Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Balcony Garden Step 1

So finally I've decided that with our pending move, it was time I did something with our balcony!! How's that for logic?? Receiving Food Connect boxes each week has made me lazy and I want the kids to connect more to the process of growing food - besides, who knows when we'll find that perfect home?

Enter Scarlett Patrick. She's one of those strangely nice bureaucrats, while living this double life of a permacultural environmentalist... actually her professional status is Horticulturalist. She's very talented and has a wonderful history of interesting projects, like introducing Cuba to the concept of permaculture and saving them from the brink during their oil crisis a few years back. She's got lots of ideas about helping people establish home food growing, so get in touch if you're interested in talking to her. Oh and she runs a great social networking site called Brisbane Local Food.

The first meeting was based on designing the balcony garden, mainly along feng shui principles, with a permaculture-style diversity, and in line with practical matters like access to water. We're seven stories up and the balcony is narrow but long. It's east and south facing, wrapping around the two sides of our apartment, and it can get pretty windy at times, so I'm a bit worried about my plants drying out quickly. While a bit old and tired, we do get some nice sunsets and views of the Border Ranges. Here's a couple of before pictures... oh and a lovely sunset ;-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The addict’s guide to 1938… or how to escape from oil

OK OK it's been aaaaages, but we're a busy mob - lots of ups and downs in the last few months, but we're still here! Here's something we're involved in which made it to the papers this week. Enjoy the read and we'll attempt to fill in the gaps of the past few months in the next little while!!

THE year 1938 should have a significant place in the lives of two of the world’s largest groups of addicts - two collectives which whether we like it or not, we’re more than likely a fully signed-up member to at least one of them.

1938 is the year when the founders of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement first established their very godly 12 steps to unravelling lives from the demon drink. That same year - within just a few weeks of a key meeting in the life the AA movement - US geologists struck oil in Saudi Arabia, a country which more than any other has fed the world’s addiction to cheap fuel. While one group work on a cure, another finds a wholly more substantial and pervasive substance to get addicted to. More

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friends like these

This post is dedicated to one of our friends who truly inspires us.

Emma Scragg, a local green architect, with a passion for cycle touring, speaking Spanish and dancing Tango. This talented (and over achieving) gal is hard to keep up with. Her latest adventure sees her cycling from Alaska to the Golden Gate bridge in San Fransisco, around 4,500km in total, and something we just can't fathom! Her latest blog revealed that she'd reached the 1000km mark and has celebrated with her own blog post. With a friend like Emma, her deep green ethics and ability to look cool, calm and collected at all times, are something to aspire to and admire all at once.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Food Connect does it again (and again)!

Following on from our success in the Queensland Sustainable Industries Awards, we are proud to announce that Food Connect has been chosen as a finalist for the Banksia Environmental Awards in the “Agriculture & Food” category, and we're up against KRAFT!! We are also especially chuffed to be selected for the Banksia “People’s Choice” Awards.

The Banksia Awards are recognised as Australia’s pre-eminent environmental awards, rewarding environmental excellence and promoting best practice principles over the last 21 years. The Banksia Environmental Foundation, through their award programs, aims to raise the profile of the current environmental issues facing Australia and recognise those whose initiatives are an encouragement and an example for others to follow.

If you would like to vote for Food Connect for in the People’s Choice awards, please click here. And if you like, forward this post to everyone you know!!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shuman Workshop Sparks Rush To Local Investment

Since the last post, an amazing thing has happened. In the course of one afternoon the following emails have landed from West End Community Association's President, Darren Godwell.

Thanks to everyone that gave up some hours on their Sunday & gave freely of their creativity & ideas. Boy, the results were FAST….
I’m immensely pleased to announce that this afternoon one of the participants from yesterday’s workshop & local businessperson Nick Holmes took the initiative and pledged $5,000 to kick-start a Kurilpa Investment Fund (working title) to support and seed local businesses & enterprises. Building resilient local economies means supporting what’s here now and seeding for the future.
Please consider the idea and a pledge. We’ll welcome all contributions (monetary, volunteers for admin & ideas for progress)….over to you, neighbours, local businesses & friends……

and later in the day....
Its been an incredible afternoon. Pledges have flowed at an incredible rate. People know that the best way to build local economies is to support local businesses & the seed the next generation of great ideas. Thanks to Mary & Phil for making a $5,000 pledge. Your contribution is warmly received & I want to acknowledge your massive contribution over many years....

Pledges are now at $36,000!!!!!

Local Community First says Michael Shuman

The work we have been doing in the community is reaching a new level in West End. The planets seem to be aligning with the conservative business sector, local community organisations and innovative individuals to explore new ways to respond to what Robert and I call 'the triple crunch' of climate change, peak oil and the GER.

The week started with dinner at Rosey & Wilf's house where visiting American, Meg Wheatley led a group discussion on what makes fearless leaders. It was a wonderful experience to hear people's views on what keeps them going, tales of perserverence in the face of adversity, and courageous moments. With Rosey's wonderful Moroccan cooking to keep us nourished, the night will be one that never leaves me.

After speaking at the Community Centred Economies Conference in Brisbane, US localisation guru, Michael Shuman says we should think local first - it's environmentally, socially and economically sensible, and the benefits far outweigh any investment in the multi-nationals / big corporates. Michael is the co-founder of BALLE, and author of The Small-Mart Revolution. He was the guest speaker at a workshop I organised yesterday for the West End community at Souths Leagues Club. It was a fantastic day. We were blessed with great workshop weather (pouring rain) and wonderful local catering / produce from Gemma (Stove Cafe), Food Connect and Ruth, Marty & Vonny (Black Star).

Michael was brilliant, the group work stimulating, and this morning I've been inundated with calls and emails from locals who want to hit the ground running. WooHoo! This is the 'community' I've been waiting for.

The day wouldn't have been possible without those that gave up their Sunday to attend, nor without the financial help and moral support of West End Traders Association, West End Community Association, Raedar Research (Darren Godwell), Judy Abernethy, Fiona O'Sullivan, Spiral Community Hub, Mary Maher and husband Phil Vanderzeil.

Thanks also to the wonderful poetry by Gilbert and music by Ashley and Jamie.

We're living the post-carbon transition as we speak!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Big Galloot Bikes is up and running

The start of new Social enterprise started last week with the establishment of Big Galloot Bikes. Our newest venture to get Cargo Bikes of all shapes and sizes out on the streets of Brisvegas.
The bikes are the coolest things on two wheels, and they carry stuff. Lots of stuff.
I estimate that probably 70% of car use for residents who live within 4 Km of the CBD is to go less than 4 km........ and it would be just to pick up something pretty small. A child, the milk, grab a coffee, pick up the bread, drop the dry cleaning off, etc. With a waterproof cover, there is no excuse not to experience the joy of riding in the rain.Here are a few of the inspiring things Cargo bikes are up too around the world

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Qld Sustainable Industries Awards

In 2008, Food Connect was a finalist at the then EPA Awards night. Our subscribers raised money for us to go along and we all jumped on a train and bus to get to the big event at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. It all went downhill from there. To our despair, the room was full of mining entities, development corporates, energy companies (not renewable, mind you) and so, wanting to avoid more greenwash, we chose not to enter again.

2009 came along and the folk at the EPA (it seems) were keen to recoup the credibility it lost last year, and vigorously encouraged us to enter again. "One more chance" we thought, and when word came through that we were finalists again we were pleased, but with the Gold Coast City Council and the Brisbane Convention Centre as our rivals, we were understandably sceptical. Once again, our subscribers helped us pay for some of our farmers, one of our city cousins and a few staff members to go along.

Our scepticism faded throughout the night as one by one, the awards were seemingly going to genuine winners. When the time came for the Minister's Award for ClimateSmart Leadership, we knew we could have a real chance. Bendigo Bank sponsored this award, and we waited while their representative espoused community banking as a sustainable industry. Minister Kate Jones finally announced the winner - Food Connect! We all jumped up and cheered and Robert took Elsie up to the podium and thanked our community of dedicated friends, family, staff, mums, and farmers (with interjections from Elsie, sending the whole room into fits of laughter), and he finished his speech with a warning (especially Coles, who were also in the room) that the small farmer revolution is here! It was a wonderful achievement and we headed off for a big night of celebrations.

Of course, these nights seem like tokenism in a lot of ways and when I asked Zac, one of our packers, to reflect on the night he sent me the following words:
Some of the more unpalatable moments from last night was when Ranger Tim read out some of the criteria by which the finalists are judged, "...first and foremost, must be a good business..." referring to the bottom line and the preservation thereof, as a guiding principal. Ranger Tim's introductory spiel justifying sustainability by saying it costs less to business and is better for the bottom line, seems to completely subvert the whole purpose of sustainability. When the focus is money, it's not on sustainability or the environment. This needs to shift.

Patting themselves on the back for sourcing some of the food we were served locally was also a bit on the nose, especially as they chose to ignore where the local businesses sourced their produce (Sirromet, for example). The percentage of locally sourced items was pretty pathetic anyway, probably no more than any other meal they prepare there. The selection of some of the businesses in the finals were crazy, the Brisbane Convention Centre for instance. Paying someone else to offset your emissions is lazy and is just plain unsustainable. And what was that spray on water/tar mix for BHP? Obviously a large function of sustainability is to sustain current mining practises! I could go on, but I have to say that I did agree with most of the Judges decisions in the end, but there needs to be some serious thought go into these awards and the criteria and the way it's presented and sponsored. Last but not least, these awards SHOULD NOT EXIST. It should be a legal requirement for all businesses and facilities (and not only these) to be sustainable. This would make sustainability the rule rather than the exception.

This is essential for us to keep living with this planet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fabulous Farm Tour NSW

After a couple of speaking gigs in Sydney and catching up with come of Emma's siblings, it was off to southern NSW to visit our friends in Bega, across to Mulloon Creek, through Canberra and up to Canowindra to visit Rosnay Winery. A working holiday of sorts, it was great see lots of farmers, their farms, their families, their work - it was beaut!

Being heavily involved in the city end of the food chain, it was great getting closer to farmers, and seeing this wonderful land we live in.

See more photos at facebook!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A year in the life

It's been a huge year for us as a new family. Here's just a few highlights:
The big move - March 2008. After selling my home of two years in Ashgrove to a family at Oakleigh School, we set about shedding the excess 'stuff' and down-sizing for our move into Robert's two bedroom apartment in West End. It was an exciting time, and I'm sure many of our friends and family were looking on with scepticism. A year and a half down the track and we are enjoying living the good life in the inner-city. We're only renting, but do have some designs on creating a co-housing project with some like-minded locals. Watch this space!
Elsie Rose Pekin - born 9 July 2008. A breech water birth at home, with all three of our boys witnessing the arrival of their little sister into the world. It was a special time for us all - the love, spirit and warmth of that cold winter morning marked the beginning of a new era for us as a family, and for Robert and I as parents.
GWhiz Carshare - sold reluctantly August 2008. My business suffered the lack of my full attention and the lack of mutual support from my business partners. It saddened me that such a wonderful opportunity was lost. Perhaps the timing was wrong, perhaps the approach was not appropriate, perhaps there'll be another opportunity in the not too distant future to crank it up again ;-)
Purchase of the Little Red Baron - November 2008. Consolidating our way of life as a car-free family, we chose to buy a cargo bike or box bike. It's a Danish design and we bought it flat-packed from Tim at Cargo Cycles in Ballarat, Victoria. Robert had a great time putting it together himself. We also added an electric motor to tackle those heavy loads up the hills of Highgate Hill.
Woodford Folk Festival - December 2008/ January 2009. Overwhelmed with consumerism of the times, we felt uncomfortable celebrating Christmas the way many other families would have. Instead we chose to cycle to Woodford and enjoy a week of camping with the kids and seeing some great acts. Of course, Robert and I still had to make time for some speaking gigs at the Greenhouse, but it was fun and interactive and celebrated the community that is Woodford. The most exciting thing that happened was the formation of the Brisbane Transition Hub.
West End State School - February 2009. Joseph & Darcy started another year at our local school and while individually they are going well, a few changes in senior staff has created a mood of instability at the school. West End has a great reputation as an open-hearted school. The latest decisions have created some concern amongst the parents and we are working on creating a better place for our kids. The issue of home schooling, and even starting a small school in West End along the lines of Steiner education has come up a bit - we'll see what happens.
Food Connect reaches 1000 Boxes a week - April 2009. Since leaving GWhiz Carshare, I put a lot of my energies into community work with West End Community Association, but I felt the pull of the wonderful energy at Food Connect and it didn't take Robert much to convince me to come on board. It's been a great experience to witness the growth of our subscriber base and sales at Food Connect, and to watch Robert's idea seeded, take hold, and flourish. Now we are planning to help other regions initiate the local food movement. We like to call it the 'pollination' of Food Connect!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Our First Real Blog!

How to avoid writing a book.

It's amazing what a rain-imposed, indoor Easter weekend can turn up. A few days of sleeping, reading, cooking, tending to bored boys, and a bit of pondering in-between has led to us launching a new enterprise AND starting a blog.

The enterprise is a new bike shop with a twist, and the blog is mostly about our daily adventures. We're just an ordinary, blended family seeking to live an authentic life, living in the moment, while respecting our future custodians of the planet - four of which are our children. We're not doing without, we're living within. Within our means and within the means of our environment.

The word sustainability is a strange one. Does it mean sustaining the status quo? Sustaining the current 'business-as-usual' way of life? Most people think that a few technical solutions will 'right the ship' - but I have a feeling that Buckminster Fuller was right. We need a new operating manual for spaceship Earth, because the current one is leading us into a rather large abyss!

Inspired by our community, our children, our mentors, our role models (you'll meet all of them here), we hope you enjoy taking this journey with us, and sharing our tales of transition to a post-carbon world.

The soundtrack to this blog is John Butler Trio's Grand National with a bit of Nick Drake's Bryter Later thrown in, and of course some Miles Davis fabulous blues.