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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Calico Bags - Gift Wrap

Last week our order of 500 calico bags arrived, to sell at the market. This is part of our group's mission to have our local Grower's Market go plastic bag free.

We have progressed from sewing bags ourselves from curtain off-cuts (we couldn't keep up with the demand), to then buying reusable bags from large local stores, you know the ones - made from recycled plastic, to ordering them ourselves online (much better deal), finally getting to these better quality, biodegradable calico bags. We couldn't afford to get them printed, so they are beautifully clean skin.
I was a little nervous that they wouldn't sell, as I had invested $1200.00 of my own money, but last weekend proved that they will sell just fine at $2.50 each.

I decided to create a little promotion for pre Christmas so that people will see the bags as useful for environmentally friendly giftwrap that is actually useful afterwards, or for Santa sacks.

Calico wrapped gifts with cool little chalkboard gift tags - reusable!

If you like that deer head silhouette that I stencilled - you can make your own with the free image from

The market manager has just secured 10,000 cornstarch, biodegradable bags for the market sellers to replace their plastic bags. While this isn't the perfect solution, it is a whole lot better.
At the market this weekend 97% (my estimation) of people had their own bags or bought them from us. Plus there was co-operation from sellers to provide produce without plastic. I feel that 9 months of our effort is paying off.😊

One of the things that plastic bags were useful for was picking up rubbish in. We still get a little supply from family members who don't manage to use reusable bags 😩, but mostly I give them to the lady at the market who sells plants, so at least the are reused. I decided to upcycle Munta's dog biscuit bags by sewing on handles to them for rubbish collecting missions - they work great, being big and sturdy.

They are also great for collecting seaweed off the beach for the garden.

Just an update on the rats - I bought one of those cage traps, which I bait with home made mixed nut and seed butter on a crust, leaving the trap where we know they are going outside. We have caught 8 so far (ew). So thank goodness something is working.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

In the Wake of the Quake

Early on Monday morning NZ was rocked by a series of earthquakes, the biggest being 7.8M near Kaikoura in the South Island, with loss of two lives. It was extremely fortunate that the earthquakes occurred in the middle of the night, or the toll would have been worse.
Since the earthquakes, there has been torrential rain and flooding in the affected areas to add to it all.
We feel very lucky to be safe and free from shaking up here in the North of the North. As for the big quake 4 years ago, we are offering a place to stay for people affected by the earthquake.
The infrastructure damage is huge, plus there are a lot of buildings in the capital city Wellington that have been deemed unsafe.

So just a few pictures...but there is such a lot more damage.
A map showing the New Zealand earthquakes

Photos from the album of Aaron Woolley

It will be a long slow recovery.

Sorry if you got triplicate posts - gremlin in the works.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

DIY Socks, My Year Of No New Clothes Is Up.

My second (but not consecutive) year of No New Clothes For a Year has just ended. This time I joined the Facebook group of that name, which made it more interesting to be doing it in conjunction with many others.
I managed to go the whole 12 months without buying any clothes or accessories at all. In the in-between year I am only buying preused, except for underwear and some shoes. 
There are lots of reasons to do this - breaking spending/shopping habits, it's better for the environment and it saves money just for starters.

While I was in my not-buying year, I came across a pattern for DIY fleece socks. I decided to make my first pair from an old cotton t-shirt. I found the pattern was really too big, partly because of my choice of material, but partly because the person who blogged the pattern had already enlarged it - finding the original had been too small. So if you choose to make them, be aware that you might need to alter the sizing. 
I added the top band myself - it wasn't in the pattern

The site that I got the free pattern download from is..Salty Peanut Stitchery It is easy to figure out and not difficult to sew.
I plan to make a lined fleecy pair next.

Charity Shop Find of the Week: The not-buying-new ethic translates to all parts of life - not just clothing for me. I have been keeping a look out for a soda stream machine, to make soda with a squeeze of lemon, to help me drink fewer wines to help with my weight loss plan. I was just delighted to find this one in the Hospice Shop for only $12. It has paid for itself already. It came with a full gas bottle even!

Part of the weight loss plan has been stepping up the exercise too, so Derek, Katie, Munta and I are walking for 30 minutes/ night. We are driving to a different part of our road, and we pick up rubbish as we go. In the past week we have filled a rubbish bag and our recycling bin with what we have picked up, the place looks much better, and we are all better for the exercise too. 

My blog writing has been (pleasantly) interrupted twice this afternoon. We are on the route of the Te Araroa Trail, which is a linked walk the whole length of New Zealand. 

We sometimes have trail walkers call in asking if they can camp, because we are between camping spots. 
This year I have put little signs down on the road that we are TA Trail walker friendly, because we think it's fabulous what these young people are doing and we love to meet people from all around the world. We've just filled the water bottles of an American couple, and sent them off with a lime and some lettuce, as they don't get a lot of vegetables or fruit because they have to carry everything. The first couple in today were Japanese - they just came to say hello.
The walkers take approximately 5 months to walk the full 3,000km length of New Zealand.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Guava Moth Traps, Transition Town Seed Swap.

Hi All! Small positives for Plastic Bag Free when I was shopping last week. First I came across this sign in our local library

Then my local New World supermarket have started giving a 5c/bag discount (up to 5 bags) when you bring in your own bags (unless you are already getting their discounted coffees). It's not huge, but at least moving in the right direction.

In my last post I had made a Guava Moth trap - I can now report that it does definitely work - so here's the recipe.

Guava Moth Lure

Mix: 1 litre of boiling water
       1 tsp of vegemite or marmite
       100g sugar
       1 tsp vanilla essence

then add 1 tsp of ammonia (available at the supermarket).

Divide the mixture between 4 x 2litre milkbottles (or similar), with windows cut as per picture.

Tie the bottles into your fruit trees, using a short tie so they don't blow about and spill.

The lure will last about  month, but may need straining every few days.
It reportedly takes two evenings for the moths to find the traps.

This is what Guava moths look like...

Image from local

and the damage they do...
Image from Kerikeri Garden Centre

We went to a Transition Towns Seed Swap in the weekend - Guava moths are ruining everyone's home fruit crops, so the lure recipe was really popular.
I kicked myself for not taking photos of the Seed Swap for you. There were about 20 people, everyone bringing along seedlings, cuttings, seeds and plants to share. It was our first one, and we came away loaded up with tarragon, basil, hydrangea, cherimoya, hellebores, tomatoes, tobacco (to kill chewing insects apparently), seeds of bean,cress and a weird courgette variety.

Yay! free plants

The host's garden, on a standard town section had 50 varieties of fruit trees and berries.
If you've never heard of Transition Towns, and international organization promoting positive grassroots community projects then here is a Wiki link .

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

So, What Have You Been Up To?

Yesterday I had lunch with sixteen of my ex-colleagues, in honour of one who has returned briefly from USA to visit. It was her first time reunited with many of us for about 24 years, so there was a lot of noise and catching up.
Someone asked me what I had been up to - and it's so hard to put it into words, so here is a pictorial.

Mondays are for walks on the local beach, exercising the dog and myself, plus picking up plastic etc.

The garden has been keeping me busy - raising seeds, getting them into the garden. There's corn, beans, garlic, lettuces, spring onions, peas, spinach, beetroot, cucumbers, courgettes, strawberries, kale, silverbeet, tomatoes, coriander etc..

The tamarillo trees that I raised from seed are getting planted out

This is a fishing float, a bit worse for wear that I rescued off the beach. I decided to repurpose it, rather than throw it out.

Today I have been making Guava Moth traps. I will wait until these are proven successful, then post the recipe. I'm not sure where else in the world they have these blighters, but they do so much damage to fruit.

Guava moth traps - reportedly very effective

Today I have also spent a couple of hours packaging meat for the freezer. I buy it paper wrapped from the local butcher. It is a way to reuse the small amount of food packaging that I still get. The paper wrapping all goes into the compost. 

An update on my No Junk Mail Signs that I hand delivered (from about 4 posts back) - there are now three up out of the fifteen or so delivered. Yay, three less households getting all that Junk Mail! 

It's a quiet life, but busy enough. Now - on to my sax practice!

My two saxophones - that's a vintage car in behind there at a gig we played in a workshop

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Green Drinks, Black Pools (of Ngawha)

Last night we finally managed to get to Green Drinks. If you haven't heard of this before it is an international movement where like-minded greenies get together to network and socialize once a month.
See here for Green Drinks International
In our instance the convener has a large green top hat so that newcomers know which table to gather at.
There were about a dozen people there, 30's and up, of varying shades of green and degrees of involvement in projects, or not. It was great meeting new people. After someone had inquired after our Plastic Bag Free project and I mentioned that we were really needing more people to help us  - two people volunteered!
The only disappointment was that my drink turned up with a plastic straw in it. Really?! I think that is getting sorted.

A little arrangement that I made for a friend yesterday - totally from my garden plus recycled. I so love being able to do that.

I finally got to deliver those No Junk Mail stickers yesterday that I mentioned here

I delivered about fifteen to my daughter's neighbours' letterboxes. I had to go back there a few hours later and was happy to see that one had been put onto a letterbox immediately. I'll keep you posted, but even one letterbox free of junk mail makes that worthwhile in my eyes.

Ngawha Hot Springs
Those temperatures are celsius of course

That is pronounced Nar-fa. (Maori word meaning a boiling spring).
I have mentioned Ngawha briefly before but didn't have any photos.
Ngawha is about ten minutes drive from the township of Kaikohe in Northland, New Zealand. 
Ngawha's other claim to fame is that it is the site of Northland's prison.
It's a shame you can't smell the place - it has a very strong sulphur odour, which is why people should only use old swimsuits - you can't get the smell out.
The pools are known to be therapeutic for various ailments like arthritis and eczema and lots more.

The evening that we visited it was drizzly - perfect conditions to sit there in the steaming black pools. The bottom of the pools is gravel, the sides are made from old railway sleepers. If you put your hand under the water even an inch you then can't see it, so black is the water.

There's nothing glamorous about these pools, but they are a true Kiwi experience. I wouldn't normally enjoy sharing my bath, but there are often people chatting away to each other about all sorts of things in there. Many are local, some tourists - so it becomes very social.
The warmth penetrates to your bones and stays like that for hours. Bathers are advised not to shower for a day or so to let the minerals do their work. 
When I was young there was a big colonial hotel at the Springs next door (which burnt down years ago) where would stay every year for a few days with my mother and grandmother during the school holidays so that Gran could soak, as did we and much enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Teaching Natural Beauty Recipes

 Katie (15) asked me to buy her some Sea Salt Spray for her hair to encourage her hair into ringlet type curls. I felt a bit mean, but I took a photo of the label of the product in the supermarket (@$18) and said I would like her to try one that I make first, and then if she's not happy with it I would buy her one.

I was fairly confident - and she's happy with it. 
It's good to look up all those chemicals so that you know what they do when you are copying a product. Most of these are preservatives and for keeping the solution in suspension. We can just shake the bottle.

Sea Salt Hair Treatment

Sea Salt Hair Treatment
1 cup of warm - hot water
1 tablespoon of sea salt (rock salt)
1 teaspoon of glycerine
6 drops of essential oil (we used ylang ylang)
1 dessert spoon of jojoba oil
Dissolve together, pour into a spray bottle(which we already had), shake before each use.

I want her to think about sustainable ways of achieving what she wants, and with her whole life ahead of her, she will save herself a lot of money if she's not sold on having to pay money for products for them to be successful.
This follows quickly after a nasty rash she developed after using a disposable plastic razor, one that had moisturizing chemicals on it. It was a fine opportunity for me to buy her a reusable one that just requires standard blades. She had tried my Sugaring Wax, but found it too difficult to manage. The reusable razor is a success.

So when Katie was wishing for some Lush Bath Bombs to add to a friend's birthday present I told her she can make those, because I've done it successfully before. She hopped online and found a good recipe, and whipped these up.
Bath Bombs

The large ones sell for $10 in Lush, so she made $50 worth of bath bombs with what we already had in the house - citric acid, baking soda, epsom salts, coconut oil, colouring, essential oil. She tried one out last night - it worked perfectly.

I just wrote a letter to the editor of the Sunday Star Times after reading this article about how to get rid of bumps on the back of your arms. 

They recommended two products costing $79 and $46.99 respectively. I suggested that they could run an article on natural products, such as organic coconut oil that would smooth the whole body for months for about $12. Now that would be a real service to women and the environment.
One of the advantages of making beauty products for yourself is that you know exactly what is in them, and in this day and age we do not need a cocktail of more chemicals.