Category 16

Strawbale Building: The Home That Hugs You


Shamus O’Reilly believes that strawbale is the best natural building material of them all. He recently finished building his own strawbale home for himself and his family. He also builds strawbale homes for other people through his construction company, SO’R Construction. He has repeatedly seen firsthand the benefits of building with strawbale alongside passive solar design.

Shamus and Jayde and their two young children recently moved into their strawbale home, located on a rural two-acre block in Inverleigh, Victoria. It was important to the couple to bring up their children in an environment free from chemicals and pollutants. So every material used in the build was selected for performance and low toxicity, and is renewable or recyclable. They love that every time they walk into their new home, it feels like they’re getting a great big hug.

‘My brother first pointed out strawbale as a building material. I did my building apprenticeship in Melbourne on high-end Toorak homes, but that was a lot different from how I grew up. We were the family that recycled. Mum and dad were into sustainability. Not that we called it that then. I grew up learning about how to select quality materials that were natural and re-usable,’ says Shamus.

Setting Up A Drip Irrigation System


The impact of long-term drought in Australia means we need to be thinking about better ways to get water to our gardens with the least amount of waste and fuss. With sprayers, sprinklers and hoses, there is inevitably a fair bit of water that goes on paths and surrounding areas, which not only wastes water but also encourages weeds. To get water directly to plants’ roots, drip irrigation is one of the most efficient and focused forms of irrigation.

Drip lines, also known as drippers, dripline and drip tube, have come a long way in the past few years. The most popular and easy to find at major gardening and hardware retailers are extruded, ‘self-cleaning’ inline drip emitters, or ‘drip irrigation tube’. This (generally) 13 mm polypipe has three litres/hour emitters built into the inside of the pipe. Irrigation is an investment in time and money to set up, but you save a lot of water.

Women Sharing Permaculture In Kenya

Jane Amunga is a Kenyan grandmother, community leader and farmer. She lives in a mud house in the rural village of Kambiri in Kakamega, close to the only remaining equatorial rainforest in the country. But the rain is sparse. The soil on her tiny farm is depleted and her plants are struggling. Getting water means a long walk. Her husband is dying. Her daughter and grandchildren have moved back in because they have nowhere else to go. The whole region is struggling.

A severe drought has been affecting Kenya for years. Crops are failing and millions of people face acute food insecurity. Climate change is affecting the lives of local communities throughout the region and the already degraded landscapes, ecosystems and soils are under increasing pressure.

A local nurse, Jane cares deeply for her community and is a trusted elder. She started a women’s self-help group, for women to support each other, helping each other with solutions; and she has now discovered permaculture.

Home-Based Living For The Climate Conscious


Modern life tends to pull us away from the simple routines of home. Many of us spend hours each week commuting to work, school and shops so we can come home to rest. But the process of doing this removes us from our local communities and often burns fossil fuels to get us to where we need to go.

Spending so much time away from home means we’re often too exhausted or time poor to get the basic day-to-day things like cooking, cleaning and gardening done, so we need to outsource those. We turn to ‘convenience’ food and prepackaged products in an effort to save time. Then each year (at least), we need to get away from it all and take a holiday so we can regroup.

Is this cycle sustainable for ourselves and our planet? Does it honour our needs as individuals, families and communities? Does it really save us time and money, or could there be an alternative?

Storing Carbon In Your Own Backyard


Regenerative agriculture is attracting a lot of attention as a way to reverse declining soil fertility while pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and stashing it back in the ground. Yet, restoring soil health is not just for farms. It is something we can do in urban places, too, and gardeners can lead the way in their small corners of the world.

Proponents say that regenerative farming, if adopted broadly, could help slow the rate of global warming. With better management, global croplands could store up to an additional 1.85 gigatonnes of carbon each year, or as much as the entire transportation sector emits.

Researchers at the Rodale Institute calculated that replacing conventional farming practices around the world with regenerative ones would allow us to sequester 100 percent of annual global carbon emissions.

Native Foods: The Oldest Foods On Earth

In more than 230 years of occupation, European Australians turned their backs on the vast majority of foods the country’s Indigenous people have eaten for more than 50,000 years. We have ignored their sage and intricate management of the environment and overlaid an alien system of agriculture, leading to a process of ecological imbalance.

We lived on and not in this continent. We did not put down roots and did not see, as American food historian Waverley Root asserted, that ‘food is a function of the soul, for which reason every country has a food naturally fit for it’. Every country, that is, except Australia.

Food is more than nourishment. Food is culture, food shapes culture, food binds us together and forces us apart. Is the rejection of our native foods, ‘food racism’? Accepting the food of this land, which we are only just beginning to do after almost 230 years will, I believe, contribute towards what I call culinary reconciliation.

Make Your Own Macramé


Macramé is making a resurgence. For some people, this may invoke cringing memories of kitsch décor of the 1970s: knotted hanging baskets and wall hangings made from gaudy-looking jute and twine. Other people may smile in memory of a bygone era. However you remember macramé, or whether you are new to the art of knotting cord, the craft is making a comeback.

Macram. is the art of knotting cord into decorative pieces where the square knot and half-hitch are the most common knots used. Macramé is believed to have originated with 13th century Arab weavers, from the word migramah meaning ‘fringe’. Another belief is that macramé, derived from the word makrama, originated in Turkey as a way of decoratively securing the end threads from woven fabric.

Any type of yarn, cord or rope can be used to make macramé – if you can knot it, you can macramé it.