Friday, 20 February 2015

Late summer garden update

Although we are in the peak of summer I am pleased to report that our garden is doing well at the moment.  You may remember that when we returned from our Christmas visit to the relatives the garden had started to produce some goodies.
The garden mid January before the cull
There were, however, some areas that were not doing so well.  In what I feel was not in my normal 'stand back and see how things unravel' approach to life we pulled out the poor performers and planted some that we hoped would do better.  All with an aim to maximise productivity.  

The heirloom tomatoes were, heart wrenchingly, pulled from the front bed, along with a basil plant for harvesting.  This created a good space to plant something new.  

I also pulled the spent snow peas from the back bed, which wound up production just before we went away, and harvested some raddichio that was going to seed.   The garlic was harvested by Mr Fix It.  I am sad to report that it had rotted from over watering during its final stages of development.

Back garden bed and Paradise Patch with late summer crop
We added compost and soil improver to the cleared planting areas and in went a late summer crop of corn, leeks, lettuces, zucchinis, cherry tomatoes and some purple flowering plants to help attract pollinators.
The promising corn crop
It's been four weeks since the new crop went in and the corn has grown like crazy, which is pretty exciting.  We planted it thinking that it might not do very well.  Clearly the test will be whether the corn forms but we are feeling positive from the way it is looking.

The baby eggplant is still providing a lot of fruit and we harvested our first red capsicum this week, with a few more not far away.  We are also getting some strawberries too, which we are enjoying immensely after our recent battle.
What it is all about - from garden to mouth
The zucchinis are also doing well.  We've always been hesitant to plant zucchini since it needs a bit of space, which we are always constrained by.  Since the corn is such a tall thin plant we put one zucchini in the middle of four corns in the back bed.  We also planted three zucchini around the half wine barrel in Paradise Patch.  A couple of baby zucchini are growing so we should have some to eat reasonably soon.  I am also planning to harvest zucchini flowers for salads.

So far the cherry tomatoes are not looking so good.  We may have to accept that this year has not been a good one for us growing tomatoes.

It's great to see the garden changing and to have the courage to try out some new crops.  It is always a challenge to get out there enough but I guess that is the true test of a garden.  To see what flourishes despite, or possibly because of, the limited time that we have to spend out there.

Have you abandoned your garden during these hotter months or are you battling on and trying to get out there? Are you happy with how it is growing?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Finding pre-loved books for my book club

I have just joined a book club.  I am pleased because it is something that I have been considering doing for awhile.  I waited to see if an opportunity arose for me to join one organically.  Then I considered starting one as a way to keep up with my friends regularly.  Mr Fix It pointed out (quite diplomatically!) that it might be better to join a book club and see if I like it before I take on the responsibility of organising one.

The stars finally aligned - I checked Gumtree and there was a (convenient!) book club looking for people.

Since there is the potential for needing to buy a lot of new books as part of this hobby I am determined to do everything that I can to re-use, borrow and salvage books each month.  I have built confidence by finding secondhand copies of the first two books that we are reading fairly easily.

The first two book club books successfully found secondhand
The first book is The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes.  I am about one chapter in and I am worried it might be too scary for me.  I am also, luckily, intrigued to find out what happens.  It's good to have the book club meeting coming up to help me find energy and motivation to read on and finish it.

When searching for a copy of Shining Girls I checked my local libraries online catalogue to see if they had it.  It was on loan (possibly to other members of the group!).  I decided to get creative and check the library catalogues of two neighbouring Councils.  Both had it.  I was extremely pleased with myself.  I had a dentist appointment near one of the neighbouring Council's libraries and collected it at the same time.  Success!

The second book is my selection.  Eeek! I had arranged with a friend to pop around and raid her book collection to choose something.  For some reason it was feeling a little too difficult and the book needs to be selected soon to give members enough lead time to find and read it before the end of March.  I have been keeping an eye out for ideas and had noted down a couple of potential books that I wanted to research further to see if I liked the look of them, and check their secondhand availability, before I decided.

Then I had the greatest idea.  I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Housseini last year.  It was brilliant.  I thought this would be a great excuse to reread it.  I decided to see if my local Book Exchange, where I recently dropped off used books and received a credit, had it.  I'm pleased to say that the Book Exchange did have it and so I grabbed the copy (since I had given the copy I read last year to my mum).  As such, that is the book I have chosen for the group to read.  I hope they all like it as much as I did.  It's great if you can impress as the new kid on the block.

Do you have hobbies that lend themselves to re-using materials, borrowing things or salvaging items? Does that add to your interest in them?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Connecting with your community

When I worked full-time (pre-baby) I was quite busy with sustainability events and activities through my job.  As such, I often didn't have time to attend local events that I knew I would find interesting.  This prevented me from getting to know like minded people in my local community.

While I am on leave from work I want to attend more of these kinds of events and meetings.  Of course, my time is limited by family commitments but I want to use this opportunity to connect with my own community.  Particularly with people who share my interests and passion for sustainability and the environment.
Enjoying South Perth foreshore
About four years ago I attended a Living Smart course at our local community centre.  I think the course is a bit West Australian-centric so I'll explain what it is.  You go along to a two hour session each week for 6 - 8 weeks and learn about reducing water use, energy use, waste, travel alternatives to the car and general information about reducing chemicals in your home and improving your well being.  It is a great course to attend if you are interested in these things and it is a great way to connect with like minded people in your community.  To find out more here is a link to the Living Smart website.

As someone who works in Local Government I think an additional benefit for individuals and families who attend Living Smart, and other types of sustainability events, is that you become familiar with officers who work in the community and you can build rapport to work together to develop events and activities that you think are important.  One of the biggest barriers to making good ideas a reality is not knowing the people who can support and guide a way to make them happen.
Amazing acrobats at Fremantle Festival
Last week I attended my first meeting of the local Living Smarties, a group of people that have attended a Living Smart Course and want to stay connected with like minded people.  The group meets monthly to discuss topics of interest, bringing food and their passion about sustainability and the environment to share.

Since it was the first meeting of the year the conversation mainly focused on planning meetings for 2015.  I felt welcomed by each and every one of the Smarties and I was extremely glad that I had dragged myself out of the house, just after Turtle had gone down for the night, and went along to introduce myself.  I was even invited to contribute to the selection of topics that will be discussed throughout the year.  I chose decluttering, since it is a topic that is close to my heart in our bustling little home.
Car tree holder at Adelaide Fringe Festival
Hearing the group discussing electric cars, buying batteries for storing solar power, developing a star rating system for gardens and making passata from tomatoes was interesting and inspiring for me.  I felt energised and reminded that there are so many amazing things that people are doing in the world. It is so easy to forget that while you go through the motions of your daily routine and see the mindless news that is reported.

I wanted to share this positive experience and encourage you to get out and find a way to connect with your community.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Why I like to use cloth nappies

Before I had Turtle I was determined to put her into reusable or cloth nappies.  Mainly because I wanted to make less waste that would end up landfill.

Newborns can use up to 12 nappies each day and when babies are a bit older they might go through 6-8.  Most babies wear nappies until they are two or three years of age.  Each child is therefore likely to go through at least 4,000 - 5,000 nappies.  That is a lot of waste.  I would love to see a pile of 4,000 - 5,000 nappies on display somewhere to fully comprehend how much waste is going into landfill for each baby.

The pouch style of nappy that we used for Turtle from 3 - 6 months
Interestingly, however, if you read up on the benefits of using cloth nappies you will see that this is a hot topic in the sustainability/environmental area.  The jury seems to be out on whether disposable or cloth nappies are better (or worse!) for the environment. Here is a Choice Magazine review on the topic.  When disposable and cloth nappies have been compared for their environmental performance - the resources used to make them, care and maintenance, and requirements for disposal and eventual degradation - there has been no clear winner.  The environmental costs of the different nappies are summarised well in this link

Despite this debate I cannot believe that using disposables could ever be more environmentally friendly than using cloth.  Not that I'm judging anyone who chooses (or needs!) to use disposables.  Having a baby is hard work and you have to do what works for you.  There are some biodegradable disposable options available as an alternative too.   We use these when we go out for long periods, and also for night time sleeps since Turtle was 6 months old and was wetting through the cloth.  I choose to use mainly cloth because it is a much better fit with my values and, with the support of Mr Fix It, we have managed to make it work for us.

We used the sized style of nappy for a few months (6-10 months) before moving to a one size style that grows with Turtle
Cloth nappies are washed every day or two while in use.  For the sake of comparing their performance to disposables it is presumed that cloth nappies are washed in hot water and then dried in a clothes dryer.   Since we live in Perth it is warm for most of they year so nappies dry quickly on the line and there is no need to use a clothes dryer.  This reduces the energy needed to wash our nappies, which improves their environmental performance.

Another way to improve the environmental performance of cloth is to use them on more than one baby.  Each time that you use the nappies for a new baby it doubles the environmental performance.  I have bought almost all of my nappies secondhand so even if we don't end up having a second baby I know that this has reduced the environmental impact from Turtle's nappies.  It has also saved us money since the nappies are cheaper secondhand.  I resell the nappies that we don't need (when Turtle has grown out of them or when we find another style that we prefer) so they can be used again by other families. 

I am really glad that we have made the effort to use cloth nappies (we use modern cloth nappies or MCN) on Turtle.  Don't get me wrong, it's added to our daily tasks since we tend to wash a load of nappies most days but I feel good that we have been able to do it.

Do you feel strongly about the kind of nappies you use on your little one(s)? Are you also concerned about the waste nappies cause?