Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mary river DAMN

This letter arrived in the post today. Ages ago, I emailed the premier my opinions on the proposed Traveston dam. I am glad that I got a response, but it does nothing to allay my concerns.

Basically, I said in my email, Brisbane residents do not want the devastation of an ecosystem on their consciences every time they have a glass of water. We don't want our endangered species in a zoo, or a "scientific research facility", we want them in our landscape, enriching the planet.

I suggested some simple, constructive ideas in my email, for example, spending the millions of dollars on residential and commercial grey water systems, water tanks and fixing leaks, instead.

Brisbane does not have a rainfall problem, it has a rain harvesting problem!

I look at huge shopping complexes, such as Westfield Chermside and all I see is hundreds of square meters of rooftop catchment being wasted. What about all those toilets and handbasins in commercial buildings? A large waste water treatment system, such as Biolytix, could capture and reuse that water.

It doesn't make sense to me, that the solution for a drought, is relying even more heavily on rainfall. Dams are an inefficient way to harvest and store water. The large surface area means that in our hot, sunny climate the dam will suffer huge losses from evaporation. Also, the runoff that the dam captures, could have manure and fertilisers in it, which means the water will have to undergo a series of expensive treatment processes before it is drinkable. All of that, just to get flushed down some Mcmansion owning @#%$er's toilet.

For more information and actions you can take go to:
you could also join this group:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fridge words

I love fridge words and the stream of consciousness poetry that some people create with them. However, I do not love the price. :)

So in the spirit of anti-consumerism and "refuse to consume", I made my own. Use any words you like, mine all lean towards ethics, creativity and politics. Include pronouns, adverbs and determiners, if you want to make up a narrative. Try to be creative. Pick strange words, e.g. "dastardly", or "autohagiographer". Pick a theme, use words from a poem or quote you love, or only pick silly sounding words.You can also include names of friends, family and pets. If you've got kids who have sight words or spelling lists to memorise, you could make them a set. Hmmm, fun, (yawn) better yet get them to make their own!

  • Sturdy card board or construction paper. I got some sheets for Christmas from my Mum and Dad, they came wrapped around a piece card board, I don't know why. I kept the card board, as you do.
  • Magnetic strip. I used strips of magnets from off the back of those ubiquitous calendars politicians and real estate agents bombard you with at this time of year. Promotional magnets and magnetic business cards would work well, too. They are surprisingly easy to cut with normal scissors.
  • Pens, Pencil, Ruler, Scissors, Glue. I used Glustick, but I would recommend using something a bit stronger, maybe UHU power stick, or craft glue. The magnets are slick, so you need something that will adhere to plastic.
  • List of words.

Step 1: Write your words onto your cardboard. My handwriting is notoriously messy, so instead of trying (and not succeeding) to make all my letters neatly identical, I used a variety of pens and font styles. If you like, you could print out your list , then glue the paper onto your cardboard.

Step 2: Stick your magnetic strips to the back of the cardboard. Tip: Do this before you cut out individual words, working with one large piece of cardboard and a few pieces of magnetic strip is easier than dozens of teeny pieces of cardboard and magnet!

Step 3: Cut out the individual words.

Voila! Fridge words! Have fun :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Soap Box Rant

This post by Jerry Coleby-Williams, showing the effects of the recent king tide in Brisbane, Australia, (my home town,) got me thinking about rising sea levels and global warming in general.

Jerry commented that even if we were at 0% carbon emissions today, sea levels would continue to rise, due to a kind of delayed reaction to the carbon already in the atmosphere.

People smarter than I am, (here and here) say a global temperature rise of at least 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) is inevitable, and that unless we do something right now, temperatures (and by inference sea levels) are likely to keep rising.

Mark Lynas in his book Six degrees: Our future on a hotter planet (Published 19 March 2007 by Fourth Estate, HarperCollins) gives a blow by blow account of the possible effects each degree of warming would have on the planet and on us. I recommend this book, although it has scared the pants off me! It is written so that the general public can make sense of the myriad scientific studies into climate change, with out their brains turning to mush.

We should reduce our personal emissions as much as it is in our power to do, right now, as well as lobby for stricter carbon emissions policies. Hello, Kevin? 5%, not good enough, mate.

People, like my family, who are looking at buying property, should consider future global warming impacts when deciding where to buy. We need to seriously consider that 2 degrees will happen in my lifetime and my grandchildren may face worse.

For example, sub tropical and tropical areas, (all of QLD) while experiencing long periods of drought, will experience periods of extreme storm activity. Cyclones may travel as far south as Sydney. The inland and southern parts of Australia will be subjected to increasing desertification. All coastal areas will be subjected to rising sea levels. See here and here for maps that show areas that may be inundated by rising sea levels.

That really doesn't leave much inhabitable land in Australia. I won't tell you where we have decided to buy, otherwise everyone will want to move there, driving land values out of our reach! ;)

Global warming may affect decisions on where to live in other ways, for example:
  • Increased spread of diseases, like malaria, dengue fever, cholera and so on. A lot of diseases need certain conditions to survive, such as warmth, humidity, overcrowding and poor sanitation infrastructure.
  • Food shortages. Global warming will change where crops can be grown, the amount of area available for growing crops, as well as the growing seasons, the types of crops able to be grown and the way important food crops are distributed.
  • Water shortages. Increased severity and occurrences of drought will affect availability of water. Areas affected by floods and cyclones will experience problems with the quality of water, due to salinity, or compromised sanitation and sewerage systems.
  • Civil unrest/Terrorism/War. Governments will not be able cope with a lot of the problems caused and/or exacerbated by global warming, this could lead to civil unrest, riots and even war. Social and economic problems will most likely increase worldwide, contributing to increased terrorist and criminal activity. Consider anecdotes about the behaviour of civilians and officials after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, to realise what an increase in natural disasters could lead to, even in supposedly "developed" nations.

I am not trying to be excessively morbid here. I would just like to explain some of the reasons I feel that caring for the planet is so important.

In order to avoid these outcomes we need to reduce our impact on the planet as much as we possibly can:
  • By reducing our personal dinosaur juice addiction,
  • by not succumbing to excessive consumption, and
  • by being as self reliant as possible. (By self reliance, I don't mean rely only on yourself, we will always need family, friends and community. I mean don't rely on the government/mega corporations/science to fix, or change anything. Rely on your own instincts, judgement and skills, don't be an environmental lemming.)
Ok, ok, I'll hop down off the soap box now. :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

An unexpected visitor

I was making toast for my little man the other day. I reached into the cupboard to get a plate and got a surprise: This little guy was sitting on our plates!
(sorry about photo quality, I used my mobile phone, no time to get the camera.)

He hissed at me, and puffed his body up trying to look like a scary snake. It took me a second to realise he was just a scared baby blue tongue. He was only about 10 centimetres (4 inches) long, but he made me jump, that's for sure!

It took ages for me to corner him and get him into a salad bowl (the closest thing to a bucket I had within arms reach.) I was afraid the Great Black and White Hunter (our cat) might find him. (The dumb cat will calmly watch mice eat his biscuits, but he loves to chase lizards.)

Then once I had baby blue tongue safely in the salad bowl, hiding under a handful of mulch from the garden, I had to figure out what to do with him. We have huge, nearly 60 centimetre (2 feet) long blue tongues in our back yard, living in our compost. It's nice and warm there with lots of snails and worms, perfect blue tongue habitat. I just wasn't sure how friendly these big guys would be to my little guy. What if blue tongues are fiercely territorial, and by releasing him in my backyard, I was sending this baby to his doom?

I made a quick call to the RSPCA 1300 animal hotline. Even though it wasn't technically an emergency, the operator was extremely helpful. I was reassured that he would be O.K. Blue tongues are quite gentle, and very timid. The operator pointed out that the adults down the back were probably his parents. Duh, why didn't I think of that? He had to have come from somewhere! We both had a bit of a giggle about the fact that some how he had made it up two stories and into our kitchen cupboard. That's one intrepid baby blue tongue.

Two days later, Handsome Husband was moving the wheely bins, and let out a girly squeal, ahem, I mean a manly shout. I ran outside to rescue him, I mean, to see what was wrong, and there was Baby Blue Tongue. He was doing his hissing act, puffing up to his full 10 centimetres (4 inches). I laughed at HH, who was backed up against the fence, picked the lizard up in an old shirt and let it go down the back again. At least I know it hasn't been eaten yet.
Here is one of my 2009 goals completed. Home made Sour-dough bread according to this recipe. The dough is extremely wet and a bit gloopy. You really need to flour your hands. The finished loaf looks great though, (and smells great, wish I could waft it your way). The texture was quite airy, even though (because?) it hadn't been kneaded. This recipe is great, because you make up a batch, then leave it alone until you want bread. The texture is chewy and substantial, unlike supermarket bread that can dissolve on your tongue like fairy floss (cotton candy.) My Handsome Husband and I ate it straight from the oven, still warm, smothered in butter and honey. *groan of pleasure*

One benefit of this method is the dough keeps for two weeks, so it is always on hand ready to go. Today, my MIL came over for dinner, but by 5pm I still hadn't figured out what to cook. Then I realised I already had dough sitting in the fridge. Perfect, I'll make pizzas. Mmmm, so yum. One of the main reasons we rarely have pizza, is because you need to plan ahead a few hours. My usual dough recipe needs to be kneaded and left to double in size twice before you can turn it into bread or pizza bases. This can take all afternoon! With this recipe, you pull a lump of dough out of the fridge, roll it out and plop your toppings on. So simple! Who needs soggy frozen pizzas or greasy store bought ones?

My Pizza sauce:
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup BBQ sauce (or steak sauce)
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 handfull of fresh herbs (We have basil, oregano and chives. Sometimes I will put a pinch of rosemary and/or thyme in as well. Anything will work, really.)

Chop/process/pound herbs until the flavour is released.
Mix all ingredients in a covered bowl or screw top jar, and refridgerate until you need it. Don't keep it for much more than 24 hours though, it might grow legs and walk away.

Our Favourite toppings:
Pitted Kalamata olives
Grilled eggplant
Fetta cheese (an extra kick for the grownups)
Pineapple (for the boys)
fresh/semidried tomato
Grilled capsicum (char the capsicum by slicing it and placing it on highest setting of your grill, really burn the skin black! Let the capsicum cool enough to touch and then peel off the blackened skin. You will be left with a bright red, slippery piece of capsicum, that tastes smoky and so sweet.)
chopped onion or shallots
Top everything with lots of grated cheese. We use bocconcini or mozarella if we are feeling rich, but any mild, melting cheese works fine.

P.S. Making your own pizza means it is really easy to cater for finicky eaters. It is so simple to just keep the eggplant, or the onions, or whatever, to one side of a pizza. Use a long piece of chive on top of the cheese to show the halfway mark. Can you believe pizza chains charge extra for half and half pizzas?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A new year begins.

Well, the first week of 2009 is over.
I'm not one for making new years resolutions, mainly because I either break them or forget them. Instead, I plan, I dream and I formulate goals.

Some of my goals for 2009:

  • As always to reduce, reduce, reduce my family's impact on the planet. (This is the main goal I have and most of the other goals are related to this.)
  • Reduce the amount of processed food my family eats. This means I will need to be more organised. I will have to make work and school lunches in advance and freeze up some home made "ready meals", for days when neither of us wants to cook. Sorry boys, no tuck-shop or take away.
  • Complete a Permaculture design course. I have researched this and I am lucky to have Northey St City Farm just down the road from me. This is the website here. Somehow, I will fit this into my existing work, school and family schedule.
  • Finish everything in my mending basket. Sigh. How does a grown man manage to rip so many pairs of shorts?
  • Bake our own bread, biscuits, muffins etc. I love to cook, and my boys love to eat what I cook, but somehow I only manage to bake for special occasions. I need to make it part of my weekly routine. I really want to try this recipe I saw in Mother Earth Magazine.
  • Make my own pasta. I have been promised a shiny pasta maker by my handsome husband. I know, I know, I could just roll it out and cut it, but when I do it this way, the texture is all wrong and my lasagne is too thick.
  • Walk, ride or catch the bus to school.
  • Be on time for school everyday. Last year, my son's teacher was so frustrated by my lack of punctuality, I think she was on the verge of giving me detention.
  • Get my Driving license. I don't want, or need a car of my own, but for emergencies, it's probably a good idea to be legally allowed to drive one.
  • Get the veggie patch up to scratch. The poor patch has suffered, due to storms, heat, humidity and general neglect.
  • Make soap, at least once. I have relatives who own an olive business and they make their own olive oil soap, which is so luscious and creamy. I just don't see them enough to keep us supplied in free samples, lol. So I will try to make my own.
I will post through out the year about my attempts at achieving these goals, and keep you updated about my successes, or failures :1