Tuesday, 25 October 2016

It all adds up

Being interested in sustainability, simple living and permaculture, we read a lot of blogs on those subjects. It's both inspiring and instructive to read about the different things that people do to in order to live more sustainably. There is so much helpful information out there.

When you're working towards living more sustainably I think that sometimes you can forget the positive steps you've made towards that goal.  Probably because doing these things just becomes a part of normal life.  However the other day I had a little reminder.  I was putting together a few homemade things as a gift for a friend. When I stopped and looked at what I'd gathered I realised that these items were the result of some of the steps we have taken to live a more sustainable life.  

Here's what it contained:
  • Honey from our backyard hive. You can read about how we extract our honey here, here and here.
  • 100% cotton reusable knitted dishcloths (or face washers). I've been having fun making these using cotton yarn from my stash.
  • Preserved olives collected from our backyard trees. See the recipe here.
  • Homemade Tamatar Kasaundi (Tomato oil pickle). From "The Complete Asian Cookbook" by Charmaine Solomon. This is absolutely fabulous stuff - very spicy!  I'll post the recipe soon.
  • Homemade laundry liquid.  From the book "Down to Earth" by Rhonda Hertzel.

That little lineup of home produce made me stop and think. Those little things do make a difference - we are a more sustainable, resilient and healthy household as a result of being able to produce more of what we eat and use at home.  

For us, life is busy with full-time work, after-work activities, volunteering, and time spent planting trees on our country block. It would be great to have more free time to tackle lots more sustainable projects..........but right now, given the time that we have, our way of becoming a more sustainable household is largely made up of continual small steps and learning new skills along the way. 

I think little things do add up and small steps can make a difference.

What do you think?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Garden raiders

Our loquats didn't have time to ripen this year before these garden raiders were back....

Our garden is definitely on their spring calendar.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Green School

We were recently in Ubud, Bali for a well-deserved 2 week holiday (my first overseas trip for 16 years!). While we were there we heard about the Green School and decided we had to take a tour.

The Green School, located along the Ayung River not far from Ubud, is a private school for children from pre-kindergarten to high school.The curriculum, school site and infrastructure have a strong emphasis on sustainability. The school has been designed using renewable resources such as bamboo, mud and local grass. Several buildings are amazing examples of large scale bamboo architecture and is worth visiting for that reason alone. Even some of the furniture is made from bamboo.  

our guide (a former student) showing us around

Learning takes place in the natural environment - some buildings have no walls and coexist among the trees and productive gardens, with some trees becoming incorporated in the buildings themselves. 

The curriculum focuses on educating for sustainabilty and has a strong focus on the environment and community, encouraging the children to be creative and share what they learn through entreprenurial joint projects with local businesses.

The school is expensive, costing up to around USD11k for later years. The school says there is a scholarship program for local students.

Permaculture in action can be seen throughout the school in the productive gardens, the aquaponic system, compost station, water filtration system, biofuel generation station and composting toilets.
Food for the students is grown on-site

Aquaponics greenhouse

Fish tanks in the greenhouse floor

Compost station

Water filtration system

Used cooking oil is collected and turned into fuel

Recycling centre

Composting toilets

As it was school holidays when we visited, there were no students on site so we had a really good look around.  I think I'll let our photos tell the rest of the story....


close up view of roof construction

beautiful yoga studio

another classroom

amazing covered bridge over the river

Friday, 23 September 2016

Recent crafty activities

Recent crafty activities at Prag Sust HQ....

These socks:

A moss-stitch cushion cover - for a cushion that was missing a cover

And some knitted dishcloths

I'd heard about knitted dishcloths but always wondered if they actually worked.  After reading Down To Earth and learning of Rhonda's love of knitted dishcloths, I decided to knit us up a batch to try. I had some 100% cotton yarn in my stash which was just right for the job. 

We'd been using something akin to 'Chux' cloths bought at the supermarket for wiping up in the kitchen. They got washed in the machine along with the regular washing and re-used until they fell apart. They actually lasted for quite a long time. But definitely not the 5 years that Rhonda's knitted dishcloths last her.  I decided it was definitely worth giving them a go. I used Deb's waffle weave pattern which is a quick and easy project. If made in a nice quality cotton, this pattern can also double as a face washer.  Just make sure you colour-code your dishcloths from your face washers so you can tell them apart when they come out of the wash :)  

I'm looking forward to trying out my knitted dishcloths in the kitchen and seeing how they work out. I love the idea of making something so sustainable and long-lasting that does the job and looks nice too. And they'd make a lovely gift with some homemade soap ....

Saturday, 3 September 2016

In the garden .....

After a cold (by Melbourne standards), wet winter, there are sure signs in the garden that Spring is finally here....



Plum tree in full flower

fennel, silverbeet and borage, with olives in background

minature peach starting to flower

Silverbeet doing what it does best - growing wherever it likes!

New growth on the carob

New growth on the yellow guava


baby figs


one of our flowering orchids

Has Spring arrived in your garden?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Homemade toothpaste

Making our own sustainable versions of everyday products is something we're pretty interested in here at PragSust HQ.  It's nice to know and control what's in the products we use on our bodies and those we clean our homes with.  

Homemade toothpaste is something that's been on our radar for a while.  There are lots of recipes online but we liked the sound of the one posted by Morag on her blog Our Permaculture Life, so we thought we'd give it a go. Here's the recipe:

Homemade toothpaste

  • 1/2 cup bentonite clay (food grade)
  • 1 tablespoon activated bamboo charcoal (food grade)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda (sodium bicarbonate/bicarb))
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed to be liquid for mixing)
  • 2 leaves of stevia (dried and crushed) or 1/4 tsp stevia or 2 drops (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon himalayan salt
  • 4 drops peppermint oil (food grade)

Homemade toothpaste ingredients

As the charcoal powder is very fine and easily flies about, it's best to add the charcoal powder to the water, not the other way round.  The information sheet that came with the charcoal suggested using stainless steel equipment and doing any mixing in a stainless steel sink to avoid splashing the charcoal as it could stain. 

 We gently melted the coconut oil in stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Once melted we placed the bowl in the sink then added the water, followed by the charcoal.  The other ingredients were then added in the order listed above.  A stainless steel spoon was used to mix everything by hand.  The ingredients combined easily and we soon had a dark grey mixture with the consistency of........toothpaste. 

The mixture was transferred to a glass jar for storage. The toothpaste has been in use for a while now and I can honestly say that my teeth feel nice and clean after using it.  So we'll chalk that up as a win and something we can cross off our grocery list from now on.