Friday, August 18, 2017

Casana in Wellington

Casana (Cyphomandra casana) fruiting in a Wellington gully in New Zealand, as would probably be expected. The climate is temperate, with temperatures a few degrees below zero from time to time in this spot. I found it needs a very sheltered spot, this one gets direct sun about 1/3 of the day.  Fruit ripened in mid-late August (early spring).

I was surprised how tasty the fruit is, like passion fruit combined with pineapple.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

New Zealand Flax Bags instead of Plastic Bags?

The media has been giving a lot of attention to people advocating cutting down or eliminating plastic bag use when we go to the supermarket (in particular). The main problem I have with this is it implies going to the supermarket would somehow become ecologically sound if only we didn't use plastic bags. The only real solution to the environmental crisis, local food production that marginalizes transportation of people and goods does not get a mention. Of course not, why would the media bite the hand of food and transport advertisers (or taxpayers in the case of state media) that feed them... anyway that would be too much trouble, we're all too busy propping up the system we're addicted to.

Still I couldn't help thinking of New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax, Phormim cookianum) as a substitute when hearing an expert explain how resistant to breakdown plastic is in the environment. There was once a commercial Flax fiber industry in New Zealand, mainly for rope production, but the product was considered inferior to sisal or manila because it swelled when wet and wore badly(1), still it will survive considerable exposure to water as evidenced by the fact that Maori made fishing nets 1000 meters long out of it. I used to tie stakes for plants with strips of flax torn straight from the plant, they lasted many months outside.

But perhaps this somewhat inferior quality is what we want with disposable bags, people could put them in compost or use directly as mulch in the garden. Probably paper bags reinforced with flax fiber for strength would be best. 

Flax can be grown in a wide range of conditions that might not be good for much else , Phormium cookianum grows on vertical coastal cliffs. 

There are probably a number of other "second-rate" fiber crops that would also decompose quickly. 

1. Encylopaedia of New Zealand Vol 1. 1966. pp 704-705

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saffron grown on roof in wet temperate climate

Saffron flowering on a rooftop in Wellington, New Zealand.

I tried growing Saffron (Crocus sativus) on my roof after attempts to grow it in the ground and on a window sill failed (it grew fine but did not flower as is normal in areas with "poor summers" (1)). I thought putting it on the corrugated iron roof might work because the plant likes hot, dry conditions.

There would be a limit to how many heat loving plants one could put on a roof as they would prevent the corrugated iron roof from heating up by shading it, but exactly what that limit would be I don't know at this stage.

 Ref 1. Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses. Deni Bown 1995 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tomato fruiting (a bit) with little sunlight indoors

I was surprised this Tomato plant (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)  produced fruit that ripened in a mostly shady spot beside a window that only receives around two hours direct sunlight in late afternoon, there are also a lot of Passion Fruit vines growing outside over the window reducing light further.

However the plant only produced two fruit (of a small "cherry" variety). By contrast with plants beside more sunny windows the number was 10-15. I assume the plant has the genetic ability to recognize low light levels and produce less fruit accordingly.

Perhaps rotating hanging baskets between windows with good sunlight and those with little could be a way of maximizing yields.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Department of Conservation Greenwashing for Toyota?

The Department of Conservation and Toyota are joining forces to promote conservation to children. This seems like greenwashing to me, rather disturbing since, like fast food giants, they're targeting the most easily manipulated group in society. It will also help adults addicted to the power of cars feel less guilty or even self-righteous as they drive, thinking somehow driving is actually helping the biosphere.

Conspicuous, expensive and supposedly pristine reserves of pure protected natives can easily become components of the system destroying the planet (generally, not just for the transportation industry) by seeming to excuse or make up for it.

The general premise of this blog is that without cutting down on transport addiction by maximizing homestead and local self-reliance, saving "pristine" areas of  natural "purity" is utterly pointless because the reserves will ultimately be destroyed by the system they justify. Similarly if we cut down on car addiction through local and homestead self-reliance humans won''t go extinct, so car companies will also survive so we will be able to drive around for much longer, perhaps many thousands of years, just generally less often and shorter distances.

I don't see anything wrong with Toyota specifically compared with the rest of the car or other industries, it's possible they sincerely have the best of intentions and are doing their best, I wouldn't know.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Karaka Berry Flesh Makes a Pungent Dip or Topping

I find the fried orange flesh of the berry of Karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus)  makes a very pungent dip or pizza topping resembling a strong cheese, a real kick to it with what I find to be an almost "rude" quality also like that of strong cheese. Also the consistency is somewhat like cheese, not that I believe in one food pretending to be another, it never works, like a person trying to be someone else.

I collect berries from the foot path and gutter below trees in the suburbs, then wash them obviously. I try to select berries that have not started to ferment/rot but by the time I have prepared them this process has invariably begun to an extent. I assume this at least partly accounts for their powerful flavor, I also assume if they have just started to ferment or decay they are still safe to eat but have no expertise in this area, I noticed no odd effects at all after eating it several times.

I should probably mention here most people know the kernels or"seeds"of the berries are extremely poisonous unless properly prepared, even in historical times when they were a major food of Maori there were occasional poisonings, possibly from prepared kernels although this does not seem to be clear. As far as I can gather they are rarely used as food today. 

There has recently been some fascinating scientific research into methods of elimination of multiple toxins from kernels. It concluded no single method tried was sufficient for reduction to completely safe levels, suggesting further investigation into multiple approaches. At this stage science does not seem to offer a guaranteed safe way of preparing the kernel but it is hopefully edging closer. Seems a little ironic in modern times we don't know how to safely prepare what was once a staple in this country.  This study also notes some toxins were detected in the flesh of the berry, presumably at safe levels since there's never been a report of poisoning. (See : MacAskill, J. J. (2013). Quantification of Nitro-toxins in Karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) Drupes (Thesis, Master of Science (MSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. )

Friday, March 10, 2017

Driverless and 'clean" car thoughts

Power is addictive, driverless cars will be more powerful. As the great social thinker Ivan Illich put it, people have tried to replace human slaves with technological ones and ended up being enslaved by their power, which is a little sad as people don't need slaves, just a little help.

In my view the most important recent scientific progress that relates to cars has been progress in the science of self-regulation or self-control. It's the addiction to the great power of cars that needs to be addressed in my view, if this can be addressed cars will not need to be "improved". The irrationality, even evil, of driving around in lengthy circles, along the same routes day after day for years using a finite destructive resource, at crippling cost, displays all the symptoms of chronic addiction. Especially when we'd be freer, happier and healthier if work, food supplies and home were all mostly in the same place. 

If work, food and home were mostly in the same place, which I'm trying to research in a small way with a self-reliant homestead, use of cars would be relatively rare and the impact of using fossil fuel cars would probably be insignificant making clean cars unnecessary. In my view trying to find a clean car that can do what what a petroleum one can do is like trying to find an alcoholic drink without any harmful or addictive qualities, there's no such thing, but you can drink, or drive, moderately and reasonably responsibly with a little self-control.

In addition I think it needs to be argued that it is highly narcissistic, not virtuous progress, to try to acquire ever more godlike power through technology, not only to have a car but a car that drives at your command. The narcissism of our age has been addressed by many of the same psychologists working on self-control. Narcissism and reduced self-control, such as addictions, often go together, possibly because we loose the ability to think critically about our impulses. 

Rather than a narcissistic addiction to power, perhaps we need a humble pursuit of genuine autonomy... or at least the happy medium and/or balance between these two extremes.