About Me

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I am happily married and have two very rough and tumble boys. I have ideals of self sufficiency and low impact. My favourite passtime is growing veggies, reading books on all kinds of topics, finding out about how things impact earth and your body.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is it time for each city, town and individual to take the lead?

Just thinking about sustainability - but not as a whole - just for myself the other morning. How would I go if there was a real food shortage. I probably would be very hungry within a few days! Then what would I happen? I shudder just imagining it.

Then out of the blue I stumbled across this article in the newspaper and thought it hit the spot. There are a few surprising facts n figures in it so I do hope you read the lot. I will highlight with italics and a different colour the bits that struck a cord with me.

Can our cities ever be self-sustaining?

By Sue White

ABC Environment |
TVSTILL: A family inspect the public compost bins in Chippendale community garden.
A family inspect the public compost bins in Chippendale community garden. Credit: ABC(file).

See also

The humble backyard vegie patch is back in vogue in the suburbs of Australia. But can growing spuds and greens in the cities really avert a coming food crisis?
"WE HAVE TWO SETS of needs as humans...sociability and sustenance," says Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City and lecturer at Cambridge University. "They are in conflict, because the more we cluster together in villages, towns and eventually cities, the further we get from our sources of sustenance."
According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than 50 per cent of humanity now lives in cities and that figure is rising. But while cities are good at generating jobs and providing us with social stimulation, they're less effective at providing food or recycling their energy, water and nutrients.
"The people who plan cities are ignorant when it comes what human beings need for survival...Cities are quite good at providing water; they are hopeless at providing food," says author of The Coming Famine, Julian Cribb.
Rapid urbanisation means the situation needs to change, and fast. "By 2030 there'll be many cities with 30 million people. If those cities produce none of their own food, they're totally dependent on a river of trucks. If that river fails [due to an oil crisis, a local war, or a disaster like the Queensland floods] those cities would be starving within three days," Cribb says.
"If we can get the world's cities back to producing 20, 30 or even 40 per cent of their own food, and only relying on the landscape for the balance, we'll have a more sustainable agriculture and more sustainable cities," Cribb says.
To get there, Cribb believes we need to put in place an array of urban food producing industries and activities. But while governments lag behind, resident of the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, Michael Mobbs needs no convincing. After taking his inner city terrace off the grid in the late 1990s, Mobbs soon realised his house was sustainable but his belly wasn't.
Urban food
Food co-ops typically buzz with members who know local and seasonal food inside out.
Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network - join or start a community garden in your area. For inspiration, check out two of Australia's best: Northey Street City Farm, Brisbane and CERES Community Environment Park, Melbourne. While you're there, keep an eye out for Stephen Muslin's Micro Farmers Food Hub project, run in partnership with CERES and a recent winner of the British Council's Big Green Idea award.
In Sydney or Brisbane? Try Food Connect vegie boxes to support sustainable urban food model.
Most councils run free courses in urban gardening or composting.

"My house saves 100,000 litres of water a year, but eating the typical Australian diet means there's over 100,000 litres of water in my food every 10 days. I realised I needed to grow or buy my food locally. Living in a small terrace I was compelled to go onto the street," he says.
Mobbs soon found others wanted in. "Neighbours were attracted to it and inspired; it wasn't my plan."
It is now. Chippendale residents have planted out six city blocks with food; provided the suburb's 4,000 residents with community composting; and planted over 200 fruit trees, herbs and plants across the 32 hectare suburb. It's just the start, especially now that Mobbs' local council, City of Sydney, has recognised the value of planting the streets with food. "The General Manager came out and walked the streets and saw it as a no-brainer," he says.
As a result, the two groups are now working together to turn Chippendale into a sustainable suburb where growing food is a key part of the picture. "We'll paint the roads to cool the suburb by two to three degrees; put in pop up median strips that are self irrigating and shade the street; and we'd also like the first urban commercial urban farm," Mobbs says. Space is at a premium in Chippendale, so the urban farm which could grow 33,000 kilograms of vegetables and 10,000 kilograms of fish will be "on top of a roof".
Mobbs believes the 10 year plan could see the suburb growing 40 to 50 per cent of its own food, a huge boost on the 10 per cent they'd be lucky to get at present.
"In [less dense] suburbs, you can [easily] grow 50 per cent now - that's what used to happen," he says.
Mobbs considers securing even part of his food supply locally to be a smart move. "Why would you bet everything on the chain stores? Have an each way bet; put some money on yourself and your community and some on the usual methods," he says.
Of course, Mobbs isn't the only Australian taking action. The humble backyard vegie patch is experiencing a renaissance. Once an unremarkable part of every Australian backyard, the vegetable patch experienced a boost in the 40s, when 'victory gardens' were promoted to make up the shortfall as farmers turned into soldiers. But since then, perhaps because of the abundance of fresh food, the vegie patch gradually waned in popularity.
But now, says Peter Kearney from Cityfood Growers, vegies are back. His company, which provides local food growing tips, has 2,000 subscribers. Demand for plots in urban community gardens is booming, with hundreds of gardens (both formal and informal) blossoming nationwide; and Australia basks in occasional kudos from global experts thanks our status as the birthplace of permaculture.
And it's not just Australia. Mayors of cities like Barcelona, Rome, New York and London have written strategies recognising the importance of urban food systems. In Holland, South Korea, and Japan the idea of vertical farms - hi-tech, food-growing high rises - are taking off. And projects like Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Program and Rome's School Food Program (where 140,000 local, seasonal meals are provided every day) show it's possible to creatively tackle the issue with adults and kids alike.
Both Cribb and Mobbs believe it'll be hard to achieve substantive change in urban food systems without people feeling the ramifications of inaction on a personal level. "It's hard for anyone in Australia to take what I'm saying seriously, because none of us have ever been hungry," Mobbs says.
"My view is that the food riots we had in 17 countries in 2008 were a precursor to a complete global food shortage, which I think will happen before 2020," Mobbs says. "I'm gardening as if my life depends on it, because I think it does," he says.

I'm back now......So what did you think of that article?. disasters stopping the flow of food (remember the banana shortage from cyclone Larry?, food using 100,000 litres of water every 10 days, and gardening because you life depends on it? - yeah I found them thought provoking.

So do you think you could just start growing a few tomatoes, spuds, or even your own onions? Of course you can - it is easy and so very very rewarding.

It also got me thinking that I would love my shire council to start growing food in our streets! I think I might look into it so will keep you posted.

and until next time, bye for now

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Next time you think about a new piece of jewellery...think about this too

I was thinking about my birthday a few days ago - not the age dilemma! just what did I really want to get from my hubby and boys. I really 'want' for nothing so realistically I should get nothing - but my boys like to make our birthdays special with breaky on our balcony and a home-made card and then yes usually something purchased so I had been thinking, well maybe I could get a nice simple piece of jewellery.

Now, Mothers Day wasn't too long ago and I had the same dilemma. We have our personal motto of "Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without" - borrowed from the Annie Leonard book "The Story of Stuff", so decided as I needed a new watch I would dig my old discarded ones out from the bottom draw of the kitchen and fix one of them rather than buying a new one. Well, the story went ... that while I was in the jeweller getting the new battery put into the old watch, I decided to have my wedding engagement and eternity rings cleaned and checked.... It ended up I had badly worn claws around the main diamond and it cost me $250 to fix it (which is still a load better than the heartbreak of losing the stone and the $5k price tag they said it would be to replace it)!. But I still didn't buy something new!

Anyway, back to my birthday.... I thought, if I was contemplating a piece of jewellery I had better ask a few questions of just what it might cost to extract that piece of gold or that diamond or whatever gem I decide upon out of the ground.

These figures are general/average and are a bit of open pit (surface mining) cost and a bit of underground costs and by no uncertain terms are they indicitive of every mining operation in the world but still thought provoking and maybe just worth a second thought or two.

This is also just the raw end of the deal! the extraction. There are way more costs involved in getting the final piece on to your body! or if you want to take it further - the chip in your computer - the plastic around your chip packet - the processed cereal you eat for breaky - or the lovely yellow glow of the bulb when you turn on the light switch at night.

So here we go, sit down for the ride

On average the amount of diesel used per month on one contractor on one site for surface mining vehicles 1,634,760 litres.  (Multiply that by the bowser price - not that they would pay that price.... I wouldn't mind that much in my bank account in the positive)!

Each genset (generator) uses about 60,000 litres of diesel per month. This particular place has 2 and is about to get a third.....

For a 260 tonne payload dump truck tyre is $40,000 (the one below in the pic is of the loader that loads the dump truck in 6 buckets) Weighs about 200 tonnes and the chains around the tyre cost $150,000 each

Surface Mine Loader

sitting around on site are an estimated 450 used tyres - @ $40k each??? just an astonishing $18,000,000

used tyres - guess they are still being used - as a pad for the office buildings

 and the truck new is $5,500,000 - yes million.

Underground truck
 An underground jumbo (drill) is just a cool $2mil!

Accommodation for one contractor per month is $150,000
Wages for one contractor for surface mining is about $2 million per month
Wages for one contractor underground mining is about $750,000 pm
Total for this one site would be tens of millions if you included all personnel from client and contractors!!

Naturally this is all dependent on number of people in the operation and the number of machines etc but for the ease of adding it up, the total just for wages and fuel in this example is close to $4.5million for one month - add on a tyre or two or a new machine and well the mind goes into overload!

Now, I am not picking on mining here (goodness knows I am very dearly attached to mining in more ways than one) - I am trying to get people to think about their spending habits and start thinking about the fact that everything you do, every choice you make has an impact on this place we call home.

So, next time you want something new - anything too - almost everything uses oil or coal in their extraction, manufacturing, distribution and storage - (yes even the plastic its wrapped in is a derivative of oil)  think about the real cost of where it came from and what it cost to get to you.

It may cost just more than the Earth!

Try shopping at cash converters, an op or antique shop - you may be more than surprised at what you find and what people throw out Plus it won't cost more than the Earth to buy.

What do you think? Will you think about this even once or twice? or go the next step and cut down on stuff?

Till next time
Bye for now

Monday, August 22, 2011

Climate Change

I have been reading a few books lately! no kidding!! I am devouring all kinds from Climate Change to Peak Oil, Organic Gardening/Permaculture, The End of Growth, The End of Food.... you get the picture - and its a pretty grim one let me tell you - but only if you let it!
Currently the book attached to the end of my nose is "Our Choice" by Al Gore. I devoured his "An Inconvenient Truth" (Which I found better than the doco BTW). Its about how there are solutions to climate change and mostly the carbon dioxide that we - the industrialised era - have made it increase exponentially that it is not even questionable anymore.

He touches on all kinds of things from wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear sources of energy. Living systems and how vitally important they are to our earth and climate, like forests, soil and population! and points out the good and bad of each - but the value I get is 'everyone should do something! and we need to do something YESTERDAY'. Obviously technology will change and things will get cheaper (I think that is debatable! if you count the cost of waiting), but why wait for the cheaper option when you pay in more ways than one today? it doesn't make sense.

I have a couple of one liners I want to share - quoted straight from his book.

HERE HERE - here here and everywhere does the addiction to oil have to be stopped! (Me included)
"The United States is still borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change."

"In just 10 years, citizens of the US wasted enough aluminium cans to reproduce the world's entire commercial air fleet 25 times"

My favourite and this is so because I am actually doing something (more than one actually) to reduce my footprint.

"The  International Energy Agency (IEA) found that, "On average, an additional $1 invested in more efficient electrical equipment and appliances avoids more than $2 in investment in power generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure"

Now I know that primarily means motors (big and small) - however I have out of my own pocket invested in 16 solar panels that happily, on a sunny day, send power back to the grid at more than double the price it costs me to buy it back at night.

And it doesn't only save me money! 

I love sunny days (although I love and need rain too). I also love watching our power metre going backwards!! I know I am a little weird like that :)

Our solar panels

I am doing my bit. Are you?

Till next I write, bye for now

Not once! not twice - 25 times. That is an insane amount of soda pop! and food, wastage, fast food, subsidies, mass production of grain for fuel, distribution of food worldwide to keep trade deals going?? a whole other chat just waiting to blog out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Still on a high ...

I read a blog recently that described the Joel Salatin workshop to a Tee! I was impressed by just how much the lady remembered! He jam packed the day with so much information and good stories that I couldn't possibly write fast enough!

I love him! I want him to adopt me or at the very least let me be an intern to get down to the nitty gritties and really learn what makes Polyface tick! To say the least - Yes I was impressed.

I also got to see and hear a little bit from our very own Costa - who is a lovely hairy dude from Sydney! He reminds me of an elf or something! So very charming too. Plus I heard from a Councillor from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council (who was a sponsor of the event) - Just as an aside - {{From their region the amount they export - if they were a country in their own right - they would be ranked 141st by GDP}}. That is impressive and just shows you how much wonderful land we have up in the hinterlands of Queensland and how well our Aussie producers are doing. Onya!

Here is a pic of Joel and Costa just when the good byes were happening!

I was bubbling so much I didn't know where to start when I told my hubby all about the day! I so wish he could have been there with me - two sets of ears is better than one! and he has so much better retention than I  - yes the only thing he does better - haha! But alas he was off earning the dollars so I can keep expanding my Longanic empire! (in my dreams)

But..... Oh how I wish for at least another 500 acres so I may enjoy the benefits of a pigerator!, salad bar beef and pasturised poultry! coz it works! Just 3 of the things that Polyface do everyday of the year and do it well.

Joel (and his dad) brought this property back from bare rock - to having soil on it! when they first purchased the property 50 years ago it was bare rock (a far cry from the 12 foot high grasses and wild animals that used to roam the land a century before that), and they couldn't even bang a pole in the ground. Now it is lush, fertile and they are making a very very good living off it.
What I get from that - everything can be saved! and with hard work, determination and a bit of nouse anything can be achieved.

He doesn't do it alone tho! He has a lovely wife, 2 hard working children and a host of interns and apprentices - who some I might add have over the years been helped onto a lease/share property nearby where they too are beginning their adventures as farmers the Joel Salatin way.
He has veggies, rabbits (a business that his son started when he was 8), and turkeys too.

Is that self sustaining? is that being a locavore?
you betya!

Oh and one last thing - he sells something obscene like 400,000 eggs to local restaurants and at farm buyers! Purely and simply - ammmmmazing!

Alas one must be happy with 7 graves! (lol a friend described my veggie plots as "it looks like she has buried 7 bodies in her backyard)!!. Better not be my enemy then! lol

Must away - I know I haven't told you much - but my advice is - if you EVER get the chance to see him speak - pay whatever it takes and do whatever it takes - it is so very very much worth it.
PS - for those lucky to live in the USA - you can buy his produce - he is in Virginia.
Now for those on a suburban block - go and plant something - its one less thing that you have to buy from the supermarket and it makes you feel good. I am about to plant corn, beans, watermelon and squash and I can't wait (I just have to wait for a grave to become vacant!) bhahahaha

Bye for now

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tomorrow I get to listen!

To Joel Salatin - the owner of Polyface farm in the USA. He is a truly inspirational farmer. Believes in the organic way!

He has salad bar beef! how yummy are they. Chooks follow the cows and do their stuff including lay eggs! Pigs to root up the land. He has no need for external fertilizer or modified grain to feed his animals...

To be honest it is what I do instinctively and probably alot of other back yard growers - sans the beef and meat chickens tho. I do run normal egg laying hens and the odd roosters (as I just wrote about culling a few days ago), but to go into cattle, pigs and chickens in the way he is - would be impossible on my little acreage which is a bit sad.

Oh how I dream for a real farm!

I will let you know just how inspirational I find him over the weekend and maybe let you into some secrets. He could be my new best friend!

I honestly cannot wait....

PS - while I am waiting! we are having roast beetroot, steamed broccoli, cauli and silverbeet from our garden with our dinner tonight. I think I am doing ok!

Bye for now

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

From fences to fake hawks!

A few weeks ago I went down to my veggie patch and discovered that some 'beast' had decided to destroy 5 of my young broccoli!

I was devastated! How can I be self sufficient when things get attacked like that? Plus I had no idea what it was that did it. I decided it was wallabies as they kind of looked like they had nibble marks in them and I presumed they would have strong enough teeth/jaws to get through the stalks (some where as fat as an adult thumb).
Anyway, I thought I can't sustain 'stock' loss like that and I can't sleep down there and shoo them away! (lol, would like to see that), so the only other thing to do was build a boundary fence!.
So my dear beloved husband built me a fence to keep the wallabies out. He also chucked in a couple of scare witches to keep the birds out (just incase it actually was birds!).
I must say, I love the boundary. It gives me ownership of a piece of land to do what I want instead of meandering all over the place! I already have plans with what I want to do in the rest of the area!

But then...
A few days later a few of my lush sunflowers were pecked off! They didn't have lovely big yellow and black heads yet - but they pecked off the stalk way down low so they won't grow. I was devastated! We had laboured and paid a pretty price for this fence and it appeared we weren't dealing with a pesky wallaby at all! it had to be birds....
Well.... to my dismay, yesterday I went down to pick some produce and check everything out more sunflowers, a couple of snow pea plants, two of my kale AND most of my lettuce plants were decimated.
AND TO TOP IT OFF - they don't eat the produce - they peck it and leave it on the ground and I really don't like waste!

I won't put what expletives I came out with but good ol (and I say old coz it was his birthday yesterday!) hubby to the rescue again. Rigged up two cross ropes and we googled crows eating sunflowers! and found these 'fake' hawks that you put up and the other birds see it and fly away.

Guess what? they work :) - in fact they work so well even our little fluff nut Jacko is scared of them. 
So at this stage we are back to happy gardeners and its bye for now