Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The New Petit Paradis

The time has come to freshen things up a little. After using Blogger to capture my garden notes and experiences I have decided to shift gears. If you've read the last couple of posts on this current site you will know that change is afoot.

The latest incarnation of Petit Paradis can be found here. As you will see there has been a bit happening over the last little while and we welcome you to join us on the new blog where we will continue to post on what is happening with our garden and the journey of setting up the new garden and our renovations. Plus some of the experiences leading up to this transition.

So, come on, lets go there together. Leave your bags there, we'll travel lite. This is easy, hold on and JUST CLICK HERE!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Getting the House in Order - A departure from Chaos

We are riding on a wave that has been carrying us for some years now. I am ready to get off it. In large part it has been in dealing with my in-laws multi-generation accumulation of physical, material possessions. To say the least it has had a huge impact on me.

I will call this Stuff. Not just any Stuff, but old Stuff, cheap Stuff, important Stuff, sentimental Stuff and what has probably become one of my favourites to deal with, stuffed Stuff.

Stuffed Stuff is easy. You chuck it or recycle it. Or in extreme cases dispose of it in the responsible manner required as in dealing with chemicals, poisons or medication.

Old Stuff and Cheap Stuff are happy companions. We dealt with some of these through garage sales, private sales, collectors sales and trailor loads of charity shop visits or their collection points.

Scattered throughout all the Stuff we would find Important Stuff. Paperwork, photos and official documents. I will also include in this hand written letters describing defining moments in the families history and other such items. This we have documented and stored appropriately in acid free paper or filed for easy reference.

Sentimental Stuff is challenging. Especially when it is linked to emotions that are probably best dissolved and moved on from. But it is hard for some people to do this and I know it has been extremely difficult for my mother-in-law. Some of this Stuff defines her. Some of it gives her reason and justification for being how she is. Some of it has claimed and consumed so much of her time that even in a state of Stuffed Stuff it is still somehow deemed worthy of holding onto.

I may not hold any professional qualifications but after years of dealing with this issue firsthand I will stand by a very resolute opinion that much of my in-laws ill-health and mental well-being is directly as a result of hoarding so much Stuff. Two houses worth of it. There was no escape from it except the odd stay with friends, family or in a hotel room.

The underlying chaos of having too much stuff.

Much of it was dealt with by myself. Mostly for the reason that I was the only able-bodied male in the family to be able to shift all this Stuff around and there came an inevitable point some years ago - which my in-laws did not heed my warning about - that my wife and I would soon be expecting our first child and neither of us would have the time or the inclination to deal with sorting out Stuff.

What has this got to do with Permaculture?

Everything. I will start with two major points.

How can you live any form of a sustainable life if you can't sustain yourself? That is your physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

The second point is that in all my dealings with this Stuff I have seen so much time and money and opportunities wasted that I shudder to think of what possibilities might have existed for my in-laws and for us had none of us had to deal with this sort of Stuff in the first place. The extra time there would have been. The extra money to see to health issues and to enjoy holidays or to even renovate the family holiday home. Instead, the insidious disease of hoarding possessions held its firm grip over them.

I will chronicle some of my experience with this issue to share what I have learnt and to act as a warning. Not just to those that can benefit from this sharing, but also for my family to look back on so as not to repeat any of it. This is the story of how we got our house in order ...

Why Free Range Guinea Pigs? Part II

This is the second part of the Why Free Range Guinea Pigs? post.

Foraging for Food

We found the guinea pigs are also intuitive enough to only eat what they know is ok for them. They will try many things and will consume only what they enjoy or need. Their favourite foods from what we have observed are:

  • milk thistle
  • parsley
  • tomatoes
  • any kind of grass - bamboo leaves, sugar-cane leaves, grasses self-sown in the garden from 'weed' seed.
  • cape gooseberry - young leaves, bark, berries both ripe and un-ripe.
 They have been seen eating -
  • blackberry leaves
  • broad bean leaves
  • carrots and tops,
  • small weeds
  • un-ripe tomatoes within reach!,
  • exotic grasses like mondo grass and the like
  • celery leaves and some stalk
  • citrus leaves - lime and lemon (usually leaves removed by myself that have leaf curl or disease)
  • dragon fruit (not the fruit but the fleshy pitaya plant itself!)
  • succulents
  • fresh and dried nectarine and apricot leaves
  • fresh and dried corn leaves, corn on the cob raw and cooked

Keeping the Savages Out

So there doesn't really seem to be much that they won't eat. At times I have had to barricade the GP's out of particular areas of the garden. This didn't occur as much of a problem initially because Maiki and Jazz kept to a very regular path of investigation and movement. It wasn't until one particular winter when they were really craving a higher food input that I looked out to the garden from our kitchen window to see a strange bobbing of some of my broad bean plants. Immediately I had my suspicions and to my amazement there was Maiki and Jazz gorging on broad bean leaves in the further territories of the garden.

Despite my disagreement and their quick retreat they soon returned to their new found source of sustenance and when they had become bored with what leaves they could choose from they soon became very good at clear felling my broad beans to get access to the lovely new leaves higher up! After a few weeks I had this crop of grazed broad beans built into a raised garden bed and left a few strays on the outside of  'the wall' to the mercy of Maiki and Jazz. Over time they grazed on them and even worked as a team to hold bean stalks down with their weight while the other ate their share of the bounty from the newly accessible top leaves of the stalks.

Extremes of Temperature

I am of the opinion now that GP's are pretty switched on creatures. They are quite capable of managing their own affairs when given the resources and do so with very natural instinct.

In cases of extreme heat the answer is actually simple for us as we are usually including melons in our own diet by that time of the year so all our melon scraps are taken to the garden for the GP's to feast on and keep their hydration up. Carrots were also thrown to them occasionally and were happily dragged off into a secluded spot to be gnawed away. Basically any fruit scraps from our kitchen are taken to the garden for either the GP's or the chooks. Usually by summer they also have cape gooseberry bushes that they like to keep cool under and feed on any berries within reach (they even began to climb part of the bush to raise up on their hind legs and reach higher berries) as well as tidy up any that fall to the ground. Gradually they acquired a taste for the leaves also and stripped much of the lower bush of leaves which also kept it rather tidy as well and stopped a build up of rotting berries while giving the bush a good source of manure.

In times of extreme cooler temperatures, which for us in Albany is the lower Celsius single digits and rarely 0 or minus degrees, the GP's wander under the house and find a cosy place to sleep. This has been on anything from scraps of carpet left for them to utilise to black plastic scrunched up so they can explore all the creases and folds and make a cosy spot. As long as they are given choices they will use what they require. Most of our GP's are short haired with Maiki being the exception. She had a medium coat with longer hair at the back end. I prefer the short-haired GP's as they are easily managed and keep themselves groomed and from observations they can move quickly and I feel moderate their temperature better during the warmer weather. During colder nights they are quite capable of cuddling up for warmth together.

Advantages for keeping guinea pigs free-range in a back-yard.

  • Improved health and fitness. See this more recent update.
  • Ability for them to forage and obtain their own food when required
  • A wider range of foods can become available to them
  • Ultimately nails and teeth will be kept maintained naturally
  • Reduces inputs such as feed and limits it to supplementation with pelleted food
  • Given their ability to obtain food at the rate required they do not require a water source unless in extreme heat - see above for example of melons.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Woolworths, Consumers and a bit of a Rant

Bare with me. Mr Petit Paradis is ticked off and I'm not happy.

WARNING! This post is littered with links so that you can fill out the big picture in your own time and get a sense of where I'm coming from.

I had a pretty good childhood. I was fortunate to have lived in a wealthy country (Australia), in a great part of the world (Perth, Western Australia). I enjoyed a wide-ranging plethora of activities. Particularly outdoor activities, though I wasn't your average aussie minor, I also enjoyed regular bushwalking and birdwatching. In my teens I lived on my mountain bike and my mate and I would traverse rather lengthy distances along the coast. Much of this area was sand dunes and scrubland heath. Today, from the view on Google Maps it is roof tops and bitumen. Such is change.

So much has changed in the world since I grew up too.

Home computers were just coming out. Commodore 64

Video was making it into the mainstream, albeit Beta then VHS.

There were 'mobile' phones the size of a house brick but this was fine when you look back at the size of the television sets in comparison to today.

My point, though probably poorly made, is that change has been rampant. So I look at some of the stuff my own children have and I'm partly filled with awe (there are some fantastic wooden toys on the market and the new Lego stuff is both amazing and unsettling to me). But I'm also saddened.

Some of the stuff is so cheap and nasty and so seemingly futile that it fries my mind to think of how much energy has gone into something made in China - and what it's going to be doing in landfill after the week it has been used and destroyed. This is a generous time frame by the way, some toys last only a day as I'm sure other parents can testify to.

It’s probably just me. Alone here with my thoughts on the subject. But, the recent offering of superheroes tokens for kids from Woolworths supermarket disturbs me. Immensely.

I was really taken by the offer of free fruit for the kids. Nice work Mr Woolworths and Jamie Oliver. There was something tangible and real, and kind of half nourishing about the thing.

But this tokens thing irks me. What is the message? “Here sweet child, take these tokens as a reward of your parents consumption levels.”

I look at a lot of stuff these days and think, “If they dug this up in some post-landfill era in the distant future (which, lets face it –they might, after-all it’s made of plastic), would they really care?”

I may remain a little bit isolated by my opinion on this subject and I’m not even offering up any solutions or alternatives in a nice, friendly pro-active way. Which leads me to speculate on what might happen if Woolworths didn’t even offer the nicely packaged tokens in the first place. The silence may continue forever, would anyone really care aside from Woolies executives?

For me it makes the lyrics from Peter Garrett's song It Still Matters To Me, rather more poignant.

We all take an escalator to that Woolies in the sky
To reprise Dante’s inferno no longer in disguise

Haunting. Sometimes it is as though we are already in a living hell. But that's getting a bit deep.
Here is what we don't see in our consumer society - and I suspect we don't think about it either.
  • The pollution created to manufacture and distribute these plastic tokens.
  • And what of the manufacturing of the individual packaging? How much more environmentally un-friendly do they want to be?
  • What is the intrinsic, real worth of such tokens? I'm sure there are other more worthwhile things that parents and grandparents can give their adoring young-folk.
  • Is it not encouraging a collecting and consuming culture in our kids? Like they need it!
For me the kick in the teeth is the utterly and completely pretentious 'worth' placed on each token. Woolworths gives out ONE token for every $20 spent in the store. You can look at this in two ways. Twenty bucks for a token might seem rather expensive when you come to think of it.

I don't know about you, but to me, one of those tokens should cost way more than $20 when you stop to take into account the real cost of bringing it to your local store and the cost to the environment, both now and into the future.

* 17th May 2017 - Even plastic in the shape of farm animals would be better than a token, surely?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Rabbit Tractor Update

There was quite a bit of satisfaction to the day. It's dark now and there is a dog barking in the distance. There is a swelling of frog chorus coming up from the valley amidst the relative quiet otherwise. It’s been a productive day, though I only ever seem to scrape the surface of what I would like to achieve. However, the sun was out today and it got quite warm around lunch time. As has been the pattern for most of autumn which has been really nice.

I tended to garden duties with the aid of my 5 year old who has the task of feeding the quails, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Given the great weather I decided to continue with the rabbit tractor construction. It is becoming more of a priority as the young kits are growing so fast and although I moved them last week they don't appear to be far off needing a bigger space again.

So far I have managed to build it with materials that were readily available. The base is a mattress ensemble frame of pine. that was going to get thrown out. The slats are just wide enough to make a great bottom and allow some support to the structure whilst allowing grass to grow through. I have reinforced this with strong wire to prevent the rabbits from digging through and burrowing out.

The trusty old Black & Decker power drill has seen a few decades of home DIY.

Reticulation pipe added in for wire support.

Bamboo stakes secured with wire to add some framework for the wire covering.

I cut out some large holes in each corner and in the middle of the sides to put in some old reticulation pipe that I had from the dismantled aquaponics system from a few year back. I’d had to pack the system up for moving. I like aquaponics very much and I plan to employ a slightly different, more natural slant to the concept in the new garden.

I had a little bit of small person help for a while before it got a bit ‘boring’ and the Lego beckoned. Our boys are very comfortable in the garden, but they do get up to mischief and need to be watched, so it's always nice to be able to keep them entertained and close by.

Hammering in some nails.