Tag Archives: compost

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.

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Schooling in the context of Peak Oil

5 Jun

With all this thinking I’ve been doing about homeschooling, I have come to the point of considering it particularly in the context of Peak Oil. I’ll be honest here; if I thought society were to continue on as it currently is, then I would be more reluctant to homeschool. I don’t want my kid to be the weird one. I was the poor hippie kid with a single mum and was bullied at primary school and while this is part of the reason I am interested in homeschooling, it’s also part of my personal stigma against it. I wanted my kids to be normal.

Despite the fact that I now recognise the goodness of much of my childhood and appreciate the great things my alternative mum did for me, I am not quite over the desire to just fit in. The other day I was at the Southern Cross for a free mama massage, and a mother there had pikelets for her daughter. I thought ‘what a good snack idea’ and resolved to make some. Mine were made with wholemeal flour, A2 milk, free range eggs, honey, and oats and raisins, rather than white flour and sugar. I watched my son devour them and thought ‘uh oh, I’ve turned into that parent’. I’m glad that my son is eating more nutritious pikelets, but part of me still wants him to be the normal kid I never was.

However, I have been thinking that by the time my son would be due to start school (2015), there may not be the option of public schooling anyway. If there is, it could be so radically different that it either becomes really valuable and I won’t need to homeschool, or even worse than it already is because there are fewer resources but parents have to send their kids there. I don’t know exactly what impact the energy crisis will have on schooling, but it will be massive, just like everything else.

In the post-crisis world, I foresee that my kid won’t be weird for not going to school. Perhaps we will have a return to more traditional tribal / village life; where the kids learn what they need to know to survive. He won’t be the odd one out. Of course I will teach him to read and write and other academic things. But he will get much more use out of learning about how to grow vegetables and build a compost, how to bake bread and preserve fruit, how to carve wood and weave baskets, how to fix things and build things, how to mediate and listen, care for chickens, and understand the weather.

It definitely sounds like I am leaning more towards unschooling, but I think as many homeschoolers have found their own paths, I will find my own path too.

It also sounds like I have made up my mind, which I haven’t. But perhaps I have and just haven’t admitted it to myself yet.

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!

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.