This one caught me totally unaware, and is very clever, with a high impact message. I hope you enjoy it!
Friday, 31 October 2008
This one caught me totally unaware, and is very clever, with a high impact message. I hope you enjoy it!
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Planet Ark in conjunction with Philips, sent me through some information today about Energy Saving Lighting, and they granted me permission to reproduce their information. The Australian Federal Government's ban on the import of incandescent lighting is only weeks away, so I thought it would be amiss of me not to help promote these resource saving devices.
These types of lights bulbs are better known as Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL). Right back at the start of my journey, one of the very first actions we took was to change as many of the incandescent light bulbs around our house, to CFL's. We were very surprised to find that we could find a CFL to suit every single shape and fitting that we required.
According to Paul Klymenko, Research Director at Planet Ark, consumers have expressed many questions and uncertainties regarding the imminent ban of incandescent lighting and the reliability, quality and versatility of energy saver lighting.
“Incandescent bulbs are based on old technology, and about 95 percent of energy is wasted as heat. Given the seriousness of the energy/climate change issue, it is not sustainable to continue with the incandescent lamp. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL), known to many people as energy saver lighting, have many long term advantages for consumers and businesses and despite a number of myths floating around, they are the best option and can cater to a variety of lighting needs.”
So, according to Planet Ark and Philips, the 7 myths on energy saver lighting that seem to concern consumers most are:
Myth 1: They’re too expensive - This is like saying modern fuel efficient car is expensive compared to an old V8 gas-guzzler. That’s because you would be ignoring the energy (petrol) costs of running it. Replacing incandescent with good quality CFL’s is one of the best money saving investments you will ever make in the long run.
Myth 2: I don’t like the look of them - While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is fair to say that until recently the design of CFLs was very different from traditional bulbs. There are many new designs that are much more aesthetically appealing and, in many cases, are more compact. Some styles are indistinguishable from incandescent -www.philips.com.au/about/news/lighting_globe_range
Myth 3: They can’t be dimmed - This used to be true but a range of dimmable CFL options are now available. These will work on the majority of dimmer circuits and are available in different colours and as bayonet or screw fittings.
Myth 4: They don’t last as long as they say - The high quality brands will usually last more than the stated average life of 6,000 hrs and usually come with some form of guarantee. It is often the cheaper, no-name brands that are less reliable as they use much lower quality components – you get what you pay for.
Myth 5: They give a harsh white light - This is only partly true and is caused by many consumers being unaware that CFL’s come in variety of colours and therefore pick the wrong CFL for the task.
Myth 6: A broken globe can contaminate your entire home - This is one of the great urban myths and is WRONG - to have a chance of making this myth possible you would have to break a globe daily in every room of your house and not open the windows. High quality bulbs tend to contain lower levels of mercury than some of the cheaper, less reliable brands – CFL bulbs have been used safely around the world for over 25 years.
Myth 7: They contain mercury which makes them worse for the environment - It is so important that we all care for our environment. By switching to CFLs you will actually prevent much more toxic mercury from being released into the air from coal fired power plants than is contained in the energy saver bulbs themselves.
Michael Downie, General Manager Philips Lighting Australia, says that energy saving lighting options have come a long way since they were first developed and the perceptions that some consumers have about them are now old-fashioned.
“The energy saving lighting options available today do not compromise on looks, technology or efficiency. At Philips we have worked really hard to produce a like-for-like range where energy saving options are available to replace the soon to be phased out varieties with the reliability and safety of old products at a fraction of the energy consumption and total life cost.”
Here are a few facts of my own. I have owned one of the original CFL's made by Philips for about 11 years. It is still going strong, and I have it lighting my east facing veranda. It is a warm white type, and has a softer light than normal regular fluro's that we were all used to in the initial days of these devices. All in all, a good reliable light.
Because we replaced the CFL's as one of our first actions, we noticed about 1 kWh drop in energy consumption in the first week. This had to coincide with the replacement of the incandescent bulbs, because it is the only variable that changed during that week of measurement. I remember that we had two 40 watt incandescents that were left on all night for an average of 12 hours each. That means that we used 350 kWh each year just on these two night lights. Compare that to the two 5 watt CFL's we replaced them with, which use a total of 43 kWh per year, that is a saving of 307 kWh of electricity per year or @ 15.77 cents per kWh = $48. That is cheaper than the initial cost of the bulbs. What a saving just for two lights. I could make 5.3 batches of home brew beer with that money!
I promised Mr Planet Ark that I would post some pictures of the newer type CFL's so here you are. A bit of a plug for Philips for free, just because I like their product and they help save you money, and they help save the planet!
|Philips Ambience 11W|
|Dimmable T3 Tornado|
|Philips Ambience A55|
|Philips Ambience Candle|
|Philips Ambience Fancy Round|
All of these CFL's come in BC & ES type fittings, with most having a Small BC & ES option. Like I mentioned above, I had all types of these fixtures, and did not have any problem finding a CFL to fit them.
To finish off here is a funny story, sad but true.
A month ago, Kim and I ordered some ceiling fans from a popular lighting chain, and I happened to ask when the ban for incandescent lights was taking place. The lady told me that imports stop in November this year, and sales stop November 2009. But she also told me that she was not happy. I asked why. She stated that not many people wanted to buy them because it gives her sister in law migraine headaches. What the....? I said that this was not a valid reason to not buy CFL's and due to the ban the public had no choice. She said that people would just stock up on incandescent bulbs before the ban. More the fool them, I thought. Kim then said that we like them, because of the energy they save and that they are good for the environment (I had given up with this clown at this stage, so it was Kim's turn). She still complained that people wouldn't be happy and that sales would plummet! Aha, I thought, that was the root of her whinging. More reliable bulbs with a longer life span, less sales. Bingo, and bad luck for this store owner.
We both left the shop thinking that she just didn't get it! What hope has Joe and Jane Public got with people like her selling light bulbs?
Lucky blokes like me tout the benefits of CFL's wherever I go.
Also, have a look at Camp Quality Country Mile Tour's blog. Phil (Wombat064) called me today and told me that he had just got all his incandescent bulbs swapped out in his house for free. Now that is a bargain and a scheme worth investigating.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
When I read this headline on the ABC news on-line, I laughed very loudly.
The guts of the article goes like this. It states that Professor Andrew Pitman (Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW) claims that real estate agents have threatened to make his life difficult if he continues to publish research about how vulnerable particular properties are to rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
Talk about strong arm tactics, or what. Anyone with half a brain could see that this was bound to happen. Even if you don't believe in man made climate change, it is a fact that sea levels and storm surge events are rising and will continue to rise even if we do take action to reduce our emissions soon. Just ask the poor President and residents of Tuvalu!
Now I am not saying that all real estate agents are like these clowns, because my brother Jim is an agent up in Queensland. I believe that he has morals, and is not like the people who are hassling poor Prof. Pitman. These guys would give George W. Bush and his Environmental advisor a run for their money!
It just goes to show, that when their incomes are on the line, people will do anything to bury the truth. Just ask all the Big Coal and Oil lobbyists standing in line outside of PM Rudd's office!
Today, I met one of my long time readers for the first time. His name is George, and works for the same company as I do. By the look on his face, I think he couldn't believe that he had actually met me in person. After a hardy handshake, we talked about all the things I have inspired him to begin at his own place. He is beginning a veggie patch and has bought the eco-wood sleepers, and will put it all together soon from what I can gather. George is also part of an environmental panel for Monash City council (hope I got it right) and is very passionate about making a difference. I said that I would be more than happy to give a presentation to the panel if he liked, so I believe he is going to think about it and email me with the details. Nice to meet you George!
George requested that I put together a post full of tips and tricks that I have learned, to help out people just starting out on their sustainable journey. So here goes.
- When installing a rainwater tank, ensure that you add an isolation valve first, before you install a tap. That way, if you decide to add a pressure pump later on, you will not have to drain the tank and loose all of your precious water.
- When ordering chickens, make sure you have the coop finished before you get them. It is no good bringing your chooks home to a temporary place, and moving them later, because they get used to the first you house them.
- Set earwig/snail traps before you plant your seedlings. Otherwise all of the hard work you put into seed raising is for naught and you have to start all over again.
- When making raised garden beds out of red-gum or any other hardwood, ensure that you pre-drill your nail/bolt holes before hand. This will stop your hammer from slipping off of the nail head and slamming into your shin at full pelt! Ouch, and the lump took a week to go down.
- When getting a quote for Solar PV, ensure you ask the installer about the cost of the network connection and meter swap-out. These are hidden costs that your installer most often than not will not inform you about.
- Make sure your PV installer tells your electricity wholesaler that they have actually connected you to the grid. This communications then starts the paper work off at the wholesalers end.
- When asked by your Solar hot water installer, "Which part of the roof do you want the collector on?", ask them if they have ever done this sort of thing before! And then tell him to put it on the North (for Southern Hemisphere) or West facing at a pinch.
- If your neighbour asks you for help and advice regarding how to build and plant a veggie garden, offer your help freely. When hard times hit, they may save your bacon. You can also swap produce when the harvest comes in.
- Make sure that you fence off any garden beds that you do not want your chickens to make a mess of. They will destroy most vegetable plants given half the chance!
- When your electrician tells you he doesn't care about the environment, tell him that he will no longer get your business unless he starts to! He will soon take an interest if you are a good customer! Coercion, I know, but hey it worked.
- Take the time to explain to everyone in your family about why the things you are about to do are important to you and the planet BEFORE you start doing things! This way, none of your loved ones will think you are crazy (or having an affair), and you can take them on the journey from the beginning.
- Worms do not like onions or citrus. They also do not like cooked food, just kitchen scraps. Give the leftovers to the chooks or your dog/cat/pig.
- Chooks love to eat worms. Do not let them near your worm farm. You will regret it! They think all of their Christmases have come at once.
- Compost smells if you add too much wet stuff. Add dry stuff in equal proportions. It also gets very hot in an Aerobin!
- Cabbage moths detect brassicas by their shape. Plant taller plants near them to confuse the moths.
- If you can water garden beds under your water restriction regime, do so. Home gardeners use 10 times less water when growing their crops than commercial vegetable gardeners do!
- Mulch well, often, and thickly. A thin mulch achieves nothing. 5 cm or more is the rule of thumb. Otherwise your veggies will dry out on hot summer days.
- Visit your library. It is a wonderful source of information. Read as much as you can, or borrow gardening videos/DVD's. They are all free.
- Celebrate every achievement, no matter how small. Every journey begins with a single step!
- Seek other like-minded people near the beginning of your journey. Share ideas and stories, and it will keep you passionate and inspired. A sense of community is a wonderful thing. Get to know your neighbours. They are the first part of community you should try and begin with.
That's about all I can remember for now, however I am sure that if I read my entire blog again, I could come up with a few more. If any more come to mind, I will add them to the comments.
George's parting comment was, "I won't wash my hand for a week now!" I feel like an A list celebrity (just not as wasteful and I don't own 6 mansions or have a private jet). Thanks for making my day George, lets catch up for lunch soon and talk some more.
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
I knew I wasn't going crazy! This article in the Herald Sun newspaper titled 'World Expert: Climate Sceptics Embarrassing', says it all! Have a read, it made me cringe.
I receive a daily environmental news feed, called Making Environmental News, which is a brief digest from the Banksia Environmental Foundation. For the last month I have noticed a sharp increase in the frequency of news articles that attempt to debunk climate change, and/or the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme. Fear, greed, and confusion are their tools of choice. I presume that this has been the work of vested interests e.g. lobbyists for major polluting industries, who are trying to get the Australian public on side, and divert our attention away from climate change, and onto other short term crisis like the global credit crunch.
I also find such behaviour and subsequent articles embarrassing and selfish, and know that some people will fall for this stunt. Europe is fully on board with the whole climate change issue, and we just tiptoe around the edges as usual. Even though the first EU emissions trading scheme didn't work as expected, mainly because too many free permits were given out by member countries, at least they gave it a go and were serious about the issue. Our scheme is fairly sound, so lets give it a go. If it is not quite right, we can fix it up as we go along. But lets not kill it off before it has a chance to reduce some emissions. No one will try to reduce them if something like this scheme is not legislated.
Sometimes I wonder if our mainstream press is truly balanced and unbiased in their opinion. I believe I will only read the ABC news on-line from now on. I have never seen an article from a climate sceptic on their news feed, only facts about the real issues we all are facing. The rest of the media can go take a flying leap, until they start treating the climate issues seriously, and stop trying to put up a smoke screen to confuse the general public.
The first option was four bulbs of garlic packaged in white plastic netting @ 99 cents, which I noticed were imported from China. What the...? Why China? Apparently China has a very tight grip on the world garlic market and produce about 500,000 tonnes per year. The next biggest producer is the USA, with 70,000 tones per year. Over 90% of garlic sold in Australia is imported, mainly from China. The site Ripe Organics states, "Unlike imported garlic (especially garlic from China) organic garlic is never treated with methyl bromide, never bleached with chlorine and never treated with growth inhibitors or gamma irradiation to stop it sprouting." So, I didn't buy organic, but I did buy the next best thing.
The next option was Australian grown garlic for $3.98 a kg. So I chose Australian grown (of course), and chose the four biggest bulbs I could get my hands on, bunged them in my reusable shopping bag. We proceeded to the checkout, and I noticed that the price was only 88 cents for twice the amount of garlic than I would have received if I had have chosen the Chinese import. It just goes to show, that even though the packaged garlic looked cheaper, the Australian product was better value and has definitely travelled far less food miles. Ben was with us, so I explained to him why it was important to try and buy local produce, and he fully understood. I must admit that sometimes it is difficult to pick which product is better value for money, but because I chose in line with my values, I ended up a winner!
I wonder how many people when confronted with a similar choice, would have chosen the 99 cent garlic? I am so glad I planted some garlic this year. It is still growing well, and should be ready for harvest after December. I bet the bulbs will taste as good as the leaves do! You can't get more local than that.
Regular readers will remember the review I did on the DAB radio station "Passion for the Planet". Well, a couple of days ago, I received this nice email.
Google alerts alerted me to your blog - and I just wanted to say thank you for your lovely review of Passion for the Planet. I am glad you are enjoying the station and we're very grateful that you're helping to spread to message. We're always very pleased to welcome new listeners.
All the best from Wimbledon (with the Wombles!)
passion for the planet - health and environment focused radio
Zeal House, Deer Park Road, Wimbledon, SW19 3GY
It is so good when you receive feedback from the very people you wrote about. Thanks Chantal, I love your station. In fact I am listening to it now! Keep up the great work team.
Monday, 27 October 2008
You will be happy to know that the prize goes to BevB for suggesting to have a look at Scarecrow's Garden. However, it wasn't Scarecrow's post where I got the solution, mainly because I didn't have any recycled tyre weeping hose. It was one of the comments attached to that post where I found this idea. Vegetable OIL! (click to enlarge picture)
You see, I have found that the little blighter's just cannot resist the smell of vegetable oil, in this case olive oil, and go to have a drink and don't come out of the salsa jar which is buried in the bed up to the neck (photo courtesy of Kate). In one night I have caught 52 earwigs in a single garden bed with no further damage to the rock melons and pumpkins. Unfortunately, I hadn't set traps in the cucumber or broccoli beds, so they suffered the wraith of the wig! But tonight, I get my revenge. With two more traps in each bed, I will soon have the numbers down to a manageable level!
If you have an infestation of earwigs, give it a go. The photo is a testament to this methods success!
“Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.”
Samuel Johnson (English Poet, Critic and Writer. 1709-1784)
Today, Kim and I had the pleasure of a visit from Kate and Roger (Hills & Plains Seedsavers). They arrived via train and I picked them up from the station at about 10:30. I recognised them both straight away, and into the car and off home we went.
The first thing on the agenda was a nice cup of Rooiboss tea, a choc chip biscuit, and a chat about Kate's world wide adventure. You could see the excitement in her eyes as she told us of the places she had just visited, and I could tell she was still on a natural high.
After tea, it was time for a tour of the garden, and we looked at the veggie patch and swapped tips about all things of the vegetable variety.
Then we checked out the solar PV system, worms, compost, chooks, and discovered that the chooks had laid already.
This is what we found.
It weighed in at a whopping 81 gm. I dare say it is a double-yolker.
Then Kim called us in for lunch and we sat down to a nice lunch of Quiche that I made yesterday, and salad and chat potatoes.
The meal was sensational. It was the best quiche I have ever made. Mind you it was only the second quiche I have made, so I could only improve I suppose!
After the meal and some more chat about everything green, we finished off the garden tour by having a look at the fruit trees and the initial effort of a veggie patch in the front yard.
We then proceeded inside again for another cuppa and talked about all sorts of green things. Kate told me about a method she uses to water plants with terracotta pots as a wicking device for water intensive plants like lettuce and celery. I will try it out when I plant my lettuce for the summer.
Then it was time for Kate and Roger to leave, so I took them back to the station and after a hug & kiss from Kate, and a strong handshake from Roger, it was goodbye for now, and they offered Kim and I a chance to visit them in Adelaide. Both Kate and Roger are very nice, like-minded people, who are most welcome at our house anytime.
We will certainly take them up on the offer sooner rather than later. We better get in quick, before Kate decided to head off for another sojourn!
If you want to read the days events from Kate's perspective, have a read of "The Greeting of Gavin".
What a great day, and one Kim and I will talk about for a long time to come.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Kate, from Hills and Plains Seedsavers is coming to visit tomorrow, so to mark the occasion, Kim stepped me through the process on how to make a quiche. I made it all myself!
First of all I made the shortcrust pastry and blind-baked it with some special ceramic balls. The pastry was quite simple. Here are the ingredients.
- 225gm Plain Flour
- quarter tspn Salt
- 100 gm Butter
I sifted the flour and salt, added the butter and, with my hands, made the mixture into a breadcrumb consistency. Then I added just enough water to make it into a dough. On a well floured benchtop, I rolled it out and put it in the pie dish. The finished product is shown below.
I baked it at 200C for about 15min. The crust was golden brown.
Next I made the filling. I sautéed one brown onion, finely chopped, added about 100gm short cut bacon and cooked for about 10 minutes. Once the onion is translucent, I added about 200 gm of chopped spinach (from the garden), which when raw looks like quite a lot, but when it cooks, it reduces down to about quarter of its original size. I then turned off the heat and let the spinach cook just from the heat of the pan. I let it cool down, and by this time the pastry was cooked and cooling as well.
After about 30 min, everything was cool so I transfered the mixture into a large stainless steel bowl, added two cups of light chedar cheese, and mixed well. I added a small bunch of chopped parsley to the mixture from the garden. This is what it looks like at this stage.
Then I transfered the mixture to the pre-baked pastry and then whisked three eggs that were kindly donated by the chooks, and poured it over the quiche to bind it all together. I topped it with some crumbled fetta, with a little freshly cracked pepper and salt.
It was then into the oven @ 160 degrees C, for 25 minutes. The result was a nicely cooked quiche. About 50% home grown, and 100% home made. You can't get much better than that! We will have it for lunch tomorrow with a garden salad and some potatoes. Very nice.
Kim and I are looking forward to meeting Kate and her hubby. It will be good fun to catch up for the day.
Don't kiss her Phil, you don't know where she has been!
Just tickle her under the chin Phil. She will be yours forever!
Then off she went to join the rest of the flock.
Just goes to show that wombats and chooks do get along.
Saturday, 25 October 2008
At first I thought it was the usual culprits of snails and slugs, but as it hasn't rained for quite a while, they are not breeding and their numbers are way down. I have just finished a recce of the veggie patch, with my trusty dynamo torch, had found earwigs all over my remaining cucumbers, rockmelons and pumpkins. They were having a fantastic feed on the new shoots until I squished them. Hard to catch though. It is the first time I have seen anything like it. Now I know what little beasty has been nibbling all of my seedlings that I have been constantly planting. I wish I had a dollar for every cucumber seed I have sown this year!
Now, I don't know how to combat this new insect pest, so if anyone has any safe and organic methods of getting rid of them, I would be very happy if you could post a comment. Otherwise, I suppose I will just have to hit the net and google up a storm for the answers.
I better sow some more seeds tomorrow. I am determined to have cucumbers again this year. They were so tasty and bountiful last summer, and no little earwig is going to defeat me!
Thursday, 23 October 2008
This year, more than ever, is the time to show our elected officials that we hear them talk the talk, but cannot see them walking the walk.
Lets get together as a proud nation and show our state and federal governments that we are not happy, and need some decisive action and decisive leadership now! Not just for the credit crunch which will be over in a few years, but for climate change and all of its devastating effects on our planet in the very near future.
Enough pussy footing around trying to please big emitters. Make some hard decisions before we make one for you with our votes. Only three years left Kevin to get your act together. Australia is watching!
So pledge your support by Walking against Warming this year. If you do one act of activism, make it this one. Amy, Megan and I will see you there!
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
I am quite lucky that I work for a company that has the facilities to enable me to telecommute. What what is telecommuting, and what is it all about?
Well, for me, telecommuting is making your home an extension of your employers office. Here is how it works. The company I work for provides me with a laptop, mouse and keyboard and all the bits that go with it. I provide the broadband internet connection, and they provide a secure method of connecting to the company network that is simple and reliable. The technical term is a secure Virtual Private Network tunnel or VPN, which is basically a way of encrypting company data over a public network (the internet). Now this wonderful technology allows me to logon to my company's data network, use email, access files, browse the company intranet, and do anything I would normally be able to do in the office which is located 50km away from my home. I claim back as a tax deduction part of my broadband bill, telephone line rental, a portion of my electricity expenses, and some stationary costs. Some employers will even reimburse you these expenses on a monthly basis.
Telecommuting takes a bit of getting used to, mainly because of the pleasant distractions of the home environment. You do have to structure your day to get the most out of it, just like in the office. Meetings can be held via teleconference (meetings via the phone), and short conversations or corridor chat can be held via a corporate version of Messenger. It is a great tool to keep up on the office gossip! You can even work in your pyjamas all day if you really want to, and no-one will ever know, and gives a whole new meaning to casual Fridays!
So that is how it works for me, but what are the environmental benefits? Well, for two days a week, I don't have to take a 100km round trip to Melbourne and back, and get stuck in traffic for 3 hours a day. That is a savings of about 10.8 litres of fuel a week in my hybrid. If you had vehicle with higher consumption you would save a lot more of course. WikiAnswers states that "Burning one litre of Petrol releases 2.36 kg of CO2 (under the 'perfect' fuel/air mixture). I know this sounds unreasonable when one litre of petrol weighs around 0.75 kg, but the majority (over 70%) of the CO2 weight is made up of the oxygen which is consumed from the air and does not originate from the petrol." So by telecommuting, I save 1.2 tonnes of CO2 a year. That is a big chunk out of my carbon footprint, and I get to spend 3 hours a day more with my family. A win-win situation for me and the planet. And I get to keep $751 a year that I would have otherwise spent on fuel!
Other environmental benefits are a reduction in energy costs for the employer. When I am not at work, they do not have to power up my docking station for my laptop which uses about 95 Wh. I make sure it is powered off when I leave the office. Compare this to about 25 Wh when using my laptop at home, and considering that I produce most of my own power and any power I draw from the gird on a cloudy day is GreenPower, my carbon footprint is zero for using my laptop at home. Another big saving on my carbon footprint. Based on an 8 hour day, that is a saving of 560 Wh, and a yearly saving of 53.76 kWh and 64 kg of CO2.
Then there is air-conditioning that is not required to cool down my body and equipment down at work. I certainly don't have air-con running 24/7 at home. I must admit, by me working from home, it would only have a small impact at work.
Here is an example of some real statistic from Sun Microsystems, a computer and software company. They offer about 56% or 19,000 of their global workforce an option to telecommute an average of 2.5 days per week. They performed a study on telecommuting and asked the question "Does telecommuting really save energy, or just transfer energy cost and load to employees?"
They found that:
- Employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles by working at home an average of 2.5 days a week.
- Office equipment energy consumption rate at a Sun office was two times that of home office equipment energy consumption, from approximately 64 watts per hour at home to 130 watts per hour at a Sun office.
- Commuting was more than 98 percent of each employee's carbon footprint for work, compared to less than 1.7 percent of total carbon emissions to power office equipment.
- By eliminating commuting just 2.5 days per week, an employee reduces energy used for work by the equivalent of 5,400 Kilowatt hours/year.
- Working from home 2.5 days per week saved the employees in the study an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time (8 hours/day, 5 days/week).
So, if your employer allows telecommuting, try and convince your boss to let you work from home once in a while. The benefits flow both ways, and they will end up with better retention rates, and happier staff. For those employers who have not considered telecommuting yet, here are a few ways on how to convince your boss. Have a read of this article "How to Convince Your Boss You Can (and Should) Work From Home." It is from a series of articles by Planet Green. It is give you the means to present your case to your boss in favour of telecommuting. I also found the survey statistics from the same site.
Give it a go, you have nothing to loose and everything to gain and the environment will love you for it! Both you and your employer will save money and resources. So if you don't ask, you won't get.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Today, we received a letter for Amy who is 19 years old and has just moved out of home. The letter was from American Express, and is an invitation to apply for an American Express Gold credit card. Just what a 19 year old university student on working part time at K-mart, really needs!
The promise of up to $50,000 of credit is a big carrot to dangle in front of a young person, who may not know better. They may be desperate for credit or experiencing hard times, but I believe that our Amy would not fall for the lure of expensive credit in these troubled times.
Get this. The interest rate is advertised at 15.99% p.a. with up to 55 days interest free. How on hell would anyone on a casual wage be able to pay off any sum over $500 within the interest free period. Once past the interest free period, the interest rate would cripple a person, especially if they only paid off the minimum payment for the month. It would take many years to pay off the principle. Here is an example. Say you borrowed $500, and only paid off the minimum payment of $25 a month. It would take 20 months to pay off the principle. That is nearly two years folks! Then, of course you would still have to pay off the interest you have accumulated on top of that which is the kicker that people don't take into account when they make a purchase on a card.
According to a simple credit card calculator I used, it would take 7 years and an extra $331 on top of the original $500 loan. That is bloody incredible. But who just purchases $500 on a credit card? According to Choice Magazine the average credit card debt for every man, woman and child in this country of $3,200. That is a record credit card debt of $44 billion outstanding as at 9 Oct 2008. That is a nice little earner for all financial institutions who issue these plastic perils!
Why would a young lady, just starting off in life be offered a scam like this? It makes me sick to think that a company, only after profits, would stoop that low. Shame on you Mr. American Express. No wonder the credit crunch started in North America if this is an example of how you market your product!
So, some friendly advice from one who knows. Don't be sucked in by a credit card company offering cheap or easy credit. It will only end up in tears (yours of course), and they will take you to the cleaners without you even realising it!
How is one to live a simple life when bombarded with all this crap? Give me strength!
First of all, wash your beans so that they are clean and free from dirt, bits etc.
Then, bring to the boil at least 6 litres of water per 500gms of beans, preferably in a large pot with a steamer/basket type arrangement. The water must be at least half way up the basket, so that all the beans are submerged when placed in the water.
Before the water has come to the boil, make sure you have another bowl of cold water to place the beans in after blanching. The beans have to be cooled rapidly to stop the cooking process. That way, you can preserve the freshness without cooking them all the way through.
Once the water is at a rapid boil, place the beans into the pot
Boil the beans for three minutes only. Keep an eye on the time, because any longer and the beans start to cook. You are aiming to kill the enzymes that make the beans rot, not to cook them outright.
When the three minutes are complete, then remove the beans from the pot as quick as you can, and immerse them into the cold water you had placed aside earlier.
The beans will cool down. If you are making another batch, make sure you change the not so cold water bowl for fresh cold water, because you are still attempting to cool the beans down as quickly as possible. Once cool to touch (about 1 minute) then strain and place in a freezer bag.
Once in the freezer bag, tie it off and place in the freezer as quickly as possible.
If you are freezing other types of vegetables, the blanching time will vary with the size or weight of the produce. Just google "how to blanch vegetables for freezing" and you should find the right time for whatever you want to freeze.
I managed to get four meals out of my 1.9 kg of broad beans. We ate some tonight with our roast which were very tasty and I froze the other three portions. I hope this has been educational.
Monday, 20 October 2008
Kim, Ben and I started at about 1100, after my hydrotherapy session, and their task was to harvest all of the broad beans, and to cut the stalks off at ground level, and my job was to do everything else. Or so I thought.
I started by finishing off the bed near the chook house by sprinkling a liberal application of dynamic lifter on the top of the clay, which was still moist, and then put a layer of mulch over the entire bed. I used the chicken coop bedding that I let dry out the day before. Tomorrow after work I will plant my silverbeet and spring onion seedlings, and throw in a few sunflower seed up to the shed end just for the chookies! I put a chicken wire fence around it this evening, hence the posts in the photo, and the chooks are not impressed at all. This is where they were having a major dust bath when they free ranged!
Unbeknownst to me, Kim had cleared the bed of nasturtiums and placed all the plants near the compost bins. Then she got Ben out of the house, and as he took a big stainless steel bowl out of the cupboard to put the beans in, the cupboard door fell off in his hand. Dad to the rescue, and with my trusty screwdriver, I had it back on in a jiffy. Back out doors, Ben and Kim were diligently picking all of the bean pods and hacking the stalks to the ground. We left the roots in the ground so that the nitrogen nodules fixed to the roots would rot back into the soil.
I got back on with the task of clearing the salad bed, and pulled out all the lettuces that had gone to seed. There were about 6 large plants of loose leaf lettuce and I threw them all into the chicken coop. The chooks went crazy over them and had demolished all the plants within an hour. Two beds down and two to go.
I started on the root veggie bed and started to harvest all of the beetroot. We got quite a few big ones, and a few smaller ones that I threw in the compost. Maybe I should have thinned them out a little more! We got a decent crop and seeing it was the second time I have ever grown beetroot, I am quite proud of the harvest we received. The beetroots weighed in at 1.4 kg.
As you saw in yesterdays post, I also harvested some parsnips. The entwined plant was quite a find, and even though I have seen some funny shaped vegetables in my time, that is the first time I have seen two embracing parsnips before. Now, three legged carrots is another story....
I left about 10-15 parsnips in the ground, and I will wait for them to get a bit bigger before harvesting any more. I will just plant the summer crop around them. In the same bed I had kept the two remaining capsicum plants which I had hoped would re-sprout leaves like the chilli bush around the other side of the garden. One has just shown shoots of leaves and flowers, but the second one has given up the ghost. I pulled it out and cut it up into small bits for the compost bin. There was also a couple of daikon radishes that I had let go to seed, and one of the roots were huge.
I will do some research on how to pickle them, as I have heard that they are very nice preserved this way. Three down, one to go.
Kim and Ben had done a marvellous job of cutting the bean stalks down, and near the end I noticed that there were a few small shoots on some of the plants. We left them intact, cutting off only the longer stalks on those plants. Who knows, we may get a small second crop.
So with all beds cleared and with a whopping great pile of vegetable matter next to the compost bins, it was time to prepare the beds for the next planting. I wanted to try something different this year, so I took a leaf out of Esther Dean's no dig garden method. I added a 5 cm layer of compost to each garden, straight over the top of the old mulch. I then added a sprinkling of dynamic lifter to each bed, about two 10cm garden pots worth. Then, on top of the fertiliser, I added a thick layer of either chook bedding from last weeks clean out that I had drying in Ben's old garden bed, or sugar cane mulch when I ran out of straw. The mulch layer was between 5-8 cm thick. I then watered every bed very heavily, because it hasn't rained for over 6 weeks here and most of the beds were bone dry even though I had watered them about 4 days previous. It must have been the hot day we had on Saturday that dried them out. Here is the nearly finished beds in various stages of completion. Click to enlarge.
As you can see, it was quite overcast, and the temperature only got to about 18 degrees, so it was great weather for gardening. I hardly broke into a sweat all day. And, no, I didn't hurt my back. Thank you to all of you who were concerned about it on the previous post. It is still feeling pretty good as I write this.
Whilst I was preparing the garden beds, Kim was busy shelling the beans. The final weight of all of the shelled beans was a massive 1.9 kg of delicious broad beans. I am going to blanch them for freezing tomorrow, when I get a chance.
After all the beds were finished, and the produce harvested, it was into the fridge for all the veggies until I decided what to do with them. Then it was off to the compost bins to sort out all of that vegetable matter. By adding compost to one of the layer in the garden beds, I had managed to empty one and a half compost bins. Now I had room to put the new green matter to good work. It took me 45 minutes of tearing and ripping, but I managed to get through the massive pile without a single blister. I am glad I wore gloves, otherwise my sensitive I.T. hands would be covered in blisters and would be blood red from the beetroot leaves!
After the composting, it was nearly time to call it a day, however I had a little energy to try and preserve some of the beetroot. I have always wanted to try and pickles some beetroot and make a better product than you can buy in a can. Well, luckily I stumbled across this Pickled Beetroot recipe online, and it was fairly simple to follow. I cooked about 500gm of beetroot, for 25 minutes in salted water. Then I put on rubber gloves and peeled them over a few sheets of newspaper so as not to stain the chopping board. Then I wrapped up the peel in the paper and threw them into the compost bin. Once peeled, I sliced them into 5mm slices and packed into two old sterilised pasta sauce jars with pop top lids, and poured the warm liquid to cover the contents and sealed. At a push, I probably could have fit it all into one jar, but I have been caught out over-packing jars before. The lids popped down after two hours, and I put on a nice label and will eat before Christmas or at our next BBQ.
Tomorrow night, we are having a roast chicken. No, not one of the girls, but a commercial free range chicken that we bought from Aldi. We are going to have roasted parsnips, roasted potatoes, roasted beetroot, and some steamed broad beans. Yum, I can't wait to cook up that lot! It will be even better seeing that we grew most of the vegetables ourselves. It certainly brings the food miles down for the meal, and the spuds were grown just down the road in Gippsland, and I think the chook is from Rockbank. A pretty locally sourced meal, all from within about 140 km of our home, fit for a budding family of locavores. I am proud to tell anyone who will listen, that we grow our own food. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside to know where your food comes from and how it was farmed. Here is to local food becoming very popular, and down with out of season food. The latter tastes bland!
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Having said that, I stumbled upon a rather good radio station called Passion for the Planet which is a DAB station that also streams on the net and hails from Wimbledon, UK (just like the wombles). I found the site after reading about it in "Crap At The Environment" by Mark Watson. Near the end of the book, Mark is a little less crap at the environment and is interviewed by the radio station. He listed the stations web address, so I looked it up. What I found, was a station with very few ads, and what ads there were are all flogging environmentally friendly products. There are interviews and opinion about the current state of the planet, and you can tell that they have a passion for what they do, and the music is pretty good as well!
Here is their blurb;
passion for the planet was set up by experienced radio professionals Chantal Cooke and Kenny Stevens, with the goal of introducing an innovative format to the expanding DAB Digital Radio market.
The result is passion.
Entertaining and informative, passion plays your favourite songs plus great new tunes from world music artists, and a broad range of interviews and features focused on your health and environment - issues that affect our lives every day.
walking the talk
passion for the planet is committed to helping the environment. Our offices have separate bins for paper, card and plastic. Where possible we use low energy light bulbs.
Our company stationery is all printed on recycled paper.
Our office paper and envelopes are all made of recycled paper.
In building our studios and decorating the office, we used, wherever possible, recycled or re-used materials.
Our studios are soundproofed and acoustically treated with naturally grown hemp. Both the hemp under tiles and the surface decorative tiles were supplied by The Hemp Paper Company
Office and studio design incorporated Feng Shui principles, and both the interior design and Feng Shui advice was expertly provided by John & Sue Thornton and by Marie-Claire Carlyle.
passion for the planet is mindful of its impact on the planet and its responsibility to others."
Now that is a value set to be proud of, and I am glad they exist for my listening pleasure. To listen to their live stream, click here. It will play in Windows media player or iTunes.
Today was a very busy day in the garden, in 33 degree dry heat.
I arose at about 0700 (yes I slept in), and tended to the chooks. I was so tired, that I jumped back into bed until 0800. I got up again, went to Aldi to get 36 cartons of UHT skimmed milk for our stockpile. In the mean time Kim cooked me up two eggs (one was a double-yoker), two rashers of bacon, some skinheads on a raft, and a few mushrooms, all washed down with a cup of rooiboss tea and a glass of orange juice. Just what the doctor ordered, and I am glad we have this ritual once a week.
At about 1030, I had to make a trip to Sydenham, which is about 30 minutes drive away, to pick up two ceiling fans for Kim's office and Ben's bedroom. They are the only rooms left (besides my study) that do not have fans. This year, we intend to reduce our air-conditioning usage considerably. At $250, the fans will pay for themselves in no time compared to the energy usage from energy inefficient air-con!
At about 1130, I returned home and started in the garden. First, I mucked out the chicken coop, putting most of the manure into the compost bin. I left most of the dry bedding in the wheelbarrow, which I left in the sun. Tomorrow, any poo that I missed will be dry, and I will use it as mulch for the garden beds. As the girls had all laid an egg for the day, it was safe to let them free range for an hour or so while I pottered around.
Next I made sure that the seedlings were OK, and had to water them again. Thank goodness that I am planting them all out tomorrow. I am sick of watering them every day. With a good mulching, I can leave them for at least two days before I have to water again. The broad beans are so tall that most of them have fallen over, even though we propped most of them up with stakes and string. I will be picking most of the pods tomorrow, and pulling all the stalks. They are near the end of their time and the lower leaves are going brown because of the heat. After watering a few pot plants as well, it was time for the chookies to go back in their coop. They did not want to go back in, because they were having such a great time scratching around under the plum tree. I had to go under the tree and shoo them towards Kim. Unfortunately, I forgot that Kim had never picked up a chicken before, so the chooks just ran back towards me, with Kim squealing at the the chooks. It was so funny, yet frustrating at the same time. Eventually we got them all back in after about 10 minutes of mucking around. All for a 2 metre trip back to their coop!
Then it was time for a rest, as I was sweating profusely by now and my back was getting a little sore. After lunch (left over spaghetti & meatballs, yum!) and a lay down for an hour, it was back out into the heat and I started clearing the pea patch. The jalapeño chilli bush is still going strong in that bed, so I left it well along. During the process of clearing the spent pea plants, I discovered why it is doing well. It was about two months ago, I noticed that the bed was lacking in soil structure, with it mostly being compost, potting mix and straw. It just was not holding water long enough, and was getting consistently dried out. I decided to place some of the local soil, which is clay, on top of the garden bed, with a view to turning it all over when I pulled out the chilli bush. Well as luck would have it, the clay went a bit hard on top, but underneath, the compost mix stayed very moist and therefore the chilli bush is thriving with new leaves and flowers! So after I cleared the mostly dead pea plants, leaving the roots intact, I decided to add a layer of clay on top of the entire bed. It took a lot of digging, and breaking up of some big dirt clods, but after about 45 very sweaty minutes the entire bed was covered with a 10cm layer of clay. I then watered this in with two watering cans of rain water. Here are a couple of photos of my efforts. I also cut up any green pea plants and buried them under the clay to rot down, to add nutrients to the soil.
Tomorrow I will check to see if my crazy experiment worked. If the clay is dry, but the compost is wet, I will mulch with the chicken bedding I removed today, and then I will plant out the silverbeet and some spring onion seedlings into that bed. I better put a border of chicken wire up to keep the silly chooks out of the bed.
After that big effort, I was spent. It was now about 1700 and time for a shower. I looked like I had just had a workout in the gym. I believe it was better than a gym workout, and far more productive!
It was then time for a BBQ, as it was far too hot to cook in the kitchen. Sausages in bread was about as good as it got at this late stage, and we had some home made pickled onions and dill cucumbers on the side with a little bit of tasty cheese, tomato and olives. Just like a ploughman's lunch with a banger! Very nice indeed.
So, here I sit totally knackered and we have another big day of planting to do tomorrow. With three beds to clear, prepare, and plant, it will be an early start and another busy day in the garden. Kim is also going to get up early and give me a hand. Wish us luck!
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
I have just put the movie together, and I dare say that those chook lovers out there will enjoy it. Dad, I put a track in just for you. It took me back many years to when I was a kid, sitting next to the phonograme, listening to Johnny Cash, whilst growing up on the dairy farm. It was just oh so appropriate! I hope you enjoy "An Afternoon with the Girls".
What clever little chickens. We think it was either Bunty or Edwina because yesterday, I heard an almighty racket coming from inside the chicken house, and amongst the clutch of eggs was a massive 67g egg. That must have hurt on the way out!
Thanks to everyone who reads this humble blog. There are many more posts to come.
All the best
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Ben and I thought it would be a good idea to let the chooks free range around the only patch of grass we have left. Cautiously we opened the gate to their run, and slowly but surely the girls started to explore a new part of their world. Bunty lead the charge, and two duly followed in her bold footsteps. They all made a bee-line for my dwarf apple tree that is just flowering, so after a bit of shooing, I led them down the path to the grass area.
Ginger was very stubborn and would not leave the run, so I had to go back for her. I was determined that no-one got left behind, on this, their first outing. I could not coax her out of the run, so I had to carry her to where the others had found the nice, juicy grass.
All four hens had a good look around at first and found some bugs, ate grass, scratched around the clothesline, and generally enjoyed the wide open space. Then they spied the garden bed, in which the purple podded peas are on their last legs. Then the fun started. They found that the beds were nice and dry, and could be dug in very easily. It was if they were digging to China. They found so many worms, and other insects that every time I looked up at them, they had something dangling out of their mouths.
Once all the worms/bugs had been consumed, it was time for a well earned dust bath. Bunty lead the way and was covered in dust and compost. The other three soon joined in as you can see below.
Not once did any of them try to fly, or run away. They are obviously very content little chickens.
Ben made sure that they didn't venture too far, as he had set up an elaborate system of obstacles, should any chicken attempt to make a run for it. That will stop them Eco Boy!
It was about now they decided that they had enough fun for one day, and it was time to go back to the coop. I have no idea what prompted them to return to the coop, maybe it is instinct. I did read in one of my chook books, that they seek the comfort and security of their home when it starts getting dark, which is why I suppose, they go into their house all by themselves each night. Once again Bunty lead the charge, Polly in second and with Edwina and Ginger bringing up the rear. All I had to do was shut the gate to the coop behind them. Kim took some video footage of them going back into their coop, so I will put together a short movie and post it in the next few hours. It was very entertaining to watch the parade in action.
After all of that chook watching and pea picking, it was time to go inside and cook dinner. I made Minestrone soup in the pressure cooker which turned out great. I will post the recipe in a few days, because it is such a hit with our family that Pam actually took a copy of the recipe back to England to try out during her next dinner party. Whilst the dinner was cooking, I shelled all of the peas. Here is the end result, noting that we have already had one feed of these delicious little green balls about two weeks ago. The peas in the jar dried out on the bush, so they will be planted out next season.
The peas in the bowl will be frozen tonight after a quick blanch. They should be enough for the next roast dinner. I realise that growing peas do not produce very rewarding crop size, however the benefits to the soil outweigh the small crop and so do the display of flowers. I will plant more peas next winter as per my crop rotation schedule. I plan to cut the plants off at ground level on the weekend, and leave all of the roots to rot and release their bounty of nitrogen into the soil.
It was a great afternoon, and we have decided to let them out most nights on the days that I work from home, and during the weekend. Only in the afternoon though, after they have laid their eggs. That way, we won't find any hidden treasures a few weeks later.
Well done girls on your first big day out. All the family really enjoyed your company. In fact, Kim actually touched one of the girls today for the first time, and she was very brave for a city girl. Edwina was very accommodating of course!