21 July 2011

How low can you go?

I really enjoy living where we live. The climate is wonderful, we can grow food all year and unless we have a bad year, it's neither too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter. We live on a small piece of land at the edge of a pine forest that is bordered by a permanent creek, lined with rain forest. In the old days, trees were cut in the mountains behind us and brought to a timber mill on the other side of our one lane street. Logs were launched from our backyard into the creek and floated downstream to the Pacific Ocean. There, sailing ships waited for the logs which were loaded and shipped to places far, far away. Stripping tall timbers from our forests no longer happens here but not much else has changed at this end of the lane since those days. There are ten houses here now, but the mango and nut trees they planted back then are still here, and when you're quietly working in the garden you can imagine those days when logs would have rumbled by, probably right through where our house now stands. 

Our front garden (above) and our vegetable garden (below).
The house from the back. You can see the solar panels, the solar water heater (right) a couple of skylights and the whirly birds. Of course, Hanno's ladder is there; he's often on the roof pottering around, checking or fixing things.

Life is good here and we hope that even after we've gone, this land will look the same as it does now and support the efforts of a hard working family - hopefully our descendants. The key to this is to protect the land, to keep it vegetated, to remain organic gardeners, to use as few chemicals as possible, to continue to encourage birds and wildlife and to remain radical conservers of the land we live on. We will continue to harvest water from the roof, generate electricity with our solar panels and as much as we can, live a low tech life.

Our outdoor sink and one of the water tanks. We wash vegetables and fruit here, and our hands, so we don't bring too much dirt into the house.

Part of our low tech approach is to gently manage our climate for our own benefit. We use what our natural environment gives us. We dry our clothes in the sun instead of using a dryer;  we use the soil to produce food; we use harvested water on our crops, instead of using town water; we use cross ventilation as much as we can to cool our home. When we first came here to live we installed whirly birds to extract hot air from the roof space; they're powered by even the slightest breeze. Hanno has just finished painting the entire roof with solar-reflective paint which makes a big difference to the temperature of the metal roof and therefore, the temperature inside in the hot months. We also have three skylights on the roof that bring more light to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry without needing to flick a switch.

Water is harvested from the roof and stored in three water tanks. This small one (above) is used to water pot plants on our front verandah. This tank is also used as a platform for food that defrosts in the sun. Even now in mid-winter, a shoulder of pork takes about three hours to completely defrost (below).

I sweep instead of vacuum, we removed our dishwasher a couple of years ago and wash up by hand. I would love to say that we harvest wood from our old trees and use it for heating but Hanno has an aversion to wood fires so we go without heating except on very cold mornings when we heat the kitchen for a couple of hours with a reverse cycle air-conditioner. I would also love to say we had an outdoor wood-fired bread oven that we use to bake bread, cakes and biscuits, but I can't. Maybe that is something I can look forward to in the future.

Beans drying in the warm air.

I wish we could use more low tech ways of doing house and yard work, or heating/cooling our home. I wonder what you're doing. I wonder if there are some things we've just not thought of but could easily do if we had a clue. So please, tell me how you manage heating and cooling, water, electricity, defrosting, cooking, drying and washing in a modern home environment. This blog has become a place for sharing ideas, often radical or forgotten ones, so I'd love to hear what you're doing in your home.



  1. Well dear Rhonda, I don't think I can teach you anything about heating or (not) using the electricity. I am just learning from your great ideas and all the tips your readers are sharing here on your place on the World Wide Web.

    But euh.. is there by any change a house for sale in your neighbourhood? It seems to me it is great living there! ;o)

    Love from Holland!

  2. I love looking around your garden. I collect water and I recycle water. I have a simple large plastic bin by the washing machine and pump the rinse water in and then syphon it down onto the garden, it keeps the borders watered. It rains here for three quarters of the year and it's around 15 degrees most of the year so i have to dry a lot indoors. I use a wood burner as it dries out the house and dries the clothes. we also have huge south facing windows, that are the size of the room, so they get as much light as we can get and as much warmth, we are double layer brick built, with blown insulation inbetween and we have one metre deep insulation in the roof, so we keep warm, we have double glazing, thermal curtains and need very little heating as the sun heat the rooms and the insulation keeps it in. we don't have much sun for solar but I could really use a wind turbine here as the gusts come straight in off the sea

  3. I live in the southwest in America and those that came before us had to trek in with everything and so nothing went to waste and was stored until a use could be found for it.

    I have taken that concept to heart and look as much as possible to think beyond what is possible and often accomplish the impossible(well in today's world).

    I have a completely raised garden. Not a few inches but 2.5-3 feet high and in old tires that are not beyond use, just beyond road use. After much research I concluded that they would be ok to grow veggies etc in. In the desert our soil is not the best so the tires contain prized soil that is from our compost of food and animal waste. We added soil from the mountains east of us. I have the tires so high as my husband can not bend much do to an accident while he was a police officer.

    We reserve the water similar to you in tanks during the rainy season...which is now. Our average rain fall is around 7 inches a year.

    My journey began a few years ago and instead of feeling unfulfilled and tired I am rejuvenated by each innovation that changes my views on life.

    I am astounded at the ability for a small few acres and how they can provide meat, foods, and a livelihood far more rewarding than when we were climbing the ladder to finance giants.

    Funny we are debt free here, and live an organic life...things I tried to do while climbing the financial ladder and was never able to accomplish.

    Thanks for sharing your tips as throughout many on the internet worldwide...I have had the courage and support to continue against the common to become uncommon.


  4. When it comes to energy we just try and keep it simple by having only the essentials and treating them well. I don't have a lot of kitchen gadgets I do most things manually where possible. I don't have a microwave or food processer or tumble dryer. We have a log burner (in the UK). Our washing machine and freezer are A rated energy class which means they are the most energy efficient. We don't have a TV. In Autumn we do things like foraging for blackberries. We get tons of them from up our lane, it's the most frugal way to grow- letting mother nature do all the work for us! :) we just have to pick them and freeze them. My parents know we have a log burning stove and always seem to be having some branches down or know someone who is having some down who save them for us. They cut them up small and season them for us in the garage- if you have a log burning stove putting the word around to people that your happy to cut up and take and trees or branches away that people have had cut down can be popular and benefit both parties :)

  5. I smiled when I saw your meat defrosting on the tank. I used to do that as well however our two cats soon twigged to that and I would often come out and find them chewing away on our Sunday roast! Nowdays I hang anything to be defrosted in a plastic shopping bag looped over one of the arms of the clothesline. Beats the microwave anyday! ;)Sharyne

  6. A lot of your low-tech still feels to high to me-or maybe that should be too low. But, I am making small changes slowly. I try not to be too regimented about it. For example, about a year ago I acquired a stack of small half-flannel sized towels that I slowly started using to wash dishes. After I'd successfully replaced synthetic sponges, I slowly started using them in place of paper towels. A few months ago I ran out of paper towels and didn't miss them enough to buy more-especially since money is tight! I do miss them about once or twice a month but I can do without!
    About two years ago I slowly started switching to natural cleaning products. I still have one that I'm clinging too, but I think when I finish this bottle I might be ready to switch entirely to vinegar/b. soda and lemon juice.
    I'm still working on laundry drying. I'm technically not allowed to dry clothing in my flat and it does have problems with damp, but since it is summer here now I have dried inside with the windows open. It isn't a long-term solution, in the winter it will cause mildew and mould on my walls, but each time I don't use the dryer is one more drop in the bucket of the right direction.
    My partner and I have also been doing a great job of making extra dinner for our lunches the next day-its healthier and I think my partner really likes the curious glances from our colleagues when he cooks something that smells good!
    My goal for next winter is to try to rely on heating less.
    Sorry this is anon-I'm trying to keep my identity off the internet.


  7. I do similar things to you Rhonda, and a similar climate, sadly no solar hot water or power, as my house is nearly 90 yrs old, and the roof structure won't hold the weight...it would cost much more than I have to shore it up. But I'm frugal with my power usage, so it balances I think. The thing I love most is when I had the kitchen at the back of my house renovated, I put in all louvre windows,so I have light and sun coming in...and gorgeous views of Mt Warning...but I spent a bit extra and had triple glazed glass installed. I have no curtains or blinds on these windows, but despite some chilly days, haven't needed to turn on heating at all. I also had extra insulation put in the new walls and roof.....it really makes a difference.

    I was interested to read you had a timbermill in your street...there used to be one across the lane from my house, the Tweed R is just the other side of it, so handy for floating logs too. My house was the 2nd built here, after the sawmill owner's house next door....Nanette

  8. We are much the same as you Rhonda, only on a slightly larger scale (14 acres)And don't think I have much more to add. We do have woodfired heating being that much further south than you our winters are quite cold.We have dams and irrigation ponds which catch rainwater, 2.4klw solar panels for electricity,solar hotwater,, and luckily the house faced north when we moved here. We grow most of our food plus enough for another 20 families.We are always lokking for new things ( which uusually means old things ) to improve on what we are doing but at the moment It is very similar to you.

  9. Your outdoor sink inspired me to set one up for myself yesterday. :)

  10. I laughed at that lump of pork defrosting on your tank! My mum always defrosts things sitting on her kitchen sink but nowadays the 'safe' way to do it is to leave the item in the fridge overnight. I have found it takes forever to thaw that way. Obviously doing it your way hasn't done you any harm.
    I do hope a wayward cat/animal doesn't steal that roast!


  11. Hi Rhonda, long time reader here and first time commenter!

    I very much agree and prescribe to the lifestyle you and Hanno have carved for yourselves. My husband and I do many of the same things with the same desires in mind. However, I recently came across the book "The One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka.

    He talks about what you and I do, but in a way that is very unique and refreshing. He pioneers with even less work than We do. I encourage you to check it out and share your thoughts on his ideas.

    How does this apply to your question of "how low can you go?" In addition to the resources that I use outside of me, i also use the resources inside of me - my time, my energy, my focus, my creativity. I love garden, my kitchen activities, my animals, my pioneering lifestyle...and I also love to paint. And play music.

    This book has helped me let nature take its course in my land and me take my course as an artist.

    I'm sure this makes no sense, but please read what he has to say anyway. You will find it thoughtful and I look forward to hearing your response.

    Cheers to you,

  12. Don't forget the basics of passive solar heat for the winter! Opening up the right windows to let light in or keep it out is a great way for keeping a house warm or cool without turning things on!

  13. Your garden looks beautiful and BOUNTIFUL. I love the idea of an ourdoor sink and all the water tanks - though they might freeze in the winter here in Arkansas. It looks like you have two covered patios and one connects to the carport, giving you a lot of shaded area around the house. In the old days, houses were built to catch the breezes and had wide wrap-around porches to shade and cool the air as it came in. Most newer houses don't make much sense compared to that. You have such a nice set-up and it gives lots of ideas for the house I dream of building some day.

    Recently, I set a crockpot full of beans to cook just outside the back door on a stool. It worked great and kept the heat outside. With a little larger table surface, I could put the roaster out there too. I haven't tried it, but it says you can bake in it. That would be pretty cool, since I hate turning the oven on in the summer. If not for the pine trees, I'd try a homemade solar oven. Has anyone had success with that?

    I often defrost frozen food in the fridge, thinking that the coldness it gives off prevents the fridge from having to run as much.

    I leave the attic stairs in the garage open in the summer, with the garage door up about 5 inches. It helps hot attic air to flow out the ridge vent more quickly. An alternative would be to install more of the little individual uptake vents in the bottom of the soffit. My way is free.

    Thanks for all the great ideas. You've got me wanting to try the car as a dehydrater. Who thinks of this stuff? Awesome.


  14. Great stuff Rhonda, low tech ways of doing things are well worth sharing and exploring. I do the second rise on my bread on my lounge in winter. The living room has a north-east facing glass wall so it's toasty warm in there on a sunny winter's day.

  15. Hi Rhonda,
    I really enjoyed reading this post, because I love anything from Australia ;) :) Also I learned some things, too :) :) I was really happy that you are allowed to collect rainwater at your place. NOw I don't do that here, but I know that some places don't allow it, like in California. However, I don't know if that's a statewide law or if it's city by city :) :) I"m not even sure what the laws are in Oregon...However, I think that's a smart idea, especially for watering the gardens and plants :) :)

    Hm.., well, I guess my apartment counts as a modern household ;) :) My father and I keep all light off during the sumemr as much as possible. It saves energy, plus...anytime you are using an appliance or a light fixture...or even a computer...those items generate heat , too. So if we are not actually using them, they are turned OFF. We rely on natural sunlight as much as possible. Our apartment is in a good location, so that we always receive a goodly amount of sunlight. Also, certain items, like the tv, the air conditioner, lamps etc...that have plug -ins...we completely unplug them from the wall at nighttime. It saves even more energy, because even if an item is turned off it still uses energy "phantom" energy...so completely unplugging form the wall saves energy and money...at nighttime. Think about it, that's circa 8 hours when you are sleeping...you don't use those items when you sleep. Why pay for them? So that's what my father and I do. We also air dry our clothes. I'm even looking to buy a hand plunger washer, to handwash clothes ;) :) It all cuts down on expenses and energy :) :)

    Great post today :) :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  16. I dry my washing hanging from the top of the door frames overnight. The heat from the wood fire rises and dries everything much more quickly than putting it on a drying rack.
    If I don't want to light the fire I sit with a hot water bottle on my knee under a blanket to keep warm - it really works!
    At night it can get down to minus 11, so wearing a hat to bed is essential! In the old days it was just common sense wisdom to keep your head covered in the cold weather and I do it even if it's only going to be 2 degrees overnight. I haven't had a bad cold since starting to do this.
    I also find it's possible to sweep the rugs with a stiff broom rather than vacuum every day - quieter, and better for me and the environment.
    Have a lovely day everyone, Madeleine

  17. I have just finished making a draught stopper (door snake) I have 8 more to make. We rent this very old house in Toowoomba and it has been the coldest winter for years. The snakes really make a difference. Thankyou for your ideas Rhonda. We hopefully soon are looking for either land or a house to begin our retirement and frugal but happy life for our future. Backtobasics. Lorraine

  18. Hi Rhonda, I was just wondering if there is a post or could you do one on your veggies. In relation to how you grow stuff for 2 people and it all doesn't mature at once. Your gardens always look full and there's no way you could eat all that produce the week it is ready....just wondering if you have any tips.

  19. Hi there
    I note you use the got car for dehydration Here's two more things:
    1 Hot car great for raising bread dough
    2 Great for drying small amounts of washing quick. We learnt that trick when we were driving around Australia. Our rinsed smalls were popped up on the shelf behind the back seat. They were well dry by the end of the day.
    Bonus - probably gave some truck drivers something to think about!

  20. Hi Rhonda, I love this post but I'm not sure about the title! We have tank water, solar hot water, solar power, composting toilet, clothes line for drying, sinks for dishwashing, vegie garden, slow combustion stove for cooking and heating and woodlot to supply it, sourdough rising on the kitchen bench,skylights and insulation in the roof, verandahs for cool spaces, etc etc. But we also have computer and internet, music and movies, food processor and 12V fridge, chainsaw and mower. I think it's about how "right scale" you can go - elegant, efficient, appropriate, right. It's about rejecting the deal that trades things like your lovely front yard, or freedom or hope, for things that really don't pay their way in value.

  21. I am no way close to your "low tech" lifestyle but still do a lot things to conserve in my house. Summer we have a garden, dry all clothes outside, only run the air on extreme hot days and keep that at 74-78 degrees. The air is only run in the afternoon and turned off at night with all windows open. I make all our soap, laundry detergent, and cleaners.
    Love your blog

  22. Oh I loathe our wood fire Rhonda. You native Aussies all seem to love them though! It is so labour intensive, and dirty, but it's our main form of heating, and the Toowoomba climate is a lot colder than yours, as you know, so until I come up with a better option, we're stuck with this. We do get our timber free from a friend with a 20+ acre uncleared, undeveloped block however, which makes this a sustainable practice, surprisingly since we're in suburbia.

    I once saw on a travel show that caravaners (the 'grey nomads') are partial to using those nappy buckets with tight fitting lids to clean their clothes as they drive around the country. A few clothes, a little laundry liquid, fill with water, add the lid and away you go. The agitation is enough to clean the lightly soiled items. What a great idea! I hear that some people have washing machines in their caravans now, which seems utterly ridiculous to me (they're jam-packed without luxury appliances!) but I love the bucket idea. I wonder if I could gently wash my woolens or underwear this way while doing the school run???!

  23. Hi Rhonda-what a fantastic post, and I love that you are open to suggestions too:)
    Washing, I have a line under the eaves, even in winter I can get things dry , sometimes overnight,no problem in summer. I dont own a clothes dryer. I wash at night only, as we have solar.
    Defrosting of food,I pull out the next night's meat while I am cooking today. I leave it in the fridge to deforst, then usually sit it on the sink for an hour or so when I get home.( My hounds would find a way to get to anything outside,lol)
    I green clean where I can, buckets evrywhere to catch water, and rainwater tanks. My two kids are young enough they will shower together too, so it's a added bonus!I find if the house is closed up late afternoon, and draught snakes in place, we don't need the heater. This year it has been turned on once, when all of us were really ill...
    Thanks for your inspiration, I absolutely adore my morning read:)

  24. When the land around us is able to deliver such beautiful and simple pleasures, how can we not be driven to look after it :)

    I live in South East Queensland too and love the area. Sadly not everyone seems to care as much, coal seam gas mining has the potential to ruin our water and is set to be rolled out across the water catchment are for the region. If you live in the area and are not aware of it, can I recommend you do some research and maybe write a letter to you MP or the Premier if what you find out justifies it.

    Love your work Rhonda :)

  25. Love what you are doing - you are such an inspiration! As to what we do:

    Heating - we installed a high efficiency furnace and added more cold air return vents so that the air in our home is circulated more efficiently/thoroughly therefore requiring less heating. Insulated the ducting. This really works! Also, in winter, we keep the drapes fully open at the front of the house to catch all the passive solar heat we can. We keep the drapes closed at the back of the house to insulate the windows better and keep the heat in. We did also install new argon filled windows and we vamped up the insulation/sealant around them. Opening the oven door after baking/cooking to let the heat out into the home.

    Cooling: Using a spray bottle on mist cools one off rapidly! We try to NOT use our A/C also utilizing cross ventilation and improved attic venting.

    Water: not flushing each time and also installing low flow toilets. Saving cooled water from cooking and washing up for watering pots on deck. Short showers with low flow heads. Not washing clothing until it's truly dirty. Harvesting rain water. Investing in water conserving dishwasher. Emptying the dog's water into the plant pots before freshening.

    Electricity: sensor switches for the basement playroom in case the kids forget to turn off lights. We put in larger windows to reduce the amount of light we need from electricity. Powerbars to fully power off electronics. Unplug second basement freezer when not in use. Use outside (frigid temps) for freezer in winter. Not using dryer and line drying. I often pull the shirts into shape and yank on the seams and panels to stretch out and really flatten the garment so it needs no ironing when dry. Great sneaky trick!

    Hot water: Insulate the copper pipes from the tank to the sinks to keep the heat in. This is HUGE! turn down temp on tank. Wash laundry in cold. Fast showers.

    Natural gas (our heat is from natural gas furnace). Upping our attic insulation has really reduced the need for heat (and cooling). A govt grant paid for it!

    Fuel (petrol): combing errands and appts. to NOT ever go anywhere for just one or two things. Preplanning makes a big difference to the success of this.

    Running out of time but will add more if I think of it!


  26. As I was reading about your solar uses I was reminded of my friend who uses a solar oven to cook during the summer. I know it was not very expensive to buy and she states it works really well.


  27. Wow! I'm totally seething with jealousy over your temperate climate. When people talk about not using heat, my first thought is "how do you keep the pipes from freezing?" Then it hits me that some people don't have 20 below zero to contend with.

    And sane water laws... here in Denver it's illegal to store rain water or to re-use gray water. UG! Vegetable gardens and drying clothes outside are also prohibited by many home owner's associations (thankfully we don't have one).

    And I'm totally puzzling about people leaving frozen meat outside to defrost. Don't you worry about attracting predators? Seems like an open invitation for foxes, raccoons, coyotes, mountain lions and bears. Or don't you have predators in Australia?

    Anyhow, the only thing that I can think of that nobody has mentioned is a whole house attic fan. I'm not sure how useful they would be in some climates, but here we have very hot summer days (usually above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) but relatively cool nights. So once the sun goes down we open the windows and turn on the attic fan. It does a remarkably good job of cooling the house and also pushes out any lingering hot air from the attic.

  28. Dear Rhonda, I to try embrace the simplier ways in my home. My DH who passed away in 2009 was an amazing creative man and he built our home. Even though its large we are able to harvest wood from our 5 acres and have a large wood heater that is capable of heating 35sqs so I stay nice and warm in winter, the house is passive solar and on sunny days the heaters not on at all. I have my kitchen facing north so it is sunny and bright in winter but shaded from the bright sun in summer. I love it. As the kitchen is quiet warm all year round, I tend to defrost on the bench in the kitchen all year round. I am blessed with a generous family room so that in winter I can hang all the washing inside without it getting in the way.We have tank water and solar power,gas cooking and gas hot water, it is very efficient as I only use one gas bottle every 3 or 4 months.I try to grow things that we eat a lot of but in summer the water usually gets a bit low around harvest time and I loose a lot of my hard work,water is expensive to buy. Winter time is devoted to wood gathering and cooking nutritious meals for the young married couple who live with me.I recycle everything much to the horror of others, I think they see me as a sort of Steptoe. But I do what I can, sometimes I wonder why I bother with it all. Until I go to the shops and see how much things cost and acknowledge to myself how much I am actually saving my hip pocket and the environments.

  29. Hi Rhonda,
    We do as much as you do also plus I preserve and can a lot.
    When we were first married 40 years ago I had a pot belly stove which I used to boil the kettle and used for soup or one pot meals, then we inherited a much loved Aga stove but it was oil run, so
    2 years ago we passed it on and bought a Necte bakers oven which I love. Maybe Hanno would let you get one?
    Even in Sub Tropical NSW I usually have it on Mothers day to Fathers day and all the ash goes on my fruit trees, though lately John is trying to make lye with it.

    There is nothing cosier than sitting by this oven and knitting, it is in my family room, off the kitchen. I also love your blog.

    Chris from Coffs Harbour.

  30. Ecocatlady, we have foxes and dingoes here but no bears, coyotes or mountain lions. Yikes! Nothing will take any meat we leave outside except maybe a wandering person who needed some raw meat. It's pretty unlikely.

  31. I do wonder how you stop your water tanks from becoming mosquito and other bugs paradise?

    I now have a small water tank, but the mosquito's are just loving it and making it their home.... (which is what we don't want!) HOw do you deal with that?

  32. Hi Rhonda,
    Just a tip I picked up from the Tightwad Gazette many years ago re: defrosting food. If you have the time, defrosting in the refrigerator saves money by cooling the fridge's interior w/o requiring additional electricity. That is to say, the frozen meat serves as coolant.
    In some parts of the world you could extend this idea by allowing containers of water to freeze outdoors in the winter, and then defrost in the refrigerator.

  33. Beautiful yard!! I know you both work hard to get it to that point!! And also admire your efforts to live as simply and use as little resources as possible.

  34. Rhonda,

    How does your food not go bad by defrosting it in the sun?

    Thank you.

  35. Hi Rhonda, I can't add anything new to your list...but do appreciate a few of your suggestions! Your garden reminds me so much of my grandparents (before they went into a nursing home). I just didn't realise at the time of growing up how self sufficient and climate friendly they were. They would never have thought anything special of their lifestyle I suppose. It was just their way of life and one I admire greatly.

  36. I loved this post. I live in a small cottage was built in 1944. I have a fruitless mulberry tree and a large poplar tree that shade the house and keep the porch cool. I am letting a volunteer poplar tree grow in front of the house to provide more shade, oxygen, and privacy. The birds also planted a locust tree that has really helped. The windows in this home are very large and old fashioned. (schoolhouse style.) I use curtains that let the light in during the summer. I would like to get wool curtains for the winter, or make some. With all of the natural light, I don't need to turn on lights often, except at night. I cool down the house in the evening by opening the windows and turning on the ceiling fans. It really works! Otherwise this place would heat up like a tin can! I'm trying my first load of laundry with cold water as we speak. I love line drying and no longer use the dryer. I added a second clothesline. I have cut my mileage to aruond 1,000 miles a year! I bicycle to all of my errands and just drive to work at night, which is only a mile and a half away. I've found that I don't even need to turn on the hot water heater in the summer! It's not a solar heater, but the water is hot from the outside sun and heat! Who knew? I bbq meat in the hot weather, and would love to try a solar oven and purchase solar panels.

  37. Babe, if food is to go bad it has to be contaminated with bacteria. Food in Australia is good quality, there is little contamination in the food chain so you can be pretty sure that when you bring it home and freeze it straight away that the bacteria content is fairly low. In the three hours it takes to defrost something like a pork shoulder, there is not enough time for bacteria to multiply enough to cause any problems.

  38. Hi Rhonda

    We moved into our house 18 months ago. We live in Sydney and it is a medium sized block with a old house (around 100 years old).

    In regard to heating/cooling - last winter (our first) we used the reverse cycle air conditioner and our electricity bill was over $1000 for the 1/4. So this year we are using a old open fire. We absolutely love it. My brother has managed to get us wood (he is a gardener and comes across many old trees/branches/fence pailings that people want removed. I love the fire and thinking of putting in a combustion one to make it more efficient and then i could even keep the soups/stews cooking on it like I use to do in Canberra.

    We have planted around 21 fruit trees on our land and already enjoying the benefits. I have redone the front garden and put in a number of vgetable beds (but I always want more) and just need to find the right sunny spot (which seems to be on the area that the kids kick around the ball so I may need to wait a few more years).

    We have 3 chickens and just built them a bigger coop so they can run around the backyard aswell.

    The clothes line is at the side of the house - the mopst sunny all year round and slighly protected from light rain. (However it has rained all week in Sydney I have been rechecking the kids clothes to make sure they are "really dirty" before they go in the wash). We do have a dryer but only use it ocassionaly.

    We don't have a microwave or dishwasher at the moment. I actually really enjoy washing by hand as it warms my fingers after feeding the chickens and checking on the garden in the morning. The last one broke down a few months ago and I only want to replace it when we can afford an energy efficient one.

    My youngest is going to school next year and I am currently studying part-time. I absolutely love being at home and making the house our own. I make cheese, bake all our treats, make our meals, clean and enjoy the rituals and making eveything nice.

    I am hoping to work a bit more as the kids are at school so I am relishing these days.

  39. Dear Rhonda,
    I just saw the picture of the meat thawing in the sun, and it reminded me of when I was a little girl, and in the winter months, many, many years ago when my little Nan was still alive she use to park the car outside in the sun, and then put the bread dough in there to rise in a large container. She also use to sit in there and knit and crochet, and mend socks. A great way to keep warm, and very cost effective.

  40. Congratulations on the blog.
    You're one of those people who have reserved a piece of heaven to live.

  41. Hello Rhonda. This post got me motivated to write a somewhat lengthy comment (see above). In it, I pondered the idea of having a tabletop outside my back door big enough to hold the roaster. Just writing it down apparently got me motivated some more because I went out to the garage and cleaned up an old microwave cart that I was going to get rid of and put it just outside the back door. The roaster fits great on it. So, then I got motivated some more and found some really old yeast in the cupboard (nov '07). I had breadmaking as my 4-H project about 43 years ago, and hadn't done much since. But this afternoon, I threw some dough together and cooked it on a piece of parchment on the rack in the roaster. You could tell I got in too big a hurry (I was all excited) and didn't develop the gluten properly. The texture was not perfect, but it tasted great. It's over a 100 today, and I'm so excited to be able to bake in the summer without the indoor oven. The Du dog and I ate about 4 slices, so this could be hard on the hips.

    Thank you. Thank you. You are such a motivator. And you stir up fun.


  42. Hi Rhonda,
    great blog, really cuts to the core of the subject and gets the old grey matter working.
    Heather from Oregon talked about not being able to have rain water tanks in yards in some states in the US. Well in Melbourne, Victoria in Aust, it has only been a recent thing that we can have them, it takes a mamouth drought to make the politicians bend to allow it.
    Becca says her water tank is full of mozzies. Well apart from a fly wire covering, my dear old Dad used to pour a thin layer of kerosene on the top. It would suffocate and kill the wrigglers and then evaporate away.
    As for me, well I try to do all I can. We have gas ducted heating in this house, not the best economically or environmentally but I put my clothes rack over a vent and it dries the clothes very well indeed. Our new house we go to in 1 week only has a wood fire for heating. I will investigate a clothes rack that hangs from the ceiling near the fire and can be lowered and raised with a rope. Hot air rises!
    thanks Rhonda wonderful stuff.

  43. I would absolutely love it if you talked about how you dehydrate! Your comment in this post has definitely left me intrigued!

  44. Hi Rhonda,

    Defrosting food in your fridge actually saves quite a lot of electricity because the fridge can skip a couple of cooling cycles. It also keep the bacteria from mutiplying the way they would in the sun (of course when you thoroughly cook any meat, the amount of bacteria doesn't really matter).
    It just takes a bit of planning. I usually take my cuts out of the freezer the evening before I want to cook them, so they have almost 24hrs to defrost which is plenty, even for the bigger cuts.

    Laura (from the Netherlands)

  45. Regarding defrosting - I try to defrost in fridge overnight. I've taken food safety courses and leaving food for more than a short while in the sun (inside or our) can cause foodborne illness. It won't always, but it can. if I forget to take something overnight, this is what i do. In the morning, I unwrap the meat and remove it from the styrofoam tray which is meant to keep the meat cold. i re-wrap it loosely in wax paper & put in the fridge on a metal tray. About 4 or 5 o'clock I take the meat out of the fridge - if its pork chops or chicken pieces, I pry them apart and run under cold water. I then leave the meat on the metal tray on my counter for an hour max. If they are still somewhat frozen they go into a cold water bath, changed 2 or 3 times. This works with all but the largest pieces. Not everyone has to be really careful, but people with compromised immune systems or the elderly should be.

  46. Standing water attracts mosquitos, even in the Netherlands. But, if you are good at sewing, why not clipp dammaged pantyhose to sew it together and make, with some sewingelastics, a huge cover for the watertanks? It goes faster with a sewing machine and you know what, there are handpowered machines still to be had at the charities or otherwise, even an electric sewingmachine can do without electricity, it just takes some time to pull the thingywheel on the right side all the time handdriven (like lowering the needle, but then repeating endlessly) although I think the small amount of electricity used to sew a pantyhose cover for the tanks would be worthwhile, since you give the mosquitos no chance to breed. Treadlemachines are good too, although you would miss the zigzagmovement.WE7


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