All Things Sustainable

ecology, economy, community

Sour Cherries and Consumer Capitalism

Sour Cherries at Christmas
This Christmas I went up to the farm. Set between Canberra and Cooma the climate is cool enough to grow all the fruits and nuts that need winter chilling to produce their best.

Around the garden perimeter there are numerous bushes growing sour cherries and this year they are all fully laden. Sour cherries are bright red and very small when compared with the commercially grown sweet cherries. If you have not tasted them before the flavour might come as a surprise to you, this year they are tart and clean and without sweetness but to my taste they are delicious. The Christmas turkey was cooked outside in a barbecue and served garnished with the cherries. I would have liked to experiment with making a sour cherry sauce to serve in lieu of the cranberry sauce but time did not permit.
Christmas turkey
I picked a large basin full, about a kilo, and brought them home with me. I have preserved some in kirsch and some in brandy, they will remain untouched until the winter weather arrives, then I will decant the flavored spirit to warm a winter evening and perhaps do something creative with the boozy fruit as well even though I didn’t remove the pips.
Sour cherries
I next pitted the rest of my harvest. A sour cherry with the stone removed weighs about 3 grams and as I wanted a total of 500gms that was quite a time consuming job but once done the rest was easy. I was making a cherry bake, similar to a clafoutis, whisking together eggs, sugar and softened butter, adding in plain flour and some milk then putting the mixture into a shallow baking dish. I put the 500gms of sour cherries on the top and popped it in the oven for half an hour.

Served warm with a sweetened vanilla yogurt it was so good.

Community & Consumer Capitalism 1st January 2015
As I never make the traditional New Year resolution this year I decided to break with my personal tradition. I decided that I would definitely do some research and some writing that explores the way our local communities are developing. This has been triggered by some of my own choices, one if which was joining a choir. This brought me into closer contact with the amazing musical fraternity that exists in the area. At a New Year’s Eve bash I attended, a continuous live show put on by some great local performers who created a fabulous low cost evening for the whole community and who for the most part actually paid to attend the gig.

Looking at newly emerging views on evolution that suggest our forbears actually out performed our hominin rivals due to a superior ability to cooperate, empathize and work together I am wondering if the competitive model of consumer capitalism is actually the main problem we need to deal with if we are to avoid climate disaster.

Time to do some more reading I think!!



Week 1 of the Mini-Moocs

Nottingham Uni is part of the new MOOCS movement and I am trying out a couple of their free online courses not because I am totally incapable of sitting around with spare time on my hands but mainly because I want to know what the rest of the world is thinking about sustainability and climate change issues. I will be using this blog to see where they are going and explore how it changes my thinking. That is assuming I am not totally one eyed and immoveable.
Meanwhile back at the ranch so to speak I have a new delicacy for your consideration : pigface fruit.

Pig Face Fruit. Pigface is a ground covering succulent that grows near the coast, it has showy pink to purple flowers.

Pig Face Fruit. Pigface is a ground covering succulent that grows near the coast, it has showy pink to purple flowers.

This bush tucker grows wild in the area and a neighbour brought me some to try as I had never eaten it. He showed me how to split the outer layer of the fruit and reveal the succulent inner part. It tasted a bit like salty kiwi fruit. This is a sustainable resource I suppose but if everyone wanted to eat it I wonder how long it would last.
Once there were yam daisies that grew throughout Victoria I am told. It was a staple food for the local population before Captain Cook arrived but now the plant is rarely encountered because the introduction of sheep destroyed it. The sheep did well and Australia rode on the sheep’s back for many years but it certainly wasn’t a sustainable solution for the native people.
Conclusion: Sustainability is inclusive : you must include everyone and everything that is affected by your decisions. Not easy.

Canberra – a well kept secret?

GEI am sure that Canberra must be Australia’s best kept secret, there are often groaning sounds of boredom when the name is mentioned but I really enjoy it and always find interesting things to do and places to visit.
My most recent visit was a weekend in August, I had arranged it with family members and travelled up the Clyde Mountain road on a Friday afternoon, we met for drinks and dinner that night at The Pot Belly in Belconnen. The Pot Belly is something like a local pub with overtones of an old fashioned jazz cellar and a bistro with live music. It has good food and a great atmosphere, I had fried peppers stuffed with feta cheese coated in a tempura type batter. Really good, mild at first and then a warm chilli taste as you reach the last bite, No photos of this dish (which is a shame because it was served on a bread board) nor of the venue I’m afraid but they do have a Facebook page you can check out.
The next notable event was a visit to Geoscience Australia, the national agency for geoscience and geospatial information. Does this sound boring? Well it isn’t. This establishment opens its doors to the public for one day each year and offers an insight into their work.

Geoscience Australia opened its doors to the public and it was a great success

Geoscience Australia opened its doors to the public and it was a great success

The open day is really successful, engaging children and awakening their curiosity and their interest in science. However there is also plenty of information and activity interesting and complex enough to engage the enquiring adult as well and the day included several 30 minute talks on diverse subjects covering some of the ways that geoscience is being applied to important challenges such as managing ground water and refining GPS to centimeter accurate positioning. There was a tour of the Tsunami Warning Centre, a tour of the laboratory and something called “Fossil Fun” (bookings essential for this one) and around 35 or 40 displays.
This was a demonstrate of how a volcano erupts, it was very popular but the timing was a bit unpredictable

This was a demonstration of how a volcano erupts, it was very popular but the timing was a bit unpredictable

One of the displays included seismic surveys – it had sensors set up outside along the fence line and a pad near an instrument centre housed in a tented enclosure. Children were invited to hit the pad with a mallet and look at the effects on the instruments. I didn’t get to see the instruments or hear exactly what was being revealed below the ground because the display was popular, the queue was long and there were so many other things to see.
The activities aimed at children and families were just brilliant, everything from a “GPS geocache adventure” to an appearance by a TRex dinosaur on the balcony.
T Rex appeared on the balcony with great snapping teeth and a loud roar.

T Rex appeared on the balcony with great snapping teeth and a loud roar.

And then it got out
T Rex escaped into the grounds.....

T Rex escaped into the grounds…..

And attacked a visitor. Who said science was boring?
After all this excitement my next Canberra experience was a complete contrast, I went to the Art Gallery with a pre-booked ticket to the Turner From the Tate exhibition, peaceful, calm and colourful this magnificent exhibition was a wonderful counterbalance to the immediacy of the Geoscience experience. I wandered through gallery complete with the hired audio tour which I felt was of limited use although it did draw my attention to one or two things I might otherwise have missed. I have long admired and enjoyed Turner’s work and this exhibition was a joy. Amazingly we were allowed to take photos as long as a flash was not used. Never the less I somehow felt constrained not to photograph the works until I saw the very last watercolour at which point I overcame my reticence and photographed just this one.
An exquisite Turner watercolour.

An exquisite Turner watercolour.

But my wonderful weekend had not yet ended. Without my being aware of it high tea at the Wedgewood tearoom had been booked so the afternoon ended with Champagne, Earl Grey tea and a selection of delicate sandwiches, savories and sweets served on fine china.
I love Canberra.

South East Harvest Regional Food Festival

South East Harvest Festival in Moruya 2013

South East Harvest Festival in Moruya 2013

I spent the last Saturday in July at the South East Harvest Regional Food Festival in Moruya, it was a great day which concentrated on gathering local producers and creating a family friendly event. As usual I managed to leave the camera at home and had to rely on the mobile phone for photos which made life a bit difficult as it was a really bright sunny day and as a result I was shooting blind. It was a perfect day for the solar panels that grace so many of Moruya’s rooftops, the winter sun was warm but not hot and there was no wind, a great day for pumpkin rolling and sack races, for drummers drumming, choirs singing and dancers dancing all of which happened through the day.
Pumpkin rolling competition at the SE Harvest Festival

Pumpkin rolling competition at the SE Harvest Festival

ABC TV Gardening Austraia host, Costa interviewed stallholders, directed the childrens’ games and put in a word on behalf of small producers, many of whom are struggling with regulation changes that seem almost designed to put them out of business.

I was there to help with the SCPA South East Producers stall which showcased information about Bega Seed Savers, sold seedlings from NoDig Gardens and bushfood flavours and preserves from Karibara Bushfoods. The day was an interesting mixture, on one hand the rediscovery of the value of food grown locally for local consumption, a sense that maybe producers need to stand together, to use cooperatives or maybe community owned formats to claw back the autonomy that has been ceded to multinationals. A desire to end the “get big or get out” mindset which has turned food into a commodity, flooded the world with chemicals and given us an obesity epidemic that is undermining our health. On the other hand there was also a gentle nostalgia with seating near the food stalls and randomly located straw bales that made for a very relaxed atmosphere. The requirement for the bulk of the food sold at the event to be locally sourced helped this because suddenly everyone was eating real food well cooked and well flavoured.
A week later the election was called and now there is frenetic action by politicians with the two major parties trying to persuade us all that the other side are dangerous lunatics. Tony Abbott about to destroy renewable energy and Kevin Rudd trying to win the gold medal for being horrid to refugees and asylum seekers. Oh the joys of democracy. I just hope the Greens manage to keep the balance of power and bring some honour back into politics.

Changing seasons

Folk Festival
Here on the Far South Coast of NSW the late summer and early autumn period is a time taken up by local festivals. From the Cobargo Folk Festival in February we move in March to the Seaside Fair and the big sculpture exhibition “Sculpture on the Edge” culminating this year with the first Fire Festival. This was held on the headland and there was music provided by Gypsies from Outer Space, food from Arincini Bambini, a community picnic among the sculptures and finally as darkness was closing in the fire sculptures were lit.

The first Fire Sculpture is ignited ah=nd it is followed by the small sculptures produced by the primary school students for the occasion..

The first Fire Sculpture is ignited ah=nd it is followed by the small sculptures produced by the primary school students for the occasion..

This firey sculpture was framed by trees and the night sky

This firey sculpture was framed by trees and the night sky

There is something about fire that speaks to a primitive instinct in us, perhaps reminding us of a time when humanity depended on fire and the hearth was the heart of the house, or maybe that is just my imagination and my northern heritage speaking. Certainly fire in this land is much more dangerous but even so as I see the drift of smoke across the valley and catch the scent in my nostrils it speaks to me of warmth and winter. How different is the smoke of wildfire in summer, linked with high winds and searing heat it leaves everyone on edge, restless and with an underlying current of fear.

Then in April there is the Tilba Easter Festival and on alternate years the Four Winds Festival celebrates music. Planning for Four Winds next year is well under way. This remarkable three day festival features classic, cultural and world musicians, it is held in a natural amphitheater on a rural property and there are additional performances held in Bermagui venues. for more information.

I spent Easter this year with my daughter and her family at the farm near Cooma. We planted trees on the river bank, we gathered chestnuts and rosehips and visited another farm close by which sold fresh organic raspberries. We joined the children in an Easter egg hunt, and together with friends we lunched on the verandah in fine style. Back at home I have now frozen the raspberries and made some rosehip jelly.

Lunch at the farm

But today far from thinking about festivals and Easter I just wanted to get the garlic and the onion seedlings planted out into the garden. Two days ago I tried to prepare a garden bed, the last of the vegetables had been cleared out previously but at that time the ground was very dry and hard so I decided to wait for some rain before preparing the bed.

This is my Vegenet exclusion device

This is my Vegenet exclusion device

I finally decided to try again but the ground was set like concrete and even with a hose running onto it only the top couple inches were workable.
I gave up again but yesterday it finally rained, there was 18mm in the rain gauge and happily the thunderstorm had delivered enough moisture to make planting out possible. The onions and garlic are now in the garden and hopefully protected by the vegenet. They need protection because a few days ago a wallaby raided the grape vine and the sweet potato and ate all the leaves and a week before the fox got all chooks. Much as I enjoy the wild life there are moments when I wish they would stay on the other side of the fence, and imported predators like foxes are not welcome at all.

The Locavores on display

Locavores in action

Locavores in action

The 30km dinner in Cobargo certainly lived up to its promise, the 120 tickets were gone within 3 weeks of coming on sale and many would-be diners missed out. The locals pulled together to assemble a great range of produce and to create a lively atmosphere in the Cobargo School of Arts Hall, Bega TAFE students presented the food in fine style, red and white wines were available to complement an excellent degustation menu produced under the guidance of local chef, Linda Sang. The range of the produce was remarkable in itself. Wapengo oysters, local fish, beef, chicken, lamb, kangaroo, rabbit, eggs, cheese, a variety of beers, cider and wines all grown, caught, harvested or produced within the 30km radius.
When I arrived I thought I might try the cider so I purchased a ticket and headed to the bar, where, OMG, I was confronted by an enormous bottle of cider, I knew I would never drink it all! Fortunately a charming man by the name of Colin came to my rescue and offered me half a bottle of lager instead. I think it was one of the nicest lagers I have ever tasted. The tables had elegant black circular place settings…. well actually they were old LPs fulfilling the re-use part of the three Rs (Reduce Re-use Recycle) as were the cake stands, which were constructed from LPs and EPs by the Mens’ Shed, used to serve the sweets and then sold at the close of the evening for $10.00 each. Intermittent trivia with totally unrealistic questions and strange answers devised by the management (who were open to bribery) plus raffles, door prizes, ticket sales and donations raised $5,000.00 for maintenance of the School of Arts Hall. These old halls are important to the villages but they don’t bring in an adequate return for their upkeep so events like this are used by local communities to make sure they remain open. Beautifully Mad (Tony King and Nina Vox), with their eclectic music mix entertained us in the latter part of the evening and once the meal was finished and the dance floor was clear they kept us moving and our feet tapping with everything from blues to The Sultans of Swing. Beautifully Mad were performing at Old Parliament House in Canberra later in the month so we were lucky to have them at the dinner. Their music is available from the web


Market Day in Bega

Market Day in Bega

This is a photo taken at the Bega Farmer’s Market which is held in the Littleton Gardens every second Friday although the interest is such that it may well go to a weekly market eventually. There are only around thirty stalls and they are selling fresh locally grown vegetables, olives and olive oil, seedlings that you can grow on in your own vege patch, coffee, tea or chai from a mobile coffee maker, home made biscuits or cakes (availability varies) fresh eggs, organic meat sold from a refrigerated display van and more.

Is it the start of a new economic system or the revival of an old one perhaps? Whatever it is it is attempting to prevent the demise of the small farmer in the Bega Valley by giving them an outlet that is not managed and controlled by multi-national mega businesses or the supermarket duopoly.

It is reported that areas of Queensland will soon only have access to ultra heat treated long life milk, no fresh milk or cream because the number of dairy farmers has plummeted as a result of the milk price war in the supermarkets.

In summer our population more than doubles when the tourists arrive so if you are coming to our area why not support the local farmers and the local economy and come to the market? The stall holders are always happy to chat.

The Bega markets in 2013 are on 18th January, 1st February and every second Friday throughout the year