just a little bread and jam

lime marmalade || cityhippyfarmgirl

lime marmalade || cityhippyfarmgirl

sourdough || cityhippyfarmgirl

Jam in summer, marmalade in winter. That’s how it seems to roll around these parts. A steady supply of preserved seasons to go with the endless sourdough that seems to drift out of my oven. It’s a simple pleasure that never ever gets old.

What have you been preserving lately?

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For something a little different, have a peak at ABC’s Organic Gardener magazine- feeling pretty happy to be squeezed in between the lovely likes of fermentation king Sandor Katz and Kate of Foxs Lane.

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The Better Block

Changes happened this weekend in Clovelly Rd, Sydney, Australia. Small, community inspired changes with a hopefully massive impact. Going from this…

clovelly better block

to this…

clovelly better block

The first Sydney Better Block project was the occasion- a community driven event that from everyone’s accounts, was a huge success.

cityhippyfarmgirl

The inspiring man behind it all, Phill Stubbs.

Clovelly Road Better Block transform a street for a day. The aims are to: 
– bring the community together 
– encourage people to re-imagine their street 
– invite them to add their ideas 
– show civic leaders the need for action 
– get improvements made permanently 
– inspire others to push for change in their street. 

clovelly better block
clovelly better block
Our goal after the event is a permanent liveable street. We will be going back to Council with market research from the Better Block day and pushing for permanent changes. In fact we’re keen to see this rolled out at the other little villages on Clovelly Road. 
 
Our vision for 2025 is to connect the villages on Clovelly Road and create a green corridor that runs from Centennial Park to the Pacific Ocean. (Yes it’s a bold vision, but if we, the community, don’t really think about our street, who in government will?)
– 25/10/13 CLOVELLY BETTER BLOCK MEDIA RELEASE
clovelly better block

Blink and you would have missed the very popular burrito’s- a sell out!

clovelly better block

Making the block, “greener, safer, more human

clovelly better block

Everyone’s favourite green man, Costa.

clovelly better block

‘The “Better Block” project is a demonstration tool that rebuilds an area using grassroots efforts to show the potential to create a great walkable, vibrant neighborhood center. The project acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the “complete streets” buildout process and develop pop-up businesses to show the potential for revitalized economic activity in an area. Better Blocks are now being performed around the world, and have helped cities rapidly implement infrastructure and policy changes.’           – THE BETTER BLOCK PROJECT

This video explains the concept and how they did it in San Antonio, USA.

For more details on other projects, or how to start your own see- The Better Block

For Clovelly Road’s Better Block Project full media release see here

For a recent article in The Age and The Better Block in High St, Coburg, Victoria.

“are you some sort of Greenie or something?”

cityhippyfarmgirl

My standard response when buying something in any kind of shop is, “No bag thanks.” I often say it with a slight edge to my voice, as take my eyes off the sales person for a mere second or a distraction from a small child and they are stuffing those goodies straight into that bag of plastic. Far too much enthusiasm round these parts for you to be taking home a little souvenir plastic.

Recently, after buying a few items in a shop I blurted out my standard line and was met with…

“What, are you some sort of Greenie or something?”

I looked around me. Everything seemed to look the same as when I had stepped into the shop, everything still looked very 2013 and yet that comment seemed to come straight from 1983.

I was appalled. Is this how far we had come? That only a Greenie would say no to plastic bag?? I indignantly said yes, yes I was and stomped out. (And for the record the shop in question was also a health food shop….a health food shop!)

cityhippyfarmgirl

So there the comment sat with me, weeks and weeks after. What hope did the planet have if it was still a bloody battle not to get a plastic bag for your purchases? (I had also had another comment in the same week from another salesperson expressing sincere surprise at my lack of plastic enthusiasm as so many of her customers always took multiple bags.)

While my issue with having plastic bags thrust in my hands is small in comparison with all the other environmental issues going on in the world, I can’t help but think it’s still far too easy to put our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening.

Too easy to ignore the fact that these seemingly small steps are someone else’s problem.

Too easy to ignore the fact that we are living with a greedy fossil fuel industry, that’s having gaspingly scary consequences.

Too easy to dismiss what will happen in our future as it’s just so unknown… But is it? Is it so easy to dismiss? This is the sort of thing that keeps me up late at night wondering what the hell sort of future I’m passing on to my children.

cityhippyfarmgirl

This week author and environmentalist activist Bill McKibben is in Australia for his “Do the Math” tour. For tickets, dates and places please see here. More reading on 350.org

He will also be appearing on Q and A tonight (if you are in Australia.)

(this movie is set in the United States but has global maths figures that are and will effect all of us.)

the best city bicycle- part two

cityhippyfarmgirlcityhippyfarmgirlcityhippyfarmgirlA few weeks back I put the call out for a little help on the bike purchasing front… What was the best bicycle for a city gal wanting to get around on two wheels?

Turns out I had quite a lot of choice, and so I slowly narrowed it down to two, with 5062 hours of research and the help of you- my awesome readers. Every piece of advice was duly noted and I can confidently say, without everyone’s advice there is no way I would have found the bike that I did.

The cool looking retro bikes were trying to entice me but it’s a trusty 21 speed hybrid Malvern Star that finely came through with a skidding halt to my back door step. Despite being daunted by all the seemingly excessive gears, after two rides, (yes, two) I got them. I understood the gears and can confidently say….I love them! Gears are amazing and make bike riding a joy… who knew?

This little bike has everything I wanted- stand, mud guards, step through, basket, rack, upright position, 21 speeds and a comfy seat, (without a crazy price tag.)

The first few rides were a little daunting, the footpath getting a good workout along with the breaks. Every car going by seemed to be a potential to, well… die! However I’ve decided that if I’m going to ride in Sydney I just have to get more confident. It’s a busy city, with not a lot of apparent love towards bike riders, (and just quietly, more than it’s fair share of hills.) But it’s my city and there is nothing to say, I can’t make that all work for me.

Early morning rides to city farmers markets? No problem, with my basket on the front and my bell finger at the ready, ting ting…out of my way drunken Friday night partiers, city hippy farm girl coming though on her bike…ting ting.

Taking the bike away with us last weekend, I got a different view of what it’s like to ride around another city. Newcastle this time, which is incredibly flat and bike friendly. Peddling furiously to make it to the beach in time to watch the sun sneak over the water I had a moment.

I got it, I really did.

With the wind on my face, the light slowly touching the scattered clouds, my breath catching a little as I peddled faster and faster. I had time, I knew I could get there before the sun snuck over the horizon. I kept going faster though, not because I had to, but because I could… and that’s a pretty wonderful feeling to have.

cityhippyfarmgirlMy top tips for anyone looking at getting a bike in the city.

Research…and research your butt off. Ask oodles of questions, try the bikes out and take your time making a decision. You want to use it, not for it to be an expensive ornament. The low gear retro bikes look amazing, but if you don’t live in a flat cobblestone city, maybe think again. If you are going to be riding up any sort incline, gears are your friend. A superb wonderful friend, that you will love getting to know.

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For an interesting comparison on riding in a different city, have a read of Richard Tulloch’s cycling in Amsterdam…44,000 bike spaces to park in!

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.

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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.

the community garden

Our local council is trialing a new community food foragers garden. I really love the idea of this and hope that it takes off,  just getting bigger and bigger.

Imagine city living where on each high density living block there was a community kitchen garden readily accessible for all the locals. An attached community compost bin, for all those to access that didn’t have backyards. Seasonal food grown within a hop skip and a jump of where you live, with composting scraps being used for the same garden while decreasing all the food scraps being sent to land fill.

It doesn’t seem like a big ask, does it?

It just makes sense. Cutting back on waste having to be collected by council. Making more efficient use of space. Encouraging a community spirit. I’m sure on each block there would be at least a couple of willing people who would love to regularly tend the small edible space. If people are living in a high density living area, green spots are hard to come by and the chance to actually dip your fingers in to some soil and tend a little foliage would be incredibly appealing to a lot of inner city dwellers.

More green spaces in the city are needed. Whether it be roof tops, street corners, reclaimed concrete areas, where ever they may be. However,  first people need to ask for it, and be encouraging when trials are put into place. Be vocal, spread the good word. Whispered words of encouragement is what gets ideas moving. Spoken words and acts of enthusiasm keep them there.

If everyone’s local councils started up just one food foragers garden in their area, it was successful, and people respected the space. Surely this could mean the start of many more to come?

The benefits of a nation wide scheme like this?… Oh can you imagine.

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Do you have any community gardens or food foraging gardens in your area?

why cafes and kids simply don’t mix

I live in the city. I live in a flat. I have 2 young energetic kids.

Now back in the day I loved nothing better than to sit back sipping my decaf soy latte. Then I moved on to the little macciato’s, cappuccino’s had a look in for a while and then back to the decaf latte again while pregnant. Add a little biscotti, some people watching, the weekend paper, it doesn’t get much better. So I know my cafe culture. I love my coffee culture. Its one of the best perks of living in a city. The choice of many great coffee haunts.

So what happens when you have a child? You drag them along too of course. You cling on to that cafe culture as long as you can. We don’t have a grassy back yard, where the kids can run around, so parks and playgrounds are utilised nearly daily, or even twice daily. And if it happens to be raining? Why a playdate at the local cafe for a babycino sounds quite lovely.

Now with one child a cafe date is ok. It’s not great, but you can do a little chatting, mop up the spilled milk, back to chatting, help the child back on to the chair after falling off etc etc. You can still cling on to that coffee dream that cafes are still for you, just as a family now.

Then the 2nd one comes along. Lets face it, the dream is shattered. Even with two adults to referee, and a toy box (if the cafe is really kind), it’s just not worth the pain of it all.

The youngest screams for more biscuit, the oldest trickles milkshake down the leg of the table, the youngest snatches the best toy off his big brother, the oldest dongs his brother on the head with said toy and gives him a quick pinch for good measure. The ‘ahhh, this is a lovely coffee ‘ moment is so brief, you vow not come again with the little monkeys.

Then 2  months go by, you forget the pain of it all as the mesmerizing coffee smells tease your nostrils again, wooing you in. So you drag the monkeys in with promises of milkshakes and biscotti again, in order to clutch on to that fleeting memory of old cafe days.

Episode repeats itself, with younger monkey fluttering his eyelids at the waitress as she starts sweeping the metre wide crumbs from under the table and older monkey stepping on outside dogs tail while trying to pat it as we make a hasty retreat once more.

Rainy days

What to do on a rainy day with 2 kids in a flat?

Over a period of time I collect all sorts of things that would usually go into the recycling bin and instead pop them into a box in the kitchen for a ‘rainy day’. Toilet rolls, patty pans, cardboard boxes, what ever looks like it could be turned into something else gets kept and thrown up on top of the kitchen cupboards. The boys love it when I get the box down and empty it out on the lounge room floor as it always changes and we can always make something new and exciting. So this is the rainy day activity box. Egg cartons become buses, toilet rolls become people, the carpet with the pattern becomes the road, and the flat becomes a recycling centre with things thrown about every where!

Another favourite is getting a few bigger boxes and joining them together to make a train for all their stuffed toys. Hours of fun in there.

I also pack away one box of toys that get stored under a bed and brought out as well. That way they can ‘re-discover’ their toys for the day and then that box gets packed away again. This can be rotated a bit so they never get tired of the one thing.

And when that rain won’t stop and it really is far too soggy to go outside, the dining table gets turned into a cubby house. Blanket over the top, and every available blanket and cushion for the inside. All cosy and squishy inside, perfect for 2 boys who love nothing better than to hide away and giggle.

 ….and maybe some space for a moment or two for Mama to lay a weary head down as well.

Mindful grocery shopping

Shopping- I really try and buy the weekly groceries as organic, locally produced, Australian owned, as little added numbers/preservatives etc,  minamally packaged as possible, and still within a budget. This can be a really time consuming thing to do, due to checking and rechecking – (well up until recently it has been.) I can usually alternate between two different main supermarkets, and know now which ones regularly have the products that I want. Add in some farmers markets, fruit shop and health food shop and we are away!

This has been no easy feat! I think it has taken the best part of the last year for me to now know most brands which fall in to my buying categories. For a long time it was reading the backs of EVERYTHING, checking out ingredients, where its made, who the company is owned by etc etc. Shopping could take a really long time.

Last weekend  after a  shop at the local main competitor super market (that will see us through the week), groceries for 4 people, $150 dollars spent, only one item made out of Australia- toothbrushes were made in Singapore. Thats pretty good I thought.

So what is my point with all this? (bit tired today but I’m getting there…)

People have become completely removed from what they are buying. .

I don’t want to just buy my packaged meat, neatly cut up in stir fry pieces with no idea where it comes from. I don’t want my pears to come from China, when perfectly delicious ones are grown in Victoria. I don’t want my chocolate ingredients to come from 4 different parts of the world to be put together in a factory that is still on the other side of the world and then shipped to me and bought for $4.50 a block on the supermarket shelf (thats not good food miles!)

What I would like is for people to be a bit more questioning of what is actually in that jar of food they have just bought, question where the meat is from, is the dairy from free range cows, and does the supermarket offer a more locally produced chocolate product? If people even slightly changed their buying habits, super markets would follow suit and produce on the shelves what is selling the most. Look at how far fair trade coffee has come in recent years.

Its really easy to look at a shopping list and just go bang bang bang in the trolley and dashing out the checkout with not a clue of how many food miles you have just clocked up, and how many additives and preservatives you have just added. Every one does this as its easy! Its convenient. We all lead busy lives and at the end of the day when your knackered, the kids are whingey, you still have to make dinner and 50 other things to do after that, that you think “as quick as possible please”.

So, how to change current habits? Even if you started off small it would make a difference.

Animal Vegetable Miracle- a book that tells the story of how our family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they lived. Loved it!