Showing posts with label Eco Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eco Challenge. Show all posts


Sustainable House: Taronga Zoo

 When we were in Sydney we visited Taronga Zoo. They had a sustainable house that you could wander through and study all the elements.
 It was fantastic and I wished that my house was exactly like it. It wasn't a large house, but it was very functional. As you wandered through you came across signs and reminders about sustainable principles.
 There were also ideas that you could incorporate into your own home.

Basically, it had a well planned, functional kitchen with great systems for recycling and composting as well as using glass for storage, energy efficient appliances and green cleaning supplies.

A long hallway held wall mounted bikes, depicting the family's transport choices and hooks for their jumpers instead of using heating. Decorations such as picture frames and mirrors were made from natural recycled materials.
 Outside there was a rainwater tank, composting loo and then a pathway leading to a well planned out garden that also housed pets for the children.
 Once I got over the "i want to live here, now" factor I realised that anybody can 'work their home' to make it a more functional, sustainable place.

It is just a matter of slowly making changes that you feel are achievable. No one is asking us to jump straight into cloth re-useable toilet paper ( as I see on some blogs!) we are just making steady changes that hold great benefits for us all.

It's great for:
 - our families - we do projects together and involve our children.
- our budgets - 'green' living is so much cheaper!
- our health- gardening gives us exercise and great fresh produce to eat
- our community - nothing builds community like trading some freshly laid eggs for a jar of pickles over the back fence.
- our spirit slowing down and living intentionally brings a certain peace tot he soul.
- our planet - great environmental change starts in our own backyard.


Mapping Out The Vision - A Spring Re-Vamp

Today is the first day of the school holidays and I feel that I finally have a chance to step back and examine this splendid life. As I have mentioned briefly, a number of different family events have meant that we have been running here and there since June.

During the last few months we have spent a lot of time on the road, living out of suitcases with friends and family or staying in hotel rooms. Whilst I love the place we stay in Sydney and love the meals, it is just so nice to come home.

Even though we have now been home for about 4 weeks, those busy weeks have seen lots of activity. Both boys were away at different times on school camps and they have had various sporting finals and events, parent teacher interviews and social functions.

During the past few months I also managed to take on some work. Luckily it is work that I can do in my own time, meaning that I have the school holidays off and can work from anywhere, provided I have an internet connection.

So with all that busyness finally finished, I am so excited by the opportunity to stop, breath and re-group.

The first thing we did was to get back into our garden, which was sadly neglected while we were away. Luckily we had a fair bit of rain which meant that things were 'wild' rather than 'dead'. It is time to undertake our spring planting regime which I love because there is so much potential and life in this season.

I am working on a new schedule which will enable me to carry out some paid work but still keep my family life in balance. At the forefront of my mind at the moment is re-vamping the following aspects:

- meal planning: slow change of meals to reflect the warmer weather and the availability of different seasonal produce.

- new budget: I have noticed a drop in fuel prices and a rise in grocery prices. This along with changes in the activities that we do means a new cash budget is required.

- new household routines: as we change from winter to summer we have different household routines, particularly with the jobs that need to be done outside. The boys are also older and are ready to add to their job lists.

- papercrafting: handmade cards and stationery are becoming increasingly popular and I am teaching more and more classes. I need to schedule my classes well in advance and have creative time for working on my new designs.

- health: re-vamping my activity schedule to reflect the warmer weather and to get back on track ( after way too many restaurant meals!!!)

- re-establish our sustainable living principles: Being away has meant that we often had to 'default' to choices that I would normally avoid. Time to re-examine the steps we take as a family to live a more natural, sustainable life.

And finally.............time to be .................slow.

Don't you just love spring. It is a time for a fresh start!


Re-Using Success.

I still have a lot of plastic in my cupboards.

I have been making a real effort to re-purpose a lot of it because I don't think there is any sense in just throwing it all into landfill. It defeats the purpose.

Slowly but surely I have been changing over some of the storage containers in my cooking cupboard, a cupboard I have above my main prep area so I can just reach up and grab everything I need.
The large glass jars are from buying coffee in bulk and the smaller jars are from local oysters. They have a plastic lid unfortunately, but I still like to re-use them.

I have labeled the jars very simply with a permanent texta.

I enjoy opening the cupboard and looking at all the cooking supplies. I can see at a glance what needs to be topped up, often from a bigger supply in the pantry. I especially enjoy decanting the farmer's market honey into my little pour bottle which makes it easier to manage and easier to pour out a little for a cup of tea or to add to a recipe. I also like having my spices in bigger containers because I use so much of them.

But most of all I love the fact that the containers are NUDE. There are no brand names, no bold colours and no in your face slogans. It makes me feel all 'Little House on the Prairie -ish' LOL or maybe even a bit 'Waltons-ish' - knowing I can send John Boy to the store for a pound of sugar any time soon!

- Gotta love a spoon full of madness each and every day.


Garden Update: Compost Bin Changeover

The time had arrived to empty the compost bin. We have a pretty plain compost bin. I won it in a radio trivia competition. That was about ten years ago and it still seems to be going strong.

I don't know whether we do it the 'right' way or not, but for years we have been using the same system with great success. We simply fill the bin with scraps from the kitchen, the garden and the some paper and try to keep the balance right between wet and dry materials.

The bin is made of two halves that are wired together in the middle on both sides. When the bin is full I simply undo the wire twists and am left with a perfect pile. You can see in the picture above that the material on the top hasn't broken down yet but as you look down the pile - it is perfect.

By this stage the girls get a whiff of what is happening and they start hanging around - begging to be let into the garden area.

I then move the compost to a new location (this time it is right next to where it was) and wire it back together. I sit the bin up on a couple of bricks and put some twigs in the bottom for air circulation. I then lift the top centimetres off the old pile and put it back in the bottom of the compost bin in the new location.

We then fenced off a small area and let the girls come in and have a good dig through everything for a couple of hours before we scraped it all up and put it on the garden. The girls went absolutely mad! They scratched and pecked and jumped on bugs. It really was a joy to watch!
We also cleaned out the chook house and added the manure to the compost.
It is amazing to think that we put the soil compost on the garden and grow things and then mulch up the plants and put them in the compost which in turn becomes the dirt that we grow things in again. It is a complete circle....... the circle of {life} !


Nothing To Leave The Block

I often think of the ideal of nothing leaving our block. I have written before about thinking ' what if everything we bought onto our suburban block was to stay here'. Imagine if we had to use, re-use, recycle or dispose of every little thing that came onto the block. I could go to the shop and buy what I needed - flour, sugar etc. That wold be fine because I can tear up the paper packaging and put it in the compost to break down. But when it comes to other forms of packaging I am totally lost. Where would I put the plastic wrap from the inside of a packet ? What about the bag that the oranges came in or the plastic tray in the rice cracker packet ?

If nothing was to leave the block I would have to start a little pile behind the shed, then maybe in the roof, then under the house....... how much would I use in a month... a year ??

:: I often think like this::

Of late I have even been suspicious of recycling systems. We put all our recycling into a different coloured wheelie bin and it is taken "away" wherever that may be. I have read quite a bit recently about how the price of recycled materials has dropped to the point where it is not financially viable to process the materials. Will companies still process recycled goods without a profit ? Out of the goodness of their hearts or their love of the environment ? ( that's for you to answer, but I know what my gut tells me)

So in keeping with my gut, I am still attempting to not have things leave the block, even if they are 'recycle' worthy.

The picture above is of my compost bin in the kitchen. I tear up any packaging or paper that will breakdown as well.

Living with the ideal of nothing leaving the block means you have to be really mindful when you are shopping. Believe me, this is EXTREMELY difficult. I can't ask the girl at the checkout whether waxed milk cartons breakdown in the compost and how long they take !

Yesterday one of the boys opened the last packet of water crackers that was in the cupboard and I tore up the cardboard packaging and ::gulp:: placed the plastic into the bin. Today I made a huge batch of lavash crackers to make me feel better.


Earth Hour - A Step Back In Time

Last night we had dinner with some friends to celebrate a birthday. It co-incided with Earth Hour, a now annual event where participants are encouraged to turn off their lights for one hour from 8.30pm as in indication of support and to raise awareness of global climatic concerns.

Our boys knew all about Earth Hour because they had been discussing it at school. They packed torches to take with them and I packed a few extra candles, not sure what our hosts would have.
The kids ( there were nine of them) were watching a movie, playing the playstation and generally doing modern day kid things! When it was time to turn the lights out, however, out came the torches and games of spotlight and spooks started, as well as going out to look for flying foxes ( bats) and jumping on the trampoline with torches ( to the tune of squeals of delight). After that they came in and played the piano and we all commented on how lovely it was. Two of the boys in particular play really well and we enjoyed their Pachobel's Canon duet.

The grown ups continued their dinner party by candlelight and it was all very lovely. When the birthday cake came out we joked about not blowing the candles out because we needed the extra light until 9.30pm.

It always surprises me that as soon as our modern convenience is removed it doesn't take long before we revert back to our natural ways. We adjust very quickly to the inconvenience. The kids suddenly rely on their imaginations and have the greatest fun, the grown ups have a lovely night because of the change in mood or ambiance brought about by the softer lighting.

....and of course, as Pachabel's Cannon was playing in the background, it was a moment of joy when someone said ' you know, this is what it would have been like in the olden days'......... joy of joys!


Garbage Auto Pilot

Here is the under sink system I worked out yesterday.

Very Simple.

 Bin with no liner for rubbish that I just can't do anything with.

Compost for food scraps and paper and a tub for recycling.

When I was cleaning out drawers in the bathroom today I was thinking about the proper place for plastic. I am not a person that will reject plastic as total evil and weigh every ounce that comes in/ heads out the door.

 I am not that disciplined.

 I thought today that the idea is to KEEP plastic things ( that aren't rubbish as such). After all, it was designed to be a durable, non breakable, long lasting replacement for a lot of things.

Therefore I will KEEP all the plastic no rubbish things I have.

This includes tubs, containers, Tupperware and the like. The theme for me will be to simply not acquire anymore and not dispose of any more. I am not going to go through the house and replace everything with an 'eco' product, after all, it is the disposing of these items that is half the problem! If I do need to downsize I will donate not dispose.

Thanks to all the people who commented on the previous post. It seems to be an issue that lots of us are thinking about. I think for me success will come when I can break habits - things that we do without thinking. One way I thought to break the habit of using particular items is just not to have them in the house! It often amazes me when we go camping or away on holidays just how little we get by on because we become RESOURCEFUL with what we have.

Habits which immediately come to mind are things like reaching for the Glad Wrap to cover leftovers, half an onion, to wrap the cheese etc. I will now simply reach for a Tupperware container. The bin liner was an automatic thing, but really, there should be no wet rubbish in the bin. Food scraps should go in the compost and leftovers to the chooks.

Today we made our own bread which is always a good thing because it does away with the plastic bread bag but I still had to buy some things that had plastic packaging. Milk, which I bought in a three litre bottle, Sao biscuits as a back up for when home baked supplies are low or for times when I am totally disorganised and brown rice - for which there was no alternative. Basmati rice comes in a 5kg cloth bag and I often go halves with a friend in this, but brown rice? I have never seen it packaged in anything but plastic.

 I dream of a large store where I can go in with my own containers and scoop out flour, sugar, rice, then pour out my shampoo, honey etc. I know this happens in some health food stores but we don't have anything like that around here. Maybe I should approach the local store and tell them of my interest. Perhaps there would be other people that would shop in this way as well.

But for now..... small baby steps. Auto pilot habits. The goal is once a month for the rubbish bin. I wonder when/how/if we will get there.


A Load of Garbage on My Mind - Eco Challenge

Garbage has been on my mind for some time.

It really got me thinking when I saw the Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne talking about how in permaculture there is a belief that nothing should leave the block. It got me thinking. If I didn't have a garbage man come and take my rubbish "away" what would my property look like ? Where would I store all the rice cracker wrappers, drink bottles and used glad wrap. What would the pile look like after one year ? How about after 13 years ? I am embarrassed to think that every plastic bag I have ever used it sitting a couple of kilometres out of town in a big pile. Add to that the plastics of every person in my street, and every person in my little town. Whoa!

Slowly but surely I have been reducing the plastic input. It is still no-where near enough, but I began with the shopping bags and it really raised my awareness. Now I am conscious of what I throw into the garbage bin and it has started to affect what I purchase. Mind you, If i want something I still get it, particularly if I am not organised with an alternative.

Since coming home from holidays and digesting the trillion thoughts I had swirling around my brain I really feel the need to embrace the idea of 'nothing leaving the block'. Today I set up a little garbage system under the sink. I removed all the cleaning products that had been hiding under there and made some space for a garbage sorting system. I have the garbage bin, which now has no plastic bin liner, a recycle box, a compost box and a chook food box. I try and equally distribute scraps between the chooks and the compost because we badly need to build up good soils.

I have been tearing up paper and putting it into the compost bin. It breaks down really well. I love that it returns to the earth. Then, I pick up a piece of plastic and continually harp on to hubbie about how I cannot do a thing with it. I can't bury it, I can't put it in the compost, feed it to the chooks or any other thing except place it in the bin to be taken "away" ( to the spot out of town where my pile is growing by the day)

The more I embrace the idea of nothing leaving the block, the more my passion will assist me in making wise grocery purchases

One thing that will really help is the idea of only consuming things that were around in my Grandmothers' day. It seems that these items are not packaged, or are packaged in paper. Things like flour, sugar, butter are all in paper and I can avoid packaging on fruit, veg and meat.

So tonight the garbage bin goes out, full of plastic. Little by little as I work through this transitional period I hope that it will go out less and less. My first goal will be to get to the point where I only put the garbage bin out once a month. That seems so difficult from where I sit at the moment, but I think before too long it will be as natural an act as baking bread. Considering that my Grandmother didn't have a rubbish collection, I think the least I can do is make a conscious effort to do my best!


In Defence of Food - Michael Pollan

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was so challenging I read it in a day and a half whilst taking notes. There were many 'oh, of course' moments - I like that in a book.

I enjoyed the history lesson it contained. The steady removal of food from our diets, replaced with 'food like substances'. Margarine being the first example of a non-food or imitation food being introduced. Margarine, said to be 'healthier', actually ended up, according to the author, containing trans fats which were more unhealthy than the fats that were trying to avoid in the butter. Pollan also describes margarine as able to include whatever the latest trend may be - 'now with vitamin A and D' or the latest one ' omega 3'. Whatever the trend, it can be added to your marg! I also enjoyed the idea of society being more overweight than ever in a 'low fat' world. I had to laugh at the idea of instead of eating a breakfast cereal that is 'now full of antioxidant' in the form of processed blueberry extract - just eat the blueberry!

Here are the principles from the book that we will take into consideration.

1. Don't eat anything your great grandma wouldn't recognise.

2. Avoid products containing ingredients that are: unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than 5 in number, have high fructose corn syrup.

3. Avoid products that make health claims. ( usually an indication that it's a non-food. e.g the blueberry)

4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle because this is where the 'food like' substances are. The real food tends to be around the edges.

5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. I love this idea - use the fruit shop, butchers, local deli etc.

6. Eat mostly plants, grown well from healthy soils.

7. Consider what what you eat eats.

8. Eat wild when you can

9. Be more French, Italian, Japanese, Indian or Greek in your eating style.

10. Regard non-traditional foods with scepticism.

11. Pay more, eat less. ( quality vs quantity)

12. Eat meals not snacks. ( remember when between meal snacking was a sin? LOL) How we have changed - or marketers have changed us!

13. Do all your eating at the table (Pollan says 1/5 of meals are eaten in the car! )

14. Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does. ( food sold at petrol stations isn't real food!)

15. Try not to eat alone.

16. Consult your gut.

17. Eat slowly ( as in the Slow Food movement)

18. Cook and plant a garden.

What do you think of the principles ? Are they something that you could consider implementing?
I think, looking at the principles, it would make a huge different to our budget and also the amount of packaging coming into our house. Considering that we are attempting to drastically reduce our 'outputs' this year, I think this list will be a great focus tool.


The Chook House

The chook house is coming along nicely. Hubby has been hammering away. I just have to paint it and build a little ladder. The back has a fold down door for easy access to the nesting boxes. There is a good size run for them to get out and stretch their eggs.

There is just one thing missing. Chooks! I can't get them yet because we have a couple of trips planned and I want to be around to settle them in, so I just have to wait patiently. In the meantime I can always pretend with the stuffed toy! LOL

Having chooks lay our own eggs will be another step forward in our quest for a more simple life. Hubbie is delighted by the fact that he will be able to make a breakfast omlette with homegrown eggs and home grown tomatoes.

In days gone by quite a lot of people had a couple of chooks in their back yard. It seemed to be a common sight, alongside the vegie patch and the water tank. As a child I can remember my Nanna making the best sponge cakes with fresh eggs in her wood burning stove. She had it perfected!
Friends of ours have recently got their own chooks and they have been giving us fresh eggs. They are so different to shop bought eggs. They are firm and the yolks are so yellow! When I buy shop bought eggs I forget how soft the shells are almost smash them to pieces against the side of the bowl when I am cooking. The fresh eggs seem to have much stronger shells.

So... I will wait patiently. In my wait I sit and think.... does Santa bring live presents? How many 'food miles' from the North Pole to my place?



Green MeMe # 1

Julie from Towards Sustainability has tagged me for the Meme.

1) Name two motivations for being green?

a. Green Living embraces much of the old fashioned wisdom that I feel we lost during the excesses of the 80s and 90s.

b) I want to raise my children with a respect for nature and the environment.

2) Name 2 eco-UNfriendly items you refuse to give up?

a. My Lap-top

b. My Vanilla latte on skim - although they tell me it is now sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms - not really sure exactly what that is, but I guess it makes some people feel a little better.

3) Are you at peace with or do you feel guilty about number 2?

a. Often feel a certain amount of guilt about the lap top - well maybe guilt is too strong a word, but I know how much I can achieve around the place when it is not switched on! Guilt re the latte? Sorry, the addiction is far too strong to feel any guilt!

4) What are you willing to change but feel unable to/stuck with/unsure how to go about it?

I hate plastic packaging. I would love to be able to reduce the output in the garbage bin. We do try sometimes more than other times but there is always a tug of war between what is good for the hip pocket and what is good for the environment. Why is it always the way!!! I am guessing that this is a struggle for lots of families.

5) Do you know your carbon footprint for your home? If so, is it larger/smaller than your national average?

Our carbon foot print is less than the national average according to the calculator but I think there are a lot more steps that we can take to reduce it. The next thing on my list will be to install water tanks. If I had unlimited funds I would also add grid connected solar panels.

6) What's eco-frustrating and/or eco-fantastic about where you live?

The frustrating thing is that there is not a bike path between my small community and the next larger town. It is seven kilometres away and on the way there are many sporting and recreational facilities. It would be good to have a cycle way that would enable people to ride out to these spots.

The eco-fantastic thing about where I live is that we have a yard big enough to grow food, we are within walking distance from our small local butcher, post office, school and newsagent and we have a huge wide river nearby where we spend most of our recreational time.

7) Do you eat local/organic/vegetarian/forage/grow your own?

We grow our own and try and eat local. It is somewhat difficult though. There is a local farmers market here but it only operates once a month. We have just started getting eggs from friends and yesterday were able to give our first tomatoes. I am hoping there will be more bartering amongst us.

8) What do you personally find the most challenging in being green?

The same old question: budget vs environment.

9) Do you have a green confession?

OOOOHHHH I have millions of them! LOL The one that comes to mind is showering longer at the gym than I would at home!! (naughty I know! but the shower pressure is just so.....damn....good.....)

10) Do you have the support of family and/or friends?

For sure! My family had a meeting and decided together what we would include in our eco-challenge. I think many friends think I am a little eccentric but I see over time that they are starting to take a few positive steps themselves.

I tag Karen Libby and Sorcha

The Guidelines are:

1) Link to Green Meme Bloggers.

2) Link back to whoever tagged you.

3) Include meme number

4) Include these guidelines in your post

5) Answer questions

6) Tag 3 other green bloggers.


The Fourth R - ReWear

We recycle, we renew, we re-use, it's now time to re-wear ( outer clothes, I mean!!!)

Re-wearing cuts down on washing and helps make your clothes last longer.

Strategies for introducing re-wearing into your household.

1. Have 'town clothes' and 'house clothes'. You get dressed in your house clothes, do your jobs and then put your tidy clothes on to go to town, meet friends for coffee, have an appointment etc. When you return home, hang your 'town clothes' up, after all you have only worn them for an hour or so and continue working in your 'house clothes'. This will help your 'good clothes' last longer as they are no being worn as much.

2. Wear an apron when you are cooking and cleaning to protect your clothes.

3. Your children can have a set of 'after school clothes' that could last quite a few days. They can change out of their uniforms and be in their play clothes for those few hours between school and bath time. They can then fold those clothes up before bedtime and get another afternoon out of them.
Some days these strategies are completely impractical! Especially when after school activities include digging in the garden and playing in the mud.

I am certainly not advocating that we get around the place looking and smelling like an old tramp, but in a world where we wear things for one hour and then advertisers tell us that they must be washed with expensive brand named powder, with an added 'brightener' to the wash, followed by a fabric softener and ironed whilst being sprayed with a fresh smelling ironing aide, there are lots of opportunities to re-wear some outer clothing. It's great for the environment, it saved us money and most of all cuts down the amount of washing.

It's worth thinking about.


A Generous Spirit ..... and a Give-Away......

Recently I was overwhelmed by the generosity of Tracy from Sunny Corner Farm. I had entered a giveaway on her site and happened to win. She sent me some produce from her local area. There was a few different types of award winning pasta from Bellata Gold ( Produced in Tamworth NSW) and products from Demeter Farm Mill ( Produced near Gunnedah NSW). All products were certified organic!

I would like to continue the spirit of giving. I have some products from Ecostore. They are a New Zealand success story! I love to hear about little companies that start out small and have tremendous success. They started as a mail order business in a basement. This company produces a wide range of products where the back of the product says exactly what I like to read:

Can you see that ? No petrochemicals. No phosphates. No Nitrates. No chlorine. No synthetic dyes or perfumes. They do laundry, personal care and a gardening range.

You can get a free sample of their washing powder if you live in Australia or New Zealand. The liquid smells like pure eucalyptus. It reminds me of the cough lollies we used to have when we had a cold when I was in primary school.
I am giving away some moisturiser, baby soap and baby balm. Would you like to receive it ? Even if you don't have a baby I am sure the soap and moisturisers will suit your skin just fine!
I certainly don't mind posting internationally. I also have some other goodies to package up for you. One of the items is a book I received in a swap from a reader in Pennsylvania. It is a fabulous book about keeping things simple! I have learnt many great principles from it and it is now time to pass it on so the wisdom can be shared.
All you need to do to win the package is to put a little note on your blog site to tell people why you like A Vision Splendid and that there is a give away happening here. If you don't have a website simply send an email to your friends telling them why you like A Vision Splendid.
After you have done your post or sent your email, place a comment on this post or send me an email ( address at left) and I will happily enter you into the drawer.
I am very excited to be able to do a give-away. I remember how exciting it was receiving my package from Tracy.
Good Luck everyone.


These are Exciting Times

Who would have thought so much joy was here awaiting me. Today I crunched into a carrot that was so crispy and sweet that it tasted like a fresh coconut!

There are tomatoes just bursting off the bushes. They are almost ready to come inside and ripen on their vines. There are grape tomatoes and Grosse Lizzy. The carrots, oh boy, there are SO many carrots..... and beans...... won't be long and we will be drowning in them! I can't wait to supply friends with fresh produce. I remember my two Nannas exchanging things when I was a child. Do you remember, before plastic bags, things like fresh beans were wrapped in damp newspaper and had a rubber band wrapped around them ? I will be reviving this tradition FOR SURE! LOL

This picture is of one our our newer beds. They measure about 2 metres by 1 metre. We are a living proof that you do not need a lot of space in order to produce your own food. This is a highly productive little garden. There are loads of carrots, two tomato bushes and huge area for climbing beans. We thought that to produce some of our own food we would need to have a huge area, even maybe an acre of land and that we may have to move. This is such a myth! You can have a very productive garden in a very small space. Our first tomato plant was in a pot! You can plant three lettuces with leaves that you constantly pick in a pot about 40 cm in length. That will do you all summer!

Today I heard Maggie Beer talking on the radio about cooking. The presenter said that it was difficult for people to cook from scratch because we just don't have the time. I was so impressed by her answer. She said the idea was total rot! All it takes to be able to cook a meal is a little planning! She said with some planning and a well stocked larder it is actually quicker to cook from scratch than it is to drive to the takeaway, place your order, wait for your order and drive home again. I remember Jamie Oliver proving this by phoning for a Pizza whilst on stage and then making one and having it ready well before the delivery boy arrived.

So, I guess if it's not a time factor, it must be a "can't be bothered" factor! I know I suffer from it sometimes!
These are some other tomatoes that are growing up the side of the driveway. This spot faces west and is not a 'garden bed' as such. It is just an area that we used to have to pull the weeds out of from time to time. Now it is a wonderful productive garden.
Let me tell you ........ these are exciting times.


Family Eco Challenge

When we first began this blog, one of our focuses was our Family eco Challenge . We designed areas of focus and worked hard at reducing them. That was 18 months ago. Many of the things we were struggling with back then, have now become every day activities.

Now it is time to take it to the next level. We will do another Family Eco Challenge and try and improve our numbers once again.

The original areas were:





Here are the original ideas that we brainstormed:

1. Energy

a) Turn off lights when not in use

b) turn off appliances at the wall

c) Have shorter showers

d) install energy efficient light bulbs

e) use re-chargeable batteries

2. Water

a) shorter showers and water saving showerheads

b) catch cold water when waiting for hot to come through – use this to fill water bottle and kettle

c) wash up in the small sink

d) flush when necessary

e) install water tanks

3. Transport

a) Ride bikes to school and work

b) Limit trips to town – by planning and grouping trips

c) Get Dad to ride motorbike to town for smaller items/ errands

d) Walk

e) Find cheaper fuel, drive more economically

4. Garbage

a) Compost Food Scraps

b) Stop Getting Plastic Bags

c) Buy items with less packaging

5. Consumption

a) Don’t buy unnecessary things

b) Work on a cash budget

c) Use things sparingly-

d) Do instead of buy – make it yourself.

When I look back at this list it looks so easy, but when we first start out it was quite a stretch.
Now we will move to the next level.

We haven’t had our family meeting to brainstorm ideas yet, but I am thinking of possibilities like:

Can we make more and buy less ?

Can we drastically cut electricity usage ?

Can we not set foot in a supermarket for a month ?

Can we go ‘zero waste’ for a week or (gulp) a month ?

Can we run tank water through the whole house?

I look forward to what the family will come up. Children are so open to new and exciting ideas!

Are you interested in doing a Family Eco-Challenge ? What do you think your family could do ?
I would love to hear some feedback from my readers. I am not sure if I am just talking to myself here LOL – drop me a line!


STOP FOOD WASTE...... If you remember.

Imagine the scene.

I am at my supermarket. I unpack my groceries from the trolley. The young girl scans them and places them lovingly into my 'green bags'. I pay. I smile. I push my trolley out to the car park and load four of the five bags into the boot of my car. I take the fifth bag out of the trolley and walk over to the nearest bin and pour the contents in. Unopened cereal, a carton of milk, half a pumpkin, three oranges and a beautiful bunch of shallots!

....... what a crime ! I hear you say. What a complete and total waste! ..........

The fact is that Australians waste $6 billion each year by throwing away food. A 2007 study found that on average we throw away 4.2 kilograms a week! According to Planet Ark founder and environmentalist John Dee, the reason we throw away so much is because we are forgetful.

In our house in the past we have been extremely guilty of this. Treasures of archaeological significance have been found lurking in that space at the back of the rarely used for anything important middle shelf.

There seems to be some sort of weird mentality when it comes to the fridge. Last week the shallots took up residence in the front row, top shelf, - proudly sitting there ready for that Jamie Oliver cooking adventure. The cooking adventure gets postponed, or worse still we only need three snippets for a garnish and the shallots are put back into the fridge with the best of intentions I am sure ready for ....... not really sure of that ...... but will think of something good.......

Next week we bring home the avocado, half a rockmelon and the freshly seasoned, organic, free range chicken for the dinner party.After the party we clean up and put all the leftovers into plastic containers, because we can't let good food go to waste. In three weeks time when we are making way for the giant fruit platter that Aunt Marion has made for the family get together, we HAVE to throw out the left over chicken AND the plastic container because it has taken on a life of it's own and after all it's too unhygienic to use that container ever again.

Although we have the best of intentions, the truth is, if we can't SEE IT, we don't remember it.

Saving money on food has been a very important part of this new frugal lifestyle we are adopting. Here are some tips relating to leftovers.

1. MENU PLAN - work out what you are eating and shop accordingly. Plan your menus around your schedule. Easy meals on busy nights and adventurous meals when there is more time. Write your plan on a whiteboard on the fridge as a visual reminder for every one in the house. There is great peace knowing at 7am what you are eating that night and being able to defrost the meat in the fridge through the day.

2. PROGRAMME LEFTOVERS INTO THE MENU PLAN: - Make a meal one night and deliberately make extra for the next night. We often do this when I make lasagne. If there are leftovers after the second night I cut it into single portions and freeze it for lunches.

3. MAKE VISUAL REMINDERS: - I write a list on the whiteboard of things that have to be eaten or used up. If I use some chicken stock, for example, and pour the remainder into ice cube trays to freeze, I put it on my 'must use' list.

4. MAKE SMALLER MEALS: - My Grandmother always said "your eyes are bigger than your belly" meaning, you think you want to eat a certain amount but when it comes to it, you can only eat half of it. We often discuss the old fashioned idea of having much smaller meals and if you're still hungry then have a slice of bread and butter.

5. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS AND USE LESS: I really noticed when I made my cereal yesterday that after eating all the 'bits' I had a lot of milk left over in the bowl. After measuring it I found it to be 1/3 of a cup. Multiply that by seven days and I am pouring out half a litre of milk a week! This morning I overcame my phobia of having cereal pieces that weren't 'wet enough' by stirring thoroughly in less milk before eating. Simple!!

6. COMPOST: When you do have food scraps put them in your compost bin. This will turn back into soil which can then be used to grow vegies or herbs. This is the best form of recycling as studies have shown that about 40% of household rubbish is compostable food scraps. There are now bench top composters available if you live in an apartment.

You wouldn't throw away one in five bags of your groceries each week. You wouldn't cut up a twenty dollar note with a pair of scissors and throw it in the bin, so think about how much food you are wasting and how much rubbish you are producing as a result.

Making these small changes has not only helped our budget, it has also made a huge difference to how much rubbish we put in our bin each week.

If you would like more information on the Stop Food Waste Campaign you can visit the article from NOTEBOOK magazine


Doing Away With Disposables

Step by step... little by little ... moving towards a more sustainable, frugal life.

You don't just wake up one day and decide to throw your job in and live off very little. It is like a great sculpture. Each day the sculptor chips away little by little, every day moving towards a masterpiece.

You start with simple things like planning your meals, shopping to a list, organising your budget better, saving money here and there. As you perfect those skills you move on to cooking more from scratch and purchasing groceries items only when you know they are on sale and using your stockpile for when they are full price.

Soon you are growing a few of your own herbs and maybe a tomato. Next you're using the car less and riding your bike more. Before you know it you are making your own pasta and the thought of soap making suddenly doesn't seem that daunting.

The latest step has been slowly replacing disposables. Cotton crocheted cloths are great to use instead of paper towel and washing up cloths and make great cleaning rags. They are very easy to make and take about two evening. When I say very easy to make I mean VERY easy, (coming from some one who has NO crocheting skills what so ever! )

Cloths can be colour coded. A good way to remember your bathroom cloth colour is to make 'blue for the loo and pink for the sink'. Once you have used the cloth, just throw it in with the washing for use again. This is my idea of 'sustainability' because of the ongoing use of the item. I no longer have to re-buy the replaced products.


A Winter Break.

Last week we finally got our tank of petrol off layby, remortgaged the house for the second tank and set off for a little tripping around. Ahhhhh the sweet freedom. No deadlines, no return date, no expectations.

First stop was to stay with friends in Sydney - a little place in the Sutherland Shire called Oyster Bay. The sign says " a little bit of country in the middle of the city" and I have to agree. The Kookaburras are the loudest alarm clock and there are plenty of possums about.

It's always nice to go down there and see the progress on our friends house. They have done the most wonderful renovations on their block over the last few years and I was lucky enough to get some super pumpkin seeds to plant.

While we were there we caught the train into the city and spent the whole day at the Powerhouse Museum. It was wonderful and I could have spent a lot more time there. The boys really enjoyed it.

On one of the days we tripped down to the South Coast to see some of the places I used to live.

( Shame you weren't home Libby, I could have used a cup of tea and a chat! ) I navigated us around Albion Park, Oak Flats, Mt Warrigal, Shellharbour. It has all changed so much. I did manage to get a couple of photos of houses that I lived in for my scrapbook. They have really changed, especially the house at Mt Warrigal. Someone has rendered over our lovely 70s red brick ! LOL The photo above is of Hubbie fooling around at the beach at Shellharbour.

We came home on Monday night. Just enough time to unpack and wash, build another couple of garden beds, plant some seeds and plants, bake some bread, cakes and ANZAC biscuits and now we are off again, This time we are heading out to Quirindi to have some time with Hubbie's family. I am looking forward to the trip over the mountain and stopping at the little town of Nundle. We will stay there for a few days then I will meet my Mum in the Hunter Valley and head over to Dubbo with her because my Grandmother turns 101 on Tuesday.

So....... with news headlines this morning that petrol has reached $1.75 per litre, you can see why I am remortgaging the house for this trip ! LOL. It will be our last for a while now. So that will allow me to lay-by the next tank of petrol for another trip.

On the home front, there has been so much happening. Once I am home I will upload a progress report, but the exciting news is that Hubbie and No2 son enjoyed two home grown tomatoes this week on their sandwich and Hubbie reported the taste as 'sensational'. So, that's good.

Signing off now......... time to fill my 1970s airpot with hot water and pack my basket with lovely home baked goodies and head off over the mountain, coasting down the other side to save petrol.

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...