Sunday, February 24, 2008

Flat Out

Dear reader,

I should first apologise for the complete neglect of my blog over the past few weeks - it was just pointed out to me that my last post was in early February! Feeling guilty because I love to see new posts on my friend's blogs and am always disappointed if there is nothing new to read about. I have a very valid excuse though, and that is that work has been incredibly busy for the last month. And when I say busy, I mean barely keeping up busy. The first semester starts tomorrow and that means I've been preparing presentations, orientation sessions and welcome sessions to introduce new students to the work of the green office. And as if that in itself weren't enough, this Thursday is Celebrate Sustainability Day, a collaborative effort between myself and two awesome and devoted colleagues, Millie and Su. We have planned a Ride to Uni breakfast (pancakes for anyone who arrives petrol free to campus), a BBQ lunch, dinner of pumpkin soup from the campus garden and an outdoor film (The Next Industrial Revolution), with a wide range of activities, displays and tours in between. The highlights: live music by a great local band, a clothing swap, displays by all of the green groups on campus, a Prius on display, Segways to test drive, chances to drive an ANU electric buggy, mural painting, photovoltaic displays, green building tours, pedal powered see why we've been preoccupied lately! Oh, and we've got about $1400 in prizes to give away including a years worth of residential green energy!

Given all of that, I've been resorting to escapism - a lot of takeaway and watching movies in the evenings! Over the last couple weekends we've worked on building that pedal powered bicycle blender mentioned above (I'll be sure to include photos once it's finished), preserving vegetables from the garden and making yet another batch of mead. Some photos:

One week's abundance from the garden! We've been regularly making tomato sauce, zucchini cakes and zucchini muffins - and leaving gifts on our neighbors doorstep!

Another mead making adventure. Carl sent us mead ingredients including yeast, yeast nutrient and acids and they were detained by quarantine; we only got them released after having Carl write an "official" letter and by then we had already made our first batch of mead! Not wanting the ingredients to go to waste, we acquired fifteen kilos of red stringybark honey (another eucalypt) and made ten more gallons of mead!

So hoping to get my life back after next week; I'll let you know how that goes :)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

February 3rd: Second Anniversary

Today is the second anniversary of our arrival in Australia! We spent the day with our friend Millie making a bicycle powered blender. It's not quite finished yet and I forgot my camera so I didn't get any photos. To be honest, at the moment it looks more like a medieval torture device than a blender...but I'll be sure to get photos when it's up and running. We hope to be making smoothies with it on campus on the 28th of February for Celebrate Sustainability day at ANU.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Stars, Birds, Gardens, Eggs and the Phoenix

The last two weeks have been very busy at work and so the adventures down under have mostly been of the routine variety. Last week we went to the Canberra Observatory and Planetarium as the facility is being closed down - too small a population base to support it, they say. Not surprising I suppose as it is tucked away in a hidden corner of the city; we'd walked past it several times saying "hmmm, we'll have to go there someday" and only went when we heard it was closing. Saw a nice show in the planetarium on the Southern Cross (Australia's iconic constellation) and then viewed Mars and several of the stars in the constellation Orion (a familiar one in the northern hemisphere, just upside down here) through two large and really cool telescopes.

The wildlife photos have been scarce recently, I realize, because the garden and its abundance have taken center stage on the blog. So I've made an effort to get a photo of one of the most common (and noisy) birds around, the sulphur crested cockatoo. They are hanging around even more than usual right now as the black walnut tree in the back garden is fruiting and they are eating their fill.

We thought it wasn't fair that the cockatoos get all the walnuts so we collected some ourselves and were hoping to dry and eat them. But, without a specially designed beak, the outer green coverings are such a pain to get off that most of the walnuts are still sitting in a bucket in the garage.

The garden is still flourishing and I'm starting to tire of zucchini everything. The tomatoes are just starting to turn red and we have now had two meals of sweet corn. The corn is so yummy and sweet that only about half of the ears make it to the pot; the other half we just eat raw!

The most recent excitement is of the annoying variety - last night we had drinks out with Liz, a friend from masters study who just returned from nine months in Mongolia (that was the fun part of the evening), when on the way home at about 10pm and just one block from home, I was pelted with raw eggs emerging from a speeding vehicle full of drunken and rowdy boys. I had heard stories of touring cyclists having things thrown at them, but was shocked at the absurdity of it in my own neighborhood. Livid (and literally in shock I think) I had to wash the goo from my coat, my backpack and my pants and now my backpack still smells of raw egg. Grrr.

So, in an effort to not end this post on a grumpy note, I'll say that I had a nice sleep in this morning, followed by a trip to the markets where we got the weeks produce and had pancakes and coffee with friends. The markets are always a social occasion in addition to their more practical function. Now, eating a (you guessed it) zucchini muffin, I'm about to start the second book of a great fantasy series I'm reading called The Books of Pellinor.

Okay, one more remotely interesting thing. We were given several plants last year by neighbors who were departing from the Moorhouse Street apartments. One had been doing nicely and blooming with little purple flowers, but then took a turn for the worse when, during one of the obscenely hot weeks, I kept all of the shades closed for three days. It went brown and appeared to be completely dead. We stopped watering it altogether and both of us thought several times over the course of the week that we should really toss it out. Then one day, we noticed fuzzy little sprouts emerging from the dead and dried leaves. It's new name is Phoenix.