#6 Tongues in Trees
April 8th, 2022 - European Fashion, Comfrey, Permaculture Principle 6, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Combining Screen Time and Connecting with Nature for Children, Reducing your Plastic Waste at Home
Welcome to the Week 6 Newsletter!
This week we hear good news for sustainability in the fashion industry, take a look at the handy comfrey, explore Permaculture Principle 6, discover Wedge-tailed Eagles and discuss a way to combine Screen Time for children with Connecting to Nature.
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Outdoor Screen Time
Like most parents, I have to limit screen time for my children. Those screens seem to have an irresistible allure, despite the fact that they seem happier when they have less screen time.
As I observe them outside in the garden I see them being inspired and stimulated. The games that they come up with outside are full of action and imagination and my six year old adds amazing sound effects that often have us giggling.
Recently I discovered a way to give them screen time that gets them outdoors and connecting with nature at the same time.
Seeing me take photos all the time, has made my children curious about photography and I often sit with them, zooming in to see the tiny details of plants, animals and insects.
I say I discovered it, but really my eight year old discovered it for me. One day she decided she wanted to take some photos of her stick insect pets. I gave her an ipad and she started experimenting with positions and light by instinct. After the stick insects had been recorded for posterity, I encouraged her to go outside and see what else she could capture.
She wandered the garden for around an hour. She searched for bees and caterpillars and flowers. She started to make observations of which insects were attracted to which flowers. She found a snail and enthusiastically tried to capture it digitally.
The graphic shows her concentration as she tried to focus on a tiny flower she found on the driveway.
This exercise also gave me the opportunity to teach her how to focus on a particular point and how to crop the photo afterwards to enhance her composition. She had alone time and quality time with me. She learned about the ecosystems and food webs in the garden. She gained technical skills in photography, including composition, focus, depth of field and editing. She connected with nature in a new way and learned how to use technology to record details of her connection.
If it’s hard to get your children off screens try getting them out in the garden! My next plan is to send her and her brother out with an ipad each and a scavenger hunt list. They will try to get a photo of everything on the list and the winners (they’ll both be winners, haha) will get some sort of concrete reward. The true reward will be the connection to nature and the discoveries they make along the way!
A Pair of Magnificent Eagles
My children often sit on the swing set and as they sway, they name and count the birds and butterflies that they can see. We were sitting on the nearby patio the other day, when we heard them debating whether the two large bird shapes circling the blue sky above were eagles.
I stepped out to see that they were! Magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) soaring high above us, searching for prey. They do like to take a couple of the local chickens from time to time.
They were so high up that it was difficult to photograph them, but easy enough to see the undeniable shape of this huge bird. Australia’s largest bird of prey can be found over most of the continent. With a wingspan of 2.3 metres (almost 8 feet), they can be clearly seen with their distinctive wedge-shaped tail even when flying high above the ground.
In 2014, a biologist researching the majestic species, recorded them soaring at 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) above the Australian outback. (If you’d like to read more about Mr Cherriman’s research, click here.)
I am always awe-struck when I see these amazing creatures. A few years ago one perched in our trees, unfortunately my camera was not working and my phone couldn’t capture it. I stood spellbound until it flew away and crossed the horizon, soaring with ease despite a long trail of birds chasing it away.
A Fantastic Compost Activator
Comfrey is a very handy plant with lot of applications. Used medicinally for thousands of years, it is also called “Boneset” referencing the use of the herb in a poultice to help repair broken bones. It was also used to aid healing of bruises and sprains.
Comfrey grows in climate zones from Cool Temperate to Tropical but is unlikely to flower unless it is exposed to a cold winter. Thus, in the subtropics and tropics, growers and local pollinators are denied the pretty blooms.
In cold climates Comfrey dies back in Winter, but this is merely a dormant phase and it grows back with the return of warm weather in Spring.
It prefers a well-drained average loam, but will tolerate wet conditions, especially in warm climates. It likes a partly shaded position in the garden and in warm climates will tolerate all but the deepest shade.
Now that we’ve got the growing conditions out of the way, let’s get into the characteristics that make this plant special.
Comfrey is a slug deterrent that also shades the soil and can work as a great filler for garden areas that would otherwise be exposed. It can be invasive in the right conditions, so keep an eye on it. Thankfully, it is hardy and tolerates pruning well. The parts that are pruned are a wonderful green mulch or activator for compost.
Comfrey has a tap root that dives deep into the soil, much deeper than many garden plants. Once in the lower levels, it then mines the soil for minerals that have been washed down from the surface and upper levels. These minerals are brought up through the roots to sustain the large green leaves.
When the large green leaves are used for mulch or compost, the minerals harvested by the deep tap root are then available for plants with shallower roots. This ability to mine the lower soil levels for minerals makes Comfrey a “dynamic accumulator” which has earned it a place in permaculture as a “grow your own fertiliser” plant.
Comfrey is a fantastic plant to have in any garden. Its rich medicinal history aside, it provides an easy way to boost compost, cover soil or harvest your own green mulch.
Note: some sources indicate that Comfrey is edible, but this is a controversial stance. Ingestion of Comfrey has caused liver failure due to active components. Do your own thorough research before eating this plant.
European Union Plans to Make Fashion Accountable
As a part of the European Union’s “circular economy plan”, proposals have been submitted to reduce the fashion industry’s ecological footprint.
Part of the proposal focuses on companies demonstrating how their product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco” if they want to use those labels. The proposal also requires companies to report how much unused product is sent to landfill to make them accountable for waste. This reporting could impact on company reputations providing incentive to find ways to reduce waste.
The aim is to combat the throwaway culture associated with fast fashion, encouraging recycling practices and creating products with more durability.
With the average consumer throwing away 11 kilograms (more than 24 pounds) of textiles each year, these measures could make a substantial difference. Likewise, a mandatory minimum use of recycled fibres by 2030 could help contain the release of microplastics which end up in our oceans as a result of laundering synthetic fabrics.
Having a large body like the European Union tackling waste in this way is great news! Through incentives and disincentives, this proposal could change fashion and fashion practices quickly and effectively. Not only that, but it sets another all important precedent.
At this stage it’s a proposal, but the conversation is happening and that is progress in itself!
Limiting Your Waste
Permaculture Principle Six is “Produce No Waste”. This one is hard to achieve. Indeed, I don’t know a single person who has achieved it, but I know a lot of people who have substantially reduced their waste.
The obvious responses to this principle include things like composting, worm farms and buying items with less packaging, but I want to share my method of composting.
Traditional compost produces lovely soil that is rich in nutrients, but it doesn’t give you a way to recycle alliums, citrus and meat scraps.
I recycle these into a thick black nutritious goo with the help of some Garden Friends. Soldier flies are beneficial organisms from the fly family that feed on anything organic as it decomposes. They turn that organic matter into a thick black goo that nurtures the soil and captures carbon.
Researchers are starting to investigate the soldier fly species as a way to reduce waste and carbon emissions on a global scale. The larvae have voracious appetites and the adults are pollinators
My compost bin is an enclosed plastic tub that used to be on a spinner. Unfortunately, the spinner broke so now I just roll the tub around on the ground. It has various air holes that allow the soldier fly adults in and the black goo out.
Every time I add to the compost bin, I roll it around to a different position near my contour banks and the goo fertilises a different patch of soil. As an added bonus, it leaves a trail of soldier fly larvae that the Kookaburras, Butcher Birds and Eastern Bearded Dragons clean up with great enthusiasm.
The only issue with this method of composting is that you really need a large area. You don’t want the smelly decomposition near your house and it does attract other flies from time to time.
A small garden or balcony is probably better suited to the compost pots that you can bury in the soil and simply add waste by lifting a lid on the surface.
Whatever your situation, we all have the potential to reduce waste! Every bit counts!
This week’s link is inspired by the “Good News” and the “Permaculture Tip” which both focus on reducing waste.
Here’s my Five Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste at Home.
Last week a subscriber kindly took the time to contact me and let me know that last week’s comment button referred back to Newsletter #3. I am embarrassed to admit that when investigating this “error” I found out that it was my error. Buttons for this issue should work properly!