We recently had some surplus equipment at work that I didn’t know what to do with. Someone suggested that I post it up on the local Buy Nothing group to see if we could find a home for it. My look of ‘Eh?‘ made it clear that I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

So she explained that the Buy Nothing Project  is a gift economy – there’s no bartering and no buying/selling. The system is based on random acts of kindness, providing a way for people to give away items they no longer want or use.

This enables you to declutter without wasting perfectly serviceable items / sending them to landfill. Instead they go to someone who actually does want them.

There’s no obligation attached to any of the items shared or given away – they’re a gift. And there’s the add-on benefit of being able to connect with people in your local community if you choose to.

I loved the idea – but since you can only join one group and I don’t work in my own suburb, someone who belongs to that group advertised the office equipment and found a home for it. Good outcome.

In dues course I got around to signing up to my local group (on social media) and this weekend finally had something to offer.

Although we’ve been picking grapefruit and limes and giving them away for a few weeks, yesterday we pruned the trees. This meant picking all the remaining fruit. We filled box after box, ending up with over 200 pink grapefruit and at least 100 limes surplus to our requirements.

So I posted the following picture and message on the my BN site late yesterday afternoon: Pink grapefruit galore and a whole lot of limes: pm me if you’re interested 

By lunchtime today all the fruit was gone. Four people responded to my message and they all turned up at our house this afternoon. Some people took just a few of each, others took a whole box – it was great! A couple of people even climbed the ladder I’d left out and picked themselves some cumquats – which was a bonus both for them and for me. One person brought me a dozen oranges because he has too many of those. A win all round.

The follow up messages were lovely too:

Thank you so much, Nik, for the beautiful fresh fruit you shared with us today and also for showing us your lovely garden & your good advice for my friend’s little dog o nice to meet you!

 Thank you very much for sharing! My kids loved the cumquats!

It was my pleasure folks. There was way too much fruit for us to use – and this is SO not a jam-making year! I’m really glad to have been able to share our surplus and look forward to doing so again the next time we have laden trees.

I heartily recommend that people connect with their local Buy Nothing groups. And if it turns out that there isn’t one in your area: start one!

 

I’ve been interested in composting for some time, mostly so that we can recycle our kitchen/garden waste rather than send it to landfill. Last week I was lucky enough to attend a great workshop presented by Peg Davies and Anne Pettit from Mindarie Regional Council. They had a host of useful information to share about worm farms, composting and recycling.

For years we’ve used a two compost bin system at home. The one on the right is currently our active bin. Into that I dump kitchen scraps (no meat), garden clippings, shredded newspaper and, when I think of it, some straw. The one on the left is the ‘inactive’ bin. We filled that last year, but stopped using it at the end of winter and left the contents to their own devices. Soon I’ll be emptying out the fabulous compost it’s created and spreading that around our garden.  Then that bin will become the active bin.. and so on.

This system works really well, although I have had some rather surprising compost adventures along the way. These have included unusual (and very creepy) maggots, an abundance of cockroaches, an infestation by a bees and a surprise mouse. Not surprisingly at all, I rapidly learned to wear gloves and boots every time I play with the compost!

The reason I went along to this workshop was to try to find out how to deal with the compost cockroaches: do I need to zap them? Are they a problem… or just creepy?

I came away with an answer to that quandry and whole lot of other info too, including Anne’s recipe for the delicious pear cake she brought along for morning tea 🙂

  • Apparently compost cockroaches aren’t a big deal. It turns out that the big critters break down the food scraps and make it easier for the littler critters to do their jobs. So, basically, just fortify-the-hell-up and cope. If the cockroach numbers get a tad epic, then add more carbon (shredded newspaper, etc) or, in extreme cases, a chicken. Yup, a live chicken. That’ll sort the little darlings out in no time, they assured us. I may have to borrow one from DaughterDearest sometime soon…
  • Doggy-do worm farms are a thing – who knew?! Totally going to give that a go under our fig tree when we plant it out the back. This will reduce our plastic bag use considerably and hopefully make the fig tree happy.

  • I hadn’t realised that soft or flexible plastics shouldn’t go in the verge side bins. This includes any plastic that can easily scrumpled into a ball – like bread packets, biscuit packs, cereal bags and the like. They get caught in the sorting machines and jam up the works. And there I was thinking I was doing the right thing. Sigh. Upside is that redcycle (soft plastic) bins are now in place at various shopping centres, so I’ll be able to drop ours off each week when I shop.

  • Did you know that expanded polystyrene also can’t go into verge side recycling bins? I didn’t. Fortunately companies like Claw Environmental will accept it for processing, so next time we get a large appliance we’ll definitely be heading out to drop the packaging off there.

Overall it was a really informative morning. Peg and Anne had many more tips to share – and lots of resources to offer. Check out the MRC website for heaps of downloadable info sheets. And, if you get the opportunity, definitely attend one of their (free!) workshops.

Autumn’s well and truly here and there’s a distinct nip in the air in the evenings and early mornings.  MissMolly’s noticed the change and isn’t impressed:  Doberman’s really don’t like the wet or the cold! 

But it’s not just MM that’s noticed the change in the weather. At work and at home I hear comments about the shorter days, longer nights and that winter’s definitely on the way. Doonas are coming out of storage, blankets are going back on beds and jumpers and scarves are back in fashion.

So what do people who’re living rough do when the chill weather starts to roll in? And is there something we, as a community, can do to help?

The start of an answer to these questions came to me when a couple of friends donated a whole lot of 8ply yarn and some completed crocheted granny squares, suggesting that I ‘put them to good use’.

Right. The logical thing was to turn the rest of the yarn into squares too. Then we use those to make small blankets and donate them to the local support services to distribute to people in need.

I recruited a group of people who already knew how to crochet, learned the basics myself and we’ve been crocheting in what seems like every spare minute ever since. Between us we’ve produced a large number of squares, taught a few people how to crochet and completed several blankets.

Each square takes about an hour to make. We’ve chosen to make our blankets 5×6 squares, so that’s approximately 30 hours of crochet per blanket. Then the squares are crocheted together, a border is added all the way around and all the little yarn-tails are sewn in to tidy things up. This probably adds at least 10 hours to each blanket, making it about 40 hours per blanket. 

FAQs

Will there be enough blankets for all those in need? No, never.

Will they be appreciated? Yes, most definitely.

Will they be looked after and last? It really doesn’t matter, does it? They’re gifts, made with love and hope for people in need. It’s enough to have been able to make them.

Will we continue? Yes. The need hasn’t gone away and won’t in the short term.

Can others join in? Please do. We have spare yarn and crochet hooks. Join us for our monthly community craft session if you can, otherwise work on squares when you have spare time and let us know when you’d like them picked up.

How to crochet a granny square for our community blankets

You’ll need: 8 ply acrylic yarn, 4mm crochet hook, small pair of scissors  and some spare time

Instructions: We’ll teach you how at our craft sessions (1st Friday of each month, 7 – 9pm), or you can use either the video instructions or step-by-step ones. They’re both good introductions to making basic granny squares.

Size: Try for 10 rounds per square – and it’s up to you to choose whether to make them all one colour or to do them in a variety of colours. 

In short, we could really do with some more crocheters to help us out. Every square created gets us one step closer to another blanket and another person kept warm this winter. So if all you do is make one square, it’s one square more towards a great outcome.

Today saw the start of a trial series of community workshops at our local community centre. We’ve been very excited about these sessions, which are tailored to suit a specific clientele.

Broadly speaking, women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds face the double whammy of cultural diversity and gender when applying for jobs in Australia. This infographic from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a significantly lower rate of participation in the workforce on the part of this group compared to other women in Australia or, indeed, men from CALD backgrounds.

Once we’d identified this need, we wanted to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for women from CALD backgrounds who are interested in trying to jump that barrier and find jobs in Australia.

The notion of a safe space that’s also a learning environment resonates strongly. My experience and background have taught me that learning is most likely to be successful in complex situations if external interference is limited. And yes, of course the real world is full of complicated situations and the work environment is no different. But until we have the tools to deal with some of those situations, that’s almost beside the point.

So what is a positive space? In an artistic sense, positive space refers to the main focus or subject of a picture rather than the background – which sometimes called the negative space. Together these form the picture as a whole, but there are times when the subject of the picture needs all our focus in order to reach its potential.

Socio-cultural situations are no different – and this is where a positive (or safe) space fits in.

I believe this sort of space should be empowering. It should be somewhere that individuals, whether marginalized or not, can come together to achieve their goals without fear of judgement relating to age, gender, ethnicity, race or cultural context.

In the best of all possible worlds, these positive learning spaces – whether they’re at school, university, convention or community centre – should be inclusive, accessible spaces that can allow us to be who we are and provide a level of affirmation, support and care.

Does this concept open the door to misuse? Quite possibly. But the door that we’re trying to open is one in which an opportunity for best outcomes is created for the participants. In this scenario, we’re simply trying to provide a space from which people can then take a step forward into a future that they’ve imagined for themselves.

The workshops cover a wide range of topics, from generating a resume to interview techniques. It also provides an opportunity for participants to practise their spoken English, pick up on local slang and learn a little about the Australian workplace. I’m sure everyone will have fun exploring just what can be achieved over the next few weeks.

With Christmas on the horizon I’m starting to feel I ought to get organised, plan menus, shop for gifts – do all the things that I do every year to ensure my family has a good time over the festive period.

We’ll start the season with a trip to Mandurah to admire the Xmas lights in early December and follow that up with our (now) traditional eggnog night a week or so later. Some of us will make gifts to share, we’ll shop for get our Secret Santa gifts and – with luck – move smoothly through the rest of the Xmas festivities. It’s a happy, sociable time for all of us.

Sadly, Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone. For many it’s stressful, bringing feelings of desperation and sadness rather than joy as people struggle to provide for their families over the holiday season.

According to the 2017 Foodbank Hunger Report, more and more Australians have to choose between feeding their families and paying their bills – and this is never more apparent than over the Christmas period.

So what can we do? We help – in any way we can.

In December 2015 Daughter Dearest and I took part in a reverse advent activity, collecting food items over several weeks and then delivering the hampers to Foodbank just before Xmas that year. Shopping for other people, thinking about what they might need or want was a real feel-good experience and we wanted to do it more regularly.

So, in 2016 we launched a quarterly food drive. We set up a Facebook group, called it Food Fight and invited a few people to join in. It started out small, with just a few of us contributing whatever non-perishables we could every three months.

In 2016 we collected and delivered over 200kg of food to Foodbank for them to distribute to those in need. This year we overtook that target in September, when we reached the 236kg mark. A great result.

The challenge is to see if we can crack 300kg by mid-December 2017. Can we do it? Can we, between us, contribute at least 70kg of food within the next month?

I believe so – and hope you do too. If we work together we can and will make a difference to some of Perth’s least advantaged people this Christmas.

How?

  • Get a box
  • Add a couple of extra items to your shopping trolley each time you shop over the next few weeks.
  • Choose some of items suggested by Foodbank (below) – but please remember, NO GLASS
  • Deliver your box of goodies to Menagerie10 (our place) by Thursday 14 December or contact Nik to arrange for a pick up run on Sunday 10 December.

Let’s work together to make Christmas a little brighter for some Perth families this year.