Saturday, January 31, 2009

Living the Good Life... Tassie sounds pretty good right now!

Ugh. After all this heat, I feel like I should follow Linda Cockburn to chilly Tasmania, where the temperature today and for the rest of the week is exactly where I like it - low to mid 20s, mainly fine but with a shower or two over the week *sigh* Things outside in Melbourne are much cooler, but my apartment is still coming down off a boiling-point high, and no amount of coaxing through open windows and fans will convince it to cool it down before it's good and ready :)

Having said that, my easiyo yoghurt maker arrived today (eep! I'll be trying that out soon!), I spent a bit of time with some great friends this morning, and I have just finished sitting in front of a fan for the last half hour while sipping soda water and cordial and reading the last of Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn. SO inspiring! I spoke to Ma tonight and she's reading Animal Vegetable Miracle and loves it already, one chapter in - I feel like throwing a big thankyou out to people like Cockburn and Kingsolver for going through things like that and writing about them. It makes it so much easier to be motivated to change the little things along the way when you know that someone else out there made changes that were far more drastic and lifechanging, and lived to tell the tale.

OK, what was it that I loved about Living the Good Life? I think it was honestly written, with all the problems and lapses (which were, however, surpisingly few considering!) included. Linda and Trev get along well but there are some real moments of tension - it's clear that they are very different people, and this means they deal quite differently with the six month challenge. It didn't feel like Linda and Trev had a really easy time of it, and that was with a few years to prepare and make changes that would help them during their experiment. However, they stick at it, and at many times you can sense how 'together' their family seems as they travel along their journey. They survive it as a family.

There were some truly hilarious moments in the book, many of them involving the goat, Possum, who sometimes seems like too much trouble, but provides the family with milk (and therefore cheese, too). Their son, Caleb, also comes across as a funny, witty, lively, child that gets a lot out of the changes that this couple made to their lives. I was really touched by the close relationship between Linda and Caleb - the decision to let him home school because he asks to, the way they play games together, the way she bends the rules to buys him chocolate from the shops for easter so that his fantasy isn't ruined... I felt like they were good people, very normal, doing the best they could - and succeeding - at drastically changing their lives. It came across as difficult, but very achievable and very rewarding.

Ooh I have just stumbled upon Linda's blog, something else to read through and be inspired by!

I also came across a segment they did on 'Today Tonight' (not my favourite program, but I'm glad that the people who do like it got to hear about Linda and Trev) that was up on youtube. Cool.

Ethical Meat? The (first lot of) findings...

I've been reading a lot of descriptions of visits to abbatoirs, like this one from The Age; I think, if I want to eat one more bit of meat that has been commercially processed, I will sign myself up for a tour.

If I'm to avoid being completely hypocritical, I'm going to have to own up to the same facts in the fishy department: no more fish eating until I have been fishing myself. I think I might head up to the trout/salmon ponds at Marysville (I'm not sure about the sustainability issues involved in fishing at recreational fishing ponds? I couldn't find much on the net anyway). I'm pretty nervous about the idea, but I guess if I find it too distressing I'll have an answer to the eat fish/don't eat fish dilemma I'm currently experiencing.

The next step is to find 'ethical' other meats for my partner and future offspring...

Bertie likes bacon and ham, so ethical (and local as possible, i.e. at least Victorian) pig meat may be on the menu: I found this Age article really helpful - it mentions Fernleigh Farm in Bullarto, near Daylesford. Apparently they sell pig meat at the farmer's market in Collingwood, where I buy my fruit and veg. Also selling at the Collingwood farmer's market is King Valley Free Range pig meat. As much as I hated looking at the pictures of pigs on these websites and thinking about them being turned into meat, I much prefer that idea to buying it from a stupidmarket. I also like the fact that they're using rare or heritage breeds of pig that would otherwise possibly become extinct. Hmm...

I also stumbled upon this butcher who's very local to us! It says on their site: "Our Free Range Chemical Free products are fed on a natural grain based diet free of additives, thus ensuring a flavoursome product. All of our Free Range products are grown with strict standards regarding animal welfare, with the animals able to roam free and graze. We try to support small individual growers and the organic industry as a whole."

Excellent :D

Well I feel that's a good start anyway. I can get pig products for Bertie at the Farmer's Market, and look for other 'ethical' meats while I'm there; then I'll speak to the people at Belmore Biodynamic Meats about their free range meat. If I like what I hear I'll get any meat I can't get at the farmer's market from them.

Next meat-related research project: kangaroo meat (the only non-fish meat I might consider eating).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Is there such a thing as 'ethical meat'? Why bother looking?



I have a love-hate relationship with meat: I love the taste, but hate where it comes from. As I've mentioned before in this blog, at ten years old I made the decision to go vegetarian. That was relatively problem free until I hit my late teens/early twenties, when I started craving and even dreaming about meat. Since then I've been on a rollercoaster of meat-eating/vegetarianism/pescatarianism. Inevitably, when I give in to the cravings and eat meat or fish, I feel guilt and even, occasionally, self-loathing - which is harder to bear than the dreams and cravings.

Right now I'm in a pescatarian "stage" (I often feel that anything but pure vegetarianism is wrong and therefore when I 'regress' to meat-eating, it feels like a 'stage' I'm temporarily going through). I'm trying to make the most ethical fish-eating choices I possible can, so I'm following the Guide to Fish by Hilary McNevin. However, I want to resolve the 'ethical meat' issue in my own mind, once and for all, so that if I ever do eat meat again, I can do it in a more informed and open-eyed way, as a person who knows where to find organic, free-range meat from as local a source as possible.

Besides, if I can do this research properly, I can buy 'ethical' meat for the much loved meateater in my life, and any little carnivores we may produce along the way...

Feelin hot, hot, hot...

I sweltered my way through the third day of 43+ degree days here in Melbourne, ugh! I am not made to endure heat; anything over 30 and I wilt and cannot function properly.

No air conditioner at home (a good thing, environmentally, but that's little comfort in 43 degree heat), but the other aircon-users in my area managed to make the power go out for most of the evening. That meant not even a fan for me, little-miss-whingey-pants.

So... I sweated and cursed my way through the evening, ordered a very unhealthy takeaway dinner as my oven and microwave were out of action, and sat outside in the shade to read Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn in the dying light of the day.

Thankfully the book was so awesome I read my way through the power outage, and found to my delight that both the power and the promised cool change arrived at 9pm. I even managed to feel a little ashamed of how reliant I was on power as I munched on my oven-cooked-takeaway-pizza, in front of an electric fan, blogging on my energy-consuming-computer.

How true that we don't know what we've got till it's gone :)

Right now I'm reading under my newly-appreciated electric light, trying to coax the cool air into my stuffy apartment via open windows and doors...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009: the year of preparation and self-education

It's nearly february already (whew, where did that month go?) and I've started to think about what I want out of this year in this journey towards sustainable living. I think there are some big-ticket changes like solar power, water tanks, growing a proper veggie garden etc that probably need to wait until next year when we buy our own place. So I feel that 2009 is my year on training wheels - I am going to learn some of the skills and implement some of the strategies that will eventually add up to a more sustainable lifestyle, and build up to a bigger and better year of sustainability in 2010.

Here are my ten main goals for 2009 -

1. learn to clean the whole house without chemicals
2. Learn to cook some nice, easy vegetarian fare as well as foods like cheese and bread - I might finally use some of my huge collection of cookbooks - and cook them in bulk so I can put half of everything in the freezer to save money, time, packaging, and bad last-minute food choices
3. Educate myself about how to build/retrofit units/houses to be environmentally friendly so that when we buy I am informed and prepared
4. Learn to sew (focus on being able to repair and alter clothes) and knit
5. Buy my food from the collingwood farmer's market whenever possible; failing that, psarakos/preston market; use the stupidmarket as little as possible
6. Focus on reducing my personal water use
7. Get into a stricter habit of turning lights off when I leave rooms
8. Declutter regularly, use freecycle (hooray, gave my first thing away using freecycle today!)
9. Read through all of my many books about the environment, self-sufficient/sustainable living, ethics etc and write about my reactions to them on this blog
10. work towards a 2009 xmas where all presents are handmade/homemade!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slight change to dish washing technique...

After a few days of washing the dishes using the soap shaker in one sink and plain hot water in the rinsing sink, I have discovered that my dishes end up coming out with soap scum on them, despite my rinsing efforts. It comes out looking like a white stain on cutlery, plates, saucepans. Ew.

So I had a closer look at the book today, and talked to my A.S.I.L. about it, and worked out I need to add bicarb to the soapy water (2 tsp) and some vinegar to the rinsing water. It worked so much better! Hooray :D

A Year of Slow Food

Well, things seem to be moving at a super fast pace this week - getting ready for my new course, finishing my last week at work, trying to get around and do things socially and at home on my crutches, organising youth allowance and a concession card etc.

So it was nice to occasionally take a time out and read a bit of A Year of Slow Food by David and Gerda Foster. It wasn't a revolutionary or an inspiring book, it didn't electrify me like some of the books I've been reading lately. Instead the writing reflected the way of life - it was a lovely, gentle, slow look at a couple living a sustainable, largely self-sufficient lifestyle with their family: growing and cooking good food, keeping bees and livestock, working, raising a family, and just generally getting on with life. Each time I read a chapter I felt satisfied, content, and cheerful. It felt like those times you eat yummy, healthy food and get that good feeling deep down in your belly. Which seems to be what slow food is about.

I highly recommend this book. It goes into the 'soul food' category.

Great recipes too!

Monday, January 26, 2009

My first ever batch of jam!

I went to my grandparents' house for Australia Day this year. I took some of my zucchini slice, cut up into small "zucchini bites", and my grandparents and my uncle apparently enjoyed it. Yay :) After lunch Grandma took me up to her backyard and we picked some of the plums off her tree - there were so many! I've never seen so many plums on a plum tree. Grandma sent me home with a stash of them (plus jars and instructions on sterilising them). Here they are below, with a copy of A Year in a Bottle by Sally Wise. I used her recipe for plum jam (but reduced the amount of sugar from 1.5kg to 1kg).

Here are my plums starting to break down:

Ooooh it's nearly jam:
The final product (I'll never eat all of it by myself!), along with all of the leftover plums. I think I'll stew those up to have on weetbix in the morning, or with icecream for dessert. Does stewed fruit freeze ok?:

Dwayne is clearly exhausted from watching me make jam:

It's funny how after only one zucchini slice and one batch of plum jam, I'm starting to feel capable in the kitchen! I mean I'm no master chef, but I can follow a recipe without stuffing it up. Who would've thought? I guess a bit of confidence goes a long way :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Going green one zucchini slice at a time

Tonight I made my first-ever zucchini slice. I grew up eating this, and was thrilled to finally get Mum's recipe for it. I made it into one big slice (to be cut up and frozen) and one little one (to eat tonight). When I was little I remember thinking it looked yuk - mushy and green - but tasted yum. Now I think green and mushy looks pretty damned appealing...


5 whole whole egg
1 1/3 cup self-raising white flour
375 g zucchini
1 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
150 g Mainland Grated Light Tasty Cheddar
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 170C. Grease and line a 30 x 20cm slice tray. Beat the eggs in a large bowl until combined. Add the flour and beat until smooth, then add zucchini, onion, cheese and oil and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
So in other news I've only just ordered a bokashi and an easiyo today, and my cursed mind has turned to the next 'i want' before those have even arrived. Oh well I'll post about how bad an idea it is and that might help...

I'd really love a cent-a-meter to measure our electricity use, but it's about $200 and it also needs to be installed by an electrician (more money harrumph). The other thing to consider is that we're living in a rental at the moment. So we'd need permission from the real estate to install it, and even then we might end up moving and have to leave it behind/get it uninstalled somehow.

Methinks I'll have to be patient (ha!) and wait until we buy a place. There's nothing stopping me from reducing electricity use as much as possible without the help of the cent-a-meter anyway. It'd just be nice to be able to measure and monitor it.

Compost and cheese

One of the things that has really annoyed me about my otherwise-much-loved-inner-city-apartment has been my inability to compost. There's no courtyard or balcony for a bin, and we couldn't have the delightful smell of compost wafting through the place... I heard about the bokashi compost bin, which you can apparently use inside with little to no smell. I ordered one today! Yay!

I'll get to using it as soon as it arrives, and let you know how it goes :)

I also ordered an easiyo yoghurt maker for all of about $20.

I'm planning to try making yoghurt and quark and other tasty cheesy delights. Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

my water wasting ways...

I felt inspired by a post on Towards Sustainability to go to and see what initiatives I could try around the house to reduce my water usage.

Here's what i came up with:

- When washing dishes by hand, don’t rinse them under a running tap. If you have two sinks, fill the second one with rinsing water. I must admit I rinse my dishes under a running tap because I feel like the dishes don't get clean enough if they're rinsing in water where other dishes have been rinsed. Very anal retentive. I'm going to try and switch to rinsing in the sink though.

- Catch running water whilst waiting for it to warm up. Use it to water plants, rinse dishes or wash fruit and vegetables. I want to try this with both the kitchen and the bathroom. I'll let you know how it goes.

- Wash with a full load and you'll save 10 litres of water each wash. I do fill up the load usually, but sometimes with the delicates wash I normally only have a few things in there. I can probably work on washing more things together...

- Use a shower timer. Choose from a manual 4-minute egg timer or a more sophisticated electronic timer. I've worked on timing my showers by setting an alarm on my phone, but this is getting annoying and a shower timer would be handy. It's on my list of things to buy.

- Shave your legs before taking a shower. Use running shower water to rinse off. Hmmm that's a nifty idea! I'll try this one next time I need to shave my legs.

Awesome. A lot of the other stuff on the site doesn't apply, as I don't have a garden to speak of, a garage, a pool, a dishwasher, etc. But there was still heaps for me to work on. Must remember to recommend that site to friends and family.

Friday, January 23, 2009

One leg, two crutches, three great gigs!

Haven't posted for a few days but I'm sure you (as in my non-existant imaginary reader) will understand when you hear how busy I've been... I've lost enough weight now that my prosthetic leg isn't fitting properly. I switched to crutches until the skin under one of my arms split (maybe because I wouldn't stop doing stuff, I'm a shocker). I then got myself some crutches that sit at the hands/wrists... I'm still doing too much and OW my hands hurt.

Still, who could NOT do too much? I had tickets I bought pre-crutches to:
1. Cinematic orchestra at the Palais on the 20/01
2. Kel Day, Emma Wall & Ann Vriend at Manchester Lane on 22/01
3. Paul Kelly and Leonard Cohen at Rochford Winery on 24/10

Plus lots of fun socialising and catching up in between. What can I say, I don't know how to slow down!

*photo above added 25/01: Leonard Cohen on the large screen next to the stage - he rocked!

Which is probably why I should be (and am, hooray!) reading A Year of Slow Food by David & Gerda Foster... only one chapter so far as I'm also trying to get through my Nietzsche reader, but it's great reading already :)

I must say that being on the crutches has slowed down my efforts at cooking new things and cleaning the house chemical free - or cleaning the house at all. During the week it's all I can do to get to work, get through the day, go out and socialise or see gigs, and then get home again. It seems you can be a worker and socialite on crutches, or a worker and homebody on crutches. Ah well I've clearly made this week's choice. I'm comforting myself with the thought that on the weekend (between Leonard Cohen on Saturday and a party on sunday lol) I will clean it from top to bottom, crutches or no. At the moment it's a sty. Harrumph.

At least I got to test drive my new soap shaker - brilliant! I'm not 100% sure that I'm getting all the soap off of the dishes when I rinse them - it LOOKS like I am - but I guess I'll find out next time I eat off one ;)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How I Get into Debt

Hmmm I am TRYING to get debt free before I stop working in February, but I'm not doing too well at it. Today I ordered more books:

Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn
Choosing Eden by Adrienne Langman
CWA Cookery Book & Helpful Hints by CWA
Sweet Poison: Why Sugar is Making Us Fat by David Gillespie
Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale & Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte


And they're the books that made the final cut... there were many more in the running. It'll probably be easier to stop buying books when I'm not working with them all day five days a week! (who am I kidding really?)

I am a Wally with water...

I remember the "don't be a Wally with water" campaign from primary school, and I must confess that I did not learn my lesson at the time. I always knew I was taking long showers - I would have pegged it at about ten minutes, which is still obviously way too long. However, earlier in the week I started putting a timer on so I'd know how long my showers actually were.

The first one was fifteen minutes. Ouch! What was I doing in there? Not happy Jan.

The second time I tried to cut down the time I was in there by being careful not to just daydream and relax under the water, but focusing on what I was doing. I thought I was doing pretty well... Ten minutes. Harrumph.

Yesterday I decided to put a timer on that would go off at me after four minutes. I managed to get out at five because when the timer went off I was half through shaving my legs. Hmm. Still, five was better than fifteen and ten.

Anyway, today I really focused and managed my first-ever four minute shower. I was actually about to turn off the taps when the alarm started going off. Hooray! It should have happened a long time ago but better now than never, hey?

Who would have thought a few months ago that I'd be excited at cutting down a shower time? Once I get the four minutes down pat I'll be changing it to my final goal of three, with a fourth optional minute for days when I shave my legs.

At some stage I'd like to get a bucket I can collect the water's-still-warming-up stuff in... then I can use it to water my tomatoes and strawberries.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What a great night!

I hung out with my Mum after work today. First we went swimming. It is the best form of exercise for someone with a prosthesis - so nice to get it off and jump in the water where you can float as well as the next person. Tonnes of laps later, I started getting a bit "grumpy old women" on some kids who were continually jumping/pushing eachother into the lap lanes right in front of all the swimmers. Who would have thought I was in my twenties? Ha.

When I went back to Mum's it was one bit of awesomeness after another...

The dinner was 'cous cous patties', which Mum served with steamed vegetables and the most delicious zucchini I've ever had - mini zucchinis from the farmer's market baked in a bit of olive oil. YUM! The cous cous patties were served with a choice of sweet chilli sauce or tomato and capsicum relish. I tried the patties with one and then the other, and it was a tasty party in my mouth :D

I wanted to try cooking these patties myself, especially after my attempt at my Mum's awesome broccoli pasta worked so well earlier in the week. Not only did I get to borrow the book that has the recipe for cous cous patties in it off of Mum, I also found out she has (and was willing to lend me) a copy of A Year of Slow Food by David and Gerda Foster!

My awesome new top of the reading list!

After hearing me whinge about needing a soap shaker, Mum remembered that she had, hiding away in the back of the cupboard from years ago... that's right, a SOAP SHAKER! These are apparently very hard to find, but I now have one! I was so excited we had to stop at the supermarket on the way home to get me some velvet soap so I could test drive it tomorrow.

Also scored a toothbrush from the shops so I could use my old one to clean the grout between the tiles in my shower. I'm starting the oddly satisfying process of cleaning my house using only water, vinegar, bi carb soda and lemon, using A Chemical Free Home by Robin Stewart as my bible. I got home at midnight, tired and ready for bed, and... cleaned the shower. Eep what is happening to me? Anyway the bicarb and vinegar worked pretty well in the shower. I wouldn't say it worked any better than shower power, but it didn't make me dizzy or lightheaded, and didn't leave my skin red and irritated. Tick!

Earlier in the week I also cleaned the floors with hot water and vinegar (tick!), and the stove with bicarb and vinegar (BIG tick!)... So far so good for this book. I don't think I'll do ALL of it, and I'm not sure Bertie will do any of it when she cleans (fair enough too, I can't make that choice for her), but if we reduce the amount of chemicals we use for cleaning in our house - and there are heaps - then I'll be a happy little vegemite. For now. Lol.

But wait! There is MORE awesomeness from tonight for you to be told about. Actually, I'll tell you about it with this photo, which pretty much speaks for itself:

This beautiful, beautiful machine has been sitting in a cupboard for a long time (I was given it as a child) because I couldn't sew... I am going to change that. I've bartered a weekend of my cooking for a weekend of my friend's sewing lessons. Good (I hope) food + sewing lessons + good company = a hell of an exciting weekend!

The food I make can't have meat, dairy, eggs, honey, gluten, yeast, funghi (mushrooms etc), eggplant, tree nuts (all nuts but peanuts), kiwi fruit, mango or honeydew melon. And none of the recipes should have too much sugar in them. I'm looking forward to the challenge :D

They're Calling On You

Just finished reading this article in the Age about mobile phones - apparently "the problem, for the survival of the eastern lowland gorilla is the mining of coltan. A small amount of minerals derived from coltan ore is used in every mobile phone made. But with about 1 billion phones sold globally each year, that makes for a lot of mining. And the mines are in the habitat of the endangered gorilla."

Bertie and I are planning to upgrade our mobiles soon, so it was fortunate I spotted this article. Our old phones will now be dropped off at Melbourne Zoo, where they'll be given to Aussie Recycling who are refurbishing the phones. They're then resold, which reduces the demand for coltan; the money made from reselling them also goes to the Jane Goodall Institute's primate conservation program.

What a great idea! Better than throwing them into landfill :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Animal Vegetable Miracle - read it!!!

In my first post I listed one of the books that inspired my move toward a better life: Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle

This book blew my mind. I have since lent it to a friend and plan to lend it out again when I get it back. Who would have thought a book about a family's attempts to grow their own food or source it locally would be so interesting? It's very well written, and easy to read. I really felt like I liked the author and her family by the end of the book. I certainly liked the sound of what they accomplished. If only I wasnt in an apartment with no backyard or balcony! I have put a big pot of roma tomatoes and basil, and little pots of cherry tomatoes and strawberries in part of the shared space (no complaints yet, hooray!), but I'd really love to grow more of my own food, and have room for things like a compost bin or a worm farm. Sigh.

Barbara Kingsolver doesn't just grow her own food - she harvests it, cooks it, preserves it, shares it with friends, teaches her children about it... and then has time to write a book about it! Talk about superwoman. After I finished reading the book I had a sudden urge to buy a big property in the middle of nowhere and become a dietarily self-sufficient locavore. I had to reconsider when I realised that:

a) I go nuts when I feel isolated from friends and family
b) I just know I would end up driving to the city a lot, therefore using lots of petrol
c) a small country town could be a problem for queers
d) a small country town could be a problem for the desired future CHILDREN of queers

So, I resolved to (probably) live in the 'burbs, but take whatever I could learn from Kingsolver's book and apply it to my urban context. I started to think about how you would go about using space creatively to fit as many vegetables as you could into the yard of a property closer to the city, being creative with the space you had. Other ideas started to creep in - adding skills like cheesemaking, breadmaking etc to my dietary self-sufficiency repertoire; retrofitting an existing house to be eco-friendly rather than building a new eco-friendly one from scratch further out from the city; getting involved in public transport activism and using public transport/carpooling/walking as much as possible to make the best of the convenient location we buy in... there were more ideas - some of them a bit wacky I'll admit - but I won't bore you. The point I'm making is that something in the book resonated with a part of me that I think I've suppressed over the years - the part that wants to live the way I believe it is right for me to live. That part of me went from a whisper to a loud scream after I finished reading. There aren't many books that I would call a Turning Point Book, but this is one of them.

Thanks Barbara!

Here is a story about this book from 'The Book Show" on the ABC - you might need to click 'show transcript'. If you can't be bothered reading the whole thing, here's a bit of an excerpt:

"Kingsolver's not the first person to write about the mess we've made of feeding ourselves. There are scores of books out at the moment about the business of eating. Some of them, like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, are enlightening as well as grim. But some of them are tiresome, haranguing, even smug. Not this one. Kingsolver hits just the right tone, mixing worthy sentiment with humour, homespun wisdom, and unadorned fact. She has a great sense of pace, too, changing gear when your attention starts to drift, moving from gardening minutiae to an anecdote about Lily's chicken business (her youngest daughter is very entrepreneurial), then shifting back when levity gets too cute by reminding us of the import of the family's goal."

For another review of this book see Julie's post on Towards Sustainability.

Give a girl a fish and she'll eat for a day...

When I was ten years old, I read a book called The Livewire Guide to Going, Being and Staying Veggie by Juliet Gellatley. Somehow, inspired by that book, I found the willpower to become a strict vegetarian for eleven years. Then, when I hit my twenties, I started craving meat. A lot. I even dreamt about it! Steak with mushroom sauce featured prominently, as did roast lamb, butter chicken, fish and chips, chicken sausages, beef in black bean sauce... I cracked after a few years of these dreams, when I made a dish of crumbed lemon chicken for friends. On an impulse I gobbled a piece of it down, and it tasted SO good. It marked the beginning of the horrible/wonderful Year Of Meat - I ate so much meat, it was like I was making up for eleven years of deprivation. I was loving the taste, my body was telling me it was the right thing to do by it health-wise... You'd think that'd be the end of the story right?

The problem being that I just couldn't reconcile what I was doing with what I believed, so I had guilt guilt guilt galore for the whole year. To make matters worse my views on meat had matured and broadened and became as much about the environment and sustainability as they were about animal rights. So how could I believe in animal rights and an environmentally friendly and sustainable meat-free lifestyle, and yet be stuffing my face with chops and steak? Hypocrisy much?

So I tried cutting out all meat except fish from my diet. I felt I couldn't cut everything out again without failing, so it was better to cut out most than none at all. Fish seemed the obvious choice because it seemed to offer health benefits that other foods couldn't easily substitute, and because it was the only animal I could imagine killing myself (weird but there it is). I also felt, after finding the book Guide to Fish: Choosing and cooking sustainable species, that I could at least satisfy the sustainable/environmental aspect of my concerns, if not the animal rights one. So, I became a pescatarian (or "vegequarian" lol).
The Guide to Fish uses a super user-friendly system of colour coding - green means the fish is considered sustainable enough to eat regularly (Australian salmon's my favourite!), amber means it is a fish you should buy less often (the author suggests once every few weeks), and red means don't buy it at all. Seeing as I eat fish about once a week, I tend to eat the amber ones even more occasionally, usually once a month (I have a taste for Barramundi). The book also tells you great info about each fish: when it's in season, what the fresh fillet should look like, the texture and flavour of the fish, and which method of cooking best suits each species. Amazing! I carry this book around with me when I do my shopping for fish, and read through it when I get a spare minute to try and memorise which fish are a definite no-no. Before I bought this book I had eaten shark (flake) and swordfish, which this book puts on the red list. I had really enjoyed the taste of both, but have committed to never eating red list fish. I would like to know more about these red-list fish though, so that I'm making that commitment with my eyes open.

I do hope, at some point, to move beyond imagining being able to kill a fish, and actually do it. If I can handle it, then bring on the many years of fish eating. If it's horribly traumatic and I can't imagine ever doing it again, I may have to give fish up again (my poor friends and family, how will they ever keep up with what I do and don't eat!). I think it's important to experience this, as I want to make decisions like this with my eyes open from now on...

The possibility of so-called 'ethical' meat - kangaroo, free range, organic etc - is something I'd like to research further too. I don't know if killing an animal can be ethical at all in my mind, but maybe very occasionally eating meat that is as ethical as possible could help stem the daily cravings for it that I still get without breaking the conscience bank... I doubt I can go and watch a kangaroo being shot, but it may be possible to do a tour of a free range chicken or organic meat supplier? Anyway that's something to investigate along the way.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why start a blog?

"Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations." - Jean Paul Richter, German Romantic novelist and humorist

I want my life to be simpler, healthier, more self-sufficient and more environmentally friendly. I have felt too overwhelmed and too busy to tackle it in the past. I kept waiting for the right moment to start making changes. After reading some inspiring books, particularly Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Chemical Free Home by Robin Stewart, and after stumbling across a wonderful blog, Towards Sustainability, I finally feel like I can stop putting it off and start taking small steps toward living the way I want to live.

What I really love about these books and about Julie's blog is that they are about good action in ordinary situations. I didn't feel intimidated or overwhelmed - instead I felt inspired to start taking small steps over time toward a better life for myself and my family.

Already I could feel the move toward health and food awareness starting to happen - I've been trying to reach a healthy weight and fitness level, becoming aware of food intolerances and allergies that friends and loved ones suffer from, starting to grow my own food in the extremely limited space I have (only tomatoes so far), and making a move from an Arts degree to a Science course so I can become a dietitian.

However the more I read, the more I realise that there is so much more to be doing, and I can do it, if I give myself permission to do it slowly and carefully. Ordinary Situations will be about all the small and ordinary steps that will hopefully add up to an extraordinary change in my life and the way I live it.