Identification of animals and plants is an essential skill set

A recent article in The Conversation by Susan Lawler, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution at La Trobe University, explores the importance of students of biological and related sciences developing skills in identifying animals and plants.

Her article commences:
‘I have recently been made abundantly aware of the lack of field skills among biology students, even those who major in ecology. By field skills we mean the ability to identify plants and animals, to recognise invasive species and to observe the impact of processes such as fire on the landscape.

‘My colleague Mike Clarke calls it “ecological illiteracy”, and identifies it as a risk for nature at large. While people spend more times indoors in front of screens, we become less aware of the birds, plants and bugs in our backyards and neighbourhoods. This leads to an alienation of humans from nature that is harmful to our health, our planet and our spirit.

‘On a more practical, academic level, I was in a meeting this week where an industry representative complained that biology graduates are no longer able to identify common plants and animals. This limits their employment prospects and hampers the capacity of society to respond to changes in natural ecosystems predicted by climate change.’

Well worth reading in full.

Bungendore Community Garden Membership

community garden brochure titleAre you interested in gardening? Would you like to learn more about permaculture, worm farming and food forests?
To find out more about what we are doing and meet other members of the community with interests in local food production and sustainability, download the Bungendore Community Garden brochure and come to our next meeting at the Bungendore Community Garden!

Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you soon.

‘Genius community grants – it’s the process that counts’

Les Robinson’s approach to enabling social change, ‘Changeology’,  including his book by that name, and his Changeology blog, are  fantastic resources for members and friends of FuturePLANS.

His 15 February blog post is titled Genius community grants – it’s the process that counts.

He explains that ‘Most councils and government agencies have community grants programs.
‘And most of those programs kill innovation.
‘Why? Because the typical applicant is so desperate to be funded they try to second guess what the agency is looking for by packing the grant application full of buzz words extracted from the agency’s documentation, and what got funded last year, rather than gamely having a go with imaginative ideas. There is simply no incentive for innovation in the conventional grant process, and plenty of fear of being knocked back for being too radical.
‘And because the application form is usually completed 5 minutes to midnight before the close-off date by a tired group president or secretary, there is simply no way that much deep or original thought goes into most project plans.’

He then discusses how our South East Local Land Services (SELLS) ‘is being innovative, having fun, creating love, and transforming community Landcare projects, by innovating the conventional Landcare grant process’.

His description of how well the SELLS is operating is here.

Well worth a read.  And emulating and building upon it.

Is energy storage finally poised for a breakthrough?

A feature article in The Guardian discussed this oh-so-topical issue; published here on 4 February. The author, ,  points out that ‘Banks of batteries and other technologies could lower energy bills and help renewable power, says energy storage industry as it gears up for bumper year’.

The article commences ‘“It doesn’t always rain when you need water, so we have reservoirs – but we don’t have the same system for electricity,” says Jill Cainey, director of the UK’s Electricity Storage Network.

‘But that may change in 2016, with industry figures predicting a breakthrough year for a technology not only seen as vital to the large-scale rollout of renewable energy, but also offering the prospect of lowering customers’ energy bills.

‘Big batteries, whose costs are plunging, are leading the way. But a host of other technologies, from existing schemes like splitting water to create hydrogen, compressing air in underground caverns, flywheels and heated gravel pits, to longer term bets like supercapacitors and superconducting magnets, are also jostling for position.’

Well worth reading the whole article.

‘Field day’: Oxford’s Word of the Month for February

The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at The Australian National University, and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia.

February’s Word of the month is ‘Field day’, details are here. The definition of the term is given as ‘(in rural areas) a day set aside for the display and demonstration of new machinery and farming equipment; a day organised for the discussion of specific agricultural problems, innovations, and techniques’.

They advise that ‘Field days  in Australia began in the 1890s as an educational service for farmers. The early evidence for  field day suggests that the first one occurred in Wagga Wagga in 1894’. The article goes on to describe the subtle shifts in meanings that have occurred up to the present. Recommended reading!


Celebrate the first year of our Bungendore Farmer’s Market

THIS SATURDAY, the 13th of February 2016, it’s the FIRST BIRTHDAY of our Farmers Market.

It has been seriously fabulous to bring farmers, preservers and eaters all together in one place. The conversations and connections that have been built at the markets have been beneficial to all involved, and we look forward to spending many more moments with you. After the market, we will be lighting the BBQ and sharing some food and stories, we welcome you to bring a plate and join us to celebrate our local food system. If you play an instrument, feel free to bring it along to play a few tunes.

The diversity, honesty and care of our producers is refreshing and demonstrates that a Fair Food future is possible. Isn’t it fabulous to know that we are all playing a part in making it a reality.

This weekend at the market, you will find fresh cheese, seafood and honey as well as wine, native spices, herbs, jams and preserves plus:

Brightside Produce will have pasture raised eggs and maybe some of their seasonal vegetables.Caroola Farm will have Fresh lamb, plus whole and chicken portions (breasts, wings, drumsticks, frames, liver) and beef mince in the freezer.  Also salad greens, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, silverbeet and fresh herbs.

Mamma Rita’s Farm will have freshly picked new season apples (incl. Royal Gala), freshly picked peaches, beans, beetroot, corn, zucchini, cucumber, silverbeet, fresh and dried herbs, apple juice, jams and preserves.

PenDon Farm will have sweet corn, eggplant, beans, shallots, squash, zucchinis, plums, apples, rocket, basil, potatoes, ceylon spinach, zucchini flowers, eggs, bay leaves, flowers and surprises plus plenty of gardening advice.

The Markets Tea House will be serving up eats and drinks made from local ingredients –  build-your-own wraps from local ingredients, salads, quiches, real coffee, tea and cold drinks plus cakes and other treats.

The Community Stall will have the NEW PIP magazine (all about Fair Food), tree-ripened plums from Black Foo Farm, garlic plaits from Millpost Farm and maybe some other produce.

The Home Produce Swap is on at 10am thanks to Totally Locally Bungendore – bring some home grown goodness to swap with others.

Registration of Interest: Farm Skills Courses

The Small Farms Network Capital Region is seeking expressions of interest from people who would be interested in attending a one day PROfarm course on any of these topics in the Capital region in 2016. The courses would be offered free of charge but we need to have at least 10 people willing to attend a course before we can apply for funding.

Register your interest this week by emailing Jennie Curtis to nominate which of the following courses you are interested in:

The newly formed Small Farms Network Capital Region is a grassroots information service for people who own or manage small to medium sized rural properties around our local area. The network aims to share local knowledge as well as tapping into professional advice about all things farming through field days, paddock walks and other  events.

Two field days coming from the Small Farms Network in 2016 are Grazing with fodder shrubs (17 April in Bywong) and Healthy Land, Healthy Horses (date and location to be advised).

Please get in touch with Jennie CurtisSmall Farms Network – Capital Region

Now you can become part of the Power Revolution!

The old argument that “renewable energy cannot provide base power and therefore we still need coal and gas” can finally be put to rest.

Home battery power has gone through major developments just in the last six months. The ABC’s science program “Catalyst” explores what options are available to home owners now and what is coming in the near future.

If you missed this exciting program, you can watch it via youtube here!