Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guilt free showers

Spring is a great time in WA, undoubtedly my favourite season. Here are some reasons:
The wild flowers are in full bloom in the garden and bush. WA's endemic flora is beautiful, hardy and diverse. I have fond memories of Amy and I travelling to exotic places like Enneaba and the Stirling Ranges in search of orchids and other floral wonders. We don't get out bush much these days, but it's in my mind that we should head to the hills for some wild flower spotting. Here are some pics from our travels. 

The vegie garden is healthy and productive. At the moment we're self sufficient in silverbeet, spinach, lettuce, broad beans, peas, brocoli, cabbage, celery, beetroots, oranges, potatoes, parsley, coriander and more. The retic's still off due to good rainfall. We're looking forward to asparagus, globe artichokes and garlic which are all coming soon. The summer veg are in, with tomatoes, zuchinni, squash and basil either in the ground or cloche.

Second crop of spuds                                          Celery, coriander, peas, calendulas, silverbeet, artichokes
The fruit trees are either in full bloom or fruiting. We have a decent crop of almonds, apples, figs and a bumper crop of strawberry guavas to look forward to. Our thoughts are turning to jam. The native quandong trees should have ripe fruit now. Last year we picked an eski full at a friend's place near Capel and made jam. If you haven't tasted quandong jam then you have something to look forward to, it's one of the best jams on the planet. The neighbourhood mulberry trees are loaded with free fruit which most people can't be bothered picking and are more than happy to let you have. I want to try Pam Jam's fruit leather this year for something different, with apples and mulberries.


Apple blossom, almonds and the transplanted fig tree.

The chooks are happy and healthy and most importantly laying eggs. They're not broody (yet) and we're getting 3 eggs a day from our five girls. We have recently been planning phasing in a new brood as the girls get old and less productive. Maybe they have caught wind of this and are frantically laying in order to delay their inevitable meeting with the local 'chook grim reaper' Tim Darby.

Another great thing about early spring is the guilt free shower (GFS). Dave, a friend of ours, told me about the GFS a while back and I didn't fully appreciate it until recently. Normally when we have a shower there are two things on our mind, water and power. If the source of these two are not sustainable a GFS is impossible for people who really care about sustainability. In other words, we can only have a GFS when the rain water tank is full and we have enough sun to heat our water. These two things overlapping is rare, which means that most of the time we either have short showers/shallow baths or we feel guilty about wasting our precious resources.

We recently replaced our gas storage system with a solar hot water system. We almost have a year's data for this, but you'll need to wait until November for the full report. We have had to boost our hot water with electricity over winter, which although it is from PV I would still prefer to be feeding back to the grid. In the last few weeks we have been able to get by without boosting on sunny days, so there is one half of the equation solved.

Unfortunately when the sun's shining it means it isn't raining, unless we're lucky enough to get rain overnight and sun in the day (THE perfect weather!). In WA the winter rains often switch off suddenly in spring and it's not unusual to go 6 months with little meaningful rainfall. So after a couple of months being fairly blase with our water use, this is the time of year when we start to think more carefully about turning the tap on. Even if the tank is full, we tend to be careful.

All this means that the overlap between having enough water and renewable power is brief, but it is now. We have had good rainfall this winter, the tank is full and there is more rain forecast. And we have had some lovely sunny spring days with plenty of solar hot water. I splash out on these days and have extremely decadent 5 minute showers, rather than the normal 3-4 minutes. Or I fill the bath nice and deep and splash about with Quin, the floor getting soaking around us. This brief interlude will not last long, but we will savour it while it's here.

We just had the Sustainability Fiesta this weekend, which means early to bed. It was great, we raised about $2,000 for Hilton Harvest and had a lovely time.

It just started raining and I can hear the sweet trickle of water through the gutters, we may squeeze in a few more GFS before the year's out...

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