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The Green Grocer

8 Jul

Shopping Day. Not the supermarket chore it used to be. Now it involves buying up bulk at the peaceful bulk food shop, then popping next door to the family-owned green grocer. The great thing about the green grocer, is that I know their eggs come from happy chickens near Mt Somers in Canterbury. They also give away big bags of fruit and vege scraps – ideal for chickens or to boost your compost. You get to chat about the state of the nation and the weather for free too.



The Art Studio Made from Recyclia

27 Jun

I visited my sister today, who is in the final stages of furnishing her new art studio. She and her husband have built it using mostly recycled bits and pieces from around town and what they could find in their community (but not stealing). The kind of things they’ve recycled are:

  • Rimu flooring
  • Windows
  • Door
  • Corrugated iron cladding
  • Furniture
  • Plywood

Loads of the gorgeous little bits and pieces inside are also second-hand. Hard to pick a favourite thing, but I think for me it’s the steampunk light switches. No dreary Mall Trawl involved to furnish this beauty. I am thankful my sister is also a Sustainable Wench.







IMG_1142  IMG_1152

Second-Hand Music

19 Jun


I went to Penny Lane today for Emergency Album Purchasing in case of snow. I visited this place for the first time a couple of weeks back, even though it’s been in Christchurch for 15 years.

My partner dug out his old record player from his DJ days last month, and while I’m all good with the latest technology, putting vinyl on a record player trumps all else. Fortunately, some record-shopping was required to stock our shelves.

Penny Lane looks quite a bit like Championship Vinyl from High Fidelity (except without the dishy Cusack). So much music, honestly displayed. Unlike Championship Vinyl however, you could probably ask for a Kylie Minogue album without the staff flinching. The money I’ve spent has gone back into the local business community, and my records are tenderly placed in brown paper bags. It’s cheap – I don’t spend any more than $10 per record.  Second-hand goods going to appreciative homes.

btw – I didn’t buy any Kylie Minogue.

Knitting for the Love of Coffee

15 Jun


I started knitting yesterday. It’s been awhile. I had some knowledge of knitting when I was about 10 years old. I tried again a number of years ago, but without the knowledge of how to bind off, it was doomed to fail. Or go on for all eternity. Either way, it was too hard.

I want to keep my coffee hot in the morning. Sometimes it’s awhile before I get to drink it. A friend gave me the idea of a plunger cosy last year, and with the days still getting shorter, the time had come To Knit. So I found some cheap yarn, practised lots*, and followed YouTube tuition on how to knit a buttonhole and bind off. A friend got me started, showing me how to cast on. I found a large button to use behind the dishwasher (I’d seen it fall down a few months ago).  As you can see, it’s a particularly magnificent creation. My friend Kirsten suggested we call it a Coffee Onesie. There’s a reason you can’t see the buttonhole. Best to keep that bit round the back.

I’ll be knitting more, especially in the winter. It’s therapeutic for active relaxers like me, it’s cheap, and you can create stuff.

*Had to start again quite a few times

Loving the Locals – You and Your Shops

5 Jun

Adele from Whare

Many readers of this blog will have already identified that I am passionate about buying local. I strongly dislike going to malls to suffer through the Generic Shopping Experience. I think it’s crazy to not know what the weather is like because you can’t see out a window. Also, the music is exceptionally bad.

I was delighted this week to see that local homeware store ‘Whare‘ was re-opening just down the road from my house. It’s a significant moment because like so many businesses in Christchurch, Whare was forced out of both of their premises following the earthquake in February 2011. Adele and Andrew had worked hard to grow their business. Within minutes, their livelihood was at serious risk. With retail space virtually impossible to find post-quake, a little bit of Whare was installed in Adele and Andrew’s suburban garage, where they traded for two years. I loved that every time I visited, there were always other customers shopping. People choosing to buy locally.

As quaint as the garage-Whare was, it’s great that Whare has stretched its’ legs out in a more conventional retail space. Today there were people browsing and buying. None of their money was going to an overseas-owned Mall Monster. Quite a bit of the money was going to New Zealand artists and craftspeople. Once the overheads are paid, I hope Adele and Andrew go out for a lovely slap-up fancy dinner (to a local restaurant of course). It’s been a rough couple of years and they deserve it.

Lots of places around the world no longer have local shops. This is quite sad. Sometimes Malls seem to be the only answer. You can, of course, be super-sneaky, and find a small business online in your area, and support them. Then you get the bonus of a package arriving in the mail.

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.


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.