Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Monkey in our Midst

Ehren is Trev's oldest son. He's 30 now, but henever grew out of climbing trees. Hence he's a professional tree climber in QLD. Who says you can't get to do what you love the most. 




When he's not climbing trees he's jumping out of planes. Normal life is just not exciting enough for some people. It excited me to watch him climb a silver wattle we needed to fall. I took photos while hoping they wouldn't be used in an inquiry into an accident I feared might happen any moment. 












To ensure it didn't fall over a fence he climbed it and chopped out heavy top branches before falling the main trunk.  It will become firewood eventually.

We needed to clear it as we've designated the land it grows on for something exciting. A small commercial crop of apricots.



Pruning Climbing Tomatoes

I never keep on top of them as well as I could. But this year was the 'Grow Perfect Tomatoes' Challenge. With a little help from my trusty side-kick Trevor,  a support system was set up and the rows of tomatoes strung up by their fingertips to garden twine. The reasoning behind pruning tomatoes is to grow smaller yields of bigger tomatoes in not a lot of space. None of that sprawling everywhere, letting the slugs in and some rotting at the very dark bottom of the mass.

I've planted 150 heirloom tomatoes this year. The varieties; Camp Joy, Brandywine, German Gold, Gold Dust, Black Cherry, Olomovic, Longkeeper, Roma and something we call Geeveston Special after a friend gave us wonderful tomatoes from the garden and we saved the seed.

The goal with pruning tomatoes is to create one central plant stem that will continue to grow and throw out flowering side shoots as it is trained taller and taller.  However new tomato shoots form in the apex of the main stem and leaf growth, and if left it will go off and form additional stems and tomatoes. However, when the goal is to create one main stem only they need to be nipped in the bud.

It's best to start as soon as the plant starts growing. You don't want it expending lots of energy on shoots that will ultimately be nipped out. In the images below you can clearly see one of the side shoots, the middle image is nipping it out.




A close up of the same process.



There is one tip you never want to nip out, your main stems top shoot.  
As a rule of thumb never nip out any shoots above the last set of flowers. 
You'll soon get to recognise the growing shoot, it's the one you'll be winding garden twine around 
(rather than wrapping the tomato around it as tomato plants are quite brittle).

Every 7 - 10 days you'll need to check for more side shoots, 
and continue to wind the string around your tomato to support its weight as it grows.



Fencing Tip

Trev taught me this years ago. 
Whenever we check fence lines we take a nail with us. 
It's quick, easy, doesn't use materials other than the fence itself and even better. It works.

If you have two rolls of chook wire you want to combine you can quickly 'knit' them together.


Or, take one fence with a hole in it. 
Place a nail between two wires, one from each row of chook wire.
Spin the nail around 360 degrees 2 or 3 times.
Pull out the nail.


It's such an easy, simple trick, had to share it :-)






WWOOFERS - The Icing on the Cake

Renaud, a French Canadian WWOOFER loved whippersnipping. Which was fantastic, a wet spring had resulted in enormous grass growth and I was battling to keep it down. He enjoyed learning how to use the rotary hoe too and helped form garden beds that are forever to be referred to as the 'Reno' beds. He also had a go at fencing, weeding and milking Peg, and wasn't adverse to a good wood chop.

Renaud stayed on and off for somewhere around a month and was able to hold the fort on his own for 3 days allowing us to get away together for the first time in years.

Then we had Lucie and Martin, two French chefs who stayed for 15 days. They helped train climbing tomatoes up strings and thin and transplant veggies. Together we extracted around 40kg of honey, it was a long hard and sticky day. I taught them how to make soap, they taught me how to make great bread. Martin  picked up a still hot loaf and tapped its base saying, 'It should sound like dok, dok, dok, not took, took took.'
It made me want to write a book called 'The sound of Bread.'

But what they really enjoyed was mudding the house, lots of mud. Big long, hard sticky days of it.  Lucie said it was like cake decorating, they did a fantastic job and having them stay was definitely the icing on the cake for us.








Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Story of Stuff - Annie Leonard (Particularly PVC)


I've  been reading Annie Leonard's The Story Of Stuff.  She posits some great solutions. One of which I was unable to avoid an impromptu bout of , 'Yes, yes, yes! I want that too!'
Both the corporate structure and the surrounding regulatory system need to be changed: we should do away with limited liability and "personhood" under the Constitution (US, same in Australia), and demand an increase in corporate accountability, stronger antitrust laws and international liability, the EXTRACTION OF CORPORATIONS OUT OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS.  The capitals are mine
I first became aware of Annie a couple of years ago when I watched the 20min 'The Story of Stuff' movie.
It's well worth watching and sharing.

The last thing in her book is a sample letter on PVC she provides. It's a great resource for explaining why we need to ditch PVC (but not in a ditch).

I've added it here so that others may chose to make use of it also. It's horrific stuff and ubiquitous.  But we can do without it.We did our best to build our house without it. We failed to eliminate it totally, simply because there were no alternatives for one plumbing piece and alternatives to electrical wiring were 8 times the price and we simply couldn't afford to spend $4000 instead of $500, but it hurt to do it.

Sometimes we do as Annie mentions,, open a package or suddenly realise that we've purchased something made with or incorporating PVC, and its kick ourselves time. Here's what she does...

Dear [Producer, Store, Vinyl Institute],
 Enclosed is a [raincoat, handbag, rubber duck, binder, shower curtain, etc.] that I am returning to you because it contains polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC does not contribute to a healthy household or a healthy planet. In fact, PVC is the most hazardous plastic at all stages of its lifecycle, from production through use and disposal. I encourage you to stop [making/selling/promoting] PVC and to instead opt for materials that are safer for workers, communities, consumers, and the planet.
 Production: PVC production is especially hazardous for workers and communities where plants are located. PVC production requires vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), a dangerous explosive, and creates toxic waste, notably ethylene dichloride (EDC) tars—two things no neighborhood wants. Wastes from PVC production have been proven to contain the powerful carcinogen dioxin, which then is spread to wherever the waste is buried or burned. In addition to the inherent hazards of PVC, its production requires even more toxic chemical additives to prepare the PVC for different uses: plasticizers (such as phthalates) are added to make it soft and pliable, heavy metals (such as lead and cadmium) are added as stabilizers, and fungicides are added to stop fungi from eating the other additives.
 Use: The chemical additives added to PVC are not bound to the plastic so they leach out or evaporate over time. That is why PVC items often reek of a “new car smell” and lead dust has been often found on PVC window frames and mini-blinds. The most common plasticizer used in PVC is DEHP, a suspected carcinogen and endocrine disruptor that is now showing up in human and wildlife bodies tested all over the planet. If we bring this stuff into our homes, schools, and workplaces, we end up with these toxics in our bodies.
 Disposal: Whenever PVC is burned, dioxins and acidic gases are released. This happens when discarded PVC ends up in an open burn pile or a waste incinerator. It also happens when buildings catch on fire, since PVC is widely used in building materials. When PVC is dumped in a landfill, the additives leach into the environment, and it is also at risk of burning since landfill fires are common.
 PVC recycling is not a solution. PVC recycling is technically difficult, not economically feasible, and polluting, releasing a range of toxics into the facility’s air. Even more basic, though, recycling a hazard perpetuates a hazard. Faced with such a uniquely hazardous material, a better response is to reduce its circulation rather than to figure out how to use it yet again.
 The good news about PVC is that it isn’t necessary. Alternative materials are available, including many safer materials that PVC has displaced over recent years: glass, cotton, metal, paper, ceramics, leather, and wood as well as less hazardous plastics. Many companies around the world, including Nike, IKEA, Sony, the Body Shop, a dozen automobile makers, and even Wal-Mart, have taken steps to reduce or fully eliminate PVC in their products.
 Knowing how hazardous PVC is, and knowing that alternatives exist, why are you continuing to [use/sell/promote] this material? If all those companies can take a stand on the side of community, worker, and environmental health, you can too.
 Please write back to me to clarify [company name here]’s position regarding PVC. Specifically, I would like to know if you have a plan, with a timetable, to phase out PVC from your operations. I look forward to hearing from you.
 Sincerely, [Your name here]
 


Monday, 23 December 2013

Temperate Mandarins

I failed to grow temperate bananas, but the mandarin tree (one of them) is hooting and providing Caleb a dollop of homegrown mandarin nostalgia. Gone are the days he can sit under a tree creating a castle of peels while he mungs down on mandarins. But it was nice today to grab a few, write Love You on one and toss them into his room. I try not to breach the threshold anymore. The level of toxic socks and dirty dishes makes it untenable. I figure he'll  get the stage even he can't handle it. He told me today it looks 'homely'.



The mandarin, an imperial, has been in the polytunnel for four years now. The first three it grew small mandarins, this year is the first time they've grown to a normal size and are sweet. The pungent smell when you pick them... hmm.

In Tasmania we can grow lemons, Eureka, Lisbon, Myer nearly all year round. A new arrival in the polytunnel, a Tahitian lime. It remains to be seen how it handles the cold nights.





Saturday, 21 December 2013

Dog Food Recipe

Firstly, an old story, but a goodie. We took Caleb to the beach when he was about 4 and he asked if he could have some dog food. We were nonplussed,  it turned out he meant a Hot Dog. Freudian.

I'm not a great believer in recipes.  I prefer to get the idea of how one's done and then improvise.

When we first bought Nuju we agreed he had to be a sustainable dog and fed from the carcasses of rabbits and road kill. We then put our heads down and tails up and got busy on building a house and lapsed into the convenience of purchased dog food.



Recently someone mentioned the prevalence of kidney disease in dogs fed on commercial dog 'biscuits'. They're unpalatable to  dogs so they spray them with fat and salt. It was just what was needed to get us to take another look at the issue. This time health of one much loved dog added to the impact on one much loved environment. Can the two meet?  Probably not, generally speaking the most sustainable option would be a 'Not Dog', but that's not going to happen.

Cutting to the chase. I did the research and ended up with this... feel free to modify as you will, particularly those wanting to translate it out of Australian.

Nuju Food

4 cups of Organic Australian Brown Rice cooked for 12 minutes
Add 1 kg of kangaroo mince - or equivalent in fresh roadkill :)
3 cups of chopped carrots and carrot tops (from the garden)
125 grams of butter (Trev's request)

Cook it up and dole it out into recycled containers and freeze. One comes out each day and is kept in the fridge till needed. It's best to provide smaller dollops at a time to ensure it's all eaten and doesn't attract flies.

Nuju has an effective method of letting us know when he's hungry. He 'dings' his bowl by batting it to one side and smacking it against the floor. The porcelain makes a resounding ding. It creates a reverse Pavlovian response.

Does anyone  have good dog food ideas to share?