Garden Notes – Raspberries and Rocket

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We have fruit trees and a vegetable garden.  Some years the vegetables garden does better than others.  A lot depends on the weather and how organised I am.

This year I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to successfully produce more of our own food.  Since the hot summer is over and we finally have some moderate autumn weather I have made a start on planting.

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The lettuce and kale seedlings which I planted about 5 weeks ago are now thriving full-sized plants and we are enjoying plenty of fresh lettuce.  I planted red cabbage seedlings about 10 days ago and they are established and looking healthy.

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On the weekend I sorted through a pile of seed packets which I store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Many of them are expired but I decided that I had nothing to lose by planting them.

There are bush beans interplanted with the red cabbage. Coriander and rocket are in the freshly-dug strip in the background of the same photo.  I am excited to report that exactly 48 hours after planting them, the rocket seeds have germinated and I now have hundreds of tiny, two-leaved seedlings.  Other beds have carrot, red onion, peas and radishes.  If they all grow I will have a bumper harvest, if not I will try again with some fresh seeds.

Some seeds are best raised in seed trays before transplanting them.  These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and spinach.  Here they are on a temporary potting table which I created from a couple of sawhorses and a piece of pool fencing.  There is another piece of pool fencing over the top in an attempt to prevent the chickens from digging them up when they are free-ranging.

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Here is a close-up of the trays with their labels cut out of an old ice-cream container.

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Finally, I wanted to show you the raspberry canes on the left-hand side of the photo below.

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We have a substantial clump of raspberry canes from the original 4 canes that we planted about 3 years ago.  In an attempt to control the growth of these we have tried to contain them using star pickets and a couple of strands of wire.  When we dig up the canes which are beyond the designated area we will plant them in the vacant area beside the gate.  Our goal is to have a raspberry patch stretching from the front boundary to the gate and extending 600mm either side of the fence which forms part of the garden enclosure.

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Many people are quite surprised that we can grow raspberries in our climate.  Ours are an autumn fruiting variety which are suited to our climate and we are very happy with the yield.  This year has been the best crop so far.  While we are not exactly inundated I am picking about 50 – 100g every few days at the moment and that is definitely enough to have for dessert with some ice-cream.

Growing our own food means that it is raised without pesticides and artificial fertiliser, it comes with no additional packaging and it saves us money.  What is there not to love?

 

 

 

The Last Drop

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It is often difficult to extract the last of a product from the container using the regular method of dispensing.  However, there are ways of getting the best value from what you have bought and minimising the amount of waste.

Bottles of shampoo and tubes of toothpaste are classic examples of where there is often unused product which is discard.  Buying the largest bottle available is a good strategy because you come to the end of the bottle less frequently.  You can add a little water to shampoo, conditioner and laundry liquid bottles and get several more uses from them.

Tubes can be cut open to reveal more than you can ever hope to extract via the nozzle.  Here is a tube of face wash which I have cut the end off.

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This is not the face wash I usually use but it was left behind some months ago by a guest and I felt it would be a waste to just throw it out so a few weeks ago I decided to use it.  There was not a lot left in the tube but once I had squeezed out what I could I then unscrewed the lid and was able to get a bit more on the tip of my finger for several more days.

I cut the end off yesterday and discovered that there was quite a bit more.

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I estimate that there is at least enough for another week, possibly longer.  It is definitely a worthwhile exercise to spend 2 seconds to cut off the end of the tube rather than tossing all of this in the bin.

What do you do to make sure that nothing gets wasted?

Gobsmacked

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Sometimes titles for my posts are really easy to choose and other times it is a little harder.  The title for today was immediately obvious.

According to the dictionary it means utterly astounded.  Yes, that really sums it up.

I and many, many others care about waste, saving the planet, using resources wisely and so on.  Some people are more passionate and devoted to their cause than others and all of us do our bit in different ways.  However, almost everyone makes some effort.

So, I was shocked yesterday when a young work colleague appeared with a large handful of good quality, plastic-coated paper clips and announced that someone was throwing them out.  I have a small box of these at work which I carefully use and re-use as files become obsolete and and put in the confidential waste bin for shredding and the large handful was more than my entire collection.

Worse was yet to come.  She returned with another handful and announced that there were ‘heaps more’.  My curiosity got the better of me and I went with her to check out the source.  I found that someone had thrown a bulk quantity of these paper clips into a green wheelie bin in another area of the office.

I quickly considered my options and located a reuseable shopping bag from another work colleague and we set about retrieving as many as we could.

These paper clips were loose and not contained so they would quickly and easily slip to the bottom of the bin which was already about 2/3 full.  We carefully scooped up handfuls and although we could not get them all, I feel that we probably saved about 90% of the discarded paper clips.

Here is the result of our efforts.  I apologise for the poor quality of the photos.

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Half a bag full of paper clips which I estimate weighs between 5 and 8kg.  It was so heavy when I lifted it that I carried it in my arms rather than by the handles because I was concerned that they would break.

Here is a close-up.

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I am still angry when I think about the appalling waste that this represents – both in environmental and economic terms.  The other question that bothers me, is why did someone come to have this many paper clips in the first place?

What did I do?

Firstly, I have no idea how these are going to be used, so at the moment, the bag is in the bottom of the small storage cupboard beside my desk.  It is just as well that I maintain minimal ‘stuff’ at work as well as at home so there was some spare space.

Secondly, I sent an email and photographs to the team who are responsible for sustainability on a corporate level.  I do not know who discarded these paper clips, nor do I want to, but the team who work hard to improve the sustainable credentials of the business need to know where there are problems and develop strategies to change this sort of behaviour.  I believe that this is an extreme but not isolated incident.

The next challenge is to work out how best to distribute these paper clips to people who will use and reuse them wisely.  What do you think?

Future-Proofing

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Well, it is 3 days since my last post in which I shared our concern for the residents of north Queensland who were in the path of Cyclone Debbie.  What a 3 days it has been!

In 72 hours Cyclone Debbie has flattened the island resorts of the Whitsunday Islands and the adjacent mainland towns of Airlie Beach and Prosperine as a Category 4 cyclone before being downgraded as it moved inland.  Most of these areas are still without power or water and this situation is likely to continue for several more days, at least.

As predicted, the system then turned south east and headed towards the densely populated south-east corner of Queensland, including Brisbane.  For almost 24 hours we experienced substantial rainfall and some high winds – but of course, nothing like the conditions endured by those who were in the direct path of the cyclone.

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This is a view of part of our backyard this morning during a break in the rain.  The water in the background is not normally part of the landscape.  The ‘lake’ develops as the run-off from the mountain behind us pools in the low-lying part of our property.  It is not as extensive as some other occasions and will drain over the next few days.

The area where we live lost power about 2pm today and do not expect it to be restored until at least midday tomorrow.  There are currently thousands of consumers in Brisbane and the surrounding areas without power.  We are fortunate to be reaping the benefit of our decision to install a grid-connected battery system almost 18 months ago.  You can read about it here.

While it is great to be able to use our stored power each evening, the real benefit of the system is that it provides us with a power source in the event of a power failure from the grid.  Whether it is extreme weather or any other reason it is reassuring to know that we are not reliant on the grid for power.  This experience has confirmed the importance of a degree of self-reliance and we are extremely glad to be in this position.

 

Stay Safe

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My internet has been somewhat unreliable over the past few days, hence the lack of posts.  I had several ideas but have shelved them for tonight as I would simply like to say to everybody in north Queensland who is in the path of Cyclone Debbie, “Please take care and stay safe.  We are thinking of you and praying that you will be safe”.

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Cause for Optimism

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It is easy to feel worn down and thwarted at every turn when you try to live according to your values with regards to reducing your carbon footprint.  However, this is not always the case.  At times there is cause for great joy and optimism and I have experienced that feeling this week.

I have been buying laundry liquid, pre-soak stain remover, dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder from Felix at Kin Kin Naturals for a number of years now.  This family business is located at Kin Kin in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, about 80km north of where I live.  The products are available nationally particularly in Queensland and most especially on the Sunshine Coast.

Felix also sells the products at the Kin Kin markets which are held once a month in the small village.  We make the trip about every 6 months and stock up because it is cheaper to buy them direct from the producer.  Additionally, if I pre-order by email I can avoid new plastic packaging and buy the liquids packaged in re-used 2 or 3 litre juice bottles.  You can see some in the photo below from when I cleaned out the laundry cupboards.  You can read about it in this post.

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Last week I emailed an order to be collected at the next market at the beginning of April.  I decided to make it a bit more than just an order and sent the following email.

Hi Felix

I have previously purchased products from you at the Kin Kin markets on several occasions.  I have bought the dishwashing liquid and laundry liquid in the reused 2 and 3 litre juice which I really appreciate as it helps to limit the amount of plastic waste which our household generates.

I would like to buy:

8 litres of lavender and ylang ylang laundry liquid in the reused bottles
4 litres of tangerine and mandarin dishwashing liquid in the reused bottles
1 x 2.5kg refill pack of lemon myrtle and lime dishwasher powder
2 x 1.2kg eucalypt and lime eco laundry soaker

Does the laundry soaker come in refill packs?  If so, that would be my preference.

Is it possible or have you ever considered having bulk containers of all products at the market so that people can bring their own containers to be refilled?

There is a growing movement of people who are trying to reduce/eliminate single use plastic (including packaging).  Many of us are keen to buy/support locally produced/family businesses such as yours who produce a true eco-friendly product. Any opportunity to purchase these products without additional plastic would really be appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your help.

Kind regards

I really had no idea what sort of response I would get so I was absolutely delighted to receive the following email 2 days later.

Hi Yvonne,

Thanks for your order – and for thinking with us on how to reduce senseless packaging.

I will put 2.5 kg of laundry soaker in a refill pack rather than 2 of the plastic jars. Depending on the exact size of the re-used bottles on hand when we fill we’re looking at about 17 kg/L total x $5 = around $85 for your order please.

I can see the beauty of refilling on the spot at the markets but I prefer the current way of pre-ordered re-used containers because we are doing only the Kin Kin markets which are on only once a month and would be stuck with remainders of the refill drums of each of the 4 liquid variants for months which wouldn’t be ideal for product freshness.

On your broader question of packaging reduction, great point. Our current approach is to encourage stores to get our 20L drums and offer refills from those. The problem is that apart from a few stores in an area with refill-minded people (e.g., Cooran and Pomona) this refill route isn’t doing too well, I think mainly because stores don’t like the extra effort, mess – and of course selling a prefilled plastic bottle is easier, but that’s what Coles and Woolies can do too. If you have any ideas, don’t hesitate..

See you at the April markets.

I will respond to Felix and also look forward to discussing some possibilities when I see him next month.

In the meantime, this has renewed my confidence in the ability of individual consumers to influence positive change.  Not every approach will be received as positively as the example above but I will definitely be making more of an effort in the future to provide feedback to suppliers and retailers regarding plastic packaging.

Finite Resources

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There are many, many ways of looking at the environmental issues facing our planet today.  Different people choose to focus on different things but our goal is the same – to do the best that we can to preserve the health of the planet for future generations.  Right?

Some people try to source as much as possible second-hand, others eschew plastic at every turn, barely a handful of waste is the goal sought by another group and then there are those who are always looking for a way to recycle or re-use items that are no longer required.

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Plastic seems to have been recently declared ‘public enemy no. 1’ due to the masses of micro (and not so micro) plastics in our oceans and the detrimental effect it is having on marine life.  I agree with this sentiment and do the best I can to minimise my use of single use plastic products.  However, I have not rushed to get rid of all my plastic containers and other items as I believe it is my responsibility to use my existing products wisely and extend their life as much as possible.

Some people disagree because of the perceived potential risks of using plastic – particularly where food and drink are concerned.  I do not have a problem with this as I do not use plastic for storing liquids, oils, acidic foods nor do I use plastic where there is heat involved – such as the microwave.

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There will always be some plastic products but it is our responsibility to restrict the use of plastics to those applications where it is necessary.  Not only for the marine life but due to the fact that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource – there is not an endless supply.  Most people can clearly recognise single plastics – water bottles, drinking straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway food containers and so on but it is the composite plastics that are less obvious.  These include takeaway coffee cups, reuseable ‘green’ shopping bags, ‘foil’ chip packets and packaging where plastic may be sandwiched between 2 layers of paper or cardboard.

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The purpose of this blog post is to encourage people really try to make a difference where plastic products are concerned.

Here are a few goals.

  1.  Minimise your use of single use plastic items – look for re-useable, non-plastic alternatives.
  2. Dispose of any plastic waste carefully to ensure it stays out of waterways and oceans.
  3. Remember that plastic is manufactured from oil and oil is a finite resource.
  4. Use recycling as a last resort – it is not a licence to keep using as much plastic (and everything else) as we want and assuaging our guilt by simply tossing it in the recycle bin.  At best, plastic is downcycled not recycled.  It only has one secondary life then it becomes landfill.
  5. Be a conscious and responsible consumer.

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It is not yet July but there is no time like the present to begin to phase out the single-use plastics from your life and consider what else you can change.