Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Science SuperMum

I am all in for a bit of morale boosting, but to make the rest of us feel a little worse about ourselves to me isn't justified. My friend's boss sent them an article posted on the ABC website about a physics professor and how fabulous she is for balancing such a challenging role with parenthood. I think my friend's boss was aiming for inspiration, but really they got it all wrong. The way the article is written makes it seem that we should all be achieving such accolades and attempt to be super-human in all facets of life. Please!

I say survive the best way you can in the roles that you choose or have to undertake. Take pleasure in the small things and appreciate as much of your life as you can (even though I don't remember these mantras very often). Broaden your horizons and make the most of what you can. 

Anyway, for those that want to read the original article, have a look at "A fetish for photons". 
Pin It

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Singapore Daisy...what a pest!

Weed control is an ongoing battle at our place and one of the battles that I fear we will face for many years to come is one against the invasive weed, Singapore Daisy.

Singapore Daisy, is an introduced pest in Queensland, with it originally coming from tropical America. It is a hardy and vigorous groundcover and I understand it is quite difficult to eradicate. It has a sea of yellow flowers during spring and summer and is known to spread from cuttings and prunings and just through rampant growth.

Currently Singapore Daisy is a Class 3 declared pest in Queensland, which does not require landholders to treat this species on their property, but does prevent people from releasing such species without a permit.

For me, this is terrible as all I have to prevent an ocean of Singapore Daisy from entering my property is a flimsy fence (see photo to right). This ocean is a significant infestation along my northern boundary. My southern boundary neighbours don't seem to have as much of a problem with this plant, but it is certainly present as individual plants. From investigations so far, it seems that most of my property is free of it, except for the occasional plant in the vicinity of the boundary fence and in the moister areas at the bottom of the hill.

My current plan of attack is pulling out the runners as they creep through the fences in the hope that I can control the tip spread. I also make sure that the bits I rip out of my ground go straight into the garbage bin to ensure the tips don't take hold somewhere else on our property (no compost action for this plant).

My best strategy I believe will be to either convince my neighbours to undertake a herbicide treatment in the areas of infestation, particularly on the northern boundary, and then replant with a suitable replacement species to ensure no soil loss once the Singapore Daisy groundcover "retreats". Alternatively, ask them if I can treat their land.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) recommends the use of metsulfuron-methyl (herbicide) at 10g per 100L of water plus a wetting agent. I will try to discover some non-chemical treatment methods to control this species, but I suspect given it has taken hold so well I will have to resort to traditional treatment methods.

Pin It

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Australia Day

Each year on the 26th January Australian's have a public holiday day to celebrate "Australia Day". Do you know this day really signifies?

In 1788, the Australian first fleet landed in Sydney and declared British sovereignty over the land. With the commemoration of this event occurring on "Australia Day" since the early 1800s to commemorate this landmark.

Despite the established tradition of this celebration there is however, some controversy with this day.  This controversy arises because at the time of the declaration by the British people, Australia was home to numerous clans of Aboriginal people, not terra nullis as some believed at the time.

My understanding is that many indigenous people find the commemoration of the declaration of the British colony in Australia not a cause to celebrate but in fact a reminder of much death, destruction and persecution over a long period of time, which some people are still experiencing. It therefore can be a significantly painful day and one that some might consider not a day to celebrate.

Perhaps Australia Day could in fact become more of a remembrance day for events that have past and a celebration and a time to embrace all the cultures that now occupy our nation, including our traditional land holders. Pin It

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hard-stand surfaces

Did you know that flooding and decreased soil quality and health is significantly affected by the amount of roads and hard-stand surfaces (footpaths and other impermeable man-made surface structures)? These structures do not allow rainfall or overland flow to penetrate into the soil structure, as would otherwise occur in an natural environment. Due to the lack of infiltration into the soil the water then flows faster and in greater volume into drainage channels, creeks, rivers and bays thereby creating flooding issues in quicker time frames and with more devastating effects.

If the water is otherwise allowed to naturally penetrate the subsoil would be healthy and retain any water for longer periods of time before flooding the downstream catchment.

In Portland in the US, there is a community group that is actively "ripping" up areas of pavement and hard-stand areas in locations that no longer require this type of cover but due to lack of interest and finances would otherwise remain as hardstand. The group is called DePave and through volunteer participation it transfers these areas back into community greenspaces. What a great idea!

I wonder how much space in your local community could be returned to its natural landform or cover and in turn bring more greenspace back to your suburb and return some life to the soil below. Pin It

Monday, January 23, 2012

South East Queensland Food Network

There is a new push in south-east Queensland to promote local opportunities to producers and connect them to their local markets. The Queensland Business Review published an article this week entitled: Farmers Take Control of Local Supply Chain, which can be found at http://www.qbr.com.au/news/articleid/77703.aspx.

From my review of this article it looks as though producers, tourism organisations and local Councils have established the South East Queensland Food Network as an attempt to promote local produce to people visiting areas and to develop alternate supply chains.

I'm not sure what the outcome will be, but it sparked my interest as there certainly will be opportunities to find out more about your local producers (including who they are and what they produce) and potentially establish direct links to them or alternatively promote their use through your local supermarkets.

It is always great to find out more information about food that is available in your local area and where you can purchase it from.

Pin It

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aaaah...the good ol' days!

A friend of mine sent me a message today about the good ol' days and their associated environmental impact. Not sure who wrote it, but thought it was a very interesting take on the environmental impact recent generations have had for things that the current generation probably take for granted and without consideration for their environmental footprint/impact.

So, here it is:

"Checking out at the supermarket recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own carrier bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. I apologised and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days." The cashier responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations." She was right about one thing -- our generation didn't have the green thing in “Our” day.

So what did we have back then…? After some reflection and soul-searching on "Our" day here's what I remembered we did have.... Back then, we returned milk bottles, fizzy pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. 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 or lift in every store and office building. We walked to the supermarket and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two minutes up the road. 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 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young 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 England. 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 screwed up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam 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 fountain 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 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 computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

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?"
Pin It

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Garden tips...wet weather projects

We have just had a couple of days of heavy down pours where I live and this has provided me with inspiration to get into the garden. Not only is it not too hot, but it means that some of the typically hard labour jobs have become a little easier.

I spent the afternoon pulling out clumps of grass that have escaped into my garden beds. With the rain, the soil has softened significantly and it is easy to grab these clumps and remove a lot of the roots along with the tops. Such a task would typically involve some sort of shovel or other garden implement and the removal of a large amount of soil to even grab the root ball. It would also certainly otherwise leave a lot of the roots in the soil, in turn just bringing new sprouts with them.

Another task I have previously tackled after similar weather is the complete removal of established plants, mostly shrubs. Much of the established gardens in our new place have typical garden plants and my preference is to re-establish these gardens with mostly native plants. So, in an attempt to salvage these plants and allow other people to utilise these plants in their gardens, removing them in wetter, water-logged soils means less damage is done to the root stock and in turn the plant is more likely to survive after being transplanted.

So my suggestion is to get out there and experience the difference in your garden and maybe get on top of some of your weeds or medium-sized projects. Pin It

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Call for flying fox cull....aargh!

On 6 January 2012, the Courier Mail reported that MP Bob Katter had suggested he would introduce legislation to the Queensland Parliament seeking that landholders gain the right to control "deadly" animals from their backyards, including flying foxes because of the threat of hendra virus. Can you believe it?

I wrote about hendra virus and flying-foxes a little while back and in this you can see the risks associated with the presence of flying foxes are not significant. It astonishes me the lack of understanding people have and for people in the public eye spreading such crap, it is unforgivable!

Living with nature is part of our world and should be celebrated not demonised. Be aware of how to live with these creatures and you will be surprised at the richness of your life and the type of interactions and experiences you will have. Enrich your lives with these creatures, let's not try and make a "moonscape" of suburbia.

If such legislation did ever get up (doubt it with the current political climate, probably just trying to get some media attention) I'm sure the hospitals and health practitioners would request that such legislation be overturned due to the significant increase in the number of people they had to treat through snake bites and other mis-adventures when landholders attempted to "control" these animals in their backyard.

Pin It

What beetle is that?

If you have started coming across the odd beetle round the house and you're wondering what it might be, the ABC has produced a small online beetle guide, which I thought was useful and provided a little bit more information than just the name and photo. The beetle guide can be viewed at: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2003/12/04/2045274.htm.

I have seen one rhinoceros beetle at our place and unfortunately very few Christmas beetles this year, maybe not wet enough yet.

Happy Bug Watching! Pin It

Friday, January 13, 2012

What is Palm Oil?

In recent years I have heard bits and pieces about palm oil and how it is used in many, many products that we consume (grocery and cosmetic items) and how it is impacting on precious tropical forests in south-east Asia, particularly orang-utan habitat. Other than these things, I don't know a lot more about palm oil or its issues.

I was reminded of this issue this morning when reading the finished box of soap as I took it from the bathroom and to the recycling bin. I think the brand is "Country Life" and it advertises itself as Australia made and owned and Palm Oil Free. You will also find in smaller print it is made from locally and imported ingredients (as most things do).

Anyway, I thought I should have a look into what "palm oil" is. WWF has an informative webpage that describes palm oil as being derived from the "fruit of the oil palm tree", which comes from two main oil palm trees (African Oil Palm and American Oil Palm). Further information about palm oil and its uses from WWF site include that

"the palm fruit yields two distinct oils - palm oil and palm kernel oil. Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit, is edible and used in food. Palm kernel oil is extracted from the seed of the fruit and is used mainly in the manufacture of cosmetics."

The growing of oil palm trees seems to be quite widespread around the tropics, with palm oil plantations in our region being focused in Malayasia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Furthermore, these plantations are apparently often associated with illegal or unsustainable deforestation activities (although I will have to investigate this further).

Once again, the consciousness of the consumer can make a difference to such matters and certainly impact on businesses and activities outside our national boundaries. We can achieve this just by making informed choices about the products we choose to buy.

As the GreenPalm.org website states that if we just stop "our" consumption of palm oil, it is likely that the product will then just be purchased by another "user". But, if appropriate assistance (in the way of education and trade support, for example) can be provided to primary producers in these regions (many countries being third world nations) there is the possibility they will be able to modify their  businesses towards sustainable practices. There may also be better planning (through assistance) for new plantations, thereby reducing or preventing deforestation of these important areas.

My understanding is that the GreenPalm group is supporting such actions for this industry through the development of a certificate trading program for palm oil, which includes the labelling of products containing sustainably produced palm oil. WWF and a number of other interested groups also seem to tackling the issues and providing education to consumers and producers, as well as developing standards for responsible palm oil plantations, through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Again, it can come down to being conscious of your choices, choose products that have sustainably produced palm oil or no palm oil (where there is sustainable product alternatives) and try to find out where the "imported ingredients" come from and generally make informed decisions.  

If you'd like to know more details of what countries and brands are using palm oil, as well as their commitment to utilise sustainable palm oil sources in the future, the WWF has developed the Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard 2011: Measuring the Progress of Palm Oil Buyers.

Pin It

Monday, January 9, 2012

Summer heat

It seems that the traditional summer heat and humidity of south-east Queensland has finally set in for the summer. The timing is about right, with January through to February being the hottest and most humid months here.

Today it is looking to reach 34 degrees (celsius) in Brisbane, Queensland, 31 degrees tomorrow and 34 again on Wednesday. The shade is hot, the sun is hot and the humidity is pervasive!

I have cracked and just in the last half hour have turned on the air-conditioner. We have a wall-mounted unit in our lounge-room and with a generally open plan living space this means that energy and cool air can be easily wasted. But things I have done as many things as I can in an attempt to get the best efficiency out of the air-conditioning unit, bang for my buck and the coolest temperature I can get without making the temperature out of the unit cooler than it is has to be. The measures I have taken are:
  • close all the doors to other rooms, where possible
  • close all windows and doors to the outside world
  • turn on the fan to circulate the cool air down quickly (not sure how effective this one is)
  • set the air-conditioner to 24 degrees (celsius); and
  • I will be turning the air-conditioner off in about 15 mins when I leave the house.
Hopefully with these measures I won't waste money cooling rooms and spaces that I am not occupying, I am not allowing warm/hot air coming in from the outside which then requires cooling and I will experience some relief from the hot temperatures outside.

This midday measure hopefully won't be required later this afternoon when we return home. At this point I will be opening as many windows and doors on the non-westerly side of the house as possible, turning on the fan in the living areas, and I might even pull down the shades on the verandah which is on the western side of the house (I will actually do this before we leave in an attempt to prevent additional heat entering the house before the sun starts to shine directly through these windows as its sets).

Bring on the ice-blocks, cold drinks and salads for dinner!

Pin It

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where does it come from?

As a result of my rising interest to know where my food comes from and to buy local, potentially organic and good quality, I have started to pay attention to the origin of the products I am buying. This has certainly been eye-opening to say the least.

Here are a few of the things that I have noticed over recent months.

  • All tinned tuna (all brands) in my local independent grocer store come from Thailand and many don't tell you what type of tuna it is (that is, is it threatened blue fin or a bit better yellow fin)
  • All but one brand of frozen vegetables (mixed variety) in my local store come from China and the one that doesn't comes from New Zealand
  • All the clothes that I have looked at in main stream stores come from China, no matter what price range I looked at
  • The moisturiser I use (one based on nasty petrochemicals and probably tested on animals) is made in Thailand
  • Many of the main stream brands of tampons seem to be made in some part of Europe, with the ones I have looked at made in Germany or Slovenia
  • Many manufactured products which are 'made in Australia' say they are made from local and imported ingredients. The label then denies you information about which ingredients or proportion of ingredients come from which country. 
  • Much of the bulk-provided organic food (ie non-local markets) comes from wide and far in Australia, with many of my local producers potentially using traditional, chemically enhanced agricultural methods. 

I have found this a fascinating journey to discover where things are produced, certainly with my attempt to buy food from within 250km of my household. But the one thing that has been considerably absent is the amount of information on packaging, which makes it really difficult to make informed choices about your food your buying and available in the mainstream and market-dominating shops.

Next time you're at the shops, maybe take a look to see where the things you're buying come from. Might make you think about all sorts of things rather than just what colour it is or how cheap it is. Maybe you could even drop me a comment and let me know what thoughts were stirred up by this exercise.   Pin It

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Coal Seam Gas - is it in your neighbourhood?

I just came across a great website that has been developed by the ABC all about coal seam gas. It has fantastic information about the process of coal seam gas drilling, discusses the types of wastes it can generate and also has an interactive map to tell you whether there is any coal seam gas drilling or leases in your area.

Have a look at the website and get more informed and/or involved. It can be found at:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/specials/coal-seam-gas-by-the-numbers/ Pin It

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Salvaged fence...part 2

In the middle of last year, I wrote an entry about saving a white picket fence from my local town. When I saw the fence I imagined that it would come in handy at the new house we had bought so I went about "rescuing the fence". Once saved, we took it home in the back of a ute and stockpiled until it came time to move into our new place.

It was time to move into our new house in August 2011 and until the Christmas break the fence was just moved and stockpiled under the new house (to be exact, under the washing line). For the last few months, I have carefully moved around it with care as I hung out the many loads of washing and on several occasions imagined myself tripping over parts of this fence leading to some serious injury as it sent me tumbling over the retaining wall. Thankfully this never happened and we have now installed most of the components of the fence in the area that has been designated as part of the future chicken enclosure.  Yipppeee!

Here's how it looks at the moment.

The purpose of this section of the chook yard will be a "free range" area that the chickens can choose to be in, if the dogs are pestering them in the bigger backyard. Not sure if the dogs will be chicken chasers but better to be safe than sorry!

Will post pictures when the yard and coop are finished!

Pin It