Archive | May, 2013

The Little Things

31 May


Being a Sustainability Wench is not just about growing veges, preserving fruit, and buying second-hand. Sometimes it’s making positive decisions about the little things.

I love coffee. Proper coffee. If I won the lottery, the second thing I’d buy (after a working beehive), is a fancy Italian coffee machine.

Last year I started to find that whenever I felt rushed in the morning, I’d grab a takeaway soy latte. Really not sustainable at all.

I’ve changed my ways, and now brew plunger coffee as I throw clothes on the kids, then put it into a takeaway KeepCup that can be washed and used again. It makes me value my soy lattes out with my friends even more. I bought my KeepCup from a local not-for-profit organisation which was fundraising. You can buy them from cafes. Best to buy them from a local cafe, so your money is staying in your community I reckon.

As I was out and about, I took this pic of the tree decorated by artist Peter Majende on Manchester St here in Christchurch. It highlights (ugh, bad pun) the creativity happening here post-earthquake. Heartening.



New Fruit

30 May


Today was the day I’d been dreaming about for weeks. The chance to try my first ever homegrown lime. After careful consideration, I decided to have it in a vodka tonic. An excellent decision. It was divine. I slipped it into my drink about 1 minute after picking. We’ve had the shrub for a couple of years, but this year is the first time we’ve had any fruit from it. I’m sure nurturing the herb, bee and butterfly garden beds around it helped, as did the worm poo.

As I sipped on my fresh lime vodka tonic, I stewed some windfall apples with tamarillos that my friend Sarah had sent down all the way from Whangarei. They were such perfect specimens. Sarah and I have been buddies since primary school, and worked at a supermarket together when we were at high school – possibly a reason why we both love vege gardening. We’ve seen what supermarkets do to fresh produce. The outcome of the apple tamarillos tastes a bit odd in it’s pure form, but once sweetened and spiced up, it’ll be great as a pudding.


Winter Basil Love

29 May

I was intrigued to see little baby basils growing in a pot in a friend’s kitchen last night. I assume that when I use the remains of my pesto in bottled pasta sauce in April, that it’s the last I smell of this summery scent until January.

You’ve got nothing to lose by sowing seeds and trying them at different times of the year. If you try sowing a variety of seeds often, something will germinate. If you sow nothing, nothing will germinate. It’s not an expensive exercise.

This evening I sowed a punnet each of basil and random perennial seeds that an elderly woman from down the road gave us (we have no idea what it’s called, all we know is that it has a purple flower). They’ll stay inside through the winter, then the perennials can move to my homemade propagation box in the early spring.


A New Mag on a Stormy Night

27 May

I found a new magazine tonight at the shop. After a gruelling day with a scratchy throat, ‘Green Ideas’ seems the right thing to relax to while I wait to see if it snows or just rains outside.

For starters, the $3.90 cost of the monthly mag is a winner. I have the luxurious ‘splashing-out-on-a-magazine’ feeling without breaking the bank. There’s a healthy mix of controversial subjects, worldwide and domestic issues, long term goals, and quick green fixes in the mag, accompanied with URLs to check out.

The back page is cool. It features ’10 things we learned while making this issue’. This month it includes:

  • ‘Green’ reusable supermarket bags are still made from a kind of plastic.
  • Sea water is naturally fluoridated.
  • Endangered native bats are living in Auckland’s suburbs.

There’s no talk of how how to get the perfect body, what the latest stars are up to, or how to decorate your house the fanciest way to impress your neighbours. It’s only the third issue, but I’m contemplating subscribing.


Making the Most of a Warm Autumn Day

26 May


We’ve had a cracker weekend of sunshine. So the garlic went into a horse-poo prepared bed. This was horse poo we bought for .50c from the side of the road on the outskirts of Christchurch. Apparently the moon is not in the best place for planting garlic, but I’m not prepared to wait for the next sunny spell at this time of year. I also sowed silverbeet seeds (for the fickle chickens who have decided they like it for now), parsnips, and bok choy. They’re all sitting snug in my homemade propagation box.

Over the past few years, as I’ve eased my way into vege gardening, I’ve realised just how regularly you need to sow seeds to keep the pantry full. It’s not a matter of sowing over a few weeks in Spring and leaving the garden to do the rest. If I haven’t sown any seeds for a few weeks, I start getting worried, even in the winter.

Other eco-friendly ways we took advantage of the sunny weather were:

  • Raking up the leaves from the cherry tree, loading them onto the compost.
  • Doing as much clothes washing as possible and drying it outside. We have no dryer, so this is important.
  • Cutting back the AkeAke so it lets more sunlight in the window (on sunny days we rely on the sun warming up the house in the afternoons, delaying switching on the heatpump).

While I was on the green roll, I also sprinkled baking soda over all the carpets, had a coffee, then vacuumed it all up. The baking soda acts as a natural deodoriser. Much cheaper and easier than buying some of that carpet shakey-powder stuff that smells like toilet spray. No stupid packaging either.

Obviously it’s now time for a wine and a block of Whittakers chocolate.

DIY Lemon Dusters

25 May

Today I made my own lemon dusters. Apparently they make the room smell amazing, which means they may encourage me to actually dust. Also:

  • No stupid packaging.
  • No weird chemicals.
  • Quicker than going to The Supermarket.
  • Inexpensive.


I followed this easy recipe from Wendyl Nissen.

Put half a cup of white vinegar and half a cup of water in a bowl, add 6-8 drops of lemon essential oil.

Soak some dusters (made from old cloths, sheets etc) for a few minutes, then squeeze out. Roll the dusters up with some lemon peel within the folds.

I didn’t have a lovely glass vintage jar (or any glass jar) big enough, so I’ve put mine in an icecream container. Apparently you can use other type of oil if you’re not keen on lemon. You just take them out as you need them, and if they don’t get too grubby, you can reuse them.

Reading the comments on Wendyl’s site, I see a couple of people had experiences with their cloths going a bit mouldy. That’s the kind of thing that happens to me, so fingers crossed it works out.

Free Food in the Christchurch Red Zone

24 May


Today’s sustainable adventure was a trip into one of Christchurch’s earthquake-devastated suburbs, Bexley, to forage for forgotten fruit and veges. I was in two minds about the project. I didn’t want to disrespect or offend previous residents, but I didn’t want good food to go to waste. Though this practice is increasingly common, there is no clear protocol around foraging in the red zones (areas that are no longer inhabited, or inhabited by very few due to the land and/or houses being so broken). I made up my own protocol:

  • Take bottled fruit in case an opportunity arose to barter or thank residents.
  • Completely avoid homes where people were still living.
  • Plan to make a swift and respectful retreat should I be asked to.
  • Pause and reflect (not difficult).
  • Not strip entire trees or gardens of fruit and veg.
  • Go with a friend to be safe (today I went with my friend Janine).

It turns out there wasn’t much to be worried about. There was nobody around. The only person who walked past gave us a thumbs up as we dug potatoes.

Pretty much everything we found was from empty sections where houses had been removed. Although nature is taking over the properties, you can still see the trees and shrubs people had planted. There are beautiful roses and climbers, an abundance of native gardens, garden ornaments and wheelbarrows. Some of the plants will have been birthday presents or grown painstakingly from seed. Most will have been grown with green thumb love. Mother’s will have buried their baby’s placenta under some of these plants. It’s impossible to separate the human element from gardens, no matter how wild they’ve become. But such was the chaos, mess, and frustration of living in the red zone, that you can see people just left their gardens without looking back.

I came home with a bag of lemons, apples, potatoes, and lots of rainbow silverbeet for the chickens. Which, it turns out, they don’t like.

On the way home Janine and I stopped off at Willows Cafe where the chef gave us some free berry brulee treat and we gave him some of our free lemons.

An interesting day.