0

September Already?!

Whoa, so it has been ages since I’ve been here… I’ve been keeping an eye on things, but haven’t had a chance to post. It’s been a crazy year so far. Some major highs, like…

  • Buying (mortgaging) our first house, just 5 mins up the road from my good friend Jho’s place
  • Getting a new kitten (rescued off the road at 5wks old, poor wee thing, just in time for my birthday)

I hereby christen this kitten Fruit Tingle.

  • Ending a lease for the last time ever (no more renting!!)
  • Everyone going great guns at work and school
  • My health hitting a plateau (and since the only other way it could go was down, I’m taking plateau as a major win)
  • Yankee Elv getting dreadlocks, which she loves, and which killed my hands for the 50-odd hours it took me to do them for her

Yankee Elv loving her dreads (they were less than a week old at this point)

Yankee Elv's new hairdo gave me the perfect opportunity to rock a dreadstache.

  • Mr Teeny-bop getting taller than me and is starting to act less like an irritating teenager and more like a sensible verging-on-grown-up boy
  • Our old mate The Dyke Mike coming back down under… maybe for good again
  • My vegan-ness continues unabated
  • …and did I mention our new house? Quarter of an acre, baby!

Yankee Elv running around the lounge room on the day we got the keys.

But there have been some heavy lows too. The biggest and hardest hitting was Loodle and Old Man Fatso leaving us for greener pastures/another turn at the wheel. They were both very old and it was time… but it still sucked. It’s been since January for Fatso and since May for Loodle, but we still miss them and catch ourselves looking for them. That’s probably partly why I haven’t been here too much. I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Time helps, a bit.

Fatso and Loodle in times gone by.

Otherwise… Yankee Elv’s health has gone down as mine has improved plateaued and we’re not sure what’s going on with her yet. The car has been a never-ending money pit, but we have found an awesome mechanic and our new place is closer to Yankee Elv’s work, so there’s less driving (better for us and the planet!) and everything seems to be on track now. There’s an enormous possum in our ceiling who refuses to leave and is probably peeing all over everything up there as I type. I think his little minion possums come bring him food and water. He sounds like an overgrown wombat wandering around over our heads.

But in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t been treating us too badly. Some days are diamonds, some… no, I’m not going to go there John Denver. Especially since I only realised the lyrics were ‘stones’ when I looked them up just now. I always thought he said ‘dogs’. Why did I think that?

Sorry, sidetracked.

So anyway, basically, I’m here to say I’m here. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I still read your comments and I still think of things to write here all the time. I just haven’t been able to get here to write anything. Mortgages involve a lot of paperwork. Paperwork = time-consuming.

I hope to get here more often from now on, I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m going to be honest. No promises. There’s lots we want to do with the new house to get it just how we want it and the rest of my family are planning on applying for Aussie citizenship shortly, now they’re eligible. More paperwork; more time. But I’ll pop back again at least periodically, if not regularly… maybe I’ll do some shorter posts. Somewhere between the microblogging of Twitter and the super-epic-macroblogging I tend to do here.

So on that note, I leave you with one of the awesome surprises we found it our backyard (it was a stick when we moved in and suddenly, rapidly, ended up like this):

Mulberries

More mulberries (there are tonnes of them)

Peaches! I think it's a dwarf peach tree.

More to come…

1

I Hate Cars

The title says it all. Please take into consideration the following points as you read this:

  • I don’t have a license and people give me shit about it all the time. Sometimes I think I should get one for convenience or to get people off my back, but I don’t like driving, it’s not good for the planet and I have no inclination to learn. Despite that, I probably will learn one day…. for the above reasons.
  • My partner drives a lot for work, although both of us wish she didn’t have to, and today she had a significant car accident. She’s not home yet and I am feeling all sensitive and paranoid and I just want to see her even though we’ve been texting and she has assured me she is alright.
  • My good mates had a major (car written off) accident last week, by a stupid drunk driver. They’re lucky to be alive.
  • I regularly feel terrified when in the car amongst traffic. It just gives me the heebie jeebies.
front of a ford laser, smushed in.

Our smushed car. šŸ˜¦

I hate cars.

no cars sign

Here’s why:

Car maintenance. You spend a fortune maintaining an object you don’t really care about (well, I don’t), which ultimately depreciates in value until it hits rock bottom. Petrol and services and new tyres and oil and brake fluid and power steering fluid and windscreen wiper blades and cleaning and fixing broken air conditioners and rebuilding stupid broken motors. We bought our last car for $3500 and sold it two years later for $120 (including quite nice stereo, replaced tyres and a replaced motor which cost $2000).

Car insurance. It’s expensive. You pay a fortune in premiums or pay an excess. If you haven’t been driving without incident for ages it costs more. If you’re a young male it costs more. The insurance companies try to get out of paying for anything if at all possible. But you have to have it because what if something happens?

Petrol. It costs lots, is the root of many wars and conflicts and causes massive environmental damage. Petrol (oil, gasoline… whatever you call it) is super sucky.

It’s dangerous to drive. Lots of people die or are injured driving. I’m paranoid to drive. I’m paranoid to be in the car while other people are driving. People drive like maniacs sometimes. Anyone with a license can get on the road. There’s no law against driving tired, which can be just as bad as driving drunk. People drive drunk! I know they do. People speed. People get road rage and are impatient and drive in a hurry and are affected by their moods.

It’s dangerous to be a pedestrian/cyclist when you’re on or near a road. See the above reason. Car drivers tend not to be fond of pedestrians or cyclists… unless the pedestrian is pressing the crossing button so the traffic lights change in their favour. Then they praise the pedestrian. But they never give them a courtesy wave. They save that for other drivers. Cos some drivers (not all) think they are a cut above.

Cars have allowed for the proliferation of stupid car-based infrastructure, like enormous highways and oodles of roads roads roads and urban sprawl and jobs where you have to travel between sites, instead of hiring one person for one place, and another person for another place. Small community lifestyle – even amidst urban villages – is dwindling because no-one works near home anymore.

Cars have been so integrated into our culture that not driving or wanting to drive makes you appear to be a freak. When starting my new job, I downplayed it. ‘Oh, I prefer to take public transport. It’s better for the planet, for my health, you don’t have to worry about finding a park or paying for parking…’. Some folks thought that was fine. But on the days where I have to travel further afield, people suggest using a company car. I often end up car-pooling, which is fine, but I’d rather catch the bus or train. People talk to me like they feel sorry for me though, and offer me a lift. If I try to suggest that I’m ok, they steamroll the issue. My dad suggested they might just want to be able to use the T2 lane, but I don’t think so. I think they feel like they’re doing their civic duty by offering the poor public transport girl a ride.

Ok, maybe some of them are being nice. Maybe it’s my own internalised feelings that make the offers seem a tad condescending. Sometimes it feels like I’m the kid that my parents have to drop off places cos I’m not old enough to drive.

But – and here’s a catch 22 – because cars are so integrated into our culture and society, sometimes it really is more convenient to get a car ride, and I want someone to offer me a lift. So sometimes I resent it and sometimes I want it. Which makes me pissed off at myself and the world. But not at the people who offer me lifts. *sigh*

The integration and proliferation of cars means less walking, riding, running, bussing, training, ferrying… which means less fitness, less health, less wellness. Instead we sit alone, sedentary, inside our cars, stuck for ages in giant traffic jams, idling, as the fumes waft into the atmosphere. While I wait at bus stops, sometimes a play a little game with myself where I count the number of people in the cars that go by. I put them into two teams – the single-person car and the multi-person car. They compete. The single-person car always wins. Most car rides are made alone.

The reason that most closely pertains to this blog is the environmental impact of course. You all know it. Go mad on Google for a while. Stumble around on StumbleUpon, if you’ve got some environmental pages saved (it’ll show you more of the same – check my account out if you want an example). Basically, driving alone – the way the vast majority of Australians travel – is the most polluting, environmentally damaging way to get around.

co2 emissions (pounds per passenger). single car = 1.1. jet = 0.97. carpool with 3 people = 0.37.

single-car driving sucks.

So let’s sum it up:

  • Expensive (maintenance, insurance, repairs, registration)
  • Causes world conflict
  • Dangerous (for the drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians, wildlife)
  • Screwing with society (infrastructure, work-life balance, urban sprawl)
  • Unhealthy (sedentary as compared to physical, plus pollution is bad for the lungs, eyes etc)
  • Environmentally hazardous (pollution, oil collection etc)

And we lovely little human beings stick with it, for all that, because of convenience… or perhaps more to the point, because we believe or have been conditioned to believe that cars are necessary. A requirement. We wouldn’t have one if it wasn’t for Yankee Elv’s job. Or if we did, we wouldn’t use it for anything more than the odd camping trip or visit to my parents. At least, we wouldn’t if there was better infrastructure. Bah.

Cars suck.

I wanna go live in a place without cars, or in a place where those communal car companies make cars available in the suburbs, rather than just in the city. Why do you need them in the city? You’re IN THE CITY with a MILLION BUSES and TRAINS and FERRIES and WALKING PATHS and FOOTBRIDGES…

Yeah, it’s not a great day for me. I’m ticked off. And I hate cars.

The end.

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7

Eco-Friendly Dental Hygiene

You’ll remember a while back (a long while back; I had another hiatus, sorry ’bout that) I posted about my eco-friendly toothbrush.

For what it’s worth, I’m still loving it, although right now I’m using a Preserve toothbrush (til it wears out) cos local stores sold out of the Monumental Dental kind. It’s pretty good actually, I like it – but it’s three times the price of the wooden one, and recycled plastic is still plastic. It might be a good choice for Americans, who can send it back for re-recycling pretty easily, but internationally shipping a worn-out toothbrush seems a little over-the-top to me, honestly. So I was pretty happy to find the Environmental Toothbrush stocked at The Green Edge when I dropped by about a month ago.

I bought four.

I didn’t want to run out!

Anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. Today I wanna go beyond toothbrushes… to toothpaste or bust!

Ok, I might discuss dental floss too.

So the impetus for this post is the fact that I’ve had a toothpaste convergence recently. That is, my toothpaste ran out and I had to buy some more, which made me feel bad about buying more plastic that I’m eventually just going to throw away. Then I saw this post from Pioneer Woman. I was feeling guilty over one plastic tube, let alone two..! But I can’t say I blame them. I mean, dude, look at that tube! P-Dub’s, I mean. MM’s is perfect fantastic normal fine. No, I’m not talking about his butt. (What? Lesbians can appreciate a good butt, even if it does belong to a man. Go on and look, you’ll see. There’re lots of pictures.)

Anyway, I digress.

I looked around to try find a non-plastic toothpaste tube. None in the supermarket, duh. I’ve looked in Flannery’s and The Green Edge. All plastic there too. I’ve read about the Tom’s of Maine metal toothpaste tube that Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish uses in her very comprehensive post entitled Plastic-Free Dental Floss? Not Quite, but again, I’d have to ship it from the USA and I try not to do that. Buy local, y’know? I know some people use baking soda, but I’ve heard a lot of stories about how abrasive it is, so I’m not sure that I’m keen. (There are lots of comments on Beth’s post, so have a look if you want lots of opinions!)

macleans mild mint toothpaste

At the moment I'm using this toothpaste. I recycle the box, and try to use the toothpaste sparingly.

So right now, I’m just trying to use tiny bits of toothpaste at a time. I also brush my teeth twice a day, but I only use toothpaste one of those times. It’s mostly the brushing motion that’s important anyway… toothpaste is a bit more of a breath-freshener (as far as I know, anyway…).

You didn’t think I was going to offer any solutions, did you? These days I feel like I’m asking more questions than I am suggesting possible answers.

Which brings me to my second question: dental floss. What do you use?

Beth (of the aforementioned Fake Plastic Fish) uses Eco-Dent floss, which is available here in Brisbane from The Green Edge and The Cruelty Free Shop.

eco dent floss in cardboard box

This is the eco-dent floss that comes in the cardboard package... but cinnamon-flavoured!

It’s not perfect, but Beth explains why it’s the best of the bunch. On the upside, the packaging is recyclable cardboard and the wax coating on the floss is from vegetables, not beeswax or petroleum. On the downside, the floss is still made of nylon, and the packaging has a thin plastic wrapper, two plastic stickers and a plastic spool. On the very very downside, it costs nearly $12 a box, is shipped to local stores from America and – here’s the worst part – it’s cinnamon-flavoured. I’m sorry, but what is with that?! Cinnamon might work as a flavour in the USA (although how, I don’t really understand), but I remember that Close Up era in Australia in the 80s. My cousin used that toothpaste. It was red and hot and nasty. Just like Dr Pepper, it was fad, fortunately gone quickly. Cinnamon should only be used in food, like apple crumble. Ew ew ew, I cannot use cinnamon-flavoured floss!

So I dunno what that leaves me with.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

(I couldn’t help it; it’s been a while since I used that quote. Forgive me.)

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9

Reduce: Toothbrush Waste

Am I an eco-freak or is thinking about environmentally friendly dental hygiene a normal trait amongst the eco-conscious?

Thank you, I thought it was normal. (No comments from the peanut gallery.)

Alright, for those of you less eco-freak normal than me, here’s why you should be thinking about the environmental impact of toothbrushes. Let’s take Australia as an example.

There are about 22 million people in the country. Let’s say, as a very rough estimate, that 1.25 million are little babies and don’t have teeth. So that’s 20.75 million Australians with teeth (including dentures, which still need to be brushed, so they count.) We all know the dentist tells us to change our toothbrush when it starts to get shaggy; about every three months. We also know that we are lazy, so we probably only change them every four months. So let’s say everyone changes their toothbrush three times a year (every four months).

Here’s the equation:

  • Australian population with teethĀ  x number of toothbrushes used per person per yearĀ  = number of toothbrushes used in Australia per year

…which equates to:

  • 20,750,000Ā  x 3Ā  = 62,250,000

Yes, you read that right. By my very rough estimate, Australians are using 62 and a quarter million toothbrushes per year. (Some estimates say 30 million, but I’m going to presume Australians care about their dental hygiene more than that.) To boggle your brain a little more, keep in mind that Australia has a small population. Think of how many toothbrushes the US, Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and Indonesians are using. Yikes!

These toothbrushes are made of plastic (the handles) and nylon (the bristles), plus they come in that dodgy plastic packaging – one of those single-use, disposable consumer items The Story of Stuff claims make up the vast proportion of our purchases.

Remember, no plastic is boidegradable. Photodegradable, sure (that means, broken down by sunlight into tiny pieces) – but it’s still there, being ingested by ever smaller organisms – entering and messing with our food chain from the very lowest level. All plastic rubbish goes into landfill or one of the ocean garbage patches (there are five – even though you may have only heard of the largest one in the North Pacific).

So what can we do about it?

Well, Mr Teeny-bop and I are trialling the Environmental Toothbrush and we are very excited! (Yankee Elv will get one too when her current toothbrush wears out.)

I found the wooden toothbrushes at Flannery’s for $2.95 each, which is very comparable with standard plastic toothbrushes (actually less than some). They are made of sustainably-produced bamboo (the handle) and a biodegradable polymer (the bristles) and will apparently compost completely in your home compost heap or bin. The packaging is cardboard and paper, which can be composted or recycled.

The one environmental downside is that they are manufactured in China (although this would be an upside if you lived in China, so I guess it all depends on your perspective). Regardless, every other toothbrush I’ve been able to find on the shelves is also made in China, so it’s not like they’re any worse than what we’ve been buying anyway, in terms of travel miles. My findings on manufacturing locations are backed up by an Australian Low Impact blog.

As far as the efficacy goes, I think they are great! The bristles are soft, which is my preference anyway, but these are a bit softer than I’ve been able to find otherwise, so I’m very impressd with that.

The handle is comfortable and the head is small, which works for me as I have a small mouth. Sometimes I find toothbrushes are a bit big to fit comfortably between my top and bottom teeth and I have to really open wide to brush my back molars. This toothbrush doesn’t require that, which is great.

Also, my front teeth curve a little bit and it can be difficult to clean the back of them, but the small head and soft, bendy bristles make cleaning a breeze. I think I actually like the way this brush works better than any other I’ve used. So it’s a win for me!

Mr Teeny-bop also reports that is it very comfortable. He likes that it’s not so ‘plasticky’ in his mouth and he also likes the smaller head and softer bristles. We are using coloured elastic bands (stolen from Yankee Elv’s old hair supplies) to tell the toothbrushes apart.

I am conscious that we will have to be careful to keep the toothbrushes dry. I think leaving them standing in a cup (our current method) is not going to be an effective way of keeping the ends from staying damp and potentially rotting. We’ll have to modify our toothbrush storage method, but I think that is a small price to pay.

So why don’t you give them a try? If you don’t live in Queensland and thus don’t have access to a Flannery’s shop, you can order the toothbrushes from the site, like the folks at My Green Australia are going to. Alternatively, try find your own locally produced environmentally-friendly toothbrushes, and spend your four minutes of toothbrushing per day congratulating yourself for diverting more plastic from landfills and oceans. Cos we all deserve some self-congratulation sometimes, right?

Remember to spread the word to your family and friends. These toothbrushes are not only good for the environment, they’re also good value and comfy to use!

P.S. These toothbrushes are also vegan. No boar bristles!

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2

Teenage Boys Are Not Eco-Friendly

The title of this post says it all really. I can be as eco-friendly as I want. My son is not. This is a juxtaposition, ja?

teeny-bop emo

Mr Teeny-bop is emo, with coffee and crossword. (I got a snap of him smiling after this... emo defeated!)

Sometimes, it’s not his fault. Sometimes it is… sort of. Here are the top 10 reasons why, in no particular order.

1. Teenage boys grow, seemingly exponentially. Buying lots of clothes is not eco-friendly, and of course, teenage boys are too fashionable to want second-hand clothes. Ooh la la.

2. Teenage boys eat a lot. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but my teenage boy is a picky, picky eater. He likes processed foods, like Kraft’s Mac&Cheese (the kind in the blue box), when he could just as easily eat the fresh, homemade kind his mother (not me, the other mother) makes. Pretty much the only non-processed nutrition he consumes comes from fruit, veges and soy milk. Ok, and cheese and meat and cereal and pasta and bread. But that’s it. And I don’t mean lots of kinds of these things. There are two kinds of cheese (one wrapped in plastic), several kinds of meat and cereal, two kinds of pasta (including Mac&Cheese) and white, low GI bread. Oh, and pierogi.Ā  No other non-processed food. Does coffee count as processed or non-processed? He drinks that too now (one cup a day only; he’s the only person in the house who likes it.) You might think I’m a terrible mother for letting him eat like this, but remember – when you’re a teenage boy, you know it all, and that includes what food you like. Besides, compared to what he used to eat, we are having victories every day. He tried sushi recently. He didn’t love it, but he tried it, and apparently it’s better than baked beans (another recent attempt). It seems resistance is futile after all.

3. Teenage boys break headphones. Sometimes I wonder if teenage boys realise there are actually a finite number of headphones in the world. And what do you do with broken headphones? There’s really no use for them. Can anyone think of a use for them? Mr Teeny-bop has just gone through three pairs in a month. I shudder when I think of the plastic-y, metal-y waste. I think I had one pair of headphones in all my teenage years. Then again, people didn’t walk around with their own personal soundtrack to life playing constantly inside their head (or from their iPod – however you’d like to describe it.) Maybe the next eco-unfriendly thing is increased hearing aid waste due to iPod-induced deafness. (I say waste, because I know teenage boys wearing hearing aids will lose or break the aids as quickly as they destroy headphones.)

4. Teenage boys do half-arsed chores around the house and call it done. For example, teenage boys mow the lawn and leave the cut grass out as green manure… on the concrete driveway. Call me sceptical, but I don’t think it’s going to enrich the soil too much there. Teenage boys don’t take as much care as they could when choosing which bin to tip the recycling into, because they are too busy thinking about lame Facebook applications and text messaging. Teenage boys don’t turn off the lights when they leave rooms. Teenage boys forget to turn the iron off (when they bother to iron). You may be sensing a pattern here. Yes, it’s the pattern of my irritation. Mothers of teenage boys have their own issues.

5. Teenage boys are even rougher on their shoes than pre-teen boys. I did not think this was possible, but apparently it is. Like broken headphones, what do you do with worn out shoes, I ask you? We have to buy new ones every term (roughly 12 weeks).

6. Teenage boys like lots of screen time. Wii, GameCube, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, text messaging, TV, DVD, camcorders, email… (I am looking at a screen a lot too, to be fair, but a lot of that is for my job.) Screen time takes electricity, and more of it means more electricity. Teenage boys also forget to turn appliances off. Before bed every night I do a round of the house, turning off computers, consoles, DVD players, TVs…

7. Teenage boys wear bigger clothes. This is fine, except it means I wash the same number of items, but I need to run more loads of laundry to fit everything in. I also run out of room on the clothes line. Trust me when I say that you should not try to circumvent this by overstuffing the washing machine. Teenage boys also smell, and if you don’t leave enough room for the clothes to get well scrubbed, the smell is going to linger. Even front loaders (which I have, and which apparently are supposed to be full during use as the agitation action is caused by the clothes rubbing together) do not do well being overstuffed.

8. As previously mentioned, teenage boys smell. Self-aware teenage boys (like my dear Mr Teeny-bop), try to circumvent this with deodorant. Unfortunately, mass marketing and peer pressure means Lynx body spray (not anti-perspirant), in a pressurised can, is the deodorant of choice. At least BO smells a little better when mixed with Lynx… even if it is sprayed so thickly I can taste it if I go into the bathroom after Mr Teeny-bop in the morning. Does anyone know what happens to spray cans when they are thrown away?

9. Teenage boys have a social life, which I am all for. Fortunately, living in a city permits a social life via bus, most of the time. However, the car trips we make to drop off/pick up are still considerably more than those made in pre-teen days. There’s just no way around the car and its links to suburbia unless there is dramatic social, demographic and economic change.

10. Teenage boys are rough on clothes. Socks wear out fast. The hems of shorts come down ‘by accident’. Shirts get stained. Jeans get ripped. Jumpers get covered in dog and cat fur. Hats get lost. Undies… well, ok. Undies wear pretty normally. But this brings us back to the first point – buying more clothes. Again. For a different reason. It’s a race to see whether he outgrows them or trashes them first.

Sometimes I think my efforts towards eco-consciousness are circumvented by my son. Sometimes my pattern of irritation feels ready to erupt into firey temper tantrums. (Yes, mothers have temper tantrums, they just look a lot different to kids’ temper tantrums.) Then my teenageĀ  boy does something sweet, like invent an imaginary Italian bed and breakfast, complete with hand-written menu and fake accent, just so he can wear a manly apron and cook pancakes for me as Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, instead of adding to the consumer culture and buying me a gift I don’t really need.

Most days, he’s grumpy and self-absorbed, but sometimes I get a glimpse of who he used to be, and who he’ll become, and I know it’ll be worth these angsty teenage years in the end. No-one who can be that loving and gentle with an aging ginger cat can stay angsty forever.

At least, I hope so!

mr teeny-bop and fatso

Mr Teeny-bop and that aging ginger cat, Old Man Fatso, sleeping on the couch.

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0

Wassup?

I haven’t been steadily posting recently cos I’ve either been busy or tired. Life has been interfering with my life! So here’s a snapshot (in hindsight, it’s more like a full school photo) of what’s been happening in the house of ELV.

The house of ELV (speaking of) is being sold – we have to move elsewhere. We don’t know for sure whether they want us to see out the lease for a few more months, or leave ASAP (although they can’t force us), but already plent of debate about buy vs rent has ensued. We’ve decided to rent again for now. So the house-hunting begins. I will miss our friendly neighbour even if he does kill passionfriut vines and can’t understand most of what I say. I already miss the duck at the other neighbour’s house – I don’t know what happened to cute little Mishka. I will also miss the sounds of the chooks over the back clucking away in the mornings. *sigh* I hate moving.

My butternut pumpkin vines are growing rampantly and have already started to flower (so pretty!). If we can stay for a few more months, I may get a pumpkin or two. Otherwise, the new owner will be feasting on the fruits of my labour.

I’ve been telecommuting up a storm, which has proved more enjoyable than I anticipated. I really thought I’d miss the camraderie of the office, but due to a combination of many of my chatty friends moving to other jobs and the use of collaborative technology to talk to my remaining friends, it has been pretty cool. I get more work done and my lungs enjoy the lack of air conditioning. I’m only going into the office once this week. Think how little the impact of my transportation is this week!

I read No Impact Man‘s book. I liked it, although it did get a little preachy at times, but only momentarily, then it went back to interestingly philosophical and funnily anecdotal at the same time. It took me back to when I first started reading No Impact Man’s blog a couple of years ago. I loved it and it inspired me no end. It was nice to feel that zeal again. A note though: why was it ok to tell the world that his wife used menstrual cups, but not share what he used instead of toilet paper? I’m not one for secrecy about bodily functions anyway, although I respect his choice not to expose everything, but isn’t that a bit of a double standard? (I shan’t stir up controversy by discussing what this double standard may indicate…).

My buddy went to Singapore and all I got were these two metal ear diggers. I only got them on the proviso that I blogged about them! Yankee Elv and I have both tried them. Apparently I have pretty clean ears, so nothing much is happening for me, although I’ve heard good things from others. Yankee Elv doesn’t get dirty ears at all (we’re not sure why, perhaps something to do with a lack of inner ear hair due to deafness?). She mostly uses cotton tips to itch the ear in which she wears her hearing aid. For this purpose, she tells me, the ear digger is a poor substitute – she can’t think of anything other than a cotton tip that will do the job, as she doesn’t like the hard, scrape-y feeling of the ear digger. Can anyone think of an alternative?

I’ve been reducing the amount of soy milk I’m consuming, since I’ve increased my intake of soy yoghurt and soy cheese as I’ve struggled through my first six weeks of veganism. I’ve been supplementing my soy milk intake with oat milk, and thought I’d do a little unofficial research into which is the best. Expect an oat milk review post coming soon.

Something is eating my sweet potato leaves. I thought it was a caterpillar, but I only saw it on them once. For a while I saw these shiny little bugs about the size of large fleas, but they seemed to disappear a week or so ago. Now they’re just holey leaves. What has been munching them?

I’ve decided before we move house, I am going to take cuttings of rosemary, pink frangipanis and jade plant. All three are growing brilliantly here and I don’t want to lose them. The grapefruits aren’t in season or I’d plant some seeds – the grapefruit tree really is prolific in its bounty and produces the most enormous, spectacular, juicy fruit. Alas, I think I shan’t be around to see it this year. Does anyone know if you can grow native ginger from a cutting? I’m sure we have some of that somewhere too…

I’m looking for a copy of Sharon Astyk’s Depletion and Abundance at the library as I’ve heard it’s good. I used to read her blog, but found it too heavy for my short internet attention span. I think I will like it better in book form. Unless I know the author or have read the book already, I try to get all my books from the library. What’s the point of wasting resources and space with a bazillion books you’re only going to read once? I like the books on my shelves to be old friends.

I’ve been trying hard to be a good vegan, and I think I’m mostly succeeding, but I haven’t always been able to keep a cheery face on. Now, you might think that a cheery face about veganism isn’t necessary, but I think it is when you’re talking about it with non-vegans. As a vegetarian, I always present the face of ‘gosh, I am supportive of everyone’s choices, and if you want to eat meat, that’s your right – but wow, vegetarianism is easy, tasty, fun, healthy, good for the environment… wow, it’s just so great!’. Yeah, that’s quite a face. I better hope the wind doesn’t change. However, I guess I didn’t have as many people to talk with when I first went veg, as opposed to now, when all my co-workers know and ask me how it’s going. They are all very supportive, but I find it hard to publicly keep my chin up on a day when I’m really missing cheese or chocolate – especially since these things are often to be found in our office! I think they all think I’m a bit of a fringey, fanatic weirdo – in a nice way, of course. Telecommuting has helped since I’m not around those foods so much, and so has Lindt Lindor’s 70% dark chocolate (I know it’s not Fair Trade, but one step at a time)… but still, I find myself feeling guilty over my inability to be perky, sunshiny vegan at work. Breaking the dairy addiction is hard – much harder than giving up meat was! Sometimes I think it’s too hard and I’m being mean to myself (after all, isn’t life about experiences? I like my experiences to be as pleasant as I can make them). I think maybe I could just get dairy sparingly, from a nice organic farm… but then I think of the baby cows, especially the bobby calves, and their poor mamas! I think the guilt I’d feel over that would surpass any nice feelings the cheese/chocolate/ice-cream gave me. And so I stick with it. Soldier on, you know. Codral hit the nail on the head with that one.

Yankee Elv and I went to the West End markets on Saturday. We missed out on Dagwood Dogs from Ykillamoocow, to our surprise. They normally start cooking them at 10am and this week they started at 7am, bowing to popular demand. Not my demand, I like a sleep-in! I got a pumpkin/barley roll (kind of like a vegan sausage roll, but one that isn’t trying to taste like herbed, minced animal bits. It was a tasty breakfast with the home-made tamarind sauce and the homestyle lemonade we bought. Plus I had a few of Yankee Elv’s Greek honey puffs for dessert, and a vegan melting moment (passionfruit cream, from The Bakery V stall). We also tried Hibiscus juice (gorgeous, tasted similar to sweetened cranberry juice), tapenade, local honey (also not vegan, I knooooow), pineapple chunks and more juice. We were quite restrained really. We got lots of stuff, including some things I haven’t tried before (parsnips and fresh olives, like, right off the tree kind of fresh). I also got a couple of plantains, which I think I’m going to use in a curry, plus lots of our usual kinds of veges/fruits. I loved going to the counter and paying tiny amounts; I paid 75 cents for the two most enormous carrots ever. I did not like going within a five stall radius of the feral seafood stall. We mightn’t eat fish, but Yankee Elv and I both grew up around seafood and I’m sorry, but if it smells like that then you do not want to be putting it in your body. Ew. We wound up the morning with a visit to Reverse Garbage, but didn’t buy anything. It’s fun just to look and imagine.

Only two of my spring onions have lived and they are tiny – I think they drowned in their wet little corner. From one extreme to another with them! I’ll try again at the new place. I can’t tell my carrots from the weeds, so I guess the new owner will be in for a surprise eventually…

The new Clem 7 tunnel is brilliantly fast, but apparently has tonnes (literally) more pollution that was originally estimated. I don’t know that the two air sucker towers (I can’t remember what they’re called! One is Jacaranda purple and the other is Poinciana red) are doing their job.

jacaranda

One of the Clem 7 air sucker tower things is the colour of the flowers on the Jacaranda trees.

Motorists have been advised not to wind down their windows in the tunnel because the pollution is so bad. We found this out after we spent 25 mins in a traffic jam in there, with the windows down cos our car has no air conditioning. This is why I like buses. The tunnel was very zippy outside of peak hours though, taking about 4 mins from end to end.

I’ve just remembered I haven’t hung out the wet sheets and blankets I washed, which made me think of the clothes line, which made me remember that all potential new houses must have a place for an under-the-house line. The list of requirements seems to be mounting.

And I have also realised that I’ve written a tonne! Clearly I needed a post like this. I started on the oat milk review yesterday and it just seemed to drag and things kept distracting me… sometimes I guess you need to just let it all flow out higgledy-piggledy.

Speaking of pigs (well, piggledy, close enough) – look!

edgar alan pig

It's Edgar Alan Pig from Edgar's Mission! He's so cute!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Reduce: Summer Fruit Food Miles

It’s summer in Australia and that means it’s hot. I live in Queensland, so that means it’s bloody hot! (Ok, South East Queensland isn’t hot to the rest of the Queenslanders, but it is to a lot of the outside world.) My point is, it’s too hot to stand in the kitchen over a hot stove. Summer in Queensland is typically the season of salads. Among others, there’s pasta salad, Greek salad, potato salad, Ceasar salad, mango and avocado salad and (my favourite) – fruit salad!

Fruit salad is soooooo good on a hot summer day!

Fruit salad is soooooo good on a hot summer day!

I’ve been going to town with the fruit eating lately, and I’m not generally a fruity person (fruit is sticky and I really dislike being sticky). The fruit is so cool and refreshing though, that it’s worth getting a little messy to enjoy it. Plus, then you get to have a cool shower afterwards (or a jump in the pool or ocean) to cool off. Mangoes and melons are my particular favourites, and the best thing about them at this time of year is that they’re all in season (you can check here). This means they’re cheap, but as well as that, buying ‘in season’ fruit means you tend to buy local.

Queensland, in particular, grows a heck of a lot of summerfruit (stone fruit, like peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines), melons (such as watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew), pineapple, bananas, passionfruits, pawpaws (papaya) and mangoes in the summer. Queensland farms also grow less well known fruits in summer, like dragon fruit, lychees and longans (which Yankee Elv likes to eat for breakfast). Basically, pretty much every succulent, juicy fruit you can imagine wanting to eat in summer, we have here in cheap, local abundance. I love it!

Now, when I say local, in some instances I really mean local – mangoes are in season all around me, for instance – the neighbours have a massive tree they’ll never completely harvest because it’s just too tall, so the possums, flying foxes and fruit bats are going to have a feast. It gets me every time I go out on the back verandah. There’s this mango tree up the road that I pass on the way to the bus in the mornings… it is so laden with fruit it’s all I can do not to jump the fence and start in on it. Only the fact that it’s not cool to steal, and that it must be a mid-season variety (the fruit is only just starting to get a pink blush on its very full cheeks) is stopping me! We have pawpaws, bananas and passionfruits in suburban backyards and along fences all over the place. Mmm mmm good!

In other instances, though, Queensland isn’t quite that local. Some people, like Asphyxia from Fixie’s Shelf, live in smaller states (in her case,Victoria), so just consider the whole state local. That won’t work for Queensland though. You’ve got to remember – you could fit the US state of Texas more than five times into Queensland. We have a lot of area (no, not as much as you guys in Western Australia, but let’s not go there). Most folks agree that when it comes to food miles, local equals a 100 mile (roughly 160km) radius from your home. For me, that means I can go as far south as Lismore, almost as far west as Dalby, and my northern boundary is between Gympie and Rainbow Beach. To the east, I have Moreton Bay, including the islands I guess, although they’re not really cultivated. If I ate seafood though, I would be set! You can check your 100 mile local food radius using the Radius Around a Point tool – see Julie’s (from Towards Sustainability) instructions to learn how.

My local food radius - 100 miles around Brisbane.

So what does having a huge state mean? It means that getting melons from Yeppoon (which I always considered quite close by) is about twice again as far north as I’m supposed to go, according to my radius. Not so local. That being said, I think it’s better to eat a melon from Yeppoon than a packet of biscuits from the nearby Weston’s factory. I guess for me there’s more to reducing food miles than just how far away the food was grown/produced – it also involves reducing the environmental impact of the food I eat in a more general way. In this example, I think it’s better to avoid the plastic and all of the energy expended on producing the raw ingredients and then on creating the biscuits (including the energy required to run the factory and ship the biscuits), and just eat a damned melon. The melon requires no packaging and much less energy is expended to produce raw food as opposed processed food. In addition, most fruit is shipped around Australia by electric train – a far better method than by truck or air.

Aussies are a bit greedy too, we eat most of our fruit right here in the country. Yum. There’s nothing better than a big platter of stone fruit in the middle of the Christmas table at lunch time. It’s the perfect interlude, between a morning spent stuffing yourself on Christmas treats and an evening cool enough to eat a hot dinner. Plus it’s light enough so you can spend the day in the pool without getting a cramp. Yay for local, seasonal fruit!

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