Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Are we educating conformists

This post was going to be about pit toilets.....but I had an interesting conversation with my friend Megan about what schools should be like. This post is now going to be about the need for a paradigm shift in education.
I decided to become a teacher for very selfish reasons; I enjoy seeing children discover something new. I enjoy seeing the joy that glows on their faces when they discover that they CAN reason their way through and solve their own problems. I am discovering a dark side to the current system though; the insistence on conformity, from the highest levels of management to the students themselves. There is a written code of conduct for teachers in NSW, it lays out the behavior and duties of teachers and it makes a lot of sense, but there is also an unspoken code which consists of things like being called 'miss' or 'sir', even if being called 'miss' makes you look guiltily over your shoulder for the teacher, expecting to get into trouble for playing when you should be working. What is it about being called by a title that gives a person power? Why do we want to drive students to learning by the judicious use of this power, rather than trying to lead them to learning by making it fun?
I am just a student of the art of education, I don't know all the answers and never will (my perception is too small for that), but I do question what I can do to change education from inside the system and wonder if my musings are even valid.
According to Sir Ken, the modern education system is designed to inhibit divergent thinking; a talent which we need to continue to grow as a species.
This Clip of Sir Ken Robinson brings up some very interesting points; not least of which is the cookie cutter system we have evolved to teach our children what we think they should know in order to get a job. We can't know what the world will be like when our current students leave school so how can we prepare them for it?
I would like some opinions about what a good education looks like.
Whay are the most important subjects to teach?
Should we make full use of all the technology available to teach (iPhone, iPod, social media)?
Is the old fashioned way of teaching values valid or do we need to change?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The seeds are here!

My package from the Diggers Club arrived. I got open pollinating seeds of;

  1.  rocket - pronto
  2. Beetroot - Chioggia, Bull's Blood , Golden and White Blankoma
  3. Broccoli - Purple Sprouting
  4. Eggplant - Rosa Bianca, Violetta di Firenze, Slim Jim and Listada di Gandia
  5. Green beans - Lazy Housewife (I wish)
  6. Carror - Purple Dragon
  7. Tomato - Tommy Toe
  8. Corn - Golden Bantam
  9. Water melon - Moon and Stars
  10. Silverbeet - Five colour mix

My new seed collection

I decided to take my daughter's advice and put the seedlings beside the back door. I didn't have to move the sick animal aviary after all because I bought one of the little plastic covered green houses suggested by Jacqui (Dusty Country Road blog) and put it in the most protected position I could find, as also suggested by Jacqui. The little green house is now full to the brim with seeds planted in punnets and newspaper pots.
The new seedling raising area. My potting table is to the left against the aviary wall and the little green house is full of enthusiasm.
Some of the seedlings in my little green house. Roma tomatoes potted on from a punnet I bought. These are bound for the school gardens I am custodian to.
In an excess of enthusiasm I also potted some herbs into an indoor herb tower which will live beside a North facing window in the kitchen and hopefully result in us having lots of parsley, chives, oregano and mint added to our meals (not all of them together, obviously).

The next challenge for me is to complete stages 3 and four of the Hugelkultur beds so I can plant out all these new seedlings. I have given myself a month to do that. Wish me luck.

I am finding that setting myself goals that have to be met by a certain time is helping me to get things done in the garden. What techniques do you use to get things done?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Wiltipol sheep

Let me tell you the story of our sheep..................
Four years ago I began to worry about bush fire danger to our humpy so we began to mow around the general human habitat with a push mower; laborious and boring work (I can tell you). The procedure involved having my two daughters walk in front of the mower and clear a 10 meter wide strip of bush of sticks, rocks and clods while my partner and I took turns pushing the mower (with a catcher) and emptying the wheel barrow of clippings from the mower.
Although this process yielded lots of kindling for the fire (sticks) and mulch for the garden (clippings), we soon got sick of it as it needed repeating on a monthly basis over summer and it took a whole weekend of 8 hour days to complete. So after two years; a new plan was hatched......
We decided we needed to let animals take over some of the work as they didn't have to go off and earn a living and study too. After a lot of research into suitable animals for the purpose of fire hazard reduction we settled on sheep as the most useful; horses are too delicate and browse branches in preference to grass and ground cover; goats are the love children of Houdini and an old world daemon and will escape a maximum security enclosure in order to eat your favorite shrub; geese are too susceptible to predators, eagles, foxes and dogs; cattle need more feed than we can provide on our poor land, so sheep it is.
I didn't want a breed of sheep that required tail docking, mulsing and shearing so I looked around at the older varieties of sheep who shed their wool and are capable of surviving without massive amounts of human intervention. I came up with Shetland sheep and Wiltshire horn sheep as my preferred breeds because both have usable wool but don't need a lot of attention.
As it turns out, Shetland sheep are impossible to obtain in Australia so I began looking at Wiltshire horn sheep and discovered that they are wild and wary creatures who never tame fully. I kept asking around and talking about the idea until I ran into a local lady who breeds...Wiltipols.
Wiltipols are a newish breed of sheep made from crossing Wiltshire horns with Dorpers (another shedding breed). They are reasonably docile, shed their wool and do not require a lot of care or intervention. I asked the local lady; Evelyn, to let me know when the next lot of lambs were ready to go. Meanwhile we began to save for fencing and managed to build two smallish paddocks by the time our babies were weaned and ready to come home.
They eat everything and anything; lantana, bladey grass, native grasses, the lot.

You can see the old wool gradually shedding and the new fleece below.

 give them a handful of mixed grain of a morning to keep them coming to me and so I can check them over

They came when you call them and I love their playful yet gentle natures.

We eventually moved to electric fencing to make paddocks for them as that has proved to be the most flexible method of getting the firebreak mown.

They do a brilliant job of clearing the fire breaks and they are just going into their first moult. I believe that getting our four girls (and the later addition of Kitty, another story) has been the best labor saving initiative we have ever instituted.
I have yet to figure out how to collect the shed wool in any useful amount, but it will happen if I keep thinking about it.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Hi friends,

I have been supporting a campaign calling for the federal government to support community-owned renewable energy projects in communities across Australia.  Tomorrow members of the campaign are meeting with Minister for Climate Change, the Hon Mark Butler.  They need a few extra signatures on their petition – can you support the cause?
 Sign the petition here - www.fundcommunityenergy.org
 More information on community energy and why this campaign is so important can be found below.
 Thank you!


Right across Australia local communities are working hard to set up community-owned renewable energy projects to power their towns and buildings. But, like any new industry, they need financial assistance to achieve this. .

 We are calling on the federal government to establish a $50 million grant program to support the development stage of community renewable energy projects.

 By signing this petition you can help make community energy a reality:

Already, we've taken this petition to Canberra and recieved interest from all three major political parties. We met with the offices of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition, as well as key ministers, MPs, and heads of key departments. We inspired the nations leaders with our message of communities across Australia taking practical action on climate change. Now we need to keep up the pressure!

 Why is this important?
Over 38 communities across Australia are developing community owned wind and solar projects, but only two are up and running. If the other 36 groups don’t receive start-up assistance soon, we risk the early momentum withering away.

 Community-owned renewable energy projects cut carbon pollution and bring new life to regional and rural Australia. Most importantly, they pave the path for an Australia powered by renewable energy that’s owned by everyday people, not big energy companies with vested interests in fossil fuels.

 The solution is simple: a new fund to help projects through the difficult early stages - from inception, feasibility studies, planning approval, all the way to becoming investment-ready. Economic modelling has shown $50 million could support 170 projects to the investment-ready stage over the next 6 years1. Support now could kick-start the community-energy sector and unlock over $500 million in community investment.

 With your support, we can unlock the potential for communities to invest in their own renewable energy future.

Solar Citizens · Australia
This email was sent to Gardengoddess246@gmail.com. To stop receiving emails, click here.
You can also keep up with Fund Community Energy on Facebook.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hugelkultur update

The Hugelkultur beds (stages one and two) have been in for a month now, so I thought it was time for an update.

The beds themselves look great; there has been minimal sinking and the soil below the mulch layer is moist despite only having been watered twice and rained on several times. So the moisture holding capabilities of this gardening method are proving to be exceptional.
The seeds of beans, peas, tomato, lettuce and cucumber have failed to come up so far, that could be the age of the seeds though. The seeds of grain amaranth and fenugreek that were strewn over the beds as a green manure crop (and to clear them from the seed packet container) have sprouted extensively so there will be a carpet of green on the beds within the next month, which should help to hold the soil together and prevent too much erosion if we get the wild spring storms common to our area.

You can't tell from this distance..but things are stirring in there

One tiny plant coming up....possibly a tomato

I also bought some seedling in from our local nursery; broccoli, cabbage, zucchini , tomato and lettuce. I planted these out in the Hugelkultur beds too and so far they are doing Ok.
Zuchini in the Hugelkultur beds
Cabbage in the Hugelkultur beds

I have also had some success with planting in the trailer bed; with everything I have planted in there growing wildly.

Strawberries are going well in the old trailer bed

The broad beans are trying to make up for a slow start by growing really fast

Some late calendula is growing well, destined to be ointment one day

 So that is the extent of my garden at the moment.
Work continues on stage three of the Hugelkultur bed and on the half tank herb bed; both of which are still at the 'collect a heap of old wood' stage. I try to collect at least one wheelbarrow full of wood every day I have at home, but have been sadly lax lately. The beds will be built, even if it takes until next school holidays.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Wool spinning advice

If you read this blog regularly, you will have noticed that I am somewhat hyperactive (adult ADHD) and so Like to skip from one thing to another constantly. I have many hobbies that I keep returning to after long breaks. One of the things I like to do is spin.....sheep and alpaca wool, cotton and hopefully one day silk. I just found a great post about how to spin sock yarn that I thought I would share with you.

Knit Better socks Blog

If you are interested in spinning at all, please have a read.

Some of my home spun wool; from left to right- Suffolk cross, natural - merino, chemical dyed - merino, natural.

My old Scotch tension Ashford Traditional spinning wheel.
The start of a reel of cotton; very slow preparing and spinning.

What I like to make from my wool. I didn't spin the red and green wool for these socks; unfortunately.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Heirloom seeds on the way

I just joined the The Digger's Club and ordered my first batch of heirloom, non-hybrid, non-GMO vegetable seeds. It's very exciting for me and I am dreaming about the vegetable garden I will grow with these seeds.

Now all I have to do is build myself a seedling raising area that is rodent and chook proof, has enough light and is not in danger of getting too hot as the weather warms up and is close enough to both the humpy and the vegetable garden to be convenient for daily visits; all in the next two weeks (which is the deadline for the arrival of the seeds.

There are several candidates for a position;
Beside the front door
Advantages; I pass it all the time, it is fairly sheltered from the wind.
Disadvantages; it faces west and so gets only afternoon sun.

Behind the tap on the left of the door is a 40 cm  x 85 cm space.

Beside the back door;
Advantages; it faces east and so gets morning sun, it is sheltered from the wind and hot afternoon sun and I pass it often.
Disadvantages; I would need to move the 'sick animal' aviary to a new position (it is currently housing an out of season clutch of chickens.

The aviary on the left is where I keep sick wildlife and other animals that happen to stray into my care (the fish tanks are for snakes and lizards)

Beside the chook pen/vegetable garden gate;
Advantages; It is close to the vegetable beds, I pass it all the time, it has morning sunlight to some extent.
Disadvantages; It requires cleaning up an unruly mess (could be an advantage also), it faces west and is exposed to the east also, it is exposed to the wind.

It looks even more of a mess in photos. I think I'd better clean this up no matter where I put the seedlings.

I would like to hear some opinions about where I should put my new seedling area and some suggestions for making it rodent and chook proof. Feel free to comment.

Hamburger Chef Jamie Oliver Proves McDonald’s Burgers “Unfit for human consumption”

Hamburger Chef Jamie Oliver Proves McDonald’s Burgers “Unfit for human consumption”

My partner loves Maccas. This is an eye opener to both the practices of the food industry and the lack of coverage given to 'side line' issues by the media.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Imbolc already and spring is here

It's that time of year again; the snow drops are flowering, so is the hardenbergia in the bush. The chooks are laying and looking for nest sites. All my seedlings are coming up and I have an urge to plant more than we could possibly eat; it must be spring.
At the start of spring we hold the festival of Imbolc; it is held when the first snow drops flower and celebrates the return of life and heat to the land. We also have a bonfire, an outdoor meal and lots of mead.
snow drops...or snow flakes; I can never remember which is which and they flower at the same time.

Seedlings in newspaper pots starting to emerge.

Hardenbergia in the bush

Our Imbolc altar

The bonfire

The alter after dark