A quick catch-up

It is amazing how easily life has caught up with me over the last few years. So now I will do a quick catch-up.

Throughout the second half of 2006, I made some significant changes around my home.

I now have solar panels on my roof, which at the time and possibly still now was a first for Energex to be connecting solar panels on the roof of a townhouse into the grid. The installation was a breeze and sometimes I am pretty chuffed that my electricity bill is as low as $6. That only really happens over summer because there is more sunlight and I also no longer use my airconditioners on a regular basis.

I took on LPG for my commodore which apart from a couple of minor glitches has worked out very well. The loss of a little space in my boot has been more than compensated by a decrease in my petrol/lpg bills.

There is now a water tank in my garage. Some would think that was very brave of me as tanks can often overflow. However this now only happens about once a year in very severe downpours since I worked out the logistics of cleaning out the first flush and the tray at the top of the tank on a regular basis. Admittedly it took me the better part of a year to work that out (or was I just being lazy?)...

I also have a worm farm in my garage. Fortunately it is a reasonably sized garage... After 20 years of using an insinkerator, my second insinkerator failed me. I bought a worm farm and 1000 worms and then played anxious parent for the next few days worried that I would either kill them off or they would do a runner. When all was well after a few weeks, my plumber removed the insinkerator rather than replacing it. More than half of my food scraps go into the worm farm and the rest into my freezer until I put out the regular garbage bin which is now generally after a couple of months.

Plus I have some zero mile food - yes I grow some vegies hydroponically on my patios over winter. Since my patios face north, they provide an ideal environment for growing. Over the past few years I have increased capacity on my lower patio to 9 trays each 2 foot by 1 foot - I know I should be using the metric equivalent of 60cm by 30 cm but 2x1 foot is so much easier to say... I grow beans or snow peas, salad greens such as loose-leaf cabbage, beetroots and celery, shallots, spring onions and herbs in these trays.

And tomatoes and the occasional capsicum plant are grown in 6 tubs on the second patio. In 2008 I grew 22 kg of food which I thought was pretty impressive.

Unfortunately I do not get enough sun on the patios over summer to grow very much. I have found I can grow something on the eastern side of the patios which means one tomato or capsicum plant upstairs and one salad green such as lettuce. So over summer I grow buckwheat lettuce hydroponically on my kitchen ledge which helps to supplement my salads.

And all throughout the year I grow my own sprouts - mainly mung beans, alfalfa and green lentils, but I continue to experiment to see if there are any others I would like to add. A while back, I did try sprouting chick peas and I found they went mouldy. However, I've been told the best way around this is to rinse the chick peas more than twice a day to ensure this does not happen- which is something I will try in the near future.

In the past few months, I have realised that I have another source of zero mile food. I have two camelia plants growing in pots in my back yard, and over the course of each year I pull weeds as they appear in the pots. I recently started to do this but brought a few sprigs inside and googled "edible weeds" to see if what was growing prolifically in my pots was edible. And it turns out that this particular "weed" is - it is chickweed which was eaten as a salad green in earlier times and is now recognised as a beneficial plant. I have read that chickweed only grows from May to July so I am supplementing salads with this delightful addition for as long as it wants to stick around.

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