Maybe this crazy idea just might work, but I think that giving everyone a rainwater tank would be a much cheaper solution. I will let you make your own mind up. Let me know what you think.
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Maybe this crazy idea just might work, but I think that giving everyone a rainwater tank would be a much cheaper solution. I will let you make your own mind up. Let me know what you think.
Monday, 28 June 2010
Adam and I caught the Metro at Parliament Station, and we were confronted by three shady looking characters and a Coles shopping trolley full of 3 minute noodles! As we passed Melbourne Central and Flagstaff stations, because of the shopping trolley, it was standing room only and as tight as a can of sardines. All three individuals looked quite spaced out, and started talking about some weird subjects. This is what Adam and I over heard just before we got off at North Melbourne.
First bloke, "How many grams of methadone are you on?".
Other bloke, "Shit, I am only on 40 grams!
First bloke, "Fuck, I am down to 30. Where do you get your stuff?"
Chick, "Down at the chemist, see, I got some in my bag."
First bloke, "You aught to go to rehab love, there is a free one in Fitzroy, for six weeks."
Chick, "I need six fucking months mate!"
The trio then went on to discuss the pros and cons of various rehabilitation institutions and what you have to pay to stay there. For this ordinary man, it was a bizarre conversation.
I looked around and my fellow passengers were slowly trying to edge away from these three. Anyway, it was about this stage that Adam and I departed, looked at each other, then the three characters and the shopping trolley, shook our heads in disbelief. It was like being in a movie. I was looking around for the camera!
It is truly amazing the things you see and hear when trying to lower your carbon footprint! I wouldn't give it up for all the tea in China.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
So firstly out with the old space for the fridge.
Then up with a stud wall, made from plantation pine. We reused all of the old electrical cabling and switches.
Then removed some cupboards so that the new doorway could be cut out. This is looking in from the hallway.
This is with the entire kitchen removed and the tiles jackhammered from the floor. Looking towards the hallway in the picture above. The blankets are to stop some of the dust from the concrete slab.
Totally gutted and new stud wall fully completed. We couldn't avoid the plasterboard because of our budget.
Cooker and tiles in place. All it needed now is the grout.
Ecology dinner set that Kim sourced. I thought that it was a nice touch. We gave our old dinner set to the Salvo's.
So what is so eco-friendly about this kitchen? Well, 50% of building a new kitchen is removing the old one. We recycled most of it, and very little went into landfill. We gave away the gas cooktop and dishwasher on freecycle, sold the oven on ebay, and gave all the old cabinets to the builder who is going to put them in his shed! I kept all of the old wood from the walls that were removed so that I can build things with them later. The only things that went into landfill were the old floor and wall tiles which were beyond saving, and the old bits of plaster board from the demolished walls.
As for the new kitchen, we went for eco-wood cabinets, however they are plastic coated with a pretend wood grain and rebates. I couldn't convince Kim otherwise. The tiles were made in China and Thailand, which are not very green, however I just could not afford any Australian made tiles, not that I could find any locally. It was a low point in the reno. At least the grout and glue was made in Australia.
The appliances are all energy efficient. The dishwasher uses 8 litres of water per wash. The cook top is natural gas, and the oven is gas and electric just in case we loose either supply, and the gas component works without the need for any electricity should we have a blackout. You can actually light the oven with a match like the good old days. The range hood uses 20 watt halogen, which I cannot find a replacement for. 20 watts is OK, and we rarely use the lights.
The lighting is very cool. We bought a combination light and ceiling fan, with the light being a circular 40 watt T4 fluro, and the fan uses 55 watts on max. The cool part is that the blades of the fan retract when the fan stops and it just looks like a light fitting. When you start the fan the centrifugal force makes the blades pop out again.
The paint we has started to use is low VOC and has no smell to it at all. I just love that no paint smell. We have started to put on the undercoat and will be painting it all over the next week including the ceilings. The builder comes back tomorrow to sand down the remaining walls in the new hallway that runs past the laundry and toilet and still has to put the finishing touches on the pantry, so we can put all the food we have in boxes in a central place. The pantry is opposite the stockpile cupboard so it is very convenient to replace items that we have run out of. The stockpile cupboard is right next to the front door, so not far to carry bulky items from the car.
The fridge is back inside and in its alcove at the end of the kitchen, with the cheese fridge next to it. I was starting to get sick of having to go outside to get the milk. If I had a house cow, that would be a different matter.
All I can say is that we tried to lower the impact on the planet the best we could, within the budget we had, and reused or recycled as much of the old kitchen as we could practically manage. It is Kim's dream kitchen that she has been waiting for ever since we moved here in winter 2000. I am not telling how much it has cost us, but suffice to say, we saved up all the money in cash and we are not in debt because of it, and we are still on track to pay off the house in 5.5 years.
It is a joy to cook in because Kim has designed it so well that everything is where it needs to be. Kim even told me that this was the last renovation she is ever doing. My reply to that is thank goodness for that. I don't think I could go through another one. It was stressful enough as it was, but well worth the effort. Next weekend, I will be making cheese again!
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Here is my letter that I just sent off.
Subject: Action on Climate Change.
Dear Prime Minister Gillard,
As a member of your electorate of Lalor, I congratulate you on your appointment as Prime Minister of Australia today.
However, I would like to bring to your attention the promise of action on climate change that was made by the Labor party preceding the last election. I, as many Australians are, was extremely disappointed when the previous PM dropped the CPRS, and replaced it with a big fat nothing. It seemed to me that your party was all talk and spin, with little real commitment to put a price on carbon.
I believe that a price on carbon would fundamentally change the way the current economy works, giving people and corporations a huge incentive to green up their act, and start taking decisive action on reducing carbon emissions. We have seen the effects of climate change in this country already, with the scientific community, including your own Chief Scientist, calling for action on this, the greatest single issue of our time. Your fellow Australians are expecting this decisive action, and soon, or we will all be suffering the consequences of our inaction.
Melton West, Victoria
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
As my Cerveza was not quite ready, I had to dash out and buy another kit, so I have the added bonus of being able to make two batches of beer, cider or ginger beer at the same time.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, Kim filmed the workshop, and I have edited it into three parts. I hope you find the time to watch this educational documentary, courtesy of the MSLG. You will notice that the standard of cinematography is a lot higher than normal, as we lashed out and bought a $30 tripod for the video camera. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes!
Part Three with Q&A session
The next day, I checked both the Cerveza and the Cider to see their progress. The cider was not bubbling, so I took off the lid to ensure that it was indeed fermenting (which it was), so I screwed the lid back on super tight. This sealed it correctly this time, and the airlock started working ferociously.
I then took a hydrometer reading of the Cerveza, which indicated that it was finished primary brewing. I sterilized all the bottles, placed a teaspoon of sugar in the small ones, and two in the large. After I filled them all, I cleaned out the barrel ready again for another batch that I will make this weekend. I am going to brew a Coopers Dark Ale next, which I have made before, and it was very nice on a cold winters evening straight out of the shed without any prior refrigeration.
I just checked on the Cerveza, and it is clearing well, with only a very thin layer of sediment on the bottom of each bottle. I can live with that! And as for the Cider, well due to the fact that I only put in 500gm of Dextrose, it looks like it has finished fermenting as well. I will check it with the hydrometer and possibly bottle it tomorrow night! I can taste it already.
Just a few photos of the evening. As I mentioned before, it was held on Friday night and we all had a ball.
I couldn’t help look serious, as I was very nervous. This was taken at the pre-drinks.
And here are all the Melton crowd, enjoying our win of Victorian 2010 Sustainable City . Congratulations to everyone. We did the shire proud!
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Anyway, enough waffle. Did I win my category? Well as the title suggests, no I didn't. I was pipped at the post by a compostable nappy. Here is my finalist certificate which I will always treasure and it hangs proudly in my study.
More great news. Melton Shire won the overall award, Sustainable City 2010. We were all ecstatic about the win. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera, so we have to wait for the official photographs for the evening which I will share with you when I get them. It is a night that I shall always remember.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
Even more excitement as two things have happened since I first announced my nomination and subsequent listing as a finalist.
Firstly, I have had a interview with our local Fairfax community newspaper about my green epiphany and the subsequent journey that you have all read about on this blog. The photographer will pay me a visit on Saturday morning for a happy snap for the article that will be published next week. I will post the link when it becomes available.
Secondly, out of the blue I get an email from a reporter at Channel 7, who is thinking about running my green transformation story on Sunrise (a popular morning show in Australia)! She told me that the wife of her producer is an avid reader (thank you, whoever you are), and the producer asked the reporter to give me a call. She didn't even realise that I was up for the Environmental Innovation award tomorrow night, as said that it would be a great hook for the story. Anyway, I am yet to hear back from her. Fingers crossed.
Goodness knows what will happen next, but life just seems to be getting even more interesting. Even though the post sounds a little self indulgent when I read over it, I think a little recognition sometimes is a good thing for morale and keeps me motivated. Sorry if it sounds a little egocentric.
Oh, and our Sustainable living group has the home brew workshop on Saturday afternoon. That should be great fun, but I am a bit concerned that the brew has not yet stopped fermenting. I might just take the opportunity to by another home brew barrel, and make another batch for the workshop. You can never have too many beer barrels I reckon!
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
The girls had a great day out on Monday. All 8 are doing well and we still get about 4 eggs a day during winter from the hens that are not moulting. The original ISA browns we bought in 2008 are dropping feathers everywhere, but growing back new hair-doos just as fast. Ginger has changed her markings for the third year in a row and is now a speckled hen. The two bantams stopped being broody about three weeks ago all by themselves, as I simply gave up trying to get them to break the habit. I figured that they weren't hurting themselves and nature would take its course. Maybe next year when they go broody again, I will order in some fertile eggs for them to hatch. Poppy and Pippa would make great little mothers.
Anyway, here are a few shots of the girls that I took after I let them behind the shed to do some weeding for me.
Backyard chickens are simply a joy to keep, and so much entertainment from a distant relative of a carnivorous dinosaur! Jurassic Park got it so wrong.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Here is a shot of the gutted kitchen from last Tuesday.
It is now double the size of what it was, because the old one was very pokey, and only one person could work in there at a time. It is now big enough for me to make cheese and preserves at one end, and for Kim to bake bread at the other end.
So in this post, after three weeks of no kitchen, I am going to pen a list of the things I really do miss that we normally do in our kitchen. After all, the kitchen is the centre of the home in more ways than just its location and is an essential part of living simply.
- Fresh home baked bread
- Home cooking
- Roast chicken on a Sunday
- Omelettes from my free range hen eggs and herbs from the garden
- Making Cheese
- Eating Cheese
- Making Hot Chilli Chutney
- Eating breakfast at home
- Warm biscuits, straight off the tray
- Washing the dishes in the kitchen sink
- Making a cup of tea in the kitchen
- Making winter stews in the pressure cooker
- Showing the kids how to make simple meals
- Cooking with my own freshly grown produce.
- Walking around the outside of the house to get the milk due to drying floor tiles
- Washing dishes up in the laundry
- Ironing clothes anywhere the iron board will fit
- Living in my study for days at an end
- Living in an unheated home because of holes in the ceiling
- Wearing 6 layers of clothing because we can't turn the heating on
- Not having any motivation because of the disruption
- Loosing my sense of belonging
- Dust everywhere
- Sneezing constantly
- Crap that workmen leave laying around at the end of the day
- Having to clean up after workmen who trash my garden
- Carrying dogs around because no one is allowed on the floor tiles
- Having to put off friends visiting because of the mess
- The love of a good woman
- Great kids who managed to find alternate living arrangements while chaos ensued
- Good friends who offer to take us in for the odd evening when it gets unliveable
- Good friends to take Ben 10 for a sleep over with his mate.
- Having the cash to pay for all of the work and not go into debt because of it
- Having the common sense to not go overboard with expensive items
- Being able to source sustainably sourced timber for the doors and frames
- Replacing all old appliances with energy efficient ones to reduce our power bill
- Being able to Freecycle all the old appliances to those who really need them
- To be about 80% of the way through the renovation
- To have really nice builders, electricians, cabinet makers and tilers who listen to our requests
- Having a home to renovate
- And to still be married at the end of it!
Monday, 14 June 2010
So, after a bit of tidying up, the shed was clean enough to make beer in, I got stuck into the process. I used one of the Coopers Mexican Cerveza kit brews and their recommended Brew enhancer and added it to the sterilised barrel. I then added 3 litres of boiling water and stirred well to dissolve the sugars and malt. I topped it up to 21 litres with rainwater from the tank. The temperature needed to be between 21-27C before I pitched the yeast, however as the wort was still well below 21C I added two extra litres of boiling water which brought it up to 24C.
I then pitched the yeast, stirred well, then fitted the lid and airlock. As the night time temps have been getting down to around 5C, I needed to keep the brew at a constant temperature to ensure a pleasant finished flavour and so that the yeast wouldn't go to sleep (as it does) at night time. I had just the solution! I found an old electric blanket for a babies cot that I had stashed away and wrapped it around the barrel. I find that the lowest setting on the blanket keeps the brew at around 24C and it only uses 40 watts of electricity. I have used this method a long time ago, and this is the first time I have brewed in Winter since I restarted making beer a few years ago so I am glad I kept the electric blanket for a rainy day (in this case, a sunny one).
Now, every good Cerveza needs to look authentic in clear glass bottles, so I have been saving commercial beer bottles for the last six months. They were easy enough to clean, even though many of them had the remanents of a wedge of lime in the bottom. A good scrub with some soapy water and a bottle brush, and a post-rinse with hot water with about 100ml of white vinegar to remove any remaining soap, they look like new. Great reuse if you ask me.
I only have 46 bottles, but really need 60 for this batch. I will just have to use my normal brown PET beer bottles for the remainder. I bet you thought I was going to say that I would have to drink more beer to get the empty bottles! Got you.
By the end of the week I have to source a hand capper so I can put crown seals on the bottles when full. I didn't have any luck finding one today at the shopping centre, so will have to hunt around the city tomorrow during lunch time. I don't usually use crown seals, because the PET bottles just have a screw-on plastic like a soft drink bottle.
I am hoping that the beer is fully fermented by Saturday for the workshop, which gives it 6 days for the brew to be ready. I believe that at a nice warm temp of 24C it should brew out in 4 days and have 2 days to settle. I don't quite know how I am going to get lots of people into the shed to watch the demo, so I might have to move it all out the outside undercover area on a trestle table. Kim will be videoing the entire workshop, so we will have some footage posted up on YouTube next Sunday. I am looking forward to showing everyone in the Sustainable Living group how to make beer.
Maybe a few might even take it up as a hobby, and we can have beer appreciation afternoons. Now that would make for a fun meeting!
Thursday, 10 June 2010
So, where are the photos, I here you ask. Well as luck would have it, Kim went shutter happy on Tuesday and here are the fruits of our gardening labours (pardon the pun).
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
I know it has taken a while to comment on one of the biggest environmental disasters that has occurred due to an oil spill, but I have just been waiting for the right words to come to me. So here they are, inspired by James Lovelock's most fitting work, The Revenge of Gaia.
I think that maybe Gaia has had enough of us and just burst out of her skin, in effect, and let cry a massive scream of ;
"You want oil, you bastards? HERE, I'll give you all the oil you want and MORE! Come get some!"
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
My post for today is over at the Simple Green Frugal Co-op, titled "Dirt Therapy". I talk about an feeling I had yesterday, and that I discovered the cure for. However, I kind of knew about how to solve it long ago being a bit of a garden addict.
The answer is to thrust your hands into dirt! Please pop on over for a read and leave a comment to join the conversation.
Friday, 4 June 2010
The blog was entered into the Pam Keating Environmental Innovation category as part of the Melton Shire's submission for this year. The Shire of Melton is also a finalist for Sustainable City of the Year. See the link below to check out the other finalists.
2010 Sustainable Cities Finalists
On the 30th of April, I gave a a PowerPoint presentation to the judge that showed the rich media content of the blog. I believed that I articulated myself fairly well, but didn't realise that I did that well!
When I started these ramblings of my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle, little did I know that this repository of information would become a local resource that documents what can be in our shire, and indeed anywhere in the world. It is more than I could have dreamed of. However, it is you, the readers that the judge was very impressed with. You come from all over the globe looking for solutions, and that really pressed his buttons. If you all keep reading, I will keep on writing! Thank you one and all.
Anyway, the award night is on the 18th of June, and I have my golden ticket to the event. I will let you know how it all goes, but really, I was just over the moon with the nomination, let alone being one of the finalists!
A big green hug goes to Linda who nominated me and the blog in the first place. xox
Thursday, 3 June 2010
For the last four Tuesday evenings I have been attending ACF GreenHome Community Workshops, which have been held in our shire. They have been a great success and are very well run by the GreenHome team and the volunteer ACF Community leaders, of which I am proud to say am one of. A big thank you goes out to Michele, Ross and Bruce from the ACF who organised the events and made them fun to attend.
Tuesday night we got together into groups and began working through the actions that we had decided upon in the previous weeks workshop. The three groups were;
- Community Garden in Caroline Springs
- Community Enterprise
I helped lead the Permablitz group and during the first session we wrote down ideas from everyone based around the entire theme. The Permablitz concept is basically like the TV show 'Backyard Blitz' but with two big differences. Firstly, you spend a lot of time learning about permaculture with a very hands on approach, and secondly, instead of getting an outdoor room, you make a food garden with the help of lots of other like-minded people. It can be executed very slowly or over a single weekend.
During the second session we watched a presentation given by Andrew Bray from Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions (BREAZE), about how the group formed in 2006 and how it has grown from strength to strength over the last four years. Here is a two part video of his presentation. Andrew gave me his permission to put it up on YouTube to share.
The BREAZE website (www.breaze.org.au) is a wealth of information, and even provides info about how to start a climate action group. I actually used their info to assist me when I was figuring out how to form the Melton Sustainable Living Group! It was really that helpful and made my job just a little less painful.
Andrew is a great bloke and extremely passionate about climate change and community actions. I had a great chat to him afterwards about all things community group wise and we swapped details. I do believe that our groups will keep in touch moving forward.
The third session was the prize draw for those people who had attended all four community workshops. Guess who's name was drawn out of the hat first? Yes, you guessed it, it was me! I had the choice of a worm farm or a compost bin, but as I already have two worm farms and three compost bins, with a fledgling compost heap on the go, I thought it best to decline the prize and I asked for it to be redrawn. They put my name back in the hat, and eventually I won again, this time I chose a weather strip for a door which will come in handy for the kitchen renovation that we are going through.
In the fourth session, our permablitz group (now renamed permasnail due to the fact that we won't be blitzing anything at first) refined the first four priorities for our action to be successful and to get it off the ground. Firstly, a meeting in the next two weeks, and agenda which is under way, sharing of contact details, and the list of ideas to go through at the meeting. After the first meeting, it is anyone's guess to where we end up, but I do have lots of ideas having had transformed my own suburban yard into a food forest! I dare say a visit to my urban farm for the group may be in order to help them get a better idea of what is possible over the course of a few years.
Finally, the evening ended with quick critique of all the sessions over the course of the four weeks. My presentation on the second week scored 67 out of 10 (difficult to describe I know), so I was chuffed to bits.
All of the community leaders will be catching up on a monthly basis so we can share our experiences. That will definitely keep the leadership group cohesive and the spark alive.
Last night the Melton Sustainable Living Group held an education night where we watched the documentary "Food Inc.", which was attended by 6 of us. It was an eye opening view of the way the industrial food complex. Here is a brief synopsis;
Food, Inc. is a documentary about the state of the food industry within the United States. Food is cheaper and more abundant than it has ever been, but how is this the case? We have detached ourselves from how food ends up on our plates. Food is marketed to us as if it comes from a little farm with a white fence and rolling hills but this is simply an illusion. The food actually comes from mega factory farms. Our society has cheaper food but there have been more E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks in the past twenty years than ever before and obesity and the rate of diabetes are through the roof. Food, Inc. discusses how these problems have developed, how our society’s food has evolved over the years, why our food is cheaper, where it is coming from, and the unsafe conditions from which it comes from.
Suffice to say, the conversation was very interesting after the film had finished, and it really spurred me on to grow even more of my own food as I believe that other members will as well. As I have in the past 3 years, I re-confirmed my pledge to never to visit another McDonald's restaurant ever again in my lifetime. Watch the movie and you will understand what I am on about.
Anyway, an action packed few days and I am looking forward to catching up with the new "Permasnail" group very soon and helping it grow.
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Being an advocate for the Replace Hazelwood campaign that Environment Victoria are running, I thought it would only be fitting to help plug their educational video regarding the alternatives.
It makes for a compelling argument in my view. Lets replace Hazelwood Power station with renewable energy sources of the same or greater capacity, and not only will we cut Victoria's greenhouse emissions by at least 12%, it would also fill a massive policy vacuum left behind by the delay of the CPRS. This is the chance for our politicians to gain some credibility in the lead up to the double election year (Victoria and Federal).
For more information about the solutions please visit www.replacehazelwood.org.au