Eco Eggs Chook Cam

I love this.

These chooks look so happy, this is such a good use of technology.

Check out the chook cam!

New to the Team

So glad to join the “sustain myself” team.

There is room to move people! Change is afoot. Viable options exist for those of us wanting to leave a smaller footprint on this earth.

Here at “Sustain Myself” my hope is that you will find some useful information, some inspiration, and the knowledge that there is some room to move in the way that we live…

Mark.

Sustainable House Day 2010

Sustainable House Day 2010 is on this weekend with houses all over the country opening their doors (and gates) to people interested in sustainable living.

Basically, check out the list of open houses, grab the kids and go for a mosey. We have 1 open house literally a stones throw from our place and another several within only a few kays.

Its always inspiring to see what others have done, especially when its been done in a retrofit manner. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully one day I can open my house when its more sustainable than it is now.

You can’t keep a good girl down

I have a genuine reason for not posting in a while this time. I had a motorbike accident in the beginning of June which has left me with a pretty badly damaged arm. Anyhoo, onto the important stuff…

As you may or may not have read, our chook Roxanna was pretty badly attacked by a dog back in May. Since that happened, neither of our chooks have laid. We started wondering if they would ever lay again considering the apparent trauma that both of them suffered. Well, last week, not only did Roxanne start to escape the run again but we found about a dozen eggs behind a tree in their enclosure. Not sure if both of them are laying or just one but it’s great to see. We were actually buying eggs for a while there!!

So, I think I can say now that Roxanne has made a full recovery.

I am also going to add in this post that my brother in law, Mark is a keen permaculturist from Asquith in Sydney and has been threatening making a few posts on here and hasn’t yet so I hope he does soon as he has a lot to contribute.

Read this post here, I love it.

We are going to ramp up our veggie garden over the coming weeks so I’ll make sure to keep this updated with our progress.

My poor chookers

As usual, its been a while since I have posted, but the weekend’s events have motivated me to get this post out there…

About 5 weeks ago, we found our lovely girl, Rosanna, dead in the back yard. The victim of what would appear to be a fairly vicious attack. We knew immediately that Baci was not the perpetrator, she has never shown any aggression to the chooks and the damage to Rosanna was just far too extensive to have been from Baci. For the record, Baci chased the chooks around in a playing way, if Baci had killed Rosanna, it would have been an accident (broken neck maybe) from her being too heavy handed (mouthed?) but there would be no missing body parts (like there were).

About 3 – 4 weeks ago, we bought another chook and named her Roxanne (please don’t put on the red light) and after some initial fisty cuffs with Pamela, they soon settled into a regular routine and relaxed friendship.

Yesterday morning, Bec elbowed me in bed at around 7:45am, she was up feeding our new 3 week old daughter Phoebe (one of the reasons for no new posts) and said that there was a bad noise coming from the chooks and could I go and check them. I found my next door neighbours two Jack Russel terriers attacking Roxanne. They had her by the neck and there were feathers everywhere. One of the dogs ran back through the fence (still unsure where – I thought the fence was fine) and the other I picked up (somewhat roughly, I must add) and put (somewhat roughly, I must add) back over the fence. I went back to tend to Roxanne, who I thought was already dead. She was on her side and I noticed her foot move. When I went to her, she shuffled over to be on her feet and pushed herself as far into the corner as she could to get away from me. This was heart breaking, she was screaming and doing everything she could to get away even though she could barely stand.

I picked her up and put her in the hay in her coup and closed the lid. I knew she was not going to make it. There were puncture marks on her neck and there were so many feathers missing. I just wanted her to be comfy. I came back to check her a few hours later and she had seemed to pick up a little bit, she was very wobbly on her feet, she kept falling against the side of the coup and she was so scared of me. I put some food and water in there as I was still unsure of how she’d be. Last night I went back down to check her and she’s still standing up (while Pamela lay, asleep.) Her legs are either damaged or just weak, she can obviously not lie down. I made sure she was comfy and went to bed. I was sure she wouldn’t last the night.

This morning, I went down before bed. She’s still there, standing up. She seems less frightened of me, but still quite unsure. I gave her a pat and made sure she had food and went to work. Bec phoned me a few hours ago to say that she took some mandarin down for her (peeled and sliced, I might add) and that she ate some!! She also said that she ventured out of the coup a little bit, even though she was super wobbly, there were no falls.

So, she might just make it. I am super happy. I hate anything bad happening to any animals, but I especially hate vicious attacks. Its one thing to be killed instantly, its another all together to be mauled and die slowly (my greatest fear with Rosanna was that the death was slow.) Roxanne never appeared to be in pain, only in distress. If she was in pain, I think I would have had to look into euthanising her. But, at this stage, she seems like she will recover.

I spoke to me neighbour last night. She was mortified. She started crying and I felt bad about it. Strange how that happens. Anyway, I’ll be contacting the owner (she’s a renter) and will get the fence fixed. The worst part about this is that the chooks are usually in an entirely unaccessible, super sturdy ‘run’ in our backyard, but Roxanne had taken to roosting on the side of the run and would sometimes hop down on the wrong side of the fence. If she’d gone on the right side, the dogs would have had no chance in getting to either of the chooks.

Anyway, a sad story to bring me out of bloggers recluse. It may still end well though.

EDIT 01/06/2010:
Came out to check my girls this morning and saw both of them walking around and pecking the ground!! So fantastic, she’s still very wobbly on her feet and I’m worried she’ll get cold cause she’s missing a lot of feathers, but she looks good and she’s eating!

The single greatest purchase a home owner can make

A few weeks ago, we had our Cent-A-Meter delivered.

centameter.jpg

Wow.

The Cent-A-Meter is a small device for monitoring your real-time household power. You can see current usage, current cost, current emissions and then view the peaks or totals for the day, month or quarter. In other words, if you were interested in reducing the power consumption of your house, there is no better way of achieving this.

So, here are some things I have found out since owning the Cent-A-Meter;

  1. Our kettle uses more power than our clothes dryer at around 1300W. (Which is 1/4 the power of a Postie Bike and costs ~40c an hour at 1kg of Greenhouse gas per hour.)
  2. Our house has 1700W of Halogen downlights (soon to be replaced by LED alternatives)
  3. Our big Plasma TV is not as bad as it looks (around 100W above standby – as much as 2 halogen down lights). It also uses a VERY small amount of power in standby (~20W.)
  4. The 46CM floor fan is only about 70W.
  5. Our innocent looking popcorn maker is 1200W.

Its really cool to see the effect of small things around your house.

My fish tank is the big killer, its an ongoing source of stress as its power consumption is huge. I am in the middle of replacing lights and pumps to reduce its footprint;

  1. The lights over the tank are 1200W and run for 8hrs a day. About to be replaced with 300W LED’s.
  2. The chiller (which cools the water down when the lights heat it up too much) costs about 1800W!!!! (The need for this will be almost non existent when the LED’s arrive as they generate zero heat.)
  3. The pumps in the tank are about 120W – About to be replaced by high performance pumps to bring that down to about 30W.

To give you a disgusting figure of our quarterly power usage, our bills are around $800. This is mainly due to the tank. So once we replace all the bits with more efficient alternatives and get our solar in, it will bring us right back down to earth.

The Cent-A-Meter is such an awesome device and stupidly easy to install. The install instructions are included with it, you dont need to break or connect any wires, it uses a magnetic sensor that clips over your mains cable to sense the power running through it (Keep in mind that a licensed electrician is recommended by clipsal and I tend to agree if you are unfamiliar with the goings-on in a fuse box.) The install for me took around 3 mins from start to finish and we set the display up in the kitchen where we spend most of our time so we can keep a constant eye on it. The Cent-A-Meter set me back $190 delivered from eBay.

We also bought a ScanGauge for the car, I’ll write a post about that shortly too.

Eco Modding – Getting the best efficiency from your car

A lot of us try to maximise the milage from the cars we have, whether they are new efficient cars or ageing guzzlers. We try not to use the air conditioning as it uses more fuel, keep the tyres inflated properly, don’t accelerate aggressively etc in an attempt to remain efficient in our petrol usage.

I sold my 22L/100k’s (yes, you read that right, 300k’s from a 65L tank) Nissan Skyline a few years ago and these days my wife has a Subaru Forester (~10L/100k’s,) which isn’t great and I ride a Honda CB600F (~4L/100k’s) to work.

The Forester is a great car, but I am discouraged by its fuel consumption. The problem is that unless we buy an expensive new car, there are very few family-sized vehicles that do any better. Today, while reading through my RSS reader, I came across a site I had never seen before… Eco Modder. These guys make small modifications to their vehicles to increase their drag coefficient so their fuel consumption is reduced. And sometimes dramatically reduced.

One owner improved their vehicle fuel consumption by 15% by fitting a boat tail to it.

The site may appear at first like an every-other-day online community, but there are a lot of tools and guides and advice on there which is awesome. If you register, you can keep track of your vehicles economy on a graph within your profile.

You can see our vehicle on the site here. I will add my bike when I have the required data.

After adding your vehicle and updating your profile, you can read about some mods.

Some worth mentioning;

Have a look at the mods this guy has made and their respective improvements.

Then, once you have made any changes to your car, you can read through the list of 100+ driving techniques. Such as not coming to a complete stop unless you must, keeping windows and sunroof shut, using cruise control, not leaving your headlights on.

There are a lot of small, low impact changes that each of us can make to our daily driving/riding habits that can greatly improve our vehicles fuel efficiency. I will be keeping a log of my vehicles’ economy on ecomodder.com and on this blog also. I see it as a bit of a challenge. I recommend you get a Scangauge or at least start keeping a log book so you can keep on top of your consumption.

I wear my solar panels at night!

Bec and I have been throwing around the idea of getting solar panels on our house for quite some time but have not had $5k just lying around to do it. With current initiatives from the NSW Government, we are looking at getting solar now in the next few months and I think you’d be mad not to.. Heres why;

I will use our house as an example. We have a much higher than average power bill due to my fish tank. It has always been unsettling with me because while we do so much to limit our consumption elsewhere, it was only offsetting how much energy we use powering my tank. The idea behind the solar is that we want to generate enough power to cover at least the tank. Our current quartely bill is around $900 and Modern Solar advised (back in June) that their entry level system would cover about a quater of our bill (I cannot remember the details of this system though, unfortunately.) It was about $8k after the government rebate. Now this was a little too much for use considering the outlay and only 25% cover of our bill. Well, the NSW Government has just given us reason to rethink our decision.

Starting on the 1st of January, the NSW Government will be paying Wind and Solar power generating households, 60c per kW/h of power they generate, even if they consume it themselves! That means that not only will you save money off your electricity bill, but you will be paid for the energy you save, at least for the next 7 years! Couple that will a NSW funded interest free loan over a 4 year period and you can have your 2kw solar system for nothing!

Why ‘nothing’? Let me explain;
If I purchase a system from AussieSolar for $5k using a 4 year interest free loan, I will be paying back approximately $300 per quater.
The system will cover more than 1/4 of my bill, but to be safe I can deduct my bill by 1/4 which saves us $225 per quater.
The NSW Government will pay us 60c per kW/h for the next 7 years which equates to $150 per quater if your household power usage is 4000 kW/h per quater and your solar covers 1/4 of it.
That means that you could be up $375 and down $300 per quater equating to a gain of $75.

Now, odds are that my calculations may be off a little bit, they are quite rough and I dont have my power bill here to see exactly how much we use, but you can see how you can make these Solar Initiatives work for you.

Further Reading:
To get an Interest Free Green loan, you need to have a free home sustainability assessment done, see the Green Loans site for more info.
Aussie Solar have some fantastic Solar package prices.
Details of the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme.

Just do it, you have nothing to lose and Solar Systems regularly last more than 30 years.

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

Welcome to Blog Action Day 2009. This years topic is ‘Climate Change’ which is a fairly hefty topic that covers to many different areas. Last year was more concise and focussed on Homelessness, I contributed to that BAD also. As the Americas are still in their slumber, I thought I’d get my post in early.

Climate Change is many things to many people. Most people tend to focus on a small aspect of it while others tackle the entire thing head on. Others, strangely enough and despite all scientific eveidence to the contrary, simply choose not to believe it. They have their own reasons for that and in my opinion, thats fine, as everybody is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions. This post is not going to try to convince people of the existence of Climate Change, I may as well be trying to convince staunch Christians that there is no God. Its not going to happen.

Here is what I am going to do though. I am going to try to make you think about your impact on the earth. Not from a ‘Climate Change’ perspective, but from a sustainability perspective. Our worlds population is growing at a phenomonal rate, Australia alone is set to increase in population by around 50% in as many years! That is a big number and you can’t help but think about how we will support this ever growing mass of humans on the planet. At the rate we are going, we simply can’t do that.

Forests get destroyTags: , , ed to plant soya or graze cattle (who emit methane) for an increasing number of hungry mouths,  oxygen is created by trees (sustainability), trees are homes to many animals (sustainability), trees also store carbon (Climate Change).

Eat less red meat, or, eat Kangaroo, they produce less methane, do less damage to the ground and are in abundance in Australia. Beef is not sustainable at the rate that humans consume it and also contributes to Climate Change through methane emissions, baron land (which cannot use plants to store carbon) and transport from interstate.

We drive cars everywhere. Cars burn oil which is not sustainable, exhaust fumes contribute to climate change. Walk, catch a bus, ride a push bike or even a motor bike (as I do because I am too far from work to cycle.)

We power our homes with non sustainable energy such as coal. Burning coal contributes to climate change. Get some energy efficient bulbs, some free insulation (as we just did) to keep heating and cooling down, install a solar water heater or even solar panels. Look into a sustainabilty report and interest free green loan.

Start buying locally. Food that has to be shipped internationally or even interstate, needs to be flown, driven and craned around the place. People don’t realise how much oil they burn when they buy vegies from interstate. Or, even better, grow at least some of your vegies yourself. Less oil = more sustainable and less climate change.

See where I am going with this? By concentrating on trying to be sustainable (which is a completely separate issue from Climate Change) you will also help the Climate Change issue whether you believe it or not. My father once said to me that we should be looking after the planet regardless of whether you believe in Climate Change, it shouldn’t matter and it doesnt matter. The fact remains that if you want to leave a healthy planet for your children and their children, you need to think sustainably and you will also assist in the battle against Climate Change. Whether you are right or wrong in your beliefs you will be doing the right thing. Isn’t that satisfying? Imagine being able to sit on the fence in other areas of life and know that you are doing the right thing either way.

To keep this post short and simple, I am going to leave it there. I dont want to try and convince people of the existence of Climate Change, if the scientists and Al Gore have been unable to do that so far, then I am not going to be able to. I just want people to live sustainably and leave a happy, healthy planet when they move on.

What year is this?

I was watching a show on Discovery last night about how they make Apache attack helicopters (or as I like to call them ‘Stupidly overpriced death machines’.) I was stunned to learn that the machine gun under the helicopter will point where ever the pilot looks! That means that all he has to do is look at something, pull the trigger and its dead. Whatever it was. This is 2009 technology.

On my new iPhone, I can let it read stories to my daughter. I can let it automatically update the world with my precise location. I can connect to my servers from anywhere I have phone service and check that everything is ok. I can take a photo, upload it to Evernote and have it create tags for that photo based on the text within the photo! The iPhone is incredible. This is 2009 technology.

Today, I received two highly glossy, 50+ page ‘adazines’ from a company called Kids Central. At first I thought one must have been for my wife and one for the previous owners (we still get lots of their mail, 1 year after moving in). I was horrified to see that BOTH the adazines were addressed to the same person! On one, it is addressed to ‘Dominique Lastname’ and on the other, to ‘D Lastname’. Not only do they send two identical adazines to the same residential address, but they send them both to the same person. These are not small, insignificant brochures or pamphlets, they are huge, heavy, paper and plastic filled picturezines wanting you to rediscover your love of kids clothes. How is it that a company is unable to detect not one, but two identical records (last name, and address) in a system? I could write a program to pick up such duplicate records in about 10 mins. Shame on you Kids Central, the environment and sustainability is not on your priority list and my family will not be buying from your stores. Ever. This is not 2009 technology.

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Excuse my iPhone pic. :)