The heat

The backyard smells of warm honey, lavender and raspberries.

Looks like a meal of sourdough bread, cheese from the local cheese coop and salad from the Ceres box to avoid the heat.

Yep even at 40 degrees Celsius life is hard as an urban hippie.



Days of Sunshine

This has been a good weekend spent with the family and doing small but import (well to me) things.

I have had a great time with A. and the kids we went to a community market, ate great food had friends over for dinner, some awsome urban salvaging and even had a short notice visit by my parents and grandmother.

With the weather being so good on the weekend and some serious manic drive we have got through a number of projects which I will cover off on posts this week.

The thing that struck me was these where days of sunshine for me. The kinds of days that I would love to see more of in my life. Time spent with kids and doing things in the back yard with A. and family. Simple food from the garden or locally produced and siesta’s.

Tomorrow I have to return to my job. And while I have previously posted that the job is not too bad and most people on this planet would swap their life for mine in a heartbeat (and I still believe this). I still do feel that the corporate life is not doing me any or most other people in it any good.

It perhaps reinforces in my mind those changes I need to make so the days of sunshine are the greater part of my days.

Have great week all and enjoy.

A more sustainable me.

So in many of the blogs that I read and follow and also this one we look at the issue of a sustainable life, city, world, society and our species.

The issue is that too much is used by too few for too little gain (from our point of view). Most people reading this know this and adhere to the philosophy or at least pay it lip service.

But if you look at the core of the statement above the missing item is a more sustainable me. I don’t mean running away to the hills to live on mung beans and in a house of wattle and daub, although for many that is the answer and damn good one.

I mean being sustainable to yourself by ensuring that you have the time and the space to do what you need to do,  to last in the long term.  I thought about this on the way in after hearing about  ‘Go home on time day’ by beyond blue and composed a blog post in my head. I am apt to do this often but instead of it being eaten up by  the constant meeting requests and work on my arrival I decided to type it up as I should be doing each day when I get these idea’s.

Don’t get me wrong the reason for there not being many posts has been the fact that I have been living a more sustainable me by getting the extra sleep and time to do the things I need to do.

I have a philosophy that I look at each dollar that I spend as spending a little part of me. It is time I have put in and as time is a one way stream for me it is a part I will never get back.

So is that over time for the $2000 TV more or less important than the week or more I could have spent with my children or sleeping, reading a book, exercising or just sitting there and staring at my garden with a beer in my hand. It is a question I ask pretty often. It is why I drive such an old car and make the time to learn new skills, constantly look at what I can things without waste or spending vast sums of myself in cash.

Today I sorted out some martial arts equipment for a friend to pickup from my place. This is from a trip to Japan I did earlier in the year. The gear is second hand but good quality and you could probably get the equivalent for less than $1000 new. Again that is time people need to put in to buy this parts of themselves excluding the negating effect of the drain on the world that reusing this will make this should allow people to have time and to train or do other things sit with their friends and have chat and meal walk along the beach and so many more enjoyable things.

I personally think if we live with a bit of this philosophy then we can reduce some of the need to consume to feel as though we are alive and the amount of strain we put on ourselves and in turn the planet can be reduced.

It will take time but the benefits are there to be had and many people are doing this already but there is and will be a price to the other things we have come to expect. The age has a nice article on the siesta great idea but perhaps we have t come to the realisation that we are going to have to work less hours make less money and enjoy life more if the choice is 25% unemployment or everyone earning 25% less pay and working the 75% then it becomes a pretty logical choice for us as a society. Every has enough but less people have too much.

It will mean we need to pay a real price for things. No more decking out the home in cheap furniture that is meant to last 5 years and go out of fashion in 2. It means waiting and saving and buying something that your kids can use in 50 years time.

So we have to come to the logic that a level of infinite growth or work in a finite planet or a finite you is not achievable. This will take time and a lot of people will never get there but life is to be lived and each moment that is wasted is a moment you don’t get back. On their death beds some many people say they wish they had not worked so much and lived their life. So from the urban hippie go home on time and enjoy that life that life of yours.


A.’s bees arrived today.

Honey you have honey for the familly.

Of Mallow and Strawberries

On Sunday I went and did the excellent Adam Grubb of Very Edible Gardens edible weed walk.

I am interested in foraging and already do some foraging eating nettles and wild fennel, converting sticky weed into bio fertilizer, getting into wild foraged elder and other trees. I have known about dock and dandelion and have eaten them before but wanted to improve my knowledge of the food options that we underestimate and are so widely available. Being self-sufficient is a part of what I am looking at and this is just one small part of the puzzle.

I won’t go into details as to individual plants in this post as this is an area that you are best to go and do a course with or/and get mentored and learn this important skill safely. I have done a courses with Ballarart Permaculture Guild and now with Adam and feel a level of comfort with what I know and don’t know (and have posted on things like nettles) but even then I use a field guide to check things out I am 100% sure of it.

Adam said at the start that you will look at the average plot of grass and weeds a bit differently after the course and yes this is certainly the case and last night I spotted about 5 different edible weeds in my back yard that there was good mallow plant up near the strawberries. So while the 3 year old got stuck into picking the strawberries I picked a handful of mallow buds or mallow cheese as they are known.

They have a nice crunchy texture and taste not unlike edame. So Sabrina and I brought in the strawberries to share and after seeing me eat the mallow she asked to to try it and low and behold she loved them eating them over the strawberries (she can be a strange child at times 🙂 )but she did then clean up the strawberries when the mallow was all done 🙂

Our rule is that you don’t have to eat a meal but you do have to try it and I am glad that this is now coming out in my daughter being willing to try anything.

So go out and learnt some new skills and learn to forage (and do it safely) and if like me you have a family then you might just manage to influence that next generation to something just a bit more sustainable.

So you bought nothing new in October … Big Deal?

So we finished buy nothing new in October a few days ago and it was an interesting experience.

In some ways enlightening in a lot of ways quite scary.

Yes we ended up using our exemptions. Andrea got all her bee equipment and I ended up getting a roll of bird netting other than that there were a few items we purchased that fell out of the exemption but not many but they are listed below.

  • Plastic cups for the kids
  • New sandals for the kids for the hot weather we had
  • Potting mix for seedlings

I found it easy once I got into the rhythm of it and found that I actually enjoyed the way it made me sit back and think about things. I can be a bit (LOT) driven to get things done and sometimes rather than finding something I already have I will like most people rush forward to bunnings or another store to get the items to get the job done to rush around some more. I very quickly realized all that the time spent charging around to get the items was greater than the time saved and I got more done by not running off to buy things ‘to save time’.

One of the main examples of this was pots. October is a major seedling time in our part of the world leading into summer September/October is the busiest time for us. As I couldn’t buy any trays or pots this year I had to go looking and find the ones I had and find new ways to grow things.

When I went looking a just kept finding plastic pots, in the back yard, in my shed, under my house. I am not only setup for this year but next and onward. I also trialed using old toilet rolls and other small cardboard items as seedling posts which has worked out brilliantly and will be repeated every year. I may or may not have done these without the buy nothing new month but it brought it into clarity and made me try things.

Equally we have tended to buy a lot of plastic box’s to store stuff and use the cardboard box’s as either weed suppressant in the back yard or it goes into recycling. Using them to store things while cleaning up the spare room (read old storage room/son’s new room) has been good we have looked at the boxes now as a resource for reuse. And as we have bought nothing new these are from work or family or friends. We now look at boxes and go ‘ooh that is a good one for this or that’. I also stored things in boxes freeing up the plastic boxes for better uses.  It is quite ridiculous what we waste in this society and what can be reused.

While I enjoyed it and so did A. She found it a little harder particularly with the children but she admitted it was good to not go looking in shops for stuff. In time I think she would have got into the rhythm of second hand stores but at the end of the day the buy nothing new month is a short time we have enough that we don’t really need to buy things for a month in this rich society.

I have built both my garden shed and the chicken run out second hand materials found as hard waste. It took time as you are not working with standard materials and this will seem odd to many when you can just duck down to the store and buy a tin shed and put it up pretty quickly. In a lot of countries what I have built from is better than what many people have to build their homes.

I saw a show on a refugee camp and one of the things that really struck me was the bucket repairer.  A plastic bucket here in Australia cost me about 40 seconds of earning time. If they break most people here would just throw them out. But this guy reworked them and repaired them and kept parts to repair another. Given the embodied energy in the item yet again the third world through necessity is doing what the rest of us should be doing by default.

This is not for everyone and it will be a long time before most Australians are forced to do it by cost (and I hope we never really get there as by that stage the already dire situation for the guy repairing buckets is going to be terminal) but it is something we should be doing as we have the greatest impact on the planet through our profligate and stupidly wasteful ways.

Perhaps a better way for us in the first world is to use our wealth to purchase items that last longer and are more ethical and really show the value of that embodied energy and resources. We purchased handmade Italian leather boots some time ago. Yes they were expensive but they have lasted through our daughter and now our son and looking like they will last should the plan of a third come to fruition and then go to friends or family. Put your value into that embodied energy and allow those not so wealthy in the world to do what they need to do to get by.

At the end I was a bit surprised that we didn’t rush out and buy stuff. We didn’t seem to need to. Yes A. bought some clothes but that more to do with a giant growing baby and a wedding we had to attend than just shopping withdrawal symptoms.

So where to from here?

I enjoyed it and would like to do this for a quarter next time and see how it goes but it will require careful negotiation at the end of the day I am in a family and a relationship and forcing your own views on people is just being a zealot and that does not help change anything.

What I can do is to work on myself and fixing that up first. I am not sure if I will ever get to the point of my neighbor who would not spend by his own accounting more than 10% of his wage on new stuff and I will most certainly never ever get to the guy who repairs buckets but as I play peekaboo and chasey with my son in between writing this post I am reminded that is what I personally have many reasons to try.

Lacto Brewed Ginger Beer

I have been away for a while due to work commitments to study. It is one of those odd things that happens. I have a 5 year plan and I don’t think I will use this diploma I just got at the end of that 5 year plan but the next 5 years it will be required to lead to the end of the 5 year plan (I think that makes sense)

Sadly you have to balance out the ‘what you want’ versus what it takes to get there. For me it is a balance but one I am aware of and try to manage. I do not want to get to the point where lied to myself so much thinking I can sell my present to do what I want in the future but neither do I want to car wreck the future by doing only what I want rather than what I have to do.  

And also at the end of the day education is always a good thing. People should never stop learning formally or informally. To stop is to in a way to start the trip to death.

But enough of my musings. I have a lot to catch up on for everyone but I also want to spend the day in the garden so my balance for today is the short post below on brewing lacto ginger beer. Last year I did this and this year I am trying again and it is looking very promising with the starter brew smelling SO GOOD after a week of me helping mother nature make it.

To make the starter you need a clean sterilised large mouth jar. A cup and half to two cups of rain water (tap water is ok but boil it and leave 24 hours to get rid of any chlorination before using) . Add a tablespoon or so of grated peeled raw ginger. The amount depends on what you end up grating from the amount you peeled. No matter how much it is add an equal amount of sugar to it needs to be added. Cover opening of the jar with a piece of muslin cloth and rubber band.

Each day you add around the same amount of ginger and sugar and stir vigorously (I tend to swirl it once day as well) after a couple of days you should see bubbles forming and the lovely ginger beer smell will come of it.

It may take a bit longer as it depends what wild yeast is around and the conditions. This year has been great for wild yeast (as I discovered making elderflower cordial which is another story)

As with all my brewing but particularly when using a wild yeast process make sure you sanitise everything when I grate the ginger I pour boiling water over the grater and plate and leave for a minute or so and even pour it over the knife used to peel the ginger. I obviously make sure all of the spoon used to measure and add the ginger and sugar and the stir is clean and had had boiled water poured over it to clear.

I have a couple of more days of making the starter then I can make it up into beer and will post on that then.