Friday, November 29, 2013

Beware aircon use this summer

We don't have aircon at home, but Amy's parents do. Amy's Dad diligently records their power readings once a week. Each year I input their PV data to show them how much power they generate and consume. They're pretty good, consuming between 6 and 9 kWh a day on average. Inputting the data this year I saw what I thought was a mistake, a reading that just couldn't possibly be right. Then I looked into it and saw a comment, "heat wave". This made me wonder and I checked with Neil. Yes indeed, the heat had been so bad in late December 2012 that the aircon was on 16 hours a day! Power consumption went through the roof, as you can see.

A whopping 48 kWh a day! Another heat wave in February saw jumps to 20kWh a day too. Now I'm not going to preach about the use of aircon, lots of people have it and that's fine. It's not my cuppa tea, but if you do use it then beware that it will cost you. 50kWh a day equates to $12, that's $85 a week more or less. It also obviously costs the planet in carbon emissions and it costs other power consumers too. At peak times the wholesale price of power goes through the roof, so the more that is used in these times pushes power prices up to everyone. So, here are some tips to minimse your use of aircon:

Turn it up. If you set the thermostat higher (say 23-25 C) you'll use much less power and you'll still be comfortable.

Go outside every now and again, you might just find that a lovely sea breeze is in and you can open up the house and turn off the aircon.

Do the flush. We do this all the time in summer. At night open up the house to let cool breezes in; first thing in the morning we shut up the house on hot days and close curtains, etc. This way we trap the cool air inside and stop heat getting in. Then open up the house when a breeze comes in and it's cooler outside than in.

External shade on east and west facing windows is essential in summer. This is the best and easiest way to stop your house becoming a green house!

Turn on ceiling fans, they use little power and can make rooms feel five degrees cooler than they actually are.

Good luck keeping cool this summer, here's hoping that we don't get too many heat waves...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Summer Fruit

I used to really hate summer in the garden. Everything just goes to seed and dies. It can be pretty depressing. Even though we haven't officially made it to summer yet it has already started here in Perth with a few hot days stressing the garden. We have well and truly eaten the last of our lettuce, celery, carrots, broad beans, sweet peas and barassicas. Any veggies left in the ground have pretty much bolted, all apart from a stoic kale plant a few beans and leaks.

But this is just a part of the cycle and I'm learning to embrace it. I've harvested a good stash of poppy seeds which Ads makes into his famous orange and poppy seed cake, and of course we need to keep what ever seeds we can for next year. We are just learning these skills and still find it hard to resist picking the best specimen for eating, rather than keeping it for seed.

But the truly fantastic bit of the garden at the moment is all our fruit!  We have just finished our apricots. This was our fist harvest of apricots and they were a little bit orgasmic. It was all quality, not quantity. We picked about 1.5 kgs, but they tasted like gold.

The apples have just started and are delicious and fruit fly free, all tucked up in their exclusion netting. And our mulberries have also just about finished. 

Ads made some delicious apple and mulberry leather - to be the subject of another post. Our boysenberries are just starting and we should have a good crop. But they are still too precious for making into leather. 

And no sooner have we eaten our last banana - see the empty stalk...

Than another flower appears! Its a near perfect cycle. We will be away in UK while these ones ripen, so hopefully we will come home to a big thick bunch of bananas.  

 I've just had a quick look at previous posts on Sustainaburbia and noticed a very similar post at this time last year with very similar photos. Maybe it's a little boring to read, but I can tell you that its exciting to experience. The love for a garden just grows as you see it go through its cycles each year and as we as gardeners grow too.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Love miles

I have this brilliant idea that no one else thinks is a brilliant idea. Here it is: you should only be allows to marry someone who lives within a 500 km radius of your birth place. I'm sure you can see the genius in this idea. But just in case it needs explaining...

The thing is that these days people travel so much. Its pretty much a right of passage to take a year off between high school and work/uni to pop over to the UK or South America, work, bum around a bit, have a blast, find yourself and meet the love of your life. This is a grave and terrible scenario because what happens next is that you move back to Australia settle down and have babies without the support of one set of grandparents, siblings and little cousins for the kids to play with. Said grandparents who live on the other side of the world of course feel pretty sad about missing out on seeing their own offspring, let alone their own grandchildren and then have to visit every second summer and on the summer they don't visit it is expected that you visit them. And if you don't, well, you have family that you barely know. Cousins grow up never having shared a Christmas day, Granny's don't know what size cloths to send, and siblings never get to just pop over for a cuppa and do the dishes for each other after sleepless nights with newborns. Its heartbreaking. I know this because Adam is English and we have family in England that we miss terribly.

We foolishly fell in love many many moons ago when I thought it romantic to shack up with a foreigner. I'm not entirely sure I could have helped falling in love, but had Adam never traveled to Australia we would have never met and I would be none the wiser. But he did travel, the rest is history. So we, like many others, find our selves in this position where we would love to visit England and have family visit here but, alas, the carbon.

Its serious, all this air travel and I don't like it. FIFO's don't just travel from Perth to Tom Price now, they come from New Zealand to Tom Price or Perth to South Africa. Kids fly over east ever school holidays to visit their Dads, and geez, do we love to holiday! Traveling overseas is so common - how can it be special if you go overseas twice a year? There is no 'trip of a lifetime' anymore, nowhere is new, everyone has been there before.

All that said, we are going back to England for Christmas this year. It has been about 6 years since our last visit and about 4 years since anyone has visited us so its due. Parents are getting older, babies have been born and teenagers are growing into adults. We are about to spew out some serious carbon. But we call them love miles and while we try to limit them, they are unavoidable.

Offsetting is not the answer to all of this but its a little something that is better than nothing - actually its not better than nothing, nothing is better, as in, not flying is better. Got that? Anyway, I offset our carbon emissions for the three of us for the flights to London and a few internal Europe flights too. According to Carbon Neutral we will produce 18.53 tonnes of carbon for which 111 trees need to be planted. It cost $416, which does seem a lot, but then, I nearly spent that much on a night out to see Beyonce (tickets, dinner, babysitter). I think a contributing to a safe environmental future is worth more than Beyonce - bless her.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to this trip of ours. We are going to exciting places that will be new for us and we will be renewing relationships with old friends and family.We just try for minimal air travel and where we do fly, we offset and we really look forward to it as a special, exciting time because it will be a while until we fly again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Apricots

Today we ate our very first home grown Apricots. Tree ripened and fruit fly free. Delicious!

I know we always blog about how great exclusion netting is for fruit trees, but when you taste unadulterated, pure, sweet, juicy flesh of a home grown beauty like this, wah, I just want to tell everyone again! Its true that fruit flies are a huge problem in Perth, but netting seems to be the cure! And I think it looks beautiful - kind of bridal. 

It wont be a huge crop. Unfortunately we choose a double grafted tree and only one side seems to have a good crop - oh well. The other thing to understand is that with a double grafted tree the flowers come at different times, so in this case we had fruit forming and becoming susceptible to fruit fly on one half, while the other half was still in flower and needing pollination. So for a while we had to have only half the tree netted allowing pollinators on to the flowers and keeping fruit fly off the fruit. A bit of a fiddle and I would not ever plant a double grafted tree again, its one of those things you don't think about until you are faced with the situation! 

The other thing to report is that we should have a bumper crop of boysenberries this year - here they are dropping petals and green just at the moment...but just wait...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Another cargo bike post

Its nearly summer and that is when electric cargo bikes really come into their own! Getting down to the beach takes 15 mins in the bike and its so satisfying to cruise right by all the parked cars baking in the sun and park up under a tree. Although it can still get pretty hot in Perth and riding seems like the last thing you'd want to do, I reckon its much more pleasant to get some breeze and sunshine than sit in a stinking hot car, with a burning steering wheel and seat belts and whiny kids and air con that doesn't work for 10 mins, by which time you are nearly there. If your bike is electric its just like there is no head wind and no hills. We love it!

And another thing I've noticed with the Bakfits  there is a kind of black hole in the laws of physics where it seems that no matter how windy it is, or what skirt I'm wearing my skirt never flies up. True. See irrefutable scientific proof in the photo below:

We have had quite a few people come and test ride the cargo bike lately and what is exciting is that they are coming from far and wide - yup, it looks like cargo bikes are taking off in the burbs. Awesome! I love it when people come for a ride. We show them our three year old bike and how it still looks in really good nick and that we have had virtually no troubles with it. We tell them all the little tricks and things to be aware of. Its true that riding a cargo bike takes a little practice, but after you master it you will love it and feel free! 

One thing we like to show people is how we have set up our garage for ease of use. The bikes take pride of place (while the car is out in the elements). There is a plug hanging form the ceiling for recharging and plenty of room to quickly and easily get them out on the open road. There is no use having a bike if it is buried under a load of junk behind your car. 

So if you are interested in a test ride, let us know!