Monday, 13 October 2014

What we do to reduce our carbon footprint

We all want to reduce our carbon footprint...right?
Well when you live like we do here in our little humpy, the usual advice doesn't always apply.
There are thousands of 'Reduce your carbon footprint' sites on the internet, mostly giving the same advice. Have a look at just a few;
Australian Museum
Green Wiki

In general the advice seems to be;
Reuse and Recycle what you can (already doing that)
Eat less red meat (I think once a week qualifies as less)
Drink tap water rather than bottled water (check)
Buy less and buy to last (That's us all over)
Use less heating and cooling (no air conditioners here)
Use less electricity (ours is solar so it doesn't apply)
Wash in cold water (There's a hot water option?)
Don't fly as much (We can't reduce this; we don't fly)
Don't drive as much and use public transport (I don't drive and go everywhere on the school bus)
Shop locally, especially fresh foods (Yep)
Grow some vegetables at home (Yep)

What do we do to reduce our carbon footprint?

We use solar power only, no grid electricity. We do use a generator once a week though.

We collect all our own water via a roof and tank system, we use very little fuel to pump the water up to a header tank to supply the house via gravity feed.

We don't buy anything we don't need and all our groceries come from the local Co- Op.

We have a vegetable garden, which could be better but I'm working on it.

I don't drive, I go everywhere on the local school buses or car pool. My partner does have a car for work though.

We sort our rubbish carefully and reuse everything we can and recycle everything we can. Making eco bricks with soft drink bottles and plastic rubbish has been a big step forward in this area. So has our use of old tyres for construction materials.

Of this list there are one or two things we could do better;

My partner has a four wheel drive for work, it uses a LOT of fuel in the course of his working week; we do need to invest in a more fuel efficient vehicle so he can go about the countryside saving carbon (he installs solar electricity systems) AND producing less carbon. I wish there was a work horse type vehicle available in an electric option with a range greater than 200 km.

At the moment we use gas for refrigeration, I would like to change this to an electric fridge (and I dream of a freezer) but that will require double the solar panels we have now, a new set of batteries and maybe a new inverter (the thing that changes 12 Volt power to 240 Volt power).

We run our generator on petrol; it is used once a week for four hours to charge the batteries (just an extra boost) while I do the washing as the washing machine uses too much power to run on solar (although a bigger inverter would fix that problem). To get away from this fuel use we would need to either upgrade our inverter or build/buy a hand operated washing machine. I am swayed towards building a hand operated machine myself, but like all hand operated things it needs more time to do things that way. Maybe when I am finished studying....

What do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
What else can we do to reduce ours? Ideas welcome.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A new yarn swift - home made

What is a yarn swift? know when you are watching a movie in the evening and decide to ball up some yarn for a new project you are just dying to knit? The inevitable problem is to get someone (partner, visitor, small child, family dog) to hold the skein while you ball up the yarn. Nobody wants to do it so you end up trying to ball from a skein hung over two chair legs or over your own feet (which is a bit like yoga) leading to knots and snarls (knots in the yarn, snarls on your face). A yarn swift is a mechanical helper who will hold the yarn steady for you whenever you like while you make cute little balls of knitting materials.

I guess my mostly absent partner got very tired of being met at the door by arm loads of skeins because he made me a swift.

First we did a bit of internet research to find the right design;

Then the building began...

He built pretty much to the instructions in the clip (the difference between us... I can't follow instructions).

The base is a piece of spare ply

Finding the centre to drill the hole

Drilling the hole

The bolt thingy in the base for the arms to swing around.

A spacer so the arms aren't too close to the base.

Sawing the arms to the right length

The arms are notched so they sit level with each other


Drilling the hole right through the middle

A bit of copper pipe in the middle holds it all together spins

The finished unit. Thanks Hon

Friday, 3 October 2014

Local insects and animals - St Andrews Cross spider

A lot of people seem to be frightened by spiders, I don't know why. Maybe it's the way they move or the fact that a small (really small) proportion of them are poisonous? These don't seem like good reasons; after all a small (really small) proportion of people are murderous, and we still keep talking to them...
On my recent trip to my mother's garden I managed to snap a picture of a really pretty spider, so I thought I would try to identify it.

X marks the spot

After a little bit of internet searching I discovered that this is a St Andrews Cross spider (as you probably guessed from the post title). I also discovered some amazing facts about Australian spiders (as is the way with internet searches);

  • Spiders have eyes like ours; not segmented or faceted like an insects.
  • The funnel web and red back are the only really venomous species in Australia, the bites of other spiders can be irritating but not dangerous (unless you are operating heavy machinery, but that's another story).
  • Mating is very dangerous for some male spiders; females may not even wait to mate before eating him.
  • There are some killer knit and crochet patterns out there for spiders and spider webs (I got distracted, OK?)
As for the St Andrews Cross spider specifically;
  • They are a species of orb spider; known for their beautiful web spinning.
  • There are at least three sub species of St Andrews Cross; Argiope keyserlingi and Argiope picta and Argiope mangal (based on our geographical location, the one above is a Argiope keyserlingi).
  • They make that beautiful cross that they sit on from a special UV reflective web which they use to attract insects to their web.
  •  The spider gets it's name from the shape of the cross it makes in it's web. In short; St Andrew was a Christian priest in Turkey or Greece who convinced a Roman commander's wife to give up sex, the commander had him crucified for it (Freud would be right onto that one) but he requested that he be tied to a saltire (an X rather than a +) as he was not worthy of being crucified in the same way as his Christ.
They are certainly beautiful little spiders. They are not venomous, they catch insects for a living and they build art in the garden, what's not to like?