Sunday, January 30, 2011

Finding ways to cool down as it warms up

With the holidays drawing to a close and the weather warming up we have been spending time in and around water - a lifestyle I think the kids would be happy to continue with.

First we met up with Tricia and Little Eco up at Myall Lakes National Park - pop across to Tricia's page for some wonderful pictures. No TV, no computer and no MP3 players for 4 days - it was great to sit back and watch the kids just play and explore.

Of course we did do a lot of swimming....

There was lots of quiet time... here the kids were making the most of Grandma time - drawing and playing hangman....

We took the opportunity to take in the natural environment through a couple of short walks...

Once back home in Orange we spent the evenings at Lake Canobolas.. the kids tested their skills in a kayaks and can't wait to get back out again.

Sadly it is the last day of the holidays... and school goes back tomorrow and we all go back to work in earnest.  It has been great to get out and enjoy a range of activities over the summer break - so much of it was outdoors, non-technological and overall very refreshing. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Taking the opportunity to explore

Recently we made the trip into the Blue Mountains to pick up Dad from an afternoon train from Sydney - we took the opportunity to head across to the mountains early and do a walk. We did the Grand Canyon walk near Blackheath in the Blue Mountains National Park.

Apparently the track was first opened in 1907. On talking to my Mum she walked it on her honeymoon forty plus years ago. It was a great walk with a lot of the track cut into the side of the cliffs of the canyon and although it is fairly short - about five kilometres you get to climb up and down lots of steps. With the kids we took about 4 hours to do the walk - our littlest walked the whole distance without being carried and was that determined to be the first to finish the walk she nearly ran up all the steps out of the canyon.

Here the kids are descending into the canyon.

Walking along the bottom of the gorge just before getting to the steep edged canyon.

Lots of the creek crossings have been recently upgraded ... a fantastic job by the National Parks.

Stopping at one of the many waterfalls along the way.

Descending into more dark, wet forests.

The track along the valley floor.

Rock-hopping along the creek.

Dad was very jealous that he was commuting instead of doing the walk with us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

As a new school year approaches

With the school holidays nearing an end I have started getting the boys ready to return to school.

This year we are trialling new rubbish-free lunchboxes.  We had rubbish free lunch boxes last year but I returned them to the manufacturer because the hinges broke after only a few weeks of use - we got new replacements but they too broke.  This year I have found lunchboxes that have no hinges or clips and are dishwasher safe, have no BPA and are easy for the kids to use (especially our preschooler).  Here's hoping that these work better and we will get years of use out of them - the kids love being rubbish free for lunches and snacks at school.

We are also going to trial reusable sandwich and snack wraps this year - to try to eliminate paper lunch bag use all together this year (sometimes I have to put the kids wraps or sandwiches in a paper lunch bag to prevent them falling apart).

Last year I got the boys to choose pencils from our pencil tin at home - we did this for most of the year and we have used most of our old pencils up - it always amazes me how many pencils get sharpened away to nothing in a school year.

This year we have tried to buy pencils and stationary that is either recycled or made from sustainable sources - it is great to see the choice of "eco-stationary" increasing in the shops. 

I have not found any "eco-coloured markers" yet.... does anyone know where I can get some?

Footnote: as requested some further information on where to get the sandwich wraps... I got these ones from here, but you can get them from here and here and here and I am sure many more online shops. Julie at Towards Sustainability also made her own - check them out here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sometimes it is just nice to reflect on what has been achieved

The photos below reflect the changes we have made to our yard in a little over 3 years... it really inspired me to find the old photos. 
The backyard when we bought the house in winter 2007

Same view - summer 2011

Our littlest infront of the apricot tree in 2007....

and in front of the same apricot tree in summer 2011..

The front yard as it was when we first saw the house in 2007...

and now in the summer of 2011. 

I am so glad that I found these old photos of our does highlight what can be achieved in a relatively short period of time - in this case about 3 and a half years.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our compost is cooked

Back in the middle of winter last year the kids helped me build a compost pile - this is what it looked like then - lots of layers - we had straw and shredded paper from the chook pen, some weeds, some of the dirt from the floor of the chookpen, lucerne straw, lawn clippings.  We piled it up high and left it.

Last weeked we used our lovely composted soil as a top layer in some new raised beds - the lower half of the beds were filled with aged garden mulch straw bales.

Look at those healthy worms in the new soil.

Here is our youngest boy planting out some seeds into the fresh rich soil in one of our raised garden beds.

And just a week on..... the climbing beans are really taking off..

This has really inspired us to build more compost heaps to create more soil - it's so much nicer than anything you can get in a bag from a garden supply centre.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Holiday juggling fun

The boys spent the afternoon making some juggling balls and then refining their juggling skills.

We found some old balloons in the cupboard along with some rice and a funnel.  For each juggling ball we used about a half a cup of rice and three or four balloons.

We filled the first balloon with rice using a funnel.

Then we cut the neck off two or three extra balloons and used the shortened balloons to cover the first rice filled balloon.

With a few extra balloons over the rice filled balloon the juggling balls are ready for use.

Now to brush up on those juggling skills....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflections of 2010

It is hard to believe that we have had our family blog going for nearly a year now - our first post was after a hectic Christmas break in the 2009 - 2010 summer holidays - the catalyst for a more sustainable way of living.  Our goals for 2010 were simple and relatively undefined - we wanted to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle.

As broad as our goals were I feel that we have made lots of small changes that are contributing to a more sustainable life for us.  Here are some of our highlights -


We have become more involved with our local community groups.  I completed a Permaculture Design Certificate last year which has resulted in the formation of a local permaculture group - Central West Permaculture and we are having fun participating in Permablitzes at various members places and are now starting to organise seminars and workshops for 2011.

We are regular participants in the community garden working bees at the ELF in Orange. Through our involvement in both of these groups we are meeting a wide range of people trying to achieve similar goals which has been inspiring.

The kids in particular really enjoyed the plastic weaving workshops we went to and are now getting ready to create things for the 2011 Waste to Art competition.


We are looking at our areas of consumption and trying to find ways to lesson the impacts. 

Firstly we reduced the amount of single use and plastic packaging that comes into our household and are looking for ways to reuse the waste that comes into our household - for example shredding old mail and personal papers for use as bedding material for our chooks.

Water use has been audited at our house.  We are also looking at ways to further reduce our consumption of town water and to manage water on our urban block.  Thanks to a local council water saving initiative we got water saving tap fittings and a shower installed early in 2010.

We have been trying to reduce power consumption and are looking for better ways to manage our power consumption. 

We have purchased more clothing from the local op shops and I am proud to say that since making a set of hankies for everyones use we have only purchased tissues for the boys to take into school for use in their classrooms. 

The kids love their rubbish free lunches and Dad takes lunch to work more often.  Dad also uses his Keep Cup for those work coffee refills.

We try to be more efficient with our cooking and have a sun oven (OK when the sun shines!) and a pressure cooker - both have been a worthwhile investment. 

I made a pledge to make my home office more green - using recycled paper, using less paper, lights changed to CFLs and switched off etc.


On the food front we preserved nearly all our fruit, jam and tomato sauce for 2010. 

We are buying a much higher percentage of local and organic foods, with less packaging. 

When buying coffee and chocolate we only get those that are endorsed by Fairtrade or the equivalent. 

We choose organic and non-homogenised milk, free range (and organic when available) chicken meat and shop at the monthly farmers markets.

Our olive oil comes from a ranges of producers that I know personally from the Orange and Parkes districts.


We have been building up the fruit and vegetable gardens in our back yard and have enjoyed a great harvest of a range of things from berries to cauliflowers to lettuce and greens.  The kids have become involved in the garden and I often spot them out in the yard "stealing" fresh goodies.


The introduction of TV and technology free Tuesdays and Thursdays to our house has been a great success.  I like that the kids tell Dad to turn the TV or computer off - it gives us more time for games, quiet time and homework.  We have also been trying to get the kids out and about more - whether it be down to the park on their scooters or out in the bush and among nature.

Of course we have achieved more that what I have highlighted here, but I still feel there is so much more to be done.  Over the next week or so we will be working out where we would like to go and what we would like to achieve for 2011.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Getting back on deck after the Christmas break

I have been very reluctant to start working on the computer after the Christmas break... but as I start back at work next week I thought I would start back on our blog.  I hope you have all had a great break with family and friends.

I have chosen to start the year by simply sharing some photos we took on our break.

A post flood Castlereagh River at Gilgandra.

Washed out bridge near Coonabarabran.

Christmas Bells (Blandfordia nobilis (Blandfordiaceae) Liliaceae) in Washpool National Park.

Straddling the border.

Decorating the Gingerbread House...

Walking along the coastal rocks on the Suunshine Coast - trying to find some nature in a very built up area.

A wet walk in the forest inland from the Sunshine Coast.

Among the giant Bunya Pines and Hoop Pines at Bunya Mountain National Park.

We all had fun exploring so much over the break.  We are now catching up on gardening and making the most of what is left of the holidays before school goes back.