Monday, 23 December 2013

Temperate Mandarins

I failed to grow temperate bananas, but the mandarin tree (one of them) is hooting and providing Caleb a dollop of homegrown mandarin nostalgia. Gone are the days he can sit under a tree creating a castle of peels while he mungs down on mandarins. But it was nice today to grab a few, write Love You on one and toss them into his room. I try not to breach the threshold anymore. The level of toxic socks and dirty dishes makes it untenable. I figure he'll  get the stage even he can't handle it. He told me today it looks 'homely'.

The mandarin, an imperial, has been in the polytunnel for four years now. The first three it grew small mandarins, this year is the first time they've grown to a normal size and are sweet. The pungent smell when you pick them... hmm.

In Tasmania we can grow lemons, Eureka, Lisbon, Myer nearly all year round. A new arrival in the polytunnel, a Tahitian lime. It remains to be seen how it handles the cold nights.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Dog Food Recipe

Firstly, an old story, but a goodie. We took Caleb to the beach when he was about 4 and he asked if he could have some dog food. We were nonplussed,  it turned out he meant a Hot Dog. Freudian.

I'm not a great believer in recipes.  I prefer to get the idea of how one's done and then improvise.

When we first bought Nuju we agreed he had to be a sustainable dog and fed from the carcasses of rabbits and road kill. We then put our heads down and tails up and got busy on building a house and lapsed into the convenience of purchased dog food.

Recently someone mentioned the prevalence of kidney disease in dogs fed on commercial dog 'biscuits'. They're unpalatable to  dogs so they spray them with fat and salt. It was just what was needed to get us to take another look at the issue. This time health of one much loved dog added to the impact on one much loved environment. Can the two meet?  Probably not, generally speaking the most sustainable option would be a 'Not Dog', but that's not going to happen.

Cutting to the chase. I did the research and ended up with this... feel free to modify as you will, particularly those wanting to translate it out of Australian.

Nuju Food

4 cups of Organic Australian Brown Rice cooked for 12 minutes
Add 1 kg of kangaroo mince - or equivalent in fresh roadkill :)
3 cups of chopped carrots and carrot tops (from the garden)
125 grams of butter (Trev's request)

Cook it up and dole it out into recycled containers and freeze. One comes out each day and is kept in the fridge till needed. It's best to provide smaller dollops at a time to ensure it's all eaten and doesn't attract flies.

Nuju has an effective method of letting us know when he's hungry. He 'dings' his bowl by batting it to one side and smacking it against the floor. The porcelain makes a resounding ding. It creates a reverse Pavlovian response.

Does anyone  have good dog food ideas to share?

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Zucchini Power!

Well they're out and proud. The zucchini flowers are enormous this year, but are just the same variety as the last. No idea why.

After we've had our fill of zucchini we'll start picking the flowers early in the morning and stuffing them with chilli and Trev's fetta,  dip them in a light batter and lightly fry. It's so indulgent.

With flowers this size one would equal a meal.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Bathos... from the sublime to the ridiculous

I found an empty 500 gm plastic container of Nutella, empty, in Caleb's room. It's such a fraught thing - wanting him to grow up feeling he isn't deprived of toxic lollies and fat laden snack food. And for some reason Cocoa Pops and Nutella are the two items that typify the crap food slant of an indulgent nation and which I would never put in a shopping trolley.

So, what do I do? Bail him up and bawl him out? Done that, or at least a milder version. It doesn't work. The stubborn jaw, the steely eye and that alarming moment I realise he's gained more from me genetically than the shape and size of his nose.

So I've decided to compromise. I made 'Nutella'. I read somewhere that you combine ground nuts, icing sugar and cocoa powder. I added a dash of sunflower oil and whizzed it up in the blender. It's like crunchy peanut butter, but sweet and chocolatey.

But is that going to be enough for Caleb?... the taste tests reveals...
'Yum. OK, yeah, I'll eat it.'

Thursday, 12 December 2013

100% - the whole cigar!

Thank you everyone, I really didn't think it was going to make it. You made it happen. I'm looking forward to making the next part happen!

And I promise to blog on something about the garden soon. I'm thinking a 'how to train climbing tomatoes article'  a neat fencing trick, and maybe even a wood chopping trick Trev taught me but I allow him to demonstrate over and over and over!

Friday, 6 December 2013

6 almost 5 days to go.

This is getting exciting, awake half the night planning the movie!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Thank You Post!

56% of the way! I wonder if miracles do happen :-)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

15 days to Go - The Final Countdown!

Are you sick of hearing about my Peak Challenge project?  Probably, I've been banging on about it for 45 days now. It's a subject very close to my heart.  I believe we've come as far as we can with science and information, there's a glut of it. Sometimes it contradicts itself, sometimes it scares the pants off you, sometimes it focuses on elements, like economics, rather than the real issue at stake... a dying planet.

But generally it all points in the same direction. We need to act now and the actions need to be as big as the impacts of our chosen lifestyles in order to offset them.  Governments are privy to the same information, but they drag their heels. If science and governments can't save us, then we will have to.

But over the past 100 or so years we've gradually had our responsibilities taken from us, no longer do we take care of our power or water supply, they're delivered to us and are of consequence only viewed in $ values. Our waste, both human and domestic is taken 'away' for us. Mostly we don't even know where 'away' is.  If a tree falls over a road, there's a number to call, if there's a fire, if there's an accident, if our car breaks down...  it reminds me of the story of a woman whose electronic key for her car ran out of battery and she waited for the equivalent of RACT  to turn up to help her get in her car. When they did, they showed her how to use the pointy end of a real key to open her door because she'd forgotten there are other ways to open one.  It's called learnt helplessness. We've learnt it well.

Our ingenuity, resourcefulness, our ability to cope and cater for the essentials of life on our own has been undermined. I don't think it's a conspiracy, or a deliberate ploy but an unfortunate outcome of civilisations push to constantly specialise and compartmentalise. But we can change that.

But it does me we feel helpless now and all we can do is petition others to do something.But it's not going to happen. We have to all stand up and  against those who would convert our environment into cash until both 'economies' collapse.

That's what Peak Challenge is. The learning to stand up again business. It's not just about resilience, the learning to grow carrots and change your light bulbs, while that's essential, it's not enough. It's also about direct action, (and I don't mean violence), withdrawal and spirituality, and by the last I mean a re-connection to what it is we're losing.

It also means finding a path to what it is we want, and even knowing what that is. Knowing that what we have currently is wrong, does not provide us with a better direction.

That's what I believe Peak Challenge does. It doesn't just say, hey things are really, really bad, let's do something. Creating the imperative, but without pointing the way.  It provides a comprehensive list of things that can be done under the four types of action. You can tick off those already achieved, see how you're going, but then address what else you could be doing and decide what to work on next.

One of the things I've learnt in my life is that I'm not crash hot on asking for help. I prefer to struggle on until I'm exhausted before I do. Usually I've done the damage by then. But I'm learning. Which is why I'm asking for help in getting Peak Challenge up and happening. I can't do it on my own. Please help out, and yes, I'm asking for small donations. Enough small, wouldn't-even-miss-it, donations will enable me to work on it concertedly and to be able to ask (and pay) for technical assistance with codecs and conversions etc.  you can check out the first four minutes of the movie, either through Youtube (which is a bigger file download) or the swfcabin link which is a 4MB flash file (oddly it takes a while to load though). Both have been recently updated.

The Pozible quest is 15 days from closing. It's over 50% funded, but it has to be 100% funded or it fails and no pledges will be processed. If you think the project has merit please feel free to share it with others.

Thanks for putting up with my long prattle.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

A great Infographic .... how big is your backyard?

What a fantastic infographic. A bit hard for us metric minded, but in the end we still use and understand acres. It's from  -(go there for the full version, the one you can read). We managed 3 people on 2081 sq metres (with a goat and chooks) in our 2005 experiment, on 3 acres.  I hope to feed more than just us this year.

What do you need? Adequate water,  a suitable climate, good soil, preparedness to start again when the first, second and third times don't work, arms of steel and a husband/wife who's happy to come along for the ride :)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Daisy, Daisy, how does your garden grow?

No cockleshells all planted in a row, that's for sure. but it was always a bother to work out where I'm planting things, what was in there last and the last before this last.

Jotting it down in a diary was fine, but I'd be scrabbling through pages trying to figure it all out and I really needed something pictorial. I've never been able to find any software that works to the extent I want it to.  So instead I visited Google maps and zoomed in on our block, I printed it out, stuck it to a window and traced around it, turning it into a line drawing with all the fences etc showing on a sheet of plastic.. Then I borrowed an old style overhead projector and projected it onto a wall and an A2 sheet of card.

I made multiple copies, I figure I can get three years of garden history onto each, but cutting out different coloured pieces of paper the same size as each garden bed and sticking them over top of the previous years crops. As per the image. So I can instantly see numerous years of garden planting with date of planting and harvest in seconds and make better decisions around what to plant next.

It's just a pity my writing looks like a line up of drunk spiders holding hands.

Another blank copy now records when I whippersnipped, rotary hoed, spread compost or other gardening chores and provides a secondary instant history. I don't want to rotary hoe anywhere in successive years.

I don't mind my garden plans, they're pinned up on the laundry wall for easy reference. I've even stuck charts of when to sow what up too. But I'm sure someone out there has created an easier system... have you devised your own or adopted someone else's method of keeping track of your succession planting?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Make your Own Wheelhoe

Trev is not a gardener. He looks like one, but all that grubbiness originates from making things in the tool shed, not down on his hands and knees in the garden. Sigh. The upside is while he's in the tool shed he's making tools. This is his latest foray into making my life easier. He's assembled it out of a dead wheelbarrow wheel, scavenged steel and a couple of handles of a useless tool they had for sale for $5 at Mitre10. 
It's a very simple concept. The steel rectangle is driven back and forward through the top inch of soil and drags up all the weeds. It's for continued low-weed maintenance, not trying to deal with them once they're mature. You can buy a professionally made one for about $500. Scoffs loudly. You can also buy other attachments to create furrows prior to planting etc. The likelihood of us finding a spare $500  (more once you add postage) for an item that cost us $10 and a couple of hours of Trev tinkering in the shed is extremely low. 

It certainly is a time saver and is easier on my shoulders than using other gardening tools.
He may not be seen in the garden very often (apart from nabbing something for dinner) but he does come in handy does my Trev.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Peak Challenge - Now on Youtube!

I'd love to hear feedback! It's a 4 minute intro to a 30 minute animated movie about creating real action, real change, and providing a personalised plan to do just that. The movie is listed with Pozible for crowdfunding till 13 December - any help, small or large gratefully received. If you can help me out and spread the word I'd be much appreciative. Kind regards, Linda Cockburn

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Peak Challenge - Crowd funding Movie - LAUNCHED!

Hi All,

I have just launched my first ever crowd funding project, Peak Challenge. I've been working on it for a couple of months and have got to the stage of going public with what I've got. I'm asking for help to complete the remaining 26 minutes.

I'm asking you to take a look at the project and consider pledging some dollars, or if you're not able to help out financially, and you think the project is worthy, if you could help spread the word and share this with your friends on Facebook or other social media.

Basically the idea is to stop preaching just to the converted about our environmental woes, but to reach out to the people who know it's big, but feel reluctant to get involved, there are so many mind traps to fall into that stop people from being part of the change. The movie will explore these.

Plus it will provide a way to create real change, not just the change your light bulbs and grow your own carrots kind of change. But a personalised action plan for the kinds of change required to make a real difference.

I don't know about you but I've had enough of the woe, time for some action! 

Check out the first four minutes of movie (about 4MB)

Thanks for helping out.


Saturday, 12 October 2013


We weren't too sure about wwoofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). Would they stick to you like limpets and make it impossible to have a bit of your own space? Personal space is something Trev and I, hermits in training, are a bit precious about. Judging by Sarah and Hiroe, it's not the case. We've had a wonderful, wild, woolley and wet weathered week working together. Yes, the obvious next dubbya is 'weeding.'

The first thing we settled in to do together was weed the garlic, which was being encroached by comfrey. A lot of these we transplanted into pots for my goat larder garden, which is a fenced off feeding frenzy area for summer. When the grass starts to die back we'll let them in for short bursts of high protein lunches.

But our wwoofing week is marred by the weather. It rains in squalls, then the sun pops out, and so do we, only to scurry back inside as the next squall crosses over. If you don't like the weather in Tasmania - wait 5 minutes.  So there's been times where we've given in and retreat inside to read books and drink long cups of chai.

It hasn't stopped Sarah or Hiroe learning how to mud render straw bales. They've almost finished two sections of the front of the house. They tell me it's enjoyable. I find it hard to believe. Having completed the majority of the inside of the house, and the first layer of the outside and wrecking my shoulders in the process, I can think only unkind thoughts of mud.

My descriptions of the different layers mirrors my feelings on the subject, 'this layer is the consistency of diarrhea', this one like a 'soft stool'. It's all shit to me.  So my gratitude is immense. When they ask me, 'Would you like us to do more mudding?' I have to resist the temptation to drop to my knees raise my clasped hands in supplication and cry, 'Please! Please!'

It's been great to share meals with people who appreciate good food, and it's been interesting seeing things from their perspective. Milking goats, making cheese, using home made soap to wash the dishes, introducing them to the compost loo, all so same-same to us, but just a bit different for them.

And sharing our space? It's been easy. They're both lovely, gentle women willing to get their hands dirty (literally) and they've made it a positive first time wwoof hosting experience.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Peak Challenge, a Request for Feedback

The last couple of months I've been working on a project to try and tip people who are ambivalent about the state of the environmental onto 'the side of the light'  

It's a 30 minute animation, it covers a quick 4 fact filled minutes about the state of the environment, and a little of what scientists say is to come.

Then it goes into the 12 thought processes people go through to either stay in denial, or to decide it's someone else's responsibility.

It briefly talks about the stages of grief. Because coming to terms with the future of our planet is distressing. Again, we usually stop at the first stage... denial. It's about recognising the process and that it is a process and encourage people not to stop at the first hurdle.

It then goes into the four types of action that are required. Most of us are stuck on just one.

At the end of the movie there'ill be a downloadable list to tick off and see where you are at, plus make plans for what you might like to tackle, and set a date to do it by. An action plan for... well, action.

As well as this, a list of resources, a reference list, and hopefully a list of people who have helped to crowdfund the project.

In two months I've managed to squeeze in time to create 4 minutes of movie. At this rate it will be another year before I complete it. The goal is to use a medium that's accessible, free, people can share (social media), and provides an entertaining take on the issues.

So many people say, 'I want to do something, but I don't know what.' Hopefully this will provide some of the what. I don't know how you feel, but I'm sick of hearing what's wrong, it's time for getting it right.

What I'm after is about 20 people I can road-test the first four minutes on and get some feedback. How easy was it to view technically? (it uses Flashplayer), how it made you feel? if it went too fast, too slow? Aspects of it were difficult to understand... those kinds of things.

If you are up to watching the four minutes and have time to give me some feedback, please email me at THANKS!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Earth, Air, Fire and Water

A uni assignment - create a series of four images around the concept of 'fractured'. I chose a theme of our fractured relationship with nature. They're not necessary pleasant images. Caleb told me they disturb him.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Plastic Free July

July's not quite over, but it's no longer relevant, it's become Plastic Free Forever.
Of course, having said that I will add it's an impossible task.  We can, at best,choose to use only minute amounts of the ubiquitous stuff.

I've been Facebooking about it over the month, and discussing, amongst other things, our surprise in discovering the strange places plastic  hides from us thwarting our attempts at eliminating it.

Glossy cardboard boxes are often coated in a thin veneer of plastic. You can't tell which ones do or don't until you rip the box at an angle to reveal the layer.

We were foiled by 'foil' that was actually silver plastic.

Glass bottles often have plastic lids, so you go for the tin lids, and then discover they have a plastic 'under'lid and most tin cans (which we normally avoid) have a plastic lining.

You can buy food in bulk bins, but generally it's been dearer than the supermarkets, sometimes by twice as much. We resolved this to some extent by taking in organically grown home produce and bartering it for food staples. 3.65 kilos of romanesco broccoli for polenta, cornflour, almonds, coconut and brown sugar. It cost us $1.05.

The fine ground polenta was to make corn chips as we have a chilli bean meal each week with salad and corn chips. But no one makes corn chips in a paper bag.  I mucked up the first time by trying to grind the corn myself and created an exciting moment or two for our would be dentist, but in the end the chooks and the sheep ate them and we bought fine ground polenta and tried again. They were, incidentally, delicious but also  time consuming.

While we make our own fetta cheese, we don't make 'yellow' cheese, as Caleb called it as a child. Buying cheese at the deli meant asking if they could not put it in plastic, but just wrap it in paper. This was so counter-culture it caused a few raising of brows or complete incomprehension with a side-order of scorn. I'd just acknowledge, yes, we're very odd, sorry about that.

It turns out you can't buy roll your own tobacco in anything but plastic. Trev's one smoke a day habit is not going to be broken any time soon, so we broke our vow.

But I'm not much better, without thinking I bought a pedometer online. When it arrived I opened it up and had the, 'O Ooh' moment. Then I did something even odder. I bought a new dress. A rare occasion. As I knocked back the plastic bag it was about to go in I realised the dress was made from synthetic material. Plastic. Doh!

We've had to change our diet. But we all agree it has not meant our diet has worsened. If anything it's improved.  Even if it does take us longer to shop for it, and sometimes to cook it.

But the biggest drawback has been using plastic packaging as the prime decision making criteria over a list of other essentials we normally pursue. The organic fair trade ground coffee came in plastic,so we bought the chemical instant coffee because it came in glass (but we discovered it had a plastic seal when we got home). We used to buy free-range chicken, but it only comes in plastic, and while we can buy the non-free range and have it wrapped in paper we're not going there. We couldn't buy organic pasta because it came in plastic, but we could buy foreign pasta in a box. Finally found it in a bulk bin and bought it in a paper bag.

homemade peppermints to replace
the box of tic tacs in my handbag
We're thankful we produce all our veggies, our milk, make our own yoghurt, some of our cheese, we have eggs, ducks and we still have loads of raspberries in the freezer, bottled tomatoes, apples and peaches, dried beans, olives and honey, and that we make our own toothpaste and soap and we use that to wash dishes and generally most things around the house. We're also thankful that you can buy unbleached recycled loo paper in a paper bag, but most of all ... chocolate still comes in real foil and paper! Yes!

Conclusions: we need more plastic free options, and living with only a minimal amount of 'new' plastic, is not so difficult. When July ends our challenge will continue.

Thanks to the Plastic Free July Challenge for pulling us back into line.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A carbon Sink?

I'm enjoying an opportunity to get creative with a couple of RMIT Uni electives on Adobe Photoshop (current) and Adobe Flash (completed) - the latter has resulted in a number of mini flash movies, 
Dead Planet Cake being one as per a previous post. 

 These were for the latest Photoshop assignment. I now have four images to create with a concept of fractured. And yes, I have found a way to use the word for environmental purposes.
 I'm going to try create human landscapes that are being industrialised and polluted, 
though that's a bit of a tautology I guess. 
Very much enjoying doing something creative for a change.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

600 Things

The UN Refugee Agency is promoting it’s World Refugee Day with an image of Magbola Alhadi a mother of three who fled her village with only a cooking pot. They ask us, if you had one minute what would you take from your home? I have everything important packed up in a travel bag, photos, birth certificates, my sons first  drawings, a lock of his hair, the truly precious things, and my laptop of course. But the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating not what I would take but what I would keep. If I could have only 600 things, what would they be?

Paul Hawkins provided the forward for, Hooked, Buddhist writings on greed, desire, and the urge to consume. In it he wrote of a friend, a reformed big banker who has attempted to curb excess in his life by having only 600 things. It means counting every last teaspoon.  If someone gives him a present or he buys something new he has to give away something in order to remain at 600 things.

Once I start counting things I realise if I wish to remain clothed I may need to convert my loaded bookshelves into a slim electronic device, of which only one could hold thousands of books. But I’m not sure I can do that.   I wonder if a pair of socks counts for 1 thing, or 2? I decide it’s a definite 1.
If in my car I have a spare tyre does  that make it one thing or two? I decide it is one thing. The car, complete with its road maps is one thing. Though my glovebox stuffed full of old sunglasses will need to be cleaned out.

I like the zen of it. Paul describes his friend’s house as if it is a small temple, “every object has meaning: nothing is retained unnecessarily.”

But there are three of us, not counting the dog. Does that mean we can have concessions? 600 things each? No, that would be wrong.  My son would then have license for 600 things excluding fridges, pots and pans etc believing they are the sole responsibility of those that put the food on them and give him scope to continue to consume at a far greater rate. Perhaps as a family we could say we have 400 combined things and then 200 additional personal items bringing the total to 1000.  I start counting pairs of jeans unworn for the past three years while I wait for a thigh thinning miracle.

Teaspoons? How did we accumulate so many?  I have a collection of old bottles retrieved from the property where the pigs rooted them out of what must have once been a dump. Do they count? Do the rocks I found at the beach, the dried flowered head of a romanesco broccoli  which hangs in the laundry looking artful against the white limewashed wall? I decide nothing in the garden counts. I have 600 recycled plastic garden pots alone. No this will need to be carried out under the auspice of roofs.

Suddenly everything I touch becomes a loaded question. We preserve our food, we have 300 Vacola jars, this is our food system, do I have to include these? I doubt Paul’s friend did more than eat out and dine in. It seems unfair to have to include our preserving system that is designed to avoid waste and lower our consumption of highly packaged and processed supermarket food.  Then there is every glass jar that ever entered the house, sitting washed and boxed ready for summer jams and chutneys. Can I bear to part from them?   I start looking at the dog sideways, does his collar bring his count to 2, what about his food bowl, his water bucket? My  proliferation of op shop teapots, all my tired pairs of undies, the balls of saved rubberbands, the things I collect for the day the world may suddenly end and I’m left bereft of tampons or boxes of matches.

I’ve always thought my life quite a spare thing, but then I look into the tool shed and despite deciding a box of 1000 nails counts only as one, there’s enough in there to more than double our 600 each concessions.  Trev’s pile of saved scrap metal is anti-consumerist in nature. One day that odd conglomeration of metals will come in handy – obviously. I avoid looking at his vintage collection of AM radios from the '50's. I decide to back out slowly and exclude the tool shed from my configurations. I doubt Paul’s friend built his own house, or needs to repair fence lines, use a chainsaw or welds his own garden tools. But now it all seems like poppycock.

Back in the house I stare at the light fittings, are they separate to the house, or part of of it? I decide they are part of it. My box of tax records for the previous 8 years, should I toss them? The urge is strong, but they remain taking up far too much room on the top shelf.  I start counting teaspoons.  I emerge from the spare parts cupboard draped in long lost cables for phones long deceased and recall the time someone  left their charger on a bus only to have extricated a spare to great hoots of amazement, a rabbit from a hat.  It dawns on me that I’m a hoarder. Every paper bag we’ve bought pepitas or sunflowers in are collected and folded, any plastic bag that actually manages to get through the door is washed, dried and saved for a multitude of repeated uses. I make our own soap, 100 bars of it are curing in an aniseed infused cupboard. This is, clearly, not going to work.

I decide to have a thorough clean of the house. I will give away anything that is clearly extraneous to needs. Hone down on my hoarding, and then, regardless of numbers, I will cap it. Anything new entering the house will need to be resolved with one removal.  If I get to the point that there is not one thing more I can bear to give away, then it will hopefully create the dynamic where the new thing is  considered superfluous anyway.  Now, the big challenge. Enlisting Trev and Caleb, oh the kicking and screaming...


A great article on disgreenimation.

It's one of my pet hates. When greenie puritans make being green a competition. I had a rave about it a while back in my 10 Myths about Sustainability too.  I think it was myth 9.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Optimism for a Change!

I have a pile of books by the bedside that I've especially selected in alternate order, dismal and depressing followed by upbeat and optimistic to try give my psyche a chance to recover from 'The Most Dangerous Animal' and other assorted trials by guilt and disillusion.  

First up is Kwame Anthony Appiah a Ghanian philosopher who lives in America. The Honor Code, How Moral Revolutions Happen, is not, to be honest, the most entertaining of reads. What could have been a fascinating book ended up being a perseverance test, albeit a test well worth it. In 1800's Wilberforce was attempting to eliminate slavery in the West Indies sugar trade. According to him time spent appealing to lower class citizens was never wasted as "more than 9 out of 10 families would cheerfully adopt the resolution." (to not consume West Indian sugar.) It was thought to be a result of the 'humbler classes' being able to identify with issues of slavery.   Wilberforce states in capitals, 'SLAVERY COULD NOT LAST A YEAR IF THE MIDDLE CLASSES ONCE EXPRESSED A DECIDED OPINION AGAINST IT'.

I read that and think, if only we can get enough people to stand up and say, 'Enough!' we could even end slavery all over again (there are 27 million people in the world currently being used as slaves, more than at any other time in history, despite it being illegal in every country. Wilberforce would be dismayed. )

Kwame covered historical precedents for change in cultural practices such as footbinding, duelling and slavery and looked at how they became unacceptable.  Very briefly, it's a process of shaming, different in each context, it may be other countries call your practice barbaric (footbinding), which helps, but also a change in the honour system. When lower classes also began to bind their daughters feet the practice was tarnished for the upper classes, who no longer saw the practice as being exclusive to them, and they dropped it. Within a decade or so of a practice that had existed for over 1000 years it had dissipated by 94%.

I wonder how this applies to the environment and our current capitalist culture... do we mock and embarrass poor practice? Bring shame on it? but also build up a new honour code. I'm all for positive reinforcement, so I played around with creating the image above and set it free on Facebook. Not sure if it went anywhere. But as a result of reading the book I often think about how to use these kinds of techniques to shape change. 

Mark Stevenson's book, An Optimist's Tour of the Future was entertainingly written, but after the first two chapters I had difficulty not using it to prop up the leg of a table, or violently stuff cushions with it. The themes were of human evolution of the engineered kind, things like transhumanism, where with technology we bio-engineer humans to live forever. The supposedly logical next step; consider the example provided.

In the past you were deaf, so you used a hearing trumpet, then hearing aides, then cochlear implants. Obviously now we should be going further and regenerating or regrowing our own tissues and even going further in bio-evolving humans so we are better than we were originally designed. 

My anger stemmed from a number of sources, 1. We already have a major population problem and we want to make people live for thousands of years? Doh! 2. The inequality, we still have around 30,000 children dying every day of starvation and disease. 1 child every 45 seconds dies from diarrhea or dysentery. Wouldn't our time be better spent reducing the inequity between average life spans, rather than dramatically increasing the life spans of a select few?   It bought to mind some mindless lifestyle show I saw on Australian TV years ago where a middle aged wealthy woman was discussing the wonders of having a reconstructed vagina so she could enjoy sex more. It was ludicrously expensive and could have saved thousands of lives. I hope she thinks her .... was worth it. Grrr!

In an advanced state of grumpy I skimmed through chapters making disparaging noises till I came to the environmental section and was rewarded. 

I read through the third of the book in which I raced around the world with the author looking at what people are doing to reduce our impact, create alternatives and potentially a vision for a viable future. From an underwater cabinet meeting in the Maldives, to the Zippy Bling and Black Phantom in New Zealand (where incidentally he met up with a heap of very nice people - of course.) To the outback of Australia where farmers were utilizing a grazing method that was substantially increasing their profit margins while radically increasing soil carbon levels (I attended a workshop on this a while back and we're going to implement a similar strategy on our block).  I met, vicariously, Klaus Lackner and his artificial trees that could, with funding and resources, reduce CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels, and nano technology and solar cells, algae fuel...

It seemed as though these incredibly hard working people were able to see a better future than I can in my current state of solastalgia, and for once I closed the book feeling like maybe we do have a chance.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Dead Planet Cake

Got a bit of a theme going here. This is an animation I created for an RMIT Uni unit on Flash. I had lots of fun (and frustration) making this. It certainly made me appreciate the painful process of creating animations.

This is only three or so minutes long and it took me weeks to create. Hope you enjoy it. Trev and I do the voice overs. No, it's not our normal accents :-)  I love it when Trev's character mentions his andromodicular ulcer.

I managed to swing it for a HD on this one.  I'm trying to keep my sense of humour as the ship goes down.

You'll need flashplayer to view the cartoon.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

I am angry!

Are we worth saving?  I'm having a species crisis. I search the book stores, the internet, newspapers and damn it I even bought a graphic novel on what I now term Species Extinction Porn. The end of the human world scenarios in which we get our come-uppance and the world is given enough of a respite to recover from the various ills we've inflicted on it.

It makes me think of the Nazi doctors who inflicted hideous experiments on Jews, people like Wirths (Worthless) and Heim. They did things like inject petrol into people, removed their organs while they were conscious. Hideous things. I always wondered how the people of Germany could stand by and watch it, even engage with it, support it.

But who am I to think such things when I, while not standing by quietly, still live in relative ease while children are made slaves of, where spent petrol is injected into a world that is conscious while we disembowel it so we can spread her resources, not to many, but to just a few. I am angry, and I am ashamed. I am one of these two legged ferocious beasts with opposable thumbs, these things are done in my name.

Who am I to think growing my own food, limiting my consumption and having an occasional rant will create meaningful change. It doesn't, it won't and it can't.  All it is capable of is allowing me to fool myself long enough to be able to sleep at night. I am angry and  I am useless.

I have come to the point where I feel all this talk of sustainability is unsustainable. In the end too few will willingly reduce their consumption or change their belief that they somehow deserve a part of the spoils. The oil well will have to run dry for this to happen, and by that time it will be too late. It is likely it is already so.

Some of us play nice in our backyards, grow food and marvel at the novelty, some of us will take our reusable bags to the supermarket, recycle our cans, and think twice before buying Tim Tams. But it is such a shallow thing. Radical change is required by EVERYONE and  putting solar hot water on the roof  isn't going to get us there. A paradigm shift from the ground up and from the top down is required. There is so much work to be done, and world wide we have high unemployment as our economic system enters it's final slow motion fall. We twiddle our thumbs while Rome burns.

I am angry. I am a child of the 80's, the mega consumers, and each generation that has followed has eroded the basis of all life while we increased our number by another 3 billion.  Now it is no longer possible to consume in ignorance. The writing is on the wall, but so are all the advertisements for a lifestyle we are not willing to forfeit. Humans are flawed, fatally so.

I am angry.  It is no longer possible to believe we can make the change required. If there is a human termination button and I was handed it, would I push it?  If it provided an instant, painless death to every last human... I would feel obligated.  No more tigers tied upside down in cages waiting to die of starvation so someone can make soup of its bones in order to increase their sexual stamina, no more whales taken in the name of 'science', no more mountains scraped off the earth and shoved on ships to line someones pockets with a series of zeroes. Because like zeroes, it means nothing.

Terminating us may provide the earth with a chance. Because it may be that we are the only planet with sufficient gravity, with the exact proximity to a star, with water, with the right ingredients to support life. Rare Earth; increasingly scientists posit that the possibility for life on other planets in the universe is slim. It may be that of all the billions, we are one of the few capable of supporting life, and to think so many of us would jeopardise it for our right to buy a Big Mac.

I want a trial, I want humanity in front of a judge, and some poor bastard to have to stand up in front of court and justify our right to life.

I don't need to tell you yet again that I am angry. It's obvious. I don't want to hear platitudes about how we are capable of good things. Yes, we are, but on balance it is not enough to justify who we are, what we have done and what we will continue to do until all opportunity to do so is gone.  The shame is not that we will not survive this 'experiment' in rampant resource use, it is the innocent fauna and flora we take with us.

Our technological evolution has not been matched with a cultural one. We think we are a superior species because we use tools. We have the tools to change, but we choose not to use them.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Are Psychopaths at the top creating narcissistic Policies that destroy our environment?

Phewww! An out there post this morning. I usually steer clear of politics on the blog, but the environment and politics are inextricably linked and voting is one of the most important ways we can have an effect.

I'm reading Jon Ronson's book, The Psychopath Test. It's a great read, at the same time both funny and frightening.

1 in 100 people are psychopaths, this doesn't mean they're necessarily criminals or go around hacking people to death. They're usually able to restrain violent tendencies and use their 'talents' to get themselves into positions of power.

I believe our capitalist structure rewards psychopaths. These are people who are able to make decisions on who loses their job and actively enjoy the process. They're ruthless, and due to their inability to feel empathy, make decisions that increase profits.

All of these qualities lead them to make decisions that do not take into account anything other than profit and as a result the environment suffers. Having read a little of Abbott's plans and seeing him in action...I can't help thinking he may have a higher than average psychopath score.

So, for fun, have a go at evaluating our good friend Abbott. There are items you won't know the answer to, and usually the assessments are used once a person is in the criminal system, and performed by a professional. You could even try to rate your boss, your partner, your best friend and other politicians while you're at it.  If you're really brave (and honest) yourself.

I posted this on Facebook this morning. I think I may rate highly for being a shit stirrer. Lucky it's not one of the ratings.

What score do you get for Abbott?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Trev's Whipper snipper Invention

He didn't really invent it. He saw it elsewhere in a different form and decided he could use a pair of old wheels he had to rig himself up something similar. It's now a cross between a whipper snipper and a lawnmower and works well to reduce stress on our buggered backs, it gets close to chook wire fences without being sucked in and ripping them up, and it reduces the likelihood of accidentally 'scalping' the grass.

In NZ we'd call it Kiwi Ingenuity, not sure what Australian's call it. What about elsewhere in the world, do you have a popular culture of being able to do anything with number 8 baling wire?


I spent way too much time (weeks) creating this short Flash movie based on Edwin Starr's song War, but with a theme of MORE! over-consumption, poverty, greed, pollution, inequality and all those other lovely things we love to hate. If nothing else it will get you dancing!

We've been boring on the block!

We bit the bullet and bunged in a bore.

Every year we run out of water right when crops need it most and our succession planting goes to pot.  (well it never goes to  pot, because that which is not planted cannot be cooked).

I've always been very suspect about the use of bores but we did the research and discovered that in sandstone country groundwater replenishes annually from rainwater and in an area which is using 5% of sustainable groundwater we decided to splash out (yeah, it's a deliberate pun) and secure a reliable water supply and use it wisely.

The drillers were great. When we mentioned divining they immediately started spluttering about the idiocy of water divining and water diviners. They said we could put the darn thing where it was convenient because geologically speaking we could pop a hole through anywhere with equal likelihood of success. 80% likelihood.  Which meant we had a 20% chance of blowing  $7000 and still not have any water. The day they came I told Trev, I psychically predict it will be 42 metres deep (but I didn't share this with the drillers). I didn't even think about it being the answer to life, the universe and everything, just to our water issues.

I was in the garden furiously rotary-hoeing new land to put into crop for this still mythical market garden. when they hit water at 15 metres, but just a little bit of water, not enough to do anything with. They went further. Then excitement, roaring and jumping, they'd hit something at 36 metres and it was gushing out at 3.3 litres per second. It was black and oily and was running into the chook paddock. Had we hit oil? I bloody hoped not. It was black mudstone. I was told it would soon clear and if our water quality is like any of the other bores around here it will have low conductivity (be drinking water quality).

Then they told me, 'Once we hit water we go another 6 metres to create a sump'. 36 + 6 = 42
Yup, we have a 42 metre deep bore! With my 'gift' I might hang up a psychic shingle. (not)

What having a 42 metre bore means is we will be able to grow more than just our own food, we'll be able to grow enough to supply local cafes and restaurants and sell direct to other families and create a small income from our 3 acres. We're already on our way to growing the food and setting up relationships with local businesses. It's been a big investment but with our increasingly hot, dry summers... worth it.

We've purchased a solar pump setup which will slowly feed into a water tank during daylight hours at a rate of 13 litres a minute (once we get the darn thing working).

Monday, 1 April 2013


I've been working (for a couple of years now) on a new novel, Louis(e). Most of that time has been spent researching what is a very different topic for me. Historical fiction.

While it is fiction it is based closely on her true story. This remarkable French woman masqueraded as a man and travelled on the scientific expedition with D'Entrecasteaux from 1789 - 1793.

The first 8,500 words are available to download as a pdf at this link. It's completely different from Living the Good Life, even further removed from Who Killed Dave?

It takes the unusual perspective of Louise's ghost.

Download available -

The Great Benevolent Dictator

I read another interview with a big shot saying, ‘There’s nothing we can do’ about our spectacular slide down the other side of the peak oil curve and all the co-mingling issues of global warming, financial crises, food shortages, species extinctions etc. I’ll call it the Great Decline for ease of handling.
But if you’re anything like me, you’re sick of hearing the doomsayers, the naysayers, the hopelessness, so here’s an opportunity for optimism, a bit of pie in the sky as you are newly anointed as benevolent dictators of the world. I’ll go first and take the juiciest pieces of pie…
When I am welcomed wholeheartedly as the Great Benevolent Dictator to deal with the Great Decline I will implement a number of key changes …
Renewable energy projects and research will be given all the subsidies now given to unsustainable industries such as mining, oil and traditional automotive with a target of 100% conversion to renewable energy worldwide by 2020. (this will include tough energy conservation measures on a domestic and industry level).
Organic agriculture will become the norm, with support and incentives provided to farmers in conversion. Farmers will be valued and financial rewards will follow. Food will no longer be the high flyers or long distance travellers,  unless they are light, unperishables like spices, eg, tons of cloves, cinnamon, etc will go a long way and help assist those countries that need the income and without significant strain on the system, but gone are the days where you will expect to eat US oranges out of season in Tasmania.
A drastic capping of income for non-productive jobs such as executives and bureaucrats,  and a reduction in the number of people employed in these types of positions. Instead there will be a  return to a system that values those who produce, eg research and development and finding key ways forward, not rewarding sociopathic tendencies and the ability to lay off half the work force in order to increase the profits of stakeholders.
Whoa, that was big, take a breath, my pulse, and plough back into the thick of it…
Everyone is given a yearly fuel allowance for personal vehicle use, flying etc. Public transport does not count as part of your allowance.  If you don’t use your allowance you can trade it.  People living in developing countries that don’t use their allowance can trade them internationally. But people will be encouraged to use various strategies to reduce their use, eg carpooling, public transport, living close to where you work, working from home etc.
Built in obsolescence is considered to mirror the built in obsolescence of our world system and it becomes a thing of the past. This includes the belief that any item can be one use only, from drink bottles to computer systems,  there is no such thing as non-recyclable and everything is produced with the materials reclamation in mind. Companies that produce items such as laptops that will last and for which replaceable parts and upgrades will be available for at least a decade if not longer (yes, the cost of a laptop will be more than a couple of hundred dollars, but it will be cheaper in the long run).
OK, if I haven’t already started the war to end all wars and I haven’t had to put my head through the little window or stand blindfolded against a wall, then I will…
Give our system of politics a radical overhaul, it is no longer an ad hominem, adversarial screaming match full of bloated egos seeking to undermine change, particularly if it has any hope of actually succeeding, but instead it’s…. Oh, yeah, you’re right, now I’m really dreaming.
OK, I took the juiciest, easiest to reach pieces of pie, lots of room for a bit of tweaking. Obviously in 500 words I can't provide enough details to offset the obvious responses such as.. yes, but what about if people abuse and corrupt the system.. you do what you can to offset it, it's an issue in the world we live in too.
It’s a big pie, so what, in 500 words or less, is your plan once you're anointed The Great Benevolent World Dictator? Trev’s plan is to feel overwhelmed by the position, instantly resign and ask for a redundancy package.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


I'm often asked how those living overseas can get a copy of Who Killed Dave? and always figured I'd make it available to download, one day.  But no, I finally organised for 10 days!

Feel free to share the offer around!
To keep a track of how many downloads I only ask that people download it from the website rather than share it via email etc. In a fortnights time I'm looking forward to seeing how many downloads and what countries Who Killed Dave? was downloaded from. I'll let you know. 

Living the Good Life is also at

For those of you who haven't already read it, I hope you enjoy the read.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Saving Seed

Lavender, just for how it looks
The house is festooned with bouquets of dried flowers. There are bunches of seeded lettuce in the office, you have to battle past them to get to the loo, there's long strand of rainbow chard seeds hanging beside the umbrella like carrot seed heads, there's Romanesco broccoli and parsley coriander and kale.

Apart from adding a farm house look they're actually there for a practical reason.  They're drying out further till a rainy day when I'll spend time saving their seed.

I've saved seed from our first successful rockmelon variety, Mountain Sweet after a seasons experimentation. Hopefully we can keep adapting a variety to our climate and get bumper crops. The watermelons have not been as successful. It took me way to long to realise the ducklings were slipping through fences and eating the fruits even before they set. So now I have good fruit set about the time we're expecting our first frost.

   Coriander seed
Parsley seed

We should have enough seed to start a market garden next year. We've even been setting a few things up that it might even be a distinct possibility.

Eliot Coleman is the US author of The Winter Harvest Handbook. While we're not has cold as it is in Maine we are going to adopt some of his strategies to try extend our summer/autumn harvest. The images of his immaculate market garden are inspiring. We don't currently have the water for it, but... we may well do very soon.

Do you save your own seed?

Passionfruit and Nashi Pears

I'm showing off fruit of the season again. The Black Norfolk passionfruits, all four of them, have been converted into goat's milk and chook egg passionfruit custard tarts. There are another four waiting on the vine for a similar fate.
The nashi's are eaten raw at regular intervals.

Tomorrow I'm going to have a go at nashi and vanilla bean preserves. After a day of making tomato paste while listening to it rain outside it will be nice to deal with a different product.

Yes, finally it rained! I know that's not a cry of joy elsewhere in the country, but it certainly is in bone dry Tasmania. We came to Tasmania because it rains here. Only it's stopped, and Queensland, where we came from, has barely been without a flood in the past year.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Who Killed Dave?

I'm offering my novel WHO KILLED DAVE? for half price, $12.50, signed and with free postage to Australians* 

WHO KILLED DAVE? is a riotous comedy that most people have reported embarrassing themselves while reading it on public transport or peeving their partners by giggling and snorting late at night while reading it in bed. 

Together Press cheap copies of WHO KILLED DAVE?

As the author of Living the Good Life, about our families attempt to live 6 months without spending a dollar I self-published WHO KILLED DAVE? using recycled paper, vegetable inks and carbon offsets. I have 1000 copies in my shed, they're the only place they're available :-) So make my day and hopefully WHO KILLED DAVE? will reward you with a good giggle. Because, as Charlie Chaplin said, A day without laughter is a day wasted.

Feel free to share this offer with your friends.

*sorry if you're in another location it's going to make it available as an e-book soon.