Thursday, May 27, 2010

Antipodean Thanksgiving

Having lived in Australia my whole life (apart from a handful of weeks spent elsewhere), I feel that I've had a surprising amount of exposure to the cultural phenomenon of American Thanksgiving - almost all of it via Hollywood.

Being an incurable sweet-tooth, the thing that always caught my eye on the Thanksgiving table was pumpkin pie. Imagine that: pumpkin for dessert! (Yet another perfectly healthy vegetable corrupted by sugar! I like that concept a lot).

So this year, on the fourth Thursday in May (i.e. six months before ... or is it six months after Thanksgiving in the USA?) I decided to have a little antipodean Thanksgiving celebration - with pumpkin pie, naturally:

My pumpkin pie didn't look as pretty as the one in my cookbook, and it tasted disturbingly like hot cross buns. Not that there's anything wrong with hot cross buns, mind you - it's just that I expected something different. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, hot cross buns and pumpkin pie are both, in essence, excuses for adding large amounts of sugar and spice to a starchy base.

My verdict? The pumpkin pie was very nice, and I'm pleased to have finally tried it. But I've decided I prefer my pumpkin roasted, or turned into soup or gnocchi. Mm-mmm.

Incidentally, this date strikes me as rather late in autumn for a harvest festival (which is what Thanksgiving traditionally is, or was). For example, our pumpkins were harvested (due to the onset of frosts) over a month ago. The Canadian date for Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October) seems to be more in alignment with the actual harvest period. 

Aha! Now that I've spent 30 seconds Googling the history of Thanksgiving in the USA, I've learned (according to Mayflower History) that:
"The Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving began at some unknown date between September 21 and November 9, most likely in very early October.  The date of Thanksgiving was probably set by Lincoln to somewhat correlate with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620 (by our modern Gregorian calendar--it was November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar)."

Note to self: I must organise a fair dinkum harvest festival next year, possibly involving the consumption of home brew, by the light of the full moon ...

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 2010: donuts, sauerkraut, mycelium, garlic

I've been trying to write a blog post about what I didn't learn at university (where I studied agricultural science). But it turns out that there is so much I didn't learn, that my post got completely out of hand, and my brain short-circuited.

So, while that post sits on the back burner until I can wrangle it into manageable instalments (or something), I thought I'd post a few tid-bits about how May 2010 is coming along so far.  

The autumn frosts keep coming, which doesn't seem to bother the chervil at all:

The comfort food also keeps coming, which is starting to take a toll on my waistline, but that's just too bad. This week I tried my hand at making donuts. They were very nice:

I feel like a strange cross between Sarah Connor and Martha Stewart. In Terminator 2, Sarah Connor can see TEOTWAWKI coming, and she responds by frantically trying to warn people. The authorities respond to Sarah's warnings by locking her up in a mental institution, where she lets off steam by doing chin-ups.

I, too, see TEOTWAWKI coming (courtesy of Peak Everything, climate change, environmental disasters, overpopulation, economic collapse, etc), and, like Sarah Connor, I've been frantically trying to warn people ... but they basically ignore me. I have to admit, being ignored is better than being locked up in a nut house, but it's still stressful, seeing the end of civilization looming, and feeling utterly powerless to do anything about it (beyond taking measures to save oneself from the worst effects of the collapse).

I can't do chin-ups (like Sarah Connor), so I let off steam by baking instead (like Martha Stewart). I find baking very meditative, and it has the added bonus of producing delicious comfort food, which makes me feel very happy (for, oh, at least 5 minutes).

Still on the food front, I decided to have a go at making sauerkraut. I've never actually tasted sauerkraut ... in fact I've never even seen sauerkraut, except in photos, so making it seemed a little bit daunting.

Everything I've read makes sauerkraut sound totally foolproof, but nevertheless I decided to follow an extra-foolproof recipe, which uses fresh yogurt whey to inoculate the cabbage with lactobacillus bacteria. (By all accounts, fresh cabbage generally brings its own lactobacillus to the party, but when it comes to microorganisms, I prefer to err on the side of caution).

My large jar of shredded, pounded, salted cabbage has had three days of fermentation on the bench now, and the mixture is expanding, as the recipe said to expect. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the finished product.

The mushroom-growing experiment I mentioned previously is coming along very nicely: we now have a fairy ring of mycelium! So far it's only a very small fairy ring, immediately surrounding one of the mushrooms I placed in a tub of compost, but from small fairy rings, big fairy rings grow. (Mycelium networks can grow to acres in size - like this one in Oregon, which has spread over more than two thousand acres. Amazing).

Here's my mycelium:

We recently planted four containers with garlic - 60 cloves in all. We planted them closer together than is normally recommended, following the general principle espoused by gardening elder John Jeavons (author of "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine"). Only time will tell if they manage to bulb up successfully, but they're coming along nicely so far:


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Life advice from a 16 year old? Thanks, but no thanks.

Australians everywhere wet their pants yesterday in excitement at the homecoming of 16 year old sailor, Jessica Watson, who (in case you've been living under a rock) has just completed a solo round-the-world voyage on a 10.4m sloop.

She was greeted in Sydney by thousands of people, including the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who called her "our newest hero".

Jessica's response to this hero's welcome focused heavily on the concept of dreams:

"I'm an ordinary girl who believed in her dream ... You don't have to be someone special to achieve something amazing. You've just got to have a dream, believe in it and work hard."

Jessica clearly had no shortage of belief fueling her dream: on top of her own, she also had the belief of her parents (who both gave up their day jobs to help her achieve her dream), as well as the belief of adventurer, Don McIntyre, who provided Jessica with her yacht, "Ella's Pink Lady".

Don McIntyre owns a 600 tonne icebreaker (complete with a helicopter) - so, for him, purchasing a life-size pink sloop for a teenage girl is probably roughly equivalent to an ordinary parent purchasing a Barbie Dream Boat for an ordinary girl. But Jessica Watson would have us believe that she, too, is "an ordinary girl". I beg to differ.

A 1-foot Barbie Dream Boat with plastic accessories?


A 34-foot sloop with state of the art communication and navigation equipment?

 (Forgive the image quality. I couldn't make it to Sydney Harbour yesterday to take a non-copyrighted photo, so I had to draw a picture instead. Unfortunately, my illustration makes Ella's Pink Lady look a bit ... ordinary).

I can't help but wonder what the dreams of Jessica's three siblings are? (She has one older sister, and a younger sister and brother). How many dreams can one family possibly accommodate, when just one of those dreams is a full time job for the dreamer's mother and father?

I don't doubt that Jessica worked very hard at realising her dream. But I think Jessica would do well to realise that she's an extraordinarily lucky young woman: lucky to have been born in an affluent country at an affluent time; lucky to have supportive parents; lucky to have the physical and mental ability to do what she dreamed of.

Not everyone is so lucky.

The day before Jessica exhorted everyone to "have a dream" and "believe in it", the body of another young woman - Nona Belomesoff - was found in a creek bed South West of Sydney. Nona was allegedly murdered by a man who knew about her dream, and took advantage of it.

According to the murdered girl's father, Nona "loved animals and saw this [meeting with her alleged murderer] as an opportunity to follow her dream. ... He said he could get her a job ... Nona said if she didn't go she would lose her job and this job was her dream. So she went, and that was the last time we saw her."

Sometimes, hard work and belief simply aren't enough to make a dream come true.  

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Extraordinary environmental campaigners" or greedy old fat cats?

What do the following men share in common:

Gerry Harvey (retail mogul)
Bob Hawke (former Prime Minister) 
Michael Jeffery (former governor-general)
Alan Jones (shock jock)
John Messara (thoroughbred breeder) and
John Singleton (advertising mogul)?

For starters, they've all got the hots for fast horses. And, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, they all helped to drive "one of Australia's most extraordinary environmental campaigns" - resulting in what is believed to be "the first time the NSW Government has rejected a mining lease after granting an exploration licence". (This means the shelving of the proposed $3.6 billion Bickham coal mine, which would have threatened the water supply of dozens of horse studs and vineyards).

The Upper House Greens' MP Lee Rhiannon says that this decision by the NSW government will "have wider significance if it is the start of a genuine shift by the Government to sustainable clean energy ... The Greens do hope that it signals a new direction ... that the Government is finally considering impacts on local communities, the natural environment and climate change implications."

Yeah, right.

The environment might well cheer the government's decision (if only it could!), but the reality is that the environment just got lucky on this occasion, because, for once, its needs happened to coincide with the desires of one of the most elite boys' clubs in Australia.

Was the government thinking about the environment while weighing up the pros and cons of this coal mine? Are you kidding? As Major Michael Jeffery pointed out in his speech at the Melbourne Cup* in 2005: "throughout Australia, racing's annual contribution to the national economy is almost $4 billion."

[* for any non-Australians who might be reading this, the Melbourne Cup is an Australian horse race known as "the race that stops a nation"].

Hmmm ... which to protect? A $3.6 billion coal mine ... or the $4 billion-a-year racing industry (which has Alan "The Parrot" Jones squawking on its behalf)? It's no surprise that the government decided to kiss the collective arse of the racing industry. Let's not pretend they've done something benevolent for the environment.

Incidentally, I'm sure it's no coincidence that the government chose to announce its decision on Scone Cup Day (which just happens to be "the richest country racing day on the national calendar").

How long will the Hunter region stay safe from open-cut coal mines? My guess is: for as long as the punters keep forking out billions of dollars every year in betting on the ponies. The horse racing industry doesn't produce anything of intrinsic value (certainly not to the tune of $4 billion per year in Australia): it is an industry built on gambling.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of the horse racing industry: spare a thought for the 70% of all thoroughbred foals born in Australia who never make it to the racetrack, and usually end their relatively short lives by being turned into dog food. (A 2008 report by the RSPCA found that 80% of the horses sent to slaughter showed signs of neglect).

Spare a thought, too, for the problem gamblers who can't truly afford the financial support they give to the horse racing industry.

When the world economy tanks, thereby forcing ordinary gamblers to stop forking out money at the betting shop, the coal industry will get whatever land it wants - because very few people in NSW are showing any signs of giving up coal-fired electricity.

We are, collectively, well on the way to getting the environment we deserve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Every spore is sacred, every spore is good ...

When I was reading about mushrooms recently I learned about spore printing, whereby you place an opened mushroom, gills down, onto a piece of paper. Over the course of about 24 hours, enough spores fall out of the mushroom to create a print. Then, if you really know your spores, you can examine them to identify the precise parent mushroom species.

I imagined that the spores would be hard to see. Not so!

We picked our latest mushroom from the garden yesterday. I placed it on a piece of paper towel to catch the spores, and 24 hours later, I had my very first mushroom spore print:

These spores will be buried in some nice moist compost and kept in a gloomy place, to see if we can get some casings growing, and, in due course, more mushies. Fingers crossed!

Reading about growing mushrooms from spores on the internet, I'm left with the distinct impression that it's practically impossible to do, without a laboratory full of experts. We shall see. It certainly makes one wonder where the mushrooms in the backyard came from. Goodness only knows how nature ever coped before men in lab coats with sterile glassware arrived on the scene!


The title of my post was, of course, inspired by Monty Python:


How Joseph Pilates saved my neck

 Me doing a Pilates "mermaid" on the sunny deck of the 
not-quite-finished strawbale cottage

Pilates in the sunshine is one of Louis's favourite things, too


When it comes to running, I'm more wombat than cheetah. I can trundle along and cover a reasonable amount of ground if I have to - but, Baby, I was not born to run.

Nevertheless, several years ago I used to go for a 3.5km jog most mornings - and all too often, by mid afternoon, I'd have a headache so bad that I had to either lie down or risk falling over.

The headache situation became ridiculous in fairly short order, so I went to the local physiotherapist and described the exact nature of my headaches to her. She listened and nodded, and told me that she was going to attempt to reproduce my headache.

Hmmmm ... OK...

She stuck her thumb into the right side of my neck just under the base of my skull, and bang! Instant headache. This came as no surprise to her - the pain I had described was being caused by muscle tension interfering with a particular nerve in my neck.

Then she got me to demonstrate my walking and jogging for her, and her immediate response was: "Gee, your legs are very different lengths, aren't they?"

What? Really? My legs are different lengths?

She measured my legs from hip to ankle, and sure enough, the right one was almost an inch shorter than the left.

You might be wondering how on Earth I could not have noticed such a large discrepancy in my legs ... but my legs have always just been my legs, and I simply have no experience of what it's like to have legs of equal length.

The physio loosened up my neck for me, gave me a few neck stretches to do, and strongly recommended Pilates. I was so impressed with her diagnosis of my problem that I figured her recommendation of Pilates was probably good advice. In fact, it was one of the best pieces of advice I think I've ever received.

Brooke Siler's amazing "Pilates Body"

I went to the nearest bookshop and was lucky enough to stumble upon Brooke Siler's excellent book: The Pilates Body - "the ultimate at-home guide to strengthening, lengthening and toning your body - without machines".

I just can't praise Siler's book too highly, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it changed my life.

Siler's book is chock-a-block with clear photographs showing each stage of each exercise. The accompanying text is detailed and precise, so it allows you to get started with Pilates in the time it takes to read the introductory chapter - with no expensive equipment or classes necessary.

Pilates - yoga for inflexible atheists?

For people who have no idea what Pilates is, I often describe it as yoga minus the spirituality. I don't have much experience with yoga, but I have found that I can't spend 5 minutes researching yoga without coming across references to "spiritual energy" and other kinds of mysticism.

Another point of difference between yoga and Pilates: I've read that, while Joseph Pilates' exercises were strongly influenced by yoga, yoga is more about stretch, while Pilates is more about strength

I enjoy thinking of Pilates as yoga for atheists - but apparently some Christians approve of Pilates because, unlike yoga, it is "spiritually neutral". Yet, they warn, "there are reasons for Christians to exercise discernment when deciding whether to participate in Pilates exercises", because some Pilates instructors "drink deep from the New Age well"(!)

On the other hand, some long-term devotees of Pilates are appalled by suggestions that Pilates lacks spirituality. According to them, "Pilates has been practically messianic in its spirit and still is for those who understand it. Joe was trying to change the world! We, his followers, were referred to as his disciples."

I'm not convinced that Joseph Pilates' "disciples" help their cause by making Pilates sound like some sort of religious cult. But even I have been tempted, on occasion, to refer to the Pilates exercise program as miraculous. In my experience, it's really that good.  

Why I love Pilates

When I first took a look at the Matwork exercises in Brooke Siler's book, I thought: "Easy."


It turned out that I couldn't do even the most basic exercises without resorting to the Siler-approved cheats (she calls them "modifications") for all the poor blobs who are too weak to hold our legs off the floor for a count of 100, or are too inflexible to circle our legs in the air without bending at the knee.

So, the exercises are challenging enough for beginners to be ... challenging. And yet they're easy enough to be achievable with just a few sessions' worth of honest effort.

And once you master a Pilates exercise, my experience is that your body retains a remarkable muscle memory of that exercise, meaning that you'll never find it as hard in the future as you found it the first time you attempted it.

I haven't dedicated a large amount of time to Pilates by any stretch of the imagination: I usually spend about 10 minutes per session, several times a week, doing the first five exercises in the Pilates Mat Program. I don't find it onerous or time consuming - on the contrary, I always feel much better for having done it.

But sometimes, I don't do Pilates for a while - and then I really notice it, because my back starts feeling like a rusty old gate when I get up in the morning. So, back to the mat I go, and the problem can usually be resolved in a couple of minutes with a quick warm-up and a "rollover" or three:

As Joseph Pilates said: "Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase". But if you're willing to invest some time and effort, the rewards can be amazing.

For proof, just take a look at Joe Pilates at the age of 82:

"In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference,
In 20 sessions, you will see the difference,
In 30 sessions, you’ll have an entirely new body"
Joseph H. Pilates

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Childless and elderly: not as terrifying as you might think

There was an extraordinary headline in the Sydney Morning Herald online today (on Mothers' Day, of all days): Anglicans argue for fewer kids.
The article says, in part:

The Anglican Church wants Australians to have fewer children and has urged the federal government to scrap the baby bonus and cut immigration levels.

The General Synod of the Anglican Church has issued a warning that current rates of population growth are unsustainable and potentially out of step with church doctrine - including the eighth commandment 'thou shall not steal'.

In a significant intervention, the Anglican Public Affairs Commission has also warned concerned Christians that remaining silent "is little different from supporting further overpopulation and ecological degradation".

Wow. You know that things are really changing when (some) Christians start viewing unbridled reproduction as a sin. A sin!

This latest Anglican advice is, sadly, in stark contrast to the Catholic advice which remains, in essence, Go forth and multiply! For example, earlier this year the president of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, declared that the true cause of the global economic crisis is the decline in the birth rate.

For the record, I'm an atheist - but I'm more than happy to join with the Anglicans in not remaining silent on the subject of overpopulation. Hence, today I've decided to explain just one of the reasons why I'm very comfortable with my decision not to have children. 

When I mention being childless by choice, one of the first questions most people ask me is: "But ... who will look after you when you're old?".

My answer is: I will look after myself, or (to paraphrase Yossarian) I'll die in the attempt.

 (Incidentally, do people really have children with their own geriatric care in mind? If so, it strikes me as ironic that childless women are so often labelled as selfish - as well as bitter, unnatural, and evil - for not having children. Go figure.)

I was sharply reminded of just how precious good health and physical independence are in 2004, when I spent 15 days in Westmead hospital as a result of shattering my right knee in a motorbike accident, and ending up with a raging infection.

The hospital bed opposite mine was occupied by a frail old lady with a broken arm, and mild dementia. Her name was Philomena. Philomena and I actually shared the same birthday, albeit 52 years apart.

As incredible as this might sound, more than once while she was in hospital, Philomena missed out on meals because there was no one to help her eat them. (Myself and my neighbour, Margaret, would gladly have fed Philomena, if only we'd been physically able to move out of our own beds -- Maragret was under traction with a broken pelvis, thanks to a moron who ran over her while she was cycling in a designated bicycle lane).

Can you imagine? A frail 81 year old lady going without food in an Australian hospital in 2004. (It is pertinent to note that Philomena had a daughter who visited her regularly - but not at meal times).

Margaret and I kicked up a stink, ensuring that, at the very least, someone woke Philomena up at meal times, removed the fiddly seals from her drinks, and cut up her food for her. But even then she ate so laboriously that she often wasn't able to finish her meal before the kitchen staff came and took her plate away.

Looking across the room at that helpless old lady, I decided to make damn sure that I'd take real steps to keep myself fit and healthy into old age. This is one of the reasons that I haul myself out of bed to walk five miles (8km), five mornings a week. (Another reason I do it is because I actually love my morning walk - but it can be hard to remember that at 6:30 on a frosty morning, when I'd much rather go back to sleep).

How to avoid falling over and breaking your arm when you're 81

Some health problems result from sheer bad luck - but, bad luck aside, most people know perfectly well how to become (or remain) relatively fit and healthy. (It's implementing the knowledge that's the hard part).  

For anyone who's hopelessly unfit, balance training can be a really good place to start. The kind of balance skills that can save you from a potentially fatal fall when you're elderly are as simple as "changing direction to walk backward or sideways, changing speed, walking on a plank and stepping over small obstacles". It's really that simple!

Maintaining high levels of bone density is another very good idea for a healthy old age. So, eat calcium-rich foods and do strength training, and weight-bearing exercise. For me, that includes Pilates, push-ups, and my regular morning walk.

Keep your brain healthy by "doing puzzles, reading, writing, and learning new things".

Maintain your cardiovascular fitness with regular aerobic exercise. Once again, brisk walking will do. Digging in the garden is good, too!

I know several obese, chronically-unfit mothers who will be lucky to make it to old age. I know other mothers whose children have died or been permanently disabled in terrible accidents. I know yet others who have become estranged from their adult children for various reasons.

Nobody knows for sure what the future will bring. So why not plan to take care of yourself when you're old, rather than hoping or expecting that your children will be there to do it for you?

And for anyone who might be examining the issue of whether or not to have any children at all: don't let the mothers of the world scare you into reproducing!

Old age doesn't have to be a time of helpless dependence and infirmity - just ask this 76 year old marathon runner:

Image source: Rancho Spenardo

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Australian farmers: victims, or perpetrators?

The Age ran an article yesterday under the headline "Farmers' voice needs to be loud and proud to bridge the city-country divide". The article was written by Deborah Bain, a Victorian wool grower who established Farm Day - "an annual event in which a city family is matched to a farm family for a day of fun, friendship and understanding".

Bain's article focused on the "rural-urban divide" - which I agree is both real and problematic in Australia. But Bain lost me when she stated that Australian farmers are "among the best producers in the world - from an environmental and animal welfare position."

Surely, she can't be serious? Just scroll down to see some photos from past Farm Days of Australian farming practices, and tell me if you honestly believe that this is the kind of environmentalism and animal welfare that Aussie farmers should be "loud and proud" about:

(Edited 8 May 2010: I have acquiesced to Deborah Bain's request to remove the Farm Day images from this post. The image above is from Wikimedia Commons).

Earlier in her article, Bain was complaining that "the consumer" is "easily manipulated by negative claims about farming practices." Maybe Bain needs to think a bit harder about why people make negative claims about Australian farming practices.

Personally, I can't think of a positive word to say about the farmers near where I live (and this is not to say that I think farmers further afield are generally any better - although there are certainly notable exceptions, such as Hazelcombe and Milkwood farms).

Our local farmers' "management" practices give me the impression that they are, by and large, unobservant people who consistently act in ways that are harmful to their land and their animals.

Are times tough for farmers? Yes! But that's an integral part of the big picture: farmers experiencing severe stress (which is often exacerbated by the degraded state of their land) make decisions based on perceived necessity, not on grounds of animal or environmental welfare.

For example, take this piece of formal advice from Angus Australia regarding drought management for beef producers: "Be careful that the decision [to provide maintenance feed] is made on a rational examination of costs and returns". The implied message is: let your cattle go hungry if it's "rational" to do so.

My home is surrounded by severely over-grazed, compacted, weed-infested farms. The animals (mostly sheep and cattle) are treated like mobile lumps of unfeeling protein. For example, the sheep are typically shorn in winter (which is stressful for them). Black steers are left in paddocks on scorching hot days without a stick of shade (which is stressful for them). These ordinary farming practices are a cruel parody of "animal welfare".

And then there are the agricultural abominations of factory farming, live sheep exports, and mulesing. (I have zero sympathy for farmers who mules their sheep, which is a cruel practice. If you "have to" flay lambs in order to prevent flystrike, then you're farming the wrong animals in the wrong place. Either move your farm, or grow something better suited to your environment - but don't tell me it's "animal welfare").

When I was 16 I did some work experience with a vet in rural NSW. During that time I learned that being a country vet was all about sex and death. The vet's job is basically to keep animals healthy enough to be reproduced, and/or killed, profitably. (Incidentally, I had the memorable experience of collecting a jar of bull semen that week - and let me tell you, that stuff doesn't come from a supermarket shelf!)

I understand and accept that farming livestock involves certain "practicalities" - typically culminating in the slaughter of the animal. So why can't farming spokespeople like Deborah Bain just acknowledge this fact, and stop pretending that farming is about animal welfare? Or, better yet, why can't they stop talking about animal welfare, and start practising it?

As for the common refrain that (to quote one of the people who commented on Bain's article): "The vast majority of today's farmers are extremely conscious of environmental issues - after all, our land is our income source."

Well, yes, that may indeed be the case. But being conscious of an issue is not the same thing as addressing that issue satisfactorily. After all, the vast majority of alcoholics are "extremely conscious" of alcohol - but that hardly means they handle alcohol responsibly.

And finally: earning income from a piece of land doesn't automatically make your land management practices good and/or sustainable. Heck, my great grandfather was a Welsh coal miner, and look what happened to his land-based income source. The Earth owes nobody an income.

As Jared Diamond observed in his book Collapse, Australian farmers have been "mining" the Australian landscape for generations - to the extent that "many problems that could eventually become crippling in other First World countries and already are so in some Third World countries - such as overgrazing, salinization, soil erosion, water shortages, and man-made droughts - have already become severe in Australia" (p.379).

Below are were some photos from Deborah Bain's pet project, Farm Day. These agricultural scenes don't look like shining examples of animal welfare and environmental sustainability to me. Rather, they look like the mining of Australia.

(Edited 8 May 2010: Deborah Bain was upset about me using Farm Day images in this post, so I have replaced those images with links to the original images on the Farm Day website, and I've added some alternative images from other sources below). 

A barren, overgrazed paddock:
(Image removed at request of Deborah Bain.
See original image on FarmDay website.)

Cute children in a barren, overgrazed paddock:
(Image removed at request of Deborah Bain.
See original image on FarmDay website.)

More cute children in yet another overgrazed paddock:
(Image removed at request of Deborah Bain.
See original image on FarmDay website.)

Heavy machinery - totally unsustainable in the long term. Apparently this farmer hasn't embraced the looming reality of Peak Oil yet:
(Image removed at request of Deborah Bain.
See original image on FarmDay website.)


Below are a few Australian farming images to replace the ones that Deborah Bain didn't want me to share with you ...

Livestock transport: the journey to the abattoir (or to the dock, for sheep unfortunate enough to be shipped alive to the Middle East) is typically stressful for livestock.

Image source: Live Export Shame

Native fauna and flora: I have never met a sheep farmer who doesn't regard the kangaroo as an enemy. Australian farmers are generally so tightly bound to their traditional British farming roots that they still (after more than 200 years) generally treat the native Australian flora and fauna as foes to be destroyed and replaced. I have witnessed a typical kangaroo cull on a typical Aussie farm, whereby hundreds of roos are shot, and left to rot on the ground. This is not animal welfare, nor is it a clever and sustainable way to live in the Australian environment.

The image below is from the roo cull in Belconnen in 2008. These roos were buried in a large pit.

Image source: Kangaroo protection coalition

Factory farming: most chickens in Australia spend the majority of their lives in cramped cages that don't even allow birds the simple "luxury" of stretching their wings. Most pigs are treated just as cruelly. Most people wouldn't dream of treating a budgerigar or a dog in such a horrible way.

Image source: No caged eggs 

Exacerbating the problems of drought: "There is a huge amount of dust in the air from the dry conditions and farmers ploughing the soil when it is dry, hoping for some follow up rain".

Text and image source: Wikimedia Commons

"Dust storm covers the city of Wagga Wagga reducing visibility to 2 kilometres. The dust storm was caused by strong winds moving though south-eastern Australia whipping up valuable top soil from drought affected paddocks" .

Text and image source: Wikimedia Commons