Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Using what you got (or can scavenge)

When one does not have a real income flow, it is important to be frugal when it comes to many things including the garden. Thus I am always on the look out for good quality scavenging material.

One item which seems to regularly be discarded in skip bins is cement reinforcement mess. This stuff makes a great trellis for things such as beans, cucumbers, and even tomato plants; anything which like to climb or needs a bit of support. Putting the trellis together is fun as well since it can almost be a bit of art work in the garden.

The other thing I am keen on using is all the grass we have on the property. We allow our grass to get long before mowing it. Then we collect all the mowed grass and use it for building up the organic matter in the soil, or even as paths through out the garden. The hay garden paths soak up excess water and release to the plants when things are a bit more dry. Eventually the grass paths break down, leaving a very nice organic matter to put into the garden.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Feral Guavas

In the area we live, there are heaps of feral guava trees. The fruits, more specifically, the seeds, are highly prized by Rainbow Lorikeets. They will hoe into barely ripe fruits which can be a bit disappointing if you had your eye on one. Thus the Lorikeet's love of the gauva, means that there are lots of feral trees around a few years after they have sampled the fruits.

It should also be noted that the Queensland fruit fly also love to attack guavas. So even if a lorikeet has not eaten part of the fruit, a fruit fly might have stung it. As the maggots like to hang around the seeds, this is not a big problem as it can be with other fruits. I just scoop out the seeds and any maggots along with them, leaving all the wonderful flesh behind. Obviously one can net your own trees to reduce bird and fruit fly attack, but it would be a bit weird to have nets over feral trees.

Guavas are a beautiful tree. Once they are more mature, their trunks are smooth and shiny with different coloured patches. One could be forgiven to almost think that they were a native Australian tree. There are many types of gauva, to be frank, I am not exactly sure which ones we have in the area. But they certainly make a nice pie. Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery has an extensive range of guava tree to delight one's taste buds.

The feral guava fruit tastes like a whole lot of tropical fruits all in one. Guavas in general have a significant number of hard little seeds which are grouped together in the centre of the fruit, almost looking like a brain when cut in half and taken out. The seeds are often discarded as they can be a bit too fibrous and crunchy (although I did find a guava and macadamia torte recipe which used the seeds).

So after a few forages through the neighbourhood, and the bottom of the pram brimming with guavas, we have been able to make a guava pie and a guava crumble. I have included the guava pie recipe below so that others can enjoy this treat as well.

Guava Pie


  • 2.5 tablespoons (Au) flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Pastry for a 9-inch 2-crust pie
  • 4 cups guava, peeled, seeded and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (Au) lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces


Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt; set aside. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; fill with sliced guava, slightly mounding in the centre. Sprinkle the flour and sugar mixture evenly over the guavas. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and dot with butter. Cover with the top pastry and flute edge. Cut several vents into top crust to let steam escape. Bake in a preheated 230° C oven for 10 minutes, then reduce to 170° C and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer.

Other Comments:

- If you do not like things too sweet, cut the sugar slightly. Another option is to add a bit more lemon.
- Cover the edges of the pie with foil if the start getting too cooked. I did this about 20 minutes into the over all baking time and the results were perfect.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Climate Smart

There is nothing like being armed with information. We had a Climate Smart Energy Audit done yesterday. This is a service offered by the Queensland government, where they install an OWL electricity monitor, install compact fluoro bulbs if required, and replace your shower head with a more efficient one. They also perform a short survey and then send you a customised report about ways to save energy. All this for 50 bucks, its quite the bargain. This audit is a no brainer if you live in the Brisbane City Council area, as the council reimburses the cost (thus it is free)!

The OWL electricity monitor is a nifty device. It uses induction around the incoming electricity cable(s) to monitor energy usage. In my case we have 3 phase power to the property, so three induction clips are required. The clips hook into a device which then transmits the information wirelessly to monitoring panel. The panel allows one to see the instantaneous power consumption as cost per hour, kW energy usage, or carbon output. It also keeps a tally since the device was turned on for the three main settings. So now armed with this information we can be even more efficient about our energy usage.

In general we are quite good about not consuming power unnecessarily. I hate to waste, whether it has an associated economic cost or not. But there are still some areas where we can improve. Some of areas for improvement will be to use the microwave less and the gas cook top more. The microwave takes a considerable amount of power when running on its highest setting; about 1.85 kW. The toaster is another high consumption kitchen appliance, about 0.93 kW. The electric kettle is also a power hog (figure to be provided). Basically anything which needs to heat something up, chews up electricity.

Contrast the above to a 15 W fluoro bulb, which takes about 0.02 kW (of course it should take 0.015 kW exactly, and the monitor said 0.017 kW, but I rounded up so that the same level of precision is used as compared to the other stated measurements). Our fluoro tub kitchen light which takes about 0.10 kW, which is actually much higher than I would have expected.

It should be noted that one of the limitations of a device like the OWL electricity monitor, is that it monitors the consumption for the entire property, thus if comparing the energy usage for device X by turning it on and off and another device Y or Z starts using power, then your information will be incorrect. Thus it is a good idea to take the measurement a few times, just to help rule out energy usage from other devices kicking in (or out).

As we are a rural property with no town water or sewage, the base power consumption for the property will be higher than a comparable city residence. To get any water pressure, our pump must provide the pressure. To treat our waste water, our waste treatment plant aerates the waste water and pumps it out to the treated effluent field. In particular, our waste treatment plant, runs continuously.

That said, there are some big ticket items which I want to install on the property which will really save power. The first being a solar hot water heater. Now that the Federal Government is offering a non-means tested rebate of up to $1600, this is a must do item. As well, I want to install solar panels on the property so that I can start generating my own power; but that will not occur until after July 1 so that I can take advantage of the new solar rebate.