Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brrrrr...... making the most of cold mornings

Here in the Central Tablelands this week we are having the best frosts I've seen for a while - down to -5C!!

Here's the water dripping (?) into our water tank...

So I have ventured outdoors on these very cool mornings and taken photos of where the frost has settled...

... trying in particular to find spots where the frost hadn't settled heavily... these may be spots where I can plant more frost sensitive plants...

Under some of my taller trees out the front there was a small patch of lighter frost - the grass wasn't white here!

In the back yard I found a few spots with a lighter frost - near the bricks of the back ramp and around the lemon tree and rainwater tank.  The chooks have a fairly sheltered spot under some trees and shrubs. 

However, with the intensities of these frosts - there have been very few spots that have not been white in the morning.

We still have more frosts forcast for this week...... have you worked out where the frosts settles in your garden?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A trip to Warrren

I had to travel to Warren to teach this week and I thought I would share with you some of the highlights.

Firstly, I enjoy driving to a teaching location such as Warren as it gives me some "me" time to think and process my ideas and thoughts without being interrupted by the kids... not "green" I know to have to travel such distances but it doesn't occur very often.  I also intend to offset the kilometres I spend on the road for work through my 10 Point Green Home Office Pledge.

On my arrival in Warren the night before teaching - just on dark  - I was working on my computer in the motel room and I heard a "barking " noise outside .... sounded like three or more "somethings" barking at each other - and no it wasn't the local dogs.  At first thought I was thinking possum or owl but they just didn't sound right.  On talking to Dad when I got home we have decided that I was in fact listening to "Barking Marsh Frog" - Limnodynastes fletcheri.  If you visit the linked page you will be able to play a recording of its call and see exactly why it's called a Barking Marsh Frog. 

Limnodynastes fletcheri - The Barking Grass Frog

Here is the lovely old building that I had for our class - we were nestled in on the banks of the Macquarie River... According to local council's "Tour of  Warren"- The Orana Community College (TAFE) occupies the old primary school buildings which were updated and reopened in 1983.

On my drive home I called in at a rest area to have a quick look at the Macquarie River.... not very exciting you may think...

But I was excited to find three scarred trees within 20 metres of the car... it shows a long history of occupation and importance of this site. 

This is the river at the roadside rest area - it has lots of snags for native fish habitat.

The trees below are Aboriginal scarred trees... what were they used for?  Who put them there? And how old are they?

The third tree may have European significance as it has an old nail in the middle and the scar tissue around the blaze hasn't grown back as much... I should have looked more closely for the axe marks on the scar.

Finally, there is nothing better than a sunset in the plains out west....

Monday, June 21, 2010

The last of our homegrown tomatoes

The frosts (some down to -4C) over the last couple of weeks finally got our tomatoes... so in a last effort to make the most of our tomatoes we harvested all the small green unripe cherry tomatoes last weekend...


Some we sat on the window sill to ripen in the sun...

Others we made into Green Tomato Chutney, Green Tomato Relish and even Green Tomato Sauce....

My favourite was the Green Tomato Relish (on the left below).....

I made it using a recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly published "The Book of Preserves" on page 103.

Did you get any green tomatoes at the end of your tomato season this year? 

What did you do with your Green Tomatoes? 

Do you have a favourite green tomato recipe?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An easy way to get trees planted

Recently, CENTROC* - a body of Central NSW Councils (Centroc) launched the Shiny Halo Blog – an initiative to encourage action for a more resilient future.

* CENTROC - involving the Local Government Areas of Bathurst, Blayney, Boorowa, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Harden, Lachlan, Lithgow, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Upper Lachlan, Weddin , Wellington, Young and Central Tablelands Water.

The blog features stories on individuals, businesses, community groups, schools and organisations and how they are contributing to making a more resilient community.  Some of the stories to date have included:
In the words of the blog - "The Shiny Halo is also an opportunity for you to share and find useful ideas, experiences and inspiration. Each week we’ll be putting up new articles about the inspiring and often groundbreaking actions being taken by Councils, Businesses, Community Groups, Organisations, Schools and Individuals in Central NSW. Then, on the 29th July 2010, we’ll be presenting the Inaugural Country Energy Shiny Halo Awards for each of these categories at the Centroc Summit at the Mount. (Centroc is the Regional Organisation of Councils in Central NSW, Australia.)"

By leaving a comment on any of the stories or as a general comment on the Tree Xchange and sharing an action that you have undertaken you can get a tree planted in the CENTROC area.  How easy is that - I have many trees planted already.

So please log on and "let us know of any positive things you’ve done, or are doing, to help build social and/or environmental resilience, and we’ll plant a tree for you in our region. Anyone, from anywhere in the world, is welcome to get involved in this project and every time you add a new comment about something you’ve done (in the section at the end of each article), we’ll plant another tree for you!"

What an exciting initiative.... so check out the Shiny Halo Blog now...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Refilled printer cartridges

As part of my 10 point green home office pledge I made a committment to refilling our printer ink cartridges instead of throughing them away and buying new ones.  I had tried refilling cartridges at home but I found it messy and fiddly - so now I just drop my empty printer cartridges into Cartridge World and they swap them over with some already refilled cartridges - for nearly half the cost of buying a new cartridge and no waiting.  How great is that!  On the Cartridge World website there is a savings calculator where you can work out how much money you can save over a year by refilling you printer cartridges - try it out.

Just in case you need further convincing of the benefits of refilling cartridges here are some facts  taken directly from the Cartridge World website - 
  • In 2008, 1.9 billion printer cartridges used worldwide.
  • In 2008, 450,000 tons of cartridges used worldwide.
  • If stacked end-to-end, all of the printer cartridges used in 2008 would measure 140,000 miles. That’s more than 5 and a half times around the world.
  • Laser printer cartridges account for over 90% of all throw-away cartridges
  • A laser cartridge thrown into landfill can take up to 450 years to decompose
And for those of you that are watching in horrow as the BP oil spill continues the plastic in each new laser toner cartridge takes three and a half quarts (approx. 15.91 liters) of oil to produce while each new inkjet cartridge requires two and a half ounces (~ 70 ml) of oil.  We should be acting as consumers to decrease our use of oils in our everyday products.

If our cartdridges cannot be refilled we will send them into Planet Ark for recycling - to date they have collected and recycled 12,433,532 - with the number going up as you read.  Here is a groovy little poster explaining the process of recycling printer cartridges at Planet Ark - which is zero waste to landfill program.

Hoping you too can refill or recycle your ink cartridges too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some old fashioned marbles..

The kids have really enjoyed their "No TV Tuesdays" and tonight we explored the old fashioned game of marbles.

So simple and yet so much fun!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The health of our food

Through my Landcare work we recently hosted a series of seminars with ex-CSIRO scientist Dr Maarten Stapper. These seminars really began to bring home to me the issues with declining food quality in our modern world.  "Fresh" produce is being grown, processed and stored in ways so that it's nutritional value has been destroyed or substantially lessened.

As a follow on from these seminars this week I have been watching snippets of the film Food Inc and are hoping that the film will make it's way to a nearby cinema soon.

One person that has been shot into the international spotlight following the release of this film is US organic farmer from Polyface Farms - Joel Salatin.   Joel Salatin was interviewed on Landline earlier in the week - I missed it on TV but have just watched the episode online - Food for Thought.

In the interview it was said that Joel has been labelled as "a bio-terrorist and it's true he's urging revolution, all the way from the farm to the supermarket shelves".  It is great that we have people willing to preach the stories of food health but it is also important that we take action ourselves as individuals.

Our need to take individual action was highlighted in another comment that was raised in the Landline episode by an Australian organic farmer Fiona Chambers - "If the consumer goes to the supermarket and just constantly chooses the cheapest possible product then that's what farmers are going to be driven to produce. So don't point the finger at the farmers. It comes back to the consumers."

So I guess it is time that we all take action for the sake of the health of our food and ourselves.

We as a family are trying to buy food based on these principles:
- locally produced and fresh
- organic where possible
- lowest level of processing (e.g., wholegrain or raw ingredients)
- to have a regular supply of fruit and vegies from our backyard

We will try to get to the Orange Farmers Markets around soccer this weekend and I would like to spend some much needed time in our vegie patch if it's not too cold - feels like its nearly snowing here.

I also have a couple more books to add to my must read pile - Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Words and how we read them!

A palindrome reads the same backwards as forward. This video reads the exact opposite backwards as forward. Not only does it read the opposite, the meaning is the exact opposite..

This is only a 1 minute, 44 second video and it is brilliant. Make sure you read as well as listen......forward and backward.

This is a video that was submitted in a contest by a 20-year old. The contest was titled "u @ 50" by AARP. This video won second place.. When they showed it, everyone in the room was awe-struck and broke into spontaneous applause. So simple and yet so brilliant.

Take a minute and watch it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A nice mother and daughter Friday

I have been working a lot lately so took the chance on Friday to spend some time with our littlest.  We visited the library and got some books, played in some open space, had lunch with Dad and then visited one of our local op shops.
outside the library....

picking flowers for Mum....

We found some "new" warm PJ's for Mum and the kids... some for this year plus a couple for our littlest for next year when she is bigger.

But my favourite find was a long pure wool overcoat.... just what I will need for my Saturdays over winter watching the boys play soccer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My 10 point Green Home Office Pledge

I work from home a lot .. preparing for teaching and coordiniating local Landcare activities.  While working from home helps to reduce impacts associated with commuting daily and I am able to prepare my own lunch rather that purchasing lunches etc - I am horrified at the amount of office supplies that we go through in an office.  I guess this is bought about by the fact that we purchase and dipose of all of these materials.

We have already implemented a few things around the house to try to make our home office activities more sustainable.  We keep all our used one-sided and we reuse it or the kids use it for drawing.  Our paper that is used on both sides goes in a box to be shredded for bedding for the chooks - and then into the compost and finally into the garden. 

I have made the kids go through their pencil tins at home to get pencils for school rather than buying new packets of pencils. 

But we recognise that there are many more things that can be done.

I researched Office Sustainability Pledges on the internet and  found a range of good ideas - have a look at these - pledge by Harvard University, the Philadelphia Green Office Pledge and  the Australian National University runs a Green Office Program.  At the Australian National University ANUGreen (Sustainability Office) also have some great case studies of what is being implemented across the a range of departments at the University. 

So I have made a 10 point Green Home Office Pledge to make our home office activities more sustainable.

1.  Use once-used-paper for drafts where possible and ALL note taking.
2.  Use environmentally responsible paper with at least 50% recycled content.
3.  To double side and reduce paper use when photocopying/printing.
4.  To provide more resources as electronic copies thereby reducing the amount of paper used in the first place.
5  To refill printer cartridges rather than buying new cartridges and to recycle any old cartridges that cannot be refilled. NO cartridges to be sent to landfill.
6. To manage power consumption better.  Switch off appliances when not in use and activate power save mode.  Turn off lights when we leave the room and only have as many lights on as you need.
7.  To subscribe to or use green power (renewable energy supplies).
8. To replace the halogen downlights in the office with a more efficient compact fluorescent or LED options.
9.  To offest any mileage that I undertake through work realted activities.
10.  Where possible buy pens, pencils and textas that are either made from recycled materials or are recyclable.

What do you do in your office or home office to make it more "green"?

Are you willing to join the 10 point Green Home Office Pledge as well?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sampling the local wines, cider and beer

I have been working too much over the last fortnight - family life is struggling - the house is a mess - but it was nice to come home last night after two intense days of teaching plant identification and enjoy some local wine.

We are part of a wine syndicate the Dad's work which gives us access to a great range of Australian wines.  We have ordered wines seasonally for the last 5 years or so - but for our last order I decided to reduce our wine syndicate order and source some of our local wines, cider and beer.  It has been a worthwhile choice and we will continue to sample from the wide range of vineyards around Orange - this has truly been a great spin off from our relocation to Orange a few years ago.

I thought it appropriate to mention some of our local bargains and great drinks we have found to date.

Starting with bargains - Totally Local sources local clean skins to put their stickers on - for around $10 a bottle these are a bargain.

Being in Orange however we have enjoyed exploring the local Sauvignon Blancs and cider.

My favourite local drop at the moment is the Brangayne Sauvignon Blanc and Mayfield Vineyard's Icely Road Sauvignon Blanc.  With the large choice around Orange we are still sampling the local produce and I am sure their will be more favourites put on my list.  We have also been enjoying some of the local apple ciders produced by Small Acres Cyder.

Dad enjoys a wide range of local reds - some of his favourites being from Word of Mouth on the slopes of Mt Canobolas and Printhie near Molong.

Within the 100 mile diet radius of Orange we are also able to pick up locally brewed beer from the Mudgee Brewing Company

Do you have a favourite local drop?