The last few months have been difficult. I’ve had a number of challenging life situations arise, My daughter having health issues, a friend’s death and seeing my compatriots and a country I love under fire. Hence the writing of this post is a personal one.
We are at an important juncture and moment in history and the tide can go either way. I’d like to know that I did everything I could to help turn the tide towards the good and towards lasting peace. With gruesome deaths, disappearances and violence inflicted on my compatriots every single day, silence is not an option.
I’ve seen messages of solidarity and support – for those, I say ‘Thank you’. But if anyone knows me they know that I am a practical lass and I always live by the motto of ‘actions speak louder than words’. I know others feel this way, but it’s hard to know what to do from afar.
Here are things that I think we can and must do to prevent more deaths and ensure the lives lost have not been in vain.
Write to your local MP, the PM, the foreign minister. This is one of the most effective things that you can do. Not many people know how to do this, or what to say, so I’ve pulled together a template letter with actions that activists are asking governments to take. While some sanctions have commenced, they are not nearly enough and more tangible, targeted actions need to be taken, so contacting your MP will maintain pressure to direct them towards this outcome. Here is a link to help you find your electorate, then your local MP. This includes social media handles, and email addresses.
Stay informed The true story is getting barely any media coverage. If you really want to know what’s going on, I’ve found these sources to be helpful. It’s not comfortable reading, but to get the true picture of the scale and urgency it’s important to get up to date information. These are also reliable sources used by media and are volunteer run and independent. @Tasvir1500@Hengaw@HRANA_English I’ve also summarised the ‘struggle’ to give you a snapshot of what this movement is about HERE.
Share and repost on social media and use the #MahsaAmini, #IranRevolution or any recent person’s name (like #MohsenShekari #Majdrezarahnavard). The aim is not to have this movement and issue disappear and to maintain focus and attention. Why would governments do anything if they don’t think anyone is watching? Despite the hard internet lockdown, inside the country people do see these messages and it helps them to know they are not alone.
Influence if you are in an influential role, or have contacts – think about what can be done? Whether you as a business, customer, employee or neighbour. I’d love to see more businesses and the creative arts community get behind this. I haven’t seen anything really happen in Australia, though many examples from overseas. For example I’ve approached a number of restaurants in my local area about #Cookforiran and not heard back (again, I’ve seen active participation from restaurants and the broader community out of Australia). I’ve spoken to property owners about using light and art on buildings to show support – they’re still mulling it over. If more people approached then something might happen. There are so many opportunities with things like Sydney Festival and World Pride. I’m sure there are other events and opportunities.
Rally There are numerous rallies happening around the country. If in Australia, CHECKOUT: for the latest. If overseas, no doubt there will be local rally organisers. This is an effective way of maintaining visibility and spreading the word. All the rallies I’ve attended are peaceful and there’s a strong sense of solidarity.
If you’ve been following my renovation blog, you will have seen that not everything went according to plan! After the shock of seeing my house flattened, the construction process began in earnest. This followed what the house was prior – double brick and mostly to the footprint.
The crazy times certainly continued however. The major events marked this phase of our build:
Supply chain issues
Covid lockdown 2.0 in NSW.
I recall asking at the outset about supply chain issues and the impending rain and was scoffed off. Well both came back to bite that’s for sure.
Firstly there was the price and availability of timber. Prices jumped 20% and there were delays. Thankfully my builder did not pass on the extra cost (though he tried) and had pre-ordered the timber, so we had no delays there. I know that this caused big issues for other builders.
Then, just when the walls started to go up again, the torrential rain set in. The yellow tongue flooring was installed just before the rain and by rain, I mean crazy rain. Over that period we experienced the wettest March on record with widespread flooding. As you can imagine, that does not fill one’s hear with joy.
The result of all that rain was felt later when mould was seen on the underside of the flooring. My protestations to have the flooring replaced was met with scorn. No, my builder said that it was ridiculous to demand such a thing and that they would do a clean up before handing me the key. Well they did clean it up and as a consequence I also became alerted to this being a potential ongoing problem, which is why for an extra $5,000, I installed subfloor ventilation.
To this day, my daughter’s bedroom which was the worst affected still smells mouldy once the rain sets in. No amount of sub-floor ventilation can deal with moisture coming up from the floors. Had I known this, I would have investigated further and installed a membrane to stop moisture coming up from the floors given that my house is timber and on a sloping block. The moisture does come through the timber flooring I believe.
This is not to say that I can’t do this later, but always better to do it as part of the build. Therefore my advice to anyone doing a renovation, be really careful with how moisture is managed and speak to your builder about keeping water from outside out, and from the inside, allowing moisture to escape.
Other things I did to manage this was to have my rangehood in the kitchen and extraction fans from the bathroom and laundry vented directly out. Crazy that I had to insist on this, otherwise it is vented to the roof space to circulate there.
Linked to supply chain issues were my windows. Being on a busy street, I knew early on that I wanted double glazed windows. Through research and related to my work, I also became aware of issues related to thermal bridging () so wanted UPVC windows (being more affordable than other options). I checked out some suppliers and settled on a company which will remain name-less for now.
This became another bone of contention with my builder. He did include in his price aluminium double glazing (though he did spend quite a long time trying to talk me out of double glazing altogether), but I insisted on going with my UPVC option. This effectively meant that I took on all the risk associated with this decision.
As part of our build, the floor was lifted up, which then made all of the window openings needing to be also lifted up. Hence windows, their size and type of opening became an obsession of mine. Despite someone from the company coming out and measuring, a few late changes meant that there were a few windows I needed to measure myself. Timing of the order and delivery also became something that I needed to coordinate.
Not surprisingly, there was a lag – so the site lay empty – all waiting for the windows to be installed. When they came to be installed, one of the feature windows (a window seat) was not the right size. The window company were good about replacing it and sending the correct one – but again, we hit trouble. The Suez Canal and the blockage which affected the world! The company asked whether I’d like to wait. By now (April) I thought we were never going to get to lock up stage, so I declined the wait and accepted the window as it was. We added another row of bricks and that seemed to do the trick.
These windows which came from the most economical company that I had costed, still cost me $20,000 more. This was a large sum, but now that I have moved it, they are amazing and I think worth the investment.
By the time the windows went in, we got to lock up stage and the finish line was in sight. We were still living in a very small and grotty rental, so were desperate to leave. The fun part of choosing finishes was about to begin. What could go wrong?
Covid through us all another curve ball and hit Sydney again. We went into lockdown. Again. A strange time when most of the country seemed to be fighting each other, like it was a competition as to who could do lockdown better and who could remain sane under increasingly harsh conditions. Very little sympathy for Sydney folk, particularly from Melbournians who had it really tough I have to say. Still being stuck at home, not being able to go out and see family, all within a small radius of your home with helicopters and police everywhere is no fun for anyone.
This time construction sites were closed, so our site also closed up- this was literally very close to the end, so months of waiting and watching Covid numbers, then the number vaccinated further added to the stress of being back at home working and home-schooling. Again I’ll stress the tiny and grotty rental full of cockroaches and as we discovered mice – in the house – I mean finding mouse poo in the kids beds!
I did the choosing of lots of things including furniture all online. Thankfully earlier in the year to take advantage of the end of year sales, I’d purchased a bunch of things and arranged delivery for the middle of the year. This worked in my favour because supply chain issues continued for many people and are still going on.
Once construction were allowed to go back, it meant no work could really happen because Western Sydney was still in a harsher lockdown and nobody could enter or leave it (strange, strange times…). All of the trades for me were coming from western Sydney, so I remained impacted. Then there was the fun bit where only vaccinated people could go to work and some of my trades people did not want to be vaccinated. Eventually – we limped across the finish line and by late-September the house was finished and we moved in!
No big parties of course because we weren’t allowed, but a nice feeling to be in a brand new house as it turned out in the end.
I wanted to share this build with you because sustainability was one of my main drivers. My experience was that anything deviating from the regular churn was treated as a big cost and a source of much back and forth with my builder who was not a bad guy, just wanted to get on with it and do what he usually did. It took a lot of insisting for me to get my way. Now what did I get my way and how much did it cost?
Abolished gas: $1,800 to Jemena to abolish the gas connection). Now you can opt in for electric appliances without having to abolish your gas, but I chose to do this. To do so, I contacted my electricity retailer and filled in a request form which had to be approved.
Electric heat pump: total cost $4,890 – so about another $2,000 on what I would otherwise install). I chose the Sanden which was the more expensive option, but so far it is amazing and it also has low global warming potential refrigerants and it’s super quiet.
UPVC double glazed windows and doors: total cost, about $44,000 (ALL my windows had to be replaced and I included some large bi-fold type doors too). As I stated about $20,000 more than my builder’s allowance. I went with Integra Windows, but do be careful as their after sale service is not the best. I’m still waiting on a call back (more than two weeks later) for a broken handle.
Rainwater tank: $6,770. I was surprised with the cost to be honest, but I needed a concrete slab to be poured and the pump, so it’s quite involved. It’s a 10,000 litre tank which thanks to all this rain fills up in a few days! I only have it for irrigation because one of my failings amongst the Covid lockdown and busy-ness of life was I missed the opportunity to connect it to the toilets. This would have no doubt cost me even more.
Appliances: no specific costs here. I needed new ones, so made sure they were all efficient. I did buy a BOSCH induction cooktop which I am very happy with.
Electric vehicle charge point: about $300 – no biggie at all. My builder basically through this in for free. I did need to make sure there is the right wiring with capacity in place, but this was not a major cost. I have no electric car, but hopefully in the next little bit – fingers crossed!
Three phase electricity: $3,000. Given that I wanted to put in a lot of solar and to future proof the home, I put in three phase electricity. My meter box needed replacing anyhow, hence taking the opportunity to do this.
LED lighting – no extra cost
Low VOC paints – no extra cost
Water efficient appliances, taps, toilets etc – no extra cost
Ceiling fans – $700 extra as I wanted nicer fans than what the allowance in the contract would have allowed
So all in all, I got most of what I wanted, but for some I had to pay quite a bit extra. While the timing for the renovation was stressful, I am lucky that I completed the works before things got even more crazy on the cost side.
Of course, one is never done. Since moving in, I have a few more updates that to write about which have made my house even more sustainable.
As I sit here in my renovated home, I am able to enjoy the changes I made to improve the life of my family and I.
To make it our own though we enlisted the help of family. My father in-law who has now passed away was an architect, so he set off coming up with some plans for us. He came up with many different options. We pored over them from overseas and having never seen the house – but sustainability was always right up in the top of considerations.
This renovation was a long time coming. When we bought this 1940’s post-war house in Lane Cove we always knew we wanted to make changes. The house itself though was solid and had ‘good bones’, so we knew we wanted to renovate rather than knock it down.
We never actually saw the house as we were living overseas (Abu Dhabi) when we bought it. My mum checked it out though and confirmed it was a ‘good one’. We were lucky at the time that prices has stabilized in Sydney somewhat and we could put in a bid that was successful.
He was able to research and came up with good options for us. Top of my wishlist at the time was solar hot water and keeping as much of the house as possible to reduce waste and embodied carbon.
But when we priced this up, it was out of our budget and reach, so we decided to live in it first when we moved back with our two children. We managed a few updates like a new kitchen, bathroom, laundry, painting, ripping out carpet, rendering and doing a lot of work in the garden. You’ll see all my gardening posts over the years.
But with a third child and growing kids, it was time to think about what came next. I spent some time looking into opportunities to sell and move somewhere quieter, but as anyone that has lived in Sydney the last ten years will tell you – that’s a pipe dream. So after eliminating that option, it came time again to re-look at the plans that we had. We realized that at the time, we were a family of four and are now a family of five, so we needed new plans.
Through a friend’s connection we found a builder who listened to us and brought on an architect he regularly worked with. Again I made sure sustainability was at the top of the wishlist and went so far as to draw up an excel of all my ‘must haves’. I gave this to the architect at the outset who seemed extremely confused and wasn’t sure what to do about my enthusiasm.
So what was I trying to fix with this enthusiasm?
We also installed solar and tried to look into efficiency measures like LED lights. BUT the house was always uncomfortable. We had tiled floors which were absolutely feezing to walk on in winter. The windows leaked like crazy. In fact some had even cracked. One of the rooms clearly had moisture issues. Our gas and electricity bills were always really high, particularly over winter. Needless to say efficiency and good designs was on the top of priorities.
Some of our wishlist items included:
Double glazed windows
Efficient showerheads and toilets
Low toxicity materials, paints
Certified timber and materials
Good construction waste management
Reused materials and reusing what we demolish as much as possible
Keeping as much of the house as possible
Disconnecting from gas – so going fully electric
Highly insulated (walls, ceiling, floors, roof)
You can see from this list that there is nothing too crazy on this list. My builder though listened politely, but not only saw dollar signs for variations, but also thought I was being kooky!
So there began the journey of not only educating the builder, but of the battle of realise a lot of my vision.
Stay tuned for more blogs as I take you through the year that was which included Covid lockdowns, supply chain issues and many variations.
Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear your stories and share what lessons you learnt.
Yesterday I was looking at a note pad. It was my ‘to do’ list and aspirations for 2020. On the list were the usual things like eat well, exercise and ‘be in the moment’. Amongst the list was also my holiday plans for the year – camping, going to a coastal property and even skiing. Little was I to know that my world and that of everyone else on the planet was going to be turned upside down within a few months by a global pandemic.
I’ve spent the last five weeks at home with my kids and to be honest it’s been a whirlwind of setting up new routines and keeping my children happy and positive. It is only now that as I look to more weeks in physical isolation, that I start to chart a way forward to maintain the initial level of vigilance. The initial level was really a must – cases were going up – we were all scared and in shock.
Having come out of a horrific six months in Sydney plagued by a sense that the world was teetering on a precipice due to the devastating bushfires I already felt emotionally raw and carried a deep sense of sadness and anxiety. Many a time did I spend in tears at the state of the world and most of that really was about the sense that much of what I was seeing play out I knew would happen in a climate emergency situation. It really was the worst nightmare of many people who have worked and been active in environmental causes. I sensed like I’d failed future generations. That maybe I didn’t try hard enough.
So to so quickly have to deal with this health crisis was a shock. I have to say that the main thing I’ve been heartened by is that the government did take action and people listened. Well that is until I’m sensing this last week. We’ve breathed a sigh of relief as the curve in Australia has indeed flattened. What I am sensing now though is concerning, is that people are starting to not listen as much to the health advice. So my blog today is really about me sharing my tips on how to survive the next month or so as we try and keep the curve flattened and hopefully not have a second wave which will completely undo all of the hard work done to date.
So what’s kept me sane and the family fairly happy these last five weeks?
Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of ourselves. I start each working day with an early morning walk. It keeps me away from crowds, it’s quiet and tranquil and amazing to see the sun rise every day.
I also go running and do yoga. This is also extending to my children. Each of their school days (even if this is at home) starts with a walk around the block in the morning and afternoon. It’s a way of mentally opening and closing the school day. This is all in our local area which I know I’m lucky is a lovely part of the world surrounded by trees.
There are loads of online exercise classes if you can’t get outside, these are just some (please take care when exercising at home):
I love nature and one of the blessings of the recent shut downs has been that I have more time on the weekend where I can take my children on a bushwalk. We do a different bushwalk every week and through it we’ve really discovered places on our doorstep and within our neighbourhood. It’s been great. My kids started off by moaning a lot when we would want to go out and while tearing them away from another day in their pyjamas is still met with a groan, they’re actually getting a lot out of it. They’re taking photos and really exploring and looking deeply at nature, the trees, the bugs, leaves and branched and listening to the trickle of a creek or waterfall. This is one of my favourite things to do. I’ve even noticed the sound of birds and discovered that I have a blue tongue lizard that lives in my backyard. Things I probably would not have noticed had it not been due to me being forced to strip some excess from my life.
On this day, she decided to wear her school uniform even though she was going to be at home
Yes, I have been anxious and worried. The thought of anyone in my family being taken away by the horrible virus is terrifying. The thought that this can go on for years and the economic impacts, social and emotional impacts on peopled including my children is horrible. Still, every day there is something to be grateful for. Simply still breathing and being here for me is a reason to celebrate. So every night at the dinner table, my family and I talk about what we’re grateful for. It’s a really important part of finding something positive and a silver lining even in the most terrible circumstances.
On this day, she decided to wear her school uniform even though she was going to be at home
Nightly dance off
Another fun thing we’ve instituted in my family is a nightly dance off. We put on a happy and upbeat song and dance around. No matter how angry, emotional or terrible a day we may have feel like we’ve had. The act of coming together and dancing lifts our moods. I really recommended it. We even take turns choosing the song. Through this I’ve introduced my kids to a bit of 90’s hip hop, Madonna (early Madonna) and Stevie Wonder.
I have a few old folk in my neighbourhood. My youngest daughter decided to write them cards and drop it in their letterbox. Hoe lovely it was to receive a reply and in one case some goodies as a thank you. I know they’re appreciated knowing that we’re looking out for them and it’s a good thing to teach to be kind to those that are vulnerable and may need help. If you can reach out to someone please do. Here are also some organisations that can help you connect with someone in need:
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending The Climate Reality Project’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps training along with 800 other like-minded people. It was three days of meeting and listening to inspiring people – all with the aim of tackling global heating.
I have always been quite green and have been writing about my journey as an eco-mummy for a few years now. While I was there though, I met someone who also said they really cared about plastic pollution in the oceans. She said it like she needed to choose which issue was more urgent and pressing and thereby worth her time and dedication. Then it struck me how both issues are so inter-related.
The process of making plastic is quite complex, as I recently discovered when trying to explain it to a group of year 3 students (part of my Climate Reality presentation advocacy). One thing that isn’t so complex though is the base material that goes into making plastic – fossil fuels (crude oil and gas). It releases many tonnes of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere during its production and uses energy too, to manufacture. So all in all a very fossil fuel hungry material. In fact, plastic manufacturing is estimated to use 8% of global yearly oil production. Despite all of the renewables coming online in the last year, the significant increase in plastic production has been blamed for the increase in CO2 emissions in 2018.
But plastic is fantastic isn’t it? It’s durable, light and doesn’t break. It’s so flexible that life would seem almost impossible without it. We love plastic so much that the World Economic Forum estimates that plastic production has sky rocketed from 16.5 million tonnes in 1964 to 343 million tonnes in 2014 with predictions that this will double by 2036! Since 1950, humans have made 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic and despite the fact that plastic is durable and reusable, most has been disposed, so we keep producing more and more. I remember travelling in Cuba as part of my year of backpacking before children and seeing plastic bags hanging out on clothes lines to dry. Obviously Cubans saw some value in these bags in that they reused them. The rest of the world though is in an unrelenting cycle of throwing things out.
So where does all of this plastic that is thrown out end up? Very little is recycled and most (79%) ends up in either landfill or the world’s oceans (8 million tonnes every year) slowly breaking down. It takes plastic between 500 – 1000 years to break down. That is many millions of tonnes of plastic waste – everywhere for millennia. When plastic does break down into micro-plastics, then where does it go? Likely in animals and ultimately us!
When thinking of plastic and plastic waste – also consider that many ‘rich’ countries offload this problem to the developing world where environmental laws are more lax and the problem is ‘out of sight’. The health impact on those communities from our waste, is shameful. Some countries like China, the Philippines and Malaysia are wising up and sending the waste back.
Going back to the Climate Reality training conversation, I was struck by what Natalie Isaac from 1 Million women said: Don’t just talk – you must live your values in your everday life. Now I am generally good about my plastic use and I’ve resisted going ‘full hog’ in eradicating plastic in my life because – well I’m a busy working mum trying to live life on a budget of sorts. So the idea of going to 5 different shops to get my weekly groceries doesn’t have much appeal. I have seen articles about people with a little jar showing how much waste they’ve produced in a year and have rolled my eyes about the improbability and impracticality of it all!
BUT, when I went to my daughter’s class to present on climate action, I used plastic as a way for kids to make a difference because through this action, the benefits are two-fold: reduce plastic waste and reduce carbon emissions.
After the talk a few days ago, I got thinking about my own home. Luckily Plastic Free July: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ is about to kick off and my family and I have decided to participate. We’ve taken the challenge to avoid single use plastic packaging and target takeaway items. I have no idea how we’re going to go, but I will share our ups and downs every week.
I encourage you to also take the challenge and to get you started here are some resources that can help:
For me, I have started! I went to a wholefood store in Lane Cove (Source) and stocked up on some snacks for the kids that I can put in their lunch box. Keep an eye out for my weekly blog where I’ll share tips and an uncensored take on how we’re going as a family. Please join me in taking the challenge.
Life is taking me on quite the busy journey at the moment. Raising three kids and work keeps me all too busy. I have however had this topic on my mind for quite some time and finally have decided to sit down and write. Every day I am reading a terrible statistic and report about the state of our world. Today’s one was about the crazy rate of deforestation. Apparently there is one football field worth of forest lost every second. With all the football watching going on right now, it should be an easy one to visualise. So let’s repeat that one – slowly. One football field of forest lost. Every second.
As with many reports on the environment, it is very easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed. While action to reverse is needed urgently, we need to also look at what is possible in our neck of the woods – excuse the pun. One of the areas I feel strongly about, is the need to re-connect with nature. There are many benefits to this, from improved mental health and wellbeing to community connections to re-learning lost skills. It goes without saying that this will lead to improved biodiversity outcomes.
One of the ways to re-connect with nature is through Citizen Science. This essentially means that anyone can be a scientist and that we can all work to help document flora and fauna in our local area. This helps scientists monitor and track information, and gets the community out and about looking closely at what is in their neighbourhoods.
This participatory approach to science is a great way to get people involved in their local community and a wonderful introduction to science for children.
Many many years ago, I worked on a project called the Willoughby Wildlife Watch project which in essence was a citizen science program. It asked residents to report wildlife that they saw. This was then included in a state-wide Atlas, thereby creating a good baseline and allowing monitoring of wildlife, particularly in urban areas.
Over the years, amateur scientists have become involved in science. In fact amateur astronomers have made many discoveries including finding a scar on Jupiter and even finding Uranus (William Herschel, 1781). It’s estimated that these volunteer scientists provide in-kind contributions valued at about $2.5 billion a year! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science).
There are different ways that you can get involved. You can contact your local Council to see if they have any programs available where you can participate, or you can check out some other organisations like:
Another year has flown and what a year! Highs, lows, fun times, not so fun times. For me, 2017 has been a time where I’ve focussed on my career and family. My youngest daughter has started pre-school and while she loves it, it’s taken a little one for this spirited one to settle into the new routine of her Montessori pre-school.
2017 was also the year where my middle daughter started ‘big’ school. Going from Montessori to a public primary school was quite easy for her and she’s thrived and done very well. She’s one of those kids that loves to learn anyway – which is lucky.
For my son, 2017 has been a year of cementing friendships and perfecting the art of lego making! With his two closest friends moving to another school and overseas, the next year is going to bring lots of changes for him.
For me, I’ve managed to do a few things that have been on my ‘to do’ list for a long time – getting chickens and continuing my gardening around the house. Work has rewarding with me having completed some great projects and made wonderful friends. The year ends however with me saying farewell to my previous job and welcoming another one.
As the year ends however, I like to work with my children to give family something home-made, from the heart and special for Christmas. This year, I decided on home-made granola! I like it because it’s simple to make and you can be creative with it. It also went down a treat!
Here is what you need:
5 cups of rolled oats – this is the base
1 ½ cup puffed corn
1 ½ cup rice bran
½ cups goji berries
¼ cups cacao nibs
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cups pumpkin seeds
½ cups pecan nuts
125 ml Maple syrup
½ cup coconut oil melted
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 160° C
Cover baking tray with non-stick baking paper
Mix all the ingredients except the goji berries and puffed corn.
Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and mix through.
Spread on a baking tray and put in the oven
Once it’s starting to look golden – add the puffed corn (this is so that the puffed corn will be crispy, but not burnt)
Depending on how you like it, you can leave it a little longer (it should take about 20 minutes all up) until it is more toasted
Removed from the oven and mix through the goji berries. Set aside to cool.
Once cool add to jars and decorate as you please.
Enjoy – nooshejan!
May you have a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2018 full of love and joy.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Herbs – we used the following from our garden:
Some helpers 🙂
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.
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