Friday, 19 December 2014

Old Stockings as Garden Ties

I have been using old stockings as garden ties for a few years now. It is a great way to stake or espalier plants whilst allowing room for growth.

Our crop of tomatoes after being pruned and tied using strips from an old pair of my stockings

I'm not sure where I heard about using stockings but I suspect it was from Gardening Australia. We are pretty big fans of the TV show and have been receiving their monthly magazine for a couple of years at least.

I can't say I wear stockings often but I usually ruin them the first or second time that I wear them if I do. It's great to have a useful purpose for them after they rip.

The benefit of using stockings is that they are soft and elastic so the plants can grow for quite awhile without the risk of being cut or damaged.  Hard plastic ties are rigid and don't last very long.

To re-use the stockings just cut into strips appropriate to the use. When expaliering the olive tree I use small short strips but when tying tomatoes around big stakes I use long strips. I usually cut them 2-3 cm wide for strength.

An olive branch tied with a small stocking segment - you can see the  stretch it provides.
I usually cut off the hanging ends to neaten it up.
I must admit that when I was checking on the olives a couple of days ago and tying some new branches down I realised I had forgotten to cut off the stocking ties I had used three years ago.  They were very tight but starting to break down.  So although stocking are much gentler to use make sure that you get out and cut them off once they have served their purpose.

The espaliered olive trees that we have trained for just over three years using stocking ties
Do you repurpose used household items in the garden too? I'd love to hear how.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Buying Secondhand Joy for Christmas

We have been looking to get a push along walker for Turtle to play with.  She is really enjoying standing up at the moment and building her confidence towards walking so we thought she would get some use out of it.  After having no luck borrowing one through the toy library we decided it would be a good Christmas present.  We looked them up on Gumtree, which is a great place to buy cheap secondhand baby things.  It turned out that many other families had the same idea.  We found a couple of nice Vtech walkers that are about $99 new from the baby store.  On Gumtree they ranged from $10 to $40.  I have recently limited my travel distance to collect things on Gumtree to within 20km from our home and so we only looked within this range.

The first three walkers that we enquired about were all $10 to $25 and all of them had been snapped up before we saw their posts.  While Mr Fix It was out salvaging for treasure on Saturday night I decided to check again and saw two walkers had been posted a few hours earlier.  One was a Scout and Friends walker and it was still available.  We managed to get friends to pick it up on their way to our place for lunch on Sunday too so it was a very good shopping experience. The Scout walker was $20 and turned out to be new and still in its box.  Since we are going away for Christmas and won't be taking the walker with us Turtle has been allowed to play with it since we got it.
Turtle is a little excited by her new toy
I am so pleased to have found such a lovely toy for Turtle to play with that was cheap and buying secondhand meant that it wasn't wasted even though the first buyer didn't use it or need it.  I don't see why it is necessary to buy toys brand new when children outgrow them, or get bored with them, so quickly.

I would love to hear about any secondhand presents that you have found for loved ones.  Did you feel like you had made the gift more personal by researching and putting a bit of extra effort into finding something that way?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

From Trash to Treasure... Are Santa's Elves Upcycling Toys?

It is a foraging time of year in our area at the moment.  People in the neighbourhood are clearing out unwanted items for Council collection.  About two weeks ago things started to appear on the streets.  It really hit a peak last weekend with people driving around in vans looking to snap up some treasure.  You might notice I am hesitant to call the unwanted items rubbish or waste.  This is because most of the time it is not.  Mostly it is unwanted or underused things that are taking up valuable space in our homes.  With Christmas on the way toys are also being cleared out in anticipation for Santa's arrival in a couple of weeks.

As initially raised in Striving for a Minimalist Birthday we are trying to make sure Turtle's baby toys are secondhand wherever possible.   We had a lot of luck from the verge collection.  Mr Fix It went out Saturday night (we have such an exciting nightlife!) and came back with a car full of things.  A roller lawnmower that is compact and doesn't need fuel or electricity to run, an old wheel barrow that we are going to plant out with something (possibly mint) as a feature in the yard, two kids bikes (that went back on the curb since they were broken) and a really great activity table for Turtle.

Turtle playing with her new salvaged activity table
We gave the salvaged activity table from Mr Fix It's big night out a good clean and it is practically like new. Only one of the features is broken and it still plays music.  Since we are going away for Christmas and won't be taking the activity table with us Turtle has been allowed to play with the it immediately.  Seeing as she is still only 14 months I don't think she will remember having toys before Christmas Day.

We have decided it will replace the slightly less flash activity table that we had picked up a couple of months ago from the roadside collection in the suburb over.  That one is a bit unpredictable with its music but Turtle still loved playing with it.

Slightly less flash activity table back on the curb - hopefully to be reclaimed again
I think salvaging treasures from other peoples trash is something to be respected and encouraged.  It is not something that everyone seems to do (or at least talk about much if they do) but hopefully it is going to be become more and more popular as people realise that they can find great gifts that are cheap and that divert things from being wasted in landfill.

I would love to hear about any creative gifts that you have salvaged or made from salvaged materials for loved ones.  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Finding ways to work within (and accept!) your limits

It is somewhat ironic that I am writing this post since I struggle to accept my limitations and I am always pushing to do everything myself.

I think this is always the case when you worry about reducing your impact on the environment.  Every trip to the shops becomes an ethical struggle (e.g. should I buy local or organic eggs? I really need cheese but there is no local cheese sold here and I don't have the time or energy to go to the other store that I know sells it).

There is also the motivation to cook for yourself since you have control over what ingredients are used and so you can be confident that you are using pretty ethical and healthy produce. More often than not it will also taste better. It is also likely to save you a bit of money too, particularly if you live in Perth since eating out is pricey.

To manage these never ending self expectations and somewhat exhausting jobs (don't get me wrong I get a lot of joy and satisfaction out of the things I do or else I wouldn't do them) it is good to have a couple of 'outs' to give yourself a well earned rest every now and then, or even just to catch up on other things in our lives.  We often use them when commitments are getting on top of us, when Turtle is teething and keeping us up at night or even when the pets are being crazy (like the cat at the moment but that is a whole other story!).  Here are a couple of our 'rest' solutions that we try to take as guilt free breaks: 

1. Doing all of the shopping at a major chain supermarket

I did this last weekend for the first time in a long time (possibly in years!). The reason simply being that I had been to the toy library that morning, our cupboards were bare and I wanted to get  to yoga that afternoon. Somewhere in amongst all of that I wanted to fit in some family time. So I (prepare yourself!) bought meat at the supermarket! Lots of meat- dog meat (minced beef), stew meat and a pre-cooked free range chook. Mr Fix it was stoked about the chook. We normally don't buy them pre-cooked since they are usually not free range. We normally only buy meat at the local butcher except for kangaroo mince for the dogs food. Since the Christmas season has filled meat sections in supermarkets with legs of ham, turkey and other festive meats the kangaroo mince has been difficult to get, hence buying beef mince for a change.

2. Disposable nappy weekends

Turtle is in re-usable nappies most of the time.  We usually do a load of nappies every one to two days.  Since she was 6 months we have started using disposables at night-time since re-usable nappies were leaking through the night.  We also tend to use disposables if we are going out for more than a short trip so that we don't have to go through the stress of changing her out (she pretty much hates having her nappy changed!).  While it isn't so much effort to wash the nappies there are times where the washing piles up (it did this especially when Turtle had reflux, which was up until she was about 6 months old) and we have a disposable nappy weekend.  Two days to catch up on and forget about washing and then start afresh.  It might not sound like much but when you are averaging two loads of washing a day it's a pretty nice break.

3. Take away

We all do this one of course.  We try to only do it every few weeks but every now and then it does get more frequent.  Our take away favourites are noodles in a box; pizza and Vietnamese.  So yummy but questionable how much faster it is than cooking.  I think it's the lack of preparation and cleaning up that makes it a treat when we just cannot be bothered anymore.

4. Organic Veggie Box delivered to your door each week.

It is so nice not to have to go out shopping for fruit and vegetables each week but we do run down on all the other staples because we don't need to go the shops for as many items.

5. Cooking up a big batch of food so that you can reheat it and eat leftovers (or freeze leftovers for another time so you don't get so sick of it).

6. Go on holidays!

This is on the cards in a couple of weeks and I am looking forward to a rest from our day to day jobs and commitments.  We have an awesome house sitter lined up so we don't need to worry a bit.

What do you do to take some time out of your busy schedule? Do you have some "outs" to help you slow down and avoid a nervous breakdown?!? 

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Strawberry Thief

Two years ago we planted two strawberry plants in one of our raised garden beds.  Sadly, the last two years have been a big disappointment.  We have eaten a few strawberries at most. So this is the third season that we have waited in anticipation to feast on the delicious sweet red fruit.

But a change is in the air. In September about ten strawberries sprouted from the remaining plant. We ate a few and they were so sweet! Much sweeter than any I've bought lately.  It all started then.

Not wanting to finish our first flush of strawberries too quickly I left a few almost ripe ones, wanting to share them with Mr Fix It the next day. Well the next day there was no strawberries on the bush! They'd been clean removed, bitten off the stalk.

The tantalising plant
I suspected our younger dog (Zac) since he was caught eating strawberries at my Mother in Laws a couple of years ago. 

Although disappointed, I wasn't too upset because we had enjoyed a few strawberries.  We thought that was it for the season not realising that the strawberry plant was gearing up for its main season.

It has been pretty much covered in fruit since about 6 weeks ago.  About 3 weeks ago there were big, juicy fruits staring to ripen. A day or two more I told myself and we will be eating them. Yum!

But we did not, and have not, enjoyed one piece of fruit since! Every single time I have seen the fruit starting to turn the promising delicious red ripe colour I tell myself, "a day or two more" and then return expecting to pick them but find an empty stalk instead. It is so devastating.

After this had happened for two weeks in a row we decided to take action.  Not having any suitable materials to make anything I found an Opera House Trap (crab net) in the shed and kind of hung it over the plant, hoping it would deter Zac while we thought of a better barrier.  A strawberry was ripening when I did this and the next day it was gone.

Opera House trap and nearly ripened strawberry
Further evidence that Zac was our culprit occurred on the same day I noticed that the crab net hadn't working.  He was frozen to the spot in the Lounge room, apparently overcome by hormones that may have been triggered by the aphrodisiac properties of the strawberry.  I swear he could not move for five minutes!

The Strawberry Thief suffering for his crime
After the failed crab net attempt I made up a simple 5mm bird wire cover (thanks to Mr Fix It's know how).  I bought 2 metres of chicken wire from Bunnings for $10 to make it.  It was two pieces of wire folded twice and laid over each other to seal off the whole plant.  A few days later a small strawberry that was ripening disappeared.  We shrugged it off as Zac having pushed up against the side of the wire to eat it through the barrier.  Cheeky, but we thought the rest should be safe.

The simple bird wire cage
For a week I watched the rest of the strawberries grow and then, at last, start to ripen.  There was a big one that caught my eye (and my taste buds!).   It was definitely out of reach of Zac since it was at the top of the plant under two layers of wire...

But then it also disappeared.  Cut off at the stalk! So it probably hasn't been Zac, or at least he is not the only culprit.  Clearly our simple cage is not up to stopping the Thief.

I had promised myself I wouldn't write this blog until I had eaten a delicious, ripe strawberry.  However, this saga has dragged on for so long I have decided to write about it in two posts.  This one is the dark, angry and unsatiated post.  I hope beyond all hope that there is a second post filled with joy and excitement bragging about how we conquered the Thief and ate some home grown strawberries.

Until then, we remain alert, on guard and united against the Thief.

Do you have any garden crops mysteriously going missing? Do you share our heart ache and pain?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Liming the Lime

After much speculation about our poor lime tree (see Planning a Patch of Paradise) Mr Fix It tested the soil around it's base.  It was acidic!  The pH was about 5 - 5.5.

We bought a pH kit ages ago.  We tested the soil under our lemon tree and it was a neutral 7.  We clearly should have kept testing other areas before putting it away.

I've been periodically adding Potassium Sulphate (pot ash), along with compost and worm juice, to the lime tree soil but it only triggered flowers and then the fertilised buds would fall off.  The tree must not have been able to take up the nutrients it needs to produce fruit due to the acidity of the soil.
The lime tree two weeks after being limed
When the soil is too acidic or alkaline nutrients can become bound into the soil and unavailable to plants... Click here to view a chart showing what nutrients are available at the different pH levels.

Luckily we had a bag of garden lime in the shed, which we have added to the lime tree's soil (and the worm farm, which was also a touch acidic!).  The garden lime is calcium carbonate so it is supposed to act quickly to neutralise acidity.  This is opposed to dolomite, which is slightly slower acting but also contains magnesium.

After finding out about the pH we have decided not to relocate the lime tree to Paradise Patch anymore.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a fertile and fruitful lime season! I will keep you posted.

Do you have any pHantastic pH garden stories to share? or lime tree tips? Do tell..

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Our New Bed - A Good News Waste Story

So I have a neck/shoulder problem that started about three years ago and has become much worse (boo hoo! poor me!) since having a baby.  All of the feeding, carrying, rocking and lifting while doing a million other things clearly isn't helping.

One of the things I had never considered doing about it, despite seeing a chiropractor, doing stretching and yoga, then an osteopath and currently a physiotherapist, was to buy a new mattress.  Silly, I know, but true.

The osteopath was the fist specialist to suggest it, bless her!  It took a good 6 months for us to do anything about buying one though.  I'm pretty sure I whinged to poor Mr Fix It for at least that amount of time but finding time to go mattress shopping is difficult.  Let's face it, the idea of buying a new mattress is daunting so that didn't help either.

We finally managed to get there on what could have been the worst possible day.  My neck had been quite sore for a couple of weeks and I had gone out for a friend birthday the evening before so I had a slight hangover from the few wines I had consumed.  In short, I was a desperate woman seeking an answer to all of my problems.

We tried to play it cool but of course the smooth talking salesman, who had a toy box that kept Turtle happily amused while we compared various mattresses, helped us buy a (rather expensive!) mattress in the first shop we went into.  In our defence, it was great service and we just don't have the time or energy to shop around anymore.  We're still not sure that we made the right decision but I do feel so much more supported in bed and my neck isn't sore in the morning when I wake up.  Definitely an improvement.

The point of this whole post (apologies for the rambling about my neck!) is that when we bought the mattress we were given information, at our request, on how to recycle our old mattress through Garbologie.

Garbologie had approached the bed shop to see if they would promote their recycling service to customers.  I'm not 100% sure if our Local Council does recycle mattresses as part of the hard rubbish or verge collections since we are in the southern suburbs.  I know that the northern suburbs do recycle mattresses.  However, I decided that I wanted to support this entrepreneur regardless of whether we have a free service from our Council.

The service we received from Garbologie was efficient and professional.  I went to their website and booked the collection online.  I requested that they let us know before they arrived (in case Turtle was napping since our dogs go crazy barking when anyone comes up our driveway).  Mr Fix It was home on the day that they collect from our area.  In response to my request, he received a text message a short while before they came to collect the mattress.  He left $25 in an envelope taped to the mattress and that was it.  It was collected with no hassle.  I wanted to share this experience because I love seeing such motivated and inspirational people starting businesses that are so environmentally focused.  Particularly dealing with waste, which is such an important environmental issue.  I encourage you to look out for Garbologie and use their services too.  I am planning to visit their tip shop to see if we can find anything there to upcycle.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Seasonal Organic Fruit & Veggie Boxes: Creative Cooking

When Turtle began to eat solids I decided that our household needed to increase the amount of organic fruit and vegetables that we eat.  My main reason: to reduce the amount of pesticides in our diet.  Particularly Turtle's diet since she is so small and it seems like food is becoming more of a commodity and less of a natural product every day.  Another benefit is that organic produce is grown to promote and nourish the soil and environment.  It is a holistic process that minimises damage to the environment.  I believe that this has so many benefits and definitely should be supported and encouraged.

I started scouring the shelves of our local fruit and vegetable stores for organic produce (since we were time poor and struggled to get to the local Farmers Markets).  I found their range to be limited and I had an ethical struggle regarding the amount of plastic that the organic produce was wrapped in.  What a choice, buy the standard food without packaging or the organic food triple wrapped in plastic and sometimes even on a styrofoam (I know, shops still use styrofoam in Perth!!) base.  I needed another alternative.

A friend told me about an organic fruit and vegetable box that she had delivered at around this time.  She wasn't 100% happy with it because she had received lots of oranges and didn't eat them.  I also saw a conversation about organic food on a Facebook site where someone said that they had organic fruit and veggies delivered and then would top up what they needed at the shops.  It took a little while for me to get onto it but I found The Organic Collective's website and have not looked back.

For the first few weeks I would ring up to place an order (rather than immediately organising an ongoing weekly order) for the Couples box.  We wanted to find out what type of things would be included and to make sure we were happy with the amounts we received.

The thing I noticed straight away was that we ate so much more fruit because the fruit bowl was full.  It was also convenient having the food delivered, rather than having to go to the shops and trawl through the produce, looking at prices and labouring over packaging.  Most of the time there is no packaging in the box.  Sometimes the pumpkin is in a plastic bag.  Apart from that there is generally none.  I also loved that we were receiving seasonal produce and some products that I would never usually buy.  Examples are squash, fennel, kale, corn and cabbage.  This has caused us to become a lot more creative with our cooking.  We have become huge fans of kale chips, quinoa and corn salads, fennel risotto and squash ratatouille.  All of these meals have been tasty and really healthy.

Mr Fix It was pretty sceptical of the value for money we would be receiving.  He actually weighed everything we received in a box one week on our kitchen scales and calculated (estimated) what he thought it would cost.  He decided that we weren't getting ripped off.

Of course, it's not all bliss and good news.  Some weeks I look in the fridge and see so many vegetables and I feel pressured to cook.  While this is a good thing in some ways (at the moment I have piles of potatoes that I'm planning to make into a potato salad and I want to make tabouli with the copious amount of parsley growing in our garden) it can also be exhausting.  Particularly when Turtle is teething and we haven't had a proper sleep in almost two weeks.  The novelty also wears off when you have received oranges for weeks and you don't feel like eating oranges at all.  You can ring up and ask for items to be added to your "dislikes" and stop them being delivered but I feel like that defeats the purpose of working with the seasons and natural rhythms of what is available to eat.  We tend to only "dislike" things that we can pick from our garden.

Although we got sick of the oranges I have made some amazing orange cakes this winter and now that the weather is heating up (I don't think we got any oranges this week actually) I have really enjoyed putting oranges into salads.
Beetroot, pumpkin, asparagus, corn, quinoa and lettuce salad
Last week when there were lots of veggies in the fridge I cooked up the corn (boiling it for 5-10 minutes), blanched some asparagus and roasted some pumpkin and beetroot.  While I was doing this I also cooked some tricolour quinoa on the stovetop.  All of this didn't take too long although it meant I was pretty active in the kitchen for about an hour.  I cooked everything with a plan to make two or three salads over the next couple of days, reducing the need to cook again so soon.  I cut the corn kernels off the cobs and mixed them through the cooked quinoa.  This is a winning combination, I highly recommend you try it.

Then I cut up one orange and the asparagus, threw it in with the roasted beetroot and pumpkin, lettuce, and quinoa and corn mix, added some orange juice (squeezed from part of the same orange), olive oil, some seeded mustard, and balsamic vinegar.  This was a beautiful salad to accompany the scotch fillets that I got at our local butcher when walking Turtle and the dogs.  I also had plenty of leftover quinoa and corn, lettuce and pumpkin to make another salad within the next couple of days.  I used these ingredients, along with avocados (which weren't ready when I made the first salad) and fetta to make the next salad.  Both salads provided enough leftovers for at least one lunch the next day.  This was definitely a winner!

Pumpkin, fetta, asparagus, avocado, quinoa, corn and lettuce salad
I'd love to hear about any seasonal recipes that you like to use when you have lots of vegetables to use up.  I'm always keen to try something new.  Well I best be off - I have to get started on those salads before Turtle wakes from her nap.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Planning a Patch of Paradise

We've pretty much transformed our backyard from a sandy, weedy, monoculture of couch grass with the only feature being an asbestos shed to a, ahem, pretty cool space in the three years that we've lived here.

I am quite excited about our new, and most likely final, patch in the garden.  It fills a space between the raised veggie beds and the espaliered olive trees:

You can see from the picture above that we've laid out some pavers to mark the edge of the new (round!) bed.  I initially scraped out the lines in the dirt with my foot to make sure there was about a metre gap between surrounding vegetation and structures.  I also made sure to keep existing pathways open.  Mr Fix It used yellow marking spray to draw out the circular shape and used leftover pavers to mark it out more permanently:

As you can see from the photo above we have purchased a half wine barrel for this spot.  We bought it secondhand off the Wine Barrel Man for $75 on Gumtree.  I kind of planned the new bed around (pardon the bad pun!) the half wine barrel.  We bought the half wine barrel a few weeks ago.  Mr Fix It has sealed it with a varnish (I'm not sure what kind) to help it last longer in the elements.  

We haven't decided exactly what is going to go into the half wine barrel but I was thinking of transplanting our lime tree (you can see it to the right behind the wine barrel against the fence) since it has never given us a lime in the 4 years that we have had it (unless you count a 1 cm one that it managed to grow about 3 weeks ago).  The lime tree was in a pot for about two years and then we planted it in its current location.  It gets a lot of sunlight but it is close to the olives and next to where we were trying to grow a native hedge (that has not worked as well as we expected) and I suspect it needs a bit more space.

The reason we have spurred into action with the round garden bed this week is that a lovely old neighbour from up the street was replanting and sub dividing his Bird of Paradise, which had been in the ground for about 5 years.  He offered us a couple of segments (stem and root) and we thought that the round bed would be the perfect place for it.  I think the strappy leaves from the Bird of Paradise make a nice contrast to the olives espaliered behind.  It has also created a nice name for the bed, "Paradise Patch".

When our neighbour brought the segments over in a hessian bag Turtle was sleeping so we left them out the front, making sure that they stayed moist.  We followed strict instructions from our neighbour for planting the segments a few days later (at night since we had such a busy weekend, dedicated I know!).  Mr Fix It dug a hole about 50 cm deep, making sure it was wide and deeper than the roots of the stems.  Then the stems were planted about 5 cm deeper than they were originally (you could tell from the dirt line on the stems).  The hole was filled slowly with layers of existing soil (Bassendean sand) mixed with 50% compost to enhance it's water and nutrient holding capability.  Each layer was about 10 cm deep and then watered in so that the moisture was consistent throughout the hole.  You can see that we have mulched with pea straw on the surface to keep the moisture in.  Hopefully this little bird likes it's new Paradise Patch.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Striving for a Minimalist Baby Birthday

Our baby little girl (Turtle) turned 1 this week. While it has been a proud and somewhat nostalgic period of celebration this event brings to the fore all of the stresses associated with living in a small house.  Mainly because our loved ones want to shower our gorgeous baby with gifts.

Celebrating Turtle's first birthday.  I'm such a proud (and somewhat emotional) mum.
Most of our family live interstate and so that helped to reduce the amount of presents that we received.  It is a difficult thing to want (and need) to reduce the amount of stuff your baby gets.  I am still figuring out the best way to clearly and politely request no presents, or if presents are considered a must, then to request that they are secondhand.

Clearly I don't want Turtle to miss out on the fun of playing with a range of toys but realistically we can only fit so many things into our small home!  There is also the fact that she is often most happy playing with my thongs (flip flops), door stops and tea towels.

So I bet you're wondering what kind of presents we got and if we managed to think of a few eco-friendly alternative gifts?  Here are the main things we received:

1. A wishbone flip ride on rocker.  This is a gorgeous bike that flips into a rocker, made from reforested birch plywood.  I have no idea what reforested means but my mum said it was sustainable and I think that helped her to decide to buy it.  It is likely to last for a long time and Turtle should get heaps of use out of it.  This is the biggest present we received and it, sadly, is being stored out under the patio because we don't have space inside.
2. Five sets of new summer outfits and a couple of fairy outfits (very cute!) from family
3. A lovely array of children's books, including "Whose Bottom?" from our fantastic friends
4. A couple of teddy bears, one from our lovely elderly neighbours up the street and a native echidna from Granddad who was able to share the special day with us
5. A zoo membership for myself from my dad and for Mr Fix It from his mum so that we can take Turtle to the zoo (I can't wait to take her for her first visit!)
6.  Mr Fix It and I joined a toy library for Turtle's present so she has endless toys to borrow
7. A wooden puzzle and really cool bubbles that last for ages and stick to things (I also got these for the babies in our mum's group)
8. A huge bag of secondhand lego Duplo, which has been a huge hit! Thanks again Granddad and Kathy
9.  A hooded owl towel from my bestie which is going to be very cute on Turtle
10. A secondhand toy camera from Grandma, which she found at a market in the U.S on holiday
11. A bottle of rum (which I presume is for Mr Fix It and I although neither of us usually drink it)!

So as you can see there is definitely room for improvement here in terms of achieving Minimalism.  We did open a bank account for people to deposit money instead of giving gifts just after Turtle was born.  I need to make that known well before the Christmas season starts.  Then if Turtle really wants toys they can come out of her bank account.  Best of all we can buy those things secondhand.  Then we can donate, resell or regift as appropriate to keep things in use as they are outgrown.

I think its important to remember that the best gift Turtle can receive is to spend time with family.  Dedicated time is the most valuable gift of all.

Do you also get stresses about loved ones wanting to shower your kids with gifts?

It is hard when in our society consumerism is akin to religion and buying presents is considered a measure of your love.  I'd love to hear your ideas for low waste birthday gifts.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

My favourite Veggie Burgers

I discovered this veggie burger recipe awhile ago when I wanted to start cooking more with lentils.  It is AMAZING! I won't share the recipe here since I found it at Veggie Num Num's website. You can look at the recipe by following this link.

The reason I wanted to share this recipe is because it is so delicious.  When I cook it I use green lentils and they cook up to look brown and have a similar texture to a beef patty.  This means even the most devoted carnivore is likely to be satisfied.  I highly recommend making burgers with cheese, salad, beetroot and sauces (we use mayonnaise and tomato sauce).

It is quite simple to cook but I have had some trouble getting the consistency right.  I wasn't draining the lentils enough (or remembering to fish out the garlic after they cooked) and so it initially took me forever to get the consistency right.  I had to add cups of plain flour, rather than the 1-2 tablespoons as instructed, or it would be really sloppy.

Having said that I always end up adding more flour than that (this time I added 4 tablespoons and that's the least I've ever added).  My tip would be that if the lentils aren't sticking together add more flour until you see the egg and flour mix become a whitish paste.  Obviously don't go too crazy though or it will taste floury.  Add the flour in small amounts.

I love the texture that the fresh bread (I just tear it into little pieces) gives the burgers too. My 11 month old girl (aka "turtle") loved them.  She loves her meat so its nice to have a healthy vegetarian option to mix things up a little.  We have just started to get tomatoes and lettuce in our weekly seasonal organic veggie box so this feels like a fun meal change as summer approaches.

Are you enjoying some new dishes too as the weather heats up?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Do it for the Walruses

I made the mistake of turning on the news this morning thinking it would help me to ease into the day. Boy was I wrong! About 35,000 walruses have beached themselves on an Alaskan shore due to melting arctic sea ice, an impact of human enhanced global warming.

I was devastated to see images of the walruses.  To think that these animals have been forced onto land because there is no arctic sea ice for them to rest upon.  This makes them much more vulnerable to predators and to crushing from stampedes if predators or aircraft come too close.

Mass beachings of the walruses began in the late 1990's.  This one seems to be the biggest to date.  Ice sheets are valuable habitat for walruses to rest between feeding dives, as birthing sites and for nursing young.  

The area of arctic ice mass has reduced to 5.02 million square kilometers at is minimum in September this year.  This is 1.61 million square kilometers higher than the 2012 'record minimum' recorded since satellite images started being taken to measure changes in the sea ice.  It is 1.20 million square kilometers lower than the 'average minimum melting' recorded between 1981 to 2010 (source: nsidc).  Human enhanced global warming is responsible for the increased melting.

So as I looked around the kitchen feeling sad and wishing, ok somewhat idealistically, that I could do something to help my husband (Mr Fixit) turned on the coffee machine and I realised how helpless I felt.  We are surrounded by electricity.  However, I realised that this is the perfect reminder of why I want to reduce my electricity use and help others to do the same.  Please see below a few electricity saving tips.  Do it for the walruses.

Tip 1: Use our natural energy source - the sun.  Turn lights out during the day and open blinds and doors.  I'm going to try and use no artificial lighting in the daytime, especially during summer.

Tip 2: If you have a PV solar power system at your home then use the power as it is being made.  This might reduce your financial gain but using power at night is not being environmentally friendly.  You are still using coal fired power if you mainly use power at night but feed the grid solar during the day.  Try to do electricity using activities in the daytime, directly sourcing your solar on site and reducing your reliance on dirty fossil fuels supplying the grid when your solar stops working (i.e. when the sun goes down).  If you don't have solar (we don't) then consider buying Green Power from your utility provider.  This makes them source the amount of power you use from renewable generators such as solar or wind.

Tip 3.  Turn off ALL of your power when you go out.  Find a way to make it easy.  There are different designs to help you make it easy such as the Ecoswitch or else work out where your main appliances are and turn them off.  As you finish using them or when you go out/to bed.  General estimates are that 10% of household power use can be saved just by turning off appliances that are normally left on standby.  In my house that's about $15 a month.

Tip 4. Reduce car travel.  Walk, scoot, or ride for local trips.  Enjoy the slower pace and fresh air.  We've been walking our dogs to the local shops lately, it gives them their daily walk and we get to pick up our last minute items, a win all around.

Tip 5.  Think local when buying food and shopping.  The more locally products are made the less distance they have travelled.  This reduces the fuel required to transport them.  It's simple but easy to forget when you're in a rush.  I do my best to only buy WA dairy and fruit and vegetables.

I would love to hear your energy saving tips or any reasons why you might find it hard to the the 5 tips I have suggested above.  It might not stop the ice melting now but hopefully it will stop it from getting much worse.