Republic of Moreland

April 16, 2009

Coburg Urban Harvest

Filed under: Coburg,gardening,neighbours,notices,urban farming — Kath @ 3:52 pm

urban-harvest-general-20091

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December 11, 2008

Coburg pool opening!

Filed under: architecture,Coburg,events — Kath @ 4:26 pm

coburg

June 13, 2008

“Green” eggs show their true colours

Our chooks have gone off the lay for winter, and I find myself furious.

When it comes to buying eggs, ‘free range’ can of course mean anything from a vast grassy pasture to an undersized concrete run. And the wholesome-sounding ‘barn laid’ claim, which the RSPCA has — to its eternal shame — endorsed for a tidy sum, is a euphemism for those noisy, cruel, putrid concentration camps in which thousands of debeaked chickens compete for space.

To be on the safe side, I avoid those notorious Pace Farm eggs, and to go for certified organic. But just recently, I learned of ethical Green Eggs. My beloved, trusted Sugardough Bakery (left) in Lygon St uses, recommends and sells them, so I thought I’d give them a whirl. “You can’t get fresher than that,” is the Green Eggs motto, and the company has won many awards as an ethical, sustainable free-range enterprise.

But when broken into a bowl, these Green Eggs eggs collapsed into a slimy sludge. Their yolks were so pallid that when scrambled, they came out not so much yellow as a pale beige.

Our home-laid eggs, on the other hand, have yolks so rich they’re almost burnt orange in colour, and when scrambled, remain an intense sunflower yellow. Our home-laid eggs never collapse when broken: their whites hold together in a firm ring and their yolks sit upright and high.

I’m convinced this is partly because our chooks eat a good mix of high-protein unprocessed grains, but more importantly, they eat greens every day. Cabbage and lettuce leaves, grasses, weeds: whenever we go for a walk we come home with green bounty from Coburg’s nature strips.

Chooks need and love greens, and the greener your chooks’ diets, the richer their eggs’ yolks. All eggs aren’t equal when it comes to nutrient density. (And as Michael Pollan so elegantly puts it: “You are what you eat eats.”) None of the commercial brands seems to have decent-coloured yolk: a good indicator of chook health, as well as the nutritional composition of the egg. It seems no commercial egg farmer is giving chooks the greens they require — not, it would appear, even at the pastured ‘Green Eggs’ company.

April 9, 2008

Call to action: save Coburg pool

Filed under: architecture,Coburg,politics,urban planning — Kath @ 10:50 am

The campaign to save Coburg Olympic pool is still going strong. The campaign has a website here, where you can download fliers, get background information and attend action meetings.

Meeting in Brunswick to discuss proposed freeway

The following is from the Moreland Greens’ Mike Puleston:

Moreland Council will be sponsoring a Public Meeting on the proposed East-West Freeway at Brunswick Town Hall on Sunday April 13 at 2.00. This will follow the Cyclovia, [pictured] when Sydney Rd will be closed to motor vehicles from Bell St to Brunswick Rd for the morning.

The Greens are opposed to the proposed freeway for a number of reasons:

1. The project puts motor vehicles at the centre of a transport strategy that should be looking first and foremost at public transport in this era of climate change. For example, motor traffic would be greatly reduced by construction of a light railway from Doncaster along the Eastern Freeway to link up with inner city public transport – this railway has been on the books since the 1970s.

2. Provision of freeways is massively more expensive than public transport options. The billions earmarked for the East-West Freeway could be better spent on public transport, including better rail connections to outer suburbs.

3. The freeway would funnel even larger numbers of motor vehicles into inner suburbs. Even though Eddington does not have off-ramps into the City in his report, there is general agreement that the project’s financial backers would not accept a lack of off-ramps. The increased congestion would not only affect suburbs such as Collingwood, Fitzroy and Carlton. It would also cause slowdowns to trams coming from further out, and greater risks to cyclists.

4. The freeway would cause massive disfigurement of Royal Park – which has already suffered from land grabs in recent years.

And so it goes on.

It would be good to have a strong turnout of Greens members and supporters. Please bring your Greens triangles – there will be triangles available if you do not have one.

Brunswick Labor MP for Brunswick Carlo Carli is showing uncharacteristic energy on this issue, and will speak at the meeting. It is hard not to think that Carlo’s rare burst of vigour has been largely promptly by the threat to his seat posed by the 30% Greeens vote in 2006 – the highest in the state. With a few more % in the primary vote and favorable preferences, the Greens will take this seat in 2010, as we will take Melbourne, Richmond, and possibly Northcote.

Although Carlo may speak out against the freeway, he is a small cog in the Brumby Labor machine. When it comes to voting in Parliament Carlo will toe the Party line – to do otherwise would be political suicide.

We need more Greens in state parliament to ask the questions others are afraid to ask.

March 20, 2008

“Tanti-social” toilets in Coburg

Filed under: Coburg,crime,Sydney Road,urban planning — Kath @ 11:45 pm

What larks to see Media Watch pick up on the Moreland Leader‘s sub-editing issues. And following The Republic’s exposé on Coburg’s über-toilet scandal (see post below), the Leader ran a campaign to “stop the tanti-social behavior” in Coburg toilets.

You what?

Tanti-social issues are one thing (and don’t we all have ’em?), but spelling ‘behaviour’ American-style is just a steaming pile of jobbies. Still, bottoms up to the Leader subs who remembered to replace “Toilet headline in here thanks ta” with:

Toilet backflip a big relief for Coburg shoppers

It’s punny, innit? (I bet you can think of a dozen variations — “Shoppers’ fears flushed away” and so on.) The story then describes a dangerous Alan Jones phenomenon in Cobes that’s threatening family values:

A lack of toilets in the central shopping district had forced families and parents with prams to use underground toilets also used by men cruising for sex.

I’m just busting for A Current Affair to pick up on this one. Read the full report here.

March 15, 2008

A toyme in the loyfe of a Cobufoyle

Filed under: Coburg — Kath @ 11:38 pm

It’s been a very Coburg toyme.

• The excellent Cobes butcher that sells free-range meats twice gave me a voucher to Baker’s Delight™. I’d rather eat my mother-in-law’s year-old kidney fry than bread from Baker’s Delight™, but Bloke on The Avenue was with me and it was simply against his high principles to waste a freebie, so we had Bakers Delight™’s dinner rolls with our bbq. (They were better than anything m-i-l has served up.) The second time Little One was with me and he, too, insisted on an anemic-looking Pizza Roll. To the chicks at Baker’s Delight™, you have to pronounce that “Peeetsa Roewell.” Or they don’t understand you.

• Bladder bursting, I queued for at least 15 minutes to get into Coburg’s new multimillion $ state-of-the-art stainless steel space-aged-unisex-self-flushing-self-cleaning-auto-loo conveniently located next to the library. Have you seen the boastful public notices about this beast? It’s intuitive, you know — you don’t have to touch anything. Kewl. But when I finally got in, I washed my hands, grotty after aforementioned Peeetsa Roewell (okay, I shared it with Little One, and it was ace). Which automatically flushed Loo before I’d done my business. Wasteful! I scolded Loo — and to get back at me, after I’d done my business, it wouldn’t let me wash my hands a second time. Did not compute. Hence it wouldn’t automatically flush (IF=handwashing THEN=flush). I had a bit of explaining to do to the next person in the queue.

• Under duress, I took some Easter Bunny colouring sheets from the supermarket counter for Little One and his Little Brunswick Mate to colour in. Only they’re not innocent bunny colouring sheets: they’re the Coles® Land of Cadbury™ Colouring® Competition™. Little One and Brunswick Junior wanted to enter their fine colouring, but alas, I secreted their entries to the recycling bin, as the Conditions of Entry™ says their addresses and details will remain the property of Coles® for all time for marketing purposes and whatever other purposes Coles® deems fit.

• I took down a hoon’s details with full intention of dobbing him in. What an aresehole, scooting between traffic at 150k with his doof-doof. I got home and inertia set in.

February 14, 2008

Local and or general

I’ve decided to try and incorporate more indigenous plants in my plans for the garden. This started off as a way to encourage local frogs into our pond and grew from there. It’s not that I plan to get rid of everything else, just to inform myself about what the indigenous possibilities might be. Towards this I was planning on going to a talk on indigenous plants of Moreland at Coburg library recently.

Alas, like most good intentions it was lost somewhere between the coffee breaks and urgent internet-browsing. Luckily Ceres has a range of plants indigenous to Merri Creek and surounding areas and recently I discovered (only in the virtual sense so far) the Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Cooperative (VINC) at Fairfield which looks like it would be worth a real-life visit. The Keelbundora Indigenous Nursery at Latrobe Uni also looks very interesting.

This morning however while indulging in the sort of internet-surfing that meant I missed the original talk in the first place, I found Gardening with Indigenous Plants in Moreland, a 16 page booklet produced for Moreland City Council by Merri Creek management committee with an extensive list of plants and trees complete with illustrations.

Armed with this and the Moreland Nature Strip Beautification Guidelines how can I go wrong?

Trash and treasure

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,environment — Faithh @ 1:44 pm

Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Here in the southern states of the Greater Republic of Moreland (Brunswick, that is….) the annual hard waste collections are about to start. I’m just as excited as those who engage in Boxing-Day-stampedes and am busy clearing space in the shed, down the side of the house, on the roof and under the house while my husband is threatening to host a support group for men-whose-wives-trawl-the-streets-and-laneways-and-drag-home-junk.

Mind you it’s not all mindless consumption; I am planning to get rid of a few things. Last year we watched bemused as one of our neighbours scoured our castoffs and triumphantly bore away a rotting compost bin. On the other hand it’s the discarded, and gorgeously rusted, corrugated iron from their back verandah that now adorns the front of our home-office. As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Maybe even more so when that man is a woman.

December 6, 2007

Christmas on The Avenue

Filed under: art,Coburg,events — Kath @ 2:20 pm

September 4, 2007

Lawn days over?

Filed under: Coburg — Kath @ 10:08 am

Does anyone know what’s happening with the Moreland Bowls Club in The Grove? It seems to be abandoned. I had heard a rumour some months ago there were some shifty dealings going on with a developer…

June 25, 2007

Outing Moreland’s filthy kitchens

Filed under: cafes & pubs,Coburg,crime,food,health,Pascoe Vale — Kath @ 12:42 am

2006 was the year of renovating, and consequently the year of takeaway dinners, many home-delivered. One morning, it occured to me that I always get the runs (sorry) after eating a meal from a particular Coburg Indian restaurant. Not an especially good — or even moderately good — Indian restaurant (are there any around here?), but a cheap one. At beer o’clock after renovating, almost anything will go down.

I thought little of it. But one evening, sitting down to orders from said restaurant, Bloke on The Avenue and I noticed a hair in our dinner. Deal with it, you might say. But this wasn’t any old hair. About 7cm long, it was exceptionally thick and coarse. It could only belong to an animal like a goat, or a camel. Or a llama, or mule, or wild pig. Then we noticed a second, and a third, and then dozens. We could only imagine what was going on in that kitchen.

We complained to Moreland Council, and played a little phone tennis before we gave up on the matter.

I’d had a very different Council experience not long beforehand. On a sweltering day, Little One and I went to the Queen’s Park Pool in Moonee Ponds. The pool was closed. Now, any parent of a preschooler knows disappointment on outings is to be avoided if you want to keep things nice. So I hastily offered to buy Little One a gelato at Queen’s Park’s ice-cream van. Something I’d never done before, because we’re principled about the kind of treats we encourage. Until that day, Little One knew ice-cream vans only as ‘music trucks’. (And don’t get me started on the crap listed on “kids’ menus” — as if kids are incapable of selecting the real food they’ve enjoyed for centuries. And don’t get me started about the thoughtless parents who succumb to this poisonous marketing.)

Anyway, as the man was scooping pink gelati into the cones with no serviette wrapped around them, I noticed his hands were covered in scabby sores, some weepy, and his fingernails were FILTHY. It was sickening, but I had one of those moments where it would seem embarrassing to make a fuss. And nor did I want to disappoint Little One yet again, no Sir.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to poison my child, either. So I paid for the cones, noticing that the van’s interior, too, was grimy, and I swiftly suggested a game of throw-gelati-at-the-seagulls. Thank heavens Little One thought that was much bigger fun than eating them. We came home unsullied and I called Moonee Valley City Council, which promptly undertook an inspection, and the next week told me they’d suspended the poor man’s license.

I have so many Moreland food stories, including the one where Sydney Road’s Three Stooges Café (now under new management) served a scone carpeted in mould. So it was interesting to read the article in yesterday’s Age about the limitation to Councils’ power to publish results of health inspections. Lord knows there are many that wouldn’t pass the test in Moreland. What was more interesting was the push to give:

councils the power to name premises that have been successfully prosecuted.

Overseas studies have demonstrated the health benefits of naming foul premises. After Los Angeles introduced a public grading system for restaurants in 1998, the number of food-borne hospitalisations decreased by 13 per cent.

Surely, then, there’s a public interest argument here?

June 8, 2007

Kick!

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,films,neighbours — Faithh @ 9:53 pm

About five days after we moved into our Brunswick house, we were accosted by a location manager from Storm productions who cheerfully informed us that our street was about to become “the Ramsay Street of Brunswick”. I don’t think speechless horror was quite the reaction he’d been looking for. Anyway, the result, Kick, will premier on SBS on Saturday 9th June at 8pm.

I’m not sure how much I’ll watch — it seems marketed to 13-year-old girls, and pink features heavily in the trailers. Our street and those around it have of course been renamed; Hope St and Love St, which may sound corny, but the original proposition was for Wog St, so I think we got off lightly. Just so you know, it’s Albion St that sports the name Love St, or Lerv St, as we now like to think of it. (Instead of doing the Albion St slalom we now go ‘gliding down Lerv St’).

Virtually all of the series was filmed around Brunswick and Coburg, so it will be fun to watch just for that alone.

Just to give you an idea of the premise, here’s how it starts out:

“Miki Mavros, a beautiful Greek-Australian performer, owes a whopping three thousand dollars in parking fines, so she’s forced to seek refuge at her parents’ place on multicultural, working class Hope Street. It’s nothing flash but it’s home. “

Multiculturalism is of course the theme. The Age focused on this today.

I’ll have to wait until I see the series to be sure, but it did strike me at the time that it was a rather clichéd multiculturalism. I don’t think anyone in the series will be heard to drop It’s very new Brunswick meaningfully into any conversations. The characters are of Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Serb, Vietnamese, Indian and British descent, virtually all of whom are represented in our street, along with a few more, but when I think about the diversity that attracted me to Brunswick it’s more than this. If we think of culture in a broader sense, there are quite a few not represented in the series, but well represented here. There’s the old-school Aussies (pre-immigration, endangered species that they are), the students, the greenies, the heroin dealer, the token ‘skip’ (that would be me) and let’s not forget the resident funksters!

The multiculturalism I enjoy is all of this in combination with the diversity of nationalities and ethnicities. (And okay, I wouldn’t mind if we lost the heroin dealer).

I’d be interested to hear what anyone else has to say about multiculturalism in the greater Republic of Moreland. Is it about time we redefined it to go beyond references to nationality? And I’d love to know what you think of the series if anyone gets the chance to watch it.

As for me, I’m really looking forward to telling people I live on “multicultural working class Hope St, just down the road from the resident funksters in Lerv St. It’s very new Brunswick!” In the meantime here’s a trailer with some nice views of Brunswick and Coburg.

June 5, 2007

The grass is always greener

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,environment,food,gardening,gardens,mischief,neighbours — Faithh @ 11:11 am

As promised, oh so long ago, I took some photos of revegetated nature strips I’ve stumbled across (sometimes literally). There are actually a lot more than I was expecting, once I started looking for them, so I’ve created a spot for them on flickr. This also means others will also be able to upload any photos they have that they think are worth sharing. If you go to http://www.flickr.com/groups/republicofmoreland/ you can see the ones I’ve uploaded, upload your own, and also start other topics relevant to the greater Republic of Moreland. Of course what we really need is some photos of guerilla planting in action!

What I can show you right now is my own first tentative steps in nature strip revegetation. Our street doesn’t actually have nature strips, just some holes in the asphalt where the council planted trees several years ago. Discussions with the neighbours reveal that almost every tree without exception was trashed by, well, they got a bit vague at this point, but it finally came out that it would have been by their sons and friends. The sons are now older and I think even they would look down their noses at tree trashing these days. One neighbour has planted an olive and donated one to me so I have supplemented it with some grasses from my front garden. I plan to imperceptibly extend the boundaries of my ‘nature strip’ until the breadth of our house has been ‘greened’ without anyone having really noticed it. I’ve also promised another neighbour that if she provides a tree I will plant it and then provide all the grasses she needs from my garden. If you are interested in Moreland’s Naturestrip Beautification Guidelines (!) you can download them from here.
its a beginning

June 2, 2007

Moreland Council “targets populism over longer term responsibility”

The Age reports that climate change will soon see expensive bayside real estate under water (I wonder where Andrew Bolt lives?). Meanwhile, in Moreland we’re sticking our heads in the sand. So say the Greens Councillors, Jo Connellan and Andrea Sharam, in a media release.

They say the Moreland City Council is not putting its money where its mouth is, and keeping rates low at the expense of its stated climate change targets:

“A key reason that the 2007/08 Council budget represents a slipping backwards from financial sustainability is that Council wishes to retain the rate rise at 6.5%.

The only responsible way to do that, and maintain the trends of the five year plan (ie to keep moving to a sustainable position), is to either cut service, or alternately increase rates to 8.5 –9%. By retaining all services and not ensuring adequate income (ie sufficient rates), the only option is to borrow from the future. The impact of this (as illustrated in the draft budget papers) is as follows.”

I for one am happy for rates to rise a little to meet climate change targets. But other steps can be taken, too, such as stopping wasting money on useless expensive things like the street steles. The authors continue:

“Keeping rates as low as possible is always popular. But there is also a level of responsibility that needs to exercised by a Council. The community rely [sic] on Council to make the best decision it can in keeping rates at a reasonable level AND at maintaining a financially sustainable level of operating over the longer term. The proposed budget not only reduces financial sustainability, it constrains future Council’s options. This occurs because there will be very limited capacity to deal with emergencies or to implement some of it’s [sic] capital intensive plans (eg renewing aquatic centres) as rates income in these future years will be needed to re-fill the cash reserves.

The proposed 2007/08 budget targets populism over longer term responsibility. It postpones the hard and unpopular decisions to the next Council. It should be rejected. It is in the best interests of the community to have a slighter higher rate rise in the current year rather than a significantly higher one in the first year or so of the next Council.”

What say you? Would you pay higher rates or rents to meet climate change goals? What cuts in services would you tolerate to meet these goals?

May 13, 2007

Revegetating our nature strips

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  • Revegetated nature strip in Rennie Street, Coburg.

Fanged if I can figure why urban councils don’t encourage nature-strip vegetation (other than lawn and maybe a single tree). After all, it’s in their best interests.

The Age reports that “big leafy trees can often add more value to a house than an expensive renovation”, and that “Real estate agents agree that a good streetscape can add 30 per cent to the price of a property.”

There’s nothing to suggest this isn’t true of understory vegetation too. The Age also reports that

Houses in and around Separation Street, Northcote, used to overlook a municipal tip until the council transformed the site into All Nations Park, he says. Not surprisingly, values soared.

“Property values went up overnight by 20 to 30 per cent,” Mr Valentic says.

The reason is obvious. As Michael Pollan has written, it seems we’re hard-wired to enjoy a pastoral sensibility that lies in that comfort zone between nature and culture. (Where in that zone your comfort range falls is probably cultural and generational: my elderly Italian neighbours on one side and my middle-age Lebanese neighbours on the other prioritise pavers, stones and cement over living landscape.)

In light of current urban planning values, lawns are as outmoded as the Cyprus hedge.

  • most residents use fossil fuel to mow lawns
  • lawns are high-maintenance
  • exotic lawn grasses seed competitive weeds on our creek banks
  • you get better stormwater and weed management from a bush garden than a strip of lawn

There are some very inspirational native nature-strips around Westgarth, and some orchard strips as well. I was intrigued by a link provided by Marty in his comment about an earlier post on urban farming. He linked to a site discussing the philosophy and practice of guerrilla gardening (or ‘green graffiti’). I’m scheming a bit of guerrilla gardening myself. My Loquat tree spawned hundreds of baby trees this summer, and I’m nursing them to replanting stage. I’m going to target specific bare nature-strip sites around Coburg and plant them at the end of winter. Hopefully people will leave them to grow and fruit, so Coburg can enjoy the Victory garden philosophy. I shall document my endeavours: watch this space.

April 23, 2007

Midnight mayhem in Moreland

Two nights ago I awoke to the sound of screaming.

No, I didn’t copy that from my grade 4 creative writing “opening lines” exercise. I actually did awake to the sound of screaming.

It was coming from my back yard. Out of sleep’s fug, it dawned on me that the alarming sounds were coming from the chook pen. I grabbed the torch and raced outside to hear the delicate tinkle of a cat-collar bell. My chickens were all out of the coop, clearly agitated.

I didn’t see the cat, but yesterday a tabby, wearing said bell, was casing the joint. I threw stones at it, as one does. But it kept returning all day, eventually terrorising the baby chooks. In broad daylight!

Despite my stone-throwing, word of larks at Number xx got around, and before long a tortoise-shell cat was stalking the back yard, And then you, spooky.

My chicken-coop, being of open plan (Eames era) design, is a drop-in facility for all class of creature. It’s not maximum security, but it looks like I’ll have to work on upgrading it today.

Unless anyone has suggestions as to how to keep them there kitties away. I’ve heard of pepper to deter dogs: is there any non-structural deterrent for cats?

April 16, 2007

Backyard experiment #3: cheap green roof

I’ve started a garden on my rooftop: a very simple and cheap one. I picked up some large rectangular plastic containers from the hardware ($12 each) and drilled holes in the bottom. I chucked them on the north-facing lean-to roof and then lay Hydrocell in the bottom of the containers and cow poo (from Andrew’s Stock Feed in Sydney Rd) and soil up the sides. Inside the north side of the containers, where the sun hits the black plastic, I put more Hydrocell to act as an insulator. Then I planted a fruit vine in each: passionfruit and kiwi-fruit. I’ll lay some lightweight weldmesh on the roof at some stage: by summer I’m hoping the roof will be a facade of green. Not just beautiful, but a great thermal insulator, and good for the city environment, too, as it reduces the heat-island effect. I shouldn’t need to water them over winter, and the hydrocell should allow for minimal watering in other seasons. Fingers crossed.

That’s not my green roof pictured above: that’s a living wall. You can find out much more about living walls and green roofs in Australia by joining Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities. One of its board members, the lovely Sidonie Carpenter (who took this picture), is on a travelling fellowship to study green roofs and living walls around SE Asia and north America. Here are some of her pics:

Getty Centre, LA

Botanic Gardens, Singapore:

School of Art and Design, Singapore:

You can see more of Sidonie’s pics here, and find out more about Green Roofs in Australia here.

April 11, 2007

Extreme lawn bowls

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,op shops,Sydney Road — Kath @ 12:20 am

Today at the Salvo’s in Coburg, I bought some lawn bowl trophies that were really just liquor glasses with gold trim. Each had “trophy” embossed underneath a gold emblem with ‘Moreland Bowls Club’, ‘Coburg West Bowling Club’ and so on.

I bought a dozen or so, all from Moreland suburbs, but the store has plenty still from Elsternwick bowls and elsewhere. Must be from an enthusiast’s deceased estate, and I couldn’t help picturing the whole set (around 40 glasses) having pride of place in a glass cabinet next to the gas heater in a geezer’s lounge-room.

To end up sitting on the bargain shelf of an op-shop. I paid a handsome 50 cents for each, but felt I was pilfering someone’s title.

There’s a supposed resurgence in lawn bowling (naffy George Negus, without irony, has said “suddenly the game has become groovy — so groovy…”). Particularly since 2001, when the lawn bowling community took the radical, visionary step of permitting women to compete on a Saturday, with the blokes. More radically, now there are extreme lawn bowl sports. But I haven’t yet drummed up enough interest to go.

Still, I’ve got a kind of theme happening. Out of nowhere, an accidental collection emerged: our household boasts two vintage bowls bags, a bowls mug, a bowls cup-and-saucer, and now bowls liquor glasses.

Like campervan interiors, lawn bowls has a peculiar aesthetic that resonates with my inner retired geezer. In many other scenarios, lawns are objectionable (you know: the class values they represent, the petrol they waste) but stroll me past a green like The Grove’s Moreland Bowls Club, and I’m anybody’s it makes me irrationally content. The decadent expanse, the chalk, the measuring instruments and paraphernalia, the scoreboards, the quiet clacking of balls, the behatted nods and murmurs and squints, the ‘Madam President’ parking sign, the uniforms, the club rules and repressed competitive tension… so civilised. So Coburg. I feel privy to another era.

Unlike other lawn sports that evolved from the great estates, participation in lawn bowls seems more egalitarian. (Yet what would happen, I wonder, if nearby churchgoers were to park in front of the ‘Seceratary’ or ‘Madam President’ sign in The Grove?)

These are the reasons it worries me that The Grove club will sooner or later be under great pressure to succumb to real estate development. Or so a reliable colleague (involved in such things) reckons. And they ain’t building new ones nowdays. Bloke on The Avenue also thinks it’s only a matter of time before lawn bowls suffers the fate of Melbourne’s own trugo.

April 4, 2007

Bring it on

Filed under: Coburg,crime,environment,Fawkner — Kath @ 10:13 am

Watch out, Moreland.

March 21, 2007

Time to outlaw petrol-heads

I’m starting to be a bit of a fan of Moreland author and stand-up comedian Catherine Deveny. She has an oped in today’s paper which, despite its meandering, is spot on:

HOW about that Grand Prix, eh? One look at the racing fans is all it takes for me to realise that some suburbs should have fences around them. Knuckle-dragging petrol-heads, anorexic bottle blondes marinated in fake tan and middle-aged blokes with man boobs and pimples on their arses paying exorbitant money to watch cars go fast…

I’m sure the parents of terminally ill children suffering rare diseases that there is no funding for researching will take comfort in the fact that the State Government has probably spent $30 million on loud, polluting cars while their child dies. They’ll be at peace knowing that Bernie Ecclestone has pocketed a $20 million licensing fee. (more…)

March 15, 2007

Coburg lanes get a pasting

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,food,gardening,health,neighbours,recipes — Kath @ 9:50 am

Having moved house this year, we don’t have a quince tree. But we harvested far more quinces from Coburg’s laneways than we ever managed to grow on our bug-infested Brunswick tree. This is just part of our harvest from an afternoon walk, during which we collected apples, pears and quinces. There were also grapes, lemons and figs overhanging the lane, and remnants of hundreds of plums gone to waste. Coburg lanes are like Victory gardens.

I was determined this year to avoid quince paste recipes. Most are so goddamn convoluted. Aside from the tedious peeling and coring and processing and straining, there’s the relentless stirring. All that for a lump of paste from two dozen quinces. No wonder the stuff costs forty to sixty bucks per kg, depending on whether you go to the Vic Market or DJ’s food hall. (As an aside, I’m boycotting DJ’s because of their corporate thuggery towards the Australia Institute. Arseholes.)

I like the recipes that tell you to chuck in pips, cores ‘n’ all. And instead of stirring for hours, after stirring for about half an hour, I let the paste thing happen over a couple of days. You spread it onto trays and put it first in the oven on low heat, during which time you repeatedly mesh the crust that forms into the rest of the sludge. Then, when it starts resembling soft paste, you put it in the hot sun under a tea-towel and do same. Stephanie Alexander writes of one chef who puts the sludge on a tray in the back window of the car until it goes lovely and leathery.

After that, it’s divine quince paste with soft white cheese. Mmm… paste.

March 10, 2007

Fair enough or “ludicrous overreaction”?

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,crime,Pascoe Vale,politics — Kath @ 9:40 am

In a move described by the Law Institute of Victoria as a “ludicrous overreaction”, our local member, Shadow Attorney-General Kelvin Thomson, has been forced to quit the front bench because he unknowigly wrote a reference for notorious gangster Tony Mokbel seven years ago.

The Age this morning reported that Kevin Rudd was tipped off by an anonymous source and that, given that Smearfest 2007 is in full force, Thomson had to resign. Apparently Thompson didn’t know Mokbel, didn’t remember the reference, and the reference was “a pro-forma”.

The LIV president Geoff Provis said there was no evidence that Mr Thomson had done anything wrong, and that the use of “past associations” to damn politicians was approaching “McCarthyist America”.

I’m fence-sitting on this. I kinda agree with Provis, but still, politicians shouldn’t be writing references for folk they don’t know or haven’t checked out.

March 6, 2007

My neighbour’s facial discrimination

Filed under: Coburg,crime,neighbours,politics — Kath @ 9:11 pm

Last year I left the wilderness of Coburg and went to the National Security Summit and Expo in Canberra, in part to have a look at new biometric software.

Biometrics — technologies that measure people’s physical or biological features — aren’t foolproof. They’re easy technologies to foil. German journalists at c’t magazine outsmarted face recognition systems, iris scanners and fingerprint readers by simple tricks like holding life-size photographs to their faces. As Charles Mann reported in The Atlantic Monthly, “many of the fingerprint readers could be tricked simply by breathing on them, reactivating the last person’s fingerprint.” Not all biometric systems are so easily fooled, “but all of them fail badly.”

I was disturbed to find the Summit’s face-recognition demonstration featured close-ups solely of Asian and Middle-Eastern faces. This seems a pretty racist assumption to me. Historically in Australia, the overwhelming majority of acts of terrorism have come from far-right, Croation emigré and neo-Nazi groups: not Middle-Eastern groups.

Which isn’t to suggest middle-Eastern types couldn’t commit acts of terrorism here, as they have overseas. But two of the three Australian men convicted of terror offences in recent times were Caucasian, not Middle-Eastern. A forth accused, Brisbane schoolteacher John Howard Amundsen, is Caucasian.

So why are People Of Middle Eastern Appearance (I shall call them POMA) the only ones singled out for security checks at our airports? Or so my Lebanese neighbour told me this afternoon. Her over-the-fence account does not a fact make, but I have no reason to disbelieve her. She said whenever her twenty-something son gets on a plane, local or international, he’s picked out from the crowd and rigorously scrutinised, along with all the other POMA.

I believe her because I observed it first-hand, in another scenario. At the trial of one Melbourne man accused of terror offences, there were rigorous security checks at the court. After emptying my bag and being screened, I got in no worries. So did others. But one man was stopped and questioned. He was a POMA. He said he worked as a freelance journalist, just as others had said. But not having a card or press pass, he wasn’t allowed in to the court room. Others weren’t asked for IDs or press passes.

Making national security judgements based on appearance can be fatal. In the US, two air marshalls thought they heard 34-year-old air passenger Rigoberto Alpizar say “bomb” (something other passengers deny hearing), and shot him dead. No explosives were found in Alpizar’s luggage; no link to terrorism was found. In the UK, 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by police officers who wrongly assumed he was connected with the London bombings. (Not long afterward, in a ₤2 million operation, London police shot 20-year-old Abdul Koyair, who was later cleared of any terror suspicions.)

I can see why Mrs Neighbour is worried about her son’s forthcoming trip to the US. He’s a lovely, generous and gentle dude despite his doof-doof music. He experiences ‘appearance’ discrimination all the time, she said: particularly on transport. Especially since the war on terror began, even here in Coburg, and despite being Christian. Meanwhile, as I wrote in an earlier post, his Muslim neighbours are also experiencing the pointy end of Howard’s $20 billion war on terror campaign.

March 2, 2007

Backyard experiment #2

Filed under: Backyard experiment,Birds,Coburg,urban farming — Kath @ 6:25 pm

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: if you have a broody chook, you can mail-order live eggs to stick under her. After they’re kept warm for 24 hours, they start to incubate. And after 21 days precisely (depending on what fowl you choose), they hatch! Cuuuute. (Stay away, Spooky and Kitty.) Gawd knows what I’ll do if they turn out male. (On second thoughts, S & K…)

I ordered some live eggs from Abundant Layers, one of the many live egg mail services. I wanted Rhode Island Reds, but they advised me that Isa Browns (cross between Reds and New Hampshires) are the best layers. So I ordered five Isa Brown eggs, figuring odds are at least two will be female. One of them arrived cracked, and had to be discarded. The remaining four went under broody Mrs Chooky (pictured, above).

Someone I spoke to a few days later said they’d had problems with Abundant Layer livestock, so I went and visited Deb from Book a Chook in Coburg. (I discussed Book a Chook in a previous post.) Deb gave me three live eggs from her Bantams, chickens I initially wasn’t too keen on, as they’re less productive and have smaller eggs. But hers are very, very nice birds. So I put those eggs under Mrs Chooky as well.

Twenty-one days passed since the Abundant Layer eggs were adopted. Then 22, 23, 24. None hatched, but I kept them under Mrs Chookie just in case. Then this morning, two of the three eggs from Book a Chook hatched (one chick is pictured next to proud adoptive mother, above). Little One was thrilled, and I’m a bit pleased, too. Out of curiosity, I cracked open the Abundant Layer eggs that had been kept so warm this past month. I wanted to see how much — if at all — the chicks had developed. When I cracked each one, it exploded disgusting liquid muck that smelled pure evil. (Just thought you might like to know.)

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