I wrote a post some months back about the introduction of the carbon tax and my monstrous winter electricity bill (which was close to $AUD1000. I was hoping my solar panels installed would help, but the next bill came and despite a drop which looking back on it was quite impressive, it wasn’t the raging success I was hoping my solar panels would be ($787.48, an approximately 23% reduction in my bill). Since the BIG bill I had done some work to reduce my energy use. I reduced the use of my nasty heaters and even some nights did not use them at all in my sub-zero room (yes I am exaggerating somewhat). I also was careful about the use of my appliances during peak times (not really reducing my use, just reducing peak energy demand from my home) and was even more careful turning off lights. Therefore the reduction which I can now clearly see, was not as much of a reduction in my bill as I was hoping for. Now, I have been in my home for less than a year, so did not have good data behind me as to what my normal usage would have been like in the same time last year without my solar panels. I have not been able to do a ‘like for like’ comparison.
So it was with some trepidation that I opened the electricity bill the last quarter and what awaited me?
This means that I have reduced my energy bill by as much as 83%!
I nearly started to do a ‘happy dance’. So why is this bill so much lower? Many reasons, but here are some:
• Summer – longer days, more exposure of my panels to the sun’s rays;
• No longer using my energy sapping heaters; and
• More vigilance about my off peak use and more clever use during sunny ‘solar’ days. So for example I try not to run many appliances at once even when the sun is shining on my panels. I still use the energy saving mode on my dishwasher and washing machine during days when I know my solar panels would be producing plentiful energy.
My bills this time was the same as my sister’s and she works all day, lives in a small studio and she has no kids and is pretty careful with her energy use also. Whereas I am in a house, with three adults (my father lives in my granny flat and has electric heating and cooking) and two children.
It will be interesting now to see what my winter bill looks like, but before that I think I will go an buy more energy efficient heaters and more winter woolies.
Over the last few months, my vegetables have been like my children. They are my babies. Sometimes they bring me joy and sometimes frustrate me. I go out every day and check on them. How are they doing? do they have enough water? do they need more fertiliser? more garlic chili spray? I haven’t named them yet, but have been close! I doubt I am unique in this regard.
A few weeks ago some friends came over for ‘high tea’ at my place and where once these girlfriends and I may have talked about boys, men, sex, politics and philosophy, this time we talked about our children and our vegetable gardens. What we planted, what worked and what didn’t. How things have changed!
As the last post showed, I went bananas with my planting and have been going organic, hence no pesticides.
So what have been my successes?
Tomatoes – they are going really well – a little too well to be precise. I had planted the seeds and waited until they were seedlings before putting in the planter boxes. The problem is that the ballpoint pen I used rubbed off – so in the end I didn’t know exactly what I put in the planter box. All tomato seedlings looked the same to me, so I put them all in and now they are taking over the planter box, but they are doing really well. Lots and lots of cherry, Roma and normal tomatoes growing.
Squash – My little yellow squash are also growing fairly well.
Zucchini – My zucchini is going gangbusters – so much in fact that it is crowding out everything else. I didn’t know that Zucchini plants would grow so large.
Turnips – initially did okay, but now, not so much. Maybe it is too hot right now for them. I’ll try again soon.
The so so list:
Pumpkin, Okra, Cucumber, Lettuce, rocket – they are being eaten too rapidly by caterpillars…Chilies, and Capsicum.
The following crops have been an absolute failure!
Eggplant, Beetroot, carrots, shallots, onion, snow peas! I thought it would be really easy to grow snow peas, but they all shrivelled up and died 😦
Beans – I thoughts my beans would go great, but not so.
My herbs – total failure. No matter how many times I planted basil, they never took hold. Neither with the oregano, nor my parsley.
I have learnt a few lessons though which I will share:
Don’t plant everything under the sun. I tried to think in my head of all the vegetables that I eat and tried to plant those. It is too much and thus many of the seedlings never took hold.
Plant less quantities of seedlings. Because I lost track of what I did and did not have due to my bad disappearing pen incident, I planted too many seedlings. Now that I know how big some plants get, next year, I will only plant 2 zucchini plants and 2 tomato plants.
Cover my herbs with chicken wire. I am sure the culprits of my failure are the possums that frequent my house!
While I am disappointed with some of my crops, I am pretty excited to be eating from my garden and teaching my kids about where food comes from. Do you have any successes to share?
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a friend’s house for lunch as part of the Dinner Party Project. As some of the people attending were parents, rather than dinner, we arranged lunch (so much easier!). The aim of this lunch was to encourage people around Australia to engage in a dialogue about the issues that are important to us and to provide the powers at be, our ideas on how to make this country a better place (for more information on the Dinner Party Project, go to http://www.thedinnerparty.net.au/about).
The people who gathered at this lunch party were what one could say – left of the mainstream political spectrum. They were intelligent, passionate and great cooks.
As we enjoyed our vegetarian lunch, my friend started to ask questions to get the dialogue started. Firstly we were asked what our ideal society would look like. We responded similarly in saying that it would be a just society where the arts, culture, public healthcare and education were recognised. I added that safety was important, because if you don’t generally feel safe, then it’s hard to engage in society. Another guest added that they felt housing and the lack of affordability was important, so a ‘good society’ would have greater equity in housing.
As the conversation continued, it was apparent that we were all good at identifying problems. These problems ranged from a lack of appreciation for arts and culture, greater emphasis on ‘jobs’ at universities over theory, difficulties in getting real information in the age of information, disengagement from politics and politicians, cynicism at the world at large and the inability to ‘switch off’ from social media. Interestingly, the internet was seen a source of a lot of this evil, by demanding a 24 hour news cycle where we receive snippets of information and more and more sensationalist headlines to get our attention.
Something else that we as lefty, activist people identified was our exhaustion – we simply had no time. No time to get up and do something, no time to get the whole story and too tired to bother with much political engagement. As parents, our children take much of our attention and energy and rightly so. By night time we’re so tired, we’d rather watch something ‘light’, than a serious documentary or ‘depressing news’.
I think this is something that we were struggling with, well it is something that I struggle with. Have my ideals waned? have I become softer?
I am the child of parents who were activists. Even when I was a baby I was going to rallies with my parents who were protesting the Shah of Iran (in the US!) and I remember going to Iran at the time of the revolution. I grew up around politics. We Iranians love to talk politics and having lived through the Iran and Iraq war, there was a lot to talk about!
I remember before I was passionate and pissed off – at a lot of injustices in the world. My friends at school will remember me as the girl who wrote anti-war messages on paper and then sticky taped this to my school shirt (I think to my peers, I was a bit of a ‘weirdo’ at school). I went to rallies with my parents and continued this on until I was in my early 30’s. Stop the Jabiluka Uranium Mine, Stop deforestation, Anti-Nuclear War, Palm Sunday Peace Marches, Refugee rights, Anti-Iraq War…..
Now what? nothin! I see posters for rallies – marriage equality, refugees etc, but I’m no longer attending. I too am tired and after negotiating with my 4 year old all day, I prefer a good comedy over a serious ‘depressing’ film too.
So after this lunch, as I drove home, I thought to myself – what practical things can one do? I mean politicians probably realise the problems too, but it’s very hard to ‘fix’ things. I am a practical person, and these are the ideas I had to remain active, albeit in a different way. You never know, I might start attending rallies again too!
Pick your issue – there are a lot of terrible things going on in this world and it can get very overwhelming. Accept that you can’t fix it all, but pick something that you’re especially passionate about. For me that’s the environment.
Try and find local action groups that you can get involved with. Or just ones you want to be in contact with to see what events, if any they run. There is a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction in getting something done and seeing the fruits of your labour. I think that is where a lot of people get disconnected. They don’t SEE the impacts of their positive actions. I have found that there are so many people and groups through my local Council and community groups that are doing great things, and rather than going it alone and starting from scratch, I try to tap into these existing groups and resources.
Live your life in accordance to your ideals. This is a lot harder than it sounds. It means changing the way you live. Put your money where your mouth is. Don’t just advise or tell others the way it should be done – do it yourself first. If people see that, then they will follow your good example.
Break down the ‘big issue’ into bite size chunks, that way it won’t seem so overwhelming and impossible.
Accept your limitations – whether that is time, finances, whatever it is. You’re less likely to become disengaged if you realise that you only have so many hours or minutes that you can dedicate to your issue.
Share you ideas, ideals and information with your children, family friends and if able, the wider community.
Take care of your health. It is something that we take for granted when we’re healthy. Keep it that way.
Love life and remain positive. It’s very easy to get caught in a negative cycle, but think about the things you have been able to do.
So that’s my checklist. I’d love to hear from anyone with any more ideas and while most of this is not able to be forwarded to the politicians of the world, it is something that I can control in my life and that makes me feel good.