Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category


April 24, 2011
Grace Miller


The first post by Grace Miller (12)

Now, as you know or at least I think you know that recycling is a big part of our lives if we start now we will make our world a better place to live in.

You can recycle lots of things like cans, bottles, paper and aluminium, but there are some things that you can’t recycle like glade wrap, plastic, leftover food.

recycled rubbish

rubbish waiting for recycling

We can also recycle clothes, shoes, blankets, toys, books. You may be thinking how on earth do you recycle these things, well it is very easy gather up your clothes, shoes and other things you don’t want and then either take them to charity shop(hand in hand) or hand them down to friends and Family.

Guess what! You can recycle food as well but not just any food if you recycle things that had to be eaten straight away after being bought of open it would go mouldy. But don’t just have to recycle food you can also give food away to people who don’t have food like baked beans, tin corn, baby food, tin fruit and basically anything that is in a tin, it will stay fresh.

compost pile

compost pile

Also if you are into gardening another way to recycle your food is to make a compost bin or pile. Get a few hundred worms, a bucket or make a pile of fruit, vege’s, anything that not cooked foods, dirt and there you go a worm house, just make sure that no pets or animals eat it. Then once the worms have fertilised the food you can put it on your garden to feed your plants.

recycled wheelbarrow

recycled wheelbarrow – growing yummy food!

You can also recycle water. Water can be recycled out of water bottles, dog baths,  cups and out of the washing machine. The water from the washing machine goes through a pipe and down in to your garden, but don’t put the washing machine water on the vegetables or fruit gardens because the soap power is in the water.

When you go shopping do you put your food in plastic bags or cloth shopping bags? Well instead of using plastic bags try to use the cloth bags. If you throw plastic bags into the recycling bin it takes 400 hundred years for a plastic bag to disintegrate so next time you go shopping please try and use a cloth bags it is just going to help the world a little more.

old socks

Ethan's sock re-used (too many times!)

We can also reusethings in your house hold like milk bottles, fruit cups, ice cream boxes, lids and containers.

recycled container

Container recycled for Ethan's toys

The containers can be used to put paint in, sandwiches for lunches, beads, craft things and even plants. We can also recycle and reuse clothes by wearing them more and that will reduce the water supply in your house.

So before you recycle, reduce the things that you buy and throw away like I said before put the food in your garden, make use out of what you do every day.    Then if anything is left after we reduce it, we can reuse it and make things out of it, after all that we can recycle      

By recycling paper, clothes, and food is wonderful for our land, body’s, but we can also just let nature grow and instead of cut down forest that we still need let the plants grow, die, plant themselves again by the seed and eventually we will have a place of wonder and life.

home grown corianda

Live life to the full, make every moment worth the ride.

And if you reduce, reuse and recycle you are helping the world become a better and safer place for us, the environment and living creatures of our world.


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Espalier olives update, and some other garden stuff too

April 16, 2011

It’s been a while since my last post, so a quick prune and tie-up of the espalier olives seems like a good opportunity for an update.

The olives have been going great guns over the summer. It wasn’t too hot, and there was plenty of rain, so they haven’t really been tested yet in their north facing exposed wall location.

I did a quick prune of a few wayward shoots, and tied the latest growth back. They are up to the top of the frame already. I think it’s been about a year since they went in.

Espalier olives on north wall

We’ve also been finishing off the harvest of a few more productive crops lately too. The last of the tiny tom tomatoes came off the plants today, as well as a lonely full sized fruit. (different plant!)

Last of the seasons tiny toms, and a rogue big feller too!

I also grabbed what will probably be the last of the figs the other morning whilst out at the chook shed on the regular egg collecting trip. These were really big, juicy and yummy! Made for a beaut morning tea snack.

Mornings harvest, figs and eggs

Figs made a yummy snack, with kiwi fruit and Greek coffee

More soon…


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A bumper plum crop, and other edible garden stuff.

January 6, 2011

A wander around the garden found some of the plants fruiting, or sprouting. Not everything here, but a sample…

The plums are interesting. We used to think it was just an ornamental tree as the fruit is normally small and not very tasty, until this year. The really good rains have produced a bumper crop of big, juicy fruit. Yummy!

The grapes looked like they were about to set fruit too, but it seems like they have decided not to. Why? Not pollinated? Not sure. It’s not from a lack of water this year, that’s for sure.

Off to eat some plums now, more edible gardening to come…


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How many gates are enough?

December 29, 2010

I counted the gates on our block today. How many would be enough? Well. I guess you need one for each hole in a fence you don’t want chickens or dogs to go through, but you need to go through yourself at some time. The current count is 15.

Some are commercial gates, unaltered since we moved in. Some are commercial gates fitted, or modified to suit our needs. Some are manufactured on site from scrounged materials. Others are “bush gates”, made in existing fences from the fence itself.

Here’s the tour;

How many gates is enough? 15, until we need another one!


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December 17, 2010

Time for some news from the garden front, and where better to go than the compost piles!

We have many and nearly everything that could possibly go on them, does. I have a phobia about taking stuff to the dump when it could be used within our little territory at home. Our recycling bin is often full, but our rubbish bin only ever has two small bags of rubbish each week, the rest is re-used.

We currently have 6 compost piles, with all working at some stage or another. The general process involves having 1 or 2 being for adding material to, some “cooking” with nothing more being added to these, some ready to use, (these don’t last long) and some for raw material to be added to the current piles. (stuff like straw from the chook house, leaves in autumn, etc…)

compost piles

All 6 compost piles

We try to keep the chooks out of most piles, but let them have a scratch about in some. The overloaded pile is the “sticky” pile. The material in here is too big to use straight away. Sometimes it becomes firewood, or just gets burned down to “bio char”, or parts will eventually breakdown and get put on the other piles.

compost piles

Compost piles 1 to 3

These piles are at the back of the garden and form one edge to the chook enclosure. It is out of the way, but we enjoy this part of the garden as much as any other and often have afternoon tea nearby!

compost piles

Compost piles 4 - 6

Behind them is the “useful box” where all potentially re-useable material, and firewood is stored for later use.

The un-mentionable compost is also kept behind these piles – the dog poo compost.

dog poo composting

Dog poo composting

Two inverted bins are used to compost the dogs poo. (two dogs make alot!) One is breaking down while the other is added to. When both are full the old one will be down to less than half volume and is used to make a special dog poo only compost pile, which we use on non edible plants and gardens, mostly in the front garden. The poo breaks down completely and appears and smells just like earth, but could contain some pathogens still, hence the non edible garden use.

We also have mini compost tubes, like little worm farms.

worm tubes for composting

Worm tubes for composting

These are dug into the ground in the vegi patches and near trees. Started with some worms and compost from the main piles, they are topped up every now and then with kitchen scraps. Large holes below ground level allow the worms to come and go in the ground around the tube. We like the little hats and faces too!

Compost, gotta love it, in all forms. We’re happy not to throw out anything which could be used again.


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Canberra Environment and Sustainability Resource Centre Sustainability Challenge

November 11, 2010


Recently, the Canberra Chronicle featured the Millers for their part in the Environment Centre’s Sustainability Challenge. The text of the article follows;

THE Millers are just one of the many
Canberra families choosing to reduce
their impact on the environment by
taking part in a month long challenge.
More than 100 Canberra households
have signed up to take part in the
Canberra Sustainability Challenge in
an effort to reduce their carbon
emissions by changing their habits.
The Canberra Environment and
Sustainability Resource Centre
(CESRC), in association with the ACT
Government, has provided these families
with an easy kit to help them
throughout this challenge.
The challenge encourages families
to calculate their carbon footprint, pick
from a list of ideas to reduce it, and
record how easy or difficult it is to
keep up the challenge over 30 days.
Brian Miller said his family had
always been interested in environmental
issues, but was encouraged to
take up the challenge by CESRC
‘‘We went to a fete at Evatt Primary
School and I saw the little stand they
had there and went and spoke to
them,’’ Mr Miller said.
‘‘I guess we’re sort of involved in
that sort of stuff a lot anyway.
‘‘Basically there’s a list of things
they thought we might do to reduce our
impact on the environment.’’
The list is divided into categories,
including food, mileage, energy, waste
and transport, and the families are
encouraged to choose five things and
chart their progress.
‘‘You could look through and see
we doing these things already, or
maybe we can’t do them for some
reason, and are they the sort of things
we might do for this 30 day challenge,’’
Mr Miller said.
‘‘So we picked a number of things,
then put them on a chart.
‘‘The idea was to do something
more. Not to say ‘oh we’re doing that
already’, but to do something more.
‘‘We decided to try to do one meat
meal a day, to put a minimum amount
of water in the kettle … to not use the
second TV, to try and not bring plastic
bags home, and to walk to school.’’
Mr Miller said because his family
was already quite environmentally
conscious, some of the challenges
weren’t too hard to incorporate into
their lives.
‘‘We’re quite interested in all this
stuff,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got chickens and veggie
gardens and compost piles.
‘‘Unfortunately my wife tripped
down the stairs and hurt her ankle.’’
This made it hard for her to walk the
children Grace, 11, and Ethan, 7, to
‘‘Some of them we couldn’t do
every day,’’ Mr Miller said.
‘‘Things like the meat meal weren’t
as easy as we thought.
However, he said he would happily
continue to use minimal water in the
‘‘It’s just another one of those
awareness things,’’ he said.
CESRC are encouraging more Canberra
families to get on board with the
30 day challenge. CESRC will also be
holding a number of events over the
coming weeks, including sustainability
workshops and tours of award winning
sustainable Canberra homes.
If you would like to participate in
the Canberra Sustainability Challenge,

The Millers

Our list of possible activities for the challenge follows;

Food Miles
Grow our own vegetables
Buy organic food products
Be vegetarian (Sheryl fully, others part-time by default)
Reduce meat intake by going to one meat meal per day
Plan menus to reduce food waste
Keep chooks
Buy less processed food and more local

Use dish and clothes washers only for full loads
Use energy saving cycles on these machines
Cook with the lid on
Cook in single pot where possible
Fill Kettle only with as much water as you need
Dry clothes on clothes line
Use sun for heating and lighting during day
Turn the heater off at night
Don’t use the second TV
Replace incandescent lights with compact fluros
Wash clothes in cold water
Use hot water bottle instead of electric blanket

Do not use insinkerator – use worm farm and compost
Recycle egg shells on to garden as snail deterant
Freeze unused fruit for later use
Collect scraps from supermarkets and playgroup for chickens
Empty half full water bottles onto garden
Resue washing up water on plants with scale or aphids
cut grass longer – compost clippings
Use re-usable shopping bags – try 30 days plastic bag free
Recycle and reuse as much as possible (very little rubbish to landfill)
Re-use plastic packaging rather than garbage bags
Buy second hand goods

Walk to work or school twice a week
Take fewer car trips
Use ethanol fuel

And below, some of the systems which we are working on to build a sustainable lifestyle;

Run business from home office to reduce travel and premises energy use
Grid connect solar power
Solar hot water service
Composting bays for garden and kitchen waste, and paper
Composting of dog waste (use on non edible plants and safe areas of garden)
Worm tubes in gardens for soil conditioning
Chooks and chook run for eggs, compost, weeding, fertilizer and fun!
Wicked garden bed (water saving)
Grey water recycling (from laundry onto grass and non edible gardens)
Re-use collections for later use in garden and household projects
Garden plan for edible plantings (vegetable beds and fruit trees)
In house energy monitor to raise awareness and provide benchmark

A long post this time. more shorter ones soon…


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These garden beds are wicked!

June 15, 2010

lined with black plastic to hold water layer

Wicked gardens beds have been seen on several TV shows recently and seem to be popping up in several publications and websites too. Or is it just that I’m looking for them now?

Whilst being wicked, as in wicking water up into their soil, they would also appear to be pretty wicked in the way they can save water and also create an environment which looks after the soil in wonderful ways.

Worms also seem to be an important component of the design of these beds, and need to be added rather than just hope they will turn up, as you can do for conventional beds, because the impermeable barrier used to contain the water also, of course, stops the worms getting up into the bed.

The following is a picture story of the construction of our first bed so far. Subsequent posts will address it’s use, worms, success or otherwise, and links to reference sources we used.

We did use treated sleepers for this bed so the plastic liner has been extended to the top of the wood to minimise leaching effects. If you have any concerns about using this material, go to the CSIRO website for details.


Chickens – a beginning

May 29, 2010

We’ve had our chickens for a year now, so it is probably time to show them off here.

Thanks to our daughter, Grace, they all have names. Although it seems that it’s only the kids who can tell them apart. Or at least that’s what they tell me!

Say hi to Velma, Mrs Jessop, Esmay, Fred, and Hayley. They are Rhode Island Red cross with New Hampshire. Common garden variety layers, I believe.

still young here, about 20 weeks. is it Hayley or Esmay?

Ethan and a couple of the girls

They are housed in a garden shed, turned chicken coop and have several different spaces to roam around in. There is the inner sanctum of the coop, about 4 square meters, where their feed and water is left. Next, past the bush gate, is the main chook run. They have access to this area all the time. It is about 50 square meters. When the dogs are out of their dog run, the chooks are let in, another 80 or so square meters. And when the dogs are inside, later in the day, they get the full run of the yard too.

the chicken hotel

We have restricted their access to the full yard to only a few hours each day as they are capable of wreaking havoc in the garden if given the chance!

We feed them seed, grain and pellet mix from the rural shop, scraps from our kitchen and other scraps scrounged from friends and friendly market shops.

In return they have been providing lovely eggs (about 4 each day), great composing poo and straw from the coop, a weed and bug eating service in the garden, and lots of fun and activities for the family.

I know when I was starting to build their coop and enclosure I enjoyed looking at others efforts in this area, so I’ll include a few pics of the set-up.

chicken coop takes up half the garden shed

nesting boxes are used now, after some training

roosts are popular with our girls

its an organic structure!

More will follow in posts to come I’m sure…


Laundry grey water surge tank

May 16, 2010

We have been dumping the waste water from our washing machine on the back lawn for years now. It seemed like an easy thing to sort out with the back of the house being 5-6 feet higher than the ground, and the backyard sloping away more after that. I’d previously cut a hole in the floor and run a pipe through and out the back steps to a longer pipe which we move around the back lawn as we remember.

There has always been the worry that the machine may be pushing too much water for its motors capacity, despite the gravity drop of 5 feet or more. And sometimes the pipe across the lawn doesn’t drain out fully, so it can be the case of the motor having to push this collected water ahead of it, or possibly drawing it back into the machine, resulting in dirtier washing than you started with.

Laundry grey water surge tank

Hence, the latest addition, a surge tank to collect the rush of waste water from the washing machine and allow it to slowly, gravity feed out via the original pipe and a short length of agi pipe.

We used a new molded garbage bin as the tank and several joiner pieces as the entry and exit points for the pipes. I managed to make the lower hole in the tank a tight enough fit for the joiner to make it water tight without additional sealant. The end result is fairly neat and tidy. I even made a small paving stand for the tank.

We seem to be washing clothes constantly at our place so it wasn’t long before the system could be tested. All good, although the agi pipe does empty its contents fairly quickly and over a small area. Not sure how to get it spreading out more. Perhaps by running it across the slope the run off will be over a greater area?

First test – no leaks!

Agi pipe to distribute water across lawn

This project has me thinking of other ways to use waste water from the bath and shower.


Espalier olives

April 25, 2010

Something a little more organic this time, to relieve the technology based posts of late.

After seeing some espalier olives in the local nursery the other week I decided that the north wall of our sunroom would be a good place for some of our own. There’s something I like about trained bushes and trees, like Bonsai for example. The application of this to a fruit tree seemed like a good idea here. The space is very narrow and would normally not be suitable for any plants really, unless they were very small, so the espalier should work well.

I love olives too of course, but I’m not holding out for a harvest. I have read up a little on pickling olives and it is clearly a long and tricky process. If we get a good harvest in few years time I may give it a go. I’ll make a post or two here if i do.

The soil was added to with our latest compost mix from pile number 1 (of 6, watch for a post on the compost system!) and mounded up to give the new trees a good chance of getting going. It’s been a warm, wet autumn but it is getting a bit late to be planting new trees. The mound was covered over with chicken wire to keep it together, and, I thought, to keep the chooks off. However, Sheryl recommended that I put up another fence to keep them out as they would get in there despite the cover wire.

olives behind the chook proof fence

The frame for the espalier is just a couple of star pickets and old wire strung at close intervals between.

Materials here show off our scrounging skills well. Long star pickets @ $1 each from the local dump shop, tie wire left over from other jobs, dog fence wire and short picket picked up off the side of the road, having been dumped illegally by someone just past the nursery where we bought the olive trees. We couldn’t make use of the old couch, so had to leave that for someone else to clean up!

espalier frame for olives

The frame reaches reasonably high, but may need extending if the trees grow to my planned 6 foot height, just below the sunroom windows. It’s sort of like living art to fill a blank canvas. Hope they last the hot summers.

sunroom wall for olive espalier