Kitchen Garden Guides

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on the global food chain

Here is the translation of part of an article appearing on Kokopelli's website. I thank the people at La Vie Verte for translating it from French and for publishing it on their website. I hope I do not overstep any lines by copying all of the translation here.....

Seven weeks after the tsumani of 11 March 2011, the situation of the reactors of the nuclear plant of Fukushima-Daiichi is deteriorating inexorably. On April 28, TEPCO announced that the ambient radioactivity was about 1220 milisievert/hour, which corresponds to practically 10 million times the dose of artificial radioactivity admissible in France (1 milisievert/year).

“In the US, plutonium 238 and plutonium 239 appeared from 18 March onwards: in California and Hawaii, and were respectively 43 times and 11 times higher than the maximum level recorded during the past 20 years. In March, drinking water in San Francisco contained 181 times the admissible dose of iodine 131. On April 4, rainwater in Boise, Idaho contained 80 times the admissible dose of iodine 131, as well as cesium 137.

“All these radioactive isotopes have been deposited in Europe, and if we are not finding them it is because we are not looking for them.

Before the end of 2011, all the soil on the planet will be inexorably contaminated by daily and permanent radiation of the Fukushima reactors. The same goes for the oceans and the water tables. That is when the radioactive isotopes from Fukushima will begin the long process of bio-accumulation by moving up the various levels of the food chain. In 2012, the whole of the planetary food chain will be radioactive and therefore hyper-toxic for human health.

“The safe limit of radioactivity is a huge scientific scam. Let’s recall that, according to experts in endocrinology, there is no such thing as a safe limit of radioactive contamination and furthermore, low levels of contamination can be the most dangerous for the human fetus than contaminations from large doses.”

“What to do? First of all, set up techniques for decontaminating soils. After Chernobyl, the sale of cheese was banned in Austria; however, we soon observed that cheese produced by organic farmers which had been using zeolites were exempt of radioactivity. All volcanic rocks from the family of zeolites have the reputation of being able to block heavy metals and radioactive particles. The first line of defense in the face of heavy metals and radioactivity is a microbial life in the soils and the presence of humus and minerals which are vital to the harmonious nutrition of soils. This first line of defense is absent from the majority of European soils which are dead, sterilized, oxidized and whose food products do nothing but generate in the human body free radicals which promote degeneration.

“There are also techniques for decontamination using mushrooms or plants to “fix” radioactivity. It is not easy to transform a garden or field into a mushroom plot. It is much easier to plant sunflowers or hemp/cannabis. Some studies have highlighted the fact that these two plants were used with success after the Chernobyl disaster.
The question remains how to recycle these plants after decontamination. We could suggest organizing pick-ups and sending them to the Elysee (presidential palace in France) or to the headquarters of EDF or Areva.”

More than ever, I say to Australians grow organic food / buy local and avoid all imported foods.... and for heaven's sakes SAVE your seeds!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The bin, the sky and me....

I've never lived before in a place where walking the rubbish bin to the road, on a chilly late autumn evening, makes me smile so much. The sky is big out from my west-facing garden; nothing obscures the vast, changeable sky from north-west to south-west. It is from this way that the weather approaches from the enormity of the southern ocean and clouds are often skimming across the sky, at several different levels, in very different shapes and patterns, in colours from brilliant white to deepest, darkest black, all at once. As the sun sets beyond a row of distant hills, each layer is painted as if none were existing in the same sky, on the same night. It is quite extraordinary and something I have gained by chance in the purchase of my pretty cottage in paradise.











But that is not all that makes me smile. Neighbours in coats, also putting out their bins, call and wave a cheerio, the T-shirt clad lad from next door speeds past down the incline of the footpath on his skate board, dodging all the bins, as if it were a race track and spirals of smoke puff briefly from the equally pretty cottages that line the other side of my street, as people prepare for the chilly night. On the way back to my door I collect some extra kindling from under my gum trees, the crack of dry wood searing through the night air as I break it up into fire-box sized pieces.

One of the reasons I enjoy all these ordinary events is that I do not put my bin out for collection until it is full, which is every few weeks, maybe once every couple of months, so I do not normally have a reason to be wandering about in the street at dusk! If everyone only put their bin out once a month, the truck would only have to make 1/4 the stops to collect the same weight of rubbish, saving time and fuel because stopping and starting wastes a lot of both. This is one of the small things we can all so easily do to reduce our footprint on the earth and that was another reason why I was smiling.... it feels good to make less rubbish AND to dispose of it in a more energy-efficient way, with such little effort. Try it and enjoy the experience!












......another reason to be smiling.... my first attempt at making sourdough pitta bread was pretty good and will go nicely with my freshly picked dinner.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Embrace our Australian seed freedom

I read a lot of blogs, scattered throughout the world. People grow vegetables and save seeds in every corner of the earth. This can be a solitary occupation and blogs connect us and keep the passion alive. Amazingly, seed saving has become very political in some parts of the world, with multinational seed companies forcing small seed companies not only out of business, but, in the EU, trying to make it almost impossible to share heritage seeds!! Read more details on the website Seed Sovereignty.

And read 2 of my favourite European seed saving blogs.... Patrick's Bifurcated Carrots and Søren's In The Toad's Garden. Thanks for the photos, fellas! DSCN5146

Seed saving and swapping, not selling, is still allowed, however and I have just read of an enormous gathering that recently took place in Belgium, bringing together people from all over Europe, to a seed savers gathering. Wow.... imagine meeting up with thousands of like-minded people, all speaking different languages, but coming together to share seeds of their favourite vegetables.

In Australia we are free to sell /share our own seeds, adapted to our own climates but, on the whole, people find it more appealing to buy a few seeds in a pretty packet, from an unknown climate or country, more often than not repackaged from a multi national seed company! Yes, this applies to ALL seed companies you may be buying from, even from what you think is a small seed company selling their own saved seed. Yes, it is a good idea to buy from small, local seed companies but ask them where the seed is saved before you buy too much. They save what they can, themselves, but buy in more than half from overseas.

I struggle to get a few people to come to our seed swap days, where we share seeds we have saved in our own gardens. Pretty packets have more allure, especially those with foreign words on them. Sure, we can buy them once but then we should save them ourselves and get them adapted to our own soils and climates.

Seeds are the basis of life. Its all very well building an eco house, owning an eco car, turning off the tv, reading books on sustainable living, getting solar panels, eating organic food and shopping at second-hand shops but these are only the tips of the ice-bergs. Without seed biodiversity, humans, birds, insects..... all animal life, cannot exist. Without animal life, plant life cannot exist, and so the world slithers back to moulds and bacteria.

The reason for the demise of seed saving is simple: money cannot be made from gardeners and farmers saving their own seed. It is free. It needs no advertising, no equipment, no inputs at all..... nothing that can be commercialised.

If you want to do something that gets to the core of saving the planet, join up with others and save seeds.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The best natural products on earth....

Its funny how we take so much for granted.... Here I am back for 2 weeks in SA, where I lived for 50 years, seeing and doing things I have never bothered with before.

I was pissed off with SA when I left.... the succession of governments who did not do a single thing about water allocations until it was too late (and even then have not followed through on promises), who failed to encourage reducing the carbon footprint of South Australians, who continued to let the urban sprawl build concrete jungles all over the best agricultural land in the state and so on and so on.....

I was pissed off with some of my family and friends.... I was pissed off with living in a bubble, surrounded by desert which took days of arduous driving to break through... I was pissed off with the never ending heat of summer where weeks of temperatures over 40C were becoming the norm, and where stupid governments said you could fill your swimming pool but not water your lettuce or fruit trees.....

I was pretty pissed off all round, actually, and I went to live in a cool, damp place which has soothed my soul and made me smile every day since.... even when it gets down to minus 4C and it takes me 10 minutes to get all the layers of clothes on or off!

BUT.... trying to start a sustainable/green/healthful small business in Tasmania, at the bottom of the whole world has been an interesting challenge and made me see SA with new eyes....

Where else but SA can you get terracotta pots of every shape and size, made by hand for 4 generations, in your own town, from clay dug only a couple of suburbs away? Where else but in SA can you see the clay arrive in trucks and experience the gentle clatter of the amazingly old machinery that turns it from dirt, into blocks of potters' clay? Where else but SA can you talk to the man whose passion for clay oozes from his skin and who is excited about maybe making some sourdough proving bowls for me? 

imageWhere else but SA could I spend time watching the world's best pasta being made by hand, not as a show for the public but just as a family going about their daily business in a suburb only a hop, skip and a jump away from the potter?


What other city but Adelaide offers the ability to take a short drive to the farm and mill and talk to the farmers and millers whose organic grains, flours and seeds are sold all over Australia, including to the pasta makers?

I could go on and on about the produce of SA and about the small businesses tucked away in the streets of our very own Adelaide, doing things as they have always been done; no fuss, nothing wasted, by hand and charging only enough to live a simple life.... all the broken pots are thrown back into the mix and not a single one is wasted; just as with the pasta, where the trimmings go back into the mix and come back around and around.... Where else can you get the very best range of organic / hand made produce, from soil to finished product, right at your doorstep? Nowhere!

South Australia has blossomed in my eyes. I am proud to be South Australian again. Despite the lack of leadership in the government, despite the negative angle offered incessantly by the media here, and despite the enormous challenges of heat and drought, South Australians are doing what they have always done best - quietly producing some of the best natural products on earth, using few resources but ingenuity and sweat.

Now I am having to work out ways of bringing these fine things to Tasmania. It is totally against my principles to start shipping things around. But, people will buy grains and flours anyway and they will buy pastas and pots and bowls too. Isn't it better that I bring them from SA than someone brings them from China??









Saturday, May 7, 2011

The long and winding road....

It had been a long but very pleasant day's journey, through 3 states; about midnight Friday the Spirit of Tasmania ferry would have brought me into Victorian waters, then the Saturday car trip from Melbourne across to Naracoorte, South Australia. I felt stiff from the hours behind the wheel, and light-headed as you do when finally the noise and movement of driving all day finally deposits you safely under the canopy of a large, shady pepper tree.

I opened the car door and knew I was in SA by the sounds alone.... parrots..... in the huge, sprawling gum trees and bottlebrushes along the banks of the creek bordering the caravan park. It is as distinctive a sound as any I know and so reminiscent of 20 years at Mount Osmond, Adelaide. Now, sitting here at the round table, in one of those boxy cabins with a sagging bed and simple but adequate set of facilities, the sun is setting on the cheering voices I just heard as a siren signaled the end of a local, Saturday afternoon footy match nearby ..... and the parrots are beginning to find their roosts for the night.

The air is still and cool and I think of my pretty little house in Tasmania and how far away it feels..... almost like another country. There, you cannot walk so easily through the bush, it is much thicker and more varied and dotted with ferns and lichen and boggy reeds. There, the birds in my garden are smaller, darting here and there and people get very excited when they see one parrot! There, the air tonight will no doubt be much colder, already it will be dark and home fires will be well lit for the evening. There, the shops will still be open! But it is nice to be in SA, where all you need in the evening is a jumper, even if everything does close half-way through Saturday afternoon.

Luckily I still have enough of Sophie-the-cow's milk left for my coffee tomorrow morning. Luckily I still have some of my home made rye sourdough bread and some of Karl's honey, Annette's chooks' eggs and some Tassie butter for breakfast. Luckily I still have one serve of risotto made with veg from my garden, to heat up tonight for dinner, plus the last of a box of salad greens from my garden.

Luckily, I have some luxurious home made soap from Kim, Gavin's gorgeous wife, which I am going to christen in the shower in a moment and, best of all, I have some of Gavin's fabulous home made parmesan cheese for that risotto! Oh lalalala! Gavin's cheeses are destined to be famous..... mark my words!!

It was a hop, skip and a jump from the ferry this morning to Gavin's house, near Melbourne, at 7am but I managed to get lost... twice! But the welcome was warm and wonderful and I soon was sitting down to a hot, English breakfast; my donation being 2 large mushrooms from the bags at my place, a loaf of my sourdough bread and a basket of Lady in the Snow apples from my tree.

It was so good to be there again and see all the new creations Gavin is working on. Seeing the new dog, Teddy, getting to know his way around and playing with Holly made me resolve to get 2 dogs as soon as I can find some with the right vibes, when I get back home. The story of Pickle is for another day....

Tomorrow is Mothers' Day. I will see my mother and I will be having lunch cooked by Hugh ..... I can't wait!


.......Hugh has started at a new restaurant..... Aria... Greenhill Road, in the old ETSA building, which is now very smart apartments.... with parking spaces saved especially for Porsches....

I was treated to a taste of the future for this newly revitalised restaurant..... Italian, with flare..... locally sourced, top quality ingredients..... today a casual meal cooked by Aaron and Hugh for their mums and relations. Oh how wonderful it was, after arriving in Adelaide only an hour before, to sit on top of the world and eat a feast, with my wonderful son Hugh and his new work 'family'.