Saturday, October 24, 2009

Community, fresh produce, and education

Today is the International Day of Climate Action and we've marked it in our own small, local way.

This morning I headed over to the community garden for the monthly Waste Not! Fruit and Vegie swap, loaded with my excess tomato and capsicum seedlings.
Which I exchanged for 2 grapefruits, 4 oranges, some carrots, rhubarb, parsley, and ginger. I also bought a loaf of bread that the Port Kembla Men's Association had baked in their wood-fired oven.

It was a great day to be out in the garden and I enjoyed catching up with people and enjoying a cup of coffee courtesy of the Men's Association.

After heading home briefly for lunch, I went over to Futureworld Eco-Technology Centre to join the Cunning Plans Dept who had headed over in the morning to help with their open day. The open day ran from 10am to 2pm and I understand that they had a really good turn out with over 100 visitors through the doors. They also had an Ideas Tree at the centre for people to write down their ideas about what we can do to move towards a future of 350ppm.

In the evening, we looked at the website and were amazed at the number of actions and photos flowing in from around the world. Over 5200 events across 181 countries. It feels awesome to have been a part of that and to see so many people being passionate about this.

Update: The Futureworld action photos can be found on the flickr site here. Wish we'd remembered to take some photos at the vegie swap with the 350 motif.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tomato seedlings

I just counted 86 tomato seedlings on my front doorstep. This is actually less than was planted due to a bit of natural attrition.

I am resolved to only plant 6-8 tomato plants in the vegie patch this year (10 at the most), partly due to space limitation and partly so we're not drowning in tomatoes in a few months. So why do I have so many seedlings? A few reasons:
  1. I'm giving some to family and friends who didn't have time for raising from seed.
  2. I have a number of different varieties (mostly heirloom varieties) and loads of seed
  3. I knew some would either die or be a bit pathetic and this allows me to pick the healthiest looking ones.
The excess seedlings are not going to waste though. Once I've sorted through the seedlings and picked the ones I'm going to plant and set aside some for family and friends, the rest are going to the Waste Not! Vegie Swap tomorrow.

This year I'm following Peter Cundle's advice and being very cruel to my tomato seedlings. He recommends planting them into small tumbler sized containers (or put several in a punnet) and only giving them enough water to stay barely alive. Apparently this will make for tough plants. Molly-coddling is expressively forbidden.

I've planted mine into yogurt pots and a few 3-4 to a punnet/round chinese container. I sprinkled a little sulphate of potash around them, as recommended, and I've been trying to only water them when they are dry or starting to wilt a bit. I must admit that being cruel to my tomatoes does feel slightly counter intuitive, but hopefully the reward will be nice sturdy plants that produce loads of fruit. I'm holding off on planting them out until they start to show signs of flowering, though at the rate they're going this could be a while yet.

Looking back through my photos from this time last year, it was about this time that we bought a couple of tomato seedlings, which then put on a huge amount of growth through November. The photo above was taken mid November last year showing the first fruit forming.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sustainable living: Tank water

The plumbers came yesterday to do the final stage in our project to get tank water connected to the house. Our two 7000 litre rain water tanks are now connected to a pump, some filters, and plumbed into the house water system. The tanks have a float switch which will switch us back to town water if the water in the tanks run too low. We can also manually switch back to town water if we want to, for example in Summer, if we are getting low on tank water, we might decide to use the tank water for the garden and the town water in the house (as rain water is better for the garden than town water). We don't have a flow meter on the tank system yet, but will be looking to get one soon so that we can still keep track of our water usage.

The Cunning Plans Dept did some calculations and reckons that based on our average rain fall and the collection area of the roof, tank water would be able to cover about half of our annual water usage.

Does it feel any different? Well the taste is definitely different. Rain water tastes much milder and doesn't have that slight chlorine after taste. The water pressure in the house is also less than we had with town water. This doesn't seem to be a problem, but I have noticed that obviously things like the washing machine take longer to fill. It does enforce less water usage in the shower! Also psychologically, I think being aware that you're using water from your own tank does make you think more about your water usage.

The next step will be to get the maximum usage out of our water and get a grey water system running under the backyard to water the trees and shrubs. And we'll also be looking at other ways we can reduce our overall water consumption so that tank water becomes a larger percentage of our total usage.This is the photo of us in our backyard, next to the vegie patch (with the two 7000 litre tanks on the right) that we submitted to the Alternative Technology Association's online event for the Global Day of Climate Action (this Saturday, 24th October). The ATA is aiming to get 350 photos of real people living sustainable lives. You can check out their gallery here. I like how the photos capture a wide range of things from big projects to small steps.

This saturday, if you're in the Wollongong area, why not check out the Waste Not! Vegie Swap at the Wollongong Community Garden and pop into Futureworld Eco-Technology Centre in Warrawong.