In a very confronting piece on CNN, James Dawes, director of the Program in Human Rights at Macalester College, and the author of “Evil Men” (Harvard University Press, 2013), discusses how a “monster is made”. The article is an opinion piece relating to the story out of Syria of serious human rights abuses.

But in the face of this horrific story, Dawes provides hope with his ideas on how to raise a moral hero (hopefully who will never have to be involved in a war):

“First, take a young man and start small. Work up to altruism and moral courage step by step. Each small thing he does to attend to the suffering of another or stand up against injustice will make the next act feel easier, more natural. Second, give him a clear system of rules with predictable consequences. Teach him he has the ability to make choices about his life, and that these choices matter. Third, teach him that the world’s problems aren’t as simple as us-versus-them, good-versus-evil. Teach him that there aren’t easy solutions to complex problems. Teach him to tolerate, without fear and anxiety, life’s difficult ambiguity and uncertainty.

“And finally — to those of you, like me, who are parents of young boys — teach him to seek out “the other”: Other clubs and groups, other sources of information, other places to see, other kinds of people, other cultural values. Spoil him with diversity, so that if there ever comes a time when he is called to war, he will always remember to see the world through the other’s eyes. He will fight, but he will fight against an enemy that he sees as a person, like him. He will see their humanity, and in so doing, he will preserve his own.”



Review for Honeycomb Kids from Transition Voice:

3 Steps to Raise a Happy Peak Oil Kid

Your baby absorbed so many early-learning podcasts in utero that when she’s born she doesn’t know if she’s supposed to be Baby Einstein, Baby Mozart or Baby Bill Gates. Your husband or wife had to call in some big favors to reserve little Emma or Alessandra a place in a top preschool. After that, you’ve got her future all planned out: a decent gifted program, Yale undergrad, Wharton MBA, partner at Goldman Sachs.

If this is your parenting style, then Honeycomb Kids: Big Picture Parenting for a Changing World…and to Change the World probably isn’t in the pile of books sitting on your bedside table. But that’s a shame. It’s big-spending, ambitious, hard-charging parents who probably need this wise and gentle book the most.

You can read more of this review by clicking this link.


Compelling speakers & stories at Tedx Sydney

Took the trip to Sydney last weekend to Tedx, not quite sure what to expect, but hoping to learn, be inspired and come away brimming with new possibilities.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed being able to access different TedxSydney and Ted talks, is billed as: “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world” – gotta love that – but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be in the actual audience. So there I was, at the crack of dawn, waiting for that sun to come up and shine its beautiful light on Sydney harbour.

The buzz started to build as queues formed around the big red X. And during the course of the day I got to chat to complete strangers ranging from community activists, venture capitalists, artists, start-up entrepreneurs, IT gurus, foodies, philanthropists, uni students and teachers…lots different to the normal farm day spent communing with plants, insects, kids and furry creatures!

At times during the day I felt perplexed, inspired, priviliged, anxious, bemused, bewitched, angry, amazed, underwhelmed and overwhelmed…lots of different emotions as all the different talks played out.

The talks aren’t online yet, but here are the who and the what, of what really stood out for me:

Paul Pholeros: Paul is an architect who has worked for years to improve the living environment and health of Indigenous Australians. More recently his group, Health Habitat, has been applying their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to overseas projects such as their implementation of special toilets in Nepal that have really positive outcomes:

– making the village environment more hygienic

– recycling fertiliser to improve crop yield

– producing biogas for stoves, thus eliminating the smoke from cooking fires that cause such ill health.

Now that’s a solution! Imagine if we all had those toilets…wouldn’t need to keep fracking for gas! Wouldn’t need gas for fertiliser production! etc

In 2011 HealthHabitat was awarded the international UN Habitat’s World Habitat Award and also the Australian Institute of Architect’s national Leadership in Sustainability prize for sustaining the lives of people. Check out more at: /


Damien Mander: Damien is an ex-special Ops Aussie soldier who came across a bull elephant in Africa that had died of injuries inflicted by poachers. The question he asked himself: “How much does a human need this tusk, compared to how much does the elephant need its tusk?” He went on to discuss speciesism, and his own meat eating habits and why his questioning of them saw him found the International Anti-Poaching Foundation which uses military tactics to deter poachers.

This was such an interesting, inspiring and uncomfortable talk as just outside during the lunch break, a meat industry-funded group called Target 100 had been celebrating the carving up of a sustainably raised, but no longer sustainably living steer. Damien’s question for us: How much do we need to eat animals (sustainably raised or not), compared to their need to live in family groups, be free of suffering and pain, and be free of us ending their lives prematurely etc.


 Joost Bakker: Joost is an artist/designer and innovator of buildings covered with green roofs; cafes that have no carbon footprint; city rooftop farms; fireproof eco buildings and more.

I liked Joost because he’s tapped a “cool” solution to a variety of environmental issues and is out there using design to make a practical difference.


Danny Kennedy: Danny is an ex-Green Peace guy and founder at Sungevity who has moved into the solar industry. He came out on stage with just a little kerosene candle to illuminate him, and his mission is to get solar onto every rooftop. With his passion…he might just get there!


Ron McCallum, Omar Musa, Jennifer Robinson and Bill Pritchard also provided some great food for thought.

I think the best part of Tedx for me was seeing people who are actually DOING something to make the world a better place, or looking at the world in such an interesting way that it challenges you to think about what you really believe in.

The other great thing about Ted is that all the videos will be up soon so you can make up your own mind!

tedx sydney

joost bakker story image


When kids are out and about, rather than hooked up and into electronics, all sorts of things can happen (including exercise).  As parents whenever we can we need to encourage them to get them outside, into different environments and mixing with different people (and creatures!) so the magic can happen.  Here’s a Youtube video that gives us giggles…


Here’s a link to an an article in the Townsville Bulletin about Honeycomb Kids: Big Picture Parenting for a Changing World and to Change the World.


Such a great morning to wake up to this….

2012 Book of the Year Award Finalists Announced – Honeycomb Kids a Finalist in the Ecology & Environment Category and Family & Relationships Category.

ForeWord Reviews is pleased to announce the 2012 Book of the Year Awards list of finalists. Representing more than 700 publishers, the finalists were selected from 1300 entries in 62 categories. These books are examples of independent publishing at its finest.

“Honeycomb Kids: Big Picture Parenting for a Changing World and to Change the World” is a finalist for the 2012 Book of the Year Awards in the Ecology & Environment – Adult Non-Fiction category, and also in the Family & Relationships category.

ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. Award winners are chosen by librarians and booksellers who are on the front lines, working everyday with patrons and customers.

ForeWord Reviews, a quarterly print journal established in 1998, is dedicated to exclusively reviewing independently published books to provide booksellers, librarians, agents, and publishing professionals with reviews of the best titles from small, alternative, and academic presses.



Mum, can we have pony patties for dinner?!?

Do we want big business in charge of our food supply?

Do we want big business in charge of our food supply?

Ah, pony patties, donkey dunkers, ninny nuggets, horse hamburgers – the European horse meat scandal sure has opened up a whole new range of treats for home cooks and Master Chef contestants to add to their repertoire…maybe without even knowing.

Palomino pies, Shetland sausages, Thoroughbred T-bone…these dishes just roll off the tongue like Frumpy Old Feedlot Friesians, Caged Chicken Casserole and Stalled Sow Stew. Maybe in a back room in a McDonalds somewhere, a young executive is dreaming up a Quarter-Horse burger as a summer sister species promotion for the Quarter-Pounder.

The thing is, this is just the tip of the frozen meal iceberg. And it’s the best thing since sliced mixed-species salami to wake regular people up to the fact that our dinner tables may be laden…but with what we don’t really know.

Compared to a century ago, we Westerners spend just a fraction of our budgets on food…and we whinge about every cent of it. We watch shows like My Kitchen Rules with no thought to Nature’s rules. And now we’re serving up microwaved Hors D’Oeuvres that might actually be Horses D’oovers!  We turn a blind eye to the mass suffering of animals; to the rampant use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides; to the fact that farmers earn much less and commit suicide more often than their white collar city counterparts.

We’ve trusted big business and governments with our short-term appetites, never questioning the long-term stakes of minute-meals and cheap food. From animal welfare issues to massive use of transport fuels, petrochemical packaging to nutrition-less calories, food flies around the globe as fast as we lose the earth’s topsoil to erosion.

It’s an issue people and we can’t just flambe’ it and make it go away.

It’s time we became citizens again, not just consumers. That means supporting local farmers, growing more of our own food, setting up community gardens, taking an interest in nutrition, buying organic and less processed, eating less meat or not any at all. It’s actually lots of fun, really delicious…and at least you know what you’re getting!

Check out my book: Honeycomb Kids: Big Picture Parenting for a Changing World and to Change the World for ideas on how to get your family started on a brave new life and eating adventure. (It’s available in bookstores & online).

Oh, and enjoy your dinner! :)



Over the recent holidays we went places as a family that we don’t tend to head during normal months…so there were trips to the movies, shopping centres and a bit of extra TV watching. And it seemed like we’d stepped into the world of Garnier’s BB Cream. Everywhere we turned, every page we flipped, every poster and ad we saw was about this BB Cream.

“What is that stuff?” My 12yo daughter asked dreamily…just like the soft lens everything seemed to be filmed in.

“Let’s find out,” I replied. “Well, on their website they say it’s a ‘miracle skin perfector’.”

“Ooooh,” said the 12 year old. “What’s in it?”

And then we discovered finding out the ingredients of BB Cream would actually need a miracle! After lots of searching on the official Garnier BB Cream site, the only information we found out about the ingredients were lines like this:

“…a hybrid formula…unique mix of active ingredients including vitamin C…mineral perlite…mineral pigments…SPF15…”

We also read that: “Garnier believes in the power of nature. Based on this philosophy, to use active natural ingredients wherever possible.”

Righty-O…I thought, if they’re not happy to put the ingredients on their site in an easy to find place…that’s an alarm bell. Surely it’s not about “trade secrets” and all that stuff, maybe it’s just there’s something in the ingredients that won’t help them sell more of the stuff….maybe things with erky names!

More research. And this proved tricky. With one search engine I couldn’t find any sites with info on the ingredients because for pages and pages, it was all just glowing reviews and Garnier pages…did discover though that the “BB” stands for “Beauty Balm” or “Blemish Balm”. I had a bit more luck with a different search engine though and came across a site called CosDNA (

Just a bare bones site, and with information for a legal advisor on the front page…I typed in Garnier BB Cream Ingredients.

Ummm, here’s just a couple of the ones listed for starters. Half of these (maybe more than half!) we had no idea what they were so had to turn to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic database for more information. The EWG is a great resource for all sorts of information about the ingredients in cosmetics and more, and I’ve used it the past to work out the ingredients in the also heavily advertised Bio-Oil.

Here is some of the information about the ingredients listed in CosDNA as being in the BB Cream:


ETHYLHEXYL METHOXYCINNAMATE (also known as Octinoxate)

Alcohol denat

Nylon 12

Propylene Glycol

And that was just for starters, there were plenty of other long-named and double-barrelled ingredients.

“Oh,” said the 12 year old, the disappointment in her voice meaning she knew we wouldn’t be becoming a customer. Sure, she’d love to get caught up in the glamour of something mum hasn’t made at home (we make a moisturising balm for ourselves and for sale using beeswax, and organic oils including coconut, jojoba, rosehip & evening primrose oils), but she also knows there’s no way we’d pay out for a mix of stuff we can’t pronounce and wouldn’t want in our kitchen cupboard.

It can be hard to do the research about possible purchases, but it really is up to us parents to help educate ourselves and our kids about the facts behind the advertising fluff.

“Only put on your skin what you can eat”… is something we say a lot in this house because it just seems to make sense for our health and the health of the planet. There are lots of sites and books from which you can learn how to make your own lotions and potions, so why not give one a go with your little one in tow!?!



Thanks to the great gang at Food for Thought Townsville, Kids in Harmony, TropEco, White Rabbit and James Cook University there’ll be a parenting forum in Townsville to be held on 23rd March, 2013. Come along for information, ideas and inspiration!

parenting book


For the last few years we’ve been working at opening a native bee sanctuary and ethnobotanical (useful plant) garden on our farm. The kids have been involved all along the way, whether digging holes, planting trees (medicinal, dye, aromatherapy, edible, insect repelling, plants for construction & craft etc), or just helping out with general chores so we could work on the project.

One of the big jobs that needed doing was the building of the deck off the recycled shipping container we’re using as our entry and farmgate shop. It was big job that took up time for my husband each day for weeks, and during the afternoons after school and on weekends, our 10yo son learned how to use a hammer…how to use a hammer….how to use a hammer – thousands of times actually.   At times it was obviously laborious, at times it took more concentration than he wanted to muster, at times he flat refused to get involved, and at other times he literally nailed it and became wholly absorbed in the process.

Looking back, it was not just the construction of a deck, it was also part of the construction of the child and the man he will become.

He saw the project go from bare earth, to the digging of the holes for the foundations, through to each piece of timber being laid in place. He saw other friends and guests’ kids help out on it too (see victory pic when they worked out the last piece in the jigsaw), and he personally contributed a big effort to its completion. And unlike the computer games he also likes to have a play of…what he created is actually in the real world, with real purpose and real results…and it took real effort.

When he stood on the deck at the opening, he was beaming with pride. Yes, he’d been asked to help and he didn’t always want to, but in the end, he played a big role in something that actually mattered. He could see the real results of his real effort. He had become more capable and his smile was so strong because he knew he’d made a whopping contribution.

Every time someone steps onto the deck and comments what a beautiful space it is to view the farm, it gives him a boost, and a solid base to continue to grow from.

There are ideas in Honeycomb Kids about how you can involve your child around the home and in your community so their self esteem can grow naturally, and please, add some of your own ideas to this post too so we can all share.

So….child labour…or doing the child a favour?

Capable kids

Kids celebrating the final piece in the puzzle


In the last few months I’ve seen my son with:
– a knife sticking out of his leg, and
– an electronic game sticking out of his hands

And though I know this will get me labeled with the tag “worst mother in the world”, looking back, I’m much more comfortable with the knife in the leg situation.

In Daniel Goleman’s book Ecological Intelligence, he writes: “…Nature hard-wired the brain’s alarm circuitry to spot and recoil immediately from objects hurtling toward us, threatening facial expressions, snarling animals, and like dangers in our immediate surroundings…But nothing in our evolutionary past has shaped our brain for spotting less palpable threats like the slow heating of the planet, the insidious spread of destructive particulates in the air we breathe and things we eat…”

So, when I compare a knife sticking out of his leg and an electronic game sticking out of his hands – I’m really comparing an immediate threat to his physical health (that in this instance was manageable), with a long term threat to his physical and psychological health (that may prove unmanageable).

The knife in the leg came about when he creatively combined his fishing knife with a series of acrobatic Ninja moves on a trampoline. It led to a whole range of outcomes including:
– sitting in emergency watching the comings and goings of other patients and learning about what others have to deal with
– overcoming his fear of blood and stitches…it wasn’t as bad as he thought
– an animated chat with the doctor about how different tribes spear each other in exactly the same spot as it avoids all major arteries and isn’t life threatening
– a realization that knives and trampolines don’t mix
– a sewing lesson to fix the ripped jeans
– a renewed interest in cooking because the kitchen is a place he’s allowed to use the knife to chop, slice and dice
– an intriguing scar
– a memorable childhood experience

On the other hand, the electronic game in the hands has lead to:
– His fingers moving faster
– A lot of sitting
– Anger when asked to stop playing

So the other day when he asked to use a very sharp scythe, it was easier for us to say yes to that than yes to another computer game. Though going to hospital with a scythe embedded in his leg might raise some eyebrows!

I think we’ll continue to wrap the kids in cotton wool after they’ve had the accident…not wrap them in it so they never do. What about you?


Last week I had the absolute honour of speaking at a Transition Towns group event and on the panel after the talk was Margo Mannix a clinical social worker. Margo believes her parenting has been successful because her children are kind. She didn’t talk about the careers they have, the money they earn, the studies they undertake or the Jones’ they keep up with – her pride was in the fact her children were kind.

In the same week Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi gave her long overdue acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace prize…and kindness was the focus:

“Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that they are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people.”

Kindness can also change the lives of animals, as well as people we don’t know and may never know.

When we act with kindness, we stop exploiting and start caring. We give of ourselves rather than take for ourselves. We soften our voice and cooperate rather than gossip and dominate. Instead of causing rifts, we uplift.

In the last few days I’ve been lifted by the kindness of others, kindness that has come totally out of the blue. There was the friend with little time to spare, who found some to help me out. There were the strangers whose compassion was so genuine it was like a lightening strike (Guests…that was you!). There was a nurse who brightened my father’s predicament. There was a group of women who extended the hand of friendship. There was a person who held the door and smiled…

Kindness is catching.

So…what can we do today that will make the life of our family and the vibe of the whole world a little kinder?


Sooo great to see local kids banding together at the market this weekend to sell their wares. The lovely market managers charge them $2ea (and they get a receipt!) to share a “Kids’ Community Stall”. Any child is welcome to join the stall so long as they have had a hand in producing the product. In this case it was picking flowers for the cordial, helping make the slice, hand-decorating boxes and painting pictures for a lucky dip.
It’s great when we give kids the ability to contribute and produce and be active participants in life rather than just recipients of it. They learn so much about creativity, effort, communication skills and even finance.
Sure, these kids kept abandoning their stall and cash tin to go dance and do flips on the grass, but hey – wouldn’t we all like to have this much fun while making pocket money?
Is there a local market near you where you could explore the concept of your kids being contributors rather than just consumers?

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Here are the first few paragraphs of Tania McCartney’s review of Honeycomb Kids. For the full book review visit here

Many is the time I look at my digital babies (aged 11 and 9) and marvel at the completely different planet they live on. I marvel at the complete divergence between their childhood and my own, despite, like many parents, spending considerable time ensuring they have as much of a ‘real life’ existence as possible (as opposed to the virtual one they are living via laptops, iPads, and various game platforms).

Yes, digital babies have untold benefits. They also have untold disadvantage – the consequences of which we may not realise for many decades to come.

As my children sit poised on the launching pad to adulthood, my eyes are wide open to the future we are leaving them to take in hand. Learning more about this new book – Honeycomb Kids – was of enormous interest to me because that handing-over-to-our-kids thing – I must admit, fills me with a little bit of worry. Not only for the fact that our kids are increasingly losing touch with reality, but that they are also facing a world that has achieved the most incredible amount of change in the smallest amount of time in the history of our existence.

For the full book review visit here


Daydreaming about having a personal chef? Like a trustworthy babysitter? Need someone to help mow the lawn or would you enjoy a rental shop that doesn’t charge for all sorts of tools, toys and clothes? How about a shoulder to cry on, a cause to fight for or unsolicited smiles on demand? If you’re rich in community you can have it all with no credit card or high salary in sight.

We live in a time of unprecedented connection thanks to the internet and mobile phones – but it’s a mirage. It’s a mirage that can leave many of us parents feeling isolated and overwhelmed as we struggle to raise children without the necessary strong family and community networks to support us.

For years we’ve probably developed relationships with colleagues a long commute away while shunning our nearer neighbours. We might have been too busy or too shy to reach out, been renting so didn’t feel a sense of place or just never saw the need for a close local network. But families need a deep and direct connection to those who live nearby for peace of mind and to live a life that’s a bit easier and loads more fulfilling.

Think about the people living within a one-mile radius of you. How many of them do you really know? Do you know what they believe in? What makes them happy? What they do for a living? What they’d really like to do for a living? What skills and hobbies do they enjoy? How many of them could you turn to for help? How many of them know what type of help you could offer? How many are happy? How many are suffering? And how many really know you?

Our home is our sanctuary, but if we don’t emerge from it, it can also cut us off from a whole host of experiences and relationships that would make our lives, and those of our children, more fulfilling in the short and long term.

Developing deeper ties with our local community means we can save money and time, impact on important local issues, and feel more connected, nurtured and fulfilled. And when people really “know” us, there’s less need to “be perfect” and more room for us to seek and offer help as needed. Here are some ideas for starters:

• Start smiling at and acknowledging people as you pass them in the street. No matter how awkward you feel, strike up a conversation with the other mums at the park

• Organise a get-together for your street one Sunday afternoon. Pop flyers in letterboxes and ask everyone to bring food to share.

• Set up a dinner club with a few locals whereby once a fortnight each of you cooks a large batch of a yummy meal to drop off to the others. It’s a little extra work for you one night, but then you get to be the recipient of meals from the others a few days later.

• Find out about some of the local-interest groups operating in the area, from sports clubs to craft groups, seed-savers to scouts. Which ones might you and your children like to try?

• Find out about some of the ‘at need’ groups in your community. Is there a way you and your kids can offer help (e.g., taking your family pet to visit old people at a nursing home, or tidying up a garden for a busy neighbour, or fetching groceries for a new mum, or organising a get together for people who have moved to the area).

• Do an inventory of tools and toys you’d be willing to share with your neighbours and ask them to do the same. It’s a great way to save money and resources while reducing clutter…not everyone in the street needs to own a trampoline, pasta maker or ice cream machine!

• Think about ‘giving loops’ you can create, like taking off a neighbours’ washing or mowing your own and your neighbours’ lawns, while they reciprocate the next month when you’re busy. What other ‘giving loops’ can you think of that would benefit you and other people in your community while also showing your kids the benefits of cooperation?

• Shop and trade locally wherever you can to ensure money stays in your local community. Internet and multi-national purchases send wealth far away, when what we all need right now are strong local economies that put back into the area and people around us

• Join a local emergency services crew, volunteer fire brigade or first-responders team so you’re able to assist other local citizens and learn valuable skills in the process. This will help teach your children the importance of community action. You’ll also be able to pass on the skills you’ve learned to your kids, and it’s a great way to meet people in your local area.

By reaching out to your community, you’ll be teaching your children to learn how to get along with others, how to listen and to be listened to, how to contribute, how to receive, and how to support and be supported. Over the years our society seems to have chosen privacy and independence over togetherness and citizenship, but there are many compelling reasons to get to know your neighbours and wider community…you’ve just got to start by saying “Hello”.

You can find more tips and ideas like this in my book: Honeycomb Kids

Sharing laughs and loaves

Sharing laughs and loaves


From Left to Write is an online book club where bloggers/members “create a virtual discussion of a book and how it relates to their lives.”

We sent them in a copy of Honeycomb Kids in the hope it would be reviewed, and today the review was released.  It was great to see how the reader Taylor found the book relevant, and sometimes not-so relevant to her family’s life, but overall:

“Here’s what you should take away from what I’m saying about this book: it’s definitely a keeper.  It’s an easy read, full of thought-provoking discussions and ideas on raising well-rounded kids.”

For the full book review, click here.

Thank you “Left to Write” for taking the time to review the book. Do appreciate it.


TV, computer games and mobile phones have been a way of life for years in the West. Each decade the number of small screens and time spent on them multiplying like over-friendly bacteria. And as a parent, I’ve felt like an increasingly ineffective and foul-tasting antibiotic as I’ve tried to stem our own kids’ desire for devices and screen-time.

Why bother fighting it I wonder? Everyone’s doing it – hell, I did it! And then this little bit of instinct kicks in over the whining and the sound system.

iPods, iPhones and iCarly give kids great superficial instant gratification and distraction, but not much of anything else. That’s because they don’t prepare our kids for the world they’ll be living in as adults…a world with way more than 7 billion people who are all going to be competing for the same resources and opportunities – just as those resources and opportunities are limited.

So even though today my own kids had Academy Award-winning meltdowns, nasty moments and serious argy-bargy ( a British term meaning “a lively or disputatious discussion”), the time they didn’t spend consuming the screen meant they actually learnt, did and contributed something.

• The 7yo helped in the garden so we’ll be able to eat fresh food a month from now.

• The 11yo cooked dinner for a neighbour in need and the rest of the family (yum!).

• The 9yo spent hours engaged in all sorts of outdoor activity including burying a stranger’s racing pigeon and using a screwdriver to retrieve the bird’s microchip bracelet for the owner! (Yes…definitely a bit odd and a new experience, but if he hadn’t been outdoors he never would have come across it!)

This doesn’t make them angels, and it certainly doesn’t make them martyrs, it also doesn’t make them totally screen-disease free or free of meltdowns…it just makes them contributors.

It’s by contributing, by learning and by doing that they accrue the attitude, skills, capabilities and persistence that will be like bonus points in the years ahead.

Providing our kids with screen-time boundaries means they’ll actually be able to explore their own capabilities and the real world that they live in. It enables them to realise that real achievement takes time – not just hours of button-pressing action.

It means they’ll understand that being able to say iCan and iDid is ever more powerful than iPlod.

And it also means when we parents say “no” to excess electronic consumption, that we have to be ready to hear “iThinkuRtheBiggestMeanestParentInTheWorld!”… and learn to like it.

See Honeycomb Kids for 300+ ideas and activities you can implement with your family along these lines.

Honeycomb Kids

Contributing in and to the real world!


There always has to be a first review on Amazon and here it is (thank you so much aidansmama )

Subject: Great book to prepare our kids’ for what’s to come

This book is amazing. Anna, hit the mail on the head with this one. There are so many parenting books about specific issues, but none that combines all you need to know to help prepare your children to be self-sufficient and know how to survive in the world that they may be facing in the future. She compares the family working together to bees working as a team to make a honeycomb that produces good “the honey”. I read this book on my kindle, but will be ordering the paper copy today, as this is a book I will refer to again and again. She gives you ways to help you kids such as conversations to have, things to do as a family to make the family unit stronger. How important it is to know your community and basic skills that many of us are lacking today. We are running out of resources, trees, oil, etc. We need to raise responsible children. Anna says and it is true, the Earth is not ours, we are borrowing it from our children. This is one of those books that you won’t just read once. She has a great index so it will be easy to find what you are looking for at a quick glance. I hope Anna continues to write. I would love to see other books like this. Honeycomb Kids is a great book to give to new parents and other families as gifts. It would make a great read for a book club! Buying this book could only improve your insight, and help your family plan ahead. I recommend this book to everyone!

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If you’d like to stay up to date with blog posts and link in with other like-minded people, “like” us on the Honeycomb Kids Facebook site. Hope to see you there.



Of the thousands of Bob Browns in the world, one Bob Brown wrote a book in 2009 called “Earth”. There are a mere 500 words in “Earth”, but they certainly pack a punch.

“Will people forever thank us for what we do today?”, is the big question Bob asks.

Um. Gulp. That got me thinking!

If we all thought that way, imagine what a different approach we’d take to:

Our careers: would we really keep working for the company we do?

Housing/Renovations: what do we really need, what makes the best use of resources, and what will stand the test of time?

Purchases: would we continue to unpack our wallet to buy stuff we are only going to throw away?

Health: would we continue to demand and buy products that pollute the air, water and our bodies

Education: As Albert Einstein said “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking that created them”, so how might we educate ourselves differently?

Water: I’ve been travelling through towns where coal seam gas mining is ramping up and communities are nervous about water security…maybe politicians and big business might stop thinking about “economic growth” and “quarterly sharemarket reports”, and more about the “economics of happiness” and “sharing into the next century”.

When you ask that question of yourself: “Will people forever thank me for what I do today?”, what is your answer?

Mine is: Yikes!!!…I’ve got a lot to make up for and a helluva long way to go! But hey, I’m willing to give it a go! Especially when I think of one of Bob’s other poignant lines:

“Each of us alters the whole by just a little and yet forever”.

Those are two quotes worth sticking up on the wall at home methinks!

Nb: Bob Brown is an Australian Senator and leader of the Green Party in the nation (or was until a few days ago when he resigned!). I don’t know Bob from Bob (though after reading his book I’d sure like to), but I did send him an advance review copy of Honeycomb Kids and he sent me the nicest note in reply along with his beautiful book. The ISBN for it if you’re interested is: 9780646514659

Earth by bob Brown

Earth by Bob Brown



Like many who have grown up in the Internet age, I’m one of millions of savvy online shoppers who enthusiastically search out, close in on and compare the cheapest internet bargain for whatever I’m searching. But as of last week, I’ve gone on strike.
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally realised I’ve been short-changing my family and community for the sake of a couple of dollars.
That’s because a $10 saving made at a far-off business, just doesn’t have the far-reaching benefits of spending that extra $10 with a local company.
Local business can offer not just great face-to-face service and often some added extras and follow-up service (like the great local camera store I visited last week and some fabulous independent bookstores!), but crucially they employ local people. These local people and the companies who they work for are more likely to spend their wages/profits in the local community thus adding to the vibrancy and resilience of the local economy and community as a whole.
Locally, what goes around, comes around. But when you choose to ship in, all the benefits ship out.
The concept of local investing takes this whole idea one big step further. In her book “Locavesting – The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It”, Amy Cortese asks: “What would the world be like if we invested 50 per cent of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?”
And in Michael Shuman’s book “Local Dollars, Local Sense – How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity” he makes the point that “Americans’ long term savings in stocks, bonds, pensions, life insurance and mutual funds total about $30 trillion. But not even 1 per cent of these savings touches local small businesses, the source of half the economy’s jobs and output.”
Shopping locally. Investing locally. Thriving locally. I’d pay $10 for that!
NB: When times are tough, $10 is $10, and environmentally the more second-hand buying we can do over buying new the better. So rather than straight away turning to an online site like Ebay, when you’re searching for second-hand goods, try to first visit your local op-shop/Goodwill who will reinvest the money you spend with them into local welfare and community programs!
Are you spending more online than on your main street?

local dollars local sense

Local Dollars Local Sense


In a chapter in Honeycomb Kids the importance of books in teaching, inspiring and widening the interests of children is explored. And as an adult, I’m a sucker for them too!

Books allow us to dip into the wisdom and learnings of others, whether that be creating a delicious new meal, choosing the ingredients for a natural insect repellent, or learning how to make your community more resilient. Books have been a huge part of my own journey. Through books and through mentors over the last 7 years I’ve learned so much including how to keep bees, how to make cheese, how to save seeds and so much more.

Many of my favourite and most useful books have come from Chelsea Green Publishing. So it was so wonderful today to receive word that Chelsea Green will be distributing Honeycomb Kids in the USA – with launch set for Earth Day – April 22 2012. Yay!

Canadian distribution is with Codasat

Australian distribution is with the bookstores’ favourite: Dennis Jones & Associates.



In broad daylight we strolled into our neighbour’s home, took what we wanted and left. We took all the stuff we could easily flog at the pub: drop saw, hand tools and a not-so-easily concealed cement mixer. We even ate their food.

Stuff’s always going missing from our house, so we thought we’d pay them back.

We didn’t call the police when it happened to us. And they didn’t either. That’s because it’s called: sharing.

Sharing’s this funny thing we parents encourage kids to do:

“C’mon Johnny, share your ball.”
“Jemma, hop off the swing and give that girl a turn”.
“Georgia! Stop pulling your sister’s hair! Just share would you!?!”

But as adults we kind of forget to do it ourselves. Sure, we share opinions, vinos and woes, but do we really share out stuff? And why should we?

As a kid I was actually a good sharer, but the worst type of borrower. My sister hated loaning me clothes because she knew her frilly fashions would come back smoked, soaked and stained. But since coming off the fake ID, I’ve been working on my caretaking skills and what I’ve discovered is that sharing:

  • saves lots of money: when two or three or four families share, it reduces everyone’s expenditure by half or two-thirds or three-quarters!
  • is good for the environment: one less mower means a little less extraction of non-renewable resources
  • enriches relationships: if the caretaking part is done right of course!
  • makes a community more resilient: neighbours who share, communicate and make decisions together are much more of a force than a compartmentalised unit can ever be
  • reduces clutter: imagine the freedom of being able to move around your home when you don’t need to house a ladder, crockpot, juicer, mower, trampoline, games console, popcorn machine and milkshake maker 24/7!

How do you start sharing? Get the party started by visiting your neighbours with a list of items you’re willing to share in the street’s loan pool. Or if you don’t want to share what you already have, how about collaborating and colluding with neighbours on your next purchase!?! Think of it as a toy library for grown-ups!

Have you a story of sharing gone right or wrong?


My sister recently gave me a t-shirt as a gift, and when it shrunk a little in the wash, it was quickly claimed by the 11yo. It’s an organic cotton shirt and in big writing on the front it says: Eat money? Then on the back it has this message:

What do we share with what we wear?

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river been poisoned
and the last fish been caught
will we realise we cannot eat money

It got me thinking about the messages we wear and share in public, from bumper stickers to t-shirts to the expression on our faces.

It got me thinking about how we can make the world a better place, and challenge perceptions and encourage our kids to have values that matter.

It got me thinking about the limited choices in big name stores where you can only find clothes for boys with skulls and guns and ghouls, and where girls get to choose between Disney characters & slogans like “I’m a princess so do what I say!”.

Of course it goes a lot deeper than just what’s on our clothes, it’s also what goes into them that matters…synthetics or naturals, fair trade or trade by slave? Have you got any good tips about sharing through wearing?


Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” (NDD) which sums up how we’ve allowed our children to lose connection with nature only to replace it with walls, windows, screens and inherent associated risks such as obesity and depression.  NDD is not just a city phenomenon either, it can be as true of city-based families as country-based ones.  That’s why it’s so important to get out and about, especially during school holidays.

Our kids’ Christmas present this year was a few days at horse camp so they could not only enjoy a deeper connection with these magnificent creatures, but also connect with nature on a larger scale.  It was hilarious when we turned up for a visit and they smugly told us: “We haven’t had a shower in 4 days!” While they waited for the look of horror, they all started grinning: “We’ve been washing in the river!”

Not only that, they learnt that tadpoles give a great free pedicure at the end of a long day in riding boots…something people in beauty salons can sometimes pay a premium for! And all the while they were surrounded by nature and her fresh running water, a gentle breeze and dappled sunlight through magestic trees.

It’s vital our children connect with nature, not just for their own health, but for Planet Earth’s health. The more connected our kids are to nature, the less likely they’ll sit idly by as it is destroyed.

What’s something you can do with your children today to get them out and about in nature? Visit a local waterway? Plant a flower or two? Grab some binoculars and go bird watching in a city park? Make mud pies? Collect fallen leaves and make art? Ideas any one?

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When it comes to our kids we often think about the food they eat, their friends, their taste in fashion…but do we ever think about our kids in the context of fossil fuels? This little video puts in perspective how fossil fuels have changed the world over the last three generations…and why our kids’ world will likely be a bit different to the seemingly abundant one we grew up with.



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We get to meet all sorts of wonderful young people on the farm thanks to the Helpx and Wwoof (willing workers on organic farms) network, and it gives us great hope for the future. Of course, we also sometimes meet twenty year olds who act more like twelve year olds, but that’s a rarity as most people who choose to travel the world this way have a bit more get up and go. Case in point, some of the fabulous wwoofers who have spent the last couple of weeks with us helping us create an ethnobotanical garden out of a bare paddock.

The work has been hard, but the smiles come easy, and that’s because everyone from toddlers to teens to great grandma’s feel good when they contribute.

The more we’re able to find ways for our young people  (and ourselves!) to contribute, be grateful and helpful – rather than just consume – the better (and more fun!) for all. What do you think?



Baby steps.

Baby steps and resolve.

Baby steps + resolve = outcomes changed.

In our family ‘baby steps’ means consciously choosing health for our kids and the planet. The ‘resolve’ means we look for different options, have to say ‘no’ (and stick to it!) a lot more, and that we commit to supporting businesses with environmentally & human-friendly practices whenever we can. This doesn’t always make us popular with the kids of course!

The ‘outcomes changed’ range from little to large, and a little one the other day was a cracker. Our kids actually begged us to stop at a fast food outlet (Olivers) who were serving buckets of steamed green beans. Crunchy texture, hot and comforting, salty and moreish. And green. And good. And right next door to a major fast food chain who specialise in fries. Now, that would never have happened even a year ago – but it’s happening now.

Baby steps + resolve = outcomes changed.


In Honeycomb Kids I write about the importance of deciding with your kids what your family stands for.

For our family, among many other things, we decided we were for: Clean water and good air. So when we heard about a local protest against coal seam gas mining (a threat that will potentially destroy the clean water and good air in ours and surrounding areas), we wondered if we should sit on our hands and do nothing, or should we make an effort to have our family’s voice heard.

Over the weekend we bought cardboard and made signs with the kids. It would be ours and theirs first protest and the kids having just seen a little about the “Arab Spring” uprisings with lots of tear gas and violence, were a little concerned at the prospect! But as more and more friends from groups like Landcare and local farmers market folk talked about the protest they knew they would be amongst caring and gentle adults and started to get excited at the prospect of having their say.

The protest started at midday, so when I popped in to pick up the 6 year old from school, her teacher smilingly quipped: “Well, this is the first time I’ve had a first-grader pulled out of school for a protest, will she be back this afternoon?”. “Not if we get arrested,” I joked. Our 9 year old’s teacher wished us well too and off we went to join hundreds of others, all dressed in blue…blue to signify the beautiful, pure water we all currently enjoy.

I felt grateful to all the people at the rally – a mix of farmers, retirees, environmentalists, indigenous leaders, council representatives, grandparents, business owners and just regular people – I felt grateful that they cared enough about our children’s future to take time out of their day to have a say. And I felt so sad that we have people in positions of power making short term decisions based on greed that will affect the lives of so many going forward. But I also felt empowered in that we joined with others to at least try to make a difference, and that our children were able to feel the support of the community around them.  Our kids need to know that it’s okay to speak up rather than just be spoken to and that they have the right to fight for a clean water and clear air future.

Is there something your family all feel really strongly about? If so, lead your own rally…it might just be a sign on your fence, a letter to the editor or an afternoon gathering of local residents – if we can start teaching our kids how to have a say about things that matter, we’re one step closer to creating a better world for them in the future.





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Honeycomb Kids

Big picture parenting for a changing world…and to change the world

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