It’s been a while, Kate, maybe it’s time for a review.

a very long time ago.

a very long time ago.

Who am I ? Why do I blog?  What am I on about?

It’s time to review,  recharge the batteries, re-connect and go back to the basics. A time to remember what drives me.

I blog because I must. For many years I lived with an urge to write.  Something inside  kept on pushing me to write. Web 2 happened and with it blogging. That vague, constant “I want to write,” became “I could write a blog.” It’s taken a very long time but I’ve finally started, instead of merely thinking about it.

This year I have had several months when I haven’t written and I said to one of my friends, in a moment of misery, “If I don’t write, then I might as well be dead.” Not because I’m accomplished, not because I think I’m good but because I must. Without writing, I lose a sense of purpose

in writing mode.

in writing mode.

Years ago I used to write a column in a small magazine. Come the deadline and I would sit at my computer and ask myself “What’s in my heart today?” That’s how I want to write.

Cheryl Strayed (author of “Wild: A journey from lost to found”, now a movie) says “When you’re speaking in the truest, most intimate voice about your life, you are speaking with the universal voice.”

You  probably know that feeling when you strike a chord in the heart of the person to whom you are speaking. That’s what I want to do.

Most likely these are some of the things I write about:

  • I love and cherish this Earth, our home. I care about what we have done and am committed to living in a way that is least damaging. That means living simply and sustainably. I was a city dweller and now live in a small rural town in Australia. The garden beds are begun so we can grow some of our own food.
  • the garden begins.

    the garden begins.

    I’m a woman, a single woman. For many reasons I have little financial security, but I am one of the fortunate ones. I live in my own home, paying neither rent nor mortgage. To do this, I have chosen to buy a house with one of my friends and become a co-houser. I have been fortunate. The spectre of homelessness as an older woman no longer looms so close. However, I remain passionate about the plight of many older women.

  • I love ideas and reading, listening to and watching stimulating programs. Favourite activitiesof mine include discussing ideas endlessly with friends, thinking and pondering  things I’ve heard, read or seen. Ideas fill me with enthusiasm and I want to share them, to pass them on, to let others know.
  • Illness has affected my life. I understand exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia and extreme illness because I’ve been there. I am alive because I have a stoma and ileostomy. Many times I have longed for another person who understood, really understood what I was experiencing. If someone who is exhausted, can’t sleep or been ill for a very long time, reads something I have written and feels the relief that comes with finally being understood, then I’ll be happy. And I want to show how it is to you who may not have been there, to deepen your understanding and empathy.
  • I need to feel I belong. It’s one of our most basic needs- to belong and be part of a group. One of my aims in this community, as always is to help to bring people together, to do what I can to make sure no one is isolated and alone. Community matters.
  • One of my kookaburras yesterday. A simple pleasure and a delight.

    One of my kookaburras yesterday. A simple pleasure and a delight.

    And sometimes I write about nothing very much, because life is mostly ordinary and nothing very much, but greatly to be treasured.

The Great co-housing adventure begins!

images[6](Or, as Max says in “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Let the show begin!”)

Well, it’s almost begun. Angie, my co-houser hasn’t arrived yet, but all her things are here. (Well, except the clothes and things she needs for the next few weeks.)

Life is an adventure!Here’s some of the background to this adventure.

Angie and I have been friends for forty years. More than friends, she’s part of my family. We have cared for each other, slept on the floor at each other’s homes when we’ve been homeless. She’s the person I have phoned in the middle of the night, after I have phoned for an ambulance. Over the years we have  guarded each other’s back, when trouble was stalking.

We’re often single. Careers and security have not been our primary aims. So we haven’t reached middle age, financially secure and affluent. ( Most of the time we realise how  very secure and how richly abundant we are in so many other ways.) For many reasons we have chosen to buy a home together.

There are so many reasons. I am passionate about the necessity to create community and build a safe and loving space where we can belong and have that absolute sense of trust. I love the Wendell Berry poem which says “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

to give my presence, my aim

to give my presence, my aim

I want home to be that place of unconditional love, total trust and safety…the place where I know I can be completely vulnerable… and I’m not thinking only of these four walls here and of Angie and myself. I am committed to building a larger community and helping to create such a space for others.

With Angie here, I can relax. There’s someone else to share all the jobs.  There’s someone who loves  and supports me through thick and thin. There’s someone who will give me space and silence and solitude whenever I need it. There’s someone to provide that rare and special feedback that will enable us each to grow and blunt our sharp edges, to point out when we  have been less than the best we can be.  There’s someone to laugh and play with, to have fun. So much, so much to be so very grateful for.

The garden will be started- finally! The house will be painted. (I HATE THE COLOURS!) Together we will practise living frugally and sustainably and we’ll be better at it, because we’ll  have each other to prop up our resolve when we fall into lust and wanting. (We both love things- books, paintings, beautiful objects… and I adore clothes. I fall into lust and wanting very easily.) We have more than enough.

(And you thought this was going to be easy, Angela!)

Life in the moment!

Life in the moment!

I said to Ange the other day: “Thank God you will finally be here!!! We can paint and garden and start a market stall and go to the gym regularly and get fit and have picnics at the beach and invite people for meals and sort out boxes of stuff and get started on that photographic project and you can begin building and making and maybe we’ll have some hens and we’ll sit about and read and have a glass of wine together and cups of tea and…(I stopped for a breath)”.

Angie: “I’ve been looking forward to resting and doing nothing much for a while!”

(Silly girl!)

The Equinox.

Day and night of equal time.

Day and night of equal time.

Monday, the twenty-second of September is the Equinox. The time of equal light and darkness. Everyone on earth experiences a twelve hour day twice a year on the Spring (Vernal) and Fall (Autumnal) equinox.

And now I quote from the Gratefulness website – “These events remind us that we are one planetary family and motivate us to live in harmony with all life.”

I didn’t know. I didn’t know that on the Equinox all over the Earth we all experience a time of equal light and equal dark. I marvel at this. I am filled with wonder. All over the earth our day and night will be the same! I can sense our sameness, rather than our difference.

“let there be praise of our mutual beauty, our total loving of the World.” ( gratefulness webpage)

How can we not protect them?

How can we not protect them?

Saturday I joined people  gathering together as part of a worldwide movement to demonstrate their commitment to save the planet and to focus attention on the supreme importance for all of us all over the world to halt climate change. Here in our Valley the focus was to highlight the problems with coal seam gas development and fracking.

Sunday, all over the world, people will gather to show this same commitment- to halt climate change; to stop the burning of fossil fuels and to end increases in carbon. This day has been organised prior to the UN meeting of World leaders this week to discuss  the coming crisis in climate change, the UN’s Emergency Summit.

the joy of roses.

the joy of roses.

Sunday also happens to be The International Day of Peace, established by the UN as a day of global ceasefire to strengthen the ideals of peace within all nations. And it is World Gratitude Day, started by the UN Meditation Group  to promote the cause of worldwide gratitude. An auspicious time- the Equinox and special days, all falling around each other.

At the TED@unilever conference, Keith Weeks, Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications officer is quoted saying “When someone asks what is the case for sustainability?  I ask ‘What is the case for the alternative’?” Good question. We know what we have to lose, well we know some of it, if we fail to halt global warming. And it is unthinkable, unbearable, heartbreaking. But what if we act as if climate change is happening and we humans can halt it? What do we have to lose? Maybe we won’t be quite as affluent in some countries.  Maybe we will need to change our lifestyle. Maybe life will become simpler. Is that a negative?

They are losing their habitat.We could all dedicate five minutes to spend in meditation. We could all contemplate the beauty of this Earth and our love for her. We could ponder our humanness and all we have in common. We could sit in gratitude for all that we do have. We could remember what we have to lose.  And we could consider what we can do.

 

POSTSCRIPT.

Today is Tuesday. The Climate March has happened all over this Earth. This link will share a report.

Garden Diary

Yet again, I’m forced to acknowledge that I can’t do everything. Does this mean that yet again I need to let go some things I want to do?

One of my highest priorities is to live simply and sustainably. This includes having a beautiful and productive garden. Gardening is always one of my highest priorities. It grounds and renews me and brings me quiet joy.

a sad plant

a sad plant

A move to a new home and environment? Start the garden! But here I am, more than a year later and the garden is almost untouched . The weeds are still there, old plants cry out for pruning, there’s lots of potting to do, plants I bought last week are languishing, unplanted. And there’s a whole new garden to develop.

Whenever I’m outside I end up feeling disheartened, overwhelmed and frustrated.

What can I do?  I can judge myself, become highly critical and end up with no gardening done feeling thoroughly miserable. Or, I can choose to practise self-acceptance and self-compassion with no judgement.  To do this I must first accept that I cannot do the impossible; to start this garden from where it is now, is just too big a task for me. So I stop thinking I will.

So here’s what I shall do: I have settled on a plan, after much deliberation; we shall create no-dig gardens, or lasagne gardening; growing on top of the ground by building up layers. This soil is too hard and too degraded to attempt to dig. And to begin with, we shall have beds where there is now lawn, leaving some lawn around each bed.

the beginnings at Tarbuck

the beginnings at Tarbuck

 

I can’t do this. I don’t even make an attempt. It’s too big for me, even if I practise doing it “a bucket at a time. ”

So this week I shall find a gardener who will plant fruit trees and set up the garden beds. I have two sources to go to for information. I’ll ask my same sources if they know where I can buy old railway sleepers for my garden edges. If I can’t get any, then I shall order  treated pine. I will talk to the garden suppliers to decide if I will order garden soil and compost at the same time. That will depend on whether I can begin to move it myself, slowly, “a bucket at a time”,  to build up the beds. I need the beds started to get me over the first hurdle. Once the beds are in place and some initial layering is done, I’m going to try hay bale gardening. That way, I can start growing some vegetables before the beds are set up fully- I do know that it will take me time to set

a new bed

a new bed

them up. And as the bales break down they will become part of the process.

You see, this will be my second spring here and still I won’t have sweet peas, poppies, cornflowers, delphiniums, forget-me-nots, lupins, irises, daffodils, jonquils, anemones and all the other joys of a spring garden.  For a second year we may not have the pleasure and sheer delight of extravagantly beautiful, fragrant roses; fruit trees take several years to bear fruit. I want to go out to my garden and pick that night’s dinner. For too many years I have not had the things I consider to be essential  I don’t have  years to wait. Housman talked of having only fifty years left to see the cherry hung with snow. I sure don’t have fifty years.

bluebells in Spring at Tarbuck

bluebells in Spring at Tarbuck

What have I learnt? To accept, yet again, that I am not superwoman and I can’t do everything. That I am prone to self-judgement and am still learning to be kind to myself. That I remain a work in progress. That, surprise, surprise, I’m still not perfect.

More prosaically, I realize that I have needed to live here for a time before I could clarify what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.  And that plans take time to develop. Patience! There will be enough time! If I live each moment fully, that moment will be enough. When the flowers are blooming, Kathryn, remember to appreciate them. Drink in their beauty, share them, fill your house with them. And always, keep your hands in the earth. It’s the Amish who say that we are closest to God when we have our hands in the soil.

a Spring bouquet

a Spring bouquet

Solar update.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

It works! When the sun shines, our solar panels are generating power from the sun. It’s taken quite a while to reach this point. There were the months I hesitated, questioned many people and worried over the choice. Which supplier would be the best? which quote should I choose? Which panels? Which inverter? How many kilowatts?

Once chosen, there were the inevitable delays- too wet, too windy, an emergency to fix…then the panels were no longer being produced…Finally, better panels, but costing more money. Keep going? Yes!

Then, the panels went on, but weren’t connected!! So close, but…not yet.

Installing the energy program.

Installing the energy program.

But now, the delays are past and we have been generating solar power for a couple of months. I spend a lot of time checking how much power is being generated and how much power the household is using. You see, this solar system is internet connected and I can check how much power each panel is generating and how much has been generated today, this week, this month or over a lifetime. Then I have this other splendid gadget which tells me how much power is being used by this household, in real time. I turn on heating and check how much power it uses. Does the solar cover it?  Can I do the washing? I am so impressed with my washing machine and with my large air-conditioner. Neither uses much energy. Most days, I can be using both and still have power left over. Here in Australia, we have so much sunshine.

The program.

The program.

I am a little in love with  our systems. In fact, I’m possibly obsessed with them. I confess I  pester my co-home owner with several daily phone calls, consisting of updates on current usage. But you have to admit, it is fascinating. The air-conditioner is on, but we’re only using .653 kws- it’s a 5kw air-conditioner! Turn on the stove…uh oh, 2.6 kws. It’s all been a revelation.

Will we get our money back? Probably not, but that’s not why we put on solar panels. Australia may repeal the carbon tax, but at least we are doing something about living sustainably and climate change.

 

Solar Day!

 

they arrive.

they arrive.

It has finally arrived! After months of worrying over quotes, driving people to distraction with endless questions, bombarding one of my brothers for information and trying the endless patience of my co-house owner …I settled on the supplier (yes, in consultation with my co) and accepted their quote for installing solar. Then, it was waiting for the installation.The original panels were no longer being made…postpone the day…then…It was raining! postpone the day…then…other people had to be done first…postpone the day…then…The weather forecast for Friday was for rain and storms! Would it happen?

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

The men arrived. Looked rainy. Nail biting. Work began. And continued…slowly, or so it seemed to a waiting woman who had been saving her washing, the ironing, the vacuuming…(some people who know me well, might ask “what’s new?”). They worked. Tedious business, this. Very hot, especially in the roof cavity, they say. And they worked. I go out, come home, still working. Even hotter. Four-thirty, and yes, the panels are on, but the micro-inverters are yet to be connected and no, they are sorry, but that won’t happen today. My house looks like it has solar, and it will, but the washing still waits.

Suit the house, don't they?

Suit the house, don’t they?

Maybe tomorrow? But it doesn’t matter! It will happen and this household will be less dependent on the use of fossil fuel, which has always been the aim. The release last week of the IPCC report makes the use of alternative sources of energy ever more crucial. I haven’t wanted  solar simply to save money on my energy bills and I don’t think we will save much initially. But I have worried about the state of our planet for a long time. I remember sitting in the  movie theatre after watching “An Inconvenient Truth”, not able to leave. I was crying too much. There really wasn’t anything new in the film, it was the sight of our blue planet suspended in space. I loved her fiercely and I hadn’t realised how much. I love this earth; I love all the bits; I want to see as much of her as I can; I love her creatures; the glimpse of a whale is joy and delight; the thought of polar bears starving to death because of what we have done I find almost unbearable.

What if they were gone forever?

What if they were gone forever?

Because it isn’t just about us. Yes, the report contains dire statements about Australia- more extreme heat, more bushfires, more storms and severe floods. Think of the suffering of the animals every time there is a bushfire, every drought, every heatwave. I remember Stephen Fry in the series “Last Chance to See” a BBC 2009 production, filming rare and endangered species. I was moved to tears when Stephen bottle feeds a baby rhino and declares to the camera “Now I can die”. I feel I am not doing nearly enough. I still drive a car. We will grow as much of our food as we possibly can and we will share what we have with our neighbours. I will work to create community here where I am. I am learning to live frugally and simply. BUT…

Five minutes from my front door. I am grateful every day.

Five minutes from my front door. I am grateful every day.

We have a beautiful home, let’s do whatever it takes. After all, changes in our lifestyle can’t hurt us and may make all the difference!

My garden diary.

The beginnings before the drought hit.

The beginnings before the drought hit.

the drought hits.

the drought hits.

My first garden post! Yay! It’s one of our aims is to be as self-sufficient as we can, so the garden is a high priority. Besides, I love gardening, it feeds my soul.

But making any garden here needs hard work, time and patience and then more hard work and more hard work. It’s easy to get overwhelmed:

We’ve had drought and extreme heat for many months. Around the town even well-established plants have been dying. I’ve been glad I haven’t starting  planting, especially since water restrictions came in.

There’s the old bones of a garden that was planted thirty plus years ago when the house was built. So there are old and tired hydrangeas, clumps of agapanthus and straggly daisies, all struggling and clinging to life. The previous owners were not gardeners so it’s long neglected. Needs a lot of loving!

But, the big obstacles, apart from the weather, are the way the garden was set up.

Strong black plastic was put over all the beds to kill the weeds. It killed the weeds but also cooked any living organism in the soil. The plastic’s now  tangled in the roots of the old plants. I don’t know how we’ll get rid of it.

In many places, someone has spread gravel over the plastic on the bed and on the few plastic-free beds, thickly. So the soil is full of gravel.  Getting the picture?

But that’s not all. The next- door garden is even older and more neglected than this one. It has had a big area of the backyard cultivated, I’d guess, for vegies. It’s become a wonderful place for sticky beaks (farmer’s friends) to flourish. They are such splendid seed spreaders this garden has its own crop. Pull them out then the crop next-door seeds and we are re-infested.

I don’t mean to complain, but rather to set the scene so you can picture the garden and share its progress. I’ve had time to watch sun and shade and get some ideas about where to plant. I can see abundance in my mind- flowers, herbs, vegies, fruit trees…a pond for frogs, birds…why have lawn?

Emma Goldman said” I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds round my neck.” Happiness is going out  picking  what you need for the meal and the flowers for the table.

The other evening, hand watering some pot plants, the gift of

one, small, perfect, green frog.

One small, perfect, green frog

One small, perfect, green frog

Living simply and sustainably

this beautiful earth

this beautiful earth

How to stay cool in summer? How to be warm in winter? Our new home, new to us anyway, is sited poorly and has only one air-conditioner in the family room so cooling and heating can be a challenge.

I’m finding I can live without air-conditioning in the summer -most rooms have ceiling fans. Seems ridiculous to be thinking about heating in this hot, hot, dry summer we’re having , but I’ve been worrying at the options since last winter in this house. I was living as simply and sustainably as I could and I froze.

After many months we are about to have an air-conditioner installed in the lounge room and solar panels put on the roof-  very exciting.

I spent the winter months asking people what heating they used. Here in the country, almost universally, the answer was a wood fire or stove.

Now I had a pot belly stove in my last house and used it at first. But coming home from work to a cold house, chopping wood, cleaning out the ashes, carrying the wood upstairs, lighting the fire and waiting for the house to warm…I have limited energy and am prone to viruses. I found I resorted to an electric heater quite often. Besides, you can’t turn a wood stove down! Once it’s hot…it’s often too hot and I don’t like sleeping too warm. I’d phone friends and tell them I had all the doors and windows open.

Now, I am ten years older. Realistically, I know I wouldn’t handle the effort of maintaining a wood fire.

Here on the coast where so many people have wood fires, the amount of available wood is becoming scarcer. We are using up animal habitats.  Personally I can’t get past the fact too, that respiratory related problems due to smoke inhalation is the major cause of infant mortality in the developing world. Although Australia is not a developing country I don’t want to add to a world problem. This is my choice and I understand it’s not for everyone.

In my previous house I put on gas. Being a city girl I had the notion that gas was the cheapest and most efficient. Here in the country, there’s no gas pipeline, it’s bottled gas. Not cheap! Besides, I’m nervous of gas. So that leaves air-conditioning and solar energy.

I’d like batteries to store the excess energy on those days of abundant sunshine, but I don’t think it’s possible to use batteries and stay connected to the grid- something I haven’t researched. I’m not ready to go “off the grid.”

What have I learnt through this process? I’ve learnt that I find it much more difficult to make choices when I’m using some of my small financial capital. There’s less room for error.  Even more crucial has been knowing that the choices affect the state of this planet.

Will I use air-conditioning on those cloudy, cold days when the panels don’t generate enough energy? I don’t know, but I do know that I care passionately about climate change and am committed to living sustainably and simply.