Thursday, April 15, 2010

Building Green

I come from a family that has more than its fair share of over-achievers. One of the most notable over-achievers is my cousin Catherine who initially trained as a solar engineer and worked on solar cars and planes for awhile before deciding she really wanted to study medicine instead. So she went to Stanford and studied medicine, then surgery. (She also had her daughter in her second year of med because, you know, it had the lightest work load). She now works in robotic surgery. I'm very proud to be related to her.

But from my point of view, her coolest project is underway at the moment. She and her husband (who is equally as smart and geeky) are building a 'green' house. But for them, throwing on a few solar panels and making sure they used insulation was never going to cut it. Oh no. They calculated the 'embodied energy' - the water and energy used to create something - of absolutely everything they built with to make sure they used the lowest energy materials. Catherine and Paul blog about their progress, but be warned it is super sciency. If you're interested but just want the summary, here's Catherine's TED talk on the topic, which has some very interesting comparisons of building materials, retrofitting compared to starting fresh, and even whether a paper towel or cloth is better to use when wiping up a spill:

For those not familiar with TED, it's an amazing resource. A regular meeting of minds, it started as a conference in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. Now it extends far beyond that. It is meant to promote interesting ideas and new thinking, and thinking beyond your own field. Many of the talks are available to watch on their website. As they term it 'Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world'.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Problem and Solution Side by Side

Our pak choi is getting absolutely savaged by fat little caterpillars at the moment, despite being picked over each morning.

But while this type of green is getting stripped to its very skeleton, right in front of it another is thriving and bug-free:

Warrigal greens.

I was intending to plant these in the front yard and let them slowly replace the lawn, but I chickened out, which is just as well because at our first rental inspection last week the property manage told us the owner is incredibly attached to his garden and wouldn't take kindly to the lawn being torn up. So instead these were plonked down on the edge for easy access and they seem to be loving life! They're an indigenous plant that is used just like spinach.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Working from home... sometimes wonderful. Like when your lunch is silverbeet fresh from the garden with mushrooms, olives, cannellini beans and a squeeze of lemon juice on sourdough toast:


... sometimes messes with your head. I spent so long staring at our lettuces during my morning coffee that I started to see ballet dancers.

Started to look a bit like this:

(except my lettuces have their arms folded around their shoulders, not stretched out in front)


Started to look a bit like the male lead here:

(except my lettuce is being more dramatic and yearning and is bending at the waist)

...and it sometimes leaves you to be the person left at home to discover that the two mysteries of our household

- where has the brush for the dust pan gone?

- why does our weird laundry/annexe room smell so disgusting?

can be answered in one fell swoop:

Because the brush fell down some odd, until-now-unknown open drain hole behind a cupboard and caught anything from any of our household sinks in the last month or two in its bristles. It was foul.

Ballet photographs by Andrew Bossi.