Garlic’s in…….

12 04 2012

Garlic is something I use every day.  Any time I start cooking anything (unless it’s a chocolate cake!) I reach for the garlic and onions.  I love the stuff, and its medicinal properties are well understood.  These days though, you have to be careful when buying garlic, most of what you see on supermarket shelves is total crap that comes from China.  The bulk of the world’s garlic is produced in China where the cost of labour significantly reduces the cost of manual processing that garlic requires. For this reason, in those countries that accept imported garlic like Australia but, interestingly, not Europe, buying imported garlic is cheaper.  A lot cheaper, as much as 75% in fact!

Despite this, Chinese garlic does not meet with food safety protocols (at least those in Australia). According to Henry Bell of the Australian Garlic Industry Association, “garlic from China is doused in chemicals to stop sprouting, to whiten garlic, and to kill insects and plant matter. He also reports that garlic is grown in untreated sewage” (…) .

what’s wrong with purple garlic?

Garlic is whitened by using chlorine or with a mixture of sulphur and wood ash. Whitening garlic supposedly helps to “make it look healthier and more attractive to consumers”. This is plain crazy……  what on Earth is wrong with purple?

In fact this obsession with white foods has led to the bleaching of lots of food products (flour, salt, sugar) using chlorine dioxide or benzoyl peroxide.  It gets worse…..

Growth inhibitors are used to stop garlic from sprouting and can be made from hormones or chemicals. When garlic begins to sprout, the garlic clove loses much of its potency. Growth inhibitors together with gamma irradiation is supposed to extend the shelf life of garlic.  It doesn’t work in any case, when I have bought this crap, it’s gone off before I got to the end of the bag……

Gamma radiation is also used to sterilise many products, and in Australia, this treatment is not accepted for foodstuffs. This does not prevent food treated by gamma radiation to enter the country.  And if you try to plant it……  it doesn’t grow!  You are in fact eating dead food.

Australia also requires that all garlic regardless of origin is fumigated with methyl bromide at entry to Australia. Methyl bromide is a colourless gas and a potent chemical used as an insecticide, fungicide and herbicide.

So now you know why I really need to grow my own.  But it’s not easy in this sub tropical climate, garlic likes a Mediterranean climate (like Tassie!) where the summers are dry, and winters cool and wet….  the total opposite of Cooran.  I’ve tried and tried, and while I know people around here who’ve succeeded, I have mostly met failure.  But I’m having one last crack.  At thirty bucks a kilo, it’s also getting expensive when you use it like I do.

Garlic needs a good six months in the ground to grow properly.  My French mate Serge, who has more green thumbs than fingers and toes combined, has successfully grown his garlic near Gympie.  He tells me in Normandy they plant it on the shortest day of the year, and harvest on the longest.  You can’t do that here, Christmas is way way too hot for garlic, and Permies in my area recommend planting on the Autumn equinox, and harvesting on the Spring equinox.  Except March has been way too wet of recent years (garlic just hates wet feet..) and I think it’s still a bit warm.

This year’s Easter weather finally seems to have brought an end to La Nina and the accompanying flooding rain.  So over the past week or so, I have been enjoying the milder weather and doing lots of “chop and drop”, building mounds of arrowroot greens and weeds and comfrey, to which I must get around to adding the goats’ bedding to finish off another couple of cubic metres of compost.  Over the past couple of years I’ve built up a raised bed of such compost, just to grow root vegetables….  and it’s ready for action.  So last weekend, I bought a whole kilo of organic garlic a farmer grew just 30km away in the Mary Valley.  Surely if he can manage it, so should I?  I forked over my deep bed (which was full of worms), added some blood and bone and composted chook poo, and mulched the freshly made bed.  From the kilo of garlic, I got about 200 cloves, and I planted the lot in one hit.

Wish me luck.  It should have sprouted within a week, especially as we are again victimised by some rogue heavy showers…..  hopefully it’s not going to be too wet again!

So much for debunking the Club of Rome….

11 04 2012

On March 2, 1972, just five days off my 20th birthday, a team of experts from MIT presented a ground breaking report called The Limits to Growth to the world.  I didn’t get to read it for another twenty years, but it made a huge impression on me, it was the beginning of my discovery of the Matrix, and more to the point, my abandonment of it, bit by bit.  Most people who “remember” it as the book that predicted the end of the world by (insert date here – usually 1 January 2000) have never read it…….

What the report did do was predict that within a period of 100 years from when it was published, civilisation would collapse from resource depletion, pollution, over population, and lack of food.  It caused quite a stir at the time….  but soon enough, those who must have growth, the usual suspects like bankers, went out of their way to “debunk” the whole thing using misinformation…..  and sure enough, everyone forgot about it and went on their merry way to over exploit the planet, and populate it to death.

Just so we all understand what we are discussing here, this chart expresses best what the Club of Rome’s most likely scenario looked like.  You’ll notice that apart from the timeline at the bottom, there are no numbers on this chart, it is merely a general idea of what the crude computing power of the time was able to spit out.

Notice the total lack of collapse around the year 2000…?!  But guess what, recent research supports the conclusions of the controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: the world is indeed on track for disaster. At least so says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited the report.  Turner compared real-world data from 1970 to 2000 with the current business-as-usual scenario. What he found was that the predictions nearly matched the facts. “There is a very clear warning bell being rung here,” he says. “We are not on a sustainable trajectory.”

And this is what his findings look like:

Image result for latest data graham turner limits to growth

That shaded area is the thirty year period since the report’s release (it unfortunately doesn’t cover the period to this day), and it clearly shows that we are right on track for population to start dropping within eighteen years, and major problems by 2050.  In fact, Turner seems to think population will start collapsing 20 years before the Club of Rome thought it would……

And I still have people writing to me saying it’s all a load of rubbish, we have a Premier who thinks we can run our transport system on old tyres and carpets, and economists are still talking up a “recovery”….  Don’t know about you, but I feel like screaming.


Out of the blue, I found this great presentation given at the 2009 Commemorative Lecture by Dr. Dennis L. Meadows, one of the authors of The Limits to Growth Report.  It’s long at 48 minutes, but do yourself a favour, make yourself a cup of your favourite poison, and watch it to the fascinating end……..

Tassie beckons……

2 04 2012

I’ve mentioned my desire on this blog to move to Tasmania, and also been asked why I would want to make such a dramatic move.  So tonight I will attempt to explain what brought me to this conclusion.

I first visited Tasmania at the age of twenty, a whole lifetime away it now seems.  It was love at first sight.  A rock climbing friend and I trained it to Melbourne, flying to Devonport, and we travelled all over the island, the highlight being the Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair overland walk, some 80km….  As I said on the night of my 60th birthday, the one thing I can clearly remember is being young once!

I’ve since returned five more times.  In 1985, Glenda and I took a two week holiday, even investigating the possibility of buying a photographic studio in Wynyard.  So the idea of living in Tassie is not new.  We didn’t make the move then, only because Glenda didn’t want to live that far away from her aging parents, whom we actually brought with us for another visit two years later…  I also went back on my own once to attend an Australian Institute of Professional Photography National Conference in Hobart, when I was the Qld President of said AIPP, and a judge at the National Print Awards….  I had a glorious opportunity to share some lens space with Doug and Ruby Spowart, both Master Photographers, as we travelled around the place doing nothing better than to create mind blowing photography.  Tassie’s like that, an opportunity around every bend it seems.

We went together again just twelve months ago…… and our daughter Claire came along too.  Glenda attended a wood firing ceramics convention in Deloraine while I showed Claire the sights….  I never tire of Tassie, I just feel like I belong there.  And Claire loved it as well.

I don’t know if it’s me getting older, or climate change starting to get under my skin, but over the past few years I have become really intolerant of the Queensland heat and humidity.  It doesn’t allow me to work as much as I need to in the yard, just when everything goes ballistic there and more work is what’s actually required!  Now Easter is in sight, the weather is becoming far more to my liking, and I’ve started again to spend more time there cutting back all the summer growth.  I thrive in the cold…….

So last year, Glenda and I decided it was time to plan the big move, before it’s all too late, and TSHTF not allowing us to do it.  At least I’m philosophical enough to realise that in the event we can’t sell, or it all gets too hard because of Peak Oil, we are well prepared no matter what here in Sunny Qld.  I do worry we are fast running out of time…..

There are other incentives too.  Real Estate in Tassie is half the price, acre for acre, of what it is here.  I also know several people who have made such a move, and none have ever regretted it.  In fact most agree it’s the best thing they ever did, they tell me the sense of community in Tasmania is far more present than almost anywhere on the mainland.

The Huon Valley

Huon Valley Reflections

Having done a lot of research, we have settled on the Huon Valley.  The Secretary of Permaculture Tasmania has told me she moved from northern Tassie to the Huon because the climate’s better…!  And perhaps we were lucky, but last time we were in the Apple Isle, we got most of the inclement weather around Deloraine and Launceston, while the weather in the Huon was just picture perfect… just like in the photo!  Twice.  No I’m not being a romantic fool, I’m sure the Huon gets foul weather just like anywhere else…

I also like the feel of the place, the way one is never ever very far from anywhere, the way the countryside is still not overpopulated, the lush green hills, and the apple trees on the side of the road…. not to mention the wineries.  And Cygnet has an established Transition Initiative I don’t have to start myself, there are Permies everywhere to make friends with….. and I already communicate with quite a few.

It’s as far away from the madding crowd as one can get without going to New Zealand.  And now we have a total dickhead for a Premier, leaving Queensland becomes ever more appealing.

And you can grow garlic there, piece of cake…!

I’ve been daydreaming on the internet seeking suitable land, and there is no shortage of it.  Were we ready to move now, I have a short list of three pretty well ideal sites picked out, and a house plan already mapped out on a sheet of graph paper!  EVERYTHING I have learned here will go towards the new plan, and this time there will be no compromises.  I actually believe we can do a whole lot better in Tassie, on the right block.  I know how to design a cold climate house that needs no heating, and in any case, so successful is our AGA that I would get another, a refurbished one from the Midlands Cookers people who sold me the parts I needed to fix the current one…  I’ve already sourced manufacturers of stainless steel water tanks, and concrete blocks that look just like the ones we used here!  All I need to do is sell Mon Abri, not something I would have thought I would ever say even five years ago, but such is life…….

How can you resist…….