Urban Farming in the ‘Burbs

•November 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

005

Life sure has been busy of late. Three young children and their activities along with work keeps me super occupied.  I have however found the time recently to finally realise one of the items on my home ‘to do’ list. It may have taken a while. Like a really long while, but finally our home has welcomes four chickadees!  Our hens joined our family about 4 weeks ago.

My children have had some experience with chickens are part of ‘chook chat’ at their school. The four chickens at school are cared for on a roster by students, mine included.  Students collect the eggs and every now and then do a big cook up. I love this way of engaging with the kids.

So with the ice broken, I decided to get the ball rolling at home and get our own chooks.  It’s taken about a year from the time I bought the coop – to constructing the run – to finally getting to the exciting part – making the trip to a nursery to buy our hens.  It’s been worth the wait though.  Pepper, Caramel, Blackie and Tiny Ninja are now well and truly at home with us.

After some good tips from a work friend, we ended up buying two Australopes and two Isa Browns from New Leaf Nursery: http://www.newleafnursery.com.au/ They were especially selected by the chook whisperer there for our family.  The good thing about the Australope hens is that they lay eggs throughout their lives.  The Isa Browns we bought because of their good nature.

008

So far all are pretty friendly, though not super friendly because we’re not at the stage where they come to you and sit by your feet. We’ve had the occasional toe and leg pecking, but after holding them and spending more time with them they seem to be coming around. They especially love me because I’m usually the source of food!

Now, if a garden of veggies and some fruit and now chickens wasn’t enough, last week I discovered a new mysterious bird.  At first I thought it looked like a cross between a quail and a duck. After many misses in trying to photograph it, the bird ended stuck on the trampoline.  After taking some great photos, I sent them to my local Council for identification. They confirmed, that it was not a quail, but a Bush Turkey and while I am a friend of wildlife, I am not so sure about having a bird make itself at home in the garden I have spent some year building up.  Time will tell whether it decided to stay. So far the hens are wary, but the Turkey doesn’t seem fazed.

553

Now with my garden project pretty much complete, I can sit back and enjoy the years of work and planning that’s gone into my very own urban farm.   Or maybe not!  Next on my ‘to do’ list: ‘bug hotel’/ native beehive and possibly a frog pond. ..watch this space!

My tips for keeping chickens (so far):

  • Choose a spot in the garden with some sun, but not too much;
  • Talk to your local Council about what their requirement are. Besides not keeping a whole lots of hens and telling my neighbours as a courtesy, my Council didn’t have any specific requirements;
  • Buy the hens and move them in together at the same time, that way you don’t have any problems later with introducing a new hen to the flock;
  • They LOVE grain and get quickly get fussy with food if given the good stuff all the time. So balance out some boring food with something exciting;
  • Get them used to you straight away by spending time with them. Mine aren’t too excited about being held and to be honest I’m still getting used to them too, but now we’re all getting used to each other; and
  • Get the kids involved in feeding them and enjoy!

Building community

•May 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

What is community and how to do build one? Community can mean different things to different people. It can mean a group of people within a geographic location, or it can mean a group of people with common interests.  Whichever way you look at it, more and more it seems that we’re losing that sense of community connection.

Even me, though I have good contact with a few neighbours, my attempts at building a greater sense of community with the neighbourhood have failed.  My planter boxes on the nature strip have mostly become an extension of my own home garden with only one neighbour taking the odd vegetable every now and then. That one neighbour did also leave me a lovely Christmas gift and card, which was super sweet.

But not one to give up on a challenge, I decided to host a ‘Neighbour Day’ afternoon tea and involve my children.  As I have some elderly neighbours, I thought it would be a good opportunity for my children to meet some of the older folk, and for my neighbours to meet some new people.  You never know when they may need some help and it would be good for them to know that someone’s looking out for them should they need help.

There is a lot of talk about disconnection. In an age where we are more connected than ever through electronic means, the face-to-face connection is sometimes lacking. The reasons for this are varied. Time is usually the main one. I for example have three children, but have some time to think about these things and chat to neighbours when I bump into them because I work part-time.

M cutting

This sense of connection and talking to neighbours and getting to know them is what I want to instil in my children, which is why I wanted to get them as involved as I could in the Neighbour Day event.

My daughter designed a fun invite which she delivered with her brother to some neighbours. The results were a little mixed, we did manage to get a few RSVP’s, but we weren’t overwhelmed with the response.

Delivering

 

We decided to make an afternoon of it anyway. Together we put together a lovely afternoon tea with a few neighbours also contributing. The result was neighbours meeting for the first time and a great afternoon spent between neighbouring children. We talked travel and possums (we all share the possum problem J) and favourite recipes.

afternoon tea

This is something that I’ll definitely try again!

If you want to get involved in your local area, contact your local Council. They usually have a lot of information on local community groups, volunteer opportunities and local events.

Otherwise, host a BBQ or afternoon tea.  The Neighbour Day website has some suggestions too: http://www.neighbourday.org/  they have lots of information, kits and even recipes to share.

Clean and green cleaning

•February 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Image result for green cleaning

I feel as though I never have time for my Blog anymore.  If life with two kids wasn’t busy enough, with three young kids, it is off the rails. I feel that I spend a lot of my time trying to stay afloat.  Added to that is my professional job which is a source of inspiration and contentment, but also at times stress.  Also I have little time for my garden (which is suffering this summer), let alone quality time with my husband or relaxation. To ease the ‘time’ factor in my life, I have thought about getting in a cleaner or other help.  One of the things that stops me about a cleaner is my high eco-standard.  Ever since I did my Palm Oil Detox, I’ve been using natural cleaning products and I’m nervous about the chemicals that might be used by a professional cleaner. For now, I’m opting to keep my natural cleaning standards and do it myself.  The reasons to use green cleaning products are simple:

  • They’re not toxic to the health of my family or the planet;
  • They’re cheap; and
  • They’re simple and effective.

What do I use? There are basically two ingredients that I use the most, though I do also use ‘Natural’ cleaning products from the supermarket (mostly to clean my toilet and sometime the shower recess when it gets a bit too icky!):

  1. Bicarbonate of soda;
  2. White vinegar.

 

Bicarbonate of soda

Image result for bicarb soda

Discovered in ancient Egypt, this sodium compound which is called Natron was used in the mummification process.  Over time, European chemists discovered that another form of pearlash was effective in helping the baking process.  In 1791 a French Chemist Nicolas LeBlank turned common salt (sodium chloride) into soda ash (sodium carbonate).  This was later developed into sodium bicarbonate in the USA.

Bicarb soda is like this miracle ingredient used in so many things. I’ve used it to make natural toothpaste I’ve done this by dipping my toothpaste and then brushing. The taste isn’t the usual minty taste that I’m used to, but trust me, my teeth were super clean and shiny afterwards!

My mum’s used it as deodorant and she swears by it. I’ve not tried this though. I have also heard of people that don’t wash their hair with shampoo, and instead do a ‘dry shampoo’ using bicarb soda.

For cleaning I use bicarb soda a number of different ways.  I add a little water and make a paste. I use a toothbrush and clean the grouting in between tiles in my bathroom and to generally clean the bathroom and kitchen sink. I also use it to keep my pots and pans looking good.

Bicarb soda is also great at keeping things smelling fresh. There has been instances where my fridge will get very smelly. All I do is either keep a packet of bicarb soda opened in the fridge or even some fresh coffee grounds.

 

White vinegar

 

Image result for white vinegar

You can buy big containers of cheap white vinegar in most supermarkets. This is my secret weapon around the house. I use it to clean the tiles in my bathrooms, my shower recess, windows and pretty much any surface.

I often add some bicarb soda and vinegar to a load of washing and it brightens up my clothes.

My other tips is to pour a little bicarb soda down the drain and then add vinegar – watch the frothing action, then leave for half an hour and come back and pour boiling water down the drain. A wonderful way to keep your drains clean and fresh without the use of harsh chemicals.

Both of these products can be bought so easily and are really effective and cheap. You also won’t feel so horrible and congested afterwards and your hip pocket and the planet will thank you for it.

DIY Gifts from the Heart – Christmas Olives

•December 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment

oilives

2016 has been a whirlwind of a year and life doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down any time soon.  I guess that is the life of a working mum of three kids. And a mum with a garden too!

Despite all the mayhem, there has been many fun days too. My children are growing and coming into their own.  But as we got to the end of the year, we still managed our Christmas DIY Gifts from the Heart. This year, we decided to make Herb infused olives for our family.  As usual, I spend the year saving jars and then decide what to do with them.  Here is what to do in case you’d like to make your own:

What you need:

  • Old jar, cleaned and boiled to sterilise
  • Olives – we used plain olives and a mix of black and green
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs – we used the following from our garden:
    • Chillies
    • Thyme
    • Lemon myrtle
    • Sage
    • Rosemary
  • Decorations/ wrapping
  • Some helpers 🙂

herbs-kids

What to do:

Add everything together. I filled half the jar, added some of the herbs and pressed a few against the glass to make it look pretty.  The jar was filled, I added the olive oil and decorated the jars.

herbs

The idea of the gift is also that once the olives have been eaten, the herb infused oil can be used to make salad dressing – just add lemons/ lime juice or balsamic vinegar.  This gift is so easy to make and looks special too.  Nooshejan

How to survive a museum trip with kids!

•October 23, 2016 • 2 Comments

Earlier this year, I went to Italy. Yep – a big overseas trip with three children! Not sure what I was thinking, but I really wanted to go and I try to be one of those ‘My kids are going to stop me’ kind of mums. So we saved and saved, got the time off work and booked the trip. Everyone was excited. It was our first big trip after the birth of my third child.

Everything started well.  We had a stop in Abu Dhabi which still feels like home to me. We caught up with friends and enjoyed going to some of our old haunts and checking out some new ones.  Abu Dhabi really is so easy and fun for kids. Parks and beaches galore!

img-20160326-wa0003

Saadiyat Beach with the Lourve Abu Dhabi under construction in the background

We first flew to Venice. Beautiful yes, but we were a little bit of a walk from the main sights, so lots of walking and not so much fun with a pram. Up and down bridges and steps!  The kids had fun though, but after about 5 days of not being able to really let them get loose in a park (a crowded plaza really is not the same), we moved on.  We were even brave enough to hire a car and so our Italian road trip began.

We travelled to:

  • Bellagio via Verona;
  • La Spezia (for Cinque Terre) via Genoa;
  • Florence via Pisa;
  • Orvieto via Siena; and
  • Rome

img-20160417-wa0003

How was travelling with three kids in Italy? A LOT of work. We managed to remain sane for most of the stops. We stayed in apartments and tried to incorporate children friendly activities and days throughout, but by the time we arrived in Rome everyone was tired.  We could only get them so excited about museums and after many tense experiences (the Vatican was the most intense and stressful experiences of the whole trip – so so many people) at various sites, we decided in Rome to try our hands at making the experience of going to museums more fun for them.

One of our tricks was a treasure hunt. Through this we hoped that the older two would actually even look at some of the art works. It worked a treat – but my kids take treasure hunts VERY seriously, so we really had to research to make sure that the things we put on their list, they were able to be find.

While they enjoyed the trip and the copious amounts of gelato and pizza they got to eat, the whole trip was so draining that I swore to never do a big trip with them again. Yes we’ll see how long that lasts.

Once we got back to Sydney life continued at a breakneck speed. But in all the insanity we did manage a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW to see the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition.  I had been meaning to go for a long time and finally got the time to do it.  But with some of the pain of our Italy museum experiences fresh in my mind, I decided to re-visit my survival toolbox and out came the Frida Kahlo activity sheet!

No, the art gallery did not in fact have anything for kids, so I did some research the night before and put together an activity sheet. Did it work? Yes – for the older two it did.  While they were busy with their activity pack, I did get to wonder through the exhibition and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed.  The art works were great, but there really wasn’t too many of them. Much of the exhibition was a celebration of the artists, rather than the art. We photos and video footage being the centre of attention.  So from that regard, I was a little disappointed. Also the exhibition was VERY crowded. The way we experienced it was to be in a big conga line and just walk single file past the art works. There was no place to sit and linger, which made doing one of the activities I had (to sit in a quiet area and draw one of their favourite paintings) nearly impossible.

In the end I was glad to go because if I hadn’t I would have wondered about what could have been, but the most fun we had was going to the Sydney Botanical Gardens. My daughter had just attended a school excursion there so was full of excitement to show me her favourite parts.  The whole day was helped by the glorious show of weather Sydney had for us and with the promise of a gelato at the end of the day, the kids enjoyed the rest of the day.  So my tips for a cultural day out – bribery with gelato and an activity pack that includes a treasure hunt!  I’ve included my Frida Kahlo one. I hope you find it useful.

slide1

slide2

slide3

Pokemon STOP!

•August 10, 2016 • 1 Comment
pokemon-Go-....

Source: sussexcountypost.com

My household along with a lot of other households with children is going through a Pokemon craze.  It started with the cards last year, then the cartoons. It’s so bad that even my 2 year old is obsessed. It’s all about Pokemon and Pikachu!  Showing my age now – but honestly what is this show about??

Recently though, a Pokemon App is taking the world by storm – Pokemon Go. Some people are saying how great it is to have children play this game because it encourages kids to get out – even if it is in an alternative reality of catching Pikachu. At least they’re not inside.

My son, like many boys his age wants to play this, but I have to say a clear ‘sorry’ to my son. I am not one of those mums that will allow their young child to play this game. I’m afraid my dear son, I am never going to be a ‘cool’ mum. You my son will likely miss out on being ‘cool’ like your friends for years to come, because after Pokemon Go, there will be many more silly fads which will come and add nothing to your development intellectually, emotionally or physically. You’ll likely ‘hate’ me and ridicule me to your friends and roll your eyes at me (he’s already started doing this!), but I’m willing to wear that.

My husband says that I have to ‘ease up’ and that I can’t keep him away from these sorts of games and devices forever. To that, I say maybe not, but he’s 8 years old and I would rather have him read, draw, ride a bike, than walk around staring at a phone trying to catch Pikachu.

While this App may help to get kids out, I find it sad to see young kids out, mobiles in hand staring at their screens.  While there are many brains working right now on how to harness Pokemon Go for the greater good of protecting nature, I think having a love of nature yourself is the best way to create these values in your children.  Get out yourself and get into nature. Talk about it and feel connected to it.  Even if you don’t live near bushland or a beach – find a pocket of trees, grass, a communal area, plaza – whatever it is, get out there and have fun with it yourself, despite the limited time you might have.

The connection to nature is disappearing. With more people living in cities and cities becoming denser and nature being taken out of cities – it is harder to get to nature and hard to feel connected to it. With the earth facing the next mass extinction episode, we need to get back to nature.  Nature provides everything to us – water, air, materials. Even the ones that fuel our lights, the materials that go into our devices, the materials that we wear and build with – it originates from the earth.

I am often saying to my husband to get out into the garden and potter around, because if he does, my son eventually leaves his room and follows.  It is their personal preference to be inside with toys, but getting both boys in my life outside is my mission and I hope not to rely on Pikachu to do that!

Bellagio

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Am I being too tough?

My own verge garden

•June 14, 2016 • 1 Comment

Last year, I wrote a blog piece about verge gardens and whether it’s safe to have food growing so close to a road.  My piece showed that if you take certain precautions, that it should be okay.

So after my research, I decided to strike out and make my own verge garden.  I have a corner block and thankfully the long side is on a quiet street.  Last year, I decided to move a few things around my backyard. Rather than get rid of my timber planter boxes, I decided to move them onto my nature strip.

I excitedly and busily moved all the soil with the help of some kiddies. I added some compost and planned to extend my vegetable garden.

DSC_0386DSC_0375DSC_0378

I then had an idea to get the neighbours involved also. To start a ‘gardening club’ of sorts with my neighbours. There are many families with children around me, so I thought it would be a great chance to get to know neighbours and for my children to meet some children that live close to us.

So I planned two weekends of neighbourhood activity.  One week to plant the seeds and the following week to paint the planter boxes.  I put together a flyer and went door knocking.

The response: a bit underwhelming!

In the meantime my children were very excited about the ‘Gardening Club’ we were starting in our neighbourhood. On the agreed day, at the agreed time we all started to plant our new garden. Unfortunately with the exception of one of my immediate neighbours, no other neighbours came to help us plant our new vegetables. My children were a little disappointed, but we got together and planted some lovely things: carrots, flowers, chillies, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, lemongrass, parsley, sage and so on.

DSC_0578DSC_0582DSC_0585

In the immediate time after the planting, I did get a few ‘looks’ from passers by. A verge garden is not a common sight in my part of Sydney, but I think most have gotten used to it. I’ve even managed to share some of the produce with a few neighbours, which they’ve loved.

So, some tips for a verge garden:

  • Dial before you dig  http://www.1100.com.au/: you should call this free service to make sure there are no utilities or any issues where you decide to make your garden;
  • Have raised beds;
  • Talk to neigbbours before planting and see whether they’d like to be part of the planning.  Even though I provided all free plants, seeds and compost, my neighbours weren’t engaged, but your might be;
  • Plant some flowers too to make it pretty and attractive and attract pollinators like bees; and
  • Enjoy.