Jun 27

Some More from Timor

Hey good people. Still having fun training in Timor Leste and couldn’t resist sharing a few more happy snaps.


hazy-morning mercy-corps

It was a little Hazy this morning as I arrived at the Mercy Corps Office and get ready to head off of to the training venue at Tibar.


Big-loadI think this guy had some help tying all this stuff onto his motorbike. He moved through the traffic effortlessly. It was amazing to watch.

deep-in-conversation Facilitating a discussion on the technical support requirements.


Queue-for-morning-teaTime for Morning tea at the Cafeteria. The hospitality students and staff serve meals up to all the staff and students at CNEFP.


morning-tea-popcorn popcorn-for-morning-tea

Including some interesting variations like these popcorn and sweet coconut slice goodies :)


Simao-the-director  Simao-the-gardener

Meanwhile the director of the Facility shows his versatility around the campus. He says it keeps him fit and focused when he is back in the office. It must work because he is a powerhouse of energy and drive.

 testing-some-PV Lucky he missed these PV systems set up for display and training purposes



Deep in discussion during the afternoon session


The-men-from-the-ministrySadly, all good thing must come to an end. Time for one last photo with the Government Electricity Department staff and one of our teachers and the translator as they wrap up their last day. It’s back to work for them while the teachers and I continue our training Tomorrow.


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Jun 25

Once More in the Land of the Crocodile

I’m in Timor Leste once a gain completing the last few days on the Mercy Corps training program at the vocational training centre, CNEFP at Timor about 30 minutes west of Dili. I’ve posted a story on CNEFP in the past here.

This is the final phase of the contract this week. Next week I am doing some volunteer work for the ATA before returning home for a while. I must admit, I’m not looking forward to the wild and freezing weather in Melbourne at the moment.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few rag-tag happy snaps of Today’s activities with you.




On the way to Tibar. They have finished the main fountain near the entrance to the airport. Very imposing!






St Michaels-02St Michaels-01

How could I pass up the opportunity to show you St Michael’s :-)


Through the main gate at CNEFP


and into the staff room to say “Hi” to the mix of office staff and teachers


Discussing the final detail of the box construction for some of our test gear

CNEFP-workshop-01 CNEFP-workshop-02

busy assembling the variable load


The board going through it’s testing before being used for some equipment testing


On our way home again

hometime-01 babyonbike

Along with everybody else including mum, dad and the baby.

I hope you have enjoyed the happy snaps. I will have a few more, no doubt, over the next two weeks including a few from the districts where we will be installing some systems in a school and some houses :-)



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Jun 22

That Garden Bed

Oh, remember that garden bed I mentioned in the previous post, you know that one that also featured in a a very early post (here)?


Yes, that’s the one. Well I did a bit of work on it last month and, of course, there was a bit of scope creep, and the simple cleanup turned into a major refit!

It all started when I decided that I wanted to redo the borders as part of the preparation and general cleanup prior to our Permablitz in August (Oh, have I mentioned we’re having a permablitz?  ;-) ). I will provide some more detail closer to the date but you can also find all the details at


Anyway, I started with a simple idea. Remove the existing rotting red-gum sleepers and replace them with newer bits. Sounds simple, right? and it would’ve been, but…I got to thinking (oh, oh).

Since the original bed was built, I have installed a grapevine trellis running behind it with some mesh fencing and steel posts for support. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could use these posts as the corner posts for the sleepers together with the posts at the front that support the verandah and storm water pipes to the tank.

But, of course, the existing posts were in the wrong spot to make it work properly so they would have to come out and be repositioned. Which meant dismantling the fence and unhooking the trellis wire supports for the grapevine.

I would also need to place a new post in the other corner to complete the process.




So there was nothing for it but to start digging!






And more Digging!








Now, there was a bit a planning involved before all that hard work. For example, making sure that the bed lined up with the trellis and support fencing, and was positioned away from the boundary fence which is overdue for replacement. The idea was to make the mesh fence double as a brace for the trellis and a climbing frame for plantings in the bed. It was also important that everything was square.

So how do you make sure that everything is square. Good old Pythagoras provided the answer a few thousand years ago. The diagram shows some of the measurements used to make sure the posts were going into the right place.  The second set of measurements with the dotted lines show the results of scaling up the classic 3-4-5 triangle to get a right angle (90 degrees) as a check.


I decided to concrete these posts in place because I needed them to be solid. The trellis wires are under tension and the original posts had moved a little, despite the bracing, and it was also going to be used as a climbing frame. Suddenly, the next bit of scope creep appeared! If I made the posts a bit longer and put some horizontal bracing between the four corners, I  could drape plastic film over the whole lot and make a temporary greenhouse for winter and extend the growing season in the new bed!

Damn! now I had to bolt some extensions on the bottom of the second hand posts to extend their height for the greenhouse idea. Oh well! it’ll be worth it :-)


At this point a friend said to me, “why are you mucking around with the grinder making brackets from old bits of post scraps when they’re so cheap at the hardware store?”

To be honest, had I realised the work involved, I may have done just that. However, I enjoyed making them and I was able to re-purpose some material that would have ended up in the scrap bin rather than buying new material.

So I cut up the brackets, drilled the holes for the mounting screws and sprayed them with anti-rust paint.
gardenbed-upgrade-11 gardenbed-upgrade-12      gardenbed-upgrade-13

Then it was just a matter of bolting the brackets to the posts at the right height and bolting the sleepers to the brackets. Easy :-)
gardenbed-upgrade-14 gardenbed-upgrade-15     gardenbed-upgrade-16

Now at this point, with some of the sleepers in place, I needed to put in an extension support because the sleepers were not long enough for the garden bed. I had already done this at the rear of the bed with a post because I wanted the mesh fence for the climbing frame but what was the best way to do this at the front of the bed, and then…more scope creep!!

What about putting another post at the front and extending it later to the top support for the pipe to the tank? That way I could install a door and make the greenhouse more permanent. No problem!

So in went another post making a 900mm opening and the remainder of the sleepers.





The finished Product Tada!!

“But what about the soil?”, you ask? “Oh yeah!” Ok, let’s get some soil and chicken manure into the bed.


That’s Better !! Several barrow loads of composted tree pruning and chicken manure later and it’s finished.

Even the basil and capsicum survived the rebuild.



I have since re-attached the vine trellis, planted out some peas, broad beans and garlic and they are doing well. I’ll post some more pictures in a few weeks.

So now I have a much larger garden bed complete with built in climbing frame and provision for turning it into a greenhouse in the future.

It was supposed a one day or casual weekend project but it morphed into quite a large project that ended up taking several days over three weekends to complete but I am very happy with the result.

Got any projects planned for your backyard?

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Jun 21

Chic Chic Chic

It’s always the way that, before you go away for any reason, you realise all these jobs have piled up and you’ll never get them all done in time, and so it was before I headed over to Timor Leste for three weeks to do some training work and volunteering in Renewable energy for the ATA (www.ata.org.au).

Some many jobs and so little time. I did a lot of work getting the greenhouse re-organised, a new garden bed built and planted out, planning for our upcoming permablitz in August and a myriad of other little jobs around the house.

One thing I have been wanting to do for a while is add a few layers to our chicken flock since the original girls are off the lay and I actually had to buy eggs last month!!! (I know! Right?).

Fortunately, the local pet store had a few point of lay ISA Browns for sale when I went to get food so I bit the bullet and bought three. They were more expensive than the last place but I saved all that on petrol plus time so it was worthwhile all round.

Real Chicken-in-a-Box

Real Chicken-in-a-Box

Checking Out the New Home

Checking Out the New Home








They’re fitting in well now that the pecking order has been re-established and I had eggs the next day! Woo Hoo! Backyard Eggs on Toast for breakky – YUM!

I’ll have have plenty of eggs when I get back from TImor Leste in a few weeks and, not long after, the older chooks should be back on the lay :)

How are your layers doing this winter?

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May 15

Growing in the Greenhouse

Well, after cleaning up and rearranging the greenhouse, building the wicking tubs and planting the seeds it was just left to wait and see how well the seeds would germinate.

We have been lucky to have some mild weather to help start them off and they seem to be doing very well. Beans at the back, cherry tomatoes in the middle and spring onions at the front.

greenhouse-seedlings-01I also took the opportunity to rescue some pot-bound pups of various grasses etc. from friend’s severely neglected pot-plants which I will grow a little bigger before planting out in the front yard. I couldn’t even tell where I removed them from the original pots they were so overgrown. They also seem to be doing well.

repotting-02 repotting-01









Now that I have made a good start in the greenhouse it’s time to get serious and get a lot of winter greenhouse planting done and seedlings started for my upcoming permablitz in August.

“Permablitz?”, you ask! Aaah! That’s a whole other exciting story and the subject of a complete post of it’s own, coming soon.


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