melbourne
Australia

Road Cycling and Safety

I leant out the car window this morning and had a conversation with a road cyclist at the traffic lights. I wanted to know why so many cyclists appear to choose NOT to ride on the outer or footpath side of the road, but position themselves on the inner side, dangerously close to where the cars travel. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t concern me, but it’s been a hot topic of whinging and conversation in the community, so I was a tad curious.

A simple enough question that had a surprising answer.

journey with a cyclist riding in a fog early morning

Road cycling is the most widespread form of cycling. It includes recreational, racing, commuting, and utility cycling. Road cyclists are generally expected to obey the same rules and laws as other vehicle drivers or riders and may also be vehicular cyclists.

Wikipedia

Upon hearing my enquiry, this rather brash, lycra-clad rider put up his hackles. His stood tall on his bike, puffed his chest out, and his body language indicated he was ready for battle.

“It is not a dedicated bike lane back there,” he spat. “Read your road rules, love.”

I will admit Australia is slow to join the party when it comes to accommodating cyclists. The vast majority of major roads have no bike lanes, so cyclists must compete with trucks, cars, buses and all road users. Cyclists pay zero registration costs to contribute to the upkeep of the roads which earns the ire of the driving community. Rules vary from place to place but here we must keep 1 metre away from the bikes, when driving on the roads, due to the many cyclist deaths in commuter traffic.

Keeping 1 metre away would be simple if the cyclist kept to the outer or even the middle section of the emergency stopping lane, or roadside verge or bike lane, where there is one, but almost all seem to prefer to stick close to cars, which means the cars need to veer into the next lane, in order to comply with the 1-metre distance rule.

Bridge
A Norwegian cyclist

But I digress. Let’s go back to the discussion with the lycra-clad cyclist. As my intention wasn’t to debate the road rules, I clarified that I wanted to understand the motives behind the cyclist’s choice, so I persisted and, the traffic light was still red.

“On a Sunday morning”, he continued, “there’s so much glass on the road after Saturday night, that if I was to ride on the left (footpath), side of the road, I’d get nothing but flat tyres. So we all ride on the inside near the cars.”

– Road Cyclist in Red Lycra

As the traffic light then changed to green, I thanked him for the explanation and wound up my car window. His body language relaxed and he took off in another direction.

Yet, I was still left wondering – could there really be so much glass on ALL the major roads in our city? It just didn’t seem plausible. Is a flat tyre less preferable than safety?

Is this a problem in other countries without bike lanes?

Less than 30 minutes later, I was walking with friends along the beach with our dogs and recounted my story about the cyclist. We were all in agreeance, questioning the validity of the flat tyre argument, when one of the girl’s mobile phone rang.

On answering it, my friend let out a hearty laugh.

Her daughter had called to say she was on a bike ride on an inner city road and had just got a flat tyre!

Sometimes strange coincidences are not that strange after all.

Australia, Community, Environment, Mental Health

Corona Fallout

When I looked at the stats for countries being hit with this pandemic, it struck me as surprising that the number of cases/deaths due to Covid 19, in some places, did not correlate proportionately with the level of population.

It would be easy to assume hygiene levels and santization practices might be lower in underdeveloped countries, as compared to say, Australia. And that spread of disease would be faster. In countries with higher levels of health care, the contagion might have been anticipated to be slower. This does not appear to be the cases if you look at the current statistics. Places like Malaysia and Thailand, are doing remarkably well, with a small number of Covid 19 cases, in regions with populations far greater than others. Why? Is it their level of preventative measures?

Here are the current stats country by country, if you are interested.

Why is Covid-19 so prevalent in Italy?

Then there is Italy – why do they have so many Covid cases? Some suggest that many Chinese and other businessmen, have been visiting the north of Italy, in greater numbers of recent times.

Starting in Codogno, a small town in southern Lombardy, one of the wealthiest, most densely populated, and most globalized areas in Europe, the coronavirus circulated very fast and easily…. The Codogno economic district hosts large companies and multinationals – making it a hub for production and international trade. Workers, salesmen, managers, and consultants of all sorts travel daily to their workplace, many of them commuting to nearby cities. International partners visit from abroad. And of course, Milan is a mere 70 kilometer drive from Codogno. Although “patient zero” has not been found yet, it looks increasingly likely that the virus had been circulating in Europe weeks before “patient one” was identified in late February.

https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/covid-19-hits-italy-a-test-for-china-ties/
singapore

Singapore

Singapore, to its immense credit, appears to be managing the crisis well. They were well prepared, quickly instituting pro-active measures after having previously learnt valuable lessons in pandemic management, during the SARS outbreak.

A New World Order?

The current crisis highlights just how connected and how vulnerable we, as a society are. Our financial and business sectors, recreation and travel mean a contagion can and does travel fast and far, throughout the entire world. Not even in a small village in Iceland are you safe, from this virus. Whether we care to admit it or night, we do live in a global village. We can no longer live and conduct affairs without considering the rest of the world.

iceland

The economies of the Western developed countries are suffering, just as China is beginning to recover. Many Western democracies, including mine, will inevitably head into a deep economic recession, in coming months. We need to have in place new and different strategies and policies for business, health care, education and technology in order to appropriately respond to this contagion.

Some Chinese communities are questioning whether they should move back to China, from their new bases in Italy. What effect would this have?

“About 100,000 people from Wenzhou, and another 100,000 from nearby Qingtian county, live in Italy, according to official Chinese data, with Milan also hosting a sizable Chinese community. “We definitely feel safer in China. The government is more efficient … Hospitals here can treat patients well, but the government’s ability to respond to an emergency is not ideal,” Wu said.”

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3073987/stay-or-go-tough-call-chinese-italy-coronavirus-crisis-hits

The social fallout from this virus also highlights the disparity between European countries, with high levels of health care against the economic might of America, who has almost no universal health care. [Let me know if this is wrong].

I wonder why Universities and Schools are only now moving to E-learning in response to the viral threat. Why didn’t the education facilities, fully implement this mode of delivery, earlier? Can I attribute the reason to their penchant for keeping a social interactive community on university campuses alive? Wouldn’t E-learning be far more profitable to them?

Climate Conspiracy?

If I believed in conspiracy theories, which I don’t, my cynical self would also suggest that the release of the virus, if it was deliberate, is a discrete way to circumvent and divert debate and action, on action against climate change.

Continuing and ever increasing school strikes successfully highlighted issues of climate change. Now that schools are closed in many countries, except Australia, the strikes cannot happen.

Moreover, we cannot gather in groups of more than 100 in Australia. Some countries ban gatherings of less than 50, and in Portugal, gatherings must be less than 5 persons.

Food and Job Security

Adding to this, is the issue of global food security. The shops across the world are emptying, and people are staying home, for the most part. Food is becoming harder to obtain. If transport is halted, how do we all access food?

Many have already lost their employment or will lose it in coming months. Many will become homeless or develop mental health issues.

How Fragile is our existing World Order?

leaves

A Positive Effect

If there is one postive to be found in self-imposed isolation or government quarantine and in business shut-down and potential failure, it is that some parts of the planet and nature, get a break from human intervention and destruction.

  • Global rainforests may not get burnt this week.
  • Fewer carbon emissions from reduced transport services.
  • That precious koala habitat may not get cleared/logged this week.
  • Industries may refraim from discharging their poisonous effluent into the sea this week, due to shutdowns.
  • The lake near my Home by the Sea might not have pieces of plastic litter from building supplies contaminating it this week. {we are on track so far}
  • People may re-discover making ends meet – growing their own food, cooking for themselves, entertaining at home, chatting with family.

In short: we get a chance to pause and breathe too.

Australia, Community, Motivational, Philosophy

The Future of Australia

This is Australia, a continent not ravaged by war, disease or famine.

A country rich in resources and a friendly open public.

It should be a vanguard for a successful democracy, shouldn’t it?

distortion effect

Australia in 2020

A wobbly renewable energy sector,

Over-reliance of exports of raw materials,

A powerful and corrupt financial sector,

A struggling research and tech industry.

Environmental devastation from natural disasters,

Bushfire, drought and cheap imports.

Declining export markets and competitiveness.

Decreasing full time unemployment and

increasing casualization of the workforce.

It all sounds like a bit like a third world country, but it isn’t.

This is Australia!

And it might be a recipe for economic and environmental disaster.

The Tyranny of Distance

rural australia

Many companies find trading in Australia logistically difficult, due to the ‘tyranny of distance’. We are, after all, stuck right down the bottom of the planet, on the way to nowhere except perhaps New Zealand and Antarctica, and not too many companies head to the southern continent. (No offence there to my Kiwi rellies intended).

In order to stay competitive, Australian companies might decide to decrease production costs, and one popular method of achieving this is reducing staff. Any profits made via increased productivity, is then divided up amongst shareholders. So there is not much incentive to hold onto staff.

Offshore Corporate Relocation

Companies that formerly hired Australians in varying sectors of the economy have, in the last decade, moved company operations off-shore, to a cheaper labour market in Asia, Bangladesh or India.

The result: Lower quality control, poorer reliability and worst of all: – less jobs in Australia! Not only is there less job vacancies, there are less permanent full time jobs – with the end result being a workforce that is highly casualized and contractual. That sure doesn’t help economic stability.

The solar energy industry and the Green movements are not to blame, yet that seems to be the mantra from conservative politicians and mining companies magnates. The country has became so very much dependant on them, that it is their voices that now carry weight over any others.

Agricultural Industry

The agriculture and animal farming industries are in constant decline too, with perhaps the worst, yet to be experienced, as we feel the full brunt of the aftermath of the bushfires and the Chinese slowdown.

Sheep Merino wool Mt Cook
splitting the mob

Australia grew up on the “sheep’s back.” That is, we sold wool and wheat to the world. But as the third world develops along western lines, Australian products have become far too expensive, and we have to add in long and expensive hours of transport, from this corner of the planet. Thus, Aussie products are no longer selling well, and there is nothing yet to replace that.

Except mining.

This gives the mining companies so much power to influence public policy and push their own agenda, to politicians.

We have a non- existent manufacturing sector – what we did have already disappeared overseas. The banks and mines and perhaps, housing construction are the only thing keeping our economy going and thus, our current standard of living.

Is this enough to maintain our current standard of living into the future?

“… the old cargo cult mentality of Australia that she’ll be right.

Paul Keating Former P.M and Treasurer

Education in the form of mostly Asian fee-paying students, is the only other small growth area in the economy, and wholly depends on Australia’s immigration policy towards foreigner students.

Universal Compulsory Voting

The outlook seems bleak, and even more so, as the majority of people do not realize the long term implications for our country. They appear easily swayed by sweet talking politicians.

Politicians with a complex and well thought through economic plan did not seem to find favor in the electorate at the last election.

Franking Credit Scheme

The Government pays out an enormous amount of money on public schooling in Australia, and an equivalent amount, is paid out by the Government to shareholder investors, in the form of franking credits for shares. The shareholders get paid a second time by the Government on top of the dividend itself, and the proposed scheme to rein this in, was complex.

Dividends are paid out of profits which have already been subject to Australian company tax which is currently 30%. This means that shareholders receive a rebate for the tax paid by the company on profits distributed as dividends.You are entitled to receive a credit for any tax the company has paid. If your top tax rate is less than the company’s tax rate, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) will refund you the difference.

http://www.commsec.com.au/education/learn/managing-investments/how-do-franking-credits-work.html

With the Opposition not being able to communicate this properly to the electorate at the last election, meant the incumbent Government hoodwinked voters into believing money was going to be taken off their investments and another new tax imposed!

Emissions Initiatives

Suggestions of introducing Emissions trading schemes have ended many a politician’s career on both sides of politics. The media and oppositions have turned these suggestions in to the popular and false threat of a “new tax,” and the Australia public runs scared.

Voting in Australia

Compulsory voting means these folks who are ill-informed, or who might hear a mere headline or snippet of news from a tabloid source, vote with a knee-jerk reaction. In key electorates, this can make or break a good policy and Government, even though the majority of voters see through this charade.

Photo Credit: i.guim.co.uk

Another example of voter ignorance was the suggestion of introducing a subsidized Electric Car Initiatives to tackle Climate Change and Emissions, which was scoffed at by conservatives who believed, quite incorrectly, that if elected, the party with the Electric car proposal would destroy the Aussie weekend culture, that centres around activities, in the ‘Ute” – (pickup truck)

Solar Power Generation

A country bathed in perpetual sunlight should be the solar powerhouse of the world. We should have our own solar panels in endless production, but instead we import solar panels from colder countries like Canada, Germany and China.

Why?

Because Australia has alway relied heavily on Coal fired power. Dirty Coal. The current Prime Minister loves it so much he brought some into parliament. What a joke!

Apparently it is cheaper to pollute the planet, than support Australian jobs and industry. In fact, the coal mining lobby is so widespread and so powerful, it spreads so many lies and falsehoods about solar power generation, it is scandalous. And the naive voters lap this up and spit it back at backyard barbeques to other ignorant constituents, who don’t know any better. Closed minds and closed hearts. And these folks vote.

An initial scheme to subsidize the introduction of solar panels in residential homes was SO successful, the government put a stop to it, as the coal industry was feeling the financial pinch and the government was losing royalties paid by mining companies.

Notwithstanding a solution is urgently needed to dispose of used solar panels, why on earth would you not want free, clean, non-polluting energy, I ask?

I’m irritated by the incumbent government and the future of my country. I now question universal suffrage and the abilities of the opposition parties to communicate their policies with the electorate.

Is this where democracy is flawed?

The public votes for short term gains, and not long term benefits for all?

Australia – become informed and think about where your vote goes.

Environment

DIY Recycled Fashion Skirt

Reducing Landfill Waste

In my bid to make this a sustainable living year, I decided to re-purpose an old item of clothing and up-cycle it to a new piece. This helps reduce landfill and provides a new item of clothing to wear and enjoy.

With a small piece of elastic, a skirt like this can be made in less than half an hour!

I took an old wrap around skirt, now completely out of fashion, and an infant girl’s dress, and up-cycled them to make a fashionable one size fits all skirt for the modern young girl. Suitable for ages 8 to 20 something, I think.



What you need:

A large rectangle of remnant fabric or older piece of clothing large enough to re-model into a skirt of the length you desire

20 mm wide knitted black elastic

Sewing machine and matching thread

What you do:

  1. Take a measurement from your waist downwards to where you want the hem of the skirt to sit and add 2 inches or 5 cm to this measurement (for a hem and seam allowance).
  2. Ensure the piece is at least 1.5 times the width you want the final skirt to be (this allows for gathering), and cut.
Cut a long rectangle of fabric to the desired width and length.

I like to be different and a little bit lazy, when it comes to sewing, so I chose to use the old wrap around skirt for the fabric piece. This lent itself to cutting into one long piece. I thought great- there would be less hems to come apart later. In my case, the length was 1.8m long. Therefore, if cutting two pieces they would become a front and back piece, each at 90 cm wide plus seam allowances.

3. Sew the side seams wrong side out, press and turn right way out.

4. Hold the 20 mm wide piece of black elastic around your waist to get an idea of how tight or slack you want the waistband to be. Add 1 ” or 2.5 cm to this measurement and cut to length.

5. Join and sew the ends of the elastic with a solid stitch. I overlapped them as I wanted less bulk at the side of the skirt where the join would sit.

I also used a second fabric, a former child’s dress to make another one of these skirts.

6. Using a long stitch length, run around the top of the main skirt fabric. Then pull the ends to gather it in to your desired width.

4. Divide this edge of the waistline, into quarters and mark with pins. Pin between marker pins adjusting the tension and gathering evenly.

5. Do the same with the joined piece of elastic. Then match corresponding pins to each other, so that the bottom edge of the elastic is pinned to the right side at the skirt top.

6. Sew using a strong triple stitch around the bottom of the elastic where it was pinned to the skirt edge.

*Make sure the elastic is sewn to the right side, otherwise the elastic will try to flip over and not sit flat when wearing it. See below.

7. Sew the hem if you haven’t done that already.

8. Voila… skirt in less than 20 mins….

The Prototype is revealed.

sewing

Cost: Electricity for the machine, 20 minutes of my time, 80 australian cents for the new elastic…

Benefit: Fashionable skirt that will fit a primary student/teen/twenty something…

Satisfaction: Clearing some fabric from my scrap basket!!

I then began to wonder what other kinds of potential upcyclable clothes may lay hidden in my bundle of unwanted clothes. Either that or I will be making a whole lot of Dog bandanas!

That gives me something to ponder about…

More recycling ideas on using scrap materials

stpa logo
deception bay path
Australia, Community, Environment, Motivational

Meeting Daniel

There is nothing more likely to incite anger in the community, than petty theft. Especially when most of us work hard to purchase sought after or sentimental items and build a sanctuary where we can relax and enjoy the fruits of our labours. When something is stolen, we feel violated and angry. New homes, like the one I moved to recently, are often targets for criminals and petty theft.

sandy beach

So it was while relaxing this Friday, secure in the knowledge that this week’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge, Simple Joys, was in the very capable hands of first time host, Sandy, from The Sandy Chronicles, that I was dragged back to reality by a car horn, blasting urgently, outside my door.

Something was clearly very wrong.

A thoughtful neighbour had pulled up outside in his car, to alert me that our garage door was open, and with no MotH in sight, they’d seen a stranger dressed in black, carting out two large carry bags from our Home by the Sea.

Glancing up the laneway, near the house, I indeed saw a figure dressed in black, carrying two large bags and talking on a mobile phone. Oh dear, I thought, has he taken some tools or something of value from the MotH’s garage?

Te Mata Peak New Zealand

Quickly shouting thanks to the neighbour, and with the MotH still nowhere in earshot, (despite me earnestly yelling his name), I approached the stranger cautiously, trying my best to look as if I was going for nothing more than a casual walk.

Yeh, it is me. Come now. I’ve got some really good stuff,” I overheard this figure mutter into his mobile phone.

Oh goodness! What has this dude stolen? I thought.

My mind was racing, imagining all sorts of things. Where was the MotH when I needed him?

Should I go back and find him first?

Should I shut the garage door and ring the police?

Totally dumbstruck for the correct protocol to use when approaching a potential thief, I tentatively asked,

“Hi, can I help you? Are you looking for something, or someone?”

“Oh, Hi, yeh, umm, I’ve just been collecting bottles for recycling,”said this young man of about 30 odd years, pointing to the bags.

Have a look,” he said, sweating heavily and clearly picking up on my suspicions.

I approached a little closer and peered into his carry bag to see an array of plastic bottles, the sort you take back to the containers for change refunding collections centres, for the paltry refund the government has introduced.

“And I’ve got electrical wiring, too” he said, opening up his second bag to show me.

” It is heavy, I reckon about 26 kgs,” he continued, offering for me to feel its weight. It was indeed heavy and he’d revealed he’d carried it for several kilometres through the new estate.

“All these new houses, the tradies just chuck away stuff that can be salvaged and reused,” he explained.

Smiling, and offering me his hand, he said, “My name’s Daniel,” revealing a single yellow tooth, “..and so now you know, I’m not pinching stuff. Just trying to make a few dollars. I can’t get work, you see, and I get so bored watching TV.”

Daniel proceeded to tell me he spends his days painstakingly removing all the plastic covering from the excess electrical wiring he salvages from the dump bins on building sites. Then sells the wire to the scrapyard in the neighbouring suburb.

My heart sank as he filled in yet more details of his life, seemingly eager for someone to listen to him. As a young lad not endowed with a great start in life, education wise, and few real opportunities, he had fallen into the wrong crowd some time back, and it didn’t end well.

“I have had so much crap in my life,” he said.

He told me he’d experienced periodic work but physical disability, homelessness and long term umemployment had dogged him for many years, until bad friends finally landed him foul of the law.

I found out the hard way no friends are better than bad friends,” he said, his eyes downcast.

Now I just try to do something good with my time.” he muttered philosophically. “You only have one life.”

“So I am not pinching stuff,” he reinforced again, suddenly serious and looking me in the eye, in case I doubted him. Instead of walking away, I stood there listening to him tell me his heartbreaking story and felt ashamed for initally thinking the worst of him.

Praising his efforts to help himself and and reduce the truckloads of Builder’s waste, I see around me every day, we shook hands and I promised to set aside plastic bottles and cans, for him to collect on his next run.

Here was a young man who had been through the wringer of life and was doing his best to become pro-active and do something to help himself and the planet.

Daniel was alright.

You can’t always judge a book by its cover.

Showing kindness to a stranger is infectious and costs nothing.

All of us would like to be listened to.

Final Twist

In case you were wondering what happened to the Moth, he was apparently completely aware that Daniel and I were chatting. He told me later that he had indeed poked his head around the corner, seen the conversation and causally waved a power drill back and forth, in his hand. A moment passed between Daniel and the MotH, and the MotH seemed certain Daniel had noted the power tool armed and ready!

Community, Environment

The Future of Australia


Recently I had a discussion with another blogger and it highlighted to me how the bulk of Australian public opinion appears to differ greatly from the rest of the First World in the North.

Coal and Renewable Energy Sources

Australia could, and should be, a solar energy powerhouse of the world with our almost constant sunlight and extreme lack of rainfall, right?

It is not.

As India and China, the major markets for purchasing Australian coal, move towards solar and renewable energy sources, it makes good economic sense in the long term to utilize a raw material is FREE and infinite.

Early morning sunrise photography

Surely there must be a tipping point at which the Australia coal industry no longer becomes viable, yet some companies and politicians still support expansion of coal fired power generation. Will we see subsidized fossil fuel generation as a way to prop up employment?

Why? When there are alternatives.

The baseload power needed to support solar energy argument doesn’t make sense when it is solar that is putting more energy into the grid at times of peak demand. I am happy to hear otherwise along with hard evidence. Enlighten me.

For decades the coal industry has supplied power to Australian homes and so many jobs, towns and industry are heavily reliant on it. Past and present governments have been reluctant to invest in solar, due to vested interests who benefit from coal making large political donations.

Is it such a good idea to penalise those folk who choose to invest money in solar by making them pay for infrastructure? Infrastructure that actual makes power companies money by tax relief?

photo editing

I would love to see coal industries leading the charge to investing and promoting/converting to solar. Why not? Currently, we import solar cells from countries like – wait for it – Canada, Italy China and Germany! Canada and Germany are not exactly renowned as warm weather countries are they?

What madness is this?

Prior to moving to our Home by the Sea, we had a wonderful solar system with German solar panels, and Italian inverter and expertly installed by an Australian small business – providing jobs to Australia.

Original colour photo

Five years later, that same company had to close its doors and sack workers because the government initiated moves that caused extreme business uncertainty for companies in the Solar and Renewable energy sector, by reducing the incentives to Australian solar energy customers, thereby assisting the coal industry to further entrench reliance on itself by the energy grid and the monopoly they have enjoyed for years.

monochrome

Pariochial Thinking and Media Control

Foreigners often direct criticism at Americans for having “blinkers” and closed thinking. Meaning that they seem to have a lack of awareness of external issues, due to their media focus on internal matters. However Australians may also be guilty of inward thinking and thus, are far removed from the levels of environmental awareness and action found in the many parts of Europe, where using dirty coal is regarded with much derision. For example: Finland

Yet our Prime Minister seems certain burning coal is still kosher!

Be a leader!

Be Bold, Mr Morrison, P.M of Australia.

Have a vision for your country moving forward for the sake of your children!

Stand up to the Media Moghuls and radio shock jocks who claim they dictate Australian public policy and public opinion!

“We are striking because we have done our homework, and they have not.” – Greta Thunberg

Climate protest in Hamburg, Germany, 1 March 2019

I hear vehement criticism of Greta Thunberg in the hair salons and in the cafes and even by Australians, at backyard barbeques. It utterly shocks me that many Australians think she is some kind of spoilt child throwing an environmentally themed tantrum.

What has happened to my countrymen that they can be so narrow-minded as to criticize and poke fun at a child with a wish for a better future?

Time magazine didn’t think she was a climate brat; they nominated her as their person of the year for 2019.

Australians who deride Greta Thunberg, a child with a vision and the guts to speak out, disgust me, but then I think perhaps they have not had an opportunity to hear another opinion and don’t have the smarts to listen to information sources that are not mainstream.

bank climate change

How does one get through to this sector of the population if the media is so regulated by powerful self-serving interests?

The ageing population here is a hard line conservative group who favour stoic right wing governing with a touch of xenophobia. Compounding this and disappointingly, there seems to be a political swing away from the green movement by the middle income, middle aged voting cohorts. And this is happening when the young folk are much more environmentally aware than any of my peers.

Employment

Is it uncertainty over job security that drives this? Australia has always been so reliant on exporting its raw materials, that is has no manufacturing base to speak of. Research and the IT industry was beginning to develop until it was all but destroyed by government cutbacks.

computer
CC0 Creative Commons

I am unsure why.

On our final day of this decade, open your minds to new possibilities and new solutions, and cast away the hard line thinking of the past.

Happy New Year World.

A New Dawn is approaching.

frog
Environment

A Frog in My Garden

With the long awaited arrival of the recent rains, an old visitor returned to our garden. I do believe it is the same frog I wrote about him a few years back: –

green tree frog

I had a delightful green visitor in my garden. I found him hiding in the inner dark and cool realms of a motor scooter’s seat compartment, where he has been, apparently riding back and forth to the local train station for perhaps, several weeks. My daughter took some shots seen here, naming him Mr Schneider! Not sure of the reason for that. She is quite imaginative.

Green Tree Frog or White’s Frog

Scientific Name: Litoria caerulea

This frog is native to  Australia and introduced to New Zealand.

He is quite a cute character who can apparently live up to 16 years. The males are smaller than the females and are the only ones to produce he characteristic croak at night, especially in summer when they breed.

The presence of frogs in the garden, it is said, is a good indicator of the health of the local environment and as such, I was really pleased to see this little guy. He is of course very welcome if he is keen on eating all the spiders, cockroaches and insects that make us cringe.

While commonly seeking shelter and availing themselves of still water in human habitats, like toilet bowls, potplants, tanks and swimming pools, an interesting fact is that frogs can scream to ward off predators, and change colour according to their mood, much like a chameleon. Even in the short space of time we observed him, he certainly seemed to  lighten in colour.
It is important to remember and to teach kids, that the touch of a dry human hand is extremely caustic to these frogs, indeed most frogs, so you must always have wet hands when handling them.

Our task this morning was just to guide him to a safe spot, no more hitchhiking on the motor scooter. So whilst capturing him on the old digital camera, he headed for the pot-plants in the window boxes on the front wall, and after a light mist with the garden hose, he squeezed himself into the hole in the side of the self watering pots.

green tree frog

The main danger to the green tree frog is the destruction of its habitat through wetland clearance and drainage.

We can all support the habitat of frogs by welcoming them into our garden.

And that is something every single one of us needs to ponder about.

Less frogs= more insects= indications that the environment is suffering.

Community

Small Windows

We bought the land near the water on a peninsula, because the local district has water on three sides. We thought how lovely it would be to have the cooling effect of the sea during our long, hot summers.

We can be kinder to the earth we thought, by opening windows to catch those sea breezes and not have to rely on air-conditioning units. We want to have an energy efficient, environmentally friendly house. But there are more rules to building then there are fish in the sea.

beach cricket
The beach near our home

The builders tell me the windows on the upper storey will have ‘restrictors’ which means they will not be allowed to open more than 100mm. (a gap too small for a child’s head to fit through). Believe it or not, in Australia, 50 children a year fall out of upper storey windows.

Why? What happened years ago when all windows opened outwards?

Did children fall less or more at those times? If so, I wonder why?

Torun poland
This is not happening in Australia any longer.

It seems that the authorities cannot trust us to do the right thing and take care of our children. They want to eliminate every potential accident, and that in itself, is a truly wonderful objective. Our children are safer.

The cost for this, however, is then passed on to the environment and the ambient temperature in our homes. Will children grow up with no common sense or spatial awareness because the regulations have kept them so safe that they are less aware of where their bodies lie in space. Then again, accidents do happen. Children are precious.

In two years time, every new house will need to have fly-screens fitted to every window above a certain height; screens that can withstand a 25 kg weight, before it gives way. Enough to hold a young child who might be bouncing on their bed and accidentally fall against the screen. Then we do not need window restrictors like this one.

It is sad that we need so many regulations and rules to look after our children.

What rules or regulations govern your windows of your home, in your area?


Community

We are Building a House

I have never done it before.

Build a house, that is.

My husband has built a house before, with his father, so for him, this is not so special.

For me, this is my first and last time to decide how a new house might look from the ground up. I will never do it again. This is it.

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An example of the style of house we will build

There are so many things to decide. We have to chose absolutely everything – colours, tiles, mortar, grout, locks, window frames, cornice, shelves. For every part of the house and every single thing in it, there is a choice. A good thing, right? But it makes my head spin, just a little bit.

Sandgate foreshore

A Block of Land

First things first.

We recently purchased a block of land in a new development that was close by the water’s edge. We wanted to be near the water. Two people, done with raising a family, growing old in a house by the sea. Sunset walks along the water’s edge. Cool breezes in the sub-tropical summer. Sounds idyllic? We think and hope so.

You can almost see the Glass house Mountains from here

Selecting a block of land wasn’t as easy as we thought. I was very fussy about micro-climate and orientation. After living for many, many years in a house that was like a furnace in summer and a freezer in winter, I knew I was going to be particular about aspect. And I was lucky. I found one that ticked almost all the boxes.

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Rebel is looking forward to a #Seachange

The block in question was already registered with the governing body, as opposed to buying a pile of dirt way behind a barbed wire fence and shown only on a paper plan to prospective buyers. Whilst I was particular on the right environmental aspect, my husband was definitely not going to buy anything he couldn’t step on and feel, with his own hands. So we were lucky. We found it. First step done!

designing A house

Next we had to find a design we liked. Will the design we picked fit on the block of land, we wondered? My idea of this, might be a little different to local councils and also the idea of the land developers which is different to that of the builder. Negotiations await a pen pusher’s whim. We wait for that.

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Our land has two frontages, that is: it faces a street on one side and a smaller lane way on another. This is great because it gives us uninterrupted sea breezes and views.

However, there are certain rules about how close the house can be situated to the street and neighbouring houses, called setbacks. They don’t want you to build your house right next to the road, as they did in years gone by.

Knaegemoelle, Denmark – in this beautiful house you could reach out the window and touch the cars going by

What colour and materials will the exterior of our house be? How many windows? What type of fence will the garden have? How many plants will we get? The developer has a say in that too. It is called the covenant.

Banksia
Banksias love the coastal conditions

The developer in its wisdom, wants to keep selling their land for a good price and thus, they want to maintain certain standards for the houses getting built in their community. But when is a house really your own to design?

Soil Testing

The land was previously low lying land that was filled and raised by creating an artificial lake that opened to the sea. This is coastal land – a tidal area now filled in with soil and a lake.

Our block

This means the soil test showed the soil is saline and highly reactive. That translates to more expensive foundations for the house and raised garden beds. But who wants their house walls to crack when it rains, or doesn’t rain? It has to be done that way.

Inspired by Anne- Christine

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Something to Ponder About


Community

Sunday Sayings – Our Environment Let’s change the World

Climate change is an important issue that each of us can contribute to increasing awareness about, through our photography and posts. So today, on Sunday sayings, I explore several environmental quotes that resonate with me. We can make a difference in our daily practices wherever we how in the world, however we live.

Do you know how?

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One planet, one experiment

– Edward O. Wilson

We have been showcasing photos on our interpretation of climate change on Friendly-friday-photo, a weekly photo challenge on WordPress.

[If you wish to join in see more Friendly Friday.]

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader.

Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned.

Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Everyone’s opinion is important. What is yours?

Something serious to ponder about.

#OneWorld Let’s change it.

Community

Friendly Friday Photo – Climate Change

1984 – contemplating the Environment

1984 – Australia.

A skinny slip of a girl was studying the Environment at University. She learnt about planet earth and how fragile it was; how global temperature might rise at least 2- 3 degrees, and how this warming might lead to cataclysmic and irreversible ramifications for life, on earth.

Rainbows could be a thing of the past in some parts of Australia

That student also learnt how inland river systems were polluted by effluent from cities and how excessive irrigation for agricultural crops led to saline soils and dying river systems, in this the driest continent, on earth. She learnt how her country would begin to experience more drought, wild weather events, fire and more hardship on the land in coming decades.

Rivers break their banks in extreme weather events

Furthermore, she read how scientists detected die-back and bleaching of coral in the Great Barrier Reef due to run-off of fertilizers draining down from agricultural land into the sea, during rains.

She learnt how everything in the natural world is interconnected.

If one part of the ecosystem breaks down, or disappears, it has a deleterious domino effect on other parts, with potential species extinction and irreversible damage to nature.

She learnt along with rising sea levels, that there is not a single species in the ocean without plastic materials in its gut; that fisheries are disappearing and that the only marine species flourishing in the alkaline marine environment is Jellyfish.

In University classes, she discussed how we as humans, along with other predatory species will feel the concentrated effects of endocrine disrupting petrochemicals and accumulated pesticides. And that we might see evidence of this first in plants, second in animals that feed on those plants, and lastly in us, the carnivores that eat the animals, because we are at the top of the food chain.

Everything is connected.

disposable plastic
Plastic washed up on beaches
green tree frog

She learnt that frogs are a good indicator of the health of the environment and that frogs and bee numbers are dwindling.

The student then learnt about the hole in the ozone layer and how the polar ice sheets could melt resulting in a rise in sea levels; meaning some low lying countries will become uninhabitable.

Rising sea levels could threaten low lying coastal communities

For this student, who had grown up in the shadow of potential nuclear extermination in the Cold War era, soon realized an even bigger threat to the planet was, in fact, man himself.

Checkpoint Charlie – a hot spot in the Cold War

What kind of world would her potential future children be gifted with?

She left her work in the environment field as she could not bear to hear it any more.

artsy photo
Looking outwards, not inwards

Now no longer a student, but a Mother, that women began to facilitate and promote environmentally friendly practices in her own circle. She spoke about her concerns with friends, family and her wider community, and slowly changed attitudes of those around her, and increased awareness, in her own microcosm.

seal kiss

That former student learnt that education and knowledge can be a powerful vanguard for change in community thinking and ultimately, in the halls of government. The student, who had read so much gloom and doom in her University years, also learnt that there is HOPE.

Slowly, as temperatures began to rise, folks began to know the world was indeed a finite place and could no longer absorb man’s destructive ways.

Sustainable practices, solar and wind power and recycling became mainstream. Single use plastic bags were banned or minimized. Threatened forests and animals were protected and land clearing practices examined in terms of their biodiversity loss or environmental value. Salinity in rivers and streams began to be addressed and is now understood as both a threat and a challenge.

And the public started to realize that Climate Change is real.

Friendly Friday Photo challenge

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge will have a new weekly prompt next week here on Something to Ponder About. Thanks ever so much to my co-host TheSnowMeltsSomewhere for her Friendly Friday Climate Change prompt.


Please check the comment section on her post for other entries to this challenge.

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This topic is especially dear to my heart and in highlighting this issue through photography, we can also increase awareness. I will pop down from my soap box now.

Amanda

#OneWorld Let’s change it!

Green Bag
Community

Upcycle Tutorial – Environmental Bags

Say No to plastic! That is our new mantra, right?

When we think Green bags, what comes to mind? Those ugly, bland ones in garish colours, with some corporate log stamped all over it, offering fresh promotions to someone other than you. They might be practical, but more often, ugly. Or they get dirty and you can’t erase the marks, no matter what detergent you use.

Furthermore, I am inclined to prefer to drink my own ‘home-grown’, filtered water, rather than tap water, at my workplace, and thus, carry several drinking flasks to work, which becomes unwieldy in a regular handbag. My local, liquor store carry-bags have several interior compartments that are just perfect for holding bottles of wine, or, in my case, stainless steel drink flasks. Normally I carry 2-3 of these water flasks, which clank around noisily as I walk, and get dented or scratched in a normal tote bag.

However, carrying Liquor store carry bags into work each day, gives out the wrong message to my colleagues. “Look at her: she just can’t keep out of the Liquor store!!” I could almost hear it whispered about in the corridors of my workplace, each day. There had to be a better approach, I thought.

I have already shown you how to create a new shopping bag out of old clothes and fabric scraps here in this tutorial, but another solution to going plastic free and reducing plastic waste is to “Upcycle” the ‘green’ bags, by adding a pretty fabric cover which is machine washable. This gives me the chance to use some pretty fabric from my stash and get a stylish tote bag in the process. Here is how I did it:

Step 1

Grab some iron-on batting or interfacing, and a piece of pretty fabric (slightly larger than the bag’s measurements) or two, that is if you want to add a pocket on the outside to hold keys, phone etc etc.

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Step 2

Try out a few combinations until you are happy with the contrast of fabrics and colour schemes. Keep in mind they should complement the colour of the green bag itself.

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Step 3

Cut a piece of interfacing the dimensions of the bag. Now cut the fabric to fit the bag not forgetting to add a 1/4 inch hem allowance on all sides. I find it works better if I iron the hem allowance under, before I sew it. Tacking also helps keep the fabric in place. It will be impossible to sew the complete four sides of the bag, with the machine, as the bag is already assembled. So some hand sewing will be required in those places that your sewing machine foot cannot reach.

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Step 4

If you are attaching a pocket, cut, trim and hem before you sew the fabric to the front and or back of the bag. Iron on the interfacing etc…. you already know how to do this….

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Sewing in progress.

Tip: Use a strong/thick needle for sewing this bag. They make them tough and that will break a #80/90 gauge sewing needle.

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Step 5

Repeat on the back side of the bag. As I said, use a strong/thick needle for sewing this bag. They make them tough and it will break a #80/90 gauge sewing needle.

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Step 6 (optional)

The pocket looked  a bit plain, so I added a heart motif applique, for contrast.

That’s it…. all done, and I do like to take this everywhere now. Holding my lunch and water allowance for each and every work day. The bag fits in at the workplace in a way the Liquor shop carry- bag did not!!!

I hope this gives you some ideas to ponder about.

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designing bags red work
Community

Kicking out Plastic – Tutorial Signature Shopping Bag

embroidery hack
Design penned onto calico shopping bag

I really hate using plastic bags and avoid them at all costs. As supermarkets here are phasing out single use plastic bags, there is even more need for consumers to have their own environmentally friendly and sustainable shopping bags.

And it is not just reusable bags for groceries. Even when buying a new outfit, I will carry a clean cotton bag for my purchases inside my regular handbag, rather than use a plastic variety that is not only bad for the planet, but also advertises companies who make absolutely no effort to take care of the future of the environment and wildlife. Why would I want to promote them?

In less than ten minutes, you can create an individual environmentally friendly solution. A solution, so easy, that even the children can get involved and create their own reusable, plastic free shopping bag.

Back in 2012, I began making a variety of D.I.Y, “plastic free” bags: in Redwork embroidery, painted Norwegian Telemark and floral designs, and also with a pen and painting technique.

Here are a few samples from my existing bag stash.

But I needed more bags to have on hand, and as plain calico is rather plain, and ‘Redwork’ embroidery makes such a pretty and easy adornment. My initial plan was to embroider some designs on the new calico bags, in redwork technique, with a needle and thread. However, I am not the world’s neatest hand sewer ( far from it, really), and embroidery takes me for-EVER to complete, as I have an aversion to sewing, itself!

Solution: Enter the Evanscraft craft and cross stitch pen…. a permanent, acid free pen in a Barn red colour, that can simulate cross stitch or other types of embroidery. Wonderful! With this technique, you can create a pretty cottage garden or folk art design on fabric, (or even wood), and the result is something unique, and useful, created in a matter of minutes.

More time for plastic free shopping!!

It just might inspire others to take up plastic free shopping as well.

flower pattern

You will need:

  • A Calico or Cotton bag in a light colour from your local haberdashery store, ironed flat.
  • A pattern such as the one above, which you can trace over in thick black pen. NB. If you aren’t feeling particularly inspired to draw your own design, you can find plenty of free ‘Redwork’ or other embroidery patterns, (there are some here on Pinterest); in colouring books or even on google image search, itself.
  • A permanent pen, preferably in barn red or a dark red colour, but any colour will do, as long as it doesn’t bleed or run when you wash the bag. I used an Evanscraft Craft and Cross Stitch pen but please patch test the pen of your choosing, on a hidden corner, to check its colour fastness and suitability.

Instructions:

  1. Tape the design on a glass window to create an impromptu light box and trace your selected pattern in thick black pen.
  2. Tape the traced design on top of a piece of cardboard and slip both inside the bag, centering horizontally. The calico is fairly thin so it is easy to see the traced design through the bag. Mounting the design on the cardboard prevents any bleeding of the penned design, through to the rear side of the bag.
  3. Then it is just a matter of re-tracing over the pattern with the chosen pen, and adding a few embellishments of your own, within and around the design.
  4. A final press of the bag, with the iron seals the design and you are ready to shop!

Tip: A ruler may be used to keep long lines straight, or you may prefer to keep them loose and rustic, as I did in the border design. Use the ruler turned upside down to prevent smudging on to the bag.

A major complaint of those who continue to use plastic bags, is that they forget to bring the re-usable bags, along with them, when they shop.

I purchased the plain cotton shopping bags from Lincraft for a dollar each. Not only are they strong, bu they can be scrunched up to a really small size, for carrying inside my handbag, (see in photo to the right above).

In this way they are always on hand, for my use just when I need them.

No more forgetting the bags!!

What design would you choose?

Something environmentally friendly and creative to ponder About.