Thursday, October 25, 2012

A lanky visitor

This week in the vegie patch...

Grey water bird
A visitor to the vegie patch this week

flowering cabbage
Our first home grown cabbage. We thought that if we waited to harvest a little longer, it would get bigger, but it flowered before we could eat it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Mandala Garden Takes Shape

Growth is in abundance in spring, and that includes the shaping up of our new mandala vegetable garden. The photo below is two weeks on from that in the last post. The paths have been laid with cardboard boxes to suppress the grass. Under the new beds to the right a few old moldy bales of hay have been spread over the grass, with a delivery of two cubic meters of soil on top. Our chooks are busy fertilising the last quarter that is to be planted out next month and spreading the new soil. Over their run we have suspended an old trampoline mat to provide shade. In the middle of the day they can be found snoozing and dust bathing under it. Potatoes that were planted in September are shooting for the sky. They literally grow several centimeters each day.

mandala garden

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Busting our electricity bills: Part 2

Read the previous article in this series: Busting our electricity bills: Part 1

My portable air conditioner (the neck-tie cooler from the 'Bust Your Household Electricity Bills' pack) has proven a hit for keeping cool in the garden, a place where no air conditioner has ever gone before. This makes it's technology (that crystal stuff that swells to ten times it's size in water) super cool. My bathroom mirror now sports a triangular sticker that reminds me 'short showers save water', that I feel the need to add to with 'and saves power = saves $ + saves carbon = saves the planet'. I guess the sticker writing gurus didn't stick that on there as it may be a little bit more maths than the bathroom can handle. The thermometer is now telling me that it is 29. 1 degrees in my office, despite the breeze from my ceiling fan and the fact that this is the coolest room in my house. Eeep, what is summer going to bring? I feel that I and and my partner Cameron (he grabbed the free drink bottle from the pack as it fit perfectly in his bike drink holder, and because I think he really just wants to be a pirate as it says 'arrhg' on it, which apparently stands for something sustainable which I can't remember) have put in the effort using the resources of our free council pack to reduce our electricity consumption. Onto our next effort...

Electricity pole

I was recently informed by a nice solar engineer when he visited to give me a quote for solar panels (more on that very soon...) that if I am not receiving a discount from my electricity supplier then I should ask one. So I called Energy Australia and asked for a better deal, armed with the information that AGL was offering a 10% discount in exchange for signing a three month contract, plus $175 off the first bill. They offered me 12% off my bills (including the green power component which AGL wasn't discounting) plus $100 off my next bill. This was in exchange for signing a two year contract. Their rates are the same as AGL's for the first and second pricing tiers on a single meter plan. Where Energy Australia and AGL do differ is in the difference of their thresholds of electricity use, that once met, increase the rate to the second pricing tier:

Energy Asutralia:      First  1000kWh/annum @ 24.40c 
                               Next 1000kWh/annum @ 25.50c                    
                               Balance 34.30c      

AGL:                        First 4000kWh/annum @ 24.40c 
                               Next 4000kWh/annum @ 25.50c
                               Balance 34.30c  

These prices exclude GST 
We chose to stay with Energy Austraila, as whilst their usage thresholds were not as generous as AGL, our plans to reduce our consumption meant that the higher discount was likely to give us larger savings than the better threshold. This is however just one example of the challenge of comparing electricity plans offered by various suppliers. Currently the competition is fierce between the electricity suppliers, which puts us, as the consumer, in a fantastic position to negotiate the best deal..... knock, knock.... just on time, believe it or not, that was AGL at my door right now wanting to nab me as a customer.

PROJECTED  COST OF ELECTRICITY for the next 12 months: $3,000.00*
*based on our last 12months of consumption for our house-hold of two

- 12% discount + $100 off the first bill = saving of $460.00*
*over 12 months on projected costs

Read the next article in this series...
Busting our electricity bills: Part 3 - Going Solar 

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Garden Shaping Up for Spring

The whip birds cast into song and I knew it was spring. Green shoots were covering our dwarf apples, still in their pots waiting for a new home in the earth. We had been pondering our garden plans for a few months. Plan number four won our hearts (and heads, surely a winning combination), see The Plan: Designing a Garden

In an effort to beat the heat of summer we have been hoeing, barrowing and digging for the past month. This past October long weekend we had a garden working bee with my parents and Star the border collie (chicken guard and horse rounder upper, a sure sign of a dog in need of a flock of wooly sheep). I was reminded that all that is required to keep my Dad happy is to hand him a shovel and let him dig. There's therapy in the earth. However I must remember to make him a pair of leather arm guards for Christmas, as whenever he helps at our place he seems to do battle with sharp objects (rusty corrugated iron and this time it was a rose bush). Unfortunately the blood on his arms suggests he came out second best. But he stilled called to thank me for the weekend. Thanks Mum and Dad and of course to Cam.

vegetable garden
The view from the stable roof, overlooking the beginnings of the mandala garden (left) and the last crop in the original vegie beds (front). Dad with a shovel in his hand.

The citrus avenue softens the hard lines of path and garage, all gifts from family.

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