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10 Top Sustainable Living Tips for Rentals
Tuesday 22 July 2014

The majority of Australians live in cities where about 30 per cent of people live in rental properties.
Tenants usually feel restricted in what they can, and mainly cannot, do. Why should they be bothered to adapt their home to be more sustainable, if they eventually have to move on to another property?
Does renting mean that they cannot live sustainably? Even if you don’t have a garden or much room, you can still grow herbs or vegetables, for example.
Though we feel like rulers of the Earth, we are actually a most vulnerable species, as we lost the art of simple living and we take most things in our daily lives for granted. What do we do in the event of a power outage or loss of power supply, for example? We don’t consider these things any more.
SpurTopia Residence - Block of 5 unit with a small backyard

Our family have been living in a rental property in New Farm for more than five years. We have adopted a lifestyle of being less reliant on the system and becoming self-sufficient. We do this by growing our own food, using resources readily available to us and using the urban environment to our benefit. As a result, we have also created a more resilient existence.
Sustainable living to us means an enhancement of life, lowering our living expenses and being environmentally aware without compromising our comfort or incurring extra expenditure.
We have created “A Small Kingdom”, where we are living a fulfilling life in complete happiness. Enjoying every moment of life, having a sense of belonging in our community and achievement in our aims encourages us to take further steps into an amazing future ahead of all of us.

We would like to share with you our sustainable-living tips that any tenant can employ to get you inspired to take the first step along this path.

10 top sustainable living tips

Self-watering planter box
1. Grow your own food – in a small garden bed, a pot, even in polystyrene vegetable box. Create your garden on a balcony or a patio. Focus on herbs and lettuce to start with. These are easy to grow and quick to harvest. Start small and then build from there.

Sprouting on a kitchen bench
2. Sprouting – sprouts are one of the healthiest, freshest and cheapest superfoods you can eat. You can grow them on a kitchen bench in a jar. In just a couple of days you have great sprouts to eat, while sprouts on the supermarket shelf can be several days old. Mix them with muesli or into fruit salad. Add lemon juice to enhance. The sprouting process significantly enhances vital energy, increases digestible protein, provides vitamins and minerals . Try sprouting mung beans, adzuki, lentils, fenugreek, wheat, barley, rye and alfalfa. Soak seeds overnight, then rinse twice daily in an airy container. Once sprouts mature, they can be stored in a fridge for a couple a days.

Worm farm as a planter pot
3. Recycle organic materials – recycle your organic kitchen scraps, newspaper and cardboard in a worm farm which can be made with a bucket with a lid or a styrofoam vegetable box. This saves organic material clogging up landfills and prevents rotten smells in your normal rubbish bin. As a reward you get a nice earthy compost as a potting mix for pots and a high-nutrition worm juice, an organic fertiliser which plants love.

4. Green Power - purchase 100 per cent green power from your electricity supplier. It doesn’t cost a fortune (extra 5c per kWh), and your power comes from renewable sources of energy.

Rosella Jam
5. Home produce – is healthier and more environmentally friendly, it saves money, is usually better quality and you know what it’s been made of. Think home-baked bread and cakes, preserves, cleaning products using vinegar and bicarbonate soda, aloe vera, for example).

6. Freecycle - give stuff away, get stuff for free from web based Freecycle organisation local to your area. Stuff you no longer want can find a home rather than being dumped to land fill. Or even easier, put unwanted stuff on the footpath with a "free" sign. It usually goes in a day!

Our community BBQ night
7. Functional community - get know your neighbours, swap produce, give stuff away, socialize. It’s fun and provides a sense of belonging in your community.

8. Active transport - walking, cycling and using public transport  are better for the environment and your health. Think a car costs about $10,000 a year to run, and a gym membership costs about $600. If you bike, it costs nothing and you don’t need gym membership!

9. Five R's - Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Repair

10. Get out and smash it - do not make excuses and start now. Start with the easiest, smallest thing such as a pot of basil. Do that now and then add more as you go.

Gravity irrigation system using recycled material
Friday 18 July 2014

A vacuum cleaner pipe and a watering rose
We use gravity to irrigate our garden by collecting water from the roof into a series of caged water tanks and wheelie rubbish bins. Our total rain water storage capacity is over 5000 litres. All this cost us less than $100. What a deal! (We can buy a caged 1000 L tank for $25. Contact us if you want to know where to source them.) From these tanks, a swimming pool hose and grey PVC flexi pipe bring water to the garden. At the end of the pipe is a vacuum cleaner pipe with a watering rose. Gravity (about 1-1.5m height difference between water tanks and garden bed) is sufficient to deliver enough water and pressure to hand irrigate the garden with a nice and gentle sprinkle of water from the watering rose. No pump and electricity needed – just the height difference. More importantly it saves us a lot of walking with a watering can.

A caged water tank with a swimming pool hose
We also use a gravity fed drip irrigation system successfully. Brown, irrigation drip tube with dripper nozzles, spaced about 30cm apart, works well on low pressure. A standard garden hose syphons from a rubbish bin to the garden bed and it connects to the drip tube. By varying the depth that the garden hose is placed into the water storage (half way or at the bottom of the container), we  can control how much water will be used (half or all of the water storage). Also, by adding a liquid fertilizer (seaweed, a compost tea bag) into the stored water,  your garden can be fertilized.  The only issue we found was that seedlings need to be planted near the drippers as the plants might struggle for water.

A tip: Water tanks which do not have an outlet at the bottom such as rubbish bins can be connected in series with a piece of hose from one to another over the top. The symphonic effect via pipes full of water automatically levels water in all tanks.

SpurTopia inspired thousands of Queensland Garden Expo visitors
Tuesday 15 July 2014

SpurTopia stall at the QLD Garden Expo
SpurTopia had a stall and gave presentations at the biggest Queensland Garden Expo, in Nambour. Over three days of sharing useful information, ideas, inventions and practical tips and tricks for day-to-day use, we inspired thousands of people to become less reliant, more sustainable and environmentally aware while reducing living expenses and living healthier lifestyles. The overwhelming positive responses fuel us to carry on with spreading our messages.

To share knowledge rather than competing and making money
A new era of sharing for the benefit of others and the entire community is the way to go.

To revive what was common half a century ago but somehow got lost in the translation
How is it possible that our grandparents lived a more or less self-sufficient life, producing their own food, clothes and doing everything by themselves while now with all our so called “society progress” and all the available technology, it is unthinkable to be self-sufficient? In fact, we are so reliant on food, energy and healthcare supply that we have become a very vulnerable and unhealthy society.

To brighten up our children's future
Our current way of life leaves our children a lot of “garbage” to deal with. So when your children ask you in the future, “Daddy, Mummy if you knew what was happening, What Did You Do about it?”, what will your answer be?

Sharing ideas 


 Everyone enjoyed the event

Talking sprouts

Spurtopia's latest inventions - Double and Triple decker self-watering planter boxes
Wednesday 9 July 2014

We recently shared our invention - Self-watering planter box (a "single decker" - one box) made from a styrofoam box and a piece of PVC pipe. Now we have come up with version two "double decker" (two boxes) and version three "triple decker" (three boxes).  The principle of a self-watering planter box is soil in the pipes acts as a wick bringing moisture up by capillary action, keeping soil in the box above the water storage, moist.

- The double decker comprises of two boxes, bottom box for water storage and top box for soil. It is made with three PVC pipes of about 100mm diameter and box height in length. A watering pipe in a corner of the box runs from the bottom and is the height of two boxes. In this pipe is a float with  a wooden skewer (a couple of skewers taped together to reach the top of the pipe), indicating water levels. The second box has small holes in its floor, punched with a screwdriver,  for better drainage and aeration of soil.
- The triple decker is an extension of a double decker with a third top box which has the bottom  cut off. It comprises of water storage in the bottom box, two boxes of soil and three PVC pipes.
Double Decker - Self-watering planter box

Triple Decker - Self-watering planter box

- The boxes when filled with home made organic soil and water are very stable (soil weight will push one onto other).
- Soil never gets waterlogged as excess water will overflow between boxes (no overflow hole required).
- Nutrition does not leach out - during heavy rain, nutrition is retained in the water storage and later plants will "suck" it up.
- Styrofoam as insulation, offsets external temperature and sun radiation fluctuations keeping soil at a steady warm temperature.
- Mosquito proof - only access to water is through watering pipe which is blocked by a float.
- Water efficient - only water used, is by plants.
- Huge water storage capacity - up to 40 litres in the bottom box so no need for watering for several weeks
- Made from free, readily available, recycled materials - styrofoam boxes sourced from a local fruit and vegie shop or fish market, old PVC pipe from kerbside collection or off-cuts from a plumber.
- Diverting material (boxes, pipes) from landfill
- Portable - moving boxes during seasons (position in part shade during summer and move to full sun in winter). If moving home, an established garden in styrofoam boxes comes along with you and provides you with already growing vegies.
- Raised garden - Boxes can be place on existing ground where nothing would grow due to poor soil quality or  tree roots sucking all the moisture and nutrition.
- Soil in a box is aerated from the bottom through small holes which provide plenty of oxygen for plants.
- Boxes are lightweight compared to boxes with gravel based water storage which also significantly reduces water holding capacity (gravel takes up space).
- Suitable for growing all kind of vegetables including root vegetables as well as small fruit trees.

Potential challenges:
- Styrofoam is plastic and might leach out chemicals - the box can be painted internally with bees wax to created a protective coat.
- Boxes might leak - a black construction foil can be used as an inner liner
- Sunshine might deteriorate styrofoam after a few years - an external coat of paint will stop styrofoam deterioration and create colourful, aesthetically pleasing boxes.
Double decker

Boxes  are water efficient  and store large amounts of water - up to 40 litres -  so they do not need to be watered for several weeks and you can go on a holiday for a month and the plants will have plenty of water to drink. Our boxes are over a year old and still in perfect condition even without paint.
When filling up boxes with organic soil, make sure you fill up wicking pipes properly so wicking is effective. When planting plants, water them for a couple of weeks from the top so they can establish their root system. Also soil will become more compact and wicking more effective.
In one of our single decker boxes, a self-seeded paw paw started to grow half a year ago. Now it is nearly two metres long. So it is possible to grow anything.
The double decker  is great for plants with larger root systems and higher water requirements such as tomatoes and cucumbers as they love lots of water. We harvested 5 cucumbers, over half a metre long off one plant). Also root vegetables such as carrots or daikon radish will grow there - if you plant them straight above a wicking pipe, you can harvest over half metre long, straight carrots.
Triple decker boxes with huge soil volume and depth (over 60 cm + 30 cm wicking pipe) can be used for any kind of root vegetables no matter where planted in a box. Huge soil volume  in the two boxes is sufficient even for a dwarf tree.
Plants growing in a double decker
In these three types (single, double and triple decker) self-watering planter boxes, any vegetable can be grown. 
We are fully aware that styrofoam is plastic and it most likely leaches out some substances. So far we have not found any evidence against growing vegetables in styrofoam boxes. People growing vegies in plastic pots or eating broccoli which was delivered in these boxes (in direct contact with Styrofoam) don't even think about that. This is a paradox. We believe that home grown vegetables in these boxes are a thousand times better than vegies from shop shelves.
In the self-watering planter boxes, we grow successfully all kinds of fresh tasty and healthy vegetables so we would like to share our invention with you. If we can make it for free you can make it for free.

SpurTopia Happy Day
Sunday 6 July 2014

New styrofoam box gardeners
SpurTopia had a great afternoon which was sunny but a bit windy. Plenty of self-watering planter boxes were made and countless useful and practical information and ideas were shared. Seeing people being inspired and being grateful for what they have learned, makes us happy and keeps us going. Many thanks to all who came today and for your donations to help us continue to run these workshops.
It's priceless to receive feedback like this:
"Hi Jana, Roman and Lada,
Just wanted to send a quick email thanking you for a wonderfully informative and inspiring talk this afternoon about sustainability, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
On the drive home we have planned our cockroach killing spree and washing powder cook up.
With your lovely clear blue eyes, healthy skin and happy smiles you are all beautiful examples of living well on what is provided by mother nature. Thank you to Jana for allowing us to take a little snip of Aloe Vera, we planted him when we got home. We love your stories Roman, in particular the one about the “road kill possum”. :-)
Blessings to you all.
Helen and Terry. "


Making boxes in progress

Lada overseeing the workshop

Grand garden tour

Don't let Possums decimate your garden produce - Take action or make a deal with them
Friday 4 July 2014

Do you have a possum problem? Do they eat your garden produce? Below are five ways how we deal with possums:
Coke bottle protection

·         Use physical protection – e.g. Protect paw paw or mango  fruit with a plastic shield made from a 2L Coke bottle. Cut off the bottom of a bottle and make a cut along the bottle so it can “open “ and the fruit can slide in. Another way is to  use chicken wire to wrap the whole bunch of paw paws up and tie the top and bottom of the mesh to the tree trunk. It also works well  for flying foxes, cockatoos and rats.  For a vegie garden bed, use plastic pipe to create an arched frame and cover it with netting.

·         Use a dead possum to deter others. Possums are  territorial animals  so will move out off someone else's territory. This strategy has worked amazingly well at our place. Possums were nesting in our mango tree and chewing all the mango flowers  so no fruit was setting. When we placed  a "road kill" possum, which we found on the street into the mango tree, the resident  possums moved out. For a couple of years we had plenty of mangoes.  After that, our old "mate" completely weathered away and the possums moved back. So we need to find another road kill one.
Double coke bottle protection

·         Avoid planting along a possum's "highway". Possums completely ate our passion fruit vine which we planted along a fence. They use fences to get around. When  we planted the passion fruit on the back wall of the house, the vine and fruit have not been touched.

·         Feed possums - become friends with them and they will not decimate your garden. A banana or an apple every day away from your garden produce will keep them happy and well fed so they will not need to eat what your garden produces. Bear in mind they need to eat something - human beings are actually pests in their territory.

Chicken wire protection

·         Use trees as a  climbing trellis  for passion fruit vines.  When higher up, no one can climb up the trees except possums. So the deal at our place is: possums can eat all they want on the trees but do not come down to the garden. And the result? As they try to eat passion fruit off a vine they shake some down. Every morning we pick about five passion fruit off the ground of which about one has been eaten. What a deal J
Our little possum Lada enjoying paw paw

Growing trees in pots on a concrete yard
Sunday 29 June 2014

Cumquats self-seeded basil and a mulberry tree
We grow lots of trees in pots as we do not have enough space in our backyard. More importantly, we are renting and it is hard to justify planting fruit trees in the ground when we might move on at some point.
There are over 25 different species of fruit trees on our rented property, most of them in pots. A tree will grow to the size of its root system. If it's in a pot, the tree will dwarf. Our trees grow in pots about 30-50 cm diameter which are placed in a styrofoam box. The box acts as a saucer - holding water. There is a small hole on the side of box about 5 cm above bottom creating a water well. Excess water after heavy rain or during watering will overflow and the tree does not get waterlogged . We use a layer of wood chips at the bottom of the box and around the pot. After a while, woodchips decompose and when the tree roots start to come out of the pot they get extra room and nutrition to grow. Most importantly, styrofoam and woodchips provide shade for the pots from sunshine and high ambient  temperature and keep the root system cool. Otherwise roots would be “cooked” with direct sunshine falling on black pots which makes them very hot.
In this way trees are not water or heat stressed and grow tremendously.
We harvest a lot of figs, mulberries, cumquats, lemons and curry tree berries. Trees change our concrete yard into a green oasis.

Build a ‘Cob’ oven in 5 minutes to bake delicious pizza and bread
Wednesday 25 June 2014

Pizza ready to bake

A convectional cob oven for baking pizzas and loaves of bread is a great addition to sustainable living. However it is quite elaborate and time consuming to build one and requires a huge amount of material such as clay and  bricks. Moreover it is not portable.
We built a ‘cob’ oven from recycled material in less than 5 minutes. How? We used eight recycled bricks and an old barbecue cast iron plate. To create the "oven", we used a barbecue lid, (with a handle attached) the same size as the plate. Stack the bricks on their sides to create a U shaped campfire pit about 25cm in height. Place the BBQ plate on top of bricks then place the lid on top of the plate to cover it. The space between the plate and the lid becomes the pizza oven. That's it!
Set a fire under the plate and you can start baking pizzas within a few minutes, not like in a conventional cob oven which you need to heat up for several hours and burn a lots of firewood. Get the plate to a good temperature, put the pizza on it, cover with the lid and bake for about 10 minutes. To adjust heat intensity you can either add firewood to increase temperature or spray water over the fire with a plastic bottle (with a  small hole in the lid) to reduce its intensity.
Baking time

We also bake bread in our cob oven. To do this use a pizza stone and put it on the hot coals. Cover the oven entrance (with a door made from other bricks) to keep the heat in. Optionally, also set  a fire on top of the plate so it provides extra radiant heat from the top so the bread bakes brownish and nice and crisp on the outside. Bake it for about 30 minutes.
We made a "pizza peel" from a piece of sheet metal (about 25x25cm) with one edge bent up, creating a  handle, to take pizzas to and from the plate. Pizza and bread from the wood fired oven comes out crispy with an extra smokey flavour. People who tasted our home made pizza baked in the cob oven said they have never tasted such delicious pizza.
Cover up with a lid to create "oven"

Easy and quick home made pizza base
(the ingredients for about 4 thin pizza bases)
300g whole meal flour
240 ml of water
1 teaspoon of dry yeast  Mix ingredients in a bowl to make a dough and let is rise for about half an hour. Then take a piece of dough and roll out to about a 25cm diameter pizza base. For a roller, we use a wine bottle. Use extra flour while rolling to avoid dough sticking to the surface it is being rolled on. The base should be very thin, about 2 mm so it's baked quickly and comes out crispy.
Baking bread in our cob oven

Base dough and toppings for a vegie pizza

Final product - delicious crispy pizza

Adding an extra smoky flavour makes the pizza unforgettable

Power of a community
Sunday 22 June 2014

Our sustainable living talk on the Sunshine Coast
What one can create is nothing compared to what a community can achieve. On Saturday we were invited to the Yandina Community Gardens on the Sunshine Coast to talk about our gardening, sustainable living and the importance of living in a functional community. People from the local community were inspired by what we do and how we live in a small community of five units in Brisbane city. We were also very impressed with the community gardens - productive, blossoming gardens full of fruiting trees, lush greens, ponds, a native beehive, an aquaponic system, a stylish cob oven and a cosy community building - all run by friendly volunteers. It was very inspirational for us to see what people in a community such as Yandina Community Gardens have accomplished.
Presentation in progress

"Blue House" at Yandina community gardens

State of the art technology - Maggot tin grower
Friday 20 June 2014

Maggot grower tin
Chickens need a great deal of protein to produce nutritious eggs. Where does this protein comes from? A small proportion from grains and the biggest amount from insects, bugs and worms which chickens find in the garden. But how about providing chooks with a constant supply of protein? We came up with a solution - growing maggots from meat scraps, in a tin. Basically, find a tin  (we used a 4litre olive oil  tin) and punch holes all around including the bottom with a screwdriver. Partially cut the top off the lid to make the tin operable. We put meat scraps from the kitchen and local butcher into the tin. Flies get in and lay eggs and in a couple of days, the meat scraps are full of maggots. As they crawl around, they, every now and again drop and fall through the holes into the chook run and the chooks feast on them. This process will last for a few weeks. When meat scraps are exhausted and maggots eaten by the chooks, empty the tin and start again. We do this every few weeks, providing chickens with a continuous supply of protein - maggots. More importantly, we are reducing meat scrap waste which would otherwise go to landfill. This state of the art technology maggot tin grower, is free, so effective and works amazingly well.
Maggots dropping from tin are a treat for chooks

Bones for growing maggots

Chemical-Free Cockroach Trap
Wednesday 18 June 2014

Catch in the trap
Cockroaches living around and in the houses are seen as pests. In SpurTopia we see them as a part of the food chain. They can be a great source of protein for chickens and more importantly the chooks love them. So the question is, rather then spraying surface pesticides in the household (which is not good for human health and environment), why not catch them and feed them to the chooks.
Catching cockroaches in a trap is very easy. Get a glass jar, put a piece of banana skin into it and put oil or Vaseline around the top of the jar. That's it!!! Because cockroaches love banana skins they get into the jar but can not get out as the top is slippery. It works so well. Over one night we caught eight cockroaches and fed them straight to the chooks reducing the cockroach population while improving egg production and nutrition. Trapping avoids the use of nasty chemicals and it's free.

Recycled bath tub - A small ecosystem in a garden
Sunday 15 June 2014

Recycled bath tub for growing greens
An old bath tub can be used for several purposes. We use it as a water feature, for ambient water sounds and growing greens and fish. In the tub we  grow water cress, water chestnuts, Vietnamese mint, Brahmi (brain plant), Kang Kong  (Asian spinach), Ceylon spinach and Lemon Grass. Plants grow in pots immersed in water sitting on a platform (wire grid from a clothes drying rack).  Most of these will grow freely in the water after a while. A pump provides aeration of water and a beautiful ambient sound. It’s powered by a small solar panel (pump and solar panel for $15 from Ebay) so the amount of water  flowing and bubbling depends on the intensity of the sun – nice bubbling during sunny days, reduced sound volume in the evening and quiet overnight. Actually at night, frogs, which moved in, take over and  make unforgettable calling sounds. Fish in the tub (Pacific blue eye)feed on mosquito larvae and provide fertilizer for the plants. Once we installed the tub and filled it with water and plants, various creatures moved in (geckos, frogs, dragon flies). Bees are using it for drinking water and  using the water to cool their hives during hot summer days. Occasionally we top up the water in the tub. The lush green  bath tub is a self-sufficient ecosystem, thriving and improving the biodiversity of our garden. – It brings another dimension to our garden.

Solar powered pump

A stage of growing

Down the drain? OR Down to the garden!
Wednesday 11 June 2014

Harvesting grey water for garden irrigation
We use ‘grey’ water from our washing machine to water our garden. We are fully aware of the fact that conventional laundry detergents and fabric softeners contain a lot of nasty stuff which will make grey water unsuitable, even toxic for a garden. That is the reason we use a  home made washing detergent (soap, washing soda, borax)  and Citrus Fabric softener (citrus peel and water) which are friendly to nature, very cheap and easy to make (10 Litres of washing detergent for less than $2) and the fabric softener is literally free. Because we know what our home made detergent and softener contain, we are happy to use grey water from the washing machine  on our garden. 
Generally, a grey flex pipe is used to drain water from the machine. However, we did not have a 30 metre long flex pipe between our washing machine and the garden. Instead,  we use a 13 mm garden hose  and a bucket which collects water from the machine pipe. The bucket acts as a buffer water storage from which water is gravity drained via the garden hose to the sugar cane and banana patch. The height difference between the bucket and the  plant patch is approximately 1.5 metres. Sugar cane and banana plants love a lot of water and nutrition which is provided all year round. No wonder that  even during hot and dry weather, as we had last summer, plants were thriving. 
Did you know that a top loader washing machine uses approx. 160 litres while a front loader only about 60 litres per load
The average Australian household uses about 30,000 litres of water for a washing machine per year? Every day about 80 litres (8 watering cans) of grey water from a washing machine can  be used on a garden rather than going down the drain.

Washing water irrigating sugar cane and banana

Gravity fed grey water irrigation via a garden hose

Why do we do what we do?
Sunday 8 June 2014

Logan Eco Action Festival
During our SpurTopia sustainable living presentations, events and workshops, people ask us - 
"Why do you do this?" Our answer is:
Inspire people to improve their life, health and lifestyle
Make a difference - empower people to live more sustainably and become less reliant 
Feel an urge to share our living experience and fulfilling lifestyle in complete happiness
We are a living example of what can possibly be achieved. We'd rather teach fishing instead of giving fish. 
What do we get out of it? Pleasure of sharing and an amazing feeling when helping other people to live more sustainable and fulfilling lives while saving money.

Hands-on Workshop: Make your own Self-watering planter box

SpurTopia Open Day

Chicken grain feeder from recycled material
Tuesday 3 June 2014

Chicken Grain feeder
A common problem with feeding chickens is the mess they make throwing grain around which is not only wasteful but also attracts mice and rats. We addressed all these issues with our home made chicken grain feeder from recycled materials - a plastic bucket and  piece of PVC pipe - The feeder will store several kilos of grain which lasts for a few weeks.
How to make a "cheap-skate" Grain Feeder:
Cut a 150mm diameter PVC pipe to fit the full length of the bucket. Then cut a 2 cm slot  at the bottom of the pipe, half way around the pipe. This will create a hole (slot) when the pipe sits at the bottom of the bucket and grain can flow from the pipe (grain storage) into the bucket. Cut two "windows" (holes) 5x10cm into the bucket about 5cm above the bottom for chooks to stick their heads in. The holes need to be just large enough for a chicken's head to get in, so when pecking grain, the grain will not get thrown out.
We don't have any wasted grain on the ground around the feeder and do not have any rat or mouse issues as there is no food to attract them. It works so well for us, it's the reason we share the chicken feeder with you. If we can make it for free you can make it for free.
Silo within the bucket

Inside view

Make a difference - Do what excites you most
Sunday 1 June 2014

SpurTopia Stall at Green Heart Fair
In our lives, we do what excites us the most - sharing and showing our simple, healthy and sustainably fulfilling lifestyle. It excites us to give people helpful tips and tricks they can use at home to improve their lives. That empowers them to make a difference, save money and become less reliant by growing food and using the power of the sun.
This week we made a difference to thousands of people through the following events:
Interview on 4ZZZ radio
- An article in the local City North News
- Open garden for Subtropical fruit tree club
- SpurTopia Open Day: Make your own self-watering planter box, a sustainable living presentation, a garden tour and tasting of home and garden produce
- SpurTopia presentation and a stall with display table at Green Heart Fair, the biggest sustainablity event in Brisbane
All this gives us a great deal of satisfaction and it is taking our life into another dimension.
Make your Self-watering planter box workshop

SpurTopia Sustainable living presentation

Slice of farm life in CBD - City North News article 
Thursday 29 May 2014

City North News article 29 May 2014

We preach what We live 
Monday 26 May 2014

Griffith Uni Eco Centre presentation
We have inspired hundreds of people by our passion for what we do and how we live. Showing our way of sustainable and more conscious living, while saving money and not compromising our comfort was the theme last weekend. SpurTopia was invited to be a guest speaker at the Griffith University Eco Centre and Herb Awareness Fair. There, we delivered presentations and had a display table with our garden and home produce, ideas and inventions. More importantly, we personally talked passionately, sharing information with each other.  The best reward we get is seeing sparkles in people's eyes while saying "what a great idea - I have to do that at home".
Being a living example of what it is possible to achieve is the best way of inspiring people.
SpurTopia stall at Herb Awareness Fair

Presentation for Herb Awareness visitors

Is your body lacking Iron? Fix it with a natural and easy remedy! 
Tuesday 20 May 2014

Apple and nails - natural source of iron and vitamin C
We would like to share a natural remedy for body iron deficiency. It has worked for us so it should work for you as well. It’s very simple, easy to do and very efficient. Conventional iron pills available from Pharmacies are not really natural and thus not as effective. More importantly, they sometimes cause constipation. For iron to be ‘absorbed' by the human body, it needs the be taken with vitamin C.  We use old nails and push them into an apple. What happens is that acid in the apple causes a release of iron into the apple flesh which along with vitamin C in the apple makes iron digestible by the human body. Find about 10 old rusty nails (not galvanized nails) then clean and sterilize them in boiling water. Push the nails into the apple and place it into the fridge. Next morning pull them out and eat the apple. Now push the nails into another apple and repeat the process for a few weeks and you will see the difference. You can see how the apple absorbs iron as along the hole made by the nail, the apple gets darker. However, it does not change its taste. Nature is very clever and powerful!

Never tired of sharing ideas 
Sunday 18 May 2014

Friday Pizza night
What a fulfilling weekend for SpurTopia! We have inspired a lot of people with our ideas, inventions, tricks and tips as well as our lifestyle.
- Friday Pizza night. Homemade pizza baked in our cob oven
- Saturday morning Presentation to Gold Coast Permaculture group
- Saturday evening ABC TV Gardening Australia program
- Sunday early morning radio 4BC interview with Jerry Coleby-Williams
- Sunday morning open garden day for Tamborine Sustainable Gardeners
- Sunday afternoon hands on workshop - "Make your own self-watering planter box"
Life is beautiful!

Open Garden Day
Lovely time at GC Permaculture group

Self-watering planter boxes

Lada's Tree Story 
Wednesday 14 May 2014

Lada and her Pawpaw tree
When our daughter Lada was born, we planted a baby Pawpaw tree. Lada's tree is very special to us as it is planted on her placenta. We intentionally put the tree in a pot because if we have to relocate, the tree will go with us. It has been an amazing year watching how Lada and her tree have been growing beautifully. The Pawpaw turned out to be a male tree with beautiful fragrant flowers. Lada's tree is very important as it provides pollination for all female Pawpaw trees in the garden and even in the neighbourhood. Without her tree we would not have Pawpaw fruit. We have harvested over 50 kg of yellow Pawpaws - we have had fresh and sweet fruit almost every day for half a year. We all look forward to many years to come.
Did you know that the Pawpaw tree is very fast growing? From seed to fruit it's about a year. Pollination of Pawpaws is done by a moth which flies at night. One male tree per three kilometers radius is supposed to be enough to pollinate female trees.
Baby Pawpaw planted on Lada's placenta

Tasty organic Pawpaw

Our chooks drink champagne – Home made waterer
Monday 12 May 2014

Home made waterer for chickens
We made a waterer for our girls (chickens) from recycled materials - a champagne bottle and a piece of PVC pipe with bottom cap. The bottle holds water and automatically releases it when the water level gets below the neck of the bottle. A small feeding window will keep water clean.
How to make it?
Cut  the pipe to length (approx. 25 cm) and this will hold the bottle neck about 2 cm above the bottom of the pipe. (see photo) A 2 cm water level will be constantly held in the waterer. Then cut a small window 5x10 cm for chooks to stick their heads in to drink. The window must be above the water level otherwise all water content will spill out. That’s all. 
You do not need to buy a waterer, just recycle a bottle and a piece of pipe and it does the same job if not better.

Make your own organic soil 
Thursday 8 May 2014

Home made rich organic soil
Making your own soil is so easy - you don't need to buy it. This home made soil is great for the garden and self watering planter boxes.
Here is a detailed description of how we make it.
Ingredients for making soil:
Compost - composted fruit and vegie scraps from kitchen, garden waste, grass clippings. Do not put meat scraps and bread into compost - it will attract rats. Weeds with seeds we put in a bucket full of water - that way seeds get drowned (are not viable any more) and get great weed tea ( liquid fertilizer) on top .
Cow manure - let it soak for  a few weeks
Sheep manure - is very mild and can be used direct
Horse manure - it is a hot manure so let it soak for a few weeks before use
Wood chips from tree maintenance - let them weather in pile for a few months.

Organic soil heap
Mushroom compost - get it from a mushroom farm, either in bags of mushroom soil where mushrooms were growing ( you might still harvest some mushrooms from these bags) or get a trailer load ($30) direct from the mushroom farm.
Mushroom compost is rich in organic matter and low in nitrogen. It's alkaline - I applied fresh mushroom compost on the top of a herb bed and nearly killed all the herbs,  so let it age for a couple of months before use.
Coffee grounds - we collect a huge amount of coffee grounds from a local coffee shop. They are rich in nitrogen and other substances as well as a great source of carbon which is very important for soil.
Dolomite -  use as a soil sweetener - a handful per one meter  square. Rich in Calcium and Magnesium. Don't use it if your soil Ph is alkaline as it would increase the alkalinity.
Rock dust (crusher dust) a handful per one meter square. Sprinkle it on the garden twice a year.
Final result - Rich organic soil
Charcoal/ash - from camp fire - smash charcoal into small pieces ( about 5mm) and soak them in chicken manure liquid. Charcoal acts as a sponge sucking nutrition in as it's very porous. Then it slowly releases nutrients into the soil. Charcoal in the soil assists with water retention. ( It absorbs water when wet and releases it when dry) Charcoal is a great source of carbon. Ash contains a lot of minerals particularly potassium and trace elements.

Quantity: one wheelbarrow of all compost and manure ingredients, a couple of buckets of coffee grounds and half a bucket of dolomite and rock dust.

Put all ingredients in layers on a pile and mix it up. Shovel this pile to make another pile and then shovel it back.This way all ingredients will mix up nicely.
Let it sit (weather) for a few weeks and your rich organic soil is ready to use.

SpurTopia baking cake in a solar oven on chilly day 
Sunday 4 May 2014

Baking cake in a solar oven
Chilly autumn weather did not stop us from baking a cake in our solar oven. It came out beautifully. All people who came for our SpurTopia's open day and hands-on workshop, "Make your own self-watering planter box", could taste freshly baked solar cake as well as raw honey and healthy "home brew". These events are not only about sharing our experience and inventions but more importantly establishing new friendships and it is a pleasure to see people get inspired. That is the most satisfactorily reward we get out of our open days. Thanks everyone for making us happy.
Hands on

Job done

Lada showing planter boxes

SpurTopia Garden Tour

Pumpkin & Black Sapote cakes - highlight of the SpurTopia presentation 
Saturday 3 May 2014

Presentation at New Farm Library
We were honored to deliver "Sustainably living in a Rental Property" presentation at the New Farm Library. People were not only inspired by our lifestyle but also with the tasty Pumpkin and Black Sapote cakes we baked for them.
Here are the recipes...

Pumpkin Cake
Pumpkin Cake:
3 cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
0.5 cup chopped walnuts (or macadamia nuts)
0.5 cup sultanas
1.5 cups olive oil
3 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree (steam half a medium size pumpkin then blend)
pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on the top
Mix all ingredients together, place it on baking tray lined with baking paper, bake it for cca 40 mins on 180 C.

Black Pudding cake
Black Sapote (Black Pudding) Cake:
1.5 cups plain flour (I mixed 1 cup wholemeal flour and 0.5 cup soy flour)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 black sapote (mash with fork)
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
Mix all ingredients together, place it on baking tray lined with baking paper, bake it for cca 35 mins on 180 C.

Work-Life Balance
Tuesday 29 Apr 2014

Jiri Suk shooting
It is very important for us to maintain good work-life balance.  After a full on weekend with presentations we had such a relaxed and enjoyable day with Jiri Suk - Professional Photographer ( Plenty of smiles and poses while Jiri was shooting, made our day.

Run LADA run - a little person BIG personality

Work-Life balance

Such a fulfilling day for SpurTopia
Saturday 26 Apr 2014

We managed to deliver a presentation to the Tamborine Sustainable Gardeners Society at the Cedar Creek Hall in the morning and in the afternoon to the Raw Food and Healthy Living Group at the Chermside library.  As usual we shared our ideas and inventions and kept inspiring people.
It is priceless to get positive feedback from people going home to make a self-watering planter box, start sprouting, make citrus fabric softener or with different thinking about recycling and reusing stuff.
What a successful day! 
Presentation to TSGS at the Cedar Creek Hall

Presentation in  the Chermside Library

SpurTopia's Invention: Self-watering planter box
Friday 25 Apr 2014

Self-watering planter box
We invented a self-watering planter box for growing all kinds of vegetables. The box stores around 10 litres of water so no need to water for several days or even weeks. More importantly, by up-cycling materials, styro-foam boxes from local fruit and vegie shops and a piece of plastic pipe from the kerbside clean up, we divert stuff going to land fill. Vegetables thrive in these boxes as they have constant water and nutrition from the bottom encouraging plant roots to grow down rather than stay on the surface. It's also water efficient as the only water used is by the plants - no evaporation or water run off. The planter box retains nutrition during periods of rainfall while in a garden bed nutrients leach out. Also, the soil never gets water logged and a float indicates the amount of remaining water. The self-watering planter boxes are mosquito proof - the float in the "watering-in" pipe and fly mesh in the overflow hole. These boxes are perfect for balconies and patios also in places where soil is so bad that nothing would grow. We successfully grow vegetables on concrete in full sun with no shade even during hot summers.
How to make self-watering planter box from recycled materials in 5 minutes.
It is so simple. Get a styrofoam box and a piece of pipe. We use broccoli or salmon boxes, 50mm PVC pipe and a wooden skewer.

Step by step instructions:
Guts of the box

- Cut the lid to fit in the box with a sharp knife.
- Make three holes for pipes on the center line of the lid. Make sure holes are slightly smaller than PVC pipe so the lid does not slide. Use a smaller diameter pipe or the end of a silicone tube to cut holes. This works well for 50mm PVC pipe.
- Cut a corner of the lid to fit a "watering-in" pipe.
- Punch randomly holes in the lid with a screw driver.
- Cut three or four pipes (legs) about 10 cm long with a hand saw. The "watering-in" pipe length to fit box height is about 30cm.
- Screw pipes into holes so they hold firm in the lid. Alternatively create support legs from styrofoam off-cuts, so the lid does not slide down under weight of soil.
- Place lid with pipes down into the box so it creates a raised floor. Add "watering-in" pipe into a  corner.
- Make a float. Use a styrofoam off-cut and shape it into a circle of smaller diameter than pipe. Stick a wooden skewer in it. Slide it into "watering-in" pipe and cut the top of the skewer at the same level as the "watering-in" pipe.
- Make an overflow hole into a side of the box at the same level as the raised floor. It's handy to have the watering pipe and overflow hole on the same side of box.
Photos step by step to make self-watering box
Self-watering Planter Box schematic

Box ready to plant
Fill in pipes with soil thoroughly then add soil to the top of the box. Soil will act as a wick (by capillary effect) bringing water up to plants. A float indicates how much water is in the box. The overflow hole in the side of the box allows overflow when watering in or during long rain periods when the water storage fills up. Punched small holes in the lid provide drainage and aeration of soil from the bottom.You can paint the box on the outside to make it last longer. Ours are without paint and still in good condition after a year of use.
This is the cheapest (using recycled materials for free), the most effective (10 litres water stored) and  insulated (styrofoam is great insulation) self-watering planter box we know of. We have been using these boxes for a year and successfully growing organic and healthy vegetable such as: capsicums, chillies, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, leeks, onions, garlic, strawberries, beans, lettuce and other leafy vegies and herbs etc.

If we can make it for free you can make it for free.
We also run free hands-on workshops: Make your own self-watering planter box.
For more details see
Happy Gardening

Lush vegies during hot summer days

Vegies thrive in self watering planter boxes on concrete

Filming for Blooming in Brisbane Gardening TV
Wednesday 23 Apr 2014

SpurTopia with the Blooming in Brisbane Gardening TV team
Today we had a very enjoyable afternoon with the Blooming in Brisbane filming crew. We talked about our sustainable living, organic garden, a recycled bath tube, beekeeping, chickens and shared other gardening tips and tricks. We look forward to watching the Blooming in Brisbane show May 7th on Brisbane Local TV Channel 31.
Raw honey tasting

Relaxed atmosphere


Talking about growing in a bath tube

SpurTopia on ABC TV show Gardening Australia
Monday 21 Apr 2014

Roman & Jerry
We are delighted to share our knowledge and inventions with people. Our story "Little Inventions" was featured last weekend on the ABC TV show Gardening Australia - "Jerry revisits an ingenious home gardener." 
If you are interested in little gadgets and inventions which help in the garden and household watch the show.
or Fact Sheet: Little Inventions

The Managing director of SpurTopia, LADA is turning ONE
Sunday 13 Apr 2014

The Managing director of SpurTopia, LADA is turning ONE
Such a special day for SpurTopia! With wonderful rainy weather we celebrated our "Managing Director" Lada's first year behind the steering wheel of SpurTopia. Goulash from our Madagascar beans with home baked bread, dip from Lab Lab beans, fresh raw truffles, solar baked cake, chocolate mud cake .... to name just some delicious food we had today. The highlight of the afternoon was a healthy fresh fruit cake which everyone enjoyed.
Well Done Team!!!

Even rainy weather did not stop us from celebrating...

Healthy fresh fruit cake

We love to share

Everyone is enjoying home-made food

The highlight of the event

SpurTopia hosted Logan Food Gardeners
Saturday 12 Apr 2014

Logan Food Gardeners at SpurTopia
Logan Food Gardeners spent half a day at SpurTopia where sharing information, gardening tricks and produce highlighted the event. The 'give away' tables were loaded with seeds, seedlings and garden produce. We presented our way of living and showed there is an alternative, more fulfilling way of living compared to a traditional life in the 'system'. That topic encouraged great discussion and chats among people. It is such a pleasure to infect people with our passion for life. It was wonderful to see people being inspired leaving with ideas to apply to their homes and gardens.
Give away tables loaded with stuff

Traditional Garden tour 

yummy morning tea

Stick insect eating a grass hopper

The SpurTopia ball is rolling
Sunday 6 Apr 2014

Job Done!!!
Sunday afternoon was occupied by a couple of workshops in SpurTopia. Hands-on workshops, "Make you own self-watering planter boxes" and "Sustainable living", were well attended showing how many people are interested in a simple, cheaper and more sustainable way of living. Making self-watering planter boxes from recycled materials, solar cooking, garden and home produce, home made laundry and cleaning products were included. Utilizing readily available resources around us while living in a functional community was the theme of Sunday afternoon's workshops.


Keen listeners

Workshop for all ages...

Garden tour - growing in beds ....

...and even on concrete.

Open Garden for Brisbane Local Food group
Saturday 5 Apr 2014

Brisbane Local Food group
A sunny morning provided brilliant conditions for baking cake in a solar oven for visitors to see how simple solar cooking is. The large group from Brisbane Local Food spent the morning with us listening to a presentation about our sustainable living in a rental property followed by a garden tour and morning tea. There was a full table of food to share and seedlings and garden produce to give away. People learnt from us and also we learnt a lot from them! What a great way to share experiences and knowledge.
Sharing experiences

Seedlings and garden produce give away table

Roman Spur presented his latest invention to the biggest gardening club in Australia 
Thursday 3 Apr 2014

Roman Spur presented his latest invention to Brisbane Organic Growers Inc (BOGI), the biggest gardening club in Australia and probably the southern hemisphere. About 200 keen gardeners learned about Self-watering Planter Boxes which Roman invented and makes. Single, double and triple decker planter boxes can be used for growing all kinds of vegetables including root crops, small trees and shrubs. A box can store up to 40 litres of water. These self-watering  planter boxes are made from recycled materials - styrofoam box and a piece of PVC pipe - which have been saved from going to land fill.
SpurTopia  runs a hands-on workshop, "Make Your Own Self-watering Planter Box" free of charge.

Hands on Workshop: Self-Watering Planter Boxes 
Sunday 30 Mar 2014

SpurTopia Revolution - Make your self-watering planter box for free
Today a "Hands On" Workshop took place at SpurTopia. Despite rainy weather eleven people came to make their own self-watering planter boxes under the shelter of the house. When the styrofoam boxes were completed, there was a surprise to come. We made self-watering pots from a plastic milk container, perfect for seedlings or herbs. After the hard work we stretched our legs on a tour around the garden. Then we sat down had tea, home brew and freshly baked cake along with great chats.
These boxes (made from recycled materials- styrofoam box and PVC pipe) provide easy growing conditions even in a difficult environment such as a balcony. You can go on a couple of weeks holiday while plants will have over 10 litres of water stored in the box.
Everyone was happy leaving with two self-watering planters and bok-choi seedlings and Brazilian spinach cuttings to plant.
3D Vegie Pyramid from self-watering planter boxes

These are the boxes we used for 3D vegie pyramid

Not only vegies grow in the boxes :-)

Make your own..... 
Finished self-watering box
Chat - not only about boxes

Rosella Jam - irresistible delight 
Friday 28 Mar 2014

Rosella Jam
Rainy days are perfect for making preserves. Today we made 13 jars of rosella jam. Last year we prepared over 50 jars of this absolutely irresistible jam. We use it in yogurt, muesli and on slices of bread with butter. Rosella flowers are loaded with vitamin C and calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals.
Rosella Jam Recipe:
- Place a saucer for testing jam into the freezer.
- Separate flowers from inner seed pods. Put flowers into a  large pot  and seed pods into a small pot.
- Cover seed pods with water and boil for 20 minutes
- Strain water into pot with flowers
- Boil flowers for 15-30 minutes
- Combine equal amounts of flower liquid and sugar (one cup of flower liquid for one cup of sugar)
- Boil till starts to gel approximately 10 to 20 minutes. Test on a cold saucer from freezer: put spoon of jam on the cold saucer. Run your finger through the blob of jam and if the jam stays apart it's ready to bottle.
- Bottle into warm/hot sterilised jars. (To sterilise jars, wash carefully and place jars and metal lids on a tray. Leave in the oven at 120 degrees C for 15 - 20 minutes.)
Separating seed pods and flowers

Yummy Roselle Jam batch

Raw Lemon Cheesecake 
Tuesday 25 Mar 2014
Raw Lemon Cheesecake

Preparation time: about 20 minutes
Cost: approximately $14

Lemon Cheese:
3 cups cashews
8 tablespoons organic virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup raw honey
3/4 cup organic lemon juice
zest of 1 organic lemon
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup organic almonds
1 cup dates
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
coconut oil for oiling pan

Healthy, tasty, quick and cheap cake
Soak the cashews in cool filtered water overnight or at least for 1-2 hours. You can add 1 teaspoon of sea salt, which helps to breakdown anti-nutrients.
Blend almonds, dates and coconut in food processor till the mixture starts to clump together. Put the crust mixture into an oiled pie pan. Pat the crust down so it’s tightly packed and evenly distributed.
Next, drain the cashews and put in a food processor. Add 8 tablespoons of softened coconut oil. Then add honey, lemon juice, lemon rind, vanilla extract, sea salt and blend well to create a smooth, creamy texture. Scoop cheese on the top of the crust, distribute evenly. 
You can decorate the top of cake with dried coconut flakes, lemon slices, nuts or seeds, it’s up to you!

Put in refrigerator and let set for about an hour or two. You can store in fridge for a week or in freezer for a month if you have any leftovers ;-)

LADA - The World Class Water Saver, Recycler and Fertilizing Machine 
Saturday 22 Mar 2014

Lada bathing
Lada's contribution to the environment - Saving water, recycling  and  fertilizing plants. Since the start of her duty, 11 month ago, the banana plants have gone berserk producing huge bunches of bananas. So how does she do that?
Water from her bath is used for soaking her cloth nappies. This  enriches the water  with her wee and poo. Water boosted with nutrients is then used for watering the bananas. The banana plants  produce beautiful and tasty bananas.
Lada eats the fruit of her hard work, producing more fertilizer and the cycle continues. What can be more efficient?

Watering bananas

Enriching process of  soaking nappies

Fruiting bananas

Lada loves bananas

SpurTopia - A Small Kingdom of Happiness
Friday 21 Mar 2014

We have created SpurTopia - A Small Kingdom - where we are living fulfilling lives in complete happiness. With our commitment and passion, we love to share with others how we live and do things in our day to day lives. This is exciting for us and those we share with. If everyone lives according to what they want, that would be the greatest achievement we could wish for.

BIG THANKS TO YOU ALL for  helping, supporting and following us on this exciting journey.

Life is Beautiful
Yours Roman & Jana & Lada

Education is Our Focus
Wednesday 19 Mar 2014

I have been working as a Sustainable Design Engineer of buildings for over a decade. Now I am  proud to share and pass on my experience, knowledge and innovative design solutions to the younger generation. As a tutor at Faculty of Architecture, The University of Queensland, I am leading future architects to design the most sustainable buildings which  are energy efficient, comfortable for occupants and more environmentally friendly. It has been a real pleasure to work with students seeing how keen they are in the design of "Green Buildings" and coming up with innovative design solutions which will make a difference. We are heading towards a bright future.
Discussing daylight solutions for buildings

Leading group discussion

ROGI visit of SpurTopia
Sunday 16 Mar 2014

SpurTopia Presentation
Redland Organic Growers Inc. ROGI visited our place on Sunday afternoon. About 35 keen gardeners came to visit our garden to learn and see how we grow organic produce at a rental property. The visit started with a presentation of our latest inventions and garden and home produce. Then we went on a "grand tour" around the garden and house. We finished off with tasting solar baked cake, healthy home brew and herb tea while having interesting discussions. Many thanks for coming and allowing us to share our experience and knowledge.
It was comfortable under the mango tree

Presentation could go for hours and hours - So many things to share

Check the Czechs
Saturday 15 Mar 2014

What a feast
The Czechoslovakian community gathered at our place on Saturday to celebrate the coming of Autumn. We baked home made pizzas in our cob oven, grilled steaks and smoked ham, bacon and sausages in our smoke house. Also we had plenty of home baked  breads, cakes and healthy raw cookies. What a feast.
Hmmm Mnammy Melon

Smoking in progress

Smoked ham and sausages with home baked bread

The Pizza Chef

What a great gathering

2in1- Worm farm as a planter pot
Thursday 13 Mar 2014

2in1 - Worm farm as a planter pot
A worm farm produces worm juice and beautiful rich soil  which is used for growing plants even in pots. So why not combine these two things together.
We made a worm farm as a planter pot.  Use a 10 litre bucket with lid, make 6 holes about 20 mm diameter and 7 cm above the  bottom. Establishing worms in the bucket - use a bit of soaked coir and three handfuls of  soil with worms from an established worm farm. Plant various seedlings and cuttings of Brazilian spinach, strawberries, mushroom plant, any herbs, lettuce or greens of your choice.
Worms love eating fruit and vegie scraps from the kitchen but avoid meal and meat leftovers as they will go mouldy. They love tea bags and coffee grounds. Adding shredded newspaper and cardboard provides carbon. The worms produce liquid which plants drink so you rarely need to water. The "worm farm plant pot" should be kept in the shade close to your kitchen or even hung out of a window, so you can pick up greens for your meal and dispose of fruit and vegie scraps.
A hanging worm farm

Plants growing in a worm farm bucket

Stop Fruit Flies decimate your garden produce
Wednesday 12 Mar 2014

Fruit Fly Trap
Fruit flies have spoiled the fruits of the hard work in our garden over past years. Large Tomatoes, Capsicums, Pepinos, Nectarines and Peaches have been stung by this insect when young and when ripe, fruit and vegies are full of grubs and need to be thrown away. Since we introduced our home made fruit fly traps with home made liquid solution, we have the fruit flies under control and no more garden produce goes to waste. How do we make the trap and what goes into it?
Milk bottles painted yellow with two opposite "entrance", finger size holes in the upper part and filled with a special liquid (5 cups of sugar, 200 ml cloudy ammonia, 20ml vanilla essence and 10 litres of water) appears to do the job. The yellow colour attracts fruit flies, they enter through the set of holes attracted to the sweet smell of the liquid inside and get drowned. The sweet liquid will last for a few months, then empty the bottles with drowned fruit flies and refill with fresh liquid. Easy as that. We strategically hang traps in trees and on the fence about 6m  apart along the perimeter of our garden  so that any visiting fruit fly would encounter its final destiny before it gets into our garden.

SpurTopia at Ipswich Plant Expo
Saturday 8 Mar 2014
We make it for free - you can make it for free!

It was a last minute decision to attend the Ipswich Plant Expo on 8 March 2014. We talked about what can be achieved at a rental property. We also  showed visitors samples of our home produce and inventions. We really appreciate that we could take part in the Expo and  inspire visitors with various ideas.

Smoko time

SpurTopia stand

LADA - Media Mega Star
Friday 7 Mar 2014

The Courier Mail (7 March 2014) published an article "Cash is carrot to make vegies stick".  Lada is posing there, promoting eating vegies. That is what she does in our garden anyway. She does not need to be paid for that as suggested in the article. Read the article

Organic Gardening in a Rental Property - a Presentation at ROGI
Tuesday 4 Mar 2014

We delivered a presentation at Redland Organic Growers Inc (ROGI) on Tuesday 4 March, about our experiences with organic gardening at our rental property. In the IndigiScapes Centre about 60 keen gardeners gathered. An hour presentation was basically a huge off-load of our tips, tricks, ideas and inventions. Feedback from people was very positive and encouraging as they wanted to learn more from us. So we offered an open garden day at our place for Rogi members on 16 March at 1pm. We are truly looking forward to passing more of our enthusiasm and ideas on to them.
Look renting is no limitation ....

The self-watering styrofoam boxes -  the highlight of the presentation

SpurTopia - Sustainable Living in a Rental Property Workshop
Sunday 2 Mar 2014

The next stop: SpurTopia Workshop
SpurTopia "Kingdom of Happiness" held a "Sustainable living in a rental property" workshop today. About 40 eager people turned up including kids. The display table was loaded with home produce, garden produce, and invented gadgets like self watering planter boxes and a solar cooker. We started with a presentation about our sustainable living with lots of interesting questions answered. Then we went for a garden tour around the house and showed how theory has been applied in practice. We finished off with tasting home brewed Kombucha, solar made yoghurt, raw honey from our bees and tea made from stinging nettle and mint accompanied by solar baked cake. What an awesome afternoon. We are really pleased to share our experience and knowledge with people who are interested in a more fulfilling natural way of living.
Let's start Dady
Let's start Daddy!!
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Chat and play under a mango tree
Let's start Dady
Presentation in the full swing
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SpurTopia display table

Filming Day - ABC Gardening Australia
Thursday 27 Feb 2014

Action .... Stop ......Action
What an awesome day! ABC Gardening Australia came back to film another story at our place today. Jerry and the filming crew were very excited about all the ideas. Lada as a "director" was eating passion fruits, mulberries and a red capsicum while orchestrating the entire team :-) The day was kick started with a morning  smoothie from our herbs and fruits, and at lunch time we stopped for delicious vegetable soup Jana prepared from our garden produce with home baked bread. For desert we had a banana cake baked in our solar oven while filming. We look forward to seeing the Gardening Australia show on 19 April.

Break time

Action !!! 
Well Done TEAM

Is it UFO - No It Is a Lablab Bean
Tuesday 25 Feb 2014

Is it UFO? No just a Lablab Bean
We grow Lablab beans in our garden. They are great climbers growing for years. We grow them on pyramid poles above a garden bed so they provide shade to the bed during hot summer days. These beans have beautiful purple flowers attracting bumble bees which in return pollinate the  garden. A bean plant produce a lot of beans through the year. We have harvested kilos and dry these beautiful black beans with white stripe. These are great for soup, and we cook goulash or make a dip.

Lablab beans dip
400g cooked beans
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoon Tahini
2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 garlic
Put all ingredients into a food processor and mix them together. You can add whatever you like according to your taste.

Purple flowers of Lablab beans

Three stages of a Lablab bean

Three stages of the  bean pod
Bean pods

Harvesting time

SundayMail - Renew Your Lease on Life
Sun 23 Feb 2014

SundayMail  23 Feb 2014 published in the Home Ground section (page 52) an article - Renew Your Lease on Life, with some tips on sustainable living from us.
For those  who have not  had an opportunity to read the article here is a link.  Renew Your Lease on Life

The World Cheapest SuperFood - Sprouts
Friday 21 Feb 2014

Sprouted seeds = Superfood
Sprouts are one of the healthiest, the freshest and the cheapest superfood you can eat. You can grow them on a kitchen bench in a container/jar. In just a couple of days you have great fresh sprouts to eat. Mix them with muesli or into fruit salad. Add lemon juice to enhance taste. The sprouting seeds significantly enhances their vital energy, increases digestible protein multiple times, provides vitamins and minerals. Try sprouting mung and azuki beans, lentils, fenugreek, wheat, barley, rye and alfalfa. Soak seeds in a container overnight,  then rinse twice daily in an airy container. Once sprouts mature, they can be stored in a fridge for a couple a days not more as they will have lost their vital energy. Sprouts on the supermarket shelf can be several days old with diminished vital energy so it's not good value for money. Buy some seeds (mung, azuki and fenugreek to start with) grow your own fresh sprouts. From handful of seeds you will get sprouts to eat for the entire week. Every day eat a bit and next day sprouts re-grow keeping volume up. Sprouts need air to grow, so cover the top of jar with an airy cloth or leave a lid slightly aside. Keep sprouts moist but not soaked. If mould appears  there is insufficient air flow. We use organic seeds as these are  chemical free and produced in a most natural way. A kilo of organic seeds for sprouting costs about $6 and will last at least a month. So your family will have plenty of fresh organic food full of goodness. Happy sprouting. 
Did you know that Alfalfa (lucerne) seeds are one of the most nutritious. Alfalfa sprouts contain almost all vitamins, minerals and trace elements know to us.
Soaking time over night

Drain and rinse seeds in the morning

First day of sprouting

Second day of  sprouting

Third day of sprouting

Home-made Citrus Softener
Thursday 20 Feb 2014

Soaking time
What can you do with citrus peelings when we eat fruit - chuck them in a bin? No, they are very useful. We use them to prepare citrus softener and add it to each load of the washing machine. Citrus peels contain oil called D-limonene which is a powerful solvent for dirt and especially grease. It also gives washed clothes a beautiful citrus scent and freshness. We prepare it as follows:

500 ml plastic container
citrus peel

- citrus peels (lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime...)
- place peels into container and cover with water. Soak for 24 hours. The strength of your softener will be determine by the quantity of peels you have in the container.
- strain the liquid and add according to its strength and how "citrusy" you want the clothes to smell. If you need softener for more than one load, several batches may be needed.

Organic Home-made Yoghurt with Energy of Sun
Tuesday 18 Feb 2014

Glass  jars in a black bag
We make our organic yoghurt in the sun. Not only it is absolutely delicious and charged with sun energy but most importantly comes four times cheaper ($1.25 per 500g) than from a shop. It is also environmentally friendly: no energy (electricity) is required to keep it warm during the curing process. Use organic unhomogenized milk from well looked after cows, and glass jars instead of  plastic packaging. So how do we make it? You will need -

2 litres of organic milk (we use organic Barambah full cream unhomegenized milk)
2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt (choose one with good yoghurt culture - we used Barambah organic yoghurt. Once you have made the
first batch, keep some so don't need to buy it again for future batches)
Yoghurt is curing at 40C in sun
glass jars.

- in a cup, mix yoghurt with a bit of milk and stir it well to avoid small lumps
- pour it into a saucepan and add the rest of the milk, stir well together
- warm it up to 40 C while stirring
- pour it into clean glass jars
- put the jars in a black plastic bag and place it in a sunny spot for at least 6 hours
- a black plastic bag keeps yoghurt at a temperatures between 38C to 42C which is an optimal temperature for growing yoghurt culture. If it gets cooler it stops growing if gets hotter it kills the culture.
Creamy delicious home made yoghurt
On cooler days we use a pizza box with reflective (aluminium) foil on the inner side of the lid to reflect extra heat onto the bag and during hot days, open the plastic bag and release heat to avoid overheating.
In case the weather becomes cloudy and there is not enough sunshine to keep the yoghurt warm, place jars in a warm (about 42C) bath (we use a small esky) and leave them there till it cools down.

We mix yoghurt with homemade rosella jam, honey from our bees or seasonal fruit from our garden (mango, banana, pawpaw or passion fruit) which makes the creamy yoghurt unbeatable.

Morning smoothie full of goodness
Sun 16 Feb 2014

What a great way to start the day with a fresh organic smoothie. The healthy drink is full of vitamins, enzymes and vital energy if its prepared from freshly picked fruit (pawpaw, mango, passion fruit, guava, lemon, banana) green vegies (kale, parseline, amaranth, Brazilian spinach, aloe vera) herbs (mint, mushroom plant, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, lemon balm, curry plant, tarragon) and flowers (yellow pumpkin, orange cosmos and purple flowers) from our garden. Sometimes we add seeds (pumpkin, linseed, sunflower and sesame seeds), honey and olive oil.
The smoothie is ever so tasty, fills and fuels you up for an entire morning. Tastes even better as it's all home grown at no cost.
 Did you know that green leaf vegies, such as lettuce, after 3 days loose up to  90% of vitamins and vital energy?
Smoothie ingredients

Functional neighborhood is very important
Friday 14 Feb 2014

One day we were talking to our neighbours in our street. They have a mango tree covered in mangoes which they don't like to eat. So went over and harvested about 30 kg of  beautiful organic mangoes which were so sweet and juicy. In addition, we were offered a pile (five wheelbarrows) of rich organic soil from decomposed grass clippings which they wanted to get rid of.  In return we gave our neighbours a pumpkin from our garden, which they cooked for dinner, and a large jar of mango chutney which we made from their mangoes and they enjoyed eating. So both sides were  extremely happy and benefited from the swap.
A functional neighborhood is vital to us as we get a sense of belonging, have great socializing  and save heaps of money.

Mangoes and rich compost  for ....

.....pumpkin and mango chutney

The first honey of the year
Wednesday 12 Feb 2014

Sweet treat
We started keeping bees again at the beginning of the year after loosing our previous bee hive due to disease last year. The new hive has grown from a three to a ten frame box within five weeks. We just harvested our first honey. The raw honey in combs is absolutely delicious. The best, the sweetest and the healthiest chewing gum (wax) you have ever tasted. Big thanks to our hard working girls.
Did you know that one bee produces about a teaspoon of honey in lifetime.

Honey combs

Cosmos and bee hive

Our two new bee hives

Pizza night 
Friday 7 Feb 2014

Making pizza is fun
Home made pizza from garden produce baked in our "cob oven", that is traditional Friday night theme in our place.
10 people, 10 delicious pizzas, outstanding cakes, roasted bunya nuts and entrees  till 10 pm. Great food, chat and fun which galvanize our small community.
Wholemeal pizza base, eggplant, tomatoes, onion, pumpkin, kohl-rabi, carrot, brazilian spinach, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, basil all from our garden. As a sauce, home made mango chutney and two most important ingredients - wood smoke and lots of love. This makes these pizzas unbeatable.
Looking forward to the next one.
Cob oven - pizza is baking

Pizzas with different toppings

Sustainable Living in a Rental Property workshop for Permaculture meetup group,  
Sunday 2 Feb 2014
Home Produce - Display Table

What a beautiful day for a workshop with a great turn up - over 30 people. It ran from 1:30 pm till 4 pm. We started with a presentation about sustainable living, talked about home produce and inventions shown  on a display table followed up with an organized tour through our garden and around the house. We had tea/coffee,  home brewed Kombucha drink  and our solar baked chocolate cake along with great chat and plenty of laughs. Many thanks to everyone attending the workshop and being part of such an awesome afternoon.
Yep yep tell me about sustainable living!

Workshop set up in a shade of Mango tree

Teacher and his trainee


  1. Thank you for sharing the things your a learning and practicing. I am going to use the citrus softener as my daughter keeps asking me to buy fabric softener. I only use vinegar in the rinse cycle however the citrus softener will allow me to save on vinegar and the plastic bottles the vinegar comes in. My daughter will be happy with the lovely citrus smell too :-)

    1. It is our great pleasure to share our experience with you. Once you try the citrus softener you will never go back. and it's for free:-) Watch the space there is more to come....

  2. Great blog, thanks heaps for sharing.

  3. Hi Roman,
    Some good tips there - pity most wouldn't work in the UK, as we don't get your sun - it has been raining for 7 weeks here!
    I didn't know you could eat aloe vera - will have to try it in the smoothies. I found a useful vid on Youtube on how to prepare it:
    Keep up the good work.
    Cheers Glen

  4. Ahoj Romco, posilam pozdrav z daleke Evropy :-) To je neskutecne, jak jste to tam rozjeli, jeste chvilku a cela Australie vam bude lezet u nohou :-) Dobra prace, stesti, radost a nadseni z vas vsech uplne sala! Mejte se krasne a at se dari. Radek Z.

  5. Hi Roman, it was lovely to meet you yesterday at the Logan Food Gardeners morning. The presentation was very inspiring. You mentioned the potting mix you make up, and I was hoping to find the recipe on your blog . . . would you be able to add it please, as I didn't write it down! Thanking you, Ann Roffey

    1. Dear Ann,
      Pleased you enjoyed the presentation - It is our aim to inspire people!
      We are going to put a post about making our soil soon! Watch the space.

  6. Thank you so much Roman, Jana and Lada, for such a wonderful afternoon. It was so great to experience first hand what you have achieved and we really appreciated the delicious cakes and the cuttings. Can't wait to fill our planter boxes tomorrow! Have a wonderful week and many thanks again. Amanda and Rob


    1. Hi Manda,
      Great pleasure. that's what we are here for. If you like it share it. that's the way to get our message across.

  7. Thank you Roman for help with making my planter box, thanks to Jana for the delicious cake, and to Lada for keeping us entertained!

    1. Hi Jean,
      It was a pleasure to help you out to make your own planter box during our last hands on workshop. Also glad you like Jana's cakes - she is absolutely brilliant cook and her cakes specificaly from our solar oven are unbeatable. Lada became a star of our events. She keep us always entertained and make us happy.

  8. Hi Roman. Just saw your interview on "Blooming in Brisbane". Great to see you spreading the word on sustainability and the joys of growing your own food. Best wishes. Jean.

    1. I am pleased you like the interview for Blooming in Brisbane. Hopefully we will do another one more energizing and hands on segment for Chanel 31 soon.

  9. Great to see the article in the City North News and the photo of the beautiful and very healthy Lada...your reputation is spreading far and wide :)

  10. Hi guys!
    Visiting all the way from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago. Came here via Rhonda Hetzel's blog. Love your ideas. Keep up the great work!



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