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January 2011

Four simple things you can do to help flood-affected Australian farmers

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the recent floods across much of eastern Australia have devastated many food crops and that consequently many farmers are doing it tough.

Have you thought about what you can do to help?

Here's four simple things you can do to help flood affected Aussie farmers:

1. Buy only Australian grown fruit and vegetables

It's now more important than ever to buy Australian-grown produce. I'm guessing many of you already buy local and Australian grown fruit and vegetables. If not, now is a good time to start. Do you really need to eat grapes all-year-round?

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It's also a good time to take a closer look and assess whether imported produce is sneaking into your shopping trolley. How about your frozen peas, or your tinned tomatoes, or tinned fruit, or your orange juice. Are they all made entirely of Australian produce? 

2. Buy 'ugly' fruit and vegetables

Our major supermarkets have generously (hint of sarcasm) said that in response to the floods they'll sell fruit and veg that wouldn't normally be up to their rigorous standards. Perhaps the tomatoes will be slightly spotted, or the potatoes slightly blemished, or your banana may, heaven forbid, have a dark patch.

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I'd love to go off on a tangent and complain about the fact that they don't sell this kind of fruit and vegetables all the time (which results in HUGE wastage). But I won't because I want to keep this message clear and simple.

Go and seek out that 'ugly' fruit and buy it. We need to learn to love 'ugly' produce permanently. Send a clear message to our supermarkets that we want our farmers to be paid fair prices for good produce no matter what it looks like and we'd rather our fruit be blemished than see it wasted.

3. Be willing to pay a little extra

Some fresh foods may become more expensive in coming months and consequently the major supermarkets have said that they may import fruit and vegetables if crop shortages, due to flooding, 'drive prices beyond the tolerance of consumers' grocery bills'.

Do you think they'll drop the cheap imports once the Australian crops recover? Do you think the average Australian will then happily return to paying a fair price for fresh food once they've been spoilt by ridiculously cheap imports?

Let's not let the supermarkets get away with using the floods as an excuse to import cheap fruit and vegetables. Don't be tempted by cheap imported food. The cost is too high.

4. Boycott the major supermarkets

If you want to truly support Australian farmers, boycott the major supermarkets. Support farmers, not shareholders, by buying direct from farmers through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or at a local farmers market, or through a local food co-op. Alternatively, at the very least, buy from a small independent green grocer.

And besides, picking up from a farm...

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...or popping into the farmers markets, is so much more fun than going to the supermarket.

How about you? Does your dollar go to farmers or shareholdres?

Also, on a similar note, have you been following the milk wars? Please, please don't be tempted by that cheap milk. Again, the cost is too high.

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Find this post informative? Feel free to share it with your circle of friends via email, Twitter or Facebook. Or simply rave to your friends and family about how much fun you have at the farmers market, or how delicious local organic prodce is.

Be well and happy,
Tricia

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Camping is a great way to encourage unstructured outdoor play

You might remember one of my new years resolutions was to encourage unstructured outdoor play for Little Eco. I want to make sure she doesn't miss out on all the wonderful benefits of unstructured play.

I identified four tools to help me keep this resolution: camping, a daily Green Hour, going screen free, and providing a backyard natural playground.

So far, I'm failing on all points, except the camping.

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Little Eco and I went camping last weekend with Marita, a friend i've seen far too little of over the past decade, and her three kids. No dads. Just the mums and kids for four days.

Camping definitely encourages unstructured play.

Little Eco had more unstructured play in that four days than she's had in the previous month. I sat back, with a cup of tea in hand, caught up with Marita, and watched the play unfold.

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Hours and hours were spent in the water. Swimming, exploring, and playing.

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Christmas trees were decorated with seagrass.

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Bugs were caught (in this shot it's a dragonfly nymph).

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Back on dry land...innovative forms of transport were designed,

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mud baths happened,

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magic ant-repelling potions were mixed,

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and campsite rubbish and bits of nature were turned into much-loved jewellery. 

I also managed a little playing myself...

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...cooking up a feast of rice, cornbread and home made baked beans in my Sun Cook solar oven.

Life doesn't get much better.

Just in case you're wondering, we were camping at the wonderful kid-friendly Mungo Brush in Myall Lakes National Park.

For more play inspiration head on over to Childhood 101 for We play.

I'm interested..

Do you go camping? If not, what's stopping you?

If you do. What do you like most about camping? Do you wish you went more often?

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If you found this post inspiring, please take a moment and share it. Tweets or Facebook likes are great. I’ve added Twitter and Facebook buttons to the bottom of each post to make sharing quick and easy. Those of you reading this via email will need to pop on over to the blog (by clicking on the heading) to see theses boxes. Many thanks.

Be well and happy,
Tricia

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Urban foraging for Purslane

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Wandering through a local park a few days ago I spotted a mass of Purlsane (Portulaca oleracea) growing amongst the flowers.

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This cosmopolitan edible plant occurs across Australia (and numerous other countries) and is also cultivated for its tasty and nutritious leaves.

Purslane loves disturbed areas, so you are most likely to see it in your local park, along road verges, in footpath cracks, or even, if you are lucky, popping up in your garden. You may have even been pulling it out and composting it. What a waste!

The leaves and stems of Purslane are edible

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They can be cooked as a vegetable (like spinach), added to salads raw, pickled, or can be pounded into a mush and eaten raw (doesn’t sound very tempting).

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We enjoyed it on our vege burgers.

Raw, the leaves taste slightly sour and feel rather slimy. The slime is apparently 'great for the mucus membranes, coating the lining of your throat and intestines.' The leaves are also high in Vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids and also contain calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and thiamine. It's also high in oxalate, so should be avoided during pregnancy.

You can also collect the seeds and grind them into a flour

I headed back to the park this morning and collected a huge bag of Purslane so that I can harvest some seed.

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I'd just read that the tiny black seeds, being high in both protein and fat, are one of the most important bush foods of inland Australia, and decided it would be fun to try making our own seedcakes. Apparently, Aboriginal people ‘pulled up the plants, throwing them in heaps, which after a few days they turn over and an abundant supply of seed is found to have fallen out’. The seed was processed by grinding it on a flat rock with a hand-held stone and the resulting flour was made into a damper or seedcakes.

I collected a huge bag of Purlsane and it's now sitting on a sheet drying out. I'm guessing I might get a few tablespoons of seed if i'm lucky.

Worried about eating the wrong thing?

Purslane is easy to recognise once you know what you are looking for. It’s a small succulent herb with small yellow flowers (5 petals and up to 6 mm wide), thick and flat leaves, and smooth green stems that turn red as they age. It typically grows prostrate or sprawling along the ground, although it can grow taller (up to 20 - 30cm) when protected by surrounding vegetation (like when in a flower bed). To familiarise yourself, check out the description, illustration and photographs here or here.

One plant you might confuse it with if you aren’t careful is Petty Spurge (Euphorbia peplus). You can easily distinguish Petty Spurge by it’s milky sap, seen when you break the stem. This milky sap is toxic so be careful not to confuse the two plants as they will often grow in the same location.

Purslane Recipes

You can find literally hundreds of Purslane recipes online. Here’s a few I’m keen to try.

Purslane Pesto

Cucumber Purslane Yoghurt salad

Purslane Potato Salad

Chinese-Style Pickled Purslane

Moroccan starter Purslane

Next time you are walking around your neighbourhood keep an eye out for Purslane. Would you be willing to try it?

(Shared at Simple Lives Thursday)


Sunshine Cooking ~ Introducing my new solar oven

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Check out my new toy. It’s a solar cooker.

She turned up on Monday and I had her sitting in the sun cooking our lunch within minutes.

I’m IN LOVE.

So far I’ve heated up soup, cooked chickpeas, and boiled eggs. All cooked solely with sunshine. I think the term ‘solar cooking’ is too boring a term to describe the magic. I think ‘sunshine cooking’ is more apt. 

Sun Cook Solar Ovens

We purchased our Sun Cook solar oven from Sun Cooking Australia.

Tasman and the solar oven2 Heather, who founded Sun Cooking Australia, was so impressed with her own Sun Cook oven that she decided to become the sole Australian distributor.

Head on over to suncooking.com.au to find out more about solar cooking and the Sun Cook.

 Heather even offers discounts for not-for-profit, community and government organisations. 



Yes, that was a blatant plug for Sun Cooking Australia

But I’m not going to apologise.

Heather is a good friend of mine and is one amazing lady. She’s a Climate Change Scientist specialising in sea level rise and she somehow manages to find the time to run two eco businesses (Climate Change Impact Assessments and Sun Cooking Australia). She's also the founder of the eco playgroup Playdates for the Planet.

I want to note that Heather did not ask me to write this post nor promote her business in any way. She’s currently off climbing a mountain somewhere in Tasmania and has no idea I’ve written this. Let’s prove that it’s possible for a Mum to climb mountains and run a successful business at the same time. So go on, head on over to her website, check it out, and spread the word.

Speaking of sea level rise, have you seen the new Australian sea level rise maps? The maps illustrate the potential impacts of climate change for key urban areas. Our house is thankfully mapped as above sea level. How about yours?