Sunday, October 16, 2016

A springier Spring week!

We have had one hot day -at last!- and some milder weather which is bringing the roses to bloom at last. This is the iceberg, which is first always. It is a generous bush, grows so big we have to cut it back at least twice before winter.

This is "Munstead Wood" -a David Austin rose with a lovely fruity perfume and a desire to take over the world!

This is "Glamis castle"  a slower growing white perfumed David Austin rose -not quite out yet -has lots of petals when fully open. 

Spring is a time when  I like to add some colour to my outfits. This is a cotton scarf I made from a sarong I found in an op shop. It has elephants on it!

My design wall is inspired by my spring garden - I am working on a design based on butterflies. Early days yet though. 

There are buds on the grapevines, the tomatoes are in flower, the mandarin is going crazy with new growth, everything is lush and active. 

Dora is loving the open windows. 

We are hoping the mild weather continues to develop -our grandchildren are coming over in a week or two from Victoria, and we have lots of ideas of how to entertain them -outside! 

Monday, October 3, 2016

That was amazing! Permaculture Fest WA-and that quilt

I was very excited to be able to listen to David Holmgren at the inaugural Permaculture Fest in the Swan Valley yesterday. It was really amazing to have a whole festival full of people who care about this stuff too! David's upcoming book "RetroSuburbia" was the topic of conversation. 

Here is David's explanation:
Due for publication in March 2017, my latest book builds on writings and presentations about “Retrofitting the Suburbs for the Energy Descent Future” that since 2005 have highlighted the ongoing and incremental changes to our residential landscapes to make them “fit for purpose” before Australia and the world slide into energy descent futures. My Aussie St story tracing four adjacent suburban houses and their inhabitants from the “1950s Golden Age of Suburbia” to the “Second Great Depression of 2020” has been particularly powerful at engaging with Australians who live in or grew up in suburbia.
RetroSuburbia explains and illustrates patterns, designs and behavioural strategies applied by those already on the downshifting path to a resilient future, using permaculture ethics and principles. It is organised as a pattern language of interlocking and complementary design solutions to perennial problems faced by those applying a more systematic, whole-of-household approach to retrofitting their houses, gardens and living arrangements. It includes some proven design specifications and pointers, references technical sources and case studies, but is more of a strategic guide than a technical manual".
I also attended a presentation by Tim from Ecoburbia who explained the story of the housing cooperative, community garden and alternative urban infill development project in Fremantle. 

Then we went to the Living Smart course presentation. Living Smart is a multi award winning behaviour change program. The course provides participants with the skills and knowledge to take action in their own homes to improve their quality of life and reduce their environmental impact. The Living Smart program consists of ten key modules:Water, Power, Waste, Simple Living, Gardening for Food, Transport, Healthy You, Gardening for Biodiversity, Healthy Homes & Community. I would love to get a course going in Perth's Northern Suburbs.
Meanwhile I have made progress on the quilt I showed you in August. 

I haven't forgotten my quilt -the quilting is now done -and this stripe below is being sewn on as the binding! 

Hopefully I can get this finished this week. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Vale Bill Mollison, father of Permaculture

Some people have an amazing vision, and start a movement that travels the globe. Bill Mollison, Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher, and biologist. Considered to be the "father of permaculture", died this weekend. Anyone who cares about local food and sustainability will have come across Bill's ideas.

Thanks to Bill and his Permie groupies, I have had a lot of fun growing vegetables and fruit in my own garden. We have learned to be more self reliant and careful to support local producers. I haven't done any workshops in Permaculture, but have read some of his works. I love the idea of making a wider range of foods available than what is offered in the shops -hence my excitement at growing heritage varieties of tomatoes for example. I love the idea of making one's efforts in the garden do more than one thing -why can't a pumpkin vine grow over a nearby lime tree, thus getting more food per square metre and keeping the pumpkins off the soil (extra support may be necessary when they get heavy). 

Recent 'picnic dinner"- pesto made from home grown leaves, tomato salad with home grown chives and basil. 

Extra water for the bees and birds in a rehomed old birdbath -near a wicking bed with beans growing in it, made from a pot with a hole in it -just right for the overflow pipe. 

Birdlife in a productive garden is a joy !

I am so happy that my idea of planting more flowers in the back garden has been successful in bringing the bees out there, and the white flowers glow at night around the patio. 

Vale Bill Mollison, and thanks for the inspiration.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A wonderful Sustainable House Open Day

This picture shows the wall quilt I hung outside for the day,on the wall near our entrance, with a variety of ornamental and edible foods in pots. 

We had an amazing day yesterday at our first Sustainable House Open Day, with a whopping 72 people coming through. My DD and DH did all the work on the day -because I was required to be at work yesterday (bad timing, eh?) and they were exhausted when I got home, but very very happy.

This picture shows us in the process of adding pea straw to the garden beds, near the new handrail DH made for our steps for public safety reasons, and with the shade sail up to show people how to get cooling when you don't have room for  a big tree. 

When you meet people who care about the things you care about it is most encouraging. We have a lovely collection of online friends, who are keen about slow and simple living, but sometimes it feels a bit lonely in the northern Perth suburbs if you don't know anyone else who is passionate about these things too. 

The appreciative comments make us realise what we have achieved! 

Some who came were interested in our retrofitted house, some in the garden, some in the passive heating and cooling features. I have now posted the leaflet about our house and garden  here.

Some people came from our own suburb, and had figured that looking at our house and garden would inform them about what was possible in their own. That alone encourages me-there are people nearby who care about this too! 

Our house and garden are looking pretty wonderful just now, so this week will be in full recovery mode! We are all tired and happy. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Why we are opening our house on Sustainable House Day 2016

We are OPEN as a sustainable house on Sunday September 11 from 10 am to 4pm.


  • We want to inspire others that live around here, in houses like ours which were built in the 1970s, that it is possible to improve your quality of life without knocking the house down and starting again. 

  • ENERGY We have made simple affordable improvements over the years which have reduced energy. At one time we were up to 24 units of electricity per day. By changing what we did with electrical appliances -such as making sure we turned them off as we finished using them, and getting rid of an old drinks fridge and replacing it with a modern one, for example, we were able to get to about 12 units per day. Of course we installed low energy light globes and fittings. Then we installed the solar array and now we are down to 4 units per day in summer, and up to 12 for some of the winter due to using some electricity for heating. We changed our gas hot water system when it died, for a solar hot water system too. Free hot water for much of the year!

  • WATER We have a 3000l water tank which we use on the garden. This supplements the other water saving measures we have taken, such as removing the thirsty lawn and replacing it with fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs, and installing drip irrigation instead of above ground sprays. We have remodelled both bathrooms and now have water saving toilets and showers installed. There are two wicking beds for vegetables which allow the water to be drawn from below the plant roots, thus saving on evaporation. We have average water use for this suburb even though we grow vegetables and fruit and are active gardeners. 

  • FOOD MILES As we grow more of our own fruit and vegetables, we are reducing the amount of carbon which is required to transport our food to our home. We enjoy picking salad leaves and herbs for our cooking, and have increased our skills at preserving, jam making and dehydrating. We have learned how to pack as much food growing as possible in a 700sm block -using a trellises to grow a passionfruit or some grapevines vertically 
  • We have developed passive cooling of our home wherever possible, including:
  1. Shade sails to the west 
  2. Pergola for a grapevine or two to shade the north side of the house
  3. Shade on the north west 
  4. Planted LOTS of trees to cool the air and provide microclimates for our other plants to reduce water use and enable survival in Perth's hot summers
  5. We took down a low flat roof pergola and replaced it with a gable with some perspex panels to let in light, reduce heat 
  6. We put up shade blinds on the east and west windows to allow in light but reduce the heat and glare.
If you are in Perth and free on Sunday September 11 2016 I hope you will come and let us show you around! If you register at this site you will be able to find our house listed with its address. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Solid fun

I love this book! There are so many great ideas for liberated quilts inside. I decided that it had been too long since I did one of these, and as I had some solid scraps I thought I would try one like the cover of the book. 

I really love the variety of quilts in this picture: my last little quilt all floral and ordered, and the crazy glory of my first liberated log cabin blocks. I think this is what keeps me quilting- the variety of it all. 

Here are my first set! I am afraid they are rather addictive so I don't think I have finished yet. I am wondering how to liberate these a bit more... Maybe adding borders, or making the blocks different sizes by adding some extra strips and 'filler' blocks? 

I wonder how big this is going to get? I think it might be a generous Lap quilt as I have plenty of solid fat quarters and I am having so much fun!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seedlings stage 2

Greg Miller from The Joy of Wood made this vertical garden from a pallet which had been used to bring cement from Japan to Perth. He was kind enough to bring it to my place, so today I potted up the seedlings which I planted a few weeks ago into little recycled pots. 

You may remember that I decided to try harder to grow vegetables from seed, and inspired by the Perth City Farm set up, I turned an old plastic trolley into my seed raising bed. 

I got a pretty good germination from these seeds- better than ever before. The secret was that I put the trolley in a place where I had to go past it on my way to the car, so they were kept well watered. 

I have put some straight into the ground and some I have potted up to grow stronger before they go in the ground. 

If you would like to find out how to make a pallet garden like this and are in Perth, go to to find out how.