we’ve had a half dozen or more pelicans glide low and slow over the houses and past our living area window in the early morning. It is a magical site, especially when they are low enough to hear their wing beats, and I missed it when we rented briefly so I know I will when we move.

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There are various flowers and the quail, some of our container gardens and goldfish and koi. Fruit trees and crops that we’ve had. The garden itself was different with every passing year as it adapted to the needs and requirements of the family and whatever we were doing in preparation for the eventual move. Whether it was sorting out salvaged resources or propagating varieties of plants.

It will be a little sad I imagine to part ways, but we’ve also out-grown it rapidly and its very much a natural transition for us. It would have been just right with the Two Little Fellas, but with the addition of Gran and her various requirements we’ve definitely overstayed.