Spring has Sprung

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Even though it is barely the middle of August there is definitely spring (some would say summer) in the air.  Our winter was very mild here and we could be in for a long hot summer so it makes sense to get a head start on the summer growing season before it gets too hot.

I harvested the last 4 purple cabbages and dug over the bed in readiness to plant some beans.

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We have never had quite enough soil to fill these beds to the level I would like so I took the opportunity to add some more material to the bed before I planted the beans.

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This is one of the various mulch/compost piles that are dotted around our property.  GMan uses this one exclusively for grass clippings.  I know that the purists say that you cannot compost just one type of material such as lawn clippings but I can assure you that the underneath of this heap had broken down beautifully into rich compost and was teeming with worms.

We removed the decomposed material from the bottom of the heap and returned the rest to the heap for another day.

Here is the bed topped up and ready to plant.

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Meanwhile, I weeded the carrots which are continuing to grow nicely.  I have harvested some baby ones as I thinned them out.

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The newer blueberry bushes which are now a couple of years old, are finally getting established and showing some real signs of progress.  Some, like this one are covered with flowers and fruit.

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A closer view.

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Finally, a reminder that the garden is not only about growing food.  It is about enjoying our surroundings.  This photo is of the natural sculptural form of the the deciduous white cedar which dominates the back garden.

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What season is it in your garden?  Is it changing?  Have you modified your planting habits or even what you can grow to accommodate changes?

 

Plastic-Free July – All Wrapped Up

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Well, July is over and that means Plastic-Free July has come to an end for another year.

However, Plastic-Free July is much more than simply a month of denial.  It is an opportunity for us all to challenge ourselves to reduce our use of single-use plastics and to continue new habits well beyond 31st July.

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I chose to renew my efforts to refuse plastic straws. I do not often have a drink when I am out but I made a conscious decision to ask for my drink without a straw whenever I was ordering.

The highlight was tonight when GMan and I went to the local tavern in a small village near us for dinner.  We went to the bar to order our drinks and I ordered a lime and soda.  I was asked if I would like ice – yes, please, lime cordial as well as fresh lime – no, thanks and finally, as the glass was filled – would I like a straw?  Of course, my response was no, thanks but I also pointed out that I was delighted to actually be asked.  I felt that this gives validity to those of us who choose the ‘no straw’ option.  The waitress then asked if I didn’t like drinking from a straw and I replied that I chose not to use one as it is single-use plastic and most often ends up in the ocean.  I then pointed out that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do because no-one expects that my husband will drink his beer with a straw!  I was excited by her reply of, “You know, I’ve never really thought of it like that, but you are right”.  Another seed is sown…………

Did you participate in Plastic-Free July?  Are you trying to reduce your use of single-use plastics?

Please share your story.

10 Days

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Yes, it is 10 days since my last blog post.  There is no good reason – I just took a break.

I think the biggest news (in Australia) in the past couple of weeks has been the announcement by Woolworths that they will stop using single-use plastic bags.  This was closely followed by Coles announcing that they would do the same.  Here is a news report.  I have not commented on this announcement so now is probably as good a time as any.

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“What a great initiative” was my my immediate thought, especially in the midst of Plastic Free July.  Perhaps the movement was really starting to gain some traction with mainstream consumers?

My optimism was short-lived as I began to hear and read various responses.  In fact, despair would have been a more accurate description of my mood over the following days.

Here is a round-up of the sort of comments that came to my notice:

  • It is only so they (supermarkets) can sell more heavy-duty plastic carrier bags.
  • Green bags are made from a plastic-based fabric – you have to use them 347 times to make the impact less than the single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to collect dog poo when out walking?
  • Research shows that the sale of bin liner bags has increased in those states that have completely banned single-use plastic bags.
  • What will I use to line my bins?

Seriously??

It is evident that many, many people have long way to go before they understand the impact of the millions of plastic bags which are produced every year and used only once.  They also do not appear to be prepared to adjust their lifestyle even slightly.

So, how do you counter these and a million other ill-informed comments?

The first and simplest thing is to consider investing in some strong fabric bags that do not contain plastics.  I can assure you that these will last for many, many years and can be repaired as necessary.

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Work towards generating less waste so that you have a reduced need for bin liners.  Purchasing larger packs, from bulk bins, unwrapped, using your own produce bags will all assist in reducing the amount of packaging waste.

Take more care with grocery shopping and buy only what you will actually use.  Remember, first world countries such as Australia, the USA and UK discard around 25% of all food produced.  Make sure you are not part of this dreadful statistic.

Consider composting food scraps to reduce the amount which you currently send to landfill.  Even if you do not have access to a backyard there are numerous systems available which can be used by people living in apartments.  Additionally, there are opportunities to connect with people who may be happy to take your scraps for their compost system or search for a community garden in your area.  Online connections are invaluable in the 21st century for developing relationships which are mutually beneficial.  One such example is Spare Harvest which is building a sharing community for excess produce, plants and garden resources.

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Small bins that do not contain wet food scraps can be lined with newspaper.  So, the naysayers point out that not everyone gets the newspaper anymore!

The real point of this post is to encourage everyone to take a positive, solution-based approach to change.  We need to be looking for innovative ways to reduce our environmental footprint rather than railing against any change which may happen to impact our wasteful lifestyle.

I live in a semi-rural area and our local town has a Woolworths and IGA supermarkets as well as a selection of independent retailers.  Almost all of these businesses routinely provide plastic bags for purchases.  I believe that the impending phasing out of plastic bags by the retail giants can taken up by all retailers and set a precedent by making Maleny plastic bag free.

I intend to promote this idea and encourage others to become involved.  My first strategy will be to contact the IGA supermarket and ask them to match the Woolworths ban on plastic bags.  I am also looking into the Boomerang Bags project which would be a perfect way to introduce people to the options available to fill the void left by the removal of plastic bags.

 

Garden Expo

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Tonight I am taking a break from the Plastic Free July posts and want to share our day that we spent at the Garden Expo in Nambour.  This 3 day event is held each year in July and attracts over 35,000 visitors.

Although we do not go every year this was our third visit and we spent several hours looking at exhibits, buying plants and listening to some of the many presentations.

Here is a selection of the goodies we bought.  They include a finger lime, 4 hibiscus, 3 kangaroo paw, 6 lomandra and 4 punnets of flower seedlings as well as a new pair of secateurs and a bottle of organic herbicide.

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There was a reason for everything we bought.  I have always wanted a finger lime (native citrus) and was excited to see them available at the show.  The hibiscus will join the existing ones which are planted in front of the verandah.  We already have a yellow kangaroo pay so am hoping to have success with the new ones – dark red, orange-red and pink.  The lomandra  will be planted on the steep escarpment at the back of our block.  We will be using the organic herbicide to reduce some of the nasty weeds beforehand and hope that the lomandra will help to suppress the regrowth of weeds while the previously planted trees become more established.  The secateurs will replace 2 pairs that have well and truly seen better days.

Aside from our purchases, we saw several exhibits offering items which are of interest to us including solar exterior lighting  and gabion walls.  Thanks to the internet we will look into these in more detail at our leisure.

There were many booths and exhibits promoting a huge range of products and services relating to gardening, home and leisure.  One which was a standout for me was promoting an online platform called Spare Harvest.  This has been set up right here on the Sunshine Coast by Helen Andrew, however, it is designed to be able to be accessed by people all over the world.  I am reminded of the phrase, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.  This great new example of the power of the sharing economy is in its early stages but with your participation and promotion could grow to become a global phenonomen.  If you are interested in buying, selling, sharing or swapping garden produce, plants or resources please take a look and get involved.

We were excited to attend presentations by Jerry Coleby-Williams and Sophie Thompson from ‘Gardening Australia’.  Jerry’s topic was ‘Sustainable gardening in context’ and he made some very interesting points.  The talk included many examples from his personal experience and having had the opportunity to visit his garden some years ago we were able to visualise exactly what her was talking about.  The first talk we saw was Sophie Thompson’s presentation on ‘Gardening for health and wellbeing’.  Sophie is a passionate speaker and knowledgeable about her subject.  Many of the statistics she quoted from well-regarded studies bore out what many gardeners have known for years.  Sophie’s other talk was titled ‘Saving the world with gardening’ and while the title may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, she clearly showed how this can be done but we have to start with ‘saving’ ourselves, our families, our neighbourhoods and communities.  The point was that we really can make a difference.

I have come home inspired to do more – gardening, growing and sharing.

 

The Big 4

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When it comes to Plastic Free July and reducing your single-use plastics for the long-term good of the planet in general and the oceans in particular, there are 4 major culprits.

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Although they are the worst offenders, I think it is relatively easy to make changes to eliminate many of them.

In no particular order they are:

Coffee cups
Bags
Straws
Bottles

Why are they regarded as the biggest problems?

  1.  Volume – there are just so many used every single day.
  2.  Only used once in most instances.
  3. Lightweight – so they easily become unintentional litter which ends up in waterways and ultimately in the ocean.
  4. Unnecessary – there are easy alternatives.

What do you currently do and what can you change to reduce your usage of these plastic ‘nasties’?

I will address one of these items each day and today I will begin with coffee cups.

Australians have developed a love affair with coffee, and more specifically takeaway coffee.  Once upon a time we were a nation of tea drinkers and coffee was almost a special occasion drink.  Even more recently the norm was to go to a cafe and sit down with a cup of coffee.  However, the trend of grabbing a coffee ‘to go’ has become a national pastime and we are killing the oceans in the process.

Those innocuous paper cups are NOT recyclable, compostable or anything else.  They are rubbish, that at best ends up in landfill or at worst in the ocean.  This is because they are made of composite materials, including a layer of plastic.

The recent ABC television program, ‘War on Waste’ shone the light squarely on disposable coffee cups and the havoc they are creating.

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I am not a coffee drinker and fail to grasp what amounts to an addiction to coffee but you can still have your ‘caffeine fix’ without destroying the planet.

Simply take your reusable cup along to your favourite cafe and have it filled for you to take away.  Simple.  Easy.  We could very quickly eliminate disposable coffee cups.

Some cafes even offer a discount as an incentive to bring your own mug.  If your cafe is not willing to oblige you could vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere as there are no shortage of cafes looking for your business.  Remember, conscious consumption can make a difference.

So, what is your coffee story?  Do you take a reusable cup for your coffee?  How it is received?  Do you get a discount?

 

 

Everything Good

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Tonight I want to share a find for ‘Plastic-Free July’ which officially begins today.

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We recently discovered a local business on the Steve Irwin Way at Glasshouse Mountains.  It is called ‘Everything Good‘ but if you drive this way you probably know it simply as the fruit and vegetable stall between Glasshouse Mountains and Beerwah.

The unassuming frontage hides a treasure trove of fruit and vegetables, much of it locally grown and some organic.  The majority is unpackaged, too.  The tables at the front offer up a variety of punnets of flower, vegetable and herb seedlings.  If you head out the back there is an amazing nursery with a great range of healthy plants.

When we were here a couple of weeks ago I noticed some ‘Boomerang Bags’ hanging up behind the counter.  Each time we have shopped here I get some positive feedback from the staff about my tulle produce bags.  It is lovely to feel that we are among like-minded friends when shopping at ‘Everything Good’.

Today we had a longer conversation with the gentleman who runs the shop and it is obvious that he is passionate about limiting plastic packaging so he has definitely won my custom.

Although they do not have a website, the link near the beginning of this post will give you a little more information about this great business.  I noticed on this page a mention of recycling punnets and pots so I will definitely be chatting to him about returning punnets for reuse.

We grow some of our own fruit and vegetables but it is fantastic to have a local business where we can source unpackaged produce without a battle.  Congratulations to ‘Everything Good’.  May there be many more similar shops in the not too distant future.

Are you committed to reducing your consumption of single-use plastics during July and beyond?  What are your specific plans?

A Critical Mass

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The Australian government continues to lag behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to any kind of action with respect to climate change.  I have often thought that any serious action would need to be driven by a groundswell of public opinion but despaired that it would ever happen.

For many years I have felt like I was swimming against the tide as I refused excess packaging, tried to avoid as much single-use plastic as possible and generally tried to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible.  Gradually, I have seen an increase in groups and individuals trying to make a difference but recently this seems to have taken a definite upswing.

There even seems to be some interest in the mainstream media with programs such as ‘War on Waste‘.

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Are we reaching a point where there are enough voices to actually begin to make a difference?  What do you think?