The Green Thing


A lovely "older" friend of mine has just passed this on to me, via email, and I thought that it was "blog-worthy".  

Please read & pass on. 

In the checkout line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. 

The woman apologised and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day." 

The cashier responded, "That's  given us a problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment!"

He was right ... about one thing anyway, the older generation didn't have the green thing in its day ... Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the factory to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled.  

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.  

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the shops and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. 

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.  

Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 240 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.  

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. 

But that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day 

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of QLD.  

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. 

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not styrene or plastic bubble wrap. 

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. 

But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then. 

We drank from a tap when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. 

But we didn't have the green thing back then. 

Back then, people took the tram or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. 

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn't need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 kilometres out in space in order to find the nearest pizza place. 

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another "selfish old person" who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartarse young person.

It all started with a lemon tree

The other day I woke up to the smell of spring. The sweet fragrance of blossom heralding spring
and this is the poem that was on my lips. It was a poem that my father would always
say every year on the first day that he could smell spring:

Spring has sprung, the grass is ris
I wonder where the birdie is
The birdie is on the wing
But that’s absurd,
I always thought the wing is on the bird

A terribly absurd poem, however, it is the spring poem and it was an early spring day
after early winter days, it is, I suppose we may well have an early spring.

I bought in readiness for spring the other day from Russell and Deb down at
Kensington Garden Centre on the Corner of Stubbs and Macauley Sts amongst other
things (punnets of leeks, onions, beetroots and lettuces, snowpea and pea seeds), two
blueberry bushes and a lemon tree. Everything has gone into the garden except for
the last two things for a couple of reasons.

our lemon tree waiting to be planted 
The lemon tree in waiting

I will start with the lemon tree. This will be my fifth lemon tree. Yes, that is right.
My fifth. I don’t feel very clever at the moment with gardening when it comes to
lemon trees, or citrus in general, as I have managed to kill, yes, kill four (4) lemon
trees so far and one mandarin and an orange. I look on myself in disgust with this,
yet, I am very stubborn and look at many other gardens and see lemon trees not only
surviving, they are thriving! Surely if I can wing it with everything else in the garden,
then I can do it with the lemon tree. So, hence the fifth lemon tree, and also, the
reticence to plant it; I want to get it right. I now don’t know where to plant it. What
if I plant it in the wrong place? What if I plant it incorrectly? Oh, the stress of it all.
As for the blueberries, they were definitely an impulse buy, all I could think of was
how much I love blueberries and wouldn’t it be wonderful to eat my own (forgetting
about that terrible possum that eats my fruit first leaving me the fertiliser instead…)
and not really thinking about where to plant.

So now I have come to a point where I have realised that it is time to do some
planning. No more winging it. Plan it out. Work with what I have in the garden,
trees, structures, paths, where the kids go, clothes line, sun and shade and then work
out where the gaps are and where these three lovely, productive plants will be best
placed. Today I have spent the morning with the tape measure, pen and pad, jotting
down numbers and words and trying to transcribe these into plan of the yard.

My next step will be once I have found a home for these three plants, and dug the
holes for them, planting them accordingly, will be to fill the rest of the gaps in the
garden getting it “summer ready”. By filling up all of the gaps in the garden with
plants, whether they be vegetable, perennial, annual, natives, shrubs, herbs or trees,
I will be helping the garden to protect itself against dehydrating in the summer heat.
No bare patches.

Other work I have to is the continual weeding (that never goes away) and putting the
weeds into the buckets for “green tea fertiliser”. My fruit trees probably need to be
pruned properly. I saw a segment on Gardening Australia that showed how to do
very clearly, so I am going to watch it again and try to do it properly, with confidence,
as Tino says. I will also get down into my incredibly wonderful native lawn (that
really does look like a lawn now) and pluck some of the plants out of the dense parts
to put out on the edges to encourage it.

So what started with the lemon tree, led to the whole backyard being redesigned.  We removed the sandpit (obsolete now, the old fig - no longer productive) and this opened the yard up for a place for the lemon

Our 5th lemon tree 
Lemon tree now planted
Lemon Tree & new indigenous lawn patch
Lemon tree planted now with the grass planted into the ground around it

I continue to refer to the website for my tips of what next to
get for my vegetable garden so that hopefully it will be an abundant vegetable garden
by summer (it has taken me a long time to bring it back from nothing after a year
away), and visit Russell and Deb at Kensington Garden Centre for the supplies and I
recommend you do too to support local businesses and get any good gardening
advice for your garden.

‘Til next time, happy gardening, and go sniff a blossom!

Minister Burke Responds re: James Price Point

I received a response to my letter to Tony Burke about the gorgeous James Price Point:


You previously contacted the Australian Government about protecting the west Kimberley.

I'm pleased to let you know that the west Kimberley has now been added to the National Heritage List, following a comprehensive assessment by the Heritage Council.

It was an honour to stand at One Arm Point with Traditional Owners from across the west Kimberley to announce that the area's incredible heritage values had been recognised and would now be protected.

The outstanding heritage values of the west Kimberley include:

- The incredible natural beauty of the coast from the Buccaneer Archipelago to the King George River; the Mitchell Plateau; King George Falls; Geikie Gorge, Windjana Gorge and King Leopold Ranges

- Rich biodiversity, including many plants, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates that are found only in this part of Australia

- The mighty Fitzroy River

- Dinosaur footprints on the west coast of the Dampier Peninsula which are remarkable remnant of past life in the region

- Ongoing Aboriginal traditions associated with Wanjina and the Rainbow Serpent and spectacular rock art

- Sites which tell a more recent history including Jandamarra, the dispute at Noonkanbah Station and the drove to Fossil Downs which became the longest overlanding cattle drive in Australia’s history

Make sure you have a look at the spectacular Kimberley images in the eBook "National Heritage Listing - One Place, Many Stories: West Kimberley"!

Yours sincerely,

Tony Burke

Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

P.S. I’d like to keep you updated occasionally on issues relating to the heritage of the west Kimberley.  If you don’t want to receive further emails on this just send me a message to this address with “take me off the west Kimberley heritage list” in the subject header.  But please don’t because I’d much rather keep you updated!"

This is a great start to looking after an incredibly rich place.  It still has a long way to go with the proposed gas hub by Woodside at James Prices Point being allowed to go ahead.  The fight goes on.  Join in the campaign, and find out more information at Save the Kimberley and The Wilderness Society where you can sign up the petition.  If you are in Sydney, the official Wilderness Society Kimberley Campaign is being launched this Saturday at 10 am at  North Head Sanctuary, North Head, Manly.

Thanks! Meg

Why Bother Doing a Big Shop

This is what The Big Shop looks like when I got it home. is a lot a food (in fact, it was too much for the bags I took) but it lasts.

Why bother doing such a big shop?

1. It saves time in the long run.

Time is precious for everyone, and I know that I would rather not spend my time in a supermarket if I don't have to.  It took me about 2 1/5 hours all up from start (ie getting in the car to drive down), to finish (all groceries packed away in the fridge and cupboard).  This is only 2.5 hours in 3 weeks.  If I average that over the three weeks, it is less than an hour a week I have spent shopping over those three weeks (I haven't added in my market shopping - fruit & vegies - which is another 2 hours all up start to finish over that time).  
Part of the time savings was that I have a shopping list that I put together for my local supermarket that is done by the aisle, this really helps as I just follow the list as I walk through.

2. It saves money.

Money is precious.  The less I spend on things that are then going to be just chucked away (crappy plastic), or impulse buys (those tantilising smells from the in-house bakery), and the things that I didn't really need anyway, each time I go to the supermarket, the better.  

It has been proven that every time we visit the supermarket, we pick up "a little something" and it takes titanium strength to resist the powers of marketing who are so incredibly clever in their placement of the things that we don't really need next the lower priced, on-special, basic essentials.  If you have a heaving trolley so full of basic essentials, it becomes physically impossible to pick up those little extras (and somewhat embarrassing at the register if you rock up with three trolleys to boot).  

So, if you only have room for the essentials for your family for the 3 weeks or so, then that is all that you will buy, add in a few bits that you know your family needs and bake the rest.  You have the extra little bits of time now (maybe...), or get them to do it! 

3. It is great to learn how to "eat out your pantry"

We have had a load of fun working out that we still can make meals out of "nothing".  I had thought that there was nothing left to make dinner with, then, we scratched around in the pantry, and found that we had enough bits to make a chickpea cottage pie.  Not only was it nutritious, it is actually one of the boys favourite meals.  It is great to see the pantry get right the end of what it was able to provide, and then we are able to start afresh.  

4. Makes the food last longer

This round, we are curious to see how long we are able to go for.  We are not going hungry, and we do think that we could probably be eating less.  We know that when we were travelling last year we ate less, moved more, and felt healthier.  We are all now talking about "rationing" the food, as in "making it last".   This is the kids as well (I have 3 growing boys), and they want the food to last as long as it can so that the "yummy" stuff is still there at the end of the time.  They are experimenting with making the meals and snacks as well as they understand what we have on offer.  It probably helps that they lived it last year with no shops around for 2-3 weeks, but still, it is a great way to think, and stops us from getting too soft (in the belly), and make our food and money last longer.

Gourmet Farmer...I wish I was

In my little inner suburban block, I do just really wish that I was a farmer. In fact, my 3 boys all talk about the animals they would have; the cow to give us milk, the chooks to give us the eggs, the sheep for wool, and then meat, a goat to eat everything we don't want...and so it goes on.

We try our hardest on our tiny little block to grow as much as we can, but, it is a small block. Matthew Evans, on the other hand has done just what we dream of. He has moved to the farm and is cooking up a feast. SBS is running a ripper of a show about him, "The Gourmet Farmer Series 2" on Thursdays at 7.30pm that only makes me want don my gumboots and get right in there with his family, eating all that great food.

 This is the second season of Gourmet Farmer that continues to follow Matthew’s journey from living in Australia’s biggest and busiest city (Sydney - not my city) to a country life in an isolated part of the island state (Tasmania, and also the coldest state).

He was once a single guy trying his hand at pig farming and experimenting with making artisanal produce and has begun a new focus being fully fledged family man with partner, Sadie, and son, Hedley. It is time for him to get serious about bringing home the bacon. Matthew starts up-scaling his farm, expanding from two pigs to 22.

He sets about coming up with ways of preserving and selling the extra pork produce from more than just his market stall. An invitation to Slow Food’s Salon in Turin affords him the opportunity to travel abroad to Italy and France. There he learns skilled ways of preserving meat which could help him balance his ‘drought or glut’ issues. With his good friends Nick and Ross, a new business idea is born – A Common Ground.

The aim of his new business is to travel to remote locations around Tasmania to set up a long table, and cook multiple course menus from produce sourced solely from the area. Whether or not locals and mainlanders will travel the miles and pay the price for a genuine locavore experience is yet to be seen.

However it’s not all hard work. Matthew continues his boy’s own adventures that include a Kayak trip down the Picton River with Nick and Ross.

Definitely worth a looking at for the views and to wish that you were there. Start dreaming and planning...

A Fresh Batch of Toasted Muesli

I have just made the next batch of toasted muesli.  Hopefully it will last a couple of weeks, but I never know with 4 hungry boys (husband included) in the house!

2 packets of rolled oats
2 cups of apple juice
shake of ground cinnamon
shake of ground cardamom
shake of ground cloves
shake of ground ginger

Pour the apple juice over the oats & shake the spices over the oats.  Put into a big oven tray.  Pop into the oven at 180 degrees.   Every 10-20 mins or so, toss the oats around to ensure that they do not burn.  Keep going for about an hour until they are golden.  Take out and cool.

200g raw macadamia nuts
200g raw cashew nuts

Spread on oven tray and roast in oven, turning occasionally until golden.  Pulse in processor until lightly crushed and toss into oats.

500g sultanas
500g dried apricots
500g dates
100g figs
170g cranberries

Chop up bigger pieces of dried fruit and then toss into oats.

500g processed bran

Toss into oats.

When the muesli is completely cool, store in an airtight container.  Eat and Enjoy!!

The long shopping list

shopping list
Photo courtesy of Bruce Turner
We learnt last year when we were travelling that we had to make our grocery shopping last longer than 1 week, and sometimes longer than 2 weeks (not by choice, but because there were no supermarkets in coo-wee).  By the end of our 9 months of travelling we were nearly experts at shopping for food that fits into tiny spaces, is nutritious, meets a tiny budget and will last for nearly 3 weeks.  

Somehow, the cushiness of city life has taken over, and we got back to bulk food (in more ways than one), that costs more and needs us to go back to the supermarket every week.  

We knew that we could do it before, we had been pushed to the limit and survived, not only survived, but we were a whole bunch healthier, and the food lasted a whole lot longer too.  What was the difference?
We had gotten into the habit of buying wider variety of "stuff", and stuff that sits in the cupboard, only to be used here or there, but not to be used up, and we were not buying thinking of what we would need for the essential needs of a family of 5 (4 boys) over the whole of the period.

So, we sat down and looked at what our needs were, the basics.  It ended up being a fairly extensive list, however, if it was going to stop us going to the supermarket every week and "accidentally" throwing those extra incidentals in, then it would probably be worth it.  

My husband summed it up one day, when he was making scones after asking what went in them, by saying, "So what we really need is flour, butter, powdered milk and sugar, and lots of that, and then we can pretty much make anything."

Yup, that's right.  Bulk of those will see you through a long way.  Add onto that, oats, sultanas for some muesli, a whole heap of crackers, loads of pasta and rice, and red lentils, tins and tins of tomato, corn, tuna and legumes, meat* for the freezer and you start to see how the basics, the essentials of the pantry that can sit there for the 3 weeks and slowly be consumed.  

We now draw up our "lucky dip" menu (chosen by everyone in the family); 21 different dinners to choose from, ensuring that we include the all the food needed for them on the shopping list, and then these are the meals that we eat.  It is good for us because it is not too structured.  Some people like their menu suggestions more structured, if that suits, go for it.

So, how is it going?  Well, after I hauled around (by myself) the most enormously overloaded trolley (I did vow to NEVER be that woman), and after the checkout, it somehow didn't fit back into the one trolley, assistance was required by one of the checkout chicks. Yup...Me making banal conversation with a 20-something about my ridiculous amount of food.  Anyway, at that stage, I thought that it would only last 2 weeks.  A friend of mine who has 2 girls and a boy laughed when I told here and said that they go for 6 weeks!!!! WOW! I would have needed 4 trolleys.  So far it has been 3 weeks and one day and we have been to the market once for fresh fruit and vegies (normal), and bought more 12 more rolls of toilet paper and bread about every 4 days.  We are on the bottom of the barrel for the powdered milk now, with the boys whingeing about the flavour now (they didn't really complain last year).  It is probably time to go again as some of the essentials are starting to ebb away, however, some of them are surprisingly well stocked still, so time to look at the list and make sure that we are not "over-buying"

*We don't eat a heap of meat so this doesn't impact our freezer much.  We generally only eat free range chicken, and kangaroo.

The lessons learnt from the heaters off

OK, so I got cold, really cold, in fact, I got so cold that a singlet, 2 long tops, a vest and 2 jumpers inside the house just didn't cut it any more.  
The kids were still in shorts and t-shirts.  Actually, I'll restate that.  The younger two were in shorts and t-shirts.  The older boy (11 going on 15) was wearing his hoodie over the top of his head down to his chin.

I broke in the end and turned the heaters back on, but there are new rules now.

1.  I have put sticky tape on the temperature dial so that the boys cannot turn them up to an extraordinary heat.  It is lower now.

2. The heaters cannot go on until later (no specific hour, but generally about the time when my fingers go yellow or white).

3. No heaters on in morning.

4. Everyone has to put more clothes on before heaters go on and put slippers on (those great lambs wool ugg ones that actually keep you warm).

There were other things that we learnt too:

  • Jumpers are really warm
  • It is not as much of a shock to go outside into the cold when the house is not too warm
  • slippers are really really warm
  • ovens heat houses really well
  • a warm drink warms you up
  • going for a walk or ride warms you up
  • jumping up and down warms you up
  • sitting still makes you cold
  • Cutting up old jumpers to make "armies" for cold hands is really easy

It is working.  It was a great experience.  We did last for 4 days in the middle of July which I didn't think that we would be able to do in Melbourne and we didn't get sick, in fact, we got over the ends of the coughs that a few of us had! How contrary!  It will be interesting to see the impact on our energy bill..if any.  At least we are doing a tiny bit to slow global warming

Turn the Heater off & Put a Jumper On

My boys are notorious for running around, whatever the weather, in shorts and t-shirts and it seems that it is only Matt and I who, in the middle of winter are absolutely freezing, with all of the layers on.  Yet, still, the heater has been purring on and every opportunity, there the boys are, splayed out on the floor in front of the heater (in their shorts and t-shirts).  I even took to putting tape on the heater dial so that they couldn't turn it up too high (and suddenly remembered my father doing the same thing). Then it dawn on me.  TURN OFF THE HEATERS!

If they are in shorts and tees, then they will survive just fine.  Matt and I have enough clothes in our cupboards to put more and more on until the kids finally realise that they need to put more clothes on before the heater goes on.

This was now two days ago, except for one hour last night (which I will get to later)
We live in Melbourne, and it is winter.  It is cold.  I know that is not as cold as some places in the world, and despite what I thought at the start, I am coming to realise that we are fine in our house without the heater for a few reasons.

1. We cook every night so the house does warm just a little and retains that warm (enough) so that it feels a little cosy whilst we eat (we eat near the kitchen).

2. I, the coldest person in the house suffering a circulation disorder, am getting to know my woollies and have been wearing lots of layers, and getting creative.  Yesterday I wore 2 woollen jumpers and was warm (wow!), and today, singlet, long sleeved top, woollen jumper and windcheater - warm again.  I have also chopped sleeves off old jumpers and made some "armies" that have made a real difference for my poor old fingers.

3. The one hour last night.  We have a heater in one room, so after showers, the kids got into jarmies and got their books, and we closed the door of the room, sat in there for the hour reading.  It was cosy.  After the hour, the kids went to bed, heater off.  We went back in, heater not back on, but the room was incredibly warm (we had adjusted already in a day).  When it started to get cool (about 2 hours later) it was time for bed anyway.

4. We are not noticing the cold outside as much, the difference isn't as harsh on us.

5. My youngest said to me this morning "You know mum, I think that I am getting out of the habit of going straight to lying in front of the heater in the morning now." Great!

Are they wearing jumpers yet? Not really.  Still in shorts and t-shirts, but I figure, when they feel the cold, they will, or not.  They are kids still, and the cold doesn't make you sick, it's the virus and bacteria that get sneezed and coughed at you that do.  They will hopefully learn from us to pop a jumper on as we now wear one in our house now.

Time to Energise and Fertilise

Today it was freezing in Melbourne, in fact, it has been freezing in Melbourne for the last 10 days or so, but I am getting cabin fever with 2 out of 3 kids sick during school holidays.

I began the day with a bike ride with 2 of the boys to warm myself up and that really helped me not feel like I needed the heater on (bonus for energy saving).  It really does seem to make a difference to get the inner body furnace burning early in the day so that you are on a slow burner all day.  I have been remarkably warmer all day.   I am normally a person who is wearing layer upon layer upon layer and gloves and still feeling the cold, so I can vouch for this today.

The other thing that I have done today is do a little gardening.  A friend of mine donated to me a bag of Dynamic Lifter and Sugar Cane Mulch, so it seemed like a great time to fertilise the vegetable garden, flower beds and dormant fruit trees.  There is something so incredibly satisfying about the smell of Dynamic Lifter and looking at mulch all over the garden.  I gave it all a good water in afterward as the whole garden is desperately dry and it needed a great soak in.

I am sure that the bulbs will now give me much better, brighter flowers and the vegetables will grow stronger.  I am going to sleep well tonight.

Letter to Tony Burke MP re: James Price Point

This is a copy of my letter I have emailed to Tony Burke MP today regarding the gas processing plant at James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsula, WA.

Dear Tony Burke MP,

I am writing to you in regard to my concerns surrounding the gas processing plant at James Price Point.

I am wishing to express my wholehearted support for the National Heritage Listing for the Dampier Peninsula which is the location for this proposed gas hub, and express my opposition to any plans for the gas process plant at James Prices Point.

Having travelled through many parts of Australia, I can wholeheartedly tell you that this Peninsula is a place of importance in our country, to the local indigenous people for the long dreamtime stories, the fossils, and storylines, but also for the species of flora and fauna which are endemic to this region.

The Dampier Peninsula has been well guarded from the heavy traffic of tourism by the dirt road that is subject to weather (that caught us out unawares) for a very good reason. The local people of the Dampier Peninsula do not wish to be inundated, they wish to keep their treasures and stories well looked after, and as it has not been listed as World Heritage (like Kakadu, or Francois Peron) like it really should be, they have kept it this way by restricting the flow in.

Now white man's greed and industrialisation is set to trample over the top, and destroy storylines, fossils, and dreamtime stories, bring in a completely different lifestyle for the Broome area that will be more like Port Headland and Karratha that will most likely lead to fly in, fly out workers getting rich, and the local indigenous people being overlooked for work (as they most often are at the moment there now) due to prejudice ("No point employing them, because they probably won't turn up tomorrow" - yes I heard that time and time again) and also because they don't have the right qualifications.

Touting the project as though the indigenous people are going to win out of this is a complete lie, there is no win for them. Their lives will turn upside down.

What I saw in Port Headland was extreme wealth and slums, not a place to stay and marvel at.

What I saw in the Dampier Peninsula was paradise. Broome has a very good thing going with its tourism. Once you industrialise a town, it becomes very ugly, it will become an eyesore over time and lose the very attraction that has been drawing people from all over the world for years. Is this what we are wanting for our country? Is this a well thought out policy?

Dampier Peninsula needs a National Heritage Listing now, if not a World Heritage Listing. I would implore you to spend some time there with the people, in the country.

Please reconsider, Tony. This country is in your hands at the moment.

These are the things that keep me awake - our people who are being neglected, and the beauty of our land being lost.

What keeps you awake?

Kind regards,

Meg Dunley

I will await his response and action.

If you wish to show your support to the Kimberley, please visit
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