Andrea on May 11th, 2015

 

Hey Mum! We remodelled the rabbit shed for you :)

rabbit shed destroyers

 

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magnus wolfe murray on May 7th, 2015
In this blog I discuss earth-bag construction as an option for shelter recovery in Nepal. I start off with a quick overview of how the humanitarian coordination is going with the relevant links to access this info for those people unfamiliar with the system.  So skip down a bit if you want to get straight to the earthbag issues, links, etc.
An earth bag school under construction in Nepal, before the
earthquake. This one, a school, built by the local community with design and
training help from Edge of Seven, others shown below.
Critical points are: these are extremely earthquake resilient, energy efficient
and require a fraction of the logistics of importing bricks and cement up the damaged roads, etc. 

The incredibly powerful earthquake which struck Nepal on 25th of April this year has killed over 7,500 people and injured at least twice as many.  Latest reports are indicating that over 255,000 houses have been destroyed, with another 215,000 "damaged".  Humanitarian coordination is already up and running and huge amounts of data and information is being placed online and updated regularly. The relevant entry point is here.

The suffering and loss reported by the media and humanitarian agencies has been immense, unbearable for those families worst affected. Save the Children and UNDAC report 

"In Sindhupalchok, the level of damage significantly increases higher up the valley. Families live outside their homes under makeshift shelters of old tents, plastics, bed sheets, corrugated iron, and boards. Observations in villages showed that almost all houses made of stone and mud plaster are completely destroyed"

It reminds me of news, around ten years ago of the earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan, which was actually slightly less intense than the one in Nepal (7.6 and 7.8 respectively, on the richter scale), but claimed more than 80,000 lives.  At least, thus far, mortality in Nepal has been lower, by a a huge margin.

The main sectors in the UN Flash appeal
including target numbers of beneficiaries. 
The UN, in collaboration with local Government and the NGO community has moved quickly to put together a "flash appeal" which is requesting $415m for immediate funding for only the next 3 months (April to July) for critical areas like shelter, water&sanitation, education, logistics support protection, food security, etc.

So there are lots of areas to deal with and to the extent possible the local Government NGOs (and a whole range of “civil society” actors will be leading the response).  These appeals and the consequent scaling up of UN and international NGOs try, to a large extent, to support these local efforts, rather than overwhelm things with outsiders and foreign stuff.

With over a quarter of a million houses damaged, there's a massive shelter and housing challenge - that has to be addressed ASAP before the winter - indeed before the monsoon rainy season which can start as early as June and go through September.

I’m going to focus on shelter options in this post, because of the mighty damage the shelter cluster has reported. There are a few factors to consider here:

  • People need immediate (emergency) shelter now if they have lost their home and are sleeping out in the open or with friends and family.  
  • For those families who remain in or near their villages reconstruction and recovery starts right away.  The concept of there being phases: emergency shelter, followed by some transitional affair, then “build back safer” durable and “earthquake compliant” shelter is not very close to their reality – or affordable.   
  • There will not be enough money. The UN has already asked for almost half a billion USD – for the first three months alone! (OK most of it for food and cash vouchers), but how much money do you think the donor community has to spare?  (Don’t forget that the latest appeal to support Lebanon is for $2.2 bn, which doesn't include the needs inside Syria, Jordan, Yemen; let alone South Sudan, Ebola recovery and so on).  So: whatever is done has to be extremely good value (read: low cost and robust).  Or chose to support only a small percentage of the total caseload with a full price (all signing all dancing) reconstruction package.
  • News update as of 8th May, the UN says it's only received about 5% of it's $415m appeal (that's around $22m).  This usually happens at the beginning of an appeal, but 5% is really low, so,  as I said, money is going to be tight.
So I’ve had a look at the draft Nepal Shelter Clusterstrategy which basically recommends:

  • Immediate life-saving shelter interventions such as tarpaulins, basic tools and fixings for damaged homes for displaced people, along with the appropriate non-food items. (And the shelter cluster provides a pretty cool info sheet on how to strap down your tarp in the best way possible).
  • Cash for the "most vulnerable" families (which in itself can be challenging to decide as so many have lost their homes and are vulnerable) to address urgent needs.  Actually, I think that cash right now would be really useful and appropriate - assuming shops and markets are around.  Much better than donating a tent or cooking sets, which cost a lot of money plus serious transport costs and hassle.  People know what they need and they know how to get ahold of it, if they have money. However, I've also heard that building materials are really hard to buy right now and to transport to the more isolated areas.  Moreover, cash alone doesn't pay for critical water and sanitation work to be done.  
The shelter cluster strategy goes on to talk about other really relevant issues on supporting local Government with quake resistant building approaches and other points more relevant to the recovery phase.  Worth reading and getting involved with the cluster if you're part of the response. 

So, what are the options now? As we’ve seen the emergency phase is about tents, tarps n’ tools, or cash.  But how well will these really suit the coming monsoon and winter?

One friend wrote to ask about the suitability of bamboo thatch with tarps. These are not bad, certainly could do for the next few months to stay dry, keep the rain out, etc. assuming the roof eaves are long enough to keep the rain off the walls. But the problem is that these kind of shelters aren't going to be very warm in the winter, they just don't have the insulation. But for an emergency solution to get people over the coming monsoon season it is what the majority of aid agencies are doing right now.

I heard from another colleague that it’s really difficult to buy or access materials out in the more remote areas; there’s not a lot of salvageable wood from the rubble and roofing sheets are damaged.

In which case - a really excellent resource - for anyone working with bamboo and tarps is this "reciproboo" system, developed by Shaun Halbert, which uses smart but really simple geometry to greatly reduce the amount of bamboo or sticks needed per shelter.

Locals are saying that it gets cold and wet pretty soon – so insulation and heating are really vital.  So… what to do?

The solution, I believe, is earth-bags.  These are basically 50 kg rice or fertiliser bags that are filled with any dirt you happen to be standing on, and stacked with attention to levels, etc. to make walls.  Door and window frames are inserted as the walls go up.  Ditto openings for a chimney.

Earth bag shelter built in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake by
Cal Earth Pakistan - see link and reference below. 
Here it gets interesting: the building can be designed to be round, and the roof made from the same materials in a dome structure.  Quite handy where you don’t have enough roofing material or money (or in some cases like in Pakistan, California, Europe or Iran, you like the dome design, it’s an aesthetic advantage).  Oh, and good to mention: these can be some of the most earthquake compliant low cost buildings you can make. The pictures here show lots of good examples. 

Could this work in Nepal? Well it turns out quite a number have already been built there over the years by a few different agencies. I got in touch with some of them and have already heard back from First Step Himalaya, a New Zealand outfit which worked with a local community to build a school.  As you can see from this recent TV news slot, this building survived the earthquake just fine.

First Step replied to me yesterday to say that their local teams are operational now, that they have a new relief fund set up and are doing what they can like so many local groups. The challenge might be taking it to scale: how many people can First Step train to build these kind of structures quickly and properly in the next few months?

There are other groups who know how to do this however, including an old friend from Karachi, Shahid Malik Shahid has set up this really useful site with loads of links.


Earthbag building in Mexico.
Souce: here
It's nice to see that earthbags have been used all over the world, so they can be adapted to the social or cultural factors relevant within your community. Check this one on the right from Mexico, makes for really nice light and angles within.  And it's amazing to think that no "normal" roofing materials were needed at all, like wood, steel, concrete, etc.



Meanwhile, I’d like to know if there are other designs and material choices that would offer such good value for money at this time – when money is so scare and need so enormous.  

Here's some more information about the disaster:

Some of the really useful information managemnet data coming out of the shetler cluster in Khatmandu. This is a poor quality snapshot - go check out their website and links to all their docs here

Another interesting one showing numbers of shelter items distributed so far, by who.
Source: as above (Shelter cluster Nepal)

Focus area of the earthquake and worst-affected districts


A breakdown of requested funds per sector from the UN flash appeal 

And some pictures I took in Kathmandu back in 2013, when a bunch of us went on the renowned "earthquake walk" through town...



Serious structural cracks already seen on this building.  It would be a miracle if it remained standing

lots of bizarre looking tall and thin structures like this
have been built over the last ten years. I don't know
how well they handled the earthquake, as many of the buldings
around them appear really vulnerable.  


Andrea on May 4th, 2015

This is part of a series of posts where we ask one of our visitors to say a few words about their stay. Dominik and Matic wrote this note to the lady who runs our local bar in Unhais o Velho.
 
 
Olá Dona Céu, (Scroll down for English)

Vamos embora amanhã, por isso queriamos agradecer por todos os cafés que você nos serviu, todos os pães e outros presentes que você nos deu, mas principalmente para a boa energia e felicidade que você traz para a aldeia e os seus visitantes.

Com seu sorriso caloroso, você é a mão amiga que as pessoas precisam, bem como a ligação entre os moradores. Esperamos que um dia destes volteremos para o seu cafe para vê-la novamente, e espero que nós falaremos Português para que possamos ter um conversa.

Obrigado por tudo, Dominik & Matic 

Tia Ceu
Hello,

We’re leaving tomorrow, so we want to thank you for all the coffees you’ve made for us, all the bread rolls and other gifts you’ve given us, but mostly for the good energy and happiness you bring to the village and it’s visitors.

With your warm smile, you’re the helping hand that people need, as well as the connection between villagers. We hope that one day we’ll return to the bar to see you again, and hopefully we’ll speak Portuguese so we can have a chat.

Thanks for everything, Dominik & Matic

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magnus wolfe murray on May 3rd, 2015

Wonderful and remarkable how Balinese women prepare each day little blessings, today an ocean cleansing ceremony,  the beach completely filled with local families playing in the powerful surf. While the wave riding addicts among us ride the planetary blessings:)

magnus wolfe murray on May 3rd, 2015
magnus wolfe murray on April 28th, 2015
Last month I went to Northern Lebanon, on a short mission with CARE International, to help them figure out a strategy to deal with the dire housing problems faced by Syrian refugees.  To short cut to this presentation (more pictures than words, go here).  Almost immediately I was blown away by the scale of the crisis in Lebanon: a country of just over 4.2 million people is hosting almost 1.5 million refugees.  That's around a third of the population! Meaning that Lebanon now has the highest per capital concentration of refugees in the world.

Tripoli, looking East over the mountains towards Syria

Imagine Britain or France taking in 20 million people, and the kind of impact that would have on public services that people often complain aren't good enough as it is.  Well, it's not really any different for Lebanon, except that their public services have been in worse shape than those in rich European countries.  Talking of Europe, it appears that the entire EU block has offered asylum to a grand total of 134,000 Syrian refugees, so around 10% that Lebanon has taken.  Yet the population difference  is so great it means that Europe is offering refuge to 1,000 times fewer refugees compared to Lebanon.

And let's not forget Lebanon's 15 year civil war, ending in 1990 - not that long ago.  In fact it's quite incredible that the country seems relatively "normal" and quite organised, considering the deep sectarian and political divides that burned the country for so long.  Or that over 300,000 Palestinian refugees live here, some for generations, others recently displaced again from Syrian, who have built entire urban neighbourhoods of their own (called "camps"), supported by UNRWA, an agency created specifically for this community, but constantly in financial crisis.

But Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, with a rich history dating back to almost 1,500 years BC as an important trading and education centre, has been embroiled in what some call a "spill-over" of the Syrian conflict.  As usual, it's complicated, but in essence Tripoli is home to what some call the most conservative Sunni Muslims, which continue to enjoy Saudi Arabian funding, and some Shia Allawite Muslims, aligned to the Syrian regime, but resident in Tripoli and Northern Lebanon for generations.

 Meanwhile, I kept hearing that the Government in Beirut has marginalised Tripoli for years which has led to economic decline, unemployment and failing public services.  A recent UN study found that 77% of local residents are economically "deprived" (aka: the poverty line) and 35% have miserable accommodation (OK they used different language but that's the gist).

Here I'm checking out roofing options to stop the constant
leaking in the dwelling of refugees below. With Ahmad
Al-Ayyoubi of LRC
So it is this precarious social eggshell that the 180,000 or so Syrian refugees in Tripoli and surrounding areas found themselves. (For more info see this enormous information bank on the refugee crisis in Lebanon.    I heard from a lot of people how welcoming local communities had been at first. Empathy is a powerful emotion and I think it's universal.  But after a while, it wears thin, especially if the new guests are putting additional strain on things that matter to everyone, like spaces in classrooms and clinics (refugees are supported, to some degree, by the UN to access both these public services).  But also jobs: Syrians traditionally take low paid work like moving stuff in markets, construction, agriculture.  But with there being so little other work around I heard from some locals their feeling of being "smothered", needing to find work themselves, and struggling.  And food, power, rent is EXPENSIVE in Lebanon...

The vast majority of refugees in Lebanon rent a place to live, that's just the norm. There are quite a few small informal settlements around, but not really in or around Tripoli, where most rent really basic flats in overcrowded blocks. Refugees pay between $200 and $400 a month which sometimes includes electricity and water, but not always.  We visited quite a few such places and they were pretty basic, though they did include small kitchens and toilet.  Actually I was quite impressed at the extensive sewerage piping network that has been built, often retrofitted to temporary shacks. OK, there's no such thing as sewage treatment: it all flows into the closest water course which is of course completely contaminated, as will be the ocean where it all ends up.  But still, compared to the open sewers across South Asia...

In a typical damp refugee dwelling, costing $200 a month, with
Rayan El-Fawal, project coordinator of Lebanon Relief Council
one of CARE's partner NGOs.
CARE had already partnered up with a local NGO called the Lebanon Relief Council (LRC) to do a survey of accommodation standards. They found lots of examples of really bad conditions, like damp - in some cases leaking down the walls, lack of windows and gaps at the top of walls where mice and rats entered.  On my visits I noticed really dodgy wiring, lack of ventilation, insulation, heating facilities. Overall, really unhealthy and depressing places to live.  But what choice do they have? Risk death on the Mediterranean to reach Fortress Europe? Go home and be incarcerated by the Regime?


We also heard from quite a lot of refugees how they can't afford to send their children to school - despite international donors providing upwards of $60m so far to support local schools to accommodate some refugee kids (to pay registration fees, staff, etc.).  But even so Syrians have found it really hard, stigmatised and academically challenged as subjects are taught in English and French in Lebanon, rather than Arabic they were used to back home.  Some reports indicated a 70% drop out rate while in some areas of the country it works better.  Of the refugees I met, about half said they couldn't afford the fees for schools or hadn't been accepted into the UN/NGO school support programme.  And when you meet kids who have no choice but to spend all day at home - a dingy room with nothing to do, is when the desperation of the situation really hits home.

Widad Sharan and her three children from Homs in Syria.
Hiba Daher, her daughter, far left, is 13 (my daughter Kira's age!) is polite, intelligent, really friendly - hasn't been to school since leaving Syria in 2013. Her siblings neither.  

I asked if anyone within the Syrian community had organised some kind of community school, within these very rooms, or outside, or wherever.  After all there must be teachers among the refugees and other adults who can teach kids literacy and maths and all that.  Apparantly not, so far anyway.  Why? because any adult who isn't home looking after kids has to be out trying to find work - to pay for rent and food and living.

Ahmad Al-Ayyoubi, Chief of LRC, chatting with one of the
most academically inspired kids I've ever seen.
She was thrilled with the attention and the time he gave her
and it just shows how much difference some kind of
community education project could make.  Also really
appreciated how Ahmad took the time in our meeting
to just hang out with her, rather than getting involved
in the chatter; shows real humanity and confidence.
Right there, in that room we had a big discussion on the potential for a project to support this kind of community education (it may well be happening in other parts of the country, but that means little to Hiba, her siblings and so many like her in Tripoli).  Friends from LRC said they could find some young people from the local community to volunteer, some teaching materials could be bought, or donated by UNICEF, which leads on education in emergencies, but the most important impact would be just engaging with these kids - doing something positive, keeping up with some classes and having a bit of fun.

Our mission was not education however, it was shelter, or rather proposing a strategy for housing. But soon enough I realised that it's wrong to separate out the accommodation woes from all the other ills of local society.


Local hero - this serious dude had dedicated countless hours
to fixing problems in loads of refugee homes. A refugee
himself and a talented handyman, he could be linked up with
a mixed team of Lebanese & Syrian tradesmen to undertake
the most pressing maintenance problems in their community.
For refugees and locals alike.  
Outside every home piles of garbage litter the streets, no doubt causing public health problems (and outstanding rodent territory). Meanwhile huge areas between the concrete blocks were denuded and destitute, where community farms or gardens or play-parks could be erected.

Together with Daniel Delati, my Tripoli guide and programme coordinator at CARE who had recruited me for this job, we realised that this was much more an integrated strategy.  We needed to re-frame this problem as one of social stability for the entire area.  We'd visited quite a few Lebanese families living in equally dire accommodation across the city. Meanwhile refugee and locals alike suffered from the lack of any kind of meaningful and sustained employment.  We had to find donors that would support a kind of social-economic recovery programme for the entire area.  In fact given the recent "troubles" between Sunni and Shia communities, one could argue that investment in livelihoods, business, public services and urban regeneration could mitigate future conflict.  And the refugee community could be part of this regeneration. Much better than focusing entirely on the refugees and ignoring the equally needy local people who had already done so much to host these war-affected people.

A typical scene in Tripoli, garbage and a wasted opportunity for community
farm or gardens.  
Looking at the city with my "green" or environmental design lens I saw countless opportunities for urban farming, household gardens, waste management (Daniel knows a company in Beirut that processes waste plastic into new products, who could be urged to start a plant in Tripoli?).









For solar lighting in the often black-out neighbourhoods. For a new industry of lime-based building materials, given that the entire country appears to be built on limestone.  For ecological treatment of sewage through constructed wetlands and smart design - a practice barely understood by the global WASH community, local Governments or donors anywhere, but with potential to re-green denuded cities and landscapes and to generate new and sustained income streams.  Yes it means thinking quite far out of the box, and challenging quite a lot of preset models and ideas, but these are desperate times and fairly radical solutions are needed.

Almost a garden. With the right design help these people
could direct their grey water (or even post septic-tank water)
into constructed wetlands (for black water) and gardens for
grey water.  

Opportunities for employment exist, that's for sure.  But there are certainly challenges too.  For example the Lebanese Government has come out with increasingly draconian regulations on the rights of Syrians to work - or rather that they are not allowed to work. In fact to stay in Lebanon, officially, every Syrian must pay $200 a year and sign a declaration that they will not work, or face detention.  I think every Government anywhere would have to do the same thing, given the pressure from voters and taxpayers on jobs; many local municipal Governments have shown enormous flexibility and understanding anyway and have not enforced these regulations.  But to move forward, the international community will have to negotiate shared benefits of new investment in economic regeneration.

A presentation on the strategy I drafted for CARE is given here.

For now, the international community has one of its finest humanitarian leaders running the show on behalf of the UN - the indomitable Ross Mountain, now the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (who I first encountered in 2004 doing a stirling job in post-war Liberia).  Ross appears to have quickly grasped the need to address the fragility of the crisis as can be seen in this really well drafted Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (this link takes you to the 8 page brochure and highlights).   In fact I'll leave you with a quote from this document, this appeal for a little over $2bn, to address this crisis.  I suppose it's fair to assume that if we fail to support Lebanon in this hour of need, the consequent crisis could cost much more, and it would be a humanitarian nightmare without precedent.

The number of poor currently in Lebanon has risen by nearly two-thirds since 2011, and Lebanese unemployment has doubled. Children and youth are most affected after four years of economic hardship and limited access to essential services. Lebanese national health, education and infrastructure services are overstretched and a third of Lebanon’s young labour force cannot find work. For many of the poorest and most vulnerable communities, including displaced Syrian families and Lebanon’s long-term Palestine refugees, daily life is increasingly dominated by poverty and debt, fewer cooked meals, rising waste and pollution, long queues at health centers, over-full classrooms, disease outbreaks, falling water quality, and increased competition for work. 
(LCRP, Dec. 2014)

And some more photos from the trip in Tripoli:


Urban sprawl. Overlooking the river, this must have been
a splendid vista back in the day of the Ottomans, or the Persian
empire or further back.

It's amazing how there's almost nothing left of the old
architecture left, perhaps giving way to more profitable
buildings (more people = more money)

Looks like a typica refugee rented property
but could just as well be a Lebanese family in there. 

Near the old souk, market area, signs of the vernacular
architecture, mostly from Ottoman period, which lasted
about 500 years. 

Part of the old market (souk).  Now there's only one shop there, selling locally made soap.
Nice, but where are the other traders? How could such a place buzz with business for over a thousands years, then nothing... Lebanon now imports around 90% of its food, invests almost nothing in agriculture development, or new businesses, maybe that's why.  Or has globalisation got something to do with it? 

A self-build, on some rented land.  A refugee family from
just outside Damascus.  Quite nice inside too, and delicious
coffee.. The point is they are used to quite high standards,
came from a paid job, was able to sell property before leaving,
has a brother working in the Gulf.  Not all families are
completely destitute, we need to remember that. 
Perfect spot for a raised bed garden!

Follow the trees: look where things want to grow.  Right where
we thrown our garbage.  With a small investment and some training
this whole area could be a garden of abundance and productivity.
Space left for social gatherings and playing.
Instead only the rats play here and the kids stay at home.
 And everyone pays a fortune for
imported vegetables and fruits.  
a

Passion fruit vines anyone?
Vertical garden heaven right here, yet nobody plants anything - why?  


Those sewerage connections I spoke about
earlier. It would make it easy to tap into this
nutrient-rich waste that could fertilise some
small urban forestry project. Or not, we could
just let it pour un-treated bacteriological contamination
into the communal water course.
Yeh, that sounds like a much better idea...

The kitchen - bathroom set up in a rented property 

The infamous garages - upgraded from mechanics workshops or shops to rent out to refugee families. Miserable, dark, cold and unventilated.  

Diesel-fed heating stoves.
First time I've seen these.  Quite impressive
despite the use of the fossil fuels. These
people said that 2 litres keeps it hot for
about 24 hours! wow. UNHCR
has distributed them to many "most vulnerable"
refugees, but huge gaps remain.  

Local kids, well Lebanese - Egyptian, but local


Daniel Delati, from CARE in Lebanon, from the US at one point, but also from Tripoli and a passionate citizen he is, with so much hope, passion for the city history and optimism for the future.  A great asset for CARE, and a superb guide to local cuisine too!

How the fossils fall.  Plastic waste below a block. The inevitable
result of a dysfunctional city waste management system.  

The scars of war in Tebennay district of Tripoli
where things are slowly returning to some kind
of normality (albeit with well armed military checkpoints
on most corners). 

Tebennay locals




Andrea on April 26th, 2015

PICT8750

 

Jeroen took a course on beekeeping organised by the local beekeepers co-operative some time ago, when we originally purchased our hives. I’ve never had any training in beekeeping though, so I was thrilled when The Hive offered another Introduction to Beekeeping Workshop. The Hive are a local cultural co-operative focussing on sustainable education.

Apiculturist Kev talked our small group through some theory and showed us the necessary equipment, then we suited up and braved the weather to take a look at some operational hives up on the hillside nearby. Bees buzzing all around is a tremendous feeling and I enjoyed the session immensely.

Then back to The Hive for a delicious lunch and chat. Many thanks to the Hive team and Kev for a superb day.

 

PICT8740PICT8747

PICT8744

PICT8749

PICT8743

2PICT8757

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Andrea on April 25th, 2015

Plantain - Casalinho

 

No, I’m not talking about the plantain that looks like a sort of banana, but Plantago major, the ribbed leafed plant which people who don’t know better call a weed.

We’ve loads of it growing at Casalinho and in this ‘hungry gap’ time of year when last year’s stored vegetables are running short and this year’s are not yet ready, it’s a worthwhile addition to our diet.

I use tender leaves chopped small in salads or cooked wherever I would use greens. This recipe though celebrates plantain as it’s centrepiece.

As always with my recipe ideas, the quantities are vague and the ingredients interchangeable! Experiment!

 

 

 

Ingredients

Finely chopped tender plantain leaves
Milk kefir (ours is made with raw goat’s milk. If you haven’t got kefir use a little milk and a little cheese)
Plain flour
Oatmeal (adds texture, you can miss it out or grind it finer if you prefer)
Egg (holds it together. I find one egg does a batch of about 25 bites)
Finely chopped herbs / chilli / salt / other seasonings
A spot of tomato puree, or a chopped tomato (primarily for the colour, miss it out or swap it by all means)

Method

Combine to make a stiff mixture capable of holding a ball shape. Form lots of bite sized balls and lay on a slightly oiled oven tray. Cover your hands with flour if it starts to get sticky. Bake in the over on a medium heat, turning them over when they start to brown on the bottom.

Eat hot or cold, particularly nice with a sweet chilli dip.

Plantain & Kefir bites - Casalinho

For those who are interested, plantain reputedly has medicinal qualities (I can vouch for it’s effectiveness at soothing insect bites)  and can even be dried and used for teeth cleaning.

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joao pedro goncalves on April 21st, 2015

Polyfaces Trailer from RegrariansTV on Vimeo.

Mónica Barbosa on April 16th, 2015
Na fila do supermercado, o caixa diz a uma senhora idosa:


A senhora deveria trazer as suas próprias sacolas para as compras, uma vez que sacos de plástico não são amigos do ambiente.

A senhora pediu desculpas e disse: - Não havia essa onda verde no meu tempo.

O empregado respondeu: - Esse é exatamente o nosso problema hoje, minha senhora. A sua geração não se preocupou o suficiente com o nosso ambiente.

Você está certo - responde a velha senhora - a nossa geração não se preocupou adequadamente com o ambiente. Naquela época, as garrafas de leite, garrafas de refrigerante e cerveja eram devolvidos à loja.

A loja mandava de volta para a fábrica, onde eram lavadas e esterilizadas antes de cada reuso, e eles, os fabricantes de bebidas, usavam as garrafas, umas tantas outras vezes.

Realmente não nos preocupamos com o ambiente no nosso tempo. Subíamos as escadas, porque não havia escadas rolantes nas lojas e nos escritórios. Caminhávamos até ao comércio, ao invés de usar o nosso carro de 300 cavalos de potência de cada vez que precisamos ir a dois quarteirões.

Mas você está certo. Nós não nos preocupávamos com o ambiente. Até então, as fraldas dos bebés eram lavadas, porque não havia fraldas descartáveis. Roupas secas: a secagem era feita por nós mesmos, não nestas máquinas bamboleantes de 220 volts. A energia solar e eólica é que realmente secavam nossas roupas. Os meninos pequenos usavam as roupas que tinham sido dos seus irmãos mais velhos, e não roupas sempre novas.

Mas é verdade: não havia preocupação com o ambiente, naqueles dias. Naquela época só tínhamos somente uma TV ou rádio em casa, e não uma TV em cada quarto. E a TV tinha uma tela do tamanho de um lenço, não um telão do tamanho de um estádio; que depois será descartado como?

Na cozinha, tínhamos que bater tudo com as mãos porque não havia  máquinas elétricas, que fazem tudo por nós. Quando embalávamos algo um pouco frágil para o correio, usávamos jornal amassado para protegê-lo, não plástico bolha ou pellets de plástico que duram cinco séculos para começar a degradar.

Naqueles tempos não se usava um motor a gasolina apenas para cortar a relva, era utilizado um cortador de relva que exigia músculos. O exercício era extraordinário, e não precisava ir a uma academia e usar esteiras que também funcionam a eletricidade.

 Mas você tem razão: não havia naquela época preocupação com o ambiente. Bebíamos diretamente da fonte, quando estávamos com sede, em vez de usar copos plásticos e garrafas pet que agora lotam os oceanos.

Canetas: recarregávamos com tinta tantas vezes ao invés de comprar outra. Abandonamos as navalhas, ao invés de jogar fora todos os aparelhos 'descartáveis' e poluentes só porque a lâmina ficou sem corte.
Na verdade, tivemos uma onda verde naquela época. Naqueles dias, as pessoas apanhavam o autocarro ou o elétrico e os meninos iam nas suas bicicletas ou a pé para a escola, ao invés de usar a mãe como um serviço de táxi 24 horas. Tínhamos só uma tomada em cada quarto, e não um quadro de tomadas em cada parede para alimentar uma dúzia de aparelhos.. E nós não precisávamos de um GPS para receber sinais de satélites a milhas de distância no espaço, só para encontrar a pizaria mais próxima.

Então, não é ridículo que a actual geração fale tanto em "meio ambiente", mas não queira abrir mão de nada e não pense em viver um pouco como na minha época?