Thursday, 28 February 2013

GreeNZ Top 10 Sustainable Living Ideas

The humble sun-brella
  1.   Grow Green
Vegetable seedlings awaiting planting into veg beds

Do it!  Just buy a packet of vegetable seeds.  Read instructions to sow them and JUST DO IT!!  Then sit back and watch them grow and experience the miracle of growing your own food.  I find it fascinating that within each tiny seed, there is a memory bank or genetic propensity to re-create a whole new plant!  Something that will nourish us and give us life!

2.  Buy second hand or pre-loved.

Our daughter wears a $51 second hand ball dress.
$11, plus $40 seamstress fee to make it smaller.
Most girls' ball dresses cost between $100 and $500! 
Opp Shops.  Second-Hand Stores.  TradeMe.  Pre-loved items have lower carbon miles, have plenty life left in them and you create less demand for the aggressive consumerist drive.  Keep something out of landfill for longer.  We only have one Earth.  Let's honour her and not fill her with trash!

3.  Eat Real Food.

Zucchini Rampicante growing up a trellis.

Pears for the plucking.
Real food does not come in plastic wrapped packages.  They have no numbers or preservatives.  They do require some preparation but then there's a silent meditative joy in that - making and creating.  Preferably eat real food that is organic or has been grown with earth-friendly practises (not the slash and burn of conventional farming) that does not cause harm to people or planet.

Real Food, grown organically.

4.  Re-use, recycle or re-purpose

Josephine, our scarecrow, fashioned from off-cut bits of wood destined for the rubbish tip.
Okay, so we get tired of things quickly, there's always something new on the market to replace the older, dated version of last year's model.    Brighter, cooler, flasher, whizzier.  But can we change what we have to create a new look?  Add some patches to faded jeans, shorten or lengthen a skirt to make it fashionable, dye those old curtains to change the wah of the living room?  Re-upholster the old lounge suite?  Re-purposing goods creates new life from old, and again, reduces waste and landfill overcrowding issues.

5.  Make use of the sun

Hot water solar panels on roof on extreme right

My little trusty solar-powered shed radio

Did you know that the sun is not really the enemy she's made out to be?  We actually need sunshine to survive!  All living things need sunshine!  It is the giver of Life.  Not cancer.  That's more likely to be caused by all the chemicals in the sunblock we are slapping all over us, and the amount of time we spend in the sun.  If we are roasting food, we have a good indicator of how long it takes to cook - if my potatoes take only 30-40 minutes to roast, dang, I'd be a little dumb to leave them in that oven heat for another hour, wouldn't I?  That'd be roast-potato suicide!  Burnt to cinders and no good to eat!  So when we know that burn time for our skin is only 5-7 minutes in the sun, why do we sit and play in the sun, without shade, for 2-3 hours at a time?  Dang, that's dumb huh??!

Make use of the sun - we have a radio powered by the sun.  And a shed light.  And fairy lights.  No cost to run.  Zilch.  Denada!  We have a solar-powered hot water system.  Cost in summer to have hot water - zilch!  Sismanga!  Now we have seen the light and we have a solar-powered energy generating system - cost of our power to run this house - minus $68, the previous month, minus $136.  Yep, you get it - the sun is making us money by putting us in credit!!  So when we have to draw more energy in winter and the sun factor is not as prevalent, we can draw on our credit already saved.  Makes sense.

6.  Walk
Okay, this is not quite a pic of me walking in action - but it is one of our giant
second-year's seed-saved sunflowers
Gym membership.  Who needs it?  Spend 10 minutes getting dressed for the gym, half an hour driving there, work out in a sweaty indoor environment, drive home and shower.  Fresh air?  Not much.  Except if you rolled down your window on the drive there, but then you'd probably get a lungful of carbon monoxide from all the other cars in the traffic.  
I have stayed true to my New Year's Resolution (first time) and walk most days - okay, it's only around the block and it's only 10 minutes but it's better than the 17 years of New Year's Resolutions that never got me this far!  Perhaps I will increase it slowly as time goes by.  And I use this time to pick up litter, so it feels like I am contributing to the well-being of our block.  And that keeps me focused to keep on doing it!

7.   Composting

Compost bins
Rotting organic matter

Without said factor, one produces way too much waste.  Precious kitchen scraps, garden prunings and weeds - all can end up as invaluable soil enhancer, nutrients for your veggies and fruit-growing venture, and mulch to aid moisture retention in soil. Wonderful stuff!

8.  Try to avoid excessive packaging
Nature's Own Biodegradable-packaged  energy snacks
If you can, return packaging to shops.  Get the message across that consumers don't need all the wrapping, plastic casings and worst of all, polystyrene, which is made from liquid petrochemicals!  There's power in collective voice.  Add to the power.  Let's make manufacturers think about all that packaging.  Some are starting to used recycled cardboard supports instead of polystyrene.  Did you know that some researchers report that polystyrene does not break down.  Ever?  The bits just keep on getting smaller and smaller.  And that it is carcinogenic in food containers but apparently health authorities say that the carcinogens are present in such small quantities, that they don't pose a real risk??  
I wonder why there are plastic food containers that are 1's and 2's that can be recycled in New Zealand, so why are manufacturers still using 3's - 5's???  Boycott them.  Yoghurt pots are the worst!  So many school children and adults take them for lunch snacks.  If there is an alternative, try it. For example, did you know that in NZ and Australia alone, 57 000 plastic toothbrushes end up in landfill every year??  That's a massive amount of plastic!!  Try a bamboo toothbrush - you'll never look back!!

9.  Make your Own
Recycled sweet tins, filled with body balm

Chutneys, home-grown.
If it is commercially produced, it probably contains chemicals.  Face Cream.  Body Lotions.  Baking.  Household Cleaners.  There are heaps of recipes out there - in books, or on the internet.  Or experiment, like me.  I even make insect repellent, sunblock and lip balms.  All in the Oh So Easy file!  And it costs much much less than conventional stuff.

10. Try to learn some form of Natural Healing

The art of healing the body through the feet:  Reflexology
Just as we talk of the health of the Planet, so too must we acknowledge the health of ourselves as individuals, all linked together.  Never before, has the human population been able to access so much "health products", pharmaceutical and medical assistance, world-wide-web of knowledge and yet, manage to be so unhealthy and truly sick!  People are suffering from heart disease, cholesterol, cancers, immune system disorders, skin and blood disorders and general unwell-ness in droves!  I recommend that one person in every family need learn a healing modality - it empowers us to heal ourselves,  our friends and family!  Help ease their suffering and promote healthy living rather than pharmaceutical drug addictions.

 Okay, so it was hard to keep it to just 10 Top Tips.    I simply have to add another: 
Little chick - backyard chook-keeping

11.  Share

Talk about what you are doing in your own backyard.  Plant seeds of hope in others.  Often, just hearing someone is doing something can inspire others to follow suit.  It's sharing of ideas and we owe it to Papatuanuku (Mother Earth)!  Lead by example, and show your children how easy it is to live in harmony with nature!

Do it for You!
Most all "sustainable" living practices are fun, easy, simple, cost less and makes you feel good!  If it doesn't and you feel like you are running on a treadmill of sustainable practices, something is not quite right.    Start small.  Increase your practices one small step at a time.  It may be a conscious effort in the beginning but soon becomes a way of life, second nature.


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hippy Chick and Happy Chicks

  I Love this picture!!  It screams:  "A Hippy Chick Lives Here!".  It was completely and totally unintentional - having washed my tie-dyed table cloth from India, and $1 pants I picked up at a garage sale, at the same time.  I loved the colours side by side and had to run for the camera.  

Recently weeded under the wash line and barked  for easy-care.
What a World!  Russian meteorites, India protests violence against women and now South Africa in the lime-light!  Violence against women - the stats are shocking!!  Estimated that although there are 154 rapes reported EVERY DAY, figures are thought to be closer to 3600!  PER DAY!  Not per year!  How can that ever be??  We have got to stand united against this violence against women!  Vote online and add your voice.  I suspect it is a world-wide phenomena.   Politicians need to address this urgently.  Avaaz is an online support network - the Voice of the People.  This kind of violence is unsustainable!  Time flies by at a rate of knots, it has taken me more than a week to get back to this piece of writing and so much has happened since I started!  

On a much more peaceful note, we have helpers staying, Brittany and Michael, from the States.  What bliss to return home to work done that would have taken 4-5 hours, and yet you didn't have to do it yourself!  I figure out that by hosting travellers, you simply do more of what you would normally do - I have to feed my family every night, so I just add a few more ingredients to feed a couple of hungry travellers too.  In return, I have had wood chopped and stacked (rotting sleepers and slabs which we had always meant to do something with but never got around to), areas weeded and mulched, compost turned, pathways landscaped and produce harvested and preserved.  They are happy to stay another week and so are we!  They are great company and have learned to both play ukulele in the shortest time ever!  They bought themselves a little yellow uke, a travel companion to entertain themselves and others who would care to listen!

Lavender is harvested.  This time I have had help - it is quite a time consuming job to remove all the little flower florets but is quite a heady-scented experience.  Calming.  Meditative, but hard on the fingers too!  As a sachet, lavender makes great drawer scenters, filling the contents with the sweet scent of the Mediterannean and keeping moths and roaches at bay.  They can also be tucked under a pillow at night, the aroma wafting into the olfactories as you turn throughout the night.  Sweet dreams!

Lavender cut and heads shredded for smelling bags.

Harvests in the garden are beginning to get larger and larger as we reach our mid-summer surplus!  Luckily for us, there are extra mouths to feed, so not much needing to be preserved, though I did make 3 more bottles of Dill pickles this weekend, as well as freezing 3 small bags of green beans.  Some bags of frozen plums and nectarines were combined into a mixed fruit jam - 9 bottles to tide us over the winter months - a taste reminiscent of summer.

Crinkle-top heritage tomatoes, radishes, beans, cucumbers and zucchini

Cucumbers, prunes, pears and zucchs.

Blue Lake runner beans and Yard Long Beans

More of the same produce...

And then some... night after night...
What to do with all these long veggies???  Made a sort of mousaka, without eggplant but with layered slices of zucchs, fresh basil, tomato sauce, sea salt and pine nuts. Slow- Baked on a low heat (150degC).  Very delish!  In fact, I have made it a couple of times as it used up so much of the zucchini.

And to top up  the nutrients in the compost bin, we managed to harvest lots and lots of sea-weed and sea-grass from our low-tide harbour last weekend.  Some went experimentally around certain cucurbits - so far, no sign of burn or salt overload, so maybe that was an experiment to repeat.  The rest went straight into the compost bin.
Sea-grass and sea-weed 
I have 2 rogue tomatoes that sprung up in my root bed, and I thought about pulling them out but left them and they thrived.  They are so full of tomatoes that their stakes could no longer hold them upright and so I have used our two ornamental garden forks as extra support.  Seems to be working.

The prune tree with bird netting protection - onion and produce bags re-used to good effect.

On the Chicken Front:

Sometimes we need to make less pleasant decisions and we had to come to the conclusion that as endearing as our little bantams were, they were too noisey for an urban backyard.  The solution came from a kindergarten mum - upon hearing my dilemma, she came up with the solution - she had a mother chook, with 8 babies, whom she had to separate from the rest of her flock, since they were prone to pecking the little ones.  Fearing for their safety, she suggested we swap chickens - ours for hers.  That way, Miss Molly (as the mum is named) will be safely away from the peckers, and her babes will be safe in our little chook tractor.  Once they get bigger and one can safely tell what sex they are, we get to keep two of the offspring girls and she will take Miss Molly and the remaining 6 back.  Liz and Spenny would get to be free-rangers on the farm! 

There was not much time to say good-bye to Liz and Spenny (Spence) since the swap took place that very afternoon!  All sadness was quickly shelved when we saw how cute Miss Molly and her chicks were, much oohin and aaahing ensued.   

On the first night I had gone outside with my headlamp, to check on our clutch, only to discover that they had not travelled up the make-shift ladder we hastily assembled for them that afternoon, to reach the sleeping quarters.  Spying dew on the grass, I was concerned the little ones may get sick, so in the dark, I groped around the shed and found a shallow box which I filled with shredded paper.  Miss Molly could not be persuaded to hop into the box, so I called my daughter and she helped me do a mid-night rescue mission - grabbing one chick at a time and popping them into the sleeping quarters, with Miss Molly shrieking with outrage, till we managed to capture her and re-unite her with her little bundles of fluff.  With hearts racing, we stood for a moment and listened to her little contented cluckings as she settled down inside the sleeping quarters.  Phewf!  Mission Accomplished!  Happy Chicks.
Miss Molly

Little Chicks
The story doesn't quite end there.  The past week has been a bit of a drama, with Shayni and I having to catch the poor traumatised hen and chicks each night for 3 nights, and just as I said, "I don't think I can be bothered to do this every night!", mother and chicks learned how to get themselves up to the sleeping mezzanine!  My Kindergarten mum sadly informed me that poor Liz had been ostracized by the others and pecked on!  So we decided to bring her back to put with Miss Molly but no sooner had poor little Liz been put into the chook tractor, when Miss Molly flew at her in a rage and attacked her.  So it was decided that she would be taken back and reunited with her sister Spenny who had happily been accepted by the others, and they would be isolated till Liz was okay to re-introduce to another flock of chooks further down the road.  So holding thumbs, the new flock will accept both character-filled Liz and screechy Spenny this time round.  Said kindy mum did say in parting - "Gee, they really are very noisey little chooks!"  And she lives on a few acres!!  I hope all ends well ......

Gorgeous Sunflower
With the extra help in the garden, I was able to take a deep breath and look around our little piece of paradise and marvel at Nature in all her glory!  The flowers, the fruits and veggies, the creatures: bees, bumblebees, praying mantises, butterflies..... A little piece of Paradise!

New shade hibuscus:  Flame

Pink Hibiscus

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Fantastic February Fare

 It starts!  The mad summer basket-a-night harvests!  What a wonderful frenetic time!  We eat so much fresh food and still have plenty to preserve!  Everything is coming up cucumbers, beans and zucchinis!  We have been stir-frying our fresh onions, with zucchini and jazzing it up with freshly squeezed lemon juice and tamari (soy sauce).  Then adding seaweed noodles or rice or even on top of toast and cheese!  Yum!  Sadly, we would be harvesting mega-amounts of tomatoes at this time of year too, if it weren't for the fact that more than half my tomatoes succumbed to blight due to the unprecedented amount of rainfall at the beginning of summer!  Bummer! 

Plums, beans, small crystal apple cucumber, pickles, tomatoes, zucchs and cucs.

The weather has been beaut lately and while I feel for those who are experiencing drought conditions all over the country and accross the Tasman, I am loving it!  Luckily we have a sprinkler system in our veg beds which can be switched on and off for 15 mins each day or two as needed.  Other areas of the garden are lucky to be hand-watered once every week or two.  So the garden really is looking great in all her summer clothing!  We harvested our garlic crop which was a flop too, thanks to all the rain we had early in the season!  Bulbs were not fully formed on many, with plenty undersized ones.  Oh well, can't always have success in everything we do!!  We can still use the garlic, albeit small.  

Old garlic bed which was host to the chicken tractor treatment  for 2 weeks before being
planted out with some red cabbage seedlings and beans which can be good companions.

Chicken tractor now sits on a pathway which has become overgrown.
 Note bamboo blind which offers additional shade on hot days.

As previously mentioned, beans are the vegetable of the moment!  I planted out 4 types of heritage American runner beans for the Central Tree Crops Research Trust seed saving project.  Lesson to self next year:  don't plant too many beans at one time!!  I didn't know what the strike rate would be and so over-planted the beans and look what a jungle they have become!  This tent-shaped teepee is planted with Turkey Craw beans on one side and Yellow Yeome on the other side.  The Turkey Craw seem to be more prolific and earlier cropping than the Yellows.  I picked a small basket-full on Saturday and managed to prepare 4 bags for freezing, with a small bag of fresh beans left over to cook and eat.  The beans are all named after Native American tribes - Yeome, Hopi and Apache.  The Turkey Craw is named after a story of a hunter who shot a turkey and found the seed in it's craw or crop.  Very, very cool to be part of this project. All I have to do is save some seed and send it back and report on the growing conditions.

Bean Jungle

Red Turkey Craw bean harvest

 Mellow Yellow  Yeome
Our plum harvest is sadly finished, the tree did not bear too much fruit this year, probably due to the fact that I pruned it so zealously last year!  But we aren't crying buckets of sour sobs yet, as the prune tree (that's right - a prune is a fresh variety of plum, that is much higher in sugar content and therefore perfect for drying) is just beginning to develop the wonderful deep blush of ripeness.  The flesh is yellow and very, very sweet - beautiful to eat fresh!  I have bagged most of them to protect them from marauding birds who have already smelled their sweetness and are beginning to snack on the still-hard fruit!  Our Monty's Surprise NZ Heritage apples are filling out and dropping some fruit before fully ripe - good for cooking.  Unfortunately some of them have coddling moth!  What a bane!!  When fully ripe, the apple is tart but sweet, and is said to have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all apples.  Each apple is bigger than is comfortable to hold in one hand!

Monty's Surprise 
Beautiful day lilies underplanted beneath our prune tree.

Curiously blue-black tomatoes ripening up

Turkey Craws

Grapes  clinging to our fence
 I have begun another little experiment - growing peanuts, ginger and potatoes in pots - that way I can bring them under shelter when the colder weather sets in.  I tried to grow ginger last year but the frosts got them.  So I will try again in a pot.  I got the tubers from our local Indian food supply store.  The owner, a friend, was throwing them out on account of them sprouting!  Perfect!  Just what I needed to kickstart my ginger project!!  Around the pots I have a dense cover of nasturtium and pumpkins.  I planted corn seed under and between the feijoa and fig trees - they are doing very well and the corn is fattening up nicely.

Pots of peanuts, ginger and potatoes

Nasturtiums supply ground cover between the corn, feijoa and fig trees.
Salads and juice - all from the garden!  A thrilling experience.  All home grown.
Not sure how to describe our house style - Mike suggests Ethnic Fusion!  The exterior is Mediterranean, with Indian/Moroccan decor!  Added to that, a dash of kitch and a touch of  garish.  But home is where the heart is, where one can retreat from the craziness of the World Outside.  A safe haven.  A place where one feels comfortable and happy.  That is how our home feels to us.  How lucky to have a place we can call home.  Many people the world over don't have such a luxury!  A few palm fronds or corrugated sheeting is all that separates them from the elements.  It is good to count our blessings and experience that sense of gratitude and belonging.  

We went to the movies this weekend, to see The Impossible - a true story of one family's experience in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand.  It was generated by an earthquake of magnitude 9.1.  The movie was frightening and a little too real for us.  We shed a few tears in gratitude for having been spared the trauma and pain of being caught up in the wave.  Our own little family holidayed in Thailand at that time and experienced the earthquake and aftershocks on sheltered Koh Samui, being spared the full force of the wave which hit the western seaboard.  It was frightening for us, but we were spared so much of the devastation that occurred to Phuket and Khao Lak. Lucky us!   Peace, Love and Gratitude for Life.

Moroccan table

Moroccan lamp
And on the house front,  we've visited India.  One day we will visit Morocco!  And then maybe we'll cruise the Med! Then our home will make more sense to visitors.   As summer is so busy in the garden, we may plan some winter travel, follow the sun!  Sounds like a good plan!

Trusty little Masport Mulcher eating up pruned branches
And in ending, I just had to add this gruesomely odd picture that I took on a roadside in Rotorua - a wallaby!  We were amazed, confused and disbelieving at first!  Was it a set-up?  A movie prop?  Was Peter Jackson filming an Aussie epic just around the corner?  Googling brings up the explanation - some marsupials were released into New Zealand in the late 1800's.  Despite attempts at eradication, it is not unknown to find wallabies, along with pesky possums in Rotorua bush apparently!!   This little guy probably met the Two Moon Monster (road vehicle) in the dark.  (Wallabies are nocturnal.)  

 Odd!  Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction!

Bottoms Up!

6.03.13 Post Script:  It seems curiously bizarre that I posted this yesterday and have heard that there is a Tsunami warning for New Zealand today after an earthquake struck the Solomon Islands this morning!