Learning to love Perth’s lakes and wetlands

If you fly into Perth at sunset (& have a window seat on the left hand side!) the beauty of the Swan and Canning Rivers, and the glistening Indian Ocean is absolutely mesmerising.

One time I flew in though, it wasn’t the big rivers or the ocean that really stood out to me, but the string of lakes and wetlands dotted along parallel to the coast. The water bodies formed a glistening chain which, while I knew about in theory (vaguely), I had never truly appreciated.

Of course I knew about many of these lakes and wetlands in isolation, and had walked and ridden around a few, but the connection and relationships, their environmental and cultural history and values, were something I wanted to know more about.

In my research I’ve probably learned a lot that I should have already known – but that just makes me think that there are probably lots of Western Australians – even environmental and sustainably minded ones – that don’t really understand this aspect of Perth’s natural environment.

So, apparently, of the extensive system of lakes, waterways and wetlands that used to exist both permanently and seasonally along the Swan Coastal Plain, the vast majority have been ‘severely degraded or destroyed’ and  reclaimed for housing, or market gardens (remember those?), parks etc.

While it was reasonably straightforward finding out about the lakes south of Herdsman Lake (hello wikipedia – the map below is attributed in a bunch of places to John Septimus Roe, WA’s first Surveyor-General…), which includes Lake Monger, Herdsman Lake and Hyde Park lakes, it was tricky to find the connection between the northern lakes – Lake Gwelup, Carine Lakes, Star Swamp and the Yellagonga Regional Park lakes.

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“Great Lakes” Source: Wikipedia

Then I discovered (drumroll) Jenny Arnold’s Wetlands Resource Book (1990) – less groovily known as Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Bulletin 266. In this amazing book, there is this map –

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Map of Perth’s wetlands Source: Jenny Arnold’s Wetlands Resource Book

Now I feel well prepared to research and visit (& maybe even slightly understand) Perth’s lakes and wetlands, armed with Jenny Arnold’s Wetlands Resource Book.

Starting close to home, I walked the dog around Carine Open Space yesterday (okay, which I do almost every day), which includes “Big Carine Swamp” and “Small Carine Swamp” (sometimes known as – wait for it – “Little Carine Swamp”).

Of course, I will write more at some point about my most local of Perth’s lakes and wetlands, but for now, here are some pics….

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Small Carine Swamp

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Small Carine Swamp looking west

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Grass trees in the Bushland Reserve, Carine Open Space

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Carine Open Space

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Walk trail, Bushland Reserve, Carine Open Space

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Big Carine Swamp

 

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Big Carine Swamp

Next stop – Yellagonga Regional Park, which includes Lake Joondalup, Beenyup Swamp, Walluburnup Swamp and Lake Goollelal.

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Gas competition in WA and saving $ – Kleenheat vs Alinta

If you are in Western Australia there is now competition in the domestic gas retail market.

By moving from Alinta, then to Kleenheat and now back to Alinta, I am apparently going to save $210 over two years. Kleenheat has just rung me again to try to get me back, but we seemed to have reached a zero sum game.

I am usually pretty obsessive about electricity use, tariffs and competition (or lack thereof) and find it fascinating, but have never given my gas use and bills a lot of thought mostly because I don’t use much gas.

(Admittedly, having a day off sick in bed made it easier to attend to this administravia – otherwise I’m not sure I would have bothered).

I have been fascinated to see the effort and money that Alinta and Kleenheat have been putting into customer recruitment and retention. In the Victorian electricity market, one of the main costs of retailers is managing ‘customer churn’ – i.e. recruiting and retaining customers – all those people calling costs money and those costs will be recovered via the bills eventually…

Anyway, in case you are interested, here is the process of saving money and switching providers:

1) Unless you have already switched providers your home gas account with be with Alinta.

2) If you go directly to the Kleenheat website you can automatically get a 10% per bill discount for 2 years just by switching, however, if you can find a code you can get an additional $50 off the first bill. I happened to be looking for solar panels at the same time and found that Infinite Energy had a link through to Kleenheat that would auto populate the code. I had already switched but Kleenheat honoured the code when I emailed them.

So, Kleenheat offered the $50 off then 10% off each bill for 2 years. If I could recruit someone then Kleenheat would give me 20% off each bill for 2 years, and my friend 10% off. I’m not usually one to recruit mates to schemes but I actually think this is a good deal, so I duly recruited the friend.

3) I had some credit with Alinta so rang them to see how I could redeem the credit. They asked if they could talk to me about retaining me as a customer. As I have no loyalty to either company, I thought ‘why not?’.

Alinta offered me $60 off the next bill and $15 off each bill for 2 years.

I get 5 bills per year, 3 of which are about $30-50 and 2 of which are around $120 – $150 (in winter, when the heater is going).

Alinta savings = 10 bills over 2 years x $15 ($150) + $60 = $210.

Kleenheat savings = 6 bills over 2 years x (20% x $40) = $48 + 4 bills x (20% x $130) = $104 + $50 = $202.

Okay, so there’s not much in it, and if I end up with higher bills then the Kleenheat offer would have been better, if I end up with lower bills then Alinta is better.  My friend can also get this deal from Alinta, so there’s no downside that I can see either (yet).

If your bills are generally higher and you can get the 20% + $50 then the Kleenheat offer seems to be a better deal – but you may be able to negotiate more if you are a higher value customer.

To bring this post somehow around to a sustainable theme – don’t forget that the best way to save money on (& reduce greenhouse gas emissions from) gas is not to use it (well, to a certain extent, the supply charge is almost 20 cents a day even if you use nothing).

Coming soon: Buying solar panels – I finally have (or am in the process), and it is complex – even for someone who works in the electricity sector!

 

 

 


Back on (the) Track

It’s been a loooong time between posts – but, when the renewal notice came from WordPress, well, I just couldn’t give Suburban Greenie up.

Also, I had a birthday and, in thinking about things I’d really like to do more of/ do again/ keep doing (you know, the usual: yoga, travel, save, drink less), the blog thing managed to make the cut.

My friend Aurassi (Travelling Frenchies) just celebrated two years as a blogger and said that most don’t make the one year mark – no surprises here…that’s me…

If this effort is anything like jogging, watering the plants or kale smoothies it will be once again a somewhat sporadic endeavour with a few months of commitment that may seem like the Real Thing. If it’s anything like wine, Newsroom, or reading tweets from @clementine_ford, I will be posting far more often.

Newsroom – just finished Season 1 – hooked.

As (both of – just kidding) you know, the intention of the blog was about staying in touch once I abandoned Facebook.

The truth is, I MISS my Facebook friends. I’m so crap at staying in touch by email or phone (or letter!) and I miss keeping up with peoples’ adventures (there is other stuff I don’t miss of course). But I can’t go back. Google+ never really grabbed me, I didn’t understand how to use Diaspora and ‘Ello is “in beta”. I try to track people down through LinkedIn, but given that LinkedIn appears to have peculiar access to who I have been emailing through my personal account (i.e. NOT the one associated with my LinkedIn account), I’m not sure that is an improvement on Facebook.

At its core Suburban Greenie is about trying to live lightly, but it is also just about staying in touch, and is therefore likely to take distracted sidetracks down other paths – like how rubbish it is to be getting old, how frustrating it is to parent tweenagers, how scary it is that Utopia is JUST LIKE REAL LIFE.

Now I move into sad metaphor – I did, actually, get back on Track – i.e. the Bibbulmun Track – a couple of weekends ago after a long break. I managed to take us to the wrong hut (Chadoora instead of Swamp Oak i.e. North of Dwellingup instead of South), which was a 20km each way walk instead of 13km each way. I also got us lost a few times (missed Wagyls), resulting in an additional 4-5km I reckon (well, we only got lost on the first day…).

I got the worst blisters of my entire life and shuffled/ tip-toed back for the first 10km back the next day. The last 10km I did in my my thongs. OUCH!!!!. That day was also pouring with rain and freezing. BUT it was a fun (why? I don’t know, the space, the challenge, the wine-on-arrival) – I took my new man (update in subsequent post) and saw some beautiful scenery. I have a funny story and am, for now, back on track.

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Environmental Detective: The Case of the Gidgie Globes

My friend Leigh and I do a lot of walks together – sometimes with Indigo and sometimes with others. Occasionally other people organise walks or adventures and that is SUPER exciting!

On the way out to Paruna Sanctuary Leigh, Indigo and I came upon some big plastic bags filled with …um…something. At first I actually thought they were big bags of Heinekin bottles!

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Heinekin?

Being rusted-on greenies with the chip in our necks and everything, Leigh and I pulled over, to discover that the bags appeared to be filled with CFL  (compact fluorescent light)  globes of some sort. CFLs are brilliant for the environment, because they use a lot less electricity than the old incandescent light globes, but they are filled with toxic mercury and have strict conditions on their disposal. Not something to leave lying around in bags by the side of the road.

I took some pics meaning to contact the waste section of the (then) Department of Environment (DEC) (it did help that both Leigh and I worked for DEC at various times and had an idea about who to contact if you find a pile of crap lying around that you’re pretty sure shouldn’t be there).

It was a great walk, only slightly compromised by the fact that I had brought along the crazy vegan raw-food couchsurfer who could only speak to people about food-related issues. To Lisa’s friend that I left him with to talk about paleo, raw food, water that swirls the wrong way to be purified, etc while I took off: I’m sorry – I hope you are okay now.

On the way back we found yet more bags of light globes. Latent Nancy Drew/ Hardy Boys/ Scooby Doo lessons started firing up in my brain. I took a few pics of the newly discovered stash, plus a very informative photo of the nearest street sign. RAC asks for that, it’s gotta be worth something right??

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Around 8 weeks later I was busy eavesdropping on a conversation at the desk next to me at [insert not-difficult-to-identify-state-owned-electricity-utility-here]. The odd thing about this is that I usually have a preternatural ability to tune out whatever anyone around me is talking about.

My enviro officer colleague was finishing up a conversation with the environmental regulator (DEC) about something to do with – would you believe it – dumped CFL light globes.

As soon as Brooksy got off the phone (insert “we’ll call him that because that’s his name” gag here), I rounded on him for the low down on the light globes. Now, my geography is crap and, while I was walking at Paruna, and had followed a map to get there, had photographed street intersections etc, I really had no idea where I was, or had been, in relation to say, the rest of Perth, or important landmarks such as The Mechanics Institute, Aviary or Wanneroo Dan Murphy’s. Nevertheless, I retain some fundamental word recognition skills, and I could tell that some of the places he had been mentioning, were some of the places I’d been (“on that fateful day”) e.g. Gidgegannup.

I knew it was a weird thing to raise, but I mentioned that a) I had been eavesdropping and b) that I was pretty sure I had photographed the offending light globes. I produced the photographic evidence on my trusty i-phone (Maxwell Smart would be soooo jealous).

As it turned out, one of my company’s waste disposal contractors had dumped these light globes and a bunch of others when they were heading towards bankruptcy (in case you don’t know, big companies pay specialist waste disposal contractors to dispose of certain classifications of waste that are subject to regulations. In the case of hazardous waste, disposal can be costly). We hadn’t found the globes that DEC had found, but additional ones, dumped by the same contractor.

Weird as it was, DEC ended up needing my (personal life) bushwalking photos to pursue my (professional life) company’s waste disposal contractors. They also needed my Nancy-Drew-meets-RAC street sign pics to find the globes we had found. I felt like the school kid that got the Deputy Sheriff’s badge (:

I didn’t know it then, but Environmental Detective was born.

Stay tuned!

Next week: “Bogan Marron Fishers”.

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Looking after stuff

When I started volunteering at the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1998, I was very excited one afternoon to give a lift to a legend of the Anti-Nuclear movement, Dave Sweeney.

I got to my car, a 1964 Holden EH and wiped a big bird poop on the roof, so the soft Roebuck Pearl paint didn’t get damaged.

I then apologised for being so precious.

“Nah mate, ya gotta look after your stuff”, he said.

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While I haven’t always looked after my stuff as well as I should have, it has always stuck with me that looking after your stuff doesn’t mean that you’re a grasping capitalist, but that you, well, have respect for your stuff, and don’t want to waste it or have to replace it.

One of the most useful books I have ever read was “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel.  By now it’s an oldie, but it’s definitely a goodie. Well, years ago a friend gave me another book by the same author called “Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich”. I didn’t read it until recently when I realised for a single woman with a child in her mid-forties and a massive mortgage “rich” just means “potentially not facing old age in poverty”.

Mistake 17: Not Attending to Your Existing Material Assets. Well, even though I service the car when it needs it, I could guarantee that the ratio of time I spend thinking about new stuff I want to time I spend looking after stuff I already have would be…hmmm, about 200 million to 1.

Some of her quotes could have been written for me specifically: “and we don’t call the guy to repair the sprinklers until the lawn and shrubbery are dead and need replacing”.

The key is this though, “We often don’t even think about the things we’ve acquired as assets. We take them for granted.  You’ve worked hard for your home, car and other necessities and niceties.  Consider them as part of your portfolio the same you would other investments.”

Another friend of mine really loves fixing things instead of replacing them. He totally lives the sustainability ethos. After many years of service his soldering iron gave up the ghost and when his daughters asked what he wanted for his birthday he admitted that he wouldn’t mind a new soldering iron. They surprised him on his birthday with something he appreciated even more – they got the old one fixed for him.

I thought that was very cool but then, another friend gave his (then) wife a toaster for her birthday that he had found on the side of the road and fixed, and that didn’t go down so well.

Anyhow, this week I got quotes to repair the gazebo and I spent this weekend washing windows and fly screens and cleaning skirting boards. It’s time to get the ratio of looking after the stuff I have to thinking about stuff I want into a better balance.


JOMO – the trend I have been living without even realising

Until last year I hadn’t been out on New Years Eve for over a decade. Even New Years 1999 – i.e. before children – I stayed home and had a slide night with mum and dad. I have had exactly one awesome New Years ever, and I was 17 in Bali. I think I instinctively knew that it was downhill from there and subsequent new years attempts to capture the magic were fails from epic to average.

Last year I was invited to a friends 40th. I didn’t want to go, given my preference for musing, drinking wine on my own and writing on New Years Eve, but felt I had to. It was an awesome party in theory – beautiful house, great champers, and of course, I adore my friends whose party it was, but jeez I had a lousy night! For one, I was the only single person there, so it was very reminiscent of Bridget Jones and the smug marrieds. Secondly, I was way overdressed. The invitation said “Dress to Impress” – the guys were in boardies and collared shirts, the women in sandals and floaty summer dresses – I was in the same outfit I’d worn to an Awards Night during the year with taffeta underskirts and high patent heels…hmmm. Thirdly, I missed my one chance to get a lift home and ended up sleeping on the sofa.

This year was great, low-key – fish and chips on the beach with my BFF and daughter, we looked some pics from our recent trip and later sparklers. Whatever anyone else was doing, I was ecstatic not to be doing it. Apparently I am living the new trend – Joy of Missing Out (JOMO). Here is another article about how on-trend I am: So Long, FOMO – Here’s Why 2014 Will Be Year Of The JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).

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Since my Facebook departure I have missed out on quite a few things – e.g. I had no idea the Climate Action demos were happening around the country until I read about them in the news the next day (okay, so I also unsubscribed from every email list I was on in an attempt to reign in the chaos). When the Environmental Defenders’ Offices lost their funding I didn’t find out until weeks later. It’s not like the “news” (including ABC) has a lot of the news I got from Facebook – stuff that I really cared about. But I have to say – I feel relieved! There is something great about not having to agonise about whether to go to a rally or not (my daughter HATES going to rallies so I have to arrange for my parents to have her!) because you didn’t know it was on. I feel a lot clearer headed for not knowing all the outrageous things that Abbott is up to. Not that it is a great long-term strategy to live with your head in the sand, but for the short-term it’s pretty great.

I lived in Edinburgh briefly in 1997 or so, just when the internet was taking off, but you still had to track down an internet café somewhere to email etc. One guy I worked with, he was only about 23, said “I feel like I have enough information, I don’t know that I want so much information.” I thought he was a bit of a crazy, hippy, Luddite but he may have been onto something.

While I’ve been Missing Out, I’ve been super busy at work (clear head needed), backed up photos (long overdue), cleaned up and organised the study, found the bar stools I’ve been looking for yonks and survived a budget-constrained Christmas.  I feel pretty joyous about this – finally I’m on trend and loving it!

Happy New Year!

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Simplify, simplify me…

Not sure why the old INXS tune, Mystify kept popping into my head as I thought about this post.

I’m sure it wasn’t just Facebook, but for a while there the day-to-day crazy just seemed to be making me more and more frazzled, annoyed and like the wheels were falling off the whole damn caravan.

Once I’d ditched Facebook, well, it actually did seem like I had more time – time to notice all the other things that were sucking my time and giving me the irrits for no positive returns.

I’ve done a couple of extra reduce-the-crazy things which are also going some way to make the time I need to do OTHER reduce-the-crazy stuff, such as swim and sort out photos, organise people to quote for things that should have been done ages ago, and argue with Qantas and others like them.

Slaying the dishes beast

So, I had this idea that I didn’t WANT my crockery to be all matching and tedious – I wanted quirky! As a result, I had a random bunch of crappy bowls, plates and mugs. Not that this was the quirky I wanted, but while I waited for ‘cool quirky’ to accumulate I didn’t buy anything that matched, or would remotely stack in a drying rack in any useful way. We are talking the Mothers Day mugs reluctantly but loyally stored and used, Christmas gifts (really, a bowl and a mug set), my Nar’s side plates, huge Chinese store noodle bowls, Maxwell and Williams bits & pieces, the heavy bottomed old-fashioned glasses Giles stole from wherever he was working at the time because mine just would not do for Tanqueray Gin with lime – you get the idea. Not only was it all totally random but there was LOADS of it.

As a consequence of having loads of random crockery crap, there was always loads of random crockery crap washing up sitting in the sink or on the bench, as we would use everything before washing any of it!!

One day, something about the inability to stack, organise etc, and the fact that we seemed to use everything before I bothered stacking the dishwasher made me blow a fuse and – go to IKEA! Really!!

Indigo and I bought 6 matching small plates, big plates, mugs and bowls. Then I came home and packed up every single other crazy bit of crockery – except the Chinese store noodle mega-bowls, and put them in boxes in the shed. THEN I put only TWO of everything in the cupboards we actually use and put the other four away. Not too far away – I can get them out easily when people are over, but enough of a hassle to make it easier to wash the bowl/ plate/ mug in the sink or on the sideboard in preference to getting a clean one out.

I’m sure you will agree that this photo of my kitchen drawer is a fascinating representation of the resolution of inner conflict in modern life:

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Verdict: SO MUCH BETTER!!! The whole kitchen crazy is more or less under control – cutlery is next.

Slaying the grocery beast

I can go to the shop at 9am and not be able to decide or think about what I might want for dinner that evening and so be unable to shop for dinner – and end up back at the shop in the afternoon.

Honestly, until recently I went to our nearby shop every single day. It drove me nuts, but I just didn’t seem to be able to stock up, plan, or generally get my shizz together.

I had been meaning to get into the grocery delivery thing, but my gorgeous girlfriend in France and her organic, south-of-France lifestyle made me think “when we get home, organic grocery deliveries are finally going to happen” – and they have! Aussie Farmers Direct happened to send a door-to-door sales person around at just the right time. Man, what a difference! I am now only at the shop once or twice a week at the most, buying the protein (i.e. fish & meat) and any random loo roll, wash cloth type things we need.

I have loved having to use what we get – though jeez I did get a bit sick of cabbage (fortunately I like the cabbage and leek recipe in the River Cottage cookbook!), and I’m spending heaps less money on spontaneous must-haves, such as asparagus, mangoes and avocados. (This is not to say that these things have no place in weekly shopping, but when your local shop is as expensive as mine is, these items add up quickly!)

 

Verdict: Awesome time saver and brain saver.

Next steps in the Simplify Me Plan:

  • Finally retire the remains of mum and dad’s 1970s (very cool) cutlery set and all the odds and ends from every house I’ve lived in
  • Reduce morning clothing decisions through purchasing some new things that actually go together but aren’t black
  • Start buying wine at WA Cleanskin Cellars and getting it delivered for free – no more wasting time in bottle shops wondering why all the wine is from New Zealand and South Australia and comparing specials!

I love #2 on this list of how Barack Obama gets things done – Limit Decision Fatigue. I really want to stop faffing around deciding really inane things – sometimes it’s okay to spend ages thinking about what to wear to work or take for lunch – but not every day!


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