Archive | self sufficiency RSS feed for this section

Ride for Renewables

30 Jul

My son and his Nana

Today my Mum and I took the toddler to his first ever protest. We attended the Bike Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining) in Motueka. He rode on the bike seat on the back of his Nana’s bike. He is just so cute in his little helmet! It was way past his naptime but he handled it all really well. It was fun. I know it’s a serious topic, but the event itself was fun. A few dozen people showed up on their bicycles, many with kids in tow. We pedaled along High St, two abreast, with plenty of cars honking on their way past. It is a stunning day today, perfect for a bike ride.

My friend Katerina Seligman gave a great speech about mining and renewables. I didn’t get to hear all of it due to an overtired hungry toddler who needed to be fed and kept happy, but I’m looking forward to reading it on email. Then local MP Damien O’Connor said a few words. It’s good to hear a politician agreeing that we need to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, not just frantically try to find more oil and coal or other energy source, and that environmental destruction is not OK. As far as I could tell (while I was busy with the aforementioned needy toddler) he didn’t really say anything except that he’d take our views to parliament. I suppose that’s what politicians are for… I personally don’t think he went far enough, but then he is a Labour MP, not a Green one!

I took a whole bunch of photos (some of them while I was riding!) and put them up on flickr here. Katerina is going to let me publish her speech here so I’ll upload that when it comes through.

Advertisements

Some encouragement to keep doing ‘this’

27 Jun

I wrote the title of this post and then thought “What is ‘this’?”

‘This’ can alternately be described as ‘turning into the kind of hippy my teenage self would be horrified at’, and ‘becoming a responsible citizen’. It seems that nowadays, being a responsible adult means paying your bills and keeping the wheels of the industrial cog turning. That’s not enough. It never was, but particularly not anymore. So for me, ‘this’ is learning how to live a good life. ‘This’ is following the green dream, and turning it into the norm.

Sometimes it’s really hard. I’d like things to be a bit simpler sometimes. But let’s forget all the difficulties for the moment. The important thing, when it comes down to it, is that this is all important stuff. And in many ways, it’s really exciting and challenging too! (Challenging is usually a positive word in my vocabulary.)

Today I started reading this cool little e-book: Ten ways to Chillax and Have Fun as you Live Your Green Dreams. I recommend checking it out. I think the title is pretty self explanatory, so enough from me.

The Story of Ten Ways to Chillax and Have Fun As You Live Your Green Dreams from Happy Writers on Vimeo.

When will it sink in?

23 Jun

Yesterday a friend posted a Facebook status about the high price of her grocery shop this week. Someone posted a reply saying ‘It’s gonna get worse apparently’.

I can’t help but wonder exactly what they are thinking; they and all the other people who complain about the cost of food and fuel and go on living their life the same way they’ve always done. Albeit with more grumbling and probably more debt. Do they not wonder why? Why it is that in the 50’s families could live comfortably off one income, and now it’s a struggle on two? Why food prices get higher and higher on a monthly basis, when wages just aren’t creeping up to match? Is it all attributed to normal inflation?

I want to know when people will realise that there is something more going on. That we aren’t just in a ‘little recession’ and things will go back to normal in a couple of years. That the landfills are filling up and now they’re even building toxic houses on them. That our society is unsustainable and therefore will not be sustained.

When will I stop feeling like the slightly mad one who is given to hippy-ish flights of fancy about the end of the world as we know it? When will everyone else stop feeling a bit ‘put upon’ and realise it’s time to take responsibility? I feel sometimes as if I’m walking round in a bubble, where I can see things with clarity from somewhere else, and yet I can’t escape them. I am doing my best, but it’s not enough. Or am I? I reduce, reuse, recycle. I live in an upstairs flat but I am growing brassicas in the middle of winter in pots on my steps. I am learning how to make things from scratch. I am networking. I am raising a beautiful child with all the goodness and consciousness in me. But at the end of the day, I’m still dependent on my car, the supermarket, and the government benefit that gets paid into my account each week.

‘It’ has sunk in, but I haven’t climbed out yet, to be terribly metaphorical about it all.

Chaos

18 Jun

People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
The reason the world is in chaos,
is because things are being loved,
and people are being used.

Farmageddon

16 Jun

Blimmin’ heck…

Single parenthood is fine and dandy

15 Jun

After my son was born my husband became verbally abusive towards me on an almost-daily basis. After much heartbreak and anguish I called it quits in April, when my son was 13 months old. I was really nervous about being a single mother, as I felt dependent on my husband for the things he did with parenting and around the house.

But I’ve been living by myself (with my son, of course) for almost a month now and I am loving it. I didn’t realise how heavy the burden of my miserable marriage was, and what a strain it was for me to function normally. (I did, but it was a lot of work!) So now that weight is off my shoulders, everything feels easier.

Yes, there are times when I wish there was someone else to take the rubbish out, do the dishes, play with the toddler, get him to sleep, pay the bills, work alongside, give me a cuddle at the end of the day, etc., but I am coping just fine. And I have more emotional and physical energy to put more time and effort into my son and everything else. So I am finding single parenting much more positive than I thought it would be. My son still gets to see his Dad a few times a week and that’s good. I never wanted to deprive him of his father, I just refused to model a dysfunctional relationship for him, and put myself through more misery for the sake of an ideal.*

Even better, I am feeling so empowered. I can do it all by myself.** It’s not that I don’t miss having a loving relationship, I do. But I definitely don’t miss having a crappy relationship. Being a single mum ain’t so bad after all.

*Yes, it is best for children to have both parents in a loving relationship. Oh, how I wanted that! 

*Fundamentally, I disagree with anyone doing anything all by themselves. Except maybe tying your shoelaces. But it feels good to know that I can. Hear me roar, and all that. 

Rubbish free solutions – supermarket shopping

11 Jun

Food is my biggest source of rubbish. So, aside from overnight disposable nappies, it is my first port of call to reduce my waste.

Dairy

I LOVE cheese. Any and all kinds of cheese. One day I will learn how to make it and then I will be cheese-rubbish-free, but til then, I’m allowing myself a block of cheese. A 1kg block of tasty cheddar lasts me a month, so it’s not too much rubbish. But I also sometimes buy camembert (about the only cheese I can afford outside of cheddar!) so I will cut down on that. If you have a larger budget than mine there are specialty cheese shops and delis where you can buy a chunk of cheese off the round, and wrap it in your own cloth or reused plastic bag.

Milk is fine, because I can recycle the bottles. Thanks, council. But even better would be to get it direct off a farm in a reused glass bottle. I’m not in a situation to source that, but you might be! Same goes for juice here; the bottles are recyclable.

Yoghurt containers can also be recycled where I am, which is handy. But I might try making my own. All you need is milk and some active culture. (And pots and thermometer and spoon.)

Personally I prefer butter to margarine. I don’t use a lot of it, so a block of butter lasts a while, unless I have a baking spree. According to myzerowaste.com, you can compost the butter wrapper, but fatty foods can attract rats so only compost it if you have a well fitting lid.

Fruit

Plant some fruit trees.

Arrange a swap with your neighbours fruit trees.

Order an organic vege box. This is my favoured option.

Go to a farmers market and take your own bags.

If you must buy fruit from the supermarket, reuse plastic bags, or don’t use them at all. If the checkout operator gives you a funny look as your fruit rolls on to the scales, smile and say ‘I’m cutting down on plastic bags’. Or ignore it, smug with the knowledge that you are helping the planet, even if they think you’re annoying.

Veges

Same as for fruit above, except it’s easier, quicker, and takes less space to grow veges.

I love the organic boxes. But farmers markets are also good.

And unlike buying multiple pieces of fruit, you usually don’t need plastic bags for vegies anyway.

Snacks

Cutting down on rubbish around snacks requires more of an attitude shift. These things are all about the packaging. Here are some snacks I like, and how I’m going to reduce my rubbish with them:

Bhuja mix. Crunchy and peanut-y, yum! This stuff comes in the bulk bins at the supermarket, so I’m going to reuse the same bag. It’ll even have the right number on it already! This goes for lots of things in the bulk bins. Nuts, rice crackers, dried fruit. All good snacks that have reusable packaging.

Crackers. I usually buy the organic corn thins because they don’t have lots of extra ingredients; emulsifiers and preservatives and MSG and flavours and all that. So they are a handy snack to give to the toddler. The outside plastic bag can be reused as storage as I won’t be buying clingfilm, but I’m not sure what to do about the foil inner. Maybe this is one of the things, like the cheese wrapper, that I have to accept for the meantime. I’ve tried making crackers a few times before and they were failures. So I don’t really want to try again and waste food.

Biscuits. Yummy but not terribly good for you. Still, it’s nice to have some on hand for when visitors pop round or you want a quick sweet munch. Easy way to cut down on waste – bake them yourself! I have even made raw cookies and they were delicious.

Chips… just don’t bother. I used to love chips, but when I gave in to my weaker self and bought some the other day, I found that I finally didn’t enjoy them. Woohoo!

Muesli bars are fairly easy to make. I don’t buy them usually but I’m quite tempted to make some.

Grains

I will now only buy my grains in the bulk bins and reuse the bags.

Bread

Now that I know I can successfully make wholemeal bread, I plan to make two loaves at a time, and that will mean no plastic waste. My flour comes in paper bags which can be recycled or composted, the oil comes in glass, the honey and yeast in reusable containers. The only thing that comes in a plastic bag is the salt, so I will have to investigate other options for salt.

Meat

I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I might suss out the local butcher for the little that I do.

Frozen goods

I do tend to keep frozen peas, corn, and pastry in the freezer. I guess I’ll have to make pastry from scratch (and if I can’t be bothered, that’s probably better for me!). As far as the veges go, I think I will allow myself that. It’s good to have backup veges and they don’t get used up quickly so it won’t be much waste. Once I have a garden I can obviously freeze my own produce.

Cleaning products

I thought there wasn’t a Bin Inn in Wellington, but apparently there’s a new store in Lower Hutt. Great! Bin Inn have bulk cleaning products on tap, as well as all the ingredients you need to make your own. Their website has recipes and tips if you click on the ‘Cleaning’ tab. I will have to do this bit slowly, as I have cleaning products and it would be silly to waste them.

Cutting down on waste

10 Jun

Remember these guys?

When I first saw this segment on Campbell Live I remember being almost disbelieving. Only one plastic bag of rubbish? How is that possible? Do these people eat? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that they were really on to something. Rubbish plays a huge part in our modern lifestyles. We are so used to being able to pick up a packet of anything, and then throw it away. You can buy apple slices in the supermarket, wrapped in plastic. You can buy individually wrapped slices of cheese and crackers, which are then packaged in a container. It’s quite absurd. It has got to the point where we don’t think things are safe unless they are triple wrapped. Last night I stopped by the Organic Gypsy wellness blog, written by one of my readers (hi!). Her top post was about how zero waste is hard. It is! But not impossible. I figure it’s like transitioning from a standard to a raw diet. It requires a radical change in thinking and habits, and may involve slipping back before the change is complete. So I’m going to start now.

According to rubbishfree.co.nz, there are now estimated to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of every ocean in the world, and in the past 25 years in NZ, we’ve increased what we throw away by 73%. If we put our waste onto a rugby field we’d have a pile 30 stories high – every month!

I feel like I want to justify myself to Waveney and Matthew on the rubbishfree website. But you don’t have a baby. It’s harder with a baby. For example, although I have used cloth nappies with my son from birth, I have also put him in a disposable nappy overnight. They hold more moisture and pull the wetness away from him so he doesn’t wake up wet. I really like getting a good nights sleep and it sucks to be woken up and have to change his nappy (and his outfit) and get him back to sleep. But having said that, he occasionally wets through his disposable too, so I may as well at least give it a go with the cloth nappy overnight. I have enough inserts; I just hope it won’t be too uncomfortable for him with that much padding round his bum.

So this is my first thing to address. I am feeling myself really resistant to not putting him in a disposable overnight! It’s also winter, and I am occasionally using disposables during the day as well, as I just can’t seem to get the cloth nappies dry in time. It takes a good few days to dry them in this weather. I have one small rack in the hot water cupboard, and a larger rack in the hallway.

The next big thing to address is food waste. I am not particularly careful about the food packaging I buy. To give myself some credit, I do take my reusable shopping bags, and I buy my organic produce in a box, so there aren’t a zillion little plastic bags for each type of fruit. But I don’t think twice about buying a block of cheese, a packet of crackers, some ham in a bag from the deli, frozen peas and corn, snacks. So much plastic! This is going to be a BIG change to make! I’m rather nervous, if I’m totally honest with you.

Another big issue for me is that I don’t have a compost. I left my worm farm behind when my husband and I separated. I now live in the upstairs flat in a block of two. There is a small grassy section at the front which isn’t fenced and is right on the road. The small back section is almost unusable; it gets no sun and is very steep and borders on to bush. I don’t feel comfortable gardening out there with my son toddling around. So, thinking of solutions… I could ask my nice landlord if I can put a compost on the back section – there is a small area that looks reasonably flat, and it won’t be used for anything else. Although some of these changes are difficult, not having a compost goes against the grain. It’s something I have had everywhere I have lived, except for a few months in an apartment when I didn’t cook much anyway. I feel reluctant to ask anything of my landlord, given that I flooded the place the second night I was here, when the washing machine hose popped out of the sink. The floors are having to be relaid and it is a drama. They are very nice, but still…

This post is getting a bit long, so I’ll do another one on zero waste solutions shortly.

I forgot how good fresh bread tastes

10 Jun

I won’t lie, I’m a bit proud of myself right now…

It’s not like I’ve never made bread before. I have. With my Mum. Using a breadmaker. At school. Etc. But I have never made a loaf of wholemeal bread from scratch, by myself (with a toddler hanging around my ankles). Unfortunately he was in bed by the time I actually put it in the oven, but I’m sure he will enjoy it for breakfast. It’s delicious! Soft and tasty and all things a loaf of bread should be.

Thanks Lester:

(The only thing I changed with this tutorial is that I substituted 1/3 cup of water with 1/3 cup of juice, for the vitamin C. According to my Mum, it helps. I also used honey instead of agave nectar, because it is cheaper.)

Oily rags stink

8 May

Her purse and lipstick are worth more than my weekly grocery budget.

I haven’t written much in the last week or so. My husband and I are in the process of separating so I’ve been a tad distracted. My thoughts are less about preparing for Peak Oil, becoming self sufficient and moving to a farm, and more about how the heck I’m going to raise my child on the DPB. I thought things were tight on my husband’s salary. Now I’ll have most of the same expenses, and not much more than half the income. It’s scary.

So all my ideas about being more self sufficient are becoming at once more important, and more difficult. Living off the government is a blessing that allows me to be there for my toddler while he most needs his mama. I’m glad to live in a country with a social welfare system. Glad that I won’t be homeless or starving. But it ain’t a well paying job. Being smart with money is now my top priority second only to taking care of my son.

I have a book called How to Live off the Smell of an Oily Rag. It is a very handy book. But it stinks too, that life is about to get so much harder. I know I can do it. I’m not stupid. This isn’t forever. And it’s not like I was raised in a wealthy family; I was raised by a single mum and I know how to live on the cheap. It just stinks, that’s all.

I also have to do it by myself.

Hello, new life!

It’s cold!

28 Apr

It is a lot harder to get inspired about gardening when it is cold and wet and windy outside. I love Wellington’s wind in the summer – it helps prevent mugginess in the heat – but in the winter it just blows that chill right through you. With all the rain and cold we have had lately, I have not wanted to get out and garden.

I have a pile of lawn clippings to mulch the second terrace with, some companion seeds to plant amongst my brassicas, and some pots to put potting mix and herb seeds in. Life gets too busy to garden sometimes, but I realise now that I have to prioritise it occasionally, rather than just doing it when it’s convenient.

So as you can probably guess I haven’t been very active in my pursuit of self sufficiency for the last few days!

A new respect for indigenous people

25 Apr

I am far from racist, but that doesn’t mean I have always understood the value of certain things in other cultures that are completely different to mine.

Harakeke (flax) weaving. Pic from <a href="http://www.kapitikidsconnect.co.nz">Kapiti Kids Connect</a>

Today my husband and I took the baby to Te Papa, and we explored the section with a traditional Maori wharenui, and various Maori carvings, huge slabs of greenstone, and history. It occurred to me as we walked through the exhibition, showing the baby all these things, that they have got it sorted. When the Peak Oil proverbial hits the fan, they stand a better chance of surviving and thriving than many of us.

Why? A strong sense of community. Respect for the land. Knowledge of the land. Continuation and sharing of ancient skills, such as flax weaving. They haven’t lost touch with their culture and the knowledge of working with and living off the land.

Previously I didn’t understand why so many Maori held so tightly to certain aspects of their culture. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it seemed to me that if you can buy string, why would you bother spending hours making it out of flax? And the same with baskets, and nets, and tools, and if I’m really analysing it, food.

It’s part of their culture. It’s right for them to hold onto it, to pass it on, to fight for it, despite external forces offering shiny, easy options. But in the context of Peak Oil, it makes a lot of sense, not just for Maori, but for Pakeha too. Walking through Te Papa I was suddenly struck by how much I can learn from Maori who have continued their traditional arts, and how ironic and rather poetic it is that it could come full circle and the land actually could be ‘returned’ to the Maori. Granted, it’d have a few million Pakeha on it, and asphalt and plastic and the legacy of an out-of-tune culture, but hey.

Planting brassicas

21 Apr

Today seemed like a good day to plant out my brassica seedlings, so I did. As we are coming up to winter they are about all I will be growing for now, although I am planning to put some herbs in pots on the balcony (easy access). I’m also planning to mulch the second terrace and plant garlic in a month or so.

The first step was to improvise a temporary gate at the bottom of the steps so that I wouldnt have to keep following the climbing toddler up them.

However, said toddler went straight to the other steps and climbed them, so I had to improvise another temporary gate.

With the steps out of reach (for now) I was able to plant out the seedlings in the bottom terraced bed, which was semi-mulched. I added another bag of potting mix and half a bag of compost, and then dug holes at regular intervals to place the seedlings in.

Red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, broccoflower and pak choi seedlings

When I attempted to water them using the hose that had been left behind, I was a bit disappointed with the pressure...

So I watered them the old fashioned way with my watering can.

It’s becoming so clear

21 Apr

Photo by Sipa Press / Rex Features. AERIAL VIEW OF AMAZON RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION

The more I learn about Peak Oil and climate change, the more it becomes clear what a stupid society we live in. As I think about the things we (in the developed world) do that have such massive and often negative effect on the environment and other people, I realise that continuing on in this way of life, even if they were to find another few oil fields, is plain old irresponsible and foolhardy.

I feel it regularly, and have for a long time, although I haven’t always known what to do about it. The lack of community, the isolation of the nuclear family, the work commute waste of time, the ‘retail therapy’ mindset. I mean, really, retail therapy? I’ve never been much of a shopper: although I’m not immune to buying things, going to the mall for fun has never been my ‘thing’!

Yes, they could frack the heck out of North America. Maybe they could figure out how to get every last drop of oil out of the wells. Maybe there are untapped oil resources in the Arctic. Maybe there will be enough electricity / hydrogen / ethanol / vegetable oil to fuel alternative cars. But there are so many things wrong with the options presented by Peak Oil skeptics. How about we just leave the Arctic alone? How about we get back on our horses and bikes instead of clutching desperately to our cars? How about we don’t destroy the environment and cause more pollution by fracturing rocks?

Not to mention the fact that many of our products are produced by sweatshop labour. Someone on the other side of the world has toiled away in misery so that I can ‘have it easy’. And cheap. I don’t want that responsibility on my conscience. Hundreds of animal species are endangered or extinct. Amazonian forests are being cut down at insane rates (something like 6 football fields a minute, if I remember correctly) to make space for grazing beef cattle to make more crappy McDonalds burgers. Honestly, people, what are we doing?!

When you look at the issue from so many perspectives (environmental responsibility, human rights, personal health and happiness, animals rights, etc.) it seems ludicrous. I, for one, am ready to renounce this ‘world owes me a living’ consumer lifestyle, and start living sustainably and ethically. Now to figure out exactly how and when…

We built a worm farm

20 Apr

Yesterday I decided to build a worm farm.

So I called my brother, and we went up the Kapiti Coast to collect a few bits and pieces. Firstly we went to a tyre shop and asked if they had any free old tyres. They had a huge pile out the back that we were welcome to help ourselves to. (Could also be useful for little herb beds or something.) Next stop was the Porirua recycling centre and our shopping list included corrugated iron, bricks, a piece of carpet, and something to use as a lid. We didn’t find any corrugated iron or bricks, but we did find a doormat and a heavy formica table which was about the right size. I bought the table, carpet, and a doll (for a different project!) for $5, and asked the guys at Trash Palace if they had a screwdriver we could borrow to take the legs off the table so I could leave the frame behind. They kindly did it for me.

We then drove further up the coast to Pukerua Bay, and bought some worms off a guy named Dave for $30 + $5 for some straw/manure/compost for them. The car was quite full on the way home, with two adults, a baby, 4 tyres, a table top, and a large box full of poop and a smaller container full of wriggly worms.

We chose a site near the garden (so it wouldn’t be far to carry the vermicast / wee), and found a spot on the bank which basically had 3 levels. The bottom level we dug out a spot for the bucket, on the middle level we set the worm farm, and the top level is where you stand to chuck the scraps in. There are some uses to living on a hillside!

The purpose of the corrugated iron is to create a drainage system for the worm wee / tea / rum – whatever you want to call it. However, as we hadn’t been able to find any, we poked around in the garage for something to improvise. (The previous tenants left a bit of a mess.) We found a tray with only 3 sides which was perfect, except it wasn’t big enough. So we used a laminated map of the world (thanks previous tenants) in combination with the tray.

It was getting a bit dark and cold by this time, so we called it quits and put the worms in the garage overnight.

The next day we laid the carpet inside the tyre, to make a ‘nest’ for the worms, and arranged the bottom tyre with our improvised ‘drainage system’.

We decided to provide a bit of extra support for the slightly sloping tyres by banging in some bamboo stakes (also found in the garage).

I had pre-soaked the newspaper, so it was now time to put the worms into their new home!

Then we covered the compost in a layer of soaked newspaper.

Time for the next tyre…

And so on and so forth for the 2nd and 3rd tyres. We decided not to use the 4th tyre at this stage because a) we didn’t have enough newspaper, and b) we didn’t think it was necessary.

All finished!

Close up of the drainage:

Three tyres, a tabletop, and a few bamboo stakes:

All up, we recycled and reused:

10 old newspapers, soaked

A cobwebby bucket (we left the spider there to do as she will)

A rusty tray

A laminated map of the world

Three old tyres

A formica tabletop

A pile of tiger worms

A pile of compost

Made from scratch

19 Apr

I just finished reading Jenna Woginrich’s lovely book Made from Scratch. She tells the story of moving to a small rental farm in Idaho where she puts in a garden, keeps chickens, rabbits, and bees, goes sledding with her dogs, and makes her own clothes. Not to mention antique shopping, mountain music and baking bread. She interweaves her personal account with easy to follow instructions and information on how to do all these things yourself.

I already know how to sew and knit and bake a loaf of bread, but I like her humourous advice on gardening and keeping chooks. In fact, her chapter on pack dogs has almost got me tempted to have a dog. But not quite. And definitely not here!

I related to the book, as she is a young web designer who yearned for a more ‘simple’ and self sufficient lifestyle, and did it in her own small way. From the beginning. Although the fact that she rents a farm rather than a house with a yard in suburbia, as I do, helps a little. It also probably helps that she has a full time design job and no children, and therefore money, which I don’t. Nonetheless, I DO have a garden, and I have a wonderful little boy who deserves homegrown veges and fresh eggs, and therefore I am going to attempt to create my own little slice of homestead pie, on my piece of rented suburbia. Until I can move to a farm and do it for real.

Check out Jenna’s blog here: Cold Antler Farm I like being able to see some photos, although I haven’t yet had a chance to read any of her entries.

Why I want this anyway

16 Apr

I have never believed that living life in fear of the future is any way to live life. Take Wellington, for example. I know people who won’t live here, and won’t even visit here, for fear of ‘The Big One’. Well, Christchurch had a massive earthquake (or big few) and no one saw it coming, whereas here in Wellington we are stable. [Touch wood.] If I had allowed fear of an earthquake to get in my way, I may not have made an album, done a tour, started a business, learnt web design, and met my husband. It is part of my philosophy that we should seek happiness, not live in fear or duty.

So when my husband pointed out that a lot of my motivation for moving to a farm or village is in anticipation of Peak Oil, I had to stop and think. Was I going against my philosophy: was I arranging my life around fear? I have decided not. Here is why I would do this anyway (oh man, another list…):

  • Finances. I’m weary of feeling like we never earn quite enough to keep up with the lifestyle we have or the lifestyle we want. We don’t have huge debt and we can pay rent and bills and eat healthy food, but we don’t have any spare. In the city culture, this is stressful. I’d like to live somewhere there is less of a strain with money; due to increased self sufficiency and decreased ‘needs’.
  • Community is such an important and beautiful thing. I’d like more of it for me, and I’d like more of it for my son.
  • It’s more natural. I have always felt this, although often denied it to myself and others. But living more rurally, sufficiently and sustainably is a more natural way of life and a healthier one, too.
  • The baby deserves it. He loves the outdoors. Even when he was a newborn, he would immediately stop crying when we took him outside, and would be more relaxed and go to sleep easier. My guaranteed way to get him to sleep was to put him in the mei tai and walk to the end of the street and back. It was a 2 minute walk. He loves crawling around outside, seeing the trees and the clouds. He bawls his eyes out when I shut the front door, and often crawls over to the ranchslider and bangs on the window, or stares at the trees. For his sake, even more than my own, I want to live in a village.
  • Organic, locally grown, seasonal food. This stuff tastes the best and it is the best. It’s so easy to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever I want, and if they don’t have what I want, to feel almost angry. It’s amazing, really, how far we have come from what is natural.
  • It’s environmentally responsible. It’s somewhat excusable to live a consumer lifestyle if you really don’t know any better. But I know better.
  • Stars. You don’t often see the stars in the city, or at least not as many as in the country. There is nothing quite like the incredible stillness at night when you look up into the black sky, covered with dots of light, and you could swear you’re the only person around. And then you smell the woodsmoke, and hear a dog bark, and you know you’re not, and that’s magic too.
  • Seasons. I never really notice the seasons in the city. Sure, it gets colder or warmer. But you don’t really feel them. There isn’t a proper awareness. I miss that. It’s so much easier to be ‘in touch’ in the country.
  • Self sufficiency. I would like to know that if the proverbial hits the fan, I’d be OK. But I also like the idea of being more responsible for myself and my family even if no fan gets hit.

I think this list is likely to get longer. But that will do for now.

And there was rain

16 Apr

This is the second day straight we have had rain. So what better time to get my mulch happening? While doing the groceries I collected a bunch of cardboard, and went past the garden centre to get a bag of organic compost. I’m not even really the gardening type (yet. YET.) much less the gardening-in-the-rain type, so I’m proud of myself for going out and getting wet and dirty. It’s much easier to garden on a nice day when the plants are practically glowing. But the rain was soft and it wasn’t cold, so it was actually OK.

This is the before picture of the garden. Note that we have been using the bottom terrace as a compost heap.

Laying down the cardboard. I only got enough for the bottom terrace so will have to do the second one next time. I'm not bothering with the top one as it is too hard to get to.

The baby watches from the dry and warm... but really wishes he was outside with his Mama!

Then a layer of newspaper to cover any gaps.

A bag of compost seems quite big in the shop, but it looks like I'll have to get a couple more next time I'm at the garden centre!

And that’s my first mulched bed. Go to work, rain!

Sterile seeds

14 Apr

I learnt last night, towards the end of ‘Choosing Eden‘, that a type of seed has been designed to genetically switch off a plants ability to germinate a second time. It’s called Terminator technology, or the official wag: Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTs). It seems strange that I never knew this before, but the very idea is unfathomable: that someone would be stupid and selfish enough to deliberately stop a plant reproducing in order to force farmers to buy seeds over and over again. It’s just another example of how money gets in the way of life.

Imagine if Monsanto actually got away with this. It strikes me as being a violation of human rights. Are company profits so much more important than farmers’ livelihoods? Sterile seeds are almost like forced sterilisations of women. Less immediately hurtful, but just as devastating.

I’m relieved to learn there is an international moratorium on field tests and commercial use, although according to the site Ban Terminator, the Canadian government is trying to overturn the moratorium. Apparently NZ and Australia are in on the act too. Shame on us!

When putting in my garden I plan to use heirloom seeds as much as possible and learning how to save my seeds.

Mulch, mulch, glorious mulch

13 Apr

Since we’re coming up to winter, I’ve decided that the most useful thing I can do for my garden-to-be (apart from plan it) is to get mulching. From what I understand of permaculture so far, mulching is a method of preparing the soil that doesn’t require any digging, and has lots of benefits. Not requiring any digging sounds like a benefit to me! But it also “improves nutrient and water retention in the soil, encourages favorable soil microbial activity and worms, and suppresses weed growth” 1. And the plants grow with ‘vigor’. Vigor sounds good! Given my poor track record of sustaining gardens for more than a month, I’d like to give this garden a good head start at least.

According to Wikipedia, this is what I need to do:

  1. The area of interest is flattened by trimming down undesirable and/or invasive plant species such as weeds and grasses.
  2. The soil is analyzed and its pH is adjusted (if needed). [Note to self: figure out how to analyse the soil pH.]
  3. The soil is moisturized (if needed) to facilitate the activity of decomposers.
  4. [Add in some manure.]
  5. The soil is then covered with a thin layer of slowly-decomposing material (known as the weed barrier), typically cardboard. This suppresses the weeds by blocking sunlight, adds nutrients to the soil as weed matter quickly decays beneath the barrier, and increases the mechanical stability of the growing medium.
  6. A layer (around 10 cm thick) of weed-free soil rich in nutrients is added.
  7. A layer (at most 15 cm thick) of weed-free, woody and leafy matter. Theoretically, the soil is now ready to receive the desirable plant seeds.

But first, I need to plan where and what I’m going to do with my garden.