Documenting Life

Light catching your son’s dinner. The steam absolutely mesmerizing as you know it will last fleetingly, just as that particular tilt of the afternoon sun will do.

Friends stopping to chat. Really chat.

Seed saving. Slowly wrinkling up, ready for storing, ready for growing another day.

Tiny exhaling pauses in the week.

Surprise coffee and cake spent with people who make you laugh.

Long deep talks with strangers who make you think long after the conversation ends.

Sourdough fruit loaf, which was supposed to be panettone, but when it came to the crunch you simply decide there are other things to do in life and you really… just couldn’t be buggered.

Gardening that makes the crooks of your elbows sweat. Not the regular kind of things you usually take note of, but you are today as it’s a kinda documenting life day.

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Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it- FERRIS BUELLER

 

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Conversations with Community: Pure Pod (Slow Fashion)

Today, I’m posting a little differently, and it’s something I’m pretty excited about. A new series ready to be kickstarted. One that involves, coffee, cake and some lovely long chats, with some amazing different women, who are doing all kinds of incredible things.

There’s always a first though, and today that’s Kelli Donovan from Pure Pod. An ethical clothing company that I’ve held in high esteem after discovering them on instagram a few years ago. For me it’s clothing that I feel ‘me’ in, and I’m tickled pink to have been able to sit down (ok, yes online) and be able to have a lovely long chat about what slow fashion really means, how social media connects consumers and what Kelli’s favourite kind of cake to go with that tea is?

Please take a few extra minutes to meet Kelli Donovan through this new series… Conversations with Community.

So first up Kelli, we’ll get the serious stuff out of the way first. What sort of tea are you drinking and favourite cake to go with it?

I like old fashioned tea with milk, even though I have milk allergies!! Or herbal teas, vanilla is very yummy or any kind of mint is my favourite. My favourite cake is carrot cake!

Great, now we have that sorted. I’d love to know more about your company. You run an Australian based ethical fashion label called Pure Pod, can you tell me how Pure Pod got started?

We had moved up from Melbourne to the Byron Shire for a tree change in 2005. We needed a break from the fast paced fashion industry and Sean’s commercial photographic industry. I had fallen in love with yoga and it just seemed like the perfect fit for our lives to move from the city to the beach and complete the training as a yoga teacher for almost 7months full time.

We started in the Byron Bay hinterland in 2007 on an organic macadamia farm we were living at that time. I had just finished my yoga and pilates teacher training. I was teaching yoga and working as a tea lady at the Lismore Hospital. I had always wanted to do my own organic or natural fibre label and I was inspired by what I saw living in this area and how seeing such ill people in the hospital effected me. I felt lucky to have my health and youth on my side. I felt I should give my dream a crack! Sean was with me all the way and encouraged me to do it. He has been through it all with me in the 10 years of our business – the highs and the lows!

I bought our first fabric at the end of 2006, with the last of my savings and when I got it I knew I was on the right path! I opened the doors to our farm house and let the smells of spring come wafting through the house. Put some music on and began pattern making! It was one of the scariest things I have done but so exhilarating! We sold our first whole sale collection into stores in mid 2007.

As a consumer it’s not always easy to find everyday clothing items that are both from local companies and from locally made fibres. How hard is it to source those locally made fibres/fabric? Does Australia produce anything in large amounts for the garment trade?

It is very hard to find good Australian makers and even harder to find Australian made quality organic fabrics. Our industry is now going through a huge shift as the highly skilled people retire and there is not a new wave of skilled people coming through behind them. There is hardly any textile mills open now in Australia and hardly any textiles grown here. We have always used an Australian organic cotton fabric which is from Fair Trade organic cotton fibre from India and the fabric was made in Melbourne. Most of our other textiles are not made in Australia as there is no textile mills to make them here. Many fabrics come from Asia and India. We have some organic denim from Turkey.

Many textile and fashion industry places have closed down in the last 10 -15 years as more and more imports are coming in to Australia. Up to this date we have only used Australian based makers, cutters, pattern makers and printers but this has been harder and harder to compete with offshore products.  We have had to change our direction with our new collection which will be fully Certified Fair Trade and Gots Certified organics and made in India. The quality of the textiles and clothing is beautiful. (This collection was  launched on the 1st October at Fashfest and launched on line at the end of October.) It will be in stores November. We are very excited about this new product and to be showing our customers soon. We will still make some high end designer unusual pieces in Australia but as we now have only two makers left out of about 10 we have used in the past, we had to look at a different direction to be commercially viable. All of our other makers have retired.

It’s been about 3 and half years now since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, do you think the industry has changed much since then?

There has been a lot of underground movement from this which I think has made it’s way up the fashion ranks to bigger companies and more developed designers. Before the Rana Plaza disaster ethical fashion wasn’t talked about as much as it is now in the media and with makers. Now more and more designers and brands want to change their ways and become more organic and ethical in their production. We still have a huge mountain to climb with fast fashion companies. These companies cause the biggest problems and pollution but slowly over time they are being forced to look at their supply chains and change their ways. Hopefully one day ethics and open clean supply chains will just be the norm in our industry.

Pure Pod did a big art installation this year with CIT and Salvo’s for the FASHREV Day. We borrowed from the Salvo’s, white garments in the same the number of people who died in the Rana Plaza disaster. These white garments were folded and installed in my installation with the help of the CIT fashion teachers and students. We showed the True Cost movie and the money raised went to a small group in Cambodia to buy them machinery for their industry school.

We often hear about Slow Food and the follow on effect with the Slow Movement, so how does Slow Fashion tie in and what does it mean to you?

Many of our customers are sick of fast living – fast food –  fast fashion, a fast pace of life which makes us all feel empty and tired. They are looking for something with ethics, meaning and that feels good. Slow and organic food feels good in your body and the way it is grown. So of course the slow fashion movement would inspire people in this way also.

Organic and sustainable natural textiles feel amazing on your skin. If they are made with care and ethics it gives the wearer meaning and story behind their purchase. We are all sick of buying  cheap clothes that don’t fit well and don’t last a season. They might be cheap but if we add up all the cheap purchases in our wardrobes and mark down how many times we wear them, it would cost much more than a beautifully designed and well made ethical garment that will last years of wear.

If you were describing Slow Fashion to someone who had never heard of the term before, what would you say?

Beautiful hand made creations which are made with ethics, love, passion and quality.

Do you have any other recommendations of industry leaders within the Slow Fashion movement? (Either in Australia or Internationally.)

Sass Brown –

There are many inspiring people and business around the globe on this UK site, Ethical Fashion Forum

I mostly love meeting other small makers, designers, artists and anyone trying make a better world for our future generations and for our planet.

Our new collection is called ‘Awaken’. It is a collection inspired by nature, organics and our botanical artist/florist friend, Lauren Anderson from Field & Coppice. She designed a beautiful art installation at Brow Lab in Braddon and photographed it. We have turned the images into textile prints which are the main statement of our new commercial collection.

Pure Pod will have it’s 10th birthday next year and with that thought close to our hearts and minds we are relaunching our brand to the public and into retail stores online and wholesale throughout Australia.

We launched our stunning new collection at Fashfest that is fully FAIR TRADE certified, FLO & GOTS Certified. This means that the people and planet involved are in our best interests and the lowest impact on our environment is a key ethic to this collection. Being Fair Trade certified shows our loyalty to those involved with making our clothing are looked after in their health, safety and incomes.

The clothing is an organic lifestyle collection for women. Weekend and some informal work wear all made in beautiful organics and designed to be layered with each other. Some products will launch on our new web site late Oct/Nov and others for next winter in late Feb/March 2017. Pre-orders are welcome from our studio for the public and retailers interested in stocking our brand. (Our new web site will be launched in late October, keep a look out!)

We also collaborated at Fashfest with another inspiring Eco artist from the Sunshine Coast, Katie Johnston from EcoBling.

EcoBling up cycles waste and turns it into gorgeous eco jewellery. They plant a tree for each piece sold and work with marginalised communities in developing countries to empower people to create an eco-friendly enterprise. They also respond directly to social issues, environmental concerns and natural disasters through creating meaningful and beautiful products. EcoBling is the planet friendly accessory label.

Field & Coppice is a Canberra based floral design studio created by Lauren Andersen. With a design aesthetic underpinned by a love of Australian native flora, Field & Coppice is all about variety in texture, shape, colour & pattern, and a style which retains that sense of wildness and unpredictability found in nature. Field & Coppice also do floral styling for weddings, events, corporate spaces and private orders.)

I first heard of Pure Pod via Instagram (I couldn’t for the life of me remember who it was, but I am super duper thankful!) Someone was singing your praises and I went off to investigate. How do you think social media plays a part in creating awareness and spreading a fashion message that still feels far too small? 

Well it’s FAR BIGGER than when we started 9 years ago. There wasn’t such a thing really as social media then. I remember thinking, when we were making our first retail web site, who’s going to buy clothes online? HA well I didn’t even know about social media then!

Social media is fantastic because little designers like us can have our own voice and not be waiting for magazines and stores to speak for us. It’s free and we can control our own information and what we want to send out. I connect with lots of like-minded sustainable designers all over the world and people interested in social change, so I think there’s a huge movement out there and I’m really proud to be a part of it. I’d prefer to be part of the solution than part of the problem and just sit back and wait for other people to change things or not care at all. I couldn’t live with myself!

In my younger days I would rather fork myself in the eye than spend a day window shopping and buying mass-produced clothing. With the growth of social media, the opportunities for lessons in how to make your own clothing, and buying from people who are more aligned to your values seems easier, and easier. I love being able to chat in a tiny way to the people behind some of my wardrobe, just as I like being able to chat to the people who provide me with the bulk of my food. Those connections are really important to me. How important are those connections to you? Is it possible to pin point where all the items from within your company actually come from?

I love talking to all of our customers as we are small. I get to know many of them and they tell me stories of where their Pure Pod clothing goes and is worn. I love it!

Maybe as we grow bigger I might not have to time get to know all of our customers but I will make sure our staff treat each one personally and with a huge respect for making a conscious change in their buying habits!

Our new Fair Trade Collection called AWAKEN – We can definitely pin point the process and hopefully one day we can go over to India and meet all the people who made it happen for us. Most of our other Australian made collections you can almost pin point the supply chain but it’s a bit harder when the fabric comes from everywhere around the globe. There’s hardly any textiles made here now and sadly many of our beloved makers are retiring. Great for them to have this time but hard for us as we have got to know them all so well and we have to grow with the changes. I’ve always been a die hard Australian made so we have jobs for our industry but it has just become so hard now. The older generation with all the skills are retiring and there’s really not many new people coming through with the same skills and opening making businesses. We will still make some higher end more bespoke pieces here and special items, but our commercial pieces will be made at this amazing place overseas now. I know we are helping the organic cotton farmers and workers in the local region where the fabric and clothes are made so we are elated!

Hypothetically (ahem) if you had in general more enthusiasm than sewing skills, but wanted to sew a little something that was wearable. What would you recommend as a starter project?

I think I do have more enthusiasm than sewing skills!!! My makers are the ones who make our product look amazing! It would take me forever to make the clothes. The makers have been doing this for many years and are highly skilled.

But if you wanted to do something simple try a simple elastic waisted skirt, pants or a square sleeved top. Or if that’s all too scary try a pillow case! Or just come and see me!

I will be running workshops next year about sustainable fashion and how to start your own brand!

Not that I want to start my own fashion brand, but that sounds good and err, might focus my (non) sewing skills just a little.

Thank you so much for stopping by and having a chat Kelli, another slice of carrot cake before you go?

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This conversation with Kelli of Pure Pod is the first in a series, Conversations with Community. Whether it’s online or face to face. There will be some wonderful conversations coming up with amazing women, doing incredibly inspiring things within our community.

I’m really excited to be able to share some of their stories with you.

(*Any Pure Pod clothing I own has been bought by me, no special concessions, kickbacks etc. Jusssst in case you were wondering.)

conversations-with-community

A story of currant buns, mice and permaculture

currant buns- cityhippyfarmgirl

currant bunsWhen I was a little girl I used to have a poster from Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge (by Jill Barklem). I don’t know where I got it from and I don’t know where it went, but it had embedded in my mind, and was still remembered fondly as an adult. I loved that picture. Every part of it spoke to me, on a level I couldn’t explain as a kid.

Decades later as a mother now, my own children have several of these books by Jill Barklem. I knew I still loved, and was more than happy to read them whenever I was asked to. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when it all finally clicked.

I loved these stories, loved these pictures and was drawn in a sentimental way to the seasonal themes. Not because I wanted to be a mouse, with long held dreams of having a tail. But because they were living a life that I aspired too, (and strangely enough, seems I’ve always aspired to.) It was a kind of ‘duh’ moment, where I frowned a little, and the light inside my head clicked well and truly on.

brambly hedge

Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge

Let me try and explain…

First up a description of what the Brambly Hedge books are about, “…a community of self-sufficient mice who live together in the tranquil surroundings of the English countryside.” Self sufficiency on a community level…damnit, these mice were surely permaculturalists!

With adult eyes, I look at the beautiful pictures in these books. I see kitchens full of preserved goodies, dried seasonal foods hanging from ceilings and berries being collected to make sweet pastry lined pies. With busy tables full of bustling family members,   seasonal festivities, crafting, natural earth building, hell…they even had laden cake stand with hand made tea cosy.

brambly hedge

So many things I held dear, had interest in or aspired to, was right there…in a mouse book. It was hard not to smile and get a little bit excited when I explained it all to Mr Chocolate. By this time, I know he’s well used to odd thoughts and conversations flying from me, but even he agreed that yes, on closer look they did indeed seem to be living a life that I often speak of. With a happy heart, I suggested to my boys, that we read them, one more time before bed, and possibly again the next night. (I never know, it might in turn create a long held dream of their own to have an interest in permaculture, seasonal living…or at the very least, to grow a long tail and a pair of small pink ears.)

currant buns

So what do currant buns have to do with mice, permaculture and childhood books? Well if  I’m going to let myself get completely absorbed in the books, I should have the appropriate food on the table, don’t you think? Currant Buns seemed liked a good choice, and one that a small community of rural living little mice might also enjoy, don’t you think?

Currant Buns

300g starter

2 tsp dried yeast

150g currants

100mls hot water

300mls cream

750g (5 cups) flour

50g brown sugar

250mls water

2 tsp salt

Soak your currants in 100mls of hot water for an hour or so beforehand. Add all your ingredients together except your salt. Mix well, and leave for 40 minutes. Add salt and mix again, (I use my mixer) or knead on a lightly floured surface until well incorporated and dough is smooth. Leave to prove for a couple of hours, with a couple of knock backs in between.  Shape into rolls and place on a lined tray, allow to prove for another hour or so.

Bake at 220 for approximately 15-20 minutes.

three years on

apple shortcake

apple shortcake1

Funny to think this little blog is now three years old. It’s also funny to look back on some of the things I’ve posted about in that three years. Somethings I feel exactly the same about them as I did then, and others, well not so much. I’ve moved on a little, and things have changed round a bit.

I was looking back on my first month of blogging in 2010 and was considering what I had to say back then. I had to chuckle. It was a funny way to start, and while I cringe at some of those first photos I put up, I do like them being there, if even just for my own comedy value.

I also still stand by that very first paragraph I wrote.

“New to the blogging world. I thought I might start one, just to watch my own progression on living as sustainably as possible in an urban environment.  Finding out what works for me and my family and maybe achievable by others also living in a city environment.”

The blog has dipped and weaved a little over that time with topics and content, but living as sustainably as possible for my family and I, is still top priority for me. It’s just as important now as it was then, maybe even more so.

Knowing where my food comes from and what goes into my family’s mouth is just as important.

Being mindful of the choices we make as consumers is also just as important.

Trying to make as many things as possible rather than relying on someone else to do it for me (and is usually a whole lot of fun) is also still really important to me.

Looking back over the last three years, I thought I might revisit one of the first few dishes that I blogged about in my first month. Matthew Evans’ Apple and Blackberry Shortcake. The recipe is here if you are interested in trying it, and I’m hoping my second time picture gives it a bit more credit than the first time I did it. 

DSC_0237 copy

Still thinking on the last three years of blogging- if I hadn’t continued with my blog, I probably wouldn’t…

1/ Have made my sourdough starter

2/ Have continued on the always amazing bread journey that is sourdough

3/ Taken as many photos as I do these days

4/ Have one particular spot to put all my ramblings and musings. Instead there would still be lots of scrappy bits of paper filled with recipes, thoughts, quotes and ideas about the place.

5/ (and best of all…and I know there are still oodles more) I probably wouldn’t have been a part of the wonderful community that blogland can be.

heart

Three years on it was also time for a little shake up on the look of my blog. My theme I had stuck by had long since been retired from the theme options and it seemed there weren’t too may of his clinging on to the blix theme these days. We’ll see how this one works for a bit….

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Now, I was trying to think of something little I could do celebrate that fact that it’s been three years flitting about in the land of blog. So what to do?

Send you all a piece of the Apple and Blackberry Shortcake?…but it probably wouldn’t arrive in the same condition that I sent it.

Put together an awesome sponsor given hamper full of all things groovy and gifty….damn, it’s not that kind of blog.

Something beautiful and whimsically handmade?…hmmm, most of my stuff is still kind of on the learning end.

Still thinking, I thought about a card. Most people still like getting a letter, a card or a post card, and I thought, well I can do that!

So if you would like a card or postcard sent from me to you (or to your little people-if you have them- as they loooove getting mail too!…well mine do anyway.) I would love to send you one. Where ever you may be….Alaska, Argentina, Italy or Dubbo. Doesn’t matter where. Just drop me a line at cityhippyfarmgirl at gmail dot com, leave me an address and a card will be on it’s way. (say first five-ish?)

So a big thank you from me to you- the readers and commentators, as without you…well this blog just wouldn’t be the same.

eight eco friendly Christmas gift ideas

  

local honey– use as a face wash and natural exfoliant, stirred into your morning chai, or drizzled over toast

box of homemade biscuits (recipe below)

gift tag card made up from a dried pressed flower

lunch date voucher- favourite packed picnic lunch

giant gingerbread person in a crocheted pocket

jar of homemade almond pesto

gift wrapping- I’ve talked about using old maps as wrapping paper before. This particular one was gold, as I had found an unwanted old atlas on the street that someone had lazily put out there. At first I was dismayed at the thought of it sitting out there unwanted and unloved, getting rain damaged. We certainly didn’t need another atlas… then I remembered wrapping paper. Sure it was a bit sad that I was cutting into this large beautiful book, but I was certainly better than just going in the recycling bin which is where it was headed. Team it up with some wool to hold the folding in place, and no tape is necessary.

For more wrapping ideas, have a look at this rather awesome site on furoshiki, other wise known as the Japanese art of fabric gift wrapping.

(For last years 12 eco friendly Christmas gift ideas, see here.)

Coconut Strawberry Hearts

250g softened butter

1 cup (220g) sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp coconut essence

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

3 1/2 cups (525g) plain flour

strawberry jam

Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer until pale. Add vanilla, coconut essence and egg, then mix through rest of ingredients. Lightly knead biscuit dough and roll between two sheets of baking paper to about 5mm. Pop into the fridge for an hour or so until firm, and cut out to shapes. If the dough comes back to room temperature while you are still cutting, being tricky to handle, just pop it back into the fridge for a bit.

Bake at 170C for approximately 15-20 mins, a very light golden colour. Allow to cool and then add half a teaspoon of strawberry jam in between the two biscuits.

Eat two immediately to see if they are ok to gift. Yep? Ok, should be good to go.

For a similar recipe see Coconut Jam Drops.

Hobart Farmers’ Market

Second day of my super quick stay in Hobart and I was lucky enough to be staying just a block from the Hobart Farmers’ Market. One of the smallest Farmers Market I have been to for a while, but filled with stalls that I could have happily bought from each and every one. These markets are a little different to my local one, as only the people that actually grow, raise, produce or pick the goodies can sell here. (Got to love that.)

Two stand outs for me were…

Grandvewe Cheeses– a certified organic sheep cheesery located in Birchs Bay. The cheeses truly delicious, but the Vanilla Whey liqueur…ooo la laa! Holy smokes that was tasty. After a little rearranging of my hand luggage, a bottle of this delectable beauty was popped in. I’m a big fan of anything vanilla, but this took vanilla to another level. If you had told me before I had tasted it, I would be grasping a bottle of fermented sheep’s whey, (a by-product from cheese making) infused with vanilla bean… I would probably have cocked an eye brow and looked a little sceptical. Sold by the lovely James and his charming French companion, (whom I rudely forgot to ask his name). A bottle of this stuff would be worthy of either visiting the markets for, or stopping off at The Cheesery door. Great on ice cream, a dash in an espresso or just straight.

My second stand out for the Farmers Markets was meeting and talking with Matthew Evans. *sigh* Yes I got to meet my idol. I managed to not turn in to a puddle of nerves…just, and would have happily grilled him with questions for the whole morning on all things rare breed, slow food, sustainable and Tasmanian living. However, at the risk of looking like a complete crazed stalker… I didn’t. I also didn’t get to taste any of his Rare Food free range piggy products as I had a plane to catch, (but they did look delicious). Looking over the products, reminded me of what bacon was supposed to look like. I can only imagine how it would taste. Matthew and his business partner Ross, use heritage breed pigs for their products, (at the moment Wessex Saddleback and Berkshire) and this week these same pigs would be fed a tasty diet of cherries, to enhance that delectable sweet meat on their ample bodies.

So why am I a Mr Evans fan? Because watching his series, (and reading his blog) Gourmet Farmer gives me hope that one day my family and I can achieve something similar. A city person learning to do things from scratch. Anyone that is willing to swap a city life to one of rare breed rearing, artisan producing and taking a stand for what they believe in regarding what goes on a dinner plate…I have to applaud.

This is the life I aspire to. A life in the stunning Tasmanian countryside, peppered with some of the best food products in the country. Not a life of ease and convenience, but one of taste and ethics. Real food, that is simple, and yet complex and intricate on the palate. Real food that’s produced by that fella down the road or that lady over the hill. All enhanced by like minded people in a community setting that inspires others to strive to do what they feel passionate about.

The fact that Matthew Evans and his fellow food producers seem to be doing this, inspires me.

So for the moment, he will continue to be my ‘pin up’ Gourmet Farmer. As this lets me dream, of a land with hundreds of varieties of heirloom apples and free range heritage breed pigs when I am standing on a busy city intersection, waiting to cross and engulfed in car exhaust fumes.

Bamboo Toothbrushes- you might want to try it

A little while ago I was trying to find out what my alternatives were to using the conventional plastic handled toothbrush. I’d like to keep my teeth, so the brushing twice a day for the rest of my life is quite the long term plan. Now if I changed my toothbrush every 3 months as reccommended. Add in the odd change of toothbrush after illness. Times that for the next 60 years (I’m optimistic). That’s a lot of toothbrushes!

All sitting in their landfill graves. Silently sitting and waiting to break down. Waiting…waiting…waiting…waiting…

Now there are a few alternatives out there on the market at the moment and I’m sure give it another few years and there should be a lot more readily available options to the average consumer. However for the most part, the average plastic toothbrush is what sells. Looking at a few of my options, I could get a 100% recycled plastic toothbrush, made from yoghurt tubs, (made in USA). I could use a twig from an appropriate tree, or I could use a bamboo handle toothbrush… Bamboo sounded good.

Step up, The Environmental Toothbrush. Simple biodegradable packaging, looks just like the picture and how does it brush?…

Really well! The head is small enough to get in at the back teeth. The bristles are soft, works well on the gums and that little fella knows how to clean. To be honest I was slightly hesitant when I first saw it. How can something so basic looking work so well? However after giving it a go, I was left nodding to myself muttering that’s a good tooth brush, and with sparkly clean teeth to show for it.

The toothbrush was designed by an Australian dentist. It’s biodegradable, environmentally sustainable. When you throw it out, it simply breaks down into compost.

If you would like to give this toothbrush a red hot go, (not the one I was using obviously!) I’m giving one away. To get one for your pearly whites, tell me something about teeth or bamboo. Anything you like. An interesting fact about bamboo, or a story about your Nana’s false teeth, what ever takes your fancy…Post a comment by the 3rd of November…seriously, it’s a really good toothbrush.

* Top photo from G magazine online.

EDIT- Congratulations to Christine from Slow Living Essentials for getting the Bamboo toothbrush.

Permaculture Diary and Sustainable House Day pictures

I just got my 2011 Permaculture Diary and I have to say I am thrilled to bits at the quality. It’s printed through Permaculture Principles and so much information is in there that you will be skipping ahead to see whats happening in the next month.

From seasonal planting guides to introductions to some truly inspiring people. The lovely Dylan from frugalist massive is in there talking of suburban wwoofing. Happy Earth and how they have transformed their suburban back yard along with lots of other inspirational people doing their ‘thang’.

Now even if you recoil at the sight of dirt in your finger nails, and think double glazing is only for donuts- it’s still a great read, and you get to write all your doings in the calendar bits.

Sunday was Sustainable House Day and a few photos of some of houses we visited.

This particular one I was thrilled to see, especially after writing about lack of edible gardens in this post. A new building due for completion later this month. Four citrus trees planted in its front garden, with more edible gardening out the back.

An internal courtyard, with louvred roofing. This makes it possible to cut out sun and rain or open the whole area up for cooling. (No air conditioning in this house.)

The side of the internal courtyard had a green wall. Filled with all sorts of plants, some edible and others just to add more lovely greenery.

Over all we spent a really interesting afternoon getting to check out 3 totally different houses. From simple renovating ideas, new building constructions and a tour around a sustainability consultant/architect own house.

More ideas for us to chew on and The Monkeys didn’t break anything!

Sustainable House Day

Sustainable House Day is on this Sunday 12th September all around Australia. To find out where the open houses are in your area, click here.

Houses are open from 10-4 pm and are free. Just look out for the balloons.

You get to have a look at how different houses are rigging up solar panels, harvesting water, recycling, gardening and many more things. Lots of info to be had, and a good opportunity to find out what is happening in your sustainable living community.

Anyone in the Sydney area that is interested in having a look, a list here of all the houses.

Little old man with big ideas

There used to be a little old man that lived at the top of my street. His front of house filled with home grown edibles. Every inch of space was filled with some sort of recyled object that in turn had been filled with soil and had something growing in it. Australia Post mail tubs housed capsicum plants lining his brick wall. His footpath grass not present but instead a lemon tree surrounded by a seasonal selection of leafy greens. Every space possible was used for something to grow in. Recycled rusty tin drums were home to chillis and a worn out old metal box his compost. Every time we would past he would be either tending his loved plants, basking in the sun with his head tilted on his verandah (the tiny space that was still free for 1 chair) or waiting by the footpath for someone to come past, so that he could chat to them.

A greek immigrant he had been in the country for 60 years he proudly told me one day. 94 years old, not a speck over 5 foot and he still loved to garden. With his clothing that didn’t look like it had had a wash for quite some time, gnarled old fingers that hadn’t been washed for quite some time as well and dentures that kept popping out of his mouth. He wasn’t the usual kind of neighbour that a lot of people had.

He liked to stop me, and offer water cress freshly plucked from the side of the footpath, and then happily munch on it, until his mouth gave up with trying to masticate the trying greenery with those popping dentures, then he would spit it out enthusiastically towards the general direction of his compost.

Now why am I telling you stories of an eccentric little old man? Because that little old man had big ideas. Simple ideas, that have pestered me ever since he voiced them to me. Why (as he pointed to the multi level apartments located near him) do they not have a communal garden in there? Why do they not have a simple lemon tree? Everyone could be using all the things that they grow within their small shared space. Even a little lemon tree makes a difference. We eat everything I grow. So simple…

Why indeed my little old man… Living in a big city, I see building happening all around me all the time. Quaint historic houses making way for multi story apartment blocks. Beautiful 3 bedroom houses with one bathroom, making way for 2/3 bedroom, 3 bathroom multiple level apartments. I understand the need for more accommodation in big cities, what I don’t understand is why these changes can’t be made more sustainable. Sure they don’t have to be using any recycled object within its path to be made into a growing pot. But surely these newly built places could accommodate a food growing area, that can be easily watered by nearby water tank, and then utilised by the people living there.

But who will look after it, we don’t have time?… Usually these big blocks, (or even smaller blocks of only 4) will have a body corporate or an outside designated company that organises all maintenance of the outside areas. This garden area could easily be maintained by the same people surely? Or a rotating roster of people within the complex that would be more than willing to look after the gardens. So many people would like to dig their fingers into dirt and don’t get the opportunities due to city living constraints.

But there isn’t room on the ground for these garden areas? We need carparking!… It doesn’t need to be on the ground, there is a perfectly good rooftops with ample sunlight just begging  for a little urban edible gardening. Roof top gardens can be easily built on flat roofs or a low pitch roof, and have many added benefits besides providing food to tennants.

Erd House (below) is located in Switzerland, not really a city living dwelling but still magnificent, and I wanted to sneak it in.

erd house by Swiss architect Peter Vetsch

In the pipelines there is also Sydney City Farm. Still waiting approval at this stage….

Simple things like these roof top gardens, or shared edible gardening spaces within apartment living could have such a dramatic and positive influence on our environment and city living peoples lives. So many countries and people have embraced this way of living around the world. It would be so wonderful though, to be able to walk around my neighbourhood and see more examples of this happening…

A good place to start if you are interested in more information is here.