26th August, 2013

Take a compacted gravel car park, a big pile of lucerne hay, some manure and two years of love, passion and an “exuberant amount of time” and you’ll be amazed at what can be grown in Katoomba, just 800m from the Co-op.

Steve Alton has been a passionate gardener for most of his life. He learnt the art from his father, who was a ‘victory gardener’, growing produce in allotments as a necessity during wartime. For Steve, gardening is an essential part of life and he has always had gardens wherever he has lived. Katoomba has been one of the more challenging places to garden due to the poor soil, cold winters and erratic rainfall.

Steve sees his garden as an example of what’s possible in Katoomba, especially when we need to start considering issues such as food miles and food security. Many of you will be familiar with Steve’s bountiful beans, luscious lettuces, superb silverbeet and hearty herbs all tied up in flaxen bundles that he brings in to the Co-op several times a week.  And he still has enough left over to feed himself!


So how did he go from having a compacted gravel carpark to an incredibly productive garden in just two years? The first step was to determine the sunniest part of the site. Then he mattocked up the gravel to loosen it and mark it out into rows. Thirty five kilograms of seed potatoes were then laid on top of the gravel, sprinkled with blood and bone and covered with lucerne mulch.  As the potatoes grew, more mulch was added, becoming a rich, deep compost over time. The potato crop served several purposes. Not only did it provide Steve with an ample food source for the following year, the potato roots helped to aerate the soil and gravel base of the garden and the lucerne mulch layers formed the basis for the deep raised beds which now grow a wide variety of vegetables. Elsewhere in the garden fruit trees are already established and bearing fruit, thriving on a rich diet of mulch and manure.

Steve is a great recycler, sourcing windbreaks and wire and netting from council cleanups. An old bathtub and a row of repurposed eskies collect water from the roof of the house to use on the garden and a friend collects old toilet rolls for Steve to use for raising seedlings. That way the plants have a head start before the snails get them and the toilet rolls can be planted straight into the ground to reduce the risk of transplant shock. Steve makes most of his compost in trenches to avoid double handling, but every now and again lashes out and builds a hot compost pile. A forty four gallon drum near the veggie patch contains a pungent brew of liquid manure (a mixture of cow and horse manure in a sack suspended in water) which gets diluted and poured on the garden once a week during the growing season.

Steve is keenly aware of his local ecosystem and his garden is a constant source of wonder. He regards it respectfully as “the microcosm that feeds you.” You may remember his engraved pumpkins from the last couple of years reminding us of the fecundity of the earth, to forgive and not to treat the soil like dirt.



19th August, 2013

Where am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes, by Kelsey Timmerman

Journalist and activist Kelsey Timmerman wakes up one day and ponders: where have these clothes come from? Who made them? This sets him on a journey to answer these questions, literally going to the countries and factories where the clothing he is wearing has been made.

The working conditions vary somewhat from country to country, but overall things don’t look so great, to say the least.

What makes the book most interesting is that the author meets with the people who make our clothes and puts a name, a face and a story to them. He tells us what these people sacrifice daily to work in these factories. Timmerman doesn’t simply look at the pay, physical conditions and working hours, he examines the bigger picture of developing countries’ whole way of life and the idea that making cheap items for the west has in many ways become a backbone of survival that comes at great cost both to the people that produce it and to the planet as a whole.

So much is being lost on multiple levels, for the young people who work in the factories who miss out on education, raising their children and being with their families and community.

Tradition and knowledge about the land and local agriculture dwindle as people from rural areas leave to work in the factories based in the city.

Timmerman shows it’s not a simple black and white issue and that the whole industry needs to change. Capitalism and corporations based on self interest and profit rather than fairness have created multibillion dollar brands that in many cases are just that: a brand. The corporation itself is not skilled in making shoes, clothes etc, the corporation is skilled at promoting its product to make large profits for its shareholders.

Timmerman points out almost half of the world’s shoes are made in China. At one point he visits a factory to find out what it’s like for the people that make his Teva sandals. He finds that the people work up to 100 hours a week, have very poor living conditions and in many cases not only are they paid poorly, they are not paid their overtime. They are expected to make the stuff for free!

As consumers we want to know where our food is grown, how it is produced and what’s in it. The same interest should be applied to the clothing and other ‘stuff’ we buy. We have a right to know where our clothing is made, where the materials are sourced to make the product, what the working conditions are like, how the making of that product affects people, animals and the environment, so that we can make an informed choice.

This may sound like a dark topic, but within the book there is hope. Hearing the stories of the people who make clothing for a living is deeply humbling. They are living lives we could hardly imagine yet within this we hear of hope of friendships and dreams they have for the future.

Where am I Wearing, by Kelsey Timmerman, is available from local book stores and also to borrow at Blue Mountains City Library.


17th August, 2013


Growing can certainly slow down in the chillier months of the year in the Blue Mountains. But don’t forget to keep your eyes on the local shelves for the rare treats.  It’s been a fantastic citrus season. Greens are slow, but still turn up. So what is in season and what has been spotted on the local rack?


7th August, 2013

We’re excited at the Co-op to bring you new products that will help you tread lightly on the Earth not only in what you eat, but also in your home.


Keep an eye out in store for these fantastic new products & drop us a line to let us know what you think!

Bamboo toothbrushes

Beautiful brush ware – dish brushes, bottle brushes, veggie brushes

Bags from Apple Green Duck

Handmade olive oil soaps

Bokashi Composting Buckets and Mix

Organic Brown Basmati Rice

Australian Freekeh (green cracked wheat)

Tamarind Syrup

Pomegranate Molasses

Smoked Paprika

Egyptian Dukkah

Black glutinous rice

Rose water

There are also some wonderful products that are locally produced –

Blue M food co. jams and chutneys

Smoked almonds

Straining muslin – for making cheese, nut and soy milks.

Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh





6th August, 2013

A fresh food enthusiast, Laura Taylor, is considering setting up a dairy cow share herd in the Katoomba area, enabling people to buy shares in cows for access to fresh, local milk. Laura is currently seeking expressions of interest to find out how much local demand there is for this project.

Each cow is ‘divided’ into 100 shares, with each share selling for (approx) $15. Each share then attracts an (approx) $2.50 weekly boarding fee for care of the cow, and the owner of each share is entitled to 1/100th of the milk produced by that cow each week (expected to be 1-1.5L per week).

If you would be interested in purchasing shares, or for more information about the herd, please contact Laura at

2nd August, 2013

The long awaited official launch of the Blue Mountains Renewable Energy Co-operative is finally upon us.

So mark Saturday 10th August 2-4pm in your calendar, and head to Lawson Public School Hall to join in the information forum and discussion – chaired by local resident & retired Federal Court judge, Mr Murray Wilcox, a long time advocate on environmental & social justice issues.

Members of BMRenew will give examples of community-owned renewable energy projects in Australia and overseas, explain the environmental, economic & social benefits of generating local renewable energy and outline progress on technology investigations and project planning to date.
A special guest speaker from a similar energy co-operative will share their
community’s experience of building resilience through local renewable
energy projects.

All Blue Mountains residents and businesses will be invited to register their interest in BMRenew’s proposals for local SOLAR PV projects.

Please RSVP by Thurs 8 August to or
phone  0418 292 672 .
Afternoon tea will be provided.

1st August, 2013

All members of the Blue Mountains Food Co-op are welcome to attend Board meetings. At Board Meetings you will get to hear about the future direction of the Co-op and ask any questions you may have about the workings of the Co-op.

The next Board Meeting is on Tuesday 20th August at 7.15pm at the Food Co-op HQ in Ha’Penny Lane – just down from the Co-op store.

23rd July, 2013

The Co-op wouldn’t be what it is today without the efforts of many enthusiastic volunteers over the years.  We are always so grateful and appreciative of the time people put into helping out in the shop and at Cleaning Bees.  Our shop is an incredibly busy and dynamic place, and we can always use some extra help to ensure things run smoothly and efficiently.

We are about to embark on a new system of training volunteers, so that when you come in for a shift you know exactly what to do and how to do it.  We will be holding volunteer induction and training evenings twice a month from May onwards.  These evenings will provide an opportunity for new volunteers to learn all about how they can help out in the shop, but we’d also love to further the training of our more experienced volunteers so that they can work with as much self-direction as possible.

  • On a day to day basis volunteers help with:Keeping the Co-op clean, tidy and organised
  • Looking after the garden and outside the store
  • Helping customers get their shopping to their car
  • General filling and keeping everything topped up

But we’d also like to know if you have any special skills you could offer, such as;

  • Handy person
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Desktop publishing
  • Research
  • Newsletter contributions
  • PR, marketing, promotion
  • Graphic design
  • Filing / office skills
  • Events co-ordination
  • Gardening
  • Sewing
  • Cooking – for staff meetings and events
  • Community classes that might benefit staff (eg. Yoga, pilates, tai chi)
  • Screen printing

In exchange for only 4 hours volunteer work in a calendar month, you can receive an extra 20% off your shopping up to a total of $250.

Interested in getting involved? Speak to a staff member, or contact


16th July, 2013

There a few new faces at the Co-op. Since November we have gained two new directors,  Cathy Cavanagh and Gren Olsen who is our treasurer. Susan J, Maeve  and our old  schoolie Sam have joined the Co-op as relief workers and Leanne has recently come on board as a new permnanent part-time worker. We also have three new schoolies – Olivia, Cory and our latest addition Felix.

We welcome them all and hope they enjoy being part of the Co-op community!

9th July, 2013

At the Co-op we are always looking at ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

For many years we have been looking for a replacement paper bag to offer our members. The bags we currently sell are not recycled and we want to offer a better form of packaging. We have trialed recycled bags in the past, but none have come up to our standards. The bag needs to be made of thick paper so as to be able to withstand being reused multiple times, as this is what many of our shoppers do.

After a big search we have found a 100% recycled bag produced in Sydney that is sturdy and a great size for our food. The new bags are bigger which will create a bigger roll down for reducing spillage as they travel to your home.

The new bags will be cost 15 cents each for members & we strongly encourage you to reuse them as many times as possible. The old bags will be phased out over time.

Of course, you are always welcome to precycle – so bring along your own recycled bags, bottles and jars. Just remember to pre-weigh before you fill them up.


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