These four images show the making of our first batch of compost in our brand new bins. Starting on the 8th February, about 5 weeks ago, (summer here) we spent 3 hours altogether mulching everything we could find! Lots of stuff from the garden, and also leaves and thin branches from a large eucalyptus tree branch that had fallen near the house.
IMG_9776.JPGIn the end we completely filled one side of the double bin. (below). We used a lot of water to wet the stuff as we mulched it, but I think we should have used a lot more. Five days later I thought it would be ready to toss into the next chamber to continue composting. But it was still quite hot so I left it for another 5 days.


10 days after mulching, I tossed it into the next chamber and I put a lot more water on it. I fixed a hose to spray onto it the whole time. This time I think it has got a lot hotter, and is certainly staying hot longer.

IMG_0060.JPGThe last photo shows a stick that I have stuck into the pile. Its about 40cm (15 inches) long. It acts as my thermometer. When I pull it out and feel it, it tells me that the centre of the heap is still very hot! (Maybe 60°C or 70°C) The height of the heap has dropped about 15cm (6 inches).


Once it has cooled off, I will have to decide if I want to toss it back into the other chamber for more composting. If I had wet it enough the first time, that would definitely not be necessary. The idea is to compost the inside, then toss it so the outside stuff is covered by the already composted inside. But this heap did not have enough moisture to compost properly during those first 10 days.

I don’t know how good the compost will be because of all the eucalyptus that is in it. I’ve heard that that could be a bit too waterproof … but we will see. One thing is for sure, we have certainly enjoyed the aroma of it wofting around our yard.


Post image for Fly trap

Fly trap

by cjj on November 24, 2014

In all the decades we have lived in this house on this farm, this is the first year we did not get a break from flies. We were shooing them off our faces all through winter. The frosts were only very light and did not get cold enough to kill them 🙁 In addition, the farms around here are not particularly dung beetle friendly, so there are more flies than there should be and they really ruin the outdoor life. It is no fun gardening or doing anything outdoors when there are flies. Because they are there to degrade the quality of my life I can’t just ignore them, I believe in fighting back!

When I first came to Barraba, a local farmer, Mr Allan, showed me fly traps that he had made and had scattered all around his sheep property. They were trapping flies by the bucket load! And making a big improvement to the health of his sheep. I remember him telling me that he had a plastics company all ready to start making and marketing these fly traps. However, they did not go ahead with it and gave him no explanation. He said that it was obvious they had been bought out by the chemical manufacturers. The people who make ‘sheep dip’ for example,  would go bust if everyone had fly traps like his!

Here’s the design:


1. The top is a piece of fly screen and a rubber band made from an old inner tube. (Yes, we have stuff lying around … called JICs – just in case). You could also use a sheet of plastic, perspex or glass.

2. The top bucket has a hole in the base – the same size as a plastic bottle with no base. Glue the two together so that it’s water tight.

3. Lid of the bottom bucket has an equally big hole cut in it. I used a sheet metal nibbler to cut this hole. It wasn’t easy, but doable.

4. The lower bucket has small holes, the size of flies, drilled about half way down its sides.

5. At the bottom is the smelly bait. I wish I could make it smell like a BBQ so the whole trap could go near the house! I’m working on that idea, but at the moment I put raw prawn heads in there every week or so. Garlic prawns for dinner is a bonus 🙂

This is my version of Mr Allan’s design:


He used 2 x 10 litre buckets, but this one uses 2 x 20 litre buckets. I think he had a pane of glass on the top.   The bait is in the bottom bucket and the trap is in the top. The flies go through small holes in the side of the bottom bucket.     The lid of the bottom bucket has a large hole in it, corresponding to a hole in the base of the top bucket. A bottomless plastic bottle is glued onto this hole. After doing whatever it is they do with the bait in the lower chamber the flies see the sky above them and fly up through the bottle. Once in the top chamber they can’t get out. When they get too tired they fall into water and drown.  

The trap is not too difficult to make. Besides drilling holes, the only tricky bit is to glue the top section of a plastic drink bottle onto the hole in the base of the top bucket. You will need a plastics glue. I use Selley’s 3 in 1.


Here’s a little movie that shows you flies going into the trap.

And looking inside the top bucket.



Composting … everything! Well almost.

Post image for Composting … everything! Well almost.

by cjj on November 15, 2014

2 x 1 cubic meter bins 2 x 1 cubic meter bins

We’re still making this compost bin, but I’ve started using it already … because I can! And I need to! I’ve always wanted one of these but never really realised how good it would be. When you have a garden, there is always green waste: old vegetable plants, trimmings from hedges, weeds etc. These have to go somewhere. They are best if they’re mulched into little pieces … but of course I don’t manage to have the mulcher out and ready to go each time I have an armful of stuff. Now, with 2 cubic meters of space, that stuff that I seem to be collecting everytime I go into the garden, has a place to go! And the idea is, once the space is full (and I figure I could fill both sides), you pull it all out and mulch it, firing it back into one side only. At the same time make sure you get a mix of green and dry brown plant matter, and it would be good to blend in some horse manure or other organic waste. I’m not an expert, but I reckon a variety of stuff is best.
When you do the mulching, blast the mulched mix of organic matter into one side only, because if you can toss it into the other side after a few days or weeks, depending on heat and moisture in your weather at the time, you will be able to turn it into compost more quickly than if you just let it sit there. If you manage to get a few cubic meters of mulched matter, and if it is a little bit damp, you will find that it will get quite hot. After it starts to cool off is when it’s time to turn it over. Try to put the outside of the heap on the inside of the new heap, and it will heat up again. Then it can go onto the garden, and you have the space to start storing more old plants and prunings.

This type of composting is aerobic composting. By allowing oxygen into the mix it will break down quickly.

I don’t put food scraps into this compost bin, because it is too hard to keep scavenging animals out of it.

Food scraps go into this bin:

Gedeye bins Gedye bins


I have 2 of these Gedye bins. Bury them into the ground a little bit, and vermin will never be a problem. These bins are anaerobic in their action, and take a long time to break down food scraps. Everything can go in them, so they are very convenient. Just what you need in a busy kitchen. However, there are three things that I have learnt are better not put in them: Avacado seeds, biggish meat bones and tiny stick on food labels. Avacado seeds will shoot and don’t break down. They end up being like rocks with small trees attached. Large bones make the end product very messy, and a chore to get out of the garden. And those tiny labels don’t break down either, and you end up with billions of them in just a small amount of compost … they’re really messy!
The reason I have 2 bins is that I’m very lazy! When one is full, I just let it sit there. I do nothing! It takes about a year to fill. (2 people in my household, but a very busy kitchen!) It would fill quicker if you do it properly, ie add some dirt for each bucket full of scraps. (But for me, having the dirt ready to throw in is asking too much!!) After a year the other bin is full. If I have the time, I lift the first bin and move it to another spot. The compost by then, is broken down to a small mound. If you dig it up to use, it can be a bit like vegemite! It’s usable, but usually too much trouble for me! These days I just leave it there, with a layer of more pleasant looking mulch over the top to hide it. I position these bins under trees and assume that the trees benefit from them. So that’s good enough …. and so convenient!
Oh, by the way, if after the 2nd bin is full, you can always just go back and start using the first bin again, because by then there is a lot more space, but you won’t be able to empty it for another year. This way you hardly ever have to deal with them. I love my gedye bins 🙂

Garden trimmings fill the gedye bins immediately, which isn’t much use, and grass trimmings make an impenetrable layer that never seems to break down. So grass trimmings have yet another type of bin:

Spinning bin Spinning bin


Even though we have a lawn, we don’t always have a lot of grass clippings, so this solution might not suit everyone. We live in virtually permanent drought, so only a small section of our lawn is watered and needs cutting, and we prefer to use a mechanical push mower because it doesn’t suck up all the precious top soil between the blades of grass. However, there is one area that gets run off from the garden and it is quite thick lawn. It’s easier to use the motor mower there, and if it rains, then there’s more grass to cut.
So the grass cuttings that we have go into this spinning type aerobic bin. A friend gave us this bin because she couldn’t deal with the compost .. she put all her food scraps in it, and when it was full she had to empty it. She tried to bury the compost but couldn’t stop the rodents from finding it. Oh, too much work!! So I didn’t even try that, but I did find out that if I put the grass clippings into it, and remember to give it a spin most days, they break down very quickly, and voila, more composted mulch!

If I had some grass clippings at the time I was putting stuff through the mulcher, it wouldn’t hurt to add them to the mix. If they were already moldy, I would certainly keep clear of the dust and take particular care not breath it.


Vegetable garden is going fine!

by cjj on November 11, 2014

Vegetable garden with early morning shadow. Vegetable garden. November, mid spring.


The vegetable garden continues to provide us with enough vegetables for our real food diet. As well as vegetable and meat meals and salads, we have a green smoothie every day. I love the fact that I can make it all from living vegetables that have been grown completely without man made chemicals. So far, our only fertiliser has been horse manure and organic mulch. On the advice of the local nursery man (Heemskerks in Tamworth) we’re switching to lucern mulch. He pointed out that it is much more nutritious for the plants than sugar cane mulch. (NTS: find a reference for this!)


Two eggs in the nest of a crested pigeon. Two eggs in the nest of a crested pigeon.


I thought I was going well with the winter chores in the garden because I was ready to trim the abelia hedge weeks before the official start to spring … but oh no! I can’t do it now because there’s a nest in it.

On the same note, we have an untidy stack of boxes out side the back door, and there’s a nest in there too!! So that mess will just have to stay there for a while. After all, the birds live here too!


Garden’s progress

by cjj on June 1, 2014

First day of winter today. We are so lucky to be able to grow vegetables during winter. There are enough green leafy veges here now, to keep us supplied with green smoothies. Actually the weather has been unusually warm and I even still have basil plants. There are also lots of so called weeds that are becoming part of our staple diet.
The downside of warm weather at this time of year is that there are still so many flies. Never been so bad 🙁


A new vege garden

by cjj on April 29, 2014

Even though I’m making daily progress with my Chinese, I haven’t been able to keep up with the challenge. (I’m up to Lesson 338 today) But I think I have a really good excuse. We have been making this new garden to grow green leafy vegetables … for green smoothies. And it’s been a lot of hard work. We’ve had to bring in loads of manure and even loam. These patches of dirt will grow the quickest green leafy veg. And seeing as it’s well into autumn here and things are slowing down, we need  to give  them every chance to grow well.



Fixing the fence

by cjj on April 13, 2012

Me doing a little knitting on a wire fence!

This is the back fence of our yard. Before we can go away, we have to be confident that the fence is going to keep out grazing sheep and cattle. It is an old fence, so there are always places where the wire has broken, and we just do our best to fill the holes with more wire. It usually looks like very untidy knitting 🙂

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by cjj on February 1, 2012


Our latest home improvements!

by cjj on October 18, 2011

Flower pot brackets

Flower pot brackets

They might look a little strange in this photo, but I love the shadows on the white walls. In a little while they will be festooned with flowers and looking just lovely. We made these brackets from some rusty steel we bought at the local hardware shop. I love being able to transform raw materials into something useful, and in this case so smooth, clean and white!

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