Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Now this may sound a bit out there, but as I have had Skype (a free IP telephony and video service) installed for a while, I was wondering if anyone out there had the inkling to call me and ask any sustainable living questions? Even happy to have a detailed conversation about some of the big issues as I see it (PO and CC) if you really want to get deep and meaningful. Please remember, I am not offering a service for anyone to pay out on me by every Climate Change denialist out there. I can always block and hang up.
Happy to receive voice calls only if you think video is too personal, however I have video if you are really excited about seeing my mug shot moving around, but if it is late at night you might catch me in my jim jams!
My Skype address and status is on the left hand sidebar, so you will be able to tell when I am online, however if it is during the day Australian time, don't be surprised if Kim has a chat to you (or not, she is a bit shy)!
Just putting it out there if anyone wants to learn a little bit more from someone who has a little experience under his belt about living a semi-sustainable lifestyle. I like recording podcasts, but it just seems too one way for my liking.
Let me know if your are cool with a few more podcasts, or just on Skype and have a chat. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question, just a stupid answer!
A cross post today. I wrote this for the Co-op, but thought it was so good that I had to post it here as well.
As Burt Bacharach wrote “What the world needs now, is love sweet love”! Not in the physical sense, but in the community sense. Things like pride of place, which is a sense of community love or to put it in a better way, pride of where you and others around you live.
I have described previously I believe that to live fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle, you need other like minded people to share the journey with you. It is a lonely place to be in if you attempt to down-shift in isolation or take steps to build a sustainable community without others to help and to share the passion and to bounce ideas off of.
I have found that people who attempt to live this kind of lifestyle, usually are involved in at least one community group, sometimes two or three depending on their interests. This is a great way to meet like minded people, learn new skills and to build long lasting friendships. However, with these connections there comes a greater responsibility to other than self.
You have the needs, desires and well-being of others to consider. I liken it to an extended family, who care about each other, which I believe leads to a deep sense of belonging. Humans want to belong, other wise we would not have congregated into hamlets, village, towns, cities or megalopolises over the last 10,000 years.
With these communal structures in place other needs begin to become fulfilled, like security of food, water, shelter and the like. Even in bad times, a tight knit community looks out for one another.
Now, having a strong and dare I say, loving community structure is a great goal to achieve and it reminds me of the country town I grew up in. I must admit that I had forgotten about the one resource that is sustainable, renewable, abundant and is not peaking - love and compassion:
Personally, I for one will not stop caring for my community, the environment and planet Earth. I believe we can create a sustainable and peaceful future together because I truly believe in human nature.
I know we can show this planet we love it!!!
Monday, 30 August 2010
The timber that I saved from the deconstruction of our old kitchen came in handy. It was wonderful wood, nice and solid, red gum I think, which was at least as old as the house (about 40 years old). I have enough material for one more 1 x 1 metre bed which I will whip up after Sustainable House Day.
Please let me know what you think of my handy work. The only power tool I used was a drill and all the rest was constructed by hand. I will be adding the wicking part either one night this week or on Saturday. I followed the example on Scarecrows blog "Outback Edge Harvest". It has some great tips about these types of garden beds. Great information and simple to follow instructions.
The area we have selected is under cover from about noon in summer and only gets the morning sun. Idea for a salad garden and close to the back door. It should stop the lettuces from bolting fast, and keep them nice and crisp for picking at any time of day in the heat of summer. Well that is the theory anyway.
Friday, 27 August 2010
Now that there is a massive space in the lounge room left by the vacated TV we have put it to good use to dry our home made soap.
Here are a few samples of what we have created over the last few weeks. Pretty colours don’t you think? By the way, the green soap that I made in the video demonstration did not actually go very green. It is at the top left. We live and learn, but it still smells great though!
As you can see we have been experimenting by trying a marbling effect, which is quite easy to do. We split the batch of soap just before trace into two separate containers. Then we add colour to one of the batches and then layer them in the mould. Kim then ran a loop of wire through the trace once and you can see the effect on the batch on the right hand side. I think they all look great. To the rest of the batches we attempted a slight marbling effect by mixing in the colour with a balloon whisk at trace. The reason it marbles is because the whisk does not distribute the colour evenly through the entire batch, which in turn leaves white streaks in the soap. We are very happy with our efforts over the last week. It has also kept our mind off of Butch :-(
The fragrances from top to bottom are Violet & Lime, Sweet pea & Vanilla, Rose, Raspberry, and Mint Toffee. We will be selling some of them at Sustainable House Day, with 50% of the profits being donated to the Melton Sustainable Living group.
Kim is so excited about our recent success that she wants to make some more tomorrow! New smells and colour arrived in the post today. I think we are making Aqua Marine. It will remind me of my days at sea in the Navy.
I hope you take the time to come and visit and get some ideas about how to make your own home just that little bit more sustainable. The ideas you take away will most probably save you money as well! I would love to meet some of my local readers.
Monday, 23 August 2010
I am still hurting inside a little, as expected, so I will not be writing much this week. Please bare with me, as our family gets over one of life's hurdles, and I promise I will be back stronger than ever writing about all things sustainable in the very near future.
Friday, 20 August 2010
Here is how it panned out. I warn you now that I leave out no detail.
Kim rang me in a panic at about 1630 at work and told me to get home because Butch had lost the function of his hind quarter He simply collapsed due to old age. Essentially he was paralysed from the waist down, and could not walk any more. Kim rushed him to the vet with the assistance of our lovely neighbour Renata. Ben came along as well because Kim believed that it was important that he was a part of what was going on. They had to leave Holly at home by herself.
I rushed straight to the vets from the train station and was ushered into what I can only describe as a funeral parlour for pets. Kim had Butch in her arms and both Ben and her were crying. I started as well. She let me know that our vet, Gloria (one of the nicest vets I know), said that there was no guarantee that he would regain the function of his legs if he underwent an operation and that it was probably best if he was put to sleep, which is vet speak for euthanasia. Butch was 15 and half years old which was 108.5 in dog years, so the chances of him recovering were minimal indeed. So to spare him any further pain, we had a big decision to make. At this stage Renata took Ben home, as we thought it would be too much for him to bare.
So, after much deliberation we made the decision to have him put to sleep. Taking full responsibility for our decision, we spent about 15 minutes talking to Butch hoping he would forgive us, we signed the release form and the vet came in and gave him a sedative to calm him down. We gave him a final kiss and he gave us a lick each as if to tell us that it was alright. After a further 10 minutes of tears, Gloria came in with the big green needle, and Butch passed away in my lap at 1830. I balled my ears out and so did Kim, and we left soon afterwards. When we got home, Holly started looking for him, and we had to comfort her as well.
He will be returned to us in about a week cremated, and we will scatter his ashes around a fruit tree in the front yard that we will plant in his honour. He always loved to mooch around the front yard when he was around. A fitting resting place for a wonderful pet and friend.
I haven't stopped crying during this entire post, and the emotions are still raw. So as a tribute to my grumpy little teddy, here is an expose of pictures throughout his lifetime. Please indulge me.
To finish off the post here is a wonderful poem that a friend sent us.
Goodbye my friend. You are missed. Until we meet again.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Today's post is over at the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op and is titled "Planning For Spring", where I have written about all the gardening activities I performed over the weekend.
I hope you pop on over and discover what I am planning to grow this season.
Monday, 16 August 2010
I hope you enjoy our little soap making workshop. You can also watch it in High definition!
Spielberg, eat your heart out!
Sunday, 15 August 2010
I am not alone in my dislike, so it seems. Robert Llewellyn (of Red Dwarf and Scrap Heap Challenge fame), has had a go at the popular TV series. He has produced a great on-line TV show called "Fully Charged" which in my humble opinion helps to breakdown some of the myths about electric vehicles that the popular press have been tarring them with. I love the way he goes about calculating the total carbon emissions of both an EV and an ordinary internal combustion engine.
I present to you the pilot episode of "Fully Charged".
Check out Robert's YouTube Channel called fullychargedshow for further episodes. He has been posting one a week for the last month or so. A cool show and I hope he posts many more. It may even get picked up by mainstream TV. By the time I get a telly it might be showing in Australia!
Saturday, 14 August 2010
It was a breath of fresh air, it was about time that someone besides myself,other green bloggers and one or two politicians, called out that the planet is now well and truly past its human carrying limit. We have 6.8 billion humans on the planet due to cheap fossil fuels. As we hit peak everything, there is only one realistic way that the population of humans is going to go, and that is down. Growth at all costs is not sustainable for anyone. We have to break this paradigm. Australia only has 6% of its total land that is arable, and we are rapidly covering it up with housing sub-divisions. Unsustainable to say the least.
If you missed the doco on the ABC1 a few days ago like I did (no telly of course), then visit
However, as a taster, here is the first 3 minutes of the show to whet your curiosity.
And to show that he is a man of action, Dick has offered the Wilberforce Award of AUD$1,000,000. Watch what he has to say.
I was very impressed and look forward to further developments.
Music video version:
I just can't get this song out of my head! Share the love and post it up on facebook or twitter.
Thursday, 12 August 2010
- No political ad campaigns - Gavin
- No body image thoughts - Kim
- We went to the cinema as a family for the first time to see Toy Story 3 - Ben
- Saving electricity - Ben
- Get a life - real life not TV life - Ben
It was a great discussion once we had all the ideas down. Ben's ideas were refreshing and honest, and I was glad Kim has begun to notice benefits as well. Now these were just some of the upside we have noticed already. However Kim and Ben do still watch a couple of hours a day on Kim's small telly, which kind of dilute the enforced experiment.
I personally am grateful that it has broken when it has. From what I read in the papers (online of course), the election campaign is simply a slinging match without very much substance or clever policies. Both major parties seem to be vying for the marginal vote and leaving the rest of us alone. Not that I know for certain, because I have only heard this third hand. At least the Internet provides me with news on my own terms.
Further news on the TV repair front. The truck that was supposed to pick it up had an accident and will be delayed for another week. No-one is upset by that news either. Kim simply mentioned that it gave us more time to save up the cash.
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs! 12 days clean from TV and not looking back.
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Firstly, a gripping book by Clive Hamilton, "Requiem For A Species, Why We Resist The Truth About Climate Change." I read it in about three days on the train to and from work. It had the same type of influence upon me as did his previous book "Affluenza". Thought provoking, insightful, truthful, occasionally depressing, and scary. Here is an excerpt from the preface (hope he doesn't mind);
"Sometimes facing up to the truth is just too hard. When the factsI read it because I wanted to understand why change is not happening, when we damn well know that we only have a few years to start reducing carbon emissions to avoid runaway climate change. Know I have a better understanding of the barriers we all put up to resist the changes that are necessary to take the appropriate action. The Requiem is not for all the other species we are killing in the 6th mass extinction, it plays for us, the human race. All I can say is have a read. Highly recommended.
are distressing it is easier to reframe or ignore them. Around the
world only a few have truly faced up to the facts about global
warming. Apart from the climate ‘sceptics’, most people do not
disbelieve what the climate scientists have been saying about the
calamities expected to befall us. But accepting intellectually is not
the same as accepting emotionally the possibility that the world
as we know it is heading for a horrible end. It’s the same with
our own deaths; we all ‘accept’ that we will die, but it is only
when death is imminent that we confront the true meaning of
The second book is by Gwynne Dyer, "Climate Wars". The book is written in a style of part factual, and part scenario. The interviews throughout the book were personally performed by Gwynne with experts in the relevant fields. It paints a terrifying glimpse of the not too future, where world leaders may be forced into conflict due to resource scarcity and the effects of catastrophic climate change. A sobering premise, that followed on well from Requiem. We have already seen conflict over resources over the last 20 years in the form of the first oil wars, but are yet to see much that is climate related, but I stand corrected if anyone cares to highlight one.
Here is a quick review of Climate Wars by Amory Lovins;
"Anyone still complacent about climate change will find Climate Wars instructive and disturbing. These articulate insights into climate geopolitics by Gwynne Dyer are an important tool for understanding why the climate challenge is big, hard, and vital to human survival -- yet soluble if we pay attention now." --Amory B. Lovins, Time magazine's Hero of the Environment, author of Capitalism as if the World Matters, and Chairman & Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute
The scariest conflict scenario in Climate Wars that I have read so far, was the full blown nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan over water scarcity in the headwaters of the Indus River. It certainly sounded possible to this reader. Overpopulation and lack of potable water could definitely lead to tension between any countries that share rivers and lakes. Sobering to say the least, but researched well. I am only three quarters through this book, but cannot put it down.
The third and final read is not really a book, but a catalogue. Eden Seeds to be exact. After all that doom and gloom, I needed a spiritual uplift, so I have taken to the seed catalogue in preparation for my spring planting. I am hoping to try out a few new varieties this year, just for a change.
Come what may, as predicted in the first two books, I still hold hope that somehow we will get out of this mess, and I will continue to work with nature to provide my own food. If anything, call it my own little bit of self inspiration! My edible garden give me joy in an otherwise frightening world.
Monday, 9 August 2010
Today we had a visit from two judges from Keep Australia Beautiful - Sustainable Cities, for entry in the national competition. As our town, Melton, won the Victorian award for 2010, we were automatically entered into the national award as well. It is being presented in Sydney on the 1st of November. My blog was entered again, so to add a bit more context to what I write about, Linda at the council thought it was a good idea to bring them around to visit. I did also.
As I was at work all day, Kim held the fort at home and showed the judges around and told them about all the things I had written about on this blog, and basically showed them the evidence! Edible garden, solar power, chooks, fruit trees, water tank, etc.
However, in preparation for this visit (and for Sustainable House Day), we had to make the front yard presentable and put all the outdoor furniture and plants back up on the deck now that I have finished oiling it and do a general tidy up.
Kim and I worked for 5 hours on Saturday, weeding the golden oxalis out of all the garden beds in the front yard, I planting two new fruit trees to replace some that didn't make it through last summer. I even broke out the lawn mower which I haven't used in 6 months to mow the nature strip. The clippings didn't go to waste, as the chickens loved them. Kim trimmed back some ivy around the front wall and the wheelbarrow got filled many times over. Normally, I just would have let the golden oxalis die back as the weather go hotter, but because of the broken water pipe, it was just going feral and had to be pulled out.
On Sunday, after my visit to the gym, we got stuck into tidying up the veggie patch and the chicken garden. Another 4 hours work. Not too much to do, just a general clean up now that the builders had departed. I also put up some metal wall hangings that were given to us by friends, which looked lovely. We then cleared the garage area and put all the paint tins and brushes in the shed. We had planned to build a potato tower, and make some soap, but time got away from us. However, we did find the time to sit back and partake in a few bottles of home brew cider!
Anyway, Kim had a bit of time on her hands today before the judges turned up, and took these photos. Here they are in no specific order. (click to enlarge)
The deck area with some of the wall hangings
Just as you walk in the gate to the left.
Down the path towards the garage.
Logan berry and rhubarb (not yet up for spring).
Garlic getting bigger.
Broad Beans (fava)
Another shot of the deck
Still some mandarins on the tree.
The onion and beetroot beds, and of course the greenhouse.
The nice, weed free front yard. It only took 7 wheelbarrow loads to clear it!
Kim's ivy trimming handiwork.
A new nectarine tree. It was bare rooted, and was near bud burst so I had to get it into the ground this weekend.
A new golden delicious apple tree. One of my favourite types of apple. I put it next to a Cox Orange Pippin so they pollinate each other.
Over the fence is the freshly mowed medium strip aka chicken feed.
The Jonathan apple in front of the Blood Plum tree. The plum tree is just about to flower. Note the passion fruit vine climbing across the top of the tree. I am hoping it gets to the top of the chook house so that it adds a bit more shade to it. I have to buy another passion fruit vine for cross pollination, and will pick it up this weekend.
So as you can see all nice and tidy, and the fruit tree count is now up to 23 different types. 13 in the ground and 10 in large pots. 7 are already producing fruit, and hopefully we will get some apricots and apples this year as they are now 3 years old.
Did I mention that our house will be open to the public on Sustainable House Day on the Sunday, 12th September? Should be great fun, and the Sustainable Living Group will be helping out on the day. Kim is not going to let anyone in the house itself (don't blame her), so it will be one big circuit of the garden with all the green features on display that we have retrofitted to our home. Check out www.sustainablehouseday.com for other homes in your area. I think that mine will be posted up in the next few days.
Anyway, enough fun for one post. I hope everyone's weekend was as fruitful as ours.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
It was a monster, I know. Not very green, I know. I bought it back in 2004, two years before my green awakening. The good thing is that it only used 175 watts, which is remarkable considering its size. I have been doing a bit of research since its demise, and have come to realise a few things;
A. They do not make rear projection TV's any more.
B. The repairman does not know if he can get the parts to fix it.
C. We have to pay $154 to have it taken away, get it assessed for the fault and returned in the same condition. To get it repaired, it may cost up to $2000. I only paid $2600 for it. That is designed obsolescence for you!
D. It would cost at least $4500 to get a new LED lit LCD of similar size, which is money we just do not have.
We have also come to a few conclusions so far this week in its absence.
0. We eat dinner together as a family every night!
1. I did not watch TV normally, but Kim and Ben watch about 2 hours a day.
2. I do not miss it at all, and have set up a small LCD that was given to us in Kim's study.
3. I am not going to buy a new TV the same size as the old one.
4. The only reason I will replace it eventually, is because I like watching the odd movie on the weekend in my downtime.
5. I am not going to rush out and buy a replacement on credit. We will save up for one, and decide in a few months time.
Other than those reasons, I personally would opt not to replace it at all (I know Kim is going to kill me for writing this). I hate commercial TV at the best of times, and believe that TV ads are a form of brainwashing that keeps you feeling bad enough about yourself that you are mentally coerced to buy more stuff. We all know from my posts on Affluenza that it is just not so. We can be happy without buying new stuff all the time. Considering the drivel that they pass up as entertainment these days, I am better off without it.
If you want to watch reality TV, just turn it off and talk to your own family. They do far more interesting things than those psychotic individuals and families shown on those shows any day of the week.
If you want to watch a gardening show, just go out into your yard and plant something yourself. That is reality for you.
If you want to watch MasterChef, get into the kitchen, open a cookbook and experiment yourself. That is reality for you.
Laying on the couch watching TV never did anyone any good anyway, nor motivated them to whip up a gourmet meal just because they saw it on the tube.
If it wasn't for Dr Who, there wouldn't be anything decent to watch anyway!
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Please join me over at the Co-op.
Monday, 2 August 2010
See. Even Mother Nature agrees with me. Solar power is like gold at the end of the rainbow. In fact she likes it so much she made two rainbows that landed on the solar array!
A picture is worth a thousand words! (Click to enlarge)
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Anyway, please drop on by the ACF GreenHome website and read the article about "My Journey - Gavin Webber".