Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Challenging the Way We Think

As part of our journey to a simple and eco friendly life, I have needed to challenge the way I think about most things. There are so many things we do in life that are just accepted as the way things are and I don't think these things are particularly good for us.

As an example, I spoke to someone the other day when I was making spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and they asked me what jar of sauce I use. When I told her that I make it from scratch she seemed surprised as if the idea to make it from scratch never occurred to her. This person is a fantastic cook and 20 years ago she would have only made bolognaise from scratch. Perhaps it is advertising and marketing that has drummed into us that the only way to make certain meals is to use a base product from the supermarket shelves.

I don't mean to single out this one conversation (or meal for that matter). There are a lot of other foods and products that people assume the only way to get them is to buy them ready made - breakfast cereal, custard, snack foods, pasta and bread (including ready made bread mixes) are just some from a very long list.

I can understand why people use ready made ingredients and there are days I resort to them too, but I think it is much healthier for ourselves and the budget if ingredients are as close to their original state as possible.

It also makes it easier to control what I am feeding my family. Try to find a jar of minced garlic or ginger that doesn't have sugar added to it (or preservatives for that matter). All I need is garlic, so why do I buy a product that has sugar and preservatives added to it? Why is it that I am finding it so hard to source a local supply of real garlic? I hate to use a cliche but it seems the corporations or perhaps we should call them the powers that be have successfully drummed into us that the minced garlic in a jar is the only garlic we should use.

So, what do we do about it? Well, whatever we do it is going to be hard. I am finding choices are limited unless I am prepared to drive all over Sydney (which defeats the whole not driving thing - another post eh?). I am trying to question everything I do and ask myself why I am reaching for that particular product and if there is an alternative that is better for my family, the environment and my budget. If you think about all the things we do in a day that are automatic, that is a lot of habits that need to be questioned and more than likely broken.

And habits can be hard to break. Especially habits that have ingrained into us for years. I don't think I will ever be able to sit back and assume I don't have to question things and neither should you. Even if you decide to continue down the path you are on, at least you have made that decision for yourself.

So, why not open your kitchen cupboard and pick up a jar and read the list of ingredients. If you picked up a can of peaches for example, are the ingredients just peaches and peach juice? Are you happy to be eating all the other ingredients? I know I'm not.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Doing, Less Blogging

I have spent the last week or so away from the computer (and internet) and have been doing a lot of the things I read and write about. As I have said before, I can lose hours reading all the wonderful blogs I subscribe to.

Miss Berry and I have had a wonderful week. She is such a delight and I love watching her grow and learn about her surroundings. I have also begun to introduce her to craft and have decided we each need our own project so I don't take over hers and turn into the imposing Mum (turn into? you ask). The big winner has been pavement chalk. We have a path to the clothes line and underneath it is covered in lovely toddler scribbles. I also drew her a hopscotch and she has been practising her jumping. Chalk is messy though - try to avoid the dark colours if you can.

Australian Tomatoes from Coles. The label says "Australian vine ripened".

My quest to reduce our food miles is still continuing. I found a brand of canned tomatoes at Coles that says it is Australian Made. It is twice the price of the imported ones that you get from Aldi which is insane. How can a product that comes half way around the world be half the price of a local product. But, it is still a cheap ingredient at $1.60 ish a can so I will stick with the Australian made one.

Thanks Fiona for the link to an online Australian Made grocer - https://www.onlyoz.com.au/. If you are interested in buying Australian made this site is a great resource.

I have also began a big autumn clean inside the house. We have venetian blinds on all the windows and they are looking really dusty so I am working my way through the house and giving each room a big clean. I feel so much better when the house is really clean.

The oven is next on my list and I keep putting it off - I hate cleaning the oven and I am not sure why I hate it so much. I don't use a commercial cleaner so I don't have to worry about fumes or anything. It's going to be a big job as I haven't cleaned it since Christmas when I cooked the pork in it which of course splattered everywhere. Worth it for all that yummy crackling though.

The Capsicum is growing strong with heaps of fruit forming as well as new flowers.

My basil crop. Everytime I look at it new flowers have formed. I keep harvesting the stems with flowers to try and keep it going for longer.

So, this weekend we are going to spend it in the garden. The remaining beds need to be prepared for planting, the seeds already sowed need to be thinned and the compost needs turning.

One of the beds I planted up this week. I have sowed Kale, Silverbeet, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Leeks and Radishes here. The punnents are sweetpeas to put at the back of the bed.

Anything to keep me away from cleaning the oven.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reducing Our Food Miles

One of the ways we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint is by buying locally produced food. We do not seem to have a farmers market in our area where the stall holders are actually farmers so until I can find a really local source for our food, I am aiming for Australian Produce.

The term ‘food miles’ refers to the distance a food has travelled from the time of production to your plate. Obviously, the further your food travels, the more energy is consumed and the higher the carbon output. Food miles does not take into account the amount of energy needed to produce the food which can vary widely, but I think that is an issue for another day.

In Australia, we have two labels to look out for and they each mean slightly different things - Australian Made and Product of Australia.
Australian Made means that a product is ‘made’ in Australia and at least 50% of the cost of production occurs in Australia. This can mean that a lot of the raw materials may be sourced from overseas and made into the product you will buy in Australia. Of course it can also mean that the majority of the raw materials are from Australia.
Product of Australia means that the main ingredients are made in Australia and the manufacturing or processing is also done in Australia. This label signifies that the majority, if not the entire product comes from Australia.
There is another label you sometimes see that is Australian Grown (I also see Produce of Australia). This one is pretty self explanatory and means that the major ingredients have been grown in Australia. If this label is on a product with more than one ingredient, be aware that there can be some imported ingredients but they won’t be the main ones. If you are looking at a product that only has a single ingredient such as fruit and veg then you will know that they have been grown in Australia.

When you look at the definitions of these three labels, it seems that the Australian Made label is a bit of a joke. They may have put the bits together in Australia, but if the bits come from all over the world then I think it really defeats the point. I am looking out for Products of Australia or Grown in Australia and am looking for alternatives when I can only find products from overseas.

We are starting our local buying in the supermarket and will move to other areas from there. Just adjusting your supermarket purchases is a big task and it is one that will make a huge difference. So far I have found about half of our grocery items are already products of Australia and 99% of our fruit , veg and meat is from Australia.

I go to a number of different supermarkets to do the grocery shopping including Coles, Aldi, Franklins, IGA as well as my local butcher and grocer. My butcher only sells Australian meat and the grocer clearly labels the origin of their produce.

I was surprised that Aldi had a lot of Australian products, as do the other supermarkets, but there are some things across all shops that I am having trouble with - the main ones being canned vegetables and beans. I haven’t checked Coles yet, but I am yet to find canned tomatoes, beans or legumes that are from Australia. The majority of them come from Italy. I am not sure what to do if I can’t find Australian canned tomatoes as I use so many, especially in winter. I haven’t needed to buy dried legumes yet so I am not sure if I can use them as an alternative to canned beans and lentils.

So, I will keep searching and hopefully, over the next month or two my trolley will only contain Products of Australia and our carbon footprint will be reduced even further. I must admit, it is not an easy task as it requires a complete rethink of the way we do our shopping but I definitely believe the effort is worth it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mr Darcy

The ABC showed the first two episodes of Lost in Austen last night and I forgot how much I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice.

I first fell in love with Mr Darcy (as I am sure most women did) with the BBC’s production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy. I used to watch that series over and over, usually whilst (can’t help myself – sorry) hand quilting. I then moved to Emma and then Sense and Sensibility but my favourite has always been Pride and Prejudice.

So, having awakened one’s appreciation for the novel, I did the reasonable thing and searched the internet for the other episodes of Lost in Austen. As any good adaptation of a Jane Austen novel should do, it had me in tears in the end.

Don’t worry, I won’t provide a spoiler and tell you how it ends, you can look forward to watching it yourself next week (or doing what I did and searching the net). I am going to do the housework I neglected this morning and day dream of my Darcy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

From Seed to Seed – February

As I mentioned earlier, I have taken up Melinda’s growing challenge.

I grew some veggies last year and over summer I tried a few varieties using heirloom seeds. This season I have even more heirloom varieties to try and also to save their seed to use next year.

I thought I would post a round up at the end of each month (or beginning of the following month if I am really slack) to summarise what I have been up to in the garden as well as a brief list of things to do over the next month.

If you are interested in joining the challenge or want to check out what other participants are up to, visit One Green Generation for the links.

Currently sowing
Corn Salad, Radicchio pallla rosa early, Mesclun Lettuce mix, Beetroot Melbourne early slowbolt, Cauliflower phenomenal early, Cabbage red dutch, Valerian.
Newly Planted
Dwarf Sweet Peas, Purple Basil, Thai Basil,
Capsicum, Cherry Tomatoes, Chamomile, Sweet Basil,
Seed Saving
Lettuce x 2 (I knew I should have marked what types they were when I planted them – all I know is that they are yummy!), Agapanthus

These are my current seeds I am saving. I chopped the heads off at the end of flowering and I am letting them dry in the garage. Hopefully, they will be successful.

To Do

  • Plant out lavender, chervil, pennyroyal, and beetroot seedlings.
  • Remove the last of the Lazy housewife beans from the trellis and compost soil to prepare for sweet peas.
  • Continue preparing the rest of the garden beds for the winter crop.
  • Look at seed saving for chamomile, borage and tomato.
  • Sow next batch of winter veg.
  • Figure out when and how to harvest the Rosella (pictured below)

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Weekend Round Up

This weekend flew by and before I knew it Monday morning had come around - again. I spent too much time this weekend catching up on a lot of the wonderful blogs I read and I realised I am way too addicted to the internet. But I can't seem to cull them and find I am adding more to my reader each week.

So, I thought I would share some of my favourites from the weekend and you can share in my addictive-ness.

For the cat lover. This is a must to visit each day.
Simple Green Frugal Co-Op always has a wealth of information in their posts and this weekend was no exception.
Julie is really getting stuck into the seed sowing - which reminds me, I must get out into the garden this afternoon.
For a good chuckle.
This is a new quilting blog I found recently. Very inspiring.

Ok, so that is just some (and I mean only a few) of the blogs I have been reading over the weekend. I won't shock you all by listing all of the blogs I follow. I look through the other half of my list and post some other links next week.
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