Olive Pickin’ Season

May 7, 2012 § 5 Comments

The Breakfast of Champion Olive Pickers – Fresh Eggs from the Chook Pen.

Dear Melbourne,

Thank you for keeping all the things I love about you in storage and wrapped up in shredded newspaper while I was away. It has been quite nice slowly unwrapping comfortable friendships, new and old bicycle routes, forgotten scotch ales, laps in the Fitzroy pool and exciting projects around every corner.

You haven’t changed much (except that skinny jeans are now multi-coloured) but I think perhaps I have. You see, the thing I’ve enjoyed most since returning to you is leaving you again – sailing at Western Beach, laughing at Laughing Creek, and olive picking this weekend at Granite Springs. I guess the thing you’ve got going for you is that you’ve got these things at your doorstep – just a hop and skip away by automobile. I’m just not so sure I should be living on a doorstep. There’s too many people milling about and it’s just a bit too concretey, not to mention the chilly breeze that seems to keep blowing through. Don’t panic! I haven’t made any drastic decisions yet, I just thought you should know what I was thinking.

Olive picking this weekend up in Faraday was really delightful though. I’ve enclosed some photos for you to have a look. Perhaps I could convince parts of you to move away with me and we could plant our own olive grove somewhere – away from the doorstep.

The olives in and around your streets are probably ripening up nicely. It’ll be time soon for a cheeky pedal harvest by bicycle me thinks, before the city Rosellas get ’em all!

Yours Sincerely – me.




Bee the Change

February 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

A Guest Post by Robin Dua from Yayasan Tri Hita Karana (THK) in Ubud, Bali. Follow her and the great work they do at THK on Twitter (@KeepBaliGreen).

A Limpa (Kidney) Bee – a native to Bali.

Start the Balinese new year with a buzz and do something positive for the island’s farmers, market gardeners and fruitgrowers by taking part in Yayasan Tri Hita Karana Bali’s first ever beekeeping workshop.

With a lifelong involvement in beekeeping, Pak Panca is not only an expert but a passionate advocate for the island’s wild bee population. He was the inaugural winner of Indonesia’s best beekeeping title in 1998.

Yayasan founder Chakra Widia says that beekeeping is a way to make a positive contribution to preserving the island’s unique ecosystem, as well as helping those who grow vegetables, fruit or flowers here.

“Bees are one of nature’s most productive pollinators and can have a dramatic beneficial effect on yields in terms of seed yield and fruit yield in many crops,” he says.

“And best of all you get the honey! In fact, we’d say beekeeping is a honey of a hobby.”

Pak Panca has bees nesting everywhere at his place in the Gianyar regency.

Pak Panca will show participants how to locate the queen in the colony and move the bees from the temple into a bee box.

Where to place bee boxes to attract bees, moving the bees to new food sources, and identifying and dealing with predators are other features of the course.

And of course there’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – the honey. Pak Panca will demonstrate how to harvest honey and how much to take from a colony so that enough food remains to sustain the bees and their lavae.

He’ll also demonstrate his beesting “treatment” to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Assisting Pak Panca will be THK’s medicinal herb expert, Pak Tri, who will lead a workshop session on the medicinal qualities of honey and the importance of pollination for medicinal herbs.

There will be an overview of the world’s vanishing bee population and Bali’s situation in that context.

Pak Chakra hopes that the workshop will be a springboard for helping to expand the knowledge base of bees and beekeeping in Bali and provide a network of sentinels to warn of any changes in the island’s bee population.

on seacountry

January 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

An online exhibition by Michelle Quach a.k.a Misho Soup: CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

Hi Mum!

January 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

This post is for my mum, who just learnt (over the phone, with considerable perseverance on both our parts) how to use a computer to access my blog. In the end, she complained that there weren’t enough photos of me, so here are a few of me in various places around Lombok:

A model is born.

December 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

I thought GoogleSketchUp was pretty cool once, but that was before I discovered the power of superglue and satay sticks, the latter being so abundant and cheap in this land of satay.

Below are some photos from the various gestation stages of a scale model of the perfect tropical bamboo composting toilet (designed by Yayasan Tri Hita Karana) that I have made to give villagers in Lombok a better idea of this technology which has not been seen before on the island.

We will use these scale models in a workshop to explain to builders how you go about building these toilets cheaply and effectively and the benefits they hold over a conventional pour flush toilet.

It kind of looks like one of Shaun Tan’s wonderful imaginary creatures.

Delicious Rainwater

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Opening the first flush diverter which keeps dirty water out of the tanks.

Access to clean drinking water is scarce in the rural regions of Lombok. In the low-lying coastal regions, the groundwater is usually brackish or contaminated by pollutants from activities such as gold mining. Up in the hills, water is also scarce, especially during the dry season because the water table is extremely low and unable to be accessed through wells. Villagers who live up in the hills need to travel a long way on rough roads to get fresh water. Sometimes kids skip school to help their families carry water. Rivers and creeks are used as latrines due to the lack of improved sanitation. These places are also usually contaminated with household rubbish.

Most villagers must buy drinking water in plastic drums which are imported from elsewhere. Sometimes, this can amount to a significant portion of household spending. Those who cannot afford to buy in drinking water are exposed to the many health risks of contaminated water sources.

Early in 2011, Live & Learn won funding from the Japan Water Forum to begin addressing this issue. On Lombok, there is a significant wet season, so rainwater tanks are the perfect design solution. We decided to use the funding to begin building water tanks in primary schools as a pilot. We chose a public and shared community space so that these tanks could serve as a showcase example of what can be done on a household level as well.

A builder finishing the floor inside one of the tanks.

  We chose five schools in two areas in Lombok where we are already running a sanitation marketing project – Kedaro and Gili Asahan. In total, the 5 schools amount to approximately 1000 students and teachers. All of the schools have no access to drinking water and most don’t even have access to any water to flush their toilets with. In Indonesia students attend school from 7 am ’til Midday, six days a week. That is a long time to go without a drink, especially in this weather.

Kids pitching in to mix cement.

To build the tanks we are employing local experts to train local builders to do the job. The funding allows Live & Learn to pay the builders for their work as well as expanding their skill set. The school communities are involved in every step of the process from initial planning, to sourcing materials, to maintaining the tank after construction.

Following the completion of the tanks at each school, Live & Learn staff arrive to deliver an education program called ‘Hari Hujan’ (Rainy Days). The program is delivered over two days and cover modules on how their new rainwater tank works, how to look after their tank, the importance of handwashing, soap making as well as the importance of water conservation.

Kids learning about the different parts and functions of the rainwater tank.

Rainwater tank parts and function matching game.

Kids figuring out the web of contamination that describe the risks of forgetting to wash your hands.


The education program is designed to be fun and interactive as well as tapping into other areas of their curriculum such as maths and science. During Hari Hujan, the students play games, do science experiments with soap and read stories that have a water conservation message just to name a few activities.

Opan teaching the kids about rainfall patterns and the importance of conserving water.

Experimenting with a simple home-made rain gauge.

In order to ensure that the students feel pride and ownership over the rainwater tanks – the classes vote for several student teams to be in charge of rainwater tanks maintenance, soap making and water the school garden with greywater generated from handwashing. Each team member proudly receives a badge to wear.

Student Teams

Instead of encouraging the use of chemicals, the program teaches the kids how to make soap from a tree called the Soap Nut Tree, which is native to Asia. The ‘nuts’ from this tree contain natural anti-bacterial properties. During the course of Hari Hujan, Live and Learn also provide the school with soap nut tree seedlings which the kids plant and look after in the school garden. In the years to come, students will be able to continue to make their own soap for handwashing.

Planting a soap nut tree seedling in the school yard.

Students making soap from soap nuts.

So far, Live & Learn have facilitated the installation of rainwater tanks and delivered the Hari Hujan education program at 2 out of 5 schools. We are continuing to work hard to complete the rest of the program my early next year.

Delicious rainwater.

Crew off a Pelican’s Back

November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Office daydreams jostle for space in my mind.

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