Book Offer for Wildlife and Habitat Recovery

First up as the offer expires at the end of this month, photographer Ewen Bell has launched a Bushfire Appeal 2020 with every book sale for the month of January donated in full to assist wildlife and habitat recovery.

ReIMAGINE by Ewen Bell: “After a decade of writing about photography for other publications, I needed to have one volume that was written in my voice without compromise. This is it. Most of the ideas I share here have evolved through experience in the field and the intense conversations that happen on photo tours and workshops. Watching people grasp the meaning of an idea is powerful. Helping them open a doorway and step through is an absolute joy. This book captures so many of those moments and then turns the lessons into a new journey for someone else to follow.”

Ewen is aiming for 100 books to be sold to raise $10,000, almost half way there three days ago, so get your order in soon and don’t miss out!


Bushfire and Drought Action

Australia has faced a horrendous fire season this year, starting at the end of winter, intensifying over Christmas, and there’s still over a month of summer to go.  Lives have been lost, firefighters injured, homes, property and livelihoods destroyed. Large areas of our native bushland and our precious wildlife has been wiped out, including half of Kangaroo Island and a large section of the Adelaide Hills. Estimates are 80% of the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains in NSW has been bushfire affected.  In the past, native bushland has been able to regenerate after fires, but these have come on top of drought weakened areas, with ferocious, extreme temperatures.

While in shock from these catastrophic fires, the impact is going to be long lasting. For that reason, I’m going to list donation and help sites as they come up, that focus on funding our emergency rural fire services, communities in need, wildlife rescue and preservation efforts, and anything else fire or drought related that will help the recovery.  According to some scientific opinion, we may have now reached the tipping point of climate change, and the future is unknown in terms of extreme weather events, except to say they will become more frequent.

The fact is we are not going to get through this alone.  Australians have shown amazing community spirit to date, especially our rural fire service volunteers that have put their their own lives and property on the line.  We have also been overwhelmed with the generosity and support of people internationally.

If you have any links you would like included, please add a message below.  Genuine sites only please, I moderate any comments that come through this blog.

Fascinating Succulents

We have a friendly family of magpies that are getting too friendly.  One came into the house the other morning and tried to fly out the kitchen window.  It then flew out the open door, but not before trampling all the succulents in bowls on the window sill.

magpieSucculents are fascinating.  They aren’t the prettiest of plants, except when they flower, but have an amazing ability to regrow themselves from a single leaf.  Here’s different leaves lying on a bed of potting mix.  I have no idea which leaves can regrow themselves, so am trying as many as possible.  The plucked ends have to dry out, or callous over before they get wet.  A light spray of water every few days of the leaves doesn’t seem to hurt though. The container is outside in the winter sun.

succulent leaves

In growing season I imagine this happens quickly, but in our frosty winter the growth of roots and sprouting of new plants, or babies as some people call them, has taken over two months to get to this point.

succulent baby succulent babies

All the pieces of plants left around the window sill were gathered up and re-potted.  The ends were tidied up with a clean cut and then just stuck in the cactus mix.  Any leaves that were salvageable are now with the others, lying on the bed of potting mix, to see if they will sprout roots and new growth.succulentssucculents

I’ll update this post to show any progress with the plant pieces.  Mini gardens are never boring!

Tiny Houses

Tiny houses are part of a trend in housing that coincide with shrinking resources, finances and space, and the need to relocate or build quickly.

If you drive outside any of the cities in Australia, there is countryside for hundreds of kilometres in most directions.  Australia is spoilt for land mass, but has limited water resources and old, fragile earth.  Living with a light footprint, and utilising modern technology to go off grid is a way forward for creating more usable space for a migrating population.

These tiny houses are portable.  They are different from RV’s or caravans as the structure is of a small house, just on a trailer, or able to be put on a trailer.  The possibilities with this type of housing are as varied as the available building materials.

The beauty of tiny houses is the ability to make them completely off grid, and the portability means they can easily be relocated.  Designs can be as traditional as a timber cabin or a contemporary minimalist structure.

Tumbleweed tiny house

The affordability of tiny homes also means they are perfect for people on low or irregular incomes.  As they become more popular, I’m hoping tiny villages will become available around Australia where these structures can be parked on a permanent basis.

There is also the opportunity for communal living with like-minded people, such as artist villages.  Shared resources, communal areas, and edible gardens opens up a type of living that reduces expenses, and creates supportive communities.

Off Grid Tiny Houses
Off Grid Tiny Houses

Off Grid Tiny Houses in Melbourne tested a house design that included solar power with battery storage, rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling, with $15 of LPG (propane) a month to fuel a stove and hot water.  For a list of tiny house makers in Australia, see here

Bringing the Garden Indoors

With increasing apartment living, small gardens, water restrictions and extreme heat, an option is to bring the garden indoors.  I’ve been experimenting with terrariums and succulents in bowls.

succulentThe idea is similar to wicking beds, or self watering pots, except the container can be completely closed.  Closed jars or terrariums need little watering once set up.  Watch the glass to see if water condenses all the time, and if so, open the lid until enough of the water evaporates.  Condensation should only happen in the mornings.

Jar garden

Tiny container gardens can easily die from over-watering, so the basic principle is create a layer of pebbles at the base, covered by sphagnum moss (sustainable) then charcoal to absorb odours, and finally a free draining potting mix, like cactus mix.  Measure the water that goes into the container.  Only water again when the soil is drying out.  Just stick your finger in the soil to test if it’s drying out.

succulent in ceramic bowl

Succulents can dry out completely between watering and still survive.  If the leaves start to pucker it needs watering.  I found this handmade ceramic artisan pot in an Op Shop.  It’s a great way to repurpose old vases or bowls.

Terrarium This terrarium was made from a repurposed candle holder.  Ceramic animals add character, creating a mini jungle.  Terrarium plants don’t need fertiliser unless you want them to grow.  If anything, they need trimming back occasionally.

Mason jar pot plant

Mason jars can make great containers for pot plants.  I’m experimenting with several varieties including a rubber plant and peace lily.  This one is home for a Parlour Palm and a ceramic green tree frog.  Most terrarium plants and succulents like bright light for at least 6 hours a day, but not direct sunlight.  Leave the plants in indirect light, about a metre from the window, or under LED lights, which don’t heat the plants.

terrariumTerrariums green up indoor spaces and filter the air.  If you don’t have space or enough water for an outdoor fernery, terrariums are a great way to grow mini ones indoors.  This one has a bird’s nest fern, and also locally collected moss.  Check where you are allowed to collect roadside plants in your area.

moss jam jar terrariumA small jam jar terrarium for moss and assorted grasses, also collected locally.