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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July 17, 2007

Permablitzing the suburbs

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

This is great!

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

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.

March 28, 2007

Justice for young Moreland men

Filed under: crime,events,Glenroy,neighbours,politics — Kath @ 3:02 pm

Few people swallow the federal government’s spin that David Hicks’ guilty plea vindicates the charges against him or his treatment. As Bob Brown told SBS last night: “David Hicks’ guilt will always be in doubt. John Howard’s guilt won’t be.” Or something like that, bless him.

Last night, at a legal briefing organised by Civil Rights Defence, concern was expressed that while Australia is rightly worried about the treatment of David Hicks, few of us are aware of the Guantanamo-style conditions happening to those branded ‘terror suspects’ in Melbourne. (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 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.

January 6, 2007

Dobbing on our neighbours

Filed under: art,crime,environment,gardening,neighbours,politics,water — Kath @ 12:07 am

Tough-on-crime serial dobber Bane of Malakas just emailed me. He alerted me to a blog on the site of a happening Melbourne music magazine, Mess+Noise. There, PaulsGrandfather writes:

“It is not anyone’s ‘right’ to water their concrete driveways. Or to take 20 minute showers. Or to hose down their windows.”

Hear, hear — naturally. Same, of course, with big urban 4WDs. Toorak tractors should be outlawed, for sure, and we should treat the ‘rights’ rhetoric coming from the motoring community car lobby with the tar-and-feathering it deserves. It’s no-one’s ‘right’ to warm the planet for the sake of Big Ego. But listen up: here’s PaulsGrandfather’s answer to water-crime: (more…)

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