Category Archives: Neighbourhood pleasures

Around the house

It won’t come as a surprise to hear that I reckon collective political action is what we need at this point in history. The science says we are now in such profound trouble on the climate emergency front that small scale individual actions, even multiplied many times, aren’t going to sort this out. We need to join together, get active and get vocal.

As I write, large parts of this country are on fire and in drought. Remote Aboriginal communities are living through record breaking temperatures without decent housing or airconditioning, or even guaranteed water supply. Daily life for many people here and all over the world, is hard. And our government has done all in its power to block progress on climate action in Madrid, as well as continuing to support coal, oil and gas mining at home.

Meanwhile, my quiet suburban life is an incredible privilege! While recognising the crucial role of collective action–we are all living day by day, and at that level ethics and educating ourselves form crucial parts of our daily lives. So here are some things I’m doing at home. I love hearing about what other folks are up to, so feel free to suggest!

Eat your weeds! Above are dandelion and sow thistle ready to be added into a silverbeet pie. Delicious, nutritious, easy–and motivating if you’re not a lover of weeding.

Litter picking. For me, this has become an end use for plastic bags that have gone past the point of being used in the kitchen, but have come into the house somehow. I pop one in my bag, along with a pair of gloves if that’s the main purpose of my walk, and pick up the trash I find around the neighbourhood. Sometimes I do it on my bike. Just stop at a messy spot and collect whatever is there.

[I digress to give you an image of a dung beetle. I was so excited when I saw it!! Surely the emblem of the litter picker if there is one…]

Compost it. I deal with our rubbish as close to our house as I can, and when the occasion arises, compost the street leaves dropped on our street, ditto for bark. The worm farm will accept natural fibre items that are beyond repair and reuse. I give a decent burial to the victims of cars and other sudden deaths in our suburb. I know what happens next will not be prettier as surely as I know that leaving a glass bottle in the street will likely lead to smashed glass unless I put it in my recycling bin.

Use it up! I’ve been working harder at making sure the wilted sad fruit and veg get their chance to be delicious dinner. Here, the no longer crisp apples become roasted stuffed apples, delectable (also super easy).

On the use it up front, I’m a maker of stock and have returned to what I used to do at the lowest ebb of income in my life–turning peelings, tops, celery leaves, sad and wilted vegetables and such, into the stock that makes risotto or lentil stew or whatever you fancy, sing.

More using up–as my beloved is on a gluten free diet, I’ve been making GF sourdough bread at home (YES!! Totally Possible). At times the freezer holds quite the collection of stub ends, crusts and such. I’ve discovered I can turn them into crumbs straight from the freezer, and since I make things like spinach pie with no pastry these days, I top them with these crumbs (yes, direct from freezer to dinner via food processor), a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a drizzle of olive oil for a tasty, crunchy topping.

Sharing! I had some serious time on the couch (nothing life threatening–fret not) in the last while and I have been using the local free libraries and book nooks to swap books I’ve read for ones I haven’t, and keep books and magazines circulating. I’ve read books I would never have bought. I now find there are three book nooks like this one (in Penola! where I dropped in a book picked up in Mount Gambier and took away a historical novel) walking distance from my house.

BYO. I know you all do this too. Keep cups and all that. This is me at a stop on a long distance road trip. If I have access to two of these thermos things, I travel with breakfast in one (porridge or “bircher” muesli depending on the weather) and something hot and decent for lunch in the other. Often I grab cutlery from the drawer at home, but if the occasion seems likely to risk losing cutlery we want to keep, we have plastic cutlery that we had no choice about at some stage, saved for just such cases. I often attach it with a rubber band for simplicity’s sake.

Make your own. Sorry, not a food stylist! I know you do this too. I’ve had a breadmaking breakthrough and I love saving plastic that used to come into the house with double wrapped GF bread in particular, by making my own and making for friends.

But above all, take to the streets, and your phone, and your keyboard. Don’t be alone with your fear and despair, or with your longing for something to happen. Gather with friends. Make new friends. We need all of us to take action in defence of life on earth now.

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From little things…

This morning I felt quite unwell and scaled back my expectations of the day. But, I decided on a quiet stroll to the Farmers’ Market nearby as a pleasant undemanding outing. I’m blessed to love walking distance from this weekly market. I love that it sells local produce; I love that packaging is much less of a feature here than at a supermarket. I love that there are small organic producers selling here. It’s spring, and on the way I saw another woman walk up to a bottlebrush and run her hand over the flowers with evident pleasure–we had a lovely conversation about their beauty and she said she had seen streets full of jacaranda but never a whole street where the street trees are bottlebrush. A sister!

So I set out and decided to litter pick on my way. A few weeks back I bought three kilograms of rhubarb from the farm gate when I was out and about, and it came in three rhubarb–length bags with holes punched in them. They’ve gone to the litter picking bag stash rather than into the re-use for food stash because of the holes. One had already been used to pick litter when I was out on my bike. So I put the other two in a calico bag with my garden gloves and set out. I filled one bag on my way there. In my neighbourhood, I pick up a lot of cigarette butts, bottle lids of all kinds, advertising, confectionery packaging, fast food containers, straws, cable ties and tissues. The tissues make me want to continue with the [making and sharing] hanky project! On the way there I also picked up a beer bottle. In my experience it is always a mistake to leave a glass bottle on the street because the next time I see it, it is usually shattered. I arrived at the market, put my litter bag in the bin and the bottle in the recycling. I got a lovely smile from a woman pushing a child in a pram just as I arrived–looked to me as though she could see what I was doing and wanted to share her approval.

First stop, cheese. I ran into a friend and complimented him on his photos of the School Strike for Climate, which massive here as in so many parts of the world. The woman running the stall joined in the conversation, and when my friend said we just have to keep the momentum building, she said she thought there was an event coming Monday week–and what do you know? She was referring to one of the events for the Extinction Rebellion Spring Rebellion–which is a global week of action–and I’m part of the organising team for our city. As he stepped away, I told her I was an organiser and we had a chat about what she might do, and about the local group near where she lives. That was very cheering!

Next I bought some seeds for my spring garden and had a lovely chat with the seller who also had a gorgeous selection of flowers.

Then I decided on a treat from a stall that sells apples and delectables featuring apples and other home grown fruit. I have been bringing my own bag to this stall for years, and the couple who run it have always expressed their delight when I bring my own bag. When I buy a tart or brownie from them I bring my own container and they love that too! It’s so nice to have people respond positively, especially as some folks will refuse to co-operate in this strategy. Many will embrace it, however, and I now use it for sushi, cheese at the Central Market, one of the few places I can still find cheese being cut from a block and not pre-packaged, and all manner of things that need a container but don’t need a single use container. This stall provides paper bags, and has moved to cardboard trays for squishy fragile delectables, but clearly the owners are still hoping for a non-single-use strategy, so we talked over some of the possibilities, including just advertising that you can bring your own tub.

And then I walked home and filled another bag with litter. But I felt quite heartened by today’s chat. It made me think, yet again, that you do not know the ripples your efforts might have. I often think that individual efforts, while educational and ethically significant, are not especially impactful–and that is one reason I focus my effort on activism when I am able. Yet the apple-store woman said she had been prompted to go further in her quest for less waste by my bringing my own tub week in, week out. Our conversation held one new idea from me and one new idea from her own imagination. The cheese-store woman is one step closer to coming along to an Extinction Rebellion event because she has had a warm conversation with a customer. And the neighbourhood has less plastic going into the storm water system.

For those who don’t recognise it–the title of this post is a reference to “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, two giants of Australian songwriting. It is a tribute to the movement for Indigenous land rights in this country, and in particular to a key leader of the Gurindji: Vincent Lingiari, who led the walk off at Wave Hill, a key moment both for land rights and sovereignty. It was also a key moment for the right of Indigenous Australians to be paid equal wages in a period when some white landowners were still “paying” Indigenous Australians in rations–just one appalling practice in a lengthy history of exploitation which has continued into my lifetime.

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First guerilla gardening of Spring

Autumn’s cuttings and seedlings are ready for planting around the neighbourhood.

One of my dear friends died recently, and on the day of her funeral I decided I’d go out and plant. Somehow it seemed right. Here they are ready to go.

I planted them along a corrugated iron fence, where some have lived, some have been poisoned, and some have been pulled out. Here’s hoping these make it! Then as usual, litter picking, weeding and home.

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Still more guerilla gardening

Two buckets full of seedlings in pots, two watering cans and some tools in a blue wheelbarrow.

Oh yes. More saltbush (some of them very stunted but still alive). More wren bush. A Eucalyptus Scoparia seedling and some sheoaks.

In they go!

And by the way, previous plantings are now sending out their descendants!

And, home again with more autumn leaves destined to mulch my yard rather than go down the drain or into the street sweeper.

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Planting the Correas

I have had more success with propagating correas (from cuttings) than previously, and so–the correa alba babies go out into the big wide world.

I have planted them in a spot the council has installed a watering system. The parent plant for all these cuttings almost died in the 47C heat of summer.

Here’s hoping they make it!

Muddy jeans, a bucket with empty pots and tools in it.

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Guerilla sedge planting

I have been propagating Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes (Cyperus gymnocaulos) from the plantings I made in a local culvert, which are now quite established. Here are little starts I’ve planted in pots.

Sedge starts sprouting in little pots--about 24 pots in a styrofoam box.

I’ve decided in consultation with friends to plant them in Brownhill Creek.

A culvert exit with gabion walls, and a lot of weeds growing in leafy, rocky creek bed.

Where it has been rerouted to suit human infrastructure near us, there is suitably wet ground and it has just been getting weedier and weedier since rerouting.

Weeds growing in a creek bed which runs under a bridge, with gabion walls and concreted sides.

So out I went with a bucket in each hand, and some tools.

Then planted them at the edges.

And in they went–about twenty on this occasion–and then it was all litter picking, all the way home.

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Planting further afield

Well. A field, it certainly is not. But today I decided to hitch up my bicycle trailer and guerilla plant further from home. A couple of kilometres away, actually… a place by the tram line I sometimes run past and where there has been nothing but weeds growing for years.

A bike and bike trailer parked by the tram line with two watering cans and two buckets of seedlings in the trailer.
My bike and trailer with a double decker set of buckets

I managed to get two bucket loads of plants in the trailer by putting the ground covers on the bottom layer and adding tools to keep the top bucket from crushing them.

One bed was empty except for the remains of weeds. I reassembled the edging on the bed where it had fallen or been pulled apart and began. I planted three acacia paradoxa seedlings in the bed beside it (also a pretty sad sight but with some native plantings still alive). I was feeling pretty pessimistic about their chances in life and questioning my decision to plant somewhere where I haven’t done as much observation as usual when a gentleman walked up and asked if I was planting. I wasn’t sure of the alternative interpretations at this stage, but soon we were chatting about what I was planting and his past in Trees for Life. I have grown for Trees for Life too, so we chatted on.

Broken edging on the raised bed
Broken edging on the raised bed

He said he’d do some weed management! He thought he could add some stakes! He’d considered planting native grasses in this area. He lived nearby. He used to have that same trailer (we had both bought them from the chap who used to make them himself, in the 1980s). The chances of these seedlings making it to any size at all have just risen immensely!

So–in went seaberry saltbush (rhagodia). I lost some water going over bumps and when bike and trailer were travelling at different speeds downhill, but most of it was still in the watering cans to give the new plantings a drink.

Prickly wattle

I also planted ruby saltbush… and picked up rubbish. In fact, I made several stops on the way home. I do find cups, plastic lids for cups and bottles, straws and such but a staggering amount of cable ties and gaffer tape too, and today I found those plastic soy sauce fish in two different locations. Go figure. Hoping next time I run past these little plants will be bigger!

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Guerilla gathering

Finally we are getting autumn leaves and not leaves that have fallen in the dry heat of summer, so I’ve been out collecting them from the gutters and byways.

Collecting ruby saltbush seeds…

Bladder saltbush seeds, now being collected from third generation guerilla plantings.

In my wanderings I found these around the bike path–it looks to me like another rebel for life has decided to commemorate the plants that died over summer. This one was between the railway and the street.

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More autumn guerilla planting

I started the day with a run, and on the way home picked up a plastic bag. A charity has delivered them all round the neighbourhood, requesting they be filled with second hand clothing. Many have made their way onto the street empty, however–so I stopped this one going down a drain and half filled it with rubbish in only a few blocks. I know litter picking isn’t romantic, but I hate all the rubbish and it does give me satisfaction to remove some of it. A certain would-be politician who is spending some of his many millions trying to buy his way into office is currently contributing more handbills than he should to the litter stream (we are a week out from a federal election). But also lots of straws, single use cups and lids, free newspapers in their horrible plastic bags, and bottle caps.

Far better than litter picking is planting though! This time, prostrate wattles, Indigofera Australis, scrambling saltbush and a silver leafed saltbush.

Out into the street (in a hurry I guess, the photo is all wobbly!)

Some became understorey in an area where almost all the Department of Public Transport and Infrastructure plantings died. Others I planted in an area where council has installed a watering system, and recent works on the gas main in our street resulted in loss of more plants…

I picked up some more rubbish! And then home again. On my way home a chap asked me whether I was in training for some kind of event. What kind of event???!! I couldn’t help wondering, but I think he was just nonplussed by my hauling a wheelbarrow around the place, so I didn’t ask.

I just want to brag for a moment. My beloved discovered during the first rains that the transparent panel in our garden shed roof is now full of holes. I suspect the fact it is on the possum super highway through our backyard at night has hastened the holes. Well. I replaced it all by myself (with a drill bit from a friend and some help from someone with a bigger car getting the new panel home). So here you have the view of the broken panel from the ladder; the view of my neighbour’s bamboo patch from inside the shed with the panel removed; and the ladder view of the finished job. Far from perfect but perfectly functional. I feel proud! I even texted my Dad to tell him since he has taught me a lot and surely was responsible for the gift of that power drill in the first image in the 1990s, bless him.

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Autumn guerilla plantings

I am sorry to say there was a considerable loss of the spring plantings from last year, and I lost a lot of seedlings this summer too. However: there is nothing to do but press on!

This week, after finally seeing some lovely rain, I started planting out once more. The first round was mostly ruby saltbush. It is tough and hardy and easy for me to propagate, and it forms a great pioneer planting, creating a context in which it can be safe enough for other plants to thrive. It stops fallen leaves being blown away and allows new soil to form. It creates habitat. And it protects other plants from passersby and dogs.

Most of the saltbush went up against a fence. I planted it previously with great success and then it was all poisoned! The second partial planting is a good size now so I’ve added more.

I also planted ‘wren bush’–the seed was given to me by a friend who doesn’t know its real name but observes that superb blue wrens love it. If I ever see a superb blue wren in my neighbourhood, I’ll need to start a festival in its honour. Some of these plants also have lemon scented gum (Corymbia Citriodora) seedlings in them, donated by my neighbour’s tree which showers our place in stamens and seeds.

I watered them in despite the rain and then picked up litter and walked home. Here is my wheelbarrow with some of the previous plantings in the background.

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