Monday, August 27, 2012

The Saga of the Rainwater Tanks part 1

Just under two years ago we had a detached rumpus room built in what was once our veggie patch. (Never fear; the veggie patch has been relocated, not abandoned.) Things move slowly in our household and, since the time it was finished, downpipes have run from the gutter to ... well ... nowhere. We hadn't gotten around to having it connected to the storm-water drains. This was becoming a concern as we began to worry about foundation damage and/or termites. (The little buggers love damp conditions.) Ultimately we decided to install rainwater tanks in keeping with Footprints.

The Garden Whisperer said he could do it and ordered the tanks before going away for a couple of months. We had a delivery and installation date; we just had to wait until he came back. He came back and the big day arrived. In the meantime I'd had the gutters cleaned and the guy who did that told me that one of the rumpus room gutters was pitched wrongly. That was okay, however; it would work in our favour. On the big day, it was blowing a gale and there was no let-up in the rain all day. The Garden Whisperer came but couldn't do it on that day so he, Husband and I made sure all was good to go for a new date the following week.

Unfortunately, we realized that there was no immediate way to get the tanks from the front garden to the back. We'd need to have our small gate remade into a bigger one. That would only work for one of the tanks; the other was so big it had to be brought in on the other side where there was no gate, only fence. Consequently, on the first day The Garden Whisperer and his friend, The Metal Man, remade the gate. It was done with the existing gate and fence and looks pretty good. They also began building the base for the tanks. They ended up working until 8pm. Teenage Daughter's comment was, "They certainly are dedicated."

Yesterday, The Garden Whisperer, The Metal Man and another helper - let's call him The Cute One With the Dreadlocks - finished the bases, removed the side fence, put the rainwater tanks into place, put the fence back on and tidied up the rough edges on the new gate. All done and dusted by 6pm this time.

The tanks look good and are going to hold a lot of water. The next phase is this Thursday when the tanks will be connected to the rumpus room.

I just hope after all this we don't have another drought!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two Heart-warming Moments

Last Friday afternoon I walked through the kitchen. Husband was cooking dinner and he wanted to place some herb butter under the skin of the chicken he was planning to roast. As I walked through, however, he was standing and holding a bowl of butter and herbs in the air over his head. That's not a cooking manoeuvre one sees everyday so I gave him a quizzical look. His explanation was that instead of using the microwave to soften the butter he was holding it under the heating vent since the heater was already on. Is it any wonder why I love that man so much?

Husband is not the only one in the family to have had a wonderful Footprints moment this week. Teenage Son was chatting to a good friend. I don't know how the subject came up but he must have mentioned something about unethical products. A discussion ensued and he gave his friend a list of which companies were considered unethical and then looked them up in the Ethical Consumer Guide himself later to research why. After that, he downloaded the ECG app which he's been poring over ever since. (Except during the time when he taught himself how to solve a Rubrik's cube.) He's always been interested but his interest has increased.

Part of the reason I like Teenage Son's moment is because I know his friend's mother follows the blog. I like the symmetry.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Monday, August 20, 2012


Last night a friend of mine was telling me about reading a book by Peter Singer. I've heard of him but that's all. After looking him up on Google I feel like I'd like to read some of his publications. I'm not sure I'll agree with all of it but is that a reason not to read it?

From what I've skim read about Singer today I gather he is a vegetarian - mostly vegan - and a strong proponent of animal rights and liberation. It's some of his other stuff that I'm not so sure about. But I need to read it properly before passing judgment.

Both of my children are vegetarian for moral reasons. Teenage Daughter knows a lot about the global impact of the rampant meat eating in the western world. She's able to give all sorts of facts, figures and information. I hope in the foreseeable future I can get her to do a guest blog about it. From what I can gather, it isn't just about animal liberation, it's about world hunger and the environment. Pretty powerful stuff.

Over the past 29 years I've flitted back and forth between vegetarianism and meat eating. Much more shallow than my children my own reasons all those years ago were simply that I was sick of eating meat. I haven't eaten red meat since then. I do, however, currently eat chicken and fish. Since both the children are vegetarians, I only do so rarely. It's easier to cook one vegetarian meal for four than two meals. I've got a great smelling bean and veggie soup simmering as I write.

You all know I have something of an axe to grind in relation to fast food chains, particularly multinational ones with golden arches. I don't know the stats but I remember reading an article back in the 1980's about the impact that the demand for cattle to be used for hamburgers was having on the environment and on local farmers in South American countries. I can only assume the problem has increased since the demand for and the number of fast food chains has increased since then.

I wonder how we'd all go if we had to slaughter our own meat. I don't think I could do it. I think fish would be okay; I once ate a trout that I'd seen bludgeoned to death at a trout farm. I might even be able to do that. I don't know. I'm not sure, however, I could kill a chook. I prefer to eat free range chickens and eggs but, in the case of the former, they're still killed. Hmmm, vegetarianism is looking quite appealing again ...


Thursday, August 16, 2012

This Week's Ticks and Crosses

It's been an unusually busy week this week! For the most part we've stuck to Footprints but there were a couple of times that - in hindsight - I would have done things differently.

On Tuesday Teenage Daughter left school early to go into the city for a music workshop. A group of them from school went on the bus so we didn't have to pick her up in the car and drive her there. After the workshop, however, there was a concert for family and friends which we attended. Husband met Teenage Son and me after work. I picked up Teenage Son from school and we drove into the city. This meant that we had to drive two cars home from the city. It wasn't the ideal situation. In hindsight, if I'd actually thought of it,  I could have driven to the train station with Teenage Son, left his and his sister's school bags in the car and caught the train almost right to the door of where we were going. The two flaws in that would have been that I would have had to have picked Teenage Son up even earlier from his own after school activity and, realistically, there is no way he would have been happy to have left his trumpet unattended in the car at the train station car park. At least in the city we parked somewhere secure so trumpet was safe.

The next day the children both had to be in the city for another musical commitment. It was for school so they all took the train into the city together from where they were dismissed after sound check. They had a couple of hours to kill in the city before their concert that evening. A number of kids went home but my two stayed in and had an early dinner. Husband and I attended their concert later and we all came home together in the same car. That worked well.

The following day - getting tired yet??? - I went to the theatre. It was quite a long play in the city so I ended up having to pay a lot in parking fees. It would have been far more economical and, of course, eco-friendly, had I just caught the train in. By the time I'd bought lunch and paid for parking the cheap theatre ticket had doubled in price!

We live and learn, I guess.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Brother and Affluenza

I read George Orwell's 1984 many years ago. I suspect I read it prior to 1984! Teenage Daughter read it recently as part of her Year 12 extended reading in English. I'm pretty sure Husband has also read it. If not, he's been gate-crashing the conversations we've been having about 1984 and the Big Brother reality television series.

Please forgive me if I don't remember all the finer details of Orwell's book. What I do remember is a futuristic society in which citizens were constantly monitored and also brain-washed. It's now many years since Orwell wrote the book; in terms of dates we're well past his futuristic novel. I remember being pleased in 1984 that our society was not like his terrible vision. (I won't get into a discussion over whether we were brain washed in those days about the Eastern Bloc countries.) It was a dark and scary place. Perhaps what made it so scary was the pervasive feeling that "it could happen." Partly for that reason I take exception to the television series using the name Big Brother. The other reason is that I hate to see great literature being butchered. I suspect that most of the people who spend time in the Big Brother house and many of those viewing have never even heard of George Orwell. That's not their fault or a slur on any of them.

I'm lucky to live in a democratic country where I don't suffer the loss of freedom that those in 1984 did. I'd love to write that I'm lucky I don't live in a society where I'm brainwashed but I don't think that's true. I always thought I was media savvy. However, a few years ago I read the wonderfully eye-opening book, Affluenza. The author, Clive Hamilton, discusses how companies, through advertising, try to get inside our heads and influence us. Many techniques are used from those that make us feel as if there is something wrong with us if we don't purchase something to those that make us feel like we'll all be sex gods and goddesses just by using a particular kind of razor. I don't know how true it is but I heard that women didn't even shave their legs and underarms until razor manufacturers created the belief that it was necessary. Now it's mainstream. Not only are they trying to get us to buy what we need, they are trying to create need where it doesn't exist.

My current favourite is a fast food outlet that is offering to do us a favour by selling small change items so we don't have to store our small change. Just think if each person who went into each outlet across Australia and bought one small change item in addition to their meal, how much profit do you think they'd make. They're not doing it for us!

How is all this relevant to what my family is doing? It's much easier to go without, not upgrade, buy secondhand etc if we can recognise that, despite what the ads say, we don't really need it. We don't need to keep up with the Joneses - maybe the Joneses are buying into it all. Footprints precludes it. All those warm fuzzy ads are designed to sell products, nothing more. Buying them won't solve my problems or make me feel better about myself. Buying Meadow Lea won't make me a better mum even though they want to congratulate me. And just because Chris used a Finish tablet in the dishwasher on Masterchef the other night doesn't mean it's the best product; it means that Finish is sponsoring the show.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Using Footprints for Evil

On Saturday evening, after dropping Teenage Daughter at work I stopped for petrol. I happened to have done the same thing at the same time the week before. Both weeks in a row I was asked by the sales assistant - a different girl both times - if I wanted to buy a Cherry Ripe chocolate bar. The first time it happened, the girl told me I'd be doing their store a favour because Salisbury North was beating them. To be honest, I could have cared less and politely answered no. I figured there were enough people out there who would be tempted by the chocolate or by the opportunity to beat Salisbury North that it wouldn't matter. I didn't even bother to ask what the rivalry was about; obviously not on petrol sales. She was cool with that.

Last weekend, however, the sales assistant said something along the lines of, "Go On," after I'd politely declined. I know I'm skinny but really! Most people who met me wouldn't even know about the Footprints Project. I do it and I blog about it. People who read my blog may talk to me about it but that's pretty much it. In other words, I'm not trying to change the world. If somewhere is inspired or influenced that's awesome but I'm just trying to share experiences. Besides I love writing; it's my comfort medium. I knew, however, on Saturday night that I would need to pull out the big guns to get this girl off my back. So, I responded that it went against my personal belief system to eat Cadbury because they were owned by Kraft who had a dodgy track record on some ethical and environmental issues. (On checking I think the latter is okay, it's the former that's a problem.) I then thanked her and left.

I decided it was probably too over the top to mention that I shouldn't even be buying from a company which had wreaked such havoc in the Gulf of Mexico and goodness knows which country the oil had come from and what their human rights record was! I guess with petrol there is no viable alternative.

It was definitely a case of using Footprints for evil. Or was it? If someone tried to sell me a hamburger it would be reasonable to say no thank you and if they persisted to say that I didn't eat red meat. It was probably more a case of asserting my right to say no. In fact, I shouldn't have had to explain myself at all.

I recounted the story in a humorous way on my Facebook page. A friend of mine suggested that the sales assistant may have learnt something she didn't know and may think about her own choices in the future. That would be great! A couple of other people didn't know about Cadbury and Kraft. I don't know what they'll do with that knowledge now but that's up to them.

Having written all that I have to confess that I miss Cadbury; I think they make great chocolate.

By the way, Cadbury icecream is fine; it's actually made on license by Bulla.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taking it the Nth degree

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day which  read, You won't eat Chik-Fil-A because the CEO believes in traditional marriage? So when will you stop buying gas because Saudi Arabia believes homosexuality is punishable by death?.. The reason I have opted not to post the actual meme is because I don't want anyone who may be looking at my blog for the first time to see it posted bold as brass and think that I've posted it because I endorse it. I don't. I question it.

Apart from being somewhat facetious the meme certainly takes things to the Nth degree. Is the implication that one should only boycott Chik-Fil-A if one is prepared to give up driving or is it that if you can't give up driving why boycott Chik-Fil-A? If one did give up driving would that also include the use of buses and taxis etc?

The other day I made a comment on another blog about Cadbury being owned by Kraft and, therefore, being unethical. I got a response from a fellow follower along the lines that it was all too hard because no company was truly ethical and to look at the whole issue opened a can of worms.

She was absolutely right. However, should one stop doing what one CAN do because of what one can't do? It would be pretty unrealistic for people to stop driving in some parts of the US or here but boycotting a fast food outlet is easy for most of us. Should I buy Cadbury products because I have no choice when it comes to other things? For my family and me it's about doing what we can. If we have an ethical or eco-friendly option we're going to take it. We drive but have tried to cut back in order to lower emissions. But I'm now feeling pretty good about the fact that I'm also making a stand for human rights by buying less petrol.

Another person who read my blog gave me some really concrete suggestions for setting up a self-sufficient lifestyle. It was great and maybe in the future we'll look to do it. For now, however, we're getting our productive garden up and running in the near future and doing what we can do where we are now. In fact, the other day Husband and I had a progress check. We looked at how we're doing and how we can improve. There's always room for improvement.

I know I've written before that what we do may or may not make any difference but that we're still committed to doing it. Surely the people boycotting Chik-Fil-A have the same right; to do what they feel is right. It doesn't matter if they're still driving - they feel like they're doing something. Ultimately doing something is better than throwing your hands up in the air in despair and doing nothing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Single Handedly Destroying Forests

I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't write. It's only been in the past year or so, however, that I've started to think of myself as a writer. Before, my "scribbling" was my dirty little secret; something I didn't talk about, lest people want to read them. Now, I want people to read my work and it's hard to shut me up about the novel I'm working on. (See the neat way I just worked it into my blog.)

Each writer has his/her own rituals and routines. For example, I can only compose poems by hand but find it hard to write short stories and my novel that way. So far, I've written all of the latter on the computer. I want to rewrite the last seventy odd pages but I've stopped to edit for the time being. At first I was editing on the computer. Lately, however, I've realised that I prefer to hold a hard copy in my hands and scribble on it and add new material on the back of the page.

The other day I printed out 135 pages. *cringe* That's a lot of paper. Admittedly, I use recycled paper but there is energy that goes into recycling it. Furthermore, any pieces which are only used on one side will be put into my reuse pile. I always reuse paper that's only been used on one side. I still feel very guilty. That's a lot of paper and this is only the first edit. I did quite a bit as I went along but I just really like editing it by hand.

I can well imagine that the trees of the world have put me on their most wanted list.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Are We Deprived? No Way!

A few of years ago my phone company rewarded me with a magazine subscription. It lasted a year and during that time I fell in love with the magazine. When the subscription ended I renewed it for another two years. (It was before we began Footprints.)  That will end in May next year. As much as I love the magazine and receiving it each month, I happen to know that my library subscribes to it, as well. I’ve decided why be part of the waste problem. I can still be wonderfully self-indulgent with the library copy. I may have to wait a month or two for the latest issue but I’m happy to do that. Of course, it won't be the latest issue anymore by then but eh.

A fellow blogger who is trying to live a plastic free life has a child in junior primary school. The practise in some schools nowadays is to send home boxes of fundraiser chocolates to sell with the child. Her child came home with a box of Cadbury Freddo Frogs to sell. Her dilemma was that each chocolate had a plastic in its wrapper and to have them in her home, eat them or sell them would be going against her philosophy and ethics. Her post received a huge response, most of which suggested she return the chocolates and give the school an equivalent donation. That is what she decided to do.

I follow bloggers and Facebook pages of people trying to live differently for whatever reason. Another fellow blogger has lived a life for the past five years where she and her family have tried not to purchase anything new. There are obvious exceptions such as underwear and less obvious exceptions such as harmonicas. She stresses that they haven’t given themselves license to just go out and buy loads of second-hand stuff either. The whole point of it is to reduce what they have in general.

What I have found to be common in all our blogs and posts is the joy we take from doing what we’re doing and the fun we’re having with it. None of us feel like we’re going without. I’ve written before about feeling liberated by what my family does. Sometimes there are even very rewarding moments. I had an old beat up ukulele of my mother’s fixed; it was expensive to get done. I felt good that I was getting it fixed instead of adding to conspicuous consumption despite the fact that I could buy a new ukulele for a fraction of the price of the fix up. Then I bothered to look up this particular make of ukulele on the internet and I can report back that I’m way in front. It felt like a pat on the back for doing what I perceive to be the right thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and read my magazine before my subscription runs out.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Freedom of Speech

I had an unsettling experience on Facebook yesterday. I got into a lively discussion with a friend of a friend on someone else's status. Eventually, I wrote that I'd enjoyed our argument but that it was simply going around in circles and I didn't want to clog up our friend's status any further so was going to stop. He replied - maybe in jest - that he knew that the real reason was because I was losing. I really didn't want to get into any further discussions. In a supreme act of bitchiness I deleted all my comments. That should have been the end of the story. Later, however, I noticed that he had reposted them. The only way he could have done so was to have copied them elsewhere on his computer before I deleted them. At first I found this amusing. On reflection I found it creepy.

The security settings on my Facebook page are very high and I never like or comment on anything that will show up in the newsfeed of someone I don't know. All I want to do is interact with my friends. Obviously by commenting on a friend's status his friends are going to see it whether they're my friends or not. I don't have an issue with that. My issue is that someone copied my comments without my permission. It wasn't a funny or a copy/paste status; it was comments I had made and then deleted. I can see the value of keeping a record if someone is cyber-bullying or if one is dealing with a company but neither was the case here. I simply fail to see why they were copied.

The blog is different. I want people to read it and comment on it. The more the better as far as I'm concerned. If anyone wants to quote me feel free; it's public. They're not words I want copyrighted or protected.

I do, however, moderate comments. So far every one of them has been published. I'm definitely not trying to censor. I decided to set that up after a fellow blogger was personally attacked in comments left by a follower. She was very upset and considered stopping the blog. If someone disagrees with what's in the blog or with the comments of one of my followers, that's fine. I don't believe, however, that any blogger or their followers should have to be subjected to something more personal. As bloggers we're putting ourselves out there and are a potential target for abuse. I guess that our personalities shine through to a certain extent. That doesn't mean our followers know us and can pass judgement on us as people. All they can do is pass judgement on our blog.