30 August 2016

Mama Nurture: Fill Your Bowl

I've always had a bit of a thing for bowl food. They're my favourite for when we're relaxing and eating and spending time together. There's something about filling a bowl with nutritious, yummy food and taking a moment. I think it might go back to those eating-one-handed baby days, where a bowl filled with nourishment was essential and probably all I could manage... If someone would hold the baby for a moment while I grabbed it... A bowl of breakfast, a bowl of leftovers, a bowl of soup, a dessert bowl… Always so hearty and not too fancy. We've even been known to resort to the Sunday Roast Bowl here (look away Mum & Dad). Bowls are pretty much the greatest. 

My Mama Nurture Project has seen me fill a bowl regularly. Little Owlet gave me a beautiful handmade Japanese bowl a while ago, which has half-jokingly been dubbed "Mama's Soul Bowl". It's the total truth though. One beautiful bowl to fill up each day with food to feed just me. It's off limits to anyone else - a rarity in an owlet filled house. I take my time to fill it, making sure I pack in as many nutrients and flavours as I can. It's the actual best. Everyone needs a soul bowl. 

I've been perusing beautiful Buddha bowls on Pinterest for a while, and got my hands on this lovely book recently, so I'm looking forward to more beautifully filled soul bowls in my future. But this recipe is my breakky/lunch/whatever go-to. It takes about 3 minutes to gather from the garden and another 3 to cook, and it's totally worth doing, even if it means cooking a meal separate from everyone else's. It's super nutrient dense, keeps my tremor at bay and my belly happy most of the day. With plenty of greens and eggs in the garden, it's what got me though the winter. 


Green Eggs Soul Bowl

2-3 cups of kale/silverbeet/broccoli/cauliflower, trimmed and stalks removed. 

Weeds/greens and herbs from the garden (whatever's at my feet as I wander round).
3 eggs, beaten.
2-3 tablespoons butter - I know it seems like lots, but it's totally nourishing and super yum. 
1 garlic clove, crushed or sliced.

Chop up greens while you heat the pan. 

Melt butter in the pan, then add the garlic and greens. 
Toss the greens in the buttery pan until softened, then push to the side of the pan. 
Pour eggs in the pan and scramble, mixing with the greens if you like. 
Pop greens and eggs in your soul bowl. 
Add any spice or topping you like. I like to add some or all of these...

1-2 tablespoons seeds - sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, linseeds, buckwheat - whatever's in the pantry, and toasted if you like. 

Dried seaweed - we foraged some wakame and this is perfect sprinkled on top.
Chopped up avocado.
Kimchi/sauerkraut or any other fermented veggies you have on hand. 


Are you a lover of bowl foods? What's your favourite recipe?

What nourishes you through the day?

Much love,

~ Lauren. xx


27 August 2016

Less is more :: Downsizing for light, space and dancing room

Spring is coming, so we've been welcoming the light and giving ourselves a little extra space. A smoky, dark winter left us feeling crowded in and thinking that we'd like to move to a bigger house again. But the thought of a much larger space, and all that entails, doesn't seem quite right for us. We're happy with a modest home and our garden is more than enough for us to tend. Our needs are simple. But still, there was this issue of space.

Much of our furniture was inherited when my parents downsized their home and generously passed half of their furniture on to us. I've grown up with it. We've always lived with it, and it's served us well, but it's never quite fit in all the houses we've lived in. We all have loads of interests and hobbies, so we need room for those. Also, we're running a shop and a school here. Our nest is well lived in! Every six months, we'll experiment with moving the furniture all around, trying to find the perfect spots as everyone grows and changes. Our spaces need to be flexible. Six months ago, it cycled around until everything was in the spot it started at! The owlets are growing so much bigger and our need for space was becoming very real, until a week ago.

My Mama Nurture Project has led me to fixing and unravelling my body and, through thinking about movement, and with a nudge from my osteopath, I found my way to the work of Katy Bowman. I'd been aware of her work before and thought her furniture free lifestyle to be intriguing. We needed flexibility in more ways than one. So naturally I suggested we try it. Accidental minimalism. A little more living like things don't exist, which is our favourite thing to do when we're questioning and challenging ourselves. The answer is usually less. Live with less. Expect less and find more. So we did.

Last weekend, we moved our rather large couches out of our lounge room. They're as old as Big Owlet and a little worse for wear, although still reasonably comfy. But they define the space and take up so much of it that they block out the light and restrict our movement. Similarly, the enormous dining table my Grandfather built, for my childhood home, took up a whole room and ensured that we'd use it to sit at most days while we worked, ate and learned together. But we couldn't use the space for anything else. It's a beautiful thing to gather around a table together. But tables can come in many shapes and sizes and, without an enormous dining room or farmhouse kitchen to fit it, the table wasn't working. Instead, it's much better placed as a studio worktable for me and Huz and our various projects that have never seemed to have a home.

So now we have these connected, multipurpose, open spaces. We have floorspace galore for yoga, music making, dancing, play and lounging around. We have a pile of comfy cushions to sprawl all around, a low table to move around and gather, eat and work at, and seating and spaces at all different heights so we can all change positions freely. We move our bodies more already as we squat and bend and stretch, and my back is much happier for it. Most of all, we have rooms filled with sunshine, warmth, light and dancing. Less is most definitely more.

~ Lauren. xx


16 August 2016

Tackling waste in a refugee crisis

With all the talk of asylum seekers and refugees in the news recently, we got to talking about waste (a common topic around our house!) and how that relates to refugees. I asked Big Owlet "How do you think refugees manage their waste?" She said "It depends where they are staying - most often I don't know if they'd have enough money to even produce waste. I'd want to give them food from the bulk food place, instead of lots of plastic wrapped food." I followed with "What would they do with any waste they produce?" and she replied "They'd need portable water bottles (but they're expensive, right?), hmm maybe make something that could hold water, without being disposable, but the water might be polluted so they couldn't refill it... hmm, maybe they could use special bottles that filter water? I'd go to a refugee place and hand out special bottles for filtering water and bulk food." This left us with lots of questions about the waste that might be associated with refugees and so we sought to learn more.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2014 there were approximately 60 million people worldwide who had been forcibly displaced from their homeland (the highest level since WWII). The waste generated by this displacement is phenomenal. For example, it is estimated that 340 tonnes of waste is generated daily by Syrian refugees fleeing into Jordan (read more here). These are people who need to eat, be clothed, go to the loo, be housed, and be supported to rebuild their lives in a strange new land. There are many ways that aid money can be used to assist refugees with meeting their basic needs, and some are inevitably going to be more wasteful and environmentally harmful than others. Also, asylum seekers in transit may have few options available to them for discarding or managing any waste they accumulate, such as plastic water bottles, nappies, food packaging and broken or heavy items (e.g. see here).  

As at June 30th, 2016, there were 3,496 people living in detention under Australian authority. These folks are spread between Manus Island, Nauru, Christmas Island, and a few detention centres within mainland Australia. All these locations are effectively ‘food deserts’ – where provisions need to be shipped or flown in from far away. We know very little of the waste generated or managed in Australian detention centres (that information is generally not publicised), however concerns have been raised about groundwater contamination through effluent disposal and waste management on the detention centre on Nauru (as reported here). Poor waste management within refugee camps can create terrible hygiene issues, leading to spread of sickness and disease.

Elsewhere, disposal of waste accumulated within refugee camps can vary. At its worst it is left where it was discarded, burned (polluting the atmosphere and local inhabitants), or trucked away to be dumped illegally in local rivers. The World Health Organisation offers a guide to managing solid waste in emergencies (e.g. in refugee camps) which includes disposal into family 'waste pits' (i.e. a hole in the ground with a lasagne like bed of waste and soil/ash) (see the guide here), however, there do not appear to be any solutions offered for high density refugee camps, such as the Shatila Refugee Camp in Beirut, Lebanon (carrying more than 20,000 people). Aid agencies do what they can to help meet the basic needs of asylum seekers in temporary camps, but a consequence of that can be huge amounts of waste from the disposable items (plastic bottles, plastic packaging etc.) provided.

Having the capacity to sort, recycle and appropriately dispose of waste within camps will help to alleviate some of the health risks. In some instances, recyclable items can be sold to industry and funds raised can be directed back to support local communities. Where incineration is the norm (e.g. Greece, Jordan, Kenya) switching to energy-generating combuster incinerators may be a small step forward (as described here), although it is unclear how such technology incinerates plastics without releasing chemical pollutants. There are also numerous options for low cost, environmentally-friendly toilet systems that could be applied, depending on local resources (e.g. see this discussion).

On the Australian-run detention centre on Christmas Island, there are no recycling options available (i.e. all collected waste is sent to land fill - see here). Such a lack of services is similarly apparent in many remote Aboriginal communities, where greater support is also needed to minimise and better manage waste (learn more here). At the detention centre on Nauru, there are reports of poor handling of provisions of food and bottled water to detainees, leading to excessive waste production. To avoid these sorts of waste (and human health) problems, I think it would be more beneficial to support greater integration of asylum seekers into local communities, where fresh food can be accessed (or even grown, such as in community gardens), where they can be supported to be more self-reliant, with access to more permanent services (e.g. running water from taps rather than bottled water). In Melbourne, organisations such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre help to assist with such resources (see their Foodbank info here).

There are aspects to waste management in refugee camps/detention centres, that I would like to see discussed much more - I'd love to know of the feasibility of composting of organic waste, using compostable natural fibres over synthetics (e.g. in tents, clothing and other gear provided by aid organisations), alternative modes of water provision besides single-use plastic bottles, and extended responsibility by aid organisations and contractors for the waste-generating products they provide to refugees. This is particularly relevant in areas where people are provided with food and resources in 'temporary' camps, but where there is a high likelihood that refugees will stay in those camps for long periods (years to decades). It should not be up to refugees to solve these problems, and we as a species have the know-how to minimise the waste that refugees generate and discard, for their own health and for the environment.

Wherever systems are broken, there will inevitably be waste. As individuals, we may not feel that we can do much to fix a broken system (e.g. war, rampant consumerism, and human-accelerated climate change, are all consequences of broken systems). Indeed, we can only do the best that we can do, given our own station in life. In my position as a privileged, white, male in Australia, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to enact positive change. We can also try to understand broken systems and look for solutions and options for repair. A lot of the repair will need to be grounded in a position of peace, and empathy for others. We have all kinds of tools at our disposal to communicate our feelings about the world’s injustices; it’s social and environmental problems, and offer our solutions to governments and to other decision makers. So let's do that!

I talked with Big Owlet about some of these learnings and asked her what she’d like to do with respect to asylum seekers and their struggles. She said she’d like to start by making or donating food and clothing (e.g. woollen knits or sewn clothes from second hand fabrics) for refugees in Tasmania. We are also going to (re)watch the SBS series Go Back to Where You Came From to learn more about the stories of asylum seekers. 

Here are some other things you can do to help:

  • Learn more about the plight of those people seeking asylum, their needs, and the challenges they face so that you can speak up about those issues. We are presently doing this with the owlets, and working out what other helpful actions we can take.
  • Start a group similar to Bellies Beyond Borders (based in Europe), which is a creative foodwaste kitchen-on-wheels to welcome refugees (see here). 
  • Join a refugee support or action group, to help communicate messages of support for refugees, and identify way to assist people in need.
  • Donate to an aid organisation that has a good reputation for directing helpful resources to the people that need it most. It's worth reading up on an organisation before sending wads of money to it.
  • Devise novel ways to reduce waste and communicate those solutions to the aid organisations you support.
  • Other helpful options are suggested here.

~ Oberon.

15 August 2016

Living like things don't exist

We've developed a bit of a habit in our family, of living like certain things don't exist. It began with choosing to have our second baby at home. Later, we decided to home educate our owlets and, through our school-free adventures, we gradually forgot school was such a big part life for so many. Living without it quickly became so normal for us, we were surprised every time the school holidays happened and there were children everywhere again!

We applied the same thinking when we decided to try living waste-free. Initially for a short time, we removed the option of single-use products in our world. And so they ceased to exist for us. Plastic bags, bottled drinks, straws and disposable cups just disappeared from our line of vision, unless we had to refuse them. Suddenly, supermarkets weren't part of our weekly shopping trip and our view of what was necessary in our daily lives changed. 

After a short while, the plastic and waste around us everywhere became overwhelming. We were horrified at the amounts of plastic we saw in the street, at the shops, out and about. It's everywhere! We couldn't help but see it, and we wondered if the game of pretending that we played, of living like things don't exist, was a game everyone else played too, but in reverse. Instead of seeing waste, they saw products they couldn't do without. People could see the value in products that were useful to them in the short-term, but not their legacy. We had once been blind to the amount of waste we generated. Our bin was once full every week and it wasn't a problem for us. The rubbish truck would take it away and it wouldn't exist in our world anymore. Only it did, and it does. It will for many generations to come.

For us, it was surprising just how quickly we adapted to a world where single-use plastics and products don't exist. We started to always remember our water bottles, remember shopping bags, coffee cups and straws if we thought we'd need them. Even the owlets were totally on board with it... And so zero waste life became very achievable. There are still a couple of things we'd like to remove from our realm of options - they're a work in progress. Some are used based on their ability to compost in our garden, or fill our bellies in a way that works for us right now. For now, we are comfortable with them, but I'm interested to see how we go down the track.

Feel like playing along with us? We have a Facebook group called Zero Waste Tasmania where we run these weekly challenges for people to pretend single-use things don't exist for a week each. 

It can be fun to test the boundaries of what you're comfortable sometimes and seeing things from a different perspective, don't you think? 

~ Lauren. xx