Thursday, May 26, 2011

Going car-free, part 3-money

  This one is easy-of course not having a car is cheaper. But I don’t think many people actually sit and calculate how much their car really costs them.

  For us, our costs before driving anywhere (registration and insurance) cost $35 per week.

  We filled up with LPG fortnightly on average, getting about 400kms for around $65.

  We were also spending around $2000 every year on servicing/fixing. It was an old car. But from what I hear of the cost of servicing newer cars, not excessive.

That means we were spending $105.96 every week on having a car. And we bought it with cash, so we weren’t making loan repayments or paying interest. Our car seemed to be relatively cost-efficient to run compared to most (it was more fuel-efficient than the VS Commodore sedan the husband had before it), but needed more fixing.

  But hang on, that’s not everything. Over the five years we had it we spent money on other things for it too.

   We bought roofracks for it ($550), we put new speakers and a stereo in it (around $400 total). We had to buy tyres for it every few years ($1500+). We tinted the windows ourselves (badly-$250). We didn’t wash it much, but used car wash when we did ($20).We got seat covers and floor mats for it ($60). And lets not forget the mammoth cost of proper car seats and harnesses for five children ($1400)-even buying cheaper but well-rated brands.

  This all brings our weekly cost of owning a car to $122.03, when the above costs are averaged out over 5 years.

  We’re pretty frugal car owners too-the above prices for everything are much lower than what you could potentially pay. I could have easily spent over $3000 in car seats, or paid to get it tinted at $580.

  Granted, we still have the roofracks-as they’re adjustable they should fit any 4WD. And the car seats. But they’re still all costs that were necessary-none of that was really wasted.

  We could also add the potential cost of removing $15,000-odd from our mortgage account (what we would realistically spend on another car). Right now, using the ‘penny saved is a penny earned’ analogy, we’re earning 7.5% on that money. 

  Plus, if you want to get really nit-picky, we’re getting fitness for free. The husband worked out he rode over 40kms last week, just doing day-to-day business. I take Shorty about 10kms return to speech therapy each week as a big trip, and we do numerous small ones. There is simply no better way to integrate exercise into your daily life, that to have to do it to leave the house! If you’re currently paying for a gym membership/fitness classes etc, you can replace that with everyday incidental activity. If you’re currently unfit, you’ll certainly get fit quickly-and as a result more healthy. It is the most natural form of exercise that I, as someone who generally avoids imposed exercise, have found. I am not a fitness freak.

  So, is your car really worth $122.03 a week? Or, as is quite likely, even more? How many hours do you have to work, post-tax, just to drive and maintain that big hunk of metal out there?

Dustbathing orgy


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making toothpaste

  I love being able to walk down entire aisles in the supermarket and not need anything. I’ve been able to do it with the soft drink aisle forever, I ditched the baby aisle midway through ‘needing’ it, bakery and butchery sections are completely irrelevant and I haven’t looked at disposable female sanitary products in years.
  It was high time I snubbed my nose at the entire toiletries aisle-it’s time to go, toothpaste. This has been the project that has definitely created the most interest among people I know. I’m always getting asked how it’s going, people have been sending me all sorts of links and information-it’s been interesting to see!

  First try, aloe vera gel. As we have an aloe vera plant, very local. All you do is crack the ‘leaf’, put the clear gel on your brush and brush. It tastes quite good, foams slightly and seems to work well. Sounds like a perfect option, except if you get the yellow part of the gel it’s very bitter, and it’s not very child-friendly-they can’t really help themselves. Plus the plant is downstairs and we’re upstairs, so we chalked this up as a very good substitute that we’ll use when we can plant it at the back door.

  Next, plain bicarb. Ugh. It worked OK, but tasted horrible. I never wanted to do it again, let alone twice a day. (note-now we use aluminium free bicarb, it's fine-see update below).

  Finally, a toothpaste recipe. It’s been the stayer because it’s cheap and quick to make, it stores on the bench, and can be independently used by the two year old (yes, we finish the brushing, but he starts it).

So, how to make it? Take 2 tbsp bicarb, 3 tbsp of glycerine and 1 tsp peppermint essence. Mix well…….and that’s it. It does separate slowly so needs the occasional extra stir. I make a double lot and it lasts about 2 weeks, with fourteen brushings a day. The taste is somewhat salty but you adjust quickly. The kids complained a bit at the start, but seeing as my attitude is along the lines of ‘too bad, that’s all you’ve got so suck it up’ it passed pretty quickly.

  Interestingly, the general agreement is that our teeth feel consistently cleaner. They certainly look whiter across the whole seven of us. Morning breath is a thing of the past, as is waking up with a terrible taste in my mouth. And I can eat an orange straight away without it tasting icky! Could the commercial toothpastes *gasp* be causing the very things they say they prevent? My cynical self says probably. After all, they don’t want it to work too well. Then people wouldn’t be continually tempted to spend more by upscaling to whitening/tartar control/bells’n’whistles toothpastes-not to mention whitening packs and professional treatments. Dentistry is a big business y’know. This is the same industry that used to put holes the size of a spaghetti strand in their tubes, until one brand enlarged them and usage, and therefore sales, soared. They are first and foremost businesses, aimed at selling as much as possible. We would do well to remember that.

***Update April 2012***
We're still on the homemade toothpaste, and we're pretty happy with it, but I have tweaked it recently. The most important thing was sourcing aluminium-free bicarb soda-who'd have thought there would be aluminium in bicarb?! Now the husband can't tell me i'm crazy when I complain about cakes tasting metallic, although I only ever use organic self-raising flour now so that doesn't happen. Dodgy, eh? The first two essential oils contain lots of antibacterial, plaque fighting components, and the peppermint masks them if you don't like their rather unique taste! The salt is to make it more abrasive, as I did get some stains on my teeth-but I suspect this was more to do with my copious black tea drinking than my brushing habits. Now my teeth have been professionally scrubbed and i've stopped drinking tea, they're staying white. No-one else in the family has had any problems whatsoever, and we've all been to the dentist in the last two months.

As an added bonus, my mouth ulcers have virtually cleared up, and when I do get one it's much smaller and heals quickly. When we were travelling we bought a tube of toothpaste and within four days I had two huge ulcers...........I won't make that mistake again.

4 tbsp aluminium-free bicarb soda
1 tsp natural salt (NOT evil manufactured table salt)
3 drops of clove essential oil
3 drops of myrrh essential oil
3-6 drops of peppermint essential oil, to taste
Vegetable glycerine, enough to make the consistency you prefer.

Mix together, brush. Done!

Update June 2013
  Well, we've changed it again! Rumour was going around that glycerine was bad for your teeth. I had a momentary guilt-induced panic attack, then realised that glycerine is in every commercial toothpaste there is. Now we use tooth powder.

Use 5 parts Salt Skip Baking Powder (lots of tooth-building minerals in this stuff)
1 part natural salt (celtic, himalayan etc)

Mix. Done. This is so simple, but it seems to be working the best. We've been using it for nearly a year now-and hopefully, that's the last change i'll have to make!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

My babies have grown…….and it’s nearly time to eat them.

  From this in January, to now.


  My 12 babies are now arrogant, pushy teenagers.  Apparently the roosters (seven of them) are attempting to crow. Or so the kids say, I haven’t heard them. I can’t wait for the part where they attempt to ‘tackle’ (kidspeak for giving the hens a good rogering) the old hens, who most certainly won’t put up with silly business from teenagers. Meanwhile, we’re trying to muster the courage to ‘harvest’ them. 

  This is an interesting part of the journey for us, as vegetarians of a few years now. Mostly, for me, it comes down to the fact that we do plan to breed fowl in some capacity (and have done so before). Knowing us and our gung-ho, over the top attitude to everything, we’ll do it on a grand scale. We have two breeds in our suburban backyard, and another three on our ‘must have’ list (If you have Crele Penedesencas, I have money for you).  As a breeder, you must cull. I see people who believe they’ll keep or sell all of the hens and somehow manage to give all the roosters away, off in their la-la land. The market for roosters is very limited and heavily saturated, even for heritage breeds. So what else are you going to do with a few kilos of free-range, high quality protein you’ve paid to feed if you have trouble even giving it away? Shoot it from a distance and throw it in a pit?

  Also, as a breeder, you must breed good stock. If hens are extremely stupid, or terrible mothers, or just plain nasty, it’s irresponsible to allow them to pass those undesirable traits onto the next generation. I’m sure everyone knows a person they think shouldn’t be breeding-in your animals, you actually have the responsibility to stop them. Plus there’s the mercy killing side of things-you can’t really call the knacker for a hen that’s at death’s door. Or for the elderly who have finished laying, but still cost to keep.

  Plus it’s free, quality, (mostly) organic, very local food. I’m vegetarian more from a refusal to eat anything factory farmed, chemical laden and generally of shitty quality. Give me lentils instead of watery, fatty pork anyday. But i’ve had homegrown lamb and it was goooooood-flavoursome, tender, and not seemingly related to the insipid stuff you buy on polystyrene trays. I imagine homegrown chicken would be much the same.

  I think this is the point where we are most definitely going to have to learn how to do the dirty part of the job, or limit ourselves to a couple of hens in the backyard. As the second sounds incredibly boring…………….eek.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Making juggling balls

  Remember these? Surely you had these as a kid?

  You need-round balloons, rice or millet (millet works better, buy it from feed stores), plastic bags and small rubber bands.


   I worked out around 100g of rice made a nicely sized ball for us. You can go quite a bit bigger, but not too much smaller-you need to keep the balloons taut. Unless you buy smaller balloons.


  Get your plastic bag in one had like below, pour the rice in…….


……..tie up firmly with a rubber band (these ones are horse ones, which incidentally work really well for small plaits in hair and making dreadlocks), and trim bag. But not too short-best off to make it longer and turn it back over the bag of rice. Make sure it’s very secure, unless you like rice strewn through every crevice of your house.


   Cut the neck from your first balloon……………


………..and stuff the bag of rice in, rubber band end first.


Time for the next layers-cut holes in your next balloon so your original balloon will show through in places. Just one or two, and cut a couple more in each layer so it progressively shows more of the colours underneath. Cut the neck off too-I nearly forgot that it was so obvious.


  Stuff it in, making sure the hole in the first one is covered, and voila! Keep making as many layers as you like. I generally keep to three as a minimum as they stay together better.


  Make lots! Don’t limit them to juggling either, they make excellent eggs for your lawn clippings nest.


Then when you’ve finished with them feed the rice to the chooks-you don’t have chooks? Get some!

What i’ve read, April 2011

  The Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins-To say my spare time has been consumed by Transition would be an understatement. I fell in love with the concept about two years back when I first read it, and now i’m involved in starting a Transition Initiative i’m rather excited. You should get excited too, it’s an awesome, fun way to design your community’s descent from fossil fuel dependency and inspire relocalisation. Read more here. And here!

  Listening to Country, Ros Moriarty-Autobiographical, about the author’s involvement with her husband’s Indigenous family. Admittedly, I grew up in a (typical?) family where racism was fairly standard and it wasn’t until my early twenties that I realised that they were completely wrong. I’ve made more of an effort since them to educate myself and this is a fine book for it-it’s the only thing i’ve read that’s written on a personal level, rather than at arms-length. The loss of culture and knowledge is so incredibly tragic and irreversible-hopefully the efforts to preserve what remains are successful.

  Mind Maps for Kids, Tony Buzan-More for me, as I have so many balls in the air at the moment anything that will help keep them up is welcome. Just mind-maps, not massively exciting.

  Mama Mia, Mia Freedman-Autobiography. I read this in an evening and actually really enjoyed it-possibly because the lifestyle she lead/s is so different to mine! Funny because I remember reading a lot of the Cosmos that are mentioned in there as a teen (I had Brad Pitt naked :P) with some tearjerking parts. Which is life for everyone, really.

  Anastasia, Vladimir Megre-This series has come highly recommended to me by a few people. While i’ve liked reading the first two, i’ll reserve judgement until i’ve finished the series. It’s the first book i’ve read that suggests existence of a Creator that I haven’t thought was total bullshit, so I suppose it’s already achieved a massive victory (i’ll keep my sceptic hat firmly on though, thanks).

  The Ringing Cedars of Russia, Vladimir Megre-As above.

  Earth Garden #154-Missed this one somehow. Made me want to go travelling.

  Home Farmer V1, Earth Garden Publications-Missed this one somehow too. Made me want to start a farm in the backyard-don’t think landlord would approve. Already pushing it with more chickens than legally allowed and mini oat field.

  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver-I adore this book, it’s the third time i’ve read it. I scored it at the op-shop so if any locals want it drop around. It’s her family’s story of their local eating for a year, from a production point of view. It’s written in a very thoughtful, humorous way and is immensely readable. Puts forward lots of very persuasive arguments for locavory, as well as dealing with many ethical issues in a totally non-confrontational way. If you need inspiration to garden, read this-it makes me want to run outside and start digging.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Winter pants, part 1

One nice pair of pants each to wear over this winter is the goal-made so I can let them down next year to wear again, as with our short, mild winters they have no chance of getting worn out.
  First up, Shorty, as he didn’t have a single pair of going-out pants. He asked for blue and red, and I stuck to plain for a change. I kind of wish i’d done something more exciting now! These were made to vintage pattern Simplicity 5395, with added pockets, and have been named his Disco Stu pants because he looks very ‘70s in them.
  Next, Oods, who also had nothing her ankles didn’t hang out of. As always, she wanted over-the-top, and this is the result of me toning down her ideas (purely so I can do them in a reasonable amount of time). They’re made to the Dortje pattern from Sewing Clothes Kids Love, with the waist taken in. The extremely curved seams gave me some grief, but now I have another skill to add to the list. The brown is reclaimed from a pair of womens pants the op-shop were giving away (they had tonnes of free stuff earlier this year, so I stocked up), the red dotty cotton is the scraps from the Christmas skirts, and the floral drill i’ve had for years and was desperate to get rid of.
  I’d place the rear pockets higher next time and make the legs slightly narrower, but apart from that it’s a good, if rather time-consuming pattern.
  Third up Frosty-just because i’ve been wanting to make rainbow striped pants for ages. They worked! All fabrics are from the cupboard, all except the orange was op-shopped.
The twins have picked their fabrics out, so hopefully they’ll be outfitted within the fortnight. And probably for under $15 total in materials, for all five kids. I went to the shops last week to have a look at how much kids pants are-over $20 a pair! And they’re UGLY! It makes me very thankful for my sewing obsession.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ditching deodorant

That’s right, I haven’t used deodorant in months. I’m a stinky feral hippy-don’t come too near because I may just raise my arms and you’ll pass out from the fumes.

  Actually, not. Sorry to disappoint. After not being able to find a non-toxic deodorant that actually worked without thrice-daily application, it was time to DIY. First up we tried diluted tea-tree oil. It was passable, it worked as well as the commercial eco variety. But it was impossible to carry around in my handbag for midday reapplication.

  At one such midday reapplication (think market stall, stinking hot, insane humidity) I was afraid the first paragraph was coming true so pulled out the eco roll-on, whinging about it’s crapness. And a friend said ‘Why don’t you just use bicarb? I do’. So I tried it and haven’t looked back. Man, the stuff is awesome. Dust some on in the morning and you’re fine all day. The husband has made me sniff his armpits after mowing the lawn in 30 degree heat and he doesn’t smell. Anyone who lives with a male of our species knows that that is a truly fantastic accomplishment, yet to be achieved by Lynx/Adidas/Rexona and company. All from bicarb.

  I have read you can mix bicarb and arrowroot 50/50, and you can chop herbs and put them in the jar to infuse the powder with scent, but i’m pretty happy with plain bicarb in an old pasta sauce jar. Fashionable, my bathroom is not. We use our fingertips to dust it on, and are on the look out for an older style shaving cream brush or similar to use instead.

  And that is as easy as it is. Really truly.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MORE babies ?!?!

  It’s like a maternity ward around here sometimes-thankfully, it’s not me anymore! Three babies were born to our single mum guinea pig last week (dad was murdered by the cat a couple of weeks back. Oh the drama. The cat has been rehomed.)


  And I must say, I have ceased whinging about birthing my big-headed lastborn. Guinea pig babies are massive! I honestly don’t understand how they got out of her. I did wonder if maybe we’d somehow not realised she’d given birth for a couple of weeks, but that’s impossible given how much she’s handled.

  The kids have $$ signs in their eyes, plotting the money they’ll hopefully have in six weeks and what other animals they’ll buy with it, eagerly awaiting the next local trader book to see just what’s up for grabs…………