Monday, 28 February 2011

Sustainbility Mondays: the house full of guests edition

I've had a house full of family for the past week, which has made this week's sustainability Monday post late (I dropped my visitors off at the airport this morning). Considering we had a busy holidaying household this week, I think that some of the following isn't bad!

1. Plant Something -
  • Struck some rosemary cuttings.
2. Harvest something - (including buying local food)
  • As much local cool-climate fruit as we could find to buy from farmgates, much to the delight of the visiting Queenslanders
  • Veg from the farmers market and roadside stalls, particularly the last of the summer's broadbeans, some more garlic and local unheated honey
  • Wild apples and blackberries from the roadside near my place
3. Preserve something -
  • Blackberry jam and bottled blackberries. None of which made it into my pantry, preferring a life in the warmth of Queensland instead.
4. Waste Not (reducing wastage in all areas)
  • After having a house full of people we only had a single shopping's bag worth of rubbish for the week. Buying locally really reduces food packaging which is part of the challenge.
5. Want Not (preparing for shortage situations)
  • Nothing this week unless you count the absconding jam
6. Build Community Food Systems
  • Supporting local people who are growing food.
7. Eat the Food
  • Every meal we ate was made of locally bought or foraged food, which made us happy.
8. What I bought:
  • Nothing this week, aside from an awful lot of petrol. There was a lot of touring around!
  • My visitors bought local jams and honeys to take home.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sustainability Mondays: starting again

This is about all there is of my veggie garden at the moment: a few tomatoes,
chillies and herbs in pots, along with a treasured curry leaf tree.

This is a bad day to be starting sustainability Mondays, because I've achieved a big fat fail on many of my resolutions in the past week. But it's a good place to record beginnings.

1. Plant Something -
  • Nothing this week.
2. Harvest something - (including buying local food)
  • lettuce and salad greens
  • herbs from my garden and that of a friend
  • two courgettes from the neighbours
  • ...but I did manage to buy all of my veg from the local market gardeners
  • Bought locally-grown dried chickpeas, puy lentils and garlic
3. Preserve something -
  • Harissa
4. Waste Not (reducing wastage in all areas)
  • I really failed here. Bad: I hosted a BBQ on Saturday which has resulted in a lot of empty glass bottles (which I will take to the recycling centre in due course), and also bought several bottles of softdrink to have something to offer the drivers. I never drink softdrink so I was taken aback at how expensive, bulky and wasteful of plastic it is.
  • Bad: I have bought quite a bit of bedlinen, all of which came wrapped in plastic. Most of which is now in the bin because it can't be recycled even as bin liners: fail.
  • Good: But at least I've purchased a second-hand washing machine which is very water and power-efficient.
  • Good: purchased a second-hand BBQ grill plate and old recycled colonial bricks with which to make a bookcase, from the tip shop.
5. Want Not (preparing for shortage situations)
  • Bought 10 kg of potatoes from a colleague's garden, which will probably last me through the winter
  • Used the BBQ to lay in a few small drygood supplies for variety.
  • Otherwise, nothing much this week. Money earmarked for the stockpile has gone to other household essentials this week.
6. Build Community Food Systems
  • All of my house guests were intrigued by my lifestyle, and many are fellow souls (this being Tasmania!)
  • Blogging about it
  • Supporting local people who are growing food.
  • Exchanging goods and favours with my neighbours. I gave them travel tips and coffee, they gave me zucchinis and helped me build the frame for my bed.
7. Eat the Food
  • Herbs and lettuce leaves from pots
  • The local potatoes, in potato salad
  • Local butternut squash, puy lentils and red onions, turned into a warm salad over harissa, lemon juice and olive-oil dressed salad leaves
8. What I bought:
  • Way too much!
  • Plastic: a vacuum cleaner and a dustpan and brush. Plastic around pillows and quilt covers. Softdrink. And veg which I'd rather be growing.
How was your week?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Self sufficiency goals for 2011

It's mid-February, but I think that any day is a good day to make resolutions. Actually I rarely make conscious resolutions, but these ideas have been coalescing in my head for a while and I think it's a good idea to write them down to check progress at a later date.

A warning first: I've been working very hard lately and haven't had a day off in weeks, so I am very tired and I'm probably going to ramble. Part of what has inspired this post is a fortnight spent away doing a course to update a certification, and living in residential halls eating cafeteria food while doing so. The lower quality of the processed food compared to what I'm used to and the waste I saw set my brain in motion (that's not to complain about the cooking, which was fabulous considering what the cooks were given). It's the quantity vs quality of food debate.

My thoughts went thus: it's all very well to boast about how far one is down the path when they've gone a long way towards self-sufficiency, but when you've imposed the kind of setback I've imposed upon myself by changing country and starting all over again? I may be immodest to say so, but that could be interesting. Most people who start down the self-sufficiency road from a standing start do so from scratch. What difference doe it make if you do so with the accumulated knowledge of spending 15 years living the lifestyle? The concept of having a clean slate in terms of possessions appeals to me. So I've formed the following goals for myself for 2011.

As a beginning, I eat no processed food, I eat no meat (because that's how I like to live), and try to buy food as locally as possible. I bake all our own breads and we tend not to eat sweet stuff or snack foods. Our weaknesses are booze, salt and spicy foods. And travel. In some ways, it doesn't matter how much I live a sustainable lifestyle, my life dictates that I will fly around the world 2.5 times this year and from a carbon viewpoint you could view any efforts at sustainability as futile. But that's missing the point: every lifestyle choice we make counts. Most carbon generation comes from industry, and that is fuelled by the expectations of consumers.

The goals:

  • Chart my progress more assiduously. To that end, sustainability Mondays will restart next week, allowing myself weeks off for the times I'm at sea.
  • No plastic is to enter the house unless absolutely necessary. This is particularly salient in a household that does not yet own basic cleaning items, like toilet brushes or brooms.
  • Until a vegetable garden is established, limit food purchasing as much as possible to locally sourced items. Again, a big point at the moment as I'm in what is a temporary household. Exceptions to that which I'm going to allow myself are avocados, lemons and passata.
  • Build an emergency store. I've felt vulnerable, knowing I don't have food in the house.
  • Minimise food packaging. I'm going to accomplish this, inn juncture with the previous three points, by buying dried foods in bulk and storing them in glass.
  • Find some decent land to buy, and on which Mr. G can build a house. This won't be a forever home, but that's all part of the grand plan to live debt free.
  • I should probably also add: import Mr. G, who is not here yet but will come here later in the year.
  • Everything that is to enter the house must be purchased in as sustainable a manner as possible. This is not too difficult because we do live a fairly frugal lifestyle, except for certain luxuries. (*cough*wine*cough*)
  • No clothing from China, especially if it's made from cotton (now guaranteed to be GM). In fact, GM nothing.
  • Increase the amount of our own clothing that is home-made as much as possible. This includes wearing existing clothing until it is worn-out.
  • Learn better how to sew and more about dressmaking and shirtmaking. I already spin, weave and knit. Learning to sew will capitalise on the ability to make fabric.
  • For now: finally start brewing beer.
  • For winter: collect seawater and make salt over the wood fire. In the meantime, I'm buying Murray River salt, which uses oversaline water and makes salt from that. It's yummy, gives us minerals and combats soil salinity, all at the same time.
  • Conserve water. I suspect this one will be easy because this house is on tank water, and every time I touch a tap a pump audibly kicks in in the attic. It makes you think twice about your consumption.
It's going to be interesting to see how these goals change over the rest of the year.