supper club

2015/08/04 deej 0

the aptly named 'Dinner', roastedI haven’t posted much about plants or animals recently, which is mostly because it’s winter and cold and nothing much is growing. And most of my attention is on the house-building project.

The chickens are moulting, and so laying fairly sporadically. The quail are still laying, although one of them got sick and we had to euthanise her. We ate her afterwards because (a) I feel that eating the carcase shows respect tot he animal, and not eating it is wasteful and disrespectful, and (b) the illness was a beak disorder, so there was no health risk to us. We also killed and roasted one of mum’s chickens, which had stopped laying. She was a little tough, but very tasty.

The garden is green and happy, and the citrus are fruiting massively, but that’s about it. The olives I put up in autumn are fermenting away (the quick processed ones are ready for eating, and we’ve eaten some of them). We made some calamondin and raspberry jam (which is delicious) and also a calamondin and blackberry variant (also delicious). And there’s been more use of limes and lime juice in our cooking (I made lime jelly on the weekend, to top a lime and blueberry cheesecake), and a certain amount of grapefruit juice consumed.

Which brings me to my point, actually. It’s winter; it’s cold and wet, and when the weather is cold and wet the eye turns to food. Pies and puddings and jam and cocktail syrups (we have a lot of citrus, and I don’t really care for marmalade) and overly fancy dishes inspired by watching Masterchef.

things I want to try making: passionfruit sphere and coconut granita with pineapple

Normally I don’t watch TV. I have so many things in my life that any time I have spare I either read a book or watch something without adverts in it (hello internet! Have I mentioned how much I love you?), or put some time into one of my hobbies, or play with my cats. But there was a lazy dinner evening of buying fish & chips, and in the fish & chips shop there was a TV playing an episode of Masterchef, and then we had to watch the rest of the episode later for closure, and then we were hooked. Also, the show (and most of the recipes used on it) are available free online from channel ten.

things I want to try making: liquid butternut gnocchiPartly as a result of the show, I’ve started a little supper club. A group of us have agreed that we’ll have shared multi-course dinner parties every couple’ve months – we’ll do a degustation style meal with lots of smallish courses and each member of the club will make one of the courses for each dinner. We’ll rotate who does which course so we all have a chance to do appetisers and mains and desserts and everything in between. The idea is to make fancy dinner parties a bit more affordable to hold, and more fun because the effort is shared, and also to put some time aside to catch up with people more often and maintain those social networks which are so essential to us. I’m really looking forward to the first dinner party (scheduled for October, after we’re completely moved into the new house). (Which, by the way, is almost finished! It’s on site, the electrics are connected, verandahs are being built this week, and it looks amazing.)


2014/10/21 deej 0

This is a nerdy post – because I am, fundamentally, a nerd. A plant-loving dirty-finger-nailed wannabe farmer nerd, but a nerd nonetheless. Or geek. Whichever the fashionable term is at the moment. Also, it’s kinda long. Sorry about that.

I believe that technology – computers, robots, spaceships and space travel – are awesome. I’m also aware that technology is a spectrum, ranging from more efficient shovels to bicycles, the idea of surgeons washing their hands before surgery through to vaccines against cancer-causing viruses, sailing ships to electric cars to rockets that can take a human to the moon and back safely, signal fires through to mobile phones. Technology is a set of tools. Really neat, amazing tools, but just tools. Not good or evil, just useful to further the desires and abilities of the people using them.

I look forward to having better technology available, to forming a true endosymbiosis with my phone or computer, having the extra memory and processing (thinking) speed that could give me. I look forward to being able to regrow a new organ from my own stem cells if one of mine fails, or replacing a limb or joint with a functional cybernetic one if I need to. I anticipate every person having these same benefits – technology is the antithesis of elitism and class division, because the technology gets cheaper and easier as we get better at making the tools we want or need.

None of that means I don’t care about the environment, though. I’ve been a gardener even longer than I’ve been amazed and intrigued by computers (I planted seeds and helped harvest fresh peas very shortly after I could walk on my own, and I was a precocious child). I care passionately about sustainability and species diversity and the inherent value of the natural world. I also care passionately about the efficiency and effectiveness that methods such as permaculture and holistic management allow. I’m a technodruid, if you like.

I’m not talking about actual druids or neopagan religion here – and no offence to any practicing druids or neopagans. The kind of druids I’m thinking of are the sort in Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying games. The druid is the caretaker of the wilderness, a character who uses nature-based magic and has a deep connection with plants and animals (and sometimes with the landscape itself).

So, all of that said, posts like this one (The Dawn of Cybernetic Civilisation) on make me sad. So many people in the environmentalist and permaculture communities talk about technology as an evil thing. Many of them don’t really understand it, and they seem to view it as a thing separate from us humans. It’s not. Technology is as close to us, now, as our skin and our breath. We are our technology, just like a honeybee is her hive. We create tools only because we want to use them to make our lives and our childrens’ lives better.

I notice very few of these people refusing to use buses, or bicycles, or even computers and the internet. Do you know why that is? because these things are useful. Maybe even essential. The internet, that source of terror and surveillance, brings us closer together across distances that our ancestors couldn’t even imagine. The petrol engine, even with all the harm it’s done to the environment through emissions we didn’t realise until fairly recently were a problem (two or three or five decades is recent in the scale of an entire culture and species realising something), also made it possible for us to look at the planet from outside. If we had never gone into space, never seen for ourselves the fragile bubble that is our life-support system, we might never have realised that we are responsible for protecting it both for its own sake and also for our survival.

I think we should remember that change happens no matter what we do; we can ride the wave and change along with it, or we can go under. Technology exists not to make us into unthinking cogs in some great machine but because we built it and used it. if we become unthinking cogs it is because we chose to do that.

Everything is a choice. Technology can only oppress us if we choose to be oppressed by it, or to ignore it, or to allow ourselves to be oppressed by other people using that technology. If we choose to be enabled by it, just think what we could do.


Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons:

the fall of advertising

2013/03/14 deej 0

I don’t know what the crossover is between permaculture and plant nerds (and gardeners, farmers, sustainability seekers, etc.) and technology nerds, but I fall into that demographic.

And, like most people who spend any amount of time online, I hate online advertising. I despise uutoplay video and audio on websites (even non-advertising video and audio, to be fair). Ads prepended to my video feeds so that in order to watch <cool new music video> I have to sit through <boring and irrelevant advert for something I don’t want or need> are obnoxious. Even the banner ads on most sites irritate me, with their blaringly loud colours and inclination to use up to 60% of the screen. So I use ad-blocker software. Lots of people do – increasing numbers of us in fact, 50% or more of the users on some sites.

A story linked on Slashdot a few days ago highlighted the problems that ad blockers cause for a lot of journalists and news sites – if they don’t get any revenue from ads, where will they get enough revenue to survive? Advertisers are becoming disillusioned with the whole web advertising thing as a way to target potential customers, because even if some people do still allow ads, at least non-invasive ads, enough people disable them completely to make the advertising not really financially viable.

It puts  journalists in the same boat as visual artists, authors of fiction, animators and musicians. How do you get paid to do what you do? The traditional ways for artists to get paid were patronage (which, these days includes distributed patronage – e.g. Kickstarter) and busking, i.e. donations.

Paywalls are a dead-end alley, in that there is so much information and entertainment available online for free that asking for payment to even visit a news site in case there’s something interesting or important there just sends a lot of users to another site. Patronage is an option, but most direct patrons these days are corporations and we all know what happens when journalists or scientists have their salaries paid by corporations. Distrubuted patronage works best for one-of things – a documentary, an album, an invention going to market, a specific novel or graphic novel. It isn’t such a good model for ongoing work like day to day journalism and reporting.

It is possible that a journalist could ask for payments for individual articles, paywalling the articles rather than the entire site on which they reside. I think that’s a good model – let us read the first paragraph or a summary, and then ask for a micropayment to read the full article. But doing that requires a reputation for high quality content, and a niche in which the free content is not as high quality as the content you provide. In other words, it’s hard, especially for news organisations which would then have to deal with how much of the micropayment went to the writer, how much to the photographer or videographer, and how much to the site itself, not to mention the less visible employees like administrators, proofreaders, and typesetters.

Which leaves you with donations. The poor cousin of income generation schemes.

Donations are hard, but they might work. A lot of sites now include ‘Donate’ or ‘Flattr‘ buttons to allow micropayments from users. But it’s tough to know how well it works – are those webcomic authors making a decent living on donations and merchandising, or are they subsidised bya  day job or a partner with a day job? Without knowing how viable it is, journalists and news sites are unlikely to try it.

Which brings us to the actual, original point of this post: someone is running an experiment with voluntary micropayments, which is linked on Slashdot. No actual money is involved, it’s just theoretical. You add an app to your bookmarks toolbar, and then when you find content you enjoy you click on one of those links (1 to 3 cents), depending on how amazing you thought the content was. Your “tip” is recorded, and that’s it. There’s a summary page that tells you how much you would have spent, and the experimenter will be releasing anonymized analyses of the data to see if this sort of system is viable in the wild. I think it’s a pretty neat experiment. If you’re game, go sign up.

Permie Porn!

2012/06/18 kai 0

It’s finally the rainy season here in Perth! We’ve been waiting for this for a while now and the first serious rains started up about a month ago. I meant to post this earlier but life has conspired to keep me busy. We were eagerly waiting the first big rains as it would be the first big test of the swales we spent so much time working on over the last few months. Our first visit up after the major storm was actually for our house warming night up on the land with the bonfire (We made up for the lack of house with extra warm).

We arrived fairly early in the day to set things up and get some work done. As we pulled up I found myself quite anxious with worry that the swales might not have held, or they hadn’t worked somehow or washed away. D often says I’m a nervous parent and I suspect she’s right. When we pulled into the property I noticed a strange black line about half way up the swales. My head went into panic mode. Was it a slip? Were they separating? Was it erosion? What was it!?!

Then it suddenly occurred to me.. it was a high water mark! They worked! They captured the run off, held it and then let it soak into the land where they were. SUCCESS! I will admit to dancing a small jig when I saw them and you can see the wonder for yourself. There was much rejoicing. They are performing their required duty perfectly. They are capturing the water and just as importantly the silt in the bottom is rich and soil-y and dark. Things are already growing merrily in them and the broad beans and lupens and nitrogen fixers are growing all over them like mad. We couldn’t be more pleased.

Our Permaculture teacher arrived on site later in the evening and exclaimed with glee when she saw them. She declared it “Permaculture porn” and seductively stuck her finger in it before declaring. “It’s wet!” Clearly we hang out with crazy permies.

The bonfire night was amazing fun and I was so full of happy and joy to be surrounded by family and friends on our land and with the growth of winter starting around us. I can’t think of a happier place to be and people I’d rather be with.

Next time, we might even be able to lay on some food from the property.