Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Canoe Trip to Herring Island

On the weekend, as part of Little B’s advent calendar we took a canoe trip down the Yarra River to Herring Island.

There were so many things and people to see as we canoed along. I loved looking at all the old boat houses, and cactus walls. Little B loved all the baby ducklings and saying hello to everyone we “met”.

Sometimes, you need to just lie down for a little rest (hmmm mainly I would think only if you actually did the paddling rather than socialising LOL).

Originally created with silt dredged from the river, Herring Island passed through many hands (including the Scouts) until it became part of Parks Victoria in 1994, and is now an Environmental Sculpture Park. It’s also the home of a Summer Arts festival from January to April each year.

After a picnic lunch from our trusty esky, we did a walk around the island and checked out all the sculptures. Little B loved the “giant pinecone” and a falling fence to nowhere :-)

We’ve found a good travelling picnic lunch for canoeing is tombolas for Mr B and Little B and a sandwich for me, some fruit and a nutrient dense home-made slice or biscuit. Mr B’s current fave is bring along some home-made ginger beer (since he’s the muscles in our paddling).

On a side note, Mr B and I could not get over how dirty the Yarra River was. We canoed it a looong time ago (about 7 years ago) and it was dirty then but the level of pollution in it and the smell was disgusting. It dismayed us both over how much rubbish was floating in there. We always pick up rubbish from wherever we canoe following the Take 3 Clean Beach Principle (though in our case it is generally lakes and rivers). Little B does it naturally now though he is still saddened and doesnt understand why people leave it there in the first place.

Neither do I love, neither do I. All we can do is make the best difference we can. I wish more people did it though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Calendar 2012

Two years ago, with Granny B’s help I made a fabric advent calendar for Little B. Mainly to help him track the time until Christmas (and his birthday which is not long after) and not only was it fun to make but an absolute hit with Little B. It’s always been part home-made, part craft, part cooking and part experiences.

And it's these things the he remembers and talks about when thinking about Christmas. Inadvertently these have now become family traditions :-)

But this year I’ve taken a leaf (excuse the pun) out of Tricia’s book over at Little Eco Footprints and made a leaf advent calendar. For three reasons, 1) it takes up minimal space, 2) I like the notion of using things we have in the yard and 3) Little B was very attracted to the novelty of the whole thing. Our normal advent calendar has just stayed packed away and we will probably use it again next year.

But as with all traditions, my little boy has gotten bigger and some activities have lost their gloss.

So this our list for this year (taking into account one very science-y, outdoor, active type of boy – read less cooking):

1. His Christmas Book (we started this from his 1st year)
2. Decorate the tree
3. Paint with Feathers
6. Draw on the trampoline
8. A canoe trip up the Yarra River
9. See the Myer Christmas Windows
10. Put a gift under our local charity tree
11. Make your own bath paints
12. Make a snowglobe (for presents)
14. Paint with Mud
15. Climb a tree
16. Camp overnight in the backyard (in our trampoline tent)
17. Paint rock monsters and setting some free
20. Make some seed bombs
21. Make a gingerbread house
22. Go for bike-ride along part of the Warburton Rail Trail
24. Sprinkle reindeer food and put out milk for Santa

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Slow Living Diary November 2012

Once again, I am joining in with Christine from Slow Living Essentials for a monthly reflection of slow living…

NOURISH: I spent a weekend cooking all the snacks that Little B would need for kindy until the end of the year and froze them. Now I just get out what we need the night before and it’s defrosted in time for his lunch. I’ve also bulk cooked a few meals, so that on really busy or hot nights we can grab something and heat it up in the microwave.

PREPARE: I finished off as much of our Christmas presents as possible. I made a batch of strawberry jam to give as gifts to give to teachers, Little B’s physiotherapist and OT, and some neighbours.

Those I didn’t make, I bought from Etsy and MadeIt. I’ve also been adding to our stockpile so I don’t have to go to the shops as much during the Christmas period (I hate crowds!!).

REDUCE: Repurposed a whole bunch of star pickets and old bamboo to support my tomato plants. The one benefit I guess of a buying a house with a crazy wild backyard (it was FULL of star pickets just stuck in the ground in any old place). Used up all Granny B’s old stocking socks on tying up said tomato plants as well.
GREEN: Nothing new to report here, just moseying along with all our current green living choices.

GROW: It’s all going on in the garden at the moment – lots and lots of zucchinis, the almond tree is full and our apples look beautiful. Our tomato plants have baby tomatoes, the bean seedlings are shooting up, our potatoes are flowering and our pumpkins are trying to take over the world :-)

CREATE:  This month I made another teepee as a gift (pics to come), bunting for Christmas and a scarf for family overseas. I also made our Christmas wreath out of sticks in the backyard and crocheted a few Christmas decorations for our tree.

DISCOVER:   I’ve jumped back into reading again this month. I enjoyed Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson for it’s preserving section. I’m looking forward to making semi dried tomatoes (we are growing one kind of tomato specifically for this), hot zucchini relish and blood plum jam. I’ve also read In the Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I originally read an abridged copy of this but it was good to read it all in total.

For fun, I read Love Anthony by Lisa Genova (it brought tears to my eyes), and roared through The Twelve by Juston Cronin (fantastic reading – I literally almost couldn’t put it down and probably wouldnt have, if I didnt have to do annoying things like cook, sleep, look after my family ;-).

ENHANCE: Aah its coming to end of the kinder year – I’ve helped at AGM’s, and strategy meetings. Mr B and I put up signs at the kinder to help get rid of some unsavoury people boozing away the evenings in a preschool’s car park – noice!!.

ENJOY: This month we enjoyed a holiday break at Phillip Island. It was great to take some time out and away and just switch off from it all – no phones, no computers – just sun, sand and exploration before Mr B had to go away overseas for work for a week or so.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Wreath

This year will be our first Christmas in our new house as well as our first Christmas with our own Christmassy things. After losing everything from the old house, we celebrated the last two Christmases at Granny B’s and decorated/celebrated with things we either made or decorations Granny B already owned.

Luckily for us, last year we were gifted a handful of decorations from family members. These things were given with our green beliefs in mind (one of these angels, and some handmade gnomes on reindeer). But this year I wanted a wreath to hang on the door.

In an old (2008) Burke’s Backyard magazine, I found a simple how to guide to making your own wreath. Then I spent 20 minutes picking up a variety of sticks from our backyard before sitting down with an old coat hanger and a hot glue gun. And voila, we have our own Christmas wreath to hang on the door.

I love the front cover of Country Style magazine at the moment with their feather wreath (not the bird though), so we think we may weave a few feathers from Little B’s nature collection into our wreath before we hang it up. I also want to cover the hanger in white wool, so it blends in a bit more with our white door.

And what has surprised me is that I really feel a unexplainable happiness that I made this wreath from simple things already in our backyard. I guess sometimes it’s the simple things that give us the greatest pleasure?? :-)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Inverloch Shell Museum

One of our favourite places we visited on our recent holiday was the Inverloch Shell Museum. It is a community museum with over 6000 shells in display. Little B loves everything to do with the ocean and has quite the shell collection himself, so this was a must do for us, but I think most people would find it interesting as well.

The museum cost $5 entry for a family and is made up of collection of shells, crabs and even preserved octopuses. The sheer variety of shells was mind boggling as was the size of some of them. In different corners they have touch tables, where you can touch different shells as well as things like starfishes, and fish bladders.

It is set within the Bunurong Environment Centre, which also had other really interesting free displays. Firstly a dinosaur display provided by Monash University, which allows children to dig for fossils, do dinosaur puzzles and watch the history of dinosaur discoveries in the South Gippsland area.

Secondly more hands on displays about the forests and the seas. Little B loved a faux forest floor where you could search for different objects with tweezers and a magnifying glass.

This area allowed children to put shells into alphabetical order, or draw pictures to add to a collage of the foreshore. It was also really interesting for Granny B and I as it talked about all the environmental conservation measures the local community had taken to eradicate the marine pest, the Northern Pacific Seastar (they removed them all by hand over a 2 year period).

Little B absolutely loved the hands on nature of these displays, especially being able to touch shells and starfishes. He hopes to go there again "really soon" :-)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fun in the Sun

There’s nothing like a dead computer to give you an enforced break :-) Lucky for me it happened just before we went on holidays to Phillip Island. Change of place and things to do make for great distractions!!

We also were lucky with the weather – while nowhere near hot, it was sunny and mild and we had zero rain throughout the duration of our holiday!! The house we hired turned out to be delightful and a great base too.

:: Lots of mini golf was played. Little B loves to play golf, and really who could resists pirate mini golf around a pirate ship or as a mini-inventor, mini golf around a mechanical invention track??

:: Beach babies abound in our family, so we spent lots and lots of time at the beach building castles, looking in rockpools, walking and flying kites.

:: Our beloved canoe came with us too. Not as much fun as we hoped, but Mr B and Little B stuck almost up to their knees in mud on the foreshore was priceless (and hilarious). Not so hilarious were the muddy shoes or clothes that I got to wash (those shoes above are light pale mauve).

:: We spent time checking out the mangrove walks around Rhyll as Little B loves everything ocean related. I fell in love with their composting loo system and aim to put one in as our second toilet when we extend (and I now have Mr B onside).

:: we spent some time in Inverloch investigating their Shell Museum (another post on this coming up)

:: The final highlight was visiting the museum at the Grand Prix Race Circuit. When he was much younger Mr B was an amateur motorcycle racer and had raced at Phillip Island. My dad was into racing cars and I grew up at the drag races in Adelaide. So it was nice to share these different things about ourselves and our childhoods with Little B where he could put it all in context.

And now we are back - well rested, sunned up a bit (it's of course cold and wet at home at the moment *sigh*) and ready to tackle are garden just that little bit more.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Slow Living Diary October 2012

Once again, I am joining in with Christine from Slow Living Essentials for a monthly reflection of slow living…

NOURISH: Our favourite bickies at the moment have to be these jammy oat biscuits courtesy of Jude Blereau. I’ve also discovered you can freeze them and then warm them back up in the oven without any difference in taste or texture.

I've also been cooking lots for our canoeing expeditions - easy to eat hand held food like tombolas, gozlemes, the above biscuits, roast vegie tarts. Things that are easy to bulk cook and then defrost or reheat and take in our little thermos jars.

PREPARE: Not food per se but I've been getting ready for Christmas. Working off a detailed list I've been slowly making or buying hand made goodies for family. 

REDUCE: Using Mr B’s old socks for sewing projects (see below).
GREEN: I’ve started using aloe vera as a hair product on my hair. Since having Little B my hair wants to be curly but looks more like I stuck my finger in a light socket LOL. After reading about aloe vera, I gave it a try with great results. My hair is so soft and when it air dries it goes into a soft soft curl.

I’ve also been trialing a home-made sugar wax recipe from Plastic Free by Beth Terry for my legs to avoid using razors. So far so good – though very messy. I’m hoping I’ll get better at it each time.

GROW: Our potatoes are growing like crazy and our zucchini, squash and pumpkin seedlings are doing really well in the ground too. Our tomatoes are not so spectacular but since you shouldn’t plant them out until Cup Day around here, fingers crossed they start doing better soon.

We have loads of baby apples and nectarines on the trees too (the benefits of buying a house with established fruit trees though the nectarine is hideously affected by leaf curl). And the almond tree is full as well.

CREATE:  This month I made a spider costumer for Little B out of Mr B’s old socks. They have just the right kink for legs and then finger knitted cords to join them with his black tshirt. I then sewed cardboard eyes onto his black beanie. It was a total hit and I spend a lot of my time with said spider these days :-)

DISCOVER:   I’ve taken a rest from heavy reading this month. Interesting reads have been Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel (a novel look at “life” after death) and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m currently ensconced in the sequel to The Passage, The Twelve by Justin Cronin.

ENHANCE: Mr B and I have actually been cutting back on our outside commitments to spend more time at home as a family. Instead we have focused on ensuring that we buy local when we can and support local businesses.

ENJOY: We loved going to the Stringybark Sustainable Living Festival again this year. It is such a great place to go as a family, to see and hang out with like minded people. So many native animals to see and chat about. Little B met Dirt Girl, and they had an amazing nocturnal nightwalk set up inside. I also loved that they had stands for the kids to make Seed Bombs.

The Planks above were a huge hit with Little B. This stand spread across multiple areas and attracted kids and adults alike like bees to honey. We spent about 20 minutes sitting on the floor building. Made from sustainable wood, we now know what Little B is getting for Christmas :-)

We’ve been having so much fun as a family at the moment. Mr B and I have designated one day each weekend that we devote to going out into nature as a family. Mainly we have been canoeing, bush walking and “exploring” as Little B puts it, but it’s been so much fun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comparing Solar

With both our solar arrays connected, it was only a matter of time before we started to compare the two. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had some beautiful sunny days (in amongst the throwback to winter *sigh*), so we’ve started noting down what each array was doing.

We have 1kw array of flat panels on our roof.

And a 1kw solar tracker.

Our block is oriented east to west (not the best), so our flat panels receive most of their sun in the afternoon from the west. Our solar tracker obviously tracks the sun from whenever the sun first hits the panels (8.45am) until sundown.

On our best day last week, our flat panels generated 4.69 kwh. BUT our solar tracker generated 8kwh. I was very chuffed to say the least. First of all, because we generated nearly 13kwh that day and we only use 6kwh on our worst days. I’m not that much into feeding back into the grid (though Mr B is). In my mind, as long as we make more than we use, I’m happy :-)

But secondly, because the solar tracker was so much more effective than the flat panels. And now this is where I must divulge that Mr B has been working in solar & sustainability measures for the last 8 years. He was so enamoured by different solar farms that he saw in Germany and Spain about 4 years ago, that he came to Australia with the dream of building solar trackers.

And so it began, working in our garage and in our study. He has mainly worked rurally in Victoria getting his dream up off the ground. Working with farmers, vineyards and small city councils. The biggest solar tracker he built has been for Wangaratta City Council.

So we have always wanted one in our own yard but with all our housing issues over the last few years, it just hasn’t been possible. But now we have one in all its glory (yes I’m biased LOL) and I am so proud of my dear hubby that it lives up to all its promise.