Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Getting Clucky about Chooks

Shock! Horror! I’ve just found out that the eggs I have been buying as “free range” aren’t nearly as chook friendly or as wholesome as I thought, even though I have been paying more for them.

Not all "free range" eggs are equal

Thanks to the efforts of consumer advocacy group Choice, the Greens and others, Australia passed legislation last year which has just come into effect in time for Easter. It requires that the stocking density of chickens must be shown on egg cartons. This was necessary as it was found that many egg producers were trading on the public interest in healthier and more humanely produced food and the fact that consumers had shown themselves willing to pay a little more for eggs labelled “free range” though these were often produced under less than ideal conditions. 

It turns out that even the eggs in the box with the pretty picture were not produced according to the  recommended standard

While “free range” conjures up images of chooks pecking and scratching in green grass with fresh air and sunshine and a choice of desirable bugs, this is not necessarily the case with those with high stocking densities. The new laws unfortunately still permit poultry farms with stocking densities up to 10, 000 birds per hectare to use the "free range" label, far higher than the 2,500 birds allowed by the EU, or the 1,500 birds per hectare recommended by the CSIRO and the RSPCA, though I suppose we should be grateful that at least those chooks now have some access to the outside and are not spending their entire short, miserable lives in cages in which they can’t even turn around. If this is of concern to you and you wish to do or learn more about it,  go to the Choice website where egg producers are rated and listed by state. If you have a smartphone you can also download their CluckAR  App to point at egg cartons in the shops to see how each brand rates. 

The fantasy -what we imagine when we hear the words "Free Range"*

So much for the eggs we can buy and choose ourselves. What about those eggs which are used in restaurants and the cooked and baked goods we buy? Well, some restaurants and caf├ęs are already on it. Even the hole -in -the -wall Sushi place I sometimes go to in town has a little sign out over the egg -roll ones. Expect others to follow suit. When more and more places look the same and offer what appears to be the same product, it could become a selling point and at least one point of difference.
Small sign seen at a local Sushi establishment is a sign of things to come - but how free range remains to be seen

*Thanks to Freeranger farms for letting me use their lovely chook photos. Their site also has much  more information on this topic

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Yarn about Yarnstorming,* and Guerrilla Knitting

Lovely Legs - the Guerilla Knitters strike again!

While we were enjoying our morning tea on Friday and looking across at the former Christmas tree, I remembered that in its last incarnation, Hobart’s Guerrilla Knitters had covered it in knitted stars and hearts. Obviously they were still going because a tree on the way to the Square had also been kitted out in vibrant colours and I had seen the same thing in Geeveston recently.  It’s not just a Tasmanian phenomenon either. There are excellent examples of what can only be termed yarn sculpture in Guilford in Western Australia and also in Hurstbridge, Victoria, where a full steam train has been created on a fence at the Station in memory of the days when apple orchards were the reason for its existence. For more amazing examples of yarn art see Wiki , Pinterest or some of Lori Zimmer's collection.

The Guerrilla Knitters have been busy in Geeveston too

Not surprisingly Geeveston's Yarn and Craft store also boasts yarn embellishments including the sign

This had me wondering about how it started what it meant. The story goes that while there had been at least one fibre artist in Houston, Texas in the 1990s, the idea caught on in 2015 after another Houston resident Magda Sayeg, decorated the door handle of her boutique with a knitted “cosy.”  

 It was her personal revolt against what she thought was an excessive amount of steel and concrete. The result was much admired and photographed and soon spread to other parts of the USA and then Europe, and especially London where full scale community groups such as Knit the City evolved. By 2011 there was an International Yarn Bombers Day and Australia had its own “Twilight Taggers.”  Mainstream recognition soon followed with commissions and large public installations.

For many, yarn art – knitted or crocheted,  is just that –another kind of public art, or a different medium of personal expression or a novel way to “humanise and soften” impersonal public spaces. Some however, see it as a vehicle for political, social and cultural expression with mildly subversive undertones. See for example The Knitting Nannas Against Gas

Textile artist Lori Zimmer  regards it as a subtle feminist revolt against the overwhelmingly male world of Street Art and as elevating what is more usually seen as women’s work. It’s “a new message and a new art form,” says Lori.

While part of me says that the material and effort should perhaps go into crocheting hats and scarves for the homeless, I also appreciate the element of surprise which makes us look again at places we take for granted. In Maddy Costa’s words, guerrilla knitting does indeed liberate us “from the forces of drabness.” My other concern is its fragility and transience.  I fear that it will soon fade and decay like some bright flower, but at least if real wool is used it could be regarded as renewable and biodegradable.Steiner adherents would say that change and decline are valuable life lessons.

*Yes, it used be called Yarn Bombing, but according to Maddy Costa the “B” word has fallen out of favour, especially in London

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Happy Lunar New Year!

Get ready for Lion Dances and Fireworks - both designed to chase away Bad Luck

Lunar New Year began on this side of the planet yesterday on Friday the 16th but don’t despair if you missed it. The main festivities last for seven days and additional celebrations continue until the Lantern Festival on March 2.

Hobart recycles it's Christmas Tree in Salamanca Place in honour of "Chinese New Year"

Though commonly called “Chinese New Year” it is essentially a Spring festival celebrated by many countries including Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mauritius, Singapore, Taiwan and Macau, Australia and the Philippines and all those other places where migrants from these countries have made their home. In fact, it is one of the most important and widely celebrated events in the world. While each country has its own variation, common to all is the desire to spend time with family and friends which causes huge traffic jams in those countries, especially in China. It is also about remembering ancestors, the thorough cleaning of homes to remove misfortune, and the eating of traditional foods – dumplings or rice cakes being especially favoured, and to reward a year of hard work.

In Korea and China at least, the latter takes the form of an eagerly awaited red envelope containing  money. In Korea it is also the time for playing traditional games such as Yut No Ri which is a gambling game. Fortune telling is also popular. For more on the various customs click here.

Yut No Ri - a traditional gambling game played by the Koreans on Lunar New Year

So what does the Year of The Earth Dog hold? According to an upcoming program at Curtain University the dog is characterised by" loyalty and generosity and an idealistic energy," and the signs point to financial success, but this must be tempered by social awareness  and ethical consideration.
In other words, according to KarmaWeather.com, fortune will flow to those “who choose honesty and fairness in their dealings." There is also considerable emphasis on reducing pollution and improving the quality of life due to the earth element. All noble aims, whether you believe in fortune telling or not.  


In Hobart the Lunar New Year will be marked by Lion Dances for luck, calligraphy displays, dragon dances, firecrackers and cultural displays  and most of them will occur on Sunday the 18th. Check out the full program here.

For all those going home to celebrate with their families we wish you safe travels and a prosperous, happy and healthy New Year. Welcome to the Year of the Dog!