Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mustang Sal - Nature Photographer

If you have been reading this blog for a while you will have noticed that many of the photographs are outstanding. Most of these were taken by our daughter Sally. In 2001 she did a short photography course and enjoyed it so much, it became a passionate hobby. After a while she developed a special interest in nature photography and soon amassed a large portfolio of photos taken around our place or on some of our camping trips. In recent years she has started turning her work into photo-cards which she sells at the Healesville Organic Market and our open days. They are also available from

Sally joined the Yarra Valley Photography Club and won several of their club competitions. Her work has also featured in our local newspaper. This year Sal was invited to become part of the Yarra Valley Open Studios project which runs from 18-20 September. On this weekend each artist will open their “studio” to the public. Visitors can travel from studio to studio and view artists in action or see their work. For further information see below

If you would like to view Mustang Sal’s cards visit Healesville Organic Market (outside the railway station) any Saturday morning from 8.30am to 1 pm.

OPEN STUDIOS WEEKEND September 18, 19, 20
More than 40 artists in the Yarra Valley area are opening their studios to the public over this weekend. Visitors can spend an afternoon, a day or a whole weekend exploring the rich diversity of art as it is made by Yarra Valley artists. The program includes artists working in a diverse range of mediums, from painters to potters, from goldsmiths to photographers.

For this weekend we are setting up a gallery here at Tenderbreak to display Mustang Sal’s Nature Photography. Mustang Sal’s Studio will be open from 10am to 5pm on each day, and entry is free. Sally will have handmade cards and framed and unframed photos on display and for sale. You are welcome to come along and see her work and make purchases if you wish.

If you have got enough time you are welcome to enjoy one of our “Tenderbreak Teas”. We will have a range of teas (regular, chai, hibiscus, herbal and others), freshly brewed Yarra Organic Coffee and scones/cake available for purchase. You are also welcome to bring out a picnic lunch and wander around our permaculture garden.

More details including descriptions of all artists, their location and a map are available at To reach our gallery, travel north from Yarra Glen along the Melba Highway. After DeBortoli Winery turn right into Old Toolangi Rd., and follow the Open Studios signs. Email us at for a map showing exactly how to get here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


In our last post we had a bit of a rant about the incredible amount of wastage in our food supply system. There are alternatives out there (perhaps even close to you) that restore ethics into food supply. One of these is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

CSA’s are designed to restore fairness, health and quality to our food growing systems. Most farmers have a “boom or bust” type existence. In good years there is an abundance of food (farm prices are reduced because of an over supplied market) and in bad years there are crop failures (and income is reduced accordingly).

Farmers have to pay their costs up front (seed, water, ploughing etc) using borrowed money which eats into whatever profits they make. On top of this, the big buyers (supermarkets and processors) play farmers off against each other to gain the cheapest price possible. Whilst this may lead to cheaper prices (but not always) at the checkout, it has many serious negative effects. Farm incomes do not provide a fair return to the farmer and this can lead to economic, social, environmental and personal problems.

Many farmers are forced to use farming methods that lower costs or increase size, but result in poor quality food, soil depletion and environmental damage. There is also a huge amount of waste from the large farms that supply the mass market. Supermarkets demand that produce be of a uniform size, shape and colour. Of course nature doesn’t work like that, so vegetables that do not meet the required “standard” are often discarded. When food is wasted we are also wasting all the resources (water, fuel, labour etc) that went into producing it. The overriding concern of factory farm type production is not so much on quality and flavour and service to a local community, but on quantity and appearance (this is what modern consumers supposedly demand) and on profits.

How CSA's Work.
Members of the CSA pay an annual membership fee to a local farmer to cover the cost of production in advance, and in return they receive an equitable share of the farm’s harvest via a weekly box.
Both grower and consumer benefit from CSA's:-
• Consumers share the risks with the farmer. Communities are more resilient when consumers and producers understand and support each other
• The relationship allows feedback so that the farmer responds to the needs of members
• As the food is locally grown, it is fresher, and has very low food miles embedded in it (refrigeration, transport and storage).
• Consumers have a direct connection with their food supply, ensuring the use of ethical organic methods
• Many CSA’s encourage consumers to participate in the growing process. There may be opportunities for low income families to obtain their food at a cheaper rate in exchange for labour.
• Food security is enhanced because the community is not dependent on some distant supplier who has no obligation to maintain supply. Costs cannot be manipulated by profiteers whose only interest in food supply is making as much money as they can.
• CSA’s lead to far less waste in terms of packaging and selection of only uniform sized products
• CSA’s bring ethics, community, relationships and quality food back into the food supply chain

CSA related Websites
If you would like to know more here are some starting points:- has an excellent summary of how CSA’s work and lists benefits for consumers, farmers and the environment In this interview the farmer outlines the benefits, particularly for the community as a whole.

We know of 3 CSA’s operating in Yarra Ranges Shire. These are:-.
• Little Feet Farm CSA run by Stuart and Luna (pictured above) in the Yarra Junction Area and can be found at
• Amy & Luc operate their CSA in the Healesville area. Contact Amy or Luc at
• Darryl runs Callavale Farm Fresh CSA at Monbulk. You can contact Daryl at
If you know of schemes in other areas we would be happy to publicise them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Here are some shocking statistics!Australians throw out three million tonnes of food every year – the equivalent of 145 kilograms for each and every one of us.
A 2005 study by The Australia Institute estimated that food waste was costing Australians $5.3 billion per year.
Environmental advocacy group Planet Ark looked at how much food was being wasted by Australian households. They found as much as 25 per cent of food ended up in the rubbish bin.
Food waste:-
• Is a waste of money
• Is a waste of all resources that went into producing, packaging, transporting and storing the food - water, nutrients, labour, electricity and oil
• contributes to landfill, and greenhouse gases as it breaks down
• from supermarkets is often quite edible- either has damaged packaging or past a use by date
• is unethical

There has been a recent tendency for households to purchase supersized fridges. At the same time the number of people in each household has been gradually shrinking. As with many developments in our society, it just doesn’t make sense. Admittedly Australians are eating more than they ever did, but that’s causing many of us to be overweight. Having a bigger fridge full of tempting treats does not help one little bit. Of course having a bigger fridge also means you need a bigger kitchen and ultimately a bigger house. As these monoliths are on 24 hours a day, they use up enormous amounts of electricity giving us a bigger electricity bill. And that also generally means more coal being burnt to generate that extra power.
Do we need a big fridge?
Possibly, if you have a very large number of people to feed, but if you have an average sized household I have my doubts. My guess is that the bigger fridge just means more food gets lost at the back. Most people shop on a regular basis and really do not need to keep masses of perishable food on hand for weeks at a time. Storing food for weeks in the fridge or freezer adds to its cost.
In our situation we have a limited supply of electricity (solar power) so we have opted to go with a relatively small gas fridge, and it serves our household of 5 adults very well. It enforces a discipline of common sense. We have found alternative ways of storing perishable foods. Here are some of them:-
• Roots crops such as beetroot, carrots, parsnips store really well for many months if left in the ground- they even continue to grow
• Onions and garlic store well if hung in a dry coolish place
• Pumpkins and potatoes once harvested will keep for many months if cured well and are stored in a dry cool dark place.
• Lettuces, silver beet, celery and other greens can be harvested a few leaves at a time when needed
• Most fruit will keep for a while on the tree and then for several weeks if stored well
• We collect fresh eggs from our chooks and these will keep for several weeks if stored in a cool pantry.
• Many foods are easily dried, bottled or preserved.
• Another option for food that just needs to be kept cool but not cold, is a “cool cupboard”. This is a well insulated cupboard with a pipe bringing cool air from under the house into the bottom. At the top is an outlet pipe allowing air to be vented. Warmer air rises out of the top vent drawing cool air in at the bottom. The continual movement of cool air keeps food cool.

An ACF study found that food consumption is responsible for 28% of the average Australian's greenhouse gas pollution, whereas personal and public transport accounts for only 10.5%. So, growing even some of our own food can make a great a contribution to reducing our carbon footprint.
There is much publicity about big picture items such as turning off lights and appliances when not in use, but there is much to be gained for our hip pocket and the environment by just being a bit more thoughtful with our food purchases.
Let's all minimise food waste. If there is leftover food, feed it to chooks so it can be converted into eggs, or compost it so the nutrients can enrich soils, but please do not throw it into the rubbish. Food is too good to waste.
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