Our sea-change.. Or was it tree-change?

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A year ago we moved across our great big continent. A distance of nearly 4,000 kilometres.

A year ago we uprooted our lives and took a chance.  We moved away from the big cities and into a more regional area.  Today we pinch ourselves as to where our lives are now.

We’ve only just realised that we have made both a sea-change and a tree-change and we couldn’t be happier..

Life is simple.

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Watching our child grow up miles from the craziness of our modern day cities makes us smile.  We have playdates on the beach.  We bush walk.  We climb trees.  We garden.  We play in the mud.  We jump in muddy puddles.  We check the surf with dad.  We watch native animals and birds in our backyard.  We are growing our own vegetables.  We make bread from scratch.

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When I return from working in the city to our little life, I feel myself begin to breathe..

The space.  The stars.  The trees.  The silence.  So long traffic….

Honey, I’m home.

x

 

A momentary lapse of judgement

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Life is so easy once your home and life are green and toxic free. You almost get lulled into false hope believing that the rest of the world live in the same little bubble you do. What goes in and out of your home is so routine now. You know the trusted brands and ingredients. You have your skin care sorted. Your kitchen sorted. Your laundry sorted. Your food sorted. Life is good.

That was until I suffered a momentary lapse of judgement. It only took a second.

In preparation to selling our home, we decided it needed a repaint. I discussed low and no VOC paints with the painter. We used low VOC paints in our previous home that I painted entirely myself and they were lovely. This time with Mr one-year-old-and-a-bit, I don’t have the opportunity to paint myself. It’d take me years! Mr painter assured me that paints these days are all pretty good and in my momentary lapse of judgement I didn’t follow up my usual research.

Which leads me to now.. My entire family sleeping to the fumes of what smells like seriously toxic paint!!! How could I be so stupid as to have let this into my home!!!!

They say that new paint can emit hideous levels of VOC’s and half of them in the first year!! Yikes!! And are allergy, asthma and cancer causing little nasties!!! So now I’m on a mission to absorb as many of these hideous little bastards that I can!

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have made this mistake so I thought I’d share with you the solutions I have found so far…

1. Onions
Apparently cut onions are wonderful absorbers of toxic smells. I’m not sure the onion smell is going to be all that lovely either but this is the first thing I plan to do this morning. I have read that if you dice two onions to a room, spread them widely on a plate and leave them to dry for a few days they will reduce the smell and the VOC’s considerably.

2. Fresh air
Well this is a given really! Open windows. Doors. Whatever you can open, open it!! Fresh air is amazing!!

3. Indoor plants
I’m not a lover of indoor plants as I am a firm believer that a beautiful garden and open windows is the bomb but I’m willing to change my judgement for a while… Potted gerberas are apparently really good for removing toxins so I’m willing to work with that…

4. Essential oils
I didn’t realise but burning essential oils can rid indoor air of toxins and petrochemicals! Nice!!

5. Charcoal
I don’t have research to support this one but I have a cupboard full of fabulous charcoal that is a wonderful electromagnetical absorber so I’m sure it’ll work nicely on the VOCs. It’ll be filling every room of my room just nicely!

Fingers crossed these work.

xx

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Our Homegrown Tomatoes…

Tomatoes.  So easy to grow. So rewarding to grow. So fun to grow…roma_tomato_6-20-12

We are picking close to ten tomatoes every few days off the three vines we have planted in our garden.  Such a bountiful crop!  Traditionally considered a fruit, tomatoes are packed full of Vitamin C, vitamin A and Lycopene.  Lycopene is not an essential antioxidant required in the human diet but it is non-toxic and has been linked as a potential fighter in the prevention of certain cancers in the human body.  Tomatoes also help the body in fighting our harsh Australian UV rays.

Here’s a little fact.  Tomatoes have four chambers within them.  And so do our hearts.  Funny that, as it must be nature’s way of letting us know how good eating tomatoes is for the health of our hearts!P1010415

We grow Roma Tomatoes as both my family and myself are susceptible to salicylates.  Roma tomatoes contain the lowest levels of salicylates of all tomatoes.  Almost all foods contain some form of salicylate.  It’s a substance that acts as a natural preservative and insecticide.

What better way to celebrate your beautiful home-grown tomatoes than with them taking pride and place on top of your own home-made pizzas!

P1010422I will share with you soon my husband’s fabulous gluten-free pizza dough.  He is a fabulous home-taught breadmaker and his doughs, pastry and breads are divine!

xx

Happy New Year!!

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As this new day dawns full of energy and life, the world is full of new beginnings.  Those fireworks signal the start of a new year. The remnants of Christmas very quickly disappear.  Another year down and regular life begins again.

Time to make time.  For you.  For your family.  For your lover.  For your life.  For life itself…

I hope your Christmas break has been truly special and I wish you and your family a wonderfully successful 2013 where dreams really do come true!

So long Christmas…….

The “living” Christmas tree has been beautiful…..  But it seems like a lot of effort for just a few weeks of Christmas cheer.  And what do you do with the (now dying) living Christmas tree?

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They are renewable; they absorb carbon dioxide and they create oxygen. So why not recycle?  Right……HOW?

SYDNEY: Every Wednesday between the 29th of Dec and the 19th Jan, the Sydney City Council is offering a free pick up of pine-Christmas trees. Once collected, these trees will be composted.

MELBOURNE: Melbournians check with your local councils.

ADELAIDE: In Adelaide there is no pick-up service but nurseries should accept used trees.

DARWIN: Take your tree down to the Shoal Bay Waste Disposal Site and there the trees will be disposed of correctly.

Unfortunately in CANBERRA, PERTH, HOBART and BRISBANE, there are no recycling programs at this time. Never fear though…

If you need help recycling yourself why not borrow a mulcher off your neighbour and make some compost of your own?  Or if you have a pond or dam?  Tossing in your Christmas tree actually helps the fish by providing shelter and nutrients.

As far as live and artificial Christmas trees compare; the pine trees are much better for the environment…  And by turning your pine tree into compost you are preventing methane from entering the atmosphere.

Next year, I have found an even better idea!  I will be going for an “ECO CHRISTMAS TREE.”  Finally an Aussie company that is renting out real, “living,” potted Christmas trees, 1.8m high, for the same price as a cut pine.  After Christmas they go on to plant your tree in a plantation.  Now THAT is a fabulous idea!

Let’s make 2013 the year of sustainability, health, tree hugging and banning everything toxic in our homes wherever we live. Cheers to the future! x

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DIY: Make your own eco Christmas Wreath

I returned home a few days ago from a six week work trip.  Never before have I been soooo excited to get home and start Christmas!

Obviously after arriving home from so long away, there are endless jobs awaiting their catch up…. One of them was my overgrown garden.  After giving my rosemary bush a rather large prune, I was looking at the pile of beautiful cuttings thinking how sad it would be to have to throw all this fresh rosemary away.  That’s when I had a wonderful idea!  Make my very own Christmas Wreath!

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Firstly I started bunching the rosemary so it all ran the same way.  I staggered it a little so neither the stems or the tips are aligned.  Once it had reached my desired thickness, I wrapped a fine piece of wire around the bunch.  I secured it by twisting with pliers before tucking the ends into the bunch.  Once this was secured, I adedd more rosemary to one end of the bunch following the original principle or letting neither the stems or the tips align.  I secured it again with more wire about 10 cm along from the first piece of wire.  I continued these steps until my bunch was the required length to form the circle of my wreath.  Then I wrapped it in a circle and secured with my hand.  I tucked the stems and tips into each other to join.  Using some small cutoffs, I added around the outside of the bunch to hide the tucked in stems and tips.  Then I secured the last piece of wire around where I was holding the wreath together.  All that was left to do then was to decorate!

I chose to decorate mine with a simple red and white gingham ribbon.  You could use flowers, holly, pine cones, Christmas ornaments, raffia, hessian or what ever your heart desires.

Other beautiful ideas for a Christmas wreath would be to make it out of lavender, daisies, roses or any fragrant herb you desire.

A beautiful way to enjoy the wonderful scents of your garden whilst celebrating this special Yuletide season…

xx

 

Uashmama – A paper bag you can wash

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UASHMAMA

A paper bag with the texture of leather.  A paper bag you can wash.  A paper bag with a life span of a leather bag.  Made in Italy with virgin fibre from cultivation not deforestation, Uashmama bags are DIVINE!!!  I just stumbled across them in Harvest Deli in Newrybar yesterday and already I am in “lurve” with mine!!

To wash, just handwash in 50 degree water with a little handsoap or detergent and dry flat.  They come in brown, black, white and grey.  For everyday use or so special you can use them in homeware displays. Use for lunch, your grocery shopping, in your laundry, as a vase or planter, or a rubbish bin… The uses are endless!!!

They have even released special gold and silver Christmas designs that are made to weather and look like alfoil.  These look amazing!!!

Made in 5 different sizes these bags are ready for every use you can imagine.

This Lucca based family run business even make gorgeous shoulder bags, aprons, paper light shades, and totes.

You can find Australian stockists here http://www.objettrouve.com.au/Stockists.aspx

Yay for Uashmama!!!

xx

A natural fly eliminator..

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I say eliminator cos it does exactly that.  Eliminate flies from your home without killing one single one!!

Well…that’s what they say.

We had a call today to tell us that our rental house is currently suffering a fly problem and asking when was the last time the house was pest treated.  How do you answer that question and say that the house has not been commercially treated in seven years?

How do you suggest that the tenant wash floors with a few drops of citronella in the water?  Or hang sticky paper up on windows?  Or put white pepper along doorsills to repel ants?

The next minute I found myself on Google…

I found THE most amazing fly deterrent that I will be testing out tomorrow to see if it works.  By all accounts, apparently it does.  And fantastically at that!

  • Step One:

Grab yourself a ziplock bag.  Fill it with water. Add four coins (from my research, they suggest pennies but I will be trying the good ol’ Aussie 5 cent coin tomorrow.)

  • Step Two:

Seal the bag and hang inside or outside your home.

That’s it….

Apparently it works by reflection.  As flies have so many eyes, the theory is that the water acts as one enormous disco ball and as flies are prey to insects, the flies don’t stay around long .

I’ll let you know how I go tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!  The flies here in Perth are so sticky and impatient, so if it works here I reckon it’ll work anywhere!!

xx

Growing veges in a small garden

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My husband and I are currently renting.  We have a small vege patch that we have created in two small gardens that once had dead plants, with the garden beds covered in grass.  We also have a few pots that we bought off Gumtree.

Our vege patch totals about 2 square metres.  It’s only small but high yielding.

By cultivating the soil and making it the best we can, we have a patch of land that make us sooo proud!  We have cos lettuce, rocket, baby spinach, beetroot, endive, celery, roma tomatoes, carrots, leeks, snow peas, peas, shallots, garlic, blueberries and chilli.  Our herbs consist of parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, mint, coriander, vietnamese mint and chocolate mint. And to top it off, we have a lemon tree, lime tree and the garden is filled with rosemary, lavender, daisies and roses.

We share this garden with snails, caterpillars, aphids, their nemesis lady beetles, two cats and many birds.  It doesn’t worry us though when our crop is shared as we plant by the seasons using permaculture and figure that, as in nature, only the strongest will survive.  We don’t go without and neither do they!

Who cares if there’s a couple of holes in a spinach leaf?

That is nature.

xx

PS you may also appreciate my blog about DIY healthy soil.  You can find it at https://livinggreeninamodernworld.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/healthy-soil-diy-as-easy-as-123/

DIY The Eco Laundry

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Washing and ironing.

They are jobs that are never done.

How is it that you can finally hear the last load of washing for the day churning on its spin cycle only to turn around and see some MORE dirty clothes that have magically appeared!!?

Well, considering we spend almost 24 hours a day wrapped in our clothing, it seems only understandable that we choose a natural, healthy product to wash our clothes in.  There are many great products out there on the market that are worthy of doing the job extremely well but are unfortunately not able to keep up with the marketing of the global super brands.  All products do the same thing.  It’s what else they do that counts!

I have some washing balls that I use in my delicate washes.  These balls work without chemicals.  They require nothing but the water in the machine.  They are anti bacterial and hypo allergenic.  They work by ionising the water, which in turn pulls out the dirt.  They are not miracle workers and are surrounded by a lot of controversy, but I like them for my delicate clothes.  The one I have has ceramic balls inside.  I used ceramic balls around the filter in our outdoor pond and had great success with the length of time before I needed to clean the filter.  And the fish were very happy.  I’m sure they were smiling 🙂

My husband is a very keen exerciser.  Whether it’s a run, cycling, kayaking, surfing or swimming, there are forever stinky clothes in our washing basket.  For these clothes I do trust the experts.  And I also add a swig of eucalyptus oil.   I am currently using laundry liquid made by NZ company, Eco Store.  It used to be hard to get but with Eco Store now being stocked by Woolworths here in Australia, well… it is just too easy to be green.  Being plant and mineral based with no toxic petrochemicals, phosphates, enzymes, brighteners, dyes or perfumes, Eco Store products are GE free and PETA cruelty free.  And they label every ingredient!

Then there is the other option, making your own laundry products.  Below are some fabulous recipes for some AWESOME old favourites!

HOMEMADE LAUNDRY LIQUID

  • 1 1/2 litres water
  • 1 cup grated soap (Try Eco Store’s soaps too! Fabulous!)
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup borax (Can be omitted or replaced with baking soda as it can be toxic.  Please spot test on your family.  Used to make whites whiter.)

In a saucepan heat water and soap over medium heat.  Stir until dissolved.  Add washing soda and borax.  (Note: if using baking soda make sure you mix well as the baking soda can sometimes clump on your clothes.)

LAUNDRY POWDER

  •  2 cups grated laundry soap
  • 1 cup washing soda

Mix.  That’s it!

I also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into the fabric softener compartment in the washing machine to give a bit of a disinfect and a fresh smell.

FABRIC SOFTENER

Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse.  The smell will dissipate once the clothes are dry.

I don’t iron.  My husband does.  I am LUCKY!!!

LAVENDER IRONING WATER

1 cup demineralised water

25 ml vodka (90% proof)

15 drops lavender oil (or you could try rosemary or rose)

Add essential oil and vodka to a sterilised bottle.  Stir well and leave for 24 hours.  Add water and put into a spray bottle.  Mist your clothes as you iron for a lovely smell.

Yum!!

xx

DIY The clean and healthy kitchen

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We all know the chemical cocktail that goes into our cleaning products around the home.   The vast majority of us don’t even know what we are exposing ourselves to.  From asthma to skin allergies and health troubles, a great many of these products are slowly killing us!  It seems quite ironic when cleanliness is meant to be good for our health.

Here are a few simple old fashioned recipes to make your very own -healthier- kitchen cleaners.

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER – for floors, walls, bench tops and sinks

  • 1/2 cup of washing soda
  • 2 litres of warm water

Mix together and store sealed.  You can add a few drops of lavender oil or eucalyptus oil to your mix if you are after that CLEAN smell.

STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER – good on a buffed steel finish

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 bucket warm water

Mix. Using a rag, apply to surface and then wipe dry. To a clean cloth, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil and wipe off streaks.

ALL PURPOSE SCRUB

  • 1/2 cup baking soda

Add enough dishwashing liquid to form a paste.  Using a sponge, scrub.  Great for shower and bath.  Make as you need.

WINDOW CLEANER

1/2 cup vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cup hot water

Mix and add to a spray bottle. Rub into windows with newspaper.  In summer, also add lavender, lemongrass or citronella oil to deter flies.

For a nice smelling vapouring mix to rid the kitchen of left-over smells…

  • 2 pods vanilla
  • 2-3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cloves

Crush all ingredients in a mortar and pestle or if you are lazy like me, a food processor.  Tip into a heavy bottomed frypan and slowly heat until spices start to smoke.  Your smells will be gone and the kitchen will smell gorgeous!

And one tip, don’t use lemon juice or vinegar on your beautiful stone topped benches.  Always test the cleaners in an inconspicuous place before using…
As for dishwashing liquid, I don’t believe you can make a quality one.  I use Ecostore Dishwashing Liquid.  A NZ company dedicated to changing the products we use in our homes.  It is much safer on the environment and does a fabulous job with your dishes!!  You can find it at Woolies here in Australia.

In my next post we will look at healthier homemade laundry powder and liquid.
xx

Healthy soil DIY… As easy as 1,2,3!!

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There is nothing more satisfying than picking your own home-grown fruit and vegetables or filling your home with beautiful home-grown flowers.  Achieving this in any sized garden is so much easier than most people imagine.  Gardening is not a big chore if it is tended to regularly and with love.  It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3!

Whether you are planting your garden on one acre, in a few pots in your courtyard or on your apartment balcony the principles are the same.  The only difference is the space you have.  Obviously, in a smaller space you will need to farm intensively and feed your soil more regularly.

The most important ingredient in successful gardening and vegetable growing is the quality of your soil.  Good soil is the foundation for a successful garden.  The time you give to your soil in the early stages saves so much time and heartache later.  Organic gardeners know that the key to a successful garden is not feeding the plants but the soil itself.  Think of a rainforest and then think of the underlayer of composting material.  Healthy soil is brimming with life.

So you have your soil.  What else do you need that is just as important?

  • Organic compost

Organic Compost comes in the form of chook poo, manure, worm castings, broken down vegetables and plants.  Artificial fertilisers may feed your plants quickly now but they strip the soil of nutrients depleting its quality in the long run.  Always go natural.  Dig it under the soil if the smell gets to you.  As for me, I LOVE the smell of chook poo as I know how fabulously it is feeding my garden!!  It makes me feel good!!

  • Seaweed and if required, soil conditioners

Healthy soil holds water longer and provides conditions that the plants are better able to survive without water for longer.  The best vitamin fix you can give your plants is the occasional spraying with seaweed topical sprays and worm juice sprays.  So easy to use they are like lathering ourselves in moisturiser.  Your plants will LOVE it!!  Soil conditioners are used if there is a PH imbalance in your soil.

  • Mulch

Mulch suppresses weeds, feeds the soil with nitrogen and important bacteria and fungi, reduces erosion and protects your soil by keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  Mulch encourages worms, that in turn aerate the soil and provide nutritious worm castings.  I find it best to alternate between soft mulches and hard mulches.  Soft mulch like sugarcane breaks down and feeds the soil.  Hard mulches like tea-tree and coconut husk provide important fungi and bacteria. If you want to decorate your pots with stones make sure you mulch beneath them.  Stones etc may look good but they provide nothing to the soil.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!!!

Now you are ready to plant your veges and sit back and reap the rewards of your efforts!!

xx

The Backyard Gardener

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Okay my fellow animalarians (yes, it’s my word and I am taking it global!), I am on a mission to return us all to a society that finds chooks in backyards across our cities!!!

As well as the obvious eggs, chooks are weeders, pest control, fertiliser and lawn grub eaters.  They make fabulous pets to boot with every chicken having such independant personalities!  Your garden and your health will thank you.  So too will the kids!  Not to mention, the hundreds of thousands of battery chickens that exist for one year only inside a farm and never given the chance to ever do what is instinctively natural for a chicken, to scratch in the dirt and feel sunshine on their gorgeous little backs.  Yes I am a chicken lover.  I was converted after seeing the Jamie Oliver special on the chicken industry.  How wrong our intensive farming principles are!!!  Two of my four “girls” are ex battery hens and I would never believed it if I didn’t see it but the first thing they did after spending their entire 18 month long lives in a cage was instinctively scratch when they first touched soil.  I nearly cried!!

As we have recently moved to Perth from Brisbane and are now renting, I sadly had to leave my beloved “girls” in the loving hands of a friend.   Somehow, landlords just don’t seem to understand my cause!!   I dream of the day that we purchase a home and I can return to a life surrounded by “girls.”  I now have to buy my eggs which I hate, but through my local farmers market, I have chosen a specific farm and know that although I can’t assure their chickens of their lives after egg laying, that my eggs have come from happy chickens in paddocks in the sunshine.

And yes, my husband now calls me a “crazy chicken lady” but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Neither would he!

xx