Tuesday, 20 August 2013

How we begin

It will be a while before we can get the land we need to make Little Dragon Homestead a reality.  In the meantime we've started on a few ways to work up to it.  Probably the easiest thing is the compost heap.  By saving our veggie peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and other organic kitchen waste, and then dumping it in a pile in the backyard, not only do we save it from going to landfill, but can use it on the garden when it breaks down.  The heap may need to be moved, as it doesn't get much sun, so doesn't get very warm.  Also we haven't had much access to 'brown matter,' like dried leaves or straw, so far.  This sort of organic matter would be great for keeping the heap from becoming too damp.  This is good stuff to learn before going to a larger scale or when designing the layout of the homestead later.  The next step is to make an inexpensive worm farm!  There was a great segment on this on ABC's Gardening Australia episode this week.  See the transcript here.

This year will be our first go at a veggie patch.  We're going to use the raised row method as described by Old World Garden Farms in their fantastic blog.  The soil where we are is practically non-existent.  Rocks, sand and weeds is a pretty apt description of the backyard (despite the apparent health of the apricot tree).  The method described above is like building a raised bed, except that it's a bit cheaper because you don't need edges, and you only need enough topsoil to make the mounds.  I'm planning to only try growing a few varieties, as we haven't set out a lot of room for the veggie patch at this stage.  Mostly there will be tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic, corn, carrots, potatoes and pumpkins.  The pic below shows the first stage of preparation which is basically to cover the area with black builders plastic to kill any grass/ weeds before building the rows and planting straight into them in spring.  I'm hoping to have enough of most of the above to can lots of pasta sauce, as pasta is a staple at our place.

Working with what you've already got is probably the easiest way to garden.  We're lucky to already have an apricot tree well established in the yard when this house was purchased.  In the last couple of years I've learned how to make jam with the apricots.  It's an incredibly rewarding thing to do.  Last year I tried to oven- dry some apricot halves, but it didn't work particularly well.  Maybe the next project should be a solar dryer?

Good luck with your self-sufficiency projects!


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Guidance and Inspiration

I'd like to use this blog to occasionally highlight books, magazines, web sites, people and other blogs which inspire us on our journey.  Today, I'm going to start by featuring some of the first books we bought and which have helped plant the seeds of what will one day be Little Dragon Homestead.

Practical Self-Sufficiency, by Dick and James Strawbridge is a great all-round reference for off-the-grid living in Australia.  Besides the seed planting guide being geared towards the Southern Hemisphere, the book is also a useful reference for almost any region.  It features chapters on growing, harvesting and preserving food,  cheese making, winemaking and other culinary crafts.  Animal husbandry, including humane ways of dispatching livestock is also covered, along with ways of harnessing natural resources for producing energy.  On this, the Strawbridges come into their own as their engineering background has them approaching bio-diesel distilling and methane gas production using an anaerobic digester.  Very practical, clear writing style and plenty of photos and drawings to illustrate each project.

The second book featured here, Build Your Straw Bale Home, by Brian Hodge, is again an Australian reference, but would also give some ideas for potential Balers in other countries.  We're planning to build our main house and perhaps some of our outbuildings in straw bale and this book offers lots of practical advice on how to approach it, right from choosing the site, designing the building and owner-building it to completion.  With the information presented in clear, sometimes humorous, language it really does foster a confidence in the reader that they can be the site manager of the building of their own home in a way which conventional building methods may not allow.  We're even hoping to grow our own straw depending on the land we end up purchasing.  Can't wait for Bale Raising Day!

Finally, the third book here is one the adherents of Permaculture would be familiar with.  Gaia's Garden, by Toby Hemenway, is one of the most well-known and recommended books detailing the practical application of Permaculture principles.  His language is accessible and the information is brilliant.  From extensive lists of plants and their attributes, to how they fit together into guilds and the beneficial insects they attract, it's a great way to understand, without doing a practical course, how guilds work within a food forest.  Soil health, composting methods, garden design and water management are all covered amongst many other topics. A great in-depth reference, and one I know I'll turn to many times in the coming years.

At the moment, I'm anxiously waiting for the arrival of my newest book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery.  Almost every homesteading blog and web site I've encountered has endorsed this tome, and I'm very much looking forward to curling up with it!

In future posts, I'll cover some of the magazines which I find interesting and inspiring, as well as favoured blogs, Facebook feeds and web sites.  In the meantime, some inspirational and useful links will be added to the sidebar here.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

First steps of a journey

We're starting on a journey.  A journey towards a different way of living.  One that sees us freed of the things we've been told all our lives to be.  Free from the stigma from not being able to be those things.  The cost of living, high unemployment, economic downturn.  It doesn't have to be this way.  We're starting on our journey to freedom.

Freedom for us will take the form of Little Dragon Homestead.  It will be a self-sufficient, off the grid, homestead, based on the principles of Permaculture.

Our journey is beginning in a weatherboard house on a small block of land ( less than 1/4 acre).  It's here that we'll start learning to grow our own vegetables, manage our budget frugally, learn canning and preservation techniques for making the harvest last and many other ways we can become less reliant on globalised systems of goods and services, focusing on supporting local producers for those things that we can't produce for ourselves.

Eventually, once renovations on this house are complete and it's able to be sold, we will be looking to purchase the land for our Homestead!  Once we have the land for animals, polytunnels, an orchard and micro brewery we can really get stuck into freeing ourselves from the need for full-time employment and can start living for ourselves.

This blog will chronicle the journey, including information gleaned from different sources along the way, budgeting tips, decluttering tips, recipes, book reviews and recommendations.

So, welcome to the journey.  We're glad for the company!