It’s about chocolate.
I love chocolate!
That sums it up really, I could leave it there but I won’t because ‘I love Chocolate’ comes with a few problems.
In one week we will be exchanging chocolate in all its glorious forms: eggs, bunnies, shells (my favourite), Bilbies, Wombats (its true) and of course my childhood favourite Humpty Dumpty. I used to love the sound Humpty Dumpty made when I shook it, the crick, crack of the goodies inside the cardboard wall holding the egg was a whole lot of ‘I love chocolate’! Anyway the list goes on and on and on. But when you are choosing your chocolates which ever shape or size you choose do you ever consider where the chocolate comes from?
There has been some coverage in the press in recent years (although you have to look pretty hard) informing consumers about ethically sourced produce in third world food production. The following three certifiers provide an assurance that the product has been made with child-labour free:
For example there is ‘Fairtrade’:
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.
There is also ‘UTZ Certification’:
When you buy UTZ Certified coffee, cocoa or tea you are helping build a better future.
UTZ Certified stands for sustainable farming and better opportunities for farmers, their families and our planet. The UTZ program enables farmers to learn better farming methods, improve working conditions and take better care of their children and the environment.
Through the UTZ-program farmers grow better crops, generate more income and create better opportunities while safeguarding the environment and securing the earth’s natural resources. Now and in the future
And finally ‘Rainforest Alliance’:
The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour.
Although Fairtrade and a few other certifying bodies are working on delivering a better deal for farmers, there are still far too many areas in the world where children are being forced to work long hours in appalling conditions for little money. Think about it, if a child is working long hours chances are they won’t have the energy to do school work or they won’t be attending school at all.
‘Happy’ chocolate, as I like to call it, is certified ‘Fairtrade’ or ‘UTZ Certified’ or ‘Rainforest Alliance’. This means that the company (whomever they are), large or small, has decided that the chain of production for their product or products will not involve child labour. Product or products you ask… well, one company can provide just one product in their endless range that is certified child-labour free. So, just because a company produces one certified product, this does not mean that all of their products are certified child-labour free – you have to check that the product is marked with a certifier’s logo on the packaging.
For the last few years I have been making a delicious rocky road for Easter and while I always made sure I was purchasing Fairtrade eggs and other goodies, the chocolate I purchased to make the rockyroad was not certified child-labour free. This year however is different, it will be certified child-labour free all the way.
During my research to find ethically sourced cooking chocolate (which is proving to be quite difficult) I discovered that since February 19th 2013 all Nestle chocolate confectionary products available for purchase in Australia will be UTZ certified*. Congratulations to Nestle for making that important and ethical decision to support third word development and food production. However… (Oh dear!) I find the term ‘confectionary products’ a little ambiguous. I want to know whether this includes their range of cooking chocolate and drinking chocolate? I am awaiting Nestle’s response to this query, which I hope to receive in the next few days so that ‘Serendipty’s’ rocky road production can begin.
Here are a few interesting links to help inform and guide you in your chocolate purchasing. But remember, don’t just choose ethically sourced chocolate at Easter, choose it whenever you are purchasing chocolate products.
Let all of the chocolate companies know that child labour is not acceptable anywhere and do it by puchasing ethicaly. Tell your favourite chocolate brand that enough is enough and look for the following logos on chocolate and other products:
Until next time, have a happy, safe and child-labour free Easter,
p.s. The good news is that I did receive a response from Nestle. Unfortunately is was via a voice message so I don’t have a written response. However, it is as I expected, their cooking chocolate is not ethically produced nor will it be in the near future. Apparently there isn’t a demand for it! So there you go!!
On a positive note I did make my rocky road. I used blocks of Fairtrade eating chocolate, bought vegan marshmallows and other bits and pieces and put it all together. Because of the chocolate I used it was super sweet and with the added cost of the marshmellow, expensive. Oh well!
We are two weeks into Autumn and I miss Summer (although there is a heat wave in Melbourne and Sydney’s weather is just delightful – the summer dresses are still out and about). Summer seemed to come and go so quickly. I enjoyed every warm, bright sunshiney morning and every cool sea breeze filled afternoon.
But the summer lover in me does admit, autumn is a beautiful time of year. The landscape, for those on the coastal fringes, is changing. It is becoming less harsh with gentle sunlight and the trees are preparing to shed their leaves. It’s already started in Sydney, with a line of Liquidambers in a street close to me turning crimson on their leaf tips.
As much as the cooler seasons are my least favourite part of the year, I still get a thrill out of seeing the colours of the autumn leaves in our neighbourhood. We are fortunate in Sydney that there are some species of deciduous tree that put on a wondeful autumn show, particularly the Chinese Tallow – Sapium sabiferum, which is often used as a street tree.
I grew up in northern New South Wales and although it can get very cold at night in areas away from the coast, the day time temperatures can remain in the low 20’s. This isn’t very helpful for producing autumn colour. So my eyes sparkled during my first autumn in Sydney when the landscape started to change from green to crimson.
I was fortunate to spend a year working as an Au Pair in Europe during my early 20’s and I fondly remember taking the little boy (who is not so little now and exploring the world on his own) to the nearby park, Clingendael, during autumn. We played for hours in the fallen golden leaves. It was so lovely and the snap shots that I have in my mind of those days playing with him bring a smile to my face.
There are regions close to Sydney that showcase a wonderful array of autumn colour. Two in particular that I am familiar with are the northern Blue Mountains (approx 2hrs west ofSydney) where Dave and I go in May each year to visit the very cold Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens and Mudgee (approx 4hrs from Sydney).
I visited Mudgee over the Anzac Day long weekend one year and it was beautiful. I have since heard that the days surrounding Anzac Day are in fact the best time to see the autumn colour there. You will find tree-lined streets in firey shades of crimson, red and orange and just around the corner a cellar door will be calling your name. That reminds me Dave and I are due for some wine fun in Mudgee!
As we progress further into autumn, garden centres will be filling their beds with deciduous trees. If you are considering planting a deciduous tree in your garden, now is the perfect time to purchase one. You will be able to see the magnificent show of colour that the trees produce during autumn and choose the one that suits the look and feel of your garden.
It’s also a great time to plan an autumn escape. This autumn I’ll be heading to Canberra and I expect that I’ll see an array of autumn colours there too.
Until next time
What a great weekend I just had! Day # 1 was a polka dot filled day spent celebrating the upcoming wedding of a friend, with gorgeous company and wonderfully bright coloured macaroons at a Hen’s Tea. Yes, a Hen’s Tea, afternoon tea with gooey, nutty cheeses, sparkling wine, sweets, treats and tea in proper tea cups. Did you know you can hire tea cups and saucers for such an occasion? Some of us are lucky enough to own beautiful tea cups and saucers but if you don’t, there’s someone out there that will share theirs with you.
Day # 2 was spent at a solitary bee workshop where Dave and I learnt about Australian native solitary bees that live in the Sydney area, where they like to live and how we can provide those spaces for them in our own garden.
It was a great workshop. Dave and I were almost the youngest there, believe me that doesn’t happen much these days. But more surprising was the amount of people present who have a stingless bee hive in their garden. Yay!
The workshop was run by Wild Things NSW, with guest speaker Megan Halcroft. In April Megan will receive her award for a Degree of Doctor of Philosophy for her dissertation “Investigations into the Biology, Behaviour and Phylogeny of a Potential Crop Pollinator: the Australian Stingless Bee, Austroplebia australis”. She said she knows all there is to know about Austroplebia australis species but, like the workshop attendees, is learning about solitary bees and how to encourage them into her garden. She has made many bee homes for various species of native bee and has them placed around her garden. The result is an increased number of bees making her garden their home.
That is exactly what we want for our own garden, more visitors and not just the human kind. More bees, butterflies, birds, lizards and frogs. Unfortunately the frogs are unlikely to visit me because I don’t have a body of water in mygarden, I just don’t have the opportunity for that, although… maybe I should work on that.
During the workshop we learnt some interesting facts like:
- Most Australian native bees are solitary (or semi social) and live in burrows in the ground or in wood
- All Australian native bees are pollinators
- The nectar from flowers that the bees visit is a source of carbohydrates for the busy little workers
- Some bees have little baskets where they pack and store the pollen until they return to the hive
- Mass planting species is a great way to attact bees to your garden
- Australian native bees will not be effected by the Mite, should it make its way to Australia
We were then shown how to make homes for native solitary bees: a Reed bee bundle and a Resin bee drilled wood block.
To make the bundle you will need to collect branches from plants such as Hydrangea, Bamboo, Lantana or grape vine (this is not an exhaustive list). These are suitable because they have a pith centre – a soft centre within the bark that will allow the bees to easily burrow. Cut the branch into even lengths, about 15cm long. Next get some soft wire, something like Bonsai wire, bundle the branch lengths together and secure them togther with the wire. Make sure you have enough wire around the bundle to make it into a hook so that you can hook the bundle onto a tree branch. It’s as easy as that! Megan has more detailed instructions on her website, which can be found here.
I could go on to explain how to make the drilled wood block but I’ll be sensible and give you the link to Megan’s ‘how to’ page.
To encourage Resin bees to your garden click here.
Don’t worry if your fabulous, made with love, bee homes don’t attract any bees immediately – it may take a couple of years. You have to remember that the bees probably have a nice little home already and they will move into yours when the time comes to upgrade. Don’t move the hive to find the bees let the bees find it. We all know the saying, ‘if you build it they will come’, it’s the same for the bees, provide for them and they will move in and pollinate.
For more information visit the following websites, they are a wonderful source of information, pictures and publications.
Until next time, happy bee keeping.