One of the things that has been a real challenge is dairy and I’m sorry to say that we still haven’t worked it out. In my increasing role with Transition Darebin one of the things that I plan on doing is thinking about how we can engage with the local business community. In my mind we sometimes cut people out of our plans because we assume (rightly or wrongly) that they will not be interested. I think this is a mistake not only because we’re going to need local vendors stocking local produce in the end but also because sometimes a new market can actually drive people to change.
Dairy has been one of these that’s been interesting and maybe disappointing in our year. When we first started trying to source local milk in glass we found that there was one supplier who could tick most of the boxes. Sadly they didn’t re-use their bottles and actually getting to their only outlet was not gong to work. In fact the only group who clean and re-use their bottles turn out to be from Tasmania (about 500 km over Bass Strait). This is where my definitely non-business brain starts to struggle but maybe it’s just me because no one else seems to find it weird. How can it be economically feasible to bring milk 500 km from a state with fewer dairy cows to a state with more? Further to this how can this be the only milk that returns the bottles to re-use? I don’t get it! There’s clearly a market for this stuff as the milk is sold out every week.
Anyway rant over. We can’t get Victorian Milk in bottles and buying Tasmanian milk just seems wrong so we have stayed with our plastic packaged milk bought from a farmers co-op. We have placated ourselves that this is the best we can do right now by making use of the bottles. The bases become seedling holders and the sides become labels for seedlings. I’ve been tossing up about using the lids in some sort of musical instrument but that is yet to take shape.
We’ve had more luck with cheese recently finding locally made cheese packaged in wax. The cheese is pretty good and we buy the whole wheel (1Kg). This left us fairly quickly with a fair amount of wax. Being quite into candles, and keen to ‘upcycle’ as much as we can we have now entered the candle building game (just the ones on the second level, the others are local beeswax)
After learning a fair amount about ‘wicks’ from a very friendly candle maker (which cost us exactly three beeswax candles) down the road we have now produced our own candles which, given the fact that we’ve had two blackouts in the last two months (both due to weather events) may come in handy for light if not mood.
So would I trade the candles for re-usable glass bottles of milk, absolutely. But in the absence of options and until we can get local business owners and producers selling locally produced milk this will have to do for now.
I still can’t fathom that Vic lags behind in this. It does seem incongruous. That being said the Tassie economy needs all the help it can get so if you find yourself buying our milk don’t feel too bad (i know it is not in line with your ultimate goal).
Actually it’s really interesting idea about the ethics of purchasing vs local production. I’ve heard it suggested that if you buy sustainably sourced goods from developing countries then you are actually promoting more sustainable industries and reducing poverty. Not that I’m suggesting that Tasmania is a developing country but it’s interesting how what would seem to be a simple choice isn’t actually so straightforward!
These guys in Fitzroy are nearly local, and seem to have been asking all the right questions about how they should make their business work: http://stdavid.com.au/environment/
Their milk is tasty too. A friend found them when she was after bulk milk for cheese making (about which they were also knowledgeable and helpful). They don’t sell milk in glass bottles, but they will sell you 30 litres in a (returnable) stainless steel churn. For a while a group of my friends who all had dinner together every Friday anyway (and were in some cases also making cheese) paid for a churn every week and we all brought glass bottles to dinner to collect it – this is certainly the lowest embedded energy city milk I’ve ever had access to. We only stopped because my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia which meant all the social arrangements had to change somewhat and we couldn’t get enough people to a pickup point every week to make it work (don’t worry both her prognosis and progress are excellent and we are doing fine). Perhaps Transition Darebin could act as a coordination point for people who want to do something similar, without all being old friends?
Thank you so much for the post and I am equally glad to hear that things with your daughter are looking up. I checked out their website and have sent them an email because I think that’s a great idea. We buy a load of milk so we could pretty much do half a churn each week just by ourselves (though we may need to finally get that chest fridge working. I think I might have to do some research on how to steralise bottles but I think there’s great potential either for households, groups (like TD) or even local shops to decant the churns into re-usable bottles.
Like I said thanks so much for the post, it’s been a while since we’ve had a breakthrough like that.!
Take care of yourself and your family.
Glad to be useful! Sterilising the bottles is easy, same process as for when you’re preserving. Options are a hot dishwasher wash; wet and then zap on high in the microwave for a couple of minutes; or the traditional boil in a pan of water on the stove. Best done as soon as possible before use, obviously.
Hi Paul, I’d love to get some tips on candle making. It always seems so easy but the wicks don’t tend to stand up and I find the wick disapears into a pool of wax very quickly. What do you recommend for a slow burn wax (I was using 100% beeswax but found it’s all over very quickly after all the work)? what containers were you setting your candles in? (lovely shape but can’t imagine how you got it out of a container that shape) Where do you buy your wick? Grateful for any tips
I’ve consulted my candle making expert (namely my wife) for the answers. In terms of what sort of wax to use I’m afraid we’ve got no idea, we only use the wax that comes with the cheese so it’s an opportunistic thing rather than anything planned. We bought some wicks from a really friendly lady from a shop called “A little light” in Northcote. She was very happy to talk everything candles and if you’re in the area I’d recommend it. The wicks we bought were cotton, but pre-dipped in wax and she even suggested that wicks are directional (though the burning doesn’t seem to be an issues, more slowing it down). She also said there were different wick thicknesses so maybe your wick is too thick and hence burning too fast. As far as the container, they were made in old kids yoghurt containers that we had lying around (I think they come from the Kindergarten as ‘art’). But yes you’re right they perished in the making.!
Let us know how you get on.
Paul and Nik