We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children
(Native American proverb).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Washing Machines and Free TVs

My last post made me dredge up an old, unpublished post from four months ago... still relevant!

Our 4 year old washing machine is dead! Aside from the considerable annoyance it has caused it has also made me quite angry about the state of our modern lifestyle and the impact it is having on our planet. Before I dug out the warranty papers (thank God for extended warranty options!), I looked around to see what a new one was worth, what features they had before I had to make an informed decision about whether to "buy new" or "repair". The thing that really got to me was that LG had a special promotion where you could get a free LCD TV with every purchase of a new front loader... imagine that; a free TV. Now I could get rid of that heavy CRT thing that I inherited from my parents when they upgraded their TV to the latest Sony LCD.

The math was easy to interpret: repair it for $500 (actually $0 because of the warranty) or get a new washer PLUS a TV for $400 (the price of the new unit LESS the warranty payment), complete with a new warranty, latest bells and whistles, and a sense of satisfaction that we FINALLY had a slim TV that would sit on the wall and not a reinforced TV unit. Say nothing of the fact that not one but two old units would have to be thrown out; I guess we could keep the TV for our bedroom, and give the old, old TV that was replaced by the last TV to our kids so that they too can watch countless hours of TV or play DVDs or computer games in their room instead of physically exerting themselves or (heaven forbid) interacting with other people in a social context where they would have to use their creativity and ingenuity to come up with a new game together, or communicate effectively... sorry, I digress.

Seriously, what has our culture come to when it becomes easier to just discard so we can get the latest and greatest, or chain ourselves to our houses, or add to the wasteful consumption that is western society. Something has got to give!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Creating Food Security

In my last post I mentioned the importance of taking back control of our world, and mentioned that I would be more practical in my approach to doing so. Part of my family's approach to reclaiming our world has to do with improving our food security, and in the process eat better, fresher, more wholesome food.

How do we do that? It really is easier than I thought, and for starters try some of these tips:

1. Space is no obstacle: regardless of how much space you have in and around your home, there is always spare space for growing food, even if you rent. We rent a modest home on a modest sized block and have gradually increased our food production by using pots, underplanting existing garden plants with herbs or salad greens (see the Lettuce under the Azaleas), or using temporary no-dig gardens such as old tyre stacks, planter boxes, etc. Our entire supply of fresh herbs come from underplanting.

2. Grow what you use: I cannot justify buying parsley from a supermarket! It grows like a weed around our home and when it looks a little worse for wear, grab some more seeds and just sprinkle them on any bare patches... even in the cracks in the pavement. It will green your world and is so easy to use. The same can be said for mints, basil, thyme and many of the most common herbs. These common food plants are easy and can save a bunch of money over time.

3. Eat seasonally: when you grow your own food you eventually recognise what is in season and can relearn what our ancestors in herintly knew. Even if you are not growing all your own produce (and lets face it, if you have a job outside your garden you will probably not have enough time to devote to a garden and be completely self sufficient) you will at least get fresh, local foods from your local green grocer that supplement your own efforts.

4. Start small and grow: I started my food garden journey with a 1.5m by 1.5m plot and now have potatoes, garlic, peas, cabbage, broccoli, fennel, lettuce, rocket, onions, a huge range of herbs and plans for a similar range of summer vegetables... and although it has taken over 5 years to get to where I am now (don't be turned off; the soil around our house looked more like bricklayers sand and I decided to regenerate it organically which takes longer, but made me feel better inside), I have learnt a lot along the way, had many failures, some successes, but have continued to grow my plot and satisfaction.

5. Share: get to know your neighbours, talk about growing food, find out what they grow or would like to grow and grow something different, then share the produce. You will not only get greater exposure to different ways of growing food and a range of produce, you'll get to know your neighbours a whole lot better and grow more than food; you'll be growing a community.

6. Community gardens: the Carriage Works Kitchen Garden Project in Sydney has been an inspiration to me, but the more I think of it, the more I realise that my reality in the outer suburbs is quite different to that of inner city dwellers. If your community can start a community garden anywhere, GO FOR IT! If you are stuck in suburbia with your 900 Sqm block, then maybe using more of your own space is the way to go. Either way is a step in the right direction.

That's plenty to start with. I don't claim to have a lot of answers, just a lot of ideas and a willingness to learn.