Making kind choices in your everyday life.

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Glad to be me, rather than her

Posted by on Sep 6, 2014 in Factory Farming, Pigs | 6 comments

“Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love” – E.B White, Charlotte’s Web

My 7 week mini sabbatical, courtesy of long service leave,  is sadly drawing to a close. This time tomorrow I will be back into the throngs of my normal, time poor and early rising working life. Nooooo !!!!

My time off went something like this :

It started on a somber note – coinciding with same day that so many people lost their lives when MH17 was shot out of the sky over the Ukraine. After this “life is fragile” jolt of a reminder, I went on to :

* Make 50 candles to sell to family and friends and raise money for Animals Asia’s project Peace by Piece as part of Honey Money Days.

Garp and my candles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Watch a couple of brilliant movies (Still Life, Belle and Sebastian) and a couple of ho-hum ones (The Lunchbox and The Selfish Giant).

* Read some great books (Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty and, the standout, The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell.)

* Watch some gripping series (The Fall, True Detective and we’ve just started on the very creepy French series Le Revenants).

* Have some drool worthy successes in the kitchen – Best Friends Banana Carrot Cake (I used Chai seeds to replace the eggs – worked a treat), Hippie Crispy Treats (divine !) and these Oat and Macadamia Cookies.

* Temper above mentioned indulgences by making a pact with myself and my runkeeper app to walk 10km per day which, bar a day or 2, I managed. My ever present companion (Garp) and my hips/thighs are grateful. It is great to discover a form of exercise which does actually work, fitness wise, and I enjoy. So, here I am  – 450km of buttock firming striding later. Woo-hoo !

* Ride 45km on my bike in one sitting, complete with magpie attacks which made the whole episode quite thrilling / terrifying  ! This figure would be a lame one for a seasoned bike rider but I am a beginner so am a bit chuffed with such mileage. The location (Bright to Myrtleford, Victoria) along the rail trail made this conquest an enjoyable, scenic one.

* Find a new job ! It is within my current large government organisation but will be a different and way more meaningful role, at a new location with (eek) new people but I am ready (but wracked with nerves) for the change and new challenge.

* Live like a queen for 2 nights with my fella thanks to a great deal at the beautiful, Art Deco-y Hyatt in Canberra. Could almost feel Bob Hawke breathing down my neck when visiting Old Parliament House – the furnishings took me straight back to the 70’s / 80’s. Cycled most of the lake and lunched at my favourite Canberra eatery (Sweet Bones Bakery).

* Become another year older and gnarled. I am now on the brink of being in my “mid 40’s”…

* Attend 2 “significant age” birthday parties of friends. Forgot how fun having a boogy on the dance floor is (Sia, in particular, has been having a workout lately !!)

* Learn the perils of seemingly innocuous Essential Oils. Have small burn marks ALL over my skin as a result of my homemade body scrub and bath soak experiments. Please learn by my pain – use a carrier oil like coconut oil to mix with strong oils like Cinnamon Bark !

* Experience 2 blissful, serene days at Australia’s only Vegan B&B – Bed and Broccoli in Victoria. My stay is worthy of a whole blog post which is pending ! My carnivorous fella willingly ate the delicious plant based meals without grumbling. I learnt that I could easily do without the small amounts of animal products that I still do consume.

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Me, feeding apples to the very gorgeous Frankie at Bed and Broccoli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Rage at the short sighted and cruel decision by our judicial system in the return of a dog (CJ) to his abusive owner.

* Hang out with my fella for 7 nights at this incredible Stayz property in a wee village near the very beautiful Bright in Alpine Victoria. We felt like we were living in a vogue magazine for a week. Highly recommended !

* Have time to catch up with some of my oldest, treasured friends. Have made a pact with myself not to wait for the fleeting and scarce holiday times of the year to do this in the future.

* Clock up 2000 km on our road trip. Australia is beautiful – especially at the moment in it’s green Spring glory.

* Gaze on a billion stars in Bright around a fire pit…..

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Stars, stars and more stars at Bright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time away from the daily grind has left me feeling grateful and thankful for the freedom I have to do all these wonderful things.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to experience such freedom and good times :

……..this is how the same 7 week period was spent by one of the 350,000 sows existing in one of Australia’s estimated 2000 intensive piggeries…………………………………..

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Templemore Piggery, NSW, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like 95 % of sows, she lives exists in a “factory farm”. She is 3 years old and due to have her 4th litter of piglets soon. She has been imprisoned in a “sow stall” for the past 10 weeks. This stall is only slightly larger than her body. It allows her to take one small step forward and one small step back but that is all. She cannot turn around. Her joints aches from being immobilised for so long and from lying on the cold, hard floor as she has no bedding. She has pressure sores on her body from where her body is pressed up against the metal frame of the stall. She is often hungry – being fed only grain rather than the roughage she would eat if she was in a natural environment. She is smart and inquisitive (more so than a dog) but has nothing to do to occupy her days  leaving her feeling despondent and depressed. The light went out of her eyes a long time ago.

She has a urinary tract infection as she has no choice but to lie in her own waste and cannot always access clean, drinking water. Given a choice, she would find somewhere clean to rest and would use mud to keep herself cool. However, here she does not have a choice.

She has never seen the stars or felt the warm sun on her back. The inside of this loud, putrid smelling shed is all that she knows.

In a few days time, she will be moved to an even smaller cage known as a farrowing crate which allow for hardly any movement. She will remain here for 5 weeks. The people who put her here claim that it is for the safety of her babies so she does not crush them. However, in a natural environment she would make a huge nest from straw and grass to keep herself comfortable and her babies safe.

She gives birth to her babies in this cold and awful place. She cannot act out any of her maternal instincts as she cannot move. She helplessly watches on as her precious babies are roughly grabbed and have their tails, teeth, ears and testicles cut by the people who work here without pain relief. They scream in pain but she cannot do anything to help them. In a natural environment she would look after her babies for 3 months before they were weaned but in this place, they are typically taken from her at 3 weeks of age.

After her babies are taken, she is briefly placed with other sows in a small, barren area before attempts are made to impregnate her again. If successful, she will be returned to the sow stall for the miserable cycle to begin again. However, this time she does not get pregnant, her body is too tired – even at this young age. Her back is spray painted with letters to indicate that she is to be sent to slaughter.

She is herded onto a truck and taken to be slaughtered. The glimpse out of the truck slats is the first, and only, view of the outside world that she will ever see. At the abattoir, she is goaded with an electrical prod into a gas chamber. She clambers to escape as she can hear the screams of the pigs in front of her so she knows that something terrifying is going to happen to her. When she does reach the gas chamber, her final 30 seconds of life are spent in complete and utter panic, fighting for every breath. In Australia, it is common for CO2 to be used in high percentages (which results in a panic riddled suffocation) rather than the more “humane” Argon gas as CO2 is cheaper. This scathing report details how the typical Australian pig’s life ends in a slaughterhouse.

It is unfathomable that it is legal to treat animals like this in Australia. It is barbaric, cruel and unjustifiable but it remains this way as it is hidden out of mind, out of sight from the public eye.

Photos speak a thousand words. Please put your own discomfort aside and view these slideshows compiled by Australian Pig Farming : The Inside Story and Tamara Keneally from typical, stock standard piggeries around the country and make an educated, kind decision about whether or not this is an industry which you wish to support. 

Aren’t you glad that you are you rather than her ?

Further Reading

My previous posts about pigs here and here which give some practical shopping and lifestyle tips.

Confused about what constitutes free range / organic etc ? – this concise guide makes things clear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kind Company – (for loo paper!)

Posted by on Aug 24, 2014 in Kind Companies | 6 comments

“You make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.” ― Winston Churchill

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I have decided to start interjecting my blog posts with some little reviews of kind and generous companies I have discovered. Sending your hard earned money to a nice group of people who are going to do good things with it is so much more satisfying than sending it to a big company who’s only care is lining it’s own pockets.

For the past 6 months or so, we have been buying our loo paper from “Who Gives A Crap”. At the risk of over sharing, I will keep things brief. We get the 48 roll package (includes free delivery for $31) which seems to last for a very long time. The individually wrapped coloured rolls are pretty enough to be displayed proudly and the, ahem, comfort factor is excellent. Delivery is always prompt. This great company is Australian, the toilet paper is made from 100% recycled material and no toxic dyes are used in it’s production. Best of all, however, is the fact that 50% of the profits goes towards WaterAid who build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world for the 40% (!) of the world’s population who currently don’t have access to a toilet. 

I would love to do all of my shopping via kind companies such as this one – do you know of a good one to share ?

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Crocheting with a conscience !

Posted by on Aug 9, 2014 in Kind Companies, Sheep - Wool | 6 comments

“I have to say, I am off men after seeing the PETA footage of Australian shearers punching and murdering sheep” –  actress, Rachel Ward.

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Saved and living the dream at Little Oak Sanctuary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just to add to my list of  coveted hobbies that I want to squeeze into my life somewhere – I have made the decision that I am going to learn to crochet. My Blog with Pip course teemed with all kinds of talented, crafty people (check out “Made With Loops” as an example, beautiful hey ?) and, I want a piece of this creative action too !  As I was recently planning the best way to learn how to crochet and select the required yarn – having never touched a crochet hook in my life – this report came to light in the media. For those who want to be spared the details, it concerns recently obtained footage obtained from shearing sheds around Australia where the sheep are shown to be treated extremely brutally by the shearers.

It was a timely reminder to me about the ethics of using wool which only really came onto my radar a few years ago.  Prior to that, I had viewed wool, particularly “merino wool”, as a superior, cosy, wholesome fiber. I believed that it was as simple as the sheep growing their fleece each year prior to being shorn when the warmer weather set in. Humans could then have the fleece converted into a cosy woolen hat, beanie, jumper etc – simple hey ?

Hmmmmm, the ethics behind wool production are unfortunately not so simple or idealistic.

The main arguments by those in the know regarding how sheep are raised for wool and meat in Australia  are mulesing (the cutting of flesh away from around the sheep’s hind quarters to prevent fly strike) and tail docking without pain relief, live animal export (when the sheep pass their wool growing use by date) , massive numbers of deaths of newborn lambs (15 million lambs per year in Australia – unbelievable) due to inadequate shelter from the elements / predators. Older sheep are shorn at times which make best economic sense rather than what is going to make the animal comfortable – I have seen this first hand, driving past groups of freshly shorn, freezing sheep in the middle of winter in country NSW – a very sad vision. As per the above mentioned report, there is also the issue of brutality during the shearing process in some of our Australian shearing sheds.  All of these issues are common place in Australia and are preventable and unnecessary. 

Our Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce often describes anybody who dares question the treatment of animals used for food, wool , milk or egg production in Australia as “extremists”. I cannot see anything extreme or radical about acknowledging that  sheep are surprisingly intelligent, social animals who feel pain, fear and cold/heat and that they should be treated accordingly.

So, what can you do to be a kind wool consumer ?

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Sweet faced creature !

1. Support retailers who only use wool from sheep who have not been mulesed (and have gone to the effort to invest in other husbandry means to prevent fly strike). The New Zealand brand “Icebreaker” is a good one. Others include Laura Ashley and Country Road – see more companies here.  NewMerino® “is a certification system for Australian merino wool grown by professional wool producers using sustainable farming systems and holistic animal welfare standards” and worth investigating.

2. Buy wool yarn from one of the following fabulously ethical sources. I know I will be ! This well researched blog article discusses the myriad of kind little wool farms mainly in the US. As the world’s largest producer of wool, there is massive scope for Australian farmers to follow suit and meet the growing demand for ethical products. Here are some similarly kind options in the UK – Izzy Lane (they rescue rare breed sheep from slaughter and produce the most heavenly looking garments out of the wool) and The Toft (I am enviously eyeing off their “crochet hamper”) – their wool comes from locally sourced, well treated Alpacas.

Back in Australia however, I am excited about discovering these 2 gorgeous companies :

EWE Ethical Wool Enterprises

Based in Daylesford, Victoria, this farm obtains fleece from it’s rescued sheep and alpacas who live out their natural lifespan on the farm. 

White Gum Wool

Based in Tasmania, this farm is run by an American woman, Nan, who cares for the land and the sheep in her care in a holistic manner. The sheep are not mulesed (and even keep their tails) and their family groups are respected. Her “unique” farming practices are indicative of a woman who obviously loves and respects her animals. I wrote to Nan to find out what happens to the sheep once their wool production wanes and she wrote me a lovely, informative reply about how she will be letting her sheep live out their lives (10-12 years) on her farm – partly to ensure the supply of suitable “matriarchs” in the group (you can read more about the “Power of the Matriarch” here – I found it a fascinating read). There is a gorgeous supply of yarn for sale too through the on-line shop.

3. Buy less wool by considering other materials for your jacket, thermals, yarn etc. It is like everything in this world, when reliance and demand on a product is so large, the animals are usually the ones who suffer to meet our consumerist demands for cheap and plentiful products. As outlined by Animals Australia, there are some great alternatives (eg bamboo, modal, microfibre, Tencel (made from eucalyptus!) ingeo (made from corn fibres), Primaloft and Microcloud) which will keep you snug, or you could re-visit my post here for some more suggestions. As for yarns, Ecoyarns.com.au stock a variety of “plant based” yarns such as hemp, organic cotton and bamboo (as well as the more traditional wool yarns) and an excellent guide to the weird and wonderful array of non-animal sourced yarns is outlined here.

4. Slightly off topic and I will cover it more another day, but never use angora wool. The way it is produced – mainly from angora rabbits in China is the stuff of nightmares.

5. Remember that sheep are individual, sentient beings. Have a look at the gorgeous Edgars Mission or Tamara Keneally woolly residents if you need a reminder.

As for my future crochet-ing endeavours, my plan is this one.

1. Learn how to make granny squares via Meet Me At Mikes “A Granny A Day (How To Crochet A Granny Square)” – a series of very uncomplicated, basic looking videos lessons.

2. Once the granny squares have been mastered, I will move onto recommeded U-Tube videos Bella Coco and The Purl Bee and bobwilson123.

3. Should I need further clarification, invest in a couple of books – recommended ones from crafty people being Learn to Crochet by Patons and Mollie Makes Crochet.

4. My ultimate aim is to be capable of making an exquisite creature such as these squids ……………………………….. !!!!squid.

Want to know a bit more ? Read on here :

* Wool Exposed by Animals Australia

* Mulesing by Animals Australia

* Sheep in Australia by Little Oak Sanctuary

 

 

 

 

 

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Best Pumpkin Soup EVER

Posted by on Jul 27, 2014 in Soup | 2 comments

I implore you to make this heavenly soup.  Not only is it one of  the most scrumptious soups I have ever tasted but it is also quick to make, nutritious and incredibly thrifty (I worked it out to be $1 per hearty serve). It will undoubtedly give you chronic garlic breath but that is a common trade off in my house. It will make 4-6 servings.

You will need :

* 1.5kg butternut pumpkin.

* Olive Oil

* 8 – 10 large cloves of garlic (make sure it is the nice Australian grown garlic) – leave skin on.

* 2 brown onions – diced

* 2 tbsp grated ginger

* 1.5 litres of “chicken style” stock (I use the vegetarian Massel brand cubes)

* 2 potatoes peeled and diced

What to do :

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Peel pumpkin, remove seeds and chop up. Put in baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic cloves (skin still on) to the tray and roast in oven for about 30 mins.

Heat large pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and ginger and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove pumpkin and garlic from the oven. Allow the garlic to cool a bit before squeezing the garlic from their skins and into the pot, along with the pumpkin. Add the stock and potatoes and bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 mins.

Puree soup via food processor or hand held mixer.

 

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

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Plastic free July – Plastic Bags

Posted by on Jul 13, 2014 in Environment | 6 comments

“There is absolutely no reason why a single plastic bag ever needs to be produced again. It is absolutely within the capability of everyone shopping in the known world to vow never to use a single plastic bag again” – Mark Watson (from his very funny book “Crap At the Environment”.)

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My nanna trolley and big squid bag

 We are half way through “Plastic Free July”. Although I haven’t formally signed up, I am trying my darnedest to adopt the “refuse single use plastic in July” motto – namely water bottles, plastic bags and coffee cup lids. In keeping with the above quote, I am going to take it one step further and make a vow to myself not to ever use a plastic bag ever again. I think, armed with my pretty nanna trolley and array of re-useable bags I have collected, it will be an achievable and fairly easy feat. (Don’t have a nanna trolley in your life ? – check out these ones !)

I have been pretty good with my (non) useage of plastic bags for many years now but I still remain a bit “crap at the environment” – in quite an illogical manner too. I refuse to buy bottled water whilst out and about but I drink my fair share of large plastic bottled mineral water and cranberry juice at home.  Inconsistent and illogical – most definitely !

There are many good reasons to try to rid our world of plastic bags. They fill up our landfill (429,000 recyclable plastic shopping bags are dumped there in Australia EVERY HOUR !!) and, horrifyingly, find their way (even from land fill via the wind)  into our oceans and rivers where they suffocate, cause obstructions in the digestive system or maim thousands of birds and marine animals like seals, turtles and whales – who often mistake the plastic debris for food. Only 3 % of bags are currently recycled and 10 million new plastic bags are used every day in Australia. They are made from non-renewable crude oil which is obviously unsustainable. Plastic bags take up to 1000 years to break down and, even then, this process leaks toxins into the soil.

NSW is being left behind (again) with what seems to be an easy to fix problem.  Bag taxes in Ireland and Denmark have led to massive (around 90%) decline in plastic bag use. Single use, light weight plastic bags are banned in the  ACT and South Australia and Coles Bay in Tasmania has been plastic bag free since 2003 due to the threat that plastic bags posed to migrating whales (and a one man campaign from the local baker – love these stories !!).

If, like me here in NSW, you are twiddling your thumbs, waiting for your State government to make some kind of educated reform about plastic bags, we can take some action for ourselves. This is what I’m doing – not just this month but from now on :

No longer using bin liners: In our Odd Couple household where I am very much Oscar and my fella is totally Felix Unger incarnated, I thought this suggestion may cause some horror. I have been given the green light but am under strict instructions that I am now the keeper of the bins in every respect for this proposal to work. I am 1 week  in and, so far, so good. Anything a bit dribbly (like the old baked beans I just turfed) is wrapped in newspaper prior to being deposited into the bin and everything else is carefully placed in either the recycling bin or the compost bin as per normal.

Making a habit of saying “no bag thanks, I have one” no matter where I am shopping :

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www.bagladies.com.au

 Again, illogically, I have mastered the no plastic bags at the supermarket fairly well but as soon as I purchase something from somewhere else, say Myers for example, this rule often goes out the window. But no more. My pretty little scrunched up bags will remain on standby in my handbag permanently. You don’t have to stick with the ubiquitous “green” supermarket bags either…..there are so many cute ones available…..food shopping wise, I love my aforementioned nanna trolley and have just discovered these ones, which I have my eye on for next time. I have a few Onya ones for general use as they scrunch up easily and are made out of plastic bottles (!!).

* Bagladies have a great array of captioned bags including the one pictured above (with $3 going to PETA Australia).

Using biodegradable dog poo bags : I cannot think of a viable alternative to plastic poo bags for our dog and I am too scared to investigate what is considered viable for people who are determined to live completely plastic free. I buy these biodegradable ones from Maxpak but I like the look of these too as a profit (50% !!) goes to dog rescue groups and they are biodegradable.

Donate some re-useable shopping bags to someone not so environmentally “keen” : In this case, at my workplace. Our “social club” shopping is always done through the use of a multitude of plastic bags as nobody is ever organised enough to buy the green bags. I have just ordered 5 of these cute ones from Animals Australia to donate to my workmates – which not only promotes re-useable bags but also compassionate shopping, whilst supporting the brilliant work of Animals Australia.

Taking those inadvertent collection of plastic bags to a good place : In general, I do not like the duopoly of the big supermarkets but Coles and Woolies have done the right thing by supplying bins to take your plastic bag waste which cannot be recycled via your normal household bin system. Coles participate in a worthy scheme known as Redcycle where your “scrunchable” plastic waste (including biscuit packets, pasta bags, bread bags, shopping bags) is made into outdoor furniture for schools and kindergartens. This enables so much of our waste to be used for good (furniture) rather than evil (landfill).

Scorn the thick plastic soil, mulch, compost gardening bags :  Aaaahhhhh – this particular dilemma is driving me nuts. If you were to peer into my garage, you would find a pile of gardening plastic bags reminiscent of the most devoted hoarder. I have written emails to all and sundry about where I can recycle them and, to date, nobody has given me a solution so there they wait until I find one.  The irony of buying soil, mushroom compost and the like to do the eco friendly thing of creating a vegi garden whilst being left with swathes of thick, un-breakdownable plastic to be sent to landfill does not escape me. Unfortunately, I only had this epiphany about 6 months ago, at which time I bought some lovely big, white sturdy, reusable bags from my local hardware shop. The next time I need some soil, I will visit my local gardening center equipped with my bags to manually shovel and fill them up. Slightly less convenient but good exercise, cheaper and definately kinder to the environment.

Reuse where possible : Rather than relying on glad wrap and the like, a plastic bread bag or similar can be used again and again and again to accommodate your lunchtime sandwich.

Ignite the beachcomber within : I love the “Take 3” initiative (of taking 3 items of rubbish away with you when you visit the beach, rivers etc). There is a slight feeling of this being like picking up a grain of sand in a desert when you do this but you still have the satisfaction that the one bottle top or straw you remove from the beach may be one less thing for a beautiful sea creature to ingest.

Niggling those big businesses into doing the right thing : Writing a quick letter or face book post is a good way to have a bit of a vent to those big businesses who have so much influence on our habits. I wrote on the Cole’s facebook page with my suggestion about how shopper’s who are doing the right thing by bringing their own bags (and, therefore, cutting the costs for the supermarket) should receive a little incentive (like a small shopping voucher). Shops like to please consumers so feedback is a good way of voicing your concerns. My local council is next on the list. Petitions are always good too – here is a link to Animal Australia’s one seeking to ban the one use plastic bags in Australia and New Zealand. It takes 1 minute to complete.

Using alternatives when fruit and vegi shopping : I am going to invest in something from here to get around the “what do I put my baby spinach in ?” dilemma at the fruit shop. Until then, the paper bags usually reserved for mushrooms will do.

It a nut shell, the mantra of the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re purpose, Recycle (in that order) – is a good way to live, for many things, not just plastic bags.

Planet Ark has an informative FAQ page about plastic bags if you want to learn more.

I would love to hear if you have any tips on reducing your own plastic bag usage. Please let me know in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

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