March 28, 2011

Currawong chorus

For the past couple of weeks the pied currawongs have been making a splendid chorus (check the sound file here).

They seem to love this time of the year – the clear blue skies and the temperatures starting to drop. They are around at other times of the year but generally as solitary birds that only occasionally are heard to sing. But recently they have been congregating in groups of up to a dozen, chasing each other from tree to tree and caroling (or is it arguing?) continuously in a glorious array of sounds.

March 24, 2011

Recycling tyres

Building on a steep block there was a need for a retaining wall under the front of the house, to enable us to have a level access into the house.

We didn't like the idea of more concrete besser blocks - we had been forced to use enough of them in the foundations - so we chose used tyres as a way of utilising a material that would otherwise end up in landfill. Tyre retailers are more than happy to give away used tyres, so they cost us nothing.

The tyres are stacked up in overlapping layers, and backfilled with earth, which gives them rigidity. Even the torrential January rains did not shift them. The spaces between provides spots for rockery plants, which are now thriving.

March 17, 2011

Growing veges - the minimalist approach

Building a house doesn't leave much time for gardening, which seems to be relegated to the lowest priority. So late last year, desperate to have some sort of vegetable garden, I hit on the idea of a mobile vege patch. It would catch the sun as it moved through the seasons, and could be shifted out of the way when other work was being done.

Unlike the rest of the garden, it survived very well over the summer. The wheelbarrow provided good drainage when torrential rains left everything else waterlogged, and being above ground level, it was out of the way of many of the bugs.

Coupled with various pots of herbs, it provides a bare minimum of home grown produce until I can get a proper vegetable patch established.

March 13, 2011

Red browed finch

We usually have our coffee and lunch out on the verandah overlooking our garden, a grassed area and a lovely big red cedar. Over the past week we have been watching a very energetic red-browed finch ( collecting pieces of grasses and small twigs that it is using to construct a small nest hidden in a plane tree. 

The bird is tiny and the twigs quite large, and its flight back up into the trees is like an overloaded plane that is struggling to lift off! 

Apparently both the male and the female share in nest-building, incubation of the eggs, and feeding of the young when they hatch. We thought that the start of autumn was a strange time to begin breeding, but it seems they breed all year round, with incubation taking about 13 days. The untidy, domed nest is well hidden, but we hope to see the emergence of the chicks a couple of weeks after hatching.

March 9, 2011

Eco friendly cleaning

I'm always on the look-out for products that are friendly to the environment as well as healthier for ourselves. 
So I was pleased to find recently a range of products from Herbon which tick all the boxes for having no nasty chemicals in them, a well as being hypo-allergenic. Their cleaning and personal care products do not contain any artificial fragrances (which mostly contain phthalates, a real baddie) or paraben preservatives (methyl-, butyl-, and so forth), are made from 70% organic ingredients and are not tested on animals.

We’re now in the process of changing over all our moisturiser, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, as well as cleaning products and soft soap for both our cottage guests and ourselves.

March 4, 2011

Light Earth

We are currently building some of the walls of our house in light earth, and environmentally friendly method which we hope will help deal with the moist, humid climate at Mount Glorious, as well as provide excellent insulation. Light earth is not used much in Australia, but has been round in Europe and The US for a long time. We found out about it in Econest, a great book produced by a company in the USA who do light earth building.

This is how a finished section looks before it's rendered. We'll be updating the blog with information about this method, how it's done, what we've learnt, and how it  works for us.