Wednesday, 29 July 2015

All Wrapped Up

How to recycle newspaper?  New Newspaper Paper.  I mean, it can be recycled into new newspaper.  But it hardly makes it's way to our recycle bin, specially in Winter!  We use it heaps here at home.  In fact, we even collect unsold newspaper from the supermarket and bring it home to use.  It really is a product of processed trees.  We line our kitchen scrap compost bin with newspaper and layer it between the scraps to absorb the liquid and smells.  We also use heaps for keeping our fires lit and roaring-hot.  But what else could we use it for?  Ofttimes I have stapled newspaper together into rudimentary paper bags to hold produce I needed to give away in the absence of plastic bags and they have worked satisfactorily.

My friend's birthday was a good excuse to get crafting with the wrapping (awkward-shaped pressie), so I ended up sewing a newspaper gift bag!  Tricky (handle) but easily possible!
The travel section of the paper, complete with plaited handles for added strength.
Then I saw an idea on the WWWeb.  Printed newsprint wrapping paper.  So I had a go.  Tried a few ideas, discarded what didn't work too well and ran with what did work.
2 pieces of the same, sewn together.

Feeling like Noah - 2 of every type of newspaper page.
Sewn together to form a larger piece of wrapping paper.  let the advertising speak for itself.
 I tried painted swirls and patterns onto newspaper, but wasn't too happy with the outcome.  So I reached for an old wall stencil of a lotus flower and my old trusty roller.  I simply ran the roller over the stencil, using student acrylic paint.  Each image takes 4-6 seconds to achieve.  Changing colours half way gives a little depth and in no time at all, you have a sheet of wrap-worthy paper.
Stencil, roller and acrylic paint.  Simple ingredients.

Several sheets of lotus-wrap ready to use.

Printed newsprint, rolled and ready to wrap'n roll!
Saving money, saving the planet, one present at a time!  Now to work on making some earth-friendly pressies!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

SunSmart Energy

There's a lot of talk at the moment about Solar Power and Sun Energy!  But what does it look like, and how efficient is it really?  Can we trust the hype?  
Well, it was something we wanted to explore for many years but the cost was exorbitant and so we shelved any Sun Projects.  Yet we are Sun-Loving Beings.  I am not a winter person, suffering the 7 or so cold months of New Zealand with the glimmer of hope that that sun will come shining through, eventually, in the Land of the Long White Cloud/Aotearoa!  And indeed it does, NZ has plenty sunshine hours that make Sun Energy Harvesting such a sensible idea.  And with Climate Change, governments the world over should be encouraging people to give energy sustainability a go!
We have had our Solar Photo-voltaic panels (19 of them) for just over 2 years, and although the system cost us double what it costs now, we are stoked!

Our latest project though, is investment in a Solar Tube.  A bubble-like spaceship-looking dome on our roof, to afford us natural light in our once-was-dark kitchen.  At NZ $1500.00, we hummed and haa-ed for some time, before biting the bullet and giving the installer the thumbs up.  And I love it!  I don't need to switch on electrical lighting when I am working in the kitchen in the day.  Hooray!  Revolutionising the way I work!  

Solar tube from the outside.
When the installer came to install, he discovered that he needed to provide a bend, through our bedroom, down into the kitchen below.  The result: silver tubing zooming through our bedroom upstairs!  I kind of like the industrial look, as if a spaceship crashed through the roof of our bedroom!  The installer suggested boxing it in with panels to hide it - but as I said, I like the industrial look!

Water-tight flashing on the roof.

The stainless steel tubing in our bedroom corner.

The result; it appears as if we have a permanent spotlight on in the kitchen!
The upside too, is that we will use less energy, as I never have to have my lights burning through the day in the kitchen.  While I was up on the roof spying on the solar tube, I took the chance to also photograph our Photo-voltaic panels which work hard every day to harvest sun energy for us.  They too are groovy-looking!  Like having your own electrical company!  Now, a similar system costs between $7 - NZ$9000.00.  Costs are coming down with increased demand, almost halving every year!  Our system cost us $32 000.00 for a 3kW system.  We have no electricity bills to pay in the warmer months, and in winter, we pay a maximum of $180 for the coldest month, as opposed to the $350 we paid before solar!  And energy costs rise every year!

We have learned a bit about Solar in the last year.  Because we do not store our energy in batteries (which are expensive, not fully recyclable currently, and only have a 10-15yr life-span), we feed our energy back into the national grid.  Our company, Meridian Energy, pay us a lesser amount per unit of energy we feed into the system, and charge us a higher amount per unit we use.  To offset this, it is advised to use energy while the panels are harvesting energy.  That means, run all electrical appliances while the sun is shining, if possible!  So it is better to use the washing machine or tumble drier in the day when we are generating energy, rather than at night.  We should dehydrate fruit in daylight hours, not overnight as I used to, else the dried snacks cost more!!  Sun-Savvy!
Roof edge to roof edge panels.
Before we installed our PV panels, we already had solar panels to heat our water, a very big part of your energy bill!  If the day is dull and too cloudy, we may need to boost our hot water supply, but again, better done during daylight hours so that power coming in = power going out.  The solar water heating panels are entirely different to those generating energy. 

In order to understand the PV system, a normal household uses an average of about 26kW per day, during summer months we can generate up to 30kW.  During winter we may generate an average of only 14kW.  We use less than we generate in summer, and more than we generate in winter.  It's kind of like a banking account, you draw out and go into debit when you have none of your own, and deposit more when you are able to save.
The far 2 hot water solar panels, a completely different use for water heating only.
So at the end of the day, a sunsmart system costs you money to set up, but in the long run, should save you money!  Don't have the money to invest in a full-price system for your home? I have recently found a company called Solar City who have a system called Solar Zero.  They install and maintain a PV system which costs you zero.  Then you pay a monthly fee of $79 for you power.  Your power bill is SET for 20 years ahead, no nasty surprise rise of power bills.  Sounds incredible!!  Check it out.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Marriage and the F-word.

Partners for Life; Ganesha and Riddhi (or Siddhi?)
Having just celebrated 26 years of married life, I am left to ponder the little idiosyncrasies of Living Together For So Long.  Sure, we are Poetry in Motion.  Puzzle pieces fitting together to create a beautiful picture, weft and warp threads in a beautiful tapestry and all that stuff.
But I have to face the Big Secret of Marriage and the F-Word!  Farts.  And Fart Barometers.
Anyone who has been married more than 20 years, to the same guy will identify with my expose' on Life with Long-term Partnership.  I guess time breaks down ALL BARRIERS and we get to intimately know all the good and bad points of someone else!

I'm talking Matches, and Fire and Brimstone.  He thinks he can disguise his smells by lighting a match!!  Not sure if it makes it any better - smells like a sulfuric volcano eruption just happened right in our own bathroom!  "I wouldn't go in there if I were you!" has come to hold some brevity - I take the warning seriously, in an attempt to prolong my life.  Luckily we are a 2-Lavatory household!  I can always zip upstairs.
"It wasn't me!"             No, we don't have a dog we can blame!
My beloved has a fascination for Food and Farts.  "I seem to be very windy today.  I wonder what I ate that caused this?  Do you think it was the carrot?  Or the custard slice this morning?"  I remind him that EVERYTHING seems to have the same effect on his digestive/elimination state.  Nah, it just is what it is, I'll say philosophically.  "Don't you think it's important to analyse it and understand what causes it?"

I ponder this question for a long while, then say as diplomatically as I can, : "Why not keep a Food and Fart Journal?  That way you can analyse it.  By Yourself.  Please?  And that will help keep a little fantasy/intimacy/privacy in our relationship.  I mean, what will we discussing at 80yrs of age??"

This guy's sweet, charming, well-read, intelligent, spiritual, sensitive, all that and more - but he is one helluva farter - he can fart anything from God save the Queen to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata!   "Pfu... fee.... pop! Drrt... Bart! Vzzt".... a right Royal rhythmic percussion of the Old Brown One.  Followed by a feeble "Scuse me!"  Problem is, he likes to leave the door to the Throne open. Not that it makes much difference if the door is shut!
Bonnie and Clyde. Angelina and Brad.Partners.For good and for bad.
Forgiveness is the Key!
When we have guests, I'll run to put on the music system to drown out the Royal Percussives if I know he has removed himself to the Throne.  "Futz-futz-futz-futz......" like a scooter taking off.  Then a "I can't help it!  It's what you feed me!"  and a whiny' "We can't all fart eau d' cologne in a melodious way!"  And not to mention the wear and tear on undies - I have been known to darn exhaust holes blasted clean through cotton/elastane which succumbs to the sulfuric fumes.   Is is just a Man Thing?  We have tried various foods and remedies - all in vain.
"I can't help it!"
So I am thinking - we are hell-bent on living sustainably.  And you know the saying:" If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" - well, I have just recently seen a methane gas converter on the internet.  I wonder if I could hook up my man - to power all our gas cooking needs??  I mean, it's after all, just a lot of hot air.  
Enough to power a hot air balloon from Katikati all the way to Te Puke.

Cooking with gas conjures up a whole new meaning....
Releasing the pressure with an ear candle!

Just a thought....

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Home maintenance and DIY

Home Maintenance
In our home, I am the fixer-mender-maker handy(wo)man!  And I hate to pay for a job I think I could do myself!  But some jobs, are best left to professionals.  Believe me, I found tiling the bathroom far easier than applying window putty!!

Old windows in cottage in need of putty weather-seal

I have been meaning, for some time (years, even) to mend the broken bits of putty missing from our cottage windows.  I know it's a &*^! job, so have been putting it off.  Next holidays, I always say.  So eventually, I bit the bullet, jumped in feet first and bought a container of window putty.  I googled how to do it, so was miffed off with myself when I followed the instructions - to knead the putty before using, to get rid of hard bits.  Well I did that.  Enough putty to be manageable.  But what I should have done, was knead the entire container of putty first!  It was only at the end of the job, I realised how much linseed oil was down in the bottom, which would have made the rest of the putty so much softer and easier to manage in the first place!!  
Second tip - paint the underlying wood to seal it, or it will soak up the oil from the putty and cause it to crack.  Done.  I then set about spreading it, cutting the excess with a putty knife but it was most non-compliant!  All due to not having much oil in it, so it crumbled as I tried to work it.  
First layer of acrylic outdoor paint to seal the wood
 A job I thought would take an hour and a half, tops, ended up being 3 and a half hours worth of hard yakka!  $#@*!!  Anyway, in the end, it looks a little better, and in 2 weeks time, I have to paint 2 coats of exterior acrylic paint to protect and seal the putty.  But truly, never again!  Aluminium framed windows now seem such a blessing.  Luckily our house has aluminium framed windows, it's only our guest cottage which still has wood-frame windows.  Apparently, this putty should last 10-15 years.  Hmmn, hope so.  It's not a job I'll do willingly, again!
An okay-job, for an amateur.

It's harder than it looks!
 I have managed to barricade myself down in the shed one blustery day on my off-work-week, to create some scavenged cedar wood-bit projects.  First off; this little bird nesting box, complete with hinged roof to make cleaning up last year's nests easy.  The landing branch is not yet glued in, as I need to post this one off to friends as a gift, and the job is easier without a poking-out branch!

Bird Nesting Box.
 I have made some herb markers, with my favourite choices - Basil, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley.  One to keep, and one to give away.  Which reminds me - I still need to clean up my herb garden and plant some new herbs in Spring.

 Feeling rather on a Creative High, I set about making yet more projects; a wall-mounted jewellry hanger, an elasticated holder of all-sorts for wardrobe organisation, and some whimsical garden signs.
Tree Jewellry Hangers

Elasticated Hanger for ties, scarves or other

Garden Signs
A corner of the garden, for reflection
 As it is our 26th wedding anniversary, I decided to make my Love a token of appreciation.  He loves to travel.  He always wraps his shoes in a plastic bag before stowing them in his luggage.  That seems so Third-Worldish and we always strive to move away from plastic, so I took one of his old t-shirts and cut it up into sections.
2 pieces of the body will suffice for the project

I turned them inside out and sewed them up on the 2 open sides, stopping short of
 the existing bottom hem.  I slit the opposite side top hem open too, for threading the
closing strings.
Some fabric paint, an Indian printing block and we're away....

A little printing embellishment to brighten up rather plain bags....
We have 2 shoe bags, and 2 small bags to stow phone charger or other small items easily lost in the
bottom reaches of the suitcase!
 Some time back I purchased a tatty Fiji photo book at an Opp Shop for $2.  Yesterday I cut out some pics, pasted them onto blank card and made 10 blank greeting cards out of them.  That's one way of recycling something not-quite-useful.  I shall make another batch when I run out of these, as there are many more pages in my shabby-chic Fiji photo book!

Beautiful images of Fiji
 The winter frosts have really hammered our banana plants.  They do every year.  So we chopped down a near-ready bunch a week ago and hung it in the shed to ripen - they won't be "tree-ripened" but still will make a great supplement to seasonal citrus.

Anyone for bananas?

Post Update 27.07.15
The window putty is painted.  Yet another tedious have-to-do job!  Done!  Yay!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Beach Road Reserve, Katikati

 Sometimes we take the beauty of the area we live in, for granted!  A couple of weeks ago, we were reminded of that beauty, enough to take our breath away.  The nature gifts that are there for us, day in, day out, but we are are too busy to open our eyes and take it all in.
A 5 minute drive from our home is the Beach Road Harbour.  We often drive there to collect seaweed, but usually, we are there simply for the collection, quick to return to all the duties that await at home.
A view back to the harbour jetty - a concrete drive extending into the water, for launching of fishing vessels.  Note the people who almost appear to be walking on water!

Pine trees which may once have formed a wind break for the shore-line farmer, have been chopped down and the roots eroded to form a network of lattice work above the ground.

Taken from below the latticework of roots
This reserve even allows Freedom Campers, as long as they stay only 3 nights and leave the place in a neat and tidy condition.  That is quite generous really - a million dollar view, a rugged toilet and all this for - well, nothing really!  I can think of many a camping sight that offers perhaps a better toileting and kitchen facility, with views of other camper vans, for a nightly fee of $16.50 P/P!  For those of you out-of-towners, Katikati rocks!  We have the murals, of course, but we also have the harbour, estuary, Uretara river (navigable), Bird Walk and Haiku Reserve.  And let us not forget to mention, the fantastic community project, Kati KaiWay.  We have planted 48 (plus-some) fruit trees in a local reserve, so that locals and visitors can take a meander through this edible walkway and pick seasonal fruit, for free!  There are Nashi pears, plums, feijoas, mandarins, oranges, almonds, lemons, persimmons and Chilean Guavas. Did I mention, they are organically maintained?!

Dead trees stand reaching into the sapphire blue sky.

The few remaining pine trees huddled on the shore.

Pine cones make great kindling for lighting winter fires.

New cones huddle against the cold winter breeze.

The farthest end of the Beach Road Harbour Reserve looking toward Tauranga and the Kaimai mountain range.

Tauranga Moana, with Matakana Island in the distance

The Kaimais surround the jewel that's the Bay of Plenty

Ephemeral Art; Beach Sculpture

Harvested cornfields and wide expanse of sky.

Somebody's little mobile home.  Note the wind vane for power generation!
Someone's fence or bridge?  Beached as, Bro!

Sunshine on shoreline.

Sea- eroded shore surrounds a little bay 

Still making shadows, Mikey and Me.

The Big Blue Sky

Mono-cropping leftovers.

Nature's Sculptures
Such beauty abounds.  I just have to take time out from the hectic schedule of growing food, to explore and discover ever more of it.......