Transforming my verge – Part 2

It has been one and a half years since I began transforming my verge by planting natives.

I am sad to report that it hasn’t been as successful as I had hoped.

Most of the tube stock didn’t survive the first summer – the only ones that did were these Eremophilas:

AL_Verge_DSC03079
Newly planted tube stock.
Eremophila
One and a half years of growth (despite little care).


I did restock from the Friends of Kings Park native plant sale and City of Vincent’s Local Native Plant Sale.

Sadly, most of those also didn’t survive too well either but here is a photo of my verge currently:

Native verge Feb 2016

I’m not 100% certain but I think the following are the factors that contributed to plant deaths:

  1. Neglect from me – not watering regularly through summer.
  2. Dog pee – at least 3 plants killed.
  3. Being covered – I had another mountain of mulch delivered and they dumped all over 3 plants.
  4. Child using plant as trampoline – 1 victim.

I am working on Point 1 this summer but short of (temporarily) fencing off my verge, I am not sure what I can do about the other causes of fatalities.

Still, I am having fun – seeing some of them flourish and flower.  Come April, I will get more tubestock from the City of Vincent Local Native Plant sale to replace the dead plants.

Introducing the Mount Hawthorn Seed Library

Transition Town Mt Hawthorn is pleased to introduce the Mount Hawthorn Seed Library.  A seed library is a depository of seeds held in trust for members of that library.  Members come to the library and borrow seeds for their garden.  They grow the plants in their garden and at the end of the season, they let a few plants “go to seed”.  These seeds are collected and returned to the seed library.

The Mt Hawthorn Seed Library promotes sustainable living and treading
lightly on our planet.  It is always preferable to not use man-made chemicals when growing plants for seed production.  We would prefer if you used more natural methods to enhance plant growth, like composting and mulching to promote big crops.  Alternatives to harsh chemicals exist for keeping common garden pests away – come and chat with us to find out more.

Growing local seeds in local conditions helps to create geographically resilient seeds and plants.

If you want to take seeds from the Mt Hawthorn Seed Library (and share knowledge on growing plants or seed collection), come along to the next Transition Town Mt Hawthorn meeting at Anzac House (1st Wednesday of each month, 6.30pm).

Some of the seeds we currently have include: Cucumber, Zucchini, Tomato, Rockmelon, Bush beans, Capsicum, Okra, Chives and Nasturtium (all these plants are readily grown in our local conditions).

No shampoo – washing hair with egg yolk

As a shameless pessimist, I honestly didn’t think that washing my hair with egg yolk instead of shampoo would work. But I gave it a try, not because natural materials are necessarily any better than ‘synthetic’ ones – I’d rather put sulphates on my hair than poison ivy – but because I don’t understand what those ingredients in the shampoo bottle are, but I do understand what egg is. Also, it seems weird to constantly strip the oils your body is producing for your scalp (with shampoo) and then replace it with other ones (conditioner). I was initially going to try baking soda and vinegar, but as with many ‘natural’ materials, there are some problems with using these – drying out your hair is one issue that has been reported. To be frank, the reason I went with egg is because I couldn’t find any negative issues associated with using it on the internet – despite the fact that the interwebs is the single biggest repository of crap (as well as treasure) in human history. Not a particularly wise or considered decision, but I was only using traditional shampoo and conditioner because I always had. As it happens, I got lucky – the egg worked.

It worked really well and I’m still using it after a few months. My hair is great – no problems at all. The secret seems to be: only use the yolk of the egg and mix it with water to dilute it. There are all sorts of recipes on the www, but I reckon, keep it simple. Crack an egg into a cup, separate the yolk and add a little tap water (a little more than the amount of egg yolk) and mix it up with a fork. Wet your hair in the shower and pour a little bit into your hand at a time to disperse around your scalp. Rub it in a bit for a minute, like you’re lathering shampoo, although it won’t bubble like shampoo does and then rinse out. I haven’t needed any conditioner at all. I just blow dry my hair afterward and it’s ready to go. It doesn’t smell at all and doesn’t cook in the water as long as you don’t use the egg white. I have warm, but not hot showers and don’t have a problem, although I wouldn’t recommend having a really hot shower when you do it, in case the heat affects the yolk.

As far as I can surmise from my amateur searching on-the-line, the egg yolk works as a shampoo because it is an emulsifier – in that it helps oil/fat and water stick together like in mayonnaise, which means that the yolk can pick up the grease in your hair and bind it to the water, which is then rinsed out. I’m no expert though, so don’t take my word for it – I wash my hair with raw egg, so how bright can I be, really?

Sustainable Christmas gift ideas

Blog by Lisa

I’d like to share our sustainable gift ideas. They include fun ways to give time and experiences as alternatives to giving ‘stuff’.

Do you have ideas to add?

Did you use these ideas for your Christmas shopping? I’d love to hear how they were received and if you shared them with friends and family.

How did this start? A neighbour shared the story of The Minimalists. Now a fun journey is beginning because the idea of being happier with less makes sense.

What else is happening? We are grateful to the City of Vincent for an environmental grant to re-print our no junk mail signs. Our native gardeners and urban chicken networks will start in the new year, the sustainable house movie is taking shape and we’ll have more environmental movie nights soon. Stay tuned for more info in 2015.

TTMH at City of Vincent’s “Thank you” Sundowner

TTMH Members (L to R): Behrooz, Kim, Lisa, Alfred, Gabby & Geoff.

As a community group, we were fortunate to be invited to the City of Vincent’s (CoV) “Thank you” Sundowner.

Held at the Vincent Administration Building, there were about 120 people from different community groups and council staff.

CoV’s CEO Len Kosova gave a brief speech, followed by Mayor John Carey.

Photo op with Mayor John Carey (L to R): Alfred, Gabby, Kim, John Carey.

Mayor Carey acknowledged the role community groups played and thanked them for their contributions. He then spoke about the challenges the council faced and the changes already made and also planned for 2015.

I got to meet meet people from the North Perth Community Gardens, North Perth Men’s Shed and the Claise Brook Catchment Group.

Lisa spoke to Lee from the Men’s Shed about a new sustainability project she and Geoff are interested in.

It was a good night, spent with people who are making positive contributions to the communities they live in.

Thank you for a lovely evening, City of Vincent, and Transition Town Mt Hawthorn look forward to working with you to make our community a better place.

We decided to make a video: Update #1

We got together and did a bit more planning for TTMH’s videos.

Storyboards were reviewed and home owners of sustainable houses were contacted, letting them know we will be shooting in the new year.

Part of the storyboard

As video production is a new thing to us, we decided to trial using the recording gear on Kim – a fellow member of TTMH.

Kim is passionate in waste reduction and we will be producing a series of short videos about composting.

As always, feel free to give pose question – the trickier the better – as comments below.

If there ever were questions about composting and sustainable housing that you’ve always wanted to ask, now is the time!

We would still love to have help to create videos – see the first blog and comments if you can help.

By January, TTMH should be ready to launch our first video!

So keep an eye out 🙂

Let’s start a native gardener’s network!

Blog by Lisa

Geoff, Gabby and I are keen to start a native gardener’s network in our local area! We hope to:

  • get other native gardeners together for drinks in the garden
  • set up a buddy system, where experienced native gardeners can help people that are just getting started
  • arrange some walking tours with morning or arvo tea, where people can visit a few native gardens, speak to the owners and learn a few tips.

How to get in touch – be part of the beginning of our native gardener’s network

If you’d like to be part of our new native gardener’s network, please send us an email to ttmthawthorn@gmail.com –  we’d love to hear from you.

The City of Vincent can help you to change your verge to natives – FOR FREE!

They will dig up the lawn for you, apply high quality woodchips and give you 20 free native plants. Further information is available on the City of Vincent website, www.vincent.wa.gov.au/Services/Environment_Sustainability/Green_Initiatives/Adopt_a_Verge_program.

Let our native gardener’s network know if you would like help with planting, we may be able to find some keen volunteer planters!

Why go native?

We have a mix of local and WA natives in our garden. Purists go for 100% local natives but we just get too excited about the incredible diversity of natives in the whole of WA. We love native gardens because they:

  • provide habitat, food and shelter for local birds, native bees, butterflies and other wildlife (we like to show people our resident native bees!)
  • are adapted to the local soil types and climate, including drought conditions
  • require minimal watering, saving water and money
  • look great!

Do local native plants need water?

The following advice is provided by the Australian Native Nursery[1].

“Initially, yes you should water your new plants in well. For the first summer your new plants may have to be watered regularly, just keep your eye on the forecast and deep water once a week during long periods of low rainfall or high heat. Once established, they should be able to cope with just the local rainfall – just another great benefit of choosing a local native garden.”

Where can we buy local native plants?

It is best to plant natives in autumn or winter. Choose a nursery that is certified by the nursery industry association scheme Australia (NIASA), as they follow practices to ensure they do not spread Phythopthora dieback to your garden. Not all native nurseries are certified. Some certified native nurseries in Perth
include:

Where can I find more information on growing WA native plants? Further information on growing local native plants is available from the Wildflower Society of Western Australia, the Master Gardeners at Kings Park – they provide free advice on native gardening, and the Florabase website.

Our Transition Town Mt Hawthorn website is still being developed. It will soon have further info about going native (and a whole heap of other info about growing veges, the urban chicken network, compost and sustainable living).


[1] Australian Native Nursery 2014, Do I need to water native plants? Cited at <www.australiannativenursery.com.au/2014/05/19/watering-native-plants/>
on 27 August 2014.

Happy chickens – our quest to buy higher welfare eggs

by Lisa

Geoff and I are on a quest to choose higher welfare eggs. This is what we found out:

  • avoid the cage
  • think like a chicken
  • choose certified.

Avoid the cage

We avoid eggs laid by hens in cages. That bit is easy!

Think like a chicken

Chickens have natural behaviours, such as dust bathing, perching, stretching and flapping their wings and laying their eggs in private. Some choices may mean they are not able to use these behaviours or fulfil these natural instincts.

They naturally like to be free range… but we found there is more to it!

Choose certified

We found there is no legal definition of the term ‘free-range’ in Western Australia, so standards can vary dramatically.

Choose certified free range, organic, bio-dynamic or barn laid eggs, so you will be sure what you are buying. These eggs are produced, with no more than 1,500 hens per hectare (or no more than 2,500 hens per hectare in some circumstances).

The stocking densities could be a lot higher if the eggs are not certified (e.g. 20,000 hens per hectare!). We looked into this further – Choice has a campaign for better labelling.

Some local uncertified egg farms have sold cage eggs in free range egg cartons and they are being investigated by the ACCC1. We used to buy these “free range” eggs because they were local – but now we know better.

The word ‘organic’ on an egg carton can sometimes mislead people to think the welfare of hens meets certified organic standards – when it may only mean that hens in barns are fed organic grains. We are now really careful to avoid being misled and always check the certification.

Advice from Choice Magazine: “If you want to ensure that the free range eggs you buy meet your expectations:

  • look for certification logos and inform yourself about the free range standards behind the certifying bodies”… and
  • “check the packaging or producer websites of the eggs you buy for information about their standards.” 2

Some examples of certified free range, organic or barn laid eggs currently sold in Mt Hawthorn and Leederville are summarised in Table 1. The table does not include brands that also sell cage eggs.

Where can I find further information?

Choice explains the issues here.

The requirements of the certifying bodies are summarised by:

This fun You Tube video sums it up perfectly.

Conclusion

We avoid the cage, think like a chicken and choose certified to ensure we are buying higher welfare eggs. We are going to do this whenever we buy eggs.
Now stay tuned for news on our Urban Chicken Network. Another way to find higher welfare eggs is to care for the chickens at home – and they can use our food scraps too!

Notes

1. A recent example is the Swan Valley Egg Farm (Snowdale Holdings), which is not accredited and is being investigated by the ACCC. They also own Eggs by Ellah. See Swan Valley Egg Farm, ACCC Institutes proceedings against free range egg producers and ACCC crackdown on free range egg definition.

2. Choice 2014, Free range eggs. Cited on 27 August 2014.
Certified free range and barn laid eggs from Golden Egg Farms, Sunny Queen, McLean’s Run (owned by Sunny Queen), Pace and Kalbarri Eggs were ruled out because they also sell cage eggs. See Shop Ethical! and the Egg Corporation.

We decided to make a video

Well, actually, three videos. Or possibly four.

Let me back track.

A couple of meetings ago, Gabby and Lisa mentioned that they were going to visit some houses as part of Sustainable House Day, which is supported by the City of Vincent.

I got excited and asked them approach the owners to see if they would be willing to be interviewed about their houses.

Lo and behold, three owners said yes!

So, Gabby and I met to discuss how we are going to do get the videos done.

Celebrating the project’s kick-off meeting

Why?

We want to make the freely accessible online videos to inspire locals to build sustainability into their homes when they next build or renovate.

At least three City of Vincent locals have done it, so can the rest of us!

What?

These are some of the questions that will be posed to the home owners:

  • Why did you do it?
  • What were the challenges you faced?
  • How can we make it easier for people to adopt sustainability?
  • Would you do anything differently?

Do you have questions you want answered? Write them in the comments.

Help!

To make this awesomer, we need more hands on deck!

Can you:

  • write a catchy tune?
  • help on a video shoot?
  • operate a camera or microphone?
  • contribute the use of your camera or microphone?
  • write blogs around sustainable housing issues?
  • help coordinate the videoshoots?
  • brew a cup of tea to keep the video team going?

Basically, if you want help out in any way, please let me know: ttmthawthorn@gmail.com

Update

Read about progress since the initial meeting.