Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye tumble dryer....

Pavani Vijay Kaushik Copyright 2004

We have been hanging onto our tumble dryer “just in case” for about 2 years now. We never use it and it has been quite simply a dust catcher in the laundry. So after juggling it in our very small new laundry, I decided “what the heck, lets get rid of it”. So we have.

It frees up a lot more space in our laundry, and means we don’t have a huge electrical appliance collecting dust!! And when I saw the dust on it when we moved, it was really gross (it was wall mounted and covered in dust).

In addition to this we have also stopped using our dishwasher. The one that came with the new house surprise, surprise doesn’t work (none of the appliances that came with the house have). I’d been tossing up the idea of getting rid of our dishwasher at the last house, so this just forced the issue.

So far, so good ☺. It has meant that I need to be even more organised, due to the sheer amount of cooking from scratch that I do, but I’ve taken it in my stride (with the odd whinge here or there LOL). The worst thing I can say is that the extra mess annoys me, as there is simply not enough bench space in the kitchen for someone who likes to cook.

I'm also really keen to keep our water usage down, so have organised my dishes into two washes a day - 3 litres each time. So 6 litres a day. I cant wait for our next water bill to see if this makes a difference. We've brought it down so much its hard to make a dint now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Digging out the Garden

I have begun the initial back breaking work ;-) of digging out our front garden beds near the house. They are currently full of native grasses, lavender bushes, grevilleas, a diseased passionfruit vine and weeds. The soil is terrible as the previous owners used to dump all the ash, charcoal etc from their open fire here.

I’ve started by digging out all the native grasses. It’s great that they are drought tolerant but not the best choice since we live in a high fire risk area. So these grasses are like little bombs that would go off right next to the house during a fire or ember attack. I love the grevilleas though so they are there to stay!!

We also aim to move the bed back a bit as it sprawls into the driveway. Then I am planning on planting more drought tolerant plants including salvias, some more screening grevilleas and a new passionfruit vine ☺ Probably a banana passionfruit vine as I think they do better in our climate (cold-ish).

I’ve also been planning the rest of the front garden in detail. I’m a big believer that a grass lawn is a waste of space - "food not lawns!!". So the aim is to turn the front garden into a herbal / medicinal garden with some more fruit trees thrown in for good measure. The hardest thing I'll have to do is rip out a young gum (Mr B's ute is looking very handy here). We have enough gums around us and they just suck the life out out of the soil - and make too much potential fine fuels with dropped leaves.

I would also like to screen the front of the property from the road. My new neighbours are really keen on this also as screening the front of our property blocks a direct view into their entire backyard (and their kids playing) from the road. I’m also going to plant an orange or mandarin tree along the fence line for us to share ☺

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Toxic Plastic

We are well into ridding our kitchen from plastic. The more I read about plastic the more horrified I get. I could kick myself continually for all the early plastic stuff that Little B has been exposed too. I have also been surprised by how much food comes in plastic containers that are considered bad – why put sugar in #3 plastic?? Really why??.

I’m lucky Mr B is a coffee addict and I have a HUGE stash of ex-coffee jars to store my baking stuff in. I’ve also become more creative with stuff I currently have. An old round salad bowl has become my mixing bowl for cooking (till we can find what we want at the op shop). My salad bowls etc have become super handy right about now. So have all my old canisters that were for tea or empty.

I’ve repurposed most of my kitchen plastic to Mr B’s garage. There he is storing his screws, nails etc in funky new containers.

Also Little B starts kindy in a few weeks and must have a lunchbox he can open. We’ve invested in a stainless steel lunchbox (Lunchbot Duo) and he already has a stainless steel water bottle.

Next on my chuck out list (as $$ permit) are any of our saucepans with non stick coatings (we currently have half stainless steel, half non-stick), all plastic utensils (most have gone but the rest need replacing) and working on the last big stuff in our pantry like bread flour still in plastic. I’m on the look out for an old fashioned ceramic bread flour container.

I threw out all of our microwave plastic yesterday after learning even #5’s will leach into food when heated. I’m lucky I grew up in a household that used glass, ceramic and stainless steel mostly but I shudder for Little B. Hopefully its early enough to stop the damage we have been doing to his health (and our health for that matter).

Today I managed to pick up some gorgeous Japanese stoneware bowls and pots from the op shop that can be used to store and reheat food. I’ve decided to check in once a week with a couple of op shops that have great kitchen ware sections and hope to keep picking up what I need.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Garden Update

We are harvesting veggies every day now. Yum. But there are still some things that are growing but not fruiting yet. Our pumpkin vines and zucchini plants are growing well but we are still waiting for them to grow actual veggies.

We’ve also started preparing our winter garden beds so they will be nice and ready for planting over the next few months. Lots of good compost and manure blends. We have started loosely planning our what we want to plant, and when we will plant it.

We were a bit free and easy with planting this spring and we want to take a more organised approach with winter planting and spring planting this year. This will be our 3rd year growing our own veggies and it’s been a great learning curve. I'd like for our produce to be more staggered so we get veggies over a longer period.

There’s so many more plants that I want to have a go at growing - brussel sprouts, garlic, passionfruit - and the list goes on and on. I just can get over how much better veggies from heirloom seeds taste. Our salads are just the best ☺

Postscript - Dairy allergy

Well they say if something seems too good to be true, then its too good to be true. After a few days on straight cow milk, Little B started showing signs of intolerance. His behaviour was awful, he couldnt concentrate, became very hyper and oppositional and defiant.

So now we are trialling A2 milk. So far so good. Only on our 2nd day but he has settled back down to normal again. We have to keep plodding at the dairy as his diet is restricted in so many other ways.

Oh well, onward and upwards...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Home-made #1

With this lovely wet weather, we are revelling in our home-made food today:

Breakfast - Home-made bread with jam

Lunch - Salad (with lettuce, cucumber, sugar snap peas and carrots from the garden)

Snack - Freshly made Cherry & Oat Muffins

Dinner - Yummy Chicken Noodle Soup with hand-made rolls
Dessert - Custard with preserves

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bam and the dairy allergy is gone.

(Pic courtesy of

You know if you told me when we first found out about Little B‘s allergies that one day he would outgrow one of them, I quite frankly wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, even 6 months ago I wouldn’t have believed you. But finally, Little B has outgrown one of his allergies.

It seems that the dairy allergy has bitten the dust. And I am so grateful. The last 12 months especially it has felt like he would NEVER outgrow anything or even that his reactions would never minimise in anyway. It has seemed like every food challenge was doomed to failure (and fail they did, time and time again).

So yay and time for the happy dance LOL. Mind you, we’ve only experimented with cow milk (but so far so good) and its been a long 2 week trial of that. What’s exciting is we now have another food option to offer in the narrow realm of food that Little B can eat.

The food trial continues over the next few weeks as we slowly introduce a few white mild cheeses. We will be avoiding yoghurt etc for at least another 6 months as Little B has always had an extremely strong reaction to both this and yellow cheeses.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Root Cellar

After reading the Maple Farm blog for the last few months and looking at their gorgeous pics, I’m inspired to start a root cellar of sorts. While we don’t have a cellar per se, what we do have is solid brick foundations and a room that has brick walls and a cement slab ceiling.

So I decided as the start of my “root cellar”, I am going to keep part of my stockpile down here. It has been really hot in recent days, enough to melt the chocolate in my pantry (blasphemy I hear you say LOL). But the room under the house is nice and cool every day. So it seems logical to store things down there that might spoil – chocolate, uht milk etc.

I hope once my veggie garden is up and running at the new House of B, that I will be able to store canning and preserves down there as well. And it’s turned out to be a great place to store our wine too ☺

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Frugalista Queen

I’m a member of Simple Savings and can heartily recommend it as a supportive forum full of ideas on how to save $$$. I’m currently participating in a few challenges on there but namely the “Under $100 club” which involves spending no more than $100 per week on food.

We’ve taken it even lower and are doing the challenge as feeding 2 adults, 1 child and 2 cats for $50 per week (excluding prescription medication). I want to see if we can rein in our food costs without really compromising on what we eat.

This might sound daunting but it’s actually really uplifting and supportive on the forum and has also made us very creative. We run a stockpile so we are dipping in and out of that (as well as stocking it) but also because we make everything from scratch this isn’t that hard. In my mind it’s a lifestyle choice - living simply, making do with what we have and making from scratch.

Another thread “How low can you go?” has been even more inspiring. And topical considering yesterdays article in The Age about food wastage in Australia. This thread is a mini blog about one lady who uses everything up, forages, only buys what she needs and is immensely happy.

I found a few tips from here to apply to our life and to me that’s the benefits of Simple Savings and why I’ve been a member for 4 years. Even if I learn one new thing, its one thing I didn’t know before. And I love sharing ideas and knowledge with like minded people. Its why I love Aussies Living Simply as well.

So keeping the costs down, the home-made food up, utilising our veggie garden produce – sounds good to me ☺

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ecomaster Part 2

Well we had our Ecomaster assessment two days after moving into the new House of B and the results have been interesting. On moving in, one of the first things we noticed is that new house is surprisingly cool on very hot days. It’s a good 12 degrees cooler on the inside (which I very much appreciated when it hit 39 degrees one day after moving in). We assumed (incorrectly) that this must mean the house did have some form of insulation.

But the Ecomaster assessment has shown us that the house has neither roof nor underfloor insulation. It also has no wall insulation, so it will be a nightmare during winter, and we will have to get cracking on fixing some of the problems. We’ve had a few cool nights here so far and it’s absolutely freezing!! Drawback also is the ducted heating doesn’t come on/work until its about 9 degrees in the house….brrrr….I have become very friendly with our warm snugly blankets we keep on our lounges just for that purpose.

It’s also quite a draughty house (though not to feel). Due to our window frames, the windows have an R0 rating (cant get much worse than that LOL). We also have a few draughty exhaust fans in bathroom and kitchen that let in heaps of heat and cold.

Finally, our fabulous skylights let in too much heat (and will obviously let in the cold during winter). These are the first things we are going to fix. Using Rennshade should make a big difference but we will hopefully only lose approx 20% of the light. I love the fact that I don’t have to turn on any lights here until about 9pm.

All in all it was great to get such a detailed assessment on moving into a new house. It has let us think about which areas we want to tackle first and those that will have the greatest impact on making the house sustainable.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oikos Paint

Moving to the new house inevitably meant painting. As delightful as poo brown walls are to some people, it’s just not my thing ;-) We had used some eco-friendly paint before but weren’t impressed with the durability of the end result. I’d also heard some not so positive reviews on Bio Paints and the ability to DIY with them. And finally, I am also particular enough that I didn’t want just white walls throughout the house.

So during the research process, I came across Oikos paints. I found a store in Melbourne that only sell non-toxic paints and have the most incredible customer service. The other thing that amazed me, is that on visiting their shop front, it didn’t smell of anything. They were mixing these paints just off main reception and there was quite simply no smell …zip, zero, nada!! And bonus points for being able to colour match any paint colour from Dulux, Wattyl etc.

So how did we go with the DIY paint job?? In one word……disaster. These paints that started with such promise, were horrible to use. The paint itself was thick and gluggy and hard to mix. Upon painting they left little spots of darker tint all over the walls. And worst of all, I ended up with a badly blocked nose, really sore throat and a cough during the morning that I was painting the bathroom with these paints.

So that same day, we conceded defeat and went out and bought low VOC Wattyl paint. So now the living area and bathroom are newly painted, don’t smell and feel more like home.

Am I disappointed we didn’t use a more non-toxic paint? You bet I am. I console myself with the thought that Wattyl paints meet the environmental choice standard in Australia and are low VOC. And I will keep my eyes open and hope something else works better for us in the future.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Years Goals

In the spirit of Kelly at Taurus Rising, I’ve decided to put down some goals / aims / aspirations for 2010. One to have them in writing and two for some accountability ☺

So in 2010, I would like to:
• work harder at reducing our plastic waste
• extend our vegie gardens and plant more fruit trees
• to reduce our electricity usage even further (11kwh and counting)
• to have our toilet and washing machine plumbed into the water tanks
• to develop my knitting skills
• to stress less and relax more
• to socialise more with our friends, and to entertain more at our home
• to go on our first serious holiday with Little B

My key words for 2010 (as per Eileen at Consumption Rebellion) will be “Relax” and “Surrender”. My aim is to reduce my stress levels and to surrender to the natural ebbs and flows in life rather than try to control them at my own peril ☺

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Little B's party

I am so proud at how Little B’s party came up. The blue and yellow lanterns were gorgeous and the bunting looked great as well.

We all had a great time, though Little B thinks he should be able to have a party every week, if not every day. Social butterfly in the making ☺

And as for our allergy friendly dinosaur cookies designated for the party bags?? Yummmmmmm is all I can say. Mr B polished off any bits left over that the rest of us hadn’t already eaten first LOL.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I feel guilty!! ☹

I know as mothers we seem to embrace the concept of guilt quite wholeheartedly but I am feeling decidedly guilty at the moment. We try to live as sustainable and tread as lightly on the environment as we can – at home, at work, and at heart. Mr B & I run our own business based in the solar industry, we are ethical, support fair trade etc, so I hate it when I feel like the world is forcing us to do things we don’t want to.

I feel guilty that we moved Little B into a toxic house.

I feel guilty that we can’t change this house as quickly as we would like to remove all the toxins and make it healthy.

I feel guilty that doctors are now recommending we return to a chemical laden washing powder for Mr B (due to skin irritations that need to be kept clean). Our current eco washing powder is not doing enough, and neither is tea tree oil in the wash. And this is where I feel doubly guilty: 1) to go back to chemicals and 2) because my eco attitude to cleaning etc isn’t working in this instance.

What can I say, I am a sad strange little woman but I feel so guilty to go against my principles about how we choose and how we want to live our lives!!


I think salicylates are a poorly understood intolerance. Basically these are foods that have naturally occurring aspirin in them. The higher the salicylate the worse the reaction.

In Little B’s case, he becomes hyper (like he’s on speed), aggressive, doesn’t listen to anybody, loses language, and is more inclined to miss getting to the toilet in time (even though he has been toilet trained since he was 27 months). I truly believe he would have been diagnosed with ADHD if we hadn’t picked up on his intolerance so early on in life.

Little B used to wake up to 15 times a night, every night for the first year of his life. This was almost completely the result of salicylates. Unbeknownst to us we had been feeding him high sals food for most of his life. All the foods that are encouraged as first foods were the culprits (apple, avocado, corn, pumpkin) plus I was passing these foods through my breastmilk. By removing apple and avocado alone from his diet, we reduced his night waking from 15 times to 4 times a night in one week.

Then the challenge was on – the best guides were Sue Dengate and the Friendly Food cookbook by the RPA. The Friendly Food cookbook has a list of foods at the beginning divided into low, mod, high and really high. We avoid all high and really high sals foods, and ration out the mods, the low ones are part of his daily diet.

Unfortunately sals are even in things like vegemite, most fruit and vegies, olive oil and I could go on. I am happy to say we don’t regret removing these foods one bit. Little B is an absolute delight most of the time (other than the normal 3 year old habits) - he is a quiet, caring, happy child.

People often comment on how “hard” our life must be with a child who has multiple food allergies and intolerances. Or how “hard” it must be for me to watch his diet so carefully and to have to bake and cook almost everything from scratch.

Quite frankly, I would rather live with the food limitations and have a gorgeous happy child than go back to an out of control child who rarely slept but had a more varied diet. Now that was hard!!