Monday, 26 September 2011

Reducing chemicals in our lives

When I think back to how our life was before we moved out here, I must have seriously had my blinkers on to most things in life. Or that's how it sort of feels now anyway.

I wasn't growing my own food and therefore had no appreciation of how much time and effort went into growing veggies and herbs. Or how it is so easy to just spray with chemicals to fix issues such as weeds or pests but how that then disrupts the whole ecosystem, not to mention that we then actually have to eat those veggies!?!?! But you don't think of that when you are grabbing something at the supermarket.

Or how I would just plant plants because they were cheap at the nursery without thinking about actually having a purpose for planting the plant - such as producing food, using the falling leaves as mulch or in the compost, or using the flowers such as lavender in a million and one different uses around the home.

Or how as I was breathing in the clean crisp autumn air and wondering why on earth we were then chasing a blowfly around inside the house with a can of fly spray to kill it. And as is so often the case, not getting him on the first go, and continually, helplessly, trying to spray him as he darts past in an effort to get out of the house.

So, outside I thought things were in order, well at least on the way, but inside needed some drastic help.

My first stop was to read 'Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health' by Rick Smith & Bill Lourie.


OK quite a bit of scientific stuff that I must admit I glossed over, but after finishing that book, I was convinced things were going to change in a big way in our house.

No more plastics. No more Teflon coated pans. No more plastic utensils. All our moisturisers, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, hand washes, laundry detergents and the like were going to be replaced with non-toxic alternatives all starting now. Today.

In my frenzy of throwing myself head first into the plastic cupboard with a big garbage bag at the ready, and making a mental note to count the number of kids before disposing of said garbage bag, I can vaguely hear my husband over the avalanche of plastics say 'Whoa hippie girl! What on earth do you think you are doing?'

Hmmm, the cynic. Forgot about him. As I proceeded to explain, with urgency of course, how we are killing our children and our selves with all this toxicity and especially since we are living out here in the clean air, that all things 'bad' must be banished from this house immediately, he calmly stated he was happy to support my current rant under two provisos:

1. It has to be cost effective, ie we switch to alternatives once current supplies are due to be replaced, and the healthier alternatives are not to cost an absolute bomb; and

2. It is to have no to little impact on the way we go about our everyday life.

I had to admit those points were fair.

So I decided to get 'strategic' with the items I chose first to introduce healthier alternatives, and carefully chose areas that would be easiest to implement and have the greatest chance of success, some runs on the board if you like, before I slowly progress my way to tackle the more ingrained items in everyday use. I am glad to report that 18 months down the track we have achieved those initial goals of mine, however it hasn't always been easy to find items. I am still struggling in finding a dishwashing liquid that I am entirely happy with and have only just found a washing powder that I am happy with. My cynic has also come to the party too, and I have him using an organic shave cream which he admits he really likes!! Although there are still a few areas he needs improvement - he can't get past his need for fly spray. I prefer to use the good ol' fly swat and only on the weekend did we have a stand off with each having their weapons of choice in hand ready to tackle an annoying blowfly. He gave me 60 secs to get it before he came in. I had the kids on my side yelling and pointing at which way the fly was going, and after me running around like a mad chooky trying to get this thing, I came in with seconds to spare. And probably burnt a good 100 calories in the process! But the point is that I won, and no chemicals were sprayed.

I decided to turn our lives around after reading this book, and as it was my turn to host our Book Club get together, I decided to choose this book and was very keen to see what everyone thought - good, bad or otherwise. The discussion went off smashingly well and everyone added what they were using/trying and to what success. But I guess the upside was some of the girls were willing to change the way they did things, or at least have a second thought when they did. And what could be a better result than that :)

MM xoxo

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Urban Homesteaders Club

I have recently joined a group called the Urban Homesteaders Club.

Its a newly re-established group in Canberra and surrounds who get together once a month to talk about things such as composting, veggie gardening, baking, preserving, soap making, seed swapping, fruit growing, chook keeping and all other like minded endeavours.

It has reaffirmed two things for me:

1) I am not a nutter.

(Woo hoo! I always knew I wasn't!)

2) I am an absolute and complete novice at all this.

Amongst my close group of friends I could probably say that I have a small knowledge base on growing veggies etc and could offer advice and friendly encouragement. But in this group, I come home with my head absolutely buzzing with new ideas and suggestions and names of plants I have never heard of, let alone would try and grow and actually use to feed my family! (I still struggle with the 'normal' variety). I get home, and all this new found enthusiasm spills out and I can't stop relaying it to my dear husband who patiently nods and adds dramatic 'ohs' and 'mms' at the right moment until I exhaust myself and proceed to  jump on the net and research the latest topic of conversation at the get together. All the while, ignoring my screaming attention deprived kidlets, who want to describe in detail how they have been grossing their Dad out with their newly loose tooth all afternoon (I don't really ignore them, there are four of them and they completely out-number and out-drown me!). Excitement level is pretty high - on par with receiving the latest issue of Organic Gardening magazine in the mail and being able to read it uninterrupted from cover to cover - and that's pretty high! I know, I really need to leave the house more.

Needless to say I am very excited to have found this group and look forward to the next one and unearthing even more information to excite the juices and get me out into the garden.

Thanks Greenie for having us around on the weekend!

MM xo

The Canvas

This is the view from the top of our block, not long after we bought it! Not one single tree or bush to be found on the whole 2 acres. An extremely blank canvas to work with! Looking back at this I can honestly say we have worked our butts off to get it to where it is now!

The story so far.....

We live in an absolutely beautiful part of Australia, in between Yass and Canberra in the south eastern part of New South Wales, smack bang in the middle of award winning cool climate wine country (that wasn't by accident either!). Our little oasis is the hamlet of Murrumbateman.

How we came to be living here is not really much of a story but rather a snapshot on how major decisions are usually made in our household.

After living all over the country and moving house more times than we can remember, returning home to Canberra from a weekend away we spied a sign to a land sale, followed the signs to have a look, called the Agent on the spot and voila! We were going to be fully fledged land owners!

It wasn't just a spur of the moment decision, we actually had been discussing finding a place of our own for quite a while (we had been renting up until this point). We wanted some space to grow some veggies like we both did as kids, and also for our kids to have space to run around and kick a footy, and play, yell and scream at the top of their lungs without having to worry about what the neighbour six houses over might complain about. But the crunch really came when we discovered the trampoline we bought the kids wasn't actually going to fit in the backyard. And if we did manage to put a swing set in (which wouldn't fit with the trampoline, it would have to be one or the other) the kids would touch the house going forward and hit the fence on the swing back. This was just not going to do.

So three years on, considerable stress of building and moving house whilst pregnant with twins over, we are gradually realising our dreams of living on our little acreage. After initially just wanting to grow veggies, this move has turned out to be so much more, and has opened our eyes beyond what we thought was being good environmental citizens such as being a good recycler and trying to grow some herbs in pots, to attempting to grow all (OK well a large proportion of it anyway!) fruit and veggies, installing solar panels, living solely off tank water, reducing chemicals in our household, building and using a greenhouse, planting plants for a purpose rather than planting them 'just because' and being more frugal and more conscious of our purchases rather than just doing what we had always done...because that's just the way we did things! We are now even looking at keeping bees!

Hope you find our travels to 'somewhat' sustainability useful!

MM xo