Wednesday, February 27, 2013

So, where were we when Bhutan turned into a world leader?

Bhutan goes organic……By banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides Bhutan has outlined a clear path for the future of its agriculture: it will become the first wholly organic country in the world.

Bhutan was already largely organic, but the recent decision announced at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013 aims to make it possible for the tiny Himalayan country to cut the last bond with dangerous agricultural chemicals.

The goal is not only to go organic, but to grow more food as well. Bhutan aims to achieve this with a region-by-region and crop-by-crop approach. At the same time it will study and introduce new methods of growing traditional crops in order to increase yields. 

This will set an example to show how ecological farming, which organic farming falls under, is a valid alternative to industrial agriculture when it comes to increasing food production. The only hurdle is in the consistency of investment, which ecological farming lacks when compared with the financial resources industrial farming attracts.

But apart from the higher yields, an added benefit is the boost to Bhutan's export potential as the country tries to increase organic foods exports to neighboring China and India, where the demand for organic produce is on the rise. It makes business sense!

Bhutan already has an important record to be proud of: it is a carbon neutral country and food secure while also being able to guarantee water and electricity supplies to more than 95% of its population.

It is now making the next step to become 100% organic, not only for practical reasons to grow more food, but also from philosophical point of view to protect the environment.

"Hopefully we can provide solutions. What is at stake is the future. We need governments who can make bold decisions now rather than later," Agriculture Minister Pema Gyamtsho said in an interview.

The small country in the eastern end of the Himalayas is not new to taking a lead role on issues around the environment and sustainability.

In 1971 Bhutan set a new concept for measuring progress. Rather than using the amount of goods and services produced by the country (known as Gross Domestic Product or GDP) it implemented a new measure and criteria known as Gross National Happiness or GNH.

This measures the spiritual, physical, social and environmental wellbeing of its inhabitants and territory. This type of development model has been discussed at the UN and has been publicly backed by leaders from Britain and France.

The latest move by Bhutan to ban the sales of pesticides and herbicides is testament to the country's leading environmental stance: these chemicals are petrol based and their residues end up in the food we eat and damage the soil and the water quality.

So what are we waiting for? While Bhutan is small and its agriculture scale rather limited, from a global perspective we can still learn from its approach.

The move to turn 100% organic is prompted by farmers becoming convinced that they need to work in harmony with nature. This idea that we need to work with nature is a central aspect of farming that  we seem to forget and which should be put at the core of agriculture.

Let the world learn from Bhutan … once again!

From Greenpeace International

Monday, February 25, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

3 years on….

It has been 3 years since I bought my house in Cygnet, southern Tasmania. You can read about the beginnings here. In those early days I was so happy to be going to live somewhere with so many of the features I had often dreamed of in a home and garden.

After 3 years I can honestly say I still marvel at the luck that brought me here. I sit by my lounge room window, smiling out at my herb garden, my geese strolling past, mowing the paths, tiny birds feeding in the shrubbery right under my window and the sea breeze freshening up  what threatens to be a hottish summer’s afternoon….. although ‘hot’ is very relative and humidity has a role to play in what feels hot here.

I know an awful lot of people and have made some truly wonderful friends. I write the garden page for the local paper and have a micro-business called The Garden Shed and Pantry. I run gardening and cooking workshops, help out at the Cygnet Community Garden, run a seedsavers group called SeedSaveUs, cook meals for a local family, rent out a room on Airbnb and have a huge organic, Australian wholefoods etc stall at the Cygnet Market, twice a month.

In between all this I spend as much time in my acre of garden as possible, which is never often enough because I source almost everything I sell direct from individual farmers and makers and that takes FOREVER! My desire is to become a hermit and spend most of my time in my garden, growing food and making my acre into the paradise it has the potential to be. The rest of the time I’d like to be paddling the waterways of Tasmania with friends, starting with the estuary at the end of my street which flows out past the beautiful sailing club of Port Cygnet and beyond to Bruny Island…. all I need is the right craft!

Cygnet claims to have a population of 800 but, even if this is out of date, it is probably no more than 1,000. And yet, I rarely leave it. Astonishing as it may seem, almost everything I need is here….. and I am VERY fussy! Having a small shop in my home and a market stall etc means I meet a lot of people. I put out feelers about something and eventually I come across exactly the person I need. It is amazing how diverse the population is and how specialized. You can get everything from exquisite, world class blown glass from an amazingly talented couple to ancient Indian chapatti boards from a nifty shop called Near and Far, where I also buy Tasmanian wool socks.

I have a customer who raised a couple of pigs so I got some pork. Another has a few goats, yet another has sheep. A neighbour grows potatoes to sell and another grew a few eggplants this summer, for the local fruit and veg shop, The Cygnet Garden Larder. One of a kind, this tiny shop is filled to overflowing with local produce and hard to get other foods, like organic bananas and even the odd mango (all Australian, at least). A stallholder yesterday at the market gave me some leftover, fresh onions and last week I bought a large blueberry bush from her.

The local IGA supermarket will get anything you ask for! I asked for Maggie Beer’s Vino Cotto, which, once you have had it, you can’t live without. This wonderful family business puts most other rural supermarkets to shame. Run by a Lebanese family with an eye for the unexpected, even fussy shoppers like me enjoy going there.

Surrounded by waterways, small-scale farms, even a new, organic, cider works (in a 4th generation apple orchard), a swimming spot deliriously situated below rugged mountain scenery and with picturesque views at every turn, who could ask for more?

Must go….. the winners of the Huon Crier Quiz night are off sailing today and somehow I was on that team!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Worldwide radio and tv

I am now paying less for my internet than ever before and getting more. Consequently I am able to spread my wings and listen more often to wonderful, interesting, funny and educational radio from around the world, while I do indoor jobs. I’d be interested to hear of online radio stations that others could recommend.

I used to love Radio Aquitaine but I don’t think it is still running. It was a great station in English and French, depending on the topics and broadcasters; started by an Australian woman too!

BBC radio has some wonderful programmes and podcasts. I have just finished listening to one about food trends around the world. Not as dull as the title might sound, its worth getting your teeth into!

BBC Food programme: Provenance and pleasure, history and health - Radio 4's weekly look at food. Making sense of food, from the kitchen and canteen, to the farm and factory. We place food in its historical and cultural context; call to account policy makers and industry decision makers; and celebrate the sheer pleasure of good food.

I am soooooo tired of Tasmanian radio and the endless, narrow range of topics covered; from forestry to football and back again.

And when it comes to TV, I now love to stream from anywhere I can. I am delving into the Youtube station called BBC Worldwide. To overcome the problem of those outside the UK not being able to watch the enormous number of fabulous BBC broadcasts, they do it through Youtube. Brilliant! A long programme will be cut into parts but its no problem to watch it this way.

Now that I have an HDMI cable from my laptop to my new TV, literally the whole world is in my hands. It is a wonderful way to not just hear about what is happening overseas, in whatever field interests you, but to actually watch it or listen to it direct from that country, in their own words…. and that includes watching Gavin’s Monthly Podcasts, from The Greening of Gavin, in Victoria.

I want to find other stations but have not had time yet. Do tell me if you know of anything worth seeking out. Next I want to get a radio that can play via wifi so I can listen while I am in the garden too. I know they are available now but I need a battery operated one that will work quite some distance from my router.

Technology can be amazingly wonderful….. funny that I listen to digital, international radio while I sort my seeds, preserve lemons, run my little wholefoods business and generally live a very green life!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Vari’s is closing

To the people of eastern Adelaide, those few words will bring sadness and many happy memories. Frank’s wonderful little Italian grocery shop is packed from floor to the rafters with home made and imported everyday Italian ingredients and foods, all at reasonable prices. Frank arrived in Australia in 1955 and started working in his (late) sister’s shop in 1960 and has worked there ever since, taking it over some years ago.

Frank Vari

I started going there in the 1980’s when I lived nearby. It was through Frank that I tasted many Italian things for the first time and every time I went I would buy something I’d never heard of before. He would scoop them out of enormous jars or climb on a wooden ladder and unhook a ribbon tying a bag or bundle of something from the rafters. No space was unused and all the smells of Italy wafted in and out the door….. and now it will all end as rents rise …..and instead, glitzy girls will probably sell plastic ice cream or waifs’ clothing or ipods and earphones.

"I'd just like to thank all the past and present customers and Norwood traders for their support," Mr Vari, 75, says.

"Everybody's been good to me and have made us last so long.

"Everyone from 53 years ago to now, I'd like to thank you with all my heart."

Thanks Frank. Live long and happy, with your family. We won’t forget you.

You can read more here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Wooden Boats Festival 2013, Hobart

This little video puts you in the right mood …..

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Above - Some of the wooden boats that were rowed or sailed on the 9 day journey from Recherche Bay, at the southern tip of Tasmania, to Hobart, for the festival.

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Some square riggers and even a Portuguese pirate ship, lined the docks.

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In all, over 500 wooden boats came to the festival from all over the world!

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….including this wonderful motor boat.

I think this giant pirate came on the old, black ship….

 

 

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….. with Sally!

It was fabulous to have Sally turn up quite unexpectedly, from Adelaide. We laughed an awful lot for 2 days…. and we did a wicked job on part of my garden too.

 

There were marquees and halls full of craftsmen and the wharves were covered in all manner of small wooden crafts for viewing or for sale, from dilapidated to immaculate. There were talks on Tasmanian timbers, talks on every aspect of wooden boat knowledge from one corner of the world or another, talks on adventures and adventurers….. and all free….. for 4 days… and the best samosas I have ever eaten!

If you intend to come to Tasmania one day, put The Wooden Boats Festival in your calendar for 2015 (every 2 years).

You can read more here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Skateistan….…..Kabul meets Lakota

Skateistan began as a Kabul-based NGO, and now operates projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Pakistan, with a second facility opening in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, in 2013. Skateistan focuses on reaching out to working children, using skateboarding as a tool for developing leadership opportunities, and building friendship, trust, and social capital among its students. While skateboarding is the initial way to get students involved, Skateistan is then able to provide access to education and platforms for self-expression that help break the cycles of poverty and exclusion……..

…….Ten skateboards were the result of our recent cultural exchange program known as Connecting Dots.

 The Connecting Dots project linked the young Lakota (Native American) skateboarders from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota with the Skateistan students in Kabul. Throughout the exchange, the groups—separated by continents and oceans—exchanged key aspects of their national heritage…...

…… The creation of the first skateboards made in Afghanistan started with a set of pre-molded plywood supplied by Create-A-Skate. First, the Skateistan group worked on the geometry they desired for their skateboards. A series of initial sketches allowed for them to mark out the unique shapes on the rectangular pieces of plywood. "We got information about the measurement and cutting off the edges of skateboards. Then we measured and drew two skateboards” describes Nawid, a Skateistan volunteer. These initial sketches taught the students the basics of symmetry, weights, and information they they can apply to future creative projects……

…….Skateistan students participated in classes that involved drawing and painting the Lakota cultural symbols. This includes the famous dream catchers, which have their origins in Lakota culture, animals found in South Dakota, and traditional dress. Symbols from Afghan culture include a mosque, the traditional dress of Afghan people, and even the beautiful Hindu Kush Mountains surrounding Kabul…….