Thursday, 31 October 2013

Chris Pyne on education.

While I am not a fan of politics (at all), I do have a view on education (as I work in the field) and I think the views of the minister for education are a little naive;

Chris Pyne in the Sydney Morning Herald

Well my knee-jerk reaction to that is "Just because we don't teach them about climate change/ invasion/ refugees/ war/ genocide doesn't mean it won't happen to them."

I think that he has failed to understand that today's children are born into a digital world, connected by an electronic umbilicus to the rest of their species (if not the natural world) and the main reason adults are failing to educate them is that we are educating them to survive in a world which does not exist any more. For example, the resistance to 'text language' (which I don't like myself); kids use and speak this language daily, yet we insist it is wrong and they must learn 'proper' language. Isn't the point of language to communicate? Maybe the real issue is that we (the older, 0.1 version of the species) are afraid of the speed at which the language is changing and fear we won't be able to keep up.

While I agree that literacy and numeracy form the solid base on which education is built, what it means to be literate and numerate has changed and continues to change at an ever increasing rate. Today's students are generally more technologically able than their teachers (I often ask a passing ten year old which button to press) and are able to access the entire knowledge of humanity at the click of a button (sometimes as many as three clicks, if it's a difficult question). Old style teaching (chalk, board and the contents of one person's head) seems a little irrelevant in the face of that ability.

I don't see going backwards in teaching style as the answer, nor is trying to hold them back with us. Let's accept that the skill base our children need to take them into adulthood is very different from the one we needed. Let them run (educationally) and we will follow as fast as we can; it's the only way to educate minds that have escaped the prison of a single skull.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Animals playing around

I recently managed to get a few short clips of Roadie the butcher bird playing with various things around the house. I thought I would share them with everyone as I find the antics of the animals of our family (all species) endlessly mesmerizing.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Salmon faverolles chicks at last

My chook flock tends to be very eclectic; I gather unwanted chooks of all breeds who tend to have chicks of unknown parentage. We haven't had many new editions lately, so I bought a dozen fertile eggs (from my friend Milton) to set under a clucky hen. The new chicks are Salmon Faverolles; reputed to be quiet (not noisy) and docile (very dumb and trusting). 
What beautiful babies they are.

They hatched a week ago and I am in love.

They are very quiet; I can barely hear them cheeping in the pen, and very docile; they don't get out of the way when I take food in to them. They have cute little fluffy bodies and a bouffant hair style to go with it. 

I will be keeping a rooster and some hens from this lot and taking a rooster and two hens to school for the kids to look after too. I may need to build a separate pen for them though as I think my wild, feral flock would be too rough on them (they really are very trusting and dumb). 

Fulled knit bags for the markets

I have been making knitted and fulled bags to sell at the markets. They are so much fun to make and each one is unique. I thought I would share one of the patterns I use.
This is the first fulled bag I made.

 I knit on the bus on the way to and from work and at lunch time, and I spin in the evening when I sit down, but I don't seem to be able to spin fast enough to keep up with my knitting. Instead I buy pure (and non-super washed) wool from second hand shops whenever I see it and use it to knit these bags.

This one is for the markets.

The pattern I would like to share today is one I have just finished knitting. As usual, I have complicated the process; I used the Petite Felted Bag pattern by Ann Linn to get the shape of the bag and the mosaic/ slip stitch pattern from the Asthore bag by Christi Wasson for the pattern.
This is the bag before fulling.
Don't be scared off by the fulling process, it's just doing on purpose what I have done by accident for years; machine washing pure wool until it becomes felt. Simply throw the finished bag into the washing machine with hot water for about fifteen minutes and then check, if the bag isn't felted enough just do it again. I love making these bags, they are easy to knit and full, they are very tough and fully washable. They stretch out a bit with use, but snap right back to their smaller size when washed (I wish I could say the same).

I really enjoy knitting; it keeps my hands busy so my mind can wander. Making something useful is always a pleasure too. I am setting my goal at about six fulled bags by December, so I can take them to a market somewhere and make enough to buy more wool.
Another pattern, unfulled as yet

A finished bag for the markets

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Eco bricks; Making use of rubbish

Lately I have been thinking about rubbish; specifically the plastic and foil bits that seem to be wrapped around everything these days. We have no rubbish pick up here. No magic bin that mysteriously empties itself if I leave it by the road on a Tuesday night. We take our rubbish to the dump in the trailer and pay for the privilege of leaving it there (we also pay $150 a year to maintain the local dump on our rates). So I have started to think about ways to reduce our rubbish production.

We buy in bulk where we can and I send refillable containers to the local co-operative to be filled up with washing powder and detergent. Glass, recyclable plastic containers, aluminium and tin cans are taken to a recycling centre periodically. Food scraps, paper and cardboard are used in the chook pen for composting. That only leaves that annoying plastic; plastic wrap, Styrofoam trays, chip packets, chocolate wrappers and plastic bags. We commonly fill about one grain bag (20 litre size)  per week of non-recyclable plastic.

 I think I have found a solution at last;

Eco bricks. They have been used to build schools and houses in third world countries for a few years now and provide a handy way of getting rid of rubbish that would otherwise go into landfill.

Basically they involve stuffing clean plastic rubbish really tightly into PET bottles until they are full and hard, then put the cap back on. I have been making them for about two months now and have managed to produce about two a week. I never thought I would be thankful for my partner's coca cola habit, but he manages to provide just enough bottles to keep up with the plastic we produce.

Step one; collect all the clean plastic rubbish you can (wash it if you have to)

Step two; using a stick or an old knitting needle, shove the plastic rubbish down into the bottle.

 Pack it down tight.

Keep filling until you can't jam any more in, then put the cap back on.

Stock pile them somewhere and use them to build.

Beautiful buildings like this.

Maybe I will collect enough to build the toilet out of them.......

Is this idea too crazy?? Can I get the local council to approve? What do you think?

Monday, 7 October 2013

Dry days of spring and Hugelkultur update number two

The hot, dry, windy months of spring are here. I am using lots of water on the garden and there is no rain in sight to refill the tanks. I water the garden with the water from the washing (about 160 litres a week) and from the chook and sheep water buckets when I refill them (about 30 litres); I also use about 20 litres a day straight from the tank to water the seedlings and potted plants. I am happy to be re-using the water from the washing and animal waters but I think I need to start putting a plug in the bath when we shower too, so I can scoop it out and water more. This drying wind really affects the vegetables.
In an effort to save my seedlings and tender plants, I have been covering the seedling hardening off area with old sheets to conserve water and provide a little shade. 

My seedling raising area.

Happy seedlings in pie trays to give them time to soak up the sprinkle I give them every day.

In the Hugelkultur beds everything is growing well. I still only water these beds once a week with the washing water (about 80 litres). This bed badly needs re-mulching to further conserve water (that is my goal for this week).

I know it looks dry, but the soil under the plants stays reasonably damp.

In the hugelkultur beds I have......


Roma tomato, just little fruit at present.


brocolli, just starting to bud.

And good old silver beet.

The trailer bed has broad beans and some really late snow peas; so I covered it to provide some protection from wind and sun. We might get lucky and get a crop.

The heirloom lettuce in the trailer bed is going well and we eat off it every day.

We are looking forward to beetroot soon, but in the meantime the leaves are added to stir fry and salad (when my partner isn't looking)