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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holiday time!

September has been a very slow month for me on the blog mainly because of some work going on at my home. Even though it involved only a "little" woodwork and painting of the interiors - it seems to have evolved into this large exercise with me learning a lot about the nitty-gritties of carpentry/woodwork/polishing/painting :). And thanks to this, I hardly spend any time online, or have the enthusiasm to blog about anything except for this topic!

We started with grand ideas of taking it 2 rooms at a time so we could keep the rest of the house free and usable, but when there are 3 separate gangs of workmen - carpenters, polishers, painters - one of them would have finished the given 2 rooms and moved on to the next lot, while the others would have just started on the aforementioned 2 rooms - and where does that leave all of us? Scrounging for a place to sit in our own house :(. Yes it was pretty bad especially this last week when everyone is trying to finish up and leave. Did not realize the polishing was such an elaborate and polluting exercise or would have gone for a ready-to-use option such as veneer, but that's just a learning for another time (which definitely won't be anytime soon!).

We're setting off on a holiday in a couple of days, and I have no clue how to start preparing for that with my mind still so full of the work details! Anyway I better get to it soon, otherwise it'll be time to leave and I won't have anything packed :O !! So this is bye from me until October with a more cheerful post to follow on our vacation :).

Happy Navaratri / Dussehra everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going Green!!

In years past, all the hoop-la about Green Activism has not always inspired me to go out of my way to join the bandwagon. In fact the holier-than-thou attitude displayed by some used to only put my back up and not feel like making any effort at all! Along the way, we tried to do our little bit by installing solar heaters when we built our house, setting up an elaborate rain water harvesting mechanism, and trying to maintain a small garden and potted plants wherever possible(for which the rainwater helps nearly 7-8 months of the year!). We have also always tried to get our children to follow the rules of saving electricity and water (which of course usually consists of -"Oh why have you left that light on again?" and going and switching it off ourselves :)!). But most of this stuff was not "going green" for the sake of it, it just seemed appropriate and fit into the scheme of things at that point of time!

Switch to the Present: It was World Kitchen Garden Day on Aug 28th(Sunday) and our local enthusiasts had organized an event aptly called "Oota from your Thota" (Food from your garden) at BTM Layout. The venue was very close to where I stay and I thought this was definitely a time to get past the excuses and sow the seeds for my kitchen garden! I managed to get my hands on a few saplings, and also picked up some packets of seeds to get into full steam once I have my terrace in shape. I am starting with Tomato, Brinjal and a wonderful Beans plant which already has some flowers/beans sprouting from it!

The tomato and brinjal have now been transplanted to bigger pots and are doing pretty well (read: I haven't managed to kill them yet!).
The other life-changer at this event was the presence of Daily Dump which is an organization I've been following for a very long time on Facebook and on their site. It was a bit daunting to get into the big bad world of composting, but when I actually connected with them, and heard about the process more in detail, my enthusiasm kicked in completely. I gave them my details as they didn't have any more of their Khambhas(pic below) left over.
Kudos to them for promptly following up the next day and delivering the apparatus by Monday evening itself - so I'm now 2 weeks into home composting and completely loving how empowered I feel about lessening my home waste going to the landfills and clogging our environment. I would love to contribute more to this cause and thought I should start right here on my blog :). I'm definitely no big expert on this process so no point in posting any big dos/donts - you can find most information on their site in detail, but I felt that I  should try to dispel some of the big fears most people (including me) have about composting which daunts us from starting out on it.
  1. Composting is a smelly affair: No, not at all! This was definitely a big question for me as I'm paranoid about stuff like tying up wet waste before disposal so it doesn't smell the next day. It depends on the composition of your waste to an extent, but you can initially keep out cooked or non-vegetarian food and start with vegetable waste to see how it goes before starting to add all your wet waste to your compost. My experience has been that if you stir it often enough so it has adequate air, the smell is not very annoying at all. You can also spray organic lemon sprays or homemade concoctions if you feel the smell is too strong for you, but I have not got to this stage yet and I have started putting cooked waste in my composter already. Moreover the Khambhas as provided by Daily Dump are closed units so not like an open Compost pile which may be more difficult to maintain.
  2. Composting takes up a lot of your time: Again, you would be surprized at how little time it takes. It is adequate to stir the pile once in 3 days, so on other days you would hardly take a minute to dump in your waste and close the lid. Even on days when you stir the pile it would only take about 5 minutes. On some days you can expect some maintenance activities like moving half-done compost to a separate pot which would take a bit more time - but these are once in a month activities. Of course to get to the stage where the waste turns into compost takes 2-3 months, but daily maintenance is more to do with intent than making time!
  3. Composting needs a lot of tools/apparatus: Jump across to the Daily Dump website - the main thing is the Khambha that is the set of 3 pots, which you would just place somewhere and not be handling all that much afterwards. Other than that you just need something to stir the pile, you can even use gloves and stir with your hands if not too queasy - I enjoy doing that as it's the best way to really stir it well :). A couple of additives like an accelerator to help the composting process, neem powder to contain insects and maggots - these are once in a week items and not necessary for daily use. And that's all - you're set!
It's a great way to add your small contribution, and if you have plants or a garden at home you get wonderful compost that you can use instead of looking around for organic/non-chemical stuff. So yes, I'm apparently turning into one of "those" Green holier-than-thou-ers now, and weirdly enough - it feels GREAT !!! :) Watch out - I might be telling you next about how to recycle/reuse your kitchen vessel washing water ;).

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Ugly Duckling

We picked up this book at a shop recently - D saw it and asked for it and I usually don't say no to buying books :). D read through it a couple of times and then it's joined the piles of her other books to be read again when she suddenly remembers it. S on the other hand was fascinated by it, and made me read it again and again (and yet again :)), and everytime I read this book I was sent off on this trail of thought.

This was such a common book/story when we were growing up - I am sure nearly every child would have read it or heard it at one time or the other. And neither we nor our parents saw any major connotations to it. But as a parent of today, I saw hidden meanings in every page, kept wondering if it was appropriate, kept thinking about the impressions it creates -  First of all the title itself has the word "Ugly" which we would tell our children is a no-no to use in front of other people. In the copy I had, every time they referred to the duckling, they didn't forget to use the prefix too - The ugly duckling did this, the ugly duckling did that! The duckling is not liked by anyone as long as it is ugly. Once it transforms into a swan, it immediately finds happiness with others like itself. Isn't this giving the impression that only beautiful people get their due?

I have decided that I am over-thinking it and have consigned these thoughts to the back of my mind, but it was still so irritating to me. Why have we managed to make even one of the simplest and most relaxing aspects of parenting like reading a bedtime story into such a complicated exercise?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Then and Now

I seem to have missed a Thursday Challenge theme of "Blue" so just posting it anyway :)