Hello Ramblers,

After a discussion on the weekend with my good friend Mong, I kind of got to thinking about something I've been meaning to do for quite a while - start getting positive. Let's face it, it is eminently easy to see the glass as half empty and to blame the man for shortchanging you. Whilst I do get a certain amount of cathartic release from venting my spleen, I am sure that it's not great reading for the 1.5 people that visit my site every week (on average).

With that in mind, I hold my hand on my heart, feeling the gentle palpitations, and promise that from now on, there will be at least a 50-50 balance of positive and negative, erring on the positive side. Don't ask me to totally give up my ranting, because there's always gonna be some poison to get rid of...

Speaking of positive - one of my favourite jokes follows:

The pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as being twice as big as it needs to be.

I don't know about you, but I am filled with mirth at that one. The warm glow of genuine humour suffuses my body.

Anyhoo, on to a lovely warm and fuzzy happy post, without any hint of irony or negative vibe. Recently on the teev, I caught a program that left me breathless and inspired me hugely. It's called "What About Me?" - 1 Giant Leap. Let me try in my inept rambling way to describe what is a true wonder...

Firstly, you can check it out on the official website, for they say it better than I ever could. The URL is:

http://www.whataboutme.tv/#about

This is a multimedia extravaganza par excellence, as two dudes with music in their veins and questing souls travel across the globe in search of the diversity that makes the human race a true wonder. It is this diversity that fills me with hope, pride and joy. Showcased wonderfully in the television show, forthcoming DVD and soundtrack CD(s), these guys lay down a basic beat track, and get all manner of indigenous populations to add their own particular slant on a truly universal musical project. Along the way, they seek out great thinkers, philosophers and people who have truly lived, and each episode of the television series tackles a new and interesting verity of human existence.

I am tickled pink that this show exists, and look forward to purchasing all of the creative output that results from this wonderful project. I would humbly urge you all (all 1.5 of you) to check out the website and perhaps see for yourselves if this is the kind of thing that rocks your boat. One of the most amazing things about the human race is diversity, and this project showcases it to great effect.

As the great Molly Meldrum says - do yourselves a favour.

Catch you on the flip side, ramblers.

Greets to you Oh Rambling Masses,

Time for some happy thoughts. Enough doom and gloom for now...

I thought I would turn my hand to crafting a bit of a description of the particular slice of paradise in which we live. Berowra, for those who don't know, is at the extreme northern outskirts of Sydney, Australia. As such, it is in a very bushy area - a far cry from the concrete jungle of the city.

We are blessed with all manner of wildlife in a setting that suggests it is eminently possible for mankind to live side by side in peaceful coexistence with nature. We are not apart from nature, but a part of nature, and that is something that we should never forget. At various times, we have directly seen or seen evidence of the following of God's fine creatures:

  • A Wallaby - I've seen him scurrying off into the bush adjoining our property on 3 separate occasions. He comes over in our backyard and sleeps amongst the bromeliads sometimes.
  • A number of Possums. We often hear them rehearsing for the marsupial tour of Riverdance on our roof. As a result of the heavy possum presence, I am currently engaged in one of those man-projects that one starts and eventually (one day) finishes - building an enclosure around our vegie garden so we can actually get some tomatoes this year, unlike last year. When our apples go off, we feed either the possums or the rainbow lorikeets, whoever gets to them first... Here are a couple of shots of our possum (Basil) in one of those classic Oooops moments, trying to get at some apple scraps...

 

  • Water Skinks and Water Dragons. Our main water dragon (Speedy) can often be seen basking in the sun. Here are some choice snaps of Speedy, hamming it up for the camera...

  • Diamond Pythons - we've had 3 different ones grace us with their presence at various times over the past 2 or so years. They are magnificent creatures - very shy and totally harmless. Hard to spot in this photo - just look for the green branch...

  • Red-belly Black snake - just as shy, but not quite as harmless. We had one in our backyard for a couple of weeks. He even took one of our Koi Carp, the blighter.
  • Goannas - we've had 3 or 4 different ones visit us for a while. At the moment, we've got a small one (about 90cm in length) who keeps trying to catch Speedy and make a meal of him, but thankfully he hasn't been quick enough or lucky enough yet... In the second photo, a goanna is eyeing off our carp, trying to decide whether he's hungry enough to go for a dip...

  • Small brown frogs by our ponds - don't know what type they are, but summer evenings are filled with calls of "Bik. Bok. Bek." in a delightful chorus. We often have tadpoles in our top pond.
  • Koi Carp - we have 4 of them in our lower pond, adding a splash of colour...

  • Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Rosellas, Crimson Rosellas, King Parrots, Kookaburras, Wattlebirds, and of course the ever-present Sulfur-crested Cockatoos. We even had a Wattlebird nesting in a hanging pot by our front door, incubating two eggs. Getting home of an evening became quite the exercise in careful and quiet sneaking, as we opened the front door ever so slowly so as not to disturb the roosting mother. The two little ones have de-nested now, and one of them has definitely survived. Here are some pics of the natural order of things. It's amazing how much joy can be derived from watching nature at work.

An empty nest in the process of being built:

Trying the nest on for size:

Two little eggs:

The first shot of the little ones:

Just starting to open their eyes, and very hungry:

Starting to look more like real birds:

Mum, playing injured to try and distract me away from my photo session with the little ones:

Looking very alert. This shot was taken about an hour before they left the nest:

It's a big world on the first day out of the nest:

Hello Rambling Masses,

I am in a bit of a didactic solutions kind of mood today, so I thought that I would aim the flickering torchlight of my intellect and reason on a rather topical issue in contemporary Australia - what shall we do to save our poor farmers?

For those not in the know, our farmers are struggling more than they ever have in our 200-year-odd history of western civilisation. Drought conditions are continuing to turn pasture land and arable land into arid dust bowls, soil salinity is robbing the earth of its growing potential, and the national river network is desperately in need of water.

The federal government is doing what they can by providing some $3 billion worth of drought aid, but this is really only a short-term sticky plaster solution to what is quite likely going to be a problem that will remain with us in the long term, what with climate change and the growing scarcity of fresh water.

So, what do we do to save the farmers and, just as importantly, keep home-grown produce on our tables? It seems like it is an impossible problem. Many different solutions have been tendered, from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the ridiculous side of things, we have such ideas as piping fresh water from the north, over thousands of kilometers to the drier southern climes, or building more desalination plants. All poppycock, and not at all practical.

My solution to the problem is at once complex and oh so simple. It seems obvious to me that European farming practices, on which our farming is almost exclusively based, are no longer a viable method of using (and abusing) the land. I further postulate that the first thing we should do is to change our whole idea of how we farm.

First, the government should supply significant funding increases to bodies like the CSIRO, so that they can engage in research to determine native species of flora that can be cultivated to provide food for people and stock. Let's face it - every half-decent gardener with their little plot of suburban land knows these days that native plants are ideally suited to the climate we live in and with. There's a reason for this - the plants have had millions of years to evolve to suit their environment. Duh!

Here's another real brainwave - how about the CSIRO research actively engages the aboriginal communities to learn from a people that have been here for 40,000-odd years? Not only will we learn a huge amount about sustainable practices in Australia and which plants and animals could be viable food sources with the least possible impact and most suited to their local microcosms, but we would also be empowering those aborigines who want to make a go of it to take a place of pride and honour in our society as teachers and guides. Working together, we could prove that we really are the "knowledge nation", instead of throwing millennia of lore out the window.

It would not be an easy task. There would be much trial and error, but I am just about certain that viable alternatives can be found amongst the "bush tucker" style of plants and animals to feed this nation, save the farmers, and lift the majority of aborigines up to where they belong.

As consumers, we also need to be very open to new ideas. We must start to accept the new foods that we carry home in our shopping bags (canvas bags, of course...) and prepare lovingly in our kitchens.

A classic example is meat. Go to any supermarket, and you will be confronted with vast walls of chicken, lamb, beef and pork. If you're lucky, you might see two small trays of limp, tired kangaroo meat, costing about $8.5 million per gram. This is so very wrong. Roos are very drought tolerant, their breeding cycles are perfectly adjustable and in tune with their local environment, and as soon as you leave the cities, you really start to get an idea of how many of the buggers there are roaming around the place. If only we diverted some of the effort away from chicken, sheep, cattle and pig farming and into kangaroo farming, we would have a much more sustainable outlook for all farmers.

It's great that the government is helping the farmers out, but you have to realise at some point that a quick fix like that isn't going to come near to solving the long-term problems of inefficient and unsustainable farming practices. It's akin to spending tens of thousands of dollars fixing up a car's engine when the real problem lies in the fact that it has square wheels.

Until next time Ramblers, stay real.

Greets to you all, oh Rambling Masses,

I am in a didactic mood this morning, so I thought that I would write a little post describing the oh so simple little things we can all do in our lives to reduce our ecological footprint, giving this great world of ours a little bit of breathing space.

Now, I would like to point out that I am practising what I preach - these are all things that are not majorly inconvenient, and they do indeed help to minimise the wasteful existence that is modern suburbia.

Water Smart

Saving water and using your waste water around the house is a very easy thing to do. Our household currently uses 97 litres of water per day, as per our last water bill. This is waaaay below the average household water usage, but is still too high in my opinion, so I am working on ways to reduce this further.

Just for the record, the Sydney Water website states that for the February-April period, a water efficient household on a medium sized property with two occupants should use an average of 375 litres per day. Really, that is an obscene amount of water.

I believe that we should be paying a base rate per litre for, say, 150 litres per day based on the above-mentioned statistics, and then pay a much higher rate for usage above and beyond this. It seems to make sense to me that most people won't bother being water smart unless you hit them in the hip pocket. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes a priority (as it should be in all our lives without the financial incentive).

Here are my practical tips for being water smart:

The Garden:

  • Don't water the garden more than you have to.
  • Spread mulch to retain soil moisture.
  • Plant as much drought tolerant Australian native flora as you can. As a rate payer in your local council area, you are entitled to a number of native trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses. Find out when these pickup days are organised, and avail yourself of that service.
  • Use grey water to water the plants.
  • Install a rain water tank.
  • I have not used a motor/petrol-powered lawnmower in over 10 years. I do it the good old-fashioned way with a rotating-blade push mower. It's quieter, it's cleaner, and it gives you a bit more exercise.

The Taps:

  • Don't waste the water when you are waiting for your hot water tap to get hot. We have a couple of 2 litre plastic drink containers that we fill up with water until it heats up. This water can then be used to water the garden, to fill up your pot when you are boiling water for pasta, etc. Most houses will waste about 3 litres of water each time they wait for the water to warm up out of the tap.
  • Don't keep the taps running when you are brushing your teeth.
  • Don't keep the taps running when you are shaving the old-fashioned non-electric way. Fill the sink with hot water, and use that.
  • We are lucky enough to be blessed with a gravity fed hot water tank in the ceiling. This means that our hot water comes out at quite low pressure. This makes it easy for us to save water when showering, as you can't blast the water out at a high wasteful pressure. For people who don't have this mixed blessing, install water-saving shower heads.
  • Replace tap seals in leaking taps. Even a slow leak can waste 10-20 litres per day.

Washing Machines:

  • Our washing machine is an ancient and small top loading unit which, thankfully, has a drip dry setting. This allows us to pump the final rinse grey water into watering cans for use in the garden. When this washing machine eventually carks it, we will get a water efficient front loader. They're gentler on the clothes than top loaders, too.

The Toilet:

  • Ahhh, all of that good clean potable water, being used just to flush our waste away. It makes you cry, doesn't it? I (being a guy and built in such a manner as to allow it) sometimes wizz in the garden. This saves 10-15 litres per tinkle, and is good for the garden as long as you don't pick the same spot all the time...
  • Get a smaller cistern with a half-flush button.

Electricity Smart

Here are my tips for being electricity smart:

  • Use energy-saving light bulbs. Even better, use LED-based lighting.
  • Don't stand in front of the open fridge door for 5 minutes trying to work out what you want to get from the fridge.
  • If you're not in a room, turn the light off.
  • Turn off all "standby" appliances like TVs when you aren't using them. Standby mode consumes power.
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposables. You can get a solar-panel-powered battery charger and be even more green.
  • Do you really need to turn the heater on? Put on a jumper or do some exercise instead.

Shopping Smart

Stop shopping! It is our heavy-handed consumption ways that are screwing this planet up. If you don't need it (or really, really want it) don't buy it. Stop the cycle.

Here are my tips for being shopping smart:

  • Buy fresh produce. Even better - buy locally grown fresh produce. It's much better quality, and the environment will thank you too. Yay! Win-Win makes Silenus a happy boy.
  • If you have to buy processed foods, make sure the packaging is as recyclable as possible.
  • As Tim Minchin says - Take your canvas bags to the supermarket. Don't use plastic bags. If you must use plastic bags, reuse them as bin liners.
  • At the chemist or alcoholic beverage store, stop them from automatically wrapping everything in a paper bag. You don't need it.
  • Buy non-bleached recycled-paper toilet paper. It is just as good at wiping your bum as the triple-ply specially-dimpled pristine-white-because-of-polluting-bleach aloe-vera-impregnated paper.
  • If your sofa doesn't quite match your decor anymore, get over it. If it is still comfortable and doesn't have gaping holes in it, keep using it.
  • Try to discourage the chuck-it-out culture that is part and parcel of the modern age. One of the biggest problems with modern consumerism is that we no longer make quality products that last, as it's much cheaper just to chuck the cheap crap out and buy another cheap crap replacement. Don't fall into this trap. It's wasteful and destructive on a planetary scale.

Recycling Smart

It's funny, you know. I couldn't fill our half-size garbage bin that gets collected by council if you gave me 2 months. However our large size recycling bin is full almost every fortnightly collection time, as is our green waste bin. Don't forget that things like aluminium foil can also be recycled.

Glass Re-use instead of Recycling:

One thing that I would like to see introduced in Australia is something that they have had in Denmark for about 20 years. Instead of recycling their plastic soft drink bottles and glass beer bottles, they clean them and reuse them. This is much more energy efficient and less polluting than remelting the glass every time you want to reuse it.

You pay a deposit on all bottles, which you get refunded when you bring them back. All supermarkets have a bottle processing station near the entrance, where automated machines count the bottles that you return, and give you a receipt redeemable at any supermarket.

The bottles are then cleaned and sent to bottling centres, where they are relabelled and filled with whatever they get filled with. It makes so much more sense to me than re-melting them every time.

 

Hopefully I haven't bored you with all of these thoughts on reducing our ecological footprint. This is important shit, oh Rambling Masses, and your children will thank you for it.

FacebookMySpaceTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponGoogle BookmarksRSS Feed