Friday, September 25, 2009

Sustainability Awards & Fish

Well I wrote a post earlier in the week about our garden, but cyberspace ate it *sigh* I am so technically gifted, I will re-do it later though as some of the information might help others. Anyway last night DH and I were the very fortunate invitees to the second annual Sustainability Awards for our local council (last year we won one of the inaugural awards so I think they were being really nice and invited us back this year as well & I am so happy that they did). After organizing a babysitter for our cherub (thanks Mandy you are an absolute super star) we got to get dressed up and go out for a fantastic evening.

The variety of nominees in all the categories made for interesting and lively conversation, the entertainment was such good fun and as well as bring original, they lived up to their name of being very Junkadelic! Of course during the evening we were inspired to strive for four more projects that although we have discussed in the past never really got concreted into anything substantial – so watch this space over the next year or so to see how we go with them! We have decided we really want to get chooks (yay – but I have to check council building guidelines etc first and we'll have to figure out what will happen with them if we get to go away on holiday, but surely it can't be that hard after all we used to keep literally hundreds of them on our family farm when I was younger); planning for some vertical strawberry containers made from PVC pipe under the patio, we have discussed before, but our ideas never seemed to gel, however during morning tea this morning we seem to have come up with something that will not only work, but is hopefully affordable as well (our strawberry plants are extremely prolific and last year we gave away over 80 plants for free and this year I was mean and sold them for $2 a plant and donated the money to the Australian Marine Conservation Society except for the dozen donated to my son's day care as they are putting in a vegetable garden area); after talking to a wonderful couple who won one of this year's individual household awards I have been inspired (thanks Amy) and after discussing it with DH this morning at length we are planning to open our home next year for the Sustainable House open day and I completed the expression of interest for that this morning so I am sure some preparation/organization will be required for that and finally we got to add a major expense project to our list of "wants" even though we have some great & productive vegetable beds, for us this type of system is about the fish production primarily. Globally fishing is completely unsustainable and the number of species that are critically endangered is growing on a virtual weekly basis, this is of course hampered by our lack of knowledge about our ocean environments as to put it in context we know more about deep space than our oceans and space exploration only began in the 1960s!!! We also know that in order to be more sustainable we need to reduce our red meat consumption, but I have issues with replacing that with chicken or fish due to overfishing and the horrendous conditions most meat chickens are kept in (we currently patronize the Mt Barker free range products) so the concept of producing our own fish in our own backyard is very desirable, unfortunately we'll have to wait a little while as we need to save up (or win lotto tonight), but it is good to have goals to aim for as otherwise we'd just be floating along rudderless……..

There is a fantastic movie out at the moment called End Of The Line and DH is going to the premiere in our state tonight. It has been tagged "the inconvenient truth about our oceans" all of the projections are that within our lifetime i.e. approx. 2045-50 that the human species will have overfished the oceans to the point of collapse and no return and of course I really want to see the movie, but we modified our seafood consumption a few years ago through the help of the Australian Marine Conservation Society , where if you are at all confused about what is a sustainable fish species and what is under threat, they have a free download which can easily be printed and kept in your wallet whilst shopping etc. If you don't get to see the movie - you can watch some great trailers on the website.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spring has Sprung!

Well spring is definitely here, not sure if the weather knows this yet, but our garden certainly does. The raspberry canes are starting to bud and shoot out new leaves, the strawberries are flowering and DH & DS have planted a multitude of seeds which all seem to be thriving. Our gardens both vegetable and native are only about 3 years old, before we moved here there were 3 sick looking little banksia trees and a lot of scrubby grass in the back yard and nothing else, now we have a frog pond & native surrounds, a large native garden area with the most massive and prolifically flowering kanagroo paws and gravillias that attract so many birds to the garden, a small cirtus area and a few other fruit trees where ever there is some spare space and of course our vegetable beds which seem to be constantly producing something. We do still have some lawn left for kicking the football around on and also a large strawberry patch - without which I wouldn't be able to make yummy strawberry jam that lasts us almost through the year, although we are now sadly down to our last jar, but fortunately I made a batch of blackberry earlier this month so we'll have to switch to that until our plants do more than produce lots of flowers. Of late the garden has also been producing a massive crop of snails, which our 3yo loves to collect for us in a bucket, which is infinitely better than having to put bait down, for some reason we've never had any luck with beer traps for snails?

Gardening on sand is problematic at the best of times, it has almost zero nutrients and is totally hydrophobic so our main aim initially was to add a lot of organic material quickly and thanks to a friend who has horses and another who has sheep we got a lot of manure in, added some pea straw and now our compost bins also add back to the garden, but joy of joys I finally discovered where to get bentonite clay from at a reasonable cost. Bentonite clay (aka sand remedy) is a lot cheaper than applying wet a soil agents to the gardens annually, this is a one off application and that's it so it works out really cost effective and best of all they deliver free to metro areas and were so polite and helpful I almost started to believe customer service was alive and well again so if you are looking for this or a wonderful seaweed product try contacting this site so here's hoping this season will be a really good one for our garden's productivity and allow us to use even less water!

We are also very strong believers in growing heirloom plants (i.e. ones that you can save seed from for next season and not modern hybrids which are sterile) this also means our produce tastes a lot better and generates a lot more conversation as it is far more colourful - take yesterday for example as I bottled two large jars of beetroot from the garden, no boring beets for us - we had white, orange and the traditional dark red beets in our jars and the same goes for carrots, ours are white, red and orange. We don't just grow for uniformity of size, colour, texture in the minimum amount of time that will transport well and last weeks on the supermarket shelf - we grow for taste, biodiversity and enjoyment. As a couple of added bonuses they seem to be fairly robust against disease which allows us to be organic without losing too much to pests and also through gardening our 3yo loves eating vegetables (raw or cooked), digging, planting and understands where food comes from. We get most of our heirloom seeds/plants from which is local and has excellent customer service or which is interstate.

I was reading an article recently that said over 15% of people had started gardening since the global economic recession hit and it is a trend that I truely hope continues, even if it is only a few herbs in a container or a potted citrus, it's good for the urban environment (if it's organically done), looks much more interesting than boring lawn, it's good for your health and the produce tastes so much better than anything you will buy. Happy gardening!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pledge to Try Vege

So to be a bit healthier and reduce meat consumption we switched to eating a vegetarian meal once at week a while ago and then I saw this on a website I must confess my initial reaction is what on earth would I cook for a week of vegetarian meals, but then I thought if I put all the vegetarian options I cook on a once-a-week basis together I pretty much had most of the week covered & it is for a great cause (other than the planet & our health that is - Sanitarium are donating money to the Great Barrier Reef for everyone that pledges to go vegetarian for a week). Anyway after a week of debating and procrastinating I did pledge my support on the website (as did another couple of friends - thanks guys!) and I have my menu plan for the week pretty much sorted so feel better about that too.

For anyone that has never heard of menu planning - it's not just for OCD type personalities or SAHM who need a life. Menu planning is basically a fantastic way to save time, money & stress and remove the daily challenge of what too make for dinner that the family will all eat! If you do a Google it'll come up with a myriad of sites to help the process, but I found a great guide from Simple Savings (link to site on the right hand side of my blog) that under their free downloads has a template to write your menu and tips on going about it. It takes me about 5-10 minutes of planning a week (including checking refridgerator/freezer/pantry/supermarket catalogue for weekly specials) and then writing it on a sheet. Too easy - on that note I'd better go make dinner!

Friday, September 11, 2009

When to let it go?

I have a love-hate relationship with my clothes dryer, I love it as it was free (thanks Rob!) and I love the convenience of it when my cherub's absolutely favourite blanket or soft toy gets grotty and needs to be washed and dried NOW, which in winter can be a challenge. However I hate it as they are a convenience I can probably live without, I really hate the amount of energy it takes to run them and I only use it for about an hour a year so is it really worth the appliance taking up space on my laundry wall when it could be freecycled to someone who might use it a lot more. What to do - hmmmm this winter I've used it for one x 5 minute dry & one x 10 minute dry as even with extended wet & cold days generally I have managed to get most of the laundry dry okay, even with a toddler in toilet training who can go through lots of changes a day with that or from being covered in paint, getting wet etc we're still getting by okay without using it - so why can't I make the break and finally get rid of it???

I went craft idea surfing yesterday and found this terrific tutorial on re-using and upcycling plastic grocery bags and went wow, I really want to try this and then after a 5 minute search of the house realised there were no plastic grocery bags in the house, I have been that diligent with using my cloth and eco bags for groceries (even meat - yes it's fine for that too & if there is a bit of blood or something that leaked, take out he hard plastic base of the bag and wash it!) and of course I have my net bags for fruit & vegetables so no thin film bags in the house either. Ohh well I'm sure I could just admire the art these people create with the upcycled plastic bags instead of deliberately getting plastic bags to create some myself which would defeat the purpose of my eco bags.........I know I could ask friends and they would give me some, but do I really need plastic in the house as I was happy without it until I read that blog tutorial!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Where did my week go?

Okay so I had good intentions (honestly I do most of the time!) of posting a few more things to this blog, but my ever present gift with computers is preventing me for some unknown reason for being able to post a blog on my computer, so I have to steal DH laptop to do so. Although like many people I know I seem to be busier these days but getting less done - are we expecting too much of ourselves or is it that we are not able to find peace and contentment with our lives and think that with constant activity we will make it better? I know I always seem to have an avalanche of stuff to do and have decided that somethings can wait & when it comes to my art, I will always have far more ideas than time to execute them!
Our cherub always seems to have full days, but this week so did I. I finished preparing all the kits for my first class (Christmas cards) at Crafty Cards on Garling ( which was held this morning and was an interesting learning experience in itself when almost all of the participants had never seen an ink pad or paper punch before, but they seemed to have fun and managed to get the projects completed okay and now I have another fortnight before my next one! I must confess that even though it is a little weird doing Christmas cards in August/September it was nice to have some adult conversation & it felt vaguely productive thinking of Christmas already - hmm now if I just manage to make multiples of the cards and get them mailed out in time!
The other exciting news was that our gorgeous cherub has his photograph in the latest Super Food Ideas magazine (Oct issue) on page 10 for the aquarium birthday cake I made for his 3rd birthday and DH helped to decorate, so that was very exciting to open up the mail today and not only find bills, but something really nice.
Okay off to do something productive!