Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Autumn of Less CONtent

An early autumn apple and pear harvest; getting in before the birds. There will be stewed, baked, dried, preserved and fresh fruit.

M has been out in the shed making these cute seedling tray stamps (for making holes to plant seeds en masse!)out of recycled wood. Often he goes out there and comes inside hours later with a wonderful wooden article; a handle for the light switch hanging above our bedhead, a chisel patterned bench for the back door or the kitchen table. Our there working his rustic magic. 

I've begun making a list of all the things we consume in our household; in part as a result of becoming custodians of a piece of land on which to start completely afresh. I thought we were pretty low on the consumer spectrum but we still end up with two full bins on the verge every fortnight. Remember Andy McDowell's character in Sex, Lies and Videotape? The bored and obsessive housewife wondering 'what happens to all the rubbish??'. Even then it rang bells but now with the news reports reminding us of sea birds and Indian shores filled with plastic detritus and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; how can we sleep at night knowing that every one of us is contributing to it, every day?

It's waking me up anyway and I'm determined to do something about it; change the way we shop, eat, store and think about food and material possessions. Already we buy secondhand clothes, books, furniture, electrical goods; these all come free of wrappings (although stickers and tags build up..). Now I'm working on the more detailed list; what we can do without, what we can make ourselves; what else we can buy second hand; what we can recycle; what we can incinerate on the autumn and winter fire. 

Some of the tasks ahead of me/ us are;

  • making sanitary pads for myself and our daughter. I could buy rad pads but I reckon I could make some if I can source the right fabric second hand. There are patterns here. (Given that I turn 50 this year I reckon I won't even need them for that much longer!)
  • fully fox-proofing our chook run so that we can have chickens again, and be able to go away for the weekend knowing they are safe. 
  • the more challenging location of sustainable dairy products; aside from putting a cow, goat or sheep in our urban yard (just not practical) or giving up the dairy completely (what no cheese!!!?). When I was a kid at school in WA, my friend's family went just out of town each week to bring back a big container of fresh cow's milk. How I wish that were possible at all let alone within an hour of Melbourne! That would take care of our milk and butter needs (but would add carbon footprints). Buying milk in plastic containers is demoralising, even our favourite organic stuff. Elgaar Farm in Tasmania, don't deliver to the mainland at the moment which, while understandable, is a shame for those of us who gratefully bought their wonderful stuff and returned their glass containers, which were picked up by the delivery guy at the store the next week.
  • probably the most important right now is to collect storage containers that I will take to the fish monger, butcher, deli wherein I shall charm customer service into putting all my goods unwrapped therein. I want to reduce the amount of food we buy, as well as have no refuse at the end of putting it all away
  • letting go of upgrading our devices. Seriously, all I need is a phone. Doesn't have to be better/ faster/ stronger every year
 Some of the things we should be doing without or replacing;
  • clothes pegs - In 'My Neighbour Totoro' the father hangs out the washing by inserting bamboo poles through the sleeves and legs of the clothing! 
  • kitchen wrappings - we could make our own waxed cloths and find more storage containers at op shops
  • make our own yoghurt
  • toothbrushes - there are fabulous 100% compostable farmed bamboo toothbrushes out there
  • dental floss Bea Johnson suggests unraveling silk thread. Anything biodegradable in this department still has packaging.
  • toilet paper - go the sensible and hygienic way of the East and use water?
  • shampoo, conditioner, dish washing liquid, laundry powder, face creams, make-up, nail varnish (oh dear I feel giddy). Can vinegar, bi-carb, coconut oil and Castille soap really do everything?
  • hair colour. Perhaps it is time to go proudly grey?
We have been able to provide our own eggs, bread (bulk salt and flour; the latter which comes in cloth bags that make great vege bags, napkins, gift wrapping...)honey, fruit and veg. I reckon we need to step up to candles, dried fruit, yoghurt and mayo, and no doubt I'll wake-up again at 3am with another list....
Despite a few restless nights I don't actually feel anxious, but rather energised and excited by the prospect of simplifying and spending less and doing a very small bit for the planet. 
Who's with me!?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Green February

To be sure it is the greenest February I remember in Melbourne. All the rain and mild weather means green lawns, plentiful fruit (except apricots..too much rain??). A beautiful gift of alpaca yarn from my Tassie-born friend; from The Alpaca Shoppe in Deloraine (craft capital of TAS apparently!)- so soft and lovely to wear upon my head. The pattern is Oaked by Alicia Plummer.

And huzzoo huzzay, we are confirmed happy owners of 10 beautiful acres of land; both of us amazed that 2 and a half years ago we left full time study without a brass razoo to rub together, and now, after 2 years of part time work, a small teaching business and the kindest gift of shares from a dear friend to speed things up a little, we saved a small deposit and will have a very small, manageable mortgage. We could only afford an inexpensive plot, 2 hours from the city. Who on earth can afford an urban house other than clever folk who bought decades ago (while we were gallivanting around the world blissfully ignoring the future)and those who have received inheritance. All around us, the lovely big, old blocks with bungalows and fruit trees, are being bulldozed for ugly units. People don't want food gardens in the suburbs any more it seems. They want  entertainment rooms and air-conditioning and car ports. When we leave this house, it is likely to meet the same fate. Part of my man's work it to co-ordinate a volunteer group that picks excess fruit from the trees of householders who donate it for emergency relief. I fear we may see this fade as the elderly Mediterranean folk leave their big blocks and productive food gardens, unless their families care to preserve them. Let us hope for that.        


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Happy New Year Hiatus

Perhaps the most inconsistent blogger there is anyway, I diverted my attentions to Instagram for a spell to test it's more immediate access. I found, as I did with Facebook, that the novelty has worn off, lovely as it is to follow the gorgeous images posted by friends. 

At the start of a new year which heralds 10 years since this blog began under a different name, I am hoping I may be able to give it new life, exercise my writing skills, experiment with photography albeit from a phone, and inspire my art practice. Most of all I want to document our purchase and cultivation of land - an opportunity for M and I to be jointly creative, to make a beautiful place for our family, to dig in, grow food and inevitably grow old. 

 We have been on many reconnaissance missions to look at land and houses, returning 4 times to one particular plot that we love each time we are there. 10 acres of slightly undulating land, with no power or water; nothing but the promise of a completely clean start. 

The papers are at Council being validated, we have kindly been approved the small sum of money needed to own the land, and now we are wait for the next step. There is no rush. We are happy here in our 'Shit' House, affectionately named by our elderly Greek neighbour in whose opinion only a dwelling fashioned from brick, is worth any sort of consideration. A tenant does not always have a choice and we love our ramshackle rental despite its lack of thermal mass. It is the closest thing to a country house we could find in the suburbs, with a huge yard and 7 years of our love and presence have made it home. 

This is the longest either of us have lived anywhere since leaving our respective family homes 30- 35 years ago. Were we not a blended family needing to stay put for our children's' sake (other parents' homes to go to every other week), who knows where we would be. Probably not this suburb, this city, perhaps not even this country. But one piece of wisdom we have managed to gain over the last (often complicated but very good 9 years)is that sometimes, the most unexpected things bring the most peace and happiness. Sometimes life propels you to a destination or a decision and therein lies the most surprising source of joy. I.e a Shit House in a place far from one's Motherland, from which good things have been achieved and wonderful friendships have been made, and two perspicacious and resilient children are flourishing . 

Whenever I find a blog by tenacious tree-changers, and valiant homesteaders, I am very excited and inspired. If anything I put down here can have that affect on anyone else then that is happy reason enough to crack on. If no one out there is following then it remains my happy place to potter and collect and curate as I wish!