Live local love continues


Even though I’ve finished my Live Local 7 day challenge the amazing support from people both online and offline continues.

An example of this is the very kind @jrobens who dropped off a new plant for my garden at lunch yesterday.

Now I’ve got a curry plant to add to my burgeoning garden, and below is a picture of the latest addition.  Will plant it over the weekend.

The community aspect to this whole thing has been great. And a really big part of that has been the Twitter community.

The more I get involved in things like this the more it clarifies that Twitter provides access to a remarkable breadth of people, who collectively know more than we can count.


The really amazing thing is how willing people are to share information, share goods, and offer support both online and offline.

Thus the support offered was not merely 140 character messages, rather it encompassed real life activity that people went out of their way to undertake.

One person posted a hard copy book to provide information about seasonal food, others sent links to useful websites, others sent emails with detailed helpful information, others shared food and plants, and many shared their own stories and offered moral support.

There is some research I came across recently that backs this up, check out “If you need help, just ask: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help.” by Flynn, Francis J.; Lake, Vanessa K. B. in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 95(1), Jul 2008, 128-143.  The authors estimated:

“people underestimated how likely others were to help them by as much as 100%”

More info about the Live Local Challenge or via the Twitter stream, & don’t forget to check out Rebecca’s challenge blog too.

Live local challenge – what I learned #livelocal

My approach was that of an ordinary outer suburban Sydney dweller. I wanted to see how easy it would be to live locally using the local shopping sources – malls, supermarkets, farmer’s markets – without travelling long distances to specialist sources. I also broadened my thinking to include other things I consume, such as power, cleaning supplies and cosmetics.

The other thing I wanted to test was how possible it was to use public transport in preference to a car for as many things as possible.

I wanted to find out how sustainable a live local life style would be in the long term and what challenges would arise.

The biggest challenge was food labeling – it was often really hard to find out where foods actually came from. So many products simply say “made in Australia from local and imported ingredients”. Other foods say a location but you can’t see where the ingredients come from.  An example of this was the sourdough rye bread, which was baked in Fairfield, but for which the provenance of the ingredients could not be ascertained.

Another was how little I actually know about things I use everyday – electricity for example, where does it come from? And where other consumables, like cleaning products (mostly made in Australia from local & imported ingredients) and cosmetics (mostly not local) come from?

My addictions to products that are not produced locally were a big challenge: coffee (which I did not give up for the sake of housemates), chocolate (which I only had once but craved the entire time), olive oil, butter, and rice.

What I learned
Being conscious of small decisions I make everyday was my biggest lesson. The most important question to ask while out shopping is:

Do I really need to buy something from very far away if there is a locally produced option available?

I also had the opportunity to speak with neighbours and local shopkeepers to discuss where their produce came from. Some nice surprises, like that my local Chinese restaurant actually hand-make their spring rolls and use locally purchased cabbage.  There is a huge amount of interesting activity around sustainability and the environment going on in my own neighbourhood.  Many people are composting or keeping worm farms.  Several people keep chickens and many are growing vegetables.  We have lots of water tanks around the area as well.

There is actually a farmer’s market nearby, but is held on Thursdays during business hours, which is not much help to those of us who don’t work nearby.

My biggest lessons were:

Being conscious of decisions that I make, rather than just doing things blindly & without thinking.  Getting off autopilot and getting back  in touch with nature, the seasons and living consciously.

Issues to consider
Living local is an important thing to keep in mind.  But we really are part of a global community and we need to acknowledge this fact.  Some of us work on global projects and collaborate internationally.  Australia is a great distance away from many other places.  To participate in many activities, and for work, overseas travel is required.  Even with the best technology,  personal meetings are still often the best way to work with other people.  For example, I collaborate with people in Europe and north America – we do a lot online, but from time to time we need to meet in person.   One of the ways I manage this is to try to coordinate all the meetings/conferences into one trip per year.


My blog posts for each of the 7 days:
#livelocal day 1
#livelocal day 2
#livelocal day 3
#livelocal day 4
Where does soap come from? #livelocal
Neighbourhood vegetable garden #livelocal
#livelocal day 5
#livelocal day 6
#livelocal day 7
#livelocal wrap-up

More info about the Live Local Challenge or via the Twitter stream, & dont forget to check out Rebecca’s challenge blog too.

Here is a series of pictures that I took during the challenge:

Live local challenge day 7 #livelocal

Vivian from the Plant Bug Garden Centre

Had long distances to travel today – starting with a meeting with some of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) folks at the Garvan Institute in Darlinghurst. We were discussing Smart Technology for Healthy Longevity.  It was nice to catch up with Craig Mudge & Gordon Bell there too.

But it’s a long way from my place – about an 80 km round trip. Again the public transport options are a challenge with three train changes and a couple of long walks.  And I wanted to combine the trip so as to accomplish more that just attending a meeting.  Thus, on the way home I stopped in at the Plant Bug Garden Centre and met the very helpful Vivian (picture to the right).

I told her about the Live Local project and before I knew it there was a nice selection of plants for the garden getting loaded into the car boot.

my new plants

Immediately upon arrival at home I started moving them into their pots.  I’m using pots because, for some unknown reason, the dogs only dig up plants that are in the ground.  I have no idea of what to do next & suspect I’ll be asking Vivian for some gardening tips soon.

All of this fits in with my other Live Local projects – saying g’day and helping native bees . It also fits in with the 7 day challenge since I made the car journey serve more than one purpose.

Dinner tonight is just leftovers from last night.  It is very exhausting to have to plan ahead so much.  At the meeting earlier today I realised my local snacks were still on the bench at home, so I succumbed to a cup of coffee, biscuit & a sandwich.  Have continued to resist desire for chocolate but do think it is time for a restorative glass of local wine. I have been very grateful that the Hunter wineries are located so close to home.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream & don’t forget to check out Rebecca’s challenge blog

Live local challenge day 6 #livelocal

DSC00080 copy

One of the many things that this challenge has taught me is what season it is now. Up until this time I had never really bothered with little details like that because it did not matter to me.

There was no reason to pay attention, apart from the obvious weather extremes of mid-summer or mid-winter Sydney is a temperate place, and the supermarkets and greengrocers stock produce from all over the world. This last is the thing that kept me most disconnected from the seasons.  If the greengrocer has whatever fruit & vegetables you want, no matter what the season, then you don’t need to stay in touch with nature!

When I was a kid we waited until things came into season – cherries and grapes for Christmas, apples and citrus for winter.  Now everything I desire is at my fingertips & I have not idea what is actually in season where I live.

But now, thanks to the kindness of @kollektor who sent me his copy of The Foodies Diary 2009, I have the information! This tells me all sorts of useful things. This fabulous little book shows seasonal produce, recipes, festivals and farmer’s markets.

Now I know that in May eggplants, zucchini, celeriac, fennel, garlic & ginger – some favourite foods – are in season. One thing that disappoints is the dearth of markets on the north shore of Sydney, most are concentrated in close to the city or inner west/east.

A big thank-you to @kollektor for sharing his book with me. Now I’m starting to get back in touch with the rhythm of the seasons again – just like when I was young.

Dinner tonight is a vegetable casserole using all locally sourced vegies – but using up the last of the fetta crumble that’s been in the fridge since before the challenge. Really starting to hang out for some rice and chocolate!

Must note a protest – @frombecca was torturing me with her new website last night, it had some yummy looking hotcakes that definitely don’t fit within the terms of the challenge!

Live local challenge day 5 #livelocal

The rain finally stopped today and everyone in town took the opportunity to get out and about.

Parents had clearly sent their children out to run off some energy and it was nice to watch a couple of boys throw their boomerangs in the park.

The dogs finally got a chance to have a run off leash in the park too.

I had been invited to brunch in Bondi this morning, to consume exceptionally yummy chocolate products, but decided that I could not justify the approximately 80 km round trip. Nor could I consume the vast amounts of chocolate that I desired due to the distance it had travelled.

There’s no easy public transport options to get to Bondi from here either. Using public transport, the trip requires two trains and a bus, leaving home at 7.30 am to arrive in Bondi for 10.00 am meetup.

An alternative plan was to drive to the nursery to pick up some new plants – I’m doing another Live Local Challenge to help native bees. But decided that as the trip could not be done on my bike (too far & too much to fit in the basket) or public transport (none) it could wait and be combined with another car trip during the week.

For breakfast I had some boiled free range eggs that I found at the local supermaket (from Llandilo about 60 km away). Completely forgot to eat lunch & had a mid-afternoon cup of tea using mint from the herb garden out back. Dinner tonight is some more baked vegetables, including some nice corn from the local farmer’s market on day 1 – will be using rosemary from the herb garden out front for seasoning.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream

Neighbourhood vegetable garden #livelocal

Finally braved the rain yesterday afternoon to visit a neighbour – who’s got a nice vegetable garden instead of lawn in her front yard (that’s a picture of it on the right).

She’s been away and it was our first chance to catch up in ages.

We chatted about the Live Local challenge and stuff over a cup of tea. Ok so the tea was Lapsang Souchong! But I was weak & a bit damp after my walk over 😉

This is a family who’ve really given sustainable living a lot of thought and effort. Amongst other things they:

  • keep chickens in the backyard
  • have a vegetable garden in the front yard
  • use water tanks
  • are installing a grey water system
  • have solar panels on their roof
  • drive a hybrid car

It has been raining so much here my water tank is full, and the rain looks like continuing for many days yet.  The rain did not stop most of Saturday so I didn’t go for a bike ride.  The weather does not look like clearing for several more days, so bike riding might be off the agenda until next week.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream

Where does soap come from? #livelocal

This morning as we were washing the dogs I started to wonder where soap and the other cleaning supplies come from. 

Again, this is not a topic I’ve ever pondered before. But it is not just food that we consume. We consume many other products – almost unthinkingly – every day.

It is surprising how much of the cleaning stuff in my cupboard comes from Victoria (doesn’t NSW manufacture anything anymore?).

Also interesting to note was that every single product in my cleaning cupboard was made in “Australia from local and imported ingredients”.  And a  surprising number of products only had “Australia” as their origin noted on their labels, with no street address and only a customer care phone number.

Anyway all of this made me remember that my mother sometimes made her own vegetable soap and we children used to help.  In fact, she made a lot of stuff from scratch.  We often made our own sweets – toffees, marshmallows, coconut ice, jubes – as well as baking bread, cakes and biscuits.  We also had a friend, an amazing woman called Maria, who taught us how to preserve olives and make granita.  It was lovely to be reminded of these two great women who’ve been such a strong influence in my life.