URBAN FORAGING


You’re walking down the street getting some fresh air and mileage in your pins and suddenly you come across a box full of lemons sitting on the top of someone’s mailbox. Do you assume it’s free for the taking and if so, how many do you take?

On our recent family walk, we came across two houses in our neighbourhood with boxes of free fruit. One box had ‘Please take’ clearly written on it and was filled with lemons while the other was blank and had several large chokos (type of squash). My 4-year-old son asked Mummy, can we take the whole box?’

Funnily enough, my brother asked me the same question when we told him what we discovered on our walk. Why didn’t you just take the whole thing? In retrospect, I should have asked my brother why he thought we should have done so because then I’d have a better understanding of the logic behind my 4-year-old’s thinking… kidding!

In answering my son’s question, I posed some of my own to him. Did we need all those lemons? What about other people? How would he feel if someone took everything and didn’t leave any for him? He agreed it would be a jerk move (his words, not mine!) and so he and his sister took one lemon and one choko each. It became a valuable exercise in teaching them restraint, thinking of others and only taking what was needed. 

My mother wasn’t too pleased to hear we had taken food ‘left on the street’. She was worried about contamination with germs/poison/needles/coronavirus and didn’t think we should risk it. I could understand why she was concerned.

A few years ago, there was a national recall on strawberries after consumers injured themselves by eating strawberries contaminated with sewing needles. Apparently, a former disgruntled strawberry farm employee intent on revenge had placed needles into strawberries before they were packed for distribution in supermarkets. What followed was a spate of copycat incidences and hoaxes that left people nervous to buy strawberries. Situations like these have made my mother even less trusting of humankind and so she refuses to take free food.

BUT,  fruit or vegetables hanging over a fence? That’s another story. My mother would have no qualms taking them then. Which leads to my next question, is it cool to pick fruit or vegetables if it’s hanging over a fence and on public walkways? It makes me think of hard rubbish days, where junk left on the front of nature strips is considered fair game to passerby, despite it technically being illegal to take. If the hard rubbish is destined to be binned, is it reasonable to take?

I’m conflicted on this. I would rather someone take my hard rubbish if they can get use out of it, as long as they don’t make a mess in their rummaging. As for the overhanging fruit, I think it’s better to seek permission from the owners first.

Why do I think that? Well, years ago, as my daughter and I went for a walk around our neighbourhood, we came across a big feijoa tree that was hanging half across the pavement. I got greedy and picked two hand fulls but was too embarrassed by my actions to carry them. So, I strongly encouraged my daughter hold the bottom of her jumper up to store the stolen goods and transport them home. She was mortified and to this day, still berates me for making her an accomplice to theft.

Then there was that one time I tried picking a lemon hanging over someone’s fence and a branch fell and bonked me on the head. The Ol’ Universe pulled out the big guns to teach me a lesson that day because I haven’t picked anyone’s trees since. 

Let’s take this discussion one step further. What about olive trees on the nature strips? In Australia, councils own nature strips and not the homeowner. As homeowners we pay tax to the council, so really, by default we have a tiny percentage ownership. Does that mean we can pick them? I mean, birds pay no tax and look at them picking fruit like it’s their given right. Should I tempt fate and pick some olives? I could start my own cold compress olive oil brand and sell it at the trash n’ treasure markets. What’s the bet good Ol’ Universe will have a thing or two to say about that?

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FALLING OUT OF BED

“Mummy! Mummy!” – my six o’clock wake up call sounds the same every morning, with my four-year-old son calling out for me from his bed. I know that if I don’t go over to tell him to be quiet, he will fuss and wake the whole household. If I brave the morning chill, I might be able to squeeze in another ten minutes of peace. 

Pulling back the blankets, I swung my legs to the side of the bed and stood up. Then I fell to the ground in a crumpled heap. My legs were not doing what I thought my brain was telling those porkchops to do. 

“ARGH!!!!” My son’s morning whinge might not have woken anyone yet, but my screams of agony certainly would have done the trick.

Three worried pairs of eyes peered over my prone body.

“What’s wrong with Mummy?!”

“Mum, what happened to your foot?”

“Are you ok?”

On occasion, I’ve woken up with pins and needles in my limbs and have collapsed getting out of bed. Never have I fallen in such an awkward position that I’ve injured myself in the process. Unlucky for me, I fell forwards and bent the toes on my right foot upwards. I wasn’t sure if the toes were broken or sprained but it hurt – BAD. Other than grab my foot, I could only manage to whimper in pain. After I had managed to collect myself, we examined my foot and came to the conclusion that if I could wriggle my toes, it probably wasn’t broken. To the kids, the excitement was over. 

“Mummy, I’m hungry!”

“Mummy, can you make me a toastie?”

“I’ve got to get ready for work.”

It was time to get back to Mum duties, bruised toes or not. So I hobbled about to get things done.

“Mummy, can you pick that up?”

“Mummy, can you get my water bottle from my room?”

“Mummy, can you get me a snack?”

“Mummy, can you wipe my bottom?”

Have I mentioned that being a parent is a thankless job? 

“I have broken (maybe) toes you know!” I had to remind everyone that I was an injured person and perhaps people could cut me some Mum slack and go do things themselves. I dread thinking how anyone would cope if I was really out of action. Dropped items would stay dropped, water bottles would never get refilled, no one would do a poop. 

Anyway, I’m sure you are all thoughtful folks and want to know how my toes are faring, right? I am unhappy to report I am back to 90% servant/cleaner/cook duties. Maybe if I want a break from Mum duties next time I’m injured, I’ll need both hands broken.

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THE CURSE OF IMPULSE BUYS

My husband and children like to gang up and tease me. It’s probably because I give them lots of reasons to… I’m giving in that way. I have a tendency to be explicit about obvious things and non-explicit about non-obvious things. What does that mean exactly? I’ll give you some examples. I might say “You should park here” when my husband is practically reversing the car into said space. Or I might say “Can you pass me that thing?” and no-one has any idea what that “thing” I’m referring to is but me. What can I say? I have my flaws.

I blame it on the fact that my mind is on constant overdrive, mentally juggling the billion life tasks that need to be done. That’s my excuse anyway! My husband suggests I should apply the “just in time” strategy to my decision-making processes and not waste time thinking too far ahead. In doing so, I might free my mind to make better choices or decisions in a timely manner. He’s probably right but then again, he would rather be wet than use an umbrella and thinks thongs have no place in footwear, so it’s hard for me to take him seriously at times!

Anyway, recently I went to a bookstore with our 8-year-old daughter and on an impulse buy, I bought an adjustable travel book holder that was sitting at the counter. Those merchandisers are sneaky bastards, and I’m the perfect example of an impulse buyer. I see colourful products and red on-sale signs and my brain goes off like a circus monkey on speed. I can’t help it! I reasoned that our daughter needed help keeping the pages of her book opened. She complained that one time, a few months back somewhere, and that was reason enough for the $17 purchase.

My husband took one look at the book holder and declared it a useless invention made to con easy prey like me. How dare he?! My daughter quickly sided with her dad and wanted nothing to do with the product despite originally agreeing to try it. My son joined in on the fun and soon, dissension was rife.

“I’m going to use it to keep MY research books open!” I argued, attempting to win the debate on the worthiness of a travel book holder, despite not travelling anywhere.

“See? I’m using it right now,” I said, as I failed miserably to prove the book holder useful. Instead of placing the thing on the sides of the book, I put it on top so I couldn’t turn the pages. Then when I realised my mistake and tried putting it on the sides of the book, it wouldn’t stretch far enough for the book I was using as my demonstration. Sigh.

The against team rebuttal included a Google search of the most pointless items ever made and my product happened to make the top 10 list. It didn’t help that my book kept slamming shut because the book holder was a useless piece of junk. Suffice to say, it destroyed my credibility and rendered my arguments invalid.

“That thing is cursed,” my husband joked, “you better get rid of it!”

He and the children went off on a tangent about what cursed objects were and ways to rid one of it. They even drew a pentagram symbol on a whiteboard and placed the book holder within it to keep the curse from wreaking havoc on our household. And to strengthen the protection spell, they drew three more pentagrams around the original symbol. They came up with the idea that the curse could only be broken if the cursed item was accepted by someone else. I couldn’t re-gift or throw out the book holder.

Obviously, it was all done jokingly and the children knew it was all said and done in good nature. But two weeks on, they are still taking the piss out on me. Every time there’s a misfortune, they joke that it’s because of the curse. Like when we couldn’t find a carpark at the shopping centre during the peak hour weekend crowd… it was because of the curse. Or when we had to walk up the broken travellator… again, the curse.

Every day, my 4-year-old son asks if today is the day I’ll rid myself of the curse and therefore, his curse through his association with me. I really don’t want to give it away because it cost me $17 and a stubborn part of me doesn’t want to admit that the book holder is in fact, useless. I’m still holding out hope that one day it’ll prove handy.

BUT at what point does a lie become the truth? If you believe something hard enough, would you eventually create an illusion of the truth? Because at the rate everyone is saying I’m cursed, maybe it’ll really end up that way. Maybe if I really think bad things will happen, it’ll end up true. And if that’s true, then shouldn’t happy thoughts lead to happy things? What if the Universe knows that I’m purposely thinking happy thoughts for happy things, will that mean something bad will happen? What if the Universe is really trying to speak through the curse?

Wait a minute! Maybe this is going too far. Before I book myself into a bootcamp for cosmic curse cleansing…

Does anyone want a free and really useful travel book holder?

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