Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nature boy

I just want to give praise to my boy Quincey. He's four and a half and he loves nature, especially animals. Recently we went to a fair, with lots of rides and stalls and stuff like that. There's a wetland nearby and Quin just wanted to play on the logs and be in nature (he ended up falling in the mud) and i just thought that was so cool. We went to Cockburn Wetlands Centre recently and he got to hold Fluffy the python:

Also, we went on a twilight bat walk with Joe Tonga, which was great. Quin was riveted when Joe was talking. He asked and answered loads of questions (thanks for your patience Joe, Quin said he wants to be like you). We saw lots of bats, check out Joe's website, go batty:

Quin's favourite DVD's are David Attenborough's "Life" (thanks Uncle Julian and Aunty Vicky) and Steve Backshall's "Deadly Sixty" (all scorpions are now flat rock scorpions according to Quin because Steve found one). He can tell you what class just about any animal is in, eg mammal, fish, etc. which is pretty good for a 4 year old. He likes to talk about animals like David Attenborough and mixes things up, which can be really funny. Such as this (in a very earnest, authoritative voice): "Stag beetles are a kind of insect. They prey on Zebras. Mummy, did you know there are two kinds of stag beetles on Ascension Island?" "Really Quin, what are they?" "Males and females" (of course!).

Here is his nature shelf (an idea we pinched off some friends), where he puts things of interest. At the moment it's jammed full and dripping with feathers, a yabby shell (fresh water crayfish) off his pet yabby Keith, a bird's nest, a bobtail lizard skin and more:

 We hope he continues on this path in life.
We love you Quin! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Menstrual Pads - say it loud!

Since I have started working in the area of waste education I look at things differently. I went to a waste conference in September and was struck by all the speakers showing graphs going up exponentially showing increased population, increased tonnage to landfill, increased distances to travel to landfill sites...increased disaster! EK! It was a real eye opener so I started to take note of what we chuck out at home. We compost, worm farm or feed the chooks all our organics which normally makes up about 60% of the average green bin, and our recycling service in the Southern Metro Regional Council is very good too, so what little we do have is pretty much all recycled. But it turns out that once a month our contribution to landfill increases exponentially too. Around the time I menstruate. Hm. A coincidence? I think not. I did a little research and this is what I read:
  • An average woman will use around 9,000 pads/tampons in her life. This equates to about six shopping trolleys worth. 
  • We spend around $4,500 on pads/tampons in our lives 
  • Pads take about 800 years to break down (nappies which are made of essentially the same thing take 1000 years - I guess just because they are bigger)
  • Our genital tissue is highly sensitive and can absorb chemicals readily into the body
  • Pads contain dioxins which are known human carcinogens. 

Geez, I thought. I also wondered what it would be like if I had to deal with my six trolleys worth of pads on site, like, what if they weren't whisked off to landfill every month? What if all women had to do that? So, what would we do? We'd rag it up just like our grannies did. So I sewed up some pads on mum's kitchen table out of an old nappy (I did cloth nappies for my son, but not for my pads - crazy hu?), some old wiggles PJ's (I don't know who the yellow wiggle is but he cops it every month) and an old poncho for waterproofing. I have done a couple of designs and found that a simple 'winged' version with press studs to secure them to your knickers is best. They work perfectly. Heaps more comfy than disposable pads and just as absorbent. I feel like I have been completely ripped off and sucked in by bloody (excuse the pun) disposable pad making companies for the last 15 years! 

I had shared my new washable pad experience with a few friends who wanted to make some too, so we had a little workshop on the weekend. It was great because everyone made a slightly different version to suit them and Shani had some fancy waterproof material used for pads and nappies which worked really well (it was fabric was called fabrite -plain poly 2 MIL PUL from Nappies Covered.

  Here we are cutting out...

...and chatting about our first period...

sewing them up 
(if you look closely you will see a wrist strap pin cushion thing. We were all jealous.)

and the finished product!

It was a most satisfying day and now we all can't wait to get our periods!

It's easy to make you're own, just take the shape from a disposable pad you like. I use a winged version. Cut out one piece of fleecy PJ fabric in the pad shape for the layer closest to your bits, then a strip of toweling (two layers thick if you like) and then one piece of water proofy fabric in the pad shape (or you can use another piece of fleecy fabric if you don't want a plasticy layer) then sew them all together. I didn't do a proper hem, just zig zag around the edge. Sew the press studs on the edge of the wings and Bob's your uncle. But if you can't be bothered sewing some you can either stuff a flannel in your knickers (which reportedly works pretty well) or you can buy them pre-made. Scarlet Eve is a local business who makes nice ones and there are heaps of other sellers online.

After you use them just soak them in cold water and wash with your next normal load. You can pour the bloody water on your garden too.Why wouldn't you!? (Well I could go on here about taboos and hangovers from a misogynistic society but I'll save that rant...) 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hills Angels rides again

Before Christmas we rode with a couple of other families in our neighbourhood to check out some Christmas lights. We had two cargo bikes, three normal bikes - one with a tag-along and one with a baby carrier. Five adults and five kids in a kooky bike convoy. It was awesome. I particularly liked going through roundabouts while the traffic waited for us. Being a relatively new cyclist I found it very empowering.

We had heard about this famous Christmas light house and after quite a ride we arrived only to find that they had decided not to put out lights this year. Not to be deterred Adam and Quincey wandered right up to the house and peered in the window and did indeed find a magical winter wonderland all set up inside. The lady of the house came out and asked us in for a closer look and some lollies. Of course we obliged. It was a beautiful glowing white display with angels with gently flapping wings, virgins holding candles and Jesus, snow, Christmas trees...but I felt there was something missing. The kids were filled with rapture as we filed through the front room. We thanked our host for allowing us an exclusive look and were just about to say goodbye when I spotted it. I was relieved to see she had included a 10cm figurine of a indigenous man and his didgeridoo. Thank God.

We had a beautiful ride home in the dark through some bush and we stopped in at a couple of other Christmas light houses too. One of the kids had fallen asleep, tucked up with a blankie in the cargo bike. Aw.

Were all very satisfied with our Christmas light tour as there was something special about going out en masse (kind of) with kids in the dark. So we did it again tonight and called ourselves the Hills Angels; the nicest little bikie gang in the west.

Here we are having our picnic at the beach

...and flying the kite

...and heading home.

We were home by 8.30, Quin in bed by 9.00. A great night out. Next ride we plan to find some bats!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cool bananas

Last february we got some banana plants from Queensland. I couldn't find the type I wanted in WA, so we got some in vitro plantlets (because soil can't be sent inter state). They came in test tubes and were about 2 cms long! We weren't sure if they would strike so we got 4 and grew them on in a misting house we have at work. They have all grown really well, so we planted 2 out in September when they were about 30 cms tall. I jokingly said that we'd get fruit before Tino (Carnivale, from Gardening Australia), who planted some in Tasmania a year before us. Not that I'm competitive or anything, but I think we're a good chance looking at their growth to date.

This is a pic of the test tube babies, February 2010:

Here's me planting them in September 2010:

They are now 2 m tall and suckers are coming up for the next clonal generation. I'm hoping for fruit in spring or summer 2011, 9-12 months off. We have planted them in a North facing spot with a favourable micro-climate. In winter they will get plenty of sunlight and radiated heat from the nearby brick wall. They are also protected from the southerly winds and get extra water from a DIY grey water system off our washing mashine. Quarterly feeds of homemade compost, sheep poo and blood and bone keep them pumping along. The variety is 'Dwarf Ducasse', which grow to 2.5m, perfect for a suburban garden. They're a bit tricky to strike, but if you want a go get in touch with Blue Sky Backyard Bananas.

This is them now:

And the first of the next generation:
Cool eh?

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

For the babies

This is a little poem I wrote for a Living Smarties 'Heart' night a few months ago and it's about how I worry about my son's future all the time. And the future of all the other babies and kids. It's also about why we decided not to have any more babies. After this post, no more heavy stuff, we promise. 

I love you my wonderful child
And I’ll whisper it through your curly blonde hair
A million times a day
But what I really mean is
I love you and I’m sorry
If I tell you enough times
Maybe I can equip you for the future
Can I fill your heart with enough love
So you grow up to be brave, compassionate and strong?
For you will need these traits
And many more

I love you so much
Sometimes I wish you were never born
How can a mother say that?
I worry so much about your future
How will my little boy survive?
How will you grow food
without water or topsoil?
Will you be a faceless environmental refugee?

I want you to survive and thrive
And find love, hope and happiness
So I’ll love you and tell you so
A million times a day.

What is sustainaburbia?

So why sustainaburbia i hear you ask. Well, I guess Amy and I have become a bit obsessed with sustainability in the last few years. Everything we do we try to ask ourselves "what is the impact of this on the planet?". I think that's the way everyone should think, but obviously it's not (or we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now). Anyway, we've learnt a few things about how to live sustainably in the suburbs and we'd like to share this with you.

We live in Perth, Australia which is supposedly the major city in the world most vulnerable to climate change and peak oil. There are a few reasons for this, such as the fact that it is the most isolated city in the world (2,700 kms to Adelaide), which means imported products travel a long way; low rainfall (700mm a year in Perth, 350-450mm in most of the wheatbelt), 80% of which falls in the 3 months of winter; very poor soils for growing food (most people outside Australia would just call it sand!), with very low nutrient levels and very poor water retention. So growing fruit and veges is a struggle, with a high dependency on petroleum based fertilisers and lots of food imported. Also, large areas of WA are prone to salinity, which is degrading farm land where cereals and grains are grown. So, Perth could become what Tim Flannery calls "the first ghost town in Australia" due to climate change.

Some people who get really into sustainability leave the city to buy land in rural areas to grow their own food, etc. and good luck to them. We're sometimes tempted to do the same, but I think cities need people who are passionate about and committed to sustainability. We'd like to think Perth can survive and we're gonna stick it out and try to make the city a vibrant, productive, connected, sustainable place to live, not just for us but for future generations. We live on a 700 square metre north-south sloping block, with a 1960's single brick veneer 2x1 home. We have retro-fitted photo-voltaics, rain water harvesting (14,000L tank), solar hot water, solar pergola, productive gardens with about 20 fruit and nut trees, lots of veges and chooks and more....

I'll get off my high horse now. We truly hope you enjoy this blog. Amy will mostly write about the community oriented stuff and I'll write about the geeky spreadsheet stuff. We'll both write about the garden and family stuff. Our son Quincey won't write (he's 4), he'll just look beautiful in the photos.....