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 tinyhousevillage.com.au

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.


Populate or Perish

Arthur Calwell, Labor Immigration Minister at the time, came up with the strategy of populate or perish at the end of World War II, as a path to economic growth and national security for Australia. Seventy years later, the same policy will cause our own extinction.

I’m going in two directions at once with this post, thinking out loud in the hope there will be a solution.  We are consuming 1.7 of the earth’s resources at the present rate, with western countries being the highest consumers.  We are living unsustainably, and populating at a rate that is already impacting on standards of living around the world.  This is exacerbated by poor political leadership, including planning, and a growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Scientific evidence has shown there is no doubt we are in the midst of human induced climate change.  Predictions by scientists show that massive changes will take place this century, even if we reduce carbon emissions radically immediately, due to the lag in cause and effect.

Climate change will make areas unlivable very quickly, as we have seen with the last hurricane season south of the USA, flooding in Bangladesh and famine in West Africa.  People lose shelter, food and safe water sources, get sick and die.  This will happen so often world-wide in different ways, that we won’t need to consider population growth as a problem anymore, rather how to protect the existing population.

The climate is already changing, and we need strategies to stop global warming.  In the interim, the challenge is to anticipate what it to come and plan for it.

There will be unlivable areas of the planet so people will have to move or die.  Some areas will become hazardous to live in due to flooding and other extreme weather events, but with support can stay in place.

What is Australia planning to do about this?  How will we assist people overseas?  How are we preparing to accept climate change refugees?  I strongly believe that we must plan now.  This is a global problem.  By working together we can save as many people and as much of the environment as possible.  Like the two world wars before us, this is the challenge for our generation.

Future posts will look at ideas for living in a post consumption and climate change world.

Melbourne Street Art 2/18

The street art scene in the last three years since I visited has undergone some changes.  It looks like many of the seasoned writers and mixed media artists have vacated the main CBD laneways.

AC/DC Lane

With the exception of two tribute murals to the late great Malcolm Young, I had trouble finding new works in the way of stencils, pasteups or any of the usual, quirky writers and artists.

Union Lane Feb 2018

There were reports in the media last year, of Mayor Doyle attempting to move on the homeless people from the laneways as they are a tourist attraction, and apparently we are offended by the presence of homeless people.  I think we tourists know full well there is no art without the participation of the artists, including those who are homeless.

Union Lane 2018

As for the state of the laneways, it’s easy enough to run a street sweeper/cleaner through every day, to get rid of the overwhelming stench of urine and worse.  Union Lane was particularly bad this year, but still looked beautiful.

Melbourne Street art

AC/DC Lane had more of the paste ups and stencils but the Swoon artwork has been painted over, and many of the works looked old.  Something is discouraging new and established artists from participating.  Is it a protest over the council policies or something else?

Duckboard Place

On the subject of homelessness, in the past we’ve seen some people sleeping rough in the daytime on the streets, but nowhere near the number of people we came across this year.  According to reports, charity services to people in need have been overwhelmed and fewer of the general public are donating either cash or goods.

Melbourne sticker art

I don’t carry cash anymore except for parking meters, and this is the difference between going hungry and a meal to many people.

Edit.  A footnote to this post, well known priest and humanitarian, Father Bob Maguire, runs a Foundation in Melbourne’s Albert Park.  If you would like to support his vision to end homelessness and disadvantage, please read more at FatherBobs.com