Archive for March, 2008

Earth Hour

March 29, 2008

Tonight’s the night! Or should I say the hour.

Earth Hour. Ta da! <fanfare>

Tonight we turn off the lights at 8 pm and turn them back on an hour later. And tomorrow when we wake up climate change and all its associated problems will be a thing of the past.

 Oh, yeah, right….

As you can see, I don’t have much time for this fantasy feel-good idea. 

For a start, as a fellow sceptic pointed out in the daily paper earlier this week, our coal-fired power stations don’t just shut down when power demand drops. They keep on churning out CO2 because of something called base load. They have to supply a certain amount of electricity regardless of whether it’s all needed at any one time. Power excess to demand is simply ‘dumped’. So turning off the lights won’t make much difference. It’s another of those feel-good exercises that makes the sheeple in our society think they’re doing some good.

Incidentally, tonight in Melbourne (as on everyday Saturday night throughout the winter months) there are a couple of football matches happening. Under lights, of course. Those huge light towers use an enormous amount of power. The AFL hasn’t volunteered to cancel those for Earth Hour, has it?

As a society we just aren’t serious about avoiding climate change. I’ll believe we’re serious when I see:

(a) nightime sporting events banned.

(b) shops, offices and factories close at 5 pm (like they used to do in the good old days).

(c) permanent petrol rationing in force.

(d) everyone growing all or most of their own food at home (industrial agriculture is responsible for about 30% of all greenhouse emissions).

(e) etc, etc. (too many etceteras to mention)

Meanwhile those of us on the bridge of the Titanic watch as the water pours in through the  gaping hole in the side of our earthship. We’ve given up trying to warn those partying below decks…they just don’t want to know.

So we’re busy donning our life jackets and readying the lifeboats. 

Welcome to autumn

March 22, 2008

In Australia, we mark the change of seasons at the beginning of the month—summer begins on December 1st, autumn on March 1st, winter, June 1st, and so on. I just learned that in the northern hemisphere, the seasons are considered to have changed at the equinoxes and solstices. So autumn has really just begun, at the autumn equinox, March 21st. Much more sensible, and I plan to celebrate my seasonal changes this way from now on.

So….I celebrated the autumn equinox by planting all my garlic. I’ve decided to do it on this day each year now because,  a) it’s easy to remember  b) many people seem to do it at this time  c) the longer the growing season, the bigger the bulb.

I put in 80 cloves in total, of two varieties. All of it was from last years harvest. I still have plenty of bulbs in storage and may plant some extras.

Cooler weather is here at last (but alas, no rain). I hope summer is really over this time. It has been just too dry so far this year—the driest first three months of the year since we moved here 9 years ago. Melbourne averages about 140 mm for that period. With only a week of March to go, we’ve had just 36 mm!

It’s always nice when new (and sometimes uncommon) seeds germinate easily and well. By ‘new’ I mean seeds I haven’t tried before, like the English Lavender I just bought from Eden Seeds. Sown on 2nd March, it came up on the 11th. I put all the seeds in and it looks like about 80% germination rate, so I’ll be able to plant many plants in many different places. (The only plant of lavender I actually bought, died).

Other uncommon seeds I’ve had success with in the last couple of years are:

Rhubarb (seed from Edens)
Kiwi Fruit (seed extracted from fresh fruit)
Passionfruit (from fresh fruit)
Tamarillo (from fresh fruit)
Pepino (from fresh fruit)
Groats (oat kernels; from seed bought in the local health food shop)
Spelt (an ancient form of wheat, commonly grown up to 5,000 years ago; from Edens)
Red Currant (from a single purchased plant)
Grape (a number of supermarket varieties)
Concord Grape (a native American variety; from seed collected on a visit to a Melbourne garden)

Local eggs

March 7, 2008

At the end of our street there’s a 20 acre property producing free-range eggs. Neighbours have suggested I buy my eggs from them. I’ve been putting it off because I was worried about what I might see there. My idea of ‘free-range’ mightn’t be the same as someone else’s and if hens were being treated badly at the end of the street, I didn’t want to know about it.

A new neighbour, who hadn’t been there, suggested we wander down and take a look. So with empty egg cartons and purses in hand, off we went.

Two huge sheds and a smaller one, which turned out to be a packing room with adjacent cold storage. We bought our eggs—a dozen for me at $4.50 and a tray of 30 for the neighbour at $10. Not bad considering their size. I’ve been paying $4.50 for a dozen 60 gm, free-range eggs in the greengrocer. I weighed mine when I got home and the dozen averaged 75 gm each. They were so big I couldn’t close the carton.

I asked if we could see the hens. A shed which seemed to be the size of a Bunnings warehouse was packed with hens, but with enough space for them to move around a bit on a dirt floor. There seemed to be a spray system, presumably to settle the dust and keep the air cool in the summer. Nest boxes lined one side of the shed. There were two sheds and we were told they had 4000 hens in total so I presume the shed we saw had about 2000 hens in it. A bit on the nose it was, but the hens were large and healthy-looking as far as I could tell.

The nicest part was that the hens are kept in the shed until late morning (because that’s where they lay their eggs) and then they’re allowed to free range outside in the sun, on a large, fenced grassy area for the rest of the day. A couple of Maremma dogs, specially trained to look after them, keep predators (mainly foxes) at bay.

As I understand the needs of poultry, the situation wasn’t ideal. Essentially a forest bird, they are happiest with an overhead canopy and there didn’t seem to be many trees around. A huge flock of 2000 birds doesn’t allow for a pecking order to develop, but maybe they band together in smaller groups where each knows the other. At least they were able to get out into the fresh air and sunshine and onto grass, where there would be the opportunity to do some serious scratching and to add a few insects to the diet.

So, another item of our diet moves from the purchased column to the locally-produced (and zero food miles) column, though I will still plan to have a few hens of my own at some stage.