a change in time

musings on behavioural change – the small stuff and the big stuff.


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Change a name, change a place

In 1975 I went on a school bus trip to Uluru, although at the time we only knew it as Ayers Rock. What I remember from that visit was the seemingly endless, rutted roads we travelled, the mouse plague that resulted in us having to sleep in our bus, and my aborted attempt to climb the rock.

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That’s me on the right, totally freaking out at being so far from the ground. The chap on the left, who looks like he’s on a Sunday afternoon stroll, was our English Literature teacher, Tom Liddicoat.

In 1999 I returned to Uluru with Peter, Louis and Yoshi. Things had changed in the intervening years, “On 26 October 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines, with one of the conditions being that the Aṉangu would lease it back to the National Parks and Wildlife agency for 99 years and that it would be jointly managed. An agreement originally made between the community and Prime Minister Bob Hawke that the climb to the top by tourists would be stopped was later broken.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluru

And from the same wikipedia post: “In 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names that consist of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. On 15 December 1993, it was renamed “Ayers Rock / Uluru” and became the first official dual-named feature in the Northern Territory. The order of the dual names was officially reversed to “Uluru / Ayers Rock” on 6 November 2002 following a request from the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs.”

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We had no intention of climbing Uluru in 1999, and I felt embarrassed that I had been so unaware of the spiritual significance of Uluru to the local Anangu people, back in 1975.   (This photo was actually taken by my mother, in 1998. I didn’t know my parents had viewed Uluru from a small plane until I saw this photo.)

The dual naming of Uluru / Ayers Rock set a precedent for Aboriginal groups across Australia and in recent years, the push for more dual names for significant places has grown and the response to these name changes has been mixed.

In 2013, Tasmania became the last state to introduce the dual naming policy. At the time Lara Giddings announced that “Dual naming is about recognising the Aboriginal community’s rightful status as the first inhabitants of this land and celebrating their living culture, traditions and language,”

The first we knew of the existence of the dual naming policy being enacted in Tasmania, was from the way my sister Jann refers to Mt. Wellington as Kunanyi.

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kunanyi / Mt Wellington taken from my sister’s balcony. The mountain stands like a protective being, overlooking Hobart, its people and the land.

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On a visit to Hobart in 2015, Jann took us to the top of kunanyi / Mt. Wellington, the sign reflects the mountain’s dual name.

This year our attention has been turned to a more local push for a name change. Darebin Council has invited residents of Darebin to discuss changing the name of Batman Park. The council has voted unanimously to change the name. The local newspaper ran an online poll, with 80%  of the 2000 people responding, that they do not agree with the change. One response declared that the name change was more leftist PC garbage. I beg to differ. (Okay, I may be a leftist PC type at heart, but surely someone has to be!)

Batman Park has played a role in our family history. Not surprisingly, our two sons, when they were little, were big fans of Batman, the comic book character. They loved going to Batman Park. We didn’t think about Batman the explorer, or how naming parks, and railway stations and electorates after this man might affect the local Aboriginal population. Our sons are all grown-up now and they no longer connect the park with a comic book character.

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Our son, Louis, recently posted this image on Facebook, with the caption, ‘Batman is cool. John Batman is a douche.’

Don Watson, in his book, Caledonia Australis: Scottish Highlanders on the Frontier of Australia, declares: “Yet before the pastoral interest sent in the flocks and herds and retainers, and convicts and Native Police, and the state sent in commissioners and magistrates, and the churches their ministers and missionaries, the explorer made his own kind of conquest. By naming the rivers and hills and rocks after the icons of his own culture, he began at once to paint out the past and with it the culture and legitimacy of the land’s original inhabitants.”

Angus McMillan (1810-1865) is the main focus of Watson’s book. Institutions, streets, parks and an electorate are named after him. In 2002, Andrew Rule wrote an article ‘The black watch and a verdict of history’ where he mentions “a call to change the name of the federal seat of McMillan, named after Angus McMillan, the Highlander credited with founding Gippsland but increasingly debunked as murderous exploiter rather than heroic explorer.The West Gippsland Reconciliation Group, based in Warragul, has named McMillan an “unscrupulous opportunist” whose name should be removed from the federal electorate.

This call to change the name of the McMillan electorate has been reestablished by Russell Broadbent, the Federal Member for McMillan. He believes “it would send a message of practical reconciliation, it would send a message that we actually care about these issues and if we are not responsible to our past, we don’t understand our past, and we can’t get on with our future.”

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Death of Angus McMillan 2014 Rodney Forbes

On February 13th 2008, Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation. I remember the day. I was driving up to Ballarat to visit students and I couldn’t help but be moved. Finally we were taking steps to acknowledge the past. It seems to me that there is a tipping point occurring that obliges us to carry out the desire of the many Aboriginal groups across the country who would like to see the removal of the names of “those lakes and waterfalls and canyons after Wellington and Victoria and the heroes of antiquity, or some wealthy benefactor or great aunt”. (Quote from Caledonia Australis.)

In the time I have been researching this post, there is one aspect that has stood out regarding the way European place names compare with the names given by Aboriginals . For the most part, we name places after people, whereas Aboriginal names acknowledge the features, including flora and fauna, of the landscape. For example, Darebin, our local council electorate, is derived from the Wurundjeri word ‘dara-bin’ meaning swallow bird.

Maybe this resurgence, whether it be via the dual naming policy or as a complete name change, is a sign that as a country, we are growing up. I hope this is the case.

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For Peter’s birthday this year we stayed at an Airbnb located in Korweinguboora, from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘where the crane eats frogs’.

 

 

 


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Changing of the guard

In June 1973, the Webb family purchased a 204 acre property in the Strzeleckis, just up the hill from Toora.

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we think this photo was taken after fires went through the area around 1923-33. There is still lively debate on the actual date.

For the city born-and-bred siblings, 11yo Melissa, 15yo Peter and almost 18yo Keith, suddenly there was a new place to roam and that is exactly what they did.

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Melissa, Dean Richards and Kirsten Bunney in the back of Keith’s Morris Minor Ute. (photo by Keith) 

For many years, the family travelled down regularly in Gordon’s van or Lois’ Pontiac. Eventually Keith, Peter and Melissa added other interests to their farm visits and, for awhile, the farm became Lois’ and Gordon’s domain.

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A much loved ritual – drinks on the verandah after a hard day’s work (KGW)

They split their time between Box Hill and Wonyip, their combined vision of what the farm could become was slowly revealed over the years. Gordon enlisted a nearby farmer, Bob Clarke, to help build a barn from corrugated iron and local trees.

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If you’ve ever been to the barn, you will know how far away Gordon is from the ground! (KGW) 

Lois enlisted Gordon to help create her own version of an English country garden, along with a rambling vegetable garden and an orchard of her favourite fruit trees.

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Lois at the back door, the garden protected from wandering wombats. (KGW)

Keith is a fine photographer and we are fortunate that he has recorded many of the changes that have occurred over the years. He recently commented, “I can remember consciously trying to capture the normality of life back then which seemed set to stretch on into a happy future.”

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One of those good days. Peter holding baby Louis, hanging out with Gordon and Lois. 

I could very much relate to this. When one is in the midst of life, it does seem like these days will stretch on forever. Peter and I have been together for 32 of those 43 years. We took our children to the farm in those early days and they soon came to love it just as much as we do.

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I could write an entire blog on this photo. Ruth, Yoshi, Peter and Louis, early 90s

But the good times do not stretch on forever. Gordon died in 1996 with Lois following in 2012. After Gordon’s death, the natural flow of those happy days were changed. Without the weekly care provided by Lois and Gordon, the vegetation and local wildlife started to reclaim the land. The house suffered as well.

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The Wonyip weather can be harsh and the northside of the house takes the worst of it.

We still had many good times however something needed to occur that would allow us to manage the farm in a way that would not require weekly attention.

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Happy smiling people! Yoshi, Ruth, Peter, Louis, Dean, Melissa, Phil, Jesse, Luke 

Around 2007, we joined the local Landcare group. Many of the Landcare members were city folks who had bought properties in the hills much like Lois and Gordon. We soon became involved in several local projects such as tree-planting and the removal or containment of ‘noxious weeds’.

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Tree planting on the top eight acres. Werner and Turid from our Landcare group. 

Our big break came when the Jack and Albert River Restoration project awarded us a grant to spray the blackberries on the property.

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Watch out blackberry, the JARR project is on to you! 

This was a turning point as we now regained access to a large area that had been completely off limits due to blackberry invasion. It led us to consider placing a covenant on about a third of the land – a large area of wet and damp forest and cool temperate rainforest that had managed to avoid being cleared.

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Tree ferns, Silver wattle, Blackwood and Mountain Ash share a complex ecosystem  

We have all become connected to the hills of Wonyip, each in our own way. Peter and I are interested to see what kind of relationship our sons, nephews and nieces will form with the farm and the land.

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Louis was inspired by Bruce Pascoe and his book, Dark Emu, to plant yam daisy. He will plant seeds in different sites at the farm. Maybe a new business! Yoshi is being a very supportive brother.  

We are incredibly fortunate that Lois and Gordon had the foresight to create a home away from home in such a beautiful part of the country.

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Just wow

May our children and grandchildren continue this story with the same delight as us.

 

 


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Our memories connect us

Yesterday Peter, Louis and I just happened to be driving near Pakenham, the place my family were living when I joined the Williams clan. The only memories I have of the house are based on photos taken by a neighbour. Fortunately Hugo, was old enough to remember some of the events that happened at the time. He could tell me the name of the street, and that we lived next to a creek which had flooded our house one year. This was enough for me to find the house on google maps.

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The house is the one on the left just above  ‘Pakenham Creek’. 

I sent him a screen grab from street view and he was pretty sure it was the same house.

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I was surprised that the house has been repainted since this image was taken. Things can change quickly these days; what you see on street view may not still be there. 

Peter, Louis and I dropped by to take a closer look.

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Peter caught me contemplating what life was like for me as a young child in this house. 

In studying the photos of my brothers and I from those days, the house detail in the background convinced us that it is definitely the same house.

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It was the detail on the corner of the house in this photo that had us thinking that it had to be the same place. I obviously hadn’t learnt to say ‘cheese’ yet! 


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The fuchsias from the last photo connect this photo to the same location.


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On the back of the photo, our father had written, John 6, Rodney 4 & 1/2, Ruth 18 months 

It’s a strange sensation to return to a home after almost sixty years and find that it is still there. Especially in these days when townhouses and apartment blocks win the toss against family homes.

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We couldn’t help wonder if the residents were looking through the window wondering what in the hell we were doing! 

Hugo asked why I had suddenly become interested in that old house. I told him how, at lunch on Tuesday, our mother had told me that she couldn’t remember what I was like at a child. It occurred to me that Hugo was now the keeper of our early family memories, thank goodness for older siblings! And younger ones – Jann joined us in 1961, making the family complete.


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Plastic is the hard evidence

When you have one of those nice little chats about ‘the fate of the planet’, you most likely focus on the fossil fuels vs. alternative energy debate. You might even discuss the high percentage of methane in the atmosphere caused by livestock and landfill. Today I’d like to have a go at investigating the role that plastic plays in such discussions.

While Peter and I have managed to break a few plastic habits over the years – forgoing plastic shopping bags and water in plastic bottles – there is still a way to go. (Please contact the author personally if you want to know the ugly details.)

My plastic awareness metre went off the scale just a few weeks ago when I joined a local group in picking up litter from the banks of Darebin Creek.

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This packaging has escaped from the yard of a business that backs onto the creek. Guess where it is heading.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned how the sustainability class I attended at Swinburne University was introduced to the fact that when we throw something ‘away’, it actually goes somewhere, and while this sounds annoyingly obvious, it is a concept that has only wired into my brain since having to pick up stuff that has been thrown away.

Other than plastic bottles and syringes, the third most common item I found while creek sweeping was plastic straws, a seemingly innocent item that Peter and I have been using in our morning smoothies for some time now.

With this new found awareness of straws, I went searching on the internet to see what other people are saying. I soon discovered that I am not the only one acknowledging our over reliance on single-use plastic items. Celebrities like Adrian Grenier  and Jeff Bridges have recently added their voices to the call for us to refuse single-use plastic items.

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It seems that Americans use 500 million straws per day, this “could fill over 127 school buses each day, or more than 46,400 school buses every year!http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs 

 

You don’t need to join a group, celebrity-led or not, as this refusal to use single-use plastic items is something we can do on our own accord. If you need some inspiration however, you could check out The Last Straw, a group based in Perth that ask us to ‘Sip. Don’t suck’.

Besides, sometimes groups with good intentions end up creating a whole lot more ‘rubbish’ that we don’t really need.

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Sorry to focus on SIDS fund-raising, but they are a perfect example. 

 

Finally, I’d like to tell you about a little girl who had high hopes for the future. That little girl was me. I remember as a child thinking that, while children could be unkind and thoughtless, adults were wise; they knew what to do when a problem arose.

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Here I am sitting in Auntie Myra’s backyard in Bendigo. I’m wondering if mum was taking a photo of the garden and then decided my red jumper would bring out the red in the flowers in the background. 

It didn’t take too many years for me to discover that grown-ups can be just as unkind and thoughtless as children. As an adult, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to tread lightly on the earth so that those who come after us know that we did what we could.

 

 


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Our garden, a thinly-veiled allegory

A thinly-veiled allegory. I have always liked this phrase, having first heard it mentioned in relation to a science fiction film I had seen, many years ago now. Peter and I have since related the phrase to all kinds of books, films and TV series, usually involving some kind of invasion or threat.

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Gareth Evans writes, “You might think it’s about a giant atomic-breathing monster stomping on things, but in fact it’s a thinly-veiled allegory about the Catholic Church’s intolerance of pre-marital sex.”

Today, as the title suggests, I am not talking about a film. After all, this is a post about the thinly-veiled allegorical nature of gardening. We are fortunate to have bought our house before housing prices went crazy. The house came with the traditional suburban 1/4 acre block. We had moved from a townhouse in Northcote and our new backyard looked like a parkland to us and we were inspired to make our own mark.

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We can’t believe we actually saved enough money to put down a deposit! 

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See what I mean, that backyard goes on forever! 

So where does the allegory exist? It all came about after we had purchased another tray of seedlings. We don’t usually plant over Winter but this year we thought we would live dangerously.

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Broad beans along the wire, kale in the front and broccoli over to the left. The tall red plant is a silverbeet gone rogue. 

A day after planting, the stem on one of the broad beans snapped in an unusually high wind. I felt a rising feeling of distress in my chest. All of a sudden, growing our own vegetables just seemed too hard. Why do we even bother etc.

I eventually settled down and asked myself, why the over-the-top reaction? I noticed that I had experienced this feeling before. It’s when I hear or read about the crises and tragedies occurring around the world. Sometimes it weighs too heavily on my shoulders and the only way I can cope is to block it out.

I thought back to our garden. We plant everything with hope that it will survive but we cannot control all of the elements that work together. Earwigs, snails, poor soil, not enough rain or too much sun. I realised that I had to stop worrying about the plants that didn’t survive and focus on those that did.

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This female pumpkin flower is growing a baby pumpkin. 

Then I thought about the world and all its troubles. Rather than close my heart as a protection against a seemingly cruel world, I need to stay connected, to not be distracted by what I perceive as being bad and wrong. Plants die and wars happen. This little lesson on our garden has reminded me that I am not as fragile as I sometimes feel. I have learnt about emotional resilience*.

*There is such a thing, I thought I’d made it up! “Emotional resilience simply refers to one’s ability to adapt to stressful, situations or crises.” https://www.imsa.edu

 

 

 


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The right to fly

When Anthony James told our sustainability class that he had decided not to fly anymore, we were left with no doubt regarding how committed he was to shrinking his ecological footprint. I learnt a great deal from these classes however it was this particular declaration that has stuck with me. I have since oscillated between admiring his resolve and, somewhat cynically, thinking ‘as if one person refusing to fly will make any difference’. Today I am going to consider a few facts and opinions on the topic – our right to fly.

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The ubiquitous ‘reaching your destination’ shot. Landing in LA, October 2012

In February this year I came across an article entitled, ‘How far can we get without flying?’ The tagline is ‘when a climate scientist decided to stop flying to cut his carbon emissions, he caught a glimpse of the post-oil future.’ It immediately reminded me of Anthony’s decision; my curiosity was aroused. The author of the article, Peter Kalmus, created a basic pie chart of his personal greenhouse gas emissions for 2010.

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I don’t think this was the actual pie chart however it certainly works for the magazine article. I always enjoy an accompanying visual. 

Kalmus introduces the term, cognitive dissonance – ‘the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.’ The first time I heard this phrase, it rang true to me, especially after I was introduced to the kinds of changes we humans would need to embrace if we really want to make a difference to our CO2 emissions. Most of us are aware of the impact that flying has on the planet. I have to admit I didn’t realise just how extreme the impact is.

An excerpt from Kalmus’ article:

Hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane. If you fly coach from Los Angeles to Paris and back, you’ve just emitted 3 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, 10 times what an average Kenyan emits in an entire year. Flying first class doubles these numbers.

However, the total climate impact of planes is likely two to three times greater than the impact from the CO2 emissions alone. This is because planes emit mono-nitrogen oxides into the upper troposphere, form contrails, and seed cirrus clouds with aerosols from fuel combustion. These three effects enhance warming in the short term.      

But even after being exposed to this kind of information, I feel unwilling to let go of what feels like ‘my right to fly’. The Big Overseas Trip, which once would have been something we aimed for at least once in our lives, has become, due to cheap airfares, something we now feel inclined to factor in every two years or so. And even after all the travel Peter and I have done, and the fact that flying is a significant drain on Peter’s wellbeing, we still toss around the notion of another trip to LA to see friends or a return trip to Barcelona, to see the Sagrada Familia, which was covered in scaffolding when we visited in 1985.

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If you really love your friends and family, you will make the effort to fly interstate or overseas to see them. 

Where does this version of cognitive dissonance leave me? Recently I thought that maybe if everyone was assigned a quota of kilometres they could use to travel by plane, we could still fly, but with a  substantial decrease in damage to the planet. It is unlikely that this will happen. Meanwhile, when the prospect of flying is in the air, we will seriously consider whether the flight is necessary or whether we can find some other way to satisfy the desire to travel. It took Kalmus ‘three years to quit’, so I figure that we still have a bit of wiggle room. To fly or not to fly, that is the question. What do you think?

                                               

 


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The dandelion in the garden

There appears to be two main schools of thought on what to do with dandelions – spend your entire life trying to remove them from your lawn and garden, or appreciate their nutritional and medicinal value by including them in your diet. I have been in the former camp for pretty much all of my gardening life however in recent years I have gained an interest in learning about these plants we call weeds. Most recently I bought a book to help me in my quest:

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Kelly, one of the other participants in the Community Leadership in Sustainability (CLS) program, brought them along to sell. I purchased 2 copies – one for us and one for our son, Louis. 

It sat on the pile of books next to our bed for a few weeks, and was then overtaken by other newer, supposedly more interesting books, until it was relegated to the book shelf in the guest room.

Don’t despair, my foraging friends, Facebook came to the rescue! One of my favourite Facebook groups is called ‘Edible weeds and other useful survival information’. Yesterday after I finished watering the garden and pulling out a few weeds (heretic!) I thought I’d see what the FB world is sharing. That’s when I saw this post:

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I was horrified – they looked exactly like the ones I had just removed from our side path!

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I can’t show you a ‘before’ because I was in the mindset of, ‘better remove those weeds from the side path’ and didn’t think to take a photo – why would you? 

It wasn’t too late to save the recently removed weeds from the compost.

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I feel guilty just looking at this photo, to think I was going to leave them to die in the 40 degree heat! I’d like to think they would prefer their qualities were used more purposefully. 

I followed the recipe provided and was pretty happy with the result. I was due to attend a Banyule CLS group that evening. Now if I wanted the perfect group of people that would be willing to be guinea pigs for my first efforts at preparing weeds for consumption, this would have to be it! And they did not disappoint.

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There wasn’t quite enough to share between 26 people however the brave ones were happy just to have a taste and, to my delight, some were even inspired to give it a go themselves!  

Ian McBurney was the guest presenter last night. He bravely took on the topic, ‘Leadership and Change in a Changing World’ and somehow managed to make it interesting and relevant and even doable. One of the things that hit me was his assertion that we are already all connected and, even if we don’t know it, we are influencing each other all of the time. I was seeing this being acted out in my relationship to dandelions. I had been influenced by Kelly’s book, and Alexander’s post and, by taking the prepared dandelions along last night, the influence is spread wider.

Changing behaviour is not easy, at least for me, even with all of the knowledge I have accumulated about why and how. Every time I do make a change, even to the smallest of my habits, I feel secretly thrilled that it is possible, and I wonder what change I will take on next, and know that there are people all over the world making changes, big and small, and it’s nice to be part of this little revolution.

 


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Peter can repurpose almost anything

While I like to think I have developed a few skills for reducing food waste and recycling, my husband, Peter, definitely wears the crown when it comes to reusing and repurposing. Today I will provide some ‘before and after’ examples of how Peter has diverted ‘waste’ from landfill, to create objects that enhance our daily lives.

  1. This wind chime
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Okay, so it doesn’t look much like a wind chime in this photo. The discs are from old hard drives, the silver-plated dish originally belonged to Peter’s mother, Lois, and the printing plates are from Peter’s father’s factory, from back in the day.

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This looks more like a wind chime! In this shot it is hanging inside, however the lack of wind was a problem so it now resides outside our back door, where there is plenty of wind.  I also love the way the sunlight hits the discs creating light patterns on nearby walls.

2. The sign for our band

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Peter has a knack with cardboard. This humble cardboard box…

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was given a coat of white paint after many hours of cutting and gluing, and then transformed into…

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…a mesmerising sign that assures our audience find it hard to take their eyes off the stage!

I love this sign so much. It hangs above the window in our living room, and when friends or family drop by, or we just feel in a party mood, we flick the switch and the WAMBO sign lights up the room.

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Festive lights for Louis, Tam and Dorothy’s visit in November 2014

2a The traveling WAMBO sign

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This sign deserves a mention because it was repurposed from an old copper hot water service we found way over in a back corner of the roof cavity.

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After all that cutting and shaping, Peter added some twinkling lights and we now have this adorable compact version, for those smaller venues.

3. The top section of the range hood

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We somehow managed to misplace the top section of the range hood about five years ago so Peter thought he should make a new one. He started with cardboard for the initial design, and then used tin from our old skylight to create the base.

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Peter has a fine collection of copper and brass items which come in handy for all sorts of situations. Forget boring stainless steel, our range hood is decorated with horses pulling a chariot! (The brass shield came from a secondhand shop in Tasmania.)

4. Frame for bathroom exhaust unit

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Our exhaust fan broke down and we were disappointed to discover that the new one was smaller than the old one. We needed a new frame. Why not use a frame from an old print?   I liked this idea.

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It took a few adjustments and some trial and error, however, before long our draft problem was solved. It is especially pleasing for those people who end up flat out on the bathroom floor!

5. Before Peter, there was Gordon.

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Whenever I compliment Peter on his ability to use materials from around the house to create both practical and fanciful things, he never fails to mention that his late father, Gordon, was his inspiration.

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Thanks to Gordon for being such a good example to his son – his influence has left an indelible imprint on our lives.                                 I wonder what we will work on next!


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When what you need is just around the corner

It’s been a few years since we have planted a successful veggie garden. This year we tentatively set up a couple of raised beds and purchased the minimum amount of seedlings and I’m happy to report that so far most of our babies are growing successfully. (Our biggest threat has been an earwig infestation which has resulted in me going out each night with a torch and flicking the little creatures off our tasty plants.)

These are the three cherry tomato bushes we bought and they are all still alive!

These are the three cherry tomato bushes we bought and they are all still alive!

I felt like I needed a mentor, my confidence, though improved, was still smarting from previous crop failures. Our dear friend Bruno visited last week, which reminded me that his father lives around the corner and is an enthusiastic gardener who supplements his diet with an impressive spread of vegetables grown in his back yard. (Dom and ‘the boys’ were born in  S.Angelo in Italy where the family had owned land and a fine cart pulled by the family’s two cows. Dom has even made a small replica of the ‘cows and cart’.)

Bruno and Tony told me that Dom is a bit of a cow whisperer.

Bruno and Tony told me that Dom is a bit of a cow whisperer.

I asked Bruno if he thought his father would be willing to help me, and suddenly it was all organised! We agreed to meet up over the weekend so I ventured over with a list of questions in mind. Of course I have a heap of books on the subject and I could just ‘google it’ but I have tried these methods before and they just haven’t stuck so I decided that the only option was to spend time with a real live experienced gardener. Fortunately Bruno and his brother Tony were happy to translate for me, as well as offer a wealth of information from their own experiences as gardeners.

Here we see the Annetta menfolk checking out the area where the seedlings are grown.

Here we see the Annetta menfolk checking out the area where the seedlings are grown.

The beans caught my eye immediately, the tendrils happily winding themselves around bamboo sticks that Domenico grew in his original Reservoir home, around twenty years ago. These beans were in full sun for most of the day and yet Dom was not at all concerned that they might get damaged on freakishly hot days, he simply waters them morning and evening and this is enough for them to make it through the blistering heat.

I would sell my soul to have beans growing in our garden that look like this!

I would sell my soul to have beans growing in our garden that look like this!

He rotates his crops, with Bruno and Tony commenting that one year the tomatoes will be planted where the beans are and the next year it will be vice versa. To keep the soil enriched he uses dynamic lifter; in earlier years he would buy bags of goat manure but as the years pass it has become easier to follow this new regime.

One side of the bed is a cos type lettuce, the other is a scariola, more suitable for cooking.

One side of the bed is a cos type lettuce, the other is a scariola, more suitable for cooking.

He saves his seeds from year to year and has a special spot for growing them. I was fortunate enough to take away some cucumber seeds and some lettuce and tomato seedlings, and garlic and don’t forget the bottle of homemade wine! The most amazing thing that occurred was he gave me a very special tool used for making holes in the soil for the seedlings. I am honoured to have received such a gift.

Bruno and Tony joked that they hadn't been presented with one of these. Maybe it's because I look like I need all the help I can get!

Bruno and Tony joked that they hadn’t been presented with one of these. Maybe it’s because I look like I need all the help I can get!

I asked him about how he deals with ‘pests’. While he does rely on snail and slug pellets, he has an ingenious way of trapping them – he places the pellets under a piece of metal in a grassy area at the edge of his beds and the snails and slugs make their way to this little lean-to, gorging themselves on pellets, thus leaving the seedlings for human consumption.

Come on snails and slugs, I have built a special home for you!

Come on snails and slugs, I have built a special home for you!

He had also planted cucumbers, tomatoes, two kinds of leafy greens and there was a fine crop of garlic that caught my eye.

Domenico kindly gave me some garlic to grow, even though the planting season has passed. I'll see how I go!

Domenico kindly gave me some garlic to grow, even though the planting season has passed. I’ll see how I go!

I envied his confidence in his ability to grow his own food and thought I should definitely take a leaf out of his book.

It was a humbling experience and I hope to go back again, with my next visit being when it is time to plant the broad beans. I will take this opportunity to promise that I will take care of our new family of seedlings to the best of my ability, committing to being a confident and consistent carer.


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the dilemma with special things

For most of my life I have gained great pleasure from objects that hold special meaning for me. Ranging from things as everyday as my first recipe book or an essay from high school, to family heirlooms like a Bible left to me by my grandmother and a vase that once belonged to my mother’s sister, who died seventy years ago.

memorabilia

The longer we live the more possessions we acquire. Many of these items hold special memories. Eventually there is nowhere left to store these precious items. (I still haven’t been able to sort through boxes of my parents’ possessions, which have been in our shed for nine years!)

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Way back in March, around the time of our son Louis’ birthday, we came across a few items we had kept for him from the early years. You know the kinds of things I’m talking about, his first cereal bowl and mug, a football trophy, a pencil case from primary school. I have always assumed that our sons would want these memories from their childhood.

louis_pic

Around the same time I read an article entitled Stuff it: Millennials nix their parent’s treasures. As I read through the article, I felt like the journalist was addressing me personally. Here’s a taste of what had me squirming in my seat:

“As baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, start cleaning out attics and basements, many are discovering that millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are not so interested in the lifestyle trappings or nostalgic memorabilia they were so lovingly raised with.”

How did that happen! Once I got over my reaction, which ran something along the lines of, ‘how will memories be passed on if the items that hold them are not valued’, it occurred to me that our need or desire to surround ourselves with keepsakes can quickly become ‘unsustainable’. As I look around our house I am aware of stories attached to every item. It doesn’t take long before I feel transported to another time, another place. I can relate to the hoarder reality TV shows where a person sees value in everything they have collected and can’t bare to let go of anything.

Another quote from the article:

They are living their lives digitally through Instagram and Facebook and YouTube, and that’s how they are capturing their moments. Their whole life is on a computer; they don’t need a shoebox full of greeting cards.

Okay, so I have quite a few shoeboxes full of greeting cards, dating back thirty or so years.

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Earlier in the year I read an article about Marie Kondo, who has written a book that could possibly solve all of my problems. I told my sister, Jann, about the book. She actually bought it and read it and has since offered me some advice on how to deal with all of those treasured cards. From Jann, “the Japanese book on tidying your home and life recommends getting rid of things like old cards that people have given you. She says that they have served their purpose once they have been given.

I think I will have to take it slowly. Meanwhile I will ponder why the thought of letting go of things from the past feels so difficult. I envy the next generation if they really don’t feel so attached to their possessions. I’m working on not being so attached. I bet you’re thinking, she’s going to have to let go of them sooner or later, and I agree. Let’s see if I can beat the reaper.