Gardening between the showers

It’s rather soggy around here at the moment due to a fairly substantial amount of rain (17mm this month) that has been falling this week. Aside from the gale-force winds and sideways rain the weather has been simply delightful. 😉 Continue reading

Fresh harvested lunch

Lunch was a simple affair here today. Salad, scrambled eggs and some fried polenta from the other night. Yum. The salad however deserves a YUM instead of just a yum. It was so full of flavour that if I had any doubts about the wisdom of growing our own then they are totally allayed by the taste of my lunch. The spinach was fresh, crisp and delicious. The rocket was actually so spicy it burned my tongue a little. The tomatoes, albeit very small, packed a punch well above their weight and the radishes burned my tongue quite badly. Whoo pepper! The only lacklustre vegetable was the capsicums but they weren’t bad.

The eggs were local harvest from Highland Heritage Farm and the olives in the salad were purchased through them too. In fact the only ingredients not organic, biodynamic or local were the milk in the scrambled eggs and the polenta. The salt was also Himalayan rock salt which I don’t create and nor is it local. But it IS good for you. 🙂 The polenta came from Coles cornmeal from the pantry and the milk is just from the supermarket but all in all pretty good I reckon.

I have no photos to share as we scoffed the lot before I thought to take a picture. Sorry.

Our only ripening tomatoes so far are the Tommy toes but there are a few others on the bushes so if the frost holds off… I just need that first blush of colour please. Then I can pick and ripen them inside away from birdy beaks.

Operation Homestead: Day 22/Start of week 3

The beds are in! Garden beds that is. There are now 6 large garden beds across the back fence of our block. I am STOKED! I may have room for one more (hopefully) and I am now looking for some more lucerne mulch, preferably organic, with which to mulch them. One more load of compost to top up 2 of the beds and put in the 1 more and that may well be it. If I get a 2nd load there will be excess for friends and also some to kick start my own compost heap/keep for later when it’s time to bury my spuds again.

Speaking of spuds, I had a peek underneath the lucerne mulch in the spud beds and in all 3 beds I was rewarded to see that the spuds are growing! 😀

I had a nice chat to our neighbour over the back fence whilst he chook-proofed the back fence (those sly girls keep finding yet another way either over or under or through the fence) and he said we should be pretty safe to be frost free by Melbourne Cup weekend. For those who aren’t in Melbourne, The Cup is the first Tuesday in November. That means I can plant my beans and peas now (only the flowers are frost sensitive) and my spuds should be all fine and dandy too. If frost seems likely this week I can just bury them again which will keep them safe and toasty underground. IT’S TIME FOR PLANTING! 😀 😀 😀 And that means, those that have offered to help might just be getting that muster call soon. 😉

Time for bed now as I have another busy day in Ballan tomorrow, but this time without my husband who is going to help some friends out. Just the kids and I. Eek! More gardening, a kitchen delivery, maybe planting some seeds and hopefully getting some trellis and sandpit sand too. I will do my best to post some photos tomorrow.

Some things you can do to be green

It’s not easy being green, but making a start is not that hard either. There are so many things we can all do that will make a difference in the environmental impact we have on the earth. Starting out to become an eco warrior overnight is a HUGE task and I would probably say it’s nigh on impossible. Well, to sustain such a huge change in habit and lifestyle is no mean feat and it is a venture more likely doomed to failure than geared to success. However the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and here are some first steps to take if you are trying to green up your lifestyle.

Go the greener cleaner: Shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and dishwashing liquids (in fact anything that foams) quite often contain a substance called Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). To my disgust, even some so-called green products contain it. It’s not good stuff at all. It’s not so much the impact this has on the greater environment, but upon our most personal one, our bodies. There are many products out there made without these nasties. Babyscent is where I started my SLS/SLES free shampoo and soap journey. Another option is to go “poo free“. Your hair will, after some time of adjustment, no longer require the oils to be stripped from it.
Also consider replacing your disinfectant sprays and the like with vinegar and bicarb. Here is a post of my friend Linda cleaning her stove the natural way. It is extremely effective at cleaning and if you use white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar then the product is natural. Be careful as some vinegars are diluted acetic acid made using petroleum products. But even using cheap white vinegar leaves a smaller environmental impact than all the toxic nasty products in commercial cleaners. Here is some info on vinegar as researched by another friend, The Eco Mum.

Bag the bag: Plastic (polyethylene) bags leave a huge impact on the environment. Marine animals can ingest them after mistaking them for food, disintegrating bags tar into small pieces which are then distributed everywhere by the wind and landfills are full of them. They are also a waste of our dwindling crude oil supplies and unnecessary. So-called “green bags” are an alternative, although in my opinion they’re not much better than plastic bags as they are made from non-degradeable polypropylene bags and have a large carbon footprint, both in their construction and in their location of construction. Here is a Choice report on them. I have rid our house of the majority of them (passing them on to family to use) and instead we use calico bags. Although cotton is a very water hungry plant which does not endear itself to me for growing in Australia and cotton can be bleached and chemically treated, it is at least a natural resource and can be re-grown. Calico is also not as heavily processed so it will have a lesser impact. To replace other sorts of plastic bags, there are reusable sandwich bags available made from oiled cloth and we use reusable cotton bags I made from fabric scraps and an old bed-sheet for holding fruit and vegetables (replacing “freezer” bags). I can’t always use these but in most cases I can.

Water usage: Cutting down our showers to four minutes and conserving water is another great thing to do for the environment. If you can collect and use your own rainwater in tanks, even if it’s just for your gardens, you will not only cut your water bills but it helps conserve water. We are hoping to put in several tanks which we should be able to run our house off but this is not always possible for everyone. But conserving water with shorter showers, stopping the water whilst brushing teeth, rinsing vegetables in a sink of water rather than under the tap, making sure the washing machine and dishwasher are water efficient models and only running when full are all great ways to cut down on water usage.

Local food: Buying locally grown food and eating “in season” foods are also a great help t the environment. Food imported from half way around the world requires refrigeration to keep it fresh which uses energy and it also comes with travel fuel costs giving it a much larger carbon footprint than a locally harvested product. Food that is in season is also going to be at its nutritional and favour best as well and hasn’t the carbon footprint from cold storage for months. Shopping at farmers markets (have a look here for your local market in Australia)  is also a great way to support local farmers and even make a few friends. I check in all the time with our local farmers market Spud farmer and orange growers and we trade children stories and Thermomix stories too. It makes grocery shopping so much more than just a chore. And if you have the space to grow your own, even just a balcony pot for herbs then the carbon miles are nearly non-existent. And the flavour will be at a premium!

Transport yourself: Travelling to and from work or wherever our destination may be is a huge contribution of pollution into the environment. And in some cases there are alternatives to lessen our impact. Can you carpool? If 5 people are all driving in their cars to the same (or close by) locations there are 5 individual contributions of pollution into the environment but if all 5 can share 1 car then there is an 80% decrease there immediately. Not to mention the fuel savings. Imagine only spending around 20% of your normal petrol bill. If carpooling is not an option, public transport may be a solution. Sadly, our buses, trams and trains are just not recognised by our government of being as worthy, or in my opinion, worthier of funding and development as roads. A train may cost a lot more power to run but that cost is divided between a LOT more people making each individual transport footprint MUCH lower. If you work relatively close to home and you’re within riding distance, a bike will keep your transport costs to a bare minimum. Once you have your initial set up needs covered (bike, helmet, any necessary riding clothes, etc) then you’re pretty much done apart from upkeep on your bike. Bike parking is free and you will also get a great workout too. And last but certainly not least, good old shank’s pony is a wonderful means of transport for short distances. Walking is another free transport option and apart from carbon dioxide expulsion (you need to be breathing anyway so no difference there) I cannot think of any pollution it causes. It can also be, in some cases, faster than driving. For me to load 3 children and our various bits, bobs and bags into the car along with a pram, drive the 800m to childcare, unload all of the aforementioned and get into childcare, it takes me at least 10 minutes, if not 15-20. However, if I sling Orik into my Ergo harness, the bags onto the shoulders of their owners and grab 2 hands, we can walk to childcare in 15-20 minutes, or if Allegra goes in the pram and Jasper walks, we can get there in 12-15 minutes. The added bonus of walking there and back for the kids is they sleep a lot better when they’re worn out from a full on day. And I get the 3.2kms there and back twice to chalk up to exercise too.

Anyway, there’s just a few ways to start on an eco journey. If you have any other easy ways to change to a greener lifestyle, please share. I’d love to hear any other suggestions.

Deeply troubled

I watched A Crude Awakening last night. Not a wise move for a deep, refreshing sleep. I crawled into bed around 12:15 with my brain racing at a million miles an hour and on the edge of panic. Peak oil really is here.

Peak oil is the point at which the maximum amount of oil extraction has been reached, where after production will never be as high again. It means the last remaining easily accessible oil reservoirs have been tapped and are in the process f being drained. Like a mountain, when you reach the summit, the only place to go from there is down.

So, what does this mean? It means that many of the things we take for granted that we use day to day will either be no longer available or will be so expensive that only the elite can afford them. Things like plastic toys, furniture, cosmetics, transport, cooking, power and food. Yes, food. Food is heavily reliant on the fuel industry. Think of labels on food and when they tell us it is made in China. Or India. Or anywhere that isn’t local. The production lines are almost certain to be run using fossil fuel produced electricity, is then potentially kept cool (if needed) and shipped to us, then further divided and shipped around the country. All of that process, from the grower to our plates uses a LOT of fuel. A LOT of crude oil in various forms.

This is my panic. When the Peak oil Crisis really begins to bite, many of the out of season or non local foods we are now used to being able to buy whenever we fancy; fish from foreign seas, tropical fruits in our southern states, cold stored fruits that are out of season; all of these will become too expensive for the average Joe Bloggs. Most fruits and vegetables including things like tomatoes, carrots, bananas, even apples and oranges, will either cease to grace our places altogether or only be available during their growing season. And there will only be those able to be grown locally that we will be able to afford to purchase for our plates. We will not be able to afford the fuel to drive to our workplaces in the city, or drive the kids to school or even to the supermarket. Unless we can walk or cycle to these places, they may very well be out of reach.

Scary huh.

Solution? Yes, there is a solution and it is something we can all do. Grow as much of our own food as we can, preserve in some way the excess and try to only source locally grown foods now. The less fuel we use now, the more will be there to help us when it reaches critical times. Putting in large vegetable beds, raising chickens for meat or even just eggs may not be an option for everyone, but every little bit helps. Even if all you have is a balcony, plant a prolific fruiting tomato, a large cropping bean and I even saw the other day how to grow carrots in 2L drink bottles! If all you have is a window sill, grow your own herbs. If you have room, plant a potato sack. You would be surprised at just how many potatoes you can harvest from a single spud bag. It may not feed you all year long but even if you get a month or 2 worth of supply, that’s only 10 months of the year you need to buy it.

Through my research and reading of blogs from all over the globe I know there are many others out there doing this. Homesteading as they call it in America is not a new concept, just not as common as I believe it is going to become in the very near future. It was also very common to grow ones own food during the war when there was food rationing. Well, once again I believe we are about to face food rationing. There is a lot of information too on preserving and you can kit yourself out with a Fowlers Vacola preserving unit and some bottles from as little as $40 on eBay if you’re lucky. The accessories are sold by many on eBay too as well as many hardware stores and the jars are often found in op shops too. Pressure canners (pressure canning allows safe preserving of vegetables and other low-acid or non-syrup preserved foods) are readily available on Amazon. The jars too can be sourced on Amazon or eBay too. There are also many other companies selling them.

Dehydrating is another way to preserve fresh food for the future. Again these  can be easily sourced on the internet and I have even seen instructions on Pinterest on how to build a solar dehydrator. It’s how it used to be done! And blanching and freezing requires no other equipment other than what most people have in their kitchens already. Lets enable ourselves whilst we can, before it becomes an absolute necessity.