Republic of Moreland

April 29, 2009

Thrift and the single foodie

Filed under: environment,food,health,urban farming — Kath @ 6:54 pm

The Avenue has been blessed with a gorgeous little squdgey 3-month-old lassie who’s keeping me sleepless, lactating and honest. (But criminally neglectful of my poor chickens.) Having split with The Father Formerly Known As Bloke On The Av, I’m venturing into the dark depths of single parenthood (though TFFKABOTA still visits daily).

Life is good, but with property settlement, mortgages and all those other adventures, the prospect of losing my beautiful home has forced me to ruminate on ways to be thrifty.

But when it comes to food, price is WAY down my scale of priorities. Buggered if I’m going to start buying cardboard-flavoured mandarins from the US just cos they’re two bucks a kilo. So I’ve been considering how to get more crunch for my apple. (Sorry.)

I’m looking for thrifty ways with produce. Here are a few of my own:

  • My grandma used to save pineapple skins and boil them up. She’d simmer them for a couple of hours, strain them through cheesecloth, and make cordial or jelly with the syrup.
  • A friend once told me off for discarding the bottom bits of broccoli. I’ve now devised a recipe with them: toss them in a hot wok with macadamia oil, crushed macadamias, white pepper, sumac and lemon. You can throw in shredded nori and serve on soba noodles. YUM.
  • I HATE the seedless variety of watermelon — and not only because it tastes rank. It’s because the fat black seeds of the old variety are YUMMY, high in protein and vitamin E, and should be a delicacy. In fact they ARE a delicacy in Singapore, where they are the key ingredient* in the celebrated Mooncake.
  • And watermelon skins! LOVE ‘EM! Yep, the green bits. Crispy, juicy, full of vitamin A and gorgeous when sliced thinly and tossed into salads. I’ve done this a couple of times and no-one has noticed. I suppose they thought twas cucumber, unless they were being polite. Watermelon rinds can also be pickled, of course.

Anyhoo, I’m too goddam sleep-deprived to think of more, but would be SO thankful if I could find a use for green apple peels. See, I’ve been making a lot of Stephanie Alexander’s quick apple cake of late (but to make it really special, add lemon rind, sultanas and walnut), and the curly peel is now taking up acreage. It makes good compost and chook scraps, but it seems a shame not to make it into sumthin’.

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* though Wiki lists the paste from watermelon seeds as one of many optional ingredients: (五仁, wǔ rén): A filling consisting of 5 types of nuts and seeds, coarsely chopped and held together with maltosewalnuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, sesame, or almonds. syrup.

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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

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 10, 2008

The FLY!

Filed under: environment,food,gardening,urban farming — Faithh @ 5:21 pm

Should I be worried? Can I take precautions? Do fruit fly like quince?

The news that a backyard in Ascot Vale has been quarantined after the discovery of fruit-fly has me in a small, but still significant, panic. How many backyards between that one and mine, and how many contain fruit? I’m guessing, not many, and all of them, respectively.

My grandparents lived near the NSW border and so I grew up spending a large part of the summer holidays parked on the side of the road while grandma force-fed us fruit prior to us being inspected at the fruit-fly post. Apparently this was because the alternative, throwing the fruit into the bin provided, would be ‘wasting it’. Should we be setting set up a Checkpoint Charlie at Puckle St? Destroying our fruit? Checking it? I’m off to do some research, what does fruit fly look like and what should we be doing? (Of course I could have done that before I posted but that would go against the spirit of the internet now wouldn’t it?)

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.

January 6, 2008

The vegetable-industrial complex

Filed under: environment,food,health,politics — Kath @ 6:13 pm

A superb article by Michael Pollan.

November 28, 2007

Moreland objects to Brumby’s GM decision

Filed under: environment,food,health,politics — Kath @ 7:49 pm

Moreland State MP Carlo Carli supported Victoria’s ban on GM food crops. So did The Greens, of course, and so did Moreland City Council. And so did between 70-90 per cent of Australia’s polled population, including farmers. But John Brumby, learning nothing from Howard’s spectacular defeat, made the secretive and undemocratic decision to overturn the ban yesterday. Sigh. From today’s Crikey:

Coinciding with Jeffrey Smith’s Australian tour to promote Genetic Roulette: the documented health risks of genetically engineered foods, yesterday Victorian Premier John Brumby bowed to pressure from big agribusiness and announced, without consulting caucus, that Victoria would overturn bans on GM food crops.

Gene contamination knows no borders, and New South Wales has also lifted its bans, to the rancour of other states.

But, even facing the threat of revolt among up to 40 of his own MPs, Brumby refused to release Victorian Chief Scientist Sir Gustav Nossal’s review of the impact of lifting the ban before his announcement. Sir Gustav was appointed to lend scientific credibility to a review whose terms of reference were strictly and solely economic: not scientific. As the review itself states: “It is not the purpose of this panel to judge… health and environment assessments.”

Overturning the bans was widely regarded as a done deal at least a year ago, prompting an un-named MP to tell The Age Brumby was “treating caucus like idiots”.

So why was Brumby secretive? Perhaps he feared market revolt. Last Tuesday, Coles government relations advisor Chris Mara told a Parliamentary forum that “Coles listens to our customers and over 90% do not want GM ingredients in their food.” Goodman Fielder, Australia’s largest food company, also backs the bans. Tatiara Meats, Australia’s largest lamb exporter, and 250 other food companies also want the bans kept.

Why? Because the public does. In polls taken by AC Nielsen, Roy Morgan, Millward Brown, The Age, and Swinburne University and Choice magazine, a whopping majority of Australians (between 70 and 90 per cent) don’t want GM foods. In this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald poll, 84 per cent of respondents don’t want it.

Despite agribusiness bodies giving the nod to GM food crops, 80% of farmers surveyed in a 2002 poll taken by the SA Farmers Federation supported a ban. In an August 2003 Biotechnology Australia poll 74% of farmers surveyed were not considering using GM crops. A Biotechnology Australia 2006 study found that “The Australian public see great risks from GM foods and crops and concerns are continuing to rise.” This followed an ABC report that there was “no market” for GM canola in Australia.

As big UK, Japanese and US chains remove GM food from their shelves, the EU is discussing the withdrawal of five GM crops. “Consumers are rejecting GM foods. Markets in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere are closing and domestic markets are likewise threatened. This is driving prices down,” Canada’s National Farmers Union reported.

This also comes at a time when scientists and farmers internationally are warning about the economic and health perils of GM food, some of which is unwittingly eaten because of inadequate labelling laws. Whether or not Brumby believes these warnings is irrelevant. He has forgotten that in a democracy and a marketplace, the customer is always right.

November 22, 2007

More on the safety risks of WiFi

Filed under: environment,health — Kath @ 11:55 am

Further to my earlier rantings, here’s an extract of a Crikey article on WiFi technology:

Around the world, government organisations, including schools, are facing a backlash for imposing wireless internet signals on citizens.

In the US, a class action lawsuit filed by parents at an Illinois school claims prolonged exposure to low intensity microwaves emitted by WiFi networks “can break down DNA strands, cause chromosome aberrations.” Lawyers acting for the class action claimed to have collected “more than 400 scientific articles, summaries and references outlining health risks… most of which have been researched and written after 1995.”

In the UK, the Teachers Union is calling for a ban on WiFi in schools, and universities are also starting to ban WiFi from campus. Canada’s Lakehead University president Fred Gilbert said that “microwave radiation in the frequency range of wi-fi has been shown to increase permeability of the blood-brain barrier, cause behavioural changes, alter cognitive functions, activate a stress response, interfere with brain waves, cell growth, cell communication, calcium ion balance…” and so on.

And last month, an international working group of senior scientists and public health policy academics, The BioInitiative Working Group, released a report listing serious health risks and urging tightening of international standards, particularly around children. The report gives a meta-analysis of more than 2000 studies and concludes that “existing public safety limits are inadequate to protect public health.” It recommends no WiFi in schools.

Another appeal, reportedly signed by 36,990 doctors, also claims existing standards are set too low, because they’re based on the erroneous assumption that only thermal heating of cells cause health effects. Yet as EMR Australia has reported, many studies suggest serious health impacts from non-thermal effects of low intensity radio-freqency signals like WiFi. The Freiburger Appeal signatories believe wireless devices, including portable home phones, have triggered “a dramatic rise in severe and chronic diseases”. Following this appeal, a reported 50,000 more doctors’ signatures were gathered on the Lichtenfelser Appeal, the Bamberger Appeal, the Hofer Appeal and the Helsinki Appeal.

Then there’s the Benevoto Resolution and the Catania Resolution both of which cite health risks and recommend wireless zones in cities. There are citizen groups like the San Francisco Neighbourhoods Antenna-Free Union and Australian groups like Tower Sanity Alliance.

November 12, 2007

Government to destroy hoons’ cars

Filed under: environment,Sydney Road — Kath @ 9:20 am

Check it out. Just what we need in Moreland.

November 7, 2007

Green roofs on sheds

Filed under: Backyard experiment,environment,gardening,urban farming — Kath @ 11:33 am

Green Roofs Australia reports that this rooftop garden cost around $35 per square metre to install. This is because the plants are hardy herbs and sedums, which don’t require watering (so no expensive roof irrigation).

A couple of months ago I put a green roof on the chook shed, which has a corrugated iron roof. I put down dam lining, and an old wadding doona for filtration. Most green roofs would require better filtration than this (carpet underlay is good), but since the water runoff from my chook shed goes straight into the garden, nutrient-rich runoff isn’t a problem.

Next, I put compost, and I (quite literally) threw a few sedums on top. The borders are old fence posts. I have photographed the start of my green chook roof, and I’ll
put up before and after pics in a few months, as well as pics of my (house) rooftop pumpkin crop.

September 28, 2007

Get Up!

Filed under: environment,politics — Kath @ 3:22 pm

To help this ad get screened, go here.

July 17, 2007

Permablitzing the suburbs

Filed under: environment,neighbours,urban farming — Kath @ 10:46 am

This is great!

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 21, 2007

Solar info for Morelanders

Filed under: architecture,environment,gardens,notices — Kath @ 7:14 pm

These pictures are for Faith, who asked about integrating roof gardens and solar panels.

There’s a site which explains about integration of green roofs and solar panels here.

Faith also alerted me to the Moreland Energy Foundation‘s solar power information session on 31 May.

The sesssion will cover:

  • Information on solar power technology
  • Displays of solar paneles and hot water systems
  • Information on prices for various systems
  • An opportunity to register interest in group discounts for people living in the same area.
  • May 13, 2007

    Revegetating our nature strips

    000_0647.jpg

    • 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.

    May 10, 2007

    Green roofs could make more land in Moreland

    This is what I’d like to see more of in residential Moreland:

    And, in our light industrial areas, this:

    A brand new gallery of photographs of green roofs from around the world is on the Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities website. Just follow the links to the photo gallery.

    May 3, 2007

    Another reason the State should support home vegie patches

    Oh, Bettina, Bettina. In your plagiarised article, syndicated in newspapers Australia-wide, you claimed that organic food was more dangerous than factory-farmed food. There are too many outright lies in this copied-and-pasted industry spin article to unpack here, but they have been adequately discredited elsewhere.

    But you got me thinking about the ongoing lobbying efforts to discredit organic food — even in our suburban vegie patches. Recently, our own Melbourne Times printed some typesetting claiming the answer for home vegie gardeners could be genetically modified crops.

    “Efforts to grow drought-resistant crops,” typed Kirsten Alexander, “could extend to the garden… Once crops have been created to cope with drought there’s surely an opportunity to offer genetically modified, drought-tolerant plants to the gardening public.”

    This is WAY unlikely, Kirsten. For a start, no such GM commercial crops exist, or have been field-trialled. And repeatedly, industry and independent polling shows that the overwhelming majority of Australians don’t want GM. And a poll by the South Australian Farmers’ Federation revealed 80 per cent of farmers didn’t want it, either, and supported a moratorium on it. There’s no reason to suppose we urban farmers will feel any differently.

    And the rhetoric of drought-tolerance coming from industry isn’t matched by peer-review studies. The promises of (patented, monopoly-owned) GM crops — lower yields, drought tolerance, pesticide tolerance, save the third world — look good, but are simply not backed by evidence.

    Back to sexologist-turned-industry-lobbyist Bettina’s campaign. I’m reading Michael Pollan’s magnificent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Did I mention that this book is stupendous? Part history, part gastronomy, part biology and politics and philosophy and intrigue, it’s so elegantly researched and written that even those not interested in food production would love it, I swear. It reads as a giant literary essay, and as Penelope Hobhouse said, it’s “as compelling as a detective thriller.” Buy this book: it’s peerless. Really. (If you want examples of Michael Pollan’s writings, they’re here.)

    Something I’m learning about from this book is how the by-products of war became integral in industrialised agriculture. In particular, the introduction of petroleum-nitrogen fertilisers meant farmers no longer had to rotate their crops (for example, with legumes, which fix nitrogen in the soil, or livestock, whose poo also adds nitrogen). Using nitrogen fertilizers derived from fossil-fuels, farmers could now plant monocrops repeatedly in the one space:

    Liberated from the old biological constraints, the farm could now be managed on industrial principles, as a factory transforming inputs of raw material–chemical fertilizer–into outputs of corn. Since the farm no longer needs to generate and conserve its own fertility by maintaining a diversity of species, synthetic fertilizer opens the way to monoculture, allowing the farmer to bring the factory’s economics of scale and the mechanical efficiency to nature.

    … From the standpoint of industrial efficiency, it’s too bad we can’t simply drink petroleum directly, because there’s a lot less energy in a bushel of corn (measured in calories) than there is in the half-gallon of oil required to produce it. Ecologically, this is a fabulously expensive way to produce food…

    Put another way, he writes, “it takes more than a calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of food.” The traditional farm, on the other hand, “produced more than two calories of food energy for every calorie of energy invested.”

    More than this. Nitrogen fertilizers decrease our food’s nutrient content. Graham Harvey has documented the ways nitrogen fertilisers don’t stimulate nutrient density, but they do cause excess growth of sappy tissue within plant cell walls. Repeated studies show animals and plants fed chemical fertilisers are lower in the essential vitamins and minerals than organically-fed animals and organically-grown food. Although Bettina’s plagiarised article reckons the opposite.

    We home gardeners, even those who buy our fertilizer from Bunnings, tend not to pullute river systems with petroleum fertilizer run-off. And we use far less water and energy to make our food.

    Even if you do believe Bettina’s claims that organic food isn’t tastier (it is), and isn’t more nutritious (empirical studies show it is), for these reasons alone we should be encouraged by the state to grow the stuff. If the State is really interested in sustainability and public health, that is. And there’s no better place to grow it than in our fertile, intensive backyards, where we can use much less water and energy than broadacre farmers.

    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 12, 2007

    Kevin Rudd sells out

    Filed under: environment,politics — Kath @ 6:20 pm

    The Ruddster is looking very shabby today. This morning we learned he’ll still appear on Alan Jones after The Parrot’s racist and violent Cronulla bile. It’s one thing for Rudd to disabuse us of his conviction-politican credentials; it’s another to reveal himself as a boneless scaredy-cat. And there are no realpolitik excuses: Jones weilds far less power than politicians fear. The evidence shows he preaches only to the converted, and his ratings are less than those of Gardening Australia. You’d have more influence appearing with Peter Cundall. But by consenting to appear on Jones, John Howard and Kevin Rudd bestow power to a bigotted megalomaniac. Here’s just one of Jones’ on-air rants about Lebanese, pre-Cronulla:

    Caller: If the police can’t do the job, the next tier is us

    Alan Jones: Yeah, good on you, J…

    Caller: Now, my grandfather was an old digger and he used to say to me when we were growing up, ‘Listen, shoot one, the rest will run’.

    Alan Jones: [laughing]

    Caller: Right?

    Alan Jones: … yes [laughing]

    (source: crikey)

    But wait, there’s more. Just now, I learned that the Ruddster drives a big fat 4WD Toorak Tractor. That’s right. As Crikey reported:

    Even Malcolm Turnbull has the wit to drive a hybrid… the Opposition Leader’s publicly paraded Greenhouse piety is at odds with his level of personal environmental commitment.

    It’s also more indicative of a certain intellectually sloppy hypocrisy than any amount of faultily recalled family history. If not a bridge too far, it might well be testing the waters for the last straw.

    I wouldn’t normally write about federal politics here, but I feel so goddam disappointed. I always thought it was after elections that disillusion with Labor set in. Not before. Kevin Rudd, I’d like to unleash Catherine Deveney on you.

    UPDATE: What the Ruddster drives is a Ford Territory (one is pictured, left.) Not quite the Toowong Tank, but still.

    April 4, 2007

    Bring it on

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

    Watch out, Moreland.

    March 28, 2007

    Catherine Deveney tells it like it is

    Filed under: crime,environment,politics — Kath @ 11:41 am

    Bravo, bravo, bravo.

    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…)

    February 25, 2007

    L’il dawgies

    Filed under: environment,pets — Kath @ 9:03 pm

    We’re thinking about getting a dog for Little One, and to scare the birds away from my vegie crops. We actually object to dogs. Yes, they’re lovable and cute and fun, but I can’t justify buying so much meat in cans every week. (Even the amount of dried food seems excessive.) Dogs are expensive to run, and they cause environmental damage by pooing (although not as much as previously thought.) So we thought a little dog might be just the ticket: apparently toy dogs eat as little as a handful a day. Thing is, we don’t like the wee yappy muts. Bloke likes pugs very much, because they’re ugly and robust and ‘a big dog in a small dog’s body’, but they’re around $700 each! Even puppies cross-bred with pugs are hundreds of bucks. Out of the question. We want something short-haired, calm, small, cheap and lovable. I sure would appreciate any advice on breeds or where to get a suitable l’il dawgy.

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